Saturday, December 03, 2016

Weekend Data Dump

Back when President Obama took office, I wondered if Mexico would be his first foreign crisis as drug gang killings virtually indistinguishable from terrorist attacks raged. Mexico still stands but the drug gangs still kill.

I know that Hillary supporters make a lot of her edge in counted popular votes over Trump. Obviously, that is irrelevant because we elect by electoral votes that is almost completely based on winner-take-all at the state level. But it is more than that. We don't really know what the real count is because we don't need to know with absolute accuracy what the count is (remember the electoral vote thing). If we want to know the true count, we'd need to do expensive recounts in every state rather than just the counts that will take place in three states that Trump won. Do we really want to abandon the fast determination of the outcome based on the lack of a need to have an exact count? As I've said, do we really want Florida 2000 in every state every year to eek out any extra vote edge you can get (or fake)? And this doesn't even address the fact that our candidates and voters don't make decisions in a system where total vote determines the winner. How many protest votes would instead go to the main candidates rather than waste them on a protest vote in states where your vote probably wouldn't matter? How many California Republicans who probably sat out the vote without a chance to affect either the presidential or senate races would have voted in a national vote election? The national vote issue is a non-issue for several reasons. I understand the frustration. In 2000 on the eve of the election I resigned myself to the idea that Gore could win without a majority vote--unaware that late news about a Bush drunk driving conviction would flip that script.

Strategypage writes about the problem of post-9/11 truck-driving "combat" experience for our pilots and the need for hours in the air honing air combat skills. We're making improvements but it still isn't enough in case we find ourselves in combat against an enemy air force.

Donald Trump proposed (in a Tweet, which is not even in "pen and phone" territory) making the burning of the American flag illegal. While I find the practice repulsive, as long as it is your own flag I don't know how we ban it while maintaining freedom of speech. I'd be happy to live in a world where burning the American flag in protest could coincide with a world of constitutional protections of free speech. We don't live in that world. And even if we did live in that world, a slightly altered "protest flag" could be made and legally burned because it isn't actually the American flag. Of course, liberals have paved the way for this type of proposal (which Senator Clinton co-sponsored in 2005, please note) after years of "hate" crimes and the ridiculous focus on "micro-aggressions." Isn't burning the flag an expression of hate that a lot of people take very personally? I sure do. And isn't this rather more than a "micro-aggression?" I'd be happy to leverage an abandonment of the flag-burning provision for a repeal of hate crimes (that simply add punishment to already illegal acts based on who the victim is) and the denunciation of the whole "micro-aggression" nonsense.

Japan is working on land-based anti-ship missiles with a range of 300 kilometers. This will provide a potent anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capability in combination with planes, ships, and submarines in the gap between the main islands of Japan and Taiwan that China's fleet will operate in under constant threat. We worry about entering such a region after we cross the Pacific and face China's A2/AD assets. China will have to worry about such a region when they leave home ports. The Russians would also have to worry about this capability if Japan deploys them on Hokkaido Island.

We are fairly dismayed at the state of India's carrier construction capabilities. India should be too, given that China will base their warships at the port of Gwadar in Pakistan that China built. And that port base will have a land line of supply back to China.

Yes, Democrats are the ones who have racialized (and Balkanized) our politics. Tip to Instapundit.

The Russians are wondering about Erdogan's statement that Assad must go and that's why Turkey is inside Syria. Russia's reset with Turkey may yet stumble over Assad's fate.

I have to admit that I'm still relieved that Hillary Clinton was defeated. I may not transition to worrying about focusing and constraining Trump until after the electors formally vote for Trump and eliminate the chance that Hillary has managed to bribe and/or blackmail 70 or so Trump electors to vote for her. [Not 70! About half that. I mistakenly remembered that Trump had about 70 more electoral votes than the amount needed to win and not about 70 more than Clinton. Sorry ...]

China is already suffering a birth problem that will eat into economic growth. There are other problems that raise the question of whether China will ever actually surpass America in economic power. I never assumed China would pass us by given that so much of their GDP growth involved jamming peasants into factories. As the Soviets showed, that makes for spectacular annual growth--until you can't add another peasant to yet another factory. China hasn't stumbled yet despite many years of reading articles that it was about to happen, mind you. But this could well be another American century if we don't shoot ourselves in the foot. Strategypage has more, having clearly read the article (or the sources that author used) on other problems that I link to above.

I'm not happy at all about this intrusion into our lives.

The excess male population in China isn't as bad as thought because parents of daughters long ago bribed officials into ignoring their birth. As these girls age to adulthood, they are popping up in statistics, revealing the past corruption. Well good. As a father to a daughter that always really disturbed me. Still does, but some parents managed to defy the system. Which is encouraging.

Can everybody play the guilt by association game?

After all the Obama administration talk of pivoting to Asia while ending our wars in the Middle East, it is perhaps illustrative that all three of our forward deployed carriers (one super carrier and two big-deck amphibious warship ships, each with a Marine Expeditionary Unit (a battalion task force) embarked) are in CENTCOM as of the end of November.

We are testing upgraded missiles for our missile defense sites in Europe.

Are the Russians preparing to renew their aggression against Ukraine? "The head of the independent body monitoring the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine has told VOA the conflict is on the brink of a major escalation."

I'm not sure what Turkey is doing. Siding with America to fight ISIL is a problem because Turkey wants Assad gone--as Turkey demanded 5 years ago. Yet signs of cutting a deal with Russia collide with a history of wars and Russia's support for Assad. And now Turkey is on a "collision course" with Assad, who Erdogan said was his enemy, as Aleppo is being overrun? A couple years ago I thought the government pressure on Aleppo might cause Turkey to escalate their effort against Assad. Will Turkey act to rescue rebels in Aleppo now with a purged Turkish military (although that will keep it busy) and with Russian troops inside Syria backing Assad?

Iran seems to have waged a cyber-battle against Gulf Arab states. Reset!