Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A few comments on Israeli national security

I am not offering advice of any sort here, merely trying to understand what is happening.

The idea of a Jewish nation became a beacon of hope for survivors of the Holocaust fleeing Europe. The defeaters of Nazism built a great nation out of the ashes of British Palestine.

This new nation was not welcomed by its Muslim Arab neighbors. The defeaters of Nazism found themselves locked into a war for their survival. Having just been through one Holocaust, they had no interest in becoming subaltern to another culture. Unlike their Arab adversaries, the defeaters of Nazism were not afraid of the night or high technology. By mastering high technology and night assaults using light infantry, they won the wars against their intrusive Arab neighbors. Israel earned the right to live.

In an ideal world, Israel would build on this sense of security. Having convinced its neighbors that it is not going anywhere, it would promote itself as a reliable regional trading partner. One step in the right direction here is establishment of "megascale" seawater desalination plants along the Israeli coastline. Israeli plants are far more efficient than other similar operations and they make a lot of water. Ideas to turn the Negev green seem within reach with this kind of water supply.  Even if that lofty goal is not achieved, these plants could launch Israel as a major regional supplier of water. It is not hard to imagine an oil-for-water exchange where the middle eastern countries supply Israel with oil and get water in return. The possibilities seem endless.

Israeli success came at a steep price. Israel has a vast native Palestinian population. There were almost as many Muslim Palestinians as there were Israeli Jews. As the survivors of the Holocaust had no desire to be minorities in the promised land, the rights of these non-Jewish populations were severely curtailed and their lands seized without due process. A very shaky idea was put forth to justify this occupation - that the lands these non-Jews were settled on, originally belong to Jews who had been evicted by hostile powers. Therefore seizure of these lands without due process was only restoring the land to its original owners. This is shaky because there is no evidence of original title or ownership and there is no way to claim that the lands are being transferred to actual lineal descendants of the original owners. The Palestinians took to violent dissent and paid the price.

In the lands that were seized Kibbutzim set up shop. They worked hard on the land and a great many were able to eke out a living in the desert. Using advanced farming techniques, they were able to restore fertility to this lost land and a great miracle occurred in the desert. This positive development however was undone by the cost of keeping the Palestinians deprived of their natural rights. The biggest sign of the troubles within came from clashes between settlers and the Israeli Army and when several members of the Israeli national security community began to openly ask whether modern Israelis were failing to recognize the creeping shadow of Nazism on its national policies. What else could any sane person say about the ghettotization of Palestinians.

A group of Israelis began to see the Palestinian occupied territories as a lucrative real-estate opportunity. By deliberately promoting high risk property developments in Palestinian dominated areas of Jerusalem, these shady developers transferred their exposure onto ordinary pious Jewish families living in the suburbs of New York, New Jersey and Chicago. Again the idea put forth was  that Jews were merely returning to Judea and Samaria and there will be some teething problems but it will all sort out in the end. Ordinary people have uprooted their lives in US and planted themselves into the middle of the desert on this promise. The storm of unrealistic expectations this has created seems quite unmanageable to me.

I do not understand how this continued mistreatment of Palestinians will help Israel further its cause of normalization of relations with its neighbors. In that light, I wonder if Trump's weird announcement on Jerusalem is a positive development for Israeli security. It looks to me that Trump wanted to secure some cash from his patrons in certain parts of Manhattan and so he did some usual "Trumpy Stuff" to get the check but there is no real plan or followup. Meanwhile Israeli security has to cope with the prospect of anotherIntifada breaking out in the region and all the Jihad crazies in the world now have another reason to attack Israel. One could argue - they didn't really need a reason and this is true, but war fatigue was kicking into their base populations and now this has just reinvigorated them. All those Hamas guys pointing guns at each other are now pointing guns at the Israeli settlers. I am not even sure if it has helped the settlers who desperately sought some kind of international recognition.

I really can't get my head around how any of this is helping. Let me ask a stupid question - how many houses in East Jerusalem overlooking the Temple Mount will one have to sell to make up for the bill for the security of Donald Trump's visit to the area? How many helos did IDF fly on that one mission? How many IDF battalions were deployed in the city center that day? Was it really worth it? I can't say.


Friday, December 08, 2017

Democratic Party decides not push for Donald Trump's impeachment at this time.

Quite unsurprisingly the Democratic party has decided not to push for Donald Trump's impeachment at this time. The central calculation of the party appears to be that given the GOP super-majority, it is unlikely that impeachment would succeed and that Donald Trump would vindictively strike back in ways that would hurt their voters.

I have indicated earlier that the Democratic Party does not really care what happens to Donald Trump or the GOP and it is focused on ensuring the survival of its overall political agenda. That agenda has been severely damaged by the GOP's relentless assault on the courts. The manner in which the GOP is shoving political partisans into the US courts is truly frightening.

Since Donald Trump and GOPers have decided to kill their own voters en masse, there is little the Democratic Party can do to stop them. Only the "Second Amendment" folks can really do anything on this timescale and since they are all in Putin's pocket - they will restrict themselves to killing unarmed civilians (preferably women, LGBTQ and POC only).

Even if the Democratic Party were to go to great lengths to stop Trump and the GOP, it is not like the GOP voters would ever actually vote for the Democratic Party. We are seeing the kind of dynamics in the Alabama Senate election. The manner in which mainstream Republicans have chosen tribal instinct over common sense speaks volumes for what the Democratic Party can expect to gain for its efforts.

So my friends - the "Shoah" will continue.

Bitcoin continues to be Russia's preferred way of exfiltrating the funds needed to ensure Putin's electoral victory. Though I confess, I do not know if it will be enough to guarantee it. Listening to the responses on the street in Moscow, one senses that the Russian people are tired of Putin but they don't want to show it for fear of being murdered by his allies. A sensible man would consider sitting in the opposition for a term just to wash off the anti-incumbency but that's now where things are headed in Moscow.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

New fit from climate change modeling groups is alarming.

Some of you may have seen a spate of articles in the last month about revisions to existing global warming models. If you haven't here is a short list:

1) The ice sheets are melting faster [1]
2) The marine ice cliff instability [2] (the link here will take you to a site where you can hear expert opinions about an article about the marine ice cliff instability. This is a good link to have handy when discussing informed skepticism of climate change literature).
3) Revised rates from Brown and Caldiera [3]


There are many other articles that came out during the last round of climate change negotiations in Bonn [4]. (A lot of people dismiss those articles are being part of the negotiations posturing but I don't know if that is the correct way to think about it).

I want to focus on the Brown and Caldiera data. They started off building a model that would better match recent historical data and when they succeeded, they found it predicts a much faster global warming. This graph above summarizes their results.

There are several interesting parts to this but you can see that the point of crossing 2C (black dashed line crosses red solid line v/s black dashed line crosses light blue dashed line) has moved closer by about 5 years. The "Observationally informed model" is the new prediction (red solid line) and the "Raw climate model" is the older blue dashed line.

While it is important to remember that no model of climate phenomena can capture new emergent physics, it is equally important to note that a better fit to recent historical data is much more likely to capture the ongoing critical dynamics.

Let me put this another way.

We can crudely track two things - carbon energy consumption patterns and global temperatures. These two pieces of information are correlated in a general sense - we know that as we burn more carbon energy, we expect to see more GHG emissions and we throw off the balance between heat absorbed and radiated by the earth. That in turn raises global temperatures.  We do not have an exact model for how that will happen and to top that off we know our measurements of both these data sets have errors in them.

In order to understand the relationship between these two imperfectly measured quantities we need models that cross-correlate them. There are a range of models used by the IPCC to cross correlate the global energy budget with the global temperature shift. These are collectively called RCP.
The number after the RCP (such as RCP4.5) denotes the extent to which the energy budget mis-matches due to rising GHG emissions. Ideally the earth would absorb and re-radiate the same amount of heat as it did in pre-industrial times, but we can model the effect of an imbalance to that heat balance. These RCPs capture those kinds of imbalances.

The most heat imbalanced model is RCP 8.5 (that is what is shown as the blue in that above graph). The issue that is repeatedly raised by people is that RCP 8.5 doesn't match recent observations. This is an accurate statement. Saying this is also a veiled way of saying that model does not appear to be perfectly capturing all the relevant physics.

What Brown and Caldiera are saying is that - if you make a model (red line) that better fits recent data, then you see a massive rise above RCP 8.5. The predictions become even more alarming.

Now there are two ways of reading this

1) The recent past represents some statistical fluctuations that correctly averaged by the RCP and we should not dismiss them on account of their inability to fit the recent data. This is the view proposed by Brown and Caldiera.

2) The models that return a better local fit also better capture present day dynamics (i.e. the REAL link between REAL carbon emissions and REAL global warming). This is the view that I find myself drawn to.  I feel this is not some esoteric modelling community dissonance on the credibility of fit quality.

The problem in all this modeling has *always* been difficulties capturing emergent physics that creates feedback loops. When I saw the Brown and Caldiera article, the hair on the back of my neck stood up.

What if the RCP8.5 is wrong - and Brown and Caldiera have correctly captured an emergent physics that is driving global temperatures up at a much higher rate than IPCC estimates? 

I understand the one would not want to rock the boat by saying things like that, but the boat may be able to hit an iceberg - and if rocking it a little bit like that - stops that from happening why not?

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Solving yesterday's mystery of the sudden GOP love for all things Trump

I was a bit baffled yesterday when in the morning there was completely alignment between Trump and the GOP leadership. They were all pally pally on the Moore issue and all the GOP heavy weights in Senate and Congress were lining up to give us fond accounts of how they all gave Trump handjobs whenever he wanted it.

I couldn't figure out what had brought about this change of heart. And then I found out what was going on.

It appears in their haste to push the "Tax Cuts" through the Senate, the GOP screwed up.

With multiple drafts of the same bills floating around, they failed to notice that they had *eliminated* Corporate tax dodges *while* keeping the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) high! [1]

This is a major fuck up on part of Turtle & Co. ( I feel like McConnel is really good at the long game and really bad at tactical stuff. He just can't keep up with the fast dynamics).

For reasons I don't quite get Bob Murray (or all people) is all mad about this. [2] I can't really get my head around why Bob says anything, but some people say he just likes the attention.

Anywho - with this fuck up - Mitch McConnel needs Trump's help to retrieve the bill (and fix all the shit he screwed up). He also needs Trump to not go around pointing out GOP incompetence to donors. Especially at a time when Mitch might need them (oh... like for his re-election perhaps?) So he's playing nice with Trump.

Most of the others that were counting on having Mitch's support to keep Trump off their ass now find themselves in the wind. So they too have started sucking up to Trump in the hope that he doesn't land blame for Mitch's mistake on them.

In the previous post, I had said that Trump wants Mitch and Paul Ryan to kill the Russia investigation. There is no way Mitch and Paul can do that without hurting themselves badly. Now that they screwed up bigtime, Trump has leverage. My guess is that Trump will fire Mueller and Mitch+Paul will let that slide - at least until a public uproar forces them to undo it.

From the perspective of a democratic strategist, Mitch's fuck up is a god-send. This has now locked the entire GOP-Trump system into a mutual collapse more - neither can live while the other survives.

Monday, December 04, 2017

The Simple Model of GOP-Trump relationship

I have a simple model of the GOP-Trump relationship. I think it captures most of the transactional aspects. There are a few key assumptions:

1) Together the GOP & Trump are a rent seeking entity. Any stakeholders outside this GOP+Trump universe must pay "rent" to the combined system in order to keep what they have (ex. a viable business model, tax breaks they enjoy, environmental free-lunches, faith based status etc...).

2) Any "rent" that is so paid travels differently inside the GOP+Trump system depending on whose hands it falls into and what specific action is demanded. You can pay the GOP not to harass Trump, you can pay Trump not to pick fights with the GOP etc

3) The GOP & Trump are mutually antagonistic in that they each want a larger fraction of the "rent". Whatever you are paying to keep your share of the pie, they want a bigger piece of it for themselves.

In terms of the current patch of internal dynamics.

The GOP wants a tax cut so that its leaders can pocket some cash for what they assume are difficult times ahead. Clearly if the "demographic collapse" that so many social thinkers posit actually happens, the GOPers are going to need much cash to pay lawyers, hire security guards, build secure bunkers in Whitefish etc... to fend off the maelstrom of public disapproval that is soon to come. Older GOPers have simply decided not to run again and put up a show of opposing Trump. Younger GOPers seem to be trying to decide if they should avoid running or tie up with RIS and have the Russians "throw" them the election. Political retirement or "outsourcing" GOTV or antiGOTV to the RIS costs money - so they need the money.

Trump always is short of money. He's made too many promises to too many people and he knows he can't even make the minimum payment due to most of them. Take Putin for example. He was promised an end to sanctions, instead he has been given a "look the other way" as he spikes the stock market and then painfully slowly transfers wealth over the BTC + Offshore route. He was hoping to make billions in a day, now he make a few thousand here and there. Putin's not happy having to fight challenges inside the Grand Duchy of Moscow - but that is what you get when you put faith in Trump. As long as the sanctions stay in place - Putin is reduced to begging Trump to do his bidding. That suits Trump fine - but it doesn't suit Putin for very long. I wouldn't be surprised if Putin starts leaking out stuff about his interactions with Trump. What holds for Putin holds for others that Trump made promises to. This Russia investigation is every Trump creditor's way of putting pressure on him to pay up.

The Russia investigation places pressure on the Trump end of the GOP-Trump balloon, if the GOP doesn't vent the pressure - the balloon bursts. The GOP has to keep signing a "get-out-of-jail-free" card for Trump. In order to do this, the GOP demands payment (i.e. passage of *their* tax cuts). However as with any outside stakeholders, Trump can't accede to the GOP demand, if he does - they will have their tax cut and hang him out to dry. The GOP doesn't need Trump, Pence could do as good a job of acting as a foil (and probably charge much less). Heck they'd probably be okay with Ivanka too. (poor Donald - that would really hurt bad). So somehow Trump has to leverage any motion of the Tax Cuts (such as implementation, Presidential veto, etc) to ensure that GOP relieves the Russia investigation pressures. Essentially IMHO Trump can only sign off on/let the GOP actually have its the tax cuts if the GOP agrees to shut down Mueller and end the impeachment issue.

Trump's belief in the GOP's ability to give him a permanent "get-out-of-jail-free" card appears to be rooted in the assumption that GOP has the ability to actually do such a thing (Hint - it does not).

The GOP's belief that they can leverage Trump and get this ridiculous pay-off (i.e. Tax Cut) is rooted in the belief that there is no real accountability for their actions. (essentially that they can either "retire" from politics or they can pay RIS to hack the next elex for them). Again this reflects a lack of real thinking in the GOP echo chamber more than a deep understanding of how the electorate reacts. (Hint - you can't fool people forever.)

Obviously this model is a slightly re-worked version of my model of the Pakistani "Civil Military" relationship. There are similar "dyad" models that people have constructed for the regimes in Burma etc... these are easier to analyse than a triad or tetrad (or n-ad) models. I feel I am almost at the point where I can say the entire post 2014 India event cycle has been a dyad model of Modi+Shah v/s RSS Main in Nagpur.

I think the key thing here is that a dyad model with two extremely large centers of political gravity is very prone to instability as neither element of such a dyad is capable of sustaining itself for any length of time.

The additional caveat here is that the US is much much bigger than Pakistan so there is an "inertia" effect. Small fluctuations are damped out to some degree but should a fluctuation grow beyond a certain size - it will couple to massive shifts. Once something big gets going - it is hard to get it to stop.

Friday, December 01, 2017

So Flynn pleaded guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI...

Most of you are probably jaded by the drip drip drip of indictments of Trump's guys. You are rightly wondering "so what is the big deal with Flynn being arrested?" It was known almost a year ago that that guy was up to no good. So why all the fuss?

If you are a Trumpflake you will say "its a conspiracy man!!! the reptilian Zeta Reticulans in the Deep State and Lyin Fake News Media are carrying out a witch hunt!!!" 

But if you are not a Trumpflake you might have read this news item from ABC News.

It appears Flynn is prepared to testify that Donald Trump asked him to contact the Russians.

Before Trumpflakes jump into their "But Hillary Emails" or "Collusion is not illegal" (Actually it is...)  - you might want to think about what you are jumping in to here.

For those of you who think Flynn is lying to save his son, I suspect he has proof and Manafort got a bail plea for a shockingly small sum wouldn't you say?

Naturally if you are  GOPer you are probably on your knees going "Look man I just want my tax cut!".  Okay I get it - but doesn't make treason legal.  Also you can't pass a bill without agreeing on a text dude. And that's where you GOPers come up short - agreeing on anything - your party is so messed up right now - you guys constantly rat each other out. That presidential primary where there were so many of you competing for one position... that is emblematic of your party. Too many satrapies, too little empire.

The relationship between ideology, politics, and money

Every inventor faces the same problem. If I have an idea, how do I get others to buy into it? Regardless of whether the invention is a piece of technology, a novel material, or simply a way of thinking about something - this problem keeps popping up.

The usual answer is "Marketing" - i.e. make it look good to people who don't know about the idea. This is what they mean by "sell the idea".

Communicating the idea or marketing the idea to a large group of people inevitably runs you up against a vast number egos (individual and collective) and that is where "politics" comes into play. Playing politics is always a dissipative process, you always lose out in the end. So one might think of politics as a kind of drag or frictional loss that counteracts the propagation of your idea.

Also to overcome the frictional loss that transmitting your idea over large distances (and numbers of people) creates - you need money.

Sourcing the idea is difficult enough, but overcoming the political drag and keeping the idea supplied with enough funds to ensure propagation is a millions of times more difficult.

I can speak to this in the context of novel technology or material science but that would probably bore most of my readers and likely violate non-disclosure agreements that govern my existence. So I will talk about it in the context of ideology as most people can relate to that.

If you look at various ideological movements - you typically see a pattern. The ideas seem to lurk below the surface of public consciousness and then one day there is an emergence. After the emergence, there is a viral growth. After the viral spread, the idea seems to lose its prominence and there is a gradual decay of its visibility in the public consciousness. This cycle applies to you regardless of whether you are preaching a new-age religion like Sri Sri Sri Sri Sri Sri whatever or running an international terrorist group like Al Qaeda (Yes Ayman, sure I am still listening to what you have to say... we all know how important you are.). You get your "15 Min of fame" and that's it - you are done. (if you are asking "Hoodahell is Ayman?" - I rest my case).

One can attribute the decline to a genuine lack of product performance (as in... "hey this Nazism thing huh? not what was promised on the box....") or a failed marketing strategy (for example..."I think I want to be environmentally conscious because that girl in Greenpeace is hot") or running out of money (such as ... oh why bother?... you all know what I am going to say - you and I are not the ones afraid of losing in Gujarat).

Sorry snowflakes, I am at a complete loss to explain why else you would be so triggered at the prospect of losing Gujarat. It has to be that "the Gujarat Mythos" is at the core of the Bhaktflake havan kund (Holy Fire) .

Could it be that the Bhaktflakes actually believed He was eternal? exempt from the laws of political mortality that govern all things? that the myth of the Man would never age? never die?

Is that why Gujarat Election is trotted out as a response to concerns about the Loya murder? Because an electoral success in Gujarat can be spun as some kind of acquittal in for this heinous act in the court of public opinion? If that is so - then I really doubt that is what will happen.

A victory in Gujarat will not translate into a pause in the natural decline of the myth.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

It seems that Donald Trump is confident about passing his tax cuts

A planned meeting between Trump and "Nancy and Chuck" (the democratic party leadership in Congress and Senate) was abruptly cancelled. The operative part of Trump's tweet on the issue was that "there was no deal". Apparently everyone was supposed to meet in Donald Trump's office and decide what give and take would occur before the debt limit was raised on Dec 8th to allow the US government to function.

Anything that steps away from a "deal" on a debt limit rise usually attracts negative momentum on the markets, but around the same time the DJIA and BTC began to rally. This seems like the opposite of what one would expect.

I think this signals that Donald Trump is convinced he can pass the "tax cuts". Given how little his government has had to show for itself, he is keen to keep up the appearance that he is capable of delivering something - however ridiculous it may seem to others. During the earlier situation with the "Obamacare repeal" - there was the desire repeatedly expressed on Capital Hill by various GOPers - that they just wanted to "pass something" otherwise they would "look bad", Some of what we are seeing on the Tax Cuts or the "Cut Cut Cut Act" is that kind of sentiment. The GOPers are tired of looking like a bunch of complete incompetents who can't get anything done.

As we all have probably guessed by now, the GOP has drafted the bill and given how much the average GOP guy on the hill earns, the bill is largely designed to give themselves a tax cut and everyone else below them will be shafted. Most GOP voters and Trumpers are too stupid to grasp the fine print of the tax bill and will support it out of their tribal mentality or they will support it with the vague sense that it will somehow kill their peer competitors more than it will kill them personally.

It seems that Secy Mnuchin is lying when he says he has an analysis that the "tax cuts will pay for themselves". There is no such analysis. No one appears to have actually read a copy of the tax bill and I am sure that Mitch McConnell will use his usual tricks.

So given how badly this is driven by the desire to make it look like Trump and the GOP actually did something. My guess is that it will go through.

In other news - Roy Moore is back in the lead in Alabama. Again not surprising given its Alabama we are talking about.