If you need a good laugh, read H.L. Mencken

On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. H. L. Mencken

It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.

The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.

It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.

In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.
For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

Before a man speaks it is always safe to assume that he is a fool. After he speaks, it is seldom necessary to assume it.

Communism, like any other revealed religion, is largely made up of prophecies.

To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia – to mistake an ordinary young woman for a goddess.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out… without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

A bad man is the sort who weeps every time he speaks of a good woman.

The Healthcare hierarchy with gender factor

I wrote this short piece today and posted it on LindedIn. I don’t have a clear idea as why I wrote it. Perhaps I want to cause people’s attention to this well-known phenomenon.

More female nurses than male nurses.
More female nurses than female doctors.
More male doctors than female doctors.
More male doctors than male nurses.
More nurses than doctors.
Naturally, more money paid to a doctor than to a nurse.

In a team building event at my work place early this month, an announcement was emailed out, “Bowling lanes will be reserved: 8 people per lane/6 lanes so be thinking about how you want to construct team competition!” One doctor replied all, asking to have four guys on his team. I replied to him, “From my observation, the healthcare hierarchy is like a pyramid, the downward you go, the larger is the crowd, the less guys you will find there.” So I wished him good luck on getting four guys among nurses.

A quick search on the Internet confirms my observation. Beckers Hospital Review’s “Gender ratio of nurses across 50 states” reveals ratio of females to one male in America as 9.5 to 1. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation shows the distribution of physicians by gender in percent with female taking up 33 percent and male 66 percent in America.

I was wondering how other countries are like in this regard. So I got the data on female doctors as percentage of the total in 2000. See my article posted on LinkedIn. At least we are getting better now than 16 years ago.

Kansas City 220 Rally for Peter Liang

This is the article that I wrote for KC Star, that I mentioned in my last post.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Last Saturday, February 20, 2016, history was in the making. A new chapter began in the Chinese-American fight for equality and justice when over tens of thousands Chinese Americans in over 40 American cities walked peacefully on the streets protesting the injustice against former NYPD probationary officer, Peter Liang.

Such large turnout of protesters is totally unprecedented in Chinese Americans history. This is the first time that Chinese Americans united as one behind a brother and it represents a kind of political coming-of-age for the community.

Liang was charged with second-degree manslaughter over what William J. Bratton, the New York police commissioner, called an “accidental” shooting death of Akai Gurley. He could face up to 15 years prison time.

Protesters believe Liang has been scapegoated to release tensions between the African-American community and the New York City Police Department. They believe Liang is a victim of selective justice, especially in light of the aftermath of Eric Garner’s death by a white office. In this context, he appears to have been convicted to assuage dissatisfaction over the acquittal of white officers. The Chinese Americans throughout the country have never been so enraged.

The protesters carried these banners and slogans,
“Justice not politics”
“One Tragedy, Two Victims”
“Equal Justice, No scapegoating”
“No Selective Justice”
And Martin Luther King Jr.’s words — “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The Chinese community in Kansas City shared the indignation over the injustice against Peter Liang. When they came out last Saturday, they first offered condolences to the family of Akai Gurley. Below is their statement to the press.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Today, the Chinese community in the greater Kansas City Area have joined hundreds of Chinese communities across the country to march the Martin Luther King March. Over 200 local Chinese Americans rallied in downtown Overland Park to show solidarity for Peter Liang.

Their message is loud and clear–
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“No selective justice.”

Tomorrow, we will fight wherever justice is denied, whatever the color of his skin. We want the world to know that Chinese Americans are not a silent minority. We will continue following the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. for the realization of a shared dream: equality and justice for all!

What has happened to my article to KC Star

This is what happened last week in regard to my article submitted to KC Star. I sent my article to the editor of As I See It section on the morning of 2/23, then again the next morning trying to get an update. I needed to get back to a group of Chinese friends. On 2/25, when I still have not heard from that editor, I wrote to another one on 2/25.

I said, “I don’t really want to bother you. But I do want to know whether or not S.P. is in the office this week. I have not heard from him, even though I have tried to reach him twice this week. If he is not in the office, what would you recommend me to do regarding the article that I submitted this Tuesday? Appreciate your help.”

That editor was very prompt in getting back to me. He wrote, “His desk number is 816-234-4762. If he doesn’t want to run it, we’ll have to wait until your next event for coverage. I know you are keenly interested in this issue, but because it’s mainly a New York story, we would judge that it doesn’t matter so much to readers around the KC area. There are many such community actions we don’t cover for just that very reason. Regards”

So he has been in the office all these days and still pretends like he has not read my email. When you are ignored and left no other options, how would you feel? I need to let him know how I feel at the moment.

“It is very kind of you to write back.
I was fully aware of the fact that my article would not go down well with some people…
Back to my communication with your As I See It editor, you know, it is one thing that he doesn’t want to use my article for whatever reason which I don’t take personally; it is entirely a different matter that there is a lack of professionalism and the basic courtesy to even do one acknowledgement. Your editor has employed the most effective tool against someone he doesn’t like, that is, by totally ignoring that someone as if that one is beneath his time and attention, that my voice has been ignored for whatever excuses. To say I don’t feel hurt is a lie.

But realistically speaking, what option do I have? None. I already know he has decided to ignore me for some unknown reason. Calling him to confirm what I’ve already known? No. What purpose does it serve to dig him out and confront him by calling him? None. I am speechless in face of such a lack of professionalism. It is like a child play, hiding behind his computer as if he had not received my email. I once worked for China Daily, an English language newspaper in China. To put things in perspective, in the long run, this is one unique experience of mine, hopeful once in lifetime.

Once again, thank you for getting back to me. Appreciate this greatly especially in this context.

I really don’t mince my words here, because I am sure they don’t care. So, go ahead ignoring me. I don’t care either.

On 2/26, the editor for As I See It wrote to me, finally. Too late, I am already upset.
“Keith forwarded your notes to me, and I obviously need to explain that I get dozens of submission every week and have only so much space for them. You should not take my miscommunication as a personal affront. The fact is, I only have so much space and time to consider these. I generally only respond to the people whose submissions I’m considering. I have not even read yours yet, and probably won’t get to it until next week

We only run one or two As I See It columns a week. The pipeline is always full. And I will suggest to you what I tell others: You would more likely be published on a timely basis if you resubmit your piece as a letter to the editor, at a maximum of 200 words.
Thanks for understanding,”

I wrote to him, with due respect in due time. I didn’t tell him that I thought he deliberately ignored me because he is prejudiced against Asian Americans, which I am not sure of and I will never know. And I also didn’t tell him that he only reads email from Keith and gets back to me only because of Keith email. Is Keith your boss or what?

“Thank you for your explanation.
I don’t want to sound like whining for attention. However, I do believe one short acknowledgement to the sender as a due courtesy is better than a total silence. Silence can be interpreted in many different ways. I thought you tried to ignore me which left me no other options. I hope you could understand that being ignored together with having no option does not give people a good feeling.

I am not going to do a letter to the editor, for two reasons. 1) It is a time-sensitive event. 2) A letter to the editor does not stand as high notability as other options. To be honest, I don’t want to sound like an average reader because I am not. Being a Chinese and writing about Chinese Americans objectively can be a challenge. I will continue writing on Chinese American communities in the future and I do want our voices to be heard. I hope you can appreciate my being honest.
Thank you for your response.”

He still tried to explain,
“I certainly understand your position, and I would welcome a piece from you about Chinese American issues, which, I agree, are vastly under-represented in the media. But my time for editing that column is very limited and I can’t possibly respond to everyone who offers an unsolicited submission. My time frame for answering people who have offered something I can use is usually within a few weeks, which is not unreasonable in the publishing world. And though you’re right that an OpEd column is a little more high profile than a letter, those column spots are very limited and the letters column is generally very popular.

As I said, I’ll take a look at your piece next week.”
I gave him the last word, “Again, thank you for the explanation. I should have known. Have a nice day.”

I am not sure if he realized or not that his one short reply to my initial email could have avoided it all. Some people never learn anything. I don’t know if that editor is one of that some people. It is such an agonizing experience. For now, I want to put it all behind me.

“a woman a decade younger than him — and she’s as ugly as he is! #jackass.”

It seems more like a lifetime nightmare than a bunch of tasteless jokes when Jofi Joseph, former White House Official on national security, lost his plum job — after it was discovered where these sarcasm and snark tweeted out.

Jofi Joseph spit out whatever in his mind like an idiot when he thought he was anonymous under the name of @NatSecWonk, when he had no clue that nobody can truly hide his true identity on this seemingly innocent cyber world.

It really doesn’t take much effort to dig him out. Now that his identity is revealed, “it’s fair to say Joseph has pretty much burned bridges with everyone in Washington.”

For the rest of us, it’s lesson to be learned.

The most expensive places in the U.S.

Of course, we have both the cheapest and the most expensive cities in the U.S. here are 10 most expensives ones in the U.S.

10. Los Angeles
9. San Diego
8. Oakland, Calif.
7. Boston
6. Washington, D.C.
5. Stamford, Conn.
4. San Jose, Calif.
3. San Francisco
2. Honolulu
1. New York Cost of Living in NY: 125.4% above average (Manhattan only)

My son has been living in Manhattan since he graduated in 2011. I wrote this to him. “Everything has a cost. The ultimate cost is time. You use time to earn money, with money to buy convenience, health, entertainment, etc. How much you can afford depends on (1) amount of time you pour in and (2) value of your time.”

Places where you can live cheaply in the U.S.

I can’t say they are among the greatest cities in the U.S. but they are certainly the cheapest ones. Here it is from Kiplinger site — 10 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In. I am surprised that some of the southern poor states like Mississippi and Georgia didn’t make it to the list. I am curious to know how Kansas goes when comparing to east and west coastal cities.

10. Idaho Falls, Idaho
9. Conway, Ark.
8. Springfield, Ill.
7. Pueblo, Colo.
6. Wichita Falls, Texas
5. Fayetteville, Ark.
4. Memphis, Tenn.
3. Norman, Okla.
2. McAllen, Texas
1. Harlingen, Texas

Happy Fourth of July: eat and be happy, Obesity In America

When I think of 4th of July, I think of America.
When I think of American, images of obese figures emerge. Therefore, ironically, celebration of America seems like celebration of obesity.

Thanks to NPR National Public Radio, we have these facts and numbers on obesity in America — “Obesity In America, By The Numbers” May 19, 2011. I know these figures are two years old and we surely have much more of them now. Still, isn’t that something that Mississippi has the highest obesity rate and also with the highest percentage of people living in poverty? This article presents many useful figures and facts on obesity in America.

Also, if Long John Silver’s is your favorite restaurant, read this one -‘Heart Attack On A Hook’: Meet America’s ‘Worst Restaurant Meal‘ – and think again next time you want to visit it.

New education guideline: children must learn about evolution

The end of new Dark Age.
This is how I felt when I read on 4/9 an article from New York Times site, “New Guidelines Call for Broad Changes in Science Education.” Two key points will mark the end of Dark Age in America, if they are followed.

(1) On Climate change: “Educators unveiled new guidelines on Tuesday that call for sweeping changes in the way science is taught in the United States -including, for the first time, a recommendation that climate change be taught as early as middle school.”

(2) On evolution: “The guidelines also take a firm stand that children must learn about evolution, the central organizing idea in the biological sciences for more than a century, but one that still provokes a backlash among some religious conservatives.”

The guidelines, known as the Next Generation Science Standards, are the first broad national recommendations for science instruction since 1996. They were developed by a consortium of 26 state governments and several groups representing scientists and teachers.

This is only a guideline. I don’t expect all people will accept and follow it. Still, it’s a progress.

Blackwater shootings in Iraq

For some reason, prior to April Fool’s day, I thought of Blackwater shootings in Baghdad on September 16, 2007. The incident left 17 Iraqi civilians dead and 20 people injured. It happened in Nisour Square, Baghdad, Iraq. They were killed by Blackwater Personal Security Detail.

Of course, Iraqi people were angry with the U.S. for the killing of the innocent people. In the end, no one was punished for the crime. This seems a small incident when you think of thousand of innocent Iraqi people who lost their lives during the Iraq war. Blackwater settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of six of the victims, for an undisclosed sum, on 1/6/2012.

Some Americans wonder why people in that part of the world harbor such a strong anti-American feeling, “We bring you democracy. We came here to liberate you,” said some Americans. But the dead cannot be forgotten. And death is what war means.

Affordable Care Act turns three years old on 3/23

Yes, here’s another birthday this month, the Obamacare or Affordable Care Act which was signed into law on 3/23/2010.

To be sure, Obamacare has had a very rough time since its birth. The GOP has tried over 30 times to repeal it. Even with the Supreme Court upholding of the law, the GOP still has not given up its fight to outlaw it.

As with anything that is progressive and representative of historial trend, the Obamacare will have to experience vehement attacks of various sort before it finally becomes as established as our social security tax and Medicare.

This law might go down the American history as the single great achievement of Obama administration.

FBI’s motto of “fidelity, bravery, integrity” or lack of FBI

Last Friday, I read this piece of news, which made me laugh “FBI battling ‘rash of sexting’ among its employees.” For the first time, I learned of the motto of FBI–“fidelity, bravery, integrity.” So nicely put, yet so far from reality.

I learned that what sounds like bad movie plots are all real — “bugging your boss’ office. Sending naked photos around to co-workers. Sexting in the office. Paying for sex in a massage parlor.” For the detail of this, see a confidential internal disciplinary report.

I cannot help laugh out loud when I read these words by FBI assistant director Candice Will: “When you are given an FBI BlackBerry, it’s for official use. It’s not to text the woman in another office who you found attractive or to send a picture of yourself in a state of undress. That is not why we provide you an FBI BlackBerry.” Don’t we already know that?

Hope you get a hearty laughter out of it.

Thought on Girl scout fund raising

It didn’t start when someone knocked at our door selling Thin Mints. Nor did it occur to me when a colleague walked around hawking those cookies on her child’s behalf. It suddenly dawned on me when I noticed some extremely overweight adults helping young girls sell cookies outside the Walmart store.

Sometimes people sell homemade cookies for fundraisers, since there are rewards for top sellers. Some parents simply buy many boxes of these cookies in order to help their children meet the target.

When I put together these facts, it didn’t make sense: cookies, young girls, overweight adults, and America’s obesity epidemic. Even if girl scouts management was said to try to reduce fat in their cookies, cookies are the last thing we need if we want to overcome our weight problem. Why can’t people sell something else, in addition to cookies? Are cookies really the only thing that will sell?

Even in fundraising or in doing any kind of charity work, we need to learn to be innovative and creative, and to be so at an early age, like combining fundraising with something else, something more challenging and healthy than selling cookies, like helping girls come up with healthy and nutrious recipes, like growing plants or doing some craft work during holiday seasons and selling them for fund raising, like mixing with boys in their fundraising activities. I am sure boys also have fundraising task. In this process, the girls can learn something other than making cookies. I am sure there are many things that people can learn to make and sell.

One last thing that is a bit disturbing is the fact that the only thing that I, as an outsider, know of girl scout is about girl scout cookies, as if that’s the only thing they are good at or they are expected to be good at. That’s purely a view of an outsider. I am sure the insiders would argue with me on this.

On the other hand, I never hear of boy scouts selling cookies. On the contrary, I have heard of many fun things that boys scouts are doing. Do we have a different expectations when it comes to scout’s gender? Or are we enforcing gender stereotypes by preparing our girls to be cookie-makers/homemakers?

For our nation’s girls to grow up meeting the challenge of the future, girl scouts organizers should prepare girls to be anything but cookies makers or cookies sellers.

The hopeless battle over gun control in the new year

As a reaction to the Newtown shootings, we have seen it from both President Obama and the head of NRA, Wayne LaPierre.

While the president is determined to take some meaningful actions following the mass killing, NRA head said Congress should “act immediately” to put armed police in US schools, making it more like barrack than campus.

The matter involves both the powerful NRA who is determined to make a profit from Newtown tragedy and the most absurd gun obssession rooted in the culture.

An opinion poll by Gallup shows a majority of Americans – 53% – stands by NRA’s response to the shootings, as opposed to 43% supporting a ban on assault rifles.

The president will have a very steep road ahead over any gun control initiative. On this matter, I am not optimistic, unless there are more similar events happening to some key figures. See what made Ronald Reagan change his mind.

Remembering the Sandy Hook school children

some of the victimsSix of those being killed during Sandy Hook’s tragedy. It hurts tremendously seeing these lovely faces, knowing they are gone forever. I know nothing can fill the emptiness that these children left in the hearts of their beloved ones.

It’s been a week since the infamous Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. There has been talks about this mass killing on TV, in the office, at home, with my mother over Skype, and nearly everywhere.

Insane people can be found in all countries, but insane people equipped with semi-automatic guns or some other assult weapon are uniquely American products.

While we mourn the death of these innocent people from Virginia Tech to Colorado theater to Wisconsin temple to Columbine high school to Sandy Hook elementary school, we live in dreadful fear that someday something similar would happen again.

Now there are more police on high school campus, probably more at elementary schools. Unless we restrict gun ownership, unless there is a drastic change in this gun-obsessed culture, unlike all civilized countries, the U.S. has to live with constant fear and high alert.

When can we or if ever we can end this senseless killing?

Last week seemed to be the bloodest one in American history, as far as I remember. First we learned of mall shooting in Portland, Oregan, next there is this Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, killing 20 children and 6 adults. Recently the country has witnessed too many senseless shootings like the one at Sandy Hook. I cannot imagine how their parents deal with this loss.

Easy access to gun is a big contributing factor here. Yet, no matter how many people have been killed, to protect the interest of weapon industry, the politicians will not do anything to restrict gun possession. Next, the killing hopelessly continues, really hopeless… This often reminds me of this song.

Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

On the election day, November 6, 2012

I know it is way after election. Still, there is something that I must write in order to let it go.

I received a Certification of Registration card prior to the election. The card notifies me of the following.
Registration ID:
City: Overland Park
Ward: 3
Pct: 20
US Congressional District 3
KS Senate: 0011
KS Representative: 0020
State Board of Education: 0002
County Commission: 4
Voting Place: National Bank of Kansas City 10700 Nall Ave

I misplaced this card on the election date, so I had to go online to find out the polling station that I was supposed to go. I left office early on the election day.

I thought it was going to be crowded. But it turned out there were more volunteer workers than voters. A good hearted lady described to me in great detail how I should vote electronically, and with each instruction, she wanted to make sure I followed her, not a challenge to my thick head.

In her gracious manner, I sensed a bit of condescending there. After over 28 years of staying in the U.S. I still impress people as a fresh off the boat soul, being assumed as a foreigner unless I prove otherwise. An interesting thought of the day.

Birthday, colleague, keeping good working relationship

This is one of those boring moments for my children. I write it down in order to forget it.

During August 2011, there were three of us in our office, K, F, and me. Someone from another office told K that F’s birthday was on 8/12, meaning we should consider sending her something on that date.

K shared the news with me, asking me if I wanted to pinch in. Of course, I couldn’t say no, ending up throwing in $10. After F got the present from both of us, she asked our birthdays and on our special day, around September for both of us, she gave us something in return. All happy.

I marked their birthdays on my calendar. This year I gave F a birthday card and a gift on 8/10, since her birthday falls on Sunday. K moved to the next door building this year. When she came over a few days later and saw the birthday card that I gave to F, she asked F, “Why don’t you tell me?” as if she cares.

Did she really expect people to tell her their birthday and to make sure that she buys something for them on that day? This is an undisguised hint asking for a gift. We all mark down important dates or anything we care to remember. I remember one lady said it was easy to remember my birthday as it was the same day as her son’s wedding date. Still she forgot it every year while she was my colleague. Interesting.

Of course, both K and F forgot my b-day because they have not done what I have done — mark it on my calendar. Do I regret having remembered their birthdays and given them presents? No. Most likely I will do the same next year, if I am still their colleague. Not because I care about them but because I care a good working relationship.

Long working hours yield lower productivity

I learned from my mother that people get 8 days off for the two holidays, mid-autumn festival and National Day.

I told my mother that we never had such long official holiday here in America. Our long weekend is just one day longer than the normal two days.

I read it long ago that America is one of the countries where people have the longest work hour per week. This also means we have the shortest vacation days. Sound like we don’t have any life outside office. How nice!

The length of working hours reminds me of a study who reveals that long working hours are often associated with lower productivity per hour.

This is absolutely true when I look at the situation at work. Once we got an email that the department manager was not in that day, one colleague said “Hurray! Party time.” Party while the boss is absent. Talk about productivity!

My neighbor expects me to move back to China

Life is never bored with diversities like America. On the morning of 8/24, one of my neighbors joined me on my daily early morning walk. While talking about her children and grandchildren, she asked about mine. Next she asked me when I would move back to China.

I told her I didn’t know yet, even though I was puzzled by her question. She further asked if I ever wanted to move back to China. I told her if I could get a job and have medical insurance in China, I might consider moving.

I told her healthcare was the largest expense for seniors. If I stay here, I can at least benefit from Medicare. She told me Medicare would not be enough, etc. That is, don’t expect to stay here and get this benefit. How straightforward is this!

By the end of that day, I was still wondering why she expected me to move back to China. I am still as puzzled as a first-grader holding a James Joyce’s fiction. One thing I know about her, she is a republican. That helps, doesn’t it?

We know where to live…

On 7/29, a hot Sunday, I read this one “10 Worst States for Women’s Health” written by Anne Harding, out on 7/26/2012. Here are some interesting facts about women, health, location, and their implications. One step further for research: check the state’s education level.

The 10 worst states for women’s health include —
(1) Mississippi for its obesity, smoking, inactivity, and chronic illness.

(2) Arkansas for its high rates of obesity, smoking, sedentary living, heart disease, and diabetes.

(3) Idaho ranked last in the percentage of women over 49 who had a mammogram in the past two years (68%).

(4) Kentucky for having declined life expectancy between 1987 and 2007 for women.

(5) Louisiana as second-worst, after Mississippi, on its 2010 women’s health report card. .. rates of sedentary living, obesity, unhealthy eating, and smoking are high.

(6) Tennessee — women’s life expectancy declined from 1987 to 2007. Tennessee women also have the nation’s highest stroke death rate, and the third-highest breast cancer death rate.

(7) Oklahoma — only one place in the U.S. showed a state-level decline in women’s life expectancy between 1987 and 2007.

(8) Texas ranked dead last in the percentage of women receiving first-trimester prenatal care in 2006, and the percentage of women with health insurance (31% had no coverage in 2008-2009. Women in TX had the third-highest rate of chlamydia infections.

(9) West Virginia –in 2010, 36.8% of women living in West Virginia got no leisure-time physical activity at all, up from 31.3% in 2007. Obesity rates increased to 32.6% during the same time.

(10) Wyoming, female workers made about 64 cents per dollar made by men in the same job—the largest wage gap in the U.S.

The collateral damage of Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape”

Seeing the massive negative responses to this famous Todd Akin statement, the Republican candidate Mitt Romney and many other Republicans lost no time in minimizing the damage by calling Akin to quit.

It is hard to imagine the storm would abate even with the stepdown of  Akin, if he does. The GOPs will sooner or later face the quagmire of their own creation — the consistency in their stands on pro-life, abortion, and rape.

If anything, Todd Akin is punished for being consistent and his lack of flip-flopping. If you are a pro-life and believe abortion is killing, you should oppose any form  of abortion. Allowing rape-pregnancy abortion seems to say this type of abortion is not killing, which runs against the belief of equating all abortion to murdering.

Sometimes, you give up something in order to gain something bigger. Some politicians, who want to keep total control on everything from economy to women’s uterus and fight battle on social, cultural and economic fronts, will end up losing the major battle, just like losing a whole water melon in order to keep a few melon seeds. This is something that Todd Akin accidentally taught us.

The superior customer service in Hong Kong

This is what I observed on my way back to China on 6/1. It’s been more than two months since then. I even forgot if I have written on the impression of Hong Kong.

I made two transfers on my way to Beijing, one in Chicago, one in Hong Kong. That was the first time for me to visit Hong Kong, not really a visit, just one-hour stay, enough to impress me.

As soon as I emerged from the UA plane, I saw a few signs, each direting to a destination. I quickly spotted the one to Beijing and sure enough there I even saw my name on the sign.

When I asked the man holding the sign for the direction to the gate of my next flight, he told me where to go and said “Hurry, you only have one hour and you need to get boarding pass, go through security.” His tone and expression conveyed a sense of real urgency.

Wherever I went, people worked at a super fast speed so that I rushed through everything in 20 minutes. I rated Hong Kong airport as number one in customer service. In comparison, people I met at Chicago seem to carry an cant-care-less attitude, as if they were telling me “It’s your fault if you are late.”

John Derbyshire being fired for divisive writing

The conservative columnist and author John Derbyshire wrote an article urging white and Asian parents to tell their children to avoid contact with black Americans they do not know.

He added: “If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.” And “if you are white or Asian and have kids, you owe it to them to give them some version of the talk. It will save them a lot of time and trouble spent figuring things out for themselves. It may save their lives.” Derbyshire was fired by the National Review for these words.

When I read these words, my first impression is how can people think this way and have the guts to write and publish it. Some people do not care about the impact of their writing on the public, as if black were all illiterate and couldn’t read. It would be terribly awful if you were a black and read about this? I still can’t believe someone could think and write like this.

P.S. my second column comes out today. I have posted it here around the end of April. But I forgot having done so. Can’t believe I am getting so forgetful now.

No Absolute freedom of speech, Be careful what you post on the internet

I read an article on 4/9/2012 “Marine Sgt. Gary Stein fights losing battle over free speech rights.”

“A United States Marine Corps Administrative Separation Board recommended that Sgt. Gary Stein face a less than honorable discharge for criticizing President Obama on Facebook.”

Sgt. Gary Stein learned it the hard way that “When you join the military or other government service, you give up certain rights, including freedom of speech and expression. You are not allowed to advocate for certain issues or criticize policies or personnel in a public forum.”

In fact, there is no absolute freedom of speech no matter where you are. I heard of some people posting negative comments on her work place and got fired because of this. You got to be very careful when you voice your opinion on the internet. The consequence could be very costly.

Trayvon Martin Case Dividing Along Racial Line

On this case where a black boy was killed by a white Hispanic, it is rather disturbing to see white and black holding vastly different views.

One of my white colleagues complained of massive protest against Sanford Police handling of the killing. “We don’t know what happened. Why did media describe Zimmerman as the killer? Why do all these people jump the gun? There will never be a fair trial for Zimmerman.”

I can hear in my head the voices of the black demonstrators — Yes, this much we know — an unarmed black boy was killed by a white man, that the police set the killer free without further investigation. It is the police who first jumped the gun by deciding Zimmerman was not guilty of the murder. Without this massive protest, we would never be able to bring the criminal to justice. The police would not set the killer free if the killer were a black and the victim were a white…

I don’t think people will ever agree with each other because of their vast differences in race and experience.

No School Can Guarantee Your Future Success

In the evening of 4/1/2012, a friend of mine called. Her first child is about the same age as my daughter. Two of her children go to private school.

From our conversation, I could tell that she was not happy with her children’s school efforts so far. I shared with her my understanding of school and one’s success in life.

To be sure, school is important. It is the place where a person is first judged and evaluated. A good college opens door to many opportunities and important connections. In a way, nothing can compare to the friendships formed in college. These college connections can be hugely helpful.

Yet, keep in mind school is not everything. No matter how best a school is claimed to be, no school can guarantee your future success. To a large extent, it will depend on the students whether or not she can make full use of her college years to develop herself.

When my daughter came back from her classmate’s house, I shared this view with her again.

Time to Remove No Child Left Behind Act

Make no mistake here. No child left behind is a very lofty idea and very enlightening, too. But if the government metes out punishment on the schools and teachers whose students fail in state math and reading tests, this policy is no longer laudable.

The real danger of punishing teachers for students’ failure on tests come when teachers, for fear of losing their jobs, focus their time and energy on testing preparation instead of on learning. This reminds me so much of the practice in China. The end result is generating a bunch of students who are experts in taking tests but are weak in various ability.

Schools are important, but ultimately they are important only in the sense that they are to prepare students for the time when students no longer need school.

Battle over Obama’s Healthcare Reform Goes to the Supreme Court

The single biggest accomplishment in President Obama’s presidency so far seems to be his Affordable Care Act (ACA). And even that has been the target of the most hostile attack from his political opponents.

His opponents hate him so much that it seems they would totally eviscerate him if they got a chance. While the ferocity and the relentless nature of the attack on the president are extremely unfair and unjustified, they make me wonder why things have reached to this point.

There exist many explanations, but for some reason, I got the impression that the president has been too weak in facing his opponents, which has sent a wrong message.

American political arena is one of the ugliest, the most gruesome and hideous battleground, on which the strong bullies the weak. There is absolutely no room for civility. To survive this battleground, the weak must be strong and stare down any attack. No compromise whatsoever. Otherwise, your opponents think you are weak and strike you until you are dead politically.

This seems to be what is happening now in America. From very beginning, President Obama has been too polite and too conciliatory to his opponents, yielding too much, and overreaching too much to the other side of the aisle.

I am not optimistic about the outcome of the coming election. One thing I am sure, this first black president will leave tons of materials for historians and political scientists to talk about and for us to learn from.

Hot Days Bring Back Memories of Summer

On 2/22/2012, the weather was unseasonably warm. I went out and sat in my car in the afternoon. It was so warm that it reminded me of the hot summer days when I sent my daughter to summer enrichment program or when I went to get my son and later my daughter back from their summer school.

That day I gave a ride to my daughter’s classmate. On the way back home, I shared my feelings of the day with my daughter. I told her for some reason hot days always brought back the memory of summer activities, having nothing to do with work though. And I always felt summer was supposed to be the time for break, not supposed to work. If I were teaching at college, I would have at least three months off in a year, one month winter break, two months of summer break. I would have plenty of time to do whatever I please.

It seems my best memory always centers around summer when I was most free, either during my childhood or during my children’s childhood.

Hypocrisy, Amazing Feature and Culture

It happened before. It will happen again.

When I was sharing office with three other female coworkers in 2007 and throughout 2008, I was rather dismayed to have observed some extremely unpleasant events around me. My past workplaces have been primarily male dominant. This was the first time that I was in an all female office. Call it American culture 101. In fact, when I look back, I feel throughout my life, I have never been surrounded by so many females.

Here’s what must happen among these female coworkers. Whenever one of them was out of the room, the other two lost no time in gossiping about the absent one. The worst part was they all worn a super friendly mask when facing each other, fully exemplifying the concept of hypocrisy. Of course, they missed no chance backstabbing me whenever they got a chance. And I was always zen enough not to be disturbed by the goings-on around me.

Yesterday, I learned that two of them were going to hang out with our ex-manager, whom they were never tired of unfavorably gossiping about.

I try to find it amusing, but more often than not, I wish I could run away from this work environment.

Population, Culture, Education and the Future of America

On 10/4/2011, I chatted with a friend of mine over the phone during lunch hour. As always, we talked about education, my favorite topic. Not long before that, I read a white house April report on Latino children in school.

=> less than 50% of them are enrolled in pre-school;
=> just 50% earn their high school diploma on time;
=> half of those high school graduates are prepared for college;
=> 13% of them have a degree beyond high school

Consider these demographical facts:
=> Hispanics are the youngest and fastest growing group in US.
=> They make up 16% of the population now
=> The number will increase to 29% of the population by 2050.

Imagine the large army of future citizens trapped in low class because of their inadequate education!

People painfully offer many explanations and solutions to this problem, such as, language barrier, unfavorable immigration status, etc. However, none of them touch the essence of the issue. I might sound politically incorrect, but be it. The Latino education problem is inherent in their culture. No big change is possible without an overhaul of that culture.

The population comes with the burden of their culture. Asian population with similar language and immigration obstacles register much higher level of education because Asian cultures, be it India or China or Japan or Korea, all place education as their top priority in their families.

Here’s a sneak preview of coming attraction. With nearly one third of the US population being Hispanics by 2050 with their dominant culture and their lack of education, what is in stock for America to compete with cultures that emphasize education and churn out large pools of highly intelligent heads?

Currency Bill Targeting China, the Need for a Scapegoat

I read this news yesterday– “US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, said the bill reflects the frustration felt by many Americans. The US Senate has voted through a bill that aims to put pressure on China to increase the value of its currency, the yuan.”

When these politicians pick up China for their frustration and inability over American dire economic crisis, I was more than flabbergasted. Why can’t people see some of the simple facts that have led the nation to what it is now? It is simply preposterous that politicians choose to ignore these facts. Perhaps it is the cowardice in them that has disabled American politicians to claim their responsibilities. Or probably it is easy to find a scapegoat or create a common enemy to focus their energy on or even worse to shift people’s attention to the root of the problems, which are the following.

(1) The cost of the two wars runs up to more than a trillion dollars. A huge addition to the country’s debt burden.

(2) The revenue shortfall caused by the two massive income tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Bush tax cuts extension for two years alone will add $3.3 trillion to the national debt.

(3) The shortfall of revenue gets worse because of the 14 million jobless Americans. No job means no revenue for government and no consumer spending.

(4) Americans have been spoiled by the sense of entitlements and are so immune to any hardships that these entitlements start to accumulate and aggregate to the point of crisis

The passing of the currency bill reminds me of a Chinese saying on boomerang effect.

Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring, Revolution

For some reason, the recent Occupy Wall Street demonstration reminds me of these words from Mao Zedong.

The demonstration started in New York City and spread to other parts of the country. I have a lot of sympathy for those folks. I am not sure what it can accomplish, though I am certain of what it is not.

(1) It is not and will not be an earthquake event like Arab Spring movement in Middle East, which is very close to Mao’s definition of revolution.

(2) It will not be as influential as Tea Party noise because Tea Party has been backed by the powerful moneyed class, whereas those demonstrators consist of the penniless, hopeless, helpless and even desperate ones. Let’s face it: how far can you go without a penny?

(3) They will not get what they ask, assuming they ask for jobs. A large quantity of jobs have been shipped overseas, gone forever.

The voices of these demonstrators are too weak and too late. They are not even as forceful as anti-abortionists who have succeeded in killing an abortion doctor or as powerful as gay marriage opponents who have claimed equal success. That’s American priority!

A Decade After: Worse Than 9-11

Today marks the tenth anniversity of the 9-11 world trade center attack, the first time in American history that America was thus attacked. Are we better off now than a decade ago? Are you kidding?

People talked about that part of history. Yet, in their usual lack of reflection, most people never stop a second and reflect its far-reaching disastrous impact on us and other peoples now. Why we are in worse shape now than 2001?

Let me count the horrors happened because of 9-11:
(1) The bombing is horrible, yet even more horrible is American politicians used this as an excuse to start Iraqi war, the country having nothing to do with 9-11.

(2) The Iraqi war resulted in the death and wounded of both American soldiers and Iraqi civilians, millions of them.

(3) The war led the U.S. to the red ocean of debts, trillion of them, which rapidly drags the country down to the bottom.

America today reminds me of a nursery rhyme that I heard of when my children were little,

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

A Piece of Culture, An Interesting Observation at Work

A friend of mine whom we met on the flight to Beijing during my last trip home told me how she became acquainted with a young IT professional in China. The ease with which Chinese people get on familiar term with one another emphasizes one of the cultural differences that I have observed at work.

When I was working at our central office back in 2005, a colleague of mine, a rather over-weight one, was on very good term with me. Once I observed that she gobbled down a huge piece of high-calorie cheese cake. I felt a strong urge of telling her, “Hey, stop it. This is not helpful for you to lose weight.” But I politely held myself back. It would sound rude and not nice, even if it was purely for her benefit.

When I saw a nice lady with a smoking habit having this nagging cough, I was concerned and would very much like to advice her to quit smoking. Much as I cared for her and was worried, I said nothing. Because it is considered an intrusion into other people’s privacy even if I have all the good intentions. Culturally, it is difficult or even impossible to shorten this interpersonal distance. It is always safe to be polite and keep a safe space.

With another young colleague, I was on good terms and felt being trusted, but still I would not say what I thought I should as her senior, simply because it was considered none of my business or an intrusion on her privacy. Under situations like this, I know I would be more direct if I were among Chinese.

Experience of Marginalization at Workplace

On 11/10/2009, around 10:40 AM, the head of the practice came to our clinic and served as a tour guide for someone from outside. When he passed my office, he stopped right outside the door and introduced to that person something about clinic trial that I was working on. I could hear every word of it since it happened just by my office door. I knew he would definitely do it differently if an American were in my office. Normally, someone outside the practice would talk to me and view our office when they want to get information about our research study. This time, for some reason, it did not happen.

It might be because it would break his comfort zone to talk to someone he has never talked before, someone different from him. I used to consider him to be rather open-minded, as if he came from west coast. I thought he was at ease dealing with people at all levels. Obviously not.

The experience made me rethink of the concept of identity and acceptance. Some Chinese consider themselves thoroughly Americanized, so much so that they refuse to think themselves anything but Americans. Well, identity involves both objective and subjective sides. Chances are what you see yourself is vastly different from what the majority of Americans see you. I keep telling my children this hard fact — even if both of you were born and grew up in America, don’t cheat yourself into thinking you are always accepted as Americans here.

The Powerless Wisconsin Citizens and Others Soundly Slapped Their Own Faces

Republicans were voted in during last November’s mid-term election, on the promise that they would balance the budget and cut government spending. Tellingly, voters liked some cutting but stupidly, they never asked how and where to cut. Considering the nature of Republican party, people should know the cut will always benefit the rich and hurt the poor.

Even worse is the fact that they have voted for the republican Governor, Scott Walker, who not only cut whichever he sees fit but also threatens to deprive the legal rights of the powerless to collectively bargain with the powerful, so that the powerless mass will be totally at the mercy of whoever in power, just or unjust.

Now these same people have to live with the consequence of their election. While it might seem a bit far-fetched, it does remind me of a farmer who warmed back to life the frozen snake inside his shirt only to be bitten to death by the awaken hungry one.

Understandably, there is a need for the existence of an union who would speak on behalf of the powerless workers and function as a check against the greedy capitalists, especially when capitalists are boosted up by political power, as in the case of Wisconsin today. Sadly to say, their right to bargain could be outlawed just as easy as their rice bowls were shipped overseas.

Still, I wish Wisconsin demonstrators could win their battle over Scott Walker and could set a precedent for demonstrators in other states. Otherwise, the domino effect of their defeat throughout this nation is just unimaginable.

Obesity is More than Lifestyle and Food Intake II

Although I have not read any research to see if concentration of obesity and low social class overlap each other, just from the amount of attention federal government has been pouring onto it, I have no doubt that you will find a heavy concentration of overweight folks among low class. This is what turns a personal problem of weight into a societal one.

Consider this — if obesity concentrate among low social class folks, they need government assistance to take care of their obesity-related health problems — heart disease, diabetes, certain type of cancer, and even higher risk of senior dementia. Hence their weight issue becomes a societal problem, making deficit-stricken government as nervous as other societal issues.

Then again as with any issues that arise from some deep-rooted cultural values and in the realm of personal behavior, if there is no change to the culture of insufficient self-control and self-discipline among the dominant obese population, no policy and government funding can bring a change in people’s eating behavior, lifestyle and do away with obesity.

It might not be politically correct to direct attention to the individual level, but be it if it is a hurting truth. This reminds me of my posting on 7/22/2010, “We Like to Cheat Ourselves with Streetlight” — we know that’s not where the truth is, still we search there because the light is good.

Obesity is More than Lifestyle and Food Intake

The convergence of some seemingly unrelated facts set me thinking again on obesity, healthcare cost and social class. Here are these facts from Reuters health and science editor, Maggie Fox, 8/3/2010.

*More than 72 million U.S. adults, or 26.7 percent, are obese.
**Recent estimates of the annual medical costs of obesity are $147 billion
***Blacks were the most likely to be obese, with 36.8 percent of U.S. black adults having a BMI of 30
****More than 41 percent of black women are obese
*****More than 30 percent of Hispanic adults were obese.
******Mississippi had the most obese people.
*******Obesity is a societal problem, according to Dr. Frieden, CDC director.

“The federal government and some states have been moving toward using legislation to help people to exercise and eat healthier foods.”

To be continued…

China and India, Job and Economy in President’s Speech

The president is finally a bit realistic when he talked about the success of China and India due to their advanced education.
“…, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science. They’re investing in research and new technologies. Just recently, China became home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.”

“China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a ‘D.'”

He asks the nation to look ahead for a bright future.
“The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation. None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do – what America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.”

Talking is always easy and cheap.

Defense Budget Cut and “National Security”

On 12/30/2010 and 1/2/2011, I posted entries on US in the coming decade, enduring the dire economic consequence of its over-stretched global arms. I predicted the country would have to do some serious cutting here and there, a real European style austerity as part of its effort to fight the formidable burden of debt. On 1/6/2011, we learned US defense secretary Roberts Gates announced a $78bn military budget cut, to be achieved in part by scrapping a $14bn amphibious vehicle. The cuts over the next five years come in addition to $100bn in internal savings already announced. “As the biggest part of the discretionary federal budget, the Pentagon cannot presume to exempt itself from the scrutiny and pressure faced by the rest of our government,” Gates said

Here’s the irony about defense expense. After 911 attack of 2001, the US increased military spending tremendously in the name of protecting “national security.” After a gigantic military spending in which the US invaded other countries, did plenty of killings and bombings, with the two invaded countries like it is now, is America safer and stronger now than before? Do people worldwide love America more than before? Or the opposite is true?

I wonder when people will come to this understanding that a country cannot be safe and strong if it faces colossal national debts and a fast shrinking middle-class and a swelling lower class. I am sure there are some politicians who will jump out against the defense cut, always in the name of “national security” and at the cost of anything else.

USA in the New Decade 2

Whether or not America will continue on its way out as the world power in this decade depends on how it deals with its current challenges — the wars, the deficit, economy, and its education.

Regardless of its ability to meet the challenges, there is no doubt that USA will continue attracting millions of immigrants with its ideals, economic opportunities, vast stretch of land, and material abundance.

During the gathering with friends on the New Year’s Eve, I mentioned some areas where America is ahead of the four BRIC countries. Such as, in area of jing shen wen ming –spiritual civilization, China still has a long way to catch up, if she ever does or if the USA does not regress with the loss of middle class.

While the immigrants to America are transformed in the process of assimiliation into American culture, they will transform American society and will definitely bring in new hope to the country. In them probably lies the hope of the nation.

The shrinking of middle-class in American society shrinks the consuming power as well as tax revenue for the government. Where do we get money for foreign war and foreign debts and domestic programs? With the pinching national purse, one would expect the US will take back some of its outstretched arms. It will be interesting to see if it will happen or what will happen by the end of this decade.

USA in the Coming Decade 1

As we approach the end of the year and of the first decade of the new millennium, looking into the next decade, there is no other topic more interesting than that of the future of America as the world power.

During the last decade, the USA has effectively dragged its economy downhill by over-stretching itself in the way of foreign wars with its huge military expense. Throughout history, many great nations have gone the same self-defeating path, having their resources drained away by these wars of attrition. While the US was busy burning its wealth, other countries lost no time in accumulating it. Imagine its consequence in the coming decade.

Because of the huge war cost and Bush tax cut, the country has incurred a colossal debt, a heavy burden on the future generation. This burden behaves like a chronic disease that will slowly consume the nation. Sadly to say, Obama’s compromised tax bill serves to save his own skin at the cost of future generation. It does not help in raising productivity and reducing deficit.

American politics has become ineffective and stalemated, just look at Obama’s healthcare reform and then his even more stupid tax bill! The powerful politicians representing some interested groups are totally on top of everything. Where is the future for the aspiring middle-class folks and for the nation?

The final worrisome problem is America’s K-12 education. To be sure, if a good education has been the key to the rise of many nations from Japan to Israel, America’s lack of it can be attributed to its decline. To predict prison population in the coming decade, one simply needs to count the high school dropouts today. With the decrease of highly educated workforce, America will see the shrinking of middle class. Even worse, a good basic education come from a culture that value education like that of many Asian and Jewish culture. You cannot say the same of American culture!

To be continued…

Sarah Palin Called North Korea US Ally

Back to work after a week off. I find it hard to resist this posting. Here it is to cheer up the end of November weather.

Knowledge is power, so was it true when Dan Quayle failed to spell the word potato in 1992 and remains to this day number one America’s dumb politician; so it is true today when Sarah Palin twice called North Korea US ally on 11/25/2010.

In both cases, their lack of knowledge empowered their political opponents with much needed ammunitions to send them to where they belong and surely guarantee them a place for them in the history book as the dumbest politicians in the U.S.

How much educated can we expect American youngsters to become if the nation were governed by the folks like Dan-Palin alliance?

“I like Americans, but they are somewhat monocellular”

From Time magazine Verbatim page, 9/13/2010 issue, I read a quote of Ichiro Ozawa, a member of the governing Democratic Party of Japan.

I like Americans, but they are somewhat monocellular. When I talk with Americans, I often wonder why they are so simpleminded. ” So adorable, not!

The quote brought to my mind one of the phenomena in modern world, that is, the fast rise of Japan in the matter of two decades. I am sure there have been many books written on this topic; and nice to say I have not read any of them.

But as far as I can see, without even dipping into any research, there are two things that are essential for a country’s economical growth and that are characteristic of Japan — highly educated work force and conservative saving behavior, that is, savings for security in the future, rather than spending to the maximum for the present, or living on borrowed money. Sounds so familiar, right?

Look at Americans, its woeful state of education now and consider the distinctive winning features in Japanese culture and society, one would not be surprised over Ozawa’s unflattering comments on Americans.

End of Iraq War But No Celebration

This should be a day of celebration upon U.S. exit from Iraq, at least for those who have dear ones fighting in Iraq. Still, I am in no mood for this sort of thing as I am bitterly disappointed over the President’s position on Iraq war. Obama is right that Iraq war has been a huge waste of money and lives when domestic needs are screamingly urgent. He wanted to keep his promise and stop this senseless waste. However, there is a sense of something not right in his speech, and he gave the impression that he stopped Iraq war mainly out of economic concern, totally void of any sense of justice, as if money is all he cares. One step further, if America were not in this desperate economic shape, he would not withdrawn the troops.

I don’t understand this. How could he fail to understand this simple fact — the war was absurdly waged on the assumption of the existence of the weapon of mass destruction. Since WMDs were not found, let’s just go home. If he understood it, why didn’t he say, “The war kills so many innocent lives who are as valuable as my dear daughters. It is morally wrong and unjustified!” Mistake made, time for correction. Why did he have to beautify the brutal acts of invasion, mass-killing and bombing with the lofty claim of building democracy and freedom for Iraqis.

Here are some basic facts about this war that should go down U.S. history —
Name of the war: “Operation Iraqi Freedom”
Start date: 19 March 2003.
Justification: existence of WMD
Place: oil rich land
(1) Loss of human lives, 4,421 US soldiers died, Iraqi civilian deaths, by month, according to IBC (Iraq Body Count), there have been between 97,568 and 106,466 civilian deaths up to July 2010. The Lancet journal in 2006 published an estimate of 654,965 excess Iraqi deaths related to the war of which 601,027 were caused by violence.

(2) Money squandered
: according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, the US will have spent almost $802bn on funding the war by the end of fiscal year 2011, with $747.6bn already appropriated. Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard’s Linda Bilmes put the true cost at $3 trillion once additional impacts on the US budget and economy are taken into account.

(3) War always creates a large army of displaced people and refugees. According to International Organization of Migration (IOM), U.S.-led war against Iraq displaced over 1.6 million Iraqis, 5.5% of the population, some skilled workers and professionals leaving the war-torn land for anywhere they could find security.

(4) Leaving behind a land totally devastated, ripped through by civil wars, a true Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, far away from the end of the long tunnel of dark miseries, insecurity and instability of the region.

(5) This unlawful invasion into another sovereign state severely tarnished the image of the United States as a nation of Peace Corps established by JFK. Instead, it exposed to the world the true color of an invader.

(6) Bringing home tens of thousands of war-wounded and traumatized U.S. soldiers, whose young hearts and souls have been thoroughly ravished by the bloody killing experience at war.

The only almost sensible comment that Obama made was this — the strength and the position of a nation in the world are maintained not only through invasion of others but also through its economic soundness. The latter is what U.S. needs at this moment. It takes a historian with true courage and integrity to tell future generations what accurately happened during those most shameful years in American history.

What LA Public School Really Needs in Order to Completely Turn around

On the Sunday of 8/22/2010, I read an article by CHRISTINA HOAG, Associated Press writer, “LA unveils $578M school, costliest in the nation.” Here are some facts that make the whole story absolutely ridiculous.

(1) The new building will house the same old group of teachers who have created 50% dropout rate and one of the lowest performance schools in the U.S.
(2) Schools with worst performance are often rewarded with the highest funding – New York City has a $235 million campus; New Brunswick, NJ, a $185 million high school.
(3) This came in the time when nearly 3,000 teachers were laid off, with many needed programs slashed.

The assumption behind this colossal spending is people attribute the poor school performance to lack of good facilities, instead of honestly confronting the real issues of parental responsibilities, the student’s lack of interest and any much-needed work ethics, and on top of its all, the whole culture that breeds the main student body .

I don’t have ready data to back up this but I strongly believe on the average the U.S. public schools spend far more than the average schools in China, yet the performance and achievement are depressingly lower here in the U.S.

Let’s face this simple fact: education is not something you can buy. Emphasis on education is inherent in a culture. You find it in most of Asian and Jewish cultures. Without a thorough cleaning of the whole culture involving predominantly Hispanic and black student body, this bleak situation will remain stubbornly hopeless, regardless how many millions are poured into these schools. It will only get worse as this student body grows bigger.

A Peek into Coming Attractions

On the Saturday of 8/14/2010, we had a family over for a dinner gathering. Their first daughter and mine grew up together. We talked about their generation, the second generation, born and grown up on this land, embraced the cultural values and the best of both sides, given all the opportunities to make it here. Most of them have worked very hard from early age, highly accomplished in many aspects.

Later I told my daughter that I anticipated an unprecedentedly high visibility of Asian Americans from her generation, first time in U.S. history. I know many of them have gone to the top-notch institutes of higher education and there is no doubt that some of them will play key roles in the positions they occupy, regardless which field they enter.

As their generation merge into American society, we will definitely see more and more eminent Asian-American scientists, politicians, CEO, businesspersons, and of course, more Asian-American philanthropists. This is a peek into coming attractions.

As the parents of this exciting new generation, we are both awed and humbled by this great history-making process. More than anything else, we are honored.

The Rich Americans Love the Poor and the Needed Outside the U.S.

This is the most fitting topic for the 4th of July national holiday, supposed to be the most patriotic day. This article was carried on The Wall Street Journal, “Wealthy Give More Overseas, Less to Education, Religion,” 6/9/2010. Wealthy Americans care more about the underpriviledged people globally than those at home.

The giving to international aid see an increase of 6.2%. Domestically, donations to church, education, public society, and arts have declined greatly. It is heartening to see more money poured into environmental protection at home and international aid abroad.

It is an welcome sign to see the rich Americans becoming more catholic in heart and less parochial as the mainstream so soundly demonstrate.

The article reminds me of my son’s recent paycheck, one-third of which was given to Uncle Sam. I still believe donation to any charities is the best solution if any money has to be chipped off your paycheck.

It Is the Immigrants Who Make the Land Great

The following message was emailed around by one of my colleagues this week. Never mind about the ignorance and prejudice thickly exuded in the message. I don’t expect anything enlightened from the sender anyway.

I post it here to remind people of the anti-immigrant sentiment deeply rooted in the minds of not an isoloated few Americans. Have this in mind when you try to merge your youngsters into mainstream American culture and imagine how they will be holy welcome. You might choose to ignore this anti-immigration force, but this is the reality that we and our children have to be aware of and live with. Now enjoy.

If you cross the Iranian border illegally you are detained indefinitely.
If you cross the Afghan border illegally, you get shot.
If you cross the Saudi Arabian border illegally you will be jailed.
If you cross the Chinese border illegally you may never be heard from again.
If you cross the Venezuelan border illegally you will be branded a spy and your fate will be sealed.
If you cross the Mexican borders illegally you will jailed for two years.
If you cross the Cuban border illegally you will be thrown into political prison to rot.
If you cross the United States border illegally you get:
1 – A job
2 – A driver’s license
3 – A Social Security card
4 – Welfare
5 – Food stamps
6 – Credit cards
7 – Subsidized rent or a loan to buy a house
8 – Free education
9 – Free health care
10 – A lobbyist in Washington
11 – Billions of dollars in public documents printed in your language
12 – Millions of servicemen and women who are willing to – and do – die for your right to the ways and means of our @#$%—-ution
13 – And the right to carry the flag of your country – the one you walked out on – while you call America racist and protest that you don’t get enough respect.

Regardless of what they feel about immigrants, I have no doubt in my mind that the future and the greatness of this country lie heavily on the shoulders of millions of immigrants who believe in the dream and ideal of the founding fathers of the nations and continue to lead the nation in the world. Without them, to the valley and a steep downhill this country will dash into like a flash.

The BP Oil Spill and An Example of Inefficiency at Work

The April 20, 2010 Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill, the deep-water horizon spill reminds me of a similar incident of inefficiency and frustration at work.

I was not able to login to a portal for a long time and I don’t really care to go there if I can help. On May 6, my colleague asked about a dictation from it, so I tried and failed again, using my old login info. So I emailed the customer service which is provided on the site, expecting a quick fix. I would not waste any minute if there was no quick fix. The site person got back to me immediately, which meant the person on the other end was not crazily busy. I was told to contact the IT support person who “handles all of the user admin for your clinics, you will need to fill out a heat ticket and she should be able to resolve the problem.” Forget it. I have a lot more better things to do than dragging myself through this hell of trouble. I would rather taking care of my own agenda than anything like this.

I am too familiar with the procedure of getting any IT job done. We are supposed to contact the manager who would fill out and send a heat ticket to the IT people. If the manager is not available or busy at the time, the process will take a few days and it really discourages people to go through. Last time I had login problem with my pc and had to borrow other’s pc for a week waiting for any solution, spending more time wandering around, decreasing productivity and wasting time. When I asked my colleague why it got to be this way, I was told that this was the only way the company can keep track of productivity of IT people, with the consequence of lowing productivity of those people whom IT is supposed to serve. Sometimes, you have to go through some detours to get a simple task done, even if the direct and fast lane is available.

Imagine what it would be like if such practice prevails in most of companies here in U.S. This fully explains why it takes forever to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I can understand perfectly why people are frustrated with Obama administration, that is, with his slowness in response to the crisis and his failure to see the urgency of getting the disaster under control. Why can’t Obama issue an ultimatum, asking BP to keep spill under control within a deadline? Failure to meet the deadline will grant the U.S. the right to do whatever is needed to get the job done. I can’t believe the supposedly most powerful country in the world, with the most advanced technology and the money to get the brightest heads in the world, cannot even stop the environmental disaster in a matter of a day or two. I think it more a matter of inefficiency than inability. The highest level of inefficiency!

Global Nuclear Abolitionists Protest in New York

My heart jumped up with excitement when I saw this picture. I can’t believe it happened in America, that someone in New York shares my peace-loving sentiment. It happened yesterday, the day after International Labour Day. Folks in war-torn countries, hang on there. There is hope after all.

A Test of Power Between A Declining Father and its Fostered Son

Not long ago, Obama snubbed China by meeting Dala Lama. Today, we see the same thing happens when Israel announces building of more settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, directly confronting the U.S. VP Joe. Now, the “affront” and “insult” come back to Obama.

The Jews have built more than 100 settlements since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967, all of which are considered illegal under international law and have continued up to now, mostly because the Jews have the backup of number one superpower in the world. The alliance, of course, has angered most of an otherwise powerless un-Jews and spread bad feelings against both the U.S. and the Jews.

Now the U.S. wants to be friend among the Arabs and to play the role of peace-maker. But the monster it has fostered refuses to abide and rejects any attempt to curb its expansion.

While China has a few cards to play when Obama ignored her protests, it is almost interesting to see what U.S. can do if its fostered son goes ahead with his decision to build 1,600 new homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

P.S. today we learn of Palestinians riot in East Jerusalem, so much for the peace-loving Uncle Sam and his rebellious son.

You Reap What You Sow from Iraq to Iran

The US invasion of Iraq always reminds me of someone who takes action brainlessly and impulsively without ever thinking of the consequence. When US first bombed Iraq, it felt so safe and so good, like a six-grader slaps the face of a first-grader in primary school. The U.S. was certain that it could do whatever it pleased on the land of Iraq because there was no threat of nuclear weapon or something like weapon of mass destruction in Iraq.

It does not care how other nations perceive it. However, if anything, the US invasion of Iraq woke up everybody around and sent a clear message to them that they got to arm up to the teeth with something that the U.S. is afraid of. Otherwise, they will end up like Iraq, if they happen to have rich oil deposit.

This is what Iran is doing at the moment and much more, its challenge has not been met so far. The U.S. only powerlessly recognizes the coming of a “military dictatorship.”

A person is very much like a nation. If he does not think about the percussion of his action, he will eventually end up like the U.S. today, ensnared in two wars and threatened by Iran. As with everything, always remember you reap what you sow. Nothing comes from nothing.

A Bull Stampeding in a China Shop

After all, Obama is the man who has made history as the first black in white house. That’s all he has achieved so far and I am afraid that’s all he will be remembered. Too bad nothing more than this. He was smart and could talk smart to mobilize a majority of voters for his political gain.

You would think Obama was like President Lincoln, being a calculating lawyer at heart and a pragmatic politician like Nixon and would go down history like Lincoln. Wrong. Now he is more like a bull stampeding in a China shop, first $6.4 billion military sell to Taiwan, then offers to meet Dalai Lama. This equals to nothing less than open defiance to any decent dignity that Chinese nationals demonstrate. I can’t see any practical purpose of seeing Lama.

Why does he do it? After a year of white house life, Obama must be frustrated for not having accomplished anything big, from the two costly wars to economic stimulation to healthcare. He must feel like a big wimpy loser and be extremely desperate to show his masculinity by provoking China. Oh boy, he just doesn’t care hurting Chinese! By so doing, he is losing the hearts of billion of Chinese, who used to see him favorably.

How stupid can Obama be when he expects China to finance his 3.8 trillion budget proposal and when he looks to China to help with US economy recovery? His uncommon-sense way of asking for help! If China goes ahead with sanctioning Boeing, that means more job loss in US and a political suicide for Obama. Even if he does not intend to run for second term, he does not need to behave so brainlessly and irrationally.

Over-praise or Over-criticism: Parent’s Distortion of Fact

I have been fortunate to know some parents who either unduly over-praise or over-criticize their youngsters. I know of one parent who keeps saying her child is the best even if the fact points to the opposite. On the other hand, another parent always find faults with her children even if they are far better than the average. The over-critical parents must have an extremely high standard for their children, which is equally damaging to the children.

It seems a big challenge for parents to be realistic and objective about their children, as it is a rather emotionally charged topic and as with any emotional topics, people tend to get unreasonable and very subjective.

Every time I hear parents bragging out of proportion about their children, I ask myself, “What is it for? Is it for parents’ vanity or what? Is it to prove that they have been successful as the parents?” When parents deliberately ignore the stark fact, there are always some unspeakable reason behind their minds.

It would help tremendously if we understand perception influences and often becomes reality. Until we can get closer to reality and confront with the unpleasant truth, we cannot expect to initiate any change for the better.

Christmas Giving to Those In Need

Our clinic asked everybody to make donations to sponsor a family in need. This family hands us a list of what they want for Christmas. The list includes Jeans, Any new release DVD’s, Revlon new completion #2 makeup, any kind of kid movie on DVD, Axe for men, board games, Wal-mart, Best buy or Game Exchange gift cards, any kind of musical DVD, remote control car, Action figures, Transformers, Bi-onicals, … I become so impatient going their list.

I am not going to donate anything. Here’s why:
(1) I never did Christmas shopping for my children and never encouraged them to get anything for nothing, as if there were a real Santa burning money for all the kids in the world. Why should I deviate from my normal practice this time?

(2) As far as I can see, they can live very well without these stuff. That is, they don’t really need any of them and they just want something extra. I will take care of the need first and wait till I deserve it to indulge the want. They can do the same.

(3) I never bought anything that I cannot afford, other than the house. I wait till I have enough for the purchase. Why can’t they wait till they have enough? Nobody’s life is easy.

I have made clear my position on Christmas shopping. Yes, I am firmly against this wasteful practice of shopping spree, commercialization of a religious holiday, as if it were Jesus’ wish for everybody to buy and spend in celebration of his birthday.

Even more stupid is the saying “shop till you drop.” Indeed, shop till the nation drops. How ridiculous can we be? Watching Christmas shoppers often reminds me of the statement that the average intelligent level of the nation is that of a six-grader. No wonder I become impatient so easily among six-graders!

P.S. Before posting this, my daughter read the draft and asked me “Did you email it to your co-workers?” No, not that I am afraid of anything but that I don’t care sharing any of my thoughts with those around me. Here’s one funny thing at my office, some of my co-workers always do the writing on my behalf when writing is needed. Because they know my English writing is pitifully incompetent. Bless their hearts.

Holiday Season and Shopping in Material-Oriented Culture

Yesterday, two monitors showed up at the same time because of a scheduling error. Since we only have one room for monitor and cannot put monitors from two companies in the same room, I placed one in my office, which turned out fine. That is, both got what they wanted and left happily. The one in my office was so happy that she took us to lunch at Cheese-cake factory.

Every time the topic moved into shopping, I found myself very much out of it. As I was sitting there and looked around, people all looked well-fed and clothed and in need of nothing. Yet, as holiday season is approaching, people at my office are still so enthusiastic about shopping, flipping through ads at break room and trying to find some good deals.

I told my daughter, not the first time though, Christmas shopping is not part of the tradition in our family. Holiday is the occasion for joy of family reunion, not a burden or excuse for spending and creating tons of holiday wastes. So was it before when they were small, so is it now, and so shall it be in the future. I remember so fondly how my daughter, almost 10 years ago, pitched in money at Salvation Army stands during holiday season. Every time she heard the bell, she stretched her arm and said, “Mom, money.”

No Vacation Nation — the Richest or Poorest?

On 10/22 posting, I mentioned from my previous reading that “Europeans work less and enjoy more vacation than Americans do.” Last weekend, I read an article, published in 2007, referring America as “No-Vacation Nation.” The article reviews a report on international vacation and holiday laws.

The big discovery is “the United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation or holidays. As a result, 1 in 4 U.S. workers do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays. The lack of paid vacation and paid holidays in the U.S. is particularly acute for lower-wage and part-time workers, and for employees of small businesses.”

What does it say about American culture, a culture of workaholics or what? Do we really work harder and longer but enjoy less than Europeans? Sounds like Americans are more like merry-go-around money-generated beings. So pathetic! At best for the poor only.

See the original article, “European Economic and Employment Policy Brief,” http://www.etui.org/research/Media/Files/EEEPB/2007/3-2007

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