Sunday, August 31, 2014

Nixon was even worst than I thought - Part 1

Martin Luther King spoke at Cal's Sproul Plaza in 1967,  outlining how civil rights included being against the war.

IN 1968, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese staged the Tet Offensive demonstrating how vulnerable American and South Vietnamese forces were and how fragile the Saigon government was.
In America the anti-war movement was gaining steam with each casualty report coming out of the Vietnam war. Nowhere was the anti-war movement stronger that at our country's college campuses. UC Berkeley, where I was starting my second year, was in the center of the storm. 
Richard Nixon
Even though I was in ROTC, I wasn't immune to the sentiment of my peers in regards to the war. In some ways, those of us in ROTC had more at stake than most. It was a difficult time for everyone and I was no exception. I was torn. I struggled. On one hand, I wholeheartedly agreed with my friends about the war. On the other hand, I attended pro-war seminars and lectures trying to find justification for being part of the military conducting what I felt was an unjust war where the U.S. shouldn't have been involved. These efforts failed.
To people outside of the campus -- people in the Midwest and those political leaders in Washington, D.C. -- it might have appeared that the country was on the border of a real revolution. The Beatles came out with a song titled "Revolution," and people who didn't listen to the lyrics thought it advocated revolution. (Video below)

Other social forces were converging - the civil rights movement, the country was still shaken by the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the Black Panthers were carrying their guns in the streets, the Brown Berets looked threatening, Asian students and professors were grumbling at S.F. State planning the Third World Strike with their allies in the Chicano and black studies departments --  stirring the pot and added to this bubbling cauldron of social unrest was the anti-war movement. 
To lovers of the status quo, it indeed might have looked like the country and the old social order were on the verge of collapse. 
That sentiment forced President Johnson to decide not to run for reelection and the war was THE central issue of the Presidential campaign which pitted former Vice President Richard Nixon and Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
All of those memories and feelings came rushing back to me last month with the revelation of Nixon's role in sabotaging the peace talks between North and South Vietnam.
As if Watergate wasn’t enough to forever taint President Nixon’s record of public service, if he were alive today, he would be in jail for being a traitor to our country.
I didn’t think that this type of political commentary would fit in this blog’s format but I’m so angry, I had to write about it. Why mainstream media isn’t all over this story with 10 different angles; talking heads would be analyzing this on all our networks; editorials would be lamenting Nixon’s true legacy and Fox News would have figured out a way to twist the facts around and blame Obama – is beyond me.
The state of mainstream media these days is so sad I shouldn’t be surprised at their timidity. I guess the latest suntanning efforts of the Kardasians is more important.
For years, it was rumored that Nixon was behind the failure of President Johnson to negotiate a peace treaty with North Vietnam in 1968. The audiotapes of President Lyndon Johnson White House conversations revealed that the president accused Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign of treason for undermining the peace negotiations to end the war in Vietnam.
It wasn’t until this summer that those rumors were confirmed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No more Whoppers for me; join the boycott

JOIN ME in boycotting Burger King for it's recent gambit for avoiding paying taxes to the U.S.

Yesterday (Aug. 26) the fast-food Whopper maker completed its purchase of Canadian-based Tim Horton's, thus making Burger King the third-biggest of the fast-food chains in America.

The tax-saving maneuver has been denounced by political leaders and at least one senator has called for a boycott.

Burger King's decision to abandon the United States means consumers should turn to Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers or White Castle sliders," said Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio). "Burger King has always said, 'Have it your way'; well  my way is to support two Ohio companies that haven't abandoned their country or customers." Wendy's is based in Dublin, Ohio while White Castle is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.

Burger King will move its corporate headquarters from Miami to Canada. It is owned by a Brazilian conglomerate and they don't care what country the headquarters is as long as it saves the struggling company money.

While Burger King downplays the tax benefits it would receive, many believe that the move to purchase a foreign company and transfer its headquarters to Canada is in response to President Obama's recent denunciation of American companies strategy to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

News of the deal came out over the weekend and people flooded the fast-food chains Facebook page with boycott threats.

President Obama spoke out about the strategy of "tax inversion" last month and threatened to place restrictions on companies who wanted to pursue that route. Tax Inversion is a situation wherein an American company buys a company based in another country with a lower tax rate, opts out of its American corporate citizenship and becomes a corporate citizen of the foreign country. What it comes down to is tax avoidance.

America gives a company its start, U.S. banks finance it, goods are shipped on government-built roads, American job training programs trains its workers and American colleges produces its management, American-built roads deliver the goods, American customers give it a solid financial foundation. Hell, government granted businesses like Burger King to incorporate with rights and privileges. Corporations like Burger King want to turn its back on America and the taxpayer-funded system that allowed and encouraged it to thrive and grow.

The U.S. corporate tax is high, 35%, but through our loophole-laced tax code, the average American corporation's tax rate is 12-15%, much lower than most households of middle class America. Some corporations are so good at dodging taxes they pay zero, nada, nothing -- in taxes. (That's not fair or right either.)

I gladly pay my taxes and I'm sure most of you pay your taxes because we are part of a larger community. Our taxes comes back to us in our infrastructure, our education, our water delivery systems, sewage, electricity and other government services, Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act.

Earlier this month, drugstore giant Walgreens also was seeking a tax inversion but after the bad publicity and customer backlash, it decided to abandon those plans.

If Burger King doesn't appreciate what our system of government and economy allowed the company to do; if Burger King doesn't care about our country; if Burger King doesn't need us, well, -- WE DON'T NEED IT. There are plenty of other burger joints in town.

Savor Filipino 2014 - August 30 in San Francisco

PRESENTED by the Filipino Food Movement, a nonprofit started by the Quesada's 2nd generation. Ramar Foods, owned and operated by the Quesada family and headquartered in Pittsburg, California, is the largest manufacturer of Filipino food in the U.S.

Go to Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco, August 30, 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Cooking demonstrations, food tasting and entertainment.

Savor Filipino is a unique venue intended to 
expose people outside of the Filipino-American

community to the under-appreciated cuisine of the Philippines. While the American public venturing beyond Chinese cuisine may be familiar with Vietnamese, Korean, Thai or Malaysian food, for some reason, Filipino cuisine has never really caught on. Savor Filipino believes that our food is the next big thing.

This is a must event for anybody who loves Filipino food or anybody who is curious, adventurous and eager to try a new world of tastes that come from Philippine cuisine, which is acknowledged to be a mix of Chinese, Malaysian, Spanish and American - just like the people of the Philippines - halo-halo

A word of caution to those Filipinos: don't compare the food here with the food that mom makes in her kitchen. It might smell the same and maybe even smell the same (who could resist the smell of adobo bubbling away?) but the traditional dishes will be prepared and presented as if it came from a 5-star restaurant. 

Go with an open mind and empty stomach. For more information, go to its website:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jose Vargas asks government for protection against deportation

JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, who we last saw at the Texas border with Mexico (See earlier blog below) has kept himself busy. 

Days after speaking at the Asian American Journalists Association's annual convention held in Washington D.C., Vargas and 10 other undocumented immigrants held a press conference to put themselves on the line and to push the Obama administration to act on immigration reform and the status of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. In doing so, he puts himself at risk of immediate deportation.

The ball is now in the court of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson at which time deportation would be delayed or immediate. The decision could come any day.

The Pulitzer-prize winning journalist came out of the shadows in 2011 to become one of the leading spokesman for undocumented immigrants and immigration reform.

Here's the CNN report of August 21:

(CNN) -- Filmmaker and activist Jose Antonio Vargas and 10 others asked the U.S. government on Wednesday to halt deportation proceedings against undocumented immigrants like themselves who have strong and productive ties to the United States.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, they requested that he defer such punitive action and then ask President Barack Obama to consider "administrative relief" to those "who are integral members of our evolving American community."
Vargas and the others said in their letter that they represent just a few of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
"Often, we're treated as abstractions, nameless and faceless, subjects of debate rather than individuals with families, hopes, fears, and dreams," they wrote.
Undocumented leader: 'We're tired'
Undocumented activist of CNN film detained
"Over the past decades, we have been working, worshiping in churches, going to school, and contributing to the communities we call home. We love, fight for, and pledge allegiance to an America whose flag does not recognize us," they added.
In a statement, Johnson's office did not mention the letter, but said he has "been taking a hard look" at "tough issues" around shortcomings in immigration policy and working to submit recommendations to Obama within "the confines of existing law."
Customs and Border Patrol agents detained Vargas, also an award-winning journalist, last month in McAllen, Texas, after learning of his immigration status.
He was there to call attention to the plight of tens of thousands of migrant youth from Central America, many of them unaccompanied, who have streamed across the southern border this year.
The surge has strained border services and reignited the debate over immigration reform in Washington, a cause that Vargas promotes.
A decision by Johnson to grant the request would delay any deportation proceedings with the hope that Obama would then use his executive authority to expand deportation protections or that Congress would agree to an overhaul of immigration law.
Obama used his executive authority in 2012 to grant work authorization for two years or more for those who came to the United States as children. Vargas missed the age eligibility by only months.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Final Robin Williams Tribute

A LOT OF PEOPLE have said some really moving things about Robin Williams and undoubtedly, there will be more. If there is one video you watch today, let it be this one. The words are from Jack, the visuals from some of Robin Williams movies. There's really not any more I can add.

I've added on the vlog by actor Dante Basco, a San Francisco Bay Area native, who played the lead Lost Boy, Rufio, in the Robin Williams movie "Hook." 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Freedom Summer: The 1964 Battle For Civil Rights In Mississippi

IN THE SUMMER of 1964 I was looking forward to my senior year in high school. I had a job at the World's Fair in New York, working in a hot kitchen providing chicken adobo and marinated pork on a stick for the customers of the San Miguel Beer pavilion/beer hall.

The German pavilion across the alley provided a good, steady source of beer-loving customers.

One of my co-workers in the kitchen was a guy from Tahiti. He was 21 and after work we'd hang out in the fairgrounds taking advantage of the free or really inexpensive entertainment venues. During one of these outings, he bought me my first mixed drink - rum and coke. The bars on the fairgrounds were pretty lax about asking for ID's.

Like a dork, I wore my letterman's sweater a couple of times thinking it would be impressive. When asked what the block letter "P" stood for, I'd proudly respond, "Pittsburg." Everybody thought I was talking about Pittsburgh, ( you know, Pittsburg with the "h") and assumed that I went to the University of Pittsburgh. I didn't say otherwise, just pass me the rum and coke.

One of the highlights of that summer was a quick bus ride to Washington D.C. with by brother-in-law's younger brother and another co-worker, a Puerto Rican who had a whisper of a mustache and had that New Yawk accent and what I saw as "street smarts." We had one day in the nation's capitol and all we saw was the mall and some of the nearby monuments.

We were too young to appreciate the history and significance of all that was around us.

We sat in the back of the Greyhound bus and sang songs of the day, like "Up On The Roof" and "Under the Boardwalk." We sounded terrible but we thought we were good. It was a wonder nobody else on the bus complained.

I had no inkling what else was happening the world. I didn't know about the other buses carrying college students to the Deep South to register African Americans to vote.

I didn't know about the lynchings and the deaths of some of those Freedom Riders. I am embarrassed to say how oblivious I was. I lived in California, far from the segregated lunch counters, the separate entrances for blacks and whites, and the Jim Crow laws that prevented blacks from exercising their right to vote. 
To learn more about Freedom Summer, there's an app for that:
For young people today, 50 years ago is ancient history. It may be difficult to imagine how different it was then. You have to picture the civil rights actions that took place in a hostile environment. Back then, local government was the enemy. The figures of authority - including the police - were openly against voter registration for blacks. 

The courage of those young people - black and white - who traveled to the Deep South and went against the bigotry and racism that was the way of life down there. To the good ol' boys, these northerners were breaking the law and upending practices that were rooted in centuries of tradition.

Unfortunately today, we are still fighting against the deeply ingrained values based on racism, remnants of that "tradition." People and monied-special interests are trying to turn back the clock with the anti-government rhetoric; the ultra conservatives are still trying to discredit the President and block any of his initiatives; the GOP continue their Southern Strategy by continuing to appeal to the baseline racists with their xenophobic rantings under the guise of "taking back our country;" and their numerous attempts to limit voting under the guise of preventing so-called voter fraud. (NOTE: the number of voting fraud incidents are so few - even rare - and don't warrant the fear and legislation that has emerged to prevent voting by "certain people."} 

It's all a last gasp effort to maintain the status quo, to remain in power, to stay on top of the heap, to keep unspoken entitlements.

To the young people - including my nieces, nephews and their children in high school and college - go ahead and enjoy your summer: go to the beach, hike in the mountains, laugh with your friends and enjoy your time off from studies. Remember though, much of our world today was shaped by the events that occurred in the summer of 1964. The equal rights won for African Americans, was extended to all minorities and inspired other battles: for farmworkers, for Filipinos, for Latinos, for gays and for women.

The victories won in the 60's are being challenged today. The battles continue in the halls of Congress, in the courts, in the polling booth, schools, business and the streets; in Washington D.C., Sacramento, Los Angeles, Detroit, in Texas and Arizona border towns, in Sanford, Florida and in Ferguson, Missouri -- wherever ignorance and hate raises its head.

The rights we enjoy now cannot be taken for granted. With all that is happening in today's world, if you care about democracy, if you care about our country, if you care about the future for you and your family - you can't afford to be as oblivious as I was in 1964.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams, RIP

O'Captain, my captain ... you live on ...

ROBIN WILLIAMS committed suicide yesterday and television and the twitter verse is going crazy with tributes and fond memories. He was only 63.

I never met him, but through his work, he was often in my living room on television. He became part of the family, the crazy uncle who was always making us laugh.

He was a brilliant, hilarious man whose comedic frenzy hid the demons he had inside. Like all true great artists he made an impact on peoples' lives through his roles and insights interspersed throughout his manic performances.

And what's the angle? Why am I mentioning him in this blog? Well ...
There's always an angle.

William's second wife is Marsha Garces, a Filipina-American, with whom he had two hapa children, Zelda and Cody. His oldest son, Zachary, is from his first marriage with Valerie Velardi and he has not yet released a statement. 

Marsha and Robin were together for 20 years, the longest of his three marriages. It was through their philanthropic foundation -- the Windfall Foundation -- where Williams donated his time and money to for its good work.

She divorced him in 2010 after another one of his relapses. Her silence at this time speaks volumes about the pain she must be going through.

(THE OTHER CONNECTIONS: And there is Dante Basco who was in the film "Hook," and played Rufio alongside Williams' Peter Pan; and Lea Salonga provided the singing voice for Jasmine in the animated feature, "Aladdin.")

For my daughters' generation, who went through their formative years in the 80's, he is remembered as Mrs. Doubtfire and English teacher John Keating in the "Dead Poets Society."

Good films, like good all good art, have the ability to transform lives when a scene, a quote or an idea hits you in the stomach, you catch your breath, feel the impact, ruminate about it, swirl it, toss it around, place it inside out and upside down, think about it some more - and then you say, "A-ha!."

And then ... and then ... you remember it for the rest of your life.

For me, it was "To Kill A Mockingbird" with Gregory Peck, who played a southern lawyer defending a black man. For those who grew up in the 80s, it might have been this scene from the Dead Poets Society: 

And while we're talking about Williams and Walt Whitman, for those young people growing up today, it might be this commercial in which he provides the voiceover. It may be a commercial for a product, but for me, it was the message, the words, the idea, the question: 

What verse will you contribute?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A bad joke and a so-so apology from "Top Gear"

Jeremy Clarkson awaits a penalty for his tendency to use racist language. 

THIS MAY be old news to some of you, but the ruling issued by Britain's Office of Communications (Ofcam) just came out and it ruled that the BBC violated broadcasting rules when it aired a scene in their show "Top Gear" last spring that included a racial slur.

“After a thorough investigation, Ofcom has found the BBC breached broadcasting rules by including an offensive racial term in Top Gear, which was not justified by context,” an Ofcam spokesperson said. “This was scripted in advance. The BBC failed to take the opportunity, either during filming or post-production, to check whether the word had the potential to offend viewers.”
The episode in question, a special about Myanmar which aired in April, included a pretaped segment featuring host Jeremy Clarkson standing at the end of a bridge over the River Kwai as a local man walked across it.
“That is a proud moment,” Clarkson said, “but there’s a slope on it.”
“Slope” is recognized as an anti-Asian slur, especially in Australia (used mostly in reference to people of Vietnamese descent) and the United States (My addition: where it’s most commonly used against all Asian ethnicities).
“When we used the word ‘slope’ in the recent Top Gear Burma special it was a lighthearted word-play joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it,” Executive Producer Andy Wilman said in a statement after receiving complaints. “We were not aware at the time, and it has subsequently been brought to our attention, that the word ‘slope’ is considered by some to be offensive and although it might not be widely recognized in the UK, we appreciate that it can be considered offensive to some here and overseas, for example in Australia and the USA.
“If we had known that at the time we would not have broadcast the word in this context and regret any offense caused.”
The excuse sounds kind of lame to me.
This is not a breaking news show where everything is live and people speak out in the moment and you tape whatever you get. It is taped months in advance and scripts are approved months or weeks before the actual taping.
They thought they were being clever but instead they revealed their ignorance and prejudices.
The show, which is known for its "clever" or unusual take on the world, has been in trouble before when it called Mexicans "feckless and flatulent." A month after the Myanmar incident, Clarkson was choosing between two cars and he was using the children's rhyme, "Eenie meenie miiny mo ..." you know how the rest of it goes. The producers at least had the good sense to edit it out of the final product. 
I remember during the Vietnam War when American soldiers returned home and I began hearing that term. They applied it to all Asians, much like the term "gook" used by soldiers in the Philippines-American War when referring to Filipinos became synonymous with all Asians.
I hated the term "slopes" then and I hate it now, no matter the context. Ofcam is supposed to come back with some sort of penalty. Let's hope the penalty is  substantial enough to jog some sense into Clarkson, who reportedly makes millions for his hosting duties.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why are we still asking: Are Filipinos Asian or Pacific Islanders?

THE FUNG BROTHERS are really brothers and they're hilarious! Andrew and David Fung are two of the Asian-American entertainers who have found a home on the Internet (YouTube specifically) after finding the doors to Hollywood difficult to open. More amazing, they've found a way to make a living off of their videos spoofing all things Asian American. 

They went to a college staging a Filipino-American pista, or fiesta, to ask the question that a lot of Asians have asked about Filipinos. Even back in the 60s the question was asked and discussed at Asian restaurants, college campuses and basements in Manilatown, Chinatown and J-town: "Are Filipinos Asian or Pacific Islander?"
The Fung brothers are originally from Seattle.

Let's see, the Philippines is made up of 7,000 islands separating the China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

However, the original inhabitants probably crossed over land bridges over what is now Malaysia and Indonesia. Later improved seafaring skills led to contact and immigrations from China, Vietnam and probably Japan.

So, really, there are legitimate claims for both designations. But why does it matter? Nevertheless, the question is still being asked, particularly by East Asians, who don't know what to make of Filipinos who are not as reserved as they are and who have an exuberance for enjoying life. They can't understand Filipinos whose culture has been heavily influenced by its colonial periods: Spain, and then the United States. As the Filipino joke goes about the Philippine cultural influences -- 350 years in a convent and 50 years of Hollywood.

Prior to the western visitors, there were thousands of years of mixing with neighboring cultures creating something uniquely different -- halo-halo (mixed up), which is also the name of a Filipino dessert made up of a variety of ingredients. 

I think there is also a bit of classicism that comes into play. Filipinos have sometimes been called the Mexicans of Asia because they are hardworking and willing to do the work others don't want to do. Generally, they enjoy music and like to party. This image is reinforced with the strong Spanish influence on Filipino culture, just like Mexico. In many respects, Filipinos share a lot with Latinos, including how they are viewed by the mainstream public. And in Asia, the mainstream is not white.

In Malaysia, the word for Filipino illegal immigrants is a racial slur. The infamous screed last year from a Hong Kong woman on "How to treat Filipinos" created an international uproar but she was unapologetic and in fact, when faced with the backlash, doubled down on her views. Stories abound about Filipinas throughout Asia being exploited and abused by their employers. There is a widespread perception of Filipinos in Asia that could only be described as racist.

In contrast, no one questions the Asianess of the people who come from the Indian subcontinent even though, racially, Indians are caucasian.

I daresay -- and I'll probably get a lot of grief for this -- some of that anti-Filipino animus in Asia might have drifted across the Pacific.

In California, Filipinos were successful in getting their own ethnic category in the Census and later, the U.S. Census followed suit. In the 60's and 70's, Filipino-American leaders felt it was important to separate themselves from the broad "Asian" category. Leaders and activists in the Chinese and Japanese communities wondered why this was necessary and saw the action as another example of Filipinos being Filipinos, not Asians. 

The reason, of course, was more complicated. For the Filipino community it was difficult to justify creating social service programs directed at Filipinos even though, anecdotally, the need was great. The new law mandated that Filipinos be identified in statistics regarding schools, social service, employment and health institutions. A lot of the funds for social and educational programs were going to Asian agencies which counted Filipinos in their data but their programs were allegedly not being delivered to Filipinos. With the new Census numbers bearing them out, social service agencies and programs sprung up throughout California to serve Filipino Americans.

Politically, the data also benefitted Filipinos. The data surprised everyone because it revealed that Filipinos made up the largest Asian group in California. It gave Filipinos a place at the table on issues affecting the Asian community which up to that point was dominated by Chinese and Japanese Americans. When it came down to it, it was still beneficial to Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos to combine their numbers to wield their political influence. (Vietnamese immigration was just getting underway with the end of the Vietnam War and the tech boom which attracted huge numbers of Indians and Koreans hadn't occurred yet.)

The Fung Brothers got some interesting and funny responses that show that we're still a bit confused where Filipinos fit in the Asian-American spectrum. The clip is funny and makes light of some of our unique qualities. (We do like to have a good time.) The fact that the question is being asked at all indicates that there is still a lot of uncertainty - even in 2014.

Why does it matter if Filipinos are Asian or Pacific Islander? After all, most non-Asian Americans treat all Asians the same - including Filipinos. To mainstream America, we are all lumped into the same basket. Our similarities (rice and karaoke among others) are greater than our differences. Any act of hate or ignorance directed at any Asian is directed at all of us. Any praise or good will heaped on any Asian is shared by all of us ... well, most of the time. Oh well, bahala na.

If you want to check out more of the Fung show, link to They're clever and funny!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The vacation spot no one talks about

El Nido, Palawan

Ooooh! I'm feeling the lure of the islands, again. Just a quick post to bring your attention to this article from Huffington Post about travel to the Philippines. Gorgeous photos. 

Anybody game? Anybody know some good, reliable travel agency offering tours to the Philippines? 

Link to: