August 28, 2014

Asian American Action Fund Endorses Clay Pell for Governor

AAAF logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, August 25, 2014
Contact: Devin Driscoll
devin@claypell.com
Mobile: (541) 729-6159

Contact: Gautam Dutta (AAA-Fund)
Office: (202) 236-2048

PROVIDENCE, RI – Today, the Asian American Action Fund (AAA-Fund) announced their endorsement of Clay Pell in the Rhode Island Democratic gubernatorial primary.

“We were extraordinarily impressed with Clay’s depth of experience in Asia, from his knowledge of Chinese, studying in China as a young man, his extensive travel throughout the region, his time in the United States Coast Guard working with foreign military counterparts, and his work on the Asia Pacific Rebalance as a member of President Obama’s national security team,” said Bel Leong-Hong, chair-elect of the AAA-Fund’s executive board.

The AAA-Fund is a progressive political organization that is dedicated to empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the United States. Through the AAA-Fund, Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders (AAPI) from different ethnic groups and from all over the country work together to increase the voice of the AAPI community in local, state and federal government. They do so by helping to elect AAPI and other political candidates who have a demonstrated commitment to the community, and by engaging the AAPI community in the political process.

“I’m deeply honored to have been endorsed by the AAA-Fund,” said Pell. “From an early age, and throughout my professional career, I have worked to cultivate strong ties with the Asia Pacific region. I plan to take advantage of that experience when I am Governor to ensure Rhode Island has a global audience for its economic development opportunities.”

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

AAA Fund Congratulates Erika Moritsugu on her Confirmation as Assistant Secretary for HUD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 7, 2014

AAA-Fund Congratulates Erika Moritsugu on her Confirmation as Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Washington, D.C. — The Asian American Action Fund congratulates Erika Moritsugu on her confirmation as Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations at the Department of Housing an Urban Development.

Ms. Moritsugu has previously served as Executive Director and on the Advisory Board of the AAA-Fund, a Democratic political action committee. Directly prior to her appointment, she was Deputy Assistant Director for Legislative Affairs at the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Earlier, Ms. Moritsugu was the Deputy Legislative Director for U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, and Acting Staff Director for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

“On behalf of our Board, we heartily congratulate Erika,” said AAA-Fund Executive Director Gautam Dutta. “We salute her leadership and commitment to public service,” he added.

Ms. Moritsugu received a B.A. from the College of William and Mary in Government and Fine Arts and a J.D. with honors from the George Washington University Law School. She was raised in Hawai’i.

AAA-Fund Deputy Executive Director Melissa Hampe stated, “I look forward to Erika continuing to serve with distinction. From her time at the city prosecutor’s office in Honolulu, to her Senate and other high-level federal service, to now, she has been a talented leader in policy development. We are thrilled to see someone with her depth of experience and expertise leading one of our nation’s most vital agencies and working to improve access to housing for all Americans.”

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–Caroline

AAA-Fund Endorses Stephanie Gray Chang for Michigan State Representative

AAAF logo

JULY 29, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Gautam Dutta (415) 236-2048

WASHINGTON D.C. – The Asian American Action (AAA) Fund is pleased to announce the endorsement of Stephanie Gray Chang for Michigan State Representative (MI-6).

AAA-Fund Executive Director Gautam Dutta said, “We are excited to support Stephanie. Her proven ability to bring people together will make her an effective leader in the statehouse.”

Stephanie has deep experience as a community organizer, coalition builder, and advocate who attended the University of Michigan. She strengthened Asian and Pacific Islander American civic participation by co-founding APIAVote-Michigan, advanced nonpartisan voter registration and protection, and initiated a documentation project with Youth Leadership Corps.

Stephanie also defended affirmative action, mentored Hmong and Bangladeshi American youth in Osborn and Hamtramck with Detroit Asian Youth Project, and organized a coalition for a fair public defense system with Campaign for Justice.

Stephanie previously served as the Community Engagement Coordinator for the James and Grace Boggs School. She has the endorsement of outgoing State Rep. Rashida Tlaib and a host of other local organizations.

AAA-Fund Board Member Caroline Fan stated, “I’ve known Stephanie for a decade. As the daughter of immigrants, she has tirelessly worked to uplift the voices of the disenfranchised.”

After receiving the AAA-Fund’s endorsement, Stephanie tweeted, “Thank you @AAAFund for the endorsement! I am excited about this opportunity to further serve my communities. #Chang2014″

Futility of Peace

War Is Peace

I’ve blogged here since 2008 specifically about the toxic mix of religion & politics & notably how religion self-justifies personal flaws.

Today, let’s categorize Middle East crisis (now in its 2,500th year) camps:

  • Rational Historians: There’s been plenty written for centuries, especially recently, about the Mideast crisis. Most of what’s to be said has already been said.
  • Gave Up: A religious war 2500 years long with which self-justifies the mutual killing will end only when religion ends. Which is never.
  • Idealists: Let’s make peace! The endless stream of preachey & arrogant social media posts (i.e. “A Plea to Christian, Muslim and Jewish Friends“) by outsiders, especially white saviors & their kind
  • Jews: Peace is killing all the other side & taking their land.
  • Islamists: (see Jews)
  • Lawyers: Let’s defend religious expression with ethics and the rule of law. (as always, such folks are clueless & useless)
  • Killers: Busier killing the other side instead of bothering with futile social media posts like our friends’ & blogs like this.

So it goes on. And on. Until the end of time mortal. That’s not news, that’s daily life.

Organizing from love

This is not a political post. Not really.

Back during the Suey Park/ Colbertgate debate, a journalist asked me for my take on it, something that was polarizing the AAPI community. It offered an opportunity for me to reflect on how much I have grown and changed since I was in college, when large scale events like 9/11 and the Iraq War helped form my political voice and identity.

Like many young student activists, I initially found my voice through subtraction or by filling a void. I forged it in opposition because there was so much gratuitous violence and rolling back of liberties in that time. After maybe 5 years out of college, a friend and I were talking about how a whole generation in DC grew up without the benefit of knowing how to navigate the levers of power because the Dems had been out of power for nearly a decade. We only knew how to fight against things, not how to build. There was a lot to fight against, and the struggle could be exhausting. We lost more than we won. I knew it was bad when even John Ashcroft refused to sign the wiretap authorization documents from his hospital bed.

Sometime in the past few years, and somewhere in my many travels across the United States, I gained some grace and some perspective. Whether it was by mentoring younger women, or learning that life holds so many surprises (some sharp, some delightful), I came to find the power in organizing from love. Love binds people who come from different backgrounds together and helps reach across boundaries.

When people hold differing views, I try to see how their life experience has shaped them, and to remember that they have loved ones who they are concerned for – that policies that I support, they might see as unduly impacting their families in a negative way. The positive picture trumps the negative most of the time.

All my work has always been done out of love of and for the community. It’s what my mother has taught me – responsibility to and for our own, however we define it. I have been fortunate to call many cities home, and to be welcomed by many communities. I look forward to connecting people and communities anew. Multiplying opportunities and seeing potential in individuals and organizations has always brought me great joy, and my current blessing is to have a whole new arena in which to roam.

–Caroline

Bringing back earmarks?

There is an argument to be made that Congress functions better with earmarks than without. The latest version comes from Jim Dyer, a Republican who worked under Presidents Reagan and Bush, and served as Staff Director of the House Appropriations Committee. His point is that part of the reason that the Veterans Administration was not reformed before is that Congress hasn’t been able to use earmarks to microtarget problems and fund solutions.

After all, what good is a national transportation policy if we can’t fix the potholes on Main Street? What good is a national recreation policy if our local parks are unsafe? And while we debate climate change, can we at least repair specific cities and towns ravaged by hurricanes, floods and fires? And, if we are going to rightfully allocate $1.5 billion more in funds to the VA this year than last because our postwar era needs exceed prewar demand, can’t we at least arm the custodians of the purse with the power to ensure it is spent wisely? (Politico)

I am not wholly convinced that earmarks are the only way to go to fix the VA because let’s be honest, the issues there are systematic and very long-standing and precede the current moratorium of the past three years. However, there are so many issues that Congress has not moved on (such as reauthorization of unemployment insurance benefits or a larger jobs bill) that benefit Americans of all stripes and if it takes funding pet projects in districts to get bills passed, folks are questioning previous disdain for earmarks. Some writing from left of center argue that at this point, Congress is broken enough that we just need some levers to get it moving again. And if earmarks can spur action, so be it.

“There is no question that sometimes, to get bills through, you have to ask people to vote for things that are going to cause them political pain at home, and you ease that pain by compensating them with earmarks,” said former Massachusetts representative Barney Frank in an interview. Today, he added, there are other things a party leader can do to build support for legislation, but “earmarks were the best.” (Boston Globe)

Additionally, it’s not as if the process of earmarking has ended, it’s just gone underground as “lettermarking.” Or elected officials threaten to withhold votes for agency funding or appointees unless their pet project gets money. Or, in the worst case scenario, Congress just shuts down government.

While earmarks required publication of a pork project—along with the amount of taxpayer money being spent and identification of the elected official proposing the earmark—lettermarking allows for such expenditures without any identification of the project, sum and sponsoring legislator whatsoever. (Forbes)

No one wants bridges to nowhere, but Congressional dithering on other common sense issues such as transportation reform and VAWA that have previously passed with large bipartisan majorities could make progressives and conservatives alike rethink earmark opposition. Needless to say, federal funding spurs job creation and workforce training in the states. Sometimes the only thing worse than pork is a complete standstill.

–Caroline

The pitchforks are coming

This is a very well-written piece by billionaire entrepreneur Nick Hanauer in Politico on why wealthy Americans should support an increased minimum wage and better conditions for the working class. It is also, surprisingly, a more common sentiment amongst not just the 1% but also the 0.001% than you would think. I know Managing Directors of banks who support a $15 minimum wage and who want to bring back Glass-Steagall.

It’s not everyday that you see common cause between certain Wall Streeters and the LaRouchies, but the shared belief is that in order for America to remain functional, that there has to be some modicum of regulation, oversight, and reining in of loopholes. Food for thought.

–Caroline