Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Skepticism and Faith

This past week I had a member publicly express dismay and disappointment that I was skeptical of the point of view that they had. This was during the Oregon State Grange Session, where I had the opportunity to be a delegate from my Community Grange, and the body was debating a resolution.

I believe that being skeptical has its place in our lives as it forces us to evaluate information before we accept it. The ability to question allows us to look at new information and to balance it with what we already know before incorporating it into what we deem facts. It also allows us to change our mind when presented with new information.

I learned as a young person that science was the search for facts. Scientists create a theory of why something is the way it is, or what will happen and then try to prove or disprove it. I also learned that many times through history people agreed that something was fact only to learn later, when better data came along, that the fact was incorrect. The search for facts is always ongoing.

The other issue is faith. Faith is when you believe in something without absolute verifiable proof. I have faith in God, a God that gave us the ability to make choices and solve problems. I have faith or trust in the goodness of Americans, even though I know a few are not good people.

The future of our organization and even our country will require both skepticism and faith. We need to believe completely that we are doing worthwhile service to people and our community. We need to have faith that we can ride out the challenges and that we can find solutions to our problems. At the same time, we need to question every solution to find where it works and where it may fail. A healthy debate allows us to find the best solutions and should never be discouraged.

I believe that a healthy dose of skepticism on top of the foundation of faith makes for a person who can question and debate the issues. It doesn’t make us right all the time, but it will allow us to make good decisions most of the time.

Listening to others is required in being skeptical. If your position on an issue is an article of faith, then there is no discussion and there is no possibility of you learning something new.

I can’t apologize for being skeptical, but I will be doing more research this summer on the topic that was presented in that resolution.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Right To Repair

I have discovered a bill in Congress that I am in strong support of, the Motor Vehicle Owner’s Right to Repair Act of 2011 or H.R.1449. This bill has bi-partisan support and deserves to move through Congress in my view.

I’ll admit that many years ago I turned wrenches for a living and still like working on my older “classics”. The newer cars are a pain in the you know where, due to the computers and special tools needed to diagnose and repair almost any problem, but I do still work on them occasionally.

The reality is that not everyone maintains their own cars and pickups. However, many people have a shop that they trust to work on their cars when they need regular service or repairs done. These are places where you know the mechanic and often the owner has as much grease under their fingernails as any of the employees.

The challenges that small independent shops face in dealing with new cars are substantial. Having the tools available to diagnose today’s complex computer systems is essential and having access to up-to-date information in order to replace many components is critical. That is all that the House bill asks for and it makes a lot of sense to me.

The dealer-only parts will still be ordered from the dealers and the aftermarket parts will still be available to the independent shop or to the guy like me that likes to save a bit of money by fixing their own vehicle.

The big change will be that information and tools that are available to the auto dealerships will be required to be available to the public. I may still need to buy a tool, which will get my wife to sigh once again, but I will not need to take the car to the dealer to be fixed.

Especially in rural America, independent shops fill a need that dealerships often cannot fill due to distance. The Motor Vehicle Owner’s Right to Repair Act of 2011 makes good sense for rural America. If you have a shop you trust, let your Representative know what you think about this bill. If you’re one of those like me, who uses a grease rag now and then, contact your Representative… and then watch the knuckles with that wrench.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why Not Pass It?

Yesterday I was listening to the news on the radio and heard an interview with a State Representative. The Representative was being question by a well-respected and experienced reporter about a bill that was stalled in the legislature. The bill was to ban a certain chemical in the production of items such as baby bottles.

The Representative explained that the reason she was opposing the bill was that she had gone to a number of different stores and bought many of the items covered by the bill and found that market forces had already dealt with the issue. It seems that moms still have power, since most, if not all, of the products were advertising that they are free of that chemical. She added that she had a barrel full of these products in her office to demonstrate her findings.

The reporter then asked her why if there wasn’t a problem, what would it hurt to pass the bill into law?

At that point my blood pressure went up! I don’t think we elect people to just pass bills. There are enough unintended consequences to laws that we need, and I can’t see the point in making new laws just to feel good about something.

I applaud the elected officials who vote against bills that are not needed and then stand up and explain their vote. I wish more of our elected officials would publicly explain their positions and not hide their position or blame the other guy.

Our American system of government is not supposed to be about passing a bill about every issue that someone thinks is important; it is about our elected representatives dealing with the issues that affect us at the local, state or federal level.

I am still fuming a bit at that particular reporter. I think it may be time for a refresher course in civics for someone.