Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why can't they just have the hearings, they can vote no anyway. What's this strategy about?

I'm somewhat perplexed as to why the Republican senators want to refuse to hold hearings if Obama nominates a new candidate for Supreme Court justice. Wouldn't they look better if they just held the hearings and voted no? If they hold the hearings and vote no, the nominee can't proceed any farther. They can still look like they are functioning; holding hearings, asking questions and then vote no. By not even holding the hearings, it just delays things. I wonder what their strategy is? They certainly look obstructionist. Also, Obama hasn't even nominated anyone yet. It seems like they are doing some kind of posturing, but I can't figure out what even they would gain, politically, from that.

An answer I got when I posted this on Facebook.

I heard two social science researchers from the UW describe the way focus groups and playing to ones base is used in framing public policy. It is not logical to us but that is not their intent. It appeals to major funding sources and the angry energy that mobilizes some activists. Progressives use some of this too now. It feeds cynicism. I wish we could work with the common sense you describe.


Monday, February 22, 2016

I would add, we may need "helicopter money" to fund infrastructure

Good interview from another economist, Mohamed El-Erian, joining the chorus of economists saying we need to spend more on things like infrastructure. He makes a good case for this spending.

I agree, but the problem is the government is already committed to spending huge sums of money on entitlements and the military. The tiny slice of the pie that's spent on things like infrastructure, research and education has to be increased in spite of the huge slices spent on these other things. That's difficult to wedge into tight budgets unless we find more revenue from taxes; most likely. Congress; especially this Republican Congress, drops the ball.

We could tax wealthy people more as I guess there is lots of money sitting on the sidelines.

Here's a far out idea that I didn't hear on this interview, but I have heard from other sources. Central banks, in nations around the world, have been printing money to stimulate their economies. They use the vehicle of low interest rates. This hasn't worked as well as one might think. Seems like much of the money just pools up on the sidelines as the business, that can borrow for cheap, still remain cautious about investing in bold projects.

One exception, of course, is someone like Elon Musk and his futuristic investment in Space X. Space X is an example of moving forward and creating interesting jobs. Most business is just kind of waiting or doing "business as usual, however." Space exploration is a new frontier which provides growth for the future economy. Also inspiration for learning among future generations. This is an example of focus, rather than just business as usual. Like so many economists, including in this interview, say, we need another Sputnik Moment. We need some new initiatives to prime the economic pump. Converting to cleaner energy, even just repair of crumbing infrastructure. The list of exciting needs is long and the work could be fulfilling for current and future generations. Business and government needs more initiative, I guess.

Seems like much of the money coming from just the present stimulus policy of low interest rates is feeding (I think) things like housing bubbles. Low interest rates means more money to spend buying a house and thus driving up existing house values; especially in areas where there's restriction on building new housing.

Why not use printed money to more directly fund infrastructure? That's kind of a radical idea of printing money to fund the government directly. Sometimes called "helicopter money;" an idea floated years ago about stimulating the economy by just giving some free money to people for spending in the economy. Well, maybe this idea can be revisited, but instead of helicopter money, using it carefully to create the added infrastructure spending that so many economists say we need.

Friday, February 19, 2016

If Trump gets elected, a wall might be built, but Canada will build it

If Donald Trump gets elected, the wall might be built, but it will be the Canadians building that wall. Lots of Americans say, "if Trump or Cruz becomes president we will move to Canada." Well, Canada could be easily overwhelmed by immigrants. Immigrants from USA. They might want to build a wall, or at least more strictly enforce immigration laws. They are pretty strict about enforcing immigration laws now.

It's actually not easy to immigrate to Canada. Kind of like officially immigrating to USA; the number of legal slots is limited.

With 320 million Americans and only around 50 million Canadians, I can see them looking at the numbers and saying, "can we absorb the flood?"

Someone from Canada responded to one of my comments saying Canadians might welcome refugees from USA under Trump, but look askance at refugees from a USA under Bernie Sanders. Those refugees would be right wingers.

Folks will say, don't worry, Canada has lots of room. It has the second biggest land area in the world, but much of it's space is in the harsh north. Also, northern Canada is land of the Inuit peoples who's lifestyles require lots of space. These native folks often rely on hunting and fishing so they don't want to be hemmed in by a bunch of fleeing Americans. Remember, the Inuit, Native American and Eskimo people were here first.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Evolving streetlight technology. Bellingham goes LED

One sodium light still shining at corner of Forest and Holly. Lights being converted from "yellow sodium" to "white LED" in Bellingham.

Bellingham is replacing most of it's streetlights with light emitting diode lights. Out go the older yellow sodium vapor, in come the white LED. Uses less energy. Some folks might miss the warm yellow glow, but the white seems good enough for me. The white is high tech. They say each light can be controlled from city hall via radio signal. Brightness can be adjusted and I assume that a status report on each light can be pulled up on a master map (I'd guess) on computer screens in city hall. That's whizzbang.

I remember growing up in Pullman, WA. and watching the streetlights come on. They were mercury vapor which gives a metallic blue light. Sodium vapor, with it's soft yellow glow, was something I read about in other cities. It existed back then, but not where I grew up. Way back then, we even still had a few incandescent street lights. Mostly on back streets, like the dead end street our house was on.

See more of my streetlight images on Flickr.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Supreme Court nomination is unlikely to happen this term, but Obama has the right to choose a nominee

Obviously President Obama has the right to appoint a new Supreme Court nominee, but realistically this Senate is extremely unlikely to confirm any of his appointees. He has the right, but I'm not holding my breath that the process will be completed this term.

Hopefully, in my opinion, there will be a Democrat in the White House after 2016 election and maybe a friendlier mix in Congress. The process of things like filling Supreme Court positions has ground to a halt.

If the people, who show up to the polls in 2016, vote Republican, Rowe v Wade and gay marriage will likely be overturned. Hope liberal minded people show up, or vote absentee (as in Washington State) and vote for the Democrats. The ball gets bounced back and forth between Obama and the Senate, but really, the ball lands in the court of the American people. Remember to register and vote.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Story Corps interview after disruption of Bernie Sanders 2015 presentation in Seattle

The woman associated with Black Lives Matter who disrupted Bernie Sander's presentation in Seattle in summer of 2015 tells her story on NPR Story Corps. She described what it felt like jumping onto that stage, having the audience boo and so forth. Through her eyes, a personal experience.

Sometimes, tho, I "personally" think we humans can be our own worse enemies. Are we shouting down our own side or is even Bernie Sanders out of touch?

I know that the right wing also has it's factions and squabbles so that reduces my worry when I see the left squabbling. The right isn't necessarily a unified front either. Who's ever side it is, anger can be a destroying force; as in circular firing squad.

Interesting to hear her story on Story Corps anyway.

Too much anger just for the sake of anger

Turn off the computer, Oregon sheriff begs. Stop tearing each other apart

Yes, I agree. I think there's too much anger just for the sake of anger. Not just in USA, but the world over.

In the wake of the 2016 standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a good article, but I don't think we necessarily need to back away from Facebook. Yes, we do use social media to reinforce and echo our own sides in the culture wars, but people do that anyway, with regular media and even face to face meetings. We just need to learn how to be more civil with whatever we are using. Anger can easily go awry.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The first chirps of gravitational astronomy and more to come

Very good article, in New York Times, explaining the detection of gravitational waves, the history of the research and how it works.

From article is this intriguing phrase: The black holes that LIGO observed created a storm “in which the flow of time speeded, then slowed, then speeded,” he said. “A storm with space bending this way, then that.”

(My writing again) By the time the "waves" got to Earth and our detectors, the oscillations in the "speed of time" and the bending in the "fabric of space" was less then the width of a proton, but still evident in the super sensitive LIGO detectors. Concepts like time slowing down and speeding up are mind boggling.

Now we know gravitational waves do exist and we also know that we can detect them. The detector, that scientists have been perfecting for years, does work.

I remember talking about the far fetched dream of gravitational astronomy when I took astronomy classes way back in the 1970s. They said, "maybe someday we will be able to look at the universe via gravity waves."

Monday, February 08, 2016

Celebrating, or dreading when there's more people around us

Thinking of immigration, population growth and so forth; how we accommodate people in society makes a big difference. Some of it is attitude. Standing in a line waiting for something, like at the Post Office, presents an example of of this. If there's lots of people in line, it can be bad if one is in a hurry and doesn't want to visit with anyone in the line around them. On the other hand, a long line can be a pleasure if one is enjoying conversation with the people around them. I've been in lines where I'm sad when I get up to the window as that means an interesting conversation with a neighbor in line ends. Other times, when I haven't known anyone in the line or had reason to strike up conversation with strangers, the long line can be tedious and unpleasant.

More people can be good if it means more customers for your business, unless you can't keep up with demand or want a slow day for rest. More people can be bad if you've worked hard to buy a house with a private swimming pool and the growing population has depleted local water resources to the point where it's now illegal to fill and use your pool.

More young people can be a blessing for paying into Social Security.

A curse if there's a housing shortage.

A blessing if one wants diversity of ethnic food restaurants around to sample.

A curse if one is stuck in traffic due to more sprawl.

A blessing if one wants light rail in their city since light rail tends to require density to be viable.

Attitude and how we plan our living environments, after the people arrive, makes a big difference.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Ted Cruz's french fry promise might lead to more need for Medicaid

Advocate of personal responsibility, the Republican Party's current front runner Ted Cruz wants to bring french fries back to school cafeterias. Not that healthy a food habit to learn and then he will likely complain about Medicaid costs down the road. Well, maybe a total ban on french fries is draconian but a smarter politician would suggest just eating a few. Yes, french fries have lots of unhealthy fats, but just a few isn't necessarily the end of the world; especially if one gets plenty of exercise. Burn the calories.

I occasionally enjoy a small cheeseburger. It hits the spot and most importantly it is small. Problem with french fries is that they are so cheap to make and easy to store that they are not only a kid's delight, but also a cafeteria manager's easy solution. Too easy, think food corporate culture. It's hard to control the greasy slippery slope to too many french fries. Like in that old Lays Potato Chip advertisement, you can't only eat one.