Wednesday, January 17, 2018

World populations

I can't remember what triggered the question in my head, but I started to wonder about racial make up of the population of the whole world.

I was wondering what the world looked like back in the 1400s. Were there major migrations going on? That was on the eve of the migration of Europeans all over the world, and their forcible displacement of Africans via slavery to the Americas. Was there migration as big as the Turks to Anatolia in the 6th through 11th century?

It's incredible to think of Europeans swamping North America and Australia and New Zealand, and making a pretty big dent in South America too. Sad to think about the loss of native American cultures.

So what is the balance in the world now? It was somewhat hard to find. For one thing, racial classification is very much out of favor. However, I did find this:


I liked that the world wasn't divided into white, black, American Indian, and Asian. It makes sense to have more divisions in Asia. Does the entry for South/Central American make sense? Maybe it does. Perhaps there are has been more mixing there of European, American, and African stocks.

I then thought of a Cambodian babysitter my kids had 20 years ago. She had lighter skin and finer features than the Cambodians at the bus stop near me. She explained that she was half Chinese, which was one reason her family fled Cambodia. The Chinese diaspora has been extensive, like the European diaspora. Then I found this graph of the Indian diaspora, which is also fascinating.


Then there was this list of ethnic groups. My group is there, and so is my spouse's. But no Vikings? That's sad.

As a thought experiment, what groups will be on a pie chart in 200 years or 500 years? It almost makes me hope that I'll have an afterlife and can peek in on Earth to watch.

Ssdly, I didn't save a link to a genetic study showing that if there were racial categories, there should be only three of them: pygmies, Bushmen, and everyone else. I have no trouble believing that.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Republican accomplishments in 2017

The GOP had undivided power in the US federal government: presidency, House, Senate, and even a mostly sympathetic Supreme Court. They started the year with all kinds of bragging, but didn't manage to do some major pieces of legislation, including repealing Obamacare, overhauling immigration laws, defunding the horrid Planned Parenthood, reworking trade agreements, etc.

The misses have been well-discussed. What might be overlooked is what was accomplished by these latter day Keyston Kops. (A good summary is here. A summary from a conservative site here.)

Tighter enforcement on immigration. Many groups, including Haitians, have lost special status and are now subject to deportation. DACA for children brought to the US wasn't renewed. Flow across the border seems to be down (a trend over several years). Democrats are being pounded by their constituents over their failure to stop these immigration changes. But that just shows the unrealistic hopes of certain groups since the Dems have almost no power.

The tax reform/tax cut bill was passed, with major changes for both businesses, individuals, and households. It's hard for me to predict how this will affect the country in the long term. It may cause a big increase in deficits. However, if the increases are kept to around $100 billion a year, that's not too large in the scheme of things. So far businesses have responded in positive ways, so there is a chance that the economic benefits will outweigh the economic downsides. We'll have to wait to see, though not everyone agrees. Some are presuming it will be a failure, though partisanship is probably the motive.

Changes in regulations, and a big slowdown in new regulation. I personally think that the stability of much less new regulation is mostly a benefit. I'm not a business owner, but wonder how many are relieved with this change in particular. And I'm not talking about businesses that hope to drill in sea coasts or pollute.

No huge disasters. There haven't been any crises that have started and gotten worse. No blunders that ballooned into disasters. Does that count as an accomplishment? No, but I'm still grateful.


Extras. Not a close fit except for the aspect of a roundup of 2017. The most underreported news stories.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Interesting factoids

My blog is now mostly links. But that doesn't mean I'm not thinking. I feel like I'm thinking as much as before. So I can't really explain why my writing has changed to these collections of short, link-based reflections.

Here are a bunch of lighter link that are still interesting.

Energy promise fulfilled? In Australia, a huge battery system is providing backup for when renewables faulty and storage for when the energy output is abundant. This is such an important step in making renewables primary in large-scale energy production.

Kick him when he's down. We can laugh and/or sneer at formerly famous alt-right jerk Milo Y__(whatever). Here's an article on his unpublished books and the editor's comments.

Hackable votes. This one is heavier: an article about how Georgia has very poor security for its electronic voting machines. It contains first-hand reports of problems and officials trying to cover them up.

Good news/bad news. A funny conundrum. Media has done very well under the Trump campaign and presidency. Viewership is up, profits are up. It could be very nasty (in financial terms) if Trump doesn't win in 2020.

Trump's mental condition. Hahahaha. Nearly everyone has an opinion, but this is the opinion of a trained neurologist.  I've had some training in neurology, so I notice many of the behaviors the neurologist mentions. I would add this: look for changes, particularly diminishing ability. As far as I can tell, Trump hasn't deteriorated, but we should be alert for the signs. This is a reasonable place for a bookmark to a lawyerly explanation for why impeachment hearings are warranted. I don't agree, but the case is well argued.

A journalist on our side. Maybe Trump, Bannon, or whoever thought Michael Wolff could be trusted to write positive fluff pieces, and they found out otherwise when he wrote Fire and Fury. This is the kind of piece that might have given them false hope. It's a sympathetic view of Roger Ailes. It also sounds like he flattered people's egos, basically conning the con men that staff the White House. I don't trust him to be fair and scrupulously accurate. However, he claims to have tapes of some interviews. Added fun!


Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Roy Moore saga

I'm late writing about this story, but that's OK because the themes of the story are timeless. (I'm also going to be more free-form in writing.)

Roy Moore is a former judge in Alabama who displays a lot of the worst characteristics of evangelicals. He thinks God is on his side. He thinks he's right and anyone who agrees with him is wrong. His beliefs are more important than American law. He thinks he's right when he defies court rulings, laws, whatever. He's been removed from the Alabama Supreme Court twice (TWICE!) for this kind of behavior. The first was for refusing to remove a stone statue depicting the Ten Commandments. (The order was due to that whole 'separation of church and state' nonsense.) The second time was for lying about his directions on how to handle (errr, avoid) marriage for same sex couples, which the US Supreme Court approved a few years ago.

So, although he was controversial, he ended up as the GOP nominee for Senate for a special election in Alabama to replace Jeff Sessions, who left the Senate to become Attorney General. This shows yet again that too few regular people vote in primaries. People shouldn't be so lazy because primaries are important for getting the best possible person in the office.

The GOP had the main primary and then a run-off between the top two. Only after this process were there national reports alleging that Roy Moore had chased, bothered, and even molested at least one 14-year-old girl when he was single, a prosecutor, and in his 30's.

This isn't news to me. I hadn't heard it about Roy Moore, but I've heard it before and even witnessed it with my own eyes. There are too many men who take liberties with women as though men have prerogatives and women must simply comply and supply. So I'm not disposed to believe a man's denials. But beyond my own bias, the preponderance of the evidence is against Roy Moore and with his accusers. There is a pattern, plus there are plenty of people confirming that he gave unwanted attention to teenage girls. There's even a video of a male worker at a store in the mall talking about Moore being banned from the mall, including the name of the police officer to contact if Moore came around. This isn't a guy with an ax to grind, so his story is very credible and very damaging to Moore. The denials are Moore and his friends circling the wagons. Again, this is typical entitled male response (actually, circling the wagons is typical of many groups).

Moore, just as one might expect from a self-righteous person, denies the reports and calls his accusers liars. What is much more likely is that Moore is an abject liar himself.

Only one Republican that I can point to has acted honorably, and that's Senator Richard Shelby. He clearly said that Roy Moore isn't a good candidate, that he wasn't going to vote for him, and that Alabamians shouldn't vote for him. Most other GOPers were weasels about Roy Moore.

The good news is that Roy Moore lost. That's a good reflection on the majority in Alabama, and what a pleasant surprise to give the rest of the country. The Dems were very happy because there hasn't been a Dem senator from Alabama in 20 years. The Republicans aren't completely upset because Roy Moore is a loose cannon that they won't have to worry about, so a bit of relief for them.


Extras. Lots. Breitbart lies about the inscription in a yearbook. It was clearly a combination of different writers, so this isn't a revelation... to anyone with a working brain. Breitbart then whines about being labeled liars. Another woman shows a greeting card from Roy Moore, who dated her when she was 17. Check out the handwriting.

Fox News interview with a pretty fair analyst. The anchor is trying to skew things, and it's interesting how the info about Sen. Shelby is buried at the end. Probably no accident. Roy Moore never conceded the election (because he's God's choice, you know) and even tried to prevent the certification of the election. He wasn't successful because there is a reality beyond Moore's belief systems. Thank God for that.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mueller: Good guy or bad guy?

The background: In a fit of pique (and a bit a planning), Trump fired the director of the FBI, who also happened to be directing the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and whether Trump officials had any connections to that. And, of course, investigations into lies, cover-ups etc.

The dismissal didn't turn out to be a good move because it spawned even more calls for a special counsel to handle the investigation. And we got a special counsel.

There was a general sense of relief (I thought) at the naming of a special counsel, especially because he had such a good reputation. Robert Mueller had been director of the FBI, and was very respected on a bipartisan basis. He had been appointed by BushII, and his term was extended by Obama because it was so hard to find a good replacement.

So he was lauded when appointed. But that couldn't last because in Washington everyone is a target. Even Jesus Christ would be pilloried if his job was to investigate Trump. So the game was soon on to bash Mueller. They really don't have much. He's a good friend of Comey, the fired FBI director. That's a problem, but maybe a smaller problem than finding a better person to lead this investigation. Then there were charges that he's hired too many Dems, and they've given too much money to Democratic candidates.

It's interesting to note that critics have very little to complain about, so they complain about the scraps they have. There doesn't seem to be a lot of leaking, no malfeasance on the part of investigators, no one in the investigation shooting their mouths off or firing off inadvisable tweets. I'm no expert on investigations, so I can't say this one is solid. However, it's clearly disciplined.

It was instructive to me to go back and review what was said about Mueller when he was first appointed:
Mueller has a strong reputation for independence, and comes with the right credentials for this job. - Senator Grassley 
[T]he media can sniff, but Mueller is a consummate professional, which is why two presidents appointed him FBI Director. - Former official from Reagan, BushI and BushII administrations. 
If Trump is clean, this could be good For him... Mueller is reportedly an expert at keeping his mouth shut, so that means lots of radio silence here. - Ben Shapiro, conservative columnist 
Bob will be known as the most transformative director in the history of the FBI since Hoover. And I mean that in a good way. - Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security
I don't particularly remember Mueller's tenure at the FBI. I suppose it was solid and without a huge scandal. I do recall the commendations heaped on him for taking on the investigation. No one said he was a terrible choice. Complaints started as it became useful for Trump partisans to cast doubt, butI have no reason to buy into that narrative. Instead, I'm very much looking forward to the report on his findings. I hope it will be detailed, comprehensive, accurate, and fair. I hadn't seen anyone else that I would trust more with the task.

Mueller (l) with John Ashcroft in 2011

Update 12/28/17. In an interview with the New York Times (and re-reported elsewhere), Trump said Mueller is 'going to be fair." Trump must be listening to some sources other than the 'Mueller is biased' crowd. Folks like Trump's lawyers probably know that he shouldn't be lathered up against Mueller, but calmed down instead. Trump's base, however, is ministered to by people who care about ratings and clicks, so their incentives are different.

Monday, December 18, 2017

December links 2

Sexual harassment in foreign policy circles. Dan Drezner, a smart, wonkish political writer, asks women in foreign policy circles what hurdles they face. Very readable in two parts.

Read between the lines in the Flynn indictment. Better yet, let law experts do it and read what they write. They think Flynn is giving very important information and cooperation to the Russia investigation. 

Tax cut dogma. Just when I needed to refute some jerk who thought the Laffer Curve was scientifically proven, I found this article about tax cuts and their effect on growth. Pretty concise.

Ramifications of US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It's been a fact on the ground, but a diplomatic minefield. Candidates for president have made and then broken promises. Trump finally seems to plan to pull that trigger, but how bad will it be? As this article notes, it won't derail talks because there are no talks. Background on the role of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who seems to have an ego as big as Trump's. Of course there were riots in the short term. The long term will have to be seen.

A day as President Trump. A close look at what it's like to be President Trump. Kelly has brought in more discipline and focus, and Trump appears to have learned a few productive coping mechanisms.

A Trump fallacy and its effect. Trump isn't able to hear and accept the truth about Russia, its intentions and its interference. His own ego and insecurity don't allow him. However, he also doesn't seem to be in charge of policy with regard to Russia. It's a bad situation and could get worse.

A lesson in post-Soviet history. I hadn't known this important bit of history, where the NATO countries broke an unwritten promise on expansion. One lesson--it's not any kind of promise if you can't write it down and publicize it. Secret agreements--they're probably broken again and again.

Big ideas: Clash of world powers. This column starts as a book recommendation, but the issue is huge: the future of the world. Is our future more relative peace or a big conflict? Mostly pessimistic, but not entirely.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

December links

I collected a bunch of links in November but didn't get to write about them. Here they are. As usual, an interesting bunch.

White nationalist bad behavior. I'm not sure why this struck me as important, but it did. It turns out that a white nationalist who was caught on video repeatedly shoving a woman at a Trump rally has also been involved in organizing white rallies. This includes Charlottesville. Maybe this detail will be important sometime, but I hope not. On a related note, extreme violence at neo-Nazi rallies didn't start at Charlottesville. This report from 6/26/16 shows that it started over a year earlier. Seven were stabbed at a rally in Sacramento.

Roy Moore bad behavior. Roy Moore is the notorious judge in Alabama who has twice substituted his superior knowledge of God's will over the judgments of higher courts. Now he's running for Senate, and has been accused by several women of chasing them when they were teenage girls and he was in this 30s. He's called them liars, which is the traditional patriarchal response. This video shows an interview of a worker who knew of Roy Moore being banned from a mall in the 1980s for that behavior. Doesn't look like this guy is lying. Updating--another woman who dated Moore when she was 17 is sharing her story, and a card that looks very much like Roy Moore's writing.

Senator gets fed up. Humorous story about Sen. Orrin Hatch getting tired of being accused of wanting to cut taxes for the rich. Well, if he doesn't like the accusation, maybe he should stop repeatedly performing the action of which he is accused. If you don't want to be called a wife-beater, stop beating your wife. Ever.

Was Trump's election racist? This is a long article, but I liked the last third. That part starts with "History has a way of altering villians..." It argues that perhaps whites in the US can't see their own racism even as it worsens in a very scary way. I don't know if I agree, but it's definitely worth keeping in mind.

Why care about a crime 25 years ago? I started reading this article about the conviction in a genocide trial, and my initial reaction was that European justice is too slow and too weak. Then my focus changed, and I was surprisingly happy that this murderer was forced to face justice. He didn't get to escape justice as so many others have.

Immigrant gangs. No, this isn't just a conservative talking point. This is real. Maybe the MSM is mostly burying this information because it's not a story that fits their political bias.

Congressmen have sex. Joe Barton was getting divorced, but he was still interested in having sex with women. Sounds normal to me. He actually sent some nude selfies to some women (not out of the blue). Sounds like the 21st century, right? However, it's trouble for a congressman. Unfortunately, TMZ scrubbed their copies of the pic. It's what you'd expect for a guy his age. This ought to be a non-story, shouldn't it be?

Conservative sting bad behavior. Project Veritas, an organization that exposes liberal causes in not so honest ways, tried a sting on the Washington Post, but was caught instead. Their operative concocted a lie about Roy Moore, was discovered, videotaped, and written about at length. James O'Keefe, the swarmy head of Project Veritas, of course isn't going to be honest about this.

Deregulation improves economy. According to The Economist, the major decrease in new regulations during the beginning of the Trump administration has been helping the US economy. No shit, Sherlock.

Interesting factoid about Israel. The Greek Orthodox church is one of the major landowners in Israel. I never thought about it, but it makes sense. What if it has owned land there for nearly 18 centuries? What are the implications when the church sells some of its holdings?

Media bias in one picture and two stories. Picture below. Malia Obama, bad girl or embattled?