Thursday, January 18, 2018

Reverse auction in Congress

This is an explanation I developed in my comments on political threads, but I'm finally writing it here. On many issues, the GOP leadership has the choice of two negotiation partners. It can negotiate with the House Freedom Caucus (a more conservative group) or it can negotiate with Dems.

Both the Freedom Caucus and the Dems will try to barter votes for concessions. The GOP will be able to play them off against each other and lower the degree of concessions.

This dynamic was first apparent when the GOP were late again getting to the appropriations bills last September. Dems helped them out by providing votes to pass a clean continuing resolution to keep funding as is. In December, it was the Freedom Caucus' turn to provide the votes, with a clean bill again being passed.

Neither the Dems nor the Freedom Caucus gain much in these clean bills. Many of them want to use their leverage (their votes) to gain concessions. Dems want protection for DACA young people (children brought to the US as illegal aliens). The Freedom Caucus has a big roster of wants, including no concessions on DACA, tougher immigration measures, and more military readiness.

With the 1/19/18 appropriation deadline coming up, both the Dems and the Freedom Caucus were vying to be the partner. The Dems thought they had a deal, but it fell apart. The Freedom Caucus swooped in and made a deal for almost a clean bill--few demands at all. That bill passed the House just one day before the deadline.

The Freedom Caucus agenda is a better fit in general for the GOP. But this is complicated by the slim GOP margin in the Senate, and some very independently-minded GOP senators. Several senators, such as Lindsay Graham and Jeff Flake, want to do an immigration reform deal that is more liberal than what the rest of the GOP senators want. (This is how the Dem deal fell apart. The Dems negotiated only with Lindsay Graham, and the deal was spiked by Trump.) Do Graham and Flake have to willpower to stand strong and send the Freedom Caucus deal to defeat? I rather doubt it.

I think Graham and Flake will have to settle on a lesser immigration deal in the near future, or maybe no deal at all. Democrats have been threatening a filibuster and hinting at a government shutdown if they don't get a deal on DACA. I predict any shutdown will fail. The Dem leadership probably realizes this, so I don't think they would attempt anything more than a token shutdown at most.

Shutdown threats are a blunt instrument, and not useful for getting major changes in potential legislation. Making an advantageous deal is going to be hard for the Freedom Caucus or the Dems. The best deal may be for them have secret talks with as many allies in the GOP establishment as possible, be prepared to make concessions, and then take what they can get. However, this strategy is certain to piss off true believers among the supporters, and get the politicians labeled as sell-outs. But that's the breaks when you negotiate from a position of weakness and you aren't the only potential partner. If someone is ready to trip you and underbid you, you need to be ready to do the same.


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.

Update 4/5/18. Japanese population has already peaked (in 2008) and is declining. China, even with their one-child policy, still hasn't peaked (source). By the way, I'm in favor of a stabilization and decline in world population.

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!