Friday, March 23, 2012

Last Post on This Blog

Dear readers:

Thank you for having supported this blog.

Though I believe that the theme of "This Fading American Life" is going to continue to generate discussions and debates, I have concluded that I simple spend enough time and energy to sustain a meaningful dialogue on this platform.  There are many engaging websites and blogs devoting to the landscapes of the U.S. and I hope you will continue to pay attention to this important issues - not just despair but work to change for a better future.

I will continue to write on my other blog: Matthew Felix Sun - Art · 文化 · Kunst - a website dedicated to art scenes, including my own works and announcements.

You may also find the portal to my blogs via my website:

Again, thank you and best wishes,

Matthew Felix Sun

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vetoes at U.N. Security Council

The Chinese and Russian's double vetoes at U.N.'s Security Councilover Syria resolution have rightly generated great indignation and anger around the world and China was forced to put forth some sort of defense over its action.

It claims, through the Chinese Communist Party's main newspapers - the People's Daily and the Global Times.  They claimed that China (The People's Republic of China) had always been very careful over exercising veto right and had so far only vetoed eight times (excluding the one vetoed in 1955 by the Republic of China over new U.N. membership for Mongolia).

Above chart showed the eight vetoes it exercised (from Global Times).  The People's Daily gave a detailed account of those eight vetoes.

The People's Daily openly admitted that their vetoes in 1997 over Central- and South-Americas peace efforts, 1999 over Macedonia's situation, 2008 over Africa's peace and safety (Zimbabwe) were due to those countries/regions' diplomatic relationships they maintained with Taiwan (or The Republic of China) and the vetoes were the paybacks.

In 2007, China vetoed effort to solve Burma's situation and in 2011 and 2012, China twice vetoed efforts to stop killing of civilians in Syria.


It is obvious that China has behaved very selfishly time to time, either to revenge/blackmail over its own interest, of to protect their geopolitical friends or allies.

However, condemning such behavior should not stop with China and Russia.

The United States of America has vetoed many times, particularly over resolutions to censure its chief ally in the Mideast - Israel.  Over and over, it made excuses not to pass resolution to demand Israel to stop building illegal settlement housing in the disputed land. 

All members entrusted with the supreme power to veto at the U.N.'s Security Council ought to behave absolutely responsibly.  Failing that, each such irresponsible vetoes ought to be condemned.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Very Caring Mitt Romney

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was caught saying that he "wasn't concerned about the very poor" because there is a safety net in place for them.

During an interview with CNN, he said that "I'm not concerned about the very poor - we have a safety net there," then, added that "if it needs repair, I'll fix it."

The safety net bit definitely made Romney less a stone-hearted uncaring person as otherwise.  However, his confidence on the safety net is purely self-serving.

First, our social safety net has broken for a very long time and his fellow Republicans are doing their utmost to dismantle whatever was left to serve the middle-class and poor, and the very poor.  Proof lies in how the ultra-conservatives lambasted Romney for admitting the usefulness of safety net.

Second, even during the time when the safety net was largely functional, it still failed to lift up the very poor people.  It did prevent them from dying from hunger en mass, but it did not help them to move up.  Social mobility had generally never included the very poor in this great country called the United States of America.

What Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans really want, is a fixed social structure, which would keep the poor in their places, which would keep them remain very poor.  The very poor have little chance to become middle class in this country, and despite being squeezed hard, the middle class are still decidedly far better off then the very poor.

Mitt Romney cares for the poor very much.  He would hate to see them die, but he would not lift his Midas finger to lift them up.

He would keep a window-dressing safety net and would not bother to sit down to mend it, because the net is broken and he has just forsworn whatever he had done as governor of Massachusetts, namely Healthcare Reform. 

To ask the super rich to care for the very poor, is like trying to borrow fur from a raging tiger.

This reminded me a story.  A beggar came to a super rich miser's house for alms.  The miser's son said that he would give him a little, in 200 years time.  The miser scolded his inexperienced son: "Why did you make any promise!"

The difference between Mitt Romney and the ultra-conservative is that Romney makes promises he either has no intention or/and is in no position to keep, while the ultra-conservative hate him for make a promise, however hollow.

Image source:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Culture as Entertainment

Before we are inundated with explosively huge amount of information (not necessarily knowledge), people sought out culture and knowledge with the zeal our contemporaries seeking out the thrill of watching Monday Night Football.  Reading "A Distant Mirror - The Calamitous 14th Century" by Barbara W. Tuchman, I encountered a paragraph describing how the Fiorentini (Florentines or Florentians) demanded lecture (entertainment as well, I suspect) from their government:
Contemporary writers rapidly found an audience.  In Dante's lifetime his verse was chanted by blacksmiths and mule-drivers; fifty years later in 1373 the growth of reading caused the Signoria of Florence, at the petition of citizens, to offer a year's course of public lectures on Dante's work for which the sum of 100 gold florins was raised to pay the lecturer, who was to speak every day except holy days.  The person appointed was Boccaccio, who had written the first biography of Dante and copied out the entire Divine Comedy himself as a gift for Petrarch
Image Source: Wikipedia [public domain image]
This is an amazing, heart-warming and also demoralizing episode in the human history.  Though we are far better positioned in seeking out knowledge and absorbing cultural advancement, we spurn them willfully, like children refusing to eat green vegetables and insisting on artificial sugary "food". 

For example, many people identify their colleges and their college life to the collegian sports, instead of academic environment and growth.  College sports system is a cynical self-reinforcing mechanism designed to condition young people to care for sports with zeal and gusto, and hopefully only for sports.

This won't change and this country is hopeless unless one day, our business and political leaders start to entertain their VIP guests in museums, concert halls and libraries instead of fancy boxes in sports arenas.

Alas.  I don't dare to hope.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Three Major Stories on Today's San Francisco Chroncle

If anyone still doubts why the greediness of corporations is killing the country, together with the capitalism they claim love so much, they only need to pay attention to the three major stories on today's San Francisco Chronicle.

Story 1: PG&E diverted safety money for profit, bonuses

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. diverted more than $100 million in gas safety and operations money collected from customers over a 15-year period and spent it for other purposes, including profit for stockholders and bonuses for executives, according to a pair of state-ordered reports released Thursday.

An independent audit and a staff report issued by the California Public Utilities Commission depicted a poorly led company well-heeled in its gas operations and more concerned with profit than safety.

The documents link a deficient PG&E safety culture - with its "focus on financial performance" - to the pipeline explosion in San Bruno on Sept. 9, 2010, that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

The "low priority" the company gave to pipeline safety during the three years leading up to the San Bruno blast was "well outside industry practice - even during times of corporate austerity programs," said the audit by Overland Consulting of Leawood, Kan.

But PG&E wasn't hurting for cash, according to the audit. From 1999 to 2010, the company collected $430 million more from its gas-transmission and -storage operations than the revenue authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission, which sets the rates the company can charge its customers.

"PG&E chose to use the surplus revenues for general corporate purposes" rather than improved gas safety, the Overland audit said.

Story 2: Bankrupt solar firm Solyndra eyes employee bonuses
A California solar panel manufacturer that received a half-billion dollar loan from the federal government before declaring bankruptcy is asking a Delaware judge to approve up to $500,000 in employee bonuses.
A hearing on the request by Solyndra LLC of Fremont, Calif., is set later this month.

Solyndra says the performance-based incentives will help it retain key employees whose work is critical to a successful reorganization and sale of the company's assets.

The bonuses would be for up to nine equipment engineers, up to six general business and finance employees, up to four facilities workers and up to two information technology workers.

The bonuses would range from 8 percent to 38 percent of a worker's base pay. The employees in question make between $72,000 and $206,000 a year.

And then we see from next story what the overseers of our economy were capable of:
Story 3:

Fed missed danger signs on eve of recession
As the housing bubble entered its waning hours in 2006, top Federal Reserve officials marveled at the desperate antics of home builders seeking to lure buyers.

But the officials, meeting every six weeks to discuss the health of the nation's economy, gave little credence to the possibility that the faltering housing market would weigh on the broader economy, according to transcripts the Fed released Thursday. Instead, they continued to tell each other throughout 2006 that the greatest danger was inflation - the possibility that the economy would grow too fast.

"We think the fundamentals of the expansion going forward still look good," Timothy Geithner, then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, told his open market committee colleagues when they gathered in Washington in December 2006.

Some officials, including Fed Governor Susan Bies, suggested that a housing downturn actually could boost the economy by redirecting money to other kinds of investments.

A black Friday special?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Social Order Fixation

The familiarity with a specific social order - in regardless if you like such order or not - can create some comfort, knowing that you have the confidence to navigate the life's intricate paths.  The change of a fixed social order can be uncomfortable or downright terrifying.

Reading "A Distant Mirror - The Calamitous 14th Century" by Barbara W. Tuchman, I encountered a couple paragraphs describing changes of fixed social orders:
Survivors of the plague, finding themselves neither destroyed nor improved, could discover no Divine purpose in the pain they had suffered. God's purposes were usually mysterious, but this scourge had been too terrible to be accepted without questioning.  If a disaster of such magnitude, the most lethal ever known, was a mere wanton act of God or perhaps not God's work at all, then the absolutes of a fixed order were loosed from their moorings.  Minds that opened to admit these questions could never again be shut.  Once people envisioned the possibility of change in a fixed order, the end of an age of submission came in sight; the turn to individual conscience lay ahead.  To that extent the Black Death may have been the unrecognized beginning of modern man.

Meantime it left apprehension, tension, and gloom.It accelerated the commutation of labor services on the land and in so doing unfastened old ties.  It deepened antagonism between rich and poor and raised the level of human hostility.  An event of great agony is bearable only in the belief that it will bring about a better world.  When it does not, as in the aftermath of another vast calamity in 1914-18, disillusion is deep and moves on to self-doubt and self-disgust.  In creating a climate for pessimism, the Black Death was the equivalent of the First World War, although it took fifty years for the psychological effects to develop.
This description of the Black Death havoc in the 14th century, reminded me another round of human sufferings of late - the economic meltdown due to irresponsible gambling of super-rich and well-connected bankers in Wall Street and other countries.  Naturally, the current human suffering did not reach the level of that brought upon by the Black Death, or even WWI.  However, what happened in this round of misery did threaten to upset a social order which had been in fixation for at least last sixty years - capitalism.

The great financial meltdown of late exposed the falsehood of the promise that our society was a perfect world for people to move up (and presumably but not talked about, down) the social and economical ladders.  Awaken from the great dream, people realized the insurmountable gap between the rich and the poor and finally, are making demands through movements like Occupy Wall Street.  The movement appears confusing and messy and threatens to disrupt the familiar routines and someone, including those would benefit greatly from such pushing back, voice their doubts and displeasure, lending voices to those who opposed the movement because they are the target of the outrage.

A change of social order is scary to say the least.  Sometimes, even the victims of badly constructed society mourn its demise - just remember how those poor North Korean mourned their despotic leader Kim Jong-Il.

I am afraid that human beings are born to suffer.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Students vs. Regents of University of California

The University of California's governing Regents' meeting this Monday was interrupted by protesting students against ever rising tuition and fees. 

The reported that 
Hundreds of students and faculty members chanted and shouted so loudly at a number of UC Board of Regents meetings Monday that the university officials had to move to different rooms to take up their business, including voting to ask the state for millions of dollars in new funding.

UC Berkeley social policy graduate student Megan Wachspress, 27, said the regents are part of the problem.
"We need to find a new way to pick regents," she said at the Mission Bay campus. "So many of them have conflicts of interest. They're on the boards of corporations. They belong to groups that oppose tax increases, and they keep raising the pay for top administrators."

Lawmakers have cut hundreds of millions of dollars from UC's state allocation over the past few years, including $650 million this year alone. Another $100 million could be cut this winter if state revenues fall short as expected.
At the same time, the regents have raised tuition and fees annually since 2006, when they totaled $8,323. Tuition and fees this year amount to $13,218.

UC President Mark Yudof said afterward in San Francisco that he sympathized with the protesters' plight.

"I wish they wouldn't interrupt a public meeting," he said, but added "the students have taken it on the chin for the past decade ... I definitely understand the students' position."

However, he and several regents said - reiterating what they have said before - students should direct their efforts to restore funding to higher education at state leadership in Sacramento rather than at UC's administrators.

It is understandable that UC's administrators were just as frustrated and upset as the student when the State has failed them repeatedly.

However, UC Regent's plea for the students to protest at the door step of the state legislators instead of their schools sounded rather like shrugging their collective shoulders.

The students live and study around their campuses and they should have the right to speak out and protest in their home turf.  It was the Regents who imposed the fee and tuition hikes, and they have the right to protest against the Regents.

In turn, if the Regents feel the urgency and the pain the students are suffering from, they ought to camping out in Sacramento themselves, and demand tax increase from the super rich, the rich and even the middle class to support our once great educational systems in California.  Our Regents ought to occupy Sacramento themselves.

Perhaps, Wachspress hit the nail on the head.  If our Regents could or would not fight to solve the problems, then they are part of the problems.  Then they ought to be replaced.

November 11, 2011 - Protest at Cal _ 7964