Thursday, March 31, 2016

Weekend Reading Suggestions

1.  This is a good read on Wall Street and parasitic economics.  An example:

So the issue is whether Goldman Sachs, Wall Street and predatory pharmaceutical firms, actually add “product” or whether they’re just exploiting other people. That’s why I used the word parasitism in my book’s title. People think of a parasite as simply taking money, taking blood out of a host or taking money out of the economy. But in nature it’s much more complicated. The parasite can’t simply come in and take something. First of all, it needs to numb the host. It has an enzyme so that the host doesn’t realize the parasite’s there. And then the parasites have another enzyme that takes over the host’s brain. It makes the host imagine that the parasite is part of its own body, actually part of itself and hence to be protected. That’s basically what Wall Street has done. It depicts itself as part of the economy. Not as a wrapping around it, not as external to it, but actually the part that’s helping the body grow, and that actually is responsible for most of the growth. But in fact it’s the parasite that is taking over the growth.

2.  Five female soccer players have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the US Soccer Federation.  According to the complaint, women get paid a lot less than men.  A snippet:

As ESPN reports about the players' complaint, "The filing, citing figures from the USSF's 2015 financial report, says that despite the women's team generating nearly $20 million more revenue last year than the U.S. men's team, the women are paid almost four times less."
Citing U.S. Soccer's annual financial reports, the complaint says that the group's initial budget had projected a financial loss for both the men's and women's teams — but that the women's national team's success "almost exclusively" brought a projected $17.7 million profit. For the 2017 financial year, the players say, the federation now "projects a net profit from the WNT of approximately $5 million, while projecting a net loss of nearly $1 million for the MNT."

3.   An excellent and nuanced take on last New Year's Eve sexual violence in Cologne, Germany by Jina Moore.  Among other aspects of the case she discusses the fact that the kind of harassment so many women suffered that night might not even be criminal in Germany.  This struck a bell with me, because I've recently learned that far too many convicted rapists in Finland don't even go to prison, because the laws have no teeth and nobody is getting them dentures.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On Contraception, The New Culture Wars Frontier

Contraception:  The new frontier in the culture wars!

Imagine!  To be able to write that in 2016.  But so it goes, and of course the contents of the battles are different from the past:  Sluttery is now in the forefront of the war and the preposterous idea that health insurance should pay for contraception as it pays for Viagra, say.

But so it goes.  An example:

Colorado House Democrats passed a bill Tuesday they say will clarify the Affordable Care Act and expand the kinds of birth control available to women without a co-pay.
The bill drew just one Republican vote, Kit Roupe of Colorado Springs, which gives it dim prospects as it moves from the Democratic-led House to the Senate, where the GOP holds a one-seat majority and the edge in committees to bottle it up.

Republicans argued that the bill might permit people to get abortifacients — drugs that cause an abortion instead of prevent a pregnancy — through Medicaid or employer-supported health plans.
Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, a Republican from Colorado Springs who is outspoken against abortion rights, said taxpayers and employers shouldn't have to pay for what they might find offensive.

Bolds are mine.

Mmm.  I find many things my taxes pay offensive.  Wars, for instance, and I'm glad that Rep. Klingenschmitt tells that I shouldn't pay for wars.  And about those employers paying for all that sluttery?  It's called gross remuneration, my friends, and employees have earned the money.  If we took that argument to its extreme, then wage-payers could determine what you spend your wages on, in general.

But all is not doom and gloom in this battle.  Irin Carmon writes about the happenings in the Supreme Court in the Little Sisters case.*  The Court has asked the two sides for more information on their positions.  In my opinion it is asking if there is anything, anything at all, that the Little Sisters would accept:

Tuesday’s order seems to follow up on a question Justice Elena Kagan asked at oral argument: ”Is there any accommodation that the government would offer that would in fact result in women employees of your clients, or students of your clients, getting health care as part of an employer-based plan or a student-based plan, getting contraceptive coverage? Is there any accommodation that would be acceptable?” 
 Or:  If filling in a form is too painful for you so that your employees can get contraceptive coverage in their health insurance, what might not be? 

* I believe that this is part of the Zubik v. Burwell case?

Ian Millhiser summarizes the core issue as follows:

Like Hobby Lobby, Zubik concerns federal rules intended to expand women’s access to birth control. Under these rules, most employers must include a wide range of treatments, from childhood immunizations to cancer screenings to contraception, in the health plan they offer employees. Hobby Lobby held that employers who object to birth control on religious grounds may refuse to offer health plans that cover such treatment.
Yet Hobby Lobby also strongly implied that the government could use an alternative method to foster access to birth control. Under this alternative, religious objectors may either comply with the birth control rules or fill out a two-page form that exempts them from having to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees. In most cases, the objector’s insurance company will then work directly with the objector’s employees to provide them a separate, contraception-only health plan. This fill-out-the-form option is now being challenged in Zubik by religious employers who object to doing the small amount of paperwork they must complete in order to receive an exemption.
Thus, if the Zubik plaintiffs do not prevail, the overwhelming majority of women will receive birth control coverage — albeit through a fairly roundabout method. If these plaintiffs do prevail, on the other hand, that decision could have sweeping implications that stretch far beyond birth control.

See here how Ian views the recent asking for information in this context.