Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Faith Based Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was a faith based government. Their faith was atheism. I believe that faith base was a contributing factor to their collapse. Because of that faith base, they made all other religions illegal and in so doing unnecessarily restricted the personal lives of their people. Had they been more pragmatic, less ideological, less concerned about pushing their ideas on everyone else, and had a true separation of church and state, the Soviet Union might still exist.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Which Party is Monetarily Responsible?

Listening to the Speeches at the Republican Convention, it is interesting to hear the old Republican mantra that they are for "lower taxes, less spending, and small government" as opposed to those Democrats who favor "high taxes, more spending, and big government." But this is so blatantly untrue. George Bush inherited a balanced budget and destroyed it. When it comes to spending, the Republicans are not shy about it. They just spend on different interests. In the past 8 years, the money we spent in Iraq makes any money spent on public welfare look like small change. And how did the Republicans spend so much without raising taxes? They borrowed the money. And who will pay this debt? You and I.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What is Best for Us as Jews

We Jews have historically fared best in communities that have enjoyed peace, quiet, and prosperity. In times of disruption and discontent, we have not fared so well. During the late Middle Ages and into the Renaissance times, my ancestors in the Kingdom of Poland were part of the fabric of that country, brought prosperity to Poland, and were able to live a better life than in most of the rest of Europe. That is why so many of us have an East European heritage. When the Polish Kingdom crumbled in the late 17th Century and ultimately was gobbled up by Russia, Prussia, and Austria in the 18th Century, the Jewish position deteriorated. We became unneccessary foreigners in the land which we had supported for centuries. We remained so in post World War I nationalist Poland and under communism in the Ukraine and Belarus which had once been the eastern part of the Polish Kingdom and were now part of the Soviet Union. These Jewish communities were ultimately annihilated by the holocaust brought by a Germany that was dissatisfied with the results of World War I and its aftermath, and which found the Jews a convenient scape goat.
Another example was the relative quiet that Jews enjoyed in the Islamic world of the Middle Ages when Islam enjoyed greater prosperity and enlightenment than Europe, and when Jews contributed greatly to that prosperity and enlightenment. In modern times with the decline of the Islamic world, Jews have become persona non grata. They say that the Israel-Palestine conflict is at the center of the problems in the Region. In other words, get rid of the Jews and everything will be just fine. Instead of embracing Israel and using its technical know how to develop their part of the world and to bring Islam back to what it once was, they have used it as a scape goat for their own shortcomings.
This brings us to our own country, the USA, where we Jews have fared well to a great extent because of our country's freedom and prosperity. Now in our present election, we must choose between 2 candidates for president. Both candidates have openly expressed support for Israel. Obama has the vision, intelligence, and leadership ability to bring normalcy to America and restore real prosperity. He also has at least a shot at bringing some measure of normalcy to the world including maybe the Middle East. Mc Cain, although he has a history of being a moderate Republican, since running for president, has abandoned moderation. He supports Bush's ill conceived and poorly managed adventure in Iraq which has allowed Al Queda to remain entrenched in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area. Even worse, he has chosen Sarah Palin as his vice president candidate. She is a radical rightist who has supported Pat Buchanan (an enemy of Israel and probably Jews in general). Her radical policies and ineptness would bring continued war and financial ruin to our country. Mc Cain has a history of multiple bouts of melanoma. Do we really want that crazy lady to be a heartbeat away from an ailing old president?

Monday, September 1, 2008

An Uncomfortable Moment

Did you see the look on Mc Cain's face when he introduced Palin? He really looked uncomfortable. I guess he needs her to pander to the "Religious" Right. She is out of sync with the original Centrist Mc Cain and in sync with the new Rightist Mc Cain. Perhaps Mc Cain is uncomfortable with the new Mc Cain although it is politically necessary. Obama is fortunate in being really a Centrist who has been painted a Leftist. The move to the Center is easy for him because he has always been there.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Separation of Church and State

I am against mixing politics and religion not so much for the effect of religion on politics as much as for the perversion of religion by politics. Belief in God is Man's way of giving meaning to what otherwise appears to be a chaotic ultimately tragic existence. What does that have to do with politics? Why should anyone care which religion anyone else uses to meet this need? People who mix religion and politics are usually using religion to promote some political or other secular goal.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Berkely Radio Station

I was driving in Northern California recently and picked up a radio station from Berkely. The program was a leftist discussion group. It sounded like the worst of Fox News upside down. There were 2 things about their discussion which I found interesting (and maybe a little scary).
1. They were all unhappy with both major candidates for president. While one considered Obama less offensive than Mc Cain, the other actually preferred to see Obama lose because he feared a minority candidate winning would have a calming effect on minorities and make them less likely to rise up. Are they in touch with real life? Obama is a Centrist with a slightly left tilt while Mc Cain is a Centrist with a slightly right tilt. They are the nominees because they represent what "the people" want, a rational pragmatic direction. The radical Left and Right represent only themselves. I favor Obama because he is smarter and more effective.
2. The other scary item was their rabid hatred of Israel. They seem oblivious to the facts that Israel is a multiracial Democracy where all citizens (including Israeli Arabs) have an equal vote surrounded by countries that at best tolerate Israel and at worst want to destroy it. They were concerned that if Iran were to nuke Israel ( a proposal that Iran's leader has proposed publicly) a retaliation would kill innocent Iranians. How antisemitic can one get? Like the lives of Israelis (mostly Jews) don't matter?

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Monetary wealth is spending less money than one earns. Poverty is spending more than one earns.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I used to think that when I become old, I would have lots of time to take it easy and do hobbies and hang around. Actually I am just as busy as ever. I have increased my weekend to 3 days instead of 2, so now I am retired on Mondays. If I were to work less than 4 days a week, I don't think I would have any more free time. If I had another day off, the Great Time Eating Machine of Life would just eat it up. In other words the person with free time is the one who has the time when something has to be done. Also, the older one gets, the less time there is to accomplish whatever one wants to accomplish. I enjoy my work more now than when I was young. I have more confidence in what I do. The routine parts have become so routine, that I can concentrate more on the innovative.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Talking to the Enemy

It has been said that one needs to talk with one's enemies. Talking does not mean surrender or giving in to their demands. All things being equal I agree with that concept. But unfortunately things are not always equal. In the case of Hamas, we (and by we I mean my country America and its best Middle East ally Israel) should not at the present time talk to them. The reason is not just that they are our enemy. Not only do they not even acknowledge Israel's right to exist, are openly pledged to its destruction, and continue to attack Israel by shooting rockets over the border from Gaza, but they are at odds with Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. Fatah is not exactly our best friend, but they under Abbas are at least willing to talk about peace. The problems are in the details and in the question of whether Mr. Abbas has the ability to enforce peace on his side. There was a real chance of peace just before the intifada, because the people on both sides were developing a sense of trust, but Yasser Arafat blew it all away with his intifada. Renewing that lost trust will not be easy but must eventually happen.
The reality is that now there are 2 Palestines, one on the West Bank under Fatah and the other in Gaza under Hamas. If everyone including Fatah could accept this reality and Abbas were no longer responsible for Gaza, then it would be easier for Israel and the West Bank to make the compromises necessary for peace. Gaza would remain the enemy, but perhaps if the Gazans see the fruits of peace that the West Bankers reap, they might realize what losers they have chosen in Hamas and get rid of them.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Do We Want a Smart President?

Barack Obama was the president of the Harvard Law Review when he was a law student at Harvard. John Mc Cain was 5th from the bottom of his class at Annapolis. So do we want our president to be a brilliant achiever (Obama) or mediocre (Mc Cain)?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Shame on you, Jeremiah Wright, and shame on your enablers like Jimmy Carter for soft pedaling and covering up for you as he did on the Larry King show. The race for the Democratic presidential nomination is close, and losing some of those independant voters (who see in Senator Obama a brilliant pragmatic leader who can truly represent all Americans) could deny our country an opportunity to be led by the potentially greatest president of our time. That would give you the opportunity to lay the blame for our loss on the rest of us instead of where it would belong (on you). Hopefully, Senator Obama's words today will convince everyone that Wright's divisiveness and bigotry are diametrically opposed to the policies of Obama.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Before I left for Korea, I had a feeling of apprehension, the first time so far from home in a strange land. And it's true, my first impressions of Korea were very much like looking at a picture in National Geographic. There were some places in the hills where I could really imagine Ghengis Khan riding across the horizon. But, strangely enough, when it came time to go home, I felt the same apprehension. Home was in a way now the unknown. I had not become a Korean. I had simply spent a year living in one of a group of little pieces of America scattered in many foreign countries. But it wasn't exactly the America from which I had come. It was an isolated island containing detached souls, detached in space, in time, in emotion, and in a sense of reality or a lack of that sense. I feared that perhaps I had changed so much that I could no longer attach myself to the real world in which I had once lived.
Also I wondered if home had changed. It had been a historical year from autumn of 1964 to autumn 1965. The Gulf of Tonken incident had occurred followed by the big build up of the army in Vietnam with a full scale war. In Korea it was just games, but I read in the Stars and Stripes (the military newspaper) about the war and about the protests at home. When I come home in my uniform will people stare at me? I thought to myself, "Why do you look at me that way? I wasn't in Vietnam? I was in Korea where there is no war. I'm a doctor. I was a preventive medicine officer over there. I inspected kitchens and toilets and visited venereal disease clinics in order to keep our soldiers, your sons and brothers, from getting sick. Well at least we did a good job with the toilets and kitchens. I never touched a gun the whole time I was there, not even on field maneuvers. The only gunshot wounds I ever saw were a guard who shot himself in the foot when he was placing a bullet in his rifle because he thought he heard a thief coming through the fence to steal an auto part from the motor pool and a lonely, depressed sergeant who shot himself in the head the day before Christmas."
I took the circuit around Southeast Asia on the way home. It was with mixed feelings. On the one hand I felt that I had to do it. Here I was on the other side of the world with leave time accumulated. I'd probably never get back again, so how could I miss the opportunity? Later, I would never forgive myself. On the other hand, it was a period of limbo. Leaving Korea was the end of a segment of my life. Coming home was not going to be just a return but rather the beginning of a new part of my life. Besides, sight seeing alone just isn't as much fun as with someone else, and I was anxious to see my family.
After spending one last night at the Green Door, I went off to Kimpo Airfield for the MATS flight to Japan. The lady at the Green Door offered to accompany me to the airport, but I declined. Somehow being sent off by the Green Door lady at the beginning of my trip and being picked up by my parents at the other end seemed inappropriate. Real life was beginning to set in.
I took a bus from the military air base in Japan to the civilian airport where I consulted a travel agent who booked me on a series of flights around Southeast Asia. I only spent a few days in each place. I wanted to see them, but I also wanted to go home. The first stop was Hong Kong. I saw all the regular sights like Tiger Balm Garden, the night clubs, and a hover craft ride across to Macau. There was a gambling casino on the boat, and there were Chinese ladies in fur coats hovered over the gambling tables who reminded me of fur coated ladies I had seen a decade earlier on a trip to Las Vegas with my family. I guess in those days fur coats were considered a sign of wealth and were worn even in hot weather. I had a suit made in Hong Kong. It was cheap compared to the U.S., but actually I had a suit made for me in a shop in Tongduchon in Korea that was half the price and lasted twice as long. The next stop was Bangkok, canals, glittery temples, spicy food, silk that didn't seem silky, a nice place to visit.
By the time I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I had seen a lot of interesting stuff, but I was thoroughly lonely. The airport was a modern marble or marble-like building. On the way into the city, the cab passed the civic center with very impressive modern buildings, then the downtown area, and then to a shabby street where the taxi abruptly stopped in front of my hotel. I had asked for second class hotels in order to save money. It had worked out OK in Bangkok where the hotel was simple but clean and comfortable, but not here. The lobby was dingy. There were large ceiling fans slowly turning. It looked like the setting for a B class 1940s movie. I expected to see Humphrey Bogart sitting with Peter Lorrie and Sidney Greenstreet in the corner. I asked the clerk at the desk, "You have air conditioning?"
"No. But we have a hotel next door which does."
"Let me stay there."
The hotel next door had an air conditioned room but was otherwise worse than the first. It was dingy, dirty, and had cockroaches in the bathroom. By now it had started to rain, so I decided to spend the night. The hotel clerk offered to obtain female companionship for me, "You want woman? Malay woman most beautiful. I bring room." But I declined. Early in the morning, I moved to a simple but clean and comfortable hotel located in the railroad station.
That day I decided to take a city tour. I was sitting in the tour bus when three young Americans joined the tour. One was a blond fellow with blue eyes. Another was a blue eyed blond girl. The third was a tall black girl with a plain face but a rather shapely figure. By listening to their conversation, I ascertained that the two blonds were boyfriend and girlfriend, and the black girl was a friend of the blond girl. Also, it turned out that the fellow was an army lieutenant stationed in Korea and the two girls worked in the Army Special Services canteen in the very same Camp Casey from which I had just come.
Aha! My opportunity. Camp Casey would be my entree to the conversation and then to snare the black girl away from her friends. The conversation went well, but when I asked her to dinner, she said she had made plans with her friends, but I was welcome to join them. They were going to have dinner at their hotel and then go to the Saturday Night Sunday Market. Not exactly what I had in mind, but then again it was really what I did want, namely companionship.
After dinner while the lieutenant and I were relieving ourselves in the men's room, the girls were invited to a party by two Indian guys in the lobby who thought the girls were alone. When the lieutenant and I arrived in the lobby, the Indians realized that the situation was not exactly what they had in mind, but being polite they nonetheless invited us all to the party. The girls and I were enthusiastic about going to a local party with local people, but the lieutenant had some reservations. Anyway we all piled into the Indians' small car and off we went jammed together.
It was a great party. The location was a dimly lit courtyard. A record player provided the music. There were guys in turbans and girls in saris dancing the jitterbug and the twist. The two girls and I were enthralled by the whole event, but after about half an hour, the lieutenant suggested that we had better leave or we would miss the Saturday Night Sunday Market. Actually, the real reason for his suggestion was that he noticed some of the Indians looking hungrily at the shapely black girl. I don't know if his caution was warranted or not. Maybe he was misreading it. Anyway, the Indians who brought us to the party graciously drove us over to the Saturday Night Sunday Market, dropped us off, and returned to their party. We walked around the market for a while. It was a big flea market but nothing unusual.
The evening ended innocently. The taxi dropped the three of them off at their hotel and then continued on to mine. We were making the circuit in opposite directions. The next morning, they were off to Bangkok and I to Singapore. I have never seen them since then and do not remember their names, but for that one day they were my close friends.
Singapore reminded me of Hong Kong, Chinese people, British influence, modern tall buildings, commercial. It was once part of Malaysia, but apparently Malaysia kicked it out of their country because the majority of Singaporeans are Chinese, and the majority of Malaysians are Malay. The Malays did it to reduce the influence of the more middle class and wealthy Chinese in their country. It's an old story, the plight of middle class ethnic minorities around the world throughout history. Actually, Malaysia's novel approach was more benign than most.
The next stop on my itinerary was Manila, but in the airport when it was time to leave, a voice on the loud speaker announced that the flight was now boarding for Saigon and Manila. Saigon? That's in Vietnam! The travel agent in Tokyo didn't say anything about Saigon. Don't they know there is a war going on there? Well too late now. The plane's boarding.
I was only in Vietnam about one hour. Looking out the window as the plane landed, one could see tents, tanks, big guns, all kinds of military things all over the place. As we filed out across the runway to the terminal, we were greeted by a pretty little ground hostess in a traditional tight brightly colored Vietnamese dress and a big burly sun tanned U.S. marine with a helmet and a sub-machine gun. In the terminal, there were the usual amenities for tourists like us, a gift shop and a coffee shop. Also there were armed guards all over the place. When we boarded the plane again we added a group of U.S. soldiers going home after the completion of their year over there. They were a boisterous group, shouting, joking, deliriously happy to return alive. There was a lady correspondent with them, a tall bony angular woman wearing jungle fatigues and a big cowboy hat. She was joking, shouting, and drinking with the soldiers like one of the boys, but she looked like the toughest one in the group.
Manila and Taipei were nice, but I really didn't fully appreciate them because by this time I was anxious to get home. I am told that I seemed different when I first arrived home, more stiff and military, but the next day I was back to being my old self. I never noticed the difference. I spent the rest of my army tour at Fort Sheridan outside Chicago. It was in beautiful location on Lake Michigan with old trees and old buildings, a quiet place, but close enough to go home on weekends. Fishberg visited once on his way home to New York. My mother remarked that he seemed like a nice young man. He was.

So this ends my book, Memories of My Year in Korea. I hope you enjoyed it. It was a collection of fictional stories based on events that I heard about and in some cases experienced. I hope you enjoyed it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Passover Wish

Passover, the Jewish holiday which is coming up next week, tells the story of the freeing of the Hebrews from ancient Egypt. Therefore it celebrates freedom. So in keeping with the spirit of Passover, I would like to wish freedom for my 4 young grandchildren. Fortunately they have been born in the United States of America and therefore have been given political freedom. But I am talking about a different kind of freedom, an inner freedom, a freedom which can not be given to them but which they must give to themselves if they are to have it.
So I wish for you , my grandchildren, freedom
to read, to study, to work, and thereby to become your own person.
to make mistakes and accept the mistakes of others
to be compassionate
to embrace people of various races, religions, and backgrounds.
to see the best in people.
to be an optimist.
to see through the muck of convention and think your own thoughts.
to be a good citizen of our country, but but one who questions.
to enjoy Judaism as a way to make sense of life.
to avoid envy.
to see the humor in life because life is either funny or tragic, and funny is the better choice.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The UCC Leaders and the Press

I hope and expect that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States.
Last night leaders of the United Church of Christ appeared on television to respond to the recent flap concerning certain remarks of Rev Jeremiah Wright. Unlike Senator Obama who distanced himself graciously from Rev Wright's remarks which were diametrically opposed to the views of Senator Obama, the church leaders supported Rev Wright saying something to the effect that he is a very vigorous speaker. Instead they lashed out at the press. While it is true that the right wing of the press and some of the supporters of Hillary Clinton used Rev Wright's remarks, the mainstream press actually showed great restraint and balance. The church leaders are planning a "sacred discussion" (whatever that means) of the matter as opposed to the press's discussions. It sounds like they want to talk and the rest of us are supposed to listen quietly.
By fanning the flames, the church leaders are undermining Senator Obama to promote their own interests. They are Hillary Clinton's last hope.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Concerning Rev Jeremiah Wright

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I voted for Senator Obama in the Democratic primary and intend to vote for him in the election in November.
I am unhappy with the remarks of Rev Jeremiah Wright (the retired pastor of the church which Senator Obama attends) in which Rev Wright insulted America and claimed a justification of the 9-11 invasion of our country by terrorists. He condemned America's ally, the State of Israel, calling it racist, and urged an economic boycott of Israel. He has supported Louis Farrakhan, an avowed anti-Semite. He also insulted my fellow citizens of Italian descent.
I am first an American, second a Jew, and third a Zionist. On all three counts, it would seem that Rev Wright does not like me. So I don't have to like him. His ideas, at least the ones I have heard, are contrary to those of Senator Obama's, as the senator stated in his speech. I believe Senator Obama was too kind to Rev Wright in saying that there is more to him. Rev Wright has not reciprocated that kindness with an apology or explanation of what he has said.
I must speak out against Rev Wright's comments because of my admiration for Senator Obama, and because I want to see him as the next president of our country. As for the notion that Israel is racist, the Israeli people are much more racially diverse than the Palestinian Arabs. Israel has taken in and made Israeli citizens of thousands of refugees from Africa, not only the Black Jews of Ethiopia, but also hundreds of Black Moslem Darfurians who escaped persecution and genocide by the Sudanese Arabs.
I support Senator Obama because he is the most capable candidate to fight terrorism and to develop alternate energy sources to get us away from our dependence on foreign oil which supplies revenue for the terrorists. Perhaps the reason Rev Wright has not come out of hiding to explain himself is that he really does not want Senator Obama to become president. It would disprove what he has said and make him irrelevant.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Zionist for Obama

I am a Zionist. I voted for Senator Obama in the Democratic primary, and if he is nominated, I will vote for him for president. He has stated that he values the relationship between the USA and Israel as plainly as any of the 3 serious candidates. As for his support by Farrakhan, he has repudiated that. If one is going to follow the logic of opposing him because of views of the church he attends and everyone who supports him, one might also mention that Senator Clinton's husband works for Dubai, a country which participates in an embargo of Israel. Senator Mc Cain has joined forces with president Bush who is particularly friendly toward the oil industry which depends on the Middle East oil producing countries which are unfriendly toward Israel. The reality is that all 3 candidates support the relationship between the USA and Israel and have similar views toward the Middle East and terrorism although perhaps with slightly different slants. I favor Obama for many reasons as an American, but as a Zionist I favor Obama because he has been the most articulate about weaning us away from dependence on oil which has been used by Israel's enemies as a lever against her. I also believe that Senator Obama is the one best able to make his ideas become realities.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chapter 10. Mr. Professor

The University of Maryland had an extension school at Camp Casey which offered the soldiers some very nice courses. Fred Yamada, a few other guys, and I took a class in beginning Korean. After all, we were living in the country. It would be helpful to know something of the language. The class was surprisingly small. Most of the troops apparently found the study of Korean unimportant, unnecessary, or too intimidating. Mr. Kim, the teacher, taught English to children at the local elementary school during the day, and supplemented his income with night courses to us in Korean. He was a kind man who courageously tried to teach us the fundamentals of the real Korean language, which was quite different than the pidgin of the street that the locals and the G.I.s used for communication. During the course of the semester, the size of the class dwindled down to Fred, another guy, and me. As for continuing into the second semester, the three of us, the last of the scholars, decided that it was hopeless to expect that we would really master the language during the rest of our one year. Anyway, it took too much time away from the after supper activities at the officers' club, like drinking beer and singing "Stewball."
The head of the extension school was a short stocky man who looked very academic. He usually wore a tweedy jacket and bow tie. He lived down the hall from me in the B.O.Q. (Bachelor Officers Quarters). I don't remember his name, but we used to call him Mr. Professor. You couldn't miss him, darting around the post on his motor cycle wearing his motor cycle helmet, his tweedy jacket flowing behind him. Every Friday, he would drive down to Seoul. He had a house there and a girlfriend who lived in it. His was a strange story, strange to the outside world, although as time passed stories like his seemed to become less strange to me. Before World War II, he had majored in languages in college. His love was the study of languages and different cultures. He had always dreamed of traveling. He longed to sample foreign tastes, aromas, sounds, sights and any other stimulations his senses could encounter in foreign lands. To that end he became as fluent as possible in as many languages as possible. When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the army and was made an intelligence officer because of his language abilities. One of his assignments took him to German occupied Warsaw where he befriended a Polish family that had become wealthy by siding with the Nazis. He pretended to be a rich German war profiteer who was not in the army because of a bad left leg and good connections. He was able to pull it off by speaking a perfectly accented fluent German and some broken Polish, and always walking with a limp. The family took him into their home and were delighted when he took an interest in their teenage daughter. They figured that the Germans would remain the winners and this would help cement their position with the winning side. They allowed him, in fact encouraged him, to sleep in her bed. After a brief courtship, they were married. He was twenty seven years old and she was fourteen. He remained in Warsaw until a few days before the Russians arrived when he and his teenage wife slipped through the lines to the Russian side. It was a surprise to the wife when she found out that her German profiteer husband was really an American spy with no limp. She accepted it. She grew up in those times when nothing was sincere, and all that mattered was survival at anyone's expense. She had never known anything else. The rest of the family was never heard from again. After the war, the couple went back to Warsaw to look for them but found nothing. Some people thought they were killed by their neighbors. Some thought they were taken off by the Russians, but no one really knew with any certainty.
After the war, Mr. Professor went to graduate school at the University of Maryland and then ultimately became a teacher there. The couple settled into a small comfortable home in a suburb of Washington, D.C. But after a number of years, the urge to travel overtook him again. A ten year stretch of American suburban life was all he could take before becoming restless. When the Korean War ended, an opportunity to teach at the university's extension at Camp Casey in Korea appeared. He grabbed it, and off he went leaving his wife in Maryland with their small daughter. They would see him once a year when he would return to spend Christmas with them.
When Mr. Professor arrived in Korea, he found an impoverished country just beginning to pick up the pieces of a society smashed by years of war. Many people would look at grinding poverty and all the ills that follow it, crime, filth, delapidation, lack of basic facilities, and run away. Others see in it opportunity. They thrive on it. An average man among suppressed people becomes an exceptional man, a superman. One could get by on a college teacher's salary in the States, but in Korea in those days an American with any income was a tycoon. As for the locals, poverty, of course could have an opposite effect. When the stomach calls out for food and there is none, the unthinkable becomes thinkable. That was the case with a woman and her daughter whom Mr. Professor encountered standing together and crying in front of the Lone Star Bar on a narrow crowded street in Seoul one evening. The woman looked very old, hunched over with wrinkled, weather beaten skin and greying hair. Her traditional Korean short jacket and full skirt were frayed and had lost their original whiteness. The daughter looked like a little girl, a ragamuffin with an angelic face. Actually, the woman was not as old as she looked. She was in her forties. And the daughter was not quite as young as she appeared. She was a teenager.
Although Mr. Professor had only recently arrived in the country, he already knew enough Korean to converse reasonably well and used his newly acquired language skills to try to comfort the woman and her daughter. The woman told him that she was a widow. Her husband had been a soldier in the South Korean Army during the war and had been killed, leaving her with five children and no means of support. She had left her village and come to the city in hope of finding work, but there was little to find. The proprietor of the Lone Star Bar had seen the daughter in the street, admired her beauty, saw her potential, and offered the mother a small sum of money to have her daughter as a bar girl. It was a deal too difficult to accept because it meant the unthinkable, selling her daughter into a life of sin. On the other hand it seemed impossible to refuse. It would mean one less mouth to feed and money to buy food for the other four. And so, the two were standing in front of the Lone Star Bar, saying goodbye, as the mother was about to sell her child for survival.
But Mr. Professor had an alternate plan. The beautiful daughter would come to live with him, and he would give the mother a small stipend each month which would allow her and her other four children to live comfortably. In other times, selling her daughter to an American would not have set well, but given the alternative, it was a last minute miracle.
And so, Mr. Professor rented two adjacent houses in Yong Dong Po, a suburb of Seoul, one for him and his fourteen year old mistress, Lee, and the other for his "in-laws." During the week he lived in a room in the bachelor officers quarters at Camp Casey where he worked, and on Friday evenings he would drive his motorcycle down to Seoul to spend the weekends with Lee. Lee turned out to be not only beautiful but also intelligent. Mr. Professor saw to it that she had a proper education. He sent her to the best school he could find. She learned to speak English fluently, even mastering Mr. Professor's Maryland accent. Those were happy years for the two of them. They spent every weekend together, except for the two weeks around Christmas when he went to visit his Polish wife in the U.S. They would visit the palaces, museums, and gardens in Seoul. At times they would take week long trips to Cheggido Island, to Japan, to Hong Kong. She grew from a teenage waif into a beautiful educated young woman. And then she was ready for college. She wanted to study in America. Although Mr. Professor was sad to see her go, he knew it had to be. It was in her best interest. Her mother opposed it, but he encouraged it. He decided that she would study at his school, the University of Maryland, and so he sent her to live with his wife and daughter while she went to school. They accepted her, and the three of them got along well. Nothing was ever said. Outwardly, she was just an exchange student whom Mr. Professor sponsored because he was a friend of her family. I don't know if his wife and daughter ever actually knew what his relationship with her had been, but I suspect that deep down they really did know.
Meanwhile, back in Korea, Mr. Professor quickly became lonely without Lee. He tried to start up with her younger sister who was now in her teens, but that was too much for her mother to take. By this time she had saved up enough money by being creative with Mr. Professor's stipend to move out with her four children and go back to her home village. Mr. Professor never heard from them again. Lee finished college, went on to medical school, married one of her class mates, and became a pediatrician. She now lives with her husband in California. The last I heard about Mr. Professor, he had picked up another Korean teenager and was living with her on the weekends.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obama and the Middle East

Recently, Senator Obama said that the Palestinians have suffered more than anyone. Actually there are many people in this world who have suffered at least as much as they have. The Israeli people certainly have also suffered much. I don't think it should be necessary to have a suffering contest as to who has suffered the most. Anyway, Senator Obama clarified his statement by saying that the suffering of the Palestinian people has been because of the unwillingness of their leaders to make peace with Israel. One might also add the surrounding Arab countries that invaded Israel in 1948 and have used the Palestinians to deflect their public opinion from their own failings, keeping many of the Palestinians in "refugee camps" instead of settling them into their communities as Israel did with the Jewish refugees from the Arab countries.
Since Senator Obama's clarification, a number of anti-Israel bloggers have denounced him. Apparently they mistakenly thought he was one of them. I would like to thank those anti-semitic bloggers for confirming my faith in Senator Obama. I believe all 3 of the serious candidates still standing, Obama, Clinton, and Mc Cain have similar foreign policy objectives toward the Middle East (with slightly different tilts), namely to protect America from terrorism post 9/11 and to stand by our true allies like Israel. I believe Senator Obama is the most effective leader to do it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I am an American, a Jew, and a Zionist. America is my country. I was born in America, have lived here all my life, and have no desire to live anywhere else. I was also born into the Jewish religion and feel comfortable in it. I went into detail about my religious beliefs in an older post, How and Why I believe in God.
Zionism for me is a concern for my relatives and co-religionists who live in Israel, not for shrines of any kind. Although a yearning for a return to Israel has existed in Jewish literature for 2000 years, modern Zionism began with Theodore Herzl in the late 19th Century as an antidote to anti-semitism which still exists in some parts of the world today. Herzl believed that Jews needed a country somewhere where they could go if necessary to escape persecution. The one place that could stimulate enthusiasm on the part of Jews was the ancestral Hebrew homeland between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea in what was then the Ottoman Empire and after World War I the British Mandate of Palestine.
Israel has now existed as a nation state for 60 years (3 generations) and the Jewish community there goes back long before that. That in itself is a justification for Israel's existence. The people there have no other nationality. It's their home.
It was the Arab League that invaded the country in 1948, not the Israelis who were living there already. From 1948 to 1967, the Arabs could have created a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but they didn't. Jordan and Egypt simply occupied and annexed the territories. It was the surrounding Arab countries more than Israel that created the Palestinians' present predicament. Israel offered the Palestinian Arabs a nation which included most of what they wanted under the Clinton/Barak plan, but Yasser Arafat rejected it and started the Intifada.
We can only hope that the present negotiations between Israel and the West Bank will succeed, and that it will demonstrate to the Gaza people the benefits of peace.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Chapter 9. The Cannibal Ambulance

Transportation was always a thing, juggling the vehicles and getting enough gasoline. For example, once when one Eighth Army Commanding General rotated back to the States, he ordered himself a huge parade in his honor. They used up so much gasoline that half our vehicles were grounded for a month to make up the deficit. But even in normal times getting a jeep was a problem. I don't mean for leisure use. I mean for work. When I would go to Seoul on a weekend off, I would take an army bus. Some guys made a big deal about being officers with their jeeps and drivers, but actually it was a pain trying to snag a grouchy private to spend his weekend off driving you around. Anyway, you could be more independent and inconspicuous on the bus.
But the bus didn't go to all the places where I had to go for work. I would gladly have bought a bicycle in the Vill, but officers couldn't ride bicycles in uniform. I guess it wouldn't have looked nice. So between sharing the jeep, mooching rides, catching the bus, and just using feet, I managed to get around most of the time.
One day Sergeant Duffy thought he found the answer to our problem when he drove up in front of the office in an ambulance. It was not quite army green, lacked markings of any kind, and leaned slightly to the left. It was beautiful in its simplicity, al least it seemed so in our eyes.
"Its nice. We can sure use it. But where'd you get it."
"From Squeaky, Sir."
"Squeaky in the motor pool. He sold it to me for twenty dollars and thirty five cents."
"Sold it? Doesn't it belong to the Army?"
"Not really. You see Squeaky made it by cannibalizing parts from vehicles that were earmarked for the scrap heap anyway. It took him three months, but he's real smart, that Squeaky is. He can put anything together. If you give him the parts, I'll bet he could make an atomic bomb."
"Why twenty dollars and thirty five cents?"
"That was all I had in my pocket."
"Isn't that kind of cheap?"
"Well, old Squeaky doesn't have any use for it. He just likes to cannibalize things and put them together, and it didn't cost him anything."
"Something has to be wrong. This is too good to be true. There has to be something wrong."
I was just getting used to the idea of regular transportation, when along came Major Fratelli, the Division Surgeon, and we presented the ambulance to him, all bubbling with enthusiasm. Fratelli stared at it, churned the idea in his head, and said, "We have to get rid of it."
"Why? We need it for work, not for fun.
"But it's not authorized. Officially, it doesn't exist."
"You can't have something that doesn't officially exist. That's the way it is in the Army. You have to get rid of it."
"It's not fair. Last Fall, Eighth Army burned up a month of our fuel supply just make a parade for the General. But Duffy here buys a vehicle with his own money which his friend made with his own ingenuity out of parts which were going to be thrown away anyway, and that's no good because it doesn't fit into the master plan. My grandfather came to America poor, went into the junk business and made a living out of it. That was the beginning of my family in America, my origins. That's free enterprise. What's the matter with the Army? Is it Communist?"
"It may not be fair or practical or laissez-faire, but if you guys don't get rid of that thing, we're going to get in trouble. So get rid of it. I don't care how or where. Just get rid of it."
Sergeant Duffy spent the next few days looking all over for a customer. Squeaky wouldn't take it back, let alone refund the twenty dollars and thirty five cents. Every sergeant in the Seventh Infantry Division was approached, but not one would touch the thing with a ten foot pole. I tried the Division Chaplain. Chaplains are notorious scroungers. They sometimes can get away with stuff that the rest of us can't because they're the only ones who can claim to listen to a higher authority than army manuals or whatever it is that constitutes military dos and don'ts. But even the holy men couldn't figure out what to do with it.
All seemed hopeless until Saturday night when Duffy, five days short of payday, took his last thirty five cents to the Vill to get drunk and forget about the "damn Ambulance." He passed through the gate, across the highway, over the railroad tracks, and down into the Vill, that is the honky tonk end of town near the gate that catered to the G.I.s. At the main street he turned right. All the Black bars were to the right, and the White ones were to the left. Even here there was segregation. Duffy wandered into his favorite haunt, Freddy's Detroit Bar.
"I only got thirty five cents. What you got that'll get me drunk for thirty five cents?"
"Oh, thirty five cents. That not lot a money. You not even change money to Korean. Cost me extra to change scrip. But I have for you something. Old woman in Vill make. Whole bottle cost thirty three cents, scrip. You still have two cents."
The stuff looked murky and tasted like it was intended for an internal combustion engine rather than a human stomach, but it did the job so that one third of the way down the bottle, Duffy saw the world differently.
At that point, appeared one Suzy, princess of Freddy's Detroit Bar. At least, that's what they used to call her. Her father had been a hero, a giant Black soldier who was disintegrated by an artillery shell on some ridge during the Korean War shortly after Suzy's conception. Her mother was a young Korean business girl who was strangled in a room behind the Detroit Bar by a disgruntled American customer, leaving Suzy an orphan to be raised by Freddy (his real name was Kim Cho Lee) and his business girls. She knew no other life, no other place. She was condemned to this life by her inheritance and her environment. She had no other opportunity. Suzy, at fourteen years of age, was already a big girl, almost six feet tall, the image of her father, with only her mother's Korean eyes and straight black hair. She wore a tight sweater that accentuated her abundant muscles and fat as well as two huge pendulous breasts. Her micro-miniskirt exposed thighs that could have supported the Parthenon. Who's to say what is beautiful? To Duffy she was gorgeous, especially after a few snorts of Freddy's brew.
"Duffy, you buy me drink. We go hootchie. Do something."
"Suzy baby, you're welcome to share my bottle."
"You crazy? I no drink that shit! You no like me. You want poison me."
"But baby, I spent all my money. I only got two pennies left 'til next pay day."
"Duffy baby, you nice guy. But I no work for nothing. Five dollar all night. Two dollar one time. You no have two dollar, goodbye Suzy."
"But Suzy baby, I need you and I need you now, 'cause I'm really low. I got this problem and I'm really low."
"Duffy baby, I do free just for fun, I no eat. You got two dollar, we do something. No two dollar, we no do something."
"How about we do it tonight, and I pay you when I get my money on pay day."
"How I know you pay me?"
"I can give you collateral."
"What you mean?"
"I have an ambulance. That's what I spent my money on. I'll give you the ambulance to hold until pay day."
"You crazy? What I do with ambulance? I no doctor."
Freddy behind the bar was listening to this entire conversation, absorbing it, processing it in his head, and finally breaking in with, "Suzy, Sergeant Duffy good customer. I trust him. Sergeant, you bring ambulance now and take back when you get money. But, you do something now, pay later, like loan from bank. You pay interest. You do Suzy all night, ten dollar. You pay five dollar interest, so you pay fifteen dollar."
"Freddy, you're a crook."
"Freddy just good business man."
Duffy agreed. What else could he do? He ran back to the post, and drove the ambulance out the gate in a rush, claiming that he had an emergency patient that needed to get to the MASH right away, so that the guard neglected to note the lack of markings on the vehicle. He proceeded over to the Detroit Bar where the deal was concluded. By now it was almost the midnight curfew, but Duffy didn't go back to the post until long after the gate opened the next day. He spent the night with Suzy, enjoying the fruits of his bargain.
Duffy returned on pay day, fifteen dollars in hand.
"Freddy, you crook. Here's my money. Give me my wheels."
"My wheels! The ambulance, you dumb slope!"
"Oh, ambulance. No have ambulance. Slicky boy come in night. Take ambulance. Sergeant, you keep fifteen dollar. My loss."
Duffy grabbed Freddy by the collar. What do you mean your loss, you honky slope crook? I paid twenty dollars and thirty five cents for that ambulance, and it's worth a lot more than that!"
"No be so mad, Sergeant. Freddy can fix problem. You say true, I owe you ambulance or twenty dollar and thirty five cent scrip. You owe me fifteen dollars won. So, I must count."
Freddy wrote in the air as though he were computing some complex mathematical formula. He appeared to make a mistake, slurping with his mouth, erasing in the air, and then writing again. Finally, the calculations were completed. "Twenty dollar, thirty five cent ambulance cost, take away fifteen dollar Suzy cost, leave five dollar, thirty five cent scrip. Cost me four dollar change fifteen dollar scrip to won. I give you one dollar, thirty five cent scrip. Then we O.K."
"Hell no, you cheat! It don't cost any four dollars to change fifteen dollars!"
"Police very careful now. Very dangerous to change money now. Freddy can go jail."
"By this time, Duffy was getting tired of the haggling, and two tough looking associates of Freddy sitting at a table in the corner were starting to appear edgey. So Duffy took the dollar and thirty five cents and left.
Some time later a freshly painted white ambulance appeared in Tongduchon. The rumor that floated around was that Freddy worked out a deal with a local clinic, the ambulance in exchange for two hundred dollars worth of V.D. checks on his girls.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I favor Barack Obama over all the candidates in either party. Although I think of myself as an Independant, I do tilt toward the Democrats. So I will confine my remarks to the Democratic primaries. I don't care for Edwards. He is the one Democrat who could turn me into a Republican. As for health care, he seems to be on a crusade against the people whom he perceives to be the bad guys. He has a simplistic plan for a complex problem. As for Hilary Clinton, she and Obama are not so different on policy. Maybe that's why they went after each other at yesterday's debate. What else was there to talk about? I think it really comes down to who would do a better job. Clinton claims that she is ready to start on day one because she hung around the White House in the past, and Obama is a relative newcomer. History does not support that. Richard Nixon and both George Bushes had ties to the White House before becoming president. John Kennedy and Bill Clinton were newcomers. Hilary Clinton might be OK, but I would like my president to be more than just OK. Obama is charismatic, interesting, and exciting. He listens to people who have an opposing point of view and can work with them. As for the war on terror, he wants to bring our troops home from Iraq, but has made it clear that he is ready to strike at anyone who tries to do harm to the American people. As for health care, his plan is flexible enough to really work. He has the ability to bring people together to solve problems which he has demonstrated during his time in the Senate.