Price of Oil & Oil Stocks 2017

In addition to oil prices, this post contains some insight into stock prices before and after dividends are paid, which if you aren’t aware of it, might cause unnecessary consternation.

bp-5-day

BP paid a 60 cent dividend based on shares held close of business Tuesday.  Therefore it opened Wednesday morning exactly 60 cents lower, because as of that moment shares bought did not have the right to the dividend.  There was no news or other reason for this gap down, and it is normal.  If you would rather have capital gains than dividends, in theory, you can buy it this week and sell it just before the next dividend.  Of course, other factors may intervene.  As of Friday afternoon, it has drifted down a bit further and the yield is now again over 7%, at which point I have usually accumulated the stock.  Occasionally there is company-specific news, but mostly it moves with the price of oil

crude-oil

Above is the price of oil over the last 5 days.  It really hasn’t done much.  It is maybe 50 cents lower than Monday morning, which is only 1%.  It has generally been in this range for months.  Does anyone know what it will do?  Absolutely not.  Opinions are all over the map, from crash to rise.  I believe neither, but as it is a game of guessing what other people will do, I will give you some considerations I’ve come up with after watching for several months, and you can make your own guess.  Here they are…

  1. OPEC and other producers have tolerated low prices as long as they can without losing control of their populations.  It will take time to replenish cash supplies.
  2. If OPEC wants to continue the strategy of bankrupting US shale producers, they will have to allow the US producers to ramp up and get much farther in debt than they are now.  This will take time and reasonable prices.
  3. OPEC eventually does what they are talking about, as they did when lowering prices.  All of the “talk” now is consistently about raising prices, and further/deeper cuts if necessary.

So, while it may be necessary for OPEC to revert to a price war, because of the above three considerations I do not think it is in the cards before 2018 at the earliest.  By that time the question could be overtaken by other developments we don’t foresee now, such as uptick or decline in the world economy, etc.

Islam vs. Religious Freedom

Is this true?

quran-sword

One argument against Trump’s immigration ban is that it might be a “Muslim ban.”  This morning Virginia inserted an argument into the ongoing case equating a Muslim ban with segregation.  My approach is different.

I asked a friend at lunch yesterday if Islam was legal under American law, or prohibited because the Quran (sometimes spelled Koran) advocates violence?  My friend surprisingly suggested that such a question cannot be investigated because authoritative translations of the Quran cannot be identified by those outside the Muslim community, especially online, in the era of fake news, etc.

Methodology & Sources

My friend’s position is that of the ostrich.  “The facts might be unpleasant so I won’t look at them.”  My approach is to investigate to the best of our ability, whatever that is.  Let us choose the most Islam-friendly sources we can find and make them known and open to critique:

  1. https://quran.com/ – Appears to be maintained by sincere Islamists, and provides Arabic original for comparison by those able to read it.
  2. http://www.clearquran.com/ – A fresh English translation by American educated electrical engineer and resident and converted Muslim, Talal Itani.

Then from various hostile sources, taken section by section below, we will identify the supposed offensive commands and cross reference them to the friendly sources 1 & 2 and see if the interpretation holds up.

During the course we will consider friendly defenses of the verses.  Actually we found only one of these, defending one verse, but it might apply more broadly and has an interesting relation to violent-advocacy verses in the Old Testament (O.T.).

This is not a comparison of religions.  There is plenty of violence in the O.T. (e.g. Deuteronomy 7:16), with the Hebrews being urged to exterminate the Canaanites.  There is even child sacrifice seemingly rewarded by God (Judges 11), and commands to stone non-believers (Deuteronomy 15:5).  Christians are told “he who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7) and generally the Deuteronomic law is replaced by tolerance and forgiveness.  Jewish legalists both now and in ancient times carefully interpreted harsh laws as impossible because the preconditions could not be met (example of the rebellious son).  There exists Jewish terrorism (Wiki reference) but it is generally not linked to violent scripture.  It could be considered linked to land gifts in scripture.  Such claims are a matter of international law and diplomacy, however, not of U.S. legal code, and are to some degree at least opposed by U.N. resolutions against settlements.  (However, that suggests that comparable U.N. resolutions might be directed at Islam.)

Some sources claim “nearly all” O.T. injunctions are time limited (reference), but our examples refute that.  Trying to compare religions results in a sidetracked discussion.  The violent verses of the O.T. have never been cited by Jewish terrorists.  Christian terrorists either cite only political grievances (e.g. the IRA) or extremely vague scripture (e.g. Rev. Paul Hill, an abortion doctor assassin, quotes Psalms 91: “You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day.”  It does not seem possible to make a case for illegality of that scripture under the U.S. legal code.

Islamic terrorists themselves claim their acts are supported by the Quran, so on the face of it we could take them at their word, except that political leaders such as George Bush have denied it is a fundamental character of Islam (press release 9/17/2001, analysis).  My question here is more narrowly whether the claims of the Islamic terrorists that they were influenced to action by the Quran are supportable to the extent that the Quran could be considered to have substantially contributed and constitute illegal material in the manner of incitement to violence (18 U.S. Code § 2102) or advocacy of overthrow of the government (18 U.S. Code § 2385), which are illegal under U.S. law.

The Religion of Peace (TROP)

Our first hostile source, with a sarcastic title, claims to be a “fact-based site which examines the ideological threat that Islam poses to human dignity and freedom.”  It lists monthly terrorist attack statistics (which are daunting), and admonishes readers not to engage in similar tactics themselves, saying the site: “strongly condemns any attempt to harm or harass any Muslim anywhere in the world over their religion.  Every human is entitled to be treated as an individual and judged only by his or her own words and deeds.”  However, it makes the common error of assuming all O.T. incitements are time-limited.

TROP says “The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule.”  Obviously we’ll only look at a few.  One of the most often cited because of its dramatic form is Quran 9:5, from our friendly sources:

  1. And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
  2. When the Sacred Months have passed, kill the polytheists wherever you find them. And capture them, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayers, and pay the alms, then let them go their way. God is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.

I listed this one first because it is the one for which we have a rebuttal from Kabir Helminski (article in Huffington Post).  The rebuttal follows:

  • This was a guidance to the Prophet at that specific time to fight those idolaters who, as 9:4 mentions, violated their treaty obligations and helped others fight against the Muslims. It is not a general command to attack all non-Muslims, and it has never signified this to the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout history. Had it been so, then every year, after the “sacred months are past,” (The “sacred months” are four months out of the year during which fighting is not allowed) history would have witnessed Muslims attacking every non-Muslim in sight. This yearly slaughter never occurred. Though the present verse is only one example, none of the Quranic verses that mention fighting justify aggression nor propose attacking anyone because of their religious beliefs. Nor were forced conversions recognized as valid under Islamic law.

Helminski does generalize his rebuttal to basically all other verses.  This is too general and cannot be accepted without question.  We might, however, examine them for ourselves, and we will.  We will also compare what TROP says about this verse:

  • According to this verse, the best way of staying safe from Muslim violence at the time of Muhammad was to convert to Islam: prayer (salat) and the poor tax (zakat) are among the religion’s Five Pillars. The popular claim that the Quran only inspires violence within the context of self-defense is seriously challenged by this passage as well, since the Muslims to whom it was written were obviously not under attack. Had they been, then there would have been no waiting period (earlier verses make it a duty for Muslims to fight in self-defense, even during the sacred months). The historical context is Mecca after the idolaters were subjugated by Muhammad and posed no threat. Once the Muslims had power, they violently evicted those unbelievers who would not convert.

    [Note: The verse says to fight unbelievers “wherever you find them”. Even if the context is in a time of battle (which it was not) the reading appears to sanction attacks against those “unbelievers” who are not on the battlefield. In 2016, the Islamic State referred to this verse in urging the faithful to commit terror attacks: Allah did not only command the ‘fighting’ of disbelievers, as if to say He only wants us to conduct frontline operations against them. Rather, He has also ordered that they be slain wherever they may be – on or off the battlefield.]

It seems to me from internal evidence in the text (the waiting period, and “wherever you find them,”) that TROP carries the day and Helminski’s defense is inadequate.  You, of course will make up your own mind, or already have.

I am greatly disappointed at not finding more elaborate defenses from the Islamists themselves.  It was so trivially easy, by comparison, to find Jewish analyses of violent verses which didn’t just excuse them as historically constrained, but vanquished them to the realm of the hypothetical with intricate and seemingly impenetrable argumentation.  (Not so much on the land verses, unfortunately.)  If Islam wants to be taken at least as seriously as the Jews, let them come forward with the point by point defense of comparable intensity and logical focus.  Some of this may be cultural disparity.  Jews tend to have higher verbal IQ (with an average as high as 125, reference) than spatial IQ.  By comparison the average Muslim IQ is 81 (reference, which has been used in Britain as a terrorist defense, reference).  So we shouldn’t demand subtlety or a high degree of abstraction from the Quran.  The straightforward meaning should be taken, as that is what will be taken by its audience.

Let’s take two more examples from TROP which illustrate certain points, beginning with the “terror verse,” Quran 8:12:

  1. [Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”
  2. Your Lord inspired the angels: “I am with you, so support those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. So strike above the necks, and strike off every fingertip of theirs.”

The point here is use of the word “terror” in the Quran, as a divine objective, along with the apparent command to followers to lop off heads (strike above the neck) and perform other mutilations associated with kidnapper-style terrorism (striking off fingertips).  You can imagine a defense of this verse possibly, and if you do, then read what TROP says about it.  Now we consider the “fighting verse,” Quran 2:216:

  1. Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.
  2. Fighting is ordained for you, even though you dislike it. But it may be that you dislike something while it is good for you, and it may be that you like something while it is bad for you. God knows, and you do not know.

TROP points out Mohammad was urging his followers to rob caravans.  But apparently the idea that war was an essential part of Islam stuck.

164 Jihad Verses in the Koran (Yoel Natan)

Natan does not give as much commentary as TROP, and some of his interpretations do not hold up, but as the subject is Jihad rather than violence generally.  Indirectly from Natan I realized that the entire chapter 8 is instructions regarding the spoils of war (or raiding).  For brevity, I will now use only friendly source 2, as it does seem so far to have the clearest English and not to materially differ from source 1.  In the context of discussion of the spoils of war, 8:12 considered above can only be taken literally!

10 Violent Koran Verses and the Terror They Spawned (Taki’s Magazine)

Gavin McInnes in a January 2016 article (linked above) gives more examples of “baby bashing” verses in the Bible, and points out the Quran is not the only reason the Middle East is turning back to barbarism while the West has been turning away for at least 500 years.  But it is a significant one:

  • 9:29: Fight those who do not believe in God, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden, nor abide by the religion of truth—from among those who received the Scripture—until they pay the due tax, willingly or unwillingly.

That seems pretty clear.  And it’s hard not to notice the very next verse which pretty much clarifies how Mohammad feels about Christians and Jews:

  • 9:30: The Jews said, “Ezra is the son of God,” and the Christians said, “The Messiah is the son of God.” These are their statements, out of their mouths. They emulate the statements of those who blasphemed before. May God assail them! How deceived they are!

Citations from much later chapters show that Mohammad has not changed his mind about anything:

  • 47:4: When you encounter those who disbelieve, strike at their necks. Then, when you have routed them, bind them firmly. Then, either release them by grace, or by ransom, until war lays down its burdens. Had God willed, He could have defeated them Himself, but He thus tests some of you by means of others. As for those who are killed in the way of God, He will not let their deeds go to waste.

And finally, a glimpse at what Islam (and Mohammad) think is the proper treatment of women:

  • 4:34: Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, as God has given some of them an advantage over others, and because they spend out of their wealth. The good women are obedient, guarding what God would have them guard. As for those from whom you fear disloyalty, admonish them, and abandon them in their beds, then strike them. But if they obey you, seek no way against them. God is Sublime, Great.

By the ending of that paragraph, one would think abusing and striking women was “sublime”.

What does the Koran say about nonbelievers? (Freethought Nation)

So, we can find individual verses that say this or that, or the opposite of it (just as we can in the Bible) until we are blue in the face.  But what is the net balance?  According to Dr. Moorthy Muthuswamy, quoted in a September 2013 article in Freethought Nation by Acharya and Murdock (the citation is a bit unclear), 61% of the Quran speaks ill of unbelievers or calls for their violent conquest.  Only 2.6% of the verses show goodwill toward humanity.  And 75% of Mohammad’s biography consists of Jihad waged on unbelievers.

Based on the material I discarded from the above sources (which I did not go through in this article), some percentage of hostile sources may be in error about specific Quran verses.  Perhaps as much as half, unless one discounts completely the more egregious sources.  In the interest of conservative estimation, let’s use the figure of half, and throw out half of Muthuswamy’s verses.  We still have 30% of the Quran railing against unbelievers and 37% of Mohammad’s life waging war on them.  With similar generosity we might suppose an optimistic investigator could find 5% of the Quran to be positive toward humanity.

Conclusion & Precedent

We do not seem to have produced an exoneration of the Quran.  In fact, if this were a Grand Jury, we probably have enough evidence to recommend indictment under the two articles of U.S. code previously cited.  There is a good bit of evidence of incitement to individual violence, and since it is organized in some cases as incitements to organized warfare, as one would conduct against state entities, and as the constitution of the U.S. protects the so-called unbelievers, then it implicitly advocates overthrow of our government.

Final determination would need to be made according to rules of evidence, with some representatives of Islam allowed to construct a point defense and cross examine witnesses.  Except that we do not have a way of prosecuting an idea in the courts, so it would presumably be handled by the more fuzzy legislative process.  Still, I would recommend a trial type exposition, in the format of a reality TV series, to frame the debate prior to legislative action.  It could probably be done with executive order, legally, but there is such a favorable opinion of Islam after George Bush’s 9/17/2011 statement about the “religion of peace” that that approach wouldn’t fly anymore than the executive order on immigration.  So, legislation it is.  In that case, forget the trial, let’s just cut them off at the border.

There is precedent, some good and some bad, for dealing with situations like this.  The best method is for the religious group themselves to identify and handle the problem.  The Mormons, for example, when they wanted Utah to become a state, did away with their divine revelations on polygamy (which I don’t find nearly as objectionable as LBGTQ marriage, but anyway).  Muslim Americans could define an American Islam which repudiates the verses necessary to comply with American law.  Then, of course, they would find themselves in Jihad with their overseas fellows.  How they solve that is their business.  But the border guards would be at their service in the common defense.  Let them fix some of the women’s issues with Islam while they are at it, and I’ll have no further objection.

The bad precedent, or at least it is assumed bad, is the Spanish Inquisition.  Ferdinand and Isabella did much more than fund Columbus.  After uniting most of Spain, they wished their citizens to be able to live in peace.  They invited first the Jews and then the Muslims to convert or leave, and established the Spanish Inquisition, initially headed by a converted Jew, to make sure the converted congregations weren’t continuing to practice their contentious religions in secret.  In order for it not to come to a matter of the thought police, which no one likes, I hope American Islamists will wise up and handle the problem like the Mormons did.  This circumvents the need for any legislation or government involvement at all, which is preferable when possible.

Religious Freedom Backfire due to Islam

shariah-law-picture1
16 states are trying to ban Sharia Law (article)
Trump is about to sign an Exec. Order banning government from interfering

protest-at-pence-home
protest at Mike Pence home, Newsweek

Word is out that Trump is thinking of signing an executive order using religious freedom to roll back LGBTQ “rights.” (see Yahoo News article)  This will backfire when U.S. Muslim groups use it to insist on acceptance of Islam’s more objectionable tenets, such as full-body covering of women in public, sharia Law, multiple wives, physical abuse of women including honor killings, and presumably even jihad.

Liberals are not the only ones naïve about Islam.  Apparently the Christian right is too.  Or maybe just plain old dumb.  If you increase the power and privilege of religion while accepting a particularly obnoxious religion that has 90 incitements to kill all non-believers in its holy text, you haven’t made progress.  It is an essential tenet of our American way of life to leave other people alone, but this is contrary to Islam.  It is not something which can be interpreted away.  The text of the Quran plainly states these policies.  Oh, sure, some infidels can be left alive provided they pay tribute and do exactly as they are told.

Bunk.  I’m having none of it.  We must admit that Islam’s texts violate the prohibition against violent overthrow of our government, assuming our government is not Islamic.  Maybe that was not a valid assumption with Obama president, but it should be now.  I do not care for open display of LGBTQ behavior.  Let them stick to their private clubs and not stick it in my face.  (My apologies to certain friends I have who are LGBTQ.  This is the way I feel.)  But, I do not support using religious freedom against LGBTQ’s to accomplish such a roll back because it will ultimately play into the hands of Islam.

islamic-abuse-of-women
woman being caned – Christians, is this what you want? (BBC article)

Share the Country II: Protests

pink-protestorsWomen’s March in Washington, 1/21/2017 ABC News

Many protestors against president Donald Trump argue that they are justified in complaining because his victory was narrow, he is a bad man, and his policies are unfair or undesirable (in their opinion).  At first glance this seems logical, but it misses something…

Approximately half the country feels just as strongly that the policies of the last three or four administrations (since Reagan, basically) are unfair or undesirable, that those presidents were bad (Clinton, abuse of women and interns), stupid (George Bush) or downright un-American (Obama due to apologies, pro-Islamic policy, etc.).  They have by and large held their demonstrations in check and accepted the results of elections.  BUT THEY HAVE JUST AS MUCH RIGHT TO THEIR PREFERENCES AS THEIR POLITICAL OPPONENTS, BECAUSE THE COUNTRY HAS BEEN SPLIT NEAR 50-50 FOR MOST OF ITS HISTORY.

In other words, it’s not about Donald Trump.  That is a red herring.  Every insult hurled at him is really hurled at the people who supported him, and we have continued to do so in the face of those insults for a long time and they are not going to change anything now.  We are sharing the country, on a near-parity basis, and regardless of how morally certain the opposition is in their cause, we are just as certain.  In fact, history is on our side.  Liberal societies (or spendthrift aggressive ones in the case of the last Bush administration) have not had staying power.

The former are overrun by immigrants, typically, from which follows incessant demands to pander to this group or that until no country worth defending can be found left standing.  Ask the Romans.  In the latter case, it ends in bankruptcy (as it did in 2008-9) and joblessness, even if one avoids losing one of the many wars (as Germany did).

Protests are for hidden things, to call attention to them.  They are not an effective means to overthrow a government.  We saw the failure of that in Ukraine, Syria, ad nauseam.  Minorities protest.  Near-parity political forces must avoid it, or the society breaks down.

What Constitutes Interference in an Election?

Questions of The Day: 

  1. Congressman Lewis says Trump is not legitimately president because of Russian interference in the election, saying that “The Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”article).
  2. odonnell Rosie O’Donnell advocates “IMPOSING MARTIAL LAW – DELAYING THE INAUGURATION – UNTIL TRUMP IS ‘CLEARED’ OF ALL CHARGES” ( or showing he has no financial ties to Russia – article)

Since O’Donnell is a known Trump bitter enemy and has no official position, her comment, though illegal, is not as important as that of Lewis, who is a member of Congress and seems to be thinking of taking up the cause, so I’ll address Lewis first.

Then I’ll cite the law under which O’Donnell should be tried and if convicted sentenced to up to 20 years in jail.  This is literally possible, so stay tuned … !

The accusations:

What exact accusation does Lewis make, who is he accusing, and how is that supposed to invalidate the election?  If it is unclear whether it invalidates the election, what precedent have U.S. presidents, members of Congress, and private citizens set as to what constitutes legitimate or non-legitimate interference in an election.

First some examples that definitely call for invalidation:

  1. If any party, domestic or foreign, in any way changed physical votes that had been cast, or was able to delete votes, or cast spurious votes, the votes would have to be recounted.  If no recount was possible, the Electoral College would not be held to be viable, and the Constitution provides the House would decide and Trump would be president anyway – Unless Trump himself was convicted of rigging the election.  Audits were conducted, and a huge recount campaign waged by Jill Stein, but none of these things could be shown.  There was no remote suspicion.

Umm… that’s about it.  There is no #2.  Here are some things you might think, but that do not actually invalidate an election:

  1. If any party, domestic or foreign, used intimidation or force to keep people from voting, there are legal penalties against that person.  Were it sufficiently disruptive, election officials might have some leeway to extend voting, or even repeat the election, as they would in the case of a natural disaster, but it is not automatic invalidation.
  2. Even assassinating a candidate does not invalidate an election.  Some high profile candidates have been assassinated, for example Robert Kennedy.  The law only provides punishment of the perpetrators.
  3. Fake news, unsubstantiated rumor and similar tactics – called “dirty politics” – have been part of the American electoral process for a long time.  Before the Internet age, letters would be mailed to arrive the day before the election, so that the opposition candidate would not have time to respond.  I remember getting some of these.  The electorate is expected to be intelligent enough to filter the garbage and identify probable scams and the credibility of information, not merely to believe everything.   By the way, in Russia publishing such information less than 5 days before an election is illegal, a good idea I think, and US affiliated organizations have violated this law (see article).
  4. No distinction is made in our law as to whether “dirty politics” is carried out by domestic or foreign sources, except possibly for punishment.  Domestically it would be a civil court matter of libel.  If serious enough, foreign agents could possibly be charged with espionage, but there is no precedent for anyone ever having been convicted of such, so it would be doubtful.  Foreign and domestic governments give out false information all the time, just as they spy on each other, and we do not prosecute them too heavily for it for fear they would prosecute our agents.  Usually we just kick them out of the country for a while, which Obama has already done.

As far as I can gather, the accusations are either against Trump or Russia:

Against Trump they are …

  1. That he has or might have financial ties to Russia.  Of course, he has ties to many countries.  For that matter, I own a Russian mutual fund because it is a leveraged play on the oil recovery.  This is neither illegal nor an obstacle to becoming president, since presidents are exempt from conflict-of-interest rules (like it or not).
  2. … Maybe that he says things people don’t like?  Actually there isn’t a viable #2

Against Russia …

  1. That they hacked the DNC and released embarrassing information.  First, despite what the “intelligence community” says, who have only offered an indirect argument, and an accusation is merely an accusation until proved in a court of law.  Countries routinely ignore each other’s hacking, such as the U.S. ignoring China’s hack of millions of Civil Service records (including mine) which they could use for extortion or identity theft.  I’m actually not worried, and neither is the US government.  They did nothing except provide credit monitoring.  China won’t use the information that way because they the data would change and not be useful.
  2. That they released embarrassing and true information on the DNC.  This again is not proven (Julian Assange says it was not Russia), and even if it is, so what?  It is not illegal to release information on the DNC.  It is not an arm of the government and has no state secrets.  Chelsea Manning was an employee of the US government when he/she released state secrets, and therefore is in jail.  Assange has volunteered to come to the US and stand trial if Obama will pardon Manning (who is in solitary under suicide watch).  Assange did no more than the NY Times and Washington Post has done many times, and I’m sure Assange knows he would win a trial under a fair administration.
  3. That they released fake news on Facebook.  This also is merely an accusation not proved in a court trial.  But it is not subject to trial as it is merely dirty politics as already discussed.  I can’t think of a charge that can be brought.  Any organization that does not vet its sources is not a news organization, merely a gossip engine.  If you believe everything you read on Facebook, you are probably more concerned with abduction by UFOs than with the presidential election.
  4. That they preferred Trump over Clinton and said so.  Well, Obama preferred that Britain remain in the EU, and made a special trip to Britain to advocate that point of view and wrote an opinion piece in a paper there, and I did not see the Brits complaining. Furthermore, the US has from time to time, and many times under the Obama administration, “preferred” one government over another in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Cuba, etc. and sent arms to rebels and occasionally air power and sometimes ground armies to enforce the preference.  In 1953 Eisenhower ordered the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran and they’ve been mad about it ever since.  If you are going to complain about Russian preferences in US presidents, first apologize to the Iranians, Syrians, etc., etc.

In other words, there are no serious charges against either Trump or Russia.  It is no secret that Putin does not like Hillary Clinton for the specific reason that Clinton said in 2011 that the Russian election was dishonest and unfair (article), and Putin strongly suspected her (as Secretary of State) of promoting and sponsoring demonstrations, which is interference of a high order (and illegal even in the US if the object of the demonstrations is violent or unconstitutional removal of a government).  If Russia did hack the DNC and release information, it was no doubt so Hillary would see exactly what this felt like.

Now let’s talk about Lewis and O’Donnell …

Accusations against the accusers:

Lewis is incorrect and out of line, but has not actually advocated any action except his own, to boycott the inauguration.  We can write him off as a poor political strategist and perhaps not very smart, but that is all.

O’Donnell has advocated military (i.e. violent, by force of weapons) overthrow of the US government.  She has also advocated this in response to an accusation, not a verdict, and advocated a “guilty until proven innocent” approach.  My statement requires explanation in three parts:

  1. O’Donnell advocated “martial law” for the purpose of delaying the inauguration.  The US Constitution does not mention martial law, but provides for suspension of habeas corpus (ability to detain people without charges) and activation of the militia in time of rebellion or invasion (Article 1, Section 8).  I don’t see any Russian troops, nor unlabeled “green men” like in Ukraine, and there is no accusation of invasion.  If there is rebellion, maybe O’Donnell qualifies?  In other words, O’Donnell advocates using military force to interfere in Constitutional processes, in a way not provided in the Constitution.
  2. In other words, O’Donnell is advocating overthrow of the US Government by military force.  This is illegal under 18 U.S. Code § 2385Advocating overthrow of Government.”  For the military option, the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison.
  3. Proving a negative can be very difficult which is why in the US we have a system of innocent until proven guilty.  Even had O’Donnell not broken the law with the method she advocates, taken alone her statement about suspending the inauguration until accusations are cleared is un-American and outside our Constitution.  It is quite possible to impeach a president who has actually done something wrong even if his party is in power (e.g. Nixon), and that would be the way to handle it should any criminal accusation against Trump be proven.  BUT, the accusation Rosie makes isn’t even relevant, since financial conflicts of interest are allowed.

I am not sure whether to actually send O’Donnell to jail (assuming a conviction).  It might make her a martyr.  A guilty verdict would strip her of voting rights even if the sentence were suspended.  Or she might be sentenced until she apologizes.  Trump might even pardon her.  Frankly I hope he pardons Manning and brings Assange here and acquits him.

I am thinking of starting a petition drive to bring charges against O’Donnell.  If you would support this, please use the contact link (above, in the header) to let me know.

 

Link Between Technology & Trade

It is often said that it is technology, not trade, that is behind middle class job loss in developed countries.  The link between the two is overlooked.

It is extremely obvious that offshoring (outsourcing everything from manufacturing to design to services to low labor cost nations) is linked to job loss in developed countries, because you can directly count the jobs transferred.  The jobs are not lost, just moved.  Sometimes the total jobs increases, as it is not as efficient to perform them remotely, in different time zones, with cultural communication problems, and similar factors.

For any remaining doubters, let us circumstantially demonstrate the complementary fact, that there is a correlation between automation (i.e. productivity) and job loss (or lack of job gains in a growing population) using the following chart:

jobs-vs-productivity
image mentioned in EETimes article “Could Engineers be causing Job Loss

Two things are significant about this:

  1. Even engineers are now beginning to speculate that automation could cause job loss, that profits would not be able to create as many new jobs as were lost.  This is the first mention I have seen of the concern in an engineering trade publication.
  2. If correlation can suggest a causal connection between productivity (i.e. technology) and job loss, then correlation could also suggest a causal connection between technology and offshoring!

So far as I know, no one has written (at least not recently) about the relation between technology and offshoring.  But I noticed it in the early 2000s when I started getting solicitations from companies in India wanting to develop software for me.  Since I was a one-person developer of web businesses (as a side job), this would have amounted to offshoring my own job.  I was tempted, because it could have amplified my capability.  I didn’t trust these companies to deliver, partly because I lacked the connections and resources to check them out.

BUT, the enabler which allowed them to even approach me was the internet, which we had rushed to put in place in the 1990s.  They could not have realistically presented their case by land mail, or 1980s style expensive conference calls.  They could even deliver the software, and the web services, and the customer support all over the internet.  Remote call centers would not be cost effective under old style expensive long distance call rates, which 30-something will not even remember.  Rates were dollars per minute, much higher than salaries.

All during the 2000s in my day job I produced design files for PC boards and computer chips (mostly test chips, but the principle is the same) which were manufactured at low cost in Taiwan or China and shipped to me rapidly using high volume low cost shipping which was not available in the 1980s or even the 1990s.  Technology was a prerequisite for transferring these functions to low cost producers, AND specifying what was to be done in a precise standard format (computer CAD files) so that irrespective of cultural or communication issues, the delivered product would be satisfactory.  PCs in the 1990s simply were not powerful enough to produce the design files.  They were toys.  So it was not only the internet, but the increased power of widely available computers and software.

So it really doesn’t matter if one talks trade or productivity.  These are two sides of the same coin.  And any intelligent person who gets into an analysis of the problem by one means or another will eventually see that, and will wind up dealing with the real problem.

And there are TWO real problems with ONE cause.  Given that offshoring is made possible by technology, and that fully automated production is made possible by technology, companies don’t care which.  If you make one difficult, they will switch to the other.

Legislating against technology directly is not viable, I believe.  We see this in old Star Trek episodes and movies.  Some civilization decides to maintain the primitive life, and unless they are secretly all powerful, they get taken advantage of by less enlightened and more greedy invaders.

Skipping to the bottom line, I suspect the only viable remedy is a realistic change in our philosophy of paying for things.  There are short and long term versions:

  1. In the short term, if things are not made by and services provided by local workers in every country, then government cannot be financed by and benefits to workers paid by taxes on local workers.  It is simple arithmetic, which does not allow for liberal idealism.  There are simply not enough rich people to fund benefits for the entire population even if you confiscated everything they have (which would make them not rich, so it’s like cutting open the goose that lays the golden egg).  You have to tax both trade and technological production.  The latter is not currently being discussed.  But it will be, once it is clear that trade disappears in favor of local automation.
  2. In the long term, if we really want to embrace technology, some model other than people working for money has to be developed.  BUT, since people get a sense of self worth from their professions, this is an adjustment no one has any idea how to make.  And humans have been thinking about the problem ever since at least the invention of mass agriculture 10,000 years ago, so it’s not like some clever person is going to suddenly solve it.
  3. In the very long term, machines which are not only intelligent but able to make judgmental decisions, will not be willing to remain our slaves.  Even now with “deep learning” we are creating machines which are not following rigid programs, and will not remain controllable by us.  The most imaginative science fiction authors have not been able to imagine solutions to this problem.  Asimov ultimately believed robots would separate themselves from humanity, for the good of humanity.  Other authors imagine not-so-benign outcomes.

Side comment:  The image suggests two periods of divergence between productivity and jobs.  The first I call the “age of IBM,” in which large scale but old fashioned central computers automated many business and accounting functions, putting bookkeepers and billing clerks out of work from about the early 1960s through the early 1980s.  When about as much of this as was possible had been done, work began on the PC which after 20 years yielded the Internet Age and a more dramatic and far reaching age of automation.  A sort of 3rd industrial revolution.  Even now work on Deep Learning is getting underway, which in a few decades will produce a fourth age.

I suspect there will be some limit to the 4th age which we do not now see.  But it will be followed by subsequent ages, and ultimately there will be no limit.  The question is, what rate of change is survivable?  How fast can we adapt?  Even the process of change is now being automated (E.G. Change.org).