Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Trip Down Memory Lane

A friend sent me this link and I thought many of you would enjoy it, if you grew up in the Sixties, as I did. While we may not agree with all of the commentary (was it really better when professional women gave up careers to raise their kids? We may argue this one and a few other points), I think everyone will enjoy the music and the reminders of old TV shows, movies, actors and actresses, cars, and ads. Enjoy!
Take Me Back to the Sixties.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Post on Medicana: Updates on Alzheimer's Disease

Our recent experiences with my mother-in-law prompted me to post an update about this disease on my other blog, Medicana. I've included some tips about preparing for difficult situations and some new research.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. Here I am getting ready to help my Female Human in her Blogging. As you see, I am doing a Great Service by covering up the screen of her Blog with my Beautiful Presence.

I look a bit dyspeptic in this picture. It's either that I ate something that disagreed with me, or perhaps it's because of these poll results, which show that McCain would beat either Democratic Candidate in November if the Vote were today.

Must be all that Nasty Catfighting that's going on among the Democrats. Personally, I am a Cat of Peace; although I do Growl at That Dog from time to time, that is Different. She is of a Different Species, and it is Appropriate for me to Growl at Her. But with two Cats who are the Same Species, after an initial Hiss or two, they should Calm Down and learn how to Get Along.

Some Humans have suggested that Al Gore should come in and Save the Day for the Democrats. If neither of the Current Human Candidates can Win, then why not Bring Back Al Gore? Gore-Obama?! A Ticket to Paradise? Or at least a lot of Catnip for the Democrats?

But, as an Enterprising and Resourceful Cat, I have done Further Digging on this idea. Apparently the Voters aren't all that Enthused about it. Only 23% of Democrats in a recent poll would vote for Gore.

On the Plus side, more people say Voters aren't ready to vote for someone Over 65 than say the same for an African-American or a Woman. Bad news for John McCain!

In other news, the FBI finally has some new suspects in the 2001 Anthrax terrorism incidents that followed 9/11. It's been 6-1/2 Years. Can we have some Closure here?

And, I couldn't help but Notice this bit of News: A British woman just gave birth to her 10, 11 and 12th Surrogate Children. Yes, 3 of Them. They were Triplets - and she gave Them all to the Childless Couple that she bore Them for. This poor Lady has been Pregnant for most of the Past Decade! Now, she must be a Very Generous Woman to do All That for people she doesn't even Know. She does have two Daughters of her own. I wonder what You All think of Surrogate Mothers? Are they just Incredibly Generous People, or are they a Little Odd? (Female Cats don't mind Giving Birth to a lot of Kittens if they Must, but the Lady Cats I know are generally Happy to be Spayed and not have to Bother. Less Aggravation that way.)

Lastly, does anyone think that Airport Security is Getting Out of Hand? According to this report, the TSA Folks made a woman remove her Nipple Rings to get through Security. One with PLIERS. Ouch!

That's it for Me. I'll be Back again soon! In the Meantime, have some Catnip and Relax this Weekend! Meows and Purrs to All!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Haiku Wednesday

After two serious blogswarm posts in a week, my brain is fried. In addition, work has come back full tilt after my restful two-week vacation, and I am finding it hard to concentrate on anything else.

So, for today, I will post a few attempts at haiku. And, for Baxter's fans, don't worry, he'll be posting next!

Tropical breezes
Azure sea on black sand beach
All over too soon

New Jersey is cold
There are no leaves on the trees
The wind is chilly.

It's back to business
Or should I say "busy-ness"?
Life is so hectic.

Between work and home
More responsibilities
Not enough pleasure.

The news is a joke
And politics is stressful
Why is it so hard?

Democrats feuding
While John McCain is gaining
Polls aren't looking good.

Once we were on top
Now McCain may be winning
Democrats, Unite!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bush's Faith-Based Initiative: Insidious Path to Theocracy

This is my contribution to the Blog Against Theocracy blogswarm. (Note: Bold blue italics are quotations, anything in red is emphasis I have added to the quotes).

It's been seven years since President Bush announced his "faith-based initiative" to allow public money to fund nonprofit organizations sponsored by religious groups.

The purpose of the initiative was to establish "a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives that will have lead responsibility to:

"Establish policies, priorities, and objectives to enlist, equip, enable, empower, and expand the work of faith-based and other community organizations to the extent permitted by law.

-Ensure that policy decisions and programs are consistent with the President's stated goals with respect to faith-based and other community initiatives.

-Integrate the agenda affecting faith-based and other community organizations across the Federal Government.

-Coordinate public education to mobilize public support for faith-based and community nonprofit initiatives.

-Eliminate unnecessary legislative, regulatory, and other bureaucratic barriers that impede effective faith-based and other community efforts to solve social problems.

-Ensure that the efforts of faith-based and other community organizations meet high standards of excellence and accountability."

In addition, the executive order:

"Establishes a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives within each of the Departments of Justice, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, to:

-Coordinate efforts to eliminate regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the provision of social services.

-Incorporate faith-based and other community organizations in department programs and initiatives to the greatest extent possible.

-Increase the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in Federal as well as State and local initiatives."

Although money would now be funneled from the government to groups whose main purpose is a religious one, there supposedly would be "safeguards" put in place to ensure church and state remained separate:

"Secular helping agencies must be available in the same areas as faith-based helping agencies, so that people who need help do not have to accept the religious aspect in order to get the help.

-No government funds can be used for proselytizing or other inherently religious activities

-Government should be neutral, providing funds based on the program results and not on the specific program structure (religious vs. nonreligious).

-Funding for faith-based and secular helping agencies is provided from the same source. There is no "set-aside" strictly for religious organizations."

Now, seven years later, a document called "The Quiet Revolution: The President's Faith-Based and Community Initiative: A Seven-Year Progress Report Letter From President Bush" sums up the progress against his mission:

"The first Presidential initiative launched by the Bush Administration, the FBCI has grown each year and adapted to emerging challenges and expanded its influence at home and abroad. The framework of this activity includes:

-Five Executive Orders expanding the FBCI reach across the Federal Government;

-Sixteen agency-level rule changes and a myriad of smaller scale policy reforms to level the playing field for faith-based and community organizations;

-More than a dozen presidential initiatives aimed at some of society's most stubborn social problems;

-Provision of in-person training to build capacity for more than 100,000 social entrepreneurs;

-Measurement of the FBCI's progress, and ongoing improvement of program components as necessary;

-Replication at the State- and local-government level.

The FBCI initiated a profound cultural change resulting in wider acceptance of faith-based organizations in community problem-solving, as well as a heightened understanding of results-driven collaborations between government and the nonprofit sector. As this report shows, the FBCI has been a quiet revolution in how government engages community partners to address human need and how public and private interests combine for the common good."

The question is, how much of this "profound cultural change" has led us down the slippery slope toward theocracy? This initiative has been largely flying under the radar, and many Americans may not be aware of the profound changes it has wrought.

According to Americans United for Separation of Church and State,
"The law governing the separation of church and state has been shaped by dozens of U.S. Supreme Court decisions and thousands of decisions by lower federal courts and state courts."

Nevertheless, there are watchdog groups that are on top of this and are trying to roll back these changes. There have been a number of lawsuits attempting to thwart some of the provisions of the Faith-Based Initiative.The link above provides summaries of a number of recent court decisions.

One recent success story was a case entitled Americans United v. Prison Fellowship Ministries, when in 2006, Americans United won a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Iowa Corrections Department's support for Charles Colson's InnerChange, a prison program that trains inmates in evangelical Christianity.

Another group that has spearheaded a number of successful lawsuits defending the separation of church and state is the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Throughout the Bush administration's tenure, there has been opposition to the Faith Based Initiative programs.

According to the Boston Globe, in 2006 two leading Democrats on the House International Relations Committee said they want to investigate President Bush's faith-based initiative...

" determine whether taxpayer funds are being used to reward Bush's Christian conservative supporters and whether the faith-based groups are using the funds to help gain converts. follow up on an October report by the Globe that the Bush administration has given 98.3 percent of the faith-based foreign-aid money to Christian groups and to examine whether faith-based groups are using taxpayer funds to help their proselytizing efforts.

...The Globe reported that Bush has doubled the percentage of US foreign aid dollars going to faith-based groups and that the president systematically eliminated or weakened rules designed to enforce the separation of church and state.

As a result, some faith-based providers attempted to recruit members immediately before or after providing government services, and others favored Christians over Muslims.

...The Globe also reported on cases in which secular groups said they were denied funding because they emphasized the distribution of condoms or worked with prostitutes in an effort to stop the spread of the AIDS virus.

...Bush was unable to win congressional approval for the faith-based program even with Republicans in control of Congress
, so he used executive orders to implement the program."

Concern has been raised in many quarters about these faith-based initiatives; Former President Jimmy Carter was very outspoken in his criticism of the program, according to an article published by The Associated Press last May:

"Carter offered his harshest assessment for the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which helped religious charities receive $2.15 billion in federal grants in fiscal year 2005 alone.

'The policy from the White House has been to allocate funds to religious institutions, even those that channel those funds exclusively to their own particular group of believers in a particular religion. Those things in my opinion are quite disturbing,' Carter said. 'As a traditional Baptist, I’ve always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one.' "

The various ways this initiative violates the separation of church and state are detailed in the "Americans United for Separation of Church and State" website. As the site explains...

"Charitable choice became part of the welfare law in 1996, but the federal government was hesitant to implement the policy due to constitutional concerns. Moreover, only a handful of states have altered their programs to allow for government funding of religious ministries.

Now, however, the Bush administration is working to apply charitable choice to nearly every aspect of government funding."

The site includes a comprehensive list of the reasons this initiative is bad for the country:

- By using government funds to support religious organizations, the initiative in effect forces taxpayers to subsidize religion they may not believe in.

-Charitable choice raises the specter of federally funded employment discrimination. Under Bush's proposal, churches would be legally permitted to discriminate on the basis of religion when hiring, despite receiving a massive infusion of public dollars.

-Religious institutions would receive taxpayer support while seeking to convert people seeking assistance. Disadvantaged people would be vulnerable to coertion while receiving needed services and benefits.

- Religious institutions themselves do not necessarily benefit from this initiative, and could face unwelcome interference by the government. The government always regulates what it finances...Once churches, temples, mosques and synagogues are being financed by public funds, some of their own freedom to run their organizations as they see fit could be at risk.

-Another risk to the religious organizations involved could be a diminution of voluntary contributions from members and other contributors, due to the perception that the government would now be taking care of these needs.

- The faith-based initiative pits religious groups against each other in competition for public funds.

- Some faith traditions could be favored over others when it comes to doling out money from the public treasury.

Interestingly, according to "Americans United," "opposition to faith-based public funding spans the ideological spectrum. Americans have raised complaints about these proposals regardless of their party affiliation, religious belief or political ideology. In fact, in recent years, a large number of religious and public policy groups have joined together in coalition to oppose charitable choice plans.

... Some clergy expressed concern about government funds threatening the prophetic voice of their faith community while others were troubled by an unhealthy intermingling of religion and government.

...In the political arena, reservations surrounding faith-based schemes are not limited to a traditional "Democrat v. Republican" argument.

Since the public policy debate was announced, criticism has been levied against charitable choice from the right, left and center.

All of these fears over unhealthy cooperation between church and state have done little to dissuade charitable choice's advocates. After years of debate, the crusade to expand the policy continues unabated, with billions of tax dollars at stake.

...Ultimately, public funding of faith-based institutions is one of those rare proposals that harms virtually everyone affected by it. The initiative promotes publicly funded employment discrimination, it threatens the religious liberties of beneficiaries, it jeopardizes the freedom of our faith communities and it undermines the rights of all taxpayers."

Please be sure to check out the other information on the websites linked above, as well as First Freedom First and all of the other posts on the Blog Against Theocracy blogswarm.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five Years of War

(Picture courtesy of Presidentially Speaking - DMOMA)

This post is one of many that are part of the March 19 Blogswarm. Please go there and read all the other posts about the War in Iraq as well.

Today is the anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. Although President Bush declared in 2003 that the mission in Iraq had been accomplished, his words were lies, just as the reasons for going into this war in the first place were lies. This is what he said in his speech on the aircraft carrier in May of 2003 after his staged theatrical landing on the U.S.S. Lincoln. His words are in blue italics (in bold for emphasis on my part) - my commentary in bold red.

"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.

(According to a recent Red Cross report, "...the humanitarian situation in most of the country remains among the most critical in the world. Because of the conflict, millions of Iraqis have insufficient access to clean water, sanitation and health care.")

...Today, we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war; yet it is a great moral advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.

(Iraqui deaths are now at nearly 1.2 million - including many, many civilians - see this link for more details).

We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated.

(Of course, the CIA reported no WMDs were found....
"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saddam Hussein did not possess stockpiles of illicit weapons at the time of the U.S. invasion in March 2003 and had not begun any program to produce them, a CIA report concludes." )

We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people.

(The government isn't going so well. "The Iraqi government says a lack of trust between politicians is slowing progress on national reconciliation. Critics have warned the government needs to start providing much needed social services to Iraqis or risk losing recent security gains.")

...The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men -- the shock troops of a hateful ideology -- gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the "beginning of the end of America." By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation's resolve, and force our retreat from the world...

(Of course, none of them came from Iraq).

The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more.

(Of course, before we invaded Iraq, Al Qaeda wasn't in Iraq, according to a new Pentagon report that the government tried to keep us from seeing.)

But there are plenty of terrorists, including Al Qaeda, there now, thanks to our illegal overthrow of the Iraqi government. And where are they coming from? Lots of other countries that we aren't bothering to invade, because they are our "friends."

I won't even go into the many lies told by Cheney and others to make us believe in the WMDs, or to warn against the recent build-up to possible war with Iran on the same kind of false pretenses.

Let's remember it is all about oil and paybacks to corporate cronies like Halliburton, and let's make sure it never happens again by electing a Democrat in November!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Cat's Eye View - Baxter's Back!

Baxter here. I am finally Back. My Humans were gone for Over Two Weeks. I was not Pleased. Not only did they go away and leave Me, but they turned off the Computer so I couldn't even Surf the Net or Blog. The nerve!

I tried to hold out and be Aloof when they came home but as usual I couldn't keep up the Pretense and after I heard their Voices downstairs I strolled nonchalantly out to Greet them. And then I Purred. A Lot. And did a lot of Rubbing of the Head on my Humans, to show them they belonged to Me.

Now that I am Catching Up I have discovered that FranIam tagged Me, Baxter, for a Meme back on March 9th! It is the Middle Name Meme.

Here are the rules.

1. You have to post the rules before you give your answers.

2. You must list one fact about yourself beginning with each letter of your middle name. (If you don't have a middle name, use your maiden name or your mother's maiden name).

3. At the end of your blog post, you need to tag one person (or blogger of another species) for each letter of your middle name. (Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they've been tagged.)

Now, I have a certain Problem. Not only didn't my Humans see fit to give me a Middle Name, but I don't have a Maiden Name either, especially because I am a former Tomcat and don't have anything "maiden" about Me, despite my Operation.

However, Fran addressed me as "Baxter The Cat." So perhaps my Middle Name can be considered "The." It is kind of Unusual as Names go, but it will have to Do.

So here are the Three Facts about Me:

T is for Tail. I have a lovely Tail, if I say so Myself. It is long, furry and striped, and it lashes back and forth Magnificently whenever I am Annoyed. It also puffs Spectacularly when I am Surprised. (I do not Admit to being Scared, so I prefer "Surprised.")

H is for Happy. Yes, I am generally a Happy Cat. Although I complain a lot about That Dog, it doesn't take much to make me Happy. For instance, last night my Female Human couldn't sleep because she was used to sleeping in Much Larger Beds while she was Away...and those Beds did not have a Dog in them taking up most of the room in the middle. After tossing and turning for an hour or more, she decided to go sleep in the Spare Room. I was Thrilled because this meant I had one of my Humans all to myself. I jumped up next to her and Snuggled and Purred to my Heart's Content and slept there all night.

E is for Elegant. I have my Quirks, but I am a Cat through and through. And we Cats are ALWAYS Elegant. We are Graceful, and we are Proud. But most of all, Elegant.

So there are the Three Facts about Me based on my Middle Name. Now, who to tag that hasn't already had this Meme?

How about Mary Ellen at The Divine Democrat?

And even though DCup has already done the Middle Name Meme, what about her Cats, the Pussies for Peace? Tag, you're It!

I think a lot of other Folks have had this one already so will stop with two.

I am not going to have a big News Roundup today as it is my First Post after the Long Vacation and I am still catching up with my Internet Surfing.

However, my Female Human came across an Incredible and Disgusting Story while she was Away, that she felt I would have wanted to Share with You if I had been able to Blog about it at the time. So here it is:

Apparently a woman sat on a toilet seat for two whole years and was actually stuck on the Seat when rescuers finally were called by her Boyfriend, who had been unable to convince her to leave the bathroom. They actually had to pry the Seat off the Toilet so they could take her and the Seat to the Hospital.

Yes, the Boyfriend had brought her Food and Beverages, but somehow, wouldn't you think he might have called someone Sooner? It is hard to decide who was Weirder, the Woman or the Boyfriend.

Oh, by the way - it happened in Kansas. Not that that Matters.

That's It from my end for now. Tomorrow my Female Human will be participating in the Blogswarm against the Iraq War. So stock up on your Catnip and be sure to check out all the Posts at the Blogswarm. The link is on the Sidebar of this Blog.

Till next Week, Baxter out!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Fear and Yoga

Sounds kind of contradictory, doesn't it? Well, not when it's the name of a book title: "Fear and Yoga in New Jersey."

The author, Debra Galant, who is the creator of the local "place blog" in my area,, and a former New York Times columnist, now has a blog that talks about the trials and tribulations of being a published author, as well as vignettes of her personal life.

"Fear and Yoga..." is Debbie's second novel; her first, "Rattled," came out a year ago.

Both books are humorous fiction set in suburban New Jersey, which many of you will identify with even if you're not from here!

Debbie's blog has been added to my Personal Blog link list; please do check it out if you're interested in reading about the writing world, complete with humor!

And no, no payment has been received for this blog post! ;-) I've read "Rattled" and enjoyed it, and look forward to reading the next book as well! Just thought I'd share the news of her new novel with anyone else who may be interested!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Two bloggers that I read and respect have recently decided not to post about the Democratic primary race until a nominee has been chosen.

You can read what Suzi Riot wrote about it here and Alicia Morgan over at Last Left Turn Before Hooterville here.

I've decided to join them. There are a number of bloggers whose opinions I respect who either don't support either candidate, or who support Hillary, and I don't want my support of Obama to keep them from commenting or coming here. In addition, I am the first to admit I don't know everything about either candidate, and there are things about both of them that are good and about both of them that are not as good. I've said all along that I will support whoever wins the nomination for the Democratic party.

In the beginning of the race when there were so many contenders, I tended to like Kucinich best based on his stands on the issues, but knew he wouldn't win. I didn't really choose between Edwards, Clinton and Obama until after Obama won the Iowa caucuses and I realized I was really happy about it. I've been supporting his candidacy ever since, and I continue to do so.

But if my support for his candidacy makes me too apt to criticize Hillary, or to perpetuate hostility between the two "factions" of the Democratic Party, which is the last thing we need, then it is better to concentrate on the stands John McCain is taking, or on the devastation the Bush administration is leaving for the next President. And that's what I'll be doing in the next few weeks. And of course, Baxter will be posting again now that we've arrived home from vacation!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Distractions from the Issues

The most recent brouhaha in the Democratic primary race, following the Geraldine Ferraro debacle, is the firestorm caused by the speech by Barack Obama's former minister and mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Obama has denounced the Reverend's opinions. You can read his words here in the Huffington Post.

I don't think he could be any more clear than this about how he feels about the opinions of Rev. Wright:

"Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree [with] and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue."

My question is, isn't it convenient that this controversy erupted right after the firestorm caused by Geraldine Ferraro's comments about Obama's candidacy? I suspect the Clintons had something to do with this, especially since this controversy isn't even new. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is wondering about this. (UPDATE: Of course, it could be the Right that is behind this latest ploy, as Kristen suggests on MOMocrats.)

I am tired of this petty squabbling. I would like to see some substantive discussion of the major issues that are confronting our country, and not endless media attention on the infighting in our party.

I hope both candidates realize the harm this can do to the party and step away from this precipice before it is too late. Reportedly, Obama and Clinton have agreed to try to stick to the issues and not get caught up in these personal attacks. Let's hope they are able to keep that promise in the weeks to come.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Here is another break from politics - I hope you enjoy sharing our week in Kauai. Today, sadly, is our last full day here - but we're going on to San Francisco for the weekend on our way home, to ease the shock of returning to New Jersey.

We have discovered that we love Kauai. We hadn't been here since 1987 and had forgotten how lovely it is. We were scheduled to come stay at the Waimea Plantation Cottages in the fall of 1992 when Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai and wrecked just about everything on the island. As a result we changed our destination to Maui, which wasn't affected by the storm. It was then that we stayed for the first time in the Kealia condominium complex. For some reason after that we didn't return to Kauai again and just continued going to Maui. Maybe we thought that Kauai was still recovering from the storm; whatever the reason, I wish we had come here again sooner.

Much as we love Maui, the island is getting built up and less relaxing than it once was. There are divided highways being built; there are traffic jams. There are chain stores.

Here on Kauai it's the way Maui was 20+ years ago.

The town of Waimea, where we are staying, is a piece of Old Hawaii; the two main streets are lined with old wooden storefronts that would be at home in the Old West or in Australia. While there are some tourist businesses (mostly for boat tours of the Na Pali Coast, snorkeling adventures, etc.), they are all home-grown, not big corporate businesses. There is no CVS; they have the Menehune Drug Store.

Even Kapa'a, which is a major town on the other side of the island, isn't lined with strip malls or chain stores. There are businesses there, to be sure, but again, it is relatively unspoiled. Lihue, the town closest to the airport, has a number of businesses (including car dealerships), and there is a Wal-Mart nearby, but that's about it.

One of the striking differences between Maui and Kauai is that there are many more native Hawaiians or people of Hawaiian ancestry here on Kauai than on Maui. There are fewer rental cars and more pickup trucks, more people just going about their daily business. There is even someone who rides his horse to work and "parks" the horse at the side of the road.

The only ominous signs of development are on the Poipu peninsula, where there are a number of resorts. We had stayed at the Poipu Sheraton back in 1982, and at a little condo complex near there (Garden Isle Apartments) in 1987. Back then it was still a pretty sleepy little area and the old town of Koloa was unspoiled. Now we noticed that there are a number of properties being developed for "estates." We can only hope that this development is kept under strict control. At least it isn't strip malls.

Now for your tour of Kauai!

This is our cottage at the Waimea Plantation Cottages, nestled in its garden setting. All of the cottages are historic plantation cottages, which were originally built for those working on the sugar plantations. Many of these cottages were moved from other locations to the grounds here. The Waimea Plantation Cottages was named as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" of 2006.

Here is a view of our living room and kitchen/dining area as you come in the door from the front porch. On the left, out of sight of the picture, is a TV, VCR, DVD player, portable stereo, and - best of all - an internet connection.

This is a view of the bedroom. In addition to the bed and two night stands, there is a bureau and a closet with mirrors on the doors.Below are a picture of the lanai (porch) with its wicker furniture, and a view taken from the lanai looking out onto the central lawn area.

This is the pool on the property, near the ocean.

Views of the black sand beach that we walk on each day.

Two views in the town of Waimea, including the Ishihara market where we have been buying our fresh fish and vegetables. The market dates back to the early 1930's.

This is one of the most spectacular beaches on Kauai. It is the Polihale Beach in Polihale State Park, and is the last beach before the Na Pali Cliffs, seen in the background. The white sand on this beach extends for 17 miles down the coast.
One of Kauai's other famous attractions is the Waimea Canyon, seen in these two pictures below. It is hard to do justice to it with snapshots.

This is a view taken on our way to the other side of the island.

This is a mother hen and her chicks that we saw at a little place we stopped at for lunch. Kauai has chickens everywhere. They just run wild. Roosters crow at all hours of the day and you can hardly go anywhere without having to avoid a rooster, hen, or their chicks. We awakened each morning to the sound of the local rooster crowing, along with other birds. We also had a tiger cat who visited us a few times and got some handouts!

This is a view of the Hanalei Valley, which is another beautiful area of Kauai. For some reason we don't seem to have pictures of the area along the shore or the cute little town of Hanalei, which we drove through. I guess we were too busy admiring the scenery and didn't stop to take pictures!

Here are a couple of pictures of our favorite little town of Hanapepe, which is a few minutes down the road from Waimea. On Friday nights all of the little shops and galleries are open and there is live music in the streets. In addition to galleries and gift shops, there is also a great bookstore called Talk Story and some good local restaurants. Many of the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.This building, which once housed a hotel, was used in the filming of the movie "The Thornbirds," standing in for an Australian hotel.

Last but not least, a Kauai sunset taken on the beach near our cottage.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Barack Obama - For What it's Worth

Thanks to Enigma at Watergate Summer for linking this great video to the tune of Buffalo Springfield.

The juxtaposition of the Bush regime's negativity to the uprising that is the support for Obama is telling.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

WTF is wrong with these people???

As a resident of New Jersey, I am constantly exposed to the doings in the neighboring state of New York. Although I don't get to vote for their governor or the mayor of New York City, I hear about them constantly on the radio and I kind of feel a certain ownership of them, despite the fact they are in another state.

So imagine my surprise when I heard today that the Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, has been availing himself of the services of a high-end prostitution ring and hiding the transfers of cash to this organization through shell corporations.

Now, coming from New Jersey, I suppose I shouldn't be that shocked, as you never know what's going to happen - our last governor, Jim McGreevy, announced his resignation while coming out as a gay man. Mind you, New Jersey residents wouldn't have had any problem with that - actually it had been a well-known fact in political circles - but he had given one of his love interests (who was woefully unqualified) a job in homeland security, and said love interest was suing him for sexual harrassment, which is what really prompted his sudden confession and resignation.

So now Eliot Spitzer, who used to be Attorney General of New York, and became Governor in 2006 on a pledge to bring higher ethical standards to the statehouse, has been caught in a federal investigation of a prostitution ring.

According to the Times,

"...One law enforcement official who has been briefed on the case said that Mr. Spitzer’s lawyers would probably meet soon with federal prosecutors to discuss any possible legal exposure. The official said the discussions were likely to focus not on prostitution, but on how it was paid for: Whether the payments from Mr. Spitzer to the service were made in a way to conceal their purpose and source. That could amount to a crime called structuring, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison."

So this means the Governor could actually go to prison for trying to cover up his payments to prostitutes.

In addition, he had had the nerve to moralize about prostitution when he was attorney general.

"When he was attorney general, Mr. Spitzer’s signature issue was pursuing Wall Street misdeeds. But he also oversaw the prosecution of at least two prostitution rings by the state’s organized crime task force, which reports to the attorney general.

In one such case in 2004,
Mr. Spitzer spoke with revulsion and anger after announcing the arrest of 16 people for operating a high-end prostitution ring out of Staten Island."

It looks as if hypocrisy isn't just a Republican trait after all.

I guess any time you hear any politician pontificating at length against something he is calling immoral, you can bet that he is doing the very thing he is protesting.

My question, which I posed in the subject of this post, is WTF is wrong with these people? Do they think they are above the law? Do they think they'll never get caught? And why do politicians, who must have many positive things going on in their lives, throw it all away with such risky behavior?

I guess most of us will never understand this.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Yesterday we bid a fond farewell to Maui and flew to Kauai. After a leisurely drive from the airport, including stops along the way, we arrived at the Waimea Plantation Cottages in Waimea. I love this place - it is fabulous.

Our cottage is one of about 50 antique cottages left from the plantation era, scattered in an orderly yet natural way around beautiful gardens and open spaces. The property is on a black sand beach that stretches a long distance in either direction, perfect for walking, with a pool overlooking the ocean.

The cottage itself is beautifully restored, with lovely wood floors (could they be koa wood? I'm not good at wood identification) and island-appropriate rattan furniture that is of high quality. There is a spacious bedroom, a huge bathroom with both a tub and a large shower, a kitchen-dining area and a good-sized living room that opens onto a lanai with wicker furniture, plus a private patio where you can sit and watch the sunset.

I'll write more about our new location in my next post, and include pictures. In the meantime I'd like to share more pictures from our time on Maui to keep your mind off the Wyoming caucuses!

Below is a picture of windsurfers on Ho'okipa Beach on the eastern side of Maui:

The following pictures are views from a drive we took around the northwest side of Maui:

Below is a Hawaii dog. Hawaii dogs ride around in the back of their masters' pickup trucks and enjoy the view. These dogs are the result of various breeds mixing for as long as anyone can remember and they look like a combination Pointer-Lab-Collie-Shepherd-Terrier. This one is waiting for his master to come out of a little store on the outskirts of the town of Kula in the "upcountry" of Maui, on the side of the Haleakala volcano. (UPDATE: Or could these "Hawaii dogs" actually be Australian Cattle Dogs?)

Below is a view taken in the same vicinity:

Hope you enjoyed the tour of Maui. I'll put up pictures of Kauai as soon as we take some!!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Getting Back to Basics

I didn't have the heart to post about the primaries yesterday. Although I have said all along that I will support Hillary if she wins the nomination, my fear is that if she wins, she will not be able to beat McCain.

I watched McCain's victory speech on Tuesday night. He is very dangerous to our progressive cause because he could easily appeal to a vast swathe of voters.

He is a veteran; in fact, his years in the Hanoi Hilton qualify him as a hero. This is a vast change from the chickenhawk we have in power right now and gives him a level of credibility on military issues that Bush could never have. It is true that many of us disagree with his stance on the Iraq war; but remember there are those out there who still believe in trying to win that war. And in one way, McCain is right: Whether or not we were right to go into Iraq in the first place, we are there now, and we need to figure out the best way to get out while not leaving it in such chaos that terrorists are left there to flourish. Yes, it's true that they weren't there before the war; but they are there now, and we need to figure out how to get rid of them.

On another front he is also dangerous. He is likable. Yes, again, a lot of people on the progressive side may not see that, but for a large number of people I think he will come across as an everyday kind of guy who is kindly and down-to-earth. Heck, I even liked him myself from the times he's appeared on The Daily Show. I think even Jon Stewart likes him. Don't be fooled by your own hostility toward him; many people will like him, just as they liked Reagan and voted for him.

A recent poll I saw still shows Obama beating McCain by about 12 points while Clinton only beats him by 4. It's a long election season and I'm afraid we may need that extra margin of safety.

Mother Jones has a good analysis of why Obama is better positioned to beat McCain. According to Mother Jones:

"No matter what advantages John McCain has, and no matter what nasty stuff the right wing throws at Clinton or Obama, there may be a nationwide resistance to conservative leadership after eight years of George W. Bush that is impossible to overcome for the Republican nominee.

And that is one of the two reasons why Obama is likely better positioned that Clinton. Obama better embodies change because he represents a different generation, in both thinking and appearance, than McCain. His foreign policy thinking is completely different—he didn't support the war in Iraq, didn't vote to label Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, sees the silliness of our policy toward Cuba, and rejects the Bush-Cheney approach to diplomacy that refuses to meet with rogue leaders. Clinton mirrors McCain on all of these issues (though she obviously has a very different view on Iraq right now). And in terms of appearance, Clinton and Obama are both divergences from the old white male archetype, but only one would represent the widest age gap between two major party candidates in modern history. Obama was born in 1961. McCain was born in 1936. That's a 25-year difference.

Also, McCain does well amongst independents. Obama likely matches him in that category, while adding a number of young voters. Clinton, however, finds most of her supporters in core Democratic constituencies."

For Obama supporters, the recent results in Ohio and Texas are concerning. Pennsylvania, the next big contest, is much more likely to be Clinton territory than Obama territory. If Clinton wins this state she will go on to make a case to the superdelegates that only she can deliver the big states with the high number of electoral votes in November. This is not necessarily true; the very strong Democratic turnouts in all of the state primaries so far would seem to mean that either Democrat would probably be able to deliver these states. But Obama does need to prove that he is able to overcome her advantages in these states and stand strong against McCain there in November.

So how does he do this? I personally feel Clinton has sucked him into her territory by constantly harping on his lack of "substance" - as a result he got on the defensive and is now making more "substantive" speeches. But as he tries to best her in her territory he may not be making the emotional connection he was making with voters previously.

It's time he got back to basics. No one doubts Clinton is good at policy; what she's not good at is that emotional connection. That's his strength and he needs to keep playing to it. Yes, policy matters, and he has a lot of it on his website. Yes, he should answer questions as to what he would do in various situations. But he has to keep making clear the differences between himself and Hillary, and it's not just policy.

David Brooks had a very interesting op-ed piece in the NY Times the other day before the Tuesday primaries, about Obama and Clinton. While I don't usually agree with Mr. Brooks, as he is a conservative, in this case he nailed the differences between them.

Describing speeches made by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in November of 2007, he compared them as follows:

"Obama sketched out a different theory of social change than the one Clinton had implied earlier in the evening. Instead of relying on a president who fights for those who feel invisible, Obama, in the climactic passage of his speech, described how change bubbles from the bottom-up: 'And because that somebody stood up, a few more stood up. And then a few thousand stood up. And then a few million stood up. And standing up, with courage and clear purpose, they somehow managed to change the world!'

For people raised on Jane Jacobs, who emphasized how a spontaneous dynamic order could emerge from thousands of individual decisions, this is a persuasive way of seeing the world. For young people who have grown up on Facebook, YouTube, open-source software and an array of decentralized networks, this is a compelling theory of how change happens.

Clinton had sounded like a traditional executive, as someone who gathers the experts, forges a policy, fights the opposition, bears the burdens of power, negotiates the deal and, in crisis, makes the decision at 3 o’clock in the morning.

But Obama sounded like a cross between a social activist and a flannel-shirted software C.E.O. — as a nonhierarchical, collaborative leader who can inspire autonomous individuals to cooperate for the sake of common concerns.

Clinton had sounded like Old Politics, but Obama created a vision of New Politics. And the past several months have revolved around the choice he framed there that night. Some people are enthralled by the New Politics, and we see their vapors every day. Others think it is a mirage and a delusion. There’s only one politics, and, tragically, it’s the old kind, filled with conflict and bad choices.

Hillary Clinton has fought on with amazing resilience since then, and Tuesday night may well bring another surprise, but she’s always been the moon to his sun. That night in November, he defined the campaign."

This is what Obama must continue to remember - he defined the campaign back then and he must continue to set that tone. It's time for him to go back to basics and do what he does best: Be the sun to Hillary's moon.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Those Pictures I Promised

This is a view from our lanai, looking westward.

This is the view looking east.

One of "our" whales in the bay.

A view taken while walking on the beach.

Blogging on the lanai (wearing my new visor that says "Maui" on it).

The traditional picture taken by the dead tree. We have been taking pictures by this leaning tree since 20+ years ago - in the beginning the tree was still alive. Every year it gets deader and deader; its bark has all worn away and it has been smoothed by the ocean into driftwood. Those bushy things sticking up are two bouquets someone attached to the branches.
Someday when we come here it will be gone altogether.

Sunset, taken from our lanai.

Hope you enjoyed them...more to come.

I'll write about the primary results in the morning...

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Right and How They Got That Way

Now that I'm finally having time to do my "meandering" in the blog world, I have come across some great posts by other bloggers. In case someone hasn't already read these two posts, I thought I'd link them here, as both of them have very important things to say.

Alicia Morgan over at Last Left Turn Before Hooterville talks about why we should be proud to call ourselves Liberals, and also talks about how the Right systematically plotted to become the dominant force in America. Alicia says:

"And so the conservative movement began its climb up from the abyss. They knew that it would take many years and billions of dollars to build their machine. They put into place an interlocking series of organizations designed to produce a new generation of scholars, pundits, and intellectual leaders, supported by think tanks, scholarships, internships, and media outlets. Promising young college Republicans were nurtured and cultivated, and the path to prominence made smooth as they were escorted to high-profile jobs to establish them as leading lights and deep thinkers. The overriding idea was to denigrate liberalism in every way possible – the ‘liberal media’, liberal education, liberal values. This was not a natural ‘swing of the pendulum’ – it was bought and paid for."

Another great post can be found at Driftglass. DG points out that:

"No, the GOP is interested in power solely for the same reason they have been amassing it for thirty years: in order to liquidate the government of the United States, sell off its assets to their cronies at pennies-on-the-dollar, and turn the full, voracious fury of an Imperial Presidency and unregulated corporate America loose on the world."

He then goes on to quote, at length, chilling passages from George Orwell's "1984" that seem as if they are based on current events. Read the quotes and tell me that George W. Bush and his cronies are not using this book as a textbook! To quote Driftglass:

"Because for the GOP, "1984" is not cautionary, dystopia science fiction; it is an ideological playbook they cheerfully follow into Hell."

These posts remind us why this year's election is one of the most crucial of our era. The Democrats cannot afford to fail in November.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Two things are awesome:

- Watching a pod of whales poking about in the bay while sitting on the lanai (balcony) eating pancakes.

- The pancakes themselves.

These are not just ordinary pancakes. These are a specific type of pancakes.

Last time we were here on Maui was in 2005 with our friends "E" and "M." At the time, "E" (or Estelle as I referred to her back in the notorious story of The Olives - or Differences in Male-Female Communications Styles) made some really good pancakes for the four of us.

We had picked up the mix at the local Safeway and I know Estelle chose this mix for its healthful qualities, as she is very careful with fat, cholesterol and the like. The package says the mix is made with oat bran, has calcium and is low fat. I had my doubts about it, always wary of things that sound too healthy.
But they turned out to be the best pancakes I've had (not counting the great Swedish Pancakes at Sears Fine Food in San Francisco).

These pancakes, with the unlikely name of Krusteaz, are ambrosia to the palate. When cooked properly, they are crispy on the outside, light and fluffy within, with a great hearty flavor that has a hint of apple in it. This is because one of the ingredients, unheralded on the front of the package, is dried apples.

It took me awhile to get the temperature on the tempermental electric stove just right to produce perfect pancakes, but I finally succeeded. Naturally we had to put some butter and real maple syrup on them. And we ate some REAL, fresh-picked, ripe strawberries from the local Waiakoa Farm, grown in Ulupalakua on the side of the Haleakala volcano, as a side dish.

I don't have a picture of the actual pancakes but this one shows pancakes that look a lot like what we made but with blueberries instead of strawberries.

(picture taken from St. Louis Eats)

They were a great way to start the day! I'm going back to Safeway to buy a few boxes of Krusteaz mix and ship them home - you can't get this brand in New Jersey as far as I know.

(P.S. Will post some pictures of Maui tomorrow, I promise!)

Saturday, March 01, 2008


I am happy to report, Maui is still here in all of its beauty. As the plane descended I could see it spread out below, resplendently green, looking like a tropical version of Ireland.

In some ways it seemed like a longer flight than the one to Australia last year, even though it was a good eight hours shorter altogether. I think that is partly because the flight to Australia was on Qantas, and the seats were appreciably larger with a lot more leg room!

DH and have been coming here since 1982 - before we were even married. In the early 80's, as some of you may remember, it was the heady time at the dawn of the "frequent flier" era. Free tickets abounded, with airlines fighting over who had the best awards. At the time, DH was going on numerous business trips to California and piling up miles galore on United Airlines, and I did some traveling of my own. And back then, for 75,000 miles, you got two free FIRST CLASS tickets plus four nights free at a Westin hotel.

The airlines even had deals where you could get these free tickets by traveling a certain number of flight segments in a given amount of time, which encouraged the dedicated frequent flier to opt for flights with several "legs" rather than non-stop direct flights. Once, in order to earn my next free ticket to Hawaii, I was short two segments and time was running out. So we booked the shortest flight we could find, which was from Hartford, Connecticut to Providence, Rhode Island. We drove the 2-1/2 hours to Hartford, and DH waited there while I got on the plane, flew to Providence, stayed on the plane, turned around and flew back to Hartford. I got off the plane, $90 poorer, but richer by two segments that earned me a free ticket to Hawaii. A worthwhile deal.

This bounty translated into several memorable trips to Hawaii for us.

Our first trip was in November of 1982; we visited four of the Hawaiian islands in 12 days, to see the differences between them, as neither of us had ever been here before. We spent two nights on Oahu (had to see Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial), two nights on the Big Island of Hawaii (stayed right by the active volcano in an old hotel called the Volcano House, where Mark Twain once stayed), four nights on Maui (in the Westin Wailea hotel, for free) and then five nights on the Garden Isle of Kauai.

We loved all of the islands we visited, but realized we liked Maui the best, as it had the perfect combination of natural beauty and good restaurants!

Since then we've made numerous trips back to Maui, have visited the much less touristy island of Molokai (the location of the now-defunct leper colony run by Father Damien), and even taken a day trip by catamaran to the island of Lanai, which at that time was mostly pineapple farms; now it has several expensive luxury hotels.

There have been many changes, of course, since we've been coming for the past 25 years. The airlines have all cut back drastically on both their frequent flier awards and the services they offer on the planes. Now we would have to use some huge number of miles to fly first class, so we opt for coach. And where we once were served by flight attendants garbed in Hawaiian Aloha shirts for the men and flowered dresses for the women, they now wear traditional uniforms like any other flight attendants. Gone are the orchids on your tray (yes, you got them even in coach) and the macadamia nuts. Heck, we didn't even get peanuts on our flight this time! And we had to buy a sandwich. Oh well, with Hawaii, it's all about the destination, although it was nice when the journey was also a pleasure.

Maui itself has seen changes too numerous to mention, but being me, I feel compelled to mention some of them. In 1982, the town of Kihei (which is where the condo we stay is located) was a sleepy little town with no traffic lights, with a narrow two-lane road sparsely populated by locals who would drive along at about 20 miles per hour, in no hurry whatsoever, on island time. There was one mall, called Azeka Place, and a couple of small restaurant complexes of reasonably priced, unique food. One was a great place called The Outrigger, which was right on the beach. Another was La Familia Mexican Restaurant, which had a happy hour at sunset and everyone would gather and drink frozen margaritas and watch the sun set on the bay across the road.

There were a number of condo complexes tastefully situated along the beach, with stretches of natural brush and terrain in between. The ocean was visible for most of the drive along the road.

Today South Kihei road is lined on both sides with enormous strip malls populated with fast food chain restaurants, grocery stores and souvenir shops, and farther up the road, many additional condominium complexes on both sides.

There is a whole other highway that has been completed that runs parallel to the original road, also lined with condos and shops. There are several street lights on Kihei Road, the road has been widened, and the traffic could be in New Jersey as it whizzes by. Now they are widening the road from the airport to a four-lane highway.

That's the bad news. The good news is, we don't have to go there once we get our groceries and stock up for the week (or two, depending). The condo where we stay is the last one, on North Kihei Road, and beyond it is nothing but wilderness.

The rest of the island is much as it once was. Drive through green fields of sugar cane to the eastern side of the island and there is none of the modern chaos that little Kihei has become. Drive up the Haleakala Highway to the top of the dormant Haleakala volcano and enjoy the peaceful, starkly beautiful terrain. Drive around the back of the island, through the artsy little town of Paia (home to ex-hippies and surfers who enjoy the waves at the beach there), through the rain forest to Hana, then back via the other side of the volcano, where the mountain slopes steeply down to the sea, punctuated with a few cinder cones that formed 200 years ago in the last lava flow.

Drive to the "upcountry" where the weather is cooler and the views spectacular, and the old cowboy town of Makawao beckons with its little shops and boutiques and several good restaurants. Walk on the beach past the Kealia Pond Nature Preserve and watch the whales spouting in the bay. Explore the old County Seat, Wailuku, home to a local theater group and some great Thai food.

Yes, it's all still here, as long as you close one eye to the overdevelopment that threatens ominously in certain areas. If it is kept contained where it is, Maui will continue to be the island paradise it always has been. Let's hope the good people of this island know the gem that they have and don't allow it to be sullied irreparably in the name of progress.

On a more mundane note, I am happy to report that, as you may have guessed, our condo has wi fi and I am able to both blog and read blogs! So my vacation is complete! I'll post some pictures when we get around to downloading them. Yes, we've already taken several!

I am continuing to watch the news about the upcoming primaries and have read that Obama and Clinton are now in a dead heat in Texas. I'll be following this closely in the news and on the blogs!