Friday, December 31, 2010

Why Mainland Chinese distrust (hate?) the Japanese

I once taught English in Germany. Many of my students felt guilty about what their grandparents had done in the Second World War. Some of the grandfathers who were devout Christians carried the guilt every day of their lives. One good man, who’d done impressive things in his life despite having a metal plate in his head from the Russian Front ,was in agony in his 70’s because he wondered how he and other Christians could have done what they did in the 1930s and 1940s,.
On the other hand, students from Japan have told me the Rape of Nanjing is a myth, there were no comfort women, and China started the Mukden Incident. (Comfort women were Korean and Chinese girls who were enslaved by the Japanese so their men could have sex) Most of these students were fine human beings but the facts weren’t in their K-12 textbooks. It took until 2006 for a Japanese newspaper to break the news that Japanese, not the Chinese, had been behind the Mukden Incident (the Chinese call the debacle  September 18th).
Why did this happen?  The Republican Party, which was against the war before it happened, had the slogan “Who lost China?” MacArthur, who administered Japan, was convinced the Communists were the enemy and he forgot about how vicious the Japanese had been during the war. We needed allies to fight the commies. In Korea we encouraged the rich Yang ban, who had been collaborators with the Japanese, to take over the government, because with all their loot they certainly wouldn’t turn communist.
We were right to fear the communists, but for 30 years being ant-communist was the only consideration in our attitudes toward other governments.
At UCLA, and in many places around America, people of Japanese and Chinese ancestry, who had nothing to do with this history, are best friends. In fact, you’ll mostly see Koreans, Chinese and Japanese walking together and doing things that don’t involve whites. Because of their shared attitudes towards education they have strong bonds of friendship   In this area America has been a true melting pot.
In Japan recently the Prime Minister went to the Yasukuni Shrine where the  seven most evil Japanese war criminals have their ashes. Can you imagine Germans visiting a temple to Hitler placed over his bunker?
American citizens whose ancestors once lived in Japan believe what they’ve been taught about World War Two from their textbooks and have no interest in preserving the face of their ancestors. But they were brought up knowing the truth and, anyway, it was a long time ago.
For the Chinese, whose ancestors had been raped, disemboweled and beheaded, it is not an old memory. Every year the Prime Minister returned to the Koa Kannon temple was a slap in their faces. I’ve talked about how important face (Mianzi) is to a country that was treated badly by the white man and the Japanese for a century.  It's a very important consideration. If the Japanese want to stay in denial, there will always be a gulf between them and Mainland Chinese.  It’s too bad they don’t understand how 25-year-old Chinese feel about them, while we’ve been buddies with Germans for at least 30 years. Denial is not the cornerstone of friendship, and for a country that is growing old, with no real army, it could prove to be disastrous.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Exciting News on the Economic Front

 Lloyd Blankfein, who is famous for saying he was “doing God’s work” in running Goldman Sachs, decided to take it further and announced today he is leaving Goldman to run a series of loan tranches for the Vatican Bank.
Also today, Charles Prince, who has admitted he didn’t know what was going on when he ran Citicorp, finally had subprime tranches explained to him. He has decided to give away all the money he walked away with from Citicorp toward the establishment of the “Too Big to Fail” chair at Middle Tennessee University.
In other news, both Bank of America and J. P. Morgan Chase have cut mortgage payments in half for anyone who can “fog up a mirror.”
Barney Frank has come out for shutting down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying “every boondoggle has to come to an end sometime.”
Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers again announced it wasn’t his fault the bank fell like a haystack in the wind and the government caused it.
Unfortunately  Fuld ruined a great dream. I awoke to a world filled with crooks who still haven't been prosecuted for destroying our financial system.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Power of an Example

There is a success story in Barack Obama’s life that only tangentially involves the Presidency.
To describe this, I must tell the reader that I taught for 28 years at a university that was 1/3 African American and 1/3 Latino. In my life at the University, I had long discussions with students whose fathers had abandoned them. Since my father died when I was seven and we lived for years on social security payments there were some connections that came easily.  However it took awhile for them to believe I was supportive and non-judgmental because I was from another race. Eventually students passed on their positive assessments of me to new students.
The stories were almost uniformly sad. One woman used a lot of Kleenex when she said; “What’s wrong with me, he left before I was even born.” Many had never had a male figure in their lives. What that had done to their psyches had different effects on different students. Many intelligent students sabotaged themselves because they thought they were not worthy of success.  One expressed outright hatred of the absent biological father whom he said he would kill if he ever met him.
I also had students who had surmounted this and were my best students. They all had a will and an ability to transcend what cards they’d been originally dealt.
Barack Obama is really the poster child for all of my best students. He stands as a beacon for those who want to be something despite the obstacles that stand before them.
Obama’s father deserted him when he was very young; he had a stepfather who his mother divorced, which saw him returning to Hawaii without that male figure. But he had a grandmother and grandfather who showed him love and gave him support.
His drive and determination, along with what must be a very solid, physical brain structure, helped him achieve and he moved from success to success. Although I became Assistant to the President of Occidental College after he left for Columbia, everything I have ever heard  from those who taught him was laudatory.
His success or failure in the Presidency as evaluated by historians will not affect his importance as a symbol for young African-Americans.

By the way I have another blog called My Student, My Hero that discusses one of my former student’s successes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cuomo moves up while Wall Street rejoices

Soon, Andrew Cuomo will be Governor of New York, which means he will no longer be Attorney General. This could be a very bad thing for those of us in America who want the people who caused the financial crisis to stand up and face the music.
As long as Cuomo’s been Attorney General he’s pursued the shady people on Wall Street and their accountants. Today we learned Cuomo is close to filing civil fraud charges against Ernst and Young for staying silent while Lehman Brothers cooked its books and lied in its reports to stockholders and the American people.
The Justice Department has done virtually nothing and the SEC needs to have more enforcement agents that I can’t see it receiving from a Republican House.
Let's listen to how it might sound in the future:  “His campaign contributions can’t be ignored as we decide whether to prosecute. Let’s watch things awhile, after all he deserves to get some slack because of his loyalty to our party.”
“You know this operation looks a lot like what Madoff did, but what if we’re wrong and we upset him. Let’s hold off until we’re sure we can absolutely get a conviction.  We don’t want to be embarrassed by a big time loss in court.”
“I really want to pursue this but I don’t have enough enforcement people to get the data we need to prove this conclusively.”
So let’s remind ourselves who is not in jail:  Angelo Mozillo of Countrywide, whose fines were paid by Bank of America; and Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers.  There are a lot of people who brought this country to its knees who are walking around with a lot of money they earned by lying for years.
Without someone ambitious such as Cuomo, who was brought up by a former Governor lauded for his ethics, many of the miscreants are going to walk. And it will be the same as it was on Wall Street before he became Attorney General  in a world where greed tops ethics every time.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Start Christmas On Labor Day to get the country moving again

Labor Day, 2016, American Pie, Rhode Island
Rev. Roger Williams today decried using Labor Day as the beginning of the Christmas season. As the chairman of the “Put Christ Back in Christmas" movement, he has been adamant that Christmas no longer be used as an economic stimulus.
“I believe this all started in 2012 when retailers put up Christmas decorations two weeks before Thanksgiving Day," he said. “Bernanke couldn’t get the economy moving quickly enough even after using Fed employees to give out $20 dollar bills on street corners. He then suggested the so called ‘magic of Christmas’ could fix America's problems.” Democrats wanted rich people to only take ten dollars a day, but the Republicans said that “truth, justice and the American Way” demanded everyone get the same cash.
In 2013 the Christmas shopping season began in October when Christmas music began appearing on the radio, after Bernanke’s plan to flood the country with newly printed Benjamins failed to drop unemployment to six percent.

The next year was marked by the collision of a Walmart and Amazon drone attempting to deliver Christmas packages to the same home in early October.
Rev. Williams has a big sign on his church that says, “Wo ting Ye Su de” which translates in Chinese as “I listen to Jesus,” in the hopes that the Chinese company that owns the mortgage on his church will understand his position. He is awaiting foreclosure on the building.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

From the Ming Dai to Today

This drama played out through Chinese history and culminated with the ouster of the Russian advisors when they were no longer essential to the communist revolution and the rebuilding of China. (In fact, the book Odd Man Out draws a picture of how Stalin manipulated the Chinese Communist party and put them in a position where they had to fight in Korea. It wasn't always a good things to have Russians around)

So, a few years ago, when I watched this American bank buy a Chinese bank and build ATMS all over China I was amused. Beijing didn't allow them to take deposits from Chinese. Of course, the bank could have foreigners use the ATMs. American bankers never seem to know what's going on, only how big their paychecks will be.

More and more companies that used to be described as American moved their operations to China because the CEOs wanted bigger bonuses and the less they paid employees the more they got in their pay envelope. They didn't care whether a lot of Americans wouldn't have a job, they just wanted more money.

So the idea that technology would be taken over is a logical expectation given Chinese history. If companies don't want to sell cars in China, they can go home. Since most Americans couldn't find China on a map, it is to be expected that these corporate barons wouldn't know anything about Zhongguo li shi. America is an insular land where the only other languages besides English are spoken by the children of immigrants.

So this step was inevitable. A couple of  months ago, Boeing sales made our trade deficit less horrible than usual. Wait until the Chinese produce a plane. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Riding the Purple Wind

When I was young, Syracuse, New York had no Chinese food and you had to drive across the bridge to Canada to get tang cu xia (sweet and sour shrimp). Asia, especially China, called to me because I wanted to walk among Zhongguoren (Chinese) and look at the world from a different perspective.

It was when I was living in New York City that I read "The Razor's Edge" by Somerset Maughm, a novel in which a rich American, disillusioned by World War One, gives up his life in Chicago to go to India and study in an ashram. He ends up driving a cab in New York as he provides spiritual sustenance to old friends. It was clearly about transcendence of the world's pain in a journey to enlightenment. I would read it on the subway and one day teenage boys were whipping each other in my subway car while I went on absorbing the plot.

 As life progressed I wanted also to know about 5,000 years of Chinese history.  I figured that there was so much I hadn't been exposed to that could enlighten me. I knew little about the world, because I was looking at it through the eyes of an Upstate New York white guy.
As I grew older, everything Asian attracted me. I wanted to hang wind chimes that came from there, learn to speak Chinese, and develop an Asian mind that looked at the world from a different perspective from the Western mind that made my decisions. I studied Kong Fu Zi (Confucius) and tried xin fo (practice Buddhism).
Now most of my friends where I live are Chinese and we talk about things it would be hard to talk about with most Americans. One of them said to me writing English is just a bunch of letters put together while Chinese characters are an art form. I can say “Wo you Zhongwen ji chu,” (I know basic Chinese) but I know the limitations of my knowledge of the Chinese language.
One might say this is just the attraction of a different way of life, and I’m sure that’s part of it. But before I die I want to have an Eastern mind set as well as a Western one. How do people persevere in the midst of the Cultural Revolution or the Korean War, and still keep striving? Why did a shame society like Japan condone the Rape of Nanjing? Soon the yuan, and to a lesser extent, the won, will be world currencies and Asia will be the place that matters. I have walked the steps to Sun Zhong Shan’s mausoleum, walked a short portion of the Great Wall, and seen the Laughing Buddha in all sorts of temples. I’ve been in places where fo jia is called Chan and Zen. I’ve walked in the Forbidden City. I feel the change in my outlook. I once worried my upbringing would hold me back. In bad times, or even in good times, I pray and thank Ye Su (Jesus) and have decided what is right or wrong based on training in Sunday school, but I’ve figured I can keep those beliefs and attitudes and add other insights. After all, I've discovered the journey never ends, and as it was for the main character in "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" by Joyce, the epiphanies still keep coming.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Prince Charles, Austerity, and America's Ostriches

The picture on the front page of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal shows England’s Prince in Perpetuity, Charles, and his unlikely replacement for Princess Di, being attacked by students who don’t want to pay more money for college. The students can’t escape to America to study because it’s more expensive here, even after England’s rise in tuition.
That incident put in perspective America’s approach versus the world. They’re mad in Greece and England because they have to suffer because of the fiscal crisis America Created. America doesn’t have riots because no one in government is telling us to tighten our belts and deal with deleveraging. We’re pouring money we don’t have into driving our economy with the Fed buying 600 billion worth of our own bonds. According to pundits that isn’t working and won’t.
It’s like Margaret Carlson said about body screening. She said all that’s been asked of the American people while fighting two wars is to submit to body screening and we don’t want to do that. The American people who are not unemployed are not being asked to do anything. The unemployed are bearing the entire burden. People who bought twice the house they ever could have afforded are sitting in those houses waiting for the house fairy to save them. While Ireland is moving to apply a 90 percent tax on bankers, ours are paying themselves big bonuses, which they did all through the crisis they caused.
I must admit that when things get tough for me, I put my I pod in the car and listen to Country Gospel, which reminds me of the churches in upstate New York I attended growing up. These are the hymns they have stopped singing in mainstream American churches. But I’m going back to a memory of when America was a pleasant place if you were white. The Tea Party wants to return us to that time and it’s a non starter. We have to suffer in today’s America and fix it. Americans have to face up to the fact they thought there was twice the amount of money in this country then there really was. Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns had loaned out 30 dollars for every dollar they had and Americans believed that was real money.
Yesterday we found out the tax cuts won’t disappear and we’ll be spending more money than we have and increasing the deficit. I guess none of our politicians, who are used to payoffs from companies, want to be foolish enough to tell Americans that they have to suck it up and suffer as the Europeans are ready to do. What happened to the America that fought World War Two and launched a Space Program? The only program we’ll be launching is a modified debt repayment program.
Joe Wong told his son he had to learn both English and Chinese if he wanted to be President. He said his son would need English to govern the country and Chinese to deal with debt collectors.

Monday, December 6, 2010

America and the Future of Basic Science

In a recent post I ranted about how the AMA had pushed to restrict the number of M.D.’s produced in America. But what happens in the other fields of science? Here’s how the process works, for both social sciences and physical sciences.
A professor encourages a lot of people to go to graduate school in his field and when they can’t get a real job, he hires them at low wages as a postdoc. So not only don’t you have to teach undergraduates, (I guess they smell funny once you’ve got a paper in Nature), you’re building a cheap labor pool.
In my article (Education in America and China) I quote one of the college seniors I was teaching, who said, “Hey, tell me more about that verb thing.” As you can imagine not a lot of Americans like him choose to study science or even learn how to figure out a percentage. Anyway, for a long time, becoming a college professor has been like winning the lottery. (I wonder how many history professors have been hired in the last 20 years. If it’s more than three, please hold up your hand.)
In the sciences, they long ago discovered that Indians and Chinese understand math and science and are driven to be very good at what they do. So they’ve filled up our graduate programs. I think maybe there is one white guy in biostatistics.
In addition, labs run on postdocs. There are training grants from NSF and NIH for labs to hire Americans as postdoc researchers, but not many want to become one as postdocs are well known to be "overworked and underpaid".  So now a majority of postdocs in our universities are from foreign countries.  A long time ago, foreigners from places like China wanted to stay after getting their seasoning in some white person’s lab, but now places like Peking University, Tsinghua and Fudan are full of brilliant people doing fascinating things, so why stay in a place that doesn’t have Lanzhou pulled noodles?
We can’t make them stay by giving them a teaching job at a university because there aren’t enough for American citizens. As India and China surpass America in the number of people who can understand logarithms and do difficult math, the future for science in America looks pretty dim. American college students have figured out that, even if they know calculus, going into that science pipeline isn’t encouraging. With states trying to pull themselves out of debt, they won’t want to hire new professors. Who will fill up those labs NSF chipped in to build? What does this mean for basic research in America? Sen. Arlen Specter was the guy who cared about NIH funding and he lost his job. Maybe Sarah Palin supports basic science and the Tea Party will make it one of their causes?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wonder Why It Costs So Much to Get Sick?

I have a friend from China who we are going to call Zhong Shan in this essay. He is compassionate, intelligent, and at 42 he’s going to sit for the medical boards in America.  Since he already has an M.D., PhD. From China, he’s going to do well on the exams and be a great doctor here. He will need to get a residency, but his great personality will help him.
In Pulaski, New York, they have a great doctor and he’s from Korea. He’s beloved in this totally white town near the Canadian border. He practices medicine in underserved areas, as will Zhong Shan.
It’s interesting how Medicine denies the basic law of supply and demand.  The more doctors, the more costs go up. Big cities have a lot of expensive doctors.
How can this happen? It’s very hard to get into medical schools and there are not enough of them, partly because the AMA has worked to restrict the number of doctors produced every year, driving up costs. States like California keep upping the cost of tuition, so people leave medical school with, perhaps, $200,000 in student loans. Can you afford to be a pediatrician or family doctor with that debt burden? I don’t think so.
The rule for a physician is that he has to have a procedure to make money, you have to be an orthopedist, heart surgeon, or as the most highly paid public employee in California is, a liver transplant specialist. To cut is to cure, as they say. It’s also a good way to pay off those loans. Dermatologists can concentrate on Botox or laser faces so folks can look young. That’s another good way to earn a buck. But being a family doctor or a pediatrician means you’ll take forever to pay off those loans. Even neurologists don’t make a lot, after four years undergraduate, four years medical school, 3 years residency and then specialty training.
To cut costs why doesn’t the government open more medical schools, make tuition low, so people can afford to take jobs where there aren’t enough doctors. People would respect you and you would be where you can form relationships with a society that’s appreciative you’re in South Dakota. Medicare is going broke and health care costs keep rising while the unemployed can’t afford to get sick. If the costs of student loans, plus an implied right to make a lot of money after toiling for twelve years  to be a specialist, were taken out of the equation, then maybe we wouldn’t be facing a health care Armageddon.