Rich Californians complaining that they aren’t getting federal disaster money from Donald the Cruel

My Facebook feed has been alive for weeks with Californians complaining that the Great Father in Washington does not love them and therefore is not showering them with federal disaster relief cash despite their worse-than-usual fire season.

(As with many complaints about Trump, emotions may be more important than facts. The Great Father actually declared a disaster in California and approved federal aid last month: “California Wildfires Burn Million Acres; Trump OKs Disaster Aid” (VOA, August 22))

Suppose that Trump had not approved federal aid for the richer-than-average state. The fire are upsetting, yes, and sometimes tragic. And of course we can all sympathize with anyone who has lost a loved one or a home. However, in light of their own cherished values, third and thirdmost of which is fighting inequality (avoiding COVID-19 and BLM being #1 and #2, of course), should Californians even ask for aid? California is a rich state with 40 million people. Why does it need to be bailed out by lower-middle-class taxpayers in Arkansas, Indiana, Maine, and Kentucky? Why not use state funds to assist those who have been affected by the fires?

The standard Righteous Californian response to this on Facebook is that he/she/ze/they believes that there is already at least some wealth redistribution from California to lower-income states. Perhaps there is, but California remains much richer than average. So if we hate inequality (and of course I hope that everyone does), this redistribution should be intensified, not reversed via emergency relief funds. Californians should be able to tax themselves, e.g., with an income surtax, a car registration tax, a higher gasoline tax, or a statewide property tax, to buy whatever they want, including disaster relief for those who have us suffered this fire season.

Another issue with taxing low-income folks in the Midwest to buy things for rich people in California is that Californians seem to change their minds regarding infrastructure. Federal taxpayers paid for a jet-capable airport in Santa Monica, for example, and Californians then decided to destroy it. Why should a worker in Iowa pay to protect some rich Californians’ infrastructure if the rich Californians may later decide that they didn’t even want that infrastructure?

Readers: How can it make sense for those who decry inequality to demand federal funds for a state that is much richer than average? (Above, the Golden Gate Bridge, whose most recent federal bailout was $30.2 million in May. Thus, low-income taxpayers in New Mexico and West Virginia get to subsidize the owners of brand-new Teslas and Mercedes SUVs as they glide across to their Marin estates.)


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California: Masks will stop a viral epidemic, but won’t help with smoke

“Bay Area smoke: To breathe safely, stay inside and don’t count on masks” (Mercury News):

Don’t count on masks to help with bad air, experts say

But people shouldn’t expect much protection from the bandanas or surgical masks they have become accustomed to wearing in public to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Experts also caution against relying on the more sought-after N95 respirator masks because they are in short supply.

With wildfire smoke, microscopic soot particles, about 2.5 microns in size, can be inhaled and cause inflammation, explained John Balmes, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, in an article published on the university’s website.

There also is concern that poor air quality from the wildfires could increase the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. Dr. Stephanie Christenson, an assistant professor of pulmonology at UC San Francisco, said this concern is based on preliminary research linking air pollution to increased COVID-19 susceptibility, severity and death.

Because of the pandemic, people should continue to wear cloth and surgical masks in public, because they block respiratory droplets and help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Christenson said. Unfortunately, these masks don’t block out the “very, very small” toxic particles from wildfire smoke, she said.

So the coronavirus is smaller than 2.5 microns?

Back in February, in “Can Masks Capture Coronavirus Particles?”, our big enemy was “spheres with diameters of approximately 0.125 microns (125 nm). The smallest particles are 0.06 microns, and the largest are 0.14 microns.”

As of July, the coronavirus was still 0.125 microns in size, according to “Can HEPA Air Purifiers Capture the Coronavirus?” (Wirecutter).

The McKinsey folks responsible for Enron’s success, in “Can HVAC systems help prevent the transmission of COVID-19?”, describe humans being victimized by particles as small as 0.1 microns.

Science tells us that masks are useless against smoke particles that are 2.5 microns in size and also that masks will stop a 0.125-micron coronaplague dead in its tracks. #FollowScience !

(From the New York Times, the progress of coronavirus in a state under a universal mask order and blessed with science-informed leadership:


See also the higher rates of coronavirus infections in masked U.S. and France compared to never-masked Sweden and barely-masked Netherlands:

From Bar Harbor, Maine:


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Middle class Californians pay for all Tesla owners’ electricity

“Top Seventeen Surprises From The First Year Of Driving A Tesla EV” (Forbes):

I was amazed when my electricity bill went down after I got the car, rather than up. This is because in California, EV owners get access to a special electricity pricing plan that is much cheaper at night and more expensive in the afternoons. Charging the car at night is of course a win, but I also moved things like pumping the pool to the night, and so the overall bill dropped. And of course my gasoline bill went to zero for this car.

In other words, Californians who struggle to pay rising rents and afford a 10-year-old Ford Focus pay the rich guy’s electric bill, at least for his Tesla and also for part of the pool pump. What better way to fight inequality?

(In Massachusetts, no similar deal is available and thus it costs about the same to buy “fuel” for Tesla, per mile, as it does to fuel an efficient gasoline-powered car of the same size.)

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Moving the California homeless (slightly) offshore

California official floats a new idea: House homeless on a cruise ship” (USA Today) ties into some of my favorite themes:

If cruise ships could be used as emergency housing in natural disasters, maybe they could be used to help in Oakland’s emergency: homelessness.

The housing crisis in the city that sits across the bay from San Francisco has resulted in a surge of tent encampments across city sidewalks, under freeway overhangs and in public parks. By the latest count, more than 4,000 people are experiencing homelessness in the city of just over 400,000, up 47% in just two years.

After Kaplan floated the cruise ship idea, it didn’t take long for word to spread. She says she’s already been contacted by cruise ship companies and is planning to present a fully fledged proposal that could add up to 1,000 on-board beds to the council early next year.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush came under fire after Hurricane Katrina for fast-tracking a $236 million contract to Carnival Cruise Lines – a big GOP donor – only to house a handful of victims. After evacuees opted for on-land options over the cruise ship cabins, rooms sat empty for weeks.

Former California Rep. Henry Waxman called the incident a “boondoggle” in a letter to Bush sent in 2006, highlighting that for the $240,000 it cost taxpayers to shelter each family the federal government could have built them permanent homes.

I’m waiting for the California social justice advocate who says “As long as they’re on a ship, maybe we could pay some other country to take them in…”


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Californians paralyzed by Trump hatred

“Can You Still #Resist When Your State’s on Fire?” (nytimes) is an interesting window into the thinking of the West Coast Righteous:

There’s something about the situation here this season that seems like a stage set for the current political moment: fires raging, a giant company, PG&E, responsible for so much of the death and destruction; the incredible salaries and compensation of that company’s executives, the huge shareholder dividends; the company’s decision to create giant blackouts for millions of people, presumably while it fixes the negligence that caused the problem in the first place. And all this, with 59,000 people living homeless in Los Angeles. This is the apocalyptic backdrop against which, it seems to many of us here, President Trump is trying to destroy the planet in so many ways. Of course, the builders of this set predate the Trump administration, but the script playing out on the set — the underlying themes and angles and shots — fits well with his direction.

One way to make sure the homeless don’t end up starting fires might be to house them, which Los Angeles has not figured out how to do.

Meanwhile, all my neighbors are in the “resistance” against Mr. Trump and his policies.

Or putting together events in their backyards to fund-raise for various Democratic candidates and for important causes like reproductive rights, climate change initiatives, homeless housing and criminal justice reforms.

All of the problems mentioned by the author are ones that can be addressed without interacting with the federal government and the hated Trumpenfuhrer. California can build apartments for those currently homeless, run new power lines, pay people $10,000 for each abortion that they want to have (“reproductive rights”; note that selling an abortion privately in California can be substantially more lucrative), and open its prisons (“criminal justice reforms”).

[Note that California state prisons hold roughly half as many prisons as the federal government holds nationwide. These 115,000 victims of an unreformed criminal justice system are guarded by folks who earn more than Harvard graduates at a cost that exceeds tuition, room, and board at Harvard.]

Yet instead of getting together to create state programs to solve all of the problems that they say they’re concerned about (voting to tax themselves as necessary to pay for the new programs), Californians invest their time and energy complaining about a guy who is 3,000 miles away.

Tom Steyer, the billionaire running for the Democratic presidential nomination currently, is a good example of this way of thinking. He’s pledged to give half of his money to charity (i.e., he’s pledged not to pay state or federal tax on half of the money he has earned). Why wouldn’t he instead build some apartment buildings in California and give away half the units to those currently homeless?


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Shanghai has already accomplished what will take Californians more than 4 years

I’m planning a trip to Shanghai, November 13-24.

From the Okura Garden web site:

In accordance with the Shanghai municipal environment regulations, unless requested by staying hotel guest, the hotel no longer proactively provides single-use toiletry amenities such as toothbrush, comb, razor, nail file and shoe mitt from July 1st, 2019. If you have further inquiry please contact the hotel’s guest services.

I think this proves my theory that it will be the Chinese who will save Planet Earth. Californians will need until 2024 to achieve this goal (previous post).

Separately, who wants to get together in Shanghai, Suzhou, or Hangzhou?

What about hotels? Okura Garden comes up as “best value” in the booking engines. Is it better to stay right on the Bund? I will be visiting NYU Shanghai across the river, but mostly hitting all of the tourist sites, museums, etc.

(Airfares to China show the absurd lack of competition for domestic travel. The basic fare plus tax from Boston to Shanghai, 14+ hours of flight time, is $590 (United, with a connection) or $640 (Hainan, nonstop).)

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California blackouts part of a Jewish holiday?

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot ended yesterday. If the California power blackouts also end, that will add evidence to my theory that someone at PG&E wanted to help Californians celebrate Sukkot, a big part of which involves eating outdoors by candlelight. Without a power cut, how many Californians would be motivated to evacuate their comfortable air-conditioned conveniently lighted homes?

From My Jewish Learning:

Another reason may be, that it should remind us of the long wanderings of our forefathers in the depths of the desert, when at every halting-place they spent many a year in tents. And indeed it is well in wealth to remember your poverty, in distinction your insignificance, in high offices your position as a commoner, in peace your dangers in war, on land the storms on sea, in cities the life of loneliness. For there is no pleasure greater than in high prosperity to call to mind old misfortunes.

Remembering the Less Fortunate
The last reason for sitting in the sukkah is my own, although I’m sure someone has said it before. By sitting in a flimsy sukkah, exposed to sun and wind (and in some places, rain and snow!), we are reminded of those less fortunate than ourselves. Precisely at harvest time when we thank God for the bounty he has given us, we must remember to share it with the poor and the hungry.

The world is more interesting when correlation does imply causation!

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We are in a climate emergency, but Californians can wait 3-4 years

Nobody can accuse Californians of being slackers when it comes to tackling the climate change emergency: “California bans hotels from using tiny plastic bottles” (USA Today).

When does the planet-saving ban take effect?

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday he had signed a law banning hotels from giving guests plastic bottles filled with shampoo, conditioner or soap. It takes effect in 2023 for hotels with more than 50 rooms and 2024 for hotels with less than 50 rooms.

Violators could be fined $500 for a first offense and $2,000 for subsequent violations.

So it will be 3-4 years before (a) hotels have to go to CVS and buy some Softsoap and shampoo with a pump, and (b) people can apply for government jobs (with health care and pension!) inspecting and fining hotels that are filled with hate for Planet Earth.

If we’re in an emergency situation and hotels don’t typically stock more than a few months of supplies, why wouldn’t the ban take effect sooner than 2023-2024?


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