Thursday, April 30, 2020

Russia vs China.

It's often said, either directly or through implication, that Russia and China are allies, and, together, are enemies of the West.

In fact, the actions of these two countries does show, not only antagonism towards 'western' countries, but a degree of cooperation between them.

Do not, however, mistake this for a solid long-term alliance. China and Russia both are playing the game of Realpolitik, and in that game, the two have some very different goals. Russia, and it's predecessor the Soviet Union, through it's actions, often showed it was not (at least, under most of it's leaders) looking for world domination. What the Soviet Union (and, especially leaders like Stalin) wanted was a massive world-spanning empire. They wanted to demarcate between "mine" and "not-mine" the same way European powers did in the late 1800s. While some Soviet leaders clearly were looking to expand the Soviet system across the globe, most, as seen by their actions, did not seem to want this.

The US, however, has (at least since WW2) always been looking for "world domination." They desire to be the banking hub, the cultural hub, and the political leader of the planet. Sure, some Presidents have focused on some of these while ignoring others, but in general, the US ideology has always been that "Our system is Freedom. Freedom is good. Therefore everyone should use our system."

Unlike Russia, China has been playing politics in this style as well. The problem with this - for Russia - is there will come a day when China wants things that harm Russia. The problem for Russia is that all signs indicate, when that day comes, China, not Russia, will get what it wants.

Russia still likes to think of itself the way the Soviets did, in that victorian mindset. Russians still view their country as a mighty empire, worthy of respect, and full of prestige. China is too busy with practical politics to bother with that nonsense. China effectively humors Russia, but that will not last.

We are starting to see the first signs of the split when it comes to the 2020 US Presidential election. China would benefit greatly from a pro-trade President, while Russia is simply happy with a weaker America, and if cutting US-China trade will make a weaker USA, Russia will support that.

I don't see Russia and China parting ways any time soon. Despite that, it will happen, likely within the next three decades. When it does, Russia will learn it's holding a far weaker hand of cards than it thought it did.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

New Israeli Coalition

Israeli Politics and its love for last minute deals has brought us a new coalition that has some unexpected elements. The coalition will look like this:

From the Right wing
37 - Likud (Includes 36 Likud members and 1 Gesher member)
9 - Shas
7 - UTJ

From the Left wing
17 - Blue and White (Includes 15 Hosen and 2 Derekh Eretz members)
3 - Labor

This is a total of 73 members. Cabinet will be equally balanced between the Right and Left. Netanyahu will be Prime Minister until November 2021, at which time Gantz will take over, and rule to April of 2023.

The Opposition will be as follows:

16 - Yesh Atid-Telem (Includes 13 Yesh Atid members and 3 Telem members) [Liberal]

15 - Joint List (Coalition of Hadash [5], Ra'am [4], Balad [3], and Ta'al [3]) [Pro-Arab]

7 - Yisrael Beiteinu [Centrist]

6 - Yamina  (Includes 3 New Right, 2 National Union, and 1 Jewish Home member) [Secular Zionist]

3 - Meretz [Progressive]

This is a total of 47, representing parties from all over the spectrum. Outside of a nearly-insignificant chance that either Meretz or Yisrael Beiteinu would choose to work with Yesh Atid-Telem, it is unlikely that the opposition would find any common ground or willingness to work with each other in the next election.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Daily Update - 20APR2020

Quick updates on situations around the world: While Ireland continues to slowly approach a coalition government, Israel seems headed in the opposite direction after Bibi and Gantz have broken off their talks. The Knesset appears ready to pass anti-netanyahu laws with respect to his corruption charge. Since Israeli Politics loves their last second deals, I'll keep you up to date on how all of this plays out.

I also want to quickly address traffic, physical car traffic. I've often had a hard time explaining when and where lanes should be added to highways, as, 19 out of 20 proposals to add lanes to highways, only make things worse, not better. The answer is as follows:
Add lanes to highways if...
1 - You see, during this pandemic, on google maps traffic view, the area has traffic, and keeps having regular traffic problems, and,
2 - This problem is not caused by a temporary issue, such as construction, or car crashes, and,
3 - All approaches to this problematic area are shown in green (IE low/no traffic), and,
4 - All exits to this problematic area are also shown in green.
I've not been able to compile a full list of such areas, but right now, in new york city, there is a grand total of one (1) area that qualifies; Harlem River Dr under Willis Ave Bridge. I'll be keeping an eye on if this is a repeating problem, but if so, I would support an extra lane between 135th and 120th streets.

Back to politics; I'm going to quickly look at a number of countries and how things are going in terms of polls.

France: The most recent Presidential poll is from October, it had Macron beating Le Pen, 55 to 45. There's some thought Macron has handled the virus poorly, and when polls resume, it may even show Le Pen in the lead.

Germany: the CDU (and CSU) have shot up in the polls due to the Covid response. Polls suggest the following could happen in an election; note, this includes many overhang seats:

287 CDU (+41)
128 SPD (-25)
121 GRN (+54)
75 AfD (-19)
60 LNK (-9)
38 FDP (-42)

Italy: I've also compiled a simple poll based projection for Italy:

160 Lega (+65)
145 PD (+33)
98 M5S (-129)
95 FdI (+63)
48 FI (-56)
24 IV (+24)
30 Others (+-0)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Daily update - 16APR2020

Given my lack of access to twitter, I thought it would be wise to transition to daily updates here.

This BBC story crossed my plate. It's about how Hokkaido in Japan beat back Covid early on, but now there is a resurgence after lockdowns were lifted.

It refers to the fact that South Korea decided to do a ton of testing, while Japan declared such testing a waste of resources. The article states Japan has "now had to change its tune a bit"

During a crisis, especially a novel (new) one, there is no playbook. Imagine if you will that aliens, the size and shape of small household drone toys, invaded your house. How would you fight them off? If I asked a dozen people, I'd get a dozen answers. We won't know until we look at those dozen houses after the fight, who was right.

Covid is like that, but even more difficult. It takes 5 days for symptoms to appear. It takes (it seems) 2 weeks for an infected person who will die from covid, to die from covid. This delay makes actions difficult. Beyond that, data takes time to collect. Tests take time to perform, time to process, and time to report. Those figures take time to build a trend. Even then, because every country has slightly different standards, that data takes time to interpret. Once fully interpreted, the news needs to get out, but it is crowded by news stories about all the other steps in the process. The dissemination time for this data only adds to the lag.

Even with the best, fastest, most accurate data, with the best interpretations, it can take one to two full weeks to get a handle on what is happening. That means that countries, today, on April 16th, are reacting to how things were on April 1st. And that's considering a case where everything is working.

It was a completely valid view that you could beat this without extensive testing. Now that we have updated data, nobody thinks this way anymore. At the time these decisions were made, however, this was still a valid strategy.

By June, maybe the end of June, we (the world) will have a good idea for what actually works and what actually does not work when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus. We may even have early data on how to properly end a lockdown; but full proper data on how to end a lockdown will not be available until after a number of countries do it wrong.

The good news is that one we get this stuff down, we can use it against future novel virus outbreaks. Unlike SARS, Covid-19 is traumatic enough that it will stick with most people for decades. We will, eventually, get ahead of this, but, it will take time, and mistakes will be made along the way.

Both countries continue to slowly bumble towards a coalition. I will update if/when things change. In Israel in particular things seem to swing between "the talks are breaking down" and "the talks are going well" daily, if not hourly, but unless the talks end - either in an agreement or without an agreement - things simply continue.

Election results are in!

180 - DPK (government, liberal)
103 - UFP (main opposition, conservative)
6 - JP (progressive)
3 - OD (pro-DPK, progressive)
3 - PP (liberal)
0 - PPL (liberal)
0 - KEP (conservative)
0 - ORP (far-right)
5 - Independents

Roughly what I projected in my previous post; which isn't bad for a formula that is literally just X²

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Updates and Twitter

Israel and Ireland inch closer to coalition agreements. In Israel it seems likely the government will consist of Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition, but adding Benny Gantz's Hosen party, and likely members of Derekh Eretz and Gesher as well. Ireland looks set for a FF-FG 'grand' coalition, and the coalition document seems to have been written specifically to get support from both the Green party and Labour. a FF-FG coalition would be 8 seats short of a majority; Labour has 6 seats and the Greens have 12. A number of Independents could also be brought on board.

South Korea meanwhile is holding elections today. Covid has slowed down in the country, with only 27 new cases reported yesterday out of a total of 10,591 cases. Should South Korea be able to pull off the election without a spike in cases it could see other elections around the world, especially ones currently under delay, take place. Info about the election follows below in this post.

First, however, I want to let everyone know that I've been locked out of my Twitter account. Twitter seems to think I'm a robot, and to prove I'm not, it wanted me to click a "I am not a robot" button, which was easy, and to receive a text message from them, which, unfortunately, is impossible as I have no cell phone.
I've been debating a twitter break for a while now, so, am not in any particular rush to unlock the account, but am working to unlock it, and, even if I have to borrow someone elses cell phone, I will do so. I will, eventually, be back on twitter.

Back to South Korea.

There are two main parties contesting the election. the Democratic Party, which is centrist and somewhat left; and the United Future party, which is Right-Wing and Conservative.

Both parties have also set up satellite parties in order to abuse a loophole in the election system regarding the distribution of proportional seats. The country will elect 253 members via first past the post, 30 via a traditional proportional list, and 17 via a parallel list. The effect of these 'fake parties' is to bump the number of parallel seats to 47, and eliminate the traditional PR seats.

The United Future party is expected to win about 15 of the PR seats, while the Democratic Party will win 14. To be more specific, their satellite parties will win these seats. What is interesting is that the Open Democrats will win 6. They are a semi-satellite party of the Democratic Party, made up of members who feel the party has gone too far to the right in recent years, and wish to push it back in a more progressive direction. I will be counting them as a separate party, but will otherwise be counting all satellite parties as simply part of their home party.

The progressive Justice Party is expected to take about 6 seats, while the liberal Peoples Party will take 3. One seat each will be won by the conservative Korea Economic Party, the far right Our Republican Party, and the centrist Party for People's Livelihoods.

This is what polls suggest for the 47 proportional seats.

The First Past The Post seats are harder to project without a specific projection spreadsheet. In its place, a simple formula will be used of simply squaring the popular vote, and using that to determine the share of seats won. It is very rough, but generally gives results that are at least in the ballpark of reality. Doing so, and adding in the list seats, suggests the following final result:

195 - DPK (government, liberal)
85 - UFP (main opposition, conservative)
9 - JP (progressive)
6 - OD (pro-DPK, progressive)
3 - PP (liberal)
1 - PPL (liberal)
1 - KEP (conservative)
1 - ORP (far-right)

This would give the government a majority, an increase from its current minority status, and see it gain roughly 70 seats, while the main opposition would see a loss of around 40 seats. The biggest losers would be the PPL, whose predecessor parties took over a quarter of the vote in the PR list in the last election.

Monday, April 13, 2020

update: Israel and Ireland are close to deals

Just a heads up that both Israel and Ireland may be within 24 to 72 hours of a final coalition deal.

Friday, April 3, 2020

update: no new developments

As usual, things continue with no change in course. Countries are flattening the curve, while the numbers still grow. Politically too, we await answers.

On the Coronavirus, it has now spread to every mainland country that is not extremely isolated. Countries that remain are all very isolated with little outside travel (compared to other countries) excepting only Lesotho, which, benefits from being surrounded by south africa, and thus, is able to piggyback off of their measures with their help.

Beyond this, only island nations remain covid free. With places like the Falklands and Bonaire now having cases, only 7 non-pacific islands remain free of cases. Added to the 8 nations including nations with limited recognition) that are reporting 0 cases right now, this puts the plurality of covid-free nations being pacific island nations at 16.

In terms of Politics, Government formation negotiations continue in Israel and Ireland.

Polls in Italy have been mostly stable, but Lega has fallen a few points, and the far right FdI party has gained as a result.

In Germany, things, again, remain stable, but the CDU has gained, as can be expected for any government seen to be managing things. This same bump can be seen in Canada, the UK, and even Russia, where voters are putting just a few extra points behind incumbent governments in polls.

As such, there's not much to say, at least, until things change.