Saturday, December 31, 2016

Heralding in the new year. My little video of colors changing on the Herald sign

Heralding in the New Year 2016 - 2017

Heralding in the New Year. Little video I just uploaded to my Flickr album. Letters changing colors. Another feature of the "new technology" Herald sign.

My thoughts after listening to Secretary of State John Kerry's recent speech on the Israel, Palestine situation

Secretary of State Kerry made some really good points during his Dec. 28 2016 speech.

Continued building of new Israeli settlements on the land that Israel was (sort of) agreeing would be the new Palestine in the "two state solution" puts the two state solution in total jeopardy.

It looks like the current right wing government, in Israel, has given up on so called "two state" and is pursuing "one state solution;" a larger Israel.

Personally, I wonder if two states would work anyway. Kerry, the US and most of the world's countries are still committed to the two state solution, but seems like momentum is headed elsewhere. Maybe, in my opinion, a one state solution is where things are going? The one state would need to provide equality for both Israelis and Palestinians. This could no longer be a state based on any one religion. It would have to be a multi cultural state. A country like Canada, for instance. Or the US, for that matter.

Kerry said it in a different way. Basically, he said it would have to make a choice between being the Jewish state that it calls itself now, or a democracy. A full democracy would have equal rights to all the citizens within its borders, Israelis, Palestinians and anyone else living there. It can't really have it both ways.

I also feel that Islamic states, based on a single religion, are a bad idea so I'm not just picking on Israel.

People, on the right, are blasting Kerry for his logic, but I think he has stated the problem well. I understand some of the right's feelings as Israeli society has a lot going for it. It has many good things in terms of democratic ideals and institutions. Better than what exists in other parts of the Middle East. Maybe a lot of the institutions and traditions of Israel can continue, in my opinion, even with the one state being an equal state for both Palestinian and Israeli residents. They are both living there; especially if the two state solution is scrapped.

Who knows what our new President Elect Trump will do as he wades into these same muddy waters.

Friday, December 30, 2016

My wish for Santa. Peaceful bike paths.



Tammy Bennett, a fitness instructor at YMCA, dressed up like Santa before Christmas. She was taking wishes. I happened to be wearing a t-shirt commemorating the 50th anniversary of Bellingham Peace Vigil, so I wrote on the Santa wish list chalkboard, "Peaceful Bike Paths."

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Balancing prosperity and voluntary simplicity

See the thinking I recently posted on Flickr after a visit to Sushi Collective Household here in Bellingham.

I find Flickr to be a good place to put essays. People think "pictures" so there isn't the work of reading, but I often put long descriptions with my photos. Fairly unique on Flickr where often there's hardly a caption. Seems like my writing gets readership there. Must stand out in a caption less world.

Below, image of a solstice tree at Sushi House made from driftwood. Artwork of Zack Robertson and driftwood gathered at Squalicum Beach.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Political correctness is mostly just window dressing

A lot of people criticize the push for politically correct language, thinking and so forth. I see political correctness as being mostly window dressing. It's about using the right terms, not telling the wrong jokes and looking respectable. Problem is that underneath, one can still be a bad boss, greedy landlord, hostile customer, bad driver or bad neighbor and still use all the correct terms. For me correct terminology is less important that trying to be kind hearted underneath.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Just more prosperity doesn't always solve income inequality and lack of sustainability

Another idea from Portland, Oregon. Charge higher B&O taxes to companies that pay their CEOs over 100 times the median pay of their workers.

Some business groups, like Portland Business Alliance, don't like the idea and propose, instead, the commonly suggested solution of economic growth; like rising tide raises all boats. Problem is, in my opinion, that's the solution which has been tried all along for years. Income inequality is getting worse. How much overall economic growth do we need? Maybe it's time to try some other strategies.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Where's the Salish Sea?


West coast North America, Washington State and British Columbia.

Conservatives, or at least people who think in the past might jokingly ask, "where's the Salish Sea?" Why not just call it Puget Sound?

I guess the Salish Sea is a term to describe what used to take 3 names to describe. Puget Sound, Georgia Strait and Strait of Juan De Fuca. Those 3 names are still used to describe the 3 main sections of Salish Sea. Salish Sea is kind of a bio region so the name highlights that. Also related to the native people's who have lived around its shores. Still part of the Pacific Ocean.

Window display in old Penny's Building on Cornwall Ave. A building that's been hard to find uses for, from what I can gather, since Penny's moved out in the late 1980s. Several years ago, I saw a real estate office in that large storefront. The desk and file cabinets were spread out quite a ways from one another to, seemingly, try and fill the big room.

There's lots of retail space in Bellingham, but a shortage of housing. More housing is, hopefully, being built around town to help reduce the shortage. People keep moving here to study or retire, but who's shopping? Lots of people are "doing." Doing things like art, music, discussions, but not stuff that necessarily pays in Bellingham. Pathways to what I see as a potential new culture of less consumption. Ways into a more sustainable future, but many of the old economic trappings remain.

On the shores of the Salish Sea. Culture, but can people afford to live here?

Monday, December 12, 2016

One problem with mainstream liberalism

One problem with mainstream liberalism is that it's like playing a game of Topple Tower. It's often focused on removing things piecemeal, like a pipeline here, a factory there, but still relying on the consumptive economy that these things are pillars in. Like pulling pillars out of a topple tower, the structure becomes more precarious. The tower (economy) is still needed to provide things that people want like social services, home values, teacher salaries and so forth. The tax base is still needed. I think a better strategy is to look at the situation more holistically. What changes are needed in overall consumption and business practices, such as weening ourselves off of fossil fuels. What changes are needed in lifestyles, expectations, technology, our population growth, city planning and so forth to bring a more sustainable future.

Another example of Topple Tower is the rule, in Obamacare, that keeps insurance companies from discriminating against folks with preexisting conditions. That rule can't work alone without the overall system of premium subsidies and so forth that Obamacare tries to provide. Donald Trump is kind of like some liberals in being a populist. He wants to keep that one popular part of Obamacare, but discard most of the rest. Economists usually point out that just keeping that one part wouldn't add up. The premium subsidies (wealth transfer) parts would need to be there also or else the premiums go too high so only high income people can afford them.

Topple tower is one reason why liberal leaders, like President Obama and Canada's Prime Minister Trudeau, often disappoint more left parts of their liberal base by supporting things like Trans Mountain Pipeline. Leaders do not wish to have economic problems during their watch so they are careful about doing things that significantly disrupt business as usual. Here in Washington State, one of the first things our liberal governor did was to push for tax cuts to Boeing Corporation so Boeing wouldn't move production of the Dreamliner Plane out of the state. No Washington governor wants to be the one that looses Boeing, a large employer for middle class jobs, from our state during their watch.

We need to see how the pieces fit together and look at the big picture.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. As long as we keep using fossil fuels, pipelines keep being proposed

Even Canada's liberal prime minister, Justin Trudeau has approved the expansion of Trans Mountain Pipeline; the pipeline that already exists between Alberta and Vancouver area. A spur of Trans Mountain comes to right here in Whatcom County serving the two big oil refineries just north of Bellingham. As far as I know, there are no plans to expand the Whatcom County spur.

This pipeline expansion to Vancouver area still may never happen as there is always opposition along the way, but Trudeau has decided that it makes more sense to expand capacity of an already existing route than build a new route. I guess there was a proposal to build a pipe from Alberta to farther north on the BC coast that was scrapped as part of this deal. I just heard the proposal is part of a package that includes a carbon tax. I think carbon tax is a good idea at least.

Building, or expanding, any pipeline would fly in the face of climate activists, such as Bill McKibben, who says, about Alberta tar sand oil, "keep it in the ground." Oil plays a big role in the Canadian economy. It's a hard habit to kick, or find alternatives for.

The oil that travels through Trans Mountain's spur, just north of Bellingham, supplies our refineries that mostly serve the driving, and the flying (jet fuel), public of the Pacific Northwest. As far as I know, there is no expansion plans for the Whatcom County Trans Mountain spur.

Personally, I'm not totally anti pipeline. Pipelines are safer than oil trains if that's the only choice, but this is all part of running our economy on fossil fuels. Should Canada just keep it's Alberta tar sands oil in the ground or is that oil too important to the economy? Leaders, like Trudeau and Obama, do have to walk a tightrope between long term ideals and keeping our economies solvent (assuming they are solvent which may be debatable, but another topic).

National leaders often think of oil and gas production as a transition till we get something better to feed our economy and lifestyles.

I say, we have to keep looking at the big picture. I'm not necessarily pro, or against the single "piecemeal" parts, like a pipeline here or there. I think about the big picture of all the automobiles on the road, rents being due and so forth. How can we create a sustainable economy? We can, but maybe we need to push it along faster. Donald Trump wants to go the other way.

Also see Northwest braces for its own Standing Rock.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Anti Trump protests

I see quite a few people holding signs saying "not my president." If I was to hold a sign it would say, "Trump has no mandate." Trump is the president, but with Hillary Clinton's lead in the popular vote, there definitely is no mandate. A mandate would require more of a landslide vote for the winner. This means the Republican dominated government will need to be open to ideas from both sides of the aisle and also from outside the duality. In other words, no absolute refusal to listen or compromise. If this doesn't happen, the majority of people will be against the government.

This little piece of news is interesting also.

I guess maybe there IS a difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Even Jill Stein and the Green Party cares about the results of this election enough to put up $4 million dollars needed to attempt recounts in several swing states; article: Jill Stein raises $4 million for 3-state recount effort.

Seems like some of the Green Party supporters didn't think there was much difference between Democrats and Republicans, but now it matters enough for a recount and the Greens are leading this recount effort.

Also they are pushing for a recount for the sake of having a clean voting system, according to this article.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Time can be an important part of the filter against fake news on Facebook and other media

How does one guard against fake news on Facebook and in other media? Time cures a lot of things. I find that waiting a while, or even a few days, when I see a news story helps. With time, the false stories usually fall by the wayside as people do fact checking and so forth. Breaking news interests me less than the long term issues. This may not be the total solution to the fake news problem, but it's one strategy that can help. Wait, take the long view. Don't necessarily re post right away. Let fact checking take its time.

This can be a strategy for media consumers (readers), but it also might work for companies like Facebook that are looking for algorithms to combat fake news. How does one design an algorithm that's not got its own built in biases? Well, the march of time gives no preference to anyone. Time can be considered when articles are highlighted. In other words media shouldn't be too "trigger happy" to get the scoop. I know that kind of patience might not be the best business model, however.

I read that companies, like Facebook, are considering having a tag to certify that certain stories have been verified. A good idea tho there is still the question of who decides what to tag and what is the process to decide this? One thing that any process, like that, would do is slow down the news a bit. It takes time to verify and process stories for placing the "verified" stamp on the item. Of course all postings would still go onto Facebook as they do now, but certain things would have the verified tag. Since there would likely be a wait for news items to go through whatever process created the tag, this might automatically favor the longer term "slower" news over the "breaking" news anyway.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Our sexuality: one of the legitimate aspects of our being to lead us toward health

At a free form dance I go to, the DJ offers wisdom. "Let your feet lead, let your hands lead, let your torso lead, let your hips lead, let your sexuality lead."

Yes I heard that right, tho muffled through fun sounding music.

At the end of the class there's a little sharing session. The concept of leading with various parts of our beings comes up again; including leading with one's sexuality. I put my two bits in to the discussion saying that my sexuality leads me to the dance in the first place. I'm often motivated to go, wondering which attractive folks might be there tonight to see as I twirl on by? Who, of the attractive men (I notice the men) might have their shirt off. Then I said, even if there's no one that interesting this time, I'm at the dance anyway, enjoying the movement, music and ambiance. I've arrived and that motivation is one of the things that gets me to go in the first place. Not the only motivation as the music is usually great, tho also a mixed bag. Movement feels good to me.

People received my two bits very well. Whatever helps to keep the energy flowing in a healthy way. I feel quite fortunate that there's a lot of richness and multidimensional experience in this kind of exercise. It doesn't really feel like a chore. Free from ecstatic dance, sometimes called Five Rhythms Dance, but it can go by many names. One doesn't have to learn dance steps. Just let the body lead. One of my favorite of the "five rhythms" is "Chaos," but not all free form dance uses Five Rhythms terminology.

The free form dance will sometimes end with a cuddle pile. Touchy feely liberals? Lol.

I'm somewhat indifferent to touch, but I don't mind. My fetishes are more visual, but fetishes aren't the only reason people touch. One thing I really like about something like the cuddle pile is that folks who don't necessarily know each other very well, are still willing to participate. One thing I like about a free form dance is that it isn't too much governed by "stranger danger" fear. I'm quite cautious as I approach people, but I appreciate openness. There's a lot of unpleasant politics around touching in most of today's society. The cuddle pile is totally voluntary, but pretty much everyone participates; in a small way at least. Maybe just sitting near the circle. It happens rarely, but in today's stranger danger society filled with distrust, animosity, clicks, couples and competition, it's a nice thing to experience. Community and the families of humanity coming together.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Does this mean Washingtonians are just hypocritical yuppies?



Seems strange that even in a blue state, like Washington, there is still lots of anti tax sentiment. Someone like Tim Eyman (our state's anti tax initiative booster) can still thrive in such a state where people talk about the need to tax the rich. Unlike most states, in the USA, we still don't have a state income tax. Income taxes can be a good ways to tax the rich if they are graduated taxes. Our state tax system tends to be regressive even tho we are a blue state. Washington relies heavily on a sales tax.

Being politically blue also relates to being prosperous. At least in my opinion being innovative and somewhat left leaning politically can lead to prosperity given the emerging "information" economy. At the same time, we still have lots of problems in our state related to our regressive tax system. Does that mean Washingtonians are just hypocritical yuppies? We want the good things of being a progressive state, but not some of the costs?

Large areas of Washington are rural and the rural areas tend to vote more conservative so that's one explanation, as far as tipping the balance come election time. Also a lot of progressive and prosperous people are Libertarian. Libertarians tend to be suspicious of government. Libertarians want small government which sounds like conservatives, but they tend to also be for personal freedoms, like for the legalization of marijuana.

It's true that government can't be all the solution. Still, I think one must be willing to give in order to get. Pay your taxes, especially if you are upper income. Pay your taxes if you want things like well funded education and state services.

The good news, here in Bellingham, our Greenways Levy was renewed again during the 2016 election. Greenway trails and parks are popular as people definitely see what they are getting for their money.


Photo: Entering Washington sign at Wallula Gap on the Columbia River. Picture taken during my 1989 bike tour around the state.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Is robust economic growth an impractical goal in the west?

Robust economic growth may be a thing of the past. Not likely to happen again anytime in the foreseeable future.

Interesting to read economist Paul Krugman's review of this book "The Rise and Fall of American Growth" by Robert J. Gordon. Krugman, himself, is an advocate of using stimulus and good (basically liberal) economic planning as a road to prosperity. On the other hand, in reviewing this book, he acknowledges that the growth and prosperity that many of both liberals and conservatives advocate may be all but impossible to achieve again in our economy.

My own take on this is that an end to any hope for robust economic growth is, at least, likely. The whole idea of future growth based on innovation and things like Moore's Law bringing down the price of technologies comes into question. One of the problems, as pointed out in this article, is that we don't really factor in the benefits of things like smartphones into our economic equations. A smartphone can do wonders, but if it doesn't cost much to buy, it doesn't add much to the economic measures of prosperity that we use. The question of how we define prosperity is a big factor in my own thinking.

For various reasons, the surge of economic growth that we saw between the late 1800s and 1970 may not be repeatable. A law of diminishing returns?

To me, this thinking is important because traditional liberals and conservatives keep bashing each other over conflicting roads to economic growth and prosperity. Maybe this prosperity is an impractical goal. If that is the case, we will need to find new roads to better lives. Maybe we should learn to love each other and ride bicycles? I actually try and do that, myself.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The possible need for civil servants to disobey crazy orders that might come down from the top

Protesters should try and be kind to the police. We might need the police, as well as other lower level civil servants, to disobey crazy orders that could come down from the top. The top being Trump Administration, Congress, and eventually Republicans on The Supreme Court. We might need our mid level government workers to maintain common sense. These people can help us; especially if we don't alienate them.

A few weeks back, I heard that some mid level military folks were saying that they were ready to disobey illegal orders (about torture and so forth) that might come from "the commander in chief." They might have to disobey orders that violate Geneva Conventions; for instance.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

To wear or not to wear the safety pin



Article in Huffington Post. Thoughts that I put on my Facebook Wall below.

I know that some of us white people try to be good and caring, but the safety pin is kind of a thing of hollow symbolism. There's too many "show your support symbolic steps" out there and not enough living a responsible life.

I wore a safety pin at a local protest. It was handed to me by a white woman from the Islamic Faith. She wanted her frightened children to see a lot of supporters around them in the crowd. I felt kind of funny and token wearing it, however. I'm not that much of a "sound byte sign" guy. The pin I wore was tiny and hardly anyone could see it. Not very effective. There was a run on local stores for safety pins so some stores had run out of all but the tiny ones.

The anger tone in this Huffington Post article doesn't appeal that much to me, but the idea is worth considering. The pins might be sort of silly. By the way, I am a gay person.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Politicians barking up the wrong tree. Jobs going to the cities and to automation. Not as much to overseas.

We hear that too many jobs have gone overseas. This is true, but here's another thing that's happening. The jobs are going to the cities. Lots of Trump's support comes from rural areas that are suffering from economic stagnation. The jobs have gone to metropolitan areas. The economy is changing from market forces and so forth.

This past election showed a big divide between urban and rural voters where urban tended to vote more liberal while rural voted conservative. I'm sure there are many reasons for this divide, but the economic stagnation of rural America plays a role. It's being talked about in the media. People complaining about manufacturing jobs going overseas. Well, it may not be as big a problem as Trump and even Sanders supporters claim. I also read that manufacturing is strong in America. Manufacturing is strong, but it's just not creating the jobs that it used to create. Automation may be the biggest factor. Economists are talking about the effects of automation. Why isn't Trump discussing this? For that matter, why didn't any of the major candidates, in the 2016 election, talk about this?

Politicians are usually barking up the wrong tree.

Automation may be the biggest issue, but another issue is the jobs going to the cities. No wonder there's a political divide between urban and rural areas. Cities tend to be more prosperous in today's economy. Lots of service industry jobs, but still, there are jobs in the cities. Much of rural America has a more stagnate economy.

Conservatives might say that it's environmental regulations which have hampered rural economies. Lumber mills closed due to logging restrictions and so forth. There is some truth to this, but some environmental protection is there for good reason. Also there is more reason for rural stagnation than just blaming environmental regulation. In rural North Dakota, there has recently been an oil production boom. Something conservatives are quite proud of. They often talk about America's new "domestic oil boom." Well, now it's kind of a bust as oil prices have gone down. The success of fracking and oil production has lead to a glut on the oil market and lower oil prices.

Many rural economies are based on extraction of one resource. Oil, or maybe timber; like in the case of a timber town. Large urban areas tend to have more diversified economies. In some ways, urban areas are better suited for today's economy than rural areas. Better suited for the service/information economy. Rather than just lashing out and looking for scapegoats, we need to figure out what's happening and figure out how to make it work for our benefit.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

How progressive ideas might work with, or in spite of, a Trump administration

At least Trump's victory speech wasn't real bad. He was gracious toward Hillary Clinton and mostly talked about things that lots of people would agree on, like folks of different parties, races and religions working together and plans to rebuild infrastructure. At least that speech omitted some of the more negative things he and other Republicans pushed on the campaign trail.

Promises, promises. As for infrastructure improvement, where's he going to get the money?

Lots of things that I push for weren't even discussed by any of the candidates in this campaign. Hardly having any of the ideas I embrace be part of campaigns, at the national level, I still thought Hillary Clinton was the safest bet. Not exactly discussing my agenda, but at least a safer bet than Republicans dominating both Congress and the White House.

Government dominated by Republicans is what we got. It's kind of a product of mainstream American culture. Competitiveness, greed, unwillingness to compromise and so forth. Seems like most American people don't understand things we need to do to deal with climate change and how to adapt our economy to automation and technology.

The Republicans in Congress have done badly. Trump isn't really like them either. He's kind of his own wildcard. Not an establishment Republican. More a loose cannon and a populist.

It's important to realize that the popular vote did go for Hillary Clinton. The popular vote was for Clinton by a slight margin, but the electoral vote went to Trump. The result of an outdated aspect of our government. There is no total mandate for Trump and the Republicans. The country is still close to evenly divided. Who knows what will happen.

Here's one possible scenario. Trump might start courting support from Democrats as he faces the difficulties of office and struggles with the Republican establishment. Established patterns are being disrupted for sure.

I hope for improvements in our culture and the dialog of national campaigns. It's still up to the people how we build society, starting at the local level. Our lifestyles and how we build our communities. How this all fits the current needs with climate change a reality. We need to figure out ways for benefiting from the changes in technology that we are experiencing. Rethink economics. For instance having something like automation bring shorter workweeks with more quality time rather than it leading to more unemployment, stress and problems.

I still don't think most of the American people get it about the changes we all need to make. There are many pockets of society where these changes are being discussed and experimented with, but this discussion has not filtered to the level of the national political scene.

We still have a lot to learn.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Sharia law in USA?

Some people worry that there might be enclaves of Sharia Law in USA. Well, maybe there are, but not law imposed by government. Rules based on religion do persist in certain families, churches and communities. For instance many fundamentalist Christian families and communities are hard on their own children who happen to be gay while growing up in those settings. Also, there are enclaves of folks who, for instance, don't believe in things like vaccination. Children often suffer in these settings. The government and things like Child Protective Services aren't always able to rescue people from these situations. Enclaves, families and communities where badly designed religious rules reside can come in many forms and from many religions including, but not only, from Islam.

Religious law is the law of the land in some countries. Hopefully we have separation of church and state here in USA so religious law will not be the law of the land here. That would be bad from any religion; especially a fundamentalist religion. It is a problem in, for instance, Saudi Arabia. It could be a problem in a fundamentalist Christian country as well, but at this time in history it happens to be bad in some of the Islamic countries of the Middle East. Leviticus Law could be bad also. Glad USA has separation of church and state even though we have private communities and families where religious rule can be heavy handed.

When someone asked; Name me a country who bases their laws on a strict Christian sin!

My answer was.

Oppression of gay people in Uganda is often said to be based on fundamentalist Christianity. Also in some other African nations. Russia is getting stricter on things and justifying this, in part, on Christian and family values. Catholicism has a strong hold in some parts of Latin America. Maybe the problem of Islam rule in the Middle East is the most pervasive these days, but looking at history can tell a different story; like back in the times of Medieval Europe.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

News aggregators could set up per article charge system for paid content. My suggested revenue model for journalism.

I've noticed that more and more quality content on the internet, such as newspaper articles, are behind paywalls. Who's is likely to subscribe to such a large number of different publications just so an occasional link they find on Facebook or Yahoo works?

I got to thinking that large sites, like Facebook and Yahoo, could provide a subscription system where people would buy a supply of tokens that work on a whole bunch of participating media. Then, instead of having to subscribe to a hundred, or so, of different publications that one might only click on occasionally, the tokens would be available to pay for individual articles.

I've seen a few sites that use tokens to access participating sites, but it seems like a rare practice. This system could help with the problem of how can journalism be compensated in the internet age. Sites like Facebook and Yahoo are in good positions to provide this as they are, what could be called, multi site aggregators.

On another note, with more and more content disappearing behind paywalls, I appreciate the vast amount of free content and podcasts available from various radio stations, including NPR. Radio offers so much for free that I am spoiled.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Insurance company innovation?

I recently picked up a prescription where the pharmacist said it would only cost $9 if I paid out of pocket with the Rite Aid discount card. Going through the insurance company would cost me $23. He said it had to do with the complexity of insurance company policies. I said, "no wonder so many people want single payer." The pharmacist agreed.

Conservatives tend to worry that single payer would mean less choice, but it seems like "choice" is mostly figuring out which insurance offering one wants while wading through fine print.

The most important choices, related to health, are things like lifestyle choices. What one eats, exercise and so forth. They don't talk much about that.

Some people say that less regulation can allow insurance companies to innovate and provide incentives, to their policy holders. Incentives for things like diet, exercise, free gym memberships and discounts for non smokers. There is some of this, but, in most cases, the insurance industry reduces cost by not providing coverage to folks with preexisting conditions. Less regulated insurance companies throw people off their rolls if they have preexisting conditions, or at least only offering them coverage at much higher rates.

According to a recent Diane Rehm show, around 130 million Americans have preexisting conditions! Wow. That's a lot of people. Almost half of the American people. I don't think the private insurance market can deal with all those preexisting conditions very well; especially low income people with preexisting conditions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

True taxes can be clearer than hidden taxes in health insurance premiums

The Obamacare system is struggling, tho it isn't really the cause of the problems it faces. The underlying cause is high healthcare costs and the income gap in USA. The Obama solutions were, for the most part, designed by politicians, (I think) rather than economists. Politicians tend to try and make something look good on the surface with statements like "no new taxes." This often means taxes are hidden in the system, such as a tax on medical equipment, which eventually gets passed along in the form of the higher premiums to the higher income folks in the system. Lower income folks continue to be somewhat cushioned by the subsidies in the Obama system.

At the start, I think more could have been done to promote healthier lifestyles among the population, in general, and also to reduce overuse of healthcare. In some cases, people are over medicated. A clearer leveling with the American people could have taken place in the beginning. Yes, due to the income gap, some kind of income transfer is needed to provide universal access to healthcare. Call it taxes, or whatever, there isn't really a way around that.

The taxes wouldn't have to be that bad however. If healthcare reform works there are a lot of savings that can happen. For instance the savings caused by low income people having access to prevention instead of waiting to end up in the emergency room where the treatment is most expensive and those costs get shifted to others. That is what was happening before.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How do we cover lower income people with higher cost illnesses without taxes?

Here's an article, that was written by a conservative, which makes some sense, tho I still disagree with the author, Jennifer Rubin's, main premise. Ultimately, I think she feels that the taxpayers should not subsidize health insurance for the most part. Republicans, that are more thoughtful than Trump, do have some ideas about healthcare reform, that this author talks about, but I get lost in the weeds (so to speak) by their complex plans that are based on private enterprise. I actually don't think private enterprise can cover the large number of folks who are both low income and have high healthcare costs. I still think it would take a subsidy, from (most likely) taxes, to do the job. That should be what taxes are for.

The health insurance market, for individuals that are not covered by employer plans, has been messed up for decades. It's that troubled market for people who aren't able to have their insurance provided by group plans; such as employer plans. The Obamacare reforms have tried to fix this problem, but haven't worked as well as they could, ideally. The problems still persist, tho they are not as bad as they were before. For most people, the subsidies and Medicaid expansion, of Obamacare, cushions the blow. Better than in years past.

Folks with higher incomes, that aren't eligible for the subsidies or Medicaid and aren't on employer plans, are feeling the pinch, however.

The individual markets have been a struggle for years due to the economics of health insurance. Plans refusing to cover folks with preexisting conditions, spiraling premiums, companies withdrawing from the market; since the 1980s at least. Obamacare has tried to fix this, but has had its struggles as well.

I would guess that the problem is worse in states that refuse Medicaid expansion. That situation throws the whole thing out of kilter even more.

Seems like the problems were worse before the Obama reforms. Problems caused by the wide income gap in USA, the poor health of much of USA's population and the fact that large numbers of people have not been covered by our system that is based on employer provided plans.

Basing healthcare on employment status is a mistake that goes way back to the 1940s. I would guess the employer insurance system, we have in USA, should have never gotten started in the first place. Since lots of employers don't provide plans, that system has always been full of holes. Worse as time goes on.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Photographer captured the way I often stand with my feet at right angles


I'm standing on the street corner with Bruce and Martina as part of the Peace Vigil that happens every Friday.

Photographer captured the way I often stand with my feet at right angles. Done that since childhood. The 4-5pm Peace Vigil has been happening since before my time in Bellingham. 1966. Cornwall and Holly Streets.

I enjoy the gatherings as another social outlet even though I don't think to bring a sign. They also have signs that they provide, but I haven't bothered. My messages aren't easy to put in sound bytes, but I enjoy peaceful conversations with people who care about the world.

I now have a blog label about Bellingham Peace Vigil.



Second image taken by me at 10/21/2016 Bellingham Peace Vigil.

Below are three other images related to the 50th anniversary of Bellingham Peace Vigil. Images taken during July 2016 peace vigil contingent in Bellingham GLBTQ Pride Parade. Showing T-shirts made for 50th anniversary.






Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Products too cheap, housing and other things too expensive in the West

Some wonderful things from electric cars to smartphones use lithium batteries. To some extent, this abundance is on the backs of harsh conditions that miners face in poor countries. They toil procuring the elements so we can have our devices. This segment of On Point Radio looks into the problem. Very informative.

Related, but not necessarily discussed in the show, I have my own thoughts about how inexpensive so many of these products are compared to some other things.

Personally, I would be willing to pay a bit more for many products to create a better world. We live in an economy that brings prices way down for lots of things. Harsh conditions for a lot of people working in these industries around the wold. At the same time, many folks, in USA, are struggling as well. Lots of Americans are close to the edge financially. This creates difficult politics for adding more cost to the products we consume; for instance the hard politics around carbon taxes as cheap energy is another bargain we enjoy.

When one thinks about it, the struggle of Americans doesn't relate to the price of products, it relates to things like the cost of healthcare, housing and education. I have a theory that the prosperity, created by things like cheap energy and inexpensive products, is a big part of what drives the high price of housing, for instance. Prosperity, built on the back of abundant and inexpensive products, goes into inflating the price of things like property values in the rich nations.

It may take more taxes on things like carbon emissions to improve the world. It may also take higher prices for elements used in, for instance lithium batteries, to improve the world. At the same time, this might cool runaway prices in other sectors of the economy; such as real estate where extra money, from the prosperity, drives inflation.

The prosperity has been good and I would not necessarily advocate shutting it off, like protectionism in trade could do. On the other hand we would do better if we could figure out how to pay a bit more for these inexpensive products and, possibly as a result, pay a little less for the things, such as real estate, medical care and education, that are experiencing the inflation driven by this prosperity.

On another somewhat related note, I plan to vote yes on Washington State Carbon Tax Initiative 732 in November 2016.



Photo from WBUR website.

In this April 10, 2004 file photo, a young man carries wet Cobalt on his back at the Shinkolobwe Cobalt mine, situated 35km from the town of Likasi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Schalk van Zuydam/AP)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Should they scrap Obamacare and throw people with preexisting conditions under the bus?

Over the past couple of years, many health plans have become less comprehensive. Allowing for less doctor visits, dental coverage and so forth. Obamacare gets lots of blame, but an underlying problem is more the culprit. Healthcare, in America, is too expensive for a large percent of the population. This has to do, in part, with the wide income gap in society. Obamacare has tried to address this problem, but, to some extent has just moved the problem around.

One important change that Obamacare has brought to our system is forcing insurance companies to include people with preexisting conditions. This puts sicker people into the insurance risk pools forcing everyone else to pay more, or get less coverage.

On the other hand, denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions; barring the door and keeping out the sick and needy (like was happening before) is mean spirited.

As to my own situation, I went many years with no insurance. My low end employers didn't provide it and premiums on the private market were too high. More recently, working full time, I started having coverage. Most employees, where I work, were part time and didn't get coverage. Also, I was grandfathered in (so to speak) with coverage while even some newer full time employees didn't have it. For a while, there was a golden era when my coverage was fairly comprehensive. Most recently (the last two years) it has become less comprehensive. Many insurance plans offer less, but more people have insurance, these days, than ever before. One can say the plans we have now are more diluted. Diluted as sicker people are now included in the risk pools so the money has to stretch farther.

Luckily, my own health remains quite good from my bicycling and diet, for the most part, but maybe my diet isn't totally PC, so to speak. I do burn more calories than most people; especially my age.

There's an old phrase that goes, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Of course everyone isn't that fortunate. Some folks have, for instance preexisting conditions.

One place where Obamacare is hoping to save money is by having more people covered so they can have preventative care, rather than having to wait till they end up in the emergency room thus passing those costs to everyone. Maybe that part has worked, but there are too many sick people out there, so to speak. What do you do? Bar the door? I was one of those without insurance for many years.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Politics can be like domestic dispute

Interesting to note that Trump is now turning on his own political party. I've often heard the phrase, "we hurt the one's we love the most." Yes, domestic disputes can be bad. Trump has been an artist at this as, not that long ago, he said that Putin is a more effective leader than our own President Obama. Yes, the one's closer to us are the one's we tend to trash.

Many types of folks do this. For instance there's "black on black violence." Republicans have been prolific at this recently, however. After the tragedy in Benghazi, when the US ambassador and others were assassinated, much of the criticism has been focused on the supposed miss dealings of Hillary Clinton, in response to this tragedy, rather than the true culprits who were the terrorists. No one of course, not even Hillary Clinton, should be above scrutiny, but it does seem like Americans turn on Americans quite easily.

Similar things happen in romantic relationships. Seems like relationships are often a war zone. It must be a form of human nature to most likely hurt those that are in close proximity.

Some speculation about what might happen if Trump were to step aside.

He has no plans to do this, but sometimes people dig in deep and then suddenly announce the reverse. Years ago, I remember when Senator Bob Dole's presidential run looked like it was going on the rocks during the primary, reporters ask him the obvious question. He replied, "we're staying in, we're staying in." Seems like it wasn't long after that, he left the race. Of course that was still during the primaries, not the final election.

I hope Trump stays in as he does seem to be bad for the Republican brand. If he were to step aside, however, my guess is that Pence would be put forward as the Republican presidential candidate. Pence wouldn't be very good either, in terms of policy (my opinion), but his less volatile style would be seen as a safer bet. Republicans would see him as a way to try and unify that party because he's still part of the Trump ticket, but also more palatable to what is termed as the "Republican Establishment."

With Trump on the ticket, we (folks who lean toward the Democrats) can hope he looses, of course and also hope he can bring down many of the Republican's in Congress. Maybe the Senate will go back to the Democrats, or even both the House and the Senate.

Imagine Democrats controlling both Congress and the Presidency, but it has happened before and it didn't bring us to Nirvana.

I don't anticipate any politicians to be our total saviors, but it would be nice to see some gains made by the Democrats.

Big corporations aren't necessarily all bad

Big corporations aren't necessarily all bad. They can be powerful tools for organizing people to accomplish big tasks. It depends on how they are used. Corporations are like buses. They can be large with lots of people, power and inertia on board. It makes a big difference how buses and corporations are being driven. A bus can be driven off a cliff, driven into a crowd of people killing many or driven to a destination bringing the people where they want to go in safety and comfort.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Bellingham Art Walk, also Herald sign in rainbow colors



Got a few pictures during October Art Walk in Bellingham. It's a monthly happening, first Friday of each month. See some of my other Art Walk photos and descriptions on Flickr. I visited the studio of Bellingham's new community radio station, KZAX LP FM.

Herald Building has a new sign. Due to technology, the colors can be changed. Red, blue, or how about rainbow colors? I was hoping they would make it rainbow for gay pride in Bellingham which happens during July. Wondering how open minded they'd be. Well, they've already done it. It's gone rainbow last weekend, but why?

Little did I know that there was an obscure little GLBTQ festival up at Western Washington University. Not that highly publicized, hardly anyone was there; which is very typical of Bellingham. I dropped by and chatted with several folks staffing info tables. At the festival I heard someone announce that the Rainbow sign on the Herald Building would be there till Sunday. Seemed like that person was in the know, so to speak, but not much was said about this (I assume) connection around our city. By the way, this post happens to be written on National Coming Out Day.

The sign is now back to all blue letters related to the WWU Vikings. Back the Blue.



Walking art downtown. A friend who wears bright lighted jackets.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Hang in there Trump. I think Pence would be worse. Trump can't be taken too seriously thus limiting the damage he could do.

Much of the problem is bankrupt conservative values.

Talk about sexual issues comes up in regards to both the Trump and Clinton campaigns. People remember, Bill Clinton's affairs back in the 1990s. There's quite a few differences for sure. One big difference is that Hillary and Bill Clinton are still married. Their marriage has lasted through thick and thin. Isn't that an important value? Trump, on the other hand, has had many divorces, so I gather.

Also boasting about assault of women is pretty bad. Bad, even though today he is repenting about his previous comments (for mostly political reasons) I would guess.

There does seem to be a revolving door between conservatism and sexual promiscuity. One hears about Catholic priests with little boys and situations like politicians who oppose gay rights being outed, in some sort of sex sting operation. That revolving door might have to do with folks turning to strict religion to fight temptation?

Underneath the posturing, most people are sexual animals. In our country's culture wars, there are competing value systems. There are liberal and conservative value systems. Conservative values frown upon extra marital affairs, but if one goes to extreme liberal values, eroticism outside of the context of marriage isn't necessarily always bad. Bill Clinton's biggest indiscretion is more likely his original lies about the affair, rather than the affair itself, according to many liberals.

Myself being pretty far to the left in the culture wars, I am familiar with the concept of polyamory. That's the practice of not necessarily being totally monogamous to one mate. Polyamory is different from polygamy which has more to do with exploitation of a harem. On thinks of some obscure branches of Mormonism here. As for liberal values and going as far as polyamory, honesty and communication is considered important. In some cases, there might be eroticism outside of a primary relationship, but it makes a big difference if there's honesty, respect and communication among all the people involved.

In all this political talk about sexuality, I still have lots of respect for the Clinton's who's marriage has lasted. I doubt they would think of themselves as poly amorous; especially given the politically charged environment they live in. They are, after all, "mainstream" and (for the most part) establishment people. Still, I prefer their liberalism to the casino style showmanship of a Donald Trump pandering to sexual conservatism. The problem isn't just Trump. It seems like many TV evangelists and right wing politicians are that way.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Trump signs mixing uncomfortably into the Friday Peace Vigil in Bellingham, WA.


Some Trump supporters insist on joining (so to speak) the sign holding Peace Vigil that happens Friday afternoons in downtown Bellingham. This annoys some of the peace activists, but I am not super annoyed even tho I am not a Trump supporter.

Today, one of the Trump signs was being held right over a peace banner from the peace activists. Peace activists are upset that the message is being contaminated, but I remember when supporters of Lyndon Larouche set up at the vigil. It's just a street corner where freedom of speech prevails and there's a tradition of folks holding signs that goes back to 1966. Larouche is (or was) an "outside the box" political figure.

Some of the peace activists may not be comfortable with my thoughts also when I say that both Jill Stein (Green Party Candidate) and Donald Trump have one thing in common; they both want to shake up the establishment. As people hurriedly pass by, they might think, "ya, Hillery Clinton is a war monger" when they see Trump signs mixed with peace signs. Some people think Hillary is beholden to Wall Street banks and money interests while Trump supposedly finances his own campaign and calls his own shots.



In this election, I do feel that Hillary Clinton is the best choice even as I disagree with some of my fellow peace vigil friends who plan to vote third party. Hillary isn't perfect, but neither are we. It seems like even most ordinary people are somewhat beholden to use of fossil fuels, finances, home equity, retirements, consumption and public safety. Do we really want to tear down our society which provides these things? On the other hand, as we change, society evolves.

Today, someone scowled at the Trump sign and the Trump supporter said something like, "peace through strength." In other words, a big military to hold the peace and protect public safety. My comeback would be, "ya, one has to pay taxes to have a big military." Trump defended the idea of "being a smart businessman" paying as little in taxes as possible when news about some of his tax forms being leaked came to light.



From a few months back.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

One of best one liners I have heard

One of best one liners I have heard. "The more you know, the more you know that you don't know."

A phrase of humility which we could use some more of in today's world.



Image of store window in downtown Bellingham.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Religion, more of an art than an exact science

One can say that religion is more of an art than a science.

A science implies definite and absolute answers. Evidence based, "the facts," objectivity. Art is more about freer thinking and creativity, personal experience, intuition.

When we look deeper, tho, science isn't all rigid either. There's relativity theory that we are still struggling to wrap our minds around. The truth of things like distance and time being relative to the observer. Then there's also the quantum realm. A realm where something can be in more than one place simultaneously. Multiple truths at once. Fuzzy logic.

At the level of everyday life, there are many seemingly rigid scientific facts and truths. We base a lot of our technology on these truths; like assuming electricity behaves in a certain way. This isn't the "be all and the end all of science," but it works to keep the lights on and to keep our lives running.

On the other hand, there are many things that science doesn't answer. It doesn't answer these things yet at least; if it ever will. Questions like, what started the universe, if there was a start. Is there a larger meaning to our lives? Seems like these questions lead to the fuzzier, quantum side of science. There's lots of room for creative thinking. Religion deals with these questions also.

Seems like we get into trouble when we try and put these unanswered questions into the realm of rigid, absolute fact; especially when we don't have definite answers. It just causes us to start fighting among ourselves.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This is what I might want to say to members of Anglican Church of North America

My understanding is that Anglican Church of North America is made up of more conservative churches that have broken away from American Episcopal Church in part because of the Episcopal Church's more liberal attitude toward gay people. It's more aligned with the Anglican Churches of Nigeria.

Overpopulation, discrimination against women and gay people may lead to the ruin of many countries in the world, like Nigeria where population is expected to surpass the US within a few decades; Nigeria having far less land area than US. Bigotry, famine and war could make much of the world like Syria. People are talking about the situation in Syria as partially related to climate change and drought. An increasingly crowded world. Hope it doesn't get that bad, but who knows.

Other parts of the world could still flourish but increasingly face; like in Europe, the refugee dilemma with overwhelming numbers of people knocking on the door.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hillary Clinton is like ordinary people

People expect our presidential candidates to be perfect and folks continue to do things like oppose oil pipelines while still driving cars using oil. Hillary Clinton isn't perfect either. She uses money from corporate sources, like ordinary people pulling up to the gas pump. No candidate is perfect, not even Jill Stein (Green Party candidate). If we want to see change in this world, it's really up to us. We need to do things like driving less, becoming more independent of mainstream corporate culture; including the oil companies. We need to be building better communities from the ground up. I think we can work with Hillery Clinton a lot better than if "strong arm, mean spirited" Republicans take over all branches of government, including the Supreme Court. It's up to us to participate in the changes we need. No politician can do it for us, but some politicians can make it a lot more difficult.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Photos from my 2016 vacation bike trips now on line

Olympic Peninsula, Victoria, Vancouver, BC. Orcas Island. Around local area.

See trip photos here.


Mount Baker from ferry between Sidney, BC and Anacortes, WA.

Friday, August 26, 2016

No deregulation magic wand for Trump. Regulation on business is often local. Case in point, water worries in Waitsburg, WA.

People, like Donald Trump, say there could be an economic boom if the federal regulators and Obama would just get out of the way of business. Well, I think most of the thicket or regulation that can stifle business doesn't come from the federal government. It comes from local governments and people all across America. Neighborhood associations, local zoning and so forth. Some of the restrictions are needed to protect quality of life and the environment. Others might be just "not in my backyard" ism. A case in point is this controversy about a proposed bottled water plant in Waitsburg, WA. Not far from where I grew up in Pullman, WA.

Bottled water can create jobs, but it does seem like a useless product. In most localities, tap water is sufficient. Why spend all that fossil fuel on shipping water bottled in plastic? I know, there is a market for it, but what's best for the big picture?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A partial die off in some areas of the world due to climate change while other parts of the world continue to flourish

A severe heatwave and drought happening in much of Middle East. Also, it's harder to cope with things like water shortages with rampant population growth. Too bad that in many of those cultures, they execute people for being gay and being different from the mainstream of society's push for procreation. It's often said that the situation in Syria is related to a severe drought. Washington Post article, I linked to, talks about the drought, heatwave and doesn't ignore the population issue. Two parts of article that stand out in my mind below.

In coming decades, U.N. officials and climate scientists predict that the mushrooming populations of the Middle East and North Africa will face extreme water scarcity, temperatures almost too hot for human survival and other consequences of global warming.

The United Nations predicts that the combined population of 22 Arab countries will grow from about 400 million to nearly 600 million by 2050. That would place tremendous stress on countries where climate scientists predict significantly lower rainfall and saltier groundwater from rising sea levels. Already, most countries in the region face acute water crises because of dry climates, surging consumption and wasteful agricultural practices.


Some of my thoughts below.

I hear people say our earth is headed for a big die off of the human species. A mass famine as nature acts to reduce our population from around 7 billion now to, say, 3 billion? That would be a lot of famine. It would take lots of famine and die offs just to keep world population around 7 billion, rather than the projected 11 billion by the end of this century. That is unless we reduce population growth and learn to accommodate people in better ways. I think there are parts of the world which do experience such severe famine that aid organizations will be totally overwhelmed, but at the same time, other parts of the world, like largely the west, can continue to flourish, for the most part. A heartbreaking discrepancy of fate depending on what part of the world one is lucky enough to be born in.

I may sound like I'm talking about a holy judgement against certain cultures. I remember Anita Bryant blaming a California drought, back in the late 1970s, on gay people.

Still, whatever culture or part of the world we live in, I feel it is important to curb population growth. Also to have open societies which encourage innovation and science. Things such as desalinization of seawater can allow many regions to continue flourishing in spite of dire predictions that some folks make about the future of humankind.

I may sound like I'm anti Arab thinking about the success of desalinization in Israel and Southern California. At the same time, I also read about success for desalinization in Saudi Arabia and places like the United Arab Emirates. I read that there is a large desalinization project being built as a result of (amazing) cooperation between Jordan and Israel.

Things like desalinization do take energy, but energy can come from solar power. The cost of providing water in this way can be high however. It is starting to pencil out, economically for urban use, but the vast amount of water needed in agriculture is a harder nut to crack, so to speak.

As the future unfolds, much of agriculture is likely to migrate. If the "new normal" for places like California's Central Valley become too dry to grow, for instance, almonds (which take lots of water) almond production can relocate to other parts of the globe where water is available and climate is right. It takes a while for soils and agricultural infrastructure to adapt, but I would guess this is happening. It means that food will still be shipped thousands of miles all over the world as it is today. Possibly using transportation based on green energy. The "thousand mile salad" remains.

Come to think about it, migration of agriculture and forestry practices has happened here in the Pacific Northwest of USA. This region used to be the biggest timber producing area of the country, but many of our local forests have been clear cut and population growth has created more demand for use of remaining timber lands for wilderness preservation, watershed and tourism activities. The lumber industry has been migrating to southeastern states, such as Georgia, where tree farming is done like row cropping.

Another hero technology for the future will be vertical farming. Yes, growing crops inside where less water is needed. Problem again is the cost. The economic systems, in most parts of the world, favor doing things in the cheapest way. Vertical farming can't compete with cheaper methods, but why do we always have to use the cheapest method for producing our food and energy? Here in much of the west, money is saved using the cheapest methods for producing, say, energy and then the extra savings often goes into things like inflating property values. The real estate bubble could partially be attributed to things like low prices and low taxes in some sectors of the economy providing lots of excess wealth to certain portions of the population to use in bidding up house prices. Money saved on doing things the cheapest way also goes into world military spending, of course.

I think, in Germany, they do more to control run away house value inflation, but they do pay more for electricity than many parts of the world. This allows them to produce more of their electricity from solar; which given current situations is still more expensive than power production from fossil fuel. Maybe the Germans can afford to spend more money producing their energy in better ways, rather than just the cheapest ways. I'd guess they can do this by controlling waste and run away inflation in other sectors of their economy.

Global warming, human greed and bigotry are causing much famine in parts of the world, while other regions will be able to adapt and even still flourish. Much of it will have to do with attitudes about sexuality and population as well as attitudes about innovation and technology. The agility and adaptability of societies is an important factor. Being open to change, versus being stuck in tradition can be a strategy to cope with and reduce climate change. Change can often mean a brighter future as well.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Finding work without an impressive resume, or any resume? Could be the hand up for homeless people.

Yes, a good idea. The program called "There's a Better Way."

This Republican mayor has an incredibly simple idea to help the homeless. And it seems to be working.
Washington Post.

Employ the homeless. Instead of asking the homeless to go out looking for work when many of them have spotty resumes and feel dispirited, the city could bring the work to them.

Good idea from (somewhat surprisingly to me) a Republican mayor. Mayor Richard Berry of Albuquerque, NM has a way of resolving a big problem. The problem of trying to get a job when one's resume isn't impressive and maybe one hasn't even taken a bath for a while. Working isn't necessarily that hard. What's hard is the process of finding a job. We ask folks who are down in the dumps to sell themselves in a competitive job market. Why can't we just bypass that process and give them a job? Go to work without having to navigate the difficult "job finding application, interview and selling ones self" process. This program provides jobs for the homeless. Shovel ready, so to speak. Helps them get a start working. Seems like a good idea that could be replicated in other cities.

I've thought of a similar idea that I would call "sheltered workshop." It's like a job for everyone. A place that can employ people who are on the margins of the job market. Help them get acclimated to working and also add things to their resume. Work around disabilities and so forth.

Why hasn't it worked before? It does take funding to create the jobs. The program in Albuquerque has a limited number of jobs available. There are hopes to expand it. Make it available to more people.

Also, of course, it helps to have affordable housing in the area. In some cities, the housing is getting so expensive that lots of people remain homeless even when they have a job.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

I think most of Green Party candidate Jill Stein's goals could be accomplished with Hillary Clinton if there was consensus among American people for these goals

Green Party candidate Jill Stein interviewed on first part of Diane Rehm Show. Second part was about 3rd parties in America.

Personally, I still feel that many of Jill Stein's goals could be accomplished with Hillary Clinton as president. Main problem is, there just isn't a consensus among the American people and Congress (of course) to accomplish these goals. American people are very divided. There are many conservatives which pull in different directions. Libertarians and so forth.

One of the goals that Jill Stein would like to see accomplished is more spending on infrastructure; especially green technology. She feels global warming is an emergency and we need a strong push toward a greener economy. Good goals, but many of the American people are less convinced. They wouldn't want to pay for this. I feel that if the people, and Congress, were in support of these goals, we could go that direction even with Clinton in the White House. It would be harder with Trump.

In my opinion, it's not really the leaders that are the problem; especially most of the leaders that are Democrats. The problem is lack of consensus among the American people for doing these things. We need major cultural changes in our society. Changes at the grass roots level.

In second part of this Diane Rehm show the point came up that last time a new political party was created that won the presidency was when the Republicans replaced the Wigs back just before Lincoln's time. We're kind of stuck with 2 parties at the presidential level. Changes happen, tho, within the parties. Bernie Sanders has had a strong impact on the Democratic Party. Donald Trump is effecting and possibly imploding the Republican Party. Who knows, maybe we'll get a replacement for the Republican Party, but I'm not holding my breath.

Meanwhile polls seem to indicate, so far, most Bernie Sanders supporters are following him to support Hillary Clinton now that Sanders has endorsed Clinton. Maybe, in some cases reluctantly, but a new CNN poll shows 91% of Bernie Sanders supporters are now backing Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Good news from Canada where many lifestyles can respect one another. The prime minister even attends Pride Parades.

The Vancouver GLBTQ Pride Parade is a big deal. Over half a million participants and spectators. I've been there, in years past. This year, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau was in the parade, as prime minister. He's been there before he became prime minister also.

Now, let's hope, someday, that the president of Turkey, for instance, would attend a pride parade. That president is currently Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan. No, they teargassed the 2016 attempts to have a pride parade in Istanbul, Turkey this year.

Hurray for Canada and the more open minded nations of the world.

How a country treats it's LGBTQ people can be used as a litmus test toward how truly democratic it is. Where lots of different kinds of people, cultures, religions and lifestyles can live together in peace. Canada does very well. The US isn't that far behind.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Federal Reserve pumping up an animal balloon. Jobs in the hard to inflate appendages.


My crude attempt at making a cartoon (collage) about the economy. Collage as parts are borrowed images from the net; from people that can draw better than me.

Cartoon is about how Federal Reserve pumps money into the economy to, supposedly, nurture good jobs. Problem is, the new money mostly goes into inflating housing and asset bubbles; like blowing up a balloon. The parts of the balloon where good jobs would happen are constricted while the center part is, possibly headed for another 2008 style explosion.

A big problem with the economy are the clamps and restrictions in the way of good jobs. Environmental restrictions due to global warming and people's aversion to seeing change in their neighborhoods. Another restriction has to do with Congress clamping down on domestic spending due to deficit worries. The third clamp is business leaders worried about uncertainty and the feedback loop of soft markets.

Meanwhile, it seems like house values keep going up in many areas. Asset values go up, but work pays less and less relative to the overall economy.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Police relations with GLBTQ community seem better than with some segments of Black community

Black Lives Matter Vancouver wants police float out of Pride parade.

Not being black, myself, I do have problems understanding the hostility toward police from Black Lives Matter. Seems like that hostility would be better directed against the gentrification and spiraling cost of living in so many cities. Economic forces that are pushing low income people, with a disproportionate share of racial minorities, out of cities. In some cases, the police are the visible edge of this gentrification, but I see them as being caught in the difficult problems also.

Seems like relations between police and most of the GLBTQ community are much better than relations between police and much of the African American community. Police representation in GLBTQ parades has become another way of legitimatizing the GLBTQ movement. The police, major politicians and now big corporations join in the gay pride parades. I have heard, tho, that the big city pride parades have gone corporate. They've become big money, corporate affairs. A hazard of success in our society, unfortunately.

Here in Bellingham, things are much smaller and more manageable. The big corporate money hasn't found our parade yet. We're a backwater. The parade is small. There wasn't a big (imposing looking?) police float, but I did hear that the police / fire department brought out a historic fire engine to be in the parade. Kind of funky and nice.

I'm not sure If I'll go to Vancouver's Pride Parade this year, tho it's during my vacation and within bicycling distance. The cost of staying in the city has become ridiculous. Maybe that's what people should be protesting.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Historic moment about GLBTQ issues at 2016 Republican National Convention

At around the 37 minute mark in Donald Trump's acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican Presidential Convention was an interesting segment. Talk about protecting GLBTQ people. I think this was the first positive mention of GLBTQ folks from a Republican presidential nominee. Historic. Of course the Democrats and Obama have been speaking positive about GLBTQ people for years, but this is a first from the Republican podium.

As part of Trump's "law and order / public safety" theme, he talked about the need to protect our GLBTQ people from the likes of the murderer who killed 49 folks in that Orlando Bar. Talking about this, he presented a very simplistic take on the issue. He made it sound like an Islamic terrorist had come to Orlando to open fire on GLBTQ people. In reality, it's a more complicated issue. The Orlando murderer's father is from Afghanistan, but seems like there was no international terrorism plot. The father was horrified by his son's actions even though the father, himself, does believe that homosexuality is sinful due to his conservative religious beliefs.

This Orlando situation kind of reminds me of the contention, which some gay rights activists make, that conservative religious views create a general climate for disrespect of GLBTQ people which can lead to violence. Religious conservatives usually refuse to make that connection. Conservatives will say that the freedom of speech to point out where they think their scriptures prohibit homosexuality does not relate to disrespect or violence against GLBTQ people. I think the father was taking that position with his faith of Islam. Similar attitudes exist within conservative versions of Christianity as well.

So there isn't some big Islamic conspiracy behind Orlando, as Trump hinted at. It's a bit more complicated with the murderer having frequented the bar himself and said to even have used gay apps on his phone. It seems like more the case of a confused, lone individual. An individual with access to guns, of course. No mention, in Donald Trump's speech, about gun registration.

Still, it's fairly significant that GLBTQ people were championed (so to speak) from even the Republican podium. Also significant that the crowd of Republican delegates was cheering. A historic moment, even though the message gave an inaccurate impression that the US had been invaded. Invaded by organized Islamic terrorists from abroad. 911 was such an invasion, but not everything, including Orlando, should be viewed in as much of a war oriented way.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Police in the news. Here's something the bloggers are talking about in this Northwest Washington area.

I might as well put in my two bits also.

In our multi cultural society, misunderstandings can easily happen due to language barriers and so forth. An incident, in Sedro-Woolley, WA. has been creating buzz in media, talk shows and so forth; especially in this era of talk about police / minority relations. For a while, it was thought that police wouldn't be welcome as customers at Lucky Teriyaki in Sedro-Woolley. Apparently, this was just a misunderstanding due to language barrier.

From Seattle PI it says.

While the deputies were eating, an employee noticed some customers at another table had spilled some soup and water, the owners said through an interpreter. The employee couldn't understand why the customers were getting upset and wondered if it was because the deputies were sitting nearby, they said. An employee asked the deputies if they were about to leave.

An employee didn't understand when law enforcement later tried to clarify what had happened, the owners said through an interpreter.


Law enforcement personnel are still very welcome in that restaurant.

I guess it sounded, to some of the law enforcement people, that they didn't want law enforcement folks eating in the restaurant and word quickly spreads around. That isn't the case. With language barriers, it's hard to articulate and clearly understand the subtleties of these situations.

It's another argument for life in the slow lane. Slow down and try to understand what's happening. Our fast paced culture gets especially harder with things like language barriers.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My photos from 2016 Bellingham Pride are posted on Flickr

See Bellingham Pride Album.



After biking back from a somewhat unrelated, but also very fun dance at the Lookout Mountain Arts Quarry on Friday, my friend Josh and me had pizza slices at La Fiama Pizza. Also available were rainbow cookies as it was Pride Weekend in Bellingham. Most of the pride festivities were on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Personally I don't hate the 1%. I just want a saner economy. Glad Sanders and Clinton are working together

Even though Clinton is a 1%er, herself, I (Robert) personally don't hate 1%ers. I just think we need better economic planning to not be afraid of raising their taxes. I would say (even though it isn't in this article) no more Grover Norquist (the guy having members of Congress sign that pledge not to raise taxes).

Article inspiring my comment, Sanders drags Clinton into his war on the 1 percent.

From article it says.

Sanders shook up the party with his rants on corporate greed and his calls for an expanded welfare state, but he still couldn’t displace the stolid establishmentarian who has served as Secretary of State, New York senator and First Lady.

Sanders does hope, however, that Clinton will join him in attacking America’s elites and pursuing ways to spread the wealth more broadly. “Hillary Clinton understands we must fix an economy that is rigged and sends most income gains to the top 1 percent,” Sanders thundered during his endorsement speech. “Hillary Clinton understands that if someone in America works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty.”


Also in article it says.

But the revolution against the 1% was misdirected in the first place. It’s not really the top 1% of earners who are capturing all the income gains in the US economy. Hard data shows it’s more like the top 40%. “The notion that only the 1% are doing well is ridiculous,” says economist Stephen Rose of the Urban Institute.” The real wealth gap, he says, is between the top 40% of earners, who tend to have the skills to succeed in the digital knowledge economy, and the bottom 60%, who have less relevant skills.

I see a lot of truth in economist Stephen Rose's talk about the 40%. It's the growing gaps between all income classes that's a big problem.

I'd add that rising house values can add significantly to the gaps. Gaps between renters and owners, more struggle for first time home buyers, gaps between regions.

Rather than just hating 1 class of people, we need better economic policies. Better distribution of wealth, better partnership between government and private sector, investment in domestic infrastructure and so forth.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Finally, a listing honestly says Bellingham, WA. among worst cities in America. Cost of living versus wages.

Interesting Bellingham Herald article. Is Bellingham among the worst cities in America?

Finally, a pretty honest listing that might give some folks pause about moving to Bellingham.

From article it says. The study found that “a typical home in (Bellingham) is valued at more than $300,000, considerably higher than the national median home value of $181,200. While this suggests some level of prosperity among residents, compared to area income levels, area housing is not particularly affordable. The median home value is 7.3 times greater than the median income, making Bellingham one of the least affordable cities in the country.”

Also.

While the city scored well for educational attainment – 43.7 percent of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree – Bellingham’s higher-than-average poverty rate also was a negative. In Bellingham, 21.4 percent of residents live in poverty, far more than the national rate of 15.5 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

I'm lucky to be among the few non owners in affordable housing. There are some good things about living here. Friends, activities, dancing, bike riding and so forth, but it's a very hard city to become established in. Expensive housing, due in part to it's popularity as a retirement and college community. Hard to find a niche for middle aged workers, but if one has found a niche and an affordable place to live, it can be nice. A bit of the "Seattle Chill," however. North westerners can seem quite withdrawn and even clickish at first.

Here's this from another ranking in article.

Bellingham rated 15th among the 25 most hungover cities in America, according to businessinsider.com. Using business and research data, the site says 7.9 percent of people in Bellingham admitted to heavy drinking and 19.6 percent admitted to binge drinking. The city also rated high in the number of bars, alcohol stores and alcoholic-beverage-producing establishments per capita.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

After 2016 WNBR bike ride in Bellingham



Another fun time among and estimated 380 riders. This photo taken afterwards. See my writing on Flickr. Yes, mostly writing this year.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Is Bellingham holding out too long for the high wage jobs?

Two port commissioners have temporarily (at least) halted a hotel plan for Bellingham's Central waterfront redevelopment. Plan put forth by Harcourt Developments. These two commissioners want to hold out for the possibility of something else; higher paid industrial, rather than hotel type jobs? Bellingham's been waiting a long time, but seems like high paid business tends not to locate in this type of city anymore. Maybe we should try and make Bellingham more affordable, rather than keep waiting for those high paid jobs that don't materialize?

I've heard that, in this day and age, high paid business tends to want to cluster into major metropolitan areas. Places where there are ports with containerized cargo cranes. Big manufacturing, or information type business also wants to be close to international airport hubs and "big time" research universities like Stanford. Bellingham may be relegated to the backwater class. Low wage jobs seem inevitable. We have education, recreation and retirement, but not a major research university.

Bellingham may just have to learn to live affordably and possibly take what it can get. One of the problems is, of course, housing, in Bellingham, is getting too expensive for the local job market. This is a problem in many parts of the nation as well. In Bellingham, it's driven by our city being a popular retirement destination. Rather than creating affordable and sustainable communities, much of American culture tries to hold out for the promise of higher wage jobs. Progress is good, but pounding one's head against the wall gets old after while. As a culture, we do make progress with things like gay rights and also the new technologies, like smartphones, that become available; even available to low income folks. These technologies create high wage jobs for only a small elite of workers. Workers mostly located in select metropolitan areas. As for the rest of us, we need to stop waiting and start learning how to live with the opportunities we have. In some cases, the inexpensive opportunities.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My review of a NASA video about Juno mission to Jupiter

My psychology is different than most of the movie going public. This trailer, about NASA's upcoming Jupiter mission, has been touted as a great breakthrough in NASA public relations. Good Hollywood appeal, but for me, it just adds to my anxiety level.

It stresses the dangers of going into orbit, at Jupiter, with the radiation belts and so forth. Like The Terminator, or something. Action, suspense, scary. On the edge of one's seat. Personally, I hope it's not that risky. I'm looking forward to some real interesting pictures and findings if (which I hope is likely) the mission succeeds. July 4th is the date that Juno goes into orbit around Jupiter.



I feel odd doubting information that NASA has provided, in this trailer, but it does say that no other spacecraft has gone as close to Jupiter's treacherous environs as Juno is planning to do. Well, I remember the last orbiter of Jupiter named Galileo. It included a probe that plunged right into Jupiter's atmosphere and worked okay regardless of the radiation belts. It worked till being crushed, as planned, by the inevitable pressures of falling into Jupiter's atmosphere. We got good data out of that and the orbiter continued for many years after. Galileo had one handicap that Juno doesn't have to deal with. A malfunctioning antenna on the Galileo Probe required lots of slow workarounds for sending data back to Earth. Luckily, that mission lasted so long (bonus time well beyond it's design date) that it was able to accomplish it's goals in spite of the slow data link. Galileo was somewhat crippled even from the start, but Juno is (as far as I know) in excellent shape.

Looking forward to (hopefully) smooth sailing for the Juno Spacecraft that's about to reach Jupiter on July 4.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Oil train going through Bellingham. Who remembers the Northern Tier Pipeline proposal?


Unlike the coal trains that carry coal for export to Asia, I hear that the oil trains rumbling through Bellingham are serving the Pacific Northwest market. Bringing oil to our local refineries from places like North Dakota. Mostly for consumption in Seattle and various cities and towns of the Pacific Northwest. Keeping the cars on the road which, unfortunately, still rely on fossil fuel. In the past, much of our consumption was served by Alaskan oil, but more of today's oil is coming from North Dakota. It goes by train where there's no pipeline.

Ironically, old timers might remember the plans to build a pipeline from our refineries to North Dakota and points east. The proposal to build Northern Tier Pipeline back in late 1970s early 1980s. That pipeline was seen as a way to bring Alaskan oil from west coast ports to markets in the Midwest. If Northern Tier corridor was here today, it could be working in reverse. Bringing North Dakota oil to the west. Back in it's day, no one was thinking of sending the oil west. Since then, Alaskan oil has diminished and North Dakota production has flourished; like slash, burn and move on. Resource extraction patterns change over the years.

I remember my seatmate on a Greyhound Bus around 1981. He was a public relations person for Northern Tier. Full of stories about hiking, hunting and fishing. His spiel was about being an outdoor enthusiast and saying the pipeline wouldn't harm the environment. However, in 1983, Republican Governor John Spellman, of Washington State, rejected Northern Tier's application saying it would endanger the ecology of Puget Sound.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Grieving for the people in Orlando Florida

There definitely does seem to be a problem of intolerance and violence within Islam. A higher percentage of intolerance in Islam than other traditions. A factor that can't be whitewashed. At the same time, it wouldn't do much good to get into a comparison battle. I would guess that most of the people in Islam, as well as other faiths, are non violent and well meaning. Still, with each belief system, including Christianity, there are problems of rigid interpretations and fundamentalism. The big 3 religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity have old writings that are associated with them. These writings came from rough times when folks thought the world was smaller. Slavery was common, women were less respected and tribalism was a big thing. Scientific reason was less available. I think there needs to be some serious critique of how religious people use these old dogmas. How open, or closed minded are people these days? Do they think they have the absolute truth? Do they think the people in their group are always right and everyone else is wrong? These are questions that everyone needs to consider tho it does seem like the problem of close mindedness is more prevalent in Islam at this time in history. It may be more prevalent, but it is a problem in all belief systems.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Artificial intelligence helping us to look deeper into black holes


Wikimedia public domain illustration from NASA.

Using the artificial intelligence of computers to piece together things we really can't quite see.

There is a science project to try and see down deeper into a black hole. This is not easy to see as it's so small in physical size and so far away. Black holes are big in terms of mass, but small in terms of physical size. They are also obscured by lots of stuff. Very hard to see from our distant vantage point here on Earth.

Using computers to piece together data from radio telescopes across the world, more information becomes available.

Then artificial intelligence can work; like human intelligence works when piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. We have some idea of what the finished puzzle is supposed to look like; a human face, a barn or whatever. This helps us to find missing pieces and take an educated guess at what the pieces we don't find would look like. Some pieces we just have to guess at since they fell out of the box during shipment (to continue the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle). The box this puzzle comes in was shipped a long ways; like thousands of light years. Filling in the pieces and guessing about other pieces we don't have begins to fill in a pretty good image; so we hope.

Just think of some of the other imaging and research that artificial intelligence can contribute to. A bit scary in terms of us being superseded, but, more optimistically, new tools for more exploration and knowledge.