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July 27, 2008

Unsafe at any speed?

In 1961, my twin brother and I were attending a rich-kids Jesuit High School in Kansas City. (Not that we were rich.)

One of my brother’s buddies had been given a bright red Chevy Corvair by his parents.  I got to ride in it on occasion.  dea2b099f76b2d576418ba9dea8982b9.jpg

A rather strange car, I later found out, with an engine in back, along with the spare tire – and a propensity to catch fire and kill passengers – profiled in Ralph Nader’s 1965 book: Unsafe At Any Speed.

Fast forward to about 1971....I was fresh out of the Navy...had a new p.r. job for a Kansas City community college.

c5c5b52f24dc42d377120a1fbd9d177b.jpgAnd my boss told me to pick up Raph Nader at a downtown hotel for an evening campus speech on "Consumer Advocacy."

And rather oblivious to lots of things back then, I picked him up in a borrowed Chevy CORVAIR.

Two friends  --  students in the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s law school --  had successfully begged to ride along in the back seat – so they could meet and soak up a bit of Nader. (Not a word of warning from them.)

I remember pulling up to the downtown hotel entrance....Nader standing outside…waiting  for us.0ef3078c704fdec8da68272ef945d520.jpg

And the  uncomfortable exchange.

  “I can’t ride in that car,” Nader yelled at me. “If the news media sees me, I’m crucified.”

I didn’t tell him he wasn’t Jesus. 

Just it was getting dark; raining, no cabs; no one would see him;  he’d travelled all this way; the campus crowd was waiting; and,  of course, that his speaking fee meant showing up.

So Nader swallowed his corvair foibles….and got in.

I think about Nader and that encounter.... almost every time I take the apartment trash out these days.

Next to the apt. trash dumpster, in Barney’s Brake Service's backyard, is this silent witness:f87145b037f525ebcfc43798778a27a2.jpg

The end of the road for an old Corvair....weeds growing like a hothouse in the back seat – where the law school students were sitting in 1971. 

And the old, rusted Covair with broken windows seems to be  sinking into the mud and  ground ….like a casket  slowly lowered into the grave.

To think Ralph Nader is still making a run for the White House 37 years later.

At least now we all know he's not Jesus. 

July 26, 2008

In The Heat Of The Night

 

For the past two evenings, PBS’s Travis Smiley has interviewed Sidney Poitier on a late night TV show.

What a wakeup.  What a brain treat.

Poitier continues to consciously defy racial stereotyping.

 

741c5e9cd3a4255da9c30410dd688930.jpgHe's the first Black man to win the best actor Oscar and, in a 50-year-plus career, has starred in over 40 films, directed nine and written four. He's also a best-selling author of three autobiographies, including Life Beyond Measure.

 

Poitier came to the U.S. at age 15, from the Bahamas, and began his acting career with the American Negro Theatre. An activist and humanitarian, he has appointments as the Bahamas' ambassador to Japan and UNESCO.

 

Poitier is now 81.  His hair has thinned and grayed.  But his wonderful smile and hand mannerisms remain.  And his serious, thoughtful stare can still melt butter, or racists as Poitier did in “In The Heat of The Night” 41 years ago.

 

For a  balanced and revealing perspective on many topics, check out the transcript of the Poitier interviews at: http://www.pbs.org/kcet/tavissmiley/archive/200806/200806...

 

July 19, 2008

'Thanks for shopping at Meijer's'

'Thanks for shopping at Meijer's'

 

Today's story in our local newspaper tells the tale of a soon-collared  bank robber,  brought to justice by a bank security camera.

 

The story reminded me that most crooks probably don’t read the daily Battle Creek Enquirer.  Or at least the daily column that lists crimes and arrests.

 

If they did, they’d know that crime-doesn’t-pay; at least where there are security cameras.

 

Perps who hit on K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Meijer’s... get C-A-U-G-H-T. Usually before they're in the parking lot.

 

These stores have more security cameras than a  Blackjack table in Las Vegas or a bedroom at The Mustang Ranch.

 

My son and I  were in the old Meijer’s Store  (a regional competitior to Wal-Mart) on W. Columbia  Avenue last Thursday.

 

Since the place will soon close…replaced by the new Meijer’s under construction  next door…  I was taking a more careful  look at the old store…its  outdated lighting and display fixtures...missing floor tile….the stained, watermarked ceilings…

 

We got to the front of the store and a long row of cashier stands…..most…as usual … unattended…hardly a cashier in sight….with 30 people and groceries waiting in two lines… like cattle,  a bit frantic to get through  slaughterhouse gates...

 

So I had lots of time to look around…and up…

 

From one end of the cavernous store to the other… on the ceiling over EVERY cashier’s station was a  frosted-gray video bulb-security monitor…. (It seems to be looking straight down at your balding head, at you picking your nose…shuffling for change….telling the kids not to whine about candy…)

 

AND, 20-feet behind every one of these frosted-gray-video-bulb-security monitors was a BIGGER frosted-gray video-bulb-security monitor, presumably watching the first frosted-gray-video-bulb-security monitor watch you.

 

I turned .... looked back toward the center of the store, again at the ceiling….and there were enough frosted-gray-video-bulb-security monitors sprinkled around  to decorate the White House Christmas Tree.

 

“Josh, wonder how many people they gotta have to watch all these monitors?," I said to my son and to no one.

 

“Got to be at least three or four people,” he calmy responded.

 

I replied, only half joking, "Well,  maybe they can get a couple of 'em down here to sack groceries."

 

“But don’t pick your nose.

Smile at the camera.

And keep your hands where they can seem um.”

June 28, 2008

Jesus is in the parking lot.

PostScript:  Volunteer Essex was right.  Yesterday (6/27) people wanting the food were lined up 90 minutes ahead of time.  Many had brought along plastic wash tubs -- several pulled out wire framed grocery carts from their car trunks -- to get their Food Bank items.  Watching the activity from my second-floor window, I also noticed that about 75 percent of the people were obese.  Poor people may get enough food, but it's the type that leads to overweight, diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure. 

 --------

Looking  out my second-floor  window and  across W. Michigan Avenue this morning, I saw this gathering crowd in the Seventh-day Adventist Tabernacle parking lot.

As 10 a.m. approached , the crowd seemed to surge.  So I walked across the street.

Turns out the Tabernacle lot is one of 5 or 6 Food Bank distribution sites every Friday morning in summer months, scattered at locations across our little  city of Battle Creek, here in the American Midwest.

Tabernacle Volunteer Phyllis Essex predicted that future Fridays would see  more people, there to pick up perishable items, including fresh produce.

 "Oh, next Friday, people will be here waiting for us,  early in the morning," she predicted, "once folks know or remember about the sites and the food availability."


blog post photo
Caption: Three church volunteers help pass out perishable food in the Seventh-day Adventist parking lot this morning.  Back row, left to right, Phyllis Essex, William Minear, Rudy Hall.

 

People fill out a simple  form; list the number in their family.  No screening for income or need.  The presumption is those who show  have need for the food.

 

Why do Essex and the other Tabernacle volunteers spend  mornings handing out food to poor people, under the summer sun?

 

“Because if Jesus was on Earth today, he’d be right  here in the parking lot, handing out food with us,” Essex said.

April 09, 2008

If The World Had 100 People

 

If the world had only 100 people:

57 would be Asian.
21 would be European.
14 would be from the Western Hemisphere.
8 would be African.
52 would be female.
48 would be male.
70 would be nonwhite.
30 would be white.
70 would be non-Christian.
30 would be Christian.
89 would be heterosexual.
11 would be homosexual.
6 people would possess 59 percent of the entire world's wealth, and all
6 would be from the United States.
80 would live in substandard housing.
70 would be unable to read.
50 would suffer from malnutrition.
1 would be near death.
1 would be pregnant.
1 would have a college education.
1 would own a computer

February 19, 2007

In A Pig's Eye

The New Year has arrived in China. 

 

And from Shenzhen to Dalian, and all points in-between, the Chinese are taking a couple of weeks off; many journeying by train  and bus to their home towns, pockets filled with Yuan from their construction jobs in Shanghai or Beijing, and their arms, backs and pull carts burdened down with everything from bottles of antibiotics (not available in rural areas) to flat screen TVs and  packages of mooncakes.

 

This is the year of “The Pig.”

 

But during these two weeks of New Year celebration, the Big Shots in Beijing have banned  pig photos or illustrations on the national CCT-TV network, newspapers, and displays by Starbucks, McDonalds and Wal-Mart.

 

Seems the Chinese – rather suddenly – have become politically correct and sensitive to religious diversity.

 

There are about 20 million Muslim Chinese  – about 3 percent of China’s population.  And – here’s the punch line – Muslims consider pigs unclean.  They're not alone in that religious view; but much more -- shall I use the operative word -- f-a-n-a-t-i-cal -- about it.

 

They detest pigs. They don’t eat pigs.  The only good pig is no pig.

 

Of course, don’t tell that to most Chinese.  800 million or so rural Chinese consider pigs part of the family – they live right outside the front door of the family home.  The smell and sounds of pig life are an everpresent and reassuring part of the family dinner menu and atmosphere. China slaughters more than 400 million pigs a year --it's the biggest pork producer in the world. (Pigs represent honesty and virility to most Chinese.  To bear a child in The Year of the Pig is considered good fortune.)

 medium_800px-Sow_with_piglet.jpg

What’s a bit perplexing about all this is that the Beijing bureaucrats right up through the 1990s, persecuted Chinese Muslims – fearing their religious and separatist tendencies.

 

While living in China for three years, I also heard stories about how Chinese would kill their sick pigs and then stuff them down the water wells of their Muslim Chinese neighbors.  And how Chinese restaurants would be sure to put pork in Muslim Chinese’s food.

 

All of this, of course, has nothing to do with China’s voracious appetite for another staple – OIL.

 

Believe that?

 

In a pig’s eye.

November 12, 2006

'Ready on the right. Ready on the left. All ready on the firing line."

Yesterday, C-Span televised dedication of the new U.S. Marine Corps Musuem in Quantico, VA.

 

The highlight was what PBS Newsman Jim Lehrer had to say.

 

Lehrer is a Marine.

 

And he shared what he'd learned from service in ‘The Corps’ during the 1950s.

 

About honor.

 

About courage.

 

And that we are only as strong as the person on our left; and on our right.

 

The mortality rate in Iraq is twice that for Marines as other soldiers.

 

And it’s been that way since founding of the Corps 231 years ago.

 

To read Lehrer’s Marine Corps Museum comments, go to: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/

 

Scroll down.  His comments are on the left side of the page.

October 11, 2006

The (Less Than) Great Debate

Did you catch Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and her challenger Dick DeVos debate on TV the other night?

 

Two dedicated, civic-minded people.  Going for a job that can only bring them a lot of sleepless nights and grief in this troubled Midwestern state of ours over the next four years.

 

I watched them and thought: ‘Boy, couldn’t get me up in the TV lights like that!’

 

The cameras peeled back their veneer.  Showed whether they were comfortable, confidant and quick witted.

 

We soon ignored DeVos’ corporate image.  The French cufflinks. Starched white shirt, dark tie.

 

Granholm’s  modelish, personable style frayed a bit at times.

 

At the end, I  wondered if DeVos was smart -- and humane--  enough for the job.

 

And why Granholm hadn’t gotten more done in the past four years.

 

Not a great debate.  Not a clear winner.  Or loser.

 

They'll be together before the lights one more time.

 

Let’s see who has the best ideas for Michigan’s future.

 

October 09, 2006

When Autumn Leaves Begin To Fall

Autumn is my favorite time. Bright color of the leaves. Chill in the air. The innocent enthusiasm of college football. Halloween fun.

But it’s also a bittersweet season.
 
Each year, as red leaves turn to yellow, fade and fall, I’m reminded of the story about the little girl, losing her Mother to a rapidly advancing and incurable disease.
 
The doctor, and the little girl’s father, try to prepare the child for the loss.
 
“When will my Mommy die?” the child asks the doctor, who replies: “When the leaves begin to fall.”
 
Six months later, in mid-October, the father looks out the window of their home. 

 

There, in the front yard, is the little girl, trying to paste fallen leaves back on the Maple tree.
 
Of course, we can’t paste leaves back on a tree. Any more than avoid death of those we love.
 
Still, at the end, we have our memories to cherish.
 
Dad shining his shoes Sunday night in preparation for the work week.
 
My tiny, Irish mother doing the family wash by hand – with crooked arms broken in childhood.
 
Yes, I remember.

When autumn leaves begin to fall.

Jim Richmond with his mother at McNamara Family gravesite in Atchison, Kansas, USA,  shortly before her death in 2003.

October 03, 2006

Building A Bigger 'Big House'

The University of Michigan has announced plans for a $260 million expansion of the Michigan Football Stadium, affectionately known by alumni and supporters as “The Big House.”

 

It's Big.  The largest American-style football stadium in the world, seating about 111,000 for Saturday games.

 

It was built in 1927 at a cost of $950,000 and with footings to handle expansion to 150,000 seats on game day.

But more seats (at least cheaper ones) are not part of the University’s current Stadium  expansion plans.

The University will spend much of that $260 million, according to news reports, to build  private Stadium suites – which will be rented or sold to wealthy football patrons and corporations.

A group of University of Michigan alumni objected; suggesting the money build more and cheaper stadium seats. Too late, the U-M Board of Regents told the alumni group.

Chances are, U-M's football opponents would vote with the University Regents. 

The last thing they'd want is 50,000 more screamin' Michigan fans in The Big House on Saturday.

September 26, 2006

Growing Up Catholic

“Hello, Jimmy,” the frail old woman in a bathrobe, said from her wheelchair, reaching out to accept the flowers I’d brought her.

 

 It was a visiting room at a retirement home for Catholic nuns in St. Louis. About 12 years or so ago.

 

I’d called ahead to arrange the visit, with my former kindergarten and 4th grade teacher.

 

Sister Antonita Maria looked so different.  It had been nearly 40 years since I’d seen her at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Kansas City.

 

In those days, she'd  worn the long black, wool “nun’s habit” with starched collar that hid everything but the face.

 

Sister Antonita Maria had a  natural smile, a generous attitude, and lovely singing voice.

 

She must have been fairly young when she taught me, my equally unruly twin brother Johnny, and others in the 4th grade.

 

One day during the middle of class, she suddenly got up from her desk, rushed out and slammed the classroom door behind her.

 

I tipped toed to peek out the door. Sister Antonita Marie was standing in the school hallway – sobbing.

 

She was usually composed and cheerful. For some reason she did not elicit the moderate fear we had of the nuns’ discipline. Perhaps she didn’t carry the wooden ruler, like others, making the rounds between desk rows at test taking time.

 

The nuns wore a large crucifix and Rosary beads on their habits. We would listen for the sound of clicking beads approaching from behind us.

 

It was the 1950s. The St. Joseph order of nuns led a restrictive lifestyle. And they had to travel  in “twos” whenever they went outside the convent, school and church area.

 

My Mom would call the convent some Saturdays with an invitation.  ‘Would Sisters like to take a Sunday ride and stop for ice cream?’

 

If the answer was “yes,” my Dad would spend Saturday afternoon washing and waxing our 1948 Plymouth in preparation for the next day’s outing. It was considered an honor to have the Parish Priest or the Sisters in your home -- or your car.


 

And here, five decades later was Sister Antonita Maria  – perhaps in her late 70s,  and in a retirement home.

 

She’d had diabetes, with one leg amputated, and sat uncomfortably in the wheelchair.

 

“How is Johnny? Do you two get along any better?,” she asked with a bit of a smile.

 

Driving on to Michigan and home after the visit, I wondered if Sister Antonita could have recalled  such details about two little boys,  among the thousands she taught during her career.

 

There was nothing special  about the Richmond boys..

 

The “Sisters” were special --  for those of  us growing up Catholic in the 1950s.

 

September 08, 2006

*Tom Liston's Glory Days

 Tom Liston still has his “glory days.”

 

Not the glory days of high school in 1962, when he was the De La Salle Academy’s star basketball center, baseball pitcher and the tight end who  caught the winning touchdown against  arch rival Rockhurst High School in the waning minutes of the senior-year  game. And could date almost any girl in Kansas City.

 Not his  later glory days of national news media attention and  big money contracts as a professional baseball player with the St. Louis Cardinals and other teams.

.

Liston's real glory has little to do with such things.


In 1961, my brother Johnny, and I were kicked out of Rockhurst High School in Kansas City at the end of our junior year.

The Jesuit order of priests ran Rockhurst -- an order admired  and reviled over centuries for its love of the intellect, power, politics and world missionary work.

As with most things, the Jesuits  were matter of fact about our  departure from Rockhurst High School.  We were gone, they told our distraught mother, because of marginal academic performance. ( I still think  we also didn’t quite fit the preppy “Jesuit” persona as two Irish kids from an inner city parish.)

It wasn't  easy changing high schools at the end of the  junior year. But we were accepted at  De La Salle Academy, a Christian Brothers school with a good reputation, and a diverse student body.

We  were welcomed by the Christian Brothers, and by members of the 1962 De La Salle Senior Class as if we’d been there all four years.

And 'class big shot' Tom Liston -- with every reason to ignore us -- did just the opposite. He went out of his way to be friendly and helpful in a low key way.

 

From C-minus students at Rockhurst, the Richmond brothers graduated with honors at De La Salle Academy in 1962.

 

Last week, Johnny (now a successful hospital president)  went back to the 44th reunion of our DeLa Salle graduating class.  There were about eight there  who’d graduated in our class.

 

Among them was a different Tom Liston – someone my brother did not at first recognize, and who candidly talked about  his life of alcoholism and drug addiction after the glory days of national television and major league baseball  ended in his late 20s.

 

 Liston had recently moved back to his old St. James Parish home  in Kansas City.

 

“If you saw him on the street, you’d probably think he was  homeless,” my brother wrote sadly to me in an email today -- Liston's  once impressive 6’-5” frame evidently bent over, his handsome, chiseled good looks of high school no where to be found  in a prematurely aged  face.


Talent, fame and fortune can be wonderful gifts, or difficult  burdens  over  a lifetime.

 

I choose  to remember the Tom Liston who never let athletics or popularity get in the way of being a thoughtful, nice  human being.


 

I bet, if you  think about it, there're a few Tom Listons in your own lifetime.

----

* Name Changed

 

August 04, 2006

Something To Offend (Almost) Everyone

Following shared by a friend.

---------

>What is the difference between a Harley and a Hoover ?

>The position of the dirt bag

>

>Why is divorce so expensive?

>Because it's worth it.

>

>Why is air a lot like sex?

>Because it's no big deal unless you're not getting any

>

>What do you call a smart blonde?

>A golden retriever.

>

>What do attorneys use for birth control?

>Their personalities.

>

>What's the difference between a girlfriend and wife?

>45 lbs

>

>What's the difference between a boyfriend and husband?

>45 minutes

>

>What's the fastest way to a man's heart?

>Through his chest with a sharp knife.

>

>Why do men want to marry virgins?

>They can't stand criticism.

>

>What's the difference between a new husband and a new dog?

>After a year, the dog is still excited to see you

>

>What makes men chase women they have no intention of marrying?

>The same urge that makes dogs chase cars they have no intention of

driving.

>

>What's the difference between a porcupine and BMW?

>A porcupine has the pricks on the outside.

>

>What did the blonde say when she found out she was pregnant?

>"Are you sure it's mine?"

>

>Why does Mike Tyson cry during sex?

>Mace will do that to you.

>

>Why do men find it difficult to make eye contact?

>Breasts don't have eyes.

>

>Why do drivers' education classes in Redneck schools use the car only on Mondays,

Wednesdays and Fridays?

>Because on Tuesday and Thursday, the Sex Ed class uses it.

>

>Where does an Irish family go on vacation?

>A different bar.

>

>What would you call it when an Italian has one arm shorter than the other?

>A speech impediment.

>

>What does it mean when the flag at the Post Office is flying at half-mast?

>They're hiring.

>

>What's the difference between a southern zoo and a northern zoo?

>A southern zoo has a description of the animal on the front of the cage along with... "a recipe."

>

>How do you get a sweet little 80-year-old lady to say the F word?

>Get another sweet little 80-year-old lady to yell *BINGO*!

>

>What's the difference between a northern fairytale and a southern fairytale?

>A northern fairytale begins "Once upon a time..."

>A southern fairytale begins "Y'all ain't gonna believe this s....t"

>

>Why is there no Disneyland in China ?

>No one's tall enough to go on the good rides

June 12, 2006

Barbara Bush Redux

 

It was Thursday, April 15, 1982.  Along with about 250 others, I'd  just finished lunch at the White House. It was the annual Volunteer Action Awards, hosted by President and Mrs. Reagan.

What I've remembered most about the luncheon was not the menu, the Marines marching in The Colors, or even meeting the President.

It was what I overheard as we filed out the front door of the White House after the luncheon. 

This attractive, matronly (even back then) woman with bright white, bouffant-style hair was at the door.  It was the Vice President's wife -- Barbara Bush.

As we walked by, she half-whispered  to a minion:  "Just keep them moving!"

So today, I wasn't too surprised to read what Mrs. Bush had to say on visiting the hurricane refugees in the Houston Astrodome.

"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality," Mrs. Bush  said.  "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."

*Just keep them moving.

------------

* Complicated problem. Three months later, New Orleans evacutees had been implicated in 19 Houston homicides. 


>

 

April 08, 2006

'It's sure nice talking to you.'

"You little shit. Where've you been the last three days?"

 

I was always a bit surpised at the colorful language.  My devout Irish Catholic Mother would normally no more curse than miss Sunday Mass. Except when her children did not call or drop by.

 

Her family was her life  – a stay-at-home mom and wife, the type common to, and under appreciated in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

 

As she grew older, and my Dad died, she waited by the telephone for her three children – all living across the U.S. – to call.

 

We did not fully appreciate how much her universe, her life, was shrinking as we moved pell  mell into our own  middle adulthood.

 

She kept scrapbooks on each child, photographs, newspaper clippings, and  school report cards – some that made The Richmond Twins look like The Class Clowns...or worse..

 

We would smile and glance at each other when Mom  pulled out this box of memories.

  

Today, I understand her love and intensity. I feel it for my own grown sons..

 

Each telephone chat has value..

 

Yesterday, I visited my oldest son and his family. They’ve bought their first home, and are busy  removing old wallpaper, replacing toilets, and juggling  a two-career family.

 

We ate sub sandwiches on a card table in the dining room.

  

Driving home on ice slick highways, I realized my son and I had “connected” most in recalling shared memories and friends.

 

 

Time and attention are the greatest  gifts.

.

. 

Harry Chapin captured that in his 1970s lament,

 

  … My son turned ten just the other day.
He said, "Thanks for the ball, dad, come on let's play.
Can you teach me to throw?" I said, "Not today,
I got a lot to do."

… I've long since retired and my son's moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind."
He said, "I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time.
You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kid's got the flu,
But it's sure nice talking to you, dad.
It's been sure nice talking to you."

 

 

Grandma Richmond, Josh and Scott, '80s

 

 

 

March 05, 2006

Re-Outing Cary and Randolph

"Don't Ask.  Don't Tell."

I was kinda releived this past week, to see that the "Don't Ask.  Don't Tell" nonsense about gays serving in the U.S. military is going to get resolved.

I served on a U.S. aircraft carrier off Vietnam for three years in the last '60s.  Never got propositioned in the head or the shower. 

The big worry was all the lunkheads who sniffed glue out of 10-gallon cans and then tried to install Sidewinders or 500-pounders under the wings of an F-4 Phantom.

In 1982, only 32 percent of Americans were willing to accept people who were gay and openly  practiced a gay lifestyle – today that number is closer to 60 percent. 

 

Today, most Americans care less and less about sexual orientation.

Its taken us a long way and a long time.  Randolph Scott can take off his spurs and chaps.  And Cary his tux and evening cane.

So they shared a Hollywood beachfront home for 12 years?

 

We don't much care if neither were saints. 

We can remember  Grant  in North by Northwest, with a real  Saint – Eva Marie.

September 26, 2005

Red Stars Rising Over China

Jim Richmond's Note: I wrote the following reflections in 2002, while living in China.  Last week (9/06/2005), China's top 200 political leaders met in Beijing to carve out political and social priorities for the next five years. Number one on their list -- still -- the growing disparity between rich and poor.

SHENZHEN, PRChina -- On my daybreak bicycle ride here, a man screamed a profanity when I snapped a photo of  Chinese reading a street poster of menial job openings.

In this nation with a much-envied Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 7 percent (compared with 2.4 percent in the U.S.), there is still much  poverty. People just do not talk – or easily take photographs – of it.

Twenty-six percent of adult males in this southeast coastal city do not have jobs. Across China, about the same geographic size as the United States, there are 120 million rural citizens without work – roughly 10 percent of the total population.

Still, apartment construction projects are everywhere.

The projects are part of xiaokang, China’s economic and social development goal for the decade ahead. 44.4 million housing units were built in China last year; compared with 1.84 million in the United States.

The projects provide work for millions of unskilled and often illiterate peasants who are moving to China’s major cities in order to avoid rural poverty.  The jobs help temporarily “keep the lid on” this society that is increasingly stratified between poor, middle class and the wealthy.

The United States and its cities have their own problems, of course.

Recent. newspaper editorials and politicians are calling for the U.S. to give increased priority to knowledge, education, and technological innovation.

Meanwhile,  China  is graduating more university-trained engineers, chemists and I/T professionals than  the United States.

A  new  "generation" of business development occurs  every three years along China's industrialized southeast coast from Dalian on the north to Hong Kong to the south.

 China is  moving away from joint ventures with foreign firms to wholly own technology-dependent consumer items.

Chinese manufacturers have taken over televisions, microwave ovens, air conditioners, washing machines, refrigerators, personal computers and telecom switching equipment – sectors once dominated by foreign brands,

The question is no longer whether American and European products can dominate this huge technology and consumer driven market. 

That door is being closed.

And as Jeff Immelt, the blunt-spoken new CEO of 300,000–employees General Electric recently said:  “We have to get off our butts in America. Before it’s too late.”

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