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.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden. Ugh.

Well, AT least Biden is more socially liberal than Chet Edwards. And I always knew he was going to have to pick a senior statesman - either one with executive or foreign policy experience.

I would have preferred Tim Kaine or Mark Warner. But I was impressed with Biden's humility in the Iowa NPR debates. And it is patently obvious that Obama tapped Biden not for his electoral advantage of 3 electoral college votes. And he comes with many advantages, not the least of which is his ability to fundraise from credit card companies (ba da dum.) In all seriousness, Biden has some real advantages apart from his years as a senator - his Catholic roots, and his hard working ethos as a senator. While he might be from a working class family, I'm just not sure that Biden is going to be for working class families.

It's funny because just last night I said well, Obama did vote for the bankruptcy bill. So he's matched with Biden there.

The other thing I have to consider is Biden's relationship with the APA community. What is it? Most people I know are worried because it's been nil.

In a lot of ways, I think that Obama picking Biden is also emblematic of a campaign and candidate that seeks to be post-racial. To overcome the insult of being called "so fresh so clean" to pick a guy who says that "all Indians work at Dunkin Donuts." He will provide a good foil for Obama though, and a good way of painting the campaign as one that seeks to build bridges.

But Biden!!!! The guy can't stay on message. How is he going to operate in a campaign that has been pretty tightly on message?!?! Tim Kaine shot himself in the foot because either he or his people couldn't help but tease the press with their vetting, literally the equivalent of a high school girl going "tee hee, you want me, you really want me!" Which the Obama staff and campaign don't like since they value loyalty and secrecy. Contrast this with Kathleen Sebelius' radio silence on the matter.

Argh, why is it that Biden can't keep his mouth shut at certain times but then when he's being vetted he managed to do a lockdown. Argh.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thoughts on Edwards

I had a sinking feeeling when I first heard about the National Enquirer story, and then reading Edwards' responses I felt like he was guilty of having an affair. This is when no one from the MSM was writing about this out of deference for Elizabeth (who must be really steamed.)

I kept hoping however that my instincts were wrong. Ah well, you know how that turned out. Now my gut tells me that the baby is his. Why else would she refuse to demand a paternity test even though Edwards has offered?

Ergh, pretty depressing stuff. My best thoughts to Elizabeth and his family at this time. I just wish politicians were able to control themselves.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Beijing opening ceremonies

It was hard not to think of military precision when watching the Beinjing Olympics opening ceremonies. The majestic choreography was awesome, wondrous, and not a little intimidating. At over $300 million, it was the greatest live action movie ever made, and it took no less than Zhang Yimou, the director of such epic dramas as Hero, to direct the whole thing.

My gods, the scale and intensity, the use of light as a paintbrush, the glory of China's 5000 years represented through pageantry, song, and dance. It was really breahtaking, and I think that opening ceremony is not likely to be topped for years. It even had tolerable Beijing opera singing.

I had the oportunity to watch the whole thing on HDTV and watching the 2008 taichi performers, I had to understand the militaristic thrill, the sheer shiver of fear that occured watching such synchronized and determined youths. A friend asked why they didn't use elderly taichi masters, and I said, "They couldn't - they had to present China's flowering youth and might."

Not to mention that whomever planned this was a true marketing master - the closing of the opening featured Yao Ming, the gentle giant, and a 9 year old survivor of the Szechuan earthquakes who managed to free himself, and then went back to save 2 classmates. A truly adorable kid, with just a shock of hair missing to represent his trauma. But otherwise lively and the camera loved him. No better way to represent the innocence and liveliness of China. Man, the conductor of this orchestra understood at once how to still a deep sense of respect, intimidation, and wonder at China's finesse. And I wondered if the government had told the director to do this or if he had intuitively understood all that the ceremonies had to convey, and my friend thought he had. REally masterful propaganda. Also, what's with calling Taiwan "Chinese Taipei"?!?!?

But the beautiful symbolism and imagery is just beyond compare. Money was clearly no object in putting this spectacular spectacular together.

Below, one of the most wondrous parts of the ceremonies. They have super amazing clothes with electrical light up circuitry! I could just watch this part over and over again. We all agreed that this was the only opening ceremonies we ever wanted to own on dvd.


Monday, August 04, 2008

Is Obama the first Asian American president?

At a recent fundraiser in DC, Obama joked about being the first Asian American president. Jeff Yang follows up in the SF Gate. I'll detail a few pros and cons and then get to the meat of the matter:

-Fulfills every Asian mother's fantasy - Ivy League undergrad, Harvard Law graduate
-Grew up in Hawaii, the only state with an APIA majority
-Schooled in Indonesia as a child
-felt like an outsider
-son of an immigrant

-single mother
-grew up in Kansas
-runs away from Muslims

To be truthful, I believe that Obama is neither the first "post-racial" president nor the first "Asian American" president but really just the first mixed heritage president. And it is this aspect that many APAs, especially the hapas, can identify with.

Calling Obama the first Asian American president doesn't obscure or invalidate his other identities - black, white, multiracial, transnational, pancultural; if anything, it simply highlights the fact that his diverse heritage uniquely invites those around him to project on him a full spectrum of hopes and dreams.

"He's basically a human Rorschach test," says Lu. "African Americans think, and rightfully so, that this is a guy who understands their experience. But it's similar if you talk to Latinos and Asian Americans, or to our 22-year-old field organizers. People see in him the qualities they want to see."

This might be true but I really know of very few Asian Americans who grew up in single parent families. (One of the few byproducts of our cultural shame game is that divorce rates remain comparatively low but rising in as generations adapt to American mores.)

Obama is a blank slate. He is and he isn't Tiger Woods, the everyman millionaire golfer phenom. Rather Obama is a mirror, a reflection of disparate parts of our nation, a product of globalization. We too are products of globalization, caught in the fray and the struggle of finding our identity. We have also been accused of being other. But here is the crucial difference -- our assertions of Americanness will always be questioned. Not just our aptitude to be president, but our very Americanness. They have tried this "is he sufficiently patriotic" routine with Obama and the flag pin. Some percentage of Americans still think he is Muslim, (and consequently not American enough.) But the way he sometimes runs from it (Michigan rally photo staging and D-Punjabi press release), you would think that he was ashamed of Muslim associations. And I'm sorry but I want our first Asian American candidate to be someone who is proud of various parts of the community.

His half sister is Maya Soetoro Ng, who is married to a Chinese Canadian. You might ask me, well, isn't that enough, and how much closer do you have to get? My answer is that we have to let Obama be who he is, and understand that he is going to distance himself from us in certain ways.

The first APA President, when and if we get one, I bet will also be a Harvard or Yale alum who comes from a suburban background and whose parents are doctors or lawyers. True model minority material.

Also, I'm going to have to ding Obama on not having enough high level APIAs on his campaign. I've said it before and hopefully I won't have to say it again, but it strikes me as a bit odd that while Pete Rouse (his chief of staff, and a hapa) and his Legislative Director Chris Lu are both very close to the Senator, they are on the policy side. NOT the campaign side.

This should be good once Obama becomes president in that we'll have super qualified APIAs on the inside making policy decisions but in the course of a campaign, the lack of high level APIAs (the APIA team just having been hired a month ago) means that battleground state strategy and early buy in have virtually closed out APAs from major political decisions. But it has deprived APAs of a critical chance to determine strategy.

I give Obama's team credit for hiring some of the top APA political talent for the APIA team and for funding it earlier than Kerry-Edwards in 2004.

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