T P O

T   P   O
The Patient Ox (aka Hénock Gugsa)

G r e e t i n g s !

** TPO **
an irreligious blog
with egalitarian and individualist tendencies!


On the menu ... politics, music, poetry, and other good stuff.
There is humor, but there is blunt seriousness here as well!


Parfois, on parle français ici aussi. Tous sont les bienvenus!

Intelligent comments are always welcome!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The House I Live In - Paul Robeson


Paul Robeson



"The House I Live In"
----- // -----
by Paul Robeson (1898-1976)


video
 
THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (1947)
-------------------
What is America to me?
A name, a map or a flag I see,
A certain word, "Democracy",
What is America to me?

The house I live in,
The friends that I have found,
The folks beyond the railroad
and the people all around,
The worker and the farmer,
the sailor on the sea,
The men who built this country,
that's America to me.

The words of old Abe Lincoln,
of Jefferson and Paine,
of Washington and Jackson
and the tasks that still remain.
The little bridge at Concord,
where Freedom's Fight began,
of Gettysburg and Midway
and the story of Bataan.

The house I live in,
my neighbors White and Black,
the people who just came here
or from generations back,
the town hall and the soapbox,
the torch of Liberty,
a home for all God's children,
that's America to me.

The house I live in,
the goodness everywhere,
a land of wealth and beauty
with enough for all to share.
A house that we call "Freedom",
the home of Liberty,
but especially the people,
that's America to me.

But especially the people--that's
the true America.

 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Intelligent and Humorous! - by TPO



Samples of Gun Discourse in America
------ // ------

I - From: Comment section of Washington Post*

daskinner at 11:34 PM CST:-
Guns are like brains. Better to have and not need, than need and not have.

Reply ...
Maximus Powerus at 11:36 PM CST:-
Sadly, daskinner, you seem to be in the former category on guns and the latter category on brains.  

You should really do a little research on your "legitimate rights." I suggest starting with D.C. v. Heller, but don't get all hot and bothered when Scalia says gun ownership is a right and go dancing in the streets; keep reading to the part where he talks about how it's not an unlimited right.
________________________

II - From: Slate readers**

Unforgiven:
Drowning is a leading cause of death among US youths. In 2002, 1158 youths younger than 20 years died as a result of an unintentional non–boat-related drowning. Additionally, more than 300 youths aged 20 to 24 years drowned that year. Children aged 1 to 4 years and males aged 15 to 24 years have the highest risk for drowning. - American Journal of Public Health.
Water - The silent killer!

Reply ...
Randy4797:
That's why I drink my Crown straight up.

Reply ...
Stellla IV:
Also, it rusts pipes. 
(Thank you, WCF)

Reply ...
Tradecraft:
And an icicle (water frozen into a dangerous shape) can kill. Once the icicle has performed its deadly mission, it melts and becomes untraceable.

Surma Vabariiklased:
I haven't heard of any gang-related drive-by drownings, or people backing a tanker up to a class room window to inflict some mass drowning.
  
But should such things occur... I suspect normal/sane people would at least be open to discussing how we could prevent such things in the future.

Stellla IV:
A sad lack of adjectives there. You can do better.

Reply ...
Hernando Martinez:
Maybe throw a "psychotic stupids" in there?

Tradecraft:
So you're OK with waterboarding? Are you a pro-torture lunatic?

Reply ...
Surma Vabariiklased:
I prefer wakeboarding.

Reply ...
Hernando Martinez:
Psychotic stupid wakeboarding?

Hila:
Drowning? When was the last time you heard of anyone killing themselves by drowning? It happens and we do require more responsibility on the part of pool owners than we require of gun owners: locked fences and insurance.

_________________________________________
* Source:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kathleen-parker-gun-control-proposals-hardly-
draconian/2013/01/11

** source:
slate.com (1/28/13)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Thing of Real Value - by Raymond Beyda



The Thing of Real Value

----- // -----

by Raymond Beyda *

Once there was a man who lost his fortune and was forced to travel to a far away land in order to earn a living. He arrived at a remote place where the simple folks did not even know how to plow or plant produce. The land, however, was strewn with valuable jewels and pearls. The people traded the valuable gems for food and produce that merchants from other countries brought to barter. 

The visitor decided to buy a farm and plant various grains and vegetables. He married and had children and eventually became the wealthiest man in the country because he supplied the ignorant residents with their physical needs in exchange for valuable gems. When he reached a ripe old age he called in his sons and told them that he had another son from his first wife in his country of origin that was very intelligent and that they should bring him to share in the inheritance when he died. The man requested that they give the intelligent, other son his choice of either the farm or the jewels and wealth he bequeathed. 

And so they did. The half brother came to live with them and was asked which part of the father's inheritance would he like [sic] to have. He chose the farm -- much to the dismay of the others who thought that if he were so smart he would certainly choose the gold, silver and jewels. 

Several years later a wise king came to the land and taught all of the residents agriculture. The economy grew as they all sold their jewels to foreigners and produced what they needed to live for themselves. It was then that the brothers realized the wisdom of their half-brother that chose the farm over the wealth. He was the one who chose the thing of real value and left us with the rest.”
_____________________________________
*Rabbi Raymond Beyda: “Best of Both Worlds”
Source - http://www.torah.org/learning/tabletalk/5763/shlach.html



Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Bankers Are Just Like Anybody Else" - Ogden Nash


 
Bankers Are Just Like Anybody Else, Except Richer
------- // -------
by Ogden Nash (1902-1971)


Bankers Are Just Like Anybody Else, Except Richer

This is a song to celebrate banks,
Because they are full of money and you go into them and all
you hear is clinks and clanks,
Or maybe a sound like the wind in the trees on the hills,
Which is the rustling of the thousand dollar bills.
Most bankers dwell in marble halls,
Which they get to dwell in because they encourage deposits
and discourage withdrawals,
And particularly because they all observe one rule which woe
betides the banker who fails to heed it,
Which is you must never lend any money to anybody unless
they don't need it.
I know you, you cautious conservative banks!
If people are worried about their rent it is your duty to deny
them the loan of one nickel, yes, even one copper engraving
of the martyred son of the late Nancy Hanks;
Yes, if they request fifty dollars to pay for a baby you must
look at them like Tarzan looking at an uppity ape in the
jungle,
And tell them what do they think a bank is, anyhow, they had
better go get the money from their wife's aunt or ungle.
But suppose people come in and they have a million and they
want another million to pile on top of it,
Why, you brim with the milk of human kindness and you
urge them to accept every drop of it,
And you lend them the million so then they have two million
and this gives them the idea that they would be better off
with four,
So they already have two million as security so you have no
hesitation in lending them two more,
And all the vice-presidents nod their heads in rhythm,
And the only question asked is do the borrowers want the
money sent or do they want to take it withm.
Because I think they deserve our appreciation and thanks,
the jackasses who go around saying that health and happi-
ness are everything and money isn't essential,
Because as soon as they have to borrow some unimportant
money to maintain their health and happiness they starve
to death so they can't go around any more sneering at good
old money, which is nothing short of providential.



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Parce Que Tu Pars - Lara Fabian




Lara FabianParce Que Tu Pars

----- // -----

Lara Fabian (1970 -)






video



Parce Que Tu Pars

Tout ne rime à rien quand on n'a même plus peur
Toutes les raisons de rester sont les leurs
Rien ne te retient, surtout pas le bonheur
Que tu ne cherches plus,
C'est plus l'heure

Je suis là pour ne pas regretter l'absence
Des mots et des liens qui empêchent le silence
Dis moi s'il te plait ce qu'on verra trop tard
Le dernier aveu est-il ce regard ?

Parce que tu pars
Parce que tu pars
On restera brisé devant l'irréparable
Parce que tu pars
Parce que tu pars
On éteindra tout contre soi l'intolérance
Parce que tu pars

Jure le que cet échec
N'est pas ton avenir
Ce qui t'aura pris la tête
Oublie-le pour te choisir
Et si tu veux bien
On cassera la gueule
A ce coup du destin
Qui rend seul

Parce que tu pars
Parce que tu pars
On restera brisé devant l'irréparable
Parce que tu pars
Parce que tu pars
On éteindra tout contre soi l'intolérance
Parce que tu pars, Parce que tu pars

Parce que tu pars, Parce que tu pars
On questionnera chaque journée inévitable
Parce que tu pars, Parce que tu pars
On éteindra tout contre soi l'intolérance
Parce que tu pars, Parce que tu ... mmm ... pars!





Friday, January 18, 2013

What is Darkness? - by TPO





What is Darkness?
----- // -----
by TPO

Though it is often said that ‘ignorance is bliss’, we must admit that it is also akin to being left in darkness without regard for consequences.  I am convinced that the most effective approach to understand darkness is the metaphysical (philosophical) one.  And to solidify our total understanding, we will need to conclude with a demonstration (example) of darkness and its meaning and implications.

I -  From Brahma Teachings (*) :

According to the Grandsire Prajapati (and the Brahma teachings), Darkness (“Tamas”) is one of three qualities or manifestations of existence. [The other two are Goodness (Sattwa), and Passion (Rajas).]

TAMAS (Darkness) …  should be known to have the night (or obscurity) for its essence. It is otherwise called Delusion. It has unrighteousness (or sin) also for its indication, and it is always present in all sinful acts ….

Complete delusion, ignorance, illiberality, indecision in respect of action, sleep, haughtiness, fear, cupidity, grief, censure of good acts, loss of memory, unripeness of judgment, absence of faith, violation of all rules of conduct, want of discrimination, blindness, vileness of behavior, boastful assertions of performance when there has been no performance, presumption of knowledge in ignorance, unfriendliness (or hostility), evilness of disposition, absence of faith, stupid reasoning, crookedness, incapacity for association, sinful action, senselessness, stolidity, lassitude, absence of self-control, degradation, - all these qualities are known as belonging to Darkness (Tamas).

Whatever other states of mind connected with delusion exist in the world, all appertain to Darkness. Frequent ill-speaking of other people, censuring the deities and the Brahmanas (priests), illiberality, vanity, delusion, wrath, unforgiveness, hostility towards all creatures, are regarded as the characteristics of Darkness. Whatever undertakings exist that are unmeritorious (in consequence of their being vain or useless), what gifts there are that are unmeritorious (in consequence of the unworthiness of the donee, the unseasonableness of the time, the impropriety of the object, etc.), vain eating, - these also appertain to Darkness (Tamas).

Indulgence in calumny, unforgiveness, animosity, vanity, and absence of faith are also said to be characteristics of Darkness. Whatever men there are in this world who are characterized by these and other faults of a similar kind, and who break through the restraints provided by the scriptures, are all regarded as belonging to the quality of Darkness.

II -  “ In the Dark” … by Rabbi Raymond Beyda (**)

[...sic ...]

What is the significance to the nighttime encounter and the conversation held at dawn?

There was once a man who was shipwrecked on a deserted island. He had no contact with the outside world and was unfamiliar with any of society’s mores or conveniences. When he was found and brought to the city he experienced many things that we all take for granted for the first time. Sometimes he understood what he saw but many times not.

One day he saw a line of people entering through a large lobby into a dark room. He paid at the counter and followed the others inside where he was awed by the sight of several hundred people sitting in rows of chairs staring at giant figures walking on the wall. He stood frozen in the rear of the theater as the movie scene changed from minute to minute. At one point it became very dark and the man had trouble seeing what was happening. He immediately took out a halogen lantern and pointed at the screen to illuminate the area where the people had disappeared. A large white spot appeared and it became clear that there was no one really on the wall as the audience turned to the rear of the theater and angrily protested the light. “Turn that thing off – Don’t you know we can’t see anything unless it is dark?” Silly man – didn’t he know you can’t see in a theater unless it is dark?

In this world of ours there should be a sign – ‘Keep the lights off - We only see in the dark!” ...[sic] ....
_____________________


(**) Excerpted from: http://www.torah.org/learning/tabletalk/5767/vayishlach.html


Monday, January 14, 2013

Two Lighthouses by TPO


Max EhrmanRudyard Kipling












Two Lighthouses

---- // ----

by TPO


Desiderata
by
Max Ehrman (1872-1945)
 
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. 


Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.


Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.


Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.


You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.


Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy. 




If
 by
 Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!




 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Intuition vs. Reflection - by Robert M. Sapolsky


 

Human -- for better or worse *


By Robert M. Sapolsky  **


 Are people, by nature, kind or rotten? This question has kept philosophers, theologians, social scientists and writers busy for millenniums.

A vote for our basic rottenness comes from scholars such as Steven Pinker of Harvard, who has documented how it is the regulating forces of society, rather than human nature, that have brought a decline in human violence over the centuries. A vote for our basic decency comes, surprisingly, from work by primatologists such as Frans de Waal of Emory University, who have observed that other primates display the basics of altruism, reciprocity, empathy and a sense of justice. Those virtues have a long legacy that precedes humans.

It's obviously hard to answer the question of what primordial humans were like, since we can't go back in time and study them. But another way of getting at this issue is to study people who must act in a primordial manner, having to make instant gut decisions. Do we tend to become more or less noble than usual when we must act on rapid intuition?

Light is shed on this in a recent study by David Rand and colleagues at Harvard, published in the prestigious journal Science, and the research is tragically relevant. The authors recruited volunteers to play one of those economic games in which individuals in a group are each given some hypothetical money; each person must decide whether to be cooperative and benefit the entire group, or to act selfishly and receive greater individual gain. A key part of the experiment was that the scientists altered how much time subjects had to decide whether to cooperate. And that made a difference. When people had to make a rapid decision based on their gut, levels of cooperation rose; give them time to reflect on the wisdom of their actions, and the opposite occurred.

Testing a new set of volunteers, the authors also manipulated how much respect subjects had for intuitive decision-making. Just before participating in the economics game, people had to either write a paragraph about a time that it had paid off to make a decision based on intuition rather than reflection, or a paragraph about a time when reflection turned out to be the best way to go. Bias people toward valuing quick, intuitive decision-making, and they acted more for the common good in the subsequent game. In contrast, bias people in the reflective direction, and "looking out for No. 1" comes more to the forefront — something the authors termed "calculated greed."

Naturally, not everyone behaved identically in response to these experimental manipulations. Where might differences come from? The authors asked participants a simple question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much can you trust people whom you interact with in your daily life? And the more trusting subjects were, the more quick, intuitive thinking pushed them in the direction of cooperation. If you view the world as a benevolent place, your rapid-fire, reflexive response in a situation is more likely to spread that benevolence further.

Neuroscience has generated a trendy new subfield called "neuroeconomics," which examines how the brain makes economic decisions. The field's punch line is that we are not remotely the gleaming, logical machines of rationality that most economists proclaim; instead, we make decisions amid the swirl of our best and worst emotions. Neuroeconomics, in turn, has spawned the sub-subfield of "the neuroscience of moral judgment." Scientists such as Jonathan Haidt of New York University have shown that we frequently feel rather than think our way to moral judgments; in general, the more affective parts of our brains generate quick, intuitive, moral decisions ("I can't tell you why, but that is wrong, wrong, wrong"), while the more cognitive parts play catch-up milliseconds to years later to come up with logical rationales for our gut intuitions. Thus, it is obviously important to understand what leads intuitive decisions in the direction of acting for the common good.

What's the relevance of this research to current events? Every parent can tell you that sharing and cooperating are definitely acquired traits for children. Now, kids don't learn to act for the common good through moral reasoning — 5-year-olds don't think, "My goodness, if I act with self-interest at this juncture, it will decrease the likelihood of future reciprocal altruism, thereby depressing levels of social capital in my community." Kids don't learn to care for the well-being of others by thinking — brain development isn't quite there yet. They do so by feeling — imagine how that person feels, imagine how you would feel if that were done to you. Barney and Mister Rogers, rather than Immanuel Kant and Soren Kierkegaard. A world in which goodness is an act of intuition, rather than of reasoning. As well as a world in which cynicism and distrust are not yet commonplace.

This must do interesting things to an adult who spends lots of time around young kids, this world of trust and intuition-based decency. Say, a teacher, or school psychologist or principal in a suburban Connecticut elementary school. And then it happens, a circumstance that no human can anticipate, a moment of horrific menace, where there is only a reflexive instant to decide whose well-being comes first. What happens then?

What happens? Anne Marie Murphy. Dawn Hochsprung. Lauren Rousseau. Mary Sherlach. Rachel D'Avino. Victoria Soto. That's what happens. And the rest of us can only stand in awe at the heartbreaking beauty of what they did.
__________________________________


** Robert M. Sapolsky is a professor of neuroscience at Stanford University and the author of "A Primate's Memoir," among other books. He is a contributing writer to Opinion.   
 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Procrastination" - by DeGeneres / Pekrul / Kelly


" Pr o c r a s t i n a t i o n "
 by 
DeGeneres / Pekrul / Kelly

video


Procrastination
by
David Ronald Bruce Pekrul

Procrastination, what's the rush?
I'll do it some day without fuss,
But until then I'll take my time,
And maybe have a glass of wine.

Why do it now, when I can wait?
I'll get it done before it's late,
I work much better under stress,
(But that's not true, I must confess).

To be on time is not my thing,
For I'm "Procrastination King",
But one day, be it late or soon,
I'll sing a very different tune.

I'll be on time and get it done,
(Although it won't be any fun),
I'll be responsible, you'll see,
And you'll be very proud of me.

But until then I'll take my time,
(Now where is that third glass of wine?),
They say tomorrow never comes,

So maybe then I will succumb.




video


Friday, January 4, 2013

"Where has the time gone?" - by Pinchas Winston



Where has the time gone?
------- // -------
by Rabbi Pinchas Winston *

Some say time is actually speeding up. This may simply be an illusion, the product of so much distraction that we can barely be conscious of the passage of time. One hundred years ago, life was much simpler and the world was much smaller. It could take weeks before someone found out what happened half across the globe. Today it takes seconds, as information constantly streams in from all over the world. There is so much to juggle at one time.

In the meantime, technology becomes increasingly more magical. Once toys were only for children; today they are more sophisticated and expensive, and for adults as well. Some are small and some are large, but all of them engage the interest of their owners to such a degree that they are no longer that conscious of their immediate surroundings.

Today, a person gets onto a bus or into a taxi and immediately reaches for his cell phone to make a call, or his smart phone to check his mail. Minutes will go by and the scenery will change around him, but he won’t be aware of it ... [sic]. Some say time is actually speeding up, literally. I heard a radio interview not long ago with a scientist who said that the earth’s rotation is a little quicker than it used to be, making the day a little shorter. I’m not sure how that affects clocks that work according to a 24-hour day, but it is an interesting idea nonetheless. Whatever the reason, not only does time fly these days, but it seems to do so at supersonic speed!

We’ve known for some time that time is relative (boring relatives make time seem to move slower). And, though it seems to exist in the background, the truth is, it is crucial for making life meaningful. Without it and its deadlines, we probably wouldn’t accomplish very much from day to day, feeling that we can always put off until tomorrow what we could have done today.

Deadlines change all of that. People who appreciate how precious life is also appreciate the value of a moment. They are the ones who do not put off until tomorrow what can be done today, because tomorrow’s opportunity may never come. Things constantly change and life is full of surprises so the wise man seizes the moment and always uses it meaningfully.
_________________________
* Source: http://www.torah.org/learning/perceptions/5773/vayechi.html 




Thursday, January 3, 2013

No Place for Pessimism Here - by TPO


 



No Place for Pessimism Here

---------//---------

by TPO



Holy road to recovery, Batman!


Suddenly, everything seems to be coming up roses for the sane and sensible citizens of this great land (i.e. - the moderates and liberals!!)

With due apologies for some cliché-ridden verbiage here, I would like to postulate that the United States is on the cusp of a special, and wonderful era … mostly that of a return to good normalcy (*).  We are finally shirking off the cobwebs and dirt-covered decay that has been foisted on us by a greedy and (disastrously) stupid political party – i.e. the Republican party.  We are not in our Shangri-la yet, but we’re working on getting there.

Nationally, the elections went just fine.  We have the right president for the time, and we even have the right Congress despite the cranky, obstructive, and recalcitrant opposition still having some say-so in the governing of the nation.  But that is as it should be … opposition is good!  A battle not fought hard is not worth a lot at victory time.  Besides, everybody and everything needs to be kept honest and above-board.

Here in Minnesota, things couldn’t be rosier.  The Governor, the majorities at the State capitol, the mayors of the Twin Cities, and the two U.S. Senators are all Democrats.  Also, out of the eight U.S. Representatives, five members of that group belong to the Democratic party.  And, of-course, we overwhelmingly voted for President Obama!

There are still some conservatives whining out there … yes, the pundits and megalomaniacal radio shock jocks are still out there.  They and their complementary media will continue their shrill attempts to propagate fear and hate. But of late, they have been constantly discredited from every direction, and the public is beginning to shun them.

Undoubtedly, we will have a considerable amount of work and self-sacrifice required of all of us in the coming years.  But good people everywhere are up for the challenge.  This time, our confidence is truly genuine because the hope is not just a dream.

 /// Post Script ///
Message to Sarah Palin:
That "hopey, changey" thing is working out just fine for us!
Sorry to disappoint.  Thank you for your concern all the same. 

_______________________
(*)TPO defines good normalcy as a state where peace reigns, and economic stability and growth are firmly in place.