Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Stretch Outside of the Comfort Zone

I came across this  blog entry. I thought it was well-written, well thought out and thought provoking.  I provided the link to give the author due credit.

What’s so bad about socialism?
This month’s proposed bail-out of Wall Street financial institutions has gotten me thinking about socialism — in particular, the knee-jerk reaction that some conservative Americans express whenever the word is mentioned. They say, “Oh, we can’t have nationalized healthcare because that would be socialism,” as if the word alone makes the argument self-evident. But here’s my question: if socialism is so bad, then why don’t conservatives complain about the many socialized institutions that seem to work just fine and that we all take for granted? For example, our nation’s various police and fire departments are all socialized institutions, but we don’t hear conservatives screaming about making those into private industries (notwithstanding wealthy conservatives who live in gated communities with private security guards). Likewise, our nation’s judiciaries (both criminal and civil) are socialized, but we don’t hear conservatives calling for private funding of judges.

So, given that conservatives consider socialism OK in some situations, but not in others, what, for them, distinguishes “good” socialism from “bad” socialism? Here’s my theory: conservatives don’t mind having everyone share the cost of things such as police, fire, judges, etc., because conservatives tend to be people with wealth and power…and people with wealth and power tend to own more assets than people without wealth and power. And what better way is there to protect those assets against loss (fire, theft, fraud, etc.) than by making everyone share the cost of things like police, fire, courts, etc.? Of course, not all conservatives are wealthy and powerful, and not all wealthy or powerful people are conservatives, but I’m talking here about conservatives who unquestioningly accept socialism in some contexts, while blindly rejecting it in others. I suspect these people realize (consciously or subconsciously) that, for them personally, socialized cops are good but socialized doctors are not. They’re content to let their neighbors help pay for the police that protect their mansion, but why should they help pay for their neighbor’s broken leg?

So, what about public schools? Well, not all schools are funded by the public; only grades K-12. Why? Well, people with wealth and power have, historically, been the people who own the businesses in America, and they need a literate workforce. Not a curious, college-educated, authority-questioning workforce, just a literate one. So, it makes a lot of sense to them to have the public provide that workforce, thereby saving them the cost of teaching their potential employees to read and write. This is one reason why so many conservatives push for things such as standardized testing and “no child left behind”: they don’t want to get stuck with the burden of educating an illiterate workforce. It’s also one reason why they push for things such as school vouchers and (Christian) prayer in school: the belief that morality is just as important as literacy and that America’s moral values are (or should be) based on the Bible. Likewise, they see no reason to help pay for curious, authority-questioning kids to attend college; to the contrary, the less that access to college is based on intellectual merit and the more it is based on, say, a family’s wealth, the more likely that smart, poor kids can be hired for low wages and that the kids of wealthy families can go to college (and eventually inherit the levers of wealth and power).

So, with reference to the title of this post — “what’s so bad about socialism” — the answer is that there isn’t necessarily anything inherently bad about socialism; society’s movers and shakers have simply disparaged the term in situations whenever it benefits them to do so.

Indeed, let’s compare nominally “capitalist” America to some nominally “socialist” countries in Europe. Countries such as Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, etc., have much higher income taxes, much higher gasoline prices, nationalized healthcare, nationalized universities, shorter work weeks, longer vacations…and they still have a stronger currency, a healthier population, fewer people in prison (per capita), fewer violent crimes (per capita) and a far smaller military (per capita). All of which leaves me with a question I’m going to leave with you: what’s so good about American-style capitalism?

No appetite

Started to worry a little today because since she vomited on Tuesday she hasn't really eaten and has been very reclusive.  I gave her a dose of homeopathic Nux vomica and she ate a small amount of ground food which made me feel a bit better. Maybe this is all sign that she has a larger litter than her last two? I hope so.

We are excited to be heading down to stay with our friends Keith and David next weekend while we attend the Westminster Dog Show. Our girl Camber was invited and her sister Vixen will also be showing.  I am excited to be there to cheer them on and to not be stuck "on the bench" for the whole day and lugging gear in and out of the Garden in frigid temperatures.  I predict this will be a very enjoyable Westminster experience, especially since it is the first one that Evan is going to with me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Puppy Journal

In an effort to keep me blogging more regularly, I have decided to blog about the litter we are expecting.  I hope to get some other deeper, more thought provoking things on here soon too as lots of thoughts are swarming in my head about the new administration and raw foods, but I don't get to those as often.   

We decided to repeat a very successful breeding of our female Marley (CH Riverroc Three Sunrises Lyceum, CGC, ROM) to her one and only love, Harry (CH Rosendogs He Who Must Be Named).  Marley, it appears, is a monogamous dog. Their romance began as puppies in the class ring and has stood the test of time.  We have tried two other breedings and one was more or less a disaster, producing only one viable puppy (who is wonderful) and the other didn't take.  She wants nothing to do with other males but is completely in love and very will to be Harry's girl. So instead of fighting an upstream battle and considering that the last litter produced three extremely sound and sweet, as well as beautiful, Canaan Dogs including last years National Specialty winner, we decided to just go with the flow.  Marley and Harry together again... So there you have the backstory.

Harry came to stay with us for 2 weeks, during which time the they had 4 successful breedings or "ties."   And right on target this week she has vomited and today refused food. Good signs that she is pregnant.  We will take her for an xray the first week in March to confirm and count puppies and then we expect the little guys sometime in Mid-March.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Meditation Bubbles

A resolution of sorts, this year I am going to try to incorporate regular meditation into my daily routine. Finding the time is a challenge. I know I know, what's 10 minutes? Hell, what's 1 minute?  According to Oprah, if you can't find 60 seconds a day to meditate you just aren't on a spiritual path. To me, that sounded like a challenge and I accept. 

For the last few months my daily moment to myself has been taking an extra few minutes in the shower after the bathing portion is complete. I would sit and just take in the experience of being warmed by the water. It is my few moments of solitude and I enjoy it, but it didn't feel, well meditative.  

And once my day is going, I hardly find the inclination to sit still and meditate so really the only logical time for me is first thing when I wake up or last thing before I fall asleep and that's usually what happens...I fall asleep. I do find meditation helpful for that.

So this morning after Evan had showered and left the room, I lay in bed and meditated. I have the same trouble as anyone else new to meditation. My mind wanders off on all the things I should be thinking about and then I have to pull myself back.  I've had people say focus on your breath, count, pretend the thoughts are passing clouds and let them float on by but none of that clicked for me. This morning I came up with something that finally helped me manage the pesky mental chatter keeping me from the state of zen, so here is what I did.

I lay in bed and decided I was going to meditate for 60 breaths.  Breathing in and out I counted each one in my head. I imagined the number inside a the bubbles you blow with the little plastic sticks.  On the inhale the bubble with a number 1 inside floated up and on the exhale it floated down and out. Then 2.... and so on.  This worked for me because my next goal was just "see" the number in the bubble with my mind's eye but not "say" it in my mind.   Everytime another thought appeared, and in my multitasking brain it was just in another bubble floating near my number bubble,  I simply popped it.  GONE.  It was the one form of imagery that finally worked for me.  I have heard that after some practice the need to count is no longer necessary to keep a quiet mind but for now I think its just what I need to center myself and do some meditation everyday.