Monday, December 05, 2022

Guns, substations and drag queens? Connecting some dots of speculation at least, about North Carolina

The power outage in North Carolina is in the news. I guess substations can be vulnerable to firearms and firearms are rampant in USA.

Then I read that there is speculation relating this crime to protests against a drag show. Speculation, but some connections. Drag show had to proceed in darkness.

I think about vulnerability of the power system in Ukraine as well. The power system being attacked by Russia who, feels threatened being surrounded by more openness in the west.

Bad marks on the right from many directions. Proliferation of guns and I think substations can be vulnerable, let alone people.

Then the issue of prejudice against dragshows. At least speculation I have read in the news.

Add to that the power situation with the war between Russia and Ukraine. I make that connection. Russia feeling threatened by the changing world as I read they aren't that keen on drag queens either.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Cooling the over heated asset and housing markets. Probably the main tool the Fed has to try and dampen inflation.

A major tool that the Federal Reserve has to try and control inflation is the Fed's influence on interest rates.

I would guess that the primary effect that rising interest rates has is to cool down asset prices. Inflation in existing home values; for instance. Homes are an asset. Home value/price inflation has been rampant for decades.

As time goes on, the rising cost of living creates more pressure to increase wages so people can still afford to live in an area. I would guess the Fed has less direct control over wages and most other prices in the economy, but inflating asset prices is the lever it can use to try and control the rest of inflation.

Asset price inflation also relates to stock prices and various other things that can add inflationary pressure to the economy. If interest rates are too low, corporations are (I would guess) more likely to add to their capital costs by buying out one another. Corporate mergers based on easy money.

With the big issue of housing, raising the interest rates can have both a positive "anti inflation" effect, but it can also have a negative, "more inflation" effect.

High interest rates can reduce the supply of housing by putting a damper on new construction. Eventually housing supply falls behind population growth in a region which can drive up prices.

So even this tool of cooling the overheated housing market is a blunt tool. It can have the opposite of it's intended purpose. Since long time homeowners may be more apt to vote, inflation that was confined to assets was less noticed by politicians in decades past. This during the Bush, Obama, Trump years of easy money and continuing government deficits.

Now that wages have been going up, since Covid, inflation is more rampant in things like the cost of a restaurant meal or food at the grocery store. Inflation is now more "across the board."

The alarm bells are now ringing about inflation.

Quite a few other factors contribute to inflation as well, such as supply chain issues, wages, gas prices and so forth. These other factors may be less directly influenced by interest rates than inflation of assets, but it's all interconnected so it's all effected to some extent.

Gas prices are a factor, but they are influenced by a lot of things, such as the war between Russia and Ukraine. Rising interest rates may have less effect here.

Gasoline demand keeps going up while the future of oil production is in question, due to climate change. There are a lot of moving parts in an economy. Many influences and not easy to pin blame on any one factor. That's my take for today, I guess.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and just start thinking about economics.

I recently read an article about the struggle that the Fed is having bringing down growth in wages since the job market is so strong these days. They are trying to at least cool wage growth a bit.

No mention of housing in that article, but I think the bigger influence, that the Fed has, would not be about wages, but about cooling the housing and asset markets. Wages is more along for the ride.

Monday, November 28, 2022

If the new Republican House turns it's back on trying to solve climate change and trying to bring transparency to Trump's tax returns.

After many years and lots of wrangling by lawyers, each getting their fees, the Supreme Court has finally removed the last obstacle to more transparency in Donald Trump's tax returns.

The House committee investigating these things will, supposedly, gain access to the returns just in the "nick of time," before next year when the House returns to Republican rule.

Seems likely that Republicans will abolish that committee so I hope committee members have thought ahead. Maybe some Democrats can still keep access to the returns, even if the committee gets abolished.

Maybe even the public will gain access, but at least some lawmakers should be able to maintain access, hopefully.

I also hear that the Republican House is likely to abolish a committee that tries to deal with climate change. Attitude, in the Republican led House, might become "just forget about trying to address that issue." "Don't worry, be happy."

This, while the US and most other countries, in the world, continue to fall short of carbon reduction goals that were set a few years back at the Paris Climate Change Conference.

Given the fossil fuel technology we are still using today, it isn't easy to meet those goals while continuing to live in big homes and drive big cars.

There are wealthy oligarchs and upper middle class all over the world plus many of the world's poor are aspiring to have at least some of what upper middle class and the oligarchs have.

I am plenty warm in a shared building as winter arrives in Bellingham

Colder weather has arrived in Bellingham and it's nice to be in my well heated little apartment where the heat is included in my rent.

As I bike around town, I wear layers with a warm jacket as top layer. I'm still comfortable.

Where I am now, the heat is quite good, but I remember another form of public housing, back in the 1970s when my dorm room at Fairhaven College wasn't quite as warm.

Back then, I was taking physics 101 where one of the topics was about heat flow. "The second law of thermal dynamics." I remember putting that learning to practical use when I pointed a small fan at the radiator in my room. The room quickly heated up to over 70 degrees. Moving air transfers heat.

This solution wouldn't work for all heating systems, but in the case of the dorms, there was a chokepoint at the radiator in our rooms. The radiator was pretty small so it didn't have much surface area to transfer heat from the hot water, flowing through the radiator, to the air in the room. The fan brought more heat out of the passing hot water.

Were I am now, the baseboard radiator is the full width of my apartment. Plenty of room for heat transfer so no fan needed. Both places use a centralized source for the hot water. Here it's from a gas boiler on the first floor. We also have some of our energy from electric solar panels on the roof and a heat pump system they call "geothermal."

New technologies provided from various government grants.

At Western's campus, which includes the Fairhaven College Dorms, the heat comes from a central boiler plant on campus. One of my interests has been heating systems so I remember touring the steam plant at WWU back in my college years. More recently someone in maintenance, for this building, showed me around the system here.

Several years ago, there was an open house on the roof of another Bellingham Housing Authority Building. A look at the solar systems on the three Bellingham high rises. Back then, one of the tour guides was Alex Ramel who is now a state legislator.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

A better term than institutionalized racism.

I've never liked the term "institutional racism" since civil rights laws have removed overt forms of racism officially practiced by institutions. Racism still exists, but it morphs into forms that escape civil rights laws.

"Historical racism" might be a more useful term. The lingering effects of past history when racism was more institutionalized. For instance today's restrictive zoning for "single family" leading to high housing costs in so many neighborhoods. This continues to perpetuate some segregation of race based, in part, on who's grandparents were able to buy property in certain neighborhoods of the 1940s and 1950s. This effects who has access to inheritances today which still effects who can afford to live where.

Friday, November 18, 2022

World passes 8 billion population mark around the time of COP27 Climate Change Summit

World population is now passing 8 billion. Growth is said to be slowing, but still high in places like Egypt; happens to be where COP27 was held.

Population growth and climate change are seen as causes for larger migrations of people in future years.

I saw one article saying this leads to political pushback in shortrun, but still could be a benefit to the economies and talent pools of northern countries in the long run.

I'd say we would have to fix our housing shortage and traffic problems first. USA would need to plan for more density and less dependency on the automobile to accommodate a huge flow of immigrants.

The flow exacerbated by bigoted anti human rights and anti LGBTA policies in much of the non western nations. Nations that still oppress alternatives to procreation as the only lifestyle choice.

I read that world population growth is slowing, but still high in a few nations like Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Congo.

Egypt, site of recent Climate Conference, has little land area and it's water supply, from Nile River, is in question. Growing needs up river; such as in Ethiopia, divert water.

Ethiopia is in civil war as well. There's likely to be a lot of suffering in non western nations due to population growth, bad governance and aspirations for more prosperous lives.

The issue of western nations paying reparations was a sticking point in the conference and it seems unlikely to happen. The west is struggling with it's own green transition and housing shortages.

Hopefully we can and will help the rest of the world adopt greener technology; if we adopt it ourselves which is still in question.

Maybe the rest of the world can teach us to live more simply, but that's still in question also.

I think the road to a brighter future will require big changes in thinking both in the traditional values of non western nations as well as the way space and resources are used in prosperous western nations.

Here in USA we will have to change our ways and plan for more density.

If changes happen in both the west and the non west, we can still welcome new generations and have a future.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Good thing the Democrats did better than expected in November 2022.

I'm glad the Democrats are still majority in the Senate. Democrats did better than many of the pundits and polls expected in the 2022 Midterm elections. I feared that there might be a Republican wave, but it was more of a little splash. There are jokes about Ketchup splashed on the walls of Mar-A-Lago Resort.

The Democrats at least play lip service to trying to do something about reducing climate change. My ideas aren't exactly the Democratic talking points that tend to contadict one another. Like reduce carbon footprint, but still try and have cheap gas.

Rich, yuppie neighborhood associations, often liberal, versus construction of more housing; including affordable housing. Yes the Democrats are a party of the "big tent." They seem less authoritarian that Republicans, or at least the iron fist of Mitch McConnell's nomination and confirmation process for the Supreme Court.

Within the framework of the big tent, I can function. The outcome of the tent may not always represent me, but it does seem like, as President Biden has said, democracy itself could be in the balance.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Face to face communication more popular than Metaverse

In the living room of my childhood home was a plant called the Split Leaf Philodendron. New leaves would appear, at the top, as it reached for the ceiling. Soon it got there and mom said, "it's a nice plant, but where is it going to go next?"

That might be what's happening to Facebook as well as the rest of the world economy. Can one keep growing on a limited planet? Another miscalculation, that Zuckerberg is said to admit to, is thinking we would go more cyber than ever. More into the Metaverse versus real face to face interaction.

This trend was strong during the pandemic, but suddenly another shift in behavior. People are coming out of their cocoons and meeting face to face again.

Real "brick and mortar" dancing, dinner groups, discussions, even bowling. It's a good thing to see things opening up again after the pandemic.

I know, everyone isn't going out on the town again, but so many have that it seems like life is all but back to normal. Normal, just in time for another winter to set in, possibly making the pandemic still worse again.

I still use Facebook for it's original intent and I get out and about town. I try to have communication on many levels.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

When fickle voters keep swinging left, right, left, right, left.

Even if this election leans Republican, hopefully the road doesn't go all the way to fascism.

During the watch of Republicans, the economy could tighten up and go into recession anyway.

The Fed has been raising interest rates to try and take some of the inflationary pressure off of supply chains. This could lead to belt tightening and consumers grumbing at who's in power; their newly elected officials.

Climate change is still real and can take it's toll. Whoever is in power gets the blame. If Republicans are in charge, in various states and Congress, they may have a rough go of it.

Voters often change their minds pretty fast. In UK, conservative tax cuts were taken off the table quickly when the markets got nervous about unsustainable debt and the British Pound took a pounding.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Why political debates tend to put those wishing to reduce climate change on the defensive.

Sign I sometimes bring to Bellingham Peace Vigil.

Some people might think I'm judgmental of people who drive cars. I realize that automobiles are the way most folks get around in our society. Some of my best friends drive cars.

The main thing I worry about is the way issues are framed in media and public discourse. Democrats and folks taking action against climate change are being hammered by the negative news about high gas prices. Republicans find this fertile ground for talking points.

I think society may have to accept high gas prices as a price for addressing climate change. Yes, it's harder on low income people, but we do need more thinking outside the box. Owning a car is often more expensive than public transit, if public transit is available and convenient in an area.

We need to connect the dots for longer term solutions. Technology can solve some of these problems for us; such as electric cars, solar energy and if we can develop hydrogen fusion.

Total reliance on private cars has other drawbacks as well; such as all the space taken up for parking as well as the safety issues.

Until green technology becomes widely available, average consumers do need to practice conservation.

One thing that bothers me is how so much of the political debate is about blaming someone; rather than solving problems. On the left, people tend to blame the oil companies; such as opposing pipelines and refineries that are still needed to keep the economy intact. Sometimes, there is even violent sabotage which can give Republicans more anti crime talking points. Yes, we can blame business and advertising for some of this situation, but human behavior, in mass, is very powerful. Republicans tend to emphasis personal responsibility. They certainly have their problems, but the idea of personal responsibility has merit.

Personal responsibility may not explain everything. We do tend to think in extremes of either or, but it is an important part of the discussion.

We need to rethink the discussion about personal responsibility and not turn all that turf over to the Republicans.

There is more to responsibility than just the typical Republican line that goes, "I was on drugs, I hit bottom, then went on the straight and narrow, got a job, worked my way up and now I'm a multi-millionaire."

There are other self help stories that lead to such things as health and community connection in one's personal life. The road to happiness doesn't always lead to becoming a multi millionaire.

We, as consumers and voters, do have more power than we often realize.

Too much blaming, on both sides, leads to much of the political vitriol.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

I hope Elon Musk's ego and problems swallowing Twitter doesn't take down SpaceX

I'm thinking Elon Musk might be having buyer's remorse upon buying Twitter. It's a likely speculation as he did try to back out of the deal; then he went ahead, maybe due to legal / contract issues.

I wouldn't know the details. It's above my paygrade; so to speak.

He might have bought something that will implode, or at least go down in value. Partially due to his management style. I'm not a fan of social media based on sound bytes anyway.

I'll admit, I have been a fan of SpaceX, one of Elon Musk's other companies. I'm a fan of innovation in science and space. SpaceX has done well. Sometimes private sector can innovate in ways that government is more clumsy at.

Still, SpaceX wouldn't be that far along if it wasn't for the lucrative business they have gotten from NASA (government) as a customer.

Public private partnership can be a good thing.

Musk's Ego may has gotten him into a few binds. Hopefully that situation doesn't sink SpaceX.

Corporate executives like to say things like "I built this," which may be partially true. I prefer a concept, expressed by former President Obama. Our personal triumphs "stand on the shoulders of others."

He couldn't have built it without his employees, the larger community and those who have built before us.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Just a sound byte about now Elon Musk's Twitter.

I think Elon Musk and the world would be better off if Musk spent his extra billions on his Space X subsidiary, rather than blowing it on buying Twitter. At least Space X is said to be advancing the cause of science and engineering.

I don't really use Twitter, myself, as I prefer more nuanced postings.

It's unlikely that rich countries will pay reparations to poor countries related to climate change though maybe they should.

It might be a good idea, but an unlikely prospect that rich countries will pay poor countries to try and even up the score on climate change.

Rich countries are still struggling to have their own transition to clean energy. People, in rich countries, are still complaining about gas prices and taxes.

Population growth, that is mostly in poor countries, is still a factor as well. Migration, due to climate change as well as repressive politics and wars among poor countries, play a role in the politics and finances of rich countries.

On the BBC News, I recently heard that UK's foreign aid budget is now mostly being spent inside UK; to settle refugees coming into UK. That's a big need as well. Not that much money leftover, in that budget, to spend overseas.

Anti immigration politics drives a lot of public opinion; especially among Republicans in USA, but it also is having destabalizing effects all over the world, including Europe.

Immigration isn't necessarily a bad thing. It provides lots of vitality, labor and markets for growth of economies in rich countries. On the otherhand, it can lead to more unplesent things, like housing shortages and traffic, unless we learn to live differently. Denser city planning and more use of public transit could really help USA turn immigration into more of an opportunity, versus a problem.

Bad governance and repressive cultures, in much of the world, are big factors leading to more migration and refugees. Over populated countries seem like kettles boiling over, but ironically, some countries have declining populations, due in large extent, to their policies of repression and bad govenance; Russia a prime example.

With Russia's fall into authoritarian society, people are fleeing. Folks, in Russia, tend to be not be having children either in spite of Russia's increasingly anti gay policies trying to push a culture of procreation.

Folks, including the most creative people, are fleeing Russia. They are fleeing and adding to population, immigration worries in other countries, such Georgia, where quality of life and social acceptance of diversity is higher. Countries like UK, Canada and USA are magnets drawing population and skilled labor to their borders.

Russia is loosing population and some, who haven't escaped, are being drafted to the war. They are often sent to killing fields in Ukraine while more Ukrainian children and families are either dying or fleeing, by the millions, to countries like Poland.

Back to thinking about UK for a bit of optomism. Here is one good thing from recent news.

That "new" prime minister, who was pushing tax cuts, skewed for the rich, is out of office. Her term as prime minister was the shortest in UK history. Only 6 weeks. The tax cut plan rattled banks who feared that UK's government debt was unsustainable.

That plan called for both subsidizing energy, for UK consumers, plus tax cuts. It was deemed inflationary.

Maybe it's still possible for people and politics to become more rational.

One more idea.

It would be vital if we could figure out how to pay for preservation of the rainforests and other lands that serve as carbon sinks. I am now (October 30 2022) awaiting the results of Brazil's presidential election.

Facebook (Meta) would be better if it wasn't always trying to be on top.

Admittedly I still do like Facebook for certain things that it does well.

One problem is that there isn't much room at the top of the world; so to speak. When a company finds a niche and serves it well, that's one thing, but staying on top of a world market can be difficult. There is a phrase that goes, "the only way out from the top is down."

Like a pyramid the top is usually small. How does one remain nearly at market saturation on a limited planet?

One way is to try and always reach the younger demographic. I've heard it said that Facebook's audience is skewing older.

That's a good niche, but being at the top tends to require appeal to younger generations. One factor is that investing in youth creates loyalty and a revenue stream that can last the long life of the participant.

Investing in Meta virtual reality is a gamble. I would guess a strategy to bring in new generations.

Some corporations try and stay on top as much as they can while others modestly settle for what they do well without trying to always be at the very top.

Interesting to see how this all plays out.

People think about temperature, but the biggest effect we are now getting from climate change is changing rainfall patterns.

Seems like the biggest problem, we now face from climate change is the changing rainfall patterns; rather than temperature change.

Yes, the globe is warming up and that is what's behind the rest of the problem. The earth, as a whole, has only warmed up slightly so far; like they say 1.5 degrees Celsius. That doesn't seem like much, to feel, but it can bring big changes in things like the Jet Stream pattern which effects rainfall patterns in various regions.

Some areas are suffering severe drought while other areas have more rainfall than normal. That is the big problem we are facing now; from what I gather at least.

Yes, the news does talk about big heatwaves and yes they are getting worse in certain areas, but I think the main worldwide problem, so far, is the changing rainfall patterns.

Yes, the Arctic is heating faster than the rest of the planet. The effects are uneven, but temperature change, on most of the planet, is subtle; at least subtle to our sense of how warm, or cold we feel. Temperature change is more subtle in areas where most people live as not that many people live in the Arctic. Where most people live is where perceptions are forged.

There are longterm effects of climate change, but short term day to day and even year to year changes in weather speak louder as drivers of common perception. One subtle difference is that the growing season tends to be getting longer, in many regions, as the decades go by. Scientists are able to chart that, but the average person can become accustomed to that; especially if they aren't farmers.

We've seen lots of retreat of mid latitude glaciers and even some near the poles; such as in Greenland and the Arctic Ocean.

Another problem, that compounds this situation more, is growing population and growing demand for things like fresh water. Just as some agricultural areas, like California, are getting dryer, more and more mouths are being born that need to be fed.

Another problem with perception, in USA, is that the 1.5 figure for warming since industrial revolution is given in Celsius. Most Americans use Fahrenheit scale; unless they are scientists. In Fahrenheit, it's 2.7 degrees. Slightly larger number. Still subtle when we go outside and feel the temperature. The temperature we feel varies much more widely from day to day, year to year. That's nothing new and perception, rather than concepts, seems to drive a lot of common opinion; at least Republican opinion.

I also think if it was just the climate change we have had so far, by itself, it wouldn't be as serious a problem. Problem is we also face growing population and growing demand for things like energy and food. World carbon emissions continue to rise as demand for energy continues to grow. This is likely to create more of a destabilizing effect on world civilization. It's civilization that people, including me, care about because we are humans.

Yes, we can reduce carbon footprint, but it gets harder with ever more mouths to feed, cars on the road and people needing jobs that are still in the traditional sectors of world economies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

I still remember when someone called Ronald Reagan "President Prune Face."

I think when people vote for a candidate, like US Senator, or President, they are voting for a whole team, not just one person. Candidates, at the national level, have staffs that come with them and the issues that the candidates stand for matter.

People often do have questions about the health and / or age of a candidate. These concerns came to light during the recent Senate debate in Pennsylvania. Similar questions come up about Joe Biden's age; if he were to decide to run again in 2024.

Again, I tend to vote for the team and the issues the candidate stands for. If the candidate becomes disabled, while in office, government does continue. It's not necessarily just about one person.

This discussion came up during President Regan's term in office. He was said to have dozed off in meetings. Folks thought he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease while in office. At one point, I even remember a commentator calling him "President Prune Face."

National politicians do have whole teams of staff behind them and I think the issues they stand for are what's most important. Age and health are undoubtedly political liabilities on the campaign trail, but I would still vote for the candidate that came closest to representing my views anyway. If not in the primary, do to the concern about who is electable, but at least in the general election.

Monday, October 24, 2022

I'd ask the protesters, "how does throwing tomato soup at a Van Gogh painting helps people figure out how they can reduce their carbon footprints?"

The Just Stop Oil protesters, who tossed tomato soup at the Van Gogh painting in London, are being praised and criticized in the media. The painting, itself, is behind glass and supposedly wasn't harmed.

If I had a criticism, or at least a question to ask those protesters, I would ask, "how do you think this act will make it easier for people to reduce their carbon footprints?"

Seems like there are lots of reminders that climate change is a problem. Some folks might say, "we already know about this" and then they just go on living their lives.

How can we make it easier to reduce the carbon footprint? That's a puzzle.

Seems like most people, in USA at least, are banking on new technology. Electric cars, solar power, maybe even hydrogen fusion; if we can get that to work.

I think my lifestyle is pretty low footprint; though some folks say I drink enough milk to counteract other parts of my lifestyle. There is even technology to reduce methane from cows, however.

As for other things, I guess my two main things are bicycle transportation and living in a small space. That space being in a shared building which is easy to heat. There's even solar collectors on the roof.

One reason that my life works is living in town. It's easy to get all around town, to my many social engagements and errands, by bicycle. It's even enjoyable.

Not all streets are bicycle friendly, but in town there are plenty of alternatives that are better; plus Bellingham's system of Greenway Trails. Distances are not too far in town.

My lifestyle would be much harder in a rural area where distances are much farther for day to day errands. In some rural areas there's only one road and some of the rural roads, like Highway 9 between Deming and Acme, are very dangerous. Too much traffic and no shoulder in that segment. No bus service either.

Making city living more affordable can help. Long gone are the days when most American's lived on farms and the farm was more self sufficient. Today, people come to Costco, or other places in town, for more variety of food. We are less apt to tolerate just sticking with what can be grown in one climate zone than folks in past centuries. We don't grow coffee in this area, for instance. Yes, I'm guilty too, we don't grow chocolate.

Back in the past, people got to town on locally grown energy; often by horse, but they did have manure problems, not to mention cholera and all that, way back then. There were less people as well.

Denser zoning, tiny homes and so forth. I now live in subsidized housing so I can still afford Bellingham, but there is a long waiting list to get in.

As for living in a studio apartment, it wouldn't be easy with a family. Maybe they do that in third world countries, or in America of many years past, but we expect more today.

I still enjoy living in my studio, but I admittedly do get cabin fever. That's why I often go out up to 3 times per day. I go out for shopping and a very rich social life that's all within easy biking distance from home. The community is my family.

Oh, I forgot to mention that my health is good. If that weren't the case, I'd still prefer the city when relying on transit services.

This might have turned into a rant against rural living, but maybe we could find a way to make that work, carbon free, as well. More space for solar panels. Speaking of methane, there is methane power generation on some farms. Lots of folks who live in the city still rely on their cars and live in large homes. Seems like as population rises, there is more pressure against that; like the cost of parking in downtown Seattle.

There are quite a few alternate routes in Bellingham and if nothing else, at least sidewalks. Good for walking, but I often bike slow and carefully on segments of sidewalk. Some folks might think that's bad, but in America, there is often more pedestrian traffic in the bike lane getting in and out of the driver's side of cars than there is walking down the sidewalk. Fortunately I go slow past parked cars as people can dart out from between the cars suddenly not to mention car doors opening. Going slow makes a big difference.

Ukraine might be better off not trying to gain back all it's former territory, for now at least.

I fear that Ukraine could end up being bombed back into the stone age loosing their power plants and so forth. Maybe they should be willing to, at least temporarily, give up some of the regions that Russia is occupying, including Crimea.

If the Russians would be willing to have a ceasefire and start negotiating possibly, thinking that they could keep some territory and Crimea it could be one step in the process.

I still side with Ukraine, but there is also the concept of winning the peace, rather than just winning the war. If peace, or at least temporary peace could return, there are other spheres of competition between societies; such as economic competition. Which country does better at innovation? Most likely a country that embraces more human rights and freedoms. Most likely Ukraine.

In the long run, where would the brightest and most innovative people want to live? More likely Ukraine.

In the long run, possibly those lands would be returned to Ukraine, or at least returned to more open society. Even Russia, itself, could, someday, attempt reform as happened after the fall of the Soviet Union. Maybe Putin can be overthrown.

If human rights and minority rights were respected, it really shouldn't matter which side of a national border one resides on. In the long run, the whole idea of nation states could become obsolete.

The European Union is an example of this, though it is currently facing nationalistic headwinds.

It is a big "if" whether the Russians would agree to a cease fire, so this could be a mote point, but I think it's worth considering before Ukraine becomes so damaged by warfare that it becomes unable to function.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Behind the talking points

Now I hear conservatives saying that they are worried about important issues, like inflation, gas prices and crime, while liberals are talking about abortion and gender identity. Often it's good to know what talking points are being used.

I would say that polling, focus groups and consultants drive the campaign trail. Women's rights gets votes so it's a strategy that works.

Looking at the bigger picture there is the worry about a worldwide drift toward authoritarianism. Controlling women and repressing diversity, in sexual orientation, is part of that trend toward authoritarian rule.

I tend to connect the dots and look at bigger topics that are often not the immediate campaign talking points.

Authoritarian repression of choice and sexual diversity can contribute to excessive population growth which contributes to lots of big problems ranging from climate change to supply shortages.

So many problems are interconnected; such as the overwhelming number of refugees at borders of many countries, rising prices for energy sources, such as gasoline and high death rates due to the system not being able to cope with people's needs. The right to life is definitely placed in jeopardy by things like a lack of adequate social services, health insurance and affordable housing.

It's placed in jeopardy as the growing number of refugees get turned away from borders and sent back into harm's way.

It's placed in jeopardy by increasing war, crime and the effects of climate change.

It's even placed in jeopardy by authoritarian rule, itself.

Carbon dioxide is the invisible threat. The air looks deceptively clean and smells pristine, but ...

Pollution in Bellingham, WA. from forest fires. October 19 2022. Probably worst day for it this year.

Smog use to to be a big problem in places like Los Angeles. Then came more pollution control technologies; such as the catalytic converter and smokestack scrubbers. They cleaned out some chemicals and the particulate pollution so air looked clean again. It even smelled clean.

Problem is, carbon dioxide is still being emitted from our economy. It's harder to filter out of smokestacks and tailpipes. Carbon dioxide is an odorless, colorless gas. In small quantities, it isn't poisonous. The air can still look pristine and clear.

Carbon dioxide traps more of the sun's heat so it's increasing the warming of our planet. This leads to more droughts, in some areas, which brings forest fires. Forest fires bring back the particulate smog.

Internal strife and randomness renders organizing for social change difficult

One strategy for social change, that people on the left tend to promote, is the strategy of organizing. Labor unions, for instance. Martin Luther King was noted for organizing people to bring social change. His movement was quite disciplined.

Seems like today, people are less disciplined and randomness is more prevalent. Organizations have more loose cannons as well as internal strife. People seem to be more individualistic, which is a good thing in some ways, but harder for organizations. New strategies are needed for social change. One strategy, I think about, is personal responsibility as consumers.

Live the change we one wishes to see in the world as individuals. If enough people do it, that can move markets.

Voting is important also as one person is, basically, just one drop in the bucket. At least with voting, a sensible government can counter the disproportionate power that large corporations and wealthy people wield.

Organizing is still an important tool, but for it to work, I think we need to be more careful with our randomness and tendencies toward internal strife. We need to be willing to compromise enough so our organizations; such as the Democratic Party, can remain viable.

Why don't they immigrate legally? That can be nearly impossible due to the backlog of applicants.

I just heard a tidbit on a radio interview that the waiting list to immigrate legally from India to USA is so large that it takes 30 years to get to the top of the list.

USA has different quotas for how many folks are allowed to immigrate from each country. Waiting lists are long. I would guess that its really long for countries where a lot of people apply for being on the list. India has a very large population, so a lot of potential applicants.

When you think about it, the size of our world's population is overwhelming. Quite a few folks try immigrating to Canada instead, which is somewhat easier.

Another problem is how repressive governments are in many parts of the world. Anti GLBT laws and so forth, as if a lifestyle not leading to procreation is criminal.

The world needs more lifestyles the don't lead to procreation; ironically for the sake of future generations. The best gift we can give to future generations is a livable planet.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Naming a holiday is like a zero sum game. Not enough holidays to go around. Is Columbus worthy of a holiday?

Folks debating about who and what a holiday should commemorate. For the virtue of exploration, how about a holiday for Neil Armstrong, first person to step on the moon? Another person suggests, instead of Niel Armstrong, name the exploration day after Apollo 11. Credit everyone who made that possible.

Oh, too many holidays. Not enough days in the calendar. How about retiring some of our old holidays so we can have room for new ones? Otherwise the past totally clutters our lives and we face "holiday commemoration gridlock."

Another idea is to just keep adding holidays till the entire year is like being on vacation. Like being retired, I guess.

A decentralized 1990s style web as an alternative to Facebook?

As an alternative to Facebook and other big providers, such as Google, there is interest in something called the "decentralized web." It's kind of like a return to earlier days of the internet, back in the 1990s, when lots of people relied on their own websites to get the word out.

I'm okay with Facebook, but I do see the problems with today's web that's become more centralized. At the same time, it's become more convenient.

Maybe some of the new decentralized technologies are more convenient than things were in the 1990s.

There is now a nostalgia for the 1990s among many who grew up then. 1960s nostalgia is not the only nostalgia.

Ironically, some folks remember AOL and the famous "you've got mail" with fondness, but AOL was a big centralized corporation. Aside from that, lots of people started creating their own websites on a wide collection of servers. Browsers were starting and browsers have the capability of "bookmarks."

I've been thinking that something like the Facebook feed could be replicated with a browser side system that pulls new content from a list of bookmarks.

These types of ideas are being explored. Folks possibly pointing us back toward a more decentralized web.

Back in the days of personal websites, the people, who had websites, did not expect privacy. The websites were mostly visible to the entire web. This was before the days of friends lists like Facebook uses. There may have been less privacy, but there was more trust and innocence, in the early days of the web.

Attempts to compete with Facebook seldom get off the ground, these days, because semi private friends networks are difficult to move from platform to platform. A new platform ends up having little momentum, or what they call the "networking effect;" I call that "momentum," or "inertia." Facebook got started early, so the momentum of the friends networks is here.

Going back to less worry about privacy would make content easier to find even when it's located on small, obscure servers. Browser bookmarks are different than friends lists. Bookmarks still limit the content one sees to what one has chosen to bookmark, but all the content, outside the bookmarks, is still available if one makes the effort to find it. Then one can bookmark it, if they wish. One doesn't necessarily need the permission of the website owner to see what's on the website. Things tended to be less proprietary back in the 1990s. Outsiders and non subscribers could still visit the websites.

Today, of course, more content, including journalism, is behind paywalls. That's a problem, but on the other hand they have figured out how to make the internet pay.

The New York Times website is, I think viable and pays the bills, but it's more behind a paywall than in the early experimental days of the web.

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Facebook: The McDonalds of the internet.

Facebook and the rest of the internet is kind of like life. Put in kindness and that's mostly what you get back. Put in hostility and that's what comes back. It's a bit like looking at oneself in the mirror.

I still think it's a good tool; depending on how it's used. It does certain things well.

I think that one of the problems is that Facebook is always trying to be like "top of the world." When something reaches near market saturation on the global scale, where does one grow to?

Facebook does some things well, but whether it can stay on top of the next wave of technology; who knows?

What is the next wave? Meta?

Pressure to stay at the top can cause corruption of the basic idea. Pressure for more engagement, clicks and ultimately the money needed to keep expanding.

One asks, expanding to where when something is global in scope.

I sometimes like to call Facebook the McDonalds of the internet. It's the "go to" for interaction. There are lots of other systems on the internet. I use Flickr a lot, but nothing seems to beat Facebook for interaction.

I float lots of my ideas on Facebook and see how people react. Then I put selected ones on this blog.

Nothing is perfect, of course, but I still find Facebook quite useful.

Remember, the oil industry is useful also. Some of it is just how we use these things. The products and services that make up modern living.

If people don't like Facebook, they can read this damn blog instead.