Andrew Yang for President 2020 – CNN Townhall Meeting – Sun April 14th, 8 PM EST

In my last blog post about presidential candidate Andrew Yang, I mentioned he had made it on The Daily Show as well as made the Democratic Party Presidential debates. Well now, Yang has his own CNN Townhall this coming Sunday, April 14th, at 8PM EST:

” We just received the news – I am getting a CNN Town Hall on Sunday, April 14th at 8pm EST!  This is an enormous opportunity for me and the campaign.  Most Americans are just getting to know the various candidates.  Together we can make the case to the American people for a new economy that works for people.  More info to come about how we will rally the Yang Gang around our national moment. “

It’ll be interesting to see if Yang can get the CNN Townhall bump that Democratic presidential Pete Buttigieg candidate did after his townhall – raising $600K in 24 hours after his townhall and a rise in his poll numbers:

” Buttigieg’s standing lands him at fifth and tied with Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Buttigieg is ahead of both Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, who are each at 2%. In other words, the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is polling in the same area as a number of candidates who are regarded as having a legitimate chance of winning the Democratic nomination.”

I’m hoping Yang can go the distance to help raise the profile of Asian Americans and be a role model for political activism. As I’ve often complained, Asian Americans are not nearly as politically engaged as we should be.

Asian American Family Sues Harvard, but not for what you might think

Lawsuits against Harvard and well-known selective universities contending discrimination against Asian Americans have happened over the years, with the lawsuit sponsored by Edward Blum still in play and actively opposed by Harvard.  In late 2018, another kind of lawsuit against Harvard was filed. The family of Luke Tang filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Harvard contending that the University was negligent in caring in for Luke, who committed suicide in 2015.

After a suicide attempt his freshman year, Luke Tang was hospitalized.  While he was there, he signed a contract with Harvard saying he could return if he received mental health counseling.  He was able to return for his sophomore year even though, the lawsuit alleges, Harvard personnel knew that he had not received the required mental health counseling.

Since his death, his parents have set up a foundation in his name to raise awareness of signs of depression and other mental health issues, especially as it affects Asian Americans.  In addition, a short documentary called Looking for Luke was produced by the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds to educate and to destigmatize seeking help for mental health problems.  In the trailer above, the fact that Luke committed suicide is hidden for a long time and only told to one of his friends six months after his death.   My personal experience with the issue of mental health in Asian American families is that any problems are hushed up, considered a shame on the family that is not to be discussed openly, and likely not to be dealt with directly.  In particular, this article on Filipino Americans and mental health really resonated with me and other family members.  Our family, like many others in Silicon Valley, have known Asian American students who have committed suicide.

Harvard was required to respond to the lawsuit by January 9.  I haven’t been able to find the actual lawsuit text or any response since then (if someone has link to any of those, please include it in the comments). At the same time, the Luke Tang foundation is granting scholarships to students who have overcome psychiatric problems and welcomes donations.

Ellen DeGeneres Surprises McDonald’s Pranksters Pushing For Asian American Inclusion

This a great story on a prank when two Asian American men noticed that Asian Americans weren’t being profiled in some of McDonald’s restaurant’s posters:

“Earlier this month, Jevh Maravilla and Christian Toldeo became viral superstars because of a mock poster they created and hung on the wall of a McDonald’s restaurant in Pearland, Texas. It featured themselves in an apparent advertisement for the fast food chain.

The image was so convincing that it had reportedly gone unnoticed by the eatery’s employees for 51 days before Maravilla tweeted about it Sept. 2. As of Monday, it had been liked more than 1 million times.”

Inspired by ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ for representation, Jevh and Christian were motivated to have themselves represented.

In mid September, day time talk show host Ellen DeGeneres in hosted Jevh and Christian and surprised them:

“She also revealed that the pair will be highlighted in a forthcoming McDonald’s ad campaign, and handed them each a check for $25,000 as “payment” for their commitment to diversity.”

Imagine making onto to national TV and getting a surprise $25k for a prank! I’m looking forward to seeing this at a local McDonald’s hopefully.

Mini-Review: ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ (No Spoilers)

So, the Netflix teenage romance film ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ (TATBILB), based on a novel of the same name by Korean American author Jenny Han, debuted on Friday, August 17th, the same opening weekend as ‘Crazy Rich Asians.’ “Asian August” has been a busy month, and I’ve written reviews for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and ‘Searching.” Now finally, I will discuss this film.

To be honest, I had never heard of the book, author or film until I started looking on Twitter about Asian Americans being excited about both ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and ‘TATBILB.’ Then I read this opinion piece in the New York Times the day the film came out on Netflix, by author Jenny Han, titled, “An Asian-American Teen Idol Onscreen, Finally,” in which the writer says,

When I sold my first middle-grade novel in 2005, it wasn’t that common to put an author photo on the back flap, but 24-year-old Korean-American me insisted. I wanted Asian girls to see my face. And more than that, I wanted them to see what is possible.

My young-adult novel, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” is about a girl who writes secret love letters to boys when she wants to get over them. They’re for her eyes only — except one day, they all get sent out. Even before the book came out in 2014, there was interest in making a movie. But the interest died as soon as I made it clear the lead had to be Asian-American. One producer said to me, as long as the actress captures the spirit of the character, age and race don’t matter. I said, well, her spirit is Asian-American. That was the end of that.

I loved this and wanted to watch the film. I think with the success of ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ hopefully the practice of whitewashing / racebending, which has been common in Hollywood productions in the past, might be fading away.

The Netflix description of the movie says, “When her secret love letters somehow get mailed to each of her five crushes, Lara Jean finds her quiet high school existence turned upside down.”

I enjoyed this teen romance film, but felt it was fairly predictable. What I enjoyed most was the very strong performance by lead actress Lana Condor, who is excellent playing Lara Jean.

The biggest criticism I’ve read, and I agree a little, is that none of Lara Jean’s crushes are Asian American, though one is an African American. The film takes place in the Portland, Oregon region, where the Asian American population is approximately 7 percent (Oregon overall is almost 4 percent).

When I grew up in western Massachusetts, there were very few Asian Americans in my high school and I didn’t have crushes on any of the Asian American girls, just some white ones. Given limited choices, that’s the reality.

IndieWire’s Hanh Nguyen interviewed who said, “I understand the frustration and I share that frustration of wanting to see more Asian American men in media. For this, all I can say is this is the story that I wrote.”

Nguyen continues:

Han’s novel doesn’t spell out the race of each of the characters, but some of the descriptions (i.e. blond hair) and the names read as typically white: Josh Sanderson, Peter Kavinsky, John Ambrose McClaren, Kenny Donati, and Lucas Krapf. Furthermore, in the movie, four of the five boys are portrayed by white actors, while Lucas Krapf is renamed Lucas James and portrayed by black actor Trezzo Mahoro.

Maybe Han didn’t want to push her luck, given that she held steadfast on making sure that the girl was going to be an Asian American girl. But it’s still a little disappointing.

Other than that, I’d say the film is an enjoyable teen romance that most teenage girls would love. The film has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (with a total of 43 reviews).

The 8Asians Interview: Andrew Yang for President – 2020

Andrew Yang’s headline speech at the 2018 Iowa Wing Ding: “The opposite of a Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.”

This past spring, a Facebook friend posted a meet-and-greet event for Andrew Yang, a Taiwanese American running for president (yes, president of the United States) in 2020. I emphasize 2020, since I was kind of surprised someone would be running so early (Obama didn’t start running until February 2007 – almost two years before November 2008).

Unfortunately, I had a conflict and didn’t get a chance until July for another meet-and-greet, where I met Yang and scheduled a face-to-face, in-person interview.

I don’t think I had ever heard of Yang until that meet-and-greet post on Facebook, or if I had, I might have dismissed him, since I usually keep up on Asian American politicians – especially if they run for president.

Prior to interviewing Yang, I did some research and found an interesting New York Times article profiling him, interestingly titled “His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming.”  Continue reading “The 8Asians Interview: Andrew Yang for President – 2020”

Film Review: ‘Searching’ (No Spoilers)

So as part of “Asian August,” I (you can read my review of “Crazy Rich Asians here”) got to see Searching as part of a #goldopen effort to promote the film, which opened this past weekend (but first debuted at Sundance) in a very limited release – nine theaters (and opens nationally Friday, August 31st) actually starring John Cho (#starringJohnCho). From the film’s website:

After David Kim (John Cho)’s 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective is assigned to the case. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet, where all secrets are kept today: his daughter’s laptop. In a hyper-modern thriller told via the technology devices we use every day to communicate, David must trace is daughter’s digital footprints before she disappears forever.

Continue reading “Film Review: ‘Searching’ (No Spoilers)”

At the 2018 ESPYs, Chloe Kim wins Best Female Athlete award

If you don’t know what the ESPYs are, it’s an annual sports awards show started and produced by ESPN (originally an abbreviation for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network).

This year, 2018 Gold Olympic snowboarding medalist Chloe Kim won the the Best Female Athlete award.   It’s just the latest achievement for Kim, which includes a hot selling cereal box and getting into Princeton.  If you don’t remember her performance in the Olympics, you can re-watch her final halfpipe run with back-to-back 1080s here.

What’s next for Kim?  It’s not clear if she will go to Princeton, although in clear Asian Dad style, her father would like her to go to college and study hard.

 

 

Sherry Chen, Falsely Accused, Wins Case but still has not been Restored to Her Job

Image courtesy of NBC News.

Back in 2015, I had watched on 60 Minutes and also read with dismay Chinese American Sherry Chen’s story:

“On Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, Sherry Chen drove, as usual, to her office at the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, where she forecast flood threats along the Ohio River. She was a bit jet-lagged, having returned a few days earlier from a visit to China. But as she headed to her desk, she says, she had no reason to think it was anything other than an ordinary day. Then her boss summoned her.

Once inside his office, a back door opened and in walked six agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The agents accused Mrs. Chen, a hydrologist born in China and now a naturalized American citizen, of using a stolen password to download information about the nation’s dams and of lying about meeting with a high-ranking Chinese official.

Mrs. Chen, 59, an adoptive Midwesterner who had received awards for her government service, was now suspected of being a Chinese spy. She was arrested and led in handcuffs past her co-workers to a federal courthouse 40 miles away in Dayton, where she was told she faced 25 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

“Why,” Mr. Zeidenberg said he asked, “if she’s a spy, is she coming back from China and telling her colleagues that ‘I met this guy in China and this is what he wants to know’? Why is she telling the guy in China, ‘Here’s my boss’s phone number’? Why is she asking for a password over email? Why would you do that?”

Mr. Zeidenberg says the prosecutors listened. On March 10, the day after their meeting, they dismissed the charges.”

I actually got to meet Chen in Palo Alto where she was a guest for a talk on “A Seminar on Trade Secrets and Economic Espionage: Legal Risks in Advancing Technology between the U.S. and China.” Although I’m an American-born Taiwanese American, I have worked for two Chinese companies, so I am acutely aware of the possible discrimination against Asian Americans. In fact, I remember finding out that one of my Mom’s church friend’s siblings was Taiwanese American scientist and falsely accused spy Wen Ho Lee.

So it was with great pleasure that I had read about Chen getting back her old job that she had cherished so much:

“Yet the National Weather Service terminated her from employment doing the job she loved at its offices near Cincinnati, Ohio.

Determined to stand up and speak out, Sherry challenged the termination decision through the Merit Systems Protection Board, an administrative system meant to protect hard-working public employees such as her. On April 23, the decision was issued that ordered she be returned to her work on behalf of the public and be given backpay.

In the 118-page opinion, the judge also found:

Ms. Chen asserts that she is the “victim of a gross injustice.” After reviewing the evidence and testimony in this matter I believe Ms. Chen’s assertion is correct . . . It was, however, extremely evident by their demeanor, that both [decision-makers] were simply digging their heels in when it came time to support the decision they had made. . . . In short, [they] seemed more concerned about being right than doing the right thing. Based on the unyielding nature of their testimony, I would not have been surprised if they rejected that 2 + 2 = 4.”

The Commerce Department has planned to appeal the ruling, so she still does not have her job back.  Several Asian American organizations released this joint communique condemning the appeal.

There are legitimate cases to prosecute when it comes to Asian Americans and espionage for national or commercial means, but with the increasingly mostly economic rivalries between the United States and China, the U.S. must ensure that the proper due diligence is applied before more innocent Americans are wrongfully charged and terminated.

The meaning behind ‘Maile,’ the name of Tammy Duckworth’s new daughter

ICYMI: Senator Tammy Duckworth gave birth to her second child, a girl named Maile Pearl, April 9.  The junior senator from Illinois is the first member of the Senate to give birth while in office.  This past Wednesday, the Senate changed its rules to allow infants on the Senate floor during a vote, enabling Duckworth to stick close to her child while sticking close to the proceedings.

There’s some confusion out there about Maile’s name, and the explanations floating around are only partially correct, so here’s the straight dope.  Duckworth and Maile are going to pronounce it “MY-lee,” which sounds exactly like Miley Cyrus’s name, as explained in a pretty good Bustle article last week. However, a few gaps are worth filling.

It’s a fairly common name in Hawaiʻi, where Duckworth earned her high school diploma and her bachelor’s degree.  Every year (except one, for some reason) between 1967 and 2012, it was a top-100 most common feminine baby name in the state, usually ranking in the 60s and 70s.  There is pretty much nobody in Hawaiʻi who doesn’t know a few Mailes.

The name is the Hawaiian word for alyxia oliviformis, a twining, flowering plant in the dogbane family.  It’s native to Hawaiʻi and used to make leis.*  A lei is not necessarily the flower garland you see in Elvis movies; leis come in multiple variations. Here’s a photo of Daniel Dae Kim wearing a maile lei at the blessing for the sixth season of Hawaii Five-0, and here’s some video of Hawaiʻi Senator Mazie Hirono honoring the late Senator Dan Akaka, with a maile lei draped across her lectern.

And speaking of Akaka, Duckworth says the name was suggested by him.

Note that Maile is different from Malia, the Hawaiian name Barack and Michelle Obama gave their firstborn child.  Malia is the far more common name (in 2016, the 46th-most common feminine name in Hawaiʻi).

While “MY-lee” is the common pronunciation, the Hawaiian pronunciation is closer to “MY-le,” where the /e/ sound is like the E in “keg.”  You don’t usually hear someone pronounce it this way, but when someone does, nobody corrects it because we all know that’s how we should be saying it.  Maile Duckworth can pronounce her name any way she wishes, of course, but hopefully her mommy will make sure she understands its linguistically correct pronunciation as well.  I’m certain Dan Akaka would be proud.

—–

* The use of the plural form “leis” has fallen out of favor in Hawaiʻi, as there is no plural form of the word in Hawaiian.  However, I insist (against massively popular opinion) that I’m not speaking in Hawaiian when I say it; I’m speaking in English, using a borrowed word, and will therefore use English language conventions.  Boy, do people get mad at me for this.

The Fred Yamamoto Scholarship Fund

A friend of mine, Steven Lee, who is a Palo Alto resident and involved in city government is helping to raise a scholarship fund in memory of Fred Yamamoto and provided a prepared statement:

“As a 3rd generation Chinese-American and a Palo Alto Human Relations Commissioner, I was strongly in favor of the committee’s recommendation to name a school after Fred Yamamoto, and was disappointed by both the opposition raised by certain members of my Chinese-American community as well as the decision by the school board not to name a school after Fred Yamamoto. We have to move forward, however, and I am committing myself to be part of the larger and continued discussion, which this incident exposed, that we disparately need in this community, to listen certainly, to educate and correct unconscious biases or historical prejudices when necessary, and to ultimately take action when needed to keep Palo Alto a truly safe, welcoming and inclusive community, where no one is unfairly judged by their name, ethnicity or their other identities, even when such action may be deemed “controversial” or “divisive” by those who oppose such action.”

Back in March, there was some opposition to renaming a Palo Alto middle school in his name:

“Backlash to a proposed name for a Palo Alto middle school has provoked surprise and confusion among Japanese-American residents who don’t see the connection between Fred Yamamoto, the Palo Altan who was held in Japanese internment camps and later died in combat, and Isoroku Yamamoto, the reviled marshal admiral who ordered the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Tamie Yusa-Ogawa, a Mountain View native who now lives in the Los Angeles area, called the protest “racism, plain and simple.”

“Yamamoto is an extremely common name. I understand why these people don’t want a school named after Isoroku Yamamoto, but Fred Yamamoto shouldn’t lose out just because he has the same last name,” Yusa-Ogawa, a Los Altos High School graduate, told the Post.

Several dozen parents and residents, including many from Chinese communities, spoke out against renaming Jordan or Terman middle school after Fred Yamamoto at a meeting of the school district’s Recommending School Names Committee on Monday.”

When I had heard about this, I was completely dumbfounded, but not totally surprised. I know some first generation Chinese Americans that harbor anti-Japanese feelings due to World War II. However, first and foremost, Fred Yamamoto was born-and-raised in the United States and is an American of Japanese decent – and died in combat for our country. As far as I’m concerned, Yamamoto is an American hero.

I think a lot of Asians in Asia and Asian Americans still confuse or conflate race with nationality. Fred Yamamoto was not related at all to Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. I’m sure most Americans don’t even know who Admiral Yamamoto is! My Japanese and Japanese American friends noted that Yamamoto is a very common Japanese last name.

To remember Fred Yamamoto, there’s an effort to establish a scholarship fund in his name:

“At the close of the 2017/18 School Year, we will use the donations to award and recognize a student (or students) who have demonstrated civic leadership, inclusion and service reminiscent of Fred’s spirit. (Depending on the sum raised, we might be able to keep the Scholarship active for more than one year.)

We believe this is an effort many in the community can come together to join: those who supported Fred’s nomination and those who opposed it.  For anyone who was inspired by Fred Yamamoto’s service and sacrifice and wants to work to keep his memory alive: Thank You!”

Please consider donating here:
https://www.gofundme.com/fred-m-yamamoto-scholarship-fund

The Opposition with Jordan Klepper: Congressman Ted Lieu & The Democrats Push to Take Back the House

I don’t regularly watch The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, but I saw that one of my favorite Representative Ted Lieu was on the show recently:

“Congressman Ted Lieu makes the case for revoking Jared Kushner’s national security clearance and pushes a bill to rein in the president’s nuclear first-strike capabilities.”

Ever since Trump became President, Lieu is most known for being a hilarious Twitter troll to Trump’s tweets:

“Through his Twitter account, the Congressman has catapulted to a cultish delightfully nerdy social media stardom. Post-election, Lieu has made multiple appearances on cable television, including MSNBC and Real Time with Bill Maher.

If you’re a politics junkie who likes to follow Congresspeople on Twitter — or even if you aren’t, even if just really, really hate Donald Trump — you’ve probably liked a Lieu tweet without realizing it.

Lieu gives the platform credit for lending him access to voters he wouldn’t normally be able to reach.

“Consider that 20 years ago, a person who wanted to have a discussion with their member of Congress would have to call their office. Now people tweet at me,” Lieu said. “I can engage in multiple different conversations with people on Twitter — it’s actually a more intimate way of contacting someone.”

He’s got the fourth highest Twitter following in the House of Representatives, just under California social media powerhouses including Adam Schiff, Maxine Waters, and Nancy Pelosi.”

I follow Lieu on Twitter, and if you want to, you can too here: https://twitter.com/tedlieu

John Chiang Remains a Top Contender in Race for California State Governor

California state treasurer John Chiang was in the San Jose area supporting California assemblymember Evan Low on Sunday, March 18th, and I had a chance to catch up with him after the belated Lunar New Year fundraising dinner. The last time I saw John was when he was in town being endorsed by Evan last November.

The more recent exciting news about the race for California governor was at the California Democratic state convention, where no Democrat gained the party endorsement (the threshold is 60%) and John came in second.  According to KTLA’s CNN wire:

“The endorsement battle proved competitive in the governor’s race at at Saturday’s California Democratic party convention, where John Chiang and Gavin Newsom were locked in a close race for the party’s nod.

“After the votes were tallied, no consensus was reached for a gubernatorial candidate. Newsom received the highest percentage of votes with 39 percent, followed by Chiang with 30 percent, Delaine Eastin with 20 percent, and Villaraigosa with 9 percent.”

When I heard that news, I was happy to hear how well John did at the convention. Just a few days before, a recent poll (Thur 3/15/2018) by the Newsom campaign revealed:

“In the survey of 1,000 likely voters done by nationally recognized pollster David Binder, Newsom corrals 26 percent of the vote; Cox, 16 percent; Democratic state Treasurer John Chiang, 13 percent; former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, 12 percent, Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, 10 percent; Democratic former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, 7 percent; and former Hillary Clinton adviser Amanda Renteria, 4 percent. The survey found 12 percent of respondents were undecided.”

With less than 80 days left until the June 5th primary, there’s still some ground for John to pick up.

John discussed how the cost of housing was an issue in California (where 20% of residents live in poverty), how his stance differed from his opponents’, and how he was the first state-wide official in the United States to take on the corrupt practices of Wells Fargo.

I wish the best of luck to John with the rest of the campaign!