Monthly Archives: May 2021

California’s Water Crisis

Global Climate Change affects every part of the United States.  In California, there are two major climate-change consequences: ferocious wildfires and drought.  When I lived in a city (Berkeley) i felt somewhat immune from these problems.  Now that I live in the country (West Sonoma County) the impact is more obvious.  This year we’re having a water crisis.

When we bought our rural property, we didn’t think much about our water supply.  We had a well and all our neighbors had wells.  Then, several summers ago, we learned that some of our neighbors’ wells had failed and they were having water trucked in.

The water situation in California is VERY complicated, but millions of Golden-State families rely upon groundwater wells and, this summer, many of these are drying up.  (Roughly one-third of California’s 40 million residents rely upon groundwater for their household needs.)  This is happening throughout the state but is most critical in the eastern part of the Central valley — roughly the area that extends from Sacramento to Bakersfield.

The two-thirds of Californians that do not rely upon groundwater for their personal needs, have access to systems that redeploy surface water; that is, water systems that capture rain water and distribute it from one of California’s ten drainage basins — Sonoma County utilizes water from the “North Coast” system.  This year, because of subnormal rainfall, these drainage basins are all severely below capacity.

Historically, the northern part of California is much wetter than the south: “75 percent of California’s available water is in the northern third of the state (north of Sacramento), while 80 percent of the urban and agricultural water demands are in the southern two-thirds of the state… California has more irrigated acreage than any other state, thanks to massive water projects that include dams, reservoirs, aqueducts and canals to deliver water to users, especially in the central and southern portions of the state.” (https://www.watereducation.org/photo-gallery/california-water-101 )  Southern California also gets significant water from the Colorado River.  In addition, San Diego County gets water from the massive Carlsbad Desalination plant.

Earlier this month, California Governor Gavin Newsom extended emergency drought orders to 41 counties across the golden state; 73 percent of the state falls into the most serious drought categories: “severe” or “extreme.”  2020-21 rainfall was lower than expected, particularly in the northern part of the state.  On April 1, the date when the snow is normally deepest, statewide snowpack was just 59 percent of the historical average.  Particularly in the north, reservoirs are much lower than normal.

There are (at least) four aspects of California’s water crisis:

1.Failing public water systems: Even before the 2020-21 drought, a California Water Board study (https://www.ppic.org/blog/a-look-at-californias-safe-and-affordable-drinking-water-gaps/?) found “a funding gap of $4.6 billion to resolve safe drinking water problems over the next five years… The study assessed public water systems currently out of compliance, public systems at risk, and communities served by very small systems, domestic wells, and tribal systems. Among the publicly regulated systems, we found that 326 were failing and 617 were at risk of failing.. Many of the state’s troubled systems are concentrated in the San Joaquin Valley,” This finding indicates that groundwater-based systems are failing; particularly in the eastern part of the state.

2. Depleted reservoirs.  A recent survey found that California’s reservoirs are currently at 50 percent of their rated capacity.  ( https://engaging-data.com/ca-reservoir-dashboard/)  (And 64 percent of their historic capacity at the end of May.)  This situation is particularly troubling for the big reservoirs in Northern California.  For example, the mammoth Shasta reservoir is at 44 percent of capacity (and 51 percent of its historic capacity for the end of May.)

3. Over-taxed rivers.  Although much of California’s agricultural needs are are served by wells — roughly 50 percent — and water transported via aqueducts and canals, a substantial amount is water deployed from rivers.  The largest rivers within California (Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Russian) are severely depleted.  The Sacramento Bee (https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/water-and-drought/article251654333.html#storylink=cpy) reported: “The federal government Wednesday said municipal water agencies that belong to the Central Valley Project will receive just 25% of their allocations, down from the previously announced 55%.”

To make things worse, the Colorado River — which provides water to Southern California — is nearing historic lows. (https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/27/weather/lake-mead-colorado-river-shortage/index.html )

4. Conflicting water rights: During periods of drought, the ancient California bugaboo — water rights — reemerges.  In many areas of the state, there are conflicting claims to groundwater — particularly rivers which historically have been oversubscribed.  (It’s estimated that portions of the San Joaquin River have been oversubscribed by 800 percent.)  This situation leads to hostile disputes and, occasionally, violence.  (https://www.alternet.org/2021/05/bundy/ )

Bottom line: This summer is going to see a severe water crisis in California.  Some areas of the state are going to see water consumption cut to 25 percent of normal.  This situation is going to impact all aspects of the state’s economy, particularly agriculture.

No Depression in Heaven

1.
Hard times
Sometimes you see ’em coming
Sometimes they catch you unaware
Sneak around in darkness
Lie in wait beneath the stair.

Hard times
Can take your measure
Tax your strength and wit
Make sure you pay attention
Prove you got some grit.

2.
Da Blues
Will pile it on
Leave ya broken hearted
Open up old wounds
Memories of dear departed.

Da Blues
Just won’t let you be
They hang round yer door
So, stay away Mistah Blues
Don’t come ’round here no more.

3.
Blue skies
and green lights
Nothin’ but blue skies do I see
Everything going be alright
Since my baby come back to me.

Blue skies
From now on
Ain’t gonna look back
Just keep trucking’ on
Down that heavenly track.

When Will America Get Back to Work?

One year ago, as it became clear the United States was in the throes of a devastating pandemic, we lost 21 million jobs. Now we’re recovering from Covid-19 but workers aren’t rushing back to full employment at the pace economists expected. What’s happening?

In retrospect, while the pandemic had a devastating impact on the US economy, it affected some Americans more than others.  For example, the wealthy and well-connected fared better than the less fortunate. (https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/california/california-revenues-soar-as-rich-get-richer-during-pandemic/2479807/ )  If you were a lawyer, with a good Internet connection, you were more able to work from home than was an agricultural worker.  As another example, some business sectors — such as leisure and hospitality — lost jobs while others — such as communications — stayed close to steady state.

At the moment, the economy appears to be recovering — the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported: “Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021.”  On the other hand, workers have not reentered the labor force at the rate anticipated — Reuters ( https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-job-growth-far-below-expectations-april-amid-labor-shortages-2021-05-07/) noted: “U.S. job growth unexpectedly slowed in April, likely curbed by shortages of workers and raw materials… Nonfarm payrolls increased by only 266,000 jobs last month… That left employment 8.2 million jobs below its peak in February 2020.”

As one would expect — in a deeply polarized country — there’s a Republican explanation for what’s happening and a Democratic explanation.  The Republican explanation is that Biden-Administration unemployment policies have disincentivized workers from actively seeking jobs.  That is to say, Republicans view the “hesitant” workers as “welfare chiselers;” folks who are inherently lazy and would rather stay at home, collect unemployment benefits, and “do nothing.”

Recently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged the government to scrap the weekly unemployment subsidy.  Politico (https://www.politico.com/news/2021/05/14/labor-shortage-companies-hiring-488200 ) reports: “At least 14 states, including North Dakota, Alabama and South Carolina, have moved to cut off enhanced federal jobless benefits that were supposed to last until September. Florida is among roughly 30 states reinstating a requirement that the unemployed prove they are looking for work to receive state benefits. Montana is offering return-to-work bonuses to unemployment recipients who accept a job offer.”  Writing in Alternet,  Isaac J. Bailey (https://www.alternet.org/2021/05/reagan-era-myth/? ) wrote: “An increasing number of Republican governors have decided to scale back enhanced unemployment benefits.  They claim that it’s necessary, that it’s the only way to get those who have been receiving benefits through this pandemic to go back to work. In short, those governors, along with conservative economists, have convinced themselves the working poor would rather be on the dole than man hot kitchens, wait on tables or stand on their bunions for several hours a day in retail settings to earn poverty wages.”

The Biden Administration resists this approach (https://www.reuters.com/business/white-house-jobs-report-shows-long-way-go-economic-recovery-2021-05-07/): “‘It’s clear that there are people who are not ready and able to go back into the labor force,’ Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters, citing parents whose children are still learning remotely. “‘ don’t think the addition to unemployment compensation is really the factor that is making a difference.'”

Liberal economists suggest that the problem is elemental: employers want workers to retake the jobs they held, before the pandemic, at the same wages they were paid then.  EPI economist Heidi Shierholz (https://www.epi.org/blog/u-s-labor-shortage-unlikely-heres-why/ ) observed: “I often suggest that whenever anyone says, ‘I can’t find the workers I need,’ she should really add, “at the wages I want to pay.’”  She continued: “The footprint of a bona fide labor shortage is rising wages. Employers who truly face shortages of suitable, interested workers will respond by bidding up wages to attract those workers, and employers whose workers are being poached will raise wages to retain their workers, and so on…  And right now, wages are not growing at a rapid pace… Unsurprisingly, at a recent press conference, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell dismissed anecdotal claims of labor market shortages, saying, ‘We don’t see wages moving up yet. And presumably we would see that in a really tight labor market.’”

The Democratic view is that workers are hesitant to return because of a variety of structural issues — for example, the hesitant workers are mothers who have been caring for their children who, because for Covid=19, could not go to school or daycare.  In an interview with Mother Jones, economist Heidi Shierholz (https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/05/you-dont-need-to-freak-out-about-labor-shortages/? ) noted: “There’s evidence that points to other things that may be going on [that account for labor shortages]. We know that more than a quarter of schools were still closed to in-person learning in April. One of the things we saw in the April data is that… the disappointing job growth in April was caused by an increase in job separations, basically layoffs and quits.  The increase in layoffs and quits was driven entirely by women. That points to another cause, given that women still shoulder the lion’s share of care responsibilities in the home. I think health concerns are still a big issue as well. With the distribution of the vaccine, that’s going down, but there are still lots of people who have serious, legitimate health concerns about returning to work.”

When informed of the disappointing jobs report, President Biden said: “Today’s report just underscores, in my view, how vital the actions we’re taking are — checks to people who are hurting, support for small businesses, for child care and school reopening, support to help families put food on the table.”  Biden added the report is indicative of the long-term nature of the economic recovery, saying he expects improvement to be “a marathon,” rather than a “sprint.”

Americans are going back to work carefully.  And demanding a living wage.

Kathy in the Hot Tub

As the morning fog glides over Coleman Valley
Kathy initiates the ablutions ritual
Strides across the redwood deck
Slips into the hot tub.

Our dogs rush to their posts
Milou stands guard
Belle sashays around the tub
Periodically kissing Kathy’s neck.

Kathy flips on the jacuzzi jets
Floats on her back
Covered in foam
Except for her angelic face and perfect nipples.

What Happens Next?

Six months have passed since the fateful November 3rd presidential election.  Here are the BB predictions for the next six months.

1.Coronavirus Pandemic: There’s good news and bad news.  The good news is that the CDC just loosened the mask guidelines for those of us who have been vaccinated.  By mid-summer the region where I live — San Francisco Bay area — will likely have achieved herd immunity; that is, more than 80 percent of the adult population will have been vaccinated.  The bad news is that significant parts of the US will not reach these vaccination levels and, most likely, will never reach them.

Our local experts ( https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/2021-05-herd-immunity-California-Bay-Area-16148134.php) now believe that the State of California will reach herd immunity right around June 15th — the goal set by Governor Newsom for “reopening” the state.  The experts explained that California is ahead of the rest of the nation because we have a lower incidence of “vaccine hesitancy:” “About 30% of Americans on average are reluctant to get vaccinated, but the number is lower in California, with an estimated 10% to 15% of Golden State residents vaccine hesitant, according to data from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. Studies have shown that people who identify as Republican are less likely to get vaccinated than Democrats, and vaccine hesitancy in California is generally higher in red counties, according to the department.”

Our experts feel that it will take several years before the United States reaches herd immunity — because of vaccine hesitancy, new virus variants, and global travel patterns.  This means travel will continue to be restricted as well as participation in large events.

Political consequences: As long as the U.S. continues to make progress overcoming the pandemic, this bodes well for the Biden Administration.  In California, given that the golden state reopens on June 15th, this progress bodes well for Governor Newsom — the recall effort was already a long shot (The latest polls (https://calmatters.org/commentary/2021/04/california-newsom-recall-poll/ ) find that just 36 percent of California residents favor recalling Newsom.)

2.Donald Trump: For Democrats, the past six months has been positive — Joe Biden has done a good job, is popular, and has the nation headed out of the abyss. For Republicans, the past six months have — once again — been about Donald Trump.

After Trump’s 7-million vote election loss, the January 6th insurrection, and his second impeachment trial, the Republican Party split.  An April NBC News poll (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/20690434-210098-nbc-news-april-poll-4-25-21-release) found that Trump’s approval had slipped to 32 percent (21 percent very positive and 11 percent somewhat positive).  In this poll, for the first time, more Republicans saw themselves as supporters of the GOP (50 percent) rather than as supporters of Trump (44 percent).  It’s hard to gauge the size of this split, but the intra-Party debate about the role of GOP leader Liz Cheney indicates that a substantial number of Republicans no longer want Trump to lead their Party — probably not a majority, somewhere in the vicinity of 33 percent.  (This estimate aligns with polls (https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/11/politics/voting-restrictions-analysis/index.html ) that indicate around 70 percent of Republicans feel the 2020 election was “stolen” from Donald Trump.}

Trump is down but not yet out.  He has lost his social media presence — he’s banned from Twitter and Facebook and has yet to create a replacement.  This has had two consequences: first, the DT “thought of the day” is not as omnipresent as it once was.  Second, Trump’s fundraising is not as effective as it was — nonetheless, DT’s political action committee is sitting on a reserve of about $85 million.

Political Consequences: For the moment, DT runs (most of) the Republican Party.  That’s a problem for the GOP because Trump is unpopular with the general electorate, is no longer an effective social-media presence, and is headed for a set of messy legal problems.  Hmm.  Seems like Republicans are “hoist on their own petard.”

3. The Big Lie: The recent CNN poll indicates that about 30 percent of voters (70 percent of Republican voters) believe that Joe Biden was unlawfully elected.  Trump, and his Republican cohorts, have succeeded in spreading the big lie.

In the last decade, the Republican Party hasn’t had much of a policy agenda, they’ve mostly been concerned with social issues.  During Trump’s reign their agenda consisted of build the wall, cut taxes, and repeal Obamacare.  In 2021, their agenda has been further simplified: don’t cooperate with anything proposed by the Biden Administration — because Biden has unlawfully elected — and inhibit the votes of everyone other than Republicans.

Most Republicans legislators have accepted his big lie and moved forward with voter suppression.  Ten states — including Arizona, Florida, and Georgia have pushed through new laws to make it more difficult to vote. ( https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/553012-controversial-voting-laws-add-to-democrats-midterm-obstacles) “I think we need to state the purpose: Republican politicians are using lies about the 2020 election to pass voter suppression laws that they think will hand their party power,” said Jena Griswold, the secretary of state in Colorado and the chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State.

Although the intent of the Republican legislators is to diminish Democratic votes, some of the measures may deplete Republican votes — for example, new laws making it more difficult to cast absentee ballots will inhibit the votes of GOP seniors.  In addition, the new voter-suppression legislation has been subjected to dozens of lawsuits.

Political Consequences: Unclear.  It’s undemocratic to make it more difficult to vote but Republicans don’t care. The GOP problem is that this is not a broadly popular message and doesn’t serve as an effective alternative to the Biden/Democrat agenda.

Summary:  Hmm.  Republicans have sold out to Trump and he’s about to go down bigly.  The GOP seems to be headed over the falls.  Meanwhile, don’t expect bipartisanship.  Biden needs to hold a steady course.

Love Limericks


A poet named Bob
Wrote love poems on the job
He sent one to Twitter
The cultural transmitter
And soon became a heartthrob.

A poet named Marylu
Was forced to write in a shoe
At first was sublime
But after a time
Alas, her antipathy grew.

A poet named Pat
Pulled a folksong right out of his hat
It was surprising gentle
sweet, shy, sentimental
If it hadn’t ended with “scat.”

A poet named “Liz”
At note taking turned into a whiz
She conceived of a poem
Just so she could show ’em
But ended up writing a quiz.

A poet named Dianne
Built a fountain quite grand
It was covered with love
When the heavens above
Decided to give her a hand.

A poet named Sara
Meandered across the Sahara
At first she was homeless
Then found herself poemless (!)
Feared ’twas the end of an era.

A Greek poet named Sappho
Plumbed the depths of love’s sargasso
Was she gay or straight?
At this point it’s too late
She’s snared our hearts with her lasso.

An English poet named Will
Wrote sonnets that gave us a thrill
He dazzled us with verse
We continue to rehearse
Whose meaning we strive to distill.

An American poet named Billy
Had a sense of humor quite silly
His mind was quite agile
though his images fragile
And infected us like some bacilli.

An American poet named Emily
Wrote cryptic poems about family
She stayed in her room
foreshadowed by doom
Her mind unhinged chemically.

An American poet named Frost
Wrote thoughtful poems about loss
The road not taken
The life forsaken
Morality tainted by cost.

It’s the Jobs, Stupid!

Judging from the amount of political email I’ve been receiving, Democrats are running scared, afraid they will lose the 2022 midterm elections.  Dems fear that they’ll squander a historic opportunity to put America on the right course. Fortunately, it appears that Joe Biden knows what he is doing and he’s determined to make job creation the centerpiece of his presidency

If you missed President Biden’s April 28th joint address to Congress (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/04/28/remarks-as-prepared-for-delivery-by-president-biden-address-to-a-joint-session-of-congress/ ), you probably didn’t hear that he mentioned “jobs” 43 times. He began by acknowledging that his Administration has created 1.3 million jobs in his first 100 days in office.  He went on to extol his “American Jobs Plan” and observe: “20 million Americans lost their jobs in the pandemic – working- and middle-class Americans. At the same time, the roughly 650 Billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 Trillion… My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked. It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle-out. A broad consensus of economists – left, right, center – agree that what I’m proposing will help create millions of jobs and generate historic economic growth.”

Heading into the 2022 midterm elections, Biden’s focus is on three issues: overcoming the coronavirus pandemic, creating millions of good-paying jobs, and strengthening healthcare.  This agenda should be achievable in the Democratically-controlled 117th Congress.  It will give Democrats strong momentum going into the 2022 midterms.

The 2010 and 2018 midterms saw a shift in the House of Representatives.  Democrats are worried that could happen in 2022.  In 2010, Democrats lost the House because of Republican “Tea Party” scare tactics centered on the Affordable Care Act — most Republicans ran on the promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”  in 2018, Republicans lost the House because Democrats mobilized to take back Congress to check Trump,

Heading into 2022, Republicans seem to be assuming that they will once again take back the house because of the unstoppable tide of political precedent and the anger of Trump voters. In many states, Republicans are trying to “prime the pump” by gerrymandering and voter suppression.

Ignoring the notion of “unstoppable political precedent,” Republicans are counting on angry Trump voters turning out in record numbers to take back the House.  There are two problems with this notion.  The first is idea that Republicans will turn out because they are either angry because Trump lost in 2020 or because they don’t like what Biden and the Dems have been doing.  The second problem is that it is assumes that the voters that Trump brought out in 2020 will show up in 2022.

In the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump got 74 million votes — an unprecedented number for a losing candidate but still 7 million less than Joe Biden.  Will these same Republican voters show up in 2022?  It seems unlikely for two reasons.  First, in 2020 Trump attracted  “low-propensity” voters.   According to Democratic pollsters (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/byron-yorks-daily-memo-democratic-pollsters-acknowledge-we-darn-near-lost ): “We found our models consistently overestimated Democratic turnout relative to Republican turnout in a specific way… Among low propensity voters — people who we expect to vote rarely — the Republican share of the electorate exceeded expectations at four times the rate of the Democratic share. This turnout error meant, at least in some places, we again underestimated relative turnout among rural and white non-college voters, who are overrepresented among low propensity Republicans.”  Of course, in 2022, Trump will not be on the ballot; therefore, it’s unlikely that these Republican low-propensity voters will show up.

Second, there was a unique combination of circumstances in 2020; including attitudes about the pandemic, GOP enthusiasm for Trump, and the absence of a Democratic “ground game” — because of the pandemic.  In 2022, the circumstances will change.  Democrats will again have their ground game.  And, they are more likely to be enthusiastic than Republicans. A recent Morning Consult poll (https://morningconsult.com/2021/04/14/voter-enthusiasm-2022-midterms-polling/ ) found that 9 percent enthusiasm advantage among Democrats.  (Notably, 31 parent of Trump voters were not enthusiastic.)

By the way: a recent ABC News/Ipsos Poll ( https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/country-optimistic-bidens-1st-100-days-poll/story?id=77440236) found that 64 percent of respondents were “optimistic” about the direction of the country — the highest optimism rating in 15 years.

My contention is that as long as Democrats deliver on the three big issues — overcoming the coronavirus pandemic, creating millions of good-paying jobs, and strengthening healthcare — they should prevail in 2022.  An election is not solely determined by messaging, but messaging is important.  If Democrats stay on the Biden train, they will have positive messaging,  In contrast, Republicans do not have a clear message.   They cannot prevail with “Trump was cheated” — by the way, Trump’s popularity is falling; a recent NBC news poll (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/after-100-days-out-office-trump-s-support-softens-nbc-n1265457) found “His ratings among all adults stands at 32 percent favorable, 55 percent unfavorable.”  And, at the moment, the GOP has no “go to” message.

For the next 18 months, Biden and congressional Democrats have one task: focus on the creation of good jobs.

Subversive Verse

“Poets, come out of your closets,
Open your windows, open your doors,
You have been holed up too long,
In your closed worlds…
The trees are still falling
and we’ll to the woods no more.
No time now for sitting in them
As man burns down his own house
to roast his pig.”

Lawrence Ferlinghetti 1975

I am waiting for
Poetry
to be the song of revolution.
Poets of the world, unite,
You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Freedom of speech
Freedom to preach
Freedom to beach
Freedom to reach
Freedom to leach
Freedom to breach
Freedom to teach
Freedom to bleach
Freedom to screech
Freedom to impeach.

Yesterday upon the stair
I saw a man who sat and stare(d)
He reappeared today
Until the cops dragged him away.

This is the moment for all good poets to come to the aid of their pantry
This is the moment to give one hundred and twelve percent
This is the moment when eternity cracks open
This is the moment for celestial reasoning
This is the moment to play your final band
This is the moment for a rebirth of wander
This is the moment to cash in your chintz
This is the moment to sing for your super
This is the moment of wreckening
This is the moment of magi ick

It was a dark and stormy night
The door flew open
Entered the grim reaper
“Do you have any last words?”
Picked up my ukulele
“I got my mojo working
but it just won’t work
on you.”

“I have seen the best minds of our generation
destroyed by boredom at poetry readings.”
Ferlinghetti 1975