Bernie or Biden – reflections on choosing a candidate

Living abroad, I have found it helpful to remain slightly detached from the drama of American politics. I still keep myself informed of what’s happening, but for the sake of my sanity, I find it helpful to avoid marinating in the day-to-day detail. This is especially true, given the 24-hour media’s desire to amplify (and maybe even construct) the smallest conflicts, fanning the flames into brimstone and indignant self-righteousness.

That said, the Democratic presidential primary has reached an interesting, and nearly existential, point. And since the state in which I am registered to vote has not yet had its primary, I find myself facing a difficult choice: Do I vote for Joseph Biden, representing the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party? Or do I vote for Bernie Sanders, representing the more progressive – or, dare I say it – socialist wing?

Credit to the New York Times

One concern I share about both candidates (and President Trump) is their age. I think we are at a point where we need a younger president, someone who is more in touch with the factors that are affecting all aspects of our life. When I listen to interviews with both Biden and Sanders, I get a sense that they do not have a deep, first-hand understanding of technology and the digital revolution that is affecting every aspect of our economy and our society. Trump may know Twitter, but when he doesn’t understand why the influenza vaccine won’t help us with COVID-19, he seems equally out of touch.

Another concern I have about the candidates, is that they are white men. White men have run this country for nearly all of our 244 years. It’s time for some fresh perspectives. Yes, this will likely be symbolically addressed in the choice of a vice presidential candidate, but I think it’s time for a woman and/or another person of color to be sitting behind the Resolute Desk.

What about Elizabeth Warren, you ask? At this point, it seems that she has fallen to a point where her departure from the race is imminent. Of the three candidates, she is probably the most appealing but I think that ship has sailed. So let me consider the two most likely candidates.

Looking at how our country has become increasingly polarized, and how President Trump has practiced an incredibly divisive, juvenile form of politics, I find Biden appealing because he represents a more centrist, more civil form of discourse. This may be optimistic thinking on my part, but I would like to believe that there is a path that could lead use back to a more civil way of governing and I think Biden is better positioned to lead us there.

I also feel, from a social justice standpoint, Sanders is addressing some very important topics and has been addressing them, with consistently bold language, for a long time. The increased inequality in our nation is a huge problem. The system is increasingly rigged so the wealthy get wealthier while the rest get left behind. Politicians of both parties have done a poor job addressing issues of health, education and inequality and a fraying of the social fabric cannot be the definition of making America “great again”.

One of my biggest concerns with Sanders, is that he and his followers seem to be the liberal version of Trump. That is, equally extreme, equally uncivil, and leading us further and further from a path on which the majority of Americans can tread. That seems dangerous for our country and for the world as a whole. Sanders’ grand revolution will be meaningless if he cannot get any legislation passed and his track record in this is poor.

I do think Biden will do a better job when it comes to foreign policy. Living abroad, I see how important our place in the world is. And with the significant changes that are happening in the world, especially with Russia and China, we need to have a more stable hand running America’s foreign policy.

But I do have questions about Biden. What is he offering that is a vision of the future? It seems like he is offering a repeat of President Obama’s greatest hits. A lot of good was accomplished during Obama’s eight years in office. But those days are over and it is time for us to move towards the future.

When it comes to November, I will support the Democratic candidate, no question. Trump has been a disaster for America. It is a daily embarrassment being an American abroad, trying to explain to people from all around the world, how so advanced a nation could elect so ignorant and uncurious a buffoon to the White House.

But on the question of who should represent the Democrats and challenge Trump, I need to ask your help. Could you please share your perspective on why one candidate or the other is a better choice?

The ground rules: please keep your points civil and constructive. Name-calling and personal attacks do not move the discussion forward and are not welcome here. Thank you in advance for sharing your insights.

More of the Same, Two Ways

The media offers us just a narrow perspective on particular stories based on the particular angles from which those stories are reported.  This is compounded when the media covers a story far away in a another country, a country with a political system different from your own.  As a comparison, look at the room you are sitting in through a cardboard tube from a roll of paper towels and you’ll get an idea of how little you are seeing and how little that narrow view helps you understand what is going on.

2008 Protests 1

These truths are always useful to keep in mind, but especially for those of you overseas, sitting there wondering what in the world is going on in Thailand right now.

2008 Protests 4 Let’s be clear: there are clashes between protesters, groups of who number in the low thousands, and the police.  These clashes have increased in intensity and there has been some violence, although the police and the Prime Minister have been remarkably restrained.  Likewise, the army has declined to get directly involved.

Additionally, three airports in the country were shut down by protesters (Krabi, Phuket and Hat Yai), the trains have shut down because of strikes and unions at THAI Airways are being encouraged by the protesters to stage work stoppages in support of them.

Many sources, included some contacts we have who were “in the know” about the last coup, have warned us that things will come to a head this weekend.  Either the Prime Minister will resign and dissolve parliament, leading to new elections, or he will take action to end the protests with force.  It will probably get worse before it gets better.

2008 Protests 2

That being said, the areas where these protests are happening are pretty limited.  In Khrungthep (Bangkok) they are mostly at key locations in the old city, Ratanokosin Island.  If you walk just a few blocks north from the Grand Palace and then make a right on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, you would run into police barricades and a few blocks later, the protesters.

2008 Protests 3

For the rest of us, those of us living anywhere else, life continues as normal.  For now.  (Side note for those of you who are interested: The Nation newspaper has a very good brief history of modern Thai politics.  It will give you a good rundown and help put this event in some context.)

Since life is continuing as normal, let me share some of it with you.  You’ll find it quite mundane.

During dinner with Steve on Wednesday at Thon Krueng restaurant, I noticed that the pieces of carrot in the vegetable stir-fry looked like they had been intentionally carved to resemble animals.  The one on the top looks (to me) like the profile of a cow’s head, looking to the right.  Or maybe a moose?  Those could be antlers.  The lighter core of the carrot is right about where the eye would be.  The bottom carrot looks like a crab.

What do you think?



Stopping by Paragon to meet Chris and Tehlin earlier in the week, I parked at the Siam Centre car park and then walked across the plaza between the two malls.  The plaza was being set up for another event, this one for Levi’s 501 jeans.  I took this shot from the backstage area.  You can see the Siam BTS Skytrain station in the background.  Their sound check was very loud.  Everything here is, so I guess the sound was at the correct volume.



Plenty This week, I tried a new sourdough whole wheat bread recipe from the book I recently finished: Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and One Raucous Year of Eating Locally.  The recipe I’ve used previously is too wet.  I know that it is better for bread dough to be a little wet rather than too dry, but it is impossible to handle.  It sticks to my hands and everything else, no matter how much flour is added.

This new recipe turned out a loaf that was just about perfect.  The right size, the right shape, the right texture and – best of all – only a little sticky.

Don’t I look just like a proud father?


Here’s a look inside.  Note the texture – it’s just about perfect for a general purpose slice-and-eat sandwich bread.


Finally, Friday night Stuart and I met  at Roadhouse Barbecue on the corner of Surawongse and Rama IV for a Democrats Abroad Thailand event: watching (a tape delayed version of) Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.  There were at least 150 people there and the owner let us have the run of the second floor.


Thailand for Obama 2 This is about 1/3 of the total floor space and there was another TV to the far right of the room.  In the middle area we had t-shirt sales featuring the new “Thailand for Obama” logo, left, and voter registration.  That will be one of my areas of volunteer focus the next month: getting people registered. 

Too many US citizens living or traveling abroad don’t know that they have the right to vote. 

If you or someone you know would like more information – especially if you know any Americans who will be abroad during the November 4th election – please visit

Here is a brief video just to give you a little feel of the event:

Not much, but you get the idea.

Lots of cooking today (Saturday) as I get ready for some brunch guests tomorrow.  I’ll share more of those pictures later.


Khun Abhisit at the FCCT

Another week has been zipping by – I can’t believe it is Thursday already!  What happened to the days of my childhood when weeks were agonizingly long and time passed by like molasses in January?

These past three days have all been about work with several projects competing for my attention.  It is difficult when all of your internal customers are convinced that their project is the number-one priority.  At least it provides a bit of job security.

Here are some pictures taken over the last week that I haven’t had an opportunity to share yet:

Our condo has two balconies.  The one facing the southwest is small and functional, enough room to set up laundry racks but nothing very special as it just hangs from the side of the building.

The other balcony faces the northeast and is one of four building corners that overlook the pool and deck area.  Being by the pool is very nice.  There is the sound of swimmers, children playing in the afternoon, and at least one mother tutors her child in English by the pool. 

P1030208 The balcony also is shaded by several palm trees and Tawn has set about turning it into a cozy place for outdoor dining and relaxation. 

He’s added this concrete console that I think looks a bit overbearing, but that serves as a nice place to put plants, candles, and plates of food. 

There is a marble-topped cafe table with a pair of chairs, and we’ll eventually add a ceiling fan and light so that on breeze-less evenings we can still sit in comfort outdoors.

So far we haven’t had too much of a problem with mosquitos.  Hopefully it stays that way.


We live along a small soi that is actually surprisingly busy in one direction because it serves as a shortcut to bypass the Sukhumvit – Thong Lo intersection.  This can be a little frustrating but since the street is small, traffic moves pretty slowly and doesn’t make a lot of noise.  Unlike as Asoke Place, we don’t have a lot of traffic-related dust.  There, even though we were on the 25th floor, it only took a few hours of the windows being open to have a heavier, sooty type of dust coating things, probably due to the busses and trucks on the busy street below.

Soi 53 is very walkable, although I enjoy taking the motorcycle taxis up and down the soi for the feel of the wind in my hair.  Along the way there are many interesting condos, houses, spas and restaurants. 

P1030213 The most interesting of them is this private residence in a North Asian style that I have not decided on yet.  Is it more Chinese, Korean or Japanese in style? 

Located on the corner of Soi Sukhumvit 53 and Soi Thonglor 5, there is no signage indicating what it is or who lives there.  At first I thought it was a consulate or embassy, but if it were, it would have a sign.  It is a very nice looking house, though.



P1030226 Tuesday evening I went to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club for a speech and question-and-answer session by Abhisit Vejjajiva, the head of the Democratic Party of Thailand. 

The oldest of Thailand’s political parties (61 years), the Democrats are the main rivals against the PPP (People Power Party), which is basically the now-disbanded Thai Rak Thai party that was run by deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Khun Abhisit is only 43 years old, UK born and mostly educated there, and represents a new generation of Thai politicians, a generation that claims to be a break from the corrupt politics of the past. 

P1030225 It was very interesting listening to him: unlike most politicians I’ve heard (from any country) he is very articulate, has a specific plan of action for his party, and when asked even very pointed questions, he actually answers directly.

Whether or not he’ll have the opportunity to become the next Prime Minister is an open question.  Various polls show the PPP poised to take a majority in the new legislature and thus able to form their own government.

But Thai politics are nothing if not full of surprises.  So we’ll just have to wait and see how things turn out.  There is more that I’ll write about the upcoming election (this Sunday, December 23) that will mark the Kingdom’s return to democracy, over the next few days.

Finally, here’s a shot taken just after sunset from the lobby of the FCCT, looking east along Phloenchit/Sukhumvit towards the Central Chidlom department store.  This was a time exposure taken for three seconds.  The sun had actually already set but over three seconds, there was enough light to make it look as bright as it does in this picture.