Saturday, July 13, 2019

Some say immigrants get better healthcare and prenatal care than American citizens.

Some of my thinking gleaned from a thread on Facebook.

American citizens should be able to access healthcare. That's why we need healthcare reform.

I sometimes have felt that disabled people and some immigrant or refugee populations had better healthcare than many low income workers or even small business owners that fell through the cracks in our system. Much of our system of healthcare and welfare was designed in an era, like the 1960s, when it was assumed that if one was working one was fairly well off and middle class. The income gap has skewed the situation. At the same time, it still is in our interest to provide prevention and a pathway to citizenship for some of the immigrants that are working in our economy. Their labor seems to be in need in our economy and the old phrase still applies, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Yes, American citizens should be served.

The need that American citizens have for things like prenatal care is why we need healthcare reform in USA. We need to work toward a system of universal coverage with sliding scales so healthcare can be available to all Americans; especially working Americans. Many working Americans can't afford private insurance premiums and don't have employers that provide health insurance. I think the Medicaid expansion, that was part of Obamacare, was a good step for the most part. It attempts to expand coverage to more people, including people with low paying jobs. Before, a lot of those people were not eligible for Medicaid because they weren't eligible for Disability or Aid to Families with Dependent Children. It helps single lower income working adults.

But some people hate Obamacare.

Obamacare does look real bad for people who have higher incomes and good health; like the $2100 per month premium with $12000 deductible you mentioned. I think this happens because the lower end of the sliding scale gets subsidized. Someone does have to pay to subsidize the lower end. The higher end of the sliding scale pays more. Many people at the higher end do get "sticker shock" when they see what they get for their money, I guess even compared to private insurance.

One way to address this problem is to just not serve people who cost the system too much. To try and serve mostly healthy people. This can keep the costs down, but it's a problematic solution ethically. It's taking away coverage for people with preexisting conditions. Even a lot of Republicans don't wish to do this, tho they don't seem to have answers to this problem. Republicans hate taxing the more fortunate, but seems like there is no way around having to do that in order to continue providing coverage to folks with preexisting conditions; especially lower income folks in that situation.

I do think there does need to be more incentive for healthy living, but not all bad health comes from lifestyle. Much of it is luck and genetics.

Our society does need more of a focus on healthy living, but other things get in the way. Some of it is people's stupidity, of course. Also a lot of bad things are pushed on the populous; such as liquor sales, tobacco and sugar. Then there is the whole problem of sedentary lifestyles. Our transportation system, our town planning, even our lack of sidewalks in some areas. Also the problem of being over stressed and over worked. Also over medicated in some cases. The way many doctors practice medicine.

When someone said, "what about the better system that our religious organization provides?"

I guess systems, like your church system, can cut out much of the middle man (middle person) bureaucracy. That helps. I would guess they also tend to serve folks who try and live more healthy lifestyles. Also I think some of those systems have caps on their coverage so real serious, costly illnesses remain outside the cap. There is still the problem of American citizens who incur much higher medical cost than average; often due to no fault of their own, tho lifestyle is a big factor.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

The US an oligarchy? Still has freedom of expression. China could use more freedom, but it can get things done, so I hear. Benevolent dictatorship?

Freedom of thought and freedom of expression are cherished virtues that we still have here in USA, for the most part. At the same time, I've heard our country described as an oligarchy instead of a democracy. It does seem like it's definitely a tainted democracy at best, if not an oligarchy. Things like gerrymandering of political districts comes to mind. How much money influences politics these days also comes to mind. We have serious problems related to the very running of our society which make it hard to do things like adapt to climate change or even build high speed rail. Gridlock and nimby ism come to mind. Lobbying and our inability to pass moderate gun legislation also comes to mind.

I gather that some people, in China, think they have a better system than we do. They can get things done, like high speed rail. On the other hand, maybe high speed rail isn't the best answer, but that's another topic. China may have an easier time adapting to climate change.

I would guess some of Chinese folks feel like one needs a bit more control when dealing with 1.3 billion people. Someone, I know, who has lives part of the time in China, describes it as a "benevolent dictatorship." He's spent time in China, Hong Kong and USA.

As for the internet, in China, it is pretty closed behind what is called "the Great Firewall of China," but my acquaintance says a lot of Chinese people figure out how to "climb the firewall."

Still, I appreciate the freedom of thought that we have (or at least I think we have) here in USA. We may be kind of gridlocked, but at least we can still entertain ourselves by talking it to death while we sit in that gridlock.

I think about this all while hearing the news from Hong Kong about demonstrators sacking the Hong Kong Parliament building. The yearning to preserve and expand freedom of thought remains powerful. I hope things don't get so chaotic that authorities, like Chinese authorities, come in with something like martial law and shut everything down. Social change often has to happen incrementally. If it gets too chaotic, crackdowns do occur. It takes both patience and innovation to move the cause of freedom forward.

I realize that I have lots of ideas and opinions, but admit I've only been to two countries in my life, so far. I've only been to USA and Canada. I do keep up with world news quite obsessively, however.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Cruising in the age of consent. Me Too may apply differently to gay people versus heterosexual situations.

Interesting article, Cruising in the age of consent. It's a bit long with lots of ideas, but here's just one of many concepts I gleaned.

As is talked about in the article; issues of the Me Too movement tend to apply much differently in a gay setting than in mainstream heterosexual settings. In the latter, there is more of a strength and power imbalance between men and women. That doesn't necessarily apply in the gay world. I especially like this one statement about the concept of safety being somewhat different in the gay world versus the heterosexual world.

"Gay men’s classic sources of trauma and violence stem less from being hit on than from being literally hit by homophobes. Safety hasn’t typically meant freedom from carnal pursuit; safety has meant the possibility of it."

Monday, July 01, 2019

Abuse of the passing lane?

I hear that in Europe, the left lane on freeways, like the Autobahn, is used for passing only. People mostly drive in the right lane. Supposedly, that is the way freeways are intended to work. People ask why that isn't done in America. I think it's because there must be so much more traffic in America that all the lanes are full to a slow crawl. They are all full, at least around urban centers; especially during rush hour. Too many people drive, here in USA. I would guess that in Europe, more people use transit so even the freeways that they do have work better. Maybe they aren't so clogged with traffic. Just my guess, but I've never been to Europe. Yes, mass transit, walking and bicycling does help overall mobility.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Is there substance in Trump's North Korea posturing? There was some substance in the Iran nuclear deal, but Trump tore that one up.

Trump has stepped over the line into North Korea to shake hands. An innovative act, or just posturing?

Some commentators and politicians, including quite a few Republicans, are asking if there will be any substance to a deal. Will North Korea actually denuclearize, allow inspectors across the line and so forth?

I say we had a deal like that with Iran that Trump tore up. It may have not been perfect, but there was verification, so I hear in the news. Of course I can't see it with my own eyes. I think we had a deal with some substance, but Trump has torn up that deal.

Other countries, such as European nations, are trying to still hold that deal together, but it may be slipping through their fingers; our fingers also. Iran is on the brink of restarting their uranium enrichment. We may have painted ourselves into a corner that we don't know how to get out of. Going to war could be one out, but it's definitely problematic. It's problematic for sure. I'm often noted for making an understatement. Okay, it's more than just problematic.

Our leadership does make a lot of bad choices.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The competitive nature of dating is part of the problem

A very interesting, tho quite long article about loneliness and problems that persist in spite of progress toward acceptance of gay people. Great food for thought. I think, also applies to non gay people as well.

Personally, I see a big source of these problems coming from the competitive nature of dating. It seems like the concept of finding that ideal "soulmate" can be problematic. Even for young people, or maybe even more so for young people, one is never good enough. On the dating apps, there's always someone "better" just a few swipes away. It can be kind of a stressful situation.

In my opinion, the higher expectations in our more progressive society can also cast a dark shadow. One is often haunted by the question, "is my life what it could be?"

Even before the era of phone apps, I found the whole dating scene to be problematic. That was back in the days when it was more about classified ads and meeting in bars. It still seemed kind of shallow and competitive to me.

I have to say that, personally, I never really participated in the dating world. Maybe I'm a bit biased against it as I do know of many happy couples, but I also know of a lot of problems.

Myself, I value different things from different people. In some cases, it may be an erotic appreciation of body shape, but there are so many other things I value as well. Good conversation, for instance. Finding all these things to line up in one person may not be impossible, but it seems improbable.

I may have not found the solution for everyone, but for me, I enjoy a wide range of different people for different reasons. Like a circle of friends and community.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Believe it or not, I had some camping experiences with Fundamentalist Christians when I was a teenager

I am thinking about this experience after reading the news about The Firs Campground near Bellingham and it's firing of Jace Taylor for being gay. Some people were surprised when this happened as, I guess, the Firs seemed pretty mellow. A stricter theology lies underneath the fun.

I grew up in a very liberal church that is now pro gay rights, but when I was in 6th grade, a friend invited me to join the Boy Scouts. He was in the Mormon Scout Troop; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Being good liberals, my parents said, "we don't necessarily believe the theology in that church, but if your friends are there, have a good time."

I enjoyed the first few camping trips and scout meetings.

By the time I got to 7th grade, it was becoming evident that I wasn't motivated. Scouting was kind of like a para military organization. Maybe too macho for me? I wasn't motivated to achieve any ranking beyond second class; a badge in scouting. They also have a system of merit badges and my merit badge count was zero. One other badge I did get, come to think about it, was something called "Order of the Arrow."

I still hung out in the troop mostly as a social outlet. Friends were there, it was a place to go.

By the time I got into high school, I was beginning to realize that it was politically more conservative than my own upbringing.

Still, as a teenager, I had mixed feelings. Part of the time, I was drawn to the more liberal leanings of my parents and siblings. At other times, I was sort of rebellious toward my own family so I trended toward conservative. Military service both inspired and frightened me. The Vietnam War and the military draft were hanging over people's heads.

Another one of my friends, named Jeff, who was in that troop, got Eagle Scout; the highest rank in scouting, I guess.I was somewhat inspired and also intimidated as I wasn't motivated to climb that ladder. My mom pointed out a nice thought tho. When a picture came out in the local paper about the scouting awards. My mom noted that the picture showed a Methodist scoutmaster pinning the Eagle Badge on a Catholic kid who was in the Mormon Troop. She thought that was a statement in ecumenical-ism.

Later in high school, during one of my liberal leaning phases, I decided to write some kind of statement and pin it to the bulletin board in that church. It was some kind of rambling theological essay. The only part I remember, today, was a statement I made that went, "if a stick doesn't bend, it breaks."

I tacked that essay to the bulletin board on the main entryway of the church outside the scout room. It felt like Martin Luther tacking the poster to the church doors.

I left it up a few days and then must have gotten nervous as I eventually took it down.

It was a bit surprising, to me, that no one paid any attention to it. Life in the church and the scout troop went on as normal. No one said anything to me about my essay. Maybe they couldn't read it as the writing wasn't the best.

Eventually, I decided I was in the wrong pew; so to speak and I quite the scout troop.

More stories from my scouting days and other memories to follow.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Bellingham teen fired from working as a camp counselor with The Firs because he’s gay

Very informative article in Bellingham Herald.

Washington State has laws about discrimination against sexual minorities, but an exemption is made for religious organizations.

Here's more of my own commentary below.

There are a lot of accepting churches and organizations in this area. I wish Jace Taylor the best in finding an accepting place of employment and community. This exposes the brand of theology subscribed to by the Firs management. It's a different interpretation of Christianity than the way I was brought up. Kind of puts Bellingham on the map as it's making news on Seattle TV stations and so forth.

As for Washington State laws that exempt religious organizations, such as the Firs Camp near Bellingham, from the civil rights protection for sexual minorities, I am still okay with that. Being liberal, myself, also means I'm kind of into "live and let live," rather than necessarily forcing people to do things against their will. I am not a Libertarian anti government coercion sort of person, but I can see some of that point of view.

I would not wish to work for that kind of place anyway. I would seek more liberal religious or other types of organizations to work for and do business with.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Thinking about the degrowth movement. Saving the planet by working less. I'll add. and / or embracing better technology.

Here's an interesting article. The radical plan to save the planet by working less.

The degrowth movement makes lots of sense to me. First time I've seen the term degrowth, but I have been a fan of voluntary simplicity and shorter work week for many years. Quality of life and work / life balance is progress to me. There's more to progress than just increasing wealth and / or population.

That being said, I also am a fan of Technological progress. Technology might be able to help us squeeze more wealth out of the planet like converting to green energy, using efficient technologies like LEDs and possibly (dare I say this) nuclear power. Better yet, hydrogen fusion.

Still, the technology isn't solving everything. We do need to redefine wealth and learn to live in better ways. That's where shorter workweeks and more things like bicycling come into play.

I just realized a pun at the end of my post. "Shorter workweek and more things like bicycling come into play."

More time off. More time for play. Also adequate sleep and better relations with friends and family. Less rat race.

From comments on this post when I put it on Facebook.

I'm surprised that the word "greed" doesn't even appear in the article.
Maximus Gray.

I fully agree with this. What also goes along is the proverb phraise; you hate the job that you are stuck in traffic to, but you need the job to pay for the car that you are trapped in!
Mark Allyn.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

13,000 years ago, Seattle was under 10,000 ft of ice, but Seattle wasn't a city then. Human caused climate change could happen while the city is there.

Some people say, "why worry about climate change?" "The climate is changing anyway."

Over 13,000 years ago, Seattle was under 10,000 ft of ice. Of course, Seattle wasn't there back then. 13,000 years is much farther back than all of recorded history.

The global warming worry is about the next 100 years. Can we make it through the next 100 years? Our kids and grand kids. That's an important question for civilization. After that, who knows. Maybe we will be building huge colonies in the solar system by then; if civilization survives.

It's the next century that's the time scale for global warming worry, as far as civilization goes. As for other species of plants and animals, yes, they have come and gone. Many have gone extinct over the millions of years before we were here to care.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Washington state health insurers propose lowest rate increase in Affordable Care Act era

Some good news here in the state of Washington. A very low rate increase; like just 1% for health plans on our Obamacare exchanges, According to an article in June 3 2019 Seattle Times. Seems like the system is stabilizing and starting to work well in this state. Work well at least for this year.

They are getting the bugs out, the system has arrived; like in "the Eagle has landed."

Washington is a state that created its own healthcare exchanges. Remember; states that refused Obamacare's Medicaid expansion often didn't set up their own exchanges so the Feds run the exchanges in those states. Our state seems to have managed it's exchanges well and at the local level. Ironically, accepting Obamacare may have meant more local control.

A public option is now in the works, here in Washington as well. Roll out for the public option is planned for 2021.

If Eastern Washington State were to secede, why not be more original? Name the new state Columbia.

From Komo News, January 2019.

Two Republican state lawmakers from Spokane Valley have submitted a bill to create a 51st state - again.

House Bill 1509, sponsored by Rep. Matt Shea and Rep. Bob McCaslin, would split Washington state in half along the Cascades, separating Eastern Washington from Western Washington.

The counties on the west side of the Cascades would remain in the state of Washington, while the counties on the east side would comprise an entirely new state named Liberty.

From my Facebook.

Seems like whenever there is a movement to split a geographic entity, the break off region goes for a name like "Liberty." Years ago, there was a move to split two regions off of Whatcom County. There was "Freedom" and also "Independence" Counties. Can't people be more original? Seems like every break off idea goes for the a name like Independence.

If Eastern Washington were to create the 51st state, why not call it something related to local geography? How about the state of "Columbia?" Yes, the Columbia River is a very important feature right through the heart of Eastern Washington. Much of that economy is dependent on the river.

I tend to think breaking the state in two is a bad idea.

Here's some more of my thinking.

Where would the new state capital be? Spokane? That's an economic hub for both eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. Spokane calls itself the hub of the Inland Empire. It's like, "all roads lead to Spokane." Problem is, there's another Inland Empire. That Inland Empire is focused around east Los Angeles Metro area and San Bernardino.

Splitting regions can be problematic for sure; especially for a place like the town I grew up in; Pullman, WA. Pullman is home of a big University, Washington State University. Much of the money and students at WSU come from the populous and prosperous west side of the state.

Trivia question:

The last county to be created in Washington State. Created by a split is Pend Oreille County. It's up in the north east corner.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Here's my answer to the question, "do you caption all the photos in your collection?"

A photographer friend of mine put out the question on Facebook, do you caption all your photos? He does, but he finds that the task can be tedious.

Here's my answer.

I love captioning my photos on Facebook and Flickr. I find that a lot of people don't caption photos on Flickr, at least. Descriptions provide food for search engines bringing more searches to one's photo.

I also find descriptions are a means of self expression. I like to write in my blog, but not that many people read my blog. Breaking up my writing into various photo descriptions on Flickr, rather than writing to this blog. My photos on Flickr seems to bring a lot more readers.

Like Facebook, Flickr allows fairly long descriptions. There's the title / caption and then more space for a description below.

I have not been captioning photos that I don't post. That would be tedious. Some of these are close to being duplicates. Others are ones I don't think are worth posting, tho I often do change my mind given another look at the photo.

My photos are kept in folders on my computer under the label of the year the photo was taken.

The photos in my computer are not captioned, but I remember the circumstances for most of them. Also, a lot of those photos are taken around the time of the ones that I do post and label. They are usually photos from similar contexts.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

One of many reasons for Facebook

Like Facebook or not, here's the kind of thing that keeps Facebook so pervasive as a tool for self expression. One of the NPR shows that I follow, The1A from WAMU Radio, has just shut down the comments section on it's website. It says there is too much abuse and too many bots. They don't have enough resources to moderate the comments section. The notice also says one can continue to comment on their - Facebook page. Also on their Twitter presence. This is because it's easier to verify who's making the comments using the existing Facebook system, rather than managing their own comments section.

Not that I used the comments section that much, but I did use it some. When using it, logged in with another system that I like. It's an alternative to Facebook, but a bit different. A system called Disqus. Disqus is a social media that manages one's comments to other media. I'm afraid Disqus may no longer work for The1A site, at least for now.

My feed on Disqus where I've signed in while to use the comments section in some other medias, such as radio stations and publications. You can get an idea how Disqus works.

One problem with big media outlets, which has been the case for decades. Information overload. This is a big country, now 320 million people. On national media, one's comments are usually lost among thousands of comments, since the internet age when comment pages became available. Before the internet age, one could write letters to the editor, like to the New York Times, but there was only room for a handful of letters given the volume of mail they got. Local media did better being on a smaller scale. The Bellingham Herald used to pride itself in being able to publish almost every letter to the editor it got.

One thing Facebook has done is create a system that breaks up the size of audiences to facilitate more discussion; like breaking a lecture class into group discussions. Except for celebrities, one's personal friends are usually one's most likely audience. Facebook builds from that as often the larger audiences start among friends and then spreads from there. I do think other systems, like Disqus also have merit.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

If one can thunder on over 100 radio stations coast to coast, one might not need Facebook

There are quite a few people who don't use Facebook. One person, I know, is a college professor who enjoys teaching as an outlet for his creativity. One could say he doesn't really need Facebook. Also he's skeptical of it's corporate nature.

I still see Facebook as a common person's outlet for writing and photography.

This makes me think of a segment of a radio talk show I remember from the mid 1990s. Someone called the show suggesting the host get a website. Websites were new, back then.

The host was skeptical. He kept saying, "why would I need a website?"

The caller persisted talking about how he could post articles, archives and so forth.

The host eventually started thundering like the Wizard of Oz. He said, "My voice is heard on over 100 radio stations coast to coast." "It blankets America just fine, thank you." "I don't need no web what?"

Forward to now, I just looked up that host. I don't think he's got a show anymore, but his rants are available on a website.

In that discussion I had with the professor, the problem of junk mail came up. He admits that email is almost unusable now due to so much clutter of junk mail. I find the same problem with telephones. It's why I don't answer the phone unless people leave a message. One good thing about Facebook, it filters out a lot of the bulk stuff so it tends to be the more interesting responses from real people. Not flooded with a bunch of appeals for money from various organizations. Real people are more apt to value my thinking, rather than just my checkbook.

I do admit that Facebook would probably be better if run by a nonprofit.

Friday, May 31, 2019

About free college and other idealistic things

Some reservations I would have about Bernie Sanders tho I would vote for him, or any of the Democratic candidates who get the nomination.

Ideas, like free college seem far fetched unless the bulk of grass roots people get behind it. Back in my college days, college was, at least more affordable. Most of the cost of college was paid for by state taxpayers. At least at state run colleges where (I think) most students go. Around 70% of the cost was covered by the state. Today, the taxpayers pay only around 40% of the cost (here in Washington State at least) so tuition is much higher.

Washington is a "blue state," but we still have trouble raising taxes. Washington voters have turned down several initiatives to have a progressive income tax in this state.

Another problem is that the cost of college has gone way up since my college years. Much of that has to due with a growing gap of incomes between upper middle class "professionals" and average working people.

As for the salaries of upper income professionals, various institutions, including colleges, government agencies, private businesses and non profits have been in a bidding war to raise top level salaries as they strive to attract and retain what they consider to be their most talented staff. This bidding war drives up costs.

Spiraling property values for residential property has also driven up the need for the higher salaries due to rising costs of living.

We may be able to make college more affordable, but free college is a bit of a stretch.

Part of the problem is that people, like Bernie Sanders, try and blame everything on the 1%. The 1% may be the most to blame, but part of that money is tied up in the capital that runs business. A much bigger group of people is the top 20%, or so. Upper middle class. The gap between upper middle class and average workers has grown higher as well.

Upper middle class can be blamed for a lot of things like the NIMByism that makes it harder to build affordable housing.

It's true that the 1% is especially culpable in basically buying Congress. This has been made worse after the Citizen's United ruling.

Politicians don't like to blame upper middle class since that group has a lot of voters. In some ways, it seems more politically smart to blame the 1% because 99% can logically out vote 1%. The problem is, that logic has not worked. Much of the 99% still supports Donald Trump and other Republicans.

Not only is there big income gaps in our society, but there is also a cultural divide. Some of the 1% is liberal, culturally, while quite a lot of the 99% remain conservative.

Think of the liberal billionaires such as George Soros who support environmental causes. Think of what people often refer to as the "Hollywood elite." The cultural divide cuts differently than the income divide. We are dealing with both a cultural divide as well as the income divide, but they are somewhat different phenomenon.

Changes need to happen at the grassroots level. For things like free, or even just affordable college to work, the people have to be willing to pay for this.

Some say, just cut the military and pay for it via federal, rather than state government.

I am for cutting the military, but that is difficult to do also. It only takes a band of well organized criminals to create something like a 911. If that were to happen, fear would drive politics toward the military again. Even if a big military is not the best solution to the 911 problem (such as sending hundreds of tanks into Baghdad), people vote with their emotions all too often.

I hate to say it, but I think fear is a more powerful emotion than love. When it comes to emotions, fear trumps love. That could be a pun also.

I would say more head and probably less heart is needed in human culture. That may sound counter intuitive. We all have emotions (heart), but they don't often go in good directions. Greed, fear and so forth often prevail. Logic may not be perfect, but I think it is too often underrated.

More idealistic thinking is definitely possible, but it has to come from big cultural changes at the grassroots level.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Republicans aren't likely to pass taxes for infrastructure anyway

Trump walks out of meeting with congressional Democrats that was to be about infrastructure spending. Oh well, we can't increase infrastructure spending without raising taxes anyway; or maybe taking money from the military or adding to the debt. We can't do federal public infrastructure, that is. Private infrastructure; like toll roads can still be done and states can move forward also.

The fight wasn't about infrastructure, but it is the battle between Trump and the new Democratically elected House over investigations of the president. Investigations; even impeachment can take place in the House, but Trump is still highly protected by most of the Republicans in the Senate.

Beyond just the politics of Trump and Congress, the American people are divided. A good way toward better infrastructure is to raise the gas tax. A hard sell especially to Republicans, but to Democrats also. Democrats don't like regressive taxes, which a gas tax would be. They are reluctant to do this without raising taxes on the wealthy. Republicans are pretty set against the latter.

Trump might say, oh, hell, we've got almost full employment anyway without the damn infrastructure.

Yes, Americans are employed, but many are stuck in traffic, or unable to afford convenient housing.

Speaking of traffic, another question is, where are we going to put the infrastructure? In most cities, there is no room to add lanes to the freeway.

The old American way is no longer working. We need greener infrastructure, greener lifestyles and greener politics. Investigations or not, 2020 election is on its way. Are you going to vote?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Stripping Down the carbon footprint. My article related to June 7 naked bike ride in Bellingham 2019



Someone's chalk Art I found on sidewalk a week, or two, ago.

Painting party before and block party after ride. Events in front of Make.shift Art Gallery 306 Flora in downtown Bellingham. Friday June 7 2019.

Article I wrote for Betty Pages about:

Stripping down the carbon footprint

We need to find ways to make reducing the carbon footprint more fun. Just asking people to make sacrifices doesn't usually go over well.

Improving technology can help us reduce fossil fuel consumption. Things like LED lights can help as they use a lot less energy than old fashioned incandescent lighting. Generating more of our energy from solar power is needed also. Problem is, it takes a lot of time for the use of these new technologies to become widespread.

In the meantime, population keeps growing and more of the world's people rise out of poverty. Consumption of fossil fuels continues to increase. Few folks want to go back to the Dark Ages and sacrifice the pleasures of modern life.

How can we make conservation more enjoyable so the idea becomes popular?

One way is to think of other benefits besides just the value of having money and material wealth. How about the benefit of good health?

Bicycling may not be as fast as driving, but it's a good way to integrate exercise into one's means of transportation. Depending on the circumstances, it can be a lot of fun.

One really fun ride is the World Naked Bike Ride. This happens in many cities around the world; including here in Bellingham. Our local version of this ride is planned for Friday, June 7th. Starts by the Makeshift Gallery, 306 Flora around 6 pm.

The ride is non competitive. It can be enjoyed by folks from a wide range of ages and body types. One need not even be naked to participate. There are many versions of dress, or undress, depending on one's level of comfort. Volunteers are needed and quite a few folks just come downtown to cheer on the riders.

More information is available on their website.

There is usually a fun dance after the ride. I got to thinking that dancing is a form of exercise that a lot of people enjoy. They usually don't think of it as a chore; like maybe going to the gym. This is how we ought to view things like bicycling. We can also view other forms of reducing the carbon footprint in this way as well.

Folks are often striving to increase the GDP of our economy. This can be hard work and a burden for both the individual and the planet. How about spending more time away from the job? More time for friends and family, or even just time to get an adequate amount of sleep.

If we could measure the success of our economy in terms of our health, or the amount of connection we have with community, our task of reducing the carbon footprint would be a lot easier.

By Robert Ashworth

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Adjusting to climate change, retooling culture and infrastructure. From my Facebook posts.

Very alarming if true.

We Have Five Years To Save Ourselves From Climate Change, Harvard Scientist Says

Yes, I say, human caused global warming is happening, but do we absolutely have to turn this ship (so to speak) around in only 5 years? This Harvard scientist says yes. Drastic reduction in our carbon emissions. He also talks about the need to artificially reflect more sunlight away from the atmosphere. I think it may have to come to that, if these dire predictions are true. Due to the economy and our culture, it doesn't look like we have the will to drastically cut carbon emissions in the real near future.

I would like to see some drastic changes, like higher gas taxes and so forth. It will take more than even that. It might be easier for me as a single person, on my bicycle, but (as people often say) I'm not raising a family.

Responding to another article, or part of an article.

Africa's high birth rate is keeping the continent poor

Overpopulation is a big problem in parts of Africa. Could be a source for more refugees and immigrants to the west. This article interested me, but, not being a subscriber to the Economist Magazine, I only saw the first few paragraphs.

Personally, I think about the debate over things like gay rights that's taking place within a lot of church denominations. Churches, such as the Episcopal and Methodist, are split between the more liberal theologies of their western branches and the more conservative, traditionalist theologies of their African branches. In many cases Africa wins by majority rule. Some of these church organizations are splitting.

I think we need less traditionalist theology to adjust to climate change; especially because most people of the world, even if poor, seem to aspire toward having a fairly consumptive lifestyle. Even if not as crazily consumptive as American, consumptive still. Don't be forcing lifestyles of procreation on every last person. We need a more feminist agenda. More friendly toward singles, gays and family planning.

And yet another.

People might think I'm Africa bashing, but this article comes to mind also. Yes, there's the rich elite in more countries than just the USA. It can be bad where ever it is; including USA, but Africa isn't necessarily of moral superiority.

Meanwhile back in USA.

A recent meeting about infrastructure, between Trump and Congressional Democrats, was discussed on this edition of On Point Radio. One analyst said Republicans, in Congress, would not allow much spending on infrastructure. Trump likes to sound good and offer some generous proposals that sound good to the Democrats. Republicans, except for Trump, normally ask; "where's the money going to come from?"

Money seems to only be able to come from more deficit spending. The idea of raising the federal gas tax is plausible. It needs to be higher, but the gas tax (and I would also say any carbon tax) is pretty much a regressive tax. Hits poor people who say they have to drive the most.

Democrats, in that meeting, were willing to consider a politically difficult gas tax if Republicans were willing to roll back the recent Republican tax breaks that mostly went to the wealthy.

Looks like we'll just continue with gridlock.

Show was opened up to callers who came up with some innovative ideas. Besides the normal political gridlock, we are on the cusp of some game changing technology. Think Uber, think self driving cars, think hail the car rather than owning and having to park the car. Think cyber travel and virtual reality, think information age. Think change.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Pete Buttigieg's liberal approach to Christianity is much needed

Liberal and accepting Christianity has been around for years, but it tends to not get a lot of attention. The candidacy of Pete Buttigieg for US president is bringing more media focus to the side of Christianity that is more open to diverse peoples. Also the recent coming out of a student at BYU, a Morman university, is in the news. Among the many podcasts I listen to as I do my custodial job.

One main point that is made by Buttigieg is that being gay is his natural state. What he was, basically born as. God made him that way. Not a choice. One conservative caller pointed out that there are a lot of traits in various human natures that are not necessarily good to express. Like the urge to murder, that some people face.

I got to thinking that there is also another way to justify the diversity that we call homosexuality. One can ask, what is the harm? Most people know there is harm from a lot of our human emotions such as the urge toward murder. There is good reason to suppress many of our less socially comparable desires. As for love or sexual feelings between two consenting adults, what's the harm? I almost like that argument better than the more common "we can't help it, this is our natural state" argument.

In my thinking, asking what the harm is can lead to one of my favorite points about alternative lifestyles that seldom gets discussed. The problem of population growth. If more people were gay, or at least not as into procreation, the environment would be less endangered. The world is still facing the challenge of dealing with global warming while a projected 3 billion more people will be living on the planet in the next few decades. Even with birthrates dropping, there is still enough growth in the pipeline to bring us from 7 billion to 10 billion in the next few decades. We are having trouble accommodating 7 billion. Think of all the refugees. Conservatives talk about the "flood" of immigrants. Seems like we are headed toward a world of hate unless we become more accepting to folks who aren't necessarily in the mainstream of procreation.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Wealth isn't all bad; especially now that Bernie Sanders is part of the 1%

Bernie Sanders is now part of the 1%.

Reminded by the Times reporter that he is now someone of considerable means, Sanders retorted: "I wrote a best-selling book. If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too." Apparently, Hillary Clinton made a similar comment and got flack for it.

I remember when being a millionaire was a big deal. These days, you pretty much have to be a millionaire to be middle class if you live in a place like Seattle or the San Francisco Bay Area. At least you are a millionaire if you own a home and your mortgage is paid off.

This reminds me of the controversy over Al Gore's big house from a few years back. An environmentalist living in a big house? Well, maybe a former vice president still needs space to house the Secret Service.

Big time celebrities and politicians are the ones with name recognition that people flock to. Seems like that's all but inevitable in a big country such as ours. I think if I ran for president, it wouldn't get much farther than my Facebook friends.

Getting electioned takes name recognition. I've often thought that one house of Congress ought to be selected by random lottery, rather than popularity contest. By random lot, maybe some obscure janitor would be represented. There would be representation from pretty much all walks of life. Experts as well as nitwits in many fields.

Lots of very wealthy people are on our side culturally. Many support higher taxes on their own wealth. The left does need it's powerful and influential people as well. Much of it depends on how the money is used and what policies are being promoted.

At the same time it can often be said that we have met the enemy and he is us. Our society tends to create and then follow the people of wealth. Hollywood celebrities are often listened to more than scientists, for instance. Whether we like it or not, we tend to uphold fame and fortune.

I constantly like to remind people, "we have met the enemy and he is us." I saw that phrase on a banner in the hallway of my high school many years ago. It's been with me most of my life.

I think it's useful to try not to think in terms of who's the enemy. Another quote I like is from Mahatma Gandhi. "Be the change you want to see in this world."

Friday, April 12, 2019

Dating; a more fertile field for bots than deep conversation

I may have been chatting with a rather crude version of artificial intelligence a few days ago. I accept just about all friend requests as who knows, they may be followers of my website that I haven't met yet.

Some of these "new friends" will immediately go into chat and ask questions such as "are you married?"

When I say things like I like being single and I am gay, they often respond like a real person basically saying no problem, but sometimes they still like to chat; like maybe practicing English as they live in India, or someplace.

A few days ago, the "person" was supposedly a young woman. Answers to my responses came quickly as if not typed, but canned pre scripted paragraphs. Even when I say I am gay, it keeps asking if I want to see nude pictures. Also another one of my friends ask if I knew the "person." It was sending more friend requests to my list of friends. Eventually, I unfriended what I think was the bot.

I've seen nude pictures of a computer before.😆

Even real people can seem like robots when they are looking for romance, or doing some kind of business promotion. They reach out to large numbers of people with pretty standardized responses. Kind of ironic if it's romance as they don't know anything about me. It's supposedly an intimate interest, but they are just going down the list; playing the field.

This is what much of the dating world is like even off line, I guess. When I was younger, I was often passed over by the dating scene as I was kind of odd in a lot of ways. Now I'm probably too old for most of the algorithms that run, both on the internet and in people's heads. I was never really into dating.

New contacts are most interesting if they have seen something I have posted and are responding to that. If someone is responding to something that's unique from me, that seems like truer intimacy to me.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

When a regular MD says, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," that's pretty good.

One of the favorite quotes of my MD is this, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." There's a little more to it than just that, but that makes a nice sound byte. He's a regular MD, but in many cases this is still the best strategy. Avoid having to go to the doctor. My MD is ready with evidence based scientific treatments if need be, but lifestyle is usually the first choice. Then there's then whole question of the cost of medicine. Another incentive to err on the side of less medially intense solutions. Not everyone is so fortunate as some do need more intense medicine, but ideally it's a good thing to try and avoid.

I tend to avoid non scientific alternative medicine. It still has the downside of cost.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

For tenure to work best, the institution needs to be growing and hiring

Tenure was sometimes complained about, even back in the 1970s, as tenure could make it hard for new talent to get into the school's teaching positions. Not enough tenure track positions available and, at the same time, folks would say it's because they have to keep the dead wood; or at least what's perceived as the dead wood. When the institutions aren't growing and hiring, there isn't enough abundance to protect tenure AND provide a place for the new talent.

Tenure was good at protecting professors from the political whims of legislators who could turn off the spigot of salary if tenure didn't exist. At the same time, I think it was designed in a time when schools were growing and hiring. When growth slowed down, it became a choice between preserving tenured staff versus having room for new people in the system. Unfortunately turning into kind of a zero sum situation.

My thought about the term deadwood is related to the concept of ineffective rather than age, but I can see how it can be interpreted as age.

Effective and ineffective are somewhat in the eye of the beholder which is one of the reasons for tenure. Politics that's different than some legislator sitting on a funding committee could be defined as ineffective. Another term related to deadwood is boring. A professor who is not entertaining. To teach, I think it's important to hold the attention of students, but even that can be a matter of opinion. I've never been a teacher, but I have been a student; years ago.

As for the term "deadwood," I can't help but think of a joke that was popular during my college days. It may not be politically correct, but if someone thought a class was boring, they would often say, "the professor has already died, but they forgot to bury that professor."

It would be nice if there was enough jobs for both the aspiring new and already existing members of the faculty.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Were they worried about an ice age in the 1970s? Was the energy crisis a hoax?

Videos, like "In Search Of The Coming Ice Age" from 1977 are being passed around among global warming deniers. This video is from 1978 what could happen if we entered another ice age. A memory from 40 years ago.

I watched it and got a different take. I don't see it as discrediting today's worry about global warming. It was an interesting documentary; pretty sensationalized tho. Typical of television. the main point I got from watching it is how we take our fairly stable climate for granted. Things could change. For instance some forms of volcanism could put so much dust in the atmosphere that it would reflect out enough sunlight to cause severe cooling.

Even in this documentary, the prospect was not seen as imminent in the next few years. It was seen as something that could happen after, say 200 years of this kind of major volcanic activity. People are walking around saying they survived the ice age that was predicted for in the 1970s, like the ice age of the 1980s that didn't happen. Even this video wasn't predicting that. It had a disclaimer saying it wasn't predicting anything, necessarily. Just exploring what could happen given circumstances, such as the volcanism. Yes, we do take our climate stability for granted.

One of the environmental science classes I took, back in the 1970s, had a lecture about the stability of our climate over the past 10,000 years or so. A period of relative stability that allowed our civilization to develop. The lecturer's point was that more extreme weather could be the geological norm and we have just been lucky over the past 10,000 years. We've become complaisant. I also remember that there was less worry about global warming, back then. Scientists knew about the effects of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but it wasn't being discussed in the media till the 1980s. Or at least that's my own recollection.

Was the energy crisis of the 1970s a hoax? I bought it and I still buy it today. Seemed like we would run out of fossil fuels, but today, we have an oil glut. What happened?

The idea of a hoax wasn't so much from conservatives, back then. Some liberals, in the 1970s, did think the energy crisis was a hoax. A hoax created by big oil corporations to raise the price.

I didn't buy the hoax idea as I am not a conspiracy theorist. The OPEC oil embargo was part of the problem. Yes that was a conspiracy, but the United States was also running out of "easy to pump" liquid petroleum. Yes the energy crisis was real.

Back then scientists knew we had lots of oil shale, however. Back in the days of Jimmy Carter, they thought the shale would have to be brought to the surface via strip mining and then crushed to extract the oil. It was the famous "Carter Synfuels Plan."

Well, since then, some new technology has been developed in the oil industry. They don't need to mine the shale. They just have to drill sideways, frack the shale formation and then let gravity do the work. Just let the oil drip down to sideways pipes that they laid under the shale formation; like a drain field. Bingo, the oil comes out more easily. It's why people are still able to easily afford driving cars and flying in jet planes today.

One can ask, will there be a similar fix to the global warming problems of today? A fix from future technology? How about geoengineering? Putting up some kind of reflection to partially shade the earth from the sun.

All of these fixes, so to speak, are problematic. Fracking of the shale brings worry about water contamination. Geoengineering the earth's reflectivity is truly a Pandora's box. It's also true that, at some point in the future, even our abundant supply of oil shale will be used up. We do need alternative energy.

Waiting for the Greyhound Bus, one time back in my college days, this conversation took place between me and a somewhat derelict looking fellow. We were discussing the energy crisis and I started to say that America was running out of oil. Before I could finish the sentence, he interrupted right after the words, "running out." In a very proud voice he said, "AMERICA Ain't A Runnun Out A Nothun."