Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Did Pope Francis's meeting with Kim Davis undermine the rest of his message?

Pope Francis had a fairly brief meeting with Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to sign gay marriage licenses. He still holds onto what I consider some outdated concepts about sex and family. At the same time, he usually tends to put these things in the background while speaking quite strongly about fairness and income distribution. I wouldn't agree with everything he stands for, of course, but there are some things in his bag of ideas that are cogent remarks on the condition of today's society.

On the plane headed back to Rome, Francis talked about the concept of conscientious objection. "Without referring to Kim Davis, the pope said conscientious objection is a right that is part of every human right." I can understand some of that thinking. Who wants to be forced to do something against their convictions, but I guess Kim Davis could, of course, resign from her position. Solders in war, who often have conscientious objection to a particular war, have a harder time getting out of the military. Back in the days of the draft, people were sometimes forced into military service against their will.

Job descriptions do change as society evolves. County clerks now have to follow the broader definition of marriage, people who join the military, during peace time, often face changes in the job when a war starts.

Still, the pope does say many good things about compassion and income distribution even though his less than ideal opinions on sexuality threaten to undermine his stance among us liberals. This pope has also spoken out about global warming, but those views are definitely undermined by this world's continuing explosion in population growth. Now passing the 7 billion mark. We may not be able to address global warming without a significant slowdown in population growth. Old ideas on sex and family certainly undermine that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The most exciting thing about last Sunday's lunar eclipse

The most exciting thing about last Sunday's lunar eclipse is not that it was during the super moon. The super moon is only slightly larger than a normal full moon. It's that the eclipse happened in Bellingham when it wasn't cloudy.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pope Francis has more credibility on similar issues than the last two popes

Pope Francis has been a strong critic of the income gap, the dark side of capitalism and selfishness. The last two popes had similar views, but this pope has more credibility. He seems more humble, himself, in things like his choice of pope mobiles and clothing. Also he is less pushy about the church dogmas that aren't that friendly toward birth control, gay rights and feminism. The other popes were more pushy on those dogmas so they ruined their credibility among liberals when it came to what they were saying about things like poverty and greed. What this pope says resonates better with us liberals creating more of a resounding chorus. The other popes might have tried to sing that tune, but it was more cluttered with emphasis on parts of the dogma that would turn the rest of the liberal choir away.

Also, the past two popes came at a time when the Catholic Church was besieged in the midst of the priestly sex abuse scandal. That scandal is probably starting to wind down now. It clouds the credibility of any stand that the church takes on ethical issues, but even that ugly black eye seems to be starting to recede into the history books by now.

On the topic of gay rights and population growth, the pope is still not willing to drop old ideas, but he does seem to speak more softly on these things. Using the concepts of grace and forgiveness, he puts out a welcome mat to more diversity of people and dialog. This is also an important step forward. Less of the witch hunt mentality that pope Benedict was accused of.

Personally, I still think it will be difficult to solve climate change unless we address the population problem. Even this pope has said he doesn't expect us to be reproducing like rabbits (I forgot the exact quotes), but church dogma puts a lot of obstacles in the way of new thinking on sex and family issues.

I still think this pope has taken many steps in a good direction and, for the most part, has been a positive influence in the ongoing discussion. He does have a kind heart. Change is often step by step.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Maybe philantropy is a better model for funding pharmaceutical research than return on investment

Egregious for sure. New hedge fund management in this pharmaceutical company raising the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Martin Shkreli is the Donald Trump of drug development.

They say they have to charge a lot to pay for research and development. I just got to thinking, there may be better ways to fund research than the standard "return on investment" model. How about philanthropy? Lots or research is funded by foundations and donations. Often donations from the very wealthy. For instance, if someone dies from a rare disease, money is often donated in that person's memory. Philanthropy might work better than pharmaceutical profits. Maybe it isn't good to view drugs as private investments, but rather investments in the public good.

Also, of course, there is government funding of research, but thinking about the philanthropy model is an avenue that's still kind of "free enterprise;" for those who are skeptical of turning everything over to government.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Religious bigotry and overpopulation are related and make their mark on the refugee crisis as well as climate change and other things

Religious bigotry and overpopulation seem to be related. Often religious bigotry stands in the way of reducing population growth. One thinks of anti gay bigotry, anti feminist attitudes and things like the battles against organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Then we see the troubling results of all this in the massive refugee floods around the world. Overwhelming in numbers; the people seeking to escape bigotry and war in their countries of origin.

Besides the refugee struggles we have the issue of climate change related to our growing numbers and aspirations. Will the California drought end before destroying California's vast agricultural industry that so many folks depend on?

Some forecasters say 2016 might be an El Nino year with more rain to California, but this isn't certain. Also El Nino means warm in its own way so little or no relief for the snow pack.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we face low snow pack also. Forest fires raged and are just starting to abate for the season.

How fast can Bellingham grow? Will lots of folks and retirees want to take refuge in our small city? Will housing remain affordable? What about traffic?

We can accommodate lots of people if we learn to live differently. Will single family residential zones have to go? How about the automobile with all the space it devours for parking? Maybe we can do better as some of these challenges also bring the seeds for opportunities, but we have to be willing to accept change. Flexibility. Not bigotry.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Maybe being that big isn't a good idea for Haggens Corporation

Quite a few people in Bellingham tend to be wary of big corporations. Sometimes events will land in one's lap that reinforce one's views. Haggen, a regional grocery store chain that has been based in Bellingham, is now facing the downside of "big corporate merger mania." The unhappy stories flowing across the pages of Wall Street Journal and other media. Of course this would happen around us; here in Bellingham. Gives many of us more pause in our thinking about big corporations; as if we didn't have pause already. Looks like it was trying to grow too fast.

West Coast Grocer Haggen Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9 2015.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Wormholes without the need for the pesky black hole

I read this interesting article about a magnetic field passing through a wormhole in the lab.

Significant, as I think (tho I could be wrong) that this is the first time evidence for a wormhole has actually been seen. The concept has been around for decades. Use of wormholes to take a shortcut and jump from one part of the universe to another without having to pass through the intervening space has been the subject of science fiction. I'm remembering the book "A Wrinkle In Time" where the concept of "tesseract" was used to travel around in the universe. This may not be quite that exciting, but the concept seems somewhat related.

Up until now, most talk that I hear about wormholes has been associated with black holes. If the wormhole exists, it's hiding behind the event horizon of a black hole and the event horizon is hiding inside the accretion disk where matter and energy are swirling down into the black hole. Certainly a daunting, if not impossible prospect to peer through all of this and tell just what's there. No one can really see into the black hole so seeing something akin to a wormhole without having to deal with the black hole is significant.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Have we all fumbled the situation in Syria? Now here comes the flood of refugees

Maybe we should have intervened to help the moderate democratic forces in Syria?

Who knows. We did intervene in Libya and it's still a mess.

Obama has taken heat for being cautious about trying to "save" the Middle East with our military. Maybe we just make it worse. Also, it really isn't Obama's call. It's an international situation and Europe plays an important role. Europe is not enthusiastic about "sending in the troops;" even thinking about troops as being a force for humanitarian aid.

With that in mind, is Europe now reaping what it sows; or failed to sow?

Syria has crumbled while Europe and United Nations debated and gridlocked. Now the flood of desperate refugees is showing up on Europe's doorstep. This may be the biggest problem Europe faces today. Forget the banking crisis, refugee flood may be even worse. It's totally a mess, at least according to the news, but part of the mess is from Libya also. Europe and Obama did try to help out in Libya.

Russia has been a true stumbling block on Syria also.

Much of the Middle East is such a mess of religious bigotry and over population. I feel for all those desperate folks washing up on Europe's shores. And we, in USA, think we have an immigration problem. Imagine the situation in Europe! Overwhelming.

Immigration to the US is slowing to a very moderate pace, these days. It's from countries in Latin America where most of the people seem to assimilate fairly well into US society. Catholicism is a major religious force in Latin America where many US immigrants come from. It's getting more tolerant of diversity and the new pope is helping. Birth rates are going down in Mexico, at least, from what I hear. The heavy religious bigotry that we see in so much of the Middle East is more serious stuff.