Thoughts

Rubio’s Concession Speech

I’m no fan of Marco Rubio. In many ways, his policies are even more extreme than the vast majority of the Republican Party, despite his favored position in the establishment (he opposes abortion even in the case of rape, for example). However, I thought he gave a very powerful (and surprisingly gracious) concession speech after losing Florida to Donald Trump in last night’s primary, particularly this line:

“In our veins runs the blood of people who gave it all up so we would have the chances they never did. We are all the descendants of someone who made our future the purpose of their lives.”

Interesting despite the fervent anti-immigration sentiment currently popular among people participating in the GOP primary this year, two of the three candidates left are children of immigrants and the third one is the grandchild of immigrants.

The Worldwide Impact of 1MDB

A bit late on this article, but Michael Peel and Jeevan Vasagar at The Financial TImes write about the ever-growing global fallout and implications of the Malaysian government’s failed 1MDB “sovereign wealth fund”:

It is not just a matter of domestic politics. The impact of the cases is being felt way beyond Malaysia’s borders due to the amount of money allegedly involved and its scope. The parties said to be affected include foreign officials, leading banks and offshore financial centres, with transactions stretching from Kuala Lumpur to the Cayman Islands and from Abu Dhabi to New York.

1MDB has become a test of regulators’ ability, and desire, to penetrate a web of dealings that take full advantage of the privacy and cross-border complexity available in the global financial system. It is also being seen as a measure of how well authorities deal with cases of suspected grand corruption.

Honestly at this point I just wish Malaysia wasn’t only well-known for global calamities. Before, no one I talked to in the States even knew what Malaysia was. Now, when I tell someone I’m from Malaysia the usual response is “oh, isn’t that where that plane disappeared?” (and then the inevitable “do you know where it is?” Yeah, because clearly all Malaysians have been hiding this secret for the last couple years…)

On the Peter Liang Case

Jay Kang has a thought-provoking piece on the Asian-American reaction to the case of Peter Liang, the NYPD cop who was convicted of manslaughter for the killing of Akai Gurley:

“Even if you believe, as I do, that Liang should be in jail, the inevitable follow-up question — why only Liang? — suggests that the unjust protections routinely afforded to white officers should be extended either to everyone or to nobody at all. To ignore this suggestion is intellectually dishonest.

“But to engage with it is to ignore the overwhelming context of the case: yet another unarmed black man killed by yet another police officer. The cleanest response — one I’ve seen throughout social media, where clean, vaguely lobotomized responses often reign supreme — is to simply say that some justice is better than none. But how can any sincere confrontation of racial inequity in policing and the criminal-justice system ignore the inconvenient singularity of Liang’s conviction?”

Many Asian-Americans feel that Liang was the scapegoat to appease the growing discontent against police killings of unarmed black males around the country. So many white officers have not even been indicted for the killings (Daniel Pantaleo in Eric Garner’s case, Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s [Ferguson] case), so why is it that the only guy that’s been convicted is an Asian-American? Indeed, I feel strongly that #blacklivesmatter, but the Liang case makes it difficult for me to explain to elders in my community that racial justice among other minority groups is something Asians have to fight for, too.

I remember a few years ago, I overheard an Asian-American student at Princeton remark, “well, Asians are basically white in America, right?” The Liang case forces us to reassess the unique situation our “racial” group is in, and why that behooves us to advocate for the rights of all other minority groups, rather than being complacent with an alleged position as a privleged group. I disagree with Kang’s opinion that to take up Liang’s cause is an inherently unjust cause, however. I think there are valid points, too, made by those who defend him. The issue of militarized policing in the United States is far larger than any single police officer – regardless of race – and can only be ameliorated by a nationwide revamping of training, education, and laws.

Why My Heart Isn’t With Bernie

There used to be a common saying (that I hear less of recently) – “my head is with Hilary, but my heart is with Bernie.” The notion was that while us progressives wanted policies that looked like Bernie’s, we knew that they were unrealizable dreams. I used to think that, too. But I have recently come to realize how thoroughly unworkable his plans are, and honestly, I don’t even think I want his policies as dreams.

The independent Tax Policy Center conducted an analysis of Sanders’s tax plan (emphasis mine):

“He estimates his “Medicare for all” health plan alone would cost nearly $1.4 trillion annually. To help finance it, he’s proposing a 6.2 percent employer tax, which he calls an “income-based health care premium” (and which would likely be passed on to workers). And a 2.2 percent income-based tax on most households. And income tax rate hikes on income in excess of $250,000, with a top rate of 52 percent, a level the US has not seen since 1981. And big rate hikes on most investment income, which would be taxed at the same rate as wages. And he’d expand the estate tax and cap the value of deductions at 28 percent for those making $250,000 or more.

And even with the wildly optimistic tax revenue projections his campaign releases, there’d still be a big revenue shortfall that would have to be covered by other tax increases. Politifact also notes:

“With Sanders’ proposed taxes, costs would need to be trimmed by roughly 42 to 47 percent — a tall order when “the most generous estimates of how much you could cut cost are on the order of 20 percent,” said Sherry Glied, a professor of health policy and economics at New York University who’s served in the George H.W. Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations.”

As a fiscally conservative progressive, there’s just no way I could support Sanders with a clear conscience.

Wealthy Tech Entitlement

Justin Keller, founder of the start-up Commando.io (never heard of it) wrote a highly objectionable blog post complaining about the plight of the wealthy tech workers who have to endure the sight of the “riff-raff” in San Francisco (emphasis mine):

The wealthy working people have earned their right to live in the city. They went out, got an education, work hard, and earned it. I shouldn’t have to worry about being accosted. I shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day.”

Complaining instead of showing compassion? Check. Not considering one’s own role in the process? Check. Having loads of self-entitlement? Check.

Bilingualism in America

From Janell Ross at the Washington Post on the Spanish fracas between Cruz and Rubio:

“There is a dark period in American history. It’s one to which some Americans seem eager to return. It’s one when people were barred, shamed or even punished for speaking languages other than English. That was especially true outside the home.

Speaking a foreign language or limited English was very widely believed to be an indicator of suspect national loyalty, limited intelligence or ability. Speaking a foreign language simply was not regarded as a useful skill.”

If there’s one thing that’s consistently baffled me since I came to this country, it’s the weird attitude towards foreign languages many people have. Bilingualism just isn’t emphasized to the same extent in America as it is in Europe or post-colonial Asian countries.

Mendocino State Hospital and Foucault’s “Panopticon”

Mendocino State Hospital 123 Building

We recently read Foucault in our Historical Methods class; specifically, his chapter on Discipline. At the end of the chapter, Foucault raises the specter of the Panopticon and a society so throughly infused with self-regulated discipline. What makes discipline insidious is not that it can be seen, but rather, it cannot be seen. The supervision can be constant and yet, incorporeal.

Which brings me to Mendocino State Hospital, which is now of course the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and where I spent most of my childhood. One of the largest wards in the former mental hospital is the 123 Building in the back (I’m not sure if it ever had a proper name). After reading Foucault, I suddenly realized that each ward had a small booth for observation and supervision, and all the light switches were in that room. If the observers turned off the booth’s light and kept the ward’s on, they could not be seen. It was a pretty heavy thing to consider the physical manifestation of Discipline in a building I have been in and around since my childhood.

My sister helped me take the picture above to illustrate the view of the supervisor from that booth.

Mendocino State Hospital Patient Board

Items from the old  Hospital at a Grace Hudson Museum exhibit a couple years ago.
Items from the old Hospital at a Grace Hudson Museum exhibit a couple years ago.

“Comfort Women” in Californian Textbooks

The L.A. Times on the new proposal to teach the issue of “comfort women” in Californian history textbooks:

The new language on “comfort women” marks the first proposal to teach what has been a long-contentious political issue in East Asia in high school classrooms in the U.S. It has the potential to widely influence how textbooks address the topic.

The guidelines recommend that the subject of “comfort women” be taught to high schoolers “as an example of institutionalized sexual slavery, and one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century.”

Personally, I hope that secondary school history teachers spend more time encouraging students to understand the complex nature of history rather than essentializing an incredibly complicated time period down to one or two paragraphs. Yes, it’s important that more Americans know about the issue, but no one’s going to get a good understanding from the small side blurbs Asian history is usually reduced to in American history textbooks. Furthermore, it ignores the long and intimate relationship wartime soldiers had with prostitution and potentially coerced sexual services.

Money Isn’t Everything in Politics

Much has been written about the sheer amounts of money flowing into political campaigns in the post-Citizens United era. However, to a certain extent money’s role is still heavily circumscribed by the fact that people actually make decisions and don’t necessarily believe every ad they see and hear (something I keep telling my far-left friends). The individual’s role is still present in the modern political system, I believe. Certainly not as prominent as it was in say, Lincoln’s day, but then again fewer individuals could vote then.

POLITICO on the results coming in tonight from New Hampshire’s primary:

“Cruz’s third-place finish also reflected badly on Rubio and Bush. Cruz spent less than $600,000 in the state yet finished ahead of fourth-place Bush who, between his super PAC and campaign, spent as much as $36 million on television. Rubio spent about $15 million and finished in a close fifth.”

Based on the numbers coming in from the NYT with 84% of precincts reporting, that means Jeb(!) Bush and his associated SuperPACs spent upwards of $1,200 per voter and still came in fourth. Rubio spent a comparatively frugal $560+ per vote. And Cruz? Just north of $20 per vote.

The Nice Thing About Journaling

The nice thing about journaling consistently for the last ten years is that I can see how my thoughts evolve over time, and how my emotions and processes shape what what I do and become. Let’s face it: when one has 2400+ entries in their journal, there’s a lot to read and learn from.

But mostly, I realize how god-awful my poetry was when I was 16. It’s not as bad as Vogon poetry, but it’s not something I’m particularly proud of either.

I’ve used the brilliant Day One for my journaling needs for the last four years. Prior to that, I used the now-defunct Journler, and before that, MacJournal. I ended up abandoning these two programs because their development stalled and as Mac OS X evolved their interfaces began to look more and more dated. Good UX is absolutely key for a program I use every day.