Friday, September 18, 2009

A Post About Garbage

What I thought I would write about next was garbage, actual literal refuse. Just another thing I've discovered about living in the suburbs is that since our trash is collected weekly now, instead of being taken directly to the dumpsters run by the city in our back alley, we have to put some time and thought into garbage management. The hobby I least wanted to adopt. Or, one the hobbies. Taxidermy would be another.

This became quite the issue of relevance when some chicken bones didn't make it into the trash in time for our Monday trash collection. As a result, this week our garage smells like a morgue that has suffered a power failure. Good lord, the stench. When my husband mentioned this to colleagues he found out it was a common problem, and that the list of solutions was both vast and amusing. Including more than one person who freezes their perishable garbage.

"No, no. Not that container! That's the remains of Tuesday's dinner! The frozen pot roast is to the left. Yes, in between the Breyers and the melon rinds."

Woo hoo. Fun Suburban living.

Instead of a wacky post about the ways of managing our trash, I find myself addressing an entirely different sort of garbage thanks to my friend Jo's post over on A Majority of Two today.

Her ire was understandably directed towards misinformation and ignorance about Canada. My fury has a different target and it is the sorry state of affairs our media.

Most of the people I know roll their eyes heavenwards when Fox News is brought up. That isn't news, that's the realm of slanted opinion. To call it journalism is a joke. It sports rhetoric as a matter of course, and would be laughable if it wasn't for the fact that some people take it as gospel fact. It's not. It's propaganda, and I've always believed that intelligent people understand that. MSNBC is often little better, CNN also commits crimes against fact and information. Most of our print media does little to obscure their favored political slant, also.

Opinion Editorials, referred to as Op-Ed pieces in most circles, have long been pieces of interest but please do not mistake them for sources of reliable information. The inherent downfall of the Op-Ed piece is in its actual title. It is opinion, not fact.

In this instance, the post I linked to leads back to a piece in Time magazine in which an opinion piece pretends to have fact at its disposal by using outdated data as a means of providing the appearance of containing fact. To say that I'm angry about the fact that Time clearly abandoned all standards of proof for journalism by allowing data to be put forth as fact without even a cursory fact check, would be to understate the matter at hand. I'm livid. It took me less than six minutes to thoroughly debunk those "facts" and "data" from three different sources, and not "my friend, the blogger" sources, but maintained and supervised organizations for the reporting of medical data.

Six minutes of my time to find out how much credence that list of supposed facts contained. I'm not going to provide the links on my search for the simple reason that we are participants in democracy. We, each of us, has a responsibility and a grave one at that, to keep ourselves as informed as possible. Each individual has been tasked with this in the United States of America, and each individual, if they wish to participate, must do so on their own.

Our media lies in that it contains a decided slant. It is up to us to find our level ground. To sort through the garbage and find the actual facts. It should not have come to such a pass, but it has. Even someone with the barest understanding of journalism can grasp the standard of proof that needs to be applied: No less than three independent sources.

Should we have to work this hard to be informed? No. It is shameful, but it is the current state of affairs.

To put this in context, the data about Canada's treatment of colon cancer is now so outdated as to be blatantly false. Want an example of how that might translate? It is no different from my saying, "In the United States of America people of color are not allowed to eat at the same counter as white people." and then backing that up with material from that time period. Horrifying, isn't it? Hey, in the past it was true, right? Presenting the past as the current state of affairs is not only fraught with peril, it is frequently so untrue as to be an outright lie. The piece in Time is even more shameful than that, it marries irrelevant data from the past with current data from our country to try and prove a point.

If someone has to lie, and manipulate data in order to provide a foundation for their opinion, I cannot think of a more obvious sign that their argument is without any kind of merit. That man might as well be telling me a story about Kah, the speaking snake, for all the real world validity it has.

Clearly I've got a head of steam going, and I do believe that most people are much, much better than this. That they do say, "Whoa. Is that true?" and then find out the truth.

The sole reason I'm putting this up here is because something needs to exist to encourage people to do their own legwork on issues this important. Multiple sources must be consulted. We must not react and make up our minds on issues of national importance based solely on Opinion Editorials.

Also, eating chicken in the suburbs the day before garbage collection and then forgetting to take that garbage out is tremendously problematic. I'd tell you to trust me on this, but I highly encourage people to do their own research.

Okay, maybe on the chicken bones = stench issue you'd be safe just taking my word for it.


The Bug said...

We're slowly getting used to the weekly trash pickup too - we had a dumpster right in the parking lot when we lived in the apartment. Fortunately Dr. M got one of those gigantic rolling trash cans with a lid (for our one bag of trash a week - our recycling is more substantial) so if it's smelly at least it's a little bit contained.

My boss likes to feed me little bits of "information" about the good things Republicans are doing. Just this week he was talking about the over a million people who marched on Washington. Yeah - he has dubious sources of information (I think he listens to a lot of Glen Beck). But I can't fire back at him because I have what he considers to be dubious sources of information too - Huff Post & The Daily Kos (& you!). It makes me really tired to try to figure out what IS reputable. I'm thinking there's not a one-stop-shop is there? I'm actually going to have to go to primary source material (to use a historian's term). Sigh.

Land of shimp said...

Hello, The Bug :-) We have one of those huge, rolling bins too, we just managed to create the smelliest bag of garbage known. We aren't sure how, we know there are chicken bones in it but there must be a festering lump of evil in there to account for the waves of stink issuing forth. All day long we've been leaving our garage doors open to try and air it out.

It does take some getting used to, doesn't it?

I'm in the same boat on media also. You name the liberal media source, and I'm likely to expose myself to it. If something really strikes me, I make a note, and hit the search engines.

We're really lucky in the health care reform area in that there sources of information not tied to the U.S., the insurance industries or political agendas. WHO can be very helpful, but something like the survival rate for Colon cancer in Canada and the U.S. can be swiftly found from multiple sources.

We're lucky in that our current debate exists around something about which statistics, studies and data is readily available. Of course, a huge part of the problem is that most people believe that if it is on TV, or in a magazine of any standing, it must have been fact checked. What's even worse is that they can meet that burden simply by "Hey yeah, I checked the piece. Absolutely. I went to the Drudge Report and..."

I read the Huff Po too and I happily point out how good that particular source is about linking to its own sources, as well as titling the endeavor of the blog correctly as being News and Opinion.

Fox News calls itself Fox News, but is actually Fox News and Opinion Disguised as Fact by its Proximity to the Word News.

Everyone will make up their own minds, that's for sure, but it galls me that an entity like Fox tries to sell a lot of this junk as news, with the implication that it meets the standards of journalism. The standards of journalism involve independent and disinterested sources. Fox News doesn't meet that standard.

Anyway, preaching to the Choir, I know.

Plus, it is written that arguing politics with ones boss can lead to unemployment. Written by me, I grant you ;-)

Land of shimp said...

There are sources. I forgot a word. Oh jeez.

DUTA said...

It seems we are in a better situaion: trash is picked up everyday, and garden trash once a week.

Speaking of trash, newspapers and magazines are thrown into recycling facilities.

Miranda said...

So where is your big garbage can at? We keep our right outside our garage so I don't smell it most of the time, at first we kept it IN the garage, but no, that's just too much stink for me. Its better if its outside and somewhere that you don't have to really walk by all the time.
I just commented on Jo's blog today too, I am so fed up with the whole health care situation now. And I'm really tired of hearing my mom-out-law say "They just want us to die! They're not going to change it because politicians just want to see us poor people dead!" Yup that's what I hear. So I'm glad to actually read some sort of real debate going on about it. I'm just tired of it all. And I REALLY hope that the injury my boyfriend sustained while on the job yesterday will truly be covered by workmans comp, because we do not have the money for that ER visit. 3 hours to get 6 stitches...awesome! But yet there's nothing wrong with the heath care system in America!
Sorry for the rambling! (Thanks for visiting my blog by the way!)

Jo said...

What a great post...! We have a phrase we use here when something doesn't seem right, we say "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" from Hamlet. Shakespeare would have plenty to say about the state of the debates on Health Care in America. It smells rotten -- along with the garbage.

I like your analogy regarding "In the United States of America people of color are not allowed to eat at the same counter as white people." What would happen to people in other countries if they used that example? And yet it seems that American media can get away with telling the most outrageous lies about Canada's Health Care.

I work with the most compassion, caring doctors in the world and they must feel sick when they read that garbage. It's just heartbreaking, and it makes me so angry, I could spit...!

Land of shimp said...

DUTA, oh my goodness, trash is picked up every day? That is a much better solution!

Also, you made me laugh by tying that into newspapers and magazines. Nicely done with dry wit, DUTA.

Here we put them into the recycle bin, which is equally telling, isn't it?

Miranda, by the rules of our HOA, we can't keep our bins outside. We're allowed to keep our garage door open, pretty much day and night if we choose (I think whoever wrote all these bylaws forgot to put in the sentence about how long a garage door could be open ;-) ).

Come Saturday, the neighborhood looks like the face of a hockey player. Garage doors up, looking like broken teeth on the front of our houses. Actually, even though we live in a golf course community (and don't golf, by the way), they aren't just trying to pretend to be posh with the 'no garbage outside!' rule. We're close enough to the foothills that various, rather dangerous critters might be attracted to a community with tons of trash outside.

In fact, there's a rule about outdoor cats here. If you have a cat, it must be strictly a house cat (which ours is and always has been) because of the fear of attracting predators.

Yesterday, as I stood on my front lawn I heard "THWA-THWA-THWA", that sound of the air being beaten above, looked up, and a massive hawk flew over my head, only about four over me. It was very impressive, and beautiful, but it did make me think, "Oh man, hide your bunnies and Silky Terriers, that bird is HUGE."

Annnnnd....that was a long answer, wasn't it?

Thank you so much, Jo. Plus, thanks again for being so nice when I just went off in the comment section of your blog!

This is a troubling issue here, and frankly, at the root of it is a very simple concept, "Wait, isn't it just wrong in the modern world to declare health a privilege that must be earned?" I think the basic understanding of that on both sides has been one of the factors that has turned this into a circus. There's a lot of denial of that particular, rather easy, concept because...really, it isn't right that people sicken and die around us because they don't have the means to have their lives saved, or health maintained.

And that's part of the reason I think opponents of reform tend to lash out at countries with universal/socialized/government structured health care.

I am in no way excusing it, and you know it makes me very angry, but it's the only explanation I can find. The question of right is so simple a nine-year-old would know the answer. "Hey, is it okay that fellow citizens of our country suffer with treatable conditions, that middle-class people struggle the most with this issue, and have to budget to get babies wellness care?"

I mean, that's simple stuff, right? The answer to that is, "No way is it right. It's entirely wrong. There is actually a moral imperative at play here."

So since opponents can't honestly say, "Hell yeah, it is absolutely right. Sorry about your kids, sick wives, injured husbands etc. but health care is only for those who can pay up." they turn to the countries that have these systems in place and scream, "But it doesn't work!! See!! SEE?!?"

They cling to the fiction that socialized medicine is bad, because denial is their only tool to beat back the moral imperative. "Sure, sure. But that system doesn't work, more would die, more would suffer!"

You asked why, and how people end up believing this shit? That's part of the mechanism, Jo. It has next to nothing to do with the actual countries they repeatedly insult, it has to do with denial.

It doesn't change the impact to the countries they keep insulting, and you know I believe it to be wrong (the opposite of right, funnily enough).

But that's part of what is going on.

Amy said...

Hi Alane,
I'm back among the "bloggers!" My family was here and it was heaven but I suspended interest in this venue for the past week basically. Your response to Jo really made me think and KNOW, that, yes, there is a right and a wrong way to think about this health issue. Lately my soap box line is "where has common sense gone?" So even though I'm kind of behind, you've "peaked" my interest so I thank you! I'm going to make it a mission to better inform myself and be sure of facts before I post.

Land of shimp said...

Amy, it's good to have you back, and I'm so glad you had such a wonderful week with your family!

Believe it or not, this isn't a tangent: My son is doing his first year of college at an in-state school. His in-state residency means he received a payback from the state at $68, per credit hour. That wasn't financial aid, that's offered to all in-state residents.

Tax dollars go towards many things for the greater good. We maintain roads, have mail delivered, fires put out, laws upheld, all through the workings of government and as part of maintaining a society.

The public health care option at present requires a level of actual poverty to be accessible to people. A person must also be divested of nearly all personal assets before qualifying, and will lose aid if they rise above that level. The only exception being people past retirement age.

My son was offered educational aid in no way based on need. Part of the theory being that if my son receives his college education, he will be able to contribute at a higher level to society. His income potential will be expanded and he
will actually be able to pay back into the system that helps him now.

If you have HBO, I'd suggest going to the On Demand menu, and watching Bill Maher's Real Time for the September 11th show. Maher can be hard to take. This show was particularly good in that Weiner had a segment I wish everyone could see.

Rising medical costs, as well as the cost of insurance makes it impossible for individuals to find their own coverage. This is not a situation that can continue without our societal structure beginning to show the strain.

We need to stop looking solely at societies that have socialized medicine in place for our answers. We need to spend some time looking at what has become of societies that have our current situation: Where health is a privilege, not a right. Places like the Dominican Republic.

That could very well be our future when we force indigence upon people before being willing to provide aid. Currently care is beyond the financial means of almost anyone who is not insured.

There are, of course, other options. Putting a yoke on the insurance company, having government oversight. That's a possibility also. We don't really have the option of failing to act, on more than one level.

If you watch that Maher episode you'll likely notice that Maher says essentially the same thing, "Isn't there a question of morality in this?"

I've long believed that. We need to fix this situation, and regardless of the way it is done, it needs to start. I would never question my tax dollars being spent to keep people safe from crime, fire, or even keeping a military force. Health and safety should be related concepts in how they are applied to our society.

Beyond that, it makes economic sense. Being healthy is part of what allows people to contribute to their own lives, and the society around them, at a higher level. Just as people with a higher education do.

So, even from a standpoint of "What's best for the country?", concentrating solely on income potential, healthy people tend to contribute more into their systems because they are able to work.

However, that's just one argument. It's just that in this instance, not only is it simply a question of right, and wrong, it is for our betterment going forward to make sure that socioeconomic differences do not so firmly determine the possibilities in life.

The real issue for most is that they fear the cost, and it will come with a price tag. However, that's shortsighted thinking in that there will be a far greater cost, even at a monetary level, if this situation continues.

No wonder it's freaking people out so badly. A great many of our country's changes were based in issues of what is right though. Civil rights. Women voting. The abolition of slavery.

Sometimes you have to do what is right to keep a country going in the right direction.

Derik said...

Yeah, you have to balance the liberal with the conservative--no journalism is in the middle anymore, and it is up to the user to decide which is more appropriate.

Merlin said...

The way you get across what you want to say in such a subtle way, while referring to something as mundane as garbage problem strikes a chord within me somewhere. With a totally unconnected theme, it reminds me of a video which is my favorite video of all times:

Your writing is amazing, I am a fan.

I put up the comment on my blog as a separate post. As I had told you I would. Thanks for writing with such an open mind, and for touching the hearts of so many people!

Land of shimp said...

Thank you very much for the kind words, Merlin. I've always liked writing. Language, and the manner in which we convey things, has always fascinated me. That there are countless ways to express the same idea.

All languages have the potential for nuanced communication. They're so very complex, and can be quite beautiful.

Again, I'm so glad you enjoyed Vinkata's story. I'll be over to visit your blog again, soon :-)

Take care!