Pete Hoekstra’s Racist Superbowl Ad

I hadn’t paid a visit to Phil Yu’s blog, Angry Asian Man – which the Washington Post called “a daily must-read for the media-savvy, socially conscious, pop-cultured Asian American” – in some time. In a recent post titled This Hoekstra Campaign Ad is Racist Bullshit, he points to this video:

Michigan viewers were “treated” to this ad run by Pete Hoekstra’s campaign to unseat Debbie Stabenow as United States Senator for the state during the Super Bowl.

The ad’s straight out of the old Charlie Chan serials, from the pentatonic “ching-chong” music (which has every stereotypical element except for the “Oriental Riff” and closing gong) to the rice paddy to the young woman speaking fake broken English. I’m surprised she doesn’t say “Me so horny for Amellika to fail! …and oh yeah, me put pee-pee in your Coke, too!

The rice paddy is one image of China, but it’s no more representative of the country than say, a Nebraska cornfield is of the United States. Equally representative is this picture, which is of a city you might not have heard of, despite its being one of the five major cities – Chongqing:


If you go to the website that accompanies the ad, you’ll see the stereotypes continue with its graphic design, which apes the best fakety-fake Chinese restaurant aesthetic. Reading it, it’s 1985 and I’m eating at Ruby Foo’s in Montreal again:

debbie spenditnow screencaps

Here’s FOX News’ “analysis” of the ad and the response to it. The “expert opinion” they bring is none other than Lou Dobbs, whose mantra is “a racist is a conservative who’s winning the argument”, and he rolls his eyes so hard that he’s almost risking injury by doing so:

Here’s what other, more legitimate, news outlets have to say:

One of the questions that should be asked is “Can you make a political ad where there theme is competing with China without resorting to stereotypes and racism?” The answer is “Yes…and it’s been done!” It’s called the “Chinese Professor Ad”, and I show it below:

I’m impressed with this one: well done, it gets the message across and it doesn’t do any of the “ching chong wing wong” stuff that Hoekstra’s ad does. The ad would’ve been made the same way if the competitors were blonde and blue-eyed.

The only thing wrong is its premise that the U.S. is falling behind China because of stimulus spending; China’s is a big central planning-style government that pretty much stimulus spends all the time (when it’s not covering up its shoddy human rights record).

For a better picture on why a lot of money’s going to China, see the New York Times article How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work. Hey, America – you want to win, bro? Don’t hate; innovate!


Jack Layton’s Last Letter

Jack layton cheering crowd

Photo from the National Post.

In his final days, Jack Layton wrote this letter to Canadians. It’s nothing short of moving and inspiring. This may be politics’ answer to Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. Mr. Layton, I salute you with a filet mignon on a flaming sword.

Layton letterhead

August 20, 2011
Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better.  Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Layton signature

Jack Layton


RIP Jack Layton

Jack Layton, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party and of the Loyal Opposition, passed away earlier this morning at the age of 61 after a long battle with cancer. He will be missed.

Jack layton

Once there was a time when you wouldn’t catch me voting for an NDP candidate. I consider myself a “radical centrist”, I graduated with a real degree and work for a living after all ;). That being said, I’ve always been fond of Jack Layton and his political work in both municipal and federal spheres. I’ve even seen some die-hard Conservative voters say this of Jack: “Right guy, wrong party,” a great indicator of the esteem in which he is held across the the political spectrum as well as across the party.


I did vote NDP in the last election (that’s my ballot in the photo above; I took the photo on the sly), in spite of the temptation to give a “pity vote” to the Radical Marijuana Party and the always-unintentionally-hilarious local rep Terry “Huh?” Parker. A lot of the credit goes to Mr. Layton himself: his voting record is most in line with my thinking, his local representative Peggy Nash work hard for my riding (High Park) and in my opinion, he did the best at the debates. He was certainly the only candidate I liked.

Jack layton 2
Jack Layton at Parliament Hill, earlier this year. Photo by the National Post.

Layton’s performance at the debates is said to have led to the NDP’s surge in the federal election earlier this year. For those of you not familiar with Canadian Politics, the NDP have long been Canada’s “third party”. Not this time: in the second half of the campaign, the NDP’s popularity grew to the point where they were in the number two position behind the Conservatives across most of Canada; in Quebec, they’d unseated the Bloc Quebecois as the number one choice.

I want you to consider this for a moment. In beating the Bloc, he did what no other politician has done: he effectively nullified the question of Quebec’s separation. From a near-miss referendum in 1995 to a non-issue in 2011? That’s damned impressive.

This rally led both the Conservatives and Liberals to target the NDP in the final days of their campaigns, an acknowledgment of the party’s newfound clout. The NDP won the second-most seats in Canada after the Conservatives, making them the Party of the Loyal Opposition for the first time. I remember thinking that a Conservative majority with the NDP as its official foil was the best of the possible outcomes: the Tin Man and his heart.

Jack layton and olivia chow
Jack Layton and his wife at the Pride Parade in Toronto, 2009. Photo by the National Post.

Every politician talks about “the little guy” or “everyday people like you and me”, but most seem to view it as a sort of abstract thing, the way you or I might talk about being an astronaut or Navy SEAL — we have a vague idea of what it’s like, and it’s probably been distorted by the movies and we’ve never done and will likely never do that sort of thing. Jack’s willingness to go door-to-door and talk to you no matter who you were, appear at the most rag-tag of events and even to invite a local accordion player to play an opening number at one of his speeches solely on the recommendation of a friend (alas, I was out of town) suggested that he truly got it.

Jakc layton olivia chow canoe
What could be more Canadian than a canoe trip with the Missus? Photo by the National Post.

The sky looks appropriately somber as I write this in Vancouver. I fly back to Ottawa this afternoon Pacific Time, where I live just falling distance from Parliament Hill. I suspect that things will be a little more muted and somber over the next couple of days, owing to the respect the man had from all sides.

I hold out hope that this made-up headline has at least a little truth in it: “Jack Layton steps down from NDP leadership to take some time “to sit down with this God fellow and talk about how we might improve things for the average man.”

Requiescat in pace, Jack.


Strange Things are Afoot in My ‘Hood

meat mischief

Pictured above: a snapshot taken last week of the neighbourhood paper at my local café. Meat mischief? Cat hoarding? What’s going on here?