Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ups and Downs and . . .

In the early 1970s I was standing in an elevator in an older hotel in Boston when the opportunity to make one of my corny remarks presented itself. The elevator was crowded and I just couldn't resist saying to the wise old operator, "This elevator has its ups and downs." There was a mild tittering among the elevator occupants, a much more subdued response than I'd hoped for when the lady looked at me and responded, "Yes, and plenty of jerks in between." Needless to say, she got the laughs I was looking for and quite rightly so. But my continuing failure to properly tell a joke is not why I am telling this story. Standing back and looking at the large picture, it is obvious that life is, indeed, a series of ups and down, backs and forths, sides to sides and 'tos and fros'. I am searching in my mind for the correct mathematical expression of this phenomenon; for every reaction there is an opposite and equal reaction, something like that. There are untold numbers of examples that can be given to characterize this continuous process at the personal, local, national or international levels.

We are currently in the midst of two major pendulum shifts which reflect this principle. The first is the economic situation. The economists refer to such an event as a "correction." Parenthetically, I can't understand why calling it a correction doesn't make me feel any better when I look at the numbers in my account. The second event is the quantum shift in the national political landscape that is likely to result from the November 4 election. From all indications, we will have a Democratic president and Congress with a real possibility of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Regardless of political persuasion I expect that every one cannot help but experience a deep sense of relief that the Bush imbroglio is nearly a thing of the past. Things are broken in the fabric of our financial and governmental institutions. Changes do need to be made. The biggest danger and the biggest challenge in both arenas is not to over-correct. If four years from now finds us in the throes of Democratic greed and mistakes resulting from the tendency to take unchecked power and turn planned good deeds into excesses like pigs eating at a trough, then all will have been for naught. I, for one, will be content if the lesson of 2008 restores the country to civility, moderation in all things and charitable thoughts to all, including those son of a bitches who still think Bush is the nearest thing to Jesus. Oops, there I go again, being a jerk.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

We Are Not Stupid, John

"Battling George W. Bush for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000, John McCain lashed out at the Texas governor, denouncing his proposed tax cuts as a giveaway to the rich." Huh? Did I read that right? Did the writer of this statement in the Washington Post make a mistake? No, that statement is exactly right. The same John McCain who made a serious run at the presidency in 2000 by advocating the position that he now bases his entire campaign against claims to be a man of principle Let me ask; what principle is involved in such a quantum shift? If you ask me, the principle involved is mudslinging mixed with quite a bit of deceit. What McCain currently claims is that what he strongly advocated eight years ago is now welfare, taking from the rich and giving to the poor, socialism, any other name he can think up to try to discredit Obama in the short time left before election day. Such a turnabout could only be predicated upon one belief; that the people of the United States are stupid. I wonder if McCain has given any thought as to why he is behind in the polls?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Big Brother Is Watching You

It is crunch time for America. In my last blog I wrote of the need for real change. There are those among my friends with whom I regularly deluge my meanderings who say I am merely parroting lines that are advanced by liberals. One of my golfing friends in Florida has asked that he be removed from my blog list because i was sounding like Keith Olbermann. This week I sent along a funny joke to my golfing buddies and one close friend replied "It's about time you lightened up." Whew, I need to take a deep breath. Maybe I do need to lighten up a bit more. But wait, there is still some unfinished business. There is still some underpinning of the constitutionally-created fabric of life of America that needs to be brought to the public's attention. What is being done in the final days of the Nameless One's administration is the moral and legal equivalent of deliberately seeding the air we all breathe with cancer cells. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, new guidelines for the F.B.I. just recently issued by the administration permit agents to use a range of intrusive techniques to gather information on Americans — even when there is no clear basis for suspecting wrongdoing. Under the rules, agents may engage in lengthy physical surveillance, covertly infiltrate lawful groups, or conduct interviews in which agents lie about their identities while questioning a subject’s neighbors, friends or work colleagues based merely on a generalized “threat.” The rules also allow the use of these techniques on people identified in part by their race or religion without requiring even minimal evidence of criminal activity. In short, Big Brother will be watching you . . . and you . . . and you . . . and me.

This is frightening to me. I respectfully submit that those of you who think I've gone liberal whacko should be frightened too. This new policy creates a chilling scenario for the government to spy on law-abiding Americans based on their ethnic background or political activity. I hear all this stuff from conservatives about getting government out of our lives, but how could anyone dream up a fact situation which could be more intrusive than what has been adopted? Nameless' administration and the FBI have refused a request from Congress to delay the implementation of these guidelines to subject the purpose and intent of these rules to public scrutiny. This great country of ours has undergone a quantum shift under Nameless' direction. This venture into the shameless spying on one another under the rubric of terrorism under his guidance justifies my continued designation of him as "He Who Would Be King." For those of you who agree that the general population should be spied on by the FBI because of the color of their skin, their political or religious beliefs, please pass this blog on to your nearest FBI agent. Maybe I can work myself up the Public Enemy Number One!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Real Change

Dick Cheney made the following statement after the Supreme Court awarded Nameless the Presidency in 2000. "We won. It's our due." Of course, he was describing the resultant grab for unprecedented power which included ignoring the precepts of the constitution that both he and Nameless were sworn to uphold. What then began at that moment in time was a massive mental reorganization of our federal government that became dedicated to staying out of the way of big business. Regulate? No, big business will do what is right for the people of the United States because it will be in business' best interests to do so. Example A of how this system worked in Nameless' mind was his compliment to the head of FEMA following the Katrina debacle. "Good job, Brownie." It must be admitted, if your viewpoint is that government shouldn't be doing anything about catastrophes like Katrina, you can certainly understand why Nameless said what he said. This view point undoubtedly explains why Nameless can still find 20% of Americans who view him favorably. I could go on and on with examples, but I need to get to the point.

Both candidates for the presidency seem to recognize and advocate change. The basic bottom line is that the massive experiment of Nameless and his cronies simply hasn't worked and has harmed America in so many ways that it is virtually impossible to list them. The basic function of government in an organized society is to temper the animalistic impulses of members of that society for the good of all. This would include tempering the greed impulses of soulless major corporations which are treated like citizens, but exist solely for the purpose of generating profit. With a short time before election day, I am convinced that Obama perceives that need for change. I am not so certain about McCain and his talk about change. His basic approach to everything is the same as Nameless; to cut taxes and eliminate pork, and seems a poor fit at this point in time to undo the real damage that Nameless has done to our people. Both men are men of honor and insist personally that they want the electorate to decide on the basis of the differences in their policies, which are ample. If that is so, is it not a reflection of character that McCain permits the nasty attempts to degrade Obama's character in a manner and form equivalent to what Nameless did to him in South Carolina in 2000? Do what want someone who does that as our beacon of change as we try to undo the damage of Nameless? I don't think so and the real danger of the next couple of weeks is that voters may be fooled again by the spirit of demagoguery that has permeated the soul of this country since 2000. We need real change.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More on China

This is a brief decription of the first couple of days in China written by my daughter Becky who is with Mary Ellen visiting Jeff, my grandson.


Met Jeff for breakfast at His buffet in his hotel/dorm. Buffet was all you can eat rice in every size and shape, rice ball with pok, rice with bean paste, rice water soup, small square rice patties flavored with soy sauce – yum! Also had boiled eggs and dough balls with shrimp or paste – literally raw dough balls.

Jeff's room is nice, decent size and he claims he has maid service. No telling when she was last there. We met 2 of his classmates: Jamie and Drew. Jamie plays BB for Kenyon and is from 5th Ave, NYC. Drew's family owns a vineyard in Northern CA.

Jeremy, Jeff's advisor, advised us on sightseeing and tips such as Do Not eat any vendor food even though it will look good and tasty and Do Not Tip the taxi driver. If you need to make a call just ask anyone on the street to use their cellphone and hand them 5RNB ($.70).

Campus is open and airy with lots of green. Classrooms are small cubicle like with old fashioned wooden chairs. Jamie, Drew, and Jeff were all quite concerned about Not being late for class. Tardiness is not acceptable.

Another warning from Jeremy was about crossing the street. The right of way rule is this: the bigger the vehicle the more rights it has. Pedestrians have none. Pecking order: bus, taxi, private car, motorcycle, bike, then perhaps person. Red lights are optional and horns are constant and mandatory.

After surviving our first crossing Grammy and I stopped at the concierge to get our bearings and book some tours. One hour and 5 concierges' later we were set for the next 2 ½ days. (No one here speaks Engish except for the desk girl who speaks a little.)

Our first solo adventure was Old Town. Chances are what you picture China to be: this is it! Markets, vendors, Chinese buildings, koi pond, and tea house. The streets kinda reminded me of Sienna but more touristy stuff for sale and not as clean. One street we wandered down smelled retched and served to curb our appetite for the rest of the day.

So many people here. All Chinese and Chinese tourists except for Mom and me and 2 tour groups hailing from Europe and USA.

Very few speak English here as we found out when trying to find a restaurant recommended by Jeremy. Asked 5 different people including a police officer and finally found the street and number and restaurant was gone. We got hagendaas instead.

Looking for the restaurant we really saw Old Town. Laundry hanging out most windows on poles, narrow alleys where residents were emptying chamber pots, toddler peeing off the curb into the street. Street sweepers were all women, in blue uniform, sweeping with wisk like brooms. Bikers galore; all guts, no helmets.

Anytime you go somewhere it's easiest to take a taxi. Taxi usually costs between 20 RNB and 40 RNB ($3-$6) The taxi ride to and from downtown or city center is on major freeway. Directly in front of our hotel and Jeff's hotel is a freeway complex 5 tiers tall. On either side of the freeway there are 30 – 40 storied apartment buildings as far as the eye can see.

As a respite after a big day of sightseeing I decided to find out about a massage offered at the hotel. Stopped in and the gal did not speak English but she gave me a card and said to call later. My call later was answered by another who could not speak English so I just said thank you and hung up. 15 minutes later the doorbell rang and there was a cute gal in a mini skirt and heels saying "here for massage". What the heck… After fifteen minutes of acupressure the doorbell rings again. Another gal in mini skirt and heels "here for massage" They traded places and mom and I just laughed and laughed!!

The evening we saw the Shanghai Acrobat Show at the Shanghai City Center very fance section downtown. Amazing physical feats combined with Chinese Artisty. Beyond belief. From there we walked to Nanjing – which is the time's square of Shanghai – then on to the river- the Bund- to look at the George Jetson-like financial district. 18 years ago that area was farmland now it boasts Chinese' most expensive property - $20,000 USD per square meters. The global financial building is the tallest place in the world that people can go (101 stories).


Went on ½ day city tour with an adorable guide. I regret not having a recorder as she was Caitlin to a tee. An adorable giggle after every sentence and so full of contagious joy. We saw the French Concessions – Paris architecture, Old City – 3rd world architecture, Yu an Garden – Zen-like architecture, Bund area – Jetson Style architecture.

Stopped at the Jade Buddha Temple and a tea house.

Had fun learning how silk worms feast on mulberry leaves, spin their silk cocoon into a plum pit size cocoon and then boiled to kill the larvae and brushed to tease the silk out. One cocoon has 1 kilometer of silk threads!

Have to check out the pictures to be sent later.

All for now as Jeff is off to bed.

Love you all. Miss you all and wish you were here with me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Boring Bobby, Boring Barry

Perhaps the most comforting criticism I hear about Obama is that he is boring, wonky, too professorial, too engaged in nuances. I like that. It tells me that throughout the hysteria of the final days and weeks of this presidential campaign, he has stayed the course because he has stayed boring. Boring means steady, a particularly positive attribute when the health and integrity of the nation is at stake. Last week, a high school classmate of mine and her husband drove to Michigan from Colorado Springs, Colorado to attend our 50 year high school reunion. We played golf at my club, Gowanie Golf Club, a tight little tract, not too long, but treacherously narrow. The husband is called Boring Bobby D by his friends because he has this tendency to hit his drives right down the exact center of the fairways. Boring Bobby amply demonstrated the nickname last week and is probably driving home right now telling Carol that he didn't think my course was too hard. Hole after hole he drove the ball to the center, or near center, of the fairway. On two separate occasions, I stepped off the distance of his ball from the left edge and the right edge of the fairway. The distances were exactly the same. His ball was in the exact center of the fairway. Boring! After I completed the measurements on his ball, I would drive over to the rough to see if I could find my ball in the deep rough under a pile of leaves or hidden by a tree.

Other than boring, the biggest complaints I hear from my anti-Obama friends are that he is too liberal, that he will be a tax and spend guy, that the country is going to turn socialist, etc, etc, etc. I predict that we are all going to be in for a pleasant surprise. For the ultra-liberals, it won't necessarily be to their liking. Obama has emonstrated all the early signs of being a centrist based upon a clear and apparent sense about doing what is right for our country without a hidden agenda (e.g. lining the pockets of the fat cat oil executives like He who Is Now Nameless did). Consider, for example, getting the troops out of Iraq. Obama refuses to box himself into a position that will adhere to a rigid inflexible timeline for troop withdrawal, nor will he, as Nameless has done, turn over the reins of Commander-In-Chief to General Petraeus. In other words, Obama prefers his announced timeline, but is not wedded to it. The same centrist signals are being sent by him regarding hunting down bin Laden in the mountains of Pakistan. He is to the right of McCain on this issue and his stated position is the one that makes most sense. Mark my words. His inauguration speech will be a variation of JFK's famous declaration of "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." We all need to take some personal responsibility for the mess this country is in. We all participated in creating the problem and we all must engage at the most basic of levels in working out of the dilemma. It may be something simple like paying an extra amount of taxes to reduce the horrible burden that cannot be shifted simply to the next generation of Americans, i.e. our children and grandchildren. We have been drunk in excesses. In such a time, the boring, but steady hand of Obama, is comforting and reassuring. It is time to take the cure by allowing Boring Barry to take us there.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Is This What It Is all About?

I have written from time to time about all of the racist e-mails I have received during this presidential campaign. The winner so far in terms of sheer disgust is that cropped photo of Barack Obama polishing the shoes of Sarah Palin. One of my very best friends (I generally don't rate my friends on scales of 1 to 10, but I love this guy for who he is) has moved away from the southeast Michigan area to sunnier climes. He is now deciding how to vote based upon his primal feelings about the way that blacks in Detroit have mismanaged local politics. Kwame Kilpatrick has stepped down from the office of mayor after more than six months of highly publicized stores of his having an affair with a top aide and lying about it under oath, costing the city of Detroit more than 9 million dollars in a civil lawsuit. In a phone call this week, my friend pointed out that Coleman Young's son is running for mayor in a special election. Coleman Young, for the unknowing, ran Detroit as a personal fiefdom for 20 years and most people (including me) believe the Young was the one person most responsible for the free fall of the city into a third world-type aberration. Please keep in mind as I proceed with the rest of this writing that the only thing that Kilpatrick, Young and Obama have in common is the color of their skin. I refer to this bias as the primal racist theory and after a couple of cups of caffeine jolting through my brain, wonder if it is just possible that some unknown evolutionary process is at work causing white people who, if they had been born less than 200 years ago, could have been slave owners, to just naturally consider themselves superior to all things black William F. Buckley, the guru of modern conservative Republican thinking, asserted that whites, being superior, were well within their rights to discriminate against blacks. “The White community is so entitled,” he wrote, “because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.” He, of course, later disavowed this type of thinking, only because it served his own personal interests to do so.

For my Detroit-area friends I have tried to understand the preference for McCain/Palin in the context of this background which, admittedly, is not a pretty one. I also admit to bringing one of my own biases into the presidential consideration which is that our society seems to bring lowest common denominator-types into the presidential mix. Consider Bush and. Kerry just four years ago as the most representative example. The net result of all of this on my thinking is that I really and truly have found it difficult to understand how kind and decent people throughout America could ever consider Palin a worthwhile candidate. The hatred and sheer ineptitude she brings to the table are amazing and frightening to me as, most simply put, they represent exactly the same form and logic that Hitler used in the 1930s, and that Joe McCathy used in the early 1950s to demonize people.

Another piece of this puzzle in trying to understand this phenomenon and the apparent love affair that a segment of our electorate have for Palin clicked into place today. What follows is an excerpt from another e-mail:

---makes a person think. I truly believe we are living in the end times and pray all those I love and care for will come to accept Christ as their Savior.

This will make you re-think: A Trivia question in Sunday School:

How long is the beast allowed to have authority in Revelations?

Revelations Chapter 13 tells us it is 42 months, and you know what that is.

Almost a four-year term of a Presidency.

All I can say is 'Lord, Have mercy on us!'

According to The Book of Revelations the anti-Christ is: The anti-Christ will
be a man, in his 40's, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with
persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal....the prophecy says
that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace,
and when he is in power, will destroy everything..

Do we recognize this description??

I STRONGLY URGE each one of you to send this as many times as
you can! Each opportunity that you have to send it to a friend or media it!
I refuse to take a chance on this unknown candidate who came out of nowhere.

From: Dr. John Tisdale

Dear Friends,

As I was listening to a news program last night, I watched in horror as Barack Obama made the statement with pride. . ..'we are no longer a Christian nation; we are now a nation of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, . . .' As with so many other statements I've heard him (and his wife) make, I never thought I'd see the day that I'd hear something like that from a presidential candidate in this nation.

To think our forefathers fought and died for the right for our nation to be a Christian nation--and to have this man say with pride that we are no longer that. How far this nation has come from what our founding fathers intended it to be.

I hope that each of you will do what I'm doing now--send your concerns, written simply and sincerely, to the Christians on your email list. With God's help, and He is still in control of this nation and all else, we can show this man and the world in November that we are, indeed, still a Christian nation!

Please pray for our nation!

So I ask the question: Is this what it is all about? Have I been missing the point all along? Are the objections to this man named Barack Hussein Obama based on another claimed association that I have simply ignored because I perceived that it just bordered on sheer lunacy? Or is it part of standard fundamental religious thinking in America that the end is nearing and that, if Obama is elected, he will take us there? From where I sit it looks like the Republican party has already done a pretty damn good job of getting us there all by itself, without the help of a young black kid raised in the heartland of America who has clearly distinguished himself in terms of intellect and conduct to be utterly fit to be our next president. I, too, pray for my nation, but I don't have to take a bite out of my soul, or anybody else's either. to do so. I'll answer my own question. That is not what it is all about.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Let's Not Forget Who She Is

Let's not forget who she is. She is the person who in a very few months, or perhaps a couple of years, may be the next President of the United States. She is the one while mayor of a small town whose administration charged rape victims for rape crime kits, i.e. about $1200. From a personal standpoint, that little tidbit is all I need to know about her. But there is more. She is the one who lives and sleeps with a person who for at least a dozen years was a member of a political group that advocates secession of the state of Alaska from the Union. The last time that States sought to secede from the Union resulted in the Civil War. I would expect that any person might consider the threat of secession an act of terror and any person who advocated such an act a potential terrorist. Would it be reasonable, therefore, to suggest that she sleeps with a potential terrorist? Others would say such a charge is ridiculous, right? Such a contention might be considered a stretch, but hardly as much as inferring that one is a terrorist because of casual association with a neighbor who committed illegal acts of terrorism when one was eight years old and who was never charged by the United States government for those acts.

I learned some very difficult lessons as a trial lawyer. The first was to avoid any possible situation which gave the opposition the opportunity to throw mud at your case. My early tendency, unfortunately, was to simply blow off these efforts and assume that clear thinking and right minded people (i.e. the jury) would disregard such efforts as nothing but obvious desperate attempts to obscure truth. Some of the mud, totally unjustified, always sticks. People looking for an excuse to not do the right thing would always take the mud and run with it as an excuse or justification to do other than the right thing. Lawyers realize the process. Some politicians realize the process. What's the old adage? You can fool some of the people all of the time?

Who is she? She is not "that one." That designation is already taken. Her name is Sarah Palin and she is in the process of demoniziing the presidential campaign with snide, snotty, untrue inferences against Barack Obama with one aim in mind; To fool some of the people into making a decision based on fear rather than reason and common sense. I have often characterized John McCain as a good man and I have respected and admired the sense of values that he brought to the table. However, he should be ashamed of what he has permitted to be done in his name. The one legitimate fear that I have is that her inexcusable conduct carries the day for McCain and puts her a heart beat from the presidency, just behind this 72 year old man with a history of recurrent malignant melanoma. I had a very dear friend who died recently of this malady which recurred after six years of quiescence. It was an ugly and slow descent into a horrible lingering death. John McCain is not my enemy and I would not wish this potential to occur with him or my enemies. With specific regard to McCain, if such an unfortunate event were to occur while he was President, the consequences for the entire world would be disastrous because of this piece of ignorant, intolerant and arrogant white trash he has selected as his running mate. To complete the thought of a dreaded malignancy's potential impact on the Presidency, the respected conservative columnist, David Brooks declared yesterday that "Sarah Palin represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pick Me, Pick Me: I'm A Maverick

Pick me, pick me because I'm a maverick. No, I am not talking about McCain or Palin. They are mavericks too. Just ask them. Joining the fray, however, based on the possibility that hateful attack ads this last month before the election will turn the tide in favor of McCain and that he will become the next president of the United States, I want to become a justice of the Supreme Court. I possess the perfect temperament and I share certain common attributes with McCain and Palin. Why do I want this? The secret is that I have always wanted to be an appellate judge. To accomplish this purpose I can promise to do whatever McCain wants me to do. You want textualism? I'm your man. I have a great deal of experience with this concept. My last official case as a lawyer was in Texas where my clients were suing the state of Texas for first trimester injuries inflicted by state employee physicians who performed a medical procedure damaging the limb buds of the children. Texas state law requires that the state be notified of the potential law suit within six months of the date of the injury. Let me see; I'll give a math quiz. If the length of gestation is nine months and a child is injured in utero in the first three months, when will the six month period of time expire? Before the child is born and before the injury can be discovered? Too bad. Too late. The text of the statute doesn't allow wriggle room. Go to the end of the line. Now I know what you're thinking. I don't have a chance in hell that McCain would pick me because in that case as a maverick I was advocating on behalf of the children, i.e. I was on the wrong side of the 7-0 opinion of the state Supreme court that also brought us a governor who became president because of his compassionate conservatism. But this is incidental. the reason I deserve a Supreme Court appointment is because I am a maverick. I don't need to know anything or do anything other than nurture that image. In fact, in an administration where the sea of faces would undoubtedly be ditto-head stereotypes, I might provide some comic relief. I could raise a little hell on the Court. First of all, I would promise to refuse to wear judicial robes. They are so yesterday. I, like Palin, am about the future. I am ready for my confirmation hearings. Why am I a maverick? Because I say so, that's why. Next question please.

More From Jeff

As I have mentioned previously, my grandson Jeff is studying in china this year. His most recent update on his trip folows:

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Shanghai China.

I apologize for standing you up on my weekly update; these last few weeks have left me little time. My time not spent in school I have been traveling, first to an island in the East China Sea, then to a Taoist temple in Zhejiang province to the south. My internship also started, my task: find an alternative way to measure CO2 emissions. (Oh, and solve the world hunger problem while you are at it…)

A few weeks ago, I went to the nearest tennis club for a private lesson. People had been telling me that Chinese tennis players are not the best at tennis, and even that my instructor might not be the caliber that I am used to. I arrived at the court, and paid the equivalent of 20 USD. The pro grabbed a racket off the wall and we headed out to the court. We warmed up short court and moved back as I assessed the situation, he was not any better than me. After 40 minutes of him feeding and me grooving, I asked him to play a set. He agreed, and I smoked him 6-0. At first I was mad. Why should I pay for this? But I quickly came to terms with myself, and convinced myself it was worth it because I had worked some strokes, and had a few good points. My optimism was later confirmed by meeting a Frenchman that was looking for someone to play with at a higher level, and we exchanged numbers.

Then, the best part of the week: my fishing trip. I left Friday night at 9 on a night train (means I had a hard bunk sleeper). I started talking to the people that were in my same room (5 others) and they all turned out to be extremely interesting and knew all about where I was going. We talked late into the night. The next morning one of the ladies I had met who lived nearby paid for me to take a cab to the docks (which were in a different city called Rui'an) and bought me breakfast. Awesome. The ticket booth was nearby too, and I was able to get my tickets for the boat and head to the waiting room. While I was waiting I had to deal with the stares of everyone in the room, (I was the only foreigner I had seen for the last 12 hours, it is not a tourist destination) repeated attempts from an old man trying to set me up with his daughter, ("Is she not beautiful? Yes! Very beautiful! Good wife!") And kids trying to practice English with me. The latter was highly enjoyable, and the two kids (10 and 6) had rather good vocabularies, so I quizzed them on fruit names before they got bored.

The boat lasted a rough 2 hours, and the landlubbers around me were vomiting all over the seats, the floor, and sometimes into the trash can. The only cure was the calm seas of the dock where I was only too happy to breathe fresh air. The cab to the other side of the island took ten minutes, five up and five down. The scenery out of the window reminded me of Cinque Terre, Italy. The road dropped off into beaches and surf, fishermen unloaded their catch at docks, and women cut fish up to bait traps. I arrived at my hotel, a room part of a four room beach house, and it cost $14 a night. I set out and explored the island. It is part of a chain of islands, most of them a national park. The main industries on the island are fishing and trapping crabs, eels, and other marine animals, as well as tourists. Luckily, the cages are large and comfortable…

Tourism. There are only a few spots for tourists to stay, and a limited amount of seats (about 300 a day) on boats to and from the island. Many of the fish and shrimp that they harvest are dried, done by slicing the fish and placing them on wires out in the sun or placing the shrimp along the sides of the road. Every road near any house has three feet of shrimp shoulder drying on each side.

I tried to climb up to a mountain road, but was told by military personnel that it was forbidden. I walked back down and tried to find someone to take me deep-sea fishing. All of the boats were already out, and it was going to be too much hassle, so I went back to my beach house where the owner let me borrow a fishing pole, and I set out for the docks. On the way I bought a pound of fresh shrimp (32 American cents from a restaurant) and walked down the road to the water. The docks on the island were cut into the rock cliffs and had no fish around them. My bait was constantly stolen by tiny fish and crabs, and the two cops that were fishing next to me were also having no luck. They told me they knew a better location and invited me to join them. The location they knew about turned out to be down a cliff, my flip flops are not the best climbing shoes, but I managed. I caught no fish, but sitting on a partially submerged rock in the cool water with the sun beating, and minnows nibbling, my love of traveling was reinforced. The time it took me to plan the trip, the long train ride, the boat with vomiting people, all of those hurdles were ephemeral compared to the magnitude of peace I felt on that rock. I would come back, I decided, and I would bring friends so they could experience that feeling.

That night I met two kids (19 and 24, boy and girl, brother and sister) that were staying at my hotel, and we went out to eat at one of the local restaurants. No restaurant had a menu; they only had bins of fresh seafood that were more of a, "See how fresh our food is?" than a practicality, but I was impressed. We met four more people that they knew, and had a feast. three different types of crab, three plates of oysters on the half shell, (they eat them with wasabi and soy sauce) other assorted shells, shrimp, mussels, two types of fish, eel, and other things that I have never eaten but I was assured live in the sea. It was a feast by any measure, and the total for 7 people was not over 100 USD. Afterwords we went to the beach and cooled off in the water before retiring to bed around 10.

The next morning I woke up at 4 and took a bus to the top of the island to see the sunrise. The two kids from the night before came with, and we rock-sat one of the highest points of the island, and watched the sun rise above islands, fishing boats, and the bay. Amazing. We returned to the hotel around 7, I went swimming, ate some more delicious seafood, and took the three o'clock boat back to the mainland.

The trip back was much more eventful than the trip there. Fortunately, the boat passage was calm, no vomiting. They played a movie that was entirely inappropriate for the younger passengers, and they had the volume up so loud that it disturbed my sleep through ear plugs. Back at Rui'an, I had to catch a cab back to Wen'zhou the nearest airport. Every cab driver there (they knew the time of the boat, and were waiting in droves) quoted me ridiculous prices that I was not going to pay. I had heard that you could get a public taxi, which was essentially a cab that you took with other people so you could split the cost. I started walking away to find one and a man on a motorcycle zoomed up, offering to help me track one down. I paid him 30 RMB, put on a helmet, and told him to be careful. I must have looked ridiculous with my backpack on my back and my camera on my shoulder, hanging on to a small Chinese man weaving through traffic, crossing the center line and chasing down cabs. I did not realize that he really meant chasing when he said it, but we tore down the highway chasing cabs, hailing them over, and asking them if I could ride with them. After the most exciting 15 minutes of my life we found one for 5 RMB. I arrived at the airport, which was small and littered with advertisements for transmissions, bolts and other assorted machinery parts, (Wen'zhou is a big manufacturing center) and started memorizing Monday's characters. While waiting, I noticed that my face and back felt hot: sunburn. I went to buy a bottle of cool water, and the clerk, a woman who could barely have been 20 asked me, "Have you been drinking?" Sorry, I am just white.

Last weekend was an equally exciting adventure. After Friday's test, my friend Jamie and I went to a baseball game. His internship is with the Shanghai Eagles, Shanghai's professional baseball team. Baseball is not popular in China; the entire country only has 6 teams. We sat in the dugout, met some of the players, and watched them get destroyed by Beijing, the best team in the League. Beijing's team has most of China's Olympic players, so it was hardly fair. Shanghai's team had one Olympic player on it, and I got to sit next to him on the bench between innings, pretty cool. We left in the 7th inning, ate, and went to the train station. Our RD Jeremy and the rest of our study abroad group met us at the train station, and we took a night train to Wen'zhou (Same place as last week). The next morning we got in two taxis we had rented for the weekend and drove for a while, out of the city and into another. We ended up at a hotel. Surprise! Jeremy took us to a breakfast buffet with food in one of my favorite flavors: west. Not that the food here is terrible, but how many meals can I eat rice and dumplings in a row? After we stuffed our faces, we took off to nine pools.

Jeremy warned us that we were "not supposed to swim", and then made sure we all had our suits (hidden under clothing) before we took off. We hiked up to the ninth pool to get warm (it was only 70 and cloudy) before swimming in the 7th. It was a waterfall-carved pool, deep beyond touching, and we jumped off rocks and swam under crushing falls. We swam in the 6th (a pool with a diameter of 10 feet that was over 30 feet deep) the 8th (shallow and carved out) and the 10th (I guess it's a secret? It had a slippery rock face that we could slide down into another pool). After we were thoroughly cold, we packed up and hiked back down to a country-style dinner of spicy chicken (heads included), bamboo roots, and lotus root. We then changed into hiking clothes drove up a mountain road that changed from cement to gravel to dirt to rocks and then ended. We then left the taxis and hiked up the rest of the way in the darkening fog to a Taoist temple. We arrived in the pitch dark, and my penlight was our only guide through the shrine and past the courtyard burning incense into the commons area. A few monks were sitting around watching television, and when we arrived they disappeared into the kitchen to make us dinner. Everyone sat around the TV watching the English Channel; I was instantly bored. I ventured into the kitchen to see if I could help, and I ended up sitting behind the stove with a monk dressed in a blue robe, breaking pine boughs into small enough pieces to stuff into the stove and keep our rice cooking. It took me a good 5 minutes of talking with him to understand that he didn't really speak Mandarin, but a local dialect. We tended the fire in silence. Dinner was awesome, vegetarian dishes brimming with flavor, tea that warmed us, and laughter brought tears to our eyes as we watched the aged, fire-tending monk curl up on a chair in front of a Korean soap opera.

The beds were simple but comfortable, and we slept hard, waking up at 4 to the tap-tap-tap of monks praying and chanting. We drifted back to sleep after they quieted, and woke up to the same meal we had eaten 12 hours previously, still delicious. We hiked back down after a group photo. Our trip back to Wen'zhou was marked by eating sugarcane in the cabs. Delicious. In Wen'zhou we found a coffee shop and did our homework. We took another night train back, arriving at 5AM Monday, time enough to write my essay before class.

This week has been quiet all over Shanghai. Wednesday was a national holiday so most people had the week off. We, unfortunately, follow the US calendar and only had Wednesday off, but that will be made up for by our fall break in two weeks. The weather here is still great, 70s and sunny, and comfortable at night.

I also have a new cell number, it follows.

Until next week,

Jeff Vredenburg

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Judge For Yourself

I have written recently on the lying that is going on in this presidential campaign. A good friend of mine and a staunch conservative (These categories are not mutually exclusive. The guy I am talking about is as thoughtful and trustworthy a person as one could find on this planet) has sent me a response to one of my recent blogs. In his response he sets forth the various discrepancies and lies spread by Obama and his followers. One of the real dangers in assessing the candidacies is getting caught up in the emotional impact of selecting one candidate over another. That tendency is magnified if one chooses to disregard the 'negatives' of one's favorite and, instead, focuses on embellishing the negatives of the other side. I am determined not to do this, although I will admit that looking back over the past two months or so, I have been particularly vituperative in my blogging against McCain and Palin, mainly because I have been disappointed in McCain for abandoning principle for the expediency of politics inasmuch as his principles were his strengths. Without belaboring the point, the McCain of the past has done many fine things based upon his principles that have served the nation well, and I am not referring at all to his military past. Instead I will set forth the various charges against the Obama campaign that my friend has sent me. What follows is his response and I need to put it in the proper context. On the same day that I received his response, I received no fewer than fourteen(14) e-mails from others of a disgusting nature that, at best, can be described as racist. By far, the ugliest was a doctored photo of Obama polishing Palin's boots. So much for objective discourse on the qualifications of the candidates for the highest office in the land. There is a less than subtle grass roots campaign going on against Obama below the radar, so to speak, and my fervor about these efforts is a determination that the color of a man's skin not be the basis for the selection of our next President. Here is the response:

"Hi Tom--

"just a little pointed question and a few more tirades from the right.

"Do you have as much fun with a presidential candidate who thinks there are 58 states in the union? Earlier this month in Oregon, he redrew the map of the United States: “Over the last 15 months, we’ve traveled to every corner of the United States. I’ve now been in 57 states? I think one left to go.”

"With a vice-presidential candidate who thinks FDR was president and got on TV when the stock market crashed?

"A man who thinks he was conceived during the Selma march --Marking the anniversary of the March 1965 "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Ala., Obama, speaking at a church, said his parents got together "because of what happened in Selma." Obama was born in 1961.

"On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes — and I see many of them in the audience here today — our sense of patriotism is particularly strong. The Messiah is seeing the dead heroes in the audience.

"…Obama also spoke about his uncle, who was part of the American brigade that helped to liberate Auschwitz…

"Auschwitz of course is in Poland. It was liberated by the Red Army on Jan 27 1945. Poland, on most maps is usually placed to the east of Germany, although we may need to investigate the geography textbooks the Messiah used as a child…

""My Muslim faith" what a slip of the tongue--I don't think he is Muslim--but he sure doesn't help to put his critics at ease.

"His boast that he helped pass legislation regulating the nuclear industry (when that legislation didn't pass the full Senate).

"Last March, the Chicago Tribune reported this little-noticed nugget about a fake autobiographical detail in Obama’s Dreams from My Father: “Then, there’s the copy of Life magazine that Obama presents as his racial awakening at age 9. In it, he wrote, was an article and two accompanying photographs of an African-American man physically and mentally scarred by his efforts to lighten his skin. In fact, the Life article and the photographs don’t exist, say the magazine’s own historians.”

" And in perhaps the most seriously troubling set of gaffes of them all, Obama told a Portland crowd over the weekend that Iran doesn’t “pose a serious threat to us” — cluelessly arguing that “tiny countries” with small defense budgets can’t do us harm — and then promptly flip-flopped the next day, claiming, “I’ve made it clear for years that the threat from Iran is grave.”

"This next gaffe is especially egregious--exposing him for the liar he is. His attempt to take advantage of a family's grief for political advantage.

"I have a bracelet too--

"Why wear a hero's bracelet but not taking the time to remember the hero's name by heart. Obama had three day to prepare for this debate and apparently did not have time to memorize the name.

"However, Madison resident Brian Jopek, the father of Ryan Jopek, the young soldier who tragically lost his life to a roadside bomb in 2006, recently said on a Wisconsin Public Radio show that his family had asked Barack Obama to stop wearing the bracelet with his son's name on it. Yet Obama continues to do so despite the wishes of the family.


"The Clinton campaign had their issues with Obama--but seem now to put them aside:

"the Illinois senator’s controversial remarks about “bitter” small-town Pennsylvanians who “cling” to religion and other cultural stances out of economic despair — comments immediately characterized by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and McCain as condescending — have suddenly reintroduced an unwelcome issue, undermining the progress made by concerted Democratic Party outreach to religious voters and reinvigorating criticism that the effort to woo religious voters is more rhetoric than substance.

"Last May, he claimed that tornadoes in Kansas killed a whopping 10,000 people: “In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died — an entire town destroyed.” The actual death toll: 12.

"He thinks Afghans speak Arabic;

"Earlier this month in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Obama showed off his knowledge of the war in Afghanistan by homing in on a lack of translators: “We only have a certain number of them, and if they are all in Iraq, then it’s harder for us to use them in Afghanistan.” The real reason it’s “harder for us to use them” in Afghanistan: Iraqis speak Arabic or Kurdish. The Afghanis speak Pashto, Farsi, or other non-Arabic languages.

"He is no better in our hemisphere: He thinks Canada has a president.

"He blames Bush for Chavez being in power in Venezuela:

"On Friday Barack Obama spelled out his Latin America policy [snip]:

Since the Bush Administration launched a misguided war in Iraq, its policy in the Americas has been negligent toward our friends, ineffective with our adversaries, disinterested in the challenges that matter in peoples' lives, and incapable of advancing our interests in the region.

No wonder, then, that demagogues like Hugo Chavez have stepped into this vacuum.
"This is pathetic. Hugo Chavez came to power during the Clinton Administration, and was first elected President of Venezuela in 1998, two years before the Bush Administration took office.
Oh--his apologists try to say that Chavez was not a problem until the Iraq war--that he would hafve continued the normal relations with the US. Right--just like Castro--he kept his Marxist views hidden until he had the power after ousting president Fulgencio Batista, the dictator before him.
"What would he do about Venezuela--it is hard to tell from this:

"More recently, Obama as he traveled through Florida seemed to give some contradictory statements about Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and the Colombian terrorist group FARC.
"On Thursday Obama told the Orlando Sentinel that he would meet with Chavez and "one of the obvious high priorities in my talks with President Hugo Chavez would be the fermentation of anti-American sentiment in Latin America, his support of FARC in Colombia and other issues he would want to talk about."

"OK, so a strong declaration that Chavez is supporting FARC, which Obama intends to push him on.

"But then on Friday he said any government supporting FARC should be isolated.

"We will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments," he said in a speech in Miami. "This behavior must be exposed to international condemnation, regional isolation, and - if need be - strong sanctions. It must not stand."

"So he will meet with the leader of a country he simultaneously says should be isolated? Huh?

"How many more gaffes until we can call him Stupid !

"Barack Obama — promoted by the Left and the media as an all-knowing, articulate, transcendent Messiah — is a walking, talking gaffe machine. How many more passes does he get? How many more can we afford?

"And surprisingly, it seems that Biden is trying to compete with Obama for Stupid.:

"Biden's string of slip-ups started last Monday. Asked by NBC's Meredith Vieira whether the Fed should bail out insurance giant AIG, the senator said no: "I don't think they should be bailed out by the federal government." Unfortunately, the remark had more in common with McCain's initial position on the bailout (instinctive opposition) than Obama's carefully cultivated claim that he would not "second-guess" the government. When the bailout went through, both Biden and McCain bowed to reality. But the shift left Obama in a tricky position--as Matt Lauer pointed out this morning on "Today." Noting that Obama had been hitting McCain for flip-flopping on the AIG bailout, Lauer asked the Illinois senator how he could criticize his Republican rival when his own running mate had made the same mistake. His answer? "I think Joe should have waited, as well." Awkward.

"The past few days have been even worse. Speaking Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Biden not only acknowledged that the wealthy would pay higher taxes if if he and Obama won the White House but said that doing so would be "patriotic." "It's time to be patriotic," he said. "Time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut." Whether or not you agree with that sentiment, emphasizing that Obama would raise rates on rich folks (instead of saying that he'd lower them on the middle-classes) was clearly off-message--and the "patriotism" sound bite gave the GOP something catchy to hang its "redistribution of wealth" hat on. Accompanied by a sarcastic ad, McCain's response was scathing: "Raising taxes in a tough economy isn't patriotic. It's not a badge of honor. It's just dumb policy." Expect to hear more on Biden's idea of patriotism before Nov. 4.

"Incredibly, though, the senator seems to have saved the worst for last. Asked last night by Katie Couric on the "CBS Evening News," Biden delivered what has to be most off-message statement yet: that one of his campaign's own ads--the spot released earlier this month mocking McCain for not being able to use a computer--was "terrible." "I didn't know we did it and if I had anything to do with it, we would have never done it," he said. The campaign was soon forced to issue a less-than-convincing clarification in Biden's name. (Apparently he'd "never seen" the ad.") Meanwhile, video surfaced this morning of Biden telling a rope-line environmentalist in Ohio that he and Obama "are not supporting clean coal" in America--even though Obama, well, is. McCain quickly pounced, using Biden's error to pivot away from Wall Street and make the case that Democrats don't support comprehensive energy solutions; conference calls and ads are in the works. Biden may have opposed the technology in the primaries--he's on record as saying "clean-coal ... is not the route to go in the United States"--but he should probably brush up on his briefing books (or pay attention to his own speeches) now that his boss disagrees.

"Now this donkey is trying to pin his tail on the elephant for the present economic crisis. Go back and study the CRA history and the story of Jamie Gorelick--26 $Million in 6 hears from FNMA--with no experience in the field. And that after the debacle of the Memo she sent out on prohibiting the FBI and Louie Frieh from sharing data that could have prevented 9-11.

"All of that history--you can find it -- but Obama continues to blast the Administration, when it was Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Chuck Schumer, who continued to block any attempt to reform FNMA. This train wreck was foreseen by many, even Obama saw it 2 years ago, as did McCain. But others saw it much earlier, and in 2004 hearings were held--and the three Senators and Congressmen blocked any reforms. Why? They were all receiving funding from FNMA and Freddy Mac. If the corporate banking and financial company CEOs are required to pay back their bonuses--the same should apply to politicos who have been feeding at the trough. These same people passed legislation that penalized banks that did not conform to their regulations. Penalized for attempting to make sure their loans were to credit-worthy people. As a result, sub-primes were issued. People bought more home than they could afford, some with multiple homes for investment counting on a rapid rise in housing prices, real estate speculation, and now the whole purpose of the CRA was defeated as homes were no longer affordable and interest rates were adjusted. So the working poor were fooled by the social engineering of the Democrats --this was really their turf. Banks would not make such bad loans, unless they were forced to, or had an easy way to dispense them to the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. How can it be that they ended up with 50% of all the US mortgages. What ever happened to the local banks keeping mortgages in their own portfolios? Local control, local people, your trustworthy neighbors.

"There is nothing in our constitution indicating it is a federal responsibility to tell the bankers how to do business, except as relates to fairness, under the 14th Amendment.

"I am afraid that the current climate of anger is benefitting Obama's campaign, and he will certainly take advantage of it. The issues are far too complex for the majority of voters to comprehend, or be able to assess where the primary responsibility lies. But because of the anger against the Bush administration--who warned of this in 2001, 2003, 2004, and, if true, 17 times this year, before this current crisis--that anger will benefit Obama.

"As an aside our lovely Nancy Pelosi just blew out the attempt for a government bailout by her polemic. Remember, she gave 16 Democrats her approval to vote against the bailout, yet complains about the 12 Republicans that switched their vote after her tirade. Even the chairman of the committee could not convince 27 Democratic members to vote for the bill. All these Congressmen needed cover so they could vote against the bill, because to do otherwise would go against their constituents--who according to the polls I have seen, are running about 9 to 1 against that version of the bailout. Good Lord, maybe the group of twelve has shown us that the people still rule, despite what either the administration or the dealmakers in Congress think."