Are you a real American? It depends on who you ask

Are you a real American? It depends on who you ask
by Stephen M. Moh

“Why would anyone leave the USA?” wrote a friend on Facebook recently, beside a picture of a beautiful sunset beaming on the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Why does everyone leave the US?” might have been a more pertinent question.

Since my parents moved to this land of opportunity and freedom 30 years ago, my friendship circle has changed countless times, as fellow Asian-Americans move back home after college or leave for the expat life.

The years of pop culture; efficient transport; diverse foods; beaches; socials; and family just weren’t enough to make the USA the One.

Although, obviously, many Asian-Americans do end up staying, why do so many Asian-Americans leave after their parents’ sacrifices? Is there a fundamental reason for this trail of break-ups?

When watching a youtube clip for “Mistresses”, many commenters kept praising Yunjin Kim for her excellent English as a Korean.

Only Yunjin Kim wasn’t a foreigner; she grew up in Staten Island, New York with US citizenship.

“But she’s not an American,” some responded when others pointed out she is American. “She grew up here and her husband is Asian-American,” I argued. Her status, they said, would depend on how deeply she actually connected with American”culture”.

What is an American then, if not someone raised in the US and naturalized?

In the multicultural British capital, a Londoner can be of any skin color, eat any type of food and have a mother tongue other than English. To describe a British-born man with Indian parents, say, as a “foreigner” might well spark a riot.

If a lifetime spent in the US can’t make you an American, if the children you might have here can’t access that identity (at least, not in the eyes of some), perhaps this country – despite the idea of opportunity and freedom that welcomed our parents – isn’t a natural place to call home, after all.

It’s OK to discriminate against Asians (for high school admissions)

When is a minority not a minority?

NEW YORK, NY – Last year, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a civil rights lawsuit with the federal government to eliminate testing as the sole basis for admissions to top public schools in New York City, such as Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and Stuyvesant, since it discriminated against ethnic minorities. They argued that factors such as school grades, teacher recommendations and personal experience be taken into account, which would make the admissions process similar to university admissions. However, the majority of students admitted to these top NYC public schools are ethnic minorities. They’re Asians.

According to the New York Times, approximately 59% of the students enrolled in the eight specialized high schools are Asian. In 1971, the Stuyvesant High School student body was 10% Black, 4% Hispanic, and 6% Asian with the rest being White but is 72% Asian and around 4% percent are Black or Hispanic in 2012. Based on concerns about the lack of test preparation from minority groups, the city initially offered a free test-prep program to Black and Hispanic students and later to all students. However, it was still an issue because the majority of students enrolled in the public test program are Asians.

The Times article exploring this controversy spent considerable time profiling the Asian students who were accepted into the top NYC high schools. One account was about a son of Chinese immigrants who often sacrificed weekends studying for the high school entrance exam. He rarely saw his parents because they worked long shifts.

Other Asian students profiled came from families that either lived in Third World conditions or emigrated from countries experiencing violence. These families managed to pool their limited resources to ensure their kids had the time and money needed to do well in school and pass the high school entrance exam.

Although the writer made efforts to show these students made sacrifices and worked hard to be in these schools, he also made a point of emphasizing their “foreignness”. In the same article, the writer quoted Jerome Krase, a professor emeritus in sociology at Brooklyn College, suggesting Asian students are culturally obligated to do well since “[They] hold the honor of the family in their hands“, which implies they are different from Americans.

Moreover, the interviews with non-Asian parents were critical of the current admissions process. One parent agreed with expanding admissions to consider more than just the entrance exam results while another parent felt that it was abnormal for students to sacrifice weekends just to prepare for the entrance exam. Despite these criticisms, both parents have children who are preparing for the entrance exam.

While it is true that Asians make up the majority of students in the top specialized high schools in New York City, other groups such as Blacks, Hispanics and Whites also successfully passed the tests. Instead of just profiling Asian students and emphasizing their ‘foreignness’ and their family’s limited links to American culture, the writer should have also profiled Black and Hispanic students who successfully passed the exam to show that success is not limited to Asians.

Interviewing parents of successful Black or Hispanic students would give readers ideas of how non-Asian parents and their children worked around their respective challenges to succeed since they might be more relatable to readers than the Asian students and families profiled in the article. As a result, the article appears to perpetuate the idea that Asians are undermining the perceived character of New York City’s top public schools and unintentionally promoting tensions with other ethnic groups in the city due to their “foreign values”.

Another area the writer should have explored is the root cause for test prep programs.

It is strange that students have to enroll in test preparation programs to prepare for a high school admission exam that supposedly tests students on items they should have learned in the city’s primary and middle schools. If the primary and middle public schools are properly teaching their students, then there should not be a disparity between students enrolled in test prep programs and those that are not since the exam is based on things they should have learned in school.

Sadly, these disparities suggest there is an issue with the quality of public school education in the city, not of the race of students in the city’s top high schools.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund believes that changing the current admissions process into a holistic process would solve the problems with the current system that allegedly gives wealthier families an advantage due to their abilities to get better test preparation. However, this change would actually harm many poor immigrant Asian families and may not necessarily help the intended Black or Hispanic students in high school admissions.

If the city switches to a holistic approach, wealthier parents would still find ways to ensure their children have the means to join extracurricular activities, enroll in better primary or middle schools for improved grades, hire admissions counselors to develop strong admissions essays, and still send their children to test preparation programs. The less well-off, regardless if they are Black, Hispanic and Asian would still be at a disadvantage in the admissions process just like for university admissions. Most of all, in the midst of this controversy, the status quo for many wealthy families and their children would still be preserved.

Read more at TLR: It’s OK to discriminate against Asians (for high school admissions) | The Libertarian Republic
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Thank You Jack Hunter

Today I learned Jack Hunter has resigned from Randall Paul’s staff after allegations of his past as a Southern “Shock Jock” came to light from an obscure blog promoting neo-conservative and reactionary views.

The blog alleged that Jack used to hang around neo-Confederate groups when he was in his youth and used to make a series of off-colour antics as a “Southern Avenger” character in the spirit of stupid fun.  As a result of these allegations, the corporate media has used this to paint Mr. Hunter as a far-right reactionary with an intolerant worldview and as an attempt to smear Randall Paul through Jack Hunter’s past antics.

The Jack Hunter of the present is nothing like the Jack Hunter in his youth.  The person I met is articulate, open-minded, tolerant, and familiar with major issues in the country.  This seems a far cry from the naive youth who believes Lincoln deserved to be shot for winning the Civil War, different from the guy running around screaming off-colour comments while wearing a wresting mask decorated with the Stars and Bars and far from the stereotypical Southerner who fears venturing beyond the county line.

At the same time, it does show how individuals can mature and grow as they are exposed to more forward-thinking and open ideas.  Being exposed to universal ideas of liberty and of the possibility of an open society did bring out the best in Jack Hunter as seen in his book about the Tea Party and his contributions to the American public discourse.

That being said, his resignation, most likely at the advice of his colleagues and politicians, is a sad example of the consequences of past behaviour.  It’s a lesson that we should all be careful about how and what we say or write in public as it can be easily taken out of context or used against us in other ways.  This is even more relevant given that the NSA is currently recording all possible written or verbal communications on their massive cloud-based databases.

I can only hope Jack takes a break from all this nonsense to reflect, recharge and return to the scene when the time is right.

Hong Kong Healthcare vs. American Healthcare

Hong Kong Healthcare vs. American Healthcare

Earlier this week I caught the flu as a result of being exposed to the typhoon and from heavy use of air conditioners. The symptoms of the flu were different from the typical flu because although I didn’t get the fever, I was having a bad case of an infected throat, coughing, stuffy nose, and a stomach virus. The stomach virus didn’t come out until after I had a traditional Chinese dinner at the grim and gritty part of Kowloon.

When the symptoms started appearing, I was hesitant to go to a nearby clinic since I was uninsured. Instead I went to buy a bottle of Methodex cough syrup and drank hot water in the hopes this would stop the cough. After 2 days, I started getting feverish and decided to go to the local clinic after insistence from my relative. I honestly did not want to go for fear of being price gouged for just a few minutes of meeting with the doctor and for the fear of having to pay a great deal for the prescription medicines.

When I went to see the doctor at the clinic, he was able to diagnose my flu and proceeded to give me a list of medication to fight it. The final bill for the visit was at $240HKD, which is roughly $31USD, and the fee included the prescription medicine. If I had local health insurance in HK, the entire doctor’s fee would be fully covered. It was shocking that I only had to pay around $31 just for a doctor’s visit and prescription medication despite being uninsured. If this was America, I would have to pay around $20 just for the co-pay and then more funds to get the prescription medicine. Otherwise, I would be paying somewhere close to the $100s if I was uninsured.

One more thing to note is that in Hong Kong, the doctors and pharmacists only give the amount of medication prescribed by the doctor. For example, if the doctor only prescribed 3 days’ worth of medicine, the pharmacist would only give 3 days’ worth of medication with the assumption the patient would use all of it within that time. This is not only a way to prevent medication from being wasted but a great way to control costs of prescription medication. In America, doctors would simply prescribe the medicine and the pharmacist would give you the entire package with the assumption the patient would simply stopped using it when all symptoms disappear. The problem with this approach is that the patient is buying unnecessary amounts of medicine and is taking on extra costs instead of just getting exactly what he or she needs per the doctor’s prescription.

Later that week, I started getting abdominal pains and had to go to the hospital to see a doctor. When I arrived, the doctor took the time to diagnose me after waiting for at least an hour, then got the nurse to inject me with anti-viral medication and gave me prescribed medication to fight the stomach virus and pains. At the end of the hospital visit, my bill came out to $580HKD or $$75 for the doctor’s consultation, anti-viral injection and prescription medicine. Also, if I was insured, the majority of this fee would be covered by the health provider with no co-pay. However, if this happened in America, I would be stuck with at least $580USD in doctor’s fees and get hounded by the hospital to pay off the fees as soon as possible. Also, keep in mind that I went to a private hospital and I learned that the government hospitals charge no more than $50HKD for treatment despite longer wait times.

So I really am confused by Americans who keep claiming that US healthcare is the “best in the world”, when it simply isn’t true. Whether the healthcare system is managed by the government, such as in Canada or France; or it has a two-tier system with a variety of options such as Hong Kong, these arrangement seem to be far more efficient than what we now have in America. Despite all the sensationalised nonsense from American media about the extremes of state-controlled healthcare or fully private healthcare, people in those places are overall content with their system compared to those in the USA.

I don’t think forcing American taxpayers to pay more taxes for being uninsured and making it mandatory to buy healthcare is the best option. It’s really clear that US healthcare is broken with their medical fees and prescription fees that are nowhere near the real market value of these goods and services. Most of all, it is simply arrogant to believe that Americans do not need to learn how the world implements their healthcare system to actually improve American healthcare on the basis of the big lie that “America is the greatest [insert noun here] in the world”.

What US Economic Recovery?

Struggling in a recovering economy

By Michelle Fleury
Business reporter, BBC News, New York

America slowly appears to be emerging from recession, rebounding from its worst slump in decades.

“ I’ve been out of work a few months here or there but never like this ”
Jon Polis

New figures to be released on Thursday are expected to show that the US economy grew between July and September.

But for many Americans the pain is still dragging on.

More than 200 years ago, Slater Mill in Rhode Island helped kick-off America’s industrial revolution.

For centuries, manufacturing, mainly in textile mills, provided jobs in this small north-eastern state, but not anymore.

Rhode Island now has the third highest unemployment rate in the country, after Michigan and Nevada. According to the US Labor Department, the rate of unemployment climbed to 13% in September.

This does not come as a surprise to Jon Polis.

Each day, he searches for work on his computer and in the local newspaper.

He says his eight years working for a medical supplies company was over in eight minutes. He was laid off a year-and-a-half ago. Now his benefits have run out and he is living on his savings.

“I can last maybe next March or April,” says Jon. “After that I’ll just have to go to my family and ask for money.”

At age 53, this is not the first recession he has lived through, but it is the worst.

“I’ve been out of work a few months here or there but never like this,” he says.

Back home

It is not just the more experienced members of the labour market who are being affected. The recession is also hitting the young, potentially creating a lost generation.

“ I’ll get kicked off my parents health insurance [in December]. Then I’m on my own ”
Colleen Riley

Recent graduate Colleen Riley starts most of her days eating breakfast with her parents. It is a ritual she would enjoy a lot more if she had not been forced to move back home after she could no longer afford her own apartment.

Since finishing university in May she has struggled to find full time employment. In August she took on a part time job, working 20 hours a week at a local communications firm.

But making ends meet is still a struggle. In three weeks time, she will have to make her first student loan repayment.

“I did go to the university of Rhode Island, which is a public institution,” Colleen says.

“With the help of my parents they did pay off a good amount, but I do have about $10,000 in loans.”

Her health insurance coverage, which ends in December, is another source of worry.

“I’ll get kicked off my parents health insurance,” Colleen says.

“Then I’m on my own – so that’s definitely my biggest concern.”


With so many people out of work and for longer periods of time, the staff at Rhode Island’s Department of Labor & Training are rushed off their feet.

Their goal, according to senior manager Scott Greco, is to make sure people are in the best possible position for when companies start hiring again.

“Right now our object with the training is to get people job-ready,” he says.

But for Colleen and for Jon the economic recovery feels a long way off.

“I think a very key ingredient to an economy coming back is employment coming back,” says Jon.

“The last thing that is going to come back is employment.”

America’s economy may be improving, but with so many people still searching for work, a return to prosperity looks like a distant dream for many.
Story from BBC NEWS:


Obama’s stimulus plan props up big businesses without helping the workforce.

Taiwan is not country, but US Territory says Chen Shuibian

So there you have it: Chen Shuibian admits that Taiwan is not a country and implies that the entire Taiwan Independence movement is not directed at China, but the United States, which would make the entire movement anti-American and “pro-terrorist” as some right-wingers say.

Former Taiwanese President Chen Shuibian has been indicted on new embezzlement charges just weeks after being sentenced to life in prison, and has filed a lawsuit claiming that the U.S. legally controls Taiwan and should release him from detention, officials and a lawyer said Wednesday.

Published on Taipei Times

Chen asks US court to intervene to free him
PETITION: The Taiwan Civil Rights Litigation Organization said it was sponsoring the legal action on behalf of the former president, demanding his immediate release

By Ko Shu-ling
Thursday, Sep 24, 2009, Page 3

“His intent is to clarify that native Taiwanese people are not Chinese and should not be subject to any legal prosecution by courts of a Chinese government in exile.”
— Roger Lin, Taiwan Civil Rights Litigation Organization

As part of his affidavit for a case at the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) petitioned for the US to intervene as the “principal occupying power of Taiwan” to seek his immediate release and restore his civil and human rights.

Roger Lin (林志昇), a member of the Taiwan Civil Rights Litigation Organization, yesterday said his organization was sponsoring the legal action for Chen and demanding full respect for his civil rights and his immediate release from incarceration.

But Lin focused on Chen’s argument in the affidavit concerning Taiwan’s international status and dismissed speculation that the suit was aimed at resolving Chen’s legal problems.

“This is what I call the ‘Viagra effect,’” he said. “The drug was originally used to treat heart diseases, but most people pay more attention to its other effect — just like the suit is aimed at clarifying Taiwan’s international status, but most people look at its fallout.”

Chen has been in custody since December last year. He and his wife were handed life sentences for a string of charges last week. Chen has asked his lawyers to file an appeal.

Despite his repeated calls for the court to release him, the Taipei District Court overruled his most recent request.

Chen has decided to use international law and US constitutional law to resolve the legal problems concerning Taiwan’s status, while at the same time tackling his own legal problems, Lin said.

“His intent is to clarify that native Taiwanese people are not Chinese and should not be subject to any legal prosecution by courts of a Chinese government in exile,” Lin said.

In an English declaration provided by Lin, Chen said that during his eight-year presidency, the US executive branch often made decisions for the people of Taiwan without consulting them. These affected the lives, liberty and property of Taiwanese and the nation’s territory.

“I concluded that the machinery operating in the background was not the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act or any Executive Orders issued by the US Commander in Chief, but rather the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty,” he said in the declaration.

Under the peace treaty, Chen said it is clear that Taiwan was not awarded to the Republic of China and thus remains under the US Military Government until that government is legally supplanted.

His assertion is based on the argument that the US commander in chief did not make any announcement recognizing any civil government in Taiwan as supplanting the US Military Government after the 1952 treaty, he said.

Chen said the US is “the occupying power” under the customary laws of warfare because all military attacks against Taiwan in the World War II period were conducted by US military forces.

While some have called Chen “crazy” for putting forth this argument, Lin said, Chen’s accusers are the ones who are crazy.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei branch director Huang Ching-lin (黃慶林) said he supported the theory that Taiwan’s status was undetermined but that only the 23 million people of Taiwan should have a final say in resolving it.

Calling the corruption trial against Chen invalid and unfair, Huang said he hoped that once Taiwan’s status had been determined by a US military court, a new constitution could be written and Taiwanese who break the law could be tried under Taiwanese law.

Richard Hartzell of the Formosa Nation Legal-Strategy Association said Chen’s case was a very good approach, adding that many people had confused territorial control with sovereignty.

“[If] I have lived in this hotel for 60 years — it does not mean the hotel belongs to me,” he said. “Occupying territory is a foreign territory. Taiwan is not the 51st state, not a part of the US. It’s a foreign territory under the dominion of the United States.”

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus secretary-general Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) yesterday accused Chen of committing treason by referring to himself in his appeal as the former president of the “exiled ROC government.”

KMT Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said Chen must be mentally ill after spending so much time in detention.

Meanwhile, DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said the party was surprised by Chen’s remarks and did not know when Chen had made them.

“The fact that Taiwan is independent and that the sovereignty rests in the hands of its people is not only the basis of a resolution on Taiwan’s future adopted by the DPP in 1999, but a fact that is recognized and accepted by all the people [of Taiwan],” Cheng told a news conference.

“What former President Chen stated is different from the DPP’s stance,” he said.


“Chen claimed he is immune from the Taipei court’s ruling because as president he was acting as civil administrator for the U.S. military government, according to the petition, which demands that Washington release him.” –

So there you have it: the Taiwan Independence is all about seceding from the United States and Chen Shuibian was never a President in anything but name because he was just an elected bureaucrat doing America’s bidding.  We should all be grateful that Chen Shuibian finally clarified what Taiwan Independence is all about because it was never a Chinese issue as many Taiwanese Secessionists claim, but rather it is an American issue with a corrupt American official now behind bars in a Taiwanese prison who admits that Taiwan is not a country or independent.

He is so honest with his claims that even his colleagues at the Democratic Progressive Party are confused because Chen’s views seriously contradict their party platform.  The Democratic Progressive Party started as a grouping of dissidents and democratic reformers who fought against corruption and authoritarian rule.  Once the KMT’s grip relaxed they started talking about Taiwanese Independence and this actually prompted some core democracy activists to leave the party since Taiwan Independence was never a major issue for them.  Now we learn the DPP was never fighting for independence from China or Chinese under Chen’s leadership but rather for secession from the United States and from being Americanised.

Why does Chen have to do this legal roundabout rants when he could have just worked for gradual autonomy with the United States like what Puerto Rico did?  In any event, the fact Chen admitted that Taiwan is not a country and the Taidu movement is anti-American does not change the fact he got busted for being incapable of money laundering.  Maybe Chen Shuibian should follow his American counterparts and learn from masters of scams like Bernie Madeoff and ACORN.