Posted by: bkivey | 25 January 2010

America growing up?

In the Sunday edition of the local fish-wrapper, I noticed several articles that seemed to share a common theme: the way we’ve been conducting business isn’t working. The articles that caught my attention dealt with the upcoming vote on tax increases, the voter repudiation of president Obama’s policies in Massachusetts, and the increasing political acceptance of nuclear power.

The first article was an editorial in which the newspaper explicitly made the connection between a healthy private sector and government revenue. As I’ve noted before, this is an amazing recognition of reality by a publication that has for decades vilified any person or entity that the paper deemed to be ‘rich’ or in some other way having an advantage over the ‘people’. A large percentage of the print media has promulgated the notion that government agencies somehow generate their own funding, which has caused a disturbingly high number of people to believe that government has piles of cash just sitting around.

The second article was written by William Greider of The Nation, a magazine not known for critical reviews of left-leaning politicians. In the article Mr. Greider relates that he listened to an Obama speech on the radio and noted that while the rhetoric still soared; “He is still masterful, but this is performance, not substance. People grasp the difference between the two.” Well, Mr. Greider, some of us ‘grasped’ this before the election in 2008.

The third article dealt with the increasing political acceptability of nuclear power. It appears that this form of energy, long a virtual pariah in the political world, is gaining acceptance among the political class as a way to provide reliable, carbon-free, long-term energy. I am of the view that anyone who wants to reduce carbon emissions but will not consider nuclear power is not to be taken seriously. I am also of the opinion that the nuclear waste issue is more political than actual, given that many countries reprocess spent nuclear fuel and India in particular achieves a fuel utilization rate much higher than the typical nuclear plant.

These three articles, dealing with economic reality, political reality, and energy reality, seem to me to be a realization by some folks that the frankly immature worldview that they cherish is not effective in dealing with the challenges of, well, reality.

For much of the history of this country life was just too damn hard for individuals in large numbers to ‘drop out’ of society to pursue Utopian dreams. It arguably wasn’t until the 1950’s with the advent of the ‘Beat” generation that significant numbers of people could live relatively well without doing any useful work. As the richest and most narcissistic generation the planet has ever seen aged, we moved through the childish excesses of the 60’s, the guilt-ridden 70’s, the conceits of the 80’s and 90’s, and the slow acceptance of historical and economic truths in the early 21st century. It may be that after decades of playing Peter Pan this generation is finally growing up. That’s change I can believe in.


Word Watch

While attending a City Council meeting I watched a presentation by a group that wanted to build a combination nursing home and community health center in town. During the presentation one person used the word ‘capitate’ to describe a funding mechanism. I had never heard of this word but I was able to infer the meaning from context and my Latin education (a shout-out to Ms. Jeanine Sapp, my Latin teacher in the 9th grade) to be a method of funding that used a per-capita formula.

When the word was used one of the Councilers asked the presenter what it meant. He didn’t know. (Are you serious? You don’t know what a word in your own presentation means?) There was some back-and-forth with the Counciler becoming slightly agitated that the presenter couldn’t define the word.

When I got home I looked it up. The capitate bone is the largest bone in the wrist, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the definition meant. It turns out that capitation is a funding term used in the health-care field, so my initial guess was correct. Now you know.

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