Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Federal Housing Policy "Making America Look Like America" - in a demographic way

The residents of Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota should see some changes if the federal government effort on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing gets really serious.

Based on census data the percentage of Black or African American persons in the U.S. as a whole is about 13%. However, in Wyoming it is only 1.7%, in Montana .6%, and in North Dakota 1.8%.

Clearly these states, among others, are not doing their fair share in
improving integrated living patterns and overcoming historic patterns of segregation; reducing racial and ethnic concentrations of poverty; reducing disparities by race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability in access to community assets such as education, transit access, and employment, as well as exposure to environmental health hazards and other stressors that harm a person’s quality of life; and responding to disproportionate housing needs by protected class.

Other states, like Mississippi, successfully have attracted larger shares of African American or Black population (Mississippi leads at 37%) than other states, which gives states like Mississippi a huge advantage in establishing integrated living patterns, etc - at least as far as one part of a protected class goes. I mean, poor Montana doesn't have enough protected class representatives to do any of the things suggested by HUD in the above-quoted paragraph.

Obviously, what is needed for every state with a Black/African American population above 13% to encourage out-migration to states that fall below that number. According to the chart found here, and state below that 13% need to encourage immigration.

Percentage of population self-reported as African-American by state in 2010:    less than 2 %    2–5 %    5–10 %    10–15 %    15–20 %    20–25 %    25–30 %    30–35 %    35–40 %

By my reading of the chart, only 16 states are above 13% in this population group and 34 are below. So those states that need to get busy are:
Rank Black/AfAm pop %of total pop
17 Ohio 1,407,681 12.04%
18 Texas 2,979,598 11.91%
19 Missouri 704,043 11.49%
20 Pennsylvania 1,377,689 10.79%
21 Connecticut 362,296 10.34%
22 Indiana 591,397 9.07%
23 Nevada 218,626 8.10%
24 Oklahoma 277,644 7.96%
25 Kentucky 337,520 7.71%
26 Massachusetts 434,398 7.02%
27 California 2,299,072 6.67%
28 Rhode Island 60,189 6.36%
29 Kansas 167,864 6.15%
30 Wisconsin 359,148 6.07%
31 Minnesota 274,412 4.57%
32 Nebraska 82,885 4.50%
33 Colorado 201,737 4.28%
34 Alaska 23,263 4.27%
35 Arizona 259,008 4.16%
36 Washington 240,042 3.74%
37 West Virginia 63,124 3.58%
38 Hawaii 21,424 3.08%
39 New Mexico 42,550 2.97%
40 Iowa 89,148 2.68%
41 Oregon 69,206 2.01%
42 Wyoming 4,748 1.29%
43 Utah 29,287 1.27%
44 New Hampshire 15,035 1.22%
45 South Dakota 10,207 1.14%
46 North Dakota 7,960 1.08%
47 Maine 15,707 1.03%
48 Idaho 9,810 0.95%
49 Vermont 6,277 0.87%
50 Montana 4,027 0.67%

States needing to encourage out-migration for "furthering fair housing" purposes:
1 Mississippi 1,074,200 37.30%
2 Louisiana 1,452,396 31.98%
3 Georgia 3,150,435 31.4%
4 Maryland 1,700,298 29.44%
5 South Carolina 1,290,684 28.48%
6 Alabama 1,251,311 26.38%
7 North Carolina 2,048,628 21.60%
8 Delaware 191,814 20.95%
9 Virginia 1,551,399 19.91%
10 Tennessee 1,055,689 16.78%
11 Florida 2,999,862 15.91%
12 Arkansas 449,895 15.76%
13 New York 3,073,800 15.18%
14 Illinois 1,866,414 14.88%
15 New Jersey 1,204,826 14.46%
16 Michigan 1,400,362 14.24%

Won't it be better when we're all equal? It could be just like  the way universities work admission numbers to make sure all students benefit from exposure to peoples of different races, creeds, etc.

In case you are wondering, I am not trying to single a group out except as already done by the U.S. Census Bureau because I figure HUD is doing exactly the same thing.

It is clear that we will need to move Hispanic/Latino populations around too, so that each state has its 17% that represents that groups percentage of U.S. total population. New Mexico, Arizona, Florida, and California are clearly states that need to encourage out-migration of Hispanic/Latinos and Maine, Kentucky, Ohio, and New Hampshire to pick up their recruiting efforts. See here.

We also have work to do with Asians, since they are over-represented in California, the Northeast and major urban areas.

While the statistics for LGBT are mostly estimates, it appears (see here) that Washington, DC needs to move some LGBT persons out so as to provide more opportunities for the rest of the country to get even (DC at 10%, almost everywhere else is about 4%).

Demographically speaking, of course.

Of course, there is always the problem of clearly identifying who is what. Does my grandchild, who is half Filipino and half Caucasian, count as Asian or as White (non-Hispanic)? Can a person self-identify? Are we back to the "one drop of blood" standard? It's all so confusing.

Who decides? What happens if people refuse to immigrate/emigrate to/from the appropriate state? Can or will HUD force migrations? Will they punish Wyoming if it fails to meet some quota set in Washington, D.C. to attract more Asians? Will they punish Mississippi if it fails to lower its African-American/Black population percentage? Is federal funding for New Hampshire in danger? Will they learn lessons from the Chinese Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution or the Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge? You know, pursuing goals that view citizens merely as numbers and not as individual human beings.

I mean, this stuff from the HUD sounds ominous:
Local governments and States that receive Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), and Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA), as well as public housing agencies (PHAs) are required to affirmatively further the purposes of the Fair Housing Act. To better facilitate this obligation, as well as address issues raised by the Government Accountability Office, HUD proposes an improved structure and process whereby HUD would provide these program participants with guidance, data, and an assessment template from which they would complete an assessment of fair housing (the AFH). This assessment would then linkvto Consolidated Plans, PHA Plans, and Capital Fund Plans, meaningfully informing resulting investments and related policies to affirmatively further fair housing.
Wait, you think some people might object to being forced to move to Wyoming to meet a HUD goal? Huh.

UPDATE: Of course, right after I posted this, it occurred to me that I had left out the discussion of how encouraging the movement of "white (non-Hispanic)" persons from states with low protected class representation could also achieve the goals of making the numbers work, too. So, for example, encouraging white New Hampshire residents to move to Mississippi would both raise the % of protected class groups in NH and lower the % of protected class groups in Mississippi.

See, it's really easy. I should go into government planning.

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Things to Avoid in the Wild - Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac

A quick series of videos about identifying and avoiding outdoor nuisances that probably won't kill you, but can make your life miserable.

And a nice written guide here.

Atlantic Poison Oak range
You might note that there is an East Coast form of poison oak which actually appears in a fairly large area as shown in the adjacent map.

Poison Sumac range
Poison sumac is not a concern in the Western U.S. but can be an issue in the East:

Western poison ivy
Poison ivy comes in two varieties, Western:

Western Poison Ivy Range

And Eastern:
Eastern PoisonIvy

Eastern Poison Ivy Range

One other plant to be wary of Rhododendron (and the Azalea) - not dangerous to the skin, but you can get very sick or even die if you cook food using branches from rhododendron plants as skewers.

If, in the event of a disaster, you plan to take to the woods, it is a good idea to know what plants you should avoid.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Caspian Sea: Oil Issues and Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan

Click on map to enlarge
So on yesterday's Midrats Episode 286: A Restless Russia and its Near Abroad with Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, we had a little discussion about the status of naval forces in the Caspian Sea (beginning about 44:37).

Claude Berube tweeted this morning about an article which described Azerbaijan's new Caspian Sea Naval Base.

Now, from the Oil and Gas Journal comes Iran yields to Russia in talks over Caspian resources:
Iranian acquiescence to Russia, to which the Islamic Repubic increasingly turns in response to pressure from the West, has become a standard feature of long-unresolved deliberations over jurisdiction and resource ownership in the Caspian Sea. Iran has surrendered its Soviet-era claim to half of the world's largest inland lake and has aligned itself with Russian insistence that countries lacking Caspian shorelines-especially from the West-stay out.
The status of the Caspian Sea fell into question with the demise of the Soviet Union. The three littoral republics that emerged from that change demanded larger shares of the Caspian than allotted to them by treaties negotiated in 1921 and 1940, which granted the former Soviet Union half of the sea and Iran the remainder.

Much is at stake. The Caspian Sea, usually referred to as the boundary mark between Asia and Europe is not only rich in oil and gas; it also produces more than 80% of the world's sturgeon. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the large South Caspian Basin became available to investment by western oil companies seeking exploration and production opportunities.

Caspian border countries all produce and export oil and natural gas, and all claim shares of Caspian resources. Azerbaijan is the hub for export of Caspian gas to western markets. Access to Caspian gas has been central to efforts by the European Union (EU) to diversify its members' gas purchases away from Russia.

International oil companies have been developing oil and gas in the deep basin of the Caspian Sea since the region became accessible to outside investment about 2 decades ago. The formation of Azerbaijan International Operating Co. opened a new era for development. The 1994 signing of the contract known as the "Contract of the Century," as US Sec. of Energy Samuel Bodman called it, allowed Azerbaijan oil to reach global markets for the first time a decade later via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline.

Throughout this new era, Russia has tried to steer movement of Caspian oil and gas through its territory to keep control of the region's transport infrastructure. In 2005, more than two thirds of all crude oil exported from the Caspian moved through the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), operated by Russia. By 2010, Russia's share of Caspian oil transport had fallen below 40%.
The whole article requires a subscription, but what I've put up does give a sense of why there is a naval build up in the area.

More from that article Claude referenced:
In Azerbaijan's case it is particularly worried about Iran, with whom it has had a number of minor incidents. In the longer term it is worried about Russia, which strongly opposes the construction of a trans-Caspian gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, which Baku in principle supports. Russia also has tried to get all the littoral states to restrict the militaries of outside powers (meaning, the U.S.) from getting involved on the Caspian, which Baku has pushed back on. Nevertheless, Russia and Azerbaijan are slated to carry out their first-ever joint naval exercises in September.
For a change, the U.S. probably won't send a fleet to the area . . .

EPA Overreaches, SCOTUS says, "Not so fast"

NY Times reports as Supreme Court Blocks Obama’s Limits on Power Plants
Industry groups and some 20 states challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to regulate the emissions, saying the agency had failed to take into account the punishing costs its regulations would impose.

The Clean Air Act required the regulations to be “appropriate and necessary.” The challengers said the agency had run afoul of that law by deciding to regulate the emissions without first undertaking a cost-benefit analysis.

The agency responded that it was not required to take costs into account when it made the initial determination to regulate. But the agency added that it did so later in setting emissions standards and that, in any event, the benefits far outweighed the costs.

The two sides had very different understandings of the costs and benefits involved. Industry groups said the government had imposed annual costs of $9.6 billion to achieve about $6 million in benefits. The agency said the costs yielded tens of billions of dollars in benefits.
Wait - a cost-benefit analysis? Who'd a thunk it?

You can read the opinion here. From the Court's Syllabus:
Even under the deferential standard of Chevron U. S. A. Inc.v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, which directs courts to
accept an agency’s reasonable resolution of an ambiguity in a statute that the agency administers, id., at 842–843, EPA strayed well beyond the bounds of reasonable interpretation in concluding that cost is not a factor relevant to the appropriateness of regulating power plants.
From the opinion, the EPA got hoist by its own petard:
EPA concluded that “costs should not be considered” when
deciding whether power plants should be regulated under §7412. Id., at 9326.

In accordance with Executive Order, the Agency issued a “Regulatory Impact Analysis” alongside its regulation. This analysis estimated that the regulation would force power plants to bear costs of $9.6 billion per year. Id., at 9306. The Agency could not fully quantify the benefits of reducing power plants’ emissions of hazardous air pollutants; to the extent it could, it estimated that these benefits were worth $4 to $6 million per year. Ibid. The costs to power plants were thus between 1,600 and 2,400 times as great as the quantifiable benefits from reduced emissions of hazardous air pollutants. The Agency continued that its regulations would have ancillary benefits—including cutting power plants’ emissions of particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, substances that are not covered by the hazardous-air-pollutants program. Although the Agency’s appropriate-and-necessary finding did not rest on these ancillary effects, id., at 9320, the regulatory impact analysis took them into account, increasing the Agency’s estimate of the quantifiable benefits of its regulation to $37 to $90 billion per year, id., at 9306. EPA concedes that the regulatory impact analysis “played no role” in its appropriate-and-necessary finding. Brief for Federal Respondents 14
Two quick points: (1) I'm not saying that power plants should not ever be subject to controls- that would be foolish and (2)  standards need to make sense and the EPA has had history of imposing regulations that serve mostly to raise the price of energy to consumers, who, ultimately pay the price for any regulation as the utilities pass it on them. So it boils down to how much additional tax are you willing to pay for marginal decreases in environmental threats?

Oh, and those white plumes you see coming from the stack of power plant? Mostly steam. Yes - hot water.

A New Generation of Fighter Aircraft Engines?

Aviation Week reports GE Advances Future Fighter Engine
Development of revolutionary engines at GE Aviation is setting the stage for the next 50 years in military aircraft propulsion, engineers there believe.
The engine can adapt in flight to give maximum thrust or long-range cruise, while a third stream of air will cool both the engine and the aircraft’s systems, explains Jean Lydon-Rodgers, vice president and general manager of GE Aviation’s military systems.
“The sixth-generation fighter engine is a big piece of the future of the business. That’s why we’re investing heavily in it,” says Lydon-Rodgers.

That investment also involves materials including ceramic matrix composites and titanium aluminides, and techniques such as additive manufacturing, to make the engines lighter and more robust while running hotter and providing more power. The military engines are benefitting from GE’s huge investment in such materials and manufacturing readiness for its next generation of commercial engines, which helps keep the costs down for the warfighter, she says.

Innovation! More range for fighters? Will this allow aircraft carriers greater stand-off range and improve our maritime security? Sure sounds like it.

Let me recommend again Vaclav Smil's Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines, now available for Kindle:
What makes it possible for us to move billions of tons of raw materials and manufactured goods from continent to continent? Why are we able to fly almost anywhere on the planet within twenty-four hours? In Prime Movers of Globalization, Vaclav Smil offers a history of two key technical developments that have driven globalization: the high-compression non-sparking internal combustion engines invented by Rudolf Diesel in the 1890s and the gas turbines designed by Frank Whittle and Hans-Joachim Pabst von Ohain in the 1930s. The massive diesel engines that power cargo ships and the gas turbines that propel jet engines, Smil argues, are more important to the global economy than any corporate structure or international trade agreement.

Friday, June 26, 2015

On Midrats 28 June 15- Episode 286: A Restless Russia and its Near Abroad with Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg

Please join us at 5pm Eastern Daylight Time (U.S.) for Midrats Episode 286: A Restless Russia and its Near Abroad with Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg:
It is time to catch up with Putin's Russia, her domestic developments, involvement in Ukraine, and the changes she is forcing on border nations and the near abroad.

To discuss this and more, for the full hour we will have returning guest Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Analyst, CNA Strategic Studies, an Associate at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, an author, and host of the Russian Military Reform blog.

Dr. Gorenburg focuses his research on security issues in the former Soviet Union, Russian military reform, Russian foreign policy, ethnic politics and identity, and Russian regional politics. He is also the editor of the journals Problems of Post-Communism and Russian Politics and Lawand a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project. From 2005 through 2010, he was the Executive Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also pick the show up later from our iTunes page.

Friday Fun Film: "Overcoming Fear (1950)"

It's summertime and in summer school when the teacher has a sick day, the substitute trots out the Coronet Film to teach valuable life lessons - or to fill up a few minutes of the day.

This film does have a valuable lesson - that fear of doing something can hold us back and that admitting that fear is the first step in moving ahead. Anyway, enjoy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center

It's summer and a good time to know more about the NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center
About the SPC

SPC Mission

The Storm Prediction Center maintains a high-achieving staff using innovative science and technology to deliver timely and accurate watch and forecast products/information dealing with tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, lightning, wildfires, and winter weather for the United States to protect lives and property.

SPC Vision

The trusted source for the prediction of tornadoes and other high-impact hazardous weather.

SPC Unique Value Proposition

SPC national products and services for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are an essential source of information for the protection of life and property.


The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) is part of the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). Our mission is to provide timely and accurate forecasts and watches for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes over the contiguous United States. The SPC also monitors hazardous winter weather and fire weather events across the U.S. and issues specific products for those hazards. We use the most advanced technology and scientific methods available to achieve this goal.***
Really, this is a great site.

The best way to learn what's there is to go play around with it. Click here

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day

Carl Sandburg:
A Father To His Son

A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
"Life is hard; be steel; be a rock."
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
"Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy."
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.

Thanks, Dad. You were the best. I hope a little of what you taught me has been passed along to your grandchildren.

Saturday, June 20, 2015