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.

Friday, October 12, 2018

A faerie networking site that I just learned about

I recently found out that there's a new social networking alternative for folks who consider themselves associated with the Radical Faeries. A faerie version of Facebook. Sounds interesting. I've signed up, but haven't posted anything yet. Plan to in the near future. The faeries are a brand, for lack of a better term, of gay people. I sometimes say it's a cross between hippie and gay, but that may not be the best definition. The networking site has interesting potential. Faenet.org

On another note, I should be using the word "momentum" rather than "inertia" to describe the networking effect that keeps Facebook on top of the game, so to speak. I still use and like Facebook, but people often wonder why one company so dominates the market. It's one of the aspects of the internet, I guess. People tend to flock to the one big "household" name. Google for search, Facebook for social networking.

It's the momentum of so many people on board each giving it their push. Once momentum gets started, it's harder to stop or change; thus comes the concept of inertia.

In the olden days, before internet, people were more divided by region so different businesses served their regions. Today there is less of that kind of market friction so it's easier for one household name to dominate the world market. The term household name apples to a brand that's well known; like for instance, Sears.

Sears, a household name for many decades. Interesting to note that Sears is now in the news related to bankruptcy. Things still do change.

The word "household" is interesting as things on the internet can be accessed from the home. Little, or no regional friction. A brand available worldwide. Household, literally in the home.

Maybe time for me to leave the computer screen and go outside. It's a nice autumn day.

Monday, October 08, 2018

They are all into big money anyway. Might as well choose the Democrats for better culture

Seems like there is a bigger difference between Democrats and Republicans than ever before; or at least in my memory. Democrats are much more liberal. Republicans more conservative.

I have quite a few friends who still think the Democrats are in bed with money and big business. I guess that's true. There's lots of money and big business that's liberal also. I think a lot of the red versus blue divide is about CULTURE rather than money. All the money isn't necessarily on the conservative side. We, liberals, do have our highly financed allies. We might as well not shoot ourselves in the foot by trashing them.

Even if allies have money, they can still support the cultural values of graduated taxation, domestic spending, universal healthcare, environmental preservation, gay rights and so forth.

Aside from the big money behind Democrats as well as Republicans, I notice that a lot of grassroots level liberals are kind of yuppie. Upper middle class. There are yuppie conservatives also. Might as well not totally trash a political party, the Democrats, for being corporate when many liberals are, themselves, upper middle class. The "professional class." Doctors, lawyers, tenured college professors and just about everyone is still driving their cars, using fossil fuels. Prosperous, liberal cities are often places that the poor can no longer afford to live decently.

We all have to walk the walk at the grassroots level.

I know that there is a problem with too much money corrupting politics. The Koch Brothers and Citizens United Supreme Court decision comes to mind. Still, I remember listening to a Diane Rehm interview, on NPR, where she interviewed a liberal lawyer who argued in favor of Citizens United before the Supreme Court. What? A liberal lawyer! They were supporting the right to speech for large organizations, such as labor unions, environmental groups and so forth. I wondered, if that lawyer was suffering from a case of "not seeing the forest for the trees?" Lots of arguments are based on technicalities, compartmental thinking. We all need to look at the big picture.

Bernie Sanders does earn praise for being able to finance his campaign totally from small donations. Apparently that is unique. Even if some politicians still feel they need to rely on our wealthy allies to get name recognition, we ought to still realize that aside from the money, it's also a cultural divide.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Should one remain on Facebook?

Periodically, there are waves of frustration against Facebook. Folks often talk about deleting their Facebook accounts and wonder what alternatives there are. I plan to stay on Facebook because I tend to think the magic is in how we use the media.

Facebook has the inertia of friends, comments and likes. In the IT industry, that's called "the network effect." Besides Facebook, I do use other media as well. I guess better word for this is "momentum."

Facebook is still the social media I use the most. My wall visible to Facebook users, friends and general public alike. For some reason, one still has to be a Facebook user to see the regular Facebook walls. This isn't necessarily true for another networking site, Google Plus. More on that later.

Here are some other internet medias I use and what they mean to me.

I have this blog, but, admittedly, it doesn't get many comments. People have to remember to navigate to my blog. It doesn't go out and find folks in their news feeds; so to speak. I link to it sometimes on Facebook. My blog does come up in searches, tho. Does have some audience. The blog is on a platform that is owned by Google; another big corporation.

Another service is Flickr. I share lots of photos. Not many comments come to my Flickr account either, but it does get quite a bit of traffic. around 3 million hits over a period of years. Some photos seem popular as they come up in searches.

I've donated my photos to Creative Commons so they also find their way into Wikipedia and so forth. The descriptions on my photos can be an outlet for my writing.

Flickr is owned by Yahoo; another big corporation.

There's other social media besides Facebook, like Google Plus and Ello. Seems like they don't have the inertia; the network effect that Facebook still has. My posts on this blog automatically get posted on my account at Google Plus. It works similar to Facebook, but doesn't seem to have the traction.

Twitter seems mostly for sound bytes. Not enough space for depth. I seldom use it.

My website ties my presences on various platforms together.

As for mainstream media, I listen to NPR Radio a lot. Not just on the live radio, but also shows that are archived as podcasts. Science shows, sensible political comment and so forth. I learn a lot, but I often wish I could talk back more. Yes, there are the listener comment sections at the very bottom of show pages, but comments can be quite buried.

There's also face to face communication. I do get a lot of that from walking around Bellingham. Seeing folks I know. I go for the civil conversation about meaty topics. Informative and political discussions that often happen on the street corner.

Here's a thought I just had. I hear quite a few people are thinking of giving up on social media. People who leave social media may be disfranchising themselves to some extent.

As for the government spying on Facebook, I figure maybe my government will listen to me for a change.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Alert from the big orange. Here in Bellingham, we've had Big Ole.

"I didn't get the memo;" the US government emergency test to cellphones. My phone is often turned off as Facebook and face to face communication are more of my thing. When I turned on the phone to look at messages, that memo (or whatever) wasn't there; assuming I looked in the right place.

Some folks are upset that the message came from the "Big Orange." Another name for our blessed president. I heard this message called "an orange alert." People worry if the whole country steps in line to a rouge leader. Remembering Trump's comment about respect for North Korean President Kim Jong Un's ability to get his people to stand at attention.

I guess that hasn't happened. There's lots of good people in civil service. They can buffer us, maybe, from some leader who would try and use it to "get his people to stand at attention." An emergency alert system, of some kind, isn't necessarily a bad idea.

I really think much of the bluster from Trump is humor. Something to worry about a bit, but maybe not total worry.

Reading about it later in the newspaper, I realize that I didn't get it because my phone was turned off. I guess it wasn't a message that would stay in memory. Just getting the phone to sound and then the message telling people what the sound was about at the moment.

Here's a unique emergency alert system they considered using at Western Washington University. The steam whistle from an old lumber mill. Called "Big Ole." I'm not sure if it's still considered useful for that, but I've heard them test it, a few years back. Also they used it on the Fourth Of July.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

I hope Space X can still flourish

Oh no. If Elon Musk's life and businesses start to unravel, what will happen to Space X? One of Musk's companies, Space X, could be our pathway to "higher levels."

Resupply capsules to the International Space Station while government bureaucracies often wonder if they can get off the ground. The reusable rocket that returns to the pad. Recently launching of NASA's Tess planet hunting satellite. One of the first big science missions that used a private launch service.

Musk has his ambitions, but with that can also come trouble. Sometimes I take heart in the foibles of the elite. I'm just a janitor. Friends of mine say that I shouldn't say "just a janitor." They say, take out the just.

Anyway, I enjoy learning from those adventures into space. Robotics for sure. People in space? Like to Mars? Well, only if it doesn't eat up everything else in the science budget.

Myself, an armchair quarterback, I hope Space X and other big thinking companies can still flourish.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Less bags. Even garbage bags can be avoided if slimy food waste can go in a separate compost bin.

Knowing what's best for the environment can be a confusing. Using the least amount of bags is best tho.

This British study, talked about here, says that plastic shopping bags might have a lower footprint on the environment than cloth. To put it another way, one would have to reuse a heavy cloth bag over 100 times for it to have less of a footprint than the cheapest plastic bags. That has to do with what it takes to grow the cotton, make the bag and so forth.

Still, I am skeptical due to the effect of discarded plastic waste in the environment, however many plastics are biodegradable. The best strategy is to reuse the bag many times, or not use a bag.

Personally, I use my bicycle panniers. I guess even folks who drive don't have to use shopping bags either. Just roll the shopping cart out to your vehicle and put your groceries into reusable containers. I bring the cart to my bicycle and load my panniers. Actually I just use the store's shopping basket as I seldom buy many groceries in one trip.

This radio interview overlooked a big elephant in the room. The automobile. What effect does driving to the store have on the environment? In my case, I live in a dense urban neighborhood so I can walk, or bike to the store each day.

Here in Bellingham, plastic shopping bags have been banned by city ordinance. Stores have to charge extra for a bag which is usually paper. I never buy the bag. Paper bags may be worse for the environment than plastic as they are heavier (more material) and they tend to degrade so they can be less reusable.

This British study also compared the impact of paper bags. It says that their manufacture places a bigger footprint on the environment than the cheapest plastic. Paper bags lie somewhere between plastic and cloth as to the impact of their manufacture on the environment.

Plastic trash bags are an issue also. I seldom use them at home

For garbage, I am fortunate living near the Bellingham Food Co-Op where there is a green waste. Food scraps that tend to turn smelly in garbage can be carefully placed in the green bin to become compost. Other "dry" wastes, like plastics, can be kept clean for recycling.

As I've written about before, biodegradable plastic shouldn't go with other plastics as that degrades the mix. I try and put that in the compost bin, or it that is not available in regular trash.

Basically, I really don't use garbage bags at home. Living close to waste bins, I separate and take things there. Some things, especially stuff made from mixed materials, I do put directly in the dumpster. No need for a garbage bag, I just take it directly there. Food waste is the worse stuff for going to the dumpster if there is no bag, but use of the green waste bin seems to solve that messy problem.

I'll admit, where I work, we sure go through a lot of plastic garbage bags. At work, I try to reuse the huge amount of trash bags they use for dirty towels. I give the bags a second life lining trash bins in my work area. (I'm a custodian at a YMCA). They tried reusable cloth bags for the dirty towels, but they don't last. They tear too easy.

Monday, September 17, 2018

No matter how much the Catholic Church cracks down on sexual abuse, it's still hard to control until some doctornal changes are made

More news keeps appearing about sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church. Seems like no matter how much they crack down on this, they can't control it. Not even a total police state would work.

Seems to me that two radical changes in their doctrine might help. Allowing women into the priesthood and dropping the celibacy requirement for priesthood.

Allowing women in the priesthood would bring more diversity and different kinds of emotional energy to the profession. Dropping celibacy as a requirement would help to provide other erotic outlets for people who need that.

I tend to think that celibacy could still be upheld as a virtue without making it a rigid requirement for the job. The virtue would be the idea that people can strive to not always be enslaved by their animal / emotional instincts. The preaching of mind over matter so to speak. Making total celibacy as a vocational requirement is problematic however.

In a lot of ways, fundamentalist Protestant churches have even more hypocrisy and problems of their own. The Catholic Church does have a little more tolerance and compassion than a lot of churches, depending on who's in charge. I would think that the best churches tend to be the liberal non fundamentalist churches of several denominations as well as liberal leaning gatherings of many non Christian faiths. Outdated, rigid doctrines cause problems.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

(1950) "Let's Go to Town - Solutions to City Traffic Congestion"



This video, from 1950, is a fascinating find. Talks about the problem of traffic congestion in big cities; especially downtown. The problem in 1950.

Seems like certain things don't change. The solution being proposed is to move people instead of cars. That idea is still being discussed today. The answer proposed is more public transit. Buses. Get people out of cars and onto buses. Much more efficient. Takes up less space.

Interesting who's proposing this solution. General Motors!

Yes, contrary to what some folks think today. The "big bad car company" is promoting public transit. It's the GM Bus division. This film is a promo for GM buses. Similar message to what I see in a lot of environmental planning videos of today.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Controversy over tearing down of certain statues is a sign that societies norms are evolving and possibly improving over time

While lots of people argue over the status of statues about historic figures that may have had slaves, bigoted attitudes and so forth, I have an optimistic thought about this. The controversy happens because society has progressed over the years. Attitudes and practices that would be considered bigoted today were basically normal back then. The normal is changing; at least in western societies.

The best way to deal with these statues is to keep them for remembering history. Rewrite descriptions to acknowledge the faults as well as the accomplishments of historic figures. Possibly move some of the statues to less prominent locations.

Even today, no one is perfect. To a large extent, we are all products of our times. Folks of the future might tear down statues of people from today who continued participating in the culture of fossil fuel consumption. We are a product of our times. To a large extent, people do the best they can given the norms and culture they live in. Those norms can change.



Some things in the news, past and present.

Old Highway 99 through Washington State once named for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. This situation was forgotten, but rediscovered in 2002 sparking a controversy. Marker discovered in Peace Arch Park.



2018. The City of Victoria, BC in Canada planning to remove the statue of John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, from the front steps of city hall because of what it says is his role as "a leader of violence against Indigenous peoples."

Friday, August 31, 2018

The gas tax is kind of a carbon tax. It could be raised and extended to other fossil fuels. Keep it simple.


View from Western Washington University's Music Building plaza during smoky skies Aug. 2018.

Most carbon taxes, like one's proposed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, seem too complex, but I will vote yes anyway. I think they are designed by politics. Tax big industries, like oil refineries, to make it look like we aren't taxing consumers, but industry passes it's cost along to consumers anyway. Really, to be honest, it is taxing consumers. I still support the idea. It's better than nothing.

A carbon tax can be made more simple, however. Make it like the gas tax that is seen at the pump. In fact I would combine the gas tax and the carbon tax concept. Just make it one tax; rather than two taxes.

There are 3 big ways in which energy is consumed and I would put a tax on each of them. Basically only 3 products to tax so it could be simple. Oil, natural gas and coal. The tax would reflect how much carbon is placed into the atmosphere from each of these items.

Natural gas would have a slightly lower tax than oil or coal as it's carbon content is lower.

The price levied on coal would effect the price of things like electricity, depending on how much of the electricity mix comes from coal at a given time.

The carbon tax could be low, at first, like maybe even just adding the equivalent of a few cents per gallon of gas. This would address the fact that a carbon tax is somewhat regressive. Quite a few low income people have to drive to work, for instance. At least a small tax would be a start. Better than nothing. If future legislatures, or the voters, wanted to raise it, they could.

I think Washington's carbon tax proposal would automatically ratchet higher over time. This might be hard to swallow politically. My idea wouldn't ratchet up automatically, but would rely on the legislature, or the voters for that. Maybe that's not strong enough, but at least it's a start. I hate to say it, but if skies get smoky enough, voters might take more kindly to these taxes.

As for the tax on oil, much of it would show up as a higher gas tax. People are already used to the gas tax. It goes to transportation infrastructure; the highway fund. I keep hearing that the gas tax needs to be raised as roads and bridges are in poor repair. Gas is quite cheap, in USA, compared to other countries. The cost of maintaining the highway network keeps rising. Just raising the gas tax would be like a carbon tax in a way.

Even raising the gas tax is difficult politically. It's justified by the need to improve public infrastructure. Maybe other carbon taxes could be looked at in the same way. Ironically, it might have to be sold by saying it's money for highways.

I would try and use a lot of the money for green transportation. Public transit, pedestrian improvements and bike paths. Bellingham has a similar tax in place now. It puts some money into roads, but emphasizes alternative transit. It's called Bellingham Transportation Benefits District 1. This money comes from a sales tax, however. The tax was passed by voters in 2010. It brought back Sunday bus service after some cuts. It also pays for street improvements with emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle safety.

I know, the public grumbles if they think they are paying for buses or bicycles that they don't ride, but alternative transportation does help the cars by reducing traffic.

Taxes on natural gas and coal could go toward things like making our power grid smarter. Green energy and conservation. Like with the gas tax, it's basically infrastructure.

The tax could be raised by future legislatures, but, admittedly, it's a fairly regressive tax. As for the problem of income inequality, in USA, we really do need more progressive income taxes as well. I think of the carbon tax as dealing with infrastructure and carbon reduction needs. It can't do everything. Income inequality could be addressed with different taxes.

If people could figure out how to give up their cars, alternative transit does address income inequality. It's usually cheaper than car ownership.

Washington State's latest carbon tax proposal will be on the November 2018 ballot. I think it's more complex than my idea, but I still plan to vote yes. It taxes a lot of businesses and exempts other businesses out of the fear of driving certain businesses to other states. The tax proposal is the result of a lot of public consultation. Complex, but maybe the best we can do given the circumstances. Here's an informative article I read about that proposal.

Still, I think we could benefit from relating our thinking about carbon taxes to the already successful gas taxes.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Diary of my 2018 bicycle tours reprinted from Facebook.

Also see more photos on Flickr.

I'm on vacation now, but the heatwave has effected my original travel plans. Bicycling through Eastern Washington to my 45 high school reunion seems quite daunting as over 100 degree temps are predicted again. I plan to bicycle west of the Cascade Mountains instead.

Global warming is making these heatwaves and the forest fires more common as the years go by. August is becoming less of a good travel month in this region. Still, I plan to visit places like Victoria, BC and the Olympic Peninsula. It's been about a year since I've even ventured beyond a 23 mile radius of Bellingham.

Part of the situation is that there is a lot going on in Bellingham. Things that are hard to miss; like I just heard that The Atlantics are playing in Boulevard Park this evening. The Atlantics are real fun to dance to. Delaying my travel plans yet one more day.

My trip has started. Now at ferry in Anacortes headed to Vacouver Island.



Some images from my bike trip so far. Highway 20 on way to Anacortes. Yes, it was better to stay in this area during the hotspell. Morning fog in Anacortes. Even a few drops of rain, but mostly dew falling from trees. A side trip to top of Mount Erie City Park. Looking down on the morning fog. Looking down on an oil refinery. Then the ferry to Sidney, BC. Still in view of Mount Baker seen over welcoming flowers in Sidney.











Yesterday, a bigger meal than I expected at Smitty's. I think they call it Ihop on our side of the border. Smitty's sounds more scrumptious.

I eat slow so might as well go on wifi. Look up Royal Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. Should I ride up that hill again as I did in 1996? The page says it is no longer open to public except for special events. Okay, don't bother.

Follow link from their website to another page. I took that photo! Many of my pictures are now in the Wiki. I donate to Creative Commons. Oh, a broken link. They gave me credit, but I moved a page when I reorganized my site. As I waited for my food to digest I fixed that. Now there's a page to land on when wiki credits me.

Galloping Goose wild goose chase

I wish there were more campgrounds along Canada's Galloping Goose Trail. Headed out the trail, I decided to have a more restful day and not go out as far as Sookie where I went in 1996. Instead, I left the trail and rode a ways on the busy Trans Canada. Shoulder was good, but yes it is the scenery of thundering cars and trucks. Not too far, though, a nice lake for swimming, but in a "day use only" park. Thetis Lake.

Years ago, there was a campground, but on private land. I stayed there in 2016. It is no more. I thought I would proceed on to another provincial park down the road. Goldstream Park. I missed the campground entrance and ended up in this beautiful canyon, but I wasn't appreciating it as well as I could as my mind was more pragmatic looking for the campground. So, turn around, back up the hill to the campground entrance only to find that the campground is full. Then it's along Highway 14 a while maybe finding woods to hide in. Not too late yet at least.

Eventually, I am almost at the far end of the trail anyway and back on the trail near Sookie. Some dog walkers tell me about a resort just a few kilometers farther. It's a bit expensive and sort of shabby, but I stayed there. It was an okay day, but much of my Galloping Goose day turned out to be wild goose chase. Bike touring does take some patience.

Riding Blackball Ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles.



Looked at remaining part of Elwha Upper Dam west of Port Angeles on Thursday. They tore most of the dam down to return the river for salmon. Took pictures that I will share eventually.











Main destination part way up road to hot springs, where Upper Elwha Dam was removed for restoring vast salmon runs in the river. Salmon coming back might help the dying population of Orca Whales in Washington State waters. The whales feed on salmon and scientists think they are starving. The Orcas may be going extinct. So many people come to Salish Sea region in love with the whales. Whale watching industry is now a big part of local economy. As we humans are loving the whales to death, destroying the salmon habitat with paving over much of the spawning grounds along rivers. Maybe we can still save the whales by inconveniencing ourselves a bit. Removing some obstacles, protecting more flood lands along rivers, removing more culverts, living more compactly ourselves.

Almost to the hot springs, but not quite.

At end of the road past Upper Elwha dam site is Olympic Hot Springs. I like the social scene of clothing optional places so I head on up the hill. Due to road washouts, no cars allowed on that road for miles. Only bikes, horses and pedestrians. A very hot day so no one is on the road.

Some folks like springs with no people, but I like the social side of the experience. For just hot water, there's a good shower at the campground. As I head up the long hill, I wonder if anyone is at the spring.

I get as far as the empty parking lot (parking from before the washouts) and decide to head back. From here, it's 2 more miles of walking to the spring. An empty (empty of people) spring isn't that important an experience as it's getting late and time to head back to the campground. The empty road, however, is a great experience. I didn't feel like the long climb up that hill was wasted at all though I didn't get to the spring itself. The ride up that hill was worth it in beautiful forest with no traffic. Exertion, which feels good to me, waterfalls, quiet, moss on craggy trees and it was even within cell service. Classical music from WFMT in Chicago. The whole experience was very meditative.

Heading east to Sequim Bay and not quite to Mount Walker.

Finally, some needed rain. I'm camping, tho at a wonderful hiker biker site in Sequim Bay State Park. My tent under tarp, I set out for day trip to Mount Walker. Just as I pass Discovery Bay, a massive rainstorm hits. Light refreshing tain last night, but today, dramatic. I duck under awning of store and nearby coffee shop just in time. Lightning, thunder and cloudburst. Fun to watch. Cell service must have been knocked out by storm, but I go on coffee shop wifi to pass time. Exciting. First big storm I experienced in years. Rain is now stopping so I may proceed on to Mount Walker for this day trip. By the way, a raccoon stole my little bag of granola but other than that no problem. Head back to Sequim Bay tonight and hope my tent didn't float away.



I thought Mt. Walker was north of Quilcene. It' just a bit more south and then up the long hill so I decided to head back to camp. Will look up the view on Flickr Images.

The storm was quite exciting. Maybe better than Mt. Walker's view. A red blob on my weather app passed over Discovery Bay while I was sitting high and dry on that store's porch. The timing was ideal. Otherwise I would have been drenched. Could be the hardest rain I've seen since 1998 as I was passing through Williston, North Dakota. I watched that storm from under the eave of a mini mall with general store, cafe coffee shop and cannabis dealership. Discovery Bay.



Historic gas pumps in Quilcene. Seen on Saturday. I also saw these on a trip in 2014.

The tarp over my tent worked very well. Tent stayed dry during yesterday's cloudburst. Now headed to Dungenus Spit as my bicycle vacation continues.



The zipper in my old tent gave out. I decided to get a new tent. Hope the new tent serves me for several trips. It is nicer than my old tent. Around the price of one night in a hotel room if I were to stay in a hotel. Just under $100.



Said to be largest madrona tree in state of Washington. Along a street in Port Angeles. Riding the Blackball Ferry between Port Angeles and Victoria, BC. A few days ago, I walked part way out Dungenes Spit near Sequim, WA.



Smog was mostly cleaned up in 1970s and 80s as we learned to remove particulate matter from emissions. That did not deal with the carbon dioxide, however. Now the smog is back as global warming leads to more forest fires and the particulate matter they spew. Carbon dioxide. itself, is an invisible and deceptively clean looking gas, but it traps heat from the sun.

This is what Olympic Peninsula looks like today. Smoke from fires in BC and so forth. I am camping west of Port Angeles and planning to take Tuesday Blackball Ferry back to Victoria.

Back to Victoria on Blackball Ferry.

Statue controversy in the news in Canada. City of Victoria removes statue of Canada"s first prime minister from city hall. Being removed because of his role in establishment of abusive residential schools. Reminds me of when one of our state legislators discovered a plaque in Peace Arch Park dedicating Highway 99 as the Jefferson Davis Highway. Davis president of the Confederacy in USA. Dedication took place in the 1940s. Since then, plaque was forgotten and hidden behind plant growth. It has been removed and re displayed with different descriptions. I think Victoria plans to do something similar.

I am now just north of Victoria. My tent set up in McDonald Park. Named for that prime minister, I think. A nice park however. Room for my tent, unlike the other park I tried a few days back.

While lots of people argue over the status of statues about historic figures that may have had slaves, bigoted attitudes, ignoring of child abuse, I have an optimistic thought about this. The controversy happens because society has progressed over the years. Attitudes and practices that would e considered bigoted today were basically normal back then. The normal is changing; at least in western societies. Probably the best way to deal with these statues is to keep them, remember history, but rewrite descriptions to acknowledge the faults as well as the accomplishments of historic figures. Even today, no one is perfect. To a large extent, we are all products of our times.

Ferry back to Anacortes and then get on another ferry for Orcas Island.

My bike is holding up great. No flat tires or other problems, but mechanical problems on the ferry has cancelled the ferry run from Sidney, BC to Anacortes, WA. Plans changed. Another day in Sidney as they say the next ferry will get into Anacortes around 10 pm. I'll head out on the noon ferry tomorrow. More time to explore Sidney waterfront.



My bike near Patricia Bay as I explored area around Sindey, BC.

Now on Orcas. Air starting to clear due to a marine push of air.

Experiencing Ocas Island with no power. Auxiliary power keeps store in East Sound partially open. They say power back on by evening. Cell service okay in town at least. No service at campground anyway. No point going to Doe Bay hot tubs today. No power there. Got enough to eat from partially open store running on aux power. Unique experience.



A ride to top of Mount Constitution on Orcas. A rather hazy view. Nice ride tho. Exercise for the day plus the ride I did earlier into East Sound.



Orcas getting smoggy again. Marine push of air was short lived. Forest fires in BC and around the western US are getting worse each year.

I listen to radio a lot as I ride. NPR or CBC much of the time, but other things as well.

Some conservatives are running ads against the carbon tax proposal on Washington State's November ballot. They say it will increase gas prices.

Duh. That is what it is supposed to do. Increase the cost of fossil fuel to provide more breathing room for alternatives. It is a tax on high carbon polluters, like oil refineries, but I realize that business passes its costs on to consumers.

Some conservative talk hosts are cringing as Trump gets down in the dirt and battles his detractors calling them lowlifes and so forth. These conservatives think that the economy is now doing great. Low unemployment, over 4% growth, the success of Trumpenomics. These hosts I have been hearing on the radio are kind of frustrated and say Trump needs to ignore the backstabbing and talk about the "great" economy.

Okay, I say the air is full of smoke from global warming forests burning fossil fuel economy. Lots of folks caught in the rat race still feel stressed keeping up as income inequality ravages the spirit. There's got to be more to live than just the pursuit of pure prosperity. That's the real problem.



The famous lion sculpture at Doe Bay Resort looks like it has a bronze or copper coating due to strange light in terribly smoky air. I hope my lungs can clean themselves out eventually as I am going up and down really steep hills to get around this island. Breathing in lots of forest fire smog. Starting to feel polluted. Looking forward to heading back to Bellingham for a while in the next few days.



On my way back to Bellingham. Should be back Tuesday night. While camping on Orcas, I met some other cyclists. One of them turned out to be a friend of mine from ecstatic dance in Bellingham. Small world. We rode together on Orcas for a while to the ferry.



Heading home from Orcas. Picture taken by one of the folks I met in Moran State Park.

I am now in Anacortes. Breathing smoky air caused by forest fires. Longer and more severe fire seasons, a consequence of global warming. I assume my lungs will clean themselves out after this trip. It isn't easy for/me to stay inside as they are recommending, but healthy lungs tend to clean themselves fairly well. I'm feeling okay.

Make that I arrive in Bellingham Wednesday afternoon. Having a good visit with my friend Kathy Reim from Skagit PFLAG in Sedro Wolley.

Just rolled back into Bellingham around 1:15 Wednesday. A good trip in spite of the smoke. My apartment is in good order. I have some vacation time left for relaxation and maybe a few shorter trips. It was a good trip.

Day trip to Vancouver, BC. Take train up and bike most of the way back, except for small part on the Skytrain. Photos from Vancouver trip 2018.

See more photos on Flickr.

Friday, August 10, 2018

My 2018 bicycle tour to Olympic Peninsula and Victoria, BC is in progress

Easier to put day by day posts on Facebook. If you do not use Facebook, I will transfer those posts and add more images when I get back to my home screen. The info will be on this blog and Flickr.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Fight against gerrymandering more important than debate over voter ID

Another alluring sound byte on the campaign trail, but you don't usually need ID to buy groceries. However, there are a lot of things, in society, that do require ID these days. Unfortunate, in a way, how security conscious we have become.

My liberal base might not want me to say this, but I can sort of see the rational for picture ID when voting. Sort of. The fight against gerrymandering is more important than the fight about ID, in my opinion. Gerrymandering is a big problem.

The fight to preserve lack of ID requirement for voting uses lots of political capital. Conservatives can score sound byte points by mentioning all the things that require ID; even if groceries are not among them. Meanwhile gerrymandering of political districts threatens to destroy the value and incentive for voting. Seems like Democrats tend to be better than Republicans in trying to take steps against gerrymandering even though both parties have contributed to the problem as well. Republicans tend to be the worse. The fight against gerrymandering seems more important to me than the fight over voter ID.

Here are a few other thoughts related to ID.

Voter ID is kind of a mute point here in Washington State as this state is all absentee ballot. No, we don't have to include a copy of picture ID when sending in the ballot. Really, absentee ballot is the way to go for voter participation.

The whole ID experience isn't necessarily getting worse at least in my case. These days we can make purchases with just a debit card and pin number. Back in my college days, I remember trying to buy text books at the college bookstore my freshman year. I gathered up a big stack of books, a heavy stack. Then waited in a 40 minute line to get to the checkout counter. They didn't take checks without several credit cards for ID. I had no credit cards. I had to go down to my bank, get cash and then start over. After that experience, I have been leery of paying by check. Glad checks are mostly a thing of the past.

Here's another problem. Seems like just about every job requires a driver's license. I don't drive so I am ineligible for many kinds of employment in this car based society. I have non driver's picture ID.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Humorous report on the state of my health

It's mostly good news from my exam at the doctor except maybe my eyesight. I forgot my reading glasses and there was tiny print on the questionnaire I filled out in the waiting room. Many of the questions dealt with sexuality. Safe sex, STDs and so forth.

When it was time for the nurse to enter my answers into a computer, he couldn't figure out why I put "talking and looking at people" as my method of birth control. That was good for a laugh and I guess I should have brought my glasses.

Aside from small print, my eyes aren't too bad. Both the male nurse and the doctor were extremely good looking.

On a question as to whether I should get tested for HIV, my answer was also good for a bit of humor. I said, "If athlete's foot was considered a sexual disease that would be what I am most at risk of." "From having conversations in places of nudity and also, maybe, dancing on barefoot dance floors."

On to the blood test results. The numbers looked quite good. I'll admit, a few of those numbers are helped by some prescriptions that I have been taking for years. A mild statin for lowering cholesterol, for instance.

Also my blood sugar is a bit high so the topic of diet came up. I mentioned that I reduce sugar intake by drinking unsweetened ice tea with just a tad of Pepsi in it. As soon as I mentioned the word "Pepsi," the doctor nearly gagged. Pepsi; another word for poison, I guess.

Then he said that it's a matter of balance. If one has to have a bit of Pepsi to enjoy life, it's part of the equation. Pleasure matters also in health. One can be a Buddhist Monk and live a long time, but quality of life is important also. Maybe I'll cut back a bit on the Pepsi; however.

Then I mentioned that I use instant tea; the powdered version. That started the doctor on a philosophical discussion about how health is not really the highest priority for a business that's there to make money. Businesses make things, like instant tea, to increase sales. They mainly care about taste and also convenience. Long shelf life in the warehouse might mean more to a business than health. Again, it's a matter of balance.

Foods that are less processed are usually best and for beverages, water has stood the test of time over thousands of years.

For me, water is a bit boring, but balance is the key. News from the doctor is pretty good and I basically like his philosophy.