Sunday, November 30, 2008

Boys Will Be Boys

Those who read my blog site know that on occasion I feature some travel writings from my grandson, Jeff, who is in China this year studying. In the most recent story below, Jeff relates a modern version of frogs, snails and puppy dog tails.

Saturday, November 29, 2008
Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou, Canton, Gwongzau. Whatever they call it, I am here. I came alone, with a hotel's address written on a card and the Xeroxed pages of a travel guide for the city of Guangzhou and the city of Macau. My goal: eat cat. My deadline: Monday night.

Upon arrival I found my hotel and set out to explore the local area. A tradition I have when traveling alone and first arrive at a new place is to leave my hotel the first night, pick a direction and walk. Not only does it familiarize me with the area, but I can then see part of the city that I would not have otherwise seen. An hour into my exploration I came to the Pearl River and took one of those tour boats that are in every famous waterway. The city is beautiful, the night was cool, and I stood out as much as ever. Between people wanting to take pictures with me and dodging stares from the waitresses (whose only job was to deliver a bottle of water when we boarded) I managed to hear a bit about the city and the buildings we passed from the lady on the loudspeaker. I disembarked and started looking for dinner. It was around 10pm and I was not sure where to look. Down a side ally I saw three guys my age eating noodles so I inquired as to their taste. "They are OK," Their answer was good enough for my appetite to say yes so I ordered a bowl to go(60cents) and as I waked away the three guys called back asking me to sit with them. Why not? We talked for over an hour about the city, America, the NBA (the favorite topic of any young guy in China) and jobs. One of the boys folded dumplings at the local restaurant and the others also worked in the kitchen. They loved it though because they could use the hotel's basketball court for free. We exchanged telephone numbers and after hearing that I wanted to eat cat, they said they would see what they could do to get some friends together Monday to go eat it. After saying goodbye I caught a cab back to my hotel, watched a pirated DVD (Babylon AD, 75cents), and fell asleep.

Today I woke up with plans to go to the Qingping market, Shamian island, and a temple.

The qingping market is supposedly where all of the rare and exotic animals are sold for slaughter. My guidebook strongly recommended I not go. To say that I was disappointed means that the rest of the world can be relieved. I saw no cats, dogs, or other cute critter for auction (Except the street next to it which, ironically, is Pet Street where kittens, dogs and other cute critters as pets. I wonder if anyone gets confused???) But I did see dried frogs, snakes, lizards, fungi, seahorses, starfish, deer antlers, live scorpions and eels, as well as more traditional things like dried roots and leaves (tea?). There were also street vendors selling monkey heads and tiger paws that can't be real, right? If the price of the tiger paw was too much, they would cut off a claw and put it on a necklace for you. What service. Disappointed, I then walked around for two hours looking for a restaurant that had cat on the menu with no luck. I settled with fried noodles, wantons, and cold Coke out of a glass bottle with a straw.

I then walked to Shamian island and traveled back to colonial Europe. The buildings were nothing like their Chinese counterparts and were the same as the British and French built them centuries ago. It is also the preferred spot for newlyweds to take pictures, I saw at least 10 couples in their dresses and tuxes on photo shoots.

The temple was the highlight of the day. I payed the 5RMB entrance fee (0.75cents) and wandered around for a big. There were giant golden statues of Buddha in temples surrounding a seventeen story eight-sided temple. I walked around for 30 minutes before coming to a pagoda where an old, brown-clad monk was writing calligraphy on banners. Very pretty! I said. For the second time this weekend, an initial breach of language and expressed interest went a long way. The monk and I talked for a few moments and he asked if I wanted to drink some tea. I accepted and he limped off to fetch a teapot and a cup. He carefully poured the boiling water from a giant, rusted and dinged up tea kettle into a small plastic Dixie cup. I reached for it but he picked it up and dumped it out. Without saying anything he poured another and handed it to me. "Don't drink the first cup". He then left me for his calligraphy. After sipping a few boiling tastes, I went back over to chat. We talked about the states and he told me his 84 year-old master is now at a temple in New York. "Come sit," He told me, pulling out the chair next to him. I had noticed that he was fiddling with something in his lap, and when I rounded the table I saw that it was his ankle. It was swollen and bandaged. He saw me looking and smiled. "Can you sit like this?" I looked closer and he was in the lotus position. No, I laughed. "If you have time in the future, you can come back and I will teach you." It sounded more like an order than a request. He them proceeded to unwrap the bandage and remove slices of raw potatoes from his skin. Surprised, I asked and was told that raw potatoes against the skin help reduce swelling. He rewrapped his foot and let me take a picture with him as long as I made sure that the picture we took had his crossed legs in it.

He then insisted that I eat. He went to into the back of one of the temples and came back with a huge plate of seaweed, rice, boc choi, peppers, and spinach. I ate at a table outside with one of his students, a woman from Anhui Province. She had traveled by train for 14 hours to be under his tutelage hoping to resolve problems with work. She wanted to follow her dream to become a tour guide, and was interested in the United States and how best to study English. "Just find an English Speaking boyfriend." I told her. After an hour of chatting it was time for the temple to close. "Don't worry," She said, "That's just for tourists, I'll take you to the service tonight." (I am not actually sure what the name of it is, but they have one every night at 5:15).

The temple where the service was held had three 30 foot gold Buddha's in the back that took up half of the temple which was only 50 feet deep. Offerings were laid out before them and incense burned in the background. Lined in front of them were the monks, clad in brown robes, some carrying bells and drums and gongs. There were four main instrumental parts to their service. One monk beat a giant clam shell looking drum with every syllable of recitation. A gong was struck to measure the ends of passages and a small bell was beat along with them. They sang/chanted for an hour. The girl I was with had a book with what they said and was singing along and went through at least thirty pages of characters. It was amazing that they had it all memorized! At one point the priest took two small cups and poured water between them, then set one down and made a cross like symbol with the other. My Christian background was even more amazed when he held it to his forehead like the blessing of the Eucharist. He then sprinkled the water around the temple. As the service came to a close three people with a recently-deceased family member came to the front and kneeled before the statues and were blessed.

Needless to say it was fascinating and new. The temple is one of four in the city and is a major tourist attraction. To have an insider's perspective of it was something I will always treasure.

Tomorrow I leave early in the morning to Macao, I will spend a night there before returning Monday morning to finish my quest. Oh how sweet victory will be but if I am defeated…I will forever be shamed.

Wu Jie


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Latest From My Grandson, Jeff, in China

November 21, 2008.

Shanghai China

In the last month and a half I have reached an interesting point in my chinesehood. As I learn more and more about the culture, I simultaneously am more annoyed at the way people here act while becoming more understanding of why they act that way. This has come to be through traveling to different parts of the country, meeting more people, having more in depth conversations as my language improves and hanging out with expats and hearing their point of view.

More than most countries because of its size, China has vastly different peoples and traditions spread across its territory. My mother and grandmother came over for two weeks, and we traveled for 12 days which could have been a general survey of China course. We spent a few days in Shanghai, China's economic center and then flew to Chongqing where we boarded a boat for a four-day Yangtze river cruise. We moseyed down the river through the three gorges and marveled at the effects of the three gorges dam. Villages that we passed were under water, places that once were a meter deep were now 40 meters deep. New cities were built using old bricks from now submerged villages, and new bridges were built where old ones were submerged. We had an excursion to a temple dedicated to hell which was leftover since before the cultural revolution. It escaped being destroyed by the red guard because they feared that if they destroyed it, the spirits of the demons would haunt them. On the third day we passed through the five chambers of the locks and docked on the other side for the night. The next morning we took a tour of the locks and saw the dam. We disembarked for good and spent the night in Yicheng, a city of a meager 4 million.

Next we went to Guilin, an almost mythical city that figures prominently both in Chinese lore and the western view China. Sheer karst hills shooting straight out of the earth and shrouded in mist added to the perception of mystery and adventure. Water buffalos dotted the riverbanks of the Li river, which we boated down to Yangshuo where we saw fisherman and their cormorants and I rented a bike. I rode into the countryside where rice paddies peasants met with water buffalos and plows, and even had a conversation with an old farmer taking his water buffalo down to the river to drink.

We ended our trip on a whirlwind three day stop in Beijing. We managed to hit most of the major tourist sights and were blessed with crystal blue skies the entire time. Travel weary but open-eyed, I returned to Shanghai unprepared for the start of a new semester.

The very next weekend my class went on a trip to local factories. Our teachers and all seven of us students visited a coal cogeneration power plant, a bike factory that supplies Wal-Mart, the second biggest linen producing factory in the world, and a plant that makes solar panels. We were able to tour each factory and talk with a manager. In the bike plant, the people were hand-winding the copper wires in the motors at a speed that is unseen in an American workplace. These women were working with bandaged hands while wearing high heels. They work 6 days a week, 10 hours a day, for 300 USD a month which is slightly over average pay, especially since they live at the factory dorms. Many of the people are people from the countryside that are sending money back to their families.

There is a different sense of responsibility here. My roommate's girlfriend works retail, and someone stole 3000 RMB (about 400 USD) on her watch. She is now responsible for returning the money; her last paycheck was withheld and she must work for no pay until they have recuperated this lost pay. People on the street will not think twice about pushing you aside,

We went to the local municipality last week and interviewed some government officials. We were especially interested on their view of the one child policy, since they are the ones that enforce it. How it works is if someone is pregnant with their second child, the local government (what they call street level government) pays the family a visit and the person conveniently opts for an abortion. "What if they want to keep it?" We asked. We were reassured that they never do. Also, how do they know about their pregnancy? They would not tell us.

I had a chance to go see the Masters tournament last weekend, (both semi final matches). 27 kilometers out of the city looms a giant tennis stadium that was built just for the tournament, it will have little use now that the tournament will be in London. We had tickets at will call and (Lucas, a friend in the program, is the son of the CEO of the company that does all of the electronics.) the amount of scalpers was ridiculous, but nothing can be done about them as they give the local police kickbacks. Example: as we signed the tickets to pick them up, a man was standing next to us, leaning on the glass of the ticket office, asking if we wanted to buy any from him. The other hilarious part of the competition was the challenge system. Every time a played challenged a call, the crowd would cheer IN! or OUT! in a crescendo until the ruling was heard and the crowd let out a sigh. It was as if they were deciding the fate of a gladiator in ancient Rome.

I went to go see the newest Bond film, Quantum Solace. Unfortunately the plot dealt with trying to overthrow a government, which is upsetting the communist party, and the movie was censored. The very first scene stated "The content of this film complies with the PRCC guidelines for foreign films." A good half hour of the movie was directly cut, A few of the scenes right in the middle of dialogue. We left the theater scratching our heads and promising ourselves we would see the movie again in America to figure out what happened.

I also started a new internship at a company called Praxis Language which puts out Podcasts for Spanish, French, Italian, and Chinese learners. I have been helping them with marketing analysis and troubleshooting, as well as making their site easier to navigate. They have even let me appear in a couple of Podcasts: I even explained some Spanish grammar points on the air yesterday! The people that I work with are incredible. They come from all over the world and give me the opportunity to speak in many languages. If I could only keep them all straight…

I am going to Hangzhou this weekend with my roommate, which is a few hours southwest of Shanghai and is home to 6.5 million people. Next weekend I am going to fulfill my quest to eat cat and am going to Canton to do so. I hear they eat everything down there.

Shanghai is cooling off, most of the recent days have barely broken 45, and buildings rarely have heat. I can live without snow though, and I can always go south.

Abbreviated and belated,


吴杰 (Wú Jié)

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Watching while a lifetime of prudent savings not so slowly ekes away has darkened my outlook on my fellow man the past few weeks. It all boils down to one inescapable conclusion; greedy people will do what comes naturally to them if nobody’s watching. A variety of thoughts come to mind epitomized by the saying "good fences make good neighbors." The major conclusion among the economists is that the current financial disaster sprung from the thoroughly unregulated housing bubble. Everyone, including the individual investor, was in it for the big bucks. Caution was thrown to the winds. No rules (fences) were in place to check the greedy impulses of the participants, big and small. A microcosm of what is happening can be found by looking at the game of golf. For those of you who know me well, I love the game and play regularly. Those of us who do play regularly keep track of our efforts and post our results for all to see by establishing a handicap. The handicap consists of calculating the average of 98% of the best 10 of our 20 most recent scores. The typical pattern for most golfers is that this number, the handicap, fluctuates up or down a few strokes. The actual number, of course, depends on the skill of the golfer. For example, I tend to center on the number 16 with my handicap varying at times from 14 to 18. In other words, I am not so good at golf as many of the players I play with regularly but the one thing we have in common is that we can trust the number. If I play with Bill (handicap 10) , John (handicap 8) and Tim (20) we know that we can have a fair match by adjusting the net results of any given day's effort according to these handicaps. One guy may play a little better on a given day, but day in and day out, a fair handicap based on a system of trust, is the way to ensure fairness to all. The really good shot, the chip in from off the green, the 45 foot putt on the last hole are all rewarded appropriately if the system is in place. Most clubs have invitationals in which each member brings a guest and the member guest combination plays against all other members guest combinations. In three different invitationals I have played in the past two years, a guest of a member has claimed handicaps as high as 30 only top shoot impossibly low scores for someone who truly has such a high handicap. The net result, of course, is that such member guest teams win the event and leave everyone who has adhered to the rules walking away with a sense of dismay. The inevitable result of allowing such unregulated behavior is that people stop playing in these events and the system (the event) moves toward collapse. This is what we have going on at the present. The financial system has cheated on their handicaps. Rules need to be established and monitored. Good fences do make good neighbors.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Conservative Thinking and the Big Picture

The major premise, as I understand it , among conservatives is that a smaller government should do less for its citizens and that such limited role in the lives of its citizens should keep it small. The corollaries of these thoughts are a) that a citizen should conduct his/her affairs in such a manner that does not depend on government handouts. In short, a citizen has the obligation to assume responsibility for conduct that will not lead to a need for such handouts and b). government, in turn, will let you alone and allow you to conduct your affairs free and unfettered from red tape and regulation. The latter phenomenon is referred to as free marketing and government regulations are considered by such advocates as the antithesis of this desirable feature of conservatism. Looking through this prism it is easy to understand how or why some Republicans in Congress are opposed to bailing out the Big Three in the current economic climate. But, putting this particular observation aside, is not the reason I am writing today. I am trying to step back and look at the big picture in terms of the long term policies of free marketing Republicanism that have been in vogue since the Reagan era and I am going to suggest that these policies are now achieving their original stated purpose.

First a little background about the current ongoing state of affairs among governments. At the local level, cities and towns around America are shutting down major services to citizens. As a result of lost jobs and diminished tax receipts, these small units of government can no longer provide basic service and can no longer borrow money to do so. This same phenomenon is now rapidly extending to the various states of our society; my home state of Michigan is the current leader in this downfall primarily because of the ills of the automakers. The free fall is such that basic services that every one, including libertarians of the strictest stripe, agrees should be provided, but cannot due to falling tax income and inability to borrow. Looking forward to the potential impact on our federal government, I suppose that nationally we can continue to hand out money to various enterprises so long as printing presses can continue to print money, but it doesn't take a degree in economics to see where that can end up if our hallowed financial structure collapses around us.

The big picture, as I see it, will be that the free marketers-Republicans, because of the predictable and inevitable avarice and greed arising from unchecked free marketeering, will in the end get exactly the result they wanted; limited and small government with every individual in our society needing to assume personal responsibility for themselves. Taxes will be low, if not non-existent, simply because no one will have sufficient money to be taxed. Karl Marx wrote about this phenomenon. He characterized capitalism as irresponsible and self-devouring. From all appearances, this is where we are headed simply because of the inflexible, but principled, conservative notion that regulation of corporate conduct is inappropriate. Almost everything that the Nameless One has done in the past eight years reflects inflexible adherence to this principle and the pain that it is going to inflict on us all is still coming. What a terrible realization for a Monday morning. Sorry.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


If there was ever an example to demonstrate the profound differences between the old and new administrations, the fallout from the meeting between the Nameless One and president-elect Obama serves as Exhibit One. First, a little background. Secrecy has been the mantra of Bush's presidency. From desperately hiding the identity of participants at Cheney's initial energy summit meeting early in the first term to the present time, secrecy has been what the Bush presidency is about. As layer after layer of previously undisclosed or hidden incidents of the conduct of various high level officials became known, the Bush presidency unraveled more and more. As the truth emerged out of the morass, the public began to see Bush and the people around him for what they are; individuals who seem to not understand the value of telling the truth. Then along comes Obama who runs a successful campaign for the presidency based, in part, on the principle of transparency. Transparency in government allows citizens to be treated with the respect they deserve. A little bit of sunlight on the conduct of people who live off our hard earned taxpayers' dollars heightens the value of democracy. Transparency allows the electorate to weigh the value of politicians by assessing what they do, rather than being limited to what they say they do.

The meeting between Obama and Bush focused the spotlight on this fundamental difference between the two men. Obama, following his mandate, duly reported the essence of the meeting through his staff to the public. He proposed three specific points to Bush, including a recommendation that the Big Three automakers participate in the bailout. Bush purportedly responded by attempting to horse trade such a deal for obtaining approval of a trade agreement with Colombia. Big deal. So what? This seeking of quid pro quo is what politicians do. Give me this and I'll give you that. It is the Bushies reaction to the disclosures by Obama that serves as the example. The Bush administration is upset that Obama disclosed what the two of them discussed. Apparently, it was supposed to be a secret because that's how Bush has run his administration. This small, but telling, example tells us all we need to know about why we should be grateful that the changing of the guard is soon at hand.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Selfish Act of Giving

By and large I have lived a decent life. As I approach seventy years of age (I just turned 68, a couple of years to go) I look back and find that I have one huge regret about the way I have lived. Most simply put, I did not give enough time to my children in their formative years. Instead my holy grail was the making of money and I rationalized my conduct by telling myself that I was being a good father by providing ample financial security to my family. Today I watch how my three sons-in-law serve as fathers to their kids and marvel at the gift of time they give. At dinner time, my grand kids are encouraged to speak and talk about their day or whatever they want to talk about. When I was a kid, the rule at the table was "Children should be seen and not heard." My brother and I ate silently and watched my father read the newspaper day after day for many years. Through the grace and love and patience of my wife, as well as the examples set by my three daughters and their husbands, I have slowly modified my conduct over the years so that I now participate somewhat actively in the lives of my grandchildren. I have attended softball games, baseball games, band concerts, soccer games, fencing matches, Christmas and spring pageants, football games, piano recitals, rowing regattas and tennis matches, not to mention the occasional piano, french horn or golf lesson. What I have learned is that the giving of time brings back to me the even greater gift of joy. What a lesson; I ultimately receive more than I give.

I Couldn't Have Said It Nearly As Well

Susan Pearce is a good friend who shares ideas with me regularly. She sent me this e-mail recently and I asked for her permission to put it here, because, quite frankly, it captures the way I feel but I couldn't have said it anywhere nearly as well. Thanks Susan:

I think I've finally slept off my election campaign hangover and can speak coherently.

It has been an exhausting campaign with plenty of highs and lows. Most of us Democrats couldn't believe, right up until the last moment, that we were actually going to win this one. It's been a long time since we have had cause to celebrate! But I think Barack Obama is going to be a great President. It's as if his very election, 76 days before he has even been inaugurated, has already changed the attitude of the country and the world. Have you ever seen such crowds and exuberation after an election? Truly amazing.

One of my big hopes was something that is already happening: the positive reaction from the rest of the world. It gives the rest of the world a chance to push the "Reset" button and give us another chance to live up to the ideals that we've never stopped espousing, but which too often we stopped exemplifying.

Of course, now he bears the weight of almost unprecedented expectations, and he is going to have to perform. Not the least of his problems is going to be to get Congress to transcend their ingrained, petty political thinking and actually see themselves as public servants instead of priviledged royalty. Barack actually means what he has said about needing to work together to find common ground, the need for individual sacrifice, and that we are at just the beginning of a long, steep climb. But most of them have lived their lives making politically expedient, empty promises, and being expected to actually fulfill them is going to be a quite a shock.

One thing that has bothered me is that it seemed like the minute the election results were announced, the media went into overdrive, talking about the significance of electing our first black President. Excuse me, but Obama never ran on race. He never used the Al Sharpton/Jesse Jackson rhetoric of division. He said, "Look at me, look at what I believe, look at what I think we need to do about our economy, our foreign policy, our energy and environmental crises." So why is his election suddenly all about his race, instead of a mandate for the policies he articulated?

I believe that one consequence of his election will be to advance race relations in many ways--breaking negative racial stereotypes about black men and black families that whites may hold, and being a positive role model and offering hope for blacks and other minorities that, if you get an education and work hard, you can achieve the American Dream.

I read a quote this morning from a young black man that said, in effect, that Obama's election meant that "maybe whites aren't as prejudiced as we thought they were." If Barack's election means that blacks and whites are going to have to reexamine their conscious and unconscious prejudices, that will be fantastic.

But it won't be enough. Obama isn't going to be judged as "a great President--for a black guy." Or, "better than the last white guy." He's going to be judged by what he does or does not accomplish. Period.

I don't mean to diminish or trivialize Obama's transcendence of racial attitudes. But do you know who I think has done that to a much greater degree, at this point? Tiger Woods. Don't laugh! When Tiger first turned pro in an almost exclusively white man's sport, his race was a big deal. It was pointed out that he would be playing at clubs he couldn't belong to. When he began to win a lot of tournaments, I heard a lot of comments and jokes that boiled down to, "He's a bit 'uppity,' isn't he?" But his dominance --his excellence--over the past 10 years has transcended that. Who do you now hear saying, "Tiger Woods is the greatest black golfer of all time?" You may still hear someone argue that Jones or Hogan or Nicklaus was better overall, but the racial adjective has disappeared.

As with Tiger Woods, I think that the miracle of this election is not that this country has suddenly transcended its racial divisions--that's way too much to expect. But it does prove that an exceptional individual can make people see beyond race. The epitome of Martin Luther King's dream was that we would reach a time when a man was judged by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. We've made a start at that.

But Obama's dream is unity at all levels? Remember ". . .We don't live in a black America or a white America . . . a Blue America or a Red America . . . we live in the United States of America. . ."

Maybe the question is not whether Obama can live up to our expectations. Maybe the question is, "Can we live up to his?"


Monday, November 10, 2008

Poles Apart

The talk shows, newspapers and talk among some small groups of people bring a feeling of freshness, hope and optimism as a result of the election of Obama. It is though a veil of depression has lifted across the nation as a new spirit invades the land; the major impetus beyond that spirit being the recognition that we must get along with others, particularly those with whom we disagree. In politics, that spirit is referred to as bipartisanship. Politically, what it boils down to is this; It means doing the right things for the right reasons, rather than allowing moneyed interests control the agendas and outcomes. The polarized society that was carefully nurtured and fed by right wing zealots masquerading as talk show hosts is going to be a thing of the past. Right?

But wait. This morning I awoke to news that the word "Obama" has been banned in certain Mississippi schools. Kids are sent home from school if they say the word aloud or wear a tee shirt that carries the name. The one polling result that intrigued me most during the pre-election race was that finding that 23-25% of all likely voters in Texas believe that Obama is a Muslim. A conservative friend of mine sent me an e-mail yesterday that contains (in part) the following sentiments

"I just do not trust this man. And especially after the unbelievable public adulation--just like all the charismatic leaders that pressed socialism on the people. People in Germany placed their trust in the National Socialists, same in Russia, Cuba, now Venezuela--all the little banana republic countries-- when the people rise up against their oppressors and freely elect a socialist--who then amasses such power that it is impossible to stop their grandiose pursuit of absolute power. They eventually strip the people of their rights, starting with gun control, then control of the press, etc.

"It is scary to see that beginning on election day, sales of assault weapons rose dramatically and continue. Tom, people are really frightened, and the press has done nothing to show us they have done the job of vetting Obama. They ignore these issues."

I honestly do not know how to respond to these dispiriting thoughts. If a substantial minority in our society harbor these beliefs how will the people of this country ever connect with each other for the advancement of the public good? My belief system is such that the U.S. Constitution holds the answers for all Americans. Namely, that we are a nation of laws, not men. One of the major reasons for the current euphoria is that we have cast out the current group which has run our nation the past eight years because they and their fellow travelers (Palin as an example) systematically attempted to dismantle or ignore the fundamental principles of the law as established by that constitution. Those of us who revere the law welcome the fresh new approach that Obama brings and the strength of our convictions includes the knowledge that if he, like the Nameless One he will replace, attempts to disregard the basic law of our nation, he too will be cast aside in an ensuing election. For now, though, he deserves and needs our prayers and cooperation in getting this nation back on track.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

An Apology Is In Order

In a recent posting (Ups and Downs and . . .-Oct. 30, 2008) I wrote, in part, the following: 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.

A thoughtful friend has responded and takes exception to being characterized as a 'son of a bitch' and after reading his response, rightly so. I apologize to him as well as to others who may have taken umbrage at my characterization. In so doing, I must point out that my poor attempt at humor was not only in bad taste, but was counter to the very point that I was trying to make; i.e., civility with free exchange of ideas is at the very heart of the American ideal of ffeedom of expression.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Let's Not Make It a Quick Honeymoon

The assumption of the presidency by Barack Obama begins in the middle of a lot of things that are ongoing, some of it not so well. The best analogy I can think up is that his role for an indeterminate period of time will be akin to the relief pitcher who is asked to salvage a game that has been badly botched by the starting pitcher through eight innings (years). The manager (the public) had an opportunity to replace the starting pitcher after the fourth inning, but declined to do so. Now, the very least Obama deserves is a reasonable period of time to turn things around. It must be remembered that he is not a magician and that many of the things that reflect poorly on America were done by choice of the ideologues currently running the country. If the current euphoria turns too quickly to boos, or if those on the other side of the aisle want to stir up trouble for political reasons, the honeymoon will be short lived to the detriment of the country. Obama needs our support and he needs us to be patient as he unravels the mess he has been handed. The corrections cannot and will not be done overnight. His campaign has been built on the optimism of the American people and that public is notoriously impatient with things that do not provide instant gratification. We must all resist this tendency and cut the guy some slack. The future of our country is at stake and we would do well to allow our new president to proceed in the same calm and methodical manner that epitomized his campaign.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ode to Katie Couric

Thanks to Katie
I must say
because without her
we may not have this day
What she did was
what she was supposed to;
She asked a question or two
of Palin you see.
Easy questions, even for you and me.
About Russia we learned
one could see from Alaska
and that was all it takes
to make one an expert
(of the self-claimed variety)
in international affairs.
As a result of those questions,
we, the public, properly assessed
the depth and character and
the claims, no less, of the person
chosen to be a heart beat tick
from controlling our national destiny.
So thanks to Katie Couric.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Like most of us, I am suffering from pre-election fatigue. It is difficult to think about it, talk about it, not to mention write about it. One of the e-mail requests for funds I received from a GOP Senator this week (Yes, I signed up with both parties to keep track of what the insiders were saying) claimed that if Obama was elected he would establish censorship of conservative talk radio. Wow! I didn't know that and I bet nobody else does either. In the late afternoons it is my practice to listen to Sean Hannity on the radio when I am in my car. Listening to Hannity spout on any topic, I have concluded that he would probably be one of the targets of alleged censorship. Just yesterday, Halloween, Hannity enlightened me by claiming that the holiday was a liberal holiday. In fact he claimed it was the most liberal holiday of all. His argument was that the entire purpose of the holiday was to teach kids that they could learn to expect to get something for nothing. Huh? I almost wet my pants laughing (thank God for Flomax), but then I realized the guy was serious. I wonder how he feels about birthday gifts, hidden Easter baskets and Christmas giving. Are these communist plots? Is someone who drops a few bucks into a Salvation Army kettle during the holidays a socialist? Hannity doesn't need censorship; he needs a strait jacket.