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It's International Year of Forests! Call your lawyer today!

Maybe I’m just in a mood tonight, but I just bumped into something that really rubs me like velcro on Berber carpet: I saw a note somewhere that this is International Year of Forests, as designated by the UN. I love forests. I live in one. Cool, I thought. I clicked on the link, and got to the very nice UN site about this designated year. Cute logos on it. I notice a little note at the bottom: “Logo guidelines and waiver form.” Hm. Click on that link and get a PDF:

All entities interested in using the International Year of Forests logo for information purposes must apply to the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat. When requesting approval, the entities should provide:

␣ A short statement of identity (nature of organization and its objectives);

␣ An explanation of how and where the logo will be used; and

␣ A Waiver of Liability (please see page 5) must be signed by the entity requesting to use the logo

What? Perhaps I’m just channeling my inner Libertarian here, but is this really necessary? Do I, Suki Wessling of Santa Cruz County, California, need to sign a waiver for the UN in order to display a logo? One that I think is pretty? One that promotes love of forests? One that is, fer gawd’s sake, disseminated by a body whose motto is “It’s Your World”?

Heck, it’s my world, so here’s the darn logo:

The UN logo -- in 6 languages!

The UN logo -- in 6 languages!

So sue me.

It’s amusing to channel other political persuasions on occasion, but back to my regularly scheduled liberal. We now have a Democrat in the governor’s mansion and do I think things will get better?

In particular, the things I’m interested in: schools, health care, funding for important services that have made the life of the 21st-century Californian one that people around the world envy?

Well, not really. I think there’s a systemic problem here, and no one has figured out how to deal with it. The problem is this: If you like your government-funded services—pick your favorite—you have to allow your neighbor to like his (or her) government services. So perhaps you value well-maintained roads and quick emergency response. Well, you have to deal with the fact that a neighbor on one side values food stamps for the poor and free women’s shelters, and the neighbor on the other side likes subsidies for his industry and the tax break he got for his big, gas-guzzling SUV (owned by his business, of course).

So you might be tempted to say, hey, I think we should only pay for necessary government services, and if you’re like most of us, you think the necessary ones are the ones you value and use.

But if you’ve signed on to government services, you have to deal with this package deal problem: none of us will ever agree which ones are really vital. All of us will agree that there are some that we think make our lives and the lives of our neighbors better. But which those are? We’ll never, never agree.

So I’ll call our systemic problem the Package Deal Problem. I want more money and less bureaucracy for public schools. So I have to give a nod to something I think is totally ridiculous (Got Milk?) because we’re in a democracy here, and the one thing we can agree on is that we don’t agree.

So frankly, no, I don’t think that having a Democrat signing bills will do much. What can he do? Our state is in a perpetual state of government gridlock. We can’t even agree to disagree and do a “simple up-or-down vote” (as Republicans say when it’s to their benefit). We have our state government set up to fail. It’s supposed to provide all the services that we and all our neighbors want, but it’s not supposed to raise the taxes necessary to pay for those services.

Cities have been failing—going bankrupt—at a steady trickle lately. Counties and states aren’t far behind. We have to agree to pay for the services we want, or we’re all going to end up living in our big piles of garbage while we argue with our governments about who is supposed to pay for hauling it away.

It’s a Package Deal, but the package is so stinky, none of us wants to be the one to take the responsibility of saying it’s ours.

Just haul it to the dump, OK? We can keep lowering taxes and raising services and driving faster and faster to get away from the stench.

Posted in Culture.

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