December 2012 Archives

Andrew Lam

Birds of Paradise Lost: Stories about Vietnamese Immigrants in California

By Andrew Lam, Dec 27, 2012 12:03 PM

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 The thirteen stories in Birds of Paradise Lost shimmer with humor and pathos as they chronicle the anguish and joy and bravery of America's newest Americans, the troubled lives of those who fled Vietnam and remade themselves in the San Francisco Bay Area. The past?memories of war and its aftermath, of murder, arrest, re-education camps and new economic zones, of escape and shipwreck and atrocity?is ever present in these wise and compassionate stories.

Andrew Lam

If It's Bleak On Earth, Look Up To The Heavens

By Andrew Lam, Dec 24, 2012 10:34 AM

 Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for getdata.asp.html.jpeg  This Christmas season that bright distinctive star that once led the three wise men to Bethlehem takes on an extra meaning. Some astronomers have over the years speculated that the star might have very well been a comet, as comets can be extremely bright and visible for months in the night sky, moving against a background of stars. But none until now thought that it could also be the source of life itself -a cosmic pollen carrying possible genetic and organic materials; the primordial soup.

Latest scientific discoveries in astronomy suggest conditions for life is rife everywhere. The more science discover, the deeper the mystery of the universe,

Consider: A few years ago NASA’s press release on the comet dust brought back to Earth by the space probe Stardust: °These chunks of ice and dust wandering our solar system appear to be filled with organic molecules that are the building blocks of life.”


The finding surprised scientists because many predicted that the space probe would find mostly ice. Instead, the finding could lend support for the belief that comets could have “seeded” life on our planet as well as others.

Such a statement would have been unimaginable only a few decades ago. Traditionally humans have an egocentric tendency to explain our place in the universe.

But as astonishing discoveries are being made, that sense of self- importance had given way to a more humble assessment of our place in the cosmos.

Everywhere we look, peering as far as we can into our universe, we find tantalizing evidence that supports conditions for life. From evidence of water once flowed on Mars to ice on the moon or a giant ocean found on Titan, Saturn's moon.

Add to these findings the continual discoveries of exoplanets- those that orbit stars - a total of 854 such planets as of 2012, some in "habitable" zones where conditions are ripe for life.


In a sense, Science chips away at our ancient myths only to reveal even greater mysteries. The more science reveals, the more mysterious the revelation. Science, in other word, is at its best when it evokes, like art, the experience of wonder and awe.

War and strife seem endless on our little blue planet, but up above the heavens is sublime. We look at the Christmas star might very well be a comet whose dust might be full of the stuff that creates life. This gives new meanings to a very old story, and it leaves some of us who gaze upward breathless. 


New America Media editor, Andrew Lam is the author of “Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora” (Heyday Books, 2005), which won a Pen American “Beyond the Margins” award and where the above essay is excerpted, and “East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.” His next book, “Birds of Paradise Lost” is due out in 2013. He has lectured and read his work widely at many universities.


Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Veto SB 59! No guns in my children's schools!

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Dec 17, 2012 2:41 PM


The night before the school shooting in Connecticut, in a marathon late night session, lame duck Michigan legislature voted to allow concealed weapons at schools, daycares, churches, arenas, hospitals, etc.

Walter Ewing

Colorado Digs Itself Into a Fiscal Hole in the Name of Immigration Enforcement

By Walter Ewing, Dec 17, 2012 10:30 AM

Immigration Impact

At a time when state budget deficits are growing larger, you might think that state governments would avoid imposing costly, unfunded mandates on themselves. Yet that is exactly what states are doing when they pass laws that transform their police officers into proxy immigration agents. As officers spend more of their scarce resources and time rounding up people whom they suspect of being unauthorized immigrants, costs mount not only for the police force, but for jails and courts as well. More often than not, these costs are being needlessly incurred in order to lock up people who are in no way a threat to public safety.

Andrew Lam

Social Media's Reaction to Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut

By Andrew Lam, Dec 14, 2012 4:55 PM

 I've been a writer and commentator for twenty years and have published from NY Times to Mother Jones to LA Magazine, but words failed me when I heard news of the horrific massacre that took place this morning in Newtown, Connecticut, leaving 28 people dead, 20 of them children.

The conversation on social media has been mostly about guns and gun control. So I am reposting what friends are posting on facebook...  


"Too many innocent people have died over the "right to keep and bear arms". The language of the second amendment states, "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". Ok, so this right was intended for an individual or militia to aid the military in case of defense. I haven't seen one news story about this right being used in such a manner. Seems like one reason we preserve this right is because irrational fear by gun owners. Well, if the gun owner has such irrational fear, then we can also argue some mental instability and cognitive dissonance, which should disqualify them from ownership in the first place. Then we have those who preserve this right because it is an “American Tradition”. So what if it’s an American Tradition. Slavery, indentured servants, and women’s suffrage were all American Traditions that were abolished for clearly being against the greater good. It's time for a constitutional upgrade.."


"I think a moderate gun-owner's organization could poach membership from the NRA, and also pick up people who own guns but aren't NRA members. It might well lobby against cities' attempts to ban handguns, as clear violations of the 2nd amendment. It would NOT lobby against restrictions on assault rifles, or any other astonishingly sensible gun control measure."

"If you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don’t start the story with sirens blaring. Don’t have photographs of the killer. Don’t make this 24-7 coverage. Do everything you can to not make the body-count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero. DO localize the story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market. Because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week."

"There have been a ridiculous number of random public shootings this year-3 or 4 times the usual number. If I were a paranoid conspiracy theorist i would think that the government was staging these to take away guns from private citizens. Seriously, there has been a shooting every 15-30 days. Why so many more than in previous years?"

‎"If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.

"Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. But that’s unacceptable. As others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t “too soon.” It’s much too late."

‎"Guns don't attack children; psychopaths and sadists do. But guns uniquely allow a psychopath to wreak death and devastation on such a large scale so quickly and easily. America is the only country in which this happens again -- and again and again."

"More than mental health issues, more than a culture of violence, it's the type of weapon used that is the difference between life and death. Guns are extremely lethal, meant for killing. They should be under extreme regulation..."


"I'm seeing FB friends posting their shock at how this is possible in America -- that we're a better people, a better country than this.

I understand this reaction, but I think we also have to get real: As much as we want to think of the U.S. as exceptional -- and yes, there are many ways in which we are -- there are things about this nation, this nation we love and love to celebrate, that are horribly and INCOMPREHENSIBLY backwards.

One of them is our fucking obsession with guns, and the vast, vile lobbying industry that has sprung up around it. These are America, at our least beautiful. When will we simply say...enough?"

"I am saddened again by the american two gun society. i can hear the NRA already...its not guns that kill children, its children who kill children...or if all the teachers and students had freer access to guns, they would have nailed the shooter before he killed so many...i mourn these children and all the children who are falling though the cracks of our very violent two gun society, and endlessly warring world.."

"Twenty-two children injured [in China by a knife wielding assailant]. Versus, at current count, 18 little children and nine other people shot dead. That's the difference between a knife and a gun.

Guns don't attack children; psychopaths and sadists do. But guns uniquely allow a psychopath to wreak death and devastation on such a large scale so quickly and easily. America is the only country in which this happens again -- and again and again. You can look it up...

...For parents, siblings, and families whose lives have been forever changed (or ended), deepest sympathies. For us as a nation .... I don't know what to say."

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