Typhoon Phanfone hitting Philippines on Christmas Day

Disasters don’t take a break for holidays … Typhoon Phanfone tracked through the Philippines this morning, damaging or destroying hundreds of homes. Here is the estimated damage swath and position as of this morning US East Coast time …

Economic impact is estimated to be on the order of $500 Million to $1 Billion US Dollars, or less than 1% of GDP (which is no consolation if it was your home destroyed).  The Philippines has had a rough year this year, with multiple damaging landfalls.  As you celebrate and enjoy Western Christmas (recalling the traditional Feast of the Nativity is still 13 days off, according to the Julian Calendar in use by the majority of the Canonical Orthodox Churches :O …), please keep in mind those impacted by natural disasters as well as human stupidity and greed like conflict zones, and consider a year-end contribution to one of the many aid agencies that are trying to make the lives of those in harms way better.  Then you can enjoy the holiday in good conscience!

 

ZOMG! There will be actual weather next week!

So there’s already talk of a winter storm sweeping through the nation next weekend (14th or so of December), possibly even the dreaded words “ice storm” that cause Atlantians (the ones in Georgia, not the ones Way Down Beyond The Ocean) to panic and start smashing in to each other on the perimeter and clogging up spaghetti junction with the carcasses of perfectly drive-able automobiles, even if said ice isn’t even going to hit Atlanta.   This is all part of the trend towards sensationalizing marginally bad weather, something discussed in this Washington Post (shudder) article.   While the screed starts of ok, the next to last paragraph is totally wrong.  This has a real economic and physical cost in human stress and needlessly disrupted businesses.  It’s all part of modern American society, which keeps people constantly on edge for marketing purposes.

So what’s the facts in this case?  In short, there will be weather next weekend.  Some of it will be rain.  As it is want to do this time of year, as you move northeastward, at some point that rain will change over to a “wintery mix” of ice and snow, changing over to only snow along the back side of the system as you get further north.   Here’s the current forecast precipitation types from the latest GFS model run Thursday (120 hours) which is about as far in advance as I’m willing to post a picture of …  green/yellow is rain, purple blue is a mix (the dangerous part), white is snow.

When we get closer, if it looks like anything unusual is happening will post more.  As usual with forecasts, don’t believe everything you see from 7-10 day forecasts!  I don’t get too excited until 5 days, since we really don’t have a lot of skill forecasting the exact mix more than 3 days in advance, just the “big picture”.  But that’s fine: you really only need a day or so to prepare for a winter storm.  FEMA took some time off from covering up UFO crashes and building internment camps to post some advice on the subject which is worth reviewing.  So be ready for wintery weather this season, as you should be for other events, and as always don’t panic unless you just need the cardio.  And if you live in Atlanta, by the ghosts of Rhett and Scarlet please learn how to drive …

Twenty Questions (and answers, sort of) on the House Report, Impeachment, Russia, and Ukraine

If you don’t want to wade through all 300 pages of the House “Intelligence” Committee Report (which, unless you take proper precautions, will shave 50 points off your IQ), read the Republican rebuttals (which will take care of any remaining points), and are unable to read thousands of pages of documents in multiple languages, research at least 30 years or so of complex and often obscure history to understand this in context here’s twenty questions and answers (sort of, with a dose of snark) to clear things up:

  1. Did Trump and his minions abuse their authority for personal gain with respect to Ukraine? Absolutely.
  2. Did they commit crimes? Almost certainly. Trump’s people seem to be amateurs at political crime.
  3. Did Biden and his minions abuse their authority for personal gain with respect to Ukraine? Absolutely.
  4. Did they commit crimes? Perhaps, but Biden is experienced at committing crimes legally so maybe not technically in violation of US law.  Ethically?  Oh, yeah …
  5. Did Russia attempt to influence the 2016 election? Absolutely.
  6. Did Ukraine attempt to influence the 2016 election? Absolutely.
  7. Wait – did any foreign country *not* attempt to influence the 2016 election? I doubt it. They’d be crazy not to, given the US is by far the world’s largest military power (and doesn’t hesitate to blow stuff up for “reasons”) as well as one of the top two economic powers depending on how you crunch the numbers, and there too it throws its weight around based more on domestic politics than sound foreign policy. US administrations of both ilks generally don’t follow international law they don’t like, freely abrogates treaties, and only participates in multilateral organizations when it can get its way. So about the only way to influence US foreign policy is to attempt to influence domestic US elections, and most countries do it, some far more overtly than Russia or Ukraine did (Israel, for example, or China.). And of course the US actively influences, interferes, and overthrows elections worldwide at will … so it sort of deserves it. I’ve seen nothing in what Russia did in 2016 that is technically different than what the US did in Ukraine in the lead up to the 2014 Maidan revolution.  And, again, many other countries have used similar techniques to influence US politicians, elections, and policy.
  8. Isn’t (pick something you don’t like from (1) through (7) above) just a conspiracy theory? More than likely, that thing you don’t like is at least partly if not mostly true with just enough uncertainty/fiction/error/bad reporting to allow you to discount it and keep believing the stuff you want to believe – which is also probably mostly true, but lacks context and your conclusions are just as wrong, without context, as the “conspiracy theory” you just dismissed.
  9. Is Russia our enemy? It’s not straightforward, but even though there are some problematic aspects and some serious issues, essentially No.
  10. Why do so many in the US Government hate Russia? It’s really complicated, mostly involving history, ego, bias, ignorance, and convenience. And money and resources. Lots and Lots of Money.
  11. Is Ukraine our friend? It’s not straightforward, but even though the majority of average people in Ukraine are great, and trapped in a horrible geopolitical trap, essentially No. Unless you don’t mind Nazis, or can be bribed (or better yet both). Then, yes, a lot of the current Ukrainian Government and Military is your friend.
  12. Why do so many in the US Government love Ukraine? Also really complicated, but mostly because they hate Russia for various reasons. But also money. Did I mention money?
  13. Is the Russia-Ukraine conflict a vital US concern? Really hard to see any vital US interests in it, in the great scheme of things, and a lot of the conflict is on various levels the fault of the US and NATO.
  14.  Did the US violate agreements and common sense to get involved? Yes. This is a result of 30 years of idiotic policies and greed with respect to the former Soviet Union.
  15. Why did it become so central to US Politics? Did I mention money? Follow the money. Also, hubris.
  16. Are the various career State and Military officials sincerely doing what they think is best for the United States? Sadly, they probably think they are.
  17. Are they doing what is best for the Country? Absolutely not. And there is nothing more dangerous than someone who thinks they are doing the right thing, and aren’t. They are sincere – sincerely delusional; and are blind to their own biases.
  18. What makes you so right and them so wrong? The main reason is I don’t have any overt conflicts of interest.  I also use multiple sources on all sides, and I don’t make assumptions unless I have to.  When I do, I try to constantly re-evaluate them. But the main reason is I don’t care about being wrong yesterday as long as I understand why, so I can do my best to be right today or tomorrow. Most analysts invest a lot of effort in proving they were right yesterday … and in the case of Russia/Ukraine, yesterday (Soviet times) was a different world from today.
  19. Where can I get unbiased information to understand this mess? Sadly, that’s hard. The few rational voices on this subject are marginalized and dismissed, and to understand the complex and overlapping issues of US, Russian, and Ukrainian domestic politics plus the multilateral treaty aspects you also you need to have access to Russian and Ukrainian sources. And then study international affairs ranging from bilateral agreements to international law. It’s nuanced – and nuance is an alien concept in modern American reporting. If you don’t agree with the “Putin owns tRump and is bad” narrative, or the “Our President is a saint, Biden, Ukraine, and Hillary’s Emails are Bad” extremes, it’s hard to be heard. Stephen F. Cohen, for example, is one of the few sane voices on the subject of Russia, and has been for 50 years, yet is dismissed as a “Putin Apologist” by both sides these days. There was a good background article in the otherwise establishment echo-chamber that is Foreign Affairs, “Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault” by John Mearsheimer (who is sort of a an idiot about nuclear weapons, but got this right).
  20. Are we doomed? Yeah, probably.

There, hope that clears things up …