Saturday, July 20, 2024

The Republicans are running with us versus the elites politics. Now it's time for the Democrats to offer messages for a sustainable world.

Rather than trying to beat Republicans at marketing to the working class, I think Democrats need to appeal to the need for a sustainable society, versus climate change, authoritarianism and chaos.

They need to appeal to both the rich, powerful allies as well as the poor and working class.

Many of the wealthy are culturally liberal due to the correlation between education and wealth. Even many of the rich realize that taxes aren't all bad and personal wealth is of no use if society and the world around us is crumbing.

Friday, July 19, 2024

Blaming corporations for our problems, rather than looking to ourselves for solutions, shifts from left to right.

While I advocate lifestyles that are alternative to the mainstream, I haven't been that much of a critic of institutions of government or business. I haven't even been that critical of large corporations. Instead, I think it's up to us to live our lives as best we can toward a better and more sustainable world.

Now I note, from the writings of some pundits, that working class rebellion against institutions has shifted toward Trumpism. Blame and finger pointing has been shifting rightward in recent years. It's still not my idea that we, as voters, consumers and participants in the community, are the key to reducing climate change and solving many of society's problems.

In the past, the right wing tended to blame problems on government while the left wing blamed the super rich and corporations. Now it looks like what's called the "working class" is turning toward blaming it all on so called "elites."

Still, however, much of the opinion is manipulated, as always, by celebrities and billionaires.

From Taylor Swift to Donald Trump, himself, the people follow, yet most of the people continue living lives that lead to climate change, lust for money, unaffordable housing, nimbyism and so forth.

Thursday, July 04, 2024

There should be a higher interest rate for speculation and a lower one for creating something.

The Federal Reserve walks a tightrope between raising interest rates which could lead to recession and lowering interest rates which could lead to inflation. Trying to figure out the best "one size fits all" rate is problematic.

I've often thought they should be able to set different interest rates for different uses of the money. Rates should be high for speculation on existing assets and low for creating new assets. For instance speculation that bids up the price of existing housing should be discouraged while construction of new housing should be encouraged.

Housing has been one of the big drivers of inflation in recent years. Raising interest rates tries to cool speculation and inflation, but it also can reduce construction of new housing which would increase supply.

There is a similar situation in business as money can be used just to bid up stock prices and have companies buy one another (existing assets) or money can be used to build new assets.

Government can be a good use for low interest rates when it uses money for improving infrastructure.

Rather than having a one size fits all solution for interest rates, I think there should be a way to have different interest rates for different uses of the money.

I also think the Federal government, thus Biden these days, gets blamed for things like housing inflation, but much of the cause of short supply is caused by local zoning ordinances. The Feds don't usually weigh in on zoning decisions done at the local level.

State governments, such as here in Washington State, are now starting to try and weigh in on local zoning to increase housing supply. Recent state legislation is starting to discourage cities, within the state, from having too much restrictive single family zoning.

Biden future plans may depend on the polls.

Biden plans to stay in the race, but I got to thinking that how well he does in the polling data, during the next few weeks, should effect his final decision. I don't know if it will, or not, but the polls are one factor related to electability.

When the IRS says you paid too much.

I recently got a computer generated letter that I had filled out my income tax form incorrectly. My requested refund, from withholding, was way too small. Turns out I didn't owe any taxes so I got the entire withholding back.

Yes, figuring out taxes can be complicated. This discrepancy had to do with how much tax I owe on my Social Security income. I guess I owe no tax on that due to my overall income bracket. It can be convoluted how things are explained.

The withholding was from my pension income, but I got it all back. I don't mind paying some taxes, but apparently, I didn't owe income tax this year.

Conservatives often say that the rich pay most of the income taxes that run the government while liberals say that the rich don't pay enough taxes.

When one looks at the figures, both sides are likely telling different sides of the truth. I would guess that the rich have most of the money so they pay most of the taxes. Low income people often pay no income tax. The middle class pays quite a bit in taxes also.

One's circumstances really effect taxes. If someone has lots of business expenses, they often get to write off those expenses, making it look like the rich get off tax free. On the other hand, if their businesses were taxed to death; consumers would loose the goods, services and jobs that those businesses provide.

As for the fairness of the overall economy, it doesn't tend to be fair for many reasons. I keep hearing that folks who own assets are wealthy compared to those who just work. In other words things like real estate can go way up in value compared to wages.

I try and always look at the big picture, but sometimes I don't pay that much attention to what seems like the triviality of my own personal finances.

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

On immigration, the welcome mat gets tarnished when overwhelmed.

One can say that large numbers of voters in Europe and USA are sending a message that immigrants are no longer welcome; as in "there's no room at the inn, not even the manger out back." That's my bleak assessment of human nature; folks turn to savagery by circumstance.

It's not the fault of the immigrants themselves who are mostly bringing needed skills and vitality to our economy. It's partially a function of overwhelming numbers of people; an echo of world population growth that has occurred since my childhood. In 1960, there were 3 billion people on the planet, today the estimate is past 8 billion.

Population growth is slowing down, but immigration is an echo effect of population growth that has already occurred; not to mention rise in authoritarianism around the world plus climate change.

Some folks say they are just against illegal immigration, but the waiting lists to immigrate legally are very long due to more folks wishing to immigrate than the quotas set for legal immigration. Congress can adjust those quotas, but talk of adjusting the quotas is seldom heard in political debates about immigration.

I think many people fear that more legal immigration would just bring more illegal immigration as well; like the mental image of bailing out the ocean with a teacup.

Unfortunately, lots of people demonize the immigrants, themselves, who for the most part are innocent and can be a great asset to this country. They bring skills and vitality, not to mention young workers paying into our Social Security system, when they are legally approved.

People do worry about crime, but I hear that there is a higher percentage of crime caused by native born Americans than recent immigrants. However, one worry that does seem legitimate to me, is the ability of border patrol agents to vet recent arrivals when the numbers overwhelm the system. Yes, it does take time to do background checks. Large caseloads, versus a small number of border patrol staff, can be an issue.

From what I hear, in the news, illegal immigration has slowed down significantly since Biden's recent executive order dealing with that issue.

As for infrastructure and population growth, planning is key. Many cities, in this country, are way behind in the number of housing units needed. Whether there is room, in our cities, to park all the cars, if huge numbers of people continue to insist on using private cars, is a factor as well.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Contradictory demands stand in the way of transitioning to a greener economy.

Transitioning to green technology, while maintaining the American people's consumptive lifestyles, is likely to be very difficult. I listen to both liberal and conservative experts and I especially hear from conservatives about logistical problems with things like mandating electric 18 wheeler trucks. Things like weight of batteries + vehicle, given road weight restrictions, for instance. Another topic is sources for the minerals in batteries, given restrictions on domestic mining. There's lots of nimbyism and contradictory environmental concerns that need to be sorted through.

Some conservatives make good points about economic logistics; when they aren't just yacking about the culture wars.

I still think the economic transition is possible, but it will take a lot more patience than most people have in this era of blame and finger pointing. I think we can make these transitions, but the current culture of blame and greed puts obstacles in the way.

In an ideal world, technology would keep advancing and evolve into greener practices, but it will be difficult to bring a lot of changes without people, themselves, accepting change. We will need changes; such as using more public transit and less private cars, on the one hand, while on the other hand, accepting more things like wind turbines, solar panels, mines and even nuclear power.

Transportation is just one example, but people will need to be open to big changes across the entire economy.

Some of these changes can be seen as improvements, rather than sacrifices; such as enhanced safety of public transit versus private cars and the health benefits of things like bicycling. Benefits; such as the quieter world of electric motors versus internal combustion engines comes to mind as well.

Advancing technology can help us. I don't think we can go back to the past; especially with our much larger population than before.

I wonder if we can make the transition and changes we need, given the political climate and the fact that so many people feel like they aren't getting a fair deal. People seem to always want more wealth.

Our entire culture will need some deep changes not just at the top, but at the grass roots level as well.

I wrote this after hearing an interview on June 26 Pullman Radio News with Idaho Congressperson Russ Fulture. After his dismal post mortem of Biden's performance at the debate (to be expected from a Republican) he talked about electric truck mandates. Yes, if we use current battery technology, it adds extra weight, on road surfaces, to an already heavy vehicle for tractor trailers. There are lots of rules about weight of trucks on highways. That could mean less weight devoted to the load which reduces "economy of scale" in transport. More cost, or a need for less consumption.

I personally think mandates are a bad idea leading to lots of pushback. For instance about the vaccine, it's a good vaccine, but the mandates may have backfired in terms of the overall goal of getting people vaccinated.

An example of change in culture could mean going to more rail, for transport of goods, versus highway trucks, but rail lines need to be built and changes in the way business is done needs to happen. This could also mean some inconvenience with less door to door delivery, but we could go back to having more patience as consumers.

Barge on Lake Washington Ship Canal. Image taken during my June 2024 trip to Seattle.

He also panned the proposals to remove dams on the Snake River and the loss of both hydropower and barge traffic. Yes, that fits the narrative of contradiction. Barges that ship wheat out of that Northern Idaho / Eastern Washington region could be another way to reduce reliance on trucks, but there are proposals to remove the dams. Lewiston now calls itself "the seaport of Idaho" due to barge traffic on the Snake / Columbia River system.

Yes, lots of contradictions in demands for having an economy while protecting the environment. Logistics that will need to be dealt with.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Link to my most recent bike tour photos on Flickr.

Pictures from my recent (June 21 to 23) trip to Seattle are now at the top of my most recent trips album on Flickr.

Friday, June 28, 2024

My take after the June 27 presidential debate between Biden and Trump.

If Biden remains the nominee, I would still vote for him based on the issues and the team behind the president. Optics, of a debate on television, is not everything. Still, I admit optics could loose an election.

I also think that we place too much emphasis on the president. The future of this country depends on how the American people treat one another at the grassroots level. How people respond, at all levels, to the challenges and opportunities going forward. Much also depends on who gets elected to Congress and at the state levels. If Trump were to become president, Congress can prevent him from becoming a dictator depending on who's in Congress.

I am already sort of writing a post mortem for the 2024 election, but the election is still months away and lots of things can happen between now and then.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Is gender really that important in every discussion group?

At the start of small group discussions it seems like a lot of time is wasted asking everyone for their name and preferred pronouns. There are other things about each person that's more interesting to me; like someone's quick response to a question about the topic being discussed.

I usually don't remember just names and pronouns where as other topics are more unique and memorable and likely better at starting a discussion.

Pronouns and even names may only matter if one is talking about another person in third person such as "he, she, they, who, was just at the microphone, made a good point." In that case one could maybe always say "they, or that person, sitting over there, made a good point."

Seems like when time is limited, getting to the meat of the topic is more interesting.

In quite a few cases, I've met people once in a group discussion and then never seen the person again. I'll remember the topics, but not the name. If I don't see the person again, it may not matter what name or pronouns they go by.

In some cases, I'll admit, I've known someone for over a year and can pick up a meaningful conversation, where we left off last meeting, but never learned their name. Their ideas and experiences were more unique and meaningful to me.

Much of the rest of it is just "check the category or box" and move on. In many cases people don't fit in a box anyway.

In some cases, people don't feel safe being expected to reveal their gender preference; especially depending on the topic and the nature of the group that is having the a discussion.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Scientific discussion can include speculation. Religious ideas can be part of the discussion as speculation.

I believe some ideas, thought of as religious or supernatural, can have validity as speculation. In science, there are many lines of thought that are speculation; for instance String Theory in cosmology. Scientists often speculate about big ideas beyond what's considered more proven fact.

String Theory, Quantum Gravity and other ideas, on the frontiers of physics and cosmology, are fodder for educated discussion. There may be a time in the future when more clear evidence becomes available bringing some these ideas into the realm of more fact, or on the other hand, these ideas might be discarded. In the past ideas that societies had about the earth being flat have been discarded, for the most part.

Speculation about big questions such as what brought the universe into existence, the meaning of life, whether there is any intent or design to the universe beyond us and even speculation about an afterlife, is all fodder for good discussion.

There is still a lot that we don't know. I think religion makes a mistake when speculations about these things are thought of as being proven fact. Speculation does have a place in real science, but speculation shouldn't be confused with more proven fact.

Thousands of years ago, many societies thought it was a fact that the earth was flat. This was based on the evidence one sees just standing on the level ground. We could have stuck to those so called facts, or we could speculate and explore the possibilities of things beyond that worldview.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

My dream job; sort of.

When I graduated from college, my dream was to have my own newspaper based on my opinions. A professor told me about something called the IF Stone Weekly; an individual publishing his own paper. Not knowing much about that, I set out to publish on my own.

Since then, the advent of social media has, basically, given me my own media outlet. Not huge, but still, it's me.

Before Facebook and all of that, I did some self publishing. Sent little newsletters out in the mail. Even had my own second hand mimeograph machine, for a while.

It never got very far in terms of commercial viability, but I've had a good time all along. My work as a custodian paid the bills.

I have links to things, including this blog, my Flickr and Facebook walls, at

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Pandemic is mostly old news as the vaccines and other factors have brought most of life back to pre pandemic normal.

Factionalism within the anti vax folks means potential problems for the Trump Campaign as Kennedy's third party bid could drain away Trump voters.

Trump did support Operation Warp Speed vaccine research at beginning of pandemic, but is now trying to also appeal to anti vax crowd.

Meanwhile, it does seem like pandemic is mostly old news as the vaccines and other factors have brought most of life back to pre pandemic normal.

Saving money by putting the elderly more at risk.

About the stereotype of conservatives and liberals, I got to thinking that conservatives were less enthused about the shutdown of businesses during the pandemic. They tended to think schools and business should have been allowed more leeway to be open.

That would have lead to more deaths of vulnerable and elderly people whereas younger people, such as school children, were less apt to die from the pandemic.

Less elderly helps the budget by saving money spent on Medicare. Meanwhile school age folks are said to be suffering now, due to lack of face to face school during quarantine. Maybe the old folks could have taken a hit for the team, so to speak, as I remember a lieutenant governor, in Texas, suggested early on in the pandemic.

On the other hand, I'm glad they tried to reduce death rates during the pandemic. I also have heard that some children learned better on line than sitting in classroom settings.

The cup is either half full or half empty. Things are a tradeoff and there are both good and bad consequences to various choices that governments make. There is sure a lot of complaining about things, however.

Encouraging news from India.

India has had a big election recently. Looks like moderately good news. The prime minister, Modi, said to be somewhat of a one sided religious nationalist, did win reelection, but opposition parties gained ground. He was expecting more of a landslide. I think he will have to work with the opposition and form coalitions.

India is now the most populous country in the world surpassing China, so what happens in India can make a big splash.

India has quite a few different religions besides the majority Hindu. It also has Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikh and other religions as well as non believers; a country with lots of diversity of thought. USA, another country with diversity of thought.

Maybe Trump and much of his evangelical Christian base should just admit that they are into hedonism and the prosperity gospel.

Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and even Richard Nixon got into trouble with coverups. In Trump's case, hush money paid to keep Stormy Daniels from talking about an affair. In Clinton's case lying about the Monica Lewinski affair. In Nixon's case, the Watergate Coverup.

I wonder what would have happened if Trump, for instance, had just been open about it? How would the Evangelical Christian base react? How many of them would part company with him, or stick with him?

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Should we have different interest rates for different uses?

Creating new money can lead to inflation. Here are some partial solutions I think might help tame the inflation problem a bit.

People talk about the Fed creating different windows for providing money, like teller windows in a bank.

For instance, I think about this related to funding the private sector. Create a window of low interest loans to fund new supply for things we need like housing. Low interest rates if business is building new housing; especially affordable housing, but even just housing in general. There was the phrase "drill baby drill." Now we can have "build baby build." Bring on more supply to satisfy supply and demand.

Another window would jack up iterest rates if the money is used by private investors to bid up the price of existing real estate and assets. A high interest rate for speculators bidding up prices, but not accomplishing new supply.

As for government debt, which is often accused of driving up inflation by creating the need to print money, we do seem to need government. Yes, we can try to make it more efficient, but the big items in government spending are usually off the table, so to speak, for cuts. Medicare, Military, Veterans benefits, disaster relief. Other tiny parts of the budget, like NASA are also important. I like things like advancing science, but even conservatives seem to want "American exceptionalism." If we cut NASA, or something like the Biden Chips program, we could be seading the high ground in STEM to other countries like China.

Speaking of disaster relief, the pandemic is an example of all bets are off. We aren't going to cut now, we do need 3 trillion more dollars to get us through this situation.

How about allowing the government to "lock in" the prevailing interest rate at the time that the spending was authorized?

Before and during the pandemic, interest rates were low. We borrowed on the cheap. Similar to what many homeowners get, can the government lock in low interest rates on past debt; like a mortgage?

Now some folks are worried about inflation. One of the worse examples of inflation during and soon after the pandemic was the rise in home values. I hear close to 20% in a year. Rents going up also. This contributing to what is called housing insecurity for many folks.

We do need to ratchet up interest rates on speculation, but there are things we still need for our survival that could still go to the low rate window.

We need to build more housing for our growing population and economy, but another bank, the Earth, is also limited. Sprawl all over the farmlands of Whatcom County.

Reduce population growth, smaller homes and footprints for each individual. Live like my (Robert Ashworth) lifestyle. It's a trade off between materialism growth versus some aspects of quality in life. Take time for friendships, slow travel and so forth even if it doesn't pay the money bills. One can still enjoy the fruits of advancing technology. Smartphones do have a smaller footprint than the old style vacume tube radios and televisions.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Do Smartphones distract from meaningful, face to face conversation, or is it the cute dogs folks see out of the corner of their eyes?

In the old days of newspapers, there was the term "above the fold." This was headlines and parts of stories that were on the front page; such as visible in a newspaper vending box, above the fold of the front page. People are less likely to see it and read if it's below the fold.

On Facebook, it's "above the fold" if one doesn't have to click "see more" to read it. On X (formerly Twitter) there is no below the fold; so to speak. X is basically just sound bytes except following a link in the post.

I seldom if ever use X.

These days, there is so much information available that people tend to scroll past lots of stuff. The brain and amount of time available limits how much information we can absorb so folks often avoid going into more depth of discussion.

Being on line exasperates lack of depth to some extent, but it also can enhance depth depending on how it's used. One can navigate something, like Facebook, slowly and interact with more depth given topics one interested in.

We can blame electronics, but I also notice, in face to face conversation, that some folks can be focused valuing depth while others are constantly distracted by things going on around them. When an interesting topic comes up, some folks will interrupt after just a few words when they notice a cute dog walking by.

Someone might ask, "what do you think about the economy," or something like that and then, after one sentence of conversation, someone in the group will notice a dog walking by. They will say, "Oh that's a nice poodle what an interesting color of fir."

Then the dog walker will stop and the conversation switches to types of dogs and so forth. "Where did you get that poodle?"

Often the dogs, themselves, try to have conversation barking and so forth; especially when two parties of people meet who both have dogs.

Dogs sometimes argue as well. One time someone told me that he was walking his dog at a park and another person came along walking a dog. The two dogs started barking and the leashes got tangled. Eventually the two dog owners started arguing as they were trying to untangle the leashes.

If it isn't the dogs, it might be an unusual car driving by. "Look at that pink Cadillac," "I haven't seen one like that in years." Yes, someone's phone often rings to provide distraction as well, but even without cellphones, the distractions of our surroundings can be numerous. We are a species of animal reacting to the things around us. Depth in thought and conversation is often scattered.

Is the middle class American dream actually sustainable?

A big part of the reason why it's harder to get into the American middle class, these days, is that much of the middle class lifestyle is no longer sustainable given it's carbon footprint and so forth. Less space for single family homes given need for things like farmland and habitat preservation.

What constitutes the "good life" needs to be redefined. The 1950s vision is harder to attain these days. A new vision could involve smaller residences, but more advanced technology. There were no Smartphones in the 1950s.

Our community life is different also. Gay rights was in the closet, back then, there were less bike paths, less parks and cheaper schools.

In many ways, life and culture has flourished since the old days. Expectations have grown higher, given things like treatment of disabled people, for instance. There's more worry about protecting the environment, today. Some of toxic things, in the 1950s, were more out of sight, out of mind so maybe there was less anxiety about certain things than there is today. There are around twice as many people in USA today. This can mean more traffic versus the open road.

To regain a sense of gratitude, it seems like we need to redefine our expectations of what the good life means.

Re electing Joe Biden can buy us more time to incrementally create changes toward a more sustainable society.

I tend to be a political moderate leaning slightly to the left. I still like Biden.

Some folks, that are farther left, may not plan to vote for Biden, but it looks like the only other viable choice is Donald Trump.

I think most people tend to be fairly moderate, but some are extreme left while others are extreme right. I think extreme right outnumbers extreme left of voters; especially in rural areas. It looks like it's going to be either Biden or Trump unless one of them dies or steps aside.

The Electoral College tends to give people, in the many low population rural states, an edge over folks in populated states; like California. This factor, plus the larger chunk of voters to the far right, compared to the far left, makes a second Trump term likely. I think most people are more in the middle or even slightly to the left so Biden is closer to that then Trump, but Trump could still win.

To create a society more to the left than Biden, the people need to practice what we preach as consumers, voters and so forth. Our society tends to be too materialistic.

When someone, like Biden is in power, we could flank him to the left by electing more left leaning people in Congress, but what usually happens is the Congress tends to swing more right during a democratic administration. Our politics is like a pendulum.

People on the far left tend to forget that a large segment of "the people" are on the far right. "Power to the people" can swing us to the right. Admittedly, maybe lots of the people are easily deceived, but that's still the reality in politics.

Left leaning politicians often get more pressure from Congress, economics, circumstances and the public to veer right rather than veer more left. When gas prices go up, political pundits say it's bad news for Biden. Supply and demand effects oil prices. More supply brings down prices as oil fluctuates. US has some of the least expensive oil prices in the world; especially compared to Europe. US is now producing record amounts of oil during the Biden Presidency; or I would more likely say, "in spite of the Biden Presidency."

How the masses of people live our lives as citizens, consumers and voters can support either left or right leaning economic circumstances and politics.

Is it better for the environment to keep an old car or buy a new electric car?

There is a lot of misinformation circulating critical of electric cars. At the same time, there are some valid things to consider related to electric cars and transportation.

Considering how much driving one expects to do in their future, there is a breakeven point as to whether it's less consumptive to keep an old car versus buying a new car.

Not using a car at all, seems best to me. On the other hand, I would guess that buying a new electric car is far better, for the environment, than buying a new gas car, if one is buying a new car.

People might forget that the battery is only one part of the car and I think battery materials can be recyclable. The battery may not be as consumptive as some people contend, but buying a new car means more than just the battery. There is still the consumption in making a new car, be it either gas or electric.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Heat pump collection pipes could be installed alongside underground electrical wiring so one would only have to dig once to install both systems.

Some of my thoughts about heat pumps.

Heat pump collection pipes could be installed alongside underground electrical wiring so one would only have to dig once to install both systems. One trench could serve for both the underground wiring and the "ground to heat pump" collection pipes. One could think about heat pump possibilities when installing underground wiring.

Beyond the ground is the idea of heat transfer from moving water; such as seawater in a video I saw about Denmark.

I would guess moving water is even more efficient than the ground since the ground is insulating so heat transfer from the ground is slower. Moving water always brings new warm water to the system for heat transfer.

I think most heat pumps, in homes and small buildings of USA, are air to air systems. These systems bring moving air to the system for heat transfer. Similar to water, it's moving, but during winter, air can be much colder than most bodies of water so the heating is less efficient.

Still air to air systems are less expensive to install than ground pipe, or water based systems so that's why they are more common. Here's one more thought.

As more of Bellingham installs heat pumps, people are likely to opt for air conditioning since it's easy to include with a heat pump system. This might mean more load on the electrical grid, during summer months in Bellingham, as more people will have air conditioning that didn't have it before.

For summer air conditioning, solar is a good fit as during sunny hot days, solar is producing power closer to the times when air conditioning is needed.

I like just contemplating about things in my mind though, admittedly, I'm not an expert at anything.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Feuding fundamentalists.

It seems like a lot of wars are related to fundamentalist and intolerant interpretations of religion. Religion can be open minded and tolerant as well, but that's the more "liberal" interpretation of religion.

Having said that, I am glad that the Iron shields worked to stop those missiles and drones, from Iran, before they blew up civilians. Israel has also taken a turn toward more conservatism with the current prime minister which has worried me, but technology that defensively prevents killing is good; at least from what I gather in the news. Admittedly I only see part of the story, of course.

Natural gas is often still a backup for alternative energy.

Some folks say that solar power is not that good on the grid since it's hard to store for when the sun isn't shining. Batteries are a bit difficult, but on the grid natural gas is often used as a backup.

Yes, natural gas isn't necessarily evil. It's often used as a backup for solar and wind farms when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing.

We are using at least less fossil fuels when the sun is shining. Natural gas is often used as a backup fuel and of course people still are burning lots of fossil fuels driving cars, heating homes and using electricity, these days, anyway.

Here in the northwest, hydropower is a good backup to green energy as well and batteries are getting better.

Thursday, April 04, 2024

For protecting the environment, is it worth buying a new car just to go electric?

Supposedly the liberal side of politics says buying an electric car is better for environment while some of the conservative side points out the manufacturing cost of a new car.

One of my mostly liberal friends plans to keep his old hybrid, a Prius, instead of buying a new electric as he only drives a few miles each year. For him, buying a new car might not be worth the impact as he doesn't drive that much. He usually prefers walking for most of his errands.

There is probably a breakeven point on what the best choice is dependent on expected number of miles driven. There could be common ground between liberals and conservatives.

I'm remembering, early on in the Obama Presidency, the program called "Cash for Clunkers." That was to encourage folks to take their old inefficient cars off the road for newer more fuel efficient models.

Selling more cars was good for the auto industry and back then the auto industry, along with it's workers, were in trouble. Chrysler and GM were close to bankruptcy along with many financial institutions during the 2007-08 financial panic. Obama's presidency was born into that panic which was happening at the end of the Bush Presidency. The auto industry, workers and a lot of banks were put back on their feet.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Right to life hypocrisy.

Trump says some migrants are "not people."

That coming from the presumed leader of a party that claims to uphold the sanctity of all human life.

About his warning of "bloodbath," it looks like a campaign staffer is trying to imply that it's a prediction of economic problems, in US auto industry, given imported cars from Mexico. The rhetoric has become way too hostile.

Did he mean that US auto industry could be decimated? He was speaking in front of auto workers in Ohio.

Looks like he wants to cut off imports from Mexico potentially harming Mexico's economy. Then he wants to keep job seekers, from Mexico, out of the US as if he doesn't care about people's suffering.

Another news item talks about Florida's GOP Governor De Santos sending troops to the Florida Keys to keep out the possibility of helping desperate migrants if they flee Haiti.

Gee, maybe there are too many people in the world so human life just can't be held as sacred; if it's going to get in the way of our greed.

Obviously, I think there are better ways to cope with the situation than Republican ideas. More birth control is a strategy for dealing with too many children, but we, as well as the whole world, should also be able to accommodate people in better ways.

Good relations with Mexico is another strategy toward dealing with issues. More sharing of wealth is a strategy. Figuring out how to create a more sustainable world and combat human tendencies toward tribalism, religious nationalism, greed and violence is a strategy. Humans ought to do better.

Each time he puts his foot in his mouth, I hope it looses him votes.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Biden is less like a dangerous cult leader than Trump.

We had our primary vote in Washington State last Tuesday. I put in my vote for Biden even though he's the presumed winner, but figured it could add a little push toward November general election when he isn't necessarily the presumed winner.

On a local talk show, someone called describing both candidates as like ancient smoking steam engines, but he thought the Republicans were more captivated by Trump while Democrats are less captivated. He was thinking, maybe Biden might step aside, but I called and thought, Biden is still better without necessarily stepping aside. Biden has more modesty to remind us, hopefully, that the president isn't the whole story. Trump is more like a cult leader.

With Biden, there is more of a sense of the big picture which goes beyond just one person.

There's the team that's the administration. There's Congress. There's a lot to government at the national and local levels. Ultimately I still believe the power rests with the American people. How we vote for Congress, local leaders, the president and so forth.

How we shop drives the power of markets and is a big part of shaping what pencils out for business. How we participate in our communities, how we treat one another and how we treat the environment is mostly what determines the fate of our country. Yes, I am still kind of an idealist as opposed to being totally cynical.

Monday, March 11, 2024

November's vote may be a test of Washington State's resolve to address it's carbon emissions.

Low gas prices and reducing carbon emissions are contradictory goals.

In November, there will be an initiative, on Washington State ballots, to repeal the cap and trade system that was passed by the legislature. Cap and trade has been accused, in the media, of making gasoline more expensive, in Washington, than surrounding states. November's vote may be a test of our state's resolve to address it's carbon emissions.

I tend to favor a simple carbon tax instead of cap and trade, but cap and trade is better than nothing.

Carbon taxing does tend to be regressive taxing, but my solution to that problem is to try and reduce dependency on automobiles for transportation. Public transit is more efficient, though admittedly not available in many areas. Public transit is subsidized by taxes and it is something that the cap and trade, or tax revenue could go to.

Using public transit also reduces the need for another big expense with automobiles; the rising cost of car insurance. I'm still amazed that the bus fare to Mount Vernon, from Bellingham, is only $2 general, $1 senior on the County Connector buses.

Growth versus limits for protecting the environment.

Ever since my childhood in the 1960s, I have thought that we are living in a world where population and economic growth keeps bumping into the limits imposed by concern for protecting the environment.

This seems to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest defining issue of modern times.

Should Ukraine try negotiation as Pope Francis recently suggested?

It's hard to know what the best strategy is for dealing with anger and violence in the world. Pope Francis has suggested Ukraine should strive to negotiate, versus continuing to fight to the bitter end. Others feel that this would be like the attempts at appeasement with the Nazis before World War II.

No one knows how history will judge any strategy tried. What will be the outcome? There are too many variables to predict. Violence and I also put most anger into the category of unfortunate aspects of humanity.

Some will say peace is the best strategy, but what if one is attacked? Is fighting back a better strategy to protect one's safety? What if one is the victim of violent crime or warfare?

Sometimes it might be better to fight back. Our officers of the peace; police, do usually have to carry guns. These aren't easy questions to answer.

Yes, striving toward non violence could be appeasement, who knows. Hindsight is better than foresight. We can look back on World War II and draw analogies to how that turned out. There's still some debate over what the best strategy would have been for dealing with that situation. Going forward it's even harder to know.

I think sometimes one does have to use force. On the other hand, maybe Ukraine should try and negotiate a peace short of trying to take back all the occupied territories; such as Crimea; for now at least. In the long run things could change for the better in Russia. At some point there will be a post Putin era, but who knows what the future will bring.

I don't have an ideal answer to these questions. I think our human propensity to violence creates situations where there is often no good answer. I think we do have to look at ourselves and try to figure out why humans are so prone to violence and I include anger as well. These problems persist all over the world and it seems like there is more and more warfare in various parts of the world; Sudan, Haiti, Israel/Gaza to name a few places in the news.

I also have to keep reminding myself that much of the world, if not most of the world, is still at peace.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Exxon CEO blames public for failure to fix climate change.

In the news I read; Exxon CEO blames public for failure to fix climate change. It looks like something I would say. I tend to blame consumption on consumers though I realize both producers and consumers share blame.

Have oil companies exacerbated the problem, or have they just been passive suppliers for consumer demand?

A big factor, not mentioned in the articles I saw, is the role played by politics; especially the role played by the Republican Party driven by populism. Climate change denial is still very strong among the public at the grass roots level. This is capitalized on by politicians, such as Donald Trump, who oppose measures to address climate change.

This political push doesn't necessarily come from corporations, but from politicians who rally populist segments of the public. Often the rallying members of the public are less educated about science than even corporate executives who may recognize the climate problem, while being inconvenienced by it.

I'll admit one can't totally blame average individuals for fossil fuel consumption as individuals are embedded in an economy that runs on fossil fuels. Still changes can be made with things like transit planning, zoning, carbon taxes, research, subsidies and so forth to move us toward reducing carbon emissions, but there is a lot of pushback, about these needed changes from voters and the politicians they elect. Part of that could be caused by voter apathy as who votes determines who wins.

I also think part of the problem is most people don't see the big picture. There isn't consensus around a vision for how all these things need to change together ranging from consumer behavior to technology to the way our landscapes are zoned and planned.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

People have to change before politics can change.

Eroding support for Biden on the left could be enough to put Trump back in the Whitehouse. I plan to vote for Biden if that's the choice in November.

Democratic politicians walk a tightrope when they get in office with much of the US electorate leaning right wing. Possibly the majority still resides in the middle or left, but politicians also have to deal with our materialistic culture as well. Policies that stand in the way of consumerism usually don't fly.

My personal life tends to be somewhat detached from mainstream culture and I do think things could be a lot different, if most people lived like me. However, politicians have to work with the general public which includes folks on the right. As for folks in the middle and left, politicians still find they have to keep the current economy, that people are familiar with, going; this current economy, fossil fuels and all.

Radical solutions get people nervous if they fear they will loose what prosperity they have, or they can't make ends meet. The changes moderate politicians propose may not be enough, but it's the best they can do given the circumstances; unless our culture really makes big changes in technology and lifestyles at the grass roots level.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Biden still much better than what looks like what's going to be the alternative again.

It seems very foolish to blame Biden for the excesses of Netanyahu's military campaign in Gaza. Maybe Biden could call for a ceasefire and threaten to withhold military aid, but I think Netanyahu would just go ahead and do what he is doing anyway.

Meanwhile, many Republicans, backed by Trump, would be more apt to fully support Netanyahu. Republicans have an aid bill, in the House, with military aid for Israel while removing aid for Ukraine.

Biden is calling for restraint in that war but our country may not have much say in what other countries do; in the short run at least. I would guess that Israel has plenty of weapons without us.

I think it's terrible what Hamas has done, but the rightwing government, in Israel, can overreact.

Meanwhile, here in this country, many American Jews and others are critical of the right wing politics within Israel. Unfortunately some on the left, in this country, are taking their anger out on Jewish people. Left wing opposition would be better directed at some of the Christian Right which is more backing of Netanyahu's politics in Israel.

In pretty much every situation, anger tends to be misdirected and does more harm than good. Anger could bring Trump back to the Whitehouse.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Some Republicans want a more draconian bill than the compromise.

According to many Democrats, Republicans, in the House, sank the bipartisan border bill so Trump could use border problems as campaign talking points.

Republicans have a different take. They will say the border bill was sank because it wasn't tight enough. I would replace the word tight with draconian. Many Republicans want to, basically, close the border and send folks seeking asylum back to their dangerous countries of origin while turning a blind eye on human suffering.

Many Republicans would wish to round up undocumented folks to deport them, or place them in concentration camps. They advocate more draconian policies.

It is true that growing population and the worldwide migration crisis does overwhelm existing infrastructure in the countries that people are trying to migrate to. This situation does tend to fuel right wing politics around the world, including here in USA.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Instead of waiting 30 more years for high speed rail, lets improve regular speed rail and bus service.

I've read a sponsored link from Microsoft and Seattle Times advocating high speed rail between Vancouver, BC and Portland, OR. It says trains could be running by 2050; possibly too late to benefit me in this lifetime; maybe if there's reincarnation.

Meanwhile, if speed wasn't such a prerequisite, we can already go to Mount Vernon, from Bellingham for $2 on the County Connector bus that runs quite frequently. We can go on to Everett, via County Connector and then connect to many destinations in Seattle area.

We could use more frequent train service, besides only one per day, going from Seattle to Spokane that gets into Spokane around 2 am. More train service to Spokane could be provided within the next few years as rail lines already exist.

Train service could be brought back from Seattle to Yakima and Tri Cities on already existing rails.

We could use more frequent rail service between Bellingham and Seattle, but much of that route is only single track and right of way is congested. Meanwhile Amtrak is running electric buses, on I-5, for more service between Bellingham and Seattle, so I hear. The lower carbon future could be closer than we think.

Maybe we could even do both, but the high speed rail would need new right of way and so forth. Stuff that could take decades to finance and do.

Below: A double track line over Stampede Pass near I-90, east of Seattle, that's not super busy. Could do more to link Seattle to points east.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Without compromise, government becomes one party dictatorship.

It seems to me that logical thinking would imply that legislation has to be a compromise. The other alternative is one party dictatorial rule.

Newt Gingrich, recently wrote that the Republicans should not deal with the Democrats at all. He thinks they should just deal with the American people. Problem with his logic is that the American people are divided as well. There are at least as many hard core liberals as hard core conservatives.

I think most people are more in the middle with almost equal numbers of minority opinion on either the extreme right or the extreme left. That means that if government comes from either extreme right or extreme left it must become a one party dictatorship. Otherwise it does have to be somewhat of a compromise.

Compromise tends to maintain the status quo, which, I know, some folks feel is unsustainable. Folks on the left might feel it's unsustainable due to climate change, for instance. On the right, folks feel it's unsustainable due to the growing federal debt or increasing numbers of folks immigrating to USA.

Still, the status quo is what supports the lifestyles of most people. Revolutionary, or catastrophic change would be more like a dictatorship.

Incremental change and at least some spirit of compromise seems to be what works best.

Biden is only slightly older than Trump, but Biden has better policies and a better team behind him.

Both Biden and Trump are up there in the years and subject to gaffs. Who isn't subject to gaffs? It looks like the choice will be between Biden and Trump again and I agree with Biden's policies more.

In Biden's case, he has a better team behind him; including Democrats in Congress.

If you really want a clown show, besides Trump himself, just look at Republicans in the US House of Representatives.

Friday, February 09, 2024

Some thoughts about various grocery shopping experiences in Bellingham and beyond.

If more people rode bicycles, it would look different than this. In the background, the serine view of mountains in Canada.

Recent news, in Bellingham, that Bellingham Food Coop employees have voted in favor of unionizing brings up some of my thinking about the grocery business.

Coops are a different structure than corporations, but all businesses are effected by similar economics. Large corporations often offer lower price due to the reality called "economy of scale." I still go to the Downtown Food Coop due to other factors besides just the lowest price which is often associated with economy of scale. Other virtues, such as being in a location safely accessible by bicycle matters to me and the price difference doesn't seem that much.

I get ready to eat salads at the in store Coop deli. There, I often find folks I know who share good conversation.

Large outfits, such as Fred Myer, owned by Kroger, or Winco, said to be owned by it's employees, have economy of scale and are said to offer low prices. I've almost never set foot in Winco, due to it's unfriendly location for bicycling. That whole area is kind of a traffic nightmare.

There is also a branch of the Coop in that part of town, but I usually go to the downtown Coop. The northside Coop isn't as convenient for me, but it's location is still better than Winco, traffic wise, in my opinion.

Pictured above is the Costco which is popular among progressives, but also lots of cars. One needs to have a Costco membership that I haven't gotten. Being single and living in a studio apartment, I don't need pallot loads of toilet paper.

Whether it's a corporation, or not, economy of scale relates mostly to numbers and size. Corporations aren't necessarily worse, in my opinion, than other arrangements. It's mostly about the people who are there and the overall experience.

From what I read, the Coop management has been okay with the decision of employees to unionize. Another workplace, Starbucks, is also in the news as more resistant to it's employee union efforts.

From what I gather, Starbucks started out as a small alternative favored by progressive minded folks in Seattle, but it grew into being a big corporation. I often think it's not so much the structure of the organization that matters. To me it's more about the people who are there and how they are running things.

It's also about the values we all have; what matters most? Is it traffic nightmare or bicycle / pedestrian access. Friendly conversation or the absolute lowest price.

With rent being my biggest expense each month, I may not notice saving a few cents on price. I save more money by just not owning a car.

The virtues, I value, are not always things brought by economy of scale, but I understand some of that economics and that's part of the reason why I think, just getting rid of corporations will not solve all our problems. That's just the structure of the organizations, but the way we all live and what we value matters the most.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Too many people can be a cause for dread, or a cause for celebration.

Pictured is a climate awareness event I went to at Peace Arch Park on the US Canadian border a few years back.

What one does, when waiting in line, can determine whether there are too many people or not.

One time as I was at the US border crossing and the line was long. I thought, "oh no, a long boring wait," but then someone, in line, saw my bicycle helmet and ask where I'd ridden from. We got into a very nice conversation. It wasn't cars, but pedestrians waiting inside the customs building.

Pretty soon, almost too soon, the wait was over and the conversation ended as we went our separate ways.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Does the smartphone reduce people's freedom from being on call 24/7?

I think not. It depends on how it's used.

I never liked using the phone that much in the era of the landline. Being a bit shy I was afraid I'd call someone at a bad time. Back then, I preferred to write letters and put them in the mail. I also favored face to face conversation.

Today, I have a smartphone, but it doesn't ring often as my connection to people tends to be through things like Facebook posts that aren't necessarily dealt with immediately. My phone doesn't ring often and notifications can be turned off.

I don't have to be "on call" all the time as my life tends to not have those kind of responsibilities. Sometimes I forget to bring my phone with me when I go out.

Ironically, I'm getting to like the phone more these days as voicemail and texting helps me get around my initial shyness. Voicemail means I can leave a message without bothering folks at a bad time.

My friends and me tend to text before we call. I often do engage in long phone conversations after being in touch by text and knowing the conversation is welcome.

I'm a deep thinker so when I do have conversations, they are often in depth and somewhat long winded.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Much of leftist politics is about getting closer to even, wealth wise. I'm more about sustainable living and other values beyond just economic wealth.

I tend to lean to the left, but in many ways I'm not typical of leftist politics (as I see it). Much of leftist politics is about striving for a more fair distribution of wealth; getting even, or at least getting closer to even. Getting even has several related connotations, in some cases aggressive like "I'm going to get even."

Yes, I'm for a more fair distribution including being pro graduated taxes, but my focus is on sustainable living. My focus is more on things that provide for health, sanity and a sustainable environment.

Wealth, as defined by economics, is not always a good thing so just trying to get even with folks who have more wealth is less relevant to me.

Yes, we need enough to survive, but I'm okay if there are people who have more. In some cases, I realize that people, who own businesses, farms and so forth, may need a lot more as the wealth is the business; so to speak. For instance wealth is often the buildings and things that the business uses to serve the public.

My main interest is promoting what I think of as quality of life. I know that is harder, than dollar bills, to measure objectively, but that is still my focus.

Things like quality of relationships with friends, neighbors and community matter to me. Things like the ability to contribute to a better world and low stress are things that matter to me. Enjoying life matters to me as well. Not having a lot of resentment matters as well.

Monday, January 22, 2024

At the Texas border

There's debate in the news between Texas and the US government over who should be in charge of patrolling the border.

Aside from the legal issues, there's also this ethical question. When Texas authorities were controlling that section of the border where those people drowned, did they just let the drowning happen and not try to save the lives of folks they don't want in this country anyway?

Saturday, January 20, 2024

More chaos from both the left and the right if there is another Trump Presidency.

Donald Trump goes from campaign victory, among Republicans in Iowa, to being on trial in Federal Court where he talks back to the judge and almost gets ordered out of the courtroom.

This scenario; a product of the rebellious streak in American culture. There's a rebelliousness against bosses, the system, bureaucrats, or whatever. This can lead to innovation, but it can also lead to lawlessness. I fear that another Trump Presidency could embolden more lawlessness and chaos from both the left and the right.

Interesting to note that Republican candidate Nikki Haley has similar fears about potential chaos from another Trump presidency.

Remember, even the Chop Zone in Seattle happened during Trump's watch.

People forget that the Chop Zone in Seattle and much of the unrest against police happened during the Trump Presidency; 2020. Biden is more into de escalating the situation. Trump antagonized people on purpose and they pushed back. Things do seem to be a bit calmer today. I fear that if Trump were back in office, both the left and the right would rise up in anger and most of us would be caught in the middle.

Walking the walk if you talk the talk. Even lots of conservatives will respect that.

I have noticed, over the years, that some people, who call themselves conservatives, still like my lifestyle of voluntary simplicity, bicycling and so forth. They say, "if it's your choice, more power to you." They tend to not want government imposing this on people. They tend to stress personal responsibility. I feel that I can build a bridge toward some conservatives, at least. Useful in the case of swing voters for sure.

This relates to my idea that people's personal choices, in the marketplace, are big drivers in how society turns out. I tend to blame corporations and institutions much less than many other other liberals do.

I know that corporations aren't totally without blame. It's a vicious cycle, but I do think people, in mass, do have power. People often follow consumerism like sheep. Advertising, laws and the layout of society does have it's influence. As for advertising, I don't watch much TV or go to many movies. I'm out of touch with much of pop culture.

Quite a few conservatives think that most liberals just want a handout and then many oppressed folks will just squander what they have on drugs, aggressive behavior and crime.

I know it's all quite complicated and there is no one answer, but I do see connections between the concept of personal responsibility and building bridges to the wider public; including at least some of the folks who call themselves conservative.

I just thought of a sound byte. "birth control is better than genocide."

I just thought of a sound byte. "birth control is better than genocide."

Another thought about various countries. "Societies that accept diversity are better for the world than societies that so many people are trying to flee from."

Population growth, immigration versus infrastructure.

I recently heard on the radio a good take on the immigration issue from some Canadian economists. They talked about a "population trap." A big question is whether we are building enough housing and infrastructure for people and how much are we using; size of housing, automobile dependency and so forth.

Here in USA, we cloud the issue as the right wing demonizes immigrants themselves while the left wing cries racism. We tend to ignore the logistics of making it work.

Is housing affordable? How are we handling traffic or are we better off relying more on public transit? Are there too many people, versus what we can provide for them as well as ourselves, or does the new human energy, from immigrants, help us develop the infrastructure we need?

Much of it is about planning.

In Canada, there is lots of land, but still the infrastructure is even smaller than ours. 400,000 new folks new moved to Canada last year plus 800,000 temporary student visas; nearly twice the flow from past decades. That's a big number trying to be absorbed into a country with smaller population than USA.

In some cases, cutting back on student visas means universities might go broke so there is that issue also.

In some cases homeowners benefit if home prices skyrocket, but renters and new homebuyers suffer; people divided. This is mostly my own thinking not all from the show.

Both USA and especially Canada have land, but indigenous cultures like to preserve their ways of life; especially in Canada. That often requires lower population densities for fishing, hunting and so forth; not to mention mainstream culture preserving a car based society needing room, in developed areas, for parking.

Add to this the fact that much of the rest of the world is becoming unlivable due to authoritarian governments and theocracies so lots of folks are knocking on the doors of our countries.