Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The immigration issue is about population as far as I am concerned

The debate about immigration often focuses on fear of crime coming into USA. Fear that may, or may not be legitimate. To me, that's not the main issue. The big issue is accommodating population.

We can accommodate more. It could even have benefits for work that needs workers, prosperity that needs consumers and culture than needs vitality.

Problem is, we have to make changes in the way we live, here in USA. Acres of free parking may have to go. Housing density needs to increase in some areas. The Southwest states are on the verge of running out of fresh water.

In some ways, we could live more fulfilling lives than we live now with the isolation and alienation of today's culture, but we have to be willing to make some big changes.

Population does have it's limits depending on how we live.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Censorship on media and social media, or just trying to prevent irrational panic.

There is news that one person, here in Washington State, has died due to the rare blood clot complications related to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Apparently her obituary was censored on Twitter so now people are saying censorship.

Nothing is perfect and with 0% risk, but the vaccines are still safe, compared to being in a car or even riding a bicycle. Much, much safer than the risk of catching the virus, itself.

It's like playing the odds. What's the lowest risk, realizing that there's never totally no risk.

In an ideal world, all the news would be available, including the rare and freak incidents, but I can also see why media is under pressure to cool discussion a bit due to problems with public reaction.

Odd and rare stories, like a commercial airline crash, will make the news and be remembered, but something far more common, like everyday automobile crashes, gets less attention.

Due to this problem in public reaction, some types of news can feed people's distorted views of risk and cause reactions that lead to more deaths.

The news is out there, but I'm sure some editors are trying to cool things as so much of the public does tend to go off on distorted tangents.

I have heard about that situation with the J&J vaccine from several sources, so the news is out there.

Part of what makes this controversial is that the person didn't want to be vaccinated, but had to comply with a mandate related to being with a child at school.

Too bad she got the J&J as the Pizer or the Moderna are even safer and don't have that rare blood clot issue with pre menopausal women. I can only guess, but maybe she did the J&J because she was up against a deadline for the mandate and it's only a one shot vaccine. The Pfizer and Moderna are two shot vaccines which would take more time. That's only my guess.

A real good response to my post on Facebook

This is exactly the problem. The rare event gets lots of news coverage because it's rare, and then people see all that news coverage and get an exaggerated sense of the risk the rare event poses to their own lives and the lives of people in general. It's what's happening with the battery fires in Bolt EVs (electric vehicles). Some Bolt owners are panicking and selling their cars, saying they're going back to gasoline-powered vehicles and will never again buy an EV. There are far more fires in gasoline-powered vehicles than in EVs, but it's difficult to convince people of that.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Too many Third World Countries aspire to the bad, from USA life, without the good.

Today is National Coming Out Day, which I remember going back to my college days of the mid 1970s.

Since then, it seems like gay rights is one of the only social movements to make significant progress in USA. From coming out of the closet to legalized gay marriage. Meanwhile, other ideals haven't made such progress. Our carbon footprint is higher, income inequality is worse.

Unfortunately gay rights is still scorned in some Third World nations, yet it's one thing we have done right, here in USA. We've done good, though admittedly not as good in all parts of USA.

Basically Western Nations have made lots of progress on LGBTQA rights yet those rights are still scorned in much of the world. That is kind of ironic and unfortunate.

As for social justice, we in the west; especially in USA, have not done so good in reducing greed, resource consumption and carbon emissions. Things that I had also hoped for during my college years. Income inequality continues to grow and homelessness persists.

Seems like much of the Third World aspires to be more like us, materialistically, but not necessarily in terms of our human rights. Our greed and materialism has lead to the consequences of climate change and income inequality. It's like Third World nations want the bad without the good.

As for things that reduce global warming, one of western nation's greatest contributions is reducing our birthrates. Human rights plays a role here.

Other things, such as reducing our consumption, have not been as significant.

We have great technological innovations that hold promise, but they haven't been gaining traction as significantly as needed.

Meanwhile, energy prices are going up, worldwide, as the economy picks up speed. To put this in context, energy prices have been even higher, before; especially compared to other prices in the economy.

Still, green energy is not taking the load quick enough and / or our consumption habits are still too pervasive.

My vision of a low consumption, high technology future. Goes back to my college days.

I would like to see a world that, for the most part, embraces the abundance provided by technology. Smartphones, for instance.

At the same time, voluntary simplicity in terms of space used and resources consumed.

There are recent trends in electronic technology that use less energy and space. Microchips versus vacuum tubes, heat pumps versus woodstoves.

I would like to see less cultural pressure to work long hours and consume. Having more free time and work life balance would be good.

I would like to see less use of the private automobile due to the space and resources it consumes. Also the safety / accident problem. My ideal world would see more use of public transit and bicycles. Bicycles for health and the beauty of what can be seen at a slower pace.

High tech transit, like the Skytrain in Vancouver, BC. (actually started in 1986!) is good, but the simple city bus works also. We already have, at hand, much of what my future world would use.

Life could generally be at a slower and at a less stressful pace, but technology would be available and used wisely.

Most people would live in urban settings for transit, walking, bicycling and to protect farmlands from sprawl. Some folks would live in rural settings; especially if engaged in resource production such as farming, forestry and tourism.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Sensationalism might be a good concept to think about in terms of the Facebook algorithm issues.

Now comes the difficult task of trying to figure out how to regulate, or what to do about Facebook's algorithms. I think much of the problem isn't new, but just takes on new forms in new media. In journalism, it's called the problem of "sensationalism."

In the past, I've learned about the concept of "Yellow Journalism." There's the phrase, "if it bleeds, it leads." There's also the concept of "tabloid journalism."

Interesting that, so far, I haven't heard that terminology used; in terms of this Facebook issue. We keep having to reinvent the wheel, I guess.

Thinking of this in terms of sensationalism could be useful. How do we reduce it? Can it be regulated? Is it mostly just the fault of what people react to? Is it mostly the result of media businesses, including social media, pushing it as a business model?

On Facebook and other social media, it's artificial intelligence pushing things. AI that can still be programmed. In the past days of regular media, it was the likes of editors, journalists and headline writers.

On a personal note, I notice the things that I write about don't usually generate lots of emotional response.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Both Infrastructure Bill #1 and Infrastructure Bill #2 might pass. They might still pull it off.

Maybe #2 will be somewhat smaller, but they still might pull something off.

If not, they should still pass #1. Ideally, they can do a lot of what's in the spirit of the law for #2 on down the road. Ideally, if the Democrats had stronger backing from the voters, they could pull things off with more comfortable margins in the House and Senate. The real thin margin is nerve wracking.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

The 3 trillion dollar infrastructure package isn't that good a hill for the Democrats to die on trying to solve climate change

I think the best strategy for the Democrats is to pass Infrastructure Bill #1. More "progressive" Democrats have wanted to hold it hostage so they can try and get the larger Infrastructure Bill #2 passed.

That strategy is risky if it causes both bills to not pass. Risky in the public relations / political environment.

Among the rank and file American public, there isn't a strong enough consensus for a "more to the left" bill. That's one of the big problems. Bolder measures need more support at the grassroots level.

As for doing more to combat climate change, big changes in American lifestyles; things like car dependency and single family residential living, would address climate change. A political consensus for this would indicate a strong political consensus for tackling climate change in a really big way. This kind of consensus would really change politics, but we don't seem to have that consensus.

The progressive's larger infrastructure bill isn't really that either. It's more of a large collection of items ranging from climate change to childcare to college funding. A big box of items put together mostly because it's a train that might get through Senate filibuster because it's hooked to the engine of reconciliation.

That's kind of an artifact of our dysfunctional Senate; rather than a "hill to die on" related to climate change. Problem is, there isn't a big consensus to back it among the American people and the electorate could swing back toward giving Republicans the slight margin again come 2022 Congressional elections.

Now some people think, like folks who write in the Strong Towns Facebook Group, that infrastructure spending is too "sprawl centric" and too "automobile centric." The American way; a beast that we have created, is just too expensive and will always keep us behind and in debt on the upkeep it requires.

I don't know how a lot of the Strong Towns people feel about this infrastructure debate going on today as I write. Would they back Infrastructure Bill #1, Infrastructure Bill #2, or neither?

My guess is, they are likely all over the map on these specific bills.

Both #1 and #2 are probably better than the more auto centric freeway oriented infrastructure spending of years past.

I guess that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has had a hand in the crafting of these bills so they both have emphasis on things like public transit. Less money dumped into freeway sprawl.

Infrastructure Bill #1 is likely a modest step in a better direction than what we have had over decades past.

It isn't revolutionary change, but it seems like revolutionary change will have to come from the American people who, for the most part, are not ready yet.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Maybe we can't sustain our over consumptive economy without nuclear power?

Now that the economy is picking up again, the world is facing another energy shortage. Natural gas prices are going up. Seems like the American middle class lifestyle, that so much of the world aspires to, is unsustainable. Car ownership, population growth, sprawl and detached homes; for the most part.

It might be sustainable, but not the way we are doing it. For instance, maybe we should have embraced nuclear power more. In Japan, fossil fuel use has increased since many of their nuclear power plants have been shut down. Similar problems exist in Europe; like in Germany. Less so in France where nuclear power is still embraced.

One of the problems that is happening now is that the wind hasn't (for some reason) been blowing as much as usual in Europe so there has been a recent lull in wind power. At the same time, Russia is a big supplier of gas for Europe and it's been devoting more of it's supply toward China.

I am a bit of an advocate for embracing new technologies, such as some of the improved and smaller scale nuclear technologies in the news. That's only part of the story. I am also an advocate of less consumptive lifestyles. More bicycling, smaller residences, less population growth. We need to tackle this energy / fossil fuel problem from both directions.

In the long run, solar, wind and possibly hydrogen fusion (an even better nuclear technology) might work, but it takes time to implement. Meanwhile, the lifestyles of so many people, especially here in USA, are unsustainable. We have to make more of an effort to change lifestyles until the miracle technologies develop.

The change is best from the bottom up, but instead, people are pinning hopes on the Democrats large infrastructure bill. If I have to say yes, or no, I'm still in favor of it passing, but it is a "top down" solution. Meanwhile average people are just waiting, for the most part, and not changing enough.

If the Democrat's political gamble doesn't work, there is the danger of things swinging back toward Republican politics. Yes, some of this is tinkering and gerrymandering, but we are more vulnerable to that manipulation if we don't change at the grass roots level.

We are more vulnerable if we expect the improbable; a solution where consumptive life and sprawl continues while the things that sustain it, like energy sources, keep being opposed.

We may need more nuclear. Wind and solar need to be developed faster, but they don't come without some consequences. Windfarms in the scenery for instance. I think windfarms can be seen as art. We've had a changing landscape for decades; freeways for instance.

We can't be totally spoiled and expect an invisible magic wand to fix it all for us.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

If there is scientific consensus, it's usually the best way to go, but not always

Things like medical advise and scientific consensus gets questioned often. Here's some thinking I had about that situation.

Scientific thinking does evolve. Otherwise we would still be using yesterday's computers today; like 5 1/4 inch floppy disks.

Usually, but not always, a consensus among scientists (when there is a consensus among scientists) is a good bet compared to randomly striking out in all directions. Following scientific advice is usually, but not necessarily always, the best course at a given time.

Sometimes a consensus of scientists can go in the wrong direction and some outside influence will eventually revolutionize the science to a better course. This happens somewhat rarely, but it can happen. More often the science is closer to the best answer than the alternatives.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

To a question about how one thinks the pandemic would have been different if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, my answer was

The worldwide pandemic would have still happened. We would have been severely impacted, but our government's response would have been a lot better organized and less chaotic.

Hillary Clinton would have gotten lots of the blame for the pandemic happening under her watch, but the blame would be misplaced.

The US death rate would have been lower with a better coordinated federal response, but it would still be a high death rate; just not quite as bad.

Republican led states would have still had higher per capita death rates than Democratic led states as a lot of the outcome would be, as it is now, dependent on local and state situations.

There would have been less civil unrest without Trump fomenting hatred from the presidential pulpit.

Still, the pendulum of dissatisfied voters might have put Trump, or some other Republican, into the Whitehouse in 2020.

I often think we've met the enemy and the enemy is us, but one can also say that leadership does have consequences. It's just that people tend to focus only on leadership, but the picture is a lot bigger than that.

One thing behind vaccine and mask resistance might be a subconscious embrace of death's inevitability

I often wonder if much of the polarization over how to deal with the pandemic has to do with different tolerances for risk.

Some people place staying alive as their number 1 priority while others have a different mix of priorities. This mix could be subconscious; beneath the other layers of opinion.

Death is still an inevitable outcome of being alive. Some people might think, if it isn't the virus, it's going to be something else, eventually, that ends one's life.

I got to thinking that there are some people who claim the number of deaths, from the virus, has been exaggerated. Some of these people even ascribe conspiracy theories about the numbers saying that doctors are paid more if they report death from the virus on the death certificate.

I don't buy the conspiracy theories, but I do think that death is often attributable to multiple causes. Before the Delta Variant, it was true that a lot of the people who died tended to have, what are called "comorbidity factors." Factors such as old age and / or poor health.

Now, with Delta, that's less true, but past thinking hangs on. Delta is more apt to kill just from the virus alone.

In our culture, we try and prevent as well as avoid death. This avoidance can cast a shadow over living our lives causing people to shy away from somewhat risky, but maybe fulfilling experiences. One example being the motorcycle rally at Sturgis, South Dakota. The fair in Lynden or even the crowds at Downtown Sounds, in Bellingham, can be other examples.

How willing are people to risk loosing life in order to live life? Some people do drive over the speed limit; for instance. Lots of folks are into extreme sports and risky adventure.

One can wonder how tragic it really is when someone dies, or whether it's just nature taking it's course?

These are thoughts that most people try to push out of their minds, but this reality could lie behind some of the differing ways that we think and behave.

Good point from the comments I got when I posted this on Facebook.

There are two risk factors here. First, to one's own life (as you describe). It's one thing to engage in behaviors that only affect one's self (although there are often emotional impacts to others). Second, there's the risk to other people's health and lives. Engaging in behaviors that involuntarily put other people are risk is unethical. So many people seem to be focused on what they want, but they don't take responsibility for the greater good of other people's health.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

If countries, like Russia, worry about declining population, they need to have human rights so people want to move there.

While the world as a whole is still struggling with population growth and climate change, some countries, like Russia, are worried about their population declining. Who wants to live there? Meanwhile, here in USA, we seem to have more than enough people wanting to immigrate here.

I got to thinking, if there was ever a worldwide shortage of people, democracies that respect human rights would be at an advantage. There always seems to be enough, if not more than enough, people wanting to move to USA, Canada, Australia and some western European countries.

If there was ever a worldwide shortage of people, countries would have to compete to attract folks who want to live there. It might encourage countries to become more democratic.

There's the phrase, "vote with your feet."

Ironically, countries that respect LGBTQ rights (the rights of people less apt to reproduce) might see their populations increase as folks flee the more bigoted countries. The more democratic countries could be bouyed by growth of their internal markets, workforces and talent as those are the countries people want to move to.

Remember, Einsien was an immigrant.

USA seems to have no problem attracting people, but it is trying to limit immigration. Growth does bring growing pains. While we seem to respect human rights more than a lot of other countries, we have our problems accomidating growth. Rising housing costs, water shortages, nimby neighbors, traffic. One problem is, we are still too dependent on the space gobbling automobile. Acres of free parking may have to go.

Monday, September 06, 2021

Things may not get better than summer of 2021 for a while

I have a funny feeling that this summer (2021) may be about as good as it gets in terms of life getting back to "normal" from the virus. Last summer (2020) was a lot more spartan, in terms of things being closed.

This summer has been more open, especially outdoor events; like dancing in Elizabeth Park. With the variants coming along, I hate to say it, but this summer could be the "new normal" for a long time.

We could be limping along for quite some time. More people getting the vaccine would help, in this country at least, but there would still not be enough vaccines to go around worldwide. Variants can still get started in places like India.

I still wonder if people, who don't believe the vaccine is the main answer, have any alternative answer. Sure, there are a lot of alternative ideas, but it seems like nothing short of worldwide vaccination will get us beyond the limping that we have had this summer.

There are probably too many of us on this planet anyway, but I still like being alive, myself. It seems kind of callus to think we need a die off, but in the long term, it might be good for human evolution.

A dieoff would have to be worse than the death toll from the virus, of course; like a few billion people.

A world with only, say, 3.5 billion people would be around half who's alive today, but it's still a lot of people. 3.5 billion could pick up and even flourish in not that long, historically speaking.

They would likely flourish, in quality of life, better than us; especially if they learned a few lessons. Our future generations would flourish, if the die off didn't traumatize the human race so much that it brought everything down with the people who died in the die off.

I often say, we need more birth control because that's a lot better than a human die off. We don't have to have a die off.

Technology and less consumptive living can fix this (climate change) even with our current 7.5 billion. It might be a stretch, but still possible; especially if we don't go much beyond 7.5 billion.

On that note, a Meteorology Association study came out about killer storms. Yes they are worse than before; 5 times as frequent as they were in 1970, but the death toll is lower. Storms, droughts and so forth, may be worse, but our technologies for protecting people are improving. We have better building standards, evacuation plans and so forth.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Conspiracy theory, the ultimate in blame politics.

I tend to think we have found the enemy and the enemy is us. I often blame people and culture, rather than government and corporations, for our problems.

I know that both things are true. Totally blaming people is one perspective at one extreme of a spectrum. At the other end of that spectrum would be conspiracy theory; like thinking the vaccine is a plot by Bill Gates to control the world.

I think many of our problems are a vicious cycle between people and institutions that can enhance bad behavior. Corporations respond to people's choices, in mass, as those choices create the market. On the other hand, corporations enhance this through advertising and other means.

Some people think climate change is caused by something called HARP; a set of microwave antennas in Alaska used for research. Supposedly the government is using it, along with con trails from jet planes, to control the climate. Also our minds.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Slippery slope against our liberties might have been worse during the draft years than today. Maybe less to worry about now.

People worry about liberties being taken away; such as during emergencies. The pandemic, climate change, wildfires, even a hurricane. Sometimes people need to give up a bit of liberty for safety. This can be a worrisome slippery slope, but it's needed at times.

Back in the 1960s, there was the military draft. We were at war, the Vietnam War. Men turning 18 years of age were subject to being drafted into the military, whether they liked it or not. Alternatives were seeking exemptions that could be hard to get, fleeing to Canada or going to prison. My older brother had to face those choices before he did finally get conscientious objector status.

I would guess that, compared to those days, the slippery slope, we seem to always be on, is not as bad today. Not as bad as it was back then; at least here in USA. I know, that's a matter of opinion, of course.

It's good to be questioning and somewhat vigilant, but people forget, we had a draft back then. Just getting a shot offered for free to prevent serious illness seems mild by comparison. I do realize some other people have different perspectives than mine. They might think the shot is a form of technological mind control.

The draft was a big deal back then. We had "subliminal advertising" back then as well; speaking of mind control. Television was pretty new. New technology was scary back then also.

Look what the automobile has done to society. Worry about the slippery slope is not new.

As for the fate of democracy worldwide, in Mainland China and so forth, that's another story.

Here in USA life goes on. We need to find that balance to keep society functioning while not turning into a tyranny. A balance between the extremes. Extremes that could cause us to loose it.

In Afghanistan, seems like the choices were to pull out or face reality of a war without end

Back at the start of the Afghanistan War, I remember editorials in the media saying that terrorism is a crime and that war is not the best strategy to use against crime. They would say that calling it a "war on terror" was a bad idea. Law enforcement would be a better strategy.

The concept of a war on terror won out, however and the war began. A war that was supposed to have a victory, but turns out it was probably the wrong strategy all along. In the beginning, it was a very popular war. Both Republicans and Democrats thought it was necessary, but a few did question it.

Now that we have pulled our troops out of Afghanistan, quite a few Republicans are saying we should have kept a permanent military presence there. Now they are saying this, but during the war, they were still viewing it as a war with a potential end. Trump did want to pull out and started this recent messy process that's continued during Biden's watch. Our troops are now out.

Even before Trump, Republicans were not pushing the idea of an indefinent involvement. Unlike in the western European nations that joined NATO, a perminant presence was not welcome in the Islamic world.

Now that we are out, Republicans, from Mitt Romney to others, seem to be saying a permanent presence should have been the plan. It's like facing the fact that the war was a non ending strategy, costs and all.

I am more in favor of not having the war, but I realize that the situation is "damned if you do, damned if you don't."

Hopefully a new "over the horizon" strategy that Biden has been talking about can work better for protecting our safety. As for the people remaining in Afghanistan, continued efforts to encourage human rights and hope that the new Taliban will not be as bad as before might be a better strategy than war; war which we are now facing really didn't have a viable end.

Can the consumption / production cycle run fast enough to justify rising property values?

Property values, stocks and the long term store of wealth has been rising fast. This pushes up things like rent and the cost of first time home purchases.

To pay these costs, the economy must run at a faster and faster pace creating goods and services so people can earn enough at jobs to pay these costs.

To justify the expectation of accumulated wealth, ongoing production and consumption has to keep up. The vehicle used to do this is jobs.

Too much consumption can be detrimental to both the environment and the human spirit burdened by all this clutter and speed. We will probably have to keep creating new money, out of thin air; like happened during the pandemic, to keep up this sense of accumulated wealth.

The economy is expected to support the wealth of the extremely wealthy, the retirement expectations of the average person, the perceived value of property purchased and the expectations that people place on government ranging from public safety to infrastructure.

If we could find a way to allow for a slower economy without becoming behind in the rent; so to speak, it would be easier to reduce the carbon footprint.

Progress could still be made in science and new technologies that could bring greener wealth, but a lot of what we are doing now, just to keep up with the rents and the bills, is pure waste.

Much of that waste is related to excess property value being pushed ahead by low, low interest rates.

Low interest money pushes up values and it also means that people don't use regular banks to save wealth. With interest rates so low, people invest in property and stocks as the means to "park" their wealth.

The regular economy of consumption and production has trouble keeping up with all this stored wealth. This was especially evident during the pandemic, but it's also a problem related to climate change.

I think the perception of wealth is now having to be subsidized more and more with the creation of new money out of thin air. Our old justification for wealth; which has been the production / consumption cycle; isn't able to keep up.

This is also true as more people are retired and more apt to be living off wealth versus their own economic production.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

It isn't good lifestyle, immune system OR the vaccine. It's good lifestyle, immune system AND the vaccine.

Some people think they don't want the vaccine cause they have a good diet, lifestyle and immune system.

I think it's good to have those things AND have the vaccine. The vaccine is the most important part of that whole strategy.

There are a lot of people that are suspicious of the medical profession. This could be one of the byproducts of income inequality. The cost of healthcare and insurance premiums is difficult. There is a big pay gap between high end professionals and ordinary people. Some pay gap is fine, but it has gone to an extreme. The vaccine is free, however; here in USA.

I think the wealth gap problem contributes to lots of people to even disputing the findings of medical science. I tend not to go there. I still buy most of the narrative that comes from science. I don't shoot myself in the foot. For instance, I believe the vaccine is good.

I think there is a difference between disputing the science and the economic issues of income inequality. Extreme income inequality fuels lots of distrust in society.

I think this inequality can be dealt with in better ways, such as raising taxes on wealthy people and/or providing better support for lower income people such as subsidized health insurance and housing.

Back in my late 20s, I was too poor to afford health insurance and it wasn't provided by my job. I remember worrying some, but I also thought I had something better; my health.

Back then, I got to thinking that the whole medical industrial establishment does create disease by causing people to work to death to climb the corporate, or government employment ladder for insurance. I was healthier than they were. I felt that I had beat the system, but my argument was more economic than questioning the science.

In later years, I had insurance from the job, but much of the time it was not that comprehensive. High deductible.

In recent years, society has tried to fix the insurance problem with subsidized insurance. Obamacare, for instance. Now I have a real good Medicare Advantage plan.

In the past, I thought my bicycle was the best health plan around. True, but if regular medicine is offered at an affordable rate, it is sometimes needed. For instance, the vaccine is free, here in USA.

My main beef with the professional / healthcare establishment is more economic, but I do still like the doctors I have had. One of my doctor's favorite phrases was, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away."

Sometimes, the best road to health is free time and less worry about money, status and stress.

I'm not really into alternative medicine that much. Not into supplements and so forth. It can be seen as just another racket. Those dealers charge money also. There is a lot of sneaky sales pitches out there; even at places like organic grocery stores.

Having said that, it is true that science, itself, is a learning process. Sometimes better evidence renders today's science obsolete. Science isn't a dogma that you either buy or not. I think there is a variety of opinions on complex subjects, but I usually tend to follow what is thought of as mainstream science. It seems the best way to get the job done till better ideas come along. Nothing is perfect. It's always an evolving and learning story, but I tend to accept things that are beyond my own expertise. Like the old phrase, "it's beyond my pay grade."

I still think it's a good idea to rely, for the most part, on evidence based medical science when needed. Even most of my regular doctors, over the years, have said that lifestyle is the best medicine we got, for the most part.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The pressure of maintaining wealth

The economy has to run pretty fast to keep up with rising property values. Otherwise people can't pay their rising rents and first time homebuyers can't get into a home.

It means "keep running on those treadmills selling more goods and services." Keep buying and discarding to create jobs, otherwise folks can't make enough to live on. It's jobs, jobs, jobs.

We need to find a better way to maintain people's sense of wealth without having to revv up the consumption economy all the more.

It seems like the consumption economy is what we use to justify the wealth. If the economy slows down to where rents can't be paid, property values eventually drop and stored wealth declines. Now it seems like the stored wealth has gotten so high that the consumption economy can't keep up.

During the pandemic, when a lot of consumption had to slow down in places like restaurants, bars and airlines. New money was basically created out of thin air to support the Cares Act of 2020. 3 trillion dollars worth.

This helped to prop up incomes so rents could still be paid and businesses could still make their lease payments even while they had to close. It helped to keep wealth intact. Otherwise, unused business space and unpaid rent would probably have led to a collapse in property values; something owners fear. This ment that even lots of fiscally conservative Republicans got on board for this relief act.

Keeping up the burden of high rents and property values does require a lot of economic activity; like people having to work overtime just to make ends meet. Resaurants and stores have to sell more. Jobs have to pay more.

There is an old phrase that goes, "don't let the grass grow under your feet." Problem is, having to keep up with an ever growing economy of consumption can lead to increases in carbon emissions which then leads to climate change. It can also lead to burnout of the human spirit.

Other ways need to be found to prop up society's sense of wealth. Home values, stock values, retirement plans, the public infrastructure and the fortunes of the very wealthy may need to be propped up in a different way. This is where some sources of free money might have to be a perminant part of the solution; subsidizing expensive things like housing, healthcare and the public infrastructure. We seem to be trending in that direction.

Certain experiments, like a basic minimum income, are being talked about more and tried in some places.

Slowing down the consumption economy, so that it doesn't have to be so wateful, is a quick way to reduce fossil fuel emissions. This doesn't necessarily mean going back to a form of the dark ages, however. New technologies, such as solar energy, offer promise for continued prosperity. It just takes time for these new technologies to develop.

In the meantime, we should figure out how to take our collective foot off the economic accellerator, so to speak. This would give us and the planet more breathing room as we wait for new technologies to be implemented. It takes time for these technologies to develop. It takes time to turn a ship around.

People could benefit from things not measured in consumption; like more free time.

One strategy that could cause some slowing and displacement in the economy is implementing a carbon tax. This would slow down the fossil fuel based economy, but it could boost the green economy.

More people could put up with these changes if they had more wiggle room in their personal budgets. Budgets less burdened by the high costs of rent and / or trying to buy that first home.

Friday, August 06, 2021

Who's to blame for the variants, or beyond blame, what's the best strategy?

Dr. Fauci is worrying about variants of the virus that could emerge that are even worse than Delta. Future variants where even the vaccines, we now have, could be less effective. The vaccines are working good, now at least.

Some folks blame the risk of these new variants on vaccine reluctance in this country, but I think the problem is deeper than that. Chances are one of these variants would, most likely, arise in some other part of the world where the vaccine is less available. Basically, I think people, who are reluctant to get the vaccine, are shooting themselves in the foot since the vaccine is working well for now. The best argument for the vaccine is self interest for protecting one's self.

As for future variants that could arise, the bigger problem is still lack of vaccine availability worldwide. Chances are, a bad variant could arise in the US, but more likely, it would arise somewhere among the nearly 8 billion people worldwide. In some of those places, the problem of lack of vaccine supply is still larger than vaccine reluctance.

Vaccine reluctance moves to first place as a problem after supply becomes plentiful.

Worldwide distribution of vaccines is happening at a fast pace, but it still takes time to roll anything out to billions of people. Some conservatives, in USA, are now using this worldwide threat as an excuse to complain about immigration. I see immigration as only one small part of the bigger picture.

I heard someone, on a radio talk show, suggest that people arriving in US either legally, or illegally should be required to get vaccinated. Folks in US custody at the border could be required to be vaccinated unless there is a medical reason against it. If they refuse, deportation becomes more likely.

Travel is a factor, but in our modern world, we can't totally seal borders, stop air travel and so forth. Not without severe harm to our modern economy and ways of life. I hear that Canada will require proof of vaccination at the border when it reopens.

Bad variants of the virus may cause us to have to shut down parts of the economy again. There would be booster shots and tweaks of the vaccines to deal with that, but these remedies take time; probably not as long as development of the original vaccines, but still time.

I figure, "get vaccinated and enjoy life while you can," but who knows, for sure, what the future may bring. Trust that most of the scientists are trying to do the best they can given this changing situation.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Republicans may be more to blame for climate change than corporations

Ongoing drought, here in most of the west, keeps getting worse. Every once in a while, we have a moister year or two, then it's more dry years. Seems like more dry years than wet years as the years go on. Climate change is happening.

Some people accuse oil companies of conspiring to hide this problem. I would lay more blame on the Republican Party. Seems like the Republicans have been pretty much against measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A few moderate Republicans are concerned, but Republicans are far more against the needed changes than Democrats.

As for oil companies and other corporate interests, I am sure there has been much resistance. Some even scandalous resistance, but corporations are getting worried also. Some oil companies talk about transitioning to cleaner energy. Some of this talk is beyond just "greenwashing." The insurance industry is getting really worried; for instance.

Who wishes to insure coastal condo properties in Florida? Rising sea levels are happening, but before that problem becomes even more evident, other possibly unexpected leading edge problems mount. Infiltration of saltwater into limestone and groundwater with it's corrosive effects on building pilings.

Beyond conspiracy, there is another factor explaining how climate change is now catching up with us. There are twice as many people, on Earth, than there were during my college years. Even more importantly, much of the world has risen out of poverty during these recent decades. World energy consumption has gone up. Look at China, for instance.

What was a distant problem, that scientists have been talking about for decades, is now having more effect on today's short term practical needs; like "where is the water coming from to wash tonight's dishes?" It's happening now where I just saw news coverage about a spate of wells going dry in Oregon's Klamath Valley.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Some people are wary of vaccine technology, but they accept the automobile. How ironic.

I heard on the news that the number of people getting vaccinated has recently doubled in Alabama. Looks like a lot of folks are realizing it's a good idea to get vaccinated.

There are still those that don't trust the technology, but, ironically, most of those people still drive cars. That's a technology also. The government and mainstream society promotes driving. It's taken for granted. Thousands die each year in car accidents. The vaccine is much much safer than that.

Going without the vaccine is very dangerous. More dangerous than even driving.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Modern Monetary Theory kind of enshrines what we have been already doing for decades; running huge deficits; the economy remains intact.

The federal government is coming up to the debt ceiling again. I've often thought the debt ceiling should be scrapped since it's never adhered to anyway.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) kind of says that the debt is less of a problem than often perceived.

MMT kind of enshrines what we have been doing for decades. Running large deficits over the years and the economy continues to function. Maybe we don't need to worry about deficits if our past is any indication of how things work. The economy remains intact.

I remember when some people said that George Bush JR. was "spending like a drunken sailor." Tax cuts while starting two wars. The war in Afghanistan and the second Iraq War.

Now there is more pushback saying that if we have run these huge deficits for years with what seems to be little consequence, we can continue and even ramp it up a bit. We can better tend to our domestic needs.

There are consequences, but the economy, as a whole, has survived. One of the consequences of relying more and more on new money from the Fed to finance the government is inflation.

For many years, we have seen pretty high inflation in asset prices; such as home values. Deficit spending may be what has been propping up these values. If it wasn't for this high level of spending, the economy would likely fall into deep recession eventually pulling down asset prices.

Now there is more pressure for other things, such as the wages of lower income workers, to catch up so people can still afford things like housing and healthcare. This has an effect at causing price increases for things people take for granted; such as the cost of a hamburger at the local drive in.

Much of this whole situation is created by the strong anti tax sentiment in this country. People tend to not like taxes. Meanwhile most people take a lot of services that government provides for granted.

Public safety is a service mostly provided by government. There is a phrase that was pushed last summer, by some folks on the left, called "defund the police." I haven't been a fan of that phrase as I don't, personally, have an axe to grind against the police, but it does point out that police are expensive.

It's almost like we are a nation of spoiled brats. The kind of society we expect to live in, with public safety and so forth, doesn't happen without some cost.

The same can be said about the military. Maybe we have spent too much on these things, but it seems like those who always want to cut taxes are the same folks who advocate for these things; thus the deficits.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

As statues topple, I focus less on that debate and more on how far social norms have evolved since slavery was the norm

Here is one thought I have about the push to remove statues of historic figures, such as Thomas Jefferson, since he owned slaves.

Society has evolved a long ways since owning slaves was the norm. In some ways, it has improved significantly from early 1800s to legalized gay marriage.

Figuring out how to remember our past, when social norms were so different, is a challenge. It is still important, tho, to remember and realize that humans are capable of not only great deeds, but also great horrors depending on the context we find ourselves in.

We have progressed in many ways, but we still have similar faults that lead to things like creating conditions leading to homelessness, cliquishness, stranger danger fear, mob mentality, false accusations and mean spiritedness.