Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I am hoping the governor of Virginia can be forgiven. In 1980 a gay rights activist friend of mine was still in the closet trying to pray the gay away.

I'm hoping the governor of Virginia, who supposedly did black face at a party in 1980, can be forgiven. A friend of mine, who is a gay rights activist, pointed out that in 1980, he (this friend) was in a Pentecostal church trying to pray the gay away. Since then, my friend came out of the closet.

People do evolve. In Virginia, it looks like the 2 other Democrats, that could be in line for governor, are also tainted. 3rd in line is a Republican. Of course maybe being a Republican isn't necessarily an automatic indictment; if one supports Republican ideals.

One virtue in society is compassion. Zero tolerance can go too far. Given how much worry there is about global warming, it is conceivable that at some future time, politicians who had a history of flying in jet planes or driving automobiles, while fully knowing those effects on the planet, could be seen as tainted and ask to resign.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

When they say where's global warming, they can't see it above the atmospheric noise

We finally got some winter. Seems like Bellingham winters have been a bit milder than normal over recent years. This is more normal. We get a hard winter every few years.

Some people might ask where's the global warming? Here's my reply.

So far, global warming only accounts for worldwide average temp rise of around 2 degrees C since 1900. It can still be snowy in the winter, but I think cold years are getting less frequent in this area. Over the long run, most glaciers are still retreating, precipitation patterns are still changing, growing seasons are still getting longer and sea levels are still rising. It's subtle so far and often still buried in the noise of normal weather variation from day to day, year to year.

Some models predict that there could be more of a temperature rise by 2100. More than just around 2 C. More like 4 to even 8 degree rise. That would really be serious. The situation could be accelerating due to population growth and growing prosperity; especially in developing nations. Also there's talk of feedback effects with methane and so forth. Hopefully these predictions will not come true. We can make some changes.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

They say 5% of population accounts for 50% of medical cost in USA.

Interesting show about the various "Medicare for All" proposals. What would they cost? How would they work?

One thing mentioned in the show that stood out in my mind is this. Only 5% of our population accounts for 50% of all medical expenses. It's inhumane, but easy to think, under our present system, that fiscal conservatives are tempted to just cut off that 5%; like euthanize 5% to benefit the 95%. For instance the situation with insurance companies and preexisting conditions.

On the other hand, Medicare for All would mean higher taxes, but for most people it could be a savings as it would also mean not having to pay health insurance premiums; a savings for low to moderate income folks.

For wealthy and upper middle class folks, it could mean a loss over the present system. They wouldn't owe insurance premiums, but their taxes would be a lot higher since taxes would likely be graduated by income.

For some medical professionals, it could mean a loss of income as single payer would be better at holding down medical costs. USA has the most costly healthcare system in the world.

In some cases, Medicare for All might still mean paying premiums as there are different versions of our current Medicare system; such as Medicare Advantage. Our current Medicare system, that is for seniors, is not necessarily all single payer. It also includes a lot of the hybrid public / private plans such as Medicare Advantage.

There are a lot of different versions of Medicare so there are various versions of Medicare for All proposals.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

UK should have another vote on Brexit now that the choices are better understood.

Since Brexit supporters can't agree on what type of Brexit they want, I think there should be another referendum. This time have the referendum be a choice between Theresa May's specific Brexit agreement, versus staying in the EU. If the British people vote for Brexit again, it would automatically be Theresa's plan. No need to consult Parliament. Less complexity. Her specific plan ready to implement. If they vote no, Britain stays in the EU.

Another idea is a 3 way vote. Hard Brexit, Theresa May's already negotiated plan, or option 3 stay in the EU. See comments for why I added the hard Brexit option.

This was an interesting show now in podcast.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The national debt ceiling. A useless alarm clock with a broken snooze button

The debt ceiling is like an alarm clock that keeps going off. "Warning, we're way in debt," like duh. It's old news. We have to keep hitting the snooze button to turn the dam thing off till it rings again.

Now it's getting even worse as there's a gremlin sitting on the snooze button making demands like, "more money for a wall." "Fork up the money before you can push snooze again."

We ought to just toss that stupid alarm clock out the window. As long as we keep increasing the military budget, lowering taxes and needing more Medicare, we're not going to heed that alarm anyway. It just adds to the bickering that leads to more anxiety and probably more medical expense.

Monday, January 07, 2019

We've had plenty of radical thinking from the right. Now it's time for some radical ideas from the left about climate change.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Proposal for a 70% tax on the wealthy to fund climate change reduction plan.

Who knows what can actually happen, but this is worthy of discussion. As she is advocating, change may need to happen faster than what we normally expect.

I'm in favor of taxing the wealthy, but allowing exemption for business expenses, such as capital expansion. If the money is invested in running and expanding the business, fine, but if it just goes to the personal wealth of the owners and executives, yes, tax it heavily.

Many solutions to address the carbon footprint do effect lower income people. Average folks can consume lots in their cars, home heating and even putting food on the table. That's why it's hard to pass things like carbon taxes. These type of taxes tend to be regressive. Lots of low income people, who drive and so forth, feel strapped.

To really get people to do something about climate change, we may need to create the impression that the wealthy are paying also. Yes, raising income taxes on the wealthy is a good compliment to some of the things that ordinary people need to do to lower the carbon footprint. Remember, it is ordinary people who drive the markets, to a large extent, but ordinary people aren't likely to change unless they feel they are being treated fairly.

These big changes don't have to be seen as sacrifices. Maybe using things like public transit and bicycles can be better than addiction to the automobile. Depends on circumstances and attitudes. I does work for me. I'll admit I am a bit unusual.

There's also new technology such as electric cars that are charged from a power grid based on solar energy.

Ending fossil fuel emissions in 10 years is a tall order, but maybe it can happen.

The wealthy corporate owners often blame average people for the way things are. The corporations say they have to follow the market which is made up of average people who are just trying to get by. Just trying to raise families. Corporations also blame regulation. It's kind of a vicious cycle that keeps us from solving climate change. Keeps us in the status quo. Average people living their consumptive lives and corporations promoting and profiting from that. Laws which hold people into it.

We are entering a time when the whole thing is starting to unravel and maybe change more radically. Hopefully for the good.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Some mistakes that unions have made in the past. Could unions make a comeback?

I think unions kind of shot themselves in the food back in the 1970s and 80s. Now they have little clout, but could make a comeback. I remember when unions mostly cared about raising the wages of their members; like the auto workers, but didn't seem to care about workers outside the union. It was almost like the union was an exclusive club. Meanwhile, more and more workers fell through the cracks and weren't in a union. They fell through the cracks not having healthcare and so forth. Back in the 1980s, it seemed like it was hard to get into a union. I heard rumors that you almost had to have relatives in the union or some special in to get an apprenticeship in some of the local trade unions for becoming a plummer or electrician. This may be easier now as there is more o a shortage of skilled tradespeople.

Maybe a height of union hypocrisy was when the Air Controllers Union endorsed Reagan for President in 1980. Soon after that, they did go on strike and Reagan fired them. That was a famous issue, back in the early 1980s. My guess is, they regretted endorsing Reagan after he fired them. He fired them as part of his push to crack down on domestic spending and what he saw as out of control government employees. The Air Controllers may have had some legitimate grievances about working conditions, and so forth. I'm sure they regretted thinking Reagan would make an exception for them. Members of other unions, during that strike, ask "where were the Air Controllers when we needed you, back when you were endorsing Reagan?"

Unions need to be more than just exclusive clubs for their members if they want political success at the ballot box.

Another problem with unions was the rigid work schedules and lack of adjustment to the needs of part time workers. Lack of flexibility. A big problem for transit systems where they need lots of bus drivers during the morning commute and less in mid day. Also a problem for individual workers who needed flexible schedules for other things outside the job like travel or schooling. Unions would worry that allowing for flexibility would make it easier for employers to cut back on people's hours, thus cutting their livelihood.

I think union thinking has improved over recent years, but their power base is diminished. What's left of unions, today, are doing more to support all workers by caring about things like universal healthcare and minimum wage. Caring more for people beyond just the members of the union, but it's a bit late. Union influence has declined, but could it make a comeback?

These things I wrote on Facebook after listening to this segment of On Point. Unemployment Down, Wages Stagnant, Retirement Difficult: An Economic Survey.

Wages still lagging behind the economic recovery, tho they may be picking up slightly. Why is the trend toward economic growth not reflected in wages? This interview on WBUR's On Point Radio presents a few ideas, but not my own idea. I'll mention some of the ideas and my own idea in comments. Each of the ideas is valid in its own way. The interview blamed a lot of the decline in wages on the loss of unions over past decades.

Here's another idea I come up with that doesn't directly relate to unions.

One of many things effecting wages is how technology and globalization has put downward pressure on prices in many sectors, such as in journalism and food production. At the same time the value and cost of homes has skyrocketed. Low prices can mean abundance of things like food and crowd sourced journalism, but companies can't pay higher wages in those sectors if they can't sell their products for more. Meanwhile things like healthcare costs, go up. Wages for certain professions like lawyers and hospital executives go up and get out of line with the rest of society.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Obama baked the economic recovery cake, Trump adds frosting; wants more frosting

Mr. Trump fears that our country could be sliding into another recession and that's why he would like the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low; like maintaining a sugar high of printed money. Problem is, that's not very sustainable in the long run, tho we've had rock bottom interest rates for may years, during several administrations, Obama and Bush included.

I think one problem is the combination of cheap money and Republican policies of low domestic spending. Cheap money can drive up house values, while tight spending policies means less money for programs such as HUD's affordable housing. This adds to homelessness.

We could print money and spend liberally on the social service side, but if we do that too much, we end up in a real mess; like happened in Venezuela. Somehow, we need to find sustainable and equitable balance.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A history of my erotic fetish. Kind of a mild and unusual fetish, I guess

As a child growing up in the college town of Pullman, WA. I didn't really have the concept of gay sexuality. Partially because I was in my own world and also it just wasn't talked about in the Pullman of the 1960s.

Naive ignorance, I guess.

I found myself attracted to the shape of the body of slim guys with long hair. The hippie culture was in the news. It was a turn on to see people showering at the campus pools.

Toward the end of high school and heading off to college, gay issues started surfacing. At first it was seen as a human rights topic. I was lucky to have enlightened parents who went to a liberal church; United Church of Christ. Today, that denomination has big contingents in gay parades.

I didn't hear the term faggot till I got to my freshman dorm at what's now Western Washington University, here in Bellingham. People in that dorm seemed shallow and prejudice. I would debate theology with some of the conservative Christians. Others, in the dorm just seemed like drunkards.

Eventually I went to a gay rap group on campus (back then discussion groups were often called "rap groups" I guess for rapport). This was partially to spite the "Christian" who lived across the hall from me in my dorm. I told him that Jesus hung out with oppressed peoples. It helped, at the time, to be taking a class on Mahatma Gandhi.

Folks in that dorm were at least kind of light hearted. I was the dorm eccentric.

This led me to start participating in the gay political group on campus; a world mostly made up of lesbian women.

My first time in a gay bar was a class field trip to the Hut Tavern which had just opened in Bellingham. This was during a class on the gay rights movement, taught by Fairhaven College Professor David Mason.

While I was getting politically involved, I really had no desire for sexual intercourse. The thought of anal or oral intercourse didn't appeal to me. This lack of interest in intercourse was reinforced by the AIDS epidemic. The idea of getting a blow job had no appeal to me. I wanted to get to know the person better. At least see the face.

Being part of a couple, tho, was not that appealing also. I'm probably the type of person that people would swipe past if I were on dating apps. I'm popular, in my own way; in a friendship way. Maybe, if I lived in a big metropolitan area there would be a lot more choices. Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different if I lived in a big metro area. At the same time, I don't seem to miss dating.

I've always been a bit awkward and unusual. Now I'm in the past 50 years of my life which, most likely, get swiped past a lot on dating apps in Bellingham.

Growing up, I thought masturbation was an involuntary wet dream. It took my campus counselor to explain that masturbation could be done while one is awake. Eventually I started enjoying masturbation, but it took a while to get used to the idea.

One sexual minority is asexual or celibate. To be unique, I thought I would describe myself as asexual; a part of the sexual minority spectrum. Attracted to guys, but not sexually active. Most of the other gay activists, around me, were women, at that time anyway.

Seeing long haired men in the gym shower was still a turn on. I wasn't obvious, in public, but it fed my masturbation fantasies after I got home well away from other people. For some reason, I didn't connect this fetish to my political life in the gay student group. I still thought I was asexual.

After graduating from college, I began to think, maybe I do have a legitimate sexual life. I'm turned on by getting to know people, seeing attractive folks in the nude and mingling. If others find me attractive, it's flattering. Still no interest in intercourse or being in the drama of a relationship, however. As time goes on, my attraction for men has widened to beyond just folks with long hair.

The bar never interested me much during my youth. Maybe I wasted my youth not going out dancing. The cigarette smoke and superficial conversation of the bars turned me off.

One time I remember having a discussion with the liberal minister of the church, I grew up in. It was about gay life and going to the bar. That minister was cautiously liberal and said he was probably the first pastor to breach the subject of gay rights from the pulpit at that church. We'd have some heart to heart talks in his office and I remember saying it was hard to discuss interesting topics, like economics, in a noisy bar. As I left to head back to Bellingham, he said, with a twinkle in his eye, "keep up the good work trying to discuss economics in the bar." It was an Lol moment.

By the mid 1980s, I started to discover the fun of dancing. Now, many years later, I still like to dance. I missed some of the normal play of youth, but I also missed a lot of the health hazards. It's taken me a while to "get" why people like to party and dance. Now that a lot of my friends, who liked to party during my youth, are in recovery; if still alive, I'm ready to party. Healthy partying, however. Free form ecstatic dance anyone?

Also I enjoy getting to know people and having intelligent conversation; especially in places of nudity. Seems like places of nudity are among the friendliest spots for conversation. Saunas and hot springs, for instance. Sometimes people are quiet. I'm not real outgoing, but folks often do start up conversation. For some reason, intelligent discussions come easier at those kinds of places than in a lot of other settings.

Bars can be too loud or too drunk, everyone is on their computers at coffee shops. Discussion groups can be good, but they are rare, most folks are in too big a hurry at the supermarket, but I do know lots of folks in town so serendipitous conversation can happen. Concerts, films or lectures; it's still better to go where people are interacting, rather than just watching the stage.

I'm pretty involved in a lot of community things and have friends from many orientations. It's hard to imagine not living alone. It's also hard to imagine not having lots of friends.

Since I'm not into being part of a couple, or intercourse, my sexuality must be kind of unusual. Maybe it's a fetish, but a very mild fetish, indeed.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Can geoengineering address climate change the way fracking reduced the energy crisis?

When I was in college, I thought, for sure, we were running out of oil. Pretty much everyone thought that with the gas lines and price hikes of the 1970s. I was looking forward to a future of bicycling and public transit. Liquid petroleum was running out and oil shale was expensive. Back then, they thought the shale would have to be dug up from mines, crushed and cooked. Gasoline prices would be through the roof and we'd have to go solar.

Little did I know that they found an answer. Fracking. Oil is now cheap, compared to the rest of the economy, but today's worry is global warming. There's still plenty of fossil fuel in the ground, but carbon emissions are changing the climate.

As with the oil running out, it seems like an unsolvable problem, but maybe they will find another workaround? Geoengineering? Will we do something like put artificial sunshades above the earth? Solar energy is getting less expensive as well. Who knows.

Back in college, I was hoping the automobile would die along with it's highway traffic death toll of 30-40 thousand Americans per year. Little did I know that the self driving car would come to the rescue, or at least I hope it comes to the rescue. I'm almost always for accepting change.

Monday, December 17, 2018

In Canada, they don't have the Obamacare Mandate. It's just universal care and the mandate is taxes

People grumbled about the Obamacare mandate that everyone had to have insurance. Mandating a purchase was thought to be unconstitutional.

In Canada, they don't have the mandate, they just call it a tax. In Canada, the taxes are a bit higher, but everyone gets health coverage. It's a system of universal coverage. Single payer, for the most part. Down here it looked like people were being forced to buy a product they didn't want because it was called a premium that's paid to private companies. In Canada, it's a tax.

In both countries, the system works best if it's pretty much universal. That's because when people are given a choice, they wait till they are sick or high risk to buy insurance. This drives up the premiums.

Without the mandate, Obamacare becomes more unstable and the recent court decision, in Texas, is attempting to scrap the whole program. That means pulling the plug on millions of people. Even hardened Republicans, including Trump himself, must realize that pulling the plug is really "staring right into the abyss."

That is why even Trump says Obamacare will keep going until this can get sorted out. He wants a "replacement for Obamacare." Problem is there's probably no way around the need for higher income people to pay more so lower income people can still afford healthcare. This is especially true with the income gap being so high in USA.

The only other alternatives, that I see, would be figuring out how to drastically reduce the cost of healthcare. If people, on average, were healthier and used the system less often, and/or if the system wasn't so expensive, it might work. I don't see the politicians talking that much about strategies for accomplishing that.

How about my bicycling lifestyle, but I realize that doesn't work for everyone. My health is, most likely, a combination of choice and luck. To be honest, luck is part of the equation. A friend of mine attributes his health, in part, to choosing good grandparents. "Choosing?" The genetic lottery.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

I've heard the phrase, "a watched pot never boils."

I hear that dating is pretty much totally on-line these days. I've never really dated tho. I guess one bad thing about dating and especially on-line dating is that the focus is totally on trying to find a mate. Ironically, its often more likely to find a quality mate when one is not expecting it. When people meet for other reasons, they can sometimes grow on each other; so to speak. They find out how much they like one another given time. In some cases, the mate might not even be someone you would expect on first impression. You might not give that person a chance from just the impression when looking for a mate, but as people mingle, over time, they can learn more about each other. They can grow and change together. The situation can evolve. Maybe they do decide to be mates, but that isn't necessarily the original intent. The pragmatic goal of procuring a mate isn't the main focus, but ironically that might be the best strategy. I use the word "procure" as it does seem like a lot of people's focus when they are mate shopping is too pragmatic, rather than broad minded.

Friday, December 07, 2018

A refute for the "nature causes climate change anyway" argument

People who think global warming doesn't matter because nature changes climate every so often anyway are kind of blowing off civilization as if civilization doesn't matter. Yes, maybe nature wipes the slate clean every once in a while with things like ice ages, asteroid strikes and times when there are palm trees at the Arctic Circle. Would we want big changes, like that, in the next few decades? Those changes happened thousands and millions of years ago; before civilization as we know it.

Going forward, nature may have not scheduled changes, like that, for a few thousand more years. Our modern civilization has only been around, maybe 200 years. Given nature, we could go another thousand, or so, years. That is if we don't blow it ourselves. Think of all the things we've accomplished in the past 200 years. What could we accomplish in just another 200 years? Do we really want to wipe the slate now?

Yes, nature could wipe the slate with something like an asteroid strike in the next few decades, but that isn't very likely. Nature works on a different time scale than our "flash in the pan" civilization. Still, I like our civilization. It would be nice to keep it around for another few hundred years at least.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Should California have different types of forests due to the future of drought?

When Trump visits California, I hear that he blames the fires on forests that need to be thinned, rather than drought and global warming. Maybe there's a bit of truth in both places.

For sure, it's mostly drought. Even managed pasture lands are too dry. There isn't much one can do if the rain doesn't fall. On the other hand, California's long term prognosis is trending dry according to many of the climate scientists. Does that mean different forest management practices? This may mean we can't hang onto our forests of the past.

Yes, the forests might need more thinning, or different management techniques. Also think about what type of plants are growing there. Should we switch to more drought tolerant species? California oak at higher elevations? Less flammable conifer? More deciduous trees?

As a disclaimer I should say that I know just enough about forestry to make me dangerous. Maybe that isn't knowing quite enough.

Should we be building the new type of forest like we're in charge? Humans in the driver's seat? Sorry mother nature. There's 7.5 billion people on this planet. More and more people in the driver's seat, so to speak. Using fossil fuels at least until solar energy really takes hold. We do really need to push alternative transportation and alternative energy more. Birth control also.

Liberal minded folks, in California, will say that much of the state's forest land is managed by the federal government, not California. I guess that opens the door for Trump to blame Obama for the problems.

A California forest management person was on one of these shows I listen to, I forget which one. KQED Forum, in San Francisco? WBUR, Boston?

Anyway, he mentioned the need to use forests for sequestering carbon. That goal may conflict with the idea of thinning the forests to address the fire hazard. I got to thinking that these conflicting goals can be taken into account in deciding what types of vegetation they use for replanting the forests. Keeping in mind the possibility of a dryer California, are there plants that still sequester the carbon as well as the original forest types in each region?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Lowering ones age for the dating sites and other reasons

As gender categories become less rigid, what about age categories? Dutch man attempts to legally lower his age. The doctor says he's got the health of a younger person so how about making that official? Lowering one's legal age. Apparently he's even willing to forfeit those years paid into a pension plan. He must be able to afford that. A big motivation for wanting to lower one's age is dating. A younger age makes one's profile more competitive on dating sites like Tinder. That's a big factor.

It still seems like a lot of bother to go through for a more popular profile. I'd rather just find less competitive connections to community than the dating games.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The US going farther into debt

US budget jumps to 100 billion at start of fiscal year.

A ballooning U.S. budget shortfall -- fueled by tax cuts, spending hikes and an aging population.

I'd add, spending keeps increasing for things like the military, Medicare, veterans benefits and so forth. Meanwhile, tax cuts don't generate the revenue that Republicans predict. The increase in revenue falls far short of the increase in spending.

The economy is strong, these days, but much of the income is not taxable. Its less taxable due to tax cuts. Much of today's prosperity is boosted by federal spending, however. For instance, Bellingham's biggest employer, these days, is Saint Joe's Hospital. Medicine is now a big part of the economy nationwide, not just here in Bellingham. Much of that is Medicare and Medicaid spending. An aging population.

In recent years, the Federal Reserve has helped to finance the debt by printing money, but the Fed is tightening up the money supply, a bit, due to worries about inflation. This means even more actual borrowing.

Somehow the government still gets by with this. We, the population, trust the government as it's basically still the only game in town. Much of our savings, retirement savings and so forth is based on government debt. The government continues to be able to borrow money.

Our aging population is likely to continue driving deficits. One way to partially remedy this is to allow more legal immigration of especially young working people into the US. Increase the payroll and the tax rolls. Still, immigration can be overwhelming as world population is growing past 7.5 billion. There's only so many people our countries of, USA, Canada, Europe and Australia can take. That's why we still need to promote birth control, worldwide and also try and improve economic and human rights conditions in the countries where people are coming from. To keep the flow of immigration manageable. Otherwise it could overwhelm us causing economic and political problems; push back for instance. Think climate change refugees. The problem could overwhelm us. Still, a steady flow of immigrants can enlarge our economy and help pay for our aging baby boom generation's retirement. At least modestly raising our quotas for legal immigration would help. Also we would need to plan for more density in many of our residential areas to address the housing shortage that growing populations bring. Rational planning, that's what we need. Is that too much to expect?

As for taxes, they should be higher on especially the idol rich. Even upper middle class; like the top 20% probably needs to pay a bit more on personal income. Keeping some of the tax cuts for business and corporations might be okay, tho not popular. We don't want to smother business with too many taxes. At the same time, I'm not a big fan of corporate culture. Business is okay, I don't hate it, but I do think we are too motivated by greed. Quality of life matters more to me than income. We need to think that way. Still, business is a good tool to continued prosperity. If we want prosperity, I can understand not taxing business to death. If money is working in the economy, that's okay, but we do need to reign in the idol rich, which I think are a problem. Super rich individuals who mostly spend their money on high living. The rich pushing up real estate prices and so forth. Also, in our quest for prosperity, we have to take climate change into account. Pay more for energy. Convert to solar. I'll also add that we need more fair income distribution, but I'm running out of time and I can't solve all the world's problems here Lol.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Seeing a therapist in 8th grade and high school

One of the pleasant memories of my childhood was, strangely enough, seeing a therapist. The psychology department at the university where I grew up offered counseling to the community as a way for their grad students to get practice. It was free, or almost free. There was supposed to be a sliding scale, but they made if free after, from what I remember, there was suspicion that the clinic receptionist was embezzling money.

I remember it was considered cool to see a therapist among certain groups during my schooling days; a part of rebellion against stogy conservatism during the Vietnam War. It was cool among some students to think deeply, see a therapist, be creative. Other groups would kind of laugh at this idea.

At first I resisted as I was attempting the macho, stiff upper lip style. I thought of therapy as some silly new fad. For a while I might have been trying to fit in with the more macho set.

Due to my own anxiety problems that short lived attempt at stoicism fell through and I went to the therapist. I found it was quite enjoyable. A time to know that I could share what was going on in my head. It was a pleasant time. I looked forward to the day of the appointment each week.

Since then, I haven't been to much therapy, but sometimes find friends, or even expressing myself on Facebook, to be therapeutic. I think the university, here in Bellingham, has a similar counseling program to the one I grew up with, but somehow, I feel a bit odd going these days now that I am much older than the grad students. It could still be useful, but it's a bit different now that I'm older than the students I thought of as mentors back then.

Monday, November 12, 2018

California fires blamed on bad forest planning? How about climate change denial.

Sad to see so much of California on fire. Trump is in the news again blaming it on bad planning and threatening to pull federal disaster relief funding for future fires such as these. The bad planning is climate change denial, of which Trump, himself, is party to. Drought seems to be the biggest problem. This dwarfs whatever can be done through forest management practices. Planning as if one is living in a desert is in order. I do hope they get the seasonal rains, but I fear that drought is becoming the new normal. At the same time, Florida needs to be planning for encroachment from rising sea waters and larger hurricanes . The federal budget may be drying up for disaster relief also. Better planning would help here as well. The effects of climate change need to be figured into budgets. We may not be able to afford tax cuts.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

The states I have been in. Most of this list is by bicycle. Only 1 state by plane.

Washington is the only state I've lived in. It's also the only state I've flown in. Seattle to Pullman. Bellingham to Mt. Baker.

By bicycle, I've ridden across USA. That brought me to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, Canada, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Came back by train.

The farthest I have ever been from my home has been by bicycle. Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts. I've never been in a jet plane and have never been overseas. Maybe someday I should try this.

My second trip across USA picked up more states. North Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. I came back by train from New York State. By train only, I picked up New Jersey on that trip.

I've also ridden in Washington State (of course).

Have traveled down the coast several times by bicycle. Washington, Oregon and on down the California coast. Came back by train.

The states I have been to by car and no other means are Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Missouri and Nebraska. Childhood family trips. Some of the states I've bicycled to I have also been to by car. As far east as Michigan and as far south as California.

During my early childhood, we took a train trip back to Washington, DC. That picked up DC, Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia.

All other states I've never been to. I've never been overseas and only been in two Canadian provinces. British Columbia and Ontario by bicycle.

I've been to all 39 counties of Washington State by bicycle.

I don't have a bucket list. A bucket list can add stress to one's life. My travels have been pleasant, however. Nothing too earth shaking in more ways than one; like climate change, for instance.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Canada's new carbon tax. Seems like a good plan.

Condensed from this article adding some of my perspective.

A $20/ton carbon tax translates into a 16.6 cent per gallon surcharge on gasoline. So, in 2022, the $50/ton carbon tax will increase Canadian gasoline prices by about 42 cents per gallon (11 cents per liter). That would be about an 8% gasoline price increase by 2022.

I'll add that even the top figure of 42 cents per gallon is still less than the increased cost of gas that people experienced in 2008 when gas prices were up due to supply and demand; before significant increase of oil production (such as in North Dakota and Texas due to fracking) which led to low oil prices from the oil market glut.

This carbon tax will reimburse Canadian taxpayers in other tax savings.

The price of coal would more than double, with a carbon tax surcharge of about $100 per ton in 2022. Natural gas prices will rise by about 10 cents per cubic meter in 2022 compared to current prices of around 13 cents per cubic meter – about a 75% increase. This will increase demand for cheaper carbon-free electricity. However, Canada already supplies about 60% of its electricity through hydroelectric generation and 16% from nuclear – only about 20–25% comes from fossil fuels.

The carbon tax will top out in 2022 with no more tax increase unless future legislation changes that. It's a fairly modest tax, but they still think it will create a significant incentive toward cleaner energy.

Sounds like a very good plan tho there has been some struggle to get all the provinces on board. Compromises have been made. There could still be rebellion at the local level. We'll have to see how it all plays out.

While I still support Washington State's carbon tax, I think the Canadian version is better. Washington State's plan seems to try and hide the fact that it will cost fossil fuel consumers more. It goes after polluting industries, such as our oil refineries in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, who are now flooding our state with anti carbon tax campaign funding.

Canada's industrial sector will not be subjected to the carbon tax, but rather to an Output-Based Allocations system (similar to cap and trade).

The rebates to Canadian taxpayers are anticipated to exceed the increased energy costs for about 70% of Canadian households.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sanctity of life means children headed to our borders. Republicans are hypercritical on this

This was a post I put on Facebook October 23 2018. It received lots of good discussion. If one is logged into Facebook, my posts are visible even if one isn't in my friends list. Click on the "F" in the right hand corner. I just learned I can embed posts from my Facebook wall here on my blog.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

After Trump has rallied people against Obamacare, he and the Republicans are now stuck trying to fulfill their contradictory promises.

Obamacare is probably the best system for covering people with preexisting conditions and extending coverage to lower income folks who can't afford market rate premiums. Problem is, someone does have to pay for these things. The costs have to be shifted to folks who can afford more; upper middle class, wealthy and so forth. I think when these costs get passed along as premiums, the more fortunate folks get "sticker shock." It looks like Obamacare is terrible as their premiums go way up and their coverage gets less comprehensive.

Maybe it would have worked better if this cost shifting was honestly labeled as taxes, rather than trying to hide it among premiums. Economically, that would have made more sense, but politically it's, unfortunately, a nonstarter.

After Trump has rallied people against Obamacare, he and the Republicans are now stuck trying to fulfill their contradictory promises. Obamacare may have not been pretty, but it's a difficult problem that its been trying to solve.

In Canada, the healthcare is provided, for the most part, from taxes. Taxes can be graduated so more fortunate folks help out the less fortunate. Everyone saves some, in the long run as access to preventative care, across the entire population, improves. An ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure. Overall health improves and it's easier to keep costs down under the Canadian system. Short of something like that, Obamacare may be the best that this anti tax society can muster.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A larger vision than just increased material wealth. Democrats need a better alternative than they have to Republican thought

Very interesting column in New York Times, The Materialist Party, by David Brooks, October 22 2018. It's about what seems like the lack of a big picture vision beyond our various materialistic wants and needs. As Republicans seem to be big on talk about growing material wealth, there is an opportunity for Democrats to present a different vision. Such alternative vision seems to be lacking.

In his column, Brooks says the big push for Democrats is to talk about healthcare. Preserving coverage for preexisting conditions and so forth; like just another basket of goodies.

Yes, a better vision of how we live on this planet is lacking, but I got to thinking that even in the healthcare debate, a bigger vision can emerge. Out of extending coverage comes a bigger vision of compassion. Could be the vision of a population that's willing to pay more, if they are so lucky to be more wealthy, so that those that are less fortunate can have some also. Or, maybe a vision of people earning less, if they work in the lucrative top positions of the healthcare and insurance fields. Earning a bit less so universal healthcare can be easier to provide.

There's also the bigger vision of health, itself. Healthier lifestyles so that universal healthcare can be easier to provide. A society of less stress, more exercise, better diets. You get the picture. A society better for the environment as well. Connecting the dots.

In his column, he talked about the need to go beyond just the box of goodies, like free college, or whatever and to come up with a larger vision of a better life. In my own thinking, I try and see how some of these goodies can fit into a bigger vision.

In his column, he also talked about identity politics, like LGBTQ rights. Is that just another box of goodies like tax cuts for the middle class, or the entrepreneurial class? I see fitting that into a bigger vision as well. Reducing population growth. A society more open to feminist and LGBTQ issues tends to place the breaks on procreation, a bit. Lower footprint to the environment. How about the single life living in an urban apartment versus the stereotype of family life sprawling out into the big house in the suburbs? It's a bigger vision I keep thinking about. How these pieces of the puzzle fit together. I know there are always exceptions to stereotypes; like not all families live in the suburbs and not all people in the suburbs are more wasteful, but I hope you get the picture.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

This sculpture reflects Bellingham, city of subdued excitement



Bellingham is often referred to as the "City of Subdued Excitement." Seems a fitting way to describe the acid ball sculpture in our Waypoint Park. An acid tank from the defunct Georgia Pacific pulp mill now repurposed as art in the park. Cool idea. Cover it with reflective particles; like used for signs on the freeway. Shine LED lighting on it. I was expecting some dazzling thing like a disco ball, but that may be too glitzy for Bellingham. The lights are shinning and reflecting off it's rusty surface, covered with that reflective material, but somehow it seems to have missed it's potential. That may still be okay as it fits in with the grey skies and the cool, moist air.

There's a dance that I often go to on Thursday evenings. I sometimes worry that the dance could be running out of energy. Attendance small, energy subdued; at least during sunny days. Subdued during last summer's smoky days. People comment that they are working through grief, pain and what ever. The national news rests heavy. I worry about the outcome of this November election. Are folks going to really be depressed if it goes south; so to speak? Going south in more ways than one, I guess.

Where's the celebration, joy and pleasure in people's lives? Can't we still live the way we wish the world could be?

Now that the weather is cooling down, I think the attendance, at that dance, may pick up. I was headed there today, but didn't quite make it as another gathering spot also starts to regain momentum when the sun hides. It's the YMCA sauna. Occasionally a space of conversation, but that can get so good as to extend into the dance time. At least that's what happened today. I do wish I could clone myself, but there's always next week.

Monday, October 15, 2018

My unique thoughts after reading climatologist Cliff Mass's recent critique of Washington State I-1631

Looks like Washington State's popular climatologist, Cliff Mass, is critical of Washington State's latest attempt to tax carbon emissions; I-1631. I still favor the bill, tho it has its blemishes. I guess he feels that a better carbon tax bill could be crafted.

I-1631's organizers created a very complex bill based on community input. It has a lot of payoffs to various special interest groups; such as Native American Tribes, labor groups and so forth.

Could it be that the laundry list of left leaning groups creates such a gauntlet, for any bill to get through, that the bill ends up just creating another morass? On Cliff's blog there is a picture of hogs at the trough. I would guess that right wing leaning groups create similar gauntlets for proposals to get past.

I still think of myself as leaning left, but I do see a problem of all the special interests, each wanting their share of the action. The "big picture solution" seems to always get clouded.

Yes, there are, conceivably, many simpler solutions than I-1631. Two years ago, there was a simpler solution that didn't pass the popular vote. It would have imposed a carbon tax and then, basically, give money back to the taxpayers in the form of sales tax relief. That bill didn't have much support from the various interest groups that this bill has attempted to bring on board. Maybe that's why it didn't pass.

Cliff praised that bill for its simplicity, but at the same time he is criticizing this bill for not doing enough to focus the spending side of the bill on things that would really make a big dent in climate change. Such things as putting lots of money into speeding up the build out of light rail transit. He suggests some other big ticket proposals as well; like thinning out some of the dead wood in our forests to make them less fire prone. Another suggestion is to build more water storage capacity for the irrigation in areas like the Yakima Valley to help them cope with the expected decline in snow pack storage.

A simpler bill could do that. It wouldn't be like the bill that was on the ballot two years ago, however. That wouldn't have boosted light rail, or these other ideas, that much as it would have been giving the money back to taxpayers in the form of sales tax relief. It was considered "revenue neutral."

Personally, I'd propose a simpler idea as well. It would, basically, tax all fossil fuels at the pump; so to speak. Yes, it would cost consumers more. Then, if we really want to focus the revenue on things that reduce global warming, it would be like forcing the car drivers to pay higher taxes to support things like light rail. I'd say bike paths also, of course. You folks know me. I'm into bicycling.

My idea wouldn't make it through the gauntlet of public process for sure. My idea would be kind of regressive also, but maybe we can't use the carbon tax to solve income inequality. We need another tax for that, like an income tax.

Still, I support I-1631 as a start as we can modify it as we go along, hopefully.

If we could think outside automobiles, a tax on car drivers could be less regressive if it really did bring on a lot more alternative transit. In the long run, alternative transit is less expensive than driving. Still, most people are waiting for driving to be fueled with alternative fuels instead.