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.