Saturday, September 11, 2021

To a question about how one thinks the pandemic would have been different if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, my answer was

The worldwide pandemic would have still happened. We would have been severely impacted, but our government's response would have been a lot better organized and less chaotic.

Hillary Clinton would have gotten lots of the blame for the pandemic happening under her watch, but the blame would be misplaced.

The US death rate would have been lower with a better coordinated federal response, but it would still be a high death rate; just not quite as bad.

Republican led states would have still had higher per capita death rates than Democratic led states as a lot of the outcome would be, as it is now, dependent on local and state situations.

There would have been less civil unrest without Trump fomenting hatred from the presidential pulpit.

Still, the pendulum of dissatisfied voters might have put Trump, or some other Republican, into the Whitehouse in 2020.

I often think we've met the enemy and the enemy is us, but one can also say that leadership does have consequences. It's just that people tend to focus only on leadership, but the picture is a lot bigger than that.

One thing behind vaccine and mask resistance might be a subconscious embrace of death's inevitability

I often wonder if much of the polarization over how to deal with the pandemic has to do with different tolerances for risk.

Some people place staying alive as their number 1 priority while others have a different mix of priorities. This mix could be subconscious; beneath the other layers of opinion.

Death is still an inevitable outcome of being alive. Some people might think, if it isn't the virus, it's going to be something else, eventually, that ends one's life.

I got to thinking that there are some people who claim the number of deaths, from the virus, has been exaggerated. Some of these people even ascribe conspiracy theories about the numbers saying that doctors are paid more if they report death from the virus on the death certificate.

I don't buy the conspiracy theories, but I do think that death is often attributable to multiple causes. Before the Delta Variant, it was true that a lot of the people who died tended to have, what are called "comorbidity factors." Factors such as old age and / or poor health.

Now, with Delta, that's less true, but past thinking hangs on. Delta is more apt to kill just from the virus alone.

In our culture, we try and prevent as well as avoid death. This avoidance can cast a shadow over living our lives causing people to shy away from somewhat risky, but maybe fulfilling experiences. One example being the motorcycle rally at Sturgis, South Dakota. The fair in Lynden or even the crowds at Downtown Sounds, in Bellingham, can be other examples.

How willing are people to risk loosing life in order to live life? Some people do drive over the speed limit; for instance. Lots of folks are into extreme sports and risky adventure.

One can wonder how tragic it really is when someone dies, or whether it's just nature taking it's course?

These are thoughts that most people try to push out of their minds, but this reality could lie behind some of the differing ways that we think and behave.

Good point from the comments I got when I posted this on Facebook.

There are two risk factors here. First, to one's own life (as you describe). It's one thing to engage in behaviors that only affect one's self (although there are often emotional impacts to others). Second, there's the risk to other people's health and lives. Engaging in behaviors that involuntarily put other people are risk is unethical. So many people seem to be focused on what they want, but they don't take responsibility for the greater good of other people's health.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

If countries, like Russia, worry about declining population, they need to have human rights so people want to move there.

While the world as a whole is still struggling with population growth and climate change, some countries, like Russia, are worried about their population declining. Who wants to live there? Meanwhile, here in USA, we seem to have more than enough people wanting to immigrate here.

I got to thinking, if there was ever a worldwide shortage of people, democracies that respect human rights would be at an advantage. There always seems to be enough, if not more than enough, people wanting to move to USA, Canada, Australia and some western European countries.

If there was ever a worldwide shortage of people, countries would have to compete to attract folks who want to live there. It might encourage countries to become more democratic.

There's the phrase, "vote with your feet."

Ironically, countries that respect LGBTQ rights (the rights of people less apt to reproduce) might see their populations increase as folks flee the more bigoted countries. The more democratic countries could be bouyed by growth of their internal markets, workforces and talent as those are the countries people want to move to.

Remember, Einsien was an immigrant.

USA seems to have no problem attracting people, but it is trying to limit immigration. Growth does bring growing pains. While we seem to respect human rights more than a lot of other countries, we have our problems accomidating growth. Rising housing costs, water shortages, nimby neighbors, traffic. One problem is, we are still too dependent on the space gobbling automobile. Acres of free parking may have to go.

Monday, September 06, 2021

Things may not get better than summer of 2021 for a while

I have a funny feeling that this summer (2021) may be about as good as it gets in terms of life getting back to "normal" from the virus. Last summer (2020) was a lot more spartan, in terms of things being closed.

This summer has been more open, especially outdoor events; like dancing in Elizabeth Park. With the variants coming along, I hate to say it, but this summer could be the "new normal" for a long time.

We could be limping along for quite some time. More people getting the vaccine would help, in this country at least, but there would still not be enough vaccines to go around worldwide. Variants can still get started in places like India.

I still wonder if people, who don't believe the vaccine is the main answer, have any alternative answer. Sure, there are a lot of alternative ideas, but it seems like nothing short of worldwide vaccination will get us beyond the limping that we have had this summer.

There are probably too many of us on this planet anyway, but I still like being alive, myself. It seems kind of callus to think we need a die off, but in the long term, it might be good for human evolution.

A dieoff would have to be worse than the death toll from the virus, of course; like a few billion people.

A world with only, say, 3.5 billion people would be around half who's alive today, but it's still a lot of people. 3.5 billion could pick up and even flourish in not that long, historically speaking.

They would likely flourish, in quality of life, better than us; especially if they learned a few lessons. Our future generations would flourish, if the die off didn't traumatize the human race so much that it brought everything down with the people who died in the die off.

I often say, we need more birth control because that's a lot better than a human die off. We don't have to have a die off.

Technology and less consumptive living can fix this (climate change) even with our current 7.5 billion. It might be a stretch, but still possible; especially if we don't go much beyond 7.5 billion.

On that note, a Meteorology Association study came out about killer storms. Yes they are worse than before; 5 times as frequent as they were in 1970, but the death toll is lower. Storms, droughts and so forth, may be worse, but our technologies for protecting people are improving. We have better building standards, evacuation plans and so forth.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Conspiracy theory, the ultimate in blame politics.

I tend to think we have found the enemy and the enemy is us. I often blame people and culture, rather than government and corporations, for our problems.

I know that both things are true. Totally blaming people is one perspective at one extreme of a spectrum. At the other end of that spectrum would be conspiracy theory; like thinking the vaccine is a plot by Bill Gates to control the world.

I think many of our problems are a vicious cycle between people and institutions that can enhance bad behavior. Corporations respond to people's choices, in mass, as those choices create the market. On the other hand, corporations enhance this through advertising and other means.

Some people think climate change is caused by something called HARP; a set of microwave antennas in Alaska used for research. Supposedly the government is using it, along with con trails from jet planes, to control the climate. Also our minds.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Slippery slope against our liberties might have been worse during the draft years than today. Maybe less to worry about now.

People worry about liberties being taken away; such as during emergencies. The pandemic, climate change, wildfires, even a hurricane. Sometimes people need to give up a bit of liberty for safety. This can be a worrisome slippery slope, but it's needed at times.

Back in the 1960s, there was the military draft. We were at war, the Vietnam War. Men turning 18 years of age were subject to being drafted into the military, whether they liked it or not. Alternatives were seeking exemptions that could be hard to get, fleeing to Canada or going to prison. My older brother had to face those choices before he did finally get conscientious objector status.

I would guess that, compared to those days, the slippery slope, we seem to always be on, is not as bad today. Not as bad as it was back then; at least here in USA. I know, that's a matter of opinion, of course.

It's good to be questioning and somewhat vigilant, but people forget, we had a draft back then. Just getting a shot offered for free to prevent serious illness seems mild by comparison. I do realize some other people have different perspectives than mine. They might think the shot is a form of technological mind control.

The draft was a big deal back then. We had "subliminal advertising" back then as well; speaking of mind control. Television was pretty new. New technology was scary back then also.

Look what the automobile has done to society. Worry about the slippery slope is not new.

As for the fate of democracy worldwide, in Mainland China and so forth, that's another story.

Here in USA life goes on. We need to find that balance to keep society functioning while not turning into a tyranny. A balance between the extremes. Extremes that could cause us to loose it.

In Afghanistan, seems like the choices were to pull out or face reality of a war without end

Back at the start of the Afghanistan War, I remember editorials in the media saying that terrorism is a crime and that war is not the best strategy to use against crime. They would say that calling it a "war on terror" was a bad idea. Law enforcement would be a better strategy.

The concept of a war on terror won out, however and the war began. A war that was supposed to have a victory, but turns out it was probably the wrong strategy all along. In the beginning, it was a very popular war. Both Republicans and Democrats thought it was necessary, but a few did question it.

Now that we have pulled our troops out of Afghanistan, quite a few Republicans are saying we should have kept a permanent military presence there. Now they are saying this, but during the war, they were still viewing it as a war with a potential end. Trump did want to pull out and started this recent messy process that's continued during Biden's watch. Our troops are now out.

Even before Trump, Republicans were not pushing the idea of an indefinent involvement. Unlike in the western European nations that joined NATO, a perminant presence was not welcome in the Islamic world.

Now that we are out, Republicans, from Mitt Romney to others, seem to be saying a permanent presence should have been the plan. It's like facing the fact that the war was a non ending strategy, costs and all.

I am more in favor of not having the war, but I realize that the situation is "damned if you do, damned if you don't."

Hopefully a new "over the horizon" strategy that Biden has been talking about can work better for protecting our safety. As for the people remaining in Afghanistan, continued efforts to encourage human rights and hope that the new Taliban will not be as bad as before might be a better strategy than war; war which we are now facing really didn't have a viable end.

Can the consumption / production cycle run fast enough to justify rising property values?

Property values, stocks and the long term store of wealth has been rising fast. This pushes up things like rent and the cost of first time home purchases.

To pay these costs, the economy must run at a faster and faster pace creating goods and services so people can earn enough at jobs to pay these costs.

To justify the expectation of accumulated wealth, ongoing production and consumption has to keep up. The vehicle used to do this is jobs.

Too much consumption can be detrimental to both the environment and the human spirit burdened by all this clutter and speed. We will probably have to keep creating new money, out of thin air; like happened during the pandemic, to keep up this sense of accumulated wealth.

The economy is expected to support the wealth of the extremely wealthy, the retirement expectations of the average person, the perceived value of property purchased and the expectations that people place on government ranging from public safety to infrastructure.

If we could find a way to allow for a slower economy without becoming behind in the rent; so to speak, it would be easier to reduce the carbon footprint.

Progress could still be made in science and new technologies that could bring greener wealth, but a lot of what we are doing now, just to keep up with the rents and the bills, is pure waste.

Much of that waste is related to excess property value being pushed ahead by low, low interest rates.

Low interest money pushes up values and it also means that people don't use regular banks to save wealth. With interest rates so low, people invest in property and stocks as the means to "park" their wealth.

The regular economy of consumption and production has trouble keeping up with all this stored wealth. This was especially evident during the pandemic, but it's also a problem related to climate change.

I think the perception of wealth is now having to be subsidized more and more with the creation of new money out of thin air. Our old justification for wealth; which has been the production / consumption cycle; isn't able to keep up.

This is also true as more people are retired and more apt to be living off wealth versus their own economic production.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

It isn't good lifestyle, immune system OR the vaccine. It's good lifestyle, immune system AND the vaccine.

Some people think they don't want the vaccine cause they have a good diet, lifestyle and immune system.

I think it's good to have those things AND have the vaccine. The vaccine is the most important part of that whole strategy.

There are a lot of people that are suspicious of the medical profession. This could be one of the byproducts of income inequality. The cost of healthcare and insurance premiums is difficult. There is a big pay gap between high end professionals and ordinary people. Some pay gap is fine, but it has gone to an extreme. The vaccine is free, however; here in USA.

I think the wealth gap problem contributes to lots of people to even disputing the findings of medical science. I tend not to go there. I still buy most of the narrative that comes from science. I don't shoot myself in the foot. For instance, I believe the vaccine is good.

I think there is a difference between disputing the science and the economic issues of income inequality. Extreme income inequality fuels lots of distrust in society.

I think this inequality can be dealt with in better ways, such as raising taxes on wealthy people and/or providing better support for lower income people such as subsidized health insurance and housing.

Back in my late 20s, I was too poor to afford health insurance and it wasn't provided by my job. I remember worrying some, but I also thought I had something better; my health.

Back then, I got to thinking that the whole medical industrial establishment does create disease by causing people to work to death to climb the corporate, or government employment ladder for insurance. I was healthier than they were. I felt that I had beat the system, but my argument was more economic than questioning the science.

In later years, I had insurance from the job, but much of the time it was not that comprehensive. High deductible.

In recent years, society has tried to fix the insurance problem with subsidized insurance. Obamacare, for instance. Now I have a real good Medicare Advantage plan.

In the past, I thought my bicycle was the best health plan around. True, but if regular medicine is offered at an affordable rate, it is sometimes needed. For instance, the vaccine is free, here in USA.

My main beef with the professional / healthcare establishment is more economic, but I do still like the doctors I have had. One of my doctor's favorite phrases was, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away."

Sometimes, the best road to health is free time and less worry about money, status and stress.

I'm not really into alternative medicine that much. Not into supplements and so forth. It can be seen as just another racket. Those dealers charge money also. There is a lot of sneaky sales pitches out there; even at places like organic grocery stores.

Having said that, it is true that science, itself, is a learning process. Sometimes better evidence renders today's science obsolete. Science isn't a dogma that you either buy or not. I think there is a variety of opinions on complex subjects, but I usually tend to follow what is thought of as mainstream science. It seems the best way to get the job done till better ideas come along. Nothing is perfect. It's always an evolving and learning story, but I tend to accept things that are beyond my own expertise. Like the old phrase, "it's beyond my pay grade."

I still think it's a good idea to rely, for the most part, on evidence based medical science when needed. Even most of my regular doctors, over the years, have said that lifestyle is the best medicine we got, for the most part.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The pressure of maintaining wealth

The economy has to run pretty fast to keep up with rising property values. Otherwise people can't pay their rising rents and first time homebuyers can't get into a home.

It means "keep running on those treadmills selling more goods and services." Keep buying and discarding to create jobs, otherwise folks can't make enough to live on. It's jobs, jobs, jobs.

We need to find a better way to maintain people's sense of wealth without having to revv up the consumption economy all the more.

It seems like the consumption economy is what we use to justify the wealth. If the economy slows down to where rents can't be paid, property values eventually drop and stored wealth declines. Now it seems like the stored wealth has gotten so high that the consumption economy can't keep up.

During the pandemic, when a lot of consumption had to slow down in places like restaurants, bars and airlines. New money was basically created out of thin air to support the Cares Act of 2020. 3 trillion dollars worth.

This helped to prop up incomes so rents could still be paid and businesses could still make their lease payments even while they had to close. It helped to keep wealth intact. Otherwise, unused business space and unpaid rent would probably have led to a collapse in property values; something owners fear. This ment that even lots of fiscally conservative Republicans got on board for this relief act.

Keeping up the burden of high rents and property values does require a lot of economic activity; like people having to work overtime just to make ends meet. Resaurants and stores have to sell more. Jobs have to pay more.

There is an old phrase that goes, "don't let the grass grow under your feet." Problem is, having to keep up with an ever growing economy of consumption can lead to increases in carbon emissions which then leads to climate change. It can also lead to burnout of the human spirit.

Other ways need to be found to prop up society's sense of wealth. Home values, stock values, retirement plans, the public infrastructure and the fortunes of the very wealthy may need to be propped up in a different way. This is where some sources of free money might have to be a perminant part of the solution; subsidizing expensive things like housing, healthcare and the public infrastructure. We seem to be trending in that direction.

Certain experiments, like a basic minimum income, are being talked about more and tried in some places.

Slowing down the consumption economy, so that it doesn't have to be so wateful, is a quick way to reduce fossil fuel emissions. This doesn't necessarily mean going back to a form of the dark ages, however. New technologies, such as solar energy, offer promise for continued prosperity. It just takes time for these new technologies to develop.

In the meantime, we should figure out how to take our collective foot off the economic accellerator, so to speak. This would give us and the planet more breathing room as we wait for new technologies to be implemented. It takes time for these technologies to develop. It takes time to turn a ship around.

People could benefit from things not measured in consumption; like more free time.

One strategy that could cause some slowing and displacement in the economy is implementing a carbon tax. This would slow down the fossil fuel based economy, but it could boost the green economy.

More people could put up with these changes if they had more wiggle room in their personal budgets. Budgets less burdened by the high costs of rent and / or trying to buy that first home.

Friday, August 06, 2021

Who's to blame for the variants, or beyond blame, what's the best strategy?

Dr. Fauci is worrying about variants of the virus that could emerge that are even worse than Delta. Future variants where even the vaccines, we now have, could be less effective. The vaccines are working good, now at least.

Some folks blame the risk of these new variants on vaccine reluctance in this country, but I think the problem is deeper than that. Chances are one of these variants would, most likely, arise in some other part of the world where the vaccine is less available. Basically, I think people, who are reluctant to get the vaccine, are shooting themselves in the foot since the vaccine is working well for now. The best argument for the vaccine is self interest for protecting one's self.

As for future variants that could arise, the bigger problem is still lack of vaccine availability worldwide. Chances are, a bad variant could arise in the US, but more likely, it would arise somewhere among the nearly 8 billion people worldwide. In some of those places, the problem of lack of vaccine supply is still larger than vaccine reluctance.

Vaccine reluctance moves to first place as a problem after supply becomes plentiful.

Worldwide distribution of vaccines is happening at a fast pace, but it still takes time to roll anything out to billions of people. Some conservatives, in USA, are now using this worldwide threat as an excuse to complain about immigration. I see immigration as only one small part of the bigger picture.

I heard someone, on a radio talk show, suggest that people arriving in US either legally, or illegally should be required to get vaccinated. Folks in US custody at the border could be required to be vaccinated unless there is a medical reason against it. If they refuse, deportation becomes more likely.

Travel is a factor, but in our modern world, we can't totally seal borders, stop air travel and so forth. Not without severe harm to our modern economy and ways of life. I hear that Canada will require proof of vaccination at the border when it reopens.

Bad variants of the virus may cause us to have to shut down parts of the economy again. There would be booster shots and tweaks of the vaccines to deal with that, but these remedies take time; probably not as long as development of the original vaccines, but still time.

I figure, "get vaccinated and enjoy life while you can," but who knows, for sure, what the future may bring. Trust that most of the scientists are trying to do the best they can given this changing situation.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Republicans may be more to blame for climate change than corporations

Ongoing drought, here in most of the west, keeps getting worse. Every once in a while, we have a moister year or two, then it's more dry years. Seems like more dry years than wet years as the years go on. Climate change is happening.

Some people accuse oil companies of conspiring to hide this problem. I would lay more blame on the Republican Party. Seems like the Republicans have been pretty much against measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A few moderate Republicans are concerned, but Republicans are far more against the needed changes than Democrats.

As for oil companies and other corporate interests, I am sure there has been much resistance. Some even scandalous resistance, but corporations are getting worried also. Some oil companies talk about transitioning to cleaner energy. Some of this talk is beyond just "greenwashing." The insurance industry is getting really worried; for instance.

Who wishes to insure coastal condo properties in Florida? Rising sea levels are happening, but before that problem becomes even more evident, other possibly unexpected leading edge problems mount. Infiltration of saltwater into limestone and groundwater with it's corrosive effects on building pilings.

Beyond conspiracy, there is another factor explaining how climate change is now catching up with us. There are twice as many people, on Earth, than there were during my college years. Even more importantly, much of the world has risen out of poverty during these recent decades. World energy consumption has gone up. Look at China, for instance.

What was a distant problem, that scientists have been talking about for decades, is now having more effect on today's short term practical needs; like "where is the water coming from to wash tonight's dishes?" It's happening now where I just saw news coverage about a spate of wells going dry in Oregon's Klamath Valley.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Some people are wary of vaccine technology, but they accept the automobile. How ironic.

I heard on the news that the number of people getting vaccinated has recently doubled in Alabama. Looks like a lot of folks are realizing it's a good idea to get vaccinated.

There are still those that don't trust the technology, but, ironically, most of those people still drive cars. That's a technology also. The government and mainstream society promotes driving. It's taken for granted. Thousands die each year in car accidents. The vaccine is much much safer than that.

Going without the vaccine is very dangerous. More dangerous than even driving.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Modern Monetary Theory kind of enshrines what we have been already doing for decades; running huge deficits; the economy remains intact.

The federal government is coming up to the debt ceiling again. I've often thought the debt ceiling should be scrapped since it's never adhered to anyway.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) kind of says that the debt is less of a problem than often perceived.

MMT kind of enshrines what we have been doing for decades. Running large deficits over the years and the economy continues to function. Maybe we don't need to worry about deficits if our past is any indication of how things work. The economy remains intact.

I remember when some people said that George Bush JR. was "spending like a drunken sailor." Tax cuts while starting two wars. The war in Afghanistan and the second Iraq War.

Now there is more pushback saying that if we have run these huge deficits for years with what seems to be little consequence, we can continue and even ramp it up a bit. We can better tend to our domestic needs.

There are consequences, but the economy, as a whole, has survived. One of the consequences of relying more and more on new money from the Fed to finance the government is inflation.

For many years, we have seen pretty high inflation in asset prices; such as home values. Deficit spending may be what has been propping up these values. If it wasn't for this high level of spending, the economy would likely fall into deep recession eventually pulling down asset prices.

Now there is more pressure for other things, such as the wages of lower income workers, to catch up so people can still afford things like housing and healthcare. This has an effect at causing price increases for things people take for granted; such as the cost of a hamburger at the local drive in.

Much of this whole situation is created by the strong anti tax sentiment in this country. People tend to not like taxes. Meanwhile most people take a lot of services that government provides for granted.

Public safety is a service mostly provided by government. There is a phrase that was pushed last summer, by some folks on the left, called "defund the police." I haven't been a fan of that phrase as I don't, personally, have an axe to grind against the police, but it does point out that police are expensive.

It's almost like we are a nation of spoiled brats. The kind of society we expect to live in, with public safety and so forth, doesn't happen without some cost.

The same can be said about the military. Maybe we have spent too much on these things, but it seems like those who always want to cut taxes are the same folks who advocate for these things; thus the deficits.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

As statues topple, I focus less on that debate and more on how far social norms have evolved since slavery was the norm

Here is one thought I have about the push to remove statues of historic figures, such as Thomas Jefferson, since he owned slaves.

Society has evolved a long ways since owning slaves was the norm. In some ways, it has improved significantly from early 1800s to legalized gay marriage.

Figuring out how to remember our past, when social norms were so different, is a challenge. It is still important, tho, to remember and realize that humans are capable of not only great deeds, but also great horrors depending on the context we find ourselves in.

We have progressed in many ways, but we still have similar faults that lead to things like creating conditions leading to homelessness, cliquishness, stranger danger fear, mob mentality, false accusations and mean spiritedness.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The flow of goods and services can no longer pay the "rent" to maintain high asset values

I got to thinking that the flow of goods and services is one thing while the accumulation of wealth is another.

There is a lot of accumulated wealth in this society. Property values, retirement savings, stocks, public buildings, infrastructure and so forth. On the other hand, there is the flow of goods and services. Things that are consumed.

Seems like a high flow of goods and services is needed to prop up or "justify" the wealth. The flow is needed, basically, to pay the rent and the taxes; so to speak. It's needed to keep a flow of first time homebuyers in the market.

Keeping up the flow of goods and services is like running on an ever faster treadmill as the value of the wealth, to be maintained, ramps up. If the treadmill slows, the bottom eventually falls out of the wealth market. People become "upside down" in their homes if they owe more on the mortgage than the house can be sold for in the present market. Businesses can loose the lease on their space, get behind on their taxes and so forth.

During the pandemic, much of the rent and the value of wealth was maintained by the coronavirus relief bills. This was a way to maintain people's perception of wealth without having to rely, as much, on the flow of goods and services since that flow had to be curtailed by the shutdowns. Wealth propped up by the central bank (in USA the Federal Reserve) creating money.

As anti tax sentimant continues, the Fed seems to be increasingly the way government is financed. This is how services that people rely on; such as the military, public safety and Medicare are maintained. This tries to keep the economy stimulated enough to pay people's mounting fixed costs.

Enter something called "Modern Monetary Theory;" a school of economics that (in short) downplays worry about increasing the federal debt. That's a whole field of discussion, in itself, but I just touch on it here.

As the future unfolds, there may be more and more maintaining of wealth without relying on commerce to do so. This would tend to mean high federal debts that seem to matter less and less.

As for the flow of goods and services, there is usually enough. Yes, some people go hungry, but, especially in this country (USA), over consumption is more the problem.

The virus forced a slowdown in consumption. As climate change keeps becoming more evident, it may necessitate slowing down the consumption / production cycle as one way to reduce greenhouse gas emission.

Slowing down consumption works, but most people prefer technology fixes such as job creation through green technology. In the long run, green technology is the answer, but it doesn't happen overnight.

People don't like the idea of their wealth being lost so wealth may continue to be propped up by other means besides commerce. Propped up by things like rent subsidies, unemployment and government spending; for instance.

I still think future prosperity is possible through green technology, but there is also the concept of "enough." Consumption of goods and services should not always have to be increasing to pay the "rent" that maintains the perception of wealth. That would be the definition of a rat race. It's not only threatening the environment, but the rat race is also pushing humans to their breaking points, having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Quality of life should always be the true bottom line.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

I'm interviewed by Lynnette Allen on a wide range of topics. June 2021

Interview in several small segments all here. At first we tested the sound a bit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Walmart tests out all automated checkout. Is there a better use for human beings than being tethered to the cash register?

First being tried at Fayetteville, AR. A Walmart with all automated checkout.

Interesting to note, according to this article, Store Manager Carl Morris, says the new layout seems to be having a positive effect on the employees and their customer service. Now out from behind a cash register, they are less focused on speed and more focused on each customers’ needs.

“We will go to any register, and we will help you in any fashion you want, whether it’s checking out one item or all the items. Any questions you have, we’re right there for you,” Morris said.

Interesting. Employees freed from being as tethered to the machine. The customer is more tethered instead?

I've noticed, at automated checkouts, that one employee now has responsibility for several checkout lanes. In some ways, they are even busier and their focus is scattered across more lanes. Not necessarily a more human, less production line experience.

As for the customer, each store has a different type of automated kiosk. Customers, including myself, are pretty clumsy and stumbling so checkout is slower. Clerks are more expert at checkout than the customers, themselves. Also, since automated checkout is not standardized across various retail outlets, customers stumble through the learning curve for each store.

Still, I think this is a wave of the future. I hear that eventually, the market basket will tally items as the customer puts items in the basket. Maybe an easier experience.

Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang talked about basic income as things, like artificial intelligence, take away lots of routine work. Are there more interesting things that people can do?

Are there other goals in life besides speed and efficiency? People often choose the shortest, quickest line for checkout. I often use other criteria, like how attractive is the clerk. Some of the clerks, I know, so there might be other reasons for conversation; like; Tim's working today, I'll go through his line.

Some people boycott Walmart, but my main reason for not shopping there is the automobile sprawl around Walmart. Me, being a bicyclist and pedestrian; I usually just avoid the whole part of town that Walmart is in.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Home value inflation begets other inflation

There is quite a bit of talk, especially among people on the political right, that inflation is coming back.

Guess what. Inflation has been rampant for many years. At least 3 significant items, that are considered important in people's lives, have been going way up in cost during recent years. The cost of housing, the cost of healthcare and the cost of a college education.

Now some of the rest of society is trying to catch up with these costs. For instance raising the minimum wage so workers, in places like supermarkets and restaurants, can afford rent. Government spending has been increasing also; for instance subsidizing the cost of healthcare with Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare.

In my opinion, attempts to create a more fair society does have the side effect of spreading inflation across wider sectors of the economy. Prices, such as found at the supermarket, have been dirt cheap for many years relative to these other things. Society has become used to low prices, at places like Walmart, on the backs of an army of low wage workers.

Technology and globalization has brought down the costs for many goods and services that we have become accustom to. We just can't "have it all." In some ways, we, as consumers, have become spoiled.

In many cases, business gets the blame, but quite a bit of business does operate on a thin margin.

In small businesses, the owner sometimes makes less than low wage employees after bills are paid.

In the case of large corporations, there may be a handful of overpaid executives, but the bulk of the budget pie still goes to the cost of the goods on supermarket shelves and a large army of low wage workers.

Many economists will say that inflation is caused by the Federal Reserve creating too much money. More money chasing the same number of goods and services. They also will say that there is too much government spending. Government pumping this new money into the economy. There is an element of truth here, but the problem is that it isn't easy to turn off the spigot. Turning off the spigot is painful and creates a situation where lots of people can no longer afford things like housing, healthcare and college.

Turning off the spigot also pulls the "punchbowl" away from vast industries; for instance healthcare. It creates painful situations where landlords and homeowners become "upside down" in their mortgages.

Speaking of the printing of money, it seems like government spending needs to be propped up by the Federal Reserve. Idealistically, government revenue would come from taxes, but taxes are never popular. Republicans are pretty much all anti tax to the point of even talking about a "no new taxes" infrastructure bill.

Democrats are not enthusiastic about taxes either. Taxes are a nonstarter on the campaign trail. There is also the fear that taxation will "slow down" the economy and job creation.

It's like no one wants to say it, but consumers and voters are kind of spoiled.

We can change our culture and look more at the big picture, beyond our own self interests, but that takes a new way of thinking.

It's like we can't get beyond blaming government, corporations, "the bad guys," "the welfare moms," or whatever for these problems. What we really need is a cultural evolution.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

The vaccines are a game changer.

Vaccines have been a game changer as society seems to be opening up fast. As things open up, being unvaccinated is now more risky.

Too bad there are still lots of people who aren't able to be vaccinated for medical reasons. In cases where folks have compromised immune systems, the vaccines are less effective.

The rest of society isn't waiting for these people. I still do wear a mask in stores as some stores require them while others don't. I would guess Bellingham Food Coop might be one of the last mask holdouts.

I still see more masks than not in stores I go to. One is usually only in a store for a few minutes; so it isn't real hard to wear a mask.

Much of the last year, I've either been in my apartment or outside so I haven't had to wear a mask all day. When I was working, I was in the building alone.

Now I am starting to go back to indoor restaurants. Masks are not worn while eating, but still in transition while away from one's table.

In the last few days, it seems like more masks are coming off in restaurants; even for the staff.

People with compromised immune systems are likely at risk, but that's a subsegment of the population. Too bad, but it may be inevitable. Life moves on. Could be like being thrown under the bus.

Speaking of the bus, I often bring up the accepted risk of car accidents. Around 35,000 people die, each year, in car accidents yet our transportation system still relies on cars. The bus is a lot safer.

The Strong Towns feed, that I follow, has posted quite a bit about designing streets for lower speeds. That would save many lives. We design our streets for too much speed and then rely on law enforcement to cool the speed. Then people complain about the police. In an ideal society, street design would slow traffic down naturally.

I've also read that the death toll goes down in larger cities. This is because traffic has to be slower when there is more congestion. On the wide open road, death tolls go up per trip.

Apparently, during the pandemic, there was less traffic, but what traffic there was went faster and the death rate, per trip, went up. One good thing about congested, slow moving traffic is safety.

I got to thinking that since I-5 is so often slowed to just a crawl in the Seattle area, it might as well be surface streets. Surface streets are friendlier to adjoining neighborhoods; like in Vancouver, BC where the freeways don't carve through the center of the city.

Another headline, I saw, in Strong Towns, says that the future of the electric car is not the Tesla, but the golf cart. I'll want to read that article. I notice a lot of electric bikes on the roads and trails. Kind of like the golf cart, I guess.

Bellingham City Council recently had a meeting to discuss speed limits on the trails. 15 mph works fine for me.

Some of the electrics go quite a bit faster. It's easier to regulate speed than to try and decipher whether an electric vehicle qualifies as a bike. What about electric wheelchairs?

I haven't heard the outcome of that meeting, yet, but just saw some headlines in the Herald.

I guess, if people grumble about slower roads, I can always say, "we have the airplane." There is even a new supersonic plane being developed that can get across USA in 3 hours.

The military is working on a way to deliver cargo anywhere in the world by dropping it from a space rocket. Delivery time in 1 hour.

My ideas beyond just masks to weighing safety, I guess.

Yes, it is good to see things open up remembering that with cars, society has accepted death as a part of life anyway. It's always like the preverbal tight rope walk. How much risk is acceptable versus living life?

Friday, June 04, 2021

Looking back on one of my career goals and why it didn't happen.

From 1972 KHQ Spokane radio TV brochure.

I look back on a career I thought I might have when I was in high school. Broadcast journalism? Radio interested me more than television, but this 1972 brochure from a Radio / TV station I admired shows more TV than radio. TV more colorful.

That career never happened the way I had envisioned it. My nervous conditions and unusual personality was a factor. While having my aspirations, I also worried that I might freak out, flunk out of school or flunk out of college. That didn't happen either.

The industry, I thought I might go into, has it's problems also. On radio and also television, most of the creative programing comes from the top down. It's fed from the national networks. That was true in my high school days and still today; to some extent.

My high school self would have had no idea what the term "social media" met.

It didn't quite work out the way people envisioned, back then, but I have expressed many thoughts, mostly on social media. I made my living in a fairly peaceful way as a custodian.

My life, during my working years, might have been a middle ground between failure and fame. Modest, but I would like to say still worthy. It does kind of make sense, to me, how it turned out.

On a trip from Pullman, where I grew up, to Spokane, I wanted to tour some of the radio studios. My dad took me to a few. KREM, KJRB; also KHQ.

At the wonderful world of KHQ, a staff person playing tour guide ask me what specialty I wanted in broadcasting. Sales, news, cameraman (back in the pre feminist days).

I hadn't decided so I was stumbling for an answer. My dad tried to fill the void by saying, "he wants to be president of the company."

The person giving the tour was taken aback. He said, "well, you really can't start there." I was a bit embarrassed. I basically just was interested in an overview tour.

See also How my career plans got changed and I ended up in Bellingham.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Broader based inflation may be the price of a more equitable economy.

For a long time there has been a disconnect between things like the cost of housing (in so many metro areas where people want to live) and other parts of the economy.

It's not just low wages for essential workers, it's also bargain prices for a large number of consumer goods and services that people have taken for granted.

There has also been a disconnect between the wages for high end professionals and other workers.

A round of wage increases and public assistance has been due. As the cost of wage increases gets passed on through the system, inflation will likely become broader across a wider range of consumer prices.

Yes, a little inflation, or maybe even more than a little, but consumers can't expect to "have it all."

I've often thought that maybe the problem is that the cost of living, such as housing costs, is too high, rather than wages being too low. I guess that would mean the need for a crash in things like the housing market and homeowners becoming "upside down" in their homes; like in 2008. A difficult situation in it's own way.

Maybe it's always easier to bring wages and prices up, rather than trying to drive things down. Hopefully the goal is less income disparity, not just between the 1% and the rest, but within the rest as well.

As for the owners of business, some business does operate on a thin margin. Great accumulation of wealth is sometimes still needed as its the capital that is the business. It can be the buildings, equipment, patents and so forth. If it wasn't there, the business might not be there.

In other cases, wealth is truely wasted. How many vacation mansions does one need?

Beyond just the very top, I think upper middle class needs to be part of the solution as well. Upper middle class creates much of the market and by voting, the political climate that shapes business. Why do we remain dependent on cars and sprawl? Market and political forces play a role.

For everyone, here comes some higher prices to benefit one's neighbors who work at places like restaurants.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Businesses create low wage jobs because they too (these businesses) are also operating on a thin margin

Quite a few people are saying that they aren't that enthused about going back to low paid jobs; like they had before the pandemic. Expectations have been ratcheted up another notch by generous corona virus relief packages.

On the other hand, a lot of employers have said that they operate on a thin margin. For instance, supermarkets with discount prices and a thin overhead. Miss matches of the economy.

At the same time, there are huge windfall profits that have been made. Not necessarily at those same supermarkets and businesses that pay the wages, however.

Yesterday, I heard about someone who's house had appreciated 3 fold in value since they bought around a decade ago. They were planning to sell and move to a less expensive area reaping a huge capital gain.

I heard they have family in that less expensive area, so it's not like they are moving to total social isolation though they are moving to Kansas.🤣 After buying a house in Kansas, they will have lots of money leftover.

Washington State's capital gains tax may have missed the mark

Here in Washington State, the legislature has just passed a new capital gains tax, but from what I hear, it exempts homeowners. Maybe it comes from a "stick it to business" mindset taxing capital gains on stock transactions, but exempting windfall profits from homes. I think we need to include windfall profits from selling homes also.

Somehow, we need to figure out how to better balance the economy for people in lower wage jobs. In a lot of cases, even the businesses these people work in are not raking in huge profits.

The wealthy are not necessarily the owners of those particular businesses.

To some extent, raising wages will raise the price of doing business in so many businesses that are on a thin margin. This means higher prices for consumers.

It's like we keep meeting the enemy and the enemy is ourselves. In so many cases, the consumer market is the ultimate employer.

Upper middle class people, eating in restaurants, will now have to "be the change they want to see in this world" if they want a more fair and equitable world.

As the September 4th end date for some of these generous coronavirus unemployment benefits approaches, there will need to be lots of patience and adjusting as we try and accommodate our ever increasing expectations for fairness and equity in society.

We also need to figure out a better deal for many of the people who rent who have seen their rents skyrocket.

Washington State's new capital gains tax is facing a court challenge so it's days may be numbered. Though I am no expert, from what I understand, the new law is based on people's income. The tax applies only if one's income is above a certain threshold. This means filling out an income tax form to the state and Washington State constitution prohibits an income tax.

Personally, I am in favor of income taxes, but that would take more heavy lifting on the part of the legislature. This capital gains tax may be struck down in its present form.

A friend of mine suggested it should have been more like a sales tax on capital gains transactions, rather than based on a person's income. Easier to do legally. Also should include homes.

Based on transactions, it could still set a threshold of high end transactions so as to exempt lower value transactions. That could fix the current legal challenge.

My friend suggested that we also need to raise property taxes on high end residential properties. There are lots of multi million dollar mansions in this state.

Similar tax ideas could be applied nationally.

I may be a bit over my head in discussing taxes, but these ideas seem to make sense to me.

I've probably lost the audience to slumber already anyway.🤣

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Liberal, open minded religion provides a good foundation for accepting our ever changing understanding of science

I got to thinking that liberal religion provides a good foundation to accepting science. By "liberal," I mean the accepting that our understanding of truths can evolve. The realization that each of our understandings of truth isn't necessarily cast in stone.

Science provides a pretty good approximation of truth that works enough to get us through the day. It's practical. It provides our technologies, modern medicine and so forth. At the same time, these ideas are subject to revision and improvement.

Liberal religion is okay with an evolving understanding. Okay with change that can come from learning.

Religion isn't necessary for science, but I think a willingness to learn and change is pretty much necessary for science.

Religion, while not necessary, still provides hope for things that science has not yet provided convincing evidence for.

A sense of life being more than just a short trip to a dead end. A sense of meaning and purpose in the universe. The idea that something one thinks of as "good" will ultimately prevail.

There is also a lot of community connection that some people get from religion as well.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Biden talks about the successful Northeast Amtrak corridor. I compare it to California.

Biden's speech for the 50th anniversary of Amtrak said some amazing things about the Northeast rail corridor.

Interesting part of the speech, for me, starts at 16 minutes in and goes to about 19 minutes. Just 3 minutes of amazing numbers. Between New York and Washington, DC, Amtrak carries 4 times as many passengers as all the airlines along the east coast. Amazing.

One wonders if these numbers stand up to fact checking, but, so far, I haven't heard it disputed.

If those Amtrak passengers had to go by car, 7 new lanes would have to be added to I-95.

Yes, rail works in the Northeast Corridor. It goes pretty fast, but isn't considered "high speed rail" by certain international standards. Still, it's pretty good.

Biden said that there are only 3 curves, along that route, which could be removed to bring this already existing line closer to high speed.

I got to thinking they already have a good right of way through a densely populated corridor. That's why rail works so good there. The dream of fast trains, in California, is more the brunt of jokes.

High speed going through California's Central Valley, between San Francisco and Los Angeles is too already built up with sprawl for a new dedicated corridor. Too many crossings and so forth. Prime farmland. Sprawling cities, like Fresno. That's a problem with California's proposed high speed line between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Another fast train idea might work better for California, however.

Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Nevada. That is now being talked about for high speed rail. Much of that corridor is sparsely populated desert with the two large passenger generation points at both ends. Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

I think the dream of a nationwide high speed network is beyond our means, but we can benefit from rail improvements.

When I use Amtrak, I'm on vacation so speed isn't the only criteria.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

I'm relived that the verdict is guilty in this case.

I'm relieved that the Chauvin verdict is guilty. Partially because of the prospect of civil unrest if the verdict wasn't guilty. As for the actual crime, I wasn't there to judge the facts, but seems like, from what I can gather in this specific case, guilty is the proper verdict.

Monday, April 19, 2021

My ideal person is more than one person

Someone ask in a group on Facebook about what your version of an ideal partner would be. My answer was:

My ideal man is more than one man. I find different things in different people. A friendly chat with a young slim guy in a gym shower can feed my fantasies. Other people can be like old friends with a lot of shared times and history. Different people share different interests. I like having a wide variety of people available in community. At the same time, I do like living by myself. Not in isolation, but in close proximity to others who like to participate in various public things. Walking groups, dinner gatherings, political causes, dancing and being on Facebook.

To some extent, society as a whole criminalizes poverty. Police are more a scapegoat.

Police reform isn't necessarily a bad idea, but I do tend to think a lot of the anger against police is misplaced anger against things like gentrification, income inequality, poverty and so forth.

Also I notice (my own hunch at least) some parts of life are less funky, in a way, than in years past. Cities are trying to "clean up the city." When I was a child, we wandered around town with less worry and supervision. Bad things happened, but there was less worry and awareness of it.

Now society demands a higher level of safety. Seatbelts, for instance. Drunk driving laws more enforced. Often for good reason, but not everyone fits those molds easily.

The police are like at the knife edge of a blade cutting through. They get the blame as they are often the bringers of the bad news in efforts to keep the town more tidy.

One of the problems that we have is that poverty is criminalized. There are laws against sleeping in an RV on city streets, for instance.

Some of these laws are now not being enforced, which is good. Looking back, the laws were problematic. Now, with the virus and the Boise court ruling on homelessness, things may be changing for the better.

We could accept RVs, tiny homes and even, in some cases tents, as a legitimate form of low income housing by admitting to the fact that other housing is in short supply.

We could work with the situation as it is to improve things with various technologies. The smartphone is already used as contact. People can have PO boxes. Composting toilets can help in RVs, there can be trash pickup. Some areas can have reasonable fees for things like trash pickup and water.

Admit that we are a bit like a third world country. Try and make the best of the reality of these situations, rather than criminalizing then.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The police do make some mistakes, but they get too much blame for society's problems.

I'll admit I may be writing from a position of white privilege, but I do feel that so much media focus on deadly mistakes made by police usually leaves out some deeper issues. These mistakes are bound to happen in tense situations.

Conservatives will say that the violent crime rate is higher in black neighborhoods. Maybe better to say in poor neighborhoods. Discussing underlying causes of these problems is valuable.

I only have my own opinions, but I think about things like restrictive "single family" zoning and it's contribution to the high cost of housing.

Segregation is often an unintended consequence of things, in society, that are designed to protect people's wealth and peace of mind. In the past, there was a history of more overt racism behind lots of urban planning decisions, but now many traditions, rooted in the past, continue without the overt stated racism.

I've seen some articles about this. The racial roots of some zoning rules that have been cleansed of their original, 1950s, language, but still are enforce.

I would think that over dependence on the automobile contributes to problems. The way freeways have carved up cities.

There is the problem of traffic stops in the first place. A fear of what's lurking inside vehicles. Who's behind the tinted glass? Do they have a gun? Were they reckless drivers? Are they on drugs? Automobiles, in the hands of the general public, can be very dangerous. I think about the problem of "stranger danger." How wary ordinary people are of folks they don't know. A lot of people fear using public transit for that reason, but is public transit really as dangerous, or unpleasant, as folks perceive?

I think maybe we should all be more accepting of strangers.

There is a lot of suspicion, out there, created by a climate of fear. Media can enhance fear as it often highlights the one in a million type fluke events and crimes when the overall statistics might say that common activities; like driving a car, are more dangerous. More dangerous than, say riding a bus with unknown passengers.

Scared to ride the bus? Picture of haunted Whatcom Transit bus, Halloween 2010.

When people get to know each other, fear usually diminishes. Problem is that in most situations, there isn't time to develop a rapport with people we encounter.

A group of menacing looking teenagers might be fine, if one gets to know them more. Even just some brief conversation. Most situations don't allow that, however. People will walk across the street instead. I'll admit I'd walk across the street also.

I'm a bit shy on first contact with people, but, if the opportunity is there, I am pretty open to meeting new people. I don't worry too much about privacy or being out there in public. Still, I avoid things out of fear as well.

Some folks are very insular and stay in their small world of friends. That's a common part of human nature. Other folks are more open to mingling with the public, with the diversity that the public mix brings.

Maybe we do need to be more tolerant and not allow as many things to annoy us. Sometimes, though, people can be annoying and even outright dangerous. There are times when one has to call a spade a spade. I would think that the police aren't usually going out there arresting people without cause.

The police have to deal with things all the time. People and situations that other folks, including myself, tend to avoid. Part of the problem is the way our society tends to isolate people from one another. It's kind of a natural cliquishness. I think a lot of the problems, related to the police, are more the symptoms of human tendencies. Things that would cause everyone to have to rethink their own tendencies.

As for stranger danger, here is a funny thought I often have walking on the sidewalk. When I see some young people heading my direction on skateboards, my first thought is often, "they are cute." My second thought is to jump out of the way.

Fortunately, I am still quite agile so jumping out of the way works. Also, even if I didn't jump, they can almost always swerve around me anyway. They are kind of fun to watch.

My point being to try and have a different mindset than fear, or anger is often a good strategy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

If international competitiveness of corporations is compromised paying whole bill for infrastructure, maybe a gas tax and or carbon tax could help.

Looks like all Democrats may not support Biden's raising of corporate taxes / infrastructure bill. With Republicans probably against it, just one no vote from a Democrat would kill the bill.

I got to thinking, maybe they should spread the tax over a wider base of revenue sources. Raise corporate tax slightly less, but add a gas tax. Also a tax on high income individuals. Small taxes in all these areas.

Basically a gas tax is a carbon tax. Yes, a true carbon tax covers all carbon fuels, but gasoline is one of the worst. We already have a gas tax. The federal gas tax hasn't been raised in years so it could go up a bit. A new tax, such as a carbon tax, might be harder to pass.

Just raise the gas tax a few pennies. 2 or 3 cents a gallon? These kind of taxes can be regressive so proposed carbon taxes have included complex systems for rebating money to low income people. Often the proposals fail due, in part, to complexity of measures to try and mitigate the impact on low income and essential workers.

Maybe just a small tax is the answer. Keep it simple.

Just a few pennies wouldn't stop climate change, but it's better than nothing. Keeping it low is a simple way to address the regressive nature of such a tax.

Over time, it could be raised. Anti tax people don't like the idea of a tax raising over time. They see it as the camel putting his nose under the tent and then ratcheting it up.

If global warming is as serious as some scientists think, a tax that ratchets up might be the least of our problems.

One problem with any tax change is how hard it is to get anything through the Senate. If we can get enough Senators on board and use the reconciliation tool against filibuster, we might be able to raise modest taxes. If this were the case, the taxes wouldn't have to be the be all and end all solution.

Easier passage through the Senate would allow things to be adjusted on an ongoing basis. This could include taxes as well as infrastructure improvements and strategies for dealing with climate change. It wouldn't have to be the one do or die one big time solution.

We really need to take care of these things as we go along.

As for a tax on wealthy individuals, that could direct a corporation's capital to better uses. Corporations sometimes use much of their money to pad the incomes of their top executives / stockholders. Other times, they invest it in things, like new buildings or scientific research, to improve their products and services.

If the corporation is using it's money to improve it's product and service, that's not necessarily bad, but if the money is mostly going to personal income of the folks on top, it should be more taxed.

Maybe it's easier to sort that out as a personal income / wealth, or even / inheritance tax than as a business / corporate income tax.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Outer space is a different kind of a frontier than the American West. It's more about learning than expansionism in the foreseeable future.

YouTube has a lot of videos from the History Channel.

Last night, I watched part of one about the westward expansion of America. Ever since I can remember, I've thought that one of America's biggest problems is loss of the frontier. By mid 20th Century, our expansionist culture had pretty well run up against environmental constraints.

Outer space is a different kind of a frontier. It's more of a technical and learning frontier. Not one where millions of will head out west in covered wagons. It's not the same as the Oregon Trail or the California Gold Rush.

It's more of a spectator experience for average people, except for the relatively few scientists on teams, such as the folks working with the Mars Rovers. For the rest of us, it can be a great learning experience and the technology is useful, back here on earth.

Last night, I turned off the frontier show about halfway through fearing it would give me nightmares. The brutality of life on the frontier was depicted graphically. A woman screaming while giving birth in a wagon train. A man in pain as they were sewing up wounds from a grizzly bear attack. He did survive, but about then I turned it off fearing the night ahead.

Interesting that the video did drop in a segment with Donald Trump talking about the American spirit of perseverance. While Trump didn't have the physically hard life of the frontier, there is something about his style that has resonated with that spirit.

Today we continue needing to redefine culture somehow. We've made it to the west coast long ago.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Single, child free lives of voluntary simplicity. An overlooked strategy to combat global warming.

Biking along Old Samish Highway.

For the past few decades, possibly over half of the American people have been struggling economically. Just renting an apartment, buying one's first home and raising a family has become more difficult due to income inequality.

I haven't been struggling as much, mostly because I have not wanted to raise a family. Have not sought many of the things other people have aspired to.

One would think lives, like mine, could be more of a role model for living in today's economy, but, to a large extent, they have seemed to be ignored.

The percent of American people who remain single has increased, but I seldom see this described as a solution to our economic problems. Less population growth, less consumption, simpler living, but it isn't discussed that way.

Given environmental constraints, it could lead to a better world for everyone; including for those who still wish to raise a family and create future generations.

There is no point in future generations, if there is no future.

I still think the future could be bright, however.

On thinking, I just reminded myself why simple, childfree lifestyles aren't a big part of national goals. We need a consuming public to keep the economy flourishing. Consumer spending drives much of today's economy.

These days, we are now trying to prop up consumer spending with printed money, tax rebates and so forth.

Even with what I think of as a smaller footprint than most people, I have had a good quality of life. Technological advances, such as the smartphone, have enrichened lives even without everyone having to be a millionaire themselves.

On the other hand just owning a home and raising a family, in a place like Seattle Metro Area, just about requires being a millionaire these days.

Things like the bicycle, rather than driving a car, have brought a different kind of experience for me than most people have. Maybe less mobility; like zipping off to Seattle for the weekend, but it's helped my health. It's also allowed me to appreciate things that other people just rush by; like Old Samish Road.

In my life, I have been more cautious than most of other people. I've held onto the same jobs, rather than trying to advance. Some people have done well by advancing in their careers, but I know a lot of people who have fallen back as they've tried to advance. They've gotten a new job and then been in over their heads, or they have had a bad boss at the new job and gotten fired. In some cases, they have become homeless.

I've played it very safe, but I haven't advanced career wise. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but few people seem to offer "non advancement" as vocational advise. Few people seem to aspire to the kind of life I live.

It's true that if everyone was like me, there wouldn't be the Facebooks and the smartphones, but everyone isn't alike anyway. I enjoy using the Facebooks and smartphones, but everyone doesn't have to be a star in Silicon Valley to have those things in our world. It only takes a small percent of the population to be like Thomas Edison. He had a creative mind and he was also a very shrewd businessperson.

I remember my second grade teacher saying, "if everyone daydreamed like me, we would still be in the dark ages." I guess a good answer would be, "if no one daydreamed, we would still be in the dark ages."

It takes more than one kind of person to make up the world.

Seems like my lifestyle has worked, but it's been kind of a well kept secret as far as mainstream culture is concerned.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

I wonder if Senator Manchion has an alternative to the corporate tax hike to pass the infrastructure bill?

To pass an infrastructure bill, Democrats may need to get all the Democrats in the Senate to vote yes using reconciliation with Kamela Harris's tie breaking vote.

Even just 1 Democrat, like Senator Manchion, who has reservations about the corporate tax hike, could kill the bill. I wonder if Manchion has any alternative proposal?

The corporate tax hike is still milder than what corporations were paying before the Trump tax cut. It wouldn't go all the way back up to what that tax rate was before; just part way back up.

America's economy did survive even that higher corporate tax hike. Jeff Bezos, of Amazon, has said he supports the corporate tax hike. Apparently it wouldn't be the death nail to Amazon.

Since the Trump corporate tax cut, there hasn't been a big improvement in manufacturing moving back to USA as far as I can gather. Our trade deficit is still pretty high.

There is a gradual move of manufacturing back to USA, not as much related to taxes, but to technology. 3D printing is relocalizing a lot of manufacturing, from what I hear.

Personally, I still suggest an individual tax hike as an alternative to taxing corporations which just pass the cost along to individuals anyway, but we can survive a mild corporation tax that isn't even as high as before.

We do need to do something.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Taxing corporations might be a way to make it look like your not taxing anyone

People want good infrastructure, but not the taxes to pay for it.

Senator Manchin has a concern that our corporate tax rate needs to remain competitive with other industrialized countries, such as Canada and European nations, so our products remain competitive on world markets.

I'd add that most of those countries have low corporate tax rates, but higher individual tax rates. We can't have it all. If corporate tax rates stay low, I think individual tax rates will need to go up.

Corporations usually pass the cost of their taxes along to consumers so high corporate tax rates could make our products more expensive on world markets. At the same time, we do need good infrastructure so someone does need to pay.

Couldn't we do as I think other countries do and raise the taxes on wealthy individuals? In the end, it's people who get the money. A corporation is mostly just a vehicle that passes money to individuals eventually.

It's like we are a bunch of spoiled kids who want to always pass the taxes on to someone else. A corporation is a target as it's not a person (in spite of laws making it an artificial person). In the end, the corporation just passes everything along and it's people anyway. Why not just tax the people; especially the rich and probably also upper middle class?

It's kind of like we are trying to hide from this reality all the time. If we want good infrastructure, it does need to be paid for. We can print the money, of course. That might actually work; for a while at least.

People seem to always want to "have their cakes and eat them to;" as the old phrase goes.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Maybe there was less divorce in the past when expectations were lower and people just persevered through marriage?

I know that there are people who have been happily in a relationship for many years, but it seems like most romantic relationships are full of turmoil and / or short lived.

It doesn't seem worth it to me.

My own parents seemed to get along well. Among my brothers and sisters, there are two who have been (I assume happily) married for life. The rest of the 5 of us have remained single. We all still get along okay. I grew up in a 1960s household. I'm the youngest of 5 kids born between 1938 and 1954.

During my childhood I remember, from conversations, having the impression that we were a dysfunctional family. After growing up and seeing the conflicts and problems in other people's upbringing, it seems like every family is dysfunctional. Ours wasn't too bad compared to the others.

I remember that there seemed to always be a simmering bit of conflict in the family. This was thought of as being dysfunctional as it was never resolved. Most of the time, things were good, but there were conflicts that would come up and there would usually not be much resolution.

As I think about things, it seems like this is almost unavoidable. Life is never totally ideal and people just persevered. Persevering, like that, was probably more common decades ago.

These days, it seems like there are higher expectations that usually end up being unfulfilled anyway. Our tolerance for just persevering is diminished.

At the same time, it seems like that tolerance is one of the things that kept families together, back then and it created the space for the many good things that we (my family) had and still have.

Maybe the big problem is not the water. Why do voters have to wait so long in line?

About the law in Georgia banning even distribution of water to voter's waiting in line, the big problem is, I guess, the line itself. Something is wrong when people have to wait hours in line to vote.

Here is Washington State, we have mail in ballots. That's the best way to go, in my opinion. Even when we had polling places, I never remember having to wait more than 20 minutes at most.

Maybe there have been budget cuts in states where they still have to hire workers for polling places?

My mom used to work in a polling place and there was a law that prevented people from discussing, or having campaign material in the polling place. Maybe there is worry that political talk will seep in with the water? Talk while the water is being handed over?

I can sort of see this worry in the polling place, but how far out the door and down the street does it apply?

The big problem is, there shouldn't have to be a line out the door and down the street.

Remember Northern Tier Pipeline? If it had been built, maybe now it would be working in reverse?

Some people say it's stupid to oppose an oil pipeline since an alternative is to send the oil by train or truck. Pipelines are said to be much safer.

I think the problem is overall consumption of oil. Not that the pipeline is worse than rail or truck.

Seems like a lot of issues are shaped by legal maneuvering. When a pipeline goes through environmental review process, the laws talk about leaks. Not as much the big picture of a pipeline's role in enabling oil consumption. A pipeline can bring down the cost of oil and gasoline which really, isn't a good thing. Yes, people are still dependent on inexpensive oil.

For a trip down Memory Lane, old time Washingtonians will remember the "Northern Tier Pipeline." It was a proposal to build a pipeline across the northern tier of states to ship oil from Alaska to consumers back east. Back toward Chicago and points beyond.

Oil from Alaska has been coming to our local refineries since construction of the Alaska Pipeline back in the 1970s (80s?). It comes by pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to a port in Valdez, Alaska. Then by tanker ships to Northwest Washington refineries, here in Whatcom and Skagit Counties.

Northern Tier was to send some of that oil back east to more markets.

Well, it looks like we used up much of the Prudhoe Bay Oil anyway. Oil is now coming west, instead of east. Some of it is now coming from North Dakota to Washington State by train.

If Northern Tier had been built, maybe it would be working in reverse? The oil flowing west, instead of east? The pipeline wasn't built so it's going by rail.

Alaskan oil is starting to run out, except for maybe more in the ground at Anwar Wilderness Preserve.

Since the 1990s, higher prices and new technology have ramped up oil production in North Dakota. Oil from the Bakken Shale. Some of our oil is now coming from the east. North Dakota has produced oil before, but the Bakken Shale Fields has significantly ramped up North Dakotan production in the 2000s.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Legalizing recreational marijuana, in Washington State, created a new multi million dollar private sector industry. Meanwhile government is good a providing needed services, such as the public library.

On the radio, I often hear conservatives say that government doesn't create any wealth since it doesn't create a product. This may be an old version of economic thinking where wealth is seen as material things.

These days, a lot of wealth is services and knowledge. Government does provide a lot of needed services such as, for instance, police and fire protection. Other services, like city parks, libraries, schools, roads, airports and so forth are of value. They are usually provided by government.

In quite a few cases, private companies might do a better job providing services than government bureaucracies. Big corporations can be very bureaucratic also, however. Still using private companies as vendors for services is often a good idea. Private companies can often innovate and do a better, more efficient job that the government, but there still is the problem of the marketplace.

A lot of the valuable services that governments provide are not things that people are accustom to paying for. Public libraries, parks, schools police and so forth. It is conceivable that these things could be paid for by the private market, but it would be a rude awakening for many people. Toll roads, for instance.

It would take a while for people in this society to get used to that way of doing things.

Meanwhile we need to value the kinds of services that governments normally provide. Other things that are normally provided by private enterprise can continue.

One example of a product provided by private enterprise, here in the state of Washington, is marijuana. Since Washington State has legalized recreational marijuana, a new multi million dollar, taxable, private industry has been created.

Not that pot is necessarily a bad thing, but it's kind of ironic what works on the private market that steriotypical conservatives think of as about the only force creating value in our society.

My related Article in The Betty Pages.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Reducing greenhouse gases is a good, but doesn't create a tangible product or service so hard to pay for

One topic mentioned toward the end of Biden's March 25th 2021 press conference was the thousands of wells leaking methane. Something I wasn't that aware of. Methane, a greenhouse gas. He talked about creating lots of good jobs capping the wells. Similar to the good jobs created drilling the wells.

One problem is that drilling the wells creates a product, oil or gas, whereas capping the wells doesn't. Capping the wells reduces global warming, but there is no product to pay the bill.

Here is one of the places where a carbon tax could be used.

The normal economics for creating a good or service doesn't always work for doing something that's needed in the big picture. The big picture being protecting the climate.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Shaping the infrastructure bill

They are talking about a big infrastructure bill. Paying for it is the hard part. Maybe they should just print the money? Eventually, there might be bad consequences to that.

Raising taxes is not easy to do. Gas taxes pay for a lot of the infrastructure since a big chunk of it is transportation.

I've often thought that the idea of a carbon tax could be combined with the idea of infrastructure. Have the carbon tax go to infrastructure as one of the big needs is making the infrastructure more green.

A carbon tax would hit gasoline heavily, but it would also hit electric power, heating, manufacturing and so forth that uses fossil fuels. It would create an advantage for non fossil fuel sources for these things.

Still a hard sell as these kind of taxes tend to be regressive. They hit consumers, but of course it's consumers that are consuming.

Taxing the rich is kind of a way around this, but it does seem like an argument against taxing the rich still holds sway with a lot of Americans. Too many people still feel that taxing the rich puts a drag on the economy and kills jobs.

It's like they kind of have us over the barrel on that.

I've often liked the idea of carbon taxes, but in the world of transportation, an opposite need is growing. Cars that don't use fossil fuels, such as electric cars, still use the roads. Eventually, they need to pay for their use of the roads also.

This wouldn't be a carbon tax if their electricity comes from non fossil fuel sources. It would have to be something like a per mile tax and also a weight tax for wear and tear on the roads.

Then there is the thought about all the space cars take up in a city. Parking, highway lanes and so forth. Promoting public transit, walking, bicycling and density is better, in my opinion, than sprawl.

This could be figured into the infrastructure bill also.

So many contradicting demands. It isn't an easy thing to do. Like so many things, it starts with how Americans wish to live and build our towns, cities and countryside. Everyone has different ideas.

Maybe there will be consensus evolving that leads us to a different future, but seems also likely to just bog down, as usual. I hope we can at least evolve somewhat. Take some steps.

Better support for organizations, like Planned Parenthood, can reduce number of children at the border.

Surge might be too strong a word, but immigration is a worldwide issue. It can be overwhelming to politicians, like Biden, who try to be accommodating. Large numbers of children seeking asylum at the border.

I keep saying that population growth remains a problem in quite a few countries. It has slowed down in many countries, but remains high in a few; including, from what I understand, some of the small countries of Central America where much of the surge of children at the US border seeking asylum is coming from.

Conditions in those countries is a big problem and the Biden Administration is trying to address that. Reduce the violence and prejudice in those countries.

Better support for organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Biden has lifted the gag order called "Mexico City Policy" against Planned Parenthood Family Planning that Republican presidents impose. The Republican answer seems to be just "build a wall" and send children back to gang infested countries to be killed that way; rather than the possibility of abortian. Very ironic.

This isn't just a US problem. It's a worldwide problem. Europe is somewhat surrounded by countries in Africa and the Middle East that people are desperate to get out of. Climate change is a factor in this problem.

A lot of countries have larger population densities than the US. They might look at our open spaces with envy.

Other countries; like Japan and many European countries, have greater population densities than the US, but they accommodate their population densities better than countries in Central America and the Middle East that are wracked with violence.

In Europe and Japan, population density is better accomidated than in the US. The US devotes too much urban space to parking, freeways and single family residential zones. Immigration is putting pressure on US cities to accomidate more density.

The whole world is more and more interconnected. Getting to the root of the problems of violence, bigotry, drug cartels, oppression and over population is needed. The world needs to evolve. The whole world is being effected by the consequences of these long term issues.

Stimulus bill and possible inflation. Inflation seems to only be in pockets, these days, but policy makers should plan for surviving the pockets

The stimulus bill has just passed. Democrats in favor, Republicans against.

Good news except there are always unexpected consequences. It is adding to deficit spending, but these days, it seems like deficits are covered from creating new money. Interest rates have remained low for years. Big deficits are nothing new, they just tend to get even bigger as the years go by.

One potential problem is inflation. When money is tossed into an equation, it can lead to inflation. Often inflation benefits those with assets that go up in price; such as homes and stocks. Others; such as renters and folks who don't own assets can get left behind.

This stimulus bill attempts to address the needs of the folks who have been left behind in the past. It's a bit of a gamble. We'll see what happens.

If pockets of inflation pick up and people continue to be left behind, hopefully politicians, and the public, can understand what is happening and try to address those problems as they are attempting to do now.

Inflation, as a whole, tends to look, at least, like it remains low in spite of so many years of deficit spending and new money creation.

Problem is that there are certain pockets of inflation, such as (these days) housing, healthcare and education. These important pockets make life hard for a lot of workers.

Hopefully this problem can be understood and addressed.

WWU may be glad it got rid of it's football team. WSU in Pullman is struggling with huge football debt.

I would guess that people at Western Washington University are glad that they got rid of their football team; the Vikings.

In Pullman, the Washington State University football team; the Cougars, is now well over $100 million dollars in debt. WSU football is big time compared to what Football was at Western, however. The WSU team supposedly pays it's own way from ticket sales and TV revenue, but recent years have seen expenses increase faster than revenue.

To remain competitive with other Pac 12 teams, WSU has invested in improved facilities, a larger press box / skybox part of the stadium, top of the line coach's salaries and so forth.

This, said to be required to keep a winning team on the field. To keep TV networks interested and their revenue coming in. To keep the stadium filled with fans and their revenue coming in.

WSU Cougars, supposedly, have a "roadmap" back to paying off the debt and getting back to self sufficiency, but the bills keep mounting and more recently, the virus pretty much ended the 2020 football season.

I'm not sure who the debt is owed to. Banks? The rest of the university? The State?

I just just think Western people are lucky they don't have to worry about that.

I guess Western was never in the big leagues. It's football program was not a big revenue generator, but it did cost some money to maintain. Western eliminated it's football team when some budget cuts came down the pipe from the state.

Some people were horrified that the team was eliminated; like how can you get rid of all American Football? It was never a big deal at Western anyway.

People can still play football, informally.

Government spending may be a better way to boost the economy than low interest rates which tend to just create asset bubbles

Even though I am not totally into socialism, I have some leanings that way.

Seems like government spending, like the stimulus bill, is a better way to boost the economy than low interest rates. Low interest rates would favor private enterprise while government spending is government.

Seems like low interest rates mostly just push up existing asset values rather than create new wealth and jobs. Seems to shift savings away from banks and toward home values which, in turn, make people more protective of their neighborhoods. This can put a chill on new development.

I remember the 1960s when interest rates were higher. Modestly higher, at least. Maybe around 5% on money in a regular bank. Back then, people tended to use banks more to save money. I think retirement savings was more based on banks.

These days, a lot of savings is based, instead, on real estate investments. People use owning a home as their savings. Savings for retirement goes into real estate and / or the stock market.

One of the problems is that folks become very protective of their real estate investments. This makes it harder for communities to plan changes and growth as folks worry that changes will harm their investments.

Back in the 1960s, growth was easier to come by. Probably for several reasons. One reason was, of course, less worry about the environment, but also there was less worry about one's real estate investments.

There's less worry if money is invested in the bank as the bank is more distant and diversified in it's investments. Also, back in the 1960s, at least, bank investments were protected by FDIC as they still are today.

Not in earlier decades like the 1920s, but that's a different era. In the 1960s, money in the bank brought peace of mind. FDIC still backs bank investment today, but few people use banks for investment purposes anymore with interest rates so low.

Interest rates have been brought down since the 1980s to stimulate the economy and fight unemployment. Problem is, there might be better ways to stimulate the economy.

Seems like low interest rates are made possible by the Federal Reserve creating money. Creating liquidity.

I say that if they are creating this money anyway, might as well give it to the government to spend, rather than having low interest rates. The government is a consumer that props up the rest of the economy. It can be used to build needed infrastructure and so forth. Then bank interest rates can gradually be brought back up again without causing a deep recession. Real estate can become less important in people's portfolios and cities can, again, more easily adjust to growth if people become less concerned about loosing their property values.

We are kind of gridlocked the way it is now. As we adjust to a greener economy, we will need to see lots of changes. Windfarms in the neighborhood, for instance. Tiny home communities. Density, new power lines, the smart grid and so forth. In the 1960s, people seemed less afraid of change for several reasons.

I think low interest rates that have tended to shift investment strategies more toward real estate have made it harder for businesses and communities to make changes. Harder to accommodate the growth that's needed to keep up with population growth.

Yes, population growth should be slowed down, but people are too worried about change effecting the value of their real estate. This creates a collision course of fate.

Looking back over a year of the pandemic

A year ago, March 16, was my last day working night shift after almost 30 years. Night shift was okay, but it was time for a change. I had reached retirement age anyway.

The virus pushed that change a bit earlier as I was planning on retiring anyway later that year. Retiring, or going to more part time. Turns out I'm working part time now since the Y did a partial reopening.

I'm remembering the last time I was dancing on the high energy dancefloor of Rumors Cabaret. Went with a friend for about a year and a half before the virus hit.

My last dance was about a week and a half before the 16th. There was one more weekend of dancing, after that, but I didn't go. The worry about the virus was starting to cast it's pall. After the 16th, things closed.

I'm looking forward to a more normal summer given the vaccine. Maybe even crowded dancing again. Meanwhile there has been dancing on Zoom, but it isn't quite the same.

Part of the problem is that the music they play at the Fairie Zoom Dance isn't that familiar to me. There is something about the resonating of brain and body during familiar music.

I know, that resonation favors more commercial "old favorites." More familiar tunes from the past to the present create the resonation. Probably just from the tunes being familiar. New music often becomes that way after while.

I'm guilty of not finding the resonation in lesser known music, but how many people are reading my lesser known blog? It's the same thing, I guess.

I enjoy dancing outside, like in the park or at events such as the Pride Festival. Dancing with plenty of spacing, probably outdoors at first, would be good steps back to the "good old days" of before March 16 2020.

I used to go to another dance at Presence Studio which is also on Zoom these days. They also hope to bring back that in person experience as the pandemic diminishes.

Part of the reason why I haven't done their Zoom Dance is that it is at the same time as another event called the Lake Padden Walk. The Lake Padden Walk is in person. It's outside and safe. People wear masks.

Since the Wednesday Dinner Group has temporarily had to be suspended, a lot of the same people do the walk. People I have connection to. It's nice to still have had that, at least.

Eventually the Wednesday Dinners can come back, probably at outdoor restaurant seating at first. I couldn't do the Lake Padden Walk when I worked night shift since it's a morning event and I didn't get up. Since night shift ended, I was able to do the Padden Walks.

Changes keep happening. In some cases, things lost. In other cases, new opportunities; like being able to get up in the mornings and go to the Padden Walk.

I am hoping a lot more things can start up again with the vaccine. A lot of things starting outdoors at first, probably. When the dancing energy at Rumors can happen again, we will know we have arrived in a post pandemic era.

Camping in urban areas. A quick and partial solution to homelessness in Bellingham and other cities.

Large encampments of homeless people, in Bellingham, has been problematic, however smaller camps on vacant public land have remained unbothered.

The larger camps have drawn more confrontation. They have tended to concentrate the problems of drugs and anti social behavior from a segment of their inhabitants.

I think allowing people to camp is a good idea, but smaller non confrontational camps work much better. The larger camps like at City Hall or Laural Park are problematic. Quite a few of the smaller camps remain around parts of Bellingham.

Tents and RVs scattered around town are less of a problem. More being allowed these days, due to the pandemic, but will likely become a trend as home prices keep going up and population keeps growing.

Bellingham has set up quite a bit of indoor shelter space where 6 foot distancing can be maintained. For instance Base Camp in an old retail space that is currently not in use for retailing.

Still, a lot of people prefer not being in a large community space. Having one's own little space is valuable to a lot of people.

Fortunately, I've never been homeless, but I often camp when bicycle touring. Seems like, as the years go on, campgrounds are getting more crowded. Unless they have hike and bike sites, campgrounds are often booked full well in advance.

It's getting harder to find legitimate camping on spur of the moment, but when bike touring, one is less apt to predict, way in advance, where one will be at the end of the day. Wind direction can effect one's schedule on a bike tour. Hard to make reservations weeks in advance.

Quite a few cyclist, including myself, sometimes hide in the woods when official camp spots are not available. Some cyclists do it as a preferred means, rather than paying campground fees, but I usually tried to stay in campgrounds when I traveled. Seems like that's getting harder to do in crowded regions like the western part of Washington State. Campgrounds are also getting a lot more expensive.