Asian-American Forum
Spring 2013 Issue no. 17


Editor Note: The editor has decided to include articles submitted to Asian Pacific Americans for Progress (http://www.apaforprogress.org) in this seasonal newsletter. Any cross-posted articles may be identified by name and date submitted, and the reprints here will serve to verify authorship. The particular blog can be accessed here: http://www.apaforprogress.org/blogs/chriswong. To read environmental technology articles published at the Examiner.com, visit http://www.examiner.com/green-technologies-in-washington-dc/christine-kroll. Thanks for your ideas and continued support!

Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Budget Useful

On April 10, 2013 the President took his budget to the Hill.[1] Critics say it was over two months late, but considering that Congress has been running a stalemate since 2012 (the 2013 budget is by Continuing Resolution), it is better late than never. The President with good reason, presents a balanced budget built-in with reductions and tax increases. The balanced compromises represent hopes that 2013 will not be a repeat of 2012, the year of the sequester.[2] In his closing remarks at the White House Rose Garden, the President stated:

When it comes to deficit reduction, I’ve already met Republicans more than halfway. So in the coming days and weeks, I hope that Republicans will come forward and demonstrate that they’re really as serious about the deficits and debt as they claim to be.

Many legislators are disappointed with what they view as too much compromise on the President's part. They claim the President makes too great a concession on Social Security and Medicare, although offering to close tax loopholes on the rich. Others insist that it is time for multinational corporations to face up to the fact that they do not pay their fair share of taxes, but instead are able to cut special deals with the government which lower their taxes to under ten percent.

While the mainstream press has paid attention to the Conservative budget proposal by Representative Paul Ryan, and the moderate Democratic proposal by Senator Patty Murray, not enough has been said about the budget proposal by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). The CPC's Back to Work budget is an audacious proposal that would create 7 million new jobs in one year by raising an estimated 4.4 trillion dollars from closing corporate tax loopholes.[3]

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is co-chaired by Representative Raul Grivalja of Arizona and Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota.[4] Its members officially consist of 71 in the House members, plus 1 Senator (Bernie Sanders, Vermont). The CPC promotes a fundamental belief "in government of the people, by the people, and for the people." It is the soul of old Blue, represented by liberal think tanks, and previous leaders such as the popularly re-elected four-term President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Progressive Caucus membership has grown steadily and its bills galvanize bi-partisan leadership and at the least can make splashy publicity. One recent example is the sponsorship of the "Don't Cut Social Security" petition (or Grayson-Takano Letter)[5], an issue which has raised the furor of Republicans[6] as well as Democrats, and contains 2.3 million signatures.[7]

Ironically, the Don't Cut Social Security Petition fights President Obama's attempt "to meet the Republicans more than halfway" in his budget by essentially eliminating cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security. Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) stated in an email to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC):[8]

This week, a new study from the New America Foundation finds that proposals to cut Social Security benefits could be disastrous for our economy because the recession has led more seniors to rely on Social Security for income. Cutting benefits now, when people are already struggling to make ends meet, will mean unnecessary hardship for millions of people. It is unpopular, unwise and unworkable.

The CPC has prepared budget proposals in the past which supported vigorous job growth and domestic spending allocations, while reducing military spending and supplementary war spending.[9] It is a balancing act of what should be revitalized versus what can be sacrificed.

The Progressives and other bipartisan lawmakers recognize that the country's tender foothold on the path to economic recovery matters much more than instant debt reduction. The Congressional Progressive Caucus's Back to Work budget of 2014 includes a number of insertable line-items indicating the depth to which staff members have studied issues that have important bearing upon this country and civilian Americans' well-being and livelihoods.[10]

Notes:
1. Colleen Curtis, "President Obama Sends Congress his Fiscal Year 2014 Budget," The White House Blog, April 10, 2013, http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/04/10/president-obama-sends-congress-his-fiscal-year-2014-budget.
2. "What You Need to Know About the Sequester," The White House, April 23, 2013, http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/sequester.
3. "Back to Work Budget," Congressional Progressive Caucus, March 15, 2013, http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/back-to-work-budget/.
4. "About CPC," Congressional Progressive Caucus, April 23, 2013, http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=74§iontree=2,74.
5. Alan Grayson and Mark Takano, "Grayson-Takano 'No-Cuts' Letter," April 9, 2013, http://grayson.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/grayson-takano-no-cuts-letter-update.
6. Zaid Jilani, "Republicans Preview 2014 Election Strategy: Democrats Want To Cut Social Security Benefits," Progressive Change Campaign Committee, April 10, 2013, http://boldprogressives.org/category/blog/page/2/#.UXb0SpwquF5.
7. John Nichols, "2.3 Million Petitioners Urge Rejection of 'Chained-CPI' Social Security Cut," April 8, 2013, http://www.thenation.com/blog/173724/how-many-fdr-democrats-will-oppose-chained-cpi-social-security-cut#
8. Zaid Jilani, "Congressional Democrats Blast Obama ‘Chained CPI’ Proposal To Cut Social Security Benefits," Progressive Change Campaign Committee, April 10, 2013, http://boldprogressives.org/category/blog/page/2/#.UXb0SpwquF5.
9. "Budget for All: Budget of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Fiscal Year 2013," Congressional Progressive Caucus, April 23, 2013, http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/budget-for-all/.
10. "Back to Work Budget," Congressional Progressive Caucus, March 15, 2013, http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/back-to-work-budget/.

Article researched and written by Christine H. Kroll, April 23, 2013.

Shadow Statistics Show Higher Unemployment Including AAPIs

In Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler paints a dystopic portrait of life in California amid global warming and economic chaos.[1] The rich are growing richer, while the middle class has tanked. The heroine, Lauren, must flee from her home because of fire riots set by Paint gangs who roam the countryside. Butler lifts these scenes right out from the World War II films of Chinese war refugees fleeing by foot on highways. It's an ugly, tragic, apocalyptic world.

Which is why I feel compelled to point out that the rosy unemployment statistics which the mainstream media has been crowing about, purposefully coinciding with the crafting of yet another immigration bill, is misleading. We think we can handle a million more immigrants per year, when we have not even managed to re-employ half of the employees laid off from the recession in 2008. Remember Enron? Surely it wasn't that long ago...

It is scary that politicians can believe what is presented at face value without questioning anything, because it makes it plausible to push aggressively for yet more government outsourcing and market globalizations, heedless of the needs of all the homeless people.

From Unemployed to Homeless

The homeless now sleep on the sidewalks of San Francisco, live in abandoned hospital buildings in DC, or even convert flash flood storm sewers into makeshift homes as in the Southwest. There's something really creepy, sad, and eerie about governments so strapped in cash that they routinely bull-doze homeless camps, while confiscating personal documents.

Something in us--possibly the very real fear of someday becoming homeless--refuses to believe, for as one technician said, "Don't give them money! They are all drug addicts!" She hadn't read about the closure of some timber mills in Oregon, or manufacturing plants in the Midwest, and couldn't connect the dots, of jobless men and women becoming homeless.

And sad to say, if real unemployment statistics are an indicator of anything, the homeless situation has actually grown steadily worse since President Obama has taken office. Because homeless people's documents are gone, they have no identification, name, or number, and the days when they counted officially as unemployed are over. We don't actually count homeless people any more than we count missing persons--the case in too many smaller cities.[2]

It makes iminent good sense, then, to pause amid the neck-to-neck treadmill we've set ourselves on in this, politely labeled austere, but really rather anemic U.S. economy, to reinterpret the unemployment figures in context according to several sensible commentators.

Rate of New Jobs Created Dwarfed by Recession Downsizing

The table below was created in an attempt to analyze Bud Meyer's "Job Growth Lags Behind Population Growth" article in Daily Kos. I can never heed only one authority, but his article is backed up with respectable citations from the New York Times, Bureau of Labor Statistics, John Williams' Shadow Statistics, as well as the Center for American Progress, and the Wall Street Journal.[3]


            Table 1 - Employment Part or Full-Time Dwarfed by Recessionary Job Losses and New Jobseekers.

The preponderance of evidence indicates that we have lost more than we may ever regain. Between 1979-2009, the loss in manufacturing jobs was 8 million. The 2007-10 recession resulted in an estimated 8.7 million jobs lost. And since the 2000s, the number of jobs shipped overseas has been about 2.9 million. That amounts to at least 17 million jobs, not including the rest of the people who have filed for unemployment (colored columns).

In the balance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that 236,000 people became employed in February.[4] Doing the math, at that rate, maybe 3 million more people will be employed by the end of the year. That is not enough to even cover all the new jobseekers, shown in Table 1 to be at about 6 million per year.

We have not even gotten to the point of really analyzing what kinds of jobs these are. According to Catherine Rampell in "The Rise of Part-Time Work": "Compared with December 2007, when the recession officially began, there are 5.8 million fewer Americans working full time. In that same period, there has been an increase of 2.8 million working part time" (New York Times Economix Blog).[5]

Even the Bureau recognizes that the prevalence of part-time work has become so endemic that full-time work is now categorized as anyone working more than 30 hours per week. According to Tim McMahon in "Unemployment, Part-time Workers, and Obamacare," the Bureau's new definition has only perpetuated the law of unintended consequences, in which even more companies are down-sizing full-time workers and replacing them with additional part-timers working under 30 hours per week, just so they won't have to pay for health benefits.[6]

With regard to minorities, those with additional hiring handicaps whether it's due to over forty, not good looking enough, or suffering from disability, the sheer number of new jobseekers assures that employers can afford to be extra picky. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not hide everything; some proof of the real unemployment situation is evident under Table A-15 - Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization, measure U-6.[7]

However, the U-6 does not include workers who lost their job more than a couple years ago; nor is it likely to cover those who have never filed for unemployment. This could include larger numbers of AAPIs than indicated in the Special Report,"The Asian-American Labor Force in the Recovery," a report which paints an unnaturally glowing picture of Asian-American employment.[8] In this report, a more representative truth can perhaps be gleaned by carefully reading between the lines, and studying the footnotes. Here are a few worthy statements:

Immigration a Good Cause for Whom

Factoring in the immigration debate here can make things dicey. Frosty Wooldridge attempts to do just that in "Immigration Accelerating Unemployment Among Black Americans." He points out the explosive rates of unemployment among young adults aged 18-29, rates as high as 35% for Hispanic Americans, and 40% for Black Americans. His argument is that "More people with less jobs creates more unemployment and poverty for American minorities."[9] Guess which side of the immigration debate he is likely to represent.

It's hard to tell exactly what the AAPI young adults, or long-term unemployment rates are. My guess is that depending upon the city and region, it is as high as for other minorities, but disguised by the fact that as college students, they are not counted in the labor force.

The point is that the CEOs are steadily working at getting richer at public expense, and will continue to do so unless we prod our politicians into recognizing that no one can take the recovery at face value when, according to Atlantic writer Jordan Weissmann, "American companies may be hoarding more cash than most of us had previously realized -- about $5 trillion worth, as of 2009"--this, in spite of lagging investments in the United States.

After reading Weissmann's Atlantic article [10], "The $5 Trillion Stash: U.S. Corporations' Money Hoard Is Bigger Than the GDP of Germany," one becomes convinced that we must support Senator Patty Murray's bill to tax the rich, if only because they can afford it.[11]

After all, while unemployed professionals stood in long lines at Job Fairs, Secretary of Defense Panetta continued jetting back and forth on weekly trips to his California farm at the somewhat inflated cost of $32,000 per trip, for a total cost of $100,000 per month[12]; and Hillary Clinton's cronies were busy investing and lobbying for the Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline.[13]

One begins to appreciate the massive spread of corporations on a travel trip overseas. Whether it's the startling numbers of 7-Eleven stores, Quaker Oats drinks, Palmolive products, L'Oreal shampoos, etc. the sheer numbers in offshore Americanization elsewhere contrast with American workers continuing to suffer sharp declines in steady life-time jobs, cost-of-living pay-raises, and union memberships.

In Parable of the Sower, the richest 1% survive while the U.S. middle-class is reduced to wandering about as serfs.

I wonder if that is really what is going to happen to us.

Notes
1. Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower, (New York: Grand Central, 1993).

2. "Homeless People in Fresno and Their Allies say, 'Stop the Evictions!'," Central Valley, San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center, last modified Oct. 28, 2011, http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/10/26/18695372.php.

3. Bud Meyer, "Job Growth Lags Behind Population Growth," Daily Kos, March 27, 2013, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/27/1197378/-Job-Growth-Lags-Population-Growth.

4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Economic News Release - Employment Situation Summary," March 8, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm.

5. Catherine Rampell, "The Rise of Part-Time Work," New York Times, March 8, 2013, http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/the-rise-of-part-time-work/.

6. Tim McMahon, "Unemployment, Part-time Workers, and Obamacare," Unemploymentdata.com, October 25, 2012, http://unemploymentdata.com/general/unemployment-rate-part-time-workers-obamacare/.

7. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Table A-15. Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization," March 8, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm.

8. U.S. Department of Labor, "The Asian-American Labor Force in the Recovery," accessed March 31, 2013, http://www.dol.gov/_sec/media/reports/asianlaborforce/.

9. Frank Wooldridge, "Immigration Accelerating Unemployment Among Black Americans." Newswithviews.com, March 30, 2013, http://newswithviews.com/Wooldridge/frosty852.htm.

10. Jordan Weissmann, "The $5 Trillion Stash: U.S. Corporations' Money Hoard Is Bigger Than the GDP of German," The Atlantic, July 8, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/07/the-5-trillion-stash-us-corporations-money-hoard-is-bigger-than-the-gdp-of-germany/260006/.

11. Caitlin Huey-Burns, "Patty Murray Takes Lead on Budget for Dems," Real Clear Politics, March 20, 2013, http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/03/20/patty_murray_takes_lead_on_budget_for_dems.html.

12. "Leon Panetta's weekly commute from California costs taxpayers $100,000 per MONTH (but at least Defense Secretary pays 2% of the bill himself)," Mail Online, April 6, 2012, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2126436/Leon-Panettas-weekly-commute-California-costs-taxpayers-100-000-MONTH-Defense-Secretary-pays-just-2-himself.html#axzz2KEFM54bF.

13. Brendan Demelle, "Hillary Clinton's Keystone XL Crony Lobbyists Problem," Desmogblog.com, October 5, 2011, http://www.desmogblog.com/hillary-clinton-keystone-xl-lobbyists.

Research, table, and article prepared by Christine Wong, Copyright 2013, Published at APAforProgress in April.

East vs West Recycling: Bottle Bill May Help

   Litter: potential roadside distraction,  Photo by C. Wong/Columbia Press

Washington--Recently, I moved to a beautiful NE neighborhood. It's quiet, I can hear the birds---a symphony of them---and connect with the real stars at night. There's only one problem: litter. It collects near viaducts, protective barriers, and drainage ditches, despite the fact that both DC and Maryland have comprehensive three way recycling programs.

It's an unsightly contrast with the civic pride of place that should exist when trash disposal and waste management appears to be logistically adequate. But unfortunately, this is par norm in the United States. We buy too much that we don't need, we hate out-of-date goods, and recycle out the car window.

One positive about stateside solid waste sanitation programs these days are that they provide three-way residential disposal considerations. There is regular collection of residential trash; there is regular "single-stream" blue-container recycling service; and regular yard waste collection. Bulk trash collection (for bulky items) pickup is available by appointment.

For other wastes, there are dropoff recycling options on designated days, such as for such as household hazardous wastes or electronics ("e") toss-offs.

For busy urban residents, these recycling programs would seem to cover the ground, until, well, one notices all the trash that is still missed. One reason is that the trash bins of many large apartment complexes are undersized and fill up quickly. Dido for recycling bins, since business owners primarily size by square feet enclosed. (There ought to be special pick-ups when residents move out, but that would necessitate extra time and access for all three parties).

Add to this the downright litter bugs, anyone from tourists to the homeless population. Aside from the mechanized sweeper programs (for streets and sidewalks), there are no manual litter removal programs. There are a few volunteer programs in place, such as the Trash Free Potomac Network[1], but these litter patrols are geographically limited, and often annual events.

This contrasts strongly with what is in place in the Republic of China (Taiwan), Austria, and Switzerland where there are various incentives in place from recycling as a neighborhood activity, to an assortment of ecological trade-offs. For instance, China Economic News Service reports that "Taiwan's major contract footwear makers Pou Chen Group, Feng Tay Group, and Fulgent Sun Company have started to apply recycled materials in manufacturing sport shoes for renowned brands including Nike and Puma" (CENS, December 04, 2012).[2]

However, the EPA's Municipal Solid Waste data does demonstrate that the United States has increased its effectiveness in recycling. In 2010, it was 34.1 percent, up 6 percent from 2005.[3] The problem remains one of consistency by state and location. For instance, only ten states currently have active Bottle Bills--programs that pay 5 or 10 cents per glass, aluminum, or plastic bottle.[4]

According to TEDTalks guest Mike Biddle, owner of MBA polymers, the plastics recycling rates are still relatively low. The researcher become plastics recycling manufacturer, conceded that there are collection and aggregation issues in the United States. Biddle's remarks included: "We need to locate our full processing plants, or at least what we call 'preprocessing plants', near the 'mines'" [processing/recycling facilities].[5] Biddle believes that unpredictability is an infrastructure problem impacting collector lines at the "first mile", while at the distal end, nothing is in place to arbitrate against shipping of wastes to destinations outside the United States, for instance to emerging countries which are willing to accept waste-materials (such as China, Africa, India).

Locally, even with comprehensive garbage pick-up, one can imagine how much better it will be with a Bottle Bill program. For one thing, renumerative payment on returns will spur the homeless and others to pick areas clean of the hundreds of containers littering stream banks and ditches. Another spin-off will be that, such as in California, more recycling brokers will spring up within easy walking distance for consumers, since transfer stations often have limited hours and/or are in remote locations.

According to Green Hands, USA: "Trash along the highway can kill when pieces of metal or other hard objects pierce windshields."[6] Judging from the number of glass, plastic, and aluminum containers strewn in public right-of-ways in this area, the usefulness of a Bottle Bill program is indisputable. A national Bottle Bill program won't solve the rest of the litter problem, but it will be a good start.

Resources
1. Alice Ferguson Foundation, Trash Free Potomac Network, http://trashnetwork.fergusonfoundation.org/.
2. "Taiwan's Footwear Makers Use Recycled Materials in Products," China Economic News Service, Cens.com, http://www.cens.com/cens/html/gb/news/news_inner_42248.html
3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Municipal Solid Wastes," http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/index.htm
4. Container Recycling Institute, "Bottle Bill Resource Guide," http://www.bottlebill.org/about/whatis.htm
5. TED, "A better way to recycle plastics? Mike Biddle replies to questions and comments about his 2011 TEDTalk," http://blog.ted.com/2012/10/22/a-better-way-to-recycle-plastics-mike-biddle-replies-to-questions-and-comments-about-his-2011-tedtalk/
6. Green Hands USA, "How to Plan a Litter Patrol," http://www.greenhandsusa.com/eventguide/page:261

Related Article:

Should AAPIs Advocate for the Environment?

In "Asian American Unity: What is It?" Janelle Wong, Ph.D., author of Democracy's Promise: Immigrants and American Civic Institutions, and Director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland, provides a brief encapsulation of findings that indicate culture, language-access, and immigration are shared common experience. She also stated: "Shared experiences and attitudes alone will not hold the Asian American community together."[1]

In fact, she emphasized the creation of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) consciousness, shaped by the organizational activities and policy infrastructures of a variety of civic, business, legal, and community affiliates whose advocacies "both cultivate and grow a sense of common Asian American identity and issues."[2]

Could this somehow explain the surprising 73% Obama vote last November? Seventy-three percent AAPI support meant that most women and at least half the Asian male populace may have experienced concerns that encouraged them to support a progressive platform---whether healthcare, equal opportunity, support for diversity, or increasingly, new green business partnerships. Think about the long-term implications in Asia, where the population is already about 4.2 billion people.[3]

So the issue I would like to discuss is why the environment is a valid part of Asian Pacific Islander (API) unity. As a long-time grassroots environmental advocate, cancer advocate, and survivor, I assert that for manifold reasons, the API lobbying sphere can justifiably widen to include the environment and costs.

Consider the fact that the vast majority of AAPIs live or relocate in metropolitan areas, whether for work, education, or business advancement. There are more services for minorities in urban areas. But urban neighborhoods, particularly dense low-income precincts, tend to suffer unsolved crimes, and receive the short-end of service upgrades in utilities and facilities maintenance. They suffer more from urban health problems, such as asthma, hearing loss, hypertension, or isolation-related mental illness.

Crimes and stress from the fast pace of urban living, inadequate trash pickup, and noise compound the quality of living challenges. There may be such lax regulation that visitors or strangers dump their trash in private dumpsters, wash vehicle fluids down storm drains, and throw litter on sidewalks. This is a daily reality that many tourists have witnessed in Chinatowns or International Districts or near subways. Non-English speaking residents may not understand the logic of protecting surface waters or the toxins released by dyes. For business owners, clean-up can be just one extra duty in what is already a grueling work day.

To exacerbate the situation, police enforcement may be less stringent than warranted. For instance, recently the Metropolitan Police Department closed its office in Chinatown, much to the consternation of area residents and business owners.[4]

Utilities and facility upgrades are also slow in coming when owners and residents in the local district served are perceived as having no political clout. This is far more common than is admitted by urban Public Works departments, that water and sewer upgrades are based upon what planners are able to require developers to comply with. An informed active English-speaking neighborhood committee is far more likely to be able to influence planners on utility improvements than lower income residents are.

There are other direct environmental relationships having to do with airborne or viral diseases. As New Tang Dynasty Television reports ("Top Health Expert Says China's Smog "Scarier than SARS") recently there have been deadly consequences from air pollution or from not using face-protection while outdoors.[5] Such diseases know no boundaries; illness affects production, export, and market prices. Contaminants and toxins can affect the quality of manufactured goods, from food to clothing materials. For those of us supporting relatives overseas, there are other burdens associated with providing suitable long term care.

Because of the inevitability of climate change, rising oceans, and diminished quantity and quality of natural resources, AAPIs should train themselves to be active in lobbying about the environment. 350.org's Pacific Islanders group consists of climate warriors based on 15 Pacific Islands nations, including Marshall Islands, Fiji, Solomon, and Samoa, where the rise in sea levels is raising insurgency.[6]

After tuning in to the summit coverage last year at the 18th U.N. Climate Change Conference at Doha by Democracy Now!, it was easier for me to understand why many of the island nations around the globe are joining together to call for reduced greenhouse gas emissions in connection with global warming and rising oceans. Filipino negotiator Yeb Sano broke down on December 7, 2012 while recalling the devastation that occurred earlier that same week in the southern Philippines, when Super Typhoon "Pablo" left at least 500 dead, and 250,000 homeless, with many more missing.

"Please ... let 2012 be remembered as the year the world found the courage to ... take responsibility for the future we want. I ask of all of us here, if not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?" Sano pleaded.[7] The issues that affect people's livelihoods--whether due to fragile ocean ecosystems, salt-water intrusion, encroaching tides, higher order hurricanes--all are already beginning to translate into serious economic tolls.

But what is the nature of this change that everyone is talking about? During the last four years, under the leadership of President Obama, there has been slow, steady, incremental changes, from building to urban transportation sectors. These changes affect all of us whether directly (green goods) or indirectly (taxes). What will the government be investing in as futures stocks? Which U.S. corporations are planning to bilk the government through proprietary contracts, or overpriced bid items? How can we ensure that companies pay workers decent wages and hire a majority for long-term opportunities? Also, which non-governmental organizations are ensuring that multinationals don't practice international piracy, for instance, buying out beneficial inventions for the sake of establishing a monopoly?

Thus, there are a variety of reasons why as citizens we must be vigilant, if only by trying to stay abreast of current green technologies and issues. Such vigilance can pay off environmentally, if we help blow the whistle, or financially, if we promote worthy and sound investments. Have AAPIs in the past suffered from the lack in organizational willpower or political clout to contribute to a grassroots greening of the environment? This is a potential Asian American studies topic.

I hope that this column convinces people that not only is the environment very much a legitimate AAPI symbol, it is an inevitable and pressing one, worthy of cultural time and commitment. Next time, I shall try to address some differences between East vs West ideologies and current environmental practices.

Sources
1. Janelle Wong, "Asian American Unity: What is It?", Asian Fortune (Washington), March 2013.
2. Ibid.
3. One World - Nations Online (OWNO), "Current World Population," OWNO, last modified October 19, 2012, http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/world_population.htm.
4. Dottie Li, "Let's Make Lemonade," Asian Fortune (Washington), March 2013.
5. "Top Health Expert Says China's Smog 'Scarier than SARS'," New Tang Dynasty Television, created March 11, 2013, http://ntdtv.org/en/news/china/2013-03-11/top-health-expert-says-china-s-smog-scarier-than-sars-.html.
6. "350 Fiji," 350.org Pacific, accessed March 12, 2013, https://www.facebook.com/350Fiji.
7. "If Not Now, Then When?": Filipino Negotiator Pleads for Climate Deal After Typhoon Kills 500," Democracy Now!, interview by Amy Goodman, December 7, 2012, http://www.democracynow.org/2012/12/7/if_not_now_then_when_filipino.


Photo Credit to Act.350.org "Warrior Day of Action" 350.org Pacific.
Article research and preparation by Christine H. Wong, submitted to apaforprogress.org on March 13, 2013.


Support the Gun Control Package

In my short story, "The Oak Tree at Court House Park," the hero of the story is a self-made vendor, Joaquin, who makes his living selling popsicles from a push-cart. This story was based upon my experience visiting vendors at Fresno Fulton Mall. They would fan out around town, visiting friendly neighborhoods where there might be children wanting to buy paletas.

When my story was first published in 2010, little did I realize that this vendor had already been murdered as he was selling popsicles in Southeast Fresno in July. Juan Luna, a 73-year-old man whose wife also worked as a vendor, was gunned down by a young African-American male suspect while selling popsicles at an apartment complex on the 4800 block of east Fillmore ("Fresno Ice Cream Man Shot").[1]

This is just one example of how guns and senseless murder touch people's lives. There is absolutely no question that we live in a violent society, from the movies to the video games, from the mixed messages to oppressive work settings. The fact is that pathological people can reify into cold-blooded killers when they have ready access to guns.

This is why as the vote draws near, I have come around to voicing my support for the Gun Control Package first proposed by President Obama, and introduced by Vice-President Biden. There are many priorities in the country right now, as the State of the Union speech made clear, but opportunity does not wait around for second chances!

Here is what Ladd Everitt, Communications Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) stated in his speech on January 21, 2013, on how significant the proposal is:

The reform package on gun laws that our President announced is the most important effort that any American leader has ever made to de-escalate the gun violence in this country.[2]

So what is the big deal about this gun bill? Initially I had to weigh my personal misgivings a bit, because there are many Chinatown business owners who probably still pack a gun underneath the cash register in case of the inevitable night-time robbery. What if false precautions prevent non-English speaking citizens from purchasing a gun for their own protection?

A visit to the "Now is the Time" webpage (http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/preventing-gun-violence#share) convinced me of several things.[3]

First of all, it is a timely package. No waiting around for six months for slow legislative decision-making under intermittent committees. Afterall, both the White House leaders are trained attorneys, so they understood the craft of writing legislative proposals under pressure.

Secondly, the list of mass shootings in the United States is frightful. There is one list at Mother Jones (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data), but it doesn't include gang-related, drive-by, sniper, homicides, robbery, hate crimes, familycides, accidental or other minor shootings. The list is also different from the one for school shootings, which is different from the one for rampage killers (listed at Wikipedia).

One thing is for sure, despite not being thrilled about the Gamania internet parlors in the Republic of China (Taiwan), I have to admit that the United States has a lot more physical gun violence.

Third, Gun Control legislation, according to a variety of advocates, will provide things like background checks, so that ex-cons will have reduced access to gun ownership. Fourth, by setting up a national database, state-wide detectives will have an easier time coordinating and tracing crime suspects. This is especially important where semi-automatic weapons are involved--and they often are in mass shootings--and in extremist kidnappings.

Everitt also stated there should be a renewed effort to renew the federal ban on assault weapons (semi-automatics) and high capacity ammunition magazines if only because "they show up in mass shooting after mass shooting."

Fifth, any time there is a mass shooting or rampage, semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines almost have to be involved, since the assailants need to maximize their effectualness between the time when shooting starts to when they retreat and make their getaway.

Sixth, the Obama-Biden gun control package, would increase criminology research. Is violence or the love of violence not some kind of disease with addicts such as in pornography?

Seventh, the perpetrators themselves need safe outlets they can turn to in distress. Whether it was a James, or a Seung-hui, or a David, these students needed help, but they were afraid to seek it. Were these students victims of harassment or bullying by peers or administrators or even at home? In the case of David Phan, an in-depth investigative report prepared by Terry K. Park indicates that Phan may have been the victim of anti-gay bullying at his school, which sparked a questionable school suspension, then suicide ("David Phan's Suicide Sparks").[4]

Under proposed federal guidelines, counselors and psychologists, school administrators and social workers would receive support and training to learn how to "use proven strategies to prevent violence and improve school climate by reducing bullying, drug abuse, violence, and other problem behaviors" ("Now is the Time"). There is nothing like more uniformity and consistancy in improving a sense of fairness, such as the Common Core Standards in education.

Eighth, the Obama-Biden gun control package also includes a section on improving access to mental health, since often times, particularly for public health programs, mental health service is viewed as expendable, so there is often inadequate health insurance coverage.

The Obama Administration (including Mrs. Obama) has thrown its weight behind new Gun Control legislation, and it is clear from President Obama's State of the Union Speech that he intends to address many of the 99% of the people's concerns. Unfortunately, it is also clear that the GOP may continue to try to filibuster the President's altruistic proposals if only due to the Boehner-led partisanship.

The newly re-elected President wants to hear our voices, so much so that the White House has set up several new social networking sites, Google+ White House, and Share Your Stories.

There are other credible websites where you can learn more about pending gun control legislation, and even sign gun control petitions.

In closing, I would like to include Ladd Everitt (CSGV)'s final remarks [5]:

Are these reforms perfect? No. But I would tell you that Dr. King more than anyone understood, you do not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. He understood that the fight for a more peaceful America would be incremental, and we would have to fight it in steps. This is a critical step. Please contact Congress when you're lobbying on whatever issue you are lobbying on. I know you're in the faces of Congress. Please, in there, put in a request, "I demand that you support the President's Gun Reform package. I demand that you support this."

Due to gun violence here at home, it is too late for Juan Luna, and for so many other passed away innocent victims whether at Virginia Tech, Oikos University, Binghamtom, Newtown, and countless workplaces, but it is not too late for our children and our loved ones. Gun control legislations may not solve the problems in our society, but it is a step in the right direction, and this is why we should all try to help that process along.

Cited Sources:
[1] Norma Yuriar, "Fresno Ice Cream Man Shot," KMPH, http://www.kmph.com/Global/story.asp?S=12914497.
[2] Ladd Everitt, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, CSGV.org, speech at Arc of Justice rally in Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2013).
[3] "Now is the Time," The President's Plan to Reduce Gun Violence, The White House, http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/preventing-gun-violence.
[4] Terry K. Park, "David Phan's Suicide Sparks Grief, Anger, and Call for Justice, Hyphen, http://www.hyphenmagazine.com/blog/archive/2013/01/david-phans-suicide-sparks-grief-anger-and-call-justice.
[5] ] Ladd Everitt, ibid.


Research, and report preparation by Columbiapress.org, copyright 2013.


Peace and Justice March Honors MLK


Photo with David Swanson, acclaimed author of War is a Lie being
interviewed at the Arc of Justice Rally on January 21, 2013 at Malcolm X Park.
Photo by Columbia Press

Washington, DC - Braving near freezing winter weather and in wraps, even wheelchairs, over three hundred marchers and activist gathered at Meridian (Malcolm-X) Park for the Arc of Justice Rally on MLK and Inauguration Day (January 21st 2013). A variety of groups were present including Stop the Wars, Peace Action, Code Pink, World Can't Wait, and Veterans for Peace.

The protest rally opened with Bob Dylan guitar music and Arc of Justice's proclamation of a day of dedication to "Free Palestine." This accounted for the presence of David Kirshbaum, owner of Palestine Media Project that the United States needs to "campaign to end the Israeli Occupation" because "unconditional support for the State of Israel no matter whom it hurts or how it violates our basic principles is very unhealthy for our democracy."[1]

While a weekend full of low-key protest parties and rallies accompanying the second inauguration of our country's first black President seems paradoxical, protest organizers took care to note how the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s exemplified pacifist, human rights beliefs, citing his civil-pacifist speeches.

As the march proceeded down 16th Street, volunteers were drafted to tote signs and push the drone replicas (on wheels) for Stop the Wars. Code Pink distributed free stickers and warmed the marchers up with various chants. World Can't Wait[10] carried banner with a huge NASA satellite image of Earth framed against somber black. Artful activism was demonstrated by Backbone Campaign[11]'s (from Washington State) replica of a sixty-foot segmented human spine with vertebrate sporting such slogans as "Change Requires Spine," and "Audacity? Integrity? Spine up!" Other groups included Free Bradley Manning[12] activists, and Stop Patriarchy[13] who wielded orange "Abortion on Demand" signs.

As an Asian-American reporter marching along, the rhythmic beat of the Japanese Buddhist drummers inspired me even before the rally had begun. I had the opportunity to interview one of the drummers, Jun Y., and she told me they were with Nipponzan Myohoji, founded by Most Venerable Nichidatsu Fujii, who made it his life's mission to work for abolition of nuclear arms.[14]

The words Jun spoke: "We don't need no more fight. We need to save the planet. Killing is no solution"; echoed and resounded with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s own words from his April 4th 1967 speech:

This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate -- ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: "Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love." "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us." Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.[15]

There was nothing that different between one religion's words and another's, for the life-saving chant intermixed with syncopated beats signified that we did not intend to give up, ever, even at the terminus, even "with a decade of war ending."[16]

Web Citations
1. Palestine Media Project. "About Us," 2008, www.palmediaproject.org
2. David Swanson. "Inauguration MLK Day: Guided Drones and Misguided People," January 24, 2013, http://davidswanson.org/node/3938
3. "A More Perfect Union," January 15, 2011, http://4amoreperfectunion.blogspot.com/2011/01/rev-martin-luther-king-jr-april-4-1967.html
4. Ibid.
5. The Peace and Justice Foundation, http://www.peacethrujustice.org/home.htm
6. "A More Perfect Union," January 15, 2011, http://4amoreperfectunion.blogspot.com/2011/01/rev-martin-luther-king-jr-april-4-1967.html
7. Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, http://www.csgv.org/
8. Free Bradley Manning, http://www.bradleymanning.org/
9. Code Pink, http://www.codepink4peace.org/
10. World Can't Wait, http://www.worldcantwait.net/
11. The Backbone Campaign, http://www.backbonecampaign.org/
12. Free Bradley Manning, http://www.bradleymanning.org/
13. "End Pornography and Patriarchy," Stop Patriarchy, http://www.stoppatriarchy.org/
14. "Nipponzan Myohoji - Washington, DC," http://katzjustice.com/DojoDC.htm
15. "A More Perfect Union," January 15, 2011, http://4amoreperfectunion.blogspot.com/2011/01/rev-martin-luther-king-jr-april-4-1967.html
16. The White House. "President Obama Delivers His Second Inaugural Address." Jan. 21, 2013. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzC135ql_wA&list=PLRJNAhZxtqH9n3FlEkZjuLdU1v69jkVYj


Thank-you to DC Metropolitan Police for redirecting traffic and helping to protect protesters' safety.

Research, transcript, photography, editing and report preparation by Columbiapress.org, copyright 2013. Speeches remain the copyright of respective lecturers. Any reproductions are restricted to news and scholarly educational purposes, and must be accompanied by proper citation.


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