Friday, December 31, 2021

Happiness. Low expectations can make satisfaction more attainable

There is a lot of talk about Nordic countries being the happiest places. Social services are good, but there is another side of the coin that makes it work. Reasonable expectations about life.

I've often thought that happiness is a function of two things. Expectations versus reality. If expectations are too high, folks can be disappointed. One can be happy with less.

I would guess this also allows people, like the Fins, to accept things like higher taxes, smaller homes and so forth so that their egalitarian society is more feasible. Here in USA, we seem to want it all.

Here is an interesting article from Slate. The Grim Secret of Nordic Happiness.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

New Years Eves past. The year 2000

Visual Y2K piece I did in 1999.

During my high school years, I'd follow the new year's progress across several time zones by picking up distant AM radio stations at night. Starting in the Central Time Zone and then the Mountain.

When New Year's came to the Pacific, our family would be gathered around the television to watch a replay of the ball dropping in Times Square.

Back then, folks looked forward to the distant year 2000 thinking it would really be a momentous event.

By the time 2000 arrived, most of the big celebrations were cancelled due to terrorism fears. A terrorist plot had just been unraveled. It was planning to bring bombs to the US via the Blackball Ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles.

Later it was found that the plot was destined to Los Angeles, but celebrations were cancelled all over, including in Seattle. I had plans to take the bus to Seattle anyway where my friend Rick Segreda was planning to usher in the New Year.

There was also worry about the Millennium Bug, known as Y2K. Computers all over the world had been programmed with a 2 digit clock that didn't take a new Millennium into account. There was worry about how this would effect banking and all of civilization.

Survivalists were building bunkers and hoarding food to ride out social chaos. Meanwhile institutions were spending lots of money upgrading their computer systems for a smooth transition.

I predicted that Y2K worry was mostly hype.

Someone sent me a news clipping, about this poor fellow, who had worked on an underground bunker for his mobile home. He had lots of fuel stockpiled. As he was doing the finishing touches on his bunker, he accidentally set the fuel tank on fire with his welding torch. He lived, but everything he owned was blown to bits. His self fulfilling prophecy came true.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, the area around the Space Needle, where a big celebration had been planned, was fenced off. The friends, I was with, drove down there to take a look. It was a strange sight.

The Space Needle, itself, looked ready for a new era as powerful spotlights shown up into the sky from the top of the needle. It looked futuristic. It was off in the distance behind cyclone fences and an abandoned Seattle Center.

Car headlights, in the city, looked futuristic as well. The beginnings of the use of bright blue, even purplish blue, headlights. Xeon lights were becoming trendy. Those headlights had a UFO look to me.

Eventually, we parked at Gas Works Park and watched fireworks set off from the Space Needle.

Just before midnight, clouds rolled in around the Space Needle obscuring most of the view. It looked kind of like sheet lightning. A few local fireworks, set off from cars in Gasworks Park, made people nervous with all the terrorism talk.

I was back to my radio for the first hour, or so, of the year 2000.

Listening to a talk show, on Seattle's KIRO Radio, with people grumbling about what a farce they thought the celebration was. Instead of a grand new beginning, it was this. Fireworks you couldn't really see because of the clouds.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Environmentalists need to go after consumers as much as they go after producers

The traditional left tends to attack producers versus consumers.

Warren wants to crack down on banks that invest in fossil fuel production. At the same time, I think something like a carbon tax or less incentives to drive and more incentives for public transit could work better.

I guess people, on the left, shouldn't grumble when gas prices go up since I hear that fuel production is slowed by the disinvestment in fossil fuel that has happened so far. Warren seems to want to ramp up this disinvestment more.

Hurray for higher fossil fuel prices, but this may not be that well understood by the consumer. One danger is return of Republicans to Congress in the next election from angry consumers.

We need to think in terms of the "big picture;" not just each of our selfish little pieces of it.

Some of these reforms, that she is proposing, might not be a bad idea, however. Transparency, so we can see where our financial institutions are still investing in fossil fuels. Yes, it's good to have eyes open.

Eventually this has to effect the consumer. It's naive to think the consumer can avoid consequences. This is where everyone, from consumers to big business to government needs to transition to more walking, bicycling, public transit, electric vehicles, smaller more efficient living spaces, better city planning and so forth.

Business needs to be pushed in this direction, of course. Just pulling some fossil fuel production cards out from under the delicate card house of American society is problematic. It's problematic if people don't see these things in context of the big picture. The big picture being everyone being less dependent of fossil fuels.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Pfizer's new pill for COVID 19 could be an important breakthrough as for some people, cure is an easier sell that prevention.

Pfizer's new pill, approved yesterday, that can significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization after coming down with COVID 19 could be a significant step toward reducing the pandemic.

Some people who are reluctant to do something, like a vaccine for prevention, might be more apt to seek a cure, if it's available, after catching the disease.

Prevention is often a harder sell.

Medical intervention for prevention can be analogous to the concept of a colonoscopy. When one is healthy, it can be a harder sell. Compared to a colonoscopy, it seems like the vaccination is easy. I had practically no side effects from the vaccine. Risk is low.

A colonoscopy is also low risk, but I didn't go for the colonoscopy until many years after I turned 50. It is more involved, with the prep to clean out the colon and so forth. The process is kind of a strange thought, though painless. Eventually I did the colonoscopy and it turned out okay.

There are some reasons why a colonoscopy may be unecessary. Other cancer screening technologies, for instance.

Seems like the vaccination is more of what they call a "no brainer." Benefits far outweigh the almost non existant downside.

At the same time, a surprising number of people are reluctant to take the vaccine. Due to that situation, an effective treatment for COVID seems like significant news for controling the pandemic.

I guess quite a few people are more apt to take action when actually faced with the disease. This, versus prevention when faced with the risk. Risk tends to be a concept that is more theoretical, I guess.

Elon Musk owes much of his success to government.

Interesting article from 2015 came up on my Facebook feed from LA Times. Yes, government has played a big role in the work of Elon Musk's enterprises.

In my opinion, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Often it does take a partnership of public and private enterprise to accomplish things.

Much of our public debate seems to be about which is better; private enterprise, or government. Often the two are intertwined for better, or for worse. It's much of the way our society functions. No one can fully take credit; like in the phrase, "it takes a village."

In Washington's 42nd Legislative District where I happen to live.

There has been quite a bit of national news about death rates from COVID 19 being higher among Republican leaning areas versus areas that vote Democrat. This due to lower vaccination rates among Republicans and other factors such as more resistance to mask wearing.

The spotlight of this news has come closer to home recently, here in Washington State's 42 Legislative district with the recent death of our state Senator, Republican Doug Erikson.

It isn't publically known whether Erikson was vaccinated, or not, but has been reported that he had Covid 19 during a trip to Elsalvador. He was medivacted to Florida where he was reported to be improving, but later reported to have passed away.

Wishing the best for him and his family.

I live in the 42nd district so he was my state Senator, even though I didn't vote for him.

Some people reading this wouldn't be familior with the 42nd District so here is a part of the story.

The city of Bellingham, where I live, is divided into two legislative districts; the 40th and the 42nd districts. The district line runs down certain city streets. Urban areas tend to be more liberal than rural areas.

40th district tends to go south from mid Bellingham while the 42nd district goes north. 42nd district includes rural northwest regions of Whatcom County.

Over the years, the 40th district usually sends Democrats to Olympia (our state capital) while the 42nd tends to vote more Republican. Erikson had held a state House of Represenatives seat from 1998 till 2010 when he ran for the state Senate and held that seat ever since.

Democrats have tried to elect a Democrat in that District, but Erikson was able to hold the seat. In 2018, the election was close, I think within a few hundred votes.

Next election will be in 2022.

Meanwhile, according to Washington State Constitution, the Republican Party is to pick a field of candidates to serve out the end of Erikson's term and the County Council chooses the final candidate from that field.

I'm remembering one year when it seemed like there was a huge difference between the 40th and the 42nd districts. That was the year when the top two candidates from the 40th district were from the Green Party and the Democratic Party.

Washington has a system where the top two candidates from the primary ballot go on to the general election. While the 42nd elected Republican Erikson, in the general, no Republican was in the general election from the 40th district. In the 40th district, the Democrat beat the Green Party Candidate that year.

I was living in the 40th district at that time.

In reality, the two districts have more in common than it looked that year, but races are often fairly close.

I've lived in both districts since the line bisects Bellingham. Not that I've moved real often, but I have moved across that line so I am currently in the 42nd district.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

US population still growing, but easing quite a bit. Slowest growth rate since founding of USA.

I just heard on PBS Newshour that the rate of population growth in USA has been the slowest since the founding of our country during a year long period that ended July 2021. The pandemic has led to several changes including an increased death rate. Not happy news.

Other less disturbing news has been a slow down in birth rates and a slow down of immigration. Some Republicans still say that the border is "out of control," but that contention doesn't seem consistent with the data. Depends on how one would define out of control.

In that period of time, overall US population still grew by 400,000, but that's a lower growth rate than other periods.

A 400,000 increase, across this big country with a current population of around 325 million, is a fairly small percentage growth rate. The population is still growing, but I would guess not at an alarming rate.

Toward the founding of USA, the overall population was lower, but the rate of growth, compared to existing population, was higher. That wasn't such good news for the Native Americans, indigenous peoples back then.

Maybe Build Back Better can still be modified and eventually pass in 2022?

Tighten up eligability for the child tax credit. Some of the higher income families may not need it as much. Lower the income ceiling for eligability?

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Child tax credit big stumbling block for Joe Manchin. Children are expensive. Being child free has some virtue.

From what I've heard, the biggest stumbling block preventing Joe Manchin from supporting Biden's Build Back Better plan is the child tax credit. It has a big price tag. Without that, it seems like Manchin could have supported the rest of the bill.

Yes, I guess children are expensive.

I'm for taking good care of children (who wouldn't be). At the same time, the cost of having children is something to think about. Fiscal conservatism may go against "family values."

I'm not a big fan of family values; especially the way conservatives push it. Ironically, it's usually conservatives who are fiscally conservative. This irony is something to think about.

In this overpopulated world, it's a good idea to think carefully before jumping into the act of having children. Ironically, we owe that to the children.

The most important gift we can give to future generations is a world that is not overburdened with too many children and not enough resources, be it fiscal resources or natural resources.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Healthy lifestyles are good, but evidence tested, scientifically based medicine is sometimes necessary.

As for low tech natural remedies, versus higher tech medicine, one of my favorite phrases (since childhood) is "an apple a day keeps the doctor away."

Still, I think technological medicine is needed at times. I'm not much for folk remedies; especially if they are also for sale.

As for a regular doctor, one of my regular doctors would often quote that phrase himself. He is an advocate of bicycling and healthy lifestyles, but he also uses technology when it's needed.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Metaverse. They say that the best defense is a good offense.

When Facebook announced Metaverse during the news about the whistleblower, I remembered this phrase; "the best defense is a good offence." A common strategy in business, politics and sports. Donald Trump used that strategy repeatedly. Sometimes called "doubling down."

My guess is, behind the scenes, Facebook may be working, some, to fix a few of those algorithm issues, but once someone goes on the defensive, publicly, like the Democratic Party often does, it's easier to get pushed around by the competition.

It's the game, it's business and its politics, unfortunately.

I think one of the big problems that drive algorithm design is the push to be on top.

Often a business is more responsible if it finds it's niche. When it knows it's limits, finds it's niche and serves that well.

There is pressure to go beyond. Pressure from having to pay the bills or just the ego of being top dog.

I do think that Facebook does some things very well. There can be a lot of good communication here that isn't as easy to find elsewhere. As with pretty much everything in society, oil companies or whatever, it's a mixed bag.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Elon Musk person of the year, a mixed bag

Time Magazine has chosen Elon Musk as person of the year for 2021.

Time's choice tends to be based on having a big impact, not necessarily virtue.

Musk is now richest person in the world and one thing I will say in his favor, he isn't just parking his money in a safe haven. He's investing it in things that could be transforming society. Electric cars, batteries and pushing private enterprise to space.

If it wasn't for government and NASA, however, private enterprise wouldn't be into space as much. NASA could still be Musk's most lucrative customer for putting payloads into space.

Yes, accomplishments like reusable rocket boosters are valuable for improving access to space with it's scientific and economic value.

I still wonder about the goal of colonizing Mars, however. At least in the foreseeable future.

Mars is still only 1/3rd the size of Earth. By comparison, it's a poor substitute.

In our solar system, for the time being, there's no place like home - Planet Earth, but science and discovery can help us preserve and live better on Earth.


Earth. By NASA/Apollo 17 crew; taken by either Harrison Schmitt or Ron Evans - (image link); see also, Public Domain,

Monday, December 06, 2021

I think that more than just the Reagan Revolution lead to wage stagnation, but that was a factor.

A pretty telling graph. About the time of the Reagan Revolution, wage growth, that had happened since WWII, stalled. I remember voting for Carter instead of Reagan in that election.

Still, I also remember thinking that part of the economic stall, that was starting at that time, had to do with environmental limits on middle class American consumption. That was the era of the energy crisis and other limits on land development, waste disposal, mining, logging and so forth.

Another factor is that world economic growth has continued in spite of the stall in USA wage growth. Much of that has to due with people rising out of poverty in places like China. USA is less "top dog" in the world.

Much of the growth in climate change has to do with the world starting to catch up with the way things were being done in USA.

A shift away from US based manufacturing has depressed wages, but it has also led to an abundance of inexpensive goods for the American consumer market.

As I remember, back in the days of the stronger middle class, products, such as shoes and electronics, were quite expensive relative to other things that people took for granted; like being able to afford health insurance and a place to live.

No doubt the Reagan revolution added significantly to income inequality. Much of the foundations for that revolution were laid in the 1970s and are still in effect today. Tax cuts that have mostly helped the already wealthy and upper middle class.

Case in point is California's Proposition 13. It passed in the 1970s to keep property taxes low. This was seen as a "shot heard around the world" leading to the Reagan Revolution.

An unexpected consequence of Prop 13 was that during the massive rise in property values, over the next few decades, home values went up into the millions of dollars while property taxes could not keep pace. Services, such as schools, suffered and some of that burden of taxes was shifted to other taxes as well.

From what I understand, in California, long term homeowners are grandfathered in with low taxes, but new residents, first time homebuyers and renters are priced out of the market.

These kinds of problems happen in other states as well, but California is a glaring example making housing, for many folks, unaffordable.

That's one of the big barriers leading to the demise of the middle class.

I never supported Reagan, but even if Democrats had held majorities during that period, I doubt middle class wage growth would have continued on that same postwar trek.

There are a lot of things "baked into the cake" that led to this change, including things like increased building costs related to concern about the environment.

In many ways, we have been spoiled by our economy. We expect so much in terms of cheap products, low taxes and a clean environment. Given the turn back to the right, politically, and the persistence of "traditional values," we have not adapted well to the changing needs for a more sustainable economy.

We can't really go back to the rising wage era when single family homes were the norm. That's the era when single occupancy vehicles, long commutes and big freeways were pushing forward. These trends were starting to hit their "limits of space" at about that time. Cities running out of space for freeways, rivers running out of space for dams.

That was the world we were building in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

Since then, things haven't changed enough for an environmentally sustainable economy and that world we were building is becoming increasingly hard to enter and increasingly dysfunctional.

We need to build a different type of world for the future.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Feeling fairly distant from AIDS during the epidemic

December 1 is World AIDS Day. Symptoms of what was later called AIDS first surfaced in the news 40 years ago in 1981.

At that time, I had recently graduated from college, but still spent time at Sexual Minorities Center at WWU. That's where I first remember hearing about this syndrome as it was in the news.

I felt pretty distant as I had always been on the edge of the gay scene anyway. In Bellingham, it seemed like the scene, I knew about at least, was mostly just the bar and the campus group. Back then, the bar was called the Hut Tavern.

I didn't go to the bar often as it seemed like it was too extreme in terms of smoking, drinking and reckless partying. Back then, I was looking for in depth conversation.

In the media, there was talk of AIDS being somewhat related to unhealthy lifestyles though early on there was some compassion. Whether a virus could be blamed for it, or not, was still not known until (so I read recently) 1983 when the virus was identified for more certain.

In the early 1980s, there was a weight loss snack called "Aids Candy Cubes." "Lose weight with the aid of Aids." Those ads disappeared soon after the disease started being called AIDS.

Much debate in the media centered around whether AIDS could be caught from casual contact. Some folks were paranoid and shunned folks they thought were more likely to have AIDS.

Scientists kept insisting that AIDS did not spread from casual contact. It was mostly a venereal disease, but also starting to be reported to come from things like shared needles.

At one point there were some feature articles about a few people worrying that they might catch AIDS from the communal challis at church. This was also disputed by scientists. I tended to believe the scientists.

In 1985, I did my first bicycle trip across the state. I had a little radio with me that brought the news of an actor named, Rock Hudson who was discovered to have AIDS.

I felt distant from the whole situation biking across the state and having never even heard of Rock Hudson till then.

I thought one thing that set me apart from most other gay people is that I seldom watch movies and don't even know who the famous actors are.

The first person, I knew personally, to have AIDS was named Scott Lennon. I didn't know him real well, but we had gone to a few events together. He was in my wide circle of friends.

The first I learned of his AIDS diagnosis was seeing his name in the newspaper.

Scott used the last years of his life in public service and education. He spoke out about AIDS awareness at various schools, churches and so forth.

Bellingham got it's first AIDS organization sometime in the late 1980s, or early 1990s. In it's early years, it was called Evergreen Aids Support Services.

World AIDS Day started being celebrated with candle light walks through downtown on usually bleak, dark and blustery days. That's December for you.

Walks usually ended at Unitarian Church with a service and social hour.

One year the service was at Assumption Catholic Church.

Part of the AIDS Quilt was brought to Bellingham and displayed on the floor of Carver Gym at WWU one year.

In the later 1990s, there was an AIDS prevention program called Friend To Friend. Bellingham was one of the cities that this program was rolled out to.

Friend to Friend was quite creative with a lot of grassroots events designed to enhance the quality of life in community. This was seen as a strategy for prevention and safe sex education.

There were quite a few gatherings, potlucks, discussion groups and other social events. A space for community, which often seems lacking in mainstream society.

Funding eventually ran out for the Friend to Friend program, but there continues to be quite a bit of interest in knitting together healthy community ties clear to this day.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Dollar Store costs 25 cents more, but Motel 6 has added a lot more to it's original cost.

Lots of news about Dollar Tree raising their price ceiling to $1.25. Amazing that it could stay at $1 since the store's founding in 1986.

Another business, with a price in it's name, is Motel 6. That used to be only $6, but much, much more expensive today.

Rents for things like a motel room have gone way up over the years compared to the inexpensive flow of many goods in our economy.

MRNA vaccine technology gives the hens a break

One good thing MRNA vaccines is that they don't need chicken eggs to grow the vaccine materials; like so many of the old style vaccines.

Think of all the laying hens that were kept in captivity. One wonders about the conditions. Chicken farms can be notorious. I still eat eggs, however. I usually try and find eggs from "free range" chickens. They do cost a little more, but worth it.

Newer technologies for making vaccines seem to be more humane, as far as I can tell.

Friday, November 26, 2021

WSU's November 26 2021 Apple Cup victory may have message for corporations about executive pay

WSU Cougars have just won the Apple Cup against the UW Huskies. WSU 40, UW 13.

Normally I don't follow sports, but this game has some unique twists. The Cougars can still win even though they let go of their former Coach Rolovich when he didn't comply with Washington State's vaccine mandate. That might have been a hard parting since they thought they had to pay top dollar. His salary was 3.5 million per year; the highest paid public official in the state. They thought he was crucial, but the team is winning anyway.

One lesson learned is that maybe it's not the coach, but the team that wins the game. I don't know how much their interim coach, Jake Dikert, is paid, but my guess is not as much. He seems to be doing well anyway.

Corporations could learn that lesson as they often feel compelled to retain their top executives for top dollar. One could only hope corporations are taking heed. I know, I am an idealist.

As for the game, they say it's the largest Apple Cup point margin in the history of the Apple Cup. 40 to 13 in favor of WSU. Game was played in Seattle and usually the Cougars have a hard time winning that game when it's in Seattle at UW Stadium, rather than in Pullman at Martin Stadium.

Normally I don't follow sports, but this was a big win tonight and I am sure my home town of Pullman is celebrating.

When I was in college, I thought we were running out of natural resources

In my college years of the mid 1970s, I thought civilization's biggest problem was that the earth was running out of resources. The 1970s energy crisis was in full swing. Gas lines, the OPEC oil embargo and US oil wells running dry.

I thought we were also running out of minerals. Mines being depleted.

I thought my future would require a lot of innovation, some of it making life healthier; such as bicycling and public transit. Some of it technological; such as solar power.

I underestimated the ability of us to develop new mines for minerals, use technologies; such as fracking, to continue oil production, use conservation and substitutes to keep prosperity going.

I still remember a lecture, I went to, with some off campus expert. He was talking about the future and I brought up a question, from the audience, about us running out of resources.

The person giving the lecture answered that that we could find a way. New deposits of minerals would become economically viable, depleted forests could be replanted and so forth.

Then he pointed to his bald head and said, "the main thing we have to worry about running out of is the will to innovate and a belief in the future."

To a large extent, he was correct. Shortages of the 1970s gave way to more surges in global prosperity.

Back then, I wasn't thinking about climate change, however. Climate change is the main worry we face today, rather than running out of resources.

Back in grade school, I saw a film, about weather, named "Unchained Goddess." It had a segment on polar icecaps melting due to our carbon dioxide emissions and Florida being under the ocean. That movie and that one segment is on YouTube today. Film made in 1958. I saw it several times in 1960s.

The problem must have been pretty far in the future, back then, so it was more of a theoretical topic. I didn't make the connection, or worry much about it till the 1980s, when Al Gore started talking about global warming.

We'll see if we can innovate our way out of this problem along with the other limits on planet earth that are still here. Limits that are somewhat like movable boundaries.

One of our problems is simply running out of land. Yes, there is still plenty of open space in places like Wyoming, but some of that land is needed for things like bird migration, watersheds, mining and so forth.

Our cities and infrastructure keeps getting more crowded and taxed. Traffic seems unsolvable, unless maybe we have a radical change toward embracing public transit, or something like more work from home.

We seem to be gridlocked in many ways, including the rise in real estate prices near cities. In my college days, I would have never imagined that single family homes, in so many places, would be around a million dollars apiece.

Part of this problem is pushed by low interest rates making land purchase too profitable. Also our lack of densifying neighborhoods in our metropolitan areas to accommodate the population growth.

Population growth was seen as a big problem, back in my college days, as well.

Maybe we can still point to our heads and say, like that lecturer in my past, the answer and the limits are up here.

Better late than never, we still, most likely, need to curb things like greed and population growth. We also need to be open to change and innovation.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Walking Bellis Fair Mall with Betty

Picture windows of Food Court, Bellis Fair.

One of my friends, an old drag queen named Betty Desire, (one month older than me) does a mall walk pretty much each weekday at Bellis Fair Mall here in Bellingham.

I wanted to try it, but kept forgetting till today. It was fun and also good conversation. There were 3 of us today, counting me. Only so many hours in a day and I get quite a bit of exercise from many sources so I may not do it real often. Still, it was a good thing to check out.

It's one mile to walk around inside each wing of the mall. Turns out Betty does 5 laps with 1 rest stop. It adds up to 5 miles. A good workout. Easy terrain for walking as it's indoors on level floors.

Mall walks were a thing when Bellis Fair was new in the 1980s. Today, the mall has some empty storefronts as downtown and online shopping are giving it a "run for it's money."

As we walked, we talked about a lot of things; including the possible future of malls. Downtown thrives, partially, because lots of people live there now. Downtown has seen somewhat of a boom in residential construction.

Maybe malls could add residences and other diverse uses. Some malls have closed while others are transitioning.

As we walked, we passed a small high school that's now on the mall. High school kids used to like hanging out at the mall so that can make sense.

We also passed a non profit organization named Maker Space. They teach manufacturing skills and provide use of things like 3D printers. A good fit for having a school nearby.

I often think that malls could get into light manufacturing which can be associated with custom retailing. With 3D printing, some of the supply chain can come back from China.

Walking in the mall can be an interesting, urban experience. Colored lights and people to wave at as they prepare meals in the food court.

Betty said that just as the walk starts to get weary, the music comes on. For me, part of the exercise was bicycling there from my home and it isn't that far away from where I live.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Vaccine hesitancy can arise from a general climate for mistrust of institutions, versus the idea that we have met the enemy and the enemy is us.

Seems like much of the suspicion about the vaccine is rooted in distrust of institutions. Distrust of government, corporations, pharmaceutical companies and the so called medical establishment.

I tend to trust institutions, but not blindly. Still, I do tend to trust them for the most part. Instead, I think much of our problems is people as in, we have met the enemy and the enemy is us.

Yes, institutions exert a lot of power, advertising, buying Congress and so forth.

I am in favor of fairly progressive economic policies such as taxation. At least a balance where taxation is not always seen as the boogeyman. I'm for creating a more fair society, but that issue is somewhat separate from my understanding of science.

I don't think it's a good idea to shoot oneself in the foot by rejecting good science just because it's being promoted by people that may be a bit more wealthy than they need to be.

Science isn't always right either, but it's usually better than snake oil sales pitches. One problem with snake oil is that it is still, for the most part, a product for sale.

How the desire to have children can jeopardize future children

One irony about climate change is that the act of raising children often creates pressure on people to live in such a way as to jeopardize the future of children.

Moving out to a house with a yard, for instance, having to get a car, having to get a higher paying job.

If we push the supply chain too hard, it breaks.

I don't normally think of sound bytes short enough to remain in large font in Facebook at least on my desktop. This one seemed to work, however.

Canada could be called land of stranded assets. Trans Mountain pipeline could be a white elephant.

Canada could be called "the land of stranded assets." Oil assets in the ground that are problematic if still banked on as assets. Lots of oil in Alberta and still an oil thirsty world, but the world is thinking, "oil is a killer."

A while ago, a big oil company backed out of it's plan to expand Trans Mountain Pipeline. The plan was to expand a smaller pipeline that goes from from Alberta to Burnaby, BC.

Close to home, Trans Mountain has a branch to Whatcom County Refineries though the expansion plan was just to Burnaby.

The company backed out due to political obstacles, but Canada's government bought the stalled project, a few years back, to keep it alive.

Canada's Liberal Party Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, was walking the tightrope between Alberta's "family wage jobs" and environmentalists.

"Just one more pipeline, then we'll be done," but now it looks like that's not a good idea. Canada's government may have blown billions of dollars on a white elephant pipeline project.

I still see that many of these dilemmas are caused by so much focus on opposing production without opposing consumption. In this case, much of the oil would be for export to Asia and around the world, but consumption is still the issue along with the need for family wage jobs at the production end.

Yes, it's safer to ship oil by pipeline than rail, if oil must be consumed. Yes, maybe it's better to use Canadian oil than from the Middle East, though I hear that Alberta tar sands are about as dirty as it gets.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel.

I think the main focus of activism needs to be on changing the way we plan our living habitats to make them less dependent on fossil fuels. Changing technology, changing lifestyle assumptions and changing neighborhoods.

If we just attack the supply chain, we pull cards out of the foundation of the card house we are living in. It falls on our precarious political situation and (if in USA) could even bring another Trump, if not Trump himself. - Inflation worries. Loss of family wage jobs before alternatives are in place.

My own lifestyle is somewhat minimalistic and not family oriented, however.

In the end, the card house falls on mother Earth which will survive in some form, but not necessarily good news for us.

My comment about bicycling in the Cross Country Checkup thread

One of the Canadian Radio shows I listen to sometimes is a Sunday afternoon call in show called Cross Country Checkup. Last week's topic was about climate change.

The show has a lively Facebook page and I left a comment.

Screen capture.

After the climate conference

What was agreed upon at the climate conference could be a mute point if the politics, lifestyles, technologies and economies around the world don't change so that the goals can be met.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

If infrastructure enabled folks to give up the car, it could reduce, rather than inflate, the cost of living.

Inflation does seem to be back and now some Republicans are saying that this is not the time to dump more money into the economy with Biden's "Build Back Better" #2 infrastructure bill.

Some things in that bill could help, like the building of more affordable housing and support of public transportation.

Housing prices have been going up for a long time and people are now grumbling about gas prices. For some folks, car ownership is a bad idea. Anything that can reduce the car commute, such as public transit or housing that is closer to the job, would save money and also help reduce the carbon footprint.

Maybe they should sell infrastructure that way.

Maybe not for everyone, but for some folks, just getting rid of the damn car altogether could save a lot of expense on gas, insurance, car payments and repair bills. It could reduce the carbon footprint as well.

Some other parts of Biden's bill might be harder to justify, but who knows.

They say there is a shortage of workers, in part, because there is a shortage of daycare.

Okay, more money for daycare, but here is one problem I haven't heard discussed yet.

Much of the cost of daycare goes to liability insurance. Be careful about anything around children. The lawyers are circling like vultures. They are ready to pounce with law suites if anything goes even slightly wrong. Be careful if extra money just feeds "deep pocket theory."

Friday, November 12, 2021

Bellingham considering new tax to pay for programs that reduce carbon footprint

Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood asked the City Council to consider asking voters to approve a tax to pay for citywide programs aimed at reducing the city’s carbon footprint and helping the effort to fight global climate change according to an article in Bellingham Herald.

In my own words.

The idea of a new city tax is being floated. Could help fund converting things to greener technologies; for instance helping homes and businesses convert away from fossil fuel heating.

It's just discussion now, but article says it's likely to be a property tax. I would guess it could be a tax on both homes and businesses. The city doesn't have a lot of taxing tools, in this state without income taxes. Sales taxes are pretty well maxed out.

I think there seems to be a lot of money in real estate. Tied up in real estate at least. Not easy to buy a home, but if mortgage is paid off, a lot of money is tied up at least.

Maybe there would still be breaks for lower income homes and rentals.

Some of the money could go back to the homes for things like heat pumps.

Where the money would be spent is not determined yet.

Besides just the heating, I think the automobile is a big problem. Maybe some of the money can go to electric vehicle charging stations.

In both cases, however, it doesn't do much good if the electricity still has to come from non green energy sources.

Meanwhile, if a tax passes, it can mean that people are willing to step up to the plate.

The Greenway fund, mentioned as an example in article, is kind of like a school levy. It's a property tax that gets renewed by Bellingham's voters periodically when the levy expires. Voters have given it the thumbs up each time.

It pays for our great system of trails and a lot of our park budget.

I tend to think of the greenways as alternative transportation which also relates to climate issues.

The Greenway levies have been on the books since the early 1990s. Before that, just about all of the greenway trails did not exist.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Of course inflation is back. Home prices are spiraling, fossil fuel prices need to go up, if we are to address climate change. Wages are trying to catch up also.

On the news I hear that inflation is happening. That's not surprising. Not necessarily a game stopper, but inflation is back.

New money has flowed into the economy as the Fed has propped up spending which did keep many folks out of poverty during the pandemic.

New money often ends up inflating asset prices and home values after it's done it's job helping people. This leads to a spiral of things like rising rents. Low interest rates seem to inflate the market.

Gasoline and other energy prices are going up, but if we are to solve global warming, fossil fuel prices need to go up. They still aren't higher than they were in the boom years of the Bush II administration, just before the 2008 crash.

Wages are going up also. In many jobs, such as restaurants, this can push up the price that customers pay.

Some folks say that businesses can pay higher wages by just absorbing the cost, but it doesn't look like most will do that. Maybe a few will; such as the recent news about Dick's Burgers, in Seattle.

In some cases, businesses could absorb costs, but things like liability insurance, regulations and just the capital cost of owning, or leasing, a building are factors.

Some businesses are on a thin margin and / or they are small businesses. In other cases, executive and stockholders could take huge pay cuts, but will they do that? I wouldn't hold my breath.

Taxing the executives and shareholder profits more could help, but it's unlikely to happen if the angry pendulum of politics starts to swing back toward the Republican Party.

Friday, November 05, 2021

The WSU Cougars may not have to pay that much money for a coach

WSU logo seen on farm silos near Pullman during my 2017 bike trip to Pullman.

Looks like the WSU Cougar Football Team won against Arizona State in last Saturday's October 30 game. They did it without the need for multi million dollar former Coach Rolovich.

I would like to say that a multi million dollar "star" coach may not be necessary. What about multi million dollar corporate executives? Same thing.

Admittedly I don't follow sports that much and just looked up last Saturday's game results today. As Pullman folks often say, Go Cougs.

Combining a carbon tax with Modern Monetary Theory might be a good idea

The carbon tax, I am thinking of, would be a variable rate tax. If fossil fuels are too cheap, the tax would boost the price so fossil fuels would not undercut alternative energy in price. The tax could be reduced when the market price of fossil fuels goes back up.

This would, of course, mean adding a tax during recessionary times since that's usually when fossil fuel prices tank. A tax during recession is a no, no, but that is where Modern Monetary Theory could be applied. Instead of trying to boost ourselves out of a recession with tax cuts, we could use new money to stimulate the economy. That's what we did during the pandemic recession.

Modern Monetary Theory basically says don't worry, that much, about deficit spending since it can be funded by creating new money. Don't worry too much during a recession at least. Maybe start worrying during inflationary times.

I know I'm probably simplifying it too much, but that's a glance at part of the concept of Modern Monetary Theory, as I understand it.

If we use deficit spending to stimulate the economy during recessions, maybe we could use carbon taxes to keep the price of fossil fuels high enough so it doesn't keep undercutting alternative energy. We could, maybe stabilize that highly volatile price at least.

One of several problems in dealing with climate change

A problem in dealing with climate change is that people approach politics as a means of evening the score with the question of "what are they going to do for us."

Instead, it seems like the approach to politics should be, "how can we all solve these problems?"

Who knows. Critical Race Theory may not play well in the larger pool of Hispanic voters.

It seems like so much focus, in media discussions, on race relations is a losing political strategy. Much of the focus is on African American / White relations while African Americans are only 13% of nationwide population.

Hispanic Americans are a much larger segment. Whether these type of discussions motivate the vote among Hispanic Americans is an important thing to consider.

There are a lot more potential voters who are Hispanic and it doesn't necessarily follow that the same issues motivate all minority segments of the population with the same enthusiasm.

Black / White relations has a long history, in this country, going back to slavery, segregation and so forth. An increasing number of recent immigrants have different stories, histories and reasons for arriving in this country. One may not always be able to count on the Hispanic vote to be motivated in similar ways to most of the African American vote, or the segments of the White vote that have been brought up in universities with the long history and discussion centered around Black / White relations.

From what I understand, it does seem like the black vote is still quite reliably loyal to the Democratic Party, but that loyalty isn't necessarily guaranteed. Loyalty among other ethnic groups is far less guaranteed.

Seems like the Democratic Party could improve it's outcomes if it shifted some of the focus of its discussion more toward the big issues around climate change and how to build a sustainable economy.

The black / white discussion still has bearing on these issues; for instance there is the problem of so much land devoted to single family zoning and it is useful to remember the racial foundations of early exclusive zoning laws.

Figuring out how to build a more sustainable world in terms of climate, housing, city planning, technology, transportation, health, lifestyles and the economy could draw enthusiasm across wide segments of the population.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Philadelphia experimenting with ban on police pulling over drivers for minor offences

More chaos on the roads?

Philadelphia Police will not pull people over for minor offences, such as a light out, license obscured or even noise and pollution. One can still be pulled over for more serious things, like speeding.

Here in Washington State, I hear lots of people complain that they don't seem to enforce smog and noise limits anymore. Yes, I've noticed some cars are real loud. Loud tailpipes.

This issue relates to police, race relations, but I often think about other types of topics; like the chaos caused by automobiles in the first place.

We can see if this experiment brings more, or maybe less chaos. Article says that most Philadelphia police are okay with this change. It is seen as a way to focus police time on more serious crimes.

I keep reading, in Strong Towns Facebook Group, that we need to design roads, in town, for less speed. Rely less on the over burdened police and more on road design to calm the traffic.

The minor violations, such as a light out or license obscured, can still be picked up by traffic cams. Article says citations can still arrive in the mail.

One wonders how a traffic cam can know where to mail the citation to if the license is obscured.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Climate change summits seem to do little more than ring alarm bells

Climate summits and debate over goals set may not have done much good. Actually achieving the goals is a more important step.

Much of the global warming that has taken place since the industrial revolution has occured since the first summit at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. That past 29 years has seen more population and much more prosperity than before.

People look at how much global warming has happened since the industrial revolution and it doesn't look like that much over that many years, but they fail to see that much of the warming happened in those last 29 years. The problem is accelerating as population and prosperity continues to grow.

Climate change does need to be addressed. Maybe this conference will ring the alarm so loud that people will take action at the local levels, but seems like alarm bells is mostly what these conferences provide. Back home, where the rubber hits the road, is what matters. Literally, the rubber hits the road as automobile transportation is a big factor.

Here in the US, if we go back to Republican majorities, it will look like there is no political will to do much about this problem.

Possible improvements in the storage of hydrogen fuel

Hydrogen could be a great fuel. The smoke from burning hydrogen is water. Not carbon dioxide. It can be made from green energy sources such as solar.

Could fuel vehicles and aircraft, but it's hard to store in a tank. It's so light it doesn't store much energy, unless compressed which is problematic. Gasoline has a lot more energy per volume of storage.

Scientists have been exploring various ways to store more hydrogen in a given "tank" space using various methods. Here's another breakthrough which looks promising. A metal hydride technique.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Democrat's hypocrisy dealing with climate change is easier to understand than Republican's total blocking of any attempts to address it.

Republicans seem to block any attempt to deal with climate change. One wonders if they don't care about future generations? Either that, or they don't believe the science. The science of climate change is getting more convincing each day.

What's wrong with Republicans? I'd like to ask if someone like Mitch McConnell thinks anything needs to be done about climate change?

I can better understand the seemingly hypocritical actions of liberals and Democrats when it comes to talking a good line about climate change, but still driving cars, complaining about rising gas prices and so forth. In a way, that's more understandable.

The carbon intensive American way of life has become so alluring and convenient that it is hard to change. The business models, for new ways of doing things, are not secure. One's survival and one's family's success often depends on playing the game of life the way it's been played for the past few decades.

In some ways, that problem is more understandable than what seems like the absolute blocking of any attempt to address climate change by Republicans.

Yes, maybe the second infrastructure bill isn't the best way to deal with this issue, but Republicans don't seem to offer ANY solutions to the climate change problem which I am pretty sure we are going to have to deal with; one way or another.

Blogs, Redditt and Flickr. Alternatives to Facebook?

For folks thinking of dumping Facebook, I do value expressing my thinking on Facebook, but there are alternatives. The alternatives are just not as alluringly convenient.

For instance there are forums on Redditt; which I'm thinking of learning to use.

As for my own outlets, I post a lot of the same pictures and comments on Flickr that I put on Facebook. For postings not related to photos, I use this blog.

One thing I like about Facebook, that Flickr or the blogs don't provide, is links and thumbnails to various articles in other media. I follow a lot of those links and post some of them myself.

There are other sources for media links. Yahoo News feed for instance. NPR Radio dishes up a lot of stuff as well. I navigate to lots of sites.

Another thing one can get from Facebook is the interaction. It can be alluringly convenient. It's the feedback of the network effect, but I'm noticing that it seems to be hitting a bit of a dry spell these days. Maybe people are backing off from Facebook a bit.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Elizabeth Warren's idea of breaking up Facebook may require friendship networks to be less like walled gardens.

Senator Elizabeth Warren says, "it is time to break up Facebook."

She also said; like when Ma Bell was broken up, we still need to be able to communicate with each other across the different platforms. Telephones can still connect.

I would guess this could mean doing away with having to friend someone to see their postings. Content would need to be accessible across a multitude of platforms.

We have already had that; in the early days of the internet when content was just out there on the open web. It was pretty seamless and accessible. One could navigate and interact with pretty much anything they wanted. It's the World Wide Web. Content hosted on lots of servers, run by lots of different organizations.

Part of the reason why Facebook has gotten so dominant is when friendship circles became more important. They became somewhat like walled gardens and people's friends pretty much all ended up on Facebook.

Other platforms are out there, but they don't have the "momentum" of friendship links to get going, big time. They don't have as much of what's called "the network effect."

The network effect is a feedback loop. Outside of Facebook, it's hard to get the ball rolling again.

Opening up, across the entire web, could mean less privacy; in some respects. Having things more accessible on the open web. Having content more searchable to everyone.

There is more to it that just this, however.

Facebook is very convenient. User friendly. It's kind of like "The McDonalds of social networking."

Before Facebook, it took a little more work, digging and thinking to make connections. As I remember, connections weren't quite as prolific.

To some extent, Facebook has set the bar higher in how much interaction we expect each day. A higher bar, or greater addiction?

I remember the mid 1990s when I first set up my own website; long before Facebook existed. Even back then, I thought that mostly just my friends would look at it, but it was nice to have a place to make my writing and photography accessible. I wouldn't have to buy stamps and mail it to people. One could just put their web address on a business card and hand it out.

That seemed like enough, back then. I'd already been in something called the Mail (Postal) Art Network. I'd circulated in many face to face gatherings, here in Bellingham. I'd written scores of letters to the editor of publications and to a lot of politicians.

Soon after I started my site, I found that the server it was hosted on, was keeping statistics on pageviews. I was getting views from all over the world!

That made me happy. Hundreds of views at least. Not big time fame and fortune, but more than just the friends I could meet and hand cards to. It was beyond just my own contacts. What was it?

Search engine traffic. Yes, topics being searched. My site was coming up in searches.

I still have that site, but the traffic has slowed to a crawl. It's buried in information overload as the web has grown and Facebook has, admittedly, taken much of the oxygen out of the room.

I've remained on Facebook for that reason. It's where the pageviews and comments seem to be, these days.

Some of this dynamic has to do with how algorithms direct traffic. Maybe today's search engines don't rate my website as high as they once did.

Facebook algorithms come under question as well. What type of content gets boosted? Do the feedback loops just reinforce and reward people's worse tendencies to go for the sensational over what's thoughtful?

I remember the days before Google. That was back when there were quite a few competing search engines; speaking of different platforms.

There was Altavista, Lycos and so forth. All searching the same web so they were pretty interchangeable. A seamless system across lots of platforms; like Elizabeth Warren is wishing for. Non monopolies.

Being able to connect with any telephone across a multitude of phone companies can work, but we have this in something called email and one has to say, it's not nirvana. The accessibility of email has created a nightmare of spam, rendering that invention nearly worthless.

Again, algorithms to the rescue. To sort out the relevant from what we each consider to be the junk.

Figuring out how to best manage all our dump trucks of information is something society is trying to figure out at this stage in the evolution of the information age.

If Biden goes to climate conference empty handed, he might want to say

If the infrastructure bills haven't passed yet, when Biden goes to the Climate Conference in Scotland, what would he say?

He could say, "sorry, we just don't have the political will, in USA, to do much about the climate change problem." That might be a powerful message aimed back home at Congress, the Republicans and some Democrats like Manchin.

The infrastructure bills aren't necessarily magic answers, however. They are likely just steps in a good direction.

Beyond just setting emissions standards.

Lots of goals are debated about at the climate summit. What should each country's emission target be? Then, unfortunately, life gets in the way. Seems like the goals are usually not attained. Our way of life, itself, does need changes.

Setting the goals gets lots of focus, but it may not matter that much anyway, unless the goals are followed. It may just be a waste of jet fuel getting people to the conference and another excuse for the masses to say their leaders are hypocritical with their own carbon footprints.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Dedication of Edward R. Murrow Center at WSU, 1973. My senior year in Pullman High School.

Going through old photos and thinking about my senior year in high school. Long before anyone knew what social media was, I was thinking about a possible career in broadcast media. It ended up being more like an avocation in social media.
During my senior year in high school (1972-73), I used to wander freely in the halls of KWSU's radio and TV studios in Pullman. It was in campus buildings open to the public.

One could peer through windows into an interesting world.

In 2013, when I bicycled back to Pullman for my 40th high school reunion, I revisited those same halls.

My sister Judith lives in Pullman. Being a bit less shy than me, at the time, she ask someone passing in the hall if we could tour a studio. They opened some things up, beyond just the hallways and answered many questions.
Here's a view from one of the halls I wandered in high school. The hall is still there, but the view has changed in this 2013 image.

KWSU TV Master Control.

New equipment now, but back then, the office looking room on the right had big video tape decks in it. They were the kind that stood on the floor; the size of a big home furnace back then. Furnaces are smaller, these days, as well.

Through the windows more to the left was master control, itself, with many TV screens. Looked different then.

The door on the right led to an observation area that looked down into two big TV studios.

More facilities than a small town TV station would need, but this was also a college of communications.

To this day, one still hears NWPB say they are a "service of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University."
Here's another hallway I wandered. Probably more off limits, but they invited me in, during my high school years. Then again in 2013.

The radio studios.

On the right was the news booth. Farther down the hall was the main studios.

To the left was more space where they said, when I was in high school, "we will probably get FM."

KWSU Radio was all on AM back then, but now it's the heart of a large empire of regional transmitters, mostly on FM. The heart of Northwest Public Broadcasting which serves many parts of the Pacific Northwest, including Bellingham.

During my high school years, it was a bit more informal. One of the students, working there, told a story about how they used to try and get the newscaster to break up laughing during the news.

One of the antics was to walk past the news booth and start crouching at the knees. From inside the booth, it looked like the person was starting down a flight of stairs.

There were no stairs in that hallway.
I attended the dedication of what was those new studios, during my senior year. It's the Edward R. Murrow Communications Center.

A building dating back to 1899 was remodeled and a new wing was added behind. Radio and journalism was in the old section, TV in the new section.

There was some other stuff too; like the WSU Syndicated Tape Network. Educational shows were mailed out on reel-to-real tape for various other radio stations.

A practice now made obsolete by the internet.

Someone, who lived on my paper route when I was in 8th grade, had a show called "Science In The News." That was one of the shows sent out over the WSU Tape Network.
Another view of the old section of Murrow Center.
I kept a lot of papers from that dedication.

A famous CBS news commentator named Eric Sevareld came out from New York City to speak at the dedication.

My only memory of his address, which was held at Bohler Gymnasium that many years ago, was his description of trying to book a flight to Pullman, WA. from New York City.

A travel agent handed him the ticket with several stopovers to change planes. She said, "I think this will get you there, but it's the first time it's ever been tried." Most people in New York City have never heard of Pullman, WA.

This might be an urban legend that I heard from my mom. She had read an article, somewhere, that one of the plane stops was Spokane, just before Pullman.

Knowing that Sevareld would be in the area, they invited him to speak in Spokane also. He sent them a postcard with one word on it.


Like thinking of Spokane as just a whistle stop, it must have been seen as an insult.

For Pullman, it was a David and Goliath moment, as Spokane is the biggest city and trade center of that region.

My mom didn't think much of Spokane with it's more conservative politics than little Pullman. Pullman is a college town.

These days, that story would be thought of as "liberal elitism."

My mom noted that she traveled to Seattle, 300 miles away, more often than Spokane; a mere 80 miles away. She often took the Greyhound Bus (she was a non driver) to Seattle where she had volunteer activity, at the state level, in our liberal church denomination; the United Church of Christ (Congregationalist Churches).

Comparing Seattle to Spokane, my mom would say, "Spokane thinks its big, Seattle knows its big."

As I remember, there was some friction between the CBS news operation, in New York, and Spokane's CBS affiliate which was then KXLY TV Channel 4.

Several years later (if I remember correctly) CBS dropped KXLY and went to Spokane's KREM, Channel 2. KXLY then picked up the ABC network so the Spokane stations kind of did a network shuffle.

Picture of me on left in a high school TV production class.
I also kept copies of the high school newspaper that I was a reporter for.

The high school was also in a brand new building, my senior year. It featured some sophisticated communications equipment of its own.

Headline below is from another edition where I wrote an editorial. I still have that copy posted on Flickr.

KWSU TV was planning to move their transmitter to Kamiak Butte and I favored the idea. Increase the reach for educational media.

The editor, of the high school newspaper, was against the plans for putting a TV tower on Kamiak.

She printed my editorial and wrote one of her own in a "point counterpoint feature."
Before moving to Kamiak, KWSU's TV antenna was on the top of Bryan Hall Clock Tower. It only had about a 15 mile reach from there.
After that controversy cleared, they did build a tower on the left side of Kamiak Butte north of Pullman. Built sometime after I graduated from high school.

The tower is hardly visible (or not visible at all) in this picture that I took looking north from Terrell Library Plaza at WSU in 2001. There are dormatories in the foreground.

The range of the signal is much farther from Kamiak, but now it might not matter as much as just about everything goes worldwide on the internet.

Tax cuts do help the rich as they pay more of the taxes

Something to think about.

If the rich pay more taxes than the middle class and the poor; as some right wing people claim, then tax cuts benefit the rich more than anyone else. Seems like politics of tax cuts does mostly favor the rich, but lots of people still support that; for some reason.

They must still believe in trickle down? I can see being pro business, but often the tax cutting politics is what seems to increase income inequality still farther.

Maybe future generations will be toppling statues of contemporary people who continue using fossil fuels

I hear that a statue of Thomas Jefferson was recently toppled. He had some good ideas, but he did own slaves.

Yes, the context of the times was different.

Maybe future generations will topple statues of today's leaders as future generations might say, "they lived at a time when green house gas emissions was commonplace." "They stood by and allowed that to happen; even participating in it themselves."

Saturday, October 23, 2021

With energy prices going up, now is the time to consider a variable rate carbon tax.

Carbon taxes seem like good tools. Even Biden doesn't promote them because of side effects. A carbon tax is thought of as being regressive to poor folks who still have to commute to work.

One idea, I think about, is a variable rate carbon tax. Impose it during times of low fossil fuel prices and cut it back, or take it off, during times of high fossil fuel prices. It would be a variable tax.

This could prevent fossil fuels from undercutting renewable energy sources during times of cheap fossil fuel prices.

Today, lower income people are paying more for energy anyway now that the price has gone up again.

A better way to help low income people, than cheap fossil fuels, is to create new money (Modern Monetary Theory) and give it out for stimulus during times of low prices. This was done during the pandemic and it seemed fairly successful.

Economists often say you don't want to raise taxes during a recession as that just pushes the economy down further. My idea of a variable carbon tax would do just that. Raise taxes on fossil fuels that usually do go down in price during a recession.

Still, the stimulus idea can counterbalance that.

Friday, October 22, 2021

The debacle around former WSU Coach Rolovich demonstrates the need to spend more money on science than sports

South grandstands, WSU football stadium. Picture taken during my 2017 bicycle trip to Pullman. Grandstands only filled several times per year.

Who was the highest paid public official in the state of Washington? The football coach at Washington State University in my hometown of Pullman, WA.

He was recently let go from his job due to the mandate among Washington State employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. He refused to get the vaccine for undisclosed personal reasons, at first and then when push came to shove claiming the religious exemption which was later denied by the university.

In my opinion, it doesn't make sense not to get the vaccine unless there is a medical reason. Mandates may be a bit draconnian, but they do seem to work in reducing spread of disease. In an ideal world, mandates would not be necessary as people would function more rationally out of the goodness of their hearts and an understanding of the best science currently available.

Aside from all that, this firing of Rolovich is rocking the boat at WSU. It's problems associated with these high stakes games. That's one aspect of this whole story that most people wouldn't think about buried under the headlines. Why has football had to become such a high stakes endevour?

I hear that the team is now over 80 million dollars in debt. Having a wining team and a wining coach is considered crucial for the roadmap to paying off that debt. Paying the bills with TV revenues, ticket sales and so forth. Supposedly this isn't taxpayer's dollars, but as debts and problems mount, self sufficiency for the team becomes a more distant aspiration.

Seems like there are too many things, in our society, where the stakes are made high. Stuff that shouldn't be that important.

I've never been much of a sports fan, however.

There is a new coach, at least temporarily, filling in the position and a game is coming up Saturday (tomorrow). Many folks are holding their breaths and hoping the football season will continue with some wins.

Since there doesn't seem to be enough common sense and there isn't enough understanding of science, in our society, these problems happen. This is a big deal because of the importance of Football, at WSU and the amount of debt riding on the situation. At least there is one expense that has been saved, coach Rolovich's high salary; the highest paid public official in the state.

He is now suing the university in a wrongful dismissal suit. Now, money going to lawyers.

This whole situation has lead to a lot of divisiveness among Cougar fans, alumni and so forth.

Maybe we need to value science more and celebrity culture, including celebrity sports, less.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Maybe we are all robots anyway, since the subliminal advertising on television that they worried about many years ago.

About the supposed microchips being placed in the vaccines, I haven't noticed anything different since I got the vaccine.

That's probably because I've already been turned into a robot from the subliminal advertising, that they worried about being sent over televisions, around the 1970s.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Update about Bellingham waterfront redevelopment district, October 2021.

It looks like construction might be starting on the waterfront condos that they started digging the foundations for and then stopped for some reason (I posted about below). Now it looks like things may be moving forward again according to a recent Herald article (October 25 2021) which might be behind a paywall for some people.

I picked up a recent Whatcom Watch newspaper (October 2021) with a big article about the many complexities at the second Harcourt construction site in Bellingham's waterfront redevelopment district.

It's basically still just a hole in the ground. Everything from worries about rising seawater to the virus has troubled this large project.

My image from about a year ago.

Without going into all those details, I got to thinking about a concept that is talked about in the Strong Towns Facebook Group. Incremental development. Often development evolves from small scale to larger scale over time; like as a small town, or neighborhood, grows up and densifies.

Seems like one of the problems with this waterfront district is that people have been trying to plan for the final outcome, right from the start. Planning the outcome before knowing what developments would want to move into that district, or where the money would come from.

People have debated, "how dense should it be?" "How tall should the buildings be?" "Should it all be park instead?"

No one knew what would naturally evolve there. By naturally, I'm meaning what the market, or taxpayers would bring. Maybe I shouldn't use the word naturally, here.

If truly left to nature, it would evolve into weeds growing up out of gravel.

Old Georgia Pacific pulp tanks awaiting new use such as for art.

Long before I knew about the Strong Towns Facebook Group, I remember thinking it's hard to plan out the waterfront in a vacuum. Not knowing who, or what would have the money, or demand to build there. At start, I guess the plans can't be rigid.

Since those early days of waterfront planning, after the Georgia Pacific Pulp Mill closed, the planning situation has improved, or at least introduced more of the concept of flexibility, I guess.

After that area sat empty for many years, while plans came and went. The Port District seems to have basically said, "lets get something started down there." Now there are some portable, or what are called "pop up" businesses going in that area. A beer garden, an ice cream place and so forth.

There is something called a pump bicycle track. These things seem to be successful. They are fairly small scale and can be moved around as more things come in. Portable type buildings.

Harcourt has succeeded, I think, in converting the old Granary Building into new use. From what I read, it is mostly leased now with small businesses and office use. In background right above picture.

The larger projects and plans, based on what people thought the area would look like in 50 years, are stumbling at best. Meanwhile, smaller and more flexible development is starting to take hold.

Good to see the street, park (Waypoint Park) and the bike paths there. I would understand if those things had to change course a bit, like relocating a bike path around a building at sometime in the future; if need be.

New street and bike path.

Old Georgia Pacific acid ball sculpture, Waypoint Park.

Seems like it is hard to plan for everything at once. Hard to plan everything at once without lots and lots of money from a central source.

Western Washington University was talking about putting something like a branch campus down there, a few years ago. That plan is at least on hold. It would have been in one section of that neighborhood.

Meanwhile there are some things starting down there and those things may change and move around a bit as future developments happen. Hard to predict, at first, just what shape it might take, but like so many towns and neighborhoods, the changes are often incremental and evolutionary.

See some of my photos about Bellingham, WA. Waterfront Redevelopment District.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The immigration issue is about population as far as I am concerned

The debate about immigration often focuses on fear of crime coming into USA. Fear that may, or may not be legitimate. To me, that's not the main issue. The big issue is accommodating population.

We can accommodate more. It could even have benefits for work that needs workers, prosperity that needs consumers and culture than needs vitality.

Problem is, we have to make changes in the way we live, here in USA. Acres of free parking may have to go. Housing density needs to increase in some areas. The Southwest states are on the verge of running out of fresh water.

In some ways, we could live more fulfilling lives than we live now with the isolation and alienation of today's culture, but we have to be willing to make some big changes.

Population does have it's limits depending on how we live.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Censorship on media and social media, or just trying to prevent irrational panic.

There is news that one person, here in Washington State, has died due to the rare blood clot complications related to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Apparently her obituary was censored on Twitter so now people are saying censorship.

Nothing is perfect and with 0% risk, but the vaccines are still safe, compared to being in a car or even riding a bicycle. Much, much safer than the risk of catching the virus, itself.

It's like playing the odds. What's the lowest risk, realizing that there's never totally no risk.

In an ideal world, all the news would be available, including the rare and freak incidents, but I can also see why media is under pressure to cool discussion a bit due to problems with public reaction.

Odd and rare stories, like a commercial airline crash, will make the news and be remembered, but something far more common, like everyday automobile crashes, gets less attention.

Due to this problem in public reaction, some types of news can feed people's distorted views of risk and cause reactions that lead to more deaths.

The news is out there, but I'm sure some editors are trying to cool things as so much of the public does tend to go off on distorted tangents.

I have heard about that situation with the J&J vaccine from several sources, so the news is out there.

Part of what makes this controversial is that the person didn't want to be vaccinated, but had to comply with a mandate related to being with a child at school.

Too bad she got the J&J as the Pizer or the Moderna are even safer and don't have that rare blood clot issue with pre menopausal women. I can only guess, but maybe she did the J&J because she was up against a deadline for the mandate and it's only a one shot vaccine. The Pfizer and Moderna are two shot vaccines which would take more time. That's only my guess.

A real good response to my post on Facebook

This is exactly the problem. The rare event gets lots of news coverage because it's rare, and then people see all that news coverage and get an exaggerated sense of the risk the rare event poses to their own lives and the lives of people in general. It's what's happening with the battery fires in Bolt EVs (electric vehicles). Some Bolt owners are panicking and selling their cars, saying they're going back to gasoline-powered vehicles and will never again buy an EV. There are far more fires in gasoline-powered vehicles than in EVs, but it's difficult to convince people of that.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Too many Third World Countries aspire to the bad, from USA life, without the good.

Today is National Coming Out Day, which I remember going back to my college days of the mid 1970s.

Since then, it seems like gay rights is one of the only social movements to make significant progress in USA. From coming out of the closet to legalized gay marriage. Meanwhile, other ideals haven't made such progress. Our carbon footprint is higher, income inequality is worse.

Unfortunately gay rights is still scorned in some Third World nations, yet it's one thing we have done right, here in USA. We've done good, though admittedly not as good in all parts of USA.

Basically Western Nations have made lots of progress on LGBTQA rights yet those rights are still scorned in much of the world. That is kind of ironic and unfortunate.

As for social justice, we in the west; especially in USA, have not done so good in reducing greed, resource consumption and carbon emissions. Things that I had also hoped for during my college years. Income inequality continues to grow and homelessness persists.

Seems like much of the Third World aspires to be more like us, materialistically, but not necessarily in terms of our human rights. Our greed and materialism has lead to the consequences of climate change and income inequality. It's like Third World nations want the bad without the good.

As for things that reduce global warming, one of western nation's greatest contributions is reducing our birthrates. Human rights plays a role here.

Other things, such as reducing our consumption, have not been as significant.

We have great technological innovations that hold promise, but they haven't been gaining traction as significantly as needed.

Meanwhile, energy prices are going up, worldwide, as the economy picks up speed. To put this in context, energy prices have been even higher, before; especially compared to other prices in the economy.

Still, green energy is not taking the load quick enough and / or our consumption habits are still too pervasive.

My vision of a low consumption, high technology future. Goes back to my college days.

I would like to see a world that, for the most part, embraces the abundance provided by technology. Smartphones, for instance.

At the same time, voluntary simplicity in terms of space used and resources consumed.

There are recent trends in electronic technology that use less energy and space. Microchips versus vacuum tubes, heat pumps versus woodstoves.

I would like to see less cultural pressure to work long hours and consume. Having more free time and work life balance would be good.

I would like to see less use of the private automobile due to the space and resources it consumes. Also the safety / accident problem. My ideal world would see more use of public transit and bicycles. Bicycles for health and the beauty of what can be seen at a slower pace.

High tech transit, like the Skytrain in Vancouver, BC. (actually started in 1986!) is good, but the simple city bus works also. We already have, at hand, much of what my future world would use.

Life could generally be at a slower and at a less stressful pace, but technology would be available and used wisely.

Most people would live in urban settings for transit, walking, bicycling and to protect farmlands from sprawl. Some folks would live in rural settings; especially if engaged in resource production such as farming, forestry and tourism.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Sensationalism might be a good concept to think about in terms of the Facebook algorithm issues.

Now comes the difficult task of trying to figure out how to regulate, or what to do about Facebook's algorithms. I think much of the problem isn't new, but just takes on new forms in new media. In journalism, it's called the problem of "sensationalism."

In the past, I've learned about the concept of "Yellow Journalism." There's the phrase, "if it bleeds, it leads." There's also the concept of "tabloid journalism."

Interesting that, so far, I haven't heard that terminology used; in terms of this Facebook issue. We keep having to reinvent the wheel, I guess.

Thinking of this in terms of sensationalism could be useful. How do we reduce it? Can it be regulated? Is it mostly just the fault of what people react to? Is it mostly the result of media businesses, including social media, pushing it as a business model?

On Facebook and other social media, it's artificial intelligence pushing things. AI that can still be programmed. In the past days of regular media, it was the likes of editors, journalists and headline writers.

On a personal note, I notice the things that I write about don't usually generate lots of emotional response.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Both Infrastructure Bill #1 and Infrastructure Bill #2 might pass. They might still pull it off.

Maybe #2 will be somewhat smaller, but they still might pull something off.

If not, they should still pass #1. Ideally, they can do a lot of what's in the spirit of the law for #2 on down the road. Ideally, if the Democrats had stronger backing from the voters, they could pull things off with more comfortable margins in the House and Senate. The real thin margin is nerve wracking.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

The 3 trillion dollar infrastructure package isn't that good a hill for the Democrats to die on trying to solve climate change

I think the best strategy for the Democrats is to pass Infrastructure Bill #1. More "progressive" Democrats have wanted to hold it hostage so they can try and get the larger Infrastructure Bill #2 passed.

That strategy is risky if it causes both bills to not pass. Risky in the public relations / political environment.

Among the rank and file American public, there isn't a strong enough consensus for a "more to the left" bill. That's one of the big problems. Bolder measures need more support at the grassroots level.

As for doing more to combat climate change, big changes in American lifestyles; things like car dependency and single family residential living, would address climate change. A political consensus for this would indicate a strong political consensus for tackling climate change in a really big way. This kind of consensus would really change politics, but we don't seem to have that consensus.

The progressive's larger infrastructure bill isn't really that either. It's more of a large collection of items ranging from climate change to childcare to college funding. A big box of items put together mostly because it's a train that might get through Senate filibuster because it's hooked to the engine of reconciliation.

That's kind of an artifact of our dysfunctional Senate; rather than a "hill to die on" related to climate change. Problem is, there isn't a big consensus to back it among the American people and the electorate could swing back toward giving Republicans the slight margin again come 2022 Congressional elections.

Now some people think, like folks who write in the Strong Towns Facebook Group, that infrastructure spending is too "sprawl centric" and too "automobile centric." The American way; a beast that we have created, is just too expensive and will always keep us behind and in debt on the upkeep it requires.

I don't know how a lot of the Strong Towns people feel about this infrastructure debate going on today as I write. Would they back Infrastructure Bill #1, Infrastructure Bill #2, or neither?

My guess is, they are likely all over the map on these specific bills.

Both #1 and #2 are probably better than the more auto centric freeway oriented infrastructure spending of years past.

I guess that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has had a hand in the crafting of these bills so they both have emphasis on things like public transit. Less money dumped into freeway sprawl.

Infrastructure Bill #1 is likely a modest step in a better direction than what we have had over decades past.

It isn't revolutionary change, but it seems like revolutionary change will have to come from the American people who, for the most part, are not ready yet.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Maybe we can't sustain our over consumptive economy without nuclear power?

Now that the economy is picking up again, the world is facing another energy shortage. Natural gas prices are going up. Seems like the American middle class lifestyle, that so much of the world aspires to, is unsustainable. Car ownership, population growth, sprawl and detached homes; for the most part.

It might be sustainable, but not the way we are doing it. For instance, maybe we should have embraced nuclear power more. In Japan, fossil fuel use has increased since many of their nuclear power plants have been shut down. Similar problems exist in Europe; like in Germany. Less so in France where nuclear power is still embraced.

One of the problems that is happening now is that the wind hasn't (for some reason) been blowing as much as usual in Europe so there has been a recent lull in wind power. At the same time, Russia is a big supplier of gas for Europe and it's been devoting more of it's supply toward China.

I am a bit of an advocate for embracing new technologies, such as some of the improved and smaller scale nuclear technologies in the news. That's only part of the story. I am also an advocate of less consumptive lifestyles. More bicycling, smaller residences, less population growth. We need to tackle this energy / fossil fuel problem from both directions.

In the long run, solar, wind and possibly hydrogen fusion (an even better nuclear technology) might work, but it takes time to implement. Meanwhile, the lifestyles of so many people, especially here in USA, are unsustainable. We have to make more of an effort to change lifestyles until the miracle technologies develop.

The change is best from the bottom up, but instead, people are pinning hopes on the Democrats large infrastructure bill. If I have to say yes, or no, I'm still in favor of it passing, but it is a "top down" solution. Meanwhile average people are just waiting, for the most part, and not changing enough.

If the Democrat's political gamble doesn't work, there is the danger of things swinging back toward Republican politics. Yes, some of this is tinkering and gerrymandering, but we are more vulnerable to that manipulation if we don't change at the grass roots level.

We are more vulnerable if we expect the improbable; a solution where consumptive life and sprawl continues while the things that sustain it, like energy sources, keep being opposed.

We may need more nuclear. Wind and solar need to be developed faster, but they don't come without some consequences. Windfarms in the scenery for instance. I think windfarms can be seen as art. We've had a changing landscape for decades; freeways for instance.

We can't be totally spoiled and expect an invisible magic wand to fix it all for us.