Presumed Innocent?

Now that Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed and sworn in as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Republican PR machine has been generating wave after wave of propaganda about the Democratic “smear campaign” of Kavanaugh. There has been much said about the fact that he should have been presumed innocent until all reasonable doubt was removed.

All of this is designed to rev up the right-wing base to counter the feminist wave that opposed the GOP tactics of ramming through the Kavanaugh nomination.

There are more than a few problems about the GOP proclamations about Kavanaugh’s “innocence.” First, there was more than a little evidence about his lies under oath, from the stolen Miranda strategy memos to his denial of his heavy drinking. Neither the Senate Judiciary Committee nor the FBI fully investigated any of it. So, of course, the Republicans are claiming innocence. Avoidance of investigation is hardly proof of innocence.

Then there’s also the point that Kavanaugh wasn’t on trial for a crime. He was being considered for a promotion, and the issues brought up were certainly worth considering before promoting him to the Supreme Court… but the Republicans didn’t want them considered, and the FBI wouldn’t even listen to dozens of people who wanted to testify.

Second, and more important, there’s another aspect to the issue of reasonable doubt, or the shadow of a doubt. Don’t we, the American people, deserve the best justice possible, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Not a justice whose past the GOP managed to keep from being fully investigated. Not one who conveniently remembers what he wants and has no recollection of anything unpleasant, whether it was a sexual assault or black-out drinking. Not one whose mindset is based on expediency and self-interest, rather than on a solid judicial footing.

The Federalist Society had a long list of highly qualified very conservative candidates who all met any possible far right criteria, and contrary to GOP propaganda, it’s not unprecedented for the Senate to reject less qualified nominees. It’s happened more than a few times in the last fifty years. So why were the GOP and President so intent on ramming Kavanaugh through?

Might it just have been his expressed philosophy that a sitting president can’t be charged with crimes? Might it just be that his opinion on that trumped everything else, including the right of the people to have a justice who is above suspicion, rather than one whose backers thwarted any in-depth investigation?

Just keep that in mind as the GOP PR crew touts Kavanaugh’s “innocence.”

Gender-Based Pay Discrimination

The evidence of gender-based economic discrimination is clear and obvious to anyone who wants to look. Study after study has shown that women get paid less than men, and those studies also show that it’s true for occupations where they do the same jobs. There are far fewer women CEOs, and on average they make considerably less than do male CEOs. In addition, in any occupation, once women comprise more than fifty percent of the workforce, the annual percentage increase in compensation for that entire workforce decreases.

While women represent over half (51.5%) of assistant professors at U.S. colleges and universities and are near parity (44.9%) among associate professors, they accounted for less than a third (32.4%) of full professors in 2015. In addition, according to 2017 Department of Education statistics, the salary gap between male and female full professors at U.S. colleges and universities has actually increased over the past decade, so that the average male full professor now makes $18,000 a year more than the average female full professor.

A 2017 study of medical school faculties showed that while nearly fifty percent of all assistant professors were women, only 22% were full professors. The Statistical Research Center at the American Institute of Physics reported in 2017, that even after accounting for factors such as postdoctoral experience and age, women physicists were paid significantly less than male physicists.

Several series of studies have shown that when identical resumes – except for the gender of the name – for various jobs were submitted to U.S. companies, the resumes with the male names received far more callbacks. Another example of this is illustrated by a 2018 study from Ohio State University, which submitted 2,106 dummy job applications to over a thousand entry level positions around the country. The highest achieving men averaged callbacks 16% of the time, but the women with equal or higher grades were called back just 9% of the time, while the men with the lowest grades had a callback rate of about 11.7%. A follow-up survey also discovered that employers were worried that women with high academic averages were “less likeable” than men or than women with lower average grades.

There are scores of such studies, and while the amount of pay discrimination varies according to the studies, they all show such discrimination. Interestingly enough, most of these studies seem to show that pay discrimination in professional jobs is lowest at the entry level and increases incrementally at each higher level of responsibility. Likewise, it appears that the glass ceiling is alive and largely intact, whether in academia, medicine, business, or politics.

While one might argue, and studies support this point, that fewer women wish to sacrifice personal and family life for the stress, politics, infighting, and pressures of CEO-level or top political, professional, or academic positions, the fact is that a significant percentage of women do sacrifice personal and family life – and, in almost all cases, they’re paid a lot less than the good old boys. By any standard, that’s also discrimination.

And Republicans wonder why millions of professional women aren’t happy when the GOP pushes through judicial nominees who appear biased against women and minorities? Or, more likely, the GOP doesn’t even care.

Is Lying Really That Bad?

The Kavanaugh Affair is incredibly symptomatic of the United States today, and I don’t mean in the matter of polarization along political lines, true as that may be.

Kavanaugh, as I noted earlier, is on record as denying under oath that he received hacked emails when he was working for President George W. Bush. When actual proof surfaced during his confirmation hearings, his defense was that everyone was doing it. This was anything but honest. Yet what everyone focused on in the end was his assault on Dr. Ford when they were both teenagers. The lying was always secondary in the public arena, yet very few seemed to connect the lies about using stolen emails with Kavanaugh’s denial of assaulting Dr. Ford. There were a number of other statements in Kavanaugh’s testimony that, if not lies, were problematical, such as the business of his father reading from his calendars [given at the time Kavanaugh recalls, his father had only been keeping a calendar for a year].

There’s a great American myth about George Washington saying that he couldn’t tell a lie and that he was the one who chopped down the cherry tree. And then there’s “honest Abe,” another great president. Americans have always prided themselves on being honest and direct, not sneaky like other nations.

Maybe we were at some point, but not certainly as much as we like to recall, and certainly not now. The fact is that the American public didn’t care all that much about the fact that Kavanaugh had repeatedly lied and misstated events, and then took umbrage at the fact that someone had charged him with, at the very least, highly improper behavior. Most people didn’t care that his self-justifying behavior reflected an attitude and a temperament at odds with a judicial mindset. It’s almost as though most of his opponents were incensed by his attitude toward women, and most of his supporters could have cared less about his character in any way, only about his political views.

Instead, the conflict was all about whether an “honest” man had been unjustly accused or whether a man who assaulted women deserved a seat on the nation’s highest court. Yet almost no one was assessing Kavanaugh’s honesty in terms of matters already on the record.

We give honesty great lip service, but when it comes to business and government, it’s just that, and little more. We’ll elect a president whose business dealings are shady at best, the only one ever not to make his tax returns public, and rather than seeking factual confirmation of his statements and assertions, we’ve allowed truth to be “personal,” rather than something to be determined by assessment against objective and verifiable facts. In fact, we’re to the point where some assert, in effect, that nothing is objectively verifiable… and thus, all the evidence, and it’s there for anyone who really wants to look, of Kavanaugh’s less than honest and sterling character means absolutely nothing, because for those who want a certain political objective lying is just another means to their end.

This is scarcely new, but the open and brazen nature of ignoring the obvious brings political expediency to a new low… and one I fear we’ll all regret in the years to come.

Maybe the U.S. Deserves This

It just could be that Brett Kavanaugh is the Supreme Court Justice the American people deserve. He’s lied twice under oath, then declared that yes, he did receive hacked emails, but that it was no big deal because everyone was doing it. Isn’t that just like all the finance industry CEOs who gave us the 2008 crash – they all had to invest in sub-prime mortgages because they were high return, and they had to get high returns because everyone else was doing it? And then, in the end, they all got away with it, because we, through our political system, not only let them get away with it, but paid with our taxes for the bail-out.

Kananaugh’s employed anger and near-hysterics in declaring he didn’t assault a fifteen year old girl, and refutes the fact that he drank too much as a teenager, when one of his acquaintances has declared that he was a belligerent and aggressive drunk… and he’s made no secret of the fact that he certainly likes his beer.

He seems to feel that, regardless of what he did as a teenager, his later accomplishments qualify him to one of the highest appointments in the land – yet he refused an abortion to a pregnant immigrant teenager and told her she had to live with her teenage mistakes. But no one seems to be holding Kavanaugh or the man who impregnated the teenager accountable.

He’s big on prayer, too, apparently, but the idea of praying for Dr. Ford was nothing but a condescending gesture designed to minimize her. In addition, I’ve noted that an extraordinarily high percentage of people who publicly tout prayer tend to be hypocritical and self-serving, while those who truly believe tend to pray quietly and with less public fanfare, and they do their good works without ostentation. But far too many Americans swallow the words of good entertainers, rather than look at acts, facts, and character over time.

I can certainly understand why the good old boys back Kavanaugh. He’s just more of the same, and that’s the way they’ve always liked it. But it befuddles me why so many women support the politicians who back Kavanaugh.

But until people decide that ethics are more important than politics, that lying, hypocrisy, and minimizing women aren’t desirable characteristics for a Supreme Court Justice, and stop voting their political tribe over facts and ethics, appointments such as Kavanaugh’s are what we’ll get… and what Americans as a whole unfortunately will deserve.


Lately, I’ve run across more and more writers, singers, and other artists who have set up sites on Patreon to solicit financial support for their writing. There are even some non-profit publications and foundations asking for contributions through Patreon.

At least some of those writers and singers have set up such sites because changes in the publishing and music industries have reduced their sales, and thus their ability to support themselves off their royalties. As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, I’ve personally known some authors who used to be able to support themselves by full-time writing who can no longer do so. And many other authors, me included, now offer websites with blogs and/or information, in hopes of generating greater interest in and support for their work.

What many people who haven’t studied the history of writers, singers, and composers may not realize is that over most of history, very few of such artists could actually make a living from their art itself. The great composers, such as Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and others, relied on the support of patrons, such as the Emperor Joseph, the Esterhazy family, the Catholic Church, or others. The only writers who could support themselves were playwrights, such as Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, who not only wrote the plays but performed them, and used the performance revenues to support themselves and keep writing – and many of them still needed some patronage, often royal.

Writers were in even worse shape. Not until the nineteenth century could any significant number of writers, other than traveling bards, support themselves by their writing.

So, the democratization of patronage, through internet entities such as Patreon, is really just a new iteration of a long-standing practice.

While it’s obvious why writers and other artists would turn to Patreon, either to start a career or to help finance one, Patreon, despite its more “democratic” approach to patronage than the traditional model, contains the same basic flaw as the patronage of Mozart’s time. What’s paramount is success in the ability to raise funds. Yes, a certain amount of talent is required, because over time people won’t support artists who aren’t very good, but it’s the mixture of fund-raising and artistry that determines success under any patronage system, not the excellence of the artistry.

Now, I’d be the first to admit that popularity is also a factor in traditional publishing. Years ago, the Christian Science Monitor used to publish a listing of the best-selling fiction books, and in that listing was a column with either a red arrow that pointed down or a green arrow that pointed up. That arrow represented the consensus of major published reviews. And guess what? Generally, but not always, the best-selling books featured red arrows. I’ve always had problems with reviews that attempt to direct popular tastes, and with reviews that are more agenda-driven than an effort to offer a fair assessment of a book, but the plain fact is that popular books are those that more people relate to… and many technically excellent books aren’t exactly popular.

That said, sales numbers at least reflect what the readers believe about the writer’s work. Patronage funding reflects internet sales effectiveness as much as the work produced.

And, under traditional patronage, the works of excellent composers who were often difficult as individuals, such as Mozart and Beethoven, were far less rewarded than the works of composers no one remembers and whose works are seldom performed. One of the dangers of any patronage system is that it tends to reward talents other than excellence in artistic achievement. And from what I’ve seen so far, Patreon is coming to resemble traditional patronage systems, if not totally, because it has enabled some outstanding writers to break in. And that aspect is good.

But it’s still a patronage system with many of the faults of such.