Sunday, December 31, 2023

Wishful thinking for the new year.

It would be great if big transformational changes could start happening in lifestyles and society in the new year. If we could end the gridlock and start making the changes we need to usher in a better world. We need to implement technological changes, lifestyle changes, changes in politics and business to address climate change and so forth. I can only dream.

Countries like USA and Canada are like lifeboats to folks seeking amnesty. How many can be rescued before the lifeboat sinks?

I got to thinking that the immigration issue is like USA, Canada, Europe and so forth are life boats in an ocean. Some people are drowning, in that ocean, due to totalitarian governments, gangs, poverty, climate change and so forth.

How many people can we rescue before our lifeboat sinks? A question with no definite answer.

If we had twice as many people, in USA, as we do now, we would still only have half as many people as live in India today. We now have around 335 million. Twice that would be 700 million and double that again would get to the 1 billion 400 million population of India; now the world's most populated country.

India has surpassed China in population and has less land area than USA or China. Most people seem like they are at least surviving and maybe even thriving in India. I don't hear as much trouble, from India, as I do from some other countries.

Still we likely couldn't accommodate that many people given the circumstances of USA; lifestyles, expectations of wealth, infrastructure, housing, traffic, water use and so forth.

If batteries for electric cars are a problem, we need less cars. More electric trolleys run from the overhead wire with no need for the battery.

Some people say that electric cars are just as bad, if not worse, than fossil fuel cars due to things like chemicals, mining and manufacturing. If that's the case, I would say we have to reduce the use of private cars altogether. Go to more walking, bicycling and public transit.

On the other hand, I think that electric cars are much better than fossil fuel cars. I wonder what motivates so much pushback against electric cars? Is it conservatives who just want to play the devil's advocate? As much of society is pushing toward electrification, there will be naysayers.

On the other hand, I do think there are big problems with a society so dependent on automobiles. Electrification does present some logistical challenges. Some of the worry about chemicals and batteries may have merit even though there are ways to address these issues.

People often say that reducing automobile dependency is impractical. I think we need to make changes on many fronts. Electrification and reducing automobile dependency.

If we listen to the naysayers, I guess there is nothing we can do.

If the battery is a big problem, we already have a solution. The trolley buses, in Seattle and other cities run directly from the power grid through overhead wires; no need for the onboard battery.

It's another argument for denser development to make transit lines more viable, plus smaller residences would cut down on heating and air conditioning demand as well as material consumption; no place to store too much junk at home.

Private cars might even be able to run on a system of trolley wires, or even getting their electricity from the road itself. If the battery is even that big of a problem, there are solutions, but we do need big changes in the way we plan our living arrangements.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

For the past few years I have been writing an opinion column in a local paper called The Betty Pages.

For instance About dancing, December 2023.

About cap and trade carbon pricing in Washington State.

See subject tag to my articles in Betty Pages as I have posted them on Flickr.

Things might be looking better for WSU Cougars.

Old pressbox at WSU Stadium. Photo taken 2009.

Looks like WSU and Oregon State have wond control of the former PAC 12 Confrerence; now the PAC 2 Conference. The courts have backed the two remaining schools right to decide what to do with the conference.

Little did I know that there's quite a bit of money in the old conference so that can play a role in the future of both teams as conferences are reconfigured. I was thinking that the debt run up by Cougar Football would really be hard to pay off. As I see it, that debt was run up as WSU was spending a lot of facilities, coaches and so forth to try and keep up with other schools in the PAC 12 Conference.

Now, with the demise of the PAC 12, WSU still has the debt, but little did I realize, there's also money in the PAC 12. Maybe the situation isn't so dire for WSU, but I don't know how that all connects. I'm just drawing connections in my mind. I hear little talk about the money in relation to WSU's debt, but I'm putting two and two together. I'm not sure how this all plays out.
,br /> There is lots of media coverage about this situation, but I haven't heard much talk connecting the money and the debt situation.

We'll just have to see what transpires. It looks like things might not be as dire for the Cougars as I had earlier thought.

Friday, December 22, 2023

How long will the next dark ages of human civilization last, if it happens at all? Hopefully less than a decade.

To many Republicans, it seems like the sanctity of life only applies before birth.

Meanwhile, after birth, the troubles of this world seem to be getting more and more overwhelming to just about everyone, regardless of political orientation.

The number of people seeking safety by crossing borders and the number of troubled people needing assistance, both here in USA and abroad, seems so overwhelming that there have been many recent radio interviews about "charity fatigue."

As for climate change, the last few decades have seen huge numbers of people in India, China and other places around the world, rise out of poverty. This has contributed to the rising carbon footprint. There are slightly over 8 billion people on the planet.

We can make it work better, but a good question is, "do we have the political will to create a sustainable world and maintain societies that are not too authoritarian?"

Reducing population growth and accepting alternative lifestyles can play an important role as mainstream population growth and addiction to wealth seem destine to conflict.

Alternative can be defined in many ways such as simpler lifestyles in terms of consumption. Another definition of "alternative" comes to mind regarding sexuality and family situations. Alternative is a broad topic and much needed in today's world.

If the world does teeter into another dark age, one possible silver lining is that modern dark ages can be short lived. Europe went through the holocaust in a matter of just a decade followed by a period of greater idealism.

I was born into that era of idealism as my first memories of news are out of the 1960s. Yes, the cold war worries and pollution worries were there, but most of the decades of my life have seen a great deal of peace activism, civil rights progress, scientific progress, talk of a more sustainable world and rising standards of living in many parts of the world.

My early childhood memories, about Europe, was the rise of the Beetles in UK. I was in 3rd grade when the Beetles were on Ed Sullivan. World War II seemed like it was long over by then.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

It's better to decrease the birth rate than increase the death rate as the way to stabilize world population, but world cultures may be inadvertently choosing the latter.

One way to stabilize world population is to reduce the birthrate via better birth control and more liberal attitudes about sexual alternatives.

Another way is for the death rate to increase from famine, war, poverty and even genocide. The first way is more desirable.

Even a small amount of population growth could possibly still happen if our consumption of resources were sustainable for climate stability and so forth. This can be achieved with technological innovation as well as the type of economics that would promote less consumption. Quality of life can, conceivably, improve; depending on how people define quality of life.

A good question to ask, worldwide, is whether humanity has the political will to develop a sustainable world.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

When Joseph and Mary got to the border, there was no room at the inn. They regretted that they didn't use birth control.

Given population growth, migration, border issues and the Christmas season, these conflicting concepts come to mind when following the news. I don't draw cartoons well, but here is my attempt at a political collage.
My thanks to Mark Allyn for helping me with the couple, could be Joseph and Mary. I'm really bad at drawing people.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

If the world can comply with the COP28 goals is a more important factor than the level of the goals themselves.

Setting carbon emission goals at COP28 may matter less than whether we can follow those goals. The world usually seems put out more carbon that what the goals are set for anyway. If we can even stick to the goals, that would be an accomplishment. That will be the bigger story, in my opinion.

Monday, December 11, 2023

US produces lots of oil and natural gas. The problem is not that it's produced, the problem is that it's consumed.

Some countries think USA is hypocritical for seeking long term phase out of carbon in COP28 while US is the biggest oil and gas producer. Problem is US is, I think, the biggest oil consumer. I think consumption is more the problem than production.

We produce oil for ourselves and some of our natural gas goes to help Europe ween itself off of Russian gas. Our own oil production helps keep US gas prices from going so high that the cost of gasoline tank's Biden in the polls.

If Trump were to win, in 2024, I would guess he would go before the media and laughingly tear up any COP28 agreement in front of the cameras.

Is there hate speech on college campuses? Could USA benifit from something like Canada's law against hate speech?

Those 3 college presidents called before Congress about anti anti sematic, pro genocide speech on their campuses were kind of stumbling around for answers in our nation of free speech.

In Canada, they have federal laws against something called "Hate Speech." Maybe we could consider learning how Canada deals with this sort of thing.

I'll admit I haven't been following this topic closely either in USA, or Canada, though I do follow Canadian media.

My memory for news can be fairly sharp. Canada's hate speech laws seem to be enforced very sparingly. Canada is also a nation that respects free speech, though they do have some kind of hate speech law that USA doesn't have. Such a law might be useful, though folks fear the slippery slope toward censorship.

I remember, back in the 1990s, there was an author named Salman Rushdie who got famous for writing a book related to Islam titled The Satanic Versus. The Iranian government put a bounty out for him and he had to go into hiding for years.

During that time, I remember that Canada's mechanism for enforcing rules against hate speech had his books temporarily pulled from circulation in Canada as they were seen as a possible violation of hate speech. The books were quickly put back on the shelves when it was determined that they did not violate Canada's hate speech law; if my memory is correct here.

On another note, if folks are mad at Israel, I would guess there is much more support for Israel's military among conservative Christians, in USA, than among Jewish people who are often critical of certain things about Israel.

Of all the emotions we have, whether sex or whatever, anger is, by far, the emotion that is on the shakiest ethical grounds.

Worth repeating. Of all the emotions we have, whether sex or whatever, I think anger is, by far, the emotion that is on the shakiest ethical grounds.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Even the Holy Land of the 3 major Abrahamic religions is full of holes; bullet holes and bomb craters.

A part of the Middle East is considered the Holy Land for the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Looking at the news, one can also call it the holy land as it's full of bullet holes.

Ever since my childhood, I've thought that the fundamental interpretations of Abrahamic religions were more dogmatic, out dated and rigid than most other religious traditions around the world. Some other religions seem more comfortable with modernity and science. Ironically, it's our western culture that has developed powerful technology and pretty much subdued the earth.

In the west, it seems like more and more people are adopting secularism to the point of not believing in any form of spirituality. That's not surprising, though it seems like that is a bleak way of thinking as well.

I like the idea of open minded thinking when it comes to questions of a spiritual nature. Even within the Abrahamic religions that so many westerners are used to; like comfort food, there can be open mindedness and less war like rigidity. Regardless of our religious traditions, or lack there of, we need to open ourselves to new ways of thinking.

Stable housing could provide a public that is more optimistic about the American economy.

With the US economy seeming to do well, many economists are scratching their heads as to why many people say we are in bad economic times and Biden's popularity is soft.

It might make a big difference if one has affordable housing or not. Many economists might be long term homeowners who have been somewhat sheltered from the spiraling cost of renting, or first time home purchase. This could skew their perception. The high cost leaves less money for other things like food which has also gone up in cost, but still not as much as housing. Maybe this situation is under the radar for most economists.

I heard some on NPR discussing this very situation today.

Where someone is in their lifespan can make a difference. Younger people often struggle more trying to rent or pay newer mortgages. This could mean that the voting trends, among younger people, are less predictable.

The millennial generation now struggling with young families and the cost of establishing a home, plus having to make payments on student debt again after pandemic relief may not be able to be counted on for Biden. Of course Trump is worse, but voter apathy sometimes determines an election.

Empty land, absentee speculative landlords, homeless encampments near Walmart.

There has been quite a bit of worry about homeless encampments in downtown Bellingham, but I hear that, by far, the biggest and most crime ridden encampment is out by Walmart.

From what I hear, much of that encampment is on some parcels of private property and in at least one case, the owner was (so I hear) unresponsive to the city.

Private property can make it harder for police to enter without following more rules such as getting search warrants, I guess. Meanwhile the downtown encampments are small and mostly on public property. Police keep a good eye on things. There aren't even that many encampments.

Seems like some people hold onto empty property for speculation, or maybe even tax write off. When the land value is too high, the property can sit unused and attract problems.

On the radio, from San Francisco, I've heard someone suggest increasing taxes on land so private individuals cannot profit as much from speculation. This could drive down the value of vacant land which would make it easier to finance putting a building on that land, or finding other uses for the land.

High land values can stifle more responsible use of land.

I remember that my dad was a fan of an economist named John Galbraith, back in the 1970s. I think Galbraith suggested that land inside a city should not be owned, but instead leased. Buildings, homes and businesses could be privately owned, however. I think there is too much profit from vacant land speculation.

I've seen some posts on Reddit about Bellingham's encampment near Walmart. Some say it's the worst in Western Washington. I don't know, but that could be the case.

I'm sure Walmart and apartment building owners near there are not happy with it, but large areas of vacant, private land can be problematic.

I seldom go to that neighborhood anyway as it's quite a ways out north and not as pleasant for bicycling.

US Bank opens first LGBTQ+ flagship branch in Arizona

Coincidentally, US Bank is my bank. Good to see this. I've always thought US Bank was okay. Yes, it's a commercial bank, but I tend to be okay about institutions.

I resisted suggestions for changing over to a credit union during the Occupy Wall Street anger against banks. I had no reason to not like my bank though I have a story that got me to open an account at a credit union, one time.

I used to have a few ads on my website and one of the advertisers was overseas. At that time, US Bank did have a high service charge for depositing an international check so I opened an account at a credit union with a lower charge to deposit that check.

I transferred a bit of money to the credit union and just left it there for several years. Just before the Occupy Wall Street protests started, by coincidence, that credit union suggested I remove the mostly inactive account or face a service charge.

Wanting to simplify my life (I don't have lots of money) I consolidated back to US Bank. My overseas advertiser suggested I use Paypal to deposit overseas checks, so I got a Paypal account.

During the Occupy protests, some friends were suggesting I go to "credit union" versus "commercial bank," but I had just, sort of been ask politely, by that credit union, to close that account.

Basically I've seen no reason to change banks as I tend to be more okay about institutions versus the people; so to speak. One of my favorite concepts is, "We've met the enemy and the enemy is us."

Now I am pleased to read that US Bank is quite friendly to LGBTQ folks.

3 ways that population growth has a significant effect on climate change.

2 of the ways increase climate change while the third factor can reduce it.

#1 Population growth creates more consumers.

#2 More population can increase land values so people become more driven to work harder to afford a place to live. This can mean working more than one job, promoting more sales and consumption so the bills can be paid and so forth.

#3 Population growth can increase urban density, which might help reduce climate change. In denser developments, folks are less apt to drive cars, for instance due to traffic and difficulty in finding parking. Density can bring better public transit and more walkable, bike able neighborhoods. Density means more people living in shared buildings easier to heat and cool versus as many detached structures. Lots of other advantages of density including sewage disposal versus maintaining so many septic tanks. Density can help the environment, depending on how we plan for it.

The biggest case of buyer's remorse in US history. Musk's purchase of Twitter.

I would say that Musk's purchase of Twitter (now X) is the biggest case of buyer's remorse in American history. A problem with Twitter is that it is too much about sound bytes brevity and speed. Not a good environment for nuance.

I've been somewhat of a fan of Space X and hope that Musk and the Twitter debacle didn't bring down Space X as well. Who knows. Space X has some good achievements, but there is also increasing worry about it's prolific launches and satellites interfering with astronomy.

Saturday, December 02, 2023

A Libertarian, free market solution to paying for a college education. Instead of government Pell Grants, preform on Only Fans website and call it Porn Grants.

George Santos has been expelled from Congress for many reasons. One small reason was alleged use of campaign funds to buy from the the Only Fans website.

Eroticism is often sold by that site so it reminds me of a Libertarian, "free market" solution to paying for a college education. Sexy folks selling videos on Only Fans. It's likely already happening. Instead of calling this "Pell Grants," one can call it "Porn Grants."

Is that a Republican way to trim the budget?

Sunday, November 26, 2023

The only part of modernity that some people like is prosperity, but the rest of modernity is needed.

There are quite a few folks around the world, as well as here in the US, who seem to dislike modernity except for only one thing; they like prosperity.

They may be suspicious of modern technology, or changing cultural and religious values, but they still strive to have prosperity. I like prosperity also, but the struggle for it can be a rat race made worse by the refusal to accept most modern technology and changing cultural values.

I'm somewhat of a minimalist, related to money and consumption, but I do like most of what's called modernity.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Environmentalists may be framing the climate change issue the wrong way.

I keep hearing some conservatives say that climate change is no big deal as the earth has seen it before; like during the ice ages.

I think the environmental movement may have made a mistake in saying that we are "harming" earth as if earth wasn't harmed when the area we call Seattle was under a mile of ice.

Maybe we should discuss things in more human, economic centric terms. Do we want big climate changes today and in the next few decades as mortgages are due and businesses are signing long term leases?

If one owns property in Florida, do they want it under seawater before their 30 year mortgage is paid off? Insurance companies are already asking these questions and they are powerful voices in our economy.

The climate change, that we need to think about, is related to us and our time frames that aren't tens of thousands of years. Our time frames are more about the decades that businesses are signing long terms leases for. For instance a hotel, being built in an area of ski resorts, needs to ask, will that ski area still have snow while we still owe the mortgage?

Like it our not, we are human and economic centric in our thinking, but that can still be used as a motivation to think about what we are doing to the climate.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Should they raise user taxes on air travel to improve US air traffic control system? I would guess yes.

On the news it says the mass family time Thanksgiving travel weekend is starting with record air travel predicted. As usual I plan to stay local. There are some community events within easy walking or biking distance from me. I can meet new people and so forth.

As for the national issue, they say our air traffic system is stretched nearly to the breaking point. As for the need for more money, a simple fix is to increase the user taxes that airlines and the flying public pay to run and expand the system. That could cut down on the growing demand addressing the problem that way. It could also help fund the staff and equipment needed to upgrade the system.

Cutting demand does mean disruption to some plans and local economies so it wouldn't happen without it's critics, but seems like the best way to go.

I've wondered how much the government subsidizes air travel, but tried to look that up and my eyes gloss over. Yes, it's complicated. I think most of the system is paid for by user taxes that airlines and the flying public pay, but some is subsidized; especially smaller airports to prop up more rural parts of the country where there is less "economy of scale."

Friday, November 17, 2023

Why, the purpose of the universe

I just heard about a book titled, "Why; the purpose of the universe." The author was interviewed on CKNW Radio, a talk station I sometimes listen to from Vancouver, BC.

Interesting. The book is about the middle ground between a universe designed by a god and a universe with basically no meaning. Both extremes are problematic and leave lots of questions; like "if the universe just happened, why are the forces of nature so carefully balanced so as to allow this type of complex universe?"

On the other hand, the designer that so many religions describe, seems unlikely as well; I'd add especially fundamentalist religions that claim they know, for sure, how that god works.

I've always thought there must be some middle ground. The interview didn't mention liberal religions, but I did grow up in a liberal church. As far as I know, the liberal church, I grew up in, doesn't claim to know all those answers either, but the questions are still out there and worth thinking about.

I find the idea of a meaningless universe pretty disturbing, but I also think that most people's opinions about "why the universe is here" are not supported by real evidence.

I think the idea of purpose, in the universe, is comforting and sets better with human psychology. Discarding it, all together, could lead to more despair and mental illness.

The interview was short, but thought provoking. I like thinking about these big topics.

I must admit I don't attend church services, but I still like what goes on in some churches. The main reason why I don't attend is the same reason I don't often go to movies, theater or other things where I'm just in an audience. I like interactivity, rather than sitting watching figures on a stage; my same feeling about sporting events.

I do like discussion groups and other community activities that often happen in churches as well as in other places.

Friday, November 10, 2023

My first time in San Francisco. Spring 1974.

A trip down memory lane. My first visit to San Francisco, Spring 1974; my freshman year in college at Bellingham. Judith (my sister who, back then lived in Bellingham) and I went to visit a brother Jack (back then a grad student at Stanford; Palo Alto area).

On our way to the Bellingham Greyhound Station (then on State Street) I gave a dollar (maybe a quarter back then) to a pan handler. My sister implied that giving to pan handlers could be overwhelming in the big city, but ironically that was the only pan handler who approached us, as I remember at least.

Most of our time was spent in Palo Alto area for the visit, but we planned a sightseeing trip to San Francisco; often affectionately called "The City."
Photo from old postcard showing downtown and Trans America Pyramid.

I forgot how we got up there; maybe by car or transit.

During my childhood, San Francisco seemed like a dream city by the Golden Gate Bridge. Home of some powerful 50,000 watt radio stations that provided a slight connection between my hometown life in Pullman and that city by the bay.
Old postcard from the 1970s. KGO is no longer a talk show station.

By the time I got to college, my view of that city became more tainted and a bit grimy, however. I had learned more about it's problems as well.

As I remember, we divided our sightseeing day into two parts. Morning at the De Young Museum and an afternoon of walking around looking at downtown buildings (my idea).

All I remember, from the museum, was some long lines, echoing spaces and lots of children on tour as if all the schools were taking field trips at once.

I remember snacking in a cafeteria and I guess the only display I remember was a moon rock. It was in a glass case guarded by a security guard.

The rest of the museum must have gone into my memory as a blur. Museums can be overwhelming with information overload; looking and reading quickly while moving on to the next.

Afternoon was walking around downtown. The buildings were quite fascinating, but there was a spooky, somewhat dangerous feel to the city.

As we passed the studios of one of the radio stations that I even had dreams about during childhood, the building looked small. It was KGO which was, back then, located in the somewhat scruffy Tenderloin District. As I remember, from lots of listening to that station it was at 277 Golden Gate Avenue.

Doors were locked tight, but my brother was able to find a doorbell, I think. A security guard only opened the door a slight crack and said, "no tours." He then shut the door quickly. Back then, a crime called the "Alphabet Bomber" was in Bay Area news.

The rest of our walk was more interesting with lots of beautiful vistas, art, architecture, cafes and so forth.

When we got to Trans America Pyramid the doors were open and a guard in the lobby said we could go up in an elevator to an office that wasn't leased so it was open for showing to potential tenants; I guess. That office was near the top; the actual top being a pinnacle, of course.

Another guard, in that lofty space, was quite friendly. We visited while taking in the panorama. The view was spectacular, but the windows only faced one direction, as I remember.
We stepped into the Hyatt Regency at Embarcadero and saw this impressive atrium. It was open to the public and full of shops and places to eat on the main floor. Picture from old postcard.

After our walk through downtown, I think we concluded that our walk around downtown was the most interesting part of the day.

I've been there a few other times in more recent years including passing through during bicycle trips down the coast.

Monday, November 06, 2023

On a note of optimism, the Gay Games 2023 are being held in Hong Kong.

Yes, Hong Kong that is pretty much controlled by Mainland China which rivals USA in economic stature. There is worry about how China deals with human rights, but at least the Gay Games can proceed in Hong Kong.

There are some issues, but the games can go forward. Strict covid shutdowns, in Hong Kong's recent past means that the Gay Games also had a backup plan; Guadalajara, Mexico. This year's games are taking place in two venues. Some Hong Kong human rights activists called for the Games to be cancelled saying organizers "have aligned themselves with pro-authoritarian figures responsible for widespread persecution against the people of Hong Kong".

Taiwan is not sending athletes to Hong Kong but to Guadalajara, citing concerns over the the National Security Law that China imposed on Hong Kong in 2020.

China's government did not send officials to the opening ceremony, warning the organizers, in August, that the Games must be conducted in a “lawful, safe and orderly manner”. Regina Ip, convener of the city’s top decision-making body the Executive Council, was the only pro-establishment figure at the opening ceremony, despite calls from anti-LGBTQ lawmakers for her to resign.

"The holding of the Gay Games in Hong Kong is strong testimony to the diversity, inclusion, and unity of our city," Ip said in her welcoming speech. "Equal opportunity and non-discrimination are highly treasured by our government and our people."

Opposition did not dampen the excitement, spectators chanted, cheered and waved before the opening ceremony.

“This is a good idea because especially China is not very fond of the gays. So this is to become visible in China as queer people,” said Gerrit Schulz, 80, a participant from Berlin.

My comment plus excerpts from article in Reuters.

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Whatcom County does need a new jail. The old one is close to the breaking point in 2023

I plan to vote for the jail (new facility for incarceration and alternatives to incarceration services) this time around November 2023.

Update. The measure won. November 2023.

Some people's insistence on advocating use of chloroquine for corona virus is an example of refusal to update their thinking with newer, better science.

Science keeps advancing, but the thinking of many people will latch onto an idea and not update their thinking as the science evolves. Often religion latches onto old concepts as well.

One example of refusal to update is the idea, I heard on newscasts at the start of the pandemic, that a drug used to treat malaria could possibly be used as therapy for the corona virus.

A few days after those early newscasts, it looked like they were finding newer evidence that it wasn't effective for corona virus. It could even cause more harm than good, but some people stuck to that idea while others moved on to what now appears to be more effective treatments.

This is an example of folks sticking with an early idea that offered some hope, but later was superseded with better ideas.

I moved on, quickly though I will admit that those early newscasts offered some hope, back in the first few days after the shut down. My hope came more from the broad concept that both treatments and vaccines were on the way, but not specifically about any one product.

Today the pandemic seems all but totally over and we have good vaccines plus improving methods of treatment. The virus may be less deadly now, than it was in the first year as; especially the Delta Variant was scary.

We seemed to have come a long ways since 2020 as things like dancing and social gathering have come back.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Birth control is a better way to deal with the problem of too many people than other choices that are tried.

Birth control is a better way to deal with the problem of too many people than other choices that are tried. Worse solutions would include things like building walls to keep people out, denying someone's critical needs just to save money, or killing off populations in warfare.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Fighting the battle between socialism and capitalism may be barking up the wrong tree.

Seems like the ongoing debate between socialism and capitalism misses the mark about quality of life in a society. The debate is about economics, jobs and material things. Other factors, such as religion and culture, may play far more significant roles related to human rights.

There can be oppressive regimes that lean toward capitalism, or socialism. I think today's Russia, under the oligarchs and anti gay religion, is probably worse than the Soviet Union in it's last years.

Of course, under Stalin, things were bad, but under Gorbachev things were going in better directions. Now it seems like Russia has taken a turn for the worse.

During glasnost and perestroika, human rights was making headway. Yes, the Soviet Union was also experimenting with more capitalism, such as the famous McDonalds at Pushkin Square.

I do believe that a mix of socialism and capitalism is the best way to go; rather than one extreme or the other. Still, that's just the economic system.

Seems like culture and interpretation of religion are more powerful forces shaping society. Some religious traditions are extremely strict while others are open to diversity of viewpoints.

Cultural factors, attitudes toward sexuality and societies under stress, such as war, are likely the major factors determining human rights and freedom of speech. Often societies that are stressed are in states of emergency and have things like military drafts. For instance the Soviet Union may have broken up prematurely creating the chaos that drives fear and now is leading to war between Russia and Ukraine. In the long run, breakup may be inevitable, but it seems like change is more lasting when it happens incrementally. Also the constant debate between socialist and capitalist economic models could be missing the boat all along.

I write these thoughts after hearing an interview, with someone from Bellingham Marxist School, on our local call in radio talk show KGMI Konnects. The guest was not defending Soviet oppression, but said it was likely better than Russia under the Czars.

I think in terms of how things started to get better toward the end of the Soviet Union, but now have gone down a less desirable road. Discussions get me thinking, but seems like just about everyone does bark up the wrong trees. I say culture is more important than the economic system.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Picture of me as exercise participant of the month, 1988 at YMCA.

Polaroid photo of me taken in 1988 when I was the exercise participant of the month at a YMCA aerobics class.

This picture and my sloppy, handwritten answers to a questionnaire were posted for a month on a bulletin by the door to the gym where the aerobics classes were. bulletin boards existed before social media.

Back then, aerobics was a big social thing. I likened it to dancing without the cigarette smoke. Dance bars, back then, were filled with cigarette smoke. That aerobics class often had over 50 people moving to the music and there were times when folks were invited to come in costume. At least 1/3 of the participants were men though aerobics was more popular among women. It was energetic, but gentle and non competitive.

Back in those days, the Y also had a sauna which was a gathering space.

Entering the ho hum work world after college.

Recent Ticktok video in the news. College graduate says hardly any time to live one's life. Long commute as living closer to the job is too expensive. 40 hour per week office job takes up too much time. Readers tend to be sympathetic and ideas about a shorter workweek circulate.

My personal story was different. Part time work. I graduated into a depressed economy; late 70s early 1980s. Rents in Bellingham were quite low, back then, but Jobs were hard to find. I was able to live within easy bicycling, or walking distance from what work I had.

Door to my spacious basement apartment in a 9 unit building with a funky backyard. $155 per month before gentrification in Bellingham.

I looked for full time work, including custodial work for the state at Western Washington University, but the competition for those jobs was fierce. All I could find was part time gardening and a part time custodial shift at a place called Pizza Haven.

I did have plenty of free time, however. Got into writing, postal art, and letters to editors as well as politicians. I had time for many community things and bicycling. I was able to survive, but on a real shoestring budget.

My upstairs neighbor said I had found the healthy balance of working part time. I had stumbled upon it. She suggested I embrace it.

My neighbor had worked in offices for many years and was burned out. She also resented the vast population of freeloaders who seemed to live off inheritances or finding their way onto disability; even back then.

She saw the contrast between overwork and not working at all; herself struggling with burnout, health problems and teatoring toward going on welfare. Her brother was a hard worker / redneck leaning into right wing politics while some of her other aquoitences were hippy artists who found ways to not work 9-5. She often thought they were spoiled.

She talked about a concept called "job sharing" where people work less hours and share the existing jobs more equitably.

When hearing about job sharing, I got to thinking that job sharing would be a good strategy if the economy has to slow down due to environmental restraints. Back then, there was and still is the "jobs versus environment" issue. For instance; the logging industry, around Bellingham, was all but being shut down due to the controversy over preserving habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl.

Logger art on Olympic Penisula hints at hunting spotted owl for food to rid the problem that its preservation rules were creating. Many T-shirts in logging country sported logos; "spotted owl tastes like chicken."

Today they talk about "work life balance," but the high cost of today's housing makes that less doable.

I worked part time for many years and eventually found a more full time custodial position that was still fairly laid back. I often didn't put in 8 hours per day, but maybe averaged 7 hours. The job had generous vacation and the ability to take leave of absence for my bicycle travel.

I worried about not having health insurance, but survived with good health. Today, many folks can now benefit from Obamacare reforms; at least in most states; except Texas and a few holdouts against the Medicaid expansion.

I was fortunate to always live quite close to my job. Not owning a car and living in small spaces helped, but that was an era when rents were lower, relative to the rest of the economy. I was living at below market rent, even for those days.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Happy Halloween.

On my way home Saturday night, I passed this house lit up for Halloween. Had to stop and take a picture.

One way that could reduce population and consumption. There are better ways.

It's not necessarily a forgone conclusion, but I think human tendencies toward tribalism and intolerance of diversity will cause more catastrophic death than climate change, itself. More tolorance of diversity, including LGBTQ diversity is a better way forward. Areas of the world where there is a trend toward more fundamentalist religious values seem to have societies that are more warlike and deadly.

So far, climate change has been a gradual thing, which, in the long run, can increase the death rate as well, but tribalist tendencies are likely to take a much larger toll in the near future. The catostrophic consequences of climate change may be less evident in the short run than our own prejudices and warlike tendencies. Climate change is more like a slow boil, for now at least.

At the same time, there will likely be many parts of the world where life remains quite good.

That's my prediction at least. It's not a forgone conclusion, but a possible scenario. No one knows, for sure of course, what the future brings.

Inflating property values can cause sticker shock about taxes, but it's actually just the local government budget sizes that determines the tax.

In the past few years, property values have shot way up in Bellingham and Whatcom County. When property tax assessments come out, it causes "sticker shock." People are worried that their taxes will skyrocket since their value has skyrocketed.

From my understanding of local government, taxes don't follow property values in lockstep.

Each year, the total amount of taxes is determined by the budgets of local governments; such as state, county and school districts. In some cases the tax, per thousand of valuation, can go down because there are many more thousands of dollars, in valuation, to tax from. If one's value goes way up relative to overall property values in the area, then their share of the taxes do go up, but if all the values go up in similar fashion, the tax just goes up, or down, depending on the size of government budgets.

The total taxes collected only goes up as much as the combined budgets of the taxing governments and districts.

Hopefully people will still vote in favor of quality things, such as the Bellingham Greenways Levy on November's ballot.

Total taxes do go up more gradually, determined by the budgets of the various taxing districts; such as the local school districts, cities and counties.

The state of Washington does impose some restrictions on how much local governments can impose in taxes. Remember Tim Eyman?

I've never been a fan of Tim Eyman since I do think taxes need to go up to maintain the quality of life.

Eyman's initiatives lost in court, but I remember that the State Legislature preserved some of his intent. There are state imposed limits to the total amount of growth in taxes that local governments can impose.

In the long run, taxes do go up as the cost of living, in an area, goes up. For instance; teachers, who work for the government, still need to be able to afford to live in the districts they serve.

In the long run, the inflating cost of real estate, in this area, does push up taxes as the budgets of governments go up. The total budgets of local governments and districts determines how much the taxes are.

I think the property values are just too high; artificially propped up by years of "low interest" printed money. That situation is likely to end in the future as interest rates have gone up.

The handful of years, since the pandemic (2020-2023) have seen property values shoot up even more than the inflation in property values during the 1990-2019 era (admittedly there was a little dip around 2008). The big 2020-2022 mega property value inflation was due to all that extra coronavirus stimulus money in the economy along with low interest rates and high demand for housing in moderate sized cities.

That's my political take for the day

Friday, October 20, 2023

Why are Republicans in such a panic about the federal deficit?

I think one reason why the conservative caucus of the GOP is so impossible to deal with is that they are panicked about the federal debt. Yes, it's a daunting number.

There's another way to look at things where that huge debt isn't necessarily a problem. It's just money which is a human construct.

If we run out of money, we can print more. Problem is, too much money, chasing same goods and services, causes inflation so that's what we should think about. Not the debt, but inflation.

In the past few decades, inflation has been quite low in spite of (basically) printing money. Officially, the inflation rate has only been around 2%. No need to panic about this situation for several decades. Bush had his two wars and we still got our Medicare.

In reality, however that 2% figure has been a bit deceptive as home values and a few other things like health insurance costs, have been going up at a greater clip. Low interest rates, in spite of the federal debt being high, have fueled the housing bubble; low interest rates made possible by printing new money.

Quite a few people had been insulated from the true brunt of that inflation if they were homeowners grandfathered into owning a home when homes were a lot less expensive.

Renters have been hit harder from that inflation as well as young people trying to buy, if they haven't inherited money. Lots of people were also sheltered, from those decades of inflation in health insurance premiums, if they were on Medicare or a good employer provided health plan.

Since the pandemic, even more money has been created so overall inflation in wages, food costs and so forth have started to tick up. Things reached a tipping point.

This inflation, for instance in wages helps worker keep up with the rising costs of housing and healthcare. That stimulation of the economy was designed to keep it from going into depression due to the pandemic, but it also led to supply chain bottlenecks.

During the pandemic, the phrase "supply chain" entered my lexicon.

Inflation blipped up temporarily to over 8%, I think, for around 2 years. That heightened the panic that has been happening all along about the budget.

Now that overall inflation is subsiding again as the total rate is around 3%. The Federal Reserve has been tightening the money supply, rasing interest rates and attempting to cool the overheated housing bubble. We've backed off from the tipping point we were at just after the pandemic. Inflation seems to be going back down to where it's nothing to panic about, in my opinion, but some Republicans are still in a panic.

As far as I'm concerned, money is just a tool. It's not a god. We worry too much about money which is just a human created concept.

More and more people fighting over limited amount of good land on this planet.

Some Republicans tend to blame problems related to immigration on Biden. I think the problem is beyond our country's politics. It's the world topic of "migration and population."

It's also the world problem of authoritarian governments, crime, gangs and poverty. An overwhelming number of people would love to come to USA; regardless of our politics, as long as USA is a better place to live than where they are from.

Lots of folks come in via our airports, not all from our land borders. Students over saying visas and so forth. It's a worldwide situation.

To try and stop it, at the national level, would likely require us to close our country and drive ourselves into poverty. Seal up our borders, restrict our airports, cut back on trade, tourism, education and things like agriculture that need labor. If we drive ourselves into poverty, less people would want to live here.

On a related thought, the world has a shortage of good places to live. Sure, there's a lot of empty land, but few people live in those spaces for a reason.

Irrigation has increased the amount of good land for agriculture; for instance Yakima County being top agricultural county in Washington State. That due to irrigation.

There is talk of trying to colonize Mars as we are running out of livable space on planet Earth. That idea has its problems; like Mars already being only 1/3 the size of Earth before we even get there.

I got to thinking that developing technology, for living on Mars, might end up being very useful for living on Earth. Indoor agriculture, for instance. It could be useful for living in much of the land we already have, on earth, such as the Sahara Desert or the area called the "Empty Quarter" in Saudi Arabia.

Colonizing those areas, with indoor agricultural technology, would still be easier than colonizing Mars, but the dream of colonizing Mars might be needed for getting us to develop that technology.

Even without climate change, we may need to terrafarm more areas of Earth, that are not now considered that livable, just to support all of Earth's people with our aspirations.

One idea might be to build new states on some big desert area; rather fighting over the tiny space that's now Israel / Palestine.

I tend to think "big picture" pretty much all the time.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

My bicycle tour to a gravity wave detector and more.

Pictures from my most recent 2023 bicycle tour are now in Flickr. My transit / bicycle tour to various places like Yakima Canyon, Hanford, LIGO gravity wave visitors center and even Bellevue. Lots of photos and descriptions starting at Northgate Transit Center in Seattle.

At top of this album on Flickr as of October 3 2023.

Monday, October 02, 2023

When the Pacific Northwest ran out of rivers

Image I took of Grand Coulee Dam on a bicycle tour in 2017.

During my childhood, it was said that most of Washington's electricity came from hydroelectric dams. As I got older, population and economic growth, in the Pacific Northwest, outgrew the rivers. We basically ran out of good sites to build dams; the mighty Columbia River; turned to a series of slackwater lakes.

In the 1980s, nuclear power was seen as a way to keep up with the growth, but nuclear was pretty much put out of business by less expensive natural gas. Much of the power, in the northwest, comes from natural gas fired power plants today along with the hydro power. We even have a natural gas power plant on the Bellingham waterfront.

Solar and wind are growing sources of power, but still not providing a huge share of demand.

In the 1970s, several nuclear plants were planned by an organization called "Washington Public Power Supply System." The acronym was WPPS. By coincidence WPPSS sounds like Woops.

The cost of nuclear, plus worries about it's safety after 3 Mile Island incident, in Pennsylvania, led to the mothballing of all the WPPSS projects, except for one. WPPSS went bankrupt, which became the second largest municipal bond default in US history.

I think a big part of the problem was competition with natural gas fired power plants which were easier to construct. Gas turned out to be an abundant and inexpensive source of energy.

The one nuclear plant that was finished and is producing quite a bit of the northwest's power, today, was called WPPSS #2. It's on the Hanford Reservation and has since been renamed the Columbia River Generating Station. I passed that facility on my recent bicycle trip just a few weeks ago.

I think nuclear may make a comeback as smaller, less expensive reactors become available.

Back during my grade school years, dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers were controversial. Even back then, talk of ecological problems and salmon habitat were in the news.

My dad was pretty much a New Deal liberal. He was a fan of the dams, for the most part. Many of the dams were New Deal projects.

I remember some debates, in our family, about the virtues and problems associated with dams. We would take Sunday drives down to the Snake River, near Pullman, where dad would follow the construction of two nearby dams.

One of my childhood memories, from growing up in Washington State, was the song "Roll on Columbia." "Your power is turning our darkness to dawn."

Monday, September 25, 2023

Soon to be added to my sharing. Pictures from September's bicycle tour to eastern Washington.

I recently went on a bicycle / transit bus trip to the Tri Cities area from Bellingham. My means is alternative transportation, much of it by pedal bicycle.

Above is photo I took in Zillah, WA. It's in the Yakima Valley. The famous teapot filling station now preserved by a park. Was built in the 1920s to point out an oil scandle during President Harding's administration. The so called "Teapot Dome Scandle."

Photos from this latest trip will soon be on Flickr as I organize them.

Here they are (October 2 2023).

The Republicans who wish to burn down the government. Sounds like they are for anarchy.

Oh the unnessesary budget impass again.

Interesting that Represenative McCarthy actually said, about the radical Republicans in his caucus, "they want to burn the place down."

Reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend when we were discussing the federal deficit. My friend said "they just want to burn down the government." Then he stood up and started shouting, "burn down the government," "burn down the government."

Social Security and Medicare would still continue, during a "shutdown," but if both those payments were on the table, maybe us senior citizens, an age group most likely to vote, would turn against the Republican Party?

Can we survive with less money? This reminds me of another friend who thinks money is an addiction. He belives that in an ideal society, money would not exist. We would all do what we need to do, for one another, out of the love and kindness in our hearts. Money addiction is evil, according to this friend. Money would not exist in an ideal world.

Speaking of love, or for that matter sex, he also believes that sexuality, for pleasure, is evil; even masturbation. He goes to various "12 step" groups; such as Alcohaulic's Annonomous. There are quite a few brands of these groops; such as Gambler's Anonomous, and Sex Addicts Anonomous.

I don't know if there is a Money or Greed Anonomous, but I do apprieciate that my friend lumps our love affair with the almighty dollar in with sex addiction.

We have our discussions as well as I don't totally go down his road. I tend to believe things like money and sex have their place in moderation.

It is true, however, that some people do have to go "cold turkey" or they fall back into an addictive pattern. This second friend seems to be in need to go cold turkey due to his own situation.

Thinking about that first conversation with that other friend who shouted that they just want to burn down the government, a point I was making in that conversation is that some Republicans think we can't get a handle on our deficit problems with business as usual. They are calling for radical steps, though I don't necessarily agree, I try and see inside their thinking.

As for radical steps, there are those who think we need to take radical steps to address the growing climate change problem. Time for another 12 step program?

I think we may be heading to higher death rates around the world. A reduction in population is possible.

In some ways, it seems like the world is getting increasingly brutal and more chaotic. Could be a symptom of over population which can be dealt with by reducing population growth or increasing death rates.

We could be returning to more brutality as growing populations, consumption and climate change continue to stress civilizations. Seems like there are some folks who are going back toward old fashioned values and solutions; like from Biblical times when empires fought wars killing willy nilly and the victor kept the spoils.

Population growth wasn't seen as much of a problem, back then, before the days of modern technology and especially today's medicine. Tribalism was more in vouge back then as well. Life expectancy was shorter from all the threats to survival from crime, war and disease. Modern societies have brought us the "global village" due to technologies; such as instant worldwide communication and jet travel. Modern times brings more talk of tolerance, cultural diversity and lifestyle diversity for survival. Birth control has been gaining ground even in some of the third world, but especially in what's called the first world.

Much of society does seem to be moving forward to a kinder and more tolerant society, but I fear that there are many who are wishing to turn back the clock. This could be due to the increasing stress of our times.

Large parts of the world are in turmoil. Even in the west and here in USA, many folks want to turn back to old solutions.

Instead of stable population and sustainable living we may be reverting to increasing death rates around the world and even here in USA; a less desirable way to keep population at more sustainable levels.

Above is something I was thinking, but then wrote down after listening this program on NPR's The 1a. It's about donor fatigue. More money for war, such as between Russia and Ukraine, plus increasing things like the flood in Libya are draining aid money around the world.

Monday, August 28, 2023

My speculations about bankruptcy for WSU football.

Walkway along fancy new center for Cougar Football near the stadium in Pullman.

I wonder who WSU athletics debt is owed too? Banks or internal university, state of Washington funds?

If to an outside bank, that could bring up the topic of potential bankruptcy. I wonder if bankruptcy could protect the rest of the university from having to fully pay off that debt?

Most officials would probably think these questions are premature. They are now focusing on the unknown future which involves probably moving to another conference now that the Pac 12 has broken apart. Also potential new sources of revenue from the constantly changing media landscape; internet media and so forth beyond ticket sales.

They are also focusing on this season with the Pac 12 still functioning. The changes in the conference start next year. I've never been a sports fan, myself and it does seem like an unnecessary burden to me.

Western Washington University, here in Bellingham, did away with it's football program during a round of state mandated cuts. Unlike at WSU, football at Western was never that large and I don't think it was ever seen as a net revenue generator. I don't think it ever payed it's own way like a business.

At WSU, I think football payed its own way till recent times when the stakes got higher and it became more expensive to to keep up with the Jones.

A few months ago, I got to thinking WSU should have gone to a less costly, "high stakes" conference before incurring that debt, but hindsight is better than foresight.

Now that situation has come to pass as it looks like WSU will find itself in a different football conference now that the big schools that are closer to big cities, like Seattle and Los Angeles, are planning to leave the Pac 12.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Most people worry about whether our southern border is too secure, or not secure enough. The bigger issue is that an overwhelming number of folks dream of living in USA.

Many folks dreaming of living in USA, Canada, Australia or Europe never even make it to the border.

I keep thinking of different angles on similar themes, like world population.

Conservatives make it sound like our southern border is totally out of control and being flooded with immigrants. I doubt that's the case, though I haven't seen it with my own eyes.

The media tells that story, but it also tells the story that liberals will say; it's really hard to cross the border. Enforcement is harsh. The truth is usually in the middle.

I would guess that it's hard to cross the border; even under Biden, there is plenty of enforcement. The factor that both sides overlook is not an issue of enforcement. It's just the overwhelming number of people wishing to come to USA. There are so many people wishing to be in USA that even with a fairly tight border, it's kind of an overwhelming situation.

I worry that much of the world is becoming unlivable. Ruled by authoritarian dictators that hate LGBTQ people; for instance. Wars, famine and climate change. Much of the land area of earth is under the iron fist of dictators.

Lots of people are dying just trying to live their lives, or get to places where they and their families are safer. Some parts of the world are getting more open minded, while other parts are under authoritarian regimes. Many parts of the world seem to be getting worse.

Here in USA, we have some folks who would like to push us back to a more authoritarian culture, but we still have a good degree of freedom and many parts of USA have been making good progress over recent years. Things seem to be pretty good here in Washington State.

In many ways, the world around me has seen lots of improvement. Some problems as well, but all in all there is progress, at least in some areas, but it would be better if there was progress, or at least basic livability, in most areas of the world.

Photo: World map on first floor of Webster Hall, WSU, Pullman.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Government isn't the cause of the regulation gridlock. Today's world is just more crowded with more powerful technology and the environment is more vulnerable to harm.

Conservatives tend to blame government for the vast maze of environmental regulations that make doing things next to impossible. There is a deeper problem than government.

The modern world is different than the world of a century ago. The world has more people so it's more crowded. It's harder to do anything without someone complaining that it's too close to their backyard.

The technology we have, today, is a lot more powerful than in the past. Business can potentially do a lot more harm. A third factor is that safety and environmental expectations are higher today. In the past people lived with smog, unsafe working conditions and so forth with less complaint. Today's expectations are higher; except for maybe a glaring loophole caused by the automobile. People still take for granted the traffic death toll while other safety rules are more stringent. The automobile is grandfathered in.

Another thing that is different, today, than in centuries past, is how much awareness we have of things that could be harmful in our environments. Contaminants in the air and water can be measured in the "1 part per millions" range. Even trace amounts of things make modern people nervous.

These big changes, between modern society and the past, are the main factor. The government is mostly just a scapegoat; like folks barking up the wrong tree.

Yes, private enterprise can be more innovative than government, in some cases; for instance Space X (a private firm) has done some things in space that NASA hasn't been able to accomplish. Still, NASA has done some innovative stuff as well.

The way an organization is set up, whether private or government, is a factor, but the big factor is the fact that we live in a more modern and crowded world than we did in past centuries. Population, technologies, awareness and expectations are different these days.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Why there are a lot of jobs in spite of rising interest rates

Some people are scratching their heads wondering why there are still so many jobs in spite of high interest rates. I just thought of a reason. Lowering interest rates is a bad way to increase the number of jobs.

Up until the pandemic, low interest has basically gone into inflating home values and other assets; not as much into creating jobs. Now that interest rates are higher, asset values are starting to calm down, but job creation remains strong; so far at least.

Conservatives tend to think private enterprise is better at creating jobs than government. That philosophy has been a big factor behind trying to create jobs via low interest rates. It hasn't worked that well. To a large extent, private entrepreneurs have held onto their money and acted to protect their asset values. This doesn't lead to that much job creation. More recently, there has been a surge in government spending, covid relief, infrastructure and stimulus spending. I think that might be a better way to create jobs; even in the private sector as private companies are often mostly just vendors supplying government contracts.

The true private market has been more sluggish in past years due to many factors; including caution about risking capital on new ventures. There's been some new ventures and innovation in private enterprise, but also a lot of aversion to risk. Conservatives would say that aversion to risk is mostly caused by layers and layers of government regulation. Yes, that's a big factor, but not everyone wants what private enterprise brings to their neighborhood. One example of a restrictive regulation, of course, is single family zoning.

Now that there's more talk about the housing shortage, I am noticing more multi family construction going on in the past 3, or so, years. This, being a factor leading to the boom in construction jobs and a shortage of skilled labor in the carpentry field.

Job creation has been pretty strong during the Biden Presidency. Conservatives are wondering "how can that be?" Some folks are predicting a crash to come soon due, in part, to the rising interest rates. They also don't trust "Bidenomics."

Who knows, but so far, the job picture still looks pretty rosy and I think rising interest rates hasn't detracted much from job creation. Rising interest rates may mean less people making a living by flipping real estate.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Are there too many people on Earth?

Dam removal on Elwha River to improve salmon habitat.

Are there too many people on Earth? It depends on how people wish to live. If everyone were as consumptive as most Americans, there are too many, but we could reduce consumption and still have good lives depending on how we use technology. Micro electronics can go a long ways.

On the other hand, there are too many people for us to totally go back to our old ways. We need lots of natural space to survive if our survival is based on old style hunting, gathering and fishing.

I am glad they removed the two dams on the Elwha River, in Washington State, to bring back salmon habitat even though hydroelectic power is low carbon footprint. Thoes dams didn't generate that much power anyway.

Now there is a bigger dam removal project on the Klamath River in California. Might still be a good idea, I know less about it. Both dam removal projects have been promoted by Native American interests.

There is talk of removing dams on the Snake River in Washington for salmon recovery as well. Thoes are larger dams.

We can't have it all, I guess. Increasing prosperity, world population that is still growing, lowering carbon footprint and maintianing old ways. There are many tradeoffs and life can never be totally ideal for everyone.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Paying to reduce climate change. Cap and trade in Washington State.

Here in Washington, people are learning that taxing corporations does have consequences for ordinary consumers. Our new cap and trade rules are contributing to Washington's relatively high gas prices. oil companies pass the costs on to consumers.

Still, Washington gas prices are a bargain compared to Canada where taxes raise the price. Here in Whatcom County, we still see many Canadians come south of the border to fill up.

I still follow the news even though I don't drive.

Yes energy taxes, whether hidden by cap and trade or seen at the pump, are regressive, but most energy consumption is done by the millions and millions of rank and file consumers. The super wealthy and corporations are like the maestros leading the orchestra.

My article in Betty Pages about Cap and Trade, Carbon Taxes and Climate Change.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Yahoo News; possibly a good model to pay for journalism without a paywall. Possible lessons for Facebook.

There is an attempt by the Canadian government to make Facebook pay more for news media content that appears on Facebook. This is seen as a way to help pay for newspapers and organizations that support professional journalism; a field who's revenue sources have been drying up.

Facebook is fighting back by removing some of the news content in Canada. I got to thinking that, somehow, Yahoo News works. Yahoo must pay for the rights to reprint certain stories from many sources; such as the New York Times. That's how I get around paywalls. Otherwise, who wants to subscribe to hundreds of publications, just to get past the paywalls? I don't have the time, or the money, to subscribe to hundreds of publications.

Somehow, Yahoo News seems to work. Maybe something like that could work with Facebook as well. Some sort of compromise. Much of the news I post on Facebook comes from Yahoo News. I try and share links that don't throw up paywalls. NPR Radio is another good source of journalism. KGMI Radio, in Bellingham, doesn't put up a paywall on their website. It seems like broadcast media works better, in the internet age, than newspapers even though newspapers have some of the best content. I've heard it said that "the truth goes behind paywalls while conspiracy theories, promotions and propaganda are free on the net."

Yahoo News does work pretty well and I think they pay for what they repost from publications with paywalls. Many of my Facebook posts come from links to Yahoo.

I also notice that posts with a link to news get less response. Facebook probably gives those posts less push in it's algorithms. Also news and politics may not be that popular compared to personal posts and photographs. The number of clicks and likes effects algorithms. People may be sick of politics, but, as the old saying goes, "a photo as worth a thousand words."

Friday, June 23, 2023

Washington State tops the list for highest gas prices. Cap and trade a hidden tax? Way to go Washington on the road to lower carbon emissions, but I still think a carbon tax is more honest.

I hear that Washington State has the highest gas prices in USA. Since I ride a bicycle, I wouldn't notice except for the news media coverage.

Conservatives tend to blame our new cap and trade system for reducing carbon emissions. They do have a point. I don't think you can just tax corporations without them passing the cost on to consumers. Cap and trade is kind of complex. I'd prefer a straight forward carbon tax. Cap and trade is more like a hidden tax.

Even with a carbon tax, the government can still provide help to folks that are lower income and harder hit; like farm workers or folks who have to commute a long ways since they can't afford housing that's closer to jobs.

Still, if we really want to reduce our carbon footprint, the cost of fossil fuels needs to go up.

At least it was probably a quick death. I still feel sorry for those who died on the Titan. Why so much news coverage?

There has been lots of news coverage about the attempts to rescue those wealthy adventurers who went down to look at the Titanic.

It does seem like they might have died quickly from the submersible imploding. It may have been a quick end.

While everyone surviving would be the best news, I would guess a quick death is better than suffering, while trapped in the sub running out of oxygen over several days.

On BBC Radio, there was a segment questioning why this rescue effort got so much media attention compared to the hundreds of refugees that recently drowned in the Mediterranean Sea as they were trying to reach Europe from deadly circumstances in places like Syria.

Wealth and class of the sub's occupants was mentioned as a factor, but also the uniqueness of the situation. Thousands, or even millions of refugees are dying so; what else is new?

Adventurers in the sub brought a new twist to the story and the media tends to only highlight certain things.

This brings back memories of 1988 when the media was full of news about 3 whales that were trapped under ice that was quickly forming, in the Arctic Ocean, at the start of that winter.

Would the confused whales suffocate under the ice, or could they find their way back out to open ocean?

An international effort of amateurs and eventually international militaries joined in an effort to save the whales. News about those 3 whales was riveting for several days, even though, I think, whales getting trapped under ice has happened many times at the start of winter as ice reforms in the Arctic.

Why was 1988 so special? Who knows. Maybe it's just randomness that certain stories take off while others don't. Once something gets started, we join in till the next thing captures the news cycle.

I remember that I was following that rescue effort with interest so I decided to look it up in Google and "sure enough," here's the first link that came up.

As for the class issue, I still prefer news of survival to death, but at least a quick death seems better than desperate suffering. We all will leave this planet at some point.

There is a lot of bitterness and hatred in this world, as well, so I am reminded of a joke that may be in bad taste.

“What do you call 500 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?”
“A good start.”

In spite of that joke, I still prefer survival and a world where there is less hostility.

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Planned Parenthood protecting the right to life by providing healthcare

When I think of Planned Parenthood, I think of contraception. We still need to reduce population growth even though the growth rate of world population is slowing. With over 8 billion people on this planet, we really don't do well at protecting right to life. Folks die to to lack of access to healthcare, especially in states like Texas that still refuses Medicaid expansion. People die when they can't immigrate to countries that are safer than where they are from; for instance folks killed by the gangs in central America. Climate change is adding more refugees to world population. War and gun violence are killers, even unsafe highways are killers.

I think of contraception, but I hear ads, from Planned Parenthood, saying they provide healthcare. Yes, good point. Access to healthcare which can be difficult to find.

Back to my point about the difficulties in protecting right to life for all 8 billion on this limited planet. My mind first thinks of contraception when I think of Planned Parenthood, but also realizing their role in taking care of people who's life saving needs are often not provided for due to economics, or many other reasons.

Now we have a situation where even laws against abortion may be deadly. I hear that doctors are fleeing some states fearing that certain interpretations of anti abortion laws will prosecute them for practicing medicine in the gray area of difficult pregnancies. There are difficult situations dealing with miscarriages, possible threats to life of the mother and so forth. I read that hospitals, in some towns, can't deliver babies anymore as the doctors, who do this, have fled to other areas of this country where laws are less intrusive. Some people, having children, are having to travel farther to find a hospital with sufficient staff for delivery.

Monday, June 05, 2023

Trying to reduce the debt may next have to go after things like Medicare, the military and Social Security.

The biggest costs of government are things like Medicare and Social Security. To reduce the debt, it's hard to avoid touching these large expenses.

It's odd that I find myself agreeing with McCarthy who points out that only 11% of the budget was on the table for cuts. What I disagree with, in McCarthy's take, is that Biden walled off the rest of the budget. This article makes no mention of the option to increase taxes. Higher taxes could go a long ways toward shoring up Medicare and Social Security; for instance raising the income cap subject to Social Security taxes.

Article made no mention of how much is spent on the military as well.

Like gay people being in the closet. Most politicians, including Democrats, are closeted about raising taxes. It's dangerous talk on the campaign trail. Republicans pretty much refuse to even consider taxes. Democrats tremble at the thought as well, but democrats usually realize that taxes are needed to pay for what people want from government.

There are limits to what we can get, versus what people are willing to pay. There are limits imposed by pure mathematics and I'd add limits to what the natural environment will sustain in terms of human consumption.

Yes, we can have a good life and even better lives than in the past; counting all things beyond just money and materialism.

I think wealthy people should pay more taxes, including upper middle class. Maybe even everyone pay more, including even myself. Yes we can't have it all. Some things people demand can't always be met. Budgets can be tightened, to some extent.

What's most important, to me, is the quality of our lives and our communities. Trying to be fair and reasonable, but realizing that perfection is never attained.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Dilemma that Republicans face. Hard to significantly cut the budget when Medicare, military and veterans benefits are taken off the table.

Looks like they may have worked out a budget deal that avoids default. We'll see if it passes. I think the spending cutbacks in the deal are more mild than Republicans had originally pushed for.

One big problem, with budget cutting, is that government does a lot of important things besides just taking care of the military, the veterans and Medicare. If those large budget items are exempt from cutting, most of the money is still being spent. The cuts, in other areas, would have to be draconian to accomplish large cuts in the total.

There is a need for the border patrol, for instance.

Friday, May 26, 2023

My May 2023 trip, mostly by bicycle, to Vancouver, BC. from Bellingham, WA.

Cambie St. Bridge at sunset.

See photos on my Flickr space. No paywall. Click Here to the following 78 photos with captions about this trip.

Compared to housing and healthcare, most of the rest of inflation seems like just pocket change.

Republicans are stirring up anxiety over the national debt. A consequence of the debt is inflation, but I haven't really noticed inflation that much.

Yes, home values and rents have skyrocketed over the past few decades.

Inflation of other prices has been more modest until after the pandemic when it did tick up some. Wages have gone up also. I've noticed somewhat higher prices for restaurant meals, food and consumer goods, but seems like these things are mere pocket change compared to rent or healthcare costs.

My rent is held at a bit below 40% of my income as I am in subsidized housing. Medicare covers most of the cost of my health insurance premiums. The Medicare premium is much lower than it would be if Medicare wasn't subsidized by government.

I have no car.

Other expenses do seem like mere pocket change to me. Everything else is around half my income, but I haven't noticed inflation that much. My Social Security has had a generous cost of living increase due the inflation. If the economy crashes, everyone could be a lot worse off.

Homonormativity questioned.

Saw stuff about this on Facebook.

Apparently, during the campaign of 2020, a group of activists calling themselves “Queers Against Pete” attempted to disrupt his events. They were folks who saw in the former mayor of South Bend a paragon of “homonormativity.” I read, in the post, about an article written for The New Republic that the magazine later retracted, the writer Dale Peck derided Pete Buttigieg as “Mary Pete,” the gay version of an Uncle Tom.

I can understand being a critic of homonormativity, but I certainly wouldn't be part of a circular firing squad attacking other gay people and allies who have made it to influential positions. Pete has done good in my opinion.

I am definitely not part of a "normal" middle class couple, myself. My own sexuality and lifestyle is very low on the romantic scale and higher on the unusual scale.

Interesting that, until that recent Facebook post, I have never heard of that group of activists, but around two months ago, I wrote this somewhat toung in cheek blog post about right wing, rather than left wing, criticism of Pete Buttigieg.

Did "family values" cause the air travel chaos of Christmas 2022?

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

In many cases gender and gender pronouns don't really matter

Talking to some young people about the gender pronoun issue, I shared memories from my college past of almost 40 years ago. Back then, the gay issue was coming out on campus. I also knew quite a few transgender people, but pronouns wasn't a topic that people were discussing. As I remember, there was less anxiety about proper pronouns.

The folks, I was discussing this with, understood and seemed accepting of my perspective.

Back in my college days, I think expectations were lower, but I would like to think that society keeps progressing forward. On the other hand, people may have been just as happy, back then, or maybe even happier back then. Expectations were less demanding.

It's kind of like before electric lightbulbs were invented, folks didn't fret about the inconvenience of not having electric lights. They didn't know what they were missing.

These days, I think the science about gender has progressed, so it's seen as less binary. One now hears about folks who want to be called "they" instead of he or she. The term "gender fluid" was less in the lexicon, back then.

Science has progressed to where gender fluid is more recognized, though most people still identify as either male or female. There are shades of grey that are more recognized today.

The term "they" is kind of awkward. Maybe a new term can be found? They is usually thought of as non singular.

At the same time, I have used the term they to describe one person before. For instance, "I wondered how to get to a certain road so I ask someone how to get there and THEY pointed me in the right direction."

In many cases, gender doesn't matter.

Back in my college days, the big issue was that women didn't want to be called "girls." Often people were corrected when they said "college girls." It's "college women." The term "chick" for woman was totally incorrect.

As I remember, I always did say women and my mom once said, "in this case it's" when I was talking about my nieces that were, then in grade school.

I also remember the attempts to put the word womyn. in the language. It's womyn instead of women. That term less subservient without the "men" in it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Science doesn't necessarily indicate that there is no god, but squabbles between religious factions seems to indicate that religious truths might be BS.

I still believe that there could be something like what we call a god.

At the same time, I think the best evidence that there is no such thing as a god or spiritual reality is the behavior of so many religious people. All the squabbling over interpretations and the fighting over what people claim is the truth.

This behavior is stronger evidence that it's all BS than what we are learning from science. On big questions about the meaning of life, scientific evidence seems inconclusive. It doesn't rule out spirituality, in my opinion.

Science, itself, seems inconclusive on many big questions, so far, but the behavior of some religious people; especially the folks who claim to be certain about what the truth is, does indicate that many religious claims are BS.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Living without a car has worked for me

Lots of people think it's almost impossible to live without a car in USA. I have been able to do it all my life and it doesn't seem that hard for me. Admittedly, I live in town in a city that is fairly bicycle friendly. Bellingham, WA.

Seems like making our energy sources totally green and building passenger rail systems, like they have in Europe, would take nearly a century to accomplish. Waiting for society to change from the top down is a long wait. Meanwhile climate change scientists keep saying that time is running out.

I think my own lifestyle has a fairly low carbon footprint already, though I may be missing something in the calculations. I might be drinking enough milk to counteract everything else I do, or don't do.

Friday, May 05, 2023

If we spend 50 trillion to decarbonize, how much lower will global temperatures be?

Sen. John Kennedy, (R-La) grilled a Biden Administration official about climate change. The senator ask, "how much would spending $50 trillion in American taxpayer money to become carbon-neutral lower global temperatures?"

The official was at a loss for words, but I'd say, "There are too many other variables in that equation. What will other countries do, for instance." "It's not a question that can be answered that simplistically." I don't know, for sure, what I'd say if I was sitting at that microphone being grilled, however.

Here is my take.

Climate change is a global problem related to population growth and increasing consumption around the world. Apparently, the US now accounts for only 13% of global carbon emissions; according to that Biden official's testimony.

Republicans use that figure to imply that our efforts to reduce our own carbon emissions may not make that much difference in the bigger picture. We are just one of many drops in the bucket.

One must also, of course, figure in the things we consume in the US that are manufactured overseas. Our consumption likely accounts for more than 13% of global carbon emissions, but it likely would still be much less than half.

Other countries are making strides to reduce emissions so they aren't just twiddling their thumbs, as many Republicans would say. This is a global problem that goes beyond an "us versus them" mindset.

Historically, the US and other first world countries of the past, have created most of the emissions over the past century, but going forward, it's a different story. Our emissions are now a smaller part of the overall picture.

I highly doubt that we (first world) can amend or compensate for the past. Aside from the logistics, the political will does not exist.

Forgetting the past, going forward is the issue we are dealing with now.

Over the next 10 years, I doubt we will be able to meet our goals to reduce carbon emissions. Green technology is still slow in coming, though it is coming faster than before. Our society's dependency on wealth and convenience is so strong that we can't likely meet the goals environmentalists set, let alone think about the past.

As for the rest of the world, the problem is global. The US does need to strive harder to reduce carbon emissions along with the rest of the world. The technology and lifestyles to accomplish this should be shared around the world.

Solutions to the problem include, of course, technology, but also changes in the way we plan our living habitats. We should learn how to build with less sprawl. The whole world needs reductions in population growth worldwide (which is starting to happen). We need less dependency on automobiles, large homes and personal wealth. New paradigms for the entire world including USA.