Saturday, March 25, 2017

Taxes are a better way to subsidize healthcare premiums. That's why the Republicans and even the Democrats don't really get it.

Biggest problem with Republican so called "fix" of Obamacare was the lack of enough subsidy for lower income people. This would have resulted in possibly 24 million folks loosing coverage. As Obamacare remains in effect, at least for now, the costs of these subsidies are pushing insurance premiums, for higher income people, much higher. This is causing "sticker shock" among the high income folks. I think it would be better if this money was raised in the form of income taxes, rather than trying to hide it in the premiums. Problem is, there is an aversion, in USA, to using income taxes. I think that's how Canada does it. Also, of course in Canada, healthcare is less wasteful and expensive.

In press conference after their healthcare bill failed, Trump almost sounded reasonable. He's getting a lot of flack for this big failure, but it's more a failure of Congress. Also the problems of healthcare in USA. Trump basically went along for the ride as he wanted to get something done. A rush job, of course.

Watch out. Many Republicans feel that Obamacare is unsustainable and destine to implode on it's own. I don't know the details. I've heard everything from it being sound to it teetering on the brink of collapse. Republicans are banking on the Obama system crashing thinking they will look good in the long run. I think they all look bad and the American healthcare situation is in trouble for many, many reasons. We need to look to Canada for some examples of a better working healthcare environment, so to speak. Also Republicans need to do better at including Democrats in the solution. Evan Trump is mentioning working with Democrats.

Here's something kind of funny.

One reporter, on the radio, was speaking about what happened in the House of Representatives yesterday. She said something like; "they pulled the Bull." Then she corrected herself to say "they pulled the bill." I was thinking "the bull sh ...."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Great podcast. Bassem Youssef, a comedian from Arab world on WBUR

I listen to lots of podcasts during my custodial shift. This is a very good episode from WBUR in Boston.

Bassem Youssef, a comedian from the Arab world. Often called the Jon Stewart of Egypt. Interesting look at authoritarianism and open mindedness in religion and life. Now in USA where speech is more open. His show was popular in Egypt and beyond, but runs afoul of government authorities. Was involved in the Arab Spring. Has a lot of funny and insightful things to say about all religions, including Islam. Taking a critical look at authoritarianism. Quite interesting and fun to listen to.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Another year to celebrate the Bellingham Food Co-op



Biked to the annual meeting and, of course, dance party for Bellingham Food Co-op. Held each year at Alaska Ferry Terminal. Event was free and open to the public. Learn about how the Co-op is doing. More than just a business. Also food, mingling and dancing. See my Pictures and click on images for captions.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lazy American corporations

A guest on Larry Kudlow was talking about lazy American corporations. Kudlow is conservative, mind you. Conservative or not, there's still worry that excess money, in corporations, might not go to investment in new "plant and equipment." It often, instead, goes into companies buying back their stock, buying each other out and paying bonuses to their executives. A "jobs recovery" will need companies to be willing to take risk, invest in new products, technologies and so forth.

The guest also mentioned that technology is often a "deflation factor." Yes, I keep saying this. Technology can bring down prices and wages due to things like automation. That's an issue the Trump people aren't dealing with very well. Deflation can be a good thing as it means more goods and services for less, but it's hard on businesses and workers when other things, such as housing and healthcare costs, keep going up.

One problem discussed is low interest rates and easy money. I think in many cases, there's an illusion of prosperity created by low interest rates driving things like the housing bubble while actual growth of things like manufacturing is lagging. Then one can also ask, do we need more manufacturing? Think about the environment and how many products we need. Also, technology is improving things; smarter instead of bigger, but technology has its deflationary effects.

As for companies being "risk adverse," that's a big problem. The companies will blame regulation for their risk adverse behavior. They have a point, but I think there's a lot more to it than that. Also, of course, we do want safety and a clean environment.

In my opinion, it seems like corporations run on fear, to a large extent. Fear that they will loose wealth. That's no way to kindle an exciting recovery. We need something better. I think business has it's place, but it's kind of a tired paradigm. There's a lot of things, besides just business, that can bring vitality to our communities. Volunteerism, quality of life issues, change toward healthier and more environmentally friendly things. New beginnings.

Also things like Co-ops and non profits, of which I recently attended the Bellingham Food Co-op annual meeting and party. See photos here and scroll around here.

Republicans clobbering the low income, older American worker; where many of their voters reside

Republican former Congressman Eric Cantor speaks out on healthcare reform. It's like a "do or die" moment for the Republicans. They've got to get it correct or they're whole agenda could sink. The stakes are high.

I say Republicans aren't likely to get it correct as they have a true aversion to taxing higher income folks; something I think is necessary to keep providing insurance for the lower income workers that Obamacare has added to the roles of Americans with coverage.

I sometimes listen to a conservative talk show host named Larry Kudlow. One of his guests was talking about a problem that the Republican healthcare bill has. It clobbers a lot of older Americans who are still not quite to age 65, where they become eligible for Medicare. It clobbers them with higher "age based" premiums (actuary tables) along with cuts to subsidies. People in the $10,000 to $30,000 income range truly get clobbered. A lot of those folks were Trump supporters.

I'm in that demographic also, even though I'm not a Trump supporter.

Republicans, in Congress, are struggling to fix this problem; at least according to that guest on Larry Kudlow. I doubt they'll be able to do it.

One part of Eric Cantor's comments, from article, that stood out in my mind.

They will sink or swim together. There's no option to fail here.”

With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and the executive branch, “there’s no excuses in the eyes of the American voter” for the health care bill to fail, Cantor said. “It has to get done,” he said.

Cantor said that if the GOP cannot get health care reform passed, that could be a death knell for other items at the top of Trump’s agenda.

“This is a gateway issue … It’s that important because it opens up the route toward getting the next big thing done, which is tax reform,” Cantor told ABC News.


I say that their bill may even die in Congress before it gets to Trump's desk. Trump has promised that he doesn't want to throw these low income workers off of insurance, but I think if a bill doing this was to get to his desk, he would sign it anyway. Republicans are under pressure to get this done. They are in over their heads, as I've heard it described about President Trump himself. He's in over his head.

Personally, I'm in the demographic, age and income wise, that could get clobbered, tho I do have an employer provided health plan. It's a fairly skimpy plan with high deductibles. That's another story. Glad my health is good as I rode my bike out the Interurban Trail, Saturday afternoon, with Larry Kudlow on the radio.

The constant background noise of spy allegations. A distraction?

Kind of clever humor, on Trump's part, joking that he and visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel may have one thing in common: being spied on by Barack Obama’s administration.

In 2013, Merkel was upset that her phone was being tapped by NSA, which isn't really Obama, but he got much of the blame; as in "the buck stops here." The surveillance of our government is a "whipping boy" for both the left and the right. Obama got a lot of flack when he was commander in chief. Now there's some folks, on the left, who are saying that we need to pick our battles better. The government, under Obama, looks pretty good today. Others are suspicious of the government, period.

I don't think Obama was personally ordering spying on Trump Tower, but, in reality, how would I know; from my perch here in Bellingham, Washington?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

One reason why so many people have trouble being motivated about global warming

Earth's average temperature has gone up a bit over 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. 1.4 degrees doesn't seem like that much in well over 100 years, tho much of the change has happened in only the past few decades. The seemingly small 1.4 degrees is part of the reason why it's hard for many people and institutions to mobilize about this reality. 1.4 is a small enough number to be like a rounding error given the day to day, and year to year weather fluctuations in each region. It's kind of like the problem is written in invisible ink.

Still, it is a big problem. Glaciers retreating, rainfall patterns changing, droughts and so forth.

I can see why it's hard for some folks to fathom this. Our lives are fairly short in the face of long term trends. People tend to make up their minds based on personal experience and hunches, rather than long term science. Also we are tribal, for the most part. When we get an opinion and take sides, we tend to support the "home team" and find ourselves reluctant to change. Somehow, tho, society does need to address this reality.

Also, just the 5 degree difference that was happening over a long period of time, more than 10,000 years ago, met that where I am sitting now (Bellingham, WA.) was under 5 thousand feet of ice. I guess it's an understatement to say that would have an effect on our local economy. Even a smaller change over just the next few decades would certainly be problematic.




Source: NASA Earth Observatory.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

When my childhood mind thought our first color TV had something like a genetic algorithm


1964 RCA color TV

Remembering the TV I grew up with. Picture from my brother Bill's slide collection. One of the first color TVs in the neighborhood, mid 1960s. Ran on vacuum tubes. Pretty exciting to have color, back then. Often the color was not very good. Picture was likely to be black and white with color bands across the screen, but other times the color would be surprisingly true.

In my grade school mind I got the idea that the TV was, somehow, "learning" how to improve it's reception. A booklet that came with the set said it had "automatic fine tuning" which "remembered" the setting for each channel. Somehow, I thought it was like today's self driving car technology. The more experience self driving cars get on the road, the more the technology "learns" how to drive.

I thought I was giving the TV "experience" so it could "learn" better reception when I tried to tune in KLEW TV out of Lewiston, Idaho. KLEW was that obscure, snowy channel. One could barely see any picture in all the static. Most of my family would just watch the 3 channels, from Spokane, and not bother with KLEW. If I watched KLEW, I thought it would give the TV some good hard knocks experience for improving the reception. Sometimes it would get a little better, giving me hope, but then it would fall back to static on another day.

Those were the days of the TV repairman. They would come out in their truck to fix the TV when, for instance, a vacuum tube gave out. My hopes about artificial intelligence in the TV were dashed completely when the repairman took the cover off one day. I saw 12 separate tuners for the 12 channels. Oh, that's how it "remembers" the fine tuning for each channel. Each tuner, with it's own fine tuner setting, would click into place when the channel was changed. Fine tuning knob was a ring around the outside of the main channel selector. It would be engaged, mechanically, to a separate tuner for each channel. Below the VHF channel selector was UHF which worked like a radio dial with no "click." We had no UHF reception.

Later I realized that reception of KLEW TV was basically doomed by the position of our TV antenna. The antenna, outside our house, was pointed to Spokane, rather than Lewiston. Some folks, back then, had rotors for their antennas. My dad was kind of a stoic and figured that the 3 channels, from Spokane, were sufficient. We didn't have to get too fancy.

In just a year, or two more, we did get a new channel. Educational TV, from Pullman itself where we lived. It was KWSU on Channel 10. Picture very sharp as it came, at first, from Bryan Hall clock tower on the WSU campus; just a hop skip and a jump away from my childhood home. KWSU was only in black and white tho, back then.

Now, KWSU TV broadcasts from Kamiak Butte. It's been called a "lone wolf transmitter site" as some antennas, pointed toward Spokane, aren't pointed toward Kamiak, except for south of Kamiak where Pullman itself lies. Of course, like most stations these days, KWSU TV is on cable systems and has much of it's video on the web.

Today, there is a true plethora of channels and videos at our fingertips. Even on smartphones. We've truly gotten fancy.

One of the things I did, when I got my first smartphone (summer of 2016), was to find the web site of KLEW TV. I watched part of the newscast from Lewiston, Idaho; as if it was a ritual of initiation for the smartphone. Paying homage to my childhood. KLEW came in clear as a bell, here in Western Washington; a long ways from Lewiston. These days, it doesn't really matter how far away the web site is.

Over the years color reception did get better, even on that old TV. The TV wasn't learning, but TV stations have kept improving their technology.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Links to various tools of astronomy that humankind is using to explore the universe

I've been spending some time updating and reorganizing my page of links to various Tools of astronomy that humankind is using to explore the universe. Observatories and satellites which serve as our eyes to the universe. Not totally comprehensive, but the highlights that I'm aware of.

I've organized these links by what the facilities are looking at, such as gravity waves or optical telescopes. Also organized by planet, if they are probes to other planets in our solar system. A good thing to do on a rainy Friday.

The below photo is from European Space Agency's Very Large Telescope (the VLT). That telescope is located in Chile. Found (March 2017) on one of their web sites in my list.


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

A divorce ceremony


One hears about wedding ceremonies. How about a divorce ceremony? That's a novel idea. I went to one at my friend, Mark's home in Whatcom County. After 35 years of marriage to his wife, Mark has come out as gay. They have decided to dissolve the marriage, but remain living together on their joint property. One of their sons officiated the ceremony speaking kindly of what a good marriage it had been and how it had come to the end of its usefulness. Time for a change and a new beginning while continuing the positive spirit that had existed in the marriage.

3 candles were lit on a table in the living room and when the center candle was extinguished the marriage was finished. It had served its purpose well, but now was time for a new beginning. There was a small "coming out / new beginnings" party afterwards. Quite a few folks, I knew, were there.

I met John a few places around town and more recently when he came to our Wednesday gay dinner gathering. I was glad to be one of many friends he invited to share this special moment.

Of course, I biked out there. The rains and snows parted for a late winter ride. I got this picture of Mount Baker all covered in fresh snow. After seeing it on my computer, I noticed the sign "Traffic Revision Ahead." Seems appropriate for a change in life course. Also it looks like beautiful Mount Baker is the obstacle causing the traffic revision. Revision at Slater Road.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Maybe business and corporate taxes could be cut if fat cat individuals are taxed more

I can sort of see why some folks want to cut taxes on corporations. Don't worry, I'm not high on pot. US does have one of the highest tax rates on corporations in the developed world. Of course there are many loopholes so corporations aren't necessarily suffering seriously, but taxes on business is a disincentive for investment in business. A disincentive for investment in US business.

A main point I keep making is that there needs to be a differentiation made between business income and the personal income of wealthy people. Wealthy individuals are getting off way too easy on taxes in USA. There needs to be better incentives for people to keep their money invested in the business for legitimate expenses on operations and capital improvements. Fat cat executives and folks who keep the money for their personal mansions, and so forth, need to be taxed much more.

Few people talk about this differentiation. debate over taxes tends to always conflate business and wealthy individuals. Some people insist that we need a tax cut on corporations. If so, how about balancing that with a tax hike on wealthy individuals?

One problem with wealthy individuals is that their money can be used in ways that are harmful to society. Building a business can be beneficial, especially if it's environmental friendly and so forth. On the other hand, just having a bunch of rich individuals around can make life harder for the rest of us by inflating the residential real estate market, for instance. The problem of the billionaires chasing out the millionaires and the millionaires chasing out everyone else; like in Aspen, Colorado, or San Francisco, or even Seattle. In Vancouver, BC, I hear that a fairly large percent of the houses and condos, in that city, are going empty as wealthy people buy them up for investment adding to Vancouver's housing shortage. The places go empty as it's more bother to have tenants, in some cases, than it is to just leave it locked up and wait as it's value appreciates in the hot real estate market. There is now a new tax in Vancouver on buying houses that are left empty. This has cooled that hot real estate market a bit.

From feedback on Facebook.

Hell, some major corporations get huge refunds...didn't I see where GE got millions back? Will have to do some checking. But I don't see that our tax system is so burdensome on corporations...they've paid a lot more in the past. And why shouldn't they pay for the resources they use...I don't mean "natural" resources, but the infrastructure, the schooling of their workers, the basic research paid for by the government, etc. I don't see this as abusive. They, like the individual wealthy have a ideological opposition to taxes, as well as to paying workers. They have one purpose....maximizing their returns on investment.

My response.

Good points about corporations and ultimately the individuals that profit from them. Prosperity doesn't come for free. One has to pay for the roads, education, research, defense and basically the price of a civil society. It all boils down to individuals and greed. I heard about the GE not paying any taxes meme a few years back. Could be disgusting, but I'll need to looks up the details. The voting public often thinks people can have low taxes by just taxing corporations instead; like corporations wouldn't feel it so it's more like a free lunch. Problem is, corporations are slippery and they can just shift their way out of the taxes. They can pass the cost along in higher prices or lower wages. They can find the loopholes or they can just go offshore and leave the jurisdiction altogether. I think it might work better to tax individuals; especially the wealthy individuals. It may be easier for a corporation to get out of taxes by just moving production offshore taking the jobs with it. Taxing individuals; especially the wealthy, could have a good consequence. I would like to see some of those fat cats leave the country. If some of them leave the country I wouldn't miss their presence in the voting pool; not to mention the competitive market for living space on this planet.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Prosperity in Mexico is in our best interest

Prosperity in Mexico is important to America, so I am worried about souring relations between the US and Mexico; our third largest trading partner.

When the president of Japan came to USA to meet with Trump, a Japanese automaker cancelled plans to build a factory in Mexico. If Mexico becomes more impoverished and unstable, the US will suffer. In spite of border walls, we live in an interconnected world.

We, in US, preach a gospel of prosperity that people's around the world emulate. This can become problematic if obstacles are thrown in the way of prosperity that other nations, such as Mexico, seek to develop. International instability results.

Maybe there are too many cars in the world, but future cars can run on green energy. Sustainable prosperity, in Mexico, is in our interest for political stability in our neighborhood. It would not be in our interest if Mexico were to become a failed state on our border. Even a wall wouldn't stop folks from coming in via the oceans, such as people fleeing Syria on the seas.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dakota Access Pipeline may be inevitable in spite of nodapl efforts

Lots of protesting in Bellingham last Saturday, February 11. A protest in support of Planned Parenthood. Another protest, I guess unrelated, against the North Dakota Access Pipeline (Standing Rock). That protest blocked the freeway for a bit.

As for the pipeline, I hate to say it, but seems like it's construction could be inevitable. Especially if it's true that they only have the last 1000 feet to build plus the political situation, in Washington DC, weighing in. If they have to build it, too bad they wouldn't reroute that last part farther away from the Native Lands. The native people have had lots of stuff pushed down their throats over the centuries.

Even though that one symbolic battle has the whole nation talking; like big protests here in Bellingham, it still may be hard to win in the short run. Hope people don't burnout because of this one battle. In the long run, looking at the big picture, we should be switching away from fossil fuels. Then it wouldn't make sense to build fossil fuel infrastructure. In the short run, fossil fuel politics, economics and habits are hard to beat.

Saturday's protest, in Bellingham, blocked the freeway for about 1 hour. Since then, there has been lots of discussion about whether that protest was the right thing to do, or not. I haven't yet jumped into that fray of debate. As usual, there are plenty of folks discussing that. I just listened, at least, to a real good discussion of that topic and more on a new and local radio show. The February 15 episode of Cascadia News Now. Podcasts available. Show is produced by KMRE Radio, the station at the Spark Museum in Bellingham (formerly known as American Museum of Radio and Electricity).

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Why be paranoid about the US borders now?

This paranoia against immigration seems unnecessary today. It also seems hypocritical if it comes from people who call themselves "Christians." They, supposedly, have read Jesus comments in the Sermon on the mount. The paranoia is also unnecessary, in part, because immigration to the US has slowed down significantly in the last few years. Do we need to spend billions of dollars and upset our ties with big trading partners, such as Mexico, about this now?

I know, a lifeboat can only hold so many people, but our boat is not on the verge of sinking. Crime and terrorism are scary problems, but many more people die in car accidents and folks haven't stopped driving cars. Reasonable vetting and law enforcement can be used to protect public safety.

I think people are rattled by the problems of our crowded planet. Media coverage brings world news to our homes and there is currently a lot of anxiety, in Europe, over immigration. The US is not currently facing the same situation as Europe.

Also, I would guess that the anticipation is worse than the realization. Europe has taken in a lot of refugees which can be an adjustment, but it also means lots of new talent and commerce for their economies. The anticipation can be worse as, looking on a map, Europe is sandwiched between trouble spots in both the Middle East and Africa. One looks at a world map and thinks, "we can't take in everyone," of course.

Our location and situation, here in USA, is less worrisome than in Europe today. We have had more immigration, in our past. More immigration during the 1990s and early 2000s, from what I can gather. It has been an adjustment, as US population has grown, but more people, doing work in our country, does add to the economy. It's less of an issue today, here in USA. Are we reacting after the fact? Are we wasting money and good will by beefing up the border now?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

First thought when I see the mountain during a bike trip, would make a great Facebook post. I must be a junkie even away from the screen.


I'm kind of a Facebook junkie. Not sitting all the time looking at the screen, but a junkie in my own way. Riding my bike out to Hovander Homestead Park, climbing the lookout tower stairs and seeing Mount Baker in all its glory. First thought crossing my mind is, "that picture will look great in a post on Facebook." Also my blog.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Abort the children before they get to the border?

If the US is worried about too many children coming across the border, for instance the children coming from Central America a few years ago, maybe it's better that the children not be born. Even abortion could be more humane than sending children back to places where they are killed by gangs and starvation. This may sound blunt. Actually, it's better to be a bit more compassionate. The lifeboat doesn't have infinite room tho, so birth control is good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

One factor behind urban rural divide. Prosperity and stagnation bring different problems.

One difference between a lot of urban and a lot of rural areas, in this country, is that the urban areas tend to be more prosperous. This means there's a need to create "jobs, jobs, jobs" in rural areas. This need is now less evident in some urban areas. The 2008 recession is finally kind of over. In urban areas, the problems are different. Urban areas face the need to create affordable housing as prosperity pushes up housing prices. As prosperity happens, the rising tide doesn't raise all boats. There's also the need to reduce traffic congestion and so forth. In urban areas, we have an interest in how to keep things affordable and sustainable. Some rural areas still face high unemployment. A tricky question is, 'how can jobs be created in rural areas in an information economy?" Rural areas used to rely on things like farming and logging which are now becoming less "labor intensive." For instance, only around 2% of our population grows just about all of our food. Some people in rural areas might say, "why do we need to spend tax money on mass transit?" "Where's that bad traffic?" In the metro areas, that kind of need is more evident.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Main problem with the president on Twitter, limit 140 characters. Little nuance.

In my opinion, the main problem with Trump's reliance on Twitter is not that he is going around the media; for instance the so called "establishment media." The problem is 140 characters or less. It's dealing with issues too complex for sound bytes. I know, he does, sometimes, split his messages over several tweets which could allow for more than 140 characters, but it's still kind of choppy.

Using social media isn't necessarily a bad thing for a president, or president elect to do. It doesn't matter that much what media he uses, Facebook, his own blog, web site or The White House web site once he gets in office. Whatever he uses, people will listen. They'll follow every word. The regular media will be right there also. Every utterance from a president, or about to be president gets reported on, discussed, analyzed, criticized, researched, and so forth. The media is there.

Problem is that the discussion needs to go beyond sound bytes. The media does flesh things out a bit this; or at least some of the media adds more depth. I find quite a bit of useful and deep discussion on NPR, for instance, just about every time there is a tweet from Donald Trump.

Another worry is who, among journalists, has access to the White House. Who gets to ask questions at press conferences. What information is being released and so forth. These are important questions and, in many ways, nothing new. I remember these issues around all the presidents.

The bad thing about reliance on Twitter is the lack of depth it implies which can go along with a lack of understanding. I find this problem, not just with things like Twitter, but with a lot of public discussion of issues, in general. Too many people don't have, or don't take, enough time to discuss and learn about things in depth.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Open unions up to more people for more political clout? Some ideas about the future of unions in the Uber age

I thought of a new way to organize labor unions (this may have already been thought of). Instead of union membership being tied to one's job, how about allowing anyone to join the union regardless of what job they have? This might work better in the modern age; especially among young people who often don't stay at one job for more than a year. As people change jobs constantly, they could keep their union membership. Make it portable. Then they could still use some of the legal resources that union membership can provide, plus it would be a benefit to the union as there would be more dues paying members.

Union membership has been in decline for many decades. I have never been a big fan of unions as the solution, but do see them as having some merit. Looks like the unions are all but dead today.

I remember, back in the early 1980s, when getting into a union seemed very difficult. There were some apprenticeship programs for trades, such a plumbers and electricians, but one would hear that apprenticeship slots were hard to come by. To try and keep wages high, unions would constrict who got in. Usually union membership was based on employment, such as in the auto industry or working for the state. Wages were higher, but most people couldn't get into those jobs. Back then, it seemed like the unions didn't really care much about most workers who were not in the union; such as in restaurant workers and so forth. These days, it seems like what's left of the unions are getting better in their concern for the welfare of workers in general. They advocate things like affordable healthcare and raising the minimum wage. It may be a bit late, but modern unions seem less exclusionary than they were a few decades back, from what I gather.

Still, in today's "Uber" self employed work world, it seems like membership based on workplace is an out dated concept.

I can imagine some people asking how can a strike happen if union membership is voluntary, open to the public and not based on any one workplace? How can a strike happen if it's not closed shop all the workers unified in the union? I guess, the way it is now with practically no workers in unions, anymore, one worker can sometimes still create a stir by walking off the job. This can still get attention of management. What happens if, say, 20 or 30 percent of the workers, who happened to be members of a union, walked off the job. That would still have clout.

Union membership wouldn't have to be "closed shop," so there would be no need for the company to hold a vote to go unionized or not. Just a certain percentage of workers could join a union if they wished and carry that membership to whatever job they work at. Then, in some cases, groups of those workers could ban together using the union's organizing tools, if there was a need for that. A partial walkout as not all employees would be in the union. Better than no union, at least.

Maybe this has already been thought of; like trade associations. I remember, back in the 1980s, quite a few people joined Allied Arts Association, here in Whatcom County, as one of the benefits was getting a group rate on health insurance. That membership was open to the public.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Biggest stumbling block to Republicans devising replacement for ACA; Republican adversion to income transfer needed to subsidize premiums for a large segment of Americans

The biggest obstacle Republicans face as they try and replace Obamacare is the fact that Republicans don't like anything that smacks of wealth transfer. A plan will not work for a big percent of the population and workers unless there is enough wealth transfer to provide subsidized premiums at the low end. Income inequality is just too wide, in USA, for universal access to health insurance without subsidy. This is a major stumbling block for Republicans.

Bringing overall healthcare costs down would help also. Part of the second solution is healthier lifestyles and diets. Politicians tend to not discuss that enough.

Reforming healthcare and the way insurance is handled can help also, but may be third on the list for solutions; in my opinion.

Main stumbling block for Republicans. The need for a subsidy.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Were gay issues talked about in Pullman, Bellingham in early 1970s?

A personal perspective.

I just got to thinking that I didn't hear much derogatory talk against gay people, until I got to Bellingham. That was back in 1973 when I came to Bellingham for Western Washington University. Back in Pullman, where I grew up, being gay just wasn't discussed. It was kind of a "conspiracy of silence." That was a different era and the subject was pretty much deep in the closet. There was a naive silence, but I don't remember much scorn. Pullman is a fairly liberal, college town, but back then the gay issue was very hidden.

When I came to Bellingham, my freshman year, it was suddenly more out in the open. There were gay symposiums on campus, but back in my freshman dorm, folks were telling lots of faggot jokes.

Coming from my liberal background, I didn't have much respect for the people in my dorm. They seemed superficial and shallow. It seemed like the folks, in my freshman dorm, were either "Jesus Freaks" (a big term in the early 1970s) or drunks. I missed the slower, more thoughtful ways of Pullman High School. Just about everyone's dad, in Pullman, was connected to Washington State University so there was an academic feel. Here in Bellingham, many of the students, in my freshman dorm, were from more commercial backgrounds. They seemed less genuine, more phony and hurried. Also more materialistic.

I went to some of the gay discussion groups, on Western campus, in part to (sort of) jokingly horrify a "Christian" who was living across the hall from me in the dorm.

As time went on, I started meeting more varieties of people, here in Bellingham. It took some time, but I did find a variety of intelligent and genuine people scattered around.

Ironically, as I got somewhat involved in the gay student group, I found many of those people to be shallow and superficial as well. I've always been an outsider and never fit, very well, into any of those boxes. I've usually gotten along fairly well being on the edge, rather than in the middle, of various clicks. Some of the intelligent and genuine people, I find today, are gay.

I think things are quite a bit different today, than back then. I sometimes wonder what being in a freshman dorm, at Western, would be like today?

Friday, January 06, 2017

Less uninsured Americans is the new normal

Obamacare has created a "new normal" for this country. The new normal is 20 to 30 million more Americans with health insurance.

Now that there are plans to repeal and possibly replace Obamacare, the reality of the new normal gives, even Donald Trump, some pause. Taking health insurance away from nearly 30 million Americans is more than just bad politics. It can be done, but it's not pretty. It can be accomplished by turning the clock back to before Obamacare when many more people went without insurance. It wasn't that long ago and the situation can return, but it would never be quite the same.

It wasn't good to begin with and it would be worse now as the number of people, who can't afford insurance premiums without subsidy, keeps growing. Larger numbers of indigent patients would further overwhelm charity care. Hospitals in some areas; especially in many rural areas, would go under and likely have to close their doors under the strain of providing so much uncompensated care. That is why even some Republicans, and Donald Trump himself, are worried about trying to find a replacement. Replace would be better than just ending the coverage that comes from Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and the lower end of the subsidized exchanges.

Can we make medicine cheaper? Yes. Can we be healthier and reduce the need for medicine? Yes. I don't see that many politicians, especially Republicans, pushing much in the way of things like healthier diets and so forth. Meanwhile it looks like ending the subsidies and just pulling the plug on millions of lower income Americans isn't a good option.

Monday, January 02, 2017

When the market niches don't fit

I had a funny dream this morning. I dreamed that I had, possibly, found a way to make a living from my thinking, photography and writing. It was some kind of app installed on my web sites and Facebook feeds that brought in money. Turns out it brought several customers who thought I was going to deliver hot coffee on Lummi Island. I ended up talking to one of the disappointed customers saying I wasn't the person to deliver piping hot coffee to Lummi Island as I don't even drink coffee myself. I'm not set up to brew or deliver coffee; especially to scattered residents on Lummi Island. For those who don't know, Lummi is an island in Bellingham Bay and it's even quite a bike ride to the ferry dock from where I live in downtown Bellingham.

I woke up thinking the free market economy must be kind of screwy. It needs to do better than that at finding a niche for me.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Heralding in the new year. My little video of colors changing on the Herald sign

Heralding in the New Year 2016 - 2017

Heralding in the New Year. Little video I just uploaded to my Flickr album. Letters changing colors. Another feature of the "new technology" Herald sign.

My thoughts after listening to Secretary of State John Kerry's recent speech on the Israel, Palestine situation

Secretary of State Kerry made some really good points during his Dec. 28 2016 speech.

Continued building of new Israeli settlements on the land that Israel was (sort of) agreeing would be the new Palestine in the "two state solution" puts the two state solution in total jeopardy.

It looks like the current right wing government, in Israel, has given up on so called "two state" and is pursuing "one state solution;" a larger Israel.

Personally, I wonder if two states would work anyway. Kerry, the US and most of the world's countries are still committed to the two state solution, but seems like momentum is headed elsewhere. Maybe, in my opinion, a one state solution is where things are going? The one state would need to provide equality for both Israelis and Palestinians. This could no longer be a state based on any one religion. It would have to be a multi cultural state. A country like Canada, for instance. Or the US, for that matter.

Kerry said it in a different way. Basically, he said it would have to make a choice between being the Jewish state that it calls itself now, or a democracy. A full democracy would have equal rights to all the citizens within its borders, Israelis, Palestinians and anyone else living there. It can't really have it both ways.

I also feel that Islamic states, based on a single religion, are a bad idea so I'm not just picking on Israel.

People, on the right, are blasting Kerry for his logic, but I think he has stated the problem well. I understand some of the right's feelings as Israeli society has a lot going for it. It has many good things in terms of democratic ideals and institutions. Better than what exists in other parts of the Middle East. Maybe a lot of the institutions and traditions of Israel can continue, in my opinion, even with the one state being an equal state for both Palestinian and Israeli residents. They are both living there; especially if the two state solution is scrapped.

Who knows what our new President Elect Trump will do as he wades into these same muddy waters.