Saturday, March 18, 2017

Uber: The Dark, Falling Star

Uber, the ride hailing company, seems to look more like a loser every day.

It isn't just that its CEO, Trevor Kalanick, was first on Trump's Team and then was not, or that a viral video taken of him by an Uber driver made him look like a clod. No, it isn't just that his idea of successful public relations is to place his foot where the sun don't shine. It's the company itself.

I left the doctor's office the other day and checked my Uber options. I could either choose a four dollar ridesharing opportunity or order a $20 car. I chose the ridesharing and learned a lot about how certain Uber drivers feel about the company.

My driver said he had always been and Uber x driver, the kind or transportation I usually choose. He had been told he now drove an Uber pool car and the reason there were no Uber x's available is because they all had been put into the ridesharing program

He said he'd heard many good things  about Lyft and would soon be joining them. While he said he at first made money, being forced into ridesharing cut his income in half. He had no respect for  Uber and wanted out.

The ride wasn't bad because I got to have a conversation in Chinese with one of my fellow passengers.

I'm going to have procedure done in an operating room very soon. In order to get home I will call a yellow cab.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sacagawea and the Teachers' Union

I was hungry for a peanut butter cup so I stopped at Bronco Krakowski's candy store next  to the high school. I pulled out some change to pay for it and realized I had a Sakagawea dollar among my other coins.

"Just give me that other quarter," Bronco said.

"It's not a quarter it's a Sacagawea dollar," I said.

"Don't be a sack of shita," Bronco said." Just give it to me."

I pulled out a dollar bill and handed that to Bronco.

"Why'd you do that? Bronco asked.

"The Sacagawea dollar was created to honor the Native American woman who helped guide Lewis and Clark on their expedition to see the Louisiana purchase."

"You mean they made a dollar after some Indian?"

"Yeah without her and her ability to get along with various Native American tribes, Lewis and Clark might never have made it."

"Sounds like a lot of bull shit. Are you talking about the Lewis and Clark that appeared at Trump's party?"

"Didn't you study American history in high school?"

"Nah. The teachers union was always having special meetings or trying to get rid of the principal, so we played dodgeball.

"Why didn't they like the principal?"

"She wouldn't bow down to the head of the teachers union, so they were trying to get her fired," Bronco said.

"So you didn't learn a lot in high school?"

"No. But I got really good at dodgeball."

Saturday, March 11, 2017

South Korea is Not a Democracy

South Korea is not, and probably has never been, a democracy.  Prior to the 20th century Koreans would take their wares to an island off the coast and trade with foreigners. Back then, Korea was  considered the little brother of China. It was a strange situation in which the Korean ambassador to China could go anywhere in China. However the Chinese ambassador to Korea, a hermit kingdom, would go through the streets with the windows closed on his jiao zi.

Korea had always been run by the yang ban, the aristocracy that controlled 86% of the land in Korea. Japan took over Korea in the early part of the 20th century. The local power was in the hands of the yang ban, who cooperated with the Japanese. The richest yang ban was placed by Hirohito in the Japanese House of Lords. He committed suicide at the end of World War II.

The only patriot fighting the Japanese was Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of North Korea's present dictator. Americans were frightened of communism of any type. The House un-American Activities Committee was running a pre-Joe McCarthy witch-hunt in America. Americans decided that the yang ban, who had been working with the Japanese, could be counted on not to be communist. Syngman Rhee, who had been living in the United States during the war, was brought in to be a front man for the yang ban. They had no interest in freedom or democracy but the Americans considered them safe.

But the power of the yangban didn't last forever. Large corporations like Samsung were called Chaebol and the ruling family members were also called Chaebol. Slowly but surely they began to decide what happened in South Korea. In fact, one chaebol showed his power by divorcing Korea's most popular actress and never allowing her to see her children. There was a brutality to their power which also accompanied bribes of government officials to create the South Korea we see today. At the moment the president has been thrown out and the head of Samsung indicted for bribing her. Money and social position decide everything in Korea, where chaebol act like Marie Antoinette or George III.

Since America created this fictitious democracy they have much to answer for. There are a lot of things in the world more frightening than communism. One of those things is a country that pretends to be a democracy, but where the rich control everything.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bye Bye American Dream

"Bye, Bye The American Dream. All you are now is a Republican scheme"

The American Dream was real for me. My father died of polio when I was seven. My mother and her three sons lived on Social Security which back then even paid for college. I always had a job and  a scholarship. I ended up with a PhD and an assistant professorship at Syracuse University.

That was the old story. I follow the lives of my students and it doesn't happen today. The 1% get all the money, and the rest are crawling around for petty change. America stopped being a country with upward mobility. It's much more real in Canada and parts of Europe. And the powers that be in this country don't care.

If you inherit all your money like Trump then people like my students don't even register in your world. You fill your cabinet with billionaires and take away the protections created for poor Americans who needed to be aware if they're being cheated.

I could've ended up pumping gas in Sandy Creek New York. Instead I got to be a university vice president. It's a nice story, but it couldn't happen today. Rich people run our country to reward themselves. America was once a great place to which people wanted to immigrate. Now the number one country people dream of moving to is New Zealand. Chinese believe they or their children won't get shot if they move to New Zealand. They have no such expectation about America.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Trump Tweets His Staffers and the Russians Were Trading Dolls

Donald Trump today tweeted about  why so many of his staff were in touch with the Russians during the 2016 election campaign. "They were trading Russian dolls. I think there called Matryoshka dolls. The reason nobody's been coming out with that information is Republicans don't want to look like sissies. But you know these styles, the ones that have all the other little dolls inside them,  are really fascinating. I know Jeff Sessions really likes lime green ones."

Trump went on, saying: "you know the Russians always have the best ones so it's pretty normal to go to them to pick up something special."

While not everybody was buying this explanation, the speaker of the house, Paul Ryan, says this explains everything. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was jumping  for joy when he heard the news. Republicans decided there was no need to hold these bothersome committee meetings, now that Trump had come clean.

Sen. John Mc Cain wasn't buying it. "Real guys don't play with dolls. These Dolls don't fit together."

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Reality of Politics

In my life I'd been a reporter for UPI covering presidential candidates. But it was in my role as vice president for state University that I got to see politics as it may frequently operate. At our university we had the support of a Democratic congressman who was the chairman of a very powerful House committee. He was a pleasant man who at one time had been the youngest mayor in the United States. He'd been lieutenant governor of California and a polished politician. Unfortunately, although he was still chair of a powerful House committee, he had Alzheimer's.

His wife was very brilliant and she moved through his congressional area in a Rolls making sure his constituents were taken care of. She was the ultimate boss of the entire operation. I liked her and believe she had the best interests of his constituency at heart.

I once spent some time with the Congressman in his Washington office. Everybody was keeping  an eye on me because they didn't want me to talk him into something for the University that might not be in their best interest. We were sitting there and he was talking about the high point of his life when he had been a motorcycle courier for the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. He was well spoken  and I enjoyed listening. All of a sudden his Chief of Staff walked over and said "Look you've gotta go down on the floor and vote like I told you to. Remember how I told you to vote?"

After that incident, I I've always wondered how often that occurs in our democracy. A couple of years later they took the committee chairmanship away from him. He was still in Congress but everyone made sure he was not causing any trouble. Since Avalon, the island off California, was in his district they kept him there with folks knowing t they should take care of him. One day he somehow got on the ferry to the mainland and they had to hunt all over until they found him.

American politics frequently involves situations of which we have no knowledge. I frequently question what I'm told  unless it's in the New York Times.