Mittwoch, 2. November 2016

Voter Fraud Versus Voter Suppression

While the presidential election 2016 is underway, we are again hearing much about voters committing election fraud. Significant number of illegal immigrants are allegedly going to turn out to vote, and eligible Americans are going to cast more than one ballot. This is supposedly going to happen in such high numbers that the fraudulent voters will decide the election.

Irrational claims mainly made by Republicans — as a high voter turnout generally benefits the Democrats — about voter fraud have been a part of the presidential election discourse in this country since the “motor voter” law in 1993, even though countless credible research and government investigations show that voter fraud only happens in negligible numbers.

This is also logical, because there is little incentive for the crime while the punishment is severe: under federal law, people risk five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Naturally, in a county with over 200 million registered voters, some fraud is statistically going to happen. But, in general, voter fraud is an unrealistic crime, as for such a premeditated crime to occur, there has to be a significant incentive, a meaningful personal, financial or (perceived) psychological gain.

Hardly any voter in their healthy mind would consider committing a serious crime where the intended outcome of their action — to influence the election — is not even remotely guaranteed.

While intentional voter fraud committed by voters are rare, clerical and other honest errors and inaccuracies such as dead individuals remaining in the databases, are more likely to occur. However they too are blown out of proportion in this conversation.

Given the high number of people voter databases capture and the changes that happen in people’s lives, the databases by nature are subject to continuous changes. Meaning, at any given point in time, there is going to be a need to update these databases.

Let us now demystify some of the scenarios that are apparently causing Republicans the most serious headaches:

Ineligible/non-citizens voting

Legal and illegal residents who are not eligible to vote have the least incentive to commit voter fraud. Here is why:

Illegal immigrants: Registering to vote requires a valid social security number. Illegal immigrants generally are unable to obtain one legally, except when they receive amnesty.

However, in that case, they are no longer an illegal immigrant. Illegal immigrants can obtain social security numbers illegally; e.g. so that they can work. In that case, they are unlikely to jeopardize that number by voluntarily providing it to a state government and risk getting caught voting.

Legal immigrants: Legal immigrants generally have a social security number, as they are authorized to reside and work in the U.S.

They can easily register to vote, e.g. when applying for a driver’s license, as states generally don’t verify citizenship of the registrants. However, that does not mean legal immigrants are going to register and turn out to vote, because legal immigrants have the least incentive to commit a stupid crime such as voter fraud.

After residing in the U.S. for a certain period of time, they are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship; in which case they have to undergo serious background investigations. Legal immigrants are very unlikely to jeopardize such prospects “just” to cast a ballot.

Paid to vote more than once

Paying voters to vote more than once can happen, but that too is a stupid crime to commit. Because the individuals who would pay voters to commit the crime, would not only be making accomplices, they would not even be able to verify if the voters did what they were supposed to do; because with the exception of some states that allow voters to take pictures of their ballots, there is no way of proving how a voter voted.

Voting in more than one state

Eligible voters can easily register to vote in more than one state.

However, registering to vote in more than one state is not a crime, as it can easily happen when people are moving around; but voting in more than one state is. Moreover, many states have joined cross check database systems such as the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) or the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program which allow for catching voters who are attempting to vote in more than one state.

Voting more than once in the same state 

In compliance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, most states have established statewide voter registration databases. Voters attempting to vote more than once in the same state can easily be detected.

Representatives of various organizations committing registration fraud

In the past, representatives of various interest groups attempted to register non-existent voters; another thoughtless and unrealistic crime with serious consequences, as in the recent case of a Virginia man.

After successfully registering imaginary voters with a valid social security number, the perpetrator needs to come up with picture IDs and cast ballots without being caught; even if the perpetrator attempts to vote absentee. As first time absentee voters in many states, including Virginia, are required to present a valid ID.

The real election challenge — a history of suppressing African American voices

Republicans who are allegedly committed to the integrity of the elections while happy to invest disproportional amounts of resources to chase ghosts of voters committing voter fraud, they seem to not have a problem with voter suppression.

Consider the case of North Carolina where a federal appeals court struck down a voter ID law, because Republican-controlled general assembly — instead of hoping that their strategies indirectly affect minorities, as customary — actively requested data on voters’ use of various voting practices by race and amended the voter ID bill according to the information at hand to suppress minority votes.

Even though women could not vote until the 1920s and Hispanic voters are also targeted by voter suppression efforts, no group has more precisely been targeted than African Americans. It is clear that the many attempts to correct the wrong (14th Amendment, 15th Amendment, Voting Rights Act etc.) could not eradicate the deeply rooted notions for inequality in this country.

If nothing else, the senseless claims about voter fraud teach us something very important: Our struggles for equal rights continue in the 21st century.



Ms. Dudek is a German-American researcher, analyst, writer, and an experienced Election Officer. She has actively campaigned for many progressive candidates in Michigan and pursued public office in Washington, D.C. in 2010. She regularly contributes to U.S. and German sources such as the Huffington Post and Migazin. A Boren Forum alumna, Ms. Dudek received The National Security Education Program (NSEP) award in 2014.



Original Link: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/presidential-campaign/303829-voter-fraud-isnt-the-problem-voter-suppression-is

Sonntag, 30. Oktober 2016

U.S. Health Care System: American Taxpayers Paying A Lot, Getting Little In Return—A German-American Perspective

U.S. public officials often argue that the U.S.A. has the best health care system in the world and therefore are resisting change in view of President Obama’s health care reform efforts. The American health care system certainly has many advantages, particularly for the more fortunate citizens. Shorter wait times, sound facilities, clearly identified processes, uniform procedures, and easy access to medicine illustrate the strength of the system. However, besides other serious flaws such as being heavily symptom- instead of cause-oriented, Americans are paying exorbitant amounts for their health care and getting relatively little in return. Even individuals with health insurances in the U.S.A. are not protected from incurring financially debilitating bills due to the high deductibles.

Among the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) nations, the U.S.A. is one of the highest spenders on health care, in private, as well as public spending. U.S. private spending on health care is the highest among all OECD nations. Public spending is also very high. However, in spite of the money spent, the U.S.A. has one of the fewest acute care hospital beds per 1,000 populations: 2.5; Japan has 7.9, and Germany 5.3. The money that Americans are spending is not translating into a healthier population, either. In mortality from cancer, the U.S.A. ranks 25 out of 34, more than one-third (36.5 percent) of adults are obese. The USA also lags behind other developed nations in infant mortality, and well above the OECD average (6.9) in prevalence of diabetes (9.6), and the list goes on.

The U.S. health care system is a highly profit-oriented business. American companies are able to do in the United States what they often cannot do in other countries, not only morally, but also legally. For example, they can charge U.S. consumers more than customers abroad, even for drugs that were developed with U.S. tax money, of which the EpiPen is only one example among many. Care generally addresses the symptoms, instead of the underlying causes: Physicians are extremely prone to prescribing pills for which they receive kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies. Extensive reliance on pills keeps patients coming back for more of the same, and additional pills, to counteract the side-effects of the pills that they are already taking.

This explains why natural approaches to health are detached from the mainstream approach as much as it is the case in the U.S.A. A health system that does not see a holistic approach as a foundation of care, not consider using the body’s own healing powers in the healing process, and not include natural healing methods, does not have the best interest of patients in mind. In comparison, in Germany, for example, alternative medicine is a lot more integrated into the mainstream health care system. Main stream physicians in Germany are very well-versed on natural medicines and can officially recommend (“prescribe”) them, in which case, some insurances even cover the cost. Retreating to spas that health insurance pays for is also a given component of their health care system. Such retreats include massages, natural baths, and dancing. Americans pay a lot, but don’t come nearly close to receiving the same services.

However, the status-quo of the U.S. health care system should not come as a surprise. In 2013 the highest average profit margin achieved by a U.S. company was by the Pfizer corporation (42 percent), substantially more than banks (29 percent) and oil and gas companies (24 percent). Excessive profits and money also means power and control. Pharmaceutical companies exert those in various ways. For example, medical schools in the U.S.A. receive funds by the pharmaceutical and other health-industry sources. Subsequently, the companies can control the curriculum. Moreover, they can influence research, and also outcomes. Universities are hired to conduct crucial research for the companies, as they have the necessary credentials and enjoy the public’s trust as a place of intellectual integrity.

For the cost of health care, some like to conveniently blame the “Mexicans” and other minorities, or undocumented individuals, for exploiting the social services systems. Some people, of course, may “exploit” the system. However, that is a given in any system that involves humans. But the exploitation of the system by patients is not the cause of why Americans are spending a lot and are receiving relatively little in return, neither is the size of the country—an argument that is often used when comparing U.S. public services performance with other developed nations. The disconnection is caused by the lack of legal and moral limitations, such as on how much American patients can be charged and an undifferentiated “business over public services” ideology that turns even the most basic services into a money-making machine--a highly exploitative health care system, in this case.

We could go on and on about health care in the U.S.A. However, in a nutshell, the American health care system has serious moral and practical flaws that need to be fixed. At the same time, suspicion toward the current health care reform is well-granted. Given the predominantly undifferentiated mindset toward business over public services and the indifference regarding excessive profits in this country, any system, regardless how perfect, will turn into an exploitative system that does little but extort money from citizens. Until the indifference toward exploitative business practices changes, there is little use to change the health care, or any other system in the United States, because without ethics and limitations to profit-making, most every system we create is going to fail our country’s ordinary citizens in the long-run.

Ms. Dudek is a German-American researcher, analyst, and writer. She regularly contributes to U.S. and German sources such as Huffington Post and the Hill

Original Link to the Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alev-dudek/us-health-care-system-ame_b_12431960.html


Montag, 22. August 2016

U.S. Education System — the Disconnection Between Spending and Outcomes


The lack of equity in access to quality education, soaring tuition rates and student loan debt in the United States is often associated with an insufficient public spending on education.

However, a closer look at the numbers suggests that such notion is far from the truth. Among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations, the U.S., in fact, is amid the highest spenders on all three categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary education. Nevertheless, high levels of student loan debt, below OECD average student achievement, and high disparity in school quality are characteristics of the U.S. educational landscape.

The federal government is often criticized because education spending only makes up a small portion of its budget —approximately three percent.

In 2012, the federal government spent $107.6 billion on education. However, since schools in the U.S.A. are primarily funded by state and local governments which, in 2012, spent $869.2 billion, the total amount spent on education is rather approximately one trillion dollars. A comparison among the OECD nations is useful to put this amount into a perspective. The U.S.A. spends approximately $12,401per student on public elementary and secondary schools, an amount that is 35 percent higher than the OECD average of $8,789. The U.S.A. exceeds OECD average also by spending twice as much on tertiary education. However, the high level of public spending in the U.S.A. somehow does not translate into an overall access to a high quality basic education for all pupils.

K-12 education here is characterized by extreme disparity in quality of instruction, learning environment, and outcomes. The quality of education students receive is highly correlated to the privileges their parents have.

Unlike other developed countries such as Finland or Germany where parent privileges do play a role, but not to the extent as in the U.S., because in those countries, a certain—what they consider—minimum level of quality in education is believed to be a given; a basic human right. Circumstances such as seen in the U.S.A. where school quality can fall below an acceptable standard, where students may be instructed in dysfunctional, run-down buildings, exposed to violent crime and other serious disruptions are unlikely to occur.

Several factors contribute to the disconnection between money spent and outcomes: waste and mismanagement of funds as former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee illustrates at the example of Washington D.C., inefficient bureaucracy, extensive spending on redundant equipment and technology, and brick and mortar. Closely related to waste and mismanagement is the lack of transparency in reporting of spending and lacking accountability, which make it easier to misspend monies.

However, the most serious challenge to U.S. education is ideology; a capitalistic ideology that puts profits over individuals—even when the affected individuals are children—and religious ideology that influences the content of curricula. These ideologies explain why schools that need the public monies the most can be allocated less than privileged schools, creationism is still taught, evolution is rejected by many, and abstinence only sex education is believed to be an appropriate option in the 21st century.

U.S. education system is increasingly turning into another of her many “industrial complexes”, as priorities shift from serving and educating, to profit making. Dismantling public schools is among the main goals of education restructurers even though comparative analyses from other developed countries show that solid public education is the fundament on which strong and healthy societies are built.

The disconnection between priorities and purposes is best illustrated by the extensive amount of money spent on school sports that does not actively involve majority of pupils in physical exercise or improve their health otherwise: 10-14 percent of students in 31 U.S. states and more than one-third (34.9%) of U.S. adults overall are obese. School sports do not create stronger communities, as often suggested, either. Otherwise, communities would come together to support disadvantaged schools, instead of competing with those. The truth is, school sports is a big business, just like education is becoming increasingly more a big business. Priorities of big businesses are not educating our children, but promoting their trade and making money.

We can sit around and discuss the pros and cons of this and that policy as much as we like. However, in the meantime, nothing changes the fact that America’s children need basic education in healthy, nurturing environments, appropriate for a developed nation of our standing, indiscriminate from parent privilege; a standard that we are, to-date, unable to meet. It is solely up to us if in the future, we want to build a stronger educational foundation that is worthy of a country of our caliber or keep up the status-quo.



Montag, 4. Juli 2016

Orlando Shooting—Are Our Anti-Terror Strategies Working?

In view of 9/11, we have compromised our way of life and our civil liberties. Allegedly, it was the price that we had to pay if we wanted to be safe. Questionable policies have been put into place on our behalf since. We have been secretly wiretapped, put on secret no-fly lists, exposed to controversial body-scanners, indefinitely detained without due process, and even our library records were seized. Our requests for transparency were met with claims that information must be withheld from U.S. citizens in the name of national security. There has been little to no transparency, little to no accountability, and little to no checks and balances in the way our government has been operating.

The Orlando shooting, more than any other post-9/11 attack, showed just how little we were to receive in return for the civil liberties we have given up. Omar Mateen, a former terrorist suspect who was interviewed by the FBI and had a long history of violence, was able to legally obtain a semi-automatic gun and a pistol, shoot and kill 49 and injure 53 during a rampage. Weeks before the shooting, a gun shop owner had called the FBI and reported someone suspicious attempting to buy a Level 3 body armor who later turned out to be Mateen. The gun shop owner did not have any identifying information on the suspect, but the store had surveillance cameras in place. The FBI, however, has apparently never followed-up, or requested to see the video recording.

The FBI certainly could have not arrested Mateen for a crime he had yet to commit. However, why was Mateen not being more closely monitored? After all, the Bureau has historically never been a stranger to monitoring and keeping files on individuals, particularly on intellectuals and other persons with liberal views. The FBI has kept files on world renowned people such as Erich Fromm, or former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, to more recently, peace and animal rights activists, and Greenpeace supporters. When the FBI can justify monitoring peace activists, it should also be able to monitor people like Mateen, which brings us to another question: Why are we collecting an abundance of data and keeping files on individuals if we are unable to use the gathered information, regardless of whether Mateen’s act of terror was related to ISIS or not? Mateen’s act may have had little or possibly nothing to do with ISIS or Islam. However, that is not unusual in (homegrown) domestic terror cases as examples from Europe illustrate. Acts of terror and other forms of violence are increasingly also carried out by individuals who converted to Islam, or became radicalized at a later age, and use Islam to justify their actions.    

Mateen’s background was full of red flags. During its investigation, the FBI should have picked up on these signs. Unlike racial profiling, psychological profiling is an excellent law enforcement tool. Being prone to violence, splurging threats, being expelled from school are often a part of the background  of individuals carrying out acts of violence, regardless of on whose name they claim to do it. However, the truth is that there was very little that the FBI could have done, because, regardless of exceptions that occur, we are a nation that operates within the frame of law. There are no laws and mechanisms that will help us to be “completely safe,” because freedom requires that we take chances and tragedies, unfortunately, do happen.

What is really sad is that, apparently, no matter what happens, we are going to continue our irrational rhetoric about violence and guns, our irrational discourse on national security, and our sowing of hatred toward arbitrarily identified groups such as the homosexuals or Muslims. Although, apparently we are going to take a break from targeting “homosexuals” at this time and pretend that we never had a problem with “them in this country in the first place.

We are a country with tremendous resources, knowledge, and intelligence. However, our political discourses have often been pathetic at the very least. Let us see how long it is going to take us to realize this and change the way we interact not only around the world, but also with each other.

Original Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alev-dudek/orlando-shootingare-our-a_2_b_11229928.html
                                                                          

Mittwoch, 22. Juni 2016

Myth: Hard Work And Credentials Determine Employment Opportunities

Many jobseekers spend a great deal of time applying for job postings hoping that their fine-tuned resumes will land them the job of their dreams, or at least a jobor if nothing else, an interview. Their efforts often go unnoticed, their applications unanswered, and they hardly ever find out why. On the other hand, others are landing jobs even when they are not looking. Phenomena such as these are realities of life and career building. However, they are usually not included in the narrative that career advisors tell.

The purpose of this post is to shed light on the untold portion of the job search narrative.  

Narrative Assumes Ideal Conditions And Denies All Variables Except One—The Job Seeker
Career counseling is built on many incomplete claims predominantly focused on how things “should” be, but not how they really are. The narrative generally disregards all variables except the job seeker. It assumes fair and transparent application processes that meet industry standards, that every application is considered equally and that the people processing the applications are doing their jobs competently. Career advisors’ narratives usually do not consider the political environments in which hiring takes place or possible shortcomings of the persons involved.

Formality To Claim Transparency
Many jobs are posted merely to claim transparency. Some of the best jobs don’t even get posted. They are filled through networks. Additionally, some jobs that are posted don’t get filled for financial or other reasons. Subsequently, interviews are often not what they appear to be. Interviews are more about chemistry than content. Assuming that a candidate is interviewing for an actual open position, the necessary impressions are usually made within few seconds.  

Regardless of the facts, career advisors continue to claim that one can write the “winning resume” and conduct the “winning interview.” Naturally, one can optimize a resume to a level that can lead to an interview. However, that can take days or weeks. Additionally, since an interview does not always mean that one is being considered for an opening, it does not necessarily increase the chances of landing a job significantly; particularly since jobs can also be filled without an interview.

Last but not least, employers are looking for the best fit, not for candidates with the highest credentials or most sophisticated skill set. The message that more education and a better skill set increases the chances of landing a job has little do to with facts.  

Testing And Extensive Planning
The way one’s career develops has little to do with what one went to school for, envisioned, or carefully planned. Careers generally result from coincidence. Regardless of these facts, job seekers are told to endure extensive career testing and planning, or they are asked to create artificial networks that seldom lead to more than frustration. They are given tests that allegedly determine which careers a particular individual would excel in and be a good fit for based on his or her skills and interests, as if the individual would not excel in other careers as much, or as if being a “good fit” at a job would simply be a result of the role one plays instead of a complex string of factors that depend on various personal and job-related variables.

Obtaining Opportunities—“Who You Know, Not What You Know”
Obtaining opportunities is one of the most crucial aspects of a career. Opportunities are not necessarily determined by hard work, qualifications or skills, but by the chemistry one has with the hiring manager or someone with influence over the selection process. Career advisors rarely mention this or that superior qualifications and skills can, in fact, even halt one’s career by intimidating some decision makers.

People who are aware that they have received opportunities fairly easily claim that they were given an opportunity, but they had to work hard to excel in it, disregarding the fact that this is exactly what differentiates them from the others: They were given the opportunity to “work hard,” to showcase their skills while others were not, even though some others may have been equally, or more qualified.

Opportunities are often spur of the moment events—coincidences. They are mainly determined by, as the saying goes, “who you know, not what you know.” Obtaining an opportunity is, for some, the most challenging, and for others, the easiest part of their careers. The best job fits are the ones that one “falls into” without too much effort or force.

Future Of Work—Fewer Employment Opportunities
Hope should be encouraged. However, hope based on inaccurate perceptions can encourage individuals to waste their efforts on unrealistic outcomes. When job seekers believe the way careers develop is solely up to them, they work harder. They feel more powerful. Such positive thinking is more likely to translate into positive outcomes, and some people will excel as a result of the positive and empowering messages. However, the opposite can be detrimental and more people are likely to be affected by the negative outcomes than the positive ones bite can be detrimental and more people are likely to be affected by teh y is mething else that is positive. ecause traditional employment opportunities are limited and becoming rarer, and the quality of existing opportunities are deteriorating. Even white collar work in the 21st century is industrialized (similar to blue collar work at production facilities), leaving little room for creativity. To maximize profits, employers are working to specialize and systemize work through uniformity even more. Lacking ethics and integrity in leadership levels that most people are familiar with encourages further deterioration of the white collar workplace, meaning traditional employment, as attractive as it can be, is not necessarily always a desirable one.

Disproportionately Large Applicant Pools Benefit Employers, Not Necessarily Individuals Or Society
It is in employers’ interest that career advisors—backed by schools, universities—continue to claim the “winning resume” or “winning interview” narrative because the narrative helps maintain a wide applicant pool. However, with a few exceptions, disproportionately large applicant pools also indicate oversupply of human capital and shortage of work—quality work, to be specific. Employers can pick and choose from a pool of highly qualified candidates while offering less and less. At some point, they can offer so little that many workers cannot even meet basic living expenses in spite of full-time work.

It Is Critical That Job Seekers Know The Truth About Hiring Processes 
The truth about hiring processes must be told because an accurate perception of the situation can help applicants make more educated choices. Instead of wasting much of their energy and time to get hired by someone, they may find other avenues to maximize their potential. Naturally, they can still continue to apply for jobs selectively, however, while investing more energy into starting their own businesses or doing other creative work. Additionally, when individuals stop being dependent on others to hire them, and instead, start their own ventures, “everyone” benefits. Individuals benefit as they are able to explore their talents and skills, and are more likely to succeed authentically; businesses benefit from more competition and society sees a better offering of services.

Career advisors can contribute to better outcomes by telling the full story of how careers are made so that job seekers can make better choices.

Original Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alev-dudek/myth-hard-work-and-creden_1_b_9311806.html 

Sonntag, 17. Januar 2016

Power, Economics And The ‘Islamic Terrorism’ Narrative

Shortly before 130 were killed in the tragic attacks in Paris, 43 people also died in Beirut in a similar attack. Innocent human lives were taken in both instances for which ISIS claimed responsibility. There was hardly any international reaction to the attacks in Beirut, compared to the reactions to Paris. Ironically, Muslims, who also make up approximately 54 percent of Lebanon’s population and are generally among the victims of ISIS attacks, became the scapegoats, as has apparently become customary around the world since 9/11.

When a man or a woman blows him/herself up, kills and injures hundreds of innocent people, what happens afterwards is what is most noteworthy: money starts to flow, projects get funded, people get hired, security apparatuses get expanded, weapons get sold. The more fear that can be instilled in taxpayers during such times, the less objectionable they become, the fewer questions they ask and the less they hold their representatives accountable—certainly, a dream come true for any opportunist who is more than willing to exploit the situation to the fullest. However, who can hold it against them that they do what is right for their careers?

War profiteers do what is right for them. However, the rest of us need to deal with the truth that “jihadist terrorism” is the (undesired) outcome of an historical “Western” strategy of playing groups in the “Middle East” against each other, destabilizing the region and capitalizing on it—naturally, supported by the many Middle Eastern by-standers, because greed does not discriminate based on religion, ethnicity, or national allegiance. That may also explain why the terrorism narrative lacks logic—we have to fear dangerous terrorists who hate us so much that they are willing to pay the ultimate price, who choose to kill 130, 43, or 14 innocent people even though they would be able create damages at much higher rates by using many other methods of modern warfare. The majority of their victims are Muslims, while we continue marginalizing Muslims, and our media is providing these killers with the most powerful platform to reach their goal, allowing them to terrorize us by repeating the same “sensational” images over and over, 24/7, and the list goes on. The narrative does not make sense.  

Similar to other forms of politics, the terrorist narrative, too, is about economics and power. It is a crucial catalyst for the 21st century military industrial complex. Makers of the war on terror, in fact, don’t have a problem with Islam or Muslims per se, as their close relationships with one of the most repressive Islamic regimes in the world who support these terrorists, shows. Except, at some point, they start believing their own dehumanizing messages, regardless of the truth factor. In the war on terror, Muslims happen to be the convenient group to build the narrative around. It could have been anyone.

However, in the 21st century, people all around the world are becoming more and more aware that they have more in common than differences. They are inter-connected, exposing and exchanging information with each other. Isolating and marginalizing certain groups to justify wars is not as effective a tool as they used to be. Too much information is out there. People can more easily see behind the inaccuracies that they are told, even though technology is also a powerful tool to create artificial realities as the irrational fear of terror attacks in the USA shows.  

Wars are generally not democratic, they never have been. They represent the interest of the few at the cost of many. Democracy limited to the voting booth has not done justice to the many who elect the officials but have little to no say in what the officials do later on their behalf. However, technology may turn out to be the tool that enables the emphasis of democracy to shift from voting booths to a more effective platform, especially after the votes have taken place—a tool that may be particularly useful for the voters in the dominant “West” as they elect the key players and are more likely to be heard; the higher their numbers, the louder their voices.  

Only time will tell if technology is indeed a catalyst to more democracy and subsequently, for fewer wars, or rather, another tool for the continuing dominance of the few.


Original Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alev-dudek/power-economics-and-terrorism_b_8949456.html


Samstag, 28. November 2015

GOP Denying Women Basic Economic Rights


As the self-identified party of small government and "maximum economic freedom and the prosperity freedom makes possible," Republicans have been working hard to restrict women's rights and coerce them to conform to traditional roles, such as abstaining from sex until marriage, getting married, having babies, and ideally, relying on their husbands to support them. Their opposition to paycheck fairness bills is consistent with these efforts. Although, the pay gap is in contradiction with encouraging productivity, economic activity, and the American Dream that the GOP is allegedly trying to promote or restore. However, on the other hand, the GOP may just be referring to pursuing prosperity without the presence of integrity and fair and free competition, which would make their opposition to paycheck fairness bills more consistent with their claims.

Making 79 Cents To Every Dollar Made By Men

Women in the U.S.A. to date make approximately 79 cents to every dollar made by men. The reasons for the discrepancy are complex. However, they include historically- and culturally-ingrained sexism exhibited, among other means, through a lack of appreciation for women's contributions to society, limiting gender roles, and (subsequent) discriminatory treatment. It must be noted here that sexism not only influences society's and/or men's view of women, but also the way women perceive themselves. Later in this post, we will discuss how women consciously and/or subconsciously contribute to the status-quo and subsequently, how they can improve their situation through increased awareness and confidence.

Efforts to counteract wage discrimination are not new. President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits "discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages." However, the Act has not been sufficient. Therefore, wage discrimination continues into the 21st century.

Educational And Professional Attainments Of Women In The U.S.A.

The discrepancy in earnings is hardly due to a lack of education, qualifications, or participation in the job market. Women make up approximately 50.8 percent (2010, see Table 1) of the U.S. population and 46.8 percent of the total U.S. workforce. In2009-2010, females represented 57.4 percent of students receiving a bachelor's degree and 62.6 percent of students receiving a master's degree. In spite of their attainments, women are often locked in traditional female roles, under-represented in traditional male roles, and paid less than their male peers in similar positions. The impacts of loss in salaries accumulate over time and have detrimental economic consequences, particularly for single women and single mothers, which includes their increased likelihood of living in poverty at advanced age.

GOP: Denying Women Their Economic Rights

To date, the GOP has been consistently blocking paycheck fairness bills (2010, 2011,2012, 2013, 2014) introduced by the Democrats, claiming, among other that, such anti-discriminatory laws would lead to litigation, or that managers who were not involved in the discrimination would become liable after the responsible manager leaves the organization, as if any such arguments come close to outweighing what the legislation is supposed to do: help eliminate economic discrimination based on gender. In her most recent effort in 2015, Senator Mikulski introduced another paycheck fairness bill, S.862, which can be expected to be thwarted by the GOP, too.

The GOP is not only adamantly preventing the Democrats from passing any legislation that would help women gain economic equality, they are also overturning progress, as in the case of Republican Governor Scott Walker, who repealed the Wisconsin Equal Pay Law and apparently changed his stand on paycheck fairnesslater. Republicans must have changed their minds altogether, as they recently introduced a watered-down version of a paycheck fairness bill - the Workplace Advancement Act, "which would make it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for talking to each other about their salaries."

While Congress is continuing to play politics at women's expense, some states such asConnecticut, Delaware, North Dakota, Oregon and California, have acknowledged the urgency of this problem and have passed their own equal pay legislations. Several additional states have introduced similar bills and are awaiting results.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Of 2009

One of the most significant victories on the path to equal pay for equal work, since the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, alsoopposed by the majority of Republicans and signed into law by President Obama. Under the new law, each paycheck resets the 180-day statute of limitations for filing a complaint, making it much more realistic to hold employers who engage in wage discrimination responsible for their actions and the subsequent damages they cause.

Understanding The Bigger Picture Critical To Understanding The Need For Intervention - U.S.A. Lags Behind Iraq, Namibia, Mozambique, Afghanistan
Due to the deeply rooted and persevering nature of sexism, courageous intervention and progressive policies that address the issue directly, as well as indirectly, are indispensable, as demonstrated by many other countries, such as Germany, Norway, and France, that went as far as introducing quotas to increase representation of women, which is one of many steps toward gender-economic equality.

Understanding the overall picture of women's standing in the U.S.A. is crucial to understanding wage inequality. A comparative analysis to developments abroad can help illustrate the situation better: women are not only compensated unfairly compared to their male counterparts, but they also substantially lack representation and voice. For example, women represent only approximately 19 percent of members of the U.S. Congress. In terms of women in the national legislature, the United States ranks 76th in the world, behind countries such as Iraq, Namibia, Mozambique and Afghanistan. In her more than 200 years of history, the United States has not had a female leader, which leaves her behind countries like Turkey, India, Pakistan, Germany, Malawi, Kosovo, and the list goes on.

Under-Represented In Traditional Male Roles While Continuing To Occupy Traditional Female Roles

Besides in politics, women are also under-represented in U.S. board rooms. They only occupy 4.4 percent of CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies. Barriers for women exist also in other senior and executive level positions while being under-represented in other traditional male roles. Within competitive examining and student new hires for federal government occupations, males account for 80 percent of information technology, 83 percent engineering, and 92 percent law enforcement. Women continue to occupy traditional female roles, such as elementary or middle school teacher, while "secretary" remains the most common profession to date for women in the U.S.A. The lack of voice and opportunity for women is a noteworthy situation for a country with such an enormous economic and political impact, particularly when we consider which countries precede her in this arena.

Combat Gender Pay - Raising Awareness, Empowering Women 

Regardless of the complexity of why the wage gap exists, awareness and empowering women is crucial to gender equality. Research shows that women tend to value their work lower than men, are more reluctant to take credit for what they do, rarely negotiate their salaries or ask for raises, are more willing than men to give up or interrupt their careers for the sake of their partners and children, subordinate their needs to the needs of others and the list goes on. The self-defeating aspects of such attitudes are logical consequences of sexism; they are learned behaviors; taught by parents, enforced in communities and strengthened in many aspects of public life throughout history. In addition to these learned attitudes, there are also various practical reasons why women have fewer opportunities than men: women are less likely to have mentors and be favored by the "good old boy's network" that to date determines access to professional opportunities, and once again, the list goes on.

Opponents of paycheck equity laws often argue that such laws are offensive to women as they assume that women are not equally qualified to prove themselves in the job market and ask for what they deserve. In an ideal world, this would exactly be the case. However, we don't live in an ideal world. We don't even live in a world where a woman (or a man for that matter) can always freely negotiate her salary.

Perpetuating A Vicious Cycle - When Employers Base Future Pay On Current Income 

Employers often inquire about salary history, on which they base their offer. Even federal employers base future pay on current income. Such requests for disclosure, however, particularly affect women negatively. They enforce the vicious cycle of previous discrimination to which women and minorities are more likely to be subjected to, making it even more difficult for women to improve their situation, regardless of whether they are improving their negotiation skills and asking for the money they deserve. Contrary to preconceived notions, getting a raise or a desired salary is also not as easy as asking for it, when the inquirer is a woman. When women ask for raises, they can be perceived as demanding. They can also be treatedunfavorably for negotiating their salaries.

Moving Forward

Most jobs today are very specialized and narrowly focused. Everyone who is hired is expected to be qualified and do a good job. There is hardly any reason that justifies the immense pay gaps for doing the same or a relatively similar job, as we see today. And if there is such a discrepancy in performance when doing the same job, that discrepancy should not be determined by gender.

The complex issue of the wage gap is difficult to solve as it is a historical, and subsequently, a structural problem, deeply ingrained in every aspect of our lives; it is certainly not one that is going to go away any time soon. By acquiring the skills and qualifications they need, women have done their part to gain access to opportunities and privileges that men always had. Now the society needs to do its part: take responsibility and provide them with a discrimination-free environment to make the most out of their potentials. Women don't need pity, and they don't need sympathy; what they need is equality of opportunity, opportunity to prosper like any other man.
Let's pass the Paycheck Fairness Act!