Saturday, August 29, 2015

Trading Freedom for Prosperity

A few years ago I was speaking with a very intelligent, educated woman. While she was living in the US, her heart and soul remained in China. Because of my background in journalism, sometimes I can't stop myself from asking leading questions. So I asked her about the cultural revolution in China and how it fit into history. (In the cultural revolution, Mao allowed student radicals to run wild, commit violent acts, demean important officials and set Chinese progress back by at least 10 years.)
Her response was instant and angry. "I don't think about such things. Why did you bring this up?"
My question was clearly looked on as an attack on China, and it was a question she never wanted to hear.
Over the past 20 years, Chinese have traded intellectual freedom for prosperity. As long as the Party increased  the amount people could earn and provide items they could consume, they ignored politics.
So what does the stock market rout and the quick devaluation of the yuan do to this relationship? Many Chinese are now frightened and worried about maintaining the good life they've received from the Party's management of the economy. While only 10% of the Chinese people participated in the stock market, many people are scared. What about the money invested in real estate, with some families owning three properties? There has clearly been the unspoken trade-off, "if we provide you with more wealth, you will be politically quiet."
For so many it's become a great deal. But what happens if the Party no longer delivers the goods?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Aunt Barbara and America

I called my aunt Barbara today (Barbara Coit Turner). I knew the call would pick up my day, because at 93 she is a woman of constant goodness who appreciates every day and loves the world around her.
Today we talked about canning tomatoes, some of which she'll take down to the local senior center. Recently she had a chance to share her squash with them.
One of the reasons that she's such a fabulous person goes back to when she was in high school in Syracuse. Back in the 1930s America was a lot more racist than it is today. Her mother had a friend who was African-American and Barbara was brought up to believe that God created everybody equal.
Aunt Barbara doesn't think twice that my wife is Chinese and that I have a daughter whose  grandparents were in the Holocaust. As long as people have good manners she'll open a welcoming door. I'm extremely lucky to know her and her offspring. She still lives on the family farm, although these days only vegetables greet the morning sun. Whenever I despair of all the people who support Donald Trump, I think of her and know that out there in America there are good people who have their heads on straight.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Disaster at the Pharmacy

I have my prescriptions filled at a CVS. Those who work there treat people very well. I have never heard anyone complain about having to work too hard or have them say that they can't help me.Pharmacists and their assistants make me feel like it's a pleasure to deal with problems..
I was not surprised when Consumer Reports said that CVS drugstores were intentionally understaffed. But no one working in the drugstore ever complained about that.
In the last two weeks I've tried calling the pharmacy every day at different times.No one has ever answered the phone.
The largest pension fund in the world is the Public Employees Retirement system (PERS). They also handle employee benefits for state of California workers. After horrible treatment from CVS, the Public Employees Retirement System has dropped CVS as its medication provider.
The average salary for a worker at CVS is $28, 700 (and that includes pharmacists)/( The CEO of CVS, Larry J. Merlo makes 422 times as much money as the average worker. No matter how you look at it that seems unfair. In America, we have a tremendous income disparity between the 1% and the rest of us. Should Mr. Merlo, who keeps costs down by intentionally under staffing his stores, be rewarded for that?
I would never bring this up at my pharmacy, because these people are too nice to be put in such a situation. They made their effort to be good employees. However, rich Mr. Merlo runs the show..

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bob Wills is Still the King

While I have four times the gigabytes of classical music to country music on my iPhone, I love both genres. (This comes in handy when dealing with Apple music which provides a lot of country music but is terrible for classical music). Over the years I've listened to a lot of country and want to provide a couple of suggestions on what's best in the genre. Here are my picks for great listening:
"Where Were You?" was written by Alan Jackson after he saw the towers go down at 9/11. He had this song ready in a week and it speaks to an America united in grief.
"Love Without End, Amen" is a George Strait song which should get to anyone who has a child. Its promise of never-ending love sums up what parenthood is all about.
This last suggestion many will dispute, but it's my favorite song. Garth Brooks got together with Asleep at the Wheel as part of a tribute to Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, a group that disappeared long ago but is still cherished by country music fans. As Waylon Jennings sang "when you cross that old Red River, hoss, it just don't mean a thing. Bob Wills is still the king." Garth Brooks singing "Deep Water" grabs me strong and hard. It is simply the most beautiful country recording I've ever heard.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Republicans and the Tang Dynasty

There is a Chinese television show in which people looking for alternative reality experience what it's like to be  living in the Tang Dynasty. All of a sudden, a hacker breaks into the program and prevents these people from leaving the Dynasty. So you have all of these individuals who wanted a different experience trapped and unable to get back to today's reality. One man is trying to find the key that will release these people and allow them to return to 2015.
In some ways, the Republican Party is like those Chinese people trapped in the past. The difference is the Republicans don't want to return to 2015.
A majority of the American people approve of abortion, gun control and other concepts that the Republicans decry. Marco Rubio, who might have given Hillary Clinton a race for the presidency, said he didn't approve of abortions under any conditions. That certainly wouldn't help him in the general election. The rest of these dullards are answering yesterday's questions and playing to the people who still think African-Americans should be seen and not heard; people should be allowed to walk the streets with handguns, and Ozzie and Harriet should still be on television.
The 50s weren't necessarily such a comfortable time for people of color. But if you're white and miss separate colored bathrooms and "Father Knows Best," you're in the right party.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Jeb is the Better Bush?

George Bush was a terrible president. However in some ways he was a breath of fresh air because he wasn't racist or sexist. He had two African-American Secretaries of State and a Latino Atty. Gen.
While George W was president we would always hear comments from individuals close to the Bush family that said Jeb was supposed to be the next Bush president, not George. The problem is that Jeb has to get elected. And when Trump went after Megyn Kelly and talked about words he'd used to describe women, Jeb should have been all over him for denigrating women. But instead he continued to stand there like a man who wasn't quite comfortable with the debate.
It has taken Jeb four months to say he would not have invaded Iraq. (a duh, did you think no one would ask that question?)  He has moved to the right in order to pick up support and people don't seem to be that impressed with him. He is advised by the same people who advised George.
When George won the nomination and the election, people at first felt comfortable with him. He was "a good old boy" in a way that wasn't that offensive. But Jeb looks uncomfortable and I think that's a problem. Perhaps he would be a better president than George, but first he has to win the election.