Monday, April 29, 2013


I did one tiny thing to improve my life this year. For the past several, I had kept meticulous track of wins and losses on the tennis court. But the thing is, you never know who your partner is going to be, and so either a loss or a win could have less to do with you than the other guy.
I stopped keeping track. Now tennis it more of an "in the moment" kind of thing. Winning is still great, but at my age, how dominant can I be? It was the right decision. And, hey - today we won two of three in a tough wind.

It was a hard year for the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers. The new players never quite lived up to expectations and there were too many injuries. Five guys were unable to play in the first round of the playoffs, including team star Kobe Bryant, who had been hurt trying to squeeze too much out of his body just to help the team get into the playoffs vs. the tough San Antonio Spurs.
Things went even worse than expected. As game four dragged into the fourth quarter, it became apparent that this would be the 0-3 Lakers' last game of the season. The crowd started to slink out, the coaches looked as though they were thinking about going fishing and the players had the look of "Sure, we're pros, but this just isn't working".
In the midst of this, Kobe, confined to crutches, refused to stop trying to help the team. He was barking out advice from courtside as if the team's embarrassment was his own. I was impressed, because Kobe doesn't need extra playoff cash. He just can't stop competing, a quality you need if you're going to be a professional athlete. It wasn't enough to bring the Lakers back from the dead, but there's always next year.

Now, regarding regulations. That's one of those words that makes conservatives red in the face and purple in their choice of words. You can depend on any GOP candidate to get cheers for saying something like, "Our government needs to get out of the way so that out employers can operate in the free market without having to deal with costly, restrictive regulations." If that doesn't seem familiar, you just haven't been listening.
But just lately, there have been two events serving to remind us just why there are such things a regulations. Neither event involved terrorists.
In Bangladesh, a factory used for making clothing to be sold in the West collapsed. Over three hundred employees were killed. The country is supposed to have regulations which keep this kind of thing from happening, but the country is so poor that it's easy to throw a few dollars at regulators willing to look the other way, which is probably all of them. You get a pretty good idea of what big name clothing retailers think of human life by their united opposition to anything that would produce new rules. "Oh, no. That means new administrative problems. We can't do that." In case you're wondering, wages in this type of operations can be between $1 and $2 a day, so it's not hard to see how money can be made.
In Texas, fifteen people were killed by an explosion at a fertilizer plant located within easy walking distance of a nursing home, an apartment complex and a public school. Were regulations violated? No one seems to know, in part because it had been so long since an actual inspection took place. One thing we do know is that the plant had a thousand times more of a particular chemical than what is supposed to require disclosure to the DHS, which remembers what the Oklahoma City bomb was made of. Texas is not likely to break their backs looking for risky situations because the state puts plenty of time and effort trying to get compnies to move their operations to Texas, where regulation and inspections are much more casual.       
We, folks, have lost sight of two broad facts. First, the best employers want their workers to be safe, and not just to keep workers compensation costs down. How many qualified, educated people want to move themselves and their families to places where explosions are simply considered one of the costs of doing business? The other fact is that regulations actually help legitimate businesses by keeping cut-rate, unsafe operators out of the marketplace. If you can't afford to obey the rules, you shouldn't be allowed to operate. And the rules themselves wouldn't exist if someone hadn't found a way to circumvent lawful operations sometime in the past. After all, government's job is to first help people, not corporations.


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