Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Dollar Store costs 25 cents more, but Motel 6 has added a lot more to it's original cost.

Lots of news about Dollar Tree raising their price ceiling to $1.25. Amazing that it could stay at $1 since the store's founding in 1986.

Another business, with a price in it's name, is Motel 6. That used to be only $6, but much, much more expensive today.

Rents for things like a motel room have gone way up over the years compared to the inexpensive flow of many goods in our economy.

MRNA vaccine technology gives the hens a break

One good thing MRNA vaccines is that they don't need chicken eggs to grow the vaccine materials; like so many of the old style vaccines.

Think of all the laying hens that were kept in captivity. One wonders about the conditions. Chicken farms can be notorious. I still eat eggs, however. I usually try and find eggs from "free range" chickens. They do cost a little more, but worth it.

Newer technologies for making vaccines seem to be more humane, as far as I can tell.

Friday, November 26, 2021

WSU's November 26 2021 Apple Cup victory may have message for corporations about executive pay

WSU Cougars have just won the Apple Cup against the UW Huskies. WSU 40, UW 13.

Normally I don't follow sports, but this game has some unique twists. The Cougars can still win even though they let go of their former Coach Rolovich when he didn't comply with Washington State's vaccine mandate. That might have been a hard parting since they thought they had to pay top dollar. His salary was 3.5 million per year; the highest paid public official in the state. They thought he was crucial, but the team is winning anyway.

One lesson learned is that maybe it's not the coach, but the team that wins the game. I don't know how much their interim coach, Jake Dikert, is paid, but my guess is not as much. He seems to be doing well anyway.

Corporations could learn that lesson as they often feel compelled to retain their top executives for top dollar. One could only hope corporations are taking heed. I know, I am an idealist.

As for the game, they say it's the largest Apple Cup point margin in the history of the Apple Cup. 40 to 13 in favor of WSU. Game was played in Seattle and usually the Cougars have a hard time winning that game when it's in Seattle at UW Stadium, rather than in Pullman at Martin Stadium.

Normally I don't follow sports, but this was a big win tonight and I am sure my home town of Pullman is celebrating.

When I was in college, I thought we were running out of natural resources

In my college years of the mid 1970s, I thought civilization's biggest problem was that the earth was running out of resources. The 1970s energy crisis was in full swing. Gas lines, the OPEC oil embargo and US oil wells running dry.

I thought we were also running out of minerals. Mines being depleted.

I thought my future would require a lot of innovation, some of it making life healthier; such as bicycling and public transit. Some of it technological; such as solar power.

I underestimated the ability of us to develop new mines for minerals, use technologies; such as fracking, to continue oil production, use conservation and substitutes to keep prosperity going.

I still remember a lecture, I went to, with some off campus expert. He was talking about the future and I brought up a question, from the audience, about us running out of resources.

The person giving the lecture answered that that we could find a way. New deposits of minerals would become economically viable, depleted forests could be replanted and so forth.

Then he pointed to his bald head and said, "the main thing we have to worry about running out of is the will to innovate and a belief in the future."

To a large extent, he was correct. Shortages of the 1970s gave way to more surges in global prosperity.

Back then, I wasn't thinking about climate change, however. Climate change is the main worry we face today, rather than running out of resources.

Back in grade school, I saw a film, about weather, named "Unchained Goddess." It had a segment on polar icecaps melting due to our carbon dioxide emissions and Florida being under the ocean. That movie and that one segment is on YouTube today. Film made in 1958. I saw it several times in 1960s.

The problem must have been pretty far in the future, back then, so it was more of a theoretical topic. I didn't make the connection, or worry much about it till the 1980s, when Al Gore started talking about global warming.

We'll see if we can innovate our way out of this problem along with the other limits on planet earth that are still here. Limits that are somewhat like movable boundaries.

One of our problems is simply running out of land. Yes, there is still plenty of open space in places like Wyoming, but some of that land is needed for things like bird migration, watersheds, mining and so forth.

Our cities and infrastructure keeps getting more crowded and taxed. Traffic seems unsolvable, unless maybe we have a radical change toward embracing public transit, or something like more work from home.

We seem to be gridlocked in many ways, including the rise in real estate prices near cities. In my college days, I would have never imagined that single family homes, in so many places, would be around a million dollars apiece.

Part of this problem is pushed by low interest rates making land purchase too profitable. Also our lack of densifying neighborhoods in our metropolitan areas to accommodate the population growth.

Population growth was seen as a big problem, back in my college days, as well.

Maybe we can still point to our heads and say, like that lecturer in my past, the answer and the limits are up here.

Better late than never, we still, most likely, need to curb things like greed and population growth. We also need to be open to change and innovation.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Walking Bellis Fair Mall with Betty

Picture windows of Food Court, Bellis Fair.

One of my friends, an old drag queen named Betty Desire, (one month older than me) does a mall walk pretty much each weekday at Bellis Fair Mall here in Bellingham.

I wanted to try it, but kept forgetting till today. It was fun and also good conversation. There were 3 of us today, counting me. Only so many hours in a day and I get quite a bit of exercise from many sources so I may not do it real often. Still, it was a good thing to check out.

It's one mile to walk around inside each wing of the mall. Turns out Betty does 5 laps with 1 rest stop. It adds up to 5 miles. A good workout. Easy terrain for walking as it's indoors on level floors.

Mall walks were a thing when Bellis Fair was new in the 1980s. Today, the mall has some empty storefronts as downtown and online shopping are giving it a "run for it's money."

As we walked, we talked about a lot of things; including the possible future of malls. Downtown thrives, partially, because lots of people live there now. Downtown has seen somewhat of a boom in residential construction.

Maybe malls could add residences and other diverse uses. Some malls have closed while others are transitioning.

As we walked, we passed a small high school that's now on the mall. High school kids used to like hanging out at the mall so that can make sense.

We also passed a non profit organization named Maker Space. They teach manufacturing skills and provide use of things like 3D printers. A good fit for having a school nearby.

I often think that malls could get into light manufacturing which can be associated with custom retailing. With 3D printing, some of the supply chain can come back from China.

Walking in the mall can be an interesting, urban experience. Colored lights and people to wave at as they prepare meals in the food court.

Betty said that just as the walk starts to get weary, the music comes on. For me, part of the exercise was bicycling there from my home and it isn't that far away from where I live.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Vaccine hesitancy can arise from a general climate for mistrust of institutions, versus the idea that we have met the enemy and the enemy is us.

Seems like much of the suspicion about the vaccine is rooted in distrust of institutions. Distrust of government, corporations, pharmaceutical companies and the so called medical establishment.

I tend to trust institutions, but not blindly. Still, I do tend to trust them for the most part. Instead, I think much of our problems is people as in, we have met the enemy and the enemy is us.

Yes, institutions exert a lot of power, advertising, buying Congress and so forth.

I am in favor of fairly progressive economic policies such as taxation. At least a balance where taxation is not always seen as the boogeyman. I'm for creating a more fair society, but that issue is somewhat separate from my understanding of science.

I don't think it's a good idea to shoot oneself in the foot by rejecting good science just because it's being promoted by people that may be a bit more wealthy than they need to be.

Science isn't always right either, but it's usually better than snake oil sales pitches. One problem with snake oil is that it is still, for the most part, a product for sale.

How the desire to have children can jeopardize future children

One irony about climate change is that the act of raising children often creates pressure on people to live in such a way as to jeopardize the future of children.

Moving out to a house with a yard, for instance, having to get a car, having to get a higher paying job.

If we push the supply chain too hard, it breaks.

I don't normally think of sound bytes short enough to remain in large font in Facebook at least on my desktop. This one seemed to work, however.

Canada could be called land of stranded assets. Trans Mountain pipeline could be a white elephant.

Canada could be called "the land of stranded assets." Oil assets in the ground that are problematic if still banked on as assets. Lots of oil in Alberta and still an oil thirsty world, but the world is thinking, "oil is a killer."

A while ago, a big oil company backed out of it's plan to expand Trans Mountain Pipeline. The plan was to expand a smaller pipeline that goes from from Alberta to Burnaby, BC.

Close to home, Trans Mountain has a branch to Whatcom County Refineries though the expansion plan was just to Burnaby.

The company backed out due to political obstacles, but Canada's government bought the stalled project, a few years back, to keep it alive.

Canada's Liberal Party Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, was walking the tightrope between Alberta's "family wage jobs" and environmentalists.

"Just one more pipeline, then we'll be done," but now it looks like that's not a good idea. Canada's government may have blown billions of dollars on a white elephant pipeline project.

I still see that many of these dilemmas are caused by so much focus on opposing production without opposing consumption. In this case, much of the oil would be for export to Asia and around the world, but consumption is still the issue along with the need for family wage jobs at the production end.

Yes, it's safer to ship oil by pipeline than rail, if oil must be consumed. Yes, maybe it's better to use Canadian oil than from the Middle East, though I hear that Alberta tar sands are about as dirty as it gets.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel.

I think the main focus of activism needs to be on changing the way we plan our living habitats to make them less dependent on fossil fuels. Changing technology, changing lifestyle assumptions and changing neighborhoods.

If we just attack the supply chain, we pull cards out of the foundation of the card house we are living in. It falls on our precarious political situation and (if in USA) could even bring another Trump, if not Trump himself. - Inflation worries. Loss of family wage jobs before alternatives are in place.

My own lifestyle is somewhat minimalistic and not family oriented, however.

In the end, the card house falls on mother Earth which will survive in some form, but not necessarily good news for us.

My comment about bicycling in the Cross Country Checkup thread

One of the Canadian Radio shows I listen to sometimes is a Sunday afternoon call in show called Cross Country Checkup. Last week's topic was about climate change.

The show has a lively Facebook page and I left a comment.

Screen capture.

After the climate conference

What was agreed upon at the climate conference could be a mute point if the politics, lifestyles, technologies and economies around the world don't change so that the goals can be met.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

If infrastructure enabled folks to give up the car, it could reduce, rather than inflate, the cost of living.

Inflation does seem to be back and now some Republicans are saying that this is not the time to dump more money into the economy with Biden's "Build Back Better" #2 infrastructure bill.

Some things in that bill could help, like the building of more affordable housing and support of public transportation.

Housing prices have been going up for a long time and people are now grumbling about gas prices. For some folks, car ownership is a bad idea. Anything that can reduce the car commute, such as public transit or housing that is closer to the job, would save money and also help reduce the carbon footprint.

Maybe they should sell infrastructure that way.

Maybe not for everyone, but for some folks, just getting rid of the damn car altogether could save a lot of expense on gas, insurance, car payments and repair bills. It could reduce the carbon footprint as well.

Some other parts of Biden's bill might be harder to justify, but who knows.

They say there is a shortage of workers, in part, because there is a shortage of daycare.

Okay, more money for daycare, but here is one problem I haven't heard discussed yet.

Much of the cost of daycare goes to liability insurance. Be careful about anything around children. The lawyers are circling like vultures. They are ready to pounce with law suites if anything goes even slightly wrong. Be careful if extra money just feeds "deep pocket theory."

Friday, November 12, 2021

Bellingham considering new tax to pay for programs that reduce carbon footprint

Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood asked the City Council to consider asking voters to approve a tax to pay for citywide programs aimed at reducing the city’s carbon footprint and helping the effort to fight global climate change according to an article in Bellingham Herald.

In my own words.

The idea of a new city tax is being floated. Could help fund converting things to greener technologies; for instance helping homes and businesses convert away from fossil fuel heating.

It's just discussion now, but article says it's likely to be a property tax. I would guess it could be a tax on both homes and businesses. The city doesn't have a lot of taxing tools, in this state without income taxes. Sales taxes are pretty well maxed out.

I think there seems to be a lot of money in real estate. Tied up in real estate at least. Not easy to buy a home, but if mortgage is paid off, a lot of money is tied up at least.

Maybe there would still be breaks for lower income homes and rentals.

Some of the money could go back to the homes for things like heat pumps.

Where the money would be spent is not determined yet.

Besides just the heating, I think the automobile is a big problem. Maybe some of the money can go to electric vehicle charging stations.

In both cases, however, it doesn't do much good if the electricity still has to come from non green energy sources.

Meanwhile, if a tax passes, it can mean that people are willing to step up to the plate.

The Greenway fund, mentioned as an example in article, is kind of like a school levy. It's a property tax that gets renewed by Bellingham's voters periodically when the levy expires. Voters have given it the thumbs up each time.

It pays for our great system of trails and a lot of our park budget.

I tend to think of the greenways as alternative transportation which also relates to climate issues.

The Greenway levies have been on the books since the early 1990s. Before that, just about all of the greenway trails did not exist.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Of course inflation is back. Home prices are spiraling, fossil fuel prices need to go up, if we are to address climate change. Wages are trying to catch up also.

On the news I hear that inflation is happening. That's not surprising. Not necessarily a game stopper, but inflation is back.

New money has flowed into the economy as the Fed has propped up spending which did keep many folks out of poverty during the pandemic.

New money often ends up inflating asset prices and home values after it's done it's job helping people. This leads to a spiral of things like rising rents. Low interest rates seem to inflate the market.

Gasoline and other energy prices are going up, but if we are to solve global warming, fossil fuel prices need to go up. They still aren't higher than they were in the boom years of the Bush II administration, just before the 2008 crash.

Wages are going up also. In many jobs, such as restaurants, this can push up the price that customers pay.

Some folks say that businesses can pay higher wages by just absorbing the cost, but it doesn't look like most will do that. Maybe a few will; such as the recent news about Dick's Burgers, in Seattle.

In some cases, businesses could absorb costs, but things like liability insurance, regulations and just the capital cost of owning, or leasing, a building are factors.

Some businesses are on a thin margin and / or they are small businesses. In other cases, executive and stockholders could take huge pay cuts, but will they do that? I wouldn't hold my breath.

Taxing the executives and shareholder profits more could help, but it's unlikely to happen if the angry pendulum of politics starts to swing back toward the Republican Party.

Friday, November 05, 2021

The WSU Cougars may not have to pay that much money for a coach

WSU logo seen on farm silos near Pullman during my 2017 bike trip to Pullman.

Looks like the WSU Cougar Football Team won against Arizona State in last Saturday's October 30 game. They did it without the need for multi million dollar former Coach Rolovich.

I would like to say that a multi million dollar "star" coach may not be necessary. What about multi million dollar corporate executives? Same thing.

Admittedly I don't follow sports that much and just looked up last Saturday's game results today. As Pullman folks often say, Go Cougs.

Combining a carbon tax with Modern Monetary Theory might be a good idea

The carbon tax, I am thinking of, would be a variable rate tax. If fossil fuels are too cheap, the tax would boost the price so fossil fuels would not undercut alternative energy in price. The tax could be reduced when the market price of fossil fuels goes back up.

This would, of course, mean adding a tax during recessionary times since that's usually when fossil fuel prices tank. A tax during recession is a no, no, but that is where Modern Monetary Theory could be applied. Instead of trying to boost ourselves out of a recession with tax cuts, we could use new money to stimulate the economy. That's what we did during the pandemic recession.

Modern Monetary Theory basically says don't worry, that much, about deficit spending since it can be funded by creating new money. Don't worry too much during a recession at least. Maybe start worrying during inflationary times.

I know I'm probably simplifying it too much, but that's a glance at part of the concept of Modern Monetary Theory, as I understand it.

If we use deficit spending to stimulate the economy during recessions, maybe we could use carbon taxes to keep the price of fossil fuels high enough so it doesn't keep undercutting alternative energy. We could, maybe stabilize that highly volatile price at least.

One of several problems in dealing with climate change

A problem in dealing with climate change is that people approach politics as a means of evening the score with the question of "what are they going to do for us."

Instead, it seems like the approach to politics should be, "how can we all solve these problems?"

Who knows. Critical Race Theory may not play well in the larger pool of Hispanic voters.

It seems like so much focus, in media discussions, on race relations is a losing political strategy. Much of the focus is on African American / White relations while African Americans are only 13% of nationwide population.

Hispanic Americans are a much larger segment. Whether these type of discussions motivate the vote among Hispanic Americans is an important thing to consider.

There are a lot more potential voters who are Hispanic and it doesn't necessarily follow that the same issues motivate all minority segments of the population with the same enthusiasm.

Black / White relations has a long history, in this country, going back to slavery, segregation and so forth. An increasing number of recent immigrants have different stories, histories and reasons for arriving in this country. One may not always be able to count on the Hispanic vote to be motivated in similar ways to most of the African American vote, or the segments of the White vote that have been brought up in universities with the long history and discussion centered around Black / White relations.

From what I understand, it does seem like the black vote is still quite reliably loyal to the Democratic Party, but that loyalty isn't necessarily guaranteed. Loyalty among other ethnic groups is far less guaranteed.

Seems like the Democratic Party could improve it's outcomes if it shifted some of the focus of its discussion more toward the big issues around climate change and how to build a sustainable economy.

The black / white discussion still has bearing on these issues; for instance there is the problem of so much land devoted to single family zoning and it is useful to remember the racial foundations of early exclusive zoning laws.

Figuring out how to build a more sustainable world in terms of climate, housing, city planning, technology, transportation, health, lifestyles and the economy could draw enthusiasm across wide segments of the population.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Philadelphia experimenting with ban on police pulling over drivers for minor offences

More chaos on the roads?

Philadelphia Police will not pull people over for minor offences, such as a light out, license obscured or even noise and pollution. One can still be pulled over for more serious things, like speeding.

Here in Washington State, I hear lots of people complain that they don't seem to enforce smog and noise limits anymore. Yes, I've noticed some cars are real loud. Loud tailpipes.

This issue relates to police, race relations, but I often think about other types of topics; like the chaos caused by automobiles in the first place.

We can see if this experiment brings more, or maybe less chaos. Article says that most Philadelphia police are okay with this change. It is seen as a way to focus police time on more serious crimes.

I keep reading, in Strong Towns Facebook Group, that we need to design roads, in town, for less speed. Rely less on the over burdened police and more on road design to calm the traffic.

The minor violations, such as a light out or license obscured, can still be picked up by traffic cams. Article says citations can still arrive in the mail.

One wonders how a traffic cam can know where to mail the citation to if the license is obscured.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Climate change summits seem to do little more than ring alarm bells

Climate summits and debate over goals set may not have done much good. Actually achieving the goals is a more important step.

Much of the global warming that has taken place since the industrial revolution has occured since the first summit at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. That past 29 years has seen more population and much more prosperity than before.

People look at how much global warming has happened since the industrial revolution and it doesn't look like that much over that many years, but they fail to see that much of the warming happened in those last 29 years. The problem is accelerating as population and prosperity continues to grow.

Climate change does need to be addressed. Maybe this conference will ring the alarm so loud that people will take action at the local levels, but seems like alarm bells is mostly what these conferences provide. Back home, where the rubber hits the road, is what matters. Literally, the rubber hits the road as automobile transportation is a big factor.

Here in the US, if we go back to Republican majorities, it will look like there is no political will to do much about this problem.

Possible improvements in the storage of hydrogen fuel

Hydrogen could be a great fuel. The smoke from burning hydrogen is water. Not carbon dioxide. It can be made from green energy sources such as solar.

Could fuel vehicles and aircraft, but it's hard to store in a tank. It's so light it doesn't store much energy, unless compressed which is problematic. Gasoline has a lot more energy per volume of storage.

Scientists have been exploring various ways to store more hydrogen in a given "tank" space using various methods. Here's another breakthrough which looks promising. A metal hydride technique.