Sunday, January 12, 2020

Anger and fighting can definitely lead to friendly fire such as accidentally shooting down a civilian airliner

Hostility can backfire. I'm not a fan of anger and fighting. There has got to be better strategies to oppose an injustice.

Now it's clear that Iran accidentally shot down a civilian airliner with its citizens on board. I'm remembering, just a few days before this incident, a post I put here about accidentally blowing up the wrong temples in Israel. It was a "what if this were to happen" thought. Now this airliner incident has happened. A coincidence.

I'm not letting the US off the hook either. In 1988, we accidentally shot down an Iranian airliner.

Looking it up on Google, I find it was July 3rd 1988. I do remember it was not that long before the Fourth of July. There was quite a bit of shame and soul searching, within the US, after that incident.

I remember watching the Forth of July fireworks, that year, from Boulevard Park as they were shot out over the bay. A patriotic celebration, but definitely tempered with guilt.

Looks like there is soul searching in Iran over this recent incident as they accidentally shot down their own passengers. I'm glad they aren't still denying that it happened.

Often it is human nature to deny something in spite of overwhelming evidence. Total denial of climate change; for instance. I'd also put into the denial category, a lot of strongly held religious beliefs; for instance the 6 day creation story, or the tale of Noah's Ark, just the way it's written in holy scriptures. Questioning authority is valuable.

I also think that total sanctions against Iran is a bad idea. We need to think of better strategies to help the people of that country; especially the people who are trying to push for a better society.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Links to my New Year's Mailing and also an article about gravity waves

New Year's mailing I sent out to around 18 people that I still send to in the US Mail. It's kind of a summary of my year. Also talks about my possible plans for retirement, or at least maybe going even more part time; work wise at least.

In December of 2019, I reached the milestone of age 65. It means getting older as time keeps moving on, but it also feels like looking forward to a big vacation. I still remember (at times almost like it was just a few years ago) the last day of school. Anticipating that day just before the start of summer vacation was always a good experience from grade school all the way to college. More recently, I'd get that feeling before some bike trips.
New Year's 2020 On Flickr, click to enlarge.

My latest article in the Betty Pages. In January. About the gravity wave detector we have here in Washington State. LIGO Hanford.

Detecting events in the universe, like collisions between two black holes. Events so catastrophic that it rattles the very fabric of time itself.
Article in January The Betty Pages about gravity waves On Flickr, click to enlarge.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Conservatism may come from the old white guard in conservative churches, but in liberal churches, it may come from the Third World

Welcoming banners for GLBTQ people at Garden Street Methodist, here in Bellingham.

Like a lot of denominations, the Methodist Church may be splitting into two factions if this recommendation goes through. Attempting to be an amicable split, however.

It's interesting to note that these splits, which have been happening within liberal Christian denominations, are different than the politics of more conservative; fundamentalist denominations.

In conservative churches, the old, white "America first" conservatives are a said to rule the day. In liberal churches, it's the western, American, Canadian, European side that's more liberal while African and other third world sides tend to be more conservative. The Methodist denomination tends to be liberal, in the west at least, from what I gather.

The split here is on gay rights and also on theology. How literally do theologians take the so called "clobber" passages, in the bible, about homosexuality? In this case, the west, which could tend to be more white, also tends to be more liberal.

Personally, I am quite a critic of the conservatism that has its roots in the third world, or maybe it's roots are still in the west as it's often said to be a vestige of past colonial conservatism.

One thing that doesn't get discussed much, but I think about a lot, is the problem of overpopulation. I think that conservative attitudes about sexuality don't serve the third world well. Rapid population growth can bring on lots of poverty, misery and environmental destruction. The third world needs more women's rights, birth control and gay rights.

I know someone who was at a recent conference related to the split within the Methodist Denomination. He said that a delegate, from Africa, said something like. "You colonizers told us to do it a certain way, like saying homosexuality is a sin." "Now you've changed your mind." It seemed like he was saying that the African delegation would try and hold us, westerners to our original word.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Bush Jr. delivered Iraq to Iran on a silver platter made from our money

The US has stumbled along. In the 1990's we fought a war against the Sunni led government of Iraq after Iraq invaded Kuwait. That war was largely to defend stability in the oil world.

Then, after that war, we thought we had made a mistake by abandoning the majority Shiite population, in Iraq, who were still under the boot of the Sunni lead government of Saddam Hussein. We went back to help out the poor Shiite majority that we had abandoned and left to languish as they were caught between Hussein's brutality and our economic sanctions on Iraq.

The second war delivered Iraq to it's Shiite majority and to Shiite led Iran. Delivered to Iran on a silver platter made from our money.

Then we realized that was a mistake and have been trying to patch up ever since. Now hostility is kicking into high gear between the US and Iran.

Fighting over the sacred places

There is lots of feuding between religious people in this world. Not all religious people, of course, but it does seem prevalent; especially among fundamentalists. Much of that fighting happens around what are sometimes called the "Holy Lands," like where Israel / Palestine now resides.

Over the years, I've sometimes thought that it would be poetic justice if someone hellbent on destroying a nation, such as Israel, or Palestine, for that matter, Accidentally destroyed holy sites that they, themselves hold as sacred. So many of these sites that are highly regarded among the 3 religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity are in very close proximity to one another. An errant weapon could easily destroy the wrong temple. Seems like such a mistake would serve angry religious leaders, who would launch such a weapon, right.

Now it looks like our leader, Donald Trump, is toying with the idea of purposely destroying sacred sites. This wouldn't be an accident; like in my above thought, but on purpose. Trump does, of course, still have the backing of a lot of fundamentalist Christians in USA. Religious feuding continues.

If this were to happen on purpose, rather than just as "collateral damage," it would be on the level of ISIS destroying Ancient Roman sites in Syria or the Taliban destroying the large Buddhas that were built into the cliffs of Afghanistan. It's a race to the bottom.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Proposal to ban natural gas heating in Bellingham may be just a gimmick to appease consumer guilt about energy consumption

When someone ask me, on Facebook, what I thought about the proposed ban, (written about in New York Times. Bellingham made the New York Times). Here's what I wrote.

On first thought, I think the ban is probably not a good idea, but worth discussing. I kind of think the ban on natural gas is a "feel good" thing. A lot of "liberals" like the idea. I consider myself a liberal, but this is grabbing at straws. Trying to do "something" when more effective measures; such as a carbon tax, aren't likely to pass voters.

Problem with a natural gas ban is that much of our electricity comes from natural gas anyway. We really need to cut down consumption, but that is politically more difficult. Electrifying everything doesn't help; especially if much of the electricity comes from natural gas.

Maybe we should ban, or heavily tax, fossil fuel consuming automobiles, but that would never pass the voters either.

A philosophy behind banning natural gas is that electricity is more versatile. If something, like a furnace, runs on natural gas, it has to be that one fuel. Electricity can be sourced from a wide variety of sources, including solar, wind, nuclear (dare I say nuclear) and so forth. This is said to help push us toward things like solar. Also natural gas is said to be problematic due to methane leaks all along the way.

Ideally, an all electric, solar powered world is good, but it isn't easy to get there, given people's greed and unwillingness to consume less if the cost of solar is (at least in the short run) higher. Natural gas is less expensive for the average consumer than baseboard heating and the baseboard heating might still be coming from power generated by natural gas.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, a large percent of our electricity comes from hydroelectric power, but we just don't have enough rivers to supply our growing population and prosperity. As we keep growing, the percent of our power that comes from hydro tends to drop. Natural gas, wind and other green energy sources make up the difference. We still have a moratorium against wind power sites in much of Whatcom County. Worry about bats, birds and the aesthetics of wind turbines. Hydro power has it's problems too. The effect on salmon migration. There are proposals to breach many of our hydroelectric dams.

Advocates for this ban are pushing for heat pump technology. That is more efficient than baseboard heating. Heat pump means "refrigerating the outside," such as ground and roof areas, to transfer the heat inside. It tends to work best in mild climates.

If it gets too cold outside, the heat pump is working too much "uphill," so to speak and many heat pump systems have resistance electric heating as backup. Baseboard is a form of resistance heating. Sometimes they have the resistance coils right inside the heat pump unit to switch on as backup when the heat pump isn't able to keep up with demand.

Washington Square High Rise Apartments.

Interesting to note, the 8 story building, I live in (Washington Square HUD Housing), has a heat pump system, so I hear. It just works for the hot water system. I don't know a lot about it, but I think it provides at least part of our hot water by "refrigerating" the ground around the building and putting the transferred heat into our hot water.

I also hear that heat pump systems are fairly expensive to install. The regular heating, in this building, is from a natural gas boiler that heats water for the radiators in each apartment. The system works well.

Probably the most efficient thing about this building is the fact that 97 apartments are all together in one building with little surface area for heat loss. Not a lot of land is taken for 97 people.

We also have solar panels on the roof. I hear it provides about 10% of the building's electricity. Only 10% because a fairly tall building doesn't have a lot of roof area exposed to the sun versus the number of folks living here.

Of course one could note that by 2040, when this proposed ban would take effect (if they don't push it up to 2035), the world could be a lot different; especially if climate change is as serious as many people think it is.

Could Amy Klobuchar be just the candidate for bringing (sort of) together the diverse alternatives?

Democratic candidate Amy Klobuchar looks fairly moderate. I haven't seen a lot of media coverage. This Chicago Tribune columnist thinks she would be a good nominee for the Democratic Party. Joe Biden is 78. Age might be a factor with voters.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is promising, but this columnist pulls up a poll saying that only 26% of Americans think the voting public is ready for an openly gay president. It is interesting to note, however, that the results might be different if people were ask, "would you vote for a gay candidate if the only other choice on the ballot was Donald Trump?" I think a lot more than 26% would say yes, but only 26% feel that their fellow voters would be ready for this.

As for the candidates like Sanders, I personally feel people like what they promise, but people would balk at the changes if it meant things like higher taxes; carbon taxes, for instance. It's really hard to get even most left leaning people away from over dependency on their gas guzzling automobiles.

Amy Klobutcher may be the best choice to put a Democrat back in the White House and to bring along the other talent and ideas that we need ranging from Bernie Sanders to Mayor Pete to Andrew Yang to Elizabeth Warren and so forth.

So many voters are upper middle class, like top 20 or 30%. That needs to be taken into account when discussing things like Medicare. For too many voters, they may currently have something they think is better than Medicare. Some generous employer provided plan, for instance. Not a bare bones employer plan of course. This comfortable group of voters is still fairly numerous.

In the long run, healthier and wealthier people do need to pay more into the insurance pool so others, like folks with preexisting conditions, can be subsidized. This is a hard sell to voters, however.

As for taxing the 1%, I am for raising taxes, but I would mostly want to tax their personal money, rather than tax their businesses out of business. See if we can curb the money they spend on yachts and vacation homes rather than take away the building and machinery they use to provide their business. For instance don't tax the building out from under the restaurant that uses its building. Trying to differentiate these things is what rational tax policy should do.

As a gay person, myself, I am quite pleased with the progress that Pete Buttigieg has made even though it's easy to think, "this is too good to be true."

As for the more radical candidates, like Sanders and Warren, I keep thinking that we, the American people, have met the enemy and the enemy is us. Would people really support the taxes and changes proposed by these candidates? It's hard to even convince folks to drive less even though people are very concerned about global warming. Also remember that somewhere around 30% of the "people" still think Trump is a good president.

It does seem like a moderate candidate could begin the process of bringing this divided country back together. Maybe "together" isn't the best word our opinions are diverse and if everyone thought alike it would be boring. At least she might be able to bring back more semblance of civility.

I tend to support the moderate points of view, but one hazard of moderate thinking is complacency. A lot of people are pretty comfortable and yuppie like. Sometimes it does take radicalism to shake things up, but shaking things up can be painful. Are you ready to loose your home, your car, or whatever? Possibly your safety?

A wise phrase goes, "Be careful what you ask for because you might get it."

I tend to be moderate liberal, but plan to vote for whoever the Democrats nominate for president. Hopefully better thinking, from a wide range of people, can enter government along with the Democrats; whoever the candidate at the top of the ticket is.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

I wondered if the star of Bethlehem was a super nova

In this picture, UCC Church in Pullman, WA. looked kind of like it did during my childhood. Photo taken 1997.

I grew up in a liberal church which I still have a lot of respect for. The UCC Congregational Church, in Pullman.

The life of Jesus, all the way from Christmas stories to the death and resurrection part was shared like it was a set of mysterious tales and inspirational parables. It wasn't presented as rigid fact. It had a mystique about it. Ancient tales from Roman times. That made it all the more intriguing; in a way.

Back then, I might have thought about it the way I view questions about the origin of the universe. What may have come before the big bang? Was there a "before?"

The Roman Empire was kind of intriguing, to me, as well. So different than the world I was experiencing. There was the census and Caesar Augustus, the manger and the star of Bethlehem. I thought that star could have been a supernova. A large star, out in the galaxy, exploding as it reached the end of it's supply of hydrogen.

Then there was a story, I heard, about the old furnace in the basement of the church. When it ran out of fuel, one day, it supposedly, blew the door off the furnace room. I was kind of scared to walk past that door for several years.

My parents didn't march us all to church each Sunday. They just went when it was convenient for them. During my early childhood, I did kind of resent going to church, however. It all seemed old, musty and archaic.

Back in the early 1960's people still dressed up to go to church, or even just to go downtown. I didn't like the polyester type slacks I was expected to wear. When I got home from church, I was expected to change back into more informal clothing, but it was an annoying chore.

One time I tried to find a shortcut to having to take off my shoes before changing my pants. I pulled my pant legs off over my shoes, but the pant legs got stuck. Being determined to continue down that road, I shuffled out to my dad's shop, and grabbed the oil can. I tried to lubricate the pant legs so they would slip off over the shoes. It just made an even bigger mess.

By the time I got to high school, I started understanding theological discussions more. My impressions of the church improved significantly as I started participating in some free wheeling and speculative discussions there.

I still feel welcome in UCC and other liberal churches today even though I don't go to Sunday morning things due, mostly, to working night shift.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Can the 1% be our allies or are they always the "enemy?"

I wonder if there has been a survey of people's political opinions by income category? Are the wealthy necessarily more conservative than the poor or the middle class? Maybe there has been surveys like this. I would guess there is some correlation, but maybe not as significant as is often thought.

We have both income discrepancy, but we also have a clash in cultural values. As a liberal, I sometimes find it reassuring that not all the money and power is on the other side. Also it seems like there is hypocracy related to wealth on both sides.

I notice, when looking at a political map of the USA, that wealth tends to focus in urban areas and urban areas tend to be more liberal. There are exceptions to this pattern, tho. If one wants jobs and prosperity, move to the city. For affordable living, it's in the country. In many ways we are like yin and yang. A swirl with a bit of the other in each.

My modification of a Yin Yang symbol.

As for the 1%, regardless of whether they are liberal or conservative, I realize that someone is going to own the businesses. In our economy, there is concentration of wealth, to some extent, as someone is going to "own the store," so to speak. It could be a workers collective, stock holders, an entrepreneur or even the government. Someone is going to own it. That's understandable. I don't necessarily see the 1% as the enemy.

At the same time, I do think they have undue and corruptible influence on government and culture.

I also hold them accountable for their, usually higher levels of personal consumption. Not their legitimate business expenses, but their personal consumption. As for the impact on the environment, middle class and even some of the consumption from the poor is a factor as well. We all comprise the consumer market and the voting public. Our leadership does fail us, but we often buy it.

As for the wealthy being job creators, there are some trends in technology that counter this. 3D printing, for instance. There are some trends toward decentralization in the means of production.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Recreating Facebook in a decentralized way?

There are quite a few people who are critical of Facebook, yet it's hard to beat the interactive momentum that Facebook has.

I got to thinking that the open web used to work kind of like Facebook, but at a much more subdued level. People just posted things on their blogs, web sites and so forth. Things came up in searches and comments were made.

I guess this could happen again, versus trying to create a new Facebook. It's hard to get the momentum of network effect going on a new site; especially when friends are mostly on Facebook. Possibly a new site could get off the ground if it had less; rather than more, concern about privacy. If one doesn't already have friends on the site, low privacy makes it easier to find people and content via search.

It was fairly easy to find connections on the open web back when there was less privacy, paywalls and so forth. The web was like a seamless thing. Not totally open and seamless, but the whole concept of "open source" comes to mind. Decentralized and non proprietary.

The reason why this comes to mind is that a friend of mine just mentioned that he used to find what was going on in various towns, that he traveled to, by doing searches on the web. Now he says it's harder to find things because the events and discussions just get posted on Facebook, but not on the open web. He thinks Facebook's search doesn't work very well and it would be easier if the things could be found in Google.

When he said that, a light went on in my mind.

I do still try and put things onto the open web; including this blog and my photo albums on Flickr.

Facebook does intensify the interaction significantly, but quite a few things aren't posted on the open web anymore. I still put things on the open web; especially if they play well; so to speak, on Facebook. Facebook is a testing ground for my thinking as it's where I get almost all of the interaction. If it plays well on Facebook, then I put it on the web. Places like Flickr are good for search and archive, but, these days, it's a lot quieter out there; feedback wise.

A strategy of Facebook is friends interacting with friends. It's friends that are most interested in our content; rather than the big time media. Big time media tends to ignore us. Of course if they print everything we offer, it's truly "information overload." That's why focusing on friend networks takes off. It stimulates the grassroots discussion.

I basically still like Facebook. I do think more use of the open web would help. Posting things on blogs, web sites and so forth.

Open search engines could be developed to prioritize the content from average people, rather than loosing it under a stack of celebrity (such as Trump Tweets) content. One's friends could become a "filter option" in Google Search.

Maybe something like the Facebook feed could be recreated at the user end; on the user's browser. A plug in to the browsers that would bring up things from bookmarks the users put into the browser. Create a feed from a list of bookmarks which would include one's personal friends?

Maybe that's what RSS feeds were? I'll have to refresh myself on that again. It's kind of a dusty memory.

Before the World Wide Web, grassroots discussion was a lot more limited. There just wasn't enough space, in the media, for everything. There were things like letters to the editor, but there was more space for interaction in person. Discussions around the water cooler, so they say. I still find that I have a lot of those discussions in person today.

In a way, Facebook is the water cooler on steroids.

Back in the early days of search engines, there was a search engine called Magellan. It had a rule, if I remember correctly, that it would only list content from official publications and more credible, institutional type sources. No personal, self publishing type web sites were allowed. Other search engines, at the time, did allow personal sites. Sites such as Altavista and Lycos did allow personal content. The later sites took off with more interesting content while, I think, Magellan didn't get that big. A while after that, Google started indexing everything from personal to institutional content. Google really took off.

To reduce fake news, it may help to try and just catalog institutional content, but one must remember; the Trump White House is an institution also.

My strategy for reducing fake news is to be in less of a hurry. I'm not in a hurry to re post things until there's time for fact checking and discussion to happen.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

The places I have lived.

It may seem narcissistic, but I have created a photo album about the places I have lived. It's on Flickr which is visible on the open web. No subscriptions needed. I've weaved some of my opinions, about living situations, into the photo captions and descriptions that come up when one clicks on each photo.

You've already seen a few of the pictures on Facebook, but I now have the whole album. It does seem narcissistic, but social media tends to favor personal stories over just news and opinion that one might also get from the mass media.

So here it is. Places I have lived.

Photo from my 2013 move. Follow above link to my 2019 move and beyond.

See also My Childhood.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Is leaning far to the left sustainable; not just at the ballot box, but also in the economy?

Obama has recently been in the news as he cautions people not to lean too far to the left. Part of the worry is politics. It's thinking about what is electable, but I also have another, more long term thought.

My question; are big reforms advocated on the left sustainable? Would they be supported by the American people in the long run? For instance, free college sounds good, but do higher taxes, to pay the cost of running colleges without tuition, sound good?

Here in the blue state of Washington, we recently saw a victory for tax cutting, transit gutting Tim Eyman's cheap car tabs initiative. That victory; like Trump's victory in 2016 caught a lot of people by surprise.

There are many, what would be called radical ideas for dealing with climate change, but I am noticing, here in the blue city of Bellingham, lots more automobile traffic than ever before. Bellingham's population is growing, We should be riding bicycles and using public transit.

I think, moderate Obama has a good point. Are we willing to support our own ideals? Are we willing to support them at the polls and in the new economy that they would create?

Kind of related to my thoughts above is this commentator tipping his hat to Trump on the economy. Given Trump's many problems and drawbacks, this commentator still says, the economy is humming along pretty good.

That's what I think of as the Achilles Heal for Trump's campaign strategy. Looking deeper, tho, is this "booming economy really a good thing? What about the carbon footprint? What about income inequality? I think Americans need to make some big changes in our expectations at the grass roots level. Yes, I mean things like more bicycling and less fixation on money.

For an alternative platform to challenge Facebook, it would have to go the opposite direction from privacy.

The momentum (network effect) makes Facebook extremely useful. Like most big institutions, it does have it's problems. If an alternative could get going, it's always good to have choices.

For an alternative to get off the ground, I think it would have to go the opposite direction from privacy. On a new platform, one would need to be able to brows freely without having to be in the friends list of the people they are browsing. The posts and topics would need to be searchable, both inside the platform and in Google. I think posts and threads would need to be visible on the open web to gain publicity. It would take this, at least for a while, to get the ball rolling; so to speak.

This would be the opposite of what some people want when they want more privacy. To start and to get the ball rolling, it would need to be open; in my opinion at least. It would kind of be like going back to the web, before Facebook, when people had their various pages and blogs available. Today, few people think to go to my blog anymore. It does get some traffic and searches, but most of the interactivity is on Facebook. That's why I use Facebook.

In the 1990's, they had a term called "push technology." That was when information, on a web site, would be pushed out to a list of subscribers; like being in a newsgroup or on a mailing list. Facebook takes care of that now. On a new platform, people could still sign up to friends lists to subscribe, but they would also have to be able to brows the content without having to be subscribed, or in the friends list, of the person posting. To get the ball rolling, it would have to accommodate the lurkers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Why have an HD radio?

Since I am kind of a radio geek, I just bought a new HD radio. Most people wouldn't even know what an HD radio is. How is that different from a regular radio?

Certain stations put out an HD digital signal which allows the station to transmit more than one program over its signal. Some FM stations have 2 or 3 programs.

Why have an HD radio versus just finding everything, radio and all, on one's cellphone?

Relying on cellphones for everything can be problematic. No wonder people's cellphone batteries keep going dead. Then there's the problem of having to pay for data. HD radio sends you its data (programming) for free.

Another issue is emergency communication. Radio can be more robust when the lights go out. It's harder to provide auxiliary power to all those many cellphone towers than it is to have backup power for one radio station. See my entry on the recent PG&E fire prevention power shutoffs in California. Lots of folks were left in the dark without thinking about using the radio.

I've thought that HD radio might go by the wayside due to the use of cellphones, but it's still hanging in there. Problem is, it isn't easy to find an HD radio. Not just a radio with digital tuning, an actual HD radio. Hard to find in stores and many of them are expensive. One can search online for HD radios from various retail websites.

The first HD radio, I had (called the Insignia) worked okay, but the control buttons were very hard to see and hard to use. Tuning, volume and so forth were across the top.

I eventually took it to Goodwill with it's instruction booklet. I also wrote some things on the booklet to help people, maybe, know how to use it.

The HD radio I use now was made in UK. Called the Retro Mini. Works pretty well and easier to use.

The HD features only work if one is within the primary range of the station. Unfortunately, they don't work for fringe area reception. During childhood, (and still sometimes today) I to liked getting radio stations from as far away as I could still barely hear them. That doesn't work for HD.

Here in Bellingham, my location has a clear view to the mountains north of Vancouver, BC where lots of FM stations are located. One of my favorites is CKNW which broadcasts talk shows. Seems like Canadian commercial talk is better than that in USA. CKNW is normally on AM. 980 AM, but static from cellphones and computers in the home make AM reception difficult. The program is also on FM HD. It's on CMFI 101.1 FM HD 2.

CMFI HD 3 is another AM station; "All Traffic All The Time." Vancouver's all traffic 730 AM. Yes, traffic is a good use for radio; even at 4 in the morning. I sometimes like to listen tho I am seldom in traffic. Listen and gloat.

Here in Bellingham we have a few stations that broadcast an HD signal. The most notable is KZAZ, our local outlet for Northwest Public Broadcasting.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Urban areas with different values need to have more autonomy

I think this country would work better if urban areas had more autonomy. After the $30 car tab initiative passed, here in Washington State, this columnist, in the Seattle Times, suggests the more in "urban" King County, be allowed to tax itself. Tim Eyman's tax cutting transit crippling initiative didn't pass if the vote were just taken within King County.

There is a big split between rural and urban thinking when it comes to the need for things like public transit. Unfortunately, statewide rules put limits on what urban areas can tax within their jurisdictions; even if the people within the urban areas vote for the taxes.

According to the article, the denser populated areas of King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties voted for more expensive car tab taxes to support the Sound Transit light rail plans. Other more rural areas in those counties voted against those taxes along with most of the rest of the state.

I think, if the taxes could be levied and voted on by precinct, it would be best. Even county lines don't always fit. Big areas of those 3 counties are less urban. The less urban voters in Pierce and Snohomish Counties were able to carry those counties for the cheaper car tab measure. The Tim Eyman measure. King County, itself, did vote against Tim Eyman on that.

This author is suggesting Sound Transit drop it's plans for expanding into Pierce and Snohomish Counties. Only do the build out within King County. There are a few Sound Transit services already in those counties, however, like the Sounder Train to Everet and the light rail in downtown Tacoma. He would suggest no more plans to expand light rail beyond King County.

I do tend to also see some merit in a comment, in the article, from Pierce County's executive who must not be a fan of rail. He says we would be better off with rapid bus transit. Bus transit rather than light rail. He could be right in that. Seems like America really can't do rail. In China, rail gets built whether property owners, in its path, want it or not. USA is different.

Buses might still be more practical, tho not as glamorous. The Pierce County executive suggests a dedicated "bus only" HOV lane between Seattle and Tacoma. This would get the buses out of the traffic snarl. Bus only HOV. Not an HOV lane that considers 2 passengers in a car to be mass transit. The current HOV lanes are clogged with traffic also.

Allowing urban areas more autonomy would be a great help. The needs and problems of rural and urban America are quite different.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

To have, or not to have insurance

In one of my threads on Facebook, a friend suggested that the concept of insurance is a bad idea. He thinks insurance creates the illusion of an endless pool of money allowing medical professionals to overcharge and patients (in the case of health insurance) to not accept personal responsibility for their health.

I find those ideas interesting, but I also feel insurance is needed due to the wide range of health circumstances that people face. Here's what I wrote in response.

I think it was invented, in part, because there is such a vast discrepancy among people regarding health. Some folks; like me (knock on wood) have been healthy for years while others have real expensive medical conditions. Some folks are born with conditions where life, or at least quality of life, is real expensive to maintain. In the past, lots of these people just died and / or were an even greater burden on their families and loved ones. Insurance helps to take care of those less fortunate.

It also enables less healthy lifestyles and greed at the top. Creates the perception of a limitless money pot. It can go both ways.

If everyone were fairly healthy and of reasonable income, one could just use their savings accounts for medical needs. There have been attempts to create medical savings accounts with this in mind. I have one that my employer pays into. It works unless, of course, I were to have catastrophic illness, or long term illness. I also have high deductible insurance from my employer for that eventuality.

That friend has some libertarian thinking so he is suspicious of attempts to use government to provide things like health insurance or even public transit. I tend to favor things like the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Private health insurance seems to be serving less and less people, these days.

Whether public, or private, I still feel there is some need for the concept of insurance. Here's more of what I wrote in that thread.

One thing Libertarians seem to overlook and not provide an answer to is the problem of vast discrepancy in medical needs between different individuals in society. As I mentioned earlier; some people can get through life with very little need for medical care while others face chronic illnesses and, in some cases, birth defects, that require loads of care. Without something like insurance, the people with more extreme medical expense are more apt to be left behind. I think that is one of the original reasons for creating the insurance "large pool" concept. Its to soften the blow on those who are medically less fortunate.

Having said that (above), the system of insurance is ripe for abuse and there does need to be smart ways to deal with those problems. I do think there needs to be more competition, so to speak, and transparency in the medical profession. Also more incentive for healthy living. As with communications technology (you mentioned in your comments), this can help to bring down the costs.

There is a lot of technology in medicine. At the same time, not all things work like the amazing advances we have experienced in communications technology over the last few decades. Medicine may not be quite as easy, in that way.

Competition has helped in the advancement of technology, but there has also been lots of government participation as well in the basic research and the development of things like the Internet backbone.

Seems like a mix of strategies is the best way forward. We need something better than just all "libertarian free enterprise," or all "government." These are extremes in thinking that may look good in theory. A mix seems to bring us forward, but nothing, even a mix, is without it's potential for abuse. Insurance, whether, private or government, can easily be corrupted.

I know there are some solutions that libertarians have for taking care of the medically less fortunate. Solutions; such as charity care and volunteer service, but it seems that without the big pool to soften the burden, these solutions would still leave many folks out in the cold. The needs of the less fortunate are just too overwhelming.

In the past, lots more people, with serious illnesses, just hobbled along without the technology, we have available today, to address these handicaps. Today's ability to bring more people into normal living, through medicine, does create a high cost, in many cases. Also, in the past, more of these people just died earlier. Flashback to a somewhat critical letter I wrote, back in 1986, to Group Health Insurance Cooperative in Seattle. They responded.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

All electric over natural gas? A lot of electric comes from natural gas. Cars are still the elephant in the room.

Seattle considering a ban on use of natural gas on buildings built after July 2020, at least.

I think, probably a bad idea. The main alternative, used in buildings, is electricity. Guess what. A lot of our electricity comes from - natural gas. It doesn't really stop the use of natural gas; a fossil fuel.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, most of our electricity does come from hydro electric dams, but natural gas is another big source of our power. We have more hydro power than most places, but as our population and prosperity grows, there aren't enough rivers to keep up with demand. If there isn't enough hydro power, much of our electricity comes from natural gas; such as the Encogen power plant on Bellingham's waterfront.

Wind and solar generates power also, but not that big a percentage; yet. We need to use the wind and solar more.

Some people might say that electricity is best as it's the most adaptable. One can generate electricity from many sources, including solar, nuclear, coal and so forth. If we convert to "all electric," it might force us faster into adopting solar, but in the meantime most of our Northwest power is hydro. Hydro has it's problems too. Think dams on the salmon streams. There's even a proposal to dismantle some of the dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers to help the salmon and the whales. Several native American tribes are pushing this idea.

The biggest problem is our transportation. Still way to dependent on fossil fuel powered cars and trucks. That's the true elephant in the room.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

If radio doesn't provide local information, people turn to internet, but what happens when the power goes off?

Power company just not taking chances and turning off lines as winds whip through autumn dried California. Evacuations and things people take for granted, like traffic lights and cellphone communication not working in some cases.

This brings up the issue of emergency communications now that so much information flow goes over the internet and cellphone technologies. Quite a few cell towers don't have backup power, computers go dark without electricity and folks who now rely on their cellphone for just about everything keep running down the battery.

In years past, radio was a great technology for disseminating local information, but these days, a lot of radio stations are just automated music formats with no local news staff, or just national network feeds carrying programs like Rush Limbaugh.

If radio stations produced more local news and information content, people could turn to the radio for useful information. In the Bay Area, KQED does a good job, among stations, however. I enjoy their locally produced shows about homelessness, the environment, technology and so forth. I even find that information interesting up here in Bellingham, but I am an information junkie.

Some folks called a recent show about PG&E turning off power lines due to fire threat. They were wondering where they could get information, including emergency information, if their computers and cellphones go down. Where does one tune to on the radio? Battery operated radios can save on cellphone batteries.

I wrote a comment, probably lost among the comments, wondering if the Civil Defense Emergency Network could be, or has been, activated over radio stations to inform people which local stations were carrying the emergency information. How does one find those stations if their computer is down?

Much of the radio dial is just automated music or national network formats with no local news coverage. Maybe not quite so bad in a big metropolitan area, but here in Bellingham, there's practically no local news or talk. It just isn't economically viable. KGMI comes closest, but I noticed, over the years, that when we have big storms and so forth, it's often on a weekend when the local news staff is not working. That station is usually just national network feeds. Other local stations are pretty much all music; like turning my MP3 player on shuffle; a concert on the decks of the Titanic as it's sinking.

42% national sales tax to pay for Elizabeth Warren's Medicare for all plan?

Yes, health insurance is expensive. An interesting article, by Rick Newman at Yahoo Finance (not the video) talking about how much a "Medicare for all" plan could cost. Staggering, but toward the end of the article it does say that people and employers pay a staggering amount now for private health insurance. When considering what folks pay for insurance, the higher taxes to support Medicare for all isn't so bad after all.

Of course higher income people would be hit harder with the taxes than they are with premiums as taxes tend to be more graduated; or at least should be graduated based on income.

Healthcare is too expensive. Even Medicare for all would have to be paid for, but private insurance is expensive also. More people should ride bicycles for exercise and health. I just add that whenever I can.

Cancelling UN climate conference might save on jet fuel

The next big UN conference to address climate change was planned for the city of Santiago in Chile, but social unrest in that country forced the Chilean government to cancel the event due to security concerns and so forth.

My cynical side might say cancellation of this conference can save some jet fuel and greenhouse gas emissions flying the delegates to the conference. The conference may be scheduled in another location, however. Bonn, in Germany is being considered as a backup.

After resolutions are passed at these conferences, one wonders if they can get the nations and the people to comply with the lower guidelines for reducing carbon emissions anyway. Meanwhile there is social unrest related to income inequality and folks fretting about things like rising gas prices. As populations and demands for prosperity keep growing, there is a lot about mainstream ways of life that seem no longer viable. Shifting to a more bicycle culture, solar energy and green technology isn't always easy.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Extinction Rebellion has some good ideas, but here is one mistake they, as well as so many others, make.

I've been hearing about something called Extinction Rebellion. Wants quicker action to reduce carbon emissions. Protests by blocking bridges and so forth. They blocked the Burrard Street Bridge a while back.

In my opinion, these people are making the same mistake that so many folks make. They focusing on changing the government. The problem is the people, not necessarily the government. Government is just part of the problem.

In Vancouver, BC they are trying to all but make cars extinct. If most people lived my lifestyle, Robert Ashworth, it could be done, but I don't think most people will give up their cars.

They'll get electric cars, maybe, if easily available. This group would be okay with that only if the electricity comes from green energy, I guess. They want to see big changes within 5 years. I'm a non driver. The bicycle is my main means of transportation and travel.

Extinction Rebellion calls for much less meat consumption, car free living and a lot of other big changes in people's lives.

One of their main proposals calls for a reform of government by creating something called a "Citizens' Assembly." That could be like a house of Parliament (in Canada) or Congress (in USA) I guess. I do think that's a good idea, but it would not necessarily get us to significant reduction in carbon emissions.

What a Citizens' Assembly would be (as I understand) is a body of citizens randomly picked; like in serving on a jury. It would better represent the population than an elected body in some ways. These days, elected bodies are basically only made up of wealthy people who can afford the publicity to have name recognition to get elected. Money rules. A citizen Assembly would be picked by random lottery. Even so called nobodies; such as farmers, custodians, scientists and so forth could serve in the body.

I find this idea intriguing as a way to reform government and reduce the power of money in government. One body could be chosen this way while the other houses of government could still be elected. It would give more kinds of people voice in the government. Not just the politicians who can win the popularity / name recognition contest of being elected. These days, money has pretty much warped the election process except maybe at the local level. It just takes so much money to get on'e name out there, in most cases.

Adding a Citizens' Assembly might be a good idea, but it wouldn't necessarily get us to quick a ending of carbon emissions. A Citizens' Assembly would still be made up of people. The big problem with our carbon addiction is the people and our cultures. The government is mostly just a reflection of what the average person still wants to have. Most people aren't likely to support policies leading to things like giving up their cars within 5 years.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Do we still need to keep ramping up product production, or isn't there a more up to date economic strategy?

Trickle down economics keeps getting discredited, but somehow it persists. It gained lots of traction during my college years when inflation was rampant. Prices were going up for lots of commodities and products such as gasoline. There was some attempt to have price controls, but that often led to shortages. There were the gas lines of the 1970's. Some economists thought, if you help the producers, give them tax breaks and so forth, there would be more supply and lower prices.

Thus what I think Supply Side Economics is about? Question mark here as, admittedly, trying to read up on that subject causes my eyes to gloss over.

We face a very different situation now. Here in the US, we are awash in cheap products. There is usually lots of supply. There isn't the "Energy crisis" like in the 1970's. We've basically fracked (oil fracking) our way out of that. Today's problems are a bit different. It's been getting harder to afford a place on this planet that one can call home. Ramping up factory production, or oil drilling, isn't going to create more place for people on this planet. Better planning might, however. Density, transit and so forth; in the places where the jobs are and the people want to live.

We also have the cost problems associated with income discrepancy. Large segments of the population that can't afford the services provided by high income professionals such as medical services and insurance services. Education is effected by this also; for instance the high cost of college administrators. Giving more money to the wealthy isn't going to help here.

In my college years, I heard it said that giving money to consumers would just increase demand and push prices up farther, or lead to shortages. That thinking might work for gasoline, but not necessarily for all parts of the economy.

Today, I hear economists, such as Paul Krugman, talk about the need to stimulate demand for things we need; like building green infrastructure.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

As Greta Thunberg shamed them, they cheered even though many got to the UN by jet. Surrealistic.

It was surrealistic when young climate activist Greta Thunberg gave her speech before the UN. She was shaming the people as in how dare you. Shame on you and they cheered. Many in that audience arrived by jet plane.

There is kind of a disconnect between what people say has to happen and the lives of most folks being business as usual. This disconnect contributes to climate anxiety.

Making the needed changes is possible, but challenging. Here are some of the challenges.

Reducing the carbon footprint as world population continues to grow. Expected to level off at around 10 billion people; 3 billion more than currently alive. More people needing places to live, jobs and so forth.

Much of the Third World has been, and still is rapidly rising out of poverty. Good news in many ways, but challenging when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint. More people driving cars and so forth.

Countries, such as Japan have shut down nuclear power plants which has led to an uptick in power coming from fossil fuels. It may be even harder to reduce dependency on fossil fuels if we decommission nuclear energy at the same time. Nuclear is a large source of non intermittent power. Solar and wind energy is best, but these are intermittent sources; meaning they only work when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. The technology of battery and power grid distribution still needs improvement.

Significant reduction in the carbon footprint is doable, but it will require many changes in the way business and governments work, also changes in people's lifestyles, expectations and voting patterns. We also may have to rely on things like carbon sequestration and even geoengineering; meaning artificially reflecting some sunlight away from Earth.

How quickly we have to make big changes is up to debate, I think. According to Greta, pretty much right away; like in the next decade. That's anxiety producing, in itself. As for what the scientists say, that's a bit less clear. We do have a problem, but how quickly we have to solve it doesn't seem like the slam dunk; so to speak.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Redefining GDP to include more forms of progress

In Greta Thunberg's speech at U.N. Climate Session, she criticizes talk about money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. GDP growth could be a bad thing. For many, this would be a real hard pill to swallow.

In my own opinion, I am not a big fan of increasing wealth and economic growth, but I am a fan of progress. There are many forms of progress that are not measured by traditional measures of GDP. Human rights, health, more free time, meaningful conversations, friendships less burden of work; even erotic pleasure; to name a few. This calls for major changes in culture and lifestyles all over the world.

People tend to be more comfortable with technological progress and technological progress is a great thing. That can happen also.

On the subject of technology, much of that progress is not measured in our faulty figures for GDP. The tiny and inexpensive Smartphone offers us so much yet it's monetary price adds very little to GDP compared to the multi million dollar computer I saw in the mid 1970's when I toured the computer center at Washington State University. That computer boosted 2.5 megabytes of RAM memory which was significant back then. Todays, far more features of the Smartphone hardly tip the scales in people's perception of their wealth.

Advanced technology is one road to less energy use. Think LED lights.

We are living in a time of great abundance, yet our economic situation puts many folks only a paycheck or two out of poverty. Maybe we can't grow our way to a sense of fulfillment, security and peace of mind. That shift in thinking is an economic challenge in the West.

Meanwhile; especially in what's called the Third World, the traditional measure of GDP growth is possibly even more sought after. As world population grows and more people rise out of poverty, there is continued pressure to provide more jobs, homes, cars and so forth.

Immigration adds some population growth in the west also driving some of this pressure here.

I think we have to redefine what progress means. Think less in terms of traditional wealth and more in terms of other qualities in life.

There is some anger in her statements. I hope this doesn't provoke a war between the generations.

Here's another item in the news.

Climate change fight should be 'sexy' and 'fun', Japan's new environment minister says.

Reminds me of some of my thinking in relation to World Naked Bike Ride. Think about things that motivate people rather than just sacrifice, doom and gloom.

Japan, itself, comes under criticism as new coal plants are under construction there. Problem is that after the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, quite a few nuclear plants have been shut down so much of Japan's power needs shifts back to fossil fuel sources.

This environment minister, in the link above, has encouraged the shutdown of nuclear plants as well. Another hard pill to swallow; especially thinking of the islands of Japan having little land area for solar and wind farms.

If Japan can try and go green, even without nuclear, we ought to be able to also, here in USA, with so much of our land area; including our desert lands. Still, it's a challenge.

Here in Whatcom County, there is still a moratorium against wind power in most rural areas of the county. This due, in part, to the property owners, "not in my backyard" issue and also due to the worry about wind farms effect on bats as well as birds; especially bats. Eastern Washington has lots of big wind farms now; like around Ellensburg.

Building solar panels can create economic activity and traditional forms of wealth, but making these changes also can create economic disruption; for instance carbon taxes. Some people gain while others loose in the short run at least. We need lots of new thinking about the economy.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Think how much growing pain grumbling there would be if US population were growing as fast as world population.

World population has doubled since my childhood, but here in the USA, it has not quite doubled. The US population has grown from 200,000,000 to around 325,000,000. Not quite doubling, but still a big jump.

The main point I am making is that we are sure noticing the growing pains, here in USA, yet we still aren't growing as fast as some other parts of the world. Imagine the growing pains we would feel (or at least grumble about) if we were growing as fast as some of the other parts of the world.

One of the most obvious growing pains is the angst about immigration that's mostly expressed on the right side of the political spectrum. Refugees are swelling our ranks, but imagine what it would be like if 1/3 of our population was recent refugees. I hear that was the situation in the small country of Jordan which sits right next door to Syria; a nation which has been crumbling.

We hear growing pains on both the left and the right. Most people, on the left, don't seem to grumble about immigration, but there is a lot of anxiety over new construction and development. There's quite a bit of worry about all the new construction here in Bellingham. I also hear that California is behind by 3 million units in the housing construction it would have needed to keep up with its population growth. Housing costs are at a crisis point in many US cities and towns; at least in desirable locations.

Part of the problem is how we go about developing and accommodating people. I hear that 40% of the land area, in Los Angeles, is devoted to asphalt for parking and driving automobiles. This is not just a problem in Los Angeles. We need to rethink lots of things, including how most people transport themselves in our society at least.

Much of the world is still aspiring to live like we do.

Here in the west, our human rights, gay rights and feminism is pretty good, but we do tend to be consumptive societies. Our population growth is more under control. I think part of that is the success of things like gay rights and feminism. Most of our population growth is due to immigration.

In much of what is called the Third World, attitudes about human rights can be a lot worse. Population is growing faster than in the west while many of the people aspire to have similar material wealth to the west. It's like the worst of both worlds.

I know that population growth is slowing down, all over the world, but not slowing down fast enough; especially if one believes that we are close to the breaking point on climate change.

As for the west, we really need to rethink things like jet travel and automobile dependency unless we can find green alternatives to power these things. We are making progress, but is the progress coming in time?

I like the insightful comments I got to this post on my Facebook wall. One can see most of them, I think, if logged into Facebook tho not necessarily in my friends list.