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“Women Deserve Better”: Discrimination Is The Best Explanation For The Difference In Pay

Just two days ago President Obama made news in Pittsburgh by stating that equal pay for equal work not only benefits women, but also benefits families. In April, he signed an executive order that allows federal workers to share salary information and requires federal contractors to disclose more information about what their employees earn. On June 23, the Obama Administration will host a summit in Washington D.C. that focuses on creating a 21st century workplace, which includes equal pay for equal work.

The fact that this is still a topic that is making headlines in 2014 is alarming.

Almost half of the American workforce is female. In more and more situations, women are the primary breadwinners in their families. Pay disparity doesn’t just hurt women. It hurts their kids and their families. It hurts all Americans.

Opponents of equal pay have tried many times to explain away the wage gap. The most common argument they offer is that it simply does not exist. Opponents say that pay disparity based on gender is not based on sexism or discrimination, but rather on the choices that women make in terms of education, hours, and children. They argue that it is the biological and social forces that lead to a pay gap and therefore there is no point in pushing through legislation that could not possibly combat these realities. Opponents claim that discrimination isn’t the cause of the pay gap and that laws combating discrimination are not the solution.

Thankfully, the modern workplace has advanced beyond Mad Men-style sexism. However, this does not mean that discrimination is no longer a factor.

Senior advisers at the Department of Labor agree, “Discrimination is the best explanation of the remaining difference in pay.” Economists across the political spectrum attribute at least 40 percent of the pay gap to discrimination, not differences between workers or their jobs.

Sexual discrimination and the pay gap it causes are real problems and must be addressed.

Women earn an average 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, less if they are also a minority. In some professions, this gap is smaller. In others it’s wider. But no matter what the profession, even if it’s ‘only‘ a loss of 10 cents on the dollar, the gap is there, and it is solely related to the gender of the worker.

The solution is to elect representatives who recognize that equal work deserves equal pay, and that family wages are more important than corporate earnings. Just look at who voted for the Lily Ledbetter Act of 2009. If your representative voted ‘Nay‘, they believe that women should be paid less than men. Let’s get these ‘Mad Men’ out of office and allow common sense to prevail.

We are a nation founded on equality, built and sustained by women as well as men. Gender discrimination is completely and categorically unacceptable. Not only have women earned equal pay, they deserve it.


By: Jason Ritchie, The Huffington Post Blog, June 19, 2014

June 23, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Gender Gap, Women | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Snyder’s Insulting Redskins Logic”: Irrational Insistance That Native Americans Are Somehow Being Honored

Fear not for the future of free speech after the Washington Redskins’ trademark fight. The legal dividend could be more free speech, not less.

A lot of my fellow First Amendment advocates sound nervous about cancellation of the Washington pro football team’s trademark by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this past week.

Even among those who sharply disagree with team owner Dan Snyder, who irrationally insists that Native Americans somehow are honored by a word that major English dictionaries call “insulting” and “usually offensive,” there is widespread concern that the patent office is deciding what trademarks are “disparaging” to Native Americans or anyone else.

The decision can’t force the NFL team to change its name, but it could hit Snyder in his wallet.

If the ruling stands up in court, he could lose the right to block other companies from selling caps, cups, jerseys and other merchandise with the name and Indian head logo.

Critics see that potential penalty as an infringement on Snyder’s First Amendment rights.

Yet, viewed another way, the decision can be seen as an expansion of everyone else’s right to do what the government’s trademark allowed only Snyder to do.

Sometimes government not only is allowed but obligated to decide what is not only legal but also proper. The states, for example, routinely ban certain words, numbers or names from vanity license plates that they view as obscene or insulting.

A Santa Fe man, for example, unhappily lost his New Mexico vanity license plate in 2012 after state officials declared its message, “IB6UB9,” to be unacceptably naughty.

But we have courts to temper such judgments. The New Hampshire Supreme Court in May overruled state workers who rejected a request for “COPSLIE,” according to news reports. State regulations allowed for vanity plates to be denied if they were deemed “offensive to good taste.” (This particular request, I would add, also violates good sense.)

All states bar plates that are “obscene, lewd, lascivious, derogatory to a particular ethnic group, or patently offensive,” according to Stefan Lonce, author of “LCNS2ROM: Vanity License Plates and the GR8 Stories They Tell.”

Similarly, the federal patent office is allowed to reject applications for trademarks that are disparaging to particular racial, ethnic or religious groups.

That’s why a federal appellate court in May upheld the patent office’s refusal of a trademark to the website titled “Stop! Islamization of America.” Although the owners contend the website only opposed “political Islamization” and not the Islamic faith, the court ruled, “The (patent office) board disagreed, as do we.”

Yet it is hard to see where the group’s free speech rights have been infringed. Their website and Facebook pages remain online. So do Web pages by civil rights and anti-hate organizations that oppose the group’s positions.

Snyder similarly remains free to use his team’s name, if the revocation sticks, but so can anyone else. He only loses certain government protections, such as preventing other users of the team name from selling or exporting team souvenirs and presumably cutting into his profits.

Of course, the Redskins’ name has seniority, as its defenders point out. The team has been using it since the 1930s. But words do change in their meanings and implications over time.

I am reminded of how tea party protesters used to display tea bags on signs and used “tea bagging” to describe their anti-tax protests in early 2009, until liberal commentators made a mockery of the verb.

As a sign of respect for the right of people to be called what they want to be called, I stopped using the term to refer to the movement after an avalanche of emails expressed outrage over the “obscene slur.”

Yet, I have been dismayed to hear some — although certainly not all — of the same people who were angrily offended by that T-word unable to understand why Native Americans are similarly offended by the R-word.

That’s why I am not very upset that the patent office decided to cancel the Washington football team’s trademark. I am only disappointed that the government had to be asked.


By: Clarence Page, Member, Editorial Board; The Chicago Tribune, June 22, 2014

June 23, 2014 Posted by | National Football League, Native Americans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“God Save The United States From This Anti-Democratic Court”: SCOTUS Is Increasingly A Threat To Our Ideal Of Self-Government

Should a self-respecting democracy have a Supreme Court like ours, with the power to overturn democratic legislation? More and more progressive observers are not so sure. But one thing is clear: we need a more mature relationship with the Court and, through it, a more open and democratic relation to the Constitution.

Polls consistently find that the Court is the best-respected branch of government, well ahead of Congress and the presidency. A wave of critics, though, has been denouncing it as anti-democratic and regressive. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the U.C. Irvine law school and a prominent constitutional lawyer and scholar, is about to publish a book called The Case Against the Supreme Court, arguing that the Men in Black (more recently, Persons in Black) have done more harm than good on key issues like race, economic fairness, and preventing abuse of government power. Ian Millhiser, a constitutional analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress, will publish a book by the same title next March. Further to the left, Jacobin has published a set of forceful attacks, summarized in Rob Hunter’s recent conclusion that “judicial interference with democracy” should become “unthinkable.”

The pendulum of anti-Court criticism has swung from left to right to left again in the last century. Progressives railed against a conservative, pro-market Court until Franklin Roosevelt finally knocked it back on its heels during the New Deal. In the 1960s, billboards in conservative parts of the country urged, “Impeach Earl Warren,” the liberal chief justice. Now, with the Court knocking out campaign finance regulation, parts of Obamacare, and the Voting Rights Act—plus menacing affirmative action, climate regulation, and labor rights—the left is remembering what it doesn’t like about letting justices review democratic legislation.

Apart from its ideological switches, the Supreme Court has two persistent anti-democratic features that might give a self-respecting democracy pause. First is that, although it is not always a conservative institution, it is always an elite one. Justices are picked from and mix in the highest echelons of the American professions. Tocqueville called professionals, especially lawyers, the American version of aristocracy, and the Supreme Court represents the aristocratic branch of the Constitution. This makes sense when they are deciding technical legal questions, but it raises more doubts when a democracy assigns a professional elite to work out the meaning of liberty and equality, or the right relationship between the federal government and the states.

The Court’s other anti-democratic feature is connected with its status as the best-respected branch of government. Its power, more than that of the presidency and much more than Congress’s, is symbolic, even mystical. The robes and the marble temple of the Supreme Court, the fact that oral arguments aren’t broadcast or photographed, all add to the mystique. They make the Court an oracular interpreter of the 225-year-old Constitution that serves as the most basic American law.

For this reason, it’s the rare radical democrat who will denounce the Supreme Court right down the line. Whatever they think of the Court’s other decisions, progressives will generally celebrate without reservation on the all-but-certain day when the Court established marriage equality nationwide. Most Americans think of the Constitution as being ultimately on their side, and identify the Constitution with the Supreme Court. When they agree with the Court’s decision, they tend to think the country has been called back to its best self. When they disagree, they tend to think there has been a regrettable, maybe terrible, mistake.

The perverse thing is that, when a country puts questions of basic principle into the hands of just a few interpreters, and gives those interpreters life tenure, the issue becomes less “What does equality mean to Americans?” than “What does equality mean to Justice Kennedy?” That is not a healthy question for democratic citizens to ask about their basic values. It is what would fit a monarchy better: “What is the king feeling today?”

Americans’ willingness to accept the Supreme Court’s mystical role is partly a symptom of disappointment in our own democratic capacities. Congress is the most directly representative body of the federal government, and almost no one sees it as having principled authority or moral charisma. Hoping that the Supreme Court will make us better than we can otherwise be, better than our own representative institutions, is neither self-respecting nor very likely to succeed.

We shouldn’t let the Court off the hook, though. The problem isn’t just that we date judicial review because we don’t think we deserve better. The Court maintains its own mystical charisma, especially by keeping out cameras, and, in recent decades, it has degraded the other institutions by clearing a broad path for big money to enter politics. It keeps itself special, and its decisions sometimes make other branches of government even more disappointing.

Big arguments about whether we should even have a Supreme Court with the power of judicial review are interesting, but there are equally important and more practical questions about what to do with the Court we have. Chemerinsky makes a couple of excellent practical suggestions, which others have also pressed.

First, opening the Court to cameras would let people see the justices for what they are: smart and well-trained human beings wrangling over hard, charged questions with knotty legal materials. It might drain the sense of the Court as an oracle, and bring home the reality that this is, basically, a very high-level committee of elite lawyers. That would open the question of which decisions we want such a committee to decide.

Second, and more radical, would be reconfiguring the Court. Chemerinsky suggests replacing life tenure with 18-year terms, meaning a new seat would open up every two years, and every president would get an equal number of appointments. This would make the Court’s relationship to the larger democracy less arbitrary. (Nixon appointed four justices in his first two years; Jimmy Carter got none.) Even more important, though, it would end the irritating and distorting tradition of the swing justice, whose temperamental sense of what justice requires matters more than either James Madison’s words or a majority of Americans’ considered views.

An even more radical step would be to replace the nine-person Court with a pool of senior and respected federal judges who would serve on rotating panels. A decision of such a panel would still be the last word on the question, but the judgments would reflect more of an average of legal expertise and seasoned judgment than the particular convictions of nine life-tenured justices.

The real advantage of these reforms is that they would be the beginning of an experiment in living with a less mystified Supreme Court and a more realistic idea of the relationship between judging and politics. In light of that experiment, future Americans could decide which questions they should trust to committees of lawyers and which they should decide more directly. Where democratic institutions are failing, as Congress is now, they might even ask how to revive them, rather than hope for a saving decision from the Court. That would be a step toward building a democracy that could respect itself—and deserve the respect.


By: Jedediah Purdy, The Daily Beast, June 22, 2014

June 23, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In The Name Of All That’s Good”: Why Can’t The Media Just Ignore Dick Cheney?

It is said that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Unfortunately in politics one of the oldest tricks in the book is to say and do something so insulting to the common sense and intelligence of the opposition that they completely abandon reason and strike back in an irrational and ultimately self-defeating manner. Dick Cheney is an old dog and is up to his usual dirty tricks, but I will not allow him or the bile that exits his mouth to incite me to irrational words or actions. Imagine a world without Dick Cheney in it. What a better place it would be. Well, at least can we just ignore him while he is here?

I have written pieces on several occasions decrying his inane ramblings on affairs domestic and international. The latest incendiary barrage leveled against the president, defending Dick’s War in Iraq. This ill-conceived and grossly mismanaged plan is universally acknowledged to be the deadliest miscalculation in modern history except by those who created it. The natural inclination in response to its continued defense is a sharp rebuke filled with profane invectives. But we will not go there; it only humors those who are immensely frustrated with the enormity of their failure.

Going to war is without a doubt the most serious decision that a leader must confront. It requires every ounce of intellect, reasoning, factual examination, political dexterity, diplomatic consideration, compassion, and strength of conviction that a mere mortal possesses. The Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was strong on conviction and marketing and short on all other counts. It was a bad decision that has seriously put this nation in a position of weakness and suspicion internationally, has shortchanged the American people by redirecting considerable financial resources away from investment in them and to wartime profiteers, has created a class of military veterans who struggle with deep wounds that have not been and may never be adequately treated, has energized a worldwide jihadist movement, and has left the millennial generation with no conception of a world without war.

Imagine a surgeon who removes the wrong limb, then picture the patient continuing to consult the doctor for additional surgical advice. Absurd you say, who in their right mind would do such a thing? The answer is the news media. That’s right, our information outlets. I don’t care what qualifications or credentials the doctor possesses or claims to possess — would you take your child back to this quack? Of course you wouldn’t, yet here we are being buffeted by the likes of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bremer, Kristol and other architects and apologists of a policy so fraught with miscalculation that in another setting it would qualify for criminal prosecution.

Dick Cheney has not the least amount of credibility on the Iraq situation, either this one or the one 11 years ago. He has audaciously illustrated time and again that he has no capacity for self-reflection, introspection, analysis or questioning on issues that involve life and death on a large-scale. These qualities are important to human growth; Dick’s growth was stunted at a very early age.

He has every right to speak his mind, which is the hallmark of a free democratic society. But he also has a responsibility as both a leader and a former leader in such a society to evolve, to contribute to the betterment of society by examining his actions and thoughts, and correcting his mistakes. Refusal to admit mistakes and challenge one’s own assumptions is the most selfish, irresponsible, and immature behavior that any leader, whether of a nation or a family, can exhibit and is reflective of insufficient capacity to lead.

No human is infallible; everyone makes mistakes, true leaders own up to them. Dick Cheney’s childishness does not deserve the print either he or his co-conspirators regularly receive. The only way to shut him down is to pay him no attention. That would be far more devastating to him than hurling verbal jousts that are richly deserved and instinctual to the well-adjusted and reasonable among us.

So I offer this plea that in the name of all that is good, can we please refrain from giving Dick and his droogies a platform? The world would be a better place.


By: Lance Simmens, The Huffington Post Blog, June 19, 2014

June 23, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Iraq, Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Veterans And Zombies”: The Hype Behind The Health Care Scandal

You’ve surely heard about the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs. A number of veterans found themselves waiting a long time for care, some of them died before they were seen, and some of the agency’s employees falsified records to cover up the extent of the problem. It’s a real scandal; some heads have already rolled, but there’s surely more to clean up.

But the goings-on at Veterans Affairs shouldn’t cause us to lose sight of a much bigger scandal: the almost surreal inefficiency and injustice of the American health care system as a whole. And it’s important to understand that the Veterans Affairs scandal, while real, is being hyped out of proportion by people whose real goal is to block reform of the larger system.

The essential, undeniable fact about American health care is how incredibly expensive it is — twice as costly per capita as the French system, two-and-a-half times as expensive as the British system. You might expect all that money to buy results, but the United States actually ranks low on basic measures of performance; we have low life expectancy and high infant mortality, and despite all that spending many people can’t get health care when they need it. What’s more, Americans seem to realize that they’re getting a bad deal: Surveys show a much smaller percentage of the population satisfied with the health system in America than in other countries.

And, in America, medical costs often cause financial distress to an extent that doesn’t happen in any other advanced nation.

How and why does health care in the United States manage to perform so badly? There have been many studies of the issue, identifying factors that range from high administrative costs, to high drug prices, to excessive testing. The details are fairly complicated, but if you had to identify a common theme behind America’s poor performance, it would be that we suffer from an excess of money-driven medicine. Vast amounts of costly paperwork are generated by for-profit insurers always looking for ways to deny payment; high spending on procedures of dubious medical efficacy is driven by the efforts of for-profit hospitals and providers to generate more revenue; high drug costs are driven by pharmaceutical companies who spend more on advertising and marketing than they do on research.

Other advanced countries don’t suffer from comparable problems because private gain is less of an issue. Outside the U.S., the government generally provides health insurance directly, or ensures that it’s available from tightly regulated nonprofit insurers; often, many hospitals are publicly owned, and many doctors are public employees.

As you might guess, conservatives don’t like the observation that American health care performs worse than other countries’ systems because it relies too much on the private sector and the profit motive. So whenever someone points out the obvious, there is a chorus of denial, of attempts to claim that America does, too, offer better care. It turns out, however, that such claims invariably end up relying on zombie arguments — that is, arguments that have been proved wrong, should be dead, but keep shambling along because they serve a political purpose.

Which brings us to veterans’ care. The system run by the Department of Veterans Affairs is not like the rest of American health care. It is, if you like, an island of socialized medicine, a miniature version of Britain’s National Health Service, in a privatized sea. And until the scandal broke, all indications were that it worked very well, providing high-quality care at low cost.

No wonder, then, that right-wingers have seized on the scandal, viewing it as — to quote Dr. Ben Carson, a rising conservative star — “a gift from God.”

So here’s what you need to know: It’s still true that Veterans Affairs provides excellent care, at low cost. Those waiting lists arise partly because so many veterans want care, but Congress has provided neither clear guidelines on who is entitled to coverage, nor sufficient resources to cover all applicants. And, yes, some officials appear to have responded to incentives to reduce waiting times by falsifying data.

Yet, on average, veterans don’t appear to wait longer for care than other Americans. And does anyone doubt that many Americans have died while waiting for approval from private insurers?

A scandal is a scandal, and wrongdoing must be punished. But beware of people trying to use the veterans’ care scandal to derail health reform.

And here’s the thing: Health reform is working. Too many Americans still lack good insurance, and hence lack access to health care and protection from high medical costs — but not as many as last year, and next year should be better still. Health costs are still far too high, but their growth has slowed dramatically. We’re moving in the right direction, and we shouldn’t let the zombies get in our way.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 19, 2014

June 23, 2014 Posted by | Health Care Costs, Health Reform, Veterans Administration | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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