No War with China over Taiwan

On October 3, 2021, the U.S. State Department issued a statement from Ned Price, Department spokesperson, on the subject of Chinese military activity in the vicinity of Taiwan.  This press statement bore the following heading:

“Increasing People’s Republic of China Military Pressure Against Taiwan Undermines Regional Peace and Stability”

A more accurate headline might have read:  “Increasing United States Rhetorical Pressure Against China over Taiwan Undermines Regional Peace and Stability”

Here is the State Department’s statement in full:

The United States is very concerned by the People’s Republic of China’s provocative military activity near Taiwan, which is destabilizing, risks miscalculations, and undermines regional peace and stability. We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan.

We have an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability, and we will maintain our commitments as outlined in the Three Communiqués, the Taiwan Relations Act, and the Six Assurances. The U.S. commitment to Taiwan is rock solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region. We will continue to stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values and deepen our ties with democratic Taiwan.

The statement makes no reference to the fact that both Beijing and Washington are in agreement that Taiwan is a province of China, that Taiwan belongs to China, that Taiwan is an integral part of China, that Taiwan will eventually come under the control of China’s central government.  To the contrary, the tone of the statement suggests that Taiwan should exist as an independent country!  It’s hard to imagine a statement that would do more to inflame nationalistic passions among the Chinese, that could actually increase the likelihood of China using force to regain possession of its province.

Such irresponsible rhetoric from the Biden administration could encourage people in Taiwan to declare independence, an action that would certainly trigger a Chinese invasion of the island.

Is the United States willing to go to war with China over Taiwan?  Indications are that the Chinese are absolutely willing to go to war to prevent secession by Taiwan.  If we are not willing to fight a war for Taiwanese independence, then we should cool the rhetoric and avoid giving the Taiwanese the impression that we will fight China on their behalf.  We need to play a “long game,” quietly insisting that the inevitable reunification must be accomplished, someday, through peaceful means.

In a perfect world, perhaps, Taiwan would be an independent country.  In a perfect world, perhaps, Hawaii would be an independent country.  But it seems that we don’t live in a perfect world!

It’s Time to end the War on Drugs

As President Trump fights the DC establishment in his efforts to bring home US troops and stop our “endless wars” in the Middle East, another “endless war” has been raging right here in America with equally, if not more devastating consequences for the American people.  This is a war against the American people and their appetite for recreational drugs.

It is often reported that the US war in Afghanistan, at nineteen years and counting, is the longest war in American history.  This is not correct, since President Richard Nixon, with the complicity of Congress, declared a “War on Drugs” in June of 1971, over 49 years ago.

Draconian measures, including no-knock warrants and extreme mandatory minimum prison sentences were enacted to prosecute the War on Drugs.  Many innocent people have been killed in their homes, even while in their own beds, during no-knock police raids.

A notable recent victim was Breonna Taylor, the Louisville EMT who was killed in her home when police, serving a drug warrant, broke down her door with a battering ram and shot her.  Her boyfriend, believing that criminals were breaking in, reportedly fired first, resulting in a barrage of police gunfire that took her life.  No illegal drugs were found in her home.

Breonna Taylor was not killed by police because she was black, since many innocent whites have also been killed by police during drug raids.  Cops are also victims in the War on Drugs, being required to execute such raids.  How would you like to be a cop who shot and killed an innocent person?  What kind of nightmares might you endure for a lifetime?

The primary guilty parties in this whole business are not the cops nor the drug users nor the drug dealers, but the politicians (and the people who pull the strings of the politicians).  They are the ones responsible for the War on Drugs.

It’s time to end the War on Drugs.  It’s time to combat the scourge of drug abuse by means of a public health approach, not a criminal enforcement approach.  We need education and rehab programs, not police raids and mass incarceration.

Look at how successful we’ve been in dramatically reducing the problem of tobacco use.  When I was a kid, it seemed like practically everyone smoked.  People who objected to smoking were considered to be oddballs.  It was actually common for physicians to smoke, even in their offices and in hospitals!

Today, the incidence of tobacco addiction is a small fraction of what it used to be. This success came about through education and rehab efforts, not through legal prohibition, no-knock raids and mass incarceration.

Let’s adopt a similar public health approach to all addictive drugs and END THE WAR ON DRUGS!

Remembering Jerry Jelinek

[This remembrance was written in 2016, when I learned that Jerome Jelinek had passed away the previous year.  I publish it now, in case any may find it of interest.  ~ Bill Krebaum]
Jerome Jelinek, Professor of Music, University of Michigan (1960s photo).

I was saddened to learn, at this late date (some eight months after the fact), of the passing of Jerry Jelinek.  My first contact with him (but only from a distance) was when I attended a faculty recital at Rackham Auditorium, I believe in the early 1970s.  A friend and I were big fans of Rachmaninov’s music, and we had learned that his cello sonata was going to be played at the recital.

It was a magical musical experience for me.  I don’t remember any other details of that occasion, but I’ve never forgotten the image of Jerome Jelinek playing that wonderful music so beautifully.  I had no knowledge of Jerry before attending that recital and had no other occasion to see or hear of him afterward.

Nearly four decades later, after various twists and turns, I found myself as the new proprietor of a long-established barber shop in southeast Ann Arbor.  One of the customers was a somewhat reserved, good-natured older gentleman, who’d been having his hair cut by Joe (a previous owner of the shop, who still worked part-time) for many years.  We’d briefly exchange pleasantries when he came to the shop.

After a while, I noticed that he started coming to the shop later in the day, after Joe’s early afternoon departure time, and I began cutting his hair.  Although we both seemed content to share a comment or two on the weather, or some other inconsequential matter, and pass the bulk of our time together in silence, on the second or third such occasion, I felt an impulse to draw him out a bit.

Was he affiliated with the University? (A safe conversational gambit in Ann Arbor.)  Yes, he was, a retired professor, in fact.  What was his field?  Music, he taught the cello.  A light flashed in my head and I blurted out, “Are you Jerome Jelinek?!”  “Yes, I am,” he said, seemingly surprised, and I thought, a bit pleased, as I, somewhat star-struck, enthusiastically informed him of my delight in the memory of his performance at Rackham all those years earlier.  “Do you play an instrument?” he inquired, at which point I acknowledged that “I play the phonograph.”

From then on, we had the most interesting conversations.  He impressed me as a modest man, but in response to my interest, he generously shared reminiscences of his life in music.

As a very young man, he played in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, under the great French conductor, Paul Paray, in the early 1950s.  I mentioned how I had recently gained an appreciation for just how amazingly good the DSO was in those days, through the recorded medium.  (The Mercury label released numerous recordings of the DSO during Paray’s tenure in Detroit, in the 1950s and early 1960s, which have been reissued as CDs.)  I mentioned how one reviewer wrote that during that era, “the world’s finest French orchestra was located in Detroit.”

Jerry remembered Paray as a likable but demanding taskmaster,  “He certainly knew how to get the best out of the players.”  Paray, he said, knew almost no English, but through gestures and translation by a few of the players who knew French, communication was effected.

Jerry gave a lot of credit to Mischa Mischakoff, the DSO’s concertmaster (principal violinist).  “Paray was able to hire him to come from New York, where he was concertmaster of the NBC Symphony under Toscanini.  Mischakoff had such a great ear— he would walk around the string section during rehearsal and could pick out the playing of each individual, giving advice and correction when needed.”

I mentioned to Jerry how much I liked Paray’s tempos.  For instance, how in the touchingly beautiful slow section of Saint-Saens’ Marche Heroique, he kept the music moving along, not slowing it down too much— which strikes me as wallowing in sentimentality— as some other conductors are wont to do.  “Yes, that’s the traditional French style— don’t bog down, keep moving ahead!”

It seems that Paray had a high opinion of Jerry, too, despite the language barrier and their difference in age.  It got back to Jerry that, after he had left the orchestra, Paray would sometimes inquire of the players “How is that young cellist doing?” gesturing toward the place where Jerry used to sit.

In the mid-1950s, Jerry served in the U.S. Navy for a few years as a musician.  He said it was very good experience in his musical development, “since we were busy playing string quartets at lots of embassy parties and events around Washington, D.C.”

On one occasion, I mentioned how much I loved the Elgar cello concerto.  “Ah, the Elgar concerto…,” he replied somewhat wistfully, recalling a happy chapter of his life from long ago.  He then related that, after leaving the Navy, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London.  He spent a year studying under a very distinguished professor who insisted that he master the Elgar concerto.  I don’t doubt that Jerry played it beautifully.  How nice it would have been to hear him play it!

I wish I might have made video recordings of our conversations, for he was a fascinating conversationalist with a fund of delightful anecdotes.  How wonderful it would be to play the video every few years.  I miss him very much.

Manchester Symphony Orchestra program from 1966, featuring Jerome Jelinek, soloist.

University of Michigan bio of Jerome Jelinek

Let sleeping dogs lie . . .

Siesta time for these canine friends along the main drag in Chapala, Mexico.

In the last year and a half, I’ve made three trips to Lake Chapala, in Mexico, about fifty miles south of Guadalajara.  The lake is roughly shaped like an elongated oval, about forty-five miles long, east to west, and around ten to fifteen miles wide.  Just inside the tropical zone, it is at an elevation of 5,000 feet, surrounded by mountains.  These conditions combine to form an almost perfect climate, with wintertime highs in the 70s and summer highs in the 80s.  Lots of sunshine throughout the year— in the rainy season it rains mostly at night!

On the north shore, along the western part of the lake, nestled between the lake and the mountains, are a series of villages and towns that have become very popular with American and Canadian “snowbirds,” as well as a good many expats, who make their year-round homes here.

Overlooking Jocotepec, the “raspberry capital of the world,” on Lake Chapala.

At the western end of the lake is the town of Jocotepec, touted as the “raspberry capital of the world,” it is at the heart of a very productive agricultural area.  Moving eastward, we come to the villages of San Juan Cosala, Ajijic, San Antonio Tlayacapan, Riberas del Pilar and the town of Chapala.  The expats refer, collectively, to these settlements as “Lakeside.”

Ajijic is the epicenter of the gringo presence, where you will find restaurants, shops, art galleries and boutiques catering to the anglo trade; where you can get by without speaking Spanish.  Anglo expats are also to be found in the other communities, but in a significantly smaller proportion to the native population.

This fellow seems to be running in his dreams. Perhaps chasing— or being chased? (In the Plaza of San Antonio Tlayacapan.) A half-hour later, and several blocks away, this same dog came wandering through the restaurant where I was having lunch, greeting old friends and looking to make new ones.

never been to Mexico before, and not surprisingly, I noticed a lot of differences between how life is lived there and how it is in my home area of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Perhaps the most striking, immediately noticeable feature are the narrow cobblestone streets, where the houses and shops are built right to the edge of the narrow sidewalks.  The concept of a “front yard” seems unknown (although behind the walls, invisible from the street, you may find courtyards and beautiful gardens).  The sidewalks usually form a high curb at the edge of the street, and in some places can be rather irregular, tilted, broken or discontinuous.  This situation can present a real challenge to people with mobility issues.

Nap time at a sidewalk cafe in Chapala.

The concept of “stray dog” doesn’t seem to exist, either.  There are plenty of dogs on the streets and none of them seem to have collars.  It’s not clear if they have homes and are free to roam during the day, or if they are truly on their own.  It seems likely that many of them “belong to the neighborhood,” since most (but, sadly, not all) of them appear to be healthy and well-fed.

A momentary lull in activity on this busy pedestrian walkway on the Plaza of Chapala.  When I walked past this spot about an hour later, the dog was still sound asleep.

I was impressed by the dogs’ ability to sleep soundly on busy sidewalks as pedestrians walked within inches of them.  Even when merely dozing, perhaps with an eye open or raising a head momentarily, they’re consistently imperturbable, despite strangers stepping over and around them.

The End

Golden Rule Lodge consolidates with Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge

Golden Rule Lodge No. 159, Ann Arbor, Michigan, received its charter from the Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of the State of Michigan on January 13, 1865.  On March 30, 2017, the lodge surrendered its charter upon its consolidation with Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge No. 262.

Previously, in 1995, Washtenaw Lodge No. 65, of Dexter, Michigan merged with Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge No. 262.  In 1982, Ann Arbor Lodge No. 544 consolidated with Fraternity Lodge No. 262 to form Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge No. 262.  So it is that the legacies of four Masonic lodges are now represented in Lodge 262.

159 Race CarUsing static pages at this website, I’m gradually adding information, photos and documents related to my original Masonic lodge, Golden Rule Lodge No. 159.   If you have photos or documents relating to Golden Rule Lodge that you’d like to share for publication, please be in touch.

Ken and Marianna Staples host 25th and final “Festive Affair”

Ken and Marianna Staples, with support from the Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Ann Arbor and hundreds of individuals and businesses, have worked tirelessly for the last twenty-five years to support the Salvation Army’s efforts to help the homeless in the Ann Arbor area.  The “Festive Affair,” an annual fund-raising event featuring silent and live auction items, food and fellowship was held each October at Weber’s Inn.

Marianna and Ken Staples receive tokens of appreciation from the Salvation Army’s Major Chris Wood at the 2016 Festive Affair at Weber’s Inn in Ann Arbor.

I first met Ken Staples around 2009 when I was a barber (and he was a customer) at McGuire’s Barber Shop on Ann Arbor’s west side.  Ken is a gregarious man and it wasn’t long before he told me about the fine work the Salvation Army does to help homeless people get on their feet.  He was particularly interested in supporting the mission of the facility to help homeless families, located on Packard Road in southeast Ann Arbor.  Ken and his wife, Marianna, did so much to support that program that the Salvation Army named the facility after them: The Ken and Marianna Staples Family Center.

I was then the Worshipful Master (presiding officer) of Golden Rule Lodge No. 159, Ann Arbor’s oldest masonic lodge, and thought that the Staples Family Center would be a worthy cause for the lodge’s charitable giving.  My lodge brothers agreed, and we’ve been supporting the Festive Affair fund-raiser ever since.

After 25 years of service, Ken and Marianna have decided it’s time to retire.  Since no one was in a position to take over the reins, the 2016 Festive Affair is the last of its kind.  The work of the Salvation Army and the Staples Family Center will continue, of course, but the fund-raising efforts will move in new directions.


Ken Staples at Festive Affair 2016
Ken Staples at the 2016 Festive Affair at Weber’s Inn in Ann Arbor.


Thank you, Ken, for encouraging me and so many others to join you in helping those less fortunate!


Golden Doodle Puppy
The auction of this nine-week old “Golden Doodle” puppy topped off the 2016 Festive Affair.

The  pièce de résistance of the annual event was the auction of an adorable puppy!  The puppy was always the last item of the live auction.

An Advanced Civilization on this Planet— Who Needs It?

I’m not sure if we need an advanced civilization, but it might be pretty cool if we had one!  In your mind, what are some of the qualities that would characterize an advanced global civilization?

I suppose an advanced planetary civilization would have a world-wide political and economic order of some kind, a “world government,” if you will.  Some people are afraid that this would mean a tyrannical world-wide  oligarchy that oppresses the masses for its own benefit.  But it might mean a system that recognizes and tries to protect the rights of everyone.  The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights  might be a basis on which to build such a system.