Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Canada's new carbon tax. Seems like a good plan.

Condensed from this article adding some of my perspective.

A $20/ton carbon tax translates into a 16.6 cent per gallon surcharge on gasoline. So, in 2022, the $50/ton carbon tax will increase Canadian gasoline prices by about 42 cents per gallon (11 cents per liter). That would be about an 8% gasoline price increase by 2022.

I'll add that even the top figure of 42 cents per gallon is still less than the increased cost of gas that people experienced in 2008 when gas prices were up due to supply and demand; before significant increase of oil production (such as in North Dakota and Texas due to fracking) which led to low oil prices from the oil market glut.

This carbon tax will reimburse Canadian taxpayers in other tax savings.

The price of coal would more than double, with a carbon tax surcharge of about $100 per ton in 2022. Natural gas prices will rise by about 10 cents per cubic meter in 2022 compared to current prices of around 13 cents per cubic meter – about a 75% increase. This will increase demand for cheaper carbon-free electricity. However, Canada already supplies about 60% of its electricity through hydroelectric generation and 16% from nuclear – only about 20–25% comes from fossil fuels.

The carbon tax will top out in 2022 with no more tax increase unless future legislation changes that. It's a fairly modest tax, but they still think it will create a significant incentive toward cleaner energy.

Sounds like a very good plan tho there has been some struggle to get all the provinces on board. Compromises have been made. There could still be rebellion at the local level. We'll have to see how it all plays out.

While I still support Washington State's carbon tax, I think the Canadian version is better. Washington State's plan seems to try and hide the fact that it will cost fossil fuel consumers more. It goes after polluting industries, such as our oil refineries in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, who are now flooding our state with anti carbon tax campaign funding.

Canada's industrial sector will not be subjected to the carbon tax, but rather to an Output-Based Allocations system (similar to cap and trade).

The rebates to Canadian taxpayers are anticipated to exceed the increased energy costs for about 70% of Canadian households.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sanctity of life means children headed to our borders. Republicans are hypercritical on this

This was a post I put on Facebook October 23 2018. It received lots of good discussion. If one is logged into Facebook, my posts are visible even if one isn't in my friends list. Click on the "F" in the right hand corner. I just learned I can embed posts from my Facebook wall here on my blog.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

After Trump has rallied people against Obamacare, he and the Republicans are now stuck trying to fulfill their contradictory promises.

Obamacare is probably the best system for covering people with preexisting conditions and extending coverage to lower income folks who can't afford market rate premiums. Problem is, someone does have to pay for these things. The costs have to be shifted to folks who can afford more; upper middle class, wealthy and so forth. I think when these costs get passed along as premiums, the more fortunate folks get "sticker shock." It looks like Obamacare is terrible as their premiums go way up and their coverage gets less comprehensive.

Maybe it would have worked better if this cost shifting was honestly labeled as taxes, rather than trying to hide it among premiums. Economically, that would have made more sense, but politically it's, unfortunately, a nonstarter.

After Trump has rallied people against Obamacare, he and the Republicans are now stuck trying to fulfill their contradictory promises. Obamacare may have not been pretty, but it's a difficult problem that its been trying to solve.

In Canada, the healthcare is provided, for the most part, from taxes. Taxes can be graduated so more fortunate folks help out the less fortunate. Everyone saves some, in the long run as access to preventative care, across the entire population, improves. An ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure. Overall health improves and it's easier to keep costs down under the Canadian system. Short of something like that, Obamacare may be the best that this anti tax society can muster.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A larger vision than just increased material wealth. Democrats need a better alternative than they have to Republican thought

Very interesting column in New York Times, The Materialist Party, by David Brooks, October 22 2018. It's about what seems like the lack of a big picture vision beyond our various materialistic wants and needs. As Republicans seem to be big on talk about growing material wealth, there is an opportunity for Democrats to present a different vision. Such alternative vision seems to be lacking.

In his column, Brooks says the big push for Democrats is to talk about healthcare. Preserving coverage for preexisting conditions and so forth; like just another basket of goodies.

Yes, a better vision of how we live on this planet is lacking, but I got to thinking that even in the healthcare debate, a bigger vision can emerge. Out of extending coverage comes a bigger vision of compassion. Could be the vision of a population that's willing to pay more, if they are so lucky to be more wealthy, so that those that are less fortunate can have some also. Or, maybe a vision of people earning less, if they work in the lucrative top positions of the healthcare and insurance fields. Earning a bit less so universal healthcare can be easier to provide.

There's also the bigger vision of health, itself. Healthier lifestyles so that universal healthcare can be easier to provide. A society of less stress, more exercise, better diets. You get the picture. A society better for the environment as well. Connecting the dots.

In his column, he talked about the need to go beyond just the box of goodies, like free college, or whatever and to come up with a larger vision of a better life. In my own thinking, I try and see how some of these goodies can fit into a bigger vision.

In his column, he also talked about identity politics, like LGBTQ rights. Is that just another box of goodies like tax cuts for the middle class, or the entrepreneurial class? I see fitting that into a bigger vision as well. Reducing population growth. A society more open to feminist and LGBTQ issues tends to place the breaks on procreation, a bit. Lower footprint to the environment. How about the single life living in an urban apartment versus the stereotype of family life sprawling out into the big house in the suburbs? It's a bigger vision I keep thinking about. How these pieces of the puzzle fit together. I know there are always exceptions to stereotypes; like not all families live in the suburbs and not all people in the suburbs are more wasteful, but I hope you get the picture.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

This sculpture reflects Bellingham, city of subdued excitement

Bellingham is often referred to as the "City of Subdued Excitement." Seems a fitting way to describe the acid ball sculpture in our Waypoint Park. An acid tank from the defunct Georgia Pacific pulp mill now repurposed as art in the park. Cool idea. Cover it with reflective particles; like used for signs on the freeway. Shine LED lighting on it. I was expecting some dazzling thing like a disco ball, but that may be too glitzy for Bellingham. The lights are shinning and reflecting off it's rusty surface, covered with that reflective material, but somehow it seems to have missed it's potential. That may still be okay as it fits in with the grey skies and the cool, moist air.

There's a dance that I often go to on Thursday evenings. I sometimes worry that the dance could be running out of energy. Attendance small, energy subdued; at least during sunny days. Subdued during last summer's smoky days. People comment that they are working through grief, pain and what ever. The national news rests heavy. I worry about the outcome of this November election. Are folks going to really be depressed if it goes south; so to speak? Going south in more ways than one, I guess.

Where's the celebration, joy and pleasure in people's lives? Can't we still live the way we wish the world could be?

Now that the weather is cooling down, I think the attendance, at that dance, may pick up. I was headed there today, but didn't quite make it as another gathering spot also starts to regain momentum when the sun hides. It's the YMCA sauna. Occasionally a space of conversation, but that can get so good as to extend into the dance time. At least that's what happened today. I do wish I could clone myself, but there's always next week.

Monday, October 15, 2018

My unique thoughts after reading climatologist Cliff Mass's recent critique of Washington State I-1631

Looks like Washington State's popular climatologist, Cliff Mass, is critical of Washington State's latest attempt to tax carbon emissions; I-1631. I still favor the bill, tho it has its blemishes. I guess he feels that a better carbon tax bill could be crafted.

I-1631's organizers created a very complex bill based on community input. It has a lot of payoffs to various special interest groups; such as Native American Tribes, labor groups and so forth.

Could it be that the laundry list of left leaning groups creates such a gauntlet, for any bill to get through, that the bill ends up just creating another morass? On Cliff's blog there is a picture of hogs at the trough. I would guess that right wing leaning groups create similar gauntlets for proposals to get past.

I still think of myself as leaning left, but I do see a problem of all the special interests, each wanting their share of the action. The "big picture solution" seems to always get clouded.

Yes, there are, conceivably, many simpler solutions than I-1631. Two years ago, there was a simpler solution that didn't pass the popular vote. It would have imposed a carbon tax and then, basically, give money back to the taxpayers in the form of sales tax relief. That bill didn't have much support from the various interest groups that this bill has attempted to bring on board. Maybe that's why it didn't pass.

Cliff praised that bill for its simplicity, but at the same time he is criticizing this bill for not doing enough to focus the spending side of the bill on things that would really make a big dent in climate change. Such things as putting lots of money into speeding up the build out of light rail transit. He suggests some other big ticket proposals as well; like thinning out some of the dead wood in our forests to make them less fire prone. Another suggestion is to build more water storage capacity for the irrigation in areas like the Yakima Valley to help them cope with the expected decline in snow pack storage.

A simpler bill could do that. It wouldn't be like the bill that was on the ballot two years ago, however. That wouldn't have boosted light rail, or these other ideas, that much as it would have been giving the money back to taxpayers in the form of sales tax relief. It was considered "revenue neutral."

Personally, I'd propose a simpler idea as well. It would, basically, tax all fossil fuels at the pump; so to speak. Yes, it would cost consumers more. Then, if we really want to focus the revenue on things that reduce global warming, it would be like forcing the car drivers to pay higher taxes to support things like light rail. I'd say bike paths also, of course. You folks know me. I'm into bicycling.

My idea wouldn't make it through the gauntlet of public process for sure. My idea would be kind of regressive also, but maybe we can't use the carbon tax to solve income inequality. We need another tax for that, like an income tax.

Still, I support I-1631 as a start as we can modify it as we go along, hopefully.

If we could think outside automobiles, a tax on car drivers could be less regressive if it really did bring on a lot more alternative transit. In the long run, alternative transit is less expensive than driving. Still, most people are waiting for driving to be fueled with alternative fuels instead.

Friday, October 12, 2018

A faerie networking site that I just learned about

I recently found out that there's a new social networking alternative for folks who consider themselves associated with the Radical Faeries. A faerie version of Facebook. Sounds interesting. I've signed up, but haven't posted anything yet. Plan to in the near future. The faeries are a brand, for lack of a better term, of gay people. I sometimes say it's a cross between hippie and gay, but that may not be the best definition. The networking site has interesting potential. Faenet.org

On another note, I should be using the word "momentum" rather than "inertia" to describe the networking effect that keeps Facebook on top of the game, so to speak. I still use and like Facebook, but people often wonder why one company so dominates the market. It's one of the aspects of the internet, I guess. People tend to flock to the one big "household" name. Google for search, Facebook for social networking.

It's the momentum of so many people on board each giving it their push. Once momentum gets started, it's harder to stop or change; thus comes the concept of inertia.

In the olden days, before internet, people were more divided by region so different businesses served their regions. Today there is less of that kind of market friction so it's easier for one household name to dominate the world market. The term household name apples to a brand that's well known; like for instance, Sears.

Sears, a household name for many decades. Interesting to note that Sears is now in the news related to bankruptcy. Things still do change.

The word "household" is interesting as things on the internet can be accessed from the home. Little, or no regional friction. A brand available worldwide. Household, literally in the home.

Maybe time for me to leave the computer screen and go outside. It's a nice autumn day.

Monday, October 08, 2018

They are all into big money anyway. Might as well choose the Democrats for better culture

Seems like there is a bigger difference between Democrats and Republicans than ever before; or at least in my memory. Democrats are much more liberal. Republicans more conservative.

I have quite a few friends who still think the Democrats are in bed with money and big business. I guess that's true. There's lots of money and big business that's liberal also. I think a lot of the red versus blue divide is about CULTURE rather than money. All the money isn't necessarily on the conservative side. We, liberals, do have our highly financed allies. We might as well not shoot ourselves in the foot by trashing them.

Even if allies have money, they can still support the cultural values of graduated taxation, domestic spending, universal healthcare, environmental preservation, gay rights and so forth.

Aside from the big money behind Democrats as well as Republicans, I notice that a lot of grassroots level liberals are kind of yuppie. Upper middle class. There are yuppie conservatives also. Might as well not totally trash a political party, the Democrats, for being corporate when many liberals are, themselves, upper middle class. The "professional class." Doctors, lawyers, tenured college professors and just about everyone is still driving their cars, using fossil fuels. Prosperous, liberal cities are often places that the poor can no longer afford to live decently.

We all have to walk the walk at the grassroots level.

I know that there is a problem with too much money corrupting politics. The Koch Brothers and Citizens United Supreme Court decision comes to mind. Still, I remember listening to a Diane Rehm interview, on NPR, where she interviewed a liberal lawyer who argued in favor of Citizens United before the Supreme Court. What? A liberal lawyer! They were supporting the right to speech for large organizations, such as labor unions, environmental groups and so forth. I wondered, if that lawyer was suffering from a case of "not seeing the forest for the trees?" Lots of arguments are based on technicalities, compartmental thinking. We all need to look at the big picture.

Bernie Sanders does earn praise for being able to finance his campaign totally from small donations. Apparently that is unique. Even if some politicians still feel they need to rely on our wealthy allies to get name recognition, we ought to still realize that aside from the money, it's also a cultural divide.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Should one remain on Facebook?

Periodically, there are waves of frustration against Facebook. Folks often talk about deleting their Facebook accounts and wonder what alternatives there are. I plan to stay on Facebook because I tend to think the magic is in how we use the media.

Facebook has the inertia of friends, comments and likes. In the IT industry, that's called "the network effect." Besides Facebook, I do use other media as well. I guess better word for this is "momentum."

Facebook is still the social media I use the most. My wall visible to Facebook users, friends and general public alike. For some reason, one still has to be a Facebook user to see the regular Facebook walls. This isn't necessarily true for another networking site, Google Plus. More on that later.

Here are some other internet medias I use and what they mean to me.

I have this blog, but, admittedly, it doesn't get many comments. People have to remember to navigate to my blog. It doesn't go out and find folks in their news feeds; so to speak. I link to it sometimes on Facebook. My blog does come up in searches, tho. Does have some audience. The blog is on a platform that is owned by Google; another big corporation.

Another service is Flickr. I share lots of photos. Not many comments come to my Flickr account either, but it does get quite a bit of traffic. around 3 million hits over a period of years. Some photos seem popular as they come up in searches.

I've donated my photos to Creative Commons so they also find their way into Wikipedia and so forth. The descriptions on my photos can be an outlet for my writing.

Flickr is owned by Yahoo; another big corporation.

There's other social media besides Facebook, like Google Plus and Ello. Seems like they don't have the inertia; the network effect that Facebook still has. My posts on this blog automatically get posted on my account at Google Plus. It works similar to Facebook, but doesn't seem to have the traction.

Twitter seems mostly for sound bytes. Not enough space for depth. I seldom use it.

My website ties my presences on various platforms together.

As for mainstream media, I listen to NPR Radio a lot. Not just on the live radio, but also shows that are archived as podcasts. Science shows, sensible political comment and so forth. I learn a lot, but I often wish I could talk back more. Yes, there are the listener comment sections at the very bottom of show pages, but comments can be quite buried.

There's also face to face communication. I do get a lot of that from walking around Bellingham. Seeing folks I know. I go for the civil conversation about meaty topics. Informative and political discussions that often happen on the street corner.

Here's a thought I just had. I hear quite a few people are thinking of giving up on social media. People who leave social media may be disfranchising themselves to some extent.

As for the government spying on Facebook, I figure maybe my government will listen to me for a change.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Alert from the big orange. Here in Bellingham, we've had Big Ole.

"I didn't get the memo;" the US government emergency test to cellphones. My phone is often turned off as Facebook and face to face communication are more of my thing. When I turned on the phone to look at messages, that memo (or whatever) wasn't there; assuming I looked in the right place.

Some folks are upset that the message came from the "Big Orange." Another name for our blessed president. I heard this message called "an orange alert." People worry if the whole country steps in line to a rouge leader. Remembering Trump's comment about respect for North Korean President Kim Jong Un's ability to get his people to stand at attention.

I guess that hasn't happened. There's lots of good people in civil service. They can buffer us, maybe, from some leader who would try and use it to "get his people to stand at attention." An emergency alert system, of some kind, isn't necessarily a bad idea.

I really think much of the bluster from Trump is humor. Something to worry about a bit, but maybe not total worry.

Reading about it later in the newspaper, I realize that I didn't get it because my phone was turned off. I guess it wasn't a message that would stay in memory. Just getting the phone to sound and then the message telling people what the sound was about at the moment.

Here's a unique emergency alert system they considered using at Western Washington University. The steam whistle from an old lumber mill. Called "Big Ole." I'm not sure if it's still considered useful for that, but I've heard them test it, a few years back. Also they used it on the Fourth Of July.