Monday, April 23, 2012

Last Call

This may be the most truly misguided if not utterly naive argument I've heard on dealing with the crush of winger nutjob laws at the state level.  Temple University law professor Peter Spiro argues that the Supreme Court, hearing oral arguments on Arizona's "Papers, please" immigration law this week, should let the law stand because the invisible hand of the free market will deal with those states accordingly.

No, really.  That's his argument.

In other words, the problem will largely self-correct. But even to the extent that it doesn’t, the courts should still refrain from overturning such laws. Judicial intervention risks generating its own backlash. If the Supreme Court strikes down S.B. 1070, anti-immigrant constituencies will redouble their efforts to enact tougher laws at the federal level. A cautionary tale here is California’s Proposition 187, a punitive immigration law that was blocked by a federal court in 1994 before it went into effect. Two years later, undaunted supporters helped push through the harshest overhaul of federal immigration policy in decades.

Even if some of these state immigration laws survive political, corporate and consumer opposition on the ground, it’s better to have the scattered imposition of state laws than the blanket coverage of a federal measure. Other states and localities are welcoming immigrants, legal or not. That fact gets lost in the common indictment of state and local immigration measures as a “patchwork.” One of federalism’s core virtues is the possibility of competition among states. Competition in this context is likely to vindicate pro-immigrant policies.

We should hold our noses and hope the Supreme Court lets S.B. 1070 stand, so we can watch it wither away on its own.

If I recall, we tried that for about a century or so at the beginning of the United States of America, and about 1860 or so it got to the point where that whole federalism thing didn't work out really well as a solution to slavery and civil rights.  As a matter of fact, given that Spiro admits Arizona's law is basically odious racial profiling, I'm trying to figure out an example where either a SCOTUS or a federal legislative solution to civil rights issues did not have to be resorted to because of the continuing damage to society that resulted in waiting for the free market to act.

Slavery went on in one form or another in the South for quite a long time mainly because of the economic conditions there.  In a very real sense the only reason that businesses are opposed to Arizona-style immigration nonsense is the loss of cheap, nearly indentured labor driving their costs up.  There's no altruism here.

When you profitize basic services and government duties, the least profitable among us are the ones who are left in the ditch.  What Spiro is suggesting is profitizing basic civil rights.  It's bad enough when laws protecting minority groups are put up for mob rule and subject to the tyranny of the majority.  Subjecting them to the invisible hand of the free market all but guarantees they will be lost.

Rotten Apple

Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe are accused of agreeing not to poach each others staff, therefore holding back career development and suppressing compensation. A federal court in California has ordered seven technology companies in the state including Apple, Intel, Adobe and Google to face a private antitrust suit from five former employees, who alleged that the companies conspired to eliminate competition between them for skilled labor to suppress compensation and mobility of employees.
District Judge Lucy H. Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose division ruled on Wednesday that the plaintiffs’ antitrust claims cannot be dismissed on the basis of implausibility, and that they have adequately pleaded antitrust injury as a result of six agreements among the companies. The case evolves around a comment made by Apple’s  late-CEO Steve Jobs to Palm’s CEO: “We must do whatever we can to stop cold calling each other’s employees and other competitive recruiting efforts between the companies.”

Rightfully so, they are under fire for deplorable business practices that restrict fair pay.  It defeats the principles that support working hard and exceeding expectations.  They found a way to skew the results so that they had all the negotiating power, at the expense of the people who were slaving away to build their empire.

We do need to focus on creating jobs for workers.  We also need to make it a priority to make it so that having a job guarantees certain fair pay regulations and a good faith effort to enforce them.  What is and is not allowed must be declared so that workers know where they stand.  This is dirty pool, but I have good reason to doubt that the courts will favor workers.

It's illegal as hell to do this to workers in general, but it's not illegal to pay a woman less just because she's a woman.  Or to use fire at will loopholes to deprive workers of reasonable breaks and lunches.  Or to allow businesses to adopt any rules that suit them, as long as HR gets a signature on a form.  The job system is broken, let's fix it already.

If I Had A Nickel For Every Time Gas Prices Dropped In 2012...

... I'd have a nickel.

(CNN) -- Average U.S. gasoline prices have dropped more than a nickel over the past two weeks, marking their first dip since December, according to a nationwide survey published Sunday.
A gallon of regular now costs $3.91 on average, the Lundberg Survey found. That's down more than 5 cents from two weeks earlier, when the average was just a few cents below the $4 mark.
"We can thank crude oil for allowing gasoline to do what it has been wanting to do for weeks, which is drop," said publisher Trilby Lundberg.
Gasoline supplies are plentiful, but crude oil prices had been "propping up" gasoline costs, she said. As crude oil prices have stabilized, gasoline prices have fallen.
"We may see another five to 10 cents decline in the next few weeks" if crude oil doesn't rise, she said.
Sounds pretty iffy.

It's time Americans put more money and thought into public transportation that works, and is innovative and efficient.  Right now we have a piss poor system for getting around our nation, and all but a handful of cities are woefully inept at getting people from point A to B.

Finding ways for people to retain independence and have affordable ways to get to work is critical.  If we're giggling over a 5-15 cent drop in gas prices, it's a sign of how overdue it has become.  America can call upon its best and brightest and come up with better than the bloated Amtrak beast or expensive commercial  flights, and design systems that give coverage and availability to cities.

Solve the problem from the end you can control.  It makes sense.  It could fail, but it's worth exploring the idea of investing jobs and money into something that benefits the nation greatly and has the potential to snowball into a new era of energy independence.  We could at least give it a level shot.  It would require a lot of cooperation from every state, which may be enough to fail it right there.  It all starts with a good idea, we can cross the other bridges as we get to them.

I think the time has come to stop complaining and start proactively working towards a solution.  Minimum wage workers can't afford car maintenance and a commute.  It's hard to fault people for finding themselves caught, because individual transportation was common ten years ago.  Now it's a luxury, and more people are finding themselves stranded or scrambling to put enough gas in to last until payday.  Yet public transportation remains largely underused and inefficient, a missed opportunity to lessen the dependence on gas and help people have an affordable and useful alternative.

I hear a lot of attention to job creation, but we can't forget the notion of job sustainability.  A growing number of families have slid slowly into the Not Enough category at a time when financial help is stretched thin.  It makes sense that finding ways to get to work can be another point of stress, when auto maintenance and repair is put off to keep food on the table.  To keep jobs, people have to be able to get to work.  Public transportation is the logical answer to several needs.

Making A Difference: You're Doing It Right had a great article highlighting six people who made a huge difference in the world.  Everyone dreams of being the hero, few people have the wit and strength to make it happen when the opportunity arises. If being a hero was easy, everyone would do it.  Instead, we honor those who acted quickly and did the right thing.

My personal favorite is #6, a man who dove on top of another man who was suffering a seizure... while a train went over them.  It was the only chance the other fellow had of surviving, and our hero had less than two inches to spare before he was shaved like a deli ham.  Still, he never flinched (if he had, he'd be dead) and another man owes his life to a complete stranger.

That's doing it right, folks.  Please, if you have a moment, read the whole article and remember that any one of us, at any time, could be called on to be a hero.  May we all act so bravely if given a chance.

Cher Shows Support For Chaz

Chaz Bono was in good company at the GLAAD Media Awards on Saturday night. 

His mom Cher showed up to support her son at the event in Los Angeles. 

"So much fun at Glaad awards!" the singer Tweeted. "I really surprised Chaz! HE was adorable,Said wow mom i was so surprised i forgot what i was going 2say!" 
Cher has always loved her daughter while she was her daughter, and is now determined to support her son now that he is her son.   Cher has always drawn a lot of publicity, and struggled openly with figuring out how to go forward when everything changes so much.  To her credit, she never expressed any judgment.  Her openness let other LGBT parents see that acceptance is a process that even the most open-minded and loving have to navigate.  She's an okay singer, and a better actress.  She's also a hell of a mom, who stood by her child no matter what and did what she could to be the best parent possible.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for both of them.

Girls Gone Wild

I've watched two episodes now of HBO's new hipster femme comedy "Girls" about a bunch of twenty-something women in NYC trying to fake it until they make it.  Head writer/creator/actress Lena Dunham has a damn funny show on her hands, almost painfully so.  It's "Sex And The City" on the set of "Freaks And Geeks"...which makes perfect sense since it's an HBO comedy produced by Judd Apatow.

But a lot has been said about the show's lack of diversity.  There's not a person of color to be seen so far in the quartet of main characters or their friends, and this is New York City.  It's a problem, but as Ta-Nehisi Coates points out, there's a much larger issue here behind "Girls" and Hollywood in particular:

This selfishness tends to ultimately serve the writer and the audience. I think back to Friends, which for years, was dogged by criticism of its all-white cast. When its creators finally relented they casted two great talents--Aisha Tyler and later Gabriel Union--but didn't even bother to write separate story-lines. They simply recycled the same plot, and plugged in a new black girl.

I thought about that episode after one of the writers on Girls responded to the criticism by tweeting sarcastically, "What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME."  That comment understandably set of a new round of outrage. But it should also set off some reflection. I don't know Dunham or anyone who writes for Girls. Perhaps that was a rogue comment that says nothing about her team. Nevertheless, I think it's only right to ask whether you really want black characters rendered by the same hands that rendered that tweet. Invisibility is problematic. Caricature is worse.
Hollywood's problem with persons of color in general is that in a world where people are often reduced to two-dimensional bits, PoCs are reduced to their race, plain and simple.  It's either an all-white cast, or an all-black one produced by Tyler Perry.

If you've ever seen my family, which looked like ABC's Modern Family long before that show was cool, life doesn't work like that.  Here's what I want to see, Hollywood:  Dad's white, Mom's black, the kids are both, and they all do completely normal things.  They play soccer.  They go to the beach.  The two grandpas watch a football game together.  The two grandmas show off baby pictures at church...and it's the same church, by the way.  I think the fact that they did average family crap would blow everyone's mind.

Maybe that's just me.  Also explains why I'm not a head writer for an HBO series.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

The Republican party in 2012 is about two things:  fleecing the working-class rubes who vote for them, and hating the Kenyan Socialist.  What really makes America great is that you can now combine the two:

If this doesn't perfectly encapsulate Campaign 2012 on the red side (selling overpriced tap water in cheap plastic bottles to people who will drink it because the label says NOBAMA on it in order to make a profit) then nothing else does.

Any questions?


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