Monday, September 3, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians is a Must See, Especially for Asian Americans

    Crazy Rich Asians is a delightful romantic comedy that involves the particular struggles of culture clash between westernized (Asian-Americans) and traditional Chinese cultures.  It is about the new Westernized generation trying to live up to family expectations while also being able to fall in love (can't be done!).

    This is not exactly a new plot.  In fact, a guy named Shakespeare actually wrote the pilot in Romeo and Juliet. However, to my knowledge he never wrote a play that involved Asian peoples.

     In this case, Rachel Chu is a successful young university, and the boy is a rich kid. Nick Young is the oldest son of a Chinese family in Singapore, and thus he is expected to operate the family business which in this case is a Trumpian sized business empire.  They decide to attend a wedding in Singapore, where Rachel must now contend with jealous socialites, goofy Chinese relatives and especially Nick's mother.  Let me tell you something about Asian mothers. When it comes time for their sons to get married, there is NO ONE good enough to marry them.  This is especially true if they are rich.

   My family is mixed Asian-American and so we definitely had to see this movie, all four of us. We're not crazy rich Asians, but two out of three ain't bad.  By blood, we're Korean-Chinese-Swiss-Indian, by nationality we can throw in Malaysian, Japanese, German and French.  So boy, do we know culture clash around here.  Anyway the movie made us laugh and identify with the characters, and probably it would work for non-Asians as well.  It did get a little tedious for me in the middle because the couple has to go to a wedding, they spend a lot of time worrying about protocols and shopping for dresses and that sort of thing.  I'm not big into shopping so that wasn't really interesting to me.  
     In addition, I was expecting the movie to be more slapstick.  It's funny, but treads a bit more carefully around the sensitive issues of culture, rather than going for the overtly funny belly laugh.  I'm not going to offer a spoiler from the movie, but I will share a real incident from my own family that can give you an idea of what can really happen in a cross-cultural family.  
     When my daughter was about 8 she wanted to get her ears pierced. By American standards that is quite normal.  But, I KNEW, absolutely KNEW that my Mom was going to lecture me that the Japanese Royal Family does not permit prospective princesses to be have their ears pierced. Sure enough, my daughter mentioned to Grandma that she wanted her ears pierced, and so I have to hear all about the rules of the Japanese Royal Family.  My answer was typically American, flawlessly logical (at least to me):  One, our family is from Korea, not the Japanese mainland, so no Japanese prince is ever going to come courting my daughter.  Two, America won World War 2, so the Japanese Royals are not our bosses, and we don't care what they think.   My compelling logic no doubt horrified my Mother, who feared that our dead ancestors would get excited by my lack of respect for Japanese Royalty.  I rather think those generations of Koreans would have stood up and applauded me, but that is a side issue.  
     My daughter's response was much more enlightened. Even though she was only eight, being a computer-savvy Asian kid, she got on the internet and found a picture of Princess Masako with pierced ears!  End of discussion, daughter wins, ears become pierced and peace returns to the Kennel family.  
      So, anyway, the Kennel family knows very well the crazy skirmishes between East and West. Similar battles need to be fought in Crazy Rich Asians.  Asian people might find the situations tense, like my mother did, but we Americans will just laugh. 
    If you're not Asian, there might be a few inside jokes that you won't get, but virtually all cultures will understand and identify  with the problems of the young generation trying to buck the traditional system.  


Sunday, July 15, 2018

So What About Tariffs?

   Listening to both Democrats and Republicans, it sounds very obvious that they believe that Americans do not need to pay taxes, and do not need tarriffs.  It seems to be the other party's fault that we have these unnecessary burdens.  The major parties seem to not believe that the budget deficit means anything at all.  Congresspeople are grinning from ear to ear as they have signed up for tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, despite that all of this "new money" is actually borrowed.  
      Economic voodoo worshipers talk hopefully about how the tax cut is going to spur the economy so much that economic growth is assured, so much so that it will pay for the tax cut.  "Deficits don't matter." 
    Well, they do matter. Did any of you people go to college? The last time we did this foolish experiment, we almost destroyed the global economy in 2008, and had to bail out the banks with hundreds of billions of dollars lost.  Are we going to do that again?  Apparently so.  And most of the money we have borrowed in order to give tax breaks to wealthy Americans will wind up in Swiss bank accounts when the next crash occurs. 

      Despite the obvious proof that economic idiocy has the upper hand right now, I believe there is a nagging doubt in some parts of the government whether this is really a good idea.  The  Congressional Budget Office predicts a deficit of over one trillion dollars per year by 2020.  The deficit was $587 Million, in 2016 and projected to $833 this year and over a trillion dollars by 2020.  At some point, the global economy will lose confidence in the value of T-bills, and the economy will implode as it did in 2008.  Sane economists (a minority to be sure) realize this is terrible.  
        To decrease the deficit, there are only two real options:  either cut spending or increase revenues, both of which are painful. Congress is politically unable to cut spending.  What do you expect from a group that spends 6 trillion dollars on chaos and death in the Middle East and refers to it as "our investment?"   Nobody cares about an economic collapse, as long as it can be successfully blamed on the other side.
     Increasing revenues can take only two forms:  higher taxes  or tarriffs.  If any politician proposes to raise either one, the other side will scream about the disadvantages and ignore the basic function of restoring some balance to the deficit.  

     Raise taxes on the poor?  Can't do that, say the liberals, the poor will suffer.
     Raise them on the rich?  Can't do that, say the conservatives, the rich are job creators.  
     How about raising the Federal Excise Tax on gasoline?  Can't do that, it will hurt the transportation sector.
     Well how about tariffs?  This likewise brings a chorus of boos from both sides.  Nobody is concerned about an economic collapse yet, only the immediate effects on industry.  I have a friend that wa rather high up in the aluminum industry before retiring, and he doubts whether the tariff will spur much investment in new smelters, though the existing one might work at full capacity 
     The point of a tariff is not to punish foreign industries, it's to raise money to pay for the very real goods and services that the Federal Government provides (plus the stupid things like Middle Eastern wars, that are nevertheless considered essential). Really it isn't going to affect the demand for steel and aluminum very much, because industry will not build new plants based on the expectation of government support for prices.  I don't think it is a trade war, it's mainly  a way to cut our deficit by 5%.  Yes it's painful, but not nearly as painful as an economic depression.  The 2008 financial crisis is the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression of 1929. It occurred despite Federal Reserve and Treasury Department efforts to prevent it.  In 2008,  housing prices fell 31.8 percent and unemployment rose to above 9 percent.  This is partly because the US chose to hand out tax credits to a growing economy, and went from a balanced budget in 2000-2001 to the bloated and escalating deficit that we have today.   In 2009 and 2010 the government navigated out of the economic crisis, partly the the help of "stimulus" spending.  This is in accordance with Keynesian theory, that in a recession the government needs to spend more to get the economy moving.  This may not be possible if the deficit crisis worsens to the point that foreign lenders are no longer willing to lend America money.  
    The effect of the tariffs is to decrease the US ability to buy and consume cheap imported goods.  It also means that US industry is incentivized to pick up the slack, which might result in additional employment. That is not disastrous.  If you have to pay for the government somehow, it's not the worst thing you could do. 
      Make no mistake, tariffs are not a tool for job creation or punishing foreign countries.  It's simply a way to pay for our government spending.  This is a time when we should be paying down the debt, rather than borrowing more money to give to wealthy Americans. 
         I think it was a sorry mistake to give tax cuts to rich people who don't need them. This is just a down payment on a future economic disaster.  Likewise it is a sorry mistake to continue pouring money down the Middle Eastern rathole, based on the mistaken belief that America is winning great friends by doing so.  

       If we are headed to a trillion dollar per year annual deficit, I don't see how to argue against an effort to try to stem the deluge with 50 billion dollars of new revenue. I would like to see something that gets phased in gradually rather than creating an abrupt change in the global economy.  But the tariffs do not go far enough in my opinion--too little too late--and moreover our lawmakers lack the wisdom to make even the most obvious of funding cuts. That is just not going to happen.  
  I think the critics should cool their jets about tariffs and instead focus on the trillion dollar deficit. 


The Master Plan of American politicians is to get re-elected before the economic deluge hits, and then try to blame it on the other party.  

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Hello, Pump air into the Thailand Cave and the Water May Recede

I don't know who to tell, but it seems to me that if you bring an air hose into the Thailand Cave, you've got a great chance to pressurize the cave, and by so doing you will force the water to recede. 

Because the people are short on oxygen, it implies that the supply of air is limited.  A person consumes about 100 cubic feet per day of air (or more precisely, the 20% oxygen in the air).  The fact that they are depleting the oxygen suggests that there may be limited  volume with poor ventilation.  If so, it also means you can fill it with air and the leak rate may be considerably smaller than what a decent pump can provide.  

You  may not be able to just pump water out of the cave, because that lowers the pressure and causes more water to flow in to take its place. 

The water level has risen to flood passages into the enclosed volume where the soccer team is trapped.

So, is it possible to connect sections of hose from the surface to where the team is?  Then you need a compressor to deliver maybe 20 cfm to the cave.  If the cave is pressurized with air, the water will recede.  If you pressurize with 4 psi, it will recede 10 feet. 8 psi will cause it to recede 20 feet.  How low do you need the water to be in order to walk out of the passages? 
If you could pump 20 cfm of air into the cave, the air would push out the water.

If the cave leaks too much and won't hold pressure, can you spray the walls with polyurethane foam to plug them up?  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Does the Constitution Really Grant the President the Power to Torture Illegal Immigrants?

    Maybe some of my friends who know more about American Law can straighten me out, but I have a great deal of difficulty believing that the Constitution gives the American President the authority to commit child abuse.
         How can the President impose such a tough sentence on children as to take them away from their parents without at least putting the children on trial?
     It would be one thing if it could be argued that there was no choice, and that the children must be separated in order to put the parents on trial for a misdemeanor attempt to enter the country illegally.   
       I tend to buy Alan Dershowicz's argument that the President can't be put in jail for breaking the law, and if he does break the law, he can issue a pardon for himself.  So good luck to those who think they can catch the President on a technical infraction--say, campaign finance or sending classified information in email or Tweet.  You're not going to put him in jail in 2025 when his term is up.  Or if you can do that, then every single President from now on is going straight to jail after their term is up. 
     But, what the Constitution does provide is a way for Congress to act when they see that the President is acting illegally.  They may remove him from office.  The Impeachment process, as best I understand it is not a legal trial that generates a conviction and jail sentence. But it does take him out of office.    
      So you could argue that the separation of parents and children is an administrative procedure to allow the parents to stand trial.   But it is also a legally administered punishment, and probably the worst thing you could do to a small child, to take a child away from the parents and give the child to someone else.  This is the cruelest form of child abuse I could ever imagine, and it is very hard for me to understand how it is not a punishment, particularly if it is demonstrably avoidable.  The President has used his power to increase the number and the severity of these punishments, it's an action he committed.  It didn't just happen.
      Ok, legal scholars, help me here.  Does the President have the legal right to torture anyone he wants, including babies and small children?  And he can take away children or parents without trial?  Or is it okay because they are not citizens?   Or maybe it's okay if it is considered an "administrative procedure" rather than punishment?  If this isn't cruel and unusual punishment, without trial, then what it is it?    
        Or has the President has wrongfully and flagrantly exceeded his legal authority  systematically seeking to break up the family units of illegal immigrants?  .  This is so horrific, is a minor apology and corrective Executive Order enough? I don't believe he can be sent to jail, but should Congress exercise their power to review the President's a actions and force him to GO?   Or if they do not, is it because they lack the Constitutional authority?  Or merely the heart?  

Friday, June 8, 2018

Sports Protesters, You're Making Yourselves Look Foolish.

Dear Sports Protestors,
   This letter is written first of all because you are acting like a bunch of ignorant jocks. You are not accomplishing anything positive by foolish actions such as boycotting invitations to the White House, plus disrespecting the National Anthem or the American flag.  I don't care if you don't like President Trump. I don't much care for him either.  However, the actions you are contemplating are not about a single person, they are about the whole of the United States of America.  You will not win anything by taking on the entire United States of America.  
    Donald Trump did not create the National Anthem.  There was a National Anthem before he was born and it will continue well after he is gone.  Donald Trump is not the American flag.  He is not even the White House  He is only the current occupant, and there will be others when he leaves. This whole business of deciding whether we are Democrat or Republican before we honor (or not) the National Anthem based on who is in the Oval Office is repulsively ignorant.  
     I served the United States of America as an Air Force officer under a Democrat (Jimmy Carter) and two Republicans (Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush).  I did not ask my superior officer to state their political party before deciding to salute him or her.  I was taught to salute out of respect for the country I chose to serve, not as an endorsement of the officer's political beliefs or persuasion.  It is respect for a COUNTRY not an INDIVIDUAL.  They are not the same thing.
     You seem to have forgotten that the United States of America, it's Constitution and its flag transcend the people who are working for it at any particular moment. That's the whole point.  It's the NATIONAL anthem not the TRUMP anthem or the OBAMA anthem. The WHITE HOUSE belongs to the AMERICAN PEOPLE, not to the President.  Maybe if you had studied harder in school you would understand the underlying philosophy behind our government. 
        Look it's a free country.  If you want to burn our flag and cuss us out, that's fine and I support your right to do it and in fact I was ready to lay my life on the line to make sure you would be free from federal prosecution. That's what freedom means.  It means the Federal Government will not seek to apply legal punishment for your actions.  It does not mean that everyone has to like you, or continue to pay your salary, or that people won't call you ignorant.  In fact, I just did.
     Truth to tell, President Trump has faked you out like LeBron James fakes out a rookie guard.  You are not disrespecting the President by boycotting the White House, the National Anthem or the flag.  You are disrespecting US, all of America that owns these national institutions. Moreover, this particular President actually likes it if you help him to promote the idea that the flag and to the National Anthem are part of his brand identity.  Your unhappiness doesn't bother him one little bit.  Really, you accomplish the opposite of what you intend.  What you are doing is the best possible thing for the President's popularity.  You are making it the Trump Anthem, the Trump Flag and the Trump House.  Stop it.  
      Look, when Osama Bin Ladin blew up the World Trade Center, it was not a Republican building that he blew up.  It was OURS. The affiliation of the sitting President doesn't matter. Ever so much more so, it's the AMERICAN flag, not the REPUBLICAN flag or the DEMOCRATIC flag.  We don't salute it in a Democratic administration and burn it during a Republican one.  It's US, not just half of us, and certainly not one person.  So if you decide you want to protest one person or a group of peole by disrespecting the flag--by disrepecting the entire country--people will be upset with you even if they support the cause you seek to draw attention to.  It's not just your intentions, it's the way that you are choosing to advocate your cause.  Anyway I'm not sure I even know what your cause is, other than you like being on TV.   
    Years ago, Muhammad Ali used to regularly fight lousy fighters, which served to keep him in shape and to look good. They called those untalented fighters the "Bum of the Month" club.  Well, that's what the misfiring protester-athletes are.  You are the "Bum of the Month" making the President look good by beating your brains out.  You don't know what you're doing, and mainly you are making yourselves look foolish and you're giving more power to President Trump. 

The President DOES NOT CARE if professional athletes wish to boycott, take a knee during the National Anthem or some other action. This is a fight he can easily win, and the sports figures look foolish, and President Trump becomes more powerful. 


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sports Betting Legalized? Well, Non-Illegalized, actually.

from Jeff Darcy,  Nailed it! 

         The Supreme Court ruled that sports betting is legal.  Or to be more precise, it is not up to the Federal government to prevent states from having it if they want. 
    There are different ways to look at it.  In general I'm personally against gambling, because I think it is proven that a certain percentage of people can get addicted to it. But the issue of whether or not you or I favor sports gambling is not the same issue as who should decide the policy.
    There are a lot of activities and products that you or I may not like but others might hold the opposite value. I'm not crazy about drugs, alcohol, motorcycles without helmets, cars without seatbelts, junk food, guns, and any number of unhealthy products and behaviors.  But in a free society if a majority or even sizeable minority really want to use these things, having been apprised of the downside, I don't think it should be the role of the Federal government to pass laws that are against the will of the people.  In the case of sports betting millions of Americans play fantasy sports or have an office pool on the Super Bowl and March madness.  So, are we going to put 100 million people in jail for these transgressions?  I don't think so. 
     Moreover, in many cases, the Constitution of the United States stipulates what things are going to be done by the President, what things are done by the Legislature and what things are left for individual states to form a policy for.  On any one issue, it is possible that, say, the US Senate and House might provide a bill that agrees with yours or my opinion.  But that doesn't mean that the Senate and House should be granted  the right to regulate it for all time.    
      Many forms of sports betting are currently legal in Nevada, because the Federal government passed special laws to that effect.   Well, okay, that's nice I suppose.  But now they have something they can hold over the Nevada legislators. Perhaps some future Senate Majority might demand,  "You either vote for my issue, or I'm taking away Federal permission for gambling in Nevada."   No doubt this threat has already been used in the past, to some degree or another.   Are we okay with that?  Or is that giving too much power to the Federal government?         One of the strengths of the American government  is that it has many checks and balances that prevent any one person from getting too powerful.  In recent years, however, the trend has been to give more power to the Federal Government, and especially to the President. The party in power seems to figure, "Who needs checks and balances?  Just give the power over to the Senate and House, or better yet, to the President."   
     If you're on the political left and think that giving more peer to Congress and the President is a great idea, Senator McConnell and President Trump are glad to have your support.   
       I would probably not want to have my state pass a flurry fo laws enabling expansion of the already problematic gambling industry in Ohio.  But overall it is probably better for each state to decide its own future.  I think there has to be some form of sports betting given the fact that so many Americans participate in it. 
       So, what are the odds of Pete Rose getting into the Hall of Fame?