Daily Archive: 05/26/2014

May 26 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Ted Rall: The Drone Memo’s Hack Author Should Be In Prison. Instead, He’ll Be a Judge.

I got to thinking about the fall of the professional class after hearing that the White House has finally relented in its incessant stonewalling on the Drone Memo. Finally, we peons will get a peek at a legal opinion that the White House uses to justify using drones to blow up anyone, anywhere, including American citizens on American soil, for any reason the President deems fit.

When the news broke, I tweeted: “This should be interesting.”

I’m a cartoonist, but I can’t imagine any reading of the Constitution – left, right, in Swahili – that allows the president to circumvent due process and habeas corpus. I can’t see how Obama can get around Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 12333, even after Bush amended it. Political assassinations are clearly proscribed: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” (Yes, even bin Laden.)

I have no doubt that David Barron, who is a professor at the very fancy Harvard Law School and held the impressive title of Former Acting Chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and who furthermore is President Obama’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, did his very bestest with his mad legal skillz to come up with a “kill ’em all, let Obama sort ’em out” memo he could be proud of.

Still, this topic prompts two questions:

What kind of human being would accept such an assignment? Did anyone check for a belly button?

How badly would such a person have to mangle the English language, logic, Constitutional law and legal precedent, in order to extract the justification for mass murder he was asked to produce?

New York Times Editorial: Mr. Schumer Backs a Bad Old Idea

Senator Charles Schumer of New York wants to outsource the collection of unpaid back taxes to private debt collectors, who would take a cut of the proceeds. The plan is basically a budget gimmick aimed at creating jobs at a handful of collection agencies, two in upstate New York.

The last time the government tried to privatize collections, from 2006 to 2009, a handful of firms pocketed $16.5 million. But there was no increase in federal revenue – in fact, after accounting for administrative costs at the Internal Revenue Service, there was a net loss for the government of $4.5 million. A pilot privatization program in 1996-97 also lost money.

Those losses are surely understated, because they do not include opportunity costs: Every dollar the I.R.S. spent to administer private collection efforts was not available to spend on its own collection efforts, which bring in about $20 in revenue for every $1 spent. The I.R.S., for example, can collect a tax debt by withholding a subsequent tax refund or by settling for a lower amount – tactics that private collectors have no or little ability, training or incentive to use.

Jeff Bachman and Jeannie Khouri: Obama Did Not End Torture

On January 9, 2009, then President-elect Barack Obama announced, in what was to be a departure from Bush administration era “war-on-terror” tactics: “I was clear throughout this campaign and was clear throughout this transition that under my administration the United States does not torture.” In April 2014, Senator Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called Bush administration era torture programs “a stain on our history that must never be allowed to happen again.” Attorney General Eric Holder also weighed in, arguing that declassification of the Senate Intelligence Committee report would ensure that “no administration contemplates such a program in the future.”

While it is essential that the truth be revealed regarding the systematic torture of detainees under the Bush administration, it is equally essential that we recognize the claim that President Obama ended torture as the myth that it is. Under President Obama, the United States continued to imprison individuals in Afghan detention facilities fully aware of the systematic torture that takes place. The continued practice of transferring detainees to Afghan detention facilities despite full knowledge of the systematic torture being perpetrated therein is an unequivocal violation of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Paul Krugman: Europe’s Secret Success

I’ll be spending the next couple of days at a forum sponsored by the European Central Bank whose de facto topic – whatever it may say on the program – will be the destructive monetary muddle caused by the Continent’s premature adoption of a single currency. What makes the story even sadder is that Europe’s financial and macroeconomic woes have overshadowed its remarkable, unheralded longer-term success in an area in which it used to lag: job creation.

What? You haven’t heard about that? Well, that’s not too surprising. European economies, France in particular, get very bad press in America. Our political discourse is dominated by reverse Robin-Hoodism – the belief that economic success depends on being nice to the rich, who won’t create jobs if they are heavily taxed, and nasty to ordinary workers, who won’t accept jobs unless they have no alternative. And according to this ideology, Europe – with its high taxes and generous welfare states – does everything wrong. So Europe’s economic system must be collapsing, and a lot of reporting simply states the postulated collapse as a fact.

Jessica Valenti: Elliot Rodger’s California shooting spree: further proof that misogyny kills

Attributing the deaths of six people and wounding of several others in Isla Vista to ‘a madman’ ignores a stark truth about our society

We should know this by now, but it bears repeating: misogyny kills.

On Friday night, a man – identified by police as Elliot Rodgers – allegedly seeking “retribution” against women whom he said sexually rejected him went on a killing spree in Isla Vista, California, killing six people and sending seven more to the hospital with serious gunshot injuries. Three of the bodies were reportedly removed from Rodger’s apartment.

Before the mass murder he allegedly committed, 22-year-old Rodger – also said to have been killed Friday night – made several YouTube videos complaining that he was a virgin and that beautiful women wouldn’t pay attention to him. In one, he calmly outlined how he would “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see”.

According to his family, Rodger was seeking psychiatric treatment. But to dismiss this as a case of a lone “madman” would be a mistake.

May 26 2014

The Breakfast Club: 5-26-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. I’m jetlagged, so today it’s posted when I wake up. Deal with it.

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This Day in History

May 26 2014

On This Day In History May 26

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

May 26 is the 146th day of the year (147th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 219 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1637, an allied Puritan and Mohegan force under English Captain John Mason attacks a Pequot village in Connecticut, burning or massacring some 500 Indian women, men, and children.

The Pequot War was an armed conflict in 1634-1638 between the Pequot tribe against an alliance of the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Saybrook colonies with American Indian allies (the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes). Hundreds were killed; hundreds more were captured and sold into slavery to the West Indies. Other survivors were dispersed. At the end of the war, about seven hundred Pequots had been killed or taken into captivity. The result was the elimination of the Pequot as a viable polity in what is present-day Southern New England. It would take the Pequot more than three and a half centuries to regain political and economic power in their traditional homeland region along the Pequot (present-day Thames) and Mystic rivers in what is now southeastern Connecticut.

The Mystic massacre

Believing that the English had returned to Boston, the Pequot sachem Sassacus took several hundred of his warriors to make another raid on Hartford. Mason had visited and recruited the Narragansett, who joined him with several hundred warriors. Several allied Niantic warriors also joined Mason’s group. On May 26, 1637, with a force up to about 400 fighting men, Mason attacked Misistuck by surprise. He estimated that “six or seven Hundred” Pequot were there when his forces assaulted the palisade. As some 150 warriors had accompanied Sassacus to Hartford, so the inhabitants remaining were largely Pequot women and children, and older men. Mason ordered that the enclosure be set on fire. Justifying his conduct later, Mason declared that the attack against the Pequot was the act of a God who “laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to scorn making [the Pequot] as a fiery Oven . . . Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling [Mystic] with dead Bodies.”  Mason insisted that any Pequot attempting to escape the flames should be killed. Of the estimated 600 to 700 Pequot resident at Mystic that day, only seven survived to be taken prisoner, while another seven escaped to the woods.

The Narragansett and Mohegan warriors with Mason and Underhill’s colonial militia were horrified by the actions and “manner of the Englishmen’s fight . . . because it is too furious, and slays too many men.” The Narragansett left the warfare and returned home.

Believing the mission accomplished, Mason set out for home. Becoming temporarily lost, his militia narrowly missed returning Pequot warriors. After seeing the destruction of Mystic, they gave chase to the English forces, but to little avail.

May 26 2014

AC Meetup: Jill Abramson vs. School Safety Officers Vs. Minimum Wage Workers by Geminijen

The firing of New York Times CEO Jill Abramson for filing a law suit against the Times for gender based pay discrimination has been one of the main stories on twitter the last couple of weeks.

It is plain that the abrupt departure of executive editor Jill Abramson, the first woman ever to hold that position, was related to the fact that she protested that she was paid less than her male predecessor in one job and her male successor and subordinates in another. According to the New Yorker and the Daily Beast, her starting salary as executive editor was more than $100,000 lower than the salary of the man before her-and precisely $100,000 lower when she had earlier become Washington bureau chief.

The New York Times, however, with a straight face, stated that her firing was not related to any such issue but due to the fact that her leadership style  was “inappropriate,” that she was too “difficult and demanding”.

Sex, Race and Class Dynamics Among the 1%.

As the Daily Beast noted, there have been similar complaints for years about powerful women like  Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Mikulski and Hillary Clinton.  Qualities that earn praise  for men in office-being tough, holding subordinates and colleagues alike to high standards-invite blame for women in a culture that believes that even those  professionals who manage to break the glass ceiling should nonetheless know their place (what’s an extra $100,000 a year?) Could it actually be that such women have managed to be so successful precisely because they are assertive and demanding? The Times won eight Pulitzer Prizes during Abramson’s brief and successful tenure.

Fuel was added to the twitter fire when it turned out that the narrative included an added tidbit of gossip about squabbling among two token groups –white women and black men. Apparently there was some dispute when Abramson tried to bring in a second managing editor. Dan Baquet, an African American male, who was at that time the sole managing editor objected and, following the firing of Abramson, became her successor and the first African American to be elevated to the CEO position.

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Sex, Race and Class Dynamics Among the Rest of Us.

While we all seem to enjoy a little voyeurism into the lives of the rich and famous, we are now going to turn to another pay discrimination case occurring in the same time frame which received much less media attention, but which we maintain is potentially much more important.

In New York City’s you may have seen protests outside of City Hall recently supporting the 5,000 school safety agents who have signed on to a class action lawsuit accusing the city of violating the federal Equal Pay Act by paying them less than the special security officers  who perform similar work at homeless shelters and hospitals.

Approximately 70 percent of school safety agents are female, but they make about 20 percent less than special security officers, who are predominantly male. A special officer’s top salary is about $42,000 a year, compared to about $35,000 for a safety agent, the article reports.

School safety agents are responsible for patrolling buildings, intervening in altercations between students and ensuring that visitors are authorized. They confiscate knives and witness gang activity as well. They act as peace officers under New York state law, so they – as well as the special officers – carry handcuffs, make arrests and use deadly force, if necessary, to perform their jobs.

Safety agents are hired and trained by the police department; special officers work for the Health and Hospital Corporation, as well as six mayoral agencies including the Department of Homeless Services, the Human Resources Administration and the Administration of Children’s Services.

During Mayor de Blasio’s campaign for Mayor he promised to address this issue.

While the city’s law depart confirms that it is evaluating the case, the DOE refused to comment at this time and the city’s lawyers are currently in the courts trying to delay this case while de Blasio finishes his budget negotiations with city workers.

One reason why de Blasio might want a delay would be that if the lawsuit wins, de Blasio will have to budget  up to $35 million dollars more per year just to bring this one group of workers up to pay equity– and there are millions of similar pay discrepancies around the country and the world, especially when the criteria is that the work must be the same in skills and qualifications (comparable worth)but not necessarily the same exact job.  To rectify Abramson’s pay discrepancy, on the other hand,  will only cost the New York Times $100,000 a year plus back pay and perhaps similar adjustments for the small percentage of workers in the rarified 1%). If the safety agents win, it will, bring hundreds, perhaps thousands of women workers out of poverty.If all workers who were underpaid in comparable jobs it would increase wages as a whole by 13.5%. So the stakes are pretty high.

One area where progress in raising women’s wages is being made is in the fast food industry where 2/3 of the workers are women, many with children, many making minimum wage. Beginning in November 2012, a series of almost spontaneous one day strikes began culminating on May 15, 2014 in simultaneous strikes in 158 cities and solidarity actions in 93 international cities across 36 countries, demanding that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour. This past week 101 workers got arrested outside the McDonald’s shareholders meeting. This vibrant movement has recently been supported by the SEIU Union.

A number of cities and states have already responded and raised their minimum wages (Hawaii, Sante Fe, Minnesota plus at least 12 others)and it looks like other states will follow. President Obama now supports a $10.10 federal minimum wage. It is interesting, however, that this struggle has not been based specifically on gender pay inequity but raising workers as a whole out of poverty.



What Do We Need to Do to End Sex Discrimination in the Workplace?

According to the Equal Pay Act of 1963:

No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section [section 206 of title 29 of the United States Code] shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs[,] the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex [ . . . . ] [2]

The Equal Pay Act seemed so simple when it was passed in 1963.  If there is sex discrimination in jobs, we should just legislate that all workers should get the same pay for the same work, if discrimination was the only reason there was a discrepancy.

The most commonly used indicator to determine discrimination against women in the workplace is the male-female income difference known as the “gender wage gap.”It is a very narrow, yet general statistic based on the ratio of female to male median yearly earnings among full-time, year-round workers in the marketplace. This statistic is gathered by the US Census bureau and used by government agencies and economists. In 2010 the median income of FTYR workers was $42,800 for men, compared to $34,700 for women.

As it turns out, accordfing to the gender wage gap, 50 years later women still only make 77% of every dollar earned by men and progress in closing the wage gap has stalled in recent years. The issue, like most others,  is a lot more complicated than it appears at first glance.