Rest in Peace, Leonard Nimoy

February 27, 2015

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Leonard Nimoy, actor best known for his role as Spock in the original Star Trek series, has passed away of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 83.

It should be noted that in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world; a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect and nourish. He did not feel this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human.

In Major Victory for #NetNeutrality, FCC Votes to Classify Internet as Public Utility

February 26, 2015

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In a hotly-anticipated vote, the FCC decided today to classify internet service as public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The 3-2 vote (which was split down party lines) drew the attention of progressives and net neutrality activists — including me — who urged the FCC in a series of campaigns to vote in favour of a Title II reclassification.

Title II reclassification is generally agreed to be a critical step in protecting net neutrality by establishing guidelines that would prevent major cable and internet providers from (in essence) messing with internet service in order to earn money. The new classification prohibits cable providers from, for example, establishing fast internet service for premium customers, and relegating customers who can’t or won’t pay extra for fast-lane access to significantly slower download speeds.

Title II reclassification was bizarrely opposed by many major civil rights organizations — including several high profile Asian American groups — perhaps because major cable providers such as Comcast are prominent donors to these organizations. But Title II reclassification is a boon for all digital citizens, and in particular those of us who rely on a (free, open) internet to amplify otherwise marginalized voices.

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Why We Must Support the Indictment of Peter Liang

February 26, 2015
Officer Peter Liang leaves his home in Brooklyn. Photo credit: Sam Hodgson / New York Times
Officer Peter Liang leaves his home in Brooklyn. Photo credit: Sam Hodgson / New York Times

In December of last year, I predicted that Officer Peter Liang — the rookie New York Police Department cop who fatally shot Akai Gurley in a dark stairwell in the Louis H. Pink Houses complex — might be the first (and perhaps only) police officer indicted in the killing of an unarmed Black man when this issue was captivating national headlines.

Earlier that year, the killing of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson failed to result in an indictment for his killer Darren Wilson. Eric Garner’s death following an illegal chokehold administered by Daniel Pantaleo also did not produce an indictment. The shooting of unarmed John Crawford III in an Ohio Walmart by police did not result in an indictment. The shooting of unarmed college student Jordan Baker by police in Houston did not result in an indictment. No charges were even filed against the Utah police who shot and killed Darrien Hunt, cosplaying with a replica sword at the time of his death.

In fact, post-Ferguson analysis suggests that although any district attorney worth their weight can get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich“, this rule of thumb only seems to apply to civilians; indictment rates for police officers are markedly lower. Josh Voorhees estimates for Slate that most police officers are not indicted for on-the-job shootings: between 2005-2011, only 41 officers were ever indicted, which works out to only a little less than 7 indictments a year. Many sources further report that only 1 in 3 of those police officers who are actually indicted are ever convicted.

I predicted in December that Officer Peter Liang might be one of those police who would face indictment.

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Virginia votes unanimously to recognize Korematsu Day!

February 25, 2015

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Big news out of the Virginia state legislature today!

In a unanimous vote, the Virginia Senate passed House Joint Resolution 641 to recognize January 30th as Korematsu Day. The day recognizes the historic contribution of Fred T. Korematsu to American history; during World War II, Korematsu — who was an US-born Japanese American citizen — refused to abide by Executive Order 9066 which authorized the incarceration of Japanese Americans in concentration camps (read more about the power of words). Korematsu was arrested and convicted for his refusal.

After the war, Korematsu filed a Supreme Court challenge to the constitutionality of the camps through seeking an appeal to his conviction. Korematsu’s success in overturning his conviction was a significant step in winning reparations for Japanese American survivors of the camps.

Fred T. Korematsu passed away on March 30, 2005. Today, Korematsu’s daughter, Karen, heads the Korematsu Institute, which works to keep Korematsu’s legacy — and the history of Japanese American forcible imprisonment during World War II — alive. One effort of the Institute is to try and have January 30, Fred Korematsu’s birthday, recognized nationally and in all 50 states as Korematsu Day.

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Stereotypes and the State Department: Why aren’t we rallying behind Stephen Kim?

February 25, 2015
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Stephen Kim, a former State Department contractor who was charged with espionage in 2010. (Photo Credit: Cliff Owens / AP)

Most of us know the name of Edward Snowden, the computer programmer who leaked so much classified government data that journalists are still sifting through it. Snowden, who has been hailed simultaneously as an American hero and an American traitor, is currently living in exile in an undisclosed location in Moscow as he faces charges under the Espionage Act for revealing classified information pertaining to (among other things) America’s overseas unmanned drone program and the NSA’s expansive metadata and phone surveillance programs.

Most of us also know the name of Chelsea Manning, who prior to taking her new identity as Chelsea served as Bradley Manning in the US Army where she leaked the largest package of classified information to the public via Wikileaks, including documents pertaining to US airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning was prosecuted under the Espionage Act and is currently serving 35 years in prison.

Few of us know the name of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a Korean American former mid-level contracted analyst who worked in the Pentagon’s prestigious Office of Net Assessment think-tank and then later in the State Department’s Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation. In 2010, Kim became one of a handful of analysts and journalists targeted by the FBI; these investigations were a manifestation of the Obama Administration’s sudden and unprecedented crackdown on internal leaks in the wake of the Manning case.

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