A May Day Rally in San Jose, California – Part 1

May 1 was a rather busy day. That morning I was expecting to walk a picket line, but found out that the strike that was scheduled was called off. The Sunnyvale Employees Association and the City of Sunnyvale negotiated until 2 a.m. this morning and came up with a compromise agreement. They met halfway on their positions and managed to come up with an agreement that hopefully the workers will accept.

I had taken the time off to attend two May Day rallies in the Mexican Heritage Center in San Jose and in Rengstorf Park in Mountain View. Both were fun events. I took lots of photos and talked to a lot of the activsts and participants.

I was wearing my Sunnyvale Employees Association shirt at the two May Day rallies. When several people saw the shirt, they congratulated me on the labor settlement and asked me a lot of questions about the Sunnyvale Employees Association (many of which I didn’t know how to answer). They were all very impressed with the SEA for their willingness to take a stand. It made me more proud to be a Sunnyvale employee.

I first went to the Mexican Heritage Center. At around 2 p.m. I picked up my niece from her school. She is really passionate about social justice issues and she knows more about certain issues than I do. I try to cover up my lack of knowledge by joking around, but I don’t think she’s fooled.

The Mountain View march was a lot of fun for Phoebe. She met a few Filipino American activists, and encountered a classmate from her high school. We marched to the Mountain View City Hall, where the Raging Grannies were waiting to greet the marchers with protest songs.

Here are photos of the May Day rally in San Jose.

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A Climate Change Rally in San Jose, California, April 29, 2017

On Saturday, April 29, I was thinking of relaxing and spending the morning with my wife. When she told me that she was getting her hair cut, I thought maybe I can ride my bike to the Climate Change rally in San Jose. From my place, it’s a short 20 minute ride.

While I was there, I met some friends from a Presbyterian Church group that I enjoy attending. They are strong advocates for the environment and I was happy to exchange hugs and catch up on what they have been doing.

I had a lot of fun taking photos of the event. Here are some of the photos I took of the Climate Change rally in San Jose, California.

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The Sunnyvale Employees Association Goes on Strike

This week members of the Sunnyvale Employees Association (SEA) met to discuss the current impasse with the City of Sunnyvale over a new labor contract. The SEA had been negotiating with the City for two years and have come to an impasse over 11 points of contention.

To try to break the impasse, the Sunnyvale Employees Association and the City of Sunnyvale asked Barry Winograd, an arbitrator and mediator, to be a neutral fact finder to offer his opinion on the 11 issues dividing the employees and the City.

On April 24, 2017, Mr. Winograd released the Factfinding Report to the public. The Factfinding Report sided with the City of Sunnyvale on 7 points. The report sided with the Sunnyvale Employees Association on 4 points.

The four points that the report sides with the Sunnyvale Employees Association are enacting a 14% raise in wages; paying retroactive compensation; maintaining overtime pay eligibility for employees in exempt classifications; and maintaining the status quo for out-of-class pay.

Here is an excerpt of the report:

SEA proposes a net 14.0 percent wage increase. It seeks 2.0 percent as of July 2015; 2.0 percent as of July 2016; 5.5 percent as of the first full pay period after MOU notificaion; 4.0 percent as of July 2018; and, 3.5 percent as of the first full pay period of January 2019. From these increases, SEA proposes a precudtion of 1.0 percent of the City’s EPMC as of the first full pay period in July of 2017, 2018 and 2019, with the last reduction effective at the outset of the term of the next MOU.

The City proposes a net 10.0 percent wage increase. It offers 5.5 percent the first full pay period following City Council approval; 3.0 percent effective the first full pay period of July 2017, or the first full pay period following City Council approval; and, 1.5 percent effective the first full pay period of July 2018, or the first full pay period following City Council approval. Embedded in the increases and the net result proposed by the City is its continued payment of a 4.0 percent EPMC.

The City does not dispute that it has an ability to pay a wage increase, and indeed offered one that appears reasonable. Most significant, the City points to potential funding problems for employee pensions related to increased contribution costs and a change in the discount rate for the pension system, matters beyond the City’s direct control. Other factors cited by the City also support its wage proposal, including its attempt to close the pay gap with nearby communities, the roughly comparable outcome of the City’s labor agreement with the management association which also continues the EPMC, and figures showing the desirability of a job in Sunnyvale.

As a contrary perspective, substantial evidence was offered by the Association supporting its proposal. The record shows a historic flattening of bargaining unit wages due to the minimal improvement in net pay of the past several years. The city argues that this past history is irrelevant under the statue, but this objection is misplaced as history is a traditional factor in analyzing employee compensation. Stated simply, employee paychecks are not static as they reflect a continuum, which in this case, included significant wage deferrals. Further, ending fund balances consistently have exceeded budgeted projections, employees have trailed in comparison to cumulative increases in other municipalities, especially those closest to Sunnyvale, and the unit lags behind consumer price indices in the San Francisco Bay Area over a several year period.

If the facts summarized in the preceding passages were the only features of this dispute at issue, it could be argued, notwithstanding the detailed contentions of the parties and the accompanying panel opinions, that the parties are in equipoise, with balanced interests. However, two other aspects of this proceeding justify a compensation recommendation favoring the Association.

First, employees in the unit face the prospect of a further potential shift in EPMC pension contribution amounts by 2018 if the City’s proposal is adopted. On this subject, unlike the City, the Association is prepared to follow the sound fiscal premise of the pension reform stature by shifting most EPMC costs sooner rather than later. The City’s unwillingness to accept the statutory standard heightens the risk that the issue will be a destabilizing factor in bargaining at the end of this successor MOU, contrary to the public’s interest in stable labor relations. The City maintains that it expects to pay the EPMC for years beyond the term of the new MOU. However, this expectation not only is counter to the statutory objective, but it is based on speculation about future economic and political conditions, and overlooks the potential for the disruptive imposition under Government Code Section 20515.5 of an employee0paid EPMC upon an impasse in bargaining.

Moreover, delaying a shift for the EPMC permits the City to secure a substantial monetary benefit by attributing a gain to the unit as a whole, even though the gain is not payable to new hires who, by law, do not receive the EPMC. At present, over 20 percent of the unit is excluded from the EPMC. The City’s offer to pay a four percent EPMC will this be relevant to a declining number of employees as the workforce continues to mature and change in the next few years, with more senior workers departing and new employees being hired. In effect, by tying the EPMC to overall compensation, the City is proposing a two-tier wage structure, but without giving it a two-tier label.

Here is a link to Mr. Winograd’s Factfinding Report


I support SEA in their fight for a fair labor contract with the City. I am doing o.k. with my wages and benefits, but many other workers in the City are struggling with the rising costs of living in Santa Clara County. I will strike to support those workers who aren’t doing as well.

In the last labor agreement in 2011 the Sunnyvale employees had agreed to forgo pay increases to help the City with its budget struggles due to the 2008 economic downturn. Since 2011 rents and housing prices have skyrocketed in the Sunnyvale area.

In 2011 the average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in Santa Clara County was $1918 per month.

According to Zillow, a real estate website, the median rent price in Santa Clara County is now $3400, which is the same as the San Jose median rent price of $3400.

In 2011 the average price to buy a home was around $585,000.

According to Zillow, the median home value in Santa Clara County is now $1,004,400. Santa Clara County home values have gone up 3.5% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 0.9% within the next year.

Here is the Zillow website with the rent and home price trends over the past few years in Santa Clara County


In recent days several friends have asked me about the possibility of a strike in the City where I work. I support the Sunnyvale Employees Association in their efforts to strike a fair deal for its members. I don’t think the opposing side is evil or anything of the sort, in spite of some heated moments in negotiations. I think the two sides are coming into the negotiations from two very different points of view and two different interests. I think the employees side is more fair, and I will be in the picket lines with my fellow striking workers.

One of the things I wanted to investigate to better understand the situation is the health of the City of Sunnyvale’s budget. Both the City of Sunnyvale and the Sunnyvale Employees Association agree that the City budget has been getting more revenues than was expected. My guess for the City’s reluctance may be that the City planners were really spooked by the experience of the 2008 downturn and they are a lot more cautious now. Also I wonder if they are looking at a Trump administration that promises to cut federal funding as something that threatens the local Santa Clara County economy.

I found in the Sunnyvale website the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2016. According to the report, the local economy has been robust and development related revenue, property taxes, and transient occupancy taxes all exceeded expectations. One thing that surprised me was the fact that the City work force is 15 percent smaller than it was 15 years ago. I knew from my experience that there are less people doing more work, but I didn’t realize the percentage was that big.

Here is an excerpt of the report:

Driven by the technology sector, Sunnyvale is at the forefront of a strong state-wide economic recovery led by the Bay Area region. The economic expansion has fueled development activity and job growth in the City. Development activity was very robust in fiscal year 2016, resulting in a record fifth year of very high activity. Development-related revenues, Property Tax, and Transient Occupancy Tax all exceeded expectations. Based on the development activity currently underway, revenues are poised for growth going forward due to the residual effect that commercial development has on the General Fund’s other sources of revenue. A continuing concern and vulnerability, however, is the high volatility levels for Sales Tax, Transient Occupancy Tax, and development-related revenues. Over time, these revenue sources have experienced significant year-to-year variances, which have made long-term revenue projections challenging. The fiscal year 2017 budget reflects the anticipated activity and resulting revenue growth over the next several years. Beyond the next several years, growth projections have been moderated to reflect the inevitable volatility of several of the City’s revenues. However, the City continues to monitor how its revenue base is being affected by the robust economy and will adjust long-term revenue projections annually as part of the budget development process.

Despite a strong performance for several major revenue sources, the City’s fiscal situation still remains tightly balanced. While the economy is on solid ground, we are now in the seventh straight year of recovery with development activity and several revenues at all-time record levels. Factored with global economic volatility, housing and transportation constraints, and potential actions by the federal government, a cautious approach is warranted about the sustainability of the current economy. Further, the City of Sunnyvale is under several pressures, including continuing increases in personnel costs, especially with regard to pensions and medical costs, which are driving up the cost of total employee compensation. As the economy has rebounded, the City is also experiencing an increase in the demand for services. Operational and capital costs are facing upward pressure as increased development, environmental regulation, and aging infrastructure all strain current resources. Additionally, the bidding climate has tightened, as greater competition due to more demand for work has increased construction costs.

In the face of these pressures, the City has successfully managed expenditures, particularly related to personnel costs, to ensure that they do not grow at a rate that exceeds revenue growth. With the pressures noted above, continuing to maintain sustainable personnel costs will be a challenge. An added factor is that the City is constrained by a workforce that is approximately 15% smaller than it was 15 years ago. This presents significant challenges because our resources are not able to keep pace with operational demands, while there is also interest and need to implement key initiatives that require additional resources. The fiscal year 2017 budget begins to address these needs with additional funding for resources. However, the additional resources only begin to address the gap between workload and staff capacity. As demands continue to pressure our existing assets, we will continue to look to strategically add resources where appropriate while keeping the goal of maintaining a sustainable fiscal position for the long-term.

Although I can understand the City’s caution, I still think the Sunnyvale Employees Association is right in its negotiating positions. According to SEA, Sunnyvale budget reserves increased by 55% between 2010-2015. The City has averaged an $11 million surplus every year since 2004. The City refuses to offer any pay increases for the first two years of their contract proposal, despite the fact that they already budgeted for those raises and the money sits in their bank account.

The SEA are making very persuasive arguments that the City can afford the wage increases that the Sunnyvale Employees Association is asking for. With many Sunnyvale employees struggling to keep up with rising rents and rising housing costs, and with a shrinking workforce taking on more tasks, I think the Sunnyvale Employees Association is making reasonable demands to address the concerns of its members.

I owe my pay and my benefits to past SEA representatives who negotiated a fair deal for me. It’s only right support the Sunnyvale Employees Association now in its moment of need.

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The Persecution of German Americans During World War I

This week I watched a wonderful PBS documentary on World War I titled The Great War. It talks about the war from the point of view of African Americans, Native Americans, women suffragists and the diverse spectrum of American society. One of the things that I learned from watching the documentary was the extent of the prejudice that German Americans faced during World War I. Wartime propaganda depicted Germans as inhuman Huns, and this led to mutual suspicion of the large German American population in the U.S. This type of anti-German hysteria is sadly a darker part of human nature where a whole group is stereotyped based on the bad actions of a few individuals within the group. In World War II, Japanese Americans were victims of a similar type of war-time hysteria. Today Muslim Americans and undocumented immigrants are facing a similar type of unfair prejudice.

The article War Hysteria & the Persecution of German-Americans gives a good description of anti-German hysteria during World War I. The article states:

…when war broke out with Germany in 1917, a wave of anti-German hysteria, fueled by propaganda-infused superpatriotism, resulted in open hostility toward all things German and the persecution of German-Americans…

…As the propaganda machine was cranked up, public rhetoric soon took on a distinctly anti-German-American tone. Literature began to directly attack German-American churches, schools, societies, and newspapers as agents of Imperial German conspiracy..

…Superpatriotism soon reached ridiculous levels. The names of German food were purged from restaurant menus; sauerkraut became liberty cabbage, hamburger became liberty steak. Even German measles was renamed liberty measles by a Massachusetts physician. Superpatriots felt the need to protect the American public from contamination via disloyal music by pushing to eliminate classic German composers such as Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart from the programs of community orchestras. Some states banned the teaching of the German language in private and public schools alike. In July 1918, South Dakota prohibited the use of German over the telephone, and in public assemblies of three or more persons…

…Not surprisingly, acts of violence increased dramatically during the winter months and reached a climax in the spring of 1918. In Pensacola Florida, a German-American was severely flogged by a citizens group. He was forced to shout, ‘To hell with the Kaiser,’ and then ordered to leave the state. In Avoca, Pennsylvania, an Austrian-American was accused of criticizing the Red Cross. A group of superpatriots tied him up, hoisted him thirty feet in the air, and blasted him with water from a fire hose for a full hour. In Oakland, California, a German-American tailor was nearly lynched by a local organization called the Knights of Liberty. In San Jose, a German American named George Koetzer was tarred and feathered, and then chained to a cannon in the local park. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a German-American was tarred and feathered, lashed fifty times, and forced to leave the city. Several Lutheran pastors were whipped for having delivered sermons in German. In Jefferson City, Missouri, a German-American named Fritz Monat was seized by a vigilante mob, stripped, beaten, and taken to the local movie theater, where the show in progress was interrupted in other for the audience to watch as Monat was forced to kneel and kiss the flag amid rousing rhetoric against disloyalists. In dozens of communities mobs disguised as patriotic organizations invaded homes and dragged suspects from their beds in order to interrogate, threaten, beat, and sometimes deport them.

Among the most tragic of these acts of ‘patriotism’ was the mob lynching of Robert Prager on April 5, 1918, in Collinsville, Illinois.

The Digital History website also described the prejudice faced by German Americans:

When the US entered World War I, approximately one-third of the nation (32 million people) were either foreign-born or the children of immigrants, and more than 10 million Americans were derived from the nations of the Central Powers….

…Once the United States entered the war, a search for spies and saboteurs escalated into efforts to suppress German culture. Many German-language newspapers were closed down. Public schools stopped teaching German. Lutheran churches dropped services that were spoken in German.

Germans were called ‘Huns.’ In the name of patriotism, musicians no longer played Bach and Beethoven, and schools stopped teaching the German language. Americans renamed sauerkraut ‘liberty cabbage’; dachshunds ‘liberty hounds’; and German measles ‘liberty measles.’ Cincinnati, with its large German American population, even removed pretzels from the free lunch counters in saloons. More alarming, vigilante groups attacked anyone suspected of being unpatriotic. Workers who refused to buy war bonds often suffered harsh retribution, and attacks on labor protesters were nothing short of brutal. The legal system backed the suppression. Juries routinely released defendants accused of violence against individuals or groups critical of the war.

…Perhaps the most horrendous anti-German act was the lynching in April 1918 of 29-year-old Robert Paul Prager, a German-born bakery employee, who was accused of making ‘disloyal utterances.’ A mob took him from the basement of the Collinsville, Illinois jail, dragged him outside of town, and hanged him from a tree.

Sewanee, the University of the South, has an article titled Anti-German Sentiment and Propaganda. It describes the shock of many German Americans who saw former friends shun them and questioned their patriotism.

…with the increasing number of war-related incidents, anti-German sentiment steadily grew. Nothing fuelled anti-German sentiment as much as the sinking of the British ocean liner Lusitania on May 7, 1915, an event which British and American propagandists pointed to as incontrovertible proof of German brutality. The incident caused a huge uproar in the U.S. and solidified anti-German sentiment in the public…

… An extensive propaganda attack, including posters, pamphlets, articles, and books, targeted German Americans and German citizens, labeling them a threat to European civilization and the American values of peace, democracy, and liberty. The media often referred to the Germans as ‘Huns,’ after the barbaric hoards of Asian warriors who had ravaged the Roman Empire. Germans were portrayed as aggressive, materialistic, savage and uncivilized, and Germans living in the U.S. were frequently accused of creating an extensive propaganda machine and an elaborate espionage system.

The Germans never fully understood that the effective propaganda against them capitalized on emotions, immediately understood terms, and vague ideas. Through this mechanism, the German voice was silenced for the rest of the war and, to a certain extent, beyond. The concert halls stopped playing the music of German composers. German language programs were banned in high schools, along with German-language church services and publications. Books were burned, German dogs were slaughtered, and many food items were rechristened (for instance, sauerkraut was officially re-dubbed ‘liberty cabbage’). Germans and German Americans also felt the change in small, personal incidents. In some instances, ‘hand-shakes became less friendly than they used to be,’ but many were publicly assaulted, tarred and feathered, or even lynched.

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Discussing Public Policy and Understanding Important Issues Facing the Nation

In this time, news stations like Fox News has injected a hyper partisan political climate that has caused a deterioration of civil discourse on the many important issues facing this nation. The sort of intellectual debate on ideas that are a basic foundation of a democratic republic is becoming more difficult as Americans from different regions have become more ideologically and economically isolated from people with different viewpoints. I am a liberal Democrat, but I have to admit that progressives can be just as partisan as conservatives.

There have been some recent efforts by liberals and conservatives to engage in a civil debate on ideas. A few weeks ago, for instance, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz engaged in a civil debate on health care reform and both Senators answered questions from members of the audience. I think these type of debates and discussions of ideas are an important part of what makes this country great. One of my favorite books is The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and John and Abigail Adams. These three great Americans were close friends even though Jefferson was an ardent Republican who believed in strong local contral while John and Abigail Adams were fervent Federalists who believed in a strong federal government. They used their letters to debate on their different ideas on government and political philosophy.

To try to understand more about the various issues facing the nation, I’ve gotten into the habit of listening to discussions and debates in youtube videos by various organizations I respect. To understand an issue better, it’s good to listen to people who have spent years researching and learning about the subject. In most of these videos, the speaker takes a short time to speak, then they take questions from the audience. Some of these videos are from institutes, some from colleges and universities. I listen, do some research to listen to diverse views of the subject, then I slowly make up my mind on what I believe. Even when I disagree with some things that the speaker says, I learn from different viewpoints. In listening intelligent arguments of people I disagree with, I learn about the strengths and weaknesses of my own opinions.

Here are some youtube channels I listen to.

The Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University seeks to promote a just and peaceful world through research, teaching, and public engagement.

The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University maintains an abiding commitment to advancing the public interest by training exceptional public leaders and solving public problems through world-class scholarship and active engagement with practitioners and decision makers. The school offers the depth, reflection, insight, and excellence of ideas and teaching that can shape future leaders, affect public policies, and make an impact on people and their daily lives.

A memorial to President Kennedy, The Harvard Institute of Politics’ mission is to unite and engage students, particularly undergraduates, with academics, politicians, activists, and policymakers on a non-partisan basis and to stimulate and nurture their interest in public service and leadership. The Institute strives to promote greater understanding and cooperation between the academic world and the world of politics and public affairs. Led by a Director, Senior Advisory Board, Student Advisory Committee, and staff, the Institute provides wide-ranging opportunities for both Harvard students and the general public.

The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC. Our mission is to conduct high-quality, independent research and, based on that research, to provide innovative, practical recommendations that advance three broad goals: Strengthen American democracy; Foster the economic and social welfare, security and opportunity of all Americans and Secure a more open, safe, prosperous and cooperative international system.

The Harvard Carr Center for Human Rights Policy is part of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The mission of the Carr Center, like the Kennedy School, is to train future leaders for careers in public service and to apply first-class research to the solution of public policy problems. Their research, teaching, and writing are guided by a commitment to make human rights principles central to the formulation of good public policy in the United States and throughout the world.

A nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy and human rights; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care.

The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

The UChicago Institute of Politics (IOP) is an extracurricular program designed to ignite in young people a passion for politics and public service. The IOP provides civic engagement and public service opportunities for students, hosts visiting Fellows, and presents programming in politics and policymaking for students and the general public.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars provides a strictly nonpartisan space for the worlds of policymaking and scholarship to interact. By conducting relevant and timely research and promoting dialogue from all perspectives, it works to address the critical current and emerging challenges confronting the United States and the world.

For over 50 years, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has developed practical solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. Since their founding, CSIS scholars have provided strategic insights and bipartisan policy solutions to help decisionmakers chart a course toward a better world.

CSIS is a bipartisan, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Center’s 220 full-time staff and large network of affiliated scholars conduct research and analysis and develop policy initiatives that look to the future and anticipate change.

The Sanford School of Public Policy — established in 1972 by former North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford — is a highly selective, top-10 school at Duke University offering graduate and undergraduate degrees in public policy and international development policy.

The mission of University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy is to understand and influence public policies—both through research and by preparing talented individuals to become global leaders and agents of social change. A liaison between academic policy research and practitioners in the field, we equip students to make an impact on the problems facing people and institutions around the globe.

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Protecting the Freedom of Speech of Those We Disagree With

In the past few months, one of the things that has given me hope during the first few weeks of the Trump administration is the passion of people who are engaging in protests and political rallies. There is a renewed interest in civic activism and in protecting the rights of Muslim Americans, immigrants, LGBT people, Jewish Americans, and other vulnerable minority groups. Recently, though, I have read about incidents in Berkeley and in Middlebury College that has me a bit worried when protests go too far. In Berkeley, protesters committed acts of violence and vandalism to stop Alt Right leader Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at a university event sponsored by a conservative Republican student group. Milo Yiannopolous is a provocative Alt Right speaker who has promoted racism and religious intolerance. In Middlebury College, students shouted down conservative author Charles Murray from speaking at a college event organized by the school’s conservative Republican student group. The reason for the protester’s ire is Murray’s book The Bell Curve, which suggests that some races are genetically superior and more intelligent than other races and that may account for the class stratification in the U.S.

Like the protesters, I too worry about normalizing racism and other types of bigotry. Racism, sexism, homophobia and other types of prejudice should be challenged and protested. I’d support protesting Charles Murray and Milo Yiannopolous through tactics like having audience members turning their backs on the speakers, or boycotting the event so that the speakers talk to an empty room. But if the conservative students group want to invite Murray or Yiannopoulos to speak, Murray or Yiannopoulos should be allowed to speak. There are other ways of protesting rather than shouting people down.

I think the Middlebury administration handled it in the right way. Instead of a monologue where there is no give and take and the audience is asked to just be passive in the face of Murray’s views, the college set up a dialogue where Murray’s viewpoint could be challenged by a liberal teacher and in a question-and-answer period by the audience.

Peter Beinert wrote an article for The Atlantic Magazine titled A Violent Attack on Free Speech at Middlebury which describes the situation in Middlebury College:

In its letter to the campus explaining its invitation to Murray, the AEI club declared that it “invites you to argue.” It invited a left-leaning Middlebury professor, Allison Stanger, to engage Murray in a public conversation following his talk, thus ensuring that his views would be challenged. In his introduction to Murray’s speech, a representative from the AEI club implored his fellow students to debate Murray rather than shouting him down.

But they did shout him down…

…Liberals may be tempted to ignore these incidents, either because they are uncomfortable appearing to defend Charles Murray, or because, in the age of Donald Trump, they’re worried about bigger things. That would be a mistake. If what happened at Berkeley, and now at Middlebury, goes unchallenged, sooner or later, liberals will get shouted down too.

In a discussion with a friend about this topic, he observed that there is a big difference between an honest debate between liberals and conservatives over the role of government in healthcare and a racist promoting an idea that one race is genetically and inherently inferior. This is my big worry about the Alt Right movement. I worry about the Alt RIghts’ efforts to normalize racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, and other bigotries. I’ve done a few cartoons attacking that.

But I also worry about the attacks on the freedom of speech. Part of fighting for free speech is fighting for the right of free speech of people we deeply disagree with. I think there is a legitimate debate on the fine line between protecting free speech and opposing hate speech.

My question is how to oppose hate speech. Do we take away the free speech rights of racists and Alt Right leaders? Or do we protect their free speech rights while exercising our own free speech rights to speak out against their racism, xenophobia?

In the 1820s and 1830s, abolitionist speakers were often attacked by crowds because the speakers challenged the community’s views on slavery. Union organizers were often beaten and jailed by police for challenging the factory owners and industrialists. In the South, people who spoke out against Jim Crow were often beaten or even lynched for challenging the community’s racist views. LGBT activists were often beaten by police and jailed for speaking out against prejudice.

From my point of view, protecting the freedom of speech of a Murray or a Yiannopoulos also protects the freedom of speech of a labor organizer trying to unionize a workplace with unfriendly management, or a transgender activist speaking in a homophobic community, or a Muslim American speaking to an Islamophobic audience, or any progressive voice speaking out in hostile environments.

A year ago I watched the movie Trumbo about the screenwriter who was blacklisted in the 1950s. It got me curious about others who were blacklisted, like Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Ring Lardner Jr, among others. They were blacklisted because many people found their political and racial views offensive to the more conservative and racist society of the 1950s. Many Americans’ lives were ruined just because they exercised their right to hold a different political point of view.

In Trump’s America, with Trump’s callous disregard for a free press and free expression, I can see a time when liberals are once again shouted down and marginalized. I think liberals should fight for the free speech rights of conservatives, as I think conservatives should defend the free speech rights of liberals. If we only defend the rights of people whom we agree with, that’s not really free speech.

Frank Bruni wrote an article for The New York Times titled The Dangerous Safety of College which he writes:

Protests aren’t the problem, not in and of themselves. They’re vital, and so is work to end racism, sexism, homophobia and other bigotry. But much of the policing of imperfect language, silencing of dissent and shaming of dissenters runs counter to that goal, alienating the very onlookers who need illumination.

It’s an approach less practical than passionate, less strategic than cathartic, and partly for that reason, both McWhorter and the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt have likened it to a religion…

…The protesters didn’t use Murray’s presence as an occasion to hone the most eloquent, irrefutable retort to him. They swarmed and swore.

McWhorter recalled that back when ‘The Bell Curve’ was published, there was disagreement about whether journalists should give it currency by paying it heed. But he said that it was because they engaged the material in detail, rather than just branding it sacrilegious, that he learned enough to conclude on his own that its assertions were wrong — and why.

Harry C. Boyte wrote a good article for The Nation titled The Deeper Lessons fo the Incident at Middlebury in which he writes:

The American Enterprise Club, the student group that invited Murray, structured the event as a debate, asking Allison Stanger, a progressive professor, to respond. When she implored the crowd to let him speak and let her challenge his views, they shouted her down as well. When Murray and Stanger tried to leave the room, a group mobbed them. Someone injured Stanger when she sought to protect Murray…

…The students’ actions, like those at other campuses in recent months, show that intolerance for diverse views is growing in higher education. But the protests also illustrate the Manichean model of change-making that students have unfortunately learned from an earlier generation of activists—my generation: find an enemy to demonize, use a script that defines the issue in good-versus-evil terms, inflames emotion, and shuts down critical thought, and convey the idea that those championing the victims will come to the rescue…

…I had come to be concerned about an unintended consequence: its Manichean model of framing political conflicts polarizes public life, unravels the bonds of common citizenship, and doesn’t create a broad majority base for significant change. It suggests that politics are necessarily violent and warlike. …

…There are alternatives. For instance, I founded Public Achievement, a youth civic-education initiative, in 1990 to counter the Manichean model through an empowering model of “citizen politics,” which emphasized teaching skills for working across differences. Public Achievement has since spread to many communities and schools and a number of foreign countries. Public Achievement draws on parallel grassroots efforts such as cross-partisan strands of community organizing that empower poor and middle-income people, public deliberations, and local examples of democratic, participatory governance.

All these efforts help constitute a citizen-centered politics in which citizens develop agency and capacities for collaborative, cross-partisan action.

In this 2012 interview with Free Speech Debate’s Timothy Garton Ash, Aryeh Neier, president of the Open Society Foundations, talked about free speech as a universal aspiration, group libel and the Skokie controversy. The Skokie controversy refers to the 1977 legal case where the ACLU defended the right of a Neo-Nazi group to march in Skokie, Illinois, where a large number of Holocaust survivors resided. Neier said that the best way to fight hate speech is to promote more speech so that diverse voices can speak out against hate speech. Neier points out that hate speech does the greatest harm when it is the only views being expressed. He gave the example of Rwanda in 1994 and Serbia in the early 1990s, where the media broadcast hate speech with the exclusion of any countervailing voices

In 2012 a trio of human rights experts elaborate on the definition of dangerous speech and consider how hate speech is protected both in Europe and under the first amendment in the US. The three are: Agnes Callamard, executive director at Article 19; Susan Benesch, senior fellow at the World Policy Institute; and Nazila Ghanea, lecturer in international human rights law at the University of Oxford. To mitigate the effects of hate speech, minorities and those groups targeted by hate speech should be able to respond back and to given the opportunity to express their views. A diverse media is also important in giving more balanced reporting.

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The Discrimination Faced By 19th Century Irish Immigrants

Yesterday the country celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate the many contributions that Irish Americans have given to our great country. In this time when Muslim Americans, Hispanics and immigrants are facing much prejudice and discrimination, it is important to remember that the early Irish immigrants of the 19th century faced many of the same problems. Many native born Protestant Americans thought Irish were criminals, were racially inferior, and thought the Roman Catholic faith was incompatible with American democratic values.

Christopher Klein for The History Channel wrote an article about the discrimination faced by Irish immigrants in 19th century America titled When America Despised the Irish: The 19th Century’s Refugee Crisis. Klein wrote:

There was a time, however, when the thought of Americans honoring all things Irish was unimaginable. This is the story of the prejudice encountered by refugees from Ireland’s Great Hunger and how those Irish exiles persevered to become part of the American mainstream.

The refugees seeking haven in America were poor and disease-ridden. They threatened to take jobs away from Americans and strain welfare budgets. They practiced an alien religion and pledged allegiance to a foreign leader. They were bringing with them crime. They were accused of being rapists. And, worst of all, these undesirables were Irish…

…The Irish filled the most menial and dangerous jobs, often at low pay. They cut canals. They dug trenches for water and sewer pipes. They laid rail lines. They cleaned houses. They slaved in textile mills. They worked as stevedores, stable workers and blacksmiths. Not only did working-class Americans see the cheaper laborers taking their jobs, some of the Irish refugees even took up arms against their new homeland during the Mexican-American War. Drawn in part by higher wages and a common faith with the Mexicans, some members of the St. Patrick’s Battalion had deserted the U.S. Army after encountering ill-treatment by their bigoted commanders and fought with the enemy. After their capture, 50 members of the “San Patricios” were executed by the U.S. Army for their treasonous decisions…

…In 1849, a clandestine fraternal society of native-born Protestant men called the Order of the Star Spangled Banner formed in New York. Bound by sacred oaths and secret passwords, its members wanted a return to the America they once knew, a land of “Temperance, Liberty and Protestantism.” Similar secret societies with menacing names like the Black Snakes and Rough and Readies sprouted across the country.

Within a few years, these societies coalesced around the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant American Party, whose members were called the “Know-Nothings” because they claimed to “know nothing” when questioned about their politics. Party members vowed to elect only native-born citizens—but only if they weren’t Roman Catholic. “Know-Nothings believed that Protestantism defined American society. From this flowed their fundamental belief that Catholicism was incompatible with basic American values,” writes Jay P. Dolan in “The Irish Americans: A History.”

The Library of Congress has an article describing the political opposition to Irish immigrants:

Ill will toward Irish immigrants because of their poor living conditions, and their willingness to work for low wages was often exacerbated by religious conflict. Centuries of tension between Protestants and Catholics found their way into United States cities and verbal attacks often led to mob violence. For example, Protestants burned down St. Mary’s Catholic Church in New York City in 1831, while in 1844, riots in Philadelphia left thirteen dead.

Anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiments in the 1840s produced groups such as the nativist American Party, which fought foreign influences and promoted “traditional American ideals.” American Party members earned the nickname, “Know-Nothings,” because their standard reply to questions about their procedures and activities was, “I know nothing about it.”

In the Questions for Admittance to the American Party (1854), inductees committed to “…elect to all offices of Honor, Profit, or Trust, no one but native born citizens of America, of this Country to the exclusion of all Foreigners, and to all Roman Catholics, whether they be of native or Foreign Birth, regardless of all party predilections whatever.” This commitment helped elect American Party governors in Massachusetts and Delaware and placed Millard Fillmore on a presidential ticket in 1856.

Jason Muturi wrote an article for XPat Nation titled 9 Signs of Discrimination Irish Americans Had To Put Up With. If you look at the prejudices that these Irish Americans had to face in the 19th century, these are the same prejudices that Muslim American, Mexican and other immigrants are facing today. Here is an excerpt of Muturi’s article about the “No Irish Need Apply” signs:

The Irish American people faced much prejudice, racism and discrimination after their immigration to the United States because they were poor, uneducated, less skilled, considered disruptive and were Catholics in a land of Protestant dominance.

At the hands of the citizens, the Irish-Americans faced stereotypes that associated men with drunkenness and laziness, and their women depicted as primitive…

…Irish-Americans faced a humiliating job discrimination journey, owing to their quick domination of the labor market. For this reason, they had to put up with placards that contained discriminatory quits such as ‘’Help wanted but No Irish need Apply’’. Some of these slogans were published in local diaries with images of Irish women searching for domestic jobs. Also, a ’No Irish Need Apply’’ song was written to exact further humiliation to the new immigrants.

On St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny made a short speech celebrating immigration in the East Wing of the White House. Here is an excerpt of his speech:

It’s fitting that we gather here each year to celebrate St Patrick and his legacy.

He too, of course, was an immigrant – and though he is of course the patron saint of Ireland, for many people around the globe he’s also a symbol of, indeed the patron of, immigrants.

Here in America, in your great country, 35million people claim Irish heritage, and the Irish have contributed to the economic, social, political, and cultural life of this great country over the last 200 years.

Ireland came to America because, deprived of liberty, deprived of opportunity, of safety, of even food itself, the Irish believed – and four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp – we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore.

We believed in the shelter of America, in the compassion of America, in the opportunity of America.

We came, and we became Americans. We lived the words of John F. Kennedy long before he uttered them. We asked not what America could do for us, but what we could do for America – and we still do.

Here is a youtube video of the PBS series The Irish in America: Long Journey Home: All Across America. The Irish immigrants of the 19th century faced many of the same prejudice and discrimination that today’s Muslim Americans, Hispanics and immigrants face.

A video of Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny at the White House for St. Patrick’s Day: “It’s fitting that we gather here each year to celebrate St. Patrick and his legacy. He too, of course, was an immigrant.” He also says, “The Irish believed, four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp, we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore. We believed in the shelter of America. In the compassion of America. In the opportunity of America. We came and we became Americans.”

In 1963 President John F. Kennedy visited Ireland. In this video The Lord Mayor of Wexford Thomas Byrne introduceed President Kennedy, who asked how many Kennedys there are in the crowd. The President talked of the importance of freedom for all nations and the mutual respect between the two nations of Ireland and the United States of America.

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