Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fond memories of George W. Bush?

On BBC Radio from London, they recently interviewed someone from an institute connected with former President Bush. He was talking about why he thought Romney lost the election. Basically Romney was more harsh than Bush, if you can believe that. I can. Bush did support some immigration reform that included a guest worker program. Bush added prescription drug benefit to Medicare, Bush funded a lot of AIDS work in Africa, Bush often called himself a "compassionate conservative." Romney and Ryan's talk about cutting Medicare, and so forth was harsher and didn't go over with the voters. Interesting perspective.

I feel that the Republicans have gotten worse for several reasons. One reason (besides the power of the hateful mega churches) is that people are freaked out about the deficit. Tea party Republicans feel we can't have "business as usual" when it comes to the deficit. Bush was often accused of spending like a drunk sailor as he cut taxes, started wars and expanded, rather than proposing to slash, Medicare. Romney/Ryan came along later with a slash, slash, slash message that even made George Bush look nice. Maybe Romney was just set up to it. As governor of Massachusetts, he might have been more moderate, but harsh conservatism was taking over the Republican party at that time. Now the Republicans are doing some soul searching and it is interesting to hear the various perspectives.

I'm glad Obama won.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

York neighborhood free table

Historic piece. Table is no longer at that location.

Good idea for reducing clutter and often finding things one needs.

Table looks a bit empty when I took this image, but often there is quite a bit of good stuff there.

This table is well maintained out of the rain. It is lighted and even offers a plugin to check electrical items.

On KQED Radio, they interviewed someone who was working on a phone app for exchanging things. It's called Yerdle.

Here are some guidelines for this free table at Franklin Street near Gladstone.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Privacy on Facebook; an oxymoron. Who would go to something like Facebook to look for privacy?

Privacy on Facebook is an oxymoron, but that's okay with me. Kind of funny hearing people worry about privacy on Facebook. I think something like Facebook is the last place one would expect privacy. The things I post on Facebook are intended to be shared publicly.

Ironically, something posted on the open web (outside of one's circle of Facebook friends) is likely to have less audience than something posted inside Facebook since Facebook alerts one's friends whenever things are posted. In the 1990s, that process was called "push technology;" a term that seems to have fallen by the wayside more recently.

Something on the open web, such as this blog, is not found as often. People have to surf to the site.

If one is famous, then web sites and blogs get bigger audiences. Otherwise, web sites just get a few Google searches and maybe some friends will look, but most won't bother unless it's brought to their attention. In some cases, the media will notice an obscure web site and bring a bunch of readers; for a while at least. 15 minutes of fame. On Facebook, things are brought to people's attention; at least to the attention of one's friends.

Another worry that some folks might have about posting on the open web is employers who might do Google searches. I guess I'm not that worried about employers because I may not ever look for another job, I'm almost retired. Also, if I was looking for another job, I would want my new employer to accept me for who I am. I share most of who I am and if I'm embarrassed to share something, I hide it from my friends also, or at least I wouldn't potentially broadcast it to all my 260, or so, friends on Facebook.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

That's me dancing down Denman Street, Summer of 2011

Someone got a good picture of me dancing down Denman Street in Vancouver, BC. during the 2011 Gay Pride Festival.

Folks from Bellingham and other places were invited to join the Vancouver Polyamory contingent in the parade. Someone else took this picture, and here is a link to the set of pictures I have from that event. Fun memories. Also, this blog entry is to link my blog title on polyamory to my flicker photos on the same subject.

By the way, same parade was also fun in 2012.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Old Town Cafe

It was nice to have a place to go for Thanksgiving. Each year, the Old Town Cafe serves a free Thanksgiving Dinner. It's a Bellingham tradition. Volunteers do a lot of the work, musicians preform, a wide variety of people come together for dinner.

I met someone, or at least got a chance to talk to someone I had met earlier at Purple Church dance. It created an opportunity for conversation. Quite a few familiar faces there.

A nice alternative to family Thanksgiving traditions; especially when other family members are hundreds of miles away.

Now I'm noticing that there are more businesses open on Thanksgiving. Not necessarily those jumping the cue on "Black Friday," but little convenience shops, places like the downtown Starbucks and some other restaurants. It's nice to give employees a day of rest, but also, as our society evolves away from everyone having a family, there are more places to go and things to do. Places where people connect.

A Bellingham Herald article today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Artwork on part of wall of HUB Bicycle Collective in Bellingham. Old location.

This art adds to my ride along South Bay Trail which goes past the HUB on it's way from downtown Bellingham to Fairhaven District.

Old location. HUB is now located in another place. 210 Ohio Street in Bellingham.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A casualty of 2012 election. New YMCA plan in Lynden

While there were yes votes for a lot of things in Washington State, a recreation center in the town of Lynden (north of Bellingham) was voted down. Plan was to restore the old Delft Square building that was damaged by fire several years ago. Turn it into a recreation center that would be owned by the Lynden Parks District and then operated by the YMCA.

Lynden voters weren't that generous, but also geography might have played a role. Lynden Parks District has the same boundaries as the Lynden School District and the recreation center would have most likely been a benefit to a much larger region. Maybe the folks around Lynden didn't feel like paying a tax that would have provided something for a larger area even though it would have helped downtown Lynden as people would be drawn to the downtown.

Below picture from my files taken in 2009. Old Lynden Department Store building, later named Delft Square.

I don't get to Lynden that often, myself. What's there to do out there? I know, there's the Lynden Museum with a lot of antiques. I'm sure there's some stuff to do, but there's more to do in Bellingham, of course. Bellingham is a lot bigger.

At least there's a nice bike path to Ferndale. It goes along the Nooksack River Dike into Hovander Homestead County Park. Sometimes I ride out to Ferndale and then turn around and come back. I pick up that bike path off of Slater Road.

As an armchair "Wednesday morning" after the election analyst, I got to thinking. Seems like if the parks district was bigger, the idea might have gotten farther. That thinking brought me (web surfing) to a map of Washington State school districts. Here's the northwest Washington area excerpted from the school district map.

Remember, Lynden Parks and Lynden School District have the same borders, but maybe Lynden could view itself as sort of a hub for Nooksack Valley, Meridian, the north part of Ferndale and possibly even Blaine districts.

A county park rather than a city park?

Interesting looking map I discovered. I've never looked at the state from the perspective of it's many varied school districts.

Map source:

Update 2016. Building has been restored as hotel and retail. See description and photo essay here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Whitman County more blue than surrounding counties

Counting late ballots, Whitman County is now (as of last Friday) tipped over into the yes on Referendum 74 to legalize gay marriage in Washington State. Hurray.

Moot point anyway since 74 won statewide due to the big population in King County that was in favor. Nice to see Whitman join the yes side however. The only county to vote yes east of Cascade Mountains. I grew up in Whitman County where Pullman is located. A college town. Interesting to note that the county seat is not Pullman, it's Colfax, but Pullman is where most of Whitman County's population resides. Home of Washington State University.

One of my high school teachers called Pullman "the Athens of the Palouse." Whatcom County is in the yes category also. Whatcom is where Bellingham is located. I now live in Bellingham. Ref. 74 was strong in urban areas, such as around Seattle, but more weak in rural areas. Most of the land area of the state voted no, but land doesn't vote, people vote. It's kind of like red states versus blue states only it's red counties versus blue counties. Looking more closely (like at the precinct level), much of Whatcom County is more red, but urban Bellingham weighs heavy in the blue.

Source: Very interesting to look around on that site and see how various election results played out for different measures and candidates by county in Washington State.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Symbolism is one good reason to raise taxes on the rich

Not extending the Bush tax cuts to the top income brackets may only bring 40 billion dollars to the Treasury; at least according to a guest from an organization called American's For Limited Government who was interviewed on a recent Joe Show on Bellingham's Progressive Talk Station. 40 billion may be just a drop in the bucket, but at least it looks like the rich are part of the equation.

I'm not sure how accurate those figures are anyway, but I'll go with them, at least for the sake of this discussion.

Much larger progress can be made toward reducing the deficit by cutting back on the growth of various entitlement programs. Medicare, for instance and of course the vast outlays of the Department of Defense. Looks like sacrifices will have to be made in those areas, but it's hard to get people to give an inch, unless they feel the rich are sacrificing also. To some extent it's a battle of symbolism. The perception that everyone is in the same boat makes it easier to let go of some of one's personal needs and wants in order to sacrifice a bit for the greater good.

Where's that American spirit of giving to the greater good? We all need to feel like we are in it together in order to feel that way, I guess.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Seceding or joining the union 2012 election

Puerto Rico is the only place that actually took a vote and it voted for statehood.

There's been talk of petitions in some red states about seceding from the union after Obama's victory in the November 6th election, but the only place that actually took a vote on statehood was Puerto Rico. Voted in favor of joining statehood during the November 6th election. I think the union of USA is pretty safe if it were to actually come to a vote rather than just a few people signing petitions. Even in the so called "red states."

As for divisiveness in this country, urban versus rural may be more of a fracture point than red states versus blue states. Here in Whatcom County, the 42nd legislative district sent two Republicans to the state legislature November 6th. The 42 district is largely the rural part of Whatcom County north of Bellingham. Democrats were elected in the 40th district which is mostly in urban Bellingham and extends down into Skagit County.

The divide between 40th and 42nd legislative districts was real distinct in 2012 election. It was a race between Democrat Jeff Morris and Green Party candidate Howard Pellett in the 40th district. No Republican made it past the primary in Washington State's "top two" primary for that position. Jeff Morris won in the general election.

Several years ago, there were actually two secessionist movements in Whatcom County. Both in areas north of Bellingham. One was called Pioneer County while the other was called Independence County (If I remember correctly). Now these are just memories.

I got to thinking, if more liberal Bellingham and areas south were to also secede, the county courthouse might be the only thing left in Whatcom County. The courthouse grounds could be renamed "Scapegoat County." since everyone can blame their problems on being in Whatcom County. After secession, people might discover that they still have their problems, however.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Election victories, but a bit of a libertarian tint

It was a good election, for the most, part speaking from my vantage point in the great state of Washington. Obviously, I'm glad Barack Obama won.

Also exciting are election results in 3 states where gay marriage was approved including here in Washington. Recreational use of marijuana was approved also.

Jump up and down for joy and then realize that Tim Eyman, the generator of many conservative anti tax initiatives in our state, is celebrating also. Eyman's Initiative 1185 passed with a large margin. I-1185 requires a 2/3 majority in the legislature for any tax increase. I voted against 1185, but realize that it's part of a libertarian streak in both this state and country. There's still a small government, anti authority stripe in our culture. Some of that is good, but it can cause conflict when we expect teachers to be paid and our roads repaired.

Speaking of conflict, now that we have approved marijuana use, here in Washington, the stage is set for a showdown with federal authorities who still see marijuana as illegal and may try to enforce the law as federal law supersedes state law. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Will the deficit ridden federal government have the money to pay for enough police to enforce it's laws without cooperation at the local level?

Our culture's ambivalence over the role of government is also heading us right into the "fiscal cliff." That's when a bunch of difficult things come to pass like the dreaded sequester of across the board spending cuts to both military and domestic programs. It was approved by Congress last year in a deficit cutting compromise. Something has to be done about that to keep the military, Medicare and all those things running at the levels people seem to expect.

Our culture's libertarian influence is good in a way, but also problematic. It helps to keep us free from too much government control, but there's always a tradeoff. We also expect comforts from having the largest military in the world and programs such as Medicare. These all use government funding.

Of course, if we can innovate and figure out how to do these things without government, we've got it made, but that's a bit of a stretch.

Meanwhile, if the federal authorities can afford enough police to try to enforce federal marijuana laws in the state, I guess we can say "bug off." That's the American libertarian stripe. It's kind of a double edged sword.

Big victories for Democratic Party in many parts of the country. Picked up two seats in the US Senate. First openly gay senator among them.

In California, democrats have more than simple majority in both houses of the Legislature. Also Californians did vote to tax themselves more. Prop 30 passed. Part of the reason why it passed is that they took a good look at what would happen if it didn't pass. They worked out an alternative budget that showed them the cuts in schools and so forth. The voters passed the tax as opposed to suffering the alternative. It was spelled out quite clearly by Governor Brown, so I hear from listening to podcasts on KQED Radio. Michael Krasney's Forum show has done stuff about it.

Be careful, though, in California. Since the Democrats have control in the legislature and governor's mansion, they might get blamed if it screws up. California often leads the way.

It's been a good election to celebrate.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Some people say, hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils

Washington State is smart in one way. It's all absentee voting. No need to staff expensive polling stations. Practically never a line (sometimes a line at the drop box), Convenient and there still is a paper trail.

All absentee voting started (I think) here in Whatcom County, but it's gone statewide at least. As soon as one gets the ballot in the mail, one can vote. Vote must be postmarked or dropped off at a ballot box by the deadline on election day. One still must buy the postage. No stamp necessary if dropped off at one of several official drop boxes located around the county.

This one in the south parking lot of the county courthouse.

Yes I did vote for Obama. He's pretty good though no one is perfect. As for the direction of the country, it's usually been floundering ever since I can remember. There really is little consensus from the American people on what direction to go. We are left wingers, right wingers, centrists and all the special interests. USA is like an ocean liner with 6 captains all arguing on which way to turn the wheel. Each captain wrenching it one direction till another wrenches it in another direction. The ship moves so slowly that it basically just sits in the water as if no captain holds the wheel long enough to get up inertia in any one direction. Backward, forwards, left, right. That's our Congress for sure, but also the American people.

Still, we have absentee voting so at least we are smart in some ways; though the ship does look like the crew is absent. Absentee crew? No. It's just a case of two many cooks spoiling the broth, but that's supposedly democracy.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”

Washington has a chance to be the first state where voters say yes to gay marriage.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Is slow economy and the need for stimulus the new normal?

I'm for Obama, but I still have my worries. Some folks criticize Obama saying that the stimulus program just added to the debt and didn't work. Well, maybe unemployment would be a lot higher if it weren't for the stimulus, but now there's another costly Obama idea. The Social Security tax cut. We have been getting it for the past 2 years. Like the stimulus, it adds to consumer spending to create jobs, but is now being opposed by the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). They are worried about it increasing the debt and undermining the financial solvency of Social Security. Might be about as bad an idea as the Bush "partially privatize Social Security" plan.

A few days ago, I heard an interesting interview on KUOW Radio about this. Surprisingly, someone from JP Morgan Bank was in favor of this tax cut and stated that a tax cut to middle class and lower income people creates more consumption and jobs than the Bush tax cuts to higher income people. Interesting that someone from JP Morgan would think that. The worry about this tax cut adding to the deficit was discussed and the fellow from JP Morgan feels that it will not be a big problem for the future of Social Security if it is extended one more year. It's already been extended from 1 year to 2 years and Congress may extend it again one more time.

I wonder, who is to say that the economy will be much better in one more year than it is today? Maybe we will just keep extending it again and again undermining Social Security. It's stuff to think about, but basically I like Obama. I just have questions and reservations about all these things.

If the need for stimulus becomes the new normal, the debt will just keep piling on. Maybe that's where Quantitative Easing, on the part of the Federal Reserve, comes in handy. Basically we have to keep printing money to prop up the economy as we know it. Quantitative Easing can be part of the new normal also. Then the debt is less of a worry as we print our way out of debt. Still inflation could be a big worry with that strategy, but it isn't a big worry yet, I guess.

On the the topic of inflation and printing money, watch out for pockets of hyper inflation that may cause havoc before the overall inflation rate ticks up. For instance another housing bubble.

I assume the Fed would ease up on the money supply if overall inflation becomes a problem and, presumably then, unemployment would be much lower as a heated economy tends to have less unemployment. Less unemployment along with it's higher risk of inflation. Still, we may be facing "new normals" of jobless recoveries. If that's the case, things like housing bubbles, big profits and pay hikes can happen in parts of the economy while the majority of people remain in recession.