Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dirty Harry and the Prez

It was all very tempting. When Clint Eastwood stood up at the Republican convention and talked about how disappointed he was in Obama, it resonated with me. I don't think Obama is a very good president, myself. It could have been possible for me to get swept up in my disappointment, but I can't let it happen.

The Republicans on the Supreme Court have already made it possible for the rich people in this country to decide who gets elected. I don't want to see anymore right wing jurists continue to build an unequal playing field. We used to be a country with tremendous upward mobility, but today our country isn't even in the top five in that category. Rich people are going to decide who runs this country and how little taxes they'll have to pay. McCain-Feingold was a good law, and it should have been upheld.

We can't get out of our mess with just spending cuts, we're going to have to raise taxes. The Republicans actually want to cut taxes more.

I count on Medicare and I don't want mentally challenged right-wingers to take it private. I don't think Social Security should be privatized either.

I've got a PhD, but one of the jobs I did to make money for college was work in a sewage plant (okay, okay, you can bring on the piled higher and deeper jokes. I've heard it all before). Is Mitt Romney really going to relate to someone whose dad died at seven and lived on Social Security? I don't think so, and I don't think many Republicans have the ability to relate to the African-American and Latino students I taught in college. When Clint was speaking, I noticed everybody I could see  in the audience was white.

I'm going to hold my nose and vote for Obama because the people at that convention don't want the America I grew up in. They're campaigning to install a white plutocracy, where the only people that are really going to make it are their own children


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Teachers Unions and the state of American Education

A movie premiering next month, called "Won't Back  Down,"  tells the story of a mother who took on officials to try to improve her daughter's school system. A teachers union figures prominently as an adversary to her efforts.
The school district that produced most of the students who went to the California State University I taught at for 28 years was the Los Angeles Unified School District. It upset me that I had to teach college seniors what a verb was in a class called "Writing for the Media." I wondered how students could proceed that far without learning basic grammar.
When failing my class prevented students from graduating I was appalled to be the last stop on the road to failure (because obtaining a degree in communications and not knowing what a verb was, was a ticket to unemployment).
I found out the University writing exit exam was being judged holistically. An English teacher told me if he could figure out what they were trying to say he would pass them.
But out of all  this there was one saving remnant. Those students who had been bused to Palisades High School, and had Rose Gilbert as a teacher, had a wonderful use of the language. Already in her 70s she tutored UCLA athletes and gave money for scholarships to UCLA.
My stepdaughter had her as her English teacher and was in awe at her ability to teach English. But Mrs. Gilbert, and another English teacher at Palisades, were the only ones mentioned by students when I complimented their writing.
I wondered what some of the other union members, protected by tenure, were doing in their classes. Then I decided I didn't want to know.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Anti-Semitism On The Rise

I just saw a chart in "The Economist" that shows anti-Semitism is on the rise across the globe.
I was not surprised that 60% of Hungarians believe the anti-Semitic stereotypes.
A few years ago I traveled to Hungary with some fine people who had been born there and had lived through the Holocaust. Their relatives told stories of cabdrivers saying, "I don't carry Jews." The head of Hungary, who had a German last name, took time to announce, "I am not a Jew."
During the Holocaust, the Arrow Cross, Hungary's fascist killers, were more brutal than the Nazis themselves.
But it isn't only in Hungary that anti-Semitism is flourishing. I once asked a Pole, who was a professor at an American university, why anti Semitism is still strong in Poland. He denied it and told me, "all Jews lie."
This kind of thinking ended up causing the deaths of 6 million people. Has everyone already forgotten?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

China's Government Has Everything Under Control. Right?

"Power comes out of the barrel of a gun."  Mao Zedong
"The only children of the first generation (those who fought with Mao against the Japanese) who aren't really rich are Mao's own children." Current Chinese saying
The word is that (like his predecessor, Jiang Zemin) Hu Jintao will probably retain control of the Army for two more years after he steps down as party leader.
Because of the preparations made by Deng Xiaoping, the changing of the guard in 2002 was the first peaceful, well orchestrated government transition in Chinese history.
A  lot is going on in China and this expected stage-managed transition is proving to be a lot more difficult to put together than many thought it would be.
You've heard a lot about Bo Xilai, the princeling who ran Chongqing. But you have to understand his serious trouble came after he went to visit his father's (Yi Bo's) old army group, which was not near Chongqing. This scared some members of the Politburo (the nine most powerful people in China) because everyone knows whoever controls the Army (PLA) controls China.
The new wrinkle is that thanks to Bo Xilai, and to other revelations, the Chinese people know just how rich the second-generation (the princelings) have become. The children of those who fought with Mao against the Japanese control many of the important sources of wealth in China.
(Many Chinese have told me the government has to be repressive or the Chinese people will go out of control. Very few of these people actually believe in communism. Joining the party is the way to get ahead.)
There have also been comments that the Army wants more influence inside the party. There is a tradition that a man is loyal to the leader who made him a general. In most cases they pay fealty to Hu Jintao.
What once was scheduled to be a show of solidarity has to stay cobbled together somehow. If you think China is a monolithic entity where everything always goes smoothly, you may want to keep your eyes on the news. There is a lot that needs to be buried before the turnover.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Giving Away Our Future

An American company has made an advance in battery technology that would allow it's cells to work in extremely cold or very hot climactic conditions. A123 systems would be able to do that without installing the expensive heating and cooling mechanisms which add to a battery's price.
A123 is in financial trouble and couldn't expect financial help from  Congress, but it has been saved by a Chinese company.
Wanxiang Group offered a $450 million assist to keep the company afloat. It will eventually own 80% of the company
The Obama administration, in an attempt to promote green technology, earlier gave the company a federal grant of $249 million.
Over the years federal money has helped provide for basic research, research that made our country an economic powerhouse.
Now we throw away our future and let the Chinese walk away with it.
Here's what a spokeswoman for the Republican national committee told the Wall Street Journal, "it is unfortunate Obama borrowed from the Chinese to give taxpayer money to prop up green energy companies the Chinese are now buying."
This individual, most assuredly an experienced scientist, doesn't understand that the Chinese command economy is pouring enormous amounts of money into developing and buying clean energy companies.Since the Chinese government owns a lot of these companies they can operate at a loss until they have a breakthrough that produces a positive balance sheet.
We used to invest in our future. We got more than "Tang" out of the space program.
The National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health over the years have paid for basic research that made America great.
Now the Chinese are investing in the future while we walk into the American Sunset. I sure hope the Chinese will sell us a nice battery driven car so we can forget about the Middle East and have peace during those sunset years.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

So the Bankers Walked

A lot of bankers dislike Obama, but people who wanted a fair and just settlement of the financial crisis aren't exactly jumping up and down for joy.
(First I must admit to voting for Obama in the primary and in the general election, so throw the ball and drop me in the dunk tank.)
The problem is that not knowing anything about running anything, Obama made Larry Summers (who never met a banker he didn't want to canonize)  his economic adviser.
So, right away he had no chance of becoming Franklin Roosevelt, or even Teddy.
Now we have a situation in which bankers are giving a lot of money to the Republicans because the G.O.P. thinks it's great to be purchased by rich people.
The list of bankers who should have gone to jail grows longer by the day. The Angelo Mozilla's of the world are working on their tans.
There might have been people around who wanted to do something about these bottom feeders, but they weren't in office. Did you expect Schumer to put the bankers in jail?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Americans Together in an Anomic World

When British poet William Wordsworth composed verses like "The Solitary Reaper," he was writing "spots in time" that would capture an image or a feeling. I've lately been experiencing some images where Americans were coming together the way they used to.
I'm not saying that we've lost who we are, I'm just saying in a multi-channeled, angry America, I rejoice when I'm part of interactions that remind me of how America once was.
The sight of a little baby, in her tiny dress with the littlest  crocheted cap, being baptized in the Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica brought me back to my childhood sitting in the Methodist church in Sandy Creek, New York.
The sight of a girl I'd known since she was three days old saying part of the Torah at her Bat Mitzvah brought me into the feeling of community in a Glendale Temple.
Lately, I've been treasuring these feelings of community as I walk through an America where everyone is caught up in their own little vision of what this country means. There are scribes that cater to each one of these visions, turning out television shows, blogs sites and other communication vehicles where people can have their own particular vision of our country reified.
I long for those experiences where I can feel part of a group that represents what is right with America. I haven't been able to get to a sporting event lately so my eyes could tear up while singing the "Star-Spangled Banner."
In an age where corrupt bankers control our Congress, and more and more people subscribe to Leona Helmsley's idea that "only little people pay taxes," I yearn to see the good parts of my country coming together.
You might say I've listened too many times to "Rascal Flats" singing "Mayberry," or you might concur there's an America out there that's still retrievable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bo Xilai and the Devil Woman

In a move congruent with Chinese history, the wife of Bo Xilai, the Chinese princeling accused of corruption while he was running Chongqing, will be put on trial for her misdeeds.

This phenomenon of blaming the female should not surprise scholars who understand the Chinese attitude towards “dragon ladies.” I mentioned this in my novel, ”Shanghai Rose:”

Settling in on the train, I attempted to read a Chinese poem about a beautiful woman who threatened a man because of her sexuality.  He eventually left her because he knew a woman like that could drain his life forces.

It seems that at least as far back as the Zhou dynasty, a very sexual woman was a threat to a man’s purity and ethical behavior. There was a story in which an empress had a fox inside her that turned the Zhou emperor into a merciless, brutal failure, in a time when B.C. was a useful chronological tool.

In the West, a man could take a woman’s honor and leave her behind, or a woman could use a man as a toy, but the Chinese only saw women as capable of taking souls and clouding minds.