Friday, January 4, 2008

Make 08 Great!

People like to begin the New Year with a resolution. However, I ain’t people, as Lina Lamont so flatly and aptly stated in “Singin’ in the Rain”. It should be noted however that I am also not a bright shining star in the Hollywood firmament. But I do think it is a good idea to look upon the beginning of a new year as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. So in that vein, I have come up with some things that we can all do together to make 2008 a great new year.

The Life Straw. I know I am about two years behind since Time Magazine named it one of the best innovations of the year for 2006. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about it until I was watching Bill Moyer’s Journal on PBS last week and one of his guests brought it up. Last summer I watched an amazing speech by Justice Anthony Kennedy from Hawaii where he talked about the issue of bringing safe, clean drinking water to people in Africa. Most of the great diseases of the 20th century, long since eradicated in the United States still persist in developing nations (like much of Africa) and this is primarily due to contaminated water. Building a water treatment plant is a daunting and often arduous process and that’s when you have the financial resources and a stable government to support it. However, for a few dollars each, the Life Straw can be distributed to people. It works like your Brita water filter, only it is inside a reusable straw. So it is easy to ship and carry and use. It makes almost any water source into pure drinking water when sipped through the straw. And this single invention could help combat death and disease on a massive scale, potentially saving millions of lives by providing something as simple as pure drinking water.

Mass Text Messages. I know you care. But when I get a generic “Happy New Year” text message at midnight, it just makes me feel like I am getting junk mail from a friend. Either we are close enough to warrant a personal message, or I hardly know you and you are just keeping your phone book up to date. Either way, the mass junk message sends the opposite message you were hoping to convey. Yes, I will have a happy new year if you stop sending me this crap. And maybe I am old fashioned. I personally write out holiday cards, upwards of 100 each year. But when someone gets a card from me with a personal message that I wrote uniquely to them, they know at my CPA’s office that I really do appreciate the work they do on my W-2s.

Bull in the China shop. About 13 years ago following the death of Sam Walton, Wal-Mart switched from a “Buy American” only policy to one that demands foreign goods production in order to meet strict price controls. Since then, China has become a huge source of goods sold in the United States. Coincidentally enough, our trade deficit with China is directly proportionate to the profit margin at Wal-Mart. Did I forget to mention the lead in toys? Not only did moving production decimate the manufacturing base in the United States, it also removed most of the consumer protections people take for granted. And the next thing you know, dog food is poisonous and your child has a toy made with toxins in its mouth. Meanwhile the country is in a froth about lost jobs and rampant illegal immigration. However, if the jobs that went to China had gone to Central America and Mexico instead, we would have not only been able to better control quality (i.e. no deadly products) but it also would have stabilized their economies and kept illegal immigration down to a dull roar. But since China holds vast qualities of our debt, we have very little sway over them. It is the same reason we can’t make any progress in Darfur. Darfur is a region in Sudan, which is a primary source of oil for China. And you may think genocide and toxic toys are good enough reasons to pressure a country to change their ways. However, if you owed say, $100,000 to VISA and were only making minimum payments, how much sway do you think you would have over them? Our best hope for the situation is to move our manufacturing to our hemisphere at the very least. And work on technology and alternatives to oil that we can turn around and sell to China, which would off-set our trade deficit, our debt, our lost manufacturing base, and remove the money flowing into the butchers of Sudan (not to mention the Middle East, which is a whole other oil-based mess).

Kids: Not seen, or heard. Enough with out of control children in public. As a society we need to stand up and tell parents to their faces that the out of control behavior of their children is not acceptable in polite society. I understand the desire to build a healthy self-esteem in a child. But giving everyone who can’t read a gold star and telling a child crashing carts into each other at the supermarket that they are being “creative” will only make a generation of illiterate monsters. And when you are in a nursing home, who the hell is going to wipe your ass and make your lunch? These kids can’t even make change when the register at McDonald's tells them what the correct answer is. Yes, Social Security will definitely run out of money when your nieces and nephews grow up and can’t get jobs, pay taxes or contribute in any meaningful way to society. However, they will know how to play Guitar Hero like a pro, even though they can’t actually play the guitar. Sure, they will think the world is flat, think ten dollars an hour is the best wage they can get, and just assume that at some point the scratch off lottery will pay them enough money to not have to worry anymore. Good luck! A re-emphasis on science, math and yes art (since the arts help developing brains learn better) at home and at school and well as a return to some good old-fashioned rules and boundaries will better prepare America’s youth to take over for the rest of us when we are too old to care. Which in my case, is right now.

Happy New Year!

3 comments:

mygreenhybrid said...

Derek,
I wanted to thank you for what you wrote, it is true awesome for someone to bring up the things that no one wants to talk about.

Thank you again,

Sean

Pierce Arrow said...

Another great program helping Africa is "Nothing but Nets".
www.nothingbutnets.net

Great information about Wal-Mart and China. America has an addiction to cheap stuff we don't need. With the ridiculous amount of credit available coupled with an addiction to consumerism, I'm afraid the US is headed for a terrible economic reckoning.

"Discipline does not harm a child." This should be tattooed on every new parent's head.

Robbie said...

Those are great ideas... especially the life straw. I've never heard of that. We could actually drink the water in Mexico then.

I did so love your story of the unruly brat on the train and her cellphone addicted, unattentive mother and your lively banter with the six year old about having her thrown off the train. I'd miss those stories...