Armen Chakmakjian

Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Looking through some numbers I gathered….

In Business & Finance, history, politics, Random, Religion on January 26, 2014 at 3:12 am

World numbers

So I compiled a bunch of “top ten” numbers in the attached file from a variety of sources on the internet (The link above is an excel file with that compilation).  Yes this is what I do on a Friday night when I have a theory or curiosity that I want to affirm or dispel.  My theory was if you analyze things like

  1. population
  2. arable land
  3. permanent crops
  4. oil usage
  5. oil production
  6. available fresh water
  7. religious affiliation
  8. language

that you might see some trend that the news doesn’t really do justice to.  I used land, oil, water and population as proxies for economic churn. You need food, fuel and people if you want to make things.  Religion and language are my proxy for cultural difference that tend to be how disagreements degenerate into hostilities.

Some things that this particular slice of data seemed to indicated to me:

  • The middle east situation is less about oil now as it is about the power struggle between Sunni and Shia aligned people.  A lot of oil is made in the middle east, but all the lead exporters of oil aren’t necessarily in the middle east.
  • Russia seeming to have taken sides with what appears to be the Shia bloc seems rational; it has its own Sunni insurgency.  That Sunni insurgency may or may not be Al Qaeda, but it probably is getting money from Al Qaeda or some sources that sympathetic to their cause.  Also, it may seem at the surface that Putin poking the US in the eye, but I think it more nuanced than that – even though I can’t prove it.
  • Take a historical look at where Shia Islam is core and to where it emanates.  If you start in Iran and follow the historical Moghul empire east into Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and modern Iran’s 20/21st century money west (Syria, Hezbollah etcetera) you see this historical empire crashing into a turmoiled Sunni empire to its west.  This is the same historical force that fought the Greeks and later were conquered by Alexander. Their lineage includes Parthian Empire that pressured Rome.  Their predecessor was the Persian empire that pressured the Ottoman Empire from the Southeast.  Religion gets intertwined with a historical feeling of empire that was once called Persia.  That is what Iran is today.  That’s why they assert themselves.
  • Amazingly enough, both Turkey and Israel get a disproportionate attention in our US media considering that the only come up infrequently in any of the top 10 categories I selected. The only top ten things from the data I used about either are the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict and Turkey’s large (and obvious) populations of Sunni and Shia.  Not economic size, debt, land, oil, even language seem top 10.  Israel gets a relatively small amount in foreign aid overall in the world, contrary to the way it is portrayed in our news.  Turkey is a member of NATO and the second largest armed force in that Alliance, however, I stayed away from military assessments as I’m not sure yet if size of the military is or is not symptomatic of other factors.
  • The United States is still disproportionately most of the world economy.  It has near the top arable land, water supply, oil production, size of economy, debt, foreign-owned assets (meaning money circulating through the united states), and disbursed the most foreign aid.
  • China’s numbers make no coherent picture overall.  It’s economy is half the size of the US, it has 4 times as many people, owns more of the world’s debt and gold than other countries but, as yet is not consuming as much oil as the US and Europe.  It has one of the largest supplies of permanent crops and arable land, but it has no where near the amount of water that it would need to support the economy and population growth. Oddly, I hadn’t anticipated this, it has a huge protestant population (as compared to other countries, not by overall % of the population).
  • Lacking any other information, India seems like a powder keg with large populations of both Sunni and Shia muslims (larger than many countries) but drawfed by the Hindu population. It has had flare ups before, but seems oddly stable. It is also an economic enigma – somewhat underdeveloped compared to its potential in raw resources and obvious human resources .
  • I was interested in how Brazil seemed to come out so high in so many categories, it’s something our newscasters ought to dig into more often than the obvious and easily amusing stories about Rio.  They are huge.
  • I seem to remember some scientist/researcher ( I found something akin to it here, I thought it was EO Wilson, but I am most probably wrong) that tried to make the point that countries that were primarily Catholic or have large Catholic populations were not as well to do as countries with mostly Protestant populations. If you take the US out of the numbers, I think that my data shows there doesn’t seem to be a difference at all near the top of the lists.  I don’t think that religious affiliation has much to do with economic power; historical situations seem to be more a factor.
  • Finally, depending on the factor, a lot of African Nations appear in the top 10s I selected.  Maybe the some of the larger countries on that Continent are getting to the point of being the next Brazil in the next 25 years.  Dunno.

So these aren’t completely scientific choices of a dataset, it was a set of variables that seem to be related to what is presented to us in the news. From a statistical point of view, none of the data I gathered would probably pass a statistical significance test. I encourage you to disagree and present other data and other variables, or even point out different conclusions from the same data I looked up.   This was just a mental exercise on a Friday night and should not be considered hard research (or that the writer thinks he has done hard research). Love to read what you think.

(Where did I get the data?  IMF site, wikipedia, sites, UN data et cetera.  it was a hodgepodge and not all of it was as of Dec31 2013…some of the data was at best 2 years old)

A turn of a word…

In Literature, politics on October 3, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Sometimes Peggy Noonan can draw a picture that is so pillowy and soft about the Reagan years I feel like I’m moving lightly amongst the clouds when I am reading it.  I don’t remember the time with those same ethereal feelings, but somehow her words float by like billowing cumulus clouds with wispy cirrus tails…

On the other hand, she can be brutal with that same skill.  I really enjoy writing that has irony and a wry descriptions of things.  A good simile or metaphor just captures the essence of the problem being studied.  Here’s an example of that in a recent editorial she wrote about the VP debate:

We saw this week, too, a turn in the McCain campaign’s response to criticisms of Mrs. Palin. I find obnoxious the political game in which if you expressed doubts about the vice presidential nominee, or criticized her, you were treated as if you were knocking the real America—small towns, sound values. “It’s time that normal Joe Six-Pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency,” Mrs. Palin told talk-show host Hugh Hewitt. This left me trying to imagine Abe Lincoln saying he represents “backwoods types,” or FDR announcing that the fading New York aristocracy deserves another moment in the sun.

Forget which side you are on.  It’s the writing and placement of the words and ideas.  I’ve been laughing for 10 minutes now.  I wish I could write like this.  Placing “Six-Pack”, “Backwoods types” and “Fading Aristocracy” in one distilled concept…beautiful…

So who is really qualified to be a president…

In politics on October 2, 2008 at 12:50 am

Nobody. No one is prepared to be President.  I’m going to lay it on the line.  Unless some financial or sexual scandal pops up, I’m voting for Obama for reasons that I’ve outlined before in this blog.  Much as I agree with McCain politically (aka mostly conservative, jump across the aisle to fix specific problems), I think that a new non-Vietnam generation needs to come into power.    However, I do not think that Barack Obama is the most qualified person in the country to be the president (and I don’t think that Hilary or Biden are either).

The thing that I really resent though is the elitist scrutiny that Sarah Palin has been subjected to.  Regardless of how you disagree with her (and I know that my friends on the left are absolutely apoplectic about her), she probably is just like most of us but got the political bug.  She did all her homework, played hard on the basketball court, competed in beauty pageants, got herself involved in politics,  and debated old white guys on TV and rose to the highest executive office in Alaska.   No small feat.

Probably 5 years from now, on a normal trajectory, she’d have run for the Senate and then she’d have met the qualifications for national leadership that the other 3 guys supposedly have.  Truly, not one of them has “executive” experience, even her.  And don’t tell me that Obama has “executive” experience because he ran a political campaign.  Bunk.   Handlers have surrounded him like any political property not dissimilar to Hollywood stars and their agents walking on the Red Carpet.    If he were truly “more” qualified than the rest of the democratic field his primary battle with Hilary Clinton would not have come down to 51/49 in his favor.

The press has been extremely rough on Sarah Palin.   What if McCain had shown up on your doorstep and said “I think you’d make a great VP candidate?”  or even Obama for that matter.  Would you turn them down based on your modesty?  “Oh Mr. Obama, I’m wholly unqualified to be the President, and therefore for the good of the nation I must turn down this offer”  Remember, she got the political bug and you may or may not have gotten it.

So she is kind of a duh.  “What magazine do you read?”  “Everything”  “Specifically?”  “All of them!”  That says to me that her handlers have so “prepped” her that she knows not to say she reads the Wall Street Journal, The Juneau Journal, the Moose Hunt Times, Newsweek and probably Better Homes and Gardens.  But is she not qualified?  She’s obviously a quick learn.  George HW Bush had the best resume of any presidential candidate ever sent by any party…businessman, congressman, son of a Senator, Captain of the Yale Baseball team, top of his class academically, Youngest pilot in the Navy in WWII, Decorated War Hero, Ambassador to China, Head of the CIA, Vice President…and you and/or your parents KICKED HIM OUT OF OFFICE!   Harry Truman was a Pendergast henchman who didn’t have a college degree, who never saw a business he couldn’t run into the ground and was a less than front office Senator.  When he was the president, he threatened to punch a critic of his daughter’s voice in the nose for a bad review.   In retrospect did Franklin Roosevelt screw up when he chose the common man from Missouri?  People hated Harry Truman especially the Taft wing of the Republican party. He drove them crazy!

Does anyone remember that Joe Biden dropped out of the 1988 race because he got caught plagiarizing a speech from Neil Kinnock, head of the opposition in Great Britain?  Is he qualified?  If he was so damn qualified, how come he couldn’t convince some significant percentage of 37 million Democrats that he was the most qualified to be president.   Do you remember that line from the Philadelphia Experiment, where the guy who had travelled forward in time asked who the president was and the response was “Ronald Reagan” and he looked quizzically at her and said “The Actor?????”

Do you remember the last 4 Legislators who served as President that were in office in succession?  Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford.   Ouch!   Kennedy couldn’t figure out how to invade Cuba and wiretapped MLK Jr, Johnson got stuck in Vietnam, Nixon oh man, and Ford freed Poland.  They were our best and brightest?  YIKES!

Anyway, I think that people ought to lay off.   Ask her real questions and if you disagree, awesome.  She doesn’t have a twitch like Inspector Dreyfus, she has a clean record for the most part, and for some people she’s a good conservative.   Truly this is the worst of all elections because none of them are really exceptional people, even by loose requirements.   I’m voting for Obama, but let her debate, succeed or fail, and lets move on.


In politics on April 25, 2008 at 2:40 am

I tend to take a philosophical view of a Presidential election. I try to go through history and see if there’s a pattern emerging.  Well this year there are a few interesting things going on:

  • All three major remaining candidates are Senators, and have no executive experience (although Sen. Clinton gets the sniff vote)
  • 2 of the candidates are what I term as Vietnam era youth.  (aka they were in battle or college during the Vietnam War).
  • The last couple of Presidents were avoiders of tough service during the Vietnam era.  (WJC,GWB)
  • The 6 of the 7 presidents prior to that were youth during WWII, the exception was Carter, who was stationed on a nuclear sub during the 50’s.  (inventory, JFK, LBH, RMN, GRF, RR, GHWB)
  • The 3 president’s before that came into adulthood during WWI (FDR, HST, DDE)
  • This is the first election since 1952 where an incumbent President or VP is not running.
  • One candidate is the first candidate to reach this far who was not a Vietnam era candidate.  
  • The last side by side generational election was Dukakis (Korea) and Bush41 (WWII).  (Dole and Clinton were separated by Korea, Bush41 and Clinton were separated by Korea, Kerry/Gore and Bush reach adult age during the Viet Nam era)
  • I supported Carter in 80 (I was 16 and couldn’t vote), I voted for Walter Mondale in 1984 and Republican for president since.

So I can’t tell you how I’m going to vote.  It’s going to come down to the events of the next 6 months.  If I’m scared internationally, I’ll lean right.  If things are calm, I’m more inclined to lean left if the candidate is from my generation and not the one that was in college when I was 5 years old.  I do have a problem with the find-a-thing-to-hug-activist vs chicken-hawk elections we have had for the last 3 elections.  They all drank too much or didn’t inhale, they are all TOOO sanctimonious about their side and they don’t inspire me at all.

So that’s where it comes down.  If I’m nervous I’m going to lean right.  If I’m calm and inspired and see my generation have an opportunity to run things, I’ll lean left in the booth.   The music of the 60s resonates with me artistically, it doesn’t inspire me to vote.   The next 6 months are going to be interesting.