Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tax on imported oil, a good idea

An imported oil tax could create a floor through which oil prices in the US would not fall. At the same time, the tax could be removed when oil gets high, to soften the blow of high oil prices.

When oil prices go up, innovation and investment are put into alternative energy as well as conservation. Then oil prices fall causing alternative plans to go belly up. After the alternatives go belly up, oil gets expensive again.

A variable tax on imported oil could create more predictable market conditions for energy alternatives.

If we don't impose something like this, the Saudis might. I hear Saudi Arabia is talking about trying to shore up oil prices.

They need the money.

Their population keeps growing. Many more mouths to feed. Hungary people can breed terrorism.

While we are addicted to their oil, they are addicted to our money.

Too bad the Saudis are a conservative "traditionalist" society, thus not taking kindly to the concept of "diversity." Otherwise, they would have an easier time "diversifying" their economy. Diversifying it beyond oil.

We have our problems with "traditionalist thinking" here in the USA as well.

Republicans keep saying, "no new taxes;" people are too addicted to their money.

Democrats are a little better, but they often "go to bed" with consumer interests.

Does consumer interests mean consumptive culture?

Democrats complain when gas prices go up. What they should be doing is using periods of high prices to argue for alternatives. Alternative lifestyles, transit, planning, what ever.

The price of oil goes up and down, but over the long term, this trend is up. Demand will eventually outstrip supply. Then we will wish our alternative energy plans had not been drowned out by temporary periods of cheap oil.

I saw a real good piece by New York Times Columnist Tom Friedman advocating the tax on imported oil. Soon after reading that column, I heard of the Saudi plan for not allowing oil prices to drop so far. If we don't do something, the Saudis will. We will be paying anyway.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Not letting hostile folks control our thinking

A religious columnist, of the right wing variety, was talking about Islamic extremists. He was saying that they don't mind America's capitalism, consumption or freedoms.

Instead, he said, the extremists don't like America's feminists and gays.

Yes, a right wing religious fanatic would say that.

He thinks USA could reduce the hatred that Islamic extremists hold toward this country if we just decide to hide our feminists and gays. Show the so-called "decent heartland of family life" side of America. Then, extremist anger would soften, supposedly.

Well, it ain't gonna work. Not that way, at least.

America could show it's "family heartland side" till it's "blue in the face," or "red in the face" as in "red states - blue states."

It's not gonna work. It's not enough. The Islamic extremists would not be impressed.

Those type of extremists would still not be satisfied until Israel was wiped off the map.

The extremists would want to eliminate Israel and her people.

Then the extremists would turn on one another. Actually they are already turning on one another.

Sunnis versus Shiites, various tribes, clans.

They're fighting among themselves anyway.

That's what is meant by the term "mean spirited."

We shouldn't try to appeal to that kind of hatred. It would just turn us sour also. Turn us into "angry extremists" ourselves.

Hopefully, the world doesn't have too many hostile extremists in it.

We should appeal to the more humane mindsets that are out there also. Appeal to the more humane mindsets by supporting our gays and feminists; for instance.

As for how to deal with the hostile mindsets in this world, it is hard to say what the best strategy would be.

Ignoring the hatred might be a good strategy.

Yes, ignoring it.

You may think I am crazy.

I know, there is the phrase "squeaky wheel gets the grease." At the same time, when media focuses on all the hostility, rather than more positive things, it does create "copy cat" hostility in it's wake.

Ignoring the angry screamers, in this world, might be worth considering.

America has tried war against hostile elements.

"War on terror," "War in Iraq."

Outcome is dubious at best.

I could do a bad pun and say, "outcome is Dubya at best;" as in George Dubya Bush.

I know that's a bad pun.

USA's war effort, in Iraq, may be just playing into the hands of the hostile ideologies anyway.

Putting one set of religious fanatics in power over another.

We are really stuck trying to play referee.

We've tried to be referee in the Middle East for years and it seems like practically no one is impressed.

Well, there does have to be some defense against terrorism. Defense like having the police around to protect people from crime.

Maybe we should not call it a "war on terrorism" as "war" is too negative a response. "Police work" might be more effective.

Yes, police work, like "good intelligence," "breaking up terror plots" and so forth.

We can still use the military for this. No, I am not advocating disbanding the military and just relying on underfunded local police.

We do need some kind of force to deal with hostility, but we don't need to blow it out of proportion.

Maybe we are allowing ourselves to be dominated by the negative. It's too much "Tit for tat."

Ignoring the terrorists, or at least treating it more as "common garden variety crime" is worth considering.

We should not let the terrorists and bigots of this world govern our thinking.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Bicycle Safety Idea. Bicycle Christmas lights video

See colored lights go around on my bicycle spokes. A 53 second Youtube video. Also see brightly lit car sales lot. If the cars are all lit up even while parked, why can't we celebrate our bikes with lights. It's good for safety and flamboyance.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Baker from Sehome Hill and thoughts on running at the gym or running outside

A Running Commentary

Some folks are already grumbling at the gym because parking lot is too small.

They're
running out of space.

Try
running to the gym, instead of running your vehicle.

When I
run past the gym, while running my errands, I see folks running on treadmills. They claim they can't run to the gym, else they'd run out of time.

I don't make it to a treadmill since I
run into so many interesting people in the locker room. It's an ongoing conversation. Topics run the gambit from politics to confessions.

Locker room can be more enlightening than a bar where they
run too many watts through those ear shattering amplifiers. Before Washington State banned smoking in the nightclubs, it would make my eyes run. Smoke used to run me right out of those places.

For dancing, I would rather
run to aerobics where the music is kinder. That's still not a treadmill.

Running, or actually jogging and walking up Sehome hill, Mount Baker greeted me via the zoom lens.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Happened to walk past WTA transit terminal

Bellingham's bus terminal is getting a face lift. Buses are using temporary quarters for a while.

As I was walking by, they happened to be tearing out some of the old roofing. Passerby commented, "It's easier than using your hands."

I agreed. Hear our voices. This may not be a great film, but it's only 51 seconds. I'm just learning how to use video.

Will be nice to have larger waiting area for passengers in our bus terminal. They hope to have that ready in October.



Saturday, January 13, 2007

Education: paramount duty of the state?

My first Youtube video. Impressive light show at Whatcom Educational Credit Union on Holly Street.

I hear that there is a group called Network for Excellence in Washington Schools. They are considering filing of a law suite against Washington State over school funding levels.

Watch out.

Since our state constitution has wording about education being the paramount duty of state government, there are some who feel funding of education has been inadequate. This could be grounds for having a court parcel out state funding, rather than the legislature.

In theory, the state constitution puts education on top of the list, but in practice "public safety" is probably the paramount duty of government. Usually police, fire and public safety are thought of as the most important functions for state and local government.

After that, everything else.

It can be argued that just about all functions of government provide "education." Really, education never stops throughout life; or at least it shouldn't.

Washington State's Basic Health Plan for low income workers could be seen as an educational thing because it provides access to a doctor. Seeing the doctor could "teach" someone about better diet, exercise and stopping smoking. If these lessens are taught to a low income worker in Washington's service economy, it could be seen as important. Possibly more important than some part of the school curriculum.

Many people do not have access to doctors in this state until they get to the emergency room.

Even state parks could be viewed as educational institutions. Interpretive centers, hands on museums and nature trails are all educational. The schools even benefit from state parks. Where do people go for field trips?

All of society should be seen as an educational experience, not just a machine for making money.

People who work in supermarkets can benefit just as much from a publicly funded museum as their kids can from school.

Kids might even do better in school if they are immersed in a society of learning, not just a state that provides good schools, but lets everything else go to pot.

I hope this school funding issue doesn't mean big cuts to other important services that state government provides.

On the other hand, maybe it's time for the state of Washington to impose an income tax.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Shifting Debate On Global Warming

The debate about global warming seems to be shifting now that there is more of a consensus among scientists that global warming is a reality.

Instead of debating whether this problem exists, the debate is shifting toward what to do about it.

One school of thought would emphasize altering lifestyles so less energy is consumed, thus less greenhouse gas generated.

Another school of thought would do things like developing more nuclear power. Nuclear energy could allow us to consume as much energy as we do today with out getting it from burning coal and fossil fuels.

I believe the problem will have to be addressed from both directions. Lifestyle changes and new sources of energy that don't create greenhouse gas. Nuclear may be one of the answers.

Radio talk host Bill Wattenburg makes a strong case for nuclear during his show on KGO in San Freancisco.

I notice that humankind seems to be better at solving problems with technology than social innovation. Wonder why that is?

Social innovation can be good also. I love riding my bike. Having a lifestyle that doesn't lead to population growth is good also. What about having more free time?

Our local paper recently ran a story from the Philadelphia Inquirer. It was about how "long work hours" can lead to more energy use. Two researchers from the center for Economic and Policy Research saw a correlation between length of workweek and energy consumption. They compared these factors in several industrialized nations.

Populations that work more, tend to consume more.

This sounds interesting.

Let's have more free time so we can reduce global warming.

We can build a few nuclear power plants as well. I won't make a big complaint about that as long as I get my free time.

As for mainstream lifestyles, I thought of the phrase, "nuclear power for the nuclear family."

On a technological front, the Bellingham Herald recently ran an article about light emitting diodes in city stop lights. These new stoplights can save the city well over $100,000 in electricity and maintenance costs per year.

Less work? Less work replacing bulbs.

One can always ask, "How many Americans does it take to replace a light bulb?"

I came up with an answer to that question; speaking of things like traffic signals.

It takes two.

One is needed to run out of the car and replace the bulb, while the other drives around the block looking for a place to park.

Maybe someday we will get rid of cars and stoplights altogether.

In the meantime, light emitting diodes is another technological solution. I am for just about all the solutions we can muster.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Trails To Balfour Village?

A large development is proposed in Columbia Valley / Kendall area. Quite a few trails and parks are planned in the development which is described as using "environmental friendly" design. More compact and "low impact" than a lot of what's out there now; so they say.

It is controversial. Just about all the new development in this corner of the world is. Traffic on Mount Baker Highway has folks worried. It's getting worse each year.

Rather than jumping onto the "pro, or anti" development side, I tend to have a different line of thinking.

I think, "trails," "parks;" maybe we can extend these features beyond just the development itself.

How about a bike trail from Balfour area to Deming, for instance? That's one of the worse stretches of Mount Baker Highway. East of Deming, the road has practically no shoulder. A trail could take some pressure off the highway.

People sometimes dismiss me as an idealist.

Who rides bikes? they ask.

Okay, bus service can be talked about also. Maybe even buses every 15 minutes, like they have on some routes in Bellingham. WTA has added a route to Kendall fairly recently.

More people should mean more bus service, if folks are giving these type of things priority.

There are even trail plans on the books.

"Bay to Baker Trail" has been talked about for years.

Another proposal is made up of short trail segments that connect different destinations in the Foothills area. That proposal has been called "Chain Of Trails." It would make things safer for kids walking to school and stores, for instance.

If politics can work, economic growth could be harnessed to improve the Mount Baker Highway corridor. Improve it for "alternative" travel.

At worse, a big "wish list" could even tax and kill development out there.

While I am not advocating that development be taxed to death, it might make the anti growth people happy at least.

On the other hand we could get just the right balance of taxes, impact fees and volunteer contributions. Just the right balance so there can be alternatives to car travel out the Mount Baker Highway.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Silent Slaughter For Another Year

Automobiles.

A great editorial in December 30 06 Toronto Star was pointed out to me. About the silent slaughter of traffic accidents in US and Canada. Among other things, it points out that the US would have to lose soldiers for 50 years in Iraq at a rate of 800 soldiers per year in order to match one year of highway deaths back home.

Also there are around 2 million injuries from auto accidents each year.

These truths hardly get discussed in the media or mentioned in things like the State Of The Union address.

That editorial advocates stronger and slower cars, more law enforcement against dangerous drivers and so forth.

One thing it doesn't mention is reducing dependency on the automobile altogether. Public transit is much safer and currently available in many areas. More folks can use public transit now, even before auto makers improve safety or highways adopt slower speeds.

The life you save could be your own.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Death toll of US solders just fades into background noise

I hear that the US spends almost half of the world's entire outlay for military spending. Almost half of the total for all other nations combined, yet this still may not be enough. One hears of solders having to buy their own armor, veterans not getting proper medical care and the list goes on.

Lots of money, yet it still isn't enough?

How much is enough?

Maybe this is enough money, but the money isn't being spent wisely?

Another possibility is that USA is now "in over its head." This war is too expensive, both in lives and dollars?

Still, the cost of war isn't reflected in the lives of most Americans. War is still financed by deficits that never seem to come due. Also, I just heard that only 2% of American population is involved in the military.

There is a phrase, "solders go to war while civilians go to the mall."

I am sure that the civilian highway death toll is a lot more than 3,000 for year 2006.

This is a big country.

Most people just experience the war as background noise. That background noise hisses and pops a bit louder at times. Impressions from Saddam Hussein's hanging have flowed into the media.

Now these impressions start to fade away into history.

Not that long ago, the state of Washington, here on the west coast, carried out it's death penalty by hanging. Our state's last hanging was 1994 at the penitentiary in Walla Walla. More recently, the death sentence is through lethal injection, unless the prisoner asks for hanging instead.

Crime and punishment - more negative background noise.

Highway death tolls - background noise.

The city of Walla Walla, WA. is remembered for it's penitentiary, but that city can also bring up more positive memories. Walla Walla is home of Whitman College, for instance. There is also Stateline Wind Project. This is a bunch of windmills generating "alternative" energy west of Walla Walla.

We really need to spend more mental energy on positive things, like alternative energy. We need to spend more money on these things as well.

Unfortunately, 911 robbed much of the idealism from people, or maybe they didn't have much to begin with.

How much national policy is based on fear versus hope?

I hope some of these brutal things can recede into history and idealism can expand.