Wednesday, September 22, 2021

If there is scientific consensus, it's usually the best way to go, but not always

Things like medical advise and scientific consensus gets questioned often. Here's some thinking I had about that situation.

Scientific thinking does evolve. Otherwise we would still be using yesterday's computers today; like 5 1/4 inch floppy disks.

Usually, but not always, a consensus among scientists (when there is a consensus among scientists) is a good bet compared to randomly striking out in all directions. Following scientific advice is usually, but not necessarily always, the best course at a given time.

Sometimes a consensus of scientists can go in the wrong direction and some outside influence will eventually revolutionize the science to a better course. This happens somewhat rarely, but it can happen. More often the science is closer to the best answer than the alternatives.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

To a question about how one thinks the pandemic would have been different if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, my answer was

The worldwide pandemic would have still happened. We would have been severely impacted, but our government's response would have been a lot better organized and less chaotic.

Hillary Clinton would have gotten lots of the blame for the pandemic happening under her watch, but the blame would be misplaced.

The US death rate would have been lower with a better coordinated federal response, but it would still be a high death rate; just not quite as bad.

Republican led states would have still had higher per capita death rates than Democratic led states as a lot of the outcome would be, as it is now, dependent on local and state situations.

There would have been less civil unrest without Trump fomenting hatred from the presidential pulpit.

Still, the pendulum of dissatisfied voters might have put Trump, or some other Republican, into the Whitehouse in 2020.

I often think we've met the enemy and the enemy is us, but one can also say that leadership does have consequences. It's just that people tend to focus only on leadership, but the picture is a lot bigger than that.

One thing behind vaccine and mask resistance might be a subconscious embrace of death's inevitability

I often wonder if much of the polarization over how to deal with the pandemic has to do with different tolerances for risk.

Some people place staying alive as their number 1 priority while others have a different mix of priorities. This mix could be subconscious; beneath the other layers of opinion.

Death is still an inevitable outcome of being alive. Some people might think, if it isn't the virus, it's going to be something else, eventually, that ends one's life.

I got to thinking that there are some people who claim the number of deaths, from the virus, has been exaggerated. Some of these people even ascribe conspiracy theories about the numbers saying that doctors are paid more if they report death from the virus on the death certificate.

I don't buy the conspiracy theories, but I do think that death is often attributable to multiple causes. Before the Delta Variant, it was true that a lot of the people who died tended to have, what are called "comorbidity factors." Factors such as old age and / or poor health.

Now, with Delta, that's less true, but past thinking hangs on. Delta is more apt to kill just from the virus alone.

In our culture, we try and prevent as well as avoid death. This avoidance can cast a shadow over living our lives causing people to shy away from somewhat risky, but maybe fulfilling experiences. One example being the motorcycle rally at Sturgis, South Dakota. The fair in Lynden or even the crowds at Downtown Sounds, in Bellingham, can be other examples.

How willing are people to risk loosing life in order to live life? Some people do drive over the speed limit; for instance. Lots of folks are into extreme sports and risky adventure.

One can wonder how tragic it really is when someone dies, or whether it's just nature taking it's course?

These are thoughts that most people try to push out of their minds, but this reality could lie behind some of the differing ways that we think and behave.

Good point from the comments I got when I posted this on Facebook.

There are two risk factors here. First, to one's own life (as you describe). It's one thing to engage in behaviors that only affect one's self (although there are often emotional impacts to others). Second, there's the risk to other people's health and lives. Engaging in behaviors that involuntarily put other people are risk is unethical. So many people seem to be focused on what they want, but they don't take responsibility for the greater good of other people's health.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

If countries, like Russia, worry about declining population, they need to have human rights so people want to move there.

While the world as a whole is still struggling with population growth and climate change, some countries, like Russia, are worried about their population declining. Who wants to live there? Meanwhile, here in USA, we seem to have more than enough people wanting to immigrate here.

I got to thinking, if there was ever a worldwide shortage of people, democracies that respect human rights would be at an advantage. There always seems to be enough, if not more than enough, people wanting to move to USA, Canada, Australia and some western European countries.

If there was ever a worldwide shortage of people, countries would have to compete to attract folks who want to live there. It might encourage countries to become more democratic.

There's the phrase, "vote with your feet."

Ironically, countries that respect LGBTQ rights (the rights of people less apt to reproduce) might see their populations increase as folks flee the more bigoted countries. The more democratic countries could be bouyed by growth of their internal markets, workforces and talent as those are the countries people want to move to.

Remember, Einsien was an immigrant.

USA seems to have no problem attracting people, but it is trying to limit immigration. Growth does bring growing pains. While we seem to respect human rights more than a lot of other countries, we have our problems accomidating growth. Rising housing costs, water shortages, nimby neighbors, traffic. One problem is, we are still too dependent on the space gobbling automobile. Acres of free parking may have to go.

Monday, September 06, 2021

Things may not get better than summer of 2021 for a while

I have a funny feeling that this summer (2021) may be about as good as it gets in terms of life getting back to "normal" from the virus. Last summer (2020) was a lot more spartan, in terms of things being closed.

This summer has been more open, especially outdoor events; like dancing in Elizabeth Park. With the variants coming along, I hate to say it, but this summer could be the "new normal" for a long time.

We could be limping along for quite some time. More people getting the vaccine would help, in this country at least, but there would still not be enough vaccines to go around worldwide. Variants can still get started in places like India.

I still wonder if people, who don't believe the vaccine is the main answer, have any alternative answer. Sure, there are a lot of alternative ideas, but it seems like nothing short of worldwide vaccination will get us beyond the limping that we have had this summer.

There are probably too many of us on this planet anyway, but I still like being alive, myself. It seems kind of callus to think we need a die off, but in the long term, it might be good for human evolution.

A dieoff would have to be worse than the death toll from the virus, of course; like a few billion people.

A world with only, say, 3.5 billion people would be around half who's alive today, but it's still a lot of people. 3.5 billion could pick up and even flourish in not that long, historically speaking.

They would likely flourish, in quality of life, better than us; especially if they learned a few lessons. Our future generations would flourish, if the die off didn't traumatize the human race so much that it brought everything down with the people who died in the die off.

I often say, we need more birth control because that's a lot better than a human die off. We don't have to have a die off.

Technology and less consumptive living can fix this (climate change) even with our current 7.5 billion. It might be a stretch, but still possible; especially if we don't go much beyond 7.5 billion.

On that note, a Meteorology Association study came out about killer storms. Yes they are worse than before; 5 times as frequent as they were in 1970, but the death toll is lower. Storms, droughts and so forth, may be worse, but our technologies for protecting people are improving. We have better building standards, evacuation plans and so forth.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Conspiracy theory, the ultimate in blame politics.

I tend to think we have found the enemy and the enemy is us. I often blame people and culture, rather than government and corporations, for our problems.

I know that both things are true. Totally blaming people is one perspective at one extreme of a spectrum. At the other end of that spectrum would be conspiracy theory; like thinking the vaccine is a plot by Bill Gates to control the world.

I think many of our problems are a vicious cycle between people and institutions that can enhance bad behavior. Corporations respond to people's choices, in mass, as those choices create the market. On the other hand, corporations enhance this through advertising and other means.

Some people think climate change is caused by something called HARP; a set of microwave antennas in Alaska used for research. Supposedly the government is using it, along with con trails from jet planes, to control the climate. Also our minds.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Slippery slope against our liberties might have been worse during the draft years than today. Maybe less to worry about now.

People worry about liberties being taken away; such as during emergencies. The pandemic, climate change, wildfires, even a hurricane. Sometimes people need to give up a bit of liberty for safety. This can be a worrisome slippery slope, but it's needed at times.

Back in the 1960s, there was the military draft. We were at war, the Vietnam War. Men turning 18 years of age were subject to being drafted into the military, whether they liked it or not. Alternatives were seeking exemptions that could be hard to get, fleeing to Canada or going to prison. My older brother had to face those choices before he did finally get conscientious objector status.

I would guess that, compared to those days, the slippery slope, we seem to always be on, is not as bad today. Not as bad as it was back then; at least here in USA. I know, that's a matter of opinion, of course.

It's good to be questioning and somewhat vigilant, but people forget, we had a draft back then. Just getting a shot offered for free to prevent serious illness seems mild by comparison. I do realize some other people have different perspectives than mine. They might think the shot is a form of technological mind control.

The draft was a big deal back then. We had "subliminal advertising" back then as well; speaking of mind control. Television was pretty new. New technology was scary back then also.

Look what the automobile has done to society. Worry about the slippery slope is not new.

As for the fate of democracy worldwide, in Mainland China and so forth, that's another story.

Here in USA life goes on. We need to find that balance to keep society functioning while not turning into a tyranny. A balance between the extremes. Extremes that could cause us to loose it.

In Afghanistan, seems like the choices were to pull out or face reality of a war without end

Back at the start of the Afghanistan War, I remember editorials in the media saying that terrorism is a crime and that war is not the best strategy to use against crime. They would say that calling it a "war on terror" was a bad idea. Law enforcement would be a better strategy.

The concept of a war on terror won out, however and the war began. A war that was supposed to have a victory, but turns out it was probably the wrong strategy all along. In the beginning, it was a very popular war. Both Republicans and Democrats thought it was necessary, but a few did question it.

Now that we have pulled our troops out of Afghanistan, quite a few Republicans are saying we should have kept a permanent military presence there. Now they are saying this, but during the war, they were still viewing it as a war with a potential end. Trump did want to pull out and started this recent messy process that's continued during Biden's watch. Our troops are now out.

Even before Trump, Republicans were not pushing the idea of an indefinent involvement. Unlike in the western European nations that joined NATO, a perminant presence was not welcome in the Islamic world.

Now that we are out, Republicans, from Mitt Romney to others, seem to be saying a permanent presence should have been the plan. It's like facing the fact that the war was a non ending strategy, costs and all.

I am more in favor of not having the war, but I realize that the situation is "damned if you do, damned if you don't."

Hopefully a new "over the horizon" strategy that Biden has been talking about can work better for protecting our safety. As for the people remaining in Afghanistan, continued efforts to encourage human rights and hope that the new Taliban will not be as bad as before might be a better strategy than war; war which we are now facing really didn't have a viable end.

Can the consumption / production cycle run fast enough to justify rising property values?

Property values, stocks and the long term store of wealth has been rising fast. This pushes up things like rent and the cost of first time home purchases.

To pay these costs, the economy must run at a faster and faster pace creating goods and services so people can earn enough at jobs to pay these costs.

To justify the expectation of accumulated wealth, ongoing production and consumption has to keep up. The vehicle used to do this is jobs.

Too much consumption can be detrimental to both the environment and the human spirit burdened by all this clutter and speed. We will probably have to keep creating new money, out of thin air; like happened during the pandemic, to keep up this sense of accumulated wealth.

The economy is expected to support the wealth of the extremely wealthy, the retirement expectations of the average person, the perceived value of property purchased and the expectations that people place on government ranging from public safety to infrastructure.

If we could find a way to allow for a slower economy without becoming behind in the rent; so to speak, it would be easier to reduce the carbon footprint.

Progress could still be made in science and new technologies that could bring greener wealth, but a lot of what we are doing now, just to keep up with the rents and the bills, is pure waste.

Much of that waste is related to excess property value being pushed ahead by low, low interest rates.

Low interest money pushes up values and it also means that people don't use regular banks to save wealth. With interest rates so low, people invest in property and stocks as the means to "park" their wealth.

The regular economy of consumption and production has trouble keeping up with all this stored wealth. This was especially evident during the pandemic, but it's also a problem related to climate change.

I think the perception of wealth is now having to be subsidized more and more with the creation of new money out of thin air. Our old justification for wealth; which has been the production / consumption cycle; isn't able to keep up.

This is also true as more people are retired and more apt to be living off wealth versus their own economic production.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

It isn't good lifestyle, immune system OR the vaccine. It's good lifestyle, immune system AND the vaccine.

Some people think they don't want the vaccine cause they have a good diet, lifestyle and immune system.

I think it's good to have those things AND have the vaccine. The vaccine is the most important part of that whole strategy.

There are a lot of people that are suspicious of the medical profession. This could be one of the byproducts of income inequality. The cost of healthcare and insurance premiums is difficult. There is a big pay gap between high end professionals and ordinary people. Some pay gap is fine, but it has gone to an extreme. The vaccine is free, however; here in USA.

I think the wealth gap problem contributes to lots of people to even disputing the findings of medical science. I tend not to go there. I still buy most of the narrative that comes from science. I don't shoot myself in the foot. For instance, I believe the vaccine is good.

I think there is a difference between disputing the science and the economic issues of income inequality. Extreme income inequality fuels lots of distrust in society.

I think this inequality can be dealt with in better ways, such as raising taxes on wealthy people and/or providing better support for lower income people such as subsidized health insurance and housing.

Back in my late 20s, I was too poor to afford health insurance and it wasn't provided by my job. I remember worrying some, but I also thought I had something better; my health.

Back then, I got to thinking that the whole medical industrial establishment does create disease by causing people to work to death to climb the corporate, or government employment ladder for insurance. I was healthier than they were. I felt that I had beat the system, but my argument was more economic than questioning the science.

In later years, I had insurance from the job, but much of the time it was not that comprehensive. High deductible.

In recent years, society has tried to fix the insurance problem with subsidized insurance. Obamacare, for instance. Now I have a real good Medicare Advantage plan.

In the past, I thought my bicycle was the best health plan around. True, but if regular medicine is offered at an affordable rate, it is sometimes needed. For instance, the vaccine is free, here in USA.

My main beef with the professional / healthcare establishment is more economic, but I do still like the doctors I have had. One of my doctor's favorite phrases was, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away."

Sometimes, the best road to health is free time and less worry about money, status and stress.

I'm not really into alternative medicine that much. Not into supplements and so forth. It can be seen as just another racket. Those dealers charge money also. There is a lot of sneaky sales pitches out there; even at places like organic grocery stores.

Having said that, it is true that science, itself, is a learning process. Sometimes better evidence renders today's science obsolete. Science isn't a dogma that you either buy or not. I think there is a variety of opinions on complex subjects, but I usually tend to follow what is thought of as mainstream science. It seems the best way to get the job done till better ideas come along. Nothing is perfect. It's always an evolving and learning story, but I tend to accept things that are beyond my own expertise. Like the old phrase, "it's beyond my pay grade."

I still think it's a good idea to rely, for the most part, on evidence based medical science when needed. Even most of my regular doctors, over the years, have said that lifestyle is the best medicine we got, for the most part.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The pressure of maintaining wealth

The economy has to run pretty fast to keep up with rising property values. Otherwise people can't pay their rising rents and first time homebuyers can't get into a home.

It means "keep running on those treadmills selling more goods and services." Keep buying and discarding to create jobs, otherwise folks can't make enough to live on. It's jobs, jobs, jobs.

We need to find a better way to maintain people's sense of wealth without having to revv up the consumption economy all the more.

It seems like the consumption economy is what we use to justify the wealth. If the economy slows down to where rents can't be paid, property values eventually drop and stored wealth declines. Now it seems like the stored wealth has gotten so high that the consumption economy can't keep up.

During the pandemic, when a lot of consumption had to slow down in places like restaurants, bars and airlines. New money was basically created out of thin air to support the Cares Act of 2020. 3 trillion dollars worth.

This helped to prop up incomes so rents could still be paid and businesses could still make their lease payments even while they had to close. It helped to keep wealth intact. Otherwise, unused business space and unpaid rent would probably have led to a collapse in property values; something owners fear. This ment that even lots of fiscally conservative Republicans got on board for this relief act.

Keeping up the burden of high rents and property values does require a lot of economic activity; like people having to work overtime just to make ends meet. Resaurants and stores have to sell more. Jobs have to pay more.

There is an old phrase that goes, "don't let the grass grow under your feet." Problem is, having to keep up with an ever growing economy of consumption can lead to increases in carbon emissions which then leads to climate change. It can also lead to burnout of the human spirit.

Other ways need to be found to prop up society's sense of wealth. Home values, stock values, retirement plans, the public infrastructure and the fortunes of the very wealthy may need to be propped up in a different way. This is where some sources of free money might have to be a perminant part of the solution; subsidizing expensive things like housing, healthcare and the public infrastructure. We seem to be trending in that direction.

Certain experiments, like a basic minimum income, are being talked about more and tried in some places.

Slowing down the consumption economy, so that it doesn't have to be so wateful, is a quick way to reduce fossil fuel emissions. This doesn't necessarily mean going back to a form of the dark ages, however. New technologies, such as solar energy, offer promise for continued prosperity. It just takes time for these new technologies to develop.

In the meantime, we should figure out how to take our collective foot off the economic accellerator, so to speak. This would give us and the planet more breathing room as we wait for new technologies to be implemented. It takes time for these technologies to develop. It takes time to turn a ship around.

People could benefit from things not measured in consumption; like more free time.

One strategy that could cause some slowing and displacement in the economy is implementing a carbon tax. This would slow down the fossil fuel based economy, but it could boost the green economy.

More people could put up with these changes if they had more wiggle room in their personal budgets. Budgets less burdened by the high costs of rent and / or trying to buy that first home.

Friday, August 06, 2021

Who's to blame for the variants, or beyond blame, what's the best strategy?

Dr. Fauci is worrying about variants of the virus that could emerge that are even worse than Delta. Future variants where even the vaccines, we now have, could be less effective. The vaccines are working good, now at least.

Some folks blame the risk of these new variants on vaccine reluctance in this country, but I think the problem is deeper than that. Chances are one of these variants would, most likely, arise in some other part of the world where the vaccine is less available. Basically, I think people, who are reluctant to get the vaccine, are shooting themselves in the foot since the vaccine is working well for now. The best argument for the vaccine is self interest for protecting one's self.

As for future variants that could arise, the bigger problem is still lack of vaccine availability worldwide. Chances are, a bad variant could arise in the US, but more likely, it would arise somewhere among the nearly 8 billion people worldwide. In some of those places, the problem of lack of vaccine supply is still larger than vaccine reluctance.

Vaccine reluctance moves to first place as a problem after supply becomes plentiful.

Worldwide distribution of vaccines is happening at a fast pace, but it still takes time to roll anything out to billions of people. Some conservatives, in USA, are now using this worldwide threat as an excuse to complain about immigration. I see immigration as only one small part of the bigger picture.

I heard someone, on a radio talk show, suggest that people arriving in US either legally, or illegally should be required to get vaccinated. Folks in US custody at the border could be required to be vaccinated unless there is a medical reason against it. If they refuse, deportation becomes more likely.

Travel is a factor, but in our modern world, we can't totally seal borders, stop air travel and so forth. Not without severe harm to our modern economy and ways of life. I hear that Canada will require proof of vaccination at the border when it reopens.

Bad variants of the virus may cause us to have to shut down parts of the economy again. There would be booster shots and tweaks of the vaccines to deal with that, but these remedies take time; probably not as long as development of the original vaccines, but still time.

I figure, "get vaccinated and enjoy life while you can," but who knows, for sure, what the future may bring. Trust that most of the scientists are trying to do the best they can given this changing situation.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Republicans may be more to blame for climate change than corporations

Ongoing drought, here in most of the west, keeps getting worse. Every once in a while, we have a moister year or two, then it's more dry years. Seems like more dry years than wet years as the years go on. Climate change is happening.

Some people accuse oil companies of conspiring to hide this problem. I would lay more blame on the Republican Party. Seems like the Republicans have been pretty much against measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A few moderate Republicans are concerned, but Republicans are far more against the needed changes than Democrats.

As for oil companies and other corporate interests, I am sure there has been much resistance. Some even scandalous resistance, but corporations are getting worried also. Some oil companies talk about transitioning to cleaner energy. Some of this talk is beyond just "greenwashing." The insurance industry is getting really worried; for instance.

Who wishes to insure coastal condo properties in Florida? Rising sea levels are happening, but before that problem becomes even more evident, other possibly unexpected leading edge problems mount. Infiltration of saltwater into limestone and groundwater with it's corrosive effects on building pilings.

Beyond conspiracy, there is another factor explaining how climate change is now catching up with us. There are twice as many people, on Earth, than there were during my college years. Even more importantly, much of the world has risen out of poverty during these recent decades. World energy consumption has gone up. Look at China, for instance.

What was a distant problem, that scientists have been talking about for decades, is now having more effect on today's short term practical needs; like "where is the water coming from to wash tonight's dishes?" It's happening now where I just saw news coverage about a spate of wells going dry in Oregon's Klamath Valley.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Some people are wary of vaccine technology, but they accept the automobile. How ironic.

I heard on the news that the number of people getting vaccinated has recently doubled in Alabama. Looks like a lot of folks are realizing it's a good idea to get vaccinated.

There are still those that don't trust the technology, but, ironically, most of those people still drive cars. That's a technology also. The government and mainstream society promotes driving. It's taken for granted. Thousands die each year in car accidents. The vaccine is much much safer than that.

Going without the vaccine is very dangerous. More dangerous than even driving.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Modern Monetary Theory kind of enshrines what we have been already doing for decades; running huge deficits; the economy remains intact.

The federal government is coming up to the debt ceiling again. I've often thought the debt ceiling should be scrapped since it's never adhered to anyway.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) kind of says that the debt is less of a problem than often perceived.

MMT kind of enshrines what we have been doing for decades. Running large deficits over the years and the economy continues to function. Maybe we don't need to worry about deficits if our past is any indication of how things work. The economy remains intact.

I remember when some people said that George Bush JR. was "spending like a drunken sailor." Tax cuts while starting two wars. The war in Afghanistan and the second Iraq War.

Now there is more pushback saying that if we have run these huge deficits for years with what seems to be little consequence, we can continue and even ramp it up a bit. We can better tend to our domestic needs.

There are consequences, but the economy, as a whole, has survived. One of the consequences of relying more and more on new money from the Fed to finance the government is inflation.

For many years, we have seen pretty high inflation in asset prices; such as home values. Deficit spending may be what has been propping up these values. If it wasn't for this high level of spending, the economy would likely fall into deep recession eventually pulling down asset prices.

Now there is more pressure for other things, such as the wages of lower income workers, to catch up so people can still afford things like housing and healthcare. This has an effect at causing price increases for things people take for granted; such as the cost of a hamburger at the local drive in.

Much of this whole situation is created by the strong anti tax sentiment in this country. People tend to not like taxes. Meanwhile most people take a lot of services that government provides for granted.

Public safety is a service mostly provided by government. There is a phrase that was pushed last summer, by some folks on the left, called "defund the police." I haven't been a fan of that phrase as I don't, personally, have an axe to grind against the police, but it does point out that police are expensive.

It's almost like we are a nation of spoiled brats. The kind of society we expect to live in, with public safety and so forth, doesn't happen without some cost.

The same can be said about the military. Maybe we have spent too much on these things, but it seems like those who always want to cut taxes are the same folks who advocate for these things; thus the deficits.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

As statues topple, I focus less on that debate and more on how far social norms have evolved since slavery was the norm

Here is one thought I have about the push to remove statues of historic figures, such as Thomas Jefferson, since he owned slaves.

Society has evolved a long ways since owning slaves was the norm. In some ways, it has improved significantly from early 1800s to legalized gay marriage.

Figuring out how to remember our past, when social norms were so different, is a challenge. It is still important, tho, to remember and realize that humans are capable of not only great deeds, but also great horrors depending on the context we find ourselves in.

We have progressed in many ways, but we still have similar faults that lead to things like creating conditions leading to homelessness, cliquishness, stranger danger fear, mob mentality, false accusations and mean spiritedness.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The flow of goods and services can no longer pay the "rent" to maintain high asset values

I got to thinking that the flow of goods and services is one thing while the accumulation of wealth is another.

There is a lot of accumulated wealth in this society. Property values, retirement savings, stocks, public buildings, infrastructure and so forth. On the other hand, there is the flow of goods and services. Things that are consumed.

Seems like a high flow of goods and services is needed to prop up or "justify" the wealth. The flow is needed, basically, to pay the rent and the taxes; so to speak. It's needed to keep a flow of first time homebuyers in the market.

Keeping up the flow of goods and services is like running on an ever faster treadmill as the value of the wealth, to be maintained, ramps up. If the treadmill slows, the bottom eventually falls out of the wealth market. People become "upside down" in their homes if they owe more on the mortgage than the house can be sold for in the present market. Businesses can loose the lease on their space, get behind on their taxes and so forth.

During the pandemic, much of the rent and the value of wealth was maintained by the coronavirus relief bills. This was a way to maintain people's perception of wealth without having to rely, as much, on the flow of goods and services since that flow had to be curtailed by the shutdowns. Wealth propped up by the central bank (in USA the Federal Reserve) creating money.

As anti tax sentimant continues, the Fed seems to be increasingly the way government is financed. This is how services that people rely on; such as the military, public safety and Medicare are maintained. This tries to keep the economy stimulated enough to pay people's mounting fixed costs.

Enter something called "Modern Monetary Theory;" a school of economics that (in short) downplays worry about increasing the federal debt. That's a whole field of discussion, in itself, but I just touch on it here.

As the future unfolds, there may be more and more maintaining of wealth without relying on commerce to do so. This would tend to mean high federal debts that seem to matter less and less.

As for the flow of goods and services, there is usually enough. Yes, some people go hungry, but, especially in this country (USA), over consumption is more the problem.

The virus forced a slowdown in consumption. As climate change keeps becoming more evident, it may necessitate slowing down the consumption / production cycle as one way to reduce greenhouse gas emission.

Slowing down consumption works, but most people prefer technology fixes such as job creation through green technology. In the long run, green technology is the answer, but it doesn't happen overnight.

People don't like the idea of their wealth being lost so wealth may continue to be propped up by other means besides commerce. Propped up by things like rent subsidies, unemployment and government spending; for instance.

I still think future prosperity is possible through green technology, but there is also the concept of "enough." Consumption of goods and services should not always have to be increasing to pay the "rent" that maintains the perception of wealth. That would be the definition of a rat race. It's not only threatening the environment, but the rat race is also pushing humans to their breaking points, having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Quality of life should always be the true bottom line.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

I'm interviewed by Lynnette Allen on a wide range of topics. June 2021

Interview in several small segments all here. At first we tested the sound a bit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Walmart tests out all automated checkout. Is there a better use for human beings than being tethered to the cash register?

First being tried at Fayetteville, AR. A Walmart with all automated checkout.

Interesting to note, according to this article, Store Manager Carl Morris, says the new layout seems to be having a positive effect on the employees and their customer service. Now out from behind a cash register, they are less focused on speed and more focused on each customers’ needs.

“We will go to any register, and we will help you in any fashion you want, whether it’s checking out one item or all the items. Any questions you have, we’re right there for you,” Morris said.

Interesting. Employees freed from being as tethered to the machine. The customer is more tethered instead?

I've noticed, at automated checkouts, that one employee now has responsibility for several checkout lanes. In some ways, they are even busier and their focus is scattered across more lanes. Not necessarily a more human, less production line experience.

As for the customer, each store has a different type of automated kiosk. Customers, including myself, are pretty clumsy and stumbling so checkout is slower. Clerks are more expert at checkout than the customers, themselves. Also, since automated checkout is not standardized across various retail outlets, customers stumble through the learning curve for each store.

Still, I think this is a wave of the future. I hear that eventually, the market basket will tally items as the customer puts items in the basket. Maybe an easier experience.

Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang talked about basic income as things, like artificial intelligence, take away lots of routine work. Are there more interesting things that people can do?

Are there other goals in life besides speed and efficiency? People often choose the shortest, quickest line for checkout. I often use other criteria, like how attractive is the clerk. Some of the clerks, I know, so there might be other reasons for conversation; like; Tim's working today, I'll go through his line.

Some people boycott Walmart, but my main reason for not shopping there is the automobile sprawl around Walmart. Me, being a bicyclist and pedestrian; I usually just avoid the whole part of town that Walmart is in.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Home value inflation begets other inflation

There is quite a bit of talk, especially among people on the political right, that inflation is coming back.

Guess what. Inflation has been rampant for many years. At least 3 significant items, that are considered important in people's lives, have been going way up in cost during recent years. The cost of housing, the cost of healthcare and the cost of a college education.

Now some of the rest of society is trying to catch up with these costs. For instance raising the minimum wage so workers, in places like supermarkets and restaurants, can afford rent. Government spending has been increasing also; for instance subsidizing the cost of healthcare with Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare.

In my opinion, attempts to create a more fair society does have the side effect of spreading inflation across wider sectors of the economy. Prices, such as found at the supermarket, have been dirt cheap for many years relative to these other things. Society has become used to low prices, at places like Walmart, on the backs of an army of low wage workers.

Technology and globalization has brought down the costs for many goods and services that we have become accustom to. We just can't "have it all." In some ways, we, as consumers, have become spoiled.

In many cases, business gets the blame, but quite a bit of business does operate on a thin margin.

In small businesses, the owner sometimes makes less than low wage employees after bills are paid.

In the case of large corporations, there may be a handful of overpaid executives, but the bulk of the budget pie still goes to the cost of the goods on supermarket shelves and a large army of low wage workers.

Many economists will say that inflation is caused by the Federal Reserve creating too much money. More money chasing the same number of goods and services. They also will say that there is too much government spending. Government pumping this new money into the economy. There is an element of truth here, but the problem is that it isn't easy to turn off the spigot. Turning off the spigot is painful and creates a situation where lots of people can no longer afford things like housing, healthcare and college.

Turning off the spigot also pulls the "punchbowl" away from vast industries; for instance healthcare. It creates painful situations where landlords and homeowners become "upside down" in their mortgages.

Speaking of the printing of money, it seems like government spending needs to be propped up by the Federal Reserve. Idealistically, government revenue would come from taxes, but taxes are never popular. Republicans are pretty much all anti tax to the point of even talking about a "no new taxes" infrastructure bill.

Democrats are not enthusiastic about taxes either. Taxes are a nonstarter on the campaign trail. There is also the fear that taxation will "slow down" the economy and job creation.

It's like no one wants to say it, but consumers and voters are kind of spoiled.

We can change our culture and look more at the big picture, beyond our own self interests, but that takes a new way of thinking.

It's like we can't get beyond blaming government, corporations, "the bad guys," "the welfare moms," or whatever for these problems. What we really need is a cultural evolution.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

The vaccines are a game changer.

Vaccines have been a game changer as society seems to be opening up fast. As things open up, being unvaccinated is now more risky.

Too bad there are still lots of people who aren't able to be vaccinated for medical reasons. In cases where folks have compromised immune systems, the vaccines are less effective.

The rest of society isn't waiting for these people. I still do wear a mask in stores as some stores require them while others don't. I would guess Bellingham Food Coop might be one of the last mask holdouts.

I still see more masks than not in stores I go to. One is usually only in a store for a few minutes; so it isn't real hard to wear a mask.

Much of the last year, I've either been in my apartment or outside so I haven't had to wear a mask all day. When I was working, I was in the building alone.

Now I am starting to go back to indoor restaurants. Masks are not worn while eating, but still in transition while away from one's table.

In the last few days, it seems like more masks are coming off in restaurants; even for the staff.

People with compromised immune systems are likely at risk, but that's a subsegment of the population. Too bad, but it may be inevitable. Life moves on. Could be like being thrown under the bus.

Speaking of the bus, I often bring up the accepted risk of car accidents. Around 35,000 people die, each year, in car accidents yet our transportation system still relies on cars. The bus is a lot safer.

The Strong Towns feed, that I follow, has posted quite a bit about designing streets for lower speeds. That would save many lives. We design our streets for too much speed and then rely on law enforcement to cool the speed. Then people complain about the police. In an ideal society, street design would slow traffic down naturally.

I've also read that the death toll goes down in larger cities. This is because traffic has to be slower when there is more congestion. On the wide open road, death tolls go up per trip.

Apparently, during the pandemic, there was less traffic, but what traffic there was went faster and the death rate, per trip, went up. One good thing about congested, slow moving traffic is safety.

I got to thinking that since I-5 is so often slowed to just a crawl in the Seattle area, it might as well be surface streets. Surface streets are friendlier to adjoining neighborhoods; like in Vancouver, BC where the freeways don't carve through the center of the city.

Another headline, I saw, in Strong Towns, says that the future of the electric car is not the Tesla, but the golf cart. I'll want to read that article. I notice a lot of electric bikes on the roads and trails. Kind of like the golf cart, I guess.

Bellingham City Council recently had a meeting to discuss speed limits on the trails. 15 mph works fine for me.

Some of the electrics go quite a bit faster. It's easier to regulate speed than to try and decipher whether an electric vehicle qualifies as a bike. What about electric wheelchairs?

I haven't heard the outcome of that meeting, yet, but just saw some headlines in the Herald.

I guess, if people grumble about slower roads, I can always say, "we have the airplane." There is even a new supersonic plane being developed that can get across USA in 3 hours.

The military is working on a way to deliver cargo anywhere in the world by dropping it from a space rocket. Delivery time in 1 hour.

My ideas beyond just masks to weighing safety, I guess.

Yes, it is good to see things open up remembering that with cars, society has accepted death as a part of life anyway. It's always like the preverbal tight rope walk. How much risk is acceptable versus living life?

Friday, June 04, 2021

Looking back on one of my career goals and why it didn't happen.

From 1972 KHQ Spokane radio TV brochure.

I look back on a career I thought I might have when I was in high school. Broadcast journalism? Radio interested me more than television, but this 1972 brochure from a Radio / TV station I admired shows more TV than radio. TV more colorful.

That career never happened the way I had envisioned it. My nervous conditions and unusual personality was a factor. While having my aspirations, I also worried that I might freak out, flunk out of school or flunk out of college. That didn't happen either.

The industry, I thought I might go into, has it's problems also. On radio and also television, most of the creative programing comes from the top down. It's fed from the national networks. That was true in my high school days and still today; to some extent.

My high school self would have had no idea what the term "social media" met.

It didn't quite work out the way people envisioned, back then, but I have expressed many thoughts, mostly on social media. I made my living in a fairly peaceful way as a custodian.

My life, during my working years, might have been a middle ground between failure and fame. Modest, but I would like to say still worthy. It does kind of make sense, to me, how it turned out.

On a trip from Pullman, where I grew up, to Spokane, I wanted to tour some of the radio studios. My dad took me to a few. KREM, KJRB; also KHQ.

At the wonderful world of KHQ, a staff person playing tour guide ask me what specialty I wanted in broadcasting. Sales, news, cameraman (back in the pre feminist days).

I hadn't decided so I was stumbling for an answer. My dad tried to fill the void by saying, "he wants to be president of the company."

The person giving the tour was taken aback. He said, "well, you really can't start there." I was a bit embarrassed. I basically just was interested in an overview tour.

See also How my career plans got changed and I ended up in Bellingham.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Broader based inflation may be the price of a more equitable economy.

For a long time there has been a disconnect between things like the cost of housing (in so many metro areas where people want to live) and other parts of the economy.

It's not just low wages for essential workers, it's also bargain prices for a large number of consumer goods and services that people have taken for granted.

There has also been a disconnect between the wages for high end professionals and other workers.

A round of wage increases and public assistance has been due. As the cost of wage increases gets passed on through the system, inflation will likely become broader across a wider range of consumer prices.

Yes, a little inflation, or maybe even more than a little, but consumers can't expect to "have it all."

I've often thought that maybe the problem is that the cost of living, such as housing costs, is too high, rather than wages being too low. I guess that would mean the need for a crash in things like the housing market and homeowners becoming "upside down" in their homes; like in 2008. A difficult situation in it's own way.

Maybe it's always easier to bring wages and prices up, rather than trying to drive things down. Hopefully the goal is less income disparity, not just between the 1% and the rest, but within the rest as well.

As for the owners of business, some business does operate on a thin margin. Great accumulation of wealth is sometimes still needed as its the capital that is the business. It can be the buildings, equipment, patents and so forth. If it wasn't there, the business might not be there.

In other cases, wealth is truely wasted. How many vacation mansions does one need?

Beyond just the very top, I think upper middle class needs to be part of the solution as well. Upper middle class creates much of the market and by voting, the political climate that shapes business. Why do we remain dependent on cars and sprawl? Market and political forces play a role.

For everyone, here comes some higher prices to benefit one's neighbors who work at places like restaurants.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Businesses create low wage jobs because they too (these businesses) are also operating on a thin margin

Quite a few people are saying that they aren't that enthused about going back to low paid jobs; like they had before the pandemic. Expectations have been ratcheted up another notch by generous corona virus relief packages.

On the other hand, a lot of employers have said that they operate on a thin margin. For instance, supermarkets with discount prices and a thin overhead. Miss matches of the economy.

At the same time, there are huge windfall profits that have been made. Not necessarily at those same supermarkets and businesses that pay the wages, however.

Yesterday, I heard about someone who's house had appreciated 3 fold in value since they bought around a decade ago. They were planning to sell and move to a less expensive area reaping a huge capital gain.

I heard they have family in that less expensive area, so it's not like they are moving to total social isolation though they are moving to Kansas.🤣 After buying a house in Kansas, they will have lots of money leftover.

Washington State's capital gains tax may have missed the mark

Here in Washington State, the legislature has just passed a new capital gains tax, but from what I hear, it exempts homeowners. Maybe it comes from a "stick it to business" mindset taxing capital gains on stock transactions, but exempting windfall profits from homes. I think we need to include windfall profits from selling homes also.

Somehow, we need to figure out how to better balance the economy for people in lower wage jobs. In a lot of cases, even the businesses these people work in are not raking in huge profits.

The wealthy are not necessarily the owners of those particular businesses.

To some extent, raising wages will raise the price of doing business in so many businesses that are on a thin margin. This means higher prices for consumers.

It's like we keep meeting the enemy and the enemy is ourselves. In so many cases, the consumer market is the ultimate employer.

Upper middle class people, eating in restaurants, will now have to "be the change they want to see in this world" if they want a more fair and equitable world.

As the September 4th end date for some of these generous coronavirus unemployment benefits approaches, there will need to be lots of patience and adjusting as we try and accommodate our ever increasing expectations for fairness and equity in society.

We also need to figure out a better deal for many of the people who rent who have seen their rents skyrocket.

Washington State's new capital gains tax is facing a court challenge so it's days may be numbered. Though I am no expert, from what I understand, the new law is based on people's income. The tax applies only if one's income is above a certain threshold. This means filling out an income tax form to the state and Washington State constitution prohibits an income tax.

Personally, I am in favor of income taxes, but that would take more heavy lifting on the part of the legislature. This capital gains tax may be struck down in its present form.

A friend of mine suggested it should have been more like a sales tax on capital gains transactions, rather than based on a person's income. Easier to do legally. Also should include homes.

Based on transactions, it could still set a threshold of high end transactions so as to exempt lower value transactions. That could fix the current legal challenge.

My friend suggested that we also need to raise property taxes on high end residential properties. There are lots of multi million dollar mansions in this state.

Similar tax ideas could be applied nationally.

I may be a bit over my head in discussing taxes, but these ideas seem to make sense to me.

I've probably lost the audience to slumber already anyway.🤣