Wednesday, April 19, 2017

When getting a raise means going back to minimum wage

I used to make a bit more than minimum wage, but at the first of the year, I got a raise, back to minimum wage. How did that happen? Washington State has now raised minimum wage to $11 per hour. Before that increase, my wage was a bit above the minimum. Now it's higher, but it's the new minimum wage. It's a struggle for some businesses to pay higher wages in an environment of low prices for many goods and services. The wage works for me as long as my rent remains reasonable. I have reasonable rent. Housing cost is one of the big factors people struggle with. Property prices are often in a different world than the rest of the economy. I'm fortunate there also as I haven't been hit by that situation. My landlord is a non profit organization that strives to be reasonable.

Why take on student debt for funky jobs?

This episode of 1A (new show in Diane Rehm's old time slot). It's about the burden of student debt. One of the guests was financial adviser Michelle Singletary. She suggests being modest in one's college choices to avoid racking up too much debt. She said, don't necessarily go for prestige of schools such as Harvard. Sometimes community college is sufficient.

I was fortunate to have not racked up any debt. Back in my college days, Tuition was a lot lower in state schools at least. My parents paid the bills on a normal middle class salary. I graduated with money in the bank. Not lots of money, but a bit of savings from gardening jobs and my childhood paper route.

It's just as well that I had no debt as the job market has always been pretty soft for me. With my way paid and little work experience, I started out by doing odd gardening jobs which eventually led to a part time custodial job at a pizza parlor. My parents were still proud that I was able to achieve self sufficiency at least. They had been a bit worried.

Rents were reasonable as I started my "career" and I had an upstairs neighbor who spoke about the virtues of part time work. It's a balance between quality of life and paying one's dues. I went with that advise as I couldn't find full time work anyway. Even "good" custodial positions for the state (like at Western Washington University where I graduated from) required a ton of qualifications. That was the Bellingham of the early 1980s.

I got into the pattern of working part time, going on long vacations and expressing myself in ways which usually don't pay the bills; unless one is a big celebrity; like Justin Bieber.

Now I'm working closer to full time and things are basically okay. My writing, ideas and photography are donated to Creative Commons. Donated, in part, because who would buy it?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Flying or riding Amtrak


Observation car traveling California coast west of Santa Barbara.

Large cuts being proposed to Amtrak just in time for that video of the guy being dragged off the United Airlines flight to go viral. Unfortunate timing.

I guess Amtrak is less efficient than airline travel cause it takes much longer to get there. Longer duration of trip equals more use of staff time per passenger mile. Amtrak does get a federal subsidy. Airlines get some of that also; the air traffic control system and airports. Most countries do subsidize their transportation systems.

Amtrak costs less, in terms of energy use per passenger mile, but the high cost of labor "Trumps" the low cost of energy, in economic thinking and Trump is proposing the big cuts to Amtrak in his budget request. For environmental thinking; another story. The true cost of energy matters for the environment.

Then there is culture. The trip on an airline is often thought of as something to endure just to get to the destination. Maybe this doesn't have to be the case, but as the United Airline situation illustrates, airlines are getting leaner and meaner.

Amtrak isn't perfect either, but it's a bit of a different philosophy. The trip can be part of the experience. Takes longer, but more comfortable. Train travel can be an enjoyable social setting as passengers mingle in in places like the observation car. The view is sometimes interpreted by a volunteer naturalist who comes on board.

Being more in the slow lane of life, myself, I haven't had occasion to fly since the 1980s. Did enjoy the bird's eye view, however, on a small plane from Seattle to Pullman where every seat was a window seat. I've ridden Amtrak quite a few times more recently, in connection with my bicycle travels.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Comparing Assad to Hitler

A mistake that was kind of a technicality. Saying Hitler didn't even stoop so low as Syrian President Assad in using chemical weapons when, in fact, Hitler did use chemical weapons in the concentration camps. I've never been a Trump supporter so it's funny to see his staff stumble, but I do kind of get the valid point that Spicer was trying to make. What Assad has done puts him into the category of Hitler.

As for Holocaust denial, it wasn't that long ago that former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Nazi Holocaust a "myth" of European Jewry. Things can be like Hitler in today's world; especially in the Middle East.

Part of my own tribe of "liberals" is making a big deal out of this verbal slip up, which is what journalists and Twitter folks like to do, but in the long run, it may not be that substantive an issue.

A more substantive issue is something like the huge cuts to Amtrak train service that are proposed in Trump's budget request. Amtrak may be taken away from over 200 communities; especially rural communities.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

If Syria could just be livable, that would be best. Taking in refugees, plan B.

A passive way to deal with the atrocities, in Syria, is to take in more refugees. The US could take in a lot more than it has, but this can still be problematic. Too many refugees can be overwhelming to a society. Europe, not to mention other Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan, has taken in many more refugees than the US and is experiencing some problems. Another term for problems is growing pains.

Here in USA, without even taking in large numbers, many of our prosperous cities are experiencing housing shortages and a rising cost of living. We could reduce the percent of land, in our metro areas, that's locked up into single family residential zones. This could even improve living, tho that's a matter of opinion. Many folks still fight housing density, tho it doesn't have to be a disaster, if planned right.

Another problem with the strategy of taking in refugees is that many of the refugees would actually prefer to live in Syria, if only it was livable. Many of them don't necessarily want to relocate clear around the world away from familiar territory if they could just be able to live in peace in their own homes.

It's hard to know what's the best strategy for solving the problems in Syria. Many are saying that the Syrian situation is being exacerbated by drought related to climate change. There's 7 billion people on this planet and it looks like climate change refugees could become a wave of the future. We have to learn to plan and live differently.

Friday, April 07, 2017

If you want to protect the unborn, you have to walk through the doors of the undocumented

Quote from Bishop Tyson, head of the Diocese of Yakima that stretches across seven counties in central Washington State. Quote in a very thought provoking interview on Northwest Public Radio. If you want to protect the unborn, you have to walk through the doors of the undocumented. He says 80-90 % of Catholic pregnancies, baptized in Central Washington, are Latino.

Interview points out the hypocrisy of many folks in the Christian Right who talk about pro life, but also talk about building a wall on the Mexican border. At the same time, I do feel that our growing population does present challenges including effect on the environment

Personally, I think we need more birth control and less pregnancies world wide, but when people are born, a civilized society welcomes our neighbors. Christian teaching, such as expressed in Christ's Sermon On The Mount, can be an inconvenient truth. Good planning is important for things like public transit, instead of more traffic. Also keeping housing affordable as we accommodate growing population.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Could be better to say "power amplifies" rather than "power courrupts"

One of my friends, who's pretty far to the left politically, says Obama has the dubious distinction of being the only Nobel Peace Prize winner to have bombed another winner of the Peace Prize. He was referring to the accidental US bombing of Kunduz hospital, in Afghanistan, during October of 2015 which had members of Doctors Without Borders working there. Doctors Without Borders won the Peace Prize in 1999.

I still think Obama was a good president, as presidents go, but being in charge of the world's largest military has consequences. Mistakes can be made, down the chain of command, of which some folks will hold the person at the top responsible. The problems come with the territory. It would be nearly impossible to be President and not have things go wrong. The larger amount of power one holds, the larger the catastrophes that can happen. Some folks say "power corrupts," but I have a different twist on that phrase. I say "power amplifies." Mistakes made by the most powerful military in the world can be big mistakes, but ordinary people make mistakes everyday. For instance; behind the wheel of an automobile that can also lead to death.

The friend I was talking to said he voted for Obama, but is now disappointed and would never forgive Obama for this. I feel this is another case of circular firing squad. Obama, Hillary Clinton and the so called Democratic establishment were not perfect, but look who is in that position now. Donald Trump; a far more reckless person.

Some folks feel Obama should have done more to pull us out of Afghanistan and reduce the size of our military. Could be, but if he would have tried that, Congress would have, most likely, stopped him. They would have even had him removed from office. Also a large portion of the American people would have stopped him. The problem is people being guided by fear, rather than trust. Disarming a big part of our military brings up the same kind of fear that notice of a sex offender moving into one's neighborhood can bring. Fear at the grass roots level.

There is a trade off when someone takes a position of high power and high responsibility. It's easier to be more idealistic when not fully engaged with our tainted world.

That brings up a problem with the Nobel Peace Prize, itself. It often goes to someone prominent in the news. Obama got it just 12 days after taking office so folks felt he hadn't done anything to deserve it yet. Another controversial prize was in 1994 when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat got the prize along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Also prominent figures.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Why I tend not to believe conspiracy theories

Interesting article in Seattle Times about information wars. The advantage that some strange ideas have in gaining traction. Research into this by University of Washington assistant professor Kate Starbird.

Below, my take on this.

Conspiracy theories, on both the right and the left, have been ignored in mainstream media. Maybe media should have been paying more attention. The theories seem to have an allure, enough to effect politics. Interesting article about a UW professor doing research on this. Worried about it's implications.

Personally, I know some people who believe that 911 was an inside job. Our government created it; supposedly.

My own thinking is quite different than most of these conspiracy type ideas. Rather than looking for the "bad folks," I tend to blame much of society's problems on the mass behavior of ordinary people. I tend to blame culture and the little actions, from each of us, that tend to add up to what society is.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

Here's something kind of funny.

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Another year to celebrate the Bellingham Food Co-op



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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lazy American corporations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The constant background noise of spy allegations. A distraction?

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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




Source: NASA Earth Observatory.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

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


1964 RCA color TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

A divorce ceremony


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

From feedback on Facebook.

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

My response.

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

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Prosperity in Mexico is in our best interest

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dakota Access Pipeline may be inevitable in spite of nodapl efforts

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Why be paranoid about the US borders now?

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

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


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

Friday, January 27, 2017

Abort the children before they get to the border?

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

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

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