Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Haiku Tuesday

Going to New York
As if I were commuting
Makes me very tired.

Two days in a row
I schlepped into the city
One more day to go.

It's fun for a change
Going to a conference
But not for long term.

Today I drove in.
Yesterday I took the train;
Tomorrow, who knows?

Sitting in meetings
No access to internet,
A girl could go mad.

I've learned a few things
And sat through some boring stuff
And eaten too much.

Work will await me
When I'm back at the office
And have to catch up.

My brain is worn out
From getting up earlier
Than I ever do.

No blogging today
But I'll be back very soon
To visit you all!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. It's about Time someone took a New Picture of Me. How do you like it? I think my Eyes look Very Piercing since they are reflecting the Glow of the Flash.

So, here we are, another Week gone. My Female Human has been wasting all her Free Time lately on that stupid Facebook thing. It's One Thing to be reading Blogs, which Stimulate the Mind; it's Quite Another Thing to be taking Stupid Quizzes and posting that you're eating Cereal for Lunch. The only Good Thing she does on that Facebook place is play Scrabble. That is an Intellectual Pursuit.

Be that as it may, at Least on the Weekends she is catching up, because it seems as if on Weekends when people aren't at Work they don't do much on Facebook! What does this say about the Nation's Work Force?

I wanted to tell you about a Nifty Site I discovered while Surfing the Net last night. It's on CNN.com and it is a Complete Summary of the Progress to Date by President Obama. Check it out right here. You can see how much of the Recovery Act went to things like Education or new Energy initiatives, which Bush Policies he reversed, and so on. It's worth a Look!

One of the Things my Female Human is particularly happy about is the digitizing of Medical Records:

"Another component of Obama's plan calls for all health records to be standard and electronic within five years. 'It just won't save billions of dollars and thousands of jobs -- it will save lives by reducing the deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system,' Obama said during a January 2009 speech."

The Doctor my Female Human goes to for her Checkups is Big on electronic Records. She inputs all her Information into a Laptop, she prints out her Prescriptions so the Pharmacist can actually read Them, and she Communicates via e-mail in a System called RelayHealth. My Female Human loves this. Her Doctor can be reached easily and she can even e-mail Prescriptions to Pharmacies in other States if my Humans are on Vacation and need some Pills they Forgot to bring. (Personally, as a Cat, I don't know why they would WANT Pills, but that's their Problem).

But her Other Doctors do not use this System and it is Very Frustrating for her. It's hard to get ahold of them, it's hard to get an Appointment, and so on. My Female Human's Mother's doctor wrote her out a Prescription that was so Hard to Read that the Pharmacist had no idea what it Was.

Moving on. This was an Interesting Week in terms of Stupid Things Done by Authorities. Cases in Point:

A school in Vienna, Virginia has imposed a "No Touch" rule for students. Apparently there had been some Altercations at School - and now Kids aren't allowed to even Hug, High Five or have any other Physical Contact. Doesn't this seem a Bit Much? As a Cat, I have a Large Personal Space and certainly Resent it if someone touches me without my Permission. But if I want to Rub around someone's Ankles, I think that should be MY decision. Same thing with Kids. Positive Touching should be allowed.

Some 13-year-old girls who were Goofing Around taking Pictures in their Underwear are being threatened with Child Pornography charges because the Pictures ended up on Some other Kids' cellphones. Child Pornography? This is Very Silly. After all, their Bras probably cover more than their Bikinis do on the Beach. And they were 13! Apparently they are Supposed to take some Classes teaching them about Sexual Harrassment and some of the Girls and their Parents are Refusing, and have called in the ACLU to defend Them. Good on them, I say! This is all getting Out of Control. Glad we Cats have Fur and don't have to worry about this Sort of Thing.

In other stories, a controversial Announcement was made this week that the building replacing the Destroyed World Trade Center Towers, which was to be called the Freedom Tower, is instead to be named "1 World Trade Center." Personally, I am in Favor of this. "Freedom Tower" was just a bit too George W. Bush-ish for My Taste. Reminded me of "Freedom Fries." False Patriotism. Plus of course it would have been a real Thumbing of the Nose to those who would like to Do Harm, and would probably have made it more Dangerous.

Earlier this Week, it was announced that the Swedish Government has refused to help save Saab, prompting demonstrations in Trollhattan. Guess those Swedes aren't as "Socialist" as everyone thinks! The headline should have read, "Sweden to Saab: Drop Dead!" However, Saab may still survive if Someone buys them. Time will tell. In the Meantime, the 4000 people who work at the factory in Trollhattan are Plenty Worried. Part of the Reason Sweden is so Stubborn about this may be that the Swedish government is just plain Mad at General Motors for Running the Famed Saab Car Company into the Ground with their Lousy Management.

In Better News, the Stock Market is nearing the End of March up over 8%, nearly 600 points. This is a Vast Improvement, although it is Too Soon to tell if it will Continue. The announcement of the President's Plan to Rescue the Banks from their "Toxic Assets" went over well with Wall Street, if not with Everyone Else.

So that's about It for Now. I will continue to scour the Internet for Further News to report to you. In the Meantime, have some Catnip and try not to think about your 401k. Remember, if you were a Cat, you wouldn't have one to begin with and your Life might be a lot Simpler.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Enough with the Misplaced Outrage, Already!

I haven't been commenting much on current events because I am so tired of hearing about everyone's outrage - from the President on down - about the bonuses AIG had the chutzpah to pay their top executives when they were the ones who screwed up the company in the first place. The "populist rage" against this is the talk of the town and I understand the feelings, believe me.

But this is not the biggest problem with AIG. The real problem with AIG is that it was selling companies "insurance" so that they didn't have to worry about losing their money (in simplistic terms). But AIG never had enough money to cover it if anything failed! This isn't selling insurance, it's a scam. So why don't they just indict these people for fraud as they did Bernie Madoff? That is the thing I don't understand.

But another thing that irks me about all of this outrage is that the bonuses are a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the immensity of the total bailout money. They are not the biggest problem we have and too much time is being spent on this issue.

And you know what else? Companies were giving out these outrageous bonuses for years under the Bush administration. No, they weren't companies that received designated "bailouts" from the government. But they certainly received a lot of corporate welfare in terms of tax cuts and other favorable government policies. These companies were still giving out this exorbitant money to executives on the backs of the public and the taxpayers. Where was the outrage then? It seems as long as people were able to drive around in their SUVs and their 401ks were going up, they were able to somehow ignore the growth of the huge deficit between the very rich and the rest of us.

Now that everybody's 401k is in the toilet, suddenly they're "shocked" that AIG conducts business as usual.

Louis to Rick: "I'm shocked - shocked! - to find that gambling has been going on here!"

Gail Collins had a satirical column addressing this all-pervasive anger in the Saturday New York Times. As she put it,

"Angry. So very, very angry. Unable to speak due to mega-anger washing over every pore and fiber of my being. Anger is in. (Hope’s so ... January.)"

She then goes on to talk about all the various things she is "angry" about, finishing with the President.

"Let’s complain about Barack Obama. Why doesn’t he sound angrier? Doesn’t he understand that his job right now is to be the Great Venter?

Sure he keeps saying he’s mad. But you can tell that he secretly thinks it’s crazy to obsess about $165 million in bonuses in a company that’s still got $1.6 trillion in toxic assets to unravel. 'I don’t want to quell that anger. I want to channel our anger in a constructive way,' he said on Wednesday. Everybody knows constructively channeled anger doesn’t really count. It’s like diet pizza."

She then points out that if we had elected McCain we'd be "getting outrage 24/7" and then says:

"Except, of course, the whole reason we elected Barack Obama was because when the economy started melting down, Obama seemed sane and calm while McCain appeared to be a loopy visitor from the Planet of the Overwrought.

I hate it when we make irrational, contradictory demands of our president. But, it seems as if that’s what he’s there for."

Now, if the media could stop hyping up this bonus issue and concentrate on the real problem - how the administration will fix the banks - we'd be in better shape. It's time for us all to get over this - especially since apparently 15 out of 20 high-level AIG executives have given the bonuses back anyway, with more to come.

The bigger concern we should all be worrying about is, will the administration's plans for the economy work? So far, Paul Krugman is not hopeful. In fact, he uses the word "despair." When a Nobel-Prize winning economist says he has a "sense of despair" over the plan, this is not a good thing.

Let's concentrate on the stuff that really matters.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Shhh! Don't say anything, it might jinx it! But we seem to be on an upward trend in the stock market!

Let's hope that's the case, because even though President Obama did not start this recession, the right will use every opportunity to pin it on him if it doesn't end soon. Plus it would be so satisfying if the new administration's efforts start really paying off, to the chagrin of Rush Limbaugh and all the others.

Of course, we can't get overconfident. We're not out of the woods by any means - here is the longer-term picture. And keep in mind that this entire trend is at a new low level only half of what the Dow Jones Index was a year ago.

And now, here are some haiku!

AIG bigwigs
Get millions in bonuses
Everyone is mad.

Senator Grassley
Suggests hari-kiri
Might be a good thing.

Congress is fuming
The President is outraged
Why are they surprised?

Money's coming back
But probably not enough;
They'll tax them instead.

Madoff is in jail
Then they got his auditor;
Now he's out on bail.

The global meltdown
Unmasked a lot of anger
At the very rich.

It may hurt to say,
But we kind of needed this
To come down to earth.

Got rid of some crooks,
And cut back on McMansions,
Made us save some gas.

It will be short-lived
And it won't last forever
But it makes us think.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Some Festive Scenes for a Sunday

Every year we go to the St. Patrick's Day Parade in nearby West Orange. We usually eat out at the diner on Main Street and then find a spot on the street to put our folding chairs and settle in for the long haul. We always either go with friends or meet up with them there, and we often see people we know in the parade, since many of our own town's officials, firemen, policemen, etc., march in the parade as well.

This year was no exception. We headed out at about 11 a.m., along with DH's dad, and arrived at the diner in plenty of time. We finished up just as the parade was getting under way about 20 minutes down the road, and ensconced ourselves with our friends across the street from the diner, where we proceeded to watch and wave as the parade passed by.

For some reason I feel a need to document every West Orange St. Patrick's Day Parade we have attended, so as usual I had my camera with me. Here are some highlights!

Next on the agenda is an evening at the Shillelagh Club seeing our favorite Irish band, Paddy and the Pale Boys and enjoying some good corned beef.

An early Happy St. Patrick's Day greeting to you all!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. I have to apologize for my Female Human's absence this Week. Not only has she been busy at Work but in her Few Free Moments she has developed a new Addiction: the game of Scramble on Facebook. It seems to have a strangely Hypnotic Effect on her and she is not able to stop.

Another Activity that has been taking up her Time is keeping track of Points on Weight Watchers. She joined the Online version of Weight Watchers after deciding Something just had to be Done. She is now Obsessed with keeping track of every Morsel of Food she ingests and carefully inputting it on the Computer.

As a Cat, I don't have that kind of Control over what I eat, since I don't go Outside. I am not very Fussy; my Female Human feeds my a certain type of Dry Food that I find Acceptable and I eat when I'm hungry and that's it. Of course, I have heard my Humans occasionally remark that I am rather Chubby and should lose some weight, but hey, it's not My Problem. It's not as if I nag for Food or anything. Sometimes my dish is empty for a whole Day before I complain! I think I just have a Slow Metabolism!

So, here I am again, trying to help my Human out by Reporting on the Week's News.

This week saw the Culmination of the highly publicized "Feud" between Jon Stewart of The Daily Show and Jim Cramer, who has his own Show about the Stock Market on CNBC. My Humans watched Jon Stewart interview the Cramer Human on his show the other night. It started out relatively Friendly and the Cramer Human was being somewhat Contrite in his comments. But Jon Stewart didn't let him get away! He showed plenty of Clips that showed Mr. Cramer knew the Investors were Up to No Good and put the Cramer Human on the defensive the whole Time. As a Cat, I am not that Up on These Things, but it seemed to Me that the Stewart Human could have been quite an Investigative Reporter had he decided to go that Route instead of Comedy.

In the "Cutting off your Nose to spite your Face" Department, a number of Republican Governors are rejecting money from President Obama's Stimulus Program, in order to show their Staunch Opposition to such "pork barrel" spending. Of course, the funding these Governors are rejecting includes the Funding that would actually help the Unemployed People in their States: money to expand Unemployment Insurance eligibility. I guess they don't think Unemployed People vote. We'll see if it helps them or hurts them in the Next Election.

Let's see, what else is News? Oh yes, I remember Now. Swindler Bernie Madoff pleaded Guilty of running a Ponzi Scheme and was sent Directly to Jail. He did not Pass Go, nor did he Collect $200, as my Female Human likes to say.

By Confessing and Pleading Guilty, my Humans surmise he is trying to Take the Fall for the rest of his Family. It is hard to Believe they didn't know about this Scheme as he contends.

Yesterday my Female Human heard on the Radio about this Day Care in Arkansas that accidentally served Windshield Wiper Fluid to the kids instead of Kool-Aid. I did some Investigation and found this Article about it. Apparently someone put the Container in the Refrigerator thinking it was Kool-Aid and then someone served it to the Kids. Don't Humans know how to read Labels? I thought that was one Skill Humans had that Cats don't. Luckily the Kids are OK, although some were Hospitalized. The Day Care Owner gave up her License.

There is some Good News in Finance this week. The stock market actually went UP this week! It ended up gaining almost 10% for the Week. While it may just be a Blip, it is Encouraging. And we certainly want President Obama to show all those Republicans that his Plans are going to help the Economy so this is a Good Sign that there is a Stirring of Hope.

In Other News, in China, a man jumped into the enclosure where a rare Siberian Tiger was being kept in a Chinese wildlife park and immediately got killed by the resident Tiger. When will People realize that we Cats are Predators and if you Mess with Us, you are taking a Big Risk? I can only hope that the Tiger was not Killed, as that Tiger in San Francisco was.

Here's a happy ending Story for you. A Female Human found a Cat hiding in a Sofa she had bought at a Secondhand Store. After she brought the couch home, she kept hearing a "mewing" sound. Finally she and her Boyfriend discovered a Calico Cat hiding in the Underside of the Couch. The Original Owner of the Couch finally got his Cat, Callie, back, after a Friend heard about it on TV.

On that Note, I will Bid you Adieu (yes, of course, as an Educated Cat, I do know French). Time for La Catnip and a good long Nap. Until next time, I am signing off as Your Friend,

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Thomas Friedman: The Great Disruption

Today's op-ed by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times addresses the unsustainable economy the U.S. and other countries have been holding up for the past decade - and how it cannot continue. He asks the very pertinent question:

"What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: 'No more.'"

The article ties together the unsustainable economy with our unsustainable rape of the environment. Some people don't realize that these two things are inextricably connected. We can't just keep building more stores to sell more junk to more people without using up everything the earth has to offer and leaving it a wasteland.

"Over a billion people today suffer from water scarcity; deforestation in the tropics destroys an area the size of Greece every year — more than 25 million acres; more than half of the world’s fisheries are over-fished or fished at their limit.

'Just as a few lonely economists warned us we were living beyond our financial means and overdrawing our financial assets, scientists are warning us that we’re living beyond our ecological means and overdrawing our natural assets,' argues Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. But, he cautioned, as environmentalists have pointed out: 'Mother Nature doesn’t do bailouts.'"

Continuing to go on pretending that there will always be more oil in the ground is unrealistic. Continuing to chop down forests and replace farmland with more and more strip malls and Wal-Marts is also an unsustainable plan. It is time to really change our ways and use this opportunity to do something new. We may not have a choice.

Frank Rich also discusses the debacle that the policies of the last couple of decades have perpetrated. Discussing Thornton Wilder's classic play, "Our Town," which was first produced in 1938, Rich says:

"Wilder was not a nostalgic, sentimental or jingoistic writer. Grover’s Corners isn’t populated by saints but by regular people, some frivolous and some ignorant and at least one suicidal. But when the narrator evokes a common national good and purpose — unfurling our country’s full name in the rhetorical manner also favored by our current president — you feel the graveyard’s chill wind. It’s a trace memory of an American faith we soiled and buried with all our own nonsense in the first decade of our new century.

Retrieving that faith now requires extraordinary patience and optimism. We’re still working our way through the aftershocks of the orgy of irresponsibility and greed that brought America to this nadir."

He goes on to say...

"The simplest explanation for why America’s reality got so distorted is the economic imbalance that Barack Obama now wants to remedy with policies that his critics deride as “socialist” (“fascist” can’t be far behind): the obscene widening of income inequality between the very rich and everyone else since the 1970s."

No one looking at the stock market trend I posted last week could think, in retrospect, that there was a real reason behind the sudden growth that started a couple of decades ago; it should have been obvious there was something wrong. It wasn't just that there was greater productivity due to a burst of technology; technology had been improving throughout the 20th century. No, it was something more sinister: a change in the purpose of stocks, from investments to gambling chips.

Here is in interesting chart that was done before the crash of 08 - the trend was heading toward the high 5000s, while the "real" market was up to almost 14,000.

Rich points out that in one way, the crash of 2008 has been useful:

"Seen in the cold light of our long hangover, they remind us that it was the America of the bubble that was aberrant and perverse, creating a new normal that wasn’t normal at all."

If we can take this opportunity to retool our country, focus on new renewable energy sources, re-evaluate our priorities, and start working together again, America can survive and become stronger. But if the current atmosphere of divisiveness that the GOP and the Rush Limbaugh minions are trying to perpetuate is allowed to dominate the conversation then this may be the beginning of the end of the United States as a world power.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

A Cat's Eye View

Baxter here. The Humans and That Dog are all Excited that the Weather has improved. It's apparently Warm Out and they are Ecstatic. That Dog barked until my Female Human went out and sat on the Deck with her. Apparently she did not want the Female Human to miss the Good Weather. I, of course, do not go Out so I can only appreciate it through an Open Window. But I get by.

It has been a Heck of a Week around here. My Female Human was inundated at Work and did not have Time to Blog or even Read Blogs, and that makes her Very Cranky. Now it is finally the Weekend and she is Catching Up.

Of course, much of this Week's news was generated by that Idiot, Rush Limbaugh. Christopher inquired whether I was going to cover this Subject. A lot of other Good Bloggers have already talked about this Idiotic Blowhard. I find Margaret and Helen already covered him rather Thoroughly so I don't Need to Reinvent the Wheel here. I will quote a couple of Gems from their Blog Post:

"Margaret, do me a favor and ask that Republican husband of yours a quick question: During this very difficult time for the country, who does he want in charge? A Harvard law graduate and former constitutional law professor, or a disc jockey with a drug addiction who flunked out of college, divorced three wives and publicly made fun of a disabled person? Because that is the choice we have between Barack Obama as leader of the free world and Rush Limbaugh as leader of the Republican party."

Truly the Republican Party is in a Terrible State. As a Liberal Cat, this makes me Smile and my Whiskers Bristle with Pleasure. As Margaret and Helen point out, the GOP does not have Much to Work With:

"Truly it must be embarrassing to admit to being a Republican these days. Just look at your current list of alternative leaders to Limbaugh:

The Governor of Louisiana could barely form a complete sentence much less a meaningful metaphor. The Governor of Alaska couldn’t handle an interview with Katie “What magazines do you read?” Couric. Ann Coulter opens her mouth and instantly inserts a size 17 foot. Karl Rove’s nickname in the Oval Office was Turd Blossom. And finally, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are so corrupt that their votes can be purchased for less money than a whore with lockjaw."

Please go read the Rest of the Post as it is all Wonderfully Written and so true.

In Other News, of course, is the Stock Market. I found an Article on CNN.com that talks about how "Animal Spirits" move the stock market. Basically it says that people hear things from one another, or the Media, and this can cause Booms and Busts. All very well, I suppose, but don't blame "Animal Spirits" for it. We Animals are a lot Smarter than that. We don't put any of our Investments in these things you call Markets. That Dog keeps all her Jolly Balls where she can see them at all times, on her Bed. And of course My Toys are all in My Room where they belong except for the Few that I carry around the House to play with. After all, we do need to have some Liquidity.

It certainly has been a Rough Week on Wall Street, though, for those poor Humans who still have any Money left in Stocks. Although the Market was Up on Friday it was not anything to Write Home about since it ended at just over 6600, which is a pretty Paltry Amount. Apparently it could go Even Lower - there are still many Humans Selling Short as they call it.

In a more Cheerful Bit of News, Oprah has a New Puppy named Sadie, which she showed off on her TV show. I was glad to hear that the Puppy came from a Shelter. Although I am not a Fan of That Dog that Lives with Me, this one looks kind of Cute. Maybe if That Dog had been a Puppy when it Came I might have been able to Bend her to my Will before she got So Big. Oh well, no use Meowing over Spilt Cream. Here's a Picture of Oprah with her Puppy:
Now let's take a Look at what President Obama has been up to recently. I think it's All Good, personally. This site has a pretty good list of what he has done so far, including signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the expansion of Children's Healthcare, the decision to work to Reverse the Bush Conscience Law (which would have enabled Workers to refuse to provide any Service they didn't believe in), and he's Cracking Down on costly Defense Contracts, and will end no-bid contracts with these folks.

This doesn't even include the improvements in Environmental Policies. With Obama's Backing, there is actual hope for global action on Climate Change. And the Stimulus Bill includes a lot of good Stuff about Alternative Energy incentives.

Another accomplishment was as soon after taking Office as February 4th, the Administration cancelled a bunch of leases that would have allowed Oil Drillers to drill near Arches National Park.

And, Good News - Science is back. President Obama is going to change the Rules for Stem Cell Research and no longer limit Federal Funding for this Important Research. It is to be announced on Monday.

I could Go On, but you get the Picture. This is what Change Looks Like. Anyone who says it didn't matter whether Barack Obama or John McCain got elected is Sadly Deluded!

Well, that's my News for the Week. I'm going to go Snort some Catnip and take a Nap. So until Next Time, play it Safe and Hold On to your Jolly Balls.

I think I'll use this excuse next time

Since I've already gone through the traffic, overslept, had a headache, and other reasons....
funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Baxter will be popping in tomorrow with his take on the week's news. Sorry for the sparsity (is that a word?) of blog posts this week - life was getting in the way!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Eek! This is Not Looking Good for my Retirement!

According to the NY Times, as of now the Dow Jones has fallen well below 7,000 and isn't showing any signs of coming back up, although the day is not over. It didn't look any better overnight from Europe and Asia, either.

On the bright side, the March snowstorm that hit our area didn't dump quite as much snow on us as forecast. We got about 6 inches maximum. And the beautiful thing is, the forecast was so dire that our company's president called a snow day for today before a single flake had fallen. So we are all working at home and looking at the snow outside our windows.

Hope everyone is enjoying the snow, where it has fallen, and having a good day elsewhere.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Haiku Sunday

I see naked trees
Against the leaden gray skies
Snow is on the way.

The first day of March
We should be entering spring
The groundhog was right.

Six weeks of winter
It's continuing for sure
Up to twelve inches.

I'm sick of winter
Sick of shoveling the snow
And walking on ice.

Tired of winter clothes
Bulky sweaters, shoes and socks;
Give me my flip-flops.

I want to wear shorts
And a comfy loose t-shirt
And sit on my deck.

The dog is barking
She's sick of the winter too
She wants to be out.

We're stuck in the house
Until winter is over
So when will it end?