The tax American women pay on everything — just because they’re women

Whether you’re buying pink toys with your allowance as a kid or canes and compression socks in old age, it’s cheaper to be a man and more expensive to be a woman.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs studied nearly 800 products in 35 categories that people buy and use throughout their life — everything from onesies and baby shoes to razors and deodorant.

Products marketed to women cost more than products marketed to men 42 percent of the time. And men’s products cost more only 8 percent of the time. Over women’s lifetimes, the report concludes, the differences can easily add up to thousands of dollars.

And all of this is legal. While some jurisdictions, including New York, have laws about charging men and women different prices for similar services, there are no laws about different prices for similar products…

…The worst offender was shampoo: men paid an average of $5.68 per bottle of shampoo, while women paid $8.39, a 48 percent difference.

There is no reason for this — men’s and women’s shampoo uses the same ingredients. And although other manufacturers of other personal care products justify the difference by saying, for example, that men buy razors more frequently than women, women use more shampoo than men. The report concluded that women are asked to pay more of the cost of research and development, a major expense for cosmetics companies, than men are…

There are reasons why women’s products might cost more. Women’s clothing is cut differently; girls’ clothing, the report noted, often had more expensive trimming, such as ribbons, ruffles, or glitter.

But there’s a deeper reason, particularly for clothing and personal care products, as Danielle Kurtzleben wrote for Vox in 2014:

There’s an obvious answer here: society expects women to look a certain way. Put into economics terms, there’s a higher return on investment for beauty for women. Beauty products are becoming more popular among men, it’s true, but expensive skin cream is still optional. For women, all those trappings are more necessary.

And that matters well beyond your bank account balance, because it reinforces socially constructed notions of what it means to be a woman…

From the market side, all the reasons are nothing more than rationales. The defining characteristics of our society flow from the economics of profit. Profit rules. If you can optimize profit, increase profit between demographics you go for it. You’re a Hero of Capitalism.

We see it across a broad range of transactions. We see it most of all — ripping off women.

Honda’s $25 million settlement illustrates gutless government in action


Someone explain to Honda those aren’t American flags

American Honda Finance Corp. agreed to pay as much as $25 million to settle discriminatory lending allegations as the U.S. has stepped up its scrutiny of car loans, the third-largest source of household debt.

The Honda unit that finances auto loans in the U.S. will offer $24 million in relief to borrowers who were allegedly overcharged by dealers since 2011, according to a settlement Tuesday with the Justice Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. An additional $1 million will be spent on consumer education programs.

The federal government in recent years has secured large discriminatory lending payments from mortgage companies, including a $335 million settlement with Countrywide Financial Corp., and has now turned its attention to auto loans. As part of the settlement, Honda said it would limit the amount a dealer could markup the interest rate of the loan.

As our government has demonstrated time and again, you can lie, cheat and steal – and if you’re a big bank, you get a sizable fine. I guess that’s repayment to the state, somehow. No one does any time. None of the creeps who signed-off on screwing American citizens pay any penalty. Shareholders get the fine subtracted from any dividends they may have expected.

Toyota Motor Credit Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have each disclosed government investigations of discriminatory pricing related to loans.

Vanita Gupta said the Justice Department’s investigation of the auto-lending industry is continuing. Auto loans are the third-largest source of household debt after mortgages and student loans…

U.S. authorities allege that Honda violated fair-lending laws by allowing dealers to charge higher interest rates on loans sought by African-American, Hispanic and Asian borrowers.

The average African-American borrower paid about $250 more for the loan than a white borrower, the Justice Department ad the CFPB said in its complaint. Hispanics paid $200 more while Asian and Pacific Islander borrowers paid $150 more during the term of the loan, the U.S. said.

And that’s the flip side of bigoted business practices in 21st Century America. Corporate barons only have to look to the Republican Party and the gerrymandering done since the 2010 census to think to themselves – hey, these creeps are publicly redefining voting districts to discriminate against Black folks, poor white folks, students and seniors – why can’t I do the same thing?

Our creepiest politicians combine the theft of voting rights with lies about non-existent voter fraud to assemble a life’s worth of deceit and discrimination equal to anything since the days of Jim Crow – and our courts will fart around for decades without doing a thing. Plus, they have the example of the Supreme Court before them saying – it’s all right, racism doesn’t exist in our plastic TV-land anymore.

Why shouldn’t Honda try to get away with stealing? Our politicians, our government says it’s OK.

“Serving the public” still means ALL the public


Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, with their two childrenFrancisco Xavier Vargas

The owners of a Portland-area bakery that denied service to a same-sex couple must pay $135,000 in damages, the bureau of labor and industries has ruled.

The damages are for emotional suffering caused by Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which two years ago refused to bake a wedding cake for Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer.

A 2007 Oregon law protects the rights of LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations. It provides an exemption for religious organisations, but the agency ruled that exemption does not allow private businesses to discriminate against potential customers.

“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage. It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal,” Oregon labor commissioner Brad Avakian said in the final order.

In April, an administrative law judge proposed the same damages.

The bakers said their refusal to bake for the couple was prompted by religious beliefs, blah, blah, blah

Jeana Frazzini, co-director of the gay-rights group Basic Rights Oregon, praised the order.

“This case struck a chord with many Oregonians because allowing businesses to deny goods and services to people because of who they are and whom they love is hurtful and wrong,” she said in a statement.

Part of this nation’s fight for freedom was to get out from under a state religion. Sadly, there are beaucoup fundamentalist Christians who think they hold the only keys to the door of this democratic republic – and that they can deny full citizenship on the basis of their ideology.

If we had a bit more courage on the Democrat side of Congress, a bit more honesty on the Republican side, we’d have sorted out all this crap decades ago. Not that that would prevent jive theocrats from trying to turn this country from the path of secular civil law – serving all the people.

Indiana communities want LGBT civil rights after state supports bigotry

Indiana passed a revised Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week, but some are saying the “fix” is not enough.

Several communities plan to pass their own anti-discrimination ordinances, while others are calling for a RFRA repeal. Lawmakers rushed the changes through after a statewide and national backlash after Gov. Mike Pence signed the original bill. The bill that the governor signed last Thursday that clarified that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not allow businesses to withhold services from LGBT people. However, that only extends to communities that have an anti-discrimination ordinance in place.

On Monday, Rep. Ed DeLaney (R-Indianapolis) said in a statement, “In the wake of the statements from both proponents of the bill and the Governor himself, it is clear what the intent of the bill was. It was intended to be used to discriminate. When asked several times on Thursday, Speaker Bosma would not agree to hold a hearing to add sexual orientation and gender identity to a ‘protected class’ in Indiana.

Throughout this whole debate, the Republicans have stated either with their words or actions that members of the LGBT community are second-class citizens who do not deserve legal protection under the law. I see only one remedy that needs to be taken. First, we need to repeal the current law-then we must reform our civil rights law to add sexual orientation and gender identity. Finally, we need to rewrite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to actually mirror that of the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Only then will we be able to send a message to those living in the state and those watching that Indiana is open to all.”

The City Council in New Albany will consider a resolution Monday calling for the law to be repealed. The mayor has called for more changes to the RFRA. He says elected officials have a duty to create a welcoming environment for everyone.

In Lafayette, the Family Equality Council is partnering with “Citizens for Civil Rights” and “Indiana Equality Action” to host a town hall meeting. They hope to discuss the impact of the RFRA on gay, lesbian and transgender families. The meeting starts at 6 pm at the Columbia ballroom in Lafayette.

In Muncie, the City Council is expected to vote Monday night on a new human rights ordinance. Mayor Dennis Tyler says the resolution will make the city’s stance against the RFRA very clear and that the city does not want to discourage anyone from living or working in Muncie.

Look at the history of gerrymandering in the United States and once you get past racial bigotry, religious cultural bigotry stands next in line in opposition to democratic progress. The same motivation makes its unfortunate presence known in distorted laws like Indiana’s RFRA.

This Week in God

When we last checked in with the fine folks in Orange County, Florida, home to Orlando among other communities, the school board had already agreed to allow an evangelical Christian group to distribute Bibles to school children. The Satanic Temple heard about the arrangement and asked for equal treatment – they had some Satanic coloring books they wanted to share.

If the board members refused, the Satanic Temple would sue and almost certainly win – the Supreme Court has already said public schools can’t discriminate based on religious viewpoints. If the doors were open to an evangelical group to distribute Bibles, then Orange County would seem to have no choice but to open the doors a little wider to accommodate every other religious group.

This week, Ian Millhiser explained the school board decided it’s time to close the doors altogether.
The school district, in other words, could allow Christians and Satanists alike to distribute literature to students. Or it could exclude both. But it cannot discriminate against the Satanists because it disagrees with the Satanic viewpoint. At a school board meeting Tuesday night, the board decided to go with a version of option B. Under their new policy, some literature may still be distributed, “but nothing that is religious, political or sectarian,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Every time these kinds of controversies arise, the underlying principle is always the same: when it comes to religion and public affairs, the government can’t play favorites. First Amendment principles demand that no American is treated as a second-class citizen.

The ideal solution, it would seem, is for public officials to stay out of the religion-promotion business altogether.

Let us return to separation between church and state.

Yes, I realize fundamentalists often believe this never was the case. They also believe the Earth came into existence 6000 years ago. I have no problem with someone wanting to believe silly crap. But, unless they can provide historical or scientific evidence to prove their case – they will be ignored.

Once we got past World war 2 and resumed our journey towards a modern new world appurtenances like religion quickly began to fall away from most useful political constructs – ranging from jurisprudence to public schools. Because some fundamentalist True Believers have fought successful rear guard battles in political backwaters has little or nothing to do with the course our nation should follow.

That includes the reactionary dullards stuck into the Supreme Court by opportunist politicians.

Nationality doesn’t matter when getting a US green card — Huh? Wha?

work and live in usa

When it comes to green cards, some immigrants are more equal than others.

A research study conducted over 40 months shows that labor-certification applications for Asian and Canadian immigrants were approved 90.5% and 89.7% of the time, respectively. Yet those of Latin American immigrants were approved only 66.8% of the time.

Brown University and MIT researchers Benjamin Rissing and Emilio Castilla claim the green-card evaluation process shows gaping disparities in how foreign nationals are treated, depending on their country of origin.

Rissing and Castilla studied applications from 198,442 immigrants from 190 countries submitted for the US labor-certification process between June 2008 and September 2011. The applicants sought work authorization for 68,240 different firms. The application pool was taken from a single processing center in Atlanta, Georgia.

The researchers compared applicants from similar fields, with comparable salaries and educational qualifications.

The applications are only the first steps – but they are the hardest ones. Agents for the US Department of Labor examine them to determine whether the applicant has all the qualifications for the job he is seeking, as well as to see if a US worker would be disadvantaged if the immigrant were hired…

A spokesperson for the Department of Labor confirmed that the decision is not made based on country of origin and so the department has not instituted any checks and balances to address disparities.

And yet application outcomes varied vastly, and in telling ways…

Rissing explains the results: “We even looked at jobs in construction and restaurant cooks, jobs that might require less explicit human capital,” he says, but Asians were still more likely to be approved than applicants from Latin American countries.

Rissing says that when they are reaching judgements, agents “might key on stereotypes or certain information on an aggregate population of worker based on their demographic characteristics.”

In interviewing these agents, he found that they might be influenced by the general perception and media coverage, as well as the treatment of specific immigrant groups by Homeland Security.

Rissing points out that 93% of US immigrant deportations target immigrants from just eight Latin American countries.

“32% of all immigrants that are regarded inadmissable at the country’s borders are from Mexico. It’s these sorts of things that could cause these government agents to regard applications from particular countries of origin such as Latin America with greater scepticism…”

Sounds to me as if low-level bureaucrats and civil servants are infected with the same self-justifying prejudice as Congress. And they tell the same lies.

Separately, there is nothing up-to-date or contemporary about our immigration policy. Even the politicians who defend national bigotries admit that much. Just another example of American “leadership” being anything but.

Unfair pay for women and people of color

unfair pay
Click on the graphic for a personal view

American women who work full time, year round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. But the wage gap is even larger for many women of color working full time, year round, as African-American women are paid only 64 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

These gaps translated into a loss of $18,650 for African-American women and $24,111 for Hispanic women in 2012. Closing the wage gap is, therefore, particularly important for African-American and Hispanic women, who are already more likely to have lower incomes and to be in poverty than virtually all other groups.4 Although enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and other civil rights laws has helped narrow the wage gap over time, addressing the significant disparity that remains is critical for women and their families.

The wage gap for African-American and Hispanic women [.pdf] working full time, year round persists even when the effect of race or sex is considered alone.

• The typical African-American woman working full time, year round is paid roughly 83 cents for every dollar paid to her white, non-Hispanic female counterpart. The gap is larger for Hispanic women working full time, year round, who are paid just 69 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic female counterparts.

• The typical African-American woman working full time, year round is paid roughly 88 cents for every
dollar paid to her African-American male counterpart. The gap is the same for Hispanic women working full time, year round, who are also paid 88 cents for every dollar paid to their Hispanic male counterparts.

RTFA for example after example of death by a thousand cuts if you ain’t white and male.

Not so incidentally, if you are white and male don’t get smug. Although you may not have confronted pay cuts directly, part of the discrimination that adds to profit – is that white men also receive less than they might because “Hey, look. You’re better off than they are, eh?” And that’s good enough for plenty of guys who haven’t looked at what they might be earning if they got together and joined forces with the rest of their class.

Thanks, Mike

India’s gay community is in shock over Supreme Court support for colonial-era ignorance


Reaching for freedom in India

There’s been widespread outrage in India’s gay community, which is in shock after the country’s top court reversed a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court ruling that had decriminalised homosexual acts.

The court has now left it to parliament to legislate on Section 377, a 153-year-old colonial law, under which a same-sex relationship is an “unnatural offence” and punishable by a 10-year jail term.

Opposition to the 2009 ruling had come from more than a dozen political, social and religious groups and petitioners.

They put up an array of arguments, many of them bizarre and, some might say, disingenuous.

One petitioner was a TV astrologer who told the court the ruling “compromises national defence since soldiers will start having sex with each other”…Perhaps most bizarrely, a spokesman for a popular yoga guru opposed the change, telling the court that he could “cure homosexuality through yoga”…

Ranged against this were some four main groups who filed petitions supporting the Delhi court decision.

They included parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with stories of how the colonial-era law had caused trauma to them and harmed their family lives; a group of more than a dozen psychiatrists and psychologists who treat LGBT “patients”; and some distinguished academics and leading Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal…

The 2009 judgement came as a shot in the arm for India’s gay community. More and more of its members had begun to come out. “The verdict is a severe blow to them,” journalist and activist Vikram Doctor tells me. “Once people come out of the closet, they just cannot go back.”

I don’t know why I ever presumed India had left behind all the trappings of British Imperialism. Out-of-date and disfunctional, 19th Century policies are only honored by the truly backwards. Usually on the basis of religion or bigotry.

I had presumed that legal structures at least at the top of law’s pyramid in India would be self-limiting to those individuals genuinely qualified. Wrong, obviously.