Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Random lottery may be more representative than popular election given money in politics

In light of recent Supreme Court decisions, such as the one today and Citizen's United, things have evolved to the point where popular vote doesn't create governing bodies that represent the people. Maybe it never did. Popular election elects people who win a popularity contest and, these days, that means people with money for media. Popular elections still may be the best thing we have as in saying, "democracy is a terrible idea, but all the other options are worse."

On the other hand, there could be merit to some other options besides popular vote; like random lottery for selecting members of a representative body. A random lottery would be better at selecting a representative cross section of the people than popular vote. A random lottery would select people from every walk of life including janitors, the disabled, scientists, teachers, farmers and whatever. Not necessarily just people who can manipulate media for name recognition.

Going viral on the internet, even without having money, is one counterweight to money that still exists in popular democracies, but that factor may not be enough. Maybe at least one body of our legislative branch could be selected by some kind of random lottery if we totally redesigned the system.

Friday, March 28, 2014

How I learned an important tenet of Inflation (universe that is) Theory

Even though this isn't the gravitational waves. It's an old image of the cosmic background radiation in microwave and wow, I love the colors. Image: A map of the CMB created by the COBE satellite (credit: NASA, DMR, COBE Project).

Here's another image, more related. AP Photo/BICEP2 Collaboration, I found on Diane Rehm Show web site. Several interesting interviews coming out.

In my file box of correspondence is this letter from National Geographic Magazine, circa 1983 (image below). I bring it up in light of the recent discoveries about the Big Bang Theory related to gravity waves in the cosmic background radiation.

The recent finding is strong evidence for the "inflation theory" version of the Big Bang. Inflation theory has been around a while and was featured in a 1983 addition of National Geographic Magazine. They did a big colorful feature on theories about the origin of the universe. When I read the article, back in 1983, I thought I had found a mistake. Article talked about the edge of the universe expanding billions, or maybe even trillions, of miles during it's first seconds of life. I thought, "how can that be as it would be traveling faster than the speed of light?" Supposedly nothing can travel faster than the speed of light so I wrote them thinking I had found a mistake.

I thought, maybe they'll even print my letter in National Geographic. It's hard to get a letter published there as they have millions upon millions of readers. Letter didn't get printed, but I did get this interesting form letter back. Letter was to all of us folks who brought up that question and thought we had found a mistake. One of the letters on that "non mistake" was printed and the rest of us got this form reply.

Turns out the universe, itself, is exempt from the rule that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Space/time, itself, can travel faster than light, but nothing within space/time can do so. That's a major tenet of "inflation theory." That's also when I first learned about inflation theory. Space/time itself inflating, like a bubble for a brief moment, faster than light.

That was back when inflation theory was still just one of many theories. Now, 2014, its still one of many theories, but due to the recent findings in the cosmic background radiation, inflation theory is gaining traction.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Unlikely we can push Russia out of Crimea, but we can push for human rights

It would be hard to get Russia out of Crimea as I think the majority of Crimean s' welcome them. Also it's former Soviet Union territory. Economic sanctions might be good, but to what end? Also it would be hard to get the many countries of Europe, dependent on Russian gas, on board. I mostly favor economic sanctions, but have some reservation as to what outcome we can realistically expect the Russians to do. Seems like they are not likely to let go of Crimea for quite a while at least.

A more likely scenario would be to push for better human rights within Russia which would also mean better treatment of minority groups in Crimea such as the Tartars and Ukrainians. Remember Russia's treatment of gay people as kind of a "canary in the coal mine" foretelling treatment of minority people's within regions under Russian rule.

The west can try to bolster Ukraine's economy and use it as an example of good governance as well as economics. Yesterday, I heard a good interview on Diane Rehm Show about this situation. Former US ambassador to Russia, Jack Matlock actually hinted, in this roundtable discussion, that Ukraine might be better off without trying to hang onto Crimea with it's Russian majority. We could push for better economy in Ukraine. I hear things are going quite well in Poland. Ukraine can be another example, like Poland of how to do things right.

Pushing for human rights is a good idea. The international community has a stake in what goes on within a sovereign country. For instance, neighbors have gotten stuck with floods of refugees from the appalling situation in Syria. I hear that refugees are 1/3 of Jordan's population these days. Jordan, some other countries and the international aid agencies are being overwhelmed.

Pushing for human rights, within sovereign nations, is important, but it seems very hard to convince the Russians to withdraw from Crimea. Maybe in the long run, some sort of international peace keeping deal can be worked out and continued pressure within organizations, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, of which the Russians, Europeans, US and many other countries are members.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Snow on Sehome Hill

Pruned tree near Sehome Hill observation tower on the snowy day of February 23 when I went for a walk. See 10 more of my snow pictures around Sehome Hill and Western Washington University campus. Snow if fairly rare in Bellingham, but when it happens, we go out and take pictures. Then share on social media.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Would Keystone Pipeline be a road away from the minimum wage economy?

"Minimum Wage Economy." A catchy phrase uttered by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal after a White House Governor's conference. Criticizing Obama's push to increase the minimum wage, this governor feels "we can do better." He said, push for economic growth and build the Keystone Pipeline.

What would building the Keystone Pipeline do to prevent a minimum wage economy? Not much. Not much in middle class jobs as I've heard possibly less than 100 folks would be needed to run it. That's not counting temporary construction jobs, however, but still not much in the way of new job creation. Maybe there would be some government jobs, from local jurisdictions being able to tax what flows through the pipeline, but still not much. Especially not much since I hear that the refining end of the pipeline would be in low tax jurisdictions.

As for harming the environment, maybe Keystone wouldn't even do that much either. If it weren't built, the oil would be shipped another way; like by rail as long as people keep consuming it. So, one should ask, what's the point of fighting?

So many of the things, like Keystone Pipeline, and to some extent even the minimum wage, are red herring issues. Not really the big things we need to be thinking about, but good fodder for our polarizing debates.

Higher minimum wage is another red herring. I basically support it, but I don't know if it would do that much good. It would just push the problem around like so many legislative solutions do. Employers, who tend to pay minimum wage, would just pass the added cost on to consumers and they might also layoff a few workers. It's kind of like trying to solve the problem of not enough affordable housing by imposing rent control. These kind of solutions tend to just push the problems around. Helps some folks lucky enough to hang onto their apartment with artificially lowered rent, but doesn't create the incentive to build more affordable housing.

The minimum wage economy may be just the reality of our economy. Like it our not, our economy creates a lot of low wage jobs regardless of who's in the White House. It seems like the "new normal;" the new normal for the foreseeable future at least.

Government can help in a lot of ways, but the political will to do this is not evident for the moment at least. Higher taxes on rich folks could create more of a sense of fairness between income categories in society. Basically the idea of a graduated income tax which we used to have back in the period from the 1950s to the 1970s. We've gotten away from that policy in recent years. Also government spending on infrastructure can stimulate the economy to possibly create more middle class jobs. Economists like Paul Krugman say that this stimulation would help to jump start the economy so the private sector would eventually create more jobs in the long run. Kind of like priming the pump. In today's political environment, such measures seem unlikely, but politics can change.

In the mean time, here is a coping strategy to deal with our current situation of low wage jobs. We can learn to live with a low wage economy and not only survive, but learn to thrive. Governor Jindal would say that this is "putting up the white flag." Saying we're defeated instead of pushing growth; like, for instance building pipelines.

What are the solutions for a minimum wage economy? Accepting the fact that a lot of jobs are going to be low wage; in the foreseeable future at least, so we need to plan for low wages. Bring down the cost of our living. I realize that bringing down the cost of living could further dampen demand in the economy thus leading to even lower wages overall. Maybe this isn't the best argument, but lowering consumption does have a few good ramifications. Its a strategy for lowering the carbon footprint. Keeping in mind our environmental crisis. Until we develop greener technology, we may need to just consume less on average. Also more simple living offers some positive effects for individuals. Life that's not as much of a rat race. Possibly less obesity. The joys of simplicity.

This is where my kind of solutions come into play. Things like smaller houses. Cottage homes, for example. Even mobile home parks. These cottage home / mobile home / intentional communities can work in smaller cities where there's space.

What about urban areas like San Francisco where mobile homes can't be placed and even studio apartment rents are outrageous?

In urban areas, the solution can be advocating even more density. Building up and infilling. Build more studio apartments and cater to the changing demographic which is becoming less family oriented. Cater more to single people. Seniors, for instance as that portion of the population is growing. You say, what about young people? Well, many young people are less likely to be in large families as well, these days.

You say the central city is already maxed out when it comes to density? OK, we can densify the suburbs around the central city. We can make the suburbs more like the central city with transit, walkable neighborhoods and so forth. Everyone shouldn't have to live in the central city to be able to walk to work, or take transit at least. How about retrofitting the entire metropolitan area around the central city to make it all more sustainable; more affordable and more walkable?

That's what I call planning around a minimum wage economy. Make our living arraignments more affordable. This would have a big impact on transportation also. Make it so people don't have to own a car. Yes, bicycling, walking and public transit. Also better for one's health.

Speaking of health, don't we, Americans, spend way too much on health? Lots of unnecessary tests, procedures and medicines. Maybe we can rethink how we are dealing with our health also? Save lots of money here.

There are many examples of how we can live better and plan our environments with lowering the footprint in mind.

Some say, this concept of more sustainable living is putting up the white flag. Well, I can sort of understand that. I'm not necessarily against prosperity and yes, I might surprise folks in saying that I do think technology can fix a lot of problems. As much of a fan of the bicycle that I am, I also look forward to cars that run on hydrogen fuel which could come from solar power. Even, maybe, nuclear power. I'm also a fan of the self driving Google Car. I believe the Google self driving car could significantly cut down of a terrible scourge in current society - the highway traffic death toll. Part of the reason why I'm not into driving, today, is the over 30,000 highway deaths per year, that the automobile creates in it's present form. Yes, in the future, I believe we can do better, with technology. Self driving hydrogen powered cars and so forth.

In the meantime, as the panacea of technology is still on its way, we can do better by also learning to live more sustainably. Living a lower and healthier footprint. A more peaceful life with less rat race; hopefully.

The long term solution to our environmental / economic woes is going to be both smarter living and also new, less fossil fuel dependent, technology. We can do better, but we all, both us and our governments, corporations and institutions have to learn to do it a bit differently.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

State constitutional mandates putting education as #1 can be problematic

Some states, like here in Washington, have constitutions that say education is the number 1 paramount duty of state government. While education is important, this old edict can be problematic as it doesn't necessarily mean that the state budget gets larger. Sometimes it just means that education crowds out other important state functions, such as survival needs of low income people, public safety, parks and the environment as well as roads and infrastructure. It's all important. Also, here in Washington at least, the constitutional mandate only applies to K-12 education and still leave higher education outside that box.

Education is important, but the rest of society needs to be functioning as well. Just about all of society can be seen as part of the educational process. Access to healthcare can mean the advise of doctors in diet and lifestyle; important education. Parks can mean museums and interpretive centers which can be highly educational. They can help teachers and schools with field trips, for instance. Public broadcasting, educational content on the internet, it's all important. Yes, schools are important, but sometimes an old constitutional mandate becomes problematic; like a straight jacket, especially if there is nothing to increase overall revenue.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

How do we solve global warming? a preamble

New Preamble to my web site main menu.

How do we solve global warming?

Technology of course. Ever evolving solar panels, hydrogen fuel, better batteries, electronics that becomes more sophisticated while using less energy.

Is that the whole story? That's part of the story, but what about slowing down? What about making society's pace more tranquil, more user friendly. What about less rat race, more bicycling, less obesity, shorter workweeks, less pressure; life in the slow lane?

I think both approaches to solving the problem of global warming can work together. No need for a war between the high tech advocates and the concept of slowing down. It can all get us to better solutions. The solutions related to slowing down are especially needed in the short run until the technological solutions become more available.

Explore the labyrinth of my website and blog as I post photographs and writings that are usually around these topics of lifestyle and technology as it relates to sustainable economics and especially my very photogenic interest in bike touring.

Main menu to my website which links to this blog and more.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Light dusting of snow in Bellingham

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and all that. For folks who got my snail mail card and others, here is a link to my 2013 summer bike trip again.

My New Year's Letter.

Path from WWU to Jersey Street on Sehome Hill.

Bellingham Food Coop sign on Forest Street with Sehome Hill in background.

Snow is rare in Bellingham. Some years hardly ever, other years a few storms. Rarely it's deeper and stays longer. This early December snow was a typical light dusting. Lots of people come out with cameras and post to Facebook when it happens.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Privatizing Medicare and abandoning the less fortunate

If we were to privatize, or at least not subsidize, Medicare, being elderly would be considered a preexisting condition. Coverage would be either real expensive or non existent.

I heard an urban legend that some Eskimo tribes had their version of Medicare which was basically leaving folks who were too ill to keep up with the tribe behind on an ice flow to pass away, or onto the "next life." We could end up having a system similar to that if we don't pay our taxes and watch out. Hopefully we will not migrate into that kind of a system even though, in some cases, people passing away and not suffering some circumstances of disease might be more charitable than just being strung along.

Compared to private insurance, Medicare tends to be the most efficient means to provide healthcare in terms of the ratio of administrative overhead to dollars spent on actual care. I hear that for some private insurance companies, 20%, or more, of the premium dollar goes to insurance company bureaucracy rather than healthcare. In Medicare, it's around 3% for administrative costs.

One of the things that the Obamacare program is trying to do is cap what percent of insurance company revenue that is spent on administration rather than healthcare.

Still, the Medicare program is more expensive than insurance plans that serve younger people even though only 3%, or so, goes to overhead. Why is that true?

Older people, as a population, tend to have higher medical expenses than the younger people who make up the policy holder pools of private insurance companies. This has to do with the people being served, not the administrative costs.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Why I've never driven a car, but if I were in the Millennial generation, I'd look forward to having a car eventually

In a conversation with some folks from the millennial generation, we got to talking about cars and bicycles. I mentioned that I never learned to drive in part because of environmental worry, but also because I was afraid of my own absent mindedness and I didn't want to cause an accident at 60mph.

We discussed how appalling it is that over 30,000 people die each year, in USA, due to car accidents to which they responded. "Let's hear it for the Google self driving car." Thumbs up and high 5ves all around for the Google car. Someone mentioned that the only accident it has been in, so far, was in a parking lot while a driver was over riding the automatic controls. I have hope that in the future, the highway death toll, that we take for granted today, will be much lower.

Hopefully cars of the future will not be the global warming nightmares of today. For instance hydrogen fuel from solar energy.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Inflating our way out of debt

The most likely way we will resolve the national debt is to inflate our way out of the debt. It isn't the best way, but its probably the most likely way.

This is bad news for people with savings such as seniors with fixed income from retirement savings plans.

Our accumulative national debt, as a percentage of the total GDP, was higher right after WWII than it is today. Imagine that. The total numbers are bigger today, but as a percent of GDP, today's debt is smaller than it was right after WWII. The GDP is just much larger than it was after WWII.

Part of that larger GDP is economic growth since WWII and another part of that GDP is inflation. Inflation is a big factor. I remember when one could easily buy a house in Seattle for under $20,000 That was just back in the 1960s. Today, the same lot could cost a half million. That's inflation.

WWII debt is still with us, but it's no longer a big deal compared to today's economy. The kids of tomorrow will be using $10 bills as we use $1 bills today, but they will be used to it. Just move the decimal point and go on from there. The debt we have today will look smaller in their economy. That's how we deal with the debt. We just inflate our way out of it so it isn't as big by comparison. Moderate inflation over the years. Why worry about it? It's bad news for savers who are alive today, but it's not necessarily stealing from future generations. People who haven't been born yet will just start with the higher numbers; such as using what we consider to be $10 bills as their $1 bills. By then more transactions will be on the computer, rather than dollar bills, but I'm using the concept of dollar bills to explain things.

I do feel for folks who have savings, including myself with my modest retirement plan. The lack of value in these savings will likely mean more need for government spending to subsidize housing and so forth for seniors; thus necessitating more debt and the need to print more money. A vicious cycle.

Raising taxes on the rich to pay for some of this government spending, rather than just printing money for it, can take some of the bite out of this economic predicament. Remember, the predicament effects our current generations of savers more than it will effect future generations who haven't been born yet. That is my guess at least.

Seems like Republicans create a lot of unnecessary anxiety over the debt. Too much of that anxiety is unhealthy. Yes there are problems, like the erosion of people's savings, but savers are already used to savings being battered by years of rock bottom interest rates. I ahte to say it, but a lot of people have most likely given up on saving money.

Also, with inflation, there is the problem that not all prices, in the economy, go up together. Wages have tended to fall behind prices for things like housing. Some products don't go up in price while other things inflate. This creates affordability gaps in the economy.

Inflating our way out isn't the best way to resolve the debt, but it's what we seem to be doing. The best way is collecting enough taxes so the government doesn't have to have long term debt. Balance spending and taxes, but that isn't easy to do. Balancing the budget is the ideal "Plan A," but we are most likely stuck with the less ideal "Plan B;" inflating our way out of debt. Maybe we can reduce the need to resort to plan B in the future, but plan B isn't necessarily the end of the world. It's just not the ideal world we would like.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Has pent up medical demand been taken into account with the ACA?

Due to pent up medical demand, I wonder if there will be a lot of cost overruns adding to the deficit from the Affordable Care Act come early 2014? I support the idea of the ACA for including more people under Medicaid and so forth, but if there are cost overruns the Republicans will create a lot of noise. I guess one should say, "as if the Republicans haven't been creating a lot of noise anyway." Pent up medical demand could be an issue.

My own dental situation is a good example even though it's dental, rather than medical. When I first got onto a dental plan (I'm lucky to have a dental plan) I hadn't been to a dentist for any preventative work for 30 years. I had a few cavities filled, but no cleaning or preventative work for 30 years. The dentist did a lot of catch up work during the first year of my dental plan. I paid part of it out of pocket, but the plan had to pay a lot more, in it's first year, than it does now with just ongoing retinue prevention.

I remember my boss jokingly asking me if my dentist was buying a new yacht when I told him how many appointments I had that first year. Of course, my boss wasn't out any money from that cluster of appointments since it was covered under the insurance plan. My employer just paid a fixed premium, but it cost the insurance plan more, that first year, for more than a normal number of dental appointments.

They must have taken this into account for the new enrollees in Obamacare, but I wonder. In the long run, it's better, and even cheaper, to provide prevention, but it may cost more in the short run. Republicans will scream.

Monday, December 02, 2013

On being an Obamacrat

I still consider myself an "Obamacrat." I must have heard that term somewhere, but I don't remember where. Seems obvious enough that I wouldn't have been the only one to make it up. Like Obamacare, Democrat, Obamacrat.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Socks on display

A specialty store selling socks in downtown Bellingham has a warm display on this November day. Rainbow socks included.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas declares war on Thanksgiving

Some right wingers claim that there is a war on Christmas. Can't have Christmas trees in public schools, must call them "holiday trees," for instance.

Well, I like what one of our local county council people said instead. He said in a Facebook post:

"It looks like Christmas is declaring war on Thanksgiving."

This reference to the creeping forward of "Black Friday" as some stores, such as Walmart, planned to start their Christmas shopping season on Thanksgiving.

People question whether any time can be sacred from consumerism and the profit motive anymore.

Yes, Christmas is a very commercial time of the year. It's not that commercial for me as I don't have kids and family ties to shop for. Consumerism tends to go hand in hand with the "American family." I get along well with my brothers and sisters, but we don't do Christmas shopping for one another. We live all spread out across the country. I have no family that is geographically close to me except for friends and community potlucks.

The holidays can be a lonely time for folks away from family, but thankfully there are things like community meals and, while we're on the subject, more and more businesses stay open on the holidays.

There are two kinds of business opening strategies for the holidays. One is the creeping forward of Black Friday which isn't that good. Taking employees away from their Thanksgiving for holiday shopping specials seems kind of repugnant (or maybe Republican?). Another kind of business opening makes more sense to me. Some restaurants open on Thanksgiving realizing that not everyone has a family meal to go to.

Bellingham's Old Town Cafe has a long tradition of free community meal on Thanksgiving Day. Staffed by volunteers and serenaded with live musicians. It's become a great tradition. The Old Town Cafe can be a bit crowded, but some other places offer a meal as well. A meal that one pays for. It's nice to have some choices for the holidays.

Speaking of family, one of my brothers criticizes the Black Friday store openings that invaded Thanksgiving this year, but he also noted that it's nice to at least have some grocer open when one realizes, at the last minute, that they forgot the cranberry sauce.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bellingham BC meaning Bellingham before Canada. On the way to Canada

Bellingham, BC (before, on the way to, Canada) was a phrase that came up in a brainstorming session I dropped into about promoting tourism and the local economy way back in the 1980s. It's happening.

New hotel at Northwest and Bakerview and another about to open a bit to the west along Bakerview. There are plans for (from what I read) two more? Airport traffic. Lots of Canadians from Vancouver Metropolitan area seem to be choosing to fly to their "stateside" locations from Bellingham International, rather than Vancouver International.

Then there's the people who come down here to buy gas. All those gas cans on the road are starting to worry highway safety people.

Milk is a more benign substance than gasoline and Canadians are coming down to buy lots of milk as well. Milk from Costco and other places by the truckload. There are rumors that Canadians like to bathe in milk, but it must be that they are just making milk runs for the whole neighborhood.

US subsidizes dairy prices so that's part of what's driving the milk flow.

Does Bellingham really like being this kind of bargain basement? It does bring a lot of service jobs. Store clerks, motel maids and so forth. Still, people say it's hard to find; especially, meaningful work in Bellingham.

As for the mood of the shoppers, some folks complain that we are being overrun by aggressive Canadian shoppers. I haven't noticed this anymore than being overrun by aggressive American shoppers. I guess shopping can be a rat race and can bring out bad sides in people. Maybe people should come here to dance or join intelligent discussion groups. Then we would get a better impression of the folks in our midst.

Pictured above: Marriott SpringHill Suites.

Monday, November 25, 2013

My take on the broken promise flaw in Obamacare

The much talked about broken promise in Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) seems to only effect a small percent of the population. Folks with high deductible bare bones plans who are also high enough income to not qualify for the Obamacare subsidy of premiums. Some of those low cost high deductible plans are now not allowed under the new laws, I guess. (I listen to NPR a lot so I follow these things while other folks think about sports). This may have been a mistake in the Affordable Care Act. To outlaw many of those bare bones, cheap high deductible plans. Regular health plans that are more comprehensive are more expensive. Everyone (I guess) that makes over 400% of poverty level for their family size will be eligible for the premium subsidy. This includes single people as well as families as the poverty level is set by family size. Higher income folks may have to pay more. It isn't a perfect system, but there is a "broken promise" that the press will, of course jump on. Yes, the press jumped on President Bush also.

Basically, I like the fact that they are trying to improve healthcare access in USA so I tend to lean in favor of Obama's efforts. On the other hand, I realize that the whole thing could implode and increase the deficit depending on how it pencils out. Americans seem to want more healthcare than we can pay for, or our healthcare system is charging too much, or all of the above.

Still, it's better to have a regular physician than to wait till the emergency room for all one's care under our present (unreformed, nonsensical system). Even with having a doctor, I think people need to learn to live healthier lifestyles. I know not everyone is blessed with the best genetics and so forth and I hate to dump blame on folks from the seat of my bicycle.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

At Edison School in Pullman, WA. when Kennedy was assassinated

Just another "where were you" Kennedy assassination story, but you're probably sick of them by now.

50 years ago, I was in the 3rd grade when a surprise assembly was called. We went to the gym and sat in the place marked on the floor for our class. Other classes were gathering in their little squares on the floor. The principal was pacing back and forth on stage looking real upset. We wondered, "what happened?" He would stand at the mike and walk away several times. Then he was finally able to say it. "The president has been shot." The room of little kids gasped. Eventually we went back to our classrooms and the teacher in my classroom was crying. She said she didn't know if she could teach the class because she was so upset. Then a messenger came down the hall with a memo from the main office. School was dismissed for the day. I found my older sister, who was then in 6th grade, and we walked home thinking Kennedy might recover from the gunshot. At home, our mom greeted us with the news that he had died.

Much of the rest of that weekend news came to me through the radio as I think my parents were wise and thought too much television might just be "too much;" so to speak. My memories of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot are from radio rather than television. Maybe not hearing it as it happened, but I did hear replay after replay on the radio news. I think my folks wanted us to try and continue living life in a somewhat normal way. Our black and white television was used a lot during the funeral, though. The flag draped coffin lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, the horses, the somber music and so forth all made an impression on me.. I was scared of the dark for a long time after that and my folks had to let me sleep with my bedroom light on.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Can pricy Seattle area retain Boeing jobs?

Overlooking part of Renton assembly plant on my 2013 bicycle tour.

Land values and housing costs keep going up in the Seattle area adding to the cost of living. Also the cost of doing business as higher wages are needed to retain a similar standard of living that workers could have for less money in cheaper areas.

This is one of the factors that could be pricing Boeing aircraft manufacturing jobs out of the Puget Sound area.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has recently pushed for a special session of the state legislature to reinstate some big tax breaks for the aerospace industry. To try and assure that the 777 jetliner will be built here. Inslee is fairly left leaning and not likely to be thought of as a proponent of huge tax giveaways to corporations, but Boeing has long been an important locomotive in our local economy. The prospect of those jobs being lost with all their ripple effects through the rest of the economy is frightening to lawmakers and the public alike. The special session was called and the deal sailed through the Legislature only to run into a roadblock set up by the Boeing Machinists Union. Part of the deal called for significant concessions from the union, but rank and file voted 2 to 1 against the pact.

Who knows now what the future will bring, but Boeing is looking at other states, such as Utah and South Carolina, to see where the best deals might be.

I say it's too bad that tax deals have to be cobbled together like band-aide solutions rather than Washington State automatically being the best place for Boeing. Behind the debate about union or non union, there is a deeper issue of the cost of living. If the cost of living, in Seattle area, was more comparable to other areas, there would be lots of advantage for Boeing to stay. Seattle has it's skilled and educated workforce an well as the years of experience of having Boeing in this area. Lots of local institutions, including institutions funded by state tax revenue, add to the quality of life. I read, in one column, that the proposed Boeing tax deal would have been bigger than state funding for University of Washington. U of W has seen big cuts in the state portion of its funding in recent years.

Seattle's prosperous economy has been buoyed up with many corporate entities such as Microsoft and Amazon. Boeing once was the main game in town, but other players could be starting to crowd it out.

Lowering the cost of living seems desirable to me, but it isn't an easy thing to do. When housing prices start coming down, affordability should go up, but that's not the only thing to happen. Homeowners become "upside down" in their homes where the mortgages they owe are higher than the current value of the home. It's a difficult situation, as people learned in the 2008 crash.

Planning for more affordable lifestyles is very important, but often overlooked in the race for prosperity. Such things as affordable housing, density and transit come to mind along with affordable healthcare. Affordability should be the key to keeping industry in any region, but it's often overlooked. Affordability is a more sustainable solution than the continuing race to the bottom of tax cuts between regions.

Planning for affordability isn't just something we should do to be nice to our less fortunate citizens. It's also important in sustaining our economic viability.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

We've just had a TEDx in Bellingham

Not far from where I live. TEDx just took place today. 11/12/13. Also a significant date 11/12/13. This was a small event, audience size, as the TED organization wants new TEDx events to prove themselves before being allowed to get too big. Organizers plan to, most likely, have a bigger one next year.

This event was streamed live on the web and I saw a bit of it, but will look forward to the archive when it becomes available. Then I'll pick out topics that interest me rather than just seeing what happens to be live at the moment.

TED Talks are often quite interesting and the local stepchild TEDxs are coming to many communities.

Monday, November 11, 2013

On Veteran's Day

I've often wondered what it would be like to be a veteran. Must take a lot of courage to make it through basic training, military life and then back to civilian life. I've led a pretty sheltered life, myself, I'm thankful for the somewhat sheltered environment I find myself in for whatever reason that environment exists be it our relatively stable society, versus living in a place like Syria for instance. Or maybe it's also my own tendency to try and avoid conflict where ever I go personally.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Supposed to say loose gravel, but the L is missing

Sign seen on bike paths near Birchwood Park. I first found out about this when one of my friends on Facebook posted a similar picture. Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New construction in Barkley

As I was out for a short ride to the Barkley area of Bellingham, I was impressed with this large new residential building under construction. Bellingham does have a housing shortage so maybe this, and other things, will take some of the pressure off the market; pressure that causes rents for existing domiciles to rise.

Temporarily draped in black. Image added Nov. 5.

Then, on the way back, I was impressed by the glowing sight of Youngstock's Nursery. A small open air produce stand all lit up on that grey day.