Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Protest crowds could be spreading the virus. Killing the most vulnerable. Are people wearing masks and practicing safe distancing?

With all the protests that are happening now, I worry about the virus spreading due to the gatherings. A lot of lives could be lost because of this; ironically loosing the ability to breath due to a respiratory virus.

Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor, but are people maintaining safe distancing, wearing masks and so forth?

As for anger behind the protests, it does bring up the issue of income inequality. Many sociologists seem to say that income inequality is one of the main risk factors for social instability not to mention deaths from the virus.

I'm normally not a fan of anger and I do think other tools can be used to address these problems, but the problems are real and need to be addressed.

Anger does tend to hurt the people close by as the people with more power are usually better insulated and protected from the outbreak of that anger. Protected by geography, what neighborhood one lives in. Protected by elaborate security measures.

Monday, June 01, 2020

On the scale of altruism to self interest. Motivation for things like wearing masks to bicycling to the naked bike ride

On NPR Science Friday news roundup, I heard some news about a new kind of mask, being tested, which could reduce people's chances of catching the virus. One has a chemical treatment in the cloth. the other has an electric field. Things just being tested in the lab.

Before this, I heard that the cloth masks, we have now, can reduce the chance of catching the virus to some extent. People have been saying that the mask is mostly to prevent you from passing the virus to others, but there is some evidence that it might help the wearer of the mask to a small extent. I heard that through the grapevine at least, but need to look it up I guess.

I got to thinking that this would be good news as we humans are often more motivated by self interest than altruism. If the mask protects the wearer, it becomes a more popular practice.

Yes there are some great examples of altruism, but self interest is also a powerful motivator. If the two can converge, that's a good thing.

Seems to me that a combination of altruism and self interest should be a motivator for bicycling. There are the environmental benefits and there are also the health benefits.

One needs altruism to be motivated by environmental benefits as one person's actions are only a tiny drop in the large bucket. There's no feedback loop of reward. One person riding a bike is not going to save the planet until millions more do the same thing. No feedback of reward from just one person's actions.

On the other hand, with self interest, there is a feedback loop that one individual can control. The health benefits of bicycling.

Personally, much of the motivation behind my general lifestyle is self interest rather than altruism. I would like to think I was altruistic, but my self interest is pretty strong. For instance my own anxiety situation means I have a self interest in avoiding stressful situations. That has kept me from driving at highway speeds in traffic. Its kept me out of the big time corporate materialistic lifestyle. I've avoided climbing the corporate ladder partially to avoid the stress along the way. There can be other joys in life besides that.

I'm less into speed than most people. That's, in part, from self interest. Pleasure is a motivator. Slow down and enjoy the scenery. I think about those kind of motivations related to the naked bike ride as well. Why nudity? What does that have to do with the environment? There is the pleasure. Pleasure could be used as an advertisement for fitness. I try and connect lots of dots.

Over the weekend, there was a Love Temple erotic thing I tried out online. Related to the Radical Faeries. I wasn't totally nude on the webcam, but partially. As folks were dancing, I was also dancing, or at least moving around doing exercises like sit ups and so forth. It added some color, so to speak, to the experience of what they used to call calisthenics. Full body workout. That used to be thought of, in PE class, as a dreaded chore; not a joy. Why not find a way to make it a joy?

I would guess the amount of time available is a big factor in the functioning of the police

The killing of George Floyd could be among the worse cases of police brutality in the US during recent times. Due to the time it took for that to happen, it's especially inexcusable. According to the news, over 8 minutes. One would think the police officer would have known what was happening.

It would be easier to understand a misplaced shooting as those situations can unfold over a matter of seconds. Choices that have to be made quickly are often not the right choices, but somewhat understandable in dangerous situations where there isn't time to better figure out the situation.

Time makes a difference.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Some reflections on campus unrest in 1969 - 1970 year at Washington State University in light of Spring 2020 protests nationwide.

News of the riots brings back memories of the late 1969 - 70 era. I was growing up in Pullman, WA. A freshman in high school. Pullman isn't a big city, but it wasn't exempt from violence; property damage that is. Pullman is a college town.

My most dramatic memory was when the football stadium was set on fire. Arson is pretty easy to do; especially when the target is an old wooden structure. The grandstands were made out of wood. A fire ravaged the south grandstands and to this day no one knows who set the fire or what the motive was; from what I understand. It may have had nothing to do with the protests.

While things like this are disturbing, they are also a bit exciting. I remember watching till around 1 AM. Lots of people were watching. My parents at first, but they eventually went back home.

Interesting to note that my parents didn't seem worried about me out there by myself. This must have been before the current era of "helicopter parents."

Eventually, I got back home okay. The house was unlocked most of the time. There was crime, but maybe less worry? Looking back, there is the thought of innocence, but that's probably somewhat of a myth. Today, there's quite a bit of fear and suspicion.

Quite a bit of other violence affected Pullman that year. To protest the condition of farm workers, some folks took baseball bats to the wine sections in two supermarkets in Pullman. Dismore's and Rosaeur's.

They smashed wine bottles all over the place. I just heard about this in the news, but whenever I pass the wine section in a supermarket, that memory still comes up.

That thought also comes up at a few "wine and cheese parties;" tho I haven't been to many of those kind of parties. On another morning, I remember being greeted by my mom at the breakfast table with phrase, "bricks through the bookstore windows." Apparently that news had just been on the radio. Someone decided to throw bricks through the plate glass windows of the Student Bookstore on campus.

Pullman had a lot of teach ins and protests back then. Anti Vietnam War rallies, protests against racism, the farm workers union starting and so forth. Most rallies were non violent, but there was the violence also.

One of the outcomes of that era has been tighter security. More locked doors. There is a wider gap between the halves and the have not's than before. Those with the most power usually prevail when violence becomes the means of expression.

I still think there are better and more creative ways to rebel against the social order. The gay movement has made lots of progress and it's mostly non violent, tho admittedly there was the Stonewall Riots and a few other things. The White Night Riots after the Dan White verdict; for instance.

Rebellion can mean folks wanting change become their own enemies. Internal strife. Then the divide and conquer strategy sets in. There are so many contradictory goals. The need for people; women for instance, to feel safe versus folks wishing to express themselves with little in the way of boundaries. There's the interests of small businesses. Lots of different situations.

Thinking about racism, it's interesting to note that quite a few people are trying to defend single family zoning. Yuppies that don't want less fortunate people in their neighborhoods? Sometimes neighbors can be "trouble;" admittedly. Recently, there has been quite a bit of talk about the racial history of zoning in the late 1940's and 1950's. Similar patterns today as reinforced by income.

There is sure a lot to think about. I can go on and on, but I could be rambling.

I hope people can find creative ways to disrupt oppressive things, but violence usually leads to more repression

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Government spending: a better way to stimulate the economy than encouraging private borrowing.

A big problem in the economy is too much debt. Easy credit encourages people to do things like buy more expensive houses. Encourages businesses to do things like buy each other out. This drives up the cost of these things.

Then the monthly payments are so high that there is little left for a rainy day. Little left for discretionary spending. People living check to check with debt payments and rents taking up most of income. Then the virus comes and there's no cushion.

Low interest rates have encouraged people and businesses to spend and increase their debt. This has led to a huge debt overhead which eventually puts a damper on things due to the burden of paying back the debt. Increased property values and the rents to sustain them has become a burden. It makes us less resilient to things like the virus shutdown as the debts, rents and mortgages continue. We don't have enough flexibility and cushion.

I think most of the reason why they have had to print so much money, over recent years, is to keep the federal government solvent. Republicans have cut taxes, but they can't really cut spending. They keep increasing spending on the military.

Republicans tend to want to cut domestic spending, but that isn't easy to do as people's lives depend on expensive domestic programs; such as Medicare. It's easier to cut taxes than to cut spending.

Without "pay as you go" tax revenue, it's easier to just add to the federal debt. Eventually the debt gets so big that printing new money is the easiest way to sustain it.

The other reason why money gets printed is to stimulate the economy with low interest rates for job creation. Some of this isn't necessarily bad. As the economy expands, more money is needed.

One problem is that Republicans tend to favor low interest rates for private market solutions, instead of government spending, to stimulate the economy.

I don't mean to just pick on Republicans, but they do tend to favor private market solutions. This means stimulation via low interest rates encouraging business to expand rather than stimulus from government spending.

Individuals and business accumulate crushing debt burdens if credit becomes too easy. In the long run, this crushing overhead can sink the economy; unless we print more money for bailouts.

Now days, there is even talk of a debt jubilee.

The government, itself, seems to be able to get by with going into debt more easily. Maybe because it can print money. The consequence of printed money is more indirect. Rather than immediate default, the consequence of printing money is long term inflation. It's inflation caused by more money chasing the same number of goods and services. This benefits some folks, like a lot of property owners as the value of their property goes up.

I would guess a better way to stimulate the economy, with new money, is through government spending, rather than encouraging private debt.

I may sound a bit socialist. I do think private enterprise can be more innovative than government. Private enterprise can accomplish things; like solar power, but the marketplace, doesn't necessarily do this on its own. The marketplace needs a boost from government spending. Government as a consumer of private enterprise.

This has worked well for the relationship between NASA and Space X; for instance. Private innovation for space launch, but lucrative government contracts, to supply the International Space Station, as a customer. This has helped Space X get started.

Without some direction from government, the private sector can flounder. The private market, by itself, isn't likely to develop things like solar energy; that is until the price of solar comes down lower than fossil fuel energy. Things like solar energy need a boost from government to get the ball rolling.

One can say that private enterprise as a way to organize a workplace works well much of the time. Often better than government bureaucracy. It's the private marketplace that's more the problem. The market doesn't always favor the things we need; especially when taking the environment into account. It tends to favor our impulse buying over our long term needs.

To a large extent, private business needs government as a responsible consumer.

Friday, May 22, 2020

During the virus scare, could the WNBR bike rides go online also, like so many other things have done? Oh, it's already there, in a way.

For years, there have been lots of pictures from these events online. More popular than even the rides themselves. The pictures are there 24/7 year round while the rides happen in each location usually only once per year.

Could folks use these popular pictures to expose the messages? Get the messages to more audience? Pictures more popular than blog essays.

Pictures don't have to be totally nude, but a lot of the photos of WNBR riders, that are on the net, are.

Here's an old picture of me that someone took in 1994 after I got back from a bike tour.

See a longer essay here and more pictures of many kinds.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Hydroxychloroquine; like a folk remedy and a pretty dangerous one at that.

Trump has taken hydroxy ... (I can't pronounce it; forget it). Years ago, Nancy Reagan was consulting an astrologer.

As for myself, my main health advice is pretty simple. Things like exercise, good diets, plenty of rest, reduce stress and enjoy life. Those things plus a regular doctor's recommendations; like prescriptions, dental work, or whatever.

My health advise relates more to lifestyle than something to consume. Nothing in pill form. Nothing, really, for sale. Healthy living usually boosts the immune system.

Oh, yes, I do take a multiple vitamin and maybe some vitamin C, mostly because the orange flavored pills taste good. I try not to take too much. I don't know how important a vitamin pill is as long as I get my fruits and vegetables.

As for special remedies, like that hyd (whatever). It's nice to know that lots of potential treatments are in the pipeline being thought about and tested. Some things might be beneficial, others are found to be more harm than good. Combinations of these things are being looked at. It's nice to know the science is being done, but I just think of things like this in terms of future hopes. The science is not really ready.

I wouldn't try any of these things now, unless, maybe I was desperate. Unless maybe I was in the hospital and some doctor said, "let's give this a try."

Some people have gone to Mexico and other spots for treatments not yet available through the long approval process in USA. In recent years they've loosened up a few regulations with the Right To Try Act. That, only as a last resort.

More likely, people go abroad for medical care to avoid the high cost of care in USA. Medical tourism, but that's a different story.

Monday, May 18, 2020

I still have a big container of Mount Saint Helen's ash some 40 years later.

Photo of the ash I still have in 2020. Yes, it still can get on everything.

I was living in Bellingham, WA. so I missed most of it. The wind wasn't blowing ash this way.

My sisters were living in Pullman, WA. which got ash fall. I ask Judith to scoop up some and save it for me. I still have it today.

Scroll down and see photo captions for more of my experiences related to Mount Saint Helens eruption.

In 1980, I was self publishing a little magazine of my own opinions, before using the internet. My June issue was to be about gay rights, but Mount St. Helens had just happened, so I combined the two hot topics. I have the front page in my Flickr display. The inside pages are still in my closet, so to speak; in a file box. One can enlarge here.

6 years after the eruption, I was getting more into long distance bike touring. On one of my trips, I visited Windy Ridge area near Mount St. Helens where there was lots of timber blow down. 1986.

St. Helens lurking in the distance as seen from top of Windy Ridge, 1986.

In 1994, I was doing another bike trip on road up from the west side of mountain. The road to Johnston Ridge.

St. Helens from Johnston Ridge, 1994.

Mud flows on my way up to Johnston Ridge, 1994.

An A frame cabin buried in mud on way up to Johnston Ridge, 1994.

From inside lodge at Johnston Ridge 1994. Met someone who said I reminded him of Forest Gump. I'd never heard of Forest Gump since I'm not much of a movie person, but I did watch a documentary about St. Helens at another visitor's center near the I-5 exit.

Some of the amazing bridges on the way to Johnston Ridge. When bicycling, one can notice. They built this highway into the area after the eruption. Photo from 1994.

Another bridge on the way to Johnston Ridge, 1994.

The photos and a few more on my Flickr tag.

Big box stores might have an advantage here; social distancing.

During this time, a lot of people with homes and yards are escaping boredom by using this time for projects around the house. Makes sense.

Given that, there is quite a bit of discussion, on Facebook, about the safety situation at different hardware stores around Bellingham.

One of the local mom and pop stores, called Hardware Sales, has been loved for many years by local residents. A non chain, unique kind of place. Now it's being criticized for not seeming as safe as some of the big corporate box stores around town. Narrow aisles and so forth.

Maybe they could do more, like requiring masks, or something. I wouldn't know, I haven't been to a hardware store since this situation started.

Does seem like big stores, like Lowe's and Home Depot, have an advantage here as they have larger buildings for wider aisles and spacing. Maybe corporations aren't so bad?

Of course who would have guessed, only a few months ago, that this would even be a consideration.

I'd also say that Hardware sales has several out buildings selling larger items; like furniture. The whole store isn't just the main building. Maybe more spacing there? I wouldn't know. People often say, "you can find anything you want at Hardware Sales." One bolt if you want, it doesn't have to come in a package. Local character.

Another small store that doesn't come up in the discussion is Ace True Value at Sehome Village. Maybe corporate, but smaller than Hardware Sales or Lowe's. Wider aisles, I think. Haven't thought to measure them recently. Ace is under the radar in these discussions, so far.

Some folks are saying people shouldn't be using hardware stores or doing unnecessary things. Personally, since I live in an apartment, I don't have much place for housework so I haven't been to a hardware store since the stay at home edicts came down.

Maybe I'm just writing about this discussion to alleviate some of my own boredom.

Being out around town on my bicycle with no shopping destinations in mind has been a great way to curb cabin fever.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Divide and conquer?

Is it possible that the person who is accusing Joe Biden of sexual misconduct is secretly working for the Trump campaign, or at least a Trump supporter not necessarily connected to the campaign itself? It's just an idea.

Disgruntled Sander's support gets much of the blame, which is a more common theory, but who knows. There could be secret payoffs or at least manipulation coming from some Trump supporters. How about from Russia? Yet another idea.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Why no inflation with printed money? My hypothesis.

Seems like our federal government is now being largely financed by printed money. Not borrowed money, I guess. For years, not enough taxpayer money and too much spending for "pay as you go." Now due to the virus this situation is even more pronounced.

A hazard from printed money is inflation, but some economists wonder, "where is the inflation?"

I recently saw a comment, on Facebook, that seems to answer that question succinctly. "Deflation is cancelling out inflation." Brilliant.

Some things go way up in price while other things don't go up, or even go down in price due to cheap imports, technology or economic downturns. This catches people and business; especially small business; in a bind. How does one pay rising rent when the cost of the widgets one is selling goes down?

The trade situation weighs into this as well. When there is monetary restraint, meaning the printing of less money, the dollar remains stronger. This means our domestic market gets flooded with cheaper widgets from overseas.

It also means foreign money flows into the US as a "safe haven" for investors. This pushes up the cost of things like real estate, thus increasing the cost of living and doing business in the US.

On the other hand, if we print money and devalue the dollar, our products become cheaper on world markets thus helping American business and workers sell products to the world market. It can make products more expensive for American consumers.

Often workers are consumers as well. We do often want the best of both worlds.

Being caught between cheap products and expensive things like healthcare costs, education costs and land values can hurt; especially if you make your living manufacturing and selling products. It's like doing the splits. It's the splits that hurts.

If there's too much inflation so inflation gets totally out of control, that would hurt also, eventually. That doesn't seem to be a problem in the foreseeable future, tho.

Farther down the road and theoretically, yes. Out of control inflation can be a big problem.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Politicians may need to take time to get a consent form filled out before kissing any babies along the campaign trail

Years ago, it was said that one had to kiss a lot of babies along the campaign trail to get elected. Now days, any kind of touching needs the establishment of consent; maybe even a signed waver. There just isn't time for that quality of communication when working a long line of constituents. Joe Biden and others have commented that it's a different world now.

Most recently, even showing up at all in person is hazardous due to the virus. Most of the campaigning has to be done on the computer and through the media. Physical contact is hazardous. The eras keep changing. This too may pass, but it's the situation today.

In some ways, the loss of spontaneity can be mourned, but I've always been a bit odd, myself, pushing intellectual conversation and deep thinking into my social encounters. My style has gone over like a lead balloon in bars where people aren't always in the mood to analyse everything.

Where are the boundaries? How do you feel about being touched?

Over the years, I have been into deep conversation and missed out on some spontaneous encounters and the touching that goes with it. Spontaneity that often comes with alcohol. Not liking the flavor of beer has kept me out of so many of these situations.

I seem to function well without much touching in my life. I also agree with some of the feminist critique of male behavior given the power imbalance at so forth. I happen to be gay, myself, which is yet another dynamic.

That being said, it does seem like the Me Too movement can go too far and bring about a colder world. As with so many things, there is always a need for balance.

Looking deeper than just Me Too, there does need to be better communication in so many encounters. Lots of talking is not a bad idea.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Planet of the humans was misleading about green technology, but I agree that population growth is like the elephant in the room

I disagree with most of Michael Moore's latest film, Planet of the Humans. Green technology is much better than depicted in that misleading film. Still, green technology, alone, may still not be enough to stave off global warming. That's one point made in the film which I agree with.

For instance overpopulation is a problem. No, I don't think we need to promote a mass die off of the human race to address global warming. World population is still growing and we still need to accommodate the growing population. The growth rate is slowing. I would like to see it slow down more significantly to at least zero population growth; steady state. It's not there yet, but it is slowing.

I usually discuss over population as a part of a criticism of anti gay and anti women's rights policies that still exist in much of the third world. Also there's still conservative attitudes about sexuality in parts of the west. It doesn't make sense to prosecute people for not being into total heterosexuality.

I also wouldn't give third world countries a total pass for low consumption because so many people in the third world aspire to consume more. To live more like USA; driving cars and so forth. Economic growth in China over the past few decades; for instance.

Much of the third world is rising out of poverty. This isn't necessarily bad, but looking forward, growing population also means growing consumption as living standards rise.

I do think we can raise living standards with green energy.

While I favor zero population growth, I also realize that there are economic adjustments that need to be made as this usually leads to a higher percentage of the population being senior citizens. Children are the future generations who pay into things like Social Security. Adjustments have to be made, automation, later retirement, different distribution of wealth and so forth.

In the meantime, world population is still growing which means some of that growth still aspires to come to the United States and other western countries. This can help us bolster the number of people paying into Social Security; especially if we do more to legalize these mostly hard working immigrants.

I tend to be fairly liberal on immigration issues, but I also recognize the consequences of population growth. Larger cities, more people, more traffic, a harder time achieving goals for reducing carbon emissions. As population continues to expand, it creates pressure for economic growth.

I also notice that a lot of folks, including some people who are liberal on immigration issues, still don't want to see smaller communities, like Bellingham, WA. grow into big cities. Bellingham is growing and currently facing a housing shortage. Much of our growth is related to our popularity as a retirement destination.

Here is where good planning for density is important. Planning for transit, bike paths, parks, high rises and so forth. Trying to curb sprawl. For instance, we need to think about space wasted in parking lots that are empty much of the time.

Monday, May 11, 2020

My review of Michael Moore's film Planet of the Humans.

Last night I watched Michael Moore's new and controversial film, Planet of the Humans. It's quite critical of green energy saying that it's either been co opted by capitalism, or it's not enough and not that effective. The big problem is still overpopulation, over consumption and capitalism, according to the film. I agree, but it does seem like a very pessimistic film.

It seems like this film is too hard on green energy. I am much more optimistic about green technology, electric cars, batteries, solar, wind and whatever; even though I don't drive a car myself.

I'm not normally a movie person either. This was the first Moore film I watched, tho he has covered quite a few important topics. It does seem like Hollywood sensationalizes and often leads to an outcome that encourages people into yelling matches instead of thoughtful inquiry. I'm more of a science person than an entertainment and Hollywood person. There was, supposedly, quite a bit of science in this film, however. Lots of interviews. Discussion about the intermittent problems with things like solar; for instance the rainstorm scene.

Also, it didn't mention city planning as a way to address global warming. I think green technology can really help along with the bigger cultural changes we need; like reducing population growth, but the way we plan our living arrangements can make a big difference as well. Less sprawl, more walk-able neighborhoods smarter density and so forth. That wasn't mentioned in the film at all.

Lots of very good rebuttals and other videos on my Facebook wall in response. Scroll down or search if you are on Facebook You don't have to be in my friends list to find it if you are logged in.

One of the responses it a link to my own brother's blog about his electric powered car and the solar panels on his house. His blog is called Driving on Sunlight. Here's the link to some answers to concerns people have about electric cars. Electric car FAQ.

Yes, I think the film misrepresented the potential of green technology. I'm still a fan of green technology.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The concept of original sin and forgiveness could help Joe Biden

Given the problems that Joe Biden is having over the possibility of touching, I got to thinking about this. Maybe the concept of original sin and forgiveness is a useful system. Useful for keeping political movements from turning into circular firing squads. It works pretty well for keeping Donald Trump and his supporters together. The liberal side of politics may need to borrow this system, to some extent.

If one doesn't like the loaded word sin, one can say something else. One can say "no one is perfect." This concept is useful at bringing some humbleness to the discussion and it helps to curb the ego. We are, basically, an animal species. Our emotions don't always fit our best intentions. Social expectations change over time as well. The other side of that system is forgiveness. Forgiveness from sin, or past transgressions.

It's a system that allows Donald Trump to survive with much of the support of his followers intact. I think many of them don't think he's the ideal person, but they can forgive him.

This system does have it's drawbacks, however. There's less accountability given this system. One can pretty much do anything; maybe even shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and then still be forgiven (that's a bit extreme, but the idea still holds).

I think the concept of original sin and forgiveness has some merit, but it can be taken too far. It seems to work for conservatives. Liberals need something similar.

The word sin is a loaded word. It could be replaced with just simple humility or the realization that no one is perfect. Forgiveness is usually a virtue, but there's always need for balance. Accountability shouldn't be discarded either.

Whether there is a deity or not is another topic. The concept of original sin and forgiveness could have been invented over the centuries by humans, but it seems to work well at reducing the internal strife in social movements. Just about everyone has their skeletons in the closet.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

After restaurants reopen, it might be time to try out the less crowded businesses.

I'm no epidemiologist, but I fear that the infection rate may go up as businesses reopen. Things will have to start opening anyway since staying closed till we get a vaccine is improbable. Hopefully safe practices and better testing can help, but they may just have to reopen things anyway.

When restaurants start to reopen, it may be time for people to discover less popular places. Before the pandemic, I noticed a lot of businesses in Bellingham were more than half empty anyway.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Abstract, like in a nutshell.

Given the likelihood of a contracting economy, there are many virtues of simple living that are being discussed. One thing I've noticed is that technological progress is not even measured in very well in GDP. As technology continues to advance, it can even distract from GDP. For instance look at the falling price of electronic technology. Look at the disruption of jobs, for instance in journalism, due to online news.

At the same time, there is still lots of pressure to grow traditional GDP. Population growth is one thing that creates that pressure given things like the housing shortage.

See next blog entry.

I'd say that even technological advance is not counted in traditional measures of GDP

Economic growth is seen as an unnecessary evil.

My thinking as related to this article about Jacinda Ardern's budget priorities in New Zealand. Emphasis on the Well-being of citizens, rather than traditional measures; like productivity and economic growth.

Lots of people talk about progress on quality of life measures, rather than traditional economic growth. This is becoming more of a common theme as time goes on.

Here's another thing I have noticed, that isn't as widely discussed. Our technological progress has become largely disconnected from our economic growth. Computers and various other things keep getting more sophisticated for less money. "Less money" means this wealth is not being measured by traditional economics. It's an aspect of the quality of life beyond just a slower pace of life. It's technological progress, but it is also missed by traditional economics.

Facebook enables some deep communication (some folks might disagree), but that engagement does not pay one's rent. The web offers lots of opportunities today. Volunteer opportunities, learning and so forth. Opportunities that can be defined as progress, but not often measured as economic growth.

Technology can often mean that making a living becomes more difficult. For instance the disruption in journalism created by media going online.

Another place where technology; the ease of shipping; makes it harder to make a living is in globalization. This can push down wages in more developed economies while, at the same time, being a blessing to consumers. Consumers often benefit while workers suffer. These are often the same people. The same people wearing two different hats as the consumer and worker.

While technology can add to quality of life in ways that aren't often measured in GDP, there still remains a lot of pressure to raise GDP. Pressure to continue the old models of growth.

Part of this pressure relates to the fact that much of the world's population keeps growing. It has also been rising out of poverty. The reduction in percentage of people living in poverty is a massive shift in recent times that we can pat our global selves on the back for. More folks have risen out of poverty, during the past few decades, than at any other time in history.

Added to this is the fact that world population keeps growing. Some of that growth continues to come to the US adding to our pressure for growth; the housing shortage for instance.

Here in the west, the concept of growth appears less necessary. Much of it just seems to be about keeping up with rising prices. Rising housing prices; for instance. There's also the perceived need of "keeping up with the Jones'".

Another pressure comes from the growing wealth gap. While wealth increases for just about everyone, the gap between upper and lower incomes is getting much wider. This pushes up the cost of living, for instance paying the higher cost of a doctor due to the doctor's greater wealth, compared to the average population. Same for costs created by corporate executives.

There is still way too much need to advance wages and GDP.

Interesting analogy, in article, about the act of chewing one's food. Chewing is work in order to bring about the satisfaction of the food. Often, the economy focuses on the chewing as an end in itself versus the outcome. I'm reminded of work for the sake of work; like "do we need that extra shopping center just to create jobs?" "Do we really need those products?" "Do we really need another strip mall?"

I think there is a human need to make progress. Not to go back to a less technological time. Progress can still be made. Still made at an even dizzying pace, but traditional economic growth is less necessary. Traditional economic growth seems to be more disconnected from actual human progress when progress is measured in broader terms.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Leaner and meaner, a popular phrase in the 1980's could mean letting more people die, these days, from COVID-19

California Official Says Society Should Allow The Coronavirus To Kill The Elderly, Sick, and Homeless So We Can Emerge Stronger.

The chairman of Antioch’s planning commission Ken Turnage II is under fire for an April 23 Facebook post promoting the ‘survival of the fittest.' From The Mind Shield.

Here in my blog, I say that these ideas are out there. Survival of the fittest.

He's called a "California official" in the article, but he's basically just one citizen who happens to be on the planning commission in a small city. People do have freedom of speech. Everything said by anyone, including "public officials," should be taken with a grain of salt. Important conversations are happening.

This is a stark expression of the idea of streamlining society; so to speak. I've also heard the phrase "leaner and meaner." While it can be shocking to contemplate, there is a lot of soul searching and discussion going on, these days, about the inherent worth of all people in society.

Seems like we often make these choices unintentionally in the type of society we create. People die because of traffic accidents; the type of transportation that's promoted. People also die due to poverty, lack of health insurance, homelessness, war, overwork and so forth. The virus may be worse than all of these, but it's the same discussion.

I am glad to see strong attempts being made to protect vulnerable people, these days. It is costly, but a lot of people, I know, would be considered vulnerable. Myself included as I am just past the age of 65. I tend to think of myself as quite healthy, but I've also heard the phrase, "there by the grace of God go I."

People are often treasures in other ways besides economic value or physical endurance. There's a lot of interesting life stories and experiences out there. It's like a heritage.

I think it is a sign of progress that society is trying to error on the side of protection. Times were harsher, in centuries past, before as many safety rules. When there was less we could do to prevent disease.

It will be hard to predict what will happen in the long run. What damage may be done by economic carnage and things like the effects of stay at home orders on mental health and domestic violence.

These discussions are important to have.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Anger is often a destructive emotion

Seems like anger tends to destroy social movements for a better world. People see anger as a motivator, but it also tends to cause the folks opposing an oppressor to fight among themselves. It can feed into the process of "divide and conquer."

Friday, May 01, 2020

Seems like just about everyone is tainted these days. Joe Biden is not alone.

More news today about allegations of sexual misconduct by Joe Biden.

Seems like the potential for allegations is a likely scenario for possibly the majority of people; given that humans are a somewhat aggressive animal. Good communication is usually not the norm in spontaneous, not always carefully thought out situations.

Could this mean another 4 years of the Donald Trump Presidency? Is Trump, who also faces allegations, less vulnerable because his support base is less concerned about these kind of things?

Is it possible that Biden would step aside, thus opening up the Democratic Party's nomination process again?

Could we ever have a candidate that isn't tainted in some way?

Looking back, there must be a lot of skeletons in people's closets. Drinking parties, or whatever. Norms keep evolving, going forward.

I do think there are a lot of problems with human emotions. Emotions are not always rational. I think anger is about the worst emotion out there, but anger often gets a pass.

On the other hand, a totally rational world seems problematic in other ways.

Bridging that gap between rationality and emotion, I think rational communication is important. Thoughtful communication is often shunned in various situations; given time constraints, the mood or whatever.

Personally, I don't have much desire for touch. Touch can be a minefield. I feel fortunate that way, tho I am not totally exempt from the discussion. I do like looking at guys.

There are, or course, terrible behaviors that need to be prosecuted, but with so many things that are in the shades of grey, we also need to give ourselves some forgiveness for being human. Otherwise we may never be able to work together enough to build a better society.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Our president. Just asking questions about disinfectants, potential remedies. Grasping at straws hoping to restart a dangerous economy.

Trump is now really getting flack for those questions about use of ultraviolet light and disinfectants in the body. dangerous things to try, of course.

Still, it seems like he was just asking questions. I guess there are stupid questions tho I have sometimes heard the phrase, "there are no stupid questions."

Seems like he is looking for signs of hope which is often described by another phrase, "grasping at straws." Hope that the economy can get rolling again pretty soon. In reality, the economy may need to remain in a slower condition for quite some time. A difficult pill to swallow for many people; speaking of swallowing something.

It's amazing that people would jump to a conclusion and do something like ingest something deemed poisonous, or semi poisonous just on far fetched speculation. I guess that's a common problem in a society of over 320 million. There's bound to be someone, or unfortunately many, out of that large number of people who will try something. Another phrase comes to mind, "there's a fool born every minute."

Yes, warnings do need to come out about these things. In this news clip, the commentator actually apologized for insulting people's intelligence stating what he felt was the obvious, but the warning does need to be given.

Also in that now famous discussion by the president; some evidence being discussed, by scientists at the meeting, that ultraviolet light from the sun might kill the virus rather quickly. The president is thinking that summer may provide hope; like summer usually ends the flu season. Who knows for sure about any seasonal variation with the spread of this virus, however. Seems like there still could be problems related to being in indoor spaces whether summer or winter.

Ultraviolet light and cleaners do have benefits, even in indoor environments, but outside the body. Reduces spread of disease outside the body, but ultraviolet light is harmful to the body. There's the need for protection such as sunscreen.

I think about some of that information in terms of being outside, however. One of the problems we face is that much of our normal economy is based on being in indoor spaces; people in offices, crowded businesses, factories bars, stadiums, aircraft and so forth. Indoor places where diseases spread.

There is more space, outdoors, so it makes the social distancing easier to accomplish. There's outdoor breezes that can disperse droplets more easily. There could be the added benefits of, maybe, less worry about common surfaces, for instance, door handles that have been exposed to direct, outdoor sunlight. For ultraviolet light, it does need to be outdoors. Sun shining through glass significantly reduces the ultraviolet. Another benefit of spending time outdoors can be exercise, of course.

I'll admit this thinking relates to my own "confirmation bias;" given the amount of time I like to spend on my bicycle and walking.

Voluntary simplicity, not necessarily antagonistic toward the establishment

I tend to be a critic of mainstream society and I lean a bit to the left, but I understand (or at least I think I understand) why business, corporations and the government operate the way they do. Why mainstream society that is thought of as the "establishment" is the way it is. A lot of it is the numbers, issues like economy of scale (we studied that in economic geography) and the way people, in our culture at least, tend to behave in a mass market.

The way the establishment runs could be better, but I tend to focus on how we can radically, in some ways, change culture and our personal lives. I'm a fan of less wealth oriented lifestyles, but at the same time I don't necessarily see prosperity as evil. I also am a fan of advancing technology.

Tho I don't see prosperity as evil, I do see much of it as unsustainable. Unsustainable given our environment and especially our current fossil fuel based technologies.

Prosperity can also be unsustainable given our health and our ability to keep up with the rat race. The natural human body. A life less based on traditional measures of prosperity can offer joys that most people seem to overlook. Slowing down has much virtue. Slowing down doesn't necessarily mean giving up on modernity, tho. Not necessarily giving up on technology. I find there is a big disconnect between advancing technology and wealth. Technology, such as often is the case on the internet, can be very disruptive of wealth.

While I tend to blame people for most of our problems, I realize that there is a need to control the power of business; especially large corporations.

Our problems are often the result of a vicious cycle between people's market behavior shaping business decisions while business shapes human behavior. There's the power of advertising, media and laws that are often in favor of the status quo. What could be called crony capitalism.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Something that transcends traditional left right divide

As our country, the USA, seems to be taking up it's traditional battle lines between left and right over how quickly to reopen things, I find it useful to look at situations which cross that divide; such as in Sweden. Sweden, often considered a model of left leaning economics is doing a strategy that is more like the open earlier philosophy that's associated more with the right wing, here in USA. Different from Sweden's other Nordic neighbors.

Who knows what the best strategy is as much of the science is still being found out. The science is evolving; especially when one takes into account what the best long term strategy is, for instance what are the results several years from now. The science becomes more complex when including not just deaths from this virus, but also the consequences of other things in society, such as increased poverty and domestic violence from cabin fever.

On the other hand, maybe society will be better due to a more shut down strategy. We may be learning to develop a society that is less fixated on money and / or being in crowds. That could be a long term argument for putting parts of the economy on hold.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Some feelings about dancing in front of the computer on Zoom; distancing innovations during the virus scare.

Last Saturday I went dancing. Virtual dancing using Zoom, but I also experienced the limits of this experience. I found myself missing the real world dance floors I've experienced; such as at Bellingham's Rumors Cabaret in recent years before the corona virus shutdown.

There is a difference between looking at a screen and being immersed in the experience. In real dancing, the people, lights, music and so forth is all around. Online, it's contained in a screen. As technology evolves, more immersive online experiences can happen.

Having said that, it was a good experience. Folks dancing in front of their webcams. I was dancing also, but felt a bit funny doing it in my small apartment. I did work up a sweat which is good; like aerobics online.

The Faeries have some other things on Zoom; such as a talent show and personal sharing in events called "Heart Circles."

How they choreograph the dances is by placing the images from each webcam up on the feed as the main image. These images would change frequently. I was "on" for a few brief periods.

I kept looking out the window at the sunny day outside, tho. I thought, maybe I'd rather be biking somewhere? Biking is an immersive, all around, off the screen experience. One that doesn't rely on being in crowded spaces; such as dance floors.

Actually, some dance floors aren't that crowded. One can spread out in large dance studios with a small number of people relative to the space. Economics plays it's role. Can dance venues pay the overhead with smaller gatherings? Are people motivated to go to smaller dances or do they fizzle out below a certain threshold of excitement? Are some dances like trying to build a fire with wet wood?

Dancing happens in parks during summer months with outdoor music, but it looks like local park dances have been cancelled here in Bellingham for this summer. Public officials don't want to take the chance of people being too close spreading the virus.

Often, at park dances, the park is admittedly quite crowded. In the past, most of the crowd is sitting in lawn chairs listening to the music. A smaller number of people are actually dancing. If it was just the dancers, they could spread way out across the space, but people do tend to like to cluster. Maybe people should learn to dance farther apart.

I was going to say, "more spaced out," but that has a different context.

Meanwhile the cyber dance, I did Saturday, was good in it's own way. It was put together by Radical Faeries from all over the world. Maybe around 100 dancing, and 200 watching?

People can be creative in front of their cameras. Lights, background videos, folks outside in front of their Smartphones. Lovers and groups of people cuddling. Various stages of undress. Sometimes eroticism was included, rather than banished; as is so often the rule in mainstream society.

The Radical Faeries are going online more and more. This makes their events accessible in places like Bellingham that don't really have much of a faerie presence.

The Faeries have a social network that's like an alternative to Facebook. It is a membership site, but no cost for memberships.

It's not as exciting as Facebook, in some ways. Less going on. Remember, there's an economy of scale in the phenomenon called "the network effect." More people, more friends more stuff on Facebook, but the faerie site does have some good things including information about the dance party and other events. Also there's nudity on the faerie site. Something that isn't allowed on Facebook.

On Saturdays, the faeries have been doing a talent show called the "No Talent, Talent Show." It's usually live streamed on Facebook as well. Kind of wacky and fun.

While I'm at it, here's a link to the Faenet site. Faenet.org

Monday, April 20, 2020

The stimulus bill tried to do too many things at once. Two strategies are better. One to survive shutdown and the other to restart business.

I think the virus recover package was hastily cobbled together by Congress. Glad they did something, but it really needed to be two strategies for two different times.

The first strategy would be money so people and businesses can pay the rent, mortgages, overhead, whatever to stay put and not work. Also money for the front line people and businesses, like medical care and vaccine research that still need to work. Phase two would be stimulus to bolster consumption, a bit, after business is allowed to open up again (whenever that would be).

The two concepts were conflated in the bill that passed.

Depending on what epidemiologist specialists say, we may need to figure out how to put a big part of our economy on hold for a long time. This is a hardship for people and a lot of businesses; especially small businesses. We may need to print money to keep people solvent. Printing money can cause inflation, in normal circumstances, but this is uncharted territory. To keep the virus from spreading, demand needs to stay low at places like restaurants, shopping malls, airplanes and so forth. Demand normally pushes inflation. This would be uncharted territory (I guess I said that before). Money is needed to maintain lease payments, mortgages, insurance premiums, and therefore bank solvency on up the food chain; so to speak.

The type of stimulus to restart business is a different thing. It would need to be in a second bill, but who knows when that bill would be needed. As they say, "the virus sets the timetable."

Friday, April 17, 2020

Why housing costs outpace wages in a nutshell. At least in my opinion.

Interesting article came up in my Facebook feed.

Coronavirus has cost more than 100,000 people around Seattle their jobs. So why aren’t rents going down?

Here's some of my related thinking.

The disconnect between high property values and much of the rest of the economy becomes more apparent during the corona virus shut down.

I would say that the disconnect between housing costs and much of the economy is driven by several factors. A big factor is that housing has become a for of savings. A more lucrative alternative to low interest rates at banks.

Other factors drive this problem as well, but the savings bank issue is a big factor.

Population growth, in popular areas, is big also, but it can't explain the entire thing.

Bad planning around automobile dependency and low density is part of the problem as well. These factors vary from region to region.

Possibly the biggest factor is the investment problem. Housing has become too much of an investment vehicle. It's become an alternative to low interest at banks. This relates, to some extent (I think), to the printing of money which has propped up low interest rates over recent years.

The inflation one expects from printed money hasn't shown up across the whole economy. Much of the economy remains based on cheap goods and services and the low wages these activities pay. The Walmart style economy. Much of the economy experiences pressure to keep prices and wages low. Pressure that comes from automation, globalization and other efficiencies. Think of all the low cost and free things available on the internet, for instance.

Inflation has shown up in housing costs. Costs at least in popular areas, like Seattle and to some extent here in Bellingham. It's also shown up in things like executive salaries and the high costs of education and healthcare associated with these salaries.

It's shown up in what economists call "asset bubbles." The stock market experiences asset bubble economics where the bubbles, sometimes burst. People, in general, tend to be wary of stocks so they invest in real estate instead.

Real estate has become the investment vehicle for the average American. Stocks are part of the investment picture, also, in terms of a portion of people's retirement plans, but most investment in stocks is highly skewed toward high income investors. Housing has become too much the investment of choice for more average people. Average as well as wealthy people.

Now some of those chickens are coming home to roost. In order to keep up with these prices, while maintaining the corona virus shutdown, our economy has had to resort to more printed money just to keep people whole. New printed money chasing after old printed money.

We now need more government spending for unemployment, aids to business, tax rebates and so forth. We probably also need more long term solutions such as expanded Section 8 housing vouchers and, of course, subsidized health insurance.

Cancelling people's health insurance is a bad idea in the middle of a pandemic. That's what happens when insurance is based on employment and people are ask not to go to work. Folks are being asked to refrain from working for the health of society. Lots of folks being ask not to work except for people in what is deemed "essential services," some others such as folks that can work from home.

Nothing is totally wrong with printed money as long as we can stay healthy and stay housed. Inflation can be a problem, but if all income classes can stay on the same page, or at least on a similar page, we can survive. If renters can stay on the same page as property owners, we can survive.

Across the board inflation isn't a problem now, but inflation is a problem if one's rent, or mortgage payments, are high while their income is low. This type of inflation has been apparent over recent years. Inflation has been in confined sectors; such as home values. Inflation is not evenly spread across all regions as well.

Folks setting economic policy often think of inflation as one figure. In reality it's a complex story of different inflation rates for different sectors. It's almost impossible to create rational policy in this environment.

Now we are just having to resort to printing more and more money just to keep people whole.

If overall inflation starts to rear it's ugly head, it isn't likely to be as bad as in past eras. This is an era when money is, basically, just a computer entry.

If a loaf of bread costs $100, in the future, someone will not need a wheel barrow full of heavy, awkward coins to purchase the loaf. It will just be a case of moving the decimal point over.

Here is a thought experiment. What if someone was to try and buy a "fixer upper" house, in Seattle, for 1 million dollars in pennies? That would truly be an inconvenient truckload. Several truckloads.

We don't really have that problem these days at least.

Myself, I am fortunate to be in subsidized housing so my rent takes my income into account.

We are now in uncharted territory.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

I'm letting our leaders a bit off the hook, but big changes are needed in economic orthodoxy in light of COVID-19

Leaders of our various societies have made quite a few mistakes in this situation with the pandemic that's unprecedented in modern history.

The authoritarian system, in China, had people afraid to sound the warning for fear it would offend higher ups. Some did try to sound an alarm, but were even persecuted. We have similar problems in our US corporations and institutions. There's pressure not to rock the boat.

On the other hand there's the concept of "crying wolf." Alarms are sounded all the time and "business as usual" doesn't stop each time. For instance, some folks are worried about health effects of 5 G cellphone technology. That isn't a worry of mine, but who knows. 20 years from now we may discover a lot of problems that aren't really detectable in today's science. We can't stop for everything, however.

There's another phrase that says, "hindsight is better than foresight." Bad choices were made in the early days of this epidemic that may have not looked as bad at the time. In hindsight these choices look bad. There needed to be more money spent on testing, hospital preparedness and so forth. For the most part, more domestic spending, but there's always worry about busting the budget. Worry about needlessly burdening the taxpayers.

This virus is kind of like the "straw that broke the camel's back;" to bring up another old phrase. It exposed faults in our society and our economy. For instance people having to work so hard to pay inflated rents that they weren't likely to take sick leave. Coming to work slightly ill looks worse today than it did just a few months ago.

We have situations like large numbers of folks who loose their health insurance as soon as they have to cut back on working. A very bad system given this epidemic; employer based health insurance.

We have a society that has trouble taking a break, but now it's learning it must take a break. Most of society has had to slow down to slow the spread of the virus.

Lots of things that normally pay the bills have had to stop temporarily. Big time sports and theater productions, frequent world travel, crowded bars, restaurants and so forth.

Rents are still due and high property values are still needing to be maintained, somehow. That's where a lot of the stimulus checks will go. Money from the government to allow people, and businesses, to tread water, so to speak. Money to hold onto our homes, leases, retirement plans and so forth. Money that's largely printed from thin air, I guess, but money has been printed before.

Ever wonder why fixer upper houses, in cities, like Vancouver, BC, have sold for over one million dollars? Ever wonder how we could afford all those wars and tax cuts at the same time? It must be printed money.

Now we need printed money just to hold our places in the economy. To hold tight. To hang onto our homes, businesses and dreams till the economy can pick up again.

We are having to learn a new form of economics. Something far from past orthodoxies. There are also other challenges, such as climate change, that require us to part with much of our orthodox beliefs in economics as well as other areas of life.

Hopefully adversity becomes the mother of innovation.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The virus adds new meaning to the phrase, "shop till you drop." That's why so many businesses are asked to close.

This whole virus situation adds a new twist to the phrase, "shop till you drop."

It's been about 5 days since I've been to a grocery store. My kitchen supply is holding out okay. Trips to the store can be less frequent.

Compassion over the almighty dollar

Quite a few of my friends are what would be classified as vulnerable. People with various health conditions. So far, I am not aware of anyone, I know, who has died. It seems like society's attempts to protect the vulnerable from this virus has been working; to some extent at least.

It's like the economy stepping on the brakes to let a slower person cross the street.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

The dance of avoidance or connection. Cute guys at the supermarket.

I've been doing fairly good reducing my trips to the store. Frozen vegetables are a great alternative to salad bars. A stash of these can last quite a while in the freezer. I just parcel out a serving each day heating it up in the microwave with a bit of salt, water and butter.

My weakest link is fresh milk. I go through close to a gallon in two days. Yes, I do drink lots of milk; now made with sugar free baking chocolate and just a dab of brown sugar; it's heavenly. People have suggested I stretch my milk supply with dried milk. Interesting to note that my dad had a big part in the development of powdered milk.

I do think cutting my fresh milk with powdered milk is a good idea, but, so far, I have had trouble finding powdered milk where I shop. Looking for powdered milk means lingering longer at the store. I must admit that long aisles of products can make my head spin. The aisle with all those tiny bottles filled with naturopathic supplements is scary.

One of the dance studios, I have gone to, talks about the dance of the supermarket. These days, it's the dance of avoidance. That dance studio is now doing it's dance practice online; or at least trying to recreate the experience of dance online. All this stuff always gets me to thinking. In the supermarkets of today, it is the dance of avoidance. Before the virus, I'd even alter my path to a different aisle just to walk past some cute guy in the next aisle over; like taking the scenic route to that pragmatic need for a product.

This kind of "dance" can still happen, even now, as it is easily done maintaining even 15 feet of separation. In today's grocery stores, most people just look like masked bandits so I'm more apt to do the dance of avoidance than connection. I still say hi, when seeing folks I know. Also I see little point in being anxiety prone when people quickly pass closer than a 6 to 10 foot radius of me. This sometimes happens on narrow, lonely trails in the woods as well, but I doubt that's a problem in quick passing. Sometimes I do hold my breath passing folks on the trail in a park, but I also let out enough breath to say, hi. If longer conversation happens, we can stand back even 20 feet as there's usually lots of distance along a trail. The few stores I have shopped at have been okay. Not real crowded. I haven't been to the big stores that can often be magnets for the big crowds. I have just been to some medium sized places.

As for the dance on city streets, I'm usually on my bicycle. The bicycle is a god send for relieving cabin fever while still maintaining distance from other folks.

Recently, I've noticed, here in Bellingham at least, that that traffic is much more careful than normal. Cars and people are maintaining distance better around me on my bike. The virtues of not being in a hurry.

Someone suggested I buy more than one gallon of milk at a time. Duh. I bought two gallons last trip to the store. That should last me the greater part of a week.


Earlier I wrote.

I'm learning to eat at home more. I used to use restaurants, delis and salad bars each day. Cooking is still not my forte. I only know how to make macaroni & cheese out of the box, but I can toss in lots of vegetables, tomato sauce and so forth. I can put things in the microwave. Cook a frozen pizza in the oven, heat up stir fry vegetables, make a peanut butter sandwich.

I'm enjoying lots of my low sugar chocolate milk mix from the blender using baker's chocolate and a dab of brown sugar. Just a dab. I've always eaten lots of apples. Apple sauce is easy to store. Things like canned tuna fish are good. Bran cereal with nuts and raisins; good.

Turns out I haven't been panic buying, but I do, for the first time in my life, have a better stocked kitchen. One of my goals is to be well organized and not buy stuff that goes to waste.

More of my thinking about shopping on Flickr.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

When the doctor recommends slowing down Mr. economy, high overhead makes that difficult

After corona virus shut down, things may have to open up gradually to avoid the spread of the virus continuing to haunt us. Things may need to come back toward normal gradually and cautiously.

Maybe there will need to be new sets of rules for maximum capacity. Rules set by health departments, rather than just the existing capacity rules set by fire departments. Places trying to be less popular, so to speak, but just having a mellow flow where distancing can still be maintained.

There needs to be long term relief on overhead costs, such as rent and insurance costs, so business can survive at a slower pace. Less overhead could make society more resilient to this kind of situation where slowing down, at least temporarily, is just what the doctor ordered.

Relief even if it has to come from printed money because I think it's printed money, to a large extent that has lead to dramatic inflation of property values, rents and other overhead in the past few decades. To keep solvent, we may be in a situation of printed money to keep up with prices created by earlier printed money.

The rat race; another problem in normal society revved up by high overhead, high rents.

A somewhat slower economy could be better for human well being and the natural environment. Progress in science and other fields can still happen, but just a bit more intentionally. During the corona virus shutdown people were dragged, in some cases maybe kicking and screaming, farther into online existence. Schools moving their classes online, people shopping online, things like Zoom video conferencing getting real popular. Less commuting traffic, more work from home. History keeps moving on.

Monday, April 06, 2020

A different twist on Kurzweil's back to basics ideas only tech industry more prominent rather than less.

A while ago, I noticed a news item where the government was loosening some restrictions on the southern border realizing that many of the people who cross are the people who pick our crops. Food is something we do need. Otherwise American citizens would have to get out into the fields and pick the crops. American citizens doing that in mass is still not a likely prospect.

The whole prospect of US citizens having to go out into the fields to eat does remind me of predictions that have been made by the author Ray Kurzweil who spoke, a few years back, at Village Books here in Bellingham. Related to global warming and the possible break down of economics as we know it. Kurzweil spoke of Americans having to go back to the basics of survival. Give up our frivolity. For instance use our ports more for actual shipping of necessities rather than harbors for fancy hotels and casinos. He was even quite critical of the technology sector. He describes companies, like Google, as being mere toys that will not save us given the harsh times ahead.

I tend to be more of an optimist than that. During this pandemic crisis, internet technology is helping us in this era of face to face distancing. I doubt the foreseeable future is likely to be as stark as Kurzweil predicted, but I do think Americans, in general, could learn a bit of humbleness. Farm work, custodial work and so forth is valid work. Changes we could be making now might be good practice for some of the changes we need to make to address global warming. We need a more nimble and innovative society.

As a custodian, I have used the internet a lot listening to many a podcast. Intellectual stimulation; a good supplement for manual labor tasks. The combination can be meditative.

They've called me a digital janitor.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Everything at once stimulus bill is a bit haphazard, but it's good to be paid to not work during the virus shutdown at least.

Seems like stimulus legislation is always haphazard. People do need to be paid for not working, of course, to reduce transmission of the virus. To "flatten the curve" as they say. Much of our economy is dependent on folks congregating in so many places like churches, bars, restaurants, theaters, stadiums, shopping centers, gyms and so forth.

People in these sectors do need to be paid for not working so large parts of the economy can go into suspended animation. Folks and businesses need to be able to pay the rent and ride this out.

Other stimulus ideas are part of the stimulus package as well. Things that are designed to stimulate consumer spending once the economy gets rolling again, depending on when that happens. Who knows when. I think these stimulus things may be a bad idea now as people are being ask not to go shopping; so to speak.

After the virus scare passes, is a time for the other stimulus measures. The time for this isn't even truly known yet.

Too bad that legislatures just haphazardly throw everything into one bill and then adjourn. We may need some better strategic planning, but politics doesn't usually provide that.

Paying people not to work is good, in this situation. Something Republicans don't like to do. I do think, however, that some construction sites, factories and other things can reopen if distancing can be maintained. Also there are folks who are still working hard, like grocery store clerks and medical staff, police officers, computer operators (with all the folks on the internet) and so forth. I appreciate that.

Printed money might help make us whole again after economy takes a rest.

What's considered good for the economy is often not good for people's health. Looks like our economy is needing to learn how to be put partially on hold to protect our health. Lots of money is being lost, but money is just money. We've worshiped it like a god, but it's basically just a number system. Today, it's not heavy coins in a wheelbarrow, but just weightless numbers and decimal points on computers.

More importantly, besides our health, are the assets that we also consider part of our economy. Assets like the knowledge we gain, such as science. Assets such as our buildings, infrastructure and equipment. Things like airplanes and houses are assets. If they can be preserved, along with human lives, we haven't really lost that much.

These assets may be worth a lot less, in terms of dollars, but if maintained, the assets still exist. Stocks, real estate values and other things may drop in price, but the assets still exist. From what I hear, some airlines are mothballing planes temporarily in the deserts of southern California so, I guess, they are less likely to rust.

Dollars have disappeared as people and businesses, who are no longer working, can no longer pay the rent; so to speak. Rent and overhead has been extremely high and hard for most folks to keep up with anyway.

We could be headed for some deflation which also means lower prices for many things, but it's likely that the Federal Reserve is just printing more money so some of these dollar values can be maintained. For instance new housing construction could go bankrupt if people couldn't afford rent, but if printed money can prop up things like expanded sick leave and expanded rent subsidies, even values of assets, as measured in money, can be maintained. The stock market, for instance, could go back up in not too long of a time. I do think many of these assets were priced too high, before this virus situation, anyway. Propped up with low interest rates and printed dollars.

To some extent, keeping up with these high dollar amounts, high rents, high overheads and so forth has been stressful for workers. It's been bad for our health.

In the long run, I'd like to see economics relax, a bit. Less concern about pure money. That would be a step forward for our health and also a better mindset for tackling the long term problem of climate change.

That's my outside the box economic thought. Maybe it's not orthodoxy. I've taken few economics classes, but I do hear a lot of people starting to think more this way. Economists on NPR and so forth.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Could that malaria drug be something similar to drugs that treat AIDS in lieu of a vaccine? Maybe, maybe not.

I can sort of see why Trump holds out some hope for treatment of corona virus with a drug for malaria. I certainly didn't vote for him, tho.

The malaria drug hasn't been certified for this and may not be that good an answer, but I hope we can figure something out until, or if, a vaccine can be found.

When I think about the AIDS epidemic, it's other drugs, besides a vaccine, that has significantly reduced the death rate there. It did take a lot of time for those drugs to be demonstrated as safe and effective.

It seems odd that there is still no vaccine for AIDS. I hope corona virus is different in that way so a vaccine can be found before too long.

See my new label on Flickr somewhat related to this corona virus topic.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

We'll need to figure out how to survive putting large parts of the economy on hold to get through this corona virus pandemic

Like summer fallow fields. The ability to let things rest.

They've paid farmers for not growing crops. Looks like they will have to pay workers for not working and maybe businesses; like small businesses for not being open.

In the Palouse, there is the practice of summer fallow anyway, but not necessarily because of farm subsidies.

Farmers around Pullman, where I grew up, have a practice called Summer Fallow for their fields. Without even subsidy, this was a normal practice. I think still in use. A crop rotation. Wheat one year, then peas the next year. Then summer fallow where the field and the soil would be allowed to REST. The field being empty.

The pea crop would fertilize the soil, naturally, using legume nitrogen fixing bacteria that is naturally in the roots of peas and other legumes. The bacteria take nitrogen out of the air and turn it into nitrate fertilizer; naturally. After the pea crop is harvested, the soil is allowed to rest as the pea vines compost. I think a 3 year cycle.

I think the empty fields on steep hillsides of the Palouse area around Pullman did have an erosion problem, but they could use special plowing techniques to address this problem.

Maybe the Federal Reserve can just print the money so we can afford to go into almost suspended animation. Put parts of the economy on hold for a while to help us become more resilient to this virus.

I've been biking around remaining at least 6 feet from people. Past a large construction site for apartments to deal with Bellingham's housing shortage. At least those people are still working.

I got to thinking that a lot of developers could go bankrupt due to boom and bust. As they finally stared building, now just about everyone laid off. This is where a great expansion of things like HUD Section 8 Vouchers would help society get through this.

Trump and his team like a dear in the headlights dealing with this pandemic crisis

Trump said he had no idea his pandemic response team was disbanded.

Republican philosophy does call for trimming extra government agencies; such as pandemic response commissions. I'm not surprised this is happening at all. Reminds me of a situation, many years ago, here in Bellingham, where they thought they could save money by selling off the snow plow fleet that is rarely needed. They thought it would be cheaper to contract to the private sector on rare occasions when there is heavy snow. Soon after that decision, a big snow hit and all chaos broke out.

Trump does seem to be stumbling along. I can imagine that it would be difficult to keep track of all the things going on in such a large bureaucracy as the White House and the government. It's believable that he doesn't remember all the details. This epidemic situation seems to be blindsiding people in power. Trump's responses to the questions are telling. One can imagine themselves in this situation. Of course he did ask for it in wanting that job.

So many people put up a facade that they are in control. As Trump stumbles along asking, "did that commission get eliminated?" the facade is paper thin, if existing at all. That may be a form of transparency. Some folks are comforted by Trump's ordinary person, folksy style. I'm less critical of that then I am of the policies; such as cutting things we need like Medicaid. Then spending more on bombers. That's Republican orthodoxy.

Whenever I see pictures of Mike Pence near Trump, he almost always has a worried look on his face. This picture is case in point. Pence, quite a bit smoother than Trump. He's like a stuffed shirt executive in the establishment looking like he's hoping it all doesn't go off the rails.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Our rat race economy has pushed people to the breaking point and now Coronavirus is exposing these vulnerabilities. Health is more important than money.

Given the news, I now think we are very likely to be headed into a major recession. The virus emergency is a shock to the economy. One big worry is when will this situation end? Social distancing can slow the spread, but until a vaccine is available, one wonders if spread of the virus may just keep picking up as soon as we let our "social distancing" guard down.

There may be better science about curbing the spread of epidemics than my speculation here, but this could be a long term problem. Let's hope warmer weather can help slow the disease season; so to speak.

Health is a real important thing. Without a cure or vaccine we are reliant on our immune systems. This brings up deep questions about our economy, politics and culture. The high stress world has made us more susceptible.

I think our economy has pushed humans to the breaking point. Not only do we have things like global warming stressing the environment, but we, humans are also at the breaking point. Have folks been getting enough sleep or is working more than one job and facing long commutes getting in the way?

Income inequality, along with the constant push for increased prosperity, is taking it's toll. Do people have sick leave, for instance?

Is our economy structured in such a way so we can slow down, at least temporarily, to ride things like this out? I think not. The bills are mounting. This may force us to do some major rethinking of the economy and even our culture. There may be some long term lessons here.

Maintaining one's health is a virtue that has been a bit of a low priority in the past. Maintaining health was not as easy to do while the bills were mounting.

I wonder if life has gotten back to normal, or near normal in places like Singapore that took drastic steps to stop the spread early on? How about China and can we trust information out of China?

The health of our immune systems are (I would think) an important factor in controlling the epidemic. When a vaccine is found, that is basically a boost to our immune systems. Meanwhile we depend on healthy living and things like hand washing. If life does go back to somewhat normal, even without a vaccine, that is encouraging. Otherwise the economy is in for a long slump. A vaccine would cause the stock market to rally, but remember, they still don't have a vaccine for AIDS. This may be different.

This epidemic may push us more toward a cyber, "work from home" economy. Such an economy was predicted during the internet euphoria of the 1990's.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Bernie or Biden. Not an easy slam dunk choice.

In many ways, it's not an easy "slam dunk" decision as to whether Biden or Bernie should be the democratic nominee. One important criterion is who will be more electable in the November general election. That's not really an easy guess either.

Some people think Bernie would be able to pull in more votes from angry lower income folks who are struggling and don't like the elites. They'd vote populist.

On the other hand much of the population of this country is still pretty conservative yet possibly a bit uncomfortable with Trump's wackiness. Crossover voters. Some Republicans and independents who Biden would be better at picking up. There's the Mitt Romney "Never Trumper" people and the constituency of Christianity Today that came out for Trump's removal from office. Still fairly conservative, but not really Trump fans.

The American dream needs to be redefined

I'll vote for whoever the Democratic Party's nominee is for 2020. One problem is pretty much all major candidates, including even Bernie Sanders, are trying to bring back a vision of middle class America that may no longer be viable.

Income inequality is part of the problem, but there is a deeper problem, in my opinion. The old sense of American Dream isn't likely to come back. Growth in population and prosperity has now bumped up against environmental limits. Not just environmental regulation; as some right wingers contend. Lots of changes need to be made in the way we live, transport ourselves and so forth. We need more sustainable lifestyles, neighborhood planning and economics.

Anger against the 1%, or anger in general against anything, can be problematic. This may be an exaggeration, but think Syria. Anger often turns against everyone. Just overturning the 1% isn't going to bring back the so called American Dream for everyone.

I am for raising taxes on the wealthy, but there's a lot of changes that need to be made all up and down the income ladder.

I've been writing that traditional American Dream is, for the most part, no longer viable. In some way, I grew up in that dream, but it was also a bit different than some people's expectations. My family did live in a single family home with a yard and garden, but there were towering college dormitories practically across the street from us. If the wind was blowing a certain direction, during college toilet paper fights, our trees got decorated. My dad often walked to work. It wasn't too far.

View from our driveway 1963. Large college dorm nearby. Photo by my brother William Ashworth.

In many ways it was an idyllic childhood in town next door to a major university. I did have some problems in childhood, but all and all, it was pretty decent.

Some things were less extreme back then. I appreciate that I had my own bedroom back then, but the room was smaller than my small studio apartment today. We had a yard, but we weren't in a rural setting.

I think some of that sense of stability can come back, but circumstances do change. There are more people in the world today. At the same time expectations are higher in many ways.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Low interest rates are kind of a blunt tool for dealing with Coronavirus fears. Target new money toward true needs via government spending.

As stocks continue to slide and economic worries mount, it looks like the Federal Reserve is trying to shore up confidence with lower interest rates. Today on March 3 NPR Marketplace, I hear that lowering interest rates may not be the best tool to deal with this problem, but it's basically the only tool the Fed has.

I got to thinking that low interest rates mostly just cause people to buy property for investment purposes. Not really the solution we need. Just adds to long term property inflation.

What we need, to deal with this epidemic and the fear that goes along with it, are things like a stronger social safety net. Safety nets are what helps folks ride out things. It's better than going to work sick and spreading more disease.

This does bring up the whole question of investing in our people. Do workers have sick leave? Do workers have health insurance? Now that some people are being quarantined, do people have housing? In the news, it says that King County (Seattle area) has set up quite a few portable shelters to bring in homeless people who might be sick. Also they have bought a motel for quarantine use. Government spending. Other needs are things like research for a vaccine. Often it's government spending that comes to the rescue.

Seems like when the Fed prints money, it's needed to run the government. Maybe that's a new economic model, rather than raising taxes, print money and run the government that way. Government does an important job so it does need to be funded somehow. Some economists might be cringing, however.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Does anyone need to have billions of dollars? Maybe in this circumstance.

How much money is enough money? How many vacation mansions does one family need? Some people have way too much money. There's vast and growing wealth and income inequality. If everyone was alike, it would be a more boring world, but too much inequality is the other bad extreme.

Income inequality is often justified by the need that business has for capital to run the business. Someone doesn't need hundreds of millions for personal consumption, but the budget of a business may need to be in the millions, or the billions to meet the payroll and build the facilities that house the business.

If the money is invested in a business, that money is needed. Tax discussions need to take this into account, but for "pure luxury personal income," some people make way too much money for the health of society.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Andrew Yang had a good run. He's now dropped out of the 2020 race.

I remember Yang once saying that just influencing the discussion is a form of success for his presidential run. He always realized it was a long shot. My favorite candidates are Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar. Andrew Yang was one of my favorites also, but I would vote for any Democrat.

I'm hoping some of Yang's ideas and talents can stay in the discussion whoever the final nominee becomes. I like his analysis tho I think the idea of minimum income wasn't the best strategy for this campaign season. People quickly say, "we don't need that, unemployment is at record lows."

In the long run, or thinking more deeply beyond the sound bytes, there is downward pressure on wages due in part to efficiencies and automation. Meanwhile real estate prices and other things keep going up. Most workers need a better deal. Economics does need new thinking.

We need innovative thinking beyond just the stale old talking points of the left versus the right.

I would even vote for Billionaire Mike Bloomberg if he was the nominee. When that question came up on someone's Facebook wall, I wrote:

I would still vote for the Democrat; especially thinking about the prospect of a Supreme Court totally stacked with hard core right Republicans. There's the danger of all branches of federal government being run by one party; the Republicans.

As for Bloomberg being a billionaire, it isn't ideal, but it's up to us to push for the ideal after whoever gets into office. Given our celebrity culture, maybe it takes being a billionaire to have name recognition. Otherwise, gee, maybe I should run.

We the people often fail at living the ideal. We don't shop based on our politics as well as we might. We are the market forces. Corporate power and advertising corrupts us, but we are not totally helpless, or faultless. It is kind of a vicious cycle. Corporate influence and then our mass behavior in the market. "It's which came first, the chicken or the egg." For instance if people want them to do more about lowering carbon emissions; like having a carbon tax; we can't then turn around and complain about rising gasoline prices. We have to be the change we want to see in this world.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

One reason why it's hard to pay teachers more. There are a lot of teachers.

Some folks say that teachers should be paid as much as lawyers or how about pro sports players. The problem is in the numbers. There are a lot more teachers than there are lawyers so it's harder to be elite if one is part of the majority, in some cases. School districts are often the biggest employers in a community. I think that usually teachers are paid moderately well compared to large segments of the workforce. Restaurant employees, janitors, gardeners, home healthcare workers, Uber drivers, security guards, for instance.

I remember thinking, back in the 1980's that teachers were fortunate to at least have health insurance. Back then, we were starting to realize that a large percent of the workforce didn't have health insurance. In the 1980's there was a big push to try and elevate teacher pay and also the pay of college professors. Various states were worried about loosing their talent, in these professions, to other states that paid more; like the grass is always greener on the other side. Brain drain. I remember thinking, back then, that someone needed to speak up for the many restaurant workers, and so forth, who didn't have healthcare.

Since the 1980's it does look like teacher pay hasn't gone up a huge amount relative to other more elite (in numbers of people involved) professions. It's hard to bring up a large group, compared to a small group such as elite lawyers or a handful of celebrity actors or football stars, or maybe a smaller number of highly specialized technicians. Sine the 1980's there has been a rise of elite tech workers. Smaller, in number than the vast number of teachers in each region. Tech workers are mostly concentrated in a few cities like Seattle and San Francisco Bay Area.

Monday, February 10, 2020

When labor unions shot themselves in the foot

I've often thought that unions led to their own demise, to some extent, back in the 1970's and 1980's. Back then, it seemed like the unions mostly just cared about their members working for a specific business. They would rise wages for Georgia Pacific employees, for instance, but didn't care that much about whether non unionized workers, say at a local restaurant, had access to healthcare. As less and less people were members of a union; members of a bargaining unit, the political constituency of union members dried up.

I remember when I heard, back in the recession days of the early 1980's, that one pretty much had to have a relative in a union to get an apprenticeship in the trades, such as in the plumbers union. They were trying to restrict entry into the trades to keep the wages of insiders up. Now days there is a very low percentage of the workforce; especially in private enterprise, that are in unions. Not that large of a constituency for political power in society as a whole anymore.

Now it's a different situation. I hear that there is a shortage people who do skilled trades. Entry into the field may be easier, now, but the unions have already lost their members and their political clout. These days, more of the economy is self employed, like Uber Drivers. Activism needs to look at the big picture and push for things like universal access to healthcare.

To address these problems, I think we really need to look at the big picture. Support things like healthcare access. Obamacare is an attempt at that. Also support things like affordable housing. Things that bring up all people rather than just certain union members or segments of the population. These days, it does seem like what is left of the unions is doing better at advocating the larger political issues rather than just concerned with the financial well being of their own members. Bottom line really should be quality of life and sustainability of the environment rather than just "how much can I get for my people;" so to speak.

Interesting article, related to labor unions, I saw a few weeks ago; published in 2011. 30 years ago: the day the middle class died.

Now it's nearly 40 years ago when PATCO (air controllers union) lost their battle with President Reagan. They went on strike and he fired them. Ironically, the PATCO union endorsed Reagan for president in 1980 in spite of Reagan's campaign rhetoric to cut government spending. The air controllers were government employees. They must have thought he would have made a special exception for them, but he did stand his ground and fired them in spite of their earlier endorsement of him. That endorsement was definitely a tactical mistake that even other unions didn't do.

I think it was a case of putting self interest over the big picture. I do remember that they were not just asking for more money, but better working conditions. Better working environment for air controllers equals safer situation for flying public. Some laudable goals, but they did pretty much loose it all. Endorsing Reagan, not long before that, was a bad idea. I wonder what they were thinking? They cut off the limb they were standing on. They endorsed Reagan, yet they were government workers. He was campaigning against government workers in general.

Now, many years later, this news situation is often seen as a watershed in history. My take on it is an example of self interest versus looking at the big picture.