Tuesday, February 28, 2023

How about a lane just for transit and tractor trailers?

I've seen a proposal to allow big trucks to have their own lane on multi lane freeways of 3, or more lanes in each direction. Might be a good idea because I've always thought there should be a "bus only" lane for transit. Maybe buses and big trucks could team up to get this through, politically, plus getting through the constant clog of traffic.

Today's HOV lanes, through Seattle area, don't seem to work as they allow vehicles with only 2 occupants. There are so many 2 occupant vehicles that traffic seems just as clogged, in the HOV lanes, as in the regular lanes.

If transit could get through without being held up in traffic, maybe there would be less traffic as there would be more incentive for folks would use transit instead of private cars.

The only times I've recently been on that section of freeway, between Marysville and Seattle, I've been on a bus stuck in traffic in the HOV lane.

Last summer, when I was on Greyhound through that area, the bus took Highway 99 from Marysville to Everett and then went around by way of I-405 and I-90 to Seattle. This route hoping they could get around the traffic on I-5; HOV lanes and all.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Facebook is like a publication that's all letters to the editor from readers who write to have a soapbox while advertising pays the bills to run the soapbox.

Some people feel that Facebook is exploiting us, the content providers. Yes, I would prefer it were run by a non profit, but I think of it as being, sort of, like a newspaper.

Facebook is a newspaper made up entirely from letters to the editor and advertising. The letters (and photos) provide a soapbox for members of the public to express themselves while advertising pays the newspaper's bills.

Newspapers also pay for professional journalists; though these days, newspapers are struggling to do that.

Facebook also has the issue of the algorithms which amplify some forms of content over others. This could be viewed as being like headline writing and article placement in a newspaper. Sensationalism sells newspapers.

To use a newspaper analogy, I sometimes think my content gets shuffled to the inside, back pages of Facebook, but that is mostly driven by evidence of reader response; clicks, likes and comments.

Back in my high school, or maybe college days, before so much information was at our fingertips through the internet; I complained, to my mom, that news from space science seldom got coverage in the newspaper. I said, if they do cover science, it's usually on the back of the sports page.

One morning, when I got up, mom greeted me with a chuckle and said, "there is a story about a new telescope in this morning's paper." "It's on the back of the ports page."

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

How about putting Seattle's new airport in Cle Elum area? Yakima is friendly to it. Cle Elum or Ellensburg are closer.

Humankind often grows by what is called "slash and burn" which can include moving on or expanding to new territory.

Here in Washington State, our population and economy is outgrowing Sea-Tac Airport. Rather than changing our ways, a second airport may be needed. Other areas, near Seattle, resist the development so, in the spirit of moving on, Yakima steps forward. Yakima is a long ways out, but there was news, a while back, that Yakima would welcome the new airport.

I got to thinking that Cle Elum might be a good place for the airport. No place near Seattle metro would likely welcome it. Yakima is still farther, but Cle Elum or Ellensburg area might be the best bet. There is more open space, starting around Cle Elum east of the Cascade Mountains.

Some folks actually commute to work in Seattle area from Cle Elum area, so I hear. In many cases preparing for a life of retirement east of the mountains with only a few years left to work. It's a long commute, but those kind of commutes are normalized; as in the phrase, "only in America."

Changing our ways would mean, I guess, not needing another airport. There could be other alternatives like slowing down the rat race, Relying more on rail transportation or even less travel and more cyber travel online.

When I posted this on Facebook, someone suggested airships based on hellium balloon technology.

Yes, that's a great idea. Less need for big runway space. Might still fit closer to Seattle Metro west of the Cascades. Airships combine my concepts of slowing down while also living in style. Could work well for shorter trips, like forinstance Seattle to Spokane or even to San Francisco. More comfort and enjoy the view. Would also use much less energy than jet travel according to articles I have seen on airship travel.

Above: My modified Google Map and mural in Cle Elum photo from my 2022 bicycle and bus trips.

Below: Airship image from Gardian News UK.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Sunset federal programs is like the debt ceiling debacle extended to more than just the debt ceiling.

Sen. Rick Scott is now trying to amend his idea of sunsetting federal programs every 5 years saying he never met it to apply to Social Security, Medicare, the Military, the veterans and so forth. Just sunset the rest of government, I guess; like maybe the border patrol? Republicans think that's important also.

We've kind of got a sunset mechanism already. It's the debt ceiling. If the debt ceiling isn't raised, much of government spending sunsets. It's turned out to have created it's own set of problems; an artificial financial crisis, if the debt ceiling shuts things down.

Rather than adding more sunsets, we should eliminate the debt ceiling sunset, which we don't adhere to anyway. We always do lift the debt ceiling, but we just create an artificial crisis over it, each time, as a ritual of shaming ourselves.

Large deficits seems to be an inevitable part of the equation for propping up the American way of life, but we seem to have survived this far beyond so many predictions of catastrophe.

Yes, I do think we need changes. Simpler lifestyles and less consumption would help. This could start with higher taxes on personal spending for things like luxury homes. Folks may disagree with me, but I think the American people spend too much money on sports; for instance.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Adjusting Social Security to our increasing lifespans, but American lifespans are decreasing now.

It makes sense to raise the age of retirement to maintain solvency of Social Security in a world of increasing lifespans. Problem is, lifespans, in USA, are now decreasing. Maybe that can be turned around, someday, but for the past few years, lifespans have been decreasing. Seems like the rat race is sending Americans to an earlier grave.

The many reasons do get discussed from overwork to income inequality to gun violence to traffic accidents to drug use to suicides to the pandemic and so forth. Many changes are needed in our culture. Higher quality of life and less materialistic pursuits would help, in my opinion. I seem to define quality of life differently than a lot of people. For instance, free time and connection to friends brings quality of life. Health and time for going places by bicycle is quality of life for me.

Taxes will need to be raised to keep Social Security and Medicare solvent into the future.

Seems like we really will need tax increases to keep Medicare and Social Security solvent. Politicians are doing the political posturing of saying "these things are off the table." It's a dance around the "third rail of politics." Call it the table dance.

Still, demographics and other economic factors point to insolvency of these programs without changes. Tax increases are likely the best solution; such as raising the income cap for Social Security taxes.

Just soaking business with taxes isn't likely to solve the problem as business often does need lots of capital for the buildings and equipment, it uses, to run the business. This would indirectly effect consumers and workers anyway.

Seems like taxes will need to extend into the middle class; especially the upper middle class; many of them have benefited from the windfall profits of home ownership.

Much of upper middle class, as well as the super rich, did benefit from the Trump tax cuts that, for the most part, were ill advised.

Even just raising the income cap on Social Security taxes could increase taxes on folks in the $150,000 to $400,000 yearly income range that Biden tries to promise not to raise taxes on.

As a child, I would have never thought that much of middle class would be millionaires, on paper. This due mostly to inflation in home values. Being a millionaire was a big deal, during my 1960s childhood. Now it's just middle class, or at least upper middle class.

Aside from taxes, middle class is still the bulk of consumers, when it comes to the footprint on our environment. It's a big number of people compared to just the billionaires. The super rich are the biggest consumers, but there aren't huge numbers of them; like there are in the middle classes.

The super rich do have more than their fair share of influence on Congress, however. They set the pace and the rest of society follows. So many folks admire the movie actors and multi million dollar sports stars. A large segment of the people "drink the cool aid."

Big changes are needed and higher taxes are needed. Yes, that may slow down overall consumption, but that could help the environment.

We will need to change our ways and invest in things like cleaner infrastructure. We could have a better, yet less consumptive quality of life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Valentines without having to have a partner.

Possibly my best Valentine's Day memories are from grade school when kids in the class put big envelopes on the front of our desks to collect handmade valentines from each of our classmates. It was fun to make them and fun to collect them. Everyone got valentines.

My sister Judith got much better pictures of the school than me. This picture taken in the 1980s when Edison School was still in use.

Looking back, my first Valentine's Days were for community, or in that case, classroom sharing of the art and candies. Art seen in a classroom window here. Pullman, WA.
More recent than my childhood, someone was giving out candies at last Friday's Peace Vigil in downtown Bellingham. The vigil has happened each Friday since 1966.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Some Republicans realizing their policies are not very family friendly.

An article, from February 10, 2023 New York Times, caught my eye.
In Post-Roe World, These Conservatives Embrace a New Kind of Welfare.

Yes, the irony of the "family values" party embracing past economic policies that have not been very nuturing to kids and families.

A bit more of my own thinking below.

As the percent of our population, that is child free, keeps growing, I often think we can embrace child free and even single lifestyles. My idea might, in part, be like a coping strategy to live in an economy that seems less and less family friendly anyway. Much of this, I place on the priorities that have evolved in our free market economy; thus exacerbated by Libertarian and Republican policies.

It's not that I dislike children. The world does face over population, but children are our future. A livable world is the best gift we can give to future generations and single people can contribute to that by being good citizens.

There is also quite a bit of talk about shifting demographics as the population of older folks rises higher compared to young folks ready for the workforce. Yes, programs like Social Security need large numbers of young workers to pay into the system. In USA, much of that can be accomplished through immigration. Seems like there is no shortage of people wanting to move to USA.

I believe in quality versus, just quantity, when it comes to raising future generations. It's true that many of the outcomes of Republican economics have not been that nurturing to children.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Biden did well. Biden and Republicans danced around third rail of touching Social Security and Medicare. Played out well for Biden.

In last night's State of the Union speech, it was interesting to see how unruly Congressional Republicans got trying to deny it when Biden said that some of them had proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

There is still the reality of the math. If there isn't enough tax revenue to support those programs in the future, the numbers don't add up. If too much money is spent on the military, the numbers don't add up. Raising the income cap on the Social Security taxes is a solution that Democrats propose, but that's a really hard pill for Republicans to swallow.

It's like, yes, people need to wake up and smell the coffee.

I'll admit, I rely on those programs now that I have reached my retirement years.

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Inherited fame and fortune got Hunter Biden into trouble. Higher taxes on inherited wealth could reduce this type of problem in society.

A committee, in the Republican lead house, is investigating Hunter Biden and his famous laptop. In several ways, this fixation could backfire on Republicans. I have a unique take on this.

Being the son of a famous politician, Hunter has been thrust into a world of fame and fortune. He may have not handled it well, which brings up the problem of wealth by chance and inheritance. Fame or fortune is not always bestowed on the most deserving individuals. My solution to this problem is higher taxes on the wealthy.

Higher taxes is something Republicans tend to oppose. They feel that taxes slow the economy. In some cases, a slower economy, versus a rat race, isn't necessarily bad.

Still a slow economy can be problematic. If we want prosperity, we shouldn't smother business with too many taxes. On the other hand, there is a difference between the idol rich and working capital in a business. Our tax codes do try and differentiate between these two forms of wealth by allowing businesses to deduct from their taxes for legitimate capital expenses.

Businesses often need to have expensive buildings and equipment for running the business, so this can make the owners look wealthy on paper.

Still, there are other forms of personal wealth and fame that people use in more detrimental ways. There are things like multiple vacation homes, travel, private yachts, jets and many things that could be deemed frivolously excessive.

There are investments in real estate, left empty, that can inflate prices.

Money often goes into things that I think most folks would consider not beneficial to society. For instance the amount of money dumped into politics and lobbying.

Celebrities, such as the offspring of famous politicians, get a lot of publicity and breaks. They get board appointments that are likely due to name recognition, such as Hunter Biden's appointment to that Ukrainian gas company board, a few years back.

This situation should blowback at Republicans since they seem to always want to protect personal wealth regardless of the situation.

I seldom hear anyone discuss this, from that perspective, so this is why I write.

How privatizing parts of Social Security could add to the national debt.

Some Republicans are talking about privatizing part of Social Security again. I remember that idea from early in the Bush II Presidency.

Back then, it was right after the Clinton Administration and there was actually a government surplus. A few years, under Clinton, when the government wasn't adding to it's mountain of debt. It ended the year with some surplus to pay down past debt.

Given that small surplus, it seems like reckless Republicans thought, "maybe we can cut the Social Security tax a bit and allow workers to use some of that money for private savings."

Under the Bush plan, Social Security benefits would have not been cut, for the current crop of seniors, even though the Social Security tax would have been lowered. They thought, "just borrow more money to pay the current retirees, while still giving the young workers a tax cut."

Cutting Social Security benefits is a political "third rail" so a politician, who proposes that, is committing "political suicide."

Bush proposed getting around that problem by proposing to borrow money to prop up Social Security during a temporary "transition period" so young workers could put part of their Social Security tax into more private investment accounts approved by, I think, a new branch of Social Security.

In the so called "bright Republican future," retirees would draw their benefits from both the private side of the system, plus the regular Social Security; a hybrid system.

That future would mean that the temporary borrowing, to prop up current senior citizen benefits, would be phased out as the younger workers reached retirement age.

The plan seemed reckless to me even when it was floated as a proposal. It went over like a led balloon, in Washington DC anyway.

Not long after those exuberant days, 911 happened and that, along with some other Bush tax cuts that did pass, brought back tons of red ink.

Since then, the government has just been adding to the debt, year after year under both Republicans and Democrats. Needs keep mounting; such as the outbreak of the corona virus.

Seems like we still survive so many folks do question whether we should even worry about the national debt; think "Modern Monetary Theory."

We seem to get by in spite of being in debt; like it's just a theoretical problem. It may be a problem, but somehow we muddle by; partially from new money created by the Federal Reserve.

New money can eventually lead to inflation, but the total economy keeps growing and certain prices, like home prices, have gone a lot higher than they were 30 years ago. Debt, from past years, is much smaller compared to today's economy. It's all relative.

As I often think, money is mostly just a construct and not totally real anyway.

A better solution for maintaining Social Security is to keep raising the cap on the Social Security taxes that higher income people pay.

Printing that trillion dollar coin to keep government open points out that money is, basically, just an accounting tool. It's not that real.

Debt ceiling debate keeps coming up. Seems like we never have been able to make significant cuts in federal spending. Too many people and important things are dependent on that money.

I think if Republicans were to float a "trial balloon" budget, it would be shot down by the public sooner than China's so called weather balloon.

The idea of printing a trillion dollar coin has come up again as well. A way for the government to get around this impasse. "Just print a coin." "Deposit it in the treasury and say it's worth a trillion dollars."

Biden Administration is, so far, rejecting this idea and still opting for Congress to raise the debt ceiling in a normal manner.

That trillion dollar coin brings up the idea of how money is, basically, an artificial concept.

I think we place too much emphasis on money. The idea that we might be able to just define a coin to be worth a trillion dollars points that out. Money is a construct of the human race.

I think we still need money as it's a tool, but it's not a god.

Money allows us to keep track of things. I have a friend who thinks money would be abolished in an ideal society. He is pretty idealistic and he envisions a society where goods and services would just be provided out of the desire of people to help one another and create a civil society. That is a nice thought.

On the other hand, I think we still need money to some extent. Lots of complex things rely on math and money is a strong tool for doing the math.

For instance, when we build a large building, counting the money allows us to measure how much labor and materials we need. It helps us figure out if the building will pencil out from the use it provides. Money and math helps us calculate risk, insurance premiums, leases, retirements and so forth.

Still it seems like money has become too important in people's lives.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

We should be promoting alternative transit rather than just relying on electric cars.

This society has placed it's hope on the conversion to electric cars. That can be a step forward, but it's drawbacks are often pointed out.

Electric is much better than fossil fuel cars, but if electric cars aren't the saving grace, society has just been following another distraction. We really really need to do more to reduce automobile dependency altogether.

That means more public transit, walking, bicycling and changes in the way we plan the landscape.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Though moderately to the left, most of my views are still buying into mainstream society.

Though moderately to the left, most of my views are buying into mainstream society; for instance what's considered mainstream medicine. I'm not super anti business or anti government. I tend to believe what's usually thought of as mainstream science.

Where I am different is in some lifestyle choices. Not driving, for instance. That's a big one. Another difference is that I seem to have no, or little, desire to be in a "relationship." I'm not the marrying type. Here are some other differences as well. I have no television even though I do watch videos; mostly on YouTube. I have no need for extra subscriptions to things like Netflix. I have little interest in movies, or sports.

I am somewhat of a minimalist in the ownership of possessions. I have little interest in fashion, which may go with my lack of interest in relationships. People are often judged, in the dating world, by their clothing and other superficial things.

The jobs I have had were lower prestige, lower pay and lower stress.

Money seems less important to me. I balance the allure of money with other things like having more free time or a low stress situation.

For most of my career, I put in a bit less than 8 hours per day. Much of my early career, I worked part time; like a 25 hour week. Back then, rent was low and no car or family needs made that workable. I have no pets. That makes life less complicated and expensive as well.

As for healthcare, most of my regular doctors have been fans of healthy living, versus using medicine, but if medicine is needed, mainstream science is called for.

Much of my time I spend in conversation and contemplation, which are often thought of, in this society, as unproductive. Conversation may not accomplish much. There's the phrase "talk is cheap." It may not accomplish much compared to the "shopping, working" cycle.

Conversation and contemplation may not accomplish much compared to raising a family or building a business, but I am drawn to it anyway.