Friday, August 30, 2013

See the Future of America's One Percent by Watching South Korea

You can see the future of America's dominant 1% society by looking at South Korea. In the Korean serials' on Hulu you see how powerful families control the money there and intermarry between  families to increase economic power.
Before World War II Korea was a feudal society in which Yangban (the top group) controlled over 80% of the land in Korea. After World War II America so wanted an anti-Communist society that they put the government in the hands of those Yangban, many of whom collaborated with the Japanese (who had run Korea like a vassal state). They brought in an American resident of Korean descent, Syngman Rhee, to be the front man for this government.
As Korea moved into the modern age many of these yangban helped form Chaebol (the equivalent of Japanese Zaibatsu, large holding companies like Samsung and LG).
So the money mostly stayed with rich families who continued to intermarry and have power to do almost anything in modern Korea. There are countless series about these families on Korean TV, and you get used to seeing them bribe officials, eliminate opposition by many different actions and frequently acting as if they were above the law.
Think about a world in which the major event of the social year would be Jamie Dimon's son's marriage to Stevie Cohen's daughter. (Actually since Dimon runs J.P. Morgan it could be his son marrying the daughter of an important Chinese official.)
With the elimination of the middle class in America, the South Korean serials become more important. We're forming an unequal society and if you join Hulu Plus you'll get to see our future. It ain't pretty.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wall Street Finally Admits Guilt

When Mary Jo White was appointed head of the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) by Pres. Obama, there were a lot of people who were worried by the fact she had represented many firms that had gotten in trouble with the Sheriff of Wall Street. Now we discover she's the toughest person who ever headed up the SEC.
Yesterday Philip Falcone, a hedge fund manager who never seemed to know what the law  required him to do, plead guilty to improper actions in running his hedge fund, Harbinger Capital Partners.
"So what," you're going to say?  What's the big deal?
You'll probably be surprised to know that lawbreakers never were forced to plead guilty in front of the SEC before. You used to get a slap on the wrist and a fine and never had to admit you'd done illegal things.
The SEC was a joke. People broke the law and weren't required to admit guilt. No wonder all the miscreants and shady CEOs walked around with their head held high after paying huge fines and having been accused of misconduct and said. "Hey, I never said I was guilty of anything. Get off my back."
You thought somebody was really watching the hedge funds and stockbrokers. That really wasn't true if you never had to admit guilt for doing sleazy things to American investors.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

(Fuqiang) Wealth and Power and How the Chinese used Humiliation to Become a Great Power Again

Today, China has fuqiang  (Wealth and Power), but what drove the nation to achieve it was the concept of humiliation. This was well documented and explained in Orville Schell's and John Delury's Wealth and Power.
The Qing Dynasty was the ultimate villain ,run by Manchurians who had overwhelmed the Ming Dynasty (which were Han, the race that is 94percent of Chinese people) and eventually turned what was formally a great country into the "Sick Man of Asia." But they didn't do this alone and when Britain fought the opium wars to force the Chinese to accept the importation of opium it was just a matter of time before the dynasty and the self respect of the Chinese people went down the tubes. (It's interesting to note that opium was illegal in the British Isles while they were forcing it on the Chinese people.)
Imagine a country that for 5000 years had thought of itself as the Middle Kingdom (Zhongguo), and the center of advanced thought, having to accept signs on their own mainland barring "dogs and Chinese" from entering parks run by foreign governments.
For a proud people focusing on humiliation drove them night and day to throw of its yoke.Although it took a very long time (from the 1860's to today) the concept of humiliation was the final driver of Chinese reemergence as a Great Power. They talk particularly of Mao's admiration for the thought of Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei. What is interesting is that at one point all these philosophers, from Wei Yuan on, eventually decided the Chinese people could not be counted on to run their country. While some saw Chinese freedom as an evolutionary process in the end Mao Zedong decided everyone had to believe as he did and came up with the Rectification process to make sure everyone adhered to his political thought and none other.
It's an admirable thing to watch how China has returned to become a major player on the world stage. However, I hear many Chinese still say that the Chinese people can't govern themselves.
It seems clear that many of our assumptions in the United States about nation building have been foolish. An Iraq or Afghanistan functioning as a democracy seems as remote as ever. Perhaps all those Chinese scholars were right, but I wish the Chinese people could have the freedom I enjoy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

(DWB) Driving While Black is the Underside of "Stop and Frisk"

(DWB) Driving While Black is the Underside of "Stop and Frisk."
I've written before how DWB is a fact of life in the African-American community. I've talked about how a number of my students have been pulled over  for simply driving a new car and having skin darker than mine.
The number of times this happened to people I knew is uncountable. The assumptions policemen make about skin color is evident in whom they pull over on the roads in Los Angeles. Now a federal judge has denied New York City officials the seemingly effective tool of "Stop and Frisk."
There seems to be no question that it works and it's a vital part of reducing crime in the Big Apple. However, I've seen the personal toll it takes on people just like me who were born a different color.
If I'd never seen the personal pain of a good person mistreated by a system stacked against him or her, I'd probably be 100% behind Bloomberg. The question is: how many bad experiences should a part of our society experience so that others can feel safer?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Latinos are part of America's Success Story

When I first was becoming disabled, I used a Chinese immigrant to help me move. He worked in a hotel laundry. Many Chinese have an incredible work ethic, and secretly look down at others who don't work as hard. However, the one group he respected were Latinos, whom he said were very hard workers.
Today I spoke to members of a moving crew who were moving one of my neighbors to Northern California. Everyone of them had impeccable manners and never stopped working. These guys were the reification of the American dream. I'd taught Latinos at university who had incredible drive and have already exceeded their own expectations.
I listen to what the Republicans are saying about these people and figure they will vote down the immigration bill that has already passed the Senate. It won't be long until the Republican Party will look like the Whig party of the 19th century. Most people in this country want the country to succeed and grow.
I'm descended from two Mayflower pilgrims, but I'm married to a Chinese woman who is very successful in the US. If I assumed that only white people from good backgrounds should live in this country, I probably wouldn't be looking at the most successful country in the world. America has always needed new blood to keep the  national circulation system moving. I grew up in a Republican family, but feel that today's Republicans have no idea of what is good for the country I love so much.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A-Rod: Baseball's Lance Armstrong

A-Rod is baseball's Lance Armstrong.
When I was in elementary school I would skip classes to watch the Yankees play Brooklyn. It was the sporting event I really cared about. Pee-wee Reese, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were my heroes. I loved Yogi Berra even before he ruined the concept of déjà vu.
I can't remember exactly when I decided Major League Baseball resembled a criminal enterprise, but I no longer watch it. Between lying pitchers and Barry Bonds, it rapidly began to look like a bunch of rich guys intentionally breaking rules. "Say it ain't so, Joe," became the most important quote I remembered from baseball.
Now you have a guy, caught red-handed doping himself. But he figures as long as he appeals, he can keep playing. Of course, the Yankees start him, because they don't give a crap what the country thinks of him as a human being. Baseball long ago started resembling Wall Street. It will do anything to make money.