Friday, June 29, 2012

Cut, cut , cut Congress' bark louder than it's bite

Just in the nick of time, even Republican controlled House Of Representatives didn't allow the cuts to happen that would have doubled interest rates on student loans and brought a lot of highway construction to a halt. Talk of cuts sound good until they actually hit the people dependent on those things. Meanwhile, tax cuts stay in place so we continue adding to deficit.

I'm not against these needed programs and it is interesting to note that even the Tea Party Republican Congress steps back from the political abyss of pulling the plug on constituents.

Tax cuts tend to be "front loaded" (cut the taxes now) while spending cuts tend to be "back loaded" (kick the can down the road several years before cuts go into effect). This interest rate increase for student loans was passed 5 years ago, according to news I have read, but just before actually coming to pass, they backed off.

Even Tea Party Republicans tend to have trouble saying "screw you" to the American people, except in general terms like saying, "cut government." It's easy to say cut government while government is a theoretical entity, but when specific cuts hit people, like students, who have votes, it's a lot harder.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My part in GLBT history display at Wilson Library

Back when I was in college, I collected a bunch of posters and articles from gay and lesbian activities around campus. Years later, I donated that archive to a growing collection of artifacts about GLBT activism that is being maintained by Western Washington University's Center For Pacific Northwest Studies.

Yesterday, I just found out that they did a display with some of my things in it along with contributions from other folks.

Looks good.

Rode my bike up to WWU campus and took a few pictures of the display.

To right side of sky bridge entrance between Haggard Addition and Wilson Library.

Poster for a dance they did in 1975. I forgot who created that artistic poster, but I kept it.

My impressions about a class I took on gay people that was taught in 1975. Written down from an oral history project.

Another subsidized solar company bites the dust temporarily

I just heard on radio headlines that a solar energy firm in Colorado has gone under. Abound Solar.

It's that vicious cycle I keep talking about. Economy picks up steam and fossil fuels get more expensive. Alternative energy starts to look good, but it's still just a bit more expensive than even the higher cost fossil fuels are during economic upturn. Then the cost of energy, among other things, knocks down the economy again. Economy goes soft and the cost of fossil fuels comes down. Some alternative energy firms go bust.

Demand for alternative energy, in face of inexpensive fossil fuels like natural gas, gets even softer during economic downturns that tend to lead to lower energy demand and prices. Another problem is inexpensive solar collectors on the market from China. This makes it harder for domestic manufacturing.

Hopefully these are temporary problems and eventually the technology for solar energy will improve so it becomes competitive with fossil fuel. Maybe these problems will just be a footnote in history.

Natural gas is getting quite cheap, thanks in part to things like fracking. It's hard for things like solar energy to compete; at least temporarily.

Over the long run, technology can march forward. Remember Moores Law, which tends to make computing power cheaper? Something similar can apply to solar, I would guess. Maybe solar will become cheaper than natural gas and other fossil fuels someday. Then this problem of subsidized solar going bust may only become a historical footnote.

I also read that most of the loan money wasn't yet spent by Abound Solar, so taxpayers were spared by careful loan management, for the most part.

That vicious energy price cycle. Gasoline prices go up and then down with demand and the economy. The super long run still looks good for things like solar.

Supreme Court preserves Affordable Care Act

Good news though it's not out of the woods yet. Right wingers pledge to take the battle against affordable healthcare to the voters in November 2012 and Congress. Outcome of 2012 election will be another important step. Hopefully Democrats will do good. The Affordable Healthcare act, often also called "Obama Care" isn't perfect, but it's a step toward something better than what USA has now for healthcare financing.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Two pictures of mine have come out in a book

About World Naked Bike Ride. Author Richard Foley who has been corresponding with me and many other cyclists worldwide. 250 photos are in this colorful book with lots of text about the WNBR movement. Available at bookstores and sites like Amazon. Forward written by a Conrad Schmidt of Vancouver, BC who created a web page that has become a contact point for those events. More information on the book is available also.

Even here in Bellingham, we have had WNBR rides for the past 4 years which I've documented under a label on this blog with links to some images on Flickr.

I think of the ride as being more an advertisement than a protest. An advertisement for the fun and erotic bicycling lifestyle.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Facebook: too big to grow?

You've heard of banks that are too big to fail. How about corporations that are too big to grow? Less talked about, but possibly a telling issue as people discuss the need to grow our economy and create jobs.

Little doubt that Facebook has been an extremely sucessful company. 800 million users worldwide, influential in social change, a household word. All this before Facebook started trading on the stockmarket. Can they top what they've already accomplished? Did Facebook wait too long before their ipo? Did their stock go public just in time for them to reach market saturation? Is there anymore room to grow?

This is an issue facing many larger than life corporations as well as our economy as a whole. Is there more room for expansion or are many of our corporations just too large? No room to grow and thus facing stagnation. Where will the new jobs come from?

Another problem has to do with the transition toward what is called an "information economy." Futurist author Alan Toffler talks about civilization going through various transformations. We've gone from the stoneage to the agricultural age. From the agricultural age, we've progressed into the industrial era. Now we are headed into the information age. Each transition brings economic disruption as old jobs die while new jobs and ways of doing business emerge.

The information age seems to be a tough one for figuring out how to make money, or, to put it a better way, "monetize the activity." No wonder Facebook stock dropped as soon as it went on the market. There is a lot of enthusiasm and activity on Facebook with people posting worldwide, but does that energy translate into money?

I see this as an analogy for the information age. An era when our old modles of business that were developed for the industrial age are less useful today. Newspapers are struggling in the same way. Does journalism still pay, or is it being somewhat replaced by what is often called "crowd sourcing?" Seems like we are entering a golden era for volunteerism and grassroots networking on the internet, but meanwhile, how do we pay for food and rent as well as other things that are still influenced by our industrial mindset.

Reader board at Carver Gym on WWU campus.

How many widgets do we have to make to pay the bills and are the widgets we make being properly compensated? Tangible products are the easiest to measure in terms of GDP. Do we need all the material posessions we buy and sell in order to create our economy? Can the Earth support all the billions of new families entering middle class life in places as far flung as India and China in an economy measured with the flow of goods and to some extent services?

These are important questions to ponder as we transition toward what could be a golden era of information trading. Like a global conversation, we're doing it, but there is an old phrase that says "talk is cheap."

It's time for some new thinking about our economy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I participated in 4Th annual World Naked Bike Ride in Bellingham

Follow link to my album on Flickr. Another fun event. Low carbon footprint can be fun. Ride took place June 10 2012.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Obama uses more drones than Abraham Lincoln did. Wait a minute.

Obama gets blamed for using drones more than Bush, but maybe drone technology was not as prevalent during the Bush years. Red on map shows Bush strikes, Blue shows Obama strikes. Technology is changing fast. One can say Obama uses more drones than Nixon did and for that matter Abraham Lincoln. Future presidents will likely use them more while using piloted aircraft less. It is, however, disappointing that humans still wage war.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Exposing children to junk food advertising may be worse than exposing children to nudity

Disney corporation has recently anounced that it plans to phase out junk food advertising in the parks and media outlets it manages by the year 2015. Seems like a good idea. It's suggested that other corporations could make this voluntery decision as well.

I got to thinking that society expends a lot of effort trying to protect children from being exposed to public nudity. Also, of course, pornography while these things are legal for consumption by adults. Supposedly, this is to protect vulnerable children from psychological harm. Well, what about junk food advertising that may contribute to uncontrolled lifelong desire for eating poorly? Corrupting children to a life of obesity.

Seems like much of the marketing that children have been exposed to is possibly more harmful than nudity, at least. What harm would nudity cause? A life of heightened and uncontrollable sexual desire?

Seems like we have taken a lot of things for granted in society. Junk food advertising, for instance. Then people get real worried about other things, like nudity.

Is nudity really that harmful, or is junk food advertising harmful as well as many other things we take for granted? Interesting to ponder these questions.

At least in the area of junk food, I'm glad to see more concern about the potential of harm. Nudity; maybe it's less of a worry than people have thought in the past.

Social norms keep changing with the times.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Main point of Obama's comment today. Public sector isn't doing fine

But the campaign gets lost in sound bytes.

Republicans are giving President Obama flack for saying that job growth in the private sector is doing fine. They are seizing a sound byte to make it look like Obama is out of touch.

Since then, Obama has admitted that the private sector isn't really doing fine. Recovery is anemic at best. While a lot of political hay is being made out of whether Obama was mistaken, or not, in saying that the private sector is fine, a more important point is being lost. The public sector is retrenching.

Well, maybe that's part of the reason why job growth in the private sector is anemic. Like it or not, the public sector is a big market for goods and services created by the private sector. Softness in the consumer market is probably the main reason why private sector growth is anemic at best. Who wants to invest in expanding production if they don't feel there's going to be a market for that production?

Some conservatives are happy that the public sector is shrinking since they feel that the public sector is not the way to stimulate the economy.

Conservatives keep asking whether the public sector is a good way to lead a recovery; especially while the public sector is so far in debt.

Maybe it is. Maybe it's not a good way to lead a recovery. If not, then one needs to ask, is there another way to stimulate the private sector, besides growth if spending in the public sector?

Increasing exports comes to mind; for instance.

Regardless of whether growth is in the public sector or the private sector, here is the big question I keep asking. Is there a way to grow the economy without destroying our natural environment? If we can answer that question, we're on our way to recovery.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Krugman's stimulus ideas are good, but there are some problems with stimulus as well

Lots of liberals, like myself, praise Paul Krugman's economic analysis calling for more generous government spending in time of depression to help stimulate the economy. Still, there are some problems with this idea.

Krugman says the time to stimulate is now, during depression, and the time to cut back for reducing the deficit is during times of prosperity. Problem is, even during prosperity, there often isn't enough for everyone since poverty remains even in prosperous times. This makes it hard to cut back at anytime as we become accustom to a certain level of spending.

Here is an interesting aside. I heard a conservative talk show host criticize Krugman using the nation of Germany as an example. He said that Germany is calling for austerity during the European financial crisis yet it still has only 5% unemployment. He says, look, Germany is for austerity and it has low unemployment.

Problem with that talk show host's logic is that he is really comparing apples and oranges. Germany does not have our big military to support. Germany has a more affordable health care system than USA. I hear that Germany encourages people to go to part time work schedules when business slows down. This really helps keep the unemployment figures lower as people are still technically employed even while working part time. I've been an advocate of more acceptance for job sharing here in USA.

Also, I'm sure Germany is a bit more socialist than we are anyway. More expensive gasoline due to a tax. More expensive electricity, so I read, and a big percent of their electricity comes from solar. Americans would probably grumble loudly if we lived like the Germans. Our sprawling suburban style development would choke on their high gas prices.

It does work in Germany, but what about USA? Basically our people and our culture are too obese to make that kind of argument for austerity. Even conservatives here in USA are not serious about real austerity. Our military is too large, the paychecks for our corporate executives are too fat, we are too addicted to sprawling cities, cheap oil and expensive health care.

Maybe we can change, tho, and be more like the Germans.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Some pictures of 4Th annual used appliance soapbox derby in Bellingham

Appliance race where people make soapbox derby cars out of old appliances in Bellingham. Race down Maple Street between State and Cornwall. Sponsored by appliance reuse shop called Appliance Depot.

Crowd along Maple St. near some new downtown apartments.

I took photos while the go carts where being pushed back up the hill.

Refirgerator headed back up the hill for another downhill run.

Human brake.

A dryer mobile.

Below pictures taken June 2010 at a different location, Bay Street.

Appliance Races drew crowd to corner of Holly and Bay Streets. The buildings look kind of neat from that corner. Old B&B Furniture Building at left; a triangular shape. Mount Baker Apartments and then the tallest building is Bellingham Towers. It's Bellingham's old downtown skyline.

Bicycling a washing machine. Legs through the lint screens.

It was a race, but I can imagine these would make good entries in a parade as well.

Chuckanut Ridge compromise, like I suggested years ago

Recent article in Bellingham Herald says that Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville has proposed a small fairly dense neighborhood be built in part of the Chuckanut Ridge area. That's similar to the idea I came up with way back in 2005 during the heyday of the Chuckanut Ridge controversy.

Back then, the land was in private hands and developers were proposing a subdivision of over 700 homes to be built. Bellingham's open space advocates were outraged fearing the loss of that forest. They were suggesting the development be stopped.

Stopping that development which was on private land would have been a hard nut to crack. The city could buy the land, but I think the price tag was around $18 million. Quite a sum. It would deplete city funds which might have been better used for things like parks and trails in other more "park starved" areas of town; like, for instance, the Cordota Neighborhood.

Here's the compromise I suggested in my 2005 blog entry.

Build a few high rises in one corner of the property and leave the remainder as open space. That would be my kind of solution. Encourage non family and non car oriented folks who can live in small units. Provide bus service. Cluster the housing into mostly high rises in one corner of the land and preserve much of the remainder for open space.

Then the land cost could be justified and much of the forest could still be preserved.

Well, since then, 2008 came along and the real estate market crashed, nationally at least. Horizon Bank, which was heavily invested in that land went belly up and the price came down.

Eventually the city bought at a much lower price than was being ask before 2008 so the forest remains. Still, the city had to borrow some money from it's Greenway's trust fund to cover all the cost. In the long run, this could jeopardize green space in other parts of town, plus there may be some legal questions about using the money in that way over the long haul.

Basically it means the city needs to come up with some money to pay back the fund, thus this proposal to sell off some of that land for a fairly compact development. Most of the land could still remain forest while the city pays back some of the cost of the original purchase, thus shoring up city funds again.

Not a bad idea.

Wow! was 2005 7 years ago? Seems like it was just yesterday.