Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Diary: chronicles of wasted time

There were several things I toyed with writing about today.

1. China Miéville on the Nazis

The Nazis (short for National Socialists, lest anyone forget) are uniquely demonised in contemporary culture. It's not so much that the Nazis did uniquely bad things - most of their heinous deeds recapitulated acts previously implemented by many other powers: in fact the Nazi edge in atrocity tended to be greater efficiency. Nazis are demons mostly because they took such pride in their murderous policies. They were the paradigmatic nasty party. They flagrantly and consistently failed to show generalised compassion.

Readers familiar with Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory will recognise the red-flag value-atrocity for liberals here. By promoting the 'Aryan race' and classifying Jews, homosexuals, the disabled and non-'Aryans' in general as sub-human (and therefore worthy of extermination), Nazism was xenophobia personified.

You can see why nationalists like Trump, Le Pen and the rest are so easily compared to Hitler. Shockingly, they explicitly disavow liberal globalism and human universalism.

We know the 'downsides' to Nazism, strongly amplified by the fact they lost. But the Pollyanna world of Liberalism - where everyone is 'nice' all the time - doesn't always reflect reality either.

Especially when you engage with people who don't tend - or intend - to play nice at all.

Ordinary folk are generally not liberals, and once the liberal elite makes a hash of it they get somewhat agitated. How agitated? Depends on how bad things get.

The Nazis were quite popular in the grim thirties, and not just amongst ordinary Germans.

Somehow these deeper truths about human nature - and what humans will do to survive in extremis - appear to have evaded China Miéville. The root causes of fascist movements aren't really manifest through the metaphor of shallow, lifeless Nazi art.

Anyway, I decided, meta-fictionally, not to write about that, because writing anything at all about the Nazis gets you into trouble.

2.  Who's going to win the French Presidential Election 2017?

The first round is Sunday, 23 April and the second round is two weeks later, 7 May 2017. The Media is gushingly excited that Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! will win the second round decisively against Marine Le Pen of the Front National.

Take that, you fascists!


*Eyebrows raised*.

Macron is somewhere between the Tony Blair and Nick Clegg of the French governing elite. And about as popular as either amongst the non-bubble masses.

In The Times today, British neocon op-ed writer Roger Boyes calls it for Le Pen, citing subterranean popular discontent.
"Le Pen has kept momentum; she has (unlike Ukip) a proper party machine behind her which is able to guarantee that declared voting intentions turn into actual votes. She is polling at 45 per cent if she runs against François Fillon in the second round; not many on the left will be able to vote for a man who promises to cut half a million public service jobs.

Against Emmanuel Macron she is polling at 42 per cent in the run-off; it doesn’t take much more to give her victory. That’s Macron, the pro-European, elite-educated, former investment banker Blairite who once served as economics minister under François Hollande — how desperate does a country have to be to imagine that he could be a saviour, rather than a prettifier of the old politics?"
I am not quite so sure. I suspect the French media will do a pretty good job on Le Pen, accusing her of plotting to break up the EU - something which the French masses still find scary, with all those old Nazi occupation memories and a resurgent Germany.

If I had to call it, I'd agree that Macron is toast, even froth. But this Penelopegate thing is perhaps forgivable by a cynical electorate; if so, François Fillon's traditionalist nationalism will strike a chord in the second round.

If he gets that far, it's winnable for Les Républicains.

Anyway, I was going to write about that but .. what do I know about French politics?

3. And what about your theorem prover?

Yes, hmm, shuffles papers. You know, I thought and thought about the control architecture. I'm good with unification and binary resolution - all those functions are well-understood and work. But generating the proof space (which Prolog does by depth-first search with backtracking) is a bit intricate and involves quite complex clausal data structures, particularly if you want to number clauses, and keep track of previous goals and bindings to generate an explicit proof tree.

So it's a bit, well, .. boring - and I feel under-motivated today. Which is why I'm wasting my time telling you all this.


  1. And have you finished Wallace on the Multiverse or did I miss that?

  2. Yes, thanks for asking. Some while ago.

    I found it hard to follow. Wallace is turgid, and preoccupied with his work on extracting the Born rule. Critical ideas such as the connection between Hilbert space and spacetime are unresolved (and not in a clear way); the ontological-genesis problem of the particles in the Standard Model is alluded to but not satisfactorily addressed. I know these are problems in reality, not just authorial deficiencies.

    Nevertheless, in the end I was left feeling as if I had dined on cotton wool. Underwhelmed and disinclined to review.


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