Saturday, October 31, 2020

Looking Again At Some Matrix Groups

In an earlier blog post we examined the fascinating mathematical structures called groups. We recall here the properties that make a group, from the definition given:

A GROUP is a set G with one binary operation defined on it , and G satisfies the axioms:

a) Associative law: a· (b · c) = (a· b) · c

b) Identity element (e): there exists an element e in G such that: e · a = a for all a in G and a · e = a

c) Inverse element: For any a in G there exists an element a - 1  Î G such that:
a · a - 1 = a - 1 · a = e

There was also the additional property that defined an Abelian Group:

d) Only if there exists elements 
a, b Î G such that (a · b) = (b · a), then G is said to be an Abelian Group. (Commutative property).

We now want to see how these apply to groups that are posed in matrix form.

A matrix is an assembly of numerical quantities in the form:

(a11 a12)
(a21 a22)

Matrix multiplication, the main operation we will need to know, is easily obtained.

I.e. say the above matrix is denoted A, and another B =

(b11 b12)
(b21 b22)

then A X B =

(a11 a12) (b11 b12)
(a21 a22) (b21 b22)

= [{(a11b11) + (a12b21)} --{(a11 b12)+ (a12 b22)} ]
[(a21b11) + (a22b21) } --{((a21 b12) + (a22 b22)}]

For example, let A=

(1 2)
(1 2)

and B =

(1 3)
(2 2)

then A x B=

(5 7)

(5 7)

The reader is invited to verify this for himself.

We are now in a position to look at some simple 2 x 2 matrix groups, and also assess whether they're Abelian or not.

One example is
the special unitary group, SU2. The elements of SU2 are the unitary 2 x 2 matrices with Det = 1 (determinant). [Note: the determinant is taken as follows, using the elements of matrix A, for which Det [A] = (a11 x a22) - (a12 x a21), thus Det [A] = 2 - 2 = 0.]

The elements are shown in their standard matrix form in Fig. 1, and the reader should easily be able to verify that the elements form a group. It can be seen, for example, that: II= J*J= J 
2 = K*K = K 2  = -i, and IIJ = -JII = K.

Another interesting group is PSL(2, z) which has generators:

s =

(0 1)
(-1 0)


t =

(0 -1)
(1 - 1)

Yet another group with 2 x 2 matrix elements is sl(2) which has elements: h, e and f such that:

h =

(1 0)
(0 -1)

e (identity element) =

(0 1)
(0 0)

f =

(0 0)
(1 0)

The elements of the group can easily be shown to obey the relations:

[h, e] = h*e - e*h = 2e, [h.f] = h*f - f*h = -2f, and [e,f] = e*f - f*e = h

(understanding that matrix subtraction simply follows the rule, e.g. :

[A] - [B]


{(a11 - b11) (a12 - b12)}
{(a21 - b21) (a22 - b22)}

using the designated elements assigned earlier for the generic matrices A, B)

For the already identified matrices A and B, [A] - [B] =

(0 -1)
(-1 0)

Then there is the famous Klein Viergruppe with members: e (identity), a, b and c. The 2 x 2 matrix members are shown in Fig. 2 along with 4 different operations.

The ambitious reader can gain further insights via the following exercises!

Practice Problems:

1. For the group PSL(2,z) show that the identity element (e) = s 
4 =   t 3 .

2. For the group sl(2) show that:

(a) [h.f] = h*f - f*h = -2f

(b) The "Casimir element", C, of sl(2) is defined according to:

2  / 2 + h + 2f*e

find the element

3. Show that the Klein Viergruppe, V4, is

Friday, October 30, 2020

Holman Jenkins Slams Intelligence Agencies - Oblivious To How He's A Useful Idiot For Spreading Hunter Biden Disinfo

According to the impetuous WSJ nabob Holman Jenkins Jr. ('The U.S. Has An Intelligence Problem', WSJ, p. A13, Oct. 24-25),  "More than anything what's on Hunter Biden's laptop is the issue that should concern you now."  Going on to babble: ""Given much documentary and testimonial evidence as well as Occam's Razor, the laptop is exactly what the New York Post says it is."    I.e. the rag paper's header:

But Holman is blissfully ignorant that this is exactly the M.O. the Russkies and Putin would craft to again trash the electoral process and toss the election to their man - the orange maggot traitor.   But Holman ain't buying, insisting (ibid.):

"The Russians have easier, less falsifiable ways, to put disinformation into circulation."

Of course they do, such as using millions of useful idiots on Facebook to spread lies and B.S.  But that does not negate the option of using a known Reepo rag - the NY Post- to help spread this crap using three inch headlines.  And after all, the Russkies have to know the nation is currently inundated with batshit crazy twits and certified morons ready to believe anything.  Yeppers, I am referencing the illustrious QAnon goobers who believe that the Democratic Party is led by satanic, flesh-eating pedophiles and that John F. Kennedy Jr. (who isn't actually dead) will be reappearing any day now to help Donald Trump save the children and put the country back on the right track.  (We don't know how that'll work out if Trump loses, as all signs point to now.  But I suspect the QAnon turkeys will go ape shit, e.g.

Let's get back to Holman and his babble. He is also off the mark when he claims his fabulist bilge is based on "documentary and testimonial evidence as well as Occam's Razor."   

No, it is not. For example, the invocation of Occam's Razor is off base, given its reliable use can only apply to scientific  hypotheses for assessing natural phenomena. Thus, say I have two competing hypotheses for solar nano-flares:  one is dependent on local magnetohydrodynamics and plasma interaction, the other on electrostatic charges.  Since the latter requires a much more complex hypothesis (i.e. using multiple double layers of » 6 - 7 cm each and lined up linearly over dozens of kilometers) then one chooses the simpler plasma hypothesis. 

Hence, the reason for restricting Occam's application  is simple: we expect all natural events or phenomena to conform to a limited number of defined natural laws, including: the 2nd law of thermodynamics (entropy law), Newton's laws of motion,  application of Lorentz force to plasma systems, i.e. F =q( v X B)   and the conservation of mass -energy.

 The problem in applying it to human political actions is that there is no longer a basic template for a simple, deterministic  hypothesis, given human emotions, misdirection, hidden agendas and outright deceit factor into the process. Thus no human conspiracy or agenda  can be quantified like Newton's laws of motion, or simplistically reduced to one cause-one effect relationships.

Blogger Heather Digby Parton in respect of Jenkins' claim of "documentary and testimonial evidence"  notes:

"The Hunter Biden "scandal" has all the hallmarks of one of those patented GOP mudslinging operations. It's not as wild as a pedophile ring in a pizza parlor, but it's got lots of hurtful personal slander and ugly calumny to keep the folks entertained. That it has a Russia-Ukraine element makes it especially fun for those who want payback for Donald Trump being exposed as the most useful of idiots in the past four years.

The "scandal" itself is actually nothing more than an example of the very common (and admittedly skeevy) business practice of hiring the family members of important people for the purpose of obtaining favors, gaining access or simply being viewed in a favorable light. Hunter Biden clearly made a mistake in joining the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, while his father was vice president. The apparent conflict of interest was obvious to literally everyone. But Republican charges that Joe Biden granted a favor to Burisma by having the Ukrainian government fire a prosecutor that was investigating the company are flat-out provably false. It's true that Biden (along with virtually the entire Western alliance) pressured the Kyiv government to fire Viktor Shokin, the prosecutor in question. But one of the reasons was because Shokin wasn't investigating Burisma. There was no favor done on Hunter Biden's behalf. If anything, it was the opposite.

Republicans know this. Everyone knows this. This "scandal" has been dismissed by the new Ukrainian government, the U.S. intelligence services, and the Senate Intelligence Committee. It is 100% phony. And yet it's likely to continue for years if Joe Biden becomes the next president, because the Republican Party and the entire right-wing media sphere will make sure of it....

Does the laptop really belong to Hunter Biden? Are the emails real? Did he arrange for his boss at Burisma to meet his father? Who knows? But it doesn't matter because nothing will change the fact that Joe Biden's actions were the opposite of what Republicans are pretending to investigate him for, and they know it. They are once again knowingly misleading the public.

If the Democrats manage to gain a majority in the Senate and hold on to the House, the GOP will be deprived of its ability to run this new crusade through Congress with multiple investigations, as they did with Benghazi."

That,  in other words, is all you need to know about why Holman Jenkins Jr. and some of the other WSJ op-ed hacks are in high dudgeon over the Hunter Biden laptop emails.  They want to resurrect a parallel "scandal" to the Hillary email controversy of 2016, hopefully with DOJ's Barr and other voices passing judgment at the last moment.  (Funny thing, they haven't -though Rudy Giuliani's been trying to gin this up for months.)   They want this mock scandal to either:   a) toss the election to their favorite mutt, Dotard, or (b) Use it as a basis to pursue a Benghazi-style witch hunt and endless investigation if Biden does get elected. A neat strategy to hurl his best laid plans into the gutter - by engendering an aura of scandal - thereby preventing the people's needs (like a new Covid relief package)  from being addressed.  But as Ms. Digby Parton points out, this nefarious plan can be scotched if the Dems take the Senate and keep the House.  They simply need to kill the filibuster for the Senate.

Holman is also still miffed because the Intel agencies picked on his beloved bombastic traitor with their unmasking of the likes of Carter Page (who'd been meeting with GRU agents) and then allowing the release of the  Steele    dossier   and finally triggering the Mueller investigation.  (After Trump fired James Comey) According to Holman, the dossier was the "brainstorm of a junior league fabulist, Igor Dachenko".  But in fact  Dachenko was a long time Russia analyst  at the Brookings Institution (a quasi liberal think tank) and rightfully takes issue this slander which has been spread by GOP imps like Lindsey Graham..   

Why believe otherwise given Holman also keeps calling it "Hillary's dossier"?  Despite the fact it originated during the 2016 Republican primaries when  a research firm called Fusion GPS was hired by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, to unearth potentially damaging information about Mr. Trump.   Why?  Well, because the old school  conservo stalwarts didn't trust a lowlife maggot like Trump to lead the nation.   Now, after 4 years and nearly 230,000 Americans dead from an out of control pandemic, we know why.

Holman meanwhile is obsessed with the CIA, FBI etc. and what he believes the 'spooks' are doing to prevent his orange maggot master from winning re-election.  E.g.  "America's retired spies want to be in charge of picking our presidents" referring to John Brennan and James Clapper. 

Picking our presidents?  Hardly! Typical Holman hyperventilation and histrionics.  More like  warning Americans of Russkie disinformation when they suss it out, and believe me the Hunter Biden laptop emails reek of it.  One can think of the Intel chiefs' outing of this crap as a duty to warn, analogous to the duty to unmask and wiretap Trump's hirelings during the 2016 campaign.  Especially after foreign intercepts -  from the UK, Germany etc. -  picked up those contacts with Russian GRU agents. As my Swiss friend and former Spezialdienst agent Rolf noted, this is done all the time. Real allies let their peers know when citizen contacts with foreign agents don't pass the basic smell test.  

But mayhap Holman has no sense of smell in these matters.  What else to conclude when he whines (ibid.): "The full truth, were it known, likely would be so embarrassing, so discrediting to the CIA and FBI that neither would survive without a major keelhauling."

Hmmm...just what I was thinking if the full extent of the WSJ's  Op-ed page propaganda was known, especially its stable of hacks' mission to spread Russian disinfo.    Holman then does his usual stuffed shirt bellyaching:

"The saddest part: So  bamboozled and neurotic is our press, because of its anti-Trump virtue signaling, that it now angrily demands that the public be kept in the dark about matters that are the definition of news."

Neatly omitting that the NY Post writer himself wouldn't even attach his byline to the sorry piece, clearly unwilling to be associated with unproven innuendo, B.S. and offal.  What pisses little Holman off  the most is that the Intel  chiefs acted on exposing this Reeptard-Russkie agitprop just in time before the election so anyone with an IQ over room temperature knows what it is.  (Though lovers of lies and the liars that tell them, e.g. like Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity et al,  could still go to FOX News to get their B.S. fix if they so desired.)

So now, boo hoo and hoo, there won't be any Hillary -style email redux to try to hang on Joe Biden's neck.   Holman should also ask Glen Greenwald how his efforts to push the Hunter Biden balderdash have worked out. See e.g.

Glenn Greenwald resigns from the Intercept following dispute over Biden story

Holman needs to reckon with the possibility that his incompetent, dyspeptic, traitorous, virus-seeding master may well be history by Tuesday night.  Especially if the blowout blue tsunami occurs as many believe - and despite nonstop Reepo voter mitigation tactics.

See also:

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Glorified Quacks Behind "Herd Immunity" And Why Their Great Barrington Declaration Is Nuts - As A New Covid Variant Emerges


Scott Atlas - turns out to be a minor player in the 'herd immunity' push

Everyone has heard about Scott Atlas-  a former radiologist catapulted into being head of Trump's Covid team and a  screwball from Stanford's Hoover Institution.    He's been portrayed in the media as promoting a "herd immunity" approach which could leave over 2 million Americans dead, to reach the so-called target numbers.   

But what few know about is the pair of actual epidemiologists-   Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff-  behind the actual academic push to adopt this insane strategy which proposes most Americans just get infected.  This was noted in nearly full page piece in the WSJ (Oct. 24-25, p. A9), e.g.

Under the header: 'Epidemiologists Stray From The Covid Herd'.    Wherein we learn the pair of "Covid rebels" is behind a controversial new strategy embodied in "The Great Barrington Declaration".    Basically, the dubious duo believe if enough people get infected the virus can ultimately be conquered.   So they want all the lockdowns to stop other than for the very vulnerable, i.e. immuno-compromised, morbidly obese,  elderly etc.  I suppose we can just stay shut up inside indefinitely - or take our chances as the "herd" is culled -  by the millions.    

Exaggeration?  No.   Sensible scientists, real ones, not PR quacks -  assert 50-80 percent of Americans would need to become immune to reach so-called herd immunity.   This is especially dire given that no pandemic in history has ever been controlled by just letting the infection spread unchecked in the hope most people will eventually become immune.  In effect, this "Great Barrington Declaration" is like a Nazi Final Solution - but fits perfectly with Trump and the GOP's death cult.

This is all the more unnerving now as we've learned (Financial Times today, 'New Covid Variant Emerges') a new Covid variant has appeared in Europe and spreading.  As the FT piece notes:

"A coronavirus variant that originated in Spanish farm workers has spread rapidly through much of Europe since the summer, and now accounts for the majority of new Covid-19 cases in several countries — and more than 80 per cent in the UK.

An international team of scientists that has been tracking the virus through its genetic mutations has described the extraordinary spread of the variant, called 20A.EU1, in a research paper to be published on Thursday.  Because each variant has its own genetic signature, it can be traced back to the place it originated.

The scientific teams in Switzerland and Spain are now rushing to examine the behaviour of the variant to establish whether it may be more deadly or more infectious than other strains

Emma Hodcroft, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Basel emphasised that 20A.EU1 was unlike any version of Sars-Cov-2 — the virus that causes Covid-19 — she had previously come across. “I’ve not seen any variant with this sort of dynamic for as long as I’ve been looking at genomic sequences of coronavirus in Europe,” she said.

The new variant, which has six distinctive genetic mutations, emerged among agricultural workers in north-east Spain in June and moved quickly through the local population, according to the study.

Tanja Stadler, professor of computational evolution at ETH Zurich who is part of the project, said that analysis of virus samples taken from across Europe in recent weeks showed they were derived from this same variant.

“We can see the virus has been introduced multiple times in several countries and many of these introductions have gone on to spread through the population,” Prof Stadler said.

The team's research showed that the new variant accounted for more than eight out of 10 cases in the UK, 80 per cent of cases in Spain, 60 per cent in Ireland and up to 40 per cent in Switzerland and France. "

This alarming news - even as Covid cases explode in the U.S. -  a record 88,000 cases today, over 9 million infections, and 229,000 dead - shows the folly inherent in the Declaration's claim that most Americans need not worry about uncontrolled transmission.  Yeah, and so what if this new variant arrives here, and turns out to be as lethal as the 2nd wave strain of the Spanish Flu in 1918?    The takeaway?  If Trump somehow sneaks in again, a million Americans could be dead by this time next year.

This news from the FT puts a whole other light on this election, called "the most important in our lifetime" - given it may genuinely be.  Since if the wrong choice is made in this election - i.e. Trump -  millions of lifetimes may be  cut short.   Current estimates are that a massive death toll would result from herd immunity- anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 million, most in older people.    This would not even take into account our fragile health system being pushed to the breaking point - with many more millions having to be triaged in tents.  even as other medical emergencies (heart attacks, ruptured appendices) are placed on the backburner.

And the devastation to the economy would be beyond anything seen in the Great Depression.  

The worst imaginable combination?  Trump getting re-elected and the new Covid variant landing within weeks in the U.S.

See Also:


"And now, his administration is flirting with a policy to achieve “herd immunity” by following a theory put forth in a statement known as the Great Barrington Declaration that calls for deliberately allowing the less vulnerable among us to become infected while somehow protecting the more vulnerable. The authors call this “focused protection.

This is decidedly a minority view, and it has been excoriated by the world’s leading infectious- disease experts. But the Trump administration seems willing to let a few hundred thousand people die and hope for the best.

Trump once said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without consequences. At this moment, we are all on Fifth Avenue."

Solutions To Retrograde Motion Problems:


We have:   V2/V1 = (a2/a1) (T1/T2)

By convention we assign '1' to the inner planet (Venus) and '2' to the outer (Earth). We have a2 = 1 AU and for Venus (from Kepler's third law):

T1 = (224.69/365.25) yr. = 0.6151 yr.

a1 = {[T1]2}1/3 = [(0.6151)2]1/3

a1 = 0.723 AU


V2/V1 = (0.7234)(1/0.6151)

V2/V1 = 1.175

(b) According to a Table of Orbital Velocities in Astrometric & Geodetic Data:

V(Venus) = 35.02 km/s

V(Earth) = 29.78 km/s

Take the ratio of the velocities: 

V(Venus)/V(earth) = (35.02 km/s)/ (29.78 km/s) = 1.175

So, Venus' orbital velocity is 1.175 times Earth's which conforms to the result of part (a).

2. The  component, Vp cos (φ)  doesn't contribute to the observed angular velocity of the planet because the  component vector direction  (along line P'E')  is oblique to the motion vector (itself tangent to the orbit)

3) If the angular velocity of the planet as observed from Earth is:  - (Vp - V)/ PE and parallel to the orbital motion, then it must also be in a direction opposite to the orbital motion, and hence is retrograde at opposition.  (Since Vp < V )

"Liberals Can Be Cultists Too"? Only In The Opinion Of One Financial Times Provocateur - Janan Ganesh


Janan Ganesh - Maybe had one too many MJ candies before scribbling his FT piece?

Financial Times political columnist Janan Ganesh has often sought to be provocative in his various opinions, and in most cases met at least minimal standards of rationality and attention to reality.   But in his latest column ('Liberals Can Be Cult Members Too') he appears to have lost all sense of proportion, reason and even common sense.  Why else try to analogize liberals as "cult members" like Trump followers and QAnon?  Ganesh writes of the global left:

"I was going to say that I have never encountered anything quite like the worldwide cult of Jacinda Ardern. But then of course I have. Justin Trudeau once inspired a similar reverence: intense, global, vague. Those who saluted him from other continents might have been apprised of his administrative performance, but you will excuse me if I suspect not. It was enough that he was a telegenic francophone with progressive instincts and vulgar enemies. It was enough that he was who he was."

But he seems unable to process that a "reverence" or adulation for a political personality - even a kind of benign hero worship- is not the same as being a member of a genuine cult- even a personality cult. Certainly not like the Trump personality cult exposed by Jeff Sharlet  in Vanity Fair ('He's The Chosen One To Run America Inside The Cult of Trump, His Rallies Are Church And He Is The Gospel') e.g.

Or QAnon - which is  defined by members who fully believe Democrats are part of a powerful global elite of pedophiles who are also Satanists -  engaged in drinking the blood of children-  oh, and out to undermine Trump.  Evidently 2 in 5 Republican voters believe this tommyrot.

By contrast, NO one on the Left who idolizes Ms. Ardern believes her opponents are cannibalizing kids or sacrificing them to Satan. Neither do Justin Trudeau's fans. They are, in other words, simply political fans or eager followers, not the malignant vermin who comprise QAnon.   The other mental misfire of Ganesh is evident in his next paragraph:

"The idea has taken hold in recent years that only conservatives fall for thoughtless personality cults. Donald Trump and Boris Johnson appeal to the tribal id of their fans, it is said, while liberals reason their way into their politics. The rightwing leader can call on absolute fealty. The liberal one is there on provisional sufferance, subject to ongoing review by the Humean empiricists of their flock."

Ganesh again conflates  malignant cults like Trump's or QAnon with benign personality "cults" -  which  are actually more  informal groups of enthusiastic followers.  Failure to make this critical distinction leads Ganesh into the rabbit hole where those who like or laud Jacinda Ardern  or Obama are no different from those who are in thrall to Trump - even depicting him as a literal "Savior".   This is a failure of mental comparison and also critical thinking -leading to the egregious false equivalence so prevalent in much of today's mainstream media.  It is also a major mental misfire in being unable to isolate the malignant threat posed by the likes of QAnon - exposed by Ganesh's FT colleague Edward Luce e.g.

Compared to the benign liberal followers of Ardern, or Obama - who have no terrorist axes to grind, or dark conspiratorial ideations to harbor.  Ganesh goes on to whine that it is a "mistake to see this as a  peculiarly rightwing tic"  when it permeates the liberal political tribe as with its adoration of "Jed Bartlett" the president in The West Wing  "syrupy" TV series.   But again, he mixes apples and oranges.  For one thing Jed Bartlett is a fictional character, not real.  So any "TV adoration" bears no resemblance to that for Trump for the simple reason a fictional president doesn't have access to nuclear codes, or a bully pulpit to call his dregs into service ("Stand down and stand by!")

Also, no one is condemning the Right's minions, say if they simply demonstrate a benign hero worship for Reagan.  What we are trying to drill into Ganesh's hard head is there is a difference when the Right's  affections veer from mere innocent personality adulation to embrace of QAnon- where the "glorious leader" (Trump)  is seen as the only one to halt the Dems' pedophilia and Satanic sacrifices of children - and drinking their blood. 

Clearly, Ganesh has not read Jeff Sharlet's expose of the pathologial cult of Trumpism  in Vanity Fair.  As when Sharlet notes:

"Many followers deploy a familiar Christian-right formula for justifying abuses of power, declaring Trump a modern King David, a sinner nonetheless anointed, while others compare him to Queen Esther, destined to save Israel—or at least the evangelical imagination of it—from Iran. Still others draw parallels to Cyrus, the Old Testament Persian king who became a tool for God’s will. ...Lance Wallnau, a founding member of Trump’s evangelical coalition, dubs him “God’s chaos candidate”: “the self-made man who can ‘get it done,’ enters the arena, and through the pressure of circumstance becomes the God-shaped man God enables to do what he could never do in his own strength.”

And even more nutso:

"In Trump’s case, divine backing is more about smiting than healing. When Rep. Elijah Cummings died last October shortly after sparring with Trump about Baltimore, Peterson declared on his radio show, “He dead”—like Trump enemies John McCain and Charles Krauthammer, Peterson noted. “That’s what happens when you mess with the Great White Hope. Don’t mess with God’s children.”

Carrying the post hoc, ergo propter hoc  fallacy  to a preposterous excess.  I.e. whatever follows x, y or z event was caused by x, y or z event.    But this is all of a piece with the con Jim Jones also pulled on his followers in Guyana making them believe he could smite  any foe who dared try to bring his kingdom down. (Including killing CA Rep. Leo Ryan in an ambush when he tried to help several followers escape.)  According to one member (Walt Jones) quoted in the book, 'The Suicide Cult' (p. 69),  what most held members in line was that:

"Jones was a master manipulator"

Much like Trump, he promised his followers the Earth, Moon and sky if they'd just believe and follow him, into hell as it turned out.  By drinking kool aid laced with cyanide - this after a California congressman (Leo Ryan) tried to rescue several.
These mental misfires, forced mental errors and missteps about left and right "cults" would be bad enough but Ganesh also shows he knows next to nothing of American political - presidential history, writing:

"Readers of a certain age will have lived through the near-canonisation of John F Kennedy, owner of the highest hype-to-achievement ratio of any public figure, at least until historians started to bring his standing down to earth."

That such ignorant balderdash could find its way into an esteemed journal like the FT is incredible enough.  That it is so indiscriminately spouted by one of their own in -house columnists is enough to demolish one's confidence that there is sufficient fact checking.  For starters, perhaps Ganesh never learned that by October, 1962 -  barely 20 months into his presidency -  JFK ALREADY had effectively done more than any ten presidents combined by making critical decisions that avoided a nuclear war.  This was in conjunction with the Cuban Missile crisis.  Because, had Kennedy not used his brain and resisted the Joint Chiefs (particularly Gen. Curtis LeMay) , none of those other presidents would have been around to even be elected!   Nor would Ganesh be around to scribble his codswallop.

The details may be found in:  'The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis’, by Ernest R. May and Philip K. Zelikow (1997, President and Fellows of Harvard College).  Therein, on p. 347, for ’10:00 A.M. Oct. 24”   we read:

"At the same time the quarantine became effective, the Strategic Air Command moved from the general Defense Condition 3 to Defense Condition 2, the level just below general war. In addition to ICBMs and submarine-based ballistic missiles, every available bomber – more than 1,400 aircraft- went on alert. Scores of bombers, each loaded with several nuclear weapons and carrying folders for pre-assigned targets in the Soviet Union, were kept continuously in the air around the clock with shifts- refueled by aerial tankers, taking turns hovering over Northern Canada and the Mediterranean Sea. The Soviet government was presumed to be aware of these developments.”

The Joint Chiefs wanted Kennedy to bomb Cuba and invade it ('Bomb Cuba! Le May Urged JFK', The Baltimore Sun, Oct. 26, 1996, p. 2A) , and we only learned many years later (after JFK former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara visited the island 30 years later) that  Castro had ready 93 IRBMs  (each bearing a single megaton warhead) - that would have been launched had JFK succumbed to the JCS demands.   That launching, aimed at U.S. cities on the east coast, would have triggered a U.S. retaliation then a full Soviet counter strike. 

But perhaps the courage and critical decision -making of JFK - to avert that nuclear holocaust- counts for nothing in Ganesh's brain, because well "if things don't happen they don't matter".  But for those of us who lived in Miami at the time, barely 90 miles from Cuba, it mattered a hell of a lot.   Anyway, this example alone skewers the claptrap that JFK  had "the highest hype-to-achievement ratio of any public figure".   But if Ganesh's memory is really that bad, we might remind him  here of the following Kennedy achievements his education overlooked:

1) He first proposed old age medical care operating under Social Security (MEDICARE)   (After Kennedy's assassination, LBJ was left to implement the vision and template JFK conceived.)

2) JFK in his 1961 Inaugural made the original call to service ('Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country') which led to the founding of the Peace Corps (in which I also served)   More than 250,000 Americans  have served in over 57 nations.  What other president has done anything comparable, to constructively advance American values without bloodshed?

3) JFK confronted price gouging by U.S. Steel by threatening them with no defense contracts if they went through with it.  Had he not done so, the economy would have been wrecked.  As it was the company backed down but never forgave JFK.

4) JFK established and promoted the "Alliance for Progress' to enable low-interest loans for Latin American American nations, thereby outraging the 'Street" and the other capitalist bastions of thought (e.g. FORBES) which believed this to be a "giveaway" to the third world.

5) In August, 1963 he outraged the extreme right fringe by signing the Nuclear test Ban Treaty with Nikita Krushchev. (They were particularly enraged at the ban on anti-missile systems) The Treaty stopped the regular atmospheric testing of multi-megaton bombs which had been delivering enormous amounts of Sr-90 for years.

6) In the fall of 1963, JFK took the bold initiative to federalize the Alabama national guard, to protect black students trying to attend academic institutions, thereby enabling integration.

7) JFK provided the initiative, vision and basis for the Apollo Moon Program, which energy not only drove the U.S. to achieve a lunar landing by 1969, but also revved up our academic system to retool to enable math and physics to be taught on scales hitherto unseen. We became a nation able to compete with the Soviets, instead of a nation left in their dust.

No similar vision has been proposed, for such a mammoth project that engaged the imagination of the country, before or since.

One hopes that in any future columns Janan Ganesh corrects his errors of fact as well as logic, but that may well be too much to expect.

See Also:

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Newsflash! Fracking's Days Have Been Numbered For At Least A Year


The Wall Street Journal's  caterwauling editorial ('Mr. Biden Will Transition You Now', Oct. 24-25, p. A12)   moaned how Joe Biden plans to destroy fracking - not by banning it but by "strangling it with regulations".  By the end we're informed how tens of thousands of jobs connected to fracking will also be lost  - and oh, by the way, "Will laid off roustabouts now get jobs installing solar panels?"   But all the whining misses the point that those jobs, as well as the frackers (and most of the fossil fuel industry) already have one foot in the grave.   

How so?

 The prime clue appeared in the WSJ Finance Section  of June 7, 2019, under the header: ' Frackers Scrounge For Cash As Wall Street Shuts Spigot'', p. B1) .  And it didn't really amaze me in the least. Especially as we read (ibid.):

"The companies behind the U.S. fracking boom are turning to asset sales, drilling partnerships and other alternative financing to supplement their cash flow. These forms of funding often come with higher interest rates or other downsides  - such as giving outside investors a hefty share of future oil and gas profits."

And further (p. B2):

"Producers have been forced to get creative about financing because Wall Street began shutting off the cash spigot  last year after frackers routinely failed to turn a profit over the last decade."

Worse, only a tenth -  10 percent - of large shale companies saw a positive cash flow in the first quarter of 2019.   This according to a Rystad Energy analysis of 40  drillers.  And to sustain  or increase their production these companies have had to drill new wells, as opposed to seeing greater production from each existing well .  The piece also noted some companies have become so desperate for cash to jump start new wells that they are starting to turn to junk bonds.  Well, talk about batting on a losing wicket.  But the central question here is why did the frackers  fail to turn a profit over a decade?   I've explained this in earlier posts in terms of the lower energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) say compared with the light  crude oil of the past, non-shale based.

I also pointed out the difference in EROEI translated into some bad economics given the lower energy content of shale oil (kerogen) meant the frackers would always be in an energy (and hence economic)  hole.  A less efficient energy source means you have to extract more of it, and at ever higher costs given the innate diminishing returns.  It means, basically, endless reinvestment to support the losing operations.  This isn't relativity or rocket science.

The issue first surfaced in Richard Heinberg's book, Snake Oil: How Fracking's False Promise Imperils Our Future', ( p.115).   Therein we learned from a report by a London -based brokerage firm,  Tullett Prebon:

 "Our calculated EROEIs both for 1990 (40:1) and for 2010 (17:1) are reasonably close to the numbers cited for those years by Andrew Lees. For 2020, our projected EROEI of 11.5 to 1 is not as catastrophic as 5: 1 but would nevertheless mean that the share of GDP absorbed by energy costs would have escalated to 9.6% from about 6.7% today. Our projections further suggest energy costs would absorb as much as 15% of GDP (at an EROEI of 7.7 to 1)  by 2030."

The report goes on to conclude that the dismal diminishing energy returns means that the economy we "have known for more than two centuries" will "cease to become viable at some point"

As Heinberg observed, while it may cost less to extract a cubic foot of natural gas or a gallon of oil shale today, it will cost much more in just five years and even more in ten - such that one would have to spend as much or more to get the energy as the benefit it delivers. Heinberg summoned a point that most of the snake oil salesman humping fracking won't tell you, that it costs energy to get energy. And if you are a nation that resorts to employing 15 to 1 EROEI energy to extract  5 to 1 EROEI  oil shale energy.....well, can we say 'stupid'?

As Heinberg puts it (p. 116):

"No evidence suggests that the technology of fracking has actually raised the EROEI for natural gas production. It temporarily lowered prices but only by glutting the market."

Heinberg's book is essentially a tour-de-force exposing the false promise of fracking - whether for oil or natural gas-  with hard statistics and basic energy principles. He also shatters the myth  of "100 years of cheap  natural gas" as  effectively as he does the trope of cheaper and cheaper shale oil.   He observes, for example(p. 110), that "a study of the EROEI for electrical heating of methane hydrate deposits between 1000 and 1500 meters deep yielded ratios from 2:1 up to 5:1, depending on the source of the electricity"

The entire issue of sinking oil shale fortunes pivots on the breakeven price: that amount which the recovered oil needs to earn to have made its extraction worthwhile  If that per barrel amount tends to be below what the market offers, a loss occurs and over years the losses pile up. In many cases, as seen in recent years there is the added factor of an oil glut from over production.  In this case one has an excess supply and so oil prices tend to plummet. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas:

"The average breakeven price of oil has fallen 4 percent (or $2 per barrel) over the past year, to $50 per barrel, according to the latest Dallas Fed Energy Survey."

Shale oil is a lower EROEI source and hence much more work must be done to extract it and process it (i.e.g from kerogen) and hence this inefficiency must appear in the lowered GDP over a future track, as reported by Tullet Prebon, e,g,  "Our projections further suggest energy costs would absorb as much as 15% of GDP (at an EROEI of 7.7 to 1)  by 2030."

Energy costs absorbing as much as 15% of GDP by 2030? What does this mean? It means our present energy-intensive civilization with its HDTVs,  Ipads, Smart phones, F35 bombers, Dreamliner and MAX jets,  ICBMS, drones and SUVs will need to go into ever  more debt to function at the same level. That is, to produce the same energy intensive devices, products, gadgets, toys etc.  much greater manufacturing and processing costs will have to be born.  That almost certainly implies much higher levels of debt, namely for the U.S. frackers 

The much higher processing costs for shale oil also contributed to its producers never having made profits over the past 10 years, and always seeking loans or going through the junk bond route in desperation.   Why? Look no further than the fact (from FactSet) that 40 of the largest oil and gas frackers  since 2009 have collectively spent over $200b  more than they took in from operations.  

This is something to keep in mind as one reads more and more media accounts of how the frackers are going into debt, and basically getting nowhere fast in extracting their product and selling it beyond the breakeven threshold.  The problem for them now is getting the money to support their continued operations. As  noted at in a more recent (May, 2020) assessment:  

"The poor economics predate the global pandemic and the economic downturn.  Large U.S. oil drillers spent a combined $1.18 trillion over the past decade, but only generated $819 billion in cash flow from their operations. According to Evercore ISI and the Wall Street Journal. In other words, oil drillers are more than $350 billion in the hole over a ten-year period. For much of that time, oil prices were trading at $50 per barrel or higher."

And further:

"Between 2015 and 2019, more than 200 North American oil and gas companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The pace of bankruptcies actually accelerated last year as investors began to sour on the industry. Again, that predated the pandemic. 

At $30, the financial blood-letting will continue. Roughly 73 E&Ps in the U.S. could be forced into bankruptcy this year if oil remains stuck at $30 per barrel, according to Rystad Energy. Another 170 companies would go under in 2021. If oil falls back below $30 per barrel again, the number of bankruptcies would climb even higher.."

This is all you need to know regarding why fracking's days are numbered and Biden was quite on message and correct to state originally (in the Dem primary debates) it would be phased out.  I mean why on earth would you keep an industry that's cratering into a financial hole, unable to even get enough junk bonds for financing?

The other problem is breaking it to those workers in the fracking industry - whether in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado or Texas -  that they are literally working on borrowed time.  

Fracking's days are numbered and it is dishonest for the WSJ editorial hacks - as eager as they are for Trump to pull out a re-election win - not to level with their readers.

See Also:


by Joshua Cho | October 25, 2020 - 5:53am | permalink

— from OtherWords


Whenever there are discussions about banning fracking, media coverage seems to prioritize potential “risks” to Democrats’ electoral prospects, or potential economic downturns. Unfortunately, a lot of this coverage is quite sloppy.

For instance, the New York Times quoted absurd claims that a fracking ban would mean “hundreds of thousands” of Pennsylvanians would be “unemployed overnight.” In reality, about 26,000 people work in all of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas sector.

Still, the Times suggested that any presidential candidate who supports a national fracking ban would risk losing Pennsylvania, calling the issue “a political bet.” A fracking ban “could jeopardize any presidential candidate’s chances of winning this most critical of battleground states — and thus the presidency itself,” the paper wrote.

NPR likewise made dubious pronouncements on the opinions of swing-state voters the focal point of the story, reporting that “aggressive” climate action “could push moderate voters in key swing states to reelect President Trump,” and even cited — without rebuttal — a claim from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that a fracking ban would eliminate 17 percent of all U.S. jobs.