mardi 18 novembre 2008

Two cool cats

The O'Possum family at home

The coolest thing about this photo of these two cool cats is the very fact that one of them -- that would be Munchkin, the dark one -- is in the photo at all. How can a cat whose idea of motion revolves around lurching, lunging and hoping for the best get herself from the ground to this perch? You have to see it to believe it. She uses her claws and her tiny front legs and her unsinkable will to catapault (no pun intended) herself up there. It has become her favorite place to nap. How cool is that? She picks the most difficult place in her world and decides that she'll nap there. Plus, she had to dethrone Pushkin in order to do so. However, as the photo reveals, she is willing to share her new favorite perch with the one she ousted from it. She just wanted to prove a point. And Pushy totally gets that.

They also enjoy hanging out at The Castle. Pushkin likes sitting on top of it, while Munchkin feels more invincible inside.

Whoa Nelly!

We couldn't resist Nelly. She was for sale, out in front of Barnes & Noble, along with two of her siblings. She's four months old. Time for shots and neutering and all that. We decided to let Walt's mom have her, but may have to steal her back. She's a keeper. Neko loves her. Can't get enough of her. Pushy and Munchy both checked her out and decided she was mellow enough to manipulate.

Is the Coast Clear?

Is she gone? Can I come out now?

I got really addicted to television during the run-up to the election, and would sometimes watch the same Keith Olberman, Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert segment several times in the same day. I was a little worried that this addiction would carry over into real life after the election, but thanks to Sarah Palin and her sudden decision to make herself available to the media she shunned whenever any unscripted remarks were requested, I am over my addiction. It was cold turkey.

On or about November 6, Sarah was suddenly on television all the time. Every time I turned on the television, hoping for some news about the economy or the president-elect, there she was. Talking, chatting, being filmed in her kitchen. It was so horrible. The real Sarah. Or her own father, talking about how the kids' underwear gets lost. I couldn't take it. I just could not. So I did what any sensible person should do and did not consult my television for a couple of days.
I am not a huge television watcher anyway, but I do enjoy watching Keith and Rachel and Jon and Stephen. Oh, and South Park. So I need to know. Is it safe? Is the coast clear? Can I turn on the television again without having to worry that SHE will be on the screen, saying something utterly useless and utterly senseless, garbling the language of my people to a degree that makes George Bush look like a first-rate orator.

She speaks so poorly, and makes so little sense, that it cheapens whatever subject she is addressing. Or not addressing, since that is one of her standard gambits: to respond to any question by basically ignoring it. She seems like a liar to me, when she opens her mouth. She seems like one of those people who are never quite there, wherever they are and whatever they are doing.

I will refrain from judging Alaskans on the basis of their gubernatorial choice. And though I don't wish trouble for Alaskans or the state of Alaska, I do hope that Palin's work at the state level keeps her fully occupied until the end of her term. Believe it or not, I am hoping that the Republican Party puts itself back together and musters the strength to serve as a credible opposition or shadow government in the years ahead. Democracy requires this check on power to function properly, and a healthy democracy changes party hands on a regular basis. The Republican Party needs to choose leadership that appeals to moderates and to philosophical conservatives who have taken the time to understand their values. If it cannot do that, then it will not be fit to govern. And that would be bad for democracy.

There is a place for Sarah Palin in politics. But not at the head of the opposition party nor at the head of the ruling party. She is part of the lunatic fringe and that is where she needs to stay. She does not belong in the mainstream. As she so effectively demonstrated over a two-month period that I thought would never end. And if you don't believe me, go to Youtube and watch some of her recent television performances.

vendredi 14 novembre 2008

Skepticism versus Skep versus Skeptical

Today's post is dedicated to and was inspired by the one and only Corinne, soon-to-be famous Bee Guru. (It's only a matter of time, Corrine, and you know it.)

What is skepticism?
Skepticism is a method of inquiry, not a position on matters. It is a way of examining claims and making decisions. The idea is to apply the rules of logic and reason with critical thinking skills in assessing claims or issues and to form conclusions based on evidence, not on personal preference or prejudice.

What is a skep?

Skeps were traditionally made from what you could go out, find and collect within a reasonable walking distance from your home. This might be straw, reed or grasses bound together by hazel, willow or bramble.

Fire has destroyed many of the old records concerning the history of skeps. The earliest records are written in Latin. Only people who could read them wrote them! It is likely that, in Britain, skep beekeeping was the first way that people tried to control bees as opposed to harvesting from wild colonies. The disadvantage at the time was that people had to pay taxes (in the form of honey) on the basis of the number of skeps they had.

What am I?

World's most skeptical woman and my hero:

mercredi 5 novembre 2008

America is black

Here is the editorial that appeared in Le Monde, commenting on Obama's victory.

First of all, one has to write these words out in long hand. Read them slowly and aloud in order to appreciate the magnitude of the news, its emotional and historical charge: the American people have just elected a black-skinned man to the White House. And what intelligence, brio, and sang-froid it took on the part of Barack Obama to win an election that -- let's not forget -- was anything but a shoo-in if we look back less than a year ago. How many pitfalls were avoided, how much resistence and how many prejudices were overcome before this victory was assured, giving a powerful sign of optimism to America and to the rest of the world. Obama managed to make hope coincide with darkness. Without ever, and this is where his virtuosity lay, seeming to be the candidate of a particular community.

Mixing his youth with wisdom beyond his years, the Senator from Illinois was able to break through the original cleavage of a nation born in slavery and segregation and reattach that nation to its founding ideal, the famous "E pluribus unum": making one out of many; believing that a multitude of origins does not prevent us from sharing an aspiration.

A post-racial president? Yes and, above all, one who can legitimately claim to be capable of making himself heard on both sides of the badly healed scar that lies between Blacks and Whites, this past "which has not even passed" as he stated, citing Faulkner, in an exceptional speech he delivered in Philadelphia on March 18, where he calmly and confidently announced his crazy quest for a "more perfect Union."

To win, he had to win over.

And Barack Obama did it by telling a story "that would not have been possible in any other country in the world." His bi-racial history, which finds its roots in Africa and in Asia. A father from Kenya (and not the descendent of a slave), a paternal grandmother living on the shores of Lake Victoria, a white maternal grandmother who died on the eve of his election, filled with love and irrational views on race, fearing Blacks with the same intensity that Obama's former mentor Reverend Wright was able to whip up against Whites.

The new president transcended tensions in order to cut through to what is essential: he managed to place black rancor and white fear on the same scale, uniting them in a single scheme of justice. In doing so, he is the first to break free of a heavy and long chain that runs from the first slaves who built the Capitol to the Civil Rights movement. From Martin Luther King to Malcolm X, from Rosa Parks (who was fined for refusing to give her seat to a White person on a bus in Alabama) to Condy Rice and Colin Powell, both of them propelled to the summit of government.

"Even before he was elected, Obama had done more to advance the cause of black people in the world than Martin Luther King," noted an African head of state recently, off-the-record. "He will be first and foremost an American president," says another. A perfect summary of the scene that will be played out now: the United States has in fact chosen an American who will defend US leadership and interests – up to and including protectionism – and undoubtedly, millions of Blacks will feel more American than they did before without millions of Whites finding themselves left out.

"America is back," shouted Ronald Reagan in 1980. "America is black" is what the world's most powerful nation is telling us today, a devastating power judging from its endless wars, its tattered image, and the unbearable and intense hatred that the lame duck administration has generated with its self-absorption, its Manecheism and its anachronistic reflexes towards the stench of the Cold War.

After electing George W. Bush twice in an incredible move -- bold, dynamic and indicative of faith in its own resources -- America is now closing the book on its conservative revolution, made of deregulation and the unchecked law of the free market, which was killed in the subprime crisis and subsequent collapse of the financial system. Thanks to his charisma and his lucidity, Obama has become the uncontested man of the moment, the man of America's here and now. America has brutally left behind in a dark yesterday both the outgoing president and John McCain, the man who would succeed him.

What an opportunity for this country and for its partners. But also for its enemies, beginning with armed Islamic fundamentalism, which has gotten its sustenance from Bushism's bellicose ideology, its repulsive slogans about the "Axis of Evil," and practices that are not worthy of a democracy--from Guantanémo to Abu Ghraib. After Bush, who was locked inside a set of certainties with no basis in reality, Obama offers the world another face while offering America the much-hoped for opportunity to look itself in the eye with newfound respect for itself, its values and its political institutions.

"Obama will give brand America the same boost that Jean Paul II gave the papacy," as political commentator Andrew Sullivan recently noted. According to Jean-David Levitte, diplomatic advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy and a specialist of the United States, where he represented France for many years, the new president "does not have a different vision of the world. He is a self-made man who is not beholden to anyone."

The keyword for Barack Obama, subject, is pragmatism. Undoubtedly, he will be more cooperative with his allies, more adept at soft power, more inclined to seek dialogue where it has broken down, with Iran for example. "But his multilateralism will not go very far," warns Hubert Védrine, minister of foreign affairs under French prime minister Jospin. He will never make US policy hinge on the outcome of a UN meeting." Surrounded by the diplomatic teams of Bill Clinton 1 (1992-1996), Obama turned the tables on McCain. He appeared to put experience on his side. It was his rival who gradually became the scary candidate who was unsure of himself. With his "change we can believe in" slogan, the new president has laid it on the line: he will do what he can, whatever works, to reduce injustice, educate, provide health care, help people find housing and jobs, letting the government plays its role but without repudiating the market economy approach.

Obama is a "possiblist." While a comparison with John Kennedy is apt ("a pragmatist brilliantly disguised as a romantic"), it must be added that he is a man of his epoch, the man who is most in synch when it comes to plunging America into the multi-polar bath of this 21st century.

On nearly every major issue, aside from the mantra of throwing off the shackles of the Bush inheritance as quickly as possible, Barack Obama has stuck to broad outlines, confident in his ability to understand rapidly and make the right decisions.

Brought to power without a clearly established doctrine, Obama is now in charge of the American dream, open and smiling, preferring calm over drama, reason over excess. He's the man we need. It's up to him to inscribe this moment in the march of time.

Eric Fottorino

The Race Race

Elgin Baylor and the Seattle U team at Sea-Tac Airport

It is important to say, today, that last night's election was not about race. But it is equally important to say, today, that America has just done something extraordinary in electing a black man to the presidency of the United States. I had been dreading a conversation with my mother about this election, because I knew she would vote for McCain while clinging to her most resistent self-myth: that she is a moderate and an independent. She is not a moderate; she's a conservative, shifting a little bit more to the right every time Bill O'Reilly opens his mouth. Yes, that's right. She watches Fox; it shapes her view of the world. She's also my mom, and the daughter of Ralph Malone.
My grandfather was a self-made man, no doubt about it. He overcame hardship to get a college degree and then came west to Seattle, where he made a small fortune as the owner of a Ford dealership. He was a well-known and respected man in the community. He belonged to the Washington Athletic Club, The Broadmoor Golf Club, the Kiwanis Club, and all sorts of Catholic organizations. We went to luncheons at fancy places where he was loved and feted and admired. Along the way, he became a booster of black people. He brought Elgin Baylor to Seattle U, gave him work at Westside Ford and even created a team for Elgin to play on as he sat out to earn his eligibility. I remember going to the airport to meet the basketball team and looking up at tall black guys. I remember the Harlem Globetrotters. I remember wondering how he could love black people but belong to a club that excluded them (Broadmoor) and the Jews. But no matter. He loved people and he loved helping people. He was grateful for his success and wanted to share it with everybody. He voted for Roosevelt and he voted for Kennedy.
So when my mother tries to paint him as a Republican, it just makes my hair stand on end. Yesterday, we had that conversation. It wasn't so bad. I teased her, asking when she was going to give up the pretense of being an independent and just join the Republican Party. I asked her when she last voted for a Democrat. She stammered. I told her it surprised me that Ralph Malone's daughter would vote other than Democrat. She protested; I said, mom, come on, you have to admit that Grandpa would be so proud if he were alive today, to see a black man in the White House. He would have voted for Obama, don't you think so, mom? And you know what? She said yes, you're right, he would have.

lundi 3 novembre 2008

High anxiety

I'd like to offer a ride to the local polling place to anyone who needs transportation. I am willing to stand in line and wait for people who are too old or sick or tired to stand in line for long periods. I'll save your place while you sit at Spud's and have a coffee. I'll do anything to help anyone who might otherwise have trouble voting.

Not voting is for losers. Seriously.

Sarah "Whack Job" Palin gets punked

I wasn't going to write about her any more, and I was hoping that as of November 5th it would be totally unnecessary, but Sarah got punked this weekend. The entire 5-minute conversation, during which she believes she is talking to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, is worth listening to. What stands out is what we saw in the VP debate: Sarah does not listen to or connect with what is being said to her. She just comes back with vapid, mildly pleasant rejoinders. I mean, she is so dumb she doesn't even realize she's being had when the French President tells her how hot his wife is in bed! You get the feeling this conversation could have gone on for days had they waited for Sarah to get it. The prankster finally puts her out of her misery, to which she remains totally oblivious, by telling her. And when he says he is from a Canadian radio station, she asks him twice which station it is, and then I swear she says to her aide that it is a French station. You see what I mean? She doesn't connect with what is said to her! You might as well say nothing, like Marcel Marceau might have.

Scary. Scary. Scary. Americans of voting age need to hear this before they head for the polls.