Friday, June 23, 2017

I'm both socially and fiscally liberal, but also believe in some personal responsibility

Some people say they are socially liberal while being fiscally conservative. I'm both socially and fiscally pretty liberal. Basically I tend to support higher taxes and I recognize a good role that government spending can play. Where I may sound "conservative" is in the role of personal responsibility. Rather than just blaming everything on corporations and the rich, I try and see what we can do, ourselves, to improve society. How can we live for a better environment, better health and so forth. Things like bicycle culture. I think about how can we be responsible consumers. If we want better conditions for workers, I ask how do we treat the workers in the businesses that we are consumers at? Are we impatient, or do we give them a break? As workers and professionals, do we gouge consumers and institutions with our high prices and salaries? If we want to tax the rich, do we, at least, put out enough effort to cast a vote come election time?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My walk home from the first grade in Pullman, WA.



One hears that kids aren't allowed to walk very far by themselves these days. I guess people were less afraid in my first grade days around 1961. I walked quite a ways to my school. Maybe around 1/3rd of a mile. It did scare me, however. I felt I had to avert my eyes from this scary looking knot of wood in the fence. Years before my first grade, a tree had grown through the fence. When they cut it down, they left a knot of wood ingrown through the fence. I would run to get past it.

Regent's Hill Dorm Complex in background.



The rest of my walk was through the WSU district of fraternities and sororities. That used to scare me also. Today, I'd be erotically turned on by shirtless college guys, but back then they scared me. They were throwing footballs across the street and I was afraid the ball would hit me. They would toss the ball up over my head to their buddies across the street so it never hit me, but I always hesitated walking by. One time I convinced myself that it would be okay to keep walking even when I saw someone poised to toss the ball. I thought I could get over my fear if I kept walking so I proceeded. Just then, the ball hit a telephone cable causing it to bounce back and fall right in front of me. It didn't actually hit me, but I was back to being scared again.

One time, I got to talking to a student as I was walking home. He befriended me and invited me to his home which was a rambling student rental house. He introduced me to his buddies and showed me around the house. Main thing I remember was in the kitchen; the largest peanut butter jar I had ever seen. After asking me my name, my new found student friend looked up my parents and gave them a call. They came and got me and they were a little concerned that I had been too trusting. My parents admitted that it was a good experience, this time. They said I was lucky because you never know who you might encounter.



My first grade school building had only 2 grades. Kindergarten and first grade. 2nd through 5th grades were in a different school. Today, that old school building is a small shopping center. It serves the college neighborhood. My first grade teacher used to scare me also. Her name was Miss Schmidt; a strict teacher of German heritage. Today, her classroom is a less scary Jimmy John's sandwich shop.

My walk from school took me through Regent's Dormitory Complex. Part of it was up on pilings.





The complex had little courtyards that were like Japanese gardens. During Easter, dorm residents used to hide eggs around and invite neighborhood kids over for an Easter egg hunt.

The I think the Sculpture is called Rain Forest. There's a similar work in Bellingham by the same artist. It's in front of the Wade King Fitness Center at WWU. Artist for both sculptures, James FitzGerald.



The final push home was over Regent's Hill which was right past the dorms. Our house was on a dead end street just behind the hill. My dad took a home movie of me walking down the driveway to first grade. In the background is a concrete bucket swinging from a crane as Streit/Perham Dorm Complex was being built behind the back fence of the neighbors across the street.



My first grade year was 1960-61. Photos taken later years on various visits to Pullman.

People say that was a more innocent time, but I don't know. I think per capita violent crime is lower now in the US than it was back then. Even then, Pullman had its share of drinking problems, but I was pretty oblivious to that. Now that so many stories of child abuse, and so forth, are coming out, I decided to share this happier story. People are more aware of the problems these days. Still, most of the time, I guess, like in this story, things aren't so bad.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

More colors for the rainbow flag? Okay. It's lost and gained colors during it's lifetime.

New pride flag divides Philadelphia's gay community.

More colors on the rainbow flag? I'm pretty "live and let live." Whatever. As long as people aren't fighting about it, but too bad, there does tend to be friction. The phrase, "we've met the enemy and he is us" comes to mind. It's really up to us to have diverging perspectives without being disagreeable.

According to WIKI, the original gay pride flag had more colors anyway. It had hot pink and more than one shade of blue. The flag was streamlined with those colors dropped, in part, because lack of availability in pink cloth, back in the late 1970s, I guess.

The flag is like the acronym. Gay is pretty limited so it becomes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender; GLBT. Then there's more. Allies, questioning, gender fluid and so forth. GLBTQA...? The acronym can get cumbersome so it can be replaced with the word "Queer." An umbrella term? The "big tent?" That doesn't please everyone either.

Some folks might argue that the laws of physics, related to light refraction, doesn't allow brown or black to show up in real rainbows. Brown isn't part of that spectrum, but what is color anyway? Color is an artifact of our perceptions. The true refraction of light is just a gradation of frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum. Brown and white are various mixtures of light frequencies. Black is absence of light.

I don't think the flag is necessarily cast in concrete. There can be many versions of it.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I've put lots of new photos on my Flickr Account in the past few months



I've put lots of new photos on my Flickr Account in the past few months. Unlike many photos, I enjoy putting captions and fairly detailed descriptions. Self expression including political views on sustainable economics. The descriptions seem to bring some traffic also as descriptions are not real common on Flickr. Also, of course, anything that relates to naked bike rides becomes popular.

Here are some recent tags I have added to.

Western Washington University

Bellingham airport trail open house

Ferndale

My photo stream from the top

WNBR Bellingham 2017 Fairly tame.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

We shouldn't have Sharia Law or Leviticus Law. Separation of church, or mosque and state

Anti Sharia law marchers clashing with opposition. Craziness of culture war confrontation.

I would just hold up a sign saying "Separation of Church and State." It should also say "Separation of Mosque and State." It should then say "Variety of Religions Welcome."

Maybe a crowd of sign holding liberals would complain about my sign as they might say it's at the wrong time so its lending a bit of support to Islamophobia. The conservative organization, that's drumming up these anti Sharia marches, wouldn't really welcome me either. I'd be in the wrong culture war pew.

Really, I wouldn't want Sharia Law or Christian Law which, ironically stem from the same historic roots. Religion has some good benefits for individuals, but with all the differing faiths out there, the state needs to keep a neutral ground.

Toward end of article it says.

No area of the U.S. has legally implemented sharia, despite false reports on social media that Dearborn, Mich., enacted it.

According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. has a population that is only 0.9 percent Muslim; and Liyakat Takim, a professor of Islamic studies at McMaster University, told the AP that the vast majority of U.S. Muslims oppose implementing sharia in the U.S.

Then there's the Constitution, which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Less clothing in public spaces can mean less place to hide explosives and weapons

Meme going around on Facebook. Drastic anti-terror measures in London has seen the introduction of Spartans to patrol the streets and underground.





When I forwarded the post I wrote.

Humorous anti-terror measures in London. However, more seriously, I think encouraging the public, not just the "Spartans, to be wearing less clothing in public spaces means less cover for hiding explosives and weapons. Saver spaces such as airplanes and so forth. Maybe these Spartans can inspire a new trend.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The police can be your friend

Trump's goofy tweet that goes, "At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is no reason to be alarmed!" is getting lots of criticism, of course. Trump took the mayor's comments out of context and didn't realize, I guess, that the mayor of London was saying not to worry about the presence of police on the streets. Yes, worry about the terrorists, of course. Another foot in the mouth moment for conservatives who could have gained some ground from the mayor's comment. When the mayor said don't worry about the police, conservatives could have said, ya, the police are good. Don't worry about a lot of police around. We need them. The mayor's statement could have been used as a praise for police given the significant amount of criticism that police get these days.

Monday, June 05, 2017

A report card on Trumponomics

Trumponomics report card drifts up in May. Boo. It seems mostly just about the stock market. Employment not so good in May; a weak data point detracting from Trump's, total in this report by Yahoo Finance columnist Rick Newman. Overall, Trump has gained, tho. Stock market weighs heavy in these figures, but stocks did better under Obama during his "first 4 month" report. Also better under George W. Bush in the first May of his term.

Does the stock market indicate economic success? In my opinion, success should be measured more by the level of happiness and fulfillment of people at the grassroots level.

Folks, on the left, say the stock market is mostly just for the rich. To some extent that's true, but I'll admit that rising stocks can benefit ordinary people with investments in mutual funds and retirement savings that are in stocks. Ideally, this can even help small savers more than, for instance, house values. In Seattle, where home values soar around $700,000, one has to be pretty wealthy to partake. At least with the stock market, small investors can partake for a few thousand, rather than a few hundred thousand, dollars.

Money is not necessarily the true measure of an equitable society. How happy, safe and fulfilled are the people? Both housing and stocks could be just inflationary bubbles.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

America's cities are running out of room

Housing costs soar as population continues to increase and cities run out of room. Some cities, like Dallas, TX. or Kansas City, MO. remain more affordable as new development just keeps sprawling out.

Other cities, like Seattle, WA. are in regions where sprawling farther out eating up new land is less likely. Environmental rules, such as Washington State's growth Management laws, attempt to curb sprawl plus many of the outlying areas are hard to build on. Steep mountain slopes and so forth.

New development, in cities like Seattle, tend to be in dense downtown like areas. People like these type of areas where lots of urban life is handy and the neighborhoods are walk-able. Problem is, there isn't enough room in these denser areas to accommodate the people moving in. Metro areas, like Seattle, need to devote more of their land to dense "downtown style" development since sprawling out isn't really an option. Everyone who wants to move to Seattle area can't affordably fit in the limited zones that are downtown like; the urban villages. There's still too much land, in their metro areas, that is devoted to single family and low density residential.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Trump banner guy running for Bellingham City Council?

A person named Eric often comes to Bellingham's Friday peace vigil with a large Trump sign. It's basically to annoy folks at the peace vigil who tend to not support Trump. In the last two weeks, Eric hasn't been there. Trump doesn't look that good, these days, so I think he doesn't show because he likes to rub it in people's faces, so to speak. Right after the Trump victory, he was down there gloating, but that gloating wouldn't be as effective now.

I hear, through the grapevine, that he is running for city council. A new chapter in his performance art, I guess. I see it as performance art. Antagonizing mostly liberal crowds. He's brought anti gay signs to the gay pride rally. Someone like that would never win in fairly liberal Bellingham. Not even for the County Council tho the county is more conservative. His campaign must just be to get attention.

With the fire and brimstone anti gay signs that he had before, he could pass out campaign literature near the gay pride parade, ha, ha. Political suicide, but such a person wouldn't get very many votes in Bellingham anyway.

There's speculation that someone is sponsoring him. Who would want to sponsor performance art for antagonizing folks? Makes me think of anarchists on the other side of the political spectrum. Give em hell.

People often argue with him, but most of the discussions are like shouting matches across the street. I find those kind of conversations pretty useless so I tend to ignore. I wouldn't mind sitting down to a civil discussion with him, talk theology and so forth, but I have never attempted to do that. The shouting matches around him are not easy to talk over. I save my voice for different kinds of discussion.

Too bad Trump and US arms industry licking it's chops over big arms deal to Saudi Arabia

Jobs, jobs, jobs? Selling them solar panels would be better for the world. Too bad they aren't in the market for that much wealth in solar panels. Weapons are most of what they seem to buy. Is Trump trying to throw gasoline on the flames of Sunni Shia rivalry? The recent election in Iran provides hope for moderate leadership, but that situation might be fragile.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Good news. Moderate Rouhani wins in Iran. Hopefully the Iranian people will have enough patience to keep supporting reform even though prosperity may be a difficult thing to bring about.

Good news. The moderate and more reform minded leader has won in an Iranian election. I hope that Iran can still make progress toward human rights and more quality of life.

There is worry that if Rouhani's promises for a more prosperous economy are not met, it could send the tide of popular opinion another way; such as back to a hardliner. Bringing more prosperity is difficult in any society, including our own here in USA. Meanwhile, many improvements in quality of life don't cost a lot. Prosperity shouldn't be seen as a prerequisite for better quality of life, tho it does help. Hopefully the Iranian people will have enough patience to keep supporting reform even though prosperity may be a difficult thing to bring about. Without reform, prosperity would be even less likely.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Diluting my chocolate milk with regular milk is helping

Had a checkup yesterday. I have a new doctor as my doctor retired. The new doctor is very, very good looking, but, more importantly, the numbers from my blood test were very good looking. Sugars and so forth are in the good range. Blood pressure is good.

Diluting my chocolate milk with regular milk is helping. Also the many salads and apples I eat. Drinking some unsweetened ice tea in restaurants and putting a small amount of Pepsi in it, just to make it slightly more flavorful helps. All the bicycling and dancing I do burns many calories.

The new doctor seems to share my philosophy of fairly light touch medicine. Lifestyle and diet comes easier than medical intervention. I like that attitude for many reasons, but also my insurance has a real high deductible past the preventative things that insurance companies are required to provide by law.

Possibly my only symptom of physical discomfort is an occasional pain in one ankle and a cough that persists for a while. This most likely relates to being on my feet constantly. Work, walking and so forth. A good excuse to sit in front of my computer.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Lower diet standards in schools but deny diabetics healthcare

Trump's budget chief Mulvaney wants to leave a big part of the 29 million Americans living with diabetes out in the cold.

Diabetics don't deserve health insurance? This call to pull the plug comes, ironically, as the Trump Administration acts to relax healthy eating standards in schools. Also to, at least, delay more nutrition reporting for restaurant foods.

Denying healthcare is harsh, even if people haven't had the best eating habits. Also, in some cases, diabetes is caused by genetics and other factors besides diet and lifestyle.

I'm sure some "right to lifers" are troubled by Republican ideas for rationing medical care, but secular libertarians, among the Republicans, might just say, "go ahead and pull the plug; save tax dollars." Libertarians are against government spending and non religious folks might be less troubled by right to life arguments.

On the front for promoting healthier living, Michell Obama is coming out with criticisms of Trump's school lunch policies. She is an advocate of better diets.

I can sort of see why "conservatives" want to allow chocolate milk back on school lunch menus. I know, I drink it myself. It does taste good. These days, I dilute my chocolate milk with regular milk as I know the sugar is bad. When I was a kid, I craved the stuff so much that I would eat cocoa powder right out of the can. Sometimes I wouldn't even bother with the milk. My mom would say that "I liked a little milk with my chocolate powder."

Yes, it is hard to get kids to eat healthier, but it's good to try and do the best we can.

More links.
American Diabetes Association Disappointed
Michelle Obama on Trump rollback of school lunch standards

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Changes in Congress in 2018 could be as important, if not more important, than who is the president

If scandals bring down Trump, we still have Pence and the Republican majority in Congress to deal with. It could be no better or even worse. Thank goodness it's not too far to the 2018 election. If enough people vote, we can repeal and replace most of Congress. That could be as big, if not bigger of a sea change than a new president.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Several connotations for the word conservative

The term "conservative" has quite a few connotations. On the one hand, there's the concept of investing conservatively; meaning low risk investments.

Then there's the concept of conservation, but for most of my life, conservation of the natural environment hasn't been part of the perception of conservative politics. More recently, there are those who talk about the conservative case for protecting the environment. There's groups like Evangelicals for Environmentalism, but this seems kind of new and only around the edges of political conservatism.

People's concepts of conservatism have been discussed in a few threads. My perception is as follows: at least about political conservatism.

Political Conservatism. Favoring policies that provide and preserve material wealth. Hard work, saving and protecting wealth. Pro military and safety; pro business, pro private enterprise and private development.

Political conservatism often includes principles from fundamentalist Christianity, but there's a tenuous relationship between religious conservatism and promotion of business interests.

In more recent times, conservatives have become increasingly flamboyant. Masters of entertainment, such as Rush Limbaugh. This was less the case in my childhood. There was, tho "Chamber of Commerce" style business promoters.

My mom used to say, about the city of Spokane, WA. which was quite conservative in the 1960s, "Spokane thinks it's big." "Seattle knows it's big."

Spokane seemed to be promoting itself. After all, much of its economy is being a retail trade center. Seattle was a lot bigger and more sophisticated. Seattle didn't need to brag about it as much.

Donald Trump is part of a trend of entertainment, flashy oriented conservatives which seems to be gaining ground in recent years.

Friday, May 05, 2017

The rest of the world should not follow conservative, overpopulated ways from Nigeria

There is much debate over gay rights within the Anglican (Episcopal) Church which is rooted in both the west and countries like Nigeria.

The west has been moving toward acceptance of sexual diversity while much more conservative attitudes prevail in African branches of the church. Acceptance of sexual diversity includes GLBT people while more conservative thinking sees a stronger link between sexuality and procreation. I think the world needs more sexual diversity as over population indicates that there's more than enough procreation.

I would not want the rest of the world to follow Nigeria's leadership. Could be the international Anglican Church needs to split as the theologies are in different worlds. I'm not part of that church, so I'm no expert on their politics, tho. I think it's already split here in USA.

A lot of our world's outmoded ideas, like conservative attitudes sexual diversity, can lead to problems. If procreation is the only accepted outlet for sexuality, it can cause overpopulation problems. This becomes an environmental issue as people, all over the world, aspire to a richer life.

From what I read, Nigeria's population is growing rapidly and may surpass the US in population within a few decades, tho it has far less land area than the US. An environmental nightmare as traffic and consumption rises. The average American's consumption of natural resources is higher than that of the average Nigerian, today, but people all over the world aspire toward more consumptive lifestyles. Think of all the get rich quick schemes, on the internet, that originate in Nigeria. Of course that proliferation of scams doesn't necessarily represent all of Nigeria, but it's hard for me not to bring it up.

The situation of people's aspiration toward growth in consumption prevails around the world. China is an example of vast populations aspiring to live richer lives. For instance trading in bicycles for cars in recent decades. China is often held up as an example of why people wouldn't ride bikes, in mass, if they don't have to. It's used as an example for why Americans aren't likely to cut back significantly on automobile use.

For our world to remain livable, there needs to be more innovation and acceptance of diversity in both sexual lifestyles as well as traditional aspirations for what a richer life entails. There is some good news from China, however. Bikes are making a comeback. Not only are crowding and pollution pushing some Chinese into bicycling, but new technology is leading the way. Uber / Smartphone technology is making a new bike sharing program very convenient. See How the smartphone brought young Chinese back to bicycling.

We need forward looking innovation, not backward looking mindset, as this crowded, aspiring world evolves. We need innovation, especially in the face of climate change.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

With self driving cars, the commute could be part of the work day, rather than added on top of the work day.

I just got to thinking, when the self driving car arrives, it can be a big time saver. People can work in their cars as they are being driven to work, by the car. The commute can become part of the work day. If society is smart (tho I'm not holding my breath) folks would need to spend less time at the office since they can get much of their work done on the way to and from the office. Time at the office could still be used for interactive, face to face things such as meetings. Some of the rest of the cubicle time could be done in the car. This could free up more time for family life and so forth. Today, people have both the long work day and the long commute on top of that. If cars must still prevail, the cars of the future must be run on green energy, however.

Monday, May 01, 2017

$700,000 for a typical house in Seattle? Crazy.

I've heard the phrase, "rising tide raises all boats." This phrase points out the virtue of increasing prosperity, but another phrase may be more applicable these days. "Rising tide swamps all boats," or at least swamps many boats. Trying to buy a house in Seattle's stratospheric market often means being outbid (like your boat being swamped) by the rising tide of other folks with greater wealth. This effects the rental market also. To continue the analogy, the damaging wake that can be created by big boats.

Median price in Seattle hits $700,000.

Apr 10, 2017, KIRO 7 story.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

When getting a raise means going back to minimum wage

I used to make a bit more than minimum wage, but at the first of the year, I got a raise, back to minimum wage. How did that happen? Washington State has now raised minimum wage to $11 per hour. Before that increase, my wage was a bit above the minimum. Now it's higher, but it's the new minimum wage. It's a struggle for some businesses to pay higher wages in an environment of low prices for many goods and services. The wage works for me as long as my rent remains reasonable. I have reasonable rent. Housing cost is one of the big factors people struggle with. Property prices are often in a different world than the rest of the economy. I'm fortunate there also as I haven't been hit by that situation. My landlord is a non profit organization that strives to be reasonable.

Why take on student debt for funky jobs?

This episode of 1A (new show in Diane Rehm's old time slot). It's about the burden of student debt. One of the guests was financial adviser Michelle Singletary. She suggests being modest in one's college choices to avoid racking up too much debt. She said, don't necessarily go for prestige of schools such as Harvard. Sometimes community college is sufficient.

I was fortunate to have not racked up any debt. Back in my college days, Tuition was a lot lower in state schools at least. My parents paid the bills on a normal middle class salary. I graduated with money in the bank. Not lots of money, but a bit of savings from gardening jobs and my childhood paper route.

It's just as well that I had no debt as the job market has always been pretty soft for me. With my way paid and little work experience, I started out by doing odd gardening jobs which eventually led to a part time custodial job at a pizza parlor. My parents were still proud that I was able to achieve self sufficiency at least. They had been a bit worried.

Rents were reasonable as I started my "career" and I had an upstairs neighbor who spoke about the virtues of part time work. It's a balance between quality of life and paying one's dues. I went with that advise as I couldn't find full time work anyway. Even "good" custodial positions for the state (like at Western Washington University where I graduated from) required a ton of qualifications. That was the Bellingham of the early 1980s.

I got into the pattern of working part time, going on long vacations and expressing myself in ways which usually don't pay the bills; unless one is a big celebrity; like Justin Bieber.

Now I'm working closer to full time and things are basically okay. My writing, ideas and photography are donated to Creative Commons. Donated, in part, because who would buy it?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Flying or riding Amtrak


Observation car traveling California coast west of Santa Barbara.

Large cuts being proposed to Amtrak just in time for that video of the guy being dragged off the United Airlines flight to go viral. Unfortunate timing.

I guess Amtrak is less efficient than airline travel cause it takes much longer to get there. Longer duration of trip equals more use of staff time per passenger mile. Amtrak does get a federal subsidy. Airlines get some of that also; the air traffic control system and airports. Most countries do subsidize their transportation systems.

Amtrak costs less, in terms of energy use per passenger mile, but the high cost of labor "Trumps" the low cost of energy, in economic thinking and Trump is proposing the big cuts to Amtrak in his budget request. For environmental thinking; another story. The true cost of energy matters for the environment.

Then there is culture. The trip on an airline is often thought of as something to endure just to get to the destination. Maybe this doesn't have to be the case, but as the United Airline situation illustrates, airlines are getting leaner and meaner.

Amtrak isn't perfect either, but it's a bit of a different philosophy. The trip can be part of the experience. Takes longer, but more comfortable. Train travel can be an enjoyable social setting as passengers mingle in in places like the observation car. The view is sometimes interpreted by a volunteer naturalist who comes on board.

Being more in the slow lane of life, myself, I haven't had occasion to fly since the 1980s. Did enjoy the bird's eye view, however, on a small plane from Seattle to Pullman where every seat was a window seat. I've ridden Amtrak quite a few times more recently, in connection with my bicycle travels.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Comparing Assad to Hitler

A mistake that was kind of a technicality. Saying Hitler didn't even stoop so low as Syrian President Assad in using chemical weapons when, in fact, Hitler did use chemical weapons in the concentration camps. I've never been a Trump supporter so it's funny to see his staff stumble, but I do kind of get the valid point that Spicer was trying to make. What Assad has done puts him into the category of Hitler.

As for Holocaust denial, it wasn't that long ago that former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Nazi Holocaust a "myth" of European Jewry. Things can be like Hitler in today's world; especially in the Middle East.

Part of my own tribe of "liberals" is making a big deal out of this verbal slip up, which is what journalists and Twitter folks like to do, but in the long run, it may not be that substantive an issue.

A more substantive issue is something like the huge cuts to Amtrak train service that are proposed in Trump's budget request. Amtrak may be taken away from over 200 communities; especially rural communities.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

If Syria could just be livable, that would be best. Taking in refugees, plan B.

A passive way to deal with the atrocities, in Syria, is to take in more refugees. The US could take in a lot more than it has, but this can still be problematic. Too many refugees can be overwhelming to a society. Europe, not to mention other Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan, has taken in many more refugees than the US and is experiencing some problems. Another term for problems is growing pains.

Here in USA, without even taking in large numbers, many of our prosperous cities are experiencing housing shortages and a rising cost of living. We could reduce the percent of land, in our metro areas, that's locked up into single family residential zones. This could even improve living, tho that's a matter of opinion. Many folks still fight housing density, tho it doesn't have to be a disaster, if planned right.

Another problem with the strategy of taking in refugees is that many of the refugees would actually prefer to live in Syria, if only it was livable. Many of them don't necessarily want to relocate clear around the world away from familiar territory if they could just be able to live in peace in their own homes.

It's hard to know what's the best strategy for solving the problems in Syria. Many are saying that the Syrian situation is being exacerbated by drought related to climate change. There's 7 billion people on this planet and it looks like climate change refugees could become a wave of the future. We have to learn to plan and live differently.

Friday, April 07, 2017

If you want to protect the unborn, you have to walk through the doors of the undocumented

Quote from Bishop Tyson, head of the Diocese of Yakima that stretches across seven counties in central Washington State. Quote in a very thought provoking interview on Northwest Public Radio. If you want to protect the unborn, you have to walk through the doors of the undocumented. He says 80-90 % of Catholic pregnancies, baptized in Central Washington, are Latino.

Interview points out the hypocrisy of many folks in the Christian Right who talk about pro life, but also talk about building a wall on the Mexican border. At the same time, I do feel that our growing population does present challenges including effect on the environment

Personally, I think we need more birth control and less pregnancies world wide, but when people are born, a civilized society welcomes our neighbors. Christian teaching, such as expressed in Christ's Sermon On The Mount, can be an inconvenient truth. Good planning is important for things like public transit, instead of more traffic. Also keeping housing affordable as we accommodate growing population.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Could be better to say "power amplifies" rather than "power courrupts"

One of my friends, who's pretty far to the left politically, says Obama has the dubious distinction of being the only Nobel Peace Prize winner to have bombed another winner of the Peace Prize. He was referring to the accidental US bombing of Kunduz hospital, in Afghanistan, during October of 2015 which had members of Doctors Without Borders working there. Doctors Without Borders won the Peace Prize in 1999.

I still think Obama was a good president, as presidents go, but being in charge of the world's largest military has consequences. Mistakes can be made, down the chain of command, of which some folks will hold the person at the top responsible. The problems come with the territory. It would be nearly impossible to be President and not have things go wrong. The larger amount of power one holds, the larger the catastrophes that can happen. Some folks say "power corrupts," but I have a different twist on that phrase. I say "power amplifies." Mistakes made by the most powerful military in the world can be big mistakes, but ordinary people make mistakes everyday. For instance; behind the wheel of an automobile that can also lead to death.

The friend I was talking to said he voted for Obama, but is now disappointed and would never forgive Obama for this. I feel this is another case of circular firing squad. Obama, Hillary Clinton and the so called Democratic establishment were not perfect, but look who is in that position now. Donald Trump; a far more reckless person.

Some folks feel Obama should have done more to pull us out of Afghanistan and reduce the size of our military. Could be, but if he would have tried that, Congress would have, most likely, stopped him. They would have even had him removed from office. Also a large portion of the American people would have stopped him. The problem is people being guided by fear, rather than trust. Disarming a big part of our military brings up the same kind of fear that notice of a sex offender moving into one's neighborhood can bring. Fear at the grass roots level.

There is a trade off when someone takes a position of high power and high responsibility. It's easier to be more idealistic when not fully engaged with our tainted world.

That brings up a problem with the Nobel Peace Prize, itself. It often goes to someone prominent in the news. Obama got it just 12 days after taking office so folks felt he hadn't done anything to deserve it yet. Another controversial prize was in 1994 when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat got the prize along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Also prominent figures.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Why I tend not to believe conspiracy theories

Interesting article in Seattle Times about information wars. The advantage that some strange ideas have in gaining traction. Research into this by University of Washington assistant professor Kate Starbird.

Below, my take on this.

Conspiracy theories, on both the right and the left, have been ignored in mainstream media. Maybe media should have been paying more attention. The theories seem to have an allure, enough to effect politics. Interesting article about a UW professor doing research on this. Worried about it's implications.

Personally, I know some people who believe that 911 was an inside job. Our government created it; supposedly.

My own thinking is quite different than most of these conspiracy type ideas. Rather than looking for the "bad folks," I tend to blame much of society's problems on the mass behavior of ordinary people. I tend to blame culture and the little actions, from each of us, that tend to add up to what society is.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Taxes are a better way to subsidize healthcare premiums. That's why the Republicans and even the Democrats don't really get it.

Biggest problem with Republican so called "fix" of Obamacare was the lack of enough subsidy for lower income people. This would have resulted in possibly 24 million folks loosing coverage. As Obamacare remains in effect, at least for now, the costs of these subsidies are pushing insurance premiums, for higher income people, much higher. This is causing "sticker shock" among the high income folks. I think it would be better if this money was raised in the form of income taxes, rather than trying to hide it in the premiums. Problem is, there is an aversion, in USA, to using income taxes. I think that's how Canada does it. Also, of course in Canada, healthcare is less wasteful and expensive.

In press conference after their healthcare bill failed, Trump almost sounded reasonable. He's getting a lot of flack for this big failure, but it's more a failure of Congress. Also the problems of healthcare in USA. Trump basically went along for the ride as he wanted to get something done. A rush job, of course.

Watch out. Many Republicans feel that Obamacare is unsustainable and destine to implode on it's own. I don't know the details. I've heard everything from it being sound to it teetering on the brink of collapse. Republicans are banking on the Obama system crashing thinking they will look good in the long run. I think they all look bad and the American healthcare situation is in trouble for many, many reasons. We need to look to Canada for some examples of a better working healthcare environment, so to speak. Also Republicans need to do better at including Democrats in the solution. Evan Trump is mentioning working with Democrats.

Here's something kind of funny.

One reporter, on the radio, was speaking about what happened in the House of Representatives yesterday. She said something like; "they pulled the Bull." Then she corrected herself to say "they pulled the bill." I was thinking "the bull sh ...."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Great podcast. Bassem Youssef, a comedian from Arab world on WBUR

I listen to lots of podcasts during my custodial shift. This is a very good episode from WBUR in Boston.

Bassem Youssef, a comedian from the Arab world. Often called the Jon Stewart of Egypt. Interesting look at authoritarianism and open mindedness in religion and life. Now in USA where speech is more open. His show was popular in Egypt and beyond, but runs afoul of government authorities. Was involved in the Arab Spring. Has a lot of funny and insightful things to say about all religions, including Islam. Taking a critical look at authoritarianism. Quite interesting and fun to listen to.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Another year to celebrate the Bellingham Food Co-op



Biked to the annual meeting and, of course, dance party for Bellingham Food Co-op. Held each year at Alaska Ferry Terminal. Event was free and open to the public. Learn about how the Co-op is doing. More than just a business. Also food, mingling and dancing. See my Pictures and click on images for captions.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lazy American corporations

A guest on Larry Kudlow was talking about lazy American corporations. Kudlow is conservative, mind you. Conservative or not, there's still worry that excess money, in corporations, might not go to investment in new "plant and equipment." It often, instead, goes into companies buying back their stock, buying each other out and paying bonuses to their executives. A "jobs recovery" will need companies to be willing to take risk, invest in new products, technologies and so forth.

The guest also mentioned that technology is often a "deflation factor." Yes, I keep saying this. Technology can bring down prices and wages due to things like automation. That's an issue the Trump people aren't dealing with very well. Deflation can be a good thing as it means more goods and services for less, but it's hard on businesses and workers when other things, such as housing and healthcare costs, keep going up.

One problem discussed is low interest rates and easy money. I think in many cases, there's an illusion of prosperity created by low interest rates driving things like the housing bubble while actual growth of things like manufacturing is lagging. Then one can also ask, do we need more manufacturing? Think about the environment and how many products we need. Also, technology is improving things; smarter instead of bigger, but technology has its deflationary effects.

As for companies being "risk adverse," that's a big problem. The companies will blame regulation for their risk adverse behavior. They have a point, but I think there's a lot more to it than that. Also, of course, we do want safety and a clean environment.

In my opinion, it seems like corporations run on fear, to a large extent. Fear that they will loose wealth. That's no way to kindle an exciting recovery. We need something better. I think business has it's place, but it's kind of a tired paradigm. There's a lot of things, besides just business, that can bring vitality to our communities. Volunteerism, quality of life issues, change toward healthier and more environmentally friendly things. New beginnings.

Also things like Co-ops and non profits, of which I recently attended the Bellingham Food Co-op annual meeting and party. See photos here and scroll around here.

Republicans clobbering the low income, older American worker; where many of their voters reside

Republican former Congressman Eric Cantor speaks out on healthcare reform. It's like a "do or die" moment for the Republicans. They've got to get it correct or they're whole agenda could sink. The stakes are high.

I say Republicans aren't likely to get it correct as they have a true aversion to taxing higher income folks; something I think is necessary to keep providing insurance for the lower income workers that Obamacare has added to the roles of Americans with coverage.

I sometimes listen to a conservative talk show host named Larry Kudlow. One of his guests was talking about a problem that the Republican healthcare bill has. It clobbers a lot of older Americans who are still not quite to age 65, where they become eligible for Medicare. It clobbers them with higher "age based" premiums (actuary tables) along with cuts to subsidies. People in the $10,000 to $30,000 income range truly get clobbered. A lot of those folks were Trump supporters.

I'm in that demographic also, even though I'm not a Trump supporter.

Republicans, in Congress, are struggling to fix this problem; at least according to that guest on Larry Kudlow. I doubt they'll be able to do it.

One part of Eric Cantor's comments, from article, that stood out in my mind.

They will sink or swim together. There's no option to fail here.”

With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and the executive branch, “there’s no excuses in the eyes of the American voter” for the health care bill to fail, Cantor said. “It has to get done,” he said.

Cantor said that if the GOP cannot get health care reform passed, that could be a death knell for other items at the top of Trump’s agenda.

“This is a gateway issue … It’s that important because it opens up the route toward getting the next big thing done, which is tax reform,” Cantor told ABC News.


I say that their bill may even die in Congress before it gets to Trump's desk. Trump has promised that he doesn't want to throw these low income workers off of insurance, but I think if a bill doing this was to get to his desk, he would sign it anyway. Republicans are under pressure to get this done. They are in over their heads, as I've heard it described about President Trump himself. He's in over his head.

Personally, I'm in the demographic, age and income wise, that could get clobbered, tho I do have an employer provided health plan. It's a fairly skimpy plan with high deductibles. That's another story. Glad my health is good as I rode my bike out the Interurban Trail, Saturday afternoon, with Larry Kudlow on the radio.

The constant background noise of spy allegations. A distraction?

Kind of clever humor, on Trump's part, joking that he and visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel may have one thing in common: being spied on by Barack Obama’s administration.

In 2013, Merkel was upset that her phone was being tapped by NSA, which isn't really Obama, but he got much of the blame; as in "the buck stops here." The surveillance of our government is a "whipping boy" for both the left and the right. Obama got a lot of flack when he was commander in chief. Now there's some folks, on the left, who are saying that we need to pick our battles better. The government, under Obama, looks pretty good today. Others are suspicious of the government, period.

I don't think Obama was personally ordering spying on Trump Tower, but, in reality, how would I know; from my perch here in Bellingham, Washington?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

One reason why so many people have trouble being motivated about global warming

Earth's average temperature has gone up a bit over 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. 1.4 degrees doesn't seem like that much in well over 100 years, tho much of the change has happened in only the past few decades. The seemingly small 1.4 degrees is part of the reason why it's hard for many people and institutions to mobilize about this reality. 1.4 is a small enough number to be like a rounding error given the day to day, and year to year weather fluctuations in each region. It's kind of like the problem is written in invisible ink.

Still, it is a big problem. Glaciers retreating, rainfall patterns changing, droughts and so forth.

I can see why it's hard for some folks to fathom this. Our lives are fairly short in the face of long term trends. People tend to make up their minds based on personal experience and hunches, rather than long term science. Also we are tribal, for the most part. When we get an opinion and take sides, we tend to support the "home team" and find ourselves reluctant to change. Somehow, tho, society does need to address this reality.

Also, just the 5 degree difference that was happening over a long period of time, more than 10,000 years ago, met that where I am sitting now (Bellingham, WA.) was under 5 thousand feet of ice. I guess it's an understatement to say that would have an effect on our local economy. Even a smaller change over just the next few decades would certainly be problematic.




Source: NASA Earth Observatory.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

When my childhood mind thought our first color TV had something like a genetic algorithm


1964 RCA color TV

Remembering the TV I grew up with. Picture from my brother Bill's slide collection. One of the first color TVs in the neighborhood, mid 1960s. Ran on vacuum tubes. Pretty exciting to have color, back then. Often the color was not very good. Picture was likely to be black and white with color bands across the screen, but other times the color would be surprisingly true.

In my grade school mind I got the idea that the TV was, somehow, "learning" how to improve it's reception. A booklet that came with the set said it had "automatic fine tuning" which "remembered" the setting for each channel. Somehow, I thought it was like today's self driving car technology. The more experience self driving cars get on the road, the more the technology "learns" how to drive.

I thought I was giving the TV "experience" so it could "learn" better reception when I tried to tune in KLEW TV out of Lewiston, Idaho. KLEW was that obscure, snowy channel. One could barely see any picture in all the static. Most of my family would just watch the 3 channels, from Spokane, and not bother with KLEW. If I watched KLEW, I thought it would give the TV some good hard knocks experience for improving the reception. Sometimes it would get a little better, giving me hope, but then it would fall back to static on another day.

Those were the days of the TV repairman. They would come out in their truck to fix the TV when, for instance, a vacuum tube gave out. My hopes about artificial intelligence in the TV were dashed completely when the repairman took the cover off one day. I saw 12 separate tuners for the 12 channels. Oh, that's how it "remembers" the fine tuning for each channel. Each tuner, with it's own fine tuner setting, would click into place when the channel was changed. Fine tuning knob was a ring around the outside of the main channel selector. It would be engaged, mechanically, to a separate tuner for each channel. Below the VHF channel selector was UHF which worked like a radio dial with no "click." We had no UHF reception.

Later I realized that reception of KLEW TV was basically doomed by the position of our TV antenna. The antenna, outside our house, was pointed to Spokane, rather than Lewiston. Some folks, back then, had rotors for their antennas. My dad was kind of a stoic and figured that the 3 channels, from Spokane, were sufficient. We didn't have to get too fancy.

In just a year, or two more, we did get a new channel. Educational TV, from Pullman itself where we lived. It was KWSU on Channel 10. Picture very sharp as it came, at first, from Bryan Hall clock tower on the WSU campus; just a hop skip and a jump away from my childhood home. KWSU was only in black and white tho, back then.

Now, KWSU TV broadcasts from Kamiak Butte. It's been called a "lone wolf transmitter site" as some antennas, pointed toward Spokane, aren't pointed toward Kamiak, except for south of Kamiak where Pullman itself lies. Of course, like most stations these days, KWSU TV is on cable systems and has much of it's video on the web.

Today, there is a true plethora of channels and videos at our fingertips. Even on smartphones. We've truly gotten fancy.

One of the things I did, when I got my first smartphone (summer of 2016), was to find the web site of KLEW TV. I watched part of the newscast from Lewiston, Idaho; as if it was a ritual of initiation for the smartphone. Paying homage to my childhood. KLEW came in clear as a bell, here in Western Washington; a long ways from Lewiston. These days, it doesn't really matter how far away the web site is.

Over the years color reception did get better, even on that old TV. The TV wasn't learning, but TV stations have kept improving their technology.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Links to various tools of astronomy that humankind is using to explore the universe

I've been spending some time updating and reorganizing my page of links to various Tools of astronomy that humankind is using to explore the universe. Observatories and satellites which serve as our eyes to the universe. Not totally comprehensive, but the highlights that I'm aware of.

I've organized these links by what the facilities are looking at, such as gravity waves or optical telescopes. Also organized by planet, if they are probes to other planets in our solar system. A good thing to do on a rainy Friday.

The below photo is from European Space Agency's Very Large Telescope (the VLT). That telescope is located in Chile. Found (March 2017) on one of their web sites in my list.


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

A divorce ceremony


One hears about wedding ceremonies. How about a divorce ceremony? That's a novel idea. I went to one at my friend, Mark's home in Whatcom County. After 35 years of marriage to his wife, Mark has come out as gay. They have decided to dissolve the marriage, but remain living together on their joint property. One of their sons officiated the ceremony speaking kindly of what a good marriage it had been and how it had come to the end of its usefulness. Time for a change and a new beginning while continuing the positive spirit that had existed in the marriage.

3 candles were lit on a table in the living room and when the center candle was extinguished the marriage was finished. It had served its purpose well, but now was time for a new beginning. There was a small "coming out / new beginnings" party afterwards. Quite a few folks, I knew, were there.

I met John a few places around town and more recently when he came to our Wednesday gay dinner gathering. I was glad to be one of many friends he invited to share this special moment.

Of course, I biked out there. The rains and snows parted for a late winter ride. I got this picture of Mount Baker all covered in fresh snow. After seeing it on my computer, I noticed the sign "Traffic Revision Ahead." Seems appropriate for a change in life course. Also it looks like beautiful Mount Baker is the obstacle causing the traffic revision. Revision at Slater Road.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Maybe business and corporate taxes could be cut if fat cat individuals are taxed more

I can sort of see why some folks want to cut taxes on corporations. Don't worry, I'm not high on pot. US does have one of the highest tax rates on corporations in the developed world. Of course there are many loopholes so corporations aren't necessarily suffering seriously, but taxes on business is a disincentive for investment in business. A disincentive for investment in US business.

A main point I keep making is that there needs to be a differentiation made between business income and the personal income of wealthy people. Wealthy individuals are getting off way too easy on taxes in USA. There needs to be better incentives for people to keep their money invested in the business for legitimate expenses on operations and capital improvements. Fat cat executives and folks who keep the money for their personal mansions, and so forth, need to be taxed much more.

Few people talk about this differentiation. debate over taxes tends to always conflate business and wealthy individuals. Some people insist that we need a tax cut on corporations. If so, how about balancing that with a tax hike on wealthy individuals?

One problem with wealthy individuals is that their money can be used in ways that are harmful to society. Building a business can be beneficial, especially if it's environmental friendly and so forth. On the other hand, just having a bunch of rich individuals around can make life harder for the rest of us by inflating the residential real estate market, for instance. The problem of the billionaires chasing out the millionaires and the millionaires chasing out everyone else; like in Aspen, Colorado, or San Francisco, or even Seattle. In Vancouver, BC, I hear that a fairly large percent of the houses and condos, in that city, are going empty as wealthy people buy them up for investment adding to Vancouver's housing shortage. The places go empty as it's more bother to have tenants, in some cases, than it is to just leave it locked up and wait as it's value appreciates in the hot real estate market. There is now a new tax in Vancouver on buying houses that are left empty. This has cooled that hot real estate market a bit.

From feedback on Facebook.

Hell, some major corporations get huge refunds...didn't I see where GE got millions back? Will have to do some checking. But I don't see that our tax system is so burdensome on corporations...they've paid a lot more in the past. And why shouldn't they pay for the resources they use...I don't mean "natural" resources, but the infrastructure, the schooling of their workers, the basic research paid for by the government, etc. I don't see this as abusive. They, like the individual wealthy have a ideological opposition to taxes, as well as to paying workers. They have one purpose....maximizing their returns on investment.

My response.

Good points about corporations and ultimately the individuals that profit from them. Prosperity doesn't come for free. One has to pay for the roads, education, research, defense and basically the price of a civil society. It all boils down to individuals and greed. I heard about the GE not paying any taxes meme a few years back. Could be disgusting, but I'll need to looks up the details. The voting public often thinks people can have low taxes by just taxing corporations instead; like corporations wouldn't feel it so it's more like a free lunch. Problem is, corporations are slippery and they can just shift their way out of the taxes. They can pass the cost along in higher prices or lower wages. They can find the loopholes or they can just go offshore and leave the jurisdiction altogether. I think it might work better to tax individuals; especially the wealthy individuals. It may be easier for a corporation to get out of taxes by just moving production offshore taking the jobs with it. Taxing individuals; especially the wealthy, could have a good consequence. I would like to see some of those fat cats leave the country. If some of them leave the country I wouldn't miss their presence in the voting pool; not to mention the competitive market for living space on this planet.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Prosperity in Mexico is in our best interest

Prosperity in Mexico is important to America, so I am worried about souring relations between the US and Mexico; our third largest trading partner.

When the president of Japan came to USA to meet with Trump, a Japanese automaker cancelled plans to build a factory in Mexico. If Mexico becomes more impoverished and unstable, the US will suffer. In spite of border walls, we live in an interconnected world.

We, in US, preach a gospel of prosperity that people's around the world emulate. This can become problematic if obstacles are thrown in the way of prosperity that other nations, such as Mexico, seek to develop. International instability results.

Maybe there are too many cars in the world, but future cars can run on green energy. Sustainable prosperity, in Mexico, is in our interest for political stability in our neighborhood. It would not be in our interest if Mexico were to become a failed state on our border. Even a wall wouldn't stop folks from coming in via the oceans, such as people fleeing Syria on the seas.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dakota Access Pipeline may be inevitable in spite of nodapl efforts

Lots of protesting in Bellingham last Saturday, February 11. A protest in support of Planned Parenthood. Another protest, I guess unrelated, against the North Dakota Access Pipeline (Standing Rock). That protest blocked the freeway for a bit.

As for the pipeline, I hate to say it, but seems like it's construction could be inevitable. Especially if it's true that they only have the last 1000 feet to build plus the political situation, in Washington DC, weighing in. If they have to build it, too bad they wouldn't reroute that last part farther away from the Native Lands. The native people have had lots of stuff pushed down their throats over the centuries.

Even though that one symbolic battle has the whole nation talking; like big protests here in Bellingham, it still may be hard to win in the short run. Hope people don't burnout because of this one battle. In the long run, looking at the big picture, we should be switching away from fossil fuels. Then it wouldn't make sense to build fossil fuel infrastructure. In the short run, fossil fuel politics, economics and habits are hard to beat.

Saturday's protest, in Bellingham, blocked the freeway for about 1 hour. Since then, there has been lots of discussion about whether that protest was the right thing to do, or not. I haven't yet jumped into that fray of debate. As usual, there are plenty of folks discussing that. I just listened, at least, to a real good discussion of that topic and more on a new and local radio show. The February 15 episode of Cascadia News Now. Podcasts available. Show is produced by KMRE Radio, the station at the Spark Museum in Bellingham (formerly known as American Museum of Radio and Electricity).

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Why be paranoid about the US borders now?

This paranoia against immigration seems unnecessary today. It also seems hypocritical if it comes from people who call themselves "Christians." They, supposedly, have read Jesus comments in the Sermon on the mount. The paranoia is also unnecessary, in part, because immigration to the US has slowed down significantly in the last few years. Do we need to spend billions of dollars and upset our ties with big trading partners, such as Mexico, about this now?

I know, a lifeboat can only hold so many people, but our boat is not on the verge of sinking. Crime and terrorism are scary problems, but many more people die in car accidents and folks haven't stopped driving cars. Reasonable vetting and law enforcement can be used to protect public safety.

I think people are rattled by the problems of our crowded planet. Media coverage brings world news to our homes and there is currently a lot of anxiety, in Europe, over immigration. The US is not currently facing the same situation as Europe.

Also, I would guess that the anticipation is worse than the realization. Europe has taken in a lot of refugees which can be an adjustment, but it also means lots of new talent and commerce for their economies. The anticipation can be worse as, looking on a map, Europe is sandwiched between trouble spots in both the Middle East and Africa. One looks at a world map and thinks, "we can't take in everyone," of course.

Our location and situation, here in USA, is less worrisome than in Europe today. We have had more immigration, in our past. More immigration during the 1990s and early 2000s, from what I can gather. It has been an adjustment, as US population has grown, but more people, doing work in our country, does add to the economy. It's less of an issue today, here in USA. Are we reacting after the fact? Are we wasting money and good will by beefing up the border now?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

First thought when I see the mountain during a bike trip, would make a great Facebook post. I must be a junkie even away from the screen.


I'm kind of a Facebook junkie. Not sitting all the time looking at the screen, but a junkie in my own way. Riding my bike out to Hovander Homestead Park, climbing the lookout tower stairs and seeing Mount Baker in all its glory. First thought crossing my mind is, "that picture will look great in a post on Facebook." Also my blog.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Abort the children before they get to the border?

If the US is worried about too many children coming across the border, for instance the children coming from Central America a few years ago, maybe it's better that the children not be born. Even abortion could be more humane than sending children back to places where they are killed by gangs and starvation. This may sound blunt. Actually, it's better to be a bit more compassionate. The lifeboat doesn't have infinite room tho, so birth control is good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

One factor behind urban rural divide. Prosperity and stagnation bring different problems.

One difference between a lot of urban and a lot of rural areas, in this country, is that the urban areas tend to be more prosperous. This means there's a need to create "jobs, jobs, jobs" in rural areas. This need is now less evident in some urban areas. The 2008 recession is finally kind of over. In urban areas, the problems are different. Urban areas face the need to create affordable housing as prosperity pushes up housing prices. As prosperity happens, the rising tide doesn't raise all boats. There's also the need to reduce traffic congestion and so forth. In urban areas, we have an interest in how to keep things affordable and sustainable. Some rural areas still face high unemployment. A tricky question is, 'how can jobs be created in rural areas in an information economy?" Rural areas used to rely on things like farming and logging which are now becoming less "labor intensive." For instance, only around 2% of our population grows just about all of our food. Some people in rural areas might say, "why do we need to spend tax money on mass transit?" "Where's that bad traffic?" In the metro areas, that kind of need is more evident.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Main problem with the president on Twitter, limit 140 characters. Little nuance.

In my opinion, the main problem with Trump's reliance on Twitter is not that he is going around the media; for instance the so called "establishment media." The problem is 140 characters or less. It's dealing with issues too complex for sound bytes. I know, he does, sometimes, split his messages over several tweets which could allow for more than 140 characters, but it's still kind of choppy.

Using social media isn't necessarily a bad thing for a president, or president elect to do. It doesn't matter that much what media he uses, Facebook, his own blog, web site or The White House web site once he gets in office. Whatever he uses, people will listen. They'll follow every word. The regular media will be right there also. Every utterance from a president, or about to be president gets reported on, discussed, analyzed, criticized, researched, and so forth. The media is there.

Problem is that the discussion needs to go beyond sound bytes. The media does flesh things out a bit this; or at least some of the media adds more depth. I find quite a bit of useful and deep discussion on NPR, for instance, just about every time there is a tweet from Donald Trump.

Another worry is who, among journalists, has access to the White House. Who gets to ask questions at press conferences. What information is being released and so forth. These are important questions and, in many ways, nothing new. I remember these issues around all the presidents.

The bad thing about reliance on Twitter is the lack of depth it implies which can go along with a lack of understanding. I find this problem, not just with things like Twitter, but with a lot of public discussion of issues, in general. Too many people don't have, or don't take, enough time to discuss and learn about things in depth.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Open unions up to more people for more political clout? Some ideas about the future of unions in the Uber age

I thought of a new way to organize labor unions (this may have already been thought of). Instead of union membership being tied to one's job, how about allowing anyone to join the union regardless of what job they have? This might work better in the modern age; especially among young people who often don't stay at one job for more than a year. As people change jobs constantly, they could keep their union membership. Make it portable. Then they could still use some of the legal resources that union membership can provide, plus it would be a benefit to the union as there would be more dues paying members.

Union membership has been in decline for many decades. I have never been a big fan of unions as the solution, but do see them as having some merit. Looks like the unions are all but dead today.

I remember, back in the early 1980s, when getting into a union seemed very difficult. There were some apprenticeship programs for trades, such a plumbers and electricians, but one would hear that apprenticeship slots were hard to come by. To try and keep wages high, unions would constrict who got in. Usually union membership was based on employment, such as in the auto industry or working for the state. Wages were higher, but most people couldn't get into those jobs. Back then, it seemed like the unions didn't really care much about most workers who were not in the union; such as in restaurant workers and so forth. These days, it seems like what's left of the unions are getting better in their concern for the welfare of workers in general. They advocate things like affordable healthcare and raising the minimum wage. It may be a bit late, but modern unions seem less exclusionary than they were a few decades back, from what I gather.

Still, in today's "Uber" self employed work world, it seems like membership based on workplace is an out dated concept.

I can imagine some people asking how can a strike happen if union membership is voluntary, open to the public and not based on any one workplace? How can a strike happen if it's not closed shop all the workers unified in the union? I guess, the way it is now with practically no workers in unions, anymore, one worker can sometimes still create a stir by walking off the job. This can still get attention of management. What happens if, say, 20 or 30 percent of the workers, who happened to be members of a union, walked off the job. That would still have clout.

Union membership wouldn't have to be "closed shop," so there would be no need for the company to hold a vote to go unionized or not. Just a certain percentage of workers could join a union if they wished and carry that membership to whatever job they work at. Then, in some cases, groups of those workers could ban together using the union's organizing tools, if there was a need for that. A partial walkout as not all employees would be in the union. Better than no union, at least.

Maybe this has already been thought of; like trade associations. I remember, back in the 1980s, quite a few people joined Allied Arts Association, here in Whatcom County, as one of the benefits was getting a group rate on health insurance. That membership was open to the public.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Biggest stumbling block to Republicans devising replacement for ACA; Republican adversion to income transfer needed to subsidize premiums for a large segment of Americans

The biggest obstacle Republicans face as they try and replace Obamacare is the fact that Republicans don't like anything that smacks of wealth transfer. A plan will not work for a big percent of the population and workers unless there is enough wealth transfer to provide subsidized premiums at the low end. Income inequality is just too wide, in USA, for universal access to health insurance without subsidy. This is a major stumbling block for Republicans.

Bringing overall healthcare costs down would help also. Part of the second solution is healthier lifestyles and diets. Politicians tend to not discuss that enough.

Reforming healthcare and the way insurance is handled can help also, but may be third on the list for solutions; in my opinion.

Main stumbling block for Republicans. The need for a subsidy.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Were gay issues talked about in Pullman, Bellingham in early 1970s?

A personal perspective.

I just got to thinking that I didn't hear much derogatory talk against gay people, until I got to Bellingham. That was back in 1973 when I came to Bellingham for Western Washington University. Back in Pullman, where I grew up, being gay just wasn't discussed. It was kind of a "conspiracy of silence." That was a different era and the subject was pretty much deep in the closet. There was a naive silence, but I don't remember much scorn. Pullman is a fairly liberal, college town, but back then the gay issue was very hidden.

When I came to Bellingham, my freshman year, it was suddenly more out in the open. There were gay symposiums on campus, but back in my freshman dorm, folks were telling lots of faggot jokes.

Coming from my liberal background, I didn't have much respect for the people in my dorm. They seemed superficial and shallow. It seemed like the folks, in my freshman dorm, were either "Jesus Freaks" (a big term in the early 1970s) or drunks. I missed the slower, more thoughtful ways of Pullman High School. Just about everyone's dad, in Pullman, was connected to Washington State University so there was an academic feel. Here in Bellingham, many of the students, in my freshman dorm, were from more commercial backgrounds. They seemed less genuine, more phony and hurried. Also more materialistic.

I went to some of the gay discussion groups, on Western campus, in part to (sort of) jokingly horrify a "Christian" who was living across the hall from me in the dorm.

As time went on, I started meeting more varieties of people, here in Bellingham. It took some time, but I did find a variety of intelligent and genuine people scattered around.

Ironically, as I got somewhat involved in the gay student group, I found many of those people to be shallow and superficial as well. I've always been an outsider and never fit, very well, into any of those boxes. I've usually gotten along fairly well being on the edge, rather than in the middle, of various clicks. Some of the intelligent and genuine people, I find today, are gay.

I think things are quite a bit different today, than back then. I sometimes wonder what being in a freshman dorm, at Western, would be like today?

Friday, January 06, 2017

Less uninsured Americans is the new normal

Obamacare has created a "new normal" for this country. The new normal is 20 to 30 million more Americans with health insurance.

Now that there are plans to repeal and possibly replace Obamacare, the reality of the new normal gives, even Donald Trump, some pause. Taking health insurance away from nearly 30 million Americans is more than just bad politics. It can be done, but it's not pretty. It can be accomplished by turning the clock back to before Obamacare when many more people went without insurance. It wasn't that long ago and the situation can return, but it would never be quite the same.

It wasn't good to begin with and it would be worse now as the number of people, who can't afford insurance premiums without subsidy, keeps growing. Larger numbers of indigent patients would further overwhelm charity care. Hospitals in some areas; especially in many rural areas, would go under and likely have to close their doors under the strain of providing so much uncompensated care. That is why even some Republicans, and Donald Trump himself, are worried about trying to find a replacement. Replace would be better than just ending the coverage that comes from Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and the lower end of the subsidized exchanges.

Can we make medicine cheaper? Yes. Can we be healthier and reduce the need for medicine? Yes. I don't see that many politicians, especially Republicans, pushing much in the way of things like healthier diets and so forth. Meanwhile it looks like ending the subsidies and just pulling the plug on millions of lower income Americans isn't a good option.

Monday, January 02, 2017

When the market niches don't fit

I had a funny dream this morning. I dreamed that I had, possibly, found a way to make a living from my thinking, photography and writing. It was some kind of app installed on my web sites and Facebook feeds that brought in money. Turns out it brought several customers who thought I was going to deliver hot coffee on Lummi Island. I ended up talking to one of the disappointed customers saying I wasn't the person to deliver piping hot coffee to Lummi Island as I don't even drink coffee myself. I'm not set up to brew or deliver coffee; especially to scattered residents on Lummi Island. For those who don't know, Lummi is an island in Bellingham Bay and it's even quite a bike ride to the ferry dock from where I live in downtown Bellingham.

I woke up thinking the free market economy must be kind of screwy. It needs to do better than that at finding a niche for me.