Sunday, April 22, 2018

Two different connotations of the word "entitlement" confuse the discussion about things like Medicare and Social Security

Seems like there are two connotations for the word entitlement. One definition is something that one is entitled to; like if you deposit money in a bank, you are entitled to your money. The other connotation is the attitude of entitlement. That's more like someone being spoiled having an attitude of entitlement or the stereotype of the ugly American.

The word entitlement is big in today's news. People, on the left, don't like that word being used to describe benefits promised by our government such as Medicare and Social Security. Based on the first definition of entitlement, these things actually are entitlements as they are things people are entitled to. Promises the government has made to its people.

Someone can earn an entitlement by paying into the program, such as Social Security, but also an entitlement can be there based on a promise made by the government, such as for people considered disabled. This can be confusing as well, but they are both promises made by our government. Promises made to maintain civil society; rather than turning our backs on folks unable, for various reasons, to work enough to pay for the benefit. It's like insurance.

I think interest on the national debt can be called an entitlement as well. When people loan money to the government, they are entitled to the principal and interest that was agreed upon.

Due to economic circumstances, tax cuts and the large deficit, it may be hard for the government to meet all the entitlements it has promised. Scary.

The other part of the budget that isn't entitlements is called discretionary spending. The military is the biggest item in discretionary spending. It keeps expanding also. Other things the government decides to do like road improvements, new parks, science, or whatever, are also part of discretionary spending. Many of these things are vital, as well, to keep the country going and improving.

On the military side, I think veterans benefits are more "entitlement" than "discretionary" spending because they are a promise that has been made to people.

The attitude of entitlement (second connotation) complicates this issue as people on both the left and the right get these ideas confused. It's easy to have an emotional battle over this as the so called "spoiled" attitude of entitlement is very different from the idea that someone is truly entitled to something.

Since it is hard to keep all these promises, people may end up loosing things that they are truly entitled to. This becomes fertile ground for conflict and misunderstanding as the second connotation of entitlement; meaning spoiled, haunts the discussion.

Spoiled or not, we may not get everything we've bargained for. Hopefully we can still survive and even thrive with a quality of life. Let's hope society remains intact.

Our attitudes will have a lot to do with this. Less of the second connotation of entitlement meaning "ugly American."

I'm not saying that people should lay down and take being robbed, so to speak. Voting against ill conceived tax cuts and bad economic policy will help.

Still, in spite of our intentions, we may not get all that we bargained for. The numbers look ominous. I hear 10,000 Americans are becoming eligible for Social Security each day. Yikes. The Baby Boom generation, which I admit I am part of. It's a scary big number, but this is also a big country.

It's just money folks. Maybe we shouldn't take money too seriously. Live more for intangible qualities of life. New generations may be better at figuring this out. They can rise to the occasion.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

I consider myself a liberal who often doesn't use standard liberal talking points

This concept works as a sound byte so no more writing needed in the body of this message, I guess.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lust for wealth may have to wait until greener technology can be widespread

I think if people want to stop things like Kinder Morgan pipeline, we should become less concerned about material wealth. Less yuppie, I guess. This would take pressure off the social system; at least until green technology can do more to take the place of fossil fuels. Trying to stop the pipeline, while the economy is still dependent on the money it would bring, is more divisive.

Most of this pipeline is in Canada, but a branch comes into Whatcom County to our local refineries; a source of "family wage" jobs.

There's a plan to expand pipeline capacity from Alberta to a port near Vancouver. Major controversy and some even say that it's becoming a "national unity crisis" for Canada.

Expanding this pipeline would bring lots of foreign revenue to Canada and help fund the government, which Prime Minister Trudeau says can be used to fund the transition to green technology. Trudeau has been a darling to the liberal side of politics, tho this stance has soiled his image among environmentalists.

I thought of a cartoon with Trudeau dancing in the gay rights parade tarnished with an oil stain.

This issue is also creating a rift between two provincial premiers who are both members of the liberal NDP Party in Canada. The Premier of Alberta wants it built while the premier of British Columbia opposes it.

Seems like the battle is over the road to take for weening ourselves off of fossil fuels.

Trudeau and the Alberta government say that the road needs to be financed, to some extent, with revenue from the fossil fuel economy including the new pipeline. A transition strategy.

Others oppose the pipeline.

Seems like the need for revenue is a big problem. Maybe we should learn to live more simply if we don't want the pipeline, at least until other alternatives can get going on a bigger scale.

I think of issues, like the oil pipeline, as being symptoms of a bigger picture. Each symptom isn't as important as the big picture. The big picture is our dependency on fossil fuels.

I don't see Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as a monster for supporting the pipeline as he is walking a tightrope compromise. It's based on what he thinks is necessary to keep the economy going while also getting a carbon tax passed in Alberta and pushing Canada toward a longer term goal of green energy. Here in USA, we have Donald Trump who's rallying cry is to not care about climate change and basically only care about wealth.

We also have our tightrope walking politicians, here in the US, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Rather than being snagged by the divisive details, like a pipeline here or a compromise there, I tend to look at the evolutionary changes that society needs to make. The bigger picture.

Biggest danger, tho, of leaders like Obama or Trudeau is that of average people being lulled into complacency. A liberal who is still basically compromising to powerful business interests can lull average liberal minded people into thinking things are okay while the people loose track of news, go shopping and even forget to vote.

More important than nice furniture and clothing is still the future of our civilization and planet. The long term evolution of our civilization to a more sustainable economy.

Some people may think my lack of total alarm over one pipeline is throwing the indigenous people's, who are dead set against the pipeline, under the bus. There are actually quite a few of the indigenous people's who are for that pipeline, or even another pipeline, I have read about, called Eagle Spirit Pipeline.

Powerful corporations, such as the Kinder Morgan pipeline outfit, from Texas, have a way of manipulating the situation of divisiveness to their advantage. Human tenancies toward divisiveness and greed create fertile ground for certain corporate interests to manipulate the game, keep the people arguing and then giving up to go shopping while the long term issue gets forgotten.

The best vehicle for change is the consumer demand and voting power of the masses. Also the advent of post fossil fuel technology.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Facebook luxury liner continues to voyage through rough seas. I plan to remain onboard.

The Facebook luxury liner continues to voyage through rough seas. I plan to remain onboard, tho I know there are other smaller lifeboats; such as Google Plus. Google Plus is actually a very good social networking system, but it doesn't have the big number of friends. What I call inertia. There's another term for that which I've heard IT people use in radio interviews; "the network effect." Facebook's biggest draw is that it's where one finds everyone else.

I got the screen today about apps that might be using my information. It was interesting to take the time and learn a bit more.

Only a few apps showed as I don't do things like games. Just about all my apps seem to be behaving except for one which I did decide to remove. Something called Angry Birds. I wasn't even sure what that was and I usually avoid "angry."

Doing a search I found it and realized that it was the thing that put some cookie on my computer which causes my firewall to block it's access. A screen pops up every once in a while saying something was blocked.

That app is now gone from my list and eventually I'll figure out how to remove that cookie, or whatever, from my PC. It isn't that serious a problem. What they call a "first world problem."

Facebook privacy isn't a big worry of mine as I use that vehicle to literally "broadcast" my writing and photography. Things that seem to play well on the interactive environment of Facebook then go to this blog which also appears on Google Plus. Facebook is where my trial balloons go and then a few things get archived here or in my Flickr albums.

Google Plus does have a less commercially cluttered wall, but far less interaction, in my case. It can be a lonely world out there. Then there's also Ello which I signed up to a few years back to try it out. For some reason I haven't taken the time to go back. Eventually I may. Warning: it keeps sending me promo emails.

I am glad that Congressman Paul Ryan plans to not run again

I'm glad to see Paul Ryan go. He isn't running again, so he says. I guess it's easier to cut taxes than it is to cut the spending that he tried to cut. Of course cutting the spending means cutting things that voters need like Medicare and Medicaid. Those are lifelines for a lot of people. I think Medicare is the biggest slice of the Federal spending pie. I'm glad that lifeline remains intact. The second biggest slice is the military which is also a big piece. Republicans vote to increase that. Yes, we could probably figure out a way to spend less on medicine, but not the way the Republicans are trying it. This may sound simplistic, but I never heard Republicans say, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." That's a sound byte I heard in grade school.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Bellingham City Council considers allowing auxiliary dwelling units in more of its residential zones

Entrance to city hall.

I am in favor of the idea to allow more neighborhoods to have legal Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADUs). This issue applies to many cities; especially growing cities. After a public hearing at City Council, I wrote some of my thoughts. It was a hearing I had to leave early from due to my work schedule so rather than speaking at the mic with a long waiting list, I write. Photos and writing on Flickr.

My impressions after the public comment period.

My own letter to the council.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Property taxes go up to help pay for McCleary court decision on school funding

At various social gatherings, people are commenting that their property taxes are going up. It's a consequence of the McCleary court decision. It's the Washington State Supreme Court ruling that our state wasn't funding K-12 education adequately. This year, they finally kind of fixed that, I guess, by raising property taxes for the most part.

Washington has no income tax, so it relies on things like sales and property taxes. The money has got to come from someplace.

Property values keep soaring so there's more and more money there, but property owners don't necessarily have the money to spend. It's all tied up in the property.

As property values soar, the cost of living soars so teachers, especially first time home buyers and renters, need more money to be able to afford to live in the communities where they work.

Prosperity has it's downside. The spiral of keeping up.

Some people question how much is spent on schools now. They often say that there are too many high paid administrators. Seems like that's a problem in just about every organization. I notice whenever they raise salaries for top employees, they always say that they have to keep up with pay scales in other areas; like California. They also say that the private sector pays more for similar jobs so if they don't pay these salaries, their top staff will leave.

It's the brain drain problem. The spiral of keeping up. It's like the NFL draft. A bidding war between institutions and corporations. A graduated income tax could help to cool off that vicious spiral.

Our governor, Jay Inslee, wanted to have a carbon tax to help pay for McCleary and reduce carbon emissions, but that didn't get far in the legislature. We do need carbon taxes, but like just about any tax, it's politically difficult.

The news can be a bit confusing, as usual. I do a Google search and find headlines like this. Governor Inslee signs 391 million statewide property tax cut. I guess the taxes went up this year to "fix" McCleary, but they expect the booming economy to generate more taxes next year so they can fix McCleary and also cut some of the tax hike; like walking and chewing gum at the same time (famous quote about former President Gerald Ford).

These same type of issues play out all across the country and to some extent around the world. A bit differently in each region. Washington State isn't just local. Each state is a microcosm of the big picture. Keeping up with the Jones's.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Face to face communication benefits from something I call the captive audience effect

What does face to face interaction have over online conversation?

Non verbal communication may be overrated, but here is something favoring face to face interaction that most people wouldn't think about. Something I would call the "captive audience effect." When folks meet in person, there are usually not that many people in the situation. A room full of people is pretty limited. Folks in a small group setting are usually forced to hear each other out versus scrolling on. Maybe "forced" is too strong a term.

On the internet, there's a lot more choices. There's information overload so people can just swipe to the next and to the next down the line. In a smaller setting, interactions are often a bit more focused and in depth. There isn't as much information bombarding the situation.

When you meet someone in person, you are sometimes surprised to find the person more interesting than your first impression. Online, your natural filtering works differently. For instance on dating sites, people often filter via numbers such as age, weight and so forth. In person, the stats seem to be less absolute.

I'm sure there are some cases where online interaction can be more in depth than in person. One problem that both online and face to face interaction have is distraction. Conversation and focus is often interrupted with distraction, in both cases.

In the big and fluid world of online, only a few household names rise to the top; like there's only one Facebook, one Google, one Amazon and so forth. In the brick and mortar world, lots of little outfits can survive as they serve their more limited geographic areas. The captive audience effect. With the whole world at one's fingertips, only a few household names, like Amazon, can rise above the fray of voices from millions all over the world. In the brick and mortar world, that fray is more limited. In the quieter fray that just comes from a limited neighborhood, more names can rise to the level of being noticed. More can be noticed even if they aren't "top in the world" as they aren't competing against the whole world.