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.