28 January 2007

Kentucky Windage

The big wind blowing out of Kentucky (Sen Mitch "Mr. Parliamentary Procedure" McConnell and from Republicans all over Congress) is that the ingenious Bush "surge" (repeat as mantra: "not an escalation") is giving the Iraqi's their last chance to clean up the mess (which the coven of Bush-Cheney-Rice-Rumsfeld-Bremer made). The Conservative spin machine has taken a new tack of unloading their guilt on the victims of their poor planning and lack of vision.

On the other hand, the lame-duck Bush-Cheney-Rice-Gates cabal is now pushing their old canard that it is unpatriotic for Americans to have the temerity to speak their minds and dare to point out that the administration's war strategy has, as it were, no clothes.

UPDATE on McConnnell's fund-raisers.

27 January 2007

Fire Bear

In the early '70's I was teaching Korean Studies at Indiana University in Bloomington. My office was in Goodbody Hall, not to far from main east and west arteries on the south side of the IU campus.

One of my graduate classes just had four students, so we'd meet in my office which had a large desk plus a a good-sized table and four chairs. One day as we were grappling with a translation of a Korean poem, we could hear a fire-engine, with siren going, racing toward the east side of town (where my apartment was). I jokingly remarked, "I hope they're not going to my place!" Famous last words, eh? About two minutes later my office phone rang and it was a neighbor calling to tell me that the firemen couldn't get into my apartment to put out the fire because the door was locked!

I raced home only to find that my landlord had let the firemen in shortly after I had put down the phone.

While the apartment was full of smoke, nothing had burned except for a stuffed bear! The bear was sitting in a window on a polished marble window sill and fortunately it wasn't touching anything else. How had it caught fire?

It was a sunny day and near the bear was a shiny chrome haidryer. Apparently the sun's rays had been magnified by the shiny chrome and set the bear afire!

After this experience you'd think I'd learn to keep my mouth shut, but that lesson still hasn't seeped in, I guess.

Snack! Snack!

I spent the summer of 1968 in Taipei (Taiwan) studying Chinese at the Mandarin Language Center 國語中心 of Taiwan Normal University 台湾師範大學. In those days things were not so expensive there as they are today.
Taipei was a great city for Chinese food since there were many refugees fom all over China who had opened restaurants there. So one could make a trencherman's tour of all the great regional cusines of China in just one city. One of my favorite regional dishes was the southern-style huo guo hot pot with shacha sauce 火鍋沙茶醬.

Right across the alley from where I used to go to get this wonderful dish was a snake place. They had a variety of live snakes in cages. A customer would choose a snake and then the proprietor would grab the snake and with some sort of sharp instrument, while holding the snake near the head, make an incision and quickly skin the live snake in seconds. Then he'd chop it up, put it in a bowl with some sauce, and collect his price for this snake snack. I witnessed this only once and on subsequent visits averted my gaze elsewhere.

While in Taiwan, I met and married my first wife who was Taiwanese. When we were first dating, one day we went to a hotspring resort called Wulai which was famous for its aboriginal village. As we were walking down a long a path to an attraction, I was intent on looking at a map of the area to see what we might see, when she suddenly yelled, "Paper snake!" Thinking I was about to step on the possibly deadly poisonous 'paper snake,' I probably jumped about three feet straight up and only then saw a street vendor peddling paper snakes on a string with a stick for 'control'. I did get a brief thrill out of my encounter with this unfamiliar serpent, while she got a good laugh at my moment of panic.

Several years later when we were living in a small bungalow outside of Bloomington, Indiana, while I was teaching at Indiana University, one day my wife was mowing our big yard (something she liked to do) while I was working inside. Suddenly she appeared at the screen door literally bouncing up and down yelling, "Snack! Snack!" I wondered if she were hungry and thought that if she were, she was unusually animated. She led me outside and showed me a snake in the grass, a pine snake, I think. Then I understood. I started laughing and she got mad, because, not being familiar with North American serpents, she had been scared. This time, several years later, in her excitement, 'snake' had been transmogrified into 'snack.' The worm had turned.

Molson's Ale in Montreal and Chinese Goats

In the summer of 1966 I was studying Chinese at Middlebury College in Vermont when a friend and I decided to drive up to Montreal for a Molson's and to visit some friends at McGill University. I had bought an old red Triumph TR-3A which we drove up. I had met my friend that summer at Middlebury. Not only was he an extremely talented advanced Chinese student (who spoke fluent Mandarin with lovely pronounciation), but he was also a cracker-jack mechanic and that old Triumph was more trouble than it was worth (and I was worthless at keeping it maintained).

Sometime that evening my friend and I, both ex-military, but now bearded, were walking down a street when a young Chinese couple came walking toward us. As the coupled approached us, the young man made a comment in Mandarin to his girlfriend to the effect of, "Look at those two old goats."

Much to his surprise, and, I suspect, embarassment, my friend ran after them and chased them down the block, scolding him in impeccable Mandarin, and asking why he would ever dream of calling nice 'foreigners' like us, goats!

I imagine that he became more circumspect about talking about non-Asians in Chinese for a good while!

Kennedy Toppers

My freshman year in college at Rutgers I lived in a dormitory that had a broad spectrum of students, many unlike people I had ever met before. Among these were two chubby young guys who seemed inseparable and who always wore suits and ties. No sooner did they get there than they enrolled in the Young Conservatives. (I don't know if there was a Young Log Cabin Republicans Club there)

When Kennedy, at an earlier Democratic National Convention, had broken with tradition and campaigned actively for the Vice-Presidential nomination, I was working in my uncle's lab at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, as a lab factotum and bottle washer. I listened to the convention on the radio in rapt attention whenever I could.

So when Kennedy was running for the presidency in a later election, I was inspired to join his supporters and, informed by the Conservative gold dust twins' example, I looked for a Young Democrats Club on campus.

I look back fondly to those days, especially raising money for the campaign by selling Kennedy Toppers, the straw boaters such as pictured above, which were a vibrant symbol of this youthful campaign.

Years later I worked actively in the campaigns of Vance Hartke and Birch Bayh, both for the Senate from Indiana as well as the early campaign of Frank McCloskey for Mayor of Bloomington, Indiana, before he ran successfully to become a member of the US House.

Later, I worked in the US Government for 30 years and was prevented from working for my candidates actively by the Hatch Act. The Bush Administration has perniciously rendered the Hatch Act meaningless by so politicizing the bureaucracy that the Hatch Act should be scrapped immediately!

24 January 2007

State of the Union 2007: "Whatever you voted for, You Didn't Vote for Failure!"

What many people voted for was to avoid being tarred with the brush of unpatriotism and to prevent Bush-Cheney fantasy WMD's from being turned on Americans.

23 January 2007

Pinhead and Foodini

When Pinhead speaks it is with the voice of the great Svengali, Foodini. Pinhead hasn't had an original thought since Lucky was a Pup. It isn't a Bunin hand up inside of Pinhead moving his lips on the state of things, but rather Chenini supported by the wingnut vanity presses at the conservative intellectual brothels like the A E I and so many other tax-returned conservative spin merchants. Like the undynamic duo of old TV, our modern day Pinhead and Foodini are after riches, too. Their latest exploit is to keep US troops in Iraq as long as possible to ensure the continuing outflow of tax payer bucks to their 100,000+ crony capitalist buddies from KBR (read Halliburton) and elsewhere while hoping to yet take advantage of the special oil breaks they had built into the Iraqi constitution to steal from the Iraqi's and give to the oil giants.