Monday, January 30, 2023

Less detached homes are easier to heat

My studio apartment is often 69 - 72 degrees, even with the heat all the way off. The joys of not living in a detached single home.

A few weeks back, I noticed my radiator stopped working all together. The weather was mild, but I thought I should get it fixed anyway.

Turns out the valve that regulates the radiator gets clogged if the radiator is off most of the time. A maintenance person, who happens to be a coworker from my job (small world), unplugged the valve. He suggested I turn up the heat a couple of times each day so debris, that flows in pipes, can flush out. They have a trap, down in the boiler room that collects debris. There is always a bit of debris in pipe systems, I guess.

So now I turn up the heat with little, or no guilt about energy conservation. I turn it up when I'm sitting at my computer and not very active. The space often goes to 75 degrees while I'm sitting passively. Then I turn it down at night for sleeping or while I'm away.

The joys of living in a building. The utilities are fully covered by my reasonable rent. This winter has been quite cozy.

Avoiding a hostile world

So many controversies, involving the police, start with a traffic stop. Reckless driving, or whatever. Another problem related to a transportation system overly dependent on private automobiles.

Police can over react, but at the same time, the public worries about rising crime rates, auto theft and increasing violence, including gun violence and reckless driving, in our society.

Seems like our culture has too much anger, but at the same time, I notice the people, around me, seem reasonable, for the most part. The media tends to focus on the problems as there is an old phrase, about journalism, that goes, "if it bleeds it leads."

In everyday life, I still place a fair amount of trust in the kindness of strangers. I'm fairly sympathetic to the police, for the most part. At the same time, I don't worry much about property theft as I don't have much property. Pretty much all of my possessions have a low replacement value.

I often leave things on my bike and they have been untouched when I return. The pannier, I use in town, looks very tattered and anything in it is usually not worth more than a few dollars; such as the flashlight I use for a light. Yes, it's modern LED, but just a flashlight from a regular hardware store for around $5. My jackets are from secondhand stores.

While biking through Sequim, WA. in 2021, I found these banners, along the main street, promoting kindness.

Friday, January 27, 2023

The Biden Whitehouse should negotiate on the debt. That would put the hot potato in the Republican's hands.

If I were Biden, I would at least be willing to negotiate with the Republicans on the budget deal. That would put the hot potato in Republican hands. Discussion of reducing the debt will likely not end well for Republicans. What do we cut? Pretty much any cut proposals will generate a political firestorm. Being willing to negotiate allows that firestorm to begin.

It's already began as some high up Democrats, in Congress, like Senator Schumer, have talked about it. The debt is a problem, but how serious a problem it is, compared to cutting programs, is open to debate. Cutting programs could be a more serious problem for the economy, not to mention political suicide.

On the other hand, some economists, including folks who follow something called Modern Monetary Theory, tend to be less worried about the debt. My somewhat superficial understanding of Modern Monetary Theory says that the debt isn't a problem due to the ability to create new money. The debt isn't a big problem until the creation of new money brings inflation, according to Modern Monetary Theory, as I understand it in a nutshell.

Yes, even that theory admits that new money leads to inflation which creates a check on unlimited spending. We have some inflation now, and Republicans, especially, are alarmed about it; Democrats less alarmed.

I still think overall inflation is less than 10% annually which doesn't seem catastrophic to me. The reason why I don't think it's catastrophic is that home value inflation and housing costs have been going up close to that figure for quite a few years. If having a home is a big percent of one's budget, one has been already living in a world of inflation for many years.

Higher income people notice that less, but a lot of modest income people have had problems keeping up with the cost of rent or first time home purchase for years.

We are now, under Biden, seeing more "across the board" inflation due to wages going up and other supply chain issues. New money has been part of that picture, but that factor isn't as new as most Republicans think. New money has inflated existing housing for many years.

Some of the supply chain inflation, we are experiencing now, may be here for good reason. Rising costs of natural resources, such as fossil fuels for energy, is one factor that may be inevitable due to our relationship with the environment; not to mention the war in Europe.

Wage inflation is another factor that has come just so workers can continue to afford to live in the communities they serve.

At times, it does seem like upper middle class and the super wealthy are too greedy. It isn't easy for anyone to live within their means. Our whole country lives beyond its means.

Transformative change might be easier to make in China, versus USA in gridlock, but I still would prefer USA.

In some ways, it's easier for an authoritarian system, like in Mainland China, to make transformative changes to deal with climate change. For instance China has an easier time building high speed rail.

Here in USA, trying to respect the rights of all the interest groups brings us to gridlock. Still, I prefer the US system for it's freedom of speech. Better innovations happen when people are allowed to think outside the box.

Maybe we have gone too far in that freedom, to the point of gridlock. If we could figure out how to maintain our rights to speak out, to have transparency and to think outside the box, while reducing the gridlock we face, it could be the key to a better future.

Colorado River still low in spite of more rains, this winter, in California

Recent storms, in California, haven't done much to help the dry Colorado River Basin that's mostly east of California.

Snowpack in the Sierra and northern California helps the Sacramento / San Juaquin Valley, but way down on the Mexican border is the Imperial Valley; a place where much of our winter vegetable crops come from.

The Imperial Valley relies on water from the Colorado River. That, along with much of Los Angeles, Arizona and other states, rely on the Colorado River which never even had the water flow originally estimated, in the 1920s, when the Southwest water system was designed.

Drought, related to climate change, has reduced the flow still more since 2000. Continued economic growth driven by population growth keeps demanding water, in spite of significant conservation measures.

As the locals and states cannot come to agreement, the Federal Government, under Biden, may have to force a divvying up of the water; bound to be politically difficult. Otherwise, the tap will just stop on it's own, such as when the reservoirs reach "dead pool" levels.

I would guess dead pool means no more water flowing until water, in a reservoir, reaches back to the level of an intake pipe.

I've often thought they will need large desalination projects, from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California, for the Imperial Valley. San Diego already gets much of it's water this way, but plans for the Imperial Valley have been rejected, so far, by California water / environmental organizations. Similar ideas are being discussed for Arizona.

Whether we take action to create more fresh water, or not, we have to face the reality of population and economic growth having outpaced the water supply that's available today. More than just the people who live in those areas rely on food grown in those areas.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Raising taxes or cutting the budget; two political third rails that clash.

On the debt ceiling, I've thought that Republicans should make public a draft budget cutting plan so the American people can see it.

A similar idea has been expressed in high places; beyond just my Facebook wall. I saw in the news.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor on Monday that the GOP should reveal their intentions to the public, saying that "Republicans are talking about draconian cuts, they have an obligation to show Americans what those cuts are and let the public react. … Does that mean cuts to Social Security or Medicare or child care or Pell Grants?"

Yes, making cuts is not an easy task, politically, as the American people have become so dependent on the government. Personally, I don't think dependency is necessarily a bad thing. It's part of modern society. Raising taxes on upper income people would help. Raising the cap for funding Social Security, for instance. Either raising taxes, or cutting budgets are two political "third rails" that clash.

We have muddled through with deficit spending made easier from quantitative easing (new money created) by the Federal Reserve. This has lead to a form of inflation which could be somewhat mild compared to the other alternatives. Mild compared to draconian budget cuts at least.

We'll see what happens as the giants, in Washington DC, struggle with this dilemma.

A growing part of the Federal budget is disaster relief. That's another, of many things the government provides, where it's difficult to make cuts. It's difficult for politicians to turn their backs on the American people when they are in need. Somehow, we do need to figure out how to make our lives and our society more resilient.

Reducing culture of gun ownership is most powerful change

I think that changes in culture are usually more powerful than top down changes in law. Reducing consumer demand for oil, versus outlawing oil production.

A similar idea can work for reducing gun violence as well. A cultural change means less guns and less anger in American society. That's what we need, which may sound idealistic.

Changing the law can help, but it's secondary. I'm in favor of more stringent legislation about gun ownership, but I think it wouldn't be a magic bullet; speaking of bullets. Cultural change so there are less guns floating around in society is the main need.

I think overall murder rates, on a per capita basis, are lower now than in decades past, but we seem to hear more about mass shootings these days. I wonder if that has to do with a greater proliferation of semi automatic weapons in recent years?

Laws, could change that, to some extent. It's crazy to allow so many high powered weapons in our society. On the other hand, now there is the worry about things like home made weapons from 3D printing which folks can use to get around the law. Again, a change in culture is what we need most.

Friday, January 06, 2023

McCarthy's troubled House leadership bid, versus more extremists on the right. I tend to be a moderate on the left.

It looks like radical conservatives, who hate government, can't govern. The Speaker of House debacle points that out. Hardliners are holding out against McCarthy, who is quite conservative himself.

The center does seem to be strengthening in USA. There is some speculation that Democrats, in the House who are now staying out of the internal Republican strife, may weigh in to push the situation, in the Republican majority House, more to the center.

A more moderate Republican, Fred Upton, is a possibility, though retired. He could come back to fill that position and at least get the House functioning again.

As for more radical Democrats, I find myself, politically, pretty moderate. In personal lifestyle, I am quite outside the norm of American life. No car, no family, except brothers and sisters who I get along with okay. I seem to have less interest in money than most Americans.

Still, it seems like the politics of the far left isn't supported by the lifestyles and asperations of most Americans so moderates, making incremental changes, seem to be the most viable political option.

As for addressing climate change, that is a global problem and we may just have to learn the hard way. Climate is going to follow the laws of physics, whether politicians, and the public like it or not.

Much is still unknown as to just how that will play out in our complex world and economy. It looks like our best hope for a technological solution to the climate change problem is solar energy.