Bet you didn’t know: In 1959, the State Assembly had a “Special Committee on the Disneyland Monorail System”
by Dan Woog
Gregory Williams — one of the 2 men arrested Tuesday at Temple Israel — released this statement to local media:
Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children; the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnal house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise, for we are sick at heart; our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning children.
– Daniel Berrigan, S.J., 1968
At around 1 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 May, my colleague, Dan Fischer, and I calmly walked into into Temple Israel, where the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces was holding a lunchtime meeting. So as to appear as non-threatening as possible, we had no bags, no literature—I had even left the small pocketknife I usually carry at home.
We were armed only with a written testimony by Nabila Abu Halima, a Palestinian woman who lives in the Gaza strip, who watched her son be murdered by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead, and who had to flee her home during last year’s Gaza massacre.
Our intention was simple: to read the statement at the FIDF’s meeting, which was hosting a brigadier general in the occupying, colonizing army that is responsible for her suffering, and the suffering of so many other indigenous Palestinian women.
We were there, first and foremost, because we are Jews (additionally, I am a scholar of religious ethics), and we wanted to take responsibility for the racism in our community that fuels Jewish American support for the Zionist Apartheid regime’s continued occupation of Palestinian land.
Growing up, I remember hearing my mother and grandmother telling stories about members of our family who were killed during the Holocaust. One of the lessons that I learned from those stories was the lesson of collective responsibility.
History remembers kindly those Europeans and Americans who took responsibility for the racism in their community which had bred Naziism by protecting Jewish people, by lifting up their voices, and by working to build a political resistance movement to dismantle fascism.
I entered Temple Israel on Tuesday because I feel that, as a Jew living in the United States, the time has come to take responsibility for my community. Zionism is no less racist, no less hateful, and no less violent and threatening to human life and dignity than Naziism. Like Naziism, Zionism seeks to build a nation upon an ethnocentric vision which erases the lives of people it considers “undesirable.”
When Dan and I reached the second floor of the synagogue, we told staff exactly why we were there. We said that we had come to read a statement from a Palestinian woman at the FIDF event, and that we would leave voluntarily when we were done, or when we were ordered to do so by a police officer.
The staff immediately assaulted us, and tackled us to the ground. We did not take any physical action against them. Instead, we started to read the statement that we had come to deliver and, since we were still outside the door of the meeting room, we did so loudly so that as many people would hear us as possible. The staff kicked our phones away, we began to say “Free, Free Palestine!”
Even though we had told the staff what we were doing, and had made clear that this was a nonviolent political demonstration, they turned around and, over the phone and in our hearing, filed a false police report, claiming that we were armed. “We’re unarmed!” we said, “Tell them we are unarmed! We are Jews coming to a synagogue!”
Because the staff (and apparently several others) filed this false police report, we are told that several schools were put on lockdown—this is one of the dangers of filing a false report or making a frivolous 911 call.
Since then, people from senators to judges to newspaper reporters have called us “violent,” “criminals,” even “terrorists.” I ask you, who is the terrorist? Someone who reads a statement from a Palestinian woman, or the general who helps murder that woman’s child?
What is violent, to protest that general, or to hold a public event to support her and the illegitimate armed force that she serves? There are those who say that they felt threatened by our action. I ask, what does it say about your community that you feel threatened by two nonviolent protesters testifying to the violence of that racist hate-ideology called Zionism?
Could this mean that your community is committed to racism and hatred? There are those who say that they felt threatened by our volume. I respectfully submit that there are times, especially times when children are being murdered by a colonial regime and a racist ideology, when it is an act of violence not to yell and scream.
The idea began percolating, said Dan Price, the founder of Gravity Payments, after he read an article on happiness. It showed that, for people who earn less than about $70,000, extra money makes a big difference in their lives.
His idea bubbled into reality on Monday afternoon, when Mr. Price surprised his 120-person staff by announcing that he planned over the next three years to raise the salary of even the lowest-paid clerk, customer service representative and salesman to a minimum of $70,000.
“Is anyone else freaking out right now?” Mr. Price asked after the clapping and whooping died down into a few moments of stunned silence. “I’m kind of freaking out.”
If it’s a publicity stunt, it’s a costly one. Mr. Price, who started the Seattle-based credit-card payment processing firm in 2004 at the age of 19, said he would pay for the wage increases by cutting his own salary from nearly $1 million to $70,000 and using 75 to 80 percent of the company’s anticipated $2.2 million in profit this year.
The average salary at Gravity Payments had been $48,000 a year. Credit Matthew Ryan Williams of The New York Times The paychecks of about 70 employees will grow, with 30 ultimately doubling their salaries, according to Ryan Pirkle, a company spokesman. The average salary at Gravity is $48,000 a year.
Mr. Price’s small, privately owned company is by no means a bellwether, but his unusual proposal does speak to an economic issue that has captured national attention: The disparity between the soaring pay of chief executives and that of their employees.
The United States has one of the world’s largest pay gaps, with chief executives earning nearly 300 times what the average worker makes, according to some economists’ estimates. That is much higher than the 20-to-1 ratio recommended by Gilded Age magnates like J. Pierpont Morgan and the 20th century management visionary Peter Drucker.
“The market rate for me as a C.E.O. compared to a regular person is ridiculous, it’s absurd,” said Mr. Price, who said his main extravagances were snowboarding and picking up the bar bill. He drives a 12-year-old Audi, which he received in a barter for service from the local dealer.
“As much as I’m a capitalist, there is nothing in the market that is making me do it,” he said, referring to paying wages that make it possible for his employees to go after the American dream, buy a house and pay for their children’s education.
Under a financial overhaul passed by Congress in 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission was supposed to require all publicly held companies to disclose the ratio of C.E.O. pay to the median pay of all other employees, but it has so far failed to put it in effect. Corporate executives have vigorously opposed the idea, complaining it would be cumbersome and costly to implement.
Mr. Price started the company, which processed $6.5 billion in transactions for more than 12,000 businesses last year, in his dorm room at Seattle Pacific University with seed money from his older brother. The idea struck him a few years earlier when he was playing in a rock band at a local coffee shop. The owner started having trouble with the company that was processing credit card payments and felt ground down by the large fees charged.
When Mr. Price looked into it for her, he realized he could do it more cheaply and efficiently with better customer service.
The entrepreneurial spirit was omnipresent where he grew up in rural southwestern Idaho, where his family lived 30 miles from the closest grocery store and he was home-schooled until the age of 12. When one of Mr. Price’s four brothers started a make-your-own baseball card business, 9-year-old Dan went on a local radio station to make a pitch: “Hi. I’m Dan Price. I’d like to tell you about my brother’s business, Personality Plus.”
His father, Ron Price, is a consultant and motivational speaker who has written his own book on business leadership.
Dan Price came close to closing up shop himself in 2008 when the recession sent two of his biggest clients into bankruptcy, eliminating 20 percent of his revenue in the space of two weeks. He said the firm managed to struggle through without layoffs or raising prices. His staff, most of them young, stuck with him.
Mr. Price said he wasn’t seeking to score political points with his plan. From his friends, he heard stories of how tough it was to make ends meet even on salaries that were still well-above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.
“They were walking me through the math of making 40 grand a year,” he said, then describing a surprise rent increase or nagging credit card debt.
“I hear that every single week,” he added. “That just eats at me inside.”
Mr. Price said he wanted to do something to address the issue of inequality, although his proposal “made me really nervous” because he wanted to do it without raising prices for his customers or cutting back on service.
Of all the social issues that he felt he was in a position to do something about as a business leader, “that one seemed like a more worthy issue to go after.”
He said he planned to keep his own salary low until the company earned back the profit it had before the new wage scale went into effect.
Hayley Vogt, a 24-year-old communications coordinator at Gravity who earns $45,000, said, “I’m completely blown away right now.” She said she has worried about covering rent increases and a recent emergency room bill.
“Everyone is talking about this $15 minimum wage in Seattle and it’s nice to work someplace where someone is actually doing something about it and not just talking about it,” she said.
The happiness research behind Mr. Price’s announcement on Monday came from Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist. They found that what they called emotional well-being — defined as “the emotional quality of an individual’s everyday experience, the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant” — rises with income, but only to a point. And that point turns out to be about $75,000 a year.
Of course, money above that level brings pleasures — there’s no denying the delights of a Caribbean cruise or a pair of diamond earrings — but no further gains on the emotional well-being scale.
As Mr. Kahneman has explained it, income above the threshold doesn’t buy happiness, but a lack of money can deprive you of it.
Phillip Akhavan, 29, earns $43,000 working on the company’s merchant relations team. “My jaw just dropped,” he said. “This is going to make a difference to everyone around me.”
At that moment, no Princeton researchers were needed to figure out he was feeling very happy.
Theaters Face Criticism for Dropping Film Due to Terrorist Threats
Sony canceled the release of “The Interview,” after theaters dropped the film. Celebrities call the theaters cowardly and “un-American.”
With multiple theater chains announcing they will not show the film “The Interview” in response to an online threat, Sony Pictures Entertainment today canceled the movie’s planned Christmas Day release.
“We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers,” according to a company statement.
“Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers and our business,” according to the company. “Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale — all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like.
“We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”
The studio’s announcement came as major theater chains decided not to show the film following a threat posted online Tuesday by a group claiming responsibility for the cyberattack on Sony Pictures — the “Guardians of Peace.”
Georgia-based Carmike Cinemas announced Tuesday it would not show the film, and East Coast theater chain Bow Tie Cinemas posted a message on its website saying it also would not show it.
The entertainment trade publications The Hollywood Reporter and The Wrap reported that AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Cineplex theaters had all also decided not to show the film.
“The Interview,” a dark comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, focuses on an assassination attempt of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The film has been the center of speculation about motives behind the sweeping cyberattack on Sony. North Korea has denied any involvement in the attack.
In its online threat, the Guardians of Peace wrote, “We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places ‘The Interview’ be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to. Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001.”
The threat went on to warn potential moviegoers to “keep yourself distant from the places at that time. If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.”
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday that “extra precautions” will be taken at theaters showing the movie — which is scheduled for release on Christmas.
“We take those threats very seriously and we will take extra precautions during the holidays and at theaters,” Beck said. “We’re very aware of the controversy surrounding Sony studios so we’ll take that into account. I won’t get into the details of all of that, but suffice it to say we’re aware of it and we’ll take appropriate action.”
Writer-director Judd Apatow, who was not involved in the making of “The Interview,” took to Twitter to blast the decision by theater chains to drop the film.
“Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?” he asked. “What if an anonymous person got offended by something an executive at Coke said. Will we all have to stop drinking Coke? We also don’t know that it isn’t a disgruntled employee or a hacker. Do we think North Korea has troops on the ground in the U.S.? Ridiculous.
“This only guarantees that this movie will be seen by more people on Earth than it would have before,” he wrote. “Legally or illegally all will see it.”
Talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel responded to Apatow on Twitter, saying he agrees with his sentiments “wholeheartedly.”
“An un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist actions and sets a terrifying precedent,” Kimmel wrote.
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENTS: IS IT COWARDICE OR PRUDENT TO CANCEL THE FILM SHOWINGS?
Child Migrants Have Been Coming to America Alone Since Ellis Island
And no, we didn’t just send them packing.
An unaccompanied child migrant was the first person in line on opening day of the new immigration station at Ellis Island. Her name was Annie Moore, and that day, January 1, 1892, happened to be her 15th birthday. She had traveled with her two little brothers from Cork County, Ireland, and when they walked off the gangplank, she was awarded a certificate and a $10 gold coin for being the first to register. Today, a statue of Annie stands on the island, a testament to the courage of millions of children who passed through those same doors, often traveling without an older family member to help them along.
Of course, not everyone was lining up to give Annie and her fellow passengers a warm welcome. Alarmists painted immigrants—children included—as disease-riddenjob stealers bent on destroying the American way of life. And they’re still at it. On a CNN segment about the current crisis of child migrants from Central and South America, Michele Bachmann used the word “invaders” and warned of rape and other dangers posed to Americans by the influx. And last week, National Review scoffed at appeals to American ideals of compassion and charity, claiming Ellis Island officials had a strict send-’em-back policy when it came to children showing up alone.
That’s not true, according to Barry Moreno, a librarian at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and author of the book Children of Ellis Island. The Immigration Act of 1907 did indeed declare that unaccompanied children under 16 were not permitted to enter in the normal fashion. But it didn’t send them packing, either. Instead, the act set up a system in which unaccompanied children—many of whom were orphans—were kept in detention awaiting a special inquiry with immigration inspectors to determine their fate. At these hearings, local missionaries, synagogues, immigrant aid societies, and private citizens would often step in and offer to take guardianship of the child, says Moreno.
In Annie’s case, her parents were waiting to receive her; they’d taken the same journey to New York three years before, looking for work. But according to Moreno, thousands of unaccompanied children came over without friends or family on the other side of the crossing, many of them stowaways. Moreno doesn’t know of an official count of how many children were naturalized this way, but he says it was fairly common. And he can point to at least one great success story, that of Henry Armetta, a 15-year-old stowaway from Palermo, Italy, who was sponsored by a local Italian man and went on to be an actor in films with Judy Garland and the Marx Brothers. “He’s one of the best known of the Ellis Island stowaways,” Moreno says.
Other children journeyed to Ellis Island alone because they had lost their parents, often to war or famine, and had been sponsored by immigrant aid societies and other charities in America. The picture above shows eight Jewish children whose mothers had been killed in a Russian pogrom in 1905. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society had obtained “bonds” to sponsor their immigration, and they arrived at Ellis Island in 1908. As Moreno notes in his book, thousands of orphans came over thanks to such bonds, and after landing, many would travel on “orphan trains” to farms and small towns where their patrons had arranged their stay.
Ellis Island officials made several efforts to care for children detained on the island—those with parents and those without—who could be there for weeks at a time. Around 1900 a playground was constructed there with a sandbox, swings, and slides. A group of about a dozen women known as “matrons” played games and sang songs with the children, many of whom they couldn’t easily communicate with due to language barriers. Later, a school room was created for them, and the Red Cross supplied a radio for the children to listen to.
And of course, many of those kids grew up to work tough jobs, start new businesses and create new jobs, and pass significant amounts of wealth down to some of the very folks clamoring to “send ’em back” today.