Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Is That Fast So Necessary?

The New York Times developed a news story, under the headline, Victims’ Sons in Tough Fight for Redress After China Rail Crash delineating Modern China’s difficulty completely commercializing their society as everywhere else in the world has their own problems too.
The Times describes the sad tale of an American family who lost their parents in China’s first high-speed train “accident.” Described as, “We were flying like rag dolls,” Henry Cao said.
The crash killed 40 passengers, injured 191 and shook the nation’s confidence in its ambitious high-speed rail system, according to The Times. The parents, naturalized American citizens taking Henry on a triumphant tour of their native land, were killed.
The Ministry of Railways, an unbending government behemoth unaccustomed to dealing with determined foreign citizens, “knows how to wear you down,” Leo Cao, 30, said. “First they let you scream and yell, then they stall you, and finally they tell you vague and empty words. Now they say, ‘You’re lucky you’re getting anything.’”
The Times points out The Ministry of Railways rivals the Chinese military in size and influence, and that the experience has been disorienting for the Cao brothers, who left China as adolescents two decades ago. “This place is not how I remember it,” said Henry Cao, speaking faintly as his eyes flickered and lost focus. “Everyone is rushing around to make money. Life here is cheap.”
Everywhere is cheap when the most efficient way for the world to travel is presumed to have to rely on at least 180 miles per hour without room for error. Who’s kidding whom that the world’s safety is being watched out for? As the Chinese and every government should remember this American political proverb – You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.
The ministry, which runs its own court system, largely impervious to oversight, has long been dogged by accusations of corruption. – Just a little capitalism among friends who might find it difficult to share with all their comrades, no doubt?
A former rails minister, Liu Zhijun, fired five months before the accident, is expected to go on trial next month for charges of taking millions of dollars in bribes and other unnamed “disciplinary violations.” What? It’ a million-to-one The Scapegoat did a tenth of what he’s covering for?
Zhang Kai, a lawyer who represented a passenger sentenced to three years in prison for slapping a train conductor, described the ministry as a “monster left over from the planned economy era” that resists reform or challenges to its authority. “It is common knowledge that the ministry is responsible for generating maximum profits while supervising itself,” Mr. Zhang said.
Isn’t planned economy oxymoronic, no matter which economic system claims to be in play? As described, in this instance, where bureaucrats hover over victims as if foils is as bureaucratically nonsensical the world over. No matter how nobly and tirelessly some try to work out the flaws.
The Times prints – In a report released in December, government investigators placed the blame for the Wenzhou accident on flaws in signaling equipment. Investigators say the ministry bypassed safety regulations in its haste to create the world’s largest high-speed railroad network. – And one wonders if the original investigators of the original work would admit their haste caused the mistake too?
The Times continues – In the parlance of Communist Party euphemisms, July 23 has become a “sensitive anniversary” and day for newspaper editors and columnists to ignore. After a blizzard of coverage in the days after the crash, including reports of a botched rescue and efforts to bury one of the train carriages, censors blocked discussions of the topic on microblog services. Last month, victims’ families were warned against holding public memorials.
But the Cao brothers, ignoring admonitions, have become thorns in the side of the government as they seek financial assistance.
In a series of meetings, ministry officials have offered them $280,000 for the death of their parents and $85,000 for Henry Cao’s injuries, the brothers said. The Caos have requested a total of $5 million, based on what they say the three would have earned over 20 years of working in the United States. Their lawyers say the ministry is ignoring a national law that bases compensation on accident victims’ earning power in the area where they lived. The ministry is citing its own regulations that rely on prevailing wages in the province where the crash occurred.
A lawyer for the brothers, Tian Jie, said, “The representatives tell us there is no room for negotiation. Even they admit they don’t know who makes the decisions.” So many backs to scratch, how could there be one to rely on? How? Well, to begin with, the solution to corrupt selfish territorialism is a human face on the government. Not just a public relations campaign covering things up.
According to The Times – Officials did not respond to a faxed request for comment, and repeated telephone calls to the ministry’s office of public information last week were not answered. Uh huh.
Leo Cao said his “brother looks somewhat normal, but he’s half the man he used to be.”
The ministry’s minders stay in the same hotel as the brothers, while paying for their accommodations and carrying their luggage. But they frequently call to know where the brothers are and negotiators have warned of “troubles” that might result from talking to journalists. This month Leo Cao said, “If they lose track of us they get scolded,” with weary resignation, while ministry employees huddled awkwardly, as the brothers wept over their parents’ coffins at a funeral home in Wenzhou.
The Times cites – In the hours after the accident, ministry negotiators descended on morgues and hospitals even before the surgeons had finished stitching up the injured. Working in teams of four or five, they separated victims’ families into different hotels and relentlessly hammered out deals that in the end were nearly the same: about $140,000 for each fatality. And follows the Cao brothers myriadic maze to last Wednesday when they finally arranged for the bodies to be shipped to New York. The funeral, scheduled for Saturday in Queens, is expected to draw hundreds of Fujianese immigrants.
As the talks dragged on, Henry Cao became increasingly withdrawn, saying he was no longer interested in the money and wanted only to return home. He spent most of his last days in China in his hotel room, reading biblical stories that touch on suffering and redemption. “I want to move on,” he said, staring at the floor.
But for now, his brother Leo Cao is determined to keep fighting and says he is prepared to file a lawsuit in Chinese court, even though several lawyers have advised him it would be futile. He says, “It’s not only about money. I want justice.”
Among the hundreds of photographs recovered from their father’s iPhone from his first and final vacation in China, one image stands out: a shaky snapshot of the LED monitor that graced the carriage of their train boasting that it was moving at 303 kilometers an hour, or 188 m.p.h.
“My father was so proud of China’s progress,” Leo Cao said. “Unfortunately it was China’s progress that killed my parents.”
Or it was this ridiculous preponderance toward the unnecessary need to go So Damn Fast and reduce the most efficient system of travel we have to just another flawed human nightmare. I think not. Right?

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