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 www.theslowlane.com

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.