Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Close Encounters - I had an offsite meeting this afternoon so rather than dial-in, I decided to walk 15 minutes across town to the meeting on Market Street. On the way there and back, I encountered at least 40 different homeless people who make downtown San Francisco their home. In this most liberal of cities, there are an estimated 5,000 homeless people in the streets, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

About a third of the homeless were sleeping on the sidewalk in the middle of the day. In several cases, a stream of urine flowed from their makeshift beds--usually a piece of cardboard--down to the street. The dark piles of organic matter on the corner nearby are either poop, vomit or perhaps a mixture of both. Usually, the stench is so overpowering that I will walk into the street to avoid them. Another third were wheeling around shopping carts they had "borrowed" from the supermarket or the local drug store. They pile their possessions into the carts and roam around the streets, some of them stopping at trash cans to look for empty cans or bottles to return for deposit. A few of them had pet cats or dogs chained to their shopping carts. The last group of people can usually be found selling copies of "Street Sheet" (for 25 cents) or in one case, poetry (at $1 per copy).

It is difficult for me to feel sorry for these people. I believe that most of them are mentally ill, and probably alcoholics and/or drug addicts. An overwhelming percentage of them are male, and most of them are white or black. The only Asian one among them is a lunatic named Frank Chu who today was acting even stranger than he normally does. On Market Street, he was carrying the usual sign protesting Galactic impeachment, but this afternoon he was unusually aggressive towards passersby. When I passed him on the street, he was literally foaming at the mouth while screaming something unintelligible at a crowd of people. Many people were openly laughing at him as they walked by.

Sunday, April 28, 2002

The Baby Shower - The weekend's events were dominated by Jenny's baby shower. Jenny has been anxiously awaiting this day for weeks --only our wedding day was more important to her. We registered for more gifts than I think we really need, since all of my sisters and many of Jenny's friends have offered to provide us with enough hand-me-downs to take care of the Brady Bunch. I've tried not to complain too much as our house slowly fills up with more baby things than our closets and dressers can hold. I'll start complaining when Jenny asks me to buy a bigger house to hold all of the stuff that we've been accumulating.

On Friday night, we picked up Jenny's friend Karen from the airport. Karen came down from Seattle to co-host the baby shower along with friends Sharone and Alina. We had a late dinner in San Francisco at La Gondola, a very good Italian ristorante in the North Beach section of the city. I was in a carnivorous mood, so I had meat for both the Primo Piatto (Meat Tortellini) and Secondo (Lamb Chops). Finally, we all shared an amazing creamy yogurt-like cheese dessert that was awesome. This was probably the best meal I've had all year, so it rates three and half stars on my scale.

The baby shower was a smashing success and we have mostly Sharone to thank, since the event was held at her house. There were over twenty people in attendance, including Freddie (my second cameraman), Mera, Soli, two Wendys, two Karens and three Jennys. The shower gave me a great opportunity to practice using my new video camera. I caught virtually every person and event on tape. Only a few people were annoyed by the camera's presence, especially when I was zooming in on them as they were all on the floor doing yoga. Jenny was wearing her pink punjabi, which she thought made her look like a big pink balloon from the side. I'll have to check the tape before coming to that conclusion. I plan on putting together a 10-minute piece on the baby shower once I buy a new computer.

I spent most of the day unwinding from the shower by cleaning the house from top to bottom. Jenny spent most of the day admiring the baby clothes that we received as gifts the day before. It's sad that the weekend's over.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

The Story of Us - Recently, I bought a Sony Mini DV camera for the express purpose of filming a documentary about my parents. Over the next two years, I plan to interview both friends and relatives in telling their story--from their beginnings in China to their emigration to the United States in the 1960s. I'm very excited about the project. Not many Americans get the chance to document their family's arrival to the US.

I've wanted to do a documentary on their life story ever since I overheard the half-Chinese/half-White daughter of a family friend exclaim, "I'm not Chinese!", in the midst of a family dinner. It startled me to hear those words coming from someone whose grandparents were literally on the same boat from Taiwan to the US as my parents. I'm not opposed to Chinese marrying non-Chinese people, but I found it sad that many Chinese-Americans seem to have forgotten their roots so quickly. Sometimes, I wonder if our Chinese heritage will disappear into the melting pot, and if my grandchildren will even look like us.

Now that my parents are getting up there in age--my father is 77 and my mother is 68--I feel an urgency to getting their life stories on camera. It's a part of our heritage that I'd like to pass onto my children and all future generations of the family.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Yellow v. Board of Education – How do liberals define diversity in our public schools? The answer may surprise you.

Take a look at the student ratios (Percentage of Student Body by Race) at two Bay Area high schools below:

School A – 75:20:2:3
School B – 19:71:3:7

Both schools are among the highest rated public high schools in California, sending over 98% of their graduating classes to college. But that is where the similarity ends.

While School A is hailed as a “beacon of excellence and diversity” by its Superintendent and local Board of Education, School B has been described as being “racially balkanized” by local school authorities. Just what makes these schools so different that School B has instituted racial and ethnic quotas for its students while School A maintains the status quo?

The answer to this question becomes perfectly clear if you know composition of the student ratios listed for the two schools:

White: Asian: Black: Hispanic

Separated by only a 30 minute drive, predominantly-white Piedmont High School in Oakland (School A) and predominantly-Asian Lowell High School in San Francisco (School B) are worlds apart when it comes to the treatment of prospective students. While authorities at Piedmont High School admit all students whose parents are able to afford a nearby $1.5 million-dollar home, school chiefs at Lowell High School are determined to find excuses for refusing admission to Asian-American students who score higher on entrance exams than their non-Asian peers. In recent years, the San Francisco Unifed School District has applied everything from income tests to the infamous "One Drop Rule" --all in an effort to stem the rise of Asian-American enrollment in the public school system.

With their children as the primary victims of Affirmative Action in education, Asian-American parents in San Francisco are on the verge of open revolt against the local school authorities. They’re even considering forming their own school district. As we approach the anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, Asian-American students are still struggling to reach “separate but equal” standards declared unconstitutional nearly fifty years ago.

Why are the Bay Area liberals who control the public education monopolies continuing to hold Asian-American students to a higher standard than white students?

Monday, April 22, 2002

Kumbaya Watch II (Courtesy of Opinion Journal.com) - The Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald profiles one Richard Simmons:

Prior to his panhandling days, Simmons said, he served in Vietnam and spent many years in Germany before moving back to the states. He ended up at the Atlanta Union Mission in 1997, he said, because he was unable to find work. From there he spent nine months in The Potter's House, a Christian-based addiction recovery program in Jackson County. Simmons said he has no family and when he left The Potter's House, finding a job in Athens was difficult.

"I'm a veteran. I served my country, why can't they serve me?," Simmons said on a cold February night on the square. "When I came out they didn't give me a chance to do anything because they figured I was too old to do anything. The older you get around here, the less job chances you get. Try to get a job at 42."

Apparently it never occurs to the geniuses who run the Athens Banner-Herald that if Simmons is 42, he would have been 13 in 1973, when America withdrew from Vietnam.

Friday, April 19, 2002

Who's the Boss? - I've had it with my boss, Gary. He's already been treating me like shit lately, but today was the last straw. At a "fire drill" meeting with the marketing group, he interrupted me while I was patiently answering their technical questions. He cut me off in mid-sentence by saying, "Shut your mouth and don't speak unless I tell you to speak," and then proceeded to answer a question by parroting the information that I had drilled into his thick skull earlier that day.

Even the marketing people were taken aback by his words. I was fuming for the remainder of the meeting. Since Gary doesn't have a clue about our marketing database, virtually all of the questions were directed at me. Before answering their questions, I would turn to Gary and ask sarcastically, "Do I have your permission to answer the question?"

Whenever the idiot spoke, I would roll my eyes in my head or give him a look of utter contempt. Everyone could tell that I was seething underneath. Later, a few people came to me to offer condolences for having to work with such an prick.

At the end of the day, the asshole came to my desk and started barking orders at me. What made me blow my stack wasn't what he was asking me to do, but rather it was the demeaning manner in which he spoke to me. After I answered each of his requests with a simple "yes", he pretended that he didn't hear my responses and would repeat what he just said, only more slowly--as if I were one of the several learning-disabled staffers in his group.

That did the trick. I screamed back at him, "There's no need to repeat yourself--I'll finish all the crap you shovel at me."

Gary seemed initially startled by my words, but then recovered and asked me if I needed to get something off my chest.

"You're damned right I do. I'm pissed at you, and you know very well the reasons why," I said.

Vinod, who happen to be standing between us, was shaken by the exchange and seemed embarassed to be there. He turned his back on both of us.

Sensing that I was about to rip out his throat, Gary asked insincerely if we could meet in his office. I turned down his offer with a flat "no" and informed him that his data request would be on his desk the first thing on Monday morning. I turned my back at him, and that was the end of our conversation.

On Monday, I'll be looking to hear back from the Private Client Services (PCS) group that interviewed me two weeks ago, and I will call another group that expressed interest earlier this year. I'm no longer willing to work for a tyrant, and I'm not afraid to let people know it, too.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Entertainment Tonight - As a reward for doing something productive at work, I received a $50 gift certificate from Amazon.com back in January. It took me a while, but I finally got around to ordering something from Amazon. The package containing a book and a movie arrived on Tuesday.

Jenny and I finished watching Wong Kai-Wai's In the Mood For Love tonight. This was probably my favorite movie from Hong Kong over the past 5 years. I've virtually stopped watching American films after seeing recent garbage from Hollywood like "The Cider House Rules" and "The Royal Tennenbaums". Jenny was mezmerized by all the extra bells and whistles that came with the DVD. We saw at least 30 minutes of footage from scenes that were deleted from the final version of the movie. Inserting any one of those scenes would have totally changed my impression of the film. I'm glad the movie ended the way it did.

Last night, I finished reading The Sergeant in the Snow, by Mario Rigoni Stern. This book was written by an Italian Army veteran of the Russian Front, circa 1942-43, who escaped encirclement outside of Stalingrad. I ordered the book after reading "Enemy at the Gates", another book about Stalingrad that was made into a shitty movie last year. Read this book if you can. It's only 105 pages long, but is gripping beyond belief. Let me know if you want to borrow it.

Mental Footnote: Yesterday I read an newspaper account of the recent Israeli-Palestinian clash at the Jenin refugee camp--I think it was the New York Times. The author actually tried to compare the Jenin battle--where at least 13 Israeli solders and perhaps a hundred Palestinians died--to Stalingrad. Rigoni and others would understand that this comparison is ludicrous. Over 90,000 Italians, 300,000 Germans, 200,000 Rumanians and Hungarians, and at least 700,000 Russians died at Stalingrad. I think the writer is a Harvard graduate (Nicholas Kristof, perhaps?).

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Kumbaya Watch – Today is Earth Day, and in honor of Mother Earth, Jenny and I carpooled into San Francisco this morning. Actually, we carpool to work nearly every morning, not just today. Just two blocks from our house, cars from the neighborhood and nearby Montclair stop and pick up passengers at the bus stop for the ride into the city. Drivers save the $2 toll and a long wait at the toll booth by going into the car pool lane with 2 other passengers. Riders like Jenny and myself save the $2.25 bus toll via casual carpooling.

Being the tightwad that I am, I’ve calculated that we annually save over $500 apiece by carpooling to work every day. And that doesn’t even include money saved for tolls, gasoline, parking and wear-and-tear on our vehicles, which I’ve conservatively estimated to be another $1000 per car annually. With savings incentives like this, one might think that carpooling is de rigueur here among our environmentally-conscious, liberal citizens. In reality, carpooling is not very common at all. According to RIDES, a Bay Area commute planning service, more than 9 out of every 10 vehicles traveling into San Francisco every morning hold only one person—the driver.

If cost savings of $1500 annually isn’t enough to convince liberal commuters to carpool or leave their cars at home, then how can we ever expect to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? Some liberals think that the best way to decrease fuel consumption is to have our government force automobile manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency standards. Just what would this achieve? From an economic point-of-view, it would reduce the cost of commuting by auto, and thus drive up the number of single-passenger commuters. The result: more traffic jams, longer commutes and hardly a dent in demand for gasoline. Think of all those idling engines, waiting in an even longer line to pay their toll. At least they’d use less gas when idling!

The immediate answer to reducing our dependence on foreign oil is simple: drive less, take mass transit or car pool. This requires a self-motivated ($) change in behavior, not government intervention. Jenny and I have nearly tripled the efficiency of Bay Area automobiles (and fattened our wallets, too) by not relying on the government and merely changing our behavior. Why can’t Bay Area liberals do the same?

Monday, April 15, 2002

Flamenco, Dragon Boats and Taxes – Knowing our free weekends are numbered, Jenny and I have been padding our weekends with as many activities and odd jobs as possible. The weekend began on Friday night with dinner and a flamenco show. Dinner was at a Spanish restaurant in the Mission District called Esperpento. We had seafood paella and a variety of tapas—I’ll give the meal only two stars because Jenny was disappointed with the jamon, the Spanish smoked ham that we first discovered on our honeymoon in Spain.

The real highlight of the evening was hanging out with Fred and Tom, two San Francisco firemen. These guys are absolutely hilarious. Just imagine someone like Yogi Berra, only taller and with better table manners. Both of them have a million interesting stories to tell, and they seem to have an opinion on everything. If Jenny lets me, I’m going to take the fire fighters exam the next time San Francisco offers it. I’d love to hang around with these guys all day. Oh, the flamenco show was just OK.

I spent nearly the whole day Saturday managing the scoreboard at the dragon boat races on Saturday. The weather at Lake Merced was gorgeous—perfect for dragon boating. All the teams were from local area high schools. I enjoyed hanging out with the adults who ran the races and with the young dragon boaters, most of whom where Chinese-American. Justin showed up and I introduced him to the Washington High School team. He seemed to be in awe of the kids on the team. As usual, I forgot to put on sunscreen—I ended up well done by the end of the day.

It wouldn’t be a weekend unless I accomplished something constructive, so naturally I spent most of Sunday working on the lawn and finishing off our taxes. Jenny has been working on the dining room chair covers these past two weekends and she’s only finished one during that whole period! We still have two months to go before the baby arrives, with more work on the baby’s room and the dining room left to do. But time seems to be moving faster than we had anticipated.

Friday, April 12, 2002

Won't You Be My Neighbor? - The house next door goes on sale today, and I am sad to say that our neighbors Darryl and Bruce will be moving out by the end of the month. [The owner of the house died recently and his estate is now selling off all of his rental properties.] Darryl and Bruce were great neighbors to have—friendly, neat, courteous and quiet. They also happen to be black, like our other neighbor Tandra on the other side of the house.

In fact, when Jenny and I first moved in, we didn’t even know who lived next to us. The only thing we checked before making an offer on the house was the appearance of the houses on our block, especially the ones right next door. The sellers, two gay white men named Tim and Larry, were especially anxious to sell the house since they were about to close on their new house in Montclair, an exclusive, mostly-white district of Oakland.

Some of you might be thinking to yourself, “Why would a conservative choose to live in a liberal, mostly minority neighborhood?” That’s a simple question for me to answer. Jenny and I bought our house in Oakland because we wanted to live here and had the means to do so. We live in Oakland because we feel comfortable living in an area where we are accepted and there are neighbors of Asian descent like us. In fact, our freedom to choose where we live, along with other similar choices, is at the heart of conservative thinking.

"Wait a minute", I can hear many of you saying. "That doesn’t make sense!"

However, consider this: it is not the conservatives in America that wish to socially engineer every aspect of our lives—from our schools to the workplace—by mandating racial, gender and ethnic quotas. In fact, it is the left-wing of American politics who is denying choices to hard-working children, individuals and families by pre-selecting the composition of our schools, our institutions and ultimately, our neighborhoods. And after having the nerve to violate the principles of equal treatment under the law, these white liberals don’t even have the guts to live among the very people they claim to be helping.

Given advance notice by their real estate broker, the first potential buyers actually came last weekend to check out the house for sale. I met them out front as I was mowing the lawn. They were an unmarried white couple. The man was a lawyer in San Francisco, serving in the Office of the City Attorney. He asked me questions about the house, the schools and the neighborhood. I answered his questions honestly, and even let him know about the cars recently stolen from our block. After thanking me, the man looked me in the eye and optimistically predicted that the neighborhood would soon be “gentrifying”. I wonder what he meant by that?

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Where's the Outrage? - I am going to let the headline and the first few sentences of this article from the San Francisco Chronicle about the San Francisco Unified School District speak for itself. I ask all of you: should we trust our children's education and our tax money with these people? Before we all blindly vote "yes" for every education-based tax and bond measure on the ballot, shouldn't we find out where the money is headed? And what ever happened to accountability?

Click on the headline for the complete article.

S.F. School Officials Squandered Millions of Bond, Tax Funds, Concealed Deficits From Voters While Seeking Millions More

by Chuck Finnie, Julian Guthrie, Chronicle Staff Writers

San Francisco school officials misspent and mismanaged tens of millions of dollars for school repairs and modernization projects -- and then covered it up to win voter approval for more funds, a Chronicle investigation found.

During the past 13 years, the city's school district raised $337 million through four voter-approved bond and tax measures, but nearly all the money is gone and many promised facility improvements have not been completed or were never even begun.

Records show San Francisco Unified School District used as much as $100 million of the bond and tax money to support a sprawling bureaucracy and to finance ill-conceived construction projects that ran far over budget or were never mentioned to voters.

Most of that money -- as much as $68 million -- was spent on salaries for nonteaching employees, including several officials who are now the focus of corruption investigations.

We Interrupt This Program Due to Technical Difficulties - I don't know why my comments section seems to disappeared (at least on my screen). I hope that I haven't lost all of your great punditry and comments. Please be patient while I determine the cause of the problem. Thanks, The Management.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Rich Man, Poor Man - I've been filling out my 2001 income tax returns for the past two nights, a task I have grown to dread over the years. The good news is that Jenny and I have a combined income in the top 5% of all taxpayers. The bad news is that liberals say we are now "rich", which supposedly justifies the fact that the federal, state and local governments currently take away over 40% of our income. The funny thing is, I don't feel "rich".

In March 2000, Jenny and I bought a house in Oakland that we could afford on my salary alone. I wanted to give Jenny the option to stay at home once we had children. We live in neighborhood that is nearly 90% minority, an equal mix of black, Hispanic and Asian residents. The few remaining white residents are either couples without children or crazed Ted Kaczynski-like hermits that haven't cut their lawns or painted their houses in 30 years. Earlier this year, car thieves stole three cars from our block, including our next-door neighbor's Acura. Last year, I left a garden hose on our front porch overnight and someone stole it. Don't get me wrong--we love our house and the tax break it provides us. But in two years, I haven't seen any other "rich" people living here in my neighborhood. Not a limousine liberal in sight. I also haven't found the person who stole my garden hose.

Saturday, April 06, 2002

Job Hunt Update - I have good news for those of you following my job hunt saga. My interview for a position within another division at Wells Fargo went well, and I expect to receive an offer from the hiring manager soon. What made this interview different from others--especially from Williams-Sonoma--is that the tone of the questioning was not confrontational, but based on determining if there was an appropriate personality fit. Of course, I think that had much to do with the fact that the hiring manager was both a Cornell graduate and an Asian-American. In the past, interviewers at various companies would spend most of their time trying to shoot me down. At Salomon Brothers for example, I got my first job primarily because I was able to prove the Weak and Strong Theorems of Duality to one of my interviewer-antagonists. Luckily for me, I had just taken a test in my Linear Programming course a week earlier on this very subject. Weird, huh?

At the Movies - Jenny and I saw a great foreign film last night, Monsoon Wedding, a story about an Indian family preparing for their daughter's wedding. In many ways, Monsoon Wedding reminds me of my favorite film from 2001, Yi Yi, by Taiwan's Edward Yang. Weddings are featured prominently in both plots, but what makes both of these stories so interesting are the thoughtful portrayals of extended families in India and Taiwan. These families face problems and issues that people everywhere experience. and I could relate at a personal level to many of the characters. This movie was a joy to see, and I left the theater humming the Indian dance songs that played throughout the soundtrack. Do yourself a favor and see Monsoon Wedding with someone you love.

Friday, April 05, 2002

Viewer Mail – A new reader of WHYGJD asks, “What is a limousine liberal?” I’ve used this term a few times already, so perhaps it is time to clear the air. For clarification, we’ll turn to two new members of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (VRWC): Bernard Goldberg, former correspondent for the CBS Evening News and the late Stokley Carmichael, a civil rights activist and member of the Black Panther party. These definitions are taken from the best-selling book Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, written by Goldberg, who labels himself as an “old-fashioned” liberal of the non-limousine variety and from the New York Times.

Goldberg: “[a limousine] liberal is someone who loves affirmative action, as long as their kids get into Ivy League Schools. They love handing out jobs based on racial preferences, as long as they get to keep theirs. It’s always someone else who has to make the sacrifice—sometimes Asian-American kids, sometimes other white students who don’t get into places like Harvard, Yale and Princeton—while the liberal white elites get to claim credit for being so decent, the saviors of black people in America.”

Carmichael: “What the [limousine] liberal really wants is to bring about change which will not in any way endanger his position. Now that I realize how phony they all were, how I hate myself for it."

In the Bay Area, the limousine liberal can be seen on the highways driving to work alone in a massive SUV, while opposing oil drilling in Alaska. They fight for minimum wage hikes and for “living wage” initiatives, while haggling over money with the maid who cleans their house twice a month for $40. They favor tax increases to support public school budgets, while they send their kids to elite, lily-white private schools that only they can afford. And they gloat endlessly about their commitment to civil rights, while they deny to Asian-Americans children the same college and high school admissions standards used for their own offspring. In summary, they are hypocrites of the worst kind—a sneering group of selfish, guilt-ridden, self-centered, irresponsible putzes.

Bus Stop – On the way home last night, I was standing at the bus stop when someone in line recognized me and blurted out, “Are you James, the dragon boat guy?” It was Cindy from Cal Juice, one of the three Cal teams that I helped sponsor and coach in the Northern California Championships. About once every month, someone tells me that they recognize me because I coached their team, or they recall my booming (and sometimes obnoxious) voice from the loudspeakers at the Championships. And believe it or not, I’ve had junior high schools kids telling me that they saw the dragon boat race broadcast on Channel 26 and want to race for a SF high school team.

These days, I really don’t miss paddling or being a team captain. But I do miss coaching the teams, especially those from high schools and colleges. And when my SF Chinatown LEO Club team won 3rd Place in the Novice group last year, I have to admit that I felt like a proud papa.

The Content of Their Character - Pete DuPont in OpinionJournal.com chronicles the latest twist in the Affirmative Action wars in California, the Racial Privacy Initiative. The ballot measure, if it comes to pass, aims to remove classifications by race in public education, public contracting or public employment. In other words, it would drive a stake in the heart of Affirmative Action--perhaps once and for all.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Weekend Update – Jenny and I had Passover Seder dinner at Sharone’s place on Saturday. As usual, Sharone’s house was a veritable United Nations with people from Italy, Greece, China, Syria, Philippines, Costa Rica, Iraq, Germany, Romania and the United States present. Dinner was potluck and did not disappoint. The highlights were roast leg of lamb (Greece), risotto (Italy), cherry meatballs (Syria) and salmon with oyster sauce (China). Some of guests forgot about keeping kosher for Passover so they brought over quiche (the crust ain’t kosher) and a lamb casserole topped with bread crumbs (also not kosher). That didn’t seem to be a problem with Sharone, who admits to having moo shu pork every now and then. The biggest surprise of the evening came when Sharone’s main squeeze Freddie the Fireman gave me a copy of Reagan, In His Own Hand. It was my best birthday present ever.

On Sunday, we went to Banana Island again for Jenny’s parents’ birthday. Everyone was speaking Chinese (Cantonese) so I had no idea what anyone was talking about. I did, however, get to speak with 13-year-old Justin, whose mom used to work with Jenny’s mom at LeeMAH Electronics. He’s a good kid who is going to Washington High School in San Francisco next fall. Even though Justin was born in the US, he speaks with a very strong accent that makes him sound foreign-born. This is not unusual though, given the fact that neither of this parents speak English and his classmates at Roosevelt Middle School are 88% minority (70% Asian).

I’m going to keep my eye on Justin when dragon boat season starts. He’s going to join the Washington H.S. dragon boat team, and wants me to coach them. I coached them in 1999 and 2000, but not last year. Is that OK, Jenny?

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

VIewer Mail, Part 2 - But while conservatives view school choice as a cornerstone for improving the public schools, many liberals oppose its basic tenets, which include tuition vouchers for private schools and charter schools for high-performing students. Ironically, it is now the conservatives on the side of giving minority school children a way out of failing inner-city schools and improving the quality of their education. Even when studies of school choice programs in Cleveland and Milwaukee show improvements in student achievement--particularly among minority students (its primary beneficiaries)--liberal critics find fault with the constitutionality of vouchers and the "fairness" of sending top students to charter schools. But white, liberal parents seem to have no problem with maintaining the status quo as long as their children don't have to attend the same schools they profess to support.

Meanwhile, conservatives have sought to empower parents with the means to make the teacher's unions and school boards accountable for their failures. Through the partial privatization of failing schools, conservatives have already met with success in cities around the country--the Edison Schools Company being the most notable example. But teachers' unions and school boards continue to fiercely resist reform and are more interested in preserving their public school monopoly rather than improving public education. The pace of reform sputters on in most school districts, with the liberals seeing greater education spending as the solution to the problem. Never mind that the federally-administered National Assessment of Educational Progress test given to public school students has found no correlation between higher school spending and improved school performance. The clear lesson from our public education is that simply increasing spending on education will not improve education. Conservatives recognize this fact, and seek to find alternatives to the public education monopoly.

Jenny and I have thought much about our children's education, and we're also considering a move out of the area or private school alternatives. Jenny herself is a graduate of Edna Brewer Junior High and Oakland High School, and even she gives her education a big thumbs-down. Since Jenny's graduation in the 1980s, student performance at these schools has gotten progressively worse, and the local school officials have failed to stem the tide. In response to declining test scores, local area school administrators have offered "solutions" such as bilingual education in "Ebonics" (Oakland) and racial quotas under the guise of diversity (San Francisco). With "solutions" like these, it's no wonder why parents that can afford private school or million-dollar homes in Piedmont are fleeing Oakland and San Francisco in droves

Viewer Mail - An excited reader of WHYGJD writes: "Conservatives...have never come up with a plan of their own. They just look at other peoples plans and say they are dumb and discount them. If you want to point something out that you do not like. Then instead of looking like a fool, why not bring up your own point then? At least Liberals are attempting, Conservatives are just complaining."

Challenge accepted. Here's my two cents on public education:

I'd like to kick-off the liberal-conservative debate between by comparing their opposing views on improving our public school system. I've been studying this topic for years, and I'm proud to say it's an area in which I have active involvement (unlike, say Hillary Clinton), primarily as a tutor and academic advisor for many students during the past 10 years. As a case study, I'll use the public schools in Oakland and San Francisco to layout out the differences between liberals and conservatives.

Even the most jaded observers must admit that the Oakland public schools are among the worst in the state. Oakland schools have gotten so bad that virtually all of the white liberals in town are either sending their children to private schools or moving to predominantly white neighborhoods. The two public schools in my own neighborhood, Oakland High School and Edna Brewer Junior High are now 100% minority. You heard right: since the last Bosnian Muslim student graduated from Oakland H.S. in 2000, there are no white students left in my local school district. While continuing to squawk their support for the public school system, white liberals have exercised their freedom to choose the best schools for their children by abandoning the public school system or by moving into racially segregated neighborhoods such as Piedmont, whose public schools are the best in the area. Similar patterns have emerged throughout the region, most notably in nearby San Francisco. On the issue of school "choice", liberal rhetoric clearly diverges from liberal behavior.

But there's more...

Monday, April 01, 2002

Friday Night Fever (3/29/02) - Last night, I rushed home from work to meet friends for dinner at 6:30PM. Unfortunately, Alina and Allen (and little Faith) didn’t show up at Daimo Chinese Restaurant in Richmond until 7PM. I knew that would happen. Last week they were 20 minutes late.

Jenny and I have always wanted to eat at Daimo’s since it always seems crowded when we drive past it. The menu is gigantic, with over 500 items. Dinner was the standard Chinese fare, Hong Kong-style. We have Singapore-style chow fun (spicy hot!), catfish with black bean sauce (yummy), kung pao chicken (poor), veal short ribs (so-so) and jook with kidney & liver (yuck). This mixed review gets two stars, maybe two and a half for atmosphere. I don’t think we’ll be coming here too often.

And now for the exciting part—after dinner, we all drove down to Toys ‘R’ Us to register for Jenny’s baby shower. Thrilling, huh? I absolutely hate shopping, and when it’s at a dumpy store like Toys ‘R’ Us, it’s even more unbearable. Now I’m glad I didn’t get the Williams-Sonoma offer. I realized tonight that working for a retail company would go against my core values of minimal consumption and anti-consumerism. For me, it would be the moral equivalent of working at Planned Parenthood as an abortionist or as a spokesman for the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). I hate buying anything other than food and toilet paper. I also despise getting mail order catalogs, too.

Jenny and Alina were like kids in a candy store, snapping up everything from diapers to nipple brushes for the registry. I questioned some items initially, but I soon acquiesced for Jenny’s sake. The baby shower and the delivery day—much like our wedding—will be her moment to shine. For all she’s going though right now, Jenny deserves to have things her way.

We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties, Please Stand By - My laptop modem died this weekend, so I was unable to provide updates to WHYGJD (Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio) for two days. I'll be catching up at work (don't tell my boss) and then I will probably buy a new laptop this week to replace my 4-year-old Iraqi laptop. The weekend was chock full 'o fun and adventure, and I'll try to keep everyone informed. Since I get most of my news now from the web, I endured a two-day news blackout that ended this morning with my morning viewing of the Drudgereport.