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 ! *

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

As Time Goes By - by TPO


Regarding aging ...
a few things to ponder (truths from humor) ...

1 - "When I was a boy, the Dead Sea was only sick."  - George Burns

2 - "Middle age is when your age starts showing around your middle."  - Bob Hope

3 - "Age is a case of mind over matter.  If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."  - Jack Benny

4 - "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils."  - Hector Louis Berlioz

5 - " Never take life seriously.  Nobody gets out alive anyway."  - Anonymous

6 -" May Your Life Be Like Arithmetic:
       Joys Added,
       Sorrows Subtracted,
       Friends Multiplied,
       Love Un-Divided."   - Anonymous

Saturday, July 28, 2012

"An Die Musik" - by Franz Peter Schubert

Franz P. Schubert

Ian Bostridge

"An Die Musik" - D. 547 (Op. 88/4)
by Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828)

Tenor: Ian Bostridge

Piano:  Julius Drake

"An Die Musik"* - D. 547 (Op. 88/4)

Du holde Kunst, in wieviel grauen Stunden,
Wo mich des Lebens wilder Kreis umstrickt,
Hast du mein Herz zu warmer Lieb' entzunden,
Hast mich in eine beßre Welt entrückt!

[In eine beßre Welt entrückt ...]

Oft hat ein Seufzer, deiner Harf' entflossen,
Ein süßer, heiliger Akkord von dir
Den Himmel beßrer Zeiten mir erschlossen,
Du holde Kunst, ich danke dir dafür!

[Du holde Kunst, ich danke dir ...]

* (text from poem by Franz von Schober)

"To Music" 
Oh gracious Art, in how many grey hours,
When life's fierce orbit ensnared me,
Have you kindled my heart to warm love,
Transfigured me into a better world!

How often has a sigh escaping from your harp,
A sweet, a sacred harmony of yours
Thrown open the heaven of better times,
Oh gracious Art, for that I thank you!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Milk Is For Cows! - TPO

Got Milk? You Don’t Need It
New York Times / Opinion
July 7, 2012

Drinking milk is as American as Mom and apple pie. Until not long ago, Americans were encouraged not only by the lobbying group called the American Dairy Association but by parents, doctors and teachers to drink four 8-ounce glasses of milk, “nature’s perfect food,” every day. That’s two pounds! We don’t consume two pounds a day of anything else; even our per capita soda consumption is “only” a pound a day.

Today the Department of Agriculture’s recommendation for dairy is a mere three cups daily — still 1½ pounds by weight — for every man, woman and child over age 9. This in a country where as many as 50 million people are lactose intolerant, including 90 percent of all Asian-Americans and 75 percent of all African-Americans, Mexican-Americans and Jews. The myplate.gov site helpfully suggests that those people drink lactose-free beverages. (To its credit, it now counts soy milk as “dairy.”)

There’s no mention of water, which is truly nature’s perfect beverage; the site simply encourages us to switch to low-fat milk. But, says Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “Sugar — in the form of lactose — contributes about 55 percent of skim milk’s calories, giving it ounce for ounce the same calorie load as soda.”

O.K., dairy products contain nutrients, and for those who like them, a serving or two daily is probably fine. (Worth noting: they’re far more easily digested as yogurt or cheese than as fluid milk.) But in addition to intolerance, there’s a milk allergy — the second most common food allergy after peanuts, affecting an estimated 1.3 million children — that can be life-threatening.

Other conditions are not easily classified, and I have one of those. When I was growing up, drinking milk at every meal, I had a chronic upset stomach. (Channeling my inner Woody Allen, I’ll note that I was therefore treated as a neurotic, which, in fairness, I was anyway.) In adolescence, this became chronic heartburn, trendily known as GERD or acid reflux, and that led to a lifelong Tums habit (favorite flavor: wintergreen) and an adult dependence on Prevacid, a proton-pump inhibitor. Which, my gastroenterologist assured me, is benign. (Wrong.)

Fortunately my long-term general practitioner, Sidney M. Baker, author of “Detoxification and Healing,” insisted that I make every attempt to break the Prevacid addiction.  Thus followed a seven-year period of trials of various “cures,” including licorice pills, lemon juice, antibiotics, famotidine (Pepcid) and almost anything else that might give my poor, sore esophagus some relief. At some point, Dr. Baker  suggested that despite my omnivorous diet I consider a “vacation” from various foods.

So, three months ago, I decided to give up dairy products as a test. Twenty-four hours later, my heartburn was gone. Never, it seems, to return. In fact, I can devour linguine puttanesca (with anchovies) and go to bed an hour later; fellow heartburn sufferers will be impressed. Perhaps equally impressive is that I mentioned this to a friend who had the same problem, tried the same approach, and had the same results. Presto! No dairy, no heartburn! (A third had no success. Hey, it’s not a controlled double-blind experiment, but there is no downside to trying it.)

Conditions like mine are barely on the radar. Although treating heartburn is a business worth more than $10 billion a year, the solution may be as simple as laying off dairy. (Which, need I point out, is free.) What’s clear is that the widespread existence of lactose intolerance, says Dr. Baker, is “a pretty good sign that we’ve evolved to drink human milk when we’re babies but have no need for the milk of any animals. And no matter what you call a chronic dairy problem — milk allergy, milk intolerance, lactose intolerance — the action is the same: avoid all foods derived from milk for at least five days and see what happens.”

Adds Dr. Barnard, “It’s worth noting that milk and other dairy products are our biggest source of saturated fat, and there are very credible links between dairy consumption and both Type 1 diabetes and the most dangerous form of prostate cancer.” Then, of course, there are our 9 million dairy cows, most of whom live tortured, miserable lives while making a significant contribution to greenhouse gases.

But what about the bucolic cow on the family farm? What about bone density and osteoporosis? What about Mom, and apple pie?

Mom: Don’t know about yours, but mine’s doing pretty well. Apple pie (best made with one crust, plenty of apples) will be fine.

But the bucolic cow and family farm barely exist: “Given the Kafkaesque federal milk marketing order system, it’s impossible for anyone to make a living producing and selling milk,” says Anne Mendelson, author of “Milk.” “The exceptions are the very largest dairy farms, factory operations with anything from 10,000 to 30,000 cows, which can exploit the system, and the few small farmers who can opt out of it and sell directly to an assured market, and who can afford the luxury of treating the animals decently.”

Osteoporosis? You don’t need milk, or large amounts of calcium, for bone integrity. In fact, the rate of fractures is highest in milk-drinking countries, and it turns out that the keys to bone strength are lifelong exercise and vitamin D, which you can get from sunshine. Most humans never tasted fresh milk from any source other than their mother for almost all of human history, and fresh  cow’s milk could not be routinely available to urbanites without industrial production. The federal government not only supports the milk industry by spending more money on dairy than any other item in the school lunch program, but by contributing free propaganda as well as subsidies amounting to well over $4 billion in the last 10 years.

There’s nothing un-American about re-evaluating those commitments with an eye toward sensibility. Meanwhile, pass the water.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Tout" - Lara Fabian

Lara Fabian

Lara Fabian (1970 -)

Tout, tout
Tout est fini entre nous
J'ai plus la force du tout
d'y croire et d'espérer
Tout, tout
À présent, je te dis tout
De ce vide entre nous
De tes mains désabusées
Tout, Tout ce qui nous unit
Tout ce qui nous détruit au corps
Est à présent fini
Tout ces moments indécis
Ces instants incompris s'écrivent
Au passé aujourd'hui...c'est fini...
Nous, On était pas comme les autres,
On décidait d'être entre autres
Les plus forts, les plus fous
Nous on avait rien à prouver
Nous on avait rien à gâcher
Sauf notre liberté
Nous, on a rien vu passer
Rien vu se déchirer
Pas même la force de ces années
Nous , on a joué le tout pour le tout
On s'est dis on s'en fout
On a l'univers rien qu'à nous
On a tout
Sors, sors
De mon sang, de mon corps
Sors, toi qui me gardes encore
Au creux de tes regrets
Parles, parles
Dis-le moi sans trembler
Que t'en a plus rien à cirer
Parles, pleures et je comprendrai
Tu sais, Tu sais que je peux tout entendre
Partir rester ou même me rendre
Que le ciel là-haut m'entende
Tout, tout, tout est fini entre nous,
J'ai plus la force du tout d'y croire et d'espérer
Tout, tout, tout est fini entre nous,
mais je garde l'espoir fou qu'un jour on redira


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

To Life - by Thomas Hardy

To Life
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

O life with the sad seared face,
I weary of seeing thee,
And thy draggled cloak, and thy hobbling pace,
And thy too-forced pleasantry!

I know what thou would'st tell
Of Death, Time, Destiny -
I have known it long, and know, too, well
What it all means for me.

But canst thou not array
Thyself in rare disguise,
And feign like truth, for one mad day,
That Earth is Paradise?

I'll tune me to the mood,
And mumm with thee till eve;
And maybe what as interlude
I feign, I shall believe!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Everything Is Clear Now! - [thanks to] A. Borowitz

Everything Is Clear Now!

[thanks to] Andy Borowitz -  The Borowitz Report  *

In a new effort to settle nagging questions about his finances, Republican Presidential pick Mitt Romney today told reporters that his dog ate his tax returns and also served as C.E.O. of Bain Capital from 1999 to 2002.

Mr. Romney’s narrative about the Irish setter Seamus Romney, shared with reporters during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, was perhaps the most emotional invocation of a pet by a politician since Richard M. Nixon’s famed Checkers speech of 1952.

“Seamus was more than a dog,” Mr. Romney said, his voice beginning to quaver. “As C.E.O. of Bain, he was a job creator.”

But Mr. Romney’s revelations about his dog’s career in private equity may have raised more questions than it answered, as a spokesperson for People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) questioned the G.O.P. candidate’s latest version of events.

“If we are to believe Mitt Romney, in 2002 while Seamus was supposedly running Bain Capital he would have been at least 140 years old [in dog years],” said PETA’s Carol Foyler. “This shaggy-dog story represents Mitt Romney’s latest act of animal cruelty.”

Minutes after PETA’s response, Mr. Romney released an amended statement, saying that Seamus Romney had served as C.E.O. of Bain “posthumously.”

It was a quieter day for Mr. Romney’s wife Ann, who, after her “you people” gaffe on ABC’s “Good Morning America” yesterday, was seen riding home on the roof of Mr. Romney’s car.

* Source: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport


Friday, July 20, 2012

Why I Will Vote for Mitt - by PB of Manlius, NY

graphics by Henock  (click to enlarge)

Why I Will Vote for Mitt:
PB of Manlius, NY

1. I don't think rich people should pay taxes since they create all these jobs we don't have, and I don't want to pay any taxes either.

2. I miss the neocons like John Bolton and can't wait for that long-promised war with Iran--if not Iran, I am sure the neocons & military contractors can find an alternative venue for another war or two.

3. Mitt hates the government and so do I. We don't need the EPA, FDA, SS, Medicare, Medicaid, consumer protection, any gun laws, roads, bridges, schools (I hated school), etc. All we need is a big macho military with big weapons and a place to use them (see #2).

4. Mitt is tough and isn't one of those wishy-washy, kind, empathy types--like he really didn't care that he strapped his old dog to the car roof for that fun-filled family vacation, and he LIKES firing people. Just the kind of guy we need to set America straight.

5. Mitt does not bog himself down with truth or reality. After all, he's never lived in reality anyway, and truth is way too difficult to figure out. Whatever!

6. Mitt does not favor separation of church and state; he will give us that Christian theocracy some of us have been clamoring for. So you gals can forget all about the contraception stuff and controlling your own bodies.

7. We need more political Supreme Court Justices like that funny guy Scalia who does as he pleases and doesn't let all that constitutional legal stuff and settled law get in the way of his personal opinions.

Go Mitt!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Governmentium ?! - by TPO

New Periodic Table Element Discovered *
--------------- // -----------------
Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2 – 6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each re-organization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

* Source: newparadigmdigest.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"To boldly go ..." - by TPO

Unfiltered from Here and There (***)
compiled by

*** Warning:  This posting is suited for mature readers only.

There are these three guys. One is on his way up a hill to get to the local house of ill-repute. One is already there at the house, and the third is on his way down the hill away from the bordello. 
What are the nationalities of these three guys?

The guy on his way up the hill : Russian.
The guy in the whore house : Himalayan.
And the guy on his way down the hill : Finnish.


For almost all of my single life, I had belonged to the Lutheran Church.

But when I married my wife, I converted to her church, which at that time was called the Reformed Lutheran Church of America.  In order to be an accepted member, I had to attend classes first.

At one of the first sessions, the Minister conducting the class
asked, "What must we do before we can expect forgiveness from sin?"

I replied, perhaps too quickly, "Sin ???"


Answers to questions in school ...

Q. How can you delay milk turning sour?
A. Keep it in the cow.

Q. What does ‘varicose’ mean?
A. Nearby.

Q. What guarantees may a mortgage company insist on?
A. If you are buying a house they will insist that you are well endowed.

Q. What is a seizure?
A. A Roman Emperor.


From American courts as recorded by court reporters ...

ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there.

ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS: We both do.
WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.

ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: He’s twenty, much like your IQ.

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Take a guess.

ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Are you shitting me?

Monday, July 16, 2012

The 'Busy' Trap - by Tim Kreider

The ‘Busy’ Trap  [Anxiety]**

By Tim Kreider

NY Times / The Opinionator

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this; it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs  who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

Even children are busy now, scheduled down to the half-hour with classes and extracurricular activities. They come home at the end of the day as tired as grown-ups. I was a member of the latchkey generation and had three hours of totally unstructured, largely unsupervised time every afternoon, time I used to do everything from surfing the World Book Encyclopedia to making animated films to getting together with friends in the woods to chuck dirt clods directly into one another’s eyes, all of which provided me with important skills and insights that remain valuable to this day. Those free hours became the model for how I wanted to live the rest of my life.

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. Not long ago I  Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night. She has a boyfriend again. (She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”) What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. I once knew a woman who interned at a magazine where she wasn’t allowed to take lunch hours out, lest she be urgently needed for some reason. This was an entertainment magazine whose raison d’être was obviated when “menu” buttons appeared on remotes, so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won’t maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the Met or ogle girls in Central Park or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, what time?

But just in the last few months, I’ve insidiously started, because of professional obligations, to become busy. For the first time I was able to tell people, with a straight face, that I was “too busy” to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. I could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon. Except that I hate actually being busy. Every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve. It got more and more intolerable until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I’m writing this.

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I’ve remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars. I read. And I’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write “Childhood’s End” and think up communications satellites. My old colleague Ted Rall recently wrote a column proposing that we divorce income from work and give each citizen a guaranteed paycheck, which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that’ll be considered a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage and eight-hour workdays. The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment.

Perhaps the world would soon slide to ruin if everyone behaved as I do. But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s endless frenetic hustle. My role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play. My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.

Tim Kreider is the author of “We Learn Nothing,” a collection of essays and cartoons. His cartoon, “The Pain — When Will It End?” has been collected in three books by Fantagraphics. 

** TPO thinks this article should have been titled:  In Praise of Idleness. 


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The America Effect - by Rob Asghar


The 'America effect': How immigrants fall crazy in love
By Rob Asghar*
Christian Science Monitor / July 4, 2012

 [Immigrants' passion for America warps plans and bends dreams. My Pakistani parents realized that America changed their approach to life, just as it has changed everything else it has touched. American freedom is even helping (slowly) moderate latter-day Islam.]
My father left a mud-hut village in Pakistan to come to America, hoping to receive some technical training. He hadn’t counted on falling for America, but that’s what happens to unsuspecting visitors. And the world is becoming a better place for it.
Dad enrolled at North Carolina State University more than 50 years ago and earned an engineering degree. On a brief return to Pakistan, he met my mother at a wedding – their own. As you might have guessed, it was an arranged marriage.
The prefabricated couple decided to spend “just a few years’’ in the United States because of the job opportunities here. But they took on more of America than they had bargained for.
That immigrant passion for America was first described to me by a university president who noticed that foreign students are susceptible to a peculiar effect that warps their plans and bends their dreams. If they return to their homeland, they wish it were more like America, and will work to make it so. Often they choose not to go home, or choose to return to America after a while.
Once you’re crazy in love with America, you begin to see life in a cockeyed manner, even if you try to resist it. You begin to believe you can pen the script of your own life, instead of allowing your family or your culture to write it for you. You sulk on your visits back home that life there is too corrupt or inefficient or limiting.
And while you’re concerned about that legendary permissiveness in America, you also sense that these Americans aren’t overly uptight, and something feels right about that. And when your children begin to drift from your heritage, as was the case with me and my father’s other children, you might stay awake late fuming about this country, but you suspect your destiny is tied inextricably with it.
That drifting involves a certain liberty, which has its roots all the way back to the settlement of this country by seekers of religious freedom. That basic value, fought and died for, has protected freedom of conscience to worship – or not – as one will.
Similarly, that freedom is helping (slowly) moderate latter-day Islam, as Gallup and Pew polls of Muslim-Americans have shown.

America, stunningly, hasn’t witnessed a major terrorist incident succeed on its soil since 9/11. This may be due to luck, prayer, and outstanding work on the part of government workers; but there is another reason that would-be terrorists have failed to make a dent here since that black September day.

“A lot of these guys lose the jihadi, desert spirit,’’ an intelligence agent told Newsweek a few years ago. “They get families, they get jobs and they lose the fire in the belly. Welcome to America.”

Welcome, indeed.

My parents rued that my older brother and I were growing up “much less Pakistani’’ than they’d hoped, but they made peace with it.

Still, they tried another strategy with their youngest son, sending him to Islamabad to be immersed in their traditional values. In an eerie recapitulation, he decided to come to the US for an education. He returned briefly to Pakistan to take part in an arranged marriage, brought his bride to the United States hoping to spend “just a few years” establishing a career as a physician, and well, you know the rest.

He and his wife realized they’re here to stay. They hear me talk about the idea of an “America effect” and they nod. They have caught it, or it has caught them.

Their bright-eyed young daughters, 10 and 7, already display a happy and productive tension between traditional Pakistani values and American individualism. Puberty and adulthood will add to the tension, and will keep their parents awake at night. Their parents will second-guess why they didn’t whisk their girls back to Pakistan when they had the chance. And then, like my father before them, they will remember that crazy love that America inspires.

After navigating those teenage icebergs, they will find that America changed their approach to life, just as it has changed everything else it has touched. They will see that America gave their traditions the slack they needed to adapt to a new era.

They will be grateful for America, and so, increasingly, will the rest of the world. __________________________________________

* Rob Asghar is a university fellow at the University of Southern California’s Center for Public Diplomacy and a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Romney's Gift" to Obama - by Joan Vennochi


Mitt Romney on a jet ski — the GOP candidate’s Kerry moment?
Joan Vennochi *
Boston Globe / Opinion
July 05, 2012
    The last thing Mitt Romney needs is a John Kerry moment that conjures up F. Scott  Fitzgerald’s description of the very rich: “They are different from you and me.

But like an early Independence Day gift to Democrats, there it was: the image of a grinning Mitt and wife, Ann, enjoying a perfect summer day on a jet ski on Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro, N.H., where the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee owns a lust-inducing lakefront vacation home. The photo of the contented pair skimming joyfully over the water is a natural bridge to the next, less-quoted, line from Fitzgerald’s 1926 short story, “The Rich Boy”: “They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.”

Romney would say he was born comfortable, and not as rich as he became from investing in struggling companies, and making millions whether they lived or died. But, during a slow holiday news week, the photo was featured in newspapers and websites, including the Romney-friendly Drudge Report. It was quickly compared with a September 2004 shot of Kerry windsurfing off Nantucket, tacking back and forth in the gusty air. Back then, Republicans swiftly turned the footage of the Democratic presidential nominee, which was also taken by news crews, into a deadly campaign spot that hit on two levels. It showed a candidate in an elite setting, engaged in a sport not considered a touchstone for the common man or woman. It also reminded voters of Kerry’s propensity for shifting with political winds.

More average Americans may jet ski on Lake Winnipesaukee than wind surf off Nantucket.

Still, the Romney vacation picture gives Team Obama a visual to go along with its attacks on the candidate’s business record at Bain Capital. As reported by ABC’s “The Note,” the super PAC supporting Obama has already spent $10 million in Bain-related ads that have run in five major battleground states. Polling shows they are working, with Obama pulling ahead. The basic theme is that if Romney wins, the middle class loses. Vanity Fair picks up the anti-Bain theme in an upcoming article which, according to the magazine, “delves into the murky world of offshore finance, revealing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to skirt tax laws” and raises questions about the extent of Romney’s offshore investments.

From Team Obama’s perspective, the goal is to get average voters to question Romney’s ability to feel their pain and raise uncertainty about the true focus of a Romney administration. Will it be on people like them, or super-wealthy people like Romney?

There’s a substantial list of Romney primary season quotes that play to the theme of an out-of-touch rich guy whose renovation of a La Jolla beach house includes a two-level, four-car garage, car elevator included. He once tried to relate to unemployed Floridians by telling them, “I’m also unemployed.” He offered to make a $10,000 bet with Texas Governor Rick Perry. He also said he isn’t concerned about “the very poor” because “we have a safety net there.” The candidate has yet to explain how he will retain what’s left of an already-tattered safety net, given his zeal to simultaneously reduce the deficit and taxes on the rich.

Romney recently dismissed the suggestion that voters may perceive him as just another “successful rich guy,” as a Fox interviewer put it. As Romney rightly pointed out, Democrats like FDR and JFK were also rich. “This is not a nation that divides people based on whether they’ve been successful or not,” he added. “We don’t say, ‘Oh, boy, this person won the lottery and therefore they can’t understand me.’ ”

As the Romney jet-ski photo made the rounds, it was reported that Obama and his family would not be vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard this summer, as they have in the past. Obama’s reelection campaign fans classic themes of class warfare and pits the “have-nots” against the “haves.” Avoiding an island known for its embrace of wealthy, pampered liberal “haves” is an obvious political call.

In politics, visuals matter. And in presidential politics, perception matters even more.

* Joan Vennochi is a regular Opinion writer at Boston Globe.


Monday, July 2, 2012

No Zombie Apocalypse? - by Karin Klein

No zombie apocalypse? Not today, anyway
By Karin Klein
Los Angeles Times / Opinion
June 4, 2012

You can relax now. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has officially announced that a zombie apocalypse is not upon us. The CDC included this assurance in an email to the Huffington Post, adding that there isn't even a virus making the rounds that turns people into zombies.

Sure there isn't.

After all, anyone who follows the world's worst weird news as reported on the Internet has these cases among the horrifying reports of late: A naked man in Florida attacked an elderly homeless man and ate much of his face off. A Maryland college student admitted to killing his housemate and eating parts of the bod. For some people, that brought up memories of a 3-year-old case in which a Texas mother allegedly killed her own baby and ate part of his brain.

Terrible stuff, indeed. And the timing comes as pop culture turns from vampire stories to zombies and begins to see the flesh-eaters as a source of comedy as well as horror. In the 2009 movie "Zombieland," Jesse Eisenberg offers helpful zombie survival rules, such as building cardiovascular fitness and avoiding bathrooms. The 2006 novel "World War Z," soon to be a film starring Brad Pitt, mocks military strategic error with its "oral history" of the fateful and fatal Battle of Yonkers.

Internet chatter and speculation about the real-life recent events were inevitable, but why did the CDC find that chatter worthy of addressing? Because, inexplicably, the Huffington Post found it worthy of asking the CDC. Maybe that in turn was prompted by the agency's online comic book on preparing for a zombie pandemic. After all, the things you might want in case of a fire, earthquake, hurricane or the like -- food, water, a plan for safely exiting the house -- would also be necessities in the case of a zombie virus, don't you think?

But then, if there were a zombie pandemic, would we really expect the CDC to tell us right away, or send out an announcement that everyone should remain calm?