Monday, February 08, 2016

Celebrating, or dreading when there's more people around us

Thinking of immigration, population growth and so forth; how we accommodate people in society makes a big difference. Some of it is attitude. Standing in a line waiting for something, like at the Post Office, presents an example of of this. If there's lots of people in line, it can be bad if one is in a hurry and doesn't want to visit with anyone in the line around them. On the other hand, a long line can be a pleasure if one is enjoying conversation with the people around them. I've been in lines where I'm sad when I get up to the window as that means an interesting conversation with a neighbor in line ends. Other times, when I haven't known anyone in the line or had reason to strike up conversation with strangers, the long line can be tedious and unpleasant.

More people can be good if it means more customers for your business, unless you can't keep up with demand or want a slow day for rest. More people can be bad if you've worked hard to buy a house with a private swimming pool and the growing population has depleted local water resources to the point where it's now illegal to fill and use your pool.

More young people can be a blessing for paying into Social Security.

A curse if there's a housing shortage.

A blessing if one wants diversity of ethnic food restaurants around to sample.

A curse if one is stuck in traffic due to more sprawl.

A blessing if one wants light rail in their city since light rail tends to require density to be viable.

Attitude and how we plan our living environments, after the people arrive, makes a big difference.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Ted Cruz's french fry promise might lead to more need for Medicaid

Advocate of personal responsibility, the Republican Party's current front runner Ted Cruz wants to bring french fries back to school cafeterias. Not that healthy a food habit to learn and then he will likely complain about Medicaid costs down the road. Well, maybe a total ban on french fries is draconian but a smarter politician would suggest just eating a few. Yes, french fries have lots of unhealthy fats, but just a few isn't necessarily the end of the world; especially if one gets plenty of exercise. Burn the calories.

I occasionally enjoy a small cheeseburger. It hits the spot and most importantly it is small. Problem with french fries is that they are so cheap to make and easy to store that they are not only a kid's delight, but also a cafeteria manager's easy solution. Too easy, think food corporate culture. It's hard to control the greasy slippery slope to too many french fries. Like in that old Lays Potato Chip advertisement, you can't only eat one.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A link to Open Floor International Dance Video.

For folks who wonder what the free form dances that I enjoy are like, this short video captures it quite well. About as good as I've seen so far via video on a two dimensional screen.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Ways to keep a fishing economy and not deplete the ocean

I hear from a friend (while conversing) that some areas in Scotland and Scandinavia have bought out their commercial fishing industries and just allow sport fishing now. The fisheries were getting fished out. He says it's a win win situation all around. The ocean isn't being as depleted, but the local economies are even making more money from tourism than they did from commercial fishing before. Just cater to wealthy sport fishing folks who also stay in local hotels and so forth. Win win?

Then I thought, someone is probably losing. It can't be all win win. How about the multitudes of folks needing to eat the fish that commercial fishing produces? What will they eat? Then I thought of the answer before asking the question.

Fish farming. The multitudes of folks, who buy fish at the supermarket, can rely on fish from fish farms. I know that fish farming has it's drawbacks also.

My friend's response was, "or there should be more gay people." Yes, he knows me and my thoughts on population growth. Ultimately, less people needing to eat is the best way to protect the oceans. Less people having too many children at least.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Supermarket cornucopia

A few days ago, a friend was talking about all the things in the supermarket that have some form of corn in them. Cereals, corn syrup and so forth.

I mentioned that corn is abundant, cheap and easy to work with. Then I said that it's abundance leads to the "cornucopia" which unfolds whenever one walks into a supermarket. My friend started laughing and pointed out how the word "corn" is in cornucopia. I hadn't thought of that. Quite the coincidence.

On other related thoughts, one sees how much of this country is planted in cornfields when one travels by bicycle. Also I remember being impressed walking into supermarkets when I was a child and that was when they stocked around 3 or 4 thousand items. I hear that today's big markets stock around 30 thousand items. Quite the cornucopia. I don't necessarily think it's bad. Just something to behold. People tend to take things for granted.

Like an non jaded child that hasn't always "been there, done that," my eyes were big with amazement when I walked into the Whole Foods of Redmond, WA. a couple of years ago.

We're soon to get a Whole Foods here in Bellingham. Maybe not as big as that one tho. Also corn might be less of a basis for their cornucopia.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Strength of the Higgs Field just right for us to exist. Mystery as to how that happened.

Some of my thoughts as inspired by this TED Talk, Have We Reached The End Of Physics?

Now that we have basically confirmed the existence of the Higgs Field, we find that it's intensity is tuned just right for the existence of our kind of universe. It's a mystery as to how that kind of unlikely "field strength" can exist; as if it was made just for our kind of universe.

At the Large Hadron Collider, scientists have been looking for some new physics, or theories like Super Symmetry to help explain how the Higgs Field has been tuned so ideally for this type of universe. Seems more logical that the Higgs field would either not exist at all, or it would be way too strong. In either case, atoms, stars and planets could not form. Instead, the Higgs field is tuned precisely the way we need it.

At Hadron, we've only been looking with full power since Spring 2015, but so far we aren't seeing signs of Super Symmetry or the new physics. The jury is still out as we've just barely started looking at full power, but what happens if we can't find these results? This TED Talk suggests the possibility of a dead end to our attempts at explaining these things. A dead end in physics.


Personally, I would be skeptical that we've reached the end of physics. I remember my dad saying (when I was a kid) that many physicists thought all the important laws of physics had been discovered by 1900. They thought physics could be a dead science. The clockwork of Isac Newton's laws had been worked out by then.

Dead end? Well, that was just before the world of physics was turned upside down by Einstein. Turned upside down by Einstein and also Quanta Mechanics. No one is now saying that 1900 was a dead end for physics.

Even if we don't find Super Symmetry, or some other new physics to explain the "just right" mysteries in our current physics, I'd guess that someone will still think up a new pathway forward.

When science gets stumped, theologians often jump in to say it's some inexplicable creator; like a god or something. Did something intend it to be that way so creatures like us could exist? As these claims abound, scientists continue to move forward with more explanations of seemingly unintentional, natural mechanisms and the mystery retreats still farther.

I would think no one knows how much of our universe is intentional, or how much is just happening with no intent. We do know that we, human beings, have intent. We have self awareness and something we call consciousness. We are a part of this universe, at least, tho maybe just a tiny part. Our consciousness and intents exists in what we call our minds, but our brains are also being explained in more scientific, or somewhat mechanical ways. Neurons firing and so forth.

Some of this may depend on perspective. If one were at the level of a neuron, inside the brain, one might not see any mind or the concept of intent. On the other hand, one does see intelligence (usually at least) when meeting the whole person for lunch and enjoying their company. Maybe the universe is similar? Mechanical, at many levels, but intentional, depending on one's perspective.

Theological type speculation wasn't mentioned in this TED Talk. This last note is just my own late night musings as I know people will be thinking about this as they contemplate the things that make scientists scratch their heads in bewilderment.

Monday, January 11, 2016

I'm pictured on the left.

I enjoy the serendipitous think tanks that occasionally coalesce at the Bellingham Food Coop. Even if we haven't solved world questions, we've given them a good round of thought.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Time flies instead of bicycling

Wow! It's already 2016. Where does the time go? Time flies. I guess time doesn't bicycle.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Are happy lights for Seasonal Affective Disorder the wrong color?

Because Bellingham has lots of dark cloudy weather, many local people suffer a form of depression called "Seasonal Affective Disorder." This is related to lack of sunlight. People often buy special bulbs called happy lights or full spectrum lighting which mimic sunlight, but I wonder if these bulbs are the right color?

Looking at displays at the hardware store, the happy lights tend to be kind of blueish, sort of like standard florescent light. That could be the true color of the sun in space, but when we see the sun, it's often more yellow or even orange. When we see the sun, especially in winter months (if we see the sun) the light is coming to us from a shallow angle through earth's atmosphere so the atmosphere tends to filter out the colors making for a warm sunset or sunrise glow. Maybe happy lights would work better if they mimicked the sun at low angle since that's the sunlight we are evolved to see? The sun tends to be more blueish at high noon, but we tend to see it at lower angles through the atmosphere. In some countries, people take siesta at high noon. Shouldn't artificial sunlight that is designed to wake people up be more like the colors of sunrise? Maybe they've been doing it wrong all along.

Maybe that's why lots of folks tend to be withdrawn around Bellingham in winter months. I'm glad I don't seem to be that effected by Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Some useful comments I got when I posted on Facebook.

Light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder does best with a light that is about 456 nanometers, which is on the blue side. I have one that uses blue leds and works well.

I have a wake up light from Phillips that very smartly imitates the spectral envelope of sunrise; I think they do it with a mix of broad spectrum LEDs that are pulse-width modulated, since from what I understand that's a very flexible way to tune the spectrum. They definitely take into account the filtering effect of the atmosphere, although I don't think there is any simulated change of zenith angle across seasons. But that's actually not a very complicated calculation for a clock that already has the date anyway. This is a really interesting idea!

I agree. bluish light makes me ill, warm dim bulbs make me happy.

Get a light used for snakes and lizards at the fish store on Railroad Ave.

All they need do is spend some time in a place with drought under water restrictions, and they should feel a little better and more fortunate.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Healthcare must be either subsidized or rationed for much of the population

It's a hard truth for politicians and voters to swallow.

As the income gap continues to rise, there seems to be no way around having to subsidize health coverage for lower income people. Most likely, for over half of the population, healthcare either has to be subsidized or rationed. Rationed could mean folks dying do to lack of care, or (in some cases) living longer do to avoiding risky procedures.

Subsidized means some kind of tax that higher income people must pay. Call it a tax, or hide it among premiums and other medical charges, it has to be done. Obamacare tries to hide the tax so it can be swallowed politically. This creates kind of a Rube Goldberg contraption of complexity, but when so many folks say it will fail, it still prevails.

There is no way around either a subsidy or rationing for at least the lower half of the population while income discrepancy is so wide in USA.

Aside from the subsidy issue, lots can be done to lower overall health plan costs. Promoting better diets and lifestyles; bicycling. Reducing bloated salaries toward the top of the medical and insurance sectors. The list goes on. Lots can be done, but there is no way around subsidy; given the current state of society.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

A hard problem to resolve. The problem of anonymous threats against WWU students and anyone else

Threats over the internet, such as those that recently lead to the cancellation of classes at Western Washington University here in Bellingham, are hard to deal with. Dare I say, we might miss the NSA (National Security Administration) as we restrict surveillance? On the other hand, maybe we still don't want law enforcement snooping in on our messages and phone calls? The problem is, it's so easy to post threatening things. Too easy to be anonymous. When the mere typing on keyboards can shut down a university, its a very precarious situation.

Lots of students, at Western have expressed frustration with the ineffectiveness of law enforcement to deal with this situation. It's good to be concerned, but it's also important to realize how difficult the problem of anonymous threats is to deal with. Like threading a needle between privacy concerns and law enforcement. Also dealing with new technologies all the time.

Hopefully, the dialog about this situation can bring some solutions. Also, folks using the internet need to turn down the hostility. I'm hoping for a more civil world.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Digester building being torn down

I've posted a few pictures of this process on Flickr as well as here. Waterfront. A friend of mine says that every once in a while they tear down some more buildings to make it look like progress is being made. Redevelopment of Bellingham's central waterfront is kind of a slow, many years project. Maybe not as long as the building of a Medieval cathedral.

See more images on Flickr.

Scroll down.

Bellingham Herald video. Toppling of bins atop digester tanks.

Friday, November 27, 2015

My thoughts on Black Friday

When I was in grade school, I was more materialistic and wanted nice toys. I was more simple minded than today. Our family Christmases were fairly modest, however.

By the time I got to college, I understood more complex concepts. My mom liked to say, around Christmas, "it's not the presents, it's our presents that matters," when we were home for the holidays.

Now I have no local family ties so I don't go Christmas shopping. My brothers and sisters still enjoy keeping in touch on line, but no need for gifts or the rat race.

Monday, November 23, 2015

So we aren't allowed to learn from other cultures? Political correctness gone to far?

Political correctness going too far? Free Ottawa yoga classes scrapped over fears that the teachings could be seen as a form of "cultural appropriation."

Isn't part of respecting another culture the realization that we can learn from that culture? How can American (or in this case Canadian) society value and learn from the cultures of India if we are afraid to do anything, like yoga, for fear of not getting it perfect? If we are told we shouldn't practice anything from outside our own culture because we will never really know what being in that culture is like, then we will never learn from other cultures. How can we respect other cultures if we are afraid to learn from them because our learning isn't totally authentic or perfect?

I think it's a case of the perfect being an enemy of the good.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A realm beyond space/time?

Interesting speculation, in this article, that there could be a realm beyond space (or even space/time) that we think of as such a rock solid foundation to our reality.

I like pondering these type of things.

As for finding evidence to fit our current scientific paradigm, one small part of this speculation could be tested fairly easily. The concept of the Kaleidoscope discussed in the article. If we are in one of the glass pieces of the Kaleidoscope, who's image gets repeated, we could see if there are parts of the universe; like distant galaxies, that look exactly the same as other parts of the universe. Like mirror images.

I would guess our current astronomical technology is not refined enough to totally rule this out. I would guess that we see distant galaxies that look alike, but we can't yet see the finer detail as to whether they are mirror images, or not.

We do see mirror images of the same galaxy in different parts of the sky due to gravitational lensing, but that's a different thing which is explained another way, unrelated to the Kaleidoscope.

The Kaleidoscope is just one aspect of this speculation, but the idea of something beyond space could stand separately. How to test for those things? Good question.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Climate change plays a role in Syria and the rest of the world. All of the world's governments and people need to do a better job planning

Climate change is playing a role in problems around the world; like the situation in Syria. Climate change is an increasing reality, but all is not lost. We can do a better job of planning. We need to do a better job keeping our connection to the environment in mind.

There's been a lot of bad planning around the world and in our own (USA) foreign policy for sure. Governments all around the world need to take into account the big picture. Things like population, sustainability, water resources and technology need to be taken into account.

I doubt we were thinking enough about sustainability when we invaded Iraq, for instance. Seems like when we invaded, there was a lot of promises given for providing a better life to Iraqi people, but not much was said about how that can be done with the resources available. Can the population of the entire world live like American middle class, or does that goal just become another broken promise?

There are also, I'd guess, lots of aspirations associated with Arab Spring. Some of them are material aspirations and others are for more social freedoms. More potential for broken promises, but if we plan around what's sustainable we (the entire world's population) might start to do better.

Material aspirations can be really hard to achieve for the 7 billion people of the world, but more sustainable technology, such as solar energy can help. As for social freedoms, I would like to think that social freedoms don't have to have material wealth as a prerequisite. They can be achieved if people learn to put aside age old prejudices, resentments and out dated religious ideologies.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Who buy's Isis oil? Insight from article in link plus some of my thoughts

Interesting article from Financial Times that explains much of what's behind the Isis oil connection.

My thoughts below related to these issues.

Militias and farmers, who fight against Isis, still go to Isis run petrol stations to "fill er up." That's how they run the vehicles they fight and farm with. Buying from one's enemy; especially if there's no other supply available.

I've often wondered how Isis can sell oil for funding their terrorism. Who's buying it? Turns out a lot of that oil is sold locally, to the various farmers and militias in the area; even militias that fight against Isis. Oil doesn't necessarily have to get as far as the global market for this cycle to happen.

Kind of makes me think of how dirty the oil dependency cycle can become.

Reminds me of the situation where, people in my own country, buy oil from oil companies that they often deride. The big bad oil companies, but people still need the oil. Where else can one buy it from? The oil companies aren't violent, like Isis (so I may naively believe), but they can still be manipulative for sure. That's how business often works.

In the case of Isis, they sell oil to people who, in some cases fight against Isis. Isis has the bigger guns so they end up shooting the people in the end. It makes me think of arms merchants that benefit from selling weapons to both sided of a conflict.

Here's another thought. Maybe we (the western nations, not just Obama) should have done a better job, early on, supplying more friendly rebel groups with fuel (I guess oil) so they wouldn't buy from Isis?

Possibly the good news is that we are doing more to supply the friendlier rebel groups now. Also Isis isn't good at long term planning. According to this article, their oil fields are drying up without the expertise of international oil companies to rejuvenate their fields through fracking and other advanced technologies. The Isis oil machine may not last for long.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Larger safe havens for peace loving people, but how should they be created? Does the military have a role?

I can see why many people in Europe would be alarmed about the situation with hundreds of thousands of refugees trying to get into Europe from Syria and other troubled countries; especially after the terrorist attacks in Paris. I would guess that, by far the vast majority of refugees are totally decent people; like you or me. Totally non violent. It just takes a handful of people, for instance 1 out of 10,000, to cause problems and spoil things for everyone. It's a scary situation even though practically all of the refugees are good people. Scary situations can lead to backlash as some folks react out of fear wanting to close borders and so forth.

I've heard that the British are trying to pursue a policy of helping Syrian refugees in places closer to their countries of origin; such as helping Syrian refugees who have escaped to Jordan. In the short term, at least, this might work better than taking in large numbers of immigrants right now. Taking in immigrants over the long run can be good when there is time to do it wisely. Also societies will need to function so new populations aren't isolated into ghettos. Find ways to integrate into the diverse societies.

In the long run, taking in immigrants does bring more young people to a society; for instance here in USA our immigrant population is providing young workers to pay into Social Security as our post war baby boom bubble reaches retirement age. Europe's aging population could benefit from this also; especially if it happens gradually. The current situation is more of a shock to societies, however.

Even here in USA, where we have the benefit of being across large oceans from most of the world's trouble spots, people tend to be nervous about large numbers of newcomers. It's kind of a human trait. There are people, here in Bellingham for instance, who don't want Bellingham to take on new residents. Not just immigrants, anyone. There are people who don't want our city to grow. As long as world population keeps growing, popular towns and cities, such as Bellingham, are bound to grow.

Setting up safe havens for people trying to escape the trouble spots seems like a good idea. What role the military should play is being hotly debated, of course. Not just our military, NATO and so forth. Most of the military involvement seems to make things worse, but there could be some better strategy. Possibly the military could be used to take some territory for setting up safe havens inside former Syrian land. Maybe help the Kurds set up areas that are more tolerant of the diversity in that region. This might help take some pressure off Jordan as Jordan isn't very large. The Saudis haven't been that helpful for sure and they could be part of the problem.

I'm just throwing out some ideas, but realizing any strategy could be problematic. I can see why people are concerned. It's hard to figure out a proper strategy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Restaurant Association comes out in favor of increasing minumum wage, but here's a catch, in my opinion

Restaurant Association of Washington surprises some people by coming out in favor of increasing the minimum wage. Good news for the most part. Often restaurant associations oppose raising the minimum wage.

Still, there is kind of a catch to their logic, in my opinion. The cost of living and economic conditions vary widely from region to region; even within one state. The Restaurant Association wants a consistent minimum wage statewide, rather than the inconsistent patchwork of differing rules from city to city. Problem is, the economy is not the same in prosperous and expensive Seattle as it is, for instance, in rural parts of the state, like around Starbuck, WA. Yes, there is a Starbuck, WA. located northeast of Tri Cities. A statewide minimum wage would, most likely, have to be lower than what would work in Seattle. That's my opinion, at least.

On the other hand, they do have some valid concerns about trying to comply with different laws in different cities. Also the problem of restaurants loosing business when they are located near the border of high wage cities, for instance customers going out of high wage Seattle to eat in Renton where costs are lower.

These are problems associated with wide discrepancies in the economy. Discrepancies between income groups, regions and economic sectors. Another way to deal with this problem, besides trying to set an artificial minimum wage, is to bring back a steeper graduated income tax.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Income disparity makes it harder to determine where to set interest rates

I would guess that one of the bad side effects of income disparity is that it makes the job of the Federal Reserve more difficult. Harder to determine whether to raise interest rates or not.

Low interest rates are supposed to stimulate the economy for job creation while higher interest rates cool inflation. Like stepping on the gas or the brake in a car.

Problem is, in this economy, wages and prices are stagnate for some sectors of the economy while wages and prices are skyrocketing in other sectors. Skyrocketing housing costs in many cities, for example. Skyrocketing executive salaries is another arena of inflation. Some things are inflating while other things are remaining stagnate. In this environment, it would be hard to know whether to stimulate the economy or not.

What will the Fed do in December? These last few years, it's a harder call than usual, I would guess. Another reason to address the growing discrepancies in our economy.

Rising salaries for top income brackets leads to things like higher college tuition as institutions compete with one another offering higher and higher salaries to their top talent in order to keep that so called talent from leaving for higher paying jobs elsewhere. This creates a vicious cycle between institutions and corporations which leads to higher costs. In the case of colleges, the cost is usually passed along as higher tuition. Higher tuition is magnified in state supported schools as tuition must bear a higher percentage of operating costs unless state support keeps up with that inflation.

Salary inflation is a big factor in medical costs also; for instance.

Housing costs often rise much faster than most wages in many of our metropolitan areas. Sometimes rents will double in just a matter of a few years pulling the rug out from under people. This varies from region to region as well making it hard to set economic policy at a national level.

Meanwhile there is significant downward pressure on prices and wages in many sectors of the economy due to things like globalization and advancing technology. For instance, the self booking of travel via web sites has cut significantly into the business of travel agents.

It's hard to tell if the economy is stagnate or inflating from a birds eye perspective. Depends on who one is talking to. Less discrepancy of income could make it easier to determine this.

I remember the term "Stagflation" from back in the 1970s. Seems like that term applies today when parts of the economy are inflating while other parts are more stagnate.

One possible remedy is to go back to a more graduated income tax rate. This could cool some of the run away inflation toward the top.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Is Halloween just for the young? HUB party stays fun for all.

Dance party at the bike shop.

Seems like lots of older people don't do Halloween anymore. I'm not young, but I still enjoyed Halloween at The HUB Bike Shop; a non profit repair collective in Bellingham.

Maybe the bar scene, where much of Halloween resides these days, chews one up and then spits one out so they don't do Halloween in later life. The older folks get jaded and don't do Halloween anymore?

When I was in 6th grade, I thought 6th grade was the last of Halloween. The end of trick or treating.

Then, in my college days, I found the Halloween parties and bar scene. It was funky and fun. There was a few years in the early 1980s when my only trip to a bar, during the year, was for Halloween. I was never much of a bar person.

As the years went by, "bar scene Halloween" got bigger and more corporate like. Competition for the best costume, big prizes, high cover charges, 90 minute waits to get in. I stopped going years ago.

Still, smaller events work; like the costume ride and dance sponsored by The HUB Bicycle shop. It was fun for the young and young at heart. The energy was pumping.

Dance happened after a spooky ride through town where the course was prearranged along routes not normally open for travel; like riding around in the downtown parkade. We rode on each of the echoing concrete floors with bikers hollering and a boombox playing.

Why am I writing this now? I didn't get around to writing it earlier.

Paining of repair person behind wheel looks real.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Opportunities and obstacles for face to face conversation in Bellingham without just blaming the smartphone

Face to face conversation is often missing in our society. Technology gets blamed, but I see lack of conversational opportunity for for many reasons.

Here are some thoughts about the state of conversation in Bellingham. It's not as bad as one might think. I find quite a few opportunities, most likely because I live in town where there are many gathering places within easy walking distance.

One of the most likely settings for conversation is where there is nudity. Not something uptight folks might acknowledge. Seems like people often strike up conversation around hot springs. Too bad Bellingham doesn't have hot springs nearby, but we do have the sauna at the YMCA. Some of the time it's quiet, but often conversation happens more there than other places.

Unfortunately, it seems like bars are the main stays for face to face gathering in Bellingham. We have lots of bars populated by mostly students. Microbreweries are popping up all over. I don't use bars much as I don't like the flavor of beer and I also find bar conversation is superficial; especially over loud techno music.

Coffee is another beverage I don't like the flavor of. In old days, coffee shops used to be places for conversation, but now they seem to mostly be places for folks to use wifi. Also, one thinks of conversation being an evening activity. Bellingham coffee shops close early; except for a few of the large chain places. Mom and pop coffee shops often close promptly at 5 pm. What's that about?

Five Rhythms Dance is a place I meet lots of people, but conversation doesn't happen. It's dancing. I enjoy the interaction and the energy, but I feel I don't actually get to know the folks I meet dancing until I see them someplace else in town; like at the Food Co-op, where we strike up a conversation. Often the conversation starts with "I saw you at dance."

Another great place for conversation is the Friday evening Peace Vigils in front of the old Federal Building on Cornwall and Magnolia. There has been a peace vigil there since the 1960s. One of the oldest such gatherings in USA. Starts between 4 and 5 PM. Then a newer tradition joins in around 5 PM. Food Not Bombs. Sometimes there's music. Usually there's conversation and hanging out. Various other gatherings spin off from the Peace Vigil. There's a gathering of folks I sometimes join at Bellingham Bar and Grill. It's a bar, but a friendly group of folks at our table. Also reasonably priced food. I'll go to a bar for chicken salad.

TED Talk Tuesday is an interesting idea. They show a TED Talk and then have people discuss the topics after the talk. Happens each month at Exploration High School. Organized discussions like this can be valuable. Bellingham has lots of things like this. Book signings at Village Books, for instance.

The weekly Wednesday Dinner gathering based on my Yahoo Group seems to work pretty well. Even though it is fairly small, it's one of the only ongoing signs of gay community in this area.

This article with many of my thoughts after listening to the author of Reclaiming Conversation, the power of talk in a digital age, Sherry Turkle on the Diane Rehm Show.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mesmerized by the 1%, then complain about them

People complain about the 1% top income folks, but then many of the same people join, almost mindlessly, the Twelfth Man movement devoting their time and cheer to the holy televisions for watching the Seahawks games played by multi millionaire players backed by multi, multi millionaire owners.

Same thing can be said about big time actors. Hollywood?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jail proposal too big to fit comfortably under the tax cap

A local controversy here in Whatcom County. Proposition 2015-1 the new jail tax proposal. Even our Bellingham City Police Guild has come out against this tax. From their web page it says:

If this passes, all of our public safety tax authority will be locked up for 30 years yet some of our most critical needs – for mental health or substance and alcohol abuse treatment—are left unanswered. As our community grows we may need to fund a police station, a mental health treatment facility or new fire stations to serve our neighborhoods. But if this tax passes, we may find that we can’t pay for programs and facilities that will keep your family safe and the mentally ill out of jail.

Yes, the problem of a big ticket item, such as this jail, bumping up against conservative led tax authority limits imposed on local governments by state initiatives.

Maybe a smaller jail, that doesn't tie up our taxing limit for the next 30 years, is a better idea?

Ironically, I notice (in a yellow mailer) that the Republican Party, in Whatcom County, supports this tax. Odd, Republicans supporting a tax. Support for public safety among both Republicans and Democrats is popular, but maybe there is a better way to maintain public safety than this large "one item" tax for the jail.

How about a smaller jail with more alternatives to incarceration? Another idea, supported by (I think) the mayor of Bellingham, is to use property taxes rather than sales taxes for part of the funding at least. Different state imposed caps, also property taxes can be less regressive than sales taxes. Another idea would be to support efforts, at the state level, to lift caps on local taxation.

This issue reminds me of the national topic of trying to squeeze the huge defense budget into the sequester.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Income gap problem is not just about the 1%

I see the income gap as being more than just the problem of the 1% versus the rest. It's also the growing gap between the top 10% and the rest. The top 10%, or even the top 20%. This is the problem behind why so many workers can no longer afford to go the the dentist; for instance. Dentists are often in the top 10% while most workers make a lot less. As the gap between the top 10% and the rest of the population becomes wider, it gets harder for ordinary people to pay the dentist's wages. This makes going to the dentist less affordable.

As for the wealth of the top 1%, that can seem like its farther from directly effecting the lives of the average person. You pay your dental bill, but you don't notice paying Donald Trump's salary as much, or at least that connection isn't as obvious.

Conservative folks will often say, "I don't care what Donald Trump does with his own money as much as I care what Uncle Sam does with MY money." They must believe that how Donald Trump gets and uses his money is non of their business while they fret about taxes taking their money. Maybe they would notice how their dentist (for instance) gets his money when they pay their dental bill, however.

The connection between the wealth of the top 1% and problems the rest of us face is not that apparent; especially to conservatives. Maybe more folks would understand the connection between the income of the top 10% and the problems they face; problems such as high dental bills, or even high tuition costs. Look at the salaries of college presidents and administrators. Many of the presidents are in the 1% anyway.

We should be talking about the income gap between the top 10% and the rest of us, rather than just talking about the top 1%.

Also I don't mean to vilify any group of people, including the top 1%, or even the top 10%. We need them. Some of the top income folks do great things; like Space X founder Elon Musk for instance. It's just that society has a problem when the all income classes get too far apart.

When the incomes get too spread out, most people can no longer pay their dental bills, doctor bills, insurance premiums, education costs and so forth. These bills go to pay the high salaries of professionals in those fields.

Also, only talking about the 1% comes from political consideration. Make the group you vilify as small as possible. If 99% are on the "good" side and only 1% on the bad side, you win every election. Right? Well, why didn't that work in 2014? Maybe talking about the 1% makes the other 99% into "victims." Victims are less likely to do things for themselves such as voting. If they don't vote, then supporters of the 1% win. I realize that the wealth of the 1% gets larger and larger compared to the 99% with each passing year, but the 99% does need to take some responsibility; at least enough to vote for candidates that support higher taxes on top income folks. At least show up to the polls, I guess.