Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Review: On Gold Mountain

On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family
by Lisa See (1996)
ISBN: 0-679-76852-1

I read On Gold Mountain slowly, with days between chapters to think about new ideas. On Gold Mountain was many things to me.

It was an eye-opening revelation to me of how racist our laws and immigration policies were towards the Chinese, up until our recently.

It was an amazing journey into Chinese society both in America and in China.

It was an uplifting and hopeful account of how, in spite of everything, Chinese immigrants were able to come to America, work, and prosper.

It was a heart-breaking indictment of the treatment of the Chinese by our government and big business, particularly the railroads. The suffering and death of so many people has gone too long unnoticed in our history books.

It was an amusing commentary on the foibles of human nature, and how love truly can triumph over it all, down through the generations.

It was an incredibly well-researched, well-documented and remarkably frank story of one Chinese immigrant and his numerous descendants.

In the developing field of social history, and using social history to illuminate a genealogy, On Gold Mountain is a seminal work, published five years prior to the ground-breaking "Bringing Your Family History to Life through social history" by Katherine Scott Sturdevant. As such, it is a remarkable example of the professional standards to which the social historian/genealogist may aspire.

Although the family history is rife with bi-racial marriage, multiple wives and concubines, infidelity and divorce, Lisa See presents the story in a sympathetic and factual manner, and avoids sensationalizing her family history. It is as much about the family business of importing Asian art, furniture and folk items, and other businesses the younger generations developed, as it is about the personal history of the family.

I would recommend Lisa See's book to anyone planning to write a social history; to all high school and college students in classes on U. S. Government, sociology, immigration, and capitalism. I would also recommend it to anyone who likes a good work of non-fiction about real people.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Gov. Bill Richardson Endorses Senator Obama

A former Clinton ambassador to the U.N. and Secretary of Energy, who has earned five Nobel Peace Prize nominations, Richardson gave Senator Obama a resounding endorsement today.

He will be with Barack in Portland early this morning, and 16,000 (free) tickets went in four hours to fill 12,000 seats at the Coliseum. Because of my health issues, it would be irresponsible to get chilled in the rain and 36 degrees, waiting for an hour to get in the door. I said some very bad words yesterday when I figured out that the logistics of getting into the venue would keep me out.

Senator Obama has already answered the race-baiters, the bigots and haters in the most significant speech on race given by a Presidential candidate in a hundred years. I've embedded it here for you.

So now, some answers for Jaye, (and anyone else who has seen the hatchet job the media is doing on Obama and his former pastor). As Jaye, who lives in Australia, said yesterday:

"We here down under, received the edited versions, and I was as shocked as anyone at the rhetoric.

My problem, I guess, is that Obama said Jeremiah Wright was his mentor for many years. So why didn't Barack walk out of the sermons he didn't approve of? A better question is why Barack didn't ask Jeremiah to tone it down a little.

Where does the truth lie? And how do you think this will affect his campaign? Or is it a storm in a teacup?"

Everyone was shocked at the rhetoric in the short clips played this week on the 'news'. Here is a link to a diary at the Daily Kos, where you can see the whole sermon. Then judge if the news has played fast and loose with the truth. Here is a link to a brief explanation of how responsible people view Rev. Wright and his speech. Rev. Wright is among the 100 most respected pastors in America in this photo of them gathering at the White House (yes that is Bill Clinton in the middle, next to Rev. Wright). Finally, here is a link to the website of Senator Obama's church in Chicago, Illinois.

My own opinions on Jaye's questions are short and simple.

Trinity United Church of Christ offers a loving welcome to people of all race and ethnicity. The majority of members are African American. The Church and their pastor have received numerous awards for their community activism, helping the poor and sick. A church is a group of imperfect people who come together for worship and celebration. You don't walk out of your family because the head of the family says imprudent or even outrageous things occasionally.

I respect the loyalty, the genuine love and attachment, the non-judgmental ways that Senator Obama expresses in all his relationships: political, personal, familial, and yes - his church family too. Barack has said that he expressed his dissent to Rev. Wright over certain things, (and I say it is the media's fault that this is all not well know or understood).

Where does the truth lie?

It lies here: I have been moved to tears by the courage of Barack and Michelle Obama, who went into this campaign knowing full well the racist lies and hatred that would be poured over them.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Virtual Lynching

I have watched in astonishment and disgust as the media has shortened the original and very short clip of Rev. Wright, where after the "G-d d-mn" part, he points down to the Bible in front of him and says that it "says right there in the Bible" that "G-d will d-mn" anyone who - (he follows with a list: people who kill the innocent, murder woman and children, etc.).

The first clip showed too much for our lying media. It showed that Rev. Wright was delivering a sermon chastising our country for the civilians who have been murdered in Iraq, etc. The media have made that clip shorter, cutting off the part where he points to the Bible, to better stir up racial hatred. Surely that isn't legal anymore in America? Even worse, it is based on a distortion so great it is a lie. Even worse, they are using the government controlled airwaves to do it.

If the government does not step in with televised hearings showing the entire speech, asking the media moguls why they cut out the parts that would demonstrate Wright's Bible reference, etc. then we might as well not even have a U. S. commission on Civil Rights, because they are violating the rights of the society to not be fed lies by distortion and omission by people purporting to report the news or comment on the news. They are violating my rights as a Christian to not be slandered in the public airwaves.

When H. G. Wells "War of the Worlds" was broadcast on the radio, without disclaimers that it was FICTION, it ended up causing widespread panic that caused injuries to people.

What the media is doing right now with their virtual lynching of Senator Obama, (and by extension, any person of color, and any Christian) is a hundred times worse. They are spreading lies that are causing a panic among American voters that could swing the election of our next President.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Translator is in stores Now

Get the book and get informed.

Hear Daoud's voice in an interview on the BBC website "The World" from PRI (Public Radio International).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bus Karma in Black and White

It was a bright sunny day in San Diego, and I had graduated from my learner's permit to my own driver's license at last. From our picture window, I could see the corner of our block, and watched in surprise when a neatly dressed African American woman stepped down from a bus. After a moment of puzzlement, I concluded that someone in our white, privileged neighborhood had hired a cleaning lady. But she stood at the bus stop as if she were waiting for another bus. After twenty minutes, I walked across the street and introduced my self and asked her why she was waiting there. It was as I had feared - she thought there would be a another bus coming. She needed to get to a medical appointment a few miles away and the (white) bus driver had assured her there would be another bus. He could have known better, because his was the last bus of the day for our neighborhood.

I explained we had lived near that bus stop for five years, that I took the bus to school, and there was no bus from there that went to the medical clinic. I told her I would ask my mother if I could borrow the car to take her to the clinic, if she wanted to go with me. Putting herself in the hands of the Lord, (as I'm nearly certain now that she did), she thanked me with little hope but great dignity. She was surprised when I came right back in our black four-door Fiat. I peppered her with questions as we drove to her appointment. I probably said things in my ignorance that would make me cringe today. She responded at one point that I was "very young". Quite true - I was too young to "get it", which I proceeded to prove by replying that I was sixteen years old! When I offered to wait and drive her to a bus connection, she replied that her husband would come get her, no doubt thanking her guardian angel she made it to the clinic in one piece. (My driving was known to make brave men flinch, but I made up for my lack of skill with plenty of confidence.)

The reason she stands out in my mind after all these years is simple: it was the first time in my life I had a conversation with an African American. We didn't use the "n" word in our home, and my parents never told racial jokes, or spoke about race at all. I went to an "all white" high school, an "all white" church, and lived so deeply in the "white" suburbs that we never even drove past any African Americans that I can remember. I didn't realize at the time how strange and narrow my life was - to me it was just normal.

Three years later I was one of thousands office girls working in San Francisco. One evening I decided to visit my favorite art gallery in North Beach. None of my friends were interested, so I went by myself. At that time, San Francisco was still a friendly small town with a laid-back attitude, and I was still "very young" - too young to think anything bad could happen. Losing track of time as I lost myself in the evocative paintings of Margaret Keane, it was nearly turning midnight once I was on the bus back to the firehouse near Sacramento Street. When the (black) bus driver told me to get off at the next stop to transfer, I reminded him of my destination and asked him if he was sure. I seemed to remember a different route from earlier in the day. He said that bus didn't run this late and to get off if I wanted to transfer.

I stepped down into the balmy San Francisco summer night. There was little traffic, and behind me was a storefront with papered-over windows; even the glass inside the door frame was papered over with butcher paper. After waiting twenty minutes, I was getting worried there would be no bus. I was looking around for a public phone when the door behind me opened, and dozens of African American men, well-dressed for a meeting of some kind, poured out of the building. I tried to look invisible, but 120 pounds of 5 and a half foot girl can't hide behind a bus sign. Most of the men from the meeting left quickly, on their way back home. I was relived - until one man approached me, making sexual demands. I didn't realize it at the time, but looking back, it is clear he thought from the time and the neighborhood, that I was a hooker. Not this pandababy! I kept backing away in circles and protesting, hoping my bus would suddenly materialize. A few of the men who remained in front of the 'store' were telling him to leave me alone, but a few others were egging him on!

Suddenly, my persistent pursuer was dangling a foot off the ground, in the grip of a very large black man, who shook him a couple of times, and told him to 'take off'. I think his feet were running before they hit the pavement. I looked up, and up, and wondered if I had just gone from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. He looked down at me and said, "I'll just stand here with you until your bus comes, so you won't have any more trouble." He followed that sensible offer with more sensible advice, about young women not being out alone late at night, etc. When I protested that I lost track of time, he didn't look impressed. Then he asked me which bus I came on and which one I was waiting for. It turned out that my bus driver was a mischief maker like the one that dropped that lady off in our neighborhood a few years before. It turned out that the bus driver could have let me off in a different neighborhood for a different bus that was still running at that time of night, and that was a direct route to my destination.

I never connected the two incidents until today, when I heard Senator Obama's speech in Philadelphia on race in America. His message of unity and tolerance, of working together for a better America, prompted my memories of two unkind bus drivers, white and black, and two rescuers, white and black, and how individual acts of kindness can overcome the mischief makers.

I have watched some news people doing their jobs in a responsible manner, and also seen many who, like those bus drivers, can pretend they are "just doing their job" - but who are playing to racial tensions they know exist - and they're fanning the flames. As Senator Obama has said, "Nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change." Those bus drivers failed because individuals stood up for decency. Those who gleefully grab any pretext to stir up racial strife will fail too, because millions of people are standing up for decency.

It is time for us to work with honesty and with tolerance, to make individual choices to change America, to change our future into the fulfillment of the dream of those in the past who worked, and who sometimes died. We have inherited a better country because of their efforts, and it is our turn to make the sacrifices necessary to leave a better America for our descendants.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Voters Behaving Badly

If Democrats could choose which Republican would be nominated to run for President, wouldn't they have fun! Would they choose McCain? Maybe they'd pick Romney, who came in less than one half percent behind McCain in the crucial winner-take-all Florida primary.

Don't be silly, you say, only party members choose the party's presidential candidate? I only wish! The Boston Globe reports that Republicans made a 100,000 vote difference in the Democratic race in Ohio, 119,000 in Texas and 38,000 in the vote in Mississippi. These weren't the Republicans who have been voting for Obama because they want to vote for him in the fall. These were Republicans who will vote for McCain, and want to choose Hillary for his opponent. How does the Boston Globe know that? Well, because those voters told the pollsters so!

By my calculations, in Ohio that means that Hillary's ten point win is reduced to five points, the same as McCain's over Romney in Florida. In other words, some of the delegates she won would have gone to Obama if Ohio had rules the same election rules as Oregon's. In Oregon we don't have the option to vote the opposite party's ballot during a primary election.

Oregon and some other states have a "closed primary", where you have to be pre-registered as a member of that party to vote your choice of their candidate, which will then run against the other party's candidate in the general election in November. Oregon's rules are to protect parties against specious votes in cases just such as this, when one party's candidate is running virtually unopposed, and the other party has two candidates locked in a win-or-die struggle in the primary elections.

Those voters were urged into their bad behavior by idols of "good behavior" such as Rush Limbaugh, but just because something is legal, or some shock jock radio host says it's good, doesn't mean it is the right thing to do. Anything that weakens the security and veracity of election results is bad for all of us.

These voters behaving badly are making losers out of everyone who depends on fair elections - and ultimately, that is all of us.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

EARLY REVIEW: The Stars Down Under

The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald
ISBN: 0-7653-1644-7; March 18, 2008 by Tor Books

Science Fiction and Fantasy genres overlap in many ways, and none more clearly than in this second book of Sandra McDonald's. The plot threads that I most strongly hoped she would develop from the first book, The Outback Stars, are the focus of this second novel in a series.

The story is a mosaic of hard science and myth, wonders and the ordinary, aliens and regular people. I love the way McDonald writes - a combination of matter-of-fact space travel and unexpected intrusions by powers beyond the control of any human being. I love the way her characters struggle to keep their plans and their lives on track in the midst of being thrust into events that change everything.

Reading McDonald, I sometimes have a sense of magical realism as done by Gaiman or by Charles de Lint. Once in a while the science under the phenomenon is revealed but most often we are left with tantalizing questions, which may or may not be answered farther along in the story.

I like the way McDonald wraps up the story threads in a satisfying conclusion, but still leaves enough openings for the next book. I suspect she could easily write the same novel in twice the length and keep me interested. At 336 pages, The Stars Down Under was over too soon. There is no doubt I'll pre-order the next one in the series.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Coming March 18 - The Stars Down Under

The Stars Down Under by Sandra McDonald
ISBN: 0-7653-1644-7; March 18, 2008 by Tor Books

Monday afternoon mail delivery brought The Stars Down Under - an Advance copy from the author. Yes, I have the hardback edition on advance order, but this is sooner, and autographed, and I'm grateful and excited.

Science fiction is a broad genre, from stories rooted in hard science, to wars in space to alien societies to space opera. One thread all popular authors have in common in this genre, beginning with Jules Verne, is "novum". They imagine societies, places, inventions, that are something new and different, something beyond our science, or norms. Be it dreadful or admirable, they create aliens and future people who think and act in ways that are, well, alien to us. Sometimes a human character is thrust into this alien world, someone not so different from us, and we perceive the strange beings and strange places through their eyes, with their feelings that are what we might feel if we were in their shoes.

I've been reading science fiction since I was a teenager - five decades of a genre that has grown in many ways since the late fifties. There were few women in the early SF stories, and the heroes were nearly always men. But then, the writers were nearly always men, too. I read science fiction for the adventure, and the novum, and not because I could identify with any of the main characters. What they felt was not necessarily what I would feel in their shoes!

The world has changed in so many ways since then, that what was science fiction has become science fact, science history even! The roles of women in our world, and also in the world of fiction, are changed beyond what anyone imagined. Women are generals in our military, and pilots both military and civilian. I can't think of a field that excludes women - they go down in mines, up in spacecraft and qualify for every kind of job in between.

Women who write science fiction are not uncommon now, and they frequently (though not always) create protagonists who are women. Women are included in the genre novels written by men too now, in ways that were unheard of a few decades ago, as multi-dimensional characters with jobs, relationships, ambitions, feelings - the whole gamut.

All this pondering brings me to a particular author of science fiction, Sandra McDonald. Her blog lists being an officer in the U.S. Navy as one of her previous careers. She put her insider knowledge to good use in the first volume I read of hers - The Outback Stars, where a woman officer on a space navy ship is caught in dilemmas personal, professional, and dangerous.

In the sequel that just arrived, the themes which I hoped McDonald would develop from the first book are the main focus. I've been reading for two days, and my questions are being answered, delightfully.

This is not the review, since I haven't quite finished reading the book. So, this is just a note to commend women who write science fiction in general, because I find it much more enjoyable and accessible than sf written by men. Of women writers of sf, Sandra has blended in her own unique notes, in harmony with the whole yet entirely different and her own.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Silly Politics

From funny politics to downright silly. More on how using the 'say anything to win' old politics of the last century has come back to bite Hillary.

The Daily Kos quotes Slinkerwink's Diary: Sinbad reveals Hillary's 'vast experience' at making peace in Kosovo was on a stage entertaining our troops.

In the same article
, her vital role making peace in Ireland is debunked by Lord Trimble, who actually did make peace there - and won a Nobel Peace Prize for it. He called Hillary's claims "a wee bit silly".

I sympathize with the media not headlining these stories and more. None of us want a former First Lady to look foolish in public. Won't somebody stop her, please?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Funny Politics

Just when I was needing a good laugh, fate stepped in with a message for Hillary. The tired old political games of the previous century not only don't work these days - they can backfire "big time"!

The scare tactics ad that Hillary ran in Ohio, which made me so depressed has turned around to bite her. It seems the little girl in the stock footage in the ad will be eighteen in time to vote, and she is currently spending her time working to elect Obama.

It makes me feel a lot better to think that fate doesn't like the 'say anything to win' method any more than I do.

Here is an article quoting the girl in the Washington Post.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Been Feeling Depressed

not because Obama lost in Ohio, but because of how Hillary won - by using an old scare campaign ad and slinging mud. It doesn't stop with Ohio. She's trying to whip up support for seating the Florida delegates at the convention. What really happened in Florida? Are voters being disenfranchised?

The DLC might be described as a small but powerful Clinton machine that competes with the main Democratic National Party - the DNC. Are the DLC people in charge in Florida? Did they agree with the Republicans to have early primaries? Was it a calculated plan to hand the delegates to Clinton? Do they expect to force the DNC to break the rules and seat the Florida delegates? Look at the numbers for the Florida primary and compare them with other states. Instead of an extra large turnout of Democrats, Florida Democrats stayed home in droves. Why?

It is all about party rules and party politics. Democratic Party rules said Florida and Michigan were not taking their turn in primaries - they moved the election date ahead of other states and broke the agreement. The candidates agreed not to campaign in those two states, because the party said the election would be invalid and the delegates wouldn't be seated.

Now Hillary wants to change the rules to suit her herself. Was it a fair election in Florida and Michigan? How could it be? Most voters didn't even vote because they were told it wouldn't count. Are the Florida Democrats willing to split the party and lose the election? Is their argument about seating the delegates, or is that just a ploy? Why is it that their greatest supporter is the Republican Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist?

All this is just one little side-bar in the current trial of race and democracy in America. Make no mistake - it isn't about Hillary, although watching CNN, MSNBC, or reading the NYT would make one legitimately think otherwise. This election is about whether we will once again let dirty tricks and the media dictate our choice on election day.

This is about whether CNN, MSNBC, etc. will stop showing Hillary all the time, and showing the back of Obama's head while they talk over it. It is about media fairness and whether the NYT and other papers will stop publishing columns that either damn Obama with faint praise or praise him with faint damns, and start reporting the truth - he is the front runner. There is no 'virtual tie' except in the fantasies of Hillary Clinton.

Picture this: Hillary ahead by over half a million popular votes and over a hundred total delegates, and Obama and Michelle repeatedly and publicly call for Hillary to sign on as his vice president. Got the picture?

Now picture what the media would do with it.

Obama is the one ahead by in the popular votes and in the total delegates, and Bill and Hillary have been asking him to 'go to the back of the bus' and accept a position as her Vice President.

Wake up fellow Democrats and cast the sleep from your eyes. Look around and ask who has vastly more support from the Unions? (Obama) Who has the most diverse supporters in age, income, race, ethnic origins, or anything else? (Obama) Who is NOT taking money from the lobbyists who have run Washington and nearly run our country into the ground? (Obama) Which candidate draws the broadest support from people of all political stripes? (Obama) Which candidate can deliver victory for the party and a fresh start for America? (You guessed it!)

Will we wake up? Or will we once again show the Republicans that we can still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

and Ohio answered with a decisive YES!!

So Democrats are once again poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as Hillary prepares to savage the front-runner in a long and bloody battle that will culminate in McCain winning the general election in the fall. With the former First Lady fighting all his battles for him, how could he lose?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Will Dirty Tricks and Outright Lies Win in Ohio?

After sixteen years of acrimonious and nasty politics (eight under Clinton and eight under Bush) are Americans ready for a real change?

Either we cave in to the candidate who takes the low road - who expects us to believe whatever they say about their opponent, or we take the time to examine carefully what each candidate has done with their life, their time, their votes in Congress - and use the facts to choose wisely.

Political wisdom says that dirty politics works. Obama and his supporters say it is time for a change, and are demonstrating it in the way they conduct their campaign.

High road or low road America. Which will you choose?