Sunday, November 27, 2016

Our parsimonious ancestry

From a previous post:
Paternal haplogroups are families of Y chromosomes that all trace back to a single mutation at a specific place and time.
Similarly, mitochondrial haplogroups trace back to a single mutation at a specific place and time.

Wiki lists 20 major Y-haplogroups. There seem to be a similar number of major mitochondrial haplogroups (e.g., see here.) Since the origin of the haplogroup ultimately traces to one individual, we are all, 7+ billion, ultimately descended from about 20 men and 20 women.

Oh, we are descended from a lot more than the 20 men and women I previously mentioned. For example, all non-Africans have a 1-2% Neanderthal admixture; but there are no Neanderthal paternal or mitochondrial haplogroups among today's humans as far as I know. What we mean is that only about 20 men (and 20 women) who lived long ago have unbroken patrilineal (and matrilineal) lines of descent.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Protecting Trump's Burgeoning Empire

Trump's business interests in Georgia, Argentina, Scotland, India have received boosts after he became POTUS-elect, e.g., in Georgia and Argentina, stalled construction projects have resumed.

Let's say that all that is "normalized".   What happens when someone wanting to hit the US of A targets a Trump property abroad in whose management the POTUS is actively involved? (i.e., they believe that it makes more of a statement to hit a POTUS property than a generic KFC or McDonald's.)  Does the POTUS get to deploy US marines to protect his property?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Media mess

CNN had paid contributors, Donna Brazile for Clinton and Corey Landowski for Trump, who were simultaneously advisers to their respective campaigns.

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough was reportedly advising Trump.

Megyn Kelly's allegations:
In a sit down on Sunday with Fox News colleague Howard Kurtz, Kelly was asked about a passage in her book which claims that media and political journalists tipped Trump off ahead of time about upcoming tough questions in a interview. She indicated more than one network practiced this. Kelly suggests the journalists were trying to preserve their fair and impartial reputation, but, in reality, the interviews were just “acting,” as she characterized it.
CBS CEO Les Moonves (February 29, 2016):
Les Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, celebrated Donald Trump’s candidacy for the second time on Monday, calling it “good for us economically.” Moonves, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference at the Park Hotel in San Francisco, described the “circus” of a presidential campaign and the flow of political advertising dollars, and stated that it “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS, that’s all I got to say.”

“So what can I say? The money’s rolling in, this is fun,” Moonves continued, observing that the debates had attracted record audiences.

The CBS media executive also riffed briefly about the type of campaign advertising spending produced by such a negative presidential campaign. “They’re not even talking about issues. They’re throwing bombs at each other and I think the advertising reflects that.” Moonves added, “I’ve never seen anything like this and this is going to be a very good year for us. … It’s a terrible thing to say, but bring it on, Donald, go ahead, keep going.”
 Having seen the results of all this, why would I ever go back to the TV and cable channels for news?

PS: Columbia Journalism Review's postmortem includes this striking recollection (my emphasis):

25 August 2015: Univision anchor and journalist Jorge Ramos is ejected from a Trump press conference in Iowa. Other media organizations are later banned from covering Trump events

Jorge Ramos, anchor, Univision and Fusion: In that press conference only two journalists defended me: Tom Llamas from ABC and Kasie Hunt from MSNBC. All the other journalists didn’t say anything. I think that the way we covered Trump at the beginning of his campaign was seriously flawed. The New York Times, the LA Times, Politico and the Washington Post [in September] called Donald Trump a liar. [But] it took 13 months for them to do that. At the beginning, it was seriously inappropriate.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Post-election-day changes

November 8, 2016 is a date that will live in infamy.

My actions since, to cope with it:
  • Terminated my 18-year-old New York Times subscription.  Peter Woit's criticism was spot on.
  • Subscribed to The Atlantic.
  • Subscribed to The New Yorker.
  • Revived my subscription to
  • Zero TV news - cable or network - only weather channel weather news.  I do not intend to return, ever.
  • No more sign-in to Facebook until they convincingly fix their fake news problem.
  • No more sign-in or posting to the Bharat Rakshak Forum (for its 100-to-14 support of Trump in a straw poll).
  • No radio news except for traffic and weather (I will eventually resume listening to WNYC and WHYY public radio, and Bloomberg Radio.   Let the scar tissue form first).

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The business of America is Trump's business

As the HuffPo reports:
President-elect Donald Trump told The New York Times Tuesday that laws around conflicts of interest don’t apply to him, and he can simply keep running his businesses from the White House.

“In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly,” Trump said, according to tweets from New York Times reporters interviewing the president-elect Tuesday. “There’s never been a case like this.”

He is technically correct on both counts.
 The Atlantic has a bit of history about how that came about:

What did Trump Voters vote for?

Trumpists clearly voted for Donald J. Trump, the man, not for his policy positions.   Or they selectively paid attention only to that which they wanted to hear.

President-Elect Donald Trump took 141 distinct stances on 23 major issues during his bid for the White House. 
After more than a year and a half of stadium rallies, around-the-clock interviews, sweeping primary wins, and one stunning general election victory, the Republican president-elect has the most contradictory and confusing platform in recent history. This is a catalog of his views over a 511-day span, from June 16th 2015 to November 8th 2016. 
As to Donald Trump, the man, the reports from the off-the-record meeting with the chiefs of the news organizations are:
The overall impression of the meeting from the attendees I spoke with was that Trump showed no signs of having been sobered or changed by his elevation to the country’s highest office. Rather, said one, “He is the same kind of blustering, bluffing, blowhard as he was during the campaign.”

Monday, November 14, 2016

Secretary of State - John Bolton?

The people who hang out at Retd. US Army Colonel W. Patrick Lang's blog Turcopolier greatly dislike Obama, utterly hate Hillary Clinton, but over the years, a lot of vitriol has been reserved for John Bolton.
There is also a danger that the neocon faction among Trump's advisers will succeed in achieving power in his cabinet.  The appointment of John Bolton to State, would be ,IMO, an unmitigated disaster.(W.P.Lang)
This is because apparently Bolton hasn't seen a foreign entanglement he didn't like.  Bolton is most certainly of the school "bomb Iran, don't negotiate with it".

Well, the rumor is that Bolton is the top candidate for Trump's Secretary of State.   Some people hope that since the Democrats in 2005 filibustered his nomination as Ambassador to the UN and Bush had push him through in a recess appointment, he won't get the nod.

But in November 2013, the Senate agreed that no executive appointments or judicial nominees other than those for the Supreme Court can be filibustered; and those rules are still in place.  So the Democrats won't be able to rescue us from a Bolton nomination, it will be up to the Republicans to produce some No! votes.

I think it is only just that Trump supporters be subjected to the same nervousness that the rest of us will be subjected to for the next four years, as Trump brings the dregs of American politics all the way to the top.

Bond sell-off

Just the facts from here:

[Bond] Sellers remained in control on Thursday, and the market was able to take a breather on Friday as it was closed in observance of Veterans Day.
However, sellers are back in charge on Monday. Heavy selling across the complex has yields higher by at least 8 basis points. Here's a look at the scoreboard as of 7:15 a.m. ET:
  • 2-year +7.3 bps at 98.8 bps
  • 3-year +10.4 bps at 1.27%
  • 5-year +11.2 bps at 1.67%
  • 7-year +11.5 bps at 2.03%
  • 10-year +10.2 bps at 2.25%
  • 30-year +9 bps at 3.02%
Several notable developments have taken place amid Monday's destruction. The 2-year yield crossed the 1.00% threshold for the first time since January, and the 10-year is also at levels last seen since the beginning of the year. Additionally, the 30-year yield is above 3.00% and at its highest level since early December. All of this comes as the Fed readies for its first rate hike since December 2015. Fed fund futures data compiled by Bloomberg shows an 84% probability of a 25 bp rate hike at the upcoming meeting.
There is a narrative around all this, which I'm omitting, but the meaning of this market signal is that the market expects inflation.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Climate Change: Modi v Trump

PM Modi delivered the Indian ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement on October 2, Mahatma Gandhi's birthdate. 

Trump doesn't accept the scientific evidence that climate change is real, and wants to dismantle the Paris Agreement.

GOP vs Modi

This is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement:
Why do we need the state? There are five main components:

.. The first is public goods such as defence, police and judiciary.

.. The second is externalities which hurt others, such as pollution. For this, we need a regulatory system.

.. The third is market power, where monopolies need controls.

.. The fourth is information gaps, where you need someone to ensure that medicines are genuine and so on.

.. Last, we need a well-designed welfare and subsidy mechanism to ensure that the bottom of society is protected from deprivation. This especially includes education and health care.

These are five places where we need government.
We do not know where Trump stands, because he has made statements on both sides of most issues; and he has no record of public office.

We do know where the Republicans stand:

1. On defence, police, judiciary - yes, they mostly agree.  However, note that they are in favor of privatizing prisons, even though the American experience so far has been that private prisons are very abusive.  After Trump's victory that has put Republicans in control, the stock price of private prison companies rose more than 40%.  (Defence companies rose by 6% or so.)

2.  On the regulatory system to control externalities that hurt others, the Republicans are utterly opposed, whether it is with the environment or with the financial system.

3. On market power, the Republicans have no desire to control monopolies.  Their hero, Reagan, dismantled much of the New Deal anti-trust controls.

4. On information gaps, this is a mixed bag; but I would rate the Republicans as mostly against the government doing anything to fix information gaps.

5. On the safety net, we know that the Republicans are against any such.

I repeat, on many of these, we don't know where Trump stands; he has made contradictory statements during the campaign, and he has no record of public office.

In any case, policy-wise, PM Narendra Modi is very explicit and clear; the situation with Trump is ambiguous, and there is utterly no basis for comparison of the two men.  It is not apples vs oranges; it is apples vs. BS.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What 325 million Americans did in the 2016 elections

Some very good articles

The New Yorker: George Packer: Hillary Clinton and the Populist Revolt

The Atlantic: Matt Stoller: How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul

As a side-note, I find it interesting how a history of ideas helps to show us their limits, and at least temporarily, to liberate us.

Pakistani social media birthers Trump

This "news-item" says as per information collected on social media, and contributed to by many, Donald Trump was born Daud Ibrahim Khan in Waziristan and received his initial education in a madrassa there. Daud's father died in an accident, and Captain Stockdale of the British Indian Army on retiring, took him to London.  In 1955 the Trump family adopted him, and brought him to New York. 

PS: (Nov 14) UK's Daily Mail caught up with the story.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Season Finale

There was a (turns-out-not-to-be-funny) joke circulating, of the form "Omg I'm so excited for the season finale of America".

Well Season Finale has arrived.  So what will the next season of this reality show bring?

Having been wrong about so many things, what's a few more among friends?   Here are my prognostications:

1. The world will have to solve the crisis of global warming and climate change without much help and perhaps some hindrance from the US federal government.  I don't know what happens to the Paris Accord if Trump walks the US out of it, as he has said he would do; but the rest of the world should, in my opinion, try to stick with the program.

2. The financial markets will be very volatile until Trump's intentions (and ability to act on them) become clear.  For example, Trump has stated positions against the Dodd-Frank financial industry regulations, but also in favor of the older Glass-Steagal regulations.  What does he mean to do and what will he be able to get through Congress?

3. If the financial markets don't stabilize, then perhaps there will be a US recession.  There will be little to pull the US out of recession and the people who voted Trump in are likely for a bitter disappointment.  Their economic prospects will likely not improve. (I'd be really glad to be disappointed about this.)

4. Obamacare will be repealed, the chokehold the medical/pharma industry has on the US economy will tighten, healthcare will become much more expensive, and less available (again, a blow for the people who voted for Trump, and a prediction I really hope I'm wrong about.)

5. Europe which ought to band together more tightly for its own protection because of the uncertainty of the American umbrella will likely not be able to do so.  They are all in the grip of Trumpist movements of their own.  I expect Europe to be in a prolonged recession, too.

6. Trump might scrap the nuclear deal with Iran, and Iran may resume its climb up the nuclear capabilities ladder.   If this happens, it is almost certain that there will be a war, an attempt to bomb Iran into submission.   I think one side-effect will be that Shia terrorism will also start to globalize (right now only Sunni terrorism is global in scope).

7.  India's hope of export-driven economic growth will simply be dashed with the US and Europe in recession.  India's economic growth will have to be driven internally and thus will be slower than otherwise possible (but perhaps more sustainable?)  With a large chunk of the global economy in recession, India will be able to count on low prices for energy.

8. The Middle East is a major source of employment for Indians (I think annual remittances are of the order of $80 billion per year) and some of India's largest trading partners are in the region.   Things like a US-Iran war will tend to place this in some jeopardy.

9. Back to America - the US will have an extremely conservative Supreme Court for the rest of my lifetime.  We will see more guns, choice taken away from women, the further enshrinement of corporations as people with religious beliefs, free speech rights and so on.   Labor unions are going to completely wither away. Much of civil rights will devolve back to the States, and the cultural divide between the liberal coasts and the Christianist middle and south will intensify. 

10. All in all, the leadership in the world that Americans have pretty much taken for granted is going to evaporate, initially because of the uncertainty of Trump, and later possibly because of the policy Trump and the Republicans enact.

PS: The main immediate issue is the uncertainty.  Trump could boost US economic growth with a massive infrastructure program, but that requires going into deficit, which may not be politically feasible; and Trump also wants to reduce the deficit.  Trump has made a number of promises that are inconsistent, and no one knows which ones he will honor.