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.

Thursday, May 04, 2023

We could continue kicking the can down the road on the federal deficit, or cut spending and go into a recession.

About the debt ceiling, it seems like the choices are to raise it, as the Democrats want to do and continue the spending we have now. This contributes to the inflation we have now which doesn't seem like that big a problem, or at least it's just like a slow boil.

Another alternative is to significantly cut spending, as Republicans would like to do. This would likely put us into a recession.

Falling off the fiscal cliff (artificial debt ceiling default of the government) could roil markets, confidence and bring a recession as well.

We may by cycling toward recession anyway, regardless of what the politicians do, as we've been in a period of relative prosperity, coming out of the pandemic slowdown. We have been in a recent period of a booming economy with low unemployment. We've returned to high consumption and dealt with supply chain bottlenecks.

Carbon footprint and energy consumption is now up again, after falling during the pandemic.

Of course, in spite of the prosperity of these times, there are always lots of people left behind. The prosperity is never enough.

The stock market and asset values does motivate people in office; especially Republicans.

The market crash of 2007 lead to Tarp bailouts. Market loss in 2020, due to the pandemic, led to debt worry set aside and 3 Trillion appeared even under a Republican president and majority in the Senate. On the debt, we can likely just keep kicking the can down the road, versus crashing the economy.

Another possibility. Maybe Biden looses most of the newly past infrastructure bill. We kick the climate change can farther down the road. Biden looses most of his plan to forgive student loans, which the Supreme Court may take away anyway. A compromise like that goes through. The economy could go into a downtourn while more people complain about loosing funding for addressing climate change and continuing to be burdened by student debt.

More and more young people may start voting.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Public or private could be the new norm versus men's or women's for spas and restroom facilities

More and more bathrooms are becoming gender neutral. This is a good idea as our understanding of gender is becoming less binary. This tends to mean more privacy such as single unit facilities which can also add to the cost of buildings.

In the past, like the 1950s, facilities were divided by gender, but they were still public spaces to save on construction costs. Pragmatism.

I've got to thinking that for restrooms and especially spas, saunas and showers, there could be two types of facilities. Instead of men's and women's, it would be "private" and "public." Often spa, hot spring and sauna type places are social environments so some would be public for that reason. Others would be private. They could all be gender neutral, however which solves some problems.

Some public spas would be clothing optional while others could continue to require bathing suites. This could be the future for these types of facilities.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

A government default could pull the plug on asset values

The debt ceiling impasse has gone to the next step. Surprisingly enough Republicans in the House did barely get on board for a "Republican plan" to raise the ceiling and have big cuts in spending.

Democrats and probably most of the American people would not go for those cuts. Meanwhile, raising taxes isn't being considered by the Republicans.

The government does provide a lot of important services, such as health insurance for many who can't afford super high insurance premiums. Governments provide public safety, police, fire, and the large military budget. Affordable housing is provided as well. Basic research in medicine, space exploration and other science is often funded by a small sliver of the budget which helps to keep us abreast with the rest of the world that is moving forward.

Some people think we need to rely more on the private sector, which does some good things, but much private money goes to private yachts, big homes, called McMansions, second homes, political bribes and multi million dollar salaries for playing football.

There we have the dilemma of the budget. We could just pull the plug and let the economy go into a depression. Much of the money, that we thought we had in things like bank accounts and asset values could disappear. These perceived stores of value could plummet.

Perceived stores of value are possibly no more real that some of the tricks proposed, that Biden could do, such as minting a trillion dollar coin and calling it "money," so we can continue to prop things up, rather than the possibility of panic setting in and things crashing.

One possible scenario for the debt ceiling problem is that the impasse will put the US into default and uncharted financial territory. Like the virus, it could cause financial panic and a Wall Street crash. Like in March of 2020, politicians got a bit scared and figured out how to make more money out of thin air; thus paying unemployment to cover the shutdowns that likely saved many lives. Rents were paid for businesses and individuals when restaurants, bars and so forth closed. Money was spend to develop the vaccine and provide hospitalization to the afflicted. Most of us, still alive at least, came out of the pandemic, but now there is worry about some inflation.

We would be better off if Dianne Feinstein aspired to become an elder states person, rather than trying to hang on as a Senator

I think Dianne Feinstein should step down; given the bottleneck that her temporary absence from the Senate Judiciary Committee places in the way of Biden's judicial appointments.

I wonder why she wants to cling to the job in light of all the damage this situation could do? A younger Democrat, in that position, would be better for the big picture. Come to think about it, Biden, himself, is also up there in the years, but he still seems to be functioning okay.

Maybe Feinstein wants to remain in office for personal reasons to keep engaged and active. If I were in her shoes, I would rather be an elder statesperson (used to be called "elder states man) than have the responsibility and stress of high office. An elder statesperson can remain as engaged as they want to be expressing opinions, granting interviews, raising money, writing articles, influencing politics and so forth.

Former Justice Ginsberg should have taken that route also. Maybe Biden should consider that as well, though he seems to be functioning. The ideas and the staff behind public officials is what's most important. Younger people can continue to carry the torch.

My vote is still for Biden if he is the main Democratic candidate as I remind people that it isn't just about one person. Biden has a whole staff behind him that's likely better than what a Trump, or other Republican would assemble. I vote for the issues that Biden is more likely to represent.

Trigger happy gun owners may be more of a problem than even the guns themselves.

I've read that, In most of the world, going to the wrong house is not a deadly risk. But in the United States it can be. It does seem like we are getting trigger happy, wary of strangers and so forth. The proliferation of guns in this society is a big part of the problem as well.

In an ideal world, anger would be a more immoral emotion than eroticism.

In an ideal world, anger and hate would be emotions that tread close to the lines of immorality while eroticism would be more acceptable.

In this world, it's almost the other way around.

Monday, April 24, 2023

First a teacher was hated in Sudan for the misnaming of a Teddy bear. Now a hateful war.

There's a big war of hate happening inside Sudan.

Flashback to 2007 and I remember the controversy about when a teacher, from UK, was arrested and convicted, in Sudan, for insulting Islam by allowing her class of six-year-olds to name a teddy bear "Muhammad."

She was later released back to the UK. Having some memory of that news, I just looked it up in Wiki.

Here in USA, the name "Teddy Bear" was named after our former president Teddy Roosevelt. One could just call then "stuffed bears," I guess. We, in USA, are usually more tolorent.

Some folks might say a president is different than a religious profit, but some hard core fundamentalist Christians, here in USA, nearly consider Donald Trump to be the second coming of Christ.

I don't think much of fundamentalist religions.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Variable rate carbon tax could stabilize oil prices the way the Strategic Oil Reserve does now.

During my college years, in the shadow of the 1973 oil crisis, the US created the Strategic Oil Reserve. Back then, the idea was to have a reserve supply of oil in case we needed to fight a war while overseas oil imports were diminished.

Back then, we were dependent on imported oil for much of our supply. Today, we produce most of our own oil, due to increased domestic production; thus the reserve serves another purpose.

Since my college days, the use of our Strategic Oil Reserve has shifted to other goals; mainly the goal of stabilizing oil prices. When gas prices go up, Biden and other presidents, have dipped into the reserve to lower prices and to save their own political fortunes.

When prices go down, the reserve can be refilled. This practice can make money for the treasury due to the process of buying cheap / selling high.

It is not necessarily a bad strategy, but I also think this price stabilization effect can be done with carbon taxes that would be imposed when oil is too cheap. This would put a floor on oil prices so they are less apt to undercut alternative energy. The tax could be removed or lowered at times when oil prices are high. That temporary tax cut could relieve the shock of sudden price hikes.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

The American people are to blame for the national debt

There is much anxiety about the federal debt. Finger pointing as well. Ultimately, I think it's the American people who can be blamed for the debt. Not wanting to pay higher taxes while still demanding various things, like the military for instance, from government.

Republicans are likely more to blame, but Democrats are not angels either. Republicans refusal to even consider tax increases is a problem. Another problem is the idea that money and wealth is the most important goal in life.

In my personal life, I haven't been that motivated by making more money. I do need enough for survival and comfort as a single person and a bit more to make life interesting, some travel for instance.

On the other hand, I do have a big interest in the workings of the economy on a large scale. Not my personal finance, but learning, from a distance, how business, government and so forth function. I have an interest in how these things can remain viable to create the economy that we are dependent on. I was a geography major, in college and one of my favorite subjects is "Economic Geography."

Another Earth Day

Sometimes I think Earth Day is just another way to appease our guilt and make it look like we are trying to do something to save the livability of the planet.

This year, a friend was thinking of attending a tree planting event, but found that the event, near his neighborhood, was fully booked. Maybe not enough saplings at that location, but other locations, in the city, still had openings. He wanted to walk, rather than drive across town, but he may attend anyway regardless of whether there is a sapling for him to plant.

The events offer instructions on where to park for attending the event.

Years ago, another friend walked into a meeting, I was at, with sapling in hand asking people if they wanted to take one for planting. I took one and then walked to Sehome Hill to plant it myself. There wasn't an event. I don't know if it survived or not. There wasn't an event to show me how to plant it.

Now I can't tell if it survived, or not, as when I look at that area, I just see lots of trees anyway. I forgot exactly where I planted it.

Many more years before that, I remember the first Earth Day while I was in high school. The art teacher led a tree planting event, but a biology teacher thought the trees wouldn't survive on that hillside which was naturally a grassland environment. That event was still a nice memory.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Driver assist technology could be used to enforce safer driving.

While I tend to feel favorable toward the police, I also understand the argument that "an ounce of prevention," from things like social services, is better than "a pound of cure;" only relying on police.

This same logic can apply to traffic safety as well. Driver assist technology and even self driving technology is becoming more prevalent. I've heard that we can pretty much make the cars enforce things like speed limits, but there is reluctance to do this from automakers and the driving public.

How about having a breathalyzer in all cars so the car doesn't start if the breathalyzer detects alcohol? We've had that technology, since the 1980s, as it is often installed in the cars of folks who have been convicted of drunk driving.

How about having the cars, themselves, enforce speed limits and having the cars refuse to do reckless driving? The human driver could still override these features given certain emergencies or the need for higher speeds in passing and so forth.

This isn't just my idea, I've heard, on the news, that we could do a lot more to make cars safer by just installing technology where the car refuses to do reckless driving. GPS could be used so the car knows the speed limits for each road.

Many of the problems, that cause folks to complain about police, stem from traffic stops. The cars, themselves could do more to enforce public safety.

Strong Towns suggests changing street design to encourage slower and safer driving. Slower style city planning is nice. I would appriciate it being a bicyclist and a pedestrian, but it does take billions of dollars in retrofitting. A quicker solution is to use technology, in the cars themselves, to enforce safer driving.

If better mental health services is seen as the answer, instead of better gun legislation, that can be turned into an argument for universal access to mental healthcare and maybe single payer.

Some Republicans say that guns aren't the problem, the problem is mental health. Maybe that could be turned into an argument for universal access to healthcare. Possibly an argument for single payer.

Ironically, Republicans are not likely to embrace that logic, however.

Today I hear in the news that quite a few people will loose access to healthcare as the pandemic emergency winds down. Some low income folks, in states like Texas, will loose access to Medicaid expansion; states that still refuse Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.

Others, even in states like Washington that has the Medicaid expansion, will likely get confused by the myriad of choices and miss open enrollment periods as some people need to reenroll in various plans as things change after the pandemic.

In some cases, folks will fall through the cracks and loose access to psychiatric medicines that they need as the complex landscape of healthcare finance keeps changing.

Add to this more and more guns in society and you have a recipe for problems.

Biden's new energy standards for mobile homes may only cost pocket change compared to renting a space for a mobile home anyway. Might as well not fret about that.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is asking the Biden administration to delay new energy standards for mobile homes set to go into effect at the end of next month.

I say, "why bother fretting about this?" It seems like the $750, added purchase cost for a singlewide mobile home to make it more energy efficient, is just pocket change compared to monthly rent for a space at mobile home parks in this (western Washington State) area, at least. I've heard that rent can be around $800 per month just to be in a mobile home park; if one is lucky enough to find a space. That's not counting utilities. One month covers that entire cost difference for the better insulated homes to save lots of money, over time, on heating and cooling.

I assume the cost is only for new mobile homes as existing ones would be grandfathered in, for a while, anyway.

This may be one difference between "blue state" and "red state" thinking as maybe, in South Carolina where Senator Scott is from, rents and property prices are lower. In Bellingham area, rents and property values are high as our blue state economy tends to be booming. That prosperous situation does bring other challenges, however; like rents so high, in our "hoity toity" communities, that they dwarf the cost of things like better insulated windows.

I've never been to South Carolina, but I hear that rents may be more affordable, but that's just a stereotype?

Maybe it's expensive in the Charlston area. I do have a college degree in geography. I hear that, in North Carolina, Ashville rents and property values are through the roof.

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

What if DeSantis were to become president and pardon Trump?

Here's a thought experiment. What would happen if Ron DeSantis became president in 2025 and pardoned Donald Trump? I realize that DeSantis and Trump are rivals, however, for the Republican nomination. They aren't exactly buddy buddy.

On the Trump topic, I haven't said much lately. My reaction to the indictment ranges from "glad that it's proceeding" to a bit of "indifference." Long term issues, such as the economy and climate change, tend to captivate me more.

I've always been, pretty much, a moderate Democrat, myself.

It seems like it's gotten to where ethics are more and more determined by politics. Guilt or innocence, ethical or unethical depends, to a large extent, on who one asks.

Republicans tend to think one way, Democrats another.

Seems like there are a lot of things that Trump has done that would do more than raise the eyebrows of; for instance, evangelical Christians, but these days most Republicans do give him a pass. That's why I ponder the question, "what if DeSantis were to pardon Trump if he were President by 2025."

What if red states were to protect their red friends and prevent them from being sent to blue states for legal proceedings? The United States ununited? So far, that hasn't happened, however.

I often think that when in power, Republicans tend to show more bias toward their own comrades than Democrats do. For instance Senator Al Frankin stepped down, rather quickly, after mild acusations related to the Me Too movement, while, around the same time, Trump could "double down" and still keep his support.

Most likely there was never a totally objective basis for ethics anyway. It just seems like, as time goes on, there is less and less of an illusion of objective ethics.

I still try to hold to my own set of ethics, however. As for society, there still seems to be enough common ground that, for the most part, society still does function.

Thinking more deeply about the basis of ethics.

From observation of human behavior, I tend to think that ethics evolves out of our need to function among one another in this world. Our need to be neighborly and reduce harm or pain to one another. Our need to work together for building the institutions of society that allow us to achieve more than we would as isolated groups or individuals.

I don't rule out a spiritural dimention to life, but seems like our rules, beliefs and ethics are separate from that. Maybe they are inspired, but looking at how humans function, I am skeptical.

There are the laws of physics and there are a lot of open questions about intelligents and spiriturality that I enjoy contemplating.

There is so much that we still don't know so I go at it with a bit of humbleness.

The behaviour of fundamentalist religious people tends to discredit any idea of a divine basis for human morality. At the same time, I haven't thrown out the idea that a divinity exists, it just seems like we (humans) get into trouble when we try to define it in our own terms.

In politics, it seems to me like extreme left, or extreme right, doesn't lead to good governance. Middle ground, with some compromise, works best.

Monday, April 03, 2023

Slowing population growth could benefit the nations where people still want to live. Benefit democratic ideals.

Elon Musk is worried about the population bust with it's potential drag on world economies.

Instead of that, it looks like population is shrinking in places like Russia, where people are trying to get out, but population is still growing in places like Canada, where people are waiting at the borders trying to get in.

If economic growth follows population growth, countries like Canada, with better respect for diversity, will grow. This sorting out of nations could benefit democratic ideals, however worldwide economic growth can still present problems such as climate change.

Electric trolley style mass transit gets around the battery chemicals problem

There is some worry, not just from right wing pundits, but from others that a green energy revolution may be difficult. One big concern is the chemicals needed in batteries for cars and utility power storage; the mining and so forth.

I still think we should migrate more to public transit which can function without batteries. Seattle's trolley bus system, for instance. Electricity fed direct from overhead lines.

More compact city planning, more transit, walking and bicycling is needed.

Electrification is better than fossil fuels, but the transition may not be as easy as some folks think. Heat pumps can save lots of energy for buildings. They are better than regular electric heating, but smaller homes are a virtue as well.

We need to think beyond just sitting back and expecting that battery technology will do it all for us in just the next two decades or so. That's a tall order.