T   P   O
The Patient Ox (aka Hénock Gugsa)

G r e e t i n g s !

** TPO **
A personal blog with diverse topicality and multiple interests!

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. Je suis un francophile .... Bienvenue à tous!

* Your comments and evaluations are appreciated ! *

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Flush in Debt - by Zachary A. Goldfarb

How a Flush Country Could Be in Debt Trouble
By Zachary A. Goldfarb

The United States isn’t broke. The government collects $2 trillion in tax revenue a year and has been able to borrow even more at very low interest rates.

Beyond government, U.S. companies led by giants such as Apple and General Electric have saved nearly $2 trillion at home and $1 trillion more overseas. U.S. banks have up to $2 trillion available to lend.

GOP leaders try to rally votes in the House as Republicans and Democrats in Congress pursue separate plans to avert a government default in a messy legislative showdown.

Yet the U.S. government confronts a debt crisis, and fears are mounting about a possible default. How could this be?

The answer comes down to politics and math.

While the U.S. government’s $14.3 trillion debt is an eye-popping figure, the country has plenty of resources. It’s just that over many years Americans and their leaders have chosen not to tap them to pay the government’s growing bills.

So the United States could be deemed an international deadbeat for a debt load that it has the financial wherewithal to pay off.

Consider the government’s debt. Almost half, or $6 trillion, is money the government doesn’t owe anyone but itself, for instance to the Federal Reserve or Social Security. An additional $3.9 trillion is owed to U.S. investors, investment funds and companies.

So what does the government owe to the rest of the world?

It’s about $4.4 trillion. But when the government, U.S. businesses and individuals are taken together, the country as a whole owes the rest of the world only a far more modest $2.5 trillion on balance. That’s because of the trillions of dollars that Americans have invested abroad in foreign companies, gold and other assets, offsetting much of the debt.

As a share of the country’s total wealth — or of what Americans produce every year — the country’s debt to the world is small. And it has remained fairly constant over the past decade.

The United States is a lot like a rich businessman who owns two homes, a yacht and millions of dollars in stock but is in debt because he took out a big loan to buy a private plane.

This fellow could always have used some of his wealth, for instance his stock, to pay cash for the plane. But he didn’t want to. Now, with the weak economy, he’s finding it hard to pay off the plane simply out of his salary. By putting most of his wealth beyond reach, he has boxed himself in.

Likewise, U.S. politicians have made a value judgment that they shouldn’t tap much of the country’s wealth to pay for government programs. That judgment, in turn, reflects the preference that many Americans themselves have expressed over the years for leaving private resources in mostly private hands.

Political leaders have actually reduced taxes — personal and corporate — to some of their lowest levels in generations and carved out a series of loopholes and policies that allow American companies and individuals to save money. And some of this money ends up leaving the country altogether.

The government, for instance, has encouraged savings in tax-shielded retirement accounts, which in part are invested abroad.

Corporations, likewise, have enjoyed preferential tax treatment through a range of loopholes and breaks that allow many large U.S. companies to pay far below the 35 percent corporate tax rate. Again, some of these corporate savings end up invested overseas.

Money generated by companies abroad isn’t taxed until it is returned to the United States — which companies are loath to do.

Frank Warnock, a professor at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, said the government decided to make major expenditures — such as two wars — without coming up with the money to pay for them.

But while the country is flush with assets, it doesn’t mean the government can seize them to pay for public debt. “I don’t think you can say there are buckets of money and let’s grab it,” Warnock said.

The United States finds itself in a very different situation from Greece, Portugal and other European countries that are struggling with debt and trying to avoid default. These Europeans have far less wiggle room, owing the vast majority of their debts abroad while owning relatively few assets.

What’s more, these countries have poorer prospects for economic growth. They are being charged interest rates to borrow money that one might expect at a payday lender. And they are locked into a single currency — the euro — which deprives them of a crucial tool: devaluing your currency to make your products cheaper and more attractive to customers in other countries.

The U.S. economic picture is not that rosy either. But economists still expect growth to pick up over the coming years, which will boost tax revenue and make it easier for the nation to afford its obligations. U.S. companies remain competitive, and if firms put their cash to work, it could fuel growth even more.

And if politicians could come to an agreement over government finances, most economists say the U.S. government could bring its debt to heel.

Zachary A. Goldfarb
Washington Post / Business (July 29, 2011)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Roses" - by Billy Collins

by Billy Collins (1941 - )

In those weeks of midsummer
when the roses in gardens begin to give up,
the big red, white, and pink ones—
the inner, enfolded petals growing cankerous,
the ones at the edges turning brown
or fallen already, down on their girlish backs
in the rough beds of turned-over soil,

then how terrible the expressions on their faces,
a kind of was it all really worth it? look,
to die here slowly in front of everyone
in the garden of a bed-and-breakfast
in a provincial English market town,
to expire by degrees of corruption
in plain sight of all the neighbors passing by,

the thin mail carrier, the stocky butcher
(thank God the children pay no attention),
the swiveling faces in the windows of the buses,
and now this stranger staring over the wall,
his hair disheveled, a scarf loose around his neck,
writing in a notebook, writing about us no doubt,
about how terrible we look under the punishing sun.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Today's Culture, in Quotes" - Gordon C. Stewart

Today's Culture, in Quotes **
Rev. Gordon C. Stewart
Last week I drove past a sign hanging from the fence of a pasture.

It read: "Don't Cross This Field Unless You Can Do It In 9.9 Seconds ... The Bull Can Do It In 10." I couldn't help but think of the face-off over the debt ceiling in our nation's capital. The clock is ticking. Soon we -- the USA -- won't have time make it across the field without defaulting. 

As our nation's leaders brandish their partisan swords, I thought of King Solomon's dream, in which God invites Solomon, the new king, to ask whatever for he wants.
"Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people ..." says the young Solomon. The reply comes in these words: "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart ..." (Hebrew Bible, I Kings 3:5-12). 

Since I have no wisdom as to what path our leaders should take to get across the field to protect the nation's financial and civic health, I decided to look for bits of wisdom from our history that shine some light on the darkness while making us laugh at the same time. Here are a few of what I found: 

"He knows all the facts, and he's against all the solutions."
* * *
"All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies."
* * *
"A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking."
* * *
"He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career."
* * *
"I only wish that I could be as sure of anything as my opponent is of everything."
* * *
"Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment, and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."
* * *
"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."
* * *
"Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
* * *
"I could not be leading a religious life unless I identified myself with the whole of mankind, and that I could not do unless I took part in politics."
• • • 

It is the whole -- the nation itself -- that is at risk today in the bull's pasture. The clock is ticking. 

If our national leaders -- the partisan advocates whom we, the American people, have elected -- remain stuck on the horns of partisanship, the bull of entrenched interests and ideology will gore us. 

This is a time for the wisdom of Solomon, who demonstrated it in the famous biblical story about two members of the world's oldest profession who come before him to resolve a stalemate. 

The two battling prostitutes put the king's wisdom to the test with competing claims about a child. Each has given birth to a child. One of the babies has died; the other has lived. Both mothers claim to be the real mother of the surviving child. 

Then the king said, 'Bring me a sword.' So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: 'Cut the living child in two and give half to the one and half to the other.' 

The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, 'Please, my Lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!'

But the other said, 'Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!" Then the king gave his ruling: 'Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.'

Those who do not love this country will cut the baby in half. Those who love her will put aside their swords to follow the way of wisdom.
Gordon C. Stewart is pastor at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, Minnesota. He delivered a version of this essay as a sermon on July 24.
** Source: Star Tribune / July 28, 2011

The Slap Exchange - by TPO

Excerpt from " Still I Rise "
by Maya Angelou

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Tax Increases - by Ed Moscovitch

"Tax increases don’t harm economies."
By Ed Moscovitch / The Boston Globe
July 27, 2011

THE KEY sticking point in the debt ceiling negotiations is the refusal of many Republicans to support any kind of tax increase. They argue that raising taxes will hurt economic growth. However, a look at the evidence shows that raising taxes does not necessarily slow the economy.

In 1993, President Clinton raised taxes. Republicans argued then - as they do now - that his tax increase would lead to a recession. They were wrong; in the first quarter of 1993, when Clinton took office in January, total national employment was 109.9 million. When he left office eight years later, total employment was 132.5 million - a gain of 22.6 million jobs.

George W. Bush cut taxes, predicting that this would create jobs. But over the eight years of his presidency, total employment rose by only 300,000 jobs. How can anyone look at this record and argue with a straight face that cutting taxes guarantees job growth?

If the GOP assertion is correct, we would expect to see that countries with low taxes would have higher growth rates than countries with low taxes. In fact, there is little correlation. Looking at the major developed countries between 2000 to 2009, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Belgium, and Sweden all had the same growth rate as the United States (about 1.8 percent per year), even though all of them had higher taxes than we do. In some cases, taxes were much higher - 45 percent of gross domestic product in Norway, Finland, and Austria, as against only 25 percent here.

How is this possible? Higher taxes make possible higher spending. While taxes per se may (or may not) discourage growth, government money well spent (on college education, on scientific research, on basic infrastructure) likely increases growth potential. That’s why President Eisenhower built the interstate highways and President Reagan supported big increases in basic research.

Britain these days should be a conservative dream. Last July the Conservatives won the national elections and enacted major spending cuts in an effort to cut the deficit. There has not, however, been a decrease in unemployment. The unemployment rate, which had been at 5.5 percent for several years, rose to 8 percent in 2008 as a result of the financial crisis. It was at 8 percent when the Conservatives took office, and it was still 8 percent at the last reading in April.

Pushed by its creditors, Greece has been making a crash effort to cut its deficit. The result? Unemployment rose from 7.5 percent in 2008 to 10 percent in 2009, and reached 15 percent in the spring as a result of the financial crisis.

So why are both President Obama and the Republicans urging similar large, short-term deficit reduction for the United States? They differ on taxes but, sadly, the president has signed on to the GOP program of large-scale, short-term spending cuts. They should instead enact short-term stimulus to cut the unemployment rate, as long as it is accompanied by long-term deficit reduction.

President Clinton increased taxes as part of a gradual, multi-year effort to decrease the deficit. While there was no crash reduction in spending, he kept spending increases moderate while the higher tax rates and growing economy increased revenues. This kept interest rates low, which made possible a period of low inflation, low unemployment, and in his last year or two, a balanced federal budget.

The lesson, then, is that long-term efforts to reduce the deficit are a good idea, large cuts in the deficit at a time of high unemployment are a bad idea, and that taxes can be raised as part of a deficit-reduction effort without impeding growth. Unfortunately, Washington doesn’t seem to have the patience for this kind of nuanced approach.

James Coburn and Steve McQueen - The Magnificent Seven

Ed Moscovitch is president of Cape Ann Economics and chairman of the Bay State Reading Institute.
© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The History of the Debt Limit - by The NY Times

The NY Times: "The History of the Debt Limit"

"One From One Leaves Two' - by Ogden Nash

"One From One Leaves Two"
by Ogden Nash (1902 - 1971)

Higgledy piggledy, my black hen,
She lays eggs for gentlemen.
Gentlemen come every day
To count what my black hen doth lay.
If perchance she lays too many,
They fine my hen a pretty penny;
If perchance she fails to lay,
The gentlemen a bonus pay.

Mumbledy pumbledy, my red cow,
She’s cooperating now.
At first she didn’t understand
That milk production must be planned;
She didn’t understand at first
She either had to plan or burst,
But now the government reports
She’s giving pints instead of quarts.

Fiddle de dee, my next-door neighbors,
They are giggling at their labors.
First they plant the tiny seed,
Then they water, then they weed,
Then they hoe and prune and lop,
Then they raise a record crop,
Then they laugh their sides asunder,
And plow the whole caboodle under.

Abracadabra, thus we learn
The more you create, the less you earn.
The less you earn, the more you’re given,
The less you lead, the more you’re driven,
The more destroyed, the more they feed,
The more you pay, the more they need,
The more you earn, the less you keep,
And now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to take
If the tax-collector hasn’t got it before I wake.

Asmara Restaurant - by Jialu Chen

Asmara Restaurant in Boston
By Jialu Chen
Boston Globe Staff / July 27, 2011

We always sit at the traditional tables. Others may choose the familiar glass-topped rectangular tables, but I, and whomever I have lured to Asmara Restaurant with the promise of comfortingly mushy fare, always sit at the mesop, the traditional Eritrean table. There, we rest our arms on the mesop’s side and dig our hands into the shallow basin made of woven straw to scoop up chunks of meat and vegetables using strips of injera, Eritrea’s staple bread, while listening to the plucky twangs and throaty voices of that country’s music.

Eritrea shares a cuisine but not a government with Ethiopia. Asmara is its capital, revealing the political sympathies of Lettensa Afeworki, who opened her restaurant in 1986. The recipes here are her own interpretations of traditional Eritrean dishes. She still maintains a presence in the kitchen and the dining room and oversees the sourcing of bebere - a mix of chili peppers, fenugreek, and other less common herbs that gives Eritrean food its distinctive spiciness - directly from the northeast African country.

The first visit can be intimidating, and you need a guide. The waitress will bring you a platter of food so large you wonder how you are going to finish it, with saucy dishes poured over layers of injera. You tear off a piece of injera - a thick fluffy crepe with a sourdough flavor that soaks up sauces - loading it up with a layer of beef and a smattering of lentils with your hands before eating it.

To top your injera, there is fluy tibsy ($15.95), cubes of tenderloin tips sauteed in tomatoes, onions, garlic, and bebere. Or begeeh mloukhiya ($15.95), a lamb stew with meat so tender it falls apart. Both chicken in red pepper sauce ($15.95) and chicken in mild yellow sauce ($15.95) are also delicious.

Asmara’s vegetarian options, which are also all vegan, include bersen ($13.95), sunshine yellow lentils mashed into a thick paste; alitcha ahmilti ($15.95), a vegetable stew with tender carrots, potato, and cauliflower; hamli ($13.95), spinach that is soft and slightly tart; and shuro ($13.95), pureed pepper chickpeas the texture of refried beans.

If you cannot decide what to order, there’s a meat combination ($17.95 per person) that offers a sample of chicken, lamb, beef, and two vegetable dishes; and a vegetable combination ($16.95) with five different dishes.

For adventurous diners, there is kitfo ($16.95), a traditional specialty of slightly cooked ground beef that resembles steak tartare, best enjoyed by those who like raw meat. Or dine on stuffed green peppers ($8.95), which are so hot that everything else tastes bland by contrast.

To pair with the food, order mes, a homemade honey wine ($7.75), sweet and chilled. Instead of the desserts, which are all Italian, try the after-dinner coffee ($3.75), which comes in a small earthen jug cradled in a miniature mesop and poured into espresso cups. It’s very strong and very bitter, but mellowed by the addition of spices. At the end of the meal, the check comes, balanced in a little mesop, the perfect end to an Eritrean adventure.
Jialu Chen can be reached at jchen@globe.com.
© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

" Civil War 150 " - by Harold Holzer

"Civil War 150" (*)

Letters to Abraham Lincoln
by Harold Holzer(**)

Chillocothe Ohio

April 2nd 1861

Hon. Abraham Lincoln

President of the U.S.

Dear Sir

I have this day Sent to you per the Adams Express Co one Box inclosed you fill find one pair of Slippers worked by my Little Daughter as a present for you from her. . . . I often think of you in (these) trublesome times and Pray God that he may give you Wisdom and Strenght to guide the Ship of State into the harber of Safty -- I am but a poor humble Mechanic and Seek no office But I Love my Country and would Die in its defence though I must not intrude on your time with a Long Letter will you please let me know if you receive the package and oblige

-- Yours truly S. Shreckengaust

Feb 14 1861


Mr Abe Lincoln

If you don't Resign we are going to put a spider in your dumpling and play the Devil with you go to hell and buss my ass . . . excuse me for using such hard words with you but you need it Yours &c

--Mr. A.G. Frick

Tennessee Missouri Kentucky Virginia N. Carolina and Arkansas is going to secede Glory be to God on high

Peoria, Feb. 3, 1861.

To Abraham Lincoln:

When I read over from time to time your views as to the policy our government should pursue in reference to slavery, I say God help Old Abe. Coming generations will bless you and say a prouder inheritance could not be left to your children . . . Lincoln . . . I will die with you if necessary, but the cause is ruined if we take counsel of our fears . . . My heart is in the cause & you are its representative. Hold the banner aloft it will at last triumph . . . Abe be president untramelled or die with your fame unclouded.

-- Old Abe Good bye. H. Grov

Feb 20, 1861

Mr. Lincoln-

May the hand of the devil strike you down before long-You are destroying the country

Damn you-every breath you take-

Hand of God against you

Cincinnati Jan 24/61

Hon A. Lincoln

My Dr Sir

. . . I rest perfectly easy and well satisfied that your department of the government will be administered with . . . skill, as well as firmness and efficiency . . . And if I can have any influence at the court of heaven you and your constitutional advisers will be guided by wisdom from above and divinely assisted in your difficult and important duties . . .

I hope the Lord will make you immortal until the 5th of March 1865 as he did George Washington until his work was done.

I am dear sir with much respect and sincere esteem

-- your friend John F. Wright


Abraham Lincoln Esq


You will be shot on the 4th of March 1861 by a Louisiana Creole we are decided and our aim is sure.

-- A young creole BEWARE


16 Wall St. New York

March 5th 1861

His Excellency Abraham Lincoln

My Dear Sir,

I read your Inaugural approving every argument it contains, and my heart responded "Amen" to every patriotic sentiment therein expressed...I think the honest portion of the American people are with you and will hold themselves subject to your direction whether it be storm or sunshine that may follow

-- I am very Respectfully Your Obedient & Humble Servant, H.D. Faulkner


(*) - Source: The Washington Post (November, 2010)

(**) - Compiled and edited by Harold Holzer, from his books, "Dear Mr. Lincoln: Letters to the President" and "The Lincoln Mailbag: America Writes to the President, 1861-1865."

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Exquisite Lara Fabian - by TPO

Lara Fabian

Lara Fabian (1970 -)

What can we say about Lara?

She's Flemish/Sicilian.
Her nationality: Belgian/Canadian.
She's a classically-trained world-class singer.
She's multi-lingual.
She is serenely beautiful.

Here she sings "Adagio" ...
first clip in Italian, and second clip in English ...

Adagio - Italian

Adagio - English

"The Place of the Damned" - by Jonathan Swift

The Place of the Damned
by Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745)

All folks who pretend to religion and grace,
Allow there's a HELL, but dispute of the place:
But, if HELL may by logical rules be defined
The place of the damned -I'll tell you my mind.
Wherever the damned do chiefly abound,
Most certainly there is HELL to be found:
Damned poets, damned critics, damned blockheads, damned knaves,
Damned senators bribed, damned prostitute slaves;
Damned lawyers and judges, damned lords and damned squires;
Damned spies and informers, damned friends and damned liars;
Damned villains, corrupted in every station;
Damned time-serving priests all over the nation;
And into the bargain I'll readily give you
Damned ignorant prelates, and counsellors privy.
Then let us no longer by parsons be flammed,
For we know by these marks the place of the damned:
And HELL to be sure is at Paris or Rome.
How happy for us that it is not at home! 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Why Me?" - Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson

"Why Me?"
Kris Kristofferson (1936 - )

"Why Me?"  *

Why me Lord what have I ever done
To deserve even one of the pleasures I've known
Lord, what did I ever do
That was worth lovin' You or the kindness You've shown

Lord help me, Jesus, I've wasted it so
Help me Jesus I know what I am
But now that I know that I've needed You so
Help me, Jesus, my soul's in Your hand

Try me, Lord, if You think there's a way
I can try to repay all I've taken from You
Maybe Lord, I can show someone else
What I go through myself, on my way back to You

Lord help me, Jesus, I've wasted it so
Help me Jesus, I know what I am
But now that I know that I've needed You so
Help me, Jesus, my soul's in Your hand
Jesus, my soul's in your hand
* with accompaniment by Vince Gill and Alison Krauss ///////// 


"Tricks of the trade ..." - Mordechai Kamenetzky

"Tricks of the Trade -- Trade of the Tricks"
By Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky (*)

“Those who live by the sword,” the clichéd expression goes, “die by it as well.”

What about those who live by other means of evil? What happens to those who live by the curse, do they die by the curse? Or do they die by the sword as well?

Parshas Matos tells us of the fate of Bilaam ben Be’or, the world’s most trusted and experienced sorcerer, whose curses never failed to hit their mark. Bilaam was hired by the king of Moav to curse the Jews and only through the merciful intervention of the Almighty’s Divine Hand were his efforts thwarted.

After his original scheme had failed, Bilaam devised a plot that found the chink in our spiritual armor. He advised Balak to seduce Klal Yisrael to sin with Midianite women.

The Jews unfortunately fell prey to his plot and the wrath of Hashem was unleashed against His people. Thousands of Jews were killed in a plague and if not for the brave intervention of Pinchos, the grandson of Ahron, the toll would have been higher.

But now it was time for payback. Moshe amassed an army led by Pinchos, which struck Midian hard. The Torah tells us: “They massed against Midian, as Hashem had commanded Moses, and they killed every male. They killed the kings of Midian along with their slain ones - Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian; and Balaam son of Beor they slew with the sword.” (Numbers 31:7-8).

The final few words of the posuk raise a question: Does it really make a difference how they killed Bilaam? They killed him. Does it make a difference if they killed him by drowning or they killed him by arrows. Perhaps the Jewish nation gave him a taste of his own medicine and cast a spell upon him like he attempted to do to Klal Yisrael? Is it really significant to tell how the Jews killed Bilaam? Why does the Torah tell us how he died?

The commentaries contrast the normal method in which Jews did battle — their mouths, with the the way our Biblical nemesis Esav did battle — his sword. In this case, the roles seem reversed. Bilaam used his mouth, we used the sword. Is there a lesson in that as well?

World champion heavyweight boxer Joe Lewis reigned for over a decade from the late 1930s to his retirement in 1949. As a black man, he endured racist abuse despite his status as a major sports hero.

During his period of army service, he was driving with a fellow GI when he was involved in a minor collision with a large truck. The truck driver got out, yelling and swearing racial epitaphs at Louis, who just sat in the driver's seat smiling.

"Hey you’re Joe Lewis! You’re not gonna let him get away with that! Why didn't you get out and knock him flat?" asked his buddy after the truck driver had moved on.

"Why should l?" replied Joe. "When somebody insulted Caruso, did he respond by singing an aria?"

Rashi explains the Torah’s underlying aim in telling us how Bilaam was killed. Bilaam was a descendant of Esav, whose existence and métier was decreed centuries before by his father Yitzchak, “"And by your sword you shall live” (Genesis 27:40). Yaakov’s weapon of choice throughout history came form Yitzchak’s words, “the voice is the voice of Yaakov,” it is through Yaakov’s mouth — through prayer and petition, persuading and cajoling that he was most successful. Bilaam did not use his trademark weapon — the sword — against Israel. Instead he attempted to cast a spell upon the Israelites, Bilaam switched venues and used the mouth — the instrument of brother Yaakov.

And so, explains Rashi as Bilaam exchanged his métier for the métier of Israel, Hashem showed the world that we do not have to rely solely upon our weapons of choice. As Bilaam exchanged his weapon, we, too, exchanged ours.

When it comes to dealing with our enemies, we have to use every appropriate means that fits the needs of the hour. Despite the fact that we are the people of words, we must know when to put our forte aside and use a different tool. Because in order to survive, we need not only know the tricks of the trade, but also how to trade our tricks!

Steve McQueen - The Magnificent Seven
(*) Source: http://torah.org/learning/drasha/5765/matos.html

Friday, July 22, 2011

"It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world" - United Artists

" It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world "
United Artists (1963)

Babushkas' Victory - Walter Rogers

How Russians survived militant atheism to embrace God
By Walter Rodgers*
CSM** June 16, 2011

Today, less than 20 years after the collapse of the officially atheistic Soviet Union, Russia has emerged as the most God-believing nation in Europe. That's a testament to the devotion of babushkas who kept the flames of faith alive in the face of state-sponsored repression.

Sometimes really huge news stories occur that receive almost no notice, but they are seismic just the same. Today, less than 20 years after the collapse of the officially atheistic Soviet Union, Russia has emerged as the most God-believing nation in Europe, more so than Roman Catholic Italy or Protestant Britain. The independent Public Opinion Fund poll discovered this spring that 82 percent of Russians now say they are religious believers.

Given the brutal and ruthless repression by Joseph Stalin of the Russian Orthodox Church and all religion, this is truly a remarkable statistic. It is a testament to the babushkas who would not capitulate to Soviet bullying. Hoorah for the hero grandmothers of the motherland! Against all odds they have won.

Mocked -

Those stooped, graying old ladies with head scarves, deeply creased faces, and stainless steel-capped teeth were scorned, mocked, and ridiculed by Communist officialdom during the 74 years of official Soviet atheism because they were religious believers. Dismissed as babas and crones, they were, however, the true soul of Russian society.

When the Kremlin’s Soviet Politburo or the Central Committee apparatchiks raced about in their Chaikas and ZIL limousines, the babushkas quietly went about dutifully kissing their religious icons because those were their only windows to a better world.

The babushkas devotedly stood guard over decaying churches, lighting candles amid the dilapidation and ruin. These spiritual sentinels were virtually helpless to prevent decades of Soviet looting of their churches. But the babushkas refused to allow the flame of faith to go out in Russia, even if it was only their own.

In the worst of times, Stalin’s thugs dynamited spectacular Orthodox cathedrals. They sent the Russian clergy to the gulags; they discriminated against believers in hiring and education; and they stole the churches’ priceless religious icons, selling them in the West for precious hard currency.

All the while, the impoverished babushkas eked out an existence living on a few kopecks and handfuls of lard as they scurried in the shadows of their darkened churches, doing their best to protect and police these shrines, demanding dignity and decorum from all who entered.

Central role -

The babushkas’ critical role outside their churches was at least as central to Russian society as their role in preserving religious ritual. With Soviet mothers working at full-time jobs, it was these grandmothers who raised generations of Russian children, teaching them whatever morality and ethics they could because the Communists had dismantled the traditional rudder of societal morality, the churches.

As a Moscow correspondent during the 1980s, it was my impression that the most traumatic event in a young Russian child’s life was losing his babushka. In my mind’s eye, I can still see a young Russian boy about 8 or 9 crying bitterly over what appeared to be the coffin of his grandmother. The boy was seated on a wooden bench, with his parents and a group of gravediggers, all of them bouncing along on an open flatbed truck in a heavy snowstorm just outside Moscow.

This was no funeral train, just an uncovered farm truck followed by an American correspondent and his wife unable to pass on the icy roads. The raw image of the falling snow; that boy’s red, tear-streaked face; and the babushka’s coffin covered with spruce boughs still sticks with me a quarter-century later.

An enormous debt -

Russian society owes an enormous debt to its babushkas, and not just for refusing to let the religious faith of its people be extinguished by the supercilious sneers of Lenin and Stalin. This indefatigable force of grandmothers helped preserve Russia’s rich cultural heritage for 74 years. From the humble icon corners of their huts to the retelling of the classic Russian folk stories, they preserved and perpetuated a culture free of the socialist claptrap taught in state schools.

On reflection, perhaps the candles of the Russian soul were too bright to be totally extinguished by Marxist ideology; Russians never totally forsook their religious heritage. During World War II, as Russian soldiers were marching to the front, poems tell of Russian women whispering “God bless you” as the boys went off to the slaughter. Russian women even wore gold crosses inside their blouses. Asked why, one explained to me with some embarrassment, “Just in case.”

The institutional church was re-created in later Soviet years to perpetuate the farce of religious freedom. But everyone knew the KGB had infiltrated the Orthodox clergy to make sure religion did not take root again. That may explain why adherence to organized religion (in particular the Orthodox church) lags far behind belief in God.

To honor this spiritual resilience, Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev should consider commissioning statues to “the eternal babushka.” They could be installed on all those vacant Lenin pedestals. Why not pay tribute to all the fearless grandmothers who preserved Russian culture and faith when everyone else had given up?
* Walter Rodgers, a former ABC News correspondent in Moscow from 1984 to 1989, writes a biweekly column.

** CSM = Christian Science Monitor
© The Christian Science Monitor
"Babushka: drawing by Maryna Ausiaikova"

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Final Return - Reuters

Space Shuttle's Last Run Is Over!

Romney: Euro-trashing Politics - TheBoston Globe

Romney: Euro-trashing politics
The Boston Globe/Editorial
July 18, 2011

It would be refreshing to have a Republican primary without scapegoats. But like a picnic without flies, the notion of a GOP contest without some group to point at as an example of everything that’s wrong is too good to be true. Over the years, welfare queens, hippies, affirmative-action beneficiaries, Ivy League professors, gays, feminists, civil libertarians, flag burners, and Hollywood celebrities have all had the privilege of being singled out as enemies of the “real’’ Americans, and this year offers no shortage of candidates. Already, Muslims and illegal immigrants are in a neck-and-neck competition for who will elicit more nose-curling distaste at GOP debates. (Viewers can keep score at home.)

But in yet another sign of his determination to take the high road this time around, Mitt Romney has chosen to build his stump speech around. . . Europeans. “How is it that President Obama was so wrong? I happen to think that in part he took his inspiration from Europe,’’ Romney intoned recently, in what’s become a regular line of attack. “He has been awfully European.’’

One can actually envision Romney straining to find a group to scapegoat without picking on a beleaguered racial or religious minority. That alone separates him from the pack. But is it too much to ask the GOP frontrunner to frame his arguments in terms of what he’s for, not who he’s against?
© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The GOP’s War Identity Crisis - Juliette Kayyem

The GOP’s War Identity Crisis
By Juliette Kayyem
Boston Globe/Op-ed (July 18, 2011)

THE NOISY debate within the Republican party about its vision of the world, and America’s role in it, is exposing a deep ideological divide at its core. A new breed of Republican candidates like Michele Bachmann are heralding a “Come Home, America” foreign policy. The Party’s more established wing, led by the Senator John McCain, who doesn’t exactly urge caution in military engagements from Iraq to Libya, worry that the isolationist ideology "seems to have moved more center stage."

How did the party of national security end up so divided on national security? The Republican’s intellectual division, however, has less to do with their own ideology, and more about President Obama’s lack of one. If there is one thing that has united Republicans the last two years it is that they were against whatever Obama was for. So they are cast adrift when they can’t figure out what he wants.

To his supporters, Obama is a deliberative executive who weighs pros and cons based on individual circumstances. It means not everyone will be happy all the time; Libya, for me, is a good case in point. To his detractors, his policy seems more like whack-a-mole. But Obama’s unwillingness to embrace anything close to an “Obama Doctrine’’ has made it more difficult for his opposition to unite against him. The anti-Obama non-doctrine just doesn’t have a catchy ring to it - especially when Republicans railing against his supposed incoherence are at each other’s throats.

Even on their signature issue - terrorism - the Republicans can’t get traction against an administration that killed Osama bin Laden. After all, the White House came out with a new counterterrorism doctrine last month that barely got any mention. The strategy, filled with compliments about Bush tactics of drone warfare and intelligence sharing combined with a lot of criticism of Bush tactics like waterboarding, threw the Republicans off guard. They were essentially silent on the national security issue that has defined them for a decade, reduced to breathless complaining about the administration’s decision to bring one lone Somali terrorist in New York to trial in civilian court.

The Republicans’ search for an identity on foreign policy is all the harder in a world no longer defined by terrorism. There is, after all, nothing new about the isolationism heralded by the Tea Party. It has always been a strong ideological strain for Republicans, from opposition to the League of Nations to involvement in World War II (silenced after Pearl Harbor), to early, and prescient, concerns about the Vietnam War. It is also easier for the GOP to be anti-engagement when a Democrat is in office. But President Bush’s wars submerged the rift between this camp and the neocons.

“The end of the Cold War, with no singular enemy, exposed the ideological debates within the party. 9/11 brought the party together,’’ says Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. “But remember, Bush told then-candidate Al Gore that his own presidency would be defined by a humble foreign policy.’’

It wasn’t, and that’s the legacy today’s Republicans are left to ponder. Deciding which pieces of that legacy to keep and which to discard is especially difficult for Republicans when Obama is doing the same thing. Such was the unintended brilliance of Leon Panetta’s shaky first trip abroad as defense secretary. What is a Republican, all of whom voted for Panetta’s confirmation in the Senate, to make of a man who tells the Iraqis to “dammit, make a decision’’ about US troop presence in the future there; who repeats Dick Cheney’s mantra that we were in Iraq because of 9/11; who, despite his boss’ statements, views the primary US mission in Libya as being to “bring down the regime’’? Panetta even eerily reclaimed the mission-accomplished mantra by saying Al Qaeda’s defeat was within reach.

Panetta’s press folks had a lot of backtracking to do. In one foreign trip, Panetta simultaneously channeled all and no ideologies. When asked to explain himself, all he could say was “Hey, I’m Italian, what the frick can I tell you?’’

Could that be the elusive Obama Doctrine that Republicans are hoping to challenge? No Fricking Doctrine does have a ring to it.

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Red, Red Rose - by Robert Burns

Robert Burns (1759-1796

A Red, Red Rose
by Robert Burns
 O, my luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my Dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun!
O I will luve thee still, my Dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile! 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mutability - by Percy Byshee Shelley

Percy Byshee Shelley

Percy Byshee Shelley (1792 - 1822)

We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly! - yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost forever.

Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
One mood or modulation like the last.

We rest. - A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise. - One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away.

It is the same! - For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free.
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Bus Ride to Fugue (Part III) - by Hénock Gugsa

The Bus Ride to Fugue
Part III
by  Hénock Gugsa

For the next hour-and-thirty-seven minutes, the gray bus kept plodding ... plodding on the invisible route to Fugue. An hour and thirty-seven minutes is a mere 97 minutes. But in the current situation, it was an excruciatingly looong 5,820 seconds!

Under any other circumstance, such a length of passive time wouldn’t produce boredom or anxiety in me. I have a simple trick ... I’d start counting the seconds as I would imaginary sheep, and before I reached a hundred, I would be dozing off into a quiet slumber and wake up at 5,815 seconds. I normally give myself five seconds to come back to the land of the living after such slumber. However, this bus ride to Fugue was not, by any stretch of the imagination, the most ideal setting for a cozy nap.

The sense of dread that I and my two new friends were feeling was real and palpable. But even more alarming was my fear that
... that soon I would be losing my grip on reality and normalcy unless I got off this bus real soon. I was resisting the picture that was forming in my mind ... that we were actually in a boat on a body of water engulfed by a thick, misty darkness. This was very much like that final journey in old mythology. We were on the river Styx, this unknown highway to Fugue. Our boat was this dreary bus, and our Charon was the demonic driver with a twirling toothpick in his mouth.

Farther on, the bus stopped one more time to quickly pick up its last passenger. Our new fellow rider was a shy female who never once looked at anybody. Instead she kept her head bowed and walked briskly to the first available aisle seat. It was almost in the middle row, and she quietly sat down next to one of the zombies. He showed no reaction to the disruption of his solitary state, and like the other zombies maintained his listlessness.

“¡Dios mio! Una mujer, que bueno!” Pepe said excitedly.

“Calma te, Pepe,” exhorted Carlos. They both looked at me expectantly, hoping to get my reaction to the new development. But, I had nothing to say. What was there to say, anyway? I resumed counting my imaginary seconds (sheep?) as I had been rudely interrupted at 484. I had to recalibrate the clock in my head, and start counting again. I had to get to the safety of a nap post haste before I turned into one of the zombies.

However, my scheme was doomed from the start for two reasons. And they both concerned the new passenger. I began to get distress-fully worried for the shy girl sitting next to the morose zombie. And as if that nagging anxiety was not enough, Pepe’s spirits had now become freshly enlivened by the arrival of this girl in our midst. He just would not stop chattering. Carlos could do nothing but throw up his hands and roll his eyes heavenward in utter capitulation.

… Continues … in Part IV

Friday, July 15, 2011

" Rude Britannia! " - by Telegraph.co.uk/tv

" Rude Britannia ! "
Tour with Alastair Smart

Source: Telegraph.co.uk/tv

"Partisanship over compromise" - by Scot Lehigh

Partisanship over compromise
By Scot Lehigh (*)
Globe Columnist / July 13, 2011

WASHINGTON REPUBLICANS have just made an unmistakable declaration about their priorities: Preventing tax increases is more important than reducing the deficit - even with a federal default looming on the near horizon.

We can now discount GOP rhetoric about acting like adults, about not kicking the can down the road, about making tough decisions today to spare our kids from more debt tomorrow.

Sadly, Republican leaders have revealed the emptiness of that lofty talk. They are either unwilling or unable to strike a broad bipartisan compromise on the long-term deficit. House Speaker John Boehner, who had repeatedly urged the president to do a big deficit deal, has just walked away from a possible package that reportedly would have done 75 to 80 percent of the deficit reduction on the spending side. Why? Because of a backlash from rigid right-wingers who rule out any revenue increases.

Boehner’s retreat has left the GOP insisting that the only acceptable deficit deal is one that attacks our long-term fiscal problems entirely through spending cuts. Contemplate the arrogance of that. Republicans control one branch of government, the House. President Obama, whose party holds both the presidency and the Senate, says he’s willing to embrace significant long-term spending cuts if the GOP will agree to some new revenues. But though revenue increases would be only 20 to 25 percent of deficit reduction, Republicans have said no.

“Here is what’s amazing to me: The Republicans are in a position where they could have an extremely favorable deal, and they won’t take yes for an answer,’’ says Bob Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan deficit watchdog. Bixby is rightly amazed. What reasonable political leader - for that matter, what rational adult - faced with the chance of leveraging a one-third share of power into a package constructed largely according to their wishes, walks away from the prospective deal?

But that’s what the GOP has now done. Still, give Boehner credit for at least trying to play an adult role. Not so Eric Cantor, the House majority leader. First he bailed on the deficit talks with Vice President Joe Biden, saying the president and the speaker needed to forge the agreement. Then he undermined the grand bargain Obama and Boehner were contemplating by making it clear he wouldn’t support any new revenues.

Like Cantor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also chosen partisanship over compromise, though he’s more adept at cloaking that partisan obstinacy in folksy palaver. As with Cantor, one of McConnell’s favorite ploys is to assert that Obama wants to raise taxes during a recession. Actually, as the president stressed on Monday, he isn’t talking about new revenue until 2013. McConnell, of course, would also oppose any new revenue when recovery comes.

To backstop their anti-revenue stances, both Cantor and McConnell insist the deficit is a spending problem. But though spending commitments constitute a large part of the long-term deficit, fiscal experts say tax cuts have also played a significant role. And thus that more revenue should be part of the solution.

“All you need to know is that revenue is now 15 percent of GDP,’’ says Alan Simpson, former assistant Republican leader in the Senate and co-chairman of the recent bipartisan deficit commission. “That is the lowest since the Korean War. The historical figure has been 19 to 20 percent. If we can’t even move half an inch, people should be shrieking.’’

Instead, the prospect of any new revenue has the GOP shrieking.

This week, Obama declared himself willing to take heat from Democrats on spending cuts and called on Republican leaders to show the same fortitude on new revenue. His Monday press conference was a start, but with time ticking toward a federal default that could carry dire economic consequences, the president must press his case more vigorously.

He needs to break out the charts and graphs and explain to the American public, in prime time, the real roots of the long-term deficit, the impact on Medicare and Medicaid of a cuts-only approach, and the consequences of default.

That’s a battle he can win - but to win it, he needs to wage it more forcefully.

(*) Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com.
© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Four American Characters - Anna Deavere Smith

Four American Characters
Anna Deavere Smith (1950 - )

"What's at stake for Minnesota" - Gov. Mark Dayton

What's at stake for Minnesota
Mark Dayton (*)
Star Tribune/Opinion (07-11-2011)


This state government shutdown is painful for many Minnesotans. I am often asked, "Why? Why are you and Republican legislators putting us through these hardships?"

I believe the future of Minnesota is at stake. Our way of life, what makes Minnesota special and successful, hangs in the balance.

Will we continue to have one of the best higher-education systems in the world?

Not with the 19 percent funding cut to the University of Minnesota and the 14 percent reduction to MnSCU campuses that the Republicans proposed. A mediocre educational system will lead to a mediocre state economy in the years ahead.

Will we continue services that enable senior citizens to live in their own homes, rather than being forced into more-expensive nursing homes?

One elderly couple would be forced to place the husband in a nursing home if their assisted living services were eliminated. The wife would be left without her husband and her home.

Will we continue to provide people with disabilities the support they need to live independent, productive lives?

Not by reducing the time their personal care attendants can spend with them. Not by cutting the funding for special education. And not by denying affordable health care to many of them, as well as senior citizens and families with children.

That is some of what is at stake.

My budget cuts health care costs and reduces the state workforce; but it also invests in public schools, funds all-day kindergarten and protects college students from huge tuition increases. I continue to fund cities and counties to keep down property taxes.

My latest budget plan increases taxes only on people making more than a million dollars a year in Minnesota -- just 7,700 people. Over 99 percent of Minnesotans would see no income tax increase and no state-imposed property tax increase from my proposal.

Republicans remain absolutely opposed to asking the very richest Minnesotans to pay more in taxes. Instead, their budget would raise property taxes by $1.4 billion over three years on homeowners, businesses and renters.

Senior citizens; people with disabilities; poor children, and college students from middle-income families and their parents would also pay the price for Republican legislators' refusal to ask the richest to pay even a single dollar more in taxes.

In our democracy, if the voters give a "mandate" entirely to one party, that party has the right to determine policy until the next election.

However, when the voters deliver a split verdict, as they did in Minnesota last November, then neither side is entitled to have it all their way.

For the past two months, I have offered again and again to meet Republicans halfway. They have refused to compromise.

In the spirit of compromise, I said I would agree to raise taxes on cigarettes, even though I do not personally support such a tax increase. The Republicans said no.

No compromise. Republican legislators insist on having it all their way, or no way. That is not responsible, or even rational, leadership.

If this budget impasse is to be resolved fairly and equally, respecting each side's mandate, then the Republicans and I must both compromise. That was the will of the people of Minnesota in last year's election.

That is what they want and deserve today.

(*) Mark Dayton is the governor of Minnesota.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Jambalaya" - by John Fogerty

John Fogerty

John Fogerty (1945 - )

Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go, pole the pirogue, down the bayou
My Yvonne, sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, gonna have big fun, on the bayou.

Well ... Jambalaya and a crawfish pie, fillet gumbo
'Cause tonight, I'm gonna see, mah m' cher amio
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar, and be gayo
Son of a gun, gonna have big fun, on the bayou.

Well ... Thibodeaux, Fontaineaux, place is buzzin'
Kinfolk come, to see Yvonne, by the dozen
Dress in style. go hog wild, and be gayo
Son of a gun, gonna have big fun, on the bayou.

Well ... Jambalaya and a crawfish pie, fillet gumbo
'Cause tonight, I'm gonna see, mah m' cher amio
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar, and be gayo
Son of a gun, gonna have big fun, on the bayou.

.... ohh, guitar! ...

Well ... Jambalaya and a crawfish pie, fillet gumbo
'Cause tonight, I'm gonna see, mah m' cher amio
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar, and be gayo
Son of a gun, gonna have big fun, on the bayou.

Oh Lord.
Hang tight.
Oooh Lord!
Ah, take it out.
Here comes ... ahh!

"Your Political Party ..." - by Andrew Price


Your Political Party: Written on Your Face
by Andrew Price,
Web editor - www.good.is
February 12, 2010

Your face says a lot about you. It says some obvious stuff (your age, gender, and race, for example, are usually apparent by the way your face looks), but people can also glean other information from your mug—like your political party.

A recent study at Tufts took a bunch of undergraduates, showed them pictures of Democrat and Republican candidates from the 2004 and 2006 Senate elections, and asked them to guess each politician's political party. To eliminate any racial bias (people might think a black politician had to be a Democrat) they eliminated racial minority politicians.

The result? They found that the students' guesses were much better than chance. They also found that the students were good at guessing the political party affiliation of other students based on pictures of their faces.

The subtle clue the students used to make their guesses? Republicans' faces tended to score higher on a measure of "power," based on how dominant and mature they looked. Democrats' faces scored higher for "warmth," as based on their perceived likeability and trustworthiness.

I don't want to further unhelpful stereotypes about our political parties, but this is undeniably interesting stuff. What wasn't clear from the study is how the causation goes, though. Do Democrats try to look "warmer" (and Republicans more "powerful") or do the underlying traits cause the political beliefs?
(**) Rush Limbaugh

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Stolen Winks ..." - by Todd Domke

Stolen winks into the ball-that-knows-all
Todd Domke *

Words from future diaries have appeared in the ball-that-knows-all. From the year 2020, with perfect hindsight, here are some personal reflections on this year's presidential campaign. )

John McCain:

Dear Diary, my friend - Looking back on 2008, a New York Times story about my alleged "romantic" relationship with a female lobbyist was a plus. It neutralized criticism that I was "too old." Good thing I leaked it.

Unnamed former staffers of mine told the Times they suspected the relationship was "romantic" because I winked when I introduced her as "my friend." Hilarious.

I wink all the time, and call everyone "my friend." Well, except a debate when I accidentally called moderator Tim Russert a "fiend."

TV shrinks analyzed me like crazy, including that blowhard, Dr. Phil. "You often lose your temper!" he said, wagging his finger at me. Ridiculous! Still, I suppose I should not have knocked on his noggin and said, "Hello, anybody home?"

Was I my own worst enemy? Not while Mitt Romney was around. What was I thinking, letting him be a surrogate speaker for me?!

"Ol' McCain will be a great president for as long as he lives!" said Mr. Subtle.

I remember how he played innocent when I called him. "Golly, John, it was a slip of the tongue."

Yeah, right. Mitt happens.

Still, I should not have told that reporter I wouldn't pick Mitt for vice president "because I can't afford a full-time food taster."

I should have leaked that quip instead.

Hillary Clinton:

Dear Diary of Disappointment - I had that 2008 flashback again ...

It's when Bill compared Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson. His gaffe was the tipping point. After that, my candidacy seemed like "Karaoke Night at the Opera."

Why didn't he just announce that I would appoint Ann Coulter as UN ambassador and finish me off in one fell swoop? I still wonder: Did Bill really want me to win? Was he worried that I would outshine him as president, and historians would refer to me as "the good Clinton"?

I'm not a conspiracy nut, but it's not a conspiracy if there's only one guy involved. And I still don't know how Bill talked Barack into picking him as his running mate.

Mike Huckabee:

Dear Book of Revelations - Before I became host of "Wheel of Fortune," I ran for president.

McCain won the nomination that year, but I gave the best convention speech. True, I borrowed some rhetoric from Democrats ...

"Hope. Change. Inspiration. Those are the things America needs! Will you provide those things, Rush Limbaugh? Will you get behind John McCain? Lead us out of the wilderness into a new frontier! Come home, Rush. Come home."

The applause was incredible. Even though Chuck Norris was standing next to me during the speech (adding his own gestures), I think the delegates were mostly cheering for me.

Indeed, I thought McCain might come out on stage, hold my arm aloft (and Chuck's), and declare, "Mike Huckabee, will you be my running mate?"

Alas, he did not. I saw him peeking at me from behind the stage curtain. But he only winked.

Barack Obama:

Dear Chronicle of Change - I remember when the 2008 campaign turned nasty. Clinton supporters circulated a photo of me dressed like a Somali elder in Kenya. Predictably, the media went wild.

My supporters retaliated by distributing a picture of Hillary in a dreadful tweed pantsuit. I'm no fashion expert, but the suede elbow patches looked very inappropriate for that cocktail party. Even though it was a shrimp cocktail party.

The conflict escalated. Hillary went on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" with a photo album.

"I've tried to show restraint and set a nice tone in this campaign," she lied. "For example, here are some pictures I refused to post on my website."

One showed me with bell-bottoms and an afro ... another in a plaid tuxedo ... one where I'm wearing a Davy Crockett cap, at a birthday party for Ted Kennedy.

George Will rescued me. He showed a photo of Sam Donaldson with a Mohawk. It turned out to have been doctored, but it ended the discussion.

Ralph Nader:

Dear Diary of Personal Sacrifice and Struggle against Corporate Greed and Collusion, Political Corruption and Apathy, Media Hypocrisy and Complicity...

Uh-oh, forgot what I was going to write. Anyway, my campaign is fine. You know what they say, sixth time is a charm.

Bill Clinton:

Yo, Diary - I had lunch with John McCain today.

We reminisced about 2008. I said, "You know, I didn't sink Hillary on purpose."

He just winked. I wonder what he meant by that.

* Todd Domke is a Boston area Republican political analyst, public relations strategist, and author. This article is from Boston Globe on 02/28/2008.
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

"When a dog just won't do..." - by Maura Lerner

When a dog just won't do! (**)

Here, kitty kitty ....

A new study suggests cat owners are less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than people who, well, don't own cats.

And no, dogs don't do the same trick.

The study, by researchers at the University of Minnesota, found that feline-less people were 30 to 40 percent likelier to die of cardiovascular disease than those with cats.

Yet dog owners had the same rate as non-owners. "No protective effect of dogs as domestic pets was observed," said the study, which was presented Thursday at the International Stroke Conference in New Orleans.

Dr. Adnan Qureshi, a stroke expert at the university, said he decided to raise the question because other studies have suggested pets can help reduce stress. He and his team analyzed a group of 4,435 people who had answered questionnaires about pet ownership and other risk factors.

But the cat-dog differential came as a surprise. "We don't understand this completely," he said, but "it's probably not a coincidence."

Asked if he owns a cat, Qureshi replied: "No. Maybe I should get one, though. With this new research, I think the time has come to change."

**Source: MAURA LERNER - StarTribune/LifeStyle(startribune.com)03/31/2008