04 June 2021

What is an Observation?

 One of the long standing problems of physics is the measurement problem. This is typically framed as the problem that when a quantum system is unobserved it evolves according to the Schrodinger equation which allows for it to be in multiple states at once and yet when we observe any system it is always in one and only one state. Others have noted that the concept of "observation" is vague. 

We can refine the notion of observation. Assuming that observation involves seeing, we may ask when seeing occurs. It does not occur when photons hit the retina, or when they are converted into electrochemical pulses. Seeing occurs when electrochemical pulses arrive in the brain and are processed into a visual experience. And this takes an appreciable time to occur after the photon has hit the retina. Moreover seeing is allostatic, the brain is constantly projecting what it expects to see and what we actually see is partially determined by this expectation. Comprehending what we see is also distinct from the event of visual representation. 

So the act of seeing is passive in the sense that one must wait for a photon to hit the retina and active in that vision is a representation within the brain and affected by the brain's predictions. In no case does the act of seeing involve physically interacting with a system of interest. If we merely look at a system we cannot change it or actively extract information from it. In order to see an object or system we must  wait for photons to be emitted or bounced off it and end up in our eyes. Or we must do something indirect that subsequently results in photons entering our eyes.

By this logic merely looking at a quantum system, for example, cannot do anything as extravagant as "collapsing the wave function". Indeed the causality must be the other way around, i.e. collapse of the wave function must precede the observation. Whatever it may be that collapses the wave function, if that is what is physically happening, this must happen before the system can be observed. Information comes out of the system only after the collapse of the wave function, in the form of waves or particles (depending on how the experiment is set up) that are produced by the collapse of the wave function. 

In terms of quantum systems, of course, we cannot directly observe them in any case. Rather we have to do something like forcing a physical interaction with the system such as exposing it to electromagnetic radiation or particles. We then indirectly measure some physical property of the radiation or particles that emerge from the system and then turn that into something observable - a long chain of causal interactions that results in photons hitting our retina and eventual visual representation. Actual seeing and visual cognition is always an appreciable amount of time behind the physical interaction. And thus cannot be involved in the collapse of the wave function, because it happens after the fact. 

If it makes sense to talk in terms of collapsing wave functions, there can be no question that such a collapse is caused by observation in any human sense. Rather it is caused by physical interactions. 

We often state the measurement problem as though some particle or system is in a state of non-interaction with the universe and is then brought into interaction. But this is nonsensical. In our universe there is constant interaction of quantum fields to keep the universe in existence: a "particle" is always under the influence of gravitational and electromagnetic fields because they have value at every point in space. The isolated particle is a spherical cow, i.e. an approximation that never exists in practice. How then can any system evolve according to the Schrodinger equation as though it is not interacting with the universe? How can we talk about anything in isolation when such isolation is never real? 

I'm sure other people have thought of these things before. 

10 May 2021

Religion in the US

 To-day I learned about two moments in European History, the peace of Augsburg (1555) and the peace of Westphalia (1648).

The Treaty of Augsburg was signed between the Holy Roman Empire and a group of Lutheran princes who sought to break away from the Roman Church. An important phrase in the treaty was cuius regio, eius religio – “whose realm, his religion”. This established the principle amongst the states of the HRE that a ruler's religion would determine the religion of that state. The two choices being Lutheranism and Catholicism. 

The conversion of more Romans to Lutheranism within the HRE and the conversion of some to Calvinism created tensions that caused the treaty to collapse and led to the Thirty Years' War (1618 to 1648). This was a disastrous conflict that engulfed much of Europe and led to millions of deaths. Peace was eventually restored in the form of two new treaties referred to as the peace of Westphalia in 1648. 

The peace of Westphalia effectively invented the modern nation state. It granted full sovereignty to secular rulers. It established borders within which the ruler was the sole authority, with freedom to choose between Roman, Lutheran, and Calvinist versions of Christianity. In effect, this was the origin of the idea of a modern nation state. 

Pope Innocent X was very angry about this, and he called the treaty "null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all time". But by this point, secular rulers were powerful enough ignore him. 

There was an unintended consequence. Despite allowing for freedom of worship to minorities, in fact, religious tolerance decreased in most places. Persecution of Anabaptists in Germany, for example, grew in ferocity. Heretics were now enemies of the state, since they pledged allegiance to an authority other than the state. They were tortured, murdered, or driven out. The Netherlands did provide some relief as they were tolerant, but eventually many groups such as the Amish, Mennonites, and the Plymouth Brethren left Europe for the new colonies in the Americas. 

America filled up with radical religious refugees; early on German was the most widely spoken language. Some, like the Amish were harmless to outsiders and simply wanted to be left alone to practice their faith. Others were more militant and wanted power. The English Church was also well represented. None of them respected the sovereignty of the indigenous people or even recognised them as human. Genocide and mass expropriation followed. And then millions of slaves were imported from Africa to work the land. 

When the US constitution was drafted, it was important to seal off government from the influence of any one Church. If one religious group gained power, they were likely to set off another round of bloody persecution of other groups as seen in Europe. The US became the first nation state to separate church and state. France soon followed suit. The legal separation of church and state is not exactly secularism in the US. It was self-preservation. 

Fundamentalist Christianity is still very popular in the US and very influential. Waves of immigration from Ireland and Italy brought many Roman Catholic Christians. Moreover, America spawned its own religious cult in the form of Mormonism. Other Christian inspired cults soon followed though few ever reached the proportions of the Mormonism. Separation of church and state is even more important now with these historically aggressive and intolerant religions in close proximity. 


I'm wrestling with the ideas of paraconsistent logics and dialetheism (for my sins). In his essay for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Graham Prest gives the following example:

2.1.1 Non-Trivial Theories

Examples of inconsistent but non-trivial theories are easy to produce. One example can be derived from the history of science. Consider Bohr’s theory of the atom. According to this, an electron orbits the nucleus of the atom without radiating energy. However, according to Maxwell’s equations, which formed an integral part of the theory, an electron which is accelerating in orbit must radiate energy. Hence, Bohr’s account of the behaviour of the atom was inconsistent. Yet, patently, not everything concerning the behavior of electrons was inferred from it, nor should it have been. Hence, whatever inference mechanism it was that underlay it, this must have been paraconsistent (Brown & Priest 2015).

Priest concludes that Bohr's account of the behaviour of the atom was inconsistent and that the logic of his account must have been paraconsistent. There is a much better way of describing this situation. And it is this:

Bohr was wrong

We don't need to do anything clever, here. Bohr was simply wrong to think of the atom as a particle orbiting a nucleus. And Priest clearly understands why this was wrong - an accelerating electron gives off electromagnetic radiation. Since this is not what happens in an atom, Bohr was wrong. He was not using an alternative form of logic, he made a mistake (one of many). 

We don't have to dignify an error by giving it a fancy name. Bohr was a man of enormous charisma who did make some important contributions to physics, but who also convinced a lot of people to believe nonsense. This isn't a new form of logic, it is a delusion. 

26 March 2021

Doctor Conze?

Conze presented himself to the world as Dr Conze. In the introduction to his recent translation of Conze's pre-Buddhism magnum opus, Holger Heine gushes that Conze "In 1928, he received his PhD from the University of Cologne" (2016: xiii). But did Conze ever receive a PhD? There is a lot of ambiguity in the use of terms like "doctorate" and "professor", they meant very different things in Germany and England. 

In the German university system of the time, a student who completed course of study produced an Inaugural dissertation and was awarded a "doctorate". In order to become a professor (i.e. a university lecturer) one had to complete the Habilitation process, which involved completing a second thesis, the Habilitationsschrift, based on personal research, and giving a public lecture based on it. Having passed Habilitation, a person was allowed to become a privatdozent (a private teacher) or a professor (a university teacher). Note that Holger Heine incorrectly says that Conze was a privatdozent but since he never passed his Habilitation, he could not have been.

Completed after 4 years of independent research, Der Satz vom Widerspruch was intended to be Conze's Habilitationsschrift. Following German tradition, the work had to be published. This was no doubt funded by Conze's wealthy family.  However, not long after the publication, the Nazis burned books by communists (amongst others). Conze's explicitly Marxist book was amongst them. As Holger Heine tells the story, "almost all of the five hundred copies of the first edition were destroyed [and] Conze's hopes for an academic career in Germany had come to naught" (xiv). Shortly afterwards, Conze fled Germany for England. 

It is difficult to get a clear idea of German academia in the 1920s, but from what I can gather, Conze completed a course of study and wrote an inaugural dissertation in 1928. The University of Hamburg library catalogue gives the following information about this dissertation: 

Der Begriff der Metaphysik bei Franciscus Suarez : Gegenstandsbereich und Primat der Metaphysik / Eberhard Conze. Köln, Univ., Diss., 1928. 38 S. 

What I want to draw attention to is the annotation "38 S." In German, this means thirty-eight pages. His doctoral dissertation was just 38 pages long. At roughly 500 words per page, the dissertation is approximately 19,000 words. An English doctoral dissertation is a book-length project of about 80,000 words. What Conze submitted was a long essay akin to an MA thesis. Despite granting him the title "doctor" the dissertation did not include the years-long independent research program resulting in a book-length publication that, say, an English PhD candidate would undertake. This research aspect of the English PhD was included in the Habilitation. Conze's Der Satz vom Widerspruch represented his PhD dissertation, but he never submitted it. And therefore he never graduated. 

Note that this arrangement has since changed. The modern German doctorate is equivalent to the English PhD and the Habilitation is seen as an extra (I have a friend whose Husband is German academic at working at Cambridge).

As such Conze's formal education level is about the same as a traditional English MA. He may have been granted the title of Doctor in Germany, but this was not equivalent to an English PhD, not by a very wide margin. And this helps to make sense of a story which otherwise just seemed racist, i.e. that the Oxford Dons he met insisted on calling him "Mister Conze". Whether the Oxonians were racist is moot, but it seems more cogent to assume that they were aware that Conze had failed to complete his formal studies and and that his qualification in no way equated to a PhD. This also explains why he could not get an academic position in England and instead ended up teaching philosophy for evening classes. 

Conze could rightfully claim the German title "Doctor" but the significance of it was not the same in Germany as in the English speaking world. It is not commensurate with a PhD. Conze's degree was on a par with an MA. He was not the wunderkind that Holger Heine (or Conze himself) made him out to be. 


  • Conze, E. 1932. Der Satz vom Widerspruch: Zur Theorie des Dialektischen Materialism. Hamburg. (Reprinted 1976 by Frankfurt: Neue Kritik.)
  • Conze, E.  2016. The Principle of Contradiction. Translated by Holger Heine. Lanham MD: Lexington Books.
  • Heine, Holger. 2016. "Aristotle, Marx, Buddha: Edward Conze's Critique of the Principle of Contradiction." In Conze (2016: xiii-lxiii).

13 March 2021

Violence in the News and the Philosophy of Punishment

I have been thinking about the idea floating around Britain that all men should be punished because some men abuse women. This contravenes all kinds of principles of justice; e.g. we are against collective punishment, for the presumption of innocence, against punishing people for potential crimes (except in extreme circumstances).

Moreover, official UK figures show that violent offences against women have been declining since 1980. Homicides of women have fallen by about 50%. Homicide rates for men rose from about the same as women ca 1960, to 4x the rate of women in ca 2000 and are declining again but men are still about 2-3x more likely to be murdered than all other victims on average - however, a lot of this is due to the illegal drug trade and young men involved in it carrying knives.  

The news was that apparently 118 women were killed by men in 2020. Which is an awful figure. But there were around 800 homicides in 2020, with men making up the bulk of these. 

There are violent men and they are a small minority. When we look at them they almost all grew up with violence and have undiagnosed mental health problems. We break men as children and they cannot act as members of our society. The film Once Were Warriors was a documentary. 

Still, this is not why I started writing this today. It occurred to me this morning that punishment, in most societies, is based on the idea that two wrongs make a right. 

I transgress a rule.
Some authority inflicts suffering on me.
I am redeemed.

Now, there are some nuances here. For example, I'm leaving out the issue of reputation. Because even if I am back in the good graces of society after taking my punishment, my reputation is damaged. If my transgression is minor, and a one off lapse in judgement, in time my reputation will be restored. If I repeat my transgression or even escalate it, my reputation begins to suffer. How other people treat me is based on my reputation. A murderer may do their time and "pay their debt to society" but they will always be a murderer. Reputation is important, even if we are not as conscious of it in the 21st century. Having a criminal record is permanent (in most cases) and has, by law, to be admitted when applying for jobs, applying for a travel visa, and so on. Once you have a criminal record your life choices become limited. 

I'm also leaving out the idea of restorative justice, but this is because this idea is, at best, a novel add on to the justice system in most English speaking nations. It's not taken very seriously. And for serious crimes we really want to see harm inflicted on the perpetrator. 

Still, we have this basic idea that if I transgress the norms of the group, the authority of the group is allowed to inflict suffering on me. That suffering nowadays takes the form of menial labour (community service), a fine, or imprisonment. Each is designed to cause the offender pain. 

Now, in my life there was another common form of retribution and that was physical violence. Teachers employed it against boys - with heavy leather "straps" in primary school and "canes" in secondary school. There seemed to be no rules or limitations on how these instruments were used and they were certainly used a lot, until they were both banned sometime after I left school. Fighting was not allowed, but teachers beating boys was standard punishment. 

I'm reminded of the Michael Moore film Bowling for Columbine where the PR guy for defence contractor Lockheed-Martin is standing in front of a very large missile, and saying "I can't imagine why anyone would resort to violence to try to solve their problems". Hmm. 

But violent retribution was also common in the playground. My arm was broken while I was being roughed up because someone thought I had done something I hadn't. Or I was ostracised for years, for reasons I still don't understand. Or bullied because I wouldn't play football at lunchtime. It was also common in the home where my mother beat us with a leather strap, but was physically and emotionally violent in other ways. And there was the random violence as well, a lot of which I nowadays put down to living in the post-colonial wasteland. Māori kids lashed out against white kids for reasons that are much more comprehensible to me as an adult. 

And I'm sorry to say that growing up amidst all this violence I could also be violent. Although I grew out of it in my teens. 

But here's the thing. Here's where I get confused. It was drilled into me as a kid that:

two wrongs don't make a right 

It's not OK to bite someone who is hurting you, to take a real example from my life. It's not OK to hurt anyone. The guy that broke my arm subsequently suffered a frenzied beating by the headmaster while I watched. Poor Adam wasn't too bright and although he did mean to hurt me, he didn't really mean to break my arm. Causing harm, inflicting suffering is wrong

So why is it right to harm people who transgress the rules? How does that work? 

It makes sense to us, according to Prof George Lakoff because one of our principle cognitive metaphors for morality is debt. By transgressing I create a debt. The simplest form of this metaphor is the Biblical idea of "an eye for an eye". This makes a little more sense than our present habit of incarcerating people. The principle is that if you cause me harm then I am sanctioned to inflict an equal harm on you. But this makes sense because, quite unconsciously, we think of the transgression has having created a "debt to society". Immorality creates a debt and debts have to be paid. If you steal my ox then you in recompense you must give me one of your oxen. The trouble starts when you don't have any oxen. How do you pay your debt to me then? 

At some point someone came up with the idea that suffering was the currency in which we pay our moral debts. Just as dollars or pounds are what we pay our taxes in, so suffering is how we pay our moral debts. And this is why people who feel guilty torture themselves. Self-inflicted suffering is an attempt to pay off that debt without having to face the social wrath and loss of reputation that goes with it. 

Furthermore, in religious circles we can make deposits to demonstrate our piety. Many religions have practices that involve voluntary self-inflicted suffering. Fasting is popular. By making an ostentatious display of voluntary suffering for one's faith, one's reputation is increased amongst the faithful. Ultimately one can be a martyr whose suffering is talked about centuries later. 

And it need not be religious. We find people who suffer in pursuit of something admirable. There's a story that was mentioned on (TV show) QI recently about All Black captain, Buck Shelford. In a game against France, Shelford's scrotum was ripped open by a French boot and a testicle popped out. This had to have been incredibly painful! But the damage was repaired on the sideline with a local anaesthetic and he returned to play on. And we think of him as heroic. Indeed he was one of the best All Black captains ever. 

Those who suffer without complaint are seen as morally superior. Stoicism in face of pain is a prized virtue. 

So suffering is not simply physical. Metaphorically, SUFFERING IS MONEY. And because of this we can do with suffering any operation than is pertinent to money. We can pay our debts to society with it, but it can also be banked to become social capital. Taking on suffering can improve our reputation, which determines how we are treated. 

I think of the protestors in Myanmar currently risking their lives to make sure the army know that the latest coup d'etat is unacceptable. People are dying. But they don't stop because it's a cause worth dying for - democracy is too precious to lose. But also military police are deserting because they see killing civilians is wrong.

The fact is that in our society two wrongs do make a right. But the authority to decide this is not given to everyone. The authority to harm citizens is given to parents, teachers, police, military, and judges. In my experience everyone who has the right to inflict harm abuses that power. 

The changes to laws that prevent teachers and parents from violently assaulting their kids, especially their boys, are an improvement. The less brutalising that boys go through as kids the less likely they are to dish it out as adults. I doubt I would have been any good at this, however, because when I grew up violence was pervasive and part of me still wants very much to hurt the people who hurt me, though I guess many of them are dead now as it was 40-50 years ago - for me it was like yesterday. The threat of violence was everywhere and particularly in authority figures. Hence, I have an intense anti-authoritarian streak. I'm a libertarian as a result of living under the tyranny of corrupt adult authorities. 

I can see, all too clearly, the problems with this culture of violence. But I can't see a way out of it. What do we do with adults who are violent that doesn't involve inflicting even more violence on them? Early life violence makes empathy very difficult. I can empathise, but I'm always hypervigilant for the change in others that indicates impending violence. You never know who is going to flip and when. I've tried all the approved and many non-approved therapies aimed at changing this but nothing seems to work. I'm stuck in a state of expectation of violence. 

I think we need to be clear that no one responds positively to being harmed by others, even if they think they deserve it, even if they are willing to harm themselves due to guilt. Worse, the threat of punishment means that few people confess to crimes because it is rational to avoid unnecessary pain. Although this is complicated because confession is seen as a mitigating factor and often reduces the severity of a punishment. 

24 January 2021

Nihilism and Nāgārjuna

This was a tweet storm:

Jan Westerhoff makes an interesting point. Any assertion of nihilism is effectively a restatement of the liar's paradox: 

On the Nihilist Interpretation of Madhyamaka

Madhyamaka philosophy has been frequently characterized as nihilism, not just by its Buddhist and non-Buddhist opponents, but also by some contemporary Buddhologists. This characterization might well …

The statement "Nothing exists" is itself existent - if a statement can be said to exist, which is moot. Still, nihilism per se is incoherent. This also resembles a restatement of the Cogito argument of Descartes. 

Language games like "nothing exists" are not part of the paramārtha-satya "ultimate reality" because language itself is not. Language is samvṛti-satya. So are language games metaphysics? Are any metaphysics possible in language in this view? Not really. 

Westhoff uses this argument to defend Nāgārjuna: he cannot be a nihilist because nihilism is incoherent. Assuming all the while that Nāgārjuna *is coherent*. Is he, though? 

Westerhoff persistently uses the Kātyāyana Sūtra argument that "astitā and nāstitā don't apply to the loka" as though it is a form of metaphysics. But this is clearly wrong. 

In this context, loka means "the world of sensory experience". WRT sensory experience, *of course* existence and nonexistence don't apply. How could they? This isn't metaphysics, it's an assertion of the supremacy of epistemology over metaphysics. 

One cannot claim to know that for which there is no means of knowing. For example, the Theravāda 'bhavaṅga-citta' is defined as an unconscious mental state. There is no way to know that bhavaṅga-citta exists because it can never be experienced. Its existence is assumed ad hoc. 

OTOH, there *is* a state (an episteme) in which there is no sensory experience, no content. In Pāli we call it suññayāvihāra "dwelling in the absence [of sensory experience]." 

In this state, in Buddhists' terms, no dharmas arise or cease. The state obtains when all conditions for sensory experience are absent. It is thus a mental state without conditions (asaṃskṛta-dharma). 

Nāgārjuna fundamentally mistakes this episteme for a noumenon, an ultimate realty. And for this reason, *all* his ideas are incoherent because they are based on making an axiom from a misperception. 

From a contentless (experience-less) episteme, N reasons that reality is contentless: i.e. reality is characterised by the absence of sense experience. Absence (śūnyatā) is reality. It has no content but is not nothingness. 

It follows that sensory experience, all of it, is an illusion which disappears on "awakening". Which makes "awakening" the opposite of waking from deep sleep. 

Thus, for N, the world of objects, events, agents seems real but ultimately it is not real.

Note the subtle difference between saying "nothing exists" and "reality is empty of existence". 

TBF to N, we have to allow that his argument revolves around a particular, all or nothing, definition of "real". To be real is to be self-existent (svabhāva) and to have no other necessary condition. And this state is necessarily permanent. 

And of course, *nothing* that can be experienced can meet this criteria for existence or reality. Hence, *nothing is ultimately real*. Which is similar though not exactly equivalent to "nothing exists". 

The old Buddhist argument (the Kātyāyana argument) is that nothing in experience is permanent so metaphysical terms like existence/non-existence don't apply to experience. 

Prajñāpāramitā insists on this: if you have any mental activity whatever, that is *not* emptiness. So if you think "this is emptiness" it isn't. In emptiness there is no sensory or cognitive experience. 

N takes the absence of sense experience as reality. And in this reality, by definition, there are no objects, events, or agents. There is no space, time, movements. His metaphysics is a metaphysics of absence. 

Moreover, language is not part of ultimate reality. So arguing about the meaning of a proposition like "nothing exists" is pointless in N's view. An assertion in language says nothing about reality in any case (so Westerhoff's use of this trick is voided). 

To all intents and purposes, Nāgārajuna is a nihilist at heart. For every phenomenon presented as evidence of existence, he says it does not *really* exist. 

But N is a religieux, a theologian rather than a philosopher. He cannot abandon his soteriology - his hope of being saved from suffering. And in order to allow for saving, for karma, for awakening (to nothing), he bifurcates the world into conventional and ultimate. 

This allows N to act like a normal person when it comes to morality, for example. To say that morality is necessary. But it also allows him to say that in the final analysis there is no morality. 

And this schizoid view is, in fact, not new. We see the split in early Buddhism between the necessity of personal continuity in morality (you reap what you sow; actions have consequences) on the one hand, and anātman on the other (no self) on the other. 

Anātman and dependent arising say there can be no real personal continuity, even for a moment. But this destroys karma and morality and makes awakening impossible. 

This split between morality and metaphysics is apparent 2000 years later in all modern Buddhist doctrine that I've come across. But stark in Nāgārjuna.

The poor bugger tied himself in knots and then wrote a poem about it. 

• • •

14 January 2021

Analysing The Rhetoric of Stop the Steal.

I want to take a minute to reflect on the rhetoric that Trump is using right now. To just take it at face value and explore what he is saying. So, let's start by stating a few facts that ought to be relatively uncontroversial. 

No one disputes that Donald J Trump was the President of the United State of America in 2020. He was in charge. Few would dispute, I think, that Trump was an authoritarian President with trenchant views about China, immigrants, and the media. He never shrank from conflict with China or the media and he managed to build 500 miles of his "beautiful wall".  He is a man of firm opinions who speaks his mind. 

Moreover it was clear that—love him or hate him—the Republican Party backed him to the hilt, down to the point of throwing the first impeachment trial and voting unanimously to acquit him of a crime he was very obviously guilty of. Trump had the full support of the Senate and strong support from Representatives. 

In addition Trump had stalwart support from his Vice President the surviving members of his cabinet especially from the Attorney General Bill Barr and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. These three in particular appeared to be utterly committed to Trump and Trumpism and willing to do whatever they could to assist him.

If Trump was weak anywhere, perhaps it was his West Wing. Mulvaney in particular made the huge gaff of admitting to criminal behaviour and shrugging it off. He was moved sideways into a negligible role that he only just resigned from. But the replacement was loyal to a fault. 

Now as President, Trump controls (one way or another) the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOJ, and the military. Not only this but he has appointed three supreme court judges and hundreds of other federal court judges. POTUS is generally reckoned the most powerful person on the planet and as POTUS Trump kept a tight grip on that power and made sure everyone knew it. 

Moreover in terms of his person characteristics Trump boasted of being an extraordinary businessman, a deal maker, a very rich man, a man of considerable intellect, perhaps even a genius. 

My point is to stipulate all this uncontroversial stuff, even his boasting. And then ask, so how did he allow the election to be stolen? 

To be clear the election was stolen, according to him, in broad daylight. Indeed, he began to say that the election would be stolen from him some weeks before it happened. He says he knew it was going to happen. So it not only happened in broad daylight, out in the open, but it happened despite Donald Trump—the most powerful man in the world—with all the levers of power in his hands, with genius level intellect knowing about it weeks in advance. 

Of course, if what Trump says is true, then this is the most egregious attack on American democracy since the formation of the Republic. An election was not only stolen but the extent of the conspiracy must extend to virtually every agency, elected official, and civil servant in the USA. Everyone from the seemingly loyal Vice President and the supportive Senate who ratified the election, to the Attorney General who denies widespread voter fraud, to the Supreme Court, and something like 60 state and federal judges who threw our lawsuits. It must include the highest levels of the NSA, CIA, FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies; the entire Democratic Party apparatus and election officials and volunteers across multiple states. The conspiracy must include thousands of Journalists across the spectrum of mainstream media with the exception of hyper-partisan right-wing outlets. Thousands upon thousands of people were involved in this conspiracy that seems to have involved more or less everyone outside of the Trump family. 

In other words, the illusion of being in control that Trump liked to project must not have been true. In fact, far from being in control, Trump was everyone's patsy. He was taken in by everyone. He is the last to know. The party has been moved and no one told him the new address. This is not a winner. This is a loser. 

Trump, according to his own account, saw it coming weeks in advance, but he failed to prevent it. Trump presided over, as commander in chief, the worst failure of the institutions and offices of the Republic in history. If what he says is true then the USA is now has, at best, the illusion of democracy. And on his watch, while he was wide awake, watching it happen. 

Now Trump, like all office holders before him took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the US. His own narrative shows that he has utterly failed to fulfil that oath. Indeed he has presided over and failed to prevent the end of the republic and the take over of the US by what he calls far-left or hard-left radicals. He was president when this happened. This was his sacred responsibility to prevent! 

If I was a follower of Trump, I would be looking at this record of failure and thinking, "We need a new leader because this one failed when he had everything on his side." 

If Trump is telling the truth then he is the biggest loser in history. If he is lying he lost the election and got caught in a lie and wouldn't stop lying. That's less of a loser, but still a loser. Trump's story about being the victim here does not fit with his image as a strong man capable of leading the country. One cannot both be a constant victim complaining about unfair treatment and a strong and capable leader. You can be a victim who needs help or you can be leader who takes charge. You cannot really be both.