Archives for category: Commentary

Once again, unsurprisingly, I am baffled.  My state’s AG today joined the lawsuit against the Obama administration’s new requirement that all employers (excepting some actual religious institutions like churches) cover contraception in the health plans they offer their employees.

There are numerous reasons that I think the requirement makes sense that have been enumerated in many other places.

One thing I do want to ask, though, is what is wrong with options?  It’s not like you’re forcing women that you employ to *TAKE* contraception.  You’re merely required to cover it if they do want to go that route.  I hear the argument that it’s not fair to force an organization to pay for something that runs counter to its beliefs, however, I respectfully disagree.  I expect, for instance, tobacco companies to cover prescription smoking cessation drugs in their plans.  There are religious organizations that are very strongly opposed to mental health treatments, but I expect them to cover prescription mental health drugs too.

An organization should never be allowed to put its beliefs or its bottom line above its employee’s health, it’s that simple.

I’ve really found the SOPA/PIPA situation interesting to observe.  I don’t, however, feel like I have anything particularly relevant to add that hasn’t already been said specific to the law(s).

However, one thing I do find fascinating and will comment on is books.  Specifically, libraries.  If one was to apply pro-SOPA/PIPA logic to a library, all that would be apparent was a lot of lost book sales.  To me, this is so obviously short sighted it’s crazy.  Libraries turn people into *readers*.  Readers buy books.  It’s just not that complicated.  Are there lost book sales because people check something out that they might have bought?  Of course, I’m sure there are.  But that’s such an overly simplistic way to look at it.  The fact is, more readers means more people talking about books, more people buying books and less people turning to competing forms of entertainment.

A fair response to that paragraph would be “yeah, look how great book stores are doing”.  I’ll grant you that many book stores have shuttered their doors, but if you look at the timing it becomes clear that libraries and bookstores coexisted for decades.  The real change here was the coming of big box stores and the internet carving out huge chunks of bookstores sales.

I know the general call of the anti-SOPA/PIPA forces is ‘make it easier to spend money on your stuff and we’ll do it’, and I certainly don’t disagree with that.  But I think rather than scrambling for incrementally larger pieces of the pie, someone might want to acknowledge that more people watching your movies and listening to your music GROWS THE PIE.  And who doesn’t like pie?

The enemy of democracy is not communism.  It’s not Socialism.  It’s not republicans or democrats.  It’s not a religion, an ethos or an ideology.

The enemy of democracy is apathy.

In today’s splintered media world, where if people consume any serious media at all it’s likely to be media that they ‘agree with’, there are fewer and fewer unbiased sources of data.  If people don’t make a serious effort to stay informed, then they’re probably getting their information from Saturday Night Live or the Daily Show.  That’s not democracy.

I know, I know, we’re not technically a democracy, we’re a republic or maybe a representative democracy…. My point remains the same.

Is there any wonder that in an America where it’s getting harder and harder to stay informed that government officals are being more and more affected by lobbying interests?  Sure money talks, I don’t deny that.  But if you have a lobbyist talking in one ear and a horde of apathetic constituents back home that can’t even be bothered to be aware of what’s going on… what do you think you’re going to do?

That being said, the forces of democracy in its American best form came out strong on the PIPA/SOPA thing, there’s no question about that.  That’s how it’s supposed to work.  The people make their opinion clear and the government responds.  If only we had that kind of participation every day.

A wiser man than me once said that people should not be afraid of their government; government should be afraid of its people.  In this case, I’d substitute responsive for afraid, but the idea is similar.  When people can be shocked out of their apathy by their favorite internet sites being unavailable, that gives me hope that it’s not too late.

I’ve been using freecycle a lot recently both to unload stuff I no longer need and to fill in some gaps I had as I flesh out my new house. (One day I’ll rant about the usage of “flush” instead of flesh in the previous sentence, I promise!)  It amazes me to see the stuff that freecycle is able to redistribute.  I strongly encourage you to offer anything you’re considering getting rid of on a site like freecycle or craigslist:free before putting something at the curb. 

Anyway, I bought a George Foreman grill a few years ago and used it, maybe, four times.  One day I plugged it in and the light lit up, but the grill wouldn’t heat up.  I scoured the web for suggestions, but the best I could come up with was ‘buy a new one’.  They’re simply not designed to be repairable.  So I took a perfectly good grill that hadn’t even been used enough to get properly seasoned and put it at the curb  (this was before I used freecycle).  Isn’t it crazy that we’ve come to that as a society?  That we make products like a grill that are intended to be used for maybe a year or two and then junked?  Does that seem crazy to anyone but me? 

So I was frustrated.  I took it apart and tried to find something wrong inside, but ultimately decided that the circuit board was the problem.  Even if I could have found someone to repair it, I find it highly unlikely that they could have done so for even twice the price of a new grill.  Some day, the greatest natural resource left on earth will be North American dumps.

Oh, and I didn’t replace the grill.