Thursday, July 31, 2008

Apples to Apples



Jon Stewart's new "Image Correspondent," Wyatt Cenac, compares the unlikely twins -- Rappers and Republicans:

Rappers, Republicans. What's the difference?

They both love money, they love guns, gay people scare the sh*t out of them. Every other word out of their mouth is n****r.
He then challenges Jon to a game, Rappers or Republicans.

See if you can tell them apart.

What Comes Next?



Wow. John McCain has been taking a few hits in the press (and even from a few GOP colleagues) for his negative campaign tactics. See Low-Road Express and From 'straight talk' to smear campaign. Even better, they're not only negative, but dishonest, since they're all untrue. Examples abound, from the comment that Obama would rather lose the war for political gain, to he snubbed the troops on his European jaunt to go to the gym, to he's presumptuous (GOP code word, I believe, for uppity).

The latest example of the TrashTalk Express is mentioned by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, Keeping Track:

John McCain's new tactic of associating Barack Obama with oversexed and/or promiscuous young white women. (See today's new ad and this from yesterday.) Presumably, a la Harold Ford 2006 . . .
Makes you wonder. Gee, what comes next?

Perhaps rumors that he has an illegitimate white daughter?

(A la rumors that circulated against McCain in 2000 in South Carolina, when it was alleged that his adopted Bangladeshi daughter was really a "love-child" of his from a tryst with a black woman).

Or, does that one belong to John Edwards?

(Cartoon via Tony Auth, NYTimes)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Doctor Heal Thyself


Today is the second time that I've been stood up. It was a date that I was really looking forward to, but he was a no show twice.

I've had a sick appliance and called Appliance Doctor, who does house calls. Yet Appliance Doctor seems to be going the way of regular physicians -- no more house calls. That is, despite waiting at the appointed time two different days, no one came. No one called.

When you call to schedule an appointment, they are supposed to call that morning between 8 - 9 a.m. to give you a window of when to expect the repairman. I ended up waiting 1 1/2 hours this morning to find out when I needed to be home to wait for my repairman. I finally called and was told that he'd be here this afternoon. So home I came and waited. And waited. And waited. No one came. No one called.

The first time this happened, I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. No more. So, my question is, if I have to pay a service charge when they come to the house, do I get to bill Appliance Doctor for my waiting time if they don't come???

I think the Appliance Doctor needs to see a doctor about getting better. I may have a sick appliance, but I think I'm not the only one. Talk about bad doctors!

Perhaps I need to add a magnet on my red convertible, like the guy who expressed his view of Cherry Hill Dodge after they refused to honor the warranty on the truck he bought there, which says:

Appliance Doctor of Bensalem, Pa Sucks!!!

Today's Lesson

Despite appearance, these two things are not alike:

John McCain's $520 Ferragamo loafers, and John Edwards' $400 haircut.

Why not?

Edwards is a Democrat.

The press loves McCain.

Understand?

Cartoon of the Day




Pat Oliphant, NYTimes

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Life of Stone


I just finished The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields, the next book for my reading group, which meets this week.

The story, a series of vignettes or diaries, provide snippets of the life of Daisy Goodwill, from her birth in 1905 to her death, sometime in the 1990s. The chapters follow different stages of her life, from her birth, childhood, marriage and old age and is presented as a combination autobiography and biography.

The manner in which the story is told, as well as a detailed family tree and an assortment of family photos makes you wonder if the tale is true. In fact, at one point, I found myself looking to see if the book was fiction or non-fiction. The inside cover confirmed that it was a novel.

There is much to enjoy in the book and its simple story of Daisy and her life. However, the life of Daisy, which starts upon the death of her mother during her birth, is not a happy one. The characters that intersect with her, friend and family alike, are all complex in their ordinariness. However, to one degree or another, each lives a life that is unfulfilled and alone, as does Daisy. From her father, who was in love with her mother Mercy, who never truly felt anything for him, to the next door neighbor Clarentine, who raised Daisy after she left her husband. From her first husband who died on their honeymoon, who was never mourned or mentioned again by Daisy to Clarentine's son Barker, who loved her from childhood, but wasn't able to express his feelings, although they eventually married and had a family.

Daisy's life was typical for a woman of her time, but was permeated by her loss of her mother at birth, followed by an eleven year separation from her father while she was raised by Clarentine. After she was reunited with her father, a stonecutter (who built a stone monument to her mother that became famous), they moved from Canada to the States. They had a normal life, but she was never especially close with her father. Daisy had 3 children, who were somewhat disappointing and distant from her (both literally and figuratively). She managed to make a decent life, with joys and highpoints, but reflected at her death that she was like the stones that surrounded her life.

In addition to the oppressive sorrow that she bore for most of her life, including a period of deep depression that paralyzed her, the biggest flaw in the book for me was the continual narration shifts from one point of view to another -- sometimes in the same paragraph, which detracted from the story at times. It wasn't that I couldn't follow the story line due to the changing points of view, but I sometimes felt that the shift was accidental rather than an intentional literary device of the author. I like the diary format and there were parts where the narration by other characters was very good, such as the reflection by friends and family as to the cause of Daisy's depression.

Overall, my view of the book was mixed. It was well written (narrative changes aside), easy to read and Daisy's story was interesting, but I certainly wouldn't call it one of my favorite books. But what do I know? After all, the book won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and several Canadian book awards, and it received a glowing NYTimes review by Jay Parini (a Scranton native), Men and Women, Forever Misaligned.

Cartoon of the Day


Matt Davies, The Journal News

Going Home

From the heart of Hillary land: Shenandoah, a small town in Pennsylvania, is dealing with the aftermath of the beating death of a young Hispanic man.

The incident occurred on July 12, as described by the Allentown Morning Call, Fatal beating: Hate crime?:

Luis Ramirez came to the United States from Mexico six years ago to look for work, landing in this Schuylkill County town. Here, he found steady employment, fathered two children and, his fiancee said, occasionally endured harassment by white residents.

Now he is headed back to Mexico in a coffin.

The 25-year-old illegal immigrant was beaten over the weekend after an argument with a group of youths, including at least some players on the town's beloved high school football team, police said. Despite witness reports that the attackers yelled ethnic slurs, authorities say the beating wasn't racially motivated.
Eleven days after his death from injuries related to the beating, 3 out of 6 local teens were arrested for the crime. The teens were football players on the high school squad in a town where football is revered, no doubt adding to the tensions created in this town in the aftermath of the attack. According to a follow up piece in the Morning Call, two of the teens were charged as adults with homicide, ethnic intimidation and related offenses, 3 teens charged in Mexican's beating death, which provided details of the crime:
The six teens happened upon Luis Ramirez after spending the night of July 12 drinking in the woods and going to a block party.

About 11:15 p.m., as they walked past the 25-year-old man and a teenage girl near Vine Street Park in Shenandoah, they taunted her: ''Get your Mexican boyfriend out of here.'' According to court records, one called Ramirez a racial slur. He responded, ''What's your problem?''

Some of the teens went after him. A fight broke out. Ramirez fell. They punched and kicked him repeatedly, the court records say.

These details of what led to the death of Ramirez, a father of two who came to the United States from Mexico illegally six years ago, emerged Friday when authorities announced the arrests of Shenandoah residents Colin J. Walsh, 17; Brandon J. Piekarsky, 16; and Derrick M. Donchak, 18.

All three played on the Shenandoah Valley High School football team last season. Donchak, who has since graduated and was headed to Bloomsburg University next month, was the quarterback.

The beating death has heightened racial tensions in Shenandoah, a coal mining town dotted with ethnic churches.
See also, DA charges teens in deadly beating. The irony of the proponderence of churches in the town is that Ramireez' chest had an imprint of the Jesus medialion that he was wearing when the teens stomped on him, as noted by the Morning Call. It was also interesting to note that the teens were from "Shenandoah Heights," which generally means that they lived in the "better part of town." Good Christians, from good families.

Despite the initial reaction of the local police, I must applaud the of the District Attorney who charged the teens for his handling of the crime, as well as the coverage by the local paper, The Republican Herald. An editorial shortly after Ramirez' death is Fatal beating cries out for justice to be served:
It’s something one might expect to hear from some well-known world trouble spot ... Iraq, Afghanistan ... maybe the Palestinian territory.

After all, most of the time it seems people in those places have little to do but blow up, shoot or beat others in an endless cycle of terrorism and retribution.

Certainly those people aren’t thinking clearly, not like we do here in Pennsylvania and Schuylkill County.

From the perspective here, those Middle Eastern killing fields, frankly, resemble our perception of Hell.

So the idea of someone walking home in Schuylkill County on a warm summer night being accosted, taunted and beaten to death is, well, preposterous.

This is America, land of immigrants, the great melting pot, beacon of democracy, liberty — and tolerance.

Maybe it’s time to drop the smugness.
As the editorial noted, racial tensions have risen in that area due to an influx of Hispanics to the community, fueled by those who are merely two generations removed from their own immigrant heritage. And it's another part of the pattern of a rise in racial hate crimes that has been occuring here and across the counry, formented in my view, by the increasing acceptability of expressing bigotry.

In a not too subtle attempt to wipe some of the blood from his hands, the PA politician from Hazleton, about 20 minutes from Shenandoah, who makes anti-immigrant bias the centerpiece of his political platform, Lou Barletta, tried to distance himself from the crime. Barletta laments beating death:
Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta called the Shenandoah homicide of an illegal immigrant from Mexico “a real tragedy” on Friday and offered condolences to the victim’s family.

“Any time a person here, legally or illegally (is killed), it’s a tragedy when someone’s life is taken,” Mr. Barletta said.

Mr. Barletta said he does not believe his campaign against illegal immigration in any way created an atmosphere that encouraged the killing of Luis Ramirez.
Despite his expressed sympathy, Barletta couldn't help adding:
“The flip side” of Mr. Ramirez’s death is that there are murder victims of illegal immigrants as well, Mr. Barletta said, citing the deaths of a Hazleton man and Lewisburg woman at the hands of illegal immigrants.
Of course, these sentiments make Barletta popular in many areas of the Keystone State, in the Central and northern heart of darkness. These are the same people who helped defeat Obama in the state;s primary, Race Matters.

The murder has, not surprisingly, brought forth some of the horrible haters, who have tried to twist the facts to make it seem as though the victim were responsible for his fate. See American Humanity, Luis Ramirez Beaten To Death: Some Try to Justify.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Never Can Say Good-bye

It's time to pack up and head home.

Our annual family vacation with my husband's family has come to an end. His family is scattered from one to coast to the other, with a few in-between, so they make an effort to get together annually for the holidays and a summer family vacation. We've been vacationing together at various shore points (mostly) since 1993, from Sea Isle and Bethany Beach to Clearwater, Newport Beach and San Diego. Except for one brother with younger kids, most of our kids are now teens and one just graduated from college in June. Luckily, his family is very close and everyone gets along, so the week is a time for rest, relaxation and fun in the sun.

We usually also come to Sea Isle (or another shore point) in August for a week ourselves, but that doesn't look likely this year. Our daughter will be heading south to start her college career in mid-August and we'll go with to help her get settled in. We'll spend a few days on the beaches in South Florida, but that's not the same.

This will certainly be a year of big changes for us and this may just be the first.




* * *

Another note. One strange thing that I noticed during our week here is the paucity of people (compared to other years) at the shore. This is the height of the summer season, but the beach, the boardwalk and especially the stores, were weirdly empty. This is the best sign for me that the economy really, really sucks.

Pardon Me!


Now that the end is near, thoughts are turning to transitional issues for the Bush Administration. Probably the biggest issue for many (besides bombing Iran) is a presidential pardon.

The NYTimes recently had article by Charlie Savage, Felons Seeking Bush Pardon Near a Record, discussing the number of pending pardon requests. As part of the discussion, the issue of pre-emptive pardons was mentioned:

As the administration wrestles with the cascade of petitions, some lawyers and law professors are raising a related question: Will Mr. Bush grant pre-emptive pardons to officials involved in controversial counterterrorism programs?

Such a pardon would reduce the risk that a future administration might undertake a criminal investigation of operatives or policy makers involved in programs that administration lawyers have said were legal but that critics say violated laws regarding torture and surveillance.

Some legal analysts said Mr. Bush might be reluctant to issue such pardons because they could be construed as an implicit admission of guilt. But several members of the conservative legal community in Washington said in interviews that they hoped Mr. Bush would issue such pardons — whether or not anyone made a specific request for one. They said people who carried out the president’s orders should not be exposed even to the risk of an investigation and expensive legal bills.

“The president should pre-empt any long-term investigations,” said Victoria Toensing, who was a Justice Department counterterrorism official in the Reagan administration. “If we don’t protect these people who are proceeding in good faith, no one will ever take chances.”

Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman, would not say whether the administration was considering pre-emptive pardons, nor whether it would rule them out.

“We are going to decline to comment on that question since it is regarding internal matters,” Ms. Lawrimore wrote in an e-mail message.

This is an issue that is beginning to be pondered by many. See, e.g., Crime? What Crime? No Crime Here. Now Get Lost.

This was also a topic of discussion at dinner last week with a group of friends, including the Dean of one of the Philly law schools. We all agreed that Bush was going to give a bunch of going away presents to all his buddies.

After all, preemptive pardons are encompassed within the scope of the pardon power. See Can President Bush pardon people who haven't even been charged with a crime?. The only restriction on the Presidential Pardon power is impeachment. So long as Bush does it before he's impeached, Bush can (and no doubt will) pardon himself.

The view that a president can pardon himself is not totally without question (since it's never been done), but it is the clear majority view that the President as the power to do so.

Before Nixon resigned, he apparently considered a self-pardon. The story is that Nixon prepared a Memo outlining his ability to pardon himself, which Alexander Haig then gave to then-VP Ford. This was part of an attempt to strike a deal with Ford to have him pardon Nixon if he resigned. Although that story has been the subject of some controversy (whether Ford actually agreed to pardon Nixon as a condition of Nixon agreeing to resign without doing it himself), it's likely that that's how it happened. As we all know, shortly after assuming office, Ford did in fact pardon Nixon.

Of course, the only problem for Bush would be if he were to be impeached. Despite the hearings held yesterday by the Judiciary Committee, impeachment is has as much a chance of happening as the reinstatement of our constitutional rights during the reign of Bush.

Finally, as the NYTimes article notes, when the Bush Administration first came into office, they were extremely critical of the pardons issued by Bill Clinton. But things are different now. It's the Bush Administration, not the Clinton Administration. And, as we all know, 9/11 changed everything.

I have no doubt Bush will do it as he walks out the door. It will be his final F-U to us all!

(Cartoon via Steve Sack, Star Tribune)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Matt Davies, The Journal News

Could It Be You?

During my shore vacation, my reading has been less of the serious news and political reading that I usually do. So, I happened upon the story about the John Edwards affair earlier this week. I almost wrote about it then, but hesitated because of the source of the news story -- the National Enquirer.

I normally would never rely on the veracity of anything carried in that rag or others like it, unless it was reporting something like George Bush was off the wagon or Laura was divorcing him. Then, the more outrageous, the better.

I wasn't able to find anything about the story anywhere else, so I dismissed it as scurrilous lies to derail Edwards' chances at the VP spot. Then, I saw the story discussed by one of my favorite bloggers, Shaun Mullen of Kiko's House, who focused on the lack of media attention, John Edwards & Larry Craig: The Hypocritical Media's Double Standard, observing:

It is a story with three of America's favorite subjects -- celebrity, sex and hypocrisy -- but you'll have to look awfully hard to find it.

* * * *

But when the National Enquirer breathlessly reported that former presidential candidate John Edwards had visited an alleged mistress and their love child at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles on Monday night you could have heard a pin drop. As of this morning, only the Los Angeles Times among mainstream media outlets has picked up the Enquirer story, according to a Google News search.

It is possible that the Enquirer story about Edwards' alleged linkup with Reille Hunter is false, based as it is on circumstantial evidence and unnamed sources. . . .

But my gut tells me that there is something to the Enquirer story and sooner or later that will be confirmed. The real crime here is the double standard that the mainstream media is using in an era when the lines between tabloid journalism and traditional journalism have become blurred.
See also, Why the press is ignoring the Edwards "love child" story and What John Edwards Scandal?.

As Shaun mentioned, it wasn't picked up by a major paper until Wednesday, the LATimes, National Enquirer alleges John Edwards affair; blogosphere readies salt shaker. Even then, it was carried by one of its blogs, and featured the blogger angle on coverage of the story.

At the Huffington Post, John McQuaid Edwards Love Child, Yawn takes the contrary view, saying that the press should respect the privacy of Edwards, now that he is out of the public eye:
Oh, please. Edwards is a politician, which automatically puts him in the public eye. But, frankly, this is a tenuous pretext at best for covering his personal foibles right now. He is a private citizen. He is not running for president. He doesn't hold office, as Craig did -- still does! He didn't cop to committing a crime, then absurdly try to weasel out of it as Craig did.

It sure looks like Edwards is a hypocrite who misrepresented himself by showcasing his wife and kids so prominently in the campaign. But his campaign was unsuccessful. Voters didn't buy his arguments or his life story as reasons to elect him. In short, nobody cares about this now, except as celebrity gossip. And that's how it's going to play when the media picks it up, as it probably will."
I generally agree with McQuaid's position on this issue. Truthfully, I don't even feel that a current politician's "indiscretions" should be anyone's business but that of the spouse, if any -- unless the politician has made "moral values" part and parcel of their political belief system. If so, then the public should know that they are being hypocritical. You should not get to spout off all the platitudes about family values, then go off having a little fun on the side without any consequences.

Well, now that it's out there, the question arises:

Could it be true? The biggest thing that tends to go against it is the fact that the Hotel where Edwards supposedly had his liaison was hosting a Television Critics Association summer press tour at the time, 'Enquirer' links John Edwards, Rielle Hunter, so he'd be crazy to pick that spot to have a rendezvous. Edwards is a smart man, so I can't imagine him being that sloppy with his personal "affairs" (literal and figurative).

McQuaid comes up with the better one -- hasn't the National Enquirer heard of video cameras? The cost has come way down these days for a compact decent video camera.

UPDATE (7/27): I think the story will most likely hit the mainstream media in the next few days or so, since I'm seeing more reportage of it. See, e.g., Sleaze scuppers Democrat golden boy and Say It Ain't So, John. Why Progressives Need To Get Out In Front Of The John Edwards Affair Rumors.

I'm not sure why there is such surprise about the fact that the Edwards "affair" (if there is one) has been ignored by the press. It's just more of the same. After all, as I noted when he exited from the primary, the campaign of John Edwards was pretty much dismissed by the media during the primary itself, so why should now be different?

Morning Has Broken


Dawn breaks on our last day at the shore.

Despite the iffy weather here and there -- and exceedingly cold Ocean waters -- the weather mostly cooperated to provide a perfect beach week (my sunburn can attest to that).

Even better, I didn't have to spend much time on work. A few calls with clients, a few emails and one agreement. Yes, I know -- I'm one of those Type A people, who works on vacation. For me, it's an occupational hazard, especially when you are in a small firm without much back-up to fill in on those matters that just can't wait. What I have gotten better at is figuring out the true emergencies and those that can wait until my return.

Blogging has also been light (both quantity and content), which has matched my relaxed vacation mood. Luckily, there haven't been any major events to distract me from my lite reading (although I saw that a House Judiciary Committee hearing is scheduled for today on impeachment).

Tomorrow, it's back to Philly and the real world. Hopefully, I'll be able to go to the pool to extend the vacation mode a bit longer . . . .

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Jim Borgman, Cincinnati Enquirer

The Reason Why

During the excruciatingly long campaign season, I've read a lot about the various candidates for President and, although I've been a Johnny Come Lately to the Barack Obama camp, I've (mostly) been OK with him as the nominee.

His FISA vote is a major exception, which has somewhat tarnished his image for me. As I've noted before, I was particularly disappointed on his change in position on this issue, because I know that he knows better.

On the other hand, I've known for a long time that he is politically moderate (at least from my perspective he is), but I realize that the country, despite its avowed yearning for "change," isn't really interested in the type of change that I'd like to see -- an embrace of true liberal values. Yet, I'm enough of a realist to understand that he is better than most overall, and after weighing the pros and cons, he's certainly the best of the bunch.

I think one of his finest characteristics is the fact that he the intelligent alternative, which is something we desperately need. I've observed his impressive ability to handle himself and the issues he's addressed during his international tour, all of which bode well for our future under an Obama Administration.

I was heartened to read this essay by M.J. Rosenberg, Obama's Overseas Success: What's His Secret?, discussing Obama's trip to Israel and Palestine:

He knows his stuff. I worked on Capitol Hill for 20 years and I can tell the difference between a staff driven politician and one who knows what he's talking about. The staff driven pol (McCain is an example) is always capable of the big blunder. He does not mix up Shiites and Sunnis because he "misspoke;" he really doesn't know the difference. Same on the economy, he studies a memo and works to assimilate it. But there is no depth.

The sad fact is that most of our politicians are like that. On the Arab-Israeli issue, all they know is that they need to sound pro-Israel. So they end up mouthing the most superficial pieties. They are afraid to talk about the Palestinians because they might say the wrong thing.

They pander and pander, knowing that they won't get into trouble by just sucking up.

Not Obama.

* * * *

So what's Obama's secret. He's smart. He reads. He knows his sh*t. And that is why the Republicans who are counting on him to lose this election through some verbal blunder are going to be disappointed.

I'm not saying that McCain cannot win. He can. But he'll have to win it. Obama is not going to hand this election to him by stumbling.

I just talked to a friend who saw Obama in Israel. I asked him what his friends in the Israeli media are saying. "What are they saying? They are saying that he's the next President. And they think he's the smartest American politician they have seen yet."

I like that. After all, I'm a liberal and an elitist, so I like smart too. He's just what the doctor ordered to fix the mess our country is in -- someone who knows his stuff.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Glory Days

"The glory days of TV news are over, and the media landscape has been dramatically changed."
So says Katie Couric, in a piece on Haaretz.com, There's only one Katie Couric - and now she's in Israel.

You think it might have anything to do with this?
During a CBS interview on Tuesday, John McCain made a stone cold error on a subject about which he claims expert knowledge: the 'surge' strategy in Iraq. In an interview with anchor Katie Couric, the Arizona Republican said, inaccurately, that the surge strategy was responsible for the much-touted 'Anbar Awakening,' in which Sunni sheiks turned against Al Qaeda, helping in turn to reduce violence in the country.

* * * *
Yet McCain's error was not seen by any CBS Evening News viewers. As MSNBC's Keith Olbermann noted (video below), "CBS curiously, to say the least, left it on the edit room floor. It aired Katie Couric's question, but in response, it aired part of McCain's answer to the other question instead." (Ironically, this edit came on the same day that McCain's campaign released a video mocking the media's "love affair" with Obama.)
McCain Gets History Of The Surge Wrong, CBS Doesn't Air Footage.

As Matthew Yglesias of The Atlantic notes, McCain's Mixed-Up Timeline (Foreign Policy):
Sometimes things have to end up on the cutting room floor in television, but it seems to me that if you show video of a question being asked, you ought to cut to the interviewee answering that question not just show some other film. Certainly when you've got a candidate who's made the idea that he's super-knowledgeable about national security policy misstating the basic facts of the issue that seems noteworthy.
And when you ignore those basic rules, you lose your credibility, which causes the end of the glory days for the media.

Cartoon of the Day




Yet another in a continuing series of spoofs of The New Yorker cover. This one is from Vanity Fair.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What's He Got to Do With It?

John McCain is in big trouble. More than I thought.

This morning, McCain's new ad, which not too subtly blames Barack Obama for rising gas prices, played on the TV at the shore. As the Caucus blog describes, McCain Ad Takes On Obama Over Gas Prices:

“Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?” the announcer in the ad asks as a still-shot of Mr. Obama fills the screen and an unseen crowd chants, “Obama! Obama!” Subtle? Not so much.

The 30-second spot highlights Senator John McCain’s support for more offshore drilling to wean the country off its dependence on foreign oil. “One man knows we must now drill more in America and rescue our family budgets,” the announcer says. “Don’t hope for more energy, vote for it.”

See also, McCain Ad: Obama to Blame for High Gas Prices, which notes that McCain is the one who's been around for 26 of the 30 years our oil problems have been building. However, that's not the real problem with the ad.

My 16 year old niece watched the ad, turned to the rest of the family and said: That ad makes no sense at all. How can anyone blame Obama for the price of gas? He's not the President. What does he have to do with it?

She's 16 and not especially interested in politics and she gets it.

He's in trouble.

Cartoon of the Day


Patrick O'Connor, LA Daily News

Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer in the City


The sky may be a little overcast as I sit here watching the waves roll in, but it's still my favorite spot to be. A house on the beach in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, is my idea of the perfect vacation. Fun, sun and relaxation.

I almost had an even more relaxing time -- I forgot my laptop at home. It was packed and was sitting on the table in our breakfast room, but in the last minute flurry of getting things together to go, I walked out the door without it. My husband, nice guy that he is, went back to Philly yesterday to get it. He said that he needed to get some other things that he had left behind as well, but I know that he knew I'd be lost without my laptop.

So all is well with my world. The beach, a few books to read -- and my laptop.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Jim Morin, Miami Herald

I Left My Heart in San Francisco


Paris is my favorite city in Europe (maybe anywhere). I've now lived in Philly longer than anywhere else and I have come to consider it home (although Scranton will always be my "hometown") . However, although I don't see myself ever living there, San Francisco is still my favorite city in the States.

All the more reason to love San Fran is the upcoming ballot measure from the Presidential Memorial Commission:

San Francisco voters will be asked to decide whether to name a city sewage plant in honor of President Bush, after a satiric measure qualified for the November ballot Thursday.

Backers of the measure, who for several months circulated a petition to place the measure on the ballot, turned in more than 12,000 signatures on July 7, said organizer Brian McConnell. The Department of Elections on Thursday informed those supporters, the self-proclaimed Presidential Memorial Commission, that they had enough valid signatures - a minimum of 7,168 registered San Francisco voters - to qualify for the November ballot.

McConnell, who came up with the idea over beers with friends, often donned an Uncle Sam outfit to drum up support for the petition. The all-volunteer group of signature gatherers often carried around an American flag and blasted patriotic music from a boom box to attract attention. He said the campaign to pass the measure will be an equally grassroots effort.

The measure, if passed, would rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant. McConnell said the intent is to remember the Bush administration and what the group sees as the president's mistakes, including the war in Iraq.

See George W. Bush Sewage Plant plan is on ballot.

The article notes that the Republican Party in San Francisco (there are Republicans in SF??) is not happy about the measure, finding the idea embarrassing. More embarrassing that George Bush? I wonder. Oh well, poop on them if they can't take a joke.

(Picture via Laughing Squid)

N is for Nada


It is finally revealed!

Not all the secrets that the Bush Administration has been burying, about how they have started unnecessary wars, embraced torture as a policy, and subverted our constitutional rights all these many years -- no, we have now learned the rest of the Jesse Jackson faux pax from his Fox News (Fox News, Jesse, really?) appearance.

Here's the other thing the Rev. Jesse Jackson said on Fox News two weeks ago about Barack Obama: "He's talking down to black people ... telling n-----s how to behave" . . . .
See Fox News: Jesse used n-word. As the Huffington Post reports, Jesse Jackson Used N-Word In Controversial Fox News Tape:
The longtime civil rights leader already came under fire this month for crude off-air comments he made against Obama in what he thought was a private conversation during a taping of a 'Fox & Friends' news show.

In additional comments from that same conversation, first reported by TVNewser, Jackson is reported to have said Obama was 'talking down to black people,' and referred to blacks with the N-word when he said Obama was telling them 'how to behave.'
Referring to Jesse's newest gaffe, The Field Negro wrote an essay on the dust up, White people please just say no to the "N" word, and threw out an inquiry:
No, tonight I want to ask my white friends who are regulars to the fields to give me a little insight into the white psyche. Here is my question: Why do some white folks get upset because black folks can use the word "nigger" to each other, and they can't? (At least not in public) Honestly, what's up with that shit?
His question got me thinking (can you tell I'm getting into vacation mode, I don't want to deal with the serious issues of the day) about the double standard that exists with respect to some words, like Nada.

I think it is part of the anti-affirmative action/reverse racism chip on the shoulder burden that many whites are forced to bear. Using the word is merely a means to overcome that heavy burden.

Sarcasm aside, I was an English major in college, so I have an affinity for words (all kinds of words) and their usage. I agree that there are some words that are just charged. When my daughter was little, I taught her that "shut up" was a curse, because I thought that was such an offensive phrase to use to anyone. Likewise, stupid -- and even worse, retarded, which is much like the word under discussion. Then, of course, are the racial/ethnic slurs.

Truthfully, I believe the difference is in the intent behind the use of any word. If the teller is using a word as an endearment or in jest, no offense is (should be) taken. "Honey" is a good example. Feminists object to that word as demeaning, yet isn't the real problem with the word the intentions of the speaker? Let's fact it, there are times that someone calling a woman "honey" is a good thing, if that person is your parent or sweetheart, for example. One the other hand, a boss snidely dismissing a woman with the term "honey" is one of those Nada moments.

The problem arises because it is often difficult to discern the true intent behind the person uttering the word (especially in the pc world we now live in) that some words have become off limits. Misunderstandings can easily arise over the tone of voice in ordinary communication (and even more so with virtual messages), and so it's not unusual for the underlying intent to be wrongly interpreted. And then there are the mean-spirited bigots, who pretend to be "joking" when they get caught expressing their true feelings. Figuring out those nuances isn't necessary when the people speaking already have that trait or characteristic, whether its race, sex, religion or ethnic background.

In the end, it's really an issue of respect. Yes, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That is, why not just avoid something that we know is offensive, and instead be considerate of others' feelings, when we are aware that it is hurtful to say something that has negative connotations. It's not a law, it's just being cognizant and sensitive to others -- you know, a part of human kindness. Isn't that what it really comes down to?

And, now we're back to the beginning. Some people resent even the slightest infringement on their right to express themselves. If "they" can say it, so can I!! Forget compassionate or considerate. Some people just want the right to be obnoxious -- and bigoted.

Of course, that's not to say that things can't be taken too far. Such as the poor guy who lost his job several years ago over the use of the word "niggardly," which term has no racial connotation (it just sounds like it might) or the term "black hole" (ironically, in science terms, a "white hole" is much worse).

Then there's the issue of whether Nada is a word that should be totally excised from polite discourse? Or is it OK when it's used by members of the same clan (NOT Klan, OK?) or sex or religion? The other Jesse Jackson (not the evil twin Jesse) didn't think so. Not so long ago he said Nay to Nada:
Jackson has called on the entertainment industry, including rappers, actors and studios, to stop using the N-Word. He also urged the public to boycott purchasing DVD copies of the TV sitcom "Seinfeld" after co-star Michael Richards was taped using the word during a rant at a Los Angeles comedy club in 2006.
That may be a good thing, but I should point out that I do believe that there should be one exception to the rule of No Nada. That is in comedy.

The best humor is premised upon being able to laugh at our foibles. And, let's face it -- poking fun at stereotypes is, in the mouth (words) of a true comedian, hysterical. (And note to Michael Richards, that means funny stuff during comedy routine, not racist rant after.) Philosopher and funny guy Steve Gimbel of Philosophers' Playground pondered this topic recently, discussing the brouhaha over Bernie Mac's jokes at an Obama fundraiser.

Think of the best comedians ever. Richard Pryor. Lenny Bruce. George Carlin. They were irreverent, vulgar -- and supremely funny.

We wouldn't want to stifle that. Right?

(cartoon via Bob Englehart, The Courant)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's a F#%king Cartoon!

video

I wrote about the New Yorker Obama cartoon cover a bit before the media frenzy hit full force (and of course which has also virtually ignored the excellent piece on Obama inside the cover of the magazine). Not surprisingly, as someone who posts the political Cartoon of the Day, I appreciated the "outrageous" depiction.

The next day, as the sound and fury reached its apex, my husband Dave and I discussed the cartoon -- and he thought it was offensive. I observed that the media brouhaha not only allowed them to reach a virtual orgasm over the magazine cover (and it wasn't even Playboy), it had the added advantage of obscuring attention to silly news items like bank runs and reports on the extent of Bush torture regime.

Jon Stewart touched on this same theme (great minds think alike and all that), in his excellent piece on the cover. As The Huffington Post noted:

Jon Stewart took on the media and Barack Obama for overreacting to, and thus validating, the New Yorker cover controversy.

'It's a trifle, it's nothing,' Stewart said. 'There's so many other things to talk about: Iraq, the collapse of some of our most prestigious financial institutions...right?' he continued, before showing a montage of the media firestorm over the cover.
Best Stewart line:
Obama’s camp initially agreed that the cartoon was “tasteless and offensive”. Really? You know what your response should have been…let me put this statement out for you. Barack Obama is in no way upset about the cartoon that depicts him as a Muslim extremist because you know who gets upset about cartoons? Muslim extremists, of which Barack Obama is not. It’s just a f%#!-ing cartoon! But as always, no where was the anger at the media hotter, than in the media.
(For The Colbert Report's take on this, see onegoodmove)

As a final note, in using the expletive deleted (of sorts) "F#%king" in the caption, I have added my own ironic touch to the matter. As Language Log explains, "concealment just calls attention to the expletive, and what's communicated to the reader is exactly what's communicated by the unconcealed version. The concealed version is not actually more decorous in content than the unconcealed version; it merely avoids printing the offending word."

Got that? It's a Fucking Cartoon, already!

(Video via Crooks and Liars)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What to Make of It?



The question is: which is worse?

The cover of the upcoming New Yorker (pictured above) or the accompanying article on Obama, Making It, How Chicago shaped Obama, by Ryan Lizza? Both are getting slammed in the pre-release press.

As Jack Tapper of Political Punch describes the cover:

An illustration by Barry Blitt depicts Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and his wife Michelle in the Oval Office, revealing their 'true' selves: Michelle is in full revolutionary garb, an enormous afro making her look like a millennial Angela Davis, holding an automatic weapon and wearing military pants.

In the cartoon Michelle is giving dap, or fist-bumping, with her husband who is wearing a turban and is dressed in garb perhaps more appropriate for a madrassa in Lahore than the Oval Office.

A painting of Osama bin Laden hangs above the fireplace, where the American flag is being burned.
Rachel Skylar of The Huffington Post describes the article, Yikes! Controversial New Yorker Cover Shows Muslim, Flag-Burning, Osama-Loving, Fist-Bumping Obama:
The companion article by Ryan Lizza, who has written extensively about the campaign, traces Obama's early career and rise through Chicago politics. It's very long (18 pages!) and probably won't thrill a lot of Democratic party faithful, either, since it advances the image of Obama as a skilled and calculating politician who rose by becoming a master of the game.
When I first saw the cover, I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback, even realizing the intent of the depiction. I'm a fan of the New Yorker and do subscribe to it, so I'm familiar with their style. However, the truth is that the cover is ironic (no kidding) and the piece (which is really long, but interesting) portrays Obama as a politician first and foremost (duh?), but neither strike me as outrageous.

Of course, the real problem is that the right will no doubt use both as a way to make slurs against Obama and his campaign. But then again, they will do that with or without the help of the New Yorker.

Up and Down

This has been a week of ups and downs for John McCain.

First off, John McCain believes that Social Security is a "disgrace" -- which is not surprising for someone who doesn't have to rely on it himself (as a Senator and a gigolo, he's well taken care of) and as a Republican who believes that it should be flushed down the drain. Of course, after he was called on his moment of honesty, he says he was taken "out of context." Is McCain really this clueless?

One of his surrogates, Carly Fiorina, reminded women voters of McCain's stand on mandating insurance coverage for birth control (no) and Viagra (yes) -- after McCain himself "couldn't recall" his position on the issue. In case anyone needs reminding (including McCain), his position is up for Viagra and down on contraceptives. Three gifts for Obama. I guess at his age, that makes a lot of sense.

Then, of course, there's McCain economic advisor, Phil Gramm, who called us all a bunch of "whiners" because the economy's in the toilet (where they'd rather put Social Security), adding “You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession.” Of Gramm, Bob Herbert notes,
Feeling No Pain:

No one (not even John McCain, who tended toward the rapturous when describing Mr. Gramm’s economic bona fides) could mistake this sour-visaged investment banker for a populist.

“We’re the only nation in the world,” Mr. Gramm once said, “where all our poor people are fat.”

During one of the many Republican assaults on Social Security, the issue of cutting back benefits for the elderly came up in the Senate. “They are 80-year-olds,” howled Mr. Gramm. “Most people don’t have the luxury of living to be 80 years old, so it’s hard for me to feel sorry for them.”

* * * *
But the truth is that Mr. Gramm, a close friend of Senator McCain’s for many years, has had a very loud say in the economic policies of the McCain presidential campaign. And those policies are an extension of the G.O.P. orthodoxy that is threatening to sink the ship of state, even as the very wealthy are dancing mindlessly to the music of another Gilded Age.
But, as Fiorina pointed out, it doesn't matter what McCain's advisers or surrogates say, TPM Election Central:
Carly Fiorina today tried to downplay the potential impact of Phil Gramm's declaration that America had become 'a nation of whiners' about he economy. 'Outside of Washington, where this is an interesting parlor game, I think most Americans are not really focused on what a bunch of surrogates are saying,' Fiorina said on Meet The Press -- though it's unclear if the average American will see things as Fiorina does, as she's just a campaign surrogate.
True that. They only worry about what the candidate's minister has to say, a la Reverend Wright. People who are actually part of the campaign itself? Not so much.

And, for a few other lesser gaffes of the week, see Road Still Bumpy For McCain's Retooled Bandwagon. I should also add that some believe that McCain's malappropisms stem from age-related memory issues, John McCain Suffering Deluge of Senior Moments, which is a major concern, because we'll probably never learn if that is true. At this point, I'd rather focus on the results rather than the cause.

So, after McCain's really, really, bad week, it's no surprise that the margin by which Obama is ahead has changed. That's right -- Obama's 15 point lead from a few weeks ago is now 3 points. See Newsweek giveth, and Newsweek taketh away. What else would you expect?

Cartoon of the Day


Bruce Beattie, News Journal

iM Feeling It

The good news is that I didn't have to stand in line to find out that I couldn't activate my new iPhone and spend a frustrating day trying to resolve the overload issues that plagued the new iPhones. See iPhone Users Plagued by Software Problems.

The bad news is that I'm feeling the pressure. Now, I realize that I don't fit the profile of a techie. After all, I'm a 50 plus female -- who's an attorney, no less. In addition to the stereotypical technology aversion of older women, lawyers are notorious for being tech adverse (I think it comes from the leftover desire to have a secretary take care of all that paperwork and administrative stuff).

However, as I mentioned before, I'm a gadget freak and tech nut from way back. The burden of that is that everyone expects me to be one of the first to know about the newest technology or gadget -- and to be one of the first to own one too. And, I have to admit, I'm usually happy to oblige.

I have already been getting calls and emails asking if I have my new iPhone, so I'm feeling the pressure to maintain my rep. See iGeek.

I've been following the hoopla over the new and improved iPhone and have read the latest reviews on the new toy. See, e.g., Gizmodo and Walt Mossberg's Personal Technology. The new iPhone is faster, clearer and comes in colors. But is it really worth it? The only thing that saves me, occasionally, is the fact that as much as I love the newest tech toy on the block, I'm also cheap. The joke in our office is that there are two kinds of people: those who love to shop at Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop (retail plus) and those who go to Costco or BJs (bargain hunter). I'm the queen of the bargain sales.

From what I've read, the new software is where it's really at, Forget 3G, It's Code That Counts and The iPhone and Its Killer App. And I already managed to download it yesterday afternoon (contributing to access problems for the new phones), along with a dozen or so new applications (all the freebies, of course).

Playing with the new applications will hopefully keep me satisfied, at least for a while. So, for now I'm holding off.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


John Cole, The Scranton Times

Snow Days

Former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow died today. See Former White House spokesman Tony Snow dies.

After he left his position with the White House, he was interviewed by Jon Stewart:



Part 1

and



Part 2.

I know that the conventional wisdom is that George Bush is a nice guy (someone you'd like to have a beer with), but I could never see that. And it doesn't just have to do with the fact that I don't like beer. I always thought that he was a major BALDie.*

On the other hand, I do think that Tony Snow epitomizes the concept that conservatives can be decent people on a one-to-one basis, but have philosophies that are totally against the common good. Many years ago, a former colleague and friend defined the difference between the soul of a liberal and a conservative in a way I've never forgotten. As I've noted before, in Judge Not, Lest Ye Shall Be Judged:

[A] former co-clerk who interviewed for a Supreme Court clerkship with Justice Rehnquist, made what I have found to be an apt observation: conservatives tend to be nicer on an individual basis, even though their philosophy may not be as kind-hearted (e.g. Justice Rehnquist), while liberals are great in the abstract, but not so nice in person (e.g. Justice Douglas).
That was Tony Snow.


*(BALD = Big Asshole, Little Dick)

The 2nd Trumps the 5th

I believe Catholics in America are a bit confused. They seem to be under the mistaken impression that the recently re-discovered constitutional right to own (and use) a gun under the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution overruled the 5th Commandment (the one handed down by God to Moses).

That is the only explanation I can fathom for the reaction by some members of the Catholic faith to the "outrageous kidnapping" of Christ by a University of Central Florida student. The college student did a dumb thing (can I say, no really?) by going to mass in a Catholic Church and walking out with a communion wafer rather than swallowing it. The The Calladus Blog does a good job summarizing the situation:

A University of Central Florida student, Webster Cook, attended Catholic mass on campus, and while there received the Eucharist, (a small cracker blessed by a priest). Mr. Cook, who is also a student senator at UCF, went with a friend who was apparently not a Catholic, and didn't receive the Eucharist. So, Cook wanted to show his friend the Eucharist, and instead of eating it as the priest thought he would do, he took it back to his seat.

Well, he tried. After blessing a cracker the Catholic church believes that it takes on mystical properties and actually becomes the substance of Jesus Christ. And walking away with an undevoured chunk of Jesus flesh gets Catholics very upset. Members of the university church tried to physically stop Cook from walking back to his seat with his Eucharist.
Stupid of Webster Cook to mess with Christ (who can't fight for himself, since he doesn't believe in violence). So, God's saviors on earth responded in true Christian fashion -- by making death threats to Cook. Student Who Took Religious Icon Getting Death Threats. CNN has a Video on the story.

But wait. As Jon Stewart would say, it gets better. Blogger Pharyngula wrote an irreverent post about the snatched cracker, IT'S A FRACKIN’ CRACKER!, mocking those who likened it to a hate crime. As he noted:
Wait, what? Holding a cracker hostage is now a hate crime? The murder of Matthew Shephard was a hate crime. The murder of James Byrd Jr. was a hate crime. This is a goddamned cracker. Can you possibly diminish the abuse of real human beings any further?
Naturally, the good Christians have turned on the blogger, PZ Meyers, who is a professor at the University of Minnesota. They are even trying to get him fired from his job at the University. As he explains, in Fight back against Bill Donohue!:
So far today, I have received 39 pieces of personal hate mail of varying degrees of literacy, all because I was rude to a cracker. Four of them have included death threats, a personal one day record. Thirty-four of them have demanded that I be fired. Twenty-five of them have told me to desecrate a copy of the Koran, instead, or in some similar way offend Muslims, because — in a multiplicity of ironic cluelessness — apparently only some religious icons must be protected, and I would only offend Catholics because they are all so nice that none of them would wish me harm. I even have one email that says I should be fired, that the author would like to kill me, and that I only criticize because Catholics are so gentle and kind.

Oh, and of course, the university president's office has also received lots of mail demanding my immediate ouster (keep in mind, though…Catholics are no threat to anyone at all.) I don't know how much, but since Donohue published the president's email address and not mine, I imagine it's much greater than what I've seen. Those lovely Dark Age fanatics at the Catholic League have started a write-in campaign to start up an inquisition.

Now, I was born & raised a Catholic and I spent more years of my life than I care to enumerate (from Kindergarten through Law School) being educated by various catholic institutions, so I can speak fairly authoritatively on the subject of Catholic doctrine. You know, the love thy neighbor stuff. That "Thou Shalt Not Kill" 5th Commandment rule.

I really don't think God likes us anymore. These people do not represent any Catholic Church I am familiar with. They are no more Christian than the Taliban, trying to impose a warped (hateful, narrow-minded, violent) view of the world on the rest of us.

That's why religion is the cause of most of the world's woes -- crack pots like these people making a fuss over a cracker!

The First Family

I'm sure that it won't come as a shock to anyone who knows me that I've never been a fan of the Reagans. The Dear Departed Ronald Reagan was a so-so actor and he never rose that far during his presidency. See e.g., The Race Goes On and Truth is Complicated -- For Republicans. Of course, the fact that he suffered from Alzheimer's during at least a portion of his term in office didn't help. And, I hate to be a snob (or, as they say, an elitist), but Nancy Reagan was always, well -- Nancy Reagan.

I've had to reconsider my opinion of Nancy Reagan, however. First of all, she cared for Ronald Reagan during his long, debilitating illness. With their money, she could have hired caregivers to allow her to live her own life, but she chose not to. I respect that.

And, as reported in a scathing piece in the LATimes on John McCain's forgotten first family, Nancy Reagan went out of her way to help McCain's wife Carol after he divorced her for Ms. Moneybags, Cindy. She even helped her find a place to stay and hired her to work in the Reagan White House. As the article notes, in McCain's broken marriage and fractured Reagan friendship:

Outside her Bel-Air home, Nancy Reagan stood arm in arm with John McCain and offered a significant -- but less than exuberant -- endorsement.

"Ronnie and I always waited until everything was decided, and then we endorsed," the Republican matriarch said in March. "Well, obviously this is the nominee of the party." They were the only words she would speak during the five-minute photo op.

In a written statement, she described McCain as "a good friend for over 30 years." But that friendship was strained in the late 1970s by McCain's decision to divorce his first wife, Carol, who was particularly close to the Reagans, and within weeks marry Cindy Hensley, the young heiress to a lucrative Arizona beer distributorship.

The Reagans rushed to help Carol, finding her a new home in Southern California with the family of Reagan aide Edwin Meese III and a series of political and White House jobs to ease her through that difficult time.
Nancy Reagan may not have been an Eleanor Roosevelt as a First Lady, but she apparently is a loyal friend and spouse. I have to give her credit and kudos for that. Not so for John McCain. As the piece observes:
McCain, who is about to become the GOP nominee, has made several statements about how he divorced Carol and married Hensley that conflict with the public record.

In his 2002 memoir, "Worth the Fighting For," McCain wrote that he had separated from Carol before he began dating Hensley.

"I spent as much time with Cindy in Washington and Arizona as our jobs would allow," McCain wrote. "I was separated from Carol, but our divorce would not become final until February of 1980."

An examination of court documents tells a different story. McCain did not sue his wife for divorce until Feb. 19, 1980, and he wrote in his court petition that he and his wife had "cohabited" until Jan. 7 of that year -- or for the first nine months of his relationship with Hensley.

Although McCain suggested in his autobiography that months passed between his divorce and remarriage, the divorce was granted April 2, 1980, and he wed Hensley in a private ceremony five weeks later. McCain obtained an Arizona marriage license on March 6, 1980, while still legally married to his first wife.
I've covered the dastardly details of McCain's divorce before, see It Depends on the Meaning of "Essentially". The LATimes article is a fascinating character study of John McCain and is a must read for anyone who mistakenly thinks that McCain is anything other than a ruthless self-interested politician who will do anything to get elected.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Sing A Song


He just couldn't wait. Gleeful George signed the telecom immunity bill one day after the Senate abdicated our constitutional rights. Bush signs bill overhauling eavesdropping rules.

As Glenn Greenwald said, Congress votes to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, legalize warrantless eavesdropping:

The Democratic-led Congress this afternoon voted to put an end to the NSA spying scandal, as the Senate approved a bill -- approved last week by the House -- to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, terminate all pending lawsuits against them, and vest whole new warrantless eavesdropping powers in the President. The vote in favor of the new FISA bill was 69-28. Barack Obama joined every Senate Republican (and every House Republican other than one) by voting in favor of it, while his now-vanquished primary rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, voted against it. John McCain wasn't present for any of the votes, but shared Obama's support for the bill. The bill will now be sent to an extremely happy George Bush, who already announced that he enthusiastically supports it, and he will sign it into law very shortly.
So, the fat lady sang on my birthday alright, but she wasn't crooning "Happy Birthday to you." Some birthday present!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another Day, Another Birthday


Life was good when I was a little girl. I was an only child and had the undivided attention of my parents and relatives who lived in the neighborhood.

As my 5th birthday approached, my parents were very excited. I was sure they were planning a big party to celebrate my birthday. Instead, for my birthday I got a baby brother, who had the nerve to usurp my day by arriving the day before my birthday. In fact, my mom was in the hospital on my birthday and so, there was no party at all for me. Instead, everyone was celebrating the new baby.

To add to the insult, I've had to share a birthday with that brother all these years since. Pictured above is our 2nd/7th birthdays, which I called "It's my party & I'll cry if I want to," in the slideshow I put together for his birthday yesterday. Of course, it looks like I may have contributed to his tears. I guess I still hadn't quite recovered from the unwelcome intrusion in my life yet.

Since then, we've managed to build a good relationship and we had the luck to again share a birthday party yesterday. It's been a long time since that's happened and I realized that the shared party has its pluses.

The Office Party


July is the best month of the year for celebrations. Our anniversary is on the 2nd, my assistant's birthday was Monday, my father-in-law's birthday is the 12th, my niece Maddy's is on the 15th and a few friends share a birthday on the 9th of July. Also, my blogging pal, Dave of The Quaker Agitator, celebrated his 50th birthday on the 8th.

Yesterday was also my brother's 50th birthday and his office had a surprise party/roast for him (since he lives in Scranton, I can call it The Office). My contribution was a slideshow of his life, with my captioned comical commentary accompanying the pictures.

As I was putting together the pictures to include in the slideshow, I realized that our family enjoys flicking the finger. The family unfairly blames me for this nasty habit (my daughter insists that I'm the only mother in the world who asks her daughter to pose for a picture giving the finger). I had an assortment of shots of us giving the finger salute, from the kids, as well as adults. I decided to intersperse these pictures throughout, with the caption "You are #1!!" The Office even posed for a shot (pictured above), which I labeled, "Those in the Nose Know You are #1." We ran the slideshow during the party on a projector to maximize the embarrassment factor for my brother. It was a big success all around.

As is always the case with these projects, they end up taking up much more time and effort than you expect. I gathered a few pictures of the early years from my parents and pulled together digital pictures that I've taken over the last several years.

I then went through the boxes of pictures that I have in the attic, looking for funny/embarrassing shots of my brother. During my trip to Miami, my other brother and I also went though all of his pictures. Going through my pcitures, I ended up spending the whole day immersed in my own life in pictures, which was an enjoyable (and emotional) experience. I reminisced over the various stages of my life, from Scranton to Harrisburg and Pittsburgh to my days here in Philly.

And then, of course, in doing this, I called up the spirits of my old friends through my visual walk down memory land. A few days after I looked through my photo albums, I got an email from an old friend from Pittsburgh, who was coming to Philly and wanted to get together. Later that day, I got a call from another Pittsburgh pal, who now lives nearby in Philly, who was hosting a party for the new Temple Law School dean, inviting me to stop by. The next day, another old friend/colleague that I haven't talked to in about a year called to refer a friend with a legal problem.

I drove to Scranton yesterday morning for The Office party and spent the night at my parent's home. I was probably the first time in over 30 years that I woke up in my childhood home on my birthday -- a special treat.

Cartoon of the Day


Steve Kelley, The Times Picayune

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Bill Schorr, United Media Syndicate

It's Your Birthday, I'll Cry if I Want to


Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

George W. Bush
Worst.President.Ever
Born this day in 1946

It's Mealtime (All over again)


I mentioned our cat Scrunchy recently, he of the lost and found adventure, who eventually turned up in our neighbor's garage after a 5 day journey away from home.

Scrunchy is a very particular (read that: picky) cat. He has his favorite food and doesn't appreciate variety. He likes the Fancy Feast (sliced) assortment of canned cat food, so he's not too happy if you try to substitute something else. He'll nibble at some dry food if you insist (and once in a while he's try a taste of the dog's food), but that doesn't take the place of his Fancy Feast. He also has his internal clock set to eat at 6 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (assuming anyone's home at that time). From about 3:30 on, he'll wait in the gazebo for someone to come home & as soon as he sees us, he'll start meowing until he's fed.

Scrunchy is now over 10 years old and one of his more recent tendencies is to eat, take off for a little while (inside or outside, depending on the weather) and then turn back up, looking for his meal again. On occasion, if we ignore him, he'll start howling for food, even though he's just been fed. This is a new phenomenon. Before, he ate his cat food, then was fine until his next meal. It's been a running joke at out house that he's losing it and that he forgot that he already ate his meal. In fact, when he went missing this last time, my husband was concerned that he left, wandered off somewhere and forgot where his home was.

Although we often have joked about Scrunchy having Alzheimer's, I didn't really think that dogs or cats suffered from the disease. However, an article in the Inky suggests that animals, like humans, can suffer from dementia. Pets too can have these aged related diseases like cognitive dysfunction syndrome, more commonly known as dementia, Dogs in decline:

First recognized in dogs in the early 1990s, the disease causes progressive cognitive and behavioral decline. Changes in the canine brain mirror those seen in people suffering from dementias such as Alzheimer's disease.

Cats get dementia as well, though they are diagnosed less frequently, perhaps because felines are less social. Similar deterioration has been seen in the brains of aging rodents, sheep, goats, bears and primates.

Dementia in pets is apparently fairly common and the main symptoms are:
Animals with dementia appear generally confused. The main abnormalities, known by the acronym DISH (Disorientation, Interaction declines, Sleep-wake disturbances, Housetraining lapses), can take varied forms: the rottweiler that stops responding to its name. The poodle that paces all night and sleeps all day. The domestic short-haired cat that stares into space, howling for no apparent reason. The boxer that waits at the hinge side of the door to go outside.
See also: Does Your Pet Have Dementia?. The list doesn't mention forgetting that he's just been fed, but I assume that qualifies. He's always been a bit of a recluse otherwise, so it's hard to tell if any of the other signs are there.