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 ! *

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"ICE leaves police in the cold." - by Lawrence Harmon

ICE leaves police in the cold
by Lawrence Harmon
Boston Globe - OpEd - 7/16/2011

BOSTONIANS SUFFER more aggravation from neighbors who steal their parking spots during winter storms than they do from illegal immigrants. In a border state like Arizona, the term “unlawful immigrant’’ might conjure up the image of a drug smuggler. Around here, it’s more likely to evoke the valedictorian of a local high school whose parents entered the country illegally when the kid was 3.

The Boston Police Department blundered in 2006 when it rushed to participate in the federal Secure Communities program, which matches the fingerprints of anyone arrested locally with those in federal immigration data banks. At the time, officials from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement promised that the matches would be used only to take action against illegal immigrants charged or convicted of serious crimes. Mayor Menino, therefore, blew his stack when the Globe published a story earlier this month showing that 183 of 352 immigrants deported from Boston since 2008 had no criminal records.

On Thursday, ICE director John Morton came to Boston to clear the air. But it’s still a little hazy, like nearly everything connected to federal policy on illegal immigration. Morton apologized for his predecessors who gave the false impression that only violent criminals faced deportation under the Secure Communities program. But he was adamant that the program could not be restricted solely to “serious offenders.’’

He said that 55 percent of the 352 illegal immigrants deported from Boston had criminal convictions. The remainder fell equally into the following three categories: those arrested after illegal reentry into the country; immigration fugitives who had ignored deportation orders; and people who had overstayed their visas.

Morton also said that miscommunication between ICE and local police left the false impression that the Secure Communities program is voluntary. It’s not. The target date for nationwide implementation is 2013, he said.

This isn’t going over well in cities where immigrants make up a significant percentage of workers, customers, classmates, and friends. Urban dwellers don’t want their police force to be perceived as de facto immigration agents. It undermines the image of successful cities as expansive and accessible. And police worry that crime victims and witnesses in immigrant neighborhoods won’t come forward for fear of deportation.

Boston Police commissioner Edward Davis said he tried to communicate his concerns to Morton on Thursday, but the ICE director was “cavalier’’ and “pretty dismissive.’’ Now Davis wants to break with Secure Communities. But he isn’t sure how that is even possible.

There is no obvious way short of refusing to send the fingerprints of people arrested in Boston to the FBI data bank. And no police commissioner in his right mind would risk overlooking a minor offender here who might be wanted for a heinous crime in another state. ICE has cornered the local police, who can’t prevent the FBI from forwarding the prints to the immigration data banks.

But it may not be as grim as it appears. There is recent evidence that ICE has heard the complaints of police and public officials, including Governor Patrick, who wants no part of detaining illegal immigrants for ICE’s administrative purposes. A recent ICE memorandum to its field office directors and special agents states that “it is against ICE policy to initiate removal proceedings against an individual known to be the immediate victim or witness to a crime.’’

Another ICE memo on “prosecutorial discretion’’ lists 19 factors to consider when deciding if deportation is warranted. The agency looks to be in no particular rush to kick out primary caretakers of sick relatives, pregnant or nursing moms, victims of domestic violence, people with serious health conditions, immediate relatives of US soldiers, minors, the elderly, and others who fall into sympathetic categories.

This is a good start. But ICE is still undermining the credibility of the police and making city officials look small-minded by implicating them in the deportation of illegal immigrants for administrative violations.

“What part of the word ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?’’ is the usual comeback to anyone who see shades of gray on the subject of illegal immigration. Bostonians could confront these hardliners with a question of their own: “What part of the word ‘communities’ don’t you understand?’’

Lawrence Harmon can be reached at harmon@globe.com. 

What Karl Marx Can Tell Us Now - by George Magnus

What Karl Marx can tell us now
by George Magnus, Bloomberg News
August 29, 2011

Policymakers struggling to understand the barrage of financial panics, protests and other ills afflicting the world would do well to study the works of a long-dead economist: Karl Marx.

The sooner they recognize we're facing a once-in-a-lifetime crisis of capitalism, the better equipped they will be to manage a way out of it.

The spirit of Marx, who is buried in a cemetery close to where I live in north London, has risen from the grave amid the financial crisis and subsequent economic slump.

The wily philosopher's analysis of capitalism had a lot of flaws, but today's global economy bears some uncanny resemblances to the conditions he foresaw.

Consider, for example, Marx's prediction of how the inherent conflict between capital and labor would manifest itself.

As he wrote in "Das Kapital," companies' pursuit of profits and productivity would naturally lead them to need fewer and fewer workers, creating an "industrial reserve army" of the poor and unemployed: "Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery."

The process he describes is visible throughout the developed world, particularly in the United States.

Companies' efforts to cut costs and avoid hiring have boosted U.S. corporate profits as a share of total economic output to the highest level in more than six decades, while the unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent and real wages are stagnant.

U.S. income inequality, meanwhile, is by some measures close to its highest level since the 1920s. Before 2008, the income disparity was obscured by factors such as easy credit, which allowed poor households to enjoy a more affluent lifestyle. Now the problem is coming home to roost.

Marx also pointed out the paradox of overproduction and underconsumption: The more people are relegated to poverty, the less they will be able to consume all the goods and services companies produce.

When one company cuts costs to boost earnings, it's smart, but when they all do, they undermine the income formation and effective demand on which they rely for revenues and profits.

So how do we address this crisis? To put Marx's spirit back in the box, policymakers have to place jobs at the top of the economic agenda and consider other unorthodox measures.

The crisis isn't temporary, and it certainly won't be cured by the ideological passion for government austerity.

Here are five major planks of a strategy whose time, sadly, has not yet come.


We have to sustain aggregate demand and income growth, or else we could fall into a debt trap along with serious social consequences.

Governments that don't face an imminent debt crisis -- including the United States, Germany and Britain -- must make employment creation the litmus test of policy.

Cutting employer payroll taxes and creating fiscal incentives to encourage companies to hire people and invest would do for a start.
* * *

Household debt

We must lighten the burden. New steps should allow eligible households to restructure mortgage debt, or swap some debt forgiveness for future payments to lenders out of any home price appreciation.
* * *


Well-capitalized and well-structured banks should be allowed some temporary capital adequacy relief to try to get new credit flowing -- to small companies especially.

Governments and central banks could engage in direct spending on or indirect financing of national investment or infrastructure programs.
* * *

Sovereign debt

To ease the burden in the euro zone, European creditors have to extend the lower interest rates and longer payment terms recently proposed for Greece.

If jointly guaranteed euro bonds are a bridge too far, Germany has to champion an urgent recapitalization of banks to help absorb inevitable losses through a vastly enlarged European Financial Stability Facility.
* * *

Deflation and stagnation

To build defenses against the risk, central banks should look beyond bond-buying programs and instead target a growth rate of nominal economic output.

This would allow a temporary period of moderately higher inflation that could push inflation-adjusted interest rates well below zero and facilitate a lowering of debt burdens.

We can't know how these proposals might work out, or what their unintended consequences might be. But the policy status quo isn't acceptable, either.

It could turn the United States into a more unstable version of Japan, and fracture the euro zone with unknowable political consequences. By 2013, the crisis of Western capitalism could easily spill over to China, but that's another subject.

* * *

George Magnus is senior economic adviser at UBS and author of "Uprising: Will Emerging Markets Shape or Shake the World Economy?" He wrote this article for Bloomberg News.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Loving Her ..." - Tompall and the Glaser Brothers

Tompall Glaser and The Glaser Brothers
"Lovin' Her Was Easier than Anything I'll Ever Do Again"

"Loving her was easier than ...."
Written by Kris Kristofferson

I have seen the morning burning golden on the mountains in the skies.
Achin' with the feelin' of the freedom of an eagle when she flies.
Turnin' on the world the way she smiled upon my soul as I lay dying.
Healin' as the colours in the sunshine and the shadows of her eyes.

Wakin' in the mornin' to the feelin' of her fingers on my skin.
Wipin' out the traces of the people and the places that I've been.
Teachin' me that yesterday was something that I never thought of trying.
Talkin' of tomorrow and the money, love and time we had to spend.

Lovin' her was easier than anything I'll ever do again.

Comin' close together with a feelin' that I've never known before, in my time.
She ain't ashamed to be a woman, she ain't afraid to be a friend.
I don't know the answer to the easy way she opened every door in my mind.
But dreamin' was as easy as believin' it was never gonna end.

And lovin' her was easier than anything I'll ever do again.
And lovin' her was easier than anything I'll ever do again.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Sick Lion and the Ass - Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift

The Sick Lion and the Ass
Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745)

A lion sunk by time's decay,
Too feeble grown to hunt his prey,
Observed his fatal hour draw nigh:
He drooped and laid him down to die.
There came by chance a savage boar,
Who trembled oft to hear him roar,
But when he saw him thus distressed
He tore and gored his royal breast.
A bull came next (ungen'rous foe),
Rejoiced to find him fall'n so low,
And with his horny-armed head
He aimed at once to strike him dead, -
He strikes, he wounds, he shocks in vain,
The lion still conceals his pain.
At length a base inglorious ass,
Who saw so many insults pass,
Came up and kicked him in the side:
'Twas this that raised the lion's pride.
He roused, and thus he spoke at length,
For indignation gave him strength:
Thou sorry, stupid, sluggish creature,
Disgrace and shame and scorn of nature!
You saw how well I could dispense
With blows from beasts of consequence!
They dignified the wounds they gave;
For none complain who feel the brave.
But you, the lowest of all brutes,
How ill your face with courage suits!
What dullness in thy looks appears!
I'd rather far (by heav'n 'tis true)
Expire by these than live by you:
A kick from thee is double death -
I curse thee with my dying breath!

The Moral

Rebukes are easy from our betters,
From men of quality and letters;
But when low dunces will affront,
What man alive can stand the brunt? 

Giving Up the Ghosts - by Todd Domke

Todd Domke

Giving Up the Ghosts
Todd Domke *

[ For Romney, success may require campaign exorcism.]

IT’S THE night before Christmas - and seven short weeks before the New Hampshire primary. Mitt Romney is sound asleep . . . and dreaming.

A ghost appears. The spirit looks like Rush Limbaugh in golf attire. “I am the ghost of campaigns past,’’ he says into a golden microphone.

Mitt chuckles. The ghost is not amused. “We’ll see who has the last laugh. I’m taking you to your past - because you are haunted by your mistakes.’’

Together, they vanish into an earlier decade. “Look,’’ says Mitt, “that’s me, campaigning for governor.’’

“Yes, you were a practicing moderate then,’’ says the ghost. “Let’s sail forward in time.’’

They stop at a news conference. “There I am, signing the bill for, uh . . .’’

“Yes, RomneyCare.’’

Mitt shudders. “I look happy, but clueless. I didn’t realize it would haunt me later.’’

They reappear at a 2008 presidential debate. John McCain needles Mitt for flip-flopping. “You’re the candidate of change.’’ Everyone laughs.

The floating Mitt wonders, “Why don’t the other candidates like me? I’m a nice guy.’’

“They don’t respect you. Want to see why?’’

“Not really.’’

“Face the truth!’’ The ghost whips out an iPad. He shows video clips of Mitt pandering.

“Enough!’’ cries Mitt. “I may seem phony, but I’m just being me.’’

“So you’re a genuine phony?’’

Mitt wakes up in a cold sweat. “Phew - just a dream.’’

He soon falls back asleep.

Another ghost appears. The apparition looks like George Stephanopoulos in a tuxedo. “It’s showtime!’’ he says, grinning. “I’m the ghost of campaigns present - or rather, of your campaign.’’

“Oh good, that shouldn’t be scary,’’ says Mitt.

“Think again.’’

They float into a conference room. “Hey, that’s me, with my campaign staff!’’

The candidate is scolding them. “A campaign should be run like a corporation! Position me like a brand. Package me so I’m telling consumers what they want to hear. Poll-test everything!’’

His campaign manager says, “Yes, boss. We’re keeping media interviews to a minimum. We’ll let the other candidates blow up. And if they don’t, we’ll leak our oppo research.’’

“Great,’’ says the candidate. “Let the others take flack, trying to be reformers and leaders. Keep me under the radar.’’

The floating Mitt looks sheepish. He tells the ghost, “Sounds a bit cynical. Can we go?’’

Mitt awakens, embarrassed. He falls asleep again.

A third ghost appears, looking like Donald Trump in a toga. “So,’’ says the specter, “you are my candidate apprentice? That’s sad.’’

Mitt frowns. “You must be the ghost of campaigns future. Just tell me, am I fired?’’

The ghost replies, “I like to build suspense. It’s good for ratings.’’

They rematerialize in a suite at Trump Tower. The ghost says, “This is the most beautiful building in the world! Your mansion in La Jolla is a doghouse compared to this.’’

“Why are we here?’’

The ghost turns on a huge flatscreen. “We’re going to watch a live broadcast of the 2012 Republican convention.’’

“Hey, that’s me speaking to the delegates!’’ says Mitt excitedly. But then he hears, “I am proud to nominate the next president of the . . .’’

“Darn!!’’ says Mitt. “I lose again! How did I blow it?’’

“Voters wanted big and bold, but you went small and timid.’’

“So who won? Who am I nominating?’’

The ghost cackles. “A brave leader, who speaks with conviction . . .’’

R-r-r-r-r-ring! The phone wakes Mitt.

Realizing he had just been dreaming, he’s giddy. “OK, ghosts, I understand. No more pandering. I’ll be a leader.’’

He answers the phone, “Merry Christmas!’’

“Boss, I’ve got terrible news,’’ says his campaign manager. “You’ve fallen to third place in polls.’’

“God bless us, everyone!’’

“Yeah, we’ll need a miracle.’’

* Todd Domke is a Boston-area Republican political analyst, public relations strategist, and author. This article is from Boston Globe of August 25, 2011.

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On Turning Ten - by Billy Collins

On Turning Ten
by Billy Collins (1941 - )

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

What Is Wrong With Texas ? - by Renée Loth

What’s the matter with Texas?
Renée Loth
Boston Globe OP-ED / August 20, 2011

TEXAS GOVERNOR Rick Perry brought his nascent presidential campaign to New Hampshire this week, touting his state’s record on jobs. And why wouldn’t he? Compared with the rest of the floundering US economy, Texas is ablaze with job creation. Four out of every 10 new jobs since June 2009 have been in Texas, and Perry says his program of low taxes and loose regulation is the reason why.

But is Texas really a model for the country? Let’s look a little deeper. A million jobs in the decade that Perry’s been governor sounds like a lot, but that hasn’t kept pace with the Texas-sized boom in the population over the same period, when 4.5 million job-seekers made the Lone Star state their home. So unemployment in Texas is a middling 8.2 percent - lower than the national average, but higher than the 7.6 percent in Massachusetts.

Further, to quote another governor who tried to ride his state’s economic miracle to the White House, are they “good jobs at good wages?’’ Apparently not, since a third of Texas workers earn too little to stay above the federal poverty line. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas is tied with Mississippi for the highest percentage of workers earning the minimum wage, the lowest-paid workers of all 50 states.

Other indicators also should give the nation pause. Texas is dead last among the states in the percentage of its adult population with a high-school diploma. It is last in the percentage of children covered by insurance (Massachusetts is first, even though Mitt Romney tries not to let anyone know it.) It’s last in the percentage of pregnant women who receive prenatal care in their first trimester. But hey - it’s number one in five kinds of air pollution, and in death-penalty executions.

Many of these figures come from an annual report published by the Texas Legislative Study Group, a non-partisan caucus of the state legislature. The caucus is dominated by Democrats, but the report’s statistics come from the US Census or other independent sources.

Representative Garnet Coleman of Houston, who spent 10 years on the House appropriations committee, chairs the caucus. “This report tells me that Texas is a state in decline,’’ he said. “We can attract hamburger-flipping jobs all day long, and if we keep cutting education that’s all that will be available.’’

He describes an interconnected web of factors driving down the quality of life in Texas: a massive disinvestment in public education begets an unskilled workforce, which begets low-paid jobs with no health care coverage, which leads to a high rate of obesity and disease, which begets strains on the budget, which force more cuts. Perry “balanced’’ a $27 billion budget deficit this year by slashing $4 billion from the public schools. The report’s title is “Texas on the Brink.’’

Bottom line? “Everyone in America should know that it’s not going to be a crystal stair if Rick Perry is president,’’ Coleman said.

There’s another figure that undermines Perry’s image as a tribune of anti-Washington purity: Federal money consistently makes up about a third of the Texas budget. When he announced his candidacy last week, Perry promised that he would work hard to “make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.’’ But Washington’s largesse to Texas has doubled since Perry has been governor, to $200 billion. That’s a lot of consequence.

Texas got more federal money for defense and veterans affairs than any other state in 2008. Perry grumbled, but eventually accepted $16 billion in stimulus money. And about 300,000 of those shiny new jobs were in the dreaded public sector: state and local government.

As Michael Dukakis learned when he tried to project “the Massachusetts miracle’’ onto the national stage, state economic conditions are fickle. A miracle can quickly become a mirage. But Rick Perry’s vision for a nation modeled on Texas seems clear. It is a place with less government, to be sure. But also with less education, lower incomes, smaller ambitions, dirtier air, unhealthier lifestyles, and greater gaps in equality.That’s what’s the matter with Texas, and that’s what the rest of the country would be wise to avoid.
Renée Loth’s column appears regularly in the Globe.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Flammende Rose, ... - Dorothea Röschmann

 Dorothea Röschmann

Georg Friedrich Händel

No. 9, Flammende Rose, Zierde ..., HWV 210
by Georg Friedrich Händel (1685 - 1759)
sung by Dorothea Röschmann (1967 - )


Monday, August 22, 2011

"Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" - Chrystia Freeland

Remedying Recession, Reducing Debt
Chrystia Freeland
Editor-at-Large, Reuters
Aug 12, 2011

We all know there are three important things about real estate: location, location, location. That double repetition, which the late and great word sleuth William Safire traced back to a 1926 Chicago Tribune classified ad, is still with us because it is succinct and true.

You can think about the economic and political woes of the Western world today in the same way. It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs.

But over the past two weeks the political battles over government debt in Washington and Frankfurt, the street battles in Britain, and the volatility of markets everywhere have obscured that reality. The talk instead has been about share prices, credit ratings, police tactics and political dysfunction.

That’s why Pinched, a book about unemployment published this week by the American journalist Don Peck is so timely and important. Mr. Peck’s central message is that all recessions are not the same. Prolonged slowdowns, like the one the Western world is experiencing today, make their mark not only through the pain they cause while we are in the middle of them. They have a permanent, and largely malignant, impact.

As Mr. Peck argues: “When jobs are scarce, incomes flat, and debts heavy for protracted periods, people, communities and even whole generations can be left permanently scarred.”

Mr. Peck’s warning, which is based on the lingering effects of previous deep recessions, runs counter to the intuitions of the postwar generations in Western Europe and North America whose lives have been a story of fairly steady economic growth.

“The problems that we face are even bigger than we think right now,” Mr. Peck told me. “People assume that, ‘Well, it will be bad for a while, but then it will get better.”’

The sort of metaphors we tend to reach for, to borrow one from the White House, are of the car that was driven into the ditch. It is unpleasant to be stuck in the mud, and pushing it out is hard work, but once we are back on the road it will be full speed ahead.

The better, but grimmer, comparison is to infant malnutrition. Even if that child grows into a well-fed adult, her early experience of deprivation will do lasting damage.

That ugly image is particularly apt because the hardest hit will probably be young people. Mr. Peck spoke to Lisa Kahn, a Yale economist, who found that getting your first job during a deep recession meant a starting salary 25 percent lower than during a boom, and an income 10 percent less 17 years later. Even mid-career, the recession generation not only takes home a thinner paycheck, it is lower down the corporate hierarchy and more professionally timorous.

Mr. Peck’s second key point is that deep downturns don’t just — though no human life is a “just” — blight individual lives or even the lifetime job prospects of a single generation. Living through a lot of lean years changes the entire culture, and not for the best.

Most of his book was written last year and it is largely about the United States, but Mr. Peck’s prediction of societies turned nasty and brutish by hard times will have particular resonance this week in Britain.

“What we know for sure is that politics will become more contentious and life will become more mean-spirited,” Mr. Peck said. “The great risk, I think, is a poisoning of politics, which will create a foreshortening of political action, where any sort of bold plan simply becomes impossible.”

What is important about Mr. Peck’s analysis is that he puts what happens in people’s lives — their job prospects, their lifetime earnings, the shift in family dynamics when one parent is unemployed — at the center of his thinking about economic policy. He really does think the urgent issue today is jobs, jobs, jobs, because the personal catastrophe of unemployment, multiplied a millionfold, becomes a national catastrophe.

All of which may make you assume that Mr. Peck is a deficit dove. While it is true that in the short term he is worried that premature austerity is the greatest danger, he thinks that too much government debt matters as well: “To restore confidence in the federal government without undermining the recovery, we must tie current deficits to binding measures that will close the budget gap and stabilize the national debt in the near future.”

That is the real tragedy of the poisoned political debate Mr. Peck predicts — and which is already paralyzing so much of the developed world. We argue bitterly about jobs versus deficits. But the best — and probably only — way to solve both problems is with a double-barreled strategic approach.

Robert E. Rubin, a former secretary of the Treasury and currently the co-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, told me: “A lot of the commentary distinguishes between addressing the deficit and addressing jobs. I think they are actually one issue.”

Like Mr. Peck, Mr. Rubin believes that an agreed plan to close the deficit in the medium term would actually make a job-creating stimulus program in the short term both more feasible and more effective.

“You can put in place a serious fiscal program, which would generate job-creating confidence, but defer the implementation date,” he said. “In that context you could do a fiscal stimulus, and at much less risk of it being materially offset by an adverse effect on confidence.”

We need to create jobs today — and commit to tightening our belts when the economy starts to recover. It is a simple plan that makes sense to a lot of us. But in the scared, beggar-thy-neighbor world Mr. Peck describes, the public-spirited middle ground this approach embodies may no longer exist.

Don't Use Our Stuff ! - by Joanna Weiss


 Don't Use Our Stuff!
The Boston Globe
(August 21, 2011)

TRUE STORY: This week, after reality TV star Mike “The Situation’’ Sorrentino wore a bright blue Abercrombie and Fitch tracksuit in an episode of “Jersey Shore,’’ the clothing retailer offered Sorrentino what might be the world’s first anti-endorsement deal: “a substantial payment’’ in exchange for scrapping his Abercrombie wardrobe and wearing another brand of clothes. It was a PR ploy, yes, but also a modern branding brainchild. Image matters, after all. And this situation is surely just the beginning. . .

To: John Henry From: Costco

Dear Mr. Henry, You were recently spotted in one of our stores purchasing industrial-grade jars of ketchup, mustard, and relish, as well as a jumbo package of Kosher hot dogs. While we realize you may have occasion to throw large barbecues, your construction of a 35,000-foot mansion in Brookline makes it clear that you are not the frugal, cost-conscious family shopper that represents our core customer base. Therefore, we are offering to pay you a substantial sum to avoid stepping into our stores at any time. We know you don’t need the money. Please put it toward next year’s lineup.

To: Lady Gaga From: The American Corn Federation

Dear Ms. Gaga, We understand that, during public appearances, you have a tendency to cloak yourself in America’s farm commodities. That raw-meat dress. The giant egg that you emerged from during the Grammys. We are now quite fearful that, for your next media splash, you will turn your attention to corn. As much as we agree that corn has many, varied uses, we do not wish to see you in a dress made of corn kernels, corn husks, cornsilk, or the knobby ends of the ears. Therefore, we are prepared to offer you a generous payment to consider an outfit made of rice instead. Or maybe wheat. How about soybeans? We eagerly await your response.

To: Rupert Murdoch From: Apple

Dear Mr. Murdoch, We know you’ve staked some of your company’s future on news delivered on tablets, such as our iPad. Of course, we don’t mind. But our customers consider themselves intelligent, nimble, and self-aware. And since your public image, of late, paints a person who has no idea what any of his employees are doing, we fear that your personal association with our products might cause undue distress. We have no objection to your putting out “The Daily’’ or making Fox News apps. But we’d like to offer a modest sum to ensure that you will never be personally seen in public holding an iPhone, iPad, or iPod. (Perhaps that last one was unlikely, anyway.) Take our money. Please. You might need it for legal fees.

To: Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann From: International Tea Growers’ Council

Dear Mr. Perry and Ms. Bachmann, We know you are hardly the first politicians to utilize the “Tea Party’’ label. But as presidential frontrunners, we thought you would make excellent standard bearers for a new trend in political symbolism. We know that, based on a single, unfortunate incident in colonial Boston, “tea’’ has been connected with angry masses and revolutionary ideals. But in many other cultures, tea has long been associated with calm, deliberate thinking and rational conversation. As a result, we would like to pay you to select another beverage to symbolize your political philosophy. If you’re in need of ideas, we humbly suggest hard lemonade.

To: Barack Obama From: Red Bull

Dear Mr. President,

A faithful customer on Martha’s Vineyard - with a powerful camera lens - recently spotted you sipping one of our energy drinks at the start of your vacation. As you may know, Red Bull is associated with boldness, vigor, and decisive action. Your recent handling of the debt ceiling crisis makes us think you are a poor representative of our brand. Thus, we are prepared to offer you a sizable sum to avoid drinking Red Bull for the foreseeable future. Put it toward the PAC of your choice; the Supreme Court has made this very easy. Or use it to buy arugula. We don’t care.
Joanna Weiss is at weiss@globe.com.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Prophets at Home - by Rudyard Kipling

Prophets at Home
Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936)

Prophets have honour all over the Earth,
Except in the village where they were born,
Where such as knew them boys from birth
Nature-ally hold 'em in scorn.
When Prophets are naughty and young and vain,
They make a won'erful grievance of it;
(You can see by their writings how they complain),
But 0, 'tis won'erful good for the Prophet!

There's nothing Nineveh Town can give
(Nor being swallowed by whales between),
Makes up for the place where a man's folk live,
Which don't care nothing what he has been.
He might ha' been that, or he might ha' been this,
But they love and they hate him for what he is. 

" Please Raise My Taxes ..." - Warren Buffett

"Please raise my taxes - I'm rich"
New York TImes / August 15, 2011

Our leaders have asked for "shared sacrifice." But when they did the asking, they spared me.

I checked with my megarich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we megarich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks.

Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as "carried interest," thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate.

Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they'd been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species.

It's nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill -- the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf -- was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money.

But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income -- and that's a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my superrich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine -- most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes.

The megarich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes.

It's a different story for the middle class: Typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn't refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone -- not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 -- shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain.

People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000.

You know what's happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the IRS has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest incomes.

In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion -- a staggering $227.4 million on average -- but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared with income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains.

Some of my brethren may shun work, but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the megarich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them.

Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn't mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country's finances. They've been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion.

It's vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country's fiscal problems.

Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can't fulfill. Big money must be saved here.

The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break the can get.

But for those making more than $1 million -- there were 236,883 such households in 2009 -- I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains.

And for those who make $10 million or more -- there were 8,274 in 2009 -- I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

Warren E. Buffett is chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bachmannophobia - by TPO

Conan O'brien (1963 - )
Conan's Fearful Obsession 
with Michele Bachmann!

Withholder - in - Chief - by Maureen Dowd

Op-Ed Columnist, NY Times
Published: August 9, 2011

Even the Butter Cow at the Iowa State Fair is not enough to sweeten the mood.

Three years ago, Barack Obama’s unlikely presidential dream was given wings by rapturous Iowans — young, old and in-between — who saw in the fresh-faced, silky-voiced black senator a chance to leap past the bellicose, rancorous Bush years into a modern, competitive future where we once more had luster in the world.

“We are choosing hope over fear,” Senator Obama told a delirious crowd of 3,000 here the night he won the Iowa caucuses.

But fear has garroted hope, as America reels from the latest humiliating blows on the economy and in Afghanistan. The politician who came across as a redeemer in 2008 is now in need of redemption himself.

Faced with a country keening for reassurance and reinvention, Obama seems at a loss. Regarding his political skills, he turns out to be the odd case of a pragmatist who can’t learn from his mistakes and adapt.

Many of his Democratic supporters here, who once waited hours in line just to catch a glimpse of The One, are disillusioned.

“We just wish he’d be more of a fighter,” said one influential Democrat with a grimace. Another agreed: “You can’t blame him for everything. I just wish he would come across more forceful at times, but that is not the dude’s style. Detached hurts you when things are sour. You need some of Clinton’s ‘I feel your pain’ compassion.”

The president has been so spectacularly unable to fill the leadership void in Washington that the high-spirited Michele Bachmann feels free to purloin Obama’s old mantra.

“The power behind our campaign is hope and a future,” she chirped to a sparse crowd Monday in Atlantic, Iowa. “That’s all I believe in.” That and making America safe for old-fashioned light bulbs and not those weird curly ones.

Obama’s response on Monday to Friday’s Standard & Poor’s downgrade and to the 22 Navy Seal commandos and 8 other soldiers killed by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan was once more too little, too late. It was just like his belated, ineffectual response on the BP oil spill and his reaction to the would-be Christmas Day bomber; it took him three days on vacation in Hawaii to speak about the terrorist incident when the country was scared about national security, and then he spent the next week callously shuttling from the podium to the golf course.

Bachmann has been riding around Iowa in her bus, with Elvis music and her name emblazoned 25 times on the outside, mocking Obama for going to Camp David last weekend and burrowing in, while the country was roiling.

His inability to grab a microphone and spontaneously assuage Americans’ fears is strange. If the American servicemen had died on a Monday, he wouldn’t have waited until Wednesday to talk about it. He doesn’t like the bully pulpit, just the professor’s lectern.

After failing to interrupt his Camp David weekend to buck up the country on one of its worst days in history, he tacked on his condolences for the soldiers’ families to his economic pep talk, in what had to be the most inept oratorical segue of his presidency.

He long ago should have gone out into the country to talk to Americans in person and come up with a concrete plan that people could print out from the White House Web site and study. Hasn’t he learned how dangerous it is to delegate to Congress? His withholding and reactive nature has made him seem strangely irrelevant in Washington, trapped by his own temperament. He doesn’t lead, and he doesn’t understand why we don’t feel led.

Speaking from the State Dining Room of the White House, he advised America it was still “a triple-A country” like some cerebral soccer coach urging the kids to win one for the London Interbank Offered Rate.

With traders hearing nothing new, just boilerplate about “common sense and compromise” on deficit reduction, the Dow Jones industrial average, which had already fallen 410 points, fell 20 more points while the president was talking around 2 o’clock. By the 4 p.m. close, the Dow was 634 points lower.

Obama has spent a lifetime creating his persona — superior, wise, above all parties and interests, all-seeing, calm, unflappable.

But as Drew Westen, a liberal psychology professor at Emory University wrote in The Times on Sunday, puzzling about what has happened to his former hero’s passion, the president never identifies the villains who cause our epic problems.

It’s unclear, Westen wrote, whether that reflects his aversion to conflict or a fear of offending donors, or both.

Obama’s assumption that you can rise above ascribing villainous motives has caused him to waste huge chunks of his first term seeking bipartisanship from Republicans who were playing him for a dupe. And it has led to Americans regarding the nation’s capital as a place of all villains and no heroes. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

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

The Bus Ride to Fugue
Part IV
by Hénock Gugsa

Furtively and with a slightly tremorous hand, the girl pulled a compact out of her small red leather purse. She raised the little mirror up in front of her face as if to inspect the state of her appearance. [I suppose I was watching her somewhat more intently than I should have been.] However, her real purpose with the mirror was to get a sly glimpse of the three noisy passengers in the back of the bus, namely Pepe, Carlos, and me. Then she met my eyes in her mirror looking back at her. Needless to say, she was so unnerved that she dropped the mirror. It rolled down the aisle like an over-sized coin and stopped near the foot of a zombie sitting in the first row of seats.

But this girl was no Mata Hari. She seemed too scared or ashamed to get up and go after her property.

Pepe had been watching everything with amusement, and must have thought that now was his moment for heroism. He was going to rescue this damsel in distress. Maybe he would win her corázon or devoción, he must have thought, as he got up off his seat to go to her.

But Carlos saw that I was already getting up also, and made Pepe sit back down. Evidently, Carlos understood that I had no designs on the young lady except that of a fatherly concern. After all, she was young enough to be my daughter.

Despite the disconcerted looks I was getting from the zombies on all sides, I walked diffidently toward where the little mirror lay. I stooped quickly, picked it up, and turned back to where the girl sat. She was sitting frozen in one place, her face red with embarrassment and discomfort. It just about broke my heart seeing the distress in her face.

I smiled kindly and warmly at her to put her at ease.

“I think this belongs to you. I saw it roll down the aisle. I hope you don’t mind me getting it for you.” I said as I extended my hand with the compact mirror in it.

She raised her head the tiniest bit and showed her gratitude with a tremulous smile. However, she would not allow herself to look at me in the face as she whispered, “Thank you.” Still smiling, she accepted her compact and carefully put it back in her purse.

As I turned away and began to head back to my seat, a thought occurred to me that maybe I should invite her to come and join the merrier group in the back. And so without hesitation, I said to this young lady, “If you would like to come over to the back and join our little happy club, I’m sure we’ll be delighted to have your company. Pepe back there is quite a character and may seem wild but he’s actually harmless.”

She looked up at me for the first time, and her pale green eyes were glistening and blurry. I thought for a second that she was going to start crying, but she didn’t. Instead, she gave me a dignified smile and said, “Thank you, but I’m fine right here. Walter here is my cousin, and he won’t bother me. He has never been much of a talker anyway, and that’s alright. Thanks for the invite all the same.”

I stood frozen where I was .... Did she really speak? ... Did all those words come out of her? .... I did not know how to react or what to say. She was pleasant enough albeit in an enigmatic way. But I was so rattled by this turn of events that all I wanted was to terminate this encounter quickly and pleasantly.

I just blabbered, “My apologies. I didn’t realize he was your kin. He seems harmless enough; they all do for that matter. It’s just so unnerving their being so quiet and listless. It’s almost like they’re not human at all. Look, it’s none of my business anyways. I just thought you might want to talk to someone for a bit and make the journey less tiresome and dreary. It’s up to you anyway.”

I gave a forced smile and walked back to my seat with determined steps. When I got back to my seat, Pepe and Carlos were watching me with suppressed, expectant looks in their eyes. I just flopped myself down and looked away morosely ... at nothing.

Five minutes later, the girl got up off her seat, turned and started walking back in our direction.

... Conclusion ... in 
Part V

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Nel cor, piu non mi sento." - by Giovanni Paisiello

Giovanni Paisiello

Giovanni Paisiello (1740 - 1816)
"Nel cor, piu non mi sento"
(from: "La Molinara")

Eglise Gutiérrez
(Cuban American soprano) - 2009

Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Russian baritone) - 1991

"The Revolution: A Manifesto" - by Ron Paul

'The Revolution: A Manifesto'
by Ron Paul

[U.S. Congressman Ron Paul (R,TX) talks about his book, "The Revolution: A Manifesto" and his campaign[s] for the Republican presidential nomination ....

In his book, Paul says that his "revolution" is not new: "It is a peaceful continuation," he writes, "of the American Revolution and the principles of our Founding Fathers: liberty, self-government, the Constitution, and a non-interventionist foreign policy. That is what they taught us, and that is what we now defend."]

Excerpt (*)...

Every election season America is presented with a series of false choices. Should we launch preemptive wars against this country or that one? Should every American neighborhood live under this social policy or that one? Should a third of our income be taken away by an income tax or a national sales tax? The shared assumptions behind these questions, on the other hand, are never cast in doubt, or even raised. And anyone who wants to ask different questions or who suggests that the questions as framed exclude attractive, humane alternatives, is ipso facto excluded from mainstream discussion.

And so every four years we are treated to the same tired, predictable routine: two candidates with few disagreements on fundamentals pretend that they represent dramatically different philosophies of government.

The supposedly conservative candidate tells us about "waste" in government, and ticks off $10 million in frivolous pork-barrel projects that outrage him—the inevitable bridge-to-nowhere project, or a study of the effects of celery consumption on arresting memory loss—in order to elicit laughter and applause from partisan audiences. All right, so that's 0.00045 percent of the federal budget dealt with; what does he propose to do with the other 99.99955 percent, in order to return our country to living within its means? Not a word. Those same three or four silly programs will be brought up all campaign long, and that's all we'll hear about where the candidate stands on spending. But conservatives are told that they must support these candidates, and so they do, hoping for the best. And nothing changes.

Even war doesn't really distinguish the two parties from each other. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry voted for the Iraq war. With the exceptions of Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, even the Democrats who postured as antiwar candidates for the 2008 primary elections are not especially opposed to needless wars. They typically have a laundry list of other military interventions they would support, none of which make any sense, would make our country any safer, or would do a thing to return our country to fiscal sanity. But liberals are told that they must support these candidates, and so they do, hoping for the best. And nothing changes.

A substantial portion of the conservative movement has become a parody of its former self. Once home to distinguished intellectuals and men of letters, it now tolerates and even encourages anti-intellectualism and jingoism that would have embarrassed earlier generations of conservative thinkers. There are still some good and decent conservative leaders to be found, and a portion of the grass roots has remained uncorrupted by the transformation of conservatism into just another Big Government movement. But Big Government at home and abroad seems to suit many conservative spokesmen just fine. Once in a while they will latch on to phony but conservative-sounding causes like "tax reform"—almost always a shell game in which taxes are shuffled around rather than actually reduced overall—in order to pacify the conservative base, but that's about it.

When Republicans won a massive off-year election victory in 1994, neoconservative Bill Kristol immediately urged them not to do anything drastic but to wait until the Republicans took the White House in 1996. Well, the Republicans didn't take the White House in 1996, so nothing ever got done. Instead, the Republican leadership urged these freshman congressmen to focus on a toothless, soporific agenda called the Contract with America that was boldly touted as a major overhaul of the federal government. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The Contract with America was typical of what I have just described: no fundamental questions are ever raised, and even supposedly radical and revolutionary measures turn out to be modest and safe. In fact, the Brookings Institution in effect said that if this is what conservatives consider revolutionary, then they have basically conceded defeat.

Needless to say, I am also unimpressed by the liberal Left. Although they posture as critical thinkers, their confidence in government is inexcusably naive, based as it is on civics—textbook platitudes that bear absolutely zero resemblance to reality. Not even their position on unnecessary wars is consistent—Hillary Clinton and John Kerry both supported the Iraq war, for instance, and the major Democratic candidates in 2008 who claim to be antiwar are generally eager to invade some other country apart from Iraq. Even Howard Dean was all in favor of Bill Clinton's intervention in Bosnia, going so far as to urge the president to take unilateral military action beyond the multilateral activity already taking place. Liberals at the grass roots, on the other hand, have been deeply alienated by the various betrayals by which a movement they once supported has made its peace with the establishment.

No wonder frustrated Americans have begun referring to our two parties as the Republicrats. And no wonder the news networks would rather focus on $400 haircuts than matters of substance. There are no matters of substance.

In late 2006, a number of friends and colleagues urged me to consider running for president. I was a reluctant candidate, not at all convinced that a sizable enough national constituency existed for a campaign based on liberty and the Constitution rather than on special-interest pandering and the distribution of loot.

Was I ever wrong.

On November 5, 2007, we set a record when we raised over $4 million online in a single day. That December 16, on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, we broke that record by raising over $6 million. In the fourth quarter of 2007, we raised more money than any other Republican candidate. Not only is the freedom message popular, but if fund-raising ability is any indication, it is more intensely popular than any other political message.

By the end of 2007, more than twice as many Meetup groups had been formed in support of our campaign than for all the rest of the candidates in both major parties combined. I have never seen such a diverse coalition rallying to a single banner. Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Greens, constitutionalists, whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, antiwar activists, home-schoolers, religious conservatives, freethinkers—all were not only involved, but enthusiastically so. And despite their philosophical differences in some areas, these folks typically found, to their surprise, that they rather liked each other.

The mainstream media had no idea what to make of it, since we were breaking all the rules and yet still attracting such a varied and passionate following. I began making this a central point of my public speeches: the reason all these different groups are rallying to the same banner, I said, is that freedom has a unique power to unite us.

In case that sounds like a cliché, it isn't. It's common sense. When we agree not to treat each other merely as means to our own selfish ends, but to respect one another as individuals with rights and goals of our own, cooperation and goodwill suddenly become possible for the first time.

My message is one of freedom and individual rights. I believe individuals have a right to life and liberty and that physical aggression should be used only defensively. We should respect each other as rational beings by trying to achieve our goals through reason and persuasion rather than threats and coercion. That, and not a desire for "economic efficiency," is the primary moral reason for opposing government intrusions into our lives: government is force, not reason.

People seem to think I am speaking of principles foreign to the Republican tradition. But listen to the words of Robert A. Taft, who in the old days of the Republican Party was once its standard-bearer:

When I say liberty I do not simply mean what is referred to as "free enterprise." I mean liberty of the individual to think his own thoughts and live his own life as he desires to think and to live; the liberty of the family to decide how they wish to live, what they want to eat for breakfast and for dinner, and how they wish to spend their time; liberty of a man to develop his ideas and get other people to teach those ideas, if he can convince them that they have some value to the world; liberty of every local community to decide how its children shall be educated, how its local services shall be run, and who its local leaders shall be; liberty of a man to choose his own occupation; and liberty of a man to run his own business as he thinks it ought to be run, as long as he does not interfere with the right of other people to do the same thing.

As we'll see in a later chapter, Taft was also an opponent of needless wars and of unconstitutional presidential war-making.

This is the Republican tradition to which I belong.

Early on in my presidential campaign, people began describing my message and agenda as a "revolution." In a way, it is, albeit a peaceful one. In a country with a political debate as restricted as ours, it is revolutionary to ask whether we need troops in 130 countries and whether the non-interventionist foreign policy recommended by our Founding Fathers might not be better. It is revolutionary to ask whether the accumulation of more and more power in Washington has been good for us. It is revolutionary to ask fundamental questions about privacy, police-state measures, taxation, social policy, and countless other matters.

This revolution, though, is not altogether new. It is a peaceful continuation of the American Revolution and the principles of our Founding Fathers: liberty, self-government, the Constitution, and a non-interventionist foreign policy. That is what they taught us, and that is what we now defend.

I was never interested in writing a campaign book as they tend to have (deservedly) short shelf lives. But the ideas I have been promoting, and which have struck such a powerful chord with so many Americans, are ideas that are overlooked and neglected because they do not fit into the template of trivial questions with which I opened this chapter. This book is an opportunity to highlight and explain them in the kind of systematic fashion that campaign speeches and presidential debates simply do not allow.

The revolution my supporters refer to will persist long after my retirement from politics. Here is my effort to given them a long-term manifesto based on ideas, and perhaps some short-term marching orders.

At the same time, I am also describing what the agenda of George W. Bush's successor should be if we want to move toward a free society once again. Our country is facing an unprecedented financial crisis precisely because the questions our political and media establishments allow us to ask are so narrow. Whether or not politicians actually want to hear them, it has never been more important for us to begin posing significant and fundamental questions. "In all affairs," Bertrand Russell once said, "it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." I'm not in the habit of quoting Russell, but when in American history has his sentiment been more true?

(*)- Excerpted from: "The Revolution: A Manifesto" by Ron Paul.
Copyright © 2007 by Ron Paul
Source: NPR.org (National Public Radio)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gaffes, Guts, and Glory - Todd Domke

Gaffes, Guts, and Glory
by Todd Domke *

IT’S EIGHT months from now. Michele Bachmann has won the South Carolina primary.


“We’re on a roll,’’ says her campaign manager to the staff. “But, to keep rolling, we need to fully understand what’s working for us. First, how did we win Iowa? Sure, we had great grass-roots organization . . . but the catalyst was media.’’

He clicks video of an MSNBC show with liberal talk show hosts Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Chris Matthews interviewing Representative Bachmann.

“Remember that?’’ the manager asks, grinning. “People thought we were nuts to agree to that inquisition. Actually, we insisted on having all three liberals do the interview. We wanted Republicans to see her as Daniella in the lion’s den. And that’s why we made this TV spot. . .’’

Viewing it, staffers laugh at how the MSNBC footage was edited for comedic effect. The hosts now talk over each other, sounding angry and aggressive: “Your right-wing religious mentality’’ “extremist Tea Party know-nothings’’ “your intolerance, fear-mongering and name-calling’’. . . Michele is smiling and calm: “I believe in the Constitution. I believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’’ Tagline: “Bachmann. She can’t be bullied. She can’t be bought.’’

The manager continues. “And how did we win an impressive second-place in New Hampshire? Again, media.’’ He shows news footage of the candidate’s husband, Marcus, in a coffee shop. Asked about criticism of his wife, his eyes mist up.

The manager freezes the image. “You recall how Hillary Clinton got a little teary and won the New Hampshire primary. That wouldn’t work again for a candidate. But, for a spouse?’’

He unfreezes the video. Marcus starts sobbing. “News coverage shifted from the Romney-Huntsman feud to the issue of whether husbands should be sensitive and supportive. It was an Oprah opera.’’ Staffers laugh.

“How did we win South Carolina? Again, it was a media moment.’’ He shows debate footage, with Michele turning to GOP rivals and saying, “Yes, we need separation of church and state. But, Mr. Romney and Mr. Huntsman, you’re not falling in the polls because you’re Mormon, but because you’re mushy. We need strong leadership, and I have a titanium spine. It’s time to man up and woman up!’’

The manager continues. “Now what? Pundits say Michele is like Barry Goldwater, who won nomination in 1964, but lost big to Lyndon Johnson. Well, yes, Republicans want a true believer. But there’s an enormous difference - Barack Obama is no LBJ. However, Michele does have a Goldwater problem: she can say things that backfire. . .’’

He plays a video clip. Staffers wince as they view their candidate’s gaffes about history, and confusing John Wayne, the actor, with John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer.

“But I have good news: We’ve hired a special consultant to coach her.’’

In a hotel room. . . Mr. and Mrs. Bachmann sit down with a man who looks a little like James Carville, the political operative. He’s bald, bespectacled, thin and intense.

“I am a ghost consultant,’’ he says. “I specialize in gaffe-prevention. I’m a degaffeinator.’’

“So, where do we begin?’’ asks Michele.

He stares at her, which makes her uncomfortable. Then he studies her discomfort.

“Well, sir, what’s your advice?’’ she asks.

“Ahah!’’ he says. “You spoke because you felt awkward. That’s the wrong instinct. Never say anything when you’re feeling awkward. My motto: ‘Better silent than sorry.’ ’’

She starts to talk, but just nods.

“We’ll start with verbal exercises,’’ he says. “You’ll learn how to evade no-win questions, how to be quotable without being hyperbolic, and when to say ‘I don’t know’. . .’’

Hours later. . . The consultant gets up to leave. “My final words of warning: Don’t let the media turn you into Charlie Sheen.’’

Michele looks uncertain. “Uh, I think you mean Charlie Chan.’’

He sighs. “We’d better schedule another session.’’

* Todd Domke is a Boston-area Republican political analyst, public relations strategist, and author. This is from Boston Globe of 08/12/2011.
© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Headed for # 2, Maybe ! - by TPO

World to US: ‘You’re No. 2’ – but can China be No. 1?
By John Hughes
Christian Science Monitor / July 27, 2011

[An international poll shows that the world thinks the No. 1 superpower is losing its cape to China. Debt politics only reinforce this view. But all is not lost. Remember de Tocqueville.]

Not yet, but a lot of non-Americans think it is heading that way, according to a new global opinion survey by the Pew Research Center.

Frankly, the Mickey Mouse way in which our politicians in Washington have handled their dysfunctional approach to the debt and budget crisis is hardly reassuring to those questioning the efficiency of our government or the efficacy of the democratic system we commend to others.

The Pew survey finds that in 15 of 22 nations polled, the balance of opinion is that China either will replace or already has replaced the United States as the “world’s leading superpower.” Foreign affairs guru Fareed Zakaria has been talking to his sources in China and says they are agog with amazement at the way the White House and congressional Republicans and Democrats have caterwauled until D-day on a debt-ceiling decision of immense global significance.

It is not that the nations polled by the Pew organization relish the prospect of America’s eclipse. The French, Germans, Spanish, and Japanese, for instance, rue China’s potential as the world’s leading economic power.

But 72 percent of the French, 67 percent of the Spanish, 65 percent of the British, and 61 percent of the Germans see China overtaking the US as the world’s superpower. Even 46 per cent of Americans think China has or will overshadow them. This is up from 33 per cent in 2009.

Populations in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America are less convinced that China is the world’s leading economic power.

However, the prospect of China matching the US in military power is much more disturbing. In Japan and India the prevailing view is that China’s growing military power is not in their interest. Majorities in Western and Eastern Europe, and in Turkey and Israel, share this view.

The embarrassing political imbroglio that has been taking place in Washington over the debt ceiling and budget cuts hardly projects an image abroad of responsibility and stability. As Nicholas Kristof correctly asserts in The New York Times, “the biggest threat to America’s national security this summer doesn’t come from China, Iran or any other foreign power. It comes from the budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.”

Where are the Ronald Reagans, even the Bill Clintons, in the present political mix in Washington today? They surely had agendas to defend, but understood the need for timely compromise, statesmanship, and deal-making rather than procrastination, posturing, and pusillanimous politicking that bemuses and unnerves the world.

Meanwhile a new Zogby International poll shows US standing in the Arab world has declined sharply since an earlier Zogby poll in 2009, conducted after President Obama’s first 100 days in office. Then, Arabs were hopeful that the new president would bring positive change to the US-Arab relationship. Early speeches and steps reinforced this view. Favorable attitudes toward the US climbed significantly from Bush-era lows.

But expectations have been dashed. In this year’s survey of more than 4,000 Arabs, favorable attitudes of the US are now lower in Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates than they were in 2008, the last year of the Bush administration – though they are still higher in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

James Zogby’s Arab American Institute finds that Israel’s “continuing occupation of Palestinian lands” is seen by most Arabs as the “main obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East,” even within the context of the Arab Spring.

Great nations rise and fall. They are not necessarily loved, especially at their zenith. Polls are snapshots of their public standing, not necessarily accurate predictions of the future. Politicians can learn from the error of their ways and rise to new greatness. All may not be lost. As de Tocqueville, that perceptive early observer of the US, declared: “The greatness of America lies in her ability to repair her faults.”

John Hughes is a former editor of CSM

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Corporation Man, (ahem!) My Friend! - by TPO

The Corporation Man, (ahem!) My Friend !
by TPO

TPO says ... If corporations are people,
and people are country ...
ergo country is corporation,
with no heart, no soul ...
and that road, my friend, leads to fascism !!

"Come On In, The Senility Is Fine" - Ogden Nash

Come On In, The Senility Is Fine
by Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

People live forever in Jacksonville and St. Petersburg and Tampa,
But you don't have to live forever to become a grampa.
The entrance requirements for grampahood are comparatively mild,
You only have to live until your child has a child.
From that point on you start looking both ways over your shoulder,
Because sometimes you feel thirty years younger and sometimes
thirty years older.
Now you begin to realize who it was that reached the height of
It was whoever said that grandparents have all the fun and none of
the responsibility.
This is the most enticing spiderwebs of a tarradiddle ever spun,
Because everybody would love to have a baby around who was no
responsibility and lots of fun,
But I can think of no one but a mooncalf or a gaby
Who would trust their own child to raise a baby.
So you have to personally superintend your grandchild from diapers
to pants and from bottle to spoon,
Because you know that your own child hasn't sense enough to come
in out of a typhoon.
You don't have to live forever to become a grampa, but if you do
want to live forever,
Don't try to be clever;
If you wish to reach the end of the trail with an uncut throat,
Don't go around saying Quote I don't mind being a grampa but I
hate being married to a gramma Unquote.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"Greenback Dollar" - by Hoyt Axton

Hoyt Axton

"Greenback Dollar"
Hoyt Axton (1938 - 1999)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Boring No More" - by Todd Domke

Todd Domke

Boring No More
How Tim Pawlenty can win the GOP nomination
By Todd Domke *

[Second in a series of scenarios on how GOP presidential candidates could win the nomination]


IT’S SIX months from now - shortly before the New Hampshire primary.

Looking through a two-way mirror, Tim Pawlenty and his strategist observe a focus group.

A pollster asks the voters to describe Pawlenty. They answer: “Boring.’’ “Reminds me of a dentist.’’ “Soft white bread, with mayo.’’

Pawlenty turns to his strategist. “Why did you want me to watch? Shock therapy?’’

The strategist smiles. “It’s too late for that. You are what you are.’’ He puts a DVD in his laptop. “Before we talk strategy, let’s review our TV spots.’’

They view the fast-paced slick spots, ending with Pawlenty on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Pawlenty chuckles. “Eye candy.’’

“No, brain freeze. Voters see you as boring, no matter what we advertise. We tried selling your accomplishments as governor of Minnesota. We tried going negative, like the spot morphing Jimmy Carter into President Obama. Nothing has worked.’’

“What can we do?’’

“Well, everyone thinks you’d make a great vice president.’’

“Don’t be defeatist. We still have a prime-time debate tomorrow.’’

“That’s a good time to take a dive. Don’t criticize anyone who might need a running mate.’’

Tim Pawlenty

Late that night. . . The depressed candidate is alone in his dark motel room. He flips through TV channels, catching some talk shows. The pundits are merciless. “Pawlenty is the walking dead.’’ Click. “Pawlenty is a broke joke.’’ Click.

Pawlenty tries movie channels. He stops on “Network,’’ the satirical film about a TV network struggling with poor ratings. Howard Beale, the news anchor, launches into his on-air rant . . .

“We all know things are bad - worse than bad - they’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms . . .’ Well, I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad! . . . I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!!’ ’’

Pawlenty’s eyes are bulging. He looks hypnotized.

The next evening. . . Standing at their debate podiums, all the candidates are wearing dark blue. Except Pawlenty. He’s in a gray raincoat, white turtleneck, and sandals, with matted hair and puffy eyes.

Early in the CNN debate, moderator John King shows video from a 2011 debate when he asked candidates if they preferred Coke or Pepsi. “Well, has anyone changed positions?’’

Mitt Romney: “Actually, I like both.’’

Ron Paul: “I keep a stash of RC Cola -’’

“Silence!!’’ Pawlenty cries. “We are candidates for the most powerful office in the world. We shouldn’t jump through hoops. Mr. King, I have news for you: This isn’t a circus. Our country is sliding into mediocrity and bankruptcy, yet we amuse ourselves to death. We’re losing our manufacturing and falling behind in education. Our elites have failed us! And you people at home, you’re part of the problem. You hear ‘millions, billions, trillions’ and wonder: what’s the difference? You believe in magic, not math. Fools! This isn’t a reality show!’’

The moderator interrupts, “Sorry, your time is up. Next question: Quiche or Hot Pockets?’’

Pawlenty shouts: “No more trivia!! It’s time for the god-awful truth. . .’’ His rant continues several minutes, until security guards escort him off stage.

After the debate, a televised focus group expresses overwhelming approval of his outburst.

Talk shows talk of nothing else. Bill O’Reilly: “He’s like an Old Testament prophet. Gloom, doom, hellfire, damnation, righteous outrage - what’s not to like?’’ Chris Matthews: “He might be certifiably crazy, but he gave me a tingle.’’ Ann Coulter: “Pawlenty bared his soul. Braver still, he was bare-faced; he wore no makeup. He’s fearless.’’

“The Pawlenty rant’’ goes viral.

Election Day. . . In New Hampshire, independent voters swarm into the Republican primary.

At Pawlenty’s victory party he declares: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not boring anymore!’’

* Todd Domke is a Boston-area Republican political analyst, public relations strategist, and author. This article was from Boston Globe of 04/11/2011.
© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.