Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Does the Texas Interconnection set a good example for the rest of the nation on power grid management?

Vox has a short promotional film (2 minutes), sponsored by J. P. Morgan Chase as an advertorial, about the Texas Interconnection, its own power grid. The development of the grid follows the state’s own history of independence.

It is economically less dependent on cross-state-line sales and may be more resilient from solar storms or enemy attack (whether cyber or EMP) than the other two major grids.  It’s structure could be challenged by the addition of more solar energy.


I had two job interviews with Texas utilities in the late 1980s when I was living in Dallas. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

How wobbly is American democracy?

Steven Levistky and Daniel Ziblatt put on their David Brooks hats in the New York Times Sunday review and ask, “How wobbly is our democracy?” 
The writers note that as time passes in many democracies, opposing parties become more tribal and start taking it personally.  They give the history of the coup in Chile in 1973.

And they think we've been unraveling ourselves for a long time, although we recover. They talk about two unwritten norms: mutual toleration, and forbearance.  

One problem is that the people “in the middle” tend to be less combative and less interested in running for office.  They tend to see the people at the extremes as personal “losers”.  Political culture has become unacceptable as a self-fulfilling prophecy, because many of us deserted it.

The writers are authors of a book “How Democracies Die” .

Update:  Feb. 2

Ezra Klein notes that racial inequality got built into the American idea of bipartisanship, here. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Digital currencies could eventually force taxation only of consumption

Richard Holden and Anap Malani write, “Why the I.R.S. fears bitcoin”, link

The basic issue is that the block chain, while public, allows the transaction actors to remain anonymous. So there is no way to track the bitcoin economy.

If digital currency really becomes the norm, governments would have to switch to all consumption taxes, which would be bad for lower income people.
Any alien civilization would have mastered the blockchain concept (and thought of it first).  That leaves us with the speed of light to get around in a galactic financial system. 
But consider the video above. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Government shutdown: what about the debt ceiling, about to be critical?

Well, members of Congress get paid, but TSA workers and soldiers and sailors don’t? 

Here is a rundown on how the shutdown affects “YOU”.  
This is more dangerous now, than ever.  North Korea is watching? 

For someone like me with a trust and beneficiaries, there is a remote chance in some cases that I could be expected to cover other people’s losses.  That is the responsibility that comes, however rarely, with “inherited wealth”. 
Nobody in the media has mentioned the debt ceiling, which needs attention NOW. 
Trump tweeted that Democrats spoiled by birthday party at Mar a Lago.  I haven’t been invited anyway. 
Update: Sunday Jan. 21

WJLA reports on a candlelight vigil by about 40 Dreamers on Sunday night at the Capitol, as reported by Kimberly Suters and Jim McRae video, link. . Antonio Juaregui speaks as one of the participants.  The crowd also wants to protect the parents (who did behave illegally).  The symbol is the ButterFly Wings. 

Update: Jan. 23.  

Oh, the shutdown ended for now.  But what about three weeks from now.  An immigration compromise seems far off

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Hawaii false alarm leads to conversations about missile defense, and not allowing Trump first strike use of nukes

Back to the days of “Duck and Cover” in the movie “The Atomic CafĂ©”? 

By now, everyone has heard about the false missile alarm in Hawaii, as detailed in the CNN story here. It was caused by one employee pressing a wrong button at change of shift, buy it took the state 38 minutes to get the message out.

So the next time there is a missile alert, I’ll assume it’s a false alarm. Seriously, I don’t want to survive a nuclear attack anyway. I would not belong in the world that remains.  So much for my own resilience.

There would logically have been a possibility that the missile was a DPRK test with no warhead.
But wouldn’t such a missile have been shot down?

Nothing less than 100% missile defense will do.  I wrote a missive "manifesto" on this Wednesday.  Three days later, we have an incident.

On CNN this morning, Rep. Tulsi Gappard from Hawaii, on the House Armed Services Committee, said that we have to face why we are under a nuclear threat from an unstable enemy.  In fact, it's conceivable that North Korea could have interpreted this as an impending pre-emptive strike.  It's also possible an early warning system could be hacked. 

This is a good place to mention HR 669, S220  ,  link , “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act”. 

I was most recently in Hawaii in 1980. 
By Spc. Jacob Kohrs - https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1072305, Public Domain, Link

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Trump's anti-immigration actions hurt employers; DACA might be saved by courts; Congress has a new bill

Vivian Yee (with Liz Robbins and Caitlin Dickerson) write about how the loss of immigrants, to the to the El Salvador situation and also if DACA is not renewed, will compromise many employers, especially those with construction projects, story, p. A14, New York Times, Wednesday  January 10, 2018, link
This could affect affordable housing and real estate sales and new projects.
However a federal judge in Louisiana stalled Trump’s suspension of DACA, at least for now, and it could wind up in the Supreme Court, taking pressure off Congress, given the complications of the Wall, keeping the government open, and debt ceiling.

It’s true that many immigrants take menial or unpleasant jobs Americans don’t want.  Try to imitate Morgan Spurlock picking oranges. 

Monday, January 08, 2018

Chicago area man forced to stop sheltering the homeless in his own basement

A man in Elgin, Ill opened his basement to homeless people, but the city made him stop, according to this New York Times story. Elgin is located 35 miles W of Chicago, near the Wisconsin line.
It wasn’t clear whether he owned the house or rented it.

The city said that this violated fire and safety codes as well as zoning.

A different question arises if he hosts an individual homeless family.  This happens with international asylum seekers but I have not heard about it with domestic homeless.
Although I did this once for three months in Dallas in the fall of 1980, after not taking a Cuban refugee from the Mariel boatlift. 

Update: January 12

The New York Times has a detailed story by Sarah Maslin about a businessman in Brooklyn who runs an "illegal" homeless shelter in the basement, here.

Update: January 16

Intellectual Takeout reports on a man being arrested feeding the homeless in El Cajun CA. 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

CDC will hold an event "Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation" on Jan 16 in Atlanta

U.S. News and World Report, and MSN News report that the CDC will hold a public meeting and apparently a webinar on January 16, 2018 from Atlanta on civil defense preparations for a nuclear attack. The long story is here.

The CDC’s event will be called “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation”, and it is very brief, link here.  But the CDC does say such a detonation is “unlikely”.

The CDC says people should say under cover for at least 24 hours after a detonation.

Nuclear war may be more survivable than a lot of us want to believe, as here bringing up moral thinking like Facebook’s “The Survival Mom”, as well as the prepper community.


But if nuclear war broke out in the Korean peninsula, officials would have a quandary on whether to evacuate major cities in the US.  Many people would refuse to go and would not want to survive. 

The presentation announcement recalls the "duck and cover" drills of the 1950s and films like "The Atomic Cafe". 

But concerns about possible nuclear detonations circulated after 9/11, as from the so-called "suitcase nukes".  

CDC has enjoyed a proxy for a source of "authority" on proper behavior after threats to the public, as in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. 
I don't recall any specific training on radiological hazards at Fort Jackson in Army Basic Combat Training in 1968. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

The calls for impeachment, or use of the 25th Amendment, get more serious; The Goldwater Rule?

Ezra Klein has done a major podcast and long essay on “The Case for Nomalizing Impeachment” and applying this case to Donald Trump. 

And a Yale psychiatrist has briefed members of Congress on Trump’s mental fitness, and shows some concern.


The biggest worry is his putting all Americans at unnecessary risk of nuclear attack from a North Korea that may be more capable than we had imagined.  But then again, we really don’t know.  

Foreign Policy (Matthew Kahn) gives a pretty good summary of the 25th Amendment here

On Saturday Ezra Klein wrote on Vox reports that this is an emergency (link). 

Yet Smerconish on 1/6 argued that the best crisis leaders are mentally unstable, and interviewed Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, author of "A First-Rate Madness"?  He also talked about the "Goldwater Rule". 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Louisiana "Shelter at Home" program doesn't work out too well after floods of 2016, 2017

The Houston Chronicle describes the “Shelter at Home” FEMA assistance program in Louisiana in 2016, as not too effective.  The program makes immediate partial repairs and waits a long time for complete repairs.

One problem is that it won’t work unless enough residents want to stay in place in one neighborhood and make it work.

The program has been tried with some modification in Houston.

But it is becoming increasingly difficult for people in the Gulf region to deal with the frequency and intensity of water damage.

The practical reality is that most homeowners have to be skilled in doing their own work. They were in West Virginia.

I most recently visited Baton Rogue in Feb. 2006. The city has a major film production center.