Monday, December 05, 2022

Guns, substations and drag queens? Connecting some dots of speculation at least, about North Carolina

The power outage in North Carolina is in the news. I guess substations can be vulnerable to firearms and firearms are rampant in USA.

Then I read that there is speculation relating this crime to protests against a drag show. Speculation, but some connections. Drag show had to proceed in darkness.

I think about vulnerability of the power system in Ukraine as well. The power system being attacked by Russia who, feels threatened being surrounded by more openness in the west.

Bad marks on the right from many directions. Proliferation of guns and I think substations can be vulnerable, let alone people.

Then the issue of prejudice against dragshows. At least speculation I have read in the news.

Add to that the power situation with the war between Russia and Ukraine. I make that connection. Russia feeling threatened by the changing world as I read they aren't that keen on drag queens either.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Cooling the over heated asset and housing markets. Probably the main tool the Fed has to try and dampen inflation.

A major tool that the Federal Reserve has to try and control inflation is the Fed's influence on interest rates.

I would guess that the primary effect that rising interest rates has is to cool down asset prices. Inflation in existing home values; for instance. Homes are an asset. Home value/price inflation has been rampant for decades.

As time goes on, the rising cost of living creates more pressure to increase wages so people can still afford to live in an area. I would guess the Fed has less direct control over wages and most other prices in the economy, but inflating asset prices is the lever it can use to try and control the rest of inflation.

Asset price inflation also relates to stock prices and various other things that can add inflationary pressure to the economy. If interest rates are too low, corporations are (I would guess) more likely to add to their capital costs by buying out one another. Corporate mergers based on easy money.

With the big issue of housing, raising the interest rates can have both a positive "anti inflation" effect, but it can also have a negative, "more inflation" effect.

High interest rates can reduce the supply of housing by putting a damper on new construction. Eventually housing supply falls behind population growth in a region which can drive up prices.

So even this tool of cooling the overheated housing market is a blunt tool. It can have the opposite of it's intended purpose. Since long time homeowners may be more apt to vote, inflation that was confined to assets was less noticed by politicians in decades past. This during the Bush, Obama, Trump years of easy money and continuing government deficits.

Now that wages have been going up, since Covid, inflation is more rampant in things like the cost of a restaurant meal or food at the grocery store. Inflation is now more "across the board."

The alarm bells are now ringing about inflation.

Quite a few other factors contribute to inflation as well, such as supply chain issues, wages, gas prices and so forth. These other factors may be less directly influenced by interest rates than inflation of assets, but it's all interconnected so it's all effected to some extent.

Gas prices are a factor, but they are influenced by a lot of things, such as the war between Russia and Ukraine. Rising interest rates may have less effect here.

Gasoline demand keeps going up while the future of oil production is in question, due to climate change. There are a lot of moving parts in an economy. Many influences and not easy to pin blame on any one factor. That's my take for today, I guess.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and just start thinking about economics.

I recently read an article about the struggle that the Fed is having bringing down growth in wages since the job market is so strong these days. They are trying to at least cool wage growth a bit.

No mention of housing in that article, but I think the bigger influence, that the Fed has, would not be about wages, but about cooling the housing and asset markets. Wages is more along for the ride.

Monday, November 28, 2022

If the new Republican House turns it's back on trying to solve climate change and trying to bring transparency to Trump's tax returns.

After many years and lots of wrangling by lawyers, each getting their fees, the Supreme Court has finally removed the last obstacle to more transparency in Donald Trump's tax returns.

The House committee investigating these things will, supposedly, gain access to the returns just in the "nick of time," before next year when the House returns to Republican rule.

Seems likely that Republicans will abolish that committee so I hope committee members have thought ahead. Maybe some Democrats can still keep access to the returns, even if the committee gets abolished.

Maybe even the public will gain access, but at least some lawmakers should be able to maintain access, hopefully.

I also hear that the Republican House is likely to abolish a committee that tries to deal with climate change. Attitude, in the Republican led House, might become "just forget about trying to address that issue." "Don't worry, be happy."

This, while the US and most other countries, in the world, continue to fall short of carbon reduction goals that were set a few years back at the Paris Climate Change Conference.

Given the fossil fuel technology we are still using today, it isn't easy to meet those goals while continuing to live in big homes and drive big cars.

There are wealthy oligarchs and upper middle class all over the world plus many of the world's poor are aspiring to have at least some of what upper middle class and the oligarchs have.

I am plenty warm in a shared building as winter arrives in Bellingham

Colder weather has arrived in Bellingham and it's nice to be in my well heated little apartment where the heat is included in my rent.

As I bike around town, I wear layers with a warm jacket as top layer. I'm still comfortable.

Where I am now, the heat is quite good, but I remember another form of public housing, back in the 1970s when my dorm room at Fairhaven College wasn't quite as warm.

Back then, I was taking physics 101 where one of the topics was about heat flow. "The second law of thermal dynamics." I remember putting that learning to practical use when I pointed a small fan at the radiator in my room. The room quickly heated up to over 70 degrees. Moving air transfers heat.

This solution wouldn't work for all heating systems, but in the case of the dorms, there was a chokepoint at the radiator in our rooms. The radiator was pretty small so it didn't have much surface area to transfer heat from the hot water, flowing through the radiator, to the air in the room. The fan brought more heat out of the passing hot water.

Were I am now, the baseboard radiator is the full width of my apartment. Plenty of room for heat transfer so no fan needed. Both places use a centralized source for the hot water. Here it's from a gas boiler on the first floor. We also have some of our energy from electric solar panels on the roof and a heat pump system they call "geothermal."

New technologies provided from various government grants.

At Western's campus, which includes the Fairhaven College Dorms, the heat comes from a central boiler plant on campus. One of my interests has been heating systems so I remember touring the steam plant at WWU back in my college years. More recently someone in maintenance, for this building, showed me around the system here.

Several years ago, there was an open house on the roof of another Bellingham Housing Authority Building. A look at the solar systems on the three Bellingham high rises. Back then, one of the tour guides was Alex Ramel who is now a state legislator.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

A better term than institutionalized racism.

I've never liked the term "institutional racism" since civil rights laws have removed overt forms of racism officially practiced by institutions. Racism still exists, but it morphs into forms that escape civil rights laws.

"Historical racism" might be a more useful term. The lingering effects of past history when racism was more institutionalized. For instance today's restrictive zoning for "single family" leading to high housing costs in so many neighborhoods. This continues to perpetuate some segregation of race based, in part, on who's grandparents were able to buy property in certain neighborhoods of the 1940s and 1950s. This effects who has access to inheritances today which still effects who can afford to live where.

Friday, November 18, 2022

World passes 8 billion population mark around the time of COP27 Climate Change Summit

World population is now passing 8 billion. Growth is said to be slowing, but still high in places like Egypt; happens to be where COP27 was held.

Population growth and climate change are seen as causes for larger migrations of people in future years.

I saw one article saying this leads to political pushback in shortrun, but still could be a benefit to the economies and talent pools of northern countries in the long run.

I'd say we would have to fix our housing shortage and traffic problems first. USA would need to plan for more density and less dependency on the automobile to accommodate a huge flow of immigrants.

The flow exacerbated by bigoted anti human rights and anti LGBTA policies in much of the non western nations. Nations that still oppress alternatives to procreation as the only lifestyle choice.

I read that world population growth is slowing, but still high in a few nations like Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Congo.

Egypt, site of recent Climate Conference, has little land area and it's water supply, from Nile River, is in question. Growing needs up river; such as in Ethiopia, divert water.

Ethiopia is in civil war as well. There's likely to be a lot of suffering in non western nations due to population growth, bad governance and aspirations for more prosperous lives.

The issue of western nations paying reparations was a sticking point in the conference and it seems unlikely to happen. The west is struggling with it's own green transition and housing shortages.

Hopefully we can and will help the rest of the world adopt greener technology; if we adopt it ourselves which is still in question.

Maybe the rest of the world can teach us to live more simply, but that's still in question also.

I think the road to a brighter future will require big changes in thinking both in the traditional values of non western nations as well as the way space and resources are used in prosperous western nations.

Here in USA we will have to change our ways and plan for more density.

If changes happen in both the west and the non west, we can still welcome new generations and have a future.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Good thing the Democrats did better than expected in November 2022.

I'm glad the Democrats are still majority in the Senate. Democrats did better than many of the pundits and polls expected in the 2022 Midterm elections. I feared that there might be a Republican wave, but it was more of a little splash. There are jokes about Ketchup splashed on the walls of Mar-A-Lago Resort.

The Democrats at least play lip service to trying to do something about reducing climate change. My ideas aren't exactly the Democratic talking points that tend to contadict one another. Like reduce carbon footprint, but still try and have cheap gas.

Rich, yuppie neighborhood associations, often liberal, versus construction of more housing; including affordable housing. Yes the Democrats are a party of the "big tent." They seem less authoritarian that Republicans, or at least the iron fist of Mitch McConnell's nomination and confirmation process for the Supreme Court.

Within the framework of the big tent, I can function. The outcome of the tent may not always represent me, but it does seem like, as President Biden has said, democracy itself could be in the balance.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Face to face communication more popular than Metaverse

In the living room of my childhood home was a plant called the Split Leaf Philodendron. New leaves would appear, at the top, as it reached for the ceiling. Soon it got there and mom said, "it's a nice plant, but where is it going to go next?"

That might be what's happening to Facebook as well as the rest of the world economy. Can one keep growing on a limited planet? Another miscalculation, that Zuckerberg is said to admit to, is thinking we would go more cyber than ever. More into the Metaverse versus real face to face interaction.

This trend was strong during the pandemic, but suddenly another shift in behavior. People are coming out of their cocoons and meeting face to face again.

Real "brick and mortar" dancing, dinner groups, discussions, even bowling. It's a good thing to see things opening up again after the pandemic.

I know, everyone isn't going out on the town again, but so many have that it seems like life is all but back to normal. Normal, just in time for another winter to set in, possibly making the pandemic still worse again.

I still use Facebook for it's original intent and I get out and about town. I try to have communication on many levels.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

When fickle voters keep swinging left, right, left, right, left.

Even if this election leans Republican, hopefully the road doesn't go all the way to fascism.

During the watch of Republicans, the economy could tighten up and go into recession anyway.

The Fed has been raising interest rates to try and take some of the inflationary pressure off of supply chains. This could lead to belt tightening and consumers grumbing at who's in power; their newly elected officials.

Climate change is still real and can take it's toll. Whoever is in power gets the blame. If Republicans are in charge, in various states and Congress, they may have a rough go of it.

Voters often change their minds pretty fast. In UK, conservative tax cuts were taken off the table quickly when the markets got nervous about unsustainable debt and the British Pound took a pounding.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Why political debates tend to put those wishing to reduce climate change on the defensive.

Sign I sometimes bring to Bellingham Peace Vigil.

Some people might think I'm judgmental of people who drive cars. I realize that automobiles are the way most folks get around in our society. Some of my best friends drive cars.

The main thing I worry about is the way issues are framed in media and public discourse. Democrats and folks taking action against climate change are being hammered by the negative news about high gas prices. Republicans find this fertile ground for talking points.

I think society may have to accept high gas prices as a price for addressing climate change. Yes, it's harder on low income people, but we do need more thinking outside the box. Owning a car is often more expensive than public transit, if public transit is available and convenient in an area.

We need to connect the dots for longer term solutions. Technology can solve some of these problems for us; such as electric cars, solar energy and if we can develop hydrogen fusion.

Total reliance on private cars has other drawbacks as well; such as all the space taken up for parking as well as the safety issues.

Until green technology becomes widely available, average consumers do need to practice conservation.

One thing that bothers me is how so much of the political debate is about blaming someone; rather than solving problems. On the left, people tend to blame the oil companies; such as opposing pipelines and refineries that are still needed to keep the economy intact. Sometimes, there is even violent sabotage which can give Republicans more anti crime talking points. Yes, we can blame business and advertising for some of this situation, but human behavior, in mass, is very powerful. Republicans tend to emphasis personal responsibility. They certainly have their problems, but the idea of personal responsibility has merit.

Personal responsibility may not explain everything. We do tend to think in extremes of either or, but it is an important part of the discussion.

We need to rethink the discussion about personal responsibility and not turn all that turf over to the Republicans.

There is more to responsibility than just the typical Republican line that goes, "I was on drugs, I hit bottom, then went on the straight and narrow, got a job, worked my way up and now I'm a multi-millionaire."

There are other self help stories that lead to such things as health and community connection in one's personal life. The road to happiness doesn't always lead to becoming a multi millionaire.

We, as consumers and voters, do have more power than we often realize.

Too much blaming, on both sides, leads to much of the political vitriol.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

I hope Elon Musk's ego and problems swallowing Twitter doesn't take down SpaceX

I'm thinking Elon Musk might be having buyer's remorse upon buying Twitter. It's a likely speculation as he did try to back out of the deal; then he went ahead, maybe due to legal / contract issues.

I wouldn't know the details. It's above my paygrade; so to speak.

He might have bought something that will implode, or at least go down in value. Partially due to his management style. I'm not a fan of social media based on sound bytes anyway.

I'll admit, I have been a fan of SpaceX, one of Elon Musk's other companies. I'm a fan of innovation in science and space. SpaceX has done well. Sometimes private sector can innovate in ways that government is more clumsy at.

Still, SpaceX wouldn't be that far along if it wasn't for the lucrative business they have gotten from NASA (government) as a customer.

Public private partnership can be a good thing.

Musk's Ego may has gotten him into a few binds. Hopefully that situation doesn't sink SpaceX.

Corporate executives like to say things like "I built this," which may be partially true. I prefer a concept, expressed by former President Obama. Our personal triumphs "stand on the shoulders of others."

He couldn't have built it without his employees, the larger community and those who have built before us.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Just a sound byte about now Elon Musk's Twitter.

I think Elon Musk and the world would be better off if Musk spent his extra billions on his Space X subsidiary, rather than blowing it on buying Twitter. At least Space X is said to be advancing the cause of science and engineering.

I don't really use Twitter, myself, as I prefer more nuanced postings.

It's unlikely that rich countries will pay reparations to poor countries related to climate change though maybe they should.

It might be a good idea, but an unlikely prospect that rich countries will pay poor countries to try and even up the score on climate change.

Rich countries are still struggling to have their own transition to clean energy. People, in rich countries, are still complaining about gas prices and taxes.

Population growth, that is mostly in poor countries, is still a factor as well. Migration, due to climate change as well as repressive politics and wars among poor countries, play a role in the politics and finances of rich countries.

On the BBC News, I recently heard that UK's foreign aid budget is now mostly being spent inside UK; to settle refugees coming into UK. That's a big need as well. Not that much money leftover, in that budget, to spend overseas.

Anti immigration politics drives a lot of public opinion; especially among Republicans in USA, but it also is having destabalizing effects all over the world, including Europe.

Immigration isn't necessarily a bad thing. It provides lots of vitality, labor and markets for growth of economies in rich countries. On the otherhand, it can lead to more unplesent things, like housing shortages and traffic, unless we learn to live differently. Denser city planning and more use of public transit could really help USA turn immigration into more of an opportunity, versus a problem.

Bad governance and repressive cultures, in much of the world, are big factors leading to more migration and refugees. Over populated countries seem like kettles boiling over, but ironically, some countries have declining populations, due in large extent, to their policies of repression and bad govenance; Russia a prime example.

With Russia's fall into authoritarian society, people are fleeing. Folks, in Russia, tend to be not be having children either in spite of Russia's increasingly anti gay policies trying to push a culture of procreation.

Folks, including the most creative people, are fleeing Russia. They are fleeing and adding to population, immigration worries in other countries, such Georgia, where quality of life and social acceptance of diversity is higher. Countries like UK, Canada and USA are magnets drawing population and skilled labor to their borders.

Russia is loosing population and some, who haven't escaped, are being drafted to the war. They are often sent to killing fields in Ukraine while more Ukrainian children and families are either dying or fleeing, by the millions, to countries like Poland.

Back to thinking about UK for a bit of optomism. Here is one good thing from recent news.

That "new" prime minister, who was pushing tax cuts, skewed for the rich, is out of office. Her term as prime minister was the shortest in UK history. Only 6 weeks. The tax cut plan rattled banks who feared that UK's government debt was unsustainable.

That plan called for both subsidizing energy, for UK consumers, plus tax cuts. It was deemed inflationary.

Maybe it's still possible for people and politics to become more rational.

One more idea.

It would be vital if we could figure out how to pay for preservation of the rainforests and other lands that serve as carbon sinks. I am now (October 30 2022) awaiting the results of Brazil's presidential election.

Facebook (Meta) would be better if it wasn't always trying to be on top.

Admittedly I still do like Facebook for certain things that it does well.

One problem is that there isn't much room at the top of the world; so to speak. When a company finds a niche and serves it well, that's one thing, but staying on top of a world market can be difficult. There is a phrase that goes, "the only way out from the top is down."

Like a pyramid the top is usually small. How does one remain nearly at market saturation on a limited planet?

One way is to try and always reach the younger demographic. I've heard it said that Facebook's audience is skewing older.

That's a good niche, but being at the top tends to require appeal to younger generations. One factor is that investing in youth creates loyalty and a revenue stream that can last the long life of the participant.

Investing in Meta virtual reality is a gamble. I would guess a strategy to bring in new generations.

Some corporations try and stay on top as much as they can while others modestly settle for what they do well without trying to always be at the very top.

Interesting to see how this all plays out.

People think about temperature, but the biggest effect we are now getting from climate change is changing rainfall patterns.

Seems like the biggest problem, we now face from climate change is the changing rainfall patterns; rather than temperature change.

Yes, the globe is warming up and that is what's behind the rest of the problem. The earth, as a whole, has only warmed up slightly so far; like they say 1.5 degrees Celsius. That doesn't seem like much, to feel, but it can bring big changes in things like the Jet Stream pattern which effects rainfall patterns in various regions.

Some areas are suffering severe drought while other areas have more rainfall than normal. That is the big problem we are facing now; from what I gather at least.

Yes, the news does talk about big heatwaves and yes they are getting worse in certain areas, but I think the main worldwide problem, so far, is the changing rainfall patterns.

Yes, the Arctic is heating faster than the rest of the planet. The effects are uneven, but temperature change, on most of the planet, is subtle; at least subtle to our sense of how warm, or cold we feel. Temperature change is more subtle in areas where most people live as not that many people live in the Arctic. Where most people live is where perceptions are forged.

There are longterm effects of climate change, but short term day to day and even year to year changes in weather speak louder as drivers of common perception. One subtle difference is that the growing season tends to be getting longer, in many regions, as the decades go by. Scientists are able to chart that, but the average person can become accustomed to that; especially if they aren't farmers.

We've seen lots of retreat of mid latitude glaciers and even some near the poles; such as in Greenland and the Arctic Ocean.

Another problem, that compounds this situation more, is growing population and growing demand for things like fresh water. Just as some agricultural areas, like California, are getting dryer, more and more mouths are being born that need to be fed.

Another problem with perception, in USA, is that the 1.5 figure for warming since industrial revolution is given in Celsius. Most Americans use Fahrenheit scale; unless they are scientists. In Fahrenheit, it's 2.7 degrees. Slightly larger number. Still subtle when we go outside and feel the temperature. The temperature we feel varies much more widely from day to day, year to year. That's nothing new and perception, rather than concepts, seems to drive a lot of common opinion; at least Republican opinion.

I also think if it was just the climate change we have had so far, by itself, it wouldn't be as serious a problem. Problem is we also face growing population and growing demand for things like energy and food. World carbon emissions continue to rise as demand for energy continues to grow. This is likely to create more of a destabilizing effect on world civilization. It's civilization that people, including me, care about because we are humans.

Yes, we can reduce carbon footprint, but it gets harder with ever more mouths to feed, cars on the road and people needing jobs that are still in the traditional sectors of world economies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

I still remember when someone called Ronald Reagan "President Prune Face."

I think when people vote for a candidate, like US Senator, or President, they are voting for a whole team, not just one person. Candidates, at the national level, have staffs that come with them and the issues that the candidates stand for matter.

People often do have questions about the health and / or age of a candidate. These concerns came to light during the recent Senate debate in Pennsylvania. Similar questions come up about Joe Biden's age; if he were to decide to run again in 2024.

Again, I tend to vote for the team and the issues the candidate stands for. If the candidate becomes disabled, while in office, government does continue. It's not necessarily just about one person.

This discussion came up during President Regan's term in office. He was said to have dozed off in meetings. Folks thought he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease while in office. At one point, I even remember a commentator calling him "President Prune Face."

National politicians do have whole teams of staff behind them and I think the issues they stand for are what's most important. Age and health are undoubtedly political liabilities on the campaign trail, but I would still vote for the candidate that came closest to representing my views anyway. If not in the primary, do to the concern about who is electable, but at least in the general election.

Monday, October 24, 2022

I'd ask the protesters, "how does throwing tomato soup at a Van Gogh painting helps people figure out how they can reduce their carbon footprints?"

The Just Stop Oil protesters, who tossed tomato soup at the Van Gogh painting in London, are being praised and criticized in the media. The painting, itself, is behind glass and supposedly wasn't harmed.

If I had a criticism, or at least a question to ask those protesters, I would ask, "how do you think this act will make it easier for people to reduce their carbon footprints?"

Seems like there are lots of reminders that climate change is a problem. Some folks might say, "we already know about this" and then they just go on living their lives.

How can we make it easier to reduce the carbon footprint? That's a puzzle.

Seems like most people, in USA at least, are banking on new technology. Electric cars, solar power, maybe even hydrogen fusion; if we can get that to work.

I think my lifestyle is pretty low footprint; though some folks say I drink enough milk to counteract other parts of my lifestyle. There is even technology to reduce methane from cows, however.

As for other things, I guess my two main things are bicycle transportation and living in a small space. That space being in a shared building which is easy to heat. There's even solar collectors on the roof.

One reason that my life works is living in town. It's easy to get all around town, to my many social engagements and errands, by bicycle. It's even enjoyable.

Not all streets are bicycle friendly, but in town there are plenty of alternatives that are better; plus Bellingham's system of Greenway Trails. Distances are not too far in town.

My lifestyle would be much harder in a rural area where distances are much farther for day to day errands. In some rural areas there's only one road and some of the rural roads, like Highway 9 between Deming and Acme, are very dangerous. Too much traffic and no shoulder in that segment. No bus service either.

Making city living more affordable can help. Long gone are the days when most American's lived on farms and the farm was more self sufficient. Today, people come to Costco, or other places in town, for more variety of food. We are less apt to tolerate just sticking with what can be grown in one climate zone than folks in past centuries. We don't grow coffee in this area, for instance. Yes, I'm guilty too, we don't grow chocolate.

Back in the past, people got to town on locally grown energy; often by horse, but they did have manure problems, not to mention cholera and all that, way back then. There were less people as well.

Denser zoning, tiny homes and so forth. I now live in subsidized housing so I can still afford Bellingham, but there is a long waiting list to get in.

As for living in a studio apartment, it wouldn't be easy with a family. Maybe they do that in third world countries, or in America of many years past, but we expect more today.

I still enjoy living in my studio, but I admittedly do get cabin fever. That's why I often go out up to 3 times per day. I go out for shopping and a very rich social life that's all within easy biking distance from home. The community is my family.

Oh, I forgot to mention that my health is good. If that weren't the case, I'd still prefer the city when relying on transit services.

This might have turned into a rant against rural living, but maybe we could find a way to make that work, carbon free, as well. More space for solar panels. Speaking of methane, there is methane power generation on some farms. Lots of folks who live in the city still rely on their cars and live in large homes. Seems like as population rises, there is more pressure against that; like the cost of parking in downtown Seattle.

There are quite a few alternate routes in Bellingham and if nothing else, at least sidewalks. Good for walking, but I often bike slow and carefully on segments of sidewalk. Some folks might think that's bad, but in America, there is often more pedestrian traffic in the bike lane getting in and out of the driver's side of cars than there is walking down the sidewalk. Fortunately I go slow past parked cars as people can dart out from between the cars suddenly not to mention car doors opening. Going slow makes a big difference.

Ukraine might be better off not trying to gain back all it's former territory, for now at least.

I fear that Ukraine could end up being bombed back into the stone age loosing their power plants and so forth. Maybe they should be willing to, at least temporarily, give up some of the regions that Russia is occupying, including Crimea.

If the Russians would be willing to have a ceasefire and start negotiating possibly, thinking that they could keep some territory and Crimea it could be one step in the process.

I still side with Ukraine, but there is also the concept of winning the peace, rather than just winning the war. If peace, or at least temporary peace could return, there are other spheres of competition between societies; such as economic competition. Which country does better at innovation? Most likely a country that embraces more human rights and freedoms. Most likely Ukraine.

In the long run, where would the brightest and most innovative people want to live? More likely Ukraine.

In the long run, possibly those lands would be returned to Ukraine, or at least returned to more open society. Even Russia, itself, could, someday, attempt reform as happened after the fall of the Soviet Union. Maybe Putin can be overthrown.

If human rights and minority rights were respected, it really shouldn't matter which side of a national border one resides on. In the long run, the whole idea of nation states could become obsolete.

The European Union is an example of this, though it is currently facing nationalistic headwinds.

It is a big "if" whether the Russians would agree to a cease fire, so this could be a mote point, but I think it's worth considering before Ukraine becomes so damaged by warfare that it becomes unable to function.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Behind the talking points

Now I hear conservatives saying that they are worried about important issues, like inflation, gas prices and crime, while liberals are talking about abortion and gender identity. Often it's good to know what talking points are being used.

I would say that polling, focus groups and consultants drive the campaign trail. Women's rights gets votes so it's a strategy that works.

Looking at the bigger picture there is the worry about a worldwide drift toward authoritarianism. Controlling women and repressing diversity, in sexual orientation, is part of that trend toward authoritarian rule.

I tend to connect the dots and look at bigger topics that are often not the immediate campaign talking points.

Authoritarian repression of choice and sexual diversity can contribute to excessive population growth which contributes to lots of big problems ranging from climate change to supply shortages.

So many problems are interconnected; such as the overwhelming number of refugees at borders of many countries, rising prices for energy sources, such as gasoline and high death rates due to the system not being able to cope with people's needs. The right to life is definitely placed in jeopardy by things like a lack of adequate social services, health insurance and affordable housing.

It's placed in jeopardy as the growing number of refugees get turned away from borders and sent back into harm's way.

It's placed in jeopardy by increasing war, crime and the effects of climate change.

It's even placed in jeopardy by authoritarian rule, itself.

Carbon dioxide is the invisible threat. The air looks deceptively clean and smells pristine, but ...

Pollution in Bellingham, WA. from forest fires. October 19 2022. Probably worst day for it this year.

Smog use to to be a big problem in places like Los Angeles. Then came more pollution control technologies; such as the catalytic converter and smokestack scrubbers. They cleaned out some chemicals and the particulate pollution so air looked clean again. It even smelled clean.

Problem is, carbon dioxide is still being emitted from our economy. It's harder to filter out of smokestacks and tailpipes. Carbon dioxide is an odorless, colorless gas. In small quantities, it isn't poisonous. The air can still look pristine and clear.

Carbon dioxide traps more of the sun's heat so it's increasing the warming of our planet. This leads to more droughts, in some areas, which brings forest fires. Forest fires bring back the particulate smog.

Internal strife and randomness renders organizing for social change difficult

One strategy for social change, that people on the left tend to promote, is the strategy of organizing. Labor unions, for instance. Martin Luther King was noted for organizing people to bring social change. His movement was quite disciplined.

Seems like today, people are less disciplined and randomness is more prevalent. Organizations have more loose cannons as well as internal strife. People seem to be more individualistic, which is a good thing in some ways, but harder for organizations. New strategies are needed for social change. One strategy, I think about, is personal responsibility as consumers.

Live the change we one wishes to see in the world as individuals. If enough people do it, that can move markets.

Voting is important also as one person is, basically, just one drop in the bucket. At least with voting, a sensible government can counter the disproportionate power that large corporations and wealthy people wield.

Organizing is still an important tool, but for it to work, I think we need to be more careful with our randomness and tendencies toward internal strife. We need to be willing to compromise enough so our organizations; such as the Democratic Party, can remain viable.

Why don't they immigrate legally? That can be nearly impossible due to the backlog of applicants.

I just heard a tidbit on a radio interview that the waiting list to immigrate legally from India to USA is so large that it takes 30 years to get to the top of the list.

USA has different quotas for how many folks are allowed to immigrate from each country. Waiting lists are long. I would guess that its really long for countries where a lot of people apply for being on the list. India has a very large population, so a lot of potential applicants.

When you think about it, the size of our world's population is overwhelming. Quite a few folks try immigrating to Canada instead, which is somewhat easier.

Another problem is how repressive governments are in many parts of the world. Anti GLBT laws and so forth, as if a lifestyle not leading to procreation is criminal.

The world needs more lifestyles the don't lead to procreation; ironically for the sake of future generations. The best gift we can give to future generations is a livable planet.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Naming a holiday is like a zero sum game. Not enough holidays to go around. Is Columbus worthy of a holiday?

Folks debating about who and what a holiday should commemorate. For the virtue of exploration, how about a holiday for Neil Armstrong, first person to step on the moon? Another person suggests, instead of Niel Armstrong, name the exploration day after Apollo 11. Credit everyone who made that possible.

Oh, too many holidays. Not enough days in the calendar. How about retiring some of our old holidays so we can have room for new ones? Otherwise the past totally clutters our lives and we face "holiday commemoration gridlock."

Another idea is to just keep adding holidays till the entire year is like being on vacation. Like being retired, I guess.

A decentralized 1990s style web as an alternative to Facebook?

As an alternative to Facebook and other big providers, such as Google, there is interest in something called the "decentralized web." It's kind of like a return to earlier days of the internet, back in the 1990s, when lots of people relied on their own websites to get the word out.

I'm okay with Facebook, but I do see the problems with today's web that's become more centralized. At the same time, it's become more convenient.

Maybe some of the new decentralized technologies are more convenient than things were in the 1990s.

There is now a nostalgia for the 1990s among many who grew up then. 1960s nostalgia is not the only nostalgia.

Ironically, some folks remember AOL and the famous "you've got mail" with fondness, but AOL was a big centralized corporation. Aside from that, lots of people started creating their own websites on a wide collection of servers. Browsers were starting and browsers have the capability of "bookmarks."

I've been thinking that something like the Facebook feed could be replicated with a browser side system that pulls new content from a list of bookmarks.

These types of ideas are being explored. Folks possibly pointing us back toward a more decentralized web.

Back in the days of personal websites, the people, who had websites, did not expect privacy. The websites were mostly visible to the entire web. This was before the days of friends lists like Facebook uses. There may have been less privacy, but there was more trust and innocence, in the early days of the web.

Attempts to compete with Facebook seldom get off the ground, these days, because semi private friends networks are difficult to move from platform to platform. A new platform ends up having little momentum, or what they call the "networking effect;" I call that "momentum," or "inertia." Facebook got started early, so the momentum of the friends networks is here.

Going back to less worry about privacy would make content easier to find even when it's located on small, obscure servers. Browser bookmarks are different than friends lists. Bookmarks still limit the content one sees to what one has chosen to bookmark, but all the content, outside the bookmarks, is still available if one makes the effort to find it. Then one can bookmark it, if they wish. One doesn't necessarily need the permission of the website owner to see what's on the website. Things tended to be less proprietary back in the 1990s. Outsiders and non subscribers could still visit the websites.

Today, of course, more content, including journalism, is behind paywalls. That's a problem, but on the other hand they have figured out how to make the internet pay.

The New York Times website is, I think viable and pays the bills, but it's more behind a paywall than in the early experimental days of the web.

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Facebook: The McDonalds of the internet.

Facebook and the rest of the internet is kind of like life. Put in kindness and that's mostly what you get back. Put in hostility and that's what comes back. It's a bit like looking at oneself in the mirror.

I still think it's a good tool; depending on how it's used. It does certain things well.

I think that one of the problems is that Facebook is always trying to be like "top of the world." When something reaches near market saturation on the global scale, where does one grow to?

Facebook does some things well, but whether it can stay on top of the next wave of technology; who knows?

What is the next wave? Meta?

Pressure to stay at the top can cause corruption of the basic idea. Pressure for more engagement, clicks and ultimately the money needed to keep expanding.

One asks, expanding to where when something is global in scope.

I sometimes like to call Facebook the McDonalds of the internet. It's the "go to" for interaction. There are lots of other systems on the internet. I use Flickr a lot, but nothing seems to beat Facebook for interaction.

I float lots of my ideas on Facebook and see how people react. Then I put selected ones on this blog.

Nothing is perfect, of course, but I still find Facebook quite useful.

Remember, the oil industry is useful also. Some of it is just how we use these things. The products and services that make up modern living.

If people don't like Facebook, they can read this damn blog instead.

As climate change threatens traditional prosperity, free societies can innovate new definitions for the good life.

I've been pondering about how various societies keep people inline; so to speak. Some use brute force; like North Korea and Russia. We could be reduced to ant colony servants; given increasing technology in the hands of despots.

Societies also tend to use the promise of a better life to keep people inline. Sometimes that's a religious afterlife. Think Iran.

Most of the time, these days, its the promise of growing prosperity. Moving ahead in economic terms for current citizens and their children. The promise of an improving life keeps leaders in power.

Given our planet's limits, the promise of greater prosperity seems to be faltering more and more. This can frighten leaders, in places like Mainland China, as returning to poverty can end the credibility of governments and lead the masses to rise up in rebellion.

Here in Western democracies, we have more flexibility than authoritarian societies so I don't think we have to rely as much on the promise of prosperity, religion or brute force to keep people inline.

Like so many societies, prosperity is a big tool to keep people satisfied, here in USA as well. It's like the phrase; "bread and circuses" that was said about the Roman Empire.

At the same time, I think we can redefine what prosperity means more easily than authoritarian societies. We have more freedom of thought and innovation. Folks can innovate away from our society's mainstream traditions in business, religion and lifestyles.

As earthly resources are limited, traditional versions of prosperity are threatened. Innovation is needed. Even in technology, innovation means that greater consumption of resources isn't necessary to improve things. Compare the smartphone, of today, to the room sized computers of the 1960s. We can create new forms and definitions of wealth. Bigger isn't necessarily better.

In thinking about economics, however, the smartphone has great utility, but it is no longer defined as a major source of wealth in terms of our money traditions. The smartphone is mass produced reducing it's money value. A smartphone can be cheap, even compared to one month's rent for an apartment.

Ownership of a home that was taken for granted in the 1960s can mean one is a millionaire today.

The definition of wealth can vary, but having a place to live is still important. Even societies, such as ours, do have their dysfunctionalities.

Still, we have to find ways to innovate to continue. Tiny homes, more density, for instance.

Moving on to things beyond just technology, there are the topics of social fulfillment, fairness, health, peace, safety and so forth.

In social fulfilment, similar innovations can happen. Compare "life in the closet" for gay people of the 1950s, to life today; in most western societies. Think about the rights of women. Think about the rights of minorities. Think about the rights for minority points of view.

There are so many innovations and new ways to define the good life.

We can innovate to redefine what "better" means. Authoritarian societies have more trouble doing this.

We have flexibility in our economic, social and religious ideas. Our definitions of what is "better" can change. In many ways those definitions will have to change due, in part, to climate change.

An open society can be more flexible and less rigid than authoritarian societies. I think this can be a survival strategy for civilization as we know it.

A tradeoff between cheap gasoline and addressing climate change

Listening to more debates between legislative candidates. Some Republicans are talking about a Washington State law that goes into effect at the first of the year which will add 46 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas on top of what gas will be costing by then anyway.

I did some Google searching and tried to figure out what that law was. Aha, I think it's a new "carbon cap and trade" bill. It isn't known just what effect this measure will have. Some say not much, others say more. Some have been touting the 46 cent figure.

Who knows for sure.

I just think there is a tradeoff between trying to reduce climate change and cheap gas. We need to accept that there is a tradeoff. Folks can't "have it all."

There is a tradeoff; at least until the magic of technology comes along. Nuclear power? Solar panels? All of the above? Laws can be written to try and help lower income people with swallowing the reality, but it seems like people will always grumble. Sometimes we just have to accept the reality that we can't have everything, I guess.

Easy for me to say as I ride a bicycle, but I do realize that the food I eat arrives by trucks which still, for the most part, rely on fossil fuels; not to mention the farms that grow my food use fossil fuels in their equipment and fertilizers.

Don't blame city of Bellingham. Blame whoever (private contractors?) thinks they have to charge that much for anaerobic sewage digesters.

Image taken from a trail that goes past Bellingham's current sewage plant.

Here in Bellingham, changing our sewage treatment to anaerobic digestion; especially if it recycles to growing plants, looked like a good idea, but ...

Why would it have to be so expensive? Close to a billion dollars total for a small city? Wisely, the city pulled the plug on that potential project.

Whoever provides those sewage solutions, is way too expensive. They just lost Bellingham as a potential client. I wonder if anyone could ever explain why anaerobic digestion has to cost that much? Maybe whoever that is will rethink their business plan.

I know that high speed rail is a budget buster as well, partially because of buying dedicated right of way and building all the overpasses for road crossings.

Why would anaerobic digesters have to cost so much? A head scratcher to me. Someone, in the private sector I guess, providing anaerobic digestion solutions for cities, must have toilets made out of gold in their mansions.

Providing composting toilets to all housholds might be less expensive.

Composting toilets could be a good solution for our homeless population that's living in RVs parked on some streets. These RVs would be difficult to connect to the sewer and waterlines anyway. Some of those neighborhoods smell of urin. Composting toilets could help.

Interesting article about the city dropping that plan in Sept. 28 2022 Cascadia Daily News, I saw it in the weekly print edition distributed around town.

Conservatives usually get away with tax cuts, but this time, in United Kingdom, that markets got so nervous the conservatives had to backtrack

Looks like UK politics is backing away from the idea of unaffordable tax cuts now that the financial markets are spooked. Seems like conservatives often get by with murder. Maybe that's a strong word. This time, however, they backed down on that idea.

Here in US, even our crazy conservative politics doesn't seem to be pushing Federal tax cuts. They seem to be talking local tax cuts, however, here in Washington State. The conservative minority in our local state politics is unhappy that we have a surplus. We have a good "rainy day fund" here in Washington State. In this state, (2022) the state Republicans noticed, no tax cuts in the budget adopted by majority Democrats.

Meanwhile the federal government has a huge debt on paper that seems to always be addressed with new "created" money. At some point, tax cuts sound like total lunacy. Meanwhile the bill for bailing out Florida and South Carolina, not to mention Puerto Rico is tremendous.

Maybe they shouldn't rebuild in such vulnerable areas? Retreat to more density on higher ground.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Picture of a billboard remembering Queen Elizabeth II. Time for my own reflection as well.

A realtor's billboard where most of the space is devoted to various public service announcements. This time in memory of Queen Elizabeth II.

Some of my thoughts.

Given the bad human rights record in many "so called" republics around the world, it seems like a lot of folks, including me, have warm feelings for United Kingdom's form of constitutional monarchy.

Aside from just the gentle monarchy, quite a few folks feel that UK, or Canada's Parliamentary system is better than even our US system of government.

A monarch isn't necessary, however. It's just that there are so many authoritarian governments around the world that the British system is like a breath of fresh air.

Queen Elizabeth's period spanned a lot of changes in technology and society. From 1953, a few years before early computer scientist Alan Turing was castrated, in Britian, for the crime of homosexuality, to gay marriage being celebrated in UK and many other nations.

From a time when computers barely existed as large expensive machines with gears and vacuum tubes to the more powerful smartphone in one's pocket.

What would Turing think of the app called Grinder, if he were to be transported from the 1950s to the 2020s?

Queen Elizabeth served quietly and kindly as society evolved around her.

I was born about a year after her term began, so it spanned much of my own lifetime.

When politics turns to the right in the west, it isn't fascism, but it isn't the direction we need to go either.

I was listening to a round table discussion about the new leaders elected in Italy and UK. Both kind of lean to the right. There is some worry about a slippery slope toward fascism, but the commentators, I was hearing, thought those two leaders are fairly moderate and not in the same ballpark as fascism.

Instead, those leaders talk about "return to traditional family values."

I got to thinking that, way short of fascism, there is the specter of trying to return to the world we had in the US and UK during the early 1960s. Gay people more in the closet, an era before the racial Civil Rights Act in USA. An era when suburbs, shopping centers and freeways were seen as improvements.

I think even that would be a step backwards, but still a long ways shy of NAZI style fascism. Back then, USA and the allied countries defeated fascism.

Today, places like Russia and Iran are closer to overt fascism, but returning to our more prejudiced past would not be desirable either.

I have heard the Christian Right described as the "Christian Taliban," but, except for the extreme sides, it's still somewhat tame by comparison. Crying wolf leads the populous toward tuning out a constant drumbeat of warnings.

Still, with climate change, even a mild return to "traditional values" would be a disaster. Back then, we were on a trajectory toward mass consumption. The automobile, super highways, larger homes and so forth. Things that traditional family life, American Style, aspired to.

We need to embrace the future and go in new directions.

Another problem, short of fascism, has just been the vast prosperity of countries like US, Canada, UK, Australia and so forth. Over the years, many of the world's natural resources flowed into the wealthy countries leading to the left's criticism of "American Imperialism."

This is partially a byproduct of that disparity of wealth between countries.

These days, the world has changed, somewhat at least, to more widespread prosperity around the world. More prosperity in countries, like China; for instance.

We do need a new paradigm for our economies and civilizations. Trying to return to the past, for almost 8 billion people in the era of climate change, is a no go. We need newer aspirations.

The loud cars in Washington State

Seems like a lot of cars, here in Washington State, don't have mufflers. There are a lot of loud cars. I guess we don't do the yearly smog check when people had to bring their cars in to check for pollution, including noise pollution. Maybe different in California. That was dropped some years back, here in Washington, as I have heard. Enforcement of noise ordinances is lax. Most cars are pretty quiet, but there are quite a few loud ones. Lots of revving of engines as well. A macho thing.

Edward Snowden and Donald Trump have this in common.

Both Edward Snowden and Donald Trump are facing legal difficulties over the handling of classified information.

Yuppy liberal elitism wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't also for the tax and budget cuts driven mostly by the conservative side in the political mix.

A certain combination of liberal and conservative politics can be detrimental, I'd guess. Conservatives are usually the ones that push for tax cuts. Quite a few liberal minded people are prosperous also, but they tend to be okay with the taxes and the social safety net. One can still be prosperous and generous.

Problem is the conservatives tip the scale toward more cuts and a less compassionate society. The electorate is pretty much split 50 50.

I think if it leaned more toward liberal politics, there would be more compassionate prosperity.

Hopefully, filing your taxes will get a lot easier.

Good news. Biden's latest spending plan that just passed (barely) should make filling out tax forms much easier in the future. I think part of the reason there is so much anti government sentiment in USA is the convoluted complexity of filling out our tax forms. If this can be fixed, it might improve the politics, in my opinion.

Our tax laws are complex, but the computer can make it much easier. Problem is, we also have a complicated system of private tax services that cost taxpayers extra money (filing fees). Streamlining this so taxpayers can deal directly with IRS with no fee would help.

Being somewhat low income, I qualify for "Free File," but the problem is, that still uses private tax companies. Private companies offer Free File as a lost leader, but maybe only for one year. From year to year, one keeps having to find a new Free File provider and they all have different protocols. It gets very confusing. Having a consistent interface with IRS would make it so much easier.

Europe much better than USA in low carbon footprint living, but thanks to US fossil fuel industry and possibly the luck of geology, USA is less dependent on Russian gas these days.

As for reducing carbon footprint, I think most European countries are lightyears ahead of USA. For things like mass transit, bicycling and compact living, Europe has us beat.

In spite of this, Europe is struggling more than us, given the Russia sanctions energy crisis. This is basically because the US has more fossil fuel production than Europe. Domestic fossil fuel production.

We are less dependent on imported energy which often comes from authoritarian countries. This hasn't always been the case. During the 1970s, USA was so dependent on imported oil that OPEC had us over a barrel. Since then, domestic production of oil and natural gas has increased in USA so it's closer to our domestic demand.

I've sometimes wondered if Europe could produce more of it's own fossil fuel. Not necessarily a desirable outcome in terms of climate change, however.

It is true that Europe is trying to ramp up alternative energy production and transferring it's fossil fuel imports to other sources besides Russia. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) for instance. Trying in short order.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Assuming that Puget Sound Region is outgrowing Seatac Airport.

Watch out for planes crossing the bike path near Renton's little airport; one of many small airports. Seatac is a much bigger airport. Image taken 2013.

If the economy and population keep growing and air travel remains like it is today, in spite of climate change, this region outgrows Seatac Airport. The state of Washington is looking ahead to 2050. New airport sites by Tacoma and Olympia are on the "short list" for, possibly, a brand new airport.

According to an article I read (Sept. 24 2022 Bellingham Herald) Puget Sound Region is projected to see 27 million more annual passenger boardings than it can accommodate and twice the amount of current cargo demand by 2050.

From what I read, Seatac serves 50 million passengers per year. That's more than the population of Washington State, but lots of people fly several times per year and some from other areas transfer at Seatac. By 2050 room for even more passengers and cargo is projected to be needed.

Near Tacoma, “Pierce County East” and “Pierce County Central” sites were deemed attractive due to the potential number of passengers they could accommodate: 20 million and 19 million annually, respectively.

Paine Field, in Everett, is another place discussed for the expansion, but I guess it isn't large enough already. They would want to add to it. There must be a lot of development around it constraining expansion?

Paine Field is already taking some of the load off of Seatec.

I've heard people talk about using Bellingham Airport for this, but I don't think it's in the study. Must be too far from Seattle and expanding it, to more runways, would be an issue. Bellingham is already, kind of, an alternative airport for Vancouver, BC.

One wonders if we will find low carbon fuels for jets? One wonders if other technologies, such as telecommuting or slow floating helium airships, will take much of the load away from jet traffic? Seems like procuring right of way for high speed rail is unlikely, however.

Friday, September 23, 2022

A more thoughtful solution than just sticking it to perceived hypocrites on Martha's Vineyard.

News is talking about Florida Governor DeSantis's political stunt of relocating refugees, from Texas, to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Another way to think about these issues is to discuss population growth and things, like the shortage of housing in USA. Immigration does add to population, but it can also add to a solution for housing. Reducing the shortage of construction workers that I hear is part of the housing "supply chain" problem.

Yes, immigrants can proved needed labor, in construction and other fields of work.

Another thing leading to the housing shortage is, of course, zoning. As population grows, density of development will need to increase.

I'm no expert on land use planning in Martha's Vineyard, but this hot button event could add to the national conversation about how we accommodate population growth in this country.

Our traditional patterns of semi rural sprawl and even exclusive single family neighborhoods seem to be in conflict with the idea of welcoming in new people. Over dependency on the automobile, with it's increasing traffic, is a related problem.

We could take a good look at how people expect to live in this country. Both liberals and conservatives.

Population growth is a worldwide problem, but if it is a reality, how we accommodate growing population is a factor as well. Migration is becoming a big issue all over the world due to climate change and other factors.

Good planning can make the difference between population growth being just a burden, or in some cases, it can still be an asset as in providing more willing and skilled labor to meet our needs; such as for housing.

The inflationary pressures caused by overpriced assets. Real estate and so forth.

Seems like there is always a tradeoff in economics. Now that wages have been going up and jobs are easier to find, we have inflation. Increasing costs, including labor costs, passed along to the consumer. It's like "we can't have it all."

Income inequality is a big factor in this problem. I'm not against the idea of using graduated taxes to address income inequality.

Some inflation may not be a bad thing. Someone does have to pay for higher costs. It's either the consumer or the upper level management and owners as profits and top level wages have to come down.

Either that or income and wealth inequality is addressed through higher taxes. Hopefully, it's taxes on wealthy individuals, rather than smothering business. I know business needs money to operate and, in some cases, expand and update.

As long as wages and prices go up together, things aren't too bad. It's the big gap between things that really creates the problem; like when food costs remain low while housing costs go through the roof. Then restaurant workers can't afford a place to live.

I think rising interest rates will help cool the cost of existing housing. One problem is that homes have become an asset and they have gone way up in value over past decades. They have gone up along with other assets, such as stocks.

I think asset values have been rising out of line with the rest of the economy. That may be why the Federal Reserve is trying to tighten up on the money supply. A way to cool the bidding wars for homes and so forth. This is one lever that can dampen inflation.

It does look like some inflation isn't the end of the world. Inflation is said to be bad for people with savings accounts, but low interest rates have already destroyed bank savings as a way to build wealth anyway.

As for everything going up in price, it's just money. Future generations will just move the decimal point over. The dollar is becoming the new dime and future generations can start from there.

What the Fed is doing now is probably a good thing, however. Modest inflation is better than having it so rampant that it is out of control. Rampant inflation, in assets such as home values, has been driving wealth inequality for decades.

Could a desalinization plant, on the Gulf of California in Mexico, irrigate California's Imperial Valley?

There is some talk of piping water all the way from the Mississippi River to the Colorado. Expensive for sure.

I've come up with my own idea for putting more water in the Colorado. One of the big users of Colorado River water is the Imperial Valley in California. That's a big agricultural area right on the Mexican Border south of the Salton Sea. I think it's actually a bit below sea level.

Maybe they could build a desalinization plant on the Gulf of California, in Mexico, to provide water to that area. It might even be able to use a mostly gravity feed pipe or canal down to the Imperial Valley from Gulf of California.

Desalinization could provide fresh water for both the Imperial Valley and parts of Mexico. Those areas would no longer have to be so dependent on Colorado River water.

I know that the idea of desalizazation may not pencil out economically for agriculture. Desalinization is an expensive process. Too expensive to provide water cheap and abundant enough for agriculture. Farming needs a cheap source of water, unless it's hydroponic; like indoor agriculture; Another topic. That might sink my "Gulf of California / Imperial Valley" idea, but I still present that idea here, at least.

The process of desalinization is already starting to be used by California's coastal cities; such as San Diego. Urban areas don't need as high a volume of water as open field agriculture. The concept of desalinization is starting to pencil out for urban water usage.

Bringing water all the way from the Mississippi would be expensive as well.

Update: Other folks came up with a similar idea, but a board says it's not viable.

I found an article in October 5 2022 Los Angeles Times, made free on Yahoo News.

As Salton Sea faces ecological collapse, a plan to save it with ocean water is rejected.

That board suggests another strategy for mitigating the dust from the Salton Sea that is drying up. They want to plant stuff to catch the dust and also have some farmers transfer their Colorado River water allocation to Salton Sea. Let more water flow into the Salton Sea.

That might mean much less food from Imperial Valley, however. It also might still mean little water as there is not much water, from the Colorado River, to work with.

We'll see.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Easier for Republicans to do something like banning abortion than figuring out how to stop something as complex as inflation

Hoping Republicans have a difficult time this November, but who knows.

They are using inflation as a campaign issue, but I doubt there is a clear solution to inflation that politicians can enact into law. Politicians can do something specific, like banning abortion, but inflation is more complex with no easy way to pass a law against it.

The Federal Reserve is not on the ballot, but it likely has more influence through the money supply. It's taking steps now to try and curb inflation, but the whole thing isn't that straight forward.

There are a lot of moving parts in the economy. Complex issues of supply and demand, wages and expectations, wealth inequality, environmental constraints and people's perception of how well things are going.

Not something with a clear solution based on the stroke of a pen.

People may not realize this, however. They still might buy talking points that Republicans, or Democrats can totally control inflation.

If we go back to a Republican Congress, with the Senate controlled by Mitch McConnel again, it would be a while before we learn that inflation doesn't just go away from political promises. By then it might be too late.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Seems unlikely that there will be any significant climate change reparations from rich countries to poor countries

For instance, given the precariousness of US politics, where Republicans could retake Congress in 2022 election, I wonder if the US could even reduce our own carbon emissions, let alone help other countries?

It does take some spending to reduce our own emissions; either that or less consumptive lifestyles, in the US and other rich countries; a heavy lift politically.

I hope the Democrats hold onto and even expand their margins in Congress, but who knows what might happen. Republicans seem to care less about resolving climate change. At least the Democrats play lip service to solving climate change.

UK recently got a new prime minister who is calling for tax cuts.

Quite a few people, in Third World countries, have said, "you (the West) have had your turn at industrialization and consumerism, now it's our (the Third World's) turn."

That mindset is partially behind what has brought China to become the world's largest carbon polluter. The situation has lead to Donald Trump's style of pushback, in the US, as many folks say, "what good is cutting US carbon emissions as China and India pump out more carbon?

It's like kids fighting in a sandbox over who's to blame.

There may be no more turns. The old paradigm of industrialization, population growth and consumerism needs to change in all countries.

There is talk of Third World countries leapfrogging the old paradigms of industrialization and going to a more ideal model of sustainable living. Solar energy instead of coal, for instance. Technology can help, like in the case of countries bypassing phoneline networks and going directly to cellphone technology. Could Third World countries bypass the automobile as well? Seems unlikely, but I can still hope. Electric cars help, but energy still has to come from somewhere.

It seems like everyone, who can afford it, still embraces the automobile. Look at traffic jams in China, India, Nigeria and so forth. Population growth is still rampant in much of the Third World, though the growth rate is slowing.

Unfortunately, many Third World countries push old fashioned attitudes toward sexuality; for instance oppression of LGBTQ people and lack of women's rights. Even if consumption is low, in poor countries, I don't give them a pass on population as it seems like most people, in poor nations, aspire toward higher levels of consumption. The main thing holding them back is just poverty.

Hopefully there will be some new ways of thinking the world over. I remember the idea of poor countries bypassing traditional forms of industrialization and consumption being talked about, some, since my college days. It's also true that richer countries can learn some more sustainable ways of life from the Third World. For instance more use of buses and public transportation. The idea of slower traffic with streets for all. Slower speeds can fill the streets with walkers, animals, bicycles, rickshaws and so forth. Again, a heavy political lift in countries where life is already in the fast lane.

Here in the US, however, heavy traffic has slowed many of our "fast lane" freeways to a crawl, but the slow speed is not the intent of freeway planners. Freeways are still being built in poor countries as they are possibly not learning the lessons of things that have been troublesome in rich countries. Are they wishing to repeat the same mistakes?

There is a lot of room for rethinking the way humans function the world over.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Are some Democrats trying to help the MAGA Republicans?

Money and politics on both sides of the aisle can be dirty. The intent of Biden's speech against MAGA Republicans has apparently been undermined by a Democratic PAC, led by Chuck Schumer, plowing money toward MAGA Republicans in primary elections.

Seen now as possibly weaker candidates than more moderate Republicans, this strategy is seen as helping Democrats in general elections. If it backfires, we get MAGA Republicans.

I still vote Democrat on of the issues aside from the dirty strategies on both sides.

On the issues, Republicans see today's inflation as a talking point that can get them elected. Few people mention what I think that inflation is nothing new. It predates Biden if one takes into account house value and housing cost inflation. That has been rampant for decades.

Rising interest rates may be tamping down the hot housing market and over priced land values today. That's good news on the inflation front going forward. Yes, higher interest rates may dampen supply by slowing construction, but dampening inflation in land prices could be more significant.

Gas prices are coming down now. Republicans see that as a driving force behind inflation and they tend to call for more domestic oil production. Makes sense not to buy from imports especially given Putin, but Republicans seem to not consider climate change.

We really do need less consumption.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

High fixed costs of things like housing and insurance necessitate robust economy which can drive consumption and environmental degradation.

One reason why the economy has to keep growing and churning out more goods and services is the high and growing fixed costs that people and businesses face. The fixed costs of rent and mortgage payments. Also the fixed costs of insurance, health insurance and even car insurance. Much of the premiums are fixed costs that necessitate a certain amount of economic activity to meet each month.

Conservatives will say that government creates fixed costs, but I think this is less the case. Lots of taxes do vary based on income and consumption.

Some folks suggest that car insurance should be based on miles driven, versus a fixed rate each month. Then folks that don't use the car as much could save on insurance.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

I think of religion as being speculation, but speculative discussion can be useful.

I think of religious ideas as being in the realm of speculation. Speculation is a legitimate form of discussion. Some of my favorite discussions are speculations.

Much of speculation isn't necessarily true, but some of it might be. It can lead to new insights and discoveries.

As long as it's approached with an open mind, spiritual and other speculation can be a good discussion.

Friday, August 05, 2022

In spite of technophobia, consumerism is rampant.

Unlike the energy crisis of the 1970s, it seems like hardly anyone discusses cutting back on consumption. Minimalist lifestyles do pull consumption out of the economy so it can create economic disruption; like loss of jobs.

Instead the talk is technological fixes. Clean energy, build back better. I'm okay with technological fixes, but they take time. Ironically, there are lots of people who claim that there isn't a "technological fix." They will say that relying on technology isn't the answer. I believe it can be the answer, but does take time.

Without technological fixes, the answer would have to be reduction in consumption. Both solutions being applied simultaneously could help, however.

Underlying a lot of thinking is the concept that technological society is somehow "immoral." Maybe that relates to the idea that "technology fix" isn't the answer. I guess quite a few folks think we are headed for catastrophe. Little or no hope for us. It's like "party, party for tomorrow we shall die." In spite of technophobia, consumerism is rampant.

I feel that technological society can have more of a future than that. At the same time consumerism, increasing populations, increasing rents and expectations does put a lot of pressure on people's psychology. Somehow, life has become like a rat race for many folks. Myself, having a low tolerance for stress, I have pretty much figured out ways to avoid the rat race. My life isn't very typical, however.

More folks could live the way I do, but it may not be appealing to so many people who seem to be influenced by movies, television, advertising, peer pressure, relationship obligations, mortgage obligations and so forth. They grumble about all of this and they say technology can't save us, but they party on as if collapse of civilization is a forgone conclusion.

Still, I think we need less consumptive living and the hope of technological fixes; such as solar energy and hydrogen fusion, for getting us to what still could be a better future. We need both conservation and technological innovation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Light rail is so expensive. Maybe Bus Rapid Transit is the way to go.

For decades, the freeway traffic in Seattle has been so congested that commutes are a crawl. One would think after all these years they would figure out a better way to go.

If they could have a transit only lane on all freeways through Seattle metro that had at least 3 lanes of traffic (6 lanes both ways), there could be something called "bus rapid transit." Seattle metro has lots of freeways with at least 3 lanes in both directions.

Bus rapid transit could use existing infrastructure. It would be less expensive than trying to build light rail; something that takes years to develop. They did just finish Sound Transit Light Rail as far north as the old Northgate area and it's under construction farther north into Lynwood and east across Lake Washington. This takes years and billions of dollars to build.

On the freeways, they do have HOV lanes, but populism allows too many cars into the HOV lanes so the traffic is just as gridlocked in the HOV lanes as in the regular lanes. Everything gets stuck in traffic.

If they had bus only lanes, at least the buses could get through. Then there would be more incentive to take the bus thus reducing the congestion of cars in all the lanes.

I remember, a few years ago, the HOV lanes worked kind of well as one had to have at least 3 people in a vehicle to be in the HOV lane. Eventually this limit was lowered to two people so the HOV lane is almost as congested as all the other lanes with single passenger cars.

Everyone is still stuck in traffic after all these many decades.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Rejecting scientific evidence often comes from a position of being over confident in oneself

Too much overconfidence, or self self assuredness, causes people to reject evidence that is different from how their minds are already made up. Strong beliefs and confidence can cause people to reject scientific evidence.

Religious fundamentalists tend to be super confident, but within religious thought, there is the concept of humbleness. Humbleness before God. I think this concept can be used for opening the minds of some people. Few people want to admit they are a "know it all." At the same time, it does seem to me like a lot of religious folks have forgotten the concept of humbleness to the point of being over confident in their own righteousness.

I was brought up in fairly open minded religion so I realize that not all religion is self-righteous. I also know that science, in itself, can be very humbling. Scientists are often reevaluating what they are thinking as new evidence does have a tendency to upset old thinking. Willingness to learn is a form of humbleness.

Self deprecating humor is a good thing. I hear quite a bit of self deprecating humor in science lectures I watch on YouTube. I think more people need the realization that we owe a lot of our successes to the work of others. Another concept coming to mind is gratitude. I've even heard it said in churches as I was growing up. We can be thankful.

Some of my thoughts after reading this article. Overconfidence bolsters anti-scientific views, study finds.

Friday, July 08, 2022

Pictures from my 2022 bicycle trip across Washington State are on-line.

Photo album and descriptions are on Flickr. Free access. No sign in required. Click on pictures for enlargement and the longer stories that come with some of the pictures.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

I may be less vulnerable to crime being a bicyclist

During summer of 2020, I wasn't a big fan of the idea that police are the big problem. I'm hearing that some of the police reforms, in Washington State, have made it harder for police to do their jobs.

Now, people in Bellingham, including folks calling themselves liberal, are starting to get real worried about crime.

Personally, I haven't noticed the increasing crime situation. I still feel safe, myself, but I'm hearing lots about it from other folks. I am sympathetic to folks feeling threatened, but, again, it seems like some of the talk might be over reaction. The anti police talk was over reaction, now people's fear for their safety could be, in part, over reaction.

I'm thinking that my bicycle has helped my own feeling of safety. There are lots of street people and homeless folks around, but I just go by on my bike. Walking can make one more vulnerable; especially folks who must walk with canes and walkers. Being male, rather than female, makes a difference as well. I feel less vulnerable than a lot of women are feeling these days.

Another thing about the bicycle, that adds to my personal sense of safety, is that I park my bike inside my locked apartment. Folks with cars often have to leave the car out in a parking lot or along the street. Car prowls and thefts are up. There's been a big rash of catalytic converter thefts.

I do worry about more lawlessness on the roads. Traffic is getting worse, law enforcement is short handed as it's getting harder to fill jobs in policing. Traffic death tolls are up, but so far I've been okay on the roads. For the most part I've been out of the mainstream traffic pattern. Trails, shoulders and light traffic roads are where I go.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

A solution to the racial wealth gap that both liberals and conservatives would baulk at.

During the Juneteenth Holiday. There was talk about the wealth gap between white people, on average, and most people of color. How can that be addressed?

One solution that I doubt would be popular, but could be effective. An increase in capital gains tax; like a death tax. A tax on the windfall wealth folks have gained from real estate and other assets. A tax on wealth passed down through families.

Lots of people's goto tax is a tax on business, but business does need it's capital assets, like the building housing the business, to operate and people want the goods, services and jobs that business provides. It could be taxed also, but not smothered.

Seems like personal and family wealth would need to see a boost in the taxes, such as death taxes, that it pays to help address the wealth gap.

Let's bring back Jimmy Carter's 1970s call for less energy consumption

Seems like there is no talk, from Biden or any major politician these days, about conservation. Using less gasoline which may be the best way; especially in the short run, to bring the price down. Supply and demand.

In some ways, I miss my college days during the Carter Presidency. Carter was pushing everything from walking more to turning down (or up in summer) the thermostat. It was a time when we thought we could pull together and make a difference. In many ways, life seems more jaded today.

Things were different back then. The price of gasoline was more regulated so while there were price hikes, the lack of supply was manifested in actual gas shortages. Long lines at gas stations. Odd even rationing based on licence plate number, the 55 mile per hour speed limit, which may have done more to save lives than gas, but it was the law of the land for years.

Carter did have long term goals to increase domestic production. Mining oil shale, coal gasification. The Carter Synfuels program. He also pushed alternative energy.

Back then, the US was hopelessly dependent on oil imports.

Since then, Republican thinking has prevailed. Price controls have been eliminated letting the marketplace regulate supply and demand through price, rather than regulation and rationing. Due to advanced technology, in oil drilling, there has been a miraculous increase in domestic oil production over the past few decades. America is far less dependent on oil imports while gasoline consumption has still risen dramatically to meet our increased, population, prosperity and sprawl.

Still, I miss the days when politicians tried to get people to consume less.

Consuming less would take pressure off supply and bring prices down in the shortrun. In the longrun, oil fracking our way to increased production is problematic due to climate change. Or, maybe we can use another miracle technology; geo engineering to artificially cool the earth? I wouldn't count on that. We will need clean energy sources such as solar and hydrogen fusion.

The future, Florida Governor DeSantis style?

In a future world with climate change, people might be able to adapt. Republicans who aren't that worried about this should, however, remember the saying, "be careful what you ask for as you might get it."

Future tourists might enjoy visits to much of Florida as it's inundated with water. They will ride in shallow watercraft past buildings where the ground floors are unusable. Some entire buildings abandoned and turned to sculpture while others adapted with upper floors still in use.

Less folks will own property in this vision of the future. As neighborhoods change, tennants can just move out. People will become more nomadic. More buildings will be mobile also; like houseboats and mobile homes.

Meanwhile in dryer California, agriculture will giveway to use of the land for solar panels. Much less need for irrigation water. Farming will move to new regions, farther north for instance. Inside agriculture will thrive, but food becomes much more expensive.

Our civilization might be able to adapt, even thrive, but it will have to accept change.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Address wealth inequality between races with higher capital gains tax on assets and residential real estate.

I am not a big fan of reparations, but it is true that there is a large gap in accumulated family history wealth between average people in different races. White race having the most accumulated wealth per capita.

One idea would be to more highly tax assets and property when these assets are sold, if the assets have large windfall profits. Houses that go way up in value, stocks or whatever.

Break multi generational wealth advantages. Money could, at least, go toward better social safety net, reducing carbon footprint and needed infrastructure in everyone's community.

Ya, my idea would probably not be that popular among both liberals and conservatives.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Washington State's economy at top of WalletHub's list. Are we business friendly or what?

Some people might be surprised, but according to WalletHub, Washington State has the strongest economy in the nation. Are we business friendly or what?

I would guess that a lot of things like our strong high tech economy, innovative traditions, emphasis on education and legalization of pot help. Remember, pot is a revenue source.

We also still have water. Quite a few states, in the west at least, are coming under more and more restrictions on water use which can have devastating effects on agriculture.

Monday, June 06, 2022

Dropping the gas tax? How about switching to a mileage tax to pay for roads?

To appease fossil fuel addiction, some states are temporarily dropping gas tax due to rising gas prices. Gas taxes tend to go toward paying for the roads so this could lead to cuts in highway budgets.

This also relates to the question of how to pay for roads if vehicles use no gas, such as electric vehicles. Maybe this could be seen as part of a transitioning toward mileage tax versus a gas tax to pay for roads. In the future, mileage and weight taxes make more sense than fuel taxes.

Given concern about climate change, with it's potential reductions of investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, gasoline may remain expensive. Carbon taxes could serve as the new gas tax.

Some folks might be weary of their vehicle being tracked by GPS to calculate the tax. They might say, "Big Brother satellite in the sky." On the other hand, I hear that car theft is on the rise. Knowing where the vehicle is, at all times, makes it easier to catch the thieves. The growing car theft problem could be significantly reduced.

In the future, even bicycles might pay the mileage fee, but they could get a huge break on weight. It's also harder to rack up lots of miles, on a bicycle, so the fees wouldn't be prohibitive.

Car insurance could take mileage from GPS into account also. Thus eliminating the insurance penalty for car owners who only use the car on rare occasion.

As war seems to just bring bloody stalemate in today's Ukraine, maybe Ukraine can win in the sprere of economics and public opinion instead.

I could see maybe Ukraine letting Russia have the areas it has stolen, for now, if it means a pause in the war. Remembering that the long run could be a different story.

In the long run, there is also the competition in fields like economics, quality of life, public opinion and where people most wish to live. More freedom can win in the long run.

People might not wish to live, or be able to flourish, in the areas occupied by Russia, compared to the rest of Ukraine and Europe.

About cities that Russia has bombed, there is the pottery barn rule. You break it, you own it. Hopefully the people who want something better can escape to a new life elsewhere.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Why I might have flunked mindfulness 101, but made up my own version.

A practice called Mindfulness is quite useful for many people. On the other hand, I sometimes think I flunked Mindfulness. Part of that practice, which admittedly I'm no expert in, has to do with focusing one's attention on what one is doing at the moment.

Often my mind tends to wander to what seems like more interesting thinking than the day to day things in my life. Working as a custodian, for many years, I spent quite a bit of time sweeping floors, vacuuming carpets and so forth. Hard to just focus on those repetitive tasks. Of course one would want their brain surgeon to be focused on the task at hand, but not all tasks are of that high an order.

I have my own definition of something that may be related to Mindfulness. That is accepting the tasks in my life as if they are legitimate and valuable. If sweeping the stairs is the task, it's worthy of my effort. It doesn't necessarily require ultimate "flow state" (another concept discussed in psychology). It doesn't necessarily require full attention.

For many of my custodial tasks, I listened to podcasts about such topics as economics, theoretical physics, travel and so forth. If I wasn't listening to the radio, or podcasts, my mind was often wandering to thinking that would sometimes end up in my writing.

Another part of accepting what my life is, has to do with my writing and photography. The effort is legitimate even if I'm not writing for a major publication; like the New York Times. Often it just goes on Facebook, but I still feel like it's worth the effort.

Like keeping my apartment at least reasonably organized, visiting with friends, writing and photography, it's worthwhile.

I try and keep up with the tasks life wants me to do. I tend to procrastinate less than some folks. Often I do find joy in what I am doing, including simple tasks.

As for flow state, it isn't always there. That would be a tall order, like we put ourselves under lots of pressure. I do find myself pretty close to flow state when I'm writing, talking with friends, dealing with my photos, organizing things and even cleaning.

I sometimes get close to flow state when I am physically active, such as bicycling or dancing. With dancing, the music makes a big difference. Not all music hits the spot for me.

I'm no pro dancer, but I do enjoy flopping around and at least moving.

My dad met well, but he often said, "pay attention to what you are doing." I had teachers that said I was a daydreamer. Most of them let me slip by anyway even though things like my spelling (back in the days before spellcheckers) was horrible.

Paying full attention is good advice if one is driving, or piloting a jet. Partially for that reason, I never learned to drive.

My article about this in The Betty Pages.