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 ! *

Monday, September 30, 2013

Really, really Imagine it! - by Mastroianni & Hart

Really, really imagine it!
Mastroianni and Hart
******* ~~~~~ *******

click image to enlarge
(Click on image to enlarge)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sociopathic Plutocrats - by Paul Krugman

click to enlarge

Sociopathic Plutocrats
~~~~~~~ // ~~~~~~~
By Paul Krugman *
Robert Benmosche, the chief executive of the American International Group, said something stupid the other day. And we should be glad, because his comments help highlight an important but rarely discussed cost of extreme income inequality — namely, the rise of a small but powerful group of what can only be called sociopaths.

For those who don’t recall, A.I.G. is a giant insurance company that played a crucial role in creating the global economic crisis, exploiting loopholes in financial regulation to sell vast numbers of debt guarantees that it had no way to honor. Five years ago, U.S. authorities, fearing that A.I.G.’s collapse might destabilize the whole financial system, stepped in with a huge bailout. But even the policy makers felt ill used — for example, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, later testified that no other episode in the crisis made him so angry.

And it got worse. For a time, A.I.G. was essentially a ward of the federal government, which owned the bulk of its stock, yet it continued paying large executive bonuses. There was, understandably, much public furor.

So here’s what Mr. Benmosche did in an interview with The Wall Street Journal: He compared the uproar over bonuses to lynchings in the Deep South — the real kind, involving murder — and declared that the bonus backlash was “just as bad and just as wrong.”

You may find it incredible that anyone would, even for an instant, consider this comparison appropriate. But there have actually been a series of stories like this. In 2010, for example, there was a comparable outburst from Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman of the Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest private-equity firms. Speaking about proposals to close the carried-interest loophole — which allows executives at firms like Blackstone to pay only 15 percent taxes on much of their income — Mr. Schwarzman declared, “It’s a war; it’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”

And you know that such publicly reported statements don’t come out of nowhere. Stuff like this is surely what the Masters of the Universe say to each other all the time, to nods of agreement and approval. It’s just that sometimes they forget that they’re not supposed to say such things where the rabble might learn about it.

Also, notice what both men were defending: namely, their privileges. Mr. Schwarzman was outraged at the notion that he might be required to pay taxes just like the little people; Mr. Benmosche was, in effect, declaring that A.I.G. was entitled to public bailouts and that its executives shouldn’t be expected to make any sacrifice in return.

This is important. Sometimes the wealthy talk as if they were characters in “Atlas Shrugged,” demanding nothing more from society than that the moochers leave them alone. But these men were speaking for, not against, redistribution — redistribution from the 99 percent to people like them. This isn’t libertarianism; it’s a demand for special treatment. It’s not Ayn Rand; it’s ancien régime.

Sometimes, in fact, members of the 0.01 percent are explicit about their sense of entitlement. It was kind of refreshing, in a way, when Charles Munger, the billionaire vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, declared that we should “thank God” for the bailout of Wall Street, but that ordinary Americans in financial distress should just “suck it in and cope.” Incidentally, in another interview — conducted at his seaside villa in Dubrovnik, Croatia — Mr. Benmosche declared that the retirement age should go up to 70 or even 80.

The thing is, by and large, the wealthy have gotten their wish. Wall Street was bailed out, while workers and homeowners weren’t. Our so-called recovery has done nothing much for ordinary workers, but incomes at the top have soared, with almost all the gains from 2009 to 2012 going to the top 1 percent, and almost a third going to the top 0.01 percent — that is, people with incomes over $10 million.

So why the anger? Why the whining? And bear in mind that claims that the wealthy are being persecuted aren’t just coming from a few loudmouths. They’ve been all over the op-ed pages and were, in fact, a central theme of the Romney campaign last year.

Well, I have a theory. When you have that much money, what is it you’re trying to buy by making even more? You already have the multiple big houses, the servants, the private jet. What you really want now is adulation; you want the world to bow before your success. And so the thought that people in the media, in Congress and even in the White House are saying critical things about people like you drives you wild.

It is, of course, incredibly petty. But money brings power, and thanks to surging inequality, these petty people have a lot of money. So their whining, their anger that they don’t receive universal deference, can have real political consequences. Fear the wrath of the .01 percent! 

* Source: "Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted," by Paul Krugman
The New York Times / OP-ED
September 26, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Perfect Crime - by Tribal DDB

"The Perfect Crime"
~~~~~~~ // ~~~~~~~
by Tribal DDB 
(ad agency's creation for Pepsi)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Free Market's Negatives - by Robert B. Reich

graphics by Henock  (click to enlarge)

The Myth of the "Free Market'
------- ~~~ -------
Robert B. Reich *
The Baltimore Sun / Opinion
September 24, 2013

There is nothing natural and immutable about economic markets; they are a product of our rules and policies.

One of the most deceptive ideas continuously sounded by the right (and its fathomless think tanks and media outlets) is that the "free market" is natural and inevitable, existing outside and beyond government.

So whatever inequality or insecurity it generates is beyond our control. And whatever ways we might seek to reduce inequality or insecurity — to make the economy work for us — are unwarranted constraints on the market's freedom and will inevitably go wrong.

By this view, if some people aren't paid enough to live on, the market has determined they aren't worth enough. If others rake in billions, they must be worth it. If millions of Americans remain unemployed or their paychecks are shrinking or they work two or three part-time jobs with no idea what they'll earn next month or next week, that's too bad; it's just the outcome of the market.

According to this logic, government shouldn't intrude through minimum wages, high taxes on top earners, public spending to get people back to work, regulations on business, or anything else, because the "free market" knows best.

In reality, the "free market" is a bunch of rules about (1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); (2) on what terms (equal access to the Internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections?); (3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?); (4) what's private and what's public (police? roads? clean air and water? health care? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); (5) how to pay for what (taxes? user fees? individual pricing?). And so on.

These rules don't exist in nature; they are human creations. Governments don't "intrude" on free markets; governments organize and maintain them. Markets aren't "free" of rules; the rules define them. Without such rules, we're back to social Darwinism, where only the toughest and biggest survive.

The interesting question is what the rules should aim to achieve. They can be designed to maximize efficiency (given the current distribution of resources), or growth (depending on what we're willing to sacrifice to obtain that growth), or fairness (depending on our ideas about a decent society). Or some combination of all three — which aren't necessarily in competition with one another. Evidence suggests, for example, that if prosperity were more widely shared, we'd have faster growth.

The rules might even be designed to entrench and enhance the wealth of a few at the top, and keep almost everyone else comparatively poor and economically insecure.

Which brings us to the central political question: Who should decide on the rules and their major purpose? If our democracy were working as it should, presumably our elected representatives, agency heads and courts would be making the rules roughly according to what most of us want the rules to be. The economy would be working for us.

Instead, the rules are now made mostly by those with the power and resources to buy the politicians, regulatory heads and even the courts (and the lawyers who appear before them). As income and wealth have concentrated at the top, so has political clout. And the most important clout is determining the rules of the game.

Not incidentally, these are the same people who want you and most others to believe in the fiction of an immutable "free market."

As I emphasize in "Inequality for All" — a new film out this week in which I explain the savage inequalities and insecurities now undermining our economy and democracy — we can make the economy work for us rather than for only a few at the top. But in order to change the rules, we must exert the power that is supposed to be ours.


* Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of "Beyond Outrage," now available in paperback. His new film, "Inequality for All," will be out September 27. He blogs at http://www.robertreich.org.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Safe Nation - by Susan Perry

graphics by Henock  (click to enlarge)

Idea that 'guns make a nation safer' is debunked in study
------------ *** ------------
by Susan Perry *

The idea that “guns make a nation safer” is not true, according to a study published today in The American Journal of Medicine.

In fact, the study found just the opposite: Countries with a low rate of gun ownership have significantly fewer gun-related deaths than those with a high rate.

Furthermore, more guns did not equal less crime.

For the study, Dr. Sripal Banglore of New York University’s Lagone Medical Center and Dr. Franz Messerli of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons analyzed data for 27 developed countries. Only countries with available data on gun ownership and not currently involved in a civil war were included.

     U.S. leads in gun ownership — and gun deaths

The analysis found that the United States has far and away the highest rate of gun ownership, with 88.8 privately owned guns for every 100 people (“almost as many guns as it has people,” Bangalore and Messerli note). The country with the next highest rate is Switzerland, with 45.7 guns per 100 people.

The United States also has the highest firearm-related death rate: 10.2 deaths per 100,000 residents. Switzerland has the third highest rate: 3.84 per 100,000.

At the other end of the spectrum are Japan and the Netherlands. Japan has a gun-ownership rate of 0.6 guns per 100 people, while the Netherlands’ rate is 3.9.

Those two countries also had two of the lowest death-by-gun rates: 0.06/100,000 for Japan and 0.46/100,000 for the Netherlands.

The United Kingdom also ranked low on both lists. It has a gun-ownership rate of 6.2 per 100 people and a gun-death rate of 0.25 per 100,000.

The only country that was a bit of an outlier was South Africa. It had a relatively low gun ownership rate of 12.5/100, but a high (the second-highest, just below the U.S.) gun-related death rate of 9.41/100,000.

     Other findings

Bangalore and Messerli also analyzed the data to determine whether possessing guns would make a country safer in terms of its overall crime rate.

Their conclusion: “There was no significant correlation between guns per capita per country and crime rate, arguing against the notion of more guns translating into less crime.”

The researchers did find a positive correlation between a country’s mental-illness burden — specifically, the prevalence of major depression — and its firearm-related deaths. In general, the more people suffering with depression, the greater the firearm death rate.

But that correlation was not nearly as strong as the one with gun ownership.

Furthermore, the study found no significant correlation between a country’s mental-illness burden and its overall crime rate.

     A vicious cycle

“Although correlation is not synonymous with causation,” write Bangalore and Messerli, “it seems conceivable that abundant gun availability facilitates firearm-related deaths. Conversely, high crime rates may instigate widespread anxiety and fear, thereby motivating people to arm themselves and give rise to increased gun ownership, which, in turn, increases availability. The resulting vicious cycle could, bit-by-bit, lead to the polarized status that is now the case with the US.”

“Regardless of exact cause and effect, however,” they add, “the current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis purporting to show that countries with the higher gun ownership are safer than those with low gun ownership.”

The editors of The American Journal of Medicine decided to publish the study today, two days earlier than originally scheduled, so that journalists could use its findings when reporting on the mass shooting that occurred Monday at the Washington Navy Yard.
* MinnPost / Opinion


Monday, September 23, 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Alarming Apathy to Privacy - by Elizabeth Goitein

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The danger of American apathy on NSA surveillance

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

By Elizabeth Goitein *
Christaian Science Monitor / Opinion
July 31, 2013


New documents released today reveal the alarming scope of NSA data collection.  But half of Americans see the spying as 'no big deal.' They are allowing government to chip away at freedoms that others, especially in the Arab world, are giving their lives to build.

Little by little, Americans are allowing their government to chip away at the fortress of legal protections that people in less-privileged societies – including multiple nations in the Arab world – are giving their lives to build.
The director of National Intelligence today declassified and released documents describing the National Security Agency’s (NSA) “bulk collection” of Americans’ telephone records as taking place “on a very large scale.” Last week, the House of Representatives voted by a razor-thin margin to allow this practice to continue. The vote aptly reflects Americans’ polarized response to revelations about the NSA’s activities. Half the country is incensed by the secret spying. The other half, however, appears to have heeded Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s now-famous advice to “just calm down and understand that this isn’t anything that is brand new.”

Among this latter group, there is a sense that privacy advocates are making much ado about nothing. The NSA’s data collection programs were approved by federal judges; Congress knew about them; they’re used only to identify terrorists.

What, exactly, is the big deal?

The most obvious answer is that these programs may be illegal. The government admits it obtains Americans’ telephone records in bulk, but claims officials do not examine them unless there is reason to suspect a terrorist link. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, however, requires the government to establish a record’s investigative relevance before obtaining it – not after. The PRISM program, which collects information from Internet service providers, is ostensibly legal because it “targets” foreigners. But the program tolerates extensive “inadvertent” and “incidental” collection of Americans’ information – including information the government needs a warrant to obtain under the Fourth Amendment.

Yes, a secret court approved these programs. That should not start and end the discussion about their legality. Judges make mistakes, and – as recent reporting on the secret Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) Court has underscored – they are far more likely to do so when they hear only the facts and arguments that one side chooses to present. When citizens have gone to the regular courts to challenge government surveillance, the government has successfully argued that the courts cannot even consider their claims.

The programs also threaten Americans’ privacy. It is disingenuous for officials to characterize the “metadata” being collected as mere phone numbers. Sophisticated computer programs can glean volumes of sensitive information from this metadata about people’s relationships, activities, and even beliefs. The government knows very well how revealing call records can be; that is why it considers the program so valuable.

Serious as they are, these concerns fail to explain fully why Americans should care. After all, this remains a remarkably free country. There are exceptions. Muslim Americans, who are singled out for scrutiny by some law enforcement agencies, have reported harassment by customs officials as well as a chilling of political and religious activity. Outside of these communities, though, few Americans feel any tangible effects from increased surveillance. The vast majority of law-abiding citizens go about their lives without fear of government persecution.

And that may be the problem. Free societies tend to take their freedom for granted. But our liberties do not derive from the innate trustworthiness of our elected representatives. They derive from laws and institutions put in place for the preservation of liberty. These laws and institutions, some version of which can be found in all democratic societies, are relatively recent innovations in human history. Before their advent, tyrannies and dictatorships were the norm. Even today, in countries without this framework, people are not free.

Since 9/11, the laws and institutions created to ensure Americans’ freedom have been weakened – sometimes incrementally, sometimes significantly – at a rapid pace. This is particularly true for limitations on surveillance, a power that carries tremendous potential for abuse. National Security Letters, a form of administrative subpoena, are now available to collect any information “relevant” to a terrorism investigation, not just information about potential suspects. Customs agents no longer need reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing to search citizens’ laptops at the border. Americans’ international communications are now subject to wiretapping without an individualized court order. The list goes on.

In any given instance, the government can make the case that the change is small, or that it is justified by increased security. In some cases, the argument may be persuasive. It is the trend, however, that should concern us. Twelve years after 9/11, as the nation approaches the date for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, the quiet erosion of Americans’ civil liberties continues.

That doesn’t mean the US government should never expand surveillance authorities, or that Americans should resolve all trade-offs between liberty and security in favor of liberty. After all, the United States is a long way from a dictatorship. But given the post-9/11 trend of diminishing legal protections, Americans should not make these choices lightly. And each additional broadening of the government’s powers must be a matter of choice – not passive acquiescence to a secret expansion. When that choice is taken from the citizenry, it is no occasion to “calm down” and look the other way.

Richard Widmark - The Street with No Name


*  Op-ed contributor Elizabeth Goitein is co-director of the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"... the thing with feathers ..." - Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson  (1830-1886) 

"Hope" is the thing with feathers
Emily Dickinson
-------- ~~~~ --------

"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Down in the Meadow - by Marilyn Monroe

graphics by Henock  (click to enlarge)
Down in the Meadow
Marilyn Monroe
~~~~~~~ *** ~~~~~~~

When Mr South Wind sighs in the pines,
Old Mr Winter whimpers and whines.
Down in the meadow, under the snow,
April is teaching green things to grow.

When Mr West Wind howls in a glade,
Old Mr Summer nods in the shade.
Down in the meadow, under the brook,
Catfish are waiting for the hook.

Old Lady Blackbird flirts with the scarecrow,
Scarecrow is waving at the moon.
Old Mr Moon makes hearts everywhere go bump, bump,
With the magic of June.

When Mr East Wind shouts over head,
Then all the leaves turn yellow and red.
Down in the meadow corn stocks are high
Pumpkins are ripe and ready for pie.

[ and the actual song is not finished here ...]

Old Lady Blackbird flirts with the scarecrow,
Scarecrow is waving at the Moon.
Old Mr Moon makes hearts everywhere go bump, bump,
With the magic of June.

When Mr North Wind rolls on the breeze,
Old father Christmas trims over trees.
Down in the meadow snow softly gleams
Earth goes to sleep and smiles in her dreams.

 [ the end! ]


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Le Chat - Charles Baudelaire

cat spa (?!)Charles Baudelaire 

Charles BAUDELAIRE   (1821-1867)
Le chat 
~~~ // ~~~

Viens, mon beau chat, sur mon coeur amoureux;
Retiens les griffes de ta patte,
Et laisse-moi plonger dans tes beaux yeux,
Mêlés de métal et d'agate.

Lorsque mes doigts caressent à loisir
Ta tête et ton dos élastique,
Et que ma main s'enivre du plaisir
De palper ton corps électrique,

Je vois ma femme en esprit. Son regard,
Comme le tien, aimable bête
Profond et froid, coupe et fend comme un dard,

Et, des pieds jusques à la tête,
Un air subtil, un dangereux parfum
Nagent autour de son corps brun.

le chat ... a besoin de quelque chose evidement!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Latest on Zack- by TPO

The Latest on Zack 
( On the Subject of Kowtowing )
~~~~~~~ // ~~~~~~~
by TPO

to kowtow:
[intransitive verb]
< origin: 1795-1805; Chinese kòutóu ... literally, knock (one's) head >
grovel to, be obsequious to, be servile to, be sycophantic to, fawn over
/on, cringe to, bow and scrape to, toady to, truckle to, abase oneself before, humble oneself to;
curry favor with, dance attendance on, ingratiate oneself with, suck up to, kiss up to, brown-nose, lick someone's boots ....

Today, I ran into my dear friend Zack at a downtown coffee-house which I frequent now and then. It has been quite a while since I've seen him although we do call each other from time to time and say how-do.

Zack is a very interesting and unusual person. To begin with, he is intelligent (humbly so), intuitive, creative and a problem-solver. He is organized, methodical, and logical in the manner with which he acquires any bit of knowledge. He also has excellent retention (memory) of all the requisite methods and intricate, detailed procedures of his work. He never gloats, and never overtly shows others the error of their ways unless they put him in that situation. And even more admirable - Zack abhors backstabbing and the people who do it. At his workplace, there is no dearth of backstabbers and that includes those within the management itself. Rather than stopping this psychological sickness, it seems that it may even be actively abetted.

Almost ten years have now elapsed since Zack has been employed at his current job as an information specialist. Of late, however, his relationship with his superiors has been getting more and more sour. They have been getting more and more bureaucratically inane and petty; and he has been losing his normally Job-like patience and giving in to his frustration with the dolts at his workplace.

Zack said that recently he had a disagreement with his manager over time card issues. The manager had lately taken it to her head to nitpick over minutes that rightfully were within allowable grace periods. Zack explained to me that he'd thought there was nothing wrong, for example, about signing-in to work three minutes early and signing-out three minutes early to correct for shortages or overages. His manager, this obsessively domineering woman, was all worked up about employees leaving work early. She of-course would not allow leeway or consideration for early arrivals. Unfortunately, Zack challenged her reasoning. She snapped back with her rule book about time clocks, etc.; and she added that he was being paid to be at his post working until the preset time. And, with what may have appeared to her a good measure, she also reprimanded him for being "disrespectful" in challenging her. This last rebuke did not sit well with Zack although he did not respond back. He said he wisely remembered Mark Twain's old adage:
Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference!
Then Zack began to tell me about a custom known as " employee appreciation day " at his place of employment. This was a once-a-year-maybe lunch thrown by the big manager-of-managers, the honcho-of-honchos. Food is catered in and everybody sits, dines, and chats with the big man himself.... Big honor, that! .... Again this year, the organizers never even attempted to find out what the employees would like to see on the menu. A decision had been made to go ahead and order barbecued pork and chicken from a famous place. Last year, when Zack went to such a luncheon, he did not find anything there to his liking. As a diabetic, Zack is very particular about his diet. There was nothing healthy on that menu for him to eat.

So, this year, Zack opted not to attend the luncheon. He confided in me that he was also, in this manner, subtly avoiding running into the unpleasant woman ... especially as she had followed up her last rant with more persecution using Zack's recent sick-time absence. She had demanded a doctor's slip although Zack had plenty of banked sick-time and he really has no record of abusing it. Yet, despite all of this aggravation, he says that he is taking everything in stride because he has maybe about a year left to fully retire from this job. He is going to ride out the mad antics at work ... he won't let them get to him!

I am happy for Zack for standing his ground ... for not kowtowing to dolts and such. When told to jump, he never says,"How high?" ... he always asks, "Why?"

Zack has never been a tail-wagger ... in fact, he is more like a cat than a dog.  Zack can't help it - he  never ever kowtows to any person whatever their pedigree or station in life.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Blunt Friends (Sherm & Hawthorne) - by Jim Toomey

Blunt Friends (Sherm & Hawthorne)
------- *** ------- 
("Sherman’s Lagoon") *
September 1,2013
 by Jim Toomey

Sherman’s Lagoon is a comic strip set in an imaginary lagoon inhabited by a cast of sea creatures whose lives are curiously similar to our own.
click inside image to enlarge

 Click on the strip to enlarge.

* Source: http://shermanslagoon.com/