Arby’s Protest in Sunnyvale, California – January 26, 2018

On January 26, 2018 I saw a post in Facebook about a protest taking place in Arby’s in Sunnyvale. Several workers accuse the management of the store of wage theft and sexual harassment.

When I was there, a large crowd of activists were there. I saw a few familiar faces and asked them how their holidays went. Because I am Filipino American, I always get a thrill when I see Filipino American activists participating in protests. There is a long and proud history of Filipino Americans fighting for labor rights and human rights.

Several of the speakers had suffered sexual harassment in the workplace themselves. They are determined to fight for the rights of all workers, which I deeply admire.

Here is a video of the protest.

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Women’s March in San Jose, CA – January 2018

On January 20, 2018 my niece and I participated in the Women’s Day March in San Jose, California. We were both inspired by the diversity and the great number of people who attended the march. People were showing their support for women’s rights, immigrant rights, Muslim American rights, LGBTQ rights, and the rights of all Americans. People were getting into conversations with total strangers about the political issues that they cared about.

After the march and the speeches, my niece and I went to get some boba tea and visit a statue in San jose State that commemorates Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’ raised fists in the 1968 Olympics. I thought it was a good way to honor the activists of the past that paved the way for the activism of today.

Here is a video of the march.

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The Martin Luther King Jr Day Commemorative Train – January 2018

On January 15, 2018 my niece and I went on the Martin Luther King Jr Day Commemorative Train. The train goes from San Jose to San Francisco in honor of the 50 mile civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. My niece has developed a real interest in social justice issues, which is something that I am very proud of.

This year, I noticed that the crowds were a lot larger. There were a lot of pre-printed signs that people were holding. In the past MLK train rides, there were a lot more hand-made signs, and a lot more activist groups represented. This year, I saw a lot of corporate signs like PayPal, Google, and such.

After the march, my niece and I went to the Metreon to see some of the cartoonists in the Black Comix Arts Festival. We both had a good time. I had some fun conversations with a cartoonist who was a Saints fan and a cartoonist who was a Steelers fan. They both were still in a state of shock at how yesterday’s playoff games went.

Here is a video of the day.

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Norman Lear and Loving Those We Disagree With

Last December I was happy to see television producer Norman Lear be honored with the Kennedy Center Honors for the ground-breaking television show that Lear produced in the 1970s. The 1970s struggled with many of the same issues facing us today: war, race relations, economic inequality, a declining working class. The Kennedy Center Honors website noted:

America was in a period of post-war prosperity and incredible social upheaval. In the news there were civil rights demonstrations, assassinations, generational divides, a growing war in Vietnam, second-wave feminism, rock-and-roll, and protests…

…Lear displayed an unparalleled ability to both make statements and entertain. In the 1970s, Lear was the mind behind sitcom hit after hit like All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, The Jeffersons, or Sanford and Son…

…Lear’s work touched a broad range of issues from race relations and economic issues to sexuality and abortion. Every week, he battled with network censors, political and TV critics, and sometimes his own cast who asked if this was the episode that would push the envelope too far. But his work never sacrificed its comedy and heart for the bully pulpit, and American viewers watched by the millions.

Lear has said that he sees the comedy and foolishness in the human condition. He’s said that he wasn’t trying to break barriers as much as writing about what he knew and saw happening in the culture around him, and the American public responded.

In this time of exteme partisanship, I think Norman Lear shows like All In The Family are especially timely. Lear’s shows are full of arguments between friends and family members with deeply opposing views. But in showing these arguments, it also shows the love that the friends and family members have for each other in spite of their disagreements. Shows like All In The Family gave a glimpse on how people can still love people whom they deeply disagree.

Emily Nussbaum wrote an insightful New Yorker article titled The Great Divide: Norman Lear, Archie Bunker, and the rise of the bad fan where she points out:

Lear responded with his own Times essay, “As I Read How Laura Saw Archie,” arguing that of course bigots could be lovable, as anyone with a family knew. If Archie Bunker didn’t use harsher language, it was because those words were “from another decade.” Besides, Michael and Gloria, the bleeding-heart liberals, always got the last word. Despite Lear’s playful response, later episodes of “All in the Family” contain many echoes of this debate. The show’s tone gradually softened, and the more caustic slang dropped out; Archie even stopped telling Edith to “stifle.” (As with “m*a*s*h,” its creators were influenced by the rise of feminism.) In Season 8, there’s a trenchant sequence in which Archie, drunk and trapped in a storage room with Michael, talks about his childhood. Yes, his father said “nigger” while he was growing up, Archie says—everybody did—and when Michael tells him what his father said was wrong, Archie delivers a touching, confused defense of the man who raised him, who held his hand, but who also beat him and shoved him in a closet. It was all out of love, Archie insists. “How could any man that loves you tell you anything that’s wrong?” he murmurs, just before he passes out. The scene should have been grotesquely manipulative and mawkish, but, strengthened by O’Connor’s affecting performance, it makes Lear’s point more strongly than any op-ed, even decades later: bigotry is resilient, because rejecting it often means rejecting your own family.

The hope that Lear hopes is that by keeping relationships with family members whom we disagree with, perhaps we can turn them away from the worst racism and bigotry. Robert David Sullivan wrote in the AV/TV Club article Ten episodes that show how All In The Family changed television :

Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) was an antihero decades before the term was regularly applied to TV characters. Archie never totally “broke bad,” but he had a deep mistrust of the human race, and he tried to provide for his family by taking advantage of every opportunity he could find, including his inherent privileges as a white man in America. He wasn’t “politically incorrect” just for the fun of it, which is why so many sitcoms with superficial “Archie Bunker types” have failed. In the earliest episodes, his cynical worldview is primarily challenged by liberal son-in-law Mike (Rob Reiner) and daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), both boarding at the Bunkers’ while Mike attends college. But by the second season, wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) assumes the show’s voice for optimism and compassion, and her slow struggle to pull Archie away from his comfort zone of suspicion and bitterness becomes the main theme of the series.

In a November 2017 interview with Jon Wiener for The Nation Magazine, Lear looked for the humanity in characters like Archie Bunker:

Jon Wiener: When All in the Family was getting started in the early seventies, nobody thought racism or homophobia could be funny on network TV. Today we have a similar feeling. We can have satire of Trump, but we’re worried about the Trump people—we don’t want to ridicule them; we want to understand them. We need to win them back. What was your thinking when you created Archie Bunker?

Norman Lear: There was an antecedent to All in the Family: a British show called, Till Death Us Do Part. But it was very different from All in the Family, because the central character was totally unlikable, and nobody cared that he had a daughter or a wife who loved him. I couldn’t do a show without recognizing the central character as someone who was loved by family—and was, in some ways, lovable for us too, because he was human, and carried all those human frailties with him. Archie Bunker comes out of all of those mixed feelings, and that antecedent.

Here is the Norman Lear Biopic narrated By George Clooney for the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors

Kennedy Center Honoree Norman Lear on the Red Carpet at the 40th annual Kennedy Center Honors.

Here is the All In The Family episode where Mike and Archie are stuck in the basement. Archie reveals his conflicted feelings towards his own father.

Here is the All In The Family episode where Mike, Gloria and grandson Joey move to California. Mike tells Archie how much he loves him

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Senator Orrin Hatch and His Collaboration with Senator Ted Kennedy

I read that Senator Orrin Hatch will be retiring. I have deep disagreements with Senator Hatch’s conservative politics, but I respect his willingness during most of his career to cross the aisle and collaborate with Democrats on areas of common ground. Senator Hatch’s most famous collaboration was with liberal Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy. They become close friends during their times in the Senate. Their friendship was close enough that Hatch was able to privately confront Kennedy on the excesses of his private life and told Kennedy that he had to get his drinking under control. Due to the urgings of friends like Orrin Hatch and Kennedy’s marriage to Vicky Reggie, Kennedy cleaned up his private life and was happy and content in the later years of his life.

Among the most important bills that Senators Hatch and Kennedy collaborated on:

The Orphan Drug Act , which provided tax credits for encouraging the development of medicines for rare diseases.

The Ryan White Aids Act, which established a federally funded program for people living with HIV/AIDS, with an emphasis on providing funding to improve availability of care for low-income, uninsured, and under-insured victims of AIDS and their families.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provided health insurance to thousands of the working poor across our country.

The Mammography Standards in 1992

The Americans with Disabilities Act, which provided individual protections from discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

The FDA Revitalization Act of 2007, which addressed many critical issues including the need to provide proper incentives and support for the development and review of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and the need for heightened efforts to assure the safety of medications.

The PDUFA, a program that created drug user fees to help expedite the approval of new drugs. This legislation continues to be reauthorized.

The Health Centers Renewal Act of 2007, which reauthorized the health center program for five more years and provided people with essential health care services.

The FDAMA – FDA Modernization Act of 1997, which regulated prescription drug advertising, food safety, and codified the requirements for access to life saving medicines.

The Bioshield Legislation, which increased federal, state, and local infrastructure for bioterrorism preparedness.

Sadly, this era of bipartisan collaboration seems to have passed. As the Republican Party has moved further to the extreme Right, Republicans have become more averse to partnering with Democrats on areas of common ground for fear of punishment from extreme Right wing groups. Michael Tomasky for The New York Times wrote an article titled The Sad Trajectory of Orrin Hatch on the effect this has had on Senator Hatch. Tomasky wrote:

Mr. Hatch’s career reflects the sad trajectory of our times, from a Congress where legislators had differences but actually tried to legislate, to one in which legislators — especially Republicans, terrified of facing a well-financed primary from the right — do nothing of the sort…

…Mr. Hatch did what senators did in those days: He governed. Across party lines. His most famous association, of course, was with Edward M. Kennedy. They worked together on biomedical research, child care, AIDS and civil rights for the disabled.

Most important, they teamed up in 1997 on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the same program that’s on the block today…

…Mr. Hatch was up for re-election in 2012. He faced a Tea Party challenger, Dan Liljenquist. He knew what he had to do. He opposed virtually every item on Barack Obama’s agenda. He ratcheted up the rhetoric. In 2007, Freedom Works, a right-wing pressure group, rated him at an abysmal 25 percent. By 2011, Mr. Hatch had brought that up to 88 percent. He’d burnished his right-wing credentials enough so that Sarah Palin endorsed him in 2012. He beat Mr. Liljenquist nearly two to one…

…It’s not that Mr. Hatch is a bad man. He’s surely a decent man, trapped in an indecent dynamic.

I hope that the Republican Party moves away from the extreme Right and reaches out to Democrats to work on areas of common ground.

Here is Senator Orrin Hatch’s remarks at the memorial service of Senator Ted Kennedy

Here is a video of Senator Orrin Hatch talking about the Serve America Act, the last collaboration between Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Ted Kennedy.

According to Wikipedia, The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act expanded on the AmeriCorps program. Included in this bill are some major provisions related to improving volunteerism. First, five new service corps are created which address the needs of low income communities. These include a Clean Energy Corps to encourage energy efficiency and conservation; an Education Corps to help increase student engagement, achievement and graduation; a Healthy Futures Corps to improve health care access; a Veterans Service Corps to enhance services for veterans; and an Opportunity Corps.

Conservative Republican Orrin Hatch and liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy collaborated in the Ryan White Act, a bill that helped AIDS victim during the worst of the AIDS crisis.

In 1984, 13-year-old Ryan White changed the face of AIDS by speaking out against intolerance. Following his death in 1990, the Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency) Act received vast bipartisan support and today is the backbone of our fight against HIV/AIDS in the United States, providing lifesaving treatment and prevention services to nearly half of all people living with HIV nationwide.

Senator Ted Kennedy interviewed by On A Roll Disability Talk Radio Host, Greg Smith, during the 10-year anniversary celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Continue reading

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Roy Moore and the Problem of Groupthink

For the past few weeks, I’ve been caught up in the Alabama Senate race and the prospect of conservative voters getting Roy Moore elected to the Senate. At first, I was just as mystified as anyone else as to why conservative Evangelicals would support someone who is accused of pedophilia and rape. When I think of it though, this may be another case of extreme groupthink.

I don’t think that conservatives are the only ones guilty of this. Radical leftists turned a blind eye to Stalin’s purges in the 1930s and the horrors of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. In 2016 I left a few Filipino facebook pages when I got into conflicts with individuals who tried to justify Rodrigo Duterte’s extrajudicial killings. Groupthink is a problem of human nature that both the Left and the Right are vulnerable to.

Recently I saw the trailer to the movie Chappaquidick. During the 1980s and 1990s, conservative friends would question why I am a big fan of Ted Kennedy in spite of what happened in Chappaquiddick. For those of you who do not know, Chappaquiddick was a terrible incident that happened in 1969 when Ted Kennedy drove off a wooden bridge in the middle of the night and his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne drowned. I don’t think there was any evil intent in the death of Kopechne. I think it was just a terrible accident. The issue has always been why did Kennedy wait 10 hours before he contacted the police on the accident. I do agree with my conservative friends that Kennedy probably should’ve spent time in jail.

In spite of that, I still respect all that Ted Kennedy did to pass legislation for civil rights, immigration, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, workers rights, affordable health care. And after he married Vicki Reggie in the early 1990s, he cleaned up his private life. From everything I read, Kennedy spent his life trying to make amends for the terrible thing he did in 1969.

I still have heroes. But I realize that all heroes have feet of clay. I most admire those who had the capacity to grow and change as they learned about the injustices in the world.

Abraham Lincoln was always against slavery, but he held racist views of the inferiority of African Americans before he become President in 1860. During the war, though, Lincoln began to change his mind. He met African American leaders like Frederick Douglass whom Lincoln deeply respected. And Lincoln grew to admire the courage of the African American Union soldiers who fought against the South. At the end of the war, Lincoln held very different views about the equality of African Americans than he did at the beginning of the war.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Malcolm X spouted some very anti-white racist views and he was deeply critical of Martin Luther King Jr and the southern civil rights movement. After Malcolm had a falling out with the Black Muslims and took a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964, Malcolm X tempered his views on whites and became more open to alliances with any group who was fighting against systemic racism. Malcolm grew into one of the most insightful leaders in the civil rights movement before he was tragically killed.

Robert Kennedy had a similar evolution. During the 1950s, RFK had been in the committee helping Joe McCarthy investigate alleged communists, and he was relentless in his fight against Jimmy Hoffa and corruption in the Teamsters union. Before Kennedy became Attorney General, he didn’t think much about the civil rights of African Americans. After learning dealing with the intransigence of white segregationists and interacting with civil rights activists, RFK slowly began to gain greater awareness and sympathy for the plight of African Americans. After his brother was assassinated, RFK reached out to Native Americans, striking migrant farmworkers and poor Appalachian white communities. Towards the end of his life, Robert Kennedy became a champion of the poor and the marginalized in this country.

My philosophy when it comes to any political leader is that I’ll support them on issues where I agree with them, I’ll oppose them on issues where I disagree with them. Since I’m liberal, I’ll be more supportive of liberal political leaders on most issues. But I’m willing to support conservative leaders if they are fighting for issues that I support.

I try to judge any political leader by the totality of their life and not just the mistakes of their youth. If they made mistakes in their past, did they acknowledge their mistakes and make amends for it? If they espoused racist or prejudiced views in the past, have they tried to overcome their racist views and fight for equal rights for all? With the news of sexual harassment, have those who are guilty paid the price and tried to make amends?

I’ll probably watch Chappaquidick when it comes out. It probably won’t change my mind about Ted Kennedy. For me, Ted will always be a deeply flawed man who tried very hard to overcome those flaws to fight the good fight for the poor and the marginalized of this society.

Here is the trailer to the movie Chappaquidick

A Boston Globe video by Bill Greene and Ann Silvio on the Chappaquidick incident, based on reporting by Jenna Russell

A video by The Boston Globe’s Joe Kahn on Ted Kennedy’s personal evolution. In the 1970s and 1980s, Ted Kennedy’s personal life was out of control, with issues of womanizing and alcohol hounding him. In the early 1990s, Kennedy cleaned up his private life as he found happiness in his marriage to Vicki Reggie

A Boston Globe video by Ann Silvio and Scott LaPierre about the many ways Ted Kennedy helped ordinary citizens and those who were struggling in our society

Adam Clymer, the author of ‘Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography’ discusses the impact Ted Kennedy had on the Senate since taking office in November 1962. Senator Kennedy produced significant legislation that helped Americans on civil rights, worker rights, affordable health care, women’s rights, immigration

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Thoughts for the New Year


This has been a roller coaster of a year for me, both in terms of politics and in terms of my personal life. At the beginning of the year I attended a lot of protests and political rallies.  Being around like-minded people really helped pull me out of the depression I sometimes felt when I would read the latest news of Trump and his administration.  When my father had knee replacement surgery, I had to pull back from doing any political activities, as I spent more time helping my parents out.

Three issues are uppermost in my mind in 2018 when I do my political cartoons: the racism and religious bigotry of the Alt Right and its bad influence on the Republican Party; figuring out how to bridge the divide between the working class white communities that supported Trump and the minority communities that feel threatened by Trump; the horrific nature of Duterte’s policy of extrajudicial killings, which is just state sponsored murder.  I deeply dislike Trump, but in 2017 I tried to focus my cartoons more on the issues rather than personally attacking Trump.  Trump may be exploiting the great racial and cultural divisions in this country, but he didn’t create those problems.  

One of the biggest challenges that I think Democrats and responsible Republicans have to face is to bridge the divide between the white working class communities in the Rust Belt and South and the minority communities found in the urban areas of the coast.  Many of these working class white communities are facing the same problems that inner city African American communities faced in the 1970s and 1980s.  As the industries that once provided middle class jobs to those communities began disappearing due to either globalization or automation, both white and black communities began exhibiting the same symptoms of despair: a widening drug problem; a lack of hope for the future; a loss of faith in education; a rise in suicide rates; a sense of isolation from the wider American society; an increase in crime.  In the same way that the economic struggles of the 1920s and 1930s led many Germans to support Hitler, a sense of economic despair and anger is making a portion of the white working class more vulnerable to the bigotry of the Alt Right.  This increase in prejudice in turn is having a devastating effect on many vulnerable minority communities.

So I think our government needs to find ways of helping both these working class white and minority communities.  Both communities have far more common interests than they have differences.  They need to see that minorities are not their enemies.  The great foe to both groups is the economic inequalities of the current system.

I also think it’s important to return to civility in political discourse. One of the things that I hate most about Trump is his reliance on personal attacks and demagogic appeals rather than sober discussion on political issues.  “Little Marco”, “Lying Ted”, “Crooked Hillary”, “Pocohantas”.  I think this reliance on personal attacks is very bad for our democratic discourse.  One of the foundations of a democratic republic is the sober discussion on political issues.  People of differing views cannot have an intelligent debate on important issues without civility.  I used to try to engage with anyone who wants to discuss politics with me. After several bad experiences though, I’ve learned that I have to pick my spots on when to engage and when not to. I’m still willing to have a dialogue with sane conservatives who are respectful of differences of opinion.  I’ve had too many bad experiences though with crazy conservatives who are just interested in a monologue where I’m just expected to listen and automatically agree with everything they say. 

For the past year I’ve also focused my political cartoons on the extrajudicial killings in President Duterte’s war on drugs.  Killing people who are only suspected of a crime without giving them a chance to defend themselves is immoral.  But I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness.  Right now Duterte’s approval rating in the Philippines is in the high 70s, though the Catholic Church, various leftists groups and human rights activists are becoming more vocal in their criticisms of extrajudicial killings.

In 2017 I was so focused on politics that I didn’t do as much art as I would’ve liked.  In 2018, I will continue to go to protests and political rallies.  But I also plan on doing more paintings, web comics and children’s book ideas.  I’ve decided to self publish some of the children’s book ideas that I have on Createspace rather than continually sending them to publishers to get rejected.  If I have time, I may start doing my Jasper the Cat cartoons again.  All this depends on me having the discipline to manage my time better rather than get distracted.  

So those are my plans for the new year.  My best wishes for everyone and their plans for the new year. 

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