The Long View 2007-10-24: Parallel Universes; Doctor Who; The Purpose-Driven Hurricane; Thomas Friedman; The Final Bush Cover-Up.

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Parallel Universes; Doctor Who; The Purpose-Driven Hurricane; Thomas Friedman; The Final Bush Cover-Up.

"Did I make something up?" asked the horrified Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. "The universe is so dreadful already; why would I make more of it up?" Imagine his distress if he read about the recent study supporting the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics:

Parallel universes really do exist, according to a mathematical discovery by Oxford scientists described by one expert as "one of the most important developments in the history of science"...In Everett's "many worlds" universe, every time a new physical possibility is explored, the universe splits. Given a number of possible alternative outcomes, each one is played out - in its own universe...The Oxford team, led by Dr David Deutsch, showed mathematically that the bush-like branching structure created by the universe splitting into parallel versions of itself can explain the probabilistic nature of quantum outcomes.

You can already find more on the study at Wikipedia.

I gather that, in the most common Many Worlds interpretation, you don't even have the satisfaction of inter-universal travel: quantum branches that diverged in the past can meet again, but only if they have lost all "memory" of their origin, so that a future never looks back on more than one past.

Many Worlds Theory does not mean "anything that can happen, does happen." It does not even mean that the alternative worlds are real in the sense the world we know is real. Some variant of the anthropic coincidence must keep the ensemble of worlds, if there is one, from expanding like an infinite gas. Almost all variations from the known world would produce not alternative worlds but mush. Or maybe I am starting to sound like Frank Tipler.

* * *

Hurricanes are manageable, or are about to become so, if we may believe this report. Lawyers are something else again:

But the hurricane modifiers are fighting more than the weather. Lawyers warn that diverting a hurricane from one city to save life and property could result in multi- billion dollar lawsuits from towns that bear the brunt instead.

But these questions have been asked and answered, surely? The authorities have a prerogative under the police powers to destroy private property to create a fire-break; diverting a hurricane from a major city to a small one does not obviously present new issues.

* * *

The latest Doctor Who series has received favorable notice at First Things, in the form of an article by John D. Martin entitled An Alien Grace. Actually, it seems to me that the Doctor has become a sort of Bodhisattva for England, though perhaps with some Narnian overtones of self-sacrifice and forgiveness.

In any case, the new series has stopped even pretending to be science fiction. And the latest Master is no Roger Delgado.

* * *

When the Chinese Bubble bursts, what will happen then? That is the question John Lee seems to pose in his assessment, China's syndrome of lawless growth

There is growing evidence that the regime's authority and capacity to govern are declining (in addition to its legitimacy). ...the authority of the CCP is based on an insecure strategy of inefficiently using resources to fuel a bubble economy...public decision-making and administration become more sporadic and unpredictable as the disconnect between the central leadership and the majority of its population becomes more pronounced... as the regime decentralised, there was a loss of fiscal (tax collection and spending), administrative and legislative power for the central government, which was increasingly transferred to local governments. ...the loss of credibility continues to be directed towards the party as a whole....What we mostly hear from the Chinese Government is talk of procedures established to mitigate the seriousness of these incidents. Piecing together a picture of what is happening has mostly been left to intrepid insiders and determined reporters. These piecemeal reports, which are becoming more lucid and comprehensive, point to scenarios that have variously been described as a tipping point, a time bomb and a precipice for the regime.

We may note that Gordon Chang's Coming Collapse of China predicted in 2001 that the bubble would burst last year. On the hand, we may note that Andre Amalrik's long essay, Will the Soviet Union Survive until 1984 (which I remember as a small book that I read in 1970, but which I now find represented online by this Part I and that Part II) was not wholly misleading. His biggest mistake, if I remember correctly, was the assumption that the Maoist regime in China would not just endure, but gradually overrun the eastern Soviet Union.

* * *

Meanwhile, all the people are rejoicing at the dismantling of the Times Select barrier at the New York Times, so we can read great thoughts like these from Thomas L. Friedman:

[T]he air has gone out of the Iraq debate....what you have today is more of a spotty truce, with U.S. soldiers still caught in the middle. That is a quiet strategy, not an exit strategy.

Actually, a "quiet strategy" was all the British were able to provide in that part of the world, and the Ottomans for 400 years before them. The mission now, perhaps, is to do it without a major troop presence. But I interrupt:

Indeed, I continue to believe that everyone has us where they want us in Iraq: We’re holding up the floor for Iraqi politicians to do their endless tribal dance; we are bogged down and within missile range of Iran, so if we try to use any military force to disrupt Tehran’s nuclear program we will pay a huge price; and as long as we are trapped in Iraq, we will never even think about promoting reform elsewhere in the Arab world — to the relief of all Arab autocrats.

The idea that it is a disadvantage to have American armies within driving distance of the Iranian border is to subtle a point for me to grasp, perhaps. Military forces can now be protected by antimissile interceptors. As for the relief of the Arab autocrats, no doubt the sack of the Green Zone would have them quaking in their Guccis. But again, I interrupt:

Letting everyone know that we’re not staying there forever would be the best way to catalyze both local and regional negotiations and give us something we don’t now have: leverage.

Remember the scene in Blazing Saddles where the sheriff escapes from a mob by pointing a gun to head and kidnapping himself? Now that's geopolitics for you.

Look, it's a fine thing to have leverage with your friends, and even with your "friends"; it's a vital necessity to have credibility with your enemies.

* * *

On the same question, Greyhawk asks: "Want more evidence of victory in Iraq? Look no further than Newsweek's amazing attempt at spin":

The Bush administration is starving for good news out of Iraq, and it may finally have some: new U.S. government statistics showing that violent attacks of all kinds are down to levels not seen since 2005. But until recently, the administration appears to have resisted acknowledging a key element of the new data, because it flies in the face of President George W. Bush's ongoing rhetorical confrontation with Iran's clerical regime. According to three senior U.S. officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, the decline in Iraq violence also includes a decrease in the number of attacks attributable to insurgents backed or armed by Iran. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell confirmed to NEWSWEEK that "there has indeed been a drop" in such attacks, but he added that "it's not entirely clear what the reason for that is."

This is starting to sound like the end of the Cold War. At that time, the political system ground its wheels before it made the transition from talking about how to manage the disaster of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy to what the US was supposed to do with a win.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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