Sunday, September 29, 2013

The buck goes on and on and on...

I'm going to start with a simplistic example of outsourcing. I've talked about outsourcing before in the broader context of the economy.

I work in the healthcare industry. There was a time when healthcare facilities did their own laundry. About ten to fifteen years ago, it became the norm to hire an outside company to do the laundry. It's convenient because the truck delivers clean, crisp, folded laundry at the same time that it's hauling away the dirty laundry. This is supposed to save money because the contracted company specializes in laundry and is therefore more efficient at the task. So with this service, the healthcare facility doesn't have to hire and be responsible for employees to do the laundry, and also doesn't have to buy and maintain washers and dryers.

There are several problems with this arrangement, and I'm not entirely convinced there is any money being saved in the long run.

First, there is a noticeable increase in the amount of stained and damaged laundry. So picture this: you just had cardiac surgery, infection is a primary concern for the hospital staff and yourself. While you are up in your chair, the CNA comes in with fresh linen to change your bed. She unfolds the sheet and there is a large noticeable stain. Now, this is a hospital, so that stain was almost certainly caused by some kind of bodily fluid, which is really gross. Of course this kind of thing is bound to happen once in a while, but since the hospital started outsourcing the laundry, this has been happening quite a bit.

The staff complains about the laundry, but doesn't even know who to complain to. The staff used to be able to go to the basement and show the stains or tears to the people who are doing the laundry; and no one likes to be hassled, so the people doing the laundry pay closer attention to what they're doing. But with outsourcing, you never see the people who do the laundry. The people who pick up and drop off the laundry are just truck drivers; they don't know the people doing the laundry either. So, after a while, the complaints may finally reach the person who is in charge of hiring the laundry company, and he will contact the salesperson who sold him on the company's services, and the salesperson will apologize and offer some kind of discount or refund. And all the while, the hospital staff are still unfolding stained and torn sheets over the beds of patients.

I have never seen an example of outsourcing that doesn't work something like this. There is such a complicated web where even the outsource companies outsource to other companies. The buck literally never stops.

Now, lets talk about government outsourcing.

Edward Snowden had top secret US government security clearance, but was not an employee of the US government.

And we can't talk about outsourcing government security without talking about Aaron Alexis, the shooter at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC.

How is it possible that the Rhode Island police notified the Navy that Alexis, who was on his way to Washington for a job, was paranoid, delusional, hearing voices and hallucinating, without anyone at the Navy acting on that information in the two weeks before the shooting rampage?

Perhaps the problem is that Alexis didn't work for the Navy. He worked for Hewlett-Packard. And Hewlett-Packard didn't even hire him; they hired another company called The Experts to do the hiring.

But certainly the government performs it's own background checks on people who are employed by the companies the government hires? Certainly the US government decides who gets top secret security clearance?

Ummm... no.

The Office of Personnel Management (HR for the federal government) was privatized in 1996, and the now private hiring company for the federal government doesn't do the background checks either.

They contract background investigations out to a another company called USIS.

USIS was also the company that investigated Edward Snowden's background before awarding him a level of security clearance that allowed him access to... well I don't really know, it seems like the more appropriate question to ask is, "what didn't Snowden have access to?"

More importantly, who is responsible for the actions of Snowden and Alexis? The companies that hired them? The company that did the background checks? The government?

Is NO ONE responsible for hiring the 29-year-old high school dropout/espionage mastermind, or the paranoid delusional young man who had been discharged from the Navy for behavior problems AND had a history of gun violence?

I am tempted to side with the conspiracy theorists who believe that Mr. Alexis really was being controlled by the government with Extremely Low Frequency electromagnetic waves, just so I can believe that somebody somewhere has some kind of handle on things in this country.

But my personal experience with outsourcing leads me to believe that the only convoluted scheme being played out here is the scheme to increase corporate profits while decreasing corporate responsibility.

I guess the only real question I have is, why are we tolerating this? Why are we as a country so disinterested in the fact that no one is ever held accountable for these criminal lapses in our nation's security?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Uncommon sense

Ah, another day, another mass shooting in America.

Land of the free, home of the brave.

Except, of course, for the Liberals and victims of gun violence who are constantly plotting together to try to take guns out of the hands of honest Americans.

You don't want to be a victim of gun violence?

G E T  A  G U N ! 


And don't give me that crap about people in gun owning households being statistically more likely to be victims of gun violence. Studies like these have been deliberately skewed by liberal brainiacs who want to "prove things" using "facts" (which is why the good folks at the NRA have successfully lobbied to de-fund and even outlaw such government research).

But even with the stranglehold that the NRA maintains on Congress in order to ensure every American's right to buy deadly weapons from gun manufacturers, the liberals are not deterred from their natural desire to take away our freedom. First, they love to latch on to victims of gun violence because bleeding-heart liberals can't resist a good sob story. (Did you know Jim Brady used to be a God-fearing Republican before one stray bullet tuned him into a left-wing pansy?) Next, they try to find chinks in the armor that they can exploit to gain public support for a few minor "common sense reform" arguments, but don't be fooled!

One reform which they like to say everyone agrees with, is keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Um, I'm sorry, I didn't know being mentally ill was a crime in this country!

And while, granted, well over half of the mass shootings in the last 25 years have been perpetrated by individuals who had symptoms of mental illnessthat does not justify impinging on the civil liberties of an entire group of people. I mean, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that nearly 100% of all these mass shootings were perpetrated by males, so are we going to stop all male civilians from privately owning military-grade weapons of mass destruction? I mean, talk about a slippery slope, where does one even draw the line with this insanity?

The fact of the matter is that there's no way to tell who is going to be the next mass murderer. Many forms of mental illness like schizophrenia often do not present symptoms until a person is in their late teens and early twenties. Other individuals possess latent mental illnesses which may not present until a traumatic life event, if ever.

And since you often can't predict who is going to use a semiautomatic machine gun for reasons other than the harmless recreational activities for which these weapons are produced, the only way to ensure the public's safety is to make sure every citizen is properly armed.

Now, I know what you're thinking: children aren't physically capable of operating machine guns, so how can they defend themselves when the next madman opens fire at their school? Well, as usual, the free market economy has an answer for that: Crickett Firearms: Quality Firearms for American Youth.

And before you go bringing up isolated incidents of children getting injured or accidentally killing their siblings, consider this: the terrorists are already teaching THEIR kids how to use machine guns.

So, by not letting our children have machine guns, we are literally letting the terrorists win!

The next time one of these mass shootings happens, possibly next week, remember: guns are not the problem, gun victims are the problem... because they didn't have guns.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New Beginnings

This Jewish New Year is a special one for our family, as we have recently decided to be more Kosher.

But the path is even more difficult than I had originally thought.

I stood in the grocery store holding a package of 20 eggs for $2.39. I looked up and saw a carton of 12 free range eggs for $4.99.

I can't afford that! My boys will finish 12 eggs in a few days...
I can't afford not to buy those eggs, if my family is going to respect the animals that nourish our bodies...
That's a minimum of $20 a week, for eggs alone...
But the chickens; they get to run around outside and be happy...
Well, these eggs have already been laid, I'm not responsible for how they got here...
And so, after wrestling with myself in the dairy isle, I finally did the right thing and bought the free range eggs.

A half gallon of kosher milk from cows who are allowed unrestricted access to outdoor grazing costs twice as much as a whole gallon of milk from the giant agriculture corporations whose cows are warehoused, stuffed with fatty feeds and shot up with antibiotics and growth hormones.

A kosher, free range chicken costs three times as much as a corporate warehouse chicken.

But something else happened when I sacrificed my hard-earned money for ridiculously expensive basic necessities: that food became precious. Every single egg. Every drop of milk. Precious the way food ought to be precious; it is after all, a life that is taken so that we may live.

I have always felt close to my food. I avoid processed food as much as possible, and the extra effort I put into to preparing meals for my family is important to me. But now, after taking that next step to being kosher and organic, I feel a profound connection with the animals themselves. I sacrifice money (which I don't have a lot of) in order to honor the sacrifice of these animals to nourish my family.

I take comfort in knowing that these animals were happy, healthy, and treated with the dignity they deserve.

I still don't know whether we can change the trajectory of modernity toward the insatiable corporate machinery that consumes our economy, our natural resources, our health, and our very souls.

After all, in today's fast-paced lifestyle, even the act of eating has been automated and mechanized. No time to be mindful, no time to sit down: unwrap it, eat it, on to the next task, go, go, go.

So I am looking forward to Yom Kippur a few days from now, when my family will enhance our mindfulness  of our food by fasting for 24 hours.

And to anyone else celebrating Yom Kippur this year, may you have a meaningful fast.