Saturday, January 13, 2018

Shithole countries sounds like a comment some people would say after a few beers

This column, by Rex humppke in the Chicago Tribune, lays it on pretty strong. He might not like my first response to Trump's "shitholes" comment either, even though I am not a Trump supporter. My response is that the shitholes comment sounds like something a few people, I know, might say around the water cooler, or after they'd been to the bar for a while. I think there is lots of off the cuff, derogatory talk among people in general, but we aren't used to hearing it from the president of the United States. Ideally, it would be nice to strive toward civility. Authenticity and honest expression of feelings can be a virtue, but there is an awful lot of negativity going around.

T shirt for I ❤️ Shithole Countries. Seen at Bellingham Peace Vigil. Things like T shirts come out fast these days. Focus of my camera isn't the best in low light, in a hurry at least.


Friday, January 12 2017.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Paying the rent by selling xerox copies, or other things, more an improbability in today's economy

Interesting how the price of a xerox copy hasn't changed much since my college days in the late 1970s. Around 5 cents. Back then, making copies usually met putting nickles in the copy machine. There were a lot of them located in Wilson Library at WWU. A few places were more expensive. The copy machine at the City Library was 10 cents a copy.

Late 70s early 1980s saw the advent of retail copy outlets. Buying in bulk could get the price lower; like 3 cents a copy. There hasn't been much inflation in the world of xerox copies and many other goods and services that make up our economy and provide wages. That's probably why wages tend to be lagging behind inflation. For large segments of the workforce, wages are based on the price that businesses can get for the goods and services they provide. Technological advance, outsourcing, and competition tends to keep prices down. In some fields, like computers, prices drop.

Meanwhile prices in just a few sectors of the economy have gone up. For instance housing. When I was in college, I rented a room in Bellingham for $55 per month. That was a pretty good price even back then, but it would be unthinkable today. Healthcare is a lot more expensive also. Another big change is tuition at colleges. No wonder people who work providing inexpensive goods and services have trouble affording these things.

Somehow, we need to deal with the growing gaps in our economy. The discrepancies between various sectors. This isn't necessarily the problem of inflation or stagnation.

Seems like part of the problem is that we look at the economy as if were one monolithic block. Then we ask does it need stimulation or do we need to damp down inflation? Problem is, the economy is not one monolithic block. One set of gas or brake peddles no longer makes sense. Today's problem relates to the vast and growing discrepancies between different people and sectors of the economy. That needs to be addressed through various means such as graduated taxes.

This problem has many implications such as battles over where to set the minimum wage where one side wants to raise it so people can afford to live while the other side says it will cost jobs since businesses may not be able to raise their prices accordingly. This especially may effect small business and businesses where the top executives don't make huge salaries. Of course in the businesses where the top makes huge salaries, they can redistribute within the business, but not all businesses are in that position.

Another implication of this problem is environmental. People often feel that the road back to being able to afford the cost of living is increasing prosperity. Just sell more stuff. Problem is we are drowning in stuff and revving up the economy has serious implications for things like the carbon footprint. Serious implications for our psychology as well if life becomes a rat race filled with overtime work. We really need to figure out how to have quality rather than quantity when it comes to prosperity. Part of quality is less discrepancy in wages, prices and so forth within the economy.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Nuclear button size like game of Rock, Paper, Scissors

Comparing the size of one's nuclear button makes me think about the old game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Paper seems weaker so it can be cut by scissors, but scissors can be broken by rock. Rock has the biggest button, I guess, but does Rock always win? Not really as paper can cover rock. In that case, paper wins.

One can think of paper as being the damage that can be inflicted by a small power, or terrorist group. Even our big industrial civilization has vulnerabilities. It's best not to taunt fate.

It can be tempting to exhibit an air of confidence when one feels they have power, however. Several years ago, I remember a meme, going around, about the West versus something in the Middle East. I forgot the exact details, but I think the caption read.

"We hear that you don't allow your women to do military service." "Well guess what." "We do." It then shows a picture of women pilots headed across the flight deck of a powerful looking aircraft carrier.

Even quite a few folks on the left liked that image which was circulating around on a Veteran's Day as I remember. Empowerment of women, compared to the situation in some other parts of the world. That's one of the threads of thought.

Still it's something to be wary of.

Friday, January 05, 2018

I am not that enthused about the concept of a "bucket list"

I am not that enthused about the concept of a "bucket list." It's a new concept, I think. It's the list of things one wants to do before they die; like places to visit and so forth. To me, it just seems to put too much pressure on living. I do want my life to be interesting, but without the pressure of fulfilling some checklist that no one, including me, will likely remember 100 years from now anyway.

There may be enough bandwidth for all anyway

As I see it, lack of net neutrality may, or may not be a problem. Depending on whether the situation can be best described with "Zero Sum" thinking, or not. Zero sum thinking is where one thing's gain would be another person's loss. If internet providers have to slow down data, from some websites, in order to speed up service from others, then it is a bad thing. On the other hand, if there is enough bandwidth and abundance for all, it might not matter. It might not matter even if internet service providers decide to innovate in the way of creating some new kinds of connections to certain types of content. If there is great abundance, which is often the case in electronics, there may be always enough for everyone; bandwidth that is.

Abundance is less evident in economics, or at least in figuring budgets. For instance, here in Washington State where the Supreme Court is ordering state government to better fund K-12 education, zero sum realities mean that other state programs, such as state parks, would have to be cut. In this case also, maybe we can expand the entire pie of state funding so providing more money to education doesn't have to take things away from other services.

It's easier to do that in the world of technology than it is in the world of economics, however.