Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

And for those who don't celebrate Christmas, have a wonderful, stress-free and relaxing day!

And here is Diva in the obligatory "dog wearing antlers in front of the Christmas tree" photograph, wishing you all a great day. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. Please, make it STOP! This has been a Very Bad Week and I am Cranky.

I'm Sick of those Republicans being so Obstructionist about Health Care Reform.

My Male Human just doesn't understand how they can be against giving Unfortunate Uninsured Humans health insurance. In My Personal Opinion, what it really comes down to (other than their being on the Payroll of Big Pharma and Big Insurance) is that they will oppose ANTHING that President Obama is for. For instance, if President Obama said he was Against Killing Innocent Kittens, the Republicans would be totally in FAVOR of Killing Kittens, and would probably say that NOT Killing Kittens would be what the Nazis would do, and if we don't Kill Kittens then we will Lose Our Country. (Doesn't matter if it Makes Sense, you understand).

Despite the Watered-Down nature of whatever the Final Bill may be, though, the Senate should go ahead and pass SOMETHING. As a Cat, I am one of the Uninsured, since my Humans never bought that Pet Insurance stuff. So I am a Little Worried about what will happen after my Humans retire and are not rolling in that Money stuff they rely on. Will they still be able to Afford to take Me to the Vet? I have Great Sympathy for the Uninsured Humans. It must be Scary to have to choose between Health Care and, say, Food.

If you Disagree that the Bill should be passed, please go read Paul Krugman's op-ed piece in the NY Times, entitled "Pass the Bill." He points out that, when Everything is Said and Done, the Bill does at least do a couple of Good Things:

It would "prohibit discrimination by insurance companies on the basis of medical condition or history: Americans could no longer be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, or have their insurance canceled when they get sick. Second, the bill would provide substantial financial aid to those who don’t get insurance through their employers, as well as tax breaks for small employers that do provide insurance.

All of this would be paid for in large part with the first serious effort ever to rein in rising health care costs."

Perfect? Certainly NOT. But better than before? This Cat thinks so. As Paul Krugman puts it:

"Whereas flawed social insurance programs have tended to get better over time, the story of health reform suggests that rejecting an imperfect deal in the hope of eventually getting something better is a recipe for getting nothing at all."

I also liked this line in his Column:

"...some of those senators seem motivated largely by a desire to protect the interests of insurance companies — with the possible exception of Mr. Lieberman, who seems motivated by sheer spite."

That Lieberman Human is a real Piece of Work. I don't understand him One Bit. So Spite seems like about the only reason he could have for acting the way he does.

Let's see, what else has my Fur in a Knot? Oh yes, General Motors. What a Bunch of Incompetent, Selfish Boobs. Once again they can't come to an Agreement to sell my Humans' favorite Car Company, Saab, so it looks as if they're going to close it down. Now, as a Cat, I don't care about Cars. But I know my Humans are going to be Very Sad about this, so I am Sad too. We Cats also Frown upon Inefficiency and Stupidity. And the way G.M. handled the whole Saab brand was Reprehensible. They never Understood who the Saab buyer was and they came out with Cars that didn't appeal to them, nor could they compete for the Mainstream Person. Stupid G.M. They deserve to go Bankrupt but unfortunately, as Usual, they've been Saved, while poor old Saab, and over 3000 jobs in Sweden, go down the Tubes.

Then there's this Climate Summit thing going on in Copenhagen. Apparently they came to some kind of Watered Down Agreement but these countries couldn't even manage to put in a Deadline to Finalize a Treaty by Next Year. That's Finalize a Treaty, not Solve Global Warming.

"The accord drops the expected goal of concluding a binding international treaty by the end of 2010, which leaves the implementation of its provisions uncertain. It is likely to undergo many months, perhaps years, of additional negotiation before it emerges in any internationally enforceable form."

Months? YEARS? I'll be Long Dead by then. And my Humans' house will probably be Waterfront Property by then - and New York City will be the new Atlantis! What is wrong with Humans anyway? Why can't they just Agree on Anything? We Cats don't always Like each other, but if we have to Live Together, we can Manage to develop an Understanding and not Fight all the time.

Well, I'm Sorry to have Vented so much today. There are a Few Good Things happening in My Life, so I should be a Little Grateful for them.

For One Thing, my Humans are Back for Good it seems. They aren't going Away every weekend anymore. I don't quite understand it, but from what I can Tell, that Cabin they go to can't be used in the Winter. They're kind of Grumpy, but it's Good for Me, anyway. Now I finally have some Company on Weekends, which is a Nice Change. I make sure to get up in front of the Computer every chance I get to make sure they have plenty of Time to Pay Attention to Me.

Of course, on the Negative Side, That Dog is here All the Time now. Day and Night, Weekends and Weekdays. She just doesn't Go Away. But I'm getting Tougher. I don't let her take advantage of Me.

I'll end This Week's News Roundup with a little Good News.

Let's see. Here's a good story. This Guy is getting a Kidney Transplant because his Son posted the request on Facebook. How Cool is That? I guess Facebook does have its Uses. A lot of people, including my Female Human, spend most of their Time playing Games, posting Useless Information about Which Movie they would be if they were a Movie, and telling people what they had for Lunch, but now and then it Serves a Purpose!

More Good News: Scientists in the UK have decoded the entire DNA of two deadly cancers: Malignant Melanoma and Lung Cancer. This should lead to a Cure at some Point. Interesting Factoid: For every 15 cigarettes you smoke, One Error occurs in your DNA. Glad I, as a Cat, have not had the Opportunity or Temptation to Smoke. However, my Female Human smoked for several years and had WAY more than 15 cigarettes. I'm Keeping my Toes crossed that she Escapes any Dire Consequences.

So that's it for This Week. I hope you Enjoy your Weekends and have Lots of Catnip stored up. I hear it's supposed to Snow on the East Coast over the Weekend so we may be Stuck Indoors a lot!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Changing of the Seasons in the Adirondacks

I finally got around to downloading the last two batches of pictures from the cabin so I thought I'd share them here.

The first bunch is from the weekend in October when my mom came up to spend the weekend. The foliage was still pretty good then so she got to see some of the beautiful leaves, although it had started to go by a bit.

The next several are from last weekend when we got our first real snowfall and we realized our weekends in the cabin had to finally come to an end until spring returns.

Below are two views of the pond, one from the other side looking across at the cabin, and the other looking away from the cabin.

Me and Mom on the deck of the cabin - first close, then farther away. And no, she doesn't always wear that hat. Ironically the pictures I posted from the Cape also had her in that hat!

Diva and me, ready to go for a walk, with me in my Red Hat Society hat. Since I dropped out of the Society after the first few meetings, I'm glad to have a new use for it - to show up in the woods so that hunters won't shoot me thinking I'm a deer. Knew it would come in handy some day.

Sunset at Hulett's Landing on Lake George.
A view of the snow-covered pine tree in front of the cabin during last weekend's nighttime snowstorm, and the snow-covered Adirondack chairs on the deck.

Dawn over the pond the next morning, followed by more views of the winter wonderland. Note the frozen pond.

Wouldn't that last picture be a good ad for Jeep?

So, we are now back to spending our weekends in New Jersey until, perhaps, mid-April. We'll see how the weather goes. We may spend a weekend or two over the winter at Starry Night Cabins in Schroon Lake, and take a drive over to check on the cabin, but until spring it is unlikely that we'll spend a night at our own place.

While I will be missing our weekends away from it all, at least we have something to look forward to in the spring. And in the meantime, it will be nice to finish putting away the summer clothes that are still lying around in the laundry baskets, hang out with our friends on weekends, and be able to have my family over for Sunday dinner again!

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Fight for Marriage Equality Moves to New Jersey

Today is the first day of deliberations of the gay marriage bill by the Senate Judicial Committee in New Jersey. If the bill clears the committee, it goes to the State Senate for a vote. If it is approved there, it would need to be approved by the Assembly so that Governor Jon Corzine can sign it before he leaves office. His successor, Republican Chris Christie, is an opponent of gay marriage, so time is short.

Demonstrators flocked to Trenton to support or protest the bill.

In an op-ed piece last week in the New Jersey Star Ledger, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora of the 15th legislative district, spelled out in definitive terms all of the reasons it makes complete sense to legalize gay marriage. Of course, something making complete sense never appeals to the GOP, not even in "blue" New Jersey.

Assemblyman Gusciora stated:

"At its core, the ability to get married is a civil act governed by state law. Everyone must first meet the qualifications set forth by state law to receive a marriage license. Because marriage is a right conferred by the government, it should be done on an equitable basis, including the recognition of same-gender unions.

Civil marriages also have a longstanding tradition in this country. The first wedding in the Plymouth Colony was a civil marriage performed by Governor Bradford, not a religious ceremony."

He points out that legalizing gay marriage certainly does no harm to heterosexual marriages. As he put it, "I have a suggestion for those wanting to preserve their wedding vows: Stay married!"

I could quote the whole column because there are so many well-reasoned arguments in favor of same-sex marriage in it but you can go read the rest yourselves.

He concludes with the following:

"As long as we are a nation of laws dedicated to the principle of separation of church and state, the Legislature is the proper place to define our marriage laws on equitable terms. Now is the time for New Jersey to update the civil marriage laws so they are truly equal and reflect our ever changing society."

The Star Ledger editorial board supports gay marriage. In this editorial, they point out the generational divide on this issue. Two prominent politicians in New Jersey, U.S. Senator Menendez and State Senator Ronald Rice, both oppose gay marriage, while their sons support it. The editorial goes on to say:

"A national CNN poll this year showed that 58 percent of those under 30 back gay marriage, while only 24 percent of those over 65 do. This generational divide is the size of the Grand Canyon.

It means that history is on the side of marriage equality. Younger people are simply not as rattled by homosexuality, perhaps because they have lived among more openly gay people. They don’t consider it a personality defect, or a moral wrong. And they don’t want [to] treat their gay friends and relatives as something less.

So gay marriage will happen. The only question is when."

Let's hope it happens in New Jersey this month.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Many of you have probably noticed I haven’t been posting as much as I used to and my blog visiting has died down a lot. Part of it is the distraction of Facebook, but there has been another reason I haven’t been able to concentrate on blogging, and I thought I’d share it with you.

I am about to make a major change in my life. As a mutual decision between my company and me, as of January 29, 2010, I will be leaving the Big Corporation’s latest incarnation, and will be going forward into the unknown land of Not Working for a Living.

This is a direction I’ve actually been considering since the beginning of the summer, when my aunt needed a serious operation for colon cancer, and on the same day that she went in for her operation, my mother had to be hospitalized for heart failure. With all this going on, I considered retiring or at least taking Family Leave to get through this period. I didn’t get around to looking into Family Leave, and somehow got through the whole summer using personal time to go to hospitals and doctors.

But dealing with my mother and aunt’s situation made me realize my day job really wasn’t the most important thing in my life; my family was more important. And their frailty reminded me that life is short, and at some point, I too would be in their position.

Now that my mother and aunt are both doing well again, I had hoped I’d be able to regain my focus at work, but it wasn’t happening. The continued concern for my mother and aunt, who still need me to take them to appointments, shop for them, and more, as well as the weekends at the cabin in the Adirondacks, both served to reshape my thinking.

As I walked through the woods this summer and fall, I found great peace in listening and watching for birds, examining trees and wildflowers and trying to identify them, and just breathing the clean mountain air. I realized that what I do every day at work had very little to do with what I really enjoyed doing. It made me do a lot of thinking, and all of it added up to not wanting to work at a corporation anymore.

I began to feel distant from my job and from politics and other parts of daily life. More and more I just wanted to hibernate, escape from it all, and withdraw. Like a caterpillar spinning its cocoon, I wrapped myself up and waited until the next step became clear to me.

That next step is retirement. I’ve been at the same company for over 30 years. During that time, the jobs I held changed, the company was bought, merged, spun off and reorganized several times, and I’ve had many different bosses and co-workers. Throughout most of my career, I stayed in one division and just rolled with it all, until the most recent change when I was moved to another division which was then sold off. But to me it still was all the same company, and I traveled this path with many of the same people I’d known off and on for decades, so it was very comfortable.

But after awhile it all seemed the same. One year’s crisis is very similar to the crises of two years ago or ten years ago. How can I be alarmed when the business goes down, when I know it will go up again as it has before? How can I get excited about repositioning a brand when it’s the third time we’re repositioning it just since I’ve been working on it? It seems as if it’s all been done before and will all be done again. I am not saying my job is not important, I just know it is not the right job for me anymore.

A couple of weekends ago, DH and I were up in the Adirondacks and stopped at a Hannaford’s supermarket to pick up some groceries. The woman who checked us out was highly efficient – she scanned our groceries and tossed them with alacrity into the plastic bags, smiled at us and was obviously trying to do the best job possible.

I remembered having that kind of enthusiasm for my job. And I remembered earlier jobs where I’d had that feeling of wanting to be the best at whatever I did.

I worked on a farm in the summers during my college years. I remember picking tomatoes and trying to prove I could pick as many tomatoes as the farmer’s son and daughter, and being proud of the number of baskets of tomatoes lined up behind me.

I remember being a typist and striving to type faster and more accurately than everyone else.

Somewhere along the line I lost that desire to be best. And that means it’s time to leave. It’s not fair to the company I work for, and I’m sure they will do better with someone else in my position. I’ve had a great run at this company; I’ve been treated very well, and have known a lot of wonderful, intelligent people. But it is coming to an end.

It’s kind of scary to be leaving a job that pays well and has good benefits. But let’s face it; no one ever has enough money. If I waited to retire until we had “enough” money I’d never retire at all. And I’m lucky that my husband can continue to work for awhile yet, and works at home 2 days a week. So we’ll be able to enjoy many long weekends at the cabin.

What next? I have lots of ambitious plans; lose weight...go back to taking yoga classes...spend more time with my mother and aunt...visit my mother-in-law more often in the nursing more...perhaps start a writing career...clean up the house and sort through all the old clothes and piles of paperwork that are lying all over the house...volunteer at the local animal shelter...(not necessarily in that order or all at once, of course). Maybe I’ll even work somewhere part-time doing something really different from what I’ve been doing.

I have a memory, perhaps apocryphal, of being four years old and riding my tricycle down the street in my old hometown, shortly before I was due to start kindergarten. I seem to recall thinking at the time, "This is the last time I'll ever really be free." I know it sounds strange to think a four-year-old would think that, but I swear I remember thinking it. And now, for the first time since then, I'll be free, free to do whatever I want. It is exhilarating.

But I am also afraid. What if I don't accomplish anything? What if I just get lazy? (OK, lazier than I already am). What if I sleep till noon and sit on my butt all day watching CNN? What if I get lonely? What if I miss the camaraderie of work, the feeling of purpose that it once gave me? What if I find myself really becoming a hermit more than I have already?

I guess I should think positively about this change, as it is a great opportunity. I hope I will be fortunate enough to start a new “second act” that is as successful and joyous as Fran’s new life has been.

Time will tell. I just know it’s time to move on. And today as we walked in the woods in the chill December air, and the first snowflakes started to fall, I looked at the barren forest and knew that although winter is here, spring will be coming again and these same bare branches will be full of green leaves. And by then my cocoon will have opened and I’ll have emerged, either a moth or a butterfly. We shall see which one I become.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Cat's Eye View - Special Thanksgiving Edition

Baxter here. I have to tell you, I am Rather Grouchy today. I had a Difficult Night's Sleep. Last night That Dog was already on the Bed, and as usual I snuck up on the Bed without her noticing and ensconced Myself in the comfy hollow between my two Humans' pillows. I was Sleeping Nicely when Something woke Me up. Yes, a Jingle. The sound of That Dog's dog tags rattling. This usually means that she is about to Wake Up and start Bothering Me. So, logically, what would I do, but let out a good Growl to let her know I know she's Awake and she should Watch Her Step?

Unfortunately it had a Different Result than I'd hoped. It attracted her Attention. But by this time I couldn't stop myself and kept Growling Fiercely. Finally That Dog could stand it no longer and Pounced on Me! The Humans both woke up and Fended her off. I wouldn't Budge. I was Hunkered Down and not going Anywhere.

This went on for awhile, Dog watching Me, Me growling, until finally the Humans were Wide Awake and fed up with the Situation. So, what happened next? You'd think they'd kick That Dog off the Bed, wouldn't you? Well, no. That isn't what happened. They held onto her and pushed ME off the Bed. Me! Of all the Nerve!

At this point everyone was Awake and the Humans went into the next room and got on that Computer thing and paid some bill on line. I jumped up to help and sat in front of the Screen so they'd be sure to see how much I Helped. That Dog settled down on the Couch and went back to sleep.

Finally the Humans went back to Bed, and I joined them in my cozy spot. I punished them for kicking Me off the Bed by having myself a good Wash. This Annoyed them but they Deserved It. Then That Dog came BACK! Sigh. No Rest for the Weary. I had to Growl again but finally we all Settled Down for the rest of the Night. I spent ALL DAY on the Bed in My Spot after everyone got up, just to Prove a Point. The Nerve, kicking ME off the Bed.

Well, enough of All That. I suppose you are expecting one of my Excellent News Reviews. I'm afraid I don't have a Lot to Impart. It is a Holiday Week and things are just Too Annoying lately to deal with.

The Senate Democrats managed to get their Health Care Bill to be debated on the Floor but now I hear things are being Gutted out of it. It doesn't sound All That Promising. On the Other Hand, the Dems can't give the Republicans the Satisfaction of NOT having something pass. 'Tis a tangled web indeed. Gail Collins and David Brooks have some Thoughts about it on their New York Times blog site. Basically Gail Collins comments that David Brooks is the kind of Republican it would have been Nice to try to be Bipartisan with - if any of the Republican politicians had been willing to be Bipartisan. Which they're Not.

Speaking of the New York Times, Maureen Dowd had some Less Than Positive stuff to say over at Her Place. She has a few things to say about a Certain Lack of Loyalty. She is also thinking Obama doesn't have that Up Close and Personal Charisma that Bill Clinton managed to project on a one-on-one Basis. She says:

"Bill Clinton may not have cared any more about contributors than Obama does, but he was such a talented politician that he made them feel as though they were in “a warm bath,” as one put it.

Obama is more like a cold shower."

As a Cat, I can sympathize with President Obama. He is very Catlike in his way of doing Things, and I can't really Complain about that. Bill Clinton is more like a Big Friendly Dog, maybe a Golden Retriever. The Kind you just can't say No to, you just have to throw the Ball for them when they Ask.

But if Obama can't Charm people into being Happy with him, he'd better get on the Stick, as Humans say, and make sure he makes his Constituency happy by keeping his Campaign Promises. We need to see DODT and DOMA repealed, we need to see Gitmo closed, and we need to see him Live Up to some of his other Promises as well. Let's get this Show on the Road!

So let's see, what Else is going on? Here's a Story that the Dog Lovers among you (shudder) will Appreciate. Apparently a Bassett Hound ate a Whole Box of Nails and survived. This is not the First Time I have heard about a Bassett Hound eating some Strange Things. Apparently it is something they do Often. So if the Dog in your House is a Bassett Hound, I'd suggest not leaving Anything Around for him or her to Eat. In Fact, in our Own Household, That Dog managed to Mangle the Mi Fi Thingie that the Humans use to access the Internet at the Cabin. The Humans had to go buy a new one! Dogs are really Annoying if you ask Me. But no one does.

Moving on. Since this is Thanksgiving Eve, I thought it would be Appropriate to post something about Cholesterol. Yes, that's right, even Cats worry about Cholesterol at Thanksgiving. In fact, so should Dogs. I remember one year when the Previous Dog lived here (who was a lot less Annoying than the present one), she got into the pan that had the Grease from the Goose in it. Boy, was that a Big Mistake. She kept the Humans up all Night as a Result. I won't go into any Gory Details, but they ended up changing TWO sets of Sheets.

Anyway, about the Cholesterol. Here is an Informative Article about it. Some interesting Tidbits: Cholesterol can actually be TOO Low (either as a cause or effect of Certain Conditions). And despite the So-Called Obesity Epidemic, national Cholesterol Levels are actually going DOWN. So all news is not Bad News.

With that, I shall close out this Thanksgiving Eve post with Best Wishes to All of You out there. Have a Wonderful Thankgiving, and be sure to save the Cat or Cats in your life, some Turkey Tidbits. I will end with a List of things I am Grateful For:

A Warm Bed (despite it being Shared with That Dog)
My Food (always plentiful)
Having a Box Indoors (That Dog has to go out in the Cold to do Her Business! I do have Some Advantages!)
My Health (and Humans who take me to the Vet as Needed)
and of course....

Best wishes to All of You and have A Wonderful Day tomorrow!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Opinions on a Lot of Stuff

You may think that because I haven't posted anything here this week that I have no opinions on the various things that have been happening. Oh no, that isn't true. It's just that whenever an opinion struck me about some topic, it was not the right time to be blogging. And by the time I had time to blog, the will to blog had become weak.

So I thought I'd spend today catching up with the various things that I've wanted to post about all week.

Let's go backwards in time starting with the most recent news first.

In regard to the decision to try the 9/11 masterminds in civil court in Manhattan:

I'm totally in favor of this decision. It shows that the our country will stand up for its principles of justice and try these men fairly in a court of law. Of course, not everyone is in favor of this decision. According to the NY Times, opponents included members of Congress, some 9/11 victim's families, and neighbors near the courthouse.

"They argued that Qaeda suspects did not deserve the protections afforded by the American criminal justice system, that bringing them into the United States would heighten the risk of another terrorist attack, that civilian trials increase the risk of disclosing classified information, and that if the detainees were acquitted they could be released into the population."

TomCat over at Politics Plus has a good post about this. As he says,

"While it is true that these terrorists do not deserve the protections afforded by the US criminal justice system, look at the statement that giving them these protections anyway makes about the US before the world. Dispensing justice in full transparency can go a long way toward undoing some of the damage that eight years of torture and abuse of prisoners under Bush and the GOP did to our world prestige."

He also points out how the GOP, represented by Boehner, is once again showing no support for the American principles of justice. Sure, these people aren't citizens. But their crimes were committed on our soil and they should face our type of justice.

And if anyone is worried they may just get off and be released into the United States? Think about it - if you let them go in downtown Manhattan, how far do you really think they'd get? No worries there. (Yes, I know that is not a nice way to think about it. But I can't help it).

Onward to the health care debate.

I am glad the health care bill passed in the House. I know there are many progressives who feel as if this is a Pyrrhic victory, given Nancy Pelosi was forced to allow the Stupak Amendment that will effectively eliminate the possibility of coverage for abortion for a large number of women.

I understand and agree with the disappointment and outrage on the part of progressives and women. But I am practical, and believe that "the best is the enemy of the good." Sometimes it's better to get part of what you want even if it's not perfect. Opposing the bill and refusing to pass it is probably not the right answer.

First of all, this is not the final bill. The Senate needs to pass their version, and then the two versions have to be made into one. A lot can happen during that process.

Secondly, even if the final version includes these abortion restrictions, providing all Americans with health care will still do more for the greater good than if the abortion amendment were left out, but the legislation didn't pass. Having health care coverage will save money for poor or currently uninsured families if someone in the family became ill and incurred large medical bills. Ongoing well care will also ultimately help them stay in better health overall.

Third, whatever passes is not set in stone. When Medicare originally passed, it wasn't the same program as we have today. Later legislation can amend the terms if we have the will to force this to happen.

That said, I have grave concerns about the way the right wing and religious groups are slowly but surely chipping away at a woman's right to choose. Please, go over to Utah Savage's place and read what she has to say on the subject. She has forcefully reminded me of what it was like in those dark days before Roe v. Wade and also made an impassioned plea to the current generation to take up the cause and not take women's rights for granted. Please, read her most recent three posts (starting with the one entitled "My Abortion in 1968"), as she tells it better than I ever could.

The last issue I'd like to talk about today is the defeat of gay marriage in Maine on Election Day. Naturally, I was very disappointed that the voters of Maine voted for this miscarriage of justice. To me, it is ridiculous that basic human rights for our citizens are being put to a majority vote. If this had been done in the past, there would still be a number of states that would have had miscegenation laws on the books - and be enforcing them. Heck, there might even still be slavery!

Why should the majority get to rule on the rights of a minority? It doesn't even make sense. This is a constitutional issue and rightly should be decided by the courts. This is not activist judges at work - this is exactly what the courts are meant for - to enforce civil rights even when it's not something the majority may want.

Of course, the real solution would be for the government to get out of the marriage business altogether. Civil unions for all - let your religion dictate whether it's called marriage. That way religious groups that didn't want to marry gay couples wouldn't have to, and those that do, could. Either way, you could be married, whether you were gay or straight.

This evenhandedness should extend to benefit designations as well. If a person has medical or other coverage from their company or organization, they should be allowed to designate anyone as their beneficiary: spouse, domestic partner (male or female), relative, even friend. We pay extra to add spouses/families to our benefits anyway - why should the company care who you designate? It's all ridiculous to keep basing everything on whether someone is married or not, in this day and age when there are so many different types of households. It is time to move past this antiquated way of judging everything.

That said, the interesting thing is that we are even having these conversations today about gay marriage. A decade ago the idea of domestic partnerships or civil unions was what was setting off the right wing nutjobs. Now even they are hedging and saying that civil unions are OK, but marriage is another story. Change is happening - too slowly, yes - but happening nevertheless.

So, I think I'm all caught up on being opinionated. Baxter will be back next with his own thoughts on the latest news. In the meantime, I'll start trying to catch up with all the blogs I'm behind on reading!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Cat's Eye View - Special Election Edition

Baxter here. So, it's the Day After Election Day and already the pundits will be having a Ball claiming that the Losses in the governors' races in Virginia and New Jersey are a referendum on the human President Obama, especially since he campaigned heavily for Governor Corzine in New Jersey. GOP Chair Michael Steele says the Victories mean the GOP is a transcendent party.

Well, as a New Jersey Cat I can't speak for Virginia, but I can Certainly talk about New Jersey.

Corzine lost last night, but it wasn't because of Obama and it certainly didn't mean New Jersey is suddenly a Red State - since the Legislature remains Firmly Democratic.

Columnist Tom Moran of the New Jersey Star Ledger, says that the Governor's Loss was really a rebuke of Corzine himself.

"He scored some modest successes on education and health care. He won concessions from state workers. He signed a paid family leave bill and abolished the death penalty.

But he was never able to put together a good streak, to build a working coalition even within his own party that was equal to the gigantic challenges he faced.

He promised to ease the burden of property taxes and failed. He promised to use his Wall Street savvy to fix the state’s ever-broken finances, and he failed again.

He promised a clean and honorable government, then shoveled barrels of money to some of the shadiest characters in his party, many of whom are now in jail. A corruption sweep in July reminded voters of his dramatic failure on that front."

Paul Mulshine, a Ledger columnist who tends to be quite Conservative, pointed out that Christie has no Mandate.

"The winner last night, Republican Chris Christie, managed to get through the entire campaign without taking a single principled stand on a single issue. He was against waste, fraud and abuse. He was against corruption. He was in favor of tax cuts. And that was about it.

As a result, Christie can’t claim a mandate. That’s not just because he won by such a small margin in what should have been a runaway. It’s also because you can’t win a mandate to do nothing — which is what he promised to do."

So basically, Christie won because he's Not Jon Corzine.

Looking at exit polls, most New Jerseyans cited the Economy, Property Taxes and Other Concerns as their reasons for their Votes. Only 19% on each side said their Vote was a Vote to Support or a Vote Against President Obama. Sixty Percent said their Votes didn't have a Darn Thing to Do with Obama.

So, that's That. Here we are in New Jersey, stuck with a Republican Conservative Governor for the Next Four Years because Corzine was Too Egotistical to Drop Out of the Race when he saw he was Far Behind.

My Humans were Disgusted with Corzine, and probably had Similar Feelings to those of a Lot of New Jersey Democrats. They voted for him, but they didn't want to. So some of those Democrats stayed home and Didn't Vote at All.

My Male Human in particular still held it against Corzine that he Stopped being a U.S. Senator in 2005 in order to run for New Jersey Governor. As a result, the Dems almost lost the New Jersey Senate seat in the 2006 Senate Election; luckily Senator Menendez (appointed by Corzine in 2006 to take his Seat) squeaked by.

Then Mr. Big Ego Corzine had to stay in the race This Year despite the high Unpopularity ratings he had. He should have Stepped Aside and let Someone Else, like State Senate leader Dick Codey, run. He would have Won in a Landslide.

Oh Well. It is What It Is, as my Female Human would say.

Over Across the River in New York City, Mayor Mike Bloomberg won a Third Term, but not by as Much as he and his Supporters had expected. Turns out the Voters, although they think he's doing a Good Job, were Mad that he overturned the Term Limits and Spent a Fortune in order to get Elected to a Third Term.

One Bright Spot for the Democrats last night: The 23rd Congressional District, a Closely Watched Election in Upstate New York, went to the Democrats after the Republican dropped out at the Last Minute and Endorsed the Democrat over the remaining Conservative candidate. The really Good Thing here was that Sarah Palin and other Right Wingers had supported the Conservative guy. So this was a Blow to them and a Plus for President Obama.

So That's the Latest from Me here in New Jersey. I will Close with a quick LOL (Can't call it a LOLCat since it's not a Cat, but it is Very Appropriate) for your Amusement and Hope to be Back with some Less Serious News Items very Soon. New Jersey Cats, you'd better Stock up on Catnip; it's going to be a Long Four Years with Mr. Christie.

barack obama
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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Awards and Excuses

I have been missing in action for over a week and I'm not sure what my excuse is despite the title of this post. Time is slipping by at a much faster rate than usual and our trips to the cabin seem to take me away from blogging. It used to be on weekends I'd sit for hours reading and writing blog posts, but now we arrive late Friday evening at our cabin and then my weekend days are taken up with walking in the woods with the dog, pondering different leaf shapes and wondering what type of tree they come from, and gazing at babbling brooks. I know that it is a good thing to be appreciating nature, but I also miss visiting all the blogs I enjoy and interacting with everyone.

The Yankees being in the World Series doesn't help either. Although as many already know, I was brought up as a Red Sox fan by my Massachusetts-born mother, I went over to the Dark Side in 1986 when the Sox blew the Series and lost to the Mets. I'd had it. I was tired of rooting for a losing team, and my husband was already a Yankees fan so I decided to join him. It was a gratifying change, although eventually the Red Sox did manage to win a couple of World Series, to my mother's satisfaction. At any rate, for the past couple of weeks a lot of evenings have been taken up by listening or watching the Yankees in the playoffs and World Series.

And of course, I do have one other excuse: Facebook. Yes, Facebook is a time-sucker and is very addictive. And a lot of the bloggers I read are also Facebook friends and are posting links of interest and political viewpoints over there, so the conversation is spreading. If you're on Facebook and want to be FB friends please e-mail me and let me know how to find you!

Once it's too cold and snowy to go up to the Adirondacks I'm sure I'll be back here much more regularly!

In the meantime I would like to thank JadedJ from Banquet of Consequences for a lovely award, the Best Blog Award. I am honored to be chosen and to be among some good company - go check out the other blogs that got awards as well as Banquet of Consequences, if you haven't already discovered it on my blogroll.

As always, awards are meant to be passed on. It's going to be hard to pick blogs from such a plethora of excellent choices, so I'll try to pick some that are newer additions to my blogroll.

First on the list is Robert Rouse's new blog, Freeze-Dried Gray Matter. He addresses all kinds of subjects, from politics to sports and more. He even does video commentary! Check him out if you haven't already.

Next, Mr. Macrum from the great state of Maine, over at Lost in the Bozone. Start reading and you'll be sucked in for sure. He covers a lot of ground and it's all interesting stuff!

Fran over at Ramblings. She's definitely not a newcomer to my blogroll but I wanted to send you over there in case you hadn't gone yet. She covers all kinds of political subjects, health care, and more, as well as posting some great cartoons and other tidbits. And of course many of you know her from her excellent, well thought-out comments on your own blogs.

MnMom at Happy to be From Iowa shares her life with her readers as well as her progressive viewpoint. Check her out, you'll feel as if you've met an old friend!

So those are four of the many blogs I enjoy. If you've been awarded please do pass it on if so inclined - it's alway fun to share links and find new bloggers. Of course at some point I'll never have enough time in the world to read them all. But that doesn't stop me from trying!

I'll send Baxter next time to do some more serious commentary. Isn't it kind of sad that my cat has more political interests than I do lately? Something is wrong. But I am finding it hard to concentrate on politics lately. However, I will be interested to see what happens in New Jersey's governor's race, which is neck and neck between Corzine and Christie, with a fairly popular 3rd party candidate in the mix. I'm sure Baxter will have something to say about those results after tomorrow's election!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Cat's Eye View

Well, they've gone and left Me yet again! I'm getting Rather Sick of it. Oh well, at least I'm inside where it's Warm and Dry. It seems to be Raining Once Again out there. Now that the Weather has gotten Cooler and the Humans have turned on that thing they call a Furnace, I like sitting on my Cat Perch over the Radiator in My Room and looking out the Window.

Did you know I have My Own Room? I do. It's one of the Bedrooms, and it's All Mine. (Well, my Female Human does have a Bureau and Wardrobe Closet with some of her Clothing in it, and there is a Desk full of Junk, but that's all). My Box and my Food and Water are all in here, and Best of All, there is a Gate attached to the Doorway that I can run under, but That Dog can't. So I am protected from her when she gets Frisky and decides to chase Me, and she also can't get in to eat My Food or, worse yet, forage in My Box. That would be Very Embarrassing.

So. Time for my News Roundup. I don't really know what the Chief Topic of Conversation should be today given it has been quite Awhile since my Last Roundup. But I do know they spent Way Too Much Time covering that stupid Balloon Boy story last week. And now they're saying it was all a hoax! It is Pitiful how the So-Called News Programs latch on to these Stupid Stories and cover them in Breathless Anticipation, as if they were covering a World Crisis. It's like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. When there is a Real Crisis, who will be able to Tell the Difference?

Speaking of World Crises, President Obama has now declared the Swine Flu a "National Emergency."

"Obama's action allows Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius 'to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements' to help health care facilities enact emergency plans to deal with the 'pandemic.'

Those requirements are contained in Medicare, Medicaid and state Children's Health Insurance programs, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule."

Of course, Conspiracy Theorists will be All Over this, saying this allows The Dreaded Government to Take Away Our Rights. I'm sure it is not anything That Sinister. The stuff that takes away Rights is usually done when No One is Watching, as it was during the Previous Administration.

One problem the Government is running into is not having Enough Swine Flu Vaccine! After all that Preparation you'd think they'd have Gotten it Right, but no!

"'We are nowhere near where we thought we would be,' Frieden said, acknowledging that manufacturing delays have contributed to less vaccine being available than expected. 'As public health professionals, vaccination is our strongest tool. Not having enough is frustrating to all of us.'

Frieden said that while the way vaccine is manufactured is "tried and true," it's not well-suited for ramping up production during a pandemic because it takes at least six months."

Another News Story this week was the Famous Case of the Northwest Airline pilots who forgot to land in Minneapolis as scheduled, and No One could get ahold of them during that time! As the Humans might say, WTF? One of the pilots said they weren't arguing or sleeping during that time. They were also not Drunk. So what else does that leave? Hmmmm. The Mind Boggles. It is truly a Mystery.

My Female Human went to Minneapolis on Northwestern a couple of weeks ago. She is Glad that didn't happen when she was On Board.

In News from the Animal World, a Russian Bear killed a Circus Hand while he was Ice Skating. The Bear was Ice Skating, that is. For the Details, go read the Article here. It is Very Sad that the Circus Hand was killed, and another injured, but perhaps it's because Bears generally don't Ice Skate in the Wild, and perhaps it's not The Best Thing To Do with Them. Sadly, the Bear was shot and killed as well.

On a More Positive Note, I will End with some Pictures my Humans took Last Weekend up near that Cabin they go to. If you recall, Last Weekend was Very Rainy in New Jersey. Happily for Them, it was Very Nice near Lake George!

Here is a Picture of the Scottish Graveyard in Argyle, New York. Seems to Me this would be a Very Scary Spot on Halloween. Look at all those great Leaning Headstones! The Graveyard includes a lot of very Early Settlers - many date back to the early 18th Century.

This Picture is a Lovely View of Lake Champlain.

These are the Woods near The Cabin.

A view of The Cabin from Across the Pond, and below, the Interior with the Propane Lights on and my Female Human sitting in a Chair Keeping Warm by the Woodstove.

That's all for Now. My Female Human will be Back Shortly. She has received an Award and will be Excited to pass it on to Others!

Till Next Time, keep your Catnip Dry and Enjoy Your Week!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Irresponsible Advice About the Swine Flu Vaccine

Bill Maher should stick to politics. He's been Twittering that people who get swine flu shots are idiots and also mouthed off on his "Real Time With Bill Maher" show about the vaccine, implying that getting the vaccine was the same thing as being injected with the disease, which it is not.

Now ordinarily this would not be a big deal. I mean, who would look to a talk show host for medical advice? Unfortunately, with this being a new vaccine, and a high level of suspicion about the government's ability to do anything whatsoever running rampant in the country, this just encourages those who are dubious about it to feel justified in skipping it. This would not be a good idea.

The H1N1 (swine) flu is a different strain of flu virus. Unlike the usual seasonal influenza that is more apt to be severe in the elderly, with the H1N1 virus, younger people are more vulnerable and become sicker than their elders.

This may be because the new H1N1 virus is related to the deadly 1918 Spanish flu, and since variants of the 1918 flu type were in circulation for several generations after it first appeared, people 65 and over tend to be less vulnerable to the new flu since they have had exposure to its cousin in the past.

In addition, those who were vaccinated against the swine flu strain that was prevalent in 1976 may also have a certain degree of cross-immunity to the new H1N1 virus.

This leaves younger people at most risk for severe illness in this new pandemic. In addition, pregnant women, whose immunity is lowered by their condition, and those with specific health problems, are also vulnerable.

There are two kinds of vaccine: One injectable, which is a killed virus that is incapable of causing illness, and a nasal spray version that is a weakened virus. It is recommended that those with impaired immunity only receive the injected vaccine.

It is the height of irresponsibility on Maher's part to be blathering about a medical subject about which he obviously knows very little, and contradicting Dr. Bill Frist, his guest on the show, who was trying to get across the importance of vaccination.

There are reasons some people shouldn't receive either vaccination. If they are allergic to eggs, as my mother is, they cannot receive any flu vaccines because the virus used to create them is incubated in eggs. In addition, there may be concerns about the preservative, thimerasol, which is used in the injectable vaccines for both H1N1 and regular seasonal flu.

And of course, it is always a personal decision whether one wants to have a shot or not. But to make that decision, a person needs to be armed with the facts, not a talk show host's personal aversions. If you want the facts, please go to this site and read up on them. Then you can make a truly informed decision about receiving the H1N1 vaccination.

(cross-posted at Medicana)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Nobel a Mixed Blessing for Obama

As I believe most people (including the President himself) were, I was surprised to learn today that President Obama has been chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

It's a very exciting honor for our President to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and I commend the efforts he is making toward more cooperation between nations and increases in the United States' participation in the fight against global warming, and more. Certainly the change in U.S. policies has thawed the relations between the United States and many countries around the world, in contrast to the previous President's bellicose and "you're either for us or against us" attitude toward the rest of the world.

But is this worth the Nobel Peace Prize? I'm not sure. I feel it's a bit too early to say that good intentions are the same as accomplishments, or that this change in official U.S. attitude will actually bear fruit. Former President Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize after decades of post-presidency work toward world peace, his support of Habitat for Humanity, and many other accomplishments. So far, Obama's lofty goals are still only goals.

Also, while Obama has been making an effort to bring the U.S. back into compliance with the Geneva Conventions and declared the U.S. will no longer waterboard prisoners, he has not yet been able to close Guantanomo Bay as he had promised, due to the various stumbling blocks that keep being raised. It seems as if the Prize might have been more appropriately awarded after the camp was actually closed and justice had been served to those who have been detained for so many years - either by conviction or freedom, but through a fair judicial process.

Beyond whether or not it was a good idea to give President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, the fallout from this award will be a decidedly mixed blessing for the President.

On one hand, it's great that such a prestigious group as those who award Nobel Prizes believe President Obama has already made such a paradigm shift in world relations only 9 months after taking office. Certainly the contrast vs. Bush had to have something to do with that perception, and the President should rightly feel good about receiving the Prize.

But on the other hand, for Obama, this may do more harm than good in the short run. The GOP and right-wing talk show hosts will go totally nuts about this honor; Obama will get nothing but flack and distractions from the right as a result, when he is trying to keep the conversation on his plans for health care reform and other initiatives.

In another, more personal way for Obama, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize this early in his life may be a mixed blessing as well. Here he is, only in his late 40s, and he's become President and received the Nobel Peace Prize. After his presidency, what on earth more will he be able to aim for? The second half of his life may be a huge letdown for him!

But, be that as it may, it is certainly a great honor, and I congratulate the President on receiving it. Let's hope his accomplishments during the rest of his Presidency will continue to live up to that honor.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Haiku Thursday

Live from the Adirondacks, this is Haiku Thursday!

Spending time up here provides new perspective on current events. I start noticing little things instead of worrying about big things. A small blue wildflower peeping up from the grass, a shaft of sunlight brightening the goldenrod; tracks in the soft dirt - whose? Somehow the rest of the world seems far away - and I know it will still be there when we get back. But in the meantime I think I'll just watch the ripples in the pond and listen to the geese call. I think they still migrate up here, unlike in New Jersey where they remain all winter long, fat and happy in the well-landscaped office parks.

So, without further ado...Haiku (yes, that rhymed!)

GM killed Saturn
But Jupiter still remains
Up there by the Moon.

I heard some sad news
Earthquake in Indonesia,
And a

Roman Polanski
Is being extradited
After thirty years.

Michael Vick endorsement
Being denied by Nike

"We just give him stuff."

The healthcare debate
Continues in Washington
But news is
not good.

Democrats will fight
To get a public option

Against all the odds.

Diplomats meeting,
Discussing nuclear bombs
Progress being made?

Here it is chilly
And autumn winds are blowing
The leaves are turning.

Red, yellow and gold
Contrasting with cloudy skies
And a patch of blue.

The leaves on the ground
Will camouflage the chipmunk
As he scurries by.

Squirrels are furtive
Gathering nuts for winter

Under the bushes.

Birds still flit in trees
But now they are quieter
Mating is over.

Frogs' voices are still;
But the owl is still calling
Deep into the night.

Things are different here
Life passes by the seasons
No news is good news.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. And let me tell you, THIS View is not a View I would ever have chosen! But for some Reason I ended up next to That Dog one day and my Humans took a picture.

I was Quite Worried this Week because I heard my Female Human talking about taking Me up to That Cabin they go to for a Week. There was Discussion about Cages and whether there would be Room in the Jeep. Luckily it seems they changed their Minds and decided not to do it This Time. I made sure they didn't Take Me With Them, though, when my Humans were leaving. My Female Human claimed that she was only trying to Say Goodbye when she called me over to her, but I didn't buy it. I hid under the Bureau until she left, Just In Case.

So, here I am. Thank Goodness they left the Computer for Me to Use. I haven't had a Chance to opine on the News for quite some time!

Today, instead of my Usual News Roundup, I want to talk about something I heard about Today that Annoyed Me. It has Nothing To Do with the President, Health Care, or the United Nations. It's about something totally Unrelated that just happened to Catch My Eye. Apparently the Government is going to start Regulating Tobacco and their First Step is to Ban all Flavored Cigarettes! The idea is that these Flavored Cigarettes appeal to Young People and therefore this should help prevent them from Starting to Smoke.

Now, don't get Me Wrong. I am No Fan of Cigarette Smoking. It is Dangerous, Smelly and altogether Icky. We Cats have Very Sensitive Noses and Smoke is Not our Friend. However, this is Some Slippery Slope they're going down. They're even thinking of doing something about Menthol Cigarettes, which have been around Forever. Plus it's such a Vague Law that Retailers aren't even sure whether Cigarillos or Small Cigars that are Flavored would count or not! (And hey, what about Pipe Tobacco? That comes in Flavors too - will it be Next?)

Next thing you know, they'll ban flavored Liqueurs or Sweet Wines! And what about Obesity? If they're So Worried about Kids' Health, are they coing to start Banning Snack Foods completely just because Kids might eat them? This Mentality doesn't take into Account that Adults may be enjoying some of these things. Shouldn't Humans have a Choice? And what about Catnip? It could be Next, and that would be the Last Straw!

Seriously, you Humans are Weird. Tobacco is a Legal Product, Bad though it may be, and it is already Highly Difficult to Smoke in many Public Places, although of course that Varies depending on what State you live in. So Smoking has been Declining as it is.

My feeling is, if they aren't going to Ban Smoking altogether then why shouldn't Humans have the Opportunity to Smoke whatever Flavor of Poisonous Tobacco Product they want? It's one or the other, People.

Of course, Banning Tobacco would also be Stupid. Americans seem to immediately turn to a Black Market to get the Vices they prefer. My Humans tell Me about something called Prohibition, when the Government decided that Liquor was a Vice Too Evil to be Endured and Banned it, resulting in the Roaring 20's, a period of Time when people drank More Than Ever and Organized Crime grew to Accommodate the U.S. Appetite for Bootleg Alcohol.

I have to tell You, I would certainly look to Underground Sources for my Dose of Catnip if I couldn't get it!

I think the Solution would be, they should just make sure only Adults buy Tobacco products, period. It should be Regulated as Strictly as Liquor. My feeling is, if a person is an Adult and is allowed to Vote or Fight in a War, shouldn't they just as well be Allowed to Choose what flavor of Cigarette they buy?

As an Independent-Minded Cat, my Preferred Recommendation to Reduce Youthful Smoking would be further Education about the Dangers of Smoking, keeping Smoking out of Movies and other Media that might make it seem "Cool" as the Humans say, and Strictly Regulate the age at which a person can Buy the Stuff. That is Enough. Because anything further would be that Slippery Slope I was talking about Earlier. What do You Think? I know this may be a Controversial Topic, but We Cats never Shy from a good Howling Match with other Cats so I'm Looking Forward to a Good Discussion.

Well, on to less Controversial Subjects. To end my Post on a more Pleasaant Note, I thought I'd show you a few pictures from the last time the Humans were in the Adirondacks.

Here are a couple of Nice Views from the top of a Hill near Ft. Ticonderoga.

A Nice Lady offered to take a Picture of all three of My Humans (including the Male Human's Father, far left)...oh yes, and That Dog. You'll notice she is Mouthing Off as Usual. That Dog never shuts up!

A View of Lake George:

A Scenic Barn with an Osprey Nest behind it on top of a Telephone Pole. A closer Shot of the Osprey below that. Looks Tasty but kind of Big so I doubt I could Catch One.

My Male Human's Father enjoying a View of the Pond and Woods at that Cabin place.

Until Next Time, Enjoy your Catnip Responsibly and Keep it out of the Hands of Kittens. They can Choose to Indulge when they are Old Enough!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is It Racism? Of Course It Is.

Ever since Joe Wilson’s outburst of “you lie!” during President Obama’s speech to the joint session of Congress, various people have been weighing in on what it meant and more broadly, what the virulent protests against his plans for universal health care may mean.

Former President Jimmy Carter’s statements that much of this opposition, including Joe Wilson’s outburst, is fueled by racism, has ignited a discussion of the “elephant in the room” – that on top of being a tax-and-spend liberal in the eyes of the right wing, President Obama is a black man. Never mind that he is half white, if his skin color isn’t light, he’s considered black by a large portion of the population and as such, is subject to suspicion.

Maureen Dowd, in a recent op-ed piece, also raised this issue.

"I tended to agree with some Obama advisers that Democratic presidents typically have provoked a frothing response from paranoids — from Father Coughlin against F.D.R. to Joe McCarthy against Truman to the John Birchers against J.F.K. and the vast right-wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton.

But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it."

David Brooks, in a recent op-ed column, doesn't think opposition to Obama is about race. He talked about the role of populism in American politics: the innate enmity between the idea of a strong central government, led by an educated elite, and a decentralized, state-led government led by "the people." Jefferson personified the latter. He was inherently suspicious of government and didn’t like the idea of giving too much power to any central government. Hamilton, on the other hand, was a strong proponent of a central government.

"This populist tendency continued through the centuries. Sometimes it took right-wing forms, sometimes left-wing ones. Sometimes it was agrarian. Sometimes it was more union-oriented. Often it was extreme, conspiratorial and rude.

The populist tendency has always used the same sort of rhetoric: for the ordinary people and against the fat cats and the educated class; for the small towns and against the financial centers."

These factions have been warring ever since, taking various forms throughout history, from Father Coughlin and other opponents of FDR’s New Deal, to those who fought Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reforms.

Brooks pointed out how the white protesters were mingling with black people on the Mall in Washington last weekend so obviously they couldn’t be racists. Of course, we all know that is meaningless; many people can have subtle racist feelings and still say "some of their best friends are black," as the old saying goes.

However, the words on the signs we are seeing at the health care town halls and at the September 12 march on Washington are very telling. (This one is from a New Hampshire town hall meeting).Another favorite is "I want my country back." What is this supposed to mean? Back from whom? The Democrats? Or is it from that black man who somehow got elected President? And if they’re really so worried about losing their country, where were these people when George W. Bush was taking more and more federal power and wiretapping their internet and phone connections?

My feeling is they didn’t care or notice as much because despite being descended from a long line of East Coast rich elites from Connecticut, George W. Bush, with his ordinary name, broad Texas accent and everyday way of speaking, sounded like “one of them.”

Barack Obama, with his exotic name and background, his ability to sound intelligent and educated when he speaks, and yes, his dark skin, does not seem like "one of them," despite the fact he came from much more humble beginnings than Bush.

This perception of him as "the other" has to have an effect on their level of anger and yes, fear. And part of that fear has to be that he is an African-American. He’s not the same color as they are. You don’t see black faces at these protests. The continual claims that Obama is a Muslim, that he wasn’t born in this country despite all the evidence that he was, are evidence of this. When people protested against FDR, LBJ or Clinton, this aspect was not part of the conversation.

There is also the fact that death threats against this President are 400% higher than for the previous president.

Does David Brooks really think that this would be the case if President Obama were white? And would people really be bringing guns to town halls if he were white? I’m not sure that they would.

Some of the people at these protests would deny emphatically that they are racist. They would vehemently assert, as Joe Wilson’s son did about his father that they "don’t have a racist bone" in their bodies. But racism is not always overt, even to those who harbor the feeling. It can be subconscious, it can be a result of cultural background, of things they heard when they were young and forgot about. It’s easy to subvert a racist feeling into a policy disagreement.

But to me the proof is the level of anger out there is way out of proportion to the issue at hand – health care. I mean, come on. We’re talking about a system to take care of people’s health. And Obama isn't even proposing a particularly radical change in our health care policies - no universal single-payer health plan in sight. This is not something that should inspire such fear and hatred. No, there has to be something more to it. And that something has to do with racism.

Of course, Democrats and supporters of Barack Obama aren’t allowed to say this. "Oh, they’re playing the race card," Obama’s opponents say if the suggestion is made that some of the opposition has to do with the color of his skin. "As soon as someone disagrees with him you call them a racist." (Of course they ignore the fact that George W. Bush's proponents immediately accused anyone who disagreed with them of not being patriotic!)

And President Obama knows this; he has been making the rounds on talk shows to support his universal health care plan, but of course has been asked about Jimmy Carter’s statements on racism. He has tried to defuse the importance of this issue in order not to add fuel to the fire.

But he knows it’s true. And so do we. To pretend that racism is not part of the opposition we are seeing out there is na├»ve at best and dangerous at worst.

Time will tell what President Obama will accomplish. Like most presidents he will probably be remembered for some important successes and some obvious failures. And that is how he should be remembered, and not for his race.

But we also must give him credit for the courage it took to run for President and become the first African-American President of the United States. He had to know there would be many who would oppose him simply for his race, and that he would be putting himself and his family in danger. But someone had to be first. And he has taken that step and that chance.

The vicious hate groups and right wing fringe that oppose him, and would oppose any African-American president, are a small segment of the overall population. But that doesn’t mean the racism does not exist in those who are most filled with hate and thus the most dangerous.

The vast majority of the country really doesn’t care whether Obama is black or white and does just agree or disagree with his policies. As time goes on, more and more of the country will be like them, and the idea of an African-American man (or woman) being president will be second nature and no longer an issue.

But it took one man, Barack Obama, to take the chance to be first. Let’s hope the Secret Service can keep him safe for his entire Presidency.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

TomCat's Back!

Many of you probably remember TomCat and his great blog, Politics Plus. His voice was silenced for awhile but now he is back and we're sure glad he is.

Just wanted to give a heads up to anyone who didn't know he's up and running. And of course his link is on my sidebar.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Obama Should "Welcome their Hatred"

I haven't been weighing in that much on the health care debate since so many others have been blogging so effectively about it these past weeks. I thoroughly support universal health care, and like every sane person, realize that the Republicans are opposing it just because it was Obama's idea - and of course to curry favor with their corporate sponsors. If Obama were against it, they'd be for it.

There is no middle ground here - the Republicans will find fault with any proposal the President comes up with. It's time for Obama to give up on his Bi-Partisan Dream and face reality. The Republicans are not going to support his middle ground, they will not respect his wish for civility and honest discourse, and it has become clear that no real change will occur in a bi-partisan way, on any issue whatsoever.

There were several interesting articles in the news recently that make this clear. In yesterday's New York Times, Jean Edward Smith writes,

"President Obama's apparent readiness to backtrack on the public insurance option in his health care package is not just a concession to his political opponents — this fixation on securing bipartisan support for health care reform suggests that the Democratic Party has forgotten how to govern and the White House has forgotten how to lead."...

...and then goes on to compare this attitude to that of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who never made an effort to be bi-partisan in pushing through the legislation that was the foundation of the New Deal. In fact, according to Smith, Roosevelt felt that "majority rule did not require his opponents' permission."

Smith points out that Roosevelt successfully promoted regulatory legislation and other key programs over howls of protest from his opponents and corporate interests. As Smith writes,

"Roosevelt relished the opposition of vested interests. He fashioned his governing majority by deliberately attacking those who favored the status quo. His opponents hated him — and he profited from their hatred. 'Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today,' he told a national radio audience on the eve of the 1936 election. 'They are unanimous in their hatred for me — and I welcome their hatred.'"

President Obama is in a very similar situation to Roosevelt during the Depression. His party is the majority, he was elected with a solid majority of the votes, and the country is ready for a change after eight long years of Republican rule that left the country in a mess. But he hasn't grabbed the opportunity the way Roosevelt did, and this Congress hasn't risen to the occasion as that Congress did.

Many may claim that the so-called "grass roots" protests at the health care forums around the nation are signs that the population is not in favor of the President's proposal to provide universal health care. But as E.J. Dionne points out, the media have not been covering the forums where there was civil discourse and support for health care reform.

"There is an overwhelming case that the electronic media went out of their way to cover the noise and ignored the calmer (and from television's point of view "boring") encounters between elected representatives and their constituents.

It's also clear that the anger that got so much attention largely reflects a fringe right-wing view opposed to all sorts of government programs most Americans support. Much as the far left of the antiwar movement commanded wide coverage during the Vietnam years, so now are extremists on the right hogging the media stage -- with the media's complicity."

So, if it turns out that in reality the public isn't against health care reform and is hungering for real facts, then the President's reluctance to tilt against the forces opposing him are doing that public a disservice.

In Edward Kennedy's upcoming memoir, True Compass, he discusses his feelings about President Jimmy Carter. According to the Times,

"Some of his most critical words are directed against Jimmy Carter.

He said that while they had found common cause on a few issues, their relationship had broken down over health care. He accused Mr. Carter of timidity that had doomed any chance of meaningful health insurance reform...."

Perhaps this "timidity" was due partly to President Carter's deep religious convictions, that he did not want to promote anger and dissent. Similarly, it may not be that President Obama wants everyone to like him, as some have said, but that he truly is trying to "turn the other cheek" and follow his Christian beliefs. But to paraphrase Barry Goldwater, "extremism in the defense of universal health care is no vice." While Obama's efforts toward bi-partisanship and civility are admirable, they don't get legislation passed and don't effect the real change that he was elected to provide.

The President would do well to remember that, while Jesus said "turn the other cheek," he also got angry and threw the moneylenders out of the temple. It's time Obama did the same. Sometimes no matter what your good intentions for peace, you have to fight. Edward Kennedy understood that.

I hope that the President's speech to the joint session of Congress next week is successful in getting his proposals on health care on track and wresting his message away from the GOP and back under his own control. This will be his last chance to push through meaningful reform. He cannot fail on this issue.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Memory of Ted Kennedy - Rest in Peace

An era ended with his death, but as so many have already said, "the dream will never die."

As we remember Teddy Kennedy today, think of all the years he was with us, and all he did for this country, and take some time to mourn.

"To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep..."

Judy Collins and Pete Seeger, singing it together:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We All Need a Dose of Nothingness Now and Then

H/T to Geoff of EcoRealty for posting this article on Facebook.

The author of the article reminds us that everyone needs a little "nothingness" now and then - a moment to just absorb what is around them without trying to put anything back. A time to empty the mind of anxieties and anger, remove thoughts of the future or the past and just enjoy the present for what it is.

I am hoping President Obama and his family are doing a little of that right now and he will come back refreshed and ready to take on the difficult problems of the world. But right now he should just enjoy the nothingness.

I'll end with the quote from Franz Kafka that the author of this article cites. I had never read it before (I didn't even know Kafka wrote poetry, shows how ignorant I am), and I loved it. It is called "Learn to be Quiet."

You do not need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, simply wait.
Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Night Haiku

A million crickets
Fill the night with their singing
Late August is loud!

During the daytime
The cicadas are screaming
"Today will be hot!"

But then comes the autumn
And the first frost of the year
All becomes silent.

Dark will come early
Winter will be setting in
My spirits will drop.

How long must I wait
Till summer comes 'round again?
Will I last till spring?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. Good Lord, when will my Female Human learn not to make Stupid Remarks on how she has such "Peace of Mind" lately. You would think she would Learn that just Jinxes her. A few days after she posted That Bit of Sentimental Drivel, she and the other Human were up in the Adirondacks at That Cabin of theirs and got a Phone Call that the Female Human's Aunt had hurt herself by Falling. She's OK but Once Again my Female Human has been very Tied Up this Week taking Care of Things for her Aunt.

On the Plus Side for ME (which of course, is the Most Important Thing), the Humans are spending this Weekend at Home for a change instead of going to That Cabin.

So, here I am, finally Blogging again. And may I say, it's About Time! I was overdue to Blog and was not Given the Opportunity until now.

Well, I don't even know where to start. All this Ruckus about the Health Care System is driving me up the Wall. On one hand, of course, it would be Nice if everyone had Health Care. I am certainly very Lucky that my Humans take me to the Vet when I need it and can afford to Pay for Me. There are plenty of Pets that don't have the Opportunities I have and I've seen that they don't live as long or as Well as Pets that get regular Care. I'm sure that is true for Humans too.

But I am becoming Very Concerned that the Way this has been handled has not been Ideal. I really thought the new President would be better at this than he has been. There have been too many Rumors that were allowed to get Out of Control, and not enough Pushback on those who are spreading them. Despite efforts to get the Truth Out, the rumors continue to spread and are Poisoning the Discussion.

And on top of that, Fellow Democrats aren't even all pulling for this. And then the Latest Thing is there has been a lot of Confusion over whether or not the "Public Option" is Dead or Alive!

This could really be a Bad Thing for President Obama; his Popularity is waning in a lot of places because of this Mess. If You want to read a Lot about the Subject, please go over to Watergate Summer. Enigma4Ever has been keeping track of this All Along and has done a Much Better Job of it than my Human or I can do. Not to be all Gloom and Doom - there are some Encouraging Signs out there - Barney Frank has really Pushed Back on the Protesters at his Town Hall meetings and now President Obama is Hosting a Forum (See Enigma's site for details). Maybe things can still Turn Around.

Onward to another subject - Fuel Efficient Cars!

In my Web Surfing, I just saw a video on about the World's Cheapest Car. It's the Tata Nano, made in India - but soon coming to Europe and ultimately, the U.S. Here is the video about it:

Apparently the Base Model sells for $2,500 without the Amenities that the American Humans have come to Expect in a Car. It has a Manual Transmission, no Air Conditioning or Power Anything at that price. (Of course, for about $3,500 you could Have It All). It gets 50 miles per gallon and they're going to come out with a Diesel too.

Since the smallest cars in America still sell for Big Car Prices, if the Nano comes here, it will Revolutionize the Industry. For instance, the Smart Car starts at almost $12,000. And a Mini Cooper is even more, starting at nearly $19,000. Let's all keep our eyes on this one! For that price, even Gas Guzzling Die-Hard SUV Owners might be willing to shell out $3,500 on a Nano for at least driving Locally. This could be Good News for our Environment.

You may Wonder why a Cat would be so interested in Cars. But You have to Understand that I have Little to Do all day except stare out the Window. And I Notice Cars. They have become a Hobby of Mine. After all, One must keep Busy.

Of course, a News Roundup wouldn't be Complete without mentioning the release of the Lockerbie bomber. This was Way Before My Time, but my Humans remember when Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, back in 1988. Apparently the Perpetrator, who had been Serving a life sentence, is being released on compassionate grounds because he has Terminal Cancer. Some feel this is Terrible because his Victims didn't get to live out their lives with their Families. On the Other Hand, it depends on whether the purpose of Jail is Revenge or Deterrence. If the Latter, it is probably OK to let him out as he is Unlikely to do More Harm. If it's Revenge, that's a Whole Other Story. What do You All think about this?

Goodness Me, I'm being rather Too Serious today. When I Blog, I usually like to Post a few more Lighthearted Items. How about ending with this, from I Can Has Cheezburger? It pretty much Sums Up How my Female Human and I Feel Lately about the Political Scene!

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Till Next Time, have a Great Week and don't forget to Share your Catnip. We can All Use Some!