Friday, October 30, 2015

Ten-year old who would be President wants to change the U.S. Constitution

Alena Mulhern began her campaign to change the Constitution by speaking before lawmakers.
ALENA MULHERN is the first person to declare her candidacy for President of the United States ... in 2040. The Chinese/American 10-year old girl is looking 25 years into the future because she has her eyes set on the White House's Oval Office.

The only thing preventing her from running for President is the U.S. Constitution, which clearly states that only someone born in the United States is eligible for the highest office in the land.

Alena was born in China and adopted by her parents when she was 10 months old. No big deal; Alena launched a campaign to change the Constitution.

She started her campaign at the Massachusetts States House on Wednesday (Oct. 28). "I'm American as you," she told a TV reporter.

As the law stands now, children adopted from abroad by Americans are automatically granted citizenship by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. The act, however, does not grant them the status of natural-born citizens, making them ineligible to run for the Oval Office.

Alena’s mother, Barbara Mulhern Caparell of Kingston, Mass., told the local channel that she remembers when she first told her daughter that she wasn't legally allowed to be president. “She said, 'Well, that’s not fair.' And I said, 'What are you going to do about it?' And she said, 'I’m going to change the law.'”

petition addressing the issue has been filed by Rep. Josh Cutler from Duxbury, who happens to be her uncle. Alena also spoke in front of the Legislature's Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs to convince the lawmakers to pass a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment that would allow America’s patriotic, foreign-born citizens the opportunity to compete for their country’s highest office.

“I would be a great leader and bring people together. I would guide our country so it would be an even greater place to live, work and raise a family. And most of all, I love my country. I want to serve my country, and this is my country,” she said.

The committee will now review the petition before making a recommendation to the legislature and opening it up to a vote. If Gov. Charlie Baker signs off on it, it would send a message to Congress, which would then have the option to act on the issue either by amending the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 or taking the much harder route of amending the Constitution.

In a phone interview with Boston Magazine, Cutler said that his niece as a “very poised” fifth-grader who loves to discuss current events and public service.

“She was kind of heartbroken to learn she wasn’t eligible to run for office because of this technicality,” he said.

Should Alena succeed on her quest, she’ll be eligible to run for president in 2040 at the earliest, because another constitutional amendment requires presidents to be at least 35 years old. That should be time enough for a determined 10-year-old to change the 240 year old law. I wouldn't bet against her.

A significant moment between Bernie Sanders and a Muslim woman

EVERY ONCE in a while, a moment of honesty shines through all the rhetoric being tossed about by the candidates running for President.

Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was speaking to students at George Mason University Wednesday (Oct. 28) when he was asked an unexpected question, which led to one such moment.

A Muslim student, Remaz Abdelgader, wearing a hijab stood to ask Sanders a question, she began "As an American Muslim student who inspires to change this world..."and then the audience broke into spontaneous applause.
Sanders invited the student onto the stage to finish asking her question about the hateful speech being spewed out by some candidates and what she planned to do fight intolerance when she graduates. She asked Sanders what he would do if he was President.
"Let me be very personal here if I may," Sanders began. "I'm Jewish. My father's family died in concentration camps," Sanders said. "I will do everything that I can to rid this country of the ugly stain of racism that has existed for far too many years." 
Sanders added, "If we stand for anything we have to stand together and end all forms of racism in this country."

Fine words. We need all the candidates to start addressing intolerance and the issues of race or faith, the issues that can so easily divide us. It was what happened immediately afterwards that was easily overlooked but, oh, so wonderful.
He hugged her. She hugged Sanders back.
As a Presidential candidate, he should have known better than to touch a Muslim woman. It's a no-no for a male who is not a relative to touch a woman. As a Muslim woman, Abdelgader should not have allowed him to do that by stepping back and certainly, not return the hug.
But that was the beauty of the moment. It will take more moments like that if we're going to  combat racism and ignorance. From both sides: A little give; a little patience; a little willingness to learn and a willingness to forgive unintentional transgressions.

TGIF FEATURE: Arnel sings the National Anthem

Journey lead singer Arnel Pineda
YES, football fans, that was an Asian guy singing the "Star Spangled Banner" on Monday Night Football prior to the contest between the Baltimore Ravens and the St. Louis Cardinals.

The iconic rock band Journey was without summer Deen Castronovo, but lead singer Arnel Pineda, lead guitarist Neal Schon and keyboardist Jonathan Cain came through.

By now, Pineda's remarkable rags-to-riches story from poverty to world-wide fame is familiar to Journey fans but others may not have heard of how he was discovered on a Youtube video sounding just like Steve Perry, who had left the band Journey to strike out on his own.

The remaining band members sought him out in Manila, brought him back to San Francisco and started working with the amateur singer. Months later in 2007, Pineda made his debut as the band's new singer in front of 20,000 fans at the Viña del Mar International Song Festival in Chile. 

He's been with the band ever since. Pineda's first year with Journey can be seen in the  excellent award-winning documentary, Don't Stop Believing.

It tells about the initial racist reaction of some fans to the fact that he's Asian and some of that showed up again in tweets after his Monday night performance. They complained that he doesn't sound like Steve Perry, but his bandmates, who's opinion matters, back up their lead singer. 

"He's a clutch hitter, this kid," guitarist Cain tells Rolling Stone. "He comes through."


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Kristi Yamaguchi, Bruce Lee inducted into California Hall of Fame

Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi was inducted into the California Hall of Fame..

TWO ASIAN/AMERICANS were inducted into the California Hall of Fame yesterday (Oct. 28).

Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. and First Lady Anne Gust Brown joined the California Museum to award the Spirit of California medal to eight Californians inducted into the California Hall of Fame this evening including Olympic skater Kristi Yamaguchi and superstar martial artist Bruce Lee.

“There’s a lot of open-mindedness to encourage people to dream big and to go after their dreams no matter how crazy they may be,” Yamaguchi said about California.

Yamaguchi and Lee join only three other Asian/Americans in the hall: prominent AIDS researcher Dr. David Ho, author Amy Tan and professional golfer Tiger Woods.

Besides Yamaguchi and Lee, this year's inductees, who exemplify California's spirit of innovation, are: acclaimed actor Robert Downey Jr., celebrated artist David Hockney, journalist and news anchor Lester Holt, space pioneer Ellen Ochoa, country music icon Buck Owens, legendary cartoonist Charles M. Schulz.

"California continuously reinvents itself and the people we honor have that combination of tradition, innovation and, of course, creativity," said Brown at the ceremonies held at the California Museum. 

Inductees and family members of posthumous inductees received the Spirit of California medal from the Governor and First Lady in the official state ceremony this evening at the California Museum in downtown Sacramento.

In addition to receiving the Spirit of California medal, California Hall of Fame inductees will be commemorated with an exhibit of personal artifacts highlighting their lives and achievements, which opens to the public at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 29, 2015 at the California Museum.

This year's medal recipients join 88 Californians previously inducted into the California Hall of Fame for making remarkable achievements across a variety of California industries and areas of influence, including science, philanthropy, sports, business, entertainment, literature, technology, activism and politics.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Spa worker freezes to death in cryotherapy chamber

A FILIPINA/AMERICAN spa employee froze to death earlier this week in what appears to be an accident.

Chelsea Ake-Salvacion
The Henderson, Nevada salon where Chelsea Ake-Salvacion, 24, died in a cryotherapy chamber has been closed as her relatives are questioning the circumstances around her death.

The body of Ake-Salvacion, a native of Hawaii, appeared "frozen in solid ice" and had "blue" skin, family members told reporters.

Authorities said she was found Tuesday morning as employees arrived at the Rejuvenice day spa. Police believe that there was no foul play involved and are not launching a criminal investigation into the matter.

According to a police report obtained by ABC News, it appears that Ake-Salvacion had set the levels improperly on the machine, which uses extremely low temperatures to treat various ailments, and "froze to death." Treatments normally last a few minutes. It is believe that Abe-Salvation had been in the chamber for 10 hours.

The official coroner's report will not be released for six to eight weeks and the case is being investigated, but the initial report filed by the Las Vegas Police Department gives the most detailed insight so far into the situation.

The owners of Rejuvenice on Monday said they were “devastated by this accident” and are “voluntarily scrutinizing each and every one of our internal procedures to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.” 

“All Rejuvenice employees undergo very strict and rigorous training, our cryochambers are never locked, and guests and employees are always supervised during the entirety of the treatment to ensure their safety,” the company said Monday, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. 

Because Ake-Salvacion used the chamber for personal use outside of business hours,  Teri Williams, a Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) spokeswoman, said OSHA does not have jurisdiction over the case. 

Medical examiners told Abe-Salvacion's family that she likely died within "seconds," according to the Review-Journal.

Chelsea Abe-Salvacion was used in promotional material for the spa's cryotherapy treatments.

Dispelling some myths about immigrants with facts

Economist Robert Reich
RONALD REICH, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and major irritant of the top 1% and Wall Street, has been involved in what sometimes may seem like a hopeless crusade: Saving America's middle class.

He is currently the Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. (Full disclosure: my alma mater.) He's taking advantage of social media to get his views aired and is a frequent guest on television talk shows.

Not surprisingly, he has been taking on some of the anti-immigrant statements made by Republican candidates for the Presidency.

Self-professed "self-made" man (through a million-dollar loan from his father) Donald Trump has been drawing the most attention for trying to turn immigrants into this campaign season's bogeyman.

From Reich's blog dispelling some myths (and out-and-out lies) surrounding immigrants:
Donald Trump has opened the floodgates to lies about immigration. Here are the myths, and the facts:

MYTH: Immigrants take away American jobs. 

Wrong. Immigrants add to economic demand, and thereby push firms to create more jobs.

MYTH: We don’t need any more immigrants.

Baloney. The U.S. population is aging. Twenty-five years ago, each retiree in America was matched by 5 workers. Now for each retiree there are only 3 workers. Without more immigration, in 15 years the ratio will fall to 2 workers for every retiree, not nearly enough to sustain our retiree population.

MYTH: Immigrants are a drain on public budgets.

Bull. Immigrants pay taxes! The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a report this year showing undocumented immigrants paid $11.8 billion in state and local taxes in 2012 and their combined nationwide state and local tax contributions would increase by $2.2 billion under comprehensive immigration reform. MYTH: Legal and illegal immigration is increasing.

Wrong again. The net rate of illegal immigration into the U.S. is less than zero. The number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. has declined from 12.2 million in 2007 to 11.3 million now, according to Pew Research Center.

Don’t listen to the demagogues who want to blame the economic problems of the middle class and poor on new immigrants, whether here legally or illegally. The real problem is the economic game is rigged in favor of a handful at the top, who are doing the rigging.
We need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, giving those who are undocumented a path to citizenship.

Scapegoating them and other immigrants is shameful. And it’s just plain wrong. 

Reich also wrote in a more recent blog musing the difference between leaders and demagogues:

A leader brings out the best in his followers. A demagogue brings out the worst.
Leaders inspire tolerance. Demagogues incite hate.
Leaders empower the powerless; they give them voice and respect.
Demagogues scapegoat the powerless; they use scapegoating as a means to fortify their power.
Leaders calm peoples’ irrational fears. Demagogues exploit them.
There's a lot of hateful speech going on the last few months - a lot of it directed at immigrants, documented and undocumented. 

The fearful thing about hate-talk in the public square is that it acts like a cancer infecting the rest of society. Some people think it makes it OK to start repeating the same kind of ideas and intolerance without the filter of civility and just plain respect. This is what happened with the extremists who claim to speak for Islam. This is what is happening in our own country for those who claim to speak for God and those who want to "take back America," or return us back to the "good old days."

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Voice: Amy Vachal saved after losing "Knockout" round

FILIPINO/AMERICAN singer Amy Vachal got a second chance after losing Monday during the Knockout Round of the popular reality singing competition, The Voice.

In the Knockout Round, each singer chooses a song to perform and compete head-to-head with another singer on the same team.

Vachal chose to sing Etta Jame's standard, "Sunday Kind Of Love." Her competition was Madi Davis, who chose to sing Joni Mitchell,s "A Case of You." Their coach and mentor Pharrell had a difficult choice but picked Davis over Vachal.

Almost immediately, coaches Maroon lead singer Adam Levine and country singer Blake Shelton pressed their buttons to "steal" Vachal for their teams. New Jersey-raised Vachal chose to join Levine's team.

Filipino American Amy Vachal will need your help next week.
"That moment was a blur for me," Vachal said afterwards. "You have two of the handsomest, most charming people on the planet saying the sweetest things you've ever been told in your life. And I was just a little over-stimulated." 

"You can't go wrong between the two of them. Ultimately, at the end of the day, I chose Adam because I just felt like we would see more eye to eye on the road ahead."

Next week, both Davis and Vachal will compete in the Playoffs round. During the Playoff round, the artists are paired against a teammate once more, but this time, they select their own songs to perform individually, while their direct competitor watches and waits. They are vying for their coach's confidence and decision to take them to the live shows. One superstar, universal advisor is on hand to work with all of the coaches and their teams as they prepare the artists for this challenge. But the coaches alone choose the winner, and the artist not selected is available to be stolen by another coach. Each coach has one steal available during the knockout rounds.
RELATED: Joining the Amy Vachal bandwagon
UPDATED OCT. 31: correcting the description of the first Playoff Round. Live voting will not occur until the following round. 


Monday, October 26, 2015

Manny Pacquiao to retire, eyes the presidency of the Philippines

Manny Pacquiao is ready for a career change.
WE KNEW that Manny Pacquiao would retire eventually. The sport in which he excelled is brutal and punishing to the body. Too much of the pounding and it could damage your mind, too.

In an exclusive interview with ESPN, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said the Filipino fighter's last fight would be in April 2016.

"Manny told me this fight on April 9 will be his last fight," said Arum.

Arum told ESPN that Pacquiao, who is treated like a hero in the Philippines, wants to concentrate on politics after April. Pacquiao said he would be running for one of the 24 Senate seats in the Philippines. He is currently a congressman representing his home province of Sarangani.

The American promoter reiterated the highly popular Pacquiao's desire to eventually run for President of the Philippines and being a Senator is a necessary stepping stone to the presidency.

The opponent for Pacquiao's last fight has not been named yet pending the outcome of several fights before hand.

The 2016 bout would be the 36-year old Pacquiao's first fight since he fought Floyd Mayweather in May this year. Even though he lost by a unanimous decision, Pacquiao reportedly made $180 million from that 12-round fight.

After that fight, Pacquiao revealed he fought with a torn rotator cuff explaining his poor performance. He had successful surgery and is on the mend. He expects to begin training by December. 

Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs) is the best fighter the Philippines has ever produced with titles in eight different weight divisions from  112 to 154 pounds. He may have been the best fighter ever when he was in his prime.

The Mayweather and Pacquiao contest was probably the highly anticipated "fight of the century" that took years to negotiate.

By the time was held in May, both fighters were clearly past their prime but the event, which was held in Las Vegas, still garnered the highest purse in history.

Ethnic studies bill vetoed by California governor

CALIFORNIA'S governor misses the point of ethnic studies. I'm disappointed that last week, California's Gov. Brown vetoed AB 101, which would have required developing a curriculum of ethnic studies in in California schools.

Brown called the bill unnecessary and "redundant" because, he says, ethnic studies guidelines are already being devised for California's schools.

Brown can be so frustrating sometimes. He is progressive enough to approve a ban for schools to use of a derogatory name for the First Americans for their school mascot or athletic team; but then he'll turn around and not see the value of ethnic studies and why it needs legislation.

California's students will have to wait until college before they are introduced to "real" history, before they realize that people of color can write books, invent things to improve our quality of life or that the white perspective is not the only way to look at the world, not only in a social context but also in other areas such as STEM, the economy or politics.

I attended a high school that is highly diversified. Today, no ethnic group holds the majority. In my work I come across graduates from my alma mater who agree that one of the most valuable things they learned by attending this California high school is how to get along with all kinds of different peoples. They felt that high school experience prepared them for the real world.

As our high schools become more segregated by the haves and have-nots; which more times than not, translates to mean white-majority schools vs. schools with a majority of its students are Latino, Asian or African/Americans; it becomes even more critical that we learn about each other, our different perspectives, our diverse culture and the different roads we travel on.

It is not divisive as some critics have claimed. If anything, it makes us more aware and that simplistic explanations for the way some people were treated, i.e. the Japanese internment during World War II, were not that simple.

Until our schools teach history - with all its flaws as well as its accomplishments and stops ignoring the impact of those flaws on people of color - we will need ethnic studies to counterbalance the warped view that is currently being presented to our students. Waiting for college to become enlightened may be too late because not everybody goes to college.

The carrying on by supporters of presidential candidate Donald Trump and the totally inaccurate statements by other GOP candidates is the product of the one-sided point of view presented by today's history texts.

The accurate telling of history is even more critical today when conservative activists are trying to rewrite history by soft-pedaling slavery,  i.e. calling African captives brought to the U.S. "workers" instead of "slaves;" saying the cause of the Civil War was over "states rights" instead of "slavery."

In California's public schools today, there are more students of color than whites. Are we telling the "minorities" - or the new majority - that their histories don't matter? How does that shape their place in the world? Are they forever grateful to the Euro/Americans for allowing us to live in the world that textbooks tell us was created by Europe's descendants? Do think less of themselves because their writers, thinkers, scientists, activists and educators aren't worth mentioning in the school books?

If this bill was in effect, it would not have been necessary for Assemblymember Rod Bonta to introduce a bill mandating that the Filipino role in the 1965 Grape Strike be included in the studies of labor or history.

We urge the authors of AB 101, led by author Assemblymember Luis Alejo, to reintroduce this measure in the next session.

The proposal to teach ethnic studies in our schools is not some radical proposal. The social and academic value of ethnic studies curricula is well documented. We Americans are not always the good guys. Knowing that we're not always on the right side teaches us humility and maybe it keeps us from using our military might to intervene where we have no business being. Everyone benefits, in all disciplines, when the truth is told.

SHOCKER! Did Glenn just die on 'Walking Dead?'

Warning, warning, warning! Another spoiler! Do not proceed if you haven't seen Episode 3, "Thank you" of Season 6 of The Walking Dead.
The last time we saw Glenn ...
I'M STUNNED! I'm at a loss of words. I'm in denial.

Did Glenn - the only Asian/American survivor of the zombie apocalypse just die on the popular television show The Walking Dead?

The last image we have from last Sunday's episode 3 is Glenn screaming with zombies gorging on what appears to be our hero's intestines. It was ... well, gut wrenching. 

Glenn, as portrayed by actor Stephen Yeun, is "everyman." He was a nerd who has transformed into an action hero. He, and his wife Maggie, reminded the viewers that a trace of humanity and hope remained in the world inhabited by zombies. He believed in giving people (even those who tried to kill him) a second chance. He, of all the characters of Walking Dead, kept his humanity and never killed anyone (not counting zombies.) Never!

But ... here I am talking about Glenn in the past tense. There's some ambiguity. In the Talking Dead, which normally follows the show, they traditionally show all the characters that die on the Walking Dead. The segment is called "In Memoriam." Conspicuously absent was any mention of Glenn. To me, that is a huge oversight. Every other character who has been killed off received a lingering last "so-long" photo "In Memorium:"

Adding to the confusion, the producers felt the need to issue this statement to Talking Dead viewers:
“Dear fans of The Walking Dead, this is a hard story to tell and when we were planning to tell we knew our friends at the Talking Dead would be talking to you about it and knowing you’d all be talking, and feeling and commiserating, I knew we should say something about it lest our silence say something we didn’t mean to say or not say. So I’ll say this: In some way, we will see Glenn, some version of Glenn or parts of Glenn again, either in flashback or in the current story to help complete the story.”
Die-hard fans based in Georgia where the show is taped have sent out photos showing Yeun on the set, in costume, weeks after last week's episode was shot. Are they shooting flashback scenes? Or, did Glenn somehow survive the bloody ordeal.

So what happened? A dream, a hallucination? The character who was with Glenn in his apparent last battle killed himself and Glenn, being the good guy he is, tried to keep him from falling into the zombie abyss. Unfortunately, the momentum took Glenn down, too. How could our hero survive this? Did the other character fall on top of Glenn and that's his guts we see the zombies eating?

Or, are the writers just toying with our emotions? Is he dead? We don't know. Rumors of the character's death has been circulating for two seasons.

Tune in next week, which is a 90-minute episode, when poor Maggie hears the bad/good news. Is it too late to mount a #SaveGlenn movement?

UPDATE: The 90-minute episode didn't provide any answers. We have to wait another week to find out what happened to Glenn.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Asians on TV: Why you should be watching 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend;' Asian male stereotype gets beat down

ONE OF THE best new shows on television is kind of funny ... kind of interesting ... kind of unusual ... kind of crazy, but wholly entertaining.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend enters the season as one of themes talked about hits in the industry. The question is, will industry buzz translate into audience viewership?

Crazy ex-Girlfriend (on CW)  is so different in so many ways, that may be its downfall, but it is also that same quality that made me record it on my DVR every Monday night.

For me, the biggest draw factor is that its leading man is a Filipino/American: Josh Chan played by Daly City-raised Vincent Rodriguez III. Josh is the object of obsession for the ex-girlfriend Rebecca Bunch played by break-out star Rachel Bloom.

Bloom, who is also the show's producer, is the vortex of the musical comedy which centers around her pursuit of Josh. She sings, she dances, she's a comedic actress whose career is certain to blossom even if this show doesn't take off.

Yes, it is a musical comedy and the audience might have difficulty suspending belief when  performers break into song and dance.That might explain the show's slow start.

However, like all good musicals, the musical numbers are interwoven into the storyline so they're essential to understand the characters' motives.

Vincent Rodriguez, romantic lead
There was much ado last year when we all hoped that John Cho would be the first Asian/American romantic leading man on television and we were all disappointed when his show, Selfie, was cancelled prematurely. Unlike Selfie, wherein the lead characters are equals and each struggles with the budding relationship and we had hoped, ending in love; Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, as the title suggests pursues the Asian dude, the object of her love/obsession.

Almost without fanfare, (the CW must have a low budget for fanfare) along comes the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend introducing us to Josh Chan as played by Rodriguez.
“There’s such a crazy parallel between my character, Josh Chan, and who I am as a person,” he told the Inquirer, a Philippine newspaper. “From Josh’s personality, his family and friends, and how he grew up–it’s kind of scary.”
Josh Chan is basically “a SoCal Asian bro,” said Rodriguez. Coming from a family of mixed parents (Filipino, Chinese, and Spanish, just like Rodriguez), Josh–the one that got away–is also finding his place in reality and romance. 
“You’re going to meet Josh Chan, find out that he’s Filipino, and see his family values,” Rodriguez shared. “The Chan family dynamic is very true to form–it feels very real to my own family.”
Therein is my excitement. In a roundabout way, you can say the Filipino/American Chans will be the third Asian/American family portrayed on American television this season, joining  the Taiwanese/American family of Fresh Off The Boat and the Chinese/American family of Dr. Ken

Rodriguez' role is more than just being "the Asian guy" on a television show. It was not a color-blind casting where the best talent gets the role. From the start, the love-interest was always intended to be an Asian boyfriend.

“We always wanted the male lead to be Asian because I grew up with Asian bros, and I hadn’t seen that represented on TV,” said Bloom, who is also one of the show's creators.

YES! ... bro.'

The 26-year old Rodriguez, who has extensive stage experience in Here Lies Love and pre-Broadway show Hunchback of Notre Dame, will get a chance to exhibit his considerable talents in the third episode of the season this Monday, Oct. 26 when he'll be featured in a musical number.

It is so unique, clever, entertaining, and really funny in a cutting-edge sort of way. For us Asian/Americans, it is also historic. If you haven't seen Crazy Ex-Girlfriend yet, you owe it to yourself to watch it, bro.'

Spoiler Alert: Vincent Rodriguez character gets to make up a boy-band all by himself this Monday
 in episode 3 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Bill to document disparities in the AAPI Community vetoed by California governor; effort will continue

  • CALIFORNIA Assemblymember Rob Bonta, the only Filipino/American member of the state legislature, has had a good year with the legislations that he has introduced benefiting the Asian/American Pacific Islander community. So it was a bit of a surprise to see the bill to collect additional data about the AAPI community vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

  • Data is critical because government agencies and nonprofits need that information in order to justify the funding of their services.
  • Assemblymember Rob Bonta
    (D) Oakland

    Assembly Bill 176 would have uncovered many of the health, social, economic, and educational disparities in the Asian/American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. 

    “This bill started from a simple but powerful idea,” said Bonta during a news conference in San Francisco’s Chinatown last week. “There are more than 23 distinct communities within the Asian American population and 19 within the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population. Each of these API communities has different health and educational outcomes and needs.” 

    AB 176 passed the Assembly and Senate with just one dissenting vote so Assemblymember Bonta says he was surprised and disappointed that it was not signed by the governor.

Some state agencies already collect this data and this bill would have added the Departments of Industrial Relations, Fair Employment and Housing and Public Health to collect that information.

The proposed legislation acknowledges the diversity (67 different groups) within the AAPI umbrella by expanding the data collection for the groups including, but not limited to, Bangladeshi, Hmong, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander groups, including, but not limited to, Fijian and Tongan.

Among the successes this year, Bonta authored the bill declaring Oct. 25 as Larry Itliong Day. That followed a bill in late 2014 that mandated that the role of Filipino/American farmworkers be included in school curricula.

Bonta said that the bill's sponsors will reintroduce a similar measure in next year's legislative session.

"This is an issue that is not going away," said Bonta, "Communities should not be rendered invisible. They should be counted."

Saturday, October 24, 2015

FIL-AM HISTORY MONTH: Drive to name a street after Filipino/American labor hero Larry Itliong

Cesar Chavez, left, and Larry Itliong merged their respective unions to form the United Farm Workers.
  • SUNDAY, Oct. 25, 2015 is a date that will be etched into the memories of Filipino/Americans and hopefully, all Americans, as the first Larry Itliong Day observed in the United States.

    California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill to make Oct. 25, Itliong's birthday, as a day to remember the union leader's contributions to the state and the labor movement.

    Itliong spurred his union to launch the 1965 Grape Strike, convinced Cesar Chavez to join the Filipino striking farmworkers, and together formed the United Farm Workers (UFW) ito spearhead one of the greatest labor movements in the country.

    This year, the 50th anniversary of the Grape Strike, Itliong's role in the formation of the UFW has been brought to light (and perhaps spurred by the movie about Cesar Chavez released last year which neglected to give Itliong's historic role any mention).
    The Little Manila Foundation, based in Itliong's hometown of Stockton, California, has launched a petition drive to have a street named after the forgotten labor leader and hometown hero.

    Up to now, there is a school named after Itliong in Union City, California where there is a large Filipno/American community, a San Diego overpass bears his name, an affordable housing project in Los Angeles has been named in his honor and the City of Carson, California designated a day in his honor years before Brown signed the bill, authored by Filipino/American Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

    But in his hometown - nothing.

    The petition calls for the renaming of South Hunter Street, between the Crosstown Freeway and East Hazelton Avenue, to Larry Itliong Street. The three-block stretch was the heart of Little Manila, a place Itliong called home, and includes residences, a Buddhist temple and some small businesses.

  • "Larry is a hero of Stockton,” said Dillon Delvo, co-founder of the Little Manila Foundation. “He helped begin one of the greatest justice movements we’ve ever seen.”

    The deadline for the petition has passed and it is uncertain that all the names have been certified or even if there are enough signatures to launch the street renaming process. 

    Even if the petition is not enough, supporters of the name change can still make arguments  to the City Council to begin the planning process, which could mean more public hearings, and the bureaucratic red tape will certainly take months to wade through People who want to weigh in on the proposal to rename the street can still write letters of support by writing or emailing the individual Stockton city council members, the Stockton Community Development Department and/or members of the Stockton Planning Commission. 

    Meanwhile, on Oct. 25, Itliong's contributions to our nation's history will be observed in Delano, where the grape strike began, Stockton, Carson and San Diego. There have already been some ceremonies in Oakland and Sacramento, Los Angeles' multi-day observance ends today. More cities will join in as Larry Itlioing Day takes root in California schools and cities.

    OCT. 25 in STOCKTON: In honor of the first Larry Itliong Day, there will be a free showing the documentary, Delano Manongs at the Little Manila Center, 521 East Main Street, Stockton at 2 p.m.

    “It’s great that in our hometown we know about Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez,” says Stockton resident Dawn Mabalon, history professor at San Francisco State University. “But we don’t know about this person who lived among us, went to Trinity Presbyterian Church, whose children went to Stockton schools. (He’s) all but forgotten in Stockton.”

Friday, October 23, 2015

Racists call for boycott to protest diverse cast of 'Star Wars VI: The Force Awakens'

British actor John Boyega will have a key role in Star Wars Vii.
IN A GALAXY, far, far away, racism doesn't exist.

But in the far reaches of the Milky Way in the edge of one of the spatial arms, that tiny blue and white planet orbiting a medium star, racism is alive and well and threatening to destroy all of humankind.

The release of the trailer promoting the seventh and latest rendition of the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has awaken another kind of evil force in a group of so-called Star War fans calling for a boycott of the new movie because it features people of color in leading roles.

While reading this post, we have to remind ourselves that the objectors represent a tiny fraction of the Euro/Americans and their actions do not reflect the beliefs of the vast majority of the good Euro/Americans, many of whom I count as friends.

Having said that - damn - I am constantly amazed how ignorant some people are!

The trolls have launched a Twitter hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII." Their action is so preposterous that it has to be a huge practical joke, right? Nevertheless, they've found others who think like them and the hashtag has gone viral. Here are examples of their  extreme paranoia:

Apparently, they're angry that a black stormtrooper is shown in the trailer and is one of the main protagonists, that a black woman has a major role and a Latino is one of the daring fighter pilots. I'm surprised that they aren't bothered because a woman appears to be the central character instead of a white male.

During a panel in San Diego's ComicCon earlier this year, the director JJ Abrams was asked if there were any Asians in the movie. Abrams cleverly answered that he wished that if he could, he'd cast the whole movie with Asians, which elicited audience laughter. 

"We wanted the movie to look the way the world looks," he continued. "And I think it is important that people see themselves represented in film. I think it is not a small thing. So I completely understand and think your question is hugely important. And it was a big consideration."

Thus far, though, only one Asian, British actress Christina Chong, is confirmed to have been cast in a minor role. We'll just have to wait and see. I hope I'm wrong but Abrams - like so many who should know better - might be among those who view the world primarily in black in white.
Christina Chong

Star Wars: Episode VII stars Adam Driver, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Lupita Nyong'o, as well as familiar faces like Mark Hammil, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher; the latter three whiter than white but their roles aren't the leads that they were when they were younger.

The angry whites (sorry, we have to assume they are white) must have forgotten that the color line has already been broken in the Star Wars universe: 
  • Cloud City administrator Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
  • Queen Padmé Amidala’s royal security force was led by Captain Quarsh Panaka, played by Hugh Quarshie in The Phantom Menace.
  • Samuel L Jackson played Jedi Master Mace Windu.
  • Jango Fett, a bounty hunter who became the genetic template for the Grand Army of the Republic, played by Temuera Morrison in in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
  • The young bounty hunter Boba Fett was played by Daniel Logan in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.

And lest we forget, the great James Earl Jones provided the ominous voice for the infamous Darth Vader.

Despite Abrams efforts and the above-mentioned actors to diversify the Star Wars franchise, they comprise only a tiny fraction of the casts reflecting the general lack of diversity in Hollywood features.

One saving grace that has come out of this boycott nonsense is the reaction of Star Wars fans mocking the boycotters.

But why does this silliness matter? The haters that are spurring the boycott are just the top of the iceberg of pent-up fear that white males may be losing their position of power and privilege that they've had since this country was founded.

We have candidates for president saying racist things about immigrants and we have a faux news network fomenting the ignorant into action, i.e. the recent rash of arson attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics and houses of worship.

The entitlement and privilege enjoyed by white males for so long and carved into every institution in this country is teetering because of the changing demographics of America. There will be those cretins who will do anything to maintain the status quo.

Citizens United, the GOP presidential candidates, the Koch Bros. and #BoycottStarWarsVII  are all symptoms of one of the greatest threats facing the future of America - the white backlash.

There is more to the racist reaction to the new Stars Wars cast than pop culture puffery, behind it is something darker and more sinister - it's the Evil Empire's last gasp.