5 raccoons + 2 cats + 1 human = mayhem (part 4)

After quickly setting the food bowl inside the door, a move to protect it as much as get it out of consideration, I turned my attention to the baby raccoon now quickly approaching Vazra‘s lady friend Larenti.  I hoped the noise of the opening and closing door would stop it in its headlong trot toward the feline.  It worked only for a moment, after which it turned and closed the gap.  I was only a few steps from their location, so I immediately moved toward them with much deliberateness, but also not too quiet an approach.  The cat leaped to her feet, hissed, and took one swipe at the juvenile.  While it didn’t make any noise, it certainly turned tail and ran back to where its mother and siblings were standing.

That’s when I heard Vazra hiss.  I turned quickly in his direction and saw the other adult raccoon about halfway down the inside of the fence.  Despite knowing I’d laugh about it in hindsight, I was then only concerned about the increasing mayhem.  They were no more than two feet (half a meter) apart.  In any confrontation between the two, I knew the cat would come out on the losing end.

I quickly moved to their location, grabbed Vazra, and set him behind me near the door.  At least I knew the raccoon would have to get through me first.  Now on the ground inside the patio with us, the smartass was again holding his head up and sniffing the air, but this time there was not much to smell except cat and human.  And this time, having no fence between us, my bulk was far more intimidating.  I waived my arms and swung the empty bowl at him (not intending to hit him, and certainly not close enough to do so, but meant as a warning and scare tactic) as I walked rapidly toward him speaking in a loud voice.  That got his attention.

With no food to get to and with this enormous lumbering ape coming at him like a wild animal, he scurried up the fence.  There he stopped and turned to look at me, his mouth open with the heavy breathing used to pick up scents.

“Ah, hell.”  I continued moving toward him and making noise, and he continued staring at me as though he knew I was not as much of a threat as I hoped to be.  Again, within less than an arm’s reach, we stood face to face as I began wondering if raccoons were known for leaping to attack threats or prey.  We were close enough that it was a concern.  His location on top of the fence placed him within one short leap of my face, not to mention my scantily clad body.

Even then I could feel a bit of trepidation, a hint of wobbling in my knees as the worry for my own safety appeared front and center.  This little rascal was really brave.  That alarmed me, so I took a somewhat gentle swing at him with the bowl.  It didn’t contact him and was not meant to, but it was close enough to hit him with a blast of air.  That scared him enough to force him into a rapid descent down the outside.  There he paused and sniffed and looked at me as though I’d offended him.  There was also a bit of mischief in his eyes, a perceptive look that said, “I know you still have food.  I know you’ve hidden it well.  I will find it.  And you’re not the boss of me, so stop telling me what to do.”

This is precisely why I don’t want the wildlife to know I feed them.  It’s one thing to stumble upon the food and forage for it as they normally would.  It’s something else entirely to know I’m giving it to them and to relate food to my presence, a move that, especially in the case of raccoons, often will give them a great deal more courage around me.  Even an exception like this situation can cause problems, and it had.  This bandit showed up lacking significant fear of humans.  Seeing me provide food just added to his comfort.

But I’m smarter and certainly have more weapons at my disposal, so putting the fear of Jason back into him shouldn’t be a big problem — if I could focus on that rather than trying to protect two cats and a bowl of food from half a dozen raccoons.

Still sitting quietly near the door behind me, Vazra had reached his limit with this nonsense and decided it was time to go.  He ran to and leaped atop the fence, a move that generates a good deal of noise as he uses his claws to grip the top while pushing from below.  Remember, that’s what scared Kako and Kazon.

With his simple escape plan already in motion, he accomplished in one move what I’d failed to accomplish the whole time: the raccoon panicked and bolted in response to the noise and sudden movement.

With no more threat, the Persian cat jumped down the other side of the fence and wandered a short distance away.  Spying him and likely aware the raccoon smells and noises were gone, his lady friend casually strolled back toward us.

“Phew…”  I was glad that was over.  I should have Vazra do the wildlife management from now on.

Later that morning, both cats returned for a more peaceful breakfast, and Vazra was able to soak up all the lovin’ he’d not gotten earlier due to the unscheduled interruption.

Since this experience, the same raccoon has been by several times, and it has even demonstrated an uncanny ability to show up precisely when Vazra arrives in the mornings.  That is when fresh food is offered.  While I’ve not had exactly this same kind of experience with the beast, I have had similar moments when it doesn’t much care that I’m there and is adamant about getting to whatever food is available — even if that’s the bowl of food Vazra and I are protecting on the patio.  But I learned my lesson, and I’ve been able to manage the critter more successfully through noisier and more threatening gyrations.

[Part 3]

Open thread

The Republicans are scrambling to overturn American laws which threaten the president and others involved in violating the Geneva Conventions with prosecution of war crimes.  American law is quite clear as spelled out in the War Crimes Act of 1996.  “That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.”  The SCOTUS ruled the president could not violate the law despite his assumption he was above even the Constitution, and his orders to violate the law did not negate the obligation for those who chose to do so.  That means the subsequent mass violations in Iraq, in America, and in Guantánamo Bay (and, I’m sure, elsewhere) are considered war crimes under both international and American laws.  It disgusts me that the answer is not to hold people accountable but instead to attempt to retroactively change the law.

But that’s not all.  The draft bill put together by the White House and GOP members of Congress appears to do far more than liquidate obligations with regards to foreigners engaging us in battle (POWs, enemies of the state, enemy combatants, and a myriad of other titles).  It is intentionally phrased so that it also can be applied in negation of the rights of American citizens.  “U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration…”  More specifically, “[l]egal experts said Friday that such language is dangerously broad and could authorize the military to detain indefinitely U.S. citizens who had only tenuous ties to terror networks like al Qaeda.”  For instance, if you’ve ever said “al-Qa’ida” or “terrorism”…  Or heard either word.  No enemy is worth the dismantling of our most sacred rights and liberties and ideals.  Remember, each step in the wrong direction makes the next step that much easier.

“Look, sometimes, a Pup and his Ferret just wanna cuddle.”  You can’t go wrong with that photo…

New fossil spiders: Awesome!  Be sure to follow the second link after the photos to see other specimen pictures.  [via PZ]

This is the state of Christian tolerance, love, and peace: “If you want people to stop calling him ‘Jew boy,’ you tell him to give his heart to Jesus.”  That hateful sentiment is openly supported by the school district where this legal battle is taking place, and it’s also the sentiment of most of the town.  So, boycott Georgetown, Delaware for religious intolerance and a bunch of spiteful, hate-filled Christians.  As for Christianity as a whole, I wish there was an easy way to destroy such an evil institution, but dismantling all religion is an even better option.

On the other side of the same coin…  Shocking and encouraging all at once!  Some Christians, including some evangelicals, are finally taking a stand against the church’s continuing degradation into a hate organization, its quickening loss of religious foundations, and its worsening image as a gay-bashing, war-mongering, judge-hating, partisanship-supporting, bigotry-preaching, hypocrisy-endorsing, intolerance-loving, cringe-inducing political lobby.

Two quick and excellent tidbits on the Israel/Lebanon issue.  Read this one first, and then this one.  That about sums up the really bad part of all of this, and why the problem may not be reparable in its current form.

If you have or had cats, this will look terribly familiar, not to mention adorable.

Jon Swift offers his wonderful take on the recent discharge of Bleu Copas, an Arabic language specialist in the Arm.  He was let go on the grounds that his commanding officers violated the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy by asking him repeatedly if he was gay, and finally dischared him because they suspected he was gay — an idea they based entirely on anonymous e-mails and his admission that he once participated in community theater.  Yes, apparently being involved with community theater is a sure sign that you’re gay — at least in the military.  Jon offers, as usual, a humorous yet biting take on the whole incident.

Science is the next victim at the guillotine

With our rapidly ballooning national deficit compliments of the credit card Congress and GOP reversal on the government’s fiscal responsibility, we are under threat of losing quite a bit more than just our hard-earned money that must be taken from us and future generations to pay for this reckless behavior.  We now learn NASA’s continuing and excessive budget cuts may force the organization to halt all science on the International Space Station for at least a year.  The move, if enacted, is intended to save money that will instead be spent on construction of the orbital platform.  To wit:

NASA managers are considering suspending U.S. research aboard the International Space Station (ISS) next year in order to save money for the orbital laboratory’s construction, a top program manager said Thursday.

Kirk Shireman, deputy director of NASA’s ISS program at Johnson Space Center (JSC), said dropping science research during the 2007 fiscal year is one of several options on the table to make up for a funding shortfall of up to $100 million.

“Right now we’re quite a bit in the hole,” Shireman told reporters during a Thursday ISS mission briefing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. “We’ll look at a bunch of different options for the assembly budget; all those things are under consideration.”

It strikes me as a bit odd that our space research agency would be forced to suspend research in order to cover its budgetary shortfall.  Focusing on construction is hardly a fair trade in this case.

The National Research Council has issued several reports citing the need for more ISS science and larger station crews in order to bring the orbital laboratory up to its full potential.

Why then are we considering going in the opposite direction?  The answer is quite simple: the government continues to cut NASA’s funding so they can divert money to the bottomless pit that is the War on Terror™, a war we’re not even fighting anymore; space exploration is not deemed a critical endeavor despite our continuing destruction of Earth’s habitat, a move that may eventually — and sooner than most think — force us to seriously consider alternative locations and environments; and Republicans hate science, so their control over the budgetary process at both the legislative and executive levels means investments in research will continually be cut (as they have done repeatedly and in many areas over the last several years).

And where are the Democrats in all of this?  Sitting on their thumbs and spinning while they whine and moan and groan about the problems they seem unwilling to address.  As a party, they’re unable to voice a coherent, strong, shared opinion on any topic, and that explains why they keep failing on election days.  I mean honestly, can anyone tell me what the Democrats stand for now?  What is their platform outside of being the political whipping boy and opposition party that opposes itself more than anything else?

The Democrats have relegated themselves to inconsequentiality, so the Republican war on science continues full tilt.  That means NASA is becoming a construction company instead of a space exploration and science agency.


And one more harp on this before I let it go

I apologize for focusing on the Middle East today.  It’s just that I’ve read so much nonsense from those who believe Israel is right and everyone else is wrong, so I had to say something.  Twice.  Well, now three times.  Get over it.

For today at least, this will be the last item up for bid on the issue.

Let me explain why I feel so strongly about this.  For many years before his death, I had a very close friend who emigrated from Lebanon.  He came to the U.S. and made a rather successful life for himself.  He married, had two wonderful kids, had a very successful business right here in Dallas, and was a true American.  We worked together, spent a lot of time together, and he even helped me learn Arabic.  He was a great friend and it was a tremendous loss when a major car accident took his life.

It was from him that I learned a great deal about the other side of the Middle East equation.  Growing up in America meant I already got all the pro-Israeli propaganda I could stand.  My familiarity with why Israel must always be right grew tempered by hearing from my friend the legitimate, not-related-to-the-destruction-of-Israel concerns that he and his fellow Arabs shared.  It was not a Muslim thing (he, in fact, was Episcopalian).  It was not founded on hatred of Israel or Jews (I can remember many times when he supported Israel’s actions and decisions in the region).

Contrary to popular belief, he helped me understand there was a great deal of common sense in the area, most of which unfortunately was held by those not in power.  When his family came to America to visit, they too shared his views.  I was surprised to learn from them and through him that progressive ideas were not entirely unheard of in Arab countries.

Despite this, they also helped me to see both sides had legitimate concerns.  Sure, few would deny the grudges held by Arabs regarding the Zionist use of terrorism against the British and Palestinians as part of the formation of Israel.  Seeing their Palestinian brothers subjugated and living in despair was clearly the major concern, and I could see plainly that the dislike of Israel grew as that situation continued.

Again, it was my friendship with him that exposed me to quite a bit of Arab thinking and opinion, and that in turn allowed me to see there really are two sides in the argument.  Thankfully, he also vehemently disagreed with the use of terrorism as a means to communicate their concerns.  He often would say such actions did nothing to help identify and address the real problems, and in fact he was rather upset that it had the opposite effect.

I provide that brief summary to help qualify my point of view on the Middle East crisis (by crisis, I mean the ongoing problem and not just the violent quid pro quo happening right now between Israel and Hezb’Allah).

So let me close with an excerpt from this article [via John Lynch].  It is a sentiment I have shared before.

All parties involved are to blame for this frightful mess: The Palestinians and Hezbollah for provoking Israel, and Israel for its continuing brutal repression of Palestinians and assassinating their leaders. But most at blame is the Bush administration whose catastrophically misguided Mideast policies have fed this crisis.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict lies at the heart of Mideast troubles, and is the primary generator for anti-Western violence known as terrorism. It is a weary truism that no nation can bring about Mideast peace except for the United States.

But the Bush administration has been too obsessed by its losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay attention to the Levant. U.S. Mideast policy is dominated by neoconservatives and Protestant fundamentalists aligned with Israel’s expansionist right wing, leaving would-be peacemakers in Israel and the Arab World out in the cold.

The White House has given Israel a very public green light to go on pounding Lebanon. What deja vu. In 1982, the Reagan administration also gave Israel’s Ariel Sharon a green light to invade Lebanon. The result was 15 years of mayhem, the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, and Hezbollah.

Israel and its enemies will eventually talk. It’s only a question of how many civilians on both sides will die before this happens.