ICYMI: Crazy, Political Asians & California State Democratic Party Convention

Back at the end of May and first weekend of June, the California State Democratic Party held its annual convention in San Francisco, and I had the great pleasure to have attend the 2019 California State Democratic Party convention as well as an Asian American hosted and themed party, ‘Crazy, Political Asians.’ The last time I had attended the California State Democratic Party convention was back in 2016 when it was held locally in San Jose.

Continue reading “ICYMI: Crazy, Political Asians & California State Democratic Party Convention”

Michelle Kwan Joins Biden Presidential Campaign Staff

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I'm thrilled that @joebiden announced that he’s running for President! I know that there is already a field of incredible democratic candidates and the 2020 election is so important we cannot lose sight of the big picture. Ultimately, I believe that the Vice President is the ideal candidate to unify our country with his experience, knowledge and track record of fighting for Americans. He has worked side by side with @barackobama to pass the Affordable Care Act, which expanded health insurance to 20 million people and protected people with pre-existing conditions. He championed marriage equality and remains at the forefront of ensuring LGBTQ rights. He has tackled climate change and pollution to protect our environment. He has earned the respect of the international community and, through his leadership, he will strengthen our relationships with our allies and stand up to meet rising global challenges. Most importantly, VP Biden has a reputation for getting things done – from implementing the most comprehensive and progressive investments in our nation’s infrastructure and clean energy industries, to writing the Violence Against Women Act, to taking on the the NRA and winning (twice!). He’s the candidate that I’m proud to support because he will do what it takes to restore the soul of this nation, rebuild the backbone of the country, and unify America.

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When former Vice President Joe Biden announced his bid to run for President in 2020, no one was too surprised since he’d been thinking about it for a while. And I wasn’t entirely too surprised that Michelle Kwan was joining his campaign, since she had alluded to potentially joining another presidential campaign (like she had with Hillary back for the 2016 campaign) during Q&A at a talk she was at recently at Yale.

Michelle made her announcement via Instagram, her preferred social media outlet:

“In an Instagram post, the world champion figure skater wrote that she was “thrilled that @joebiden announced that he’s running for President!” “I know that there is already a field of incredible democratic candidates and the 2020 election is so important we cannot lose sight of the big picture. Ultimately, I believe that the Vice President is the ideal candidate to unify our country with his experience, knowledge and track record of fighting for Americans,” Kwan wrote, citing Biden’s work with former President Obama to pass the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare.”

I like Biden and I wish he had run in 2016. Although Biden is currently leading and has been leading in the polls before he even announced, I don’t think he’ll have an easy time getting the nomination or even win it. He has the feeling of an establishment candidate (which he is) when the Democratic base is looking anti-establishment. But in the end, all Democrats want the same thing this time around in 2020 – to defeat President Donald Trump.

I thought that Michelle would have been supporting a female California candidate and Asian American, Senator Kamala Harris. Perhaps Michelle will join her campaign if Biden doesn’t win the nomination.  I’m sure Michelle got to know Biden when she worked at the State Department and that many of Hillary’s presidential staff campaign are working on the Biden campaign, since Hillary and Biden were good friends. In any case, I look forward to meeting Michelle again on the campaign trail for Biden!

PBS: ‘‘An American Story: Norman Mineta’’ Airing on May 20th

Back in May of 2018, I had the great honor of screening the premiere of Norman Mineta & His Legacy: An American Story and meeting Mineta at CAAMFest36.

The documentary is scheduled for national broadcast on PBS on Monday, May 20th at 9:00 PM. Please check your local listing to be sure.

I hope you can catch this important documentary.

Yale’s ‘The Chubb Fellowship’: Michelle Kwan, Figure Skater, Olympian, and Diplomat

As you all know, I am a fan of figure skater, Olympian and diplomat Michelle Kwan. The last time I saw her, it was for a fundraiser for Vivek Viswanathan, who last year was running for California State Treasurer.

A friend of mine who happens to be a Yale alum had posted the above video of Michelle speaking at Yale as the 2019 Chubb Fellow:

“Michelle Kwan, Chubb Fellow – Spring 2019 will be the honored guest of the Chubb Fellowship and Timothy Dwight College. Ms. Kwan will deliver the Chubb Fellowship Address to talk about her remarkable career as a figure skater as well as her public diplomacy experiences. Details at https://chubbfellowship.com”

Figure skater and Yale freshman Nathan Chan was in attendance – I imagine he helped in someone to get her as a speaker.

I didn’t necessarily learn anything new from the talk that I didn’t know, since I am quite familiar with Michelle’s history in skating (I did see her skate in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics) as well as in public service, but I was quite struck when someone in the audience asked in the first question, what was one of the characteristics that lead to her success, and she had mentioned her being ‘scrappy’ – and explained that being from an immigrant family from Hong Kong, she didn’t come from a well-to-do background, and her dad didn’t graduate from high school and her parents had nothing. So it was Michelle’s scrappiness that helped raise money for coaching, where she had to quit skating at times because lessons were expensive, ice time, as well as equipment and costumes, etc. Michelle was able to get grants as well as supporters, and had to borrow costumes (she even made it to Nationals before getting a coach).

I was struck by her comments since oftentimes, we do think that figure skaters have sponsors or come from well-to-do families, but often they do not – something that the film I, Tonya helped shed light on.

Someone also asked if Michelle was going to run for Senate one day, and she didn’t have any immediate plans to run for public office. But she did say she might help in a future presidential campaign, like she did with Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton as a surrogate outreach coordinator.

John Chiang’s New ElectAAPI.org PAC Aims to Boost Political Fortunes of Asian American Candidates

Image courtesy of ElectAAPI.org

A lot of people, including myself, were wondering what former California State Treasurer (as well as former State Controller and Board of Equalization) John Chiang was going to do after his failed bid to run for Governor of California.

Well, we no longer have to wonder – back in mid-March, Chiang announced:

“In an email to supporters Thursday, Chiang said he’s launching a political action committee aimed at electing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the country, with a particular focus on congressional seats.

“We want to build a more inclusive America. For too long, Asian Americans have not had the political infrastructure like so many other communities to be as successful in the political arena,” Chiang said in an interview.

The PAC, ElectAAPI.org, hopes to amass a seven-figure war chest for the 2020 cycle and plans to give directly to federal candidates as well as use independent expenditures to influence races. The group also wants to help mobilize Asian American voters, the fastest growing racial group in the electorate.

Citing what it called “growing racism, xenophobia and intolerance being perpetuated by the GOP,” the PAC’s website said it will support only Democratic candidates.”

I’m a little surprised by Chiang’s move, but glad he didn’t sell out to become a corporate lobbyist, that is for sure.

The first candidate ElectAAPI is supporting Congressman Andy Kim, from New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District. (Kim is the first Democratic member of Congress of Korean descent, and the second overall).

Best of luck to Chiang in starting this PAC and I look forward to catching up with him soon to learn more, maybe at the upcoming 2019 California Democratic Party Convention at the end of May.

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.

Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Makes the DNC Debates as well as The Daily Show

The first time I wrote about presidential candidate Andrew Yang was in September of last year, when I interview him last Summer 2018 regarding his run for President Of The United States (POTUS). A lot has happened since then, including a whole slew (about 15+) of Democrats have announced their run for president.

Last week, Yang made it on to The Daily Show in a news report by correspondent Ronny Chieng, who chatted with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang about his push for a universal basic income – which is pretty hilarious. In my book, if you’re running for office and make it on The Daily Show, you’re legit!

But more importantly, Yang has officially qualified for the Democratic National Committee’s 2019 debates for this June and July – as The Washington Post put its: “Andrew Yang is running for president. Haven’t heard of him? You will soon.”:

Yang announced Monday that he surpassed 65,000 donors, the Democratic National Committee’s threshold for participants in the first two debates. A party official said the DNC won’t announce the slate of debaters until at least two weeks before the event.

The milestone capped an improbable month-long run. In that time, donations to his campaign flowed in from around the country, his rallies got more crowded and his Twitter following more than tripled, from 40,000 to more than 130,000 in 30 days, propelled by a rabid online fan base known as the Yang Gang.

He says it all started on the “Joe Rogan Experience.”

Yang appeared on Rogan’s podcast, which has more than 4 million subscribers on YouTube alone, in February to talk about his trademark policy proposal, “The Freedom Dividend,” his poll-tested name foruniversal basic income. After that, he said, his campaign took off.

“It seems like a lot of people started paying attention all at once,” Yang said in an interview with The Washington Post.

….

Monmouth University poll in February put his support among Democratic voters at 1 percent, still a long way from the front of the pack but the same as Eric Holder and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Yang exulted in a tweet.

He thinks, as all politicians must, that the more people hear from him, the more they’ll support him. On Rogan’s show, Yang, who founded Venture for America, held court for nearly two hours, discussing the threat automation poses to working Americans. He explained that, as president, he would institute a value-added tax on tech companies to pay all U.S. citizens over the age of 18 $1,000 per month, a dramatic expansion of the social safety net that would guarantee tens of millions of Americans a $12,000 annual income.”

Yang has strategically reached out to as many social media influencers as well as reached out to many across the other isle, including those on Fox News – including Tucker Carlson (whom I’m not a fan of …) – who he impressed:

Most recently, this past week, Yang visited the San Francisco Bay Area again and had his largest rally yet in San Francisco – with an estimated crowd of over 3,000 people.

Unfortunately, I work in San Jose, so the drive up to San Francisco probably would have taken over 1.5 to 2 hours given traffic these days. I did get to catch Yang speak at a smaller event in Saratoga, California.

I’m looking forward to seeing Yang increasingly seeing greater media exposure – I hope soon at a CNN townhall and other mainstream media outlets. If there’s a Southwest flight I can make to see Yang debate in June and July, I’m there (work schedule permitting). I think it is tremendously important to have Asian Americans involved in the political process at all levels of government, including running for president.

Full disclosure: I have donated to Yang’s campaign in the past and may in the future.

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”

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.

CAAMFEST36: Opening Night Film & Gala Red Carpet Premiere of ‘An American Story: Norman Mineta’

One of the things I have really enjoyed after having moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1999 has been attending the San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival, which is now known as CAAMFest, now its 36th year.

This year’s opening night premiere was a documentary – AN AMERICAN STORY: NORMAN MINETA – about groundbreaking elected official and civil servant, Japanese American Norman Mineta – the first Asian American elected to San Jose, California City Council, first Asian American elected to be mayor of San Jose (first Asian American mayor of any major city in the continental United States), first Asian American Congressman elected in the continental United States, first Asian American to serve as a cabinet member to serve a President (AND also both in a Democratic and Republican administration). AND first Asian American to have an airport named after him (Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport).

Prior to the documentary’s premiere, Claudine Cheng and Willie Brown presented Norman Mineta with the APA Heritage Award for Lifetime Impact:

After watching the documentary, I realized that although I had kind of known about many of Mineta’s accomplishments, seeing his story told in its totality was amazing. (This slightly differed from my experience watching a documentary about Patsy Mink, another amazing Asian American, but someone I knew nothing about until a CAAMFEST screening). Mineta is a truly ground-and-glass-ceiling-breaking Asian American that all Americans should learn about.

The San Francisco Chronicle described the documentary and Mineta as:

“His life in politics, skillfully captured by director Dianne Fukami, stands in stark contrast to the current White House occupant. As a 10-term U.S. representative from Silicon Valley, Mineta kept his ego in check while passing seminal legislation, notably a bill granting reparations to Japanese Americans like his family who were incarcerated during World War II. His motto was “If you don’t care who gets the credit, you can do many things.””

After the screening, there was a Q&A session with Norman Mineta and the filmmakers:

There’s an effort to build upon documentary and develop educational material around Norman Mineta’s story, known as The Mineta Legacy Project. This reminds me of what Fred T. Korematsu Institute is doing since its inception. And after the Q&A, there was the annual gala party, held again at San Francisco Asian Art Museum, where I had the great honor to meet and get a photo with Mineta himself:

The gala is always a festive scene at a great venue:

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 Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Jimmy O. Yang

I’m a big fan of Stephen Colbert and saw that Jimmy O. Yang, of HBO Silicon Valley fame, was going to be on the show, I was curious as to learn more about him. As I’ve blogged before, I am not a big fan of his character on Silicon Valley, but I was open to learning more about him and was pleasantly surprised that he came to the U.S. at age 13 from Hong Kong, was not a model minority student, and had no idea what to do with his economics degree from UCSD, which took him five years (and he didn’t get into UCLA or USC where he wanted to go, and certainly not Yale, where the previous guest had gone). He was pretty personable and funny during the interview – his first ever on a late night talk show (though he did a stand-up act once on Arsenio Hall).

He talked to Colbert about how he got into the industry and that by coincidence, Mike Judge, one of the creators of Silicon Valley was his commencement speaker and he eventually got his break because of Judge.

Yang was on the show to promote his new book:

Here’s the promotional video he put together for the book:

Best of luck to Yang and I hope to meet him one day! You can learn more about him by checking out his website: http://www.jimmycomedy.com/