Thursday, August 27, 2009

I think I see a pattern here.

I am suddenly seeing a pattern where I didn’t before.

Food, Alcoholic Beverage, Healthcare, Energy, Environment, Education, Corrections; All of these topics have debates going on right now.  Individuals and groups are arguing about these subjects.  I didn’t say discussing, I said arguing, because that is the level of the discourse.

  • Food: Organic vs “Conventional” (who decided that the term “conventional” gets to refer to the way things have been done in the last 50 years, and the term “non-conventional” get to refer to the other 99,950 years?)
  • More Food: Family farmers vs. agribusiness.  No one is arguing that modern agriculture practices have not allowed us to produce food more efficiently.  A farmer with a diesel tractor can manage over 300 times the acreage as one without.  Efficiencies come with costs, and all of those costs need to be considered.  But when we compare, lets honestly look at ALL the costs.  Like the cost imposed by the risk of large, monolithic factory farms shutting down because of contamination, or reallocation of priorities from grain for food to grain for biofuel.  Do we want our primary suppliers of food to “Run the Numbers” every quarter to decide if they want to stay in the food business or not?
  • Healthcare: Why is the primary goal of our health care industry oversight to keep our healthcare investors portfolios healthy instead of the citizens?  If my primary care physician told me that the reason he got into medicine was because that is where the highest profit was, I might look for a different doctor
  • Energy – Look around.  Do the math.  We use more power today than we did last year. Do you honestly believe that is not the trend?  Most energy comes from a black goop that we pump out of the ground.  Do you think that that will be available forever?  Where do you see the most time and energy spending going: maintaining what we currently do or coming up with a better solution?  Am I the only one that sees a problem here?
  • Education – This one really confuses me.  My parents helped me with college at first.  And there were student loans, and the rest was made up with me working though college. But it was doable and not unrealistic.  What happened to that? The cost of an education has been rising well above the cost of living  index.  The price for a college education has skyrocketed. Textbooks, tuitions, student housing and fees all all shooting up faster than the world around them.  Where is it going?  Is someone getting rich off of our desires to educate our kids?  That’s OK why?
  • Beverage laws – Yea, this one doesn’t really fit in with the rest, but it’s my blog, and I will try to tie it in at the end.  Work with me here.  We have some real screwed up beverage laws.  One state can ship to people in some states, but not others.  Some states can sell in stores on some days, but not other days. Some delivery companies can transport it, others can’t. Some states won’t let you taste wines in a store if “children can observe” you tasting.
  • Corrections – By this I mean our criminal justice system.  Neither of the terms are very good descriptions of the system.  Calling it “Corrections” would imply that something or someone is “Corrected” by the system.  “Criminal Justice” would imply that the system is just and fair in the application of punishment to criminals.  I don’t think an honest evaluation of the system would lead anyone to that conclusion.  Our correction system is a for profit business, run by contracted 3d parties, to house people that have been sent there by our courts for breaking laws defined by our legislature. These companies make money by having people in prison and use a lot of that money to encourage lawmakers to make laws that put people into prison and not to keep them out.

What do these systems have in common?  There is a lot of money that flows to groups in the system.  The money goes from the groups that control it, to the groups that set up the rules on how it is controlled.  These are all systems that we would like to believe have a primary goal of being for the citizens, but the incentives are to increase profits.  There is an incentive for increased efficiency.  But the efficiency is not meant to let them do more for less, it is to do less for higher profit.

Again,  I ask: Why is that OK?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Politics is NOT the least common denominator (I hope)

Does it seem like everything boils down to politics?  When did that start?  I am not sure if this is a new trend, or if I have just become overly sensitized to this. When I read a blog, listen to a newscast, meet someone new, read a book, anything; I immediately think of it in terms of where it falls on the political spectrum.  Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, Socialism, Marxism, Capitalism, Fascism, Progressive, WHATEVER.  I can’t help but start to put it into this or that box.  Then, after I put it in the box, I start to think of which politician or talk show host would agree or disagree with it.

I don’t know when or why that has become the way I view the world, but, I want it to stop.  Or at least I want to stop being so central it in my own set of classifications.

It wasn’t always like that.  Remember when there would be a news event discussed, and it wouldn’t include political commentary?  Doesn’t it desensitize us to the terrible actions that someone does, when it is followed by some talking head attributing it to reactions to this or that political party’s platform?  If some person attacks some other person, do we need to assume that it is rooted in political idealisms that the two sides have that are irreconcilable?

I hope that this is just a problem that we have in our reaction to the events around us.  That we are trying to look at the events around us and using personal politics as a way to try to make sense of the world. That’s what I hope.  Because the alternative is that we are actually seeing these terrible things happen because of fundamental political ideologies.  And that is scary, indeed.