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.