Monday, November 30, 2020

The bidding war to attract high level professionals that pushes up the cost of college and other things

In a thread about how much the cost of college and certain other things have gone up compared to average wages, I wrote.

Things like automation and globalization has brought down the relative cost for many goods and services. Wages for workers, providing those goods and services, are set by the prices businesses can charge for things. Businesses often, themselves, running on a slim margin.

Meanwhile the cost of assets, such as home values in many regions, goes up pushing up the price for renters and first time homebuyers.

Another problem is the relative rise in costs for some professional services compared to the cost of other things. So many things at Walmart cost less than higher level professional services. This drives up the relative cost of higher level professional services like medical care and education.

One of the problems is a bidding war between institutions who hire higher level professionals. Organizations trying to outbid one another by raising the salaries to keep and attract top level talent. Universities raising their president, top administrator and top professor salaries for fear that these professionals might leave for schools in another state that pay more or leave for the private sector. It's been a bidding war. Like the NFL Draft.

Add to that, the problem of anti tax attitude among voters. The percent that the state pays for higher education went down in recent decades. More of the cost of higher education, in the state supported schools where a lot of the students go, has shifted over to tuition; rather than the state subsidy. A higher percentage comes from tuition than 30 or 40 years ago. A higher percentage of a higher total cost. A double whammy.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

If only 250 thousand have died, it's still possible to not be personally aware of someone who has died. A callus thought, but explains some denial.

I met someone, today, who thinks the numbers for the death and infection rates for corona virus were made up. Seems like people can justify anything with the idea that there's some conspiracy.

She said she hasn't known anyone to have died. I haven't either, to be honest. Not that I know of, at least. Out of 325 million Americans, 250 thousand isn't really that many. There's still 325 million left. If counting in the millions, it doesn't move the needle.

Seems like the underlying debate is over the value of trying to save lives, versus opening the economy. There is also debate over what the best strategy is for saving the lives, but seems like lives can be disposable in a machine called the economy.

Over 100 years ago, that attitude would more likely be the case, but back then there was less we could do to save the lives.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

At Arecibo, could drones replace the suspended platform if the bowel is salvageable? Just an idea.

NASA image from Twitter

National Science Foundation is decommissioning the giant radio telescope Arecibo in Puerto Rico. Two supporting cables has broken and the suspended platform is likely to crash. They say it's too dangerous to try and fix. Plans are to try and dismantle it safely.

I got to thinking; could drones revitalize the telescope? After the platform is dismantled, could they repair the dish below? Instead of a suspended platform, could drones be used to hover receivers over the dish?

This telescope has played an important role in Puerto Rico's economy. During this interview on NPR Science Friday, one person said it was an inspiration, beyond just medicine, for students to study science. Medicine isn't a field every aspiring scientist on the island would necessarily want to go into; especially if one is afraid of blood, according to the interview.

For astronomy, the telescope has been the largest radio astronomy dish in the world until recently being topped by a bigger one in China. While no longer tops, it was still quite useful. Especially useful as a powerful radar for tracking asteroids and doing solar system research. It was being used for some other projects, as well; including accurate measurements of pulsars as one way to see evidence of gravity waves across the universe.

I remember following news in 1998 when SOHO, sun observing satellite lost communication with earth. They used radar from Arecibo to find that satellite again and then restart communications. The satellite was rehabilitated and is still in service today. If it hadn't been for Arecibo, SOHO would have probably only lasted from it's launch in 1995 till 1998. It's still working today as one of several satellites observing the sun from space. More bang for the buck.

Friday, November 20, 2020

My take on reconciling the debate between far progressives and moderates in the Democratic Party.

A moderate, like Joe Biden, was the most likely electable nationwide.

Various urban areas, like where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was reelected from, are different when one isn't including the more conservative rural parts of the country.

I think urban areas need more autonomy from state governments to continue pushing the boundaries of things like municipal income taxes, funding for transit, restrictions on fossil fuel use and so forth. We need less "one size fits all" solutions.

Moderates are more electable at the national, and possibly the state, levels. Moderates can create a framework that is more friendly to low carbon footprint planning than conservative extremists like Trump. We need to settle for the Biden's, at the national level at least. Then push farther at local and personal lifestyle levels.

If we want to push farther, people have to do more in their personal lifestyles to walk the talk. We can't impose things like carbon taxes and then complain about higher gas prices.

Monday, November 16, 2020

More progressive politics only works in certain districts so maybe allow urban areas more autonomy?

Biden won the presidency, but Democrats did loose some seats in the House of Representatives. Progressives and moderates are doing their normal squabbles.

The phrase "defund police" doesn't play well to much of the electorate. I think it's a phrase based in anger. Bills to bring police reform have passed in the House, but it wasn't about defunding.

I think Democrats missed a golden opportunity to tell voters that Republican tax cuts are likely to defund the police. Local government is what funds local police.

As for progressives versus moderates, progressives are strong in certain local districts. Mostly urban districts and maybe college towns. Some say, "politics is local."

There are also a lot of rural districts where Republican ideas are still very popular. It's hard to win a nationwide vote on a farther left agenda. Maybe the cities could think toward more autonomy. Things could go farther in certain districts.

If we want more action on things like climate change, it's time to support the change with our own personal lifestyles as well. Look at what we consume. Think solar at home. A lot of people do have solar panels on their roofs. Alternative transportation is tested out in various cities. New forms of city planning; where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

Meanwhile a more moderate framework can be maintained at the national level. If cities do it well, the rest of the country might just want to follow along. Someday, maybe winning in the court of popular opinion.

Some say that most voters really do want things like Medicare for all. That could be true, but ideas are popular until the taxes needed to support the ideas are included. Why are Tim Eyeman's anti tax initiatives still popular in the blue state of Washington? They didn't pass in the highly urbanized King County, however. Urban autonomy.

People are for things like healthcare and raising the minimum wage, but not for some of the associated costs.

As for the results of polling, much depends on how the question is framed.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

If big Pharma executives are greedy, can we trust the vaccine? Yes, I think we can, but I don't buy the mainstream careers and lifestyles

Some people are wary of a vaccine noting that big pharma companies, that develop vaccines, are the same companies that try to get out of paying taxes, that pay executives huge salaries and so forth.

My thinking is different. I still trust, for the most part, the quality of the products and services produced by business. On the other hand, I have, to a large extent, dropped out of the mainstream culture that goes along with creation of products and services.

I've never climbed the corporate ladder, myself. Probably couldn't take the stress of those lifestyles. I hardly have the qualifications for that, anyway, not even having a driver's license. I only have non driver's ID. Driving is a requirement for lots of work.

I have found a pretty good niche as a janitor who bikes to work. Having a decent boss is more important than top pay scale, to me. I've elected to avoid lots of our toxic culture, but at the same time I do enjoy, and trust, many of the products that it provides.

If only we could figure out how to work our miracles, like the vaccine looks like it may be a miracle, without the cultural baggage that so often goes along with corporate life.

Friday, November 13, 2020

I've learn a lot from Michael Krasney's discussion forums for many years from KGO to KQED

One of my favorite talk show hosts plans his retirement in February 2021. Michael Krasney, host of Forum at KQED Radio in San Francisco. He's had quite a career and contributed a lot to deeper thought. I think KQED Forum will continue. There are several people who host it at various times.

I first remember hearing Krasney when he was a talk show host on KGO Radio, in San Francisco, during the 1980's. I could pick up the signal only at night here in Washington State. Only on certain nights due to conditions for ionospheric skip. Those were the days when 50,000 watt AM radio was a big deal.

I once wrote him, at KGO, and he wrote back. He said that someone reported picking up KGO from Norway. Signal went over the north pole. Normal for shortwave radio, but AM "broadcast band" usually didn't bounce farther than maybe 2,000 miles. I may have missplaced that origenal letter, but kept a followup exchange where I was discussing thoughts about clear channel AM stations.

When Krasney left KGO, I wasn't able to listen. He was on KQED; an FM station. The FM band doesn't go that far past line of sight. I live way too far from the San Francisco Bay Area for that.

When the Internet got going, big time, I was able to reconnect with Krasney's show. Podcasts of KQED Forum at my convenience. The archive at my fingertips. What a world we live in now.

On KQED, an NPR Station, Krasney's style has thrived. A better place than the more commercial KGO. His kind and thoughtful analysis comes through.

Meanwhile, KGO Radio has gone through some turmoil. It's 50,000 watt signal is less of an advantage in internet times. That station has changed owners a few times and gone down in the ratings. It's been firing many hosts and tweaking the format. KGO is no longer the undisputed top of the ratings in that market.

There was even an "Occupy KGO protest" that I saw on YouTube around 2011 after a bunch of firings over there.

On commercial radio, too many of the hosts are sensational and do a lot of yelling. Commercials pay the bills, but they also crowd out much of the time for deeper thinking. I find commercials to be repetitive. The same messages over and over again.

Krasney is a nice guy. There is the old phrase, "the nice guy finishes last." There's also the phrase, "he who has the last laugh wins." I'm glad to see that KQED has been at top, or near top, in the ratings during recent years.

Krasney joins some great company, in my mind, such as Diane Rehm, who had a show for many years on NPR and has retired. She still does a podcast in retirement.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Good news. Biden projected winner of the delegate count in the Electoral College.

Good news. It looks like Biden has won. Won the Electoral College by the skin of his teeth. Won by a more comfortable margin in the popular vote.

Trump is still posing legal challenges to the results. It will be hard for someone, as egotistical as Trump, to be a "good sport" and accept defeat. Maybe Trump will soon start a campaign for presidency in 2024? I wouldn't put it past him. He seems in his element on the perpetual campaign trail.

I doubt he would win in 2024, but he would be (I think) still a bit younger than Biden is today. Trump will also have a lot of legal issues to deal with.

I can't picture him participating in the transition team. Looks like much of the transition work would take place around him.

I hope the winner in the Electoral College is the winner of the popular vote

I hope the winner in the Electoral College is the winner of the popular vote. That would be Biden, this time around.

Two times, in recent history, the popular vote was not reflected in the Electoral College. 2000 and 2016. If that happens too many times, it's fertile ground for civil unrest. For the sake of the country, it's better for that situation to not happen too many times.

If it weren't for the Electoral College, I think the results of this presidential election would have already been determined.

Friday, November 06, 2020

It isn't just the left that might defund the police. It's more likely finding efficient solutions for limited budgets.

Speaking of defunding the police, the town of Republic, WA. has just defunded it's police department. Republic is not a bastion of "liberal, radical" people.

As I've been saying all along, the budget speaks loudly. Republic City Council voted to eliminate it's one person police department due, I guess, to a tight budget. Police services have been turned over to county sheriff's department.

The one officer being laid off is also known for his run for governor of Washington in 2020. Republican Loren Culp. He recently lost to incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee, but is challenging the results. That's a whole-nother story.

During Culp's run for governor, he was on leave from the city so they used the county sheriff's department to take his place. Apparently they discovered that doing it through the county was a more efficient arrangement than having a one person city police department Though that town has had a police department for over 100 years, according to a video posted by Culp.

On a personal note, I've been through Republic on a bike tour, or two. Below see some pictures I took passing through.
Some photos I took in Republic.

I'm not a big fan of "defund the police," but I understand the need to think about "prevention," such as mental health funding, versus "cure," such as having to call the police. It's similar to the concept of having preventative medicine versus relying on the emergency room for healthcare. Problem is, there is never enough funding for everything. These problems can be made worse by an attitude that is anti government. I can also see why people wish to limit government, but remember, if you want the police, you do need government.

In a way, this isn't really defunding the police. It's just finding a more efficient way to fund police services.

I think the bigger issue, in the whole defund the police discussion, is the effects of tight budgets; especially due to corona virus effect on the economy and whether federal relief to local governments becomes available. Moderate Democrats need to point that out as a bigger problem than, necessarily, animosity toward the police from farther to the left.

To the swing voters in the middle that might be driven right wing from their fears about crime and anti police rhetoric from the far left, I'd say be more worried about the far right. If government was to be drowned in a bathtub, as in anti tax activist Grover Norquist's famous quote, it could mean anarchy.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

How low interest rates and debt, versus savings, makes people and business less flexible for adapting to climate change

Over the years of low interest rates, there hasn't been much incentive for people to save money. Instead, folks assume that the road to building wealth is not saving money, but going into debt. Buying a house, starting a business, or what ever.

Problem is, this straps one into having to make payments on that debt each month.

If one were, instead, to build wealth by saving extra money in the bank, it could mean having more flexibility in the household budget. Flexibility that's needed to address climate change, for instance.

Something like a carbon tax can increase the cost of gasoline and energy. If one has a big burden of debt payments, it's harder to find extra money. On the other hand, if one is building wealth by putting money in the bank, it's easier to just cut back, temporarily, on the amount one is putting in the bank in order cover the higher cost of energy.

It's easier to just save a little less, rather than default on a debt payment.

Over time, everything changes. Down the road, one could get a raise so they could go back to saving more money again; even after the carbon tax were to go into effect.

Another solution is that a transit line could become available, as payed for by the carbon tax. The person facing more expensive gasoline, in the short run, might save more after switching to using transit, rather than driving, in the long run.

All these changes don't happen overnight. Carbon taxes and then the availablility of better transit don't always happen simultaniously. Over time, economic conditions keep ebbing and flowing. What seems like a setback, in the short run, can become a blessing later on.

Savings allows for more flexibility, in household budgets, than having a large burden of debt would allow. Low interest rates, in the private sector, encourage too much debt and not enough savings.

Low interest in private sector is designed to spurr employment, but it often just pushes up the cost of existing assets. For example, existing housing gets more expensive, especially if new construction is restricted by things like single family zoning. Low interest rates are designed to spur new construction and job creation, but local restrictions can stand in the way.

Meanwhile, low interest rates might be good in the government sector. Since it seems like the federal government is more and more dependent on debt, rather than taxes, government spending benefits from low interest rates. It keeps jobs, such as police, on the payroll. It Props up unemployment benefits, keeps people on health insurance and can create jobs in infrastructure development, scientific research and so forth.

Maybe we need zero interest on government borrowing. Print the money. Don't worry about government debt, at least until general inflation becomes apparent.

Today's inflation seems mostly confined to certain sectors; such as housing costs. More and more, we need government assitance help the majority of people pay for their rising cost of living. Without government assitance, there is lots of suffering. Also it could eventually lead to deflation. Rents can only remain high while there is a market to afford it.

Personally, I've never gone into debt. Buying a house would be out of my reach. I don't drive, so car payments are not an issue. I've always saved up for my consumer purchases; such as buying a computer. Fortunately, my rent has been reasonable over the years and I've had no big medical bills. I'm not raising a family either.

Even though my income has been fairly low, I've always had some extra money. Haven't had to live paycheck to paycheck. I could have saved more of that money, but have tended to just let it sit in my checking account. Little incentive to save.

Instead, I've usually spent it, before the year was out, by going on bike trips in the summer. Camping and motels can take most of my extra money. The trips have been worth it, however.