Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ending Wage Discrimination

Lilly Ledbetter worked for almost 20 years at a Goodyear Tire plant in Gadsden, Alabama. She was a hard working, competent, employee who became a manager. Ms. Ledbetter trained other employees who went on to become managers, many of them men. In 1998 someone left a note in her mailbox detailing how much the other managers (men) were being paid, in comparison to her pay. This was how Ms. Ledbetter learned that all along she’d been paid considerably less than her male equivalents. She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (EEOC).

Later that year, after taking early retirement, Ledbetter sued Goodyear, claiming pay discrimination. A district court found in her favor, and awarded her $3 million dollars in back pays and damages. Goodyear appealed, arguing that the claims were invalid due to the statute of limitations on discrimination claims. One is supposed to file suit within 180 days of receiving a discriminatory paycheck. This can be difficult to do when one isn’t aware one is being discriminated against, especially since most companies keep employee wages quite confidential. The statute of limitations seems designed to protect those engaging in wage discrimination.

The case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 for Goodyear. Justice Alito delivered the opinion, stating essentially that Ms. Ledbetter had failed to meet the 180-day filing deadline. Justices Ginsberg, Souter, Breyer, and Stevens were the dissenters. In the minority opinion, Justice Ginsberg pointed out the fact that discrimination often occurs incrementally, over time, thereby rendering the 180-day time limit ridiculous.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Democrats in Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was designed to change how deadlines in equal pay cases are determined. The Republican Senate blocked the bill. During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama spoke in favor of the bill. John McCain was against it, saying that it was not needed. The sad truth is that the bill is needed. Women in this country still earn an average of $0.77 for each dollar earned by a man. This affects their lifetime earning potential, their incomes, and their retirement.

The bill came un-stuck in the new Senate, where it passed 61-36 on January 22. The vote went down largely along party lines, but with some interesting differences. All of the 36 who voted against the bill were Republicans, and all of them were men. All of the female Republican Senators (and Arlen Spector) voted in favor of the bill. How would Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski or Kay Bailey Hutchison go back to their districts to explain a no vote to their female constituents? Arlen Spector wasn’t willing – but all of the other GOP male Senators were not troubled in the slightest. This would include NH’s own Judd Gregg. The male GOP position is that this bill will lead to “nuisance” lawsuits. It is indeed a terrible “nuisance” when a company tries to discriminate against women and gets sued for it. Former NH Governor Craig Benson certainly found that out. This is one of the reasons the GOP is currently the minority party, and likely to stay that way. They don’t regard women as equals. Are they smart enough to notice that it was the women senators who failed to toe the party line? The male dinosaurs that rule the GOP had best pay attention. This no vote will haunt Judd Gregg in 2010 if he decides to run for re-election.

On January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed his first bill into law. It was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. Senator Olympia Snowe stood behind him, looking delighted.

The state of New Mexico is taking action against wage discrimination. Governor Bill Richardson has signed an executive order that will require the state (as an employer) to study its own pay practices regarding race and gender. It also requires private companies that want state contracts to do the same. In this way, companies that don’t know about internal pay inequality can fix it before being sued. Taxpayers will be sure they aren’t helping to fund companies that discriminate. This new policy will help eliminate those “nuisance” lawsuits, because employees will know upfront that they are actually receiving equal pay for equal work. Other states should take notice.

Lilly Ledbetter took a stand against injustice, and in doing so, created positive change. Thanks, Lily.

“Ultimately, equal pay isn't just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it's a question of who we are -- and whether we're truly living up to our fundamental ideals; whether we'll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put on paper some 200 years ago really mean something -- to breathe new life into them with a more enlightened understanding that is appropriate for our time. That is what Lilly Ledbetter challenged us to do.
And today, I sign this bill not just in her honor, but in the honor of those who came before -- women like my grandmother, who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up and giving her best every day, without complaint, because she wanted something better for me and my sister.”
A portion of the comments made by President Obama as he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act

This was published on Jan. 30 as an editorial in the Conway Daily Sun. h/t to AP for the picture.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dick Armey gives douchebags a bad name

Joan Walsh responded in a very dignified manner. Chris Matthews, however, is assigned 4 shots of vinegar and water. As for Dick Armey - mercifully he's no longer in Congress, and he won't live forever.

This is why the GOP is destined to remain in the minority for a long, long time.

Douchebags of the GOP

Dear Poppy:
Apparently you think that it is the responsibility of all women to be appealing to you, in case you want to get into their wombs.

No woman wants you anywhere near her womb.
You aren't exactly Prince Charming yourself.

Dear Bill Clinton - you're as big a piece of shit as Poppy is for not calling him out on his misogyny.

Dear Car Dealers - we heard you all laughing about this. You would do well to remember that women buy cars.

Wolf Blitzer - this is your idea of a "lighter moment?" Four shooters of Summer's Eve for you.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rush Limbaugh worries about bending over...

Comedian Rush Limbaugh in part of an interview he did with faux media prat boy Sean Hannity. The whole interview is interesting, Rush declaring that he hopes President Obama fails, Rush declaring that he doesn't care about Obama's race - only he repeats that mantra endlessly. Apparently Rush's way to show disinterest is by repeating it 40-50 times.

Not only is Rush the real racist, but he seems to have something of a fetish about sodomy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

NH Bishop Gene Robinson

Bishop Robinson gives the invocation before the We Are One concert on Jan. 18, 2009. I'm not a believer - but this is a strong, clear, and wise prayer.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hopes and Dreams

In just a few days, our nation will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when we honor the slain civil rights activist. The next day, we will witness the historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States, and the first African-American. We’ve come a long way in my lifetime.

As a young child, I saw civil rights protest footage on television. Mean looking white sheriffs using fire hoses on black women and children. This was heady stuff for a young girl growing up in a town where there were no black residents. I kept asking my parents why this was happening. I never did get a good answer. As I grew older I learned that it was all about skin color, fear, bigotry, and power. Oppression always seems to be about fear and power.

Dr. King was murdered in 1968. Not long afterward, the campaign for a national day to honor him began. It failed, as did subsequent attempts. Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law in 1983. Reagan was opposed to the legislation, but a veto proof majority passed it. Three years later, the national holiday was observed for the first time. Despite the creation of the national holiday, a number of states were unwilling to acknowledge the holiday. The late Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina was one of the loudest voices against honoring Dr. King. Helms cited his opposition to the Viet Nam war, womanizing, and called King a Marxist. Senator John McCain opposed the holiday, and defended the governor of Arizona for refusing to recognize the holiday. Arizona and New Hampshire refused to recognize the holiday into the 1990’s. This became a contentious issue in our state – the Conway Daily Sun saw a lot of letter to the editor on that particular subject. I was one of the letter writers who urged NH to honor Dr. King. There were a number who opposed the holiday, one of the loudest being a bigot from Glen who still writes quasi-racist screeds to the paper from time to time.

The King holiday faced a rocky road in NH. NH Senator Jim Splaine filed the first bill proposing a King holiday, in 1979. It was defeated, as were similar bills in 1981. Our current US Senator Judd Gregg opposed honoring Dr. King, when Gregg was serving in the US House back in the 80’s. He continued to oppose it as Governor of NH. For a number of years NH celebrated “Civil Rights Day” instead of honoring Dr. King. The claim by a succession of NH GOP governors was that it wasn’t just about one person; that the civil rights movement was more than that. This was an attempt at preventing NH from looking like a state full of pasty white bigots - a charge that continues to threaten NH’s first in the nation primary status. Arizona voters opted to honor Martin Luther King in 1990. NH didn’t until 1999. Governor Jeanne Shaheen was a strong advocate for renaming the holiday when she was re-elected in 1998. In 2000, NH celebrated Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Day for the first time in 2000.

From fire hoses, dogs, and angry sheriffs to President of the United States in 50 years is one heck of a long strange trip. Many fought tooth and nail against it, but as Doctor King said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Our new president owes a great deal to a couple of doctors. To Dr. King who paved the way, and to Dr. Howard Dean, who gave Democrats the 50 state strategy. There is much to celebrate next week; the words and work of a visionary, and the inauguration of a new president who was elected because he inspired the hopes and dreams of American voters. Next week we begin a new chapter in our history. Amen.

“I know you are asking today, ‘How long will it take?’

I come to say to you this afternoon how- ever difficult the moment, however frustrating the
hour, it will not be long, because truth pressed to earth will rise again.

How long? Not long, because no lie can live

How long? Not long, because you will reap
what you sow.

How long? Not long, because the arc of the
moral universe is long but it bends toward jus-

Martin Luther King, Jr., March 25, 1965

This was published as an editorial on January 16, in the Conway Daily Sun

Pride - In the Name of Love

Monday, January 12, 2009

Joe the Plumber - War Correspondent

Joe the Plumber (who is neither Joe nor a plumber, but let's not nitpick) is a newly minted war correspondent for right wing website pjtv. Plucked from the depths of impending obscurity, Joe was sent to Israel to show us how a man of the people would report on a war. See for yourselves why reporters go to journalism school:

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think journalists should be anywhere allowed war. I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what’s happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I think it’s asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you’d go to the theater and you’d see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for’em. Now everyone’s got an opinion and wants to downer–and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers.

I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, “Well look at this atrocity,” well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.

There's a certain irony in Mr. Plumber's thought process. Even though he was sent to Israel as a "war correspondent" he doesn't grasp that what he's saying about journalists also applies to him. Or, he's a lot smarter than I give him credit for, and he understands that he's no journalist.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

In With the New

The old year is over. Away with you, 2008. It was a terrible year in most respects, and based on many conversations, most people will not remember it fondly.

After eight years of Bush insanity in the White House, we have a fresh start in 2009, with a new president. Barack Obama is being handed the keys to the Augean Stables. Mucking them out is going to be an enormous task. Obviously he has to start with the economy – but I’m hoping to see the end of the US occupation in Iraq, an end to our current policies on torture, on rendition, and the closing of Guantanamo Bay. We voted for hope and we voted for change. It’s important that how the US is perceived by the rest of the world is changed, but it’s crucial that we change how we see ourselves. We haven’t had much to be proud of in the last 8 years.

A new year is a fine time for the US to evaluate our priorities. If you look at a budget pie chart, the first thing you notice is that we spend more on the military than anything else. Over half of the federal discretionary budget goes to the military. A tiny little sliver goes to education. Clearly killing people is more important to us than educating them. I sure hope we can figure out a way to turn that around. An evaluation of our national priorities is long overdue. Given the economic situation in the country, a good place to start tightening spending would be the Pentagon. The Pentagon can’t account for $2.6 trillion, and can’t pass an audit. It’s time to stop turning a blind eye to that.

Jobs are drying up. The numbers we hear about the unemployed take into consideration only the folks who file unemployment claims. They do not count the folks who were not eligible, or who reached the end of their benefits and are still unemployed. If the real numbers were known, we’d be more panicky, especially when all the prognosticators tell us things are only going to get worse.

At home in NH we’re faced with many challenges. The newly elected state legislature is facing a record number of bills, and the need for serious belt tightening. Our state representatives and senators will be earning their $100 paycheck this year. They’ll also be counting on us to let them know how we feel about upcoming bills.
Our towns will be facing the same kind of challenges. Based on recent news coverage, it seems likely that at least two area towns will have very interesting town meetings. These are stressful times for most of us. It’s my hope that we can find ways to work together and come up with creative solutions. The school of “we’ve always done it that way” may have to be permanently closed.

I realize this doesn’t sound particularly hopeful. We’re in a lot of trouble right now. Even so, I don’t feel the same sense of impending doom that I’ve been living with for the last year. 2008 was pretty terrible for me. I’m grateful to live in an area where common sense often triumphs, where neighbor is a word that still has resonance, and where community still exists. Here’s to 2009.

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” Bill Vaughan

“For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
T. S.Eliot

This was printed as an editorial in the Conway Daily Sun on January 3, 2009

Best video of 2008

My personal favorite - Bill O'Reilly wigs out - the dance remix! Fuck it - we'll do it live!