Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Jim has a new neighbor

From our friend in Tamworth NH:
“ Here's a dad we hope is starting a family here.
Photo details: Canon Mark III EOS 5d, Vivitar 600 mm,1/40”, f/8, ISO 160, tripod mounted, cropped

Friday, May 22, 2020

Venus on the half-shell

Our friend Jim has a picture from Tamworth, NH.

He wrote “I call this photo "Venus on the half-shell". Apologies to Kurt Vonnegut. Here is Venus as it sets over the Sandwich range between Mount Passaconaway and Mount Paugus,at about 21:10 last night, mirrored below in Chocorua Lake, as seen from the Narrows Bridge. Completely unedited.”

Nice photo, Jim.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Guest post: Jim remembers his year in Beijing

Our friend Jim has another post for us. He talks about his year in Beijing.

For twenty six years, I was a chemistry professor at Linfield College, in the heart of Oregon wine country, and in the middle of House District 1, a Congressional seat then held by Democrats since 1975. While we lived in Oregon, OR-1 representatives included Les AuCoin (‘75-‘93), Elizabeth Furse (‘93-‘99), David Wu (‘99- Aug ‘11), and  Suzanne Bonamici (Aug ‘11-present). 

Les AuCoin was opposed to all of Reagan’s Central American policies. He was highly regarded in the district. In 1992, he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate against incumbent Bob Packwood. That is another story.*

Elizabeth Furse came into office on Clinton’s coattails, squeaked by in the ‘94 ‘Contract on America’, and won another narrow race in ‘96. She had developed a reputation as a good supporter of health care, especially diabetes. Oregon Health and Sciences University was and is a major hospital in the Portland metro area and, at the time, ran a chain of dialysis clinics throughout the House district*, and benefitted from Furse’s support. Furse declined to run for a fourth term. She had made several perplexing statements during her last term and might have faced a tough primary challenger. Linfield gave her an honorary degree in ‘95(?) and her remarks were more than a bit odd.

In the fall of ‘98, David Wu ran against Molly Bordonaro, a young socialite with extreme right-wing views, with no experience aside from running for the ‘96 GOP nomination for OR-1, and no qualifications other than a checkbook and a wealthy father. In predictable fashion, Portland’s major newspaper, the Oregonian (whom even its staffers referred to as the bOregonian), endorsed Bordonaro, calling her ‘a fresh young face’. She lost, 47% to Wu’s 50%. David Wu was the first native of Taiwan to be elected to the House.

While in office, Wu developed strong ties to local technology firms, environmental organizations, and pro-choice organizations. He supported funding for the Tualatin National Wildlife Sanctuary. He and then Congressman Brian Baird (WA-3) worked together to create the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park at the mouth of the Columbia River. He had active roles on the House Committees on Education and Labor, and Science, Space, and Technology. He came to be regarded as a moderate-to-progressive Democrat with a good relationship with his district.

My life took an amazing turn during my sabbatical in 2008-2009, which I spent working in the laboratory of my former student and now colleague in the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology in Beijing. I had no previous language experience with Asian languages, so learning to speak, read, and write, initially at the baby level, took a great deal of effort. My year in Beijing was a great experience, and one that would be impossible in today’s political climate. Beijing is very different now than it was in the year of the Olympics. 

I co-authored four articles with my colleague and his graduate students. I was a Western voice for a Korean mobile phone company. I sang with the Beijing International Festival Chorus, performed twice in the Forbidden City Concert Hall, and with the Deutcheschor Pekin, singing at the German Embassy and nearby German school. One of my favorite memories was being served a glass of glüwein by the German ambassador to China after we sang Christmas carols, in German of course, including favorites from my childhood.

I hired a Chinese tutor from Beijing Culture and Language University, eventually developing a vocabulary of perhaps 2000 words in speech, perhaps 1000 characters in reading, and maybe 500 characters in writing. I was like a new first grade student, except their accents were better! I made three TV commercials - one as a scientist, hawking a quack cure! - and was cast as Victor Hugo in a two-hour mini-series on Chinese cable TV. 

I travelled with my wife during her all-too brief visits to the mainland. We went to both Jinan - my colleague’s home town -  and Xi’An; I spent Spring Festival in Harbin with one of my housemates; I travelled to Chengdu with my official scientific sponsor from the Chinese Academy and spoke on “Scientific Writing in English” at the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics in Mianyang - similar to our Los Alamos National Laboratory. In my role as a scientific consultant, I visited both Jinan and two biomedical institutes in Guangzhou with my colleague.

In addition to my scientific duties, as a favor to the nanocenter students, I taught a weekly seminar on less familiar aspects of US history and culture. My students did want to learn about the arts and especially  American music  - alas, my preferences for classical music did not serve me well there. More for convenience than any other reason, I used the online version of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” as the history reference. I also used whatever I could from more traditional sources, but they had to be accessible from behind the Great Firewall of China, a difficulty that could be evaded with a VPN - all the grad students knew how to do this. 

The grad students were, to a person, horrified by the history of abuse of  Chinese workers in the US, especially by the Robber Barons and their agents. But nothing came even close to the anger and resentment they had about the worst piece of legislation ever put on the books in the US - the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Even though it had been repealed in 1943, it was still in the Code of Federal Regulations. We talked frequently about US policy towards Cuba - there were three Cuban grad students, hand picked by Raoul himself - and the legacy of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

I returned to Oregon after my sabbatical in the fall of 2009. In the spring of 2010, Linfield’s Political Science department sponsored a “Pizza and Politics” event with Congressman David Wu. He and I chatted for a few minutes, and I mentioned my experiences with the grad students in Beijing, especially their horror at the Chinese Exclusion Act. He said he had a personal goal of expunging that act from the CFR and wherever else it might lurk within the federal government.

Unfortunately, before that came about, both The Oregonian and Willamette Week, and independent weekly, reported Wu had  exhibited odd behavior and clashed with his staff in the midst of apparent mental illness during the 2010 election. 

The congressman resigned from office, in mid-term, 3 August, 2011, for personal reasons. 

Suzanne Bonamici won the Democratic nomination for the seat, 8 November 2011, and defeated Republican nominee Ron Cornilles in the special election on January 31, 2012.*

*Full disclosure: 

A friend produced the Portland, Oregon staging of The Packwood Diaries, written by Village Voice reporter Karen Houppert and her husband and play director Stephen Nunns. It was hilarious.

My wife worked as a nutrition support supervisor for OHSU’s dialysis clinics until they were privatized.

Our son worked for the initial Bonamici campaign in the nomination and subsequent special election and has remained active in Democratic Party politics. He most recently was the COO of Julián Castro’s presidential campaign. He is now working as an independent consultant.

Thanks for this shyte , Jim!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Guest post: You must see this film

Our friend Jim recently posted this on what he calls “the Zuckerberg entity.” Follow his advice. This is a great film.

This is a film you must see, and must tell everyone you know to see.

This is a story about real heroes, a story that will make you weep, that will make you glad to know that such people have walked the earth. This is the story of the Gwangju Democratic Movement and the murder of hundreds of civilians by a corrupt dictator, an ally of the USA, the brave West German reporter who exposed the regime’s crimes to the world, and the astonishing taxi driver who made the reporting possible.

On 18 May, 1980, forty years ago today, the repressive dictator, Chun Doo-hwan orchestrated the murder of hundreds of civilians, mostly students, who were demonstrating against the martial law government. For this, he was called "The Butcher of Gwangju" by many people, especially among the students.

Chun had become the de facto leader of South Korea at that time since coming into power on December 12, 1979, after he led a successful military coup of the previous South Korean government, and seen to the murder of the previous dictator.
Source: , Gwangju Uprising

“The Butcher of Gwangju” was invited to the US by The Great Prevaricator. ‘At the invitation of President Ronald W. Reagan, the President of the Republic of Korea and Mrs. Chun Doo Hwan made an official visit to Washington, D.C. from February 1 to 3, 1981. ‘

We lived in LA at the time. I remember the local CBS anchor, Connie Chung, gushing over this visit by one dictator to meet with our own reactionary leader, who was just getting started murdering leftists in Central America. She made no mention of the Gwangju murders.

This has already happened at the end of the Carter administration: ‘On December 2, 1980, members of the Salvadoran National Guard were suspected to have raped and murdered four American, Catholic church women (three religious women, or nuns, and a laywoman). Maryknoll missionary sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline sister Dorothy Kazel, and laywoman Jean Donovan were on a Catholic relief mission providing food, shelter, transport, medical care, and burial to death squad victims...

the [Carter] administration claimed that the regime had taken "positive steps" to investigate the murder of four American nuns, but this was disputed by US Ambassador, Robert E. White, who said that he could find no evidence the junta was "conducting a serious investigation."  

White was dismissed from the foreign service by the Reagan Administration after he had refused to participate in a coverup of the Salvadoran military's responsibility for the murders at the behest of [Reagan administration]  Secretary of State Alexander Haig. ‘ 

For more about the film, see IMDB: A Taxi Driver

Thanks, Jim!