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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Photographic Evidence

The Olympics are still beautiful and mysterious. Here's a first series of photos of the trip. These are the "artsy" ones. Snapshots of Olaiya and me will come later.

Pipe Organ

Clown Fish



Coffin Mates





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Monday, August 24, 2009

You Can't Fall Off a Mountain

Olaiya and I are off to the woods. The Olympic peninsula beckons, with its lush Hoh River Valley rainforest, turquoise waters of Lake Crescent and labyrinthine bunkers high atop the hills of Fort Worden. We'll take the whole work week to hike and camp and cook simple meals over a single butane flame. To prepare, I've dug my tent and sleeping bag out of storage and purchased/borrowed strange devices: signifiers of manhood and independence: a compass, a pocketknife, waterproof matches, iodine pills, 100' of sturdy rope.

I remember backpacking with my parents when I was just 13... and going later with high school friends Andres, Calvin and Garrett. Arcane challenges like building a fire in damp conditions or nagivating a waist high river rekindle something in me. In my mind, I'm already riding the flume. I'm running down the mountain. I'm John Muir mixing it up with an avalanche. I know it won't be like that anymore. I'm too old and smart to leave the trail behind and get into any real trouble, but getting out of Seattle for a while and into some moss-covered riverbanks sounds like the perfect prescription for all my urban anxiety and fretting about health-care reform. Please don't blow up civilization while I'm gone.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Getting Consistent

Jeering and howling, the ugly faces of the indignant and the ignorant are ambushing congressmen and townhalls across the country. They cannot abide this socialist administration trying to force health care upon its people. They spread misinformation and shout down opposition. If you read the news, it sounds like they're trying to start a goddamn civil war.

At first, I came here to make a tired argument. It goes something like this: We do not need to fear government-run programs. Everyday we take all kinds of government run programs for granted. We count on the mailman and the fire department and the school teacher and the police department and the coast guard to keep society safe and running smoothly. Cue the 1950's music and old educational video montage. We count on government programs to provide social security and Medicare for our elderly, student loans to our youth, and to preserve green spaces for everyone. The government makes sure that streets are paved, homes have electricity, and that we're notified if a child molester moves in next door. These programs have all been run by the government for years, and they work. They work quite well. So you see America... there's no reason to fear socialized medicine... you've been enjoying a socialized fire department for years!

As I was rehearsing this argument, I was struck by a thought. Why the hell have we allowed so many critical aspects of our society to be run by corporations instead of the government?! The government exists to ensure the public interest... and they have been the only ones we can rely on to provide many fundamental services that were too important to leave to the marketplace.

Clearly there are many systems that private corporations would love to get their profiteering hands on. Corporations love running prisons (they not only get government money to handle the prisoners, they also get to use the inmates as slave labor in sweatshops... it's win-win!) Frankly, there's good reason to fear corporations running the programs that we rely on to keep society running smoothly. They may handle things more efficiently, but they also take greater risks and don't have a strong track record of planning for sustainability. Their motivations are not ultimately to serve the public interest. While I think corporate competition and innovation are great for fields like movie-making, restaurants, biochemistry and car manufacturing... There are certain services in our society that shouldn't be left to chance or influenced by corporate ethics.

What are they?

Well, there's education. I'm very happy that we have a public school option all the way through university studies. I'm not saying we shouldn't have corporate or religious alternatives; I'm just wedded to the idea that there should ALWAYS be a government option.

There are the police and armed services. I'm not always very happy with them, but I'm VERY thankful that they are operated by the government instead of private industry. Just look at Blackwater's record to see why.

There's... um... waste management. And environmental protection. We NEED clean air and water to survive. What else are requirements for survival? Obviously, there's food, clothing and shelter. And here's where I'm flabbergasted. For all these years we've allowed food, clothing and shelter to be run by corporations. America seems to nurture a fear about Soviet living... that we'd all be wearing burlap sacks, chowing on Soylent Green and living in miniature gray hexagonal pods if the government had its way. But that is nonsense. Except for maybe the hexagonal pods part. That could really happen. I suppose there has been a "government option" in these fields... the government has subsidized food and clothing banks, and there are a lot of subsidized housing projects. But these are government/private partnerships at best. I think we need a genuine, 100% government-controlled, non-profit option in these fields.

And I'd add energy to the list. Sure we have some state-run electrical grids... but I mean gasoline, oil, and natural gas. And high-speed internet, and cell coverage, and mass transit. These things are too important to be left to the whims of the marketplace. Maybe you can think of some other things that I'm missing?

So, I started out thinking that all this paranoia about a government option for health insurance was silly... but now I'm feeling more and more outraged. Why are we not demanding a public option for a variety of other services we all depend on? Let's get consistent on this!