Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The immigration issue

To those supporting Trump’s immigration policy:

In 1620, 108 pilgrims set out from port Plymouth to the new world awaiting them.  Many of the 108 passengers were separatists, fleeing persistent religious persecution.  They survived harsh new England winter environment and their voyage has become an iconic story in the American history. The culmination of the voyage in singing of the Mayflower compact was an event that established a rudimentary form democracy that emanated into what would become a mainstay political form in America.

Fast forward to 1800s, immigration to the budding country had significantly increased starting from the 1820s.  From 1820 to 1860, millions of Irish arrived escaping the blight of Great Irish Famine back home.  Needless to say, the Irish weren’t required to have visas.  The country was in need of labor in canal building, lumbering, and civil constructions.  Most of the Irish settled in the big cities along the coast. During the Civil war, the newly arrived Irish immigrants would be granted citizenship right off the ship only to be drafted in the US army.  Of course, the Irish has had a huge impact on America as whole.

From the very beginning when the first settlers arriving in Mayflower to the Irish, Italian, and other Europeans’ immigration, America has always represented a hope and a way of living a new life escaping harsh environment of the home country.  THIS IS WHAT THIS COUNTRY is about.  This country was founded by immigrants on the backs of the immigrants.  It provided safe haven with opportunities to the newcomers.  Everyone in this country finds an immigration story in their family.  Morally, it is wrong for us to exclude the so called “illegal immigrants” when in fact the only difference between the way how they arrived and how your ancestors arrived is timing.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not advocating to get rid of INS.  After all, there has been a nation building in this land.  Just like any other nations, a sensible immigration policy is necessary for this country.  But, the issue at hand is not whether we get rid of borders altogether and let everyone in.  The issue is rather, after so many years of material establishment by all of these so called “illegal immigrants” in this country, how could we turn our backs and tell them to leave, ignoring the human costs they will have to endure?  Even letting them stay still means a very difficult path to legal immigration status.  They will still need to be able support themselves financially and the slightest infraction against law would jeopardize their legal “entrance” to this country.  By no means, this is a sweet offer.  But, this is the least we should do.  

Fei Shen

June 2016

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bye bye Mister Bo

Beijing's sacking of its rising political star, Congqing city mayor, Bo Xilai has been occupying the headlines of papers not only in China, but also in UK and the U.S. I do not want to belabor the facts  and , quickly, Bo and his wife, Gu, were under investigation of the death of Neil Heywood, a British businessman having close ties with Bo's family.

First, I think it be would pretty hard pressed for Bo to come out of this investigation again even if he could prove his innocence. He is done, politically. The funny thing, I guess maybe not so funny for Bo, is that he is subject to CCP's investigation first, before a criminal proceeding. He is not charged yet, and he does not have a lawyer to fight for his rights. I am not crying for Bo, but just saying if China is serious about rule of law as claimed, this is balantly against such a claim. The message is that CCP is outside the law.

As this news develops, legs of stories of Bo, his wife, his son and their dealings with Heywood grow longer.  Although Bo's political agenda, which he prides himself on, is all about revatalizing some of Mao's idealistics of social justice, his wife and son seem to have a high life even in Western standards. Bo Guagua, his son, was educated in expensive UK boarding school, went to Oxford and Hardvard, and owns a Farrari. Not that there is something wrong with that, but if Bo's such a poverty fighter, his family seems to be treating themselves as aristocracy. This makes Bo more than just being hypocrisy - he may be a fraud, shall we say, for he seems to fully embrace what he criticizes in the public.

Bo's scandal struck the core of China's political system. From Cheng Xitong to Chen Lianyu and to Bo Xilai, three mayors of China's four mega cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Congqing, and Tianjing) have been purged. Why is that the case? Could the system be at fault here?

Anyhow, I am happy Bo's sacked. Nobody is going to miss him and his red songs. So long Mr. Bo.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


India launched a 3000 mile range missile yesterday, hardly groundbreaking in terms of deadliness. But India is still welcomed to the big boy club to join the U.S., Russia, China, UK and France, (Israel and Japan which probably had this capability years ago but would never advertise it for obvious reason) and (the North Koreans and Iran which probably don't have the capability but would advertise anyways). For sure, India can proudly proclaim they can hit any part of China if they want.

If they want …, not sure what that means to India. In an all out preemptive strike, that is a big if. I wish New Delhi would have expended same amount enthusiasm in fighting poverty and corruptions for the better of Inidan people for goodness's sake. Economic establishments and thriving probably mean a lot more than the capability to hit any part of China.

But, for whatever moral victory there is for the proud Indian people, I do not want to talk about them. At least we know they are proud, good for them. Now, on to China, why is it every neighbor of China is so against China these days. One the east, Japan and Korea are having beef with China about fishing and the sea rights there. On the south, Philippines and Vietnam are armed up to fight China over south China sea, or, as they call it, the Spratlys. On the west, India displaces China as the biggest arms buyer in the world with the purpose of matching up with China in their main sight. On the north, it's the bear, the Russians, well, the Russians can never be trusted over territory issues. Sadly, the peace between Taiwan and Mainland China could very well be the most positive diplomatic development in recent years for China, but we Chinese will rather call it a domestic issue.

So is China contained? Obviously. Is China a pushover by anybody with no respect because China is too soft, as many Chinese leftists so claim? Maybe and maybe not. But Kissinger in his book on China put it that China maybe should look introspectively for the reason why such containment had occurred during the Mao era, and likewise, I would say, now. Why doesn't China have friends, beyond dubious Pakistan, Burma and Cambodia in the region. These days even Magnolia has increasingly disliked China to the point they want ally with the Koreans, their distant kins.

For one thing, the people you talk to in China, you don't get sense of correcly perceiving other countries and their cultures. Well, it's really complicated sentiments. To the west, it's the love and hate, and to countries like India Vietname, it's the disdan mixed with disrespect. All and all, the nationalistic pride runs deep in China. Partly to blame is the political propaganda and partly just the traditional sense of being the elite nation. This is dangerous.

For any rational Chinese interested in making China richer and better, a more proactive and productive way to look at the Inida's launching is to ask why Indians single out China in their statements about the newly acquired capability. And to the leftists in China, war is easy but will it really solve anything? Didn't we have a war with India and Vietnam not long ago, and look, now, how they are perceiving us? Old Chinese adage says it best: one more enemy means one more blocking wall, but one more friend means one more connected road. Chew on that!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The USC shooting

My heart sank when I found out two Chinese USC graduate students were shot dead last Wednesday. Two young lives were taken away randomly just like that, without warning, shot right in their car right in front the house one of them lived in at the time.  . These two, one boy and one girl, were both EE graduate student at SC. This made it more sickening ..., I was a graduate student at USC studying computer science 13 years ago - I was just like them.
Everybody at SC, when I was there, more or less knew the parameters of the so called safety zone. The SC campus, on each side, is surrounded by pretty bad neighborhoods. There is just no other way to describe it. The neighborhoods are bad, projects and old shabby houses occupied mostly by recent migrants from south of the border. You see it and you know violence.  Drugs are prevalent in those neighborhoods. I used to live on Portland street, not far from where the shooting occurred, and I knew back then going out late at night was probably very unsafe. I wish these two young people had known better.
But how can one fault these two poor soul's innocence. I remember a few years back in 2008 I sold my kia to a USC Chinese student then. I helped the kid drive the car to his place after we finished the transaction. I was quite shocked by the location he and other Chinese roommates chose to live. I wouldn't call it safe in any stretch of my imagination. The kid told me that he didn't have much choice and he thought the place should be ok if they are vigilant enough. Aaahhh, innocent kid without much life experience in the US..., they didn't know the risk of being preyed on in a neighborhood like that.
As sad as this news made me, this sort of travesty didn't just happen for the first time in the area. I remember years ago when I lived in the Korean town, a Korean lady was shot dead not far from our apartment at night after her work right in her garage. Except for reporting by the local Korean newspaper, that incident was not as widely publicized, albeit having somewhat similar facts as the instant USC shooting. Other horrible also had happened in the area, rape, gang shooting, etc, etc. Given the area is filled with young USC students, new immigrants all over the world and mostly working class families, it is one of the most complicated places in L.A., which is not a small town.
I so wish the Chinese student that spent $10k on a used BMW would have bought a modest car and used savings to rent a place in a safer place closer to the campus. But, how can one fault innocence! I am sad.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

China is becoming a green giant

Evans Osnos wrote an interesting and well researched article about China's clean technology in his New Yorker column "Letters from China". 

The shrewd observation Evans made in that article is that the combination of US's innovation and China's mass production capability will make future move at a fast pace, illustrated by joint Sino-US ventures in clean technology.  He observed that US innovators possess the blazing spirits that are necessary to push forward frontiers of innovations, while Chinese lack such sprits largely due to bureaucratic obstacles erected by China's government and dishonesty wide spread among China's academia.  On the other hand, China's strength lies in her strong will to invest in infrastructures and production technologies once deemed necessary for the country, while actualization of research products is often hindered by ever change policies resulted from the political process in US. 

I think this is by and large an accurate observation.  At the current stage of respective developments, both countries, in terms of actualizing new technology, are indeed complementary to each other, just like many of other areas of economic corporations between the two. However, the more interesting point that can be gleaned from this observation is the  pros and cons of the two contries political systems. For many years, both China and US view each other as natural enemies due to ideological differences. But maybe, as evidenced by the economic corporation, both political systems are too complementary. Things that can't be done quickly for the benefit of the country as a whole in US are often accomplished in China w/o many red tapes. The free spirits of  innovating, largely incentivized by the law, are abundant in US while lacking in China.  Maybe both countries have much to learn from each other, and certainly it would be an ideal balance if the good stuff of both systems can be combined and bad stuff be left out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Know your rights of your software

Do you know your rights to the software you bought on CD? Be it Microsoft office, adobe acrobat, quicken, or anything. Can you lend the CD to your friends and let him install it on his computer? Can you install it on your wife's computer, your parents', or kids' computers? Can you sell it?

Copyright law in US generally allows consumers to lease, lend, or resale legal copies of copyrighted materials they own. This seems to be common sense because it won't surprise anybody that a copyrighted book can be resold on ebay without any legal hassles. Such allowance is known as the first sale doctrine, codified in section 107 of title 17, the copyright act. 

However, when comes to software, it is a whole different story.  If you think you own your software purchased at bestbuy, you are wrong. Almost all the software makers have this term in the EULA (end user license agreement)
"The software is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some rights to use the software."
Would you still shell out 100 bucks for the software program you bought, if you knew you only got a lease in return? Software's EULA usually comes with very stringent terms that defy some common protections afforded by the law, such as first sale doctrine, reverse engineering, forum selection, and etc. While some courts were fed up by software makers  practices in turning every products of theirs into leases and thus invalidate EULA with respect to the terms of lease when disputes arise, still many courts will enforce such terms in favor of software makers.
But how many of us really know or even read these terms before we eagerly rip the shrink wrap off? And of course by opening the software, you automatically admitted this term

Monday, November 23, 2009

Things to learn from China

Obama in his recent visit to China mentioned US has much to learn from China in the areas of education, medicine and etc. In one recent issue, Time magazine also ran an article about  several things to learn from China: ambition, education, senior care and efficiency.  
Certainly it is nice for US to give Kudos to China, but Chinese shouldn't get too complacent at the outburst of the pupil attitude of US. Historically US has never been shy giving praises to other countries that she may admire with a caution. Personally I won't put too much into it, but it is still nice to be recognized, even for China - getting a pad on the back for doing a good job saving the world is always encouraging.  

This recent China kudoing trend is a sharp contrast to the pattern of early 90s when almost everything in the US media about China was negative. Did China really turnaround 180 degree from then to now? Well, I think the perceived change has a lot to do with overreactions in both periods. 

However, I do think there is one thing Americans need to take a note from Chinese. It's the insatiable desire for improvement. Learning and improving runs deep in every Chinese's vein. Night schools are everywhere in China and for everything.  in contrast, It's almost unheard of in US that people will go to night school to pick up a foreign language or to learn computer administration skills after daily 9-5 job. Graduate programs in China are also filled with top students because many Chinese college graudates' choice is to acquire more education.  Except for medical and law school, American college graduates will be hard pressed to study for advanced education. Guess who occupies most seats in graduate programs of Engineering schools in the US? The Chines and Indians. Forty and fifty years from now, not only will Chinese still outnumber Americans by 5 to 1, but also will average Chinese be more educated than their American counterparts. That's scary.