Monday, September 25, 2023

Soon to be added to my sharing. Pictures from September's bicycle tour to eastern Washington.

I recently went on a bicycle / transit bus trip to the Tri Cities area from Bellingham. My means is alternative transportation, much of it by pedal bicycle.

Above is photo I took in Zillah, WA. It's in the Yakima Valley. The famous teapot filling station now preserved by a park. Was built in the 1920s to point out an oil scandle during President Harding's administration. The so called "Teapot Dome Scandle."

Photos from this latest trip will soon be on Flickr as I organize them.

The Republicans who wish to burn down the government. Sounds like they are for anarchy.

Oh the unnessesary budget impass again.

Interesting that Represenative McCarthy actually said, about the radical Republicans in his caucus, "they want to burn the place down."

Reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend when we were discussing the federal deficit. My friend said "they just want to burn down the government." Then he stood up and started shouting, "burn down the government," "burn down the government."

Social Security and Medicare would still continue, during a "shutdown," but if both those payments were on the table, maybe us senior citizens, an age group most likely to vote, would turn against the Republican Party?

Can we survive with less money? This reminds me of another friend who thinks money is an addiction. He belives that in an ideal society, money would not exist. We would all do what we need to do, for one another, out of the love and kindness in our hearts. Money addiction is evil, according to this friend. Money would not exist in an ideal world.

Speaking of love, or for that matter sex, he also believes that sexuality, for pleasure, is evil; even masturbation. He goes to various "12 step" groups; such as Alcohaulic's Annonomous. There are quite a few brands of these groops; such as Gambler's Anonomous, and Sex Addicts Anonomous.

I don't know if there is a Money or Greed Anonomous, but I do apprieciate that my friend lumps our love affair with the almighty dollar in with sex addiction.

We have our discussions as well as I don't totally go down his road. I tend to believe things like money and sex have their place in moderation.

It is true, however, that some people do have to go "cold turkey" or they fall back into an addictive pattern. This second friend seems to be in need to go cold turkey due to his own situation.

Thinking about that first conversation with that other friend who shouted that they just want to burn down the government, a point I was making in that conversation is that some Republicans think we can't get a handle on our deficit problems with business as usual. They are calling for radical steps, though I don't necessarily agree, I try and see inside their thinking.

As for radical steps, there are those who think we need to take radical steps to address the growing climate change problem. Time for another 12 step program?

I think we may be heading to higher death rates around the world. A reduction in population is possible.

In some ways, it seems like the world is getting increasingly brutal and more chaotic. Could be a symptom of over population which can be dealt with by reducing population growth or increasing death rates.

We could be returning to more brutality as growing populations, consumption and climate change continue to stress civilizations. Seems like there are some folks who are going back toward old fashioned values and solutions; like from Biblical times when empires fought wars killing willy nilly and the victor kept the spoils.

Population growth wasn't seen as much of a problem, back then, before the days of modern technology and especially today's medicine. Tribalism was more in vouge back then as well. Life expectancy was shorter from all the threats to survival from crime, war and disease. Modern societies have brought us the "global village" due to technologies; such as instant worldwide communication and jet travel. Modern times brings more talk of tolerance, cultural diversity and lifestyle diversity for survival. Birth control has been gaining ground even in some of the third world, but especially in what's called the first world.

Much of society does seem to be moving forward to a kinder and more tolerant society, but I fear that there are many who are wishing to turn back the clock. This could be due to the increasing stress of our times.

Large parts of the world are in turmoil. Even in the west and here in USA, many folks want to turn back to old solutions.

Instead of stable population and sustainable living we may be reverting to increasing death rates around the world and even here in USA; a less desirable way to keep population at more sustainable levels.

Above is something I was thinking, but then wrote down after listening this program on NPR's The 1a. It's about donor fatigue. More money for war, such as between Russia and Ukraine, plus increasing things like the flood in Libya are draining aid money around the world.

Monday, August 28, 2023

My speculations about bankruptcy for WSU football.

Walkway along fancy new center for Cougar Football near the stadium in Pullman.

I wonder who WSU athletics debt is owed too? Banks or internal university, state of Washington funds?

If to an outside bank, that could bring up the topic of potential bankruptcy. I wonder if bankruptcy could protect the rest of the university from having to fully pay off that debt?

Most officials would probably think these questions are premature. They are now focusing on the unknown future which involves probably moving to another conference now that the Pac 12 has broken apart. Also potential new sources of revenue from the constantly changing media landscape; internet media and so forth beyond ticket sales.

They are also focusing on this season with the Pac 12 still functioning. The changes in the conference start next year. I've never been a sports fan, myself and it does seem like an unnecessary burden to me.

Western Washington University, here in Bellingham, did away with it's football program during a round of state mandated cuts. Unlike at WSU, football at Western was never that large and I don't think it was ever seen as a net revenue generator. I don't think it ever payed it's own way like a business.

At WSU, I think football payed its own way till recent times when the stakes got higher and it became more expensive to to keep up with the Jones.

A few months ago, I got to thinking WSU should have gone to a less costly, "high stakes" conference before incurring that debt, but hindsight is better than foresight.

Now that situation has come to pass as it looks like WSU will find itself in a different football conference now that the big schools that are closer to big cities, like Seattle and Los Angeles, are planning to leave the Pac 12.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Most people worry about whether our southern border is too secure, or not secure enough. The bigger issue is that an overwhelming number of folks dream of living in USA.

Many folks dreaming of living in USA, Canada, Australia or Europe never even make it to the border.

I keep thinking of different angles on similar themes, like world population.

Conservatives make it sound like our southern border is totally out of control and being flooded with immigrants. I doubt that's the case, though I haven't seen it with my own eyes.

The media tells that story, but it also tells the story that liberals will say; it's really hard to cross the border. Enforcement is harsh. The truth is usually in the middle.

I would guess that it's hard to cross the border; even under Biden, there is plenty of enforcement. The factor that both sides overlook is not an issue of enforcement. It's just the overwhelming number of people wishing to come to USA. There are so many people wishing to be in USA that even with a fairly tight border, it's kind of an overwhelming situation.

I worry that much of the world is becoming unlivable. Ruled by authoritarian dictators that hate LGBTQ people; for instance. Wars, famine and climate change. Much of the land area of earth is under the iron fist of dictators.

Lots of people are dying just trying to live their lives, or get to places where they and their families are safer. Some parts of the world are getting more open minded, while other parts are under authoritarian regimes. Many parts of the world seem to be getting worse.

Here in USA, we have some folks who would like to push us back to a more authoritarian culture, but we still have a good degree of freedom and many parts of USA have been making good progress over recent years. Things seem to be pretty good here in Washington State.

In many ways, the world around me has seen lots of improvement. Some problems as well, but all in all there is progress, at least in some areas, but it would be better if there was progress, or at least basic livability, in most areas of the world.

Photo: World map on first floor of Webster Hall, WSU, Pullman.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Government isn't the cause of the regulation gridlock. Today's world is just more crowded with more powerful technology and the environment is more vulnerable to harm.

Conservatives tend to blame government for the vast maze of environmental regulations that make doing things next to impossible. There is a deeper problem than government.

The modern world is different than the world of a century ago. The world has more people so it's more crowded. It's harder to do anything without someone complaining that it's too close to their backyard.

The technology we have, today, is a lot more powerful than in the past. Business can potentially do a lot more harm. A third factor is that safety and environmental expectations are higher today. In the past people lived with smog, unsafe working conditions and so forth with less complaint. Today's expectations are higher; except for maybe a glaring loophole caused by the automobile. People still take for granted the traffic death toll while other safety rules are more stringent. The automobile is grandfathered in.

Another thing that is different, today, than in centuries past, is how much awareness we have of things that could be harmful in our environments. Contaminants in the air and water can be measured in the "1 part per millions" range. Even trace amounts of things make modern people nervous.

These big changes, between modern society and the past, are the main factor. The government is mostly just a scapegoat; like folks barking up the wrong tree.

Yes, private enterprise can be more innovative than government, in some cases; for instance Space X (a private firm) has done some things in space that NASA hasn't been able to accomplish. Still, NASA has done some innovative stuff as well.

The way an organization is set up, whether private or government, is a factor, but the big factor is the fact that we live in a more modern and crowded world than we did in past centuries. Population, technologies, awareness and expectations are different these days.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Why there are a lot of jobs in spite of rising interest rates

Some people are scratching their heads wondering why there are still so many jobs in spite of high interest rates. I just thought of a reason. Lowering interest rates is a bad way to increase the number of jobs.

Up until the pandemic, low interest has basically gone into inflating home values and other assets; not as much into creating jobs. Now that interest rates are higher, asset values are starting to calm down, but job creation remains strong; so far at least.

Conservatives tend to think private enterprise is better at creating jobs than government. That philosophy has been a big factor behind trying to create jobs via low interest rates. It hasn't worked that well. To a large extent, private entrepreneurs have held onto their money and acted to protect their asset values. This doesn't lead to that much job creation. More recently, there has been a surge in government spending, covid relief, infrastructure and stimulus spending. I think that might be a better way to create jobs; even in the private sector as private companies are often mostly just vendors supplying government contracts.

The true private market has been more sluggish in past years due to many factors; including caution about risking capital on new ventures. There's been some new ventures and innovation in private enterprise, but also a lot of aversion to risk. Conservatives would say that aversion to risk is mostly caused by layers and layers of government regulation. Yes, that's a big factor, but not everyone wants what private enterprise brings to their neighborhood. One example of a restrictive regulation, of course, is single family zoning.

Now that there's more talk about the housing shortage, I am noticing more multi family construction going on in the past 3, or so, years. This, being a factor leading to the boom in construction jobs and a shortage of skilled labor in the carpentry field.

Job creation has been pretty strong during the Biden Presidency. Conservatives are wondering "how can that be?" Some folks are predicting a crash to come soon due, in part, to the rising interest rates. They also don't trust "Bidenomics."

Who knows, but so far, the job picture still looks pretty rosy and I think rising interest rates hasn't detracted much from job creation. Rising interest rates may mean less people making a living by flipping real estate.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Are there too many people on Earth?

Dam removal on Elwha River to improve salmon habitat.

Are there too many people on Earth? It depends on how people wish to live. If everyone were as consumptive as most Americans, there are too many, but we could reduce consumption and still have good lives depending on how we use technology. Micro electronics can go a long ways.

On the other hand, there are too many people for us to totally go back to our old ways. We need lots of natural space to survive if our survival is based on old style hunting, gathering and fishing.

I am glad they removed the two dams on the Elwha River, in Washington State, to bring back salmon habitat even though hydroelectic power is low carbon footprint. Thoes dams didn't generate that much power anyway.

Now there is a bigger dam removal project on the Klamath River in California. Might still be a good idea, I know less about it. Both dam removal projects have been promoted by Native American interests.

There is talk of removing dams on the Snake River in Washington for salmon recovery as well. Thoes are larger dams.

We can't have it all, I guess. Increasing prosperity, world population that is still growing, lowering carbon footprint and maintianing old ways. There are many tradeoffs and life can never be totally ideal for everyone.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Paying to reduce climate change. Cap and trade in Washington State.

Here in Washington, people are learning that taxing corporations does have consequences for ordinary consumers. Our new cap and trade rules are contributing to Washington's relatively high gas prices. oil companies pass the costs on to consumers.

Still, Washington gas prices are a bargain compared to Canada where taxes raise the price. Here in Whatcom County, we still see many Canadians come south of the border to fill up.

I still follow the news even though I don't drive.

Yes energy taxes, whether hidden by cap and trade or seen at the pump, are regressive, but most energy consumption is done by the millions and millions of rank and file consumers. The super wealthy and corporations are like the maestros leading the orchestra.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Yahoo News; possibly a good model to pay for journalism without a paywall. Possible lessons for Facebook.

There is an attempt by the Canadian government to make Facebook pay more for news media content that appears on Facebook. This is seen as a way to help pay for newspapers and organizations that support professional journalism; a field who's revenue sources have been drying up.

Facebook is fighting back by removing some of the news content in Canada. I got to thinking that, somehow, Yahoo News works. Yahoo must pay for the rights to reprint certain stories from many sources; such as the New York Times. That's how I get around paywalls. Otherwise, who wants to subscribe to hundreds of publications, just to get past the paywalls? I don't have the time, or the money, to subscribe to hundreds of publications.

Somehow, Yahoo News seems to work. Maybe something like that could work with Facebook as well. Some sort of compromise. Much of the news I post on Facebook comes from Yahoo News. I try and share links that don't throw up paywalls. NPR Radio is another good source of journalism. KGMI Radio, in Bellingham, doesn't put up a paywall on their website. It seems like broadcast media works better, in the internet age, than newspapers even though newspapers have some of the best content. I've heard it said that "the truth goes behind paywalls while conspiracy theories, promotions and propaganda are free on the net."

Yahoo News does work pretty well and I think they pay for what they repost from publications with paywalls. Many of my Facebook posts come from links to Yahoo.

I also notice that posts with a link to news get less response. Facebook probably gives those posts less push in it's algorithms. Also news and politics may not be that popular compared to personal posts and photographs. The number of clicks and likes effects algorithms. People may be sick of politics, but, as the old saying goes, "a photo as worth a thousand words."

Friday, June 23, 2023

Washington State tops the list for highest gas prices. Cap and trade a hidden tax? Way to go Washington on the road to lower carbon emissions, but I still think a carbon tax is more honest.

I hear that Washington State has the highest gas prices in USA. Since I ride a bicycle, I wouldn't notice except for the news media coverage.

Conservatives tend to blame our new cap and trade system for reducing carbon emissions. They do have a point. I don't think you can just tax corporations without them passing the cost on to consumers. Cap and trade is kind of complex. I'd prefer a straight forward carbon tax. Cap and trade is more like a hidden tax.

Even with a carbon tax, the government can still provide help to folks that are lower income and harder hit; like farm workers or folks who have to commute a long ways since they can't afford housing that's closer to jobs.

Still, if we really want to reduce our carbon footprint, the cost of fossil fuels needs to go up.

At least it was probably a quick death. I still feel sorry for those who died on the Titan. Why so much news coverage?

There has been lots of news coverage about the attempts to rescue those wealthy adventurers who went down to look at the Titanic.

It does seem like they might have died quickly from the submersible imploding. It may have been a quick end.

While everyone surviving would be the best news, I would guess a quick death is better than suffering, while trapped in the sub running out of oxygen over several days.

On BBC Radio, there was a segment questioning why this rescue effort got so much media attention compared to the hundreds of refugees that recently drowned in the Mediterranean Sea as they were trying to reach Europe from deadly circumstances in places like Syria.

Wealth and class of the sub's occupants was mentioned as a factor, but also the uniqueness of the situation. Thousands, or even millions of refugees are dying so; what else is new?

Adventurers in the sub brought a new twist to the story and the media tends to only highlight certain things.

This brings back memories of 1988 when the media was full of news about 3 whales that were trapped under ice that was quickly forming, in the Arctic Ocean, at the start of that winter.

Would the confused whales suffocate under the ice, or could they find their way back out to open ocean?

An international effort of amateurs and eventually international militaries joined in an effort to save the whales. News about those 3 whales was riveting for several days, even though, I think, whales getting trapped under ice has happened many times at the start of winter as ice reforms in the Arctic.

Why was 1988 so special? Who knows. Maybe it's just randomness that certain stories take off while others don't. Once something gets started, we join in till the next thing captures the news cycle.

I remember that I was following that rescue effort with interest so I decided to look it up in Google and "sure enough," here's the first link that came up.

As for the class issue, I still prefer news of survival to death, but at least a quick death seems better than desperate suffering. We all will leave this planet at some point.

There is a lot of bitterness and hatred in this world, as well, so I am reminded of a joke that may be in bad taste.

“What do you call 500 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?”
“A good start.”

In spite of that joke, I still prefer survival and a world where there is less hostility.

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Planned Parenthood protecting the right to life by providing healthcare

When I think of Planned Parenthood, I think of contraception. We still need to reduce population growth even though the growth rate of world population is slowing. With over 8 billion people on this planet, we really don't do well at protecting right to life. Folks die to to lack of access to healthcare, especially in states like Texas that still refuses Medicaid expansion. People die when they can't immigrate to countries that are safer than where they are from; for instance folks killed by the gangs in central America. Climate change is adding more refugees to world population. War and gun violence are killers, even unsafe highways are killers.

I think of contraception, but I hear ads, from Planned Parenthood, saying they provide healthcare. Yes, good point. Access to healthcare which can be difficult to find.

Back to my point about the difficulties in protecting right to life for all 8 billion on this limited planet. My mind first thinks of contraception when I think of Planned Parenthood, but also realizing their role in taking care of people who's life saving needs are often not provided for due to economics, or many other reasons.

Now we have a situation where even laws against abortion may be deadly. I hear that doctors are fleeing some states fearing that certain interpretations of anti abortion laws will prosecute them for practicing medicine in the gray area of difficult pregnancies. There are difficult situations dealing with miscarriages, possible threats to life of the mother and so forth. I read that hospitals, in some towns, can't deliver babies anymore as the doctors, who do this, have fled to other areas of this country where laws are less intrusive. Some people, having children, are having to travel farther to find a hospital with sufficient staff for delivery.

Monday, June 05, 2023

Trying to reduce the debt may next have to go after things like Medicare, the military and Social Security.

The biggest costs of government are things like Medicare and Social Security. To reduce the debt, it's hard to avoid touching these large expenses.

It's odd that I find myself agreeing with McCarthy who points out that only 11% of the budget was on the table for cuts. What I disagree with, in McCarthy's take, is that Biden walled off the rest of the budget. This article makes no mention of the option to increase taxes. Higher taxes could go a long ways toward shoring up Medicare and Social Security; for instance raising the income cap subject to Social Security taxes.

Article made no mention of how much is spent on the military as well.

Like gay people being in the closet. Most politicians, including Democrats, are closeted about raising taxes. It's dangerous talk on the campaign trail. Republicans pretty much refuse to even consider taxes. Democrats tremble at the thought as well, but democrats usually realize that taxes are needed to pay for what people want from government.

There are limits to what we can get, versus what people are willing to pay. There are limits imposed by pure mathematics and I'd add limits to what the natural environment will sustain in terms of human consumption.

Yes, we can have a good life and even better lives than in the past; counting all things beyond just money and materialism.

I think wealthy people should pay more taxes, including upper middle class. Maybe even everyone pay more, including even myself. Yes we can't have it all. Some things people demand can't always be met. Budgets can be tightened, to some extent.

What's most important, to me, is the quality of our lives and our communities. Trying to be fair and reasonable, but realizing that perfection is never attained.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Dilemma that Republicans face. Hard to significantly cut the budget when Medicare, military and veterans benefits are taken off the table.

Looks like they may have worked out a budget deal that avoids default. We'll see if it passes. I think the spending cutbacks in the deal are more mild than Republicans had originally pushed for.

One big problem, with budget cutting, is that government does a lot of important things besides just taking care of the military, the veterans and Medicare. If those large budget items are exempt from cutting, most of the money is still being spent. The cuts, in other areas, would have to be draconian to accomplish large cuts in the total.

There is a need for the border patrol, for instance.

Friday, May 26, 2023

My May 2023 trip, mostly by bicycle, to Vancouver, BC. from Bellingham, WA.

Cambie St. Bridge at sunset.

See photos on my Flickr space. No paywall. Click Here to the following 78 photos with captions about this trip.

Compared to housing and healthcare, most of the rest of inflation seems like just pocket change.

Republicans are stirring up anxiety over the national debt. A consequence of the debt is inflation, but I haven't really noticed inflation that much.

Yes, home values and rents have skyrocketed over the past few decades.

Inflation of other prices has been more modest until after the pandemic when it did tick up some. Wages have gone up also. I've noticed somewhat higher prices for restaurant meals, food and consumer goods, but seems like these things are mere pocket change compared to rent or healthcare costs.

My rent is held at a bit below 40% of my income as I am in subsidized housing. Medicare covers most of the cost of my health insurance premiums. The Medicare premium is much lower than it would be if Medicare wasn't subsidized by government.

I have no car.

Other expenses do seem like mere pocket change to me. Everything else is around half my income, but I haven't noticed inflation that much. My Social Security has had a generous cost of living increase due the inflation. If the economy crashes, everyone could be a lot worse off.

Homonormativity questioned.

Saw stuff about this on Facebook.

Apparently, during the campaign of 2020, a group of activists calling themselves “Queers Against Pete” attempted to disrupt his events. They were folks who saw in the former mayor of South Bend a paragon of “homonormativity.” I read, in the post, about an article written for The New Republic that the magazine later retracted, the writer Dale Peck derided Pete Buttigieg as “Mary Pete,” the gay version of an Uncle Tom.

I can understand being a critic of homonormativity, but I certainly wouldn't be part of a circular firing squad attacking other gay people and allies who have made it to influential positions. Pete has done good in my opinion.

I am definitely not part of a "normal" middle class couple, myself. My own sexuality and lifestyle is very low on the romantic scale and higher on the unusual scale.

Interesting that, until that recent Facebook post, I have never heard of that group of activists, but around two months ago, I wrote this somewhat toung in cheek blog post about right wing, rather than left wing, criticism of Pete Buttigieg.

Did "family values" cause the air travel chaos of Christmas 2022?

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

In many cases gender and gender pronouns don't really matter

Talking to some young people about the gender pronoun issue, I shared memories from my college past of almost 40 years ago. Back then, the gay issue was coming out on campus. I also knew quite a few transgender people, but pronouns wasn't a topic that people were discussing. As I remember, there was less anxiety about proper pronouns.

The folks, I was discussing this with, understood and seemed accepting of my perspective.

Back in my college days, I think expectations were lower, but I would like to think that society keeps progressing forward. On the other hand, people may have been just as happy, back then, or maybe even happier back then. Expectations were less demanding.

It's kind of like before electric lightbulbs were invented, folks didn't fret about the inconvenience of not having electric lights. They didn't know what they were missing.

These days, I think the science about gender has progressed, so it's seen as less binary. One now hears about folks who want to be called "they" instead of he or she. The term "gender fluid" was less in the lexicon, back then.

Science has progressed to where gender fluid is more recognized, though most people still identify as either male or female. There are shades of grey that are more recognized today.

The term "they" is kind of awkward. Maybe a new term can be found? They is usually thought of as non singular.

At the same time, I have used the term they to describe one person before. For instance, "I wondered how to get to a certain road so I ask someone how to get there and THEY pointed me in the right direction."

In many cases, gender doesn't matter.

Back in my college days, the big issue was that women didn't want to be called "girls." Often people were corrected when they said "college girls." It's "college women." The term "chick" for woman was totally incorrect.

As I remember, I always did say women and my mom once said, "in this case it's" when I was talking about my nieces that were, then in grade school.

I also remember the attempts to put the word womyn. in the language. It's womyn instead of women. That term less subservient without the "men" in it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Science doesn't necessarily indicate that there is no god, but squabbles between religious factions seems to indicate that religious truths might be BS.

I still believe that there could be something like what we call a god.

At the same time, I think the best evidence that there is no such thing as a god or spiritual reality is the behavior of so many religious people. All the squabbling over interpretations and the fighting over what people claim is the truth.

This behavior is stronger evidence that it's all BS than what we are learning from science. On big questions about the meaning of life, scientific evidence seems inconclusive. It doesn't rule out spirituality, in my opinion.

Science, itself, seems inconclusive on many big questions, so far, but the behavior of some religious people; especially the folks who claim to be certain about what the truth is, does indicate that many religious claims are BS.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Living without a car has worked for me

Lots of people think it's almost impossible to live without a car in USA. I have been able to do it all my life and it doesn't seem that hard for me. Admittedly, I live in town in a city that is fairly bicycle friendly. Bellingham, WA.

Seems like making our energy sources totally green and building passenger rail systems, like they have in Europe, would take nearly a century to accomplish. Waiting for society to change from the top down is a long wait. Meanwhile climate change scientists keep saying that time is running out.

I think my own lifestyle has a fairly low carbon footprint already, though I may be missing something in the calculations. I might be drinking enough milk to counteract everything else I do, or don't do.

Friday, May 05, 2023

If we spend 50 trillion to decarbonize, how much lower will global temperatures be?

Sen. John Kennedy, (R-La) grilled a Biden Administration official about climate change. The senator ask, "how much would spending $50 trillion in American taxpayer money to become carbon-neutral lower global temperatures?"

The official was at a loss for words, but I'd say, "There are too many other variables in that equation. What will other countries do, for instance." "It's not a question that can be answered that simplistically." I don't know, for sure, what I'd say if I was sitting at that microphone being grilled, however.

Here is my take.

Climate change is a global problem related to population growth and increasing consumption around the world. Apparently, the US now accounts for only 13% of global carbon emissions; according to that Biden official's testimony.

Republicans use that figure to imply that our efforts to reduce our own carbon emissions may not make that much difference in the bigger picture. We are just one of many drops in the bucket.

One must also, of course, figure in the things we consume in the US that are manufactured overseas. Our consumption likely accounts for more than 13% of global carbon emissions, but it likely would still be much less than half.

Other countries are making strides to reduce emissions so they aren't just twiddling their thumbs, as many Republicans would say. This is a global problem that goes beyond an "us versus them" mindset.

Historically, the US and other first world countries of the past, have created most of the emissions over the past century, but going forward, it's a different story. Our emissions are now a smaller part of the overall picture.

I highly doubt that we (first world) can amend or compensate for the past. Aside from the logistics, the political will does not exist.

Forgetting the past, going forward is the issue we are dealing with now.

Over the next 10 years, I doubt we will be able to meet our goals to reduce carbon emissions. Green technology is still slow in coming, though it is coming faster than before. Our society's dependency on wealth and convenience is so strong that we can't likely meet the goals environmentalists set, let alone think about the past.

As for the rest of the world, the problem is global. The US does need to strive harder to reduce carbon emissions along with the rest of the world. The technology and lifestyles to accomplish this should be shared around the world.

Solutions to the problem include, of course, technology, but also changes in the way we plan our living habitats. We should learn how to build with less sprawl. The whole world needs reductions in population growth worldwide (which is starting to happen). We need less dependency on automobiles, large homes and personal wealth. New paradigms for the entire world including USA.

Thursday, May 04, 2023

We could continue kicking the can down the road on the federal deficit, or cut spending and go into a recession.

About the debt ceiling, it seems like the choices are to raise it, as the Democrats want to do and continue the spending we have now. This contributes to the inflation we have now which doesn't seem like that big a problem, or at least it's just like a slow boil.

Another alternative is to significantly cut spending, as Republicans would like to do. This would likely put us into a recession.

Falling off the fiscal cliff (artificial debt ceiling default of the government) could roil markets, confidence and bring a recession as well.

We may by cycling toward recession anyway, regardless of what the politicians do, as we've been in a period of relative prosperity, coming out of the pandemic slowdown. We have been in a recent period of a booming economy with low unemployment. We've returned to high consumption and dealt with supply chain bottlenecks.

Carbon footprint and energy consumption is now up again, after falling during the pandemic.

Of course, in spite of the prosperity of these times, there are always lots of people left behind. The prosperity is never enough.

The stock market and asset values does motivate people in office; especially Republicans.

The market crash of 2007 lead to Tarp bailouts. Market loss in 2020, due to the pandemic, led to debt worry set aside and 3 Trillion appeared even under a Republican president and majority in the Senate. On the debt, we can likely just keep kicking the can down the road, versus crashing the economy.

Another possibility. Maybe Biden looses most of the newly past infrastructure bill. We kick the climate change can farther down the road. Biden looses most of his plan to forgive student loans, which the Supreme Court may take away anyway. A compromise like that goes through. The economy could go into a downtourn while more people complain about loosing funding for addressing climate change and continuing to be burdened by student debt.

More and more young people may start voting.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Public or private could be the new norm versus men's or women's for spas and restroom facilities

More and more bathrooms are becoming gender neutral. This is a good idea as our understanding of gender is becoming less binary. This tends to mean more privacy such as single unit facilities which can also add to the cost of buildings.

In the past, like the 1950s, facilities were divided by gender, but they were still public spaces to save on construction costs. Pragmatism.

I've got to thinking that for restrooms and especially spas, saunas and showers, there could be two types of facilities. Instead of men's and women's, it would be "private" and "public." Often spa, hot spring and sauna type places are social environments so some would be public for that reason. Others would be private. They could all be gender neutral, however which solves some problems.

Some public spas would be clothing optional while others could continue to require bathing suites. This could be the future for these types of facilities.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

A government default could pull the plug on asset values

The debt ceiling impasse has gone to the next step. Surprisingly enough Republicans in the House did barely get on board for a "Republican plan" to raise the ceiling and have big cuts in spending.

Democrats and probably most of the American people would not go for those cuts. Meanwhile, raising taxes isn't being considered by the Republicans.

The government does provide a lot of important services, such as health insurance for many who can't afford super high insurance premiums. Governments provide public safety, police, fire, and the large military budget. Affordable housing is provided as well. Basic research in medicine, space exploration and other science is often funded by a small sliver of the budget which helps to keep us abreast with the rest of the world that is moving forward.

Some people think we need to rely more on the private sector, which does some good things, but much private money goes to private yachts, big homes, called McMansions, second homes, political bribes and multi million dollar salaries for playing football.

There we have the dilemma of the budget. We could just pull the plug and let the economy go into a depression. Much of the money, that we thought we had in things like bank accounts and asset values could disappear. These perceived stores of value could plummet.

Perceived stores of value are possibly no more real that some of the tricks proposed, that Biden could do, such as minting a trillion dollar coin and calling it "money," so we can continue to prop things up, rather than the possibility of panic setting in and things crashing.

One possible scenario for the debt ceiling problem is that the impasse will put the US into default and uncharted financial territory. Like the virus, it could cause financial panic and a Wall Street crash. Like in March of 2020, politicians got a bit scared and figured out how to make more money out of thin air; thus paying unemployment to cover the shutdowns that likely saved many lives. Rents were paid for businesses and individuals when restaurants, bars and so forth closed. Money was spend to develop the vaccine and provide hospitalization to the afflicted. Most of us, still alive at least, came out of the pandemic, but now there is worry about some inflation.

We would be better off if Dianne Feinstein aspired to become an elder states person, rather than trying to hang on as a Senator

I think Dianne Feinstein should step down; given the bottleneck that her temporary absence from the Senate Judiciary Committee places in the way of Biden's judicial appointments.

I wonder why she wants to cling to the job in light of all the damage this situation could do? A younger Democrat, in that position, would be better for the big picture. Come to think about it, Biden, himself, is also up there in the years, but he still seems to be functioning okay.

Maybe Feinstein wants to remain in office for personal reasons to keep engaged and active. If I were in her shoes, I would rather be an elder statesperson (used to be called "elder states man) than have the responsibility and stress of high office. An elder statesperson can remain as engaged as they want to be expressing opinions, granting interviews, raising money, writing articles, influencing politics and so forth.

Former Justice Ginsberg should have taken that route also. Maybe Biden should consider that as well, though he seems to be functioning. The ideas and the staff behind public officials is what's most important. Younger people can continue to carry the torch.

My vote is still for Biden if he is the main Democratic candidate as I remind people that it isn't just about one person. Biden has a whole staff behind him that's likely better than what a Trump, or other Republican would assemble. I vote for the issues that Biden is more likely to represent.

Trigger happy gun owners may be more of a problem than even the guns themselves.

I've read that, In most of the world, going to the wrong house is not a deadly risk. But in the United States it can be. It does seem like we are getting trigger happy, wary of strangers and so forth. The proliferation of guns in this society is a big part of the problem as well.

In an ideal world, anger would be a more immoral emotion than eroticism.

In an ideal world, anger and hate would be emotions that tread close to the lines of immorality while eroticism would be more acceptable.

In this world, it's almost the other way around.

Monday, April 24, 2023

First a teacher was hated in Sudan for the misnaming of a Teddy bear. Now a hateful war.

There's a big war of hate happening inside Sudan.

Flashback to 2007 and I remember the controversy about when a teacher, from UK, was arrested and convicted, in Sudan, for insulting Islam by allowing her class of six-year-olds to name a teddy bear "Muhammad."

She was later released back to the UK. Having some memory of that news, I just looked it up in Wiki.

Here in USA, the name "Teddy Bear" was named after our former president Teddy Roosevelt. One could just call then "stuffed bears," I guess. We, in USA, are usually more tolorent.

Some folks might say a president is different than a religious profit, but some hard core fundamentalist Christians, here in USA, nearly consider Donald Trump to be the second coming of Christ.

I don't think much of fundamentalist religions.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Variable rate carbon tax could stabilize oil prices the way the Strategic Oil Reserve does now.

During my college years, in the shadow of the 1973 oil crisis, the US created the Strategic Oil Reserve. Back then, the idea was to have a reserve supply of oil in case we needed to fight a war while overseas oil imports were diminished.

Back then, we were dependent on imported oil for much of our supply. Today, we produce most of our own oil, due to increased domestic production; thus the reserve serves another purpose.

Since my college days, the use of our Strategic Oil Reserve has shifted to other goals; mainly the goal of stabilizing oil prices. When gas prices go up, Biden and other presidents, have dipped into the reserve to lower prices and to save their own political fortunes.

When prices go down, the reserve can be refilled. This practice can make money for the treasury due to the process of buying cheap / selling high.

It is not necessarily a bad strategy, but I also think this price stabilization effect can be done with carbon taxes that would be imposed when oil is too cheap. This would put a floor on oil prices so they are less apt to undercut alternative energy. The tax could be removed or lowered at times when oil prices are high. That temporary tax cut could relieve the shock of sudden price hikes.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

The American people are to blame for the national debt

There is much anxiety about the federal debt. Finger pointing as well. Ultimately, I think it's the American people who can be blamed for the debt. Not wanting to pay higher taxes while still demanding various things, like the military for instance, from government.

Republicans are likely more to blame, but Democrats are not angels either. Republicans refusal to even consider tax increases is a problem. Another problem is the idea that money and wealth is the most important goal in life.

In my personal life, I haven't been that motivated by making more money. I do need enough for survival and comfort as a single person and a bit more to make life interesting, some travel for instance.

On the other hand, I do have a big interest in the workings of the economy on a large scale. Not my personal finance, but learning, from a distance, how business, government and so forth function. I have an interest in how these things can remain viable to create the economy that we are dependent on. I was a geography major, in college and one of my favorite subjects is "Economic Geography."

Another Earth Day

Sometimes I think Earth Day is just another way to appease our guilt and make it look like we are trying to do something to save the livability of the planet.

This year, a friend was thinking of attending a tree planting event, but found that the event, near his neighborhood, was fully booked. Maybe not enough saplings at that location, but other locations, in the city, still had openings. He wanted to walk, rather than drive across town, but he may attend anyway regardless of whether there is a sapling for him to plant.

The events offer instructions on where to park for attending the event.

Years ago, another friend walked into a meeting, I was at, with sapling in hand asking people if they wanted to take one for planting. I took one and then walked to Sehome Hill to plant it myself. There wasn't an event. I don't know if it survived or not. There wasn't an event to show me how to plant it.

Now I can't tell if it survived, or not, as when I look at that area, I just see lots of trees anyway. I forgot exactly where I planted it.

Many more years before that, I remember the first Earth Day while I was in high school. The art teacher led a tree planting event, but a biology teacher thought the trees wouldn't survive on that hillside which was naturally a grassland environment. That event was still a nice memory.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Driver assist technology could be used to enforce safer driving.

While I tend to feel favorable toward the police, I also understand the argument that "an ounce of prevention," from things like social services, is better than "a pound of cure;" only relying on police.

This same logic can apply to traffic safety as well. Driver assist technology and even self driving technology is becoming more prevalent. I've heard that we can pretty much make the cars enforce things like speed limits, but there is reluctance to do this from automakers and the driving public.

How about having a breathalyzer in all cars so the car doesn't start if the breathalyzer detects alcohol? We've had that technology, since the 1980s, as it is often installed in the cars of folks who have been convicted of drunk driving.

How about having the cars, themselves, enforce speed limits and having the cars refuse to do reckless driving? The human driver could still override these features given certain emergencies or the need for higher speeds in passing and so forth.

This isn't just my idea, I've heard, on the news, that we could do a lot more to make cars safer by just installing technology where the car refuses to do reckless driving. GPS could be used so the car knows the speed limits for each road.

Many of the problems, that cause folks to complain about police, stem from traffic stops. The cars, themselves could do more to enforce public safety.

Strong Towns suggests changing street design to encourage slower and safer driving. Slower style city planning is nice. I would appriciate it being a bicyclist and a pedestrian, but it does take billions of dollars in retrofitting. A quicker solution is to use technology, in the cars themselves, to enforce safer driving.

If better mental health services is seen as the answer, instead of better gun legislation, that can be turned into an argument for universal access to mental healthcare and maybe single payer.

Some Republicans say that guns aren't the problem, the problem is mental health. Maybe that could be turned into an argument for universal access to healthcare. Possibly an argument for single payer.

Ironically, Republicans are not likely to embrace that logic, however.

Today I hear in the news that quite a few people will loose access to healthcare as the pandemic emergency winds down. Some low income folks, in states like Texas, will loose access to Medicaid expansion; states that still refuse Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.

Others, even in states like Washington that has the Medicaid expansion, will likely get confused by the myriad of choices and miss open enrollment periods as some people need to reenroll in various plans as things change after the pandemic.

In some cases, folks will fall through the cracks and loose access to psychiatric medicines that they need as the complex landscape of healthcare finance keeps changing.

Add to this more and more guns in society and you have a recipe for problems.

Biden's new energy standards for mobile homes may only cost pocket change compared to renting a space for a mobile home anyway. Might as well not fret about that.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is asking the Biden administration to delay new energy standards for mobile homes set to go into effect at the end of next month.

I say, "why bother fretting about this?" It seems like the $750, added purchase cost for a singlewide mobile home to make it more energy efficient, is just pocket change compared to monthly rent for a space at mobile home parks in this (western Washington State) area, at least. I've heard that rent can be around $800 per month just to be in a mobile home park; if one is lucky enough to find a space. That's not counting utilities. One month covers that entire cost difference for the better insulated homes to save lots of money, over time, on heating and cooling.

I assume the cost is only for new mobile homes as existing ones would be grandfathered in, for a while, anyway.

This may be one difference between "blue state" and "red state" thinking as maybe, in South Carolina where Senator Scott is from, rents and property prices are lower. In Bellingham area, rents and property values are high as our blue state economy tends to be booming. That prosperous situation does bring other challenges, however; like rents so high, in our "hoity toity" communities, that they dwarf the cost of things like better insulated windows.

I've never been to South Carolina, but I hear that rents may be more affordable, but that's just a stereotype?

Maybe it's expensive in the Charlston area. I do have a college degree in geography. I hear that, in North Carolina, Ashville rents and property values are through the roof.

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

What if DeSantis were to become president and pardon Trump?

Here's a thought experiment. What would happen if Ron DeSantis became president in 2025 and pardoned Donald Trump? I realize that DeSantis and Trump are rivals, however, for the Republican nomination. They aren't exactly buddy buddy.

On the Trump topic, I haven't said much lately. My reaction to the indictment ranges from "glad that it's proceeding" to a bit of "indifference." Long term issues, such as the economy and climate change, tend to captivate me more.

I've always been, pretty much, a moderate Democrat, myself.

It seems like it's gotten to where ethics are more and more determined by politics. Guilt or innocence, ethical or unethical depends, to a large extent, on who one asks.

Republicans tend to think one way, Democrats another.

Seems like there are a lot of things that Trump has done that would do more than raise the eyebrows of; for instance, evangelical Christians, but these days most Republicans do give him a pass. That's why I ponder the question, "what if DeSantis were to pardon Trump if he were President by 2025."

What if red states were to protect their red friends and prevent them from being sent to blue states for legal proceedings? The United States ununited? So far, that hasn't happened, however.

I often think that when in power, Republicans tend to show more bias toward their own comrades than Democrats do. For instance Senator Al Frankin stepped down, rather quickly, after mild acusations related to the Me Too movement, while, around the same time, Trump could "double down" and still keep his support.

Most likely there was never a totally objective basis for ethics anyway. It just seems like, as time goes on, there is less and less of an illusion of objective ethics.

I still try to hold to my own set of ethics, however. As for society, there still seems to be enough common ground that, for the most part, society still does function.

Thinking more deeply about the basis of ethics.

From observation of human behavior, I tend to think that ethics evolves out of our need to function among one another in this world. Our need to be neighborly and reduce harm or pain to one another. Our need to work together for building the institutions of society that allow us to achieve more than we would as isolated groups or individuals.

I don't rule out a spiritural dimention to life, but seems like our rules, beliefs and ethics are separate from that. Maybe they are inspired, but looking at how humans function, I am skeptical.

There are the laws of physics and there are a lot of open questions about intelligents and spiriturality that I enjoy contemplating.

There is so much that we still don't know so I go at it with a bit of humbleness.

The behaviour of fundamentalist religious people tends to discredit any idea of a divine basis for human morality. At the same time, I haven't thrown out the idea that a divinity exists, it just seems like we (humans) get into trouble when we try to define it in our own terms.

In politics, it seems to me like extreme left, or extreme right, doesn't lead to good governance. Middle ground, with some compromise, works best.

Monday, April 03, 2023

Slowing population growth could benefit the nations where people still want to live. Benefit democratic ideals.

Elon Musk is worried about the population bust with it's potential drag on world economies.

Instead of that, it looks like population is shrinking in places like Russia, where people are trying to get out, but population is still growing in places like Canada, where people are waiting at the borders trying to get in.

If economic growth follows population growth, countries like Canada, with better respect for diversity, will grow. This sorting out of nations could benefit democratic ideals, however worldwide economic growth can still present problems such as climate change.

Electric trolley style mass transit gets around the battery chemicals problem

There is some worry, not just from right wing pundits, but from others that a green energy revolution may be difficult. One big concern is the chemicals needed in batteries for cars and utility power storage; the mining and so forth.

I still think we should migrate more to public transit which can function without batteries. Seattle's trolley bus system, for instance. Electricity fed direct from overhead lines.

More compact city planning, more transit, walking and bicycling is needed.

Electrification is better than fossil fuels, but the transition may not be as easy as some folks think. Heat pumps can save lots of energy for buildings. They are better than regular electric heating, but smaller homes are a virtue as well.

We need to think beyond just sitting back and expecting that battery technology will do it all for us in just the next two decades or so. That's a tall order.

More deaths among medically expensive people, plus more homecare has bolstered the solvency of Medicare

Catch your breath. Medicare is on stronger financial footing than was feared a few years back. The deadline, for it's costs to outstrip revenue, has been pushed back 3 years to 2031.

Trustees anticipate some cost savings for Medicare, thanks to a switch to less-expensive outpatient treatments and because some people, who would have required the most costly care, died prematurely during the pandemic.

That does sound a bit harsh as some of the most costly people have died, but it means a savings for Medicare.

Social Security faces a projected revenue shortfall by 2033, unless raising the tax cap or instituting benefit cuts. Increased taxes have been proposed by Democrats for shoring up both the Medicare and the Social Security systems. Another alternative is less services and / or more deaths.

Link to article that I got this info from. I saw beyond the headlines.

Natural disasters create more stumbling blocks to Republican budget cutting plans

The Republican goal to cut federal spending would be hard to achieve. Seems like every time we turn around, there's another disaster. Recent tornados across the Midwest; a case in point.

More and more money is needed for disaster relief and budget planners don't seem to take that into account. The disasters are often larger than anticipated.

Way back in the days before our government was as large as it is today, communities were more left on their own to repair the damage based on private charity. Many needs would go unmet.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Patience is a virtue that is in short supply in politics

A while ago, I suggested that Democrats and Biden should ask Republicans to come up with a budget and specify what spending they think should be cut. My suggestion is kind of stating the obvious and I notice that Democrats are now doing that. Republicans are struggling to come up with any major cuts that don't upset large swaths of the voting public.

It does seem like "the people" are pretty much impossible to satisfy. That's really the crux of the problem, but few people care to discuss that problem.

Politicians don't get elected by saying that the people's expectations are impractical. Politicians tend to rally our expectations.

Seems like patience is a virtue lost in modern society.

At the same time, I do feel that the expectations of Republicans are even more unrealistic than the expectations of Democrats. Tax cuts, such as during the Bush and Trump eras, have contributed to wealth inequality.

Both Democrats and Republicans have benefited, personally, from these lower taxes. Democrats may have even benefited more as there tends to be more wealth in Democrat led districts.

In this information economy, innovative, educated populations, in urban areas, have tended to benefit more.

I think that if Democrats were more in the majority of government positions, there would be some higher taxes on success which would lead to less inequality, but the Republican politicians have blocked that, for the most part.

In some cases, prosperous cities have tried to tax themselves more while state legislatures, led by Republicans, have blocked that.

I think both Republican and Democrat elites have personally benefited from relatively low taxes compared to European countries, for instance. Society, as a whole, has suffered.

If Democrats were more in control, wealth inequality would be somewhat less, but life would still be no nirvana. Climate change would still be a problem as wealth and things like automobile addiction would still prevail. It would still be hard for American society to meet climate goals, as set out in the Paris Agreements.

Other big demands, that are often made by some folks on the left such as reparations to address racism, would, most likely, still remain out of reach.

Even in a system more controlled by Democrats, expectations would continue to be far too high for the reality of what we can realistically expect. Plain logistics and math is often what stands in the way.

It seems like pretty much everyone has little patience. Expectations seem to always outstrip what can be realistically provided. This situation, of excessive expectations, does lead to anxiety and unhappiness in modern society.

In many cases, we need to learn to appreciate more of what we have.

We still should strive for better deals, but at the same time, I think we've gone overboard in our constant complaints and expectations for something better. Ironically, due to so much demanding, we could end up with less than we have now. We could loose civil society and democracy itself.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Did "family values" cause the air travel chaos of Christmas 2022?

As both the traditional left and traditional right jockey for the "moral high ground" on family values, it could be family values that caused the airline chaos of Christmas 2022.

Republicans try to blame Transportation Secretary Buttigieg for that chaos, but Buttigieg doesn't control the weather.

People's desire for bringing together distant family members, during the worst travel season of the year, is more to blame. Our family oriented holidays of Christmas and Thanksgiving happen to be during the stormy time of year and storms of 2022 took aim right at Christmas travel mania.

Being less family minded, myself, I didn't travel then. Visiting with my brothers and sisters, electronically, was sufficient in my family of origin. Connection with local folks was sufficient as well; local folks that are not connected by blood or marriage.

A bike ride across town, or walking when the snow made biking treacherous was sufficient. At times, I think American culture is trying to squeeze too much out of our transportation systems as well as the natural environment.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Could Intalco Alcoa Aluminum site be used for energy storage? Powerlines are already in place.

Could the old Intalco / Alcoa aluminum site, Now owned by AltaGas be used for intermittent storage of energy from the power grid?

As more green power comes to the grid, such as solar, there is potentially a need for storage; such as storage of solar power for night use.

This site already has good powerline connections to the grid. It could be used to store energy in batteries, or hydrogen. If hydrogen, maybe it would help to have the port and rail access that is already there. The site has rail, port and good powerline access.

Maybe use it for wind power also? Unfortunately Whatcom County still has a moratorium on wind power development, but that moratorium does have an exemption for industrial areas, so I hear.

Now that Alcoa has suttered the mill for good, there are still plans to possibly find a new industrial use for the land. Energy storage is one possibility.

Could groundwork for district heating also provide ground field for a heat pump system?

Picture of a chilled water plant at WSU, Pullman.

I've got to thinking that district heating and geothermal could go together well. They both use pipes in the ground.

District heating uses the pipes to bring heat, or cooling, from a central plant; like a steam plant, to buildings where the heat is used. Geothermal uses pipes through the ground to collect heat, or cooling, from the ground for buildings.

Can't the two go together?

A district heating network provides a lot of surface area of pipes in the ground between buildings. Couldn't the same tranches, or tunnels, also provide space for the refrigerant pipes of a heat pump system?

I'm not an expert on heat pumps, such as how far the pipes can be from the heat pump compressor, but there could be satellite compressors along the system that would feed hot, or cold water into the heating district distribution pipes.

Below, picture of old cooling tower for a chilled water plant they built at WWU, in Bellingham. It was built to cool some new buildings, but later discontinued. The chiller has been removed and space looks like it's used as a shop connected to WWU steam plant.

Now there are plans to eventually convert WWU's heating system to a heatpump system.

Winning the peace often works better than winning the war.

When the oppressive Soviet Union started to reform, it wasn't so much by military force as by people, within, finding out what folks in freer countries get to have. It was innovations, lifestyle choices, music, diversity, economics, consumer goods, art and so forth that caused people to push for reform.

Even if war isn't able to unseat Russia from it's captured territories, maybe the best strategy is to wait things out. In the long run, the yearnings for reform could come again.

Decades of low interest rates mostly just led to inflation in asset prices when money was given to private sector.

Given the past decades of low interest rates, it seemed like the most lucrative way to make money was to buy an asset at low price and then sell it at high price. Homes, stocks, artwork, or whatever; buy low, hold it and then sell. This was more lucrative than having a job.

Ironically, low interest rates were designed to keep employment up, but, instead, it mostly made a mockery out of working for a living.

This was especially true when the money flooded into the private sector. As for government spending, that was better, but still problematic.

Yes, I am kind of a leftist. I think that if cheap money is printed and given to the government, it could, at least, be directed to needed things, such as infrastructure improvement. The money could do needed work on it's way into the economy. After that, the extra money would create inflation in the general economy, but at least it would go into things like infrastructure on the first turnover of the dollars.

Dumping that money directly into the private sector just sped it to inflation faster as cheap bank loans fueled asset bubbles; such as existing housing.

The private sector could do more to create things we need, such as new housing, but environmental restrictions make that a much harder task. If new construction can't happen, the money just goes to inflating existing things.

Now, interest rates are going up so the situation is changing again. My comment is more about the decades that are just past.

Figuring out how to tax wealthy individuals without smothering business

People often talk about taxing the rich, business and corporations all in the same breath. Then Republicans, who are usually anti tax, say that taxing business will hurt the economy; thus hurting consumers and workers.

I think the discussion needs to look more carefully on what the wealth is being used for. In some cases, it's the buildings and things that a business needs to provide it's goods and services to the public. Taxing that away will effect the flow of goods and services to the public.

In other cases, it's just wealthy people spending money on their own luxuries, such as homes, yachts and so forth. I think that wealth should be more taxed. In some cases, it's money that corporations and individuals spend on corrupting politics as in campaigns and lobbying. That wealth should be taxed more as well.

The tax codes do try and differentiate between legitimate capital expenses, to run and expand a business, versus just individuals getting rich.

Public discussion needs to take into account this difference as well.

With income and wealth inequality getting worse, we need to figure out ways to tax the excesses of the wealthy without crippling the functioning of the businesses that consumers, workers and communities depend on.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be more electable, nationwide, if people lived in compact neighborhoods; like planning so needs can be within a 15 minute commute.

The left leaning politics of someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is electable in an urban district like central New York City.

She would be less electable from the sprawling suburbs across USA where most people live. The suburbs full of swing voters. Even less electable in rural America; though Bernie Sanders, from the rural state of Vermont, is a notable exception.

I think, if we want politics to go more to the left, we need to strive toward more urban lifestyles. This can be seen here in Whatcom County where our urban center; Bellingham, tends to vote more liberal than the rest of the county.

I would guess that things like high gas prices become less of a political liability in places where commutes tend to be shorter.

I recently heard about the concept of the 15 minute city. That's the concept of living within a 15 minute commute to most needs; such as work, shopping and social life.

Face to face social interaction can have an effect on politics, I would guess. It's more likely in the 15 minute city.

Even if a metropolitan area is too large to be crossed by a 15 minute trip, the concept applies to how far one's needs are from their residence. Mixed use zoning can help with that by allowing a mix of densities, jobs and services in each area of the city.

In my case, I'm a 15 minute bike ride from downtown Bellingham so just about all my needs can be met within a 15 minute radius of my residence. This neighborhood also has bus service which, I think, is on an every 15 minute schedule.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The days of agriculture in California's Imperial Valley may be numbered

We, here on the west coast of USA, get a lot of our winter vegetable crops from California's Imperial Valley which is just north of the Mexican border and south of the Salton Sea. Unlike California's larger Sacramento / San Juaquin Valleys, it gets its irrigation water from the Colorado River. The larger valleys, to the north, get their water from mountain ranges inside California.

I recently had a conversation with someone that grew up in the Imperial Valley and he says it's a beautiful valley, but it's days as an agricultural valley may be numbered. It's productivity, for agriculture, is artificially created with irrigation water from the Colorado River and artificially propped up soils from tons of fertilizers.

I've been thinking they could save the agriculture, there, by desalinizing nearby seawater from the Gulf of California, in Mexico, or even the Pacific Ocean near San Diego.

The person, I was talking to thinks, instead, they may have to just let go of agriculture and let that valley return to desert. Agriculture could move to other places where soil and water conditions are naturally better, like some areas quite a ways farther south in Mexico where there could be more investment in agriculture.

It could help Mexico's economy, but we would be importing more food from there.

Artificial national borders are kind of problematic as well. We do live in a changing, global economy.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Falling birthrates are not likely a problem in countries where people wish to migrate to.

Some countries and economists are worried that falling birthrates will create economic problems. Not enough young people to work, shop and pay for the retired folks. Changing demographic distribution.

On the other hand, countries, like USA, Canada, much of Europe and Australia have over whelming numbers of young workers wanting to immigrate here. Seems like so many people, the world over, have the dream of coming to America.

Next problem is, how do we find housing for all those people and if they all drive cars, where are they going to park?

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Yes, the earth has had different climates before. Do we want to have that happen in the next few decades?

Some conservatives think climate change is no big deal since there were times, in geologic past, when Earth's climate was much different. Here is an analogy, I just thought of, relating the life of civilization to the life of a person. People know that they will die someday. If something doesn't kill you sooner, old age will.

There are folks that take chances earlier in life; like snowboarding in an avalanche zone. They often die early, which can be seen as more of a tragedy than dying from "natural causes" in old age.

Same can be said for our civilization. We could push climate change to happen over the next few decades; like entering an avalanche zone at age 20, or we could wait till "natural causes" happen, like death at an older age.

If we wait, by not causing climate change ourselves, we could get several thousand more years for civilization to flourish. Who knows.

Climate change is only part of the problem. The other part is increasing demand for things like fresh water. Economic growth.

Climate change is like a two edged sword. It's both the increasing demands of economic and population growth, plus disruptions in supply, created by climate change itself.

The Colorado River is a prime example. From what I read, drought, related to climate, accounts for around a 20% reduction in river flow. That, by itself, wouldn't be so bad except demand for water increases from population and economic growth in the region.

Technology and conservation has helped, but another part of the problem is that they over committed the river, even back when water rights were being divvied up years ago. They thought there would be more water than there was. It's a two fold problem. Climate change plus growth in demands.

Inflation of existing asset prices. One cause of inflation that rising interest rates can curb.

Interest rates are rising. Good news for people with old fashioned savings in the bank. Bad news for borrowers.

The Fed is trying to curb inflation. Higher interest rates tend to curb the inflated asset market, such as home values, where existing real estate inflates so high, in value, that it becomes less affordable, thus one big factor increasing the cost of living.

Other drivers of inflation may be less related to interest rates alone.

Supply chain, such as gas prices, has to do with demand outstripping supply and in some cases, business take advantage of tight supply markets to increase profits.

Then there is the problem of income inequality. There tends to be a bidding war, among businesses and institutions, for retaining their top talent. For instance colleges raising the football coach's salary to keep up with competing institutions. Most workers fall behind top stars so, eventually, there is pressure to raise all wages just to keep up with inflation. A reasonable amount of inflation, maybe even more than the Fed's target of 2%, seems acceptable to me. The problem is that everything doesn't go up evenly.

If everything were to go up evenly, we could just move the decimal point over as time goes by.

Traffic keeps increasing.

As Bellingham grows, there is more and more traffic, even on minor streets.

At first I wondered if car addiction was getting worse, but then I realized that increased traffic, on minor streets, has to do with something I like; increasing density in neighborhoods. I favor increased density, but hope people learn to use cars less. Still, downtown Bellingham is relatively calm, traffic wise. Except for Holly Street, downtown streets are pretty calm. Less car dependency seems to be working downtown.

Whenever I go out into rural areas, it seems like traffic is even more backed up. Sprawl, versus density, is big in the county, but I usually just ride in Bellingham. When I do venture out to the county, it's an eye opener of even more traffic.

Most of the traffic, in both the city and county, does seem to be polite and orderly, however. That's good news.

I keep saying that as our population grows, I-5 will not grow. It will remain only 4 lanes, unlike Seattle metro, where much of it is 8 lanes.

Property values are too high and / or road taxes are too low to widen I-5 through Bellingham and Whatcom County. I doubt it can happen, yet more and more people are using it.

On my bicycle, I have found many good ways to avoid the angst of traffic. First, I am not in a hurry.

If traffic is near bumper to bumper, pulling out into traffic, coming from two directions, can be tedious. I have a remedy. I go out of my way to the nearest stoplight and then cross when the light turns green.

In some cases, I go up to a light just to get across and into the lane going back in the opposite direction. To me that's less nerve wracking than trying to catch enough of a break, in both lanes of traffic, to pull across to the lane going the direction I want to go.

If things are busy, it's much easier to cross at a stoplight. We're getting more of them all the time to help calm the traffic.

Electric cars could be heavier then other cars of similar size.

In the news, there is talk of electric cars being heavier than gas cars due to the weight of the batteries. Heavier and deadlier to outsiders, like other cars and pedestrians, in an accident.

If this is the case, we will need to take the next technological step. Self driving cars, or at least more collision avoidance technology in human driven cars.

Another change could be smaller, lighter cars and lower speeds. Sorry, less giant SUVs. Either that or more folks not driving cars.

Monday, March 06, 2023

I wonder why people still use Instagram if they don't like Facebook. Instagram is owned by Facebook.

Besides various problems on Facebook, I see some talk of problems on Instagram. I don't use Instagram.

For sharing photos, I prefer Flickr. In most cases, people on Flickr set their privacy settings to "open web" so friending is not necessary. Most things can be found in open search and even in Google search.

I do use Facebook, however. I like the space for longer, more thoughtful posts that often happens on Facebook.

As for friends, I would prefer Facebook to be all browsable, like open websites. Facebook is more interactive than the open web, due to friends who are more interested in me than the general public. Facebook gathers networks of personal friends. As for mass interest on the web, from the general public, I'm not Kim Kardashian.🤣 My Flickr does get lots of clicks, however; just not many comments.

Many of my personal friends are on Facebook and that momentum isn't on other platforms.

Amazing to me that there are people who don't use Facebook, but do use Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. They know this, but they seem to prefer Instagram anyway. A mystery to me.

I guess, Instagram, being more about pictures than writing, is a faster experience. Speaking of "hurry, hurry sound bytes," I don't use Twitter.

Friday, March 03, 2023

Though birth rates are dropping in most countries, the legacy of overpopulation has now shifted to a migration issue.

If I were to give a speach to the United Nations, this is what I would say.

Our world's overpopulation problem evolves over time. Now, it's becoming less of a problem of birth rates and more of a problem of migration.

Birthrates are still high in a handful of countries, like Nigeria, but overall, world birthrates are declining. Today's big problem is that there are many countries which are run by authoritarian governments so an overwhelming number of people are desperately trying to take refuge in the countries, such as the US and Canada, who are still relatively safe to live in.

Religious bigotry, war, oppression, climate change and famine are making much of the world into hellholes that more and more people are striving to escape.

There is quite a bit of fear, in more livable places like the US and Europe, about immigration as large numbers of refugees overwhelm existing resources; thus leading some native born folks to resort to rightwing, zenophobic politics.

The study of population is sometimes called "demographics." While world population is over 8 billion, demographics is still sending us warning messages about declining populations in some countries. Population decline can lead to economic problems as in, "who's going to pay for the retirement of older generations if there is a shortage of young workers?"

Russia is a prime example of this problem with it's rapidly declining population. Who wants to live in that country with it's anti gay bigotry, war and censorship? The best and brightest people are fleeing, for their lives, from Russia; inventors, entrepreneurs and all trying to get out.

They are fleeing to other former Soviet Republics, such as the Republic of Georgia. They are fleeing the war and trying to get into Europe, the US, Canada and Australia.

Talented folks are fleeing from many Third World countries as well, for similar reasons and to escape poverty. When it comes to entroprenurism and innovation, many countries of the world are experiencing "brain drain."

If the US had more open borders, we would have plenty of workers to pay into our retirements, but there are devastating shortages of housing. The American way of life would lead to even more tremendous automobile gridlock of traffic. There would be more shortages of fresh water and more impact on the environment.

Meanwhile, around the world, famine, war and oppression is becoming so severe that the work of aid agencies is becoming more futile; like trying to bail out the ocean with a tea cup.

Thursday, March 02, 2023

The AM radio band has unique propogation characteristics

At the base of KWSU AM radio tower near Pullman. Out in the Palouse wheat fields west of town.

Someone recently posted that some car manufacturers are not including the AM band in new car radios. Folks are worried because AM might be the most reliable source of information in an emergency.

I got to thinking about the AM band. It's at the low end of the frequency spectrum, just above the obscure longwave band. It's the only band that lots of old radios could get as FM didn't get started till the 1940s. AM dominated clear up to the 1970s.

One big advantage of AM is that the signal is less confined to "line of sight" propagation. AM radio waves can bend more easily over hills, around buildings and into shadow areas. It can reach areas that are often missed by the higher frequencies of FM radio, cellphone or satellite.

At night, it can bounce off the ionosphere for distances of over a thousand miles without needing either a satellite or the internet.

Most people use the higher frequency, more line of sight, signals like FM or cellphone. If there aren't cellphone towers in the area, or one is in a shadow, the higher frequency signals can drop out. AM is a bit more stable, in that regard, but it has it's disadvantages as well.

The AM band's low frequency signals don't carry as much information as higher frequency channels. They are lower "bandwidth" so lower fidelity of sound, plus less ability to send more things. Some digital FM stations offer several subchannel programs. Maybe one station, on the dial, offers more than one program, such as "KUOW, 1" and "KUOW 2," for people with special "HD" radios.

Another big problem is the static. FM is modulated differently than AM so it picks up less static. These days, there is a lot of static from all the electronics in homes. AM often can't be heard over the static. Even phone and power lines can make static along the road.

Another problem is that most of the AM stations are owned by just a few corporations and the programming tends to offer little variety. A few conservative networks tend to dominate the market.

Many radio stations don't bother to produce their own local programming. To save money they just repeat network stuff that's on hundreds of stations coast to coast, or they just have automated music formats.

Pullman's KWSU is one of the few college educational stations on the AM band. Most educational stations use FM. These days, even KWSU is mostly just stuff off a network as well; The NPR Radio Network.

I like NPR, compared to the mostly conservative stuff on commercial stations, but it's still just from the national network. I listen to NPR from FM stations, here in Bellingham, one of them basically repeats what's on KWSU from Pullman. It's on FM, here in Bellingham; The "News and Information Service of Northwest Public Broadcasting."

Some NPR stations do produce a few of their own local shows. For instance KQED in San Francisco. I listen to some of those shows on the internet.

AM towers don't need to be in high places as the signals can follow contours of the land better than higher frequency signals. AM towers are often out in fields where there is plenty of room. The tower may be tall, but the whole tower is usually the radiator for those longer wave signals.

FM and TV towers can be tall, or on high places such as mountains, for longer reach with line of sight. The radiating antenna is usually just at the top of the tower.

Cellphone towers tend to be shorter as the signals don't have to reach that far. The cellphone system just passes one off to the next tower if one gets out of range. There are usually lots of celltowers in any given area, or coverage becomes spotty.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

How about a lane just for transit and tractor trailers?

I've seen a proposal to allow big trucks to have their own lane on multi lane freeways of 3, or more lanes in each direction. Might be a good idea because I've always thought there should be a "bus only" lane for transit. Maybe buses and big trucks could team up to get this through, politically, plus getting through the constant clog of traffic.

Today's HOV lanes, through Seattle area, don't seem to work as they allow vehicles with only 2 occupants. There are so many 2 occupant vehicles that traffic seems just as clogged, in the HOV lanes, as in the regular lanes.

If transit could get through without being held up in traffic, maybe there would be less traffic as there would be more incentive for folks would use transit instead of private cars.

The only times I've recently been on that section of freeway, between Marysville and Seattle, I've been on a bus stuck in traffic in the HOV lane.

Last summer, when I was on Greyhound through that area, the bus took Highway 99 from Marysville to Everett and then went around by way of I-405 and I-90 to Seattle. This route hoping they could get around the traffic on I-5; HOV lanes and all.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Facebook is like a publication that's all letters to the editor from readers who write to have a soapbox while advertising pays the bills to run the soapbox.

Some people feel that Facebook is exploiting us, the content providers. Yes, I would prefer it were run by a non profit, but I think of it as being, sort of, like a newspaper.

Facebook is a newspaper made up entirely from letters to the editor and advertising. The letters (and photos) provide a soapbox for members of the public to express themselves while advertising pays the newspaper's bills.

Newspapers also pay for professional journalists; though these days, newspapers are struggling to do that.

Facebook also has the issue of the algorithms which amplify some forms of content over others. This could be viewed as being like headline writing and article placement in a newspaper. Sensationalism sells newspapers.

To use a newspaper analogy, I sometimes think my content gets shuffled to the inside, back pages of Facebook, but that is mostly driven by evidence of reader response; clicks, likes and comments.

Back in my high school, or maybe college days, before so much information was at our fingertips through the internet; I complained, to my mom, that news from space science seldom got coverage in the newspaper. I said, if they do cover science, it's usually on the back of the sports page.

One morning, when I got up, mom greeted me with a chuckle and said, "there is a story about a new telescope in this morning's paper." "It's on the back of the ports page."

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

How about putting Seattle's new airport in Cle Elum area? Yakima is friendly to it. Cle Elum or Ellensburg are closer.

Humankind often grows by what is called "slash and burn" which can include moving on or expanding to new territory.

Here in Washington State, our population and economy is outgrowing Sea-Tac Airport. Rather than changing our ways, a second airport may be needed. Other areas, near Seattle, resist the development so, in the spirit of moving on, Yakima steps forward. Yakima is a long ways out, but there was news, a while back, that Yakima would welcome the new airport.

I got to thinking that Cle Elum might be a good place for the airport. No place near Seattle metro would likely welcome it. Yakima is still farther, but Cle Elum or Ellensburg area might be the best bet. There is more open space, starting around Cle Elum east of the Cascade Mountains.

Some folks actually commute to work in Seattle area from Cle Elum area, so I hear. In many cases preparing for a life of retirement east of the mountains with only a few years left to work. It's a long commute, but those kind of commutes are normalized; as in the phrase, "only in America."

Changing our ways would mean, I guess, not needing another airport. There could be other alternatives like slowing down the rat race, Relying more on rail transportation or even less travel and more cyber travel online.

When I posted this on Facebook, someone suggested airships based on hellium balloon technology.

Yes, that's a great idea. Less need for big runway space. Might still fit closer to Seattle Metro west of the Cascades. Airships combine my concepts of slowing down while also living in style. Could work well for shorter trips, like forinstance Seattle to Spokane or even to San Francisco. More comfort and enjoy the view. Would also use much less energy than jet travel according to articles I have seen on airship travel.

Above: My modified Google Map and mural in Cle Elum photo from my 2022 bicycle and bus trips.

Below: Airship image from Gardian News UK.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Sunset federal programs is like the debt ceiling debacle extended to more than just the debt ceiling.

Sen. Rick Scott is now trying to amend his idea of sunsetting federal programs every 5 years saying he never met it to apply to Social Security, Medicare, the Military, the veterans and so forth. Just sunset the rest of government, I guess; like maybe the border patrol? Republicans think that's important also.

We've kind of got a sunset mechanism already. It's the debt ceiling. If the debt ceiling isn't raised, much of government spending sunsets. It's turned out to have created it's own set of problems; an artificial financial crisis, if the debt ceiling shuts things down.

Rather than adding more sunsets, we should eliminate the debt ceiling sunset, which we don't adhere to anyway. We always do lift the debt ceiling, but we just create an artificial crisis over it, each time, as a ritual of shaming ourselves.

Large deficits seems to be an inevitable part of the equation for propping up the American way of life, but we seem to have survived this far beyond so many predictions of catastrophe.

Yes, I do think we need changes. Simpler lifestyles and less consumption would help. This could start with higher taxes on personal spending for things like luxury homes. Folks may disagree with me, but I think the American people spend too much money on sports; for instance.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Adjusting Social Security to our increasing lifespans, but American lifespans are decreasing now.

It makes sense to raise the age of retirement to maintain solvency of Social Security in a world of increasing lifespans. Problem is, lifespans, in USA, are now decreasing. Maybe that can be turned around, someday, but for the past few years, lifespans have been decreasing. Seems like the rat race is sending Americans to an earlier grave.

The many reasons do get discussed from overwork to income inequality to gun violence to traffic accidents to drug use to suicides to the pandemic and so forth. Many changes are needed in our culture. Higher quality of life and less materialistic pursuits would help, in my opinion. I seem to define quality of life differently than a lot of people. For instance, free time and connection to friends brings quality of life. Health and time for going places by bicycle is quality of life for me.