Friday, January 27, 2023

The Biden Whitehouse should negotiate on the debt. That would put the hot potato in the Republican's hands.

If I were Biden, I would at least be willing to negotiate with the Republicans on the budget deal. That would put the hot potato in Republican hands. Discussion of reducing the debt will likely not end well for Republicans. What do we cut? Pretty much any cut proposals will generate a political firestorm. Being willing to negotiate allows that firestorm to begin.

It's already began as some high up Democrats, in Congress, like Senator Schumer, have talked about it. The debt is a problem, but how serious a problem it is, compared to cutting programs, is open to debate. Cutting programs could be a more serious problem for the economy, not to mention political suicide.

On the other hand, some economists, including folks who follow something called Modern Monetary Theory, tend to be less worried about the debt. My somewhat superficial understanding of Modern Monetary Theory says that the debt isn't a problem due to the ability to create new money. The debt isn't a big problem until the creation of new money brings inflation, according to Modern Monetary Theory, as I understand it in a nutshell.

Yes, even that theory admits that new money leads to inflation which creates a check on unlimited spending. We have some inflation now, and Republicans, especially, are alarmed about it; Democrats less alarmed.

I still think overall inflation is less than 10% annually which doesn't seem catastrophic to me. The reason why I don't think it's catastrophic is that home value inflation and housing costs have been going up close to that figure for quite a few years. If having a home is a big percent of one's budget, one has been already living in a world of inflation for many years.

Higher income people notice that less, but a lot of modest income people have had problems keeping up with the cost of rent or first time home purchase for years.

We are now, under Biden, seeing more "across the board" inflation due to wages going up and other supply chain issues. New money has been part of that picture, but that factor isn't as new as most Republicans think. New money has inflated existing housing for many years.

Some of the supply chain inflation, we are experiencing now, may be here for good reason. Rising costs of natural resources, such as fossil fuels for energy, is one factor that may be inevitable due to our relationship with the environment; not to mention the war in Europe.

Wage inflation is another factor that has come just so workers can continue to afford to live in the communities they serve.

At times, it does seem like upper middle class and the super wealthy are too greedy. It isn't easy for anyone to live within their means. Our whole country lives beyond its means.

Transformative change might be easier to make in China, versus USA in gridlock, but I still would prefer USA.

In some ways, it's easier for an authoritarian system, like in Mainland China, to make transformative changes to deal with climate change. For instance China has an easier time building high speed rail.

Here in USA, trying to respect the rights of all the interest groups brings us to gridlock. Still, I prefer the US system for it's freedom of speech. Better innovations happen when people are allowed to think outside the box.

Maybe we have gone too far in that freedom, to the point of gridlock. If we could figure out how to maintain our rights to speak out, to have transparency and to think outside the box, while reducing the gridlock we face, it could be the key to a better future.

Colorado River still low in spite of more rains, this winter, in California

Recent storms, in California, haven't done much to help the dry Colorado River Basin that's mostly east of California.

Snowpack in the Sierra and northern California helps the Sacramento / San Juaquin Valley, but way down on the Mexican border is the Imperial Valley; a place where much of our winter vegetable crops come from.

The Imperial Valley relies on water from the Colorado River. That, along with much of Los Angeles, Arizona and other states, rely on the Colorado River which never even had the water flow originally estimated, in the 1920s, when the Southwest water system was designed.

Drought, related to climate change, has reduced the flow still more since 2000. Continued economic growth driven by population growth keeps demanding water, in spite of significant conservation measures.

As the locals and states cannot come to agreement, the Federal Government, under Biden, may have to force a divvying up of the water; bound to be politically difficult. Otherwise, the tap will just stop on it's own, such as when the reservoirs reach "dead pool" levels.

I would guess dead pool means no more water flowing until water, in a reservoir, reaches back to the level of an intake pipe.

I've often thought they will need large desalination projects, from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California, for the Imperial Valley. San Diego already gets much of it's water this way, but plans for the Imperial Valley have been rejected, so far, by California water / environmental organizations. Similar ideas are being discussed for Arizona.

Whether we take action to create more fresh water, or not, we have to face the reality of population and economic growth having outpaced the water supply that's available today. More than just the people who live in those areas rely on food grown in those areas.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Raising taxes or cutting the budget; two political third rails that clash.

On the debt ceiling, I've thought that Republicans should make public a draft budget cutting plan so the American people can see it.

A similar idea has been expressed in high places; beyond just my Facebook wall. I saw in the news.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor on Monday that the GOP should reveal their intentions to the public, saying that "Republicans are talking about draconian cuts, they have an obligation to show Americans what those cuts are and let the public react. … Does that mean cuts to Social Security or Medicare or child care or Pell Grants?"

Yes, making cuts is not an easy task, politically, as the American people have become so dependent on the government. Personally, I don't think dependency is necessarily a bad thing. It's part of modern society. Raising taxes on upper income people would help. Raising the cap for funding Social Security, for instance. Either raising taxes, or cutting budgets are two political "third rails" that clash.

We have muddled through with deficit spending made easier from quantitative easing (new money created) by the Federal Reserve. This has lead to a form of inflation which could be somewhat mild compared to the other alternatives. Mild compared to draconian budget cuts at least.

We'll see what happens as the giants, in Washington DC, struggle with this dilemma.

A growing part of the Federal budget is disaster relief. That's another, of many things the government provides, where it's difficult to make cuts. It's difficult for politicians to turn their backs on the American people when they are in need. Somehow, we do need to figure out how to make our lives and our society more resilient.

Reducing culture of gun ownership is most powerful change

I think that changes in culture are usually more powerful than top down changes in law. Reducing consumer demand for oil, versus outlawing oil production.

A similar idea can work for reducing gun violence as well. A cultural change means less guns and less anger in American society. That's what we need, which may sound idealistic.

Changing the law can help, but it's secondary. I'm in favor of more stringent legislation about gun ownership, but I think it wouldn't be a magic bullet; speaking of bullets. Cultural change so there are less guns floating around in society is the main need.

I think overall murder rates, on a per capita basis, are lower now than in decades past, but we seem to hear more about mass shootings these days. I wonder if that has to do with a greater proliferation of semi automatic weapons in recent years?

Laws, could change that, to some extent. It's crazy to allow so many high powered weapons in our society. On the other hand, now there is the worry about things like home made weapons from 3D printing which folks can use to get around the law. Again, a change in culture is what we need most.

Friday, January 06, 2023

McCarthy's troubled House leadership bid, versus more extremists on the right. I tend to be a moderate on the left.

It looks like radical conservatives, who hate government, can't govern. The Speaker of House debacle points that out. Hardliners are holding out against McCarthy, who is quite conservative himself.

The center does seem to be strengthening in USA. There is some speculation that Democrats, in the House who are now staying out of the internal Republican strife, may weigh in to push the situation, in the Republican majority House, more to the center.

A more moderate Republican, Fred Upton, is a possibility, though retired. He could come back to fill that position and at least get the House functioning again.

As for more radical Democrats, I find myself, politically, pretty moderate. In personal lifestyle, I am quite outside the norm of American life. No car, no family, except brothers and sisters who I get along with okay. I seem to have less interest in money than most Americans.

Still, it seems like the politics of the far left isn't supported by the lifestyles and asperations of most Americans so moderates, making incremental changes, seem to be the most viable political option.

As for addressing climate change, that is a global problem and we may just have to learn the hard way. Climate is going to follow the laws of physics, whether politicians, and the public like it or not.

Much is still unknown as to just how that will play out in our complex world and economy. It looks like our best hope for a technological solution to the climate change problem is solar energy.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

My New Year's Greeting 2022 - 2023

See on Flickr and use magnifying glass if you want to read.

I mailed out around 27 of these. Color Xerox "paper" form. Handed out about 10 more; locally.

A project I have done each year. Now things are less and less paper form; more and more online.

Here it is online. My annual report, as if I were a corporation, or a non profit. The year 2022.

Happy New Year, 2023.

Friday, December 30, 2022

New York Representative George Santos; the stereotype of a used car salesman on steroids.

GOP Representative George Santos, from New York, who is said to have lied about his background, must have been the stereotype of a used car salesman on steroids.

A license for using the Information Highway, or how about the concept of speeding on the Information Highway?

On BBC News there was a news item about someone's suggestion that there should be a license for using the information highway. To curb fake news and so forth.

This got me thinking about another idea. The concept of "speeding" on the information highway; people who are too quick to repost things without better information, rumor spreading and so forth.

Slowing down, thinking and going beyond hasty reaction is important on the information highway.

Self driving cars could reduce road rage

A friend of mine pointed out a good effect of self driving cars, if we ever get them. They could eliminate the angry, aggressive driver. Even eliminate road rage. Idiots, behind the wheel would have to just relax and let the car drive. They could read a book, use their cellphone or whatever. It would be more like riding in an elevator. The elevator does the driving for us and there isn't much the passenger can do to make it go any faster, or slower.

I've been in elevators, where folks have joked when they pushed the button for a floor to get off at, "I'll crash the elevator."

The friend, that was discussing this concept, is into cars, himself. He likes fixing them and so forth. I think he sees the advent of self driving cars as a step forward.

Dust from the Berlin Wall

Dec 30 2022, said to be the 100 year anniversary for founding of the Soviet Union. I have some crumbs from the Berlin Wall.

Back in the 1980s and 90s, even some today, I participated in a network of artists that exchanged grass routes creativity in the mail. This before Facebook and even much of online life.

During the fall of the Berlin Wall, someone sent out this hand made postcard with debris behind plastic. I got one.

Maybe the Soviet Union broke up a bit too quickly?

For much of my early life, the Soviet Union was a major factor; like an unmovable mountain.

Turns out it lasted less than the lifespan of the average American, I guess. Officially founded December 30 1922; though the Red Revolution was 1917.

Much of my childhood, as well as early adulthood, was in it's shadow, though I was in USA. USSR's shadow was felt around the world.

1991 marks the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

I think attempts to bring more openness, in that society, was encouraging, but things may have split up too quickly. The resulting destabilization was problematic as we are seeing today.

Maybe the Republics, of the former Soviet Union, should have stayed together a bit longer to let the reforms take hold more gradually.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Broadcasting church services has changed over the years

Screen capture.

I recently watched the earlier of two Christmas Eve services at Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral, in Louisville, KY. Watched on Facebook videos, after the fact, but nice. I'm still amazed we can do this now. Why Louisville? My brother Jack Ashworth was the organist.

Brings back early memories of when Jack was organist at Pioneer Methodist Church, in Walla Walla, WA. Back then, he was a student at Whitman College. One day, my mom and I tried to tune in the faint signal, as that service was broadcast over KTEL, Walla Walla.

We were trying to listen, in the far fringe area. We were in Pullman, so the faint signal had a long way to travel.

Today, I see on Wiki, that KTEL is now news talk. Back then I think totally different format and owners. I forgot the format, back then, except it broadcast the service.

When to take down the decorations.

Someone out there ask, when do you take the Christmas tree and decorations down? My answer was.

When I was a child, the "real" tree needed to come down before it was so dry to become a fire hazard in the house. Often it was pretty crispy by New Year's Day. Today, most people (I think) have artificial trees.

As for decorations, I remember people taking them down on "Twelfth Night." I guess this was, supposedly, 12 days after the Christ Child was born so sometime around the 5th of January. Today quite a few folks think, whoever that was that they call "Jesus" was more likely born in the Spring; rather than Winter Solstice.

Today, most people seem to leave the beautiful lights up around their houses till well into spring. Especially this far north, in Bellingham, where winter darkness is long. They are sometimes called Solstice Lights.

Christmas is about the toys for some kids

When I was a child, I was probably like most other kids. I was a bit materialistic, since children tend to see things in more simple eyes.

Christmas was about the presents under the tree; the new toys and so forth.

Our Christmases were simple, but the new toys, that we had, were still fun.

Today, my Christmas isn't about shopping, but more about parties. Mingling with friends I haven't seen for a long time. It's about socializing.

I'm no longer in a family with kids, but I do remember mother saying, after I went off to college and was back for Christmas Break:

"Christmas is not about the presents, but it's about our presence;" the presence of the people around us.

Problem, today, is that families seem to be spread out across long distances and Christmas Vacation is way to short. To do "family time;" it becomes a traveling nightmare. One must hit that one day, on the calendar, with the same accuracy that the Apollo 8 spacecraft was able to achieve with it's "orbital insertion burn;" Speaking of my 1968 Christmas Eve memories.

I don't travel for Christmas, so, for me, it's about the mingling of local people. Reaching out on Facebook and so forth.

One nice memory I do have, from childhood, was the long, long Christmas and Summer Vacations we got from school. Today, there is the phrase, "shop till you drop." I'm no longer in a family setting, with kids, though I get along well with my siblings in distant places.

Now, being retired, It can feel like that long vacation. My last days, at work, did bring back those childhood feelings of anticipation about the last day of school.

Facebook is the poor man's version of celebrity status.

Maybe I should say "poor person's." It's an old phrase. Status as measured by the engagement one is likely to get. Comments, discussion. Better in that respect, than my own blog; unless I was a celebrity for some other reason; like for instance Kim Kardashian.

I also do get lots of interaction from being out and about at events and other face to face things locally. Being out as a pedestrian and on my bicycle as well.

One place with good conversation was the sauna area at YMCA, but, due to the pandemic and other reasons, that part of the Y has been closed and (I think) no plans to bring it back.

I keep adapting okay to the world around me so far.

I'm glad I am not traveling far, this time of year.

On Facebook, I keep seeing tales of woe from folks trying to visit distant families and other travels in the storm. Some of the tales are quite creative. Others more of pure frustration, or even danger. The whole country is experiencing an intense period of weather. People are still trying to hold on to so many traditions that are being stressed by change.

I'm just glad I'm staying close to my home; especially this time of year.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

After the big Christmas Eve service, if there's church again on Sunday Morning, it's like "what do you do after the orgasm?"

When Christmas falls on a Sunday. I grew up in a liberal minded church with a lot of good memories.

On one Christmas, during my college years of "home for the holidays," the minister was visiting parishioner families in the days leading up to a Christmas that fell on a Sunday.

He was discussing his schedule with the big Christmas Eve service coming up. Then he said, I guess some folks will expect me to have a service Sunday morning as well, but it's kind of like "what do you do after the orgasm?"

There was a muffled little chuckle around the room as I remember.

Some of my Christmas memory photos.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Think of immune system as being your body's police and the vaccine as the person who calls 911.

Here is an analogy, about vaccines, that just occurred to me.

Your immune system is your body's police and the vaccine is the person who calls 911.

Yes, health of the immune system is important, but the vaccine is needed to prep the immune system before it's too late. That's, as I understand it, how vaccines work.

An idea related to recent controversy in Bellingham Public Schools. There was news of a student walkout at Squalicum High School.

There has been a controversy in Bellingham schools that's making news. I'm not involved in schools so I just see what's in media. Rather than speculating on whether the staff did anything wrong, or not, I just thought of this idea, which is more about society in general.

Maybe Bellingham could benefit from the development of a "Therapeutic Boarding School." When I grew up, students talked about being sent to "reform school," but the reform school concept had it's drawbacks.

I would guess that residential treatment; somewhat like incarceration; is still needed for some students that cause a lot of problems in the general population. I read that the newer types of therapeutic boarding schools exist in some areas.

Tips on how to tell someone is a real person online.

Some of my thoughts on how to tell real people and friend requests from fake "people on Facebook."

Fake people look like real people as they try to be good at being imposters. An easier way to tell is from content on their Facebook pages. Little content is a red flag.

Content that is repetitive, commercial or related to dating can be red flags. The stuff that is often cookie cutter or following a script that leads to money, sex, or "relationships."

A good sign for the page to be about a real person is variety of content, interesting topics, possibly politics and stuff about a local area. A page that is grounded in locality, rather than some national, or worldwide promotion. Local community things from any locality is usually a sign of real.

Another good sign is a page from someone you have had other connections with, such as face to face contact, or another type of connection.

I'll click on the person's profile to see what they post to their wall. It is good if the wall is set to "public" so it can be seen by all Facebook users. Then one can brows it.

If you can't see much before friending a person, it's a red flag, but one can friend, look at the wall and then unfriend, I guess, if the wall looks fake.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Sinema goes independent. What will Manchin do? Senate reform is needed to reduce the zero sum consequences of our two party system.

Now that Senator Sinema is no longer a Democrat, but an independent, there is worry about what Joe Machin might do. So far, he's sticking with the Democrats.

I'm afraid if he were to not be, officially, a Democrat, the Senate could go back to Republican majority putting the likes of Mitch McConnel back in charge. Remember McConnel's refusal to even hold hearings for Obama's last Supreme Court nominee.

The big issue should be Senate Reform so this zero sum game, between the two parties, isn't so devastating.

We should think about how to reform the power that Senate leaders have to block things getting to the floor. Reform committee chairmanship rules and so forth.

Power in the Senate needs to be more diversified; especially if people long for more diversity of political parties; such as even candidates like Bernie Sanders.

Come to think about it, I wonder how they count Bernie in terms of determining who's in majority in the Senate? He's not officially a Democrat either, though he still votes mostly in their favor. Even Sinema says she still votes on the Democratic side, for the most part.

When it comes to 2024 election, the "split vote spoiler problem" is an issue. Democrats need to be careful not to shoot themselves in the foot.

More importantly, rather than being mad at these two Senators, the issue of reform in the Senate and the way government works should be discussed.

So many people, including Sanders supporters, do think we need to figure out how to get past the two party duopoly. Yes, I do favor the Democrats, but the whole "zero sum, winner take all" situation is a problem.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

How about that water at lots of other camps, too many to mention?

A few emails per day are still getting mostly to my spam filter about the water at Camp Lejeune.

It just donned on me that I had bad water at a childhood camp, that I wish not to mention. It's a good camp that's still functioning today with cleaner water. I'd hate to start a cascade of lawsuits against that lovely place.

They used to get water from a big lake that was fed by Northern Idaho mines. Even toward the end of my childhood, they were (if I remember correctly) switching the water source to some springs instead of an intake pipe from the lake.

I do remember that the water had a strange taste. A strange enough taste for harm, to this day, of my appetite for pancakes; especially pancakes made from a box mix.

Back then, they said the slightly metallic taste was due to mining around the lake.

People seemed less worried and lawsuit happy back in the "good old days." I think society could learn some from that past patience. I'm sure some lawsuites are legitimate, but we do live in a society that seems to be eating itself alive and us along with it.

Long after that camp put in their spring fed water system, most of the mines were closed and there was a lot of cleanup. Yes, there might have been some legal action, in that mining area, which led to innovative solutions. Legal action, or just legislation, I don't know the whole story.

It turns out that an abandoned rail line was turned into this marvelous bike path. It crosses the entire Idaho Panhandle.

The path was said to be an inexpensive way to pave (encapsulate) toxic dust along an old railroad. Such an ingenious solution to (maybe I shouldn't say this) "kill two birds with one stone."

That old railroad, in Idaho, is one of the best bicycle roads I have been on. 72 miles long as it passes through towns and wonderful scenery along the way.

Okay, I'll say this much about the location. The trail is called "Trail of the Couer d' Alenes" which goes through watershed areas that feed into Lake Couer d' Alene.

More of my pictures of that great solution for both bicycling and water quality.

Monday, December 05, 2022

Guns, substations and drag queens? Connecting some dots of speculation at least, about North Carolina

The power outage in North Carolina is in the news. I guess substations can be vulnerable to firearms and firearms are rampant in USA.

Then I read that there is speculation relating this crime to protests against a drag show. Speculation, but some connections. Drag show had to proceed in darkness.

I think about vulnerability of the power system in Ukraine as well. The power system being attacked by Russia who, feels threatened being surrounded by more openness in the west.

Bad marks on the right from many directions. Proliferation of guns and I think substations can be vulnerable, let alone people.

Then the issue of prejudice against dragshows. At least speculation I have read in the news.

Add to that the power situation with the war between Russia and Ukraine. I make that connection. Russia feeling threatened by the changing world as I read they aren't that keen on drag queens either.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Cooling the over heated asset and housing markets. Probably the main tool the Fed has to try and dampen inflation.

A major tool that the Federal Reserve has to try and control inflation is the Fed's influence on interest rates.

I would guess that the primary effect that rising interest rates has is to cool down asset prices. Inflation in existing home values; for instance. Homes are an asset. Home value/price inflation has been rampant for decades.

As time goes on, the rising cost of living creates more pressure to increase wages so people can still afford to live in an area. I would guess the Fed has less direct control over wages and most other prices in the economy, but inflating asset prices is the lever it can use to try and control the rest of inflation.

Asset price inflation also relates to stock prices and various other things that can add inflationary pressure to the economy. If interest rates are too low, corporations are (I would guess) more likely to add to their capital costs by buying out one another. Corporate mergers based on easy money.

With the big issue of housing, raising the interest rates can have both a positive "anti inflation" effect, but it can also have a negative, "more inflation" effect.

High interest rates can reduce the supply of housing by putting a damper on new construction. Eventually housing supply falls behind population growth in a region which can drive up prices.

So even this tool of cooling the overheated housing market is a blunt tool. It can have the opposite of it's intended purpose. Since long time homeowners may be more apt to vote, inflation that was confined to assets was less noticed by politicians in decades past. This during the Bush, Obama, Trump years of easy money and continuing government deficits.

Now that wages have been going up, since Covid, inflation is more rampant in things like the cost of a restaurant meal or food at the grocery store. Inflation is now more "across the board."

The alarm bells are now ringing about inflation.

Quite a few other factors contribute to inflation as well, such as supply chain issues, wages, gas prices and so forth. These other factors may be less directly influenced by interest rates than inflation of assets, but it's all interconnected so it's all effected to some extent.

Gas prices are a factor, but they are influenced by a lot of things, such as the war between Russia and Ukraine. Rising interest rates may have less effect here.

Gasoline demand keeps going up while the future of oil production is in question, due to climate change. There are a lot of moving parts in an economy. Many influences and not easy to pin blame on any one factor. That's my take for today, I guess.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and just start thinking about economics.

I recently read an article about the struggle that the Fed is having bringing down growth in wages since the job market is so strong these days. They are trying to at least cool wage growth a bit.

No mention of housing in that article, but I think the bigger influence, that the Fed has, would not be about wages, but about cooling the housing and asset markets. Wages is more along for the ride.