Thursday, July 31, 2008

44 lb. cat ends up in New Jersey shelter

Video here.

Obama rebuts

McCain attacks

See here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Earthquake story from NBC Nightly News

'Slow News Day' (like yesterday)

Here's Digby:

I guess there aren't any white women missing or something because this ongoing coverage of the earthquake in LA is just mindboggling.

I was sitting at my desk and said to myself "Oh, we're having an earthquake." No car alarms went off, the dogs didn't bark and nothing happened. My husband and my cat were both napping and neither one of them even woke up, so it's not exactly The Big One. It's worth a mention and maybe a little follow-up but that's it. It wasn't LA 94 or SF 89 or Alaska 64. I went through two of those. It was just a mild shaker.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What George Bush hath wrought: 'Strained by war, U.S. Army promotes unqualified soldiers'

"A Salon investigation reveals that a shortage of skilled sergeants has led to dubious promotions for inexperienced soldiers -- even jeopardizing some operations in Iraq." Story here.

Not a good day vis-a-vis the kitchen project

See here if this interests you (it's a diary on the progress--or lack thereof--of the kitchen remodel).

Tuesday pix

So much for "Lucky-proofing" the terrace. Here he is negotiating the 4" wide strip of floor that lies outside the glass railing. Glad we're only one floor up from the pool deck. (I shot this pic through the sliding glass door.) The cats like to lie on the throw rugs. (Sorry they don't match.)

I heard a minor skirmish after I got home from work. To evade Bootsy, Lucky jumped up on the tallest cabinet. I'm still going to keep him shut up in my bedroom while I'm at work, at least for a while longer.

Something completely different

Monday, July 28, 2008

Design Star

I don't think I'm not going to vote in this competition. For me, it's pretty much a draw. I tend to favor Jennifer, however, since she's more artistic, and I didn't care for Matt's last design. I found it kind of clunky. But I think he would be a good TV host (maybe a bit better than Jennifer). (I think he's slightly more articulate.) But they're both good.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Kitchen project update, etc.

Update here. I hope the project will resume this week. I've been living with a gutted-out kitchen for over three weeks now. It's getting old.

I shouldn't really complain, however. Tonight I was watching Design Star (the last competition, between the two finalists). Their design project was to redo the kitchen and living area for two New Orleans families (with each finalist redoing one family's space). Since Hurricane Katrina happened, a lot of people in New Orleans still don't have their homes back to normal, and it's been almost three years now. The families in tonight's show had eight or so feet of flood water standing in their homes, which destroyed everything on the main floor.

Things went pretty well this weekend vis-a-vis the cats, but I'm still going to shut Lucky up in my bedroom while I'm at work. Otherwise I'd worry too much about him, not that anything would happen. But Bootsy still catches him off-guard and scares him. He's still just a big kitten (with a high-pitched kitten meow). This weekend I left them alone together when I went out to eat or ran errands, but I'm not comfortable yet with leaving them alone together for hours on end.

Lucky photographs well. What do you think?

Tabby chic

(Click on photo to enlarge.)

McCain all over the place on Iraq withdrawal

(If video "no longer available," link here.)

Good night!

Bootsy's on the bed. Lucky's on the couch. It's getting late. I should never have had that coffee at Starbucks. But that's OK. It's Saturday night. The thrill of it. Hopefully the cats will let me sleep late. I've already closed the bathroom door, so Bootsy can't corner Lucky in there and attack him (and wake me up). We'll see how it goes.

I did a lot of work in Photoshop on this photo, by the way. Originally it looked like this:

'Analysis: US now winning Iraq war that seemed lost'

This is good news. (No mention of the "surge.") Too bad Bush went there in the first place and killed so many people for no reason (including 4100 U.S. soldiers). Story here.

The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost. Limited, sometimes sharp fighting and periodic terrorist bombings in Iraq are likely to continue, possibly for years. But the Iraqi government and the U.S. now are able to shift focus from mainly combat to mainly building the fragile beginnings of peace — a transition that many found almost unthinkable as recently as one year ago.

Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government.

That does not mean the war has ended or that U.S. troops have no role in Iraq. It means the combat phase finally is ending, years past the time when President Bush optimistically declared it had. The new phase focuses on training the Iraqi army and police, restraining the flow of illicit weaponry from Iran, supporting closer links between Baghdad and local governments, pushing the integration of former insurgents into legitimate government jobs and assisting in rebuilding the economy.

Scattered battles go on, especially against al-Qaida holdouts north of Baghdad. But organized resistance, with the steady drumbeat of bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and ambushes that once rocked the capital daily, has all but ceased.

This amounts to more than a lull in the violence. It reflects a fundamental shift in the outlook for the Sunni minority, which held power under Saddam Hussein. They launched the insurgency five years ago. They now are either sidelined or have switched sides to cooperate with the Americans in return for money and political support.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told The Associated Press this past week there are early indications that senior leaders of al-Qaida may be considering shifting their main focus from Iraq to the war in Afghanistan. . . .

Systematic sectarian killings have all but ended in the capital, in large part because of tight security and a strategy of walling off neighborhoods purged of minorities in 2006. . . .

'What’s Lurking in Your Countertop?'

NYT story here. (Emphasis added.)

SHORTLY before Lynn Sugarman of Teaneck, N.J., bought her summer home in Lake George, N.Y., two years ago, a routine inspection revealed it had elevated levels of radon, a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. So she called a radon measurement and mitigation technician to find the source.

“He went from room to room,” said Dr. Sugarman, a pediatrician. But he stopped in his tracks in the kitchen, which had richly grained cream, brown and burgundy granite countertops. His Geiger counter indicated that the granite was emitting radiation at levels 10 times higher than those he had measured elsewhere in the house.

“My first thought was, my pregnant daughter was coming for the weekend,” Dr. Sugarman said. When the technician told her to keep her daughter several feet from the countertops just to be safe, she said, “I had them ripped out that very day,” and sent to the state Department of Health for analysis. The granite, it turned out, contained high levels of uranium, which is not only radioactive but releases radon gas as it decays. “The health risk to me and my family was probably small,” Dr. Sugarman said, “but I felt it was an unnecessary risk.”

As the popularity of granite countertops has grown in the last decade — demand for them has increased tenfold, according to the Marble Institute of America, a trade group representing granite fabricators — so have the types of granite available. For example, one source, Graniteland (graniteland.com) offers more than 900 kinds of granite from 63 countries. And with increased sales volume and variety, there have been more reports of “hot” or potentially hazardous countertops, particularly among the more exotic and striated varieties from Brazil and Namibia.

“It’s not that all granite is dangerous,” said Stanley Liebert, the quality assurance director at CMT Laboratories in Clifton Park, N.Y., who took radiation measurements at Dr. Sugarman’s house. “But I’ve seen a few that might heat up your Cheerios a little.” . . .

The E.P.A. recommends taking action if radon gas levels in the home exceeds 4 picocuries per liter of air (a measure of radioactive emission); about the same risk for cancer as smoking a half a pack of cigarettes per day. In Dr. Sugarman’s kitchen, the readings were 100 picocuries per liter. In her basement, where radon readings are expected to be higher because the gas usually seeps into homes from decaying uranium underground, the readings were 6 picocuries per liter. . . .

Wow. Glad I didn't choose granite for the kitchen. (It's bad enough that I smoke.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cat report

Another altercation in my bathroom. This time, early on Saturday morning, while I was sound asleep. Got up and dumped a glass of water on Bootsy. Then he tried to "make nice" with me and I totally ignored him. I'm not amused. He gets no positive reinforcement from me (and will get none for a while).

Now I'm thinking--this is the only place in the apartment where Bootsy can really corner Lucky. So this morning I got up and removed all stored kitchen items from the floor, closed the lid on the toilet (I'd left it open for Lucky's amusement), and cleared off the top of the tank. Now Lucky has two more surfaces on which to jump up. (I'd already cleared the top of the vanity where the sink is.)

(Maybe I'll close off the bathroom entirely and put Lucky's cat box somewhere else. Just a thought.)

From now on, Lucky will go to bed with me at night and the door will be closed to keep Bootsy out. Update (Sunday): Rather than do that, I'll try closing the bathroom door at night before I go to bed. If Lucky needs to use the cat box, he knows where the other ones are (and uses them, too). And he won't be cornered by Bootsy.

These altercations are mostly a lot of noise--neither cat has front claws. Nasty as these spats sound, Lucky recovers quickly. I'm a little less resilient and forgiving. (I'm the adult in the house.)

In sum, Lucky's been here a week now and appears to be happy, despite Bootsy's hostility (which was to be expected). He and I have bonded nicely. I don't expect (and never really expected) any great friendship to develop between Bootsy and Lucky. But maybe Bootsy's heart will soften a little. Bootsy's had a complicated life. I don't even know all the ins and outs of it. B. ultimately abandoned him here to shack up with the security guard, and then Lucy died. So I do have a lot of compassion, and Bootsy is essentially a loving cat. At least he loves me and shows it. And I do love him too, and he knows it. We've been together for five years.

'McCain's embarrassing assertions on the Iraq surge'

This is important, considering today McCain smeared Obama for not voting for the surge (and thus being unpatriotic, defeatist, and unsupportive of the troops). I'm sure Obama will set the record straight when he gets back to the States, if he deems it necessary. (Maliki has already backed Obama's timetable for withdrawal, so maybe it's not even worth addressing.) Salon article by Joe Conason here.

"The surge worked."

So insistently do the media's mainstream and conservative commentators repeat the Iraq success meme -- echoing the mantra of George W. Bush and John McCain -- that to probe its premises and assumptions is not permitted. To question the success of last year's troop escalation supposedly implies a negative assessment of the performance of American soldiers and Marines and may even imperil their morale, creating a frame that stifles dissent. But now McCain himself has inadvertently reopened real debate on the subject by claiming that strategies and tactics used to quell the Sunni insurgency long before the surge troops arrived in Iraq should nevertheless be attributed to the surge. Indeed, the surge is so brilliant and so powerful, according to McCain, that it makes things happen in the past as well as in the present and the future.

That must be what passes for "maverick" thinking, although there are certainly other names for it. For those of us who remain tethered to reality, however, the success of the surge must be measured in a context that accounts for many other factors -- as must the simple assertion that we are winning the war in Iraq as a result of the escalation.

The rebuttals of McCain's embarrassing assertion that the Sunni insurgency's turn toward the U.S. and away from al-Qaida came because of the surge have been ample and devastating. His badly skewed sense of time and events has raised fresh doubts about his fitness for the presidency, since he was either incapable of comprehending contemporary facts or intentionally misleading the public when he told CBS anchor Katie Couric that the Anbar awakening "began" during the surge (and that troop escalation enabled the U.S. to protect a Sunni sheik who was actually assassinated during that period).

But aside from that moment of untruth, there are deeper problems in all the airy assertions about the triumph of the surge.

First there is the matter of that shift by the Sunni insurgents, which had nothing to do with the escalation. What changed the minds of the Sunni rebels in Anbar province and elsewhere was a revamped counterinsurgency doctrine that emphasized careful bribery over indiscriminate reprisals -- and that seized upon the growing alienation of the Sunnis from the bullying, murderous leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq. The American military officers who oversaw and implemented that strategy, including Gen. David Petraeus, deserve full credit. Even Petraeus, a strong supporter of the surge, makes very limited claims about its role in bolstering the Sunni turn, however.

In fact, it was the prospect of an early U.S. withdrawal, not the surge, that prompted the Sunni insurgents to change sides, according to the American officers who worked with their leaders. A fascinating article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs by Georgetown professor Colin Kahl and retired Gen. William Odom quotes Marine Maj. Gen. John Allen, who ran the tribal engagement operations in Anbar during 2007, saying that the Democratic sweep in the 2006 midterm elections and the increasing demand for withdrawal by the American public "did not go unnoticed" among the province's Sunni sheiks. "They talked about it all the time." Allen also told Kahl that the Marines exploited those concerns by telling the sheiks: "We are leaving ... We don't know when we are leaving, but we don't have much time, so you [the Anbaris] better get after this." Kahl and Odom write that "the risk that U.S. forces would leave pushed the Sunnis to cut a deal to protect their interests while they still could." They also quote Maj. Niel Smith, the operations officer at the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center, and Col. Sean MacFarland, commander of U.S. forces in Ramadi during that crucial period, who wrote a long article on the Anbar awakening in the journal Military Review. "A growing concern that the U.S. would leave Iraq and leave the Sunnis defenseless against Al-Qaeda and Iranian-supported militias," they recalled, "made these younger [tribal] leaders [who led the awakening] open to our overtures."

There is no doubt that the surge has coincided with diminishing violence in Iraq, although kidnappings and bombings continue daily. As many critics have pointed out, surge proponents always compare the present period with the worst months of 2006 and 2007 -- and the arrival of 30,000 troops is not necessarily why the killing has ebbed.

Perhaps the most plausible reason is that there are many fewer Iraqis to kill in the places where the worst violence occurred, because so many of them have abandoned their homes or left the country altogether. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that roughly 5 million Iraqis have fled, with nearly half of them now living in Syria, Jordan or other neighboring states. Others belong to the cohort known as the "internally displaced," who have sought refuge from the militias "cleansing" Baghdad in either the northern or southern provinces. When there isn't anybody left to kill, the murder statistics tend to improve.

Another fortunate coincidence was the decision of Muqtada al-Sadr, the rebel Shiite leader, to order his militia leaders to stand down in August 2007, just as the surge troops were arriving. That cease-fire broke down last spring in southern Iraq but was then reinstated, in part at the instigation of Iran and in part because of Sadr's own political ambitions.

Why conditions became better in Iraq is a crucial issue not only because it may affect the outcome of the U.S. presidential election but, more important, because it indicates the best way out. For McCain and Bush, proving the success of the surge is important because that means the occupation must continue. For the overwhelming majority of Americans, including Barack Obama, that is an unsustainable option.

What we should learn from the history of the surge is that only the prod of withdrawal, rather than indefinite escalation, can persuade the Iraqis to defend themselves as a sovereign state.

TGIF

Friday, July 25, 2008

Devious cats make liar out of me

I reported that Bootsy was accepting Lucky and that I had Lucky-proofed the terrace. I wasn't all wrong. Last night I let Lucky out onto the terrace (it was raining). Then Bootsy went out and Lucky jumped up onto the then slippery 4 1/4 " ledge behind the A/C in the corner. I got Lucky back inside immediately. I hadn't thought Lucky would jump up onto the roaring air conditioner, but apparently it wasn't roaring at the time (or maybe it was). At any rate, if Lucky would have fallen off the ledge, he would have landed in the top of an oleander tree.

Then this morning, shortly after I'd gotten up, Bootsy attacked Lucky in my bathroom (mostly a vocal confrontation, as far as I can tell). I think Bootsy did it for my consumption (not appreciated, but he didn't seem to care). (I leave the bedroom door open all night long and have yet to be awakened by a confrontation.)

The rest of today went well, however. I even left the cats alone together while I went to pick up my Chinese food down the street. Lucky does have the advantage of being able to jump up onto surfaces that Bootsy can't jump up onto. I just want Lucky to be totally familiar with the apartment and know all the escape routes before I leave him and Bootsy alone together.

UPDATE (7/25): My bathroom has been kind of a "flash point" of confrontation, and now I think I know why. Originally, I had two litter boxes in a hall closet. When Lucky came, I put one of those in my bathroom for when I shut Lucky up while I was gone. Bootsy had used both of them, however--basically, one for #1 and other for #2. But when I took one of them away and gave it to Lucky (figuring Bootsy would adjust and use the one box), Bootsy got stressed. So tonight I bought a third litter box and put it in the closet, so Bootsy has his two again.

More about Barack

If you're wondering what "makes him tick," read this article in the July 21 New Yorker (the issue with the infamous cover).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Barack abroad

NBC Nightly News video.

Barack abroad

Guardian video here.

'The Bush Administration's Rush To Poison You'

See Turkana's post here.

With time running out, the Bush Administration's war on working Americans takes on a new urgency. The Washington Post reported, yesterday:

Political appointees at the Department of Labor are moving with unusual speed to push through in the final months of the Bush administration a rule making it tougher to regulate workers' on-the-job exposure to chemicals and toxins.

As always, it is the political appointees. Not the career professionals. Not the scientists. Because Republican political appointees don't care about being professional or scientific. And they clearly don't care about working Americans. . . .

'Teen gets 8 years for coaxing nephews to smoke pot'

Story here.

FORT WORTH, Texas -- A teenager shown on a video coaxing his 2- and 4-year-old nephews into smoking marijuana was sentenced Thursday to eight years in prison. . . .

What George Bush hath wrought: 'Gays in Iraq terrorized by threats, rape, murder'

"Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the situation for gays and lesbians in Iraq has deteriorated. Ridiculed under Hussein, many now find themselves the targets of violence, according to humanitarian officials." CNN story here. Includes video.

"Militias are reportedly threatening families of men believed to be homosexual, stating that they will begin killing family members unless the men are handed over or killed by the family," [a U.N. report] said. . . .

"The 'normal' people cannot live in Iraq. Imagine how the life is for gays."

Rami added, "I do not know why people hate gays even though so many have this tendency. But still they hate it." . . .

Both men hope to escape Iraq. They say their ideal destination would be San Francisco, California. For now, both of them keep their feelings secret. . . .

'He's A Lying Old Man'

See Steve Soto's post here.

He's worse than a doddering imbecile. He's revealing himself to be a lying old man who knows exactly what he is doing and is unfit for the office. It's about time the media got off the bus, avoided the BBQs, and noticed.

Bootsy starting to accept Lucky

No attacks on Lucky today. Bootsy knows better (I attack him). Tonight Bootsy was content to watch Lucky from a distance, and Lucky knew he was being watched but didn't seem to care much. I think Lucky just wants to get along and not be attacked--who wouldn't--but he's still wary of Bootsy, especially when I get home from work and open the bedroom door. I'll continue to sequester Lucky in the bedroom over the next two days while I'm at work. Then we'll see how the weekend goes.

Tonight I inadvertently locked Lucky out on the terrace for about 10 minutes. I'd gone out to empty Bootsy's water bowl onto the plants and didn't see Lucky slip out (he's very quiet and stealthy). Then after a while I couldn't find him, and sure enough he was outside. I'm kind of glad that happened, since Lucky remained on the terrace rather than try to jump off it. (That had been a fear of mine.) And he ran back inside when I opened the door. He knows where home is now (i.e., under air conditioning). He acts almost grateful. I can now trust him (to a point) to be out on the terrace without my direct supervision. (It's already Lucky-proofed, as I mentioned.)

Tonight he's back up sleeping on the cabinets. (No word this week about the permit for the electrical work in the kitchen, which we need to have done before the cabinets can be installed.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Good ad from VoteVets.org

Short and to the point.

McCain web ad

"Mock your base, McCain. That always works." See MyDD post here and Firedoglake post here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lucky discovers the couch


After Bootsy went to bed, Lucky came out to play. (He plays hard.) Today I finally cleared some Home Depot bags off the couch, and it's become his favorite place (for now). He was scrambling all over it. We also played a lively game of peekaboo.

There's also plenty of room in my bedroom for Lucky to run around while I'm at work.

Vanity Fair Parodies New Yorker Cartoon

See Talk Left post here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lucky-proofed the terrace

Tonight I introduced Lucky to the terrace, and he immediately wanted to jump up onto the ledge. Of course he didn't know the ledge is only 4 1/4" wide. He could probably have jumped up there and maneuvered it, but I wasn't about to watch it happen. Mind you, it's only one floor down to the pool deck, but it's solid concrete directly below.

So I pushed a potted plant and some empty pots against the exposed areas of the terrace wall to make it impossible for him to make a clean jump up onto the ledge. (I may plant some Crown of Thorns in those empty pots. I've always wanted some anyway.) (Come to think of it, however, they may be poisonous to cats. I'll have to look that up.)

When I came home from work today, I opened my bedroom door and Lucky didn't even seem interested in (and/or was perhaps fearful about) venturing out, although eventually he did. And then the cats got into a skirmish while I was talking on the phone and not paying attention. (Apparently Bootsy realized he had an opportunity to make a move.) I broke that up right away and dragged Bootsy, growling, here into the computer room and closed the doors so I could continue my conversation in peace (with apologies to the person I was talking to).

Lucky meanwhile is very content hanging out in my bedroom. He has everything he needs there. There's also a floor-to-ceiling window he likes to sit at and look out. (He didn't even know about it till I opened the blind and hurricane shutters this morning.) Tonight I spread out in front of it the blanket the Humane Society had given me. I'd already put down a throw rug.

Just now I tried brushing Lucky with a brush full of Bootsy's fur and he started growling. I'd read last night to brush the new and the present cat with the same brush so they get used to each other's scent. I hadn't realized to what extent scent plays a part in this adjustment. I'd also read to shampoo them both with the same shampoo so they smelled the same (I'm not going to put the cats, or me, through that). Frankly, I don't even really detect much of a scent on cats myself, and certainly nothing like dog musk. To me, cats always smell fresh and clean. (But among cats, it's obviously different.) The friend I was talking to on the phone also mentioned the scent thing--his dad is a veterinarian and they've dealt with lots of animals in their own home.

I know there's been a lot of cat blogging lately and it will continue to some degree. I hope at least some people like it.

P.S. I hadn't spent any time out on the terrace since I had friends over in February after B. left (it was like a wake). It was nice sitting out there tonight, watching the cats, hot and muggy as it was. This past weekend I cleaned it up a bit and threw out a bag of mulch that was housing an ant colony. The whole colony went down the garbage chute. Good riddance.

Was just observing the cats in the bedroom. Bootsy often likes to sleep at the foot of the bed on the rumpled comforter. Tonight he went in there and Lucky was up on the pillows and Bootsy started yowling and went back into the living room. So I scooped him up and laid him down at the foot of the bed, with Lucky still up on the pillows, and sat there in a chair and watched them for a while. No problems, no evil eye, no growling. Lucky eventually got down, however. He's got a million places to be. I love having a young cat back in the household. I hope Bootsy will appreciate it eventually. He's certainly got revved up over it, although in a negative way up till now.

I'll sequester Lucky back in the bedroom suite tomorrow before I go to work. There's still a lot of work to be done here.

'People see in Obama what they want to see - that's a blessing and a curse'

"As the US Democratic candidate heads towards Europe, liberals refer to him as if he represents a second coming." Guardian column here.

'NYTimes Confirms: Maliki Supports Obama's Withdrawal Plan'

From Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left.

This is not surprising:

[T]he interpreter for the interview works for Mr. Maliki’s office, not the magazine. And in an audio recording of Mr. Maliki’s interview that Der Spiegel provided to The New York Times, Mr. Maliki seemed to state a clear affinity for Mr. Obama’s position, bringing it up on his own in an answer to a general question on troop presence.

The following is a direct translation from the Arabic of Mr. Maliki’s comments by The Times: “Obama’s remarks that — if he takes office — in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq.”He continued: “Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq.”

See more at Talking Points Memo.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Arch Creek Confrontational

Tonight I was reading up on introducing a new cat into a household with an existing cat. I came across this (more than once):

Monitor all interactions closely during the first weeks. Do not leave the cats alone unsupervised until you are comfortable that there will not be aggressive behavior displayed by any of the cats. During the first few weeks, the new cat should stay in his “safe room” when no one is home to supervise.

We had another spat tonight, with Bootsy attacking and chasing after Lucky, and me chasing Bootsy with the water gun and whisk broom and yelling like a lunatic. Now I think Lucky's afraid of me too. Maybe I'm doing this all wrong. (It's not that I haven't done this before, but all cats are different.)

Everyone, including me, has since calmed down. Lucky is now sitting on his high perch (see "One more" post below), out of everyone's reach (including mine). (He has since jumped down and let me pet him.) It upsets me to see Bootsy go after this innocent, loving young cat, who I was told likes other cats (maybe not so much anymore). I feel bad for him and don't want to see him traumatized and become fearful. Maybe he was better off in foster care.

Tomorrow before I go to work, I'll shut Lucky up in my bedroom suite, with food, water, a cat box, and a big saucer full of growing birdseed sprouts that I germinated out on the terrace (for Lucy, who never ate them). (Lucy used to like them, but she was too sick to eat them by the time they sprouted this time.) Maybe I'll also put some cat nip out. Today Lucky was sleeping on a pillow on my bed for most of the day, so apparently he feels safe in that room. Meanwhile, since he likes to jump up on things, I've removed all breakable items from the surfaces and put them away.

I'll let the cats reunite when I get home from work. Meanwhile Bootsy can further acclimate himself to the presence of the new cat without being in actual contact. (If they want to contact each other, they'll have to do it with their paws under the bedroom door. Fortunately they're declawed.) According to what I've read, this may go on for days or even weeks. But given the confrontations over the weekend, I cannot leave the cats together unattended while I'm at work.

UPDATE: Lucky's all set for tomorrow. All I have to do is feed him and open the window shade and hurricane shutters before I go to work (I keep the room dark).

UPDATE 2: I just went to check on Lucky and he was back in my bathroom, where his cat box and plate of catnip (which he has been savoring) are located. I played with him briefly and he purred for the first time for me. He likes it back there in his space.

What you CAN'T buy in Shanghai

From an article by Linda Marx in the July 21 New Yorker (the one with the infamous cover):

Is there anything you can't get in Shanghai? Here are some things that expatriates told me they crave: antiperspirant; One-A-Day vitamins; non-soupy yogurt; dark chocolate; opaque tights in interesting colors; bras that aren't gaudy, push-up, or padded; Tampax; stylish shoes with a decent high heel; porn magazines; real rye bread; Mexican food; cereal that costs less than $10; clothing and shoes in large sizes; avocados; Clairol Born Blonde All-Over hair color. It's also impossible to find souvenir snow globes, but this doesn't seem to matter to anyone but my nephew in Philadelphia.

So get with it, Shanghaiers!

New Yorker cover wasn't satire

See NYT article here.

[T]he reason The New Yorker’s cover seems to have fallen short is precisely that it brought out into open, respectable space an idea of the Obamas that is still, happily, considered contemptible. The portrait of them as secret Muslims, in cahoots with terrorists and harboring virulent anti-American sentiments, exists for the most part either on the lunatic fringe or in what some might call the lunatic establishment: radically partisan entities like Fox News. If, on the other hand, this newspaper began politely referring to Senator Obama’s radical Islamic sympathies, then a full-blown exaggeration of that insinuation into ridiculous satire would be just what the doctor ordered. . . .

In satire, absurdity achieves its rationality through moral perspective — or it remains simply incoherent or malign absurdity. The New Yorker represented the right-wing caricature of the Obamas while making the fatal error of not also caricaturing the right wing. . . .

But if that very same New Yorker cover had been drawn in a balloon over the head of a deranged citizen — or a ruthless political operative — it would have appeared as plausible only in the mind of that person. The image would have come across as absurd and unjust — a version of reality exaggerated to the point of madness.

By presenting a mad or contemptible partisan sentiment as a mainstream one, by accurately reproducing it and by neglecting to position the target of a slur — the Obamas — in relation to the producers of the slur, The New Yorker seems to have unwittingly reiterated the misconception it meant to lampoon. . . .

Cat art

I love our new cat already. There were some problems yesterday, however. Bootsy attacked him a few times and I intervened. I felt sorry for Lucky--he didn't see it coming. The Humane Society said Lucky likes other cats. He didn't show any animosity toward Bootsy, and I'm sure he didn't provoke the attack. Lucky's wary of him now, however. Fortunately, he can jump up onto surfaces Bootsy can't jump up onto and fit into spaces Bootsy can't fit into.

I trust things will cool down (on Bootsy's part) and the cats will be able to co-exist in relative peace, as Bootsy and Lucy did. Bootsy knows (from my swatting him, whereupon he growled at me) that Lucky has my permission to be here. Today I loaded up the water gun and am keeping it at the ready. I also have the whisk broom as back-up.

'Send Karl Rove to jail'

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Maliki on withdrawal of U.S. troops

From Hullabaloo. Maliki has already let it be known that Iraq wants the troops out ASAP (as has been reported here). But this is a twist.

This is pretty enormous news:

In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.

"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes" [...]

Asked if he supported Obama's ideas more than those of John McCain, Republican presidential hopeful, Maliki said he did not want to recommend who people should vote for.

"Whoever is thinking about the shorter term is closer to reality. Artificially extending the stay of U.S. troops would cause problems." [...]

"The Americans have found it difficult to agree on a concrete timetable for the exit because it seems like an admission of defeat to them. But it isn't," Maliki told Der Spiegel.

There's just no way to spin this. Regardless of Maliki's motives, this is a total rejection of the McCain conservative position on Iraq. They never wanted to "win," they wanted to stay. And they are being told they have to leave. . . .

One more


A few more pix (and that's it)

Live cat blogging

(I wasn't invited to Netroots Nation.)

I hear skirmish. Run into living room. Bootsy and Lucky at standoff. Lucky under desk. Bootsy standing there, growling.

I clap my hands. Bootsy runs away.

Lucky still under desk, peering out wide-eyed. Bootsy watching him from rug in front of sofa. Falls asleep.

Lucky sneaks away, uses cat box.

Nancy Pelosi: Bush 'a total failure'

"God bless him. Bless his heart."

Lucky Roy

Lucky Roy lying atop the new kitchen cabinets, which are still stacked up in the living room awaiting installation. He jumped up there himself. (He's been scoping out all the new surfaces.) I guess he realizes Bootsy can't bother him up there (not that Bootsy has been bothering him).

"Lucky Roy"

This is Bootsy's (and my) new feline companion. Like Bootsy, he's neutered and de-clawed in the front. I got him at the Humane Society up the road. He'd been in foster care, as I explained below. They said he was a year old or less. He came with a microchip implanted between his shoulder blades, a DVD, an information kit, a free tag with his name and phone number, a months' worth of free health insurance, a blanket, and a bag of food. Before I was allowed to adopt him, I had to show my vehicle registration and my driver's license, and have a property search done on my condo.

After putting on his new tag out in the hall, I released him from the cat carrier (I'd brought my own) onto my bed, where Bootsy was lying on the comforter. Lucky then crawled under the bed but soon started exploring. It wasn't long before he found the rug with the catnip on it from last night (see below) and began rolling around on it and scratching at it.

Bootsy has been following him around and watching him. His life has already become more exciting. Lucky Roy has a bell on his collar I'll have to remove before my bedtime.

(The free bag of food came with a free can of Fancy Feast: "White Meat Chicken Tuscany in a savory sauce with long grain rice and garden greens.")

Now I have to go out and get some lunch. One more lunch at Flanigan's and I'll be entitled to a free one as a member of the Lunch Club.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Excited

We need some excitement around here. Looking forward to the prospect of getting a new companion for Bootsy. It's been so sad around here lately since Lucy died.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

'A Convenient Truth'

MyDD post here. (Includes video of Al Gore's speech.)

Today, former Vice President Al Gore laid out his plan to address America's energy crisis. "The United States should be making all of its electricity with renewable and carbon-free energy in 10 years." Stressing the need for America to end its dependence on oil and coal, Gore laid out a plan for the country to "produce all of its electricity from renewable and carbon-free sources", a goal he compared to President Kennedy's challenge for the country to put a man on the moon. Utilizing Sun, wind, and eco-friendly resources, America can contribute to a reduction of the "threat of climate change", relieve itself from the economic impact of "rising oil prices", and reduce the "transfer of wealth to oil producing countries". "I don't remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously....America's security, environmental and economic crises are all related", Al Gore said Thursday.

But see this post also.

***

The Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan group that he chairs, estimates the cost of transforming the nation to so-called clean electricity sources at $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion over 30 years in public and private money.

But he said it would cost about as much to build coal plants to satisfy current demand. "This is an investment that will pay itself back many times over," Gore said. "It's an expensive investment but not compared to the rising cost of continuing to invest in fossil fuels."

He's undoubtedly right. Why dump a ton of money into "clean coal" when we could instead invest it into something that's renewable, from the wind, sun and other earth-friendly energy sources.

But here's the dilemma, the backers of coal are a strong lobbying group, they count Dems such as Barack Obama and Brian Schweitzer among their proponents. Likewise, the backers of drilling for off-shore oil are a strong lobbying group, and have plenty of Democrats advocating for it, as does the expansion of nuclear. And those three things are pretty much all of what Republicans want, while many Democrats want nothing of it anymore asap. . . .

The pathetic thing is that George Bush will have dumped nearly $1 trillion dollars into the desert of the Mideast war before we get him out of the office of the presidency. With that kind of money, imagine if we'd have had a president that took 9/11 as a mission to have gotten off of the addiction to the middle east's oil instead.

George Bush is a total incompetent and always has been.

'Lucky Roy'

Today I was in contact with my vet and the Humane Society, which I didn't know had a large facility right up the street from here (it's been there two years). I really think Bootsy would be better off having a companion, especially during the day when I'm not here. I need a cat that is spayed (or neutered) and de-clawed, since Bootsy is de-clawed. He or she has to be an inside cat and use the cat box at all times.

The Humane Society had one cat, Lucky Roy, who fit that description, but at the moment he's in foster care. When I expressed strong interest and then filled out an application to adopt, the Humane Society called the foster person to let her know. (The foster person did not intend to adopt the cat.) Tomorrow afternoon, the person is bringing the cat back to the Humane Society, and Saturday I plan on going up there to check him out (it's less than 10 minutes away).

I was told Lucky Roy is a year old or even younger, and independent-acting (sounded like a plus for Bootsy's sake). I told the vet about him (the vet's assistant, actually) and she thought that would be a good age, but I don't want him to give Bootsy a hard time (especially the cat being another male). The point of course is to make things better for Bootsy, not worse. I sense that Lucy's leaving the household has affected him negatively, even though he and Lucy weren't the best of buddies.

If I like Lucky Roy (and he likes me) and think his temperament would be positive for Bootsy, I'll adopt him on Saturday.

The problem with funding faith-based initiatives with taxpayer money

I don't want my tax money going toward indoctrinating kids (et al.) against me. Story here. I'm glad the ACLU is going after this outfit.

ACLU Files Suit Against Publicly Funded Anti-Gay Religious Group

A lawsuit was filed Thursday to strip federal funding from Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children (KBHC), a public childcare institution that allegedly indoctrinates children and discriminates against LGBT people in their hiring practices.

“We strongly believe that any group taking public funds should not discriminate in hiring or proselytize,” said Joe Conn, press contact for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “Kentucky Baptist Homes takes buckets of public funds, yet they still try to indoctrinate the children in their care.” . . .

'Taming the hawk'

"Washington's decision to talk to Iran is a significant shift in US foreign policy." Column here.

It may be too early to proclaim an end to the "Cheney era", but Washington's decision to participate in Saturday's nuclear talks with Iran and send diplomats back to Tehran is a very significant shift. It marks a nadir for the gun-toting neoconservatives who dominated the first Bush term and for their unofficial champion, vice-president Dick Cheney, the stealthy advice-giver also known as "whispering grass".

Noisy sabre-rattling and a crescendo of shouted threats exchanged by Iran and Israel in recent weeks convinced many observers that the Middle East was on the brink of a new conflagration. They feared a "second Iraq" was in the making, again triggered by worries about real or imagined weapons of mass destruction.

That dreaded spectre appears to be receding for now. A "second North Korea" remains the preferred model for the US state department and the European allies – meaning talks leading to voluntary disarmament in return for security, aid and normalisation. This is just the sort of multilateral "soft power" horsetrading Cheney & Co cannot abide. . . .

Rice argued that the US should send a senior diplomat, William Burns, to join the nuclear talks – something Bush had always refused to do. She also proposed opening a US interests section in Tehran. Having said recently that he did not want to be remembered as a "warmonger", Bush softened. Cheney was reportedly at the meeting. He lost the argument.

This diplomatic reshuffle is set to continue in Ankara today, with both Mottaki and Stephen Hadley, the US national security adviser, both in town, and the Turks acting as willing go-betweens.

Hawks in both camps may still contrive to send the whole process back to square one. Iran could baulk at the last minute. Neocons such as former US envoy John Bolton, sneering yesterday at the administration's "intellectual collapse", could yet give Bush cold feet. But former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry spoke for many people around the world when he described the US decision to talk as "the most welcome flip-flop in recent diplomatic history".

Maison de L'Amitie


Watch video here.

'Donald Trump sells Florida mansion for record sum'

The Guardian is full of good stuff today.

It is a number sure to bring cheer to the average real estate mogul in these trying times.

Waxen-haired serial sacker and noted golfer Donald Trump did what he reportedly does best this week, closing the deal on the sale of his Florida beachfront mansion for a record sum.

Maison de L'Amitie, a modest 60,000-square-foot property in Palm Beach, sold for a reported $95m on Tuesday, making it the most expensive residential sale ever recorded in the US, according to Trump's spokesperson. . . .

The grandiose mansion, otherwise known as 515 North County Road features an array of trademark Trump features: A circular gallery boasts a series of trompe l'oeil reproductions of famous paintings, white marble columns and formal gardens abound, and the bathrooms are graced with 24-karat gold fixtures.

But all this may be so much clutter left by the previous owner to the buyer, Russian fertilizer oligarch, Dmitry Rybolovlev. Amid conflicting reports about his intentions for the property, Rybolovlev may want to tear it down and start again.

The Russian, number 59 on the Forbes list of the world's richest people with an estimated net worth of $12.8bn, is thought to have bought the property for the 475-foot chunk of beachfront it commands. . . .

Although the sale price did not reach Trump's initial valuation of $125m, it still beats other large residential purchases, including the $70m paid for Ron Perelman's Palm Beach estate in 2004, and the $81.5m paid in April for a nearby Palm Beach property.

World's Best Awards III

Travel & Leisure also ranks airlines, cruises, islands, various travel-related services, and hotels. In the last category, among the "15 to Watch" is the Gansevoort South Hotel, Spa & Residences on Miami Beach.

'Hugo Chavéz does Barack Obama a favour'

"Barack Obama can breathe a sigh of relief as the Venezuelan leader, the lastest of a number of unwanted endorsements, withdraws his support"

Guardian (UK) story here.

In his quest for the White House, there are some endorsements Barack Obama can do without and today the Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, did him a favour.

Chavez, who in the past implied that he favoured Obama over his Republican rival, John McCain, today declared a plague on both their houses. . . .

Whew.

World's Best Awards II

2008


2007

Seattle dropped off the 2008 list and Savannah joined.

World's Best Awards

From Travel & Leisure magazine.

Udaipur, India, was ranked #7 in 2007 and has dropped off this year's list. Cuzco has joined the list.

'US slips down development index'

"Americans live shorter lives than citizens of almost every other developed nation, according to a report from several US charities." Just in from the BBC.

The report found that the US ranked 42nd in the world for life expectancy despite spending more on health care per person than any other country.

Overall, the American Human Development Report ranked the world's richest country 12th for human development.

The study looked at US government data on health, education and income.

The report was funded by Oxfam America, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

The report combines measurements of health, education and income into one measurement - the human development index - based on that used by the United Nations.

Health insurance

The report, Measure of America, identifies significant progress in the US in the last 50 years.

Life expectancy - which averages 78 - has risen eight years since 1960.

Japan has the world's highest life expectancy - 82.1 years - according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The US report identifies obesity and the lack of health insurance for some 47 million Americans as the most significant factors in premature death. . . .

New kitchen blog post

Here. I'm pretty concentrated on this project right now, living in the mess I am without a kitchen. As a veteran hurricane survivor from way back, I'm not whining--I have my electricity and A/C and hot showers, and I can even cook on the free-floating stove if I want to. I just want the project to be done. (It is kind of like waiting for the electricity to be turned back on after a hurricane. You just want things to return to normal.)

Once the permit for the electrical work is issued, the work will continue apace. Right now it's at a standstill. Nothing can proceed until the electrical outlets are moved/fixed/added in the kitchen.

UPDATE (7/17): I called the electrician today about the permit and they said they were still waiting on word from the city. I asked them how long it might take and they said up to three weeks. Oh well.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I may have found a new friend for Bootsy

But I don't want to do anything that would compromise Bootsy's quality of life, and he's been through a lot lately (being abandoned by his primary human companion and then losing his feline housemate). If the new friend situation doesn't work out, we'll change it back.

'Straight-talk express' derails

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NBC Nightly News story

Saw this last night.

'Time magazine revisits Florida's problems'

Story here.

Nearly three decades after the magazine's Paradise Lost? cover story on South Florida's ills gave the peninsula an inferiority complex, Time is once again warning of impending disaster in the state.

Back then it was refugees, riots and crime. Now, it is . . . well, let Time tell it . . . .

Time article here. Gives Republicans a black eye, since they've been running the state for years and thus are responsible for its failings. Gov. Crist comes across as a light-weight. (Whether he is or not, I don't know. I know nothing about him except that he just flip-flopped on off-shore drilling and that he may be a closet case. Needless to say, I didn't vote for him.)

Former Senator and Governor (Dem.) Bob Graham comes across as the wise elder statesman. "This may be our tipping point," he says.

The Republican Party denies reality and is very good at getting people to vote against their own self-interest. If that continues, a good chunk of Florida will be under water in a relatively short period of time.

'My wife left me because the dolphins at Sea World gave me an erection'

See here.

And at this show I started watching the dolphins jump around, and it just captivated me. I admired their soft slippery skin. It was just so exotic; I had never felt that way before. Looking at those soft underbellies and long slender fins was like seeing the face of God. I came out of my dolphin-induced trance and wiped the sweat from my brow. It was then that I realized that I had an . . . .

'Obama says New Yorker insulted Muslim Americans'

Story here.

Democrat Barack Obama said Tuesday that the New Yorker magazine's satirical cover depicting him and his wife as flag-burning, fist-bumping radicals doesn't bother him but that it was an insult to Muslim Americans.

"You know, there are wonderful Muslim Americans all across the country who are doing wonderful things," the presidential candidate told CNN's Larry King. "And for this to be used as sort of an insult, or to raise suspicions about me, I think is unfortunate. And it's not what America's all about."

Obama blamed himself for not being forceful enough in challenging some of the rumors about him, including that he is Muslim. Obama is Christian. . . .

"I do think that, you know, in attempting to satirize something, they probably fueled some misconceptions about me instead," he said. "But, you know, that was their editorial judgment. And as I said, ultimately, it's a cartoon, it's not where the American people are spending a lot of their time thinking about."

Monday, July 14, 2008

'New Yorker' mag cover causes ruckus

Story here.

It was an image meant to raise hackles, and it did: a cartoon on the cover of the New Yorker showing Barack and Michelle Obama - dressed as a Muslim and a gun-toting militant - performing what rightwing commentators have called a "terrorist fist bump", while burning the US flag in the fireplace of an Oval Office decorated with a portrait of Osama bin Laden.

The magazine hit the newsstands yesterday. But its editor, David Remnick, evidently anticipating a liberal backlash against the cover - described yesterday as incendiary and irresponsible - gave an interview to the Washington Post ahead of publication. He said the image was meant to be seen as humour, poking fun at the smear campaign against the Obamas.

"It's clearly a joke, a parody of these crazy fears and rumours and scare tactics about Obama's past and ideology," Remnick told the Post. "And if you can't tell it's a joke by the flag burning in the Oval Office, I don't know what more to say."

The accompanying cover story does not discuss the internet smear campaign which has portrayed Obama as a radical Muslim, but traces his rise through Chicago politics in the 1990s.

The satire was evidently lost on the Democratic candidate's campaign and on his opponent, the Republican, John McCain. Both condemned the cartoon. . . .

I don't like it myself. It's not good stuff to be circulating around the Internet at this time. Mind you, it'll be on the right-wing websites, and not as satire. The Right will say that even the Left find Obama suspect. Bad move on The New Yorker's part. And not funny.

'Diners, Drive-ins and Dives'


I enjoy watching this show on the Food Network. They encourage recommendations via email. Tonight I recommended the place where B. works.

I know he's still working there since tonight I happened to drive by the restaurant and saw the black Hummer parked in the parking lot. His new boyfriend lets him drive it to work sometimes while the boyfriend is off to work in Broward in a more economical car. (B. used to be able to walk to work from here.) (Oh well--his loss.)

I try not to harbor malicious, vengeful thoughts. They harm only me. But I bet that pimpmobile guzzles a lot of gas.

'2010 Census Won't Recognize Same-Sex Marriage Responses'

This also from the Advocate, but I heard about it on another site the other day.

The U.S. Census Bureau will actively edit the responses of same-sex couples on the 2010 Census, classifying all legally married same-sex couples as "unmarried partners."

“We are just showing the data published in a way that is consistent with the way every other agency publishes their data,” Martin O’Connell, chief of the Census Bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch, told the San Jose Mercury News Sunday.

The Census Bureau will be operating under the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which “instructs all federal agencies only to recognize opposite-sex marriages for the purposes of enacting any agency programs.” According to O’Connell, the Bureau has not encountered any federal agency that tracks data on legally married same-sex couples.

Reached for comment by The Advocate, Gary Gates, senior research fellow at UCLA’s Williams Institute, believes that this situation “demonstrates an unintended consequence of the Defense of Marriage Act.” The Census Bureau, which enjoys a “well-deserved reputation as the gold standard of data collection,” now finds itself “forced to change legal and accurate responses to inaccurate responses,” Gates said.

The changes that will be made to Census responses will make it difficult to count married couples in states where same-sex marriages are legal, and impossible for married LGBT couples with children to be recognized as families on the Census. According to Census Bureau definitions, a "family" consists of two or more people related by birth, adoption, or marriage. “[A married LGBT person will] get counted as a single parent,” Gates said.

“It’s shameful,” Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said of the Census policy. Minter told the Mercury News, “It really is something out of Orwell.”

'McCain: Gay Adoption Is Not Normal'

"McCain Denounces Adoptions by Gays"

Advocate story here.

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain denounced adoption for same-sex couples this weekend in an interview with The New York Times. McCain, who with his wife, Cindy, has an adopted child, has aligned himself with President Bush, who vehemently opposes adoption rights for gays.

“I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family, so, no, I don’t believe in gay adoption,” he said in the article. "I encourage adoption and I encourage the opportunities for people to adopt children. I encourage the process being less complicated so they can adopt as quickly as possible. And Cindy and I are proud of being adoptive parents."

In McCain's home state of Arizona, any unmarried adult can petition to adopt a child; however, the law does not specifically provide joint adoption by same-sex couples, according to the Human Rights Campaign. There is also no explicit ban on allowing a same-sex partner to petition to adopt a child of the other partner. Florida is the only U.S. state that bans all forms of adoption by gays. . . .

Kara Suffrendi, director of the Family Equality Council's public policy division, asserted that more than 75% of American homes don't follow the traditional married, heterosexual hierarchy. "We are a nation of blended and multigenerational families, adoptive and foster families, and families headed by single parents, divorced parents, unmarried parents, same-sex couples and more," she said in a statement. "This is what is true about lesbians and gays raising children: 30 years of scientifically valid research universally demonstrates that LGBT families are just as nurturing for children's growth and development as heterosexual families." . . .

But what do these people care about truth and science?

Design Star on HGTV

Watched the show tonight. Not much impressed with this year's talent so far. My favorite is still David Bromstadt, who won the first competition and got his own show "Color Splash" on HGTV. Love that show. David always does an original art piece in his designs, and I mostly like his designs.

Kim Miles won the competition in the second year. I voted for her. Not a big fan of her shows, however.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

'Gwyneth Paltrow getting high'

'ABC, FX get high marks from gay, lesbian alliance'

Story here.

Czech tower jumping

Not my idea of fun, even with a few beers to start out the day.

New architecture in Beijing

Interactive graphics here. Article here. I think the locals call this building "the trousers."

Meet Malia and Sasha Obama

Full interview in Butte, Montana.

(I lived in Helena, the capital, for 2 years or so. Got my first job out of college there (after a stint as a cook at Kentucky Fried Chicken, where I ate most of the desserts). I worked in the Department of Public Instruction, in the capitol, as a writer, editor, photographer, artist and graphics person. Got to see a lot of Montana. I'd moved there to be with my first partner, whom I'd met at FSU.)

'Will Little Havana Go Blue?'

New York Times Magazine article on Miami.

Florida is likely to play a pivotal role in determining whether Obama or John McCain becomes president, and the Cuban-American vote is likely to play its usual outsize role in deciding which candidate prevails in the state. . . .

'Obama's New Approach: Contrast'

Big Tent Democrat writes here.

A funny thing happened to Obama's "Move To The Middle" tour. After two weeks, it has abruptly ended, as the AP's Liz Sidoti writes:

Barack Obama has found something that eluded him during the primary season — contrast. And, he's basking in it. . . . [V]ast disagreements with McCain — on everything from economic philosophies to security proposals — seem to have given Obama license to more aggressively and enthusiastically go after his foe. . . . These days, Obama assails McCain's position on the issues every chance he gets. He levels his charges with a commonsense tone and lighthearted touch that couches the criticism while making his core argument: McCain and President Bush are the same.

"If you are satisfied with the way things are going now, then you should vote for John McCain," Obama says before rattling off a list of current concerns, including rising gas prices, home foreclosures and job losses as the country fights two wars.

Of course this placed story (it seems impossible to believe that Obama aides were not pushing for this story) comes on the heels of two weeks of Obama campaign blurring and triangulation that clearly hurt Obama. From FISA to choice, Obama was "moving to the middle." The backlash must have stunned his campaign. Clearly, pushing for this story is due to this line of attack by McCain:

McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds dismissed the criticism, saying: "Whether he's ditching positions for his own political gain or launching partisan attacks, Barack Obama has shown that he's your typical politician."

(Emphasis supplied.) Thus, Obama's team made sure this part of his campaign gets prominence now:

At a Georgia appearance, Obama noted McCain's long support for the Iraq war and objections to a withdrawal timetable. Conversely, Obama said: "I opposed this war from the start" and "I will bring this war to an end."

Later, in New York, Obama noted that McCain wants the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion to be overturned. Conversely, he said, "I will never back down in defending a woman's right to choose."

It just so happens that these are two issues that Obama was perceived to have "waffled" on recently. Obama's emphasis on these issues after the blowback from his "move to the middle" is not surprising. But it is still satisfying and positive.

Sidoti writes "This audience ate up Obama's criticism of McCain — just like his crowds do every day." Just as the country will in November. If Obama sticks to the contrast. It is what America wants (of course the DC Village (Tom Daschle) never wants it.) . . .

The Best of Rachel Maddow

Obama slipping in polls, fundraising

But I still think he can beat McCain and that having Hillary on the ticket would help. Digby says:

Commenting on Obama's unexpected fund raising problems, Atrios observes that with the exception of FISA, Obama's "run to the center" is not substantial but that such theatre can affect fundraising. (Obama's fundraising has gone down significantly.) . . .

If you are going to base your campaign on "personal conversion" and feelings, you have to assume that people are going to relate to it on those terms. He's asking his ardent followers to be practical now and accept that their man is going to flirt with the other side. . . .

I am not personally temperamentally inclined to that kind of politics so I was never much interested in the "yes we can" aspect of Obamamania. I was aware of his moderate record and it seemed good enough to me to vote for, although I knew I would be at odds with him as often as not if he failed to seize the opportunity to substantially pull the country's center of gravity to the left. As I've written before, I was hoping that his appeals to those outside the Democratic faithful would not be based on the same old paradigm of social conservatism and national security, but instead seek to find some other ways to signal to people who didn't know him that he was a thoughtful, principled politician who understood their needs and could advocate for the whole country on the basis of shared values. Instead, he's working overtime to reassure voters that he's not a liberal. That's as predictable, old fashioned politics as you can get. . . .

As Big Tent Democrat says here.

It would be wrong for Obama and his supporters to embrace this crouched and defensive approach. Obama is in a political climate as favorable to Democrats and progressivism as I have ever seen since Watergate. Bold, principled, progressive leadership will be embraced, not triangulation. Not surprisingly, folks in the Village like the DLC's Harold Ford want and applaud Obama's "move to the middle." They believe it is still 1992. They are wrong.

Bush: 'Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter'

"George Bush surprised world leaders with a joke about his poor record on the environment as he left the G8 summit in Japan."

Wow. I hadn't caught this story. Via Firedoglake.

The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

Mr Bush, whose second and final term as President ends at the end of the year, then left the meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Hokkaido where the leaders of the world's richest nations had been discussing new targets to cut carbon emissions.

One official who witnessed the extraordinary scene said afterwards: "Everyone was very surprised that he was making a joke about America's record on pollution."

Mr Bush also faced criticism at the summit after Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, was described in the White House press pack given to journalists as one of the "most controversial leaders in the history of a country known for government corruption and vice".

The White House apologised for what it called "sloppy work" and said an official had simply lifted the characterisation from the internet without reading it.

Concluding the three-day event, leaders from the G8 and developing countries proclaimed a "shared vision" on climate change. However, they failed to bridge differences between rich and emerging nations on curbing emissions.

'Iran denounces McCain's remarks about cigarettes'

McCain is too much of a loose cannon. Story here.

Jul 13th, 2008 TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's Foreign Ministry has condemned remarks by Republican presidential candidate John McCain that exporting cigarettes could be a way of killing Iranians.

The state-owned English language IRAN daily has quoted ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini denouncing the remarks as "inappropriate" and describing McCain's attitude as "regretful."

Last week, McCain was asked about an Associated Press report that the U.S. exported $158 million worth of cigarettes to Iran during the Bush administration in spite of restrictions on U.S. imports.

"Maybe that's a way of killing them," McCain said. He then said that he was joking.

Iran has officially announced that it supports neither U.S. presidential campaign but does hope the election will bring a change in U.S. foreign policy.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Saturday night

Had a good day today, the best day I've had since before Lucy got sick and died. Got a lot of rest. Closed Bootsy out of the bedroom when he tried to get me up early (didn't even look at the clock). Was up well after noon. (Stayed up a little late last night, even knowing I might have to go in to work.) Bootsy got some special food and lots of attention when I got up. (I'd planned it.)

Fortunately didn't get called in to work.

Made sure I ate well, despite the state of upheaval here (no functioning kitchen).

We got more rain today. Hadn't had any in a few days. The sky was overcast most of the day. There was one mild thunderstorm in the mid-afternoon, and a huge thunderhead sat over the area for hours, threatening more rain and in the meantime keeping it pleasantly cool. My favorite summertime weather. At one point I was sitting at Starbucks, with my umbrella and a magazine, under an overhang, waiting for the bottom to drop out of the sky, but it never did. Then I walked down to dinner at Flanigan's and it rained some while I was inside.

(It had been sprinkling when I went to Home Depot earlier and I took my umbrella into the store. I was hoping it would storm and wash my car, but it didn't.)

I finally got around to doing my taxes (I'd gotten an extension). I used TaxACT online, which I've used for several years. It's free, although throughout the process they're pushing their premium service (for under $10). I ended up with a $77 refund. The return was filed electronically and my refund will be wired to my checking account. I just have to sign a Form 8453-OL now (which TaxACT supplied in PDF format, all filled in) and send it to the IRS within three days. I'll do that tomorrow.

Talked for hours to Cody in Canada and now I'm ready to go to bed.

Catch the 'whining' remark

Joan Walsh: 'Another bad week for John McCain'

See her latest column here. Her video here.

[I]t seems to me the only advantage McCain has in his underdog race against Obama is that he's a very well-known quantity, a war hero with a long Congressional record that, despite its reliable conservatism, has been occasionally marked by principled stands as well as efforts at bipartisanship. Running against a first-term senator who is not yet well known by most Americans, and who has also disappointed supporters in the last few weeks by changing positions, John McCain, Known Quantity could well be a reassuring choice in November.

But McCain is no longer a known quantity. His crazy ranting about preventing Iran from causing "another Holocaust" made him sound like Dick Cheney; his shapeshifting on immigration and the economy makes him look lost. . . .

(And she wrote that before McCain's meltdown below.)

Watch McCain squirm

From Joan Walsh's latest column.