Monday, December 15, 2014

Why blaming the one percent may not be that effective

Since Occupy Wall Street fame, the figure of 1% top income percentile has become a popular meme. Why 1% instead of 2 or even 10%?

1 is a small number so 1% is not that many voters. It's politically expedient to say you are for the 99%. After all, 99% is a mandate that will always win elections, supposedly, tho it often doesn't seem to work that way.

The one percent meme is another manifestation of our search for a painless solution to the problems of society. Government is one tool to solve problems, but taxes which fund the government tend to be unpopular. Therefore, the easiest political solution is to try and impose unpopular things, like taxes, on as few people as possible. If only the 1% has to pay a new tax, then the 99% of voters don't have to pay, so the tax should be able to pass. Right?

For some reason, that doesn't seem to be the case. Do the 1% have so much power that they influence media and voters to literally buy elections?

That's part of the problem, for sure.

Another part of the problem is the percentage of people in the lower 99%, and especially the lower say 50% of income distribution who actually vote. I hear that 2014 election saw the lowest percent of eligible voters to vote since 1942.

Blaming everything on the 1% is a way to absolve oneself of personal responsibility. If social change is to happen, we all have to do our part be it voting or what we support with our dollars in the marketplace. The wealth and power of the 1% still relies on the mass market of shoppers and voters.

What about the top 2%, 10% or even 20% income percentile? America's income gap keeps getting wider between all income classes. Upper middle class has gotten way out ahead of lower middle class and the poor. Why can't so many working people afford medical care, for instance? Are doctor and professional incomes way above what most working people can afford? There's nothing wrong with paying doctors more than average workers due to the education and skills required to be a doctor, but one must ask what's economically sustainable. As planning for affordable healthcare is considered, we have to take into account what is sustainable. What can the premiums, for insurance and/or the taxes for government based healthcare sustain?

Unaffordable housing is another issue that the income gap brings up. How can folks making minimum wage afford to live in a city like San Francisco? Is it the 1% who has bought up all the residences making buying and renting unaffordable for the bottom 50% in that city? San Francisco, supposedly a bastion of liberal politics yet about the most unaffordable city in America.

I'd say it's more than just the top 1% that creates the housing problem. How about the top 10%, or maybe even the top 20%? There are many high paid tech workers, and so forth, who can afford expensive housing. They have crowded lower income classes out of the housing market. Here, the problem is upper middle class. If there isn't enough housing, the upper middle class gets first dibs. That is except for subsidized housing and folks grandfathered into rent control.

So it looks like it's a broader problem than just the 1%. It's society as a whole; to some extent. Everyone has some responsibility. That doesn't let the 1% off the hook, but the problems can't be solved unless more folks take responsibility. Landlords, consumers and voters. We all can make the difference.

I've heard it said that if we just raise taxes on the 1%, there wouldn't be enough money to make that much of a dent in the federal budget. The 1% have lots of money, but there are not very many of them. What about raising taxes on the top 20%? That's a bigger chunk of money. That's what our graduated income tax did before the so called Reagan Revolution.

Maybe some liberals, not to mention conservatives, wouldn't like the idea of taxing the 20% because there is a lot of rhetoric, these days, about the need to strengthen the middle class. Quite a few folks talk about the need to support a large consuming class. As economist Paul Krugman says, mass consumer spending creates more jobs and jump starts the economy more than the wealth of the 1%. Still, I think the upper middle class could do more to bring a fairer society. Seems like the upper middle class is becoming wealthy while the lower middle class is becoming poor. The real middle, in the middle class, is getting a lot thinner. Income distribution is a problem within the middle class leading to affordability problems in things like education, healthcare and housing.

Even lower income people bear responsibility. How we treat one another and our voting patterns do make differences.

Another thing to think about is the natural environment. Middle class consumer spending isn't always a wonderful thing. One has to think about the the carbon footprint, for instance. Mass consumption of gasoline, cars, houses and products has to take the environment into account. Going more green is best in all these things.

Another consideration is not just how much money someone has, but what are they doing with their money. Is someone in the 1% donating millions to good causes, or buying Congress? Is someone in the top percentile building a business and developing new technologies or just buying luxury homes and bidding up the price of everything from real estate to paintings?

There is more to the equation of a better society than just deferring all responsibility to the 1%. Sure, the 1% should pay higher taxes, but it takes the rest of us voters to at least show up at the polls if we want that to happen.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Collage art I did in 1980s about contradicting demands of the voters

Sent to a Mail Art show about politicians in the 1980s. Discusses contradictory demands of voters. Scroll down to see dialog beneath each picture made of cutouts from magazines. Mantra is, we voted them in when they promised these things, then we voted them out when they gave us what we wanted; as in "be careful what you ask for as you might get it."















Sunday, November 30, 2014

Is America's welcome mat getting tired and overburdened?

There have been quite a few posts in social media about the Statue of Liberty not turning it's back on the world, but turning its back on New Jersey.

In my files of old art collages is a copy of this piece I sent to a Mail Art show in the 1980s. Theme of the show was "Liberate Liberty." One was encouraged to interpret that however they wished. I doctored an image from National Geographic Magazine to make this piece. Taken from the Jersey shore, I think from some article on population growth and the environment.

My question was, is Liberty's welcome mat getting tired and overburdened?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Charles Manson has name recognition going for him in our celebrity fixated culture

A young woman wants to marry Charles Manson, even though he is in prison. Adolph Hitler sells a painting, even though he is dead. The power of being a celebrity. Famous and infamous. Too many people coast on name recognition and audiences still rely on it more than they should. Remember the lesser known brands, or at least take time to look beyond celebrity status. This applies to politicians as well. Name recognition should not rule the day.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Mail Art piece from Berlin Wall



25 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell and sometime around then, I got this art piece in the mail from Germany. Dust from, I assume, the wall enclosed in plastic at the center of the photo. Back then, I was participating in a grassroots network of pen pal artists who sent creativity to one another, sort of like the sharing that ordinary people are doing today on Facebook. Back then, there was no Facebook and the art traveled through the mail. It is called Mail Art. Some people still do Mail Art.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

A lot of government red tape comes from local rather than national government

Folks who vote for Republican leaders at the national level are barking up the wrong tree if they are doing this to reduce regulation on small business. Much of the regulation of small business comes from local government such as city, county and state. Local rather than national government. Small business is often saddled with various local zoning regulations, fire, health and safety codes, certification for certain professions, building permits and business licenses. Then there's also the many environmental rules for wetlands, farmland preservation, water restrictions and so forth.

There are federal regulations as well, but many of the ones that come to my mind relate to Wall Street. There's federal agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as federal banking rules. Some of these rules may have been too lax leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. Do we want to deregulate Wall Street more, but still saddle small business with local regulations that are overlooked by national politics?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Washington State I-1351 could harm state social services, parks and other needs

I think I'll vote no on 1351, the class size initiative.

I don't always follow party line thinking. Democrats may be horrified, but I think I will vote against Washington State Initiative 1351 mandating smaller class size. Problem is, there is still no extra funding source, in that legislation, to provide this money. I'm worried that it might force the state to slash other things, such as social services, state parks and even college education (which isn't K-12) to come up with the money. Smaller class sizes, especially in the early grades, are desirable, but I am afraid they will not be able to find the money and may be forced to cut other things that the state needs.

Raising more revenue, for the state would be a good thing, but this initiative doesn't address that. One of the problems is that Washington State has a very regressive state tax system. Much of the state revenue comes from sales taxes which tend to hit low income people harder even though food is tax exempt, at least.

Still, much as people grumble about income taxes, the graduated income tax that many other states have does a better job at taxing the rich, so to speak. Also there are a lot of financial transactions and so forth that are tax exempt. Tax reform is needed to make our state tax system less regressive while possibly raising more revenue. In the meantime, I worry about the non K-12 things that the state does, such as mental health services, parks and so forth that might get squeezed out in the budget battles.

Some folks support initiatives, like this, which could force the issue so the state might raise more revenue and deal with tax reform. I am afraid that's kind of a game of chicken. If anti tax people don't blink when K-12 pushes its way, the other needs in the state loose. In the long run, these other state services are also good for kids and education. For instance teachers need things like parks and museums as places to take class field trips to. Also, of course, without adequate social services, many of the children are less prepared to learn.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

My 2014 bike tour photos are now on line. Trip in Western Washington and Oregon



Start of 1 mile walking trail to Big Four Ice Caves east of Everett, WA.

See Trip Album here.

Also see.

Vancouver, BC. Gay Pride 2014.

And Blog Entries.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Bridge for Bellingham bike trail hoisted into place



They are finally fixing the bridge for the bike trail across Whatcom Creek just north of downtown. A year, or two ago, a fire damaged the trestle. A new bridge is being put in place and I happened to be riding by at just the right moment.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Beautiful big old trees like this as I continue my bike trip



Now in the Eugene, Oregon area. Spending some time in the McKenzie Valley.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Quantitative de eseasing?

If quantitative easing means putting more money into circulation, what is the opposite? Quantitative De easing or how about diseasing? Taking money out of circulation. On my bike trip from Bellingham to Eugene, I stopped in this bar in south west Washington where customers take money out of circulation, write on it and paste it to the ceiling. It's art. Hundreds of dollars worth. Also good food served there. Must be a common practice. Dollar behind the bar, only this is lots of money.

See also: Quantitative Easing Versus Moores Law.


Friday, August 15, 2014

At Deception Pass Bridge on my bike trip


Took the short walk on the trail under the south end of the bridge.



I got to talking various routes with these folks who were cycling from south part of Whidbey Island to Bellingham. When I mentioned my web site, they gave me high fives as they remembered my site as one of the sites with biking information about the area. They were glad to meet it's author. I'm pictured second from left with three of the people from that group.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

South leg of my 2014 bike trip begins. Heading down into Oregon.


Storefront in Mount Vernon, WA. I went through Mount Vernon on my way to Anacortes. Next headed down Whidbey Island as far as the Port Townsed Ferry.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Bombing them with water instead of butter

I remember at the start of the second Iraq war the phrase was going around to bomb them with butter and aid, rather than lethal weapons. Well, now that's happening with water and food supplies for that minority group that the ISIL has trapped in a mountain range hoping that they die of thirst. The minority groups need help and the US is offering that. At least there is some humanitarian concern out there.

Story below is a bit outdated. More recently in the news the White House has started to try and do something. Story describes the dire situation at least. Hard to know what the best strategy is to combat the hatred in this world. Story.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A "choice anxiety" situation I would not envy for Hillery Clinton

Deciding whether to run for President, or not, would be a hard decision for Hillary Clinton to make. On the one hand, a chance at being the first women US president in history. On the other hand, would her health hold up to the long and arduous campaign trail, not to mention the presidency? I'm glad I'm not in her shoes. Talk about "choice anxiety!" decisions like that can keep one up, tossing and turning, all night.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Long before Obama, Congress was impossible on immigration reform

Boehner claims that immigration reform can't happen in Congress because "the American people and their elected officials don't trust Obama to enforce the law as written." "Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue."

I, Robert, think that Obama's use of executive order is kind of a non issue. Instead, I think a lot of T-Party style Republicans have been rattled for years, including during the Bush years, by illegal immigration. This has created a "build the wall rather than reform immigration" mindset in much of Congress. There's enough "build the wall" mindset in Congress to block reform regardless of what Obama does.

It's true that some of that political mindset comes from the fact that over many years, more people have wanted to come to USA to live and work than are legally allowed by the number set in our quota for legal immigration. This was a big issue during the Bush years, ironically more than during the Obama years. Changing demographics and other factors have slowed the flow of illegal immigration during Obama's watch. Former President Bush was also hoping for immigration reform, but even he ran into congressional inaction against his proposal for a guest worker program.

Seems like everyone talks around the true issues. It has to due with certain times in our history when more people want to come to USA than our legal quotas for immigration allow. We should be asking, is the quota for legal immigration too low and not reflecting the reality of farm jobs and so forth in this country? On the other hand, maybe this country is starting to get too crowded. Maybe we are just experiencing being part of a planet that's still having population growth.

Article in Yahoo News that inspired this comment.

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's a little late, but now they are saying Bush Senior worried about sectarian division in Iraq as a reason not to go all the way, so to speak

Now they tell us.

I hear that George Bush Senior didn't go into Baghdad to topple Saddam Hussein, during Iraq war 1, because he know that destroying the Iraqi government would just lead to the type of sectarian fighting which we're seeing today.

Why wasn't this talked about before Bush Junior started the second Iraq war? Back then, people thought Bush Senior didn't go into Baghdad because it wasn't called for in the UN mandate. That mandate only called for pushing Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. Back then, a lot of people thought, "if we could only unseat Saddam Hussein, the Iraqis could build a democracy." People thought that only the limited nature of the UN mandate prevented us from, supposedly, creating a democracy in Iraq during the first war so Bush Junior thought "just no UN mandate, what a flimsy reason, let's go ahead and do it."

Well now, hindsight is better than foresight. People are saying Bush Senior thought all along that the ethnic situation in Iraq was unsolvable. If we had known that all along, maybe the second Iraq war could have been prevented.

I know, there was also the weapons of mass destruction myth and so forth, but at least the "let's bring them democracy and free them from that dictator" myth could have been avoided. I even almost bought that myth, myself, admittedly.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

When people in Iraq keep fighting each other, we are probably best to stay out

I hear in the news that the insurgents taking over in northern Iraq are even worse than Al Qaeda. Even kicked out of Al Qaeda for being too brutal. How can anything be worse than Al Qaeda? Wasn't Al Qaeda about as bad as one can get? I guess Iraq doesn't work as one country. Trying to hold it together is just a waste of money, not to mention lives. Iraq is Kurdish in the north, Sunni in north central and Shiite in the south. The most stable part is the Kurdish area. I think Iran is trying to hold Iraq together, or at least keep the Shiite leaders in power. If we (USA) do the same, we are strange bedfellows to Iran. History makes strange bedfellows. I doubt there is much we can do. Iraq is bound to disintegrate for now, except for the Kurdish section. That part seems most stable of all.

On the other hand, remember Somalia being a mess? I now hear that it's starting to get better. They're just starting to get tired of killing each other, and/or the most violent have killed one another off.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What does World Naked Bike Ride have to do with global warming? Is it a shaky philosophical stretch? My own reasons to ride.

Why bike nude, or even semi nude? There are about as many answers to this question as people who participate in the WNBR rides in various cities around the world. It's certainly an attention getter. In this world of "information overload" nude and colorful cyclists aren't as easy to ignore as a stack of manifestos.

Many will say that it's a protest against the use of fossils and global warming, but others would ask, "what does nudity have to do with global warming?" Some will say it's about body freedom and casting off the barriers, such as clothing, that often divide us.

The concept of vulnerability comes up also. Demonstrating the vulnerability of soft human bodies among the hard steel environment of cars; like the phrase "visualize bicycles." In a way, that seems like kind of a negative message. Might scare people away from bicycling in the world of steel automobiles, but there is another aspect to stepping outside the cover. Coming out of the shell can also mean exposing oneself to other people as well as positive experiences.

Going places on bike, foot, or even public transit can open one up to meeting more people. Chance conversations from stopping beside friends along a trail versus being inside the box of an automobile fighting freeway traffic. Fellow cyclists and walkers can be opportunities for interaction, versus morons blocking traffic. Last time I biked around Lake Padden, here in Bellingham, (I had my cloths on) I stopped and visited with 5 people I knew along the trail. That's partially from living in a fairly small area where I know a large percent of the population, but also it's from getting outside the box and being seen. Boxes can be suburban homes, cars or whatever. The bike is a friendly way to go.

Still, people wonder why WNBR riders go so far as to expose their genitals? Again, there are as many answers as there are people who do the rides. Not everyone goes that far. Many of the riders are actually clothed. Some, like me, wear scanty clothing (though I was more nude for the dance). Also the body paint is a big part of the rides. It's kind of like a town parade. While not everyone is painted, some of the body art is incredible. Brings lots of smiles to passersby. In 2014, Bellingham ride took place during the monthly Art Walk Friday.

Some of the riders who expose their genitals try and say that it's not related to eroticism, but I might ask, who are we trying to kid? Eroticism is a part of life and it could be the biggest draw for crowds watching the rides as well as viewing the many photos that go on line afterwards. I say, might as well use the erotic draw for something positive. Eroticism is used to sell cars, televisions and then the weight loss programs needed by folks who sit all day. Why not use this psychological energy to promote bicycling and other active lifestyles? I once heard an ad for a sleek sports car that said, "the shape you want to be in." How about promoting bicycling lifestyles in this way. Think of all the money people spend on diets.

Once we encourage more folks to bike, for personal reasons such as health and fitness, or meeting interesting folks, there is less fossil fuel burned when people are biking rather than driving. There's a connection.

Of course one need not be a supermodel to be part of the rides. It's for everyone of all shapes and sizes and its non competitive.

I think there is a big connection between dancing and bicycling and I'm glad the Bellingham WNBR ride ended with a great dance, this year (2014). If one can bike, one can dance and if one dances, especially through the dreary winter months, one is ready for biking come better weather. Both dancing and biking are good ways to keep the cobwebs from forming in our minds and bodies and also to get out and mingle with some fun folks.

My Flickr gallery from the local rides.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Another fun WNBR ride in Bellingham, 2014


An estimated 190 rode this time and possibly 1,000 lined the streets. Biggest WNBR ride in Bellingham's history.

Stay tuned for more photos and ideas. I didn't take quite as many pictures as on other rides. Too busy having a good time to work on the logistics of camera.

Here is an image someone took of me that turned out nice. I was only partially nude on the street, but totally nude for part of the dance. Maybe the dance was the best part. High energy, good music. A band named Br'er Rabbit and then a DJ. Even some old style favorites from the disco era. People throwing the leftover paint at each other.

I danced barefoot for a while, which people are asked to do at the free form dances in dance studios that I go to. Problem here is that there was gravel under the straw that they laid out on the outdoor dance space. For some people, lying on a bed of nails can be pleasure, but not as much for me, so I put my shoes back on. Most folks had their shoes on, but some neo-hippies still went barefoot.

It sure was a lot of fun clear till midnight. Maybe the dance being the best part, but all of the event was fun.

I feel very fortunate to still be enjoying the energy at this stage in my life and also fortunate for the diverse group of accepting people who did the ride, volunteered, watched the ride and the community of Bellingham for allowing it. Special thanks to Zach Roberson for being at the focal point of the rides each year.

Some of my images from the rides in Bellingham.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Bellingham naked and clothing optional ride on Friday June 6th 2014


Very good article in Bellingham Herald. Interview with my friend Zach.

The sixth annual Naked Bike Ride on Friday, June 6, will, in fact, have people wearing clothes.

"A lot of people plan to wear clothes," said Zach Robertson, one of the event organizers. "It's 'clothing optional,' so no one has to go naked. It's more of a space for people who want to be naked to be naked."

Body painting starts at 4 p.m. and there will be a legal debrief and a raffle before the bike ride at 6 p.m.

The route is set to start at the Hub Community Bike Shop on North State Street and loop around downtown on streets including Holly Street, F Street, Dupont Street and Railroad Avenue. Click here for a map of the exact route.

Everyone is welcome to participate in the bike ride regardless of how they feel about their body, Robertson said.

"I hear a lot of people say, 'No, my body's not good enough for this,' and it makes me sad," he said. "It's through the naked bike ride that you realize the human body is not very exotic and it's also not taboo. It's mundane."

The naked ride starts a lot of important conversations, Robertson said. For example, there's not much difference between a bicyclist wearing clothes and a bicyclist not wearing clothes, but the ride draws attention to driving safety around bicyclists. It's also an opportunity to talk about issues with fossil fuels and body image. Those, organizers say, are the reasons behind the ride, which is part of a worldwide movement.

Robertson said he hasn't heard anyone accuse them of looking for an excuse to go naked in public, but social change often brings criticism.

"We're looking to be as gentle and communicative with people as possible. When you're doing something different, there's often a critique," he said. "But it raises a conversation that needs to be had."

About 120 people participated in the bike ride last year, Robertson said. This year Chelle Beautiful will be available to body paint anyone who calls in advance at 360-599-5036.

See more details on web site.

Link to article.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A person like god would have gotten awful bored waiting for Earth to get more interesting

I would think that a personal god, in our image, would have gotten awful bored waiting around so long to create us humans for his entertainment. If he existed, he must have spent the longest time watching over billions of years when earth's inhabitants were mostly bacteria, molds, insects and small creatures. Then there were things like the dinosaurs, but I doubt their conversation was that interesting. Maybe he would have had to duck across the universe to other planets where more interesting, human style, things were going on for all that time. I'm thinking "human centric," right now. I doubt such a human like creature of a god ever existed. Not in the form we imagine at least.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Remembering "all your base are belong to us" in light of the Bellingham tortilla fad

There is a mystery fad in Bellingham. Tortillas in various spots around downtown as if placed by a prankster or an artist. Lots of folks talking about this, creating Facebook groups and so forth.

Reminds me of a silly video that went viral a few years back. A picture from my web site got used in that video. News stories were a "flash in the pan" of national TV and magazines for a bit. Watching that video these many years later brings me on a "retro early 2000s computer culture trip."

Last week, the tortilla talk turned toward whether this whole thing is a racial slur. Are tortillas appearing around town to harass Hispanic people?

Who knows. The person, or persons, placing the tortillas have not been identified so no motive is known.

That early 2000s video may have had some international slur to it as well. Turns out the video is making fun of a Japanese game company which marketed a product in USA and didn't translate it into English very well. A phrase from the game reads, "All Your Base Are Belong To Us." That phrase is the basis for the entire video.

My image is just one of many images in that video, but it is now the thumbnail on the You Tube entry. Original sign on my web site said, "Bad Route Road." I passed this sign during my 1993 bicycle trip across USA. Original picture. The video doctored that sign.

Enjoy.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Solar energy proposals, such as Oklahoma SB 1456, bring questions to my mind

Is it worthwhile for people, with home solar installations, to sell power to the power grid during periods when the solar installations are producing extra power? Maybe the cost of safely collecting this power, from all these small sources, is higher than the value of that power? See more article below picture.


Solar collectors on a house I biked past today. Power line in the background.

I keep reading about utilities that now wish to charge a fee to customers who have home wind or solar installations. A fee for selling power back to the grid. Wouldn't this mean that the utility just doesn't pay for that power anymore? Currently the utility credits the customer for that power. Right? Maybe they just want to credit the customer less? None of this has been explained very well.

One wonders what the true economics is behind these proposals, or if utilities, in some states, are just trying to wipe out alternative energy? Are they all friends to the evil Koch Brothers? Is this just a sinister plot, or is there some real economics behind these proposals?

Is it really worthwhile to sell power back to the grid? If the costs are higher than the benefit, why would anyone want to do this? If utilities start charging the owners of rooftop solar panels for the privilege of sending their power back to the grid, wouldn't the owners of the rooftop panels just not send that extra power to the utility? Wouldn't they just use their solar panels for their own power and use power from the power grid at times when the solar doesn't provide enough power, but not try to sell the extra power back to the grid?

This brings up the question of storage, which is also a bit expensive, but coming down in price also (like solar panels). Maybe it's better for the owners of small rooftop operations to find a way to store energy, during times of excess power from the solar collectors, rather than selling it back to the grid? Is storage a better strategy than selling power back to the grid? Storage, such as batteries within the home, for times when less solar power is available; such as for use at night.

These proposals, such as Oklahoma SB 1456, that keep cropping up in a few states, bring questions to my mind.

Finally, an article that explains the science behind this beyond just the politics. Explaining the problem some utilities face integrating distributed solar into their power grids. The need for better storage. Thanks to a reader for pointing this out. Vanadium: The metal that may soon be powering your neighbourhood BBC News Magazine June 13 2014.