Saturday, November 21, 2009

Afghanistan, why are we there?

We’re at a critical decision point regarding our continued presence in Afghanistan. Other than trying to make it up to the Afghan people for abandoning them after the Russians pulled out in 1989 or 90, I see no reason to stay. It’s basically a civil war situation and the most powerful force (the Taliban), which we don’t like, will most likely prevail if we leave.

We use whatever temporary logic prevails to justify doing whatever we want to do. In this instance, the military can’t accept “losing” by leaving and letting the internal interests in Afghanistan fight it out for control of the country. The political cover for this is to proclaim we can’t leave Afghanistan as a base the jihadists can use for training for another attack on America.

But, look at the record. We’ve been there for at least 8 years and the Afghan government hasn’t been able to field a credible army of its own. How many years do we have to wait before we can decide they’ll either make it on their own or they won’t?

Our prime political rational for staying is also that we can’t give al Queda a base in which it can train fighters for another 9/11 type operation. This is whooey. According to most published reports, al Queda has moved most of its operations to Pakistan anyway.

Did the 9/11 hijackers actually train in Afghanistan? Was that the best place to offer such specialized training? Was this the only country that would have permitted it? Will the next attack (if it ever comes) require training somewhere similar to Afghanistan in 2001?

I can see the need to save pride as a nation keeping us from pulling out. But, unfortunately, I see a much more direct reason for staying in that many providers of services and products are making a lot of money from the continuation of this operation. Cynical, you bet! Other than national pride and the reputation of major political figures, I only see the continued spending of vast sums on this operation as benefiting some in the private sector financially.

How much of a tax increase would YOU be willing to pay to continue this so called war? Perhaps that question should have been the lead sentence of this piece.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A commute solution

Many of the things we do for the environment come from making many small adjustments over long periods of time. The introduction of more fuel efficient vehicles and the retirement of older gas guzzlers eventually results, over time, in the use of much much less fuel and the associated reduction in pollution. Similarly, recycling of waste materials further reduces the energy use that would be required to produce new items from raw materials. Over time, this also has great impact on the environment.

I think something similar can be done to minimize commute traffic. Telecommuting has the result of instant reductions in traffic but probably only in a limited amount due to the current nature of face to face employer/employee relationships.

My thought, in a nut shell, is for businesses to hire the prospective employee who lives closest to the business doing the hiring.

In any job being filled, (assuming an adequate supply of applicants), there will be little job related difference between the top contenders. Hiring will more relate to the decision being made by the person doing the hiring than to absolute job capabilities. And, most of this will be subjective.

Why not instead simply hire the person from the top tier of candidates who lives closest to the job?

Over time, this would result in large portions of the work force having shorter commutes and thereby reducing long distance commutes. This in turn, would lessen the number of employees, commuters, clogging up the roads during the commute period. It will also provide more likelihood that transit will be used by short distance commuters further reducing traffic.

We mostly have a picture of employees commuting from the suburbs to central city jobs. This isn’t necessarily correct. In major metropolitan areas as much as 75% of the home to work trips aren’t to the central city but between suburbs. This offers the opportunity for more reduction in long distance commutes with the additional reduction in traffic and fuel consumption.

Think about this and how, over time, everyone would save time, money and the frustration with traffic. Only new hires would be affected and only a policy decision to hire the closest applicant would be required.

Business doesn’t usually feel responsible for paying for off site programs. Here’s a program that’s centered on their work locations, that can benefit everyone at no additional cost.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Can we be satisfied with enough?

Sometimes I think many of the problems of our society revolve around our not taking the time to think about what constitutes “enough”. “Enough” is defined as - sufficient to meet a need or satisfy a desire; adequate.

Most people seem to always want more; more money, more and better clothes, a newer car, a bigger house, etc. The past several decades have made wanting to have it all and have it all NOW not only seem to be an acceptable goal but positively normal.

The 80’s were the “Me” decade where conspicuous consumption was the norm and the 90’s the “Sky’s the limit” decade of ever increasing expectations for the economy. Everyone who could get stock options wanted them and expected to eventually be rich. Everyone who couldn’t was envious. The 2000’s may be a time to rethink having it all.

Television advertising, all advertising, continues to show us what we DON’T have and causes us to want more. There is nothing in our culture to promote, to cause us to think about, what is “enough”. After all, if you had enough you wouldn’t purchase the new products being advertised.

If you had enough, you wouldn’t have to work longer or harder or have two incomes in the family to buy more things. What you would have is more time for yourself and your family, less stress in your life because you wouldn’t be chasing more income to buy more things, and the satisfaction that you, and not the advertising world, were running your life.

This is a good season to think about what constitutes enough in our life. It’s the season when there is the most advertising to tempt us to buy things. It’s the season when we receive things others think we will like. And we do like many of those things. But, how many do we need?

Perhaps people have to be mature, to have wanted, acquired and used up many things before they can think in terms of “enough”. It may take the experience of time and of living to sort out what really matters in our life.

It may be that those who could benefit most by thinking about what is enough don’t have the time to think such thoughts. They’re working so hard to get what they think they need that the idea of enough isn’t even a thought they’d have.

Has such thinking become a luxury?

Can we be satisfied with