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Dealing with truth anyway

The Dutch King Willem-Alexander will visit the UK and Queen Elizabeth II on October 23-24 2018. See the programme.

He will give a speech in the Royal Gallery in the UK Parliament, attended by various MPs, Lords and Ladies, on October 23.

On October 17, the Newsletter of the UK Royal Economic Society contains this comment by me on Brexit. See my earlier weblog entries on Brexit.

Alex read the comment in the Newsleter, and called me that he wanted to speak to me.

I spoke Alex yesterday over dinner of wildbraad in a fine restaurant in Leiden. He confessed to me that he seriously considers calling in sick and cancelling the state visit to the UK. He is experiencing increasingly negative feelings about the trip, and he had read my explanation that negative numbers reflect the process of cancelling.

Stroking his belly on the good meal, he was looking for consistency.

“Like for example,”  he said, “on the 24th we will have a visit to two ships, to mark the importance of seafare for our two nations. But Max and I will travel to the UK by air. So why don’t we travel by ship ? When people would expose me as being a total hypocrite then I can’t blame them.”

Brexit is wrenching him. He hates seeing the UK leaving the EU, or even the messy way how they are doing so. He doesn’t like the sight of a Queen of a proud independent nation making fun of him as a EU-shackled fake-king. Perhaps when he wakes up in Buckingham Palace he might find his shoelaces tied together. He feels much tempted to follow the example of William III (1650-1702) of sailing from Scheveningen to Britain with an armada of 250 ships and 35,000 troops and take the island, pound some sense into the natives, and have another Glorious Revolution.

“They call themselves Anglo-Saxons but to a high degree they are Vikings, just like the Russians. Vikings need an occasional bang to their heads to reset them to common sense again,” he explained. He also reminded me that he himself had a Romanov princess as an ancestor, see his claim on taking Russia too.

Thus I asked whether he was actually inviting me to bang his head now too, given his own Viking genes. He nodded. We were in Leiden because he had wanted to reread his MA thesis in history, that is kept there in the vaults of Leiden University. He handed me his thesis and I duly banged it to his head. To our regret it hardly had an impact. Alex’s head was too hard or the sheet of paper too thin.

“But I can’t conquer Britain because Max doesn’t want to live there. The Brits have something against Argentines. You know: the Falklands.”

He continued: “My comments on Brexit already have caused a stir. Prime Minister Mark Rutte now worries that my speech in the Royal Gallery will be boycotted by British parliamentarians. Oh my, oh my, a boycott is such an effective method to make someone look silly, especially when your shoelaces are tied together.”

“So this is why you wanted to talk to me,” I inferred. “You want me to smooth out some ruffled feathers so that you will still have an audience that will be interested in what you would have to say, and so that they know in advance that they will not be offended or lectured to.”

“Exactly,” he nodded. “Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his loony Foreign Secretary Stef Blok suggested that I talk to you, and ask you to draft a speech for me, and to put it on your website so that people in the UK have some advance information that it will be a highly relevant speech for the UK. So, please, make me look good.”

“If you pay for the meal,” I granted.

This got me a groan and pained look. He was in such a tight spot that he actually footed the bill. Thank you, Brexiteers.

Thus, below is my draft for the speech.

– – – D R A F T – – –

Dear friends, come together here in the Royal Gallery on the beautiful day of October 23 2018.

I am the Head of State of Holland. I am speaking for the Dutch government. The following does not contain my personal view, but it contains the view by the Dutch government, including me. This goes to show that one can still have a useful function even when there are some constraints. Also the UK can have a useful function even when there would be constraints by the EU.

[ rumble ]

You all know that I also went to school in Wales and that I developed a taste for Monty Python. Let me start with some jokes, so that you can all loosen up and relax before we become serious again.

[ sounds of horror ]

The first joke is about a boss who hires a new employee. At lunch on the first day, the employee complains at the boss: “There is something wrong with the wheelbarrow. It goes “screetch … screech … screech”.” [ spoken with long pauses ] The boss replies: “Well, you can go home now and don’t return. It should go “screetch screetch screetch”.” [ spoken fast ]

[ some grins and laughter ]

This joke makes me think about the speed of ships. For very long in human history, seafaring was the most efficient way of transport. Civilisation developed on the shores of rivers and seas. Many traces of this development have been lost because of the rise of the sea level since the last Ice Age. The British Isles were known in the Bronze Age for their tin to make bronze, and transport then was also by sea. The British Isles have a long history of settlers and invaders from the sea, like the Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, and William the Conqueror in 1066, to name a few. In 1688, William III of Orange boated from Holland with 250 carriers and 35,000 troops to cause the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary. It can be said that the British Isles are a center of European civilisation just like the shores of the Baltic, the North Sea, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The Dutch government is amazed that some people on the British Isles do not know about this history, and refer to “The Continent” as if Britain would be somewhat distant from Europe itself. Well, let me invite you to keep ships in mind and to see Britain embedded in Europe. Nowadays, planes can be faster, which is why I traveled here not by boat. Yet ships still cannot be beaten for bulk transport, and we should keep this in mind, also for our mutual borders, and also for the Political Economy for the Caribbean.

[ pause ]

The second joke is from the days of the USSR, actually only 30 years ago, still in our lifetimes. The joke may appeal to Jeremy Corbyn who is scheduled to meet with me today unless he would snake out to avoid me.

The joke concerns some factory for trucks and work appliances in the old USSR. At the end of the working day workers leaving the factory are checked on smuggling or stealing stuff. Each day there is also a worker, Vladimir, who pushes a wheelbarrow with scrap metal through the exit gate. Screetch, screetch, screetch. The guards are suspicious, check him and his load thoroughly, find only worthless stuff, and let him pass. One day the man turns 65, retires, and leaves the factory without his wheelbarrow. “Vladimir,” says the gatekeeper, “we will see each other for the last time today. Would you please tell me whether you have been smuggling something or not?”

[ pause ]

Vladimir confesses with a smile: “Every day for forty years, I have taken a wheelbarrow from the factory.”

[ some grins and laughter ]

The joke illustrates the importance of observation. For mathematics or philosophy you might make an abstract assumption and forget about reality, but science requires careful observation on reality.

This joke brings us to a key difference between Holland and the United Kingdom. We are both democratic nations, but have different concepts of democracy, which shows that the term “democracy” is a tricky term that we must use with care. The Dutch House of Commons is elected with equal proportional representation (EPR) and the UK House of Commons is elected with district representation (DR). Also the words “election” and “representation” are the same but mean entirely different things here.

The Dutch system provides for proper election and representation. The UK system of Single Member Districts with First Past The Post provides for contests rather than proper election. It discards votes and neglects the condition of representation of the interest of the electorate. A majority of voters in the UK have “taxation without representation”. The electoral system in the UK is in direct violation with article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

The Dutch government has consulted with scientists in Holland and has come to the conclusion that there is something amiss with the academic field of so-called “political science on electoral systems”. Scholars in this field have neatly checked the content of the wheelbarrow but have failed to see the very wheelbarrow itself. They claim that the field would be a science but these scholars lack a training in empirical science. The field still is in the humanities in which indoctrination into tradition is more important than empirical observation and testing.

Though this field of study also fails in Holland, the effect of failure in Holland is limited, since we have equal proportional representation (EPR) and not district representation (PR).

For the UK, the effect is much larger. We can only understand Brexit by diagnosing that the UK voters have been disinformed for decades. The UK has a proto-democracy and no proper democracy yet. For this reason, I currently come to you carrying gifts, namely the news about this new discovery that “political science on electoral systems” is no real science, but it is pseudo-science, comparable to astrology, alchemy or homeopathy.

How this blind spot developed is an issue for history. At this moment it is important to bring this message to you. The Dutch government regards this news as a game changer for the present discussion in the UK on Brexit. Namely, the UK can now ask its empirical scientists, from physics to psychometrics, to help clarify the situation of systematic disinformation that has been created by this pseudo-science of “political science on electoral systems”.

The Dutch government suggests that the UK switches to equal proportional representation (EPR), say adopt the Dutch system of open lists (in which you may always vote for a regional candidate though people don’t tend to do so), has proper elections, and then let the new House of Commons discuss the relation with the European Union again. It is not unlikely that the EU would allow the UK the time for such a fundamental reconsideration on both its democracy and Brexit.

It remains to be seen whether the UK would want to switch from DR to EPR, but the first step would be to provide the public with proper information. If the UK would stick with DR and Brexit, then at least we will know that such a choice has been made by an informed electorate, while presently we can only diagnose that the UK electorate lacks this information. Obviously, logic requires that you first switch to EPR for the proper procedure to remain with DR.

[ mix of moans and laughter ]

Another topic.

Let me quote historian Helene Von Bismarck about the Single European Act of 1986:

“Thatcher’s dedication to the idea of a completed Single Market was such that she made considerable concessions during the negotiations to bring it about. (…) The Single European Act had enormous ramifications for the way the European Community was to be run. No only did it provide for the completion of the Single Market, it also simplified the decision-making in the European Council by extending the principle of qualified majority voting to a large number of issues that until then had been decided unanimously.”

When the people in the UK have the feeling that they are losing power to the European Union, then they should rather look at Margaret Thatcher, who accepted the abolition of veto power. She also rushed the agreement through Parliament instead of allowing for deliberation.

It is well-known that the Dutch people are also hesitant about the evolution of the European Union. Rather than seeing the UK leave the EU, Holland would like to have the UK as an ally, for example on raising the requirements on the qualified vote.

Another topic.

English has become the lingua franca of the world. Billions of people in distant lands learn English to partake in the development of our planet.

When people migrate to Europe, then many have learned English, and then many may have a preference to migrate to the UK since this is where English is spoken on a daily base. We have a mixed situation of course. Parts of Africa use French and those migrants may prefer to go to France. In Eastern Europe and Turkey, German tends to be important too. Nevertheless, we can understand that the UK might have additional migration because of the plain fact that English has become the lingua franca.

To my understanding there is no scientific research on this aspect yet, and it has not been a factor in current policy making yet. The Dutch government urges the UK to reconsider Brexit and to remain in the EU and to help develop sensible policies that also include such considerations.

Let us also be sensible about alternative developments. If the UK would leave the EU, as it now plans to do, then it would still be a magnet to those who have learned English as the lingua franca. Since ships can also reach the UK directly – and I have highlighted the ease of shipping to you – then the horrible scenes that we now see in the Mediterrranean are merely shifted to similar scenes around the British Isles, with a great cost for the UK to guard its coasts and to transport illegal immigrants back to their lands of origin. We only need to be aware of the forecasts about the rise in the world population and the issue of climate change.

It is the firm belief of the Dutch government that democracy requires deliberation, and that we all in the same boat here.

Other points.

[ … additional points by Mark Rutte and Stef Blok ….]

Thus, my friends in this Royal Gallery, let me round up this speech on behalf of the Dutch government. Our nations are closely linked by geography and history. Let us continue with increased awareness of this elementary fact. Thank you for your attention.

– – – E N D   D R A F T – – –

Acknowledgement: Jokes taken from here.

Imagining the Dutch King’s speech in the Royal Gallery and the boycott by MPs. (Source: screenshot of a video by the UK Parliament)

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Mathematics concerns patterns and can involve anything, so that we need flexibility in our tools when we do or use mathematics. In the dawn of mankind we used stories. When writing was invented we used pen and paper. It is a revolution for mankind, comparable to the invention of the wheel and the alphabet, that we now can do mathematics using a computer. Many people focus on the computer and would say that it is a computer revolution, but computers might also generate chaos, which shows that the true relevance comes from structured use.

I regard mathematics by computer as a two-sided coin, that involves both human thought (supported by tools) and what technically happens within a computer. The computer language (software) is the interface between the human mind and the hardware with the flow of electrons, photons or whatever (I am no physicist). We might hold that thought is more fundamental, but this is of little consequence, since we still need consistency that 1+1 = 2 in math also is 1+1 = 2 in the computer, and properly interfaced by the language that would have 1+1 = 2 too. The clearest expression of mathematics by computer is in “computer algebra” languages, that understand what this revolution for mankind is about, and which were developed for the explicit support of doing mathematics by computer.

The makers of Mathematica (WRI) might be conceptually moving to regarding computation itself as a more fundamental notion than mathematics or the recognition and handling of patterns. Perhaps in their view there would be no such two-sided coin. The brain might be just computation, the computer would obviously be computation, and the language is only a translator of such computations. The idea that we are mainly interested in the structured products of the brain could be less relevant.

Stephen Wolfram by origin is a physicist and the name “Mathematica” comes from Newton’s book and not from “mathematics” itself, though Newton made that reference. Stephen Wolfram obviously has a long involvement with cellular automata, culminating in his New Kind of Science. Wolfram (2013) distinguishes Mathematica as a computer program from the language that the program uses and is partially written in. Eventually he settled for the term “Wolfram language” for the computer language that he and WRI use, like “English” is the language used by the people in England (codified by their committees on the use of the English language).

My inclination however was to regard “Mathematica” primarily as the name of the language that happened to be evaluated by the program of the same name. I compared Mathematica to Algol and Fortran. I found Wolfram’s Addison-Wesley book title in 1991 & 1998 “Mathematica. A system for doing mathematics by computers” as quite apt. Obviously the system consists of the language and the software that runs it, but the latter might be provided by other providers too, like Fortran has different compilers. Every programmer knows that the devil is in the details, and that a language documentation on paper might not give the full details of actually running the software. Thus when there are not more software providers then it is only accurate to state the the present definition of the language is given precisely by the one program that runs it. This is only practical and not fundamental. In this situation there is no conflict in thinking of “Mathematica as the language of Mathematica“. Thus in my view there is no need to find a new name for the language. I thought that I was using a language but apparently in Wolfram’s recent view the emphasis was on the computer program. I didn’t read Wolfram’s blog in 2013 and otherwise might have given this feedback.

Wolfram (2017) and (2018) uses the terms “computational essay” and “computational thinking” while the latter is used such that he apparently intends this to mean something like (my interpretation): programming in the Wolfram Language, using internet resources, e.g. the cloud and not necessarily the stand-alone version of Mathematica or now also Wolfram Desktop. My impression is that Wolfram indeed emphasizes computation, and that he perhaps also wants to get rid of a popular confusion of the name “Mathematica” with mathematics only. Apparently he doesn’t want to get rid of that name altogether, likely given his involvement in its history and also its fine reputation.

A related website is https://www.computerbasedmath.org (CBM) by Conrad Wolfram. Most likely Conrad adopts Stephen’s view on computation. It might also be that CBM finds the name “Mathematica” disinformative, as educators (i) may be unaware of what this language and program is, (ii) may associate mathematics with pen and paper, and (iii) would pay attention however at the word “computer”. Perhaps CBM also thinks: You better adopt the language of your audience than teach them to understand your terminology on the history of Mathematica.

I am not convinced by these recent developments. I still think: (1) that this is a two-sided coin (but I am no physicist and do no know about electrons and such), (2) that it is advantageous to clarify to the world: (2a) that mathematics can be used for everything, and (2b) that doing mathematics by computer is a revolution for mankind, and (3) that one should beware of people without didactic training who want to ship computer technology into the classroom. My suggestion to Stephen Wolfram remains, as I did before in (2009, 2015a), that he turns WRI into a public utility like those that exist in Holland – while it already has many characteristics of this. It is curious to see the open source initiatives that apparently will not use the language of Mathematica, now by WRI (also) called the Wolfram Language, most likely because of copyright fears even while it is good mathematics.

Apparently there are legal concerns (but I am no lawyer) that issues like 1+1 = 2 or [Pi] are not under copyright, but that choices for software can be. For example the use of h[x] with square brackets rather than parentheses h(x), might be presented to the copyright courts as a copyright issue. This is awkward, because it is good didactics of mathematics to use the square brackets. Not only computers but also kids may get confused by expressions a(2 + b) and f(x + h) – f(x). Let me refer to my suggestion that each nation sets up its own National Center for Mathematics Education. Presently we have a jungle that is no good for WRI, no good for the open source movement (e.g. R or https://www.python.org or http://jupyter.org), and especially no good for the students. Everyone will be served by clear distinctions between (i) what is in the common domain for mathematics and education of mathematics (the language) and (ii) what would be subject to private property laws (programs in that language, interpreters and compilers for the language) (though such could also be placed into the common domain).

PM. This test has been included in the May 23 2018 article on Arithmetic with H = -1. Earlier related blogs are here and here.

Colignatus, Th. (2009, 2015a), Elegance with Substance, (1) website  (2) PDF on Zenodo

Wolfram, S. (1991, 1998), Mathematica. A system for doing mathematics by computer, 2nd edition, Addison-Wesley

Wolfram, S. (2013), What Should We Call the Language of Mathematica?, weblog

Wolfram, S. (2017), What Is a Computational Essay?, weblog

Wolfram, S. (2018), Launching the Wolfram Challenges Site, weblog

Jacob Rees-Mogg had a talk for the Oxford Union, published on YouTube on 2013-11-11. The Oxford Union is a debating society. A debater’s aim is to win the audience over and not necessarily to discuss truth. Rees-Mogg had an entertaining talk but it is not targeted at discerning truth indeed. His presentation comes across as modest and forceful, with the charm of perhaps some old-fashioned style. Who closely considers his words may however be shocked by the unreasonableness and closed-mindedness.

Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have been criticised for spreading false arguments for the June 23 2016 Brexit referendum. Obviously, these two individuals cannot be held accountable for swinging the views of some 45 million voters. I wondered since the referendum whether they had had some help. Apparently Jacob Rees-Mogg had been giving a helping hand.

To clarify Rees-Mogg’s departure from truth, we first must mention some properties of the European Parliament.

Seat-to-vote ratio’s in the EU parliament

The EU Parliament has 751 seats, distributed over 28 member states with 500 million people. The distribution over countries is not proportional to the populations, since countries are units by themselves, and it is felt that this should have some effect. Thus Germany with its population of 82 million has 96 seats (1.17 seats per million), the UK with its population of 65 million has 73 seats (1.12 seats per million), and Malta with its population of 0.5 million has 6 seats (12 seats per million). There is relatively little tension about this apportionment, since the countries fall in comparable classes (large, medium, very small), and the major political differences translate into political parties. The divisions between Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Liberals, and what have you, apparently are dispersed over countries in similar manner, or, the political parties are able to create alliances over nations. It is part of the wonder of the EU that nationalism is being channeled and that there is more scope for civil democracy. A recent paper of mine on proportional representation is here.

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s quote on Malta

Jacob Rees-Mogg does not explain above democratic solution for dealing with Member States of different sizes. He criticises the EU that Malta is over-represented compared to the UK. It is a fact that Malta has a higher seat-to-vote ratio, but only pointing to this fact obscures the other considerations. He mentions a perhaps older figure of 15 instead of the current 11, but that is irrelevant here. The demagoguery is that many in his audience apparently are not be aware of the key notions in this apportionment, and he apparently takes advantage of their lack of knowledge to win them over to his own closed-mindedness. The demagoguery is that he creates a suggestion as if Malta has 15 times more influence than the UK, as if 6 is 15 times larger than 73 (as, indeed, 6 = 15 * 73).

The quote at the final minute starting at about 11.30 is, with the abusive “proportionally outvote” and the threat of “spectres”:

“So what is this great experiment doing ? It is helping once again the rise of the extreme right, and in some cases the extreme left. That is the threat to democracy that is there, that is coming, that is deeply destructive. But the fundamental problem, the real issue at hand tonight is that there is less democracy in this country, because of the European Union. Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, however you vote the next general election, 60% of our laws, and some say higher, is made on the basis of European agreements, where the Maltese proportionally outvote us 15 to 1. Whoever you vote for, matters less than somebody in Malta votes for, about the laws of our country. And if you are unsatisfied with that, and you want it changed, I cannot give you any redress, because the United Kingdom Parliament, the most ancient democratic Parliament in the world, has been made powerless. That is the threat to democracy. It is here, but it is on the continent as well. It is a frightening spectre. The best way to deal with it, is to deal with our relationship with the European Union, to put our own democracy first and foremost, and hope that others follow.”

Does it really require a protest ?

It is almost silly to protest to this demagoguery:

  • The situation w.r.t. the UK and Malta in the EU Parliament has been explained.
  • The UK has District Representation (DR) instead of Proportional Representation (PR), which causes that the UK is much less democratic than most countries in the EU or the EU Parliament itself. The PR Gini for the UK of 2017 is 15.6%, but there has been a lot of strategic voting, so that we don’t really know what the first preferences of UK voters are. By comparison, Holland has a PR Gini of only 3.6%, and people in Holland could vote for the party of their first choice. See this weblog text and this paper.
  • I tend to think that Rees-Mogg really worries about the state of democracy, while A.C. Grayling rather sees an elitist or even pecunary motive, see this article, as in “follow the money”. Yet Rees-Mogg doesn’t study the topic, and thus he is condemned to repeat an ideology. He studied history but not science. His voting track record apparently shows that he consistently voted against Proportional Representation. Old-fashioned hypocrisy apparently is also part of his old-fashioned style.

Malta enlarged some 30 x UK, dotted with 15 x UK. Spot the Real Malta

October 18: In memoriam Daphne Caruana Galizia (1964 – 2017), journalist, killed by a car bomb.

continued from the former entry of April 4

The turnout of 32% at the April 6 2016 Dutch Referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement does not seem convincing. The 61% No vote seems impressive over the 38% Yes vote and 1% blanks, but the low turnout gives it little weight. (PM. The electorate are 13 million voters. Turnout was 4.2 million. For the treaty were 1.6 million and against the treaty were 2.5 million.)

This advisory referendum is labelled “valid” because it passed the ceiling of 30%, but the margin is so low that Mark Rutte and his government might feel excused to still ratify the treaty anyhow.

It would take only 12% to switch the No majority into a Yes majority.

Potentially, the No voters were most motivated to turn up, and the Yes voters potentially stayed at home because: (a) the referendum was advisory only, and they have reason to believe that the government would ratify the treaty anyway, (b) the referendum would be invalid when the ceiling of 30% turnout would not be reached, (c) they might believe that they were the real majority so that the outcome would be Yes anyway. Perhaps a 12% higher turnout would only have come from Yes voters.

Thus the EU might blame Mark Rutte and his government for not having tried hard enough to increase the turnout that might have caused that switch in outcome.

However, the earlier poll by Maurice the Hond suggests that a full turnout would show 53% No. We can find this figure by weighing the views of the polled votes per party with the current polled seats per party. Indeed, De Hond also concludes that the No vote would never fall below 50%. However, it is hazy what a full turnout would be. There hardly ever is 100%. Let us take the 75% turnout of the last general elections in 2012.

Assuming proportional change between these two data points {.32, .61} and {.75, .53} gives us the following sloping line that drops to 50% at 90% turnout.

Referendum result at 32% and potential at 75%

Referendum result at 32% and potential at 75%

Conclusions are:

  • With the {.75, .53} poll data point included, the referendum result is more impressive than it at first seems. Apparently the Yes vote indeed had a losing uphill battle.
  • Mark Rutte and his goverment should have tried harder to inform the electorate about the pro’s and con’s of the treaty, if they really thought that more information would have resulted in both a higher turnout and a switch to more Yes votes.
  • Mark Rutte and his goverment might not have put in this effort, since the referendum was only advisory and might not have reached the 30% ceiling.

On the sight of it, Mark Rutte and his government have blundered.

It may also be plain old Dutch deviousness: with a ploy to play into Putin’s paranoia, and a scheme to prevent a casus belli. Remember the movie Being there“.

Yesterday I had my regular lunch with Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation.

We mostly talked on how the oil price inflates corruption, and we focused on which sport he wants to enter in the next Olympic games: judo, swimming, horseback riding, shooting, or some other sport that he hasn’t shown us yet that he excels in. We curtly discussed the Dutch referendum of next Wednesday April 6 2016 on the EU – Ukraine Association Agreement.

TC: “Vlad, you have been remarkably silent on this Dutch referendum. I had expected to see the Russian Ambassador on Dutch TV campaigning for a No, but I haven’t seen him.”

VP: “Well, I want to invade the Eastern Ukraine this Spring, and this treaty is a welcome cause of war. I would be dismayed when the Dutch people would say No to the treaty and thus block it. Besides, I have asked the Ambassador to undergo a sex change operation to be more agreeable to the Dutch gays.”

TC: “When you ask the Dutch to say No, they will likely become obstinate and vote Yes. Then you have your casus belli and can also claim that you have done your best to prevent it. Or am I trying to out-smart you ?”

VP: “That would also be seen as meddling in internal national affairs. Russia doesn’t meddle. We spy or invade. I trust that the Dutch government will ratify the treaty, even when the population says No. I have promised your prime minister Mark Rutte a good job at Gazprom later on, and he seemed very happy to sit up and eat the cookie.”

TC: “Thus by July 2016 Russia will have occupied the region East of the Dnieper, and Kiev will be divided by a Wall. The EU can have its treaty with the West, and can start trying to feel happy with the mess they created.”

VP: “There is something very alluring to a permanent stalemate, like the division between North and South Korea. A permanent state of war will be very invigorating to Russia’s youth.”

TC: “Ah yes, I understand what you are thinking. Marches and parades. Battle songs. Soccer stadiums filled with ballet dancers in clockwork performances. Adrenalin is better dan meldonium. The European Union will not understand what hit them. You are brilliant and a real father for Russia.”

Vlad turned to me with a surprisingly modest expression: “Don’t give me credit. I got the idea from Garry Kasparov. Let me give you his Memo. I don’t mind when you publish it and let your Dutch friends read it too. Kasparov always loses from me in chess or politics, and he is a lousy house cleaner and waiter, but his Memo deserves some credit.”

I read the Memo in the plane, and was happy that there was plenty of Stolichnaya for the remaining three hours of the flight back home.

Memo by Garry Kasparov for Vladimir Putin, April 1 2016

Normally I try for a straight argument and end up into convolutions. Now I won’t even try.

The EU – Ukraine Association Agreement (henceforth treaty) text is here and on wikipedia (or in Dutch here and here and wiki). The wikipedia article shows that the treaty is ratified in all countries except that Holland has a referendum on April 6 2016 that might still block it.

Wikipedia actually has an article on this Dutch referendum. The Dutch referendum allows citizens only to advise the government. The government might still choose its own way – which likely is a Yes. Hence we are mostly discussing chimeras.

My main concern is the risk of war, whence I am against the treaty as it stands. Article 7 on Foreign and security policy involves the EU in a “timely and coherent manner” in the defence of Ukrainean sovereignty. The Ukraine might claim that the Crimea has been stolen by Russia, must be returned, and that the EU is legally obliged to help to get it back in “timely and coherent manner” . This is Article 7 with my emphasis:

1.   The Parties shall intensify their dialogue and cooperation and promote gradual convergence in the area of foreign and security policy, including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), and shall address in particular issues of conflict prevention and crisis management, regional stability, disarmament, non-proliferation, arms control and arms export control as well as enhanced mutually-beneficial dialogue in the field of space. Cooperation will be based on common values and mutual interests, and shall aim at increasing policy convergence and effectiveness, and promoting joint policy planning. To this end, the Parties shall make use of bilateral, international and regional fora.

2.   Ukraine, the EU and the Member States reaffirm their commitment to the principles of respect for independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders, as established in the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and to promoting these principles in bilateral and multilateral relations.

3.   The Parties shall address in a timely and coherent manner the challenges to these principles at all appropriate levels of the political dialogue provided for in this Agreement, including at ministerial level.

Professor Richard Sakwa (page at Kent) advises a No. His book is here and reviews are here and here. He agrees that the Ukraine already is a sovereign nation and has the right to engage into the current treaty with the EU. The EU has the right to engage into such a treaty too. However, it would not be wise to do so. The EU is sleepwalking again, like the sleepwalkers of 1914-1918.

Sakwa was on Dutch TV on March 20 2016 explaining – in English with Dutch subtitles (minute 41) – that the EU should look at the whole region, including the position of Russia. He was challenged by the Dutch vice-prime-minister Lodewijk Asscher with the argument that including Russia in the picture would violate the notion that the Ukraine is a sovereign nation. Asscher is a lawyer and wields a legal argument in a discussion on geopolitics and war. When Hitler invaded Holland, Asscher would say that this was illegal. Asscher has been doing all kinds of silly things but he has a quiet and soft presentation that Dutch people seem to take for wisdom.

Thus the reasoning is:

  • There should be a peace agreement with both Russia and Ukraine.
  • There should be a trade agreement with both Russia and Ukraine.
  • This current Association Agreement does not satisfy these conditions. In fact, it reduces the freedom of the Ukraine to enter into trade agreements with Russia. The Ukraine becomes the outer border of the European trade area. Trade between the Ukraine and Russia will be hit, and this will cause unemployment in the Ukraine, similarly to the unemployment that occurred in Eastern Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall (see here).
  • The EU should stop the policy that association with the EU means association with NATO.
  • The EU should use “Europe” as a term in geography and not as synonymous with EU.
  • Hence No to the current treaty.
Richard Sakwa on Dutch TV (March 20 2016)

Richard Sakwa on Dutch TV (March 20 2016, minute 41)

PM 1. Arno Wellens (in Dutch) finds it curious that Asscher was not at the discussion table, and was asked for his opinion while sitting in the audience. Wellens suggests that Sakwa anticipated a 20 minute focus on his analysis, but was surprised to find himself in a discussion with the vice-prime-minister. Perhaps this is the case. Still, it is useful to see the clash between geopolitics (Sakwa) and legalism (Asscher).

PM 2. Another English source is Mark Almond at Oxford, but perhaps a bit less outspoken as Sakwa.

PM 3. For Dutch viewers there is a nice discussion of March 27 between Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Yes) and Arjo Klamer (No). Klamer’s main concern is that the Ukraine has too much corruption, so that the EU’s neoliberal policies will benefit the oligarchs and be disastrous for the common people. This is partly correct. It is strange that Klamer doesn’t give a better economic analysis, but see here (in Dutch).

PM 4. There is some information on a EUR 11 bn Ukraine state building project financed by the EU. This is about EUR 250 per Ukrainean, or one-time 12.5% of the annual GDP per capita of EUR 2000. We may guess where this money is going to land. Perhaps it is an acceptable bribe to get better law and police in the long term. That said, there is still the issue of war. It would be foolish to pay a bribe to get involved in fighting.

There is Good news and there is Bad news. The Good news is that while Bashar al-Assad flew in secrecy to Moscow to meet with Putin – of which photo’s were released when he was safe at home again – that also his enemy IS leader and self-acclaimed “Caliph Ibrahim” flew in secrecy to Moscow to see Putin – though no photo’s were released. When asked, Putin will invoke plausible deniability.

The President of the Russian Federation will also show his intense irritation about questions on this – a dead give-away. I happened to be present at the occasion because of my monthly chat with him, so let me help him by reporting on the main details.

The Bad news is that self-acclaimed “Caliph Ibrahim” brought along an ancient game of chess as a present for Putin, and then destroyed it before his eyes, throwing it to shambles and beheading the pieces.

Vlad: “That was a gift ! You were going to give it to me ! You completely ruined it !”

sa”CI”: “Let this be a lesson for you !”

Vlad: “That was an ancient game of chess ! A priceless artifact !”

sa”CI”: “Yes, indeed. We found it when we ransacked the Mosul Museum. It belonged to Egyptian Pharao Ramses I when he fought the war at Armageddon around in 3000 BC. It was his gift for his ally from Babylon, Nebukadnezar the Terrible.”

Vlad: “And you barbarian just smashed this ?! I must ask Garry Kasparov to glue those heads on again. He can be smart, you know ? He won’t glue a pawn’s head onto a horse. Though these Egyptian pieces look funny.”

sa”CI”: “That isn’t a horse but a crocodile. And what you call a pawn is a scorpion.”

Queen Nefertari at the board (Source: wikimedia commons)

Queen Nefertari at the board (Source: wikimedia commons)

Vlad: “Well, in that case I am happy that you cut those heads off. Was that your lesson for me ?”

sa”CI”: “Not really. See those pieces that look like penises ? We cannot tolerate pornography.”

Vlad: “And now I am unhappy again. You Cut Those Off.”

The strong man of Russia shuddered.

sa”CI”: “I said that Ramses gave it as a present to his ally Nebukadnezar the Terrible. You must know the full story. They fought together against Alexander the Great and his Hittites, and when they had won the war, then Ramses put Nebukadnezar in a cellar, and gave him this game of chess, so that he and Alexander the Great could pass the time by trying to take each other’s penises.”

Vlad – flushing: “Ah. Oh. So. Ah. Yes. You have got me completely freaked now, I must admit. Am I really getting grateful that you destroyed that … priceless artifact ?”

sa”CI”: “There is no need to thank me. I enjoyed doing it. I only brought it along to show something about the Middle East. We have been at each other’s throats since the beginning of civilisation. Actually, civilisation began because we have been at each other’s throats. Don’t think that you can win. Don’t think that you can invent any new power ploy that we haven’t practiced to perfection for millennia already. Just give us weapons. Then I will give you my advice.”

Courtesy of Alma-Tadema.org

Courtesy of Alma-Tadema.org

Post scriptum

Below is the ancient chess game between Nebukadnezar the Terrible and Alexander the Great from around 3000 BC, restored by Garry Kasparov. The crocodiles were too much damaged and have been replaced by Staunton horses. On insistence by Putin the penises have been replaced by the sun symbol, now the king. Because of his mortal fear of scorpions, Kasparov replaced those by penises again, but Putin selected the Staunton pawns again. The sitting figure is the queen, scarabs are rooks, and three feathers are the bishop. It has been lost in history who took what side and whose turn it was, and why they didn’t finish the game. President Putin’s main goal now is to get peace in the Middle East so that he can start digging to find out.

Ancient game of chess, restored

Ancient game of chess, restored

The discussion of Putin’s proof gave me an email from Alexis Tsipras, who just resigned as prime minister of Greece and is busy with the general elections of September 20 soon. Rather than reporting on it, I might as well fully quote it.

To: Thomas
From: Alexis@formerprimeministerofgreece.org
Subject: My proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem
Date: Fri, 28 Aug 2015 11:58:03 +0100
Google Unique Message Identifier: 23DFGA@671

Dear Thomas,

Thank you very much for your discussion of President Putin’s proof when he was a youngster of Fermat’s Last Theorem. I know his mother Vera Putina very well. The Putin family has a vacation home here in Greece, and she can stay there on the condition that she immediately leaves when Putin himself comes down. She has shown me his proof too. I can only agree with your conclusion that it shows how smart President Putin was when he was young.

Putin’s proof inspired me to find a proof too. I am sometimes exhausted by the tough negotiations with the European Heads of State and Government, if not with members of my own party. Thus I resort often to a sanatorium for recuperation. Thinking about such issues like Fermat’s Last Theorem helps to clear my mind from mundane thoughts. I was very happy last Spring to indeed find a much shorter and more elegant proof. 

For the theorem and notation I refer to your weblog. My proof goes as follows.

Theorem. No positive integers n, a, b and can satisfy an + bn = cn for n > 2.

Proof. (Alexis Tsipras, April 31 2015)

Let us assume that an + bn = cn holds, and derive a contradiction.

There are two possibilities: (1) n is even, or (2) n is uneven.

(1) If n is even, then we can write A = an/2 and B = bn/2 and C = cn/2 such that A, B and C are still integers. Then we get the following equation:

A2 + B2 = C2

This equation satisfies the condition that n = 2, and thus it doesn’t satisfy the condition n > 2.

(2) If n is uneven, then we can write A = a(n-1)/2 and B = b(n-1)/2 and C = c(n-1)/2 such that A, B and C are still integers. Then we get the following equation:

a A2 + b B2 = c C2

This equation does not satisfy the form of an + bn = cn so that it falls outside of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

In both cases the conditions of the theorem are no longer satisfied. We thus reject the hypothesis that an + bn = cn holds. Q.E.D.

This is much shorter that President Putin’s proof. And, I prove it while he only came close. I have been hesitating to tell him, fearing that he might become jealous, and be no longer willing to support Greece as he does in these difficult times for my country. Now that you have confirmed how wonderful his proof at only age 12 was, I feel more assured. Will you please publish this proof of mine too, like you did with President Putin’s proof ? I have put my best efforts in this proof, just like at the negotiations with the European Heads of State and Government. Thus I hope that it will be equally convincing, if not more.

After the next elections I will probably be exhausted again. I would like to work on another problem then. Do you have any suggestions ?

Sincerely yours,

Alexis

Fermat and Tsipras (source: wikimedia commons)

Fermat and Tsipras (source: wikimedia commons)