Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday night

Was under the weather today. I think I need a vacation, but I have no one to go with. I haven't taken any vacation in two years, and that was just a long weekend visiting my father upstate. B. and I flew up to Tampa and back. (Father lives an hour north of there.)

Didn't feel like giving Bootsy a bath tonight, but he got his ears treated.

I heard on Rachel Maddow that only 21% of Americans identify themselves as Republican. That's the lowest percentage in 25 years. Even fewer people "lean Republican" (16%).

Condoleezza Rice admitted to criminal conspiracy? More on that later. (It's coming up on Keith Olbermann.) (She admitted to passing along Bush's authorization to use torture to the CIA. She stressed that she herself didn't authorize torture.) (Now she knows it's wrong?) (She has no moral compass.) (Maybe she's a psychopath.) (I'm not a fan!)

Bill O'Reilly says people could afford health care if they stopped drinking a bottle of gin every day. What an asshole!

So Miss California had a boob job and is now the new anti-gay spokeswoman? (Michael Musto of The Village Voice said she needs a brain implant.) See Digby here.

("Well at least it's a fruit pie.")

I lived through that mess here in Miami-Dade County and have a few battle scars.

Tonight I called up the partner of my friend who passed away. Left a message. He didn't talk to me (or supposedly anyone else) when I called after my friend's death.

I did manage to do a little cleaning today (some floors). I'm about ready to enlist the help of the housekeeping people, but the place has to be semi-clean first. I'm not a horrible slob, just somewhat cleaning-challenged, with a little clutter (not a lot). Nothing like this:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday night

Tonight, after a nap and before the gym, I went up to Target and bought the new (to me, at least) Lady Gaga CD, "The Fame." It may have been the last one in the store --lucky me. (It was the only one on the shelf that I could see.) I listened to the whole thing. Lots of good, fun stuff. Definitely worth it. Then at the gym, "Poker Face" played on the sound system. (I don't recall hearing it there before, but maybe I did.)

The version of "Poker Face" that's on the video I embedded the other day (below) is actually even better than what's on the CD. The CD version doesn't include the "lounge act" at the beginning with Lady Gaga playing the piano. (I also added Flo Rida's "Sugar" to the earlier post, since it's based on "Blue," and a really good interview with her on British TV.) (I also found a better video, with no pop-ups. Go see it.)

Judging by the music video, I'd love to see Lady Gaga perform live.

By the way, Lady Gaga (her real name is Joanne Germanotta) recently wrote this song for Britney Spears's "Circus" (appears on European release only).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday night

Wow! Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic Party. Headline at TPM: "Specter To GOP: It's Not Me, It's You".

Had a busy day and a productive night. When I got home, I seasoned the sirloin tip roast and put it in the oven and tried to take a nap. Wasn't really tired, so I got up and went to the grocery store. I drove up to the larger Publix north of here to see if they carried the Kool-Aid Singles that you mix in a glass, since the smaller store didn't have them. It appears they've been discontinued. They make them only for 16.9 oz. plastic bottles of water (two servings per bottle). I object to buying plastic-bottled water for various reasons, but I bought some anyway. This Kool-Aid has 50% less sugar than regular and only 30 calories/serving (it has artificial sweeteners in addition to sugars). I bought grape (my favorite) and orange. I also bought other things but was able to make a quick exit through the express lane.

When I got home, the roast was done. So I let that stand and walked over to Starbucks for a tea. Chilling article in Harper's about all the murders in Mexico related to narco trafficking, based on an interview with one of the professional killers, who was also a policeman. Got home and steamed asparagus I'd been forgetting about -- it was well over a week old and just starting to go bad. (Couldn't let that go to waste.) I also marinated some cubed steaks in the wine marinade. Sliced some roast for work, topped off with home-made gravy I whisked up, and packed up the asparagus for work, topping with butter and fresh lemon juice while it was still steaming hot. Now I just have to clean out the cat boxes. (I'll do that when Chris Matthews comes on and I've taken the melatonin.) Tomorrow night I go to the gym, so I won't have any time for chores.

The roast, by the way, came out excellent. These sirloin tips are my favorites, and this was a pretty large one--3.25 lbs.--on sale.

Watching Rachel Maddow: Arlen Specter calls for rebellion and uprising within the Republican Party. Wow. Lincoln Chafee says the Republican Party is "not a viable national party." He's now running again as an Independent.

Lucky makes me laugh every day. If I didn't have him (and my job), I don't know what I'd do. I love Bootsy, too, but he reminds of B. being gone, since B. left him here.

I think I'm going to get Lady Gaga's new album. I haven't bought a new CD in years. (I haven't been this excited about a new pop music talent in years.) (And I used to hear all the latest music when I visited the local gay watering home, which closed a few years ago.) (I miss that exposure to pop music, not to mention my friends.)

Meanwhile, I haven't heard anything back from my old friend from my Montana days who tracked me down on Face Book. I hope I didn't offend her when I said I didn't believe in a "winner-take-all" society or that I couldn't fathom how a gay friend of mine can be a Republican, with all the hate they stand for (although I didn't say that).

It doesn't surprise me at all that Arlen Specter switched parties. He was always a moderate, and the Republican Party doesn't accommodate moderates any more. Meanwhile Obama has 61% approval rating.

Chris Matthews is on. Time to take melatonin and clean cat boxes.

P.S. I kind of thought B. would come to his senses and come back, but I don't think he is. The new guy has drugs.

'Just Dance'

Gary Numan's 'Cars'

Kid Cudi

(Boring and monotonous.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday night

For Staff Appreciation Day at work, we received $50 gift cards from Target. Tonight I went out and bought a new shower curtain and liner and also a hand-held shower massage for the shower stall in the master bath. This will make giving Bootsy a bath much easier. (I'd been using a hand-pumped garden sprayer to clean Lucy's ears.) I bathe the cats in the shower since it has a door and they can't escape.

I rarely bathe cats, unless they have fleas. (Unlike dogs and ferrets, e.g., they don't have an unpleasant odor.) But Bootsy needs some help with his grooming these days. The vet said his weight makes it more difficult for him. The cats don't have fleas here since they don't go outside except on the terrace. But they do venture out into the hall sometimes, and dogs walk through there. (Bootsy got a flea once and we killed it.)

The new Target stuff is installed. It kind of made my day. (It doesn't take much.) I hauled the old curtain and liner down to the dumpster. The liner was clouding up and the curtain had seen better days (both were old). Now Lucky will enjoy watching the splashing water through the new, crystal-clear liner while I shower. (The curtain is a cotton waffle weave, same as I had before. I shrunk the last one when I washed it.) (I'll use cold water next time and let it air-dry on the terrace.)

I got a kick out of Lady Gaga liking Rainer Maria Rilke. He's one of my favorites and I studied him exclusively for one quarter during college for my honors work and wrote a paper.

Latest Photoshop project

(This was a wallet-size photo. ABOVE: After running Auto Levels. It was really faded, not to mention wrecked.)

(I can always add sepia tones back in, if they want a "vintage" look.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday night

"Desperate Housewives" not very good. Bootsy got his ear treatment. I need to get some more of that ointment. Maybe the vet will mail it to me and I'll pay the postage. I can also buy it online but need the prescription.

Bootsy woke me up again this morning--after I'd stayed up so late last night--but I went back to sleep after feeding the cats and then didn't sleep well. Next weekend I'm going to shut the cats out of the bedroom. (Lucky, who does nothing wrong, will take it personally, as will Bootsy, who is the offender. I always have plenty of food sitting out for the cats. )

I'm giving Bootsy a bath on Thursday night before I treat his ears. I would have done it tonight, but he was sleeping soundly at the time I wanted to do it and didn't want to traumatize him. (And he was going to be submitted to the ear treatments later.)

DC Sunday round-up

From TPM here.

You might be rich!

Compliments of MSNBC, search unclaimed property data bases by state here (includes video). (I couldn't get through. Will try again later.)

Saddam's palace goes public

Lady Gaga

(Better to watch it on YouTube's larger format--click on YouTube.) (Great interview here.) (Lyrics here.) See this.

I always liked this one, which was mentioned in the article. Not crazy about this video, but it's not awful. (There's a proliferation of videos for this. The original is awful.) (This is kind of what I had in mind for a video.)

.

And this is "Sugar" by Flo Rida (just the audio and lyrics). (Not really my taste.)

More togetherness

Now I'm starting to get tired. (I sleep on the other side of the bed.)

"Golden Girls" star Bea Arthur reportedly dies

I had the privilege of seeing Bea Arthur perform on Broadway in "Mame." (I was very young.) It played at the Winter Garden, with Celeste Holm as Mame (originally played by Angela Lansbury). Story here.

Emmy Award-winning actress Bea Arthur, best known as star of the hit TV comedies "Maude" and "Golden Girls," has died at age 86, entertainment news websites reported on Saturday.

Arthur, a longtime stage actress whose comic timing and deadpan delivery were a perfect fit for her sharp-tongued roles on the two series, died of cancer at her Los Angeles home, celebrity website TMZ reported. . . .

Cowell to Boyle: "Get yourself together"

Story here.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Television's Simon Cowell said on Friday he was embarrassed at his initial reaction to singing sensation Susan Boyle, but warned that just because she is a hit with fans, she is not a winner yet.

Cowell, the creator and a judge on "Britain's Got Talent," said he was fed up with stories about the hair, eyebrows and cats of the never-married 47-year-old Boyle, and he urged her to focus now on winning the television talent competition.

"She has got four weeks to prepare for the biggest night of her life, and she has got to sing better than she sang before with all those expectations on her. But it could all go horribly wrong for her because there are so many other distractions," Cowell told TV reporters in Los Angeles. . . .

Saturday night

I got up pretty late after I'd gone back to bed. (I took some melatonin before turning in.) Well, I got lots of sleep. Had a Michael Angelo's chicken Parmesan for dinner (Michael Angelo's stuff is all good), then headed over to Starbucks with my magazines. I probably shouldn't have been drinking two cups of coffee at 10 o'clock but what the hell. Just finished a load of laundry. I would make the bed, but, as you can see, the cats are asleep on it and I don't want to disturb them.

Togetherness

Lucky cozies up to Bootsy. As some of you may know, Bootsy would have killed Lucky when I first introduced Lucky into the household, last July. I kept them separated for a couple of weeks (or so) when Lucky first got here--I shut Lucky up in my bedroom while I was at work.

The Humane Society had told me that Lucky liked other cats. He wanted to get along with Bootsy, but Bootsy would have none of it.

Now Lucky gives Bootsy a hard time (sometimes). Lucky just likes to play. And Bootsy goes along with it, sometimes. But when Bootsy's not in the mood, he hollers.

Frank Rich on the torture

Here.

Five years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to “protect” us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from “another 9/11,” torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House’s illegality.

Levin suggests — and I agree — that as additional fact-finding plays out, it’s time for the Justice Department to enlist a panel of two or three apolitical outsiders, perhaps retired federal judges, “to review the mass of material” we already have. The fundamental truth is there, as it long has been. The panel can recommend a legal path that will insure accountability for this wholesale betrayal of American values. . . .

(Click on images to enlarge)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday morning

Cats got me up this morning. Bootsy, actually. He's the whiner and complainer--very vocal. They had food, but I fed them some more, and also cleaned out the cat box, which did need cleaning. I'm going back to bed, however.

I really have to finish off the kitchen (some sanding, painting and doing the backsplashes). I just lost my steam (but I'll get it back). Home Depot is not even done yet and I want them out of the picture. They still have to inspect the plumbing and then do a final inspection. This has been dragging on for almost a year now. I signed the contract with them on May 4. This was after I'd got estimates in April.

I really hope Congress cracks down on the greedy credit card companies. Once again, the banks are engaging in predatory lending practices. (It's interesting to me, at least, that they're defiantly doing it under Obama's nose--pushing the envelope--and Obama has called them out on it. Obama's definitely on top of things.)

It seems all the banks care about is coddling their executives in New York City. Maybe they should move these banks out of New York City to a cheaper place. Move them to Tennessee (the way the Japanese car manufacturer Nissan set up its plant there to avoid the labor costs of Detroit).

In Tennessee, the bank executives can have a nice piece of land and a large mansion with a nice view of the countryside, and also be able to afford a cute cabin in the mountains somewhere by a babbling brook. Who needs a mansion in the Hamptons, really?

Living in a silo on Park Avenue is so passé. Get a real life!

TGIF

Slow news night. So I'll talk about food.

Back at the gym tonight, then the grocery store. Cubed steaks on sale; marinating now in wine, oil, garlic powder, soy sauce, cumin, ginger, etc. Sirloin tip roast on sale; bought one. I have loads of food here; have to freeze spaghetti sauce. The other night I bought some Locatelli Pecorino [sheep's milk] Romano cheese for the sauce--it was over $17/lb. I hadn't bought any in well over a year, but it was never that expensive. The Reggiano Parmesan was $23/lb. I prefer the Romano--the wedge I bought was $11. Fortunately, a little goes a long way.

Bought some of that StarKist "SeaSations" frozen fish that's been advertised on TV lately. Will give that a try. That was over $5 for 11.4 oz. I used to buy another brand of frozen, microwaveable, non-breaded fish filets, but they discontinued it, at least where I shop. These are very well suited to cooking in the microwave and come out good. I also used to buy frozen marinated chicken breasts that had the imprimatur of and/or were created by a beauty queen/celebrity (can't remember her name--pretty famous in her day). Those were good and easy to prepare, but they also discontinued them. Chicken breast can also come out good in the microwave if not overcooked. If anyone can think of the beauty queen's name, please let me know. I did a search on the Internet earlier and couldn't find anything. (Maybe I'll think of her name later.)

I'm thinking about buying skinless, boneless chicken breasts the next time they come on sale, tenderizing them with the manual tenderizer utensil, and then marinating them in plastic bags with various marinades--barbecue sauce, lemon juice, bleu cheese, etc. I could throw them in the freezer and pull them out as needed. (The celebrity lady had mesquite barbecue, bleu cheese, and lemon-herb varieties, etc.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Politics Of Reconciliation

From Tod Beeton at MyDD here.

How serious is the administration about insisting on the option of using reconciliation to pass healthcare reform?

Looking pretty damn serious:

In a meeting with House Republicans at the White House Thursday, President Obama reminded the minority that the last time he reached out to them, they reacted with zero votes -- twice -- for his stimulus package. And then he reminded them again. And again. And again.

A GOP source familiar with the meeting said that the president was extremely sensitive -- even "thin-skinned" -- to the fact that the stimulus bill received no GOP votes in the House. He continually brought it up throughout the meeting.

Obama also offered payback for that goose egg. A major overhaul of the health care system, he told the Republican leadership, would be done using a legislative process known as reconciliation, meaning that the GOP won't be able to filibuster it.

Sounds like the White House learned the right lesson from the stimulus debate and vote . . . .

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More on sailing

I used to like to sail around Biscayne Bay in a Sunfish (or a knock-off), which I borrowed from one of Mom's friends, who was an heiress to a local dairy and string of drive-through dairy stores. She lived in Gables-by-the-Sea. I would sail from her place to Vizcaya, have a bite to eat in the snack shop, and then sail back. (I didn't do this on any regular basis, mind you.)

One time, I invited a friend along. Everything was going swimmingly until on our way back from Vizcaya we became becalmed. We had one oar on board, and that snapped in two. I guess we then used the tiller to inch along, and maybe got a little wind in the sail from time to time. We didn't get back to shore until way after sundown. (This was before cell phones, by the way, so we were incommunicado--"missing at sea.") We didn't even make it back to Gables-by-the-Sea but reached a public boat ramp in the Gables just north of Sunset Drive (I can't remember the name of the area, but my aunt, who was then the principal at Key Biscayne Elementary, lived right there, so I guess we knocked on her door and made phone calls).

I don't remember everything exactly, but my friend's parents came to pick him up. Nobody was amused. I don't even remember how I got the sailboat back to Gables-by-the-Sea. My friend never sailed with me again (not that I would dare invite him), and I don't think I ever sailed again after that. (Only in my dreams.)

Thursday night

Almost Friday, T G.

When I was a kid, a kid older and bigger than me (a bully) held me under the water in a swimming pool until I almost drowned.* I'll never forget it as long a I live. It was torture. (I still remember the kid's name but I won't reveal it, of course (Arturo O.--you know who you are!).) He didn't do it again. It turned out to be not as funny as he thought it might (not even).

______________
*It happened at the Palm Bay Club, or its predecessor, the Emerald Bay Yacht Club, where I learned how to sail in 8-foot prams. (I also attended Summer Sailing Camp at the Miami Yacht Club, where one summer I led our team to victory in the grand finale Treasure Hunt. We all ended up on the Flagler Monument Island for a barbecue.)

Robert Reich: 'The Great Credit Card Battle To Come'

From TPM here.

The bankers will tell Obama today that any new contraints on credit card lending will cause the banks to reduce the amount of credit card lending they do, which will hurt the economy. But it's a weak argument because it presupposes that any lending is good for the economy -- even lending to people who don't know what they're getting into and can't repay the loans. It's the same argument banks used two years ago, when precient observers warned that constraints had to be placed on mortgage lending practices. What may hurt the economy in the short term, we now know, may save it from even larger pitfalls to come.

U.S. Soldier Killed Herself After Refusing To Torture

From Turkana at The Left Coaster here.

In a heartbreaking and infuriating article at Huffington Post, Greg Mitchell recounts what happened when a person of conscience was confronted with Bush Administration inhumanity:

With each new revelation on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo (and who, knows, probably elsewhere), I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson, who I have written about numerous times in the past three years but now with especially sad relevance. Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what we would call torture, she refused, then killed herself a few days later, in September 2003.

Peterson should be hailed as a martyr and a national heroine. But the military, of course, engaged in a cover-up. The cause of her death was listed as a "non-hostile weapons discharge"- possibly accidental. An intrepid local reporter named Kevin Elston, from her home state of Arizona, decided to do what national reporters now so infrequently do: investigate and report. . . .

Contradicting Obama's DNI, FBI Interrogator Says Torture Was Ineffective

From Big Tent Democrat here (emphasis mine).

Obama Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said:

High value information came from interrogations in which [torture] w[as] used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country[.]

In the New York Times today, an FBI interrogator involved in the interrogations, flatly contradicts Blair:

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

. . . There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques [read torture] on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.

* * *

Bailed-out banks spend millions on anti-consumer lobbying

See War Room story here.

From taxpayers' pockets to K Street

After months of political squabbling and popular anger over executive compensation and bonuses paid out by companies getting bailout money, you'd think the fires would slowly die. (That, or struggling banks and corporations would learn a few lessons about PR.) But a new story could fan the flames, deserved or not: The Washington Post reports that major recipients of bailout money spent $10 million lobbying the government in the first quarter of 2009, and some of that money went to the fight against executive pay caps and more stringent financial regulations.

The Post's Dan Eggen says companies that collectively accepted $150 billion in TARP funds have spent about $22 million on lobbying since the government began its handouts last fall. Topping the list of offenders for the first three months of 2009, though, were General Motors, which spent roughly $2.8 million, along with Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase, each of which spent about $1.3 million.

This sort of news, as the Post rightly points out, is sure to leave a bad taste in people's mouths. As William Patterson, executive director of CtW Investment Group, which is linked to a grouping of labor unions, told the paper: "Taxpayers are subsidizing a legislative agenda that is inimical to their interests and offensive to what the whole TARP program is about. It's business as usual with taxpayers picking up the bill."

Patterson is at least partly on point. In the last three months of 2008, for instance, collapsing automakers Chrysler and GM spent millions lobbying the House and Senate on issues ranging from vehicles emissions and safety regulations to climate change. It's hard to feel, in these cases, that corporate interests are in line with the public good. . . .

Man pretending to fall off bridge actually falls

AP story here.

Apr 23rd, 2009 BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- Police said a 23-year-old man is in stable condition after he pretended that he was falling off a bridge over the Minnesota River, then actually fell off the bridge. Police got a call just before 5 a.m. Sunday from a 21-year-old man who said his friend fell off the Highway 77 bridge and into a marshy area about 30 feet below.

The caller said he was driving north when his friend, who he said had been drinking, told him to pull into the bridge's emergency lane so he could urinate.

The 23-year-old stood [?] eventually climbed to the ledge of the bridge, then looked at his friend and pretended to fall. "He then in fact fell," reads a press release from the Bloomingtin Police Department.

Police from Bloomington and Eagan responded, and the Eagan Fire Department used a chair lift to retrieve the man. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center where was treated.

Tonight's top story

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More on torture

Now we're getting medieval. McClatchy story here.

Report: Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.

The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush's quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them. . . .

"There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder," he continued.

"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies." . . .

Susan Boyle making self over

Now she just has to do something with the hair. Calling Nick Arrojo.

See story here. You can also listen to Susan singing "Cry Me a River" there. (I posted it a few days ago.)

(Click at left to enlarge)

'Torture works sometimes -- but it's always wrong'

From Gary Kamiya at Salon here. Read the whole article.

As Shue suggests, the "ticking bomb" situation should be left in the classroom, for ethicists and philosophers to ponder. It has nothing to do with the real world. And those who invoke it are leading society down a fatal slippery slope, which ends with the wholesale justification of torture. Their arguments, which appeal to and are based in fear and anger, not considered analysis, would return us to the Middle Ages. . . .

Torture is not morally justifiable. In addition, it has severe negative consequences. Once a nation embraces torture, it forfeits any claim to a moral high ground. It becomes no better than those it is fighting. It may win a battle, but it will lose the war. As America struggles to win hearts and minds in the Arab/Muslim world, the use of torture is more harmful in the long run than any "high-value" intelligence gained by its use. And U.S. torture not only builds hatred in the Muslim world, it turns our allies against us -- and erodes us from within. As historian Horne pointed out, "When the news came out in France of what the army was doing, it caused such a revulsion that it led directly to the French capitulation. And not only revulsion in France, but revulsion here. JFK, as a senator, took up the Algerian cause quite strongly partly because of the human rights issue." Horne's conclusion: "I feel myself absolutely clear in my own mind that you do not, whatever the excuse, use torture, let alone abuse." . . .

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday night

Back from the doctor's. I'm fine. I'm a dutiful patient.

Glad to see there's a new episode of "The Stagers" on tonight. I think I've seen all the old episodes four times already. I especially enjoy watching Matthew Finlason. I'm glad they renewed the show. It deserved a chance.

Off for a tea. No time for a nap tonight.

[Later] "The Stagers" was the best ever, I thought. With Matthew and Rukiya. They were staging a condo like this one (mine's a little larger but doesn't have such an expanse of outdoor space, which they staged artfully).

Changing the subject--it would be interesting to see the evidence that Dick Cheney insists shows that torture worked. Someone high up in the U.S. intelligence communitycame out and said today, however, that whatever information they gained through torture didn't prevent any terrorist attacks against the U.S., and that it wasn't worth the damage we incurred on account of the bad publicity over our torture practices (see photos of Abu Ghraib, etc.). The publicity only served as a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations and made our enemies even more dangerous to our country than they had been before. Thank you, George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Any which way you slice it, torture doesn't work. Aside from that, torturing is illegal under international and U.S. law. As someone on one of the shows pointed out tonight, after the war crimes trials that took place following World War II, some Japanese were executed for waterboarding. And the U.S. was a full participant in those trials.

Good night!

Monday night

I had to turn off Chris Matthews and go back to HGTV. Pat Buchanan was on (as he often is). Enough said about that. (I could go on--- and apparently I am.) They were talking about Obama in Latin America (see previous post). Buchanan was insisting Bush/Cheney could have done a better job. Actually they did nothing for eight years except perhaps make Latin America more radical and antagonistic to the U.S. by ignoring them and putting them down (and perhaps trying to depose or assassinate Hugo Chavez). And I have no love for Hugo Chavez. But you deal with the real world, just as Nixon did in China. Diplomacy goes a long way. It can mean the difference between war and peace. The Bush Administration had no use for diplomacy. The Bush Administration preferred war. And how many American soldiers have died in Iraq (which had nothing to do with 9/11)? Over 4000? And how many more Iraqis were killed or displaced? That's Bush's legacy--sad to say.

This morning I was worried about Lucky. He wouldn't come to eat. When I put him up on the counter at his plate, he ran off to the bedroom. He stood at the threshold and when I tried to pick him up, he ran under the bed, all frizzed up. This happened a couple of times. And he didn't come into the bathroom when I took my shower to watch the water, but just stood at the threshold. I thought maybe Bootsy had been bullying him, but I don't think so. Maybe I kicked him out of the bed last night. Maybe he had a nightmare. But when I got home after work, he and Bootsy greeted me at the door like nothing was the matter. I was relieved about that.

Big rain storm here late in the day with a cold front coming through. Had a good nap while it was raining. I know it's good when I wake up and think I have to get ready for work. And then I'm happy that I don't (not that I don't love going to work, but not when I don't have to). I was glad to get over to Starbucks for a tea and read some of last week's New Yorker.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gingrich and GOP Anklebiters: Only Republicans are Allowed to Shake Hands with Dictators

See FDL here. Let's never forget that 9/11 was carried out by terrorists from Saudi Arabia (and not Saddam Hussein's Iraq).

Obama to attend meeting with credit card firms

Good for him. From Reuters via TPM here.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will participate in a meeting Thursday with executives of U.S. credit card companies, the White House said.

Aides to Obama previously announced the credit card firms would be meeting at the White House with top administration officials, including Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council.

But the White House made clear in a statement that Obama would participate in the meeting as well. He is expected to press the companies to change what administration officials see as deceptive practices that have saddled consumers with high debt and high interest rates. (Reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Bill Trott and Andre Grenon)

Poll: New York State Favors Legalizing Gay Marriage

See TPM here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wall Street Journal Commenters Think $250K a Year Isn’t Taxworthy

"So you make $260K? That's not rich. That's average, according to your Wall Street Journal commenters." From Firedoglake here.

The Wall Street Journal defends the wealthy against the possibility of increased taxes:

It is a tricky situation in which some Americans find themselves after a long boom: They are by no means struggling, compared with the 98% of Americans who make far less, but depending on where they live and the lifestyle choices they have made, they don't necessarily feel rich, either. Worse, in their view, they are facing the same tax rates as those making millions. Some of the expenses are self-inflicted -- like private-school costs and conspicuous consumption. Others, though, are unavoidable, like child-care costs, larger health-care deductibles and education expenses, especially college.

So, the other 96% of the population don’t have child-care costs, larger health care deductibles and education expenses, especially college? What kind of fool (Gary Fields) would write this? Even worse, what kind of fool could miss the stupidity? Why, that would be Wall Street Journal commenters. . . .

After years of Republican lower taxes and regulation, is the prospect of having to pay for the binge too much to bear? . . .

It is amazing that so many of these people, who are willing to pay $100 per year to read the WSJ on-line, seem woefully ignorant about how the world functions. Many of them don’t seem to understand the way marginal taxation works. There are several threads where people have to explain again and again that the 3% rise Obama wants will mean a $300 increase for the Sevierville, TN optometrist who serves as the example in the article. . . .

Many see taxes as punishment for success, and ask how a progressive income tax can be morally justified. They seem to have no idea that the infrastructure and social stability that gives them the possibility of success came from taxes paid by other people, including their ancestors. Some are angry about all the people who don’t pay federal income taxes. They don’t seem to realize that every worker pays Social Security and Medicare taxes, and that these go into the general fund. Where the heck do they think the money comes from, or goes to?

Angry, bone ignorant and selfish: a picture of your teabagging Republican Party.

Sunday evening/night

Watching "60 Minutes." So "cold fusion" does work? View video segment here.

A new "Desperate Housewives" is on tonight. Looks like it might be boring -- everyone reminiscing about Edie. Made out of clips from old shows? I want to know what's going to happen with the criminally insane husband. Meanwhile read here about Nicolette Sheridan's exit from the show (juicy!).

Made chili and am making Italian meat sauce now. Lots of it. I think I'll end up freezing some. It's very thick, with 2 3/4 lbs. ground beef (so high protein).

"Desperate Housewives" was OK. No old clips. I guess we'll find out more about the husband next week. The vignette about Edie and Gaby was silly. At some point in the past, when they were both divorced, they got all dressed up and went out together to a singles bar, where they competed to see who was bought the most drinks in an hour. Whoever had the most plastic stirs at the end of the hour won. Edie must have produced at least 10 stirs, and Gaby quite a few more. And they weren't even tipsy. (I'd like to see anybody drink at least 10 drinks in an hour and not be passed out on the floor, if not dead from alcohol poisoning.) Then they went home and drank a bottle of wine! That was pretty far-fetched.

I thought it was also hokey that the housewives would be the ones to tell Edie's son about her death. Certainly the father would have told the son, even by phone if he was overseas on business when she died. On top of that, they've brought Edie's remains along with them (in an urn) to hand over to the unwitting boy. Aside from being grotesque, it sounds kind of traumatizing to me.

The ending was nice, however.

The spaghetti sauce turned out good. I had some with a little vermicelli, topped with Romano cheese. I'll take some of that to work. Chili turned out the same as usual (also good).

So I was busy tonight. I also treated Bootsy's ears, put dishes away, reloaded dishwasher, cleaned out the cat box, etc. Yesterday I vacuumed the tile floors a bit. I've decided to get some help with the housecleaning (primarily the floors). B.'s parents used to come and clean periodically.

Parody of anti-gay ad

Last week I did a post about the ad. See Frank Rich's latest column here.

[No parody] may top Stephen Colbert’s on Thursday night, in which lightning from “the homo storm” strikes an Arkansas teacher, turning him gay. A “New Jersey pastor” whose church has been “turned into an Abercrombie & Fitch” declares that he likes gay people, “but only as hilarious best friends in TV and movies.” . . . [more below]

In 2008, 60 percent of Iowa’s Republican caucus voters were evangelical Christians. Mike Huckabee won. That’s the hurdle facing the party’s contenders in 2012, which is why Romney, Palin and Gingrich are now all more vehement anti-same-sex-marriage activists than Rick Warren. Palin even broke with John McCain on the issue during their campaign, supporting the federal marriage amendment that he rejects. This month, even as the father of Palin’s out-of-wedlock grandson challenged her own family values and veracity, she nominated as Alaskan attorney general a man who has called gay people “degenerates.” Such homophobia didn’t even play in Alaska — the State Legislature voted the nominee down — and will doom Republicans like Palin in national elections.

One G.O.P. politician who understands this is the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt, who on Friday urged his party to join him in endorsing same-sex marriage. Another is Jon Huntsman Jr., the governor of Utah, who in February endorsed civil unions for gay couples, a position seemingly indistinguishable from Obama’s. Huntsman is not some left-coast Hollywood Republican. He’s a Mormon presiding over what Gallup ranks as the reddest state in the country. . . .

It is justice, not a storm, that is gathering. Only those who have spread the poisons of bigotry and fear have any reason to be afraid.

Americans back legal aid to poll, new poll says [??]

AP story here.

Apr 19th, 2009 WASHINGTON -- Americans strongly support government-paid legal services for the poor, says a poll commissioned by the Legal Services Corp. . . .

Saturday night

Recently an old friend from my Montana days (two years with my first ex, in Helena) found me on Face Book and sent me a message. We've exchanged a couple of detailed messages since. I'm really happy to be back in touch. Spent a good part of the day working on an email to her, filling in my life story, so to speak. I think she always had the hots for my ex (just kidding!). She and I were in our 20s back then. I was a little older. It so happens she had a son who turned out gay.

Last night we had some kind of minor fire here, on the 4th floor. The fire alarm was sounding in the apartment just as I was heading out to the gym, and the elevators weren't working. (Fortunately I don't live on a high floor, since I had to take the stairs.) Before I left, I was assured by the security guard in the lobby that everything was under control. (I wasn't about to go off and leave the cats if they were in any danger). When I left, the place was swarming with fire trucks and police cars, all with their lights twirling. When I got home, they were gone. I talked to the security guard again afterward and he said that the person on the 4th floor had had a flare-up in the kitchen (we have fire extinguishers everywhere), and that when he opened his door to go out into the hall, the smoke spilling out of his apartment set off the fire alarm (and thus the response from the fire department). That was the story, at least.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Problem With Torture Part XXXIV

From Digby at Hullabaloo here. (Updated on Sunday, below.)

Blowback:

Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said.

Even for those who believed that brutal treatment could produce results, the official said, “seeing these depths of human misery and degradation has a traumatic effect.”

Imagine what these depths of human misery and degradation did to the prisoner? Of course, legal wing nut hacks like David Rifkin are out there saying those memos show awesome legal reasoning and prove that these actions were not torture. So perhaps it was actually much harder on the torturers because they erroneously thought it was torture, in which case it actually was torture -- for them.

Apparently, this all came about because there were those in the field who felt they had extracted all useful information but were pressured by Washington to step it up.

And why was that do you suppose? . . .

[Sunday update] But watch this:

Obama Most Popular 1st Quarter President in 30 Yrs

From Jonathan Singer at MyDD here.

Gallup has the numbers:

Barack Obama's first quarter in office concludes on Sunday, and during this early stage of his presidency he has averaged a solid 63% job approval, reaching as high as 69% in the initial days of his presidency and falling as low as 59% on a few occasions.

Obama's 63% first-quarter average matches the historical average of 63% for elected presidents' first quarters since 1953. However, it is the fourth highest for a newly elected president since that time, and the highest since Jimmy Carter's 69% in 1977. The historical first-quarter average includes two presidents whose scores exceeded 70% (John Kennedy's 74% and Dwight Eisenhower's 71%).

In the past three decades, every President -- including the Republicans' favorite Ronald Reagan -- has earned lower ratings during his first three months in office than Barack Obama. According to Gallup's numbers, George W. Bush earned an average 58 percent rating during the same period in his presidency, Bill Clinton earned a 55 percent rating, George H.W. Bush earned a 57 percent rating, and Reagan earned a 60 percent rating.

But perhaps even more remarkable than the fact that President Obama is more popular than either of his for most recent predecessors at the same points in their terms, Barack Obama has seen his approval rating remain stable throughout this period. Take a look at a graph of the President's approval rating since inauguration day, excluding internet polls and with the smoothing turned down so an not to read too much into small blips [see graph] . . . .

Throughout a period of great turmoil in the country . . . , Barack Obama has not only been able to maintain his approval rating but been able to maintain an impressive one at that. So much for the tea parties representing some real, broad-based sentiments within the electorate.

TARP lady explains bank bail-out plans

From Mary at The Left Coaster here.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Elizabeth Warren Pt. 2
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Energy secretary: Islands could disappear

So could a lot of South Florida. AP story here.

Apr 18th, 2009 PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad -- U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is warning that if countries they don't do something about climate change, "some island states will simply disappear."

The energy secretary is traveling with President Barack Obama to the two-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago for a summit of the Western Hemisphere's democracies. Chu told reporters at the Summit of the Americas on Saturday that Obama pushed leaders to work to stem rising temperatures.

Chu says that rising temperatures lead to more damaging hurricanes and rising oceans. Chu says those results are scary and could wipe out islands such as Trinidad and Tobago.

Michele Bachmann

She's a psychopath. (Go read the article, if you haven't already.)

Video from TPM

Rasmussen: Tea Parties "Prompt" Secession Question

From Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left here.

Conservative pollster Scott Rasmussen writes:

The secession question was prompted by "tea parties" nationwide on April 15 to express frustration about the high level of new federal government spending. But President Obama has maintained solid approval ratings over the past month in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.

Yes, the main Tea Party message turned out to be about secession. In case you were wondering, 70% of Texans are not as idiotic as their Governor - they know that Texas does not have a right to secede.

Another song from Susan Boyle

"Cry Me A River"

Lovely. Even better than the other song. (It's also a studio recording vs. a live performance, so the production quality is much better.)

Friday night

Today there was a book sale in the lobby of the building where I work. They also sell toys and novelties. I saw the salespeople demonstrating one of the toys and had to buy it for the cats (<$6). It's called a "Weazel ball." "The Playful Weasel Chases & Jumps the Rolling Motor Ball". (For ages 3 and up.) It's made in Taiwan. It has a rotating motor inside for locomotion (AA battery included).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday night

Took the melatonin. I shouldn't be writing (or driving, but I'm not driving), but I'd rather be writing than watching Tom DeLay on Chris Matthews talking about Texas seceding from the union. How silly.

Now that the American people have kicked the Republicans out of power, the Republicans are flailing around in desperation, trying to get attention and seem relevant (see also teabagging). What a spectacle.

Alas, the party of ideas that have wrecked the country financially and created the greatest disparity in wealth since the Gilded Age of the robber barons (before there were labor laws, etc.), and now they're talking about geographically rending the country asunder. Really good stuff. The American people must be looking on in wonderment. (Meanwhile they're behind Obama.)

###

It really rankles that bailed-out banks are now intensifying their exploitation of the middle-class consumer by increasing interest rates on credit cards. They're actually breaking contracts, but all they say about that is that you can pay off your credit card in full if you don't agree to their new policy and don't want to be subject to their new rates. (The new rates apply not only to new purchases but past balances as well.)

I'm glad Congress is on top of this. Go to Consumers Union to protest. This usury has got to stop. It's killing the middle class and only distributing more of our wealth upward to the already wealthiest people in our society since the lawless Gilded Age.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission

From Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left here.

Senator Leahy's proposal:

We need to get to the bottom of what happened -- and why -- so we make sure it never happens again. One path to that goal would be a reconciliation process and truth commission. . . . President Obama is right that we cannot afford extreme partisanship and debilitating divisions. . . . Rather than vengeance, we need a fair-minded pursuit of what actually happened. Sometimes the best way to move forward is getting to the truth, finding out what happened, so we can make sure it does not happen again. . . We need to come to a shared understanding of the failures of the recent past. It is something to be considered.

I do not know if I agree with this approach, but given the statements today from President Obama and Attorney General Holder, it is something to be considered.

Insomnia

The bane of my existence (or one of them, at least). Last night I tried to cut back on the melatonin (I've been taking two 300 mcg, plus Valerian). Didn't work. I was back up at 2:00, snarfing down more melatonin. It probably didn't help last night that I went back and attacked the salmon loaf at a late hour (I was hungry and it was there). I'd also had a green tea at Starbucks.

Tonight I had a Wild Sweet Orange herb tea at Starbucks (and the salmon loaf is gone). But later I'll go back to the old melatonin dosage just the same.

Performed normally at work today after extra coffee.

Fox News Anchor: We Did Public Relations For Tea Parties

From TPM here (watch video).

Earlier today, Brent Bozell, founder of the conservative Media Research Center, appeared on Fox to lambaste liberal and mainstream media journalists (particularly on MSNBC) for telling "oral sex jokes" about the Tea Bag Protest movements. Unfortunately for anchor Megyn Kelly, though, once he was done lashing his tongue, hers slipped. . . .

You know Brent, it's been interesting because Fox News covered these Tea Parties, and we were one of the only organizations to give it any publicity or p.r. prior to the fact that it happened, and it was so under-covered by virtually every news organization. Why is that? Why was it so ignored up until the very last day by virtually everyone. . . .

Anderson Cooper: It's hard to talk when you're teabagging

See Open Salon post here.

Obamas pay more than $900,000 in taxes

From The Hill here, via TPM:

The new first family paid more than $900,000 in federal and state taxes this year after President Obama's book sales last year earned him more than $2.6 million.

In addition to paying more than $855,000 in federal taxes, the Obamas also paid more than $77,000 in state taxes in Illinois, according to the White House.

Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill, reported paying $46,952 in federal taxes on "an adjusted gross income" of close to $270,000.

The Bidens paid a little more than $11,000 in state taxes in Delaware.

While the Obamas donated more than $172,000 to charity, including $25,000 gifts to the United Negro College Fund and CARE, the Bidens donated a little more than $1,800.

"The charitable donations claimed by the Bidens on their tax returns are not the sum of their annual contributions to charity," the White House said. "They donate to their church, and they contribute to their favorite causes with their time, as well as their checkbooks."

Vermont Counter-Protesters Call For Tax Increases

From MyDD here.

Paying taxes is patriotic and as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society. Glad people are standing up and saying it:

Calling itself S.O.S., or Save Our State, the group held a small pro-tax protest in Montpelier, the national income tax-filing deadline, to drive home that taxes pay for needed programs and state employees perform necessary duties.

About two dozen people crowded around the state Tax Department's help window while organizers turned in single-signature petitions, designed to look like a tax form, that organizers called SOS-EZ forms.

They list 17 state programs that could be kept whole with what organizers say would be a modest tax increase.

"It's not just a day to worry about taxes; we value our institutions and the programs the state offers," said S.O.S. organizer Chris Curtis, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid. "We can't pave our own roads. We can't keep our own courthouse doors open. It's frustrating that some days of the week the courts are closed."

The anti-tax orthodoxy of the right has just about ruined California since the GOP has a minority veto over any tax increases and the passage of budgets. People are starting to come around on the issue but obviously on days like today a very vocal minority makes it seem like quite the opposite is true.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Meet Kingsford

Here. (From my friend at Plunked Down on Plunkett Street .) (Takes a little while to load, so be patient.)

Wednesday night

Didn't feel like going to the gym tonight. Not enough of a nap. But I have pledged to go one day this weekend, in addition to Friday. I really like going to the gym on Friday night, since it's practically empty.

You can read about one of those teabag rallies here, from Joan Walsh at Salon.

I got a notice from Discover today saying that they also are raising their interest rates on credit cards, to Prime plus 13.49% for an APR (on purchases) of 16.75%. (It was 12.49%.) The other day I donated $5 to Consumers Union to help put a stop to these rate hikes. The following is from Consumers Union here.

The Banks are at it Again!

Several major banks just hiked interest rates and fees on our credit cards, turning a blind eye to the millions of Americans struggling with the collapsing economy and higher unemployment. Just as we start getting that little increase in our paychecks, we have to turn around and give it to our credit card banks.

The U.S. House and Senate are both taking up credit card reform this week. That's why we need you to contact your lawmakers NOW to ask for their support.

Media reports show Capital One hiked interest rates to 17.9% from 12.9%. Citibank raised their rates an average of 3%. While over at Chase, customers had a “choice” of paying a $120-a-year fee and a higher minimum payment, or a higher interest rate. Meanwhile, the interest rate banks charge each other for overnight loans is as low as 0%.

The Federal Reserve Board passed a new rule to prevent these sudden rate hikes, but it won’t go into effect until the middle of 2010. How many times before then will we get slugged with higher rates and fees just so the banks who got billions in taxpayer bailouts can increase their profits?

Let’s help make it happen now. Tell Congress we can’t afford to wait until mid-2010 for credit card reform!

Greedy bastards. Screwing the middle-class consumer while the taxpayers are subsidizing the banks on account of their reckless behavior. Go here to send message. (Fortunately, I don't have large balances on my cards and will pay them off ASAP.)

Video of the Day

Here. This is really good and was on all the news shows tonight.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday night II - Food Edition

(I think Bob's "visitation" deserves its own post.)

I was supposed to go to the doctor's at the end of the day today, but while I was sitting on the bus on the way there, someone from the doctor's office called on my cell phone to cancel the appointment. (They were running two hours behind on their appointments.) My doctor's office is on South Beach. Fortunately I was able to get off the bus before it got onto the causeway. It was too late to go back to work, so I took another bus home. What a waste of time, but it was better than waiting in the doctor's office for two hours.

Tonight I made my fabulous Salmon Loaf. It's cooling now. (Yes, it looks like that.) I used to make salmon croquettes, but that got to be too much trouble. The loaf is made of the same stuff that goes inside the croquettes--only it's baked vs. fried in "bound breading." Fewer calories and a lot less trouble. The ingredients for one loaf just fit inside my food processor. No slicing, no dicing. Plus the salmon comes out of a can and is perfectly good. (And the cats like the juice.) Also I use Hungry Jack instant mashed potatoes (the best) as the filler, and concoct that recipe (4 servings) right in the food processor bowl (i.e., without preparing the mashed potatoes beforehand and then adding them to the food processor). I also use 2% evaporated canned milk (and don't dilute it), for extra richness. Easy but divine. I wouldn't hesitate to serve this to anyone (including "Bob," who was a good cook and threw a lot of nice dinner parties back in the day). The salmon loaf is more of a brunch food, however, and it's good hot or cold. (But today I had it for breakfast, cold, and also for dinner, also cold.)

What's with this silly Republican "tea party" hype? It's certainly no "grass roots" movement, as they're hyping it. It reminds me of Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America." As if we all wanted that. And we didn't. And it and Newt Gingrich were repudiated. But Newt is trying to creep back onto the scene, as if people want to see him back. Good luck.

Newt aligns himself with the "Christian" base of his party while he's out having an affair when his wife is in the hospital with cancer? What a hypocrite. So he's on his third marriage now? What's with right-wing "family values"?

I think Obama sets a much better example for "family values." But I digress.

Tuesday night

On Sunday morning, while I was asleep, my departed friend "Bob" came to me in a dream. He appeared from above the waist up, in vivid color. (I think he was wearing a yellow-green pullover sweater over a shirt with the collar sticking out.) It was almost like he was on a TV screen or in a window that just popped up while I was dreaming about something else. And he looked me straight in the eyes and asked me, emphatically, in his normally husky, cracking voice, "Are you happy?!" I was nonplussed and took a few seconds to answer, considering he had just died (about which I wasn't "happy" and he was right there in front of me, almost staring me down--and I didn't want to say the wrong thing), but finally I told him, "Yes, I'm happy." And then he disappeared.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday night

First pooch here. (White House photo.)

Glad they rescued the ship captain kidnapped by the pirates. Good job, Navy Seals! Good job, Obama!

As Newsweek's Howard Fineman said on Hardball tonight: "You can't overstate the disaster this was that the president avoided." "The administration deserves credit for that."

GREED

From TPM here.

Yglesias:

[W]hatever one [thinks] should be done with large financial institutions as a policy matter, surely we [can] agree that the executives at these institutions are primarily bad people. ... These are people primarily motivated in life by greed. Not just by a desire to make some scratch, mind you. ... They're multi-millionaires who want to earn millions more. ...

[I]t's a sign, I think, of a kind of sickness running through American society that we've lost the willingness to just say clearly that ceteris paribus greedy behavior is not virtuous behavior. In the spirit of decency, of course, we recognize that none of us are without sin. It would be crazy to try to condemn everyone who's ever done anything greedy to the gallows. But the fact still remains that greedy behavior is not admirable behavior and that, as Krugman says, it's very unlikely that the "best" young people were going into finance. And to say that they're not necessarily good people need not entail that they're criminals. Simply the fact that the best people are people who aren't primarily driven by greed.

Amen. I recently read an article by Thomas Geoghegan in Harper's Magazine about how the banks created the current financial crisis ("Infinite Debt: How unlimited interest rates destroyed the economy"). They're sucking all the wealth out of the economy through usury, which used to be illegal. (So much for deregulation.) It has to become illegal again. (The Democrats are working on it.)

("Ceteris paribus" is Latin for "all other things being equal.")

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Can Cuba cope with an onslaught of Americans?

I'd like to go there myself. Full AP story here.

A push in Congress to do away with U.S. travel bans on Cuba could set off a flood of American visitors to the long-forbidden island.

Cuba has about as many hotel rooms as Detroit and most are already full of Canadians and Europeans. Experts say droves of Americans could drive up prices, unleash calls for more flights and cruises than Cuba can handle and force the government to tighten visa restrictions to regulate the stampede. . . .

Cuba plans to build 30 new hotels nationwide to tap into the market for boutique accommodations. Some of those have been completed, but many aging properties have been shut down for remodeling, leaving the total number of rooms flat since 2006.

According to Smith Travel Research, the 349 hotels in Miami and Hialeah alone have about as many rooms as all of Cuba. The city of Detroit, with 42,000-plus hotel rooms, is not far behind.

Even at top Cuban resorts, it is often hard to get amenities as basic as an extra roll of toilet paper. Comforts including apples, french fries and bottled beer are sometimes scarce -- not to mention perks like in-room coffee-makers or wireless Internet access.

And, as in Eastern Europe in the 1970s, international tourists complain about sub-par food and service. . . .

Whitley said the first wave of Americans could arrive by cruise ship and visit Havana only for a few hours, thus alleviating strains on hotels, restaurants and already hard-to-find taxis and rental cars. . . .

Joan Walsh: 'Rick Warren bails on ABC's "This Week"'

From Salon here.

On Easter Sunday it's wrong to revel in the misfortune of others. It's wrong most days, but feels especially wrong today. So I'm saying a prayer for Saddleback Church megapastor Rick Warren, who had to cancel at the last minute on ABC's "This Week." Just minutes before the show began, his staff informed host George Stephanopolous that the pastor is "sick with exhaustion." (h/t Pam Spaulding.)

Of course it's hard not to link Warren's sudden disappearance to the firestorm over his claim, on CNN's "Larry King Live," that he had never campaigned for California's Prop. 8, which abolished gay marriage. It wasn't difficult to immediately find press statements and even video featuring Warren touting the measure. I don't know what Warren was thinking. Gay leaders and Christian right leaders pounced on Warren's obvious lie.

People I respect, like Alan Wolfe, believe Warren represents an important departure from a right-wing evangelical Christianity that preaches simplistic and scapegoating answers to issues like gay rights and abortion; I only think he differs in degree. But it's possible that Warren's "exhaustion" represents a genuine internal torment over his inability to choose sides -- Christian love, acceptance and inclusion vs. the Christian-right politics of fire, brimstone and derision -- and the political power that has accrued to right-wing leaders who demonize.

I have seen Warren as very much an old style religious leader who was more enthralled with political power than healing our divided political culture. Maybe he's having a crisis of conscience. On Easter Sunday, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he comes through his "exhaustion" better able to live his values, whatever they really are.

Happy Easter