19 October 2007

Eulogy for the Proprietor

While DEW is the chief blogger, the actual proprietor of Buddy’s Books and Bait has been a 14-pound, stubby-tailed, wonderful, loving character of the feline persuasion named Buddy. Buddy passed away on August 8, 2007.

Buddy came to live with DEW and me, DEW’s Lovely Partner, when he was about 4 years old. We lived in Northeast Minneapolis at the time, and there were a number of cats that roamed our neighborhood. We referred to them by their distinguishing characteristics—Flop-Eared Kitty, Brown Kitty, etc. It was apparent from their colors or general health that they had homes. It became clear over time, however, that Blue-Eyed Kitty had been abandoned, so we began putting food out for him. When he came to eat, we would say “There’s our pal” or “There’s our little buddy.” Eventually, as these things usually go, we decided to take him in.

We hatched our plot. I would hold the “cat-cart” at the ready, DEW would pick him up and plop him in the cart, and off to the vet we would go for shots and a check-up. Blue-Eyed Kitty, however, was not amenable to plopping. DEW picked him up, but he fought out of DEW’s grasp. Blue-Eyed Kitty was young, wiry, and very fast. DEW is now, and was then, many wonderful things. He was not, however, young, wiry, or fast. So the reader will understand that when Blue-Eyed Kitty went streaking across the street, through the neighbors’ yard and into the bushes and DEW, in a momentary delusion of grandeur, went chugging after him, the sight was, well, quite a sight.

This episode was the first indication of the great humor that “our little buddy” would bring to our lives when he did eventually submit to adoption and officially become Buddy. “Funny like a Bud” became a catch-phrase in our household. Whether going from the table to the stove to the top of the refrigerator to sleep in the roasting pan, riding all the way to Nebraska upside-down in his cat-cart with his paw over his eyes, or trying to open doors (he knew how they worked and would try to reach up and turn the knob with both paws), it seemed like he was always making us laugh.

If he wasn’t doing something amusing, Buddy could usually be found snuggling with one of us. Snuggling may actually have competed with eating as his favorite pastime. He loved to have DEW cradle him in his arms like a baby; if DEW tried to put him down before he was ready, Buddy would grab him around the neck and hold on. He slept with us every night. Depending on his mood and how warm or cold it was, he might be draped across the top of a pillow (which was know as “sleeping on our heads”) or spooning with his head tucked under my chin, or under the covers, curled up in the crook of DEW’s legs. We always knew when he was particularly relaxed and content—at those times, he drooled.

At the end of July, we noticed some mild indications that he was not quite up to par. Nothing to be overly concerned about we thought, but given that he was 17 we decided to have him checked out. We were devastated to learn that he had lymphoma and that it was very aggressive. Equally aggressive interventions were possible, but would only prolong his life for a few months. We agreed to try one moderate intervention. It didn’t work. We watched as, over the course of one short week, he lost substantial weight and became rapidly weaker, to the point of staggering when he walked. He was barely eating, and spending almost all of his time hidden away at the very back of a closet. We knew that the kindest thing we could do was end his suffering. On August 8th we had him put to sleep.

I would like to close this eulogy with words that I spoke to him many times during his life with us. These were also the last words that I said to him as I held him on my lap at the vet’s office while he received his final injection. “Mr. Buddy. We love you very much. You are the best boy in the history of boys."

18 October 2007

WWJD (What Would Johnson Do?)

Whenever I see the congressional Democrats once again pissing all over themselves and turning potential legislative victories into defeats, I think to myself, WWJD? That's right, what would Lyndon Baines Johnson have done when he ran the senate and the congressional Democrats from 1953 to 1961?

While I would like to forget most of his presidential years, I truly admire LBJ's legislative qualities. Outside of Henry Clay, Johnson has been the most masterful congressional strategist in American history.

So what would Johnson have done in this current Turkish-Armenian situation that the Democrats have once again fumbled? Not only can I guess how LBJ would have diffused the situation--but I sense he is laughing his Texas ass off every time he sees this current group of amateurs get thrashed by a president with a 24% approval rating. Senator Johnson would have been running all over this half-witted moron in the White House.

Here is what LBJ would have done. First, he would not have allowed a vote on genocide. Why risk defeat on something that offered few gains for the party? Instead, LBJ would have drawn up a resolution saying nothing about genocide, and nothing about Turkey. His vague proposal would have, however, contained glowing praise for the Armenians, their culture, their history, and all they have endured. It would have been a resolution that even the Republicans would have been forced to support--how could they vote against bill celebrating Armenia?

Granted, the Armenians would have been in LBJ's office complaining that his legislation didn't go far enough, that it didn't even mention what the Turks did to their ancestors. To pacify them, Johnson probably would have invited them all down to his Texas ranch. After treating them to a feast, he would have mentioned again what a great people they were and how in six months they would be receiving a $4-5 million check for a national project they desperately needed. That last perk would have come on a whisper--nothing guaranteed, but the Armenians could be sure that the money would show up in the not so distant future.

LBJ would then have sent one of his aids (Jack Valenti probably) to meet with the Turks. Valenti would have calmly informed the Turks that they owed Johnson for this one--he let them slide out of an uncomfortable international situation. They could expect to repay him soon on a defense bill, or a foreign aid appropriation.

Not only would the Democrats NOT have suffered a defeat--but they would have actually gained a victory. And LBJ would have been bragging to reporters the very next day about what great friends the Democrats had been to the Armenians. The Republicans, initially sensing a victory--had gained nothing. They had been co-opted by the Machiavellian Democrats. A sticky situation had been diffused and the party lost nothing.

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi seem incapable of figuring out how to do this. They turn everything into a defeat. They do not appear to understand what is worth fighting for, and what is worth sacrificing. I suggest they stay up late some evening reading about LBJ or Henry Clay (or even Old Joe Cannon)--it might do them some good. Since I trust they read Books and Bait, I will even offer them the following suggestions:

Robert Remini, Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union
Merrill Peterson, The Great Triumvirate: Webster, Clay, and Calhoun
Robert Caro, The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
Robert Caro, Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
Robert Caro, Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson

16 October 2007

Back in Business

Greetings to Buddy's Books and Bait aficionados. Yes, I have been away for awhile--busy, lazy, uninspired, I have all sorts of excuses. But I realized after a few months of inactivity that I did truly enjoy voicing my political opinions. And even though my readership remains small, I think it is important to attempt to build progressive/liberal communities through blogs and other assorted media efforts.

As of now, I am still the solitary writer of this blog--which means that if any of my friends and supporters wish to contribute, I would be grateful (articles, book/movie/record reviews.....anything as long as it follows the obvious political leanings of the primary author).

Thanks for reading. Keep the comments coming and tell your friends about Books and Bait. Let's try to keep pissing off those conservatives.

A Vote Remembered

No better way to reenter the blogosphere than by writing about Paul Wellstone.

I was reminded in a recent Wellstone Action! newsletter that it is the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War vote. Wellstone was one of 23 senators who voted against that resolution (3 October 2002). But even more important--Wellstone was the only one of the 23 senators facing the voters in just a few weeks. As Jeff Blodgett writes in the newsletter, "The vote was considered by many political observers to be the death knell for his reelection."

Paul Wellstone was an inspiration on many levels. Not only did he vote against this bogus war, but he probably risked his political career. That whole "risked his political career" quip sounds dire--but maybe we would like to see some of our current progressive/liberal politicians inch just a little closer to that position. We aren't asking for outright political suicide, we just want to see some backbone.....a little courage.....show us that you fucking care!

Wellstone also voted against the 1991 Gulf War--the one started by Bush's daddy. And incidentally, he voted against the so-called Welfare Reform bill in 1996--another vote cast during a rough reelection campaign.

As you all know, Paul Wellstone died three weeks after his Iraq War vote. I think the consensus in Minnesota is that Wellstone would have been reelected in spite of his vote on the War. I trust that he would have been a strong voice for the antiwar left. And I get a sick feeling in my stomach each and every time I see Norm Coleman occupying the senate seat that Wellstone once held.

I miss Paul Wellstone. And I lament the fact that there so are few politicians today that are so resolute and fearless.

The other 22 senators who votes against the Iraq War resolution: Akaka, Bingaman, Boxer, Byrd, Chaffee, Conrad, Corzine, Dayton, Durbin, Feingold, Graham, Inouye, Jeffords, Kennedy, Leahy, Levin, Mikulski, Murray, Reed, Sarbanes, Stabenow, Wyden.