Friday, September 29, 2006


I can’t find the exact quotation but Teddy Roosevelt once said something like: “As long as Americans believe that everyone in the world is just like them, they will never be able to cope with world affairs.” I mentioned this to an educated, bombastic acquaintance who had never traveled. He protested indignantly. Why, he said, he had just seen a documentary about head hunters in Borneo and they seemed just like him.

I swear that story is true. The trouble is it is typical of many Americans, even those who have traveled extensively and should know better. It is the democratic (read politically correct) thing to do. I can’t remember if I was of that mind-set before I started traveling. I know a little bit of traveling made me a realist.

Iran was an eye-opener. I came across Taqiya without any warning. Taqiya is, in Islamic jurisprudence, religiously-sanctioned lying. It is in the Shi’a branch of the religion which is dominant in Iran. You can read the Wikipedia explanation of Taqiya *HERE*. I disagree with the Wikipedia explanation which says, in part, it allows believers to conceal their faith when under threat, persecution or compulsion. In Iran, the general usage is, you are allowed to lie in the face of the enemy. That, of course, leaves it up to the individual to define who is the enemy.

Being a westerner in Iran, I was often defined as the enemy. I was never lied to so consistently and persistently in my life. Even trivial things like street directions were totally unreliable.

I think of those experiences when I hear about the negotiations going on over Iranian nuclear enrichment. The negotiators are getting mixed messages from the Iranians? Welcome to the club.



I did a satirical piece on Steve Irwin last November. You can read it *HERE*. In it I teased him about always having to be in the frame when the camera is on. But it turns out that was the cause of his death.

Here’s a news item:

Cousteau: Irwin messed with nature

Wire Report

LOS ANGELES - Marine explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau says he mourns the death of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, but disagrees with Irwin's hands-on approach to nature television.

"Of course, it goes very well on television. It sells, it appeals to a lot people, but I think it's very misleading," Cousteau said.

"You don't touch nature; you just look at it. And that's why I'm still alive. I've been diving over 61 years - many more years that he's been alive - and I don't mess with nature."

I think Cousteau is exactly right. When Irwin’s team was filming stingrays, Irwin wanted to be seen with the stingrays. He wanted to be in the frame with the stingrays. That’s how he got

(See picture below.)


Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I told this story before but it bears repeating. I was shopping in a supermarket in California and saw some canned lentils on sale. “Wow,” I said to the Large Lady who happened to be alongside, “that’s a great price for lentils.”

“Lentils,” she sniffed. “They’re no good to eat.”

“Sure they are. You put chopped bacon or sausage in it with some salsa and serve it over toast and it’s delicious.”

“Well,” she said, “if you’re going to fix it up.” She made it sound as if that was cheating.

I’m having to learn to cook all over again. So much of what I did was spur of the moment and depended on what was available. What is available in a Thai supermarket is a lot different. There won’t be lentils.

I got some beef roasts that were amazing. They were prime beef at a very low price. But then I found it was a special and it is gone. Beef is not a big seller in Buddhist Thailand.

One important thing to know here is if the packaging is from Japan and it says “hot.” it’s not hot at all. But if it’s from Thailand and says “spicy,” look out. It is HOT! The same is true on restaurant menus.

Much of what is on the shelves here is strange to me. There is some American stuff. I found some Prego spaghetti sauce. Alongside, at about half the price, was some Thai spaghetti sauce. I tried both. Big surprise. The Thai product is much better than the Prego sauce. In fact, the Thai sauce is the best packaged spaghetti sauce I have ever tasted.

I came to the soup aisle and started to recall what I did with soups. Soups are great to use but never as soups. They make a great base for a casserole. Some soups make excellent spaghetti sauces. Almost any clam chowder poured over a pasta works out.

My favorite are the oriental soups, you know, those envelopes they sell for about a dime in most markets. They make the basis for great instant meals. Use twice the water on the instructions. Crush the noodles before opening the package. Who wants to struggle with foot long noodles? When the water boils add the contents of the package, some pieces of cooked meat, and some instant or cooked rice. There you have it. That is a very filling, good tasting meal. I always add Tabasco, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and sometimes throw in chopped onions before the water boils.

Try it.

I DON'T COOK. CAN'T MAKE ME. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 24, 2006


It was the bomb plot a month ago that triggered the coup. You can read about it *HERE*. I speculate, and many others agree, that Prime Minister Thaksin set up the supposed assassination attempt on himself. He then fired the general who headed army intelligence. That was an escalation of difficulties here that had seemed to reach an impasse.

If true, those were the actions of a desperate man. There is usually a sort of brotherhood among general officers, even among those who may have political differences. It is a serious thing to sack one without having good reason, and the reason here was suspect to say the least.

Significant people believed that it was just the beginning of an overhaul of the general staff. Thaksin, people believed, wanted firm control of the military. For what? People believed he wanted to use force to put down the demonstrations in the cities. He had already made some moves to bring troops more loyal to him into Bangkok.

Take a look at the pictures of the demonstrations below. Can you imagine how much force it would take to suppress that mass of humanity?

So Thaksin was removed.

No one comes out looking well as a result of this. Thaksin won a general election. He very likely would have won the next election. His opposition refused to accept the results.

That is the way things work in Thailand.

THAI GIRLS Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 22, 2006



Here’s the beginning of a story today in Bangkok’s newspaper The Nation:

Public stages its first protest

Nearly 100 people staged the first civilian protest against the coup last night, calling it illegitimate and a violation of Thai democracy.

The protesters in front of Bangkok's Siam Centre included university students, lecturers and social activists. All wore black to mourn the death of democracy and condemned the coup as counter-productive.

Farther down in the story is this:

The protest attracted several bystanders and around 100 Thai and foreign journalists. Nobody was arrested.

So, according to this report, there were about as many journalists as there were demonstrators. Interesting. Quite a difference to the turnouts against Thaksin before the coup. (See picture.)
You can read the whole story *HERE*.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Thailand's latest coup d'etat, staged by the military to oust caretaker prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Tuesday night, turned out to be the mildest and most peaceful operation in the history of Thai political revolutions. No gunshots were fired. There were no clashes or bloodbaths. And many people, instead of being scared away by the tanks and troops that roamed the city, felt safe enough to approach and even give the soldiers bunches of roses.

That is how an article in The Bangkok Post began. The entire article is *HERE*. They keep records of these things like baseball statistics. Although it is the first coup in fifteen years, it is the 18th in the last 74 years. That’s why they need to keep statistics.

The coup leader claims he did not consult with the king before moving. That seems unlikely. According to the coup leader the king has since endorsed the CDR (Council for Democratic Reform), which has taken power via the coup.

Thaksin, the deposed one, may have seen the writing on the wall which is why he left the country the day before. His wife was in Singapore while he was in New York.

Thaksin still has great support in the countryside and was almost certain to win the election scheduled for November. His problem was in Bangkok where he was disliked by more than 80% reportedly. His political opposition had promised not to accept the results of the upcoming election, knowing they were going to lose it. They had also promised to continue demonstrations against him, perhaps escalating them.

Thaksin had made some moves which made it look like he might resort to force to put down the demonstrations. That is why he was deposed.

All is seemingly peaceful here. Many businesses were closed yesterday. Most girly bars were open. Schools are open today. Things are returning to normal.

The international news channels get shut down briefly when they start reporting on the situation here.

Toyota, which has its largest Asian production facility here outside of Japan, has shut down production.



Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I’ve been checking internet responses to the coup. Veterans here seem not too much excited. That means the girly spots are not closing. Otherwise they’d be up in arms and sponsoring a counter coup. I heard specifically that tourist areas will be open. Under martial law? That may be how they do things here. What do I know? I’ve been through coups before but this is my first in Thailand.

The internet is still wide open but the international news channels are still off the air. The reason seems to be to prevent the ex-Prime Minister Thaksin from appearing on local TV. There is some news appearing on the Thai channels. They are still not back to normal at 1:10 PM, 20 September 2006, Thai time.

There is worry about a counter-coup. So far it has all been bloodless. Let’s hope it stays that way. Thaksin’s strength is in rural areas. Those are not areas that have much ordinary military strength. But, in this day, there is always the threat of different kinds of response. Thaksin does not strike me as that kind of leader. But who knows?

This just in: The international news services on TV just went back on at 1:25 PM, Bangkok time. The first story on CNN was the weakness in the Thai baht which I reported on in the last post.




I don’t know what the hell is going on. I woke at 4 AM and read on Drudge that there had been a military coup. I live six subway stops and a dollar cab ride from downtown Bangkok so nothing happened around me.

There have been rumors of a coup for weeks, all in the form of denials, all in the very unreliable English language newspapers. Those papers have been pushing the unrest for quite a while. Perhaps I’d better watch what I say since that faction now seems to be in charge.

Martial law has been declared. How will that affect me? Probably not at all if I stay away from downtown. I don’t know if the schools will be open. The three English language news channels are off the air. All the Thai channels have been showing the same archive footage tribute to the king. Now (5:26 AM) a lady spokesperson is making an announcement on all the Thai channels.

Thaksin, the now deposed leader, has been a populist politician. He is famous for work projects out in the hinterlands. That has made him a hero in rural areas. That has given him a voting block that insured him victory in every election. There has been much gnashing of teeth in the large cities because of this.

Now, at 5:36, all the Thai channels have gone back to the archive footage of the king.

I, of course, am neutral in all this, being a farang. In truth, I have no idea if the charges against Thaksin are of merit. The main charge seems to be corruption. All I know is that things seemed to be running okay. The Thai baht was stronger than ever and the economy was healthy.

We will see where all of this leads.

UPDATE: It is 8 AM, 20 September 2006 Bangkok time. Still no local TV programs on the air. The spokeslady comes on occasionally to repeat her announcement. The English language news channels are still off. It is interesting that the local newspapers were delivered though there is a blackout of other news sources. Could it be because the papers supported the coup? Was their tone exultant, or is that my imagination?

The Thai baht was down over one percent.

Schools are closed. Our maid didn’t come to work. The town seems closed down. I’m told that public transit is not running. I’m not going out to find out.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Yeah, that headline is absolutely true except I wasn’t a mother and I didn’t have anything to do with the FBI. But I did boost my kid to work in movies. Here’s how it all happened:

As my longtime reader knows, I got my kid out of Vietnam when he was 4. At the time he was fluent in Vietnamese; spoke some French, a little German and a little English. After preschool and kindergarten all he spoke was English, the other languages were completely forgotten. He had become Americanized except he had difficulty being accepted by the other American kids. That bothered him a great deal.

It was still a problem for him a few years later when his 4th grade teacher invited me to school for a showing of a video they had made in class. They had taped a play in which my son appeared on the witness stand accused of something involving tooth decay. His teacher was gushing over his performance and he did look pretty good.

When he got home he told me he wanted to be an actor. Okay, great. Years before, when I had my brush with show business, Lee Marvin had taken a liking to me. He gave me a long lecture on how to get started in the movies. So I followed his advice on behalf of my son and got a Hollywood agent on the first try.

But here’s the kicker: At the time we lived in a gated community with a management office. I gave the agent the number of that office as an alternate contact. Then I gave our manager the agent’s card and asked him to take any messages in case I wasn’t at home. You should have seen how popular my kid suddenly became with the other kids. Am I a schemer? You bet. For him it was a dream come true.

Then, much to my surprise, my kid got a part in a movie. It seems he had a look that could pass for several races which meant opportunities. He was also outstanding at auditions. So he began a short-lived movie career. The problem was my kid was hyperactive and delays on movie sets seem interminable. After the third movie he told me he didn’t want to do that any more.

In the meantime, one of his directors gave me a clip of a film he was in which was shown in his class at school. That didn’t hurt his popularity. So it was a great experience.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Thursday, September 07, 2006


We have made many mistakes in the war on terror. One of the dumbest things we are doing is trying to fight the war on drugs at the same time as the war on terror. Don’t Americans have enough enemies? Why not include a war against abortion while they’re at it? I’m sure there are many doctors and mid-wives they can line up in their gun sights.

I did a rant before (Nov. 3 2005) on this subject *HERE* titled Why They Hate Americans (scroll down). I have for several days been thinking about doing the subject again when lo and behold, today I find this on the internet. An English ‘think tank’ says everything I would say but much better.

Afghanistan Anti-Drug Policies Aid Taliban, Says Report

Thursday, September 7, 2006

A new report (PDF) by the Senlis Council, a U.K. think tank, finds that counter-narcotics policies in Afghanistan over the last five years have facilitated insurgency, laying the groundwork for the Taliban to return to power. The report says that the internationally backed strategy of poppy eradication has undermined the stability of the government and driven the country further into poverty.

Poppy eradication has failed to reduce the amount of production in Afghanistan, with poppy cultivation currently at its highest level in recent history. In 2006, about 165,000 hectares are devoted to growing poppy, compared to under 60,000 hectares in 1996.

Much of rural Afghanistan is deeply impoverished, and poppy farming is the only viable source of income for many farmers. Without alternative means of livelihood, farmers are unable to give up growing poppy. Therefore, eradication does not actually do away with poppy farming, but leads to its relocation to more remote areas. There is no end in sight for this pattern--only three percent of Afghanistan's irrigated land is currently used for poppy farming, but much of the country is well-suited for it.

Not only does this approach fail to reduce growth of illicit crops, but it also damages rural economies, having the greatest negative impact on the farmers who benefit least from the opium trade.

I’ll go one step farther. If they end their idiotic “War on Drugs,” the “Taliban” would dry up. Right now they are fighting little farmers trying to feed their families. You can read the entire article *HERE*.

UPDATE: This from the Telegraph today 9-16:

With a mandate to bring schools, police posts and medical clinics to the villages of southern Afghanistan, Nato quickly fell foul of local rumours that foreign forces were out to destroy the poppy crop. To farmers with no other means of gaining cash, such claims became a rallying cry for the insurgency.

Liam Fox, the Conservative defence spokesman, said the Government should abandon any pretence of prosecuting a counter-narcotics policy in Afghanistan.

"This Government was living in cloud cuckoo land on this," he said. "To tell Parliament and the Labour Party that this deployment was part of the war on drugs was self-delusion.

"This is the Government belatedly catching up with reality. It was not going to happen. The military didn't believe it.

"Stability and military victory should come first to extend the writ of the Afghan, so that it can run its own counter-narcotics policy."

Read the entire item *HERE*

NEED A SECRETARY? Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I almost never comment on Thai politics except to say all I want is peace and stability. What I do comment on are the Bangkok English language newspapers. I assume the Thai language papers are pretty much the same since the publishers are the same.

These papers can be very amusing at times. Unfortunately the humor is unintentional. I have shown examples in the past of how biased they are against the current government, almost to the point of calling for armed rebellion. They have written editorials against democracy because they cannot win elections. But while they slant every news story, they still make a claim to be unbiased. That is funny. What a shame they cannot appreciate the humor in that. They are very serious minded.

Imagine my surprise today when I saw this editorial in The Bangkok Post:

Keeping bias out of news reports

In an environment filled with so much hate, as recently described by former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, because of incompatible political viewpoints among its citizens, as in the case of Thailand today, the media can play a constructive role in helping defuse tension and thus avoid possible violent confrontation. Or it can stoke the hatred which may finally degenerate into widespread violence. In light of the potentially destructive political crisis, the National Press Council, the Thai Journalists Association and the Broadcast Journalists Association have made it their social responsibility and obligation to voice grave concern at the volatile political instability and the danger of the situation sliding into chaos if it is allowed to continue unchecked.

Wow! Great start right? The Bangkok Post has seen the light and is calling for a new approach? Not so fast, cowboy. Here is the next paragraph:

The three media organisations also warned against the negative role of what they labelled as ''fake'' media in misleading the public and in deepening the political divide. So it came as little surprise that the well-meaning message of the three media bodies was greeted with harsh criticism by a controversial website, The Reporter, allegedly funded by a man known for his close connection with a government minister.

What they are doing, in this editorial, is calling for the suppression of a website that disagrees with them politically. That is their definition of “bias.” These are the same people that demonstrated for freedom of the press. What a shame they have no sense of humor. You can read the complete editorial *HERE*. But I suspect by calling attention to it, they will take it down very quickly.

In the mean time, on the very same day that one paper call for Keeping bias out of news reports, the other English language paper in Bangkok, The Nation (the two papers walk in lockstep) has this headline and story:


now, thaksin's divisiveness spreads to the militaryAnnual reshuffle clouded by claims of interference; showdown looms over Prin

The annual military reshuffle is fast becoming a tug-of-war between the government and professional soldiers, signalling that the political discord has spread to another arena, impacting on the unity of the armed forces.

At issue is the apparent attempt by the government to influence military assignments in order to secure an anchor for it to cling to power.

The story goes on but you get the idea. The people at the one paper would agree entirely with what the other has written. What they have said, I kid you not, is that the truth is not bias! Their defense is that they are telling the truth! What a pity they have no sense of humor. You can read the entire article *HERE* but they won’t keep it up for long.



I guess I’m finally retired. I did my first cooking in Bangkok since our initial day in this house.

Why did I cook on the first day? Because The Jungle Princess had informed me she didn’t cook. No problem, I told her, I will show you how. I sautéed some pork and onions with lots of olive oil, threw some rice on top and, there you go, a meal.

Of course that got her hackles up, as it was meant to. She enlisted aid from everywhere and took over all the cooking from that time forward. Sometimes the product is pretty good.

In one of my previous lives, the one in which I was married for seventeen years, I did all the shopping and cooking. I enjoyed it. I got the shopping down to a science which I wrote about elsewhere in this blog. (*HERE*) (Scroll down.) The cooking was something else. My ex-wife once commented on my cooking method. “You just look on the shelves to see what we have and then make a meal of it.”

She was right. I never used or made recipes. I just imagined how a combination of ingredients would taste and went to work. I once took a large crock-pot of chili to a potluck buffet at our middle school. It had pearl onions, black olives and I put in rice instead of flour to thicken it. That stuff disappeared in a flash. When they asked me for the recipe I had to tell them there was no recipe. I made it up as I went along.

That makes cooking a problem here in Bangkok. I look on our shelves but see little that I recognize. The nearest supermarket is a cab ride and four subway stops away. And then there is not much familiar to me even on the shelves of that supermarket.

But despite all that I decided to cook. I looked up a recipe on the internet for pot-roast. It was kind of an odd recipe in that there were no condiments or spices in it. What the hell, I got all the ingredients and made a pot roast. It was more like a beef stew except the beef was whole. Needless to say, it was bland. But the beef was delicious. My family loved the beef, hated the rest. I can’t blame them. The beef was gone in a flash, leaving all the rest for me. Thanks.

Oh well, not bad for a first try.

Monday, September 04, 2006

SAY, WHAT'S IN THIS DRINK? Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 02, 2006