July 4, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 1:46 PM


Onlookers chase white supremacists marching in front of Philadelphia City Hall (Tom Boggioni, July 04, 2021, Raw Story)

In a video posted to Twitter, a group of white supremacists who marched in front of the Philadelphia City Hall can be seen running from onlookers yelling at them to leave.

According NBCPhiladelphia, the marchers --- clad in tan pants, black shirts and khaki hats -- were waving flags tied to the rightwing Patriot Front organization at about 11 PM Saturday where they met resistance from onlookers on the streets.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


AI Designs Quantum Physics Experiments Beyond What Any Human Has Conceived: Originally built to speed up calculations, a machine-learning system is now making shocking progress at the frontiers of experimental quantum physics (Anil Ananthaswamy, July 2, 2021, Scientific American)

During their early attempts to simplify and generalize what MELVIN had found, Krenn and his colleagues realized that the solution resembled abstract mathematical forms called graphs, which contain vertices and edges and are used to depict pairwise relations between objects. For these quantum experiments, every path a photon takes is represented by a vertex. And a crystal, for example, is represented by an edge connecting two vertices. MELVIN first produced such a graph and then performed a mathematical operation on it. The operation, called "perfect matching," involves generating an equivalent graph in which each vertex is connected to only one edge. This process makes calculating the final quantum state much easier, although it is still hard for humans to understand.

That changed with MELVIN's successor THESEUS, which generates much simpler graphs by winnowing the first complex graph representing a solution that it finds down to the bare minimum number of edges and vertices (such that any further deletion destroys the setup's ability to generate the desired quantum states). Such graphs are simpler than MELVIN's perfect matching graphs, so it is even easier to make sense of any AI-generated solution.

Renner is particularly impressed by THESEUS's human-interpretable outputs. "The solution is designed in such a way that the number of connections in the graph is minimized," he says. "And that's naturally a solution we can better understand than if you had a very complex graph."

Eric Cavalcanti of Griffith University in Australia is both impressed by the work and circumspect about it. "These machine-learning techniques represent an interesting development. For a human scientist looking at the data and interpreting it, some of the solutions may look like 'creative' new solutions. But at this stage, these algorithms are still far from a level where it could be said that they are having truly new ideas or coming up with new concepts," he says. "On the other hand, I do think that one day they will get there. So these are baby steps--but we have to start somewhere."

Steinberg agrees. "For now, they are just amazing tools," he says. "And like all the best tools, they're already enabling us to do some things we probably wouldn't have done without them."

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


Foundations of the American Republic: a review of The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn & The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 by Gordon S. Wood  (Donald Lutz, July 2nd, 2021, Imaginative Conservative)

Dr. Bailyn found that American political theory was a combination of several theoretical strains. "Most conspicuous in the writings of the Revolutionary period was the heritage of classical antiquity." The pamphlet authors, however, had a very restricted knowledge of the ancients insofar as they drew from a restricted set of works by the ancients. "What gripped their minds, what they knew in detail, and what formed their view of the whole of the ancient world was the political history of Rome...."[4] Plutarch, Livy, Cicero, Sallust, and Tacitus dominated their footnotes on the ancients. "More directly influential in shaping the thought of the Revolutionary generation were the ideas and attitudes associated with the writings of Enlightenment rationalism...."[5] Dr. Bailyn found an astonishing number of citations to leading secular thinkers of the Enlightenment such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Locke, Pufendorf, Vattel, Beccaria, Grotius, Hume, Bolingbroke, Delolme, etc. While the range of authors cited was impressive, Dr. Bailyn found that pamphleteers often had only a superficial knowledge of most, and failed to distinguish between important figures like Locke and secondary figures like Burlamaqui. Also prominent were major figures in English common law such as Sir Edward Coke and Blackstone. There were also frequent references to trial reports, but Dr. Bailyn notes that the "offhand familiarity" that pamphleteers used in drawing from this third intellectual tradition did not reflect great knowledge. Citations were often imprecise and inappropriate, and although the common law was influential in shaping the minds of Revolutionary leaders, it did not determine the conclusions that they drew. A fourth tradition affecting the ideas of the Revolutionary pamphleteers derived from the political and social ideas of New England Puritanism, especially from the ideas associated with covenant theology. While this was in a sense the most limited and parochial tradition drawn upon, contemporary texts in American political theory have a tendency to emphasize Puritan thought as the most important antecedent to American Revolutionary thought. Or, as Gordon Lloyd points out, there is at best the tendency to list all of these intellectual traditions in historical sequence without explaining how these various, disparate sources fit into the history of American political theory in any coherent fashion. Dr. Bailyn is not guilty of this error.

Dr. Bailyn's essential contribution is to show that there was a coherent pattern brought to all of these intellectual strands by a fifth aspect of American colonial heritage, and that this last, usually ignored tradition is far more important than has been recognized before.

But important as all of these clusters of ideas were, they did not in themselves form a coherent intellectual pattern, and they did not exhaust the elements that went into the making of the Revolutionary mind. There were among them, in fact, striking incongruities and contradictions.... What brought these disparate strands of thought together, what dominated the colonists' miscellaneous learning and shaped it into a coherent whole, was the influence of still another group of writers, a group whose thought overlapped with that of those already mentioned but which was yet distinct in its essential characteristics and unique in its determinative power. The ultimate origins of this distinctive ideological strain lay in the radical social and political thought of the English Civil War and of the Commonwealth period; but its permanent form had been acquired at the turn of the seventeenth century and in the early eighteenth century, in the writings of a group of prolific opposition theorists, 'country' politicians and publicists.[6]

Prominent names were John Trenchard, Thomas Gordon, Algernon Sidney, Henry Neville, Bishop Benjamin Hoadly, John Milton, Robert Viscount Molesworth, Viscount Bolingbroke, and a host of lesser names. These men, whose writings are today long forgotten, were often regarded as equal to or better than John Locke in their respective abilities at political analysis. As Dr. Bailyn says, "more than any other single group of writers they shaped the mind of the American Revolutionary generation."[7] These men called themselves "Whigs," and many American pamphleteers also termed themselves Whigs after their English and Scottish exemplars. For a variety of reasons, American political thinkers appropriated Whig ideas and used them to draw selectively upon the other traditions mentioned by Dr. Bailyn. It is the prominence of Whig theory that brought coherence to these five strands, and if any name should be attached to the first American political theory discussed earlier, "Whig" is probably as good a name as any.

The matter of names is not unimportant. Because there was diversity among them, and because they lost the struggle to define the form of national government we adopted, defenders of this earlier tradition have come to be known as "Antifederalists." This name connotes mere opposition and little sense of their having a positive, coherent theory of their own. Perhaps because they are portrayed only negatively as Antifederalists, American Whig political theorists have been ignored and their intellectual roots forgotten. At the same time, we have forgotten the meaning and consequences of the first two hundred years of our American experience, and while Dr. Bailyn has done us a great service by refocusing our attention upon Whig political thought, he has done so in a manner that also fails to recapture our complete political heritage. This failure will occupy the discussion in the last half of this essay.

Gordon Wood takes up where Dr. Bailyn leaves off. Dr. Bailyn demonstrates that American political theory was dominated in 1776 by Whig thought, but Dr. Wood shows how Whig theory and Federalist theory (which drew most heavily upon Enlightenment thinkers) interacted in the context of events between 1776 and 1787. It is the great strength of Dr. Wood's book that he can structure our understanding of politics between 1776 and 1787 in terms of a struggle between two competing sets of ideas without ever having seriously to bend, twist, or stretch history. His view of this period in American history is comprehensive and fact-oriented at the same time that it is clear and precise. Indeed, it is hard to think of a historian who is more gifted at uncovering order in a plethora of human activity and then translating this order into shifts in nuance in political thinking.

Both of these books must be read by students of American political theory, but Gordon Wood's book must be read carefully and more than once. Dr. Bailyn has reoriented the historian's view of the Revolution by forcing another look at English Whig thought, but his perspective remains that of a historian looking heavily at English intellectual history. Dr. Wood, on the other hand, keeps his eyes firmly set on our own shores, and his careful reconstruction of American political thinking during the era provides more than a history. Dr. Wood has succeeded better than anyone else in bringing coherence to what earlier had been treated as a hopeless intellectual bog--Whig political theory.


Dr. Wood concisely states the thesis of his book in the introduction:

As I explored this pattern of beliefs...it soon became clear that the terms and categories of political thought were undergoing rapid change, beset by the strongest kinds of polemical and experiential pressures. When I began to compare the debates surrounding the Revolutionary constitution-making of 1776 with those surrounding the formation of the federal Constitution of 1787, I realized that a fundamental transformation of political culture had taken place.[8]

Upon finishing the book it is difficult not to accept Dr. Wood's thesis since his evidence is comprehensive and detailed, his case is well-argued, and his stance is consistently even-handed and neutral. Even so, readers will be divided over his use of the word "fundamental" in the statement above. Was the transformation in political culture "fundamental" in the sense that there is more discontinuity than continuity between 1776 and 1787, or is it "fundamental" in the sense that a reasonably continuous theoretical development is deflected only a few degrees but enough to create an entirely different political system two centuries later than we would have expected if Whig political thought had remained dominant? That is, was the change fundamental because of immediate and apparent shifts in thinking, or more in terms of the long-range implications? Some might find it most useful and accurate to view Federalist theory as a "variant" of Whig theory. That is, there is enough continuity between Whig and Federalist theory to view them as stages in the development of an evolved American political theory. At the same time, the differences are not so slight as to be passed over lightly. Federalist theory changed the way we viewed politics, created many new institutions, and often changed the manner in which Whig-derived institutions operated. Gordon S. Wood has properly focused our attention on the fact that there was enough change in political thinking between 1776 and 1787 to overshadow anything in American experience before or since. Both the extent of discontinuity and the speed with which it developed permit a credible case to be made that the change was a fundamental one in any sense of the word. The beauty of Dr. Wood's work is that it proceeds with a clarity and comprehensiveness at the theoretical level which permits us to pinpoint precisely what did change. What follows in this essay is an abstraction of Dr. Wood's reconstruction of Whig political thought.

Whig political theory as recreated by Gordon S. Wood can be summarized in four sets of assumptions. The first set of assumptions flowed from the belief that the people were a homogeneous entity. Despite gradations and ranks within the population, all people had the same rights and thus were politically indistinguishable.[9] In the American Whig view, politics was an inevitable and perpetual battle between the people, who were trying to protect these rights, and the rulers, who were constantly trying to extend their power. This traditional dichotomy between the people and their government was joined with a belief that when conflicts arose between the desires of an individual and those of the community at large the community should get its way. Thus, the interests of the community were considered superior to those of any individual, especially if the individual held political power. From this general perspective we derive three related assumptions:

A1: The population is homogeneous with respect to rights.
A2: The population has a community of interests in protecting and preserving these rights.
A3: Community interests are superior to individual interests.[10]

The second set of assumptions flowed from the American belief that they were a virtuous people. Virtue was defined in the double sense of possessing superior moral qualities (in the Christian sense) and in the sense of possessing to a greater extent those qualities necessary for self-government (the Greek notion of virtue).[11] European commentators merely reinforced American beliefs when they spoke of the "natural man" living on American shores in possession of the "manly virtues" found in the "state of nature." The flight from European decadence had been prominent among the motivations for religious emigration to America during the 1600s. This tendency for Americans to view themselves as a "chosen people" brought to the "promised land" to escape the evils and temptations of the luxury in Egypt and Babylon (England) would surface again in the 1770s as one of the major justifications for breaking with England, as Dr. Wood points out. Although seeing "through a glass darkly," these Americans with their pristine, republican virtues had a peculiar ability to govern themselves in a manner congruent with the good. Significantly, it was assumed that the good in a moral sense would always be congruent with the interest of the entire community, it was simply a matter of moving slowly enough to ensure that the community interest had been properly ascertained. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Poll: Even White Republican Men Are Going Sour On Trump (Kerry Eleveld, July 04 | 2021,  Daily Kos)

Don't tell the Republican Party, but Donald Trump isn't exactly killing it with one of his most loyal demographics: white men.

Trump's biggest blow, according to Civiqs tracking, has come from white male independents, where his favorables have dropped a solid 10 points since a post-Election Day high of 53 percent in mid-November. Now Trump is six points underwater with the demographic, 43 percent - 49 percent.

But Trump's favorable rating over the past several months also shows him losing steam even faster with white GOP men than with white GOP women. 

Donald who?