May 30, 2006

The Importance Of Me

Category: Political — Cranky @

When you examine Western political systems, governments and ideologies, one thing that becomes clear is that the west believes that the individual is extremely valued. Many of the laws that exist serve to keep our rights in place. On the surface, this feels like the way things ought to be.

But is it?

Much of the world does not hold this value. In fact, there are huge portions of the world where life is cheap. Suicide bombings are not generally performed by western men – our political and religious beliefs are generally nowhere near powerful enough to allow us to offer our lives up in an instant. When a westerner chooses such a death, we view them as having been psychopathic, insane, or just generally “not well”. We can’t compete with religious zealotry as practiced elsewhere.

There are westerners who choose a death that is unselfish, but it is usually for a specific reason, and often in the spur of the moment. A man takes enemy fire so that his unit can live. A woman gets hit by a car when she lunges and pushes a child out of the way. Little moments of heroism often have large results… but very few westerners would ever give that life for something as abstract and uncertain as life after death. Even the idea of everlasting damnation can’t keep us from coveting our neighbours wife.

Should the individual be paramount, though? Well, I guess that depends on who you ask. If you ask the individual, some will certainly say, “Of course.” But is the individual more important than the society? Are individual freedoms more important than stable governments? Tough questions. I posted a remark in a discussion recently that hinted – just hinted – that freedom of speech (a freedom tailor-made for individuals) might not be a universally desirable thing. I was moderated by readers so far down that the system automatically rejected posts from my network for weeks.

So lets simplify the question a little. Lets say aliens came down to earth and said, “We can either start an interplanetary war with you, during which your world will be damaged rather severely and your population diminished… or you can just hand over that guy right there, and we’ll eat him and be on our way. Yeah, that’s the guy. Yeah, we know he’s a complete innocent.”

If we failed to hand him over we would retain our self-respect as we held to our belief that the individual is paramount… at a substantial cost. Chances are if push came to shove we would hand him over. Most countries would hand him over in a heartbeat. Others would agonize over the choice.

But once you allow for the idea that the individual is superceded by the masses… well now. You’ve got a conundrum. Should we hold the rights of the individual as highly as we have in the past? Is it a good idea? I’m not saying we should change the way things are – I’m just saying that we need to understand why things are the way they are. I’m saying that things aren’t as clear as people seem to think.

President Bush has now signed into effect a bill that prohibits demonstrations at the funerals of fallen soldiers. That seems like a good idea until you realize that the first amendment of the constitution specifically prohibits the government from passing any law that affects freedom of expression. In one stroke of the pen he erased a freedom that people fought very hard to obtain.

Clearly the President feels the rights of the individual are not sacrosanct. By his philosophy when the state needs something, the individual can go hang. So if the leader of one of the west’s prominent political bodies doesn’t respect the rights of the individual, what does that say?

It’s a complex issue.


May 25, 2006

100% Chance Of Stupidity

Category: Current Events — Cranky @

This morning I awoke to an overcast sky. I know this because the light coming through the shades was a dull grey. I did not, however, open the shades.

I went downstairs to indulge myself in some Kellogg’s “All Bran” cereal. Heck, if it’s good enough for the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, it’s good enough for me. As part of my ritual, I turned on the television, and tuned in the local live news show, hoping to catch a weather forecast.

With confidence, the weatherman looked me right in the eye, and said, “Today there is a 40% chance of rain for the city.” Fair enough. So I put on my shoes, and out I went. I got as far as the front door of my apartment building, and realized that (a) it was raining fairly heavily, and (b) the streets were soaked.

There’s no chance at all that a massive downpour soaked everything while I was in the elevator. It’s a thirty second trip. Therefore I have to conclude that the weather forecaster was not only wrong about the forecast… he was wrong about the current conditions.

If the teleprompter says, “40% chance of rain!”, and the window says, “It’s raining!”, I’m assuming the weatherman has the latitude to adlib a little. Make the gutsy call. Somewhere in the chain of information that brings weather to my television screen is somebody who knew it was raining, knew the forecast, and didn’t say anything.

Fire them. Forecasters have a hard enough time maintaining their reputation without this kind of stupidity.


May 23, 2006

Drugs and Pushers

Category: Current Events — Cranky @

Recently, IDA (a member of the Rexall family of pharmacies) has been running a series of ads which start something like this:

“Buying your prescriptions from a store that also sells action figures?”

Clearly we’re supposed to come to the conclusion that stores like Walmart are unfit to provide prescription drugs because as an organization they are not solely focused on health care. But does this accusation hold water?

These ads are baseless and silly. It’s not like Walmart is asking one of their locked-in, night shift, illegal alien workers to put together your order of lorazepam. No greeter-slash-broke-retiree is being asked to advise you on hemorrhoid creams.

The only person between you and your prescription is a pharmacist, and IDA’s pharmacist isn’t going to be any more qualified than one at Walmart, and to suggest otherwise is to show a woeful lack of understanding on what is required to attain the title. A company with a diverse focus doesn’t have to have individual business units that lack focus on their areas of expertise. A pharmacy in a department store is still a pharmacy.

The drugs themselves are the same as well. Walmart doesn’t buy drugs from questionable sources. They have no need. Once again, the massive Walmart machine flexes its purchasing muscles to get the lowest price. They’re bringing the pain to other pharmacies in the process, killing them like so many mom and pop stores that lie in the wake of the big blue machine. So I do understand why the ads exist. But to suggest that a store that has a number of departments is somehow the poorer substitute on some level is to make an empty claim.

Drugs are insanely expensive, thanks to the efforts of the big drug conglomerates in the United States. Walmart can take a slimmer return on prescription drugs because they sell massive amounts of everything they stock. If seniors can fill their prescription for less at a Walmart store, they should jump at the chance. Sorry, IDA… adapt or die.