Category Archives: Privatization

Election Day Tunes Tuesday: James McMurtry

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s finally Election Day!! I know that many of us are ready for the political ads and phone calls to stop – I am too. But today is election day and every vote matters.

It looks like it might be difficult to vote this year in some areas, which I think is outrageous. But I hope people do what they need to do to vote and that we have a clean and clear outcome at the end of the day.

Elections matter. And there is a lot at stake.

We Can’t Make it Here
James McMurtry

Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free

No one’s paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget’s stretched so thin
And there’s more comin’ home from the Mideast war
We can’t make it here anymore

That big ol’ building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can’t make it here anymore

See all those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They’re just gonna set there till they rot
‘Cause there’s nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There’s a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don’t come down here ‘less you’re looking to score
We can’t make it here anymore

The bar’s still open but man it’s slow
The tip jar’s light and the register’s low
The bartender don’t have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day

Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won’t pay for a roof, won’t pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can’t make it here anymore

High school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromat
A woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what’ll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it’s way too late to just say no
You can’t make it here anymore

Now I’m stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
‘Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can’t make it here anymore

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in
Should I hate ’em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They’ve never known want, they’ll never know need
Their sh@# don’t stink and their kids won’t bleed
Their kids won’t bleed in the da$% little war
And we can’t make it here anymore

Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let ’em eat jellybeans let ’em eat cake
Let ’em eat sh$%, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can’t make it here anymore

And that’s how it is
That’s what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper
Read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind
If you’re listening at all
Get out of that limo
Look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone
Tell us all why

In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That’s done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There’s rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can’t make it here anymore

What do you think? Have you voted? Did you have any problems voting? What do you think about the early voting challenges this year?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Economy, equality, Ethics, Income inequality, Music, Peace, Poetry, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Privatization, Role of Government, War

Photo Friday: Berlin

Copyright JC Politi Photograpy
Border between East and West Berlin, where the Berlin Wall used to stand. Most of it is torn down now.

After leaving the quaint, but bustling Amsterdam, we took an overnight train to Berlin. We stayed in East Berlin, just down the street from Alexanderplatz, which was really the heart of East Berlin.

After all of the beauty of France, Spain and Holland, East Berlin was striking for its lack of decoration. It was a fascinating place to visit for its history, but the sadness and anger were palpable.

From what we observed, the division between East and West Berlin still exists to this day. We spent the vast majority of our time in East Berlin, going to what we were told was the trendiest neighborhood for dinner and visiting the historic sites.

But it is striking to stand where the wall used to stand and to look to the East and to the West. The East is full of cranes and development, but I couldn’t help feeling that the West kept moving forward while the East was stuck in time.

Copyright JC Politi Photography
Construction in East Berlin

East Berlin feels like a savagely damaged city, just now showing signs of rebirth. The evidence is everywhere, showing a city devastated by war, and then severely restricted and terrorized during the Communist occupation. It is simply tragic.

There is a solemn beauty to the city, however, even in the midst of the melancholy. I share some of my favorite photos here.

For those who would like to read more of the history of Berlin, this 1963 speech by President John F. Kennedy is a powerful denunciation of the communist occupation. When you visit Berlin, you understand this speech much more.

What do you think? Have you been to Berlin? What was your impression? Do you think that East and West Berlin will ever truly integrate? What kind of impact do you think a history like this would have on a culture?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

Copyright JC Politi Photography
This has to be one of my favorite photos from the whole trip! I snapped this shot at a metro stop.

Copyright JC Politi Photography
A watchtower over Checkpoint Charlie

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The view from our hotel. You can see the Soviet TV Tower in East Berlin and the tall hotel in West Berlin. The hotel staff told us this was done intentionally by West Berlin to show their strength and contrast.

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An old car in East Berlin

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A powerful holocaust memorial

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A pretzel seller

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Berlin Cathedral

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Chairs in an historic East Berlin Cafe

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You can see the bullet holes in the old buildings

 

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Checkpoint Charlie now

 

 

 

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Filed under Culture, Economy, History, International, Photography, Photos, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Terrorism, travel, Uncategorized, violence, War

Make new friends, but keep the old: The Champs-Elysees

Copyright JC Politi Photography
Arc de Triumphe – Paris, France

There is an article in the New York Times this week about the Champs-Elysees and since, as you will read on Friday, Paris was my very favorite city on our European tour, I felt that I had to write a little bit about this article here.

The article discusses concerns that the Champs-Elysees is becoming too commercialized and mainstream and losing the Parisian joie-de-vivre that defines French culture.

We visited Paris last week and it was love at first sight. Our first tourist destination was the Arc de Triumphe and the Champs Elysees. We walked the entire length of the boulevard and were mesmerized by the luxurious shops and cafes.

We ate the most delicious pastry I have ever tasted – or seen. I wish I had a photo to share with all of you, but this gallery of sweets, which has been in operation since the 1800’s was off-limits to photographers. The word pastry simply does not do justice to this decadent delight.

The New York Times article examines the influence of new chain stores like H&M and Banana Republic opening on the boulevard.

Copyright JC Politi Photography
Champs-Elysees: Paris, France

We did a Rick Steve’s walking tour down the Champs-Elysees and learned that there was a lot of concern when McDonalds opened.

Steves notes that McDonalds was only allowed to open as long as they agreed to paint their arches white and maintain a café feel, including sidewalk tables.

I understand the concern over losing the artistic and luxurious energy of this iconic avenue. And I certainly saw some signs of this deterioration firsthand. But I also saw the future compromising with the past in a way that held some beauty.

It is hard to explain, but as an example, I was absolutely blown away by the Abercrombie and Fitch store. The outside of the store – we did not go inside – was as beautiful as any museum. We did not learn the history of that building, but I have no doubt that it is a place with great historic significance.

Frankfurt was another incredible example of the old meeting the new, where sky-scrapers share a block with castles, which I will share on my Photo-Friday about Germany.

I find myself wondering how I feel about this. It was wonderful to see historic buildings being preserved and put to use rather than destroyed like we are so quick to do here in the United States.

But is it OK to have a McDonalds in a place with such a rich history? Something doesn’t sit well with me about that. Perhaps it is the desire to slow down the rapid pace of change. But can we do that?

What do you think? Do you have issues with historic buildings being put to use for modern-day services? Would you have a problem if a castle turned into a Walmart, even if it maintained the architectural integrity of the original structure? Have you seen any positive examples of old things being repurposed for new uses that could serve as a model for others?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

52 Comments

Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, Ethics, History, International, Photography, Photos, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, travel

Are Organic Food Standards a Hoax? The Green-Washing of America

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Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Have you put a lot of thought into this decision?

An article in the New York Times called “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized” is raising eyebrows this week. The article explores the recent boom in organic food products and takes an in-depth look at the body that regulates what is certified organic and what is not.

In particular, the article examines the National Organic Standards Board, which is the board that decides which non-organic ingredients can be included in certified organic foods.

The article points out the number of large corporations who have been taking advantage of the new market. For example, it surprised me to read:

Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo, of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.      

Copyright JC Politi Photography

But certainly the most concerning portion of the article is the description of the people serving on the National Organic Standards Board.

While there is certainly room for corporations to serve on the board in the slots allocated for those interests, it is troubling to learn that executives from General Mills and other major corporations have served in positions reserved for consumers.

It appears that Congress specifically designed this board to ensure that it would represent a broad range of interests, but the appointments to this board have clearly been corporate-heavy.

Our family buys organic because we are concerned about the hormones and additives and preservatives that are found in most foods today. I understand that buying organic is a luxury, but we feel that it is an investment in our long-term health. This article makes me wonder if we are being duped.

What do you think? Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Why have you made the choices you have? Are you concerned about big businesses controlling the organic food standards or do you think that having big business involved is the only way to grow the industry to scale? Where do farmers markets fit into this equation?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!  

If you liked this, you may also like:

Grist BlogPost: Multinational Food Corporations Thank You For Buying ‘Organic’

Let Them Eat Sat: Who Funds These Studies?

What Foods Are Good For Me This Week?

Who Needs Government Anyway? Except… 

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, Environment, Ethics, Fitness, Food, Health, Income inequality, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures

Are There no Limits? Tough Season Ahead for Everest

The New York Times ran an op-ed this week about the dangers of mountain climbing this season on Mount Everest. The author points to global warming and the increase in the number of climbers as contributing factors to the heightened risk of an Everest attempt this year. He goes on to applaud an announcement by the leader of a highly respected climbing outfit who, in a highly unusual decision, has decided to cancel climbs for the rest of the season.

I can’t help but feel that mother earth continues to send signals that the time is now to do something to protect the last remaining natural habitats and wild places in our country. But will we listen?

I have always been fascinated by people who go to the ends of the earth to climb the highest peaks. Being a bit of an adventurer myself, I understand the drive to test oneself and the exciting challenges that only nature can provide.

My only experience with this type of mountain climbing has been from the comfort of my couch, through documentaries on the Discovery Channel or National Geographic.

I have always been struck by the ease with which the sherpas make it up the mountains, with very little fanfare or glory, while the climber gets all of the accolades. I am intrigued by the risks that mountain climbers are willing to take – frequently risks to themselves and to others – to reach the sacred peak.

Climbing Everest has become a highly commercial activity; perhaps this is what concerns me most. I am sure the climbing outfit who cancelled the rest of the season will pay a significant financial cost for that decision. In the long term, however, perhaps climbers will respect that owner’s concern for the safety of his climbers enough to boost the demand for his outfit in the future.

What do you think? But should there be limits on what money can buy? Why do we feel the need to conquer wild spaces for commercial use? And what is it that makes people want to risk their lives in activities like climbing Mount Everest? Have you ever done something like this? What made you want to do this? Do you think that there should be limits on commercial activity in certain wild areas? Or do you think that the market will regulate itself to keep places pristine?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

6 Comments

Filed under Environment, Fitness, International, Privatization, travel

Pineapples, The Limits of Privatization and Corporate Influence in Education

Gail Collins wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times earlier this week entitled “A Very Pricey Pineapple.”  This article highlights the increased influence of big business in the US education system since the No Child Left Behind Act passed Congress.

The article raises concerns about whether the companies who profit from education are more interested in improving kids’ educational attainment, or whether their main interest lies in improving their bottom line.

This story is directly related the post I wrote earlier this week about the new book by Professor Michael Sandel, entitled “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.” That book appears to argue that certain fundamental things should not be subject to market whims and to the eternal quest to increase corporate earnings.

Access to health care comes immediately to mind. I realize this is a highly contentious issue currently being debated in a wide variety of venues, from the corner coffee shop to the Supreme Court. Of course, the morality of the market determining what type of health care a person can access is not what the Supreme Court is debating; they are simply deciding whether people can be required to purchase health insurance and whether the federal government has the authority to enact the law. Even if these provisions of the law are upheld, the market will still dictate which insurance a person will purchase.

For all of the opposition in some camps about “Obamacare,” in many ways, the Affordable Care Act was one of the greatest corporate subsidies ever passed by Congress. This is a stark example of the tendency of policymakers in the United States to cater to the marketplace, regardless of the issue. Campaign financing plays a major role in this, as it does in most policy decisions. When the largest campaign donations consistently come from large corporations, policy decisions are inevitably impacted. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision will likely only make this worse.

Education is another area where corporate influence should be minimized. In a time when educators feel constrained by the need to “teach to a test,” it is disturbing to learn that the tests that have become so ubiquitous in our schools deliver a hefty corporate profit and may or may not be delivering actual value to the students and educators. The influence of the corporate lobbyists in crafting the No Child Left Behind law is striking as well.

What do you think? This raises the persistent question regarding the appropriate role of government in our society. Is there really anything wrong with a corporation making a profit on educational testing if the outcomes lead to better educated students? Are there safeguards that could be put in place to ensure that the interests of students are placed above the interests of corporate shareholders?  Are teachers finding that they must cater their classes to these tests? Do they find that this inhibits their ability to cater to an individual child’s needs? Are you concerned about the move to privatize government services and programs or do you believe that this will improve services and programs?

Please take a minute to share your thoughts. And thank you for reading!

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Filed under Education, Policy, Privatization, Role of Government

Who Needs Government Anyhow? Except…

Since many of us paid our taxes this week, it seems only appropriate to highlight an article about how our tax dollars are spent. So, in that spirit, I am posting an article entitled “Who Needs Government Anyway? Except…” This opinion piece was written by Kevin Horrigan and was published in the Denver Post on April 15th. You can find the article here.

This article, while certainly tongue-in-cheek, highlights some of the critical functions performed by government on which we all rely. It is easy to get caught up in the partisan rhetoric over the size of government and cutting costs or controlling spending by shrinking government; but maybe it would be more productive for all of us to actively engage in a meaningful dialogue about how our tax dollars are spent.

I remember when Colorado was looking for ways to cut the state budget a few years ago, and they closed some of the Department of Motor Vehicle Offices. I was amazed to see how, all of a sudden, people from all walks of life were impacted personally by budget cuts. People were talking about this in every locale. But it was difficult for people to see the connection between the amount of taxes they pay and the long lines at the DMV.

I also heard a story recently about a town where people in the community had a choice whether or not to pay into the fire protection services in their town. But when the house of a community member who had not paid into the service caught on fire, the community was horrified that the fire department did not run to the rescue to put out the blaze.

There is so much double-speak when it comes to talking about taxes and the size of government. Sometimes it feels like people want plenty of government services – including public transportation, high quality public schools, rapid street repairs, snow plowing, protection from crime and fire – the list could go on and on. But people are not willing to pay more for these services.

Some questions for discussion: What is behind the fear and hatred of government we hear on the nightly news? Do you think it would help if people had a better understanding of how their tax dollars are spent and the specific benefits they, personally, receive from government? Would you be willing to pay more taxes to have more benefits, such as guaranteed health care or quality child care? Or do believe that government is fundamentally mismanaged? Would you rather spend your own money to provide for yourself, and deny any community-provided benefits? Do you feel that the government is choosing to spend your tax dollars in ways that you disagree with? How would you allocate the dollars differently if you were a policymaker? Have you been engaged in these debates in the past? Are there any particular resources you have found helpful to educate yourself on these issues?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. And thanks for reading!

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Filed under Policy, Privatization, Role of Government