Thursday, December 07, 2017

Personal hypocrisy in each party

Looks like support for Democrat Al Franken is diminishing among Democrats. Too bad Republicans seem to act differently in their at least tepid support for Republican Roy Moore. Are Democrats shooting themselves in the foot by taking the moral high ground? I still say the problem is more about power than sexuality. There are also degrees of offense.

It does seem like there is a lot of hypocrisy in each party. Do people's personal dealings measure up to their campaign rhetoric? In many cases I'm sure it doesn't. Lots of great politicians are lousy bosses. I wouldn't be surprised if many are lousy landlords, lousy drivers, folks with a heavy carbon footprint and so forth. How we live at the grassroots level is often not what we espouse. I do think it's time for a lot of paradigm shifts.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Pervert isn't a good word to use in these cases

The word pervert isn't a very good word to use when describing sexual misconduct of people in power. That word tends to marginalize people who's sexuality may not be like mainstream society, but isn't necessarily being used to harm others. A better word to use might be psychopath. I think a lot of the me to issue is about abuse of power rather than sexuality itself. Sexuality is just one tool that is often abused.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Simplistic thinking of a child could make one more materialistic

I don't shop very much on any day, including Black Friday. Today, I just continued my regular routine which included buying food and eating in a few places where community gathers. Good food, good conversation. So I didn't have a Buy Nothing Day either.

I don't do Christmas shopping. When I was a kid, the packages under the tree met more to me. I even remember being a bit envious, one year, when my older sister got a few more packages than me. She had friends up the street that gave her things while I only got things from other family members. I guess it helps to have friends.

As a child, my views were more simplistic. That seems common for children. Later in life, I started learning more and could see beyond just how many toys one gets.

By the time I got to college, I was able to appreciate what my mother said when we all came home one year and she coined the phrase, "it's not the presents that matters, it's our presence that matters."

Not having small children in my life, today, means that packages under the tree don't matter that much to me. To some extent, I realize that connection can be more important than the objects themselves. Less simplistic thinking, I guess. Kids might be less apt to figure this out, tho I'm sure that some kids do. It can be more likely for adults to understand this.

For instance, I see no point in lining up outside a store to get the latest fancy phone. I realize that it isn't really what's in the phone that's so important, it's the network that the phone connects to. As long as the device can provide a reasonable connection to the network, that's enough for me. What's really exciting, to me, is that the network keeps offering more and more. The network isn't something I can own. It's the community we all share.



Speaking of community, I don't have a Christmas tree at home where hardly anyone except me would see it. Instead, I take a set of LED lights to the road which light up my bicycle helmet. More people see it out there and it improves bicycle safety. Above picture was taken at a Halloween party. Part of my costume was a picture of a billboard in a tombstone sales yard. The billboard said "Drive carefully, we can wait." Saw that on a cross country trip in 1991.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

First in Bellingham, a bike lane on right side of parked cars. Past Bellingham Gather Apartments



I've heard about this being done in Europe and seen it in Portland, OR. but this is the first time I have seen this in Bellingham. A bike lane on the far side of parked cars that's protected from the traffic lane. It's on Forest Street going by a big new apartment complex.

That stretch of street has an interesting history. Built in the early 1980s as the "Ivy Street Connector." Connects northbound Forest Street to the Boulevard. It was designed as part of a one way system as State Street takes the southbound traffic.

About 15 years ago, the lanes were reduced on State Street from 3 lanes to 2 lanes and a bike lane. Better for bikes. Also, who needs 3 southbound lanes leading to 1 when it gets to the boulevard? Later that improvement also came to Forest.

Then they decided to build this large apartment complex. Only part of it is shown in the picture. Density, which is often better for bikes, pedestrians and transit. Bellingham has a housing shortage. Population growth.

Now Ivy Street Connector to northbound Forest is down to one lane plus the bike lane and parking. Seems to work good. Maybe drivers will grumble that there is only one lane, but there's also need for more parking with all those apartments. There's parking garages in the apartment complex as well, but there's, of course, never enough of anything. That's true in this life, I guess.

Seems like the setup works pretty well. More housing and now we have a protected bike lane behind the parked cars. First one of these I've seen in Bellingham.

Some people grumble that the apartments are too "cookie cutter dull," but that's yet another story.

Back in early 1980s, some people in the neighborhood complained about the building of the Ivy Street Connector. I lived on Forest Street, then and wrote a letter to Bellingham Herald. Surprising some folks, I was kind of justifying construction of the connector, but blaming the whole thing on people's over dependence on automobiles.

Here is letter text from my archive. Early 1980s.

Now that the Ivy Street connector is finished noise and traffic has arrived here on Forest Street. It would have been nice if we could have preserved quietness in this neighborhood by keeping through traffic out. Some of my neighbors tried to stop the city from building the connector; but their opposition did not do much good.

The opposition could not contend with the fact that there is no other viable place to route excess State Street traffic; and State Street; itself; has become too crowded. Efforts to stop construction of a street in order to preserve quiet in a local neighborhood are no match against the overall circulation needs of the city.

Underneath this dilemma lies a deeper issue: There are too many cars on American streets. If we could get thousands of local people to agree on drastically reducing the number of trips they take in their cars; the bottleneck on State Street could have been solved without ever needing to build the Ivy Street connector. If thousands of people could agree to walk; bike or ride the bus instead of using their cars; Forest Street could have remained a quiet residential street.

We tend to blame our city planners when a quiet neighborhood is disrupted by a noisy street; but planners are often just as helpless as we are. If State Street is too crowded; while Forest Street is the only other economically viable place to route the traffic; planners must follow inevitable circumstances. The best way we have for preserving quiet neighborhoods is to get our people using their cars less. This is something we cannot look to our city planners to do for us. It is something the people; themselves; must do. We may not be as helpless as we think.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Where was God?

Many people ask where was God during something like the recent church shooting in Texas. While I still don't consider myself a total atheist, it does seem like the atheists have the most logical answer to that question. Where was God? What god? Things like that happen because there is nothing watching out for us; nothing beyond us, ourselves. I find that to be a very depressing conclusion even though I have never believed, that much, in the traditional idea of a "God the father;" so to speak. I grew up in a very liberal Christian church where unanswered questions were par for the course. I still think that there could be things that some folks would define as supernatural which are beyond our logic. Obviously we still don't know everything, of course. The church I grew up in is very welcoming to my kind of people.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Health education may be more important than technical expertise for today's job market

I got to thinking that physical fitness is more important in today's job market than technical expertise. For years, there's been lots of talk, in the media, about how we need more technical education to prepare for the "jobs of the future." Technical education is important for a certain percent of the jobs. There are the folks that invent new apps for your phone or work in high places at companies like Facebook and Google. Maybe even 20% of the people, which is actually a significant number, but that still leaves 80% working at jobs like coffee barista or janitor. A little technical understanding helps, but being able to stand on one's feet without sore ankles or a bad back makes a bigger difference. Even in tech companies, like Amazon, I hear that a lot of the rank and file jobs are in the warehouse. Standing, walking and lifting. Robots are doing much of this, but people are still doing a lot of it, at least in the foreseeable future. In jobs like nursing, there's quite a bit of expertise, but having a good back for lifting patients is a big factor also.

Technology has been a boon to the consumer to be able to use things like Google at one's fingertips. On the other hand, it seems like it hasn't really revolutionized most of the job market.

Bellingham is kind of a backwater for jobs compared to places like Seattle, but it still seems like education for healthy lifestyles means more than education for high tech in most cases.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The jail, a big ticket item



Most ballots have probably already been cast, but here's some thinking for posterity at least. Also, if you haven't cast your ballot yet, remember to vote.

Normally I wouldn't agree with anti tax signs that are out in fields in the county, but this one I agree with. Raising the sales tax to build a large jail off Slater Road seems like a bad idea. We do need a better jail, in Whatcom County, but there are better ideas.

Vote on many local issues Nov. 7th 2017.

As for the jail, I've commented on the irony that the tax would max out our county's taxing authority for many years due to a state imposed tax limit resulting from (I think) I-601. That state wide initiative passes a few years back putting a limit on taxing authority. This jail is a big ticket item. Some folks in law enforcement have worried that hitting that tax lid could jeopardize funding for other needs that could come up; like new fire stations. That was a big concern in 2015, at least, when a similar proposal was on the ballot.

Quite a few liberal minded folks think the jail is too much a jail and there needs to be more things like restorative justice in the proposal. Here's a place where concern about taxation and liberal politics come together.

This vote may be a hard choice for some people as our current jail is inadequate. We do need improvement there, but there are other ideas.

Among the other ideas is building a somewhat smaller jail expansion on land already owned by the county in downtown Bellingham. It's near the courthouse. Easier access than the proposed Slater Road site.

There is a lot of thinking out there on this difficult problem. Various alternative proposals and so forth.

Update, November 10 2017

I'm happy, but also a bit troubled to report that the Whatcom County jail tax failed again. I voted against the jail tax. The reason I say a bit troubled also is that we do need a new jail. Just a better plan and I would say a more equitable tax if possible; like making part of the tax a property tax rather than having it totally reliant on regressive sales taxes. Of course a lot of what's wrong with our taxes is that we are a sales tax state with no income tax. As we do need to improve the jail, from what I can gather, we will, somehow, have to find enough consensus among our citizens for some kind of plan. That is difficult in this day and age. I wish us the best of luck, but I am glad the jail tax was defeated. Glad with a bit of reservation.

I think the vote outcome was an interesting coalescing of what is normally thought of as "conservative" opinion against taxes and liberal opinion for alternatives to incarceration.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The advantage of captive audience in face to face communication versus online

People say that face to face interaction is more meaningful than communication online. This is not always the case, but here's a thought I have about face to face versus online friendships. One is exposed to a lot more people online than in face to face contact. This can create "information overload." Online, there is exposure to so much information that one is likely to keep scrolling, rather than reading in depth. In face to face contact, there is a limited number of people in close proximity. This means interaction with the people can be more in depth. Less other folks to scroll off to.

If one is talking to friends in a room, the friends can be like a "captive audience." This may force a person to listen more and find out something they wouldn't normally be looking for. Online, it's easier to move on to the next. The captive audience effect is both good and bad, I guess. Some people don't wish to be the captive audience; like being stuck in an elevator with the town crazy. Who knows, one might be surprised and learn something from the town crazy. It can be a way to have one's bubble pierced.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Digital janitor


As I was vacuuming the front mat, at work, some lively people came along. They wanted me to pose with them in a picture. I ask them to send it to me and they eventually did. Turned out well. I'm on the left with the wireless headsets I listen to podcasts with. Someone once called me a digital janitor.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

One of the hardest jobs for a president is calling a grieving parent

I would guess, one of the hardest jobs for a president is calling a grieving parent of a solder who has died in service to the country. Different people would react differently to what is said. Words can not replace the loss. It's even hard to know what to say as an ordinary person to someone who is facing a serious loss. I say this not in defense of Trump as I don't like Trump anyway. In someways it's good to see so many people critical of him, but I also realize that death, loss and grieving can be difficult.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Update on HD radio in Bellingham, Vancouver

A while back I got an HD radio. One might ask, what's an HD radio? Also one might ask, why would you need one? Just about anything that's on an HD radio is also on the web anyway. Isn't a smartphone "radio" enough?

True, but I'm kind of a radio geek so I couldn't resist. It only cost around 1/8th of one month's rent in my inexpensive (by Bellingham standards) apartment. That's my way of justifying consumer purchases, tho I don't go shopping often.

Now days, there are some radio stations that broadcast a digital signal along with the regular (analog) signal. Folks with HD radios can get the digital signal which offers more hi fidelity. It also offers 3 channels from the same signal.

One of the digital signals I get is from CKNW in Vancouver. It has great locally produced talk shows. An alternative to NPR that's not something like Rush Limbaugh.

CKNW is on the AM dial. It's at AM 980, but the signal is "fringe area" this far from Vancouver.

I used to listen to long distance AM, but modern homes are so full of computer stuff that there's lots more interference. This makes listening to long distance AM difficult. I now get CKNW on FM HD. I just tune to CMFI FM, at 101.1 and then select the HD2 program. It's CKNW.

It still helps to have a line of sight view to Vancouver as digital FM isn't as forgiving of fringe area as analog. I have line of sight, tho there is a building in the way. I've found that my line of sight location works okay for radio, from Vancouver, but not for digital television.

Yes, CKNW is also on the web, but having it over the air, the old fashioned way, is kind of neat. No need to use bandwidth on the net. No need to use cellphone time. Just turn on the radio.

I get unlimited data at home, but I am a radio geek. I often sleep to talk radio and I feel a bit of guilt if it's using the internet.

There are several other HD stations in this area including some NPR stations.

Bellingham has a few HD stations, but most of the interesting stuff is from Vancouver.

Seattle's KUOW has HD for KUOW2 and KUOW3. One has to have a digital radio, or be on the web, to get KOUW2 and 3 in Seattle, but here in Bellingham, KUOW3 is also on regular (analog) radio. KUOW3 is on a low power translator at 90.7 in Bellingham. HD KUOW2 is a jazz station, but I don't listen to that much jazz. KUOW1 is at 90.3 in Bellingham.

Our other NPR station has some HD channels also. Northwest Public Radio which is based in my home town of Pullman. In Bellingham, it's main station is at 91.7. NWPR has both classical music and news services. One can get both services as HD channels or from various low power translators that regular radios can get.

Bellingham's KISM FM now has an HD "channel 2." It's just KGMI, which we also get on the AM dial.

See article I wrote in 2009.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Values Voter Sumit to bring latchkey children and a furniture future

At the Values Voter Summit, Trump spoke about parents who sacrifice to work 2 or 3 jobs for the furniture and future of their children. Now the meme "furniture future" is going around. That's America for you.

I say, what about spending time with one's children? If people are strapped having to work several jobs, they have less time for their kids. Sacrifice is a virtue, but something is wrong when parents have little time because they have to face long commutes and more than one job just to pay inflated rent and mortgage payments, let alone furniture costs.

A few years ago, I remember the concept of "latchkey children." That was children who would wear their house key around their necks and had to fend for themselves since the parents were seldom around.

When I placed this comment on Facebook, one of my conservative friends commented about her fond memories of coming home from school to her mom who was getting things ready for dinner. She wrote, "a perfect childhood" about that memory from the 1960s and early 70s.

Today, the two income household is more common. America's obsession with wealth and productivity has increased over the years. In Trump's speech before the Values Voter Summit, hard work and sacrifice was seen as a virtue. Work and sacrifice is good, but something is out of balance. Work life balance gets ignored. For instance, property values, in many locations, have gone too high for the average worker to keep up. That and other factors have led to overwork and a rat race society for many people who still work.

In this blog I write about things like better planning and urban density for shorter commutes, trying to tame house value inflation and rents so they come back into balance with the rest of the economy, healthier living and lower medical costs, work life balance. Goals that mainstream American culture needs to place more emphasis on.

One of my liberal, and I will also say gay, friends on Facebook wrote, "The Values Voter Summit is everything that is wrong with America in one place."

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Living in the forest can be a bad idea

Devastating fires keep raging in the north part of San Francisco Bay area. A problem of living on the urban / rural fringe around trees and vegetation. Could be an argument for denser "urban style" development rather than the semi urban / semi rural "country style" living that's so popular in this country. Cluster the people and development in certain areas and then protect the rural and forested areas.

Planners often try to do this. Here in Washington, we have the Growth Management Law which tries to contain development into urban growth areas. I'm sure California has similar plans, but it's hard to apply these ideals. People in this country often crave semi urban semi rural settings. The economics of housing costs push a lot of people to the urban fringe as well. Folks who can't afford urban living given the current circumstances.

If we created more areas of urban density, rather than the growing sprawl, our urban areas would be more affordable. Zone more areas for higher density; assuming population growth keeps happening. Envision lifestyles around apartments and condos, smaller footprints, shorter commutes, less wildfire hazard. I think a lot more people would like to live in urban settings if there was more of it available.

Locally, I know of people who would rather live in Bellingham than facing long commutes from county areas with no sidewalks and so forth. They just can't afford it. If more areas were built like the central city, more people could live in urban settings. Some folks do prefer rural settings, but there are others who are out there just because they can't afford the cities. We should build more areas like cities.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Trump tossed the paper towels and the crowd soaked it up

Maybe he should have autographed each roll of paper towels he tossed out. Anything the president, or any celebrity does draws a crowd. Like a baseball player tossing out balls to the fans. Most people never get a chance to see the president in person. If nothing else, it lifted the spirits of people in that room, tho that's probably not the best way to deal with the hurricane aftermath. Celebrity worship; a form of graveling. In the video I saw, it looks like he didn't even toss out all the towels on that table. Just a few token rolls that the crowd relished. Soaked up so to speak. Then he left. He didn't even finish that job, but that crowd at the church bought it; hook line and sinker.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Help yourself should be about more than just getting rich

In USA, people are often told to be resourceful and self reliant. That's good, but the model is usually some poor person who pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and got rich financially. Should getting rich be the only model of success? It's good to make enough money to survive, but as a measure of success, there are many other things to strive for. Health and longevity, for instance. I know that non monetary measures can be harder to quantify, but health is a little easier to measure than some other things.

One can strive for success in lots of ways such as having good rapport with neighbors and one's community, peace of mind with less conflict in life, having plenty time to spend with one's kids, if one wishes to have a family, time for friends, conversation, contemplation and so forth. Also the feeling that one is making a valuable contribution to the world whether in their work or volunteer efforts.

I think these values need to be emphasized more as the bottom line for a good society. Better than having to be a workaholic, being stressed out with things like a long commute or making lots of enemies while scrambling to get to the corporate top. Money is only one measure, but it's overemphasized for sure.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Iran holds most of the cards if we scrap the nuclear deal

I say if we kill the deal, Iran holds more cards than we do. They could just go back to developing their nuclear program as new sanctions wouldn't necessarily work any better than they are now working with North Korea.

Meanwhile I think we can acknowledge that the current president of Iran is, I think, trying to reform things in Iran a bit. He should get some credit as he is in a precarious situation.

From this article it says: The international body overseeing the deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said Iran remains in compliance, as have Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.

Administration officials in favor of keeping the deal in place have been looking for a way to split the difference between saving the deal and saving face related to Trump's campaign rhetoric.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Overpopulated Egypt still threatened by rainbow flag. Doesn't make sense.


Photo source: BBC News.

It makes no sense. In Egypt, just raising a rainbow flag at a concert can get one arrested. I guess anything that deviates from mainstream heterosexual lifestyle is considered a threat in Egyptian society. What's really a threat is overpopulation; or maybe too much heterosexuality.

I tend to connect issues that others don't connect. Coincidentally, another article has recently come out about Egypt's growing population being threatened by water shortage. That population is around 93 million by now. Turns out this new dam is nearing completion on a tributary of the Nile River. The new dam, called Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, is upstream in Ethiopia. There's worry about more use and diversions of precious water.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Lack of needed gun legislation is mostly the fault of Congress

We do need better gun control laws. More curbs on assault weapons and a bit more registration at least. Congress is to blame for lack of legislation here. It doesn't seem to matter, as much, who the president is. Obama favored this kind of legislation, but Congress was the bottleneck. Trump, of course, wouldn't even try to make these changes, but that's kind of a moot point I guess with this Congress.

During Obama's term, I heard that even with Democrats controlling Congress, by a slim margin, bills couldn't be passed due to filibuster in the Senate. The problem is mostly from Republicans, but also some from Democrats. We can change the nature of Congress when we vote in 2018.

Some folks are cynical enough to say we can't make a difference and voting doesn't matter. I know, one person's vote is just a drop in the bucket so it's hard to feel that it makes a difference, but when the population votes, I still believe it does make a difference.

Laws don't, of course, magically solve the problem of violence and gun violence. Much of it is cultural. Culture needs to change also. Laws may not be the panacea, but they can help. From what I hear, Australia has had some great success in curbing gun violence.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Dinosaurs living with humans, 911 caused by the US government, astronauts seeing UFOs, Christ found on the moon

A "conservative" Christian was down at the Friday Peace Vigil to harass the vigil; or maybe he would say "witness the Bible" to them. Most folks were shouting at him, or ignoring him, but I tried to have a civil conversation as he approached me with his Bible.

We got on the topic of dinosaur and human footprints and he thinks dinosaurs and humans were here at the same time. I kept saying that the geologic evidence doesn't show that. Dinosaurs lived millions of years before humans. He doesn't buy the science that contradicts what he thinks the Bible says. I pointed out that one can believe just about anything; including some of the peace activists who think 911 was caused by our own government. I don't believe our government caused 911 by setting explosives in the buildings, tho some of my friends at the vigil do believe that.

He then started talking about a corporation, that he used to work at, where rumors were rampant. The conversation ended on a friendly note where we kind of agreed how gullible people can be and how easy it is for rumors to spread. I think the conversation actually ended when a friend of his tugged on his arm and said, I think it's time to go; like time to go eat or something.

Then I was talking to another person, about the space program, and he was saying that quite a few astronauts relate experiences of seeing UFOs while in space, but the government is hiding much of the info. I was a bit skeptical so I brought up the story of a former astronaut who "found Christ on the moon." It's a memory I have from TV news in the 1970s. Upon looking it up tonight, I found it was Jame's Irwin of Apollo 15.

Lots of claims out there. I'm fairly open minded, but skeptical.

Reading the story of Irwin, he was working hard on the moon in high heat as his drinking water tube wasn't functioning. With thirst and the sweaty work environment, NASA was noticing his heart was showing signs of stress. At one point, he was having trouble with a scientific instrument and prayed for help. Christ appeared and helped him set up that experiment. Upon returning from the moon, he became, basically, an evangelist. Christ appearing, but skeptics might think he was a bit under duress in that hot spacesuit.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Maybe corporations pay less income tax overseas, but wealthy individuals pay more. We could do that here in USA to incentivize business investment.

Republicans are pushing for a corporate tax cut. They say business and corporations pay 35% taxes in USA while only having to pay 15% taxes in Canada. Lower corporate taxes in other developed countries as well. I can understand that logic, but what they don't say is that wealthy individuals pay higher taxes in Canada and most other developed countries. Maybe business gets more of a tax break, but wealthy individuals pay more.

I think the tax talk needs to do a better job differentiating between business and personal wealth.

I can see trying to reform taxes to create incentives for people to keep their money in business creating American jobs. Invest in the business, rather than the personal wealth that's spent on second homes and so forth. The wealthy, in this country, inflate things like the housing market by investing in already existing asserts; houses, collectables, famous paintings and so forth. Maybe the tax code should be modified to encourage people to put their money to work in a jobs creating business instead.

If we get a corporate tax cut, we shouldn't have it for nothing. Raising taxes on wealthy individual's personal income would be needed to balance that.

I know that some folks, on the left, would totally oppose any tax cut to business; especially corporations. They say that corporations find all the loopholes and don't pay much in taxes anyway. They really don't pay 35%. To some extent, that could be true. It's like a he said, she said kind of argument.

Another problem with the business tax cut idea is that artificial intelligence and automation is taking away many of the well paying jobs. Even if the business environment, in USA, is improved to make it more of an even playing field with other countries, there is no guarantee that lots of good jobs will follow.

To some extent, corporate culture and rampant materialism is the problem. We need to learn how to strive for quality of life. Part of quality of life could be developing business and a meaningful career so I can still see the logic in trying to help business to some extent. On the other hand, we also need to learn how to create quality of life in spite of whether the economy is booming or not.

I sometimes listen to Larry Kudlow on the radio who talks about corporate tax cuts, but people like him seem to never talk about balancing this with other taxes. It's all cut, cut, cut. Personal income of the wealthy, in this country, is vast and personal income taxes are much lower in USA than other developed countries such as Canada.

Some conservative economists say that just about any tax cut can be paid back from the taxes paid by increased economic activity caused by the tax cut. They always say that, but I'm sure there's a law of diminishing returns here. If tax cuts were always the road to prosperity we could conceivably cut taxes to 0 for maximum prosperity. I know, with the law of diminishing returns, this has to stop somewhere.

Other factors effect prosperity as well, such as environmental constraints; not just regulation that conservatives talk ad infinitum about. There are true constraints posed by the environment and the people living in that environment. Water shortages, lumber shortages, lack of space, traffic gridlock, you name it. Taxes are only one part of the picture.

Elon Musk has done a lot with his wealth to invest in new business frontiers such as Space X and electric vehicles. This is the kind of thing I can see as an argument for incentivizing investment in American business. On the other hand, it seems like most American business leaders and wealthy individuals are more risk averse.

The true bottom line should be quality of life which may, admittedly, be hard to measure. A good question to ponder is, are the wealthy helping us to do great things as a society or are they just hoarding money?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Upper middle class, rather than just the 1%, needs to pay more taxes

I think it can be a mistake when the left just vilifies the 1% income bracket. In the culture wars, part of the 1% tends to lean left.

Income disparity is a big problem, but I think it goes beyond just the 1%. Ideally, we should strengthen the progressive aspects of our income tax system. That means higher income people should pay more including 1% paying the most. With a more progressive tax system, other higher income people would pay more as well. The 1% would be at the top so they would pay the most, but other upper income people would, most likely, pay more also.

Income discrepancy also means that upper middle class has gotten way ahead of most of the rest of society. Possibly the top 20% needs to pay more, but I don't have a definite figure. The goal wouldn't be to draw a line around a certain group of folks just to vilify them. It would be to have a more progressive tax system. Upper income people could still be a welcome part of our communities.

Taxes do generate revenue for government, but another effect could be to tame some of the inflationary forces in, for instance real estate, where prices can go way out of line with other things in the economy. Housing prices can go up around 10% per year while the overall inflation rate, including most wages, is around 2%, for instance. I'm not citing exact numbers, but more the concept.

The income of upper middle class is a big part of what drives the lack of affordable housing for lower income people; including what could be called most of the working class. Upper middle class has created an inflated market for housing as home values skyrocket in many locations. Other things like the high fees charged by many professionals, such as doctors, drives a lot of the problems with access to healthcare and so forth.

If I were to redo the tax code, I would make the graduated tax steeper, as it was before the so called Regan Revolution. I would also provide some relief for business. If wealthy and upper middle class wish to invest their money in job creating business, there could be deductions. One doesn't want to smother business with taxes. On the other hand, if the money is just kept as personal income and used to drive up already existing investments such as real estate, I would increase the tax on that. It wouldn't have to be too punitive, but migrating more toward a progressive tax system could help bring some balance back to our economy. A healthier and more balanced economy could bring benefit to all.

Friday, September 08, 2017

My 2017 bicycle trip photos now posted to Flickr


Pictured: a grain elevator in Davenport, WA.

The photo album from my most recent bicycle trip to Pullman is now on Flickr. Open to the entire web. No need to log into anything.

When you click on each individual photo in the album, captions will appear at bottom left. Some of the photos have longer descriptions also for telling the story of my trip along with some childhood memories.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Debt ceiling is like an alarm clock they alway hit snooze on anyway. Might as well turn the damn thing off.

Maybe Trump and the Democrats can work together to get rid of the debt ceiling. It's like an alarm clock that keeps ringing and they always hit the snooze button.

In my opinion, the debt ceiling is just a token effort to rein in federal spending that's always broken anyway by such needs as hurricane relief, military spending and Medicare. It's like an alarm clock that gets in the way cause it's never headed. It keeps ringing causing political and financial turmoil and they always hit the snooze button anyway. Might as well shut the dam thing off if they aren't going to get up for it (so to speak) anyway.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Accepting the reality of the population that is here

Even the Republican Congress might pass legislation to, at least partially, accommodate the dreamer children. That's the children who have been brought to this country as children, but aren't officially citizens.

Paul Ryan, who normally says some pretty bad things, has said about the dreamers. "At the heart of this issue are young people who came to this country through no fault of their own, and for many of them it’s the only country they know." Coming from Paul Ryan, that's somewhat encouraging.

Maybe something can get done tho I don't really trust the Republicans. They now just about own this country and it's issues, however. They now get the blame and have the obligation to try and make it work.

Part of the immigration issue is the fact that there are more people that have come to USA than the legal quotas for immigration allow. Those quotas are set by Congress. The quotas can be adjusted to better reflect the reality of who's here. Better reflect who's here and, in many cases, already working in our economy.

A big part of the issue is world population growth. The numbers keep getting bigger. The numbers and the quotas that have been set by Congress in the past don't match.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

I am now on another bicycle trip across Washington State

I will post photos after I get back. Meanwhile a few updates on Facebook. Back sometime in September. My 2017 trip.

Photo Album


Link added 9/17/2017.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Pot shops in Washington State could help retail landlords



Legalizing pot, here in Washington State, has been good for a lot of landlords of commercial property. Pot shops are appearing in formerly empty storefronts in strip malls and so forth. I hear that many cities have an oversupply of retail space available; especially now with the advent of on-line shopping. Pot comes to the rescue. Good for the economy? Just what the Republicans want to hear?

Money addiction like sex addiction only more accepted

One of the friends, I bump into every once in a while for conversation, talks about the problem of addiction. Addiction to money, addiction to sexuality and so forth. He's attended quite a few Twelve Step groups such as Alcoholics Autonomous. I also think he's been to a few sex addicts groups. He believes that sexuality should not be done for just pleasure. It's meant for procreation. He's not a conservative, however. He also believes that money would not exist in an ideal society. People would share without the need for money. Folks would give what they could and take what they need. Some of our human passions are destroying ourselves and the planet, for sure.

My own belief is quite different, however. I tend to think moderation. Personally, I've never felt the need to go to a Twelve Step group. Years ago, I did attend one Twelve Step meeting; a birthday party for another friend. Seemed like a good community. My friend talks of the human need for community while also avoiding the addictions that can tarnish community. My views are less austere in some ways. I think sexuality can be good even for just pleasure, but it can be addicting and destructive as well. Moderation is needed.

Money is the same way. Money is a tool to help us keep track of how much people give and receive. It allows us to enumerate things to maintain fairness. It's a tool, but it can also be an addiction.

In mainstream society, sex addiction has a bad connotation while money addiction tends to be more overlooked; especially in conservative circles.

This friend, who tends to circulate in fairly liberal circles, is critical of both conservative and liberal circles. As climate change becomes more alarmingly evident, he says we need to do more than just petition the government and corporations to do something. Both liberals and conservatives, who do things like drive cars and travel by jet, need to change. Cut back on these things at least. Become less consumptive and driven by our hungers.

I tend to agree, but it's an austere way of thinking. I point out that new technology, such as solar power, hydrogen fuel and so forth, can allow some of these things to continue and even flourish.

Just then this friend introduced me to another person who had just sat down at the table. The new person talked about driving an electric car and (I think) solar panels on her home that charge her car.

Another day at the Swan Cafe "Think Tank." We solved all the world's problems. Not really, but at least they got discussed.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Bellingham, WA. similar in size of land area to San Francisco.

While discussing housing during our Sunday LGBTQ walk, Betty Desire, brought up an interesting perspective. The cities of San Francisco and Bellingham both have the same land area. Around 700,000 people live in San Francisco while only around 80,000 live in Bellingham. We can build more housing, smaller footprint housing and so forth. There just has to be the will.

Of course overpopulation is a big problem, world wide, but that's yet another story. I don't know if the world can (or should) go past 7 billion current residents. World population is still growing tho slowing. Bellingham isn't likely to go to 700,000 anytime soon, but we can accommodate more people. Seems like quite a few people want to live in Bellingham. There are quite a few apartment and condo complexes under construction. This might ease the shortage.

I feel very fortunate as I still have affordable rent, myself, but several friends of mine are literally being pushed out of this area. People who's lives aren't necessarily about money.

It isn't just a simple matter of people and space. Economics, in this country, isn't working either. I think low interest rates have worked against us, rather than in our favor. Low interest rates were designed to stimulate job growth, which has happened to some extent, but at the same time, low interest rates can lead to what economists call "asset bubbles."

Property, as a commodity, has gone up so far in value that it's outstripped most of the rest of the economy and its the whole economy that creates the jobs, not just the value of assets.

The gap between property inflation and jobs is especially evident, here in Bellingham, where most of the residential money seems to come from retirement. Bellingham is ranked among the worse metro areas, in USA, for affordability of housing compared to the local job market. Other cities may have even more expensive housing, but many of their jobs tend to pay more. More depressed areas have cheaper housing. This is a nationwide problem, but it seems to afflict Bellingham particularly bad.

The whole situation could change for the better if we had the will to make it work. I'm hoping some of the construction that I see around town can ease the shortage a bit. It will take more than just that to solve this; like a new mindset for lower footprint lifestyles. Density as a way to curb sprawl and so forth. Good planning. I know, everyone has their own definition of good planning, but we can do better.

Tip for a low sugar drink. Unsweetened ice tea with a dab of Pepsi to reduce bitterness of the tea.

I've been drinking a lot. Not alcohol, but unsweetened ice tea.

My low sugar hydration trick is totally unsweetened ice tea with just a dab of regular Pepsi, or Coke. I make up a big batch for the refrigerator and then put the dab of Pepsi in each glass. The Pepsi (or Coke) takes away the bitterness of totally sugar free ice tea.

Water, by itself, is still a bit too boring for my (possibly) spoiled tastes. I do drink lots of that also, but mostly while biking.

I thought up the "tad of Pepsi" idea at Rudy's Pizza where I had them make the mix from the pop fountain taps. Then it donned on me I can do the same thing at home.

Still keeping to only one quart chocolate milk per day, diluted with regular milk.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

A church that doesn't require one to believe in so called "truths" without scientific evidence is good

I like the liberal church of my upbringing even though I don't currently work "church" into my schedule. I like not being required to believe in anything that doesn't have strong scientific evidence supporting it. I don't consider myself an atheist, however, as I still hold out some hope for things that may transcend this limited life.

Personally, I put ideas about what are called "super natural" things into a category of speculations, hopes and unknowns. Seems like most humans need these hopes for getting through this life. That need may come from our survival instincts, if nothing else, but that need is evident to me. No wonder religions remain popular tho their popularity is declining in the west. The alternative; a world of nothing that we think of as spirit, seems rather bleak.

There seems to always be plenty of room for speculations and these glimmers of hope as we haven't yet run out of new things to learn. I think of many ideas as being interesting speculations, rather than hard facts. That's where fundamentalist religions get into trouble. It's easy for people to fight over what they think are rigid facts; especially if there's no scientific way to verify those facts.

Ancient peoples would have thought of electricity as being magic. Now we are getting better at understanding electricity. Similar to learning more about electricity, something as fundamental as time, itself, is not understood. I like thinking about big questions like what is time? I like wondering about what causes the universe to exist and what causes our biological bodies to create self awareness. I still think there are a lot of truths that are beyond what we are currently able to conceptualize, given the way our minds have evolved. This gives me hope about some meaning beyond just our short lives, but hope and speculation is different than solid fact.

I'm also thinking about the concept of rigid fact versus ideas of Relativity Theory where things like the length of a yardstick become fluid. Then there's the weirdness of the quantum realm. That weirdness and fluidity is part of science also, not just imagination. My mind goes to many tangents.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Only the upper middle class and above will be able to afford insurance if there is no subsidy

It seems like only the upper middle class and the wealthy can afford health insurance without it being subsidized. Healthcare costs are just too high and the income gap is too wide in USA. That's why Republican plans don't work. Republicans hate subsidizing people from taxes that other people have to pay.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Big reason why Republicans fail on healthcare; they are adverse to taxes for subsidies

A big reason why Republicans can't pass a healthcare bill is that healthcare has to be subsidized to work for a large percent of the American people; including many of the Republican voters themselves. That means someone has to pay higher taxes for it to work. Republicans almost always vote against taxes. Healthcare just doesn't work without taxes for subsidies, or at least it wouldn't be available to a large segment of people. That's the reality of a society with such a huge income disparity. Healthcare can't even be close to being universally available without subsidies in a society with such a high income gap. Republicans walked to the abyss of pulling the plug on large segments of Americans, including many of their own voters, and at least a few of the Republicans got cold feet.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Some of my photos from 2017 Bellingham Pride Festival and Parade are on Flickr



Lighting up the night for that weekend, July 7 - 9 2017. Bellingham Herald sign in rainbow colors.

Images on Flickr. See also descriptions with each picture.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A very good documentary on Betelgeuse. What's Betelgeuse?



It's a huge red giant star I heard about in grade school (pronounced Beetle Juice, I think though I've heard some folks say Bettlegeese).

It's real unstable and on the brink of exploding, supernova style. Only 640 light years from Earth, but they think the brunt of the blast will miss Earth. Gamma ray bursts from the poles would go another direction missing Earth. Being about to blast in astronomical time means sometime in the next several thousand years, tho.

This video is real good, in my opinion. Tells much about the history of our research about this star. Doesn't have a lot of "shocker whoom" sound or blast hype, like movies often do. It's very educational. I also enjoy the background music. Kind of relaxing, ironically because it is about an eventual super nova.

If Betelgeuse were to blow in our lifetimes, there would be a really bright star in the sky for about 4 days. Visible in the daytime at 100 times the brightness of the full moon. It would provide much excitement for scientists and the public alike, but who knows when that moment will occur.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Trump's smokestack jobs not coming back, but can anything else bring back lots of middle class jobs?

The old jobs aren't coming back. What kind of jobs will there be in the future? Some futurists highlight two types of work that can’t easily be automated or performed by robots: Interpersonal work such as coaching, care giving and negotiating, and creative work such as developing new business opportunities and innovating. This, in an article in Yahoo Finance by columnist Rick Newman entitled; Tech experts diss Trump's jobs policy.

I say, much of this type of work, that is done now, doesn't pay well or is volunteer. Much of interpersonal work and care giving, for instance.

Creative work such as developing new business opportunities is there, but how often are new business opportunities needed? Will this employ millions upon millions of people?

Writing, conversation and photography is creative work. Much of it is posted on places like Facebook for free. Where's the payoff?

Seems like a broad based middle class boom for jobs is not likely, given what the near future looks like today, in my opinion. Technology is great for the consumer, but not necessarily great for the worker. We have consumer empowerment, such as booking our own flights online, but how can one earn a living in this environment? Not as a travel agent, for instance.

I would guess no more than 20% of the workforce will be needed in the "high tech," highly skilled jobs of the present and near future. This 20% is what the talk of needing more education is based on. What about the rest of us?

Possibly another 40% can be employed in professions such as nursing and teaching. My numbers are not exact, of course. Can average and entry level nurses or teachers afford to live in expensive cities such as Seattle? Not necessarily just the superstars.

Education can still be valuable for living a quality life and becoming an informed voter, but not necessarily for much of the service jobs that seem to be proliferating these days. Coffee shop baristas and so forth. It's good to be conversant in the humanities, as a coffee shop barista. Enlightening to customers, good for society. It's good art, but can the 80% of us still afford to live in our cities?

Wages are higher, these days, than in the 1960s, but certain costs, such as housing and healthcare, have gone so high, in the metro areas where a lot of the jobs are, that the days of the broad middle class may not be achievable. One can try to bring up wages, but if certain costs continue to outstrip wages, the middle class isn't coming back.

Somehow, we need to figure out how to make society work and be affordable for people in the jobs that most people will be working.

Also, to some extent, jobs could be an outdated concept. Figuring out how to survive, while doing gratifying volunteer work, is a trend I notice, around here in my city of Bellingham, WA. at least.

Rethinking economics for sure.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Pulling the plug on healthcare for lower income people

Representative Mo Brooks, R-Alabama thinks universal health care is too expensive but tax cuts for the rich are necessary.

Adding my own comments. Since 49% of births are now paid for from Medicaid, maybe a lot of those babies should be aborted? Life may not be worth living if one has a chronic and costly disease or needs to be in a nursing home. Can we even afford healthcare for all our people? I hope we can do better than this, but these deep questions, about the value of human life in various stages, do need to be part of the conversation.

As for tax cuts for the rich, it seems like some people use an analogy of a fire to describe the economy. They think that taxing wealthy people smothers the fire. Others, such as economists like Paul Krugman, say that the wealthy are hoarding money. Their analogy would come closer to one of circulation. Be generous, spend money. Especially if the money isn't being spent otherwise, tax, spend and keep the money circulating.

Mo Brooks also talks about bad health choices which people make that society can't keep supporting. Smoking, bad diets, lack of exercise. I can understand, a bit, being a bicyclist myself. At the same time, where's the compassion? Some people have more health, some have more money, some people have neither. A society with little compassion is a crude culture. Do Congressman Mo Brooks and his colleagues ride bicycles? What about the changes we need to make in society to promote healthier living? Time for exercise versus having to be a workaholic. What about support for parks and trails, better diets, less sugary soft drinks? What about doing better than just pulling the rug out from under people? What about doing better than just denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions?

Folks like Mo Brooks do have support from some segments of the American people. I know that one can get what is called "compassion fatigue." Feeling overwhelmed. People in Italy are dealing with thousands and thousands of immigrants landing on their shores, from overpopulated countries in Africa and so forth, but if the Italians and other Europeans can survive and even thrive, why can't we? Our own immigration circumstance is not currently as overwhelming as that? Of course we can't hold up the whole world, but I hope we can do better at taking care of the people than what Republicans tend to propose.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Seattle metro's inflated property values make it a sitting duck for funding state needs

I recently read Danny Westneat's July 5 column in Seattle Times. Seattle gets rolled in Olympia tax deal.

Here's another case where property value inflation leads to problems. Seattle metro's high property values make it a "sitting duck target" for state government struggling to find money to fund the McCleary school funding court mandate.

They balanced the budget with property taxes.

I (personally) might think that is okay. Not being a property owner, myself, I tend to think homeowners are all getting rich from growing equity. This, tho, isn't always the case. Those inflated property values are just the "new norm" that people have to deal with to afford living in our urban areas. Also, renters get hit too as property taxes get passed on in the form of higher rents.

Other forms of taxes, that also address the income gap in more accurate ways, aren't done in Washington State. In spite of being a "blue state," Washington has no state income tax. A good thing about income taxes is that they can be graduated so higher income people pay more.

Some forms of capital gains taxes can work also; like maybe when people sell property at a huge windfall. These kind of taxes don't usually pass in this state either.

We also keep missing opportunities to pass carbon taxes.

Here in Whatcom County, there is a pressing need to address our inadequate county jail. An expensive task. Plans for a big new jail have relied on local sales tax add-on; Washington's "workhorse" tax. Regressive. The last jail ballot measure failed. It would have raised local sales taxes to the limit which state conservatives have imposed (I-601 limits). Conservatives tend to support things like jails, but those sorts of things bust tax limits. Last year, as I remember, the Bellingham police guild feared that the jail tax would limit our ability to fund expansions to fire stations and other public safety. Crippling our local funding abilities for a whole 30 years.

In our city of Bellingham, which is more blue than rural county areas, I remember that our mayor suggested part of that bill, for the new jail, be covered by property taxes rather than all from the sales tax. Maybe a 50/50 split? Take some of the burden off of just the sales tax.

A jail expansion plan is heading back to the ballot, but I think it's still just a sales tax again.

Many liberals also think the plans for a new county jail are too large. There's a lot of local advocacy for alternatives to incarceration.

Come to think about it, some people think of schools as being prisons also. Large, institutional and costly.

Education is a valuable thing, but Washington may be unique in it's constitutional wording of education as it's top priority; the wording behind McCleary. Unfortunately this often leads to a "zero sum" battle between schools and other important state needs; such as social services, public safety, environmental protection and state parks.

We tend to suffer from "compartmental thinking." Put money in the compartment called "school" to have an enlightened society. I worry if the institutions of education cannibalize other things. Not that I don't value teachers and schools. Instead, I like to think more holistically. The job of teachers becomes harder if the rest of society is neglected. It's all part of a tapestry of society. State parks, for instance, can help education by preserving historic and natural places and presenting them to the public. Destinations for class field trips, if nothing else.

Another part of the tapestry is for people to pay their fair share in taxes. Graduated taxes on windfall profits and high personal incomes are best. Taxing business can be a problem that stifles business. It's better to tax the huge incomes and windfall profits that certain individuals make from business.

I guess property taxes have the same problem. Taxing landlords, for instance, is a problem as they pass that increase on to renters. Maybe it's better to try and tax the windfall profits that so often happen when property changes hands. Maybe that would cool down the inflated real estate market that's becoming so much of a problem in our prosperous urban areas.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

I don't think 911 was an inside job, but ...

I know a few people who believe that the 911 attack was an inside job. Caused by "powers that be" in US government and business. Explosives set in the buildings and so forth, rather than terrorists. I don't buy this idea, but the fact that so many people ascribe to it does say something about the leadership of our society. The leadership must be pretty bad at winning the respect of citizens if so many people would actually think something like 911 was done by the leadership on purpose. People tend to be cynical about government and corporations anyway and a few take that cynicism still farther.

I feel a lot of our problems are not necessarily caused by our leaders, but instead by obsolete patterns in our culture. Our problems are caused by people, including some at the grassroots level. Still, the leaders aren't very good at being leaders or winning the respect of people.

Beyond the problems, I also see good things in people and society. It's a mixed bag. At times I prefer to focus more on the good. I focus on the good partially for selfish reasons. It's less of a downer. It's better for my own disposition if nothing else.

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.