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2023-09-14 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Consumer , 365 references
[Comments enabled]  

Uh, no it isn't.

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.6 percent in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, after increasing 0.2 percent in July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 3.7 percent before seasonal adjustment.

Uh huh.  Going away eh?  Uh, no.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.3 percent in August, following a 0.2-percent increase in July. Indexes which increased in August include rent, owners’ equivalent rent, motor vehicle insurance, medical care, and personal care. The indexes for lodging away from home, used cars and trucks, and recreation were among those that decreased over the month.

Stuff you have to buy went up, things you can choose to buy but don't have to went down.

If you have two nickels worth of IQ points to rub together the reason for the latter of obvious: Slack demand as a result of no money to spend on such things.  I can fix my existing car instead of buying another one and the other two are 100% discretionary.


Transportation energy (fuel oil and gasoline) was up substantially last month, as everyone has seen.  Thanks Joe.

Restaurants seem to think they can keep jacking prices too; food away from home continues to rise much faster than groceries.  I got news for those folks: There's a point where the price of a hamburger or beer isn't worth it, particularly compared to buying the same beer in a six-pack at Kroger and cooking the burger at your own place, and when that happens your income as a bar or restaurant owner goes to zero.

Are we seeing that?  Why yes, yes we are.

Both rent and OER (bah!) rose comparable and in fact aren't much different in change over the last 12 months.  OER is understated by a wild amount; between price ramps and interest rate increases anyone who thinks the cost of a house (in terms of payments) is only up 7.3% over the last year has rocks in their head.  Never mind that my experience among people I talk to who rent is that the last two years have both seen double-digit rent increases on a percentage basis.

Car insurance was up 2.1% on the month which I can believe, along with the ~20% annual rate.  That's about right.  You don't need to buy that, right?  The illegal alien doesn't bother with it, of course, he doesn't have anything to take when he hits you, and they won't jail or deport him, so he doesn't care.

Want to see a real farce?  They claim health insurance costs are down by a third over the last year, and 3.6% this month.  Suuuuurrrre it is.

What's up wildly?  Car repair, up 17%.  What did I say about people fixing rather than replacing?  Yep.  There it is.

Got a pet?  Pay 8.5% more for services, including the vet bill.

But inflation is 4%, they said.  Suuuure it is.  The food is up 8.7% too so..... yeah.

What's the cause of all of it?

Deficit spending.


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2023-09-13 13:09 by Karl Denninger
in Consumer , 258 references
[Comments enabled]  

Ever seen the ads?

"Save 20-25% on your power bill with this device!"

"What the power company doesn't want you to know!"

There are several iterations of this; some plug in and some that electricians will try to sell you to go in your breaker box.


Yes, there is a device in the box the person will install or that you plug in; its not an empty box.  And yes, there is a basis for the claim but it does not apply to a residential power customer in every case I've ever seen in the United States, and I've lived in multiple states and with multiple electrical companies providing my power.

What is being "sold" is otherwise known as a power-factor device.

Power factor is a measurement of the apparent amount of power consumed versus the actual amount of work done.  They're different measurements; "VA" for apparent power and Watts for amount of work done.  If the thing drawing power is a straight resistor (e.g. an electric heating element in a water heater, your stove, coffee maker and incandescent lights) then the power factor is 1.0.  That is, the phase or "alignment" if you will, between voltage and amperage is identical.

Motors, which are in all sorts of things (a washing machine, a dryer drum, your air conditioner, a fan and similar) typically use induction motors.  As the name implies there is an inductor in there.  House power is alternating current; when a changing voltage goes through an inductor the amount of current drawn lags the voltage. It is like a resistance but only to a changing voltage, not a constant one.  Thus a motor typically will have a power factor less than 1.0 because the rate of change of voltage and amperage as the power alternates up and down in voltage is not exactly lined up.

A "power factor correction" device is simply a capacitor.  A capacitor stores energy temporarily and thus "leads" the inductive load, smoothing its lag and "correcting" the power factor from the perspective of whatever is providing the energy.

It does not change what the consuming device uses or the device's power factor but it does change, by shifting the incoming amperage more in-line with the voltage, what the supply -- in this case the power company -- sees.

In other words it moves the perceived power factor from the supplying end's point of view toward 1.0.

It does not, because it cannot, change the actual power factor and thus efficiency of the supplied device.  That is a function of the device's design and engineering.

Here's the problem from a standpoint of someone being sold such a device for a residenceResidences are billed in kilowatt-hours, or kWh -- that is, actual work performed.

The power company is the one who winds up "eating" the differential because they have to supply the amps irrespective of the imbalance between voltage delivered and amps delivered across the alternating current cycle.  In terms of actual power delivered and consumed, which is measured in watts, you are billed in watts not "apparent power" or kVA and thus from a perspective of your bill it makes no difference whether the power factor at any given time in your house is 1.0 or 0.85.

Now an industrial customer does in some cases have a "kVAr" charge for apparent power, that is, the differential between the "null" or 1.0 power factor from the utility's point of view and the power factor at the panelboard consumed by the building.  Industrial and commercial users typically pay a base "energy charge" (for kWh consumed, like you do in a house), a demand charge (this is computed based on the maximum required power because the utility has to be able to deliver it when demanded, and thus must build out the capacity for it even if 90% of the time you don't use it) and, in some cases depending on the power factor of your facility, a KVAR charge, which is a reactive power charge for a power factor that is less than 1.0 because the power company has to be able to deliver the amps and your mismatch costs them money which they otherwise can't recover.  In that case correcting for power factor might be worth doing, depending on what is generating the imbalance in your facility and how large it is.  Large motors and things like arc lighting -- or even more-seriously an arc furnace used in some industrial processes, generate very large power factor dislocations and the power company, for an industrial user, charges you for that because they will have to build out additional infrastructure to be able to deliver energy into that.  If that's a significant amount then obviously installing something that smooths the power factor out is a win for you as then you don't pay said bill.  (In extreme cases utilities may demand you do it in order to provide power at all because it presents a seriously-destabilizing load on the grid.)


There are some utilities that are trying to get demand charges into residential service.  They do this to provide an incentive for users to spread out their usage (e.g. don't both dry clothes and charge your Tesla at the same time) or, if consumers refuse to do that, force them to pay for the additional transformers, generation capacity and transmission lines to be able to get the power to them.  They're rare, but showing up in a few places.  (As an aside if they ever do that here you can bet I'll use HomeDaemon to deliberately shut off and enable loads to evade that demand charge to the extent I'm able -- I had to pay it when I ran MCSNet and there was no way around it either as you can't exactly shut the chillers off in the computer room in the middle of summer unless you want all your machines to melt!)

But a KVAR charge, which is not the same as demand billing, is something I've never seen proposed or implemented in residential service.

If you had a KVAR charge then you could reduce it by installing a power-factor correction device.  That does not change the actual power factor of the connected device; that can only be done by changing the device's design.  But it does change how the supply of the energy sees that load; that is, it shifts the alignment of voltage and current toward concurrence.

The problem is that the benefit is to the supplier of the energy and that's the power company.   You're not billed for being out of coherence as a residential customer so there is no benefit to you in the installation of such a device!

Contemplate this folks: Since it is the power company that eats the power factor imbalance in a residence, if there is one, if it was worth it they'd come out and on their own initiative install a power factor correction device in the meter box at no cost to you.  That would not change a thing in terms of the size of your bill because the number of kilowatt hours your meter reads would not change but it would reduce the amperage load on their infrastructure, which is of benefit to them.

The reason they don't do it to every house in your neighborhood is that the savings to them are not worth the cost.

There is one exception to this: If you have off-grid generation such as an inverter and battery bank.  You'll notice inverters are rated in "kVA" and not kW.  Indeed even your small battery backup UPS for your computer, which is nothing more than an inverter, charger and battery that takes over when the power fails, is rated in VA or kVA, not watts.

So if you have such a system powering your residence then there may (depending on your actual power factor of your house) be value to you because you are the energy supplier and you might be able to buy a smaller and cheaper inverter yet still produce the amount of power required.


Don't waste your money and DO report any so-called "professional" soliciting you in this manner to your local consumer protection folks.  It is not possible for you to save money on a charge you're never billed for in the first place so in a residential environment, if you are "on grid" with a power company, unless you have a KVAR charge on your bill and I've never seen that on a residential power bill the total amount of money savings such a device will provide to you is ZERO.

Any percentage of zero, that is no billed amount at all, is zero.

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2023-09-12 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Consumer , 374 references
[Comments enabled]  

Uh, no he isn't.

He's maxed out on his plastic, he's wondering if next week the food bill is going to go up another $20, he's watching gas prices like a hawk and expecting trouble there too, he is being hounded at his job to "do more for the same pay" and more.

And those are the producing ones.  The folks who are not inclined to produce, and there's a lot of them, are sensing the Sword of Damocles over their heads.  This was always the problem with "RIP" (Retire In Place) or "DTL" (Do The Least) which many adopted and some even advocated post-lockdown.  It seemed like a reasonable bid if and only if the labor market was continually and permanently "tight" -- that not only would it be hard to replace you but your job had to be done and the firm couldn't manage without anyone in your position at all.

I get it when it comes to incentives; training people that they they're "worth" $30,000/year tax free (which is about $50,000/yr from a job, when you account for all the taxes such as FICA, income tax and similar) to sit at home and get drunk, stoned or whatever during the pandemic, which we did, was idiotic.  That is more than a huge percentage of people can generate with their current and, in some a decent percentage of cases, their highest level of skill and earnings capacity.  Doing that was beyond stupid but it continues a trend that goes back decades of considering people worthy of a check not because they did something but simply because they exist.  People call this "compassion" but it isn't at all: It destroys the motivation to better oneself and worse, to the extent the give-away is greater than the person's current earning potential it may well permanently destroy their incentive to better themselves because that which they got once without effort they now believe they can get again, not due to their own industriousness and effort but simply by screaming at the right people in the right way, whether that's by voting, agitating, burning or just taking.

Go feed a bear some human-style food a few times whether by intentionally putting it out there or through stupidity (e.g. an un-secured outdoor trash bin.)  When the food disappears said bear will now try to eat you to get more and you'll have to shoot it lest it kill you or your child.  This outcome is not the bear's fault -- it is your fault because you created the association between easy food and humans.  Thus it should be a really big shock when we give away things to invading people or simply those who would have to work hard to meet basic needs and, when that ceases to satisfy what they "deserve" they trash everything within reach and steal or even murder to get more "easy" -- right?

Here's the ugly part: The same sort of mental gymnastics applies to anyone who gets without earning it or otherwise by reasonable progression of society and doesn't recognize that was a windfall, but rather is led to believe the "gain" is something they have a "right" to continue to possess.

Heh Mr. or Ms. American, what's that crap you've been running your mouth about and letting the media and politicians shove in your head with regard to your house price -- or stock portfolio -- again?

Did you do anything personally to make that property more-valuable? Nope.

Did you do anything personally to make the price of Tesla or Nvidia stock go up?  Nope.

Why do you think you're owed that price?

A lot of you think you indeed are -- in fact, I hear all the time "this can't come back out."

Oh yes it can, and yes it has in the past.  In fact 50% losses in the stock market happen fairly regularly!  We haven't had one  in the stock market that has "stuck" for a decade or more in quite some time (close to 100 years now) but that has happened too and I might remind you that the time before it recovers exceeds your remaining time before you need to spend any of it then it may as well not recover at all from your personal point of view.

All those places you've heard about that can't attract sufficient employees at the offered wages and which is, in fact, due to the pandemic $600/week handouts and the "training" it did in people's minds are real.

But you, fellow American, probably believe if you're not only of "those people" -- you know, the folks looting stores, stealing anything not nailed down, or those "unable to find help" in the economy -- almost-certainly think you're not one of "them."

If you're one of those people who believe that the ramp in your house's "value" over the last three years is in fact "yours" and it "can't and won't" go back down, indeed, if you think the increases since 2003 or so are "yours", or that the insane expansion of multiples in the stock market, again all driven by "gimmes" from Congress buying votes which it can no longer afford to do without them showing up immediately and in greater amount in inflation, will not and cannot come back out you are exactly the same in your mental space as the person who refuses to work for $10/hr because he or she got $600/wk to sit at home and get drunk, or who smashes and grabs out of the store because they are "owed" it.

It is the precise same mental thought process folks as exactly zero of you have earned a single nickel of that alleged "appreciation" through the actions of your own hands and mind.

Welcome to a Hell of your own making, America.

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Here comes (much) higher auto insurance rates... and this should result in heavy consumer-protection related prosecuting aimed at carmakers -- but it won't.

If you own a new car, there's a good chance that it features some form of keyless security. Whether it helps unlock your car or lets you start it with the push of a button, it makes driving all that bit easier. That's unless it's the reason your car gets stolen. Police forces all over the UK are reporting a rise in keyless car thefts, but a new report released by the Metropolitan Police today suggests that it now accounts for over a quarter of all vehicle thefts across London.

How are they getting in the door?

The claim is that they're breaking in physically and then accessing the ECU via the OBD port, allowing cloning of the key.  I'm not sure I'm buying that, although with some vehicles it is probably possible.

Specifically, it is known that certain older VWAG vehicles can have their cluster broken into via a piece of software that is available from various places in China.  This results in returning the "secret key" necessary to program new keys into the cluster, and then Bob's Your Uncle.

I think it's reasonable to assume that our "friends" with "most-favored nation" status over in China have this software for other makes as well.  In fact, I'd bet on it.

But the simplest way to steal a car with so-called "advanced keys", that is those that you don't have to press a button on a fob to unlock the doors and which has keyless start, is as trivial a paired set of radios and a confederate that gets close enough to you (5' or so) to be able to excite your key in your pocket while his "buddy" stands outside your car's door and pulls the handle.  The car thinks the key is next to it and the key thinks the car is next to it; they transmit their coded handshake and voila!

Next said thief sits in the car and hits START.  Same thing -- the key talks to the car, the car starts.  So long as you don't turn it off you can drive it.

The ugly part of this is that the frequencies aren't secret -- nor can they be, since the fobs and the cars are both intentional transmitters and thus have to operate on specific authorized frequencies.  The coding can be secret but that doesn't matter since you don't need to break the code -- just make the key think it's next to the car and vice-versa.

I'll lay odds this is how they're being stolen and it's why when I bought mine I was ok with keyless start but not with a fob that didn't require a press of the button to unlock the doors.

If you have to bust the glass to get in, or use an airbag or other conspicuous tool, it gets a lot harder and greatly increases the amount of time that the confederate has to be near me while the other guy works my car over before he can start it and drive off.

This is what your "convenience" has gotten you folks -- a car that is trivial to rip off for anyone with a modicum of technical ability.


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