Saturday, April 04, 2020

Everything at once stimulus bill is a bit haphazard, but it's good to be paid to not work during the virus shutdown at least.

Seems like stimulus legislation is always haphazard. People do need to be paid for not working, of course, to reduce transmission of the virus. To "flatten the curve" as they say. Much of our economy is dependent on folks congregating in so many places like churches, bars, restaurants, theaters, stadiums, shopping centers, gyms and so forth.

People in these sectors do need to be paid for not working so large parts of the economy can go into suspended animation. Folks and businesses need to be able to pay the rent and ride this out.

Other stimulus ideas are part of the stimulus package as well. Things that are designed to stimulate consumer spending once the economy gets rolling again, depending on when that happens. Who knows when. I think these stimulus things may be a bad idea now as people are being ask not to go shopping; so to speak.

After the virus scare passes, is a time for the other stimulus measures. The time for this isn't even truly known yet.

Too bad that legislatures just haphazardly throw everything into one bill and then adjourn. We may need some better strategic planning, but politics doesn't usually provide that.

Printed money might help make us whole again after economy takes a rest.

What's considered good for the economy is often not good for people's health. Looks like our economy is needing to learn how to be put partially on hold to protect our health. Lots of money is being lost, but money is just money. We've worshiped it like a god, but it's basically just a number system. Today, it's not heavy coins in a wheelbarrow, but just weightless numbers and decimal points on computers.

More importantly, besides our health, are the assets that we also consider part of our economy. Assets like the knowledge we gain, such as science. Assets such as our buildings, infrastructure and equipment. Things like airplanes and houses are assets. If they can be preserved, along with human lives, we haven't really lost that much.

These assets may be worth a lot less, in terms of dollars, but if maintained, the assets still exist. Stocks, real estate values and other things may drop in price, but the assets still exist. From what I hear, some airlines are mothballing planes temporarily in the deserts of southern California so, I guess, they are less likely to rust.

Dollars have disappeared as people and businesses, who are no longer working, can no longer pay the rent; so to speak. Rent and overhead has been extremely high and hard for most folks to keep up with anyway.

We could be headed for some deflation which also means lower prices for many things, but it's likely that the Federal Reserve is just printing more money so some of these dollar values can be maintained. For instance new housing construction could go bankrupt if people couldn't afford rent, but if printed money can prop up things like expanded sick leave and expanded rent subsidies, even values of assets, as measured in money, can be maintained. The stock market, for instance, could go back up in not too long of a time. I do think many of these assets were priced too high, before this virus situation, anyway. Propped up with low interest rates and printed dollars.

To some extent, keeping up with these high dollar amounts, high rents, high overheads and so forth has been stressful for workers. It's been bad for our health.

In the long run, I'd like to see economics relax, a bit. Less concern about pure money. That would be a step forward for our health and also a better mindset for tackling the long term problem of climate change.

That's my outside the box economic thought. Maybe it's not orthodoxy. I've taken few economics classes, but I do hear a lot of people starting to think more this way. Economists on NPR and so forth.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Could that malaria drug be something similar to drugs that treat AIDS in lieu of a vaccine? Maybe, maybe not.

I can sort of see why Trump holds out some hope for treatment of corona virus with a drug for malaria. I certainly didn't vote for him, tho.

The malaria drug hasn't been certified for this and may not be that good an answer, but I hope we can figure something out until, or if, a vaccine can be found.

When I think about the AIDS epidemic, it's other drugs, besides a vaccine, that has significantly reduced the death rate there. It did take a lot of time for those drugs to be demonstrated as safe and effective.

It seems odd that there is still no vaccine for AIDS. I hope corona virus is different in that way so a vaccine can be found before too long.

See my new label on Flickr somewhat related to this corona virus topic.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

We'll need to figure out how to survive putting large parts of the economy on hold to get through this corona virus pandemic

Like summer fallow fields. The ability to let things rest.

They've paid farmers for not growing crops. Looks like they will have to pay workers for not working and maybe businesses; like small businesses for not being open.

In the Palouse, there is the practice of summer fallow anyway, but not necessarily because of farm subsidies.

Farmers around Pullman, where I grew up, have a practice called Summer Fallow for their fields. Without even subsidy, this was a normal practice. I think still in use. A crop rotation. Wheat one year, then peas the next year. Then summer fallow where the field and the soil would be allowed to REST. The field being empty.

The pea crop would fertilize the soil, naturally, using legume nitrogen fixing bacteria that is naturally in the roots of peas and other legumes. The bacteria take nitrogen out of the air and turn it into nitrate fertilizer; naturally. After the pea crop is harvested, the soil is allowed to rest as the pea vines compost. I think a 3 year cycle.

I think the empty fields on steep hillsides of the Palouse area around Pullman did have an erosion problem, but they could use special plowing techniques to address this problem.

Maybe the Federal Reserve can just print the money so we can afford to go into almost suspended animation. Put parts of the economy on hold for a while to help us become more resilient to this virus.

I've been biking around remaining at least 6 feet from people. Past a large construction site for apartments to deal with Bellingham's housing shortage. At least those people are still working.

I got to thinking that a lot of developers could go bankrupt due to boom and bust. As they finally stared building, now just about everyone laid off. This is where a great expansion of things like HUD Section 8 Vouchers would help society get through this.

Trump and his team like a dear in the headlights dealing with this pandemic crisis

Trump said he had no idea his pandemic response team was disbanded.

Republican philosophy does call for trimming extra government agencies; such as pandemic response commissions. I'm not surprised this is happening at all. Reminds me of a situation, many years ago, here in Bellingham, where they thought they could save money by selling off the snow plow fleet that is rarely needed. They thought it would be cheaper to contract to the private sector on rare occasions when there is heavy snow. Soon after that decision, a big snow hit and all chaos broke out.

Trump does seem to be stumbling along. I can imagine that it would be difficult to keep track of all the things going on in such a large bureaucracy as the White House and the government. It's believable that he doesn't remember all the details. This epidemic situation seems to be blindsiding people in power. Trump's responses to the questions are telling. One can imagine themselves in this situation. Of course he did ask for it in wanting that job.

So many people put up a facade that they are in control. As Trump stumbles along asking, "did that commission get eliminated?" the facade is paper thin, if existing at all. That may be a form of transparency. Some folks are comforted by Trump's ordinary person, folksy style. I'm less critical of that then I am of the policies; such as cutting things we need like Medicaid. Then spending more on bombers. That's Republican orthodoxy.

Whenever I see pictures of Mike Pence near Trump, he almost always has a worried look on his face. This picture is case in point. Pence, quite a bit smoother than Trump. He's like a stuffed shirt executive in the establishment looking like he's hoping it all doesn't go off the rails.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Our rat race economy has pushed people to the breaking point and now Coronavirus is exposing these vulnerabilities. Health is more important than money.

Given the news, I now think we are very likely to be headed into a major recession. The virus emergency is a shock to the economy. One big worry is when will this situation end? Social distancing can slow the spread, but until a vaccine is available, one wonders if spread of the virus may just keep picking up as soon as we let our "social distancing" guard down.

There may be better science about curbing the spread of epidemics than my speculation here, but this could be a long term problem. Let's hope warmer weather can help slow the disease season; so to speak.

Health is a real important thing. Without a cure or vaccine we are reliant on our immune systems. This brings up deep questions about our economy, politics and culture. The high stress world has made us more susceptible.

I think our economy has pushed humans to the breaking point. Not only do we have things like global warming stressing the environment, but we, humans are also at the breaking point. Have folks been getting enough sleep or is working more than one job and facing long commutes getting in the way?

Income inequality, along with the constant push for increased prosperity, is taking it's toll. Do people have sick leave, for instance?

Is our economy structured in such a way so we can slow down, at least temporarily, to ride things like this out? I think not. The bills are mounting. This may force us to do some major rethinking of the economy and even our culture. There may be some long term lessons here.

Maintaining one's health is a virtue that has been a bit of a low priority in the past. Maintaining health was not as easy to do while the bills were mounting.

I wonder if life has gotten back to normal, or near normal in places like Singapore that took drastic steps to stop the spread early on? How about China and can we trust information out of China?

The health of our immune systems are (I would think) an important factor in controlling the epidemic. When a vaccine is found, that is basically a boost to our immune systems. Meanwhile we depend on healthy living and things like hand washing. If life does go back to somewhat normal, even without a vaccine, that is encouraging. Otherwise the economy is in for a long slump. A vaccine would cause the stock market to rally, but remember, they still don't have a vaccine for AIDS. This may be different.

This epidemic may push us more toward a cyber, "work from home" economy. Such an economy was predicted during the internet euphoria of the 1990's.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Bernie or Biden. Not an easy slam dunk choice.

In many ways, it's not an easy "slam dunk" decision as to whether Biden or Bernie should be the democratic nominee. One important criterion is who will be more electable in the November general election. That's not really an easy guess either.

Some people think Bernie would be able to pull in more votes from angry lower income folks who are struggling and don't like the elites. They'd vote populist.

On the other hand much of the population of this country is still pretty conservative yet possibly a bit uncomfortable with Trump's wackiness. Crossover voters. Some Republicans and independents who Biden would be better at picking up. There's the Mitt Romney "Never Trumper" people and the constituency of Christianity Today that came out for Trump's removal from office. Still fairly conservative, but not really Trump fans.

The American dream needs to be redefined

I'll vote for whoever the Democratic Party's nominee is for 2020. One problem is pretty much all major candidates, including even Bernie Sanders, are trying to bring back a vision of middle class America that may no longer be viable.

Income inequality is part of the problem, but there is a deeper problem, in my opinion. The old sense of American Dream isn't likely to come back. Growth in population and prosperity has now bumped up against environmental limits. Not just environmental regulation; as some right wingers contend. Lots of changes need to be made in the way we live, transport ourselves and so forth. We need more sustainable lifestyles, neighborhood planning and economics.

Anger against the 1%, or anger in general against anything, can be problematic. This may be an exaggeration, but think Syria. Anger often turns against everyone. Just overturning the 1% isn't going to bring back the so called American Dream for everyone.

I am for raising taxes on the wealthy, but there's a lot of changes that need to be made all up and down the income ladder.

I've been writing that traditional American Dream is, for the most part, no longer viable. In some way, I grew up in that dream, but it was also a bit different than some people's expectations. My family did live in a single family home with a yard and garden, but there were towering college dormitories practically across the street from us. If the wind was blowing a certain direction, during college toilet paper fights, our trees got decorated. My dad often walked to work. It wasn't too far.

View from our driveway 1963. Large college dorm nearby. Photo by my brother William Ashworth.

In many ways it was an idyllic childhood in town next door to a major university. I did have some problems in childhood, but all and all, it was pretty decent.

Some things were less extreme back then. I appreciate that I had my own bedroom back then, but the room was smaller than my small studio apartment today. We had a yard, but we weren't in a rural setting.

I think some of that sense of stability can come back, but circumstances do change. There are more people in the world today. At the same time expectations are higher in many ways.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Low interest rates are kind of a blunt tool for dealing with Coronavirus fears. Target new money toward true needs via government spending.

As stocks continue to slide and economic worries mount, it looks like the Federal Reserve is trying to shore up confidence with lower interest rates. Today on March 3 NPR Marketplace, I hear that lowering interest rates may not be the best tool to deal with this problem, but it's basically the only tool the Fed has.

I got to thinking that low interest rates mostly just cause people to buy property for investment purposes. Not really the solution we need. Just adds to long term property inflation.

What we need, to deal with this epidemic and the fear that goes along with it, are things like a stronger social safety net. Safety nets are what helps folks ride out things. It's better than going to work sick and spreading more disease.

This does bring up the whole question of investing in our people. Do workers have sick leave? Do workers have health insurance? Now that some people are being quarantined, do people have housing? In the news, it says that King County (Seattle area) has set up quite a few portable shelters to bring in homeless people who might be sick. Also they have bought a motel for quarantine use. Government spending. Other needs are things like research for a vaccine. Often it's government spending that comes to the rescue.

Seems like when the Fed prints money, it's needed to run the government. Maybe that's a new economic model, rather than raising taxes, print money and run the government that way. Government does an important job so it does need to be funded somehow. Some economists might be cringing, however.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Does anyone need to have billions of dollars? Maybe in this circumstance.

How much money is enough money? How many vacation mansions does one family need? Some people have way too much money. There's vast and growing wealth and income inequality. If everyone was alike, it would be a more boring world, but too much inequality is the other bad extreme.

Income inequality is often justified by the need that business has for capital to run the business. Someone doesn't need hundreds of millions for personal consumption, but the budget of a business may need to be in the millions, or the billions to meet the payroll and build the facilities that house the business.

If the money is invested in a business, that money is needed. Tax discussions need to take this into account, but for "pure luxury personal income," some people make way too much money for the health of society.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Andrew Yang had a good run. He's now dropped out of the 2020 race.

I remember Yang once saying that just influencing the discussion is a form of success for his presidential run. He always realized it was a long shot. My favorite candidates are Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar. Andrew Yang was one of my favorites also, but I would vote for any Democrat.

I'm hoping some of Yang's ideas and talents can stay in the discussion whoever the final nominee becomes. I like his analysis tho I think the idea of minimum income wasn't the best strategy for this campaign season. People quickly say, "we don't need that, unemployment is at record lows."

In the long run, or thinking more deeply beyond the sound bytes, there is downward pressure on wages due in part to efficiencies and automation. Meanwhile real estate prices and other things keep going up. Most workers need a better deal. Economics does need new thinking.

We need innovative thinking beyond just the stale old talking points of the left versus the right.

I would even vote for Billionaire Mike Bloomberg if he was the nominee. When that question came up on someone's Facebook wall, I wrote:

I would still vote for the Democrat; especially thinking about the prospect of a Supreme Court totally stacked with hard core right Republicans. There's the danger of all branches of federal government being run by one party; the Republicans.

As for Bloomberg being a billionaire, it isn't ideal, but it's up to us to push for the ideal after whoever gets into office. Given our celebrity culture, maybe it takes being a billionaire to have name recognition. Otherwise, gee, maybe I should run.

We the people often fail at living the ideal. We don't shop based on our politics as well as we might. We are the market forces. Corporate power and advertising corrupts us, but we are not totally helpless, or faultless. It is kind of a vicious cycle. Corporate influence and then our mass behavior in the market. "It's which came first, the chicken or the egg." For instance if people want them to do more about lowering carbon emissions; like having a carbon tax; we can't then turn around and complain about rising gasoline prices. We have to be the change we want to see in this world.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

One reason why it's hard to pay teachers more. There are a lot of teachers.

Some folks say that teachers should be paid as much as lawyers or how about pro sports players. The problem is in the numbers. There are a lot more teachers than there are lawyers so it's harder to be elite if one is part of the majority, in some cases. School districts are often the biggest employers in a community. I think that usually teachers are paid moderately well compared to large segments of the workforce. Restaurant employees, janitors, gardeners, home healthcare workers, Uber drivers, security guards, for instance.

I remember thinking, back in the 1980's that teachers were fortunate to at least have health insurance. Back then, we were starting to realize that a large percent of the workforce didn't have health insurance. In the 1980's there was a big push to try and elevate teacher pay and also the pay of college professors. Various states were worried about loosing their talent, in these professions, to other states that paid more; like the grass is always greener on the other side. Brain drain. I remember thinking, back then, that someone needed to speak up for the many restaurant workers, and so forth, who didn't have healthcare.

Since the 1980's it does look like teacher pay hasn't gone up a huge amount relative to other more elite (in numbers of people involved) professions. It's hard to bring up a large group, compared to a small group such as elite lawyers or a handful of celebrity actors or football stars, or maybe a smaller number of highly specialized technicians. Sine the 1980's there has been a rise of elite tech workers. Smaller, in number than the vast number of teachers in each region. Tech workers are mostly concentrated in a few cities like Seattle and San Francisco Bay Area.

Monday, February 10, 2020

When labor unions shot themselves in the foot

I've often thought that unions led to their own demise, to some extent, back in the 1970's and 1980's. Back then, it seemed like the unions mostly just cared about their members working for a specific business. They would rise wages for Georgia Pacific employees, for instance, but didn't care that much about whether non unionized workers, say at a local restaurant, had access to healthcare. As less and less people were members of a union; members of a bargaining unit, the political constituency of union members dried up.

I remember when I heard, back in the recession days of the early 1980's, that one pretty much had to have a relative in a union to get an apprenticeship in the trades, such as in the plumbers union. They were trying to restrict entry into the trades to keep the wages of insiders up. Now days there is a very low percentage of the workforce; especially in private enterprise, that are in unions. Not that large of a constituency for political power in society as a whole anymore.

Now it's a different situation. I hear that there is a shortage people who do skilled trades. Entry into the field may be easier, now, but the unions have already lost their members and their political clout. These days, more of the economy is self employed, like Uber Drivers. Activism needs to look at the big picture and push for things like universal access to healthcare.

To address these problems, I think we really need to look at the big picture. Support things like healthcare access. Obamacare is an attempt at that. Also support things like affordable housing. Things that bring up all people rather than just certain union members or segments of the population. These days, it does seem like what is left of the unions is doing better at advocating the larger political issues rather than just concerned with the financial well being of their own members. Bottom line really should be quality of life and sustainability of the environment rather than just "how much can I get for my people;" so to speak.

Interesting article, related to labor unions, I saw a few weeks ago; published in 2011. 30 years ago: the day the middle class died.

Now it's nearly 40 years ago when PATCO (air controllers union) lost their battle with President Reagan. They went on strike and he fired them. Ironically, the PATCO union endorsed Reagan for president in 1980 in spite of Reagan's campaign rhetoric to cut government spending. The air controllers were government employees. They must have thought he would have made a special exception for them, but he did stand his ground and fired them in spite of their earlier endorsement of him. That endorsement was definitely a tactical mistake that even other unions didn't do.

I think it was a case of putting self interest over the big picture. I do remember that they were not just asking for more money, but better working conditions. Better working environment for air controllers equals safer situation for flying public. Some laudable goals, but they did pretty much loose it all. Endorsing Reagan, not long before that, was a bad idea. I wonder what they were thinking? They cut off the limb they were standing on. They endorsed Reagan, yet they were government workers. He was campaigning against government workers in general.

Now, many years later, this news situation is often seen as a watershed in history. My take on it is an example of self interest versus looking at the big picture.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Before internet dating, classified ads were skimpy for a reason.

Before internet dating sites, there was the meet-a-mate classified ads in newspapers. Back then, one had to pay by the word so the ads were usually pretty short. Like sound bytes. I wasn't into dating partially for that reason. Then when the internet got popular with it's unlimited space for messages and descriptions, I thought that would solve a lot of the problems that people going on dates face. Better, more detailed descriptions. One would know the person better before going on the date. Well, I guess that isn't really happening. The descriptions still tend to be quick. Maybe it's even moving faster now than before. I'm not into dating so I wouldn't know except just from what I can gather. There was also meeting in bars, back then, which encouraged alcohol use. I guess that's still happening to some extent now.

Ironically, the concept of life long committed relationships is often based on superficial things like first impressions. Another problem with dating is how competitive it can be. I think of the phrase, "the early bird gets the worm." Things can move pretty fast. Quite often people fall in and out of love at the drop of a hat.

Friday, January 31, 2020

One of several advantages Social Security has over most private retirement savings.

One advantage that Social Security has over private retirement savings. You aren't likely to be sued for your money because it's not your money. It's the public's money. You are just entitled to an income from it, but there's no lump sum that someone could try and take from you.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Distracted driving in the bad old days. Cellphone were called car phones when they first came out.

When cellphones first started coming out in the 1980's they were called "car phones." More recently, it's being realized that these things should not be used behind the wheel. Our ideas are evolving. They are called Smartphones today, or at least "smarter" than they were before.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Anger and fighting can definitely lead to friendly fire such as accidentally shooting down a civilian airliner

Hostility can backfire. I'm not a fan of anger and fighting. There has got to be better strategies to oppose an injustice.

Now it's clear that Iran accidentally shot down a civilian airliner with its citizens on board. I'm remembering, just a few days before this incident, a post I put here about accidentally blowing up the wrong temples in Israel. It was a "what if this were to happen" thought. Now this airliner incident has happened. A coincidence.

I'm not letting the US off the hook either. In 1988, we accidentally shot down an Iranian airliner.

Looking it up on Google, I find it was July 3rd 1988. I do remember it was not that long before the Fourth of July. There was quite a bit of shame and soul searching, within the US, after that incident.

I remember watching the Forth of July fireworks, that year, from Boulevard Park as they were shot out over the bay. A patriotic celebration, but definitely tempered with guilt.

Looks like there is soul searching in Iran over this recent incident as they accidentally shot down their own passengers. I'm glad they aren't still denying that it happened.

Often it is human nature to deny something in spite of overwhelming evidence. Total denial of climate change; for instance. I'd also put into the denial category, a lot of strongly held religious beliefs; for instance the 6 day creation story, or the tale of Noah's Ark, just the way it's written in holy scriptures. Questioning authority is valuable.

I also think that total sanctions against Iran is a bad idea. We need to think of better strategies to help the people of that country; especially the people who are trying to push for a better society.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Links to my New Year's Mailing and also an article about gravity waves

New Year's mailing I sent out to around 18 people that I still send to in the US Mail. It's kind of a summary of my year. Also talks about my possible plans for retirement, or at least maybe going even more part time; work wise at least.

In December of 2019, I reached the milestone of age 65. It means getting older as time keeps moving on, but it also feels like looking forward to a big vacation. I still remember (at times almost like it was just a few years ago) the last day of school. Anticipating that day just before the start of summer vacation was always a good experience from grade school all the way to college. More recently, I'd get that feeling before some bike trips.
New Year's 2020 On Flickr, click to enlarge.

My latest article in the Betty Pages. In January. About the gravity wave detector we have here in Washington State. LIGO Hanford.

Detecting events in the universe, like collisions between two black holes. Events so catastrophic that it rattles the very fabric of time itself.
Article in January The Betty Pages about gravity waves On Flickr, click to enlarge.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Conservatism may come from the old white guard in conservative churches, but in liberal churches, it may come from the Third World

Welcoming banners for GLBTQ people at Garden Street Methodist, here in Bellingham.

Like a lot of denominations, the Methodist Church may be splitting into two factions if this recommendation goes through. Attempting to be an amicable split, however.

It's interesting to note that these splits, which have been happening within liberal Christian denominations, are different than the politics of more conservative; fundamentalist denominations.

In conservative churches, the old, white "America first" conservatives are a said to rule the day. In liberal churches, it's the western, American, Canadian, European side that's more liberal while African and other third world sides tend to be more conservative. The Methodist denomination tends to be liberal, in the west at least, from what I gather.

The split here is on gay rights and also on theology. How literally do theologians take the so called "clobber" passages, in the bible, about homosexuality? In this case, the west, which could tend to be more white, also tends to be more liberal.

Personally, I am quite a critic of the conservatism that has its roots in the third world, or maybe it's roots are still in the west as it's often said to be a vestige of past colonial conservatism.

One thing that doesn't get discussed much, but I think about a lot, is the problem of overpopulation. I think that conservative attitudes about sexuality don't serve the third world well. Rapid population growth can bring on lots of poverty, misery and environmental destruction. The third world needs more women's rights, birth control and gay rights.

I know someone who was at a recent conference related to the split within the Methodist Denomination. He said that a delegate, from Africa, said something like. "You colonizers told us to do it a certain way, like saying homosexuality is a sin." "Now you've changed your mind." It seemed like he was saying that the African delegation would try and hold us, westerners to our original word.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Bush Jr. delivered Iraq to Iran on a silver platter made from our money

The US has stumbled along. In the 1990's we fought a war against the Sunni led government of Iraq after Iraq invaded Kuwait. That war was largely to defend stability in the oil world.

Then, after that war, we thought we had made a mistake by abandoning the majority Shiite population, in Iraq, who were still under the boot of the Sunni lead government of Saddam Hussein. We went back to help out the poor Shiite majority that we had abandoned and left to languish as they were caught between Hussein's brutality and our economic sanctions on Iraq.

The second war delivered Iraq to it's Shiite majority and to Shiite led Iran. Delivered to Iran on a silver platter made from our money.

Then we realized that was a mistake and have been trying to patch up ever since. Now hostility is kicking into high gear between the US and Iran.

Fighting over the sacred places

There is lots of feuding between religious people in this world. Not all religious people, of course, but it does seem prevalent; especially among fundamentalists. Much of that fighting happens around what are sometimes called the "Holy Lands," like where Israel / Palestine now resides.

Over the years, I've sometimes thought that it would be poetic justice if someone hellbent on destroying a nation, such as Israel, or Palestine, for that matter, Accidentally destroyed holy sites that they, themselves hold as sacred. So many of these sites that are highly regarded among the 3 religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity are in very close proximity to one another. An errant weapon could easily destroy the wrong temple. Seems like such a mistake would serve angry religious leaders, who would launch such a weapon, right.

Now it looks like our leader, Donald Trump, is toying with the idea of purposely destroying sacred sites. This wouldn't be an accident; like in my above thought, but on purpose. Trump does, of course, still have the backing of a lot of fundamentalist Christians in USA. Religious feuding continues.

If this were to happen on purpose, rather than just as "collateral damage," it would be on the level of ISIS destroying Ancient Roman sites in Syria or the Taliban destroying the large Buddhas that were built into the cliffs of Afghanistan. It's a race to the bottom.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Proposal to ban natural gas heating in Bellingham may be just a gimmick to appease consumer guilt about energy consumption

When someone ask me, on Facebook, what I thought about the proposed ban, (written about in New York Times. Bellingham made the New York Times). Here's what I wrote.

On first thought, I think the ban is probably not a good idea, but worth discussing. I kind of think the ban on natural gas is a "feel good" thing. A lot of "liberals" like the idea. I consider myself a liberal, but this is grabbing at straws. Trying to do "something" when more effective measures; such as a carbon tax, aren't likely to pass voters.

Problem with a natural gas ban is that much of our electricity comes from natural gas anyway. We really need to cut down consumption, but that is politically more difficult. Electrifying everything doesn't help; especially if much of the electricity comes from natural gas.

Maybe we should ban, or heavily tax, fossil fuel consuming automobiles, but that would never pass the voters either.

A philosophy behind banning natural gas is that electricity is more versatile. If something, like a furnace, runs on natural gas, it has to be that one fuel. Electricity can be sourced from a wide variety of sources, including solar, wind, nuclear (dare I say nuclear) and so forth. This is said to help push us toward things like solar. Also natural gas is said to be problematic due to methane leaks all along the way.

Ideally, an all electric, solar powered world is good, but it isn't easy to get there, given people's greed and unwillingness to consume less if the cost of solar is (at least in the short run) higher. Natural gas is less expensive for the average consumer than baseboard heating and the baseboard heating might still be coming from power generated by natural gas.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, a large percent of our electricity comes from hydroelectric power, but we just don't have enough rivers to supply our growing population and prosperity. As we keep growing, the percent of our power that comes from hydro tends to drop. Natural gas, wind and other green energy sources make up the difference. We still have a moratorium against wind power sites in much of Whatcom County. Worry about bats, birds and the aesthetics of wind turbines. Hydro power has it's problems too. The effect on salmon migration. There are proposals to breach many of our hydroelectric dams.

Advocates for this ban are pushing for heat pump technology. That is more efficient than baseboard heating. Heat pump means "refrigerating the outside," such as ground and roof areas, to transfer the heat inside. It tends to work best in mild climates.

If it gets too cold outside, the heat pump is working too much "uphill," so to speak and many heat pump systems have resistance electric heating as backup. Baseboard is a form of resistance heating. Sometimes they have the resistance coils right inside the heat pump unit to switch on as backup when the heat pump isn't able to keep up with demand.

Washington Square High Rise Apartments.

Interesting to note, the 8 story building, I live in (Washington Square HUD Housing), has a heat pump system, so I hear. It just works for the hot water system. I don't know a lot about it, but I think it provides at least part of our hot water by "refrigerating" the ground around the building and putting the transferred heat into our hot water.

I also hear that heat pump systems are fairly expensive to install. The regular heating, in this building, is from a natural gas boiler that heats water for the radiators in each apartment. The system works well.

Probably the most efficient thing about this building is the fact that 97 apartments are all together in one building with little surface area for heat loss. Not a lot of land is taken for 97 people.

We also have solar panels on the roof. I hear it provides about 10% of the building's electricity. Only 10% because a fairly tall building doesn't have a lot of roof area exposed to the sun versus the number of folks living here.

Of course one could note that by 2040, when this proposed ban would take effect (if they don't push it up to 2035), the world could be a lot different; especially if climate change is as serious as many people think it is.

Could Amy Klobuchar be just the candidate for bringing (sort of) together the diverse alternatives?

Democratic candidate Amy Klobuchar looks fairly moderate. I haven't seen a lot of media coverage. This Chicago Tribune columnist thinks she would be a good nominee for the Democratic Party. Joe Biden is 78. Age might be a factor with voters.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is promising, but this columnist pulls up a poll saying that only 26% of Americans think the voting public is ready for an openly gay president. It is interesting to note, however, that the results might be different if people were ask, "would you vote for a gay candidate if the only other choice on the ballot was Donald Trump?" I think a lot more than 26% would say yes, but only 26% feel that their fellow voters would be ready for this.

As for the candidates like Sanders, I personally feel people like what they promise, but people would balk at the changes if it meant things like higher taxes; carbon taxes, for instance. It's really hard to get even most left leaning people away from over dependency on their gas guzzling automobiles.

Amy Klobutcher may be the best choice to put a Democrat back in the White House and to bring along the other talent and ideas that we need ranging from Bernie Sanders to Mayor Pete to Andrew Yang to Elizabeth Warren and so forth.

So many voters are upper middle class, like top 20 or 30%. That needs to be taken into account when discussing things like Medicare. For too many voters, they may currently have something they think is better than Medicare. Some generous employer provided plan, for instance. Not a bare bones employer plan of course. This comfortable group of voters is still fairly numerous.

In the long run, healthier and wealthier people do need to pay more into the insurance pool so others, like folks with preexisting conditions, can be subsidized. This is a hard sell to voters, however.

As for taxing the 1%, I am for raising taxes, but I would mostly want to tax their personal money, rather than tax their businesses out of business. See if we can curb the money they spend on yachts and vacation homes rather than take away the building and machinery they use to provide their business. For instance don't tax the building out from under the restaurant that uses its building. Trying to differentiate these things is what rational tax policy should do.

As a gay person, myself, I am quite pleased with the progress that Pete Buttigieg has made even though it's easy to think, "this is too good to be true."

As for the more radical candidates, like Sanders and Warren, I keep thinking that we, the American people, have met the enemy and the enemy is us. Would people really support the taxes and changes proposed by these candidates? It's hard to even convince folks to drive less even though people are very concerned about global warming. Also remember that somewhere around 30% of the "people" still think Trump is a good president.

It does seem like a moderate candidate could begin the process of bringing this divided country back together. Maybe "together" isn't the best word our opinions are diverse and if everyone thought alike it would be boring. At least she might be able to bring back more semblance of civility.

I tend to support the moderate points of view, but one hazard of moderate thinking is complacency. A lot of people are pretty comfortable and yuppie like. Sometimes it does take radicalism to shake things up, but shaking things up can be painful. Are you ready to loose your home, your car, or whatever? Possibly your safety?

A wise phrase goes, "Be careful what you ask for because you might get it."

I tend to be moderate liberal, but plan to vote for whoever the Democrats nominate for president. Hopefully better thinking, from a wide range of people, can enter government along with the Democrats; whoever the candidate at the top of the ticket is.