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 ! *

Friday, September 28, 2012

Junot Diaz's Facinating Interview with MPR - TPO

Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz

(Interview by MPR's Talking Volumes)

Short bio ...*
 Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey, Junot Díaz lives in New York City and is a professor of creative writing at MIT. His first novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao", was greeted with rapturous reviews, including Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times calling it "a book that decisively establishes him as one of contemporary fiction's most distinctive and irresistible new voices." It won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
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* Source: minnesotapublicradio.org/talking_volumes

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Republicans' Insouciance - Paul Krugman

Republican disdain - graphics by Henock  (click to enlarge)

"Disdain for Workers "


New York Times /Opinions (September 20, 2012)
By now everyone knows how Mitt Romney, speaking to donors in Boca Raton, washed his hands of almost half the country — the 47 percent who don’t pay income taxes — declaring, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” By now, also, many people are aware that the great bulk of the 47 percent are hardly moochers; most are working families who pay payroll taxes, and elderly or disabled Americans make up a majority of the rest. 
But here’s the question: Should we imagine that Mr. Romney and his party would think better of the 47 percent on learning that the great majority of them actually are or were hard workers, who very much have taken personal responsibility for their lives? And the answer is no. 

For the fact is that the modern Republican Party just doesn’t have much respect for people who work for other people, no matter how faithfully and well they do their jobs. All the party’s affection is reserved for “job creators,” a k a employers and investors. Leading figures in the party find it hard even to pretend to have any regard for ordinary working families — who, it goes without saying, make up the vast majority of Americans. 

Am I exaggerating? Consider the Twitter message sent out by Eric Cantor, the Republican House majority leader, on Labor Day — a holiday that specifically celebrates America’s workers. Here’s what it said, in its entirety: “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.” Yes, on a day set aside to honor workers, all Mr. Cantor could bring himself to do was praise their bosses. 

Lest you think that this was just a personal slip, consider Mr. Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. What did he have to say about American workers? Actually, nothing: the words “worker” or “workers” never passed his lips. This was in strong contrast to President Obama’s convention speech a week later, which put a lot of emphasis on workers — especially, of course, but not only, workers who benefited from the auto bailout. 

And when Mr. Romney waxed rhapsodic about the opportunities America offered to immigrants, he declared that they came in pursuit of “freedom to build a business.” What about those who came here not to found businesses, but simply to make an honest living? Not worth mentioning. 

Needless to say, the G.O.P.’s disdain for workers goes deeper than rhetoric. It’s deeply embedded in the party’s policy priorities. Mr. Romney’s remarks spoke to a widespread belief on the right that taxes on working Americans are, if anything, too low. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal famously described low-income workers whose wages fall below the income-tax threshold as “lucky duckies.” 

What really needs cutting, the right believes, are taxes on corporate profits, capital gains, dividends, and very high salaries — that is, taxes that fall on investors and executives, not ordinary workers. This despite the fact that people who derive their income from investments, not wages — people like, say, Willard Mitt Romney — already pay remarkably little in taxes. 

Where does this disdain for workers come from? Some of it, obviously, reflects the influence of money in politics: big-money donors, like the ones Mr. Romney was speaking to when he went off on half the nation, don’t live paycheck to paycheck. But it also reflects the extent to which the G.O.P. has been taken over by an Ayn Rand-type vision of society, in which a handful of heroic businessmen are responsible for all economic good, while the rest of us are just along for the ride. 

In the eyes of those who share this vision, the wealthy deserve special treatment, and not just in the form of low taxes. They must also receive respect, indeed deference, at all times. That’s why even the slightest hint from the president that the rich might not be all that — that, say, some bankers may have behaved badly, or that even “job creators” depend on government-built infrastructure — elicits frantic cries that Mr. Obama is a socialist. 

Now, such sentiments aren’t new; “Atlas Shrugged” was, after all, published in 1957. In the past, however, even Republican politicians who privately shared the elite’s contempt for the masses knew enough to keep it to themselves and managed to fake some appreciation for ordinary workers. At this point, however, the party’s contempt for the working class is apparently too complete, too pervasive to hide. 

The point is that what people are now calling the Boca Moment wasn’t some trivial gaffe. It was a window into the true attitudes of what has become a party of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy, a party that considers the rest of us unworthy of even a pretense of respect.

This and That - by Anonymous

inbred (in bread) !
This and That
by Anonymous *

An attractive woman from New York was driving through a remote part of Texas when her car broke down. An Indian on horseback came along and offered her a ride to a nearby town. She climbed up behind him on the horse and they rode off. The ride was uneventful except that every few minutes the Indian would let out a whoop so loud that it would echo from the surrounding hills.

When they arrived in town, he let her off at the local service station, yelled one final, "Yahoo!" and rode off.

"What did you do to get that Indian so excited?" asked the service station attendant.

"Nothing," shrugged the woman, "I merely sat behind him on the horse, put my arms around his waist, and held onto his saddle horn so I wouldn't fall off."

"Lady," the attendant said, "Indians ride bareback..."

Quick Thinker
A businessman boards a flight and is lucky enough to be seated next to an absolutely gorgeous woman. They exchange brief hellos and he notices she is reading a manual about sexual statistics.

He asks her about it and she replies, "This is a very interesting book about sexual statistics. It identifies that American Indians have the longest average penis and Polish men have the biggest average diameter. By the way, my name is Jill. What's yours?"

He coolly replies, "Tonto Kowalski, nice to meet you."

Five Reasons Computers Must Be Female
I. No one but their creator understands their internal logic.

II. Even your smallest mistakes are immediately committed to memory for future reference.

III. The native language used to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else.

IV. The message, "Bad command or filename," is about as informative as "If you don't know why I'm mad at you, then I'm certainly not going to tell you."

V. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.
*source: buzzle.com 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bette Davis Eyes - by Kim Carnes

Bette Davis Eyes

by Kim Carnes *
* From Wiki entry on Kim Carnes:
Bette Davis admitted to being a fan of the song and approached Carnes and the songwriters to thank them. Davis wrote to Carnes after the song was released [in 1981] saying she loved the song. "It was a thrill to become a part of the rock generation", she said in her memoir, This 'N That. Davis' grandson, Ashley, told the screen legend she had "finally made it". Carnes and Davis struck up a special friendship, with the singer visiting her at her home several times until her 1989 death. In what she considers a career highlight, Carnes performed the song live for Davis at a tribute to the legendary actress held just before her death.

Meet Little Larry - by Anonymous

Larry, the brat
 Meet Little Larry!
by Anonymous

A new teacher was trying to make use of her psychology courses. She started her class by saying, “Everyone who thinks they're stupid, stand up!”
After a few seconds, Little Larry stood up.
The teacher said, “Do you think you're stupid, Larry?”
“No, ma'am, but I hate to see you standing there all by yourself!”
Larry watched, fascinated, as his mother smoothed cold cream on her face. “Why do you do that, mommy?” he asked.
 “To make myself beautiful,” said his mother, who then began removing the cream with a tissue.
“What's the matter,” asked Larry, “Giving up?”
The math teacher saw that Larry wasn't paying attention in class. She called on him and said, “Larry! What are 2 and 4 and 28 and 44?”
Larry quickly replied, “NBC, FOX, ESPN and the Cartoon Network!”
Larry's kindergarten class was on a field trip to their local police station where they saw pictures tacked to a bulletin board of the 10 most wanted criminals. One of the youngsters pointed to a picture and asked if it really was the photo of a wanted person.
 “Yes,” said the policeman. “The detectives want very badly to capture him.”
Larry asked, “Why didn't you keep him when you took his picture?”
Little Larry attended a horse auction with his father. He watched as his father moved from horse to horse, running his hands up and down the horse's legs and rump, and chest. After a few minutes, Larry asked, “Dad, why are you doing that?”
His father replied, “Because when I'm buying horses, I have to make sure that they are healthy and in good shape before I buy.”
Larry, looking worried, said, “Dad, I think the UPS guy wants to buy Mom...”

__________________________The End.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"I'm Dreaming of a ..." - by Randy Newman

Randy Newman

"I'm Dreaming of a White President"
(a political and satirical song)
by Randy Newman

Excerpts fron Randy Newman's Interview with SLATE
[on the satirical song]
Slate: You’ve said that one thing that inspired you to write this song is the thought that, “there are a lot of people who don’t want a black person in the White House and they want him out.” To put it bluntly, how do you know?

Newman: Well, I don’t know, partly because no one, and I mean no one, would admit feeling that way. Still, it’s clear that there are lots of people out there who are uncomfortable. The Civil War was a long time ago but there are aspects of it that remain unsettled, I think. Early on in Obama’s term, there was heat generated by issues that you wouldn’t think would cause such passion. Even the term “Obamacare,” the way it’s spit out, like he was some kind of witch doctor. Maybe I’m overly sensitive to the issue, but I don’t think so. There’s an edge to things that normally wouldn’t have an edge. I thought it was a little extra.

Slate: Did you have Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby in mind when you were writing the song?

Newman: Not them specifically, but maybe the America they represent. Oddly enough, I did a version of Faust years ago, and the vision of God I had in my mind was George Romney. He looks like what God would look like to me. That wide-open, beautiful face. That’s what I see when I picture him. The idea was that the devil always worked real hard and the Lord always beat him, and he just couldn’t understand it. And Romney is the guy I had in mind for that. He just looks so great.


[On race and racism]
Slate: ..., it seems that you and a few of your colleagues are getting pretty fed up. Is this a trend?

Newman: I’m not sure about a trend, but for me it’s a reaction to the Republican Party, which seems to have drifted farther to the right than a major party has drifted in my lifetime in any direction. It seems to have become almost a radical party. The hate and… I don’t think it’ll last. That kind of thing doesn’t seem to last.

Slate: You’re releasing “I’m Dreaming” free of charge, but you’re encouraging listeners to donate to the United Negro College Fund. Why that particular cause?

Newman: I have some concern that kids will hear this and think, “What is he talking about?” If you have a kid and you try irony out on them, they don’t get it at 7, 8 years old. “What do you mean, you’re dreaming of a white president?” It’s a problem. You can’t really hide the Internet from kids. It worries me some particularly because I’ve done Disney and Pixar stuff.  

The Republican Folly! - by TPO

The Republican Folly!
It is now confirmed.  The Republicans are clearly on an uncompromising path to their own doom.
They are a party of rigid ideologues who have abandoned all notions of political pragmatism or common sense that are necessary for public acceptance.  There is no progressivism in American conservatism any more … it is all reactionary, and it is all negative.

What do republicans worship now?  Answer: Objectification ! *

Thomas B. Edsall says in a NY Times opinion piece (“Other people’s Suffering”, March 4, 2012) ...

" For power holders, the world is viewed through an instrumental lens, and approach is directed toward those individuals who populate the useful parts of the landscape. Our results suggest that power not only channels its possessor’s energy toward goal completion but also targets and attempts to harness the energy of useful others. Thus, power appears to be a great facilitator of goal pursuit through a combination of intrapersonal and interpersonal processes. The nature of the power holder’s goals and interpersonal relationships ultimately determine how power is harnessed and what is accomplished in the end.
Republicans recognize the political usefulness of objectification, capitalizing on 'compassion- fatigue,' or the exhaustion of empathy, among large swathes of the electorate who are already stressed by the economic collapse of 2008, high levels of unemployment, an epidemic of foreclosures, stagnant wages and a hyper-competitive business arena."

Emphatically, we can state that Republicans see no irony or hypocrisy in what they are espousing. For example:

-    They abhor and want to do away with all forms of social welfare mechanisms that have been crucial safety nets for many people in this country.  Paul Ryan has famously said that he thinks Social Security has become "a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency". As an avid Ayn Rand fan, it is certain that he is not thinking of reforming Social Security at all but of doing away with it. So, Ryan wants an 82 year old grandma to get off her lazy butt and get a job. But he himself has been "working" (?) for the government his entire life, he's never even had a real job!

-    At the same time, however, corporate welfare in the form of tax cuts, or government loans and bailouts is deemed acceptable.

-    Republicans want Government to get out of people’s lives.

-    But then again … Republicans want Government to have power, for example,  over a woman’s body when it comes to unwanted pregnancies. 

The Republicans’ world is the complete antithesis of what the Democrats have as a vision which is encapsulated in Bill Clinton’s words in Charlotte, NC, on September 5, 2012.  He said …

" We Democrats think the country works better with a strong middle class, real opportunities for poor people to work their way into it and a relentless focus on the future, with business and government working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. We think 'we're all in this together' is a better philosophy than 'you're on your own.'
Who's right? Well since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs. What's the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million! "

* Objectification : the ability to view others in instrumental terms has certain advantages in the corporate arena – advantages applicable to politics as well. [definition by Deborah H. Gruenfeld and Stanford School of Business colleagues in: ““Power and the Objectification of Social Targets.”] 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Le cassoulet ! ... Une guerre de goût !!

 Le cassoulet  - D'où vient-il ?

Pour beaucoup de gens, c'est un point d'honneur et de
fierté !!
(Juge vous-mêmes.) 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Profit-first Presidency" - by James Downie

Mitt Romney, Bain Capital and a ‘profit-first’ presidency
By James Downie *

[Early in June, 2012,] three different newspapers published three different articles about Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital. While each article looked at a different portion of Romney’s time at Bain, all three shared a consistent picture of how Mitt Romney’s approach to leadership, one that should remind voters just who will benefit from a Romney presidency. Hint: It won’t be the voters.

The first, from Friday’s Post, described how Romney’s Bain was an early supporter of companies that outsourced American jobs. “While Bain was not the largest player in the outsourcing field,” The Post reported, “the private equity firm was involved early on, at a time when the departure of jobs from the United States was beginning to accelerate and new companies were emerging as handmaidens to this outflow of employment.” That outsourcing damaged American job creation was no matter; Bain made its profit.

The second, in Saturday’s New York Times, outlined how, again and again, Romney’s Bain reaped revenue from companies even as they were failing. “At least seven [of the 40 U.S.-based companies that Bain held a majority stake in while Romney was active at Bain] eventually filed for bankruptcy while Bain remained involved, or shortly afterward .?.?. In some instances, hundreds of employees lost their jobs. In most of those cases, however, records and interviews suggest that Bain and its executives still found a way to make money.” In several of the bankruptcies, companies made their situation worse by borrowing more to return money to Bain and its investors. And even when both outside investors and the companies themselves failed to do well, “lucrative fees helped insulate Bain and its executives.” Again, Bain made its profit.

The third, and perhaps most damning article, came from Sunday’s Boston Globe, depicting Romney’s work with disgraced junk-bond king Michael Milken. In 1988, Romney was searching for money to finance a heavily-leveraged buyout of two small department store chains. “At the time of the deal, it was widely known that Milken and his company were under federal investigation” for insider trading and stock manipulation. Despite this, Romney and his partners, though, after personally meeting with Milken, went ahead with the deal. With financing from Milken’s shady business, Romney and Bain were able to make a $10 billion investment, not long before Milken was sentenced to 22 months in prison. Bain eventually profited to the tune of $175 million (although the merged department stores later went bankrupt, shortly after dumping its Bain-appointed chief executive). Sure, an important chunk of the financing may have come from questionable sources, but Bain made its profit.

The Romney these three articles portray is not new to us, but the common trait is nevertheless worth repeating. The Romney of Bain Capital had little time for anything beyond profits. Efficiency and the bottom line ruled. Who cared about the jobs lost, the livelihoods destroyed and the lines crossed, as long as Bain got its money?

While there is room for debate about the effect of Romney’s business approach on the health of the American economy, what’s important for the election is how Romney’s approach to running Bain translates to what he’d do as president. Politicians from both sides, but especially Republicans, declare time and again that government should be run like a business. (That running a government as a business ignores numerous principles of statecraft is of no concern to them.) There’s no reason to think Romney believes otherwise — observers of his political career agree Romney lies in the technocratic wing of the Republican Party. It is reasonable to conclude, then, that a Romney presidency would have as its top priority returning a profit for its investors.

Now, no doubt some voters will assure themselves that they are like the Bain investors: If they vote for Romney, he will get them their returns. But, particularly in this post-Citizens United world, the voters of America are not Bain’s investors; but the workers at companies Romney’s Bain took over. The wealthy donors who are financing Romney’s campaign are the investors. No doubt many of you have seen story after story about Romney’s reliance on a small group of rich donors, but the numbers continue to grow: Republican super PACs now plan to spend $1 billion this election cycle. Yes, $1,000 million. Compared to this avalanche of money, one person’s vote pales into nothingness. The donors and the profit will once again come first, even if citizens’ livelihoods must be sacrificed. We’ve seen this script play out at the state level already, in Wisconsin, Florida and elsewhere: Rich donors invested in governors Scott Walker, Rick Scott and others, and then demanded returns, without regard to the lines crossed (as demonstrated by Republicans’ widespread campaign to keep largely Democratic blocs from voting). The same will happen at the presidential level. (Indeed, investors will be first priority whatever side wins, but at least President Obama’s voters overlap far more with his donors.) And if his record as a business leader is any indication, don’t think for a moment President Romney will put your vote, or our laws, above his investors.

* Source: Washington Post / Opinions (06/25/2012) 

"Heureux celui qui meurt d'aimer" - de Louis Aragon

Louis Aragon
  Louis Aragon (1897-1982)

Jean Ferrat (1930-2010)

"Heureux celui qui meurt d'aimer"

O mon jardin d'eau fraîche et d'ombre
Ma danse d'être mon cœur sombre
Mon ciel des étoiles sans nombre
Ma barque au loin douce à ramer
Heureux celui qui devient sourd
Au chant s'il n'est de son amour
Aveugle au jour d'après son jour
Ses yeux sur toi seule fermés

Heureux celui qui meurt d'aimer
Heureux celui qui meurt d'aimer

D'aimer si fort ses lèvres closes
Qu'il n'ait besoin de nulle chose
Hormis le souvenir des roses
A jamais de toi parfumées
Celui qui meurt même à douleur
A qui sans toi le monde est leurre
Et n'en retient que tes couleurs
Il lui suffit qu'il t'ait nommée

Heureux celui qui meurt d'aimer
Heureux celui qui meurt d'aimer

Mon enfant dit-il ma chère âme
Le temps de te connaître ô femme
L'éternité n'est qu'une pâme
Au feu dont je suis consumé
Il a dit ô femme et qu'il taise
Le nom qui ressemble à la braise
A la bouche rouge à la fraise
A jamais dans ses dents formée

Heureux celui qui meurt d'aimer
Heureux celui qui meurt d'aimer

Il a dit ô femme et s'achève
Ainsi la vie, ainsi le rêve
Et soit sur la place de grève
Ou dans le lit accoutumé
Jeunes amants vous dont c'est l'âge
Entre la ronde et le voyage
Fou s'épargnant qui se croit sage
Criez à qui vous veut blâmer

Heureux celui qui meurt d'aimer
Heureux celui qui meurt d'aimer

“Blessed is he who dies of love”

O my garden of fresh water and shade
My dance to be my dark heart
My sky of countless stars
My boat far away easy to row
Blessed is he who becomes deaf
To the song if it isn't the one of his love
Blind to the day after his day
His eyes closed only on you

Blessed is he who dies of love
Blessed is he who dies of love

To love so hard his lips closed
It has no need for anything
Apart from the memory of roses
Perfumed of you forever
He who dies even for pain
To whom without you the world is illusion
And retains from it only your colors
It's enough for him that he named you

Blessed is he who dies of love
Blessed is he who dies of love

My child he said my dear soul
The time to know you O woman
Eternity is a swoon
In the fire which consumes me
He said O woman, and he shall not say
The name which resembles the embers
The red mouth the strawberry
Forever in his teeth formed

Blessed is he who dies of love
Blessed is he who dies of love

He said O woman and ends
This way his life this way the dream
And be it on the City Hall square
Or in your customary bed
You young lovers whose age it is
Between dancing and traveling
Fool sparing himself thinking he is wise
Shout out to who wants to blame you

Blessed is he who dies of love
Blessed is he who dies of love

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ingrid Bergman - More than a Sigh! - by TPO

Ingrid BergmanIngrid Bergman
Ingrid Bergman 

... more than a sigh ... 
a consummate beauty!

... the serene kind ...
... from Sweden!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Loveable Tabby Cat - by Charlie S. [and TPO (aka, Hénock Gugsa )]

The Loveable Tabby Cat 


A tabby cat
by Charlie S. *
[abridged by TPO]

Cute, cuddly, and intelligent are the three words which best describe a tabby cat. These cats are found in a variety of sizes and colors.
But particularly, the type and color of a tabby's eyes  may vary from cat to cat. However, there is one thing common in tabbies ... and that is the mark, similar to the letter 'M', on their forehead which gives them a unique look. 

Personality Traits:

Some common personality traits of tabbies are as follows:-

  • Tabbies are often referred to as the "dogs among cats" because of their extremely affectionate and playful nature. This is definitely contrary to the "aloof demeanor" with which most domestic felines are associated.
  • They love to play around and are usually more attracted to a particular person in the house, who does all the tasks related to their day-to-day routines.
  • They are very gentle by nature and they love to get attention.
  • These cats are known to spend most of their time having fun and even sharing the bed with their owners.
  • Although generally affectionate and cheerful, tabbies do not like it much if they are not allowed to do those things which they really love doing.
  • The wish list of these tabby cats can be huge and quite strange at times - they would love to go out several times at their desired time, sit in their favorite corner or room in the home, and eat cat food items which they like.
Most tabby cats are known to be happy-go-lucky by nature, but are bound to get fussy if their wishes are not fulfilled. The colors of the stripes on the body do decide their behavior. Those cats which are black or white are said to be cool and people-oriented. Some cats are shy and love to spend hours in a peaceful and quiet place. They enjoy to be treated with love, care. And they do tolerate human toddlers to a degree, but rough stuff from adults is hissed at!

Sometimes, tabby cats over-react on small things while at other times, they simply won't show any emotions. Yes! tabbies can be definitely moody at times.  For instance, their behavior may be problematic initially when some other pet is brought into the household.  The adjustment period, however, is quite short generally.  And just like humans, tabbies love their individual space and love to be left alone.  They appreciate some amount of privacy, if you please.

Bodily Features:

One thing everyone should know about these cats is that, they are not a singularly-separate or specific breed of cats, as it is commonly perceived. But, all the same, tabbies certainly have particularly attractive and distinct features which are seen in few other cats.

Tabby cats have coats which have distinct markings in the forms of whirls or stripes. The color of coats varies ...  gray, orange, brown, etc. The stripes on the body can be easily and rightly compared to those which are found on tigers.
The popular tabby cat is commonly brownish-orange in color and has green eyes. These cats are considered beautiful and graceful by many people. The mackerel pattern seen on a tabby consists of vertical lines similar to those of a fish bone. Some tabby cats are known to have particular spots on their entire body which easily distinguish them from other cats. And a tabby's tail can be furry, but generally it is strong and narrow.

The behavior of a tabby cats may not be altogether an open book.  But one thing is certain:  They are some of the best pets to have!
So when are you planning to introduce one to your household?
* Source: www.buzzle.com
** More fun cat-related stuff at ... TCCF (Twin Cities Cat Fanciers) 

Note from TPO: - My cat, "Biffy", lived to a ripe old age of 13.  He was a good old cat who gave as much love as he received. He is dearly missed. His twin brother, "Curie", is still going strong at 18 years of age!  Curie has a completely black and shiny coat except for a few patches of white on his underbelly.

TPO's cat,  "Curie"
TPO's cat, "Biffy" 

Recent update: Curie, my cat whose picture you see on the right, finally succumbed to natural causes and died of old age (19 plus years) on April 1, 2013.  No, he wasn't fooling around. He was calling it quits! I buried him in the backyard with all his toys and favorite things.

Biffy and Curie look-alikes

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Thinking Ahead ..." - by James Tate

James Tate

Thinking Ahead To Possible Options And A Worst-Case Scenario
by James Tate  ( 1943 - )

I swerved to avoid hitting a squirrel
in the center of the road and that's when
the deer came charging out of the forest
and forced me to hit the brakes for all I
was worth and I careened back to the other
side of the road just as a skunk came toddling
out of Mrs. Bancroft's front yard and I swung
back perhaps just grazing it a bit. I glanced
quickly in the rearview mirror and in that
instant a groundhog waddled from the side
of the road and I zigzagged madly and don't
know if I nipped it or not because up ahead I
could see a coyote stalking the Collier's
cat. Oh well, I said, and drove the rest
of the way home without incident.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Camelot" - by Richard Burton

Richard Burton

Richard Burton


Inexcusable - Matt Miller

Matt Miller  
After Sept. 11 and two wars, no way for GOP to defend tax cuts!
By Matt Miller *
Washington Post / Opinions / September 10, 2012

Among the many ways the United States went berserk after the September 11 attacks, the least remarked upon, but most morally revealing, is what happened to Republican thinking about taxes during wartime.

Since that awful morning eleven years ago, the United States has been continually at war. But never before in our history has a political party made it a national priority to cut taxes for wealthy Americans at a time of war.

The obvious pattern has been the opposite — we’ve raised taxes to fund the extraordinary expenses war requires, as well as to make sure more fortunate Americans shoulder some of the burden as young soldiers, drawn mostly from middle and low income families, do the actual fighting.

But something snapped in the Republican mind after 9/11.  We’ve now put a trillion dollars of war on our kids’ credit card, with Republicans leading the charge for tax cuts for the top the entire time.

In a saner era, the big 2001 Bush tax cuts enacted a few months before September 11 would have been immediately revisited, because we were now a nation at war.

In a saner era, it would have been unthinkable for a president to push for further tax cuts for the top in 2003, because by then we were a nation waging two wars. Instead, just two months after we invaded Iraq, Republicans, in a party line vote, enacted fresh tax cuts mostly benefiting high earners.

In a saner era, Republicans would never have held the debt limit hostage last year in order to get a deal that kept taxes low for the wealthiest Americans when we were still at war.

And in a saner era, a Republican presidential candidate worth $250 million who paid taxes at the rate of 13.9 percent on $20 million in income would never make further tax cuts for the top the centerpiece of his agenda when we still have nearly 80,000 troops in Afghanistan.

He’d see it as unseemly.

I’ve talked to friends who are military officers about this pattern and they find it grotesque. They live by a code of honor and an ethos of shared sacrifice that makes such choices seem obscene.

What were Republicans thinking? What is Mitt Romney thinking now? Only they know for sure, but what’s clear is that Republican leaders see no moral disconnect between the sacrifices borne by the tiny fraction of Americans who serve in the military (and their families), and repeated tax windfalls showered on a relative handful of well-to-do families at the same time.

Seen in this context, Romney’s failure to mention Afghanistan in his convention speech is even more troubling than we thought. It’s the supreme symbol of Republican compartmentalization. Instead of “Believe In America, ” the de facto GOP motto has become: “Let other people’s children fight our wars, funded by debt other people’s children can pay off later.”

Can anyone really defend this position? This isn’t what Republicans have stood for in the past. It’s the ultimate proof the GOP has gone off the rails.

The amazing thing is that Democrats almost never make the tax argument this way.

When I’ve done so on cable TV over the years, Republican guests react as if I’m from another planet. It’s so outside the well-worn grooves of the debate that they’re speechless for a moment. And then uncomfortable.

“Wait a minute,” I can hear them thinking, “he’s supposed to cry ‘fairness,’ and then I shout back ‘class warfare.’ What’s with this ‘nation at war’ business?”

Yet if the debate were framed around these realities, I think most Americans would react as my military friends do. They’d say it’s wrong. That we’ve lost our senses. That this isn’t how Americans behave. (Note to David Axelrod: This is a testable proposition).

That’s why President Obama should make this case forcefully during the debates. “We’ve been at war for over a decade, Mitt,” the president can say. “We’ve still got 80,000 troops in Afghanistan. Why have you and your party repeatedly made tax cuts for people like us your top priority at a time of war? We’ve never done that before in our history.  Most Americans find it shameful.”

No answer that amounts to an evasion — “Well, even during a war, we need to grow the economy and give job creators incentives to expand” — will pass swing voters’ smell test.

Yet what other answer is there? Hammering this point could create the kind of eureka moment on which elections turn.
 * Matt Miller is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and co-host of public radio’s “Left, Right & Center,” Miller writes a weekly column for The Post.

If I Were King - by A.A. Milne

A. A. Milne
If I Were King
 A. A. Milne (1882-1956)

I often wish I were a King,

And then I could do anything.
If only I were King of Spain,
I'd take my hat off in the rain.

If only I were King of France,

I wouldn't brush my hair for aunts.

I think, if I were King of Greece,

I'd push things off the mantelpiece.

If I were King of Norroway,

I'd ask an elephant to stay.

If I were King of Babylon,

I'd leave my button gloves undone.

If I were King of Timbuctoo,

I'd think of lovely things to do.

If I were King of anything,

I'd tell the soldiers, "I'm the King!"

Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion

Mobile Phone Karma - by Kyocera

Mobile Phone Karma


by Kyocera

The Anxious Idiot - by Daniel Smith

image by Graham Roumieu
The Anxious Idiot *

One day last year, I called my brother Scott in a state of agitation, self-hatred and incipient despair. Scott was at work and short on time. I got straight to the point. “I’m in a state of agitation, self-hatred and incipient despair!” I cried.

“Tell me more,” Scott said. “What is it?”

“I’m anxious — again! I’m anxious day and night. I wake up anxious and I go to bed anxious. I’m a total wreck. And I’m not doing anything to help myself! I know what helps and I’m not doing it! What’s wrong with me? Why am I not doing the things I know full well will make me feel better?”

“Oh,” Scott said. “That’s an easy one. It’s because you’re an idiot.” Then he said he’d call me after work.

When Scott called me an idiot, I initially took it as a joke — a bit of sharp-elbowed levity meant to nudge me out of my morbid self-involvement. As a brother, friend and fellow anxiety sufferer, Scott has license to make such jokes. And they help; they truly do. But the more I think about Scott’s comment the more I come to see it as containing real wisdom, as well as the power to explain one of the particular hells of anxiety: its tenacity.

Like many people who have been given a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder (and many who have not), I am always braced for the next recurrence. Anxiety, like the tide, is forever receding and returning, receding and returning. I have been experiencing this pattern for nearly 20 years now, so that my anxiety has come to seem, at times, inevitable and unassailable — a fait accompli. My anxiety, I’d concluded, is what I am. There is no escape. 

Thanks to Scott, I am now coming to understand that this is not true. Thanks to Scott, I am now coming to understand that anyone, even the most neurotic of souls, can lessen and even elude anxiety, so long as he heeds a simple dictum: Don’t be an idiot.

I should define “idiot” for our purposes. I don’t mean someone of low I.Q. or poor academic abilities. Intelligence as commonly conceived has nothing to do with it. By “idiot,” I mean exactly what my brother meant when he tagged me with the epithet: an impractical and unreasonable person, a person who tends to forget all the important lessons, essentially a fool, one who willfully ignores all that he has learned about how to come to his own aid. A person who is so fixated on the fact that he is in a hole that he fails to climb out of the hole. An idiot, in short, is someone who is self-defeatingly lazy.

Laziness: it isn’t a characteristic usually associated with the anxious. Hysteria, yes. Clamminess, yes. A shrill speaking voice, often. But laziness? If anything, people tend to view the anxious as more active and motivated than normal, because they are more haunted by the specter of failure. And yet long experience has taught me that it is laziness — and not enclosed spaces, social situations or any other countless triggers — that is the foremost enemy of the anxiety sufferer, for laziness prevents him from countering the very patterns of thought that make him anxious in the first place.

It’s true that the anxious are rarely slothful in any typical sense. It’s more that we tend to be undisciplined, or somehow otherwise unwilling to see our anxiety for what it is — a habit of mind. To the argument that anxiety is not a habit but an affliction, I’d respond that the two are not mutually exclusive. Anxiety may come on like an affliction, but it persists due to habit. Or, to put this another way, just because you are afflicted with a mental disorder doesn’t mean that you can’t apply your conscious will to mitigating that disorder. Even if you use medication, as I do, to coax your nervous system in a more salutary direction, your will — your determination to act in a way that is counter to your nature — still factors in. Indeed, I am convinced it is essential to recovery.

This isn’t to say that being willful is easy. Anxious thoughts — the what-if’s, the should-have-been’s, the never-will-be’s — are dramatic thoughts. They are compelling thoughts. They are thoughts that have no compunction about seizing you by your lapels and shouting, “Listen to me! Believe me!” So we listen, and believe, without realizing that by doing so we are stepping onto a closed loop, a set of mental tracks that circle endlessly and get us nowhere. This makes the anxious habit very hard to break. Over time those mental tracks deepen and become hardened ruts. Our thoughts slip into grooves of illogic, hypervigilance and catastrophe.

My own mind, I am fairly certain, will always gravitate toward anxiety. And like many, I will often be disinclined to do anything about it. The reasons for this are no doubt complex and myriad. But it is certain that anxiety is exhausting and demoralizing: in many cases, as you listen to your anxious thoughts you get tired and apathetic. You get depressed. And that hopelessness, inaction and despair can become a sort of cocoon, a protective layer between you and the high-pitched terror of it all, and maybe, over time, even a painful and perverse comfort.

But that doesn’t mean — and here is the good news — that there is nothing we can do about anxiety. Indeed, there is plenty a person can do. The promising thing about a habit is that it is not the same thing as a fate. An alcoholic, we are told, is always an alcoholic — but not every alcoholic drinks. Similarly, an anxious person will always be at risk of anxiety, but he needn’t be troubled by it on a daily basis. He can avoid his own tendencies. He can elude his own habit.  

To accomplish this, however, he has to work, and work hard. He has to fight — every day of his life, if he’s got it bad — to build new patterns of thought, so that his mind doesn’t fall into the old set of grooves. He has to dig new tracks and keep digging.  

As for what that digging entails, I have my preferences. Over the course of my anxious life, I have found two reliable methods to keep my anxiety at bay: Zen meditation and cognitive-behavior therapy. Both methods teach, in their own fashion, that one’s thoughts are not to be taken as the gospel truth; both foster mindfulness and mental discipline. But you will likely have your own favored methods. You might find yoga, or exercise, or therapeutic breathing, or prayer are what work best for you. I’m not sure it matters what a person chooses — so long as he chooses and keeps choosing. So long as he remains dogged. Anything else, as my brother might say, is idiocy.
*The New York Times  / Opinion Pages / Opinionator / Anxiety - August 11, 2012