Friday, August 15, 2014

EU courage moved from Czechia to Slovakia, Hungary

Some years ago, when Václav Klaus was the Czech president, my country would be the ultimate headquarters of those who are not afraid to say what is crucial and importantly wrong about the contemporary European Union.

Well, at least the headquarters for the central and Eastern portion of the EU, but sometimes beyond this subset. I couldn't have hid my pride about those matters.

Thankfully, Klaus was succeeded by Miloš Zeman who has at least some balls (and when it comes to the Ukrainian matters, he at least opposes the sanctions). His opponent in the elections, Karel Schwarzenberg, is a good-nurtured charming aristocrat, I think, but with him as the boss of the Prague Castle, we would be the ultimate European sycophants.

Our new center-left government is a připosraný one, however. (My English is far from sufficient to allow me to translate this adjective: apologies. But it's something like "wearing preemptively partially šitted pants".)

I understand that our Polish brothers have some reasons for a visceral hatred of Russia – which doesn't apply to Ukraine and which affects their foreign policy – much like many other emotional issues that are so important for the Poles' thinking.

However, our attitude to the Russian-Ukrainian tension should naturally be very similar to the Slovak or Hungarian one. We don't have this "special" hatred of the Russians because in our historical experience, the Ukrainians and the Russians have played pretty much the same (mixed) role. And we have lots of ongoing trade with Russia that we surely don't want to sacrifice, at least not in the long run and without replacements.

But try to search Google News for Sobotka sanctions. Our PM Sobotka only says things like "the EU should solve the sanctions", perhaps the "EU should talk about compensating the farmers who are affected", and so on. But he would never say any clear sentence expressing an attitude or a plan. What he would say if the EU actually talked, and so on.

A diagram schematically showing the difference between the structure of Slovak and Czech muscles.

I have never been a big fan of the Slovak social democratic prime minister Fico, especially due to his lukewarm relationship to the Velvet Revolution etc. But yes, I do think that his physique looks better than that of Mr George Quimby Paroubek, his equally socialist Czech counterpart at some moment. ;-)

Needless to say, I am much closer ideologically to Hungarian PM Viktor Orban.

But those general ideological issues are not too important now. What's more important is that those men could actually present some independent vision and interests of their nations. A few days ago, Fico would point out that the sanctions are harming the Slovak economy and yesterday, he even dared to criticize the Kiev junta, despite its being the current best darling of the brainwashed sheep in the West, for its own sanctions against Russia.

Today, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban denounced the trade war with Russia, saying that the EU is shooting itself in the foot because the impact on Europe is actually more negative than the impact on Russia – which is bad even if the latter were the goal, and I surely think it shouldn't be one.

Where are we, the Czechs? We are nowhere to be seen on the map.

Just to be sure, various experts and supermarket chains predict the food prices to drop by 10-15 percent which would be very nice for us, the consumers. But the limited happiness would be partially compensated by fear about the fate of our agricultural and food industry sectors.

There are some aspects in which Václav Klaus was a rather typical Czech man. Of course, he was above the average or far from the average from many perspectives that I probably don't have to enumerate but you find perspectives in which he represented the typical (or most) Czechs rather faithfully.

But I would still say that the current government with its preemptively partially šitted pants is a more accurate representative of the average Czech citizen. After all, most of our ancestors would be rather happily licking the buttocks of our Habsburg overlords, Nazi overlords, and Soviet overlords, among others, so it shouldn't be shocking that most of us are eager to sacrifice 5% of the economy if it helps us to penetrate deeper into the rectums of our new overlords in Brussels – or some left-wing interventionist assholes in the White House, for that matter.

Of course, I am not happy about this picture of the Czech national character because the very concept of the national character is just a caricature that is moreover open to evolution – it may evolve in various directions and each of us may affect the evolution in some way. However, realistically, the Czech man as an opportunist coward who is more than happy to mindlessly obey someone else's commands is a good framework to predict the Czechs' behavior in many respects and the current Czech government isn't significantly deviating from this paradigm.

Yes, I have largely stopped watching the domestic politics because I consider the Brownian motion of these intellectual and political dwarfs to be an immense waste of my time; I will generously leave this "entertainment" to those who have voted for this stuff. I hope that I will still be around when these zeroes are going to be replaced by someone more valuable.


  1. Very interesting post, Lubos, your views are so un-PC that their effect is something like a cold shower. I, too, find Václav Klaus to be one of the very few interesting, in the sense of deep, politicians to have crossed the world stage in recent times, and your last paragraph perfectly sums up my attitude to the current scene (I even dumped my TV).

    But maybe you are a little hard on the Czech man. Andrew Roberts’ recent account of WWII has a take on the Czechs during the Battle of Britain that surprised me. The bravery of Polish Spitfire pilots in that air-battle is fairly well known, but the Czech Spitfire pilots, according to Roberts, were so ferocious in their attacks that even the Poles thought them suicidal. So, not that far back, the Czechs were known for their balls.

  2. "I understand that our Polish brothers have some reasons for a visceral hatred of Russia"

    Not everyone is brainwashed here

    "which doesn't apply to Ukraine."

    Oh really?

  3. Dear Tom, thanks for your both soulmating and provoking feedback.

    I surely do admire the Czechoslovak RAF pilot but it's silly to imagine they're representative of the nation. It was just 2,500 men - who were treated very very badly after they returned to the Gottwald-led homeland.

    Incidentally, in June 1992, I was a recipient of the first "historical signet of the City of Pilsen from 1307", still have it (well, it was temporarily lost in my dad's garage although he would have denied it for a decade LOL).

    I was just a kid, 18+, who only won the Czechoslovak math olympiad (1st-2nd) and there were two dozens of famous people like the coach of the Pilsner hockey team that got to the final match in the last year of the federal hockey league (lost to Košice), some inventors from Škoda Pilsen, and so on, and so on.

    But I was sitting next to... Antonín Liška. You know, a pretty famous RAF pilot from the Pilsner region who wrote some books, too. I told him, while shy, that I and probably my generation was deeply appreciating his and their courage and acts. My comments were very pathetic... but real at the same time.

    Incidentally, it wasn't my first time meeting Liška. Ten years earlier, during communism, we would be returning with my mother from Marienbad, hitchhiking trip etc., and there was just "The May Bookfest of Pilsen", Květnová knižní Plzeň. I was 8 or so and caught a paper aircraft somewhere where Liška was on a panel, probably talking about war books etc.

    Of course, catching the airplane among 100 people in the audience was the harder part of the story. We also won the knowledge contest over there, and got the prize, 4 books. Well, we partly won because Liška himself was helping us secretly with some answers, partially because he had a crush on my mother who was closer to a 35+ year old MILF than to the psychiatrically tortured tragedy of today...

  4. Right, precious few have levels of bravery like that. For instance, I had to read this fact in 4 or 5 histories before believing it: only 1/3 of US infantry in Northwest Europe during WWII would fire their weapons - i.e. 2/3 were cowering in their foxholes.

    Liška found your mom a MILF - that is very funny.

  5. "... to say what is crucial and importantly wrong about the contemporary European Union"

    That can be done it two words: it exists.

    The f#cked-up midwives who assisted at its birth unleashed a teratoma into the world.

    It needs to be stamp out, along with its Frankenstein gene line. So do the midwives and all those who nurse it yet.

  6. hey do u know the meaning of climate change

  7. if u know please respond i am teaching form 1 and the children are very godd but they ask questions out of the topic

  8. Dear Luboš,

    "... the Poles ... had almost 20,000 pilots in RAF at the end of the war."

    Those 20,000 odd (out of about a million RAF personnel) weren't all pilots, surely, and that was by the war's end. There were only 145 Polish (and 88 Czechoslovakian) pilots involved in the Battle of Britain in 1940.

  9. "... only 1/3 of US infantry in Northwest Europe during WWII would fire their weapons - i.e. 2/3 were cowering in their foxholes.2/3 were cowering in their foxholes."

    Well, just maybe they had better generals this time round who preferred to keep those darling mothers's sons as safe as possible while getting the job done, unlike the cunts who shoved them by the thousand into enemy machine-gun fire a generation before.

    Cowering in their foxholes...


  10. I offer Canadian First American "iqualuit". "unwiped bum." They may have been here first, but they didn't do much with it.

    When will the EU tell the US Queen of Kenya, ""póg mo thóin"?

  11. what do u think without the green house gases or ozone layer we would be living in which planet

  12. Lol, the discrepancy of yours arises because 1940 and the battle of Britain was nor the end of war...

  13. Hey Lumo, a little bit of off topic.
    Do you think that Ukrainian crisis would lead to the World War 3 with a use of a weapons of mass destruction?

  14. John, the thing is the US infantry in NWE were all draftees and, plainly, weren’t quite as gung-ho as the guys in the Hollywood movies. The record of the US Marines, all volunteers, in the Pacific in WWII, however, gives the other side of the coin. Pretty hard to find examples of braver soldiers than those guys.

    As for those boneheads called generals in WWI, it still amazes me that Douglas Haig was elevated to the British peerage for his “leadership” in the slaughters of the Western front. Amazingly, the man never visited the trenches for fear it would cloud his, so-called, thinking.

  15. "… 2/3 were cowering in their foxholes."

    I'd have to see the context of this to be definitive, but it's worth noting that there are *far* more jobs in an infantry division than carrying a rifle at the front. There is a huge logistical support structure behind the front-line soldiers, for everything from food and water to fuel, ammunition, vehicle maintenance, medical care, etc. I'm actually a bit *surprised* that as many as 1/3 actually fired a rifle, in that context.

  16. It is a weird concept: CERN just hires Nobel prizes, and never gets them for free. Also, it gets outrageously expensive to hire students, and summer students cost more than Nobel prizes.

    Whoever conceived this game did not really get it, I think...

  17. I could have been clearer. I mentioned the numbers in 1940 only to contrast them with the numbers at the war's end.

    I thought the growth of 145 to 20,000 made for a hell of an influx in Polish pilots when we were effectively Incommunicado as far as the continent was concerned over the following four years, and that wasn't just because there was an occasional fog in the Channel. :)

    So that's why I thought that figure of 20,000 must be for total personnel rather than just pilots.

    While I take anything Wiki has to say with a pinch of salt I don't see any reason for skulduggery in what I find here, and it tallies with your number provided they're counted as personnel and not pilots. I don't know what the 'support ratio' for pilots is but I imagine it's at least on the order of 10 ground personnel to every pilot, but even growth to 2,000 Polish pilots still seems a lot. I think we had around 2,000 at the Battle of Britain when there was a shortage. We surely trained up a lot more in the meantime.

    Polish contingent:

    "A total of 145 Polish fighter pilots served in the RAF during the Battle of Britain, making up the largest non-British contribution. By the end of the war, around 19,400 Poles were serving in the Polish Air Force in Great Britain and in RAF."

    That means they constituted about 2% of total RAF+ personnel, which sounds more reasonable to me:

    "At its height in 1944 during the Second World War, more than 1,100,000 personnel were serving in the RAF.

    Somewhere else I saw a figure of 27,000 for the number of RAF aircraft towards the end of WWII, but the source didn't strike me as authoritative. But if true it looks way out of kilter with a figure of 20,000 for Polish pilots.

    Are you sure of your source?

  18. On the contrary, these things are very realistic. The LHC hasn't received a Nobel prize and chances are that it won't receive one anytime soon.

    But to hire Nobel prize winners may be very cheap. For people outside CERN, it is very cheap - much cheaper than 100 summer students - to buy a Nobel prize. For example. Al Gore only paid $1 million for a cheap untrue Goebbelsian commercial ("An Inconvenient Truth") when he was buying his Nobel prize.

  19. I hope not but I can't rule it out. If you're interested, 50% of the Czechs are afraid of exactly this, surveys show.

  20. Can you give a more standard example, perhaps a textbook example, such that, upon acquiring the new information that B is true, the prior P(A | B) does not become the new P(A)? Thanks.

  21. No, I cannot. I think it's really wrong to combine probabilities about both facts of the external world and one's position in the world, so you won't find this treatment of yours in any textbook.

  22. Same point of view about state dependence:
    Joe didn't really refuse this solution of the paradox

  23. The ratchet clicked once again yesterday. It's hard to see how a war of some sort (hopefully limited to Ukraine) can be avoided when the US/EU/NATO refuse to negotiate.

  24. OK, I largely agree, except with the "cowering in their foxholes" bit. I didn't like that. It's no way to talk about them.

    That the Yanks in the Pacific were in general gung-ho after having their homeland attacked is a natural visceral reaction, and a highly laudable one. They knew what they had to do and they did it well.

    On the other hand, being conscripted and shipped out Britain to risk their lives on some other country's behalf is a different matter. That those fellows did it anyway evokes nothing but a deep gratitude. They did it well too. More than enough of them never went home.

    I don't like to see their memory rubbished.

  25. Sorry to have offended you, John. To state what I have read more precisely: after WWII ended, the US Army after action studies found that only 1/3 of US infantry engaged in combat in NWE would fire their weapons. I found that very hard to believe, but I have read it in several histories. Perhaps the most authoritative source, although now a little dated, is: Russell F. Weigley, "Eisenhower’s Lieutenants: The Campaign of France and Germany 1944-1945". I have not yet read Rick Atkinson’s three volume history of the US Army in Europe in WWII, but I am very curious to see if he mentions these after action reports.

  26. Ha ha, I think it was some summer students that conceived the game. :)

  27. Tom,

    You didn't offend me. Besides I'm not a Yank. You just made me angry. I've calmed down though.

    I've never thought about it before but I can't say I'm overly surprised by those numbers. An older friend of mine fought in the desert campaign in North Africa and later through Italy. He won't talk about it much and I don't press him on it but when he does he seems to focus a lot on the inactivity. I never know what lies behind it and whether he'd rather talk about that than the killing (who wouldn't?) but it seems he and his pals got plenty of inactivity for an active bunch. Anecdotal but ....

    Also, as Rick says above, there are many in supporting roles. I imagine, too, very few in the artillery for instance had any need to discharge their personal firearms. But they would have done their fair share of killing.

  28. I don't agree that "facts of the external world" and "one's position in the world" require separate treatment. This seems to be making up rules to get an expected answer, rather than proceeding from any fundamental theory of probability. The fact that your only reference is an obscure blogger whose expertise is not in probability theory but in programming, which is deterministic, does not make for a strong argument.

  29. No superpartners, for now, but at least the Forbes list is being occupied by my researchers.

    I can afford it. When reputation reach about 150k the funding will exceed global GDP.
    ($75E12/year --> 2.37 million$/second . Now I'm in 1.5 M/s)

  30. I think discussions like this need to revert to the definition of probability. If one changes the definition, of course one can get a different answer. I think that the agreed definition is that one repeats the experiment many times, and the probability that A is true in situation B is the number of times that a situation B occurs, divided into the number of situations that A is true while situation B occur. My understanding of the problem would be that A = SB awakens and B = the most recent flip was tails. I think that you would agree that the mathematics gives 1/3 here, so you must be using a different definition. The definition that you (and maybe Roberts) are using seems to include explicit factors of 1/2 in part of the numerator. This is not part of the standard definition of probability. You must have some meta-definition in mind. What precisely is it?

  31. Dear Ramanujan, there is no ambiguity in the problem. It asks about the value of the subjective probability which is the degree of belief.

    What you describe is an elementary definition of the frequentist probability which would be an OK approach that would agree with the subjective probability whenever they converge to a stable value - if you used it right.

    But you don't use the frequentist probability correctly, either. In particular, the number of "situations" that is relevant to the probability of a property of the coin is the number of moments when the state of the coin is decided - number of coin tosses, in this case, in a hypothetical scenario when the coin toss is repeated many times. It is *not* the number of times a woman thinks about the coin. One may think about a coin twice but it doesn't change the probability that it shows tails.

    The factors 1/2 have to be included in front of the overrepresented - multiply observed - possibilities to eliminate the errors. In the axiomatic Bayesian approach to probability, it's needed to use a consistent notion of probabilities where options' probabilities sum to 100% which is not true in the thirders' approach.

    In the frequentist approach to probability that you have just mentioned, the factors of 1/2 of overrepresented observations are needed to eliminate the error known as the sampling bias.

    All of these things have been explained many many times and if you haven't understood it by now, you will probably never understand it. Could we please stop this meaningless conversation?

  32. LOL, good for you. It was running somewhere in my browser for many (6?) hours but at some moment, I Google-found the list of all possible achievements, with some huge scores etc., and I decided it has no point to play if if I have already seen the future. I think that no new physics discovery was among them.

  33. What a spoiler :D I figured something would come after the Higgs. Recently I found this tool:
    One mouse click per millisecond (Here about 15 ms). Maybe useful for other uses someday.

    Surprisingly, as I see, one of the achievements was "100.0k clicks". Maybe a metaphor of irreplaceable personal work even with large teams, ..or index finger bodybuilding.

  34. Just to the subject of our Habsburg "overlords".
    You sum the 2012 GDP of Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia which were basically the former communist part of Austria Hungary.
    You multiply the result by 2 which is a conservative estimation of the cost of communism. Actually Czechia is (in 2012) about half of Austria while in 1914 it was certainly larger than Austria (unfortunately I didn't find the accurate statistics from 1914 so that this factor 2-3 of the cost of communism is only an educated guess).
    Now you add Austria. And you obtain 1 200 G$ keeping in mind that it is a conservative guess.
    This represents e.g about 1/3 of Germany and 1/2 of UK.
    On one hand it explains retroactively that Austria Hungary was indeed just the small brother of Germany :)
    But on the other hand it places squarely this virtual Austria Hungary among the leading European powers.
    That's why I consider the dismantling of Austria Hungary a bad issue for all concerned.
    Supposing it had not been dismantled by the victorious French and Brits for obvious reasons (e.g Divide et impera), what would have been the consequences for us - Czechs, Croatians etc ?
    We'd probably have all a unique administrative language German and a local language. Students would be systematically taught both. Can't see no drama in it.
    The central monarchy would have died its inevitable death like everywhere on the continent and would become either constitutional monarchy or a republic. In both cases (like in UK) there would have been a Parliament with representants of all constituent regions.
    The siege would probably be in Vienna for historical reasons but there is no drama with it either.
    We would have preferential ties with Germany because of cultural and language reasons. No drama there, probably rather advantages. That's what's happening anyway because geography and industrial power can't be changed.
    So all in all we would happily live in a kind of large Switzerland but militarily and economically powerful enough to have an important word to say about what happens or should happen in the world. In my opinion a rather favorable result for all Austro-Hungarians.
    Sure, Saper Vodicka would spin in his grave mumbling "Svejku ty je neznas ty kluky madarsky, na ty se musi jit vostre" but Lubos as you rightly pointed out, things are bound to change in 100 years ;)

  35. LOL, Tom, you are preaching to the choir. I would promote Austria-Hungary in similar ways at some point although my overall rational attitude is neutral.

    Our influence in Europe would be the same - the Europe-Czech size gap would only be divided to two levels - Austria isn't the strongest power on the continent, and we don't quite control Austria, either. ;-)

    Needless to say, the lack of the Czech control over some things is often a good thing, anyway.

    Whether Austria-Hungary would be great for the progress of the nation would depend on how it would be organized today, and so on. We would be solving some questions - in some ways, totally analogous ones, in other ways, totally incomensurable ones to our branch of the (non-existing) many worlds multiverse.

    Let me also point out that you wouldn't be afraid of the crucial role of the German language because you speak it. Ich spreche Deutsch ein bißchen. Ich bin aus Familie Hogo Fogo etc.:

  36. chrome, ctrl+shift+j = 10000000000000000 = 10000000000000000

    close console

  37. Thank you for your patience in pursuing this. I also find it frustrating, and puzzling, that intelligent people cannot come to agreement on this problem, and so am trying to follow this back to basic principles.

    I do not think that the difference between Bayesian and frequentist probabilities can be the issue here. The problem is well-defined, without unknown priors. Indeed, my calculation in the delayed information experiment is just the Bayesian Marginalisation principle.

    I believe that the issue is that a direct use of Bayes' rule simply does not provide the information needed to deduce the probability. We have P(A|B) = P(A) P(B|A)/P(B), where A = "flip was tails" and "B = SB has just been wakened". Now, the right-hand side contains the quantities P(B|A), P(B). The probability that SB has just been wakened is ill-defined, without some additional sampling rule. Note that this ill-defined quantity does not ever appear in the calculations that I have given. Now, you try to fix this by essentially setting B=true on the right. But then you should also set B=true on the left, in which case Bayes rule becomes P(A)=P(A), it has no content: it allows any value for the probability. In other words, there are three possible wakings, and you still need to specify a sampling rule for them, so you can get any answer you want.

    It is not that the answer is ill-defined, but that the direct use of Bayes' rule, which does seem like the obvious approach, does not provide the necessary information. When you are trying to solve a problem and one approach leads to undefined quantities on the right, you look for a different approach. That is why I have reverted to the definition of probability. This is more fundamental than Bayes' rule, because Bayes' rule can be derived from it. And again, the fundamental definition of probability is in terms of counting, it does not include 1/2's. So where you say that I am overcounting, in fact you are undercounting.

  38. Dear Ramanujan, on one hand, you are saying that some subtleties, even important ones - like the frequentist vs Bayesian probability - can't change the answer. I would agree with that.

    On the other hand, you are saying that everything is ill-defined. I don't think so. This problem is a prototype of problems that we have to use in science - and everyday life - every day to figure out which explanations are likely, etc. If we get answers wrong by 50% in this problem, we're guaranteed to get wrong answers in science, too.

    In this problem, her awakening has very clear, probabilistic but accurately described, causes. The wakeups follow either "heads" or "tails" which are equally likely because it's decided by a fair coin. So it must be equally likely for a wakeup to be after tails and after heads.

    There is nothing such as a "sampling rule" that could change the values of probabilities. We are talking about her belief about an external object, the coin. It automatically says that the frequentist version of the probability is always the ratio of the number of coin flips ending with a coin over the number of all coin flips. We are talking about a coin, not about numbers of her thoughts about the coin, so the number of her thoughts can't appear in the denominator.

    The wakeups only play the role of adding an extra condition "which situations are counted" and which are not. In the tails case, 50%, there is one wakeup. In the heads case, 50%, there are two wakeups that have to divide the remaining 50%. The history of an external world with "heads" has a separate portion of the "budget" of probabilities and this item in the budget can't be inflated just because "more things happen" in that history.

    You know, any hypothesis that involves "coin was heads" also implies that she is *somewhere* in that spacetime, and the sum of probabilities that she is at spacetime point XY must be 100%. This is an extra condition that must be constantly imposed on any hypothesis talking about the heads route - both heads Monday and heads Tuesday, in this case, so whenever some places for her are excluded, its probability is divided to the remaining options but only options in the same history of the external world (heads).

    If one learns that it isnt Tuesday, which one learns if she assumes that the coin is tails, it does *not* increase the probability of other hypotheses such as "heads".

    Incidentally, this is also analogous to the discussions about the (non)falsification of SUSY by excluding 2/3 of the parameter space etc.

  39. I think that we have both fully stated our points of view and can conclude. However, I do have to object that you have completely misstated my position. I have not said that "everything is ill-defined.' On the contrary, I have stated that the probability is well-defined and can be calculated unambiuously to be 1/3.

    What I have said is that the naive use of Bayes rule leads to undefined quantities on the RHS in this problem. I completely disagree with your assertion that this would invalidate many everyday and scientific uses of Bayes rule. This is a puzzle that has been specially constructed to fool the naive Bayesian.