Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My review of a NASA video about Juno mission to Jupiter

My psychology is different than most of the movie going public. This trailer, about NASA's upcoming Jupiter mission, has been touted as a great breakthrough in NASA public relations. Good Hollywood appeal, but for me, it just adds to my anxiety level.

It stresses the dangers of going into orbit, at Jupiter, with the radiation belts and so forth. Like The Terminator, or something. Action, suspense, scary. On the edge of one's seat. Personally, I hope it's not that risky. I'm looking forward to some real interesting pictures and findings if (which I hope is likely) the mission succeeds. July 4th is the date that Juno goes into orbit around Jupiter.

I feel odd doubting information that NASA has provided, in this trailer, but it does say that no other spacecraft has gone as close to Jupiter's treacherous environs as Juno is planning to do. Well, I remember the last orbiter of Jupiter named Galileo. It included a probe that plunged right into Jupiter's atmosphere and worked okay regardless of the radiation belts. It worked till being crushed, as planned, by the inevitable pressures of falling into Jupiter's atmosphere. We got good data out of that and the orbiter continued for many years after. Galileo had one handicap that Juno doesn't have to deal with. A malfunctioning antenna on the Galileo Probe required lots of slow workarounds for sending data back to Earth. Luckily, that mission lasted so long (bonus time well beyond it's design date) that it was able to accomplish it's goals in spite of the slow data link. Galileo was somewhat crippled even from the start, but Juno is (as far as I know) in excellent shape.

Looking forward to (hopefully) smooth sailing for the Juno Spacecraft that's about to reach Jupiter on July 4.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Oil train going through Bellingham. Who remembers the Northern Tier Pipeline proposal?

Unlike the coal trains that carry coal for export to Asia, I hear that the oil trains rumbling through Bellingham are serving the Pacific Northwest market. Bringing oil to our local refineries from places like North Dakota. Mostly for consumption in Seattle and various cities and towns of the Pacific Northwest. Keeping the cars on the road which, unfortunately, still rely on fossil fuel. In the past, much of our consumption was served by Alaskan oil, but more of today's oil is coming from North Dakota. It goes by train where there's no pipeline.

Ironically, old timers might remember the plans to build a pipeline from our refineries to North Dakota and points east. The proposal to build Northern Tier Pipeline back in late 1970s early 1980s. That pipeline was seen as a way to bring Alaskan oil from west coast ports to markets in the Midwest. If Northern Tier corridor was here today, it could be working in reverse. Bringing North Dakota oil to the west. Back in it's day, no one was thinking of sending the oil west. Since then, Alaskan oil has diminished and North Dakota production has flourished; like slash, burn and move on. Resource extraction patterns change over the years.

I remember my seatmate on a Greyhound Bus around 1981. He was a public relations person for Northern Tier. Full of stories about hiking, hunting and fishing. His spiel was about being an outdoor enthusiast and saying the pipeline wouldn't harm the environment. However, in 1983, Republican Governor John Spellman, of Washington State, rejected Northern Tier's application saying it would endanger the ecology of Puget Sound.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Grieving for the people in Orlando Florida

There definitely does seem to be a problem of intolerance and violence within Islam. A higher percentage of intolerance in Islam than other traditions. A factor that can't be whitewashed. At the same time, it wouldn't do much good to get into a comparison battle. I would guess that most of the people in Islam, as well as other faiths, are non violent and well meaning. Still, with each belief system, including Christianity, there are problems of rigid interpretations and fundamentalism. The big 3 religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity have old writings that are associated with them. These writings came from rough times when folks thought the world was smaller. Slavery was common, women were less respected and tribalism was a big thing. Scientific reason was less available. I think there needs to be some serious critique of how religious people use these old dogmas. How open, or closed minded are people these days? Do they think they have the absolute truth? Do they think the people in their group are always right and everyone else is wrong? These are questions that everyone needs to consider tho it does seem like the problem of close mindedness is more prevalent in Islam at this time in history. It may be more prevalent, but it is a problem in all belief systems.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Artificial intelligence helping us to look deeper into black holes

Wikimedia public domain illustration from NASA.

Using the artificial intelligence of computers to piece together things we really can't quite see.

There is a science project to try and see down deeper into a black hole. This is not easy to see as it's so small in physical size and so far away. Black holes are big in terms of mass, but small in terms of physical size. They are also obscured by lots of stuff. Very hard to see from our distant vantage point here on Earth.

Using computers to piece together data from radio telescopes across the world, more information becomes available.

Then artificial intelligence can work; like human intelligence works when piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. We have some idea of what the finished puzzle is supposed to look like; a human face, a barn or whatever. This helps us to find missing pieces and take an educated guess at what the pieces we don't find would look like. Some pieces we just have to guess at since they fell out of the box during shipment (to continue the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle). The box this puzzle comes in was shipped a long ways; like thousands of light years. Filling in the pieces and guessing about other pieces we don't have begins to fill in a pretty good image; so we hope.

Just think of some of the other imaging and research that artificial intelligence can contribute to. A bit scary in terms of us being superseded, but, more optimistically, new tools for more exploration and knowledge.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

A new path across part of Bellingham. Crosses under freeway.

A new path opens across part of Bellingham. Even connects two sides of town by crossing under the freeway. West end of path is just off Orchard Place, along the north side of Orchard Drive just north of Cornwall Park. Heads out east to the King Mountain area. To James Street Road. Yes, there's a road named after a street.

The new path is part of the corridor of trail that they've been trying to develop for years. The Bay To Baker Trail. Parts of the trail are being built and other parts are, but a dream. Progress is slowly being made. I visited there with my friend Josh who took the picture.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Trump worries that his wall of political baggage will effect his court case

In my book, whether one can be defined as a racist, or not, is kind of a window dressing issue. An issue of image and terminology. Being mean spirited is the real problem. Congressman Paul Ryan has stated that Trump's comments are racist while Mitch McConnell squirms another direction. Aside from terminology, there's lots of mean spirited politics. Some on both sides, but I think of a lot of mean stuff on the Republican side. Refusing to even hold hearings for a Supreme Court nominee, the scorched earth campaign tactics from the likes of Carl Rove, shutting down the government, slashing needed safety nets, the iron clad total anti tax pledge of Grover Norquist, gerrymandering of voting districts; which I'll admit Democrats have a hand in also. Politics has gotten too much "playing hard ball." Racism? We make a big deal over that word, but maybe it's just another line item in the list.

I also think Trump may have painted himself into a corner on the issue of building the wall. He can't loose face and let go of it, tho maybe realizing, somewhere, it's impracticality. It does cause serious political liability with the large portion of America's population that is of Hispanic heritage. Not only voters, but a lot of judges will, of course, be Hispanic also. The lottery of life has provided a Hispanic judge for Donald Trump's court case about Trump University. I guess one can see why Trump is concerned. Trump must feel that judge should recuse himself, given the controversy swirling around Trump's "wall of political baggage." I try and even understand where Trump is coming from. I guess it's fairly common practice for defense lawyers to reject various jurors for many reasons, including dubious reasons, in the attempt to strive for a fair and objective trial.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Look to Congress, rather than the president, for taxing the rich

It would be nice to have a president pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy, but wait a minute, it's Congress that levies taxes. The president can only recommend, as far as I know from what the constitution prescribes. Congress passes the tax laws. Who gets into Congress is important.

Bernie Sanders had the strongest positions for taxing the wealthy, but what could he do without Congress? Now that it doesn't look like he will get the Democratic Party nomination, the energy behind him should really be directed at changing Congress. I believe Hillary Clinton would make a good president even though she is more of a middle ground compromise than Bernie Sanders. A lot does depend on who is in Congress. It may be less glamorous than the presidential race, but Bernie's supporters ought to be thinking about Congressional races also.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Will north leg of Boulevard Park Walkway ever be built?

While Bellingham residents are, for the most part, celebrating the likely death of a coal port that was proposed, near town, the extension of Boulevard Park "over water" walkway may be dead as well. Lummi Indian concern about tidelands and fishing habitat is credited with saving our region from the perils of a coal terminal, but it also has lead to more paperwork and complexity when building anything on our waters. The Lummi's have been, at least, slow to sign off on the project. Other concerns cropped up as well so the whole thing has been stalled in delays. Now it looks like time has expired on some important federal and state grants so that pot of money has evaporated. According to an editorial in Cascadia Weekly's, Gristle column of 5/25/2016 "Roads To Nowhere", it looks like the walkway is dead.

The south "over water" walkway was completed several years ago and is a very popular attraction. The north walkway would have helped in development of Bellingham's central waterfront left behind when Georgia Pacific Pulp Mill closed. Plans for redeveloping that piece of waterfront are progressing at a snail's pace.

As for bicycle and pedestrian trail connections across our city, the walkway would have been redundant. We already have the South Bay Trail that pretty much goes the same route. Still, the "over water" walkway would have been a popular amenity for tourists and economic development in the waterfront. Also, it would have provided a level pedestrian / bike connection along the waterfront avoiding a gradual hill up into downtown Bellingham.

I took the above photo near where that walkway was proposed.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Wide income gap and unhealthy lifestyles buffet Obama's well intended attempt to increase access to healthcare

I don't really agree with the slant of this opinion piece, but it does bring up some hard truths about high costs and insurance plans pulling out of Obamacare. My take on it is that medicine, in America, is too expensive. The Obamacare program has been a well intended attempt to increase the number of folks with health insurance. As medical costs have been rising for decades and the income gap keeps growing, many folks have had no insurance. Attempts to correct that problem are very difficult to do at best; sort of like trying to put a smiley face on a toxic waste barrel. Healthcare has become too expensive, income disparity is too wide, post war baby boom generation is reaching older ages, American lifestyles are too unhealthy, healthcare is being overused in may cases. There needs to be a lot of deep changes in our culture, beyond just shuffling the insurance and government bureaucracies, to bring better health and broader access to care when we need it.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

I think KUOW is better off not spending all that money to buy KPLU

KPLU Radio, in Tacoma, is to remain independent from Seattle's KUOW. I'm glad to see this. Not because I listen to KPLU, but because I listen to KUOW.

KUOW was planning to buy KPLU, but Friends of KPLU was able to raise enough money to buy the station on its own. All along, I was thinking, why would KUOW want to buy KPLU? Why spend $7 dollars that could be better used? I like KUOW and feared that if it spent all that money to buy KPLU, it could weaken KUOW. $7 is a lot of money to go into debt for.

I know, the long range plan was to use KPLU's revenue stream to pay back the debt; like when corporations merge, but why do this? KUOW is a good station, but did it really need to buy out another NPR station, in Puget Sound area, just to become more of a "super conglomerate?"

KUOW does a good job focusing on news and information while KPLU specializes in the music of jazz. Personally, I don't find jazz that interesting. The plan was for KUOW to run both stations, one for news talk and the other for jazz. KPLU would have dropped some of its own news programming, which was seen as redundant to KUOW.

Local translators for both stations serve far flung communities, such as Bellingham. The translators would have been shuffled a bit for less redundancy. Maybe the two stations can still work together on how they cover Puget Sound anyway; without KUOW having to own it all.

A few weeks ago, KUOW HD2 dropped it's information programming to pick up a jazz service for (I assume) KUOW's organization to get practice running a jazz station in anticipation of the merger. Deterioration of the focus on information? I was worried that we would loose KUOW2, here in Bellingham, which we don't have to use an HD radio to get. We have a translator that broadcasts that programming on 90.7 FM. Luckily, KUOW was smart enough to keep the information programming of KUOW's second feed on our translator. It just translates KUOW3 where the information programming now resides. In Seattle, KUOW2 HD is jazz and KUOW3 is information. There's even a KUOW4 HD, I guess; BBC and so forth.

I'm happy that friends of KPLU have been able to raise enough money to buy the station, not because I listen to KPLU, but because I listen to KUOW. KUOW may be stronger sticking to its focus of news and information, rather than spreading out to run a jazz station also.

Also remember that parts of this region is served by yet another NPR type station; Northwest Public Radio. It happens to be based in my home town of Pullman, Washington; east of the mountains. NWPR serves parts of this region via it's own network of translators. Much of NWPR features classical music. As far as I know, it wasn't involved in any of this merger talk. NWPR also runs a large station in Tacoma which serves much of the Seattle, Tacoma area.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Cross Bellingham bike route reroute around Options High School seems okay with me

I first became aware of plans to build a new school building and it's possible effect on a bike path from Facebook friends as some neighbors in that area were concerned about the plans. Yes, population keeps growing. Immigration happens and Bellingham is growing. New schools and so forth are being built. Studying the issue a bit, I come to the conclusion that I often come to. With planning, new buildings are not always bad. The bike path can remain with it's route altered. Other neighborhood fears about this growth do exist, of which the bike path is just one symbolic topic, but, personally, I don't see much cause for alarm about this new building. I'll admit I don't live directly in that neighborhood, but I do support peaceful means of transport across our city.

Letter (email) I wrote to city officials about this news.

I have been hearing about plans to build a new building for Options High School east of Bellingham High School including plans to vacate the bike path east of Bellingham High School. I hope the connection of this cross town bike route can be maintained even though I realize that the specific route might change.

The cross town route I am thinking of connects South Bay Trail to Railroad Trail. It is a combination of trail and fairly bike friendly road. Basically going from south of Fairhaven District along South Bay Trail to Railroad Avenue. Then across the new bike bridge from North end of Railroad, then past Bellingham High School to along Kentucky Street. Then across James at a flashing crosswalk to turn north again on Nevada. Then under Alabama Street (avoids having to cross Alabama) to trail head for Railroad Trail.

I notice lots of use for this route so I hope it can be preserved. I'll admit even without the Bellingham High Bike Path, I sometimes use Grant Street to make the connection between Ohio and Kentucky. I hear that even Grant Street may become more narrow and/or busy with the new school plan.

Even if changes have to be made, I hope you can find a way to preserve the connection of this cross town bike route in that area.

Old route that is being moved. I've mapped it out on both streets and paths.

City plan for changing route included in their response to my letter.

Response I got.

Dear Mr. Ashworth,

Thank you for your interest and concern regarding the realignment of the trail between Kentucky Street and Ohio Street. I am including an edited version of the map that you sent to illustrate to you how the bicycle and pedestrian connection will be retained, but will simply shift about 200 feet east to Franklin Street.

Here's a little background:

· The School District asked the voters to fund the reconstruction of Options High School in 2013 and it was approved.

· The School District had a pre-application with staff from many City Departments (Planning, Public Works, Fire, Police, Building, etc.) in October 2015 at which they asked if realigning the trail was a possibility and explained why it was needed. In addition to construction an actual school building for the 105 students that have been educated in 7 portable buildings for the past 22 years, the School District will be constructing a regulation-sized soccer field so that Bellingham High School can host soccer games. The 12 feet of the trail easement is need to meet the field specifications.

· For student security, it is not very appropriate to have a public pathway channeling random people into and through a high school campus where several hundred students are studying and playing. This does not happen at any other high school campus in Bellingham.

· There is an option to shift the trail to a half-block section of Franklin Street between Kentucky Street and Iowa Street, which is already being used by walkers and bicyclists as evidenced by the worn pathway between the existing trail and Franklin Street. The half-block of Franklin Street will be marked as a Bike Blvd, the same as Kentucky, Grant, Ellis, and Young. The School District will construct a 10-foot wide sidewalk along Franklin Street on the east side of the new Options High School building, which will allow lighting to be provided, which does not exist on the trail. This will be safer and more comfortable for pedestrians.

The Bellingham Public Works and Parks Departments met with School District officials several times over the past 6 months and are recommending the relocation/realignment of the trail to Franklin Street. Rest assured, there will always be a bicycle and pedestrian connection here.

Chris Comeau, AICP Certified Transportation Planner.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Army Corps of Engineers rejects second coal port north of Bellingham. First coal port is in Canada.

Coal train crossing Nooksack River in Ferndale on it's way back from making coal delivery at Robert's Bank. An already existing coal port just north of Canadian border.

Army Corps of Engineers has delivered what could be a fatal blow to the Gateway Pacific proposal to build a coal port north of Bellingham. The Corps ruled in favor of the Lummi Nation which feared that the port would interfere with their treaty fishing rights. Herald article.

Good news for environmentalists as there was lots of opposition to the coal port proposal. This opposition included concern about continuing to build up fossil fuel infrastructure in the face of the global warming situation.

It seemed like a bad idea economically as well. Due to global warming and other alternative fuels, such as solar power and less carbon intensive natural gas, coal use should be in decline. Even coal use in China. Unless a way can be found to sequester the carbon emissions, growth of fossil fuel consumption is problematic. As for coal facilities, we do already have a coal port in this region. It's just a few miles across the border in Canada.

Several years ago, it looked like coal consumption in Asia was increasing rapidly. There was fear, I'd guess, that the capacity of the Canadian coal port wouldn't be sufficient to handle all the demand for shipping; especially if it were to prioritize Canadian over US coal.

Also, I'd guess there was interest in building a US port to say it's in our country and someone would be making money. It was also thought of as a source of local jobs even though not that many permanent jobs would be created. It would have created some construction jobs. There were a few labor union groups that supported the idea as labor doesn't necessarily always side with environmentalist interests. Also not all labor supported it. Some labor groups felt it could be used as a bulk commodity port for agricultural products as coal might be seen as just a way to get it started. A way to pay for capital costs, but over the long haul other bulk commodities would be shipped. This was a way that certain labor leaders reconciled the problems with the project. I remember this idea coming up on a local radio talk show with one union official.

Also, it seems like a stretch to ship coal all the way from Wyoming and Montana, by rail, along such an indirect route. Through Spokane, then down to Portland, Oregon and then all they way back north through Seattle and so forth to this area to then be placed on ships for transport across the Pacific. Of course I realize that oil has been shipped long distance, like that, for years. Still, the energy economy is in for big changes. This second coal port north of Bellingham was a bad idea.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Republicans must live with consequences of their beloved market forces as Donald Trump's marketing went viral

One Republican value that has lead to the rise of Donald Trump is faith in the market. In markets, marketing is a very important force. Donald Trump has been a master at that. His candidacy basically went viral. Money is one factor in marketing, but not the only factor. Much of the really big money weighed in against Trump, but Trump has lots of money also. Going viral and having the skills to play marketing like a violin holds lots of sway. That's a big part of the private enterprise system. Republicans tend to espouse this. Now they must live with it.

Marketing isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is a good thing, but in my opinion, for the best of society, marketing does need to be tempered by other things. Government is one of the other forces in society. We need to find the sweet spots in a balance of forces for the best of society. It's an inexact science for sure. Just saying "leave it all up the the market," like in an absolutist opinion, isn't going to find the balance.

Amazing day here in the part of Washington State called The Fourth Corner.

May 7 2016.

Donald Trump having an afternoon rally starting at noon at Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden while also at noon Amy Goodman is speaking in Mount Vernon. Amy Goodman, progressive activist of Democracy Now Radio fame. Speaking at Lincoln Theater in Mount Vernon.

At 4 PM Bellingham holds its annual Procession of the Species. Maybe there will be a funny elephant takeoff of the Republican symbol in that eclectic procession as some national media might be around.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Easiest to just use the bathroom of the sex you most look like currently

States that try to pass laws that one must use bathroom of the gender listed on one's birth certificate create a problem. Some transgender people are post operation and look more like the gender they are becoming than the gender listed on their birth certificate. Seems like the easiest solution, short of single occupancy facilities, is to use the bathroom of the gender you most look like currently. Determining what gender someone most looks like is best done by the people in the situation. Not easy to define at the government level.

Here's some more thoughts on the subject.

The binary system of men's and women's facilities was developed before we realized how fluid gender can be. Also before we took gay people into account. It was supposedly designed, I guess, to maintain modesty in separation of opposite sexes. New knowledge about our sexual natures is tossing a bit of a monkey wrench into that system. As that system becomes more stressed, or compromised, some folks fear that the illusive predator hiding under the bed will be able to take advantage of the situation. Not necessarily a fear of the transgender folks, themselves, but fear of what could happen as a system that so many folks got used to is being buffeted by the winds of change. Makes me think about a film I saw, when I was in high school, called Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler. As new information and change accelerate in society, a lot of people long for going back to what, I think, was described in the film as "Bonanza Land;" like the old TV show Bonanza.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Is Queer, Millennial Privilege a Thing? Or is there just a need for more connected community overall?

Article about young people being not that appreciative of older activists who have blazed the trail to better times. My own thoughts below that I posted on Facebook with the article. I put this thinking in my blog also.

Seems like there is more separation of ages in the gay community than in other areas where activism happens; such as environmentalists, for instance. Maybe there isn't a gay community anyway. Just somewhat isolated gay people in each generation. People that don't have a lot in common for many reasons including political interests, wealth, age and so forth. There needs to be more connections and community among gay people. This would also include connection between generations. One of the problems may be how much energy people put into their romantic relationships versus other more varied friendships. It takes a network of friendships to create community. Also apathy is a problem. We all need to look past just our own self interest to the larger world beyond us.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My bike ride to Waples Mercantile Building in Lynden. Building restored after fire

They did a good job restoring the building and leaving much of the old walls, timbers and floorboards for art's sake. See more details on the building and my April 2016 ride as posted on Flickr.

A bit more history here.

Friday, April 15, 2016

No hope in logic sign near Bellingham waterfront

Reader board has been near Bellingham's waterfront for a while saying there's no hope in logic. I'm assuming theological thinking.

A friend of mine said, I wouldn't want to take my engine to a repair shop that doesn't believe in logic.

This different sound byte can be the start of many a philosophical discussion. Is there no hope in logic because logic and evidence tends to point away from any hope in life after death?

Then again, I got to thinking that many fundamentalist religious beliefs have a logic; a rigid logic. Like clockwork, fundamentalists tend to follow their systems of belief that follow logical progressions. This logic often based on false pretense.

As for hope, I have hope that we still have a lot more to learn. We, as humans, haven't figured everything out yet.

Other side of sign with moon in background.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Religious rights versus civil rights

The so called religious rights bills sweeping some states are a reaction against civil rights laws that include LGBT people. Many of these states don't have civil rights laws, at the state level at least, that include LGBT people. Here in Washington State, we do have civil rights laws that include LGBT, but these laws specifically exempt churches and religious institutions. From what I understand, churches can still discriminate if they wish to under Washington State's fair housing and employment laws for GLBT.

Marriage Equality is a different issue. That Supreme Court ruling allows gay people to be legally married, but it doesn't require anyone to preform that duty; except for state employees such as county clerks acting on behalf of the state. If a church doesn't wish to preform a gay marriage, it's still allowed to make that choice.

Forcing someone to serve a gay marriage, such as baking a cake, is not part of gay marriage. It's more a function of anti discrimination laws, which many states don't have. Here in Washington State, we do have anti discrimination laws, but there are already exemptions written into those laws. The anti discrimination law doesn't apply to a church, but does apply, I guess, to a business, such as a bakery, as covered by civil rights laws. I guess that's what civil rights laws do. They tend to force people to not discriminate against minorities.

At least that's my understanding.

Here it's useful to contemplate what a libertarian might say. Libertarians who don't like coercion by government might oppose any civil rights bill that forces a business to hire or do business with someone they don't choose to do business with. This could apply to the issue of race as well. I'm not a libertarian, but thinking about what a libertarian might say can be useful in this discussion.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Downtown digital

Night Market in downtown Bellingham. Another mingling of artists, conversations, music, retail and "happening." One artist invited people to dabble colors onto strips of wood. The image from the strips was fed into a camera and then projected on the wall of the ramp going into the Parkade Building.


What one can do in this age of digital projection.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Keeping the Bern alive in a post nomination world

My own state of Washington showed up at caucuses for Bernie. Headline in Washington DC Post proclaims huge win in Washington State, but rest of the article discusses how difficult it might be for him to maintain this momentum in the other big states that are left such as New York (Hillary Clinton's home state), Pennsylvania and California.

I got to thinking some thoughts that Bernie supporters might not want to hear right now in the cusp of victory. Thoughts about what could happen after the convention if Clinton were to get the nomination. This outcome isn't inevitable, but it does still seem likely. I hope Sanders supporters would keep their enthusiasm and engagement. It might be a bit much to expect that they would cheer, rally and be real excited about Clinton, but hopefully most of them would still quietly vote for her versus sitting out the election and allowing someone like Ted Cruz to get elected. Then after the election and even before, Bernie and his supporters can stick together and push the Democratic mainstream to the left. Also remembering that who gets into Congress may even be more important than who the president is.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Better preparing for a good life given the low wage jobs of the future

Some folks see the solution to economic woes being more education. Science, math, STEM, computer programming and so forth to prepare people for the "jobs of the future." Problem is most of the jobs of the future seem to be low wage service type positions; such as hotel maids or things like piece work Uber drivers. Little is done about teaching us how to live our lives and plan society around the reality of low wage work for the majority of folks. How can housing, health, transportation and education become affordable so we can live with dignity, given the jobs of the future?

Politicians often talk about the high tech jobs that can't be filled do to lack of workers with certain highly specific credentials. This problem gets lots of media attention, but seems like it isn't the vast majority of jobs. In our economy, there are a certain segment of jobs that are highly specialized and hard to match. It's true that there may be a mismatch between education and some of these specialties, but part of that problem is the rapidly changing technology of today causing education to lag behind the cutting edge needs. While these specialized jobs do exist, the bulk of the jobs are not this. I hear it only takes a few employees to run many multi billion dollar tech companies such as Instagram. Educating more people just to compete for those specialized positions isn't going to help most workers.

Our tech economy does help consumers, however. Folks get to use great resources such as Google and Facebook for free, but this doesn't pay the rent. We live in a time of great opportunities created by technology. Not necessarily job opportunities for most people, but cultural opportunities in research, volunteerism and reaching out across the globe. What we need to do is to figure out how to make society work better, given the fact that most people aren't going to be at the top of the tech game in their vocation. Most people will still be working lower down on the pay scale, but life can still be good. We just have to figure out how to better plan our societies and our education goals for the realities that most people face. Elite education and jobs will still exist, but most people have a need for different strategies. Learning to navigate the world by bicycle, for instance. Learning how to stay healthy and not need un affordable healthcare, for instance.

Economists, like the liberal writer Paul Krugman, might complain a bit about my ideas as much of his thinking revolves around bolstering consumption to rev up the economy. Bolstering consumption, given our environmental crisis, is tricky. It can be done using better technology, such as solar energy, but it is tricky. I do like many of his ideas about circulating wealth in better and more fair ways, but we also need to learn how to live well with less dependency on consumption. Not necessarily turn the clock back to less prosperous times, but just learn how to live more intelligently. Live intelligently, using the tools technology is giving us.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

In the rat race, prosperity, in products, is easier to obtain than finding home. Quality, fairness and community should be what counts.

For decades we have been scratching our heads trying to figure out how to get more prosperity. Prosperity is usually measured in the flow of goods and services. As for goods, how many products do we need? The smartphones most Americans have are miraculous compared to the transistor radios we were lucky to have back in the 1960s. So what more can we want? Our landfills and second hand stores are overflowing. Our food supply leads us to obesity. In many ways even our poor people live in material abundance. What many people don't have, these days, is the ability to be able to afford a place to live. A home is becoming un affordable in many parts of the country.

College education has gotten more expensive along with medical care. Some of these problems are related to the widening income gap in society. As for education, our colleges have gotten more expensive as they try to catch up the salaries they pay their top staff to bloated salaries at the top of private sector business. Medical costs are effected by this rat race to the top also. A problem of the income gap. Housing is going up also due to inflated markets driven by the push for more prosperity. Also our public institutions could use more discretionary spending for things like infrastructure. This is suffering from rising costs for labor, land and so forth pitted against tax ceilings.

Maybe we need to tax high incomes more and change the focus of society toward higher quality of life. Higher quality with the great technologies we now have at our disposal. Don't worry, even if we tax the rich more, we can still look forward to even better smartphones in the future. At the same time, maybe we can slow down the rat race just a bit and have more quality of life and a bit more peace of mind along with the latest our technology has to offer. A society with less income discrepancy could be a somewhat more relaxed and less neurotic society. I assume even prosperity will still inch forward as it has for the past few years. Just find a way to have us feel like we are living the "good life" without destroying the environment as well. The challenge we face. The good life can also mean, in part, a good and fair community.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

But what if you are a sissy?

They say getting older is not for sissies. So, if one is a sissy, what can you do?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Yes the world is benefiting from trade, but US workers are weary holding up superpower vestiges

Paul Krugman writes in his March 11 column on Trade and Tribulation that free trade agreements aren't necessarily the bugaboo that both Trump and Sanders claim. He admits some aren't great, tho, like the latest TTP that Obama is pushing. At the same time more trade and international cooperation has benefited the world and provided foundations for international cooperation on things like the latest climate change agreement.

My own thinking, beyond what he has said, takes me to my childhood in the 1960s when there was some guilt about US being so rich while much of the world was hungry. 6% of population in USA consuming a big chunk of world resources. Now there is more prosperity around the world so the world is becoming fairer.

This is good, in a way, but I can see why people, in USA, are weary of this; like in "superpower fatigue." The world is getting more even and that isn't a problem for the well positioned folks of our elite (like even Krugman himself), but it can be hard on many folks. The problems aren't not necessarily the fault of trade. Much are the fault of poor governance in USA; mostly due to Republican thinking. Vestiges of being a superpower means the cost of defending the "free world" has fallen on our shoulders. We have the biggest military in the world while many of our workers, who pay some of the taxes, can't afford healthcare.

Also trade agreements have not allowed us to import cheaper drugs from overseas the way we are being flooded with other cheap products from overseas. Where's NAFTA when we need it? Instead, we are expected to take on the entire burden of paying for what the pharmaceutical companies say is their need for revenue to do research. Why can't the newly prosperous rest of the world pay for this, or why can't we buy the drugs that they get for cheap?

Also, why do we still have to pay for such huge corporate CEO salaries while other countries, that are almost as rich as us, don't?

Krugman points out one of the problems we face that's often falsely blamed on trade. Our dollar is too high in value making American things, including the cost of living, high in USA. This makes it harder for our workers to compete on the world market. As Krugman said, in this article, "our trade deficits are mainly a result of factors other than trade policy, like a strong dollar buoyed by global capital looking for a safe haven."

Our workers are priced out of the market, but still struggling with the high price of maintaining USA as a superpower. People are getting weary. Better governance could improve this situation.