Saturday, August 13, 2016

A partial die off in some areas of the world due to climate change while other parts of the world continue to flourish

A severe heatwave and drought happening in much of Middle East. Also, it's harder to cope with things like water shortages with rampant population growth. Too bad that in many of those cultures, they execute people for being gay and being different from the mainstream of society's push for procreation. It's often said that the situation in Syria is related to a severe drought. Washington Post article, I linked to, talks about the drought, heatwave and doesn't ignore the population issue. Two parts of article that stand out in my mind below.

In coming decades, U.N. officials and climate scientists predict that the mushrooming populations of the Middle East and North Africa will face extreme water scarcity, temperatures almost too hot for human survival and other consequences of global warming.

The United Nations predicts that the combined population of 22 Arab countries will grow from about 400 million to nearly 600 million by 2050. That would place tremendous stress on countries where climate scientists predict significantly lower rainfall and saltier groundwater from rising sea levels. Already, most countries in the region face acute water crises because of dry climates, surging consumption and wasteful agricultural practices.


Some of my thoughts below.

I hear people say our earth is headed for a big die off of the human species. A mass famine as nature acts to reduce our population from around 7 billion now to, say, 3 billion? That would be a lot of famine. It would take lots of famine and die offs just to keep world population around 7 billion, rather than the projected 11 billion by the end of this century. That is unless we reduce population growth and learn to accommodate people in better ways. I think there are parts of the world which do experience such severe famine that aid organizations will be totally overwhelmed, but at the same time, other parts of the world, like largely the west, can continue to flourish, for the most part. A heartbreaking discrepancy of fate depending on what part of the world one is lucky enough to be born in.

I may sound like I'm talking about a holy judgement against certain cultures. I remember Anita Bryant blaming a California drought, back in the late 1970s, on gay people.

Still, whatever culture or part of the world we live in, I feel it is important to curb population growth. Also to have open societies which encourage innovation and science. Things such as desalinization of seawater can allow many regions to continue flourishing in spite of dire predictions that some folks make about the future of humankind.

I may sound like I'm anti Arab thinking about the success of desalinization in Israel and Southern California. At the same time, I also read about success for desalinization in Saudi Arabia and places like the United Arab Emirates. I read that there is a large desalinization project being built as a result of (amazing) cooperation between Jordan and Israel.

Things like desalinization do take energy, but energy can come from solar power. The cost of providing water in this way can be high however. It is starting to pencil out, economically for urban use, but the vast amount of water needed in agriculture is a harder nut to crack, so to speak.

As the future unfolds, much of agriculture is likely to migrate. If the "new normal" for places like California's Central Valley become too dry to grow, for instance, almonds (which take lots of water) almond production can relocate to other parts of the globe where water is available and climate is right. It takes a while for soils and agricultural infrastructure to adapt, but I would guess this is happening. It means that food will still be shipped thousands of miles all over the world as it is today. Possibly using transportation based on green energy. The "thousand mile salad" remains.

Come to think about it, migration of agriculture and forestry practices has happened here in the Pacific Northwest of USA. This region used to be the biggest timber producing area of the country, but many of our local forests have been clear cut and population growth has created more demand for use of remaining timber lands for wilderness preservation, watershed and tourism activities. The lumber industry has been migrating to southeastern states, such as Georgia, where tree farming is done like row cropping.

Another hero technology for the future will be vertical farming. Yes, growing crops inside where less water is needed. Problem again is the cost. The economic systems, in most parts of the world, favor doing things in the cheapest way. Vertical farming can't compete with cheaper methods, but why do we always have to use the cheapest method for producing our food and energy? Here in much of the west, money is saved using the cheapest methods for producing, say, energy and then the extra savings often goes into things like inflating property values. The real estate bubble could partially be attributed to things like low prices and low taxes in some sectors of the economy providing lots of excess wealth to certain portions of the population to use in bidding up house prices. Money saved on doing things the cheapest way also goes into world military spending, of course.

I think, in Germany, they do more to control run away house value inflation, but they do pay more for electricity than many parts of the world. This allows them to produce more of their electricity from solar; which given current situations is still more expensive than power production from fossil fuel. Maybe the Germans can afford to spend more money producing their energy in better ways, rather than just the cheapest ways. I'd guess they can do this by controlling waste and run away inflation in other sectors of their economy.

Global warming, human greed and bigotry are causing much famine in parts of the world, while other regions will be able to adapt and even still flourish. Much of it will have to do with attitudes about sexuality and population as well as attitudes about innovation and technology. The agility and adaptability of societies is an important factor. Being open to change, versus being stuck in tradition can be a strategy to cope with and reduce climate change. Change can often mean a brighter future as well.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Finding work without an impressive resume, or any resume? Could be the hand up for homeless people.

Yes, a good idea. The program called "There's a Better Way."

This Republican mayor has an incredibly simple idea to help the homeless. And it seems to be working.
Washington Post.

Employ the homeless. Instead of asking the homeless to go out looking for work when many of them have spotty resumes and feel dispirited, the city could bring the work to them.

Good idea from (somewhat surprisingly to me) a Republican mayor. Mayor Richard Berry of Albuquerque, NM has a way of resolving a big problem. The problem of trying to get a job when one's resume isn't impressive and maybe one hasn't even taken a bath for a while. Working isn't necessarily that hard. What's hard is the process of finding a job. We ask folks who are down in the dumps to sell themselves in a competitive job market. Why can't we just bypass that process and give them a job? Go to work without having to navigate the difficult "job finding application, interview and selling ones self" process. This program provides jobs for the homeless. Shovel ready, so to speak. Helps them get a start working. Seems like a good idea that could be replicated in other cities.

I've thought of a similar idea that I would call "sheltered workshop." It's like a job for everyone. A place that can employ people who are on the margins of the job market. Help them get acclimated to working and also add things to their resume. Work around disabilities and so forth.

Why hasn't it worked before? It does take funding to create the jobs. The program in Albuquerque has a limited number of jobs available. There are hopes to expand it. Make it available to more people.

Also, of course, it helps to have affordable housing in the area. In some cities, the housing is getting so expensive that lots of people remain homeless even when they have a job.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

I think most of Green Party candidate Jill Stein's goals could be accomplished with Hillary Clinton if there was consensus among American people for these goals

Green Party candidate Jill Stein interviewed on first part of Diane Rehm Show. Second part was about 3rd parties in America.

Personally, I still feel that many of Jill Stein's goals could be accomplished with Hillary Clinton as president. Main problem is, there just isn't a consensus among the American people and Congress (of course) to accomplish these goals. American people are very divided. There are many conservatives which pull in different directions. Libertarians and so forth.

One of the goals that Jill Stein would like to see accomplished is more spending on infrastructure; especially green technology. She feels global warming is an emergency and we need a strong push toward a greener economy. Good goals, but many of the American people are less convinced. They wouldn't want to pay for this. I feel that if the people, and Congress, were in support of these goals, we could go that direction even with Clinton in the White House. It would be harder with Trump.

In my opinion, it's not really the leaders that are the problem; especially most of the leaders that are Democrats. The problem is lack of consensus among the American people for doing these things. We need major cultural changes in our society. Changes at the grass roots level.

In second part of this Diane Rehm show the point came up that last time a new political party was created that won the presidency was when the Republicans replaced the Wigs back just before Lincoln's time. We're kind of stuck with 2 parties at the presidential level. Changes happen, tho, within the parties. Bernie Sanders has had a strong impact on the Democratic Party. Donald Trump is effecting and possibly imploding the Republican Party. Who knows, maybe we'll get a replacement for the Republican Party, but I'm not holding my breath.

Meanwhile polls seem to indicate, so far, most Bernie Sanders supporters are following him to support Hillary Clinton now that Sanders has endorsed Clinton. Maybe, in some cases reluctantly, but a new CNN poll shows 91% of Bernie Sanders supporters are now backing Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Good news from Canada where many lifestyles can respect one another. The prime minister even attends Pride Parades.

The Vancouver GLBTQ Pride Parade is a big deal. Over half a million participants and spectators. I've been there, in years past. This year, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau was in the parade, as prime minister. He's been there before he became prime minister also.

Now, let's hope, someday, that the president of Turkey, for instance, would attend a pride parade. That president is currently Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan. No, they teargassed the 2016 attempts to have a pride parade in Istanbul, Turkey this year.

Hurray for Canada and the more open minded nations of the world.

How a country treats it's LGBTQ people can be used as a litmus test toward how truly democratic it is. Where lots of different kinds of people, cultures, religions and lifestyles can live together in peace. Canada does very well. The US isn't that far behind.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Federal Reserve pumping up an animal balloon. Jobs in the hard to inflate appendages.


My crude attempt at making a cartoon (collage) about the economy. Collage as parts are borrowed images from the net; from people that can draw better than me.

Cartoon is about how Federal Reserve pumps money into the economy to, supposedly, nurture good jobs. Problem is, the new money mostly goes into inflating housing and asset bubbles; like blowing up a balloon. The parts of the balloon where good jobs would happen are constricted while the center part is, possibly headed for another 2008 style explosion.

A big problem with the economy are the clamps and restrictions in the way of good jobs. Environmental restrictions due to global warming and people's aversion to seeing change in their neighborhoods. Another restriction has to do with Congress clamping down on domestic spending due to deficit worries. The third clamp is business leaders worried about uncertainty and the feedback loop of soft markets.

Meanwhile, it seems like house values keep going up in many areas. Asset values go up, but work pays less and less relative to the overall economy.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Police relations with GLBTQ community seem better than with some segments of Black community

Black Lives Matter Vancouver wants police float out of Pride parade.

Not being black, myself, I do have problems understanding the hostility toward police from Black Lives Matter. Seems like that hostility would be better directed against the gentrification and spiraling cost of living in so many cities. Economic forces that are pushing low income people, with a disproportionate share of racial minorities, out of cities. In some cases, the police are the visible edge of this gentrification, but I see them as being caught in the difficult problems also.

Seems like relations between police and most of the GLBTQ community are much better than relations between police and much of the African American community. Police representation in GLBTQ parades has become another way of legitimatizing the GLBTQ movement. The police, major politicians and now big corporations join in the gay pride parades. I have heard, tho, that the big city pride parades have gone corporate. They've become big money, corporate affairs. A hazard of success in our society, unfortunately.

Here in Bellingham, things are much smaller and more manageable. The big corporate money hasn't found our parade yet. We're a backwater. The parade is small. There wasn't a big (imposing looking?) police float, but I did hear that the police / fire department brought out a historic fire engine to be in the parade. Kind of funky and nice.

I'm not sure If I'll go to Vancouver's Pride Parade this year, tho it's during my vacation and within bicycling distance. The cost of staying in the city has become ridiculous. Maybe that's what people should be protesting.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Historic moment about GLBTQ issues at 2016 Republican National Convention

At around the 37 minute mark in Donald Trump's acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican Presidential Convention was an interesting segment. Talk about protecting GLBTQ people. I think this was the first positive mention of GLBTQ folks from a Republican presidential nominee. Historic. Of course the Democrats and Obama have been speaking positive about GLBTQ people for years, but this is a first from the Republican podium.

As part of Trump's "law and order / public safety" theme, he talked about the need to protect our GLBTQ people from the likes of the murderer who killed 49 folks in that Orlando Bar. Talking about this, he presented a very simplistic take on the issue. He made it sound like an Islamic terrorist had come to Orlando to open fire on GLBTQ people. In reality, it's a more complicated issue. The Orlando murderer's father is from Afghanistan, but seems like there was no international terrorism plot. The father was horrified by his son's actions even though the father, himself, does believe that homosexuality is sinful due to his conservative religious beliefs.

This Orlando situation kind of reminds me of the contention, which some gay rights activists make, that conservative religious views create a general climate for disrespect of GLBTQ people which can lead to violence. Religious conservatives usually refuse to make that connection. Conservatives will say that the freedom of speech to point out where they think their scriptures prohibit homosexuality does not relate to disrespect or violence against GLBTQ people. I think the father was taking that position with his faith of Islam. Similar attitudes exist within conservative versions of Christianity as well.

So there isn't some big Islamic conspiracy behind Orlando, as Trump hinted at. It's a bit more complicated with the murderer having frequented the bar himself and said to even have used gay apps on his phone. It seems like more the case of a confused, lone individual. An individual with access to guns, of course. No mention, in Donald Trump's speech, about gun registration.

Still, it's fairly significant that GLBTQ people were championed (so to speak) from even the Republican podium. Also significant that the crowd of Republican delegates was cheering. A historic moment, even though the message gave an inaccurate impression that the US had been invaded. Invaded by organized Islamic terrorists from abroad. 911 was such an invasion, but not everything, including Orlando, should be viewed in as much of a war oriented way.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Police in the news. Here's something the bloggers are talking about in this Northwest Washington area.

I might as well put in my two bits also.

In our multi cultural society, misunderstandings can easily happen due to language barriers and so forth. An incident, in Sedro-Woolley, WA. has been creating buzz in media, talk shows and so forth; especially in this era of talk about police / minority relations. For a while, it was thought that police wouldn't be welcome as customers at Lucky Teriyaki in Sedro-Woolley. Apparently, this was just a misunderstanding due to language barrier.

From Seattle PI it says.

While the deputies were eating, an employee noticed some customers at another table had spilled some soup and water, the owners said through an interpreter. The employee couldn't understand why the customers were getting upset and wondered if it was because the deputies were sitting nearby, they said. An employee asked the deputies if they were about to leave.

An employee didn't understand when law enforcement later tried to clarify what had happened, the owners said through an interpreter.


Law enforcement personnel are still very welcome in that restaurant.

I guess it sounded, to some of the law enforcement people, that they didn't want law enforcement folks eating in the restaurant and word quickly spreads around. That isn't the case. With language barriers, it's hard to articulate and clearly understand the subtleties of these situations.

It's another argument for life in the slow lane. Slow down and try to understand what's happening. Our fast paced culture gets especially harder with things like language barriers.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My photos from 2016 Bellingham Pride are posted on Flickr

See Bellingham Pride Album.



After biking back from a somewhat unrelated, but also very fun dance at the Lookout Mountain Arts Quarry on Friday, my friend Josh and me had pizza slices at La Fiama Pizza. Also available were rainbow cookies as it was Pride Weekend in Bellingham. Most of the pride festivities were on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Personally I don't hate the 1%. I just want a saner economy. Glad Sanders and Clinton are working together

Even though Clinton is a 1%er, herself, I (Robert) personally don't hate 1%ers. I just think we need better economic planning to not be afraid of raising their taxes. I would say (even though it isn't in this article) no more Grover Norquist (the guy having members of Congress sign that pledge not to raise taxes).

Article inspiring my comment, Sanders drags Clinton into his war on the 1 percent.

From article it says.

Sanders shook up the party with his rants on corporate greed and his calls for an expanded welfare state, but he still couldn’t displace the stolid establishmentarian who has served as Secretary of State, New York senator and First Lady.

Sanders does hope, however, that Clinton will join him in attacking America’s elites and pursuing ways to spread the wealth more broadly. “Hillary Clinton understands we must fix an economy that is rigged and sends most income gains to the top 1 percent,” Sanders thundered during his endorsement speech. “Hillary Clinton understands that if someone in America works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty.”


Also in article it says.

But the revolution against the 1% was misdirected in the first place. It’s not really the top 1% of earners who are capturing all the income gains in the US economy. Hard data shows it’s more like the top 40%. “The notion that only the 1% are doing well is ridiculous,” says economist Stephen Rose of the Urban Institute.” The real wealth gap, he says, is between the top 40% of earners, who tend to have the skills to succeed in the digital knowledge economy, and the bottom 60%, who have less relevant skills.

I see a lot of truth in economist Stephen Rose's talk about the 40%. It's the growing gaps between all income classes that's a big problem.

I'd add that rising house values can add significantly to the gaps. Gaps between renters and owners, more struggle for first time home buyers, gaps between regions.

Rather than just hating 1 class of people, we need better economic policies. Better distribution of wealth, better partnership between government and private sector, investment in domestic infrastructure and so forth.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Finally, a listing honestly says Bellingham, WA. among worst cities in America. Cost of living versus wages.

Interesting Bellingham Herald article. Is Bellingham among the worst cities in America?

Finally, a pretty honest listing that might give some folks pause about moving to Bellingham.

From article it says. The study found that “a typical home in (Bellingham) is valued at more than $300,000, considerably higher than the national median home value of $181,200. While this suggests some level of prosperity among residents, compared to area income levels, area housing is not particularly affordable. The median home value is 7.3 times greater than the median income, making Bellingham one of the least affordable cities in the country.”

Also.

While the city scored well for educational attainment – 43.7 percent of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree – Bellingham’s higher-than-average poverty rate also was a negative. In Bellingham, 21.4 percent of residents live in poverty, far more than the national rate of 15.5 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

I'm lucky to be among the few non owners in affordable housing. There are some good things about living here. Friends, activities, dancing, bike riding and so forth, but it's a very hard city to become established in. Expensive housing, due in part to it's popularity as a retirement and college community. Hard to find a niche for middle aged workers, but if one has found a niche and an affordable place to live, it can be nice. A bit of the "Seattle Chill," however. North westerners can seem quite withdrawn and even clickish at first.

Here's this from another ranking in article.

Bellingham rated 15th among the 25 most hungover cities in America, according to businessinsider.com. Using business and research data, the site says 7.9 percent of people in Bellingham admitted to heavy drinking and 19.6 percent admitted to binge drinking. The city also rated high in the number of bars, alcohol stores and alcoholic-beverage-producing establishments per capita.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

After 2016 WNBR bike ride in Bellingham



Another fun time among and estimated 380 riders. This photo taken afterwards. See my writing on Flickr. Yes, mostly writing this year.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Is Bellingham holding out too long for the high wage jobs?

Two port commissioners have temporarily (at least) halted a hotel plan for Bellingham's Central waterfront redevelopment. Plan put forth by Harcourt Developments. These two commissioners want to hold out for the possibility of something else; higher paid industrial, rather than hotel type jobs? Bellingham's been waiting a long time, but seems like high paid business tends not to locate in this type of city anymore. Maybe we should try and make Bellingham more affordable, rather than keep waiting for those high paid jobs that don't materialize?

I've heard that, in this day and age, high paid business tends to want to cluster into major metropolitan areas. Places where there are ports with containerized cargo cranes. Big manufacturing, or information type business also wants to be close to international airport hubs and "big time" research universities like Stanford. Bellingham may be relegated to the backwater class. Low wage jobs seem inevitable. We have education, recreation and retirement, but not a major research university.

Bellingham may just have to learn to live affordably and possibly take what it can get. One of the problems is, of course, housing, in Bellingham, is getting too expensive for the local job market. This is a problem in many parts of the nation as well. In Bellingham, it's driven by our city being a popular retirement destination. Rather than creating affordable and sustainable communities, much of American culture tries to hold out for the promise of higher wage jobs. Progress is good, but pounding one's head against the wall gets old after while. As a culture, we do make progress with things like gay rights and also the new technologies, like smartphones, that become available; even available to low income folks. These technologies create high wage jobs for only a small elite of workers. Workers mostly located in select metropolitan areas. As for the rest of us, we need to stop waiting and start learning how to live with the opportunities we have. In some cases, the inexpensive opportunities.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My review of a NASA video about Juno mission to Jupiter

My psychology is different than most of the movie going public. This trailer, about NASA's upcoming Jupiter mission, has been touted as a great breakthrough in NASA public relations. Good Hollywood appeal, but for me, it just adds to my anxiety level.

It stresses the dangers of going into orbit, at Jupiter, with the radiation belts and so forth. Like The Terminator, or something. Action, suspense, scary. On the edge of one's seat. Personally, I hope it's not that risky. I'm looking forward to some real interesting pictures and findings if (which I hope is likely) the mission succeeds. July 4th is the date that Juno goes into orbit around Jupiter.



I feel odd doubting information that NASA has provided, in this trailer, but it does say that no other spacecraft has gone as close to Jupiter's treacherous environs as Juno is planning to do. Well, I remember the last orbiter of Jupiter named Galileo. It included a probe that plunged right into Jupiter's atmosphere and worked okay regardless of the radiation belts. It worked till being crushed, as planned, by the inevitable pressures of falling into Jupiter's atmosphere. We got good data out of that and the orbiter continued for many years after. Galileo had one handicap that Juno doesn't have to deal with. A malfunctioning antenna on the Galileo Probe required lots of slow workarounds for sending data back to Earth. Luckily, that mission lasted so long (bonus time well beyond it's design date) that it was able to accomplish it's goals in spite of the slow data link. Galileo was somewhat crippled even from the start, but Juno is (as far as I know) in excellent shape.

Looking forward to (hopefully) smooth sailing for the Juno Spacecraft that's about to reach Jupiter on July 4.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Oil train going through Bellingham. Who remembers the Northern Tier Pipeline proposal?


Unlike the coal trains that carry coal for export to Asia, I hear that the oil trains rumbling through Bellingham are serving the Pacific Northwest market. Bringing oil to our local refineries from places like North Dakota. Mostly for consumption in Seattle and various cities and towns of the Pacific Northwest. Keeping the cars on the road which, unfortunately, still rely on fossil fuel. In the past, much of our consumption was served by Alaskan oil, but more of today's oil is coming from North Dakota. It goes by train where there's no pipeline.

Ironically, old timers might remember the plans to build a pipeline from our refineries to North Dakota and points east. The proposal to build Northern Tier Pipeline back in late 1970s early 1980s. That pipeline was seen as a way to bring Alaskan oil from west coast ports to markets in the Midwest. If Northern Tier corridor was here today, it could be working in reverse. Bringing North Dakota oil to the west. Back in it's day, no one was thinking of sending the oil west. Since then, Alaskan oil has diminished and North Dakota production has flourished; like slash, burn and move on. Resource extraction patterns change over the years.

I remember my seatmate on a Greyhound Bus around 1981. He was a public relations person for Northern Tier. Full of stories about hiking, hunting and fishing. His spiel was about being an outdoor enthusiast and saying the pipeline wouldn't harm the environment. However, in 1983, Republican Governor John Spellman, of Washington State, rejected Northern Tier's application saying it would endanger the ecology of Puget Sound.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Grieving for the people in Orlando Florida

There definitely does seem to be a problem of intolerance and violence within Islam. A higher percentage of intolerance in Islam than other traditions. A factor that can't be whitewashed. At the same time, it wouldn't do much good to get into a comparison battle. I would guess that most of the people in Islam, as well as other faiths, are non violent and well meaning. Still, with each belief system, including Christianity, there are problems of rigid interpretations and fundamentalism. The big 3 religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity have old writings that are associated with them. These writings came from rough times when folks thought the world was smaller. Slavery was common, women were less respected and tribalism was a big thing. Scientific reason was less available. I think there needs to be some serious critique of how religious people use these old dogmas. How open, or closed minded are people these days? Do they think they have the absolute truth? Do they think the people in their group are always right and everyone else is wrong? These are questions that everyone needs to consider tho it does seem like the problem of close mindedness is more prevalent in Islam at this time in history. It may be more prevalent, but it is a problem in all belief systems.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Artificial intelligence helping us to look deeper into black holes


Wikimedia public domain illustration from NASA.

Using the artificial intelligence of computers to piece together things we really can't quite see.

There is a science project to try and see down deeper into a black hole. This is not easy to see as it's so small in physical size and so far away. Black holes are big in terms of mass, but small in terms of physical size. They are also obscured by lots of stuff. Very hard to see from our distant vantage point here on Earth.

Using computers to piece together data from radio telescopes across the world, more information becomes available.

Then artificial intelligence can work; like human intelligence works when piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. We have some idea of what the finished puzzle is supposed to look like; a human face, a barn or whatever. This helps us to find missing pieces and take an educated guess at what the pieces we don't find would look like. Some pieces we just have to guess at since they fell out of the box during shipment (to continue the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle). The box this puzzle comes in was shipped a long ways; like thousands of light years. Filling in the pieces and guessing about other pieces we don't have begins to fill in a pretty good image; so we hope.

Just think of some of the other imaging and research that artificial intelligence can contribute to. A bit scary in terms of us being superseded, but, more optimistically, new tools for more exploration and knowledge.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

A new path across part of Bellingham. Crosses under freeway.


A new path opens across part of Bellingham. Even connects two sides of town by crossing under the freeway. West end of path is just off Orchard Place, along the north side of Orchard Drive just north of Cornwall Park. Heads out east to the King Mountain area. To James Street Road. Yes, there's a road named after a street.

The new path is part of the corridor of trail that they've been trying to develop for years. The Bay To Baker Trail. Parts of the trail are being built and other parts are, but a dream. Progress is slowly being made. I visited there with my friend Josh who took the picture.


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Trump worries that his wall of political baggage will effect his court case

In my book, whether one can be defined as a racist, or not, is kind of a window dressing issue. An issue of image and terminology. Being mean spirited is the real problem. Congressman Paul Ryan has stated that Trump's comments are racist while Mitch McConnell squirms another direction. Aside from terminology, there's lots of mean spirited politics. Some on both sides, but I think of a lot of mean stuff on the Republican side. Refusing to even hold hearings for a Supreme Court nominee, the scorched earth campaign tactics from the likes of Carl Rove, shutting down the government, slashing needed safety nets, the iron clad total anti tax pledge of Grover Norquist, gerrymandering of voting districts; which I'll admit Democrats have a hand in also. Politics has gotten too much "playing hard ball." Racism? We make a big deal over that word, but maybe it's just another line item in the list.

I also think Trump may have painted himself into a corner on the issue of building the wall. He can't loose face and let go of it, tho maybe realizing, somewhere, it's impracticality. It does cause serious political liability with the large portion of America's population that is of Hispanic heritage. Not only voters, but a lot of judges will, of course, be Hispanic also. The lottery of life has provided a Hispanic judge for Donald Trump's court case about Trump University. I guess one can see why Trump is concerned. Trump must feel that judge should recuse himself, given the controversy swirling around Trump's "wall of political baggage." I try and even understand where Trump is coming from. I guess it's fairly common practice for defense lawyers to reject various jurors for many reasons, including dubious reasons, in the attempt to strive for a fair and objective trial.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Look to Congress, rather than the president, for taxing the rich

It would be nice to have a president pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy, but wait a minute, it's Congress that levies taxes. The president can only recommend, as far as I know from what the constitution prescribes. Congress passes the tax laws. Who gets into Congress is important.

Bernie Sanders had the strongest positions for taxing the wealthy, but what could he do without Congress? Now that it doesn't look like he will get the Democratic Party nomination, the energy behind him should really be directed at changing Congress. I believe Hillary Clinton would make a good president even though she is more of a middle ground compromise than Bernie Sanders. A lot does depend on who is in Congress. It may be less glamorous than the presidential race, but Bernie's supporters ought to be thinking about Congressional races also.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Will north leg of Boulevard Park Walkway ever be built?


While Bellingham residents are, for the most part, celebrating the likely death of a coal port that was proposed, near town, the extension of Boulevard Park "over water" walkway may be dead as well. Lummi Indian concern about tidelands and fishing habitat is credited with saving our region from the perils of a coal terminal, but it also has lead to more paperwork and complexity when building anything on our waters. The Lummi's have been, at least, slow to sign off on the project. Other concerns cropped up as well so the whole thing has been stalled in delays. Now it looks like time has expired on some important federal and state grants so that pot of money has evaporated. According to an editorial in Cascadia Weekly's, Gristle column of 5/25/2016 "Roads To Nowhere", it looks like the walkway is dead.

The south "over water" walkway was completed several years ago and is a very popular attraction. The north walkway would have helped in development of Bellingham's central waterfront left behind when Georgia Pacific Pulp Mill closed. Plans for redeveloping that piece of waterfront are progressing at a snail's pace.

As for bicycle and pedestrian trail connections across our city, the walkway would have been redundant. We already have the South Bay Trail that pretty much goes the same route. Still, the "over water" walkway would have been a popular amenity for tourists and economic development in the waterfront. Also, it would have provided a level pedestrian / bike connection along the waterfront avoiding a gradual hill up into downtown Bellingham.

Maybe someday, as the central waterfront gets more developed, the proposal will come alive again.

I took the above photo near where that walkway was proposed.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Wide income gap and unhealthy lifestyles buffet Obama's well intended attempt to increase access to healthcare

I don't really agree with the slant of this opinion piece, but it does bring up some hard truths about high costs and insurance plans pulling out of Obamacare. My take on it is that medicine, in America, is too expensive. The Obamacare program has been a well intended attempt to increase the number of folks with health insurance. As medical costs have been rising for decades and the income gap keeps growing, many folks have had no insurance. Attempts to correct that problem are very difficult to do at best; sort of like trying to put a smiley face on a toxic waste barrel. Healthcare has become too expensive, income disparity is too wide, post war baby boom generation is reaching older ages, American lifestyles are too unhealthy, healthcare is being overused in may cases. There needs to be a lot of deep changes in our culture, beyond just shuffling the insurance and government bureaucracies, to bring better health and broader access to care when we need it.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

I think KUOW is better off not spending all that money to buy KPLU

KPLU Radio, in Tacoma, is to remain independent from Seattle's KUOW. I'm glad to see this. Not because I listen to KPLU, but because I listen to KUOW.

KUOW was planning to buy KPLU, but Friends of KPLU was able to raise enough money to buy the station on its own. All along, I was thinking, why would KUOW want to buy KPLU? Why spend $7 dollars that could be better used? I like KUOW and feared that if it spent all that money to buy KPLU, it could weaken KUOW. $7 is a lot of money to go into debt for.

I know, the long range plan was to use KPLU's revenue stream to pay back the debt; like when corporations merge, but why do this? KUOW is a good station, but did it really need to buy out another NPR station, in Puget Sound area, just to become more of a "super conglomerate?"

KUOW does a good job focusing on news and information while KPLU specializes in the music of jazz. Personally, I don't find jazz that interesting. The plan was for KUOW to run both stations, one for news talk and the other for jazz. KPLU would have dropped some of its own news programming, which was seen as redundant to KUOW.

Local translators for both stations serve far flung communities, such as Bellingham. The translators would have been shuffled a bit for less redundancy. Maybe the two stations can still work together on how they cover Puget Sound anyway; without KUOW having to own it all.

A few weeks ago, KUOW HD2 dropped it's information programming to pick up a jazz service for (I assume) KUOW's organization to get practice running a jazz station in anticipation of the merger. Deterioration of the focus on information? I was worried that we would loose KUOW2, here in Bellingham, which we don't have to use an HD radio to get. We have a translator that broadcasts that programming on 90.7 FM. Luckily, KUOW was smart enough to keep the information programming of KUOW's second feed on our translator. It just translates KUOW3 where the information programming now resides. In Seattle, KUOW2 HD is jazz and KUOW3 is information. There's even a KUOW4 HD, I guess; BBC and so forth.

I'm happy that friends of KPLU have been able to raise enough money to buy the station, not because I listen to KPLU, but because I listen to KUOW. KUOW may be stronger sticking to its focus of news and information, rather than spreading out to run a jazz station also.

Also remember that parts of this region is served by yet another NPR type station; Northwest Public Radio. It happens to be based in my home town of Pullman, Washington; east of the mountains. NWPR serves parts of this region via it's own network of translators. Much of NWPR features classical music. As far as I know, it wasn't involved in any of this merger talk. NWPR also runs a large station in Tacoma which serves much of the Seattle, Tacoma area.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Cross Bellingham bike route reroute around Options High School seems okay with me

I first became aware of plans to build a new school building and it's possible effect on a bike path from Facebook friends as some neighbors in that area were concerned about the plans. Yes, population keeps growing. Immigration happens and Bellingham is growing. New schools and so forth are being built. Studying the issue a bit, I come to the conclusion that I often come to. With planning, new buildings are not always bad. The bike path can remain with it's route altered. Other neighborhood fears about this growth do exist, of which the bike path is just one symbolic topic, but, personally, I don't see much cause for alarm about this new building. I'll admit I don't live directly in that neighborhood, but I do support peaceful means of transport across our city.

Letter (email) I wrote to city officials about this news.

I have been hearing about plans to build a new building for Options High School east of Bellingham High School including plans to vacate the bike path east of Bellingham High School. I hope the connection of this cross town bike route can be maintained even though I realize that the specific route might change.

The cross town route I am thinking of connects South Bay Trail to Railroad Trail. It is a combination of trail and fairly bike friendly road. Basically going from south of Fairhaven District along South Bay Trail to Railroad Avenue. Then across the new bike bridge from North end of Railroad, then past Bellingham High School to along Kentucky Street. Then across James at a flashing crosswalk to turn north again on Nevada. Then under Alabama Street (avoids having to cross Alabama) to trail head for Railroad Trail.

I notice lots of use for this route so I hope it can be preserved. I'll admit even without the Bellingham High Bike Path, I sometimes use Grant Street to make the connection between Ohio and Kentucky. I hear that even Grant Street may become more narrow and/or busy with the new school plan.

Even if changes have to be made, I hope you can find a way to preserve the connection of this cross town bike route in that area.

Old route that is being moved. I've mapped it out on both streets and paths.



City plan for changing route included in their response to my letter.





Response I got.

Dear Mr. Ashworth,

Thank you for your interest and concern regarding the realignment of the trail between Kentucky Street and Ohio Street. I am including an edited version of the map that you sent to illustrate to you how the bicycle and pedestrian connection will be retained, but will simply shift about 200 feet east to Franklin Street.

Here's a little background:

· The School District asked the voters to fund the reconstruction of Options High School in 2013 and it was approved.

· The School District had a pre-application with staff from many City Departments (Planning, Public Works, Fire, Police, Building, etc.) in October 2015 at which they asked if realigning the trail was a possibility and explained why it was needed. In addition to construction an actual school building for the 105 students that have been educated in 7 portable buildings for the past 22 years, the School District will be constructing a regulation-sized soccer field so that Bellingham High School can host soccer games. The 12 feet of the trail easement is need to meet the field specifications.

· For student security, it is not very appropriate to have a public pathway channeling random people into and through a high school campus where several hundred students are studying and playing. This does not happen at any other high school campus in Bellingham.

· There is an option to shift the trail to a half-block section of Franklin Street between Kentucky Street and Iowa Street, which is already being used by walkers and bicyclists as evidenced by the worn pathway between the existing trail and Franklin Street. The half-block of Franklin Street will be marked as a Bike Blvd, the same as Kentucky, Grant, Ellis, and Young. The School District will construct a 10-foot wide sidewalk along Franklin Street on the east side of the new Options High School building, which will allow lighting to be provided, which does not exist on the trail. This will be safer and more comfortable for pedestrians.

The Bellingham Public Works and Parks Departments met with School District officials several times over the past 6 months and are recommending the relocation/realignment of the trail to Franklin Street. Rest assured, there will always be a bicycle and pedestrian connection here.

Chris Comeau, AICP Certified Transportation Planner.