November 23, 2014

Ferguson riots

[Written August 11th. This is as much an update for friends and family as it is a perspective from someone who is new to town.]

So I moved to St. Louis 6 weeks ago. Been out of town for about 3 of those weeks. Let’s count it as 3 weeks on the ground. Everyone is very friendly, strangers talk to you on the street. My A/C broke and my neighbors who I had only ever met once before offered me the use of both of their fans. (We only needed one for the bedroom.) Then I bumped into a new neighbor whom I had never met, and she offered to lend me her fans. Overall, St. Louis is great.

Everyone talked about the racial divide, the Delmar divide. We saw glimpses of it here and there. Fireworks in Forest Park and the 2 separate stops for folks coming from the East side and the West side. White and black divided by railcars moving in different directions. I was in Los Angeles, the site of racial riots in 1992, this weekend for the OCA convention when the Mike Brown shooting happened. Picking me up from the airport this weekend there was a police blockade. Now the cops are throwing tear gas bombs in Ferguson and shooting rubber bullets. My AFLCIO coworkers were at the FTAA in Miami in 2003 when they got shot with rubber bullets. They hurt. And actually were moved off the non-lethal list of weaponry. Last night a Walmart was looted and a gas station went up in flames. This is real and this is live. Here’s a good article about why Ferguson, why riots: http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/relationships-and-special-occasions/parenting/aisha-sultan/why-ferguson-burned-explaining-st-louis-area-riot-to-kids/article_725f501f-ba21-538a-acaf-f00221add91d.html

Brown’s own family members have said the destruction in their hometown is salt in their wounds. When peaceful protests turn to a city’s self immolation, there is no justice for anyone. What’s left is a community used to being unheard, roiling in the wake of a deadly police shooting. A powder keg of unemployment and poverty, of neglect and frustration, and those willing to exploit a tragedy for personal gain.

–Caroline

Slaughter in Egypt

Q: How do you make people more sympathetic to religious fundamentalists?

A: Make martyrs of the religious fundamentalists by slaughtering them in broad daylight.

Question of the Day: Supreme Asian Am Candidates

If a US Supreme Court retires in President Obama’s second term, which Asian American leaders could be among the leading contenders for the seat? (Hint: two of them live in California.)

— Gautam Dutta

Rep. Takano slams GOP Congressmembers’ Faulty Logic, in Red Ink

Takano edits to GOP immig

Like the veteran high school teacher that he is, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), decided to take out his red pen and apply it to a letter on immigration that fellow Congressmembers from the other party were circulating. Politico gave him some ink for exposing the shoddy reasoning.

He dishes out kindly but exacting critique, pointing out where the letter has logical and factual flaws. For example, the Republican letter claims that the Senate-passed bill is over 1,000 pages, so Rep. Takano circles this and points out that it’s exactly 286 pages. (Note to Congressmembers and staff: please do your research.)

Rep. Takano repeatedly points out “tawdry accusations” and Republican claims that are lacking in evidence. No, seriously, he points it out no more than four times in the short letter. What assertions does he specifically call out?

-“reportedly not all the Senators have read [the bill]”
-“We are disturbed by the secret and under-handed way that the immigration bill moved through the Senate…”
-“To attempt to do everything at once ensures that little will be done right”
-“will prevent the last minute secret deal-making and vote-buying”

One of Rep. Takano’s best closing lines is, “If you don’t understand the bill, come by my office and I’ll explain it. Weak draft, re-do.”

That’s called taking your colleagues to the toolshed. and why I love teachers as elected officials! (Full disclosure, AAA Fund enthusiastically endorsed Rep. Takano early in his campaign.)

-Caroline

In Mike We Trust

Ed. note This Op-Ed by Kal Penn appeared in the May 10 edition of India Abroad

I first worked with Congressman Mike Honda when I was a White House aide to President Obama, working on issues related to young Americans and the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In a sea of chaos that is Congress, it was always refreshing to see Mike go to bat for his constituents, and to join the President in standing up for young people and community members in a way that most members of Congress did not.

Having worked alongside Mike in both policy and politics, I am proud to endorse him for his re-election to Congress in 2014. Washington, DC, can be sort of a crazy place. To many of us, it’s unfathomable that there is opposition to commonsense issues like access to health care, comprehensive immigration reform, and education. And we often look to our leaders to see how they intend to engage on those issues we care about.

As the Congressman representing the innovative spirit and drive of Silicon Valley, as chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus for an unprecedented seven years, and now as chair emeritus; as a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, it’s rare and refreshing that Mike really moves and lives by the conviction that every one of us deserve an opportunity and a voice.

As a young person, that kind of leadership was refreshing to see.

On health care, Mike and CAPAC worked with the Congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses to include critical provisions that tackled health disparities in the President’s final historic health- care reform legislation of 2009.

On immigration, over the previous three Congresses as chair, and now as chair of CAPAC’s Immigration Task Force, Mike has led the constant drumbeat to pass a comprehensive immigration reform that leaves no one behind. He believes in an immigration system that is inclusive, family- based and humane, and invests in America’s future.

On education, he worked to dispel the model minority myth, and to push for greater resources flowing to colleges and universities that serve underserved Asian American and Pacific Islander students.

Mike’s record speaks volumes to his character. He has continued to push for issues that are critical, regardless of whether there is existing political appetite for it amongst his peers in Congress; essentially, he has helped to create the tenable space for much of the action we have seen.

His advocacy for social justice and serving communities that do not have a voice is unparalleled. Mike grew up behind barbed wire in a Japanese-American internment camp, even as his father served in the United States Military Intelligence Service during World War II.

As a young boy, he learned that being Japanese carried a negative connotation in America. But he knows that the reason Japanese Americans were unjustly and illtreated was because no one in Washington said no.

Today, Mike continues to be an unwavering opponent of hate speech and bullying perpetrated against all communities, regardless of creed, race, gender, sexuality, disability, country of origin, and immigration status.

Mike has been a friend and mentor to many young leaders, artists, business folks, and innovators. I know that he will continue to deliver that which is just and best for his constituents and for this nation.

– Kal Penn

Should Immigrants Have the Right to Vote?

Should you have to be a US citizen to be able to vote?

NYC is now considering allowing any resident to vote if he or she”s been living in the US legally for over 6 months.

What do you think?   My view:  because they have established ties to the community, it makes sense to allow committed, long-term immigrants (i.e., greencard holders) to vote in local elections, but we should be careful about going further than that.

— Gautam Dutta

It Takes A Village To Blow One Up

West, Texas was best known as a place to grab something from the Czech Bakery while driving between Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Now, West is best known as the latest in a long line of American industrial disasters reprehensible for their utter preventability.

The explosion at the fertilizer plant comes from failure of the local, state, and federals governments and the plant owners and operators to satisfy the needs of worker safety, community safety, and national security. OSHA has not inspected the plant since 1985. Schools and homes were allowed to be built very near the plant. The plant had 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate at which Department of Homeland Security regulation is triggered. We know the plant had so much ammonium nitrate, because paperwork indicating such was filed with with a Texas regulatory entity. The mishmash of regulators is not required to share information. Unlike the inability of first responders to communicate with each other because of technical incompatibilities, government regulators don’t interact with each other. Given the large variety of regulating agencies, better intercommunication is needed.

A tangle of agencies regulates plants like the one in West. Different agencies were assigned oversight for different chemicals there. Among the federal agencies responsible were the E.P.A., Homeland Security, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. State agencies include the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state chemist’s office and the state health services department.

Ammonium nitrate is a national security concern because in nefarious hands it can cause this:

Murrah_Building_-_Aerial

Terrorism isn’t the only reason for concern about the large amount of such an explosive chemical:

The explosion was so powerful it leveled homes and left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Judging by the size of the crater and the extent of the damage — pieces of twisted metal landed in distant pastures, and ceiling tiles and lights shook loose in buildings two miles away — the explosion was more powerful than the Oklahoma City bombing, experts said.

Texas markets its lax regulations as a reason for businesses to relocate:

Loose regulations” in Texas may be a nice pitch for out-of-state business, however, in 2010 the state accounted for 10% of all workplace-related fatalities in the country. In 2011, Texas had the second-highest number of fatality investigations from OSHA (California was first), in 2010, Texas led the nation in Latino worker fatalities.

The marvelous economic tales spun about Texas even beguile those who should know better like a writer for Texas Monthly. Jack Ohman and the editors of the Sacramento Bee, however, were not beguiled:

RTSHf.St.4

The owners and operators of the plant seem to have long thought they could pick and choose what few regulations with which they were supposed to comply would apply to them. Among other problems, the company received a citation for construction of 6,000 gallon ammonia tanks without a permit, did not have a sufficient risk management plan, and had no signs or illegible signs on many storage tanks, many of which did not meet safety standards.

The Czech connection in West remains strong; the Czech Republic may provide nearly $200,000 to aid recovery. That’s very helpful and kind; it’s greatly appreciated. I wonder, though, if Bangladesh provides something even better, a guide on how to handle preventable disasters — arrest the owners.

How many other extremely dangerous plants and chemical storage facilities continue to operate in similar fashion with such disregard for the workers, the community, and national security?

– Justin Gillenwater

For Rent: Cooking with Curry Not Allowed

Editor’s Note: Welcome K.J. Bagchi to our blogteam! Read his excellent & informative first post “Fisher v. Texas: Exposing a Divided Community” yesterday.

STONEBRIDGE AT BEAR CREEK

Apparently not everyone is a fan of the smell of curry. The Department of Justice has filed suit against a property owner in Texas who is accused of violating the Fair Housing Act by denying housing opportunities to people of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent because she found their odor offensive. According to the suit, the property owner gave instructions to her leasing offices to deny leases to South Asians for many reasons, one of which was the claim that they “left the walls smelling of curry after they moved out…”.

AAA-Fund Endorses Mike Honda for Congress

AAAF logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Gautam Dutta, Esq. (415) 236-2048; Dutta@BusinessandElectionLaw.com

WASHINGTON, DC, April 9, 2013—Asian American Action Fund (AAA-Fund) endorsed the re-election campaign of California Congressmember Mike Honda.

Mike Honda currently represents California’s 17th Congressional District (North San Jose, Fremont, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Milpitas, and Newark), and has served in Congress since 2001. In addition to sitting on the House Committee on Appropriations, Congressman Honda spearheaded the Wireless Task Force and co-chairs the Democratic Caucus New Media Working Group.

Gautam Dutta, AAA-Fund’s Executive Director, praised Congressmember Honda’s strong record of leadership:  “We’re thrilled to endorse Congressman Honda.  For the past 12 years, Congressman Honda has united the entire Asian American community, and given a powerful voice to Asian Americans, Silicon Valley, and the community-at-large.”

Former Sunnyvale Mayor and AAA-Fund Board member Otto Lee added:  “Throughout his career, Congressman Honda has selflessly mentored many of our community’s rising leaders, including newly elected Congressmember Ami Bera, the third South Asian to serve in Congress.”

Congressman Honda’s commitment to public service is unwavering.  He joined the Peace Corps when he was 24 years old and, thereafter, was an educator in the public school system for about 30 years.  His lifelong dedication to social justice, fighting racism and expanding equal opportunity for all stems from his experiences in internment camp as a Japanese American during his early childhood.

“Today, as Congress debates immigration reform, Congressman Honda leads his colleagues on the issue of reuniting families – one of the greatest concerns for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” Dutta added.

Congressman Honda shares his leadership on issues affecting today’s latest technologies with his longstanding leadership of the Asian American community on immigration, civil rights, and education. He now serves as Chair Emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC).

AAA-Fund is a Democratic political action committee whose goal is to increase the voice of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) on every level of local, state and federal government in America. To achieve this goal, we address the chronic under-representation of AAPIs as campaign volunteers, campaign contributors, and candidates for political office. AAA-Fund has endorsed candidates across the country.

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Question of the Week: Hillary

Can Hillary Clinton become the first woman to be elected President?

— Gautam Dutta