Wednesday, November 22, 2006


OK, I've always believed that Bach had it over Mozart because Back was more spiritual and emotionally deep. Well, on Sunday I attended Mass at St. Hedwig's Cathedral, a very German Catholic Church near the hotel in what was East Berlin. To say the Cathedral was "spare" is an understatement. It had the decor of a Quaker Meetinghouse. No statues, no artwork. Just a simple alter and had wood and wrought iron pews. There wasn't even any cushions on the kneelers. These Germans are tough. Other other hand, the choir was magnificent, probably the richest, most beautiful choir I've ever heard in a church.

A poster announced that there would be a performance of Mozart's Requiem that evening. So, I trekked back to the church that evening through an appropriately gloomy, rainy evening. The performance was breathtaking. This is a piece that Mozart composed as he was dying at the age of 35. While it was commissioned by a mysterious figure who visited Mozart dressed in grey, the story is that Mozart was very aware of his own mortality while he wrote. So, the spiritual depth was every bit as present as in Bach's music. The piece alternately violent and sombre, but stunning throughout.

So, as we reached the conclusion of the piece, I was anticipating the rapurous applause that would ensure, of which I would be an enthusiastic participant. After the last note was played, you could hear a pin drop in the church. I had the sense that everyone was holding his or her breath. The conductor stood still facing the orchestra and choir for an extended period. Then, he turned and bowed slightly to the audience. Audience members quietly shuffled to the feet and exited the church quietly. I was amazed. Not one errant hand clap. Apparently, Germans don't clap in church. It was wierd.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Johann Sebastian Bach

J.S. Bach is my favorite composer. I discovered the breadth and depth of his music with the help of Prof. Robert Greenberg through his Teaching Company audio lectures. Bach's music is intensely spiritual and moving. His St. Matthew Passion can bring you to tears. The Goldberg Variations sound very modern, almost jazz-like. And the Brandenberg Concertos are among the most familiar classical pieces in existence, but they always sound fresh. And this is just a tiny piece of his life's work. During the time he was the capellmeister at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, he had to produce a new classical piece every week for that Sunday's services over the course of three years, a stunning accomplishment. I recently heard advertised a CD collection of all his work. It consists of 140 disks.

So, one benefit of the misguided advice found in the guidebook referenced in the previous post is that I frantically searched for something outside of Berlin to visit before I left the U.S. I discovered that Leipzig is only an hour train ride from Berlin. Moreover, St. Thomas Church continues to hold services and there was one at 3 pm on the Saturday of my arrival. So, I landed in Berlin, dropped my luggage at the hotel and immediately set off for the train station to travel to Leipzig.

In Leipzig, my taxi driver spoke no English, so I took out my biography of Bach and pointed to the picture on the cover. He quickly delivered me to St. Thomas Church where there was a small line for the service. I paid two dollars for a program and found a seat in the middle of the church, which was filling up fast.

What followed was a full Lutheran service with a short reading, a moderate length homily of which I understood not a word and lots and lots of music. Much of which was composed right on that very site.

I have pictures of the visit but the blog is not letting me post them. Hope to be able to in the future.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

An American in Berlin

In preparation for a business trip to Berlin, I consulted a travel guide called The Rough Guide to Berlin. Here's how the book described the city:

"No one would come to Berlin for light-hearted sightseeing: this is a profoundly scarred city... Berlin isn't a city where you can simply stroll and absorb the atmosphere...[P]oints of interest are, almost without exeption, sombre."


And here I'd actually extended my visit to allow for light-hearted sightseeing. Guess I'm going to have to stock up on the anti-depressants.

So, here I am, on the ground for two days, and my first advice is to never, ever buy a guidebook of the "Rough Guide" genre. Boy do they have it wrong. Berlin is a fascinating city, rich in culture. The architecture is breath-taking and the history runs very, very deep. To the extent there are "scars," they are the kind of scars that are consciously preserved for the amazing stories they tell. These stories are the fundamental stories of the 20th Century. The Kaiser Wilhelm Church, with everything but the steeple bombed away in WWII, preserved as an anti-war memorial. The remnants of the Berlin Wall, the guardhouse at Checkpoint Charlie. Amazing stuff. It's not for nothing that John Kennedy declared, "Ich bin ein Berliner!"
So rather than figure out what to do with myself in this "sombre" city, I find myself concerned that I do not have enough time to fully appreciate it. Sure will give it a try, though. Details to follow.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Marshall Nails It

The best thing about blogs is that, every once and a while, you find some writing that perfectly articulates feelings or opinions you have that you can quite find the words to express. Josh Marshall did that for me today in his blog in describing a disheartening reality check that weighs down my optimistic anticipation of a good day for Democrats next Tuesday. Here's the key paragraph:

"I hope that when the political history of the last half century is written it will show, as it should, that the Republicans engaged in a brand of divisive electoral politics that pitted Americans against each other: white against black, men against women, rich against poor, native born against immigrant, straight against gay. Republicans deserve to be tarred by history for exploiting our weaknesses, our prejudices, and our lesser selves for their own political gain. But those are still our weaknesses and our prejudices. We own them. And it is our lesser selves that have succumbed to the Republican political pitch and been willing to be exploited. Removing the Republicans from power will only be a temporary fix unless we fundamentally fix ourselves so that no one, no party, no movement can exploit those same weaknesses again."

I have been saying that my fondest wish in life, beside all the personal stuff about kids and family and stuff, is to live long enough to see the judgment of history on the Bush Presidency. Can there possibly have been a worse President?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Another Divine Rumination

It is fascinating how many bloggers found, like me, divine implications in the Foley scandal. Here's one that goes beyond the Republicans and conservatives, as per my post below and indicts, appropriately I think, the entire American populous. Very insightful....and sad.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Divine Intervention

It's amazing that someone besides me thinks the Foley scandal is the work of a benevolent diety. In my case, it just seems like divine justice. To Glenn Greenwald, another blogger, believes it's just too perfect to be anything but ordained by God. He quotes another blogger as saying it's been executed way too perfectly to be the work of the Democrats. But here's some relevant quotes from Greenwald:

Does the Foley scandal prove the existence of a God?
(Updated below)The Foley scandal is so perfectly tailored -- one could even say artistically designed -- to expose every character flaw of this country's Republican leaders (and their followers), and it has evolved so flawlessly (like the most brilliantly coordinated symphony), that one is almost inclined to believe that it was divinely inspired....

It is as though Republicans are being punished for all of their serious political sins at once, in one perfectly constructed, humiliating scandal designed to highlight their crimes and exact just retribution for them. The Foley scandal is shining a very bright light on their conduct, not just in this one incident but with regard to how they have been governing the country generally over the last five years.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hyprocrisy Quotient

Here' s my theory on what's going on with Republicans and conservatives. God is putting them to the test to find out just how hypocritical they are prepared to be to hang on to power.

First, they have to accept the worst fiscal mismanagement in the history of the country, turning a $5 trillion surplus into an $8 trillion national debt.

Then, they have to accept "nation-building" on a scale unknown in human history.

Then, they have to accept an imperial president who can unilaterally tap your phones, arrest you without charge, throw you in jail for life, torture you or even kill you without recourse, just by declaring you an "enemy combant."

Then, they have to tolerate governmental incompetence in a disaster that results in the deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands, of Americans.

Then, finally, after all this, one thing after another, totally under siege, they get hit with the Big One, the nuclear bomb. Pedophelia! The have to make excuses for leaders who ignore evidence of a sexual predator in their midst in order to protect their majority in the House.

Amazingly, for some conservatives and Republicans, we still haven't hit the deal breaker. The mind reels when you try to think what it would take.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Worst President Ever

Let's take just one day's news headlines that doesn't even mention the debacle in Iraq. Today's Washington Post has these three headlines:

FDA Told U.S. Drug System Is Broken
Expert Panel Calls For Major Changes
By Shankar VedantamWashington Post Staff WriterSaturday, September 23, 2006; Page A01

The federal system for approving and regulating drugs is in serious disrepair, and a host of dramatic changes are needed to fix the problem, a blue-ribbon panel of government advisers concluded yesterday in a long-awaited report.

Audit Finds Ethical Lapses In U.S. Reading Program
By Ben FellerAssociated PressSaturday, September 23, 2006; Page A02

A scorching internal review of the Bush administration's billion-dollar-a-year reading program says the Education Department ignored the law and ethical standards to steer money how it wanted.
Page 2

Probe of FAA Contracting Finds Waste
Mismanagement Blamed For Losses in Millions
Del Quentin WilberWashington Post Staff WriterSaturday, September 23, 2006; Page D01

A Federal Aviation Administration contracting program, initially hailed as a way to make the agency more efficient, was so poorly managed that it cost the government millions of dollars in overruns, according to a government investigative report and legislators who reviewed its conclusions. The FAA has disbanded the program.

These are all internal reports by inspector generals within the Bush Administration. That would explain why they all came out on a Friday afternoon, the dead zone when bad news gets released.

But the breadth and depth of the incompetence and corruption in this administration is truly amazing.

But, heh, gas prices are coming down, so what's the problem?

A Dilemma

Here's the moral dilemma for Democrats in Congress. Do they let this egregious torture bill pass to avoid the inevitable onslaught of attacks accusing them of siding with terrorists against America which might, for yet the third time, scare enough voters into voting Republican in the Fall? Or do they stand up against this violation against the most fundamental values inherent in being an American. In other words, do they risk the prospect of two years of a Republican Congress that feels vindicated and a completely unconstrained Bush Administration, which could literally bring about the end of civilization as we know it?

Still, this one is completely beyond the pail. Who would have thought that America would come to the point where we're actually debating what torture is. Torture is for bad guys, we are (or used to be) the good guys. If I was in Congress, this is one I would sacrifice my seat over. But would I sacrifice the country over it? That could literally be the question.

Of course, the big problem here is not that I don't trust the Republicans, which I don't. But in this case, what you see is what you get. They want to be able to torture people. Pure and simple. And they apparently think it is more important to protect the geography of America than to protect its values and Constitution. No, the problem is that I don't trust the American people. I fear that they will fall into Karl Rove's trap. And that's really bad. Some smart person once said that people get the government they deserve, especially in democracies, which we still least for a while. Well, we've got Bush.

So, this is the one thing that has come up that I think is more important than getting the majority. I just hope the Democratic leadership does the right thing and also finds a political skilled way of doing it.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Struck Dumb

Sometimes the Bush Administration just leaves me speechless. I am outraged, saddened, disgusted and despairing of our nation on so many fronts that I don't know how to verbalize my feelings. That's one of the reasons this blog goes quiet periodically.

Now is one of those times. The news that Bush is now bringing the scariest terrorists we have to Gitmo and demanding that Congress immediately pass his bill to try them takes things to new heights of cynicism. This bill, which would allow us to execute individuals after a trial in which they would be confronted with some evidence that was produced as a result of torture and other evidence that they would never see. It makes my head spin and I cycle between outrage and deep, deep sadness with the indifference of large portions of the American public.

Beyond this, I don't know what to say.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

More Desperation

Okay, here's the Republican strategy, "This is not about national issues, this is a choice made at the local level." In other words, "If you think we're bad, check out the other guy." Pretty weak.

Also, I noted this quote by Bill McInturf, Republican pollster in a story about the economic squeeze that middle and lower income people are feeling:

"People like this are making a large ripple across the body politic," said Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies. When added to the growing opposition to the war in Iraq, he said, worry about this economic crunch "is creating a political environment that is not that friendly to the party in power."

Yeah, right, especially when "the party in power" has done literally nothing to address the economic problems of the middle and lower class and, in fact, has adopted policies that dramatic aggravate the squeeze. "The party in power" is expressed as some innocent bystander who happens to hold office when bad things happen. No, it's the Republicans and maybe, just maybe the voters have at long last gotten wise to the scam.

Monday, September 04, 2006


Remember the republican mantra from a couple of months ago that they were going to hold the house in spite of their abject failures in governing and President Bush's unpopularity? They said that congessional races are decided on local issues. They repeated Tip O'Neill's old standby "all politics is local." This was not a national election, they said, so their majority was secure.
They're not saying that anymore. In fact, they say that they are going to limit the congressional agenda for September to national security issues. If that doesn't nationalize the election, I don't know what will.

In fact, the problem is "they got nuthin' left." You know they are desperate when their strategy is to call attention to a national security policy that is opposed by 60 percent of voters.
In the words of that pathetic TV ad, "they've fallen and they can't get up!"

Friday, September 01, 2006

Always With Us

I know that Jesus once said the poor will always be with us. But I do believe moral people have an obligation to shrink their number. You would think that Christians would feel a particular obligation in this regard.

Yet our Christian president, for whom Jesus was his most influential philosopher, has presided over - and advance - uprecedented growth in poverty. Jesus also said that it would be easier for camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Yet this same "Christian" president has vastly increased wealth and income at the top of the economic scale.

I think our biggest moral failing as a country is that these fact seem to have little political consequence. Read E. J. Dionne's column in the Post today to get an analysis of the recent Census report that documents these trends. It's depressing.

I still believe the Democrats are coming back. It is sad, however, the level of arrogance and incompetence on the part of the Republicans is has to take to bring that about. And I just wish that the neglect of the poor was a bigger fact that it is in this comeback.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Deja vu all over again

After a long absence, I am back by popular demand from my readership (Hi, John!).

The Washington Post previews the Bush Administration's fall campaign theme in a front page story. It's a familiar approach, attack war critics as "defeatist pansies." The story points out that this is the same approach that helped the Republicans win in both 2002 and 2004. What's a bit unfamiliar, is the skeptical tone of the reporting. Unsaid in the story is the role played by the media and helping the Republicans bamboozle the public into believing that failing to elect Republicans would put them at risk. In this story, however, there does seem to be a recognition that the reporter has a responsibility, not only to report the Administration's charges, but also to bring an element of truth into the discussion. To wit, this paragraph:

Pressed to support these allegations, the White House yesterday could cite no major Democrat who has proposed cutting off funds or suggested that withdrawing from Iraq would persuade terrorists to leave Americans alone. But White House and Republican officials said those are logical interpretations of the most common Democratic position favoring a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

Let's hope we'll be seeing more of this kind of journalism, rather than the "taking dictation" approach that has characterized past coverage.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


In a post below, I contrasted my view about the prospects for Democrats winning the House with the "smart guys" in Washington who do district by district analysis and can't come up with the sufficient number of seats to take the Dems to a majority. It annoys me how smug there are when they declare their obviously better informed opinion when talking to naive waifs like me who are motivated by wishful thinking, rather than hard core analysis.

Well, thank you NPR. While not precisely district by district, they have done a poll which only samples 50 competitive districts in the aggregate and find a substantial majority in favor Democrats even when the names of the local incumbent are specified. The poll found Democrats ahead by 10 points in competitive seats and 3 points in supposedly safer Republican seats. And the universe of districts was 40 Republican seats and 10 Democratic seats. So, this is Republican territory.

There is a wave building and I can't think of what it might take to reverse or even diminish it. No time for over-confidence. But it's also no time for defensiveness or "under-confidence."

Friday, July 21, 2006

Democrats Will Win the House

I am sick and tired of having the smart guys here in Washington chuckle indulgently when I say that Democrats have a very good shot at winning the House of Representatives in November. They smile and shake their heads at my naivete, explaining that they have examined all 435 House seats and there is no way you can add up the number flips from Rep. to Dem. to get to a majority. Well, I say Bullshit!

Yes, I understand the Republicans think they have a built a firewall through redisctricting that will protect them from a counter-tsunami and yes, I understand that the Democrats "have no message." What they miss is the broad-based anger at the mess we're in as a result of all Republican government. I do not examine things distrcit by district. I look at the big picture and the big picture sucks for Republicans. Not a week goes by that there is not a new blurb about some other Republican incumbents who is in surprising trouble. Here's todays from CQ:

Political Clippings CQ
reports that Democrat Joe Sestak, a retired Navy vice admiral, is showing unusual strength for a first-time candidate in his challenge to 10-term Republican Rep. Curt Weldon in Pennsylvania’s 7th District. Sestak registered strong fundraising numbers in his latest report to the Federal Election Commission , and other factors also show an increasingly competitive race. has hanged its rating on the contest to Leans Republican from Republican Favored. Weldon still has an edge, but an upset by Sestak is a plausible possibility. presently ranks 37 districts — 26 held by Republicans and 11 by Democrats — as No Clear Favorite or Leans Democratic or Republican.

Do you get that? 26 Republican seats at risk and only 11 Democrats, which nets out to the exact number of seats needed to win the majority. And that number is inexorably trending to the Republicans disadvantage every week. Wait'll those moderate Republican votes learn about the consequences of Bush's veto of the stem cell bill. Also, the current statistics do not include voter reaction to the fact that, contrary to the view Bush proposed that the Iraq war was going to bring stability to the Middle East, the region is in flames and getting worse. In my campaign experience, if there is a trend, the results on election day always go beyond the trend.

Oh yes, and do they think that the various prosecutors investigating corruption in Washington are going to close up shop and exonerate all their Republican targets? I don't think so.

This past Sunday, long time non-partisan congress watcher Tom Mann, described my view. And I have it on good authority that at least one Republican instrumental in the 1994 tsunami agrees, as well. Check it out.

So, I've said it and date stampted it. I want to be able to say "I told you so" in November.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Abuse of Power

According to today's Washington Post, President Bush personally denied the security clearance requested by lawyers in the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility for purposes of investigation the Administrations warrantless search program by the National Security Agency. Many respected legal scholars have concluded that the President violated the law and the U.S. Constitution in creating this program. Now he is using his presidential power to block an investigation.

Eight years ago, the House of Representatives impeached a president for lying about a private sexual affairs. Thirty years ago, an attorney general resigned rather than facilitate a president's order to block a Justice Department investigation. Today, a much more egregious presidential act merits only page four coverage.

Where is the outrage?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

An American in Haifa

I have a very good friend who works for an Israeli public affairs firm. He's an American Jew from Chicago and was President Clinton's liaison to the Jewish community. I called him yesterday with a new business prospect and found him sitting in a restaurant by the beach in Tel Aviv. He had just relocated to Tel Aviv after an aborted vacation with his in-laws in Haifa. They scrambled out of there after the first missiles fell last Thursday. He spent the weekend cleaning out the in-laws' bomb shelter, which has been used for storage since the Gulf War. It was odd to be chatting with him on the phone with my TV broadcasting scenes of destruction from the region.

He confirms by word and attitude the conclusions drawn by my colleague Jeff Weintraub that this crisis has unified not only Israelis, but all Jews, as no other. For me, I am deeply troubled by their moral clarity. I am not a Jew, but feel a connection to the region through a peace program in which I participated and where I met my friend. I am currently reading a book entitled War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges. He's a former war correspondent for the New York Times. He makes the point that it is this moral clarity that draws human beings to war, with the attendant mayhem and destruction. My view of this situation in Israel right now was captured by Fareed Zacharia on Sunday when he said that it is entirely justified for Israel to hit back hard, but is it smart? There is no way I am competent to second-guess the military decisions that the Israelis are making. But bombing civilian targets does seem to me to make things worse. Maybe it is impossible to distinquish between military and civilian targets and they can't just sit back and take it.

So, I really do not know what to think. I was frankly saddened to stumble across an interview with Chris Hedges on a left-wing radio show yesterday. He was pretty harsh on Israel, blaming them for a disproportionate response and for its oppression of the Palestinians over the years. And he was the moderate on the show. Knowing people like Jeff Weintraub and my friend, who are deeply moral people who have come to the conclusion that Israel must fight makes me very sympathetic to this view. But Hedges has written the most powerful critique of war I have ever read and I wish he had expressed a little more ambiguity about the situation going on right now.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Another Conservative Sees the Light

Andrew Sullivan long ago ceased supporting Bush's catastrophic war in Iraq. As a conservative, he was supportive at the beginning, but concluded that Bush and his crew were incompetent in conducting the war. He has now come to a more sinister conclusion and joins the rest of us who have only disgust for the man and his destructive and corrupt administration. Here's what he says:

"In the last few years, I have gone from lionizing this president's courage and fortitude to being dismayed at his incompetence and now to being resigned to mistrusting every word he speaks. I have never hated him. But now I can see, at least, that he is a liar on some of the gravest issues before the country. He doesn't trust us with the truth. Some lies, to be sure, are inevitable - even necessary - in wartime. But when you're lying not to keep the enemy off-balance, but to maximize your own political fortunes at home, you forfeit the respect of people who would otherwise support you - and the important battle you have been tasked to wage."

Be sure to read the full post. It's devastating.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

O Cananda

I spent Canada Day at the Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, at which one of the cultures highlighted is Alberta, Canada. Please excuse the silly outfit. I biked down to the Mall. Many great exhibits, arts and crafts and, most particularly, music.

The Folklife Festival is my favorite annual event in Washington. I've been to every one for the last 15 or so years. Some are better than others, but each has given me at least one moment of grace. I particularly like the music. Watching Washington tourists stumble upon some musical culture and just start dancing literally brings a tear to my eye.

It is the most genuine thing that happens in Washington, year after year.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Bash Brothers

Here are two pictures of my son, Danny, and his best friend, Walter. They've been playing baseball together since they were about 2 years old, thanks mostly to Walter's father, Luke. I'm a marginal fan/player, at best.

The younger picture was taken in 1998, the picture below was taken last weekend. A latter day Maris and Mantle.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Barney On the House Raid

I had been supportive of the House leadership on the FBI raid of Congressman Jefferson's office. I saw it as another example of the Imperial presidency under George Bush. Given my fourteen years working in the House of Representatives, I am also very sensitive to the Constitutional perogatives of the Congress generally and the House specifically.

My old boss, Barney Frank has forced me to change my position. As usual, he gets to the core of the issue and his logic is unassailable.

TalkingPointsMemo reprints his remarks on the floor of the House. This now represents my position.

Here's Barney's money quote:

"What we now have is a Congressional leadership, the Republican part of which has said it is okay for law enforcement to engage in warrantless searches of the average citizen, now objecting when a search, pursuant to a validly issued warrant, is conducted of a Member of Congress."

And why or why did Nancy Pelosi not consult Barney before she signed on to the Hastert letter?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

White Man's Burden

There's a story in today's London Times about the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. It is stunning. Supposedly, we couldn't send a lot of troops into Iraq for post-war stablization because it would send a message of imperialism to the Iraqis. Yet, while the rest of Iraq suffers and $22 billion has been wasted on a reconstruction program that has not even brought electricity and water to pre-war conditions, we are building the biggest embassy in the world in Baghdad.

Read this and be shocked with the monumental hubris and folly.

In the chaos of Iraq, one project is on target: a giant US embassy - World - Times Online: "

Building work at the 104-acre complex, known locally as 'George W's palace', is supposed to be secret, but it is impossible to disguise the cranes dominating the Baghdad skyline

In the chaos of Iraq, one project is on target: a giant US embassy
From Daniel McGrory in Baghdad

THE question puzzles and enrages a city: how is it that the Americans cannot keep the electricity running in Baghdad for more than a couple of hours a day, yet still manage to build themselves the biggest embassy on Earth? "

Monday, May 22, 2006


Talk about making lemonade. Now the Republicans are claiming that the mid term elections will be the key to Bush's comeback. We certainly can't underestimate these people. After all, I was convinced that the Swift Boat thing would go away once the New York Times proved unequivocably that their whole case was a lie.

But isn't this like the Captain of the Titanic saying that the ice bergs are the key to his journey across the Atlantic?

Elections Are Crux Of GOP's Strategy: "Elections Are Crux Of GOP's Strategy
Bush Aides Look to Midterm Vote as Way to Reverse Slide
By Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, May 22, 2006; Page A01
Confronting the worst poll numbers seen in the West Wing since his father went down to defeat, President Bush and his team are focusing on the fall midterm elections as the best chance to salvage his presidency and are building a campaign strategy around tax cuts, immigration and national security."

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I'm watching the hearings on Michael Hayden to be CIA chief. He seems like a pretty decent guy and is probably well qualified for the job. And I'm sure he is a patriotic American who will do the right thing in the job.

Here's the problem. Our intelligence services rely on the trust of the American people that things done in their name that they can't know about are being done within the spirit and values of our country. This administration has betrayed that trust. This is a president who claims he does not have to follow the law when he believes he is protecting the national interest as he sees it. Why should we trust that he will feel any constraint whatsoever in how he conducts secret intelligence policies. And, even if we trusted Bush, there is no way in the world we can trust Cheney, who we know is the real president when it comes to intelligence matters.

These hearings are a charade that have no meaning because we cannot trust our own government. It's sickening...literally.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Rove Indictment Less Certain

In the clip below, the Wall Street Journal reports that Karl Rove is going to speak to the American Enterprise Institute today. Not the kind of thing you would expect of someone who was informed of his own indictment on Friday.

Here's another post, offering a blow by blow on the situation. I'm leaning toward the view that the previous speculation is untrue. - Republicans Seek to Revive Their Activists: "The low poll numbers are also among reasons why votes in Congress are likely in coming months on social issues crucial to conservatives and why White House political adviser Karl Rove, in an address to the American Enterprise Institute Monday, is expected to lay the foundation for an attack on Democrats, perhaps by reminding his audience that liberal leaders and ideas would return if Republicans lose control of either house of Congress. "

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Karl Rove Indicted on Charges of Perjury, Lying to Investigators

This is a fascinating blog. They guy writes like news stories, which makes them sound really credible. But it is a blog.

Here's a blockbuster bit of news. Hasn't been picked up by any of the other blogs, never mind the news media. It'll be interesting to watch this unfold. Won't it be something if this thing breaks here.

Karl Rove Indicted on Charges of Perjury, Lying to Investigators: "Karl Rove Indicted on Charges of Perjury, Lying to Investigators
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t Report
Saturday 13 May 2006
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent more than half a day Friday at the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm representing Karl Rove.
During the course of that meeting, Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 business hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Name One Thing

As we survey the wreckage wrought by the Bush Administration, I would love to see some pollster ask the following open-ended question in a poll:

Name one thing the Bush Administration has done right in six years in office?

I am certain that the vast majority of respondents would be stumped.

We know Bush's view. He caught a 7.5 lb. perch in his private lake. Of course, as Daily Kos points out, the largest perch ever caught was 4.3 lbs. He must have had it weighed by the CIA.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Moussaoui Gets Life

I was strangely relieved that Moussaoui got life in prison instead of death. I oppose the death penalty in all instances. I don't believe the government should have the power to take a life.

But it was more than that. I admired the jurors for not stampeding him to the gallows to vindicate the victims of 9/11. They clearly couldn't bring themselves to execute a man for a lie. They must have known that they will take a lot of heat for their decision. It was a courageous act.

Monday, May 01, 2006

They are doomed

I'd been hearing about this $100 gas rebate plan, vaguely out of the corner of my ear. I can't remember where. But I had assumed that this was some lame-brained scheme by one of the crazy lefties (who I love) in the Democratic Party. I only just found out that this was proposed by the Republican Senate leadership. Predictably, their right wing has erupted in opposition. As though more proof were needed, this demonstrates that they have no principles whatsoever....none.

Sharp Reaction to G.O.P. Plan on Gas Rebate - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, April 30 � The Senate Republican plan to mail $100 checks to voters to ease the burden of high gasoline prices is eliciting more scorn than gratitude from the very people it was intended to help. "

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Must Read - United 93 Review

I do not expect to read a more powerful review of the movie, United 93, than the one by the President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Union, John Carr. A particularly powerful quote is posted below, but I urge you to click through and read it in its entirety. And then take a quiet minute to think.

The Main Bang: United 93---A Review: "When the movie ended, just like we all knew that it would, with sudden swift blackness and no audio, the only sound which filled the theatre was the mournful, heaving sobs of the family members themselves. The credits rolled but the audience sat transfixed, afraid to move, afraid to intrude on the pain and the sorrow and the suffering unfolding just a few short rows back. Those in attendance eventually filed out of the auditorium, speaking in the hushed tones of a funeral. "

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fitzmas 2006

OK, here we go again. Check out this post of a blog that I'd never heard of before. Interesting that something can seem so credible. According to the bio blurb at the bottom, the guy is a legitimate journalist and his blog reads that way. In any event, if the quotes from Rove's attorney are accurate, it seems we may yet see a Rove indictment.

We've been here before. And the Libby indictment was a pretty big disappointment, given the build up. Once burned, twice shy. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

But, then again.....

Monday, April 10, 2006

David Brooks

David Brooks is the conservative columnist for the New York Times. He spoke to a group today of which I am president. We are the House Administrative Assistants Alumni Association, an organization of ex-chiefs of staff to members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Brooks is a very appealing and engaging man. His conservative credentials are unchallenged. But he comes off as almost shy. He is self-effacing and very funny. And extremely thoughtful. He spoke to us about a philosophy of government that he supports called "energetic limited government." He claims this approach to government goes back to Alexander Hamilton and was sustained by Abraham Lincoln. It's last advocate in the White House was Teddy Roosevelt. It's guiding principle is that government should give people the tools to accomplish social advancement, but should not guarantee social advancement. I could live with that. Unfortunately, the policies of modern day conservatives actually retard social advancement and institutionalize the concentration of wealth.

Contrarily, Brooks discussed the growing social divide in America based on educational achievement. His compassion is clearly genuine and he obviously believes that conservatism is the correct path to a just society. It is hard, however, to reconcile his view of conservativism with actual consequences of the long term dominance of conservatism over national public policy. The results are the opposite of the values to which his aspires.

He Can't Even Pray Right

The Onion calls Bush out on his ineffective praying.

Critics Blast Bush For Not Praying Hard Enough The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "The OnionSearch News Archives
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Critics Blast Bush For Not Praying Hard Enough
April 5, 2006 Issue 42�14
WASHINGTON, DC�President Bush, already facing the lowest approval ratings in history, is coming under fire from former supporters over what they call his 'ineffectual and incompetent' use of prayer for national guidance and assistance."

Here's the Cheney quote:

"Half the time, I can't even get him on the phone because he's busy praying for the American people, the same people who are now so quick to criticize him," Cheney said. "If something's wrong with those prayers, I would suggest that it's perhaps the fault of a supernatural entity. But it's not the president's. He is doing his duty."

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Another General Dissents

Marine General Gregory Newbold was Director of Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He quit in disgust a few months before the war in Iraq was launched, frustrated by the "zealots" determined to go to war. Here's a quote from a column in Time Magazine that captures the feelings I have had from the beginning. These people will burn for what they've done.

"My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results. "

Friday, April 07, 2006

More Bush Lies

The quote below frustrates me. I had been repeated by many critics of Bush that, reports of his intentional leak of classified information to attack Joe Wilson include no evidence that he knew about the leak of Valerie Plame. Baloney! Haven't they ever heard of "circumstantial evidence"? Sure, it may not be dispositive in a court of law, but circumstantial evidence can still be very persuasive.

In this case, we're supposed to believe that Bush and Cheney talked about how to discredit Joe Wilson without discussing his wife's supposed role in sending him to Niger. We know Cheney knew about it. We know he discussed it with Libby. We know they were all obsessed with trashing Wilson. But yet, there's "no evidence" that Bush knew that Valerie Plame's employment was going to be part of the messaging in the "Attack Wilson" campaign.

On the left, to believe that canard is naivete in the extreme. On the right, to believe it is cynicism.

Playing Hardball With Secrets - New York Times: "We have seen no evidence that Mr. Bush authorized the outing of Mrs. Wilson. But at the least, revealing selected bits of intelligence, including information that officials may well have known to be false, seems like a serious abuse of power. It's not even clear that Mr. Bush can legally declassify intelligence at whim. "

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fields of Freedom

So, here I am at the premier of the movie Fields of Freedom, a short film about the battle of Gettysburg. Cool washington event with much glitterati. Jack Kemp is here handing his business card to Sen john Thune, who looks a bit bemused. Here comes Jack nown waddling down to the front row. (I'm sitting in my prime seat, front and centet, typing on my blackberry).

Had a great conversation with a couple of Civil War re-enactors who are providing color for the event. I asked one how he got into the "wonderful obsession.". He's about 28 and told a touching story about the moment his Dad allowed him to come into his private study where he had all his Civil War paraphrenalia. "Once I saw that, I was hooked," he said.

The movie was a very realistic portrayal of the actual battle, focusing on Pickett's Charge. I was a bit disappointed that there was very little historical perspective offered. But it was only a 1/2 hour movie and I guess they decided that showing the battle as it actually was would be the best "hook" for visitors to the battlefield, where the movie will be shown on an IMax screen. What does come through the movie loud and clear is the insanity of the battle. These Confederate soldiers marched directly into withering fire, both cannon and rifles. It was suicidal but they kept marching to the point where they almost broke through the Northern line. The portrayal of the "High water mark" was very compelling.

Other luminaries that were there were former Senator Don Nickles and Doreen Gentzler, local TV anchor.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Delay Departs

Obviously, Delay's departure is a disappointment to me as a Democrat. But, as an American, I have to celebrate his exit. He's a corrupt, arrogant, sanctimonious cad. There is a small (very small) part of me that respects his political skills. But any admiration of his expertise is overwhelmed by the evil ends to which he applied these skills.

I'll never forget the day when I was working on the Hill that I encountered him close up and personal. I was walking with my employer, a senior member of the House. We were coming from a meeting of an ethics task force that had been considering limitations on the gift rules in Congress. You know, the more things change....

In any event, Delay came up to my boss and pleaded with him not to ban golf trips. "Please don't ban the golf trips!" he whined. A very prescient incident.

And now he quits Congress because he doesn't want the Democrats to "steal" his seat. That theft could only take place with the complicity of fifty plus one percent of his constituents. He apparently doesn't trust the people to make the right judgment in the next election. Or maybe he does.

Good riddance.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


One little epilogue. I almost didn't make it out of Tokyo. I was so immersed in the blog posts below in the airport lounge that I lost track of the time. And when I did check the time online, I checked Hong Kong time, instead of Tokyo time, which is different.

So, after the post below, I just started idly wandering around the lounge looking for one of those flight status boards. No rush, I knew I had time. When I couldn't find one, I decided to go out to the gate area to look for one, again, taking my sweet time.

As it happened, my gate was directly across from the door of the airport lounge. When I exited, I looked at the gate, which had a big sign that said "Final Boarding." There was a man at the gate getting ready to shut it off. I ran up to him to confirm that indeed they were about to leave. Yikes!!! I ran back to my little corner of the lounge, slammed my laptop shut and ran to the gate where they closed the door behind me. Close call.

I'm now at LAX, happy to be back in the USA.

Take Me Home

So, that's about it. Here's one more Hong Kong skyline shot that I took out of my hotel window before I left.

It was an amazing trip. For those who enjoyed the touristy stuff at the beginning of this travelogue, sorry I had to slip into a lot of FH business. But, given the fact that the company paid the significant expense of the trip, you'll understand why I had to actually do work.

Asia is an extraordinary place and I do hope to find ways to continue to be involved in the region. It is clearly very foreign in may ways, but it is remarkable how similary many of their challenges are. I was amazed to read in the paper on the way to the airport about the legislation pending in China that would criminalize unauthorized domestic spying. And listening to the local people who spoke to us in Beijing gave new meaning, really new meaning, to the phrase "All politics is local." Even in undemocratic societies, the opinion of the public matters and cannot be ignored.

That bodes well for the business I'm in.

The end.

I will return to ranting about George Bush and the Republicans after I get over my jet lag.

Hong Kong

As it happened, while Hong Kong is the city in which I wanted to spend the most free time, it turned out to be the least. I was on the ground for about 20 hours. Oh well, hope I get to go back.

But it is clearly the most awesome of the four cities I visited. It is simply breaktaking in its scale. Vast numbers of high rise apartment buildings, a skyline that I believe beats out New York, an energy and confidence that is pervasive. The word that came to mind while driving in was "muscularity." It exudes strength and power. Everything is big and bold. Even the port impresses with row upon row of massive cranes that give you a hint of the amount of commerce that flows through this city.

My only activities were to go into the office for a brainstorm on a challenging public affairs client and then to go to dinner with a number of the staff from the office. Here's a picture of me with Bernd Buschausen from our Berlin office and Nancy Payne, formerly of the DC office, now general manager in Hong Kong. The picture doesn't do justice to the amazing view from her corner office.

Nancy took me on a whirlwind shopping tour that allowed me to check that last few items off my list. She clearly knows the system and is a tough negotiator. I not only found what I needed, I'm sure I saved a few bucks with Nancy accompanying me.

Here's a street shot that I liked. Nothing particularly significant, but seems to capture the scene a bit.

From shopping, we took the famous Star Ferry from Hong Kong to Kowloon.

Dinner was at a place called Hutong. It's on one of the upper floors in a high rise across the harbor provding a magnificent view of the Hong Kong skyline. Many of the building have neon lights whose only purpose is to show well at night. At 8:00 am every night, they do a laser show, which was somewhat obscured by the low cloud cover. You should click on the picture to get a large view.

The food was "fusion" food and I'm not really sure what food types were "fused." It all seemed pretty foreign to me. Of course, I mean that in a good way. Fortunately, we had our colleague An Wei to do the ordering. Many courses of mysterious dishes. A lot of good cheer for our final night.

Bipartisanship Lives!

I always remember periodic news stories about Asian legislators coming to blows on the floor of their Houses of Parliament. Guys jumping over chairs with fists flying over some rice subsidy or something. I just assumed that politics is a bit more unrestrained, at least among the democracies, over here.

I don't know if that ever happened in the Korean parliament, but those images came to mind when we entered the lobby of the hotel after dinner. Madame Doh greeted a man who wandered over very enthusiastically and he returned the expression. Yvonne told me that he was the leader of the opposition party. Then, moments later, another distinguished grey haired man arrived on the scene with the same lively reaction to and from Madame Doh and her husband. Turns out that guy was the head of the ruling party. They all seemed very comfortable together.

So, it looks like they follow the Tip O'Neill, Bob Michel model over here, kick each other's butt during the day, drink together at night. Here's a picture. Not sure what the significance was of the fact that Madame Doh stayed out of this picture. She did say at dinner that many of the male legislators chafed at her outspokenness. She clearly didn't give a shit.

Hello, Hong Kong, I must be going

Sadly, I blew through Hong Kong so quickly, that I didn't even get to post while on the ground. This is the part of the trip (the end) where blogging become more of a chore. I'm in the Tokyo airport waiting for my flight to LA. So, I'll try to recap briefly the final hours of the trip.

After our tour of Seoul, I visited the FH office there. A beehive of activity as they prepared for what they expected to be the biggest pitch of the year, a nuclear power company. Too bad they had to host the visiting yankees, while preparing for that event. But they never gave a hint that our visit was an inconvenience. In fact, frankly, they ran us a good way. Here's a picture.

Yvonne arranged dinner with a very influential woman, Madame Doh, the Korean Ambassador for Trourism. We met her and her husband, a famous former congressman, at a Korean restuarant in a hotel where she was attending some major event. Of course, with the horrendous traffic, it took us an hour to get there.

No sooner had we sat down than she launched into her description of the things she was doing as ambassador, asked me about myself and FH and just generally dominated the conversation. Her husband didn't utter a word during the entire dinner. But she was delightful. Funny, charismatic and very impressive. She's clearly a powerful force in Korean politics and I was very impressed that Yvonne had this connection.

Here we are after the dinner.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Touring Seoul

The head of our Seoul office, Yvette Park, took us on a driving tour of the city. We saw the "Blue House," which is the equivalent of our White House. Interestingly, the President's home and offices are a thirty minute drive from the Parliament. It seems they don't see each other much.

We visited an old market, with a number of antique shops and art galleries. One of the galleries had the heads of famous people scattered around an alley on springs, kind of wierd. Here we are with the head of George Bush on a pike. Sorry the picture didn't come out too well, but, trust me, that's George Bush's head bouncing around. Right after we took this picture, a women ran up and, in a heavy accent said, "I love George Bush!" and embraced the head. Yvette commented dismissively, "She's Japanese," as though knowing that fact would explain her bizarre behavior.


The posts have been coming more slowly because, shockingly, I actually have to do some work on this trip. And, I've got to tell you, the Koreans really put you to work. Gawd, I haven't had a minute to breath. Talk about an Asian Tiger. But, back to Beijing.

We did have a concluding session for the PA meeting in Beijing that was lightly attended. Mickey Kantor showed up and here you can see him deep in conversation with Paul Johnson.

Then Paul and I boarded a plane for Seoul, Korea. We were scheduled to present to a symposium entitled, "Public Affairs in the Era of Legitimizing Lobbying." It would seem that lobbying has a bad reputation in Korea. Just a couple of days ago the Prime Minister had to resign because he was playing golf with lobbyists during a paralyzing rail strike. The challenge for our Seoul office is to try to generate public affairs business without getting tainted by the lobbying scandals that are pervasive in the country. We gave a very insightful presentation advising them to stop calling it "lobbying." Broaden their definition of advocacy and confine lobbying to a smaller piece of larger communications programs. Here are some pix of us speaking to the group.

Paul gave me the hook when I began to drift into "Delay bashing." Seemed appropriate to me, given the topic. But I recovered with a story about how my mother is schocked that I might associate with lobbyists. The people in the room seemed to identify with that problem.

The presentations seemed to be well received, but the consecutive translation was difficult to get use to. You couldn't really get a rhythm going because you had to stop periodically to wait for a lengthy, incomprehensible translation to occur. It seemed the translations took longer than it took to make my point.

I wonder what she was saying?

Not that I'm paranoid or anything.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Strike up the Band!

A strange thing happened at the end of the dinner in Beijing. Paul Johnson, apparently moved by the great camraderie the meeting engendered, launched into a song. Here he is belting out the finale of New York, New York, a rendition that was notable more for its enthusiasm than it's tunefulness.

I should admit that this post is a bit premature. Probably more appropriate for April 1.

The Ambassador

Here I am with a special guest at our dinner after the meeting. I don't recall his name, but he was the first Chinese ambassador to the U.S. after the opening to China in the 1970's. He's 90 years old. When we first got the restaurant, he was sitting with his long time aide de camp, a man of 78 years old. The Ambassador spoke no English, but his aide did a bit. I was fascinated with the man and the things he must have seen during his lifetime. No one else wanted to sit with him. I had a fascinating evening. Not surprisingly, he had met Chairman Mao on a number of occassions. He talked about what it was like to enter Beijing after the liberation in 1949. He was responsible for running a particular area of the city and complained about all the paperwork involved.

I asked him what he did during the Cultural Revolution. Apparently, he had trouble getting with the program. He kept having his written "confessions" kicked back by the party bosses because he wasn't remorseful enough. It happened 8 times. They finally gave up on him when the Nixon Administration began secretly reaching out to the Chinese government in 1970 and they needed him to work on that project. He was set to go to Poland for some secret meeting with Kissinger and something intervened. I forget what. I just found it stunning to be sitting across the table from someone who knew Mao.

He was at the dinner because he was the local "partner" for Fleishman Hillard when they opened the Beijing office. He also had a great sense of humor. When asked what the secret to long life was, he said, "Eat whatever you want and never exercize."

Would that I could take his advice.

Here's the class photo of the fleishman hillard global public affairs leadership meeting. It went well. Mickey Kantor started things off with a smart talk on the issues involved in China/U.S. relations. He was surprisingly firm on the position that the U.S. needs to pressure Taiwan to start the process of reconciliation that will return the island to the jurisdiction of China. We gave a few presentations to ourselves and then brought in some external speakers. The sessions dragged a bit at the end of the day when we had to cope with consecutive translations for the speakers. The PowerPoint slides in Chinese were also a bit hard to follow.

But, we all learned things we didn't know and that's always a worthwhile use of time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Meeting

I've got some good stuff in the can, but I'm having trouble posting pictures. I think the bandwidth disappears here as the day begins.

Today is a travel day, so I hope to be able to post some more when I get to Seoul. Stay tuned.

Catching Up

I dropped off a bit, since I had to stop sightseeing, mostly, and go to work. I spend Monday kicking around the hotel, with a short aborted mission to a shopping area. After 45 minutes in smoggy bumper to bumper traffic to the recommended shop, I was unable to communicate with the clerks. I got back in a cab and spent 45 minutes in bumper to bumper smoggy traffic to get back to the hotel. I then spent the afternoon preparing for the FH meeting, which was to begin with dinner that evening.

Dinner was a lively and delightful affair at a restuarant on an artificial pond. Good food and lot's of bonding among the FH people from around the world. The picture above is of Paul offering a toast to Li Hong, our host for the meeting. That's Ed Manning from KP Public Affairs from Sacramento on the left.

High point of the night for me was when I finally got up the nerve to ask Li Hong about Tianneman Square. I've been reluctant to bring it up with any of the locals, not knowing whether it was politic. Well, as it happens, Li Hong was one of the demonstrators and he was very willing to discuss his experiences. He marched in two parades on the day of the massacre and knew people who were killed. He's convinced that history will overcome the governments unwillingness to confront the reality of this event. My esteem for Li Hong soared when I heard this story.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Green T. House

Dinner at the Green T. House, the hot restaurant in Beijing we're told. Check out the seat backs, they are about 6 feet high. The place looks like a scene out of A Clockwork Orange, very weird and funky. Spooky music, strange images projected on the wall. Bizarre art. They made a big deal about the presentation of the food. One course was served on tree bark. The picture doesn't to it justice, but I was informed shortly after taking this that there were not pictures allowed. So, this was the best I could do. It was a lively evening with a fair amount of wine.

Funny moment on the cab ride back. Kurt was in the front seat, Fred and I in the back. Kurt was trying gallantly to get into a conversation with the cab driver, even though it was clear he didn't speak a word of English. There was some hysterical talk show on the radio, with a lot of Chinese chatter and sound effects. "Is this a hot talk show?" Kurt inquired. No response from the cabbie.

After a couple of other fruitless efforts, Kurt then said, in all earnestness, "So, you get much bird flu around here?" The cab driver just seemed puzzled.

The Forbidden City

Here's the group in front of the massive photo of our beloved leader, Chairman Mao. We had just toured the Forbidden City, which is a kilometer long with countless halls with names like the Hall of the Peaceful Benevolence of our Heavenly Intergalactic Emperor. Our tour guide explained that half of the forbidden city was for purposes of housing the Emperor's 3,000 concubines. Only the Emperor and the eunuchs were allowed in that part of the city. There was much jocularity about being responsible for 3,000 concubines and, I'm sure, not original joke uttered.

Where we are standing is facing Tiannemann Square. It is striking, but obviously not surprising, that the most historic event to have taken place there was unnoted. In the cosmopolitan environment that is Beijing, it takes an act of will to keep in mind the tumultuous politics below the surface of Chinese society.

Children of Mao

After the Wall, we went to lunch at a factory that makes vases and "pottery" with some elaborate system using copper. We got a tour of the actual manufacturing process, which was very labor intensive. The product was mostly produced by hand. We watched the workers drawing intricate designs on the pottery, which went through a blast furnace 6 times before it went on the shelf.
This is a picture of Fred and Rob watching the process.

The workers ignored us, and it looked like pretty tedious work, but I was comforted by the fact that many of them were wearing small headphones. Also, according to the tour guide, they had complete artistic freedom on the colors and designs they would apply to the product. The job may have been more satisfying than it seemed.

Mostly, I was struck by what a throwback this factory seemed to be. The tour guide seemed to have stepped out of a 1950s Communist propaganda movie, a lot of rah rah stuff about the amazing process that produced these high quality vases and knick knacks. Mao would be pleased.

We then went to the Forbidden City, a spawling complex of halls and palaces. I've got some good pictures, but for some reason, I can't upload them right now. I hope I'll be able to do so if I get to the FH office tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

The Great Wall

A group of us boarded a shuttle bus at 8:30 am for a trip to the Great Wall of China. It lived up to its impossibly high expectations, an unbelievable site. Imagine building a wall from New York to Los Angeles. Now, do it in the 3rd Century BC over mountains. I think it was build by aliens.

Of course, it's pretty touristy, but that does not take away from its grandeur. I don't have a lot of time, right now (we're off to dinner at the Green Tea Restaurant), but I wanted to get this posted.

Now, see below for proof that I was actually there. That's me with Fred Rohlfing, Jeremy Stewart and Rob Allyn.

I'm having serious problems posting pictures, but there's much more to come. We went from here to the Forbidden City.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Tokyo to Beijing

The trip from Tokyo to Beijing was relatively uneventful. Getting out of Tokyo was a bit of a chore. You have to wait in four lines before getting to your gate; a line to have checked bags screened before getting to ticket desk, a line at the ticket desk, a security line for carry-on and an immigration line. As I walked down the stairs to the gate, who do I see at the bottom of the stairs but the senior leadership of the firm gathered, Bill Anderson, Kurt Wehrsten and Fred Rohlfing. I'd been at the VIP lounge having a few cocktails, but that sobered me right up. Fortunately, having just flown from Chicago to Tokyo, they were more groggy than I was.

Caught most of North Country on the flight. Boy, what an ending. Had me choked up.

Japan Air has a very cool feature. As we were preparing for landing, the pilot announced we were heading into turbulence and the flight attendants should take their seats. I hate that announcement. Then on the the TV screens a starscape appeared with some very new age music in the background. It was very relaxing, like something you'd see in a health spa in New Mexico. I assumed it was some kind of tape loop that they show when you think you're goinng to die. So, I was grooving on the image, waiting for the turbulence, watching stars go by, some big, some small, steadily crossing the screen, when up appears the lights of a city on the horizon. Turns out this was a camera on the front of the plane and those were real stars. So we were able to watch the entire approach, as the pilot sees it, with this tingling music as accompanyment. Very impressive. I've never seen a landing from that perspective before.

Upon our arrival, there as a representative from the hotel waiting for us at the end of the gangway. She took us under her wing and I've never been through an airport more quickly. Zoom, right through immigration, zoom, right through customs, checked bags waiting for me (these other experienced travelers had only carry-on). I swear we got from the plane to the hotel shuttle in less than fifteen minutes, including a rest stop. Nice to be traveling with the big boys.

Then the coolest thing ever happened. I took out my Blackberry, which didn't work in Tokyo (I'm told our technology is too primitive for them). Just for the Hell of it, I sent an email to my son Danny who had left for Spain the night before. I just reported that I was in Beijing and asked if he had landed. Within seconds, I got the following message back:

"Yeah, we just landed in malaga, and I'm actually still sitting in the plane, its pouring here."

What a world we live in that we can communicate instantly across the planet this way. I love technology.

So, today I'm off to the Great Wall. Stay tuned for some good pictures.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Where's Tokyo?

So, I set out this morning to discover Tokyo. Sadly, I never really found it. Couldn't get past the feel that it's simply a big city with people that look different. I walked about 20 minutes to the Imperial Gardens. I'm sure these gardens are stunning when Spring is in bloom. But, right now, they are pretty brown. And, while I suspect there is some historical relevance to the site, it was not communicated well. As a result, I was hard pressed to find anything worth photographing. I did take a picture of a swan.

Very beautiful, no?

Then, I wandered over to a 13th century fort, reportedly one of the highest sites in Tokyo. I tried to imagine myself as a ruling shogun 700 years ago occupying this site with Geishas at my beck and call. No luck, it didn't move me at all. And Geishas just look wierd.

So, I started to make stuff up. I saw a stand of bamboo trees with a mysterious figure skulking in them. See the helmeted guy on the right? I think he's one of those dead enders still fighting World War II. He had a bead on me, but I slipped away quickly.

Then the real adventure began, taking the Tokyo subway back to the hotel. It's a very sleek system and I have to say, while I was very confused and bumped around aimlessly looking for someone who spoke English, I did, in the end, navigate my way back.

Not exactly the cultural excursion I had in mind. But what are you gonna do with two hours to spare?

On to Beijing!

The Business

We visited Fleishman Hillard Japan today. It is a very nice office right on the Sumida - gawa River. Very nice view from the offices. We were treated with the typically extraordinary Japanese hospitality. I presented a slide show on our global public affairs practice. In deference to the region, I added to my usual quotes from the U.S. Constitution and Aristotle, quotes from Confucius and the Buddha. Who'd have thought that they were advocates of the practice of public affairs?

FH Japan office head Shin Tanaka is very enthusiastic about growing his public affairs activities and judging from the people in the room, Ryo Kanayama, Sho Sakai and Mieko Iwasaki, he has the means to do so. Part of their presentation included a very sophisticated analysis of recent elections the performance of our client, the DPJ party. Shin was particularly interested in Rob's presentation on Vox Global and saw many opportunities both in and outside the political world to use their capabilities.

I concluded the meeting by presenting the U.S. House of Representatives platter, the American flag pins and a key chain to our guests. It was readily apparent by their reaction to these gifts that they hadn't received such largesse from Americans since MacArthur gave them back their country. They were equally grateful.

Getting back to the hotel was a bit of a challenge in that I had only slept aout 4 hours over the course of three days. A bit of weaving.

Then came dinner alone with very little English on the menu. While I'm warming up to Sushi, I think two meals in a row is enough, so I went for Tempura. The prices seemed very high, but I thought I might be doing the exchange wrong. I picked the cheapest thing on the menu. It was as series of appetizers that weren't particlarly filling. I was waiting for the main course, but it never came. The meal was over. The bill was 8,000 yen, which I learned later is $70! Incredible. No wonder you don't see may fat Japanese people. Highly priced and small portions, great anti-obesity program. The other part of the program discourages cab rides. I learned later that my cab ride from the airport was 29,000 yen, almost $300, more than the cost of my hotel room.

So, it's now 2 pm and I'm wide awake again. I'm sure I'll be dragging tomorrow by afternoon. Gonna have to get over this stuff somehow before Beijing.

I'll be touring the environs this morning and I hope to have some more interesting pictures than white guys talking to Asian guys.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tokyo Fish Market

We visited the Tokyo Fish Market this morning. Left the hotel at 5 am. What a scene. Vast amounts of fish being shuttled around by men on little trucks. You proceed at your own risk. If you don't get out of the way, I imagine you end up on a hook somewhere being inspected for freshness. Every living thing from the sea is represented in all their bloody and slimy glory. It is stunning to think this goes on every day.

The pictures are in the area where the auction takes place. We got there just as the auction was ending. That guy standing still in the middle of all the activity is Jeremy Stewart. My other colleague Rob Allyn joined us, as well.

Tokyo at Night

Tokyo at 2 am from my hotel room. Badly jet-lagged. Can't sleep. Going to be a looong day.

Japan or Bust

2:56 PM 3/15/2006

This is an offline post, so the date above is different from the blog post date. This will be typical of posts during this trip, since I may not be able to be online frequently enough to post regularly.

The trip started inauspiciously with a malfunction on the tiny jet that would take me to Chicago where I would tranfer to my Tokyo flight. After sitting a while the pilot announced that there was a problem in that an indicator light had "exploded" and they had to clean up the broken glass in the cockpit. That's right, he said "exploded." Don't they train pilots to avoid words like that when talking to passenger? Jeez.

Well, it was clearly more that an indicator light, since we sat for an hour. I was getting deeply concerned about making my connection until I realized I had a bonus hour given the different time zone. Even so, they were boarding the Tokyo flight by the time I got to the gate, so it was pretty close.

Right now, I'm sitting next to a sleeping Japanese man. He looks like the camp commandant in Bridge Over the River Kwai.

We won't be chatting much.

Here's something cool and new. In business class, they give you Bose headphones for the audio/video options. Nice. I've plugged it into my Ipod, so I have my entire music collection with me and am able to listen to it with crystal clear sound. It even drowns out the screaming baby in the next row. I'm listening to Elton John's Tiny Dancer. Sweet.

I wonder what the poor people are doing right now?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

OK, I'm Back

Sorry for the long absence. The thing about blogs, if you don't obsessively post everyday, you drop off completely. That's what happened to me. I got real busy and, sadly, this blog doesn't feed the kids, so it's the first to go.

But, I'm about to embark on an adventure of historic, even galactic, proportions, so I think my readers, if there are any left, might be interested in the experience.

I'm at Dulles airport preparing for a trip that will involve visits to Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul and Hong Kong. Mostly business, but I do have a day off in Tokyo, Beijing and Hong Kong. I'm currently at the stage of a trip like this where I keep thinking of things I think I forgot. You have that flash of panic, then realize you did remember to pack it. Usually. Fortunately, I happen to be married to the Olympic Gold Medalist of packing, which gives me some assurance that whatever I forget, it wasn't that important. At least not important to her. We have different priorities. So, if I've forgotten anything, it's probably an electronic device or accessory.

One of them is a new digital camera, which I did not forget. This will be a new kind of international trip in which I can share photos in real time. Come on back for a look.

The story begins.....

Thursday, February 16, 2006

George Will Off the Reservation

I guess you have to respect George Will, a true conservative. He's not falling into the trap so many conservatives have who have gone from being conservatives to unabashed Bush apologists and sycophants. Their loyalty to Bush trumps their loyalty to the country and its Constitution.

No Checks, Many Imbalances: "Anyway, the argument that the AUMF contained a completely unexpressed congressional intent to empower the president to disregard the FISA regime is risible coming from this administration. It famously opposes those who discover unstated meanings in the Constitution's text and do not strictly construe the language of statutes."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Daily Show on Cheney

They are so good, funny, but very politically relevant.

"With no word from Cheney, 'The Daily Show' stands in
Dick Cheney still hasn't appeared in public to discuss his accidental shooting of a 78-year-old man, but there are plenty of people willing to speak on the veep's behalf -- among them, Comedy Central's Rob Corddry. Playing the role of a 'vice president firearms mishap analyst,' Corddry explained it all Monday night for 'Daily Show' host Jon Stewart:

Stewart: Rob, obviously a very unfortunate situation. How is the vice president handling it?

Corddry: Jon, tonight the vice president is standing by his decision to shoot Harry Whittington. According to the best intelligence available, there were quail hidden in the brush. Everyone believed at the time there were quail in the brush. And while the quail turned out to be a 78-year-old man, even knowing that today, Mr. Cheney insists he still would have shot Mr. Whittington in the face. He believes the world is a better place for his spreading buckshot throughout the entire region of Mr. Whittington's face.

Stewart: But why, Rob? If he had known Mr. Whittington was not a bird, why would he still have shot him?

Corddry: Jon, in a post-9/11 world, the American people expect their leaders to be decisive. To not have shot his friend in the face would have sent a message to the quail that America is weak.

Stewart: That's horrible.

Corddry: Look, the mere fact that we're even talking about how the vice president drives up with his rich friends in cars to shoot farm-raised wingless quail-tards is letting the quail know 'how' we're hunting them. I'm sure right now those birds are laughing at us in that little 'covey' of theirs.

Stewart: I'm not sure birds can laugh, Rob."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

More Anti-intellectual Orthodoxy

This is truly scary stuff. Now, the people who got it right on WMD are being purged from the State Department and replaced with Bush loyalists who won't tell the Prince what he doesn't want to hear.

I don't know if we can survive three more years.

KR Washington Bureau 02/07/2006 State Department sees exodus of weapons experts: "WASHINGTON - State Department officials appointed by President Bush have sidelined key career weapons experts and replaced them with less experienced political operatives who share the White House and Pentagon's distrust of international negotiations and treaties."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

What First Amendment?

I have to say I have some grudging respect for the Capitol Police in the brouhaha over Cindy Sheehan's T-Shirt. Obviously, the screwed up and knew it. But I have to respect the fact that they knew enough that, once they ejected Cindy, they had to eject Mrs. Young, the congressman's wife. It shows that they had some appreciation for the First Amendment. They couldn't distinguish between a message they liked from a message they didn't in dealing with the "speech" of showing up with a message on a T Shirt.

Not so Congressman Young. See below. He would have ejected Cindy and probably tried for a better seat for his wife because she "supports the troops."

Congressman Young is one of the senior-most Members of the House of Representatives, the Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. His inability to grasp the implications of his hypocritical view of the First Amendment is frightening.

This is how we could lose our country. Not from Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussien attacking us, but rather from the - at best - neglect or - at worst- contempt our leaders have for our Constitution. No wonder we have a President spying on us and many people don't seem to care.

The Capitol's Tempest in a T-Shirt: "Young said he wouldn't be so mad if it were just Sheehan. 'I totally disagree with everything she stands for,' he said. But by removing his wife, Gainer's officers clearly 'acted precipitously,' Young said."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Murtha Rules

Today Zogby poll has amazing results about the Iraq War.

Remember how Murtha was castigated for calling for a phased withdrawal from Iraq? Remember he was called a coward on the floor of the House by a lunatic freshman Republican? Remember even Democrats distancing themselves from his views (not hard to remember, since they are still doing it)?

Well, along comes Zogby with this finding:

"As the President delivers his annual State of the Union message, 55% of the voting public favors a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq, believing the U.S. has accomplished all it realistically can in the Middle Eastern nation."

That is exactly the Murtha position. It has gotten zero support from the opinion elites in Washington. Yet it is what the public believes. It also confirms another point Murtha made, that the public is way ahead of the politicians in this instance.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Power-Madness of King George - Is Bush turning America into an elective dictatorship? By Jacob�Weisberg

Jacob Weisberg has a great piece in Slate Magazine on the un-American power grab by the Bush Administration. Here's a illustrative quote:

The Power-Madness of King George - Is Bush turning America into an elective dictatorship? By Jacob�Weisberg: "This extremity of Bush's position emerges most clearly in a 42-page document issued by the Department of Justice last week. As Andrew Cohen, a CBS legal analyst, wrote in an online commentary, 'The first time you read the 'White Paper,' you feel like it is describing a foreign country guided by an unfamiliar constitution.' To develop this observation a bit further, the nation implied by the document would be an elective dictatorship, governed not by three counterpoised branches of government but by a secretive, possibly benign, awesomely powerful king. "

What's Your Sign?

Gotta love this one. This except is lifted directly from the Wall Street Journal's Evening Wrap that is sent out by email (emphasis added):

"Meanwhile, astrologists discovered a small planet circling a red-dwarf star 28,000 light years away from Earth, the smallest known planet not circling a dying neutron star. The discovery raises hopes of finding more Earth-like planets in the galaxy. And British scientists discovered the world's smallest known fish in an Indonesian peat swamp. A member of the carp family, the Paedocypris progenetica grows to just 7.9 millimeters (0.31 inches), a scale shorter than the 8 millimeters of the Indo-Pacific goby, the previous record-holder. "

I always knew that paper drew it's information from otherworldly sources, but I always thought that only happened on the editorial page.

The article was corrected on the web site. Bummer.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Theistic Evolution

Great post at the Daily Kos about Glenn Morton. See below:

Daily Kos: Know Your Creationists: Glenn Morton: "Glenn is an evangelical Christian who embraces a view called Theistic Evolution (TE). This is the faith based position that the universe, the solar system, the earth, and the history of life up to and including the evolution of anatomically modern humans from earlier primates, were created by God using processes created by same which humans can understand and explain to some degree through careful scientific investigation. In this view there is no contradiction possible even in principle between believing in a Creator and any valid facts gleaned from studying that Creation. "

This view is not particularly revolutionary, but is gratifying. This is consistent generally with Catholic teaching and particularly consistent with the view of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit scientist who saw evolution as an awesome part of God's plan. For him, science was a source of wonder that reaffirmed his faith, not a threat to it, as current creationists and intelligent design zealots see things.

I've blogged on Teilhard in the past. He's a man I deeply admire and by whom I am inspired.


So, here's Karl Rove opining on the differences between the parties:

Rove Offers Republicans A Battle Plan For Elections: "'At the core, we are
dealing with two parties that have fundamentally different views on national
security,' Rove said. 'Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview and many Democrats
have a pre-9/11 worldview. That doesn't make them unpatriotic -- not at all. But it does make them wrong -- deeply and profoundly and consistently

Remember the old definition of chutzpah, the kid who kills his parents then asks for mercy from the judge on the basis of he fact that he's an orphan.

Rove gives us a new definition. An Administration that was demonstrably wrong on weapons of mass distruction, wrong on the Al Qaeda connection, wrong on the attitude of the Iraqi people, wrong on the number troops needed for success. An Administration that is willing to shred the Constitution, violate the law, out a CIA agent, treat the rest of the world with contempt such that our image abroad is worse than during Vietnam. Wrong on all these things and then accuses our side, the side that has been almost consistent right on all these issues, to be "deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong."

Sadly, there are delusionary people in the Republican party who actually believe these lies.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Wayward Christian Soldiers - New York Times

Wayward Christian Soldiers - New York Times

A powerful column in today's New York Times calls the political evangelical community to task for its inquestioning support for the war in Iraq. Charles Marsh, a professor of religion at UVA makes the case, unequivocally in my view, that those Christian leaders who supported the war did so in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus Christ. His concluding paragraph follows:

What will it take for evangelicals in the United States to recognize our mistaken loyalty? We have increasingly isolated ourselves from the shared faith of the global Church, and there is no denying that our Faustian bargain for access and power has undermined the credibility of our moral and evangelistic witness in the world. The Hebrew prophets might call us to repentance, but repentance is a tough demand for a people utterly convinced of their righteousness.

"People utterly convinced of their own righteousness." Who does that make you think of?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

James Webb, Republican, Nails Bush

James Webb, Ronald Reagan's Navy Secretary nails the modern day Republicans for their outrageous attacks on Democratic veterans. He powerfully notes the hypocrisy of their constantly invoking "the troops" when defending the war and then slandering genuine veterans who call attention to their lies. Now, it's Murtha's turn as some "independent" group with deep ties to the Republicans starts questioning his medals. The column is in the subscription section, but here's a key quote:

During the 2000 primary season, John McCain's life-defining experiences as a prisoner of war in Vietnam were diminished through whispers that he was too scarred by those years to handle the emotional burdens of the presidency. The wide admiration that Senator Max Cleland gained from building a career despite losing three limbs in Vietnam brought on the smug non sequitur from critics that he had been injured in an accident and not by enemy fire. John Kerry's voluntary combat duty was systematically diminished by the well-financed Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in a highly successful effort to insulate a president who avoided having to go to war.