Monday, June 29, 2020

Why is the focus on protecting human life only about the period before birth?

Today I got to thinking (I'm always thinking, some people say "overthinking"). I got to thinking about the human life / abortion issue. I tend to side with "liberals" on that. I'm not for outlawing it.

I put all of the "value of human life issues" into the same basket; so to speak. Whatever jeopardizes life is similar in my way of thinking.

Lack of laws against abortion can be viewed as jeopardizing life. A border wall that forces children back to places of danger, jeopardizes life. Lack of health insurance jeopardizes life. Poverty can jeopardize life. Overpopulation and environmental degradation can as well. It all seems similar to me.

It just seems like focusing only on protecting life during pregnancy is strange. If one values life, shouldn't it be important after birth as well?

It's true that we can't take all precautions toward protecting life. Life has to go on. People drive cars, thus jeopardizing life. We have other priorities besides just protecting human life against all risk.

It's all in a grey area as far as I am concerned. I guess we just have to do the best we can. It's not always cut and dried.

Then there is the question of when human life begins. During pregnancy, that's a grey area as well. There's early term and late term pregnancy. In nature, it seems like things are basically grey areas.

I guess I'll say this. Wearing a mask is something simple one can do toward reducing a risk to human life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Domestic spending, a better use for printed money than propping up asset values.

This article is skeptical about rise in stock market noting a correlation between market rising and the Fed printing money over the past decade. It's got me to thinking. Stock value based, I guess, on just money, but not so much in the real economy of goods and services that most people experience. I would add that home values are similar to stocks. Often disconnected from the real economy. Printed money props up assets.

Printed money can also can be used to run the government. I would guess that running the government is a better use of the money than just propping up stocks and home values. As time goes on, the government runs more and more on borrowed money. The Federal Reserve makes that process easier by propping up the money supply.

Part of why the government needs to borrow more and more is the Republican led tax cuts along with continued increases in spending; such as for the military and for Medicare.

We do need government spending to keep civil society intact. For instance, Senator Mitch McConnell may have been the first person to recently call for de funding the police. That wasn't how he phrased it, but suggesting that local governments should be allowed to go bankrupt is a big way to undercut funding for public safety.

McConnell was critical of unsustainable and over generous pensions. He may have had a point there, but police pensions are among the most generous; so I gather. I don't necessarily begrudge the police of their pensions as they do have difficult jobs. Many of the things people value, in society, are based on money. Home equity, pension funds and so forth. We often treat money like it's a god tho money is only a tool.

As time goes on, it becomes apparent that domestic spending, by government, plays an important part in propping up the values that people hold. If we expect to maintain those values and our civil society, the government plays an important role.

Stocks and property values by themselves, are basically meaningless without the economy to support them. They are meaningless without the workers who provide the labor for the economy. They are meaningless without the natural resources and the environment that sustains us.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

My modest dad was actually a great scientist. Happy Father's Day.

Here are some memories related to where my father worked. His lab at Troy Hall, Washington State University, Pullman.

That was until the last couple of years before his retirement when he moved to Clark Hall in the 1970's.

He was a science professor at Washington State University, in Pullman. Dairy science which dealt with the chemistry of milk. In a tradition of science, I remember him being quite modest. Not the type of person that would boast about things. Much of the time, his work seemed routine. Collecting the data, but not venturing into speculation. Big discoveries are more rare than day to day routine.

He did have a lot of patience and much of my own interest in science comes from my dad patiently answering the many questions I had growing up. Questions about biology, vitamins and so forth.

As a child following the moon landings, the work that my dad did seemed mundane to me. It was a job, like other jobs, I guess. Later on, in my life, I've learned more about his accomplishments in developing a process for making powdered milk and some other breakthroughs in dairy chemistry. He also taught students over the years.

In 1962, he won a big award called The Borden Award. It was given out at the American Dairy Science Association. It was at their convention which was held, that year, in College Park, MD.

College Park being close to Washington, DC., that was the year we did a family trip back to Washington, DC. It was a trip on the train. I was in early grade school so my memories are a bit foggy, but I think I might have been in the White House. The downstairs part of the White House which was open to tours.

For some reason, during that visit to the White House, I was more interested in a new kind of cereal box that was displayed in the breakfast line back at the cafeteria where we were staying.

I guess, back then, I didn't think the White House was that big of a deal. Imagine that today, with it's present occupant being Donald Trump. Being a small child, one might think that anyway. Kennedy was president back then.

When I got my first job, after college my dad was pleased tho I was a custodian. He was a bit worried that I might not be able to support myself with jobs being pretty hard to find. When I started working he was happy that I was able to find work. Status wasn't that important. Integrity is a value that we grew up with.


Top photo: The lab taken during 1960's by my brother Bill Ashworth. I think that big glass container is filled with something called G Orange Dye. Something used in the process of measuring protein content of milk. A process called dye binding analysis.

Lower left: My photo taken during a bicycle trip to Pullman, early 2000's.

Back door to Troy Hall. The door my dad usually entered.

To the left was an ice cream shop named Ferdinand's Bar. Ice cream from the WSU creamery and the famous Cougar Gold Cheese.

During my high school years it was relocated to a newer building near where my dad's office moved during my high school years.

Troy Hall has been totally remodeled so only the brick outer wall was preserved. A glass atrium has been built to put this facade inside the atrium. Someday I hope to get back to Pullman to take a look.

Ferdinand's is still in business at it's present location.

Bottom right: Front side of Troy Hall taken in 1997.

See more photos of my childhood and a few other memories.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

As tax revenue drops, the government runs on borrowed printed money for the most part, I guess. It seems to work so far.

I think it's to the point where they are borrowing a lot from the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve can just print money, basically. It's sometimes called Quantitative Easing. We technically owe that money back, but seems like it's never paid back. The federal debt just keeps growing and it almost never gets paid down.

When Clinton was president, there was a brief few years of budget surpluses that were used to pay down some of the debt. They made a slight dent in the pile of debt. Since then, the pile just keeps growing.

The consequences of printed money is inflation. More dollars chasing the same number of goods and services. Inflation hasn't been a problem except in a few areas, such as home values rising faster than the rest of the economy. That is a problem. Home price inflation is one of the sectors of the economy where inflation from printed money appears leading to a housing affordability crisis over recent years.

More generous government spending on things like subsidized rents would be one way to help working people keep up with these asset bubbles.

In some ways, this could be a vicious cycle tho. Asset bubbles rising and then more government spending to keep up with the rents and mortgages related to the inflated value of the assets. Throwing good money after bad; so to speak.

We also borrow from various lenders, such as China, but I recently read that China has been gradually selling back it's US treasuries to various other investors in the world financial pool. China's share of US debt is gradually declining, so I read.

I the long run we need to realize that money is a tool rather than a god. Inflation can be a problem, but these days it's mostly just numbers on computers. A matter of moving the decimal point over and going on; like a $50,000 house going to $500,000. Since that has happened, maybe a $2.50 loaf of bread can go to $25? An $8 minimum wage can go to $80 per hour?

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The police have become a punching bag for people's grievances about society

Holly Street was blockaded for a protest as I passed through downtown on June 15 2020.

I know that there are bad police, but for the most part, the police do a difficult and necessary job. Too bad that the police have become a punching bag for people's frustrations against society. Racism, income inequality, lack of affordable housing and so forth. The job of police is to protect life, property and public safety. To some extent, this does mean protecting the status quo.

Given politics of the last few years, there is a lot to be upset about. A president who didn't receive the popular vote, but was elected due to how it played out in the Electoral College. This has happened twice in recent history. George Bush II in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016.

Then you have Senator Mitch McConnell's refusal to even hold the hearings for Obama's Supreme Court nominee and today's efforts, by Republicans, to pack the courts with their candidates.

People are rising up against a government that seems much less representative of the people; especially the majority of people who live in cities.

The urban rural divide plays a role here as well with rural values still dominating at the federal level. The police are symbolic of maintaining that status quo as they strive to maintain order.

Some of these occupations remind me of the Occupy Wall Street days.

Seems like there are two major threads in these protests. One is the protest, itself and another thread is an attempt to set up an alternative to mainstream society. The occupations often bring music, dance and social interaction. An alternative to the regular economy. Like being off the grid.

It's kind of like trying to reinvent the wheel. On a rainy day (yesterday was a very rainy day), it's a reminder that mainstream society does have it's creature comforts.

Society does still evolve. The recent Supreme Court decision for gay rights is an example.

It does seem like gay rights keeps moving forward while other things, such as fair distribution of wealth or reduction of the carbon footprint, lag behind. Racism still persists as it is often exacerbated by income inequality, lack of affordable housing and things like gentrification.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Slightly erotic dream about going back to work

Being laid off from my custodial job due to the COVID-19 situation, I had a dream about being called back to work.

In the dream, I got an email from my boss inviting me to come to work part time as the company is getting ready for a partial reopening. Since I'm past 60 years of age, my boss wanted to protect my safety by having me work in an area of the building that is quite isolated from other workers. I was a bit worried about feeling isolated, due to age, but came into work anyway.

Many rooms, in the building, are quite large. It's a fitness center. Quite a few of my coworkers are very young and attractive; like 20 somethings. I get along with them quite well.

In the dream, I started to clean some baseboards and carpet edges in a large gymnasium; giving it that extra polish. One of my coworkers was in the same space, but a good 30 feet distance; a safe for COVID-19 fantasy. He was up on a ladder dusting some ceiling fans. As he was reaching up, his loose fitting pants were coming down revealing his firm, slim body all the way down to the pubic hair.

I was secretly turned on just watching as I am somewhat of a voyeur who is attracted to the shape of the body more than the genitalia. I'm a voyeur who goes for mild nudity along with good conversation. All things that can easily be done from more than 6 feet separation.

After around an hour of that pleasure, I realized that I had forgotten to punch into work on the time clock. Just then, some other folks came into the room along with my boss. I mentioned that I had forgotten to punch in and my boss said, "don't worry." "Just send me an email with your hours and I'll put it into the payroll for you."

Then he said to everyone, "you might as well all go home as we were going to do some painting." "The paint hasn't arrived yet." "We'll call you back when we think of more projects since the place still isn't opening for a while."

He then said, "have a nice summer."

It felt like it was the last day of school before that long awaited summer vacation. Back when I was in public school, the last day of school was called "Play Day."

At the end of the dream, I walked out of the building into a beautiful sunny day. I was looking forward to a different kind of a "summer vacation." Retirement.

I was looking forward to going on Social Security and Medicare. Looking forward to working part time for work / life balance and doing more bicycle tours; like I've always done during vacation times.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Police unions facing similar criticisms that teacher's unions have faced. How hard it is to remove problematic people from the job.

On the radio, today, they were discussing the difficulty of letting go of certain police officers that have been problematic. Binding arbitration, with the union, brings them back.

Makes me think of the complaints against teacher's unions. One often hears that it is hard to let go of teachers that are problematic because of the union.

There's the phrase, "the shoe is on the other foot now," when thinking about typical left / right divides in this country. Are public sector unions bad?

I would guess there are both virtues and problems in all of these institutions.

Friday, June 12, 2020

US defense budget threatening domestic stability. Over abundant supply of secondhand military stuff is now PR headache for local police.

Looks like our large defense budget could be destabilizing our society in more ways than one. Isn't defense supposed to protect society?

There's the law of unintended consequences. In this case, we have trouble figuring out what to do with surplus military equipment. As the military upgrades, what does one do with second hand stuff? It's a waste to send multi million dollar things to the scrapyard. Seems logical to give it to the police, but now it's becoming a PR headache for police / community relations.

Not the most useful tools for domestic police, but there's the problem of all that expensive stuff just going to waste; another PR headache.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

A reason for very cautious optimism about asymptomatic spread of corona virus. Don't put away the mask yet.

Recent discussion, at World Health Organization, about the possibility that spread of corona virus could be rare form people who are asymptomatic is only a ray of possible optimism. I wouldn't recommend putting away the mask.

My first thought is that the anxiety level can go down a bit. If this was to be true, it could make it easier to prioritize who needs to be quarantined.

If spread from asymptomatic people is a serious threat, as has been thought all along, it's bad news given that there still isn't easy testing. We really need an app on the smartphone that can be administered each day to tell if one is infected.

The science is still evolving. To be on the safe side, I would still recommend distancing and wearing masks around people.

Personally, I would guess that obvious coughing and sneezing is more dangerous, to be around, than calm breathing. Things like singing, such as in choirs, still seems risky.

The World Health Organization is walking back some optimistic comments made by one of it's employees, but her comments still bring rays of optimism to my way of thinking.

I have excerpted this glimmer of hope from an article in Washington Post.

Some countries, using contact tracing to work backward from confirmed cases, have not found many instances of asymptomatic spread, WHO officials noted.

Yesterday, there was another article (I found on Facebook from another publication) saying that WHO says people who are asymptomatic are much less likely to spread the disease. I didn't re post right away, partially because I was headed to bed anyway.

This morning, I awake to more cautious news. Good idea to wait about re posting new findings given the fact checking.

Interesting to note that some conservatives used this news in support of opposition to wearing masks. News from the same WHO that Trump is withdrawing US funding for. Kind of an irony.

I would have never suggested putting away the mask, as it's good to be on the safe side.

On the other hand, if asymptomatic spread of the virus is rare, that's big news, given the reopening of the economy and people's level of anxiety. Would make it a lot easier to prioritize who needs to be quarantined. Especially good news given the lack of easy testing; such as testing from an app on one's smartphone that can be administered daily to see who is infected.

When I first heard that the malaria drug might be useful, it did give me a sense of hope, but I didn't run out and buy anything. Later, that drug seems to be proving not good against the virus, but the basic idea that we can find better treatments, someday, is hopeful.

There are better treatments being explored.

With evolving science, it's good to take a wait and see attitude.

I sometimes think in terms of layers. Layers of protection against dying from the virus. If asymptomatic people are less likely to spread the virus. That's good news as it's another layer of protection to add to the other layers we have; like social distancing and masks. It isn't certain, but it might be another layer.

I think of social distancing and masks as being layers of protection. The more layers we have available, the better.

Better testing and better treatments are layers of protection also. A vaccine is an ultimate layer of protection.

At some point, we will be able to shuck layers of protection, but even if we get a vaccine, it might be like the flue vaccine and not be a perfect protection.

Someday, we might be able to go dancing again in crowded spaces with no masks. Meanwhile, the more layers of protection, that are reasonable, the better. That is without being too paranoid or going overboard.

I would suggest wearing masks, but eventually we may get enough layers, in society, that protect us more invisibly; like vaccines and the herd immunity that they bring. The ability to better prioritize who to worry about; like people obviously coughing might help. Generous sick leave policies would help. Layers of protection.

I still don't worry a lot about just walking past someone briefly even if I don't happen to have my mask on. I sometimes do hold my breath for a few seconds.

For shopping, I don't have to hoard groceries. I just go when the stores are not crowded and I don't have to stay that long if I'm not hoarding groceries. I wear my mask when inside stores and other public spaces.

Disband the police? Isn't that what Mitch McConnell wants to have happen? Let local government go bankrupt?

Disband the police? We do need public safety of some sort. In Minneapolis, they are talking about "disbanding the police as we know it." Coming up with a "reinvented" safety system. The concept of Restorative Justice has some useful things to say about reform of incarceration at least.

Remember, it wasn't that long ago that conservatives; like Senator Mitch McConnell, were talking about not helping municipal governments. Just letting state and local government go bankrupt; police and all.

I also remember conservatives saying, "end Medicare as we know it." Easier said than done. Without the local police, it could be worse if the military comes in to fill the vacuum. Worse if private militias and gangs gain more influence.

On the other hand, there are many good ideas for reform. Here in Bellingham, WA. there has been a lot of talk about something called "Restorative Justice." I'm not sure how that effects police work, but it has a lot to say about alternatives to incarceration. Personally, I have had no problem with the police. I hear that police, in this area, are quite nice compared to some other areas, but I would guess not everyone has a rosy opinion about the local police.

My gentile lifestyle has had no problem with the police. I am kind of an eccentric. In many ways, I don't fit mainstream society, but the police have not been a problem.

Some folks would accuse me of speaking from a position of privilege being white. I do have my perspective and I can't pretend to have another perspective tho my perspective does evolve with time.

Remember, there is also the privilege of being male. Attitudes about public safety could be different between men and women given the higher vulnerability of women.

In recent years, I've tended to become fairly trusting of people. Not worrying that much about who's hiding in the bushes; so to speak. Then there is the question of labor unions. The news is saying that one of the biggest obstacles, to the cause of police reform, are police unions.

The prospect of reforming society is exciting. Reforming all of society beyond just the police. Creating a more equitable society. Hopefully we can navigate these dreams, with the potential pitfalls, okay.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Protest crowds could be spreading the virus. Killing the most vulnerable. Are people wearing masks and practicing safe distancing?

With all the protests that are happening now, I worry about the virus spreading due to the gatherings. A lot of lives could be lost because of this; ironically loosing the ability to breath due to a respiratory virus.

Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor, but are people maintaining safe distancing, wearing masks and so forth?

As for anger behind the protests, it does bring up the issue of income inequality. Many sociologists seem to say that income inequality is one of the main risk factors for social instability not to mention deaths from the virus.

I'm normally not a fan of anger and I do think other tools can be used to address these problems, but the problems are real and need to be addressed.

Anger does tend to hurt the people close by as the people with more power are usually better insulated and protected from the outbreak of that anger. Protected by geography, what neighborhood one lives in. Protected by elaborate security measures.

Monday, June 01, 2020

On the scale of altruism to self interest. Motivation for things like wearing masks to bicycling to the naked bike ride

On NPR Science Friday news roundup, I heard some news about a new kind of mask, being tested, which could reduce people's chances of catching the virus. One has a chemical treatment in the cloth. the other has an electric field. Things just being tested in the lab.

Before this, I heard that the cloth masks, we have now, can reduce the chance of catching the virus to some extent. People have been saying that the mask is mostly to prevent you from passing the virus to others, but there is some evidence that it might help the wearer of the mask to a small extent. I heard that through the grapevine at least, but need to look it up I guess.

I got to thinking that this would be good news as we humans are often more motivated by self interest than altruism. If the mask protects the wearer, it becomes a more popular practice.

Yes there are some great examples of altruism, but self interest is also a powerful motivator. If the two can converge, that's a good thing.

Seems to me that a combination of altruism and self interest should be a motivator for bicycling. There are the environmental benefits and there are also the health benefits.

One needs altruism to be motivated by environmental benefits as one person's actions are only a tiny drop in the large bucket. There's no feedback loop of reward. One person riding a bike is not going to save the planet until millions more do the same thing. No feedback of reward from just one person's actions.

On the other hand, with self interest, there is a feedback loop that one individual can control. The health benefits of bicycling.

Personally, much of the motivation behind my general lifestyle is self interest rather than altruism. I would like to think I was altruistic, but my self interest is pretty strong. For instance my own anxiety situation means I have a self interest in avoiding stressful situations. That has kept me from driving at highway speeds in traffic. Its kept me out of the big time corporate materialistic lifestyle. I've avoided climbing the corporate ladder partially to avoid the stress along the way. There can be other joys in life besides that.

I'm less into speed than most people. That's, in part, from self interest. Pleasure is a motivator. Slow down and enjoy the scenery. I think about those kind of motivations related to the naked bike ride as well. Why nudity? What does that have to do with the environment? There is the pleasure. Pleasure could be used as an advertisement for fitness. I try and connect lots of dots.

Over the weekend, there was a Love Temple erotic thing I tried out online. Related to the Radical Faeries. I wasn't totally nude on the webcam, but partially. As folks were dancing, I was also dancing, or at least moving around doing exercises like sit ups and so forth. It added some color, so to speak, to the experience of what they used to call calisthenics. Full body workout. That used to be thought of, in PE class, as a dreaded chore; not a joy. Why not find a way to make it a joy?

I would guess the amount of time available is a big factor in the functioning of the police

The killing of George Floyd could be among the worse cases of police brutality in the US during recent times. Due to the time it took for that to happen, it's especially inexcusable. According to the news, over 8 minutes. One would think the police officer would have known what was happening.

It would be easier to understand a misplaced shooting as those situations can unfold over a matter of seconds. Choices that have to be made quickly are often not the right choices, but somewhat understandable in dangerous situations where there isn't time to better figure out the situation.

Time makes a difference.