Thursday, January 29, 2009

More Good Stuff Happening

Sorry for my lack of posts this week, I have been holed up at a focus group facility watching one-on-one interviews with users of our Product. In order to keep the anonymity of the Not-Quite-As-Big Corporation I cannot reveal the identity of the Product but I can say that listening to four people a day talk about it for 90 minutes each can wear on a person. So much so that the person has no energy to blog when they get home.

Be that as it may, I did want to say that now that we are well into President Obama's second week in office, I am continuing to be thrilled with what he is accomplishing already.

This is a picture of the President today as he signed the equal pay legislation called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Ms. Ledbetter, whom the Supreme Court had ruled against in her suit regarding inequality of pay, is standing next to the President. (Picture courtesy of the NY Times)

From the Times:

“'It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness,” the president said.

He said was signing the bill not only in honor of Ms. Ledbetter — who stood behind him, shaking her head and clasping her hands in seeming disbelief — but in honor of his own grandmother, 'who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up again' and for his daughters, 'because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams.'”

President Obama also did not hesitate today to dress down Wall Street for giving out billions of dollars in bonuses to the very geniuses that helped run their companies into the ground and be forced to ask for billions in government bailouts.

"'That is the height of irresponsibility,' Mr. Obama said angrily. 'It is shameful, and part of what we’re going to need is for folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility.'"

It's good to see a president who actually calls these people on their profligate ways.

Of course, looking at the bonuses as a whole (rather than individually), due to the job losses on Wall Street the total amount of money being given in bonuses is actually 50% lower than last year, dropping to the lowest level since 2002. This does not bode well for New York State and New York City, which depend heavily on this money for tax revenues. Seems you can't win no matter what.

In other good stuff, Former Governor Rod Blagojevich has finally been convicted by the Illinois Senate in his impeachment trial. His last minute whirlwind tour of the talk show circuit, as well as a final "closing argument" at the trial, apparently did not change any minds, since the Senate voted unanimously to remove him from office.

I am not at all positive that the criminal case that is to follow will reach the same conclusions, as it is possible that nothing he actually did was illegal. A person can't be put in jail simply for running his mouth, as DH says. Blago claims his quotes are being taken "out of context." It's certainly possible. I guess we'll find out when that case comes to trial. But in the meantime maybe, just maybe, we won't have to listen to him anymore for awhile? And yes, that would be a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say.

Now if we could just stop hearing about Sarah Palin, life would be really good. But she doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The First Week of the New Era of Hope

I haven't been in the mood much to post this week because everything is going so well. The euphoria of President Obama's inauguration hasn't worn off yet and there is very little to complain about so far.

DH and I took Inauguration Day off and spent it celebrating the inauguration. We attended a gathering of like-minded Democrats at a local restaurant to watch the inauguration. I brought my camera, as did a number of other people. I didn't get very many good shots of anything but here are a couple that didn't turn out that badly.

Here is a view of some of the attendees raptly watching the wide-screen TV, and another of the TV when President Obama was taking the oath of office.

I have been happy to see that President Obama has immediately begun carrying out some of his promises, such as signing executive orders to close Guantanamo, implementing ethics rules regarding lobbyists, pledging a more open and transparent government, and more. He is working on getting the economic stimulus plan through Congress and reaching out in a bi-partisan way to Republicans even though the GOP doesn't really need to sign off on this bill in order for it to pass.

People are feeling hopeful and his approval ratings so far are very high - in fact, at 83%, substantially higher than either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton at the end of their respective transition periods.

Not everything is perfect, and we need to keep an eye on things. For instance, President Obama has waived the effect of his ethics rule for one particular appointment - his deputy defense secretary.

Rachel Maddow has started a segment called "Scrub, Rinse, Repeat," which chronicles the steps President Obama is taking to reverse the worst abuses of the Bush administration. She is also keeping an eye on lapses such as the above appointment that don't quite live up to the ideals the President is espousing.

She has also noted in a recent show that the stimulus bill doesn't have as much spending on infrastructure as he makes it sound. We can all hope that the tax breaks that are included may be cut back somewhat in order to allow more spending where it will really make a difference. Getting GOP support for the bill isn't as important as getting the bill right, as she points out.

In terms of foreign policy, apparently China is annoyed because of a couple of things that have been said. The Chinese powers that be cut off the President's inaugural address to their television viewers when he mentioned that Americans had "faced down communism" and a later remark about the Chinese possibly manipulating their currency (made by Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner regarding a belief of the President's) didn't go over very well either. But this is a minor speed bump and I'm sure as the administration gets its sea legs this will be smoothed over. Perhaps Hillary will go to China and make nice to them!

All in all it has been a good first week and I am feeling very optimistic. I had forgotten what it felt like to have a President I could actually believe in, someone that seems to know what he's doing. It is very refreshing.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We've Come a Long Way

A friend sent me this video and I thought it was worth posting here. It's fascinating to watch the faces of all of our past presidents morph from one to the other and finally culminate with our 44th President, Barack Obama.

We are finally down to the last day. As of noon tomorrow, Change will be here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Six Random Things Meme

Thanks to Liberality, I have been tagged with the meme that is making the rounds in recent days: The Six Random Things Meme. Here are the rules:

The Rules
1. Link to the person who tagged you. That would be Liberality!
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

OK, so here are six random things about me:

1. When I'm commenting on blogs, I smile. DH looks at me and says "What on earth are you grinning about while you're typing?" And I get indignant and say "I'm not 'grinning.' I'm smiling. Because I'm TALKING to someone, that's why!" (As Lisa would say!)

2. Everybody who knows me personally knows this about me, but some of you out in the blogworld may not know it yet. I am always late for everything. I started as early as age five when I distinctly remember walking into kindergarten late and having one of my little friends call me a "late bird." I probably take after my mother, whom I always remember sitting there drinking her coffee and having a cigarette while my father had his coat and hat on, pacing, waiting for her to be ready to leave for wherever they were going.

I've been a "late bird" all my life and not likely to change now. I have tried, believe me. At work I used to get chastised for being late and I'd try to reform myself and rush to get there on time. It would work for maybe a week or two but then I'd start to slip. I finally decided being on time was impossible to achieve. Sure, I can do it once or twice (for a particular meeting or to catch a plane, for instance). But not on a regular basis.

For one thing, it was dangerous. I'd be rushing to get there and would run red lights or have to slam on my brakes at the last minute. I also always ended up working late hours because that is when my brain kicks in and I get most of my work done. I am not a big believer in working insane hours at work. Let others get promotions and become Directors and whatnot; my holy grail is the mythical "work-life balance" people talk about. I work a full day's work and more when I'm there, but I come in late and leave late, and check e-mails from home. Finally, my current boss understands me and doesn't care when I get there as long as I'm getting my job done. Thank goodness, I can finally be me! (It also helps that I am now old enough to retire so I have nothing to lose!)

3. I am an antique car buff. I've always been interested in history and old things, so it figures I'd like old cars too. I particularly love cars from the 1930's like the Cord and the Auburn (see here for some nice pictures), but I like the 60's "muscle cars" too.

I used to own a 1955 DeSoto (that's a story for another day). It was being kept at my mother's house in the garage there - but when Mom moved to the senior citizens apartment building down the street from us two years ago, we sold it.

4. As you probably realize, I care a lot about animals, wildlife and nature. I would love to have a whole bunch of cats and more than one dog, but it just isn't feasible right now. For one thing I can't imagine having more than one dog in bed with us; Diva takes up most of the bed as it is! Plus it would be tough to walk more than one Pit Bull Terrier at a time, much as we'd like to rescue another of Diva's kind.

When I was a kid our family usually had several cats; the most we had at once was four. But they were indoor-outdoor cats so they managed to stake out their own territories and they all got along OK. I'm not sure Baxter would appreciate having another cat in his domain. Maybe someday we'll adopt a couple of cats together and see how that goes.

5. I am a dedicated Star Trek fan, mostly of the Original Series. I have seen every one of those episodes so many times I could probably recite them verbatim. The reason I like the Original Series, no matter how hokey it sometimes was, is how idealistic the stories were, and how Star Trek's creator, Gene Roddenberry, was trying to influence the present with his vision of the future. Star Trek had officers of all races and backgrounds on the show (including the half-Human Vulcan Mr. Spock), and the stories all had a message. When my mother was moving and I was cleaning out my old bedroom I found a notebook where I had written down what I thought the "moral" of each episode of Star Trek was!

6. DH and I have had only one microwave oven for the past 24 years. It was a General Electric model given to me by the marketing department of my job as a gift for our upcoming wedding. It still had a dial instead of digital controls. It died last night and we had to go buy a new one today. It's another GE, but we had to come into the 21st century and get one with digital controls. Oh well, I'm sure we'll get used to it.

So that's my six random things. It's going to be hard to tag six people who haven't already gotten this meme so I'll just tag a few:

Annette at Just My Little Piece of the World
TheMom at Attentive Aphorist
Deb at Drivin' 55

Have fun everyone!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. It's been a Very Long Week. My Female Human has been so busy at that place she goes to every day that she hasn't been getting Home until 8:30 at Night! And after that she tells me she's "too Tired" to help me Type my Blog Post. Humph! The Nerve. After all, I would be the one doing all the Work, thinking of the Profound Thoughts to post.

Well, be that as it may, I'm finally here, so I hope you are all Grateful for THAT. There were so many good Stories this week that I wanted to share with you. Some of them may be Old Hat now but I will mention them anyway.

First, of course, I have to talk about that amazing Landing that the U.S. Airways pilot made in the Hudson River! It is Fantastic that all 155 Humans made it off that plane alive and all but one weren't even hurt! The pilot was 57 years old and very Experienced. My Female Human thought pilots were still required to retire at 60 but when I did a little Research I found that actually they raised the age to 65 about a year ago. That is Good News because whenever you hear about a Pilot doing some Great Thing they always tend to be 59-1/2 and about to retire.

In Other News, I am happy to have heard that the Obama Human, whom I now refer to as the President-Elect, has made some Very Encouraging Statements recently in terms of what he intends to do as President. For instance:

The President-Elect's Press Secretary very clearly said that Yes, the Obama administration would end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and allow gays to serve Openly in the Armed Forces.

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson has been chosen to give the invocation at the opening event of the Inauguration. This is Good News because Bishop Robinson is openly gay. While it may not Make Up for President-Elect Obama picking Rev. Rick Warren to give the Invocation at the Inaugural Ceremony, it Can't Hurt.

The President-Elect's advisers have stated that President-Elect Obama will issue an executive order to close the Guantanamo prison immediately upon becoming President.

Eric Holder, nominated to be the Attorney General, stated succinctly that waterboarding is indeed Torture and that President-Elect Obama will issue an executive order on new interrogation policy during his first Week as President.

So Things are Looking Up! I know some have been getting Nervous about what the Obama Human will really Do when he becomes President. But so far, so Good. We shall see if he follows through on All of his Promises.

Something else to cheer us up: Finally, this Weekend begins the Inaugural Celebrations. President-Elect Obama is on his way to Washington by Train, the same way Lincoln came to Washington. It seems as if it has taken Forever for the current President to just GO AWAY and let the new one take Over. Finally the Time has Come!

In Other News, Israel has announced they will declare a Cease-Fire in their Conflict with Hamas. Apparently they think they have Done enough Damage to Gaza - for Now.

You know, as a Cat, I have a certain Viewpoint about the whole Israeli-Arab conflict. And it applies to India and Pakistan too. From what I understand, that country called Great Britain used to own these Lands and when they decided to let them go, they figured they'd make some Improvements. So they declared a certain amount of Land should become the Jewish Homeland of Israel, making that a Jewish State and separating the Jews from the Arabs. Over in India they divided up India based on Religion and made the Muslim part of it become Pakistan. Maybe I'm OverSimplifying things, but this didn't seem to work out very Well.

Seems to Me, people get along better if they live Next Door to each other. You put up a Wall, and suddenly they don't get along.

It's a lot like Cats and Dogs. As you know, I live with That Dog, and while I am not at ALL fond of her, I Tolerate her. She doesn't bother Me all that much and we live in Relative Harmony. But if she sees a Strange Cat in the Yard, she chases it! Some Cats that live with Dogs actually like their personal Dogs. But if a Strange Dog came along, they would Puff Up and Hiss and possibly jump on the Dog's head and ride it down the Street. So what I am saying is, Familiarity leads to Friendship, or at least Tolerance. But Divisions lead to Hatred and Discord. I don't know what the Solution is, but I think we can All agree that we should blame the Problem on the British Empire and anyone else involved in these Decisions. I'm sure Everyone Meant Well at the Time but sometimes there are Unexpected Consequences. (No offense meant to any of my British Fans!)

Let's see, what Else has been Happening? Oh yes, some of you might not have heard THIS story. It's a Winner. Seems some Guy on Long Island gave his Wife a Kidney while they were married. Now things aren't Going So Well and they're getting Divorced - and now he wants it Back! (She's had the thing since 2001, so is probably quite Attached to it).

Apparently the Husband thinks the Wife cheated on him and so he's saying he wants the Kidney back or else a settlement for $1.5 million! She says she didn't Cheat and anyway she could've gotten a Kidney from one of her Relatives so it wasn't worth what he said it was. Sheesh, these Humans. They are Very Strange.

Well, that's about it for This Week. If I find any New Tidbits I'll be sure to share them with you. For now I think it's time for my Dinner so I have to go Meow at my Humans and Complain because my Dish is Empty.

Enjoy the Inaugural Festivities and have some Catnip! See you all Next Week!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Haiku Wednesday

Too busy to blog
So I'll resort to haiku
Better than nothing!

Work is too busy
But I really can't complain
Employment is good.

Baxter is Annoyed,
His patience is wearing thin
It's his turn to blog!

Diva is barking
She wants to go up to bed
Countdown is still on.

Must go upstairs
In time for the Daily Show
So good night to all!

OK, I know this is lame but I am burned out from work! I'm hoping things will calm down in the next day or so but in the meantime here is a LOLCat for your amusement.

This is truly the way cats think, as Baxter would certainly agree. In his case, he just has to get up on the desk between me and the computer screen. He's a very 21st century cat.

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Changes in the Old Sidebar (Housekeeping!)

With the invention of Blogger's blog feed feature, I have been gradually converting more and more of my blog links into feeds. I'm noticing I'm much more apt to be reading the blogs that pop up at the top of the list due to a new update, so I thought it would be a good idea to convert as many as possible to this format.

I know the whole "following" thing is supposed to enable more immediate readership as well but I just find if I'm checking my blog for comments I see the links at my sidebar and that's when I tend to read other blogs. I know I'm doing it wrong. But what can I do, I'm a bad blogger.

I also wanted to add some more blogs to the list (found some good ones over at Enigma's place in her blog roundup the other day). So what I've done is have the feeds just display the most recent title instead of a whole snippet to save space, and added a lot more feeds instead of links. I've also reclassified a couple of blogs from the list that I am now calling "progressive" and put them in the next section as their focus isn't as political as the ones in the progressive group. I find it very hard to categorize a lot of blogs and maybe I should just put them all together but I do try to have some kind of categorization going on. Take it with a grain of salt and if anyone feels their blog belongs somewhere other than where I have it, please let me know as these categories are very vague!

Those links that haven't been converted to feeds are blogs that aren't updated frequently, have been taken private, aren't being updated anymore but are being kept on the list for their archives, or blogs that for some reason don't seem to have an automatic feed. (If yours is one of the latter, please let me know if there is some way I can include it into the feeds that I'm not aware of).

I also took off a few links that I really haven't been reading (Dooce for instance). I don't think Dooce needs a link from my tiny little blog to keep her popularity going! And, I'm sad to say, I removed my own mother's blog, as she hasn't updated it since last July! (If she gets back into the mood I can add it back again!)

If anyone's blog got deleted inadvertently, please comment or e-mail me and let me know and I'll add it back in! And of course, if I don't have your blog on the sidebar and you'd like me to add it, please let me know. If I haven't done it yet it's probably just because I'm lazy!

So that's the scoop. If you see a new blog over on the sidebar that you haven't read before, hope you enjoy it!

Baxter will be back tomorrow with his take on the past week's events. Have a wonderful rest of the weekend!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

An Unnecessary Distraction

The Democrats, as usual, are coming across like a bunch of quarreling children; or possibly people with a bad case of multiple personality disorder.

Harry Reid has been fighting the appointment of Burris because of the "taint" that his appointment to the Senate has by being made by not-yet-indicted Governor Blagojevich; while others have been questioning whether he has the legal right to do so. And now, Dianne Feinstein has said Burris should be seated. (And let's be honest, she is probably right).

In the meantime, on a separate issue, Feinstein had gotten into a snit about President-Elect Obama's appointment of Leon Panetta as head of the CIA because she hadn't been consulted about it - and VP-elect Biden agreed with her that it was "a mistake"!

Now, she says she approves of the appointment - but only after Obama apologized to her.

Democrats need to act like the Republicans have acted over the past 8 years. In unison. It wasn't until about a year ago that cracks in the GOP solidarity started really breaking open, when GOP members realized that aligning with Bush wasn't helping their own political chances. Until then, they were all for one and one for all. It's a lesson the Democrats need to learn.

President-Elect Obama is more open to other people's ideas than most presidents we've had, so it's not as if he won't be consulting with other Democrats throughout his tenure as President. And right now, in the very beginning before he's even officially President, if he occasionally overlooks some political protocol and doesn't consult with someone in the Senate before doing something, he should not be publicly criticized by his own team. This is madness.

As for Burris, seat the man already! We do not need these distractions. The country is going down the tubes! This just doesn't matter!

The Democrats are letting this story completely take over the airwaves and distract everyone from the fact that President-Elect Obama is having a very orderly transition and is already working on the economic disaster in which we find ourselves. Today he had a very bipartisan and statesmanlike meeting with all of the living former presidents, and I'd much rather the press be focusing on this story than Burris.

And now the news media are playing up the denial of Mr. Burris as racism! To say nothing of Bobby Rush (D-IL), whose accusations of racism were even more inflammatory. Of all the ridiculous things to be talking about, this takes the cake. Obviously racism has nothing to do with the situation but who needs this kind of notoriety? Certainly not the Democrats!

The Democrats need to seat Burris, and NOW. Get the conversation off of this harmless man, who apparently did not pay Blago for his Senate appointment, and get on with business.

Burris is a Democrat. It's not as if he's going to tip the scales in the Senate toward the GOP. He is only filling out Obama's term, which ends in 2010. True, it would be good if the person filling the seat is re-elected in 2010, but let's not worry about that right now. The Democrats must learn to move on! They have much more important things to be worrying about - like passing President-Elect Obama's stimulus package! Because if the economy is still in the toilet in 2010, NO Democrats are going to elected at that mid-term election!

End of rant.

Monday, January 05, 2009

So Far, Not So Good in 2009

Well, here we are in a brand new year. At first I was feeling good about 2009. The stock market actually went up on Friday! Obama is to be inaugurated on the 20th. Life was good.

But now Israel is in an all-out war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip with no end in sight, and Bill Richardson has decided not to pursue the nomination for Secretary of Commerce due to some possibly shady dealings for which he is being investigated.

(What is it with these people? Can't any of them just be on the up-and-up? And don't get me started on John Edwards! Lucky neither of them won the Democratic nomination!)

And there are even some issues with Hillary being tied in with some developer who later gave money to Bill's foundation. (Of course we knew THAT would happen).

According to the NY Times,

"An upstate New York developer donated $100,000 to former President Bill Clinton’s foundation in November 2004, around the same time that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton helped secure millions of dollars in federal assistance for the businessman’s mall project."

I'm sure this will come up during her confirmation hearings...

And in the meantime, the Blago mess continues - Burris is insisting that he is a legitimate appointee and Senator Harry Reid appeared on "Meet the Press" and asserted the Senate has the authority to block the appointment.

Personally, I think Reid hasn't actually got a leg to stand on since the Supreme Court determined Adam Clayton Powell had to be seated back in 1969, but hey, it's worth a shot.

David Gregory pressed Reid pretty hard, pointing out that Blagojevich hadn't even been indicted yet:

"MR. GREGORY: But he is still legally the governor. He's doing business. He's been accused but not convicted of anything, and not even formally accused. And there's, there's nothing suggesting that the appointment was at all illegal."

Reid's response did not address this issue at all - he avoided it completely by pointing out that Illinois Congressman Danny Davis was offered the job and declined, which did not answer the question of whether the appointment of Burris was legal or not. I guess the controversy will continue.

Back to Israel - I'm beginning to think Joe Biden was right - that Obama is now going to be "tested" with an international crisis just as he predicted. In fact, the crisis has already begun before Obama even takes office. Just what he needed.

As for my own opinion about the situation in Israel...I am a supporter of Israel. I'm half Jewish and my mother (the non-Jewish parent) is a dedicated Zionist.

However, I feel they have gone too far in terms of civilian casualties and I am very distressed by what is happening in Gaza. According to the Associated Press:

" militant casualties were seen Monday by an Associated Press reporter at Shifa Hospital, the Gaza Strip's largest. Instead, the hospital was overwhelmed with civilians. Bodies were two to a morgue drawer, and the wounded were being treated in hallways because beds were full.

Gaza health officials reported more than 550 Palestinian dead and about 2,500 wounded since Israel began the campaign 10 days ago, including 200 civilians. U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes told reporters in New York on Monday that U.N. officials believe at least 500 people have been killed in the fighting and that as many as 25 percent are civilians.

At least 20 Palestinian children were killed during the day, said Dr. Moaiya Hassanain, a health official. Most confirmed deaths have been civilians....

Five Israelis have been killed during the offensive, including a soldier in the ground operation."

550 Palestinians vs. 5 Israelis. Something is wrong here. Yes, Israel has a right to defend itself. But this seems to be going too far.

I hope when Obama takes office he will work hard to broker peace there. As if he didn't have enough to do already.

Well, this has been a rather disjointed and depressing post but I am feeling a bit out of sorts so far this year, and we have 360 days to go. I hope I'll have something more positive to talk about in my next post!

Happy New Year! I hope....