2017 October 28

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Blue Ridge Parkway
Buchanan, VA
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Delmar, NY
Elm Ave Park & Ride - CDTA
North Creek Campground
Notes
Shenandoah Mountain
Taxes
Tioga State Forest

October 2017
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Questions? Need an updated map? Email me andy@andyarthur.org.

Today I was asked to help out at the Save the Pine Bush table at the Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair. Long day at the table but I got to meet a lot of interesting people and connect up with a lot of old friends. Most importantly I got to share about the legacy of Save the Pine Bush.

The fair was an interesting event with a variety of booths, although I got the impression that Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living was more about wealthy suburbanites making a political statement by consumerism then saving the environment. If you buy the right kind of automobile, install the right kind of solar panel, buy the right kind of food, and install the right kind of window insulation and underground heat pump, you’ll be closer to nervana — and have such a good feeling deep inside.

Now I understand the fair costs money to put on, and they had to bring in commerical businesses who would use it at a platform to sell green-themed products. I also understand it’s good that these technologies are being advanced — weathly suburbanites are willing to plunk down the big bucks for beta versions of the technology may help developers perfect them and make them better products. Only through widespread beta deployment of things like net-metered solar and geothermal wells will they ever get good enough to become part of the standard building code that everybody has to follow.

I had very little interest in most of the sustainable technology that had marketed there. I did think the electric cars were pretty novel — in principle if we are going to have automobiles — electric is the way to go. They are simplier and much easier to maintain. They use less energy and are more efficent then gas fired automobiles, even when you factor in the many inefficencies of fossil electric generation. As renewables grow on the grid, their tailpipe emissions will fall even further. Much less maintance and much easier on the brakes thanks to generator being used to turn braking energy into battery charge then brake pads turing energy into heat. 

I also was impressed by how mainstream that ground heat pumps have gotten in recent years. If you have $50,000 to have some 400 feet wells dug in your backyard, you can use the constant 50 odd degree temperature of the earth to do most of the heating and cooling of your house, with only the power consumed to pump water through the great heat sink known as the earth. Potentially a really good technology, once it becomes more refined and the industry becomes mature. 

The various vendors hawking grid-tied solar were pretty much run of the mill what you would expect, the same thing with the organic farmers booth, and those pushing botique organic foods. I guess people are into that kind of stuff, but I had to shrug. From what I’ve learned about organic farming over the years — especially organic dairying — it’s mostly about paperwork and government food inspectors rather then revoluntionary new ways to farm. Conventional farms — with their well established no-till methods are often just as good if not better for the land.

RPI or maybe it was NYSERDA had a pretty piss pour display that tried to show that LED bulbs are more efficent then compact florescent bulbs, halgeon and conventional bulbs, but picked bulbs that were of different brightness and color. I guess what you get a rough comparison.

The activist booths where pretty much what you would expect — run of the mill campaigns against styrofoam (which really should be banned in cities), advocating for more composting (again, good for cities), and various things calling for action on climate change. It’s really pretty gross how the current administration is doing everything in it’s power to sabatogue whatever maginal progress we were making on the topic. Maybe I shouldn’t throw up my hands at whole issue of political change, as we really do need to rethink how cities use energy, produce CO2 and dispose of wastes.

As much as anyone knows, I am fully aware that political pressure can make a difference on public policy. Laws, applying to millions of people and big insitutions can have a big deal. Elections have consequences, something we’ve seen with the election of Donald Trump and his roll backs of the Obama environmetnal legacy. But I feel like so many of the environmental causes of today are cheesy, packaged for mass consumption and aren’t a real discussion of the choices our country faces. But I do see the alternative and importance of being involved. But somehow the campaigns on display by the various environmental groups, kind of just left a bad taste in my mind — too one-sided, too high on rhetoric and not on substance. Too much packaged for the suburban, feel good about the environment consumer. I guess that’s politics.

Maybe after spending so much time the previous week in the rough and wild country of Pennsylvania and West Virigina, I had trouble getting back into the green living way of thinking. I am just so turned off by the world of high-speed internet, big screen television, big houses even those with solar panels on the roof and geothermal wells outback. Homes with oversized recycling and composting bins, but also oversized trash bins to match their level of consumerism. I feel like if you really wanted to be green, you would live in a small house, not have all the technology and television. Maybe live off-grid with composting bucket toilets and a trash burning barrel out back, but not with marble countertops or 2,000 square feet of room — with grid tied solar panels on the roof. A mini-house or shed-to-home conversion that doesn’t take much energy to heat — of any form. Or much electricity to run a handful of 12 volt LED lights, USB chargers, and a few very small appliances. Not some massive McMansion. Hunt deer and fish, hobby farm for food, rather then consume something organic, shipped from halfway across the world, wrapped in plastic destine soon for a distant landfill.
For me, saving the environment is doing without a television or high speed internet at home. It’s about using my local public library and public transit. It’s about leaving my truck parked at home and walking or taking a bus. Not the green technologies on display. Eventually, I do plan to live off grid, not just because it will make it affordable to own more land and live more simply, but because ultimately I believe that to be more sustainable without the easy tug of cheap electricity and all the easy tugs of modern living, like unlimited hot water, unlimited toilet flushes, and unlimited heat. Chopping your own wood,  maintaining your own water supply, maintaining your own electricity production system, disposing of your own trash, forces you to think about what it really means to be a consumer. 

If you really want to save the environment, don’t buy more stuff, get rid of your television and internet, walk, bicycle, ride public tranist and live with less.

Nancy Pelosi’s claims on middle-income taxpayers and state and local tax deductions

"This is a good example of how tax data can be manipulated. Pelosi is usually eager to point out that wealthy Americans will mostly benefit from broad-based tax cuts. In this case, wealthier Americans would mainly feel the effects of a broad-based elimination of a tax break"

"But in this case, Pelosi chooses to ignore the distributional tables and instead focus on the absolute number of people affected, even if the impact is mostly felt by the rich. She earns two Pinocchios."

US Route 9 in New York State currently has 11 suffixed routes.

U.S. Route 9W (US 9W) (141.83 mi or 228.25 km) is a north–south U.S. Highway in the states of New Jersey and New York. It begins in Fort Lee, New Jersey, as Fletcher Avenue crosses the US 1–9, US 46, and the Interstate 95 (I-95) approaches to the George Washington Bridge, and heads north up the west side of the Hudson River to US 9 in Albany, New York.

NY 9A (47.49 miles or 76.43 kilometres) is an alternate route of US 9 through Manhattan and Westchester County.

NY 9B (5.97 miles or 9.61 kilometres) is a spur in Clinton County linking US 9 in Chazy to US 11 in Rouses Point.

NY 9D (25.21 miles or 40.57 kilometres) is an alternate route of US 9 between the Bear Mountain Bridge and Wappingers Falls.

NY 9G (42.77 miles or 68.83 kilometres) is an alternate route of US 9 from Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, to Hudson, Columbia County.

NY 9H (18.77 miles or 30.21 kilometres) is an easterly alternate to US 9 between Bell Pond and Valatie.

NY 9J (22.38 miles or 36.02 kilometres) is an alternate route of US 9 from Columbiaville to Rensselaer. NY 9J follows a more westerly alignment than US 9 to serve a series of communities along the Hudson River.

NY 9L (18.54 miles or 29.84 kilometres) is a loop off of US 9 between Glens Falls and Lake George in Warren County.

NY 9N (143.13 miles or 230.35 kilometres) is a lengthy alternate route of US 9 between Saratoga Springs and Keeseville. NY 9N is the longest suffixed route in New York.

NY 9P (12.17 miles or 19.59 kilometres) is a loop route connecting US 9 to Saratoga Lake southeast of Saratoga Springs.

NY 9R (3.21 miles or 5.17 kilometres) is a short loop serving Colonie in northeast Albany County.

Note: This post draws heavily from the Wikipedia article, “US Route 9 in New York”. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_9_in_New_York

Congress most likely is doing away with the SALT deduction, also known as the State and Local Tax deduction, which upper middle class and wealthy filers who itemize their taxes take advantage of to reduce their total tax liability to the federal government. Doing away with the SALT deduction in words of many state politicians is a “direct affront to middle class taxpayers”. But it’s not that simple.

First off, the SALT deduction only applies to a fairly narrow class of people to who pay income tax. To recieve the SALT deduction, you have to intemize your taxes. Many middle class families and most working class families do not intemize their taxes. If you don’t itemize taxes, you don’t currently recieve any benefit from the SALT deduction. Indeed, you would come out ahead under Congress’ plan to increase the standard deduction.

At the same time, the SALT deduction is limited by the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). If you are upper middle class or wealthy and make enough to be subject to the AMT, you are subject to AMT and can not take the SALT deduction. Indeed, at one time — prior to 1982 tax reforms — you could deduct SALT from AMT. But that hasn’t been the case in 35 years. The SALT deduction is great, but relatively few people actually get it — working people, the lower middle class, the upper reaches of middle class and wealthy generally don’t get to use it because they either don’t itemize their taxes or they have to pay the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Why do state politicians care about the SALT deduction so much — and regularly call it an attack on the middle class? Politics, plain and simple. If the SALT deduction goes away, the most frequent to turn out and vocal voters — upper middle class voters who own nice houses in the suburbs — will be hit the hardest with higher federal tax bills. While these families probably have enough fat in their budget to sustain paying a little extra in their federal tax bills, it will be an extremely unpleasant experience for these prime voters, who often are very politically involved. They might take out their rage on incumbents, both by contributing less and by voting for challengers. Many in the upper middle class have expensive homes, schools, and automobiles to pay for. Paying for increased taxes will hurt their budgets hard. As such, the prime voters are likely to demand that their state taxes be cut to make up for the increase in federal taxes. Indeed, that’s not an unreasonable proposition, but recongize revenue must come from somewhere — probably taxes on the wealthy.

Assuming that the SALT deduction goes away and the standard deduction expands as an alternative, a lot of lower middle class families will benefit greatly, especially those who rent rather then own. But to make up for the higher taxes on the politically involved upper middle class, we should look at taxing the truly rich even more. People say if you tax very rich people more, they will leave the state. But that hasn’t happened that much in the past, in part because New York State is already an mecca — the cultural and financial metropolis of the world — and most wealthy people live here despite the taxes. Charles Koch, if he was truly concerned about his personal tax bill, would have long left New York. Nothing holds him here except his desire to be the world’s greatest city. New York could certainly make our tax system more progressive, so the rich and upper middle class pay their fair share — when so  many at lower end have so little.

I am not that worried about the SALT deduction going away. I’m actually kind of glad that my personal taxes will be going down with the standard deduction and that there will be less pressure to itemize my taxes, especially when I own a home. I’d rather have simplier taxes to file, and I’d rather working people have it easy as possible to get maximum tax relief they deserve. I don’t like Trump’s plan to give the rich a big fat tax break, but doing away with the subsidy to big state and local spending for the upper middle class will ultimately be good for our state and our country.

Map: Chautauqua Gorge State Forest

Map: Chautauqua Gorge State Forest

Chautauqua Gorge State Forest totals 538 acres. This state forest is located in the north western area of Chautauqua County in the town of Chautauqua, west of Mayville. This area provides opportunities for many informal outdoor recreational activities such as snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and hunting. This forest is also a source of raw material for New York's forest products industry which provides employment and income for many New Yorkers and provides for various habitats for many wildlife species such as deer, rabbit, grouse and turkey.

This state forest also offers a day use area with picnic tables with fire rings, out house facilities, and a public parking area.

Camping logoThere are Eight designated camp sites on Hannum Road adjacent to the day use area. Seven of the sites are primitive tent sites with a rock fire ring, site number 8 is upgraded with a picnic shelter and steel fire ring. This site also has a gravel parking pad large enough for a small self contained camper unit. The sites are designated with a yellow camp disk. All camp sites are fist come, first serve. If you plan on staying more than three days, or have 10 or more people at a site you need to obtain a camping permit from the Forest Ranger by calling 716-771-7180.

http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/42257.html

Good morning! Happy Saturday. Finally the weekend! Next Saturday is Beaver Moon. Clear and 43 degrees in Delmar, NY. There is a south-southeast breeze at 5 mph. Sunny this morning but clouds are expected to prevail by afternoon.

Today I’m heading over to the Renewable Energy and Green Living Fair and will be one of the people maning the Save the Pine Bush booth. It will be a nice day for outside activities although by afternoon it’s going to cloud up. Heavy rain and wind tomorrow as the Nor’easter rolls in. I plan to wash my truck and go grocery shopping after the fair, although I despite the storm I will probably go out to the folks house for Sunday dinner tomorrow. It’s not that far and I can go slowly if it really pours.

Today will have increasing clouds, with a high of 67 degrees at 3pm. 12 degrees above normal. Maximum dew point of 48 at 6pm. South wind 5 to 15 mph. A year ago, we had mostly cloudy skies. The high last year was 47 degrees. The record high of 78 was set in 1971. 2 inches of snow fell back in 1952.

The sun will set at 5:52 pm with dusk around 6:21 pm, which is one minute and 23 seconds earlier than yesterday. At sunset, look for partly cloudy conditions and 66 degrees. The dew point will be 47 degrees. There will be a south breeze at 11 mph. Today will have 10 hours and 27 minutes of daytime, a decrease of 2 minutes and 38 seconds over yesterday.

Tonight will have showers likely, mainly after 3am. Mostly cloudy, with a low of 54 degrees at 6am. 18 degrees above normal. Maximum dew point of 54 at 5am. South wind 7 to 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible. In 2016, we had cloudy skies with some clearing in the early hours of the next day. It got down to 37 degrees. The record low of 19 occurred back in 1969.

In 1956, Elvis Presley receives a polio vaccination on national TV. This single event is credited with raising immunization levels in the United States from 0.6% to over 80% in just six months.

As previously noted, next Saturday is Beaver Moon when the sun will be setting at 5:43 pm with dusk at 6:13 pm. On that day in 2016, we had mostly sunny skies and temperatures between 53 and 31 degrees. Typically, the high temperature is 53 degrees. We hit a record high of 76 back in 1994.