Category Archives: Politics

I’m Asian American, and this weekend’s Peter Liang’s protests show that Asian Americans too are marginalized against whites and majority

This weekend, New York cop Peter Liang was convicted for killing Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man, while on duty, which carries a possible 5-15 year prison sentence. As a result, many Asian-American groups have gone out to the streets of NYC and Philadelphia to protest in solidarity with Peter Liang. The issue at stand is that while Peter Liang was convicted of murdering an unarmed person while on duty, while  white policemen, like Daniel Pantaleo, veteran police who killed Eric Gardner with a chokehold, Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown, or Ryan Zimmerman, in the infamous Trayvon Martin case, are regularly acquitted of these killings.While many may say that the bigger issue is racial discrimination and racial profiling, as well as the disproportionate amount of people of color who are often targeted by police and also often serve longer sentences than whites for nonviolent crimes, one must note that it does not answer the fact that why Peter was convicted and the other white cops weren’t for their killings. The issue of racial profiling is an issue that all cops in America face, which lends itself to the side conversation of gun control, racial tolerance, and criminal justice reform as a whole. For it is with the vast proliferation of guns in America that threaten the safety of not only cops but also anyone when on duty and investigating cases.

However, one must also understand that Asian-Americans stand at a unique and somewhat awkward position in the US. With cultural stereotypes of Asians as “tributes to hard work, strong families and passion for education” and Asian-Americans as on the upper-echelons of the economic strata, Asian-Americans have been viewed as the “model minority” and thus looked upon with different lenses–Characterized as ‘privileged’ and not really considered minority, yet with unique Asian-American cultures, are not considered exactly mainstream as white Americans.)

Aside from the sheer disparity and competition that Asian students have to score on SATs (which in itself is already unfair to Asian students versus students of other races), the facts are still facts: Asian-Americans still only make up about 5.4% of the US population. Thus, many have certainly overlooked the struggles of Asian-Americans. For instance, Southeast Asian-Americans drop out of high school at an alarming rate: nearly 40% of Hmong-Americans, 38% Laotian-Americans, and 35% Cambodian-Americans do not finish high school. These groups, along with Vietnamese-Americans, earn below the national average. “Sweeping generalizations of Asian-Americans as the ‘privileged’ and ‘successful’ minority cannot replace unnerving disaggregated data that bring truth to the inequalities that many Asian-Americans face daily.” [2]

In addition, because of such “model minority” stereotypes overlooking the real struggles of Asian-Americans as well as other generic Asian-American stereotypes often not as the ‘toughest’ but rather more passive group, the US too is a new, unfamiliar, and daunting place for Asian-Americans. So with these stereotypes, in the midst of the “Black Lives Matter” and the racism/violence between whites and blacks, Asian-Americans have often been seen as not a minority. And as a first-generation Asian-American to Taiwanese immigrant parents myself, such violence and racial instability lately certainly keeps me on my toes and threatening of my well-being. In essence, as Asian-Americans with foreign culture and our parents often with language barriers, we too are victims of indirect racism and discrimination yet are not recognized nor our voices heard as much.

According to investigation sources, Peter Liang discharged his weapon in a “dark stairway” while “the bullet [merely] bounced off the wall” to hit the unarmed father and son, Akai Gurley. Meanwhile, for instance, Daniel Pantaleo with the chokehold of Eric Gardner had done it in broad daylight. Similarly, the police shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina also in broad daylight. Same with Darren Wilson. Clearly, he can see their “suspects” more clearly, presenting less of a threat to their lives than if it were done at night, as in Peter Liang’s case. Yet Daniel Pantaleo has yet to be tried, and Darren Wilson acquitted? While that contributes to the 2nd-degree nature of the murder than 1st-degree, Peter Liang was threatened, both as a police on duty conducting investigation as well as being an Asian-American amid the recent racially-charged climate of the US. He had to act in self-defense.

I stand in solidarity with both Peter Liang and Akai Gurley. Both were simply at the wrong place, wrong time. Both Asian-Americans and African-Americans experience racism and discrimination. Both are minorities with different struggles to overcome in the US. Therefore, what we should focus on is not to use Peter as a punishment, a precedent to cops killing unarmed people. Rather, we should focus on reaching out and even the playing field for all races, religious groups, for all people in general. We should focus on tackling criminal justice reform, dealing with the issue of urban and minority poverty (that is a significant cause of the disproportionate amount of people of color behind bars and their disproportionately longer sentences) through extra funding in education and welfare.

We are at a crossroads of 2016. We have had too much shootings and racial-profiling around the country. We’ve seemed to have forgotten the progress that we had built during the Civil Rights Movement. African-Americans have most definitely come a long way. But while there is still a long way for them to go, let us remember that there are others as well who are also in the void, beneath the shadows. While incidents like Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, while heinous and racially-charged which certainly requires the unity of the African-American community to protest, the same should be with Asian-Americans as well. Our voices too should be heard, and heard loudly across the nation. The US is a land of diversity, we must accept each and every racial group in America, and treat each and every one of the same. I hope that through this entire experience (and, the protests), my fellow Asian-American friends would start to challenge our silence and call attention to our struggles. 亞裔美人萬歲!華人萬嵗!正義何在!

 

Sources:

[1] https://www.facebook.com/NowThisNews/videos/998175980272526/?pnref=story

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/10/16/the-effects-of-seeing-asian-americans-as-a-model-minority/model-minority-seems-like-a-compliment-but-it-does-great-harm

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steph-yin/peter-liang-protests_b_9289990.html

A Slow Clap for Equality

A quick scroll through CNN’s homepage or a flip through the morning’s New York Times is almost guaranteed to communicate some type of headline on the issue of equality—whether it be of the minority, women, or LGBT. The fact is, conversation in America, ever since its breakaway from Great Britain, has been constantly involving the issue of equality. Even the sheer mention of this country is able to evoke images of fairness and freedom for all.

Yet, in this highly modern and growing society of today, meanings have changed and views have shifted. What equality and the push for this concept once were no longer hold constant. The oversensitivity and impulse to grab onto any type of advancement, and to be satisfied with a superficial legislation has taken over our reason.

For the first time ever, Saudi Arabian women were granted the right to vote. Headlines on multiple major news sources donned prosperous and feel-good stories of this progress. However, they fail to account for the entire picture and the restraints the nature of Saudi Arabian government place on this achievement. In this notoriously misogynist country, this reform appears as an obvious milestone. Still, this milestone falls short.

The catch is that Saudi Arabia is not a democracy. Unlike America, Saudi Arabia provides no meaningful medium of expression: no free press, no personal authority, and no legal authority. Politics revolve around the King, rather than the voices of the population. If any change is to be made, it is more likely to be accomplished through connections with the prince than running for office with an egalitarian driven candidacy. Amid this patronage network for the royals, the ability and value of voting are crowded out and have little to no influence at all.

Despite being able to vote, the women of Saudi Arabia are still discriminated against, and laws that exclude women are still in relevance. Women, without the accompaniment of their male relative or spouse, can neither drive nor travel. Even with the power to vote, what can Saudi Arabian women do? In respect to Saudi Arabia’s highly oppressive political system, we can only see this as an advance on paper only.

All in all, we should still commend the women of Saudi Arabia, and other minorities alike who are discriminated against, for making it so far, and accomplishing such feats. Although we cannot respond to this event with celebration and applause, a slow clap will do.

Trust…does it exist?


“Trust. It takes years to build and seconds to break.” The brilliantly accurate quote, by an unknown genius, represents how corrupt our world has become because of the lack of trust in mankind .

Trust is the foundation of any relationship, equally as important to building a house as to support a family. A hammer, used to concur the wood together when building a house, correlates to the communication needed to assure that both parties are on the same page when creating a trustworthy relationship. The nails, which the entire house relies on to hold the walls together, correlates to the promises being made in a trusting relationship. Finally, the walls which create a layout for the entire house, represents the honesty of each person existing in a trusting relationship. Whether it is in your social life or workplace, all these tools are necessary to build the trust you want with your companions. However, trust is beginning to diminish while betrayal is under the spotlight.

Cheating, lying, stealing, law breaking. They are all forms of betrayal. Perhaps this disloyalty is not only identified in people themselves, but also detected in a respected precedent, which should be encouraging right rather than wrong. The National Security Agency (NSA) illegally scrutinizes our phone calls without our consent. The issue, which arose in 2013 when Edward Snowden released information about the NSA collecting data of telephone conversations, live chats, emails, an
d search histories, angered many citizens who fought against this action, stating it violates their Fourth Amendment rights. Considering that the citizens of our nation assume that all of their Constitutional freedoms are protected, the government is betraying innocent residents of our country. Civilians expect privacy which our government promises in the Constitution. Through this act of inspecting personal information without approval illustrates a reason for citizens to not trust our “reliable”  government.

Believe it or not, the U.S. government is not the only one deceiving us. Our country’s acquaintance, Iraq is destroying the integrity between our countries. The Islamic State In Iraq, also known as ISIS, is a terrorist group intruding into other countries and killing an abundant amount of people. The latest outbreak of the aggressive hate group was on the 14th of November, 2015 in Paris, France. The shooting and bombings in Paris killed about 129 people and injured approximately 352. Major okterrorist groups such as this one provoke all of mankind and brings fear to all individuals because of the lack of trust between countries. Nations cannot trust their allies because they are too afraid of further barrage. People these days are taught to trust no one due to hate groups such as ISIS, which may strike and surprise anytime without any suspicion.

In this case, the hammer is used to break down all the walls of our home, keeping no promises. The nails, which hold our countries together, are not strong enough to retain the walls. Lastly, the support we obtain from the walls of our home are destructed through the dishonesty of other countries.

Our world endures betrayal. We must reestablish the trust we once had to improve humanity, complementary to the quote of obtaining trust and having it betrayed in the matter of seconds.

 

On the Way to Equal Pay

Anyone who has even remotely been following the upcoming presidential election knows that Hillary Clinton is a major advocate of women’s rights. She believes, as do I, that women’s rights and basic human rights should not be discussed as separate topics, but rather as one. With each passing year, the fight for gender equality becomes a more passionate one.

Women have been making less than men for equal jobs for far too long now. In order to rectify the situation, Clinton has decided to raise the minimum wage. Raising the pay for the lowest paying jobs will help to close the wage gap. How? The lowest paid jobs are disproportionately held by women. If all of them start to earn more money, then there won’t be as great a difference between a man’s salary and a woman’s salary. This will be the first step of many on the road to equality of the sexes.

The Paycheck Fairness Act “is designed to help those who believe they are victims of gender-based wage discrimination by making wages more transparent, by requiring that employers prove that wage discrepancies are tied to legitimate business qualifications and not gender, and by prohibiting companies from taking retaliatory action against employees who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination” (US News). In other words, if this bill is passed, women will be able to fight discrimination at work. Taking this a step further would mean advocating pay transparency across the economy so females have the needed information to negotiate their wages fairly.

If women start to earn more money, they will be able to take care of their families, and perhaps more specifically, their children. However, with the number of responsibilities that a woman assumes, she needs the time to manage them efficiently – which she cannot do if she’s not getting paid for that time she takes off. Work policies need to be put into place which allow paid leave and flexible scheduling. This will allow women to fulfill their obligations at home without sacrificing pay.

A crucial step towards gender equality and stronger families is establishing equal pay for men and women. A major part of Hillary Clinton’s political platform is establishing an empowered female presence in the United States. Her policies seem to be very effective and may just contribute to the turning point in the fight for women’s rights.

Happy Birthday Barack Obama!

This transforming Tuesday, we get to look at an aging president as well as what the future holds for the democratic party in the upcoming election. When looking back at how the 44th president looked at first compared to what the stress of everyday life has transformed him to the man he is today, we can see his age having more of an impact.However his birthday did not come with no celebrations this year. Last year, Obama marked his birthday with meetings and the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. But this year he started the celebrations early. “On Saturday he took his friends out golfing at Andrews Air Force and then went to Camp David in Maryland, where he’s also partied in previous years.” Also, we have to appreciate that in these past few years, there have been striking changes regarding White House advisory, Health Care Reform, gun policy, internet policies, as well as foreign policy in the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and recently Iran. Although these changes and events have been a part of his terms, one can never forget the June of 2015 when the SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage. Now we can see the reward in celebrating today from the beginning of the election of 2008 ; now seeming a distant memory to August 4th 2015 – 461 days until his term comes to an end. In terms of looking forward to the 2016 election, there is some controversy about the vice president – Joe Biden running for the election as a presidential nomination. However, we must accept the fact after numerous interviews, countless lectures, and a multitude of campaigns strategies that the democrats seem pretty ready for Hillary Clinton. This can seem to be proven almost as a fact because “Many members of the Obama administration have gone to work for Clinton, including some close to Biden.” As for the Republican party there is the top choice leading a fractured team of other candidates- Donald Trump. Slightly behind him are Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Something to look forward to amid all these runners is the debate on August 6th Fox News debate which will only invite the top 10 candidates based on recent national polls. While watching this heated debate, we must appreciate and recognize the new storm of changes in events coming, and reminisce on the cyclone of events that have occurred in these past few years.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” -President Obama

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Talks Stall Due to Increasing Complications

After another round of meetings in Hawaii, it was reported that negotiations between several representatives of Pacific Rim countries had not succeeded in closing one of the biggest possible free-trade talks in history. The Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb stated that the deal was, “..98% complete, but we haven’t concluded it.” Supposedly, Australia had “walked out” on finishing the deal after being unable to negotiate an entrance into US dairy markets. These setbacks are merely the latest of many that are challenging the completion of this free trade agreement that has the ability to span a large portion of the world economy. The implementation of this agreement is in the interest of the Obama administration and the US government as it would provide the United States a much-needed financial pivot into Asia in order to counteract spreading Chinese influence in the region as well as provide a financial boost to American markets. Nevertheless, the deal has various opponents who are claiming that if passed, the deal will have adverse impacts on important issues like healthcare, Investor-State Arbitration, and intellectual property.

In June 2015, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine expressed concern that various clauses concerning copyright laws pertaining to pharmaceutical drugs could affect healthcare in numerous countries. According to the article, the TPP had the potential to prevent the production of cheaper generic drugs through stricter patent laws. This would create a risk in developing countries like Vietnam, where a large portion of the population cannot afford expensive “brand name” drugs and instead relies on cheaper drugs. This could also affect developed countries like America as  state sponsored healthcare systems like Medicare and Medicaid would be forced to buy the previously mentioned brand name drugs, thereby raising the price of medical care. Arguments have arose against the TPP over concerns of increasing healthcare costs and it seems to be that this hurdle will prove difficult to get over.

Another controversial aspect of the agreement includes the writing concerning Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Simply put, ISDS allows a foreign company to sue member countries of the TPP for money in cases where they could argue that future profits were lost due to government policy, effectively circumventing government law and receiving money for it. It is no surprise that countries would be reluctant to agree to this provision after hearing about Occidental Exploration and Production Company vs. The Republic of Ecuador, in which Ecuador was ordered to pay approximately $1.76 billion in reparations to an American oil company. ISDS has been present in previous free trade agreements between other countries and has been an extremely contentious topic due to the fact that it can overcome government law in the name of free trade. Therefore, it is no surprise that TPP member and negotiators are cautious when dealing with this problematic law.

Despite the aforementioned worrisome parts of the TPP, the most questionable provision is arguably the Intellectual Property Chapter. This part of the agreement requires that global intellectual property rules be rewritten in a more restrictive format, like the United States’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). An obligation like this would require countries to place liabilities on internet intermediaries like Google and Facebook and thereby restrict privacy and expression of users. It would also compel the extension of copyright laws, suppressing any possible innovations. And last but not least, it would adopt criminal sanctions for any copyright infringements not done for “commercial purposes” (That means that the police really will arrest you for illegally downloading that Beyonce song).

It is no question that the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement poses a multitude of risks to the countries that it seeks to facilitate free trade with. Yet, the important thing to ask ourselves as people affected by global actions is, “Is it worth it?” Will the increasing globalization of trade ultimately harm or help us? Living in the USA, I can see that many of the things I use on a daily basis like my phone, my clothes, even my food, are the products of an world that is growing smaller through increased trade. I can see that free trade between countries can raise the standard of living and I can see that it is extremely beneficial to the economy. But it should not empower the businesses and corporations that control production to restrict basic human rights like freedom of expression nor should it allow a business to dodge the law for profit. If the TPP cares more about protecting a business’s ability to increase profits through economic liberalization instead of allowing people of all countries to mutually benefit from trade, then in my humble opinion, it should not be supported by anyone

Why Donald Trump May Cost The Republicans The Election

Donald Trump. The  name is infamous. When you think of Trump you think of a stereotypical billionaire: arrogant, disrespectful, obnoxious. You would never associate anything that is good and holy with Trump. Trump is possibly the worst candidate in the entire election. He has not vocalized his plans of reform to the public and in short, he has no plan to “Make America Great Again”. In simple terms, Trump is just an old rich dude who wants to find a fun way to spend his money.  Moreover,  the disrespect he showed to Mexicans by calling them rapists and druggies and the comments he made about Senator John McCain were outrageous and completely uncalled for.  Any sensible human being would apologize for making these comments, however, Trump is no sensible human being. His arrogance has caused him to feel like he does nothing wrong. The fact that he would call Mexicans rapists and druggies shows that he does not care for ANY minority. Unless you are white, Trump will not care for you at all. Furthermore, his comments on John McCain were disgusting. Though I don’t  generally agree with McCain’s views as a senator, I have an extreme amount of respect for him solely because of the fact that he was a war hero who was tortured for 5 years in Vietnam. Trump had the audacity to insult McCain by saying that McCain is “a war hero because he was captured” and that he likes “people that weren’t captured”. This was an insult to all POWs  and (especially the Vietnam POWs) not just McCain because while these Vets were being tortured, Trump avoided the draft and was enjoying his life here in the safety of the US. Trump has made numerous outrageous comments, but these alone will not cost the Republicans the election. Say Trump gets the nomination, right then and there the Republicans are done, they will have no chance at winning. Those Republicans that opposed Trump in the primaries will not vote for him thus creating a path for the Democratic Candidate to take office. Now let’s say Trump doesn’t get the nomination. Then Trump has two options, either admit defeat, which is highly unlikely, or run as an Independent. Usually, those that run as Independents don’t make huge differences when election time arrives. However, let’s not forget when in 2000, Ralph Nader drew enough votes away from Al Gore that George Bush won the election. It is clear that Trump has large amounts of support and that if he goes independent, he will take all his supporters with him. Supporters, whom, if Trump does not run as an Independent would vote Republican. Thereby taking away votes from the Republican party and thus again, creating a path for the Democratic Candidate to take office. The only way the Republican party has a chance to win, is if Donald Trump does not run. However, in the slight chance that Trump does win, you can find me up north drinking fresh maple syrup while riding a moose.

Road to 2016 so far…

election-2016

From the news recently, many probably have began to hear about candidates from both parties, well maybe more from one side, announcing their bids for the presidency, to represent the US in the way they and their parties want to represent the US coming 2016. There are divergent opinions on the past two terms of President Obama, from his response of the 2008 recession or the implementation of so-called universal healthcare otherwise known “Obamacare” to his response to the rise of Middle-Eastern insurgents and impending issue of free trade and fast track with TPP and TTIP. Furthermore, as we hear of the fragile crisis in Greece, panic in Chinese stocks, and a rising Chinese military power, we are now in a different world than we were in before. A new world order awaits, and the US must learn to cooperate and deal with its new rival power China. Domestically, gun violence is still a grave issue and has proliferated to 26,046 incidents during this year so far! And so are religious freedom laws yet a liberalizing community. 2016 will be a momentous year for all of us, both in the US and in the world. Thus, the race is on for the 45th US President – a president that must step up to the challenge in such a watershed of American history.

Democrats

DEMS

Starting with the defending party, so far five candidates from the Democratic side have officially announced their bid for the presidency.

Hillary Clinton: As former Secretary of State, she is the front-runner of the Democrat nomination right now with almost 100% name recognition, no doubt about it. But she must still maintain her lead within her party and potentially among the US by securing the Hispanic, young, white working class women, and college-educated women voters. Ohio again will be key swing state, along with Virginia and Florida (FL especially if Jeb Bush wins the Republican nomination), but changing demographics have put several other states into play – Colorado, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. In addition, she must convey the message of a better America for future generations by addressing income inequality and connect with the middle-class. She must also espouse the views of a higher minimum wage, paid family/medical leave, early childhood education, and affordable child care, essentially improving America’s welfare status.

Bernie Sanders:  As an independent senator from Vermont, and a socialist as he calls himself, Bernie has certainly captured the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Though he will pose a significant force to Hillary and may force her to swing left on certain issues, however, to win the Democratic nomination, he still has a long way to go. He must expand his base from the predominantly white, college-educated voters to the Hispanic, female, and African-American voters. He must also be willing to let loose on some of his fiery populism, or “Democratic socialistic” feel of his campaign, in order to win over the moderate part of the party.

Lincoln Chafee: Former Rhode Island governor and senator and a Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat, Lincoln already has a good shot with upscale white liberals, those who are passionate with environmental issues and restraining with America’s military involvement in the Middle East. While he will certainly help highlight Hillary’s hawkish tendencies (her vote to authorize Bush’s Iraqi war and that he was the only Republican to have voted against the vote), as said on his website with his “aversion to foreign entanglements,” with some financial problems to raise money for the campaign and the fact that he is up against a fundraising power house Hillary, he will, like Bernie Sanders, influence the nomination and Hillary as to pose resistance to the party, but his chance at the nomination and the White House is a long shot.

Martin O’Malley: Former governor of Maryland, right now among the other challengers to Hillary, he has the best chance against her. Assuming the nation wants a new face, a younger generation (with O’Malley, 52) and his strong grasp on working class whites, he hopes to gain steam with Iowa where the electorate is mainly working class whites and build from there.

Jim Webb: Former senator of Virginia, Jim Webb offers economic fairness and a non-interventionist attitude to the table. However, his past propensity with Confederate valor and uneasiness to address climate challenge, may otherwise impede his opportunities. Webb may find more probability as a third-party candidate or as a potential running mate.

Republicans

GOP

On the “red” side, we have a list that looks more like a “Republican party” than a list for the Republican nomination. Hyped up by their November midterm victory over the Democrats, a once questioned demise of the “traditional” Republican conservatism is back on the rise. They hope to garner the devout, the traditional, and the corporate interests, along with hopes of the Hispanic and the youth vote to take back the White House that they have lost for the past 8 years. (And, to complete their takeover of both the Legislative and Executive branches.) As a result of this long-list of candidates, 14 of them, to list them out one-by-one like how I did for the Democrats, would most certainly bore you out, and probably, discourage you from voting Republican in 2016. Hmm…or should I? Do you see my intentions? No, I do not want to discourage you the Republican vote. Moreover, I hope you actually go out to vote this year (improve America’s turnout rate from 36.6% last November, please!), and do vote for who you think would actually be fit for America. America is at a crossroads, America needs your vote.

So, for the Republican side, instead of a “line-item” explanation and biographical descriptions of each candidate, as well as maybe “vetoing” each candidate over the Democrats (see what I did there?), I will rank the top few I see probable….so an early good luck with your decision 🙂

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Rand Paul, and Donald Trump (just for the laughs)

Sadly, the possibility of history repeating itself, a Bush again, or a Bush-Clinton election is highly probable with Jeb Bush leading his GOP nomination “party”. However, the Republicans have certainly a strong competition that could otherwise capture the White House. Bush, Rubio, and Cruz certainly have a high chance in capturing the Hispanic vote, if they change the Republican immigration stance. Rand Paul, who, if does not win the nomination, would at least bring moderate issues to the question and gain traction with both moderate Republicans and Democrats. And Donald Trump, well, good luck on your campaign and getting sacked by corporations cutting ties with you. And maybe I should support your endeavors, to further my own political interests? Nah…well, that’s the Republican-side! Again, PLEASE LET YOUR VOTE BE SEEN, WHEN COME TWENTY-SIXTEEN! (other words, get out and vote!)

Source

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/elections/2016-presidential-candidates.html

Trans-Pacific Partnership and fast track…America’s global future at stake?!?

There recently have been negotiation for a free trade agreement among several Pacific rim nations known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But before we discuss about the details and logistics of the TPP, let me briefly explain what a free trade agreement is. A free trade agreement (short for FTA) is, as what its name says, promotes “free trade,” typically through reduced or elimination of protective tariffs and special investment incentives for member nations to invest and trade within one another. Members who are not in the agreement would thus be at a disadvantage. Such agreements have been a way for nations of similar aims to collectively strengthen themselves as a group. Many of these agreements arise out of means such as desires to expand and trade with different nations or to strengthen its own region with its neighboring nations. Some of the largest agreements now include the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and much more. However recently, with China’s rise in economic and political prominence, Beijing has begun to exert its influence within agreements like APEC, ASEAN, and through their newly created Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The US and several other nations, have in essence, began negotiating for this TPP agreement.

The agreement first started negotiations in 2005 as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4). It is a proposed regional regulatory and investment treaty among 12 nations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the US. The nations aimed the agreement to “enhance trade and investment among TPP partners and to promote innovation, economic growth, development, and the creation and retention of jobs. But that’s all talk until it’s set forth on writing and into action. The nations had planned to wrap up negotiations in 2012 when concerns with agriculture, intellectual property, services and investment agreements drew controversy and inhibited negotiations. Some of the contention that have been brought up have recently raged divisions within Congress, and even within the Democratic party themselves as well, as many of the leftist, progressives have raised questions and opposition to the TPP, one key goal on President Obama’s agenda.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 3, 2015, to oppose fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Senators like Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have been prominent with their oppositions, especially with the negotiation process known as fast-track that has been given to the president since Nixon and the Free Trade Act of 1974. In essence, “fast track” gives the President the power to bypass much of congressional oversight (congress may only approve or disapprove, but cannot amend or filibuster) to negotiate international agreements. This practice of fast track has especially been contentious with the concerns of the controversial clauses of the agreement, the expansive of the agreement, and the secrecy–lack of transparency–of the agreements. The oppositions led by Warren and Sanders, along with other progressive Democrats are concerned that fast-track will bypass many crucial oversight functions of Congress. In addition, there are also fears of infringements onto Internet privacy and use, such as violations of fair use, whistleblowers, and safeguards in US law.

Also, fast tracking and TPP would make easier for corporations to offshore jobs and force workers to compete with those in nations like Vietnam making less than 60-cents an hour, thus driving down wages and standards of living. NAFTA, they claim,  is an example of exactly just that! After NAFTA, while trade did increase among US, Canada, and Mexico, at the same time many American jobs have also been displaced due to increased foreign competition and outsourcing offshore.

On the other side of the political spectrum, though, are Republicans working with President Obama, supporting the bill, since Republicans have always supported such free trade agreements. As a result, while in the past when Democrats controlled the Senate, the Senate majority leader had never passed the bill, the Republican controls in both Houses could change the tide.

This rift between Obama and the Democrats could be dangerous for the Democrats in the future, especially as 2016 nears. Some have asked Hillary Clinton on her stance with TPP since she had always supported similar pieces of legislation as Obama’s former Secretary of State, but she has not spoke definitively with her stance on the issue. But one thing we do know is that many of her progressive counterparts, Warren, Sanders, and Maryland Gov. O’Malley, who has announced Democratic candidacy, have moved to her left, against the agreement.

While the stances of Senate minority leader Nancy Pelosi and minority WHIP Steny Hoyer are still uncertain, this issue has made its way to the forefront of a significant political, economic, and national battleground, between both Democrats and Republicans. Such large-scale trade agreements affect everyone as a nation, the good and the bad. Understanding and following the issue is crucial for us to safeguard our self-interests and the country’s interests for generations to come.

Sources:

History Should Not Repeat Itself

When hearing “The United States of America”, various phrases may occupy your mind, ranging from incomparable justice to detrimental obesity. After all, our precious nation is known for unique actions and manifold events, and one, rather vicious yet unforgettable, action that our nation executed was on August 6, 1945. Several historians, scientists, and soldiers attribute the titles of “The Day the World Changed Forever” and “Japan’s Terrible Destruction” to this date. August 6, 1945 is the day that the United States of America bombed the Japanese city of Hiroshima, as part of a bellicose movement during the World War II.

The first atomic bomb, the American B-29, was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The deadly bomb had abruptly, within milliseconds, killed 80,000 people; anyone who was within a one-mile radius of the bomb had been immediately vaporized and transformed into carbon instantaneously due to the intense heat, undergoing a painless yet extremely abrupt death. This gargantuan explosion had unfortunately wiped out ninety percent of the city’s population, and those who had luckily managed to survive, suffered numerous third-degree burns and various other wounds/ burns throughout their entire body. However, even though the bomb finished making its vastly detrimental effect, deaths continued. Thousands of people passed away later on due to the exposure of severe radiations. Furthermore, for the next several generations and decades, deformed babies were being born as a result of the radiations. Despite suffering thousands of deaths, Japan refused to surrender and exactly three days later, a second B-29 atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 40,000 people. Afterwards, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s unconditional surrender in the devastating and global World War II through a radio address on August 15, 1945, referring to the injurious and deadly power of the “new and most cruel bomb.”

Unfortunately, many people do not realize and fathom the deadly effects of an atomic bomb, and with the current advances in technology, powerful countries, such as the United States of America, Russia, France, China, Israel, United Kingdom, India, North Korea, and Pakistan are the few countries in the world that contain atomic bombs- and these bombs are not similar to the American B-29 bomb in any way. With constant advances in engineering, technology, and science in the previous decades, modern atomic bombs are approximately hundred times more powerful and deadlier than the B-29 bomb. In fact, the world has accumulated so much nuclear arsenal that the entire Earth can be completely annihilated multiple times! Astonishing, right?! The B-29 explosions in Japan undoubtedly serve a grim reminder of the danger of nuclear war. They educate the public on how devastating these atomic bombs are and definitely admonish the upcoming generations that the use of atomic bombs should be precluded as they have catastrophic consequences.

Clearly, we, as in all of humanity, have to learn from our mistakes to preclude them from reoccurring. As the banal cliche puts it “Those who don’t read history are condemned to repeat it.” All in all, mankind should not be subjected to this ordeal ever again, and thus, the public’s education is downright critical in order to ensure that history is not repeated, with its disastrous effects.