Archive for November, 2004


Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

The blog looks kind of nice blank and gray. I almost hate to clutter it up with a bunch of words.
Our California trip was very fun. We did some tourist stuff, including a visit to Anza Borrego Desert State Park, some shopping, and visiting with family and friends. We got home yesterday, and were greeted by some attention-starved cats (both of whom are sharing my chair with me right now, it’s a little crowded). Today I’m cleaning my work area and getting my school stuff organized, and this evening I think we’ll work on the Christmas tree.
It’s looking wintry out, though the snow has melted. I did see some snow in California on the way to the desert though…weird…


Saturday, November 6th, 2004

I was in Evil Walmart the other day, and saw a movie called The Satanic Rites of Dracula for sale. I’m just wondering, if they don’t have a problem with Satan, who do they think Jon Stewart is?

Europe again

Friday, November 5th, 2004

Decided to post responses to the comments to the post below in a new post. This is the kind of thing you learn when you spend far too long in school–now it looks like I’ve written a brand new post.
Thanks so much for the interesting comments. Jeff, your comment about trust resonates in several different ways. Both conservatives and liberals distrust government, and distrust each other even more than usual right now. I have actually wondered why some people propose entrusting important elements of peoples’ lives such as health care to an entity in which they have no trust whatsoever, and putting welfare recipients to some extent at the mercy of the other party should it gain power. Bush has incorporated this into his proposals for health care and Social Security, saying that the individual is more to be trusted to make decisions about these things than the government, and so wants to “privatize” these things.
Of course, medical savings accounts etc. would seem to depend on actually having enough income to put into the accounts, which is a dangerous assumption. I have income now (at least Andy does, as I’m busy frittering my life away in grad school), but when I lived in Chicago, if I had the money I spent on health insurance or FICA I would have used it for groceries, not put it in any medical savings account. And I’m not sure what kind of magic would need to happen to make Bush’s Social Security plan (or Kerry’s, for that matter) work. In any case, with all the talk of healing division and working together these past few days, I hope we can actually put this miserable election season behind us and find some common ground to begin to figure out how to trust each other at least enough to solve the problems that affect us all.
Kim, I agree completely with your assessment that while private charities are better able to meet needs in unique ways, but that the public safety net is necessary. During the eleven months or so I worked at child support enforcement, I came to believe that because government has to treat everyone equally, it is incapable of taking into account peoples’ individual situations. Private charities can, and can build relationships with people and work with them to find solutions for their individual problems. However, in addition problems of funding and scale that you noted, there are others: in the cases like that of child support, individual charities don’t have the law-enforcement clout needed; and also the government is accountable to the public not to discriminate based on religion, race, etc., whereas private charities are much less so.
I’m a big believer in the American spirit, which does believe in individualism and personal responsibility as well as the need to work together and to help those in need. I’m hoping that we can figure out some kind of synergy (augh, not that word!) between public and private welfare that will work as well for us in solving society’s problems as Europe’s does for it.
In other notes, there were homeless people in England, England [meant to say London here, I obviously don’t spend a lot of time editing] and Edinburgh were the first places I encountered numerous homeless people asking for money on the street (this was pre-chicago). The numbers probably are less than for American cities though. On the religion thing, churches in England seemed to be pretty active too. I’m wondering if the interview guy’s findings had anything to do with either (1) the guy not being a church-goer himself, and assuming that other people weren’t either unless they talk about it all the time like Americans apparently do; or (2) self-reporting, Americans describe themselves as more religious or as bringing religion into political decisions or whatever more than Europeans because that means different things to them, or they just talk about it in a different way.
Thanks again for the comments. If either of you have any info on where I could learn more about the European welfare system, could you let me know? I tried googling “socialized medicine” one time and all I could find was an article on the libetarian site, which was interesting but not necessarily informative.

“our beloved welfare state”

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

When I visited England in 1996, fish and chips constituted at least a quarter of my diet. Though it was chilly out, we usually took our food out to eat it outside, in order to avoid paying the 17% VAT on food consumed inside a restaurant. According to an interview I heard on public radio recently (the name of the interviewee and the title of his book escapes me), income tax, estate tax, and so forth are all sky-high in Europe, but in return Europeans receive free medical care, schooling, and so forth. In one country (Norway?) the government pays new mothers the salary they previously earned for one year after the baby is born, and guarantee her job back afterwards. What’s-his-name, the interviewee, said there were big student protests in England after they tried to start charging $5000 per year tuition at Oxford or Cambridge, the student’s said that “our beloved welfare state” was in danger.
Thinking about this, I wonder if this is a good idea, a bad idea, okay for Europe but not for the U.S., or what. Personally, though it would be nice not ever to have to worry about….anything, I guess, I don’t think I would like this. I’ve gotten a lot of help from my family, but insofar as I’ve ever been somewhat self-sufficient, I’m proud of being able to take care of myself. To me, it feels good to be able take care of myself and my family. Also, of course, I like having more say in what happen with the money I earn, what I want to use it for, and it certainly feels a lot better to freely donate money to causes instead of having someone just take it and apportion it for me.
On the other hand, America seems to have a hard time getting health care etc. to people in need, and maybe giving up autonomy in return for making sure everyone gets what they need is worth it, I don’t know.
Another question I have is, why would people living under such a system ever do anything? It seems like there wouldn’t be any advantage to behaving responsibly or working hard or doing anything at all. There’s no question of trying to build a better life for yourself or your family, no need to work to make the world better, the government just does everything for you. The interview guy also said that religion is pretty much nonexistent in Europe, which really makes me wonder what people value in life, what gives life meaning.
Anyway, just some idle wonderings. I know there’s some people who know more about Europe than I do who frequent this blog, any insights into comparisons or contrasts between Europe and America would be appreciated!