Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Defense spending, a big reason for our national debt

Finally there is some much needed talk in Congress about paring down our massive defense budget during these deficit worrying times. Both some Republicans and Democrats talking who share concern over our national debt. Yes, if you want to cut the budget, defense is a big chunk of the spending. Turning tide, lawmakers look to Pentagon for budget cuts.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Future generations might not miss the penny

Canada is more innovative than USA with their currency. They are phasing out pennies. USA currency is so caught up in inertia that change is hard. Canada has already done away with 1 dollar bills. They use coins instead of 1 dollar bills. They also have a 2 dollar coin. They use the Looney and the Tooney.

We may have to do things like retiring our penny and use higher numbers on our money due to inflation. It's kind of like "add another zero, for instance." Things like Quantitative Easing when the Federal Reserve puts lots of new money into the economy can lead to inflation. Most likely, new money needs to be created to provide funding for the huge federal debt. Inflation appears to be really low these days, but certain sectors, like house values and healthcare costs often inflate ahead of the rest of the economy.

As for across the board inflation, future generations wouldn't really see the difference since they would be using the higher numbers from start on their money. Inflation does ravage the savings of current generations. That is a problem.

As we struggle with our huge national debt, maybe we shouldn't feel guilty about the debt stealing from future generations if we inflate our way out of the debt. We are stealing from current generations, however. Its current folks who have savings in money that's being devalued.

Life goes on and we adjust. At least Canada wouldn't be stuck with piles of almost worthless pennies around.

Canada phasing out penny.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ghostly Dahlquist Building comes back to life

The Dahlquist Building is coming back to life. I just ate at Dashi Noodle Bar which is one of two businesses redeveloping the main floor.

Back in 1976, a fire ravaged the upper floors.

See pictures from 1976 Western Front newspaper.

I watched having just come out of an art class at WWU (then WWSC). As I walked out of the art building, a column of smoke could be seen rising from downtown Bellingham. It lured me to the excitement. Passing my sister's house as I ran down the hill, I knocked on her door and she came running also. We got to the corner of State and Holley just as the roof was collapsing sending flames so high that folks reported seeing it from Mount Baker. More sirens whaled as extra firefighters rushed to the scene, but my sister started leaving the corner. I followed asking why she was leaving just at the climax and she remembered that she had run off leaving the door to her house wide open. She thought she had better head back before folks wandered into her place.

In the years since that fire, the Dahquist stood mostly empty like a haunted shell. Some taverns and a dingy looking cafe called "The New China Cafe" occupied the downstairs, but much of the time, even that was empty. I kept calling it the haunted building. Well, now it's coming back to life. Dashi Noodle Bar is in one store front with Acme Farms & Kitchen soon to operate out of the other.

Several days ago, someone was shining a bright light at the Dahlquist. Were they making a movie? Who knows. Reminds me of that day in 1976 when Bellingham firefighters shined floodlights into the second floor windows to look for hotspots after dousing the 3rd floor fire.

Future plans call for restoration upstairs as well.

I'm glad to see the building coming back to life.

* Doing a Google search, I found an interesting article in the April 30 2012 Bellingham Herald by historic writer Dean Kahn.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Winter ride at Lake Padden

Thin ice, sunset, Lake Padden Saturday afternoon bike ride to and around the lake.

Pictures from an earlier ride to Padden in November 2012.

Bike ride up to Lake Padden along Padden Creek in Samish Hill Neighborhood of Bellingham.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cool looking steam rising from power plant

Cool looking because that power plant is not normally used unless it's really cool weather. It's usually used for peak power demand; like when folks turn up the heat. We've had some cool, clear days recently. Frosty with lows around the 20s. Typical of winter.

Orange cloud band of sunset and windows of YMCA near by. Power plant, which is located on Bellingham's waterfront, burns natural gas. It used to be a co-generation plant when Georgia Pacific pulp mill used it's leftover steam. Now, with Georgia Pacific gone, the power plant runs alone; when in use. I think it's been upgraded so more of it's waste steam runs another turbine to generate power, rather than going to the Georgia Pacific that isn't there.

A few proposals are circulating to incorporate this plant into the redeveloped waterfront using leftover heat again. That is, if the waterfront development ever gets going. Woops, I forgot to read the last update in the newspaper on that.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Photos from a crisp winter ride

Looking out toward Olympic Mountains south of Bellingham Bay.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Washington State could go back to charging more for license tabs

They say the gas tax isn't enough to cover cost of roads in Washington State because more fuel efficient cars are buying less gallons of gas. Also people may be driving less. Other sources of revenue are being considered including the possibility of tracking cars with GPS and charging an additional fee on a per mile basis. Some folks think this GPS solution is unworkable and also some folks feel it would be a violation of privacy for the government to track private cars with GPS.

So, maybe we could go back to higher license fees as an alternative source of revenue; rather than GPS tracking?

The license tab was a broader tax base than just the gas tax alone, but it was thrown out by voters, in 1999, as part of Tim Eyman's famous Initiative 695. Before 695, more revenue was available from license tabs and the tax was graduated. Expensive cars paid more while less expensive cars paid less. 695 gave a break on the cost of license tabs, especially the higher cost for more expensive cars as it lowered the rates and made the rates more like a flat tax. Regressive.

695 was tossed out by courts as unconstitutional after that 1999 election, but governments have, to some extent, preserved it's intent. Maybe the license tab fees could be revisited?

More recently, the state is holding some meetings discussing alternative revenue sources in light of the falling gas tax revenue.

Some folks say that the license fee was siphoned away from roads before I-695. In truth, a lot of it went to non car transportation. Much of the funding for public transit came from the license tabs and people tend to forget that public transit can help automobile drivers by reducing overall traffic.

Why does it cost so much to build roads in Washington State? Part of that may be the high cost of land needed to build new road capacity. Also the high cost of living, especially in central Puget Sound region, tends to bring up labor costs and so forth.

We got a classy state here, but we can't have it all. Million dollar homes and inexpensive roads. It doesn't necessarily add up.

I don't drive. I ride my bicycle. I know, I'll never get people to stop griping. Maybe the license tab shouldn't have been broken in the first place, but on the other hand, if they decide to track cars with GPS, I'm okay with that also.

They can even track my bicycle. Wait a minute, they'd be charging me a tax also. I'm almost okay with that; a reasonable fee at least. Traveling through Wisconsin on a bike tour, I didn't mind buying the day permit that helped pay for maintaining Sparta to Elroy Trail. Year permits are available also. The permit is good for many of the Wisconsin bike trails that charge for their use. I think the Wisconsin program is run by their state department of natural resources.

Now why have I gotten on that subject? Oh oh, I've opened a Pandora's box now.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Legalization of marijuana in Washington is largely driven by sound financial reasons

Saves money on incarceration, courts and police time. A new source of revenue for state taxation when the distribution network is set up. Conservatives often hate this kind of thing. They are always griping about making state government more efficient, but they (stereo typing on my part) oppose so many things that can put the fiscal house in order. Of course the Libertarians tend to be happy with this kind of thing and Libertarians can be found on both the left and the right of the political aisle as well as other spots on and off the chart.

I'm not a libertarian either, but would most likely call myself a maverick who tends to lean liberal. I just see hypocrisy in a lot of conservative efforts to balance state budgets. More states should try legalization of pot and so should the feds; and I don't smoke pot either; or at least very seldom, if I do.

Federal Debt is not necessarily stealing from future generations

Federal debt is borrowing from current generations who have savings. Future generations don't have any money yet.

If we have to print money and inflate our way out of debt, it's current generation's savings and assets that will be affected. Future generations don't have anything to loose yet. If inflation means that the dime becomes the new penny and the ten dollar bill becomes the new one dollar bill, future generations aren't going to know the difference. They will just be born into a world where the penny is silver colored instead of copper and they will just build from there. Maybe they'll still call it a penny as the dime can be renamed the penny.

It's current generations who have saved money in today's dollar that will loose value. Inflation is less of a problem to folks yet unborn as they can just pick up where we left off. Today's dollar is worth less than the dollar of the 1930s, but modern life is still richer than the 1930 in many ways at least. They didn't have MP3 players or Google in the 1930s. Some folks might have preferred the life of the 1930s to now, for instance when one could fish without a fishing license and the world was less crowded, but that doesn't have to do with the dollar's value.

Generations not yet born will not notice the difference if there is across the board inflation before they arrive. They'll just be used to using the dime as the penny, but of course transactions are often by computer these days; rather than using coins.

Inflation is a problem for current people, especially people with savings.

Now, maybe future folks who would stand to inherit lots of money will be diminished if those assets are affected, but I'm not too worried about that.

Across the board inflation isn't really a problem for people who are not yet born, but there is one problem. Inflation is uneven across the economy. That's a big problem. Some things are inflating terribly while other things hardly inflate at all. This "shearing" in the economy could effect future generations, but folks born in future times will have to fix these kind of problems so the economy continues to work. Hopefully these problems are being addressed now, so we, who are alive today, can continue to function as well.

Our most important gift to future generations is simply a world that is livable. The debt isn't stealing from them, if anything, it's stealing from people alive today.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Makes water less boring

Drinking just plain water can be kind of boring and one is tempted to drink fruit juice or even soda pop instead; thus ingesting too much sugar. One good thing about saunas is that one can get somewhat dehydrated and then just plain water tastes pretty good.

Saunas give regular tap water more of an appeal and make it easier for me to drink more water. I don't go for real hot saunas, however. I go in for a fairly short period and then go back and forth as it's more of a social time for me at the YMCA than anything else.

As for body cleansing properties, I don't know if it's that big a deal, but it does make me work up a thirst that can be quenched by nice cool water. I'm getting into the habit of drinking water more and fruit juice less. A good way to cut down of sugar since most Americans have way too much sugar in the diet.

Dancing is another good way to work up a thirst. There's one dance here in Bellingham entitled "Sweat Your Prayers."

Soda pop, that's even worse than fruit juice. I don't drink that very often. I use Stevia to sweeten my chocolate milk rather than the regular chocolate syrup they use in commercial chocolate milk.

I drink some fruit juice and even a small glass of soda pop once in a while.

There was an interview on Diane Rhems about too much sugar in American diets. They talked about crushing 6 oranges into a glass of juice versus eating 6 oranges. One gets the sugar of 6 oranges from the glass of juice, but one wouldn't normally eat that many oranges in once sitting if they were eating the oranges as oranges. Maybe better to just eat one or two oranges and then drink water. Less sugar and more fiber.

My blood sugar level is still pretty tame compared to the average American.