Monday, November 23, 2015

So we aren't allowed to learn from other cultures? Political correctness gone to far?

Political correctness going too far? Free Ottawa yoga classes scrapped over fears that the teachings could be seen as a form of "cultural appropriation."

Isn't part of respecting another culture the realization that we can learn from that culture? How can American (or in this case Canadian) society value and learn from the cultures of India if we are afraid to do anything, like yoga, for fear of not getting it perfect? If we are told we shouldn't practice anything from outside our own culture because we will never really know what being in that culture is like, then we will never learn from other cultures. How can we respect other cultures if we are afraid to learn from them because our learning isn't totally authentic or perfect?

I think it's a case of the perfect being an enemy of the good.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A realm beyond space/time?

Interesting speculation, in this article, that there could be a realm beyond space (or even space/time) that we think of as such a rock solid foundation to our reality.

I like pondering these type of things.

As for finding evidence to fit our current scientific paradigm, one small part of this speculation could be tested fairly easily. The concept of the Kaleidoscope discussed in the article. If we are in one of the glass pieces of the Kaleidoscope, who's image gets repeated, we could see if there are parts of the universe; like distant galaxies, that look exactly the same as other parts of the universe. Like mirror images.

I would guess our current astronomical technology is not refined enough to totally rule this out. I would guess that we see distant galaxies that look alike, but we can't yet see the finer detail as to whether they are mirror images, or not.

We do see mirror images of the same galaxy in different parts of the sky due to gravitational lensing, but that's a different thing which is explained another way, unrelated to the Kaleidoscope.

The Kaleidoscope is just one aspect of this speculation, but the idea of something beyond space could stand separately. How to test for those things? Good question.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Climate change plays a role in Syria and the rest of the world. Allof the world's governments and people need to do a better job planning

Climate change is playing a role in problems around the world; like the situation in Syria. Climate change is an increasing reality, but all is not lost. We can do a better job of planning. We need to do a better job keeping our connection to the environment in mind.

There's been a lot of bad planning around the world and in our own (USA) foreign policy for sure. Governments all around the world need to take into account the big picture. Things like population, sustainability, water resources and technology need to be taken into account.

I doubt we were thinking enough about sustainability when we invaded Iraq, for instance. Seems like when we invaded, there was a lot of promises given for providing a better life to Iraqi people, but not much was said about how that can be done with the resources available. Can the population of the entire world live like American middle class, or does that goal just become another broken promise?

There are also, I'd guess, lots of aspirations associated with Arab Spring. Some of them are material aspirations and others are for more social freedoms. More potential for broken promises, but if we plan around what's sustainable we (the entire world's population) might start to do better.

Material aspirations can be really hard to achieve for the 7 billion people of the world, but more sustainable technology, such as solar energy can help. As for social freedoms, I would like to think that social freedoms don't have to have material wealth as a prerequisite. They can be achieved if people learn to put aside age old prejudices, resentments and out dated religious ideologies.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Who buy's Isis oil? Insight from article in link plus some of my thoughts

Interesting article from Financial Times that explains much of what's behind the Isis oil connection.

My thoughts below related to these issues.

Militias and farmers, who fight against Isis, still go to Isis run petrol stations to "fill er up." That's how they run the vehicles they fight and farm with. Buying from one's enemy; especially if there's no other supply available.

I've often wondered how Isis can sell oil for funding their terrorism. Who's buying it? Turns out a lot of that oil is sold locally, to the various farmers and militias in the area; even militias that fight against Isis. Oil doesn't necessarily have to get as far as the global market for this cycle to happen.

Kind of makes me think of how dirty the oil dependency cycle can become.

Reminds me of the situation where, people in my own country, buy oil from oil companies that they often deride. The big bad oil companies, but people still need the oil. Where else can one buy it from? The oil companies aren't violent, like Isis (so I may naively believe), but they can still be manipulative for sure. That's how business often works.

In the case of Isis, they sell oil to people who, in some cases fight against Isis. Isis has the bigger guns so they end up shooting the people in the end. It makes me think of arms merchants that benefit from selling weapons to both sided of a conflict.

Here's another thought. Maybe we (the western nations, not just Obama) should have done a better job, early on, supplying more friendly rebel groups with fuel (I guess oil) so they wouldn't buy from Isis?

Possibly the good news is that we are doing more to supply the friendlier rebel groups now. Also Isis isn't good at long term planning. According to this article, their oil fields are drying up without the expertise of international oil companies to rejuvenate their fields through fracking and other advanced technologies. The Isis oil machine may not last for long.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Larger safe havens for peace loving people, but how should they be created? Does the military have a role?

I can see why many people in Europe would be alarmed about the situation with hundreds of thousands of refugees trying to get into Europe from Syria and other troubled countries; especially after the terrorist attacks in Paris. I would guess that, by far the vast majority of refugees are totally decent people; like you or me. Totally non violent. It just takes a handful of people, for instance 1 out of 10,000, to cause problems and spoil things for everyone. It's a scary situation even though practically all of the refugees are good people. Scary situations can lead to backlash as some folks react out of fear wanting to close borders and so forth.

I've heard that the British are trying to pursue a policy of helping Syrian refugees in places closer to their countries of origin; such as helping Syrian refugees who have escaped to Jordan. In the short term, at least, this might work better than taking in large numbers of immigrants right now. Taking in immigrants over the long run can be good when there is time to do it wisely. Also societies will need to function so new populations aren't isolated into ghettos. Find ways to integrate into the diverse societies.

In the long run, taking in immigrants does bring more young people to a society; for instance here in USA our immigrant population is providing young workers to pay into Social Security as our post war baby boom bubble reaches retirement age. Europe's aging population could benefit from this also; especially if it happens gradually. The current situation is more of a shock to societies, however.

Even here in USA, where we have the benefit of being across large oceans from most of the world's trouble spots, people tend to be nervous about large numbers of newcomers. It's kind of a human trait. There are people, here in Bellingham for instance, who don't want Bellingham to take on new residents. Not just immigrants, anyone. There are people who don't want our city to grow. As long as world population keeps growing, popular towns and cities, such as Bellingham, are bound to grow.

Setting up safe havens for people trying to escape the trouble spots seems like a good idea. What role the military should play is being hotly debated, of course. Not just our military, NATO and so forth. Most of the military involvement seems to make things worse, but there could be some better strategy. Possibly the military could be used to take some territory for setting up safe havens inside former Syrian land. Maybe help the Kurds set up areas that are more tolerant of the diversity in that region. This might help take some pressure off Jordan as Jordan isn't very large. The Saudis haven't been that helpful for sure and they could be part of the problem.

I'm just throwing out some ideas, but realizing any strategy could be problematic. I can see why people are concerned. It's hard to figure out a proper strategy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Restaurant Association comes out in favor of increasing minumum wage, but here's a catch, in my opinion

Restaurant Association of Washington surprises some people by coming out in favor of increasing the minimum wage. Good news for the most part. Often restaurant associations oppose raising the minimum wage.

Still, there is kind of a catch to their logic, in my opinion. The cost of living and economic conditions vary widely from region to region; even within one state. The Restaurant Association wants a consistent minimum wage statewide, rather than the inconsistent patchwork of differing rules from city to city. Problem is, the economy is not the same in prosperous and expensive Seattle as it is, for instance, in rural parts of the state, like around Starbuck, WA. Yes, there is a Starbuck, WA. located northeast of Tri Cities. A statewide minimum wage would, most likely, have to be lower than what would work in Seattle. That's my opinion, at least.

On the other hand, they do have some valid concerns about trying to comply with different laws in different cities. Also the problem of restaurants loosing business when they are located near the border of high wage cities, for instance customers going out of high wage Seattle to eat in Renton where costs are lower.

These are problems associated with wide discrepancies in the economy. Discrepancies between income groups, regions and economic sectors. Another way to deal with this problem, besides trying to set an artificial minimum wage, is to bring back a steeper graduated income tax.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Income disparity makes it harder to determine where to set interest rates

I would guess that one of the bad side effects of income disparity is that it makes the job of the Federal Reserve more difficult. Harder to determine whether to raise interest rates or not.

Low interest rates are supposed to stimulate the economy for job creation while higher interest rates cool inflation. Like stepping on the gas or the brake in a car.

Problem is, in this economy, wages and prices are stagnate for some sectors of the economy while wages and prices are skyrocketing in other sectors. Skyrocketing housing costs in many cities, for example. Skyrocketing executive salaries is another arena of inflation. Some things are inflating while other things are remaining stagnate. In this environment, it would be hard to know whether to stimulate the economy or not.

What will the Fed do in December? These last few years, it's a harder call than usual, I would guess. Another reason to address the growing discrepancies in our economy.

Rising salaries for top income brackets leads to things like higher college tuition as institutions compete with one another offering higher and higher salaries to their top talent in order to keep that so called talent from leaving for higher paying jobs elsewhere. This creates a vicious cycle between institutions and corporations which leads to higher costs. In the case of colleges, the cost is usually passed along as higher tuition. Higher tuition is magnified in state supported schools as tuition must bear a higher percentage of operating costs unless state support keeps up with that inflation.

Salary inflation is a big factor in medical costs also; for instance.

Housing costs often rise much faster than most wages in many of our metropolitan areas. Sometimes rents will double in just a matter of a few years pulling the rug out from under people. This varies from region to region as well making it hard to set economic policy at a national level.

Meanwhile there is significant downward pressure on prices and wages in many sectors of the economy due to things like globalization and advancing technology. For instance, the self booking of travel via web sites has cut significantly into the business of travel agents.

It's hard to tell if the economy is stagnate or inflating from a birds eye perspective. Depends on who one is talking to. Less discrepancy of income could make it easier to determine this.

I remember the term "Stagflation" from back in the 1970s. Seems like that term applies today when parts of the economy are inflating while other parts are more stagnate.

One possible remedy is to go back to a more graduated income tax rate. This could cool some of the run away inflation toward the top.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Is Halloween just for the young? HUB party stays fun for all.

Dance party at the bike shop.

Seems like lots of older people don't do Halloween anymore. I'm not young, but I still enjoyed Halloween at The HUB Bike Shop; a non profit repair collective in Bellingham.

Maybe the bar scene, where much of Halloween resides these days, chews one up and then spits one out so they don't do Halloween in later life. The older folks get jaded and don't do Halloween anymore?

When I was in 6th grade, I thought 6th grade was the last of Halloween. The end of trick or treating.

Then, in my college days, I found the Halloween parties and bar scene. It was funky and fun. There was a few years in the early 1980s when my only trip to a bar, during the year, was for Halloween. I was never much of a bar person.

As the years went by, "bar scene Halloween" got bigger and more corporate like. Competition for the best costume, big prizes, high cover charges, 90 minute waits to get in. I stopped going years ago.

Still, smaller events work; like the costume ride and dance sponsored by The HUB Bicycle shop. It was fun for the young and young at heart. The energy was pumping.

Dance happened after a spooky ride through town where the course was prearranged along routes not normally open for travel; like riding around in the downtown parkade. We rode on each of the echoing concrete floors with bikers hollering and a boombox playing.

Why am I writing this now? I didn't get around to writing it earlier.

Paining of repair person behind wheel looks real.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Opportunities and obstacles for face to face conversation in Bellingham without just blaming the smartphone

Face to face conversation is often missing in our society. Technology gets blamed, but I see lack of conversational opportunity for for many reasons.

Here are some thoughts about the state of conversation in Bellingham. It's not as bad as one might think. I find quite a few opportunities, most likely because I live in town where there are many gathering places within easy walking distance.

One of the most likely settings for conversation is where there is nudity. Not something uptight folks might acknowledge. Seems like people often strike up conversation around hot springs. Too bad Bellingham doesn't have hot springs nearby, but we do have the sauna at the YMCA. Some of the time it's quiet, but often conversation happens more there than other places.

Unfortunately, it seems like bars are the main stays for face to face gathering in Bellingham. We have lots of bars populated by mostly students. Microbreweries are popping up all over. I don't use bars much as I don't like the flavor of beer and I also find bar conversation is superficial; especially over loud techno music.

Coffee is another beverage I don't like the flavor of. In old days, coffee shops used to be places for conversation, but now they seem to mostly be places for folks to use wifi. Also, one thinks of conversation being an evening activity. Bellingham coffee shops close early; except for a few of the large chain places. Mom and pop coffee shops often close promptly at 5 pm. What's that about?

Five Rhythms Dance is a place I meet lots of people, but conversation doesn't happen. It's dancing. I enjoy the interaction and the energy, but I feel I don't actually get to know the folks I meet dancing until I see them someplace else in town; like at the Food Co-op, where we strike up a conversation. Often the conversation starts with "I saw you at dance."

Another great place for conversation is the Friday evening Peace Vigils in front of the old Federal Building on Cornwall and Magnolia. There has been a peace vigil there since the 1960s. One of the oldest such gatherings in USA. Starts between 4 and 5 PM. Then a newer tradition joins in around 5 PM. Food Not Bombs. Sometimes there's music. Usually there's conversation and hanging out. Various other gatherings spin off from the Peace Vigil. There's a gathering of folks I sometimes join at Bellingham Bar and Grill. It's a bar, but a friendly group of folks at our table. Also reasonably priced food. I'll go to a bar for chicken salad.

TED Talk Tuesday is an interesting idea. They show a TED Talk and then have people discuss the topics after the talk. Happens each month at Exploration High School. Organized discussions like this can be valuable. Bellingham has lots of things like this. Book signings at Village Books, for instance.

The weekly Wednesday Dinner gathering based on my Yahoo Group seems to work pretty well. Even though it is fairly small, it's one of the only ongoing signs of gay community in this area.

This article with many of my thoughts after listening to the author of Reclaiming Conversation, the power of talk in a digital age, Sherry Turkle on the Diane Rehm Show.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mesmerized by the 1%, then complain about them

People complain about the 1% top income folks, but then many of the same people join, almost mindlessly, the Twelfth Man movement devoting their time and cheer to the holy televisions for watching the Seahawks games played by multi millionaire players backed by multi, multi millionaire owners.

Same thing can be said about big time actors. Hollywood?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jail proposal too big to fit comfortably under the tax cap

A local controversy here in Whatcom County. Proposition 2015-1 the new jail tax proposal. Even our Bellingham City Police Guild has come out against this tax. From their web page it says:

If this passes, all of our public safety tax authority will be locked up for 30 years yet some of our most critical needs – for mental health or substance and alcohol abuse treatment—are left unanswered. As our community grows we may need to fund a police station, a mental health treatment facility or new fire stations to serve our neighborhoods. But if this tax passes, we may find that we can’t pay for programs and facilities that will keep your family safe and the mentally ill out of jail.

Yes, the problem of a big ticket item, such as this jail, bumping up against conservative led tax authority limits imposed on local governments by state initiatives.

Maybe a smaller jail, that doesn't tie up our taxing limit for the next 30 years, is a better idea?

Ironically, I notice (in a yellow mailer) that the Republican Party, in Whatcom County, supports this tax. Odd, Republicans supporting a tax. Support for public safety among both Republicans and Democrats is popular, but maybe there is a better way to maintain public safety than this large "one item" tax for the jail.

How about a smaller jail with more alternatives to incarceration? Another idea, supported by (I think) the mayor of Bellingham, is to use property taxes rather than sales taxes for part of the funding at least. Different state imposed caps, also property taxes can be less regressive than sales taxes. Another idea would be to support efforts, at the state level, to lift caps on local taxation.

This issue reminds me of the national topic of trying to squeeze the huge defense budget into the sequester.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Income gap problem is not just about the 1%

I see the income gap as being more than just the problem of the 1% versus the rest. It's also the growing gap between the top 10% and the rest. The top 10%, or even the top 20%. This is the problem behind why so many workers can no longer afford to go the the dentist; for instance. Dentists are often in the top 10% while most workers make a lot less. As the gap between the top 10% and the rest of the population becomes wider, it gets harder for ordinary people to pay the dentist's wages. This makes going to the dentist less affordable.

As for the wealth of the top 1%, that can seem like its farther from directly effecting the lives of the average person. You pay your dental bill, but you don't notice paying Donald Trump's salary as much, or at least that connection isn't as obvious.

Conservative folks will often say, "I don't care what Donald Trump does with his own money as much as I care what Uncle Sam does with MY money." They must believe that how Donald Trump gets and uses his money is non of their business while they fret about taxes taking their money. Maybe they would notice how their dentist (for instance) gets his money when they pay their dental bill, however.

The connection between the wealth of the top 1% and problems the rest of us face is not that apparent; especially to conservatives. Maybe more folks would understand the connection between the income of the top 10% and the problems they face; problems such as high dental bills, or even high tuition costs. Look at the salaries of college presidents and administrators. Many of the presidents are in the 1% anyway.

We should be talking about the income gap between the top 10% and the rest of us, rather than just talking about the top 1%.

Also I don't mean to vilify any group of people, including the top 1%, or even the top 10%. We need them. Some of the top income folks do great things; like Space X founder Elon Musk for instance. It's just that society has a problem when the all income classes get too far apart.

When the incomes get too spread out, most people can no longer pay their dental bills, doctor bills, insurance premiums, education costs and so forth. These bills go to pay the high salaries of professionals in those fields.

Also, only talking about the 1% comes from political consideration. Make the group you vilify as small as possible. If 99% are on the "good" side and only 1% on the bad side, you win every election. Right? Well, why didn't that work in 2014? Maybe talking about the 1% makes the other 99% into "victims." Victims are less likely to do things for themselves such as voting. If they don't vote, then supporters of the 1% win. I realize that the wealth of the 1% gets larger and larger compared to the 99% with each passing year, but the 99% does need to take some responsibility; at least enough to vote for candidates that support higher taxes on top income folks. At least show up to the polls, I guess.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Discussing who won the Democratic debate is not that useful

Its not useful to discuss who won or lost the October 13 Democratic debate. People keep saying some polls and internet traffic went for Bernie while CNN and big time media gives it to Hillary as if not caring about grass roots evidence. It doesn't seem like it was about winning or loosing, but more about having the issues discussed and showcasing the candidates. Winning, or loosing isn't going to matter until the elections anyway. The Diane Rehm Show just discussed the issues without much speculation over who won or lost. Also gave coverage to the other 3 "also ran" candidates on that platform who I've already forgotten their names.

Yes, I very well might vote for Bernie in the primary (if we have a primary in Washington State. Maybe it's "caucus" here?) At the same time, I worry, as someone brought up on Diane Rehm, that Bernie could become another George McGovern who only carried one state and the District of Columbia in the 1972 election. Like happened to George McGovern back then, maybe Bernie can't win the general election because he could be classified as too far to the left? That's a legitimate concern, but it has nothing to do with winning or loosing that debate.

Martin Shkreli is famous, or infamous, enough so Bernie will hear his point anyway, even without a meeting

Martin Shkreli is famous, or infamous is a better word, for setting the price too high for an AIDS medication. Now he wants to have a private meeting with Bernie Sanders to explain his side of the story. Upset that Bernie wouldn't accept his donation and go for the meeting.

He can explain his side of the story to Bernie Sanders anyway, without a meeting. Martin Shkreli is famous, his message has already gotten high up into Bernie's campaign and to Bernie himself as well as all over the media; for what it's worth. Seems like whenever he opens his mouth, he's in the news. That's what fame and fortune does; unfortunately.

Pharma Brat 'Furious' Over Bernie Sanders Snub

Monday, October 12, 2015

Maybe we should call it First Nations Day? Other ideas for renaming the day

Less of a tongue twister than the politically correct "Indigenous People's Day" for renaming, "re branding" Columbus Day.

First Nations is a term used in Canada. Hand it to the Canadians to come up with good ideas.

Going another direction, how about calling it Exploration Day? Columbus wasn't the greatest guy and he wasn't necessarily the first to "discover" America. Besides the native peoples, there were the Vikings who sailed well before Columbus. Possibly there were even Chinese and explorers from other nations as well. I was even learning about the Vikings back at my grade school in the 1960s. The Viking were upstaging Columbus and I remember my teacher saying that Italian Americans were incensed with the (then) speculation that others got here first.

Exploration Day would preserve an original intent of a day to commemorate exploration. It could be modern exploration like giving NASA more respect. Scientific exploration. There have been lots of explorers besides just Columbus.

My idea of Exploration Day isn't likely to gain any political traction. Native Americans have already got a foothold on the idea for renaming this day and they deserve respect as well. Maybe we need more holidays. Give native Americans a day and have an exploration day as well. We could always use more holidays; less work days. Most people work the holidays anyway.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Video made during my visit to Russian House #1

Part of my 2015 bicycle tour down the west coast. Visit to Russian House #1 near Jenner, CA.

On their Facebook page, they post videos of conversations and music from various customers. It's an interesting way of sharing. Also promotes understanding between Russia and USA; two countries often locked in controversy.

Our guest about Radio Moscow

Posted by Russian House #1 on Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Video available to non Facebook users as well.

They didn't seem at all offended when I told a story about writing to Radio Moscow, when I was in college, and asking about human rights for homosexual people in the Soviet Union. I wrote that letter in 1976 to a listener question and answer program called "Moscow Mailbag." That question wasn't read over Radio Moscow, but they wrote me back with a pretty negative reply. I wasn't surprised as human rights wasn't that big a strong point in the old Soviet Union. More recently, things have gotten better for a while, from what I gather in the news, but also things get worse again. Goes in cycles.

Copy of letter I got in 1976 from Radio Moscow.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The quantum unknown creates license for imagination wonder, but be careful

Quite interesting article on Quantum Physics And The Need For A New Paradigm. Here's some of my own thinking, not directly from article, but inspired by these things.

The space/time universe that we experience may just be the tip of the iceberg as discussed in the article. Who knows what this can mean. It provides room for one's imagination to roam. I feel there are lots of possibilities, including what some folks would classify as metaphysical. At the same time, one needs to be very careful before drawing conclusions beyond the actual science.

I like to be open minded about the many possibilities, but I am skeptical of pretty much any metaphysical claims that people make. There's still lots of unknown and lots to learn, but the science doesn't say much, or support, the various claims that people can make; including the claims of great world religions.

Far out concepts about things like the quantum realm can provide license for us to think outside our limited, materialistic space/time box. At the same time, our ideas can be a minefield of quackery and the science doesn't really back most of what we can conjure up. I like being open minded, but non dogmatic about the possibilities we all think up.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Did Pope Francis's meeting with Kim Davis undermine the rest of his message?

Pope Francis had a fairly brief meeting with Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to sign gay marriage licenses. He still holds onto what I consider some outdated concepts about sex and family. At the same time, he usually tends to put these things in the background while speaking quite strongly about fairness and income distribution. I wouldn't agree with everything he stands for, of course, but there are some things in his bag of ideas that are cogent remarks on the condition of today's society.

On the plane headed back to Rome, Francis talked about the concept of conscientious objection. "Without referring to Kim Davis, the pope said conscientious objection is a right that is part of every human right." I can understand some of that thinking. Who wants to be forced to do something against their convictions, but I guess Kim Davis could, of course, resign from her position. Solders in war, who often have conscientious objection to a particular war, have a harder time getting out of the military. Back in the days of the draft, people were sometimes forced into military service against their will.

Job descriptions do change as society evolves. County clerks now have to follow the broader definition of marriage, people who join the military, during peace time, often face changes in the job when a war starts.

Still, the pope does say many good things about compassion and income distribution even though his less than ideal opinions on sexuality threaten to undermine his stance among us liberals. This pope has also spoken out about global warming, but those views are definitely undermined by this world's continuing explosion in population growth. Now passing the 7 billion mark. We may not be able to address global warming without a significant slowdown in population growth. Old ideas on sex and family certainly undermine that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The most exciting thing about last Sunday's lunar eclipse

The most exciting thing about last Sunday's lunar eclipse is not that it was during the super moon. The super moon is only slightly larger than a normal full moon. It's that the eclipse happened in Bellingham when it wasn't cloudy.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pope Francis has more credibility on similar issues than the last two popes

Pope Francis has been a strong critic of the income gap, the dark side of capitalism and selfishness. The last two popes had similar views, but this pope has more credibility. He seems more humble, himself, in things like his choice of pope mobiles and clothing. Also he is less pushy about the church dogmas that aren't that friendly toward birth control, gay rights and feminism. The other popes were more pushy on those dogmas so they ruined their credibility among liberals when it came to what they were saying about things like poverty and greed. What this pope says resonates better with us liberals creating more of a resounding chorus. The other popes might have tried to sing that tune, but it was more cluttered with emphasis on parts of the dogma that would turn the rest of the liberal choir away.

Also, the past two popes came at a time when the Catholic Church was besieged in the midst of the priestly sex abuse scandal. That scandal is probably starting to wind down now. It clouds the credibility of any stand that the church takes on ethical issues, but even that ugly black eye seems to be starting to recede into the history books by now.

On the topic of gay rights and population growth, the pope is still not willing to drop old ideas, but he does seem to speak more softly on these things. Using the concepts of grace and forgiveness, he puts out a welcome mat to more diversity of people and dialog. This is also an important step forward. Less of the witch hunt mentality that pope Benedict was accused of.

Personally, I still think it will be difficult to solve climate change unless we address the population problem. Even this pope has said he doesn't expect us to be reproducing like rabbits (I forgot the exact quotes), but church dogma puts a lot of obstacles in the way of new thinking on sex and family issues.

I still think this pope has taken many steps in a good direction and, for the most part, has been a positive influence in the ongoing discussion. He does have a kind heart. Change is often step by step.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Maybe philantropy is a better model for funding pharmaceutical research than return on investment

Egregious for sure. New hedge fund management in this pharmaceutical company raising the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Martin Shkreli is the Donald Trump of drug development.

They say they have to charge a lot to pay for research and development. I just got to thinking, there may be better ways to fund research than the standard "return on investment" model. How about philanthropy? Lots or research is funded by foundations and donations. Often donations from the very wealthy. For instance, if someone dies from a rare disease, money is often donated in that person's memory. Philanthropy might work better than pharmaceutical profits. Maybe it isn't good to view drugs as private investments, but rather investments in the public good.

Also, of course, there is government funding of research, but thinking about the philanthropy model is an avenue that's still kind of "free enterprise;" for those who are skeptical of turning everything over to government.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Religious bigotry and overpopulation are related and make their mark on the refugee crisis as well as climate change and other things

Religious bigotry and overpopulation seem to be related. Often religious bigotry stands in the way of reducing population growth. One thinks of anti gay bigotry, anti feminist attitudes and things like the battles against organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Then we see the troubling results of all this in the massive refugee floods around the world. Overwhelming in numbers; the people seeking to escape bigotry and war in their countries of origin.

Besides the refugee struggles we have the issue of climate change related to our growing numbers and aspirations. Will the California drought end before destroying California's vast agricultural industry that so many folks depend on?

Some forecasters say 2016 might be an El Nino year with more rain to California, but this isn't certain. Also El Nino means warm in its own way so little or no relief for the snow pack.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we face low snow pack also. Forest fires raged and are just starting to abate for the season.

How fast can Bellingham grow? Will lots of folks and retirees want to take refuge in our small city? Will housing remain affordable? What about traffic?

We can accommodate lots of people if we learn to live differently. Will single family residential zones have to go? How about the automobile with all the space it devours for parking? Maybe we can do better as some of these challenges also bring the seeds for opportunities, but we have to be willing to accept change. Flexibility. Not bigotry.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Maybe being that big isn't a good idea for Haggens Corporation

Quite a few people in Bellingham tend to be wary of big corporations. Sometimes events will land in one's lap that reinforce one's views. Haggen, a regional grocery store chain that has been based in Bellingham, is now facing the downside of "big corporate merger mania." The unhappy stories flowing across the pages of Wall Street Journal and other media. Of course this would happen around us; here in Bellingham. Gives many of us more pause in our thinking about big corporations; as if we didn't have pause already. Looks like it was trying to grow too fast.

West Coast Grocer Haggen Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9 2015.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Wormholes without the need for the pesky black hole

I read this interesting article about a magnetic field passing through a wormhole in the lab.

Significant, as I think (tho I could be wrong) that this is the first time evidence for a wormhole has actually been seen. The concept has been around for decades. Use of wormholes to take a shortcut and jump from one part of the universe to another without having to pass through the intervening space has been the subject of science fiction. I'm remembering the book "A Wrinkle In Time" where the concept of "tesseract" was used to travel around in the universe. This may not be quite that exciting, but the concept seems somewhat related.

Up until now, most talk that I hear about wormholes has been associated with black holes. If the wormhole exists, it's hiding behind the event horizon of a black hole and the event horizon is hiding inside the accretion disk where matter and energy are swirling down into the black hole. Certainly a daunting, if not impossible prospect to peer through all of this and tell just what's there. No one can really see into the black hole so seeing something akin to a wormhole without having to deal with the black hole is significant.