April 23, 2014


Filed under: History, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:04

An interesting article in the New Yorker by Jelani Cobb discusses some of the aspects of the struggle to desegregate American schools that I hadn’t heard of:

The architects of Jim Crow were fixated by notions of white racial purity, but black people subjected to that dictatorship of pigment were concerned with a different question: In a hostile society, is it better to be isolated from those who view you with contempt or in close proximity to them? In retrospect, it is easy to see segregation as a moral evil unanimously despised by black people, but even its fiercest critics betrayed ambivalence about what its end would mean. In the thirties, W. E. B. Du Bois inspired rancorous debates within the N.A.A.C.P. by arguing, in his writing, that there were important economic benefits — the built-in market for black businesses, for instance — that came with segregation. James Nabrit, Jr., an attorney who handled a school-desegregation suit in Washington, D.C., that became one of the cases grouped with Brown, went on to become president of Howard University, a job that entailed the seemingly paradoxical task of preserving and furthering an all-black educational institution. Three of the other attorneys who worked on Brown, including Thurgood Marshall, had, in fact, met as students at Howard’s law school, and they began their desegregation work under the tutelage of Charles Hamilton Houston, the school’s dean. Black teachers in South Carolina, where another of the desegregation suits had been filed, worried, with some cause, that integration would end a state of affairs in which black children, though deprived of equal resources, at least benefitted from teachers who did not calibrate their expectations according to the color of their students’ skin.

The Supreme Court decision on Brown, in 1954, marked a moral high point in American history, but the practice that it dispatched to the graveyard had already begun to mutate into something less tangible and far more durable. What would, in the end, preserve the principle of “separate inequality” was not protests like the one staged by Orval Faubus, the governor of Arkansas, who deployed the National Guard to Little Rock’s Central High School, in 1957, in order to keep black students out. Instead, it was policies like the Interstate Highway Act, whose passage one year earlier helped spawn American suburbia. In the wake of Brown, private schools, whose implicit mission was to educate white children, cropped up throughout the South. The persistent legacies of redlining, housing discrimination, and wage disparity conspired to produce segregation without Jim Crow — maintaining all the familiar elements of the past in an updated operating system.

To the extent that the word “desegregation” remains in our vocabulary, it describes an antique principle, not a current priority. Today, we are more likely to talk of diversity — but diversification and desegregation are not the same undertaking. To speak of diversity, in light of this country’s history of racial recidivism, is to focus on bringing ethnic variety to largely white institutions, rather than dismantling the structures that made them so white to begin with.

And so, sixty years after Brown, it is clear that the notion of segregation as a discrete phenomenon, an evil that could be flipped, like a switch, from on to off, by judicial edict, was deeply naïve. The intervening decades have shown, in large measure, the limits of what political efforts directed at desegregation alone could achieve, and the crumbling of both elements of “separate but equal” has left us at an ambivalent juncture. To the extent that desegregation becomes, once again, a pressing concern — and even that may be too grand a hope — it will have to involve the tax code, the minimum wage, and other efforts to redress income inequality. For the tragedy of this moment is not that black students still go to overwhelmingly black schools, long after segregation was banished by law, but that they do so for so many of the same reasons as in the days before Brown.

H/T to ESR for the link.

February 25, 2014

Freedom of belief and “administrative law” in Colorado

Filed under: Business, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:05

L. Neil Smith on a controversial case in Colorado:

In a story that recently made national news, a Colorado baker who, for reasons of Christian conscience, refused to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple, has been ordered by a Denver administrative law judge (and exactly what the hell is an “administrative law judge”, anyway?) to do so nonetheless — and make similar cakes for any other customers who request them — or face fines and possibly a stretch in prison.

He will file reports and be watched closely from now on.

I am not kidding.

The baker, who has said that he will disobey the order, is Jack C. Phillips, his bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop. The judge’s name is Robert Spencer. The gay couple are Charlie Craig and David Mullins. The lawsuit was brought on their behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Craig and Mullins originally filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Apparently Phillips had refused another such request, by a lesbian couple, some time ago, and, according to local talk show host Peter Boyles of 710KNUS, was deliberately targeted, or “shopped”, possibly by the judge, himself. Meanwhile, a Colorado Democratic legislator (whose name I can’t find) has just introduced legislation that would crank up the fine for this “offense” by 7000 percent.

In a specimen of logic so twisted it would make Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali vomit, Spencer has issued Phillips a “cease and desist” order — an official order to stop not doing something. It’s exactly like a moment out of a nightmare collaboration between Stalin and Kafka.

Clearly, Baker Phillips has a right, under the First Amendment — a right currently being denied him — to believe whatever he wishes, and to follow the precepts of his religion, as long as he doesn’t deny anybody else their rights. He also has a First Amendment right to freedom of speech, which necessarily includes the right not to speak, when that appears more eloquent, or to employ his artistic insights, intuitions, and skills in support of a cause that he personally finds obnoxious.

Certainly Craig and Mullins have their rights, as well, but they don’t include compelling Phillips or anybody else to work for them, or to pretend as if they agreed with their ideas and help trumpet them to the world. The fact is, there are dozens of other bakeries in Denver more than willing to do that. But, as we now know from Obamacare, everybody has to comply. They want to get this guy and get him good.

Lobbyist wants to ban gays from playing in the NFL

Filed under: Football, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:28

This is the sort of story that wouldn’t be out of place in the 1970s, but seems to have come adrift in the timestream and for some reason shows up today:

Just when it appeared that a supposedly modern, progressive society is willing to accept people for who they are and not force them to pretend to be something they’re not, someone is trying to kick the pendulum sharply in the other direction.

According to The Hill, lobbyist Jack Burkman said Monday that he’s preparing legislation that would ban gay players from the NFL.

“We are losing our decency as a nation,” Burkman said in a statement. “Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?”

One must assume that Burkman’s belief is, contra Chris Kluwe, sharing a shower room with a gay man will magically turn you into a “lustful cockmonster”.

February 18, 2014

Michael Sam, latent homophobia, and the NFL draft

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:04

Jim Geraghty looks at two sides of the Michael Sam story: the media side and the football side. They’re very different stories.

Good luck, Michael Sam.

Those of us who are sports fans are going to have a fascinating couple weeks ahead, as the national political and cultural media insists upon interpreting the events of the National Football League draft through the lens of identity politics. They will attempt to shoehorn events into a made-for-TV movie storyline about Michael Sam, defensive end for the University of Missouri, and aspiring NFL player.

Our media used to writing one kind of identity politics story: a person comes out of the closet and becomes the first openly-gay person to achieve a particular goal, gets saluted for bravery, is elevated to hero status, and then spends the next few years going to black-tie awards dinners and being the subject of overwrought documentaries.


The NFL Draft comes with its own movie-ready drama. Unlike the Super Bowl or any other sports championship, the draft is a major annual event that involves every team, as every almost every team has a first-round draft choice. (Sorry, Washington Redskins fans.) There’s a near-complete reversal of fortune, as the league’s worst team has the first and most consequential choice, making a selection that could ignite a quick turnaround back to respectability or be remembered as one of the all-time flops. Every fan of every team has a reason to tune in, to see who their team picks, hoping to have gotten a future star. The NFL draft is one of those rare high-drama sporting events with no real losers.

But there are indeed big winners. For the players, draft day is their real graduation day, where they stop practicing their craft to ensure the prosperity of a university and finally cash in on their years of effort with, in most circumstances, a multi-million dollar, multi-year contract. Guys who grew up with next to nothing bring their mothers and their whole families to New York City, where they learn where they’ll be living for the next few years, pursuing their dream of stardom. Genuine tears of joy flow. At age 20 or 21 or so, these young men have achieved their childhood dreams.

I suspect most fans’ biggest question about Michael Sam is, ‘if my team drafts him, how much better will our pass rush get?’ NFL fans care about the off-the-field behavior of their favorite team’s players to a certain degree; nobody likes rooting for a thug and a player prone to off-the-field trouble represents a higher risk of getting himself suspended or in legal trouble someday. But it’s hard to believe that NFL fans who can come to terms with a one-man population explosion at cornerback or shrug off drug busts, assault charges, DWIs, public intoxication, and all kinds of other misbehavior will stop rooting for a team with a gay defensive end.

A large chunk of the media will insist upon interpreting every triumph and setback for Michael Sam through the lens of his homosexuality and their belief that he’s a flashpoint in a battle between ‘tolerance’ and ‘intolerance.’ But the career of an NFL player can rise or fall on a thousand different factors and twists of fate. Do the coaches use him correctly? How complicated is the defensive system, and how quickly can he pick up the signals, terminology, and strategy? Is he in a system designed to showcase his natural skills, or are the coaches trying to use him in a new or different role that takes time to learn? How good are the other players on the team at his position? Does he twist an ankle or tear an ACL? Sam seems to have a good head on his shoulders, but how does he handle the pressures of being a professional athlete?

In addition to the questions about whether Sam’s collegiate talents will be enough to allow him to flourish in the NFL, and whether a given team would welcome an openly gay team-mate in the locker room, there’s also the “Tim Tebow” problem … the team that drafts Sam will be in the unrelenting focus of the media’s publicity floodlights. Just drafting Sam would only be the start of the media’s attention. Everything to do with Sam will draw TV cameras, paparazzi, and the team’s beat writers for local media outlets.

Where is he going to live? What kind of car does he drive? Where does he shop? How do his new neighbours feel about him? What kind of clothes does he wear away from the team’s facilities? Where does he go for entertainment? Who is he hanging around with?

And that’s just the start of it. Once the pre-season routine gets underway with organized team activities, mini-camps, and then training camp, the team (probably the head coach, but also the GM and the defensive co-ordinator or the linebackers coach) will have their every word analyzed for Sam-newsworthyness. If Sam does poorly in a drill or a scrimmage, it’ll be all over the media. If he isn’t in the starting rotation, it’ll be interpreted (by some) as proof that the team isn’t serious about giving him a fair chance to play.

This might be acceptable to a team if Sam’s skills were top-10 quality, but most of the reports don’t indicate that. A team will put up with a lot if the player drawing the attention is an athletic superstar, but for what seems to be (at best) a player with fair-to-adequate skills, it may deter them from drafting him at all.

Each team starts the regular season with 53 players, but they take nearly twice that number to training camp. Players who are drafted will have a better-than-average chance of being on the opening day roster, but the chances go down significantly the later a player is drafted. All first and second round picks are going to be on the roster, but not all sixth or seventh round picks will be. Sam’s skill set indicate he might have been a mid-round pick before the news broke about him coming out. Now, he might not be picked until the sixth round or he may not be picked at all. If that happens, many will decry the NFL’s homophobia, but as you can see, there’s a lot more in play than just Sam and his NFL playing potential.

The Tea Party’s vulnerabilities on abortion, gay marriage, and immigration

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:21

L. Neil Smith agrees with a lot of Tea Party positions, but correctly points out that their determination to drag (some) religion into politics undermines them in three key areas with non-Tea Party audiences:

As for abortion, gay marriage, and immigration, I was taught in college (and have since confirmed) that the populist Grange Movement of the nineteenth century never quite got off its knees because white farmers didn’t want to share their cause with black farmers. The Tea Parties are demonstrating exactly the same kind of suicidal short-sightedness.

In the eighteenth century, most Americans were either passionately for or against slavery. When the Framers wrote the Constitution, they came to a compromise about the issue: slaves would be counted as three fifths of a person for the purpose of representation. They have been severely castigated about this compromise for a couple of centuries, but without it, there would never have been a United States of America.

I’m saying that similar compromises are possible regarding two of the three issues I’ve mentioned, and I have a question about the third.

Abortion first: I know that one side thinks it’s murder and doesn’t seem aware that half the population — with equal passion and sincerity — considers laws against it to represent expropriation and slavery.

A few years ago, I ran an admittedly unscientific abortion survey on my personal website for three years, asking this question: “Could you be satisfied with a compromise under which abortion would remain legal, but not a single cent of tax money would ever used to pay for it?”

The result was that an overwhelming eighty-five percent responded “Yes”, leaving, I assume, a disgruntled seven and a half percent at either end of the curve, who believe that women — or at least their uteruses — belong to the State, or that abortion ought to be an entitlement. Beyond the palest ghost of a shadow of a doubt, the issue is settled, then. We just need to pound it into our “leaders’” thick skulls.


The question I have about the third issue is this: by precisely what mechanism is my marriage of thirty-odd years to my lovely and talented wife in any way damaged or diminished by letting my friends George and Fred get married, too? I’m talking about nuts and bolts, here, palpable connections. I don’t want to hear about the Bible or your religion. Under the First Amendment, that’s excluded from the conversation.

Their taxes help pay for the courthouse and the judge’s salary. They are entitled, by virtue of that payment, to exactly the same services that you and I expect. What we’re talking about here is leaving George and Fred alone to live the same dream that Cathy and I have been able to live, I can’t find it in myself to deny them that hope.

February 2, 2014

The “77 cents” meme

Filed under: Economics, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:08

President Obama recycled the old claim that women are systematically underpaid and only get 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Christina Hoff Sommers says this is far from the first time he’s been corrected (by the Washington Post, among others) for this hoary myth:

These and other differences in employment preferences and work-family choices have been widely studied in recent years and are now documented in a mountain of solid empirical research. By now the President and his staff must be aware that the wage gap statistic has been demolished. This is not the first time the Washington Post has alerted the White House to the error. Why continue to use it? One possibility is that they have been taken in by the apologetics of groups like the National Organization for Women and the American Association of University Women. In its 2007 Behind the Pay Gap report, the AAUW admits that most of the gap in earnings is explained by choices. But this admission is qualified: “Women’s personal choices are similarly fraught with inequities,” says the AAUW. It speaks of women being “pigeonholed” into “pink-collar” jobs in health and education. According to NOW, powerful sexist stereotypes “steer” women and men “toward different education, training, and career paths.”

Have these groups noticed that American women are now among the most educated, autonomous, opportunity-rich women in history? Why not respect their choices? For the past few decades, untold millions of state and federal dollars have been devoted to recruiting young women into engineering and computer technology. It hasn’t worked. The percent of degrees awarded to women in fields like computer science and engineering has either stagnated or significantly decreased since 2000. (According to Department of Education data, in 2000, women earned 19 percent of engineering BA’s, and 28 percent in computer science; by 2011, only 17 percent of engineering degrees were awarded to females, and the percent of female computer science degrees had dropped to 18.) All evidence suggests that though young women have the talent for engineering and computer science, their interest tends to lie elsewhere. To say that these women remain helplessly in thrall to sexist stereotypes, and manipulated into life choices by forces beyond their control, is divorced from reality — and demeaning to boot. If a woman wants to be a teacher rather than a miner, or a veterinarian rather than a petroleum engineer, more power to her.

The White House should stop using women’s choices to construct a false claim about social inequality that is poisoning our gender debates. And if the President is truly persuaded that statistical pay disparities indicate invidious discrimination, then he should address the wage gap in his own backyard. Female staff at the White House earn 88 cents on the dollar compared to men. Is there a White House war on women?

January 2, 2014

Chris Kluwe burns his bridges in Minnesota … and the rest of the NFL

Filed under: Football, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:57

He’s been looking for work since his time in Minnesota came to an end shortly after the team drafted Jeff Locke in the 2013 draft, but hasn’t been able to catch on with a team, despite his still-respectable abilities. He has strong suspicions why this might be, and he’s probably right. Now that he’s come to terms with the end of his punting career, Chris Kluwe explains what he think happened between him and the Vikings in 2012 and pretty much guarantees he will never work in the NFL again:

During the summer of 2012, I was approached by a group called Minnesotans for Marriage Equality, which asked if I would be interested in helping defeat what was known as the Minnesota Gay Marriage Amendment. The proposed amendment would have defined marriage as “only a union of one man and one woman.” (It was voted down, and same-sex marriage is now legal in Minnesota.) I said yes, but that I would have to clear it with the team first. After talking to the Vikings legal department, I was given the go-ahead to speak on the issue as long as I made it clear I was acting as a private citizen, not as a spokesman for the Vikings, which I felt was fair and complied with. I did several radio advertisements and a dinner appearance for Minnesotans for Marriage Equality. No one from the Vikings’ legal department told me I was doing anything wrong or that I had to stop.

On Sept. 7, 2012, this website published a letter I had written to Maryland delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. chastising him for trampling the free-speech rights of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. The letter also detailed why I supported the rights of same-sex couples to get married. It quickly went viral.

On Sept. 8, the head coach of the Vikings, Leslie Frazier, called me into his office after our morning special-teams meeting. I anticipated it would be about the letter (punters aren’t generally called into the principal’s office). Once inside, Coach Frazier immediately told me that I “needed to be quiet, and stop speaking out on this stuff” (referring to my support for same-sex marriage rights). I told Coach Frazier that I felt it was the right thing to do (what with supporting equality and all), and I also told him that one of his main coaching points to us was to be “good men” and to “do the right thing.” He reiterated his fervent desire for me to cease speaking on the subject, stating that “a wise coach once told me there are two things you don’t talk about in the NFL, politics and religion.” I repeated my stance that this was the right thing to do, that equality is not something to be denied anyone, and that I would not promise to cease speaking out. At that point, Coach Frazier told me in a flat voice, “If that’s what you feel you have to do,” and the meeting ended. The atmosphere was tense as I left the room.


So there you have it. It’s my belief, based on everything that happened over the course of 2012, that I was fired by Mike Priefer, a bigot who didn’t agree with the cause I was working for, and two cowards, Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman, both of whom knew I was a good punter and would remain a good punter for the foreseeable future, as my numbers over my eight-year career had shown, but who lacked the fortitude to disagree with Mike Priefer on a touchy subject matter. (Frazier was fired on Monday, at the conclusion of a 5-10-1 season.) One of the main coaching points I’ve heard throughout my entire life is, “How you respond to difficult situations defines your character,” and I think it’s a good saying. I also think it applies to more than just the players.

If there’s one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story, it’s to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL, and ideally never coaches at any level. (According to the Pioneer Press, he is “the only in-house candidate with a chance” at the head-coaching job.) It’s inexcusable that someone would use his status as a teacher and a role model to proselytize on behalf of his own doctrine of intolerance, and I hope he never gets another opportunity to pass his example along to anyone else. I also hope that Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman take a good look in the mirror and ask themselves if they are the people they truly profess themselves to be.

Update, 3 January: The Vikings have hired two lawyers, one of them the former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, to investigate Kluwe’s allegations.

Eric Magnuson, the former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and Chris Madel, a former U.S. Department of Justice Trial attorney, will lead the investigation.

“It is extremely important for the Vikings organization to react immediately and comprehensively with an independent review of these allegations,” Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf said in a statement issued by the team Friday.

Magnuson and Madel are partners in the firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. Their investigation is already underway, according to the Vikings’ release.

“This is a highly sensitive matter that we as an organization will address with integrity,” Vikings vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer Kevin Warren said in the statement.

“Eric and Chris have stellar reputations in both the local and national legal community. They have handled numerous cases involving a wide range of issues, and we are confident they will move swiftly and fairly in completing this investigation.”


The Vikings investigation comes a little less than two months after the NFL hired attorney Ted Wells to investigate issues of workplace conduct with the Miami Dolphins, who asked the league for help after representatives for tackle Jonathan Martin turned over evidence of alleged abuse at the hands of teammate Richie Incognito.

The results of Wells’ investigation, which are to be made public, have not yet been released. Martin never returned to the team after a cafeteria prank Oct. 28. Incognito finished the season on the suspended list.

“The Vikings contacted us yesterday about the matter and have kept us fully informed,” league spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports. “We have no plans to conduct a separate review.”

December 13, 2013

Australian territory’s gay marriage law struck down by High Court

Filed under: Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:01

The Australian Capital Territory attempted to make gay marriage legal within its borders despite federal law prohibiting same-sex marriages being recognized. The Australian High Court decided yesterday that the territory cannot override federal law on this issue:

The ACT legislation had allowed gay couples to marry inside the ACT, which includes the Australian capital, Canberra — regardless of which state they live in.

Federal law, however, specified in 2004 that marriage was between a man and a woman.

Civil unions are allowed in some states in Australia.

The High Court in Canberra ruled unanimously against the ACT legislation on Thursday, saying that it could not stand alongside national-level laws.

“Whether same sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal parliament,” it said in a statement.

“The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same-sex couples. The Marriage Act provides that a marriage can be solemnised in Australia only between a man and a woman,” it added.

Attorney-General George Brandis had previously warned that the local law would face a legal challenge, because it was inconsistent with the country’s Marriage Act.

December 10, 2013

Equal rights does not mean “having the power to compel others against their rights”

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:11

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith talks about a case in Colorado where a judge has decided that the rights of a gay couple are superior to the rights of a baker who refused to create a wedding cake for them:

They picked the wrong baker — although a local radio talk show host contends that they deliberately shopped around for a baker who would react this way — a Christian who believes that homosexuality is immoral. He told them he would be happy to sell them any other bakery goods. But he refused to create a wedding cake with two guys on the top.

Keep a mental eye on that word “create”; we’ll get back to it.

To make a short story shorter, the matter (it can’t properly be called a “dispute”, since nobody has a right to dispute another person’s private convictions before the law — that’s what America is supposed to be about) was taken before this streetcorner judge, who ruled that the baker would damned well make the cake, as specificed, or suffer fines and jail. Henceforward, the bakery would be monitored to make sure that it humbly and abjectly serves the newly-privileged class.

Now here’s where the wires begin to get crossed. This publication, and its publisher, have never been particularly fond of Christianity. Without going too deeply into it, I think it has a stultifying effect on the human mind, and has been the cause of millions of unnecessary and cruel deaths over twenty centuries. I know that other folks hold otherwise, but I have never found it to be a true friend of individual liberty.

On the other hand, The Libertarian Enterprise and I have always championed gay marriage, or at least legal equality where marriage is concerned. Taking it to the most basic level, the taxes of gay people pay for the courthouse as surely as the taxes of those who are not gay.

On the third hand (as a science fiction writer, I can do that), if we live in any kind of decent culture at all — something that seems in greater doubt with every passing day — individuals have a right to their opinions, no matter how stupid they may be, to express them freely, and act on them as long as it doesn’t physically harm anybody else.

Equally, no right exists, on the part of any individual or of the government, to compel anyone to have a different opinion (although the technical means to do that are right around the corner — science fiction writer, remember?), or to express it or act on it against his will,

And here’s where that word “create” comes in.

December 4, 2013

Prescription contraceptives

Filed under: Business, Law, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:31

Shikha Dalmia argues that the fight over forcing companies to cover contraceptive prescriptions is based on a mistaken view of women’s rights:

The administration argues that acquiescing to such arguments would mean allowing bosses or corporate CEOs to restrict women’s choices to promote their own religious beliefs. “Our policy is designed to ensure that health care decisions are made between a woman and her doctor,” noted White House spokesman Jay Carney. But it’s not bosses who pose the bigger barrier to birth control but doctors themselves.

The only reason American women need insurance coverage for contraception is because they can’t buy birth control pills without a prescription — which doctors won’t hand them without an annual exam. Few dispute anymore — not even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — that the pills are perfectly safe requiring neither a medical diagnosis nor supervision. They have side effects like every other medicine but none so serious that can’t be effectively communicated through the usual warning labels. Requiring a medical exam assumes that women can’t be completely trusted with their own health. But such paternalism is counterproductive: Most women who stop taking pills don’t do so because they can’t afford them without insurance. (A one-month generic supply from Costco costs $25.) They do so because they can’t always make the time for a doctor’s visit when their prescription runs out. This problem is especially acute for working women — professional or others.

The birth control issue shouldn’t be cast in terms women’s rights versus religious rights. That’ll turn it into a lose-lose proposition. Medical paternalism is a far bigger threat to women’s reproductive choices than religious zealotry. Focusing on the first will do more to give women control over their bodies — including the female employees of Hobby Lobby — than a pitched battle against the second.

November 21, 2013

The cloistered Munk

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:12

Leslie Loftis attended the recent Munk Debate at Roy Thompson Hall and had a few observations:

The organizers had no intention of keeping on the actual topic. The End of Men resolution was just a flashy disguise for a chat about the rise of women. That is probably why no one objected when Rosin changed the premise in the middle of the discussion. It wasn’t really a question of whether men were obsolete — of course they weren’t, Rosin conceded about midway in the discussion. By default, the question became “Are they in decline because the rules favor women?” an obvious and hardly debatable notion. In fact, a post-debate critique I heard both in the lobby and saw on Twitter, the panelists agreed about too much. [...]

Prior to the event, I met a lovely older lady in the lobby. A Toronto resident and Munk Debates member, her favorite debate was the one with Kissinger on China. Impressed I’d flown so far (I came in from Texas), she told me these were usually great debates. I told her not to get her hopes up for this one, that Paglia was the only one on stage with any intellectual credibility. This would not be a clash of gifted minds that she had seen in the past. Two hours later, she waited for me as we left the auditorium and asked with wide eyes, “How do they expect me to buy that women are rising when they can’t even stay on topic? What was that?”

She was particularly taken with what Camille Paglia had to say:

Paglia was more diplomatic than I expected. I had thought that the exacting and scathing Paglia of the recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education — Scholars in Bondage — would show up and relentlessly pound Rosin on her lack of knowledge or evidence.

Rosin’s book is full of anecdotal evidence. Like Betty Friedan who wrote The Feminine Mystique based on a questionnaire of a few hundred Smith College graduates, Rosin’s The End of Men is based off interviews and a smattering of uncritically examined data.

Aside, however, from an early statement that “the only men who gain voice in your book are those willing to confess their victim status” (Rosin freely admits she didn’t include the non-victim men because she didn’t think there were enough of them) and a later comment that to believe in the end of men is naive, Paglia didn’t go on the attack. Instead, she was almost pleading with the audience to understand.

She has the advantage of age and the perspective that comes with it. The omens are bad, Paglia observed. No one is listening to men. We are using them, mocking them. And Rosin and others might say that men have no choice to submit to the new women’s order — but they have choices. Whether men retreat into themselves or decide to overthrow the women’s order, it ends badly for women. And the hollowed out shell of modern feminist thought will provide no defense. We change all the rules that we can to favor women, but some rules won’t yield, no matter our wishes.

November 5, 2013

Just add lawyers and stir

Filed under: Business, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:46

Coyote Blog on the problem with the latest anti-discrimination law:

In reality, this is how it works: Suddenly, as owner of the company, one finds a lawsuit or EEOC complain in his lap, generally with absolutely no warning. In the few cases we have seen in our company, the employee never told anyone in the company about the alleged harassment, never gave me or management a chance to fix it, despite very clear policies in our employee’s manuals that we don’t tolerate such behavior and outlining methods for getting help. There is nothing in EEO law that requires an employee to try to get the problem fixed via internal processes.

As a result, our company can be financially liable for allowing a discriminatory situation to exist that we could not have known about, because it happened in a one-on-one conversations and the alleged victim never reported it.

What I want is a reasonable chance to fix problems, get rid of bad supervisors, etc. A reasonable anti-discrimination law would say that companies have to have a grievance process with such and such specifications, and that no one may sue until they have exhausted the grievance process or when there is no conforming grievance process. If I don’t fix the problem and give the employee a safe work environment, then a suit is appropriate. The difference between this reasonable goal and the system we actually have is lawyers. Lawyers do not want the problem to be fixed. Lawyers want the problem to be as bad as possible and completely hidden from management so there is no chance it can be fixed before they can file a lucrative lawsuit.

November 2, 2013

ENDA as political theatre

Filed under: Business, Law, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:41

Walter Olson explains why the proposed federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), even if passed, would not do much to help the people it’s supposedly designed to protect:

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote Monday on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill to “prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity” that’s been proposed in one form or another for nearly 40 years. It will be a symbolic vote at many different levels. First, the bill stands little chance of passage in the GOP-controlled House; the point of giving it prolonged attention now is more to inflict political damage on Republicans for resisting a popular measure than to get a bill on President Obama’s desk. Second, it seeks to ratify (and take political credit for) a social change that has already occurred through nearly all the country, including even very conservative locales. Most larger employers are now on record with policies against discriminating against gay employees, and even smaller employers without formal policies mostly hew to the same path in practice, for many good reasons that include not wanting to lose the talents of employees from any demographic.

ENDA is a less salient bill than it looks in a second way as well; statistics from the many states and municipalities that have passed similar bills (“mini-ENDAs”) indicate that they do not serve in practice as a basis for litigation as often as one might expect. This may arise from the simple circumstance that most employees with other options prefer to move on rather than sue when an employment relationship turns unsatisfactory, all the more so if suing might require rehashing details of their personal life in a grueling, protracted, and public process. The forbidden group categories that tend more to drive HR managers crazy are things like age, disability, and criminal record consideration, where the law regularly tries to forbid behavior that in fact is perfectly rational for employers to engage in.

On a level of sheer entertainment, the bill has certainly furnished more than one way for some conservatives and Republicans to make themselves appear ridiculous. Some GOP supporters in Congress, for example, seem to be tempted by ENDA as an “easy,” crowd-pleasing vote to show they’re not always on the anti-gay side. But consider the implication: lawmakers who take this path come across as willing to sacrifice the freedom of private actors — as libertarians recognize, every expansion of laws against private discrimination shrinks the freedom of association of the governed — even as they go to the mat to preserve disparate treatment by the government itself in the recognition of family relationships. Sorry, but that’s upside-down. A classical liberal stance can reasonably ask the government itself to behave neutrally among different citizens with their differing values and aspirations, but should not attempt to enforce neutrality on private citizens themselves.

October 26, 2013

Another theory on gender wage gaps

Filed under: Business, Economics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:34

A guest-post at the Freakonomics blog by John List and Uri Gneezy looks at an experiment they conducted to test their theory about the gender wage gap:

Scholars have long theorized about the reasons why women haven’t made faster progress in breaking through the glass ceiling. Personally, we think that much of it boils down to this: men and women have different preferences for competitiveness, and at least part of the wage gaps we see are a result of men and women responding differently to incentives.

Being experimentalists, we understood that without actual evidence, this was just a conjecture. Determined to test our idea in the field we launched a large-scale field experiment on Craigslist where we posted ads for an administrative assistant gig we needed to fill. The experiment was conducted with Jeff Flory and Andreas Leibbrandt as coauthors. We received responses from nearly 7,000 interested job seekers from cities all over the U.S.

After a job seeker touched base with us, we gave them more details on the way they’d be compensated. Then we asked them to provide some basic information if they wanted to be considered for the position. Half the job seekers were told that the job paid a flat $15 per hour. The other half were told they would be paid $12 an hour but they would compete with a co-worker for a $6 per hour bonus (so that both ads would pay workers an average of $15 per hour).

What’d we find? Women were 70% less likely than men to go after the job if it had the competitive pay scale.

The blog post is called “A Unified Theory of Why Women Earn Less”, but I don’t think it actually qualifies — if the experiment was repeated in different markets, it might well explain some of the difference, but I suspect that women’s choices of jobs that provide greater flexibility in hours and the specific fields that draw more female than male workers are probably greater influences on the overall employment and compensation picture.

October 1, 2013

QotD: The Sisters of Perpetual Grievance

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

I am convinced that if feminism is to have a positive future, it must reinvent itself as a gender equity movement advocating for both sexes and against all sexism. Focusing solely on female disadvantage was perfectly understandable when, whatever paternalistic benefits women might have enjoyed and whatever burdens men might have suffered, women were the ones lacking the basic rights of adult citizens. But today, there is simply no moral or rational justification for any fair-minded feminist to ignore (for instance) the more lenient treatment of female offenders in the justice system or the anti-father biases in family courts. The concept of feminism as equality of the sexes is increasingly on a collision course with feminism as a movement championing women.

In its present form — as a secular cult that should call itself the Sisters of Perpetual Grievance — feminism is far more a part of the problem than part of the solution. It clings to women’s wrongs and turns women’s rights into narcissistic entitlement. It is far too easily prone to bashing men while painting women as insultingly helpless and downplaying their human capacity for cruelty. (The notion that abuse and dominance would not exist without patriarchy is not only naively utopian but utterly sexist.) It is also deeply irrelevant to most women, only five percent of whom consider themselves “strong feminists” even though 82 percent believe that men and women should be social, political, and economic equals.

Of course the patriarchy — at least here in the West — is dead. Whether feminism deserves to survive it is up to the feminists.

Cathy Young, “Is The Patriarchy Dead?”, Reason, 2013-09-29

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