Archive for October, 2018

Back to the Constitution?

I recently ran across an “open letter” to conservatives which said, “Right now, liberals are waging an all-out assault on our nation’s founding principles at the polls, in the courts, in our culture, and in academia…” The letter went on to urge conservatives to fight to return government to the principles of the Constitution.

My first thought was to dismiss what was clearly a rhetorical attack on “liberals” designed to get conservatives to contribute money, but then I got to thinking about the phrase, “our nation’s founding principles.”

What were some of those founding principles?

Besides the ones everyone cites, such as freedom of the press, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, separation of church and state, trial by jury, there are a few others that “originalists” and conservatives tend to overlook.

Some of those “founding principles” so often overlooked by so-called traditionalists include: (1) limitation of the right to vote to white males, and usually to white land-holding males; (2) slavery; (3) additional voting power to slave-holding states, and particularly slave-holders, because for purposes of representation, each “other person” (i.e., slave) counted for 3/5 of a person; and (4) the selection of senators by state legislatures.

Do these “conservatives” really want to go back to slavery and limited white male sufferage? And if they don’t, what do they mean by “founding principles”? Perhaps to a balanced budget? Except the Constitution doesn’t enshrine anything like a balanced budget, and conservatives for years have been pressing for just such a Constitutional amendment.

But if these conservative originalists believe in going back to the original principles, why are they proposing any changes? Or are they just talking about changes they believe are in accord with those principles?

Even the Founding Fathers believed that times would change; that’s why the Constitution itself provides a process for amendment and change.

All of which suggests that the “conservatives” aren’t really interested in original Constitutionalism, but in a highly selective version of our nation’s founding principles. I don’t have a problem with them choosing principles based on their belief about which are most important; but I do have a problem with them representing what they want as being in accord with the Founding Fathers and excoriating those who see differing principles as the most important as being traitors to the Constitution.

I also have a problem with Americans who swallow such misrepresentation, because it shows that they really don’t know what’s really in the Constitution and don’t care enough to learn… or to call out politicians who engage in such misrepresentation.

Man-to-Man Mansplaining

When I wrote the blog “Gender-Based Pay Discrimination,” I thought I was laying out something relatively obvious, but one of my readers took exception, using various statistics to explain both in detail and in a gently condescending manner how I was oh so mistaken, but honestly so, based on my experience, which he implied, if indirectly, was not in synch with the real world, that is, the world as he has experienced it.

One of my basic points was that statistics don’t accurately measure the extent of that discrimination, in response to which he politely provided yet more statistics, pointing out where I erred and ignoring the statistics he could not refute. For those unfamiliar with the term, this is just another example of “mansplaining,” or at least man-to-man mansplaining, since the connotation of the word usually refers to men explaining to women in a patronizing manner, using logic and favorable statistics to minimize one’s opponent.

And in my replies to him, as is often the case in replying to such an approach, I tended to lose sight of the basic issues.

So…let’s put the basic facts on the table. Societal control and domination is determined by four basic factors: (1) physical force; (2) economic power; (3) political power, and (4) religious power.

For as far back as history goes, and likely as farther back as humanity goes, men have dominated women in all four areas. This remains true, even today, although the degree of domination varies more by nation and region than it ever has before in history.

There’s little contest in physical force. Men are physically stronger than a woman of the same size because of the difference in muscle mass, and the use of that strength is the basis of long-standing gender discrimination.

But even today, when physical strength isn’t as necessary for most tasks and professions, in more “liberal” countries, such as the U.S., and the Scandinavian nations, men still dominate the other three areas. Now… one can explain and provide all the statistics one wants, but the fact of male domination remains.

In almost no country does a woman have full and personal control of her reproductive rights. The limitations on her rights are imposed by male-dominated political structures. And just for the record, I don’t see much legislation forbidding male vasectomies or laws requiring men to support, all by themselves, children they forced on unwilling women.

Likewise, there’s no record of any society in history, legends of the Amazons notwithstanding, where men were the chattels of women, or where men were compelled as a class to serve as sex slaves of women. Or where even men’s clothes belonged to women. Men were never denied the right to vote or be in government because of their gender, although often they were denied rights because of color, belief or social standing, but not gender.

As for those helpful statistics… they don’t deal with “male privilege,” loosely defined as the assumption that a man is automatically more qualified for a position than a woman, and that the burden is upon her to prove her ability to a greater degree than upon a man.

Unfortunately, it’s often hard to “prove” that “male privilege” exists because, first, most men deny it, and, second, all sorts of other excuses and rationales are offered as to why more men prevail in whatever it is.

One of the best examples I can provide is that of symphony orchestra job openings. For decades, the largely male orchestras and conductors insisted that men were always better, and proved this by almost always hiring men. Then, blind auditions were instituted, where the men who were doing the selecting neither knew the names of applicants nor could see them as they played. At first, this didn’t work as planned, not until all applicants took off their shoes before they walked onto the stage. But after that, miraculously, the number of women in symphonies began to increase.

Figures that seem to support the idea that discrimination doesn’t exist or is less than is claimed by women ignore non-quantifiable factors, such as the fact that in upper level positions women are generally paid less while more is expected, or that they have to weather a greater array of minimization assaults, or that they’re often excluded from venues and activities where males bond. And those are just the beginning, as all too many women could testify.

And, yes, there are reasons and statistics that explain why some women choose not to make the extra effort to break the glass ceiling. But those reasons don’t mean that glass ceilings don’t exist, only that some women don’t see the goal as worth the effort. And when women have to undergo more and produce more for the same or a lesser reward, that’s discrimination, whether the statistics show it or not.

And piling on the statistics doesn’t “prove” that gender discrimination doesn’t exist or isn’t as great as those who experience it say it is, it only proves an unwillingness to see what every woman experiences to some agree or another, even if some of those women aren’t allowed to say so or don’t wish to acknowledge it.

Socio-Political Apocalyptic Dramas

Whether it’s “The Walking Dead” or “Designated Survivor” or “The Man in the High Castle,” or any number of other TV, or streaming media shows, from what I can tell, there’s been almost an explosion of socio-political apocalyptic dramas over the last few years.

I don’t watch any of them, although I’m exposed to snippets of many of them – except “The Walking Dead” – because my wife the professor finds them entertaining. It’s one of the few areas where our tastes are not similar, and it’s likely because, after having spent almost twenty years in national politics in one capacity or another, I don’t find such shows entertaining. For me, they’re only a depressing reminder of one of the worst aspects of human nature – the unbridled lust for power of far too many members of the species.

And frankly, I can’t understand her fascination with them, given that she has to deal with similar aspects of [in]humanity in academic politics, because no full-time faculty member can totally escape politics. She’s pointed out that, depressing as those dramas may be, there’s actually more that’s optimistic in the shows than she sees in either national or academic politics. In that vein, some of my readers may recall my citation of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s observation that international politics was no different from faculty politics at Harvard.

Even if such shreds of optimism exist in such shows, the apparent popularity of this “genre” concerns me, as does, as I noted in an earlier blog, the popularity of “Game of Thrones,” because they all seem to emphasize the lack of ethics and the triumph of the worse in human character. Now… some people claim that such shows offer warnings about the dangers of such people in power, but I don’t see it that way. It’s almost as if such dramas are making the point that the only way to gain and hold power is to use every tool possible, regardless of either ethics or consequences, and I find that incredibly depressing.

Paying for It?

The other day, I read an interesting article in the local paper about how upset the Utah state legislature was with the Board of Regents for not keeping down tuition increases at state colleges and universities. While I wanted to strangle the writer of the article and just about every member of the legislature, or at least the Republicans, my reaction will be limited to this blog.

Why am I that upset? Because none of those involved are looking at the facts.

First, tuition for in-state students at four-year Utah state institutions isn’t that high, ranging from $4,500 to $8,000 a year, depending on the school, and the average annual tuition of $6,790 is ranked as the third lowest in the U.S., according to the College Board. Second, again depending on the Utah college or university, annual tuition increases over the past twenty years have averaged three to five percent per year. Third, because of a burgeoning college age population, all Utah colleges and universities have had to expand over that period, which requires expanding facilities. At my wife the professor’s university, enrollment has increased from 3,500 students to more than 10,000 in the past twenty years, and all state colleges and universities have significantly increased their enrollments. Two entirely new Utah universities have also been created in the same period. Fourth, at the same time, the percentage of costs of student education paid by tuition in Utah has gone from 21% to 46%. As I’ve noted previously, this isn’t confined to Utah but is a national trend.

In plain facts, all of this means that while students in Utah only paid a fifth of the actual costs of their education a generation ago, they now pay half of it, while taxpayers are paying less and less of it.

Utah has been “cost-effective” in managing higher education. That’s why faculty salaries are among the lowest in the nation, and why the percentage of full-time faculty has declined remarkably while the number of part-time adjunct instructors [without benefits] has skyrocketed.

But you can’t increase the number of students every year without adding faculty and facilities, and those cost money. And if the legislature is paying a decreasing percentage every year, then those additional costs have to come from somewhere, and the only other place it can come from is from students. So… because Utahans don’t want significantly more tax dollars going to universities, they end up paying higher tuition. You have to pay, one way or the other, and that’s something that taxpayers and the legislature – and, in this case, even the media – don’t want to face. As usual.


All American women have been minimized and discriminated against, as have women in every culture, and far more greatly in many countries other than the United States. The only question in each woman’s case is how much and in what fashion. Unhappily, from what I’ve observed, women tend to fall into two categories: those who know and understand that minimization and those who either don’t know it or who deny it.

In a previous blog, I discussed the economic/pay side of discrimination, but minimization and discrimination go a great deal further than pay and also affect pay levels, if indirectly.

Picture this. A female nominee for a cabinet post is alleged to have been a heavy drinker in college, a fact corroborated by acquaintances, then is discovered to have lied about both the drinking and the fact that she obtained hacked emails that she used to rate judicial candidates for a previous administration. Do you honestly think that such a female nominee could be approved today? Yet Kavanaugh did both and was also accused of sexual assault – and all those accounts were termed a smear campaign by the administration.

Or picture this. A female nominee for an appointment requiring Senate confirmation loudly accuses the senators of persecuting her, then insists that events that have been publicly confirmed did not happen. She next turns a question back on the senator, asking in a sarcastic manner if that senator had ever done something similar, and finally bursts into tears and insists that she’s innocent of all of the accusations. Would she get confirmed? I strongly doubt it… but Kavanaugh did the same thing… and was confirmed.

Most minimization of women isn’t as public as in the case of Dr. Ford, but it’s still present and continuing.

More than a few colleges are admitting men with lower grades and test scores than comparable women applicants – citing the need for gender balance. They certainly weren’t concerned about balance when male applicants vastly outnumbered women.

To this day, regardless of explanations or denials, Islam, Orthodox Judaism, and the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches, as well as the Mormon Church, continue to dictate and enforce the idea that male superiority is ordained by God. There can be no women Popes, nor can there be any female Mormon prophets [and I noticed that, at the last semi-annual LDS Conference, there was exactly one woman speaker over the entire two-day proceeding].

Vera Rubin was rejected from Princeton University’s doctoral astronomy program because, in the 1950s, Princeton refused to admit women. She got her doctorate in astrophysics from Georgetown and went on to discover proof of dark matter, yet despite the magnitude of that and other work, and a campaign by many of her colleagues, she never received the Nobel Prize in Physics. Only two women have ever received that prize, and not a one in more than a half century.

As a graduate student in 1967, Jocelyn Bell Burnell first built the special telescope, laboring in damp and chilly English weather to install more than 100 miles of cable and copper wire across a windswept field near Cambridge. She operated the instruments and analyzed the data, poring over miles of chart paper etched with the inked recordings of galactic radio waves, finally discovering the first pulsar, but the 1974 Nobel Prize went to her Ph.D. supervisor, rather than to the two of them. Since then, she’s been recognized by a number of awards, and finally, just this year, some forty-four years later, she was awarded the special Breakthrough prize in fundamental physics [and she’s directing the money to go to the Institute of Physics to fund Ph.D. studentships for people underrepresented in physics].

Then there was the professor who was the only woman on a university leave, rank, and tenure committee whose male members wanted to deny a full professorship to an outstanding woman associate professor because she’d expressed a few opinions suggesting that there was subtle discrimination against women. That single woman on the committee suggested that the issue in question wasn’t the professor’s political views, but her record and teaching… and that it would be a shame if it came out why that associate professor had been denied a promotion. The committee reconsidered, but the matter never should have come up, nor should such a committee have ever been composed of eight men and only one woman.

My own wife was told by a senior faculty member that she didn’t really need her job because she had a successful husband.

The real-life examples of this sort of minimization could literally fill hundreds of thousands of pages, if not more, and yet the men in power still don’t get it… and neither do, unhappily, a great number of women. And when women bring up such issues, with longstanding facts and examples, the president declares that they’re just a mob, conveniently forgetting and ignoring the fact that every week he incites mobs with lies and misrepresentations.

And far too many people can’t or won’t make the distinctions.

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.