Arizona Hearing: Wow!

Today we heard plenty of compelling testimony about the 2020 Election. These people have said that they realize they could go to jail if they lie and that they’d risk their life to tell the truth.

Will this be on the news tonight? Probably only on a few stations abroad, Newsmax, and OAN.

Municipal Buildings

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State Library Victoria, Australia

City Daily Photo’s March Theme is municipal buildings. I posted this on my Jinan photo blog, but here are some from around the world.

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New Shandong Art Museum

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Beijing

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Sydney, Convicts’ Barracks

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Sydney City Hall

 

On China

I follow a good blog on China called China Change. It’s a good source of information on Chinese government, particularly stories that don’t make the news. Here’s what I read this week. You can read the entire article by clicking here.

On June 6, Ms. Huang Wan (黄婉) received her “certificate of release from community correction” (解除社区矫正证明书) from the Justice Bureau of Chaoyang District in Beijing. From that day on, she was a free woman, and she had made plans to travel to the United States for a long-waited reunion with her aging parents.

“From December 1, 2013,” she wrote on her Twitter the same day. “I have been subject to two days of detention without due process, 319 days of residential surveillance at a designated place (指定地点监视居住), 590 days in a detention center, 10 days of release pending investigation (取保候审), and 1095 days of community correction, making a total of 2016 days that I have been without freedom.”

But on June 4, just two days before the release was to take effect, Huang received notice of a civil lawsuit — supposedly over a rental disagreement — in which she was one of the defendants. The court used this as grounds to file a request with the “relevant departments” to deny Huang permission to exit China. The request was approved immediately. Moreover, the court refused to give her a written notice of this restriction.

Free College?

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I appreciate how stratospheric tuition costs can make higher education out of reach, unless a student is willing to take on massive debt. I blame colleges for the most part. They’ve allowed costs to spiral. They’ve added well paid administrators and programs, (while cutting salaries and benefits) for teachers, more and more of whom work part time because there are few full time positions.

Many politicians are calling for free college. I was with Bernie Sanders when he first proposed this, but I’ve given the issue further thought. I’m now for an alternative — or a few alternatives.

First of all I realize that in the US education is managed more by each state than by the federal government, so I think each state should decide how to provide affordable college options to its citizens. I think the Federal government can come up with some programs, but each state should take responsibility for its own citizens’ education.

For years, students who served in the military through the their service or will serve through the ROTC, get free education. It isn’t free since they do have to work for their education and if they don’t fulfill this obligation, they must pay back the tuition and fees.

A friend of me funded his medical school through a program which required that after graduation, he work in either a rural community or an urban prison.

What I think we should do is to replicate this program through other agencies. A state could find areas where there’s a need for employees. Students could either work part time in a government office while in school or could complete a couple years of work to pay off the money the state has spent on their schooling.

I also believe that since 4 year colleges have gotten so expensive that state governments should offer these programs via 2 years at a community college and 2 at a university. Also, I’d require that the colleges make the most of online education and cut back on extras such as building fancy dorms or state-of-the-art fitness centers. The cutbacks would be done on a school by school basis.

Another option would be for students to work as they do at College of the Ozarks. College of the Ozarks doesn’t charge tuition. Students are required to work for the college, e.g. caring for the landscape, working in an office

I think making higher education something you earn, rather than get for free is a better option. When you’re in college, you’re old enough to work as many do through the private sector, but most of these jobs don’t pay enough to pay all your tuition.  If we made the most of the idea of Work/Study, students would graduate with experience and education. Our state governments services could improve. States could update their antiquated websites (like we have in Illinois). They could offer better customer service so lines wouldn’t take hours at the DMV or other offices people commonly use.

While this is a rough idea, I think the general premise is well worth developing.

Politics & Gerrymandering in Illinois

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The problem in Illinois is that Mike Madigan, the head honcho of the Illinois Assembly, has held power for 49 years. This evil mastermind figured out that the way to wield power forever and to make millions is to win elections in a state district. All he has to do is win a small state district and through his Machiavellian tactics he can control whoever we elect as governor. He can also probably control the mayor of the biggest city in the state. Moreover, he can see to it that his party dominates in congressional winners for Illinois.

By determining the congressional districts’ boundaries Madigan controls who wins in congressional. Take a look at District 4. This should be the image used in any dictionary defining Gerrymandering. The green area is the oddest designation of a district. The communities it covers are oddly situated so that no rational person would consider them a unit, but they insure that Madigan can get the winner he wants.

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Compare Illinois’ and Iowa’s congressional voting districts. Iowa’s makes sense to anyone. Illinois’ is an image that shouts corruption, a trait many of us are sick of.

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Gerrymandering isn’t Madigan’s only sin. He’s created rules of governing that give him as Speaker of the State House imperial power over what laws get voted on. It’s impossible for a law that isn’t approved by Madigan to even get a chance at getting passed. Furthermore, Madigan has complete control over which committees a representative can be on. There are no checks or balances in Illinois’ politics.

Yesterday the citizens of Illinois had a terrible choice for governor: either a billionaire who never held a job and was taped by the FBI as he trashed African Americans in conversation with an imprisoned ex-governor or the incumbent billionaire who couldn’t get a budget approved in two years and scoffed at his base with bills against their values. We elected the former, J.B. Pritzker who certainly has no character to win against Madigan, the real power of the state. It’s a pity that J.B. wanted the job, because his sister, who worked for the Obama Administration is probably truly qualified.

November

1419418Since I’m taking the MasterClass David Mamet teaches I thought I’d read some of his plays. This week I got his play November (2008) which is about an American president Charles Smith who’s up for re-election with no funds for campaigning. He’s been cut off by his party. He’s getting no help from his speech writer either. He has one person who’s still advising him, Archer.

Archer provides a reality check (if we can call information on the absurdity of how DC works reality) for the President. Smith would like to strong arm his opponents and betrayers as they cut off his funds or call in sick.

A main plotline here is the President’s traditional pardon of a turkey before Thanksgiving. According to the play, the turkey farmers’ association gives the president a stipend, a hefty stipend for the pardon. Now Smith strives to up the amount by threatening to have his speechwriter convince the public that it’s not PC to eat turkey.

The play moves quickly and has a robust humor, colored with profanity, as you’d expect from Mamet. The story is outlandish and now a bit dated because we’ve resolved some of the issues it tackles. I wouldn’t say this is a must read or that the play’s a must see. It does exemplify Mamet’s rules for writing, e.g. don’t bore the audience with exposition and start in medias res.

Blind Date

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Lucky for me my friend’s husband isn’t a theater lover. That’s how I got invited to see Blind Date at the Goodman Theater. Blind Date shows us how Ronald Reagan convinced Mikhail Gorbachev to attend a summit meeting to talk about the weapons race. My understanding of this page of history was foggy, but the performances brought clarity and interest. The play opens with a monologue by George Schultz, Reagan’s Secretary of State. Due to his education and experience in economics, Shultz was able to figure out how Russia would struggle and what the consequences would be. Thus he realized this was a key time to contact Gorbechev, Russia’s youngest General Secretary.

Next Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eduard Shevardnadze, shares his thinking with the audience before sharing cocktails with Shultz. (In their conversation, which begins awkwardly Shultz tells Shevardnadze about a cocktail called The Kangaroo, which most of us know as a vodka martini.

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We see a lot of negotiating and one step forward, one back action as the two governments and two men figure out whether they should meet and where. It’s quite a chess game and quite interesting. Both powerful men are married to driven women. Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev have some of the plays best scenes and lines. These women know their minds and masterfully can read situations.

The play has humor but adroitly manages not to canonize or lampoon Reagan. The playwright Rogelio Martinez was born in Cuba and lived there till he was 9 and came to the US. Hence Martinez is fascinated with the ideologies of democracy and communism and has written a series of plays about events like the ping pong competition between China and the US where communism and democracy intersected. It would be easy to make a play that bored or had the wrong tone, but with Blind Date Martinez entertains and enlightens. The play’s pace is good and I could see this show on Broadway. I could see watching this again, which I think is the ultimate goal of a good play.

Kudos to Director Robert Falls and all the performers. Bravo!

Alert

Right now China is having a huge government meeting which happens every five years. You may have heard on the news that Pres. Xi wants to raise himself up to the level of Mao or Deng Xiao Peng. He may not appoint a successor for 2022, which is the norm.

I just saw this alert on a listserv.

China just sent a warning to foreign students:

“To all international students – The 18th Congress will be held next week. Over these few weeks the immigration bureau will be strict when dealing with foreigners. The police will conduct checks in major cities, including Nanjing Take your ID (Passport and Student ID) at all times. Foreigners are prohibited from traveling to Beijing and Shanghai during this period. International students must obtain permission from their school and respective immigration bureau before traveling to these destinations. Foreigners are not allowed to organize or gather in large numbers during this period, and this applies to religious and social settings. Students who are working illegally should be extra cautious during this period. The immigration bureau will be conducting checks in each district. Any violation during this sensitive but important period for China will result in automatic deportation. The school will not be able to help.”

I think this is overkill and shows paranoia.