Asian-American Forum
Winter 2012 Issue no. 12

Editor Note: The editor has decided to include articles submitted to Asian Pacific Americans for Progress (http://www.apaforprogress.org) also in this seasonal newsletter. Any cross-posted articles will be identified by name and date submitted, and the reprints here will serve to verify authorship. The particular blog can be accessed here: http://www.apaforprogress.org/blogs/chriswong.

Occupy DC: Signs of the Times

by Christine Wong

The Occupation at McPherson Square inhabits an area in the NW financial district normally the domain of local squatters. In the past and up to the present, it has been the resting grounds for a number of indigents, but obviously, these days, this has broadened to include more middle-class poor.

Occupies have sprung not just all around the country, but all around the globe, as if there is a spontaneous need to discuss global issues such as overpopulation, climate change, degradation of the environment, diminishing resources, debt indentured nations, fascist regimes, and endless expanding wars.

This represents that "sincere spirit of inquiry after truth" inculcated in our country as early as Citizen Benjamin Franklin's Junto club. Opportunities for dialogue and airing of issues were integral to the formulation of responses to oppressive measures exacted to pay for the French-Indian (1756-66) wars. The Labor Movement, Voting Rights Act for Women, and Civil Rights Acts were all products of freedom of assembly.

Occupy Wall Street and her sister organizations are the step-children of Public Citizen (citizen.org ), a 40-year old non-governmental watchdog organization whose goals include cleaning up government (bribery and favoritism, such as Halliburton); monitoring the corporate lobbying (maybe why Obama turned down new Clean Air Act standards, http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/09/02/310929/president-obama-backs-down-on-ozone-standards/); and how powerful lobbies help keep the U.S. on track to escalate regional conflicts in Africa under the blanket cause of "fighting terrorism."

What is real versus what is not in the fight against terrorists? Thanks to the ability to manufacture more regional conflict, it is sometimes hard to tell. This is the position taken by Jon Krakauer in his exposé on Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea; in Three Cups of Deceit (http://tinyurl.com/3fmnq42), Krakauer relates how Mortenson's bogus terrorists who held him captive were, in fact, his volunteer hosts and guide to the interior region. Does this kind of fabrication sound familiar? Yes, indeed. Part of Manifest Destiny relies upon stereotypical objectification of the Other.

Although my visit to the Occupy McPherson was not long, it had all the earmarks of a field day for teach-ins and laboratory political science--not to mention history in the making. There is a lot more to world news than sound bites of "flushing out" Kaddafi supporters sandwiched between minute long national trivia; there is more to politics than voting once every two years. Signs such as: "Reinstate Glass-Steagall," "We are the 99%," and "End Corporate Personhood" speak to all voters and taxpayers.

As a review, Franklin D. Roosevelt supported the Glass-Steagall Act (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass%E2%80%93Steagall_Act), which enacted rehabilitation of the banking system to discourage fraud and over-speculation, to issue sound currency on "good" assets, and to prevent bank failures. Arguably it is the repeal of this act in the late 1990s which encouraged the housing bubble, and risky commodities speculation such as Enron, and other failures which has forced massive U.S. Treasury bailouts (http://www.propublica.org/special/government-bailouts). Is deregulation really good for the U.S. economy when so many manufacturing sectors no longer exist? Where is the economy headed when more and more jobs are found in the service sector, and even these are duplicable? What happens when jobs become so duplicable that unions, bargaining units, and job security are no longer tenable? Doesn't this seem to be the trend, now that more and more college graduates remain in college just because there are so few options besides completing a graduate degree?

Also, sociologically speaking, how healthy is it for young adults have to spend so very much of their time in college. There was a time when students heeded their parents' advice to "stay in school, find a job, get married, and then settle down." But to their consternation, parents are discovering college graduates wanting to return home to live, forced to compete with immigrants for low-wage entry-level work, work which two generations ago hardly required a high school diploma. Unfortunately, first-hand observation supports that neurosis fosters combativeness, depression, and other diseases.

It is the redundancy of service jobs, of graduates, of scarcity in salaried work, coinciding when many corporations are reaping record profits overseas that has more and more people feeling like nothing more than "sheeple." We followed, we obeyed, we sacrificed, but for what? Where is the payback? When can we stop going to school? The pity is that we know so little about the real going-ons about the day to day deals done behind closed doors in Congress or the Pentagon.

On October 18th at McPherson Square, I gathered around as folks flocked to listen to Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School talk about "building a platform of democracy," one which, unlike mainstream media, doesn't "polarize the people" around issues such as race or party affiliation. "We don't need a third [political] party," he said, "I think we have a third party...it is the people."

We really do need to get out of our comfort zone and start becoming more politically aware, not bury ourselves in i-Pods all the time. The brave souls at the Occupies around the country are braving inclement icy weather, for what? To prove to us that they are not the threat the media makes them out to be, but in fact, are there every day, welcoming us to visit and learn about what a grassroots movement consists of. They occupy in the hope of freeing the U.S. from the perils of the Octopus (Frank Norris).

Occupy DC has one segment at Freedom Plaza, and one at McPherson Square, but just how many politicians have taken that short walk from the White House to discover what the people are trying to express? How many journalists are braving the brief cold that these campers have endured for nights on end?

Occupy's message is also borne in peace, even though they are receiving unfair treatment at the hands of the police. They are merely trying to awaken the citizens to the fact that we the people have been and shall continue to be responsible for paying the massive debts accrued by a militarized America, at the behest of a covey of special interest corporations. If there are no jobs, we will also be in debt for generations to come.

In Global Civics: Responsibilities and Rights in an Interdependent World, Brookings Institute researcher Hakan Altinay writes:

There is no reason to assume that interdependence will not continue or even accelerate in the near future. Many perceive that their ability to exercise meaningful control over their lives is eroding. This leads to anomie, anxiety, and a diffuse backlash.....The choice is whether or not humanity will be able to hammer out a global social contract. A set of guiding principles--a moral compass--is needed to enable the people of the world to navigate the treacherous waters of unprecedented global interdependence. (4-5)

In a world filled with billions of educated people, the public deserves to have a say in a new social contract, beyond the arcane proceedings of the UN or G-20. According to David Held, professor of political science at London School of Economics:

This is both a dangerous moment and a great opportunity...the world's power alignments are shifting precisely at a moment when the traditional global institutions have become weak and vulnerable...Climate change, the reform of global financial powers, nuclear proliferation, and the future of global trade negotiations are cases in point. (Altinay 28)

Even Bill Moyers, renowned investigative reporter, has come out in support of Occupy Wall Street. He was the keynote speaker at the Public Citizens Gala on October 21st, and from the notes by George Zornick, is as forthright as ever in his constructive criticisms (http://www.thenation.com/blog/164106/bill-moyers-democratic-decency-defined-downward).

Work Cited:
Altinay, Hakan. Global Civics: Responsibilities and Rights in an Independent World. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press, 2011.

--Research, Photo Credit, Authorship, and Editing by Columbia Press, Submitted to apaforprogress.org 28 Oct 2011

Occupy Oakland: Unruly Demonstrators

Occupy of Oakland is making the news these days in neo-60s fashion. So far, they have successfully disrupted some local banks, conducted several disorganized marches, and are planning some general strikes in November.

In the midst of this mild swarm of disruptions is democratic Mayor Jean Quan, who recently stands accused of playing--and drawing the ire--from both sides. Some groups are even publicly requesting her resignation, although more likely than not, these are merely the usual types of special interests resentful of her ethnic background, since there has been quite a bit of waffling over how to deal with Occupy all over the planet.

Even President Obama has barely expressed any opinion on Occupy Wall Street, since he has so many wars and the G-20 Summit to occupy his attentions. Otherwise one might also accuse the President of lacking in leadership or nearsightedness with regard to matters at home, and demand his resignation as well.

The difficulty here is that like many communities around the country, the responses to the Occupies are varied according to whatever community leaders decide is the appropriate response of the moment. For instance, in Occupy Nashville the city tried to enact a curfew which was overruled by a federal judge. In quiet Minneapolis, however, several protesters were arrested after a standoff. Meanwhile, Occupy Albuquerque's permit was renewed by UNM, allowing them to protest five to six hours per day. The variable attitudes have even drawn the support of volunteer lawyers (http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2011/10/30/1803736/volunteer-attorneys-steer-occupy.html).

In Oakland, some innocent bystanders were hurt when police fired bean bag rounds, but despite this, anarchists mixing among the Occupy protesters have smashed windows at a bank. Such disruptions demand clamp-downs because of the capacity of a riotous crowd to cause millions of dollars of damage in vandalism, such as what happened this summer during the London riots.

One problem with the Occupy Wall Street is that there seems to be no central agenda for problem-solving beyond the slogans of "getting rid of the 1%." As such, homeless people, ex-cons, under-cover agents, right-wing agitators, laid off workers, hapless students, and many other well-meaning idealists are all aggregating together under nascent leaders who may hold varying opinions as to what constitutes peaceful assembly and precisely who are the 1% (bank employees don't normally qualify).

Anti-banking activists frequently cite as rationale against money-lending the famous scene of Christ upsetting the tables at the temple. In fact, it's no secret that centralized banking has long been an issue, going back to the days of President Andrew Jackson. In his preface to the populist The Secret of Oz documentary, Vlatko writes:

Though most people don’t realize it the government can’t just issue it’s own money anymore. It used to be that way. The King could just issue stuff called money. Abraham Lincoln did it to win the Civil War. No, today, in our crazy money system, the government has to borrow our money into existence and then pay interest on it. That’s why they call it the National Debt. All our money is created out of debt. Politicians who focus on reducing the National Debt as an answer probably don’t know what the National Debt really is. To reduce the National Debt would be to reduce our money – and there’s already too little of that. (http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-secret-of-oz/)

In essence, even today, Congress and the President have the power to do away with the present currency and issue their own currency, such as President Lincoln did in issuing greenbacks to help pay for the Civil War (http://www.xat.org/xat/usury.html). However, as the number of signs at any Occupy site demonstrate, there are more issues beside just the big bail-out (http://zombietime.com/occupy_oakland_10-22-2011/).

Regardless of the outcome, the integrity of the Occupy Wall Street movement relies upon the ability of each Occupy group to conduct peaceful enactments. For instance, Occupy Freedom Plaza (DC) recently published their own newspaper, The Occupied Washington Post (www.OccupyWashingtonDC.org) to promote constructive dialogue. Teach-ins, rallies, and boycotts typically are non-violent actions in nature.

With the coming of winter, Interfaith Coalitions and charity groups are coming out in support of OWS and Occupy DC, if only because the Occupies are helping to shelter and feed many incoming neglected and new homeless people.

If there is one thing that OWS may hopefully accomplish, it is instilling more public understanding and awareness that government reactions such as bull-dozing tent cities or destroying homeless people's belongings and personal documents are a violation of basic human rights. (That seemed to have been okay during the Bush years).

If, on the other hand, the Occupies allow themselves to become the target of restless agitators and allied with sociopaths, it can destroy any hoped-for outcomes, as well as further divide the Democrats among themselves, even having negative impacts on the 2012 elections.

For now, it appears that Occupy Wall Street may well need to develop a national charter on exactly what, if any, their specific goals are, and how they plan to implement them without allowing the mob to rule, such as what officials are worried about is happening in Oakland--and without the benefit of a few town-hall meetings.

----Photo reprint courtesy from http://zombietime.com/occupy_oakland_10-22-2011/, Article prepared by Columbia Press and submitted to apaforprogress.org 03 Nov 2011

President Obama: 21st Century Elect

by Christine Wong

Like many Americans, every day, I spend a significant chunk of time trying to stay updated on what the President or Congress is trying to do to fix our economy. There are many fine articles written about the international policies, and national proposals, he is pursuing. Unfortunately, some are also incriminatory, sometimes even without the authors having fully investigated the facts.

Despite the skepticism, we should try to continue to support President Obama and First Lady Obama. Despite some mistakes (amply raised by grassroots organizations), they are doing more to rejuvenate our economy at a time of unprecedented change and instability in ways favorable for the lower and middle-classes than what might transpire should there be a regime change in 2012. What are the common causes for skepticism?

First there is the concept that the President is avoiding open communication. 1930s Depression-era President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was known for his open press conferences, having a radio-host style personal (the famous "Fireside Chats") on the airwaves once a week, and generally a more splashy personality. This helped at a time when people were massively disheartened---literally standing at breadlines, living in real hobo towns---with absolutely nothing to fall back upon.

President Obama may have several reasons to shield himself. As the assassination attempt this past week made clear; unfortunately, people still pin all kinds of blame on the President from unresolved personal issues. Racists who dislike President Obama no matter what; 911 Truthers who harbor conspiracy theories that burden the President with unproven crimes of past presidents; rumors which are outlandish spins having little to do with the President's day-to-day duties; all attempt to destroy his credibility.

The Whitehouse has adopted 21st century style methods for polling and communicating with the public. As the President states at the Whitehouse webpage: "We want to hear from you. Learn how you can get involved, share your stories, and add your voice to help address the challenges of the 21st century" (http://www.whitehouse.gov/). Exploring this page is as easy with today's technology as pushing a few buttons on one's iPod; one can communicate via email; even download video clips. Just bookmarking this page, one can hear every day what the President has to say about his proposals.

A great source of skepticism is what has been labeled as "spending our way out of the Great Recession." Any progressive, whether liberal or conservative can see that the President's policies attempt to address American problems 21st century style here as well. The Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act is a god-send for many middle-class families; here is a plan that guarantees one can be covered even with pre-existing conditions. The plan mandates streamlining of administrations through uniform, computerized records, thus incorporating green technology. Read more about it at http://www.govtrackinsider.com/articles/2010-04-09/health-care-review. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act is also infrastructure investment at a time when civil projects have been neglected. The locales of where projects have occurred are traceable at Recovery.gov; although much remains to be spent, this is actually a good sign because infrastructure projects require thorough planning and review.

The American Jobs Act of 2011 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/economy/jobsact) will repair and modernize American transportation, roads, buildings, and offer 21st century incentives for large and small business investments. In his speech, the President emphasized and supported his argument on how this bill benefits all Americans at a time when so many are living week to week. In addition, the President's 2011 Asia Pacific Trip emphasized job creation; he signed new trade agreements valued at $25 billion and supporting an estimated 127,000 U.S. jobs; included orders for new Boeing airplanes, GE engines, and Sikorsky helicopters. In short, the President wants to double U.S. exports by 2014. Exports already support 5 million American jobs, but new agreements in this region with 3 billion potential consumers can vastly support more exports ("Weekly Address: Creating an Economy Built to Last" http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/11/19/weekly-address-creating-economy-built-last).

The President has also been investigating ways to improve the existing tax system, consulting with philanthropist billionaires such as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. In contrast, if a flat tax system were put in place, many of today's low-income families will no longer qualify for Earned Income Credit, even while "1470 millionaires and billionaires paid zero taxes in 2009" (http://www.whitehouse.gov/economy/jobsact).

What Congress typically wrangles over are the details about each bill; but when important landmark legislations don't pass in timely fashion, economic supports can be stymied in ways that starve out the long-term unemployed. To be sure, debate over the benefits of global trade will continue over the next decades: does global trade benefit corporations at the expense of the middle-class Americans? There are no clear-cut yes-no answers to such a complex question. Obviously, time will tell how much employment prospects improve for 21st century college graduates. Something that the Occupy Wall Street Movement doesn't address is the fact that even working all one's life, 99% of the populace do not aspire to do all it takes to become billionaires; as the passing of Steve Jobs evidences, it takes such an unusual amount of commitment and even self-sacrifice.

In sum, here's a quick check off of how President Obama is trying his best to keep his electoral commitments along the lines of what matters most to Occupy Wall Street in terms of landmark legislations:

• Taxing the rich and corporations--Fiscal responsibility legislations such as the CARD Act of 2009, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodd%E2%80%93Frank_Wall_Street_Reform_and_Consumer_Protection_Act)

• Ending the wars, bringing troops home--Iraq War concluded (but gearing up for new actions in the Near East/ North Africa/ and Far East as well).

• Protecting social safety net--Affordable Health Care provisions, and extension of unemployment benefits for the past two years.

• Ending corporate welfare for oil companies--Increased investments in new technologies, such as wind and solar. See Startupamericapartnership.org and visit http://energy.gov/articles/department-energy-announces-funding-nationwide-student-focused-clean-energy-business.

• Transition to a clean energy economy--Bolstering clean fuel regulations for automobiles, and supporting research into alternative energy sources. Visit http://www.eere.energy.gov/ and http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/11/16/we-can-t-wait-driving-forward-new-fuel-economy-standards

• Protect worker rights--Numerous visits to troubled states and companies

• Get money out of politics--Authored biographical books to raise campaign monies

Obviously, with so many aspiring pundits, policy analysts, grassroots demonstrators, scientists, and watch-dog organizations writing articles, blogs, and books, the public has unimagined 21st century access to detailed information about how our tax dollars or largesse is spent. This is as it should be; after all, the devil is always in the details.

Personally, however, my opinion is we must also try once in a while to applaud the President for the great good he has done--plus maintaining his remarkable cool in the face of criticism at home. And especially, we must try to give credit to the First couple for trying to raise their own two beautiful girls, Malia and Natasha, healthily just as any ordinary American couple might do if they, too, had earned the right to live in the White House.

--Research, Authorship, and Editing by Columbia Press, Submitted to apaforprogress.org 23 Nov 2011

Before the End-Time: Asian-Americans for Ron Paul

According to various sources from Kavkaz Center "Russia Builds Up Its Gang Forces Against NATO in Syria," for instance, pre-emptive strikes against the terrorist Syrian regime may begin soon as President Obama continues the neoconservative foreign policy (see today's Democracy Now! interview with Glenn Greenwald: "Is Obama Fulfilling the Neocon Dream of Massive Regime Change in Muslim World?"). Actually, by the end of this interview, few are left doubting that the President/ NATO may be mired in systematic conquest of North Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan along with other regions (see St. Pete for Peace.org http://stpeteforpeace.org/obama.html).

The time element here is critical; if Russia and NATO engage in Syria, this can be the tip of a domino effect that will trigger Iran attacking Turkey or US bases in Afghanistan. Maybe this feels too much like a hang-over from Thanksgiving dinner extravaganza. But the extent of US military (funded in the trillions per year by the US taxpayers) has truly become the double-headed eagle of a masonic empire--something which goads Occupied Wall Street and peace activists--that President Obama intends to not only please the 99% with Obamacare policies, but also the 1% who benefit from foreign conquests. In fact, according to Michel Chossudovsky in Towards a World War III Scenario, and other sources, Iran is the main object for conquest because it contains the world's last remaining largest land-locked oil reserves.

A pre-emptive strike in Iran may occur any time within the next year: "America has deployed from the Persian Gulf to the shores of Syria newest multi-purpose attack nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, two guided missile cruisers and two missile destroyers" (http://www.kavkazcenter.info/eng/content/2011/11/28/15435.shtml). This would be in accordance with Chossudovsky's "Global Warfare: Targeting Iran: Preparing for World War III."

A nuclear war would so upset the balance of the ecological and atmospheric systems, that not only would global warming be accelerated, but many people would become displaced, and essentially none of us would escape unscathed. This according to Dr. Helen Caldicott, long time peace activist, who earlier this year lectured on the dangers of plutonium (see http://tv.globalresearch.ca/2011/06/real-dangers-nuclear-power-and-nuclear-war).

Thus it is both ironic and possibly tragedaic that President Obama, Nobel Prize Winner, has allowed himself to become something of a houseboy for the 1%, especially when, according to Greenwald, the President was elected and has the power to end all wars "by the stroke of a pen," such being his vast powers of office as Commander-in-Chief. Instead, his majority will likely dissipate (if war does not divide us first) and drift in various directions if these wars intensify.

One strong contender and supporter of Occupied Wall Street, for instance, has been Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. An upcoming mainstream media icon, he is popularly cited by OWS supporters, Independents, and even Tea Party Activists because out of all the 2012 contenders, he is the only one advocating demilitarization. In his "Pro-America Foreign Policy" section (http://www.ronpaul2012.com/the-issues/national-defense/) he states:

Today, however, hundreds of thousands of our fighting men and women have been stretched thin all across the globe in over 135 countries – often without a clear mission, any sense of what defines victory, or the knowledge of when they’ll be permanently reunited with their families.

Acting as the world’s policeman and nation-building weakens our country, puts our troops in harm’s way, and sends precious resources to other nations in the midst of an historic economic crisis.

Taxpayers are forced to spend billions of dollars each year to protect the borders of other countries, while Washington refuses to deal with our own border security needs.

Congress has been rendered virtually irrelevant in foreign policy decisions and regularly cedes authority to an executive branch that refuses to be held accountable for its actions.

Far from defeating the enemy, our current policies provide incentive for more to take up arms against us.

In other words, as Commander-in-Chief, Dr. Ron Paul would end the prolonged expensive wars (that benefit the 1% at the US taxpayer expense); end intrusive foreign invasions and nation-building without Congressional consent; and allow intelligence monitoring only on legitimate suspects, not innocent civilians.

While no voter may agree with all his policies (for instance, healthcare), Dr. Ron Paul's foreign policies are said to parallel those of Congressman Dennis Kucinich, another Democratic contender who disagreed strongly with President Obama's invasion of Libya (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/21/dennis-kucinich-obama-impeachment_n_838502.html). In fact, rumor has it that Dr. Paul would consider Kucinich for running mate in an election. Certainly, Kucinich has a progressive political record with regard to immigration, foreign, and fiscal policy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFabLp-Jcbg).

With regard to diversity issues, Dr. Ron Paul has put out some websites to attract voters of color on Facebook. For instance, he has one webpage "Asian Americans for Ron Paul" (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Asian-Americans-for-Ron-Paul-2012/109523012481092) whose wall contains videos wooing Asian voters; he also has another Facebook webpage, "African Americans for Ron Paul" whose wall includes clips from Martin Luther King and Mumia Abu-Jamal (http://www.facebook.com/pages/African-Americans-For-Ron-Paul/180006005405016).

If World War III does not break out first, certainly, veteran Congressman Ron Paul may be worth our attentions. He may actually have the people of America at heart, such as being willing to work at improving our economy with undivided attentions. He may even bring more of the troops home. Our annual deficit might even be halved.


Works Cited:
Greenwald, Glenn. Interview by Amy Goodman. War and Peace Report.. Democracy Now, 28 Nov. 2011. Democracynow.org. Web. 03 Dec. 2011.
"US-NATO-Israel War Plans to Attack Iraq." GlobalResearch.ca. Global Research, Dec. 2011. Web. 04 Dec. 2011.

--submitted to apaforprogress.org 29 Nov 2011

Art Amid the Occupy Standoff

by Christine Wong

The character for room in Chinese has embedded within it that word for direction. But this afternoon, we had another lesson in experiential learning. Unlike any other capitalistic venture in this city, one doesn't need to think about paying to enter these urban camps. The faces there are anything but hostile; how unlike what one encounters riding some of the city bus routes. Here, the directions appear to be pointing inwards (beckoning visitors) and upwards (towards the open sky over spaceship Earth).

One thing that has impressed me repeatedly are that the campers at Occupy DC or at Freedom Plaza are more likely to be college-educated, with day jobs or having taken time off to travel, and civic-minded citizens. These volunteers are hardy and take one back to the pioneer days, when citizen groups presided over counties by common-law. They were this country's model citizens, particularly as self-sacrificing patriots.

Thus, the standoff today appeared to have been planned and conducted with all the leisure of days of deliberation, of civil disobedience with an intent to attract media, but also to widen the discourse between one group---and the world at large.

The spark of the standoff appears to be a winter housing project that includes a wood framed house, whose makeshift foundation qualifies it as temporary, but for the same reason, attracted the authorities because the permit makes it unsafe to clamber on the roof. For some reason, the activists of concern were crowing from their footholds.

When I arrived on the scene around mid-afternoon, the police had already blocked off the streets surrounding three sides of the park. Horses stood at attention across from the frame house, and Occupy residents and visitors looked on as the police seemed to be trying to make up their minds what to do. More squad cars and TV news vans appeared to be arriving every fifteen minutes.

No one was in any hurry. The campers, who had been there for days, seemed to have grown antennae that extended upwards towards the galaxies, to possess a starry nonchalance and fortitude that most urban dwellers--enclosed within their wired concrete cell blocks within the great city--lack.

During this unseasonably mild winter, it is a blessing to be able to visit with these campers some of whom have come from as far away as Florida, Kentucky, and Vermont to stay at McPherson Square. Today, I noticed that one of the residents had several paintings outside his shelter.

"They are beautiful," murmured a passing tourist, "simply beautiful!"

Unfortunately, such an adjective is not quite specific for judging art critically. Yet, what did I see which struck me? I shared with the artist (he called himself Ray) my appreciation of the hues in his study of sunflowers. Each of his paintings came with a separate background story; this teacher of art, who had taken the Fall semester off to travel, regaled me with the composition of one painting with a gull hovering over the piers of a restful dock; seen from the perspective of another flying gull.

"You'll have to paint another scene with country flowers to replace this one," I announced as I bent over to select my acrylic take away.

"That?" he said, "It would only take me forty minutes."

With such a masterly touch, I did not doubt it would only take an hour's time. Guarded by the park's tall trees whose wintry branches glimmered against the late afternoon sun with crinkled rust colored leaves--and orange colored--I also did not doubt that standoff or none, he will profit from his unusual living.

--Photo and story by columbiapress.org 04 Dec 2011

U.S. Postal Service Downsizing May Affect Minorities

by Christine Wong

In an age when transactions increasingly occur electronically, many older Asian-American residents still look forward to receiving hand letters and advertisements, and enjoy international mail delivery including foreign newspapers and magazines. Visiting the Post Office has always been an excuse to catch up with the neighbors. Only at government-run hubs has there been ever timely and familiar services traditionally delivered at affordable low costs and without the commercial pressures of visiting a franchise where people may speak English only.

Now, all that is about to change. In an effort to decrease cost over-runs stemming from a 2006 Congressional mandate that the USPS pre-fund retiree health benefits, H.R. 2309 Postal Reform Act of 2011 is before the Senate, a bill that will "require the USPS to make a minimum of $3 billion worth of cuts in post offices and mail processing facilities within two years" ("USPS Plan").

Already over the past several years, the USPS has closed many smaller community post offices and units. The number of layoffs affects civilians nationwide because it has been the nation's largest civilian employer, employing up to 574,000 employees even in 2011 ("United States Postal Service"). Many of the closings do not make national headlines, but the worries create a ripple effect in many smaller communities where the Post Office serves as its hearth. When Post Offices open, it is often a status symbol for the community that it is a recognized township, particularly in rural areas, so what does a closure signify?

Steve Hutkins, editor of the blog "Save the Post Office" and contributor to New York Times online's December 6th "Room for Debate: How to Help the Post Office" writes:

This plan to close 250 processing plants, on top of plans to shutter 15,000 of the nation’s 32,000 post offices and slash 225,000 postal jobs, will do nothing but hasten the Postal Service’s downward spiral. ("Downsize Means Destroy.")[See Note*]

In fact, after the largest civilian employer sheds hundreds of thousands of jobs, the largest civilian employer will be Walmart, a corporation known for the number of part-time workers hired, often without health insurance or pension plans.

This crisis comes at a time when public sector workers increasingly feel threatened over the legitimacy of their collective bargaining powers. On March 9, 2011, the Governor of Wisconsin and "Republican state senators passed a bill that attacks middle-class families in Wisconsin by stripping public workers of their right to a voice at work, with a vote of 18-1" ("The Organized Attack on Public Employees"). According to Henni Espinosa and Steve Angeles of Balitang America, "over the past three years, 100,000 jobs have been eliminated by the USPS," and in San Francisco at least "200 workers have been affected" ("Filipino Workers").

Minority postal workers, including Asian-Pacific Americans, may be disproportionately affected by the plant closures and reductions in force. This is because for many immigrants and high school graduates, the USPS provides a good, steady, well-paid job with opportunities to advance. For minority women, in particular, they have more power in representation, and equal opportunity against situations of workplace exploitation.

In "African American Lose Most With Post Office Closures," NAD contextualized the National Public Radio interview with former mail carrier Philip Rubio to emphasize the historic importance of the USPS as a "gateway for many black workers into the middle class." Professor Rubio said:

In my book "There's Always Work at the Post Office," because they couldn't get jobs, you know, lot of private-sector jobs starting after the Civil War, discrimination by white employers and unions, and it did become a route to the middle class. In the process it also became expanded so that since the 1960s, about one-fifth of the post workforce has been African-American. But it's also expanded to now being 37 percent female, 8 percent Hispanic, 8 percent Asian.

Personally, I am also acquainted with friends of the family who were thankful to be employed by the USPS, because even though they held advanced degrees from overseas, they had difficulty finding a job.

However, like many factory jobs, the kinds of representations which minorities receive vary according to ethnicity. Often, when selecting employees for reduction in hours, middle-management supervisors target the most vulnerable. According to Espinosa and Angeles, "Protesters said management also targets elderly employees — by relocating them hundreds of miles away from their families — if they want to keep their jobs" ("Filipino Workers"). The issues in adequate APWU and USPS representation specific to Asian-Pacific American at the upper levels of management are a factor in how things play out, according to commentator Lester Yee:

Race had nothing to do with downsizing but if senior management had better representation of AAPI in senior level positions, they could have more effectively began working with the employee groups, communicating better and perhaps develop a better understanding of the cultural impacts that affect the downsizing. ("Filipino Postal Workers Protest Cuts")

Bay Citizen blogger Odette Keeley in "Filipino Postal Workers Protest Cuts" wrote that the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) estimates that 40 percent of the 1,600 clerks in San Francisco are Filipino, but many Filipino postal workers underwent reduced hours, even while temporaries were hired during the holiday season. Asked about this, USPS spokesperson James Wigdel "explained that management chose to hire part-time employees during the holiday season — when mail volume increases — because their schedules are more flexible."

Clearly there have been reductions in mail volume due to internet use and ordering stamps online, nevertheless, according to Steve Hutkins, "It’s a long-term, gradual, systemic problem that calls for long-term, gradual changes — perhaps gradual downsizing, but preferably alternatives, like giving the Postal Service the ability to develop new products and services to make up for the lost revenue" ("Save the Post Office").

The intangible benefits of postal shutdowns need to be weighed out. In "As Public Sector Sheds Jobs, Blacks are Hardest Hit," New York Times reporter Timothy Williams writes:

A study by the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California this spring concluded, “Any analysis of the impact to society of additional layoffs in the public sector as a strategy to address the fiscal crisis should take into account the disproportionate impact the reductions in government employment have on the black community.”

How can one weigh the losses or benefits for home-bound residents who rely on timely delivery of medical supplies. Why must the poor suffer inordinately because of lack of internet access? Why must rural residents drive farther or be forced to use private mail services while urban residents are far less inconvenienced? Often the postal worker is a familiar friendly face who can discriminate when patrons are out of town versus experiencing an emergency.

So many questions appeared to be unanswered, while the skeptics already blame this crisis upon the virtually unlimited federal defense spending--- for all the Postal Service budget challenges, it's red-ink is dwarfed by the vast sums of tax-payer monies awarded for 2012 defense contracts such as for new high frequency satellites, inventorying rare earths, and the 8 billion dollar base in Guam ("H.R. 1540").

Must we beg the question exactly what are the recession priorities for America? If the intangible benefits of supporting services integral to the survival of this nation's small businesses and rural communities, much less to the postal workers and their families themselves can be so callously disregarded, what can happen next? Already one can envision that it may be teachers, scientists, emergency workers, and the National Endowment for the Arts....

It appears that a dangerous precedent is in the making. This is why APWU President Cliff Guffey (http://www.apwu.org/news/webart/2011/11-128-servicestandards-111205.htm), NALC President Fredric Rolando, and Citizens founder Ralph Nader (see "Time to Save the Post Office") are asking citizens to write and petition Congress to ask for a 6-month moratorium.

You too, can help by learning more about this issue by visiting

http://www.saveamericaspostalservice.org/2309.html.

Works Cited:
*Note: Number of post offices being studied for closure quoted from Time magazine article by Josh Sanburn; also paragraph "On Post Office Closings" subsection under "The New York Times Editorial" by Steve Hutkins.
American Postal Workers Union. APWU.org. APWU, 2011. Web. 10 Dec. 2011.
Espinosa, Henni, and Steve Angeles. "Filipino Workers Protest Poor Working Conditions and Pay." Balitang America, 20 Nov. 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2011.
"H.R. 1540--National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012." OpenCongress.org. Participatory Politics Foundation, 2011.
Hutkins, Steve. "Downsize Means Destroy." Room for Debate. The New York Times Opinion Pages, 06 Dec 2011. Web. 10 Dec. 2011.
Hutkins, Steve. "More Fun with Charts." Savethepostoffice.com, 7 Dec. 2011. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.
Hutkins, Steve. "The New York Times Editorial." Savethepostoffice.com, 25 Nov. 2011. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.
Keeley, Odette. "Filipino Postal Workers Protest Cuts." Pulse of the Bay. Baycitizen.org, 24 Nov. 2010. <http://www.baycitizen.org/blogs/pulse-of-the-bay/filipino-postal-workers-protest-cuts/>
National Association of Letter Carriers. NALC, 2011. Web. 10 Dec. 2011.
NAD. "African American Lose Most With Post Office Closures." Newamericandimensions.com. New American Dimensions, 03 Aug. 2011. 11 Dec. 2011.
Nader, Ralph. "Time to Save the Post Office." Savethepostoffice.com, 09 Dec. 2011.
Sanburn, Josh. "How the U.S. Postal Service Fell Apart." U.S. Time.com, 17 Nov. 2011. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.
"The Organized Attack on Public Employees." APWU, 2011. Web. 10 Dec. 2011.
"United States Postal Service." Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org, 2011. 11 Dec. 2011.
"USPS Plan Will Hasten Demise Of a Still-Vital Institution." APWU, 2011. Web. 10 Dec. 2011.
Williams, Timothy. "As Public Sector Sheds Jobs, Blacks are Hit Hardest." U.S. Nytimes.com, 28 Nov. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2011.

--Photograph of NALC President Fredric Rolando speaking at the National Press Club on 21 Nov. 2011-- taken by columbiapress.org

Truth-Compassion-Tolerance 2011 International Art Exhibition

The 2011 International Exhibition is prepared by the Falun Dafa Artists Group (www.FalunArt.org). Artists including Xiaoping Chen, Xi Chiang, Kathleen Gillis, Yuan Li, Weixing Wang, Kunlun Zhang are among the many painters whose works are grouped around themes: Cultivation, Persecution, Resistance, Retribution, and Salvation.

Truth-Compassion-Tolerance are the three sacred principles of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong). Master Li Hong Zhi, spread the movement throughout China in the early 1990s. However during the late 1990's, not withstanding the fact that its millions of practitioners included Party members and officials, a clampdown began on practice and public expression of support.

Forced into exile, Falun Dafa has rebounded by spreading its message around the globe. With the help of numerous supporters, artwork and paintings are on display this month at the Alex Gallery in Washington, D.C through December 30th.

My walk through the historic Alex Gallery of the Truth-Compassion-Tolerance exhibit was a revealing true-to-life experience. For certain, such a wintry painting as "An Orphan's Sorrow" by artist Xiqiang Dong, is fitting allegory of sorrow. It seems so symbolic also for another year passing, the losses in war, all that has been left undone, and many incommunicable barriers. Neither must I leave off my internal failings nor forget the true meaning of democracy.

This painting alone spurred me to later purchase the over-sized art book, The Art of Zhen-Shan-Ren Collection International Exhibition. Inside are 63 works of art: 37 from the first edition and 26 new selections. Paintings on display, artists biographies, and inspirational words:

The work of art is not so much a material here but a vehicle, the promise of which is passage to truth.

Public support of Falun Dafa in China remains a criminal offense, punishable by jailing and even torture. In fact, during the initial clampdown, thousands of the most enthusiastic supporters were summarily rounded up and hauled off to jail, where they spend years of suffering. Children have been orphaned, families torn apart, while the victims even suffer experimental "live organ harvesting." Despite non-governmental organization reports, the incarcerations have continued although recently in an abated form; many still remain in jail or can never return home.

The gist of this is powerfully expressed in paintings such as "Psychiatric Abuse" by Xiaoping Chen, "Homeless II" by Yuan Li, and "Comeback Daddy" by Weixing Wang. These paintings and more are on sale at the Alex Gallery through December 30th.

Included are magnificent displays of hope. Kathleen Gillis's "Manhattan Meditator" struck me as one such glowing anachronism. Here a lovely golden-haired child practices unaffected by her noisy surrounding--a bustling sidewalk filled with glitzy advertisements--able to reach serenity. Amid our seasonal aches and pains, we can really exude such inner peace and happiness.

The International Art Exhibition portrays a breadth of human involvement in and around practice. "In Harmony" by Xiaoping Chen, "Calling for Justice" by Xiqiang Dong, "A Battle Between Good and Evil" by Zhiping Wang remind one of the larger than life daily choices we all make.

There are international themed painting on display such as the famous "Fortitude" by Weixing Wang; ardent hope such as "Lecturing on the Fa" by Li, Chen, & Zhang; and contemplative, such as "Buddha" by Kunlan Zhang, himself a survivor of torture.

Since its debut in 2004 at the Rayburn House (U.S. Congress Building), the Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance Art Exhibit has included countries such as Britain, Germany, France, Israel, Ireland, Turkey, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Guadalupe, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, South Korea, and Taiwan.

What imbues the true work of art with an enduring, or universal, quality is its capacity to transcend situated, temporal ideas of beauty...

Falun Dafa Organization has spread to countries internationally; its message of hope translated in over forty languages (http://www.falundafa.org/). Venues also include newspapers (Epoch Times), New Tang Dynasty Television, affiliated websites. Best of all is Shen Yun Performing Arts--a troupe of dancers and musicians constantly touring the globe. In 2012, Shen Yun is gearing up for all-original choreographs and compositions.

To find out more about the Truth-Compassion-Tolerance International Art Exhibition, please visit www.falunart.org. For more information about Shen Yun 2012, visit www.ShenYun2012.com. For more information about Alex Gallery and current exhibitions, visit http://www.alexgalleries.com/exhibits.php (Alex Gallery, 2106 R Street NW, Washington, DC, Tuesday-Saturday 10-5).

Painting "Illumination" by Chen Xiaoping from pureinsight.org (http://www.pureinsight.org/node/5345)
Article written and prepared by columbiapress.org--Submitted to apaforprogress.org 21 Dec. 2011

Regret for Chinese Exclusion Laws Faces Uphill Battle in House - Part 1

by Christine Wong

When the Senate passed Senate Resolution 201, it came as a pleasant surprise. I was eager to read about it, but only belatedly discovered that it has yet to pass in the House. In May 2011, Congresswoman Chu had first sponsored House Resolution 282 "Resolution Expressing Regret for the Chinese Exclusion Laws." Her House speech was nationally televised on C-Span (http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/MorningHour598).

Spurred to learn more about this bill, I visited websites and even the Library of Congress. According to Asia World Media in "Resolutions 201," the 1882 Project is a "non-partisan, grassroots effort of several prominent national civil rights organizations" which "focuses on educating lawmakers and the public on the Chinese Exclusion Laws and their impact on our history" (2). Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA) President Carolyn H. Chan states:

The education and public awareness that goes with such an effort will be worth the time and expense. As importantly, the successful passage of the resolutions honors and gives long overdue respect to our fathers and mothers who suffered under the Exclusion Laws and who struggled so that we can have the life we have today and that allows us to exend the promise of America to our children. It would be priceless if Congress could pass these resolutions in time to honor our forebears before the last of their generation passes. (3)

Nevertheless, the bill may face an uphill battle in the House. In "Congress Shouldn't Delay Justice Any Further," Nick Lepham states:

The resolution unanimously passed by voice vote in the Senate, but the House version introduced by Reps. Chu, Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Mike Coffman (R-CO) faces hurdles, as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) refuses to bring it up for a vote. (2)

What could be the sources of negativity with regard to this bill?

Clues are provided by some negative comments written by visitors to the online articles. One such commentator yearns to compare the plight of the Chinese under the Exclusion Act with those of the Irish who endured mistreatment while employed by a canal company. To be certain, almost all 20th century immigrants endured their fair share of hard labor and discriminatory work conditions; nonethelsss, no ethnic group has been so specifically and consistently discriminated against, aided and abetted by United States laws passed between 1882 and 1943, sixty years worth of laws that overlooked the Snake River Massacre; segregated and perilous working conditions in the Transcontinental Railroad construction through the Sierra Nevadas; arbitrary state and federal head taxes ranging from $25 to over $500 in both Canada and the U.S.; prolonged detention in unsanitary conditions at Angel Island; segregation in close confined neighborhoods in Chinatowns which aggravated slum-living conditions thus fulfilling notions that Chinese people were non-assimilable due to their filth; laws that also aided and abetted prostitution and gambling houses because men could not return to China (Scott Act), in effect, forcing them to live in exile; they could not bring brides over (Page Act); further local taxes and restrictions on free travel or residency were enforced by the Geary Act.

The above is only a partial list because it does not include spinoffs by college admissions or labor unions that also affected Asians in general. For instance, Japanese immigrants were similarly limited when in 1907 "President Theodore Roosevelt signed a 'Gentlemen's Agreement' with Japan to stop the importation of Japanese laborers to America" ("Summary of Immigration"); Japanese immigrants also could not bring wives over, and women were detained on Angel Island before being sent home.

These laws also affected African-Americans. According to the Encyclopedia of Immigration:

The official policy of the AFL [American Federation of Labor] was to represent all American workers, without reference to race, ethnicity, or gender. In practice, however, Japanese and Chinese workers were excluded, and after 1895, many affiliated unions began banning African-American workers. ("AFL-CIO")

This is why H.R. 282/ S.R. 201 still matters today. Can we really say that the civil rights struggles are over when there is no sense of closure? Can we really believe that equal opportunity and affirmative action quotas have taken place?

Collectively speaking, many activist minority groups would say "No". Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) stated: "The introductions of these resolutions during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month are very timely" ("AA News"). Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) stated: "The Chinese are the only racial group ever specifically banned from the United States, and the impact of these exclusionary laws were profound..." ("AA News").

Throughout the history of this country, the various minorities, whether Indians, Negroes, Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, Polynesians, Hindus---had all shared arbitrary dislocation and disempowerment in contrast with the American Dream. My answer to a blog visitor who pointed out that the current economic crisis overtakes addressing historic oppressions runs something like: "It is precisely during times of extreme economic hardship (eg. after the Transcontinental Railroads were built, and during the Great Depression) that the worst kinds of laws and actions have flourished and multiplied."

The kinds of disparities endured have been both intimidating and disabling, affecting mind, body, and even the soul with regard to entertaining any kind of hope for even modest assimilation. Today, legislative disparities and discrimination is officially banned, but as the Chin, Chen, and Le cases demonstrate, prejudice has only gone undercover, thriving within acts of uncommon cruelty and violence. Asians also remain under-represented in fields such as sports, Hollywood, law, corporate media, law enforcement, advertising, and a variety of blue-collar unionized jobs.

Even here at the National Mall there is a microcosm representing persistent disparities between and among poor immigrants. Latino emigrant crews are hard at work performing handyman tasks, such as painting bollards. Newly arrived Carribean emigrants land a variety of indoor jobs working at the museums or hospitals. Asian emigrants, however, strive in niche vendoring, selling snacks and souvenirs. Here the latter seem hardest hit when an ebb in tourist dollars cannot even pay for the lease.

The invisible walls of prejudice are still reinforced through repetition of Asians as the "Model Minority." The damaging myth supports the view that Asians don't need as much praise, recognition, financial aid, scholarships, or other college admissions handicaps because they are fully autonomous and gifted. Although I am not by any means an Asian-American Studies expert, the fact is that too many graduates are still unable to distinguish how Asians have arrived in waves, and in different groups under specific needs, and that within any particular grouping, subjects were often divided among all parts of the economic stratum, with the rich often being touted and noticed for their talents, while the poor continuing to suffer neglect, marginalization, and few opportunities to learn English.

Only through the collective efforts of Asian-American film, media, and lectures, can the public become better educated about the irreparable harm, indeed the double-whammy that myth and prejudice perpetuate. How can one possibly claim that a child whose days are filled with labor, whether at home tagging piles of merchandise, or at a fast-food restaurant serving patrons is "advantaged"? Are we to suppose that such a child just "naturally" does well in school, instead of sneaking in a few meager hours of study here and there, where normally, such hours might be enjoyed out in the sunshine?

Just this past week, our household opened the front door to discover that the person who has been leafleting our building for the local Chinese fast-food delivery was but a lad of ten years old. Surely, this is not being done for any other reason but to help his family survive, such being the uphill battle for business during tough times.

We cannot build a civilized nation without recognizing that "having our cake and eating it too" at the expense of other nations and peoples is wrong, and that this piece of legislation is therefore not dismissable under the shadow of other civil rights legislations. We need to fight for equal opportunity in promotion where affirmative action continues to be applied not as minimal but, often sadly, as the maximum quota in hiring practices. At the very least, full passage of H.R. 282/ S.R. 201 assures the public that if a historically reviled minority were offered such an apology, then such scapegoating may not happen again, regardless of the debt crisis.

In my view, the issue will never be dismissable until Asian-Pacific Americans have a suitable monument built to commemorate the thousands who suffered some form of abuse, whether murder, expulsion, detention, beating, robbery, harassment, or humiliating secondary impacts under the various Exclusions Acts. Until there are apologies and recognitions that targeted hazing, mobbing, bullying, and other forms of harassment are manifestations of segregation and human rights abuses, it will continue to merit civilized notice.

Please read about bill <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.RES.282:>. Contact your House Representative <http://house.gov/> and ask him/her to support this upcoming legislation.

Poster credit to Chinese Historical Society of America (http://www.chsa.org/2011/10/14/us-senate-measure-regrets-1882/).

In the next part, I will be contextualizing the Exclusion Law time period through discussion of contemporary media and literary works. ----Reprinted at apaforprogress.org by permission on 11 Jan 2012.


Works Cited and Resources:
"A Summary of the Immigration Laws of the United States from 1882." Gjenvick.com. Gjenvick-Gjonvik Archives, 2011. Web. 10 Jan. 2012.
"American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)." Immigration-online.org. Encyclopedia of Immigration, 19 Jan. 2011.
AANews. "Congressional Resolution "Regrets Chinese Exclusion Laws." Aapress.com. Asian American Press, 05 Jun 2011. Web. 10 Jan. 2012.
Asia World Media. "Resolutions 201, Addressing Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882." Asiaworldmedia.com, 16 Dec. 2011. Web. 07 Jan. 2012.
"Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882." Thomas.loc.gov 112th Congress. Congressional Record, 01 June 2011. Web. 07 Jan. 2012.
"H. RES. 282. IH Bill Text." Thomas.loc.gov 112th Congress. Web. 07 Jan. 2012.
Lepham, Nick. "Congress Shouldn't Delay Justice Any Further." Americanprogress.org. Center for American Progress, 18 Oct. 2011. Web. 07 Jan. 2012.
"Morning Hour Jun 1, 2011." C-spanvideo.org. C-Span Video Library. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/MorningHour598>
"U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu." Chu.house.gov. U.S. House of Representatives. Web. 07 Jan. 2012.
"Vincent Who?" Vincentwhomovie.com. American Pacific Asians for Progress. Web. Dec. 2011.

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