23 March 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

I give you Buddy--master of, and the inspiration behind this blog. Buddy was a scruffy neighborhood stray who showed up at our apartment in the early 1990s. We were hesitant to feed him but he was persistent. I tried catching him several times, but he always got away.

My lovely domestic partner finally trapped him one day, took him to the vet for a checkup, and even had him fixed (I don't know if he was too thrilled about that). Buddy has been part of the family ever since. The vet wasn't sure how old he was, so currently Buddy might be anywhere from 14 to 17 years old. He is a wonderful cat!

21 March 2007

On a Few of the Evils of Capitalism

Twice during the past week, I have been at academic discussions where a “radical” market capitalist has been the primary speaker. The frustrating thing about these market missionaries is they realize there is no real political opposition to their ideology. So what you hear from these self-righteous zealots are “lectures” about how free markets must be expanded; how people worldwide are doing so well under globalization; and how there are no economic options anyway.

As Andrew Murray wrote in the Guardian, these market advocates continually utilize the argument that “there is no alternative” to the uber-capitalism that we now see running rampant in America and throughout the world. And it is true in the United States at least, that the majority of the left has eschewed any efforts to seriously confront the market system.

But shouldn’t we be more vocal in critiquing capitalism? Should I accept the crap that was given to me at the meetings I attended? From my perspectives the clear answer is no.

Let’s look at just a few of the problems and ask some basic questions about market capitalism. Now I’m sure the conservative right-wingers have “answers” to all of these issues—I doubt however, that the answers are at all valid.

-The rich-poor gap has widened in the United States and appears to be continuing on that course. This is happening in most of the western nations.

-Women’s wages remain well below the wages of men—and the free market has yet to alleviate any of the work/family issues that women are constantly dealing with.

-The health care crisis in the United States is not being solved by the marvelous free market. In fact, it’s clear that the market isn’t working at all regarding this issue.

-Business can move whenever they want, devastating communities and workers—while employees have had trouble even unionizing in their own country.

-Business get huge subsidies from the government—even though the market is supported to be an invisible hand. But governments only retreat when the poor ask for something.

-Globalization was supposed to at least help end wars (remember, capitalist nations don’t fight each other), but we know that the military-industrial complex is now getting more money than ever. The military will always find some way to hog the budget.

-People are working longer and longer hours for less and less money.

-Corporations are canceling or not offering benefits.

-This hyper-capitalism has no moral compass and has done nothing for social justice in this country or around the world.

And in one of the best current critiques of capitalism, Satish Kumar wrote the following in the online journal Resurgence:

"Even where money and material goods are plentiful, selfishness, greed, competition, crime, violence and frustration prevail. Capitalist societies are left with increasing rates of cancer, obesity, depression and stress. Capitalism has failed in human terms. But even more drastically capitalism has failed in terms of the natural environment. Capitalism is rapidly destroying soil fertility, biodiversity and the atmosphere. Capitalism founded on the ideology of unlimited economic growth and industrialised mass production is not only unsustainable – it is blatantly harmful."

Let’s face it, globalization/rabid market capitalism is good…..for a small group of people. The multinational corporations, the weapons and arms-manufacturers, and the global bankers are all doing very well. For the majority—the masses, the poor, the underprivileged……I don’t see this economic system as a panacea at all. It is destroying the earth, its beauty, and its people!

Will we be able to alter the system? Probably not in my lifetime—but why can’t we at least begin to fight back? Why can’t we make sure to critique this system when we have the opportunity?

Capitalism wasn’t handed down by god (and even if it was, that would just give me another excuse to dislike it). Capitalism was set up to benefit certain people, and keep them in power—and that is exactly what it does.

And we must remember, there are socialist alternatives, Marxist theories that explain how capitalism works, and other critiques that are valid and useful. Let’s not give up on this issue—let’s not cede this to the market folks so easily.

And to once again quote Satish Kumar: "We need . . . a system for the age of ecology, a system which is embedded in the care of people, all people and also in the care of the earth and all life upon it, human life as well as animal life, plant life, earth life, air life and water life. We need a system which replaces our capitalist world view with a naturalist world view, and shifts our society from capitalism to “naturalism”.

20 March 2007

Feminism 101

There is a new blog that I urge all of you to view. It's called Finally, a Feminism 101 blog. What is it? Well, feminist bloggers have found themselves spending an inordinate amount of discussion time answering some of the same old questions about women's rights, gender roles, and feminism. Many of those questions, no doubt, are obnoxious queries from men who may never understand these concepts.

In order to spend more time on serious discussions, and less time answering the same old questions--this blog was started to answer some of those questions like:
-What do feminists want?
-Why do feminists hate men?
-What is male privilege?
-What's wrong with the suggestion that women take precautions to prevent being raped?
Short answer to this one: Because it puts the onus on women not to get themselves raped, rather than on men not to do the raping; in short, it blames the victim.

There is more to that last answer, and some great discussion threads and links. Please check it out!

Winter in Minnesota: From "E Pluribus Unum" to "It's All About Me"

posted by Chet Brinkley.....

We were out to supper with friends not that long ago. Bill, who drives a snow plow in the winter, was commenting on his latest misadventures. As usual, getting buried recently under several inches of heavy, wet snow did not bring out the best in our fellow citizens. One shrieking harpy called up Bill's station and screamed, “I don’t care about anyone else! You get a plow over to my house right now and get me out of here.” Bill’s boss, of course, laughed uproariously before hanging up on the hysterical wench.

When the storms are as bad as they got a couple of weeks ago, Bill drives twelve hours at a shot. As anyone who’s lived in Minnesota for any period of time knows, snow plow drivers are some of the most despised people in the state this time of year. Cleaning the streets also means clogging people’s driveways with massive piles of back-breaking, compacted snow. The force of the propelled precipitation can smash or at least deform mailboxes. In order to accomplish the greater good, all of us who own homes have to pay a little extra for our privilege and dig ourselves out. It’s the only way all of us can get to our jobs and pay our bills. But this doesn’t stop morons from trying to pass these behemoths on the road, and from flipping them off for having the temerity to slow them down. Of course, a lot of these bozos end up in a ditch or slammed into a light pole a little further down the road.

Bill was doing what had to be done, driving a truck that, fully loaded, weighs about 15 tons, when a crazed citizen jumped in front of him, forcing him to slam desperately on the brakes. The man screamed, ‘You left a big pile of snow in my driveway! You come back and clean that up!” He demanded that Bill come around a second time, drive on the wrong side of the road so that the snow would pile up in the middle of the street, and then come through a third time and push it all into the yards and driveways of his neighbors across the way. In other words, screw everybody else, just take care of me. As this fractious discussion continued, the rabid fellow jumped up onto Bill’s truck, so Bill grabbed for his hammer and put it on the dash, just to make sure it was there if he needed it. As the tensions escalated and Bill remained resolute in his sanity, the fellow finally adopted a thin veneer of sanity, read my friend’s name tag, and intoned, “Well Bill, I guess I’m going to be calling your manager.” Bill laughed uproariously and said, “You go right ahead.” No doubt this fellow became the story/psycho of the week back at the shop.

It’s easy to think of Bill’s experiences as silly stories about a couple of wack jobs who freaked out during a recent snowstorm, but I’m not sure any of us can let ourselves off the hook that easily. Maybe Barack Obama is doing more than establishing a niche issue for himself when he speaks of an “empathy gap”. All of us have raced down the interstate—or even a small local road—and cursed at anyone who impeded our progress in the slightest way. More and more of us stare transfixed into our computer or television or cell phone screen or plug ourselves into our MP3 players and eschew meaningful interactions with the world around us. We shop on line, we drive through the bank and the fast food place—we probably have more fondness for our cars than for our neighbors or even members of our extended family. Where does it end? How long is it going to be before we’re all so myopic and unjustifiably self-righteous that we’re lying in wait for the newspaper deliverer because he left the paper lying in the middle of the driveway—where it was buried by the snow plow?