Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Asian American Clinton donor at center of controversy

Shades of the 1996 campaign come home to roost, flickering in the eyes of our neighbors, ourselves.

In 1996, the scandal surrounding Asian American donors, focused on John Huang, a Democratic rainmaker, to Bill Clinton's first campaign who were purported to be directing funds from China into the US to influence trade decisions, was the impetus for a lot of APIA political organizing. It was around that time that we got our first ever DNC APIA DNC Outreach Director, and that many of the APIA nonprofits were formed.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign said yesterday that it would give to charity $23,000 it had received from a prominent Democratic donor, and review thousands of dollars more that he had raised, after learning that the authorities in California had a warrant for his arrest stemming from a 1991 fraud case.

Stephen Schwartz

Norman Hsu with Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2005.

The donor, Norman Hsu, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates since 2003, and was slated to be co-host next month for a Clinton gala featuring the entertainer Quincy Jones.

The event would not have been unusual for Mr. Hsu, a businessman from Hong Kong who moves in circles of power and influence, serving on the board of a university in New York and helping to bankroll Democratic campaigns.

But what was not widely known was that Mr. Hsu, who is in the apparel business in New York, has been considered a fugitive since he failed to show up in a San Mateo County courtroom about 15 years ago to be sentenced for his role in a scheme to defraud investors, according to the California attorney general’s office.

Mr. Hsu had pleaded no contest to one count of grand theft and was facing up to three years in prison. (NYTimes)

The thing is, apparently Clinton's opponents have been trying to paint this as the same thing as the 96 scandal, and it's not. But when the donor happens to be Asian American, the public and press see motives as suspect, foreign, other. Perpetually typecast, we are the source of suspicious motives and the subject of intense scrutiny, without having real accessible power. Hsu seems like just a bundler, someone who likes donating money to get photographs with politicians that he can stick on his walls. It doesn't seem like he is funneling money from China into the US.

I guess that the media and certain people will always try to paint with broad strikes, but the difference between then and now was that back then, Mike Honda was running for the State Assembly. Today he is a vice chair of the DNC. Back then the numbers of APIA electeds were microscopic, and today, as much as I complain, our numbers have increased, and we're getting elected in Texas (thank you Hubert Vo!), in Idaho, in Louisiana (thank you Bobby Jindal?!?), in red states and in blue states. We are the new face of the Democratic party, and we are running for office, as well as running campaigns.

Increasingly, our community is seeing political success as one measure of community success, as the generations mature and Americanize further. And we are getting more sophisticated, so that we learn to make asks more significant than a signed photo together with Candidate X. One of the more frustrating parts about the 1996 case is not just how it was handled by the press, but also within the party - "Asian" money became suspect, and candidates edged further away from APIA fundraisers. APIA staff were marginalized within campaigns.

Here's a quote from a 1996 NYTimes article (archived, behind firewall):

Added Angela Oh, a Korean-American lawyer from Los Angeles and a participant at the Washington breakfast: ''What I resent bitterly is that the media and some politicians deliberately failed to distinguish between Asians and Asian-Americans in this scandal. No matter how I succeed, or try, because I have almond eyes, high cheekbones and dark hair, I'm always seen as a foreigner. You know it's there.''

So no, I don't like the way some campaigns are trying to spin this. And I'll also say that I don't even necessarily favor Hillary, but that whatever campaign (R or D) starts the 1996 drumbeats, it is SO on. We're not going to take it this time, and we don't have to since we have more public officials who will call you out across the country. If a campaign is stupid enough to alienate our growing and highly-educated population, we're going to make sure that the idiot candidate and their idiot advisers feel the burn. Whoever starts throwing those rocks is going to drive APIA volunteers, donors, influentials, and voters away en masse to Hillary.

I will not have our growing political consciousness halted by the actions of a few people, and I will not let our democracy be silenced.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sen. Craig's nondenial about public bathroom sex

Well, the Idaho Statesman has finally spilled the results of their 4 month long investigation into the burning q: Is Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) really gay?
The most serious finding by the Statesman was the report by a professional man with close ties to Republican officials. The 40-year-old man reported having oral sex with Craig at Washington's Union Station, probably in 2004. The Statesman also spoke with a man who said Craig made a sexual advance toward him at the University of Idaho in 1967 and a man who said Craig "cruised" him for sex in 1994 at the REI store in Boise.
Here is Craig's classic denial non-denial as captured on a tape recorder from a May interview:

Another man said that in November 1994 Craig "cruised" him at the REI store in Boise. The man, who is gay, told the Statesman that Craig stared at him in a sexually inviting way and followed him around REI for a half-hour. Said Craig: "Once again, I'm not gay, and I don't cruise, and I don't hit on men. I have no idea how he drew that conclusion. A smile? Here is one thing I do out in public: I make eye contact, I smile at people, they recognize me, they say, ‘Oh, hi, Senator.' Or, ‘Do I know you?'

"I've been in this business 27 years in the public eye here. I don't go around anywhere hitting on men, and by God, if I did, I wouldn't do it in Boise, Idaho! Jiminy!"

ROTFL! This is like his 1982 pre-emptive denial of sex with teenage Congressional pages. The classic nonadmission admission - "if I did, I wouldn't do it in Boise" - just in Minnesota airport bathrooms, and DC's Union Station bathrooms. Guy must have a real fetish for bathrooms and transportation. Kinky!

But wait, there's more:

On May 12, two days before its interview with Craig, the Statesman finally interviewed Rogers' "best source," the man who says he is certain he had a brief sexual encounter with Craig at Union Station, which is two blocks from Craig's office. The man said the sex occurred in two restrooms on a weekday afternoon. He estimated the encounter lasted three or four minutes.

The man's motive was twofold. A lifelong Republican, he recently had re-registered as a Democrat because he's angry with what he sees as the GOP's gay-bashing. Second, he was tired of Rogers picking on congressional staffers and offered him the chance to "out" a senator.

This guy sounds like a Republican staffer, probably former, who is pissed that the Senator was propping up Don't Ask Don't Tell, even 11 days after getting arrested for his Minnesota gig. Also, why 2 bathrooms? How 2 bathrooms? Doesn't it take a few minutes to travel from 1 restroom to another? perhaps I am not thinking creatively enough, but how do you stretch that far?!? Is that what Sen. Craig means by his "wide stance" defense?!?!?

About the pre-emptive denial of teenage page sex, mcjoan at dkos says:
Craig's bizarre preemptive denial in the 1982 scandal and his marriage to a staffer six months afterward have been the stuff of speculation for 25 years. Craig obtained an "instant family" with the marriage--she had children from a previous marriage. It certainly did seem convenient.
Craig told the Statesman in May that he doesn't care about a person's sexual orientation. He said he had a homosexual staffer. "I hire people based on their talent and their ability to produce," he said.
Hmm, well, there's just too many double entendres to be made here. I will just leave that one for you, dear readers. Wonkette's having a field day, and their commenters are just cutting it up. Watch out Democratic congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) dance around whether Larry "Wide Stance" Craig is gay on Bill Maher.

But Peter Fearon, then with the New York Post, said he never said his paper was preparing to name Craig. "No, no — it wasn't ‘are you under investigation?' It was simply an inquiry: ‘Have you heard anything? Who have you heard about? Have you heard any names mentioned? What's your reaction to this news?'

"The next thing I know, Larry Craig has issued a press release: ‘This isn't me.' Which I just thought was a bizarre and ultimately very foolish thing to do.

"He was the only person going on the record anywhere," Fearon said. "And of course, when you do that, it's like raw meat. He's saying, ‘Nobody's actually accusing, but it wasn't me!' It's no wonder it's dogged him. He denied something that no one had accused him of."

But the song of the day, which I dedicate to the distinguished Senator from Idaho is the following: Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me".

Bangin' on the bathroom floor indeed.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Closeted Republican Senator Pled Guilty to Bathroom Sex

So the media has finally decided to write on Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) pleading guilty to lewd behavior in the men's bathroom at a Minnesota airport back in June. Roll Call, the insider's paper in DC, finally formally outed Senator Craig recently, although Craig's hometown paper, the Idaho Statesman, has been sitting on the story for months. And this shit has blown up big - his name is all over Google news for having illicit bathroom sex. In an airport, nonetheless! How tawdry of a US Senator. Roll Call via Marc Ambinder:
A spokesman for Craig described the incident as a “he said/he said misunderstanding,” and said the office would release a fuller statement later Monday afternoon.

After he was arrested, Craig, who is married, was taken to the Airport Police Operations Center to be interviewed about the lewd conduct incident, according to the police report. At one point during the interview, Craig handed the plainclothes sergeant who arrested him a business card that identified him as a U.S. Senator and said, “What do you think about that?” the report states.

So cocky - you would think that if he was truly deeply in the closet, he would try to cover up ANY identifying details and pretend to be a regular Joe instead of rubbing it in the cop's face. But I guess that's typical GOP elected behavior: "Mistakes were made, but I am not responsible, although I wield enormous power."

Meanwhile, Craig's defense was that he should have used a lawyer, and didn't really mean to plead guilty. Yeah, a sitting US Senator didn't know the legal process. The Senate is a process machine! The Mountain Goat Report has the local scoop:

Update 17:11: Craig tried to mitigate his guilty plea with this response to local NBC affiliate, KTVB:

"At the time of the incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct. I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."

It should be noted that from the time of the arrest to the guilty plea was two months. For a politician to not seek legal advice during that time on an incident of this magnitude suggests either incompetence or "scared rabbit" syndrome. Either way this is not good for Craig.

I agree that if he didn't seek legal counsel, it might be because he was too scared of anyone in the legal community finding out and it getting out back home, creating the ripples that we now see.

has this insightful tidbit on a group of Larry Craig supporters and endorsers who are staunchly anti-gay, bemoaning the use of airport restrooms as the gay hookup joint of choice.

Mcjoan over at dailykos has a good analysis of the contenders to replace Craig, and wonders why the Statesman and their lawyers sat on the story, and how a DC insiders' paper decided to place a call to the Hennepin County Records office.

I suspect that Mike Rogers, who writes over at BlogActive, got sick of his investigative work going to naught and slipped a little note over to Roll Call. Rogers has been doing really great reporting on Sen. Craig's faithlessness to his wife for almost a year, and has been harping on Craig in particular because the Senator from Idaho consistently votes against gay rights.

In terms of the political fallout, Senator Craig is definitely resigning, and the Republican Governor would normally name his Lt Gov as the replacement candidate, except that they hate each other with a soap opera passion. So it looks like one Bill Sali might be chomping at the bit to elevate his hatemongering to the next level. Because only by being a US Senator and having a bigger bullhorn to insult Muslims can he truly protect America from the wrath of God. It's a ying and yang - scratch that (too Asian, and foreign) - a perilous balance thing.

But that's Idaho for ya.

PS: The cherry on top is that Craig had to resign as national co-chair for Mitt Romney's campaign.

PPS: The disturbing thing is that even 25 years back, Craig had to combat rumors of improper dealings with Congressional pages (echoes of Foleygate?)

PPPS: I guess this explains why the WH decided to dump Gonzales on a Monday - in between Vick pleading guilty to dogfighting (engages lowest common denominator that cares about sports and violence), and Senator Bathroom Sex (fulfills American need for sex gossip), who cares that the guy who tried to jam illegal wiretaps down our throat is resigning? Hell, I'd rather write about Republican sexual hypocrisies all day than think about the dark deeds that I am sure Alberto and Karl will some day be held accountable for, preferably at Guantanamo. (They and the rest of Bushco can be the sole prisoners.) Uhm, does that mean that I'm swallowing it? I hope not.

Damn you Ed Gillespie - I didn't get why White House insiders were loving your appointment as the new Communications Director, but this is as smart and evil a ploy as it gets. Maybe it wasn't Mike Rogers but actually Gillespie who deftly nudged Roll Call. Cos you know that Craig was gong down anyway, it was just a matter of when, so why not sacrifice a pawn to save a rook?

Does this make you the new Rove? Shit, maybe he's resigning because there's a suitable replacement . . . *cue the horror screams*

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Ode to Gonzales

Oh, how we despised your crude hackish ways! Au revoir to being less honorable than fmr. Senator and Attorney General Ashcroft in conspiring to pillage our constitutional rights to not be wiretapped.

Alberto Gonzales finally bowed to all the public pressure, and stepped down today.

In his words:

“I have lived the American dream,” he said. “Even my worst days as attorney general were better than my father’s best days.”

In Bush's words:

Today’s resignation is the result of unjustified political attacks, according to President Bush, who just delivered a thorough tribute and defense of Mr. Gonzales:

After months of unfair treatment that has created a harmful distraction at the Justice Department, Judge Gonzales has decided to resign his position and I accept his decision.

It’s sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.


Alberto: Working for Bush was painful, almost as painful as doing the backbreaking work of picking grapes for 12 hours a day without breaks.

George: No, you just happened to be the fall guy. Better luck next time!

When I heard it this morning, I couldn't believe my ears - not just that a Bush crony finally had to taste humiliating dismissal but that they pushed him out on Monday. (FYI, in the media cycle, stuff that comes out on Monday stays in the papers for a week, which is why savvy spinmeisters put bad news "out with the trash" on Friday, so to speak.)

His resignation press conference was short and sweet, with no questions allowed, and he walked off stage like a broken man. You could tell his face was puffy (maybe from crying?)

I guess this explains why Wan J Kim, head of the Office of Civil Rights (an oxymoronic dept in this administration) stepped down just recently - he must have been Alberto's man.

Next up: Who wants to be the next sucker? Michael Chertoff? Orrin Hatch? (I would prefer Hatch to Chertoff, if only because Hatch is better on immigration.)


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Do we want our own Karl Rove?

"I don’t have a Karl Rove. I don’t want a Karl Rove." -- John Edwards, quoted by the Wall Street Journal, when asked who would be his Karl Rove in an Edwards administration. (hat tip politicalwire)

Karl Rove is anathema to most Democrats and progressives. He is Roveldemort to many Americans, the Rasputin to George W Bush.

As I discussed in a previous entry, Hillary is running the most Rove-like campaign with tight messaging and few (unplanned) media leaks.

Natch, Edwards has to say that he doesn't have or want a Karl Rove, and indeed this is in line with his Two Americas theme. Rove clearly serves the dominant America, the United States of the wealthy, powerful, and elite. He accomplishes much through conniving, some might say illegal and unlawful ways. And he hammers through his agenda like no one else's business (in the short term, at least.)

Here we stand at the sunset of the Rove-Bush administration, with Rove leaving town with few fond farewells from even the GOP, having orchestrated a political takeover worthy of many military strategists. (Hopefully he's not leaving to engineer more evil deeds as a separate entity from the White House, so that Bush can't be complicit in his 1,000,000,001th diabolic scheme.)

So do we want a Machiavellian Democratic political consultant to usher in quick changes? Eradicate the conservative backlash that Rove, Atwater, et al have been brewing for decades? Cos you know, I think Mark Penn is Hillary's Rove. And I'm not sure I would want him on my side. But one might argue that you fight water with water, muck with muck.

I guess my question is why don't you just get a super spray gun and blast the muck away?

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Obama vs Hillary

In the debates that I have with my friends, it always comes down to: do we need someone who can unite this country, or do we need someone who can drive through some Democratic principles given the turbulent future (housing market bust fallout.)

Reading the GQ Obama profile by Ryan Lizza (TNR's only good writer remaining), I am reminded of what I like about Obama, about his start as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago:

He leans forward and becomes more animated as he speaks. “One of the dangers of movements is that they always want to be completely pure and have everything their way. But politics is about governing and making compromises. And so sometimes folks who come into politics with a movement mentality can be disappointed.”

As I listen, I realize I have never witnessed a politician so genuinely trying to fuse idealism and pragmatism. The theme runs through almost everything he says. “But the flip side of it is,” he explains, hinting at what divides him and Hillary, “if it’s all tactics and all politics, and there’s not the idealism, if it’s not touched by that sense of movement, then you actually never bring about change. Then it’s just pure transactions between powerful interests in Washington.”

What he says is absolutely accurate and crystallizes the differences between the two, and their way of running a campaign (and most likely how they would preside.) I know so many community organizers who are frustrated with electoral politics that they refuse to participate in it, or work on any elections. (this was a common refrain back in 2000, 2004.) These organizers see political staff and organizers as hacks, as those who are merely about the short-term gains and games, versus the long-term work of stubbornly creating change one person at a time, on a very individual retail (transformational) level versus the wholesale (transactional) politics of deifying a candidate who will bring change to the voters.

Watching Obama on the Daily Show last night, I couldn't help but see how tired he was, how low-key. He kept saying, "uhm. . . . um" and pausing to collect his thoughts. He didn't bring the rockstar enthusiasm, or the razorsharp wit. to be honest, watching Senator McCain (who was on earlier this week) trading barbs with Stewart in their mutual admiration society was more fun. It wasn't that he made any major mistakes or committed huge gaffes that could be rebroadcast over and over like the Dean scream, but instead he was flat. so I too bought into the inflated expectations of him. But what that interview reminded me was that Obama is just a man, albeit one who bears the double, no, triple . . .well, let's just say multiple burdens of representation. As a black man. As a man of mixed heritage. As a white man. As the child of an immigrant. As the anti-Hillary.

But we should remember that Hillary also studied organizing, esp. Alinsky in college, going so far as to write about the man and his tactics for her thesis. She even got to interview him, back in the heady days of yore. In a lot of ways, it's not surprising that Rove says the 2008 presidential campaign that most resembles his is Hillary's - she has always been a keen student of power. Also not surprisingly is her fund-raising gap in the beginning - she had focused solely on the most top bundlers, while ignoring smaller level donors (usually from constituency groups.) When the Obama fundraising juggernaut was revealed, she had to amp up and pay attention to the littler (ie, $1000+) donors. But being a quick study, she has already managed to decreased the fundraising gap between them in Q2.

Hillary's running the antithesis of the Dean campaign, even with her slightly loosened grip on the highest donors. Her messaging is ridiculously sharp and she has army-like precision and execution. Her staff are all deathly loyal and know how to keep gripes within the family. She is the closest thing to a flawless candidate that I have seen these past two cycles, on either side. But she lacks what I truly admired and loved about the Dean campaign - the very slogan of "You have the power!" that turbo-charged the Deaniacs and Democrats across this country. People who were long ago sick of Bush before it became popular, before a majority of the country regretted their votes in '04.

Before we leave the church, Obama sits down for an interview with the editor and publisher of a local alternative paper, and the conversation turns toward the subject of movement building, something Obama has studied and thought about for decades, first as a college kid obsessed with the civil rights crusade, then as a community organizer and leader of a voter-registration drive, and most recently as a candidate. He’s even written an article on the subject in an academic journal. He tells the reporter about the huge crowds he has attracted this year: 20,000 people in Austin, 20,000 in Atlanta, 12,000 in Oakland. “People are hungry for change,” he says, “and that wind at the back of any organization like this obviously is very helpful.”

But Obama also offers a cautionary note. He leans back in his chair and crosses his legs. “Movement without organization,” he says, “without policy, without plans, will dissipate. Howard Dean, one could argue, back in 2004 helped to engineer a movement, a movement in opposition to the war. But there wasn’t a structure there and a set of policies and plans that would then lead to governance.”

You know, it's funny because Vermonters were awfully surprised by the bulldog populism of Dean, since they hadn't seen much evidence of it when he was their Gov. I'm still looking for Dean in this election.

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Asian American Director of Justice Dept's Civil Rights Division Resigns

Wan J. Kim, who was an Assistant Attorney General and the head of the DoJ's civil Rights Division, which became a mockery of itself under Bush, is resigning. Although Democrats have criticized the Justice Department under Gonzales, they have not specifically bashed Kim, who took over as head in 2005. His predecessor, however, was part and parcel of the "ideologues only" club:

His departure was announced on the same day that department officials confirmed that a senior official who preceded Mr. Kim in running the civil rights division, Bradley J. Schlozman, had also resigned.

In Senate testimony two months ago, Mr. Schlozman, who was interim director of the division in 1993, acknowledged that he had actively recruited conservative Republican applicants to work in the division and that he had rewritten the performance evaluations of career lawyers who were not considered loyal to the Bush administration.

Lovely. In an administration known for figuratively tarring and feathering civil servants who didn't fit their cookie cutter mold of politics, there's apparently no leadership at the top (since Wan's departure means that the top 3 posts are unfilled.) However, I can't decide whether that's a good or bad thing. Does this mean that there's less doublespeak and doublethink going on now at DoJ? Less "voter fraud" investigation?


Monday, August 20, 2007

Kenneth Eng is CRAZY: "The only thing that stopped me was that I couldn't afford a gun."

Yeah, I think you're crazy, that's for sure.

Now he's being investigated by the FBI for hate crimes and he has a $500,000 bail: Kenneth Eng Threatened a 'White Pussy' With Violence

Basically, Kenneth threatened his NYU classmate, and kept harassing him. Eng also swung a hammer at his neighbor:
on April 30, Eng had allegedly threatened to kill neighbor Marissa Addison and her mother in front of their Fresh Meadows home. According to police, Eng told her, "If your dog bites me I will kill you and your family," and then swung a hammer at one of Addison's two dogs and at her mother, missing her by inches.
Eng says that he believes Seung Cho was influenced by him:
"It's speculative but I think that there is a good chance that Cho may have read my work," says Eng. "I might have had something to do with [the VT shootings] because it's kind of conspicuous that [Cho] would shoot all these people so shortly after AsianWeek published all my articles."

. . . In a 2003 memo Eng provided between two Tisch School of the Arts deans, one official wrote: "It is my belief that Kenneth poses a real threat to the Tisch community and has the capacity to harm or kill someone . . . I would like to offer Kenneth the opportunity, in lieu of a disciplinary hearing, to withdraw from NYU with a refund for the semester."

Eng says NYU officials were correct to be concerned about him. "Frankly, I was planning on going to NYU and going on a rampage," he says. "The only thing that stopped me was that I couldn't afford a gun."

Self-aggrandizing and violent, a winning combination. He's proud of his racist Asianweek articles, he's openly hostile to classmates and his neighbors, Eng is a menace to society. The guy seems like a ticking time bomb - as soon as he gets enough money together, he's likely to carry out some crazy violent fantasy. The sooner he gets professional treatment, and perhaps some time in a remote, secluded psychiatric facility, the better.


Idaho Congressman bashes Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison

Congressman Bill Sali (R-Idaho) is notorious for saying stupid things, and being hated by Republicans back home, even though he was voted class president of the freshmen GOP.

Recently, he came out with some invectives against his colleague, Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is the only Muslim US Representative. Basically, Sali doesn't believe that someone like Ellison was envisioned by the Founding Fathers, and that furthermore, allowing a Hindu to recite prayer in the Senate potentially jeopardizes the United States' continued existence.

"We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes -- and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers," asserts Sali.

Sali says America was built on Christian principles that were derived from scripture. He also says the only way the United States has been allowed to exist in a world that is so hostile to Christian principles is through "the protective hand of God."

"You know, the Lord can cause the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike," says the Idaho Republican.

According to Congressman Sali, the only way the U.S. can continue to survive is under that protective hand of God. He states when a Hindu prayer is offered, "that's a different god" and that it "creates problems for the longevity of this country."

Now he has decided to apologize via a personal email, which he refuses to publicly share, even though he also insulted all the Hindus in America. Rep. Ellison has graciously decided to accept his apology.

Ellison is traveling outside the country, but his spokesman said the congressman typically does not take such remarks personally.

"We will take Bill Sali at his word," Rick Jauert said Friday. "That would be in keeping with Keith's turn-the-other-cheek mentality. He figures if someone has a bad day, chooses their words poorly, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt."

Zing! That's how to come off classy, gracious, and still get back at your opponent. Refer to Scripture and maintain the high horse. Gotta love Keith Ellison.

And really, is it any wonder that Bill Sali's fellow Republican Idaho Congressman, Mike Simpson, also hates him? Could it be because Sali said on the House floor that he believes abortion causes breast cancer? The Republican Speaker of the Idaho House of Reps went so far as to say this about Sali: "That idiot is just an absolute idiot. He doesn't have one ounce of empathy in his whole fricking body. And you can put that in the paper."


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

TIDBITS: APIA-owned hotels and followup on Park Ave Peerage

Hyphen brought up the issue of APIA owned hotels and a growing movement to rebrand some hotels as "American owned" in contrast to the desi-owned hotels.

Time wrote a good article, and very relevant. My friend's parents own a hotel in the South, and they have definitely encountered racist guests.
As the Indian share of the market has grown over the years--members of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) now own 37% of the U.S. hotel industry--AMERICAN OWNED signs keep popping up outside motels around the country. While this seemingly innocuous phrase may appeal to many customers, it can also be intended as code for "not owned by immigrants," an attempt to divert business from upstanding first- or second-generation citizens whose ethnicity distinguishes them from most of their small-town neighbors.
I'm not sure what the problem with owning a hotel is, or what staying at an Indian American-owned hotel means, except that it's xenophobia creeping into daily consumerist life. Just like the China-free label and Chinese goods hysteria, it's another iteration of "Rising Sun" phobia.

On the other hand, there is a whole new reality TV show (Welcome to the Parker) that I am sorta addicted to because it features the staff of a South Asian American owned hotel, and consequently virtually all the main characters are APIA, including one very cheeky member of the kitchen who has to keep delivering huge buckets of ice to some creepy dude who puts it in his bathtub. (I kept thinking it was for some black market organ harvesting operation in a hotel room, a la "Dirty Pretty Things.") I think this is the most APIAs I've ever seen on TV at once! (What is up with the website mostly featuring white people though?)

Of course, this is the glamorous Hollywood tabloid version of an APIA-owned hotel but I thought I would put it out there.

In other South Asian American news, James Kurisunkal made his way from anonymously blogging NYC socialite life from his dorm room at University of Illinois at Urbana Champagne to being outed in New York magazine to landing an internship there, to the creme de la crop of media - being featured in a NYtimes profile. Bully for you, James.

PS: I'm starting a new blog section called "Tidbits" to report on previous stories and tie up some loose ends and bits and pieces - stuff that wouldn't be a full blog post all into one. Think of it as a tutti frutti blog post.

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APIA population skyrockets in Metro NY

Apparently APIAs have made huge population growths in metropolitan NYC, and are the only ethnic group to have increased in every single county.

Since 2000, New York has recorded the greatest increase in Asians (309,773) of any metropolitan area (Queens was fourth among all 3,100 counties, with 58,515). The largest percentage increases in the city were on Staten Island (35 percent) and in Manhattan (20 percent).

From 2005 to 2006, the number of Asians increased by more than 10 percent in three New Jersey counties: Gloucester, Salem and Warren.

...Since 2005, though, according to the census, their [Hispanic] ranks declined slightly in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Hudson County, N.J. The biggest increases among the Hispanic population in the metropolitan area during that period were by more than 9 percent in Litchfield County in Connecticut and by more than 7 percent in Warren County, N.J.
This should be a HUGE wakeup call to savvy politicians, and I'm sure that John Liu, running for some citywide position, is counting the demographics and voter rolls. Smart citywide candidates should do the same since Brooklyn is seeing massive growth (and the creation of an informal third Chinatown.)

Indeed, APIAs have been making it as politicians even in less APIA-dense parts, including Long Island. Recently, Harvinder Anand was elected mayor of a tony Long Island village where Sikh Americans are very much in the minority. He describes himself as a Reagan Republican but ran unopposed, without a party affiliation:
Nonetheless, Mr. Anand's way of standing out in the crowd of Bermuda-shorts-and-loafer-wearing people who elected him in June -- he ran unopposed -- attracted television crews from American and Indian networks to his inauguration on July 2. The newscasters described the election of Mr. Anand, 47, a New Delhi native who is the first member of any minority group to be mayor of this 95-percent-white community of 2,000 fronting on Cold Spring Harbor, in eastern Nassau County, as an unparalleled event.

In fact, he is part of what political analysts see as a new pattern: While minority candidates are usually propelled into office from densely populated enclaves of their own ethnic groups, a small but recently growing number of Indian-American officeholders has been getting elected in communities across the nation where they are the tiniest of minorities.

. . .The 1965 law made it possible for Mr. Anand, the newly elected mayor here, to immigrate in 1982 upon graduating from Punjab University with a degree in chemical engineering. After postgraduate work at Hofstra University on Long Island, he got a job with a small chemical company, then moved up to a larger company, and in 1995 formed his own company with a partner. It manufactures chemicals in the United States, China, India and Thailand.
So basically, this guy is a Reagan Republican who benefited from the 1965 Immigration law which Reagan took pains to slice away at?!?! That aside, I am glad that more Asian Americans are running and winning in less densely populated places. Perhaps that will make Democrats and other electeds sit up and take notice.

Spitzer did not do much outreach to the APIA community apart from some South Asian fundraisers and photo ops with wealthy donors during his gubernatorial run. One example is that his affinity group was "Asians for Spitzer" vs AAPI for Spitzer or Asian Americans for Spitzer, as Hillary and Obama have. I hope that he and other NY area politicians start to pay more than lip service and heed our increasing numbers.

Lastly, an article on Miss New York Chinese and the multi-hued pageants of NYC's diverse population.

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Clinton woos APIAs

Ugh, someone signed me up for the Clinton email list which annoys me to no end. So Hillary is doing an APIA fundraiser in California, and she's going for the fat wallets ($2300 to attend, which is the max primary donation.) She's been doing a lot of $4600 (primary plus gen election rollover) bids, which accounts for some of her fundraising prowess, and the media keeps discounting her numbers after the fact, as they should, because if you don't make it into the general, that money doesn't matter.

Honestly, her fundraising numbers would look better if they were more like Obama's or Edwards (higher rate of individual low dollar donors who you can ask for money again, and also fewer maxed out individuals.)

So let's look at who her main APIA supporters in California are (based on a recent email):


Hosts: Joselyn Geaga Rosenthal, Sumi Haru, Emma Hilario, Melissa Hilario, Charmaine Manansala, Polly Low, Nalini Natarajan & Elena Ong

-Irene Natividad is a businesswoman and a major player in Filipino American and women's rights circles. She was appointed to the board of Sallie Mae by President Clinton.

-The power couple of Judy Chu (State board of Equalization) and Mike Eng (State Assemblyman) are major hitters in California state politics and SoCal.

-Sumi Haru

-Kimoanh Nguyen-Lam was at the center of the Westminister school hiring controversy and was hired and fired within the span of a short week following the school board's vote reversal. She is an educator.

-Charmaine Manansala was an advisor to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She had to resign following some controversy over congressional travel, but remains very well connected in the APIA, Filipino American and political communities.

-Elena Ong is big in Cali Dem politics, as the Vice Chair of the Dem Women's Caucus and Chair of the APIA caucus.

-Sumi Haru is a Vice President of the Screen Actors Guild and has worked for fairness in media representation. She is one of the first APIA and female VPs of a labor union.

These are definitely some feathers in Hillary's cap but she is going to have to go deeper and broader to pick up more of the APIA Democratic activist base.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Karl Rove leaves White House

So political savant and evilmeister Karl Rove is leaving the cushy job of White House deputy chief in staff (aka, chief tormentor of the people.) But, just so you know, this has nothing to do with investigations, wiretapping, treason, or anything of the sort, mmmm-kay? Rove is just a patriot who has served the will of the Republican regime for longer than time has existed. The wunder-brain also leaves the executive privilege clause behind and goes on to see his empire crash and burn, and this leaving signals the definite end of the WH's ability to pass major policy changes. Rove was the once behind trying to bring Latinos into the party, behind No Child Left Behind, and all sorts of horrific policy blunders. His vision, according to the Atlantic Monthly (via Kos):
Instead, Rove’s idea was to use the levers of government to create an effect that ordinarily occurs only in the most tumultuous periods in American history. He believed he could force a realignment himself through a series of far-reaching policies. Rove’s plan had five major components: establish education standards, pass a "faith-based initiative" directing government funds to religious organizations, partially privatize Social Security, offer private health-savings accounts as an alternative to Medicare, and reform immigration laws to appeal to the growing Hispanic population. Each of these, if enacted, would weaken the Democratic Party by drawing some of its core supporters into the Republican column. His plan would lead, he believed, to a period of Republican dominance like the one that followed McKinley’s election.
Rove failed on many counts, and succeeded on too many others. Thank god he's going, and hopefully he's not returning to Texas to redistrict more minorities out.

I also played a really fun online redistricting game. Educational and entertaining all at once - you can play a Democratic or Republican mastermind who does the bidding of the party elders. (Not unlike Rovoldermort.)

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

APIA Power Plays: John Liu Raises the Dough

A little bit of dish on elected officials in New York:

City Councilman John Liu, who I wrote was seeking higher office a while back, has put together a SERIOUS fundraising machine according to the NY Daily News:

Liu has banked $1.6 million for an unspecified campaign in 2009, when his term-limited stint on the Council must end.

The Democrat is outpacing all his Council colleagues, including Quinn, who has raised $1.4 million for her likely mayoral bid, according to finance records.

Quinn is rumored to want Mayor Bloomberg's job (the man is also term-limited in 2009, and she has gone so far as to be all kissy-kissy with Bloomie in public,) so as to gain the Godfather's nod. Last I heard, he was considering the Comptroller's seat. But Liu has had mayoral ambitions for a long time. So the major question on people's lips is where does he want to land?

Let's investigate his money - he is raking in the dough but he doesn't have a wide berth of support: "Liu's contributions come from varied sources, many of them New Yorkers of Asian heritage. And many donors have maxed out - given the maximum of $4,950 to a municipal candidate for citywide office."

We'll call this the Hillary Clinton/ Mitt Romney strategy - scare off competitors by amassing shitloads of bucks. However, dig deeper and it turns out that the money all comes from a few high rollers who have maxed out, and that other people (Barack Obama) have hundreds of thousands more individual contributors. Not really the best strategy for a citywide race.

He's got 1769 individual contributors, so the average donation is about $904. Although that amount seems high, let's look at what other citywide candidates are pulling in:
"Three of his Queens Democratic colleagues also have substantial war chests - Melinda Katz, $1.32 million; David Weprin, $1.29 million, and Eric Gioia $717,788.

Both Katz and Weprin have set their sights on succeeding city Controller William Thompson, and Gioia hopes to take over for Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.

Thompson and Gotbaum are also term-limited and eying mayoral bids."

In comparison, Eric Gioia, a fellow 21st Century Dem, has 2854 donors, for an average contribution of $252. Queens councilman Queens Councilman David Weprin has 1104 (average $1168.)

Councilwoman Melinda Katz has 1054 donors (average $1252), and City Council Speaker Chris Quinn has 1392 (average $1006) Manhattan Borough Prez Scott Stringer has 891 donors and NYC Comptroller William Thompson has 1148 donors. Congressman Anthony Weiner and runner up in the Dem primary last year (aka, the "Who wants to lose to Bloomberg?" race) has 930.

However, a different article contradicts the fund-raising totals, putting Comptroller Thompson at over $3 mil and Congressman Weiner (brooklyn) at $2 mil plus, with Liu in third. (This still isn't a bad place to be if you want to be Comptroller or something lower than mayor. Except that the intra-Queens battle for Comptroller between Katz and Weprin is only going to intensify if Liu enters the fray and then most likely, someone from another borough would come in and make a power move. Also, the Queens battle will be decided by the Queens machine, and there will be many a compromise between now and 2009. Otherwise, he's contending for Public Advocate, a pretty flimsy position and title, against someone who he has considered a political friend - Eric Gioia. But all's fair in love and war, including dropping a carpet bomb of fundraising. Why is Liu limited to mayor, Comptroller or dog catcher (I mean Public Advocate)? because these are the only three citywide offices, and he's been pretty repetitive on that point. Really, if it were me, I would rather go with Queens borough president over Public Advocate, but he only has so much of a Queens base. So signs still point to Comptroller, since it's the ohnly legitimate jump to mayor.

Finally, let's consider that John Liu will probably not make it past the maze of gates and gatekeepers and hurdles to win the mayoral primary, and that his base in Queens can't propel him far enough. Then, he still needs to win against the Republican candidate. Mayor Bloomberg spent an obscene $85 MILLION for his 2005 campaign. The man could play puppeteer to any self-ascribed hack or politico in New York and buy them the mayoralty. Crazy shit, but fairly true. Especially give Bloomie's sky high ratings. (No wonder Liu came around on congestion pricing like he'd found Jesus.)

Yeah, yeah, I know Bloomberg just "divorced" the Republican party and there are rumors of him running for pres as an independent. Man still has enough money to buy two elections. One local, one national. Now, what I would love to see if for him to go up against Mitt Romney to see who can outbribe/outbid each other to be our nation's next dear leader.

Just kidding, folks. I still believe in our democracy, and I really don't want to see an election with our Democratic candidate versus two Richie Richs - one who founded an entire firm dedicated to generating more capital (Bain) and one who owns a rapidly expanding media empire (Bloomberg.) Cos I'm not sure that's a battle we'd win. Unless the nation fell for a Paul Wellstone like character who promised to not self-fund, or to take money from PACs. Oh sorry, you say Feingold dropped out?

Well, I guess Obama will have to do.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Masi Oka and the androgenous Asian male stereotype

So it seems like I'm waiting forever for the new Heroes season to start, and I came across some good clips from the actors who appeared at a Q & A at Comicon, including this choice one of a male audience member asking Masi Oka about why he and Ando never seem to get any loving and are portrayed as less masculine (begins at 9:27 - clock ticks backwards.)

Also, the Kevin Smith joke (of Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, etc fame) refers to him guest directing a Heroes: Origins episode, and a wisecrack he made about getting a call from Tim Kring, who asked him to jump onto Heroes.

Smith's first words were: Oh, I would love to write and direct and episode about the two gay heroes." [Audience laughter.] "And he said, 'Well, what are you talking about?' And I said, 'Well, the Japanese dudes, they're gay, right?'" [More audience laughter, everyone onstage from Milo to Greg Grunberg (who is laughing really hard) seems to be laughing except for Masi and Nathan Pasdar. Masi kinda gives a shrug and spreads his palms out as if to say, "who cares?"]

Smith continues: And he said, 'I don't think you understand the show *or* my work at all.' And then he explained what it was, and I said, 'Oh I'll do that too.' So did you explain about it, or should I?

Kring: Yeah, kinda. I didn't explain about the gay part.

Smith: The gay stuff? yeah. It's about time, high time. If you can do an autopsy on a cheerleader, you can show a couple of heroes making out.

Uhm, hello?!? Do you realize your audience at Comicon includes loads of Asian Americans?!? I actually like Smith's works except for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, which was a huge waste of time, but what the hell?!? Anyway, now onto the Q&A about Asian male sexuality.

Audience Member (AM): So I guess my question is for Masi Oka and for anyone else who wants to pitch in, but uhm. So Hiro's a great character, he's heroic, he's full of the Peter Parker ethos that's been mentioned again and again. At the same time, he and Ando are arguably the least traditionally masculine of the male characters. [Masi looks a little wary at this point, as audience laughs, someone goes, "Wow, wow!"]

I think it's relevant, given Kevin Smith's joke when he came in here. I mean, I don't want to be "that guy," but uh, I can't help but feel that . . .

Male cast member: Are you asking Masi out?

Ali Larter (blonde bombshell who plays Jessica/Nikki Sanders): I think Masi is daaaaaay-mn sexy. [Audience laughs, claps, Masi gives a thumbs up.] From a female perspective anyway.

AM: I just feel like there are certain situations where the two Asian characters are put in, such as getting knocked up by a stripper, or being the only male characters shown on-screen not completing a kiss with a girl, I feel like that's cultural relevance, and I just want to hear some thoughts about that.

Masi: I see, wait until season two. [Audience laughter.]

James Kyson Lee (plays Ando): [chuckles] Well, Ando got some action with Hope, right?

Dania Rodriguez (plays new character Maya): *I* will give you some play, Hiro.

So what are my thoughts? I don't know if the questioner is Asian American or not, and that doesn't really matter -- it's a very relevant question. I don't think the questioner means to call Masi out or to degrade him, but rather to point out what does seem like a culturally (in)competent way that the two East Asian American males are written. That said, Masi Oka has done so much to increase the profile of Asian American actors, even if he and James Kyson Lee play office workers. But, as Tim Kring, creator of Heroes, states at 3:38 in response to a question about whether the show is going to get any strong female characters who are not strippers or cheerleaders or some other diminuitive: "This is the cheerleader and the stripper, this is where we started with these characters, but Heroes has become a show about defying expectations. And so when you meet these characters, you may dismiss them as one thing, you learn through the arc of the show that they become something more, they find the hero within them."

So yeah, Masi plays an office worker and a manga geek. But he also gets to go on the hero journey, and he gets to save the world. Plus he totally gets and breaks down the stereotypes, as I wrote about before. And he works behind the scenes to make sure that the show and the script is more culturally relevant, like how the writers originally wanted him to scream "bansai!" when he appears in New York. Instead, he chose to say "yatta!" which is more appropriate (bansai has war connotations.)

Future Hiro also challenges the traditional depiction of the "asexualized" Asian-American male, he says. "Daniel Dae Kim is doing an amazing job of breaking that stereotype on Lost," Oka says. "I'm going more the cute route."

Still, some interviewers have told Oka that Hiro, who is getting a love interest, is a sex symbol. "And I'm like, 'What?' I'm absolutely surprised," says Oka, who is single.

Oka has made good use of his heritage on the show. He translates dialogue into Japanese and, with the writers' blessing, has made suggestions to depict the character's background as accurately as possible. When writers had Hiro shouting "Banzai!" after face-clenching trips through time, Oka told them it had a wartime connotation.

"I suggested 'Yatta!' which means 'I did it!' " For Oka and Hiro, the parallels keep on coming.

And btw, his South Asian castmate Sendhil who plays Mohinder has mad screaming legions of female fans at Comicon. And his castmates keep joking that he's gorgeous.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Elaine Chao smackdown

Elaine Chao is perhaps my least favorite Asian American of the Republican persuasion, next to Michelle Malkin. Chao's whole personification of the model minority dream and her Stepford wife persona drive me crazy. Plus she's working in the least competent presidential administration since, well, ever.

So why does it not surprise me that she has some, shall we say, tone deaf PR skills? Chao does an interview with Parade magazine, which gets distributed across the country to millions of suburban households with the Sunday paper. This is the type of stuff that suburban housewives eat up, and that families read around the dining table on Sunday mornings. Parade is apolitical, feel-good pablum, not known for asking hard questions. In fact, it probably hews more to the "put a yellow sticker on your SUV to show your support for the war" model of patriotism. In fact, they tend to spoonfeed interviewees. What does she do? Foot in mouth faster than you can say Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab.)

Here's the whole story with money quote in bold:
You could lose your job to a foreign worker—not because he’s cheaper but because he has better workplace skills and discipline. That’s the message Labor Secretary Elaine Chao hears from U.S. executives who are worried about America’s competitive future. While losses are low thus far—one study estimates that only 280,000 jobs in the service industry out of 115 million are outsourced each year—that could change. Beyond the cheaper cost of labor, U.S. employers say that many workers abroad simply have a better attitude toward work. “American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene,” says Chao. “They need anger-management and conflict-resolution skills, and they have to be able to accept direction. Too many young people bristle when a supervisor asks them to do something.”

As for our job future, Chao notes that most of the fastest-growing jobs today are in industries requiring advanced knowledge and skills and are “very high or high wage.” But critics say we’re not doing enough for those without a higher education. “Today, only 30% of the workforce has four years of college,” says Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute. “Instead of factory slots, there are slots for security guards and food-prep workers.”

Learn what jobs are hot and how you can get retrained in the changing economy.

Calculate how your salary compares to those of others in your profession.

Tell us your ideas on how to get young people in the U.S. better prepared for the workplace.
So yeah, in a short story not longer than a half page, Chao's death knell to the American economy dominates the whole fucking thing. Plus, way to give ammunition to the xenophobes who already hate those "furriners" and who think that all immigrants are here to steal their jobs, especially the brown and yellow ones. Nice two-for-one. Advance yourself as the model minority and increase hatred of better mannered, almost robotic, unquestioning yes men from abroad.

What was the response like?

Here are two of the first three comments I saw:
"The author has done a great service to all American citizens by allowing them to see Elaine Chao - a public official who supposedly represents the advocate for American workers in Washington. In my opinion Elaine Chao should take the nearest Greyhound bus to Canada or Mexico. She clearly does not represent the interest of the majority of US citizens, much less the US labor force. I'm not sure how good her hygiene is, but I have suffered many a day with IT guys from other countries and their smelly food and overt body odors. Chao should get her facts straight before she starts spouting off. Resign Elaine for the good of America. Taiwan would welcome you back with open arms. Oh - and take Mitch McConnell with you. lol"

Real gratitude
By jaamc on 7/24/2007 10:34:AM

Let's review her history. Her rich family flees China when it goes communist. Nice that there was a USA to flee to, with nice people to let her in. Then, once she's here, she shows preference to mainland chinese workers (her oppressors) over the children of the people who gave her a place to flee to nice - the modern immigrant - 'what can I TAKE?'

Just to be fair here is her response, abbreviated as: Parade edited the interview. Not all my words were included.

NO FUCKING SHIT! Media 101 teaches you that you're definitely going to be edited, and not necessarily in the most flattering light.

Here's what she (or really her press flack) wrote:
"It is important that first time entrants to our workforce be aware that technical skills, degrees and a tight job market will aid their success but basic professionalism is also essential to advance and contribute in the workplace. These fundamentals – including punctuality and appropriate workplace decorum – will affect their future.

America’s economy is strong because America’s workforce is among the most innovative and productive in the world. As I’ve said many times before – America is a beacon of hope and opportunity throughout the world and we shouldn’t fear the worldwide economy. America’s greatest strengths lie in our democratic institutions, respect for the rule of law, transparency, accountability, and the most creative and compassionate workforce in the world. These unique qualities comprise our country’s strongest competitive advantage."

So essentially, Parade wrote exactly what you said, and given a chance for apology, you, like all the arrogant conceited people in the Bush administration (Gonzales chief amongst them) didn't apologize but repeated your message stubbornly.

Basically, in an administration not known for scaling the intellectual heights of competency, Elaine Chao towers like a Lilliputian. Thank goodness she's only in charge of creating jobs, as opposed to something as important as the war. Except that she can't even do that, or manage to broadcast job "creation" numbers accurately.

(Oh yeah, it feels good to be back. *muah*)

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Senator calls for transparency in Big Pharma payments

I think that a drug company registry of payments to doctors is an excellent idea, regardless of which party is sponsoring the bill. (In this case, it's being pushed by Senator Grassley, R-Iowa.) The Senator notes that there is currently no way that patients can really know if their doctor is receiving large payments from pharmaceutical companies to shill for a drug. He even suggested that just as elected members of Congress have every lobbyist and donor listed publicly, that pharmaceutical payments to doctors be publicly available so that patients can know if their doctors are getting paid by drug companies, since not all doctors state "I have a conflict of interest because I consult for Y pharma."

Mr. Grassley is one of several lawmakers to propose a federal registry of such payments. Minnesota, Vermont and Maine already have similar registries, and other states are considering them.

The proposals are a response to growing concerns that payments from drug makers can affect doctors’ prescribing habits, increase the cost of health care and, in some cases, endanger patients’ health.

It's long been a dirty secret that pharmaceutical companies give doctors presents far beyond the pen that they write your prescription with, or the notepad on their desk. Indeed, Big Pharma will sponsor vacations to the Caribbean or Hawaii under the guise of "attending a conference" and pay for lavish meals, ball game tickets, whatever. Some even pay doctors thousands a year directly as consultants. And if you don't think that this all somehow influences these doctors' choices, even indirectly, in what they prescribe to you as their patient -- well, I have a boat full of crap I'd like to sell you.

The marketing to doctors begins at a very early stage -- in med school, with lunches and happy hours sponsored by drug companies, with free goodies of all imaginable sorts. If you wonder why a bit of free food goes a long ways, you should also know that med students and residents often don't get the time to eat. I'm not saying that all med students and residents buy into this -- most know that they are being pandered to, but most still eat the food and accept the free pens, memory sticks, and other nifty gadgets. Incidentally, there is a movement to NOT accept the free food called No Free Lunch.

But you know, if the food doesn't get you, maybe the sex will. HUH?!?! you ask. Lots of drug reps, male and female, are hired for being extremely hot. Well, other attributes apply, but there's a direct funnel from university cheerleading into being a drug rep. These poor reps get hit on, and some definitely turn up the charm to fill monthly quotas. But these are stories for other days...back to topic A -- transparency in pharm payments to doctors.

. . .In a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, Mr. Grassley said he had started an investigation into these practices. Noting that most universities require academic researchers to disclose such payments, he said, “I have sent letters to a handful of universities to understand how well such a reporting system actually works.”

These letters have uncovered several problems, Mr. Grassley said. First, universities do not verify the information filed by their professors, so “the only person who knows if the reported income is accurate and complete is the doctor who is receiving the money.”

Also, the universities generally keep this information secret from patients, who have no way of knowing whether their doctor is on a drug maker’s payroll, he said.

“So if there is a doctor getting thousands of dollars from a drug company — payments that might be affecting his or her objectivity — the only people outside the pharmaceutical industry who will probably ever know about this are the people at that very university,” he said.

This is a bill that needs to get passed because patients deserve to shine a light on Big Pharma's dirty contributions.

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GOP Kills Progress in Congress

So the battle between progressives and conservatives to implement change through law goes on, as illustrated by Campaign for America's Future in this nifty youtube video portraying Harry Reid as Harry Potter and Rove as . . . none other than He Who Must Not be Named. From the frame at the end, it would seem to mean that Nancy Pelosi is Hermione and that Dick Durbin is Ron.

Gotta love it!

So what are they talking about? The recent impasse in Congress - Republicans obstructing every bill they touch, and Democrats doggedly trying to undo some of the damage that unfettered Republican control has had.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said the resistance was emblematic of the Republican strategy to block legislation in order to paint Democrats as incompetent. “They have nothing else to talk about,” Ms. Pelosi said in an interview. “Their party has been hijacked by people who don’t really have an agenda but to stop progress.”

In short, the GOP playbook is as follows:

"The strategy of being obstructionist can work of fail . . . and so far it's working for us. Democrats are the ones taking the blame for not getting anything done." -- Sen. Trent Lott, Roll Call, April 18, 2007.

Well, even if you took these dementors at their word (which you shouldn't) a generic Dem candidate still consistently outpolls a generic Repub in the most competitive districts. And Dems are leading by double digits in home states while incumbent GOPers are LOSING by 5 points in red states. The funny thing is, even with Republicans blocking crucial measures like stem cell research and an Iraq withdrawal, Democrats have passed significant measures including the minimum wage increase for the first time in over a decade and expansion of children's health care coverage (with a 68-31 veto-proof majority nonetheless, since Bushie wasn't interested in saving the lives of sick kids.)

Which is pretty damned impressive, and I hope that the Dems will keep pushing for change since we have a LONG ways to go in fixing all the damage that Bush has done.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Immigration reform, slowly (Dream Act update)

So apparently the Democratic-controlled Congress is going to try to pass parts of the immigration bill that fell apart earlier this year. Fortunately, it seems as though they are going to push through less punitive measures like parts of AgJobs (to ensure farmworkers access to the United States) and the Dream Act (to gain a path to citizenship for undocumented high schoolers.)

Another bill, also with bipartisan support, would give a path to citizenship to high school graduates who are illegal immigrants if they complete two years of college or military service. Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and a sponsor of the bill, attached it as an amendment to the military authorization legislation that the Senate last month put off until September. Mr. Durbin said he would seek to move it again then.

While this is not broad and sweeping, it is better than the wretched employment-based bill that was proposed by Bush and the GOP. Rightfully, that bill died. Notice also, how the parts of the bill that are being re-proposed are some of the less objectionable parts -- i.e., does not seem to take jobs away from the middle class, and provides opportunities for kids. It's because the left is stepping carefully, carefully around the explosive minefield of anti-immigrant sentiment that was stirred up with the bill this spring. Well, rather, Congress is trying to gingerly step around it. I am sure that pro immigrant rights groups would prefer broader beneficial changes, minus the faulty points system.


NYTimes on yearlyKos

Ugh! Kit Seelye at the NYTimes has a short, snarky, derisive article on the Democratic presidential candidates appearing at yearlyKos.

While they are all still coming for the main show, it turns out that Senator Clinton is not attending the break-out session. Her campaign says it told the Kos organizers a week ago that she would not be attending the individual session, but the organizers did not announce it until tonight, at the opening dinner. The announcement drew big boos from the audience. But hey, this is a tough crowd. Later in the evening, they booed Mother Teresa.

I ask you, is that really journalism, or is that thinly veiled op-ed worthy sarcasm? It's so high minded of Ms. Seelye to paint the attendants as crazies who are mean enough to boo a saint.

Anyhoo, the Clinton controversy of not attending the open Q&A seems to have been resolved. Smart of the campaign to do that too.

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