Random Thoughts for a mid-December Day

With the holidays coming (and going) fast and furiously, there is little time for deep reflection. Holiday card lists needing to be updated, cards ordered, written and sent, presents to be purchased so that the economy can stay afloat (while teetering nonetheless), end-of-year commitments met, etc. But the political machinations do not stop, the news is filled with portends of difficult days ahead and questions just seem to rise from the frenzy of the “holiday season”
So here are a few of my random thoughts and ruminations. Comments, observations and explanations are welcomed:
The Budget mess:
Why is it we knee-jerk into across-the-board program cuts before asking whether the programs we’ve been funding have been successful? We have the Governor calling for huge cuts from every agency and program to address the fiscal down-turn of the state caused by questionable business practices and inadequate oversight (think the sub-prime market fiasco and our state’s funding mechanisms). Yet there is no effort to call for accountability or analysis of whether programs and agencies have met their goals or achieved what we expect them to be doing on behalf of the people. In other words, no measurements of what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and whether it’s working at all. Just a simplistic and likely destructive directive to cut, period.
Of course, if the goal is to emasculate the system, this is the way to go. Where we’ve made progress, let’s stop it in its tracks; where we’ve got too much in one area and not enough in another, why bother to try to become more efficient and more effective? But doesn’t it make better sense to redistribute, reorganize or simply terminate programs that aren’t working?
Wouldn’t this also be a good time to call for a complete review and potential overhaul of our funding system in California? Why is it when the national economy tanks, it hits our state’s fiscal health the hardest? Could it be we are too heavily dependent on a tax base that focuses on the good times and doesn’t have consistency to cushion the state when the economy slows?
The “Holidays”.
When did “giving” turn into “spending”? What happened to the holiday spirit when we measured progress by spreading good cheer and good will instead of credit card debt and plastic gift cards to just about any commercial enterprise on the planet?

Baseball: “America’s Pastime”
Why is there such shock at the revelation that Major League Baseball has been infested with steroid use for years and by some of its greatest players? Just take a look at the difference in physique of a Barry Bonds and a thin Ted Williams or Joe Di Maggio. Remember the talk years ago about Jose Canseco, his twitches and his sudden bulk and almost super-human skills at the bat and the basepaths?
Could it be that baseball encouraged this over-achievement after its receipts suffered from strikes and lackluster activity? With athletes competitive by nature and required to achieve in order to survive, why are we so surprised that so many sought a competitive edge…..and if they didn’t do what the other guys were doing, they wouldn’t be playing? On this scandal, there is plenty of blame to go around. But perhaps the first thing we need to do is let our youngsters know that they won’t be able to emulate these practices. We need to let our young athletes know immediately that there will be no glory and no tolerance for their following in the steroid-laden footsteps of their sports heroes.
Health care:
What ever happenend to not-for-profit healthcare? The great scam of turning Blue Cross and other providers into a profit-driven business came with a few pieces of silver for the state under then governor Pete Wilson (about $3 Billion—but chump change in today’s world) and turned into a multi-billion dollar profit center complete with scandals of denying care and improperly canceling coverage in order to increase the bottom line. And why is the health insurance industry still in the game anyway? Can anyone show that they add any value whatsoever to the delivery of health care? Perhaps more importantly, Is anyone even asking that question?
Candy bars and other “delicacies”
And while on the subject of whatever happened to……… whatever happened to the nickel candybar? the 10 cent Coke in an 8 ounce bottle? The 10 cent cup of coffee or phone call? Jujubees? Beaman’s Pepsin gum? Talk of “good will toward all “, “good government” and “world peace”? Free college tuition at the University of California for those who worked hard and wanted to succeed in the world? Presidential debates where the issues were actually more important than discussion of the bible?
I’ll be working on the answers as I attempt to do my last-minute shopping at the Mall—where all the stores are the same as the stores in any Mall in America…..Which reminds me: whatever happened to our local merchants—you know the ones that sponsored the local ball teams and school fundraising drives? Now they’re all “chains” named Borders, Abercrombie and Fitch, The Gap, Linens and Things, Big 5, WalMart, Target and Starbucks.
In the meantime, good luck with your shopping ….and happy holidays to all!