2018-08-01

Potential Genocide Perpetrator

As this week’s end, it seems likely that it is quite near time for killing those involved in the multiple and clearly delineated attempts to stage a coup d’├ętat against the legitimately elected Trump government and thereby kill our republic.

American patriots have so far, praise God, been remarkably disciplined in not responding to tyranny and violence with violence. For now they must remain so, armed but steady. But the time for such patience is fast slipping away; indeed, that patience is quickly becoming an obviously rank and self-destructive foolishness. If Trump does not act soon to erase the above noted tyranny and tyrants, the armed citizenry must step in and eliminate them.

It is, of course, far better if Trump does so, and I pray and believe he will. That said, the sheer, nay, utter joy and satisfaction to be derived from beholding great piles of dead U.S.-citizen tyrants is not one that will be missed if Trump does not soon do the necessary to save the republic.
Michael Scheuer, Trump supporter and potential genocide perpetrator.

2018-07-28

A solution to US policing

America has a very serious problem with bad policemen. It's unique in the Western world. Other industrialised countries just don't have the same problem. It's not as though other nations are perfect, and I say this because someone will think I'm saying that. And I'll also say that the US has some very good police officers and police departments.

It's the structure of US policing that is the problem. You have police and a court system at all three levels of government - federal, state and local/municipal. Not to mention university and college law enforcement (in Australia, where I come from, universities employ security guards, but policing in educational institutions are done by the state police as well)
Other countries just don't have this. In the UK, the police are overseen by a single government. They are broken up into various metro areas but the quality of training and standard of behaviour is uniform throughout the entire UK.

In Australia, the "police" are run by the state governments. We have a few federal agencies to help with law enforcement, but no local government has its own court system or police officers.

The US system is so bad because of local police. Because each local government area (cities, counties, parishes, towns etc) has its own police, it can only afford what it can get in local taxes. Thus poorer areas have low quality police and rich areas have high quality police... and the rich areas are corrupted by the local wealth.
The solution would be to have
  • A Federally funded and trained police force,
  • Controlled by the State governments,
  • Appointed to Local areas by their consent.
This would free up the costs of law enforcement for local and state governments by diverting it to the federal government. It would allow states a measure of control for states rights purposes, and allow local areas to decide whether or not they want their own cops or whether they want to save money by letting the states run their law enforcement.
Note: This is not a perfect solution. Corruption and incompetence will not be completely erased in this system. But it will definitely make things better. And I'm annoyed that I have to say this because idiots will come out and say "but there's police problems in UK and Australia too" and link to wikipedia articles.

(crossposted from Reddit)

2018-04-20

The U.K. Just Went 55 Hours Without Using Coal for the First Time in History

Bloomberg:

No coal was used for power generation by stations in the U.K. between 10:25 p.m. in London on Monday until 5:10 a.m. on Thursday, according to grid data compiled by Bloomberg. At the same time wind turbines produced more power.
This is good news. But it also shows further development is needed. The latitude of the UK places it in a zone which is rich in wind, but not necessarily rich in solar potential.

This means that decision makers should invest more resources into wind farms, especially those off shore.

It also means that energy storage facilities must be built. Wind (and solar) are intermittent power sources. The recent wind power increase is due to very high winds and will obviously decrease once the low pressure system disappears. Energy storage infrastructure is essential for the future development of renewable energy, as it can store the excess energy generated during peak production times (windy days for wind turbines, sunny days for solar) for later use during peak consumption times. This infrastructure can include the sort of lithium-ion battery storage that Tesla built in South Australia recently, and can be built on land already used by coal/gas power stations (since the distribution infrastructure is already in place).

2018-04-05

Evangelicals = ISIS?

This right-wing Christian movement is fundamentally anti-democratic. Their "prayer warriors" do not believe that secular laws apply to them, thus making it acceptable, if not honorable, to deceive non-believers in order to do God's work. Many evangelicals in the Christian nationalist or "dominionist" wing of the movement want the United States to be a theocracy. In some ways, this subset of the evangelical population resembles an American-style Taliban or ISIS, restrained (so far) only by the Constitution.

Have Christian nationalists staged a “soft coup,” with Trump as their figurehead?

Slightly overblown, but generally accurate in the view of this non-American evangelical.

2017-11-24

US per capita economic growth has collapsed since 2008

This is hardly a surprise for those who have been looking at economic stats. Above is a graph I have done based on a bunch of stats available from FRED. It is Gross Domestic Income, adjusted by the GDP Deflator, and divided by population to give a per capita result. Then the growth is averaged out over ten years. All figures are quarterly.

Gross Domestic Income
GDP Deflator
Population

So what you're seeing in the graph at each point (quarters of a particular year) is how the US economy has performed over the previous ten years. The downward lines reflect the various recessions that have hit since 1962 and broadly match the NBER definitions.

What is clear from the graph above is that the years following the 2008 recession have seen a deep and long-term collapse in per capita economic growth. Moreover, what has been experienced since 2008 has been unique in that the economic trough has not recovered - the only other comparable event was the 1973 oil crisis and its aftermath, which permanently capped per capita growth to around 30%, making the 1962-1973 period a "golden age" in comparison.

(Why GDI and not GDP? See Nalewaik)

2017-10-09

Did the US suffer two mild recessions in 2016?

My spreadsheet is indicating that the US had two short recessions in 2016: 2016 Q2 and 2016 Q4.

Now of course this is really weird, so I want to put it out there just as a way of discussing the data or even finding out why my spreadsheet is wrong. I've checked the data against the FRED data (because data has a habit of being updated) and so far the problem doesn't seem to be my spreadsheet or incorrect cell algorithms.

The way I measure recessions is influenced by three things:

1) That Real GDI should be used instead of Real GDP. (

2) That the data should be adjusted per capita.

3) That the data covers a 12 month period, as opposed to a 3 month period.

The reason for #1 is based on this 2007 paper from the Fed (pdf file)

The reason for #2 is that it is possible for population to grow faster than the economy, which means that while the economy may grow in absolute terms, the per capita data might show a decline.

The reason for #3 is that recessions are generally long term events that come to a head. Quarterly changes are important to note, but changes over a 12 month period are to be preferred as being more judicious.

I thus measure recessions as being: An annual decline in per capita Real GDI.

So when I punched in the data into my spreadsheet just today, I discovered that 2016 Q2 and Q4 saw annual declines in per capita Real GDI. Considering all my other recession indicators were silent about this, the cart seemed to be in front of the horse.

But what I did notice was that this seems to fit in with one of my earlier posts this year, in which I pointed out that US Industrial production declined in 2016.

Now if there were two mild recessions in 2016, they did not cause an increase in unemployment, though rates were slow to drop (4.9% in Q1 to 4.7% in Q4)

A screenshot of my spreadsheet is here. A screenshot that includes 2004-2011 is here.


2017-09-24

My current understanding of the root of modern day Islamic Terrorism

This is my current understanding of the root of modern day Islamic Terrorism:
Hundreds of years ago on the Arabian Peninsula, the new ruling family, the House of Saud, made an arrangement with the leading religious family, the Wahhabs: The Sauds would rule, while the Wahhabs were given power and influence to propagate their version of Islam, which is called Wahhabism today. This ultra-conservative version of Islam was derided and condemned over many years by mainstream Islamic teachers and scholars.
Fast-forward to 1948 and the Sauds still rule the Arabian Peninsula (a country known as Saudi Arabia) while the Wahhabis still have a huge influence over Islam in that country. While the world is shocked and awed by the formation of modern Israel, geologists discover the Ghawar Field in Eastern Saudi Arabia - the largest underground crude oil reservoir ever discovered. Subsequent discoveries around the Persian Gulf in neighbouring countries creates the Middle Eastern oil boom.
Now fast forward to 1973. The world's economy has depended upon cheap oil for decades but the Arabic nations have remained opposed to Israel in that time. After the Yom Kippur war ended in Israel's favour, oil producing Arab nations (as OPEC) embargoed oil deliveries to nations they believed were helping Israel, including the US and many other western countries. The high price of oil resulting from the embargo and its aftermath led to these countries becoming very rich - especially the ruling classes and especially the house of Saud.
Because of the close relationship between the house of Saud and the house of Wahab, many prominent government positions were handed out to members of these families. The Wahabs were still very conservative and very extremist in their religious beliefs and were still being criticised by more mainstream Islamic leaders.
One of the more prominent families in the Saudi world was, and remains, the Bin Laden family. The Bin Laden family received all sorts of juicy government contracts to construct buildings throughout Saudi Arabia. One of the members of this family was named Osama. Osama was influenced greatly by the extremist Wahhabism and began planning his terrorism program in the 1980s.
Other extremist Wahhabis began using their power and influence within the Saudi government to fund the building of Wahhabi mosques around the world, including in Western countries. This is still going on.
The 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by Saudi Wahhabists. They were funded by rich members of the Saudi government at its lower levels. The attacks were planned by the well-connected Osama Bin Laden - a man with both extremist religious views and practical business training and experience.
The years following 9/11 have seen an upswing in Islamic terrorism. Most of these terrorists have been influenced by Wahhabi teaching, found either online or in their mosque. The presence of the internet has allowed the Wahhabist message to spread to disaffected Muslims around the world, creating an environment where formal structures (ie a terrorist network) are not needed to create terrorists.
A summary of my conclusions - Modern Islamic terrorism:
* is mostly Sunni (as opposed to Shi'a)
* is sourced from Wahhabism, a powerful but not dominant religious ideology within Sunni Islam.
* is mainly Arabic in nationality, with exceptions due to Wahhabi influence (eg Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia)
* is funded by well-connected families in Saudi Arabia and members of the Saudi government.
* has been funded for decades from the profits of the Saudi oil industry being distributed to powerful Saudi families.
* is angry at "the west" for a) the creation of modern Israel, and b) past aggressions against Arabic nations from colonial times up until today (including British and American oil companies taking their oil, but also aggressions like invading Iraq).
* can influence individual Muslims through the internet.
* is NOT a natural outworking of the Islamic faith.
* does NOT have any historical precedent prior to 9/11.
* needs to be addressed by Western countries through directly challenging and influencing Saudi Arabia.
* is unlikely to be propagated in mosques that are not Wahhabist.
* is opposed by the majority of Muslims and the mosques they worship in.

2017-03-18

US Industrial Production - a slow decline since November 2014

This graph shows the performance of US industrial production for the past ten years. The "cliff dive" of the Great Financial Crisis can be clearly seen, which bottoms out at 87.4125 in 2009-06. A quick recovery follows for a year, and then steady recovery until it peaks again at 105.9906 in 2015-01. But since then, Industrial production has slowly declined. Why? The 2015-01 peak was not much greater than the previous peak of 105.7290 reached in 2007-11.

Source: INDPRO

2017-02-28

US Defense Spending, and Trump's increase

Donald Trump has decided to increase defense spending:

The US military is already the world's most powerful fighting force and the United States spends far more than any other country on defence. Defence spending in the most recent fiscal year was $US584 billion ($759 billion), according to the Congressional Budget Office, so Mr Trump's planned $US54 billion ($70 billion) increase would be a rise of 9.2 per cent. In a speech to conservative activists on Friday, Mr Trump promised "one of the greatest military build-ups in American history".

Yes, an increase of 9.2% is substantial as a percentage. But how big would it be compared to previous years? The following graph is based upon two FRED sources, FDEFX and GDP.
In fact the latest figures show that defense spending has decreased to 3.88% of GDP, which is the lowest recorded since 2000 Q4 (3.77% of GDP, the lowest since 1951). An increase of 9.2% would, (using a quick and simple equation) result in defense spending at 4.237% of GDP. The last time that was reached was 2014 Q3, which isn't so long ago. Of course such an equation is not very accurate when multiple quarters over many years are taken into account, but what is seen here is not a huge increase, and is still significantly lower than other periods in history.

Of course there's always the chance that Trump and Congress will make further increases in the future. But for the majority of us in the "reality based community" would still question the need for such an increase. What foreign power is threatening enough to demand such an increase in defense spending?

If defense spending remained the same proportion of GDP as it is now (3.9% to 4.1% of GDP), America would be safe enough. The risk of being attacked by a substantial foreign power is probably the lowest in history, and the risk that America's allies face is the lowest in history. The threat posed by IS and other Islamic terrorist organisations needs to be kept in perspective, namely that they pose not even one tenth of the threat posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Moreover the increase in defense spending may presage a future military campaign. But against who? Is increasing spending on defense simply the fulfillment of an election promise or is there something more substantial in the president's mind?

2017-02-22

Japan: GDP vs Energy Use

I found this interesting graph on Wikipedia:






What it shows is empirical evidence that GDP and energy use don't always have to follow one another. Of course there is a relationship between the two, but what the graph shows is that it is possible for GDP to continue growing without necessarily increasing energy use. Graph is here.