Monday, December 31, 2012

Biking into another year

From start of Marine Drive overlooking Bellingham Bay.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Good advice not to run down hill

Back when I was in middle school, a youth camp counselor gave good advice to the folks in our cabin. Running down hill is bad for your joints. I'm glad I heard that advice early in life as I have not done much downhill running. My knees and joints are still working fine many years later.

I jog carefully and mostly on the level or up hill.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Old culture and new technology. A vending machine dispensing gold bars.

Combining old culture with new technology. An ATM machine that dispenses gold bars. Now, where are we going to spend that currency? The ancient Romans used it in the marketplace, but try shoving a gold bar into your computer to make a purchase from Amazon.com

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Another year of lights

Much of the town seems dead on Christmas unless one has nearby family and, of course, except for the lights. These aren't even Christmas lights, but theater lights at Bellingham's new 16 screen cinemaplex. It was bustling. Parking lot full, people milling about and lights reflected on moist sidewalk to give the affect of a rainbow path to the city of Oz.

And there are those home dwellers that go all out.

House with neon sign for Hardware Sales in background. Reminders of the shopping frenzy.

Another peace sign in Christmas lights. These are fairly common in Bellingham.

Yard light.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The NRA's costly new government program

Ironic that the National Rifle Association is calling for a costly new government program. Armed guards in every school. Many NRA members are anti government spending so what's up? They're trying to find some way to address public concern over school shootings without backing off from their radical stance of no changes to the nation's gun laws. It's posturing.

The Department of Education has counted 98,817 public schools in the United States and an additional 33,366 private schools. That's a lot of schools which someone has to pay for guards in; if people buy the NRA plan. I think there are better ideas.

Read more here:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I hope folks who were using the old Mayan calendar have gotten a new calendar by now

Just a reminder for folks using the Mayan calendar. A certain phase of that calendar doesn't go beyond the day when Gregorian calendars show the date 12/21/2012. New calendars are available at many spots including some retail shops. New calendars are easy to come by.

Looks like I'll need a new calendar also. I've been lazy about updating things around my place.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy Holidays from Robert Ashworth

A friend of mine found this picture she took of me as she was sorting through an old box of her things. Picture taken around 2007. Time to start thinking about Spring cleaning. Nearing the Solstice. Image taken in Bellingham's Fairhaven District by Sycamore Square.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A post I put on Facebook that got a lot of likes from several sides of the aisle

So I decided to share it here also.

If everyone within (what they'd say on the radio) "the sound of my voice" were in agreement with me, I'd only be preaching to the choir. Diversity of thought makes it more interesting and I believe in civil discussion. I put this thought on someone's thread and it received so many likes I decided to put it on my own wall also.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Two acts of mass violence in schools on planet Earth around the same time

No one died, but many hurt. Early Friday there was a madman with a knife attacking children and adults at a school in China. Same day as the mass shooting in an American school; the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Knife attack in Chinese school. The attack in the Henan province village of Chengping happened shortly before 8 a.m., said a police officer from Guangshan county, where the village is located.

In USA, the outcome was a lot worse where guns were involved. America's loose gun laws may not be the only factor, but one of the factors why the violence can be worse in USA. I'm for some compromise at least. Some regulation and registration of firearms, but not necessarily "taking them away" as so many folks fear. The founding fathers (fathers back then), who wrote the Second Amendment, weren't thinking about the kind of weapons we have today; machine guns and so forth.

The violent crime rate is going down on a per capita basis overall in USA during recent times, but we could still do better.

More mental health care, less dog eat dog world and a lot of things would help also.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

New movie theaters in Bellingham, Pickford and Barkley

Yes, the Pickford twin theaters. I don't go to movies often so I just got around to seeing a movie at the new Pickford space in downtown Bellingham even though the new space has been open for quite some time now.

A non profit and independent theater that's quite successful. It's new space is nice. Stadium seating.

I saw Chasing Ice, a documentary about someone's quest to place cameras around several glaciers to record the retreat of ice due to global warming.

Next day, I biked out Railroad Trail to Barkley Neighborhood to see what the new Regal Barkley Cinemas look like, now that they are finished. 16 screens, stadium seating, even an IMax. Someday, I'll get around to actually seeing a movie out there, but at the rate I take in movies, it will be a while.

What looks like a wetland mitigation / runoff retention pond is now celebrated with nice fountains. I got there just as a rare and brilliant sunset was happening.

But then along the trail comes this ominous warning sign saying one would be trespassing past here. Trail just continues to parking lot and a bike rack. What about connectivity between the theater and the other bike trails around Barkley? What about welcoming access from non motorized corridors? I proceeded anyway and nothing bad happened. No lightning strikes or anything.

Theater lighting is impressive. Parking lot almost full, but the bike rack was empty. It was chilly, but not a bad day. At least there is a pretty nice bike rack.

Bellingham Herald reports grand opening a success with first proceeds to local charities. Even in these recessionary times, new theaters have been built in Bellingham. Regal closed 2 of it's old locations in Sunset Mall and Sehome Village to consolidate it's market to the New Barkley Cinemas and its other remaining facility at Bellis Fair Mall.

Bellingham still has an economy partially propped up by being close to the Canadian border and spinoff from the success of Vancouver's metropolitan economy.

New theaters shimmering through the trees as I head back toward home. Someday I'll go to another movie, but I'm not in a big hurry. It will still be there when I'm ready.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Washington State University Radio turned 90 on December 11

December 11 was the 90th anniversary of KWSU Radio in my hometown of Pullman, WA. This alluring music was the lead in piece for a show called Concert Serenade (I think that's what it was called) that used to come on the air at 11 AM during my high school years. KWSU has now grown into Northwest Public Radio and it's many stations across Washington State, including KZAZ in Bellingham at 91.7 FM. Congratulations to Northwest Public Radio and enjoy a few minutes of The Young Prince and Princes from Scheherazade, by Rimsky Korsakov.



Studios of Northwest Public Radio in the old part of Edward R. Murrow Communications Center at Washington State University.

Tower for KWSU 1250 AM west of Pullman, WA.

Birthday celebration for Edward (Egbert) R. Murrow who spent some of his childhood in the town of Blanchard, Washington, just south of Bellingham.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

First gay marriages on steps of Whatcom County Courthouse

I also like the reflection of background trees in the courthouse windows. Whatcom County Courthouse in Bellingham soon after marriage equality went into effect in Washington State.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Entitlements versus sense of entitlement

Folks on both the left and the right often confuse the concept of entitlements with the sense of entitlement. This influences the debate over things like the Fiscal Cliff.

Entitlements are obligations or promises that the government has made to various people. Social Security and Medicare are among the biggest entitlements. These are promises that the government has said it will provide due to various acts of legislation governing things like Social Security.

Sense of entitlement is a different concept. That's more related to the concept of being "spoiled," of the feeling that, the world owes one a living. Folks often get used to a certain standard of living and they have expectations that this standard will always be available. Sometimes poor people may have a sense of entitlement, but middle class and the wealthy have this also. The wealthy who always expect taxes to be low and the country to be functioning, military and all, have their sense of entitlement. One often hears that spoiled American tourists have a sense of entitlement over conditions in hotels and so forth as they travel to countries where things are different.

Getting back to the other use of the word entitlement, the government uses this concept in it's budget planning process. Entitlements are promises that have already been made by legislation, such as Medicare benefits, which people are already relying on. These are fairly inflexible obligations in the budgeting process as opposed to the concept of discretionary spending where the government has more leeway for change from year to year.

Discretionary spending includes many things. Its the running of the government where choices are made to appropriate money for each fiscal year. Most of military spending probably falls in the category of discretionary spending even though some of the military budget is things like entitlements promised to veterans.

A big problem faced by budget planners today is that most of the budget is devoted to entitlements. With medical costs rising and the retirement of post war baby boomers, Medicare costs are projected to eat up just about all of the budget in the future leaving practically nothing for discretionary spending. Practically nothing for basically running the government from tiny slices of the budget for NASA, the FBI and other discretionary spending. A fairly large slice of discretionary spending goes to the Pentagon. Even the vast defense budget may get squeezed out from future Medicare obligations, if certain trends continue.

While promises for things like Social Security and Medicare have been made, promises can not always be kept. These promises can be conceivably broken if there just isn't enough money to go around. Also the entitlements that are promised to future generations can be scaled back. The amount of money that the government has to spend is dependent on a strong economy with the collecting of taxes.

There is another kind of promise that has been made that could threaten the ability of the federal government to meet its financial promises. That threat is something called Grover Norquist. It's a pledge that many members of Congress have signed saying they'll never allow taxes to be increased. This gives the government less flexibility on the revenue side as it struggles to balance it's budget. Conservatives have often pressured their Congressional representatives to sign the Grover Norquist Pledge, but this can cause problems as costs for things like Medicare keep rising.

Even without Grover Norquist, the government has trouble collecting enough money to meet it's expenses. That's why we have to keep borrowing money, thus adding to the Federal Debt. The amount of tax that the government can collect also depends on the strength of the economy. It depends on how much taxable income is out there.

People on the left often say that Medicare and Social Security are not entitlements, but they are things that people have earned. This isn't totally true. In some cases, Social Security and Medicare pay out more to an individual than the individual has paid in. In other cases, the opposite is true. People sometimes pay more into Social Security than they get back; especially if they die before they retire, for instance. These programs are not just like bank accounts, but they are also of our country's social safety net. Without the safety net, life in society would be a lot rougher so I am in favor of the safety net.

Many folks do seem to have the other kind of entitlement; the sense of entitlement that we can have everything from low taxes to a strong safety net to an always prosperous economy.

In the final end, it always seems to depend on the math; even for the entitlements that the government has promised. It only works, in the long run, when the numbers add up.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Bellingham art walk, or in my case the art run

Artistic silk screening shop is one of many businesses on the Friday night art walk. This photo taken during the day.

Bellingham Art Walk was fun last Friday. It happens the first Friday of each month. Galleries and artsy shops open. People mingling downtown. I met a friend for dinner and when I was just about to the cafe, I realized that I left my outer jacket in a coat closet at the Light Catcher Gallery. The Art Walk became the Art Run for me as I ran back to retrieve my coat. It didn't take long. My friend and I had a good dinner. Lighted bikes, from the lighted bike Christmas parade were visible around town as well, out the cafe windows and so forth. I was in it last year. Downtown Bellingham can be fun.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Two paths to marriage equality. By court order, or voter approval

It's really good that the voters said yes to marriage equality here in Washington State. The cases that are now coming up to the Supreme Court are about constitutional rights versus the states where voters voted against gay marriage. For instance in California, where voters opposed marriage equality by supporting California Proposition 8 several years ago. Now Proposition 8 is being tested in the courts, but no matter how the Supreme Court rules, in this case, Washington State's voter approved law is still safe, as far as I know. Hope the court rules in favor of tossing out California's anti gay marriage Proposition for the states that weren't as fortunate at the ballot box.

States where voters approved gay marriage in 2012 are Washington, Maine and Maryland.

In Minnesota, voters turned down a proposed constitutional amendment against gay marriage. Attitudes of voters seem to be changing fairly quickly on the gay marriage issue. Maybe California will take another vote someday, but in the meantime, that case is before the Supreme Court.

Governments need the revenue from pot as a business model. Hurray Washington State.

I hope the Federal government doesn't fight Washington State's new law legalizing marijuana. Governments at the federal, state and local levels all need the revenue from pot as a business model. Also less costs for law enforcement and incarceration. I don't even use pot that much, myself, but I look at the math. It's the budgets stupid.

I heard that the largest clinic for free healthcare in the county is the county jail. Interesting perspective. Wouldn't have thought of that, but it sounds logical. Medical care is a big expense in the jail. I heard that on the Joe Show on Bellingham's Progressive Talk KBAI when they interviewed County Councilman Ken Mann. He was on that show recently discussing county business including the plans for a new jail, and other county matters.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Nascar race for Google cars?

The thought just crossed my mind. Google's driver less cars driving themselves in a race. What a concept.

A train of thought that led me there was thinking about the problems of bicycle racer Lance Armstrong. His wins have been disqualified from Tour De France races due to accusations of unnatural and technological things done to the body that provide an unfair advantage.

I hear that race officials are having trouble establishing who did legitimately win those races since the second, third, and so forth cyclists may have been doped as well.

Should they just drop those rules and have the Tour De France be a match of technology, rather than a match of the pristine human body? There's another kind of racing called Nascar where the power comes from machine rather than human. There's still the driver, however. The skill of the driver.

Wait a minute. We can eliminate the driver also. Have a Nascar race for driver less Google cars. Then, maybe it's the skill of the programmers who design the driver software. Eventually, it will all be the machines.

That's my foray into talking about sports.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Better to say saving rather than killing two birds with one stone

For instance, bicycling is a good way to kill, or better to say save, two birds with one stone. Save fossil fuels, get exercise. Many other birds as well. Use less space to park and so forth. You get the idea. Better to say saving birds rather than killing them.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Want a level playing field? Sure

The rich and their big corporations will "level" the playing field. Level it alright, with their bulldozers and wrecking balls as in "this old place has been leveled."

Level can have several connotations.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fond memories of George W. Bush?

On BBC Radio from London, they recently interviewed someone from an institute connected with former President Bush. He was talking about why he thought Romney lost the election. Basically Romney was more harsh than Bush, if you can believe that. I can. Bush did support some immigration reform that included a guest worker program. Bush added prescription drug benefit to Medicare, Bush funded a lot of AIDS work in Africa, Bush often called himself a "compassionate conservative." Romney and Ryan's talk about cutting Medicare, and so forth was harsher and didn't go over with the voters. Interesting perspective.

I feel that the Republicans have gotten worse for several reasons. One reason (besides the power of the hateful mega churches) is that people are freaked out about the deficit. Tea party Republicans feel we can't have "business as usual" when it comes to the deficit. Bush was often accused of spending like a drunk sailor as he cut taxes, started wars and expanded, rather than proposing to slash, Medicare. Romney/Ryan came along later with a slash, slash, slash message that even made George Bush look nice. Maybe Romney was just set up to it. As governor of Massachusetts, he might have been more moderate, but harsh conservatism was taking over the Republican party at that time. Now the Republicans are doing some soul searching and it is interesting to hear the various perspectives.

I'm glad Obama won.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

York neighborhood free table

Historic piece. Table is no longer at that location.

Good idea for reducing clutter and often finding things one needs.

Table looks a bit empty when I took this image, but often there is quite a bit of good stuff there.

This table is well maintained out of the rain. It is lighted and even offers a plugin to check electrical items.

On KQED Radio, they interviewed someone who was working on a phone app for exchanging things. It's called Yerdle.

Here are some guidelines for this free table at Franklin Street near Gladstone.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Privacy on Facebook; an oxymoron. Who would go to something like Facebook to look for privacy?

Privacy on Facebook is an oxymoron, but that's okay with me. Kind of funny hearing people worry about privacy on Facebook. I think something like Facebook is the last place one would expect privacy. The things I post on Facebook are intended to be shared publicly.

Ironically, something posted on the open web (outside of one's circle of Facebook friends) is likely to have less audience than something posted inside Facebook since Facebook alerts one's friends whenever things are posted. In the 1990s, that process was called "push technology;" a term that seems to have fallen by the wayside more recently.

Something on the open web, such as this blog, is not found as often. People have to surf to the site.

If one is famous, then web sites and blogs get bigger audiences. Otherwise, web sites just get a few Google searches and maybe some friends will look, but most won't bother unless it's brought to their attention. In some cases, the media will notice an obscure web site and bring a bunch of readers; for a while at least. 15 minutes of fame. On Facebook, things are brought to people's attention; at least to the attention of one's friends.

Another worry that some folks might have about posting on the open web is employers who might do Google searches. I guess I'm not that worried about employers because I may not ever look for another job, I'm almost retired. Also, if I was looking for another job, I would want my new employer to accept me for who I am. I share most of who I am and if I'm embarrassed to share something, I hide it from my friends also, or at least I wouldn't potentially broadcast it to all my 260, or so, friends on Facebook.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

That's me dancing down Denman Street, Summer of 2011

Someone got a good picture of me dancing down Denman Street in Vancouver, BC. during the 2011 Gay Pride Festival.

Folks from Bellingham and other places were invited to join the Vancouver Polyamory contingent in the parade. Someone else took this picture, and here is a link to the set of pictures I have from that event. Fun memories. Also, this blog entry is to link my blog title on polyamory to my flicker photos on the same subject.

By the way, same parade was also fun in 2012.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Old Town Cafe

It was nice to have a place to go for Thanksgiving. Each year, the Old Town Cafe serves a free Thanksgiving Dinner. It's a Bellingham tradition. Volunteers do a lot of the work, musicians preform, a wide variety of people come together for dinner.

I met someone, or at least got a chance to talk to someone I had met earlier at Purple Church dance. It created an opportunity for conversation. Quite a few familiar faces there.

A nice alternative to family Thanksgiving traditions; especially when other family members are hundreds of miles away.

Now I'm noticing that there are more businesses open on Thanksgiving. Not necessarily those jumping the cue on "Black Friday," but little convenience shops, places like the downtown Starbucks and some other restaurants. It's nice to give employees a day of rest, but also, as our society evolves away from everyone having a family, there are more places to go and things to do. Places where people connect.

A Bellingham Herald article today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Artwork on part of wall of HUB Bicycle Collective in Bellingham

This art adds to my ride along South Bay Trail which goes past the HUB on it's way from downtown Bellingham to Fairhaven District.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A casualty of 2012 election. New YMCA plan in Lynden

While there were yes votes for a lot of things in Washington State, a recreation center in the town of Lynden (north of Bellingham) was voted down. Plan was to restore the old Delft Square building that was damaged by fire several years ago. Turn it into a recreation center that would be owned by the Lynden Parks District and then operated by the YMCA.

Lynden voters weren't that generous, but also geography might have played a role. Lynden Parks District has the same boundaries as the Lynden School District and the recreation center would have most likely been a benefit to a much larger region. Maybe the folks around Lynden didn't feel like paying a tax that would have provided something for a larger area even though it would have helped downtown Lynden as people would be drawn to the downtown.

Below picture from my files taken in 2009. Old Lynden Department Store building, later named Delft Square.

I don't get to Lynden that often, myself. What's there to do out there? I know, there's the Lynden Museum with a lot of antiques. I'm sure there's some stuff to do, but there's more to do in Bellingham, of course. Bellingham is a lot bigger.

At least there's a nice bike path to Ferndale. It goes along the Nooksack River Dike into Hovander Homestead County Park. Sometimes I ride out to Ferndale and then turn around and come back. I pick up that bike path off of Slater Road.

As an armchair "Wednesday morning" after the election analyst, I got to thinking. Seems like if the parks district was bigger, the idea might have gotten farther. That thinking brought me (web surfing) to a map of Washington State school districts. Here's the northwest Washington area excerpted from the school district map.

Remember, Lynden Parks and Lynden School District have the same borders, but maybe Lynden could view itself as sort of a hub for Nooksack Valley, Meridian, the north part of Ferndale and possibly even Blaine districts.

A county park rather than a city park?

Interesting looking map I discovered. I've never looked at the state from the perspective of it's many varied school districts.

Map source: www.k12.wa.us/Maps/default.aspx.

Update 2016. Building has been restored as hotel and retail. See description and photo essay here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Whitman County more blue than surrounding counties

Counting late ballots, Whitman County is now (as of last Friday) tipped over into the yes on Referendum 74 to legalize gay marriage in Washington State. Hurray.

Moot point anyway since 74 won statewide due to the big population in King County that was in favor. Nice to see Whitman join the yes side however. The only county to vote yes east of Cascade Mountains. I grew up in Whitman County where Pullman is located. A college town. Interesting to note that the county seat is not Pullman, it's Colfax, but Pullman is where most of Whitman County's population resides. Home of Washington State University.

One of my high school teachers called Pullman "the Athens of the Palouse." Whatcom County is in the yes category also. Whatcom is where Bellingham is located. I now live in Bellingham. Ref. 74 was strong in urban areas, such as around Seattle, but more weak in rural areas. Most of the land area of the state voted no, but land doesn't vote, people vote. It's kind of like red states versus blue states only it's red counties versus blue counties. Looking more closely (like at the precinct level), much of Whatcom County is more red, but urban Bellingham weighs heavy in the blue.

Source: vote.wa.gov/results/current. Very interesting to look around on that site and see how various election results played out for different measures and candidates by county in Washington State.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Symbolism is one good reason to raise taxes on the rich

Not extending the Bush tax cuts to the top income brackets may only bring 40 billion dollars to the Treasury; at least according to a guest from an organization called American's For Limited Government who was interviewed on a recent Joe Show on Bellingham's Progressive Talk Station. 40 billion may be just a drop in the bucket, but at least it looks like the rich are part of the equation.

I'm not sure how accurate those figures are anyway, but I'll go with them, at least for the sake of this discussion.

Much larger progress can be made toward reducing the deficit by cutting back on the growth of various entitlement programs. Medicare, for instance and of course the vast outlays of the Department of Defense. Looks like sacrifices will have to be made in those areas, but it's hard to get people to give an inch, unless they feel the rich are sacrificing also. To some extent it's a battle of symbolism. The perception that everyone is in the same boat makes it easier to let go of some of one's personal needs and wants in order to sacrifice a bit for the greater good.

Where's that American spirit of giving to the greater good? We all need to feel like we are in it together in order to feel that way, I guess.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Seceding or joining the union 2012 election

Puerto Rico is the only place that actually took a vote and it voted for statehood.

There's been talk of petitions in some red states about seceding from the union after Obama's victory in the November 6th election, but the only place that actually took a vote on statehood was Puerto Rico. Voted in favor of joining statehood during the November 6th election. I think the union of USA is pretty safe if it were to actually come to a vote rather than just a few people signing petitions. Even in the so called "red states."

As for divisiveness in this country, urban versus rural may be more of a fracture point than red states versus blue states. Here in Whatcom County, the 42nd legislative district sent two Republicans to the state legislature November 6th. The 42 district is largely the rural part of Whatcom County north of Bellingham. Democrats were elected in the 40th district which is mostly in urban Bellingham and extends down into Skagit County.

The divide between 40th and 42nd legislative districts was real distinct in 2012 election. It was a race between Democrat Jeff Morris and Green Party candidate Howard Pellett in the 40th district. No Republican made it past the primary in Washington State's "top two" primary for that position. Jeff Morris won in the general election.

Several years ago, there were actually two secessionist movements in Whatcom County. Both in areas north of Bellingham. One was called Pioneer County while the other was called Independence County (If I remember correctly). Now these are just memories.

I got to thinking, if more liberal Bellingham and areas south were to also secede, the county courthouse might be the only thing left in Whatcom County. The courthouse grounds could be renamed "Scapegoat County." since everyone can blame their problems on being in Whatcom County. After secession, people might discover that they still have their problems, however.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Election victories, but a bit of a libertarian tint

It was a good election, for the most, part speaking from my vantage point in the great state of Washington. Obviously, I'm glad Barack Obama won.

Also exciting are election results in 3 states where gay marriage was approved including here in Washington. Recreational use of marijuana was approved also.

Jump up and down for joy and then realize that Tim Eyman, the generator of many conservative anti tax initiatives in our state, is celebrating also. Eyman's Initiative 1185 passed with a large margin. I-1185 requires a 2/3 majority in the legislature for any tax increase. I voted against 1185, but realize that it's part of a libertarian streak in both this state and country. There's still a small government, anti authority stripe in our culture. Some of that is good, but it can cause conflict when we expect teachers to be paid and our roads repaired.

Speaking of conflict, now that we have approved marijuana use, here in Washington, the stage is set for a showdown with federal authorities who still see marijuana as illegal and may try to enforce the law as federal law supersedes state law. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Will the deficit ridden federal government have the money to pay for enough police to enforce it's laws without cooperation at the local level?

Our culture's ambivalence over the role of government is also heading us right into the "fiscal cliff." That's when a bunch of difficult things come to pass like the dreaded sequester of across the board spending cuts to both military and domestic programs. It was approved by Congress last year in a deficit cutting compromise. Something has to be done about that to keep the military, Medicare and all those things running at the levels people seem to expect.

Our culture's libertarian influence is good in a way, but also problematic. It helps to keep us free from too much government control, but there's always a tradeoff. We also expect comforts from having the largest military in the world and programs such as Medicare. These all use government funding.

Of course, if we can innovate and figure out how to do these things without government, we've got it made, but that's a bit of a stretch.

Meanwhile, if the federal authorities can afford enough police to try to enforce federal marijuana laws in the state, I guess we can say "bug off." That's the American libertarian stripe. It's kind of a double edged sword.

Big victories for Democratic Party in many parts of the country. Picked up two seats in the US Senate. First openly gay senator among them.

In California, democrats have more than simple majority in both houses of the Legislature. Also Californians did vote to tax themselves more. Prop 30 passed. Part of the reason why it passed is that they took a good look at what would happen if it didn't pass. They worked out an alternative budget that showed them the cuts in schools and so forth. The voters passed the tax as opposed to suffering the alternative. It was spelled out quite clearly by Governor Brown, so I hear from listening to podcasts on KQED Radio. Michael Krasney's Forum show has done stuff about it.

Be careful, though, in California. Since the Democrats have control in the legislature and governor's mansion, they might get blamed if it screws up. California often leads the way.

It's been a good election to celebrate.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Some people say, hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils

Washington State is smart in one way. It's all absentee voting. No need to staff expensive polling stations. Practically never a line (sometimes a line at the drop box), Convenient and there still is a paper trail.

All absentee voting started (I think) here in Whatcom County, but it's gone statewide at least. As soon as one gets the ballot in the mail, one can vote. Vote must be postmarked or dropped off at a ballot box by the deadline on election day. One still must buy the postage. No stamp necessary if dropped off at one of several official drop boxes located around the county.

This one in the south parking lot of the county courthouse.


Yes I did vote for Obama. He's pretty good though no one is perfect. As for the direction of the country, it's usually been floundering ever since I can remember. There really is little consensus from the American people on what direction to go. We are left wingers, right wingers, centrists and all the special interests. USA is like an ocean liner with 6 captains all arguing on which way to turn the wheel. Each captain wrenching it one direction till another wrenches it in another direction. The ship moves so slowly that it basically just sits in the water as if no captain holds the wheel long enough to get up inertia in any one direction. Backward, forwards, left, right. That's our Congress for sure, but also the American people.

Still, we have absentee voting so at least we are smart in some ways; though the ship does look like the crew is absent. Absentee crew? No. It's just a case of two many cooks spoiling the broth, but that's supposedly democracy.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”


Washington has a chance to be the first state where voters say yes to gay marriage.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Is slow economy and the need for stimulus the new normal?

I'm for Obama, but I still have my worries. Some folks criticize Obama saying that the stimulus program just added to the debt and didn't work. Well, maybe unemployment would be a lot higher if it weren't for the stimulus, but now there's another costly Obama idea. The Social Security tax cut. We have been getting it for the past 2 years. Like the stimulus, it adds to consumer spending to create jobs, but is now being opposed by the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). They are worried about it increasing the debt and undermining the financial solvency of Social Security. Might be about as bad an idea as the Bush "partially privatize Social Security" plan.

A few days ago, I heard an interesting interview on KUOW Radio about this. Surprisingly, someone from JP Morgan Bank was in favor of this tax cut and stated that a tax cut to middle class and lower income people creates more consumption and jobs than the Bush tax cuts to higher income people. Interesting that someone from JP Morgan would think that. The worry about this tax cut adding to the deficit was discussed and the fellow from JP Morgan feels that it will not be a big problem for the future of Social Security if it is extended one more year. It's already been extended from 1 year to 2 years and Congress may extend it again one more time.

I wonder, who is to say that the economy will be much better in one more year than it is today? Maybe we will just keep extending it again and again undermining Social Security. It's stuff to think about, but basically I like Obama. I just have questions and reservations about all these things.

If the need for stimulus becomes the new normal, the debt will just keep piling on. Maybe that's where Quantitative Easing, on the part of the Federal Reserve, comes in handy. Basically we have to keep printing money to prop up the economy as we know it. Quantitative Easing can be part of the new normal also. Then the debt is less of a worry as we print our way out of debt. Still inflation could be a big worry with that strategy, but it isn't a big worry yet, I guess.

On the the topic of inflation and printing money, watch out for pockets of hyper inflation that may cause havoc before the overall inflation rate ticks up. For instance another housing bubble.

I assume the Fed would ease up on the money supply if overall inflation becomes a problem and, presumably then, unemployment would be much lower as a heated economy tends to have less unemployment. Less unemployment along with it's higher risk of inflation. Still, we may be facing "new normals" of jobless recoveries. If that's the case, things like housing bubbles, big profits and pay hikes can happen in parts of the economy while the majority of people remain in recession.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Wind turbines can be thought of as wind sculptures

Too bad the majority in Whatcom County Council voted to ban wind power turbines in county agricultural and forestry zones; so I hear. Still allowed in industrial zones, but will that be enough space?

What's the problem? Are wind turbines not considered aesthetic? Can't they be viewed as wind sculptures by a more open minded population? We have some wind sculptures in Bellingham. This one pictured near Whatcom Museum of History and art.

Maybe they are also worried about bats getting caught in the turbines, but there are ways to reduce that problem. If we want to curb global warming and have greener energy, we have to be able to accept change. Change in the landscape. Wind turbines can be seen as artistic.



US is getting more serious about actually tapping alternative energy. As for the view, items to capture wind can be viewed as art. For instance this wind sculpture at the Bellingham, WA. transit terminal.

Short Youtube video.

Good Bellingham Herald article explaining this situation. Published November 19.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

They use eroticism to sell cars, why not using it to promote bicycling lifestyles?

I think of the naked bike rides that take place in different cities of the world as being more like advertisements than protests. Give bicycling some erotic appeal. Why not? Eroticism is a powerful motivator.

Eroticism is likely to be a more powerful motivator than concern about global warming which is often cited as a reason for the nude rides. Problem is, one person's action is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the big picture of global warming. Whether you drive or bike, it isn't going to change the outcome of something as large as the melting of Greenland's icecap until huge segments of the population make that change. Where's the motivation for the individual?

On the other hand, getting into better physical shape and being around other cyclists who are often attractive and having a fun time; now that's an outcome that has a payoff for each individual.

I once heard a car company ad with the phrase, "the shape you want to be in." One can get into a sleek car, but one can also be on a bike and get into better shape.

Of course the WNBR rides aren't just for super attractive people. They are very inclusive events for a diversity of ages and body types. Unlike sports, or possibly the dating world, the rides are non competitive. People just come to have a good time. If one participates in the bicycling lifestyle, there can be a payoff in terms of physical fitness.

Another example of a personal motivator for cycling is the pocketbook. One who bikes can often see savings to their pocketbook. However, this motivation works best in times of high gas prices.

When more people bike for personal reasons as well as the less powerful motivators such as curbing global warming, it does help to curb global warming. An advertisement for the bicycling lifestyle with what they used to call "sex appeal" in the old days of TV commercials for Ultrabright Toothpaste.



The best appeal is to people who want to see the nudity. To people who show up to participate in and / or watch the rides. Also for folks who seek out the images on the internet.

The advertising message wouldn't work for folks who don't want to see nudity. It doesn't work for folks who don't wish to have nudity inflicted on them. I'm not as much of a fan of the rides being an in your face protest as I am in favor of the celebration side of the ride. That would mean cooperating with police who try and set up an area for the ride so it doesn't surprise too many folks that don't want to see it.

Still, inflicting nudity on an unsuspecting public isn't the end of the world. It's just not my main idea (though my views are different than some others who participate in the rides). I'm a bit less confrontational than some, even though here in Bellingham, it isn't confrontational compared to some other cities. It's a celebration.

Even if it's just an event where people go who already want to see nudity, that's fine with me. Then the riders can embed the messages of health and reducing global warming into the show. Rather than inflicting nudity where people don't want to see it, inflict messages of health and protecting the environment to the audience that does want to see nudity. That's a big audience.

Use sex appeal to promote bicycling.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Etch A Sketch away the deficit

Could a Romney Presidency increase defense spending, not raise taxes, not harm Medicare and balance the budget? Just put the deficit on an Etch A Sketch and erase it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Historic sign for Bellingham Coal painted on building in Snohomish

Decades ago, Bellingham had lots of coal mining. I think the last mine closed in the 1950s, but now Bellingham is center of another controversy. Shipping coal through Bellingham to Asia from places like Wyoming. Plans to build a new coal port north of Bellingham are controversial. Currently, some coal trains are headed through town to an already existing port in Canada. Asian markets are hungry, but should we continue developing a fossil fuel economy? See my blog entries on the coal train controversy.

Above photo taken 2005 where side of building is incorporated into a restaurant.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Betty Desire makes front cover in Cascadia Weekly Best Of Bellingham edition

Best person in the Cascadia Weekly Best of Bellingham 2012 edition. A Bellingham icon and I know Betty Desire.

Famous as a drag queen who has a very strong social conscious. Always reminding people to vote and, these days, asking folks to vote "yes" on Referendum 74; legalizing gay marriage in the state of Washington.

Betty preforms at various venues, including Rumor's Cabaret where she encourages people to feel comfortable about themselves, remember not to drink and drive and to have a good laugh. Much of her audience isn't gay so she goes beyond preaching to the choir. As her Best of Bellingham nomination shows, Bellingham is, for the most part, a very gay friendly and open minded community.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Detecting planets around other stars is an amazing accomplishment

Artist image reprinted from Astronomy Magazine.

Humans can do some wonderful things, like detecting the slight movement of a star that's 4.3 light years from Earth using an incredibly refined spectrograph called HARPS. According to an article in Astronomy Magazine, the star named Alpha Centauri B has an ever so slight wobble in it's position. This back and forth movement is no more than 20 inches (51 centimeters) per second! That's about the speed of a baby crawling. Amazing they can detect it at all from a distance of 4.3 light years. That wobble is what leads scientists to say that they've discovered a planet around Alpha Centauri B. The planet orbiting that star has a gravitational tug which can be detected in shifting spectral lines and these shifts can be by the HARPS Spectrograph which is located at a large telescope in Chile.

Amazing, when one stops to think about it. What our instruments can do.

Mainstream media has given this discovery some coverage because the Alpha Centauri star system is the nearest neighboring star to our sun. Yes, even in our nearest stellar neighbor resides a planet. On Facebook, people have shared science fiction graphics, from the 1950s, about alien civilizations on Alpha Centauri.

In reality, this planet wouldn't be like Earth, according to the scientists. It's orbiting too close to the star so it would be blazing hot. Other planets may reside in that star system which could be more friendly to Earth style living, but if they do exist, they await further research.

Two of the most common techniques for detecting extrasolar planets are gaining momentum as time goes on. Sensing the wobble of spectral lines (as was done in this case) is called the Radial Velocity Method.

The other big contender for planet discovery is what's in use by the famous Kepler Satellite. That's the satellite which stares constantly at a patch of stars looking for an ever so slight dimming in the light from any one of the stars. That dimming, or wink, is likely to be the result of a planet which is orbiting the star going in front of the star as seen from Earth thus blocking part of the light. Kepler is staring at around 160,000 stars for telltale signs of these tiny winks. It has discovered many planets so far.

Even though we haven't found alien civilizations yet, it's still amazing that we can detect evidence for planets around distant stars at all. We can't actually see these planets, but planets do have an ever so slight effect on the starlight from their stars. The fact that we can extrapolate these sort of things at all is a great testimony to our mastery of technology. Human achievement at it's finest.


Image and below description reprinted from Astronomy Magazine.

This artist’s impression shows the planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B, a member of the triple star system that is the closest to Earth. Alpha Centauri B is the most brilliant object in the sky, and the other dazzling object is Alpha Centauri A. Our own Sun is visible to the upper right. The tiny signal of the planet was found with the HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6-meter telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. // Credit: ESO/L. Cal├žada/N. Risinger.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Neither Romney or Obama understand that higher gas prices is why America is becoming more energy efficient

I listened to tonight's presidential debate where high gasoline prices were used as a political football. Both candidates talked about the America's need to produce more domestic fossil fuels and Obama was taking credit for increased production over the past few years. Both were critical of higher gasoline prices, but it seems they don't understand that higher prices are a big part of the reason why domestic energy production is up. Take the Bakken Shale, in North Dakota, as an example. The Bakken Shale has lots of oil, but it's harder to tap than oil of years past. As oil prices go up. Bakken Shale oil becomes more viable.

In the debate, neither candidate mentioned global warming. What's the matter with people?

Both candidates did mention the need to promote green energy, like solar and wind as part of the mix, but Obama gave green energy more emphasis. Good for Obama.

Both did discuss natural gas and I've heard that converting to natural gas could, at least temporarily, bring down the cost of operating an automobile, but who knows. After people convert, those prices could go up also. Remember, natural gas is still a fossil fuel. It's still a non renewable fossil fuel.

Higher gas prices are a blessing in disguise. They might help to push us toward greener energy in the future. Also, in the meantime, they make more of the American fossil fuel resources that are still remaining viable.

Romney talked about new technology for fossil fuel production, like (I'll fill in the blanks) fracking. Maybe fracking isn't the end of the world, but global warming could be if global warming truly accelerates.

Want us to stop blaming President Bush? Okay let's now blame the Republican House of Representatives

Yes, the Republican House is the source for a lot of our current problems.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Three reasons I thought of for Quantitative Easing

Quantitative Easing is basically when the Federal Reserve prints more money to add to the economy. Some people call this "fiat currency" meaning phony or fake currency, but the practice of printing money most likely helps to prop up our society.

Reason 1 for Quantitative Easing that is always mentioned in the media is to stimulate the economy in order to bring down unemployment. Low interest rates and economic stimulation in an attempt to keep unemployment from reaching explosive levels. Explosive meaning possibly social disorder.

Reason 2 for Quantitative Easing. To help fund the Federal government. Yes, I read that somewhere around 40% of the Federal budget comes from borrowing money. Borrowing from creditors or basically borrowing from the Federal Reserve where we print our own money here in USA.

Various political and economic circumstances means the they can't collect enough taxes to fund the government, yet cutting things like the military and Medicare prove problematic. I've been listening to C-Span Radio. Hearing all these folks on Capital Hill testifying before various Congressional committees about how we just can't allow drastic cuts in Pentagon spending as well as other programs. Huge spending cuts that might happen if the Budget Sequester law goes into effect in January.

Remember; the Sequester was an across the board budget cutting deal agreed upon during the battle over raising the debt ceiling in summer of 2011. It applied to both military and domestic programs equally. Especially lots of Republicans are saying we just can't afford those kind of cuts to our military. Meanwhile not just Democrats say that Medicare must continue to meet the needs of our growing senior population. Major cuts translates into doctors turning away Medicare patients and it can be a life or death issue.

Think about all the veterans programs and Medicaid not to mention the very running of our Federal Government. Everything from Congressional salaries to the FBI and the Weather Service. I guess we do need the Federal Government to remain solvent.

A big problem with printing money; especially lots of money, is the threat of inflation. Even hyper inflation. Maybe it hasn't been hyper inflation, but over the past 20 years, or so, we have had significant inflation in certain sectors of the economy; like house prices in some of our cities. After something like the housing bubble that broke in 2008, money printing might be seen as a way to combat deflation. Basically, one can view printing money as a technique to preserve inflation that has already come down the pipeline.

Reason 3 for Quantitative Easing. To prop up high property values. During the real estate bubble, before 2008, property values soared; especially residential property in many parts of the country. Maintaining these high values in the face of a sagging economy is challenging. After the bust of 2008, values did drop and there was fear of deflation. The Fed has been stepping in to try and prop up the housing market. Not only that market, but a lot of jobs associated with it, like home contractors, furniture stores, real estate agents and so forth.

Seems like dropping property values becomes problematic with folks in debt and upside down in their homes. The Fed must see part of their job as to, at least try, to lesson economic pain and disruption. To, at best, try and muddle through.

Speaking of fiat currency, a lot of property values are fiat values. One might think we should just let the market crash. Let the values plummet. At least that might make houses more affordable for large segments of the workforce who tend to be making low wages. Related to this idea is the concept of not bailing out the banks. Many folks will say, they should have not bailed out the banks in 2008. They should have just let them fail.

I'm not necessarily a fan of banks, but one keeps remembering the old phrase, "be careful what you ask for as you might get it." Having our society crash seems exciting at first glance, but I think most folks would be afraid of it really happening. It could turn ugly even though it isn't necessarily guaranteed to turn ugly.

I don't know if people are wanting to give up most of their possessions and follow some kind of a different way of life. Especially post war baby boomers, who have now built up enough inertia making it harder to change course this late in the game. I'm a baby boomer, myself, but I don't have much in the way of possessions. I still have a Bohemian way of life living in a small room and only riding a bicycle. It can be an enjoyable way of life with health and lots of friends, but even someone like me could fear the falling apart of society.

The big money people kind of have us all over a barrel, but we basically have them over a barrel as well. It's called maintaining the Status Quo, or in other words, just getting by.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Learning human body response to weightlessness not real exciting goal for space exploration

NASA's human spaceflight program seems mired in the goal of learning about the effects of long term weightlessness on the body. We know it's hazardous to health so why do we keep struggling with it at great cost? Couldn't future spacecraft just simulate gravity with the centrifugal effect of rotation, thus making survival in the weightless environment a moot point?


Image from Wikipedia

NASA's unmanned space program is doing some exciting things. Just think about the Rovers on Mars, for instance.

Also private enterprise is starting to develop a space tourism industry.

In 1969 to early 1970s, Americans walked on the moon. Now NASA can't even afford a seat on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft which is currently the only way to get humans to the space station. Seat to the highest bidder, singer Sarah Brightman bumps NASA for the flight, but space tourism is starting to takeoff, however.

We have plenty of wealthy people expressing interest for traveling in space. Good news even though some might say we should send our wealthy to space and leave them there. In reality, a round trip to space is becoming more routine; not anywhere near as routine as international jet travel, but possibly headed that way.

Article in above link mentions Spaceship II and some other private enterprise projects to send tourists on short rides above the atmosphere. Starting with the rich, of course, but in the future, who knows. International travel even faster than today's jets? Planes that coast into space on their way between continents?

Sounds far fetched, but modern jet travel would be far fetched to the Lewis & Clark expedition of 1804 - 1806.

NASA still plays a successful role as partner with some of these projects. For instance Space X corporation's private capsule called the Dragon which recently docked with the International Space Station on a supply mission. There are plans for Manned Dragon capsules in the future.

Space can be an ultimate frontier, but at today's level of technology and economic constraints, it seems like we could be focusing our space exploration efforts on more exciting goals than long term survival in weightless environments.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sold my old turntable to a member of the millennial generation

I never got into records, but inherited the turntable my parents used in their hifi system. My friend from the millennial generation is fascinated in older things. Vinyl records, tweed jackets.

To him I explained the concept of a stereo component system. There's the turntable, which doesn't make sound. Then you have to have the amplifier, that usually had an AM FM tuner included. Then the stereo speakers; all hooked together with wires. It took up loads of room on a bookcase along with my dad's record collection.

I haven't used stereo systems, myself, but have recently jumped into the MP3 world. My entire music collection is on a chip smaller than a thumbnail.


That old turntable got good use from my parents, however, who bought it back in the mid 1970s. It was the replacement for an older stereo system that they had which dated back to the early 1960s. That old system was a Heath Kit. One that you built yourself from parts. Various parts soldered together by following instructions. It even had vacuum tubes. With Heath Kit, one got both a hifi system and a learning project for the family.

Money for the project came from a big award that my dad won in 1962. I was only a second grader when my dad won something called the Borden Award; an award for scientific achievement in his field of dairy chemistry. My dad was a professor at Washington State University in Pullman.

Award proceeds bought our family a train trip back to Washington DC for the awards banquet which was held at the convention of the American Dairy Science Association. Proceeds also bought us that first stereo system.

Many hours were spent in our basement soldering together the amplifier. My dad and older brothers took part. When the system was complete, my dad tested it with a new record called "Stereo Action Unlimited." It was exciting, with each speaker operating independently.

My oldest brother was less impressed with that record. He was starting college studying classical music which made him somewhat of a musical snob. Stereo Action Unlimited was trash to his musical taste. It must have been plagiarizing and then ruining music from some of the great composers.

I remember one afternoon when my brother tried to out shout the hifi while debating musical taste with my dad. My dad was somewhat of a modest man and didn't try turning the volume past 3 out of 10, however. If we would have turned it up to 10, it would have blown out the speakers not to mention possibly cracking a few windows.

Less modest were the dorm mates of my 1970s college dorm. It was a cold war on the floor. A constant battle of power among different people's hifi systems. Down the hall were George and Ed with their massive system. George said if the dorm ever caught fire, he'd be running out with giant speakers under each arm. Each one costing around $200 apiece.

I didn't compete because I knew I'd be a looser. My system was only a cassette tape recorder. The cassette was at the heart of my first foray into collecting music; that is before I got my MP3 player. Sound quality wasn't good, but at least I had music. Classical music that I recorded from my parents stereo the summer before heading off to college. Music was recorded by dangling a microphone in front of one speaker.

The summer before my freshman year, I painstakingly recorded many tunes for my little cassette hoping it would become a defense against the onslaught of heavy metal music that I anticipated would await me in the dorm. My cocoon of nice music worked, sort of.

By the time my sophomore year rolled around, my dad had bought a new stereo system; the one who's turntable I just sold. The new system featured a jack where one could output directly to a cassette recorder, bypassing the need for the mike dangling in front of the speaker. Quality was much better so I spent another tedious few weeks rerecording all that music again.

For most of my adult life, I haven't used the cassette recorder very much. Instead, I prefered listening to the radio.

Now I've got my MP3 player and armed with quick downloads from places like Amazon.com, I'm getting a larger music collection that I've ever had before. It can all fit on a flash card.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Among urban high rises, often the best bicycling


Bike route sign among high rise towers in Vancouver, BC.

Archive of essay that was on front page of my web site a while back.

Bike paths among the high-rises can be more tranquil than having to commute long distances by car in rural areas. Vancouver, BC, just north of Bellingham, has a lot of good planning for density and car free lifestyles.

In the future, it is likely that density will be used to lower the carbon footprint for large populations. Cities can preserve farmland by keeping most people out of the farmland; thus protecting it for true farming. When the farmland isn't too full of traffic, it's better for biking also.

I'm living in the slow lane, but my lifestyle is not rural. It's more urban. I live in downtown Bellingham. My residence is a small space, mostly one room.

Slowing down isn't necessarily "low tech" either. If a whole library can fit on computer chips, one need not use up lots of space for book shelves. Living in a small residence can work.

Much of my thinking is about lowering the footprint and slowing down, but doing it in an urban and high tech way. This may be a rare perspective since most of the environmental sites seem to talk about living rural and returning to low tech.

I think high tech and urban will be the future, for most people at least. Hurray for car free living.

Some Vancouver bike path pictures.

Friday, September 21, 2012

International Day of Peace at First Congregational Church in Bellingham, WA.


Whatcom County's 9nth annual International Day of Peace. Held at the Congregational Church in Bellingham. Celebrating 45 years for the peace vigil which takes place 4-5pm at the downtown Federal Building. Vigil is now oldest continuous peace vigil in USA.

We saw a video that was made about the vigil. Video honored Howard Harris who is now 94 and one of the last remaining conscientious objectors from World War II era. Right here in Bellingham.

There is also a peace vigil in Skagit County, at Mount Vernon and Jerry Summerseth started it, I think. He was in the audience at the Bellingham service tonight.


First Congregational Church supports marriage equality for all including gay and lesbian couples. Vote yes on Referendum 74 in Washington State. A yes vote is for marriage equality.

I grew up in Congregational Church of Pullman, WA. Always appreciated the accepting atmosphere for diversity and peace activism. Bellingham Congregational Church built a new sanctuary recently. It was interesting to see since I haven't been in that building very often. One need not be a church addict to be welcome.


Looking up at the ceiling. — at First Congregational Church.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hard to curb deficit without something on table, even veterans

A veterans employment bill was recently killed in the Senate by some Republicans using (I think the filibuster procedure). Even veterans are not exempt from attempts to reign in the budget deficit.

I'm not a Republican, but I do recognize that deficits are unlikely to be curbed if every spending priority is taken "off the table." Senior citizens, veterans, you name it. Pretty soon it's most of the American people. That's basically a big dilemma that Republicans face. They can cut with a meat axe, but a lot of what they would cut are basically big chunks of the American voting public.

That 47%, now made famous by Romney's comment, includes a lot of his supporters.

Democrats can make political hay from this situation since it looks like Republicans are turning their backs on our deserving veterans. Also, democrats can ask, why most Republicans still refuse to put current military spending (big fancy weapons systems and so forth) on the cutting table? Also they can ask why all tax increases are off the table?

Both Democrats and Republicans face the dilemma about the deficit. It can't be curbed unless something lands on the proverbial "table" and putting anything on the table tends to be political suicide for either party.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romeny's 47% slip

It wasn't a good campaign idea for Romeny to write off the so called 47% Americans depending on government non wage income (I assume that's what he met). Much of that 47% are things like Social Security and Medicare. Another big chunk is veterans benefits. In that 47%, there are quite a few folks who still vote Republican. I'm glad Romeny seems to be sinking in the polls. It's still a long time till November, but if the vote were taken today, it looks pretty good for Obama.

Not excited about 3rd party candidates

Short of putting myself in as a write in candidate, I can't think of any politicians that think entirely along my lines. No one , either main stream or third party thinks exactly the same as me. I might as well vote for what I see as the best mainstream candidate, at least for president. Third party works better in primary elections and some local elections where a third party can, maybe, start to get a foothold.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Two rovers now working on Mars


Strange mystery spheres on Mars baffle scientists.

Opportunity rover is still going strong after 8 years on Mars. Now we have 2 rovers working on Mars. Opportunity and the big new Curiosity which landed last month. Mysteries still being probed by the old Opportunity rover. Imagine what interesting findings await Curiosity as it's just getting started.

Photo By NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./ USGS/Modesto Junior College.
Opportunity's twin rover Spirit lasted until 2010.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lynch mobs are at it again in some of the Middle East

Innocent people die just because some bigoted people in the US made a bad video. The killing mobs are basically lynch mobs. It's all stupid. The video, the mobs and all the conflict in the name of religion.

Then Presidential candidate Mitt Romney put his foot in his mouth as well. I'm kind of glad about that as it may help him loose the election.

You've probably read about the Romney issue already. Romney accuses Obama of being weak since he thinks Obama criticized the video on first opportunity after the killings in Libya. Actually, as you've probably already read, staff at the US embassy in Egypt (I think) put out a criticism of that crummy video, before the killings and not involving the White House. I guess they were supposed to clear all statements with the White House, but they didn't. Still one has a right to say it's a bad video. Obama and any private citizen has that right. Maybe the embassy staff doesn't officially have that right due to the job description, but that's organizational protocol versus citizen rights.

I haven't seen the video in question, but I guess it's pretty negative; like trying to offend Mormons by putting the Book Of Mormon in urine, for instance.

Romney is Mormon.

While there is freedom of speech, freedom also means one can criticize such videos. Nothing wrong with Obama weighing in on the topic, if he so chooses.

I guess Romney is upset because the White House isn't rushing to defend a crummy video? Of course, crummy is a matter of opinion, for the most part. It's all part of free speech, but Romney looks kind of foolish now. He does have the right to put his foot in his mouth also.

Obama looks pretty good at the moment, at least. Cool heads and moderation seems the best course. Not judging everyone who happens to live in a particular country with the same brush whether that country be the USA or a country where the majority of people practice Islam. There are moderate, sensible people who practice Islam as well as Christianity and other religions.

Seems like it's the hot headed and mostly the fundamentalist folks that we have to worry about in any religion.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Quantitative Easing versus Moore's Law

I wonder if inflation can be viewed in terms of a balance point between these two factors. Quantitative Easing and Moore's Law? When central banks do Quantitative Easing, there is a tendency for inflation to increase as more money is created to chase the same number of goods and services. On the other hand Moore's Law and other technological advances has the effect of pushing down prices in many sectors of the economy. Increased efficiency of manufacturing and new opportunities for creating value at low cost; such as things like "crowd sourceing" on the internet keeps inflation low in other sectors of the economy.

Prices and wages fall in some sectors of the economy due to the "Moore's Law" type forces of technology and globalization. At the same time, central banks, such as the Federal Reserve, create new money to try and stimulate the economy. Does this new money really help or does it just go into inflating assets such as house values?

Seems like our economy has been splitting into different inflation realms for many years now. Wages and the prices of many products remain stagnate while things like housing bubbles take place making the cost of living unaffordable for large segments of the workforce.

Inflation can no longer be viewed as a monolithic threat. Some sectors of the economy are subject to inflation while the forces of technology and globalization hold down prices and wages in other sectors. Possibly this is one of the factors contributing to the growing disparity of wealth in the US as well as the rest of the world.

I bring up these worries in light of the latest round of Quantitative Easing announced today by the US Federal Reserve. Assets that the Fed plans to buy are said to be in the housing sector such as buying up mortgage backed securities. This may bring house price inflation back. A strong housing market does create some jobs in real estate and construction and house furnishing industries, but is it really the best way to boost our economy?

Wouldn't it be better to try and more directly fund stimulus type investments in public infrastructure and research? Don't we need to invest in more sustainable technologies for laying new foundations to economic growth. Investments in new types of technology such as solar energy can help us maintain economic growth without so much worry about global warming.

Of course Congress, especially the Tea Party House of Representatives, doesn't really believe in these type of investments so maybe there isn't much else the Fed can do to stimulate the economy in the face of high unemployment.

I bring these questions up, but admit that I'm not really an expert on economics. I'm awaiting the vast amount of analysis and comment that will appear in the media, on Facebook and so forth following today's news from the Fed.

One example of Moore's Law type forces at work:

Flashlights based on light emitting diodes. I've retrofitted this LED shop light as a bike light. The first one I got from several years back was $20. This summer I found a barrel full of them for around $8 apiece with even a better switch. Lots of products are just getting cheaper and better in spite of things like quantitative easing, but some things are getting more expensive. In the future, will the majority of people be able to afford housing and healthcare? How much will corporate executives make compared to most workers? It's the splitting of society.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My 2012 bike tour photos are now on line

The face of Cougar Dam east of Eugene, Oregon. I passed it several times on my 2012 travels in Oregon.

See in my photo stream.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Last day of my trip

Biked from Longhouse Gathering just east of Redmond, WA. to Everett. Plan to take train back to Bellingham from Everett.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

National Republicans can't stop restrictions on business at local level

2012 Republican convention is filling my radio with rhetoric about a new era of jobs and prosperity from lifiting restrictions on business. Effective slogans to get crowds at the convention hall cheering, but this is not an easy task. Many of the restrictions on business are imposed at the local level. State, city and county governments. Also there are strong constituencies for keeping restrictions in place.

One example is the proposed coal port near Bellingham. A proposal to build a large coal port north of Bellingham for exporting coal to China. Constructing such a port would create well over 1,000 temporary construction jobs, though less perminent jobs operating the facility. Opposition to this proposal is fearce. Final decisions are most likely made at the county council level wich holds the responsibility for zoning such a facility. Also state Department of Ecology is involved. Other entities as well, but those are the main ones, from my understanding. This siting process will take years allowing for public input, environmental impact studies and so forth.

This kind of story is repeated in local regions all over the country where business expansions both large and small are proposed. We are in one anothers' back yards, so to speak and no one, short of a dictator, at the Federal level can really accomplish that much waving a magic wand to lift restrictions on business. Quite a few of those restrictions are there for good reason with large groups of citizens supporting them. It's just the nature of our society these days. Different from the 19th century when there was more elbow room for the "robber barons." Those were the days that libertarians often point to when lots of progress was made in society from the private sector. Progress is still happening today, but we face a totally different environment.

Here in Washington State, there is one initiative that can be seen as lifting a restriction. The proposal to legalize marajuana. Not only would that save encarceration and law enforcement costs, but it could also open up a new field of commerce selling pot, similar to the way alcohol is now regulated. That's one example of deregulation, but except for the Ron Paul libertarians, I haven't heard people discussing that at the Republican convention.

Deregulating business is another empty promise because it would be very hard to implement at the various levels of society where it occures.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Armstrongs in the news during my travels

One of the conversations I remember having with a classmate around the time of the first moon landing was the classmate telling me how guilty he would feel if he were a pallbearer for Neal Armstrong's casket (as famous as Armstrong is) and he dropped the casket. Noting that Neal Armstrong has passed away I'm remembering that 8th grade conversation.


Looking down to cemetery from road up Pilot Butte in Bend, Oregon.

See more pictures from Pilot Butte.

Also relating this to the trip I am on, I saw one of only 3 caskets I've ever seen in my life on this trip. I've been pretty sheltered from death, but riding to the top of a cinder cone called Pilot Butte in the middle of the city of Bend, Oregon, I looked down on a spectacular view. The whole city spread out before me including a cemetery with a burial taking place. There were the mourners, the hearse and scanning a bit, my eye picked out the coffin looking very tiny from way up on Pilot Butte. Bend is now around 80,000 population, a bustling retirement and recreation center. The other 2 caskets I've seen were from walking past a funeral home and walking past a church at just the right, or wrong time. All the services I've been to for people I have known have been memorial services without the casket.

Also on this trip, I noted another American hero named Armstrong in the news. Lance Armstrong who had the records of his seven wins of Tour de France taken away due to illegal use of enhancing drugs. I speculate that there will be a lot of new winners named for those past races. Radio says the race authorities will have trouble finding new winners as most of the top finishers were also using the illegal drugs. They may have to dig beneath the top ten, for some years, to find legitimate winners who were drug free. I've never been into racing, myself, anyway. Following the science from the moon landing, and current science from the Mars rover is more my speed.

Now back to the hot spring to explore more conversation with the many folks who pass through. Then tomorrow (Tuesday) ride down to Eugene.

This posted from a cafe in Rainbow, Oregon, up in the beautiful McKenzie River Valley.

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Voice Of Humanity

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Back on west side of Oregon Cascades

Bicycled back across McKenzie Pass. Plan to spend a few more days in the area around Rainbow, Oregon and my favorite hot spring. Saw a friend from Bellingham near the pass.

In money we trust

In the 1950s they added the phrase, "in God we trust" on our money. Before long, especially if Romney wins, they'll add the phrase "money is God."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Interesting day in Bend, OR.


Lots of bike lanes around the city. Air is clearer than yesterday. I went to top of Pilot Butte. Quite a view. Then explored Old Mill District. Tall smoke stacks lead one to old powerhouse. It's now an REI store. Explored along Deschutes River paths. Starting back toward western Oregon tomorrow.

Tuned to radio desert for a while

Now I'm in Bend, Oregon. There is public radio here and some other community stations, but I still can't believe I was actually listening to Rush Limbaugh instead.

Then, after Rush, along came a talk host warning about the evils of "sustainable development." It's big government telling people to walk, bike or take the bus, forcing mixed income housing on neighborhoods, telling people they shouldn't live in big houses on several acre lots. Sustainable development; the next boogieman.

After that, another host was mad at the Republican party for abandoning the congressman who said that controversial stuff about women. Since that congressman did retract his comment, the host says the Republican party should not abandoned him.

Interesting to hear thinking from the "other" side. Now I should tune back to my NPR bubble as I ride through the dry smoky (from forest fires) country around Bend.


Fire near Madras, Oregon filled the air today as I headed toward Bend. Sisters mountains barely visible in the haze.

Scene along the road. Next day, the air was much clearer as a wind picked up.