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.


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.

Like it our not, this economy seems to be dependent on government spending

Radio news says Congressional Budget Office warns of possible double dip recession if automatic spending cuts and tax hikes, called "the sequester," go into effect at end of year. Looks like the economy is, to a large extent, dependent on government spending.

Maybe private enterprise should be allowed to build all those fossil fuel pipelines and coal ports? More drought in Midwest for sure.

We need some better thinking than the old Republican playbooks.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I'm in Rainbow

I'm in Rainbow, Oregon enjoying a nearby "clothing optional" hot spring. Actually, sending this from a cafe about 10 miles from the spring, but about to sign off and head back up there.

Looking out window to outdoor patio of Takodas Restaurant in Rainbow.

That was yesterday. Now headed over old Mckenzie Highway toward Sisters, Oregon and a few days in the geologically interesting Bend area. Next week, back over here to the hot spring again and then back down the McKenzie Valley to Eugene for a train ride back to Seattle and something called Longhouse Gathering. That's if all goes to plan.

My variation on the God search for a cat in a dark room

The scientist brings a real flashlight and doesn't claim, yet at least, to have found any evidence of the cat. The scientist admits that the dark room is very large and the search isn't exhaustive. Also the scientist finds many very useful things besides the cat, such as electricity, for instance.

The conservative Christian refuses to bring a light to the dark room, proclaims he found the cat and if anyone questions the conservative, he slaps them around.

The liberal Christian often forgets to bring a light, but does bring it on occasion. He gives validity to many different modes of search for the cat and spends most of his time exclaiming how wonderful the cat is and how everyone should have a right to the cat.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Republicans back off from cut, cut, cut Medicare

Now the Republican spin doctors are saying they wouldn't cut the 700 billion dollars that supposedly Obama would cut. Are Republicans saying they would spend more on Medicare? More on the military, but not raise taxes? So much for reducing the deficit.

My head spins with all the numbers being thrown around anyway. Like get this. Republicans say they wouldn't change Medicare for folks over 55. Well, nobody knows who is going to be over 55 when changes get implemented anyway. It can take years to get stuff through the process so today's college students may be over 55 before long. It's all a moving target.

Still there is the problem of making Medicare sustainable. It is hard to beat Medicare for efficiency of insurance paper shuffle. Medicare has a higher percent of dollars actually going to health care rather than administrative overhead. Higher than private insurers, so I hear.

Where there really needs to be change is where few politicians like to look; in the lifestyles of the American people. Reducing overall medical costs with better lifestyles and less obesity. Also less obesity in doctor and and insurance company executive pay.

Obesity and demographics, that's what's challenging the sustainability of our Medicare program. Things that just reorganizing the plan doesn't really address.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Weighed myself at the truck scale

My bike, trailer and supplies weighs 80 pounds. I add another 180 pounds. I've lost a bit of weight. Weighted around 185 when I left Bellingham, but not being a weight watcher, I don't weigh myself often. What's amazing to me is how sensitive a truck scale can be. Designed to weigh tractor trailers in the tons it can also weigh someone with as light of a footprint as me. Amazing how technology keeps advancing.

Weather has cooled off as I head east from Eugene Cloudy with scattered thundershowers.

Non government rest stops offer sugar

Headed out of Albany for Eugene and the McKenzie Valley. There is a heat wave and it's 100 degrees. Feels okay. I'm drinking lots of water. On other trips, I'd beat the heat with fruit juice and soda pop, but finding out that my blood sugar is a bit high has convinced me to try and use the water bottle more.

Tap water is often the best.

Sometimes it is hard to find parks where one can fill the water bottle. There sure are a lot of stores selling pop and so forth. Tempting and some of the stores might not want you to go in just to fill a water bottle for free. I don't buy bottled water that is available from a tap for free. So I still buy something, snack food, peanuts, an apple, an occasional chocolate milk and I'm drinking more regular milk now; without the added sugar of the chocolate. Then I'm making sure I fill my water bottle at each stop. No one complains that I'm freeloading on their water faucet. One place I passed had Orange Juliouses. It was tempting so I ordered a small, then also filled my water bottle. 100 degree heat and I'm feeling fine. Consuming less sugar and I feel a lot cleaner on the inside.

A trip with no destination can be less troublesome

My trip doesn't have a definent destination. Some may wonder, or at least I wonder on rare occasion if I'm ggoing anywhere or accomplishing anything. Years ago when I crossed USA there was a goal even though I told people I was going toward rather than to the east coast. Now I'm just riding around in Washington and Oregon. Mostly areas I've already been.

When I took train from Seattle to Albany, Oregon they told me that one couldn't check my stuff to Albany because that station isn't staffed when the train arrives so there is no baggage service. I thought about cancelling going to Oregon and just staying in the Puget Sound region. A friend of mine is housesitting in Seattle so it's an opportunity to have a free headquarters in that expensive city. Then the baggage person said I could check my bags for next day's train which would arrive when the Albany station was attended. Means a delay and staying around albany an extra day, but with no hard and fast plan, it worked. Another friend lives in Albany so I decided to spend some time with him. Trip out of Albany delayed, but where am I going anyway?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Canadians at Bellingham Costco? Anyone can be a monster when reduced to the level of consumer

I avoid shopping environments where people can be reduced to consuming pigs, but I'm glad for the sales tax revenue these places provide to help pay for our parks and bike paths. Something is wrong with society where shopping is such a major pass time. In a better context, like a more relaxed setting in the park, I enjoy meeting Canadians and other folks. They are really nice people, or basically not that much different than Americans. Where there is time to enjoy good conversation, I enjoy the people I meet. Parks, bike paths and discussion groups. That's where I hang out. I only shop when necessary.

The controversy over that guy's Facebook page about Canadians crowding our Costco has heated up in the national media, both sides of the border. Now I read that he has taken the page down and doesn't want to stir up too much.

I enjoy Canadians a lot. Biking up to Canada a few weekends ago, I connected with some groups around the Gay Pride Parade. Good conversations. I wasn't shopping. I went to something called Faerie Coffee, for instance. I don't drink coffee, but do enjoy savoring a chocolate milk. Enjoying people in a relaxed context.

Back in Bellingham, I've never had occasion to set foot in Costco. Being single and not "family oriented" there is little advantage for me to shop in bulk. I don't consume that much. Also Costco shoppers are members of Costco. No point in me getting a membership since I don't buy in bulk. Also it's located in the part of town I seldom venture into. The sprawl and traffic of Cordata and Meridian north of I 5.

A CBC TV news story about crowding at our Costco.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Seattle seems too busy today

After some time in Bellingham, I start heading south. First night out at a friend's farm near Lake Samish to watch meteor showers, then an 80 mile day to Everett. A lovely day. Then on south of Seattle.

Now having rode well south of Seattle to Tukwila just because every hotel I checked on-line was full. I checked 3. Then decided to make reservation at closest Extended Stay, since I was at one in Everett. Best one for cost and not being booked was Tukwila. Tomorrow, I ride back up into Seattle to catch the afternoon train out. Seems like a waste, but I did want to go on a bike trip.

It's mid week. Why are things so full in Seattle? Lots of construction for one reason. Things torn up. Obstacle course to get through. A "blue state" economic engine. Seattle seems to be doing business. Blue state innovation. Home for many information age corporations like Microsoft and Amazon, but the downside is, it's busy.

Mount Rainier looms over South Center Mall in Tuckwilla.

I stepped inside South Center for the first time. Have heard about it for years, but never had occasion to go there.

Most of Seattle area is quite bicycle friendly, but near this motel is South Center Mall. It was king of Washington State malls even back in the 1970s. It's huge, but now has a somewhat less happy reputation. Still basically a big mall. Remembered more recently for the rare occasion when a gang shooting, or something, happened there. I decided to take a look since I've never been there. Hard to find how to get to it by bike or walking. Few crosswalks. I finally made it, stepped inside and then left. Now I can say I've been there. It's kind of like a big monster.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan VP fanfare, but governor of Virginia gave most substantive speech

I listened to the fanfare when Paul Ryan was announced as GOP vice presidential candidate for 2012. Most substantive speech, at the occasion, was given by the governor of Virginia, who also spoke, but his speech will most likely be forgotten as a side note. He offered some specific Republican style proposals about getting America working again. Mining coal, fracking for natural gas. Basically, pumping up our old fossil fuel economy.

No mention of global warming, of course. Will this be the economy of the future?

Romney and Ryan also gave rousing speeches, but mostly empty rhetoric about getting America prosperous again. No specific mention of coal and no mention of the Ryan budget proposal, of a year or so back, which did offer some specifics, but, like coal gives people pause. Basically, the Ryan budget called for ending Medicare as we know it among other things.

I plan to vote for Obama.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Transportation benefit district at work

Benefits of Bellingham's special tax district for transportation improvements. Transportation Benefit District Number 1. Some paving for all vehicles, a bit more bus service, like on Sunday and special emphasis on alternative transportation like pedestrian and bicycle. Slight increase in sales tax. Passed by voters in 2010 against the Tea Party tide during the election of 2010 within Bellingham city limits. Elm and Dupont are nice and smooth. Looks good.

My blood sugar was testing a bit high

Still not bad compared to the average American. I've been drinking a quart of chocolate milk per day. Some days another quart in evening. Usually I chug a lug a whole quart in one sitting. Now I'm cutting back to 1% milk with a small amount of cocoa powder in it.

Twin Brooks Dairy, which produces the milk in reusable glass bottles, makes only one brand of chocolate milk that I am aware of. Whole milk sweet and rich. It's so good, they don't want compromise, like a low fat chocolate milk.

I remember meeting one of the farmers at the Food Co-op and we discussed the milk. It's like; "talk to your local farmer day." I don't blame them for making their chocolate so rich creamy. They do have low fat regular milk. I can use their 1% and add my own amount of cocoa powder to give it a bit more zest than regular milk. Every once in a while, I'll still drink the full version chocolate milk; like after long bike rides, or dancing.

Except for the chocolate milk, I don't consume that much sugar. My blood sugar tested better this year than last as I've cut out most of the sweetened ice tea from the vending machine at work and replaced it with the mostly unsweetened Honest Tea products from the Food Co-op. Some have berry flavors. Not quite as sweet, but still pretty good.

So far, I've felt few symptoms from slightly high blood sugar. On some days, I must admit I feel so good it's hard to imagine how I'd feel better, but there is room for improvement; especially on some of the other days. Also looking ahead it's a prevention thing.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The rich are investing in our debt

Interesting article about how the rich are hoarding more of their money in recent years.

I'll add some of my own opinions here.

Hoarding money usually means a lot of cash goes to so called "safe haven" investments. These are investments like US Treasury Bonds. This contributes to an economic environment of low interest rates. Low interest rates combined with low taxes encourages "borrow and spend" rather than "tax and spend" public policy. Easy to borrow with low interest rates, but hard to tax in today's political climate.

Eventually, it seems likely that government debt will becomes unsustainable. Safe haven investments aren't necessarily that safe in the future.

Even the rich, according to this article, are not real comfortable with the precarious situation that all these tax cuts have created. Much of the tax cut mantra comes from political consultants, politicians and handlers, rather than the rich themselves.

When the rich hoard their money in things like US Treasuries, rather than invest it in private business opportunities, private sector jobs are not created. Money put into savings ends up funding government debt which is used by government to create jobs and spending.

Conservatives often call for cutting back government spending, but this just tends to eliminate the government jobs and put many folks, such as Medicare recipients, out in the cold. Maybe the rich should invest more of their money into job creating business ventures if they want private sector job creation, but they are too chicken for these risky investments. Also there are many environmental issues and restrictions related to business growth. Red tape and so forth. I don't mean to let the rich off too easy, but these are factors as well.

We need to find some new ways out of this precarious situation.

Another bike trip to Vancouver, BC and celebrate gay rights with 600,000 people

Canada really supports gay rights. I hear 1 million show up for the gay pride parade in Toronto. An estimated 600,000 here in Vancouver, just 50 miles north of Bellingham, WA. where I live. Within bicycling distance so I bicycled up, like I did last year.

I attended the parade and also explored some Vancouver bike paths and neighborhoods. Even took a trip out to the mountain area called Pitt River and Golden Ears. Friday to Monday adventure. See my pictures on Flickr, but here are some appetizers.

Treasures one finds when traveling slow, like these sunflowers painted on a garage door.

Dancing at Celebrities was quite a trip after the pride parade. The floor was undulating to the music. Crowds, lasers, strippers, music; it all comes at the senses. My ears were ringing for several hours after venturing in there, but it was quite exciting.

Parade ended at English Bay where one can see festival grounds dwarfed by nearby buildings and mountains. Vancouver has a dramatic setting, also a fairly strong economy due (I'd say) to "blue state style" economics. Innovation and responsible banking. Also good balance between public sector and private sector, rather than the two always fighting like they seem to do in the US. Canadians don't tend to view their public sector as evil. It also helps to have a lot of natural resources that haven't yet been depleted. Oil, gas, coal, timber, hydro power. Housing is expensive, but the economy is fairly strong and Canada has fairly good social safety net.

We feel some of Vancouver's economic strength with cross border retail traffic in Bellingham. Some conservatives say that's because Canadians are shopping south of the border to avoid taxes, but Washington State has pretty high sales tax also. Some of it is that, but also we feel the strength of living near the powerhouse that is Vancouver Metro.

Traffic at Bellingham International Airport has nearly doubled recently as our airport is kind of becoming Vancouver's second airport.

In contrast to the atmosphere at Celebrities, a quiet ride along Pitt River bike paths near the Golden Ears mountain area. I like contrasts. Keeps life varied.

Rainbow shopping carts from Canada Safeway supermarkets in the parade. Festival enjoys sponsorship from many large corporations like Safeway and Toronto Dominion Bank.

Riding through Whatcom County and into BC, the air was delicious. Mount Baker was out in full as viewed from Slater Road.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Very happy that the curiosity spacecraft has landed successfully on Mars

Looking forward to learning more about the planet Mars in coming months and years.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

I'm not real bitter over the opinions of top folks at Chick-Fil-A on gay marriage

I'm not real bitter about the boss, or what ever, of Chick-Fil-A being against gay marriage. It's a free country and people have many points of view. Boycott is okay and I'd never heard of Chick-Fil-A before this controversy. We may not have any in the part of USA I live in. As out of the closet gays, our best strategy, in my opinion, is to be open and basically out. Amtrak, for instance, is starting to cater promotions our way. I'm sure they will get flack as Chick-Fil-A gets flack from us, but we can do our thing and occasionally shout from the mountain top. Gay is good and gay is a big part of the future.

Amtrak ride with pride campaign.