Saturday, December 31, 2011
Some of those jobs could come back if American worker/consumers worked for lower wages, but the cost of living is too high in USA for that to work very well. Workers can no longer afford to pay for the upper class which continues to go on (without a clue) as if nothing has changed.
The upper class creates much of the cost of living that workers can no longer afford. For instance American workers can no longer afford the cost of our health care system wrought with insurance company executives that rake in millions, star doctors that can command millions and the high price of malpractice insurance with it's associated payouts and all the trial lawyers involved.
Then there's the cost of our military, second to none. We can no longer afford to support that if we compete with workers in other countries.
Education with the likes of high priced college presidents is another thing no longer affordable.
Housing is another. Property values have been too high, but now we are seeing property value adjust downward. Markets do tend to reach an equilibrium eventually.
From our corporate executives to our high level professionals to even most of our politicians; we can't afford the cost that these people are imposing on the provision of services, such as health care in America.
Some people think we can still out compete cheap overseas labor by always doing things better. Using more technology for efficiency and making better products. They call this the American advantage. Problem is, there is no more American advantage. Other countries can do it better as well.
I'm not necessarily suggesting a race to the bottom where we all try to lower our incomes to the level of Chinese sweatshops. Incomes in China are raising anyway. It's just that those at the top of the American system have to do their part to face the new realities of a global economy. If workers are expected to work for low wages, they can't expect to be living in homes costing around a half million dollars or paying health insurance premiums of over $500 per month. The top providers of American services have to adjust their expectations closer to where the workers are headed.
Overall quality of life can still get better. One measure of "better" in quality of life is peace of mind. If workers feel like they can afford to live in their own country, they can have more peace of mind.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Interesting coincidence. Both Mayan and Millennium start with "M."
Link to letter I sent out to a few people who still might expect to hear something from me via the US Postal Service.
Also, 2012 election is coming. While things in USA may not be that bad, like conditions in repressive Middle Eastern countries, the Republican House of Representatives, elected in 2010, is particularly bad. That election pushed things to the extreme, but this too shall pass if people vote.
Are Occupiers "happy campers?" like in the phrase "they were not happy campers."
Bellingham's "occupy camp" is becoming like an alternative community. The city is allowing it to exist, so far. Here's a tent with solar power.
Composting and recycling. In Bellingham, even some supermarkets do this.
Of course there is a bike rack.
I'm not in the tent city, but I toured it after the rally.
After the October 28 rally, some Occupy Bellingham folks set up camp in Maritime Heritage Park. They may not be happy campers about the state of the economy, but hopefully they are happy campers about networking and doing other things that a camp out of social change minded people will do. Seems like some smiles on people's faces, at least the first day. So far, the city has been flexible and allowed them to remain even though camping is normally not permitted in city parks.
There are usually quite a few homeless people sleeping in various nooks and crannies of Maritime Heritage Park anyway. One person pointed out that having the camp out might provide some support for the already homeless around in the park. For instance someone has set up a porta potty. Regular restrooms in that park are usually closed at night, according to article in Bellingham Herald.
For several years, Seattle area has had some organized camps for the homeless.
* several blog posts compiled into this one.
Below posted earlier.
The sometimes cumbersome process of consensus governing
One of the "demands" being discussed in the Occupy Bellingham encampment is to make sure that Whatcom Transit Authority plans to give route 331 high priority for use of it's hybrid buses, when those buses become available to the fleet.
Some folks might ask, what does that have to do with Occupy Wall Street?
One of the chants I hear in the marches goes; "This is what democracy looks like."
When the request, about the 331 bus route, came up at an Occupy Bellingham meeting, it got "put on stack;" so to speak, in the lingo of the occupy meetings. A small show of hands came up for "ya" and hardly any hands came up for "nay."
After dropping by the meeting, I Later went home and looked up where the 331 route goes. That route is kind of like an "eclectic protest march in itself." From downtown, it meanders through the city to serve both the Barkley Village and Cordota areas.
According to an article, I read, in Bellingham Herald, the WTA plans to use it's new hybrid buses on routes with a lot of "stop and go." Hybrid vehicles are more advantageous for travel through city traffic than long distance highway application. The 331 seems to meet that criteria anyway; in my book at least.
So, what is the point of Occupy Wall Street? Aren't some of it's demands already resonating with common sense anyway? Aren't many of them already being met?
So far, the local police have allowed Occupy Bellingham's camp to remain in Maritime Heritage Park, as far as I know. I've only visited the camp twice with friends passing through. Noticed the hybrid bus suggestion on a list of proposals hanging from a wall made of plastic tarp.
Looks like the local camp is fairly clean compared to some of what I've been reading about from the media, at least, in other cities. On another wall of plastic tarp was a sign that says, "Drug Free Zone."
I don't know if the occupy movement, by itself, is pivotal to the social evolution that this country is going through. The occupy movement has been successful in getting people to think about problems, like the vast discrepancy of wealth in society. I see the OWS as just another part of the larger process of social evolution that takes place in society.
Monday, December 26, 2011
24 hour society is fine. Not everyone works 9-5. For instance me.
Taking breaks for rest and special moments is needed. Like summer vacations.
Below, posted earlier. October 2011.
Time to call it a day. We'll get back to it later.
Utility upgrade taking place around downtown Bellingham. New poles in some areas. I assume street light and phone lines will eventually be moved to the new pole, but this works for a while. Some old poles are coming out.
Behind YMCA, some transformers that are too close to buildings are coming down and new transformers are going underground. That ally should look less cluttered before too long.
The economy isn't totally dead, but there's always more stuff that needs to be done and more jobs that need to be created.
There's an old phrase that says, "a man's work is never done." These days, it should say "man and woman's work." Also, if the work were ever done, what would we do?
Going on vacation would be nice for at least part of the time.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
3 pictures in this post.
Peace sign in Christmas lights on a fence in residential area.
Christmas Tree, a sequoia, near Edens Hall at Western Washington University. Lit up each year. This year with both blue and white lights.
Under tree it looks like stars through the branches.
Since I don't have kids, I don't really have to do Christmas shopping.
Friday, December 23, 2011
I grew up in a liberal church where transparency and candor were common. My folks chuckled with their mouths dropping and then we all sampled some Christmas cookies before he headed on to the next family of parishioners.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
In Bellingham, it seems like the most fantastic displays are on dead end streets, in keeping with Bellingham's theme "City of subdued excitement." It's almost like Bellingham tries to hide its flamboyance.
Not necessarily the most spectacular lights of the lot, but a nice sampling.
Under the tree; new cars.
With imagination one could think of the bright blue lights as looking like the Pleiades star cluster that I often admire in astronomy pictures.
Looking forward to dancing on the Solstice. Quite a few dancing events in Bellingham tonight.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
On December 12, several folks tied themselves together across the BNSF tracks coming through Bellingham. This led to the first arrests, that I know about, which were associated with the Occupy Bellingham movement. This group is often now referred to as "The Bellingham 12." This protest took place on a day of action all up and down the west coast blocking things like port facilities.
I wasn't part of that protest, myself, but I know at least one of the people who were.
Photo by Jeff Krajewski, found on Facebook.
It got people talking and blogs are humming with discussion. Folks keep asking, what is the proper focus for the Occupy Wall Street movement?
There's the concern about unfair distribution of wealth; the so called 1 percent versus 99 percent issue. Other concerns are related, but all the issues have their differences as well. This protest had a lot to do with environmental issues, rather than just the income distribution problem.
Here in Bellingham, there is a lot of opposition to SSA Marine's proposal to build a large shipping port north of town. The new port would ship coal and some other bulk products, such as grain. Some coal trains are coming through now to an existing port just across the border in Canada. There is fear that more coal trains will come if the new facility is built on this side of the border. Big worries about the environment and global warming; thus the protest at railroad tracks. Coal would be exported to China and other places which burn it for power.
This issue points out a difficulty in expecting there to be one focus in movements such as Occupy Wall Street. The proposal to build a coal port is actually supported by a lot of union people. Union folks are thinking about the hundreds of permanent jobs that could be created by the port, plus many more temporary jobs created by its construction.
On the other hand, union folks are supposed to be one of the constituencies of Occupy Wall Street as workers are said to be concerned about the American middle class being gutted while the 1 percent accumulate more wealth.
Can those causes of saving the American middle class and protecting the environment cohabitate?
That question is especially important in Occupy Wall Street because of the democratic structure of the movement where a lot of interrelated concerns are brought to the table. The movement often takes whatever form people bring to it. It can be said that democracy is one of the worse ways to get anything done except it's better than the alternatives. What direction does Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Bellingham take? To some extent, it is what ever the people bring up from the grass roots.
Back to the question of whether the middle class and the environment can cohabitate; this is worth a lot of thought. Much of middle class lifestyles, in the past, have not been very good for the environment. Excessive driving, for instance. Part of the reason why China is such a big market for coal is the fact that it has 1.3 billion people. Many of them are aspiring to more middle class lifestyles.
Seems like large middle classes and the environment can only be compatible if a lot of change takes place. Change in business practices, change in technologies and change in lifestyles. It all kind of fits together in the discussion of how to get from here to the so called nirvana of a green economy.
Technology can be a big part of the change. I'm a fan of bicycling, but I even realize that the future may hold things like hydrogen powered cars. Clean energy will require technological advance.
Some ask if China, where much of the coal would go, is doing anything to make it's economy more green. Apparently it is. China is big in solar, wind and other green technologies. It's just big in traditional technologies, such as coal, as well. 1.3 billion people is a lot of consumers. One can say that China is running on all cylinders; to borrow a phrase from the internal combustion engine.
So, were people like my friend who was part of that protest blocking the railroad track helping the cause of Occupy, what ever that cause is? I guess the answer is unclear. At least this action stimulated a lot of discussion. It's another part of a big conversation about what the best pathways are to the future.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Right about now, Christopher Hitchens has confirmed his long held religious beliefs, or he is one surprised MOFO.
In reply I wrote, "If Hitchens atheistic beliefs are true, his awareness has ceased to exist just in time to miss experiencing the confirmation of his beliefs."
There's probably nobody holding up a sign at death saying, "dead end."
Come to think about it, it's pretty depressing to think that life ends at death. One even misses the confirmation that there is nothing which conceivably comes after death since, of course, one is no longer there to experience even that.
Believing in the possibility of something seems more enjoyable to me since, at least, it provides some hope for a future. I can imagine this hope would be especially useful at a time when one's life has little prognosis for much future. The hope would come in handy during this life at least.
If what most atheists say is true, one will not know the difference anyway. Like I mentioned before, I'm assuming one has to be conscious to even experience the reality of nothing.
One could say, belief will not let you down, or disappoint you in death since you have to be conscious to be disappointed.
A former Christian, I know, who's now leaning toward being an atheist does say something different. He says that he has less fear of death now, being an atheist, than he did being a Christian. Imagine that. More peace of mind from being an atheist. Partially that fear from being a Christian had to do with the teachings about hell that he grew up with. There was the constant fear and questions like, "is one was pleasing God."
I'll admit, nothing would sure be a lot better than something like a hell.
On the other hand, nothing still doesn't seem like it's enough.
Unlike my friend, I grew up in a very liberal Christian church. It is a church where the concept of a hell isn't really promoted.
That church is pretty open minded and I think there are even some atheists who attend that church. They attend mostly because it's a social center.
I have to admit that I don't go there, myself, as it doesn't fit into my schedule, but I get a good feeling when ever I do go.
There's probably no egotistical "man in the sky" who's offended if one's not fitting a church service into one's schedule.
Science has always met a lot to me and it does seem to be inconclusive, at best, as to whether there is a god or not.
Maybe I shouldn't say a god since that conjures up images of the man with a grey beard, which, other than Santa Clause, I don't really believe in.
Science does seem to indicate that there is still a lot out there we don't know about. The universe, by itself, is huge and there may even be other universes as well as stuff like multiple dimensions. Hard to conceptualize with our very limited minds.
There's a lot of interesting shows about physics I listen to on NPR Radio; for instance.
At least it seems like there is plenty of "stage" for things we still don't know about to exist. Science can be quite humbling.
The fundamentalist brands of religion tend to be more arrogant than the liberal brands. People claiming to know answers. Science tends to unravel a lot of beliefs. At the same time, I'd say we certainly haven't written the last chapter.
Might as well hold a hope about something since it can bring some comfort and pleasure to this life at least.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I hear there is an "Occupy KGO." KGO Radio was a popular talk show station in San Francisco that I remember since the late 1960s. I grew up in Pullman, WA. but KGO's signal is heard up and down the west coast at night. Talk shows were booth liberal and conservative. Locally produced; rather than packaged off the network. Quite a forum for many years.
Occupy KGO video I found (December 15 2011). Interesting.
Just a few weeks ago, the new corporation, Cumulus Media, that bought KGO changed the format. Most of the talk show hosts were laid off.
Maybe I should say they almost totally changed the format. Some of hosts have remained, but there's a lot more news and less discussion now.
Constant news can be repetitive.
People are mad, thus the Occupy KGO uprising. There seems to be an occupy everything, these days anyway.
Rather than blowing my stack, I'm now using the internet. It's a relatively new source for talk radio. That's the great thing about the internet. So many choices and talk radio can still thrive. It's just thriving in new ways.
NPR is one of many talk sources available on the net as well as on the air. Since KGO's recent changes, I've started listening to a wonderful forum on KQED. It's hosted by former KGO talk host, Michael Krasney. Krasney went off KGO years ago and is now on KQED, a listener supported public broadcast station in San Francisco. I've always appreciated Krasney's "nice guy" style. He's not a yeller. There are interesting guests and one can learn a lot.
I listen on-line to Krasney's podcasts. They are archived, by subject. Easy to find the shows that interest me from months of well documented archives.
NPR stations, and the national NPR network, do a good job with archives. Not just a list of show dates, but there are small blurbs on each show to accompany the download link. Who were the guests, what was the book about and so forth.
Working as a custodian, I have lots of time to listen to the radio, but radio waves have trouble penetrating the building I work in. KQED's FM signal didn't make it to Bellingham anyway. That's where the podcast comes in handy. If I'm organized, I can download a bunch of interesting shows from different sources and take them with me. Learn things as I mop the floor.
I hear that KQED is tops in the ratings for San Francisco Bay Area radio. Nice to know as it breaks that old adage "the nice guy finishes last." Krasney does have a "nice guy" sound. There's more to KQED than Krasney, but Krasney's Forum is the only show I've downloaded from so far on that station.
Another talk station I've discovered is Wisconsin Public Radio. WHA, Madison is a flagship for something called the Ideas Network. Plenty of good stuff there.
Commercial talk radio seems to be a dying art, but it has always had its drawbacks. Advertisements pay the bill. As greed gets worse, the time devoted to boring ads goes up while time devoted to interesting talk goes down. Ads were very repetitive. One gets tired of hearing the same ad over and over again. Couldn't they be creative and write more variety in copy?
Listener support and even corporate underwriting seems to be a better model. Classic KING FM, in Seattle, has recently switched to the "listener support underwriting" model of funding. They used to be commercial.
Back at KGO there's still some talk. Weekend host Karel is going strong; so far at least.
One interesting tidbit, Karel is openly gay and he's one of the few hosts they kept. No I don't think the sky is falling for alternative views on the media. I'll still listen to KGO, occasionally, for Karel at least.
Many of the other hosts will be missed. John Rothman with his knowledge of history, Gene Burns, with his formerly libertarian now more Democratic perspective, Bill Wattenburg with his fairly conservative, but uniquely scientific point of view.
Maybe I will not miss Ray Taliaferro as much as he tended to be more of a yeller, but occasionally I'd listen and often agreed with what he said. His liberal perspective was on KGO since the 1970s.
KGO's Cumulus management (Cumulus Corporation) has killed most of talk on that station, but many of these former hosts are, from what I gather, being courted by other stations.
KSCO radio, in Santa Cruz, CA. seems interested and has already had Bill Wattenburg on. It's broadcast range is quite small compared to KGO, but KSCO is also on the Internet.
Rothman, Taliaferro and Burns were recently (Dec. 19) on one of Karel's shows that's not on KGO. Karel is also syndicated on other stations as well as being on the web. On that show, Rothman pointed out that Cumulus didn't fire their hosts, they fired their audience!
The internet is a game changer and my ears remain open.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Image on the right is a more recent version done with Neopaint. Sloping blue surface is a solar collector, or could be windows over an atrium. Roofs can be green spaces. Nothing is to scale. It's just sketches of the concept.
Here are some excerpts from the descriptions I wrote back then.
Title: All In One Building.
AIB (All In One Building) is a community within one building. This little "city within the city" contains 90 dwelling units, a hotel, stores, offices and a recreation center. The building serves as an integrated living, working and playing environment for not only it's tenants, but others as well.
See more images.
People have dreamed of developing a whole city in one building. There are many advantages to this way of thinking. For instance:
* Efficient use of land.
* Energy savings for heating and transportation.
* The ability to visit anywhere in town without being exposed to inclement weather.
* Hopefully a unified community spirit.
AIB is a compromise between the standard apartment house and a free standing city. It is a "one building neighborhood" within a larger city. Due to it's location within the city, AIB's residents are able to take advantage of a wide range of facilities that are largely supported by outside customers. Things like stores, restaurants and a recreation center can serve the region, beyond just AIB's tenants, so these facilities can be larger than just the size of what would be economically viable for just the residents.
Some businesses, like a laundromat, could serve many uses such as washing towels for the recreation center, bedding for the hotel and various walk in customers from both within AIB and the surrounding area. Other common services could include things like a reception desk.
Side view. See more text below.
The AIB Chamber.
An organization of participants and residents of AIB. Makes AIB an active community, rather than just a place to rent. Members of the chamber could include:
* Residents of the apartments.
* Business owners and employees of firms that lease space from AIB, such as for retail and office space.
* Outside members, such as those joining the fitness club.
This building would be full of clubs and discussion groups. There would be dancing, dining, saunas and even swimming under one roof. Plus it could be located in a city, or possibly a college campus. Imagine a whole city made up of these kind of intentional communities.
More recently, (2016) the concept of a Phalanstery has been brought to my attention by my friend Kody Bosch who studies design.
See more images.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
With that in mind, it's hard to justify a similar tax cut in Social Security to try and temporarily give more people spending money and prop up the economy.
That was the tax cut we got last year. The new plan is slightly better. It calls for a tax increase on millionaires to pay for the payroll tax cut. It's still probably not the best idea. Too much political posturing, even though I basically favor income redistribution concepts.
Yes, soak the wealthy pro football player bastards.
While I am troubled by all the tax cut posturing, I still support Obama. Still impressed with things like Obama's secretary of state, Hillary Clinton and her recent speech before the UN; GLBT rights as human rights. Still good reasons to vote for Obama.
We get the same rebate posturing from Congress, both Republicans and Democrats.
It's throwing the masses candy for votes while bankrupting the system in the long run. Hard to say if these rebates actually help the economy and I'm also counting the corporate tax giveaways and tax breaks that the wealthy get. It's a rebate war between rich and poor. A one up mans ship.
Tax candy so we can all go out and buy more Chinese products and imported oil.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Today, I decided to watch the speech by Hillary Clinton on LGBT rights as human rights. It is a significant milestone.
Nothing was said, in the speech, about cutting off aid to countries that don't respect GLBT rights or tying that aid to progress on GLBT issues. Instead there was talk about a lot of behind the scenes funding and efforts to support individuals and organizations all over the world who are working for GLBT rights.
From my reading of the news, I do think there is some debate in the United Kingdom about linking foreign aid to GLBT issues.
This topic is being discussed around the world in which Hillary's speech is a cornerstone, but her contribution isn't the only energy going into the international discussion.
Personally, I often link GLBT issues to world population issues. The British discussion about foreign aid has come up in relation to new laws being considered in the nation of Nigeria against gay people. Harsh 14 year prison terms and so forth.
I see Nigeria as an example of one big worry about foreign aid. The "bottomless pit" problem. When populations are growing real fast, one can try to feed the population, but a few years later the hunger increases as there are many more people to feed. One can't keep up. Eventually one can suffer from "charity fatigue" as the growing problems seem overwhelming.
Also countries that don't respect human rights often remain in poverty killing off some of their most progressive thinkers and ideas.
I like to link population and environmental issues to feminist and gay rights issues.
While the talk from Hillary Clinton didn't address that link directly, that link is part of the broader discussion of which Hillary's speech is one of the cornerstones.
Last night, I listened to a segment of "World Have Your Say" on the BBC World Service radio. Very interesting international talk show. Callers were from Africa, on that segment, discussing gay rights, both pro and anti. Dialog is making history.
Saturday, December 03, 2011
Lots of folks dress up and decorate around the holiday season. At the same time, many bikes don't have lights and can be a safety hazard. Why not decorate bikes with lights? A way to show off and also be lit up for safety. More folks will see your bike than your Christmas tree that's hidden behind a living room curtain.
One of the sponsoring web sites, Everybodybike.com.
Monday, November 28, 2011
A friend of mine pointed out, you can't cook over an Ipod. True. Nor will it heat your home. When He said that, I immediately thought about parabolic solar cookers, for some reason. Science to the rescue. This cooker featured in the 1956 documentary about the sun titled Our Mr. Sun.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
On another note, Fabric Of The Cosmos Nova PBS series is very interesting. Available on the web, also DVD. Narrated by physicist Brian Greene. I watched on-line. So there's more to the vacuum of empty space than just "nothing."
Friday, November 25, 2011
My job was custodian at the downtown Bellingham location. That place is now Binyon optometrist. Good memories working part time with lots of free time for bicycling and thinking.
I've always opted for low pressure careers.
The Facebook Group brings back memories of some Pizza Haven culture.
Now I'm on custodial crew of downtown YMCA.
Below is ghostly image of lobby reflected in the door glass to a conference room. Outside window, one sees glare of mercury vapor lights that illuminate front facade of building. Just below is a glass owning over sidewalk. Across the street is the red signs of Key Bank.
Glad my living expenses remain low. The economy has worked for my modest needs so far, but I realize things aren't working that well for more and more people. In some cases, expectations are too high. In other cases, people are given a raw deal.
Voluntary simplicity is one strategy, in an economy where growth is difficult. A strategy to deal with lowering the carbon footprint.
Changing technology is also a way to deal with these things. Ipods most likely have a lower footprint on the environment than wood stoves.
We are living in a changing world and to some extent, upper income people are still living in a fantasy world. The world has big problems when CEOs of corporations and presidents of colleges still expect huge salaries while their businesses loose money and state supported institutions face large cuts.
Tuition at colleges is shooting way up. I'm glad my college days were cheap and I didn't have to deal with student loans.
Money is only one aspect of a job. Peace of mind is another.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Part of the problem is, democracy needs compromise. Senator Patty Murray, a Super Committee member, stated it well when she talked about the need for shared sacrifice.
I notice that if high income people can't pay anything more in taxes, everyone else seems to refuse to give an inch. They say, "No cuts to Medicare, veteran's benefits or whatever."
What happened to the concept of everyone pitching in to help out?
One would think the military might be good at this. They talk about sacrifice and serving one's country, even giving one's life for country, but they don't seem to want to give an inch either. Can't the Pentagon take cuts too?
When the automatic cuts go into effect, the cuts that were placed into law for the occasion of the Super Committee not agreeing on a deal, the Pentagon is cut. The Pentagon is cut along with everything across the board. However, now there's rumblings in Congress to spare every last penny of Pentagon budget.
Maybe our solders could lead the way in sacrifice, so our world wide military could be smaller. Would that endanger the nation? Maybe, but if our economy implodes, the nation is endanger anyway.
Another solution is to just print the money we need to run our government. Just print it and don't worry about the inflationary consequences of printing money.
Seems like part of the reason why our economy is in it's current state of despair is inflation. Not future inflation, but past inflation. USA has ALREADY priced itself out of world markets for many goods and services.
The cost of living and doing business in USA is pretty high. We already have the high cost of US medicine, we've had the housing bubble; even though that's now deflating, we've had the spiraling costs of corporate executives. We have had multi-million dollar law suites and, of course, we have way too many lawyers.
At the same time, overall inflation remains low. Cost of many products and services, such as MP3 players, keeps going down. There are strong factors, in the economy, that are anti inflationary. One of the most important of those factors is technology. It's getting cheaper to do lots of things. Labor is being replaced with robots which are often cheaper than workers, especially workers here in America that are saddled with high healthcare, housing and education costs.
Technology can also mean consumers providing their own service, like booking one's travel, on line, rather than employing a travel agent. We're getting more "self service checkout" in the supermarket. This situation has been building for a long time, but it is most likely accelerating today.
Here is an interesting aside. Years ago, the state of Oregon outlawed self service gas stations. I think they were trying to preserve jobs for gas station attendants. Law is still in effect today. That may not be the best way to preserve jobs, but it's interesting to note. I wonder about how many people know about that law, outside of Oregon, or if any other states do it?
There's a lot of factors holding down prices in some sectors of the economy. Standard worries about inflation may not apply. It certainly seems true that worries about inflation do not apply the same way in all sectors. Instead, there's concern about unemployment. One's hears people say, "it's unemployment stupid."
Technology is a game changer.
Technology can bring great advantage to society. More leisure, for instance, but we have to be willing to rethink some economics to make this work. Not giving an inch doesn't work.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
"The revolution will be delicious."
I guess that's as good a reason as any to support said "revolution."
Also, one might add, the dancing is fun. Free form, non bar, hippy style dancing which is quite popular here in Bellingham. The mix of music, people and endorphins can create a delicious experience.
Then there's walking, bicycling and all that stuff. Tends to all go along with what is called sustainable living and sustainable economics.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Looks like a lot of articles in the media about employment trends of the future will need to be updated.
For years, healthcare has been cited as a place for future job growth. Some of these predictions were based on the large post war baby boom generation entering older ages and needing more medical services.
Well, the articles must have not taken into account economic issues related to budget cuts in spending on healthcare by governments. Also less and less employers are able to offer private insurance. Eventually this is bound to effect employment predictions in the healthcare industry.
Access to healthcare is also an issue. In some cases, Americans may be over medicated, including those in the post war baby boom generation. Getting older doesn't always imply needing lots more care. Healthier lifestyles can go a long ways to reducing the need for care, but there are still cases when needed care is not be available due to budgetary constraints. These economic issues are bound to effect both the availability of care and the prospects for future employment in the healthcare field.
Saturday, November 05, 2011
In comments section at end of article, see my comment about remembering a film made in 1958 with section about global warming.
I'm just kidding.
Is this the thinking of business interests?
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Hopefully this is the case. At least it sounds logical to me. Of course, folks always try to Wiesel out of everything, but hopefully logic can prevail.
Does this mean that default is sort of like a graduated income tax? A graduated tax on accumulated wealth?
Big investors loose more than small investors.
Same thing could happen with default of US debt. The more money one has, the more one has to loose.
Default could be like the graduated tax that conservatives usually don't want.
If the wealthy don't pay the tax up front, like supporting a higher income tax, they may end up paying it later, if things default.
Large accumulations of wealth would loose more than small accumulations. Accumulations that are "invested" in these debts at least.
It could be sort of like justice in the end. Another term for this is "poetic justice."
Of course, people with less wealth have a lot to worry about also since even a slight haircut could mean the rent isn't paid or no dinner is on the table. Folks with vast sums of money can take a haircut and still have their basic survival needs met, but here's the catch.
Folks with vast sums of money still have worries. Its a different kind of worry. Folks with vaster wealth have worry about business responsibilities and obligations that can't be met. Watch out, if you are wealthy. Here come your employees, clients, vendors, customers and tax collectors. They are all banging down the door. The wealthy have a lot to worry about. The wealthy have more to loose.
Responsibilities = Headaches.
Still, our world wide debt load means we have to accept taking haircuts. It's best if this can be done as rationally as possible.
Rational haircutting can be a lot of things. One form of it might just be "means testing" for Medicare and Social Security.
If we can get through this rationally, and accept a few haircuts, we can get beyond the world debt crisis.
It was stupid, for the managers of all these various investment instruments to have lent out all this money anyway, but that's water under the bridge now. Or, maybe I should say, "that's money under the bridge;" ... the bridge that needs to be rebuilt.
It's all under the bridge now, but we need to look to the future. We have to take a haircut. The rich will have to take a bigger haircut. We have to resolve this debt mess and move on. Partial defaults, like what's likely happening to Greek debt, is part of the solution.
Printing money may ease the situation some, with the accompanying "tax" of inflation.
Means testing, budget cuts, tax increases and economic growth to pay down current debt. All these things are part of the solution.
Looks like the debt is so big that some of the solution will be "investor haircuts." When we get beyond this "debt overhang," we can move on into what will hopefully be a brighter future.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Good message about rebooting our country's operating system, held at Magnolia and Cornwall October 14.
So many issues interrelate. People often ask what Occupy Wall Street is about. I'm not even sure I'm a hundred percent "sold out" fan of Occupy Wall Street, but there is a whole "raft" of interrelated issues being discussed.
I see it as just another part of our cultural "paradigm shift."
Seeking an economy that's better than what we have now. An economy that's more sustainable, in terms of the planet and our own well being. An economy that's more fair, in terms of distribution of income in society.
The income distribution graph, in USA, has gotten out of balance over the past few decades. Continued below.
Also Occupy Bellingham (the only one I've experienced) is kind of fun. Interesting people. A chance to see friends I haven't run into for a long time.
It's community building that is face to face.
The process of culture that's an alternative to other uses of time. Other uses such as shopping, watching TV, fighting traffic and yes, I do spend some of my time at work. I still have a job. I'm not just watching folks on the street playing bongo drums all the time.
Sometimes folks play bongo drums in front of the building my job is in, but that's another story. It's living in Bellingham, our "blue state" (for the most part) city.
Someone on NPR interviewed an employee who works inside a Wall Street firm in New York City. They ask what people's reaction, inside Wall Street, was to the protests on the outside.
Basically, that person said he thought folks were angry at the wrong thing. Rather than Wall Street, they should be angry at the Federal Reserve for printing too much money and devaluing the dollar, he said.
Federal Reserve has been trying to keep the economy going in face of high unemployment. Also to keep the government debt financed so Uncle Sam "appears" solvent, at least.
One can't really blame them for that.
Seems like the blame can just go round and round which is why I see this as a cultural issue.
It's a "paradigm shift" kind of thing.
In that blog post, I suggested other strategies to deal with unemployment, like job sharing and better distribution of the wealth. Maybe that's considered "spreading the misery," but really, we might do better, as a culture, if we used a bit less. If we had a bit less waste.
A somewhat more austere culture could continue to move forward, since new technology is always coming into the picture anyway. We could still progress toward more of a sense of prosperity.
Prosperity can be defined in different ways.
Much of our new technology points us in the direction of "smaller can be better." A big stereo system from the 1960s isn't necessarily better than an Ipod of 2011, just because it's larger. Smaller is sometimes just as good, if not better.
We need paradigm shifts toward an economy that's better than we've got now. Better, but not necessarily larger or more consuming. An economy that offers a fairer deal to more than just it's top people.
Much of it is about our overall sense of well being.
We may not all define our well being in the same way, but there can be some new consensus about what our priorities are.
Below is compilation from some of my posts about the Occupy Movement. I am consolidating blog entries.
One would think folks with savings accounts would march on banks to protest low interest rates
Protest in front of Bank Of America, Bellingham branch October 14 2011.
One would think savers should be marching on the banks demanding better return on savings; rather than just worrying about a $5 per month debit card fee. Maybe the fee is just a tipping point. People are mad at banks.
When I was a kid, banks often paid 5 1/4 interest on savings. Now, interest rates are rock bottom. Bad for savings, but cheap for borrowing; too cheap.
Of course it isn't really the fault of individual banks, it's the world banking system, and things like the Federal Reserve that set overall interest rates.
Part of the reason for the current financial crisis has been interest rates that are too low. When borrowing becomes too cheap, bubbles, such as the housing bubble, get inflated beyond what the normal economy can sustain. There's a disconnect if jobs don't pay much more then $10 per hour while single family homes sell for well over a quarter million.
Video taste of a People's Mike in Bellingham
Segment a bit over 2 minutes.
I see Occupy Wall Street as just another step in the evolution of society
Occupy Wall Street is not necessarily pivotal in the evolution/revolution of our society. It's just another part of the long term paradigm shift toward what can hopefully be a more equitable economy. Also a more sustainable economy.
Important steps, however.
It's good to see so many folks taking interest in the political process and the well being of the community as a whole. Not just personal profits and shortsighted self interests.
Maybe some key congressional races in 2012 will be another step.
It says People's Bank, but the people are protesting
Another rally of Occupy Bellingham protesters. November 4Th at corner of Magnolia and Cornwall. Rallies have been weekly for the past few weeks.
Friday, October 28, 2011
We are a long ways from that reality now.
Besides this dramatic change of fortune, the article brings up another concept; the use of national debt as an investment tool. Some economists, in the government, were starting to worry toward the end of the Clinton years that if there was no national debt, the government wouldn't be selling many bonds so there would be less of the "super secure" bonds for investors to buy. Money managers might have to park their funds in more risky investments, such as stocks, if the government didn't need to sell so many bonds.
Don't we wish we had that problem now?
It may not be seen as a serious problem compared to the out of control government debt of today, but less treasury bonds on the market for purchase would mean that investors would need a different strategy. The "safe haven" US Treasuries would not be as prolific as they are today.
Looks like the national debt has at least two purposes.
One purpose, of course, is to help fund the government when it is spending more money than taxes bring in. That's the purpose which most people think about.
Another purpose of national debt is to provide a safe haven for investors to park their money in US Treasury bonds.
This second purpose may play a part in enabling the national debt, to some extent.
Basically, it's all that money out there needing to be invested in safe bonds. That huge pool of money is part of the reason why interest rates have been low in recent years.
There's money coming from many sources. For instance, there's money coming from countries like China who run large trade surpluses, thus accumulating lots of cash to invest.
Another source of money is institutional investing such as retirement funds. This would also includes the Social Security Trust Fund which has created a vast source of revenue for purchasing of federal bonds.
Another source is the wealthy elite around the world. Rich folks with lots of money that they wish to hold onto.
All this capital, which is looking for safe parking, may be one of the byproducts of income disparity. As the rich get richer, they have more and more money to store. In recent times, this money has tended to favor safe haven type investments; like US Treasuries, rather than more risky investments such as stocks. It's often called the flight to safety.
Ironically, all this money has contributed to low interest rates and easy government borrowing. It can be said that this money has helped to "enable" government deficits.
If this money was not so readily available, governments, and the political climate that drives them, would have to behave differently. For instance, if it wasn't so easy to borrow money, the politics of conservative tax cutting folks might not be so popular. It's likely that tax cuts would have been less popular if they lead directly to cuts in popular government programs such as Medicare or veterans benefits.
Instead, we have been able to have tax cuts without serious consequences in terms of cuts to things like Medicare. Now, some of these cuts are being proposed to try and balance the budget and this is creating a political reaction. Notice popular reactions like Occupy Wall Street.
For years, the pool of money that is available for borrowing has enabled tax cuts at the same time as spending for things like two foreign wars and the Medicare drug benefit (Medicare Part D). If it wasn't so easy to borrow the money, we would have either raised taxes to pay for these things, or figured out how to live without these things.
It is easier to have never had these things in the first place than it is to take them away after we have already become dependent on them. It seems like it is harder to kill a program that people have become reliant on than it is to have never started the program in the first place.
Borrowing has enabled us to "have our cake and eat it too." Low taxes and the programs such as Medicare that people have become dependent on.
Part of this problem is related to the income disparity around the world. So much wealth among the rich that needs to be parked, thus enabling governments to spend above what they tax.
Ironically, safe haven investing is now leading to possible default. Governments that are so far in debt that paying off this debt is impractical. Just look at Greece right now. USA and other nations may not be far behind.
This huge pool of money that's looking for "safety" has also helped to enable bad banking practices in the private sector. Too much money floating around can lead to inflationary bubbles in the economy, such as the housing bubble.
This problem wouldn't be so bad if the economy was growing. If we were growing into a new frontier, for instance, money could be invested to create new wealth. Debts could be paid off from the ever increasing wealth.
For growth and creating new wealth, we currently face the problem of not having a frontier. The US has already tamed its western states. Environmental restraints make growth more difficult all around our limited Planet Earth.
To some extent, new technology can help to bring growth which is not necessarily dependent on a spacial frontier. Back in the 1990s, it can be said that we were able to grow the economy into cyberspace. New technology of the Internet was one of the things that blessed the Clinton administration with a growing economy.
These days, even the growth into cyberspace does not seem to be enough. Growth is stagnant at best. This can mean the formation of inflationary bubbles from capital, rather than real growth.
So we have had a lot of inflationary bubbles in the private sector and also a rush to park extra money in various instruments of government debt.
Public sector investment can grow the economy as well. For instance, investing in infrastructure can lead to economic growth. Investing in things like an educated workforce, better transportation or research and development comes to mind.
The problem is, much of current government investment is not in infrastructure. Instead it is in things like entitlements. Entitlement spending is things like people's retirement benefits. This type of spending is less likely to return increased wealth on the investment so future prospects for paying back the money are less likely.
Basically, there's been too much money available to borrow. More money than the recent growth of the economy can account for.
Higher taxes on the wealthy may be one step to help us get out of this situation. Seems like the wealthy have not wanted to pay enough taxes, but they, and the financial practices that so many of them support, have been more than willing to lend money to governments. Instead of paying taxes, they invest in government debt.
Maybe the wealthy, as well as the rest of us, should have paid more taxes to begin with. Paid more taxes rather than loaning out our money to governments and other entities that are likely to tax us anyway, as we "take a haircut" when they default.
Hard default is kind of a radical prediction. It's more likely that there will be some sort of "soft default," like when central banks and governments have to print money to meet debt obligations. This isn't quite the same as a true default, but it does lead to devaluation of currencies. It's the process of economies paying off their debts by basically inflating their way out of debt.
Economic growth could avoid the need for even a soft default, but the prospects of the kind of growth that would be needed to pay off this mountain of debt are daunting.
New technology and innovation; we need you to help us create growth. We will most likely also need to swallow hard and realize that much of this debt will not be paid back.
It's a case of "pay me now or pay me later." Wealthy folks, as well as the rest of society, have not wanted to pay high taxes, especially in USA, but people have been willing to park that money in government debt. Some of that parked money may turn out to be a tax in disguise.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
In the long run, it would be nice if the world were less dependent on the oil industry, but that's "down the road," so to speak. The road needs to turn into something more like a transit line and bike path.
Oil industry can be a corrupting force since so many oil exporting countries have been dictatorial societies, but this doesn't always have to be the case. Canada is a shining example of an open and multicultural society which exports a lot of oil. In fact Canada is the biggest oil exporting nation to the USA.
I wish both Libya and Egypt good fortune as they hopefully progress toward more democratic societies.
The world is changing.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Or, maybe they tore a house down to build this newer one?
There's construction here and there. Seems like usually folks building their retirement home. Probably not enough to employ all the idled contractors, realtors and other job seekers around.
That's the problem. Anemic recovery and if the recovery does pick up steam, here is the question. Is there enough land, not to mention ideal "lakefront" land, to allow for a robust recovery without people grumbling again about turning the lake into a toilet?
And now think about gas prices. When the economy picks up steam, they go up due to limited supply and demand.
That's why we need some major paradigm shifts. We need new ways to grow and improve the economy in sustainable ways.
People often say that they thought New York City couldn't grow any larger than it was in the late 1800s because there was an "absolute limit" to urban growth, due to the horse manure it generated.
We'll, we made it past that, but we had to be open to change.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Too bad, but now, I feel like I missed the boat that is sinking. That's not so bad. Who wants to be on the boat that's sinking?
Monday, October 10, 2011
Bellingham is now installing some flashing crosswalks in areas where there are busy walks with no traffic light. Just push the button and the crosswalk starts flashing. At these crosswalks, I try to be polite and see what's happening with the traffic before I press the button. If cars are just about at the walk, I try to wait till they go past so they don't have to slam on the breaks. Remember, flashing crosswalks don't have a "green, yellow, red" traffic signal. I assume cars are expected to stop as soon as the walk starts flashing. There's no "yellow about to turn red" warning, like there is at intersections with regular stoplights. Keeping this in mind, I try and let the cars that are almost at the walk go on by before I press the button. Then I push the button so cars that are farther back (which are often speeding anyways) have a warning and start to slow down. By the time those cars get to the walk, I've often just finished crossing. Sometimes I jog across the street so as not to hold up traffic for very long at least.
One time I accidentally pushed the flashing crosswalk button right as a large truck was about to cross the walk. The truck stopped and I noticed smoke from the tires. Trucks have a lot of inertia so they are often harder to stop on short notice and also it takes more fuel to get going again.
I didn't see if the driver was upset or not, but later I had a discussion on Facebook with a friend of mine who is a former truck driver. I ask him if the driver would have been upset and his response was, good drivers realize "it comes with the territory." We do the best we can and there usually isn't much point in snarling about things. If more people took that attitude, the world would flow a lot easier.
Fancy Bellingham crosswalks that didn't work out well in the long run.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
There's a rally planned for corner of Magnolia and Cornwall, Old Federal Building corner, Friday October 7 at 4 to 7 pm.
Someone handed me a flyer that says "all peaceful people and families welcome."
Old Federal Building has been the site of Friday peace vigils for years, since the late 1960s and more recently the location of Food Not Bombs, a free community food table.
Looks like there's going to be quite a turnout in Bellingham as well as other cities all across the nation as people are getting more frustrated with things like long term unemployment, growing disparity between super wealthy and the rest of society, decline of the middle class, cost of the state of war that never seems to end and looming threats of more budget cuts, lack of safety net and other things that folks can add to this list.
On Facebook, I saw an insightful cartoon showing Wall Street executives deciding to "occupy Main Street." On Main Street they found closed businesses, foreclosed houses and high unemployment so they said, "Well, now we know why they have all that free time."
The cartoon brilliantly cuts both ways addressing criticism that "protesters have a lot of time since they don't have to go to work." When unemployment goes up, people are likely to have more time for things like protests and civil disobedience. Executives, be advised.
Above: In front of Bank Of America on Thursday at Holly and Cornwall.
Below: At Holly and State.
I cut it out of picture accidentally, but it's www.costofwar.com.
Below from a slightly later post.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Particles faster than light, revolution or mistake?.
I learned about this about a day after it was announced, but didn't get around to writing this to my blog till today. At least I didn't wait 5,000 years. Imagine if the blog server was 5,000 light years away.
Andromeda Galaxy is said to be 2 million light years away; time it takes for light to travel there. Shorter distances within our Milky Way Galaxy are still mostly measured in thousands and thousands of years.
Turns out this result was based on a mistake in the measurement. Nothing yet found to be faster than the speed of light after all.
Monday, September 26, 2011
The view is interesting to me since downtown Bellingham is my neighborhood.
Reason for the visit was an open house to celebrate solar collectors on the roof and a green retrofit of the building.
In my book, a high rise is already green compared to low density housing that spreads out over the landscape. Easier to contain impact of 190 homes when they are studio apartments and all under one roof.
Stimulus money was available to make this even better. Solar collectors now provide part of the building's electricity.
Up on the roof, folks discussing the collectors. See if you can spot Mayor Dan Pike in the group.
Some might ask, why bother when Bellingham is so cloudy?
I learned that collectors often work better during overcast conditions. That's because diffuse light from bright clouds shines into collectors better than blue sky. Only when pointed right at the sun do collectors work best on a sunny day. Since the sun tracks across the sky, collectors spend most of their time looking at the blue sky; that is unless one has the type that rotate to follow the sun. For fixed collectors that don't move to follow the sun, bright clouds can scatter the light better than just looking at blue sky.
Of course in Bellingham, the clouds are often dark, but that's another story.
Looking across town, Washington Square has collectors also. One also sees Bellingham High School, Assumption Church and a bunch of other buildings.
Looking down to a green roof on top of a utility building. That's where the tour began.
Quite a bit was done besides just the solar collectors. Upgrades to air systems in the building can reduce stuffiness, but tenants have to be part of the solution as well. The place is now smoke free. Some might feel "big Brother" is taking over, but a smoke free environment is a big step toward a clean environment. One acquaintance of mine, who lives in BHA property, was anticipating the no smoking rule with both hope and trepidation. He hopes he can stop smoking, but fears he can't.
That sign in one tenant's window does say, "No More DADT." Remembering to celebrate the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, September 20 2011. Official day the military dropped that discriminatory policy.
Another part of the retrofit called for replacing 400 toilets. Several BHA buildings swapped out their old toilets with low flow toilets. I sometimes wonder if the low water flow toilets are really that much better, but that could be a whole topic in itself.
What does one do with 400 old toilets besides adding to the landfill?
Build a sidewalk. That's what they did. New sidewalk is between Whatcom Creek and Ohio Streets. Also serves as part of Bellingham's bike path system. Aggregate for concrete was made from 400 crushed toilets. Looks like just about any other concrete.