HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - merchants slogan: "We don't have it but we can get it for you."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


While I await the arrival of Mr. Mark Gunderman who is going to interview me for a cover story in The Chippewa Valley Business Magazine upcoming issue, I may as well tell you my feelings about the new health care bill just signed by President Obama. Last night Kim and I watched Michael Moore's film "Capitalism - A Love Story" and it really moved both of us deeply. I strongly suggest that you rent it (it's available at Red Box for a buck a day) because it may give you a glimmer of hope for this old country of ours.

It compares the fall of the Roman Empire to our own dreadful path to oblivion. And that's why the passing of "OBAMACARE" (I hate the labeling the media gives every feckin' thing that comes down the pipe) is a glimmer of hope for our posterity. for the first time in a long time, our elected legislators, dragged kicking and screaming all the way, have actually done something for all of us, the poor, the common people, and the fast disappearing middle class.

You are aware, I hope, that all the deceitful lies spread by the Republicans and the Teabaggers are just that ... untruths designed to keep us, the common people, the fast disappearing middle class, under the thumb of the rich and greedy. Say what you will about President Jimmy Carter, but way back in the 1970's "fuel crisis" he warned all of us of what was to come if we didn't take steps immediately to change direction in policy.

After watching "Capitalism - A Love Story" I came to the realization, for the first time, why Republicans are so enamored of Ronnie Reagan. He is like a god to the rich and powerful. And his reign sunk us deeper and deeper into the mess we are in right now.

George W did his best to totally destroy our economy by invading Iraq and revenging his daddy. Remember his pride in displaying Saddam's pistol in the Oval Office?

Now the Republicans and their propaganda mouthpiece, the out and out liars of FOX news continue to attempt to spread fear - the one weapon they continually used while George was at the helm. So let's set the record straight right now!

the American people will see immediate benefits. The legislation will:

Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans;

Provide immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool;

Prohibit dropping people from coverage when they get sick in all individual plans;

Lower seniors' prescription drug prices by beginning to close the donut hole;

Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;

Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all plans;

Require plans to cover an enrollee's dependent children until age 26;

Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;

Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;

Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs.

By enacting these provisions right away, and others over time, we will be able to lower costs for everyone and give all Americans and small businesses more control over their health care choices.

So what the Republicans hoped to be President Obama's "Waterloo" seemed to have bitten them on the ass.

Here's the way I see our current political scene. Democrats are now what Republicans once were in the days of Abraham Lincoln and the current Republican party? I don't know what the hell they are anymore but they continue to become the next Whig party.

Go ahead Boys and girls -- keep digging that grave even deeper. Just keep saying NO. Anybody with any intelligence has figured you out by now.

There may be a chance for hope and change after all.


Want to publish a recent newsy e mail from my friend robert 'One Man' Johnson all the way from Thailand:

Margery, Fran (our friend from Milwaukee) and I flew to Chiang Mai for the weekend. Chiang Mai is an unusually beautiful place in mountainous northern Thailand. There are about a million people in the whole area, but the central, old city is very small, only a couple miles square. About a hundred temples and wats exist in this confined place, intricately decorated with bright paint and gold leaf. A muddy river bisects the city and there are also many klongs, or canals throughout. As a result, the town has a very peaceful feel to it. It moves at a slower pace than Bangkok. Additionally, its tourism is largely backpackers, young people seemingly on a mission to explore and enjoy Nature rather than to just 'party'.

There is less evidence of the sleaze of some of the other Thai tourism centers such as Pat Pong or Pattaya or Koh Samui. There seems to be an emphasis on ‘eco-tourism’ and ‘adventuring’ as attractions for the 21stcentury hippie-types. The whole vibe hints at an almost college-town atmosphere. The biggest fad right now is zip-line tours that take you through the forest canopy at high speed. That kind of experience, with white water rafting, mountain biking and bungy jumping, is perhaps less attractive for gimped-up senior citizens like us.

A strong attraction for Margery and Fran was the shopping. Textiles, especially brightly woven stuff from the hill tribes (Hmong and Karen mostly) are everywhere. Lots of shops sold loose gems and finely made jewelry. Street-side stalls and blankets on the sidewalk displayed carved wooden elephants and amulets. There is a Saturday open market, a Sunday market and a Night Market, which only opens after dark. I can only do about a half hour of look/stop, look/stop, pick up/examine, before my eyes glaze over and I need to retreat to some sit-down place for a glass of beer with ice in it…yes, I have been corrupted by Asian customs!

But, the food, the food, the food! Fiery coconut curry soup with egg noodles (called bahmee), braised chicken legs and fresh pickled cabbage and a topping of crunchy deep-fried egg noodles with a squeeze of lime. What a mélange of textures and tastes! The dish is called Khao Soi Gai and it is my favorite, especially washed down with Chang beer, a powerful (6%) beverage. I am also a fool for deep-fried air-dried pork covered with sesame seeds. It is almost like pork jerky but more tender and delicious. The spring rolls are different from those of China, filled with black mushrooms, sprouts and minced pork. There are many kinds of hand-made sausages, all very garlicky and spiiiii-cy! Follow it all up with chunks of sweet, fresh, juicy mango over sticky rice and covered with sweet coconut cream to cool the fire.

One downside of the trip was air quality. Farmers are burning the rice fields, as they must, three times per year. As we landed the night before, we could see fires everywhere. There was a blood-red-sunset haze and you couldn’t see the mountains in the distance. Next morning, my eyes were burning and before long, my asthma kicked in. I was reminded of my time in Japan and I had to haul out the old Albuterol inhaler for a few snorts to ease my breathing. I put on one of those masks that we bought at a street side pharmacy, but I think they almost make matters worse as there seems to be even less air coming in with it on than with it off!

Still, I hung on into the day and after visiting yet another temple, we stopped for fresh pineapple juice and then decided that we should take a break and get a massage. Our seven years in China have both Margery and me addicted. We have discovered the joys of Blind Massage and their ability to relax and take away fatigue and knotted muscles. In Asia, blind people are often employed to give massage and we have learned that they usually are the best. They seem to ‘see’ with their hands and have an uncanny ability to find and remove knots and relieve soreness. We found a place named Chiang Mai Conservation Blind Massage #2. It looked clean and inviting to us.

We paid our 220 baht (7 bucks) for 90 minutes and filed into a room lined with mats on tables. We were fully clothed. Fresh clean sheets were put down and pillows provided by sighted attendants. Three people entered. One felt his way along the wall and to my table. The other two, both female, seemed to know exactly where to go. Margery’s masseuse? masseur? whatever, massage person…was profoundly blind, with deeply sunken eye sockets and the stereotypical appearance of a person blind from birth. She was extremely soft spoken but carried on conversations with both her colleagues during the whole procedure. The other two people were chatty as well, paying attention to us only with their hands.

My guy had an extremely powerful grip and I knew immediately I was in trouble. He started with my feet. I can’t understand how a person can cause such pain with a fingertip. I grunted and asked him to be a little bit more gentle. Perhaps he had a hearing deficit also. After brutalizing my feet and calves and up to my thighs, he had me flip over on my stomach and commenced to reefing on my back, often bearing down directly with the point of his elbow. He found some spots on my shoulder blades that caused me to moan in pain. As I was gasping for breath, Margery’s massager turned toward me with a beatific and gentle smile. Both Margery and Fran burst out laughing as she advised me in a soft voice in perhaps the only English she knew,
“No whining.”

Robert Johnson Bangkok March 2010


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