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.

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.