Sunday, January 29, 2017

On the selection of countries for the recent US travel ban

The travel ban applies to seven countries (in alphabetical order): Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. If we cross-reference against countries which US air and/or drone strikes have targeted in the fight against AQ and ISIS (Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen), we find that five of the seven are on the list. Why were Afghanistan and Pakistan left off the list? Perhaps because those countries have airbases open to US forces. The addition of Iran and Sudan to the travel ban implies an objective other than Sunni-inspired militancy, as Sudan was targeted as part of a proxy conflict between Iran and Israel.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Interpreting China's cancellation of coal plants

The superficial spin is that China is taking the lead on climate change, which is all well and fine. The reality is that coal generation capacity is veering into excess, so building idle plants would only benefit the construction industry. On top of that, the long-term goal is to reduce reliance upon coal due to excess air pollution, which is an additional disincentive for building coal plants that may never be used.

The clampdown on approvals for coal plant construction until 2018 is interesting, given the prospect of a 2020 reelection run. If China has stepped up its efforts to get away from coal, that indirectly is an attack on Trump's coal job ambitions, which would be an attack upon his voter base. Trump is therefore additional incentive for China to curb reliance upon coal, and keep coal prices down globally.
"China is finally beginning to clamp down on its out of control coal power bubble," said Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace's senior campaigner on coal, in an emailed statement.
IEA expects worldwide growth in coal consumption to average just 0.6 percent between 2015 and 2021 as developed countries continue to abandon the energy source and China's consumption plateaus. That will offset growing demand among emerging nations, particularly in India and Southeast Asia.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trump policy in Asia appears to be neoconservative via Bolton

Did some digging, and found that Trump's phone call to Taiwan was right in line with Bolton's direction. Neocon foreign policy appears to be in play now in Asia. People and rapidfire media are too quick to jump to the conclusion that Trump is just winging it, ignoring the fact that he has advisers. It's no coincidence that Breitbart published an article politically rehabilitating the neocon to be acceptable to their alt-right readership, who reject neocons. On the plus side, Bolton is too experienced for accidental war to be likely, though he's tough enough for brinkmanship. As for incendiary statements out of China, their newspaper equivalent of Fox News suggested boosting military capability for invading Taiwan. A lot of heated words, but action is the real tell.


"Dreyer noted that it was highly unlikely Bolton would make the comments without Trump’s prior consent. But since Trump hasn’t spoken publicly, he could plausibly deny knowledge of it. Chinese generals, she added, often make incendiary statements, and the Chinese government regularly responds that they speak only for themselves and do not necessarily reflect official policy."

The phone call shouldn't have entirely been a surprise to China, as Bolton had advocated earlier for Obama to take a harder line with China. I predict some brinkmanship to continue until a new equilibrium is reached.