Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Responsibility to American Workers

An article in the New York Times last Wednesday chronicled the visit President Obama made to a small town called Newton in Iowa. The author, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, wrote that Newton had previously been a town which ran on the work provided by Maytag, but that the town has experienced severe job loss since Maytag has closed its US factories and moved abroad. Since this time, the article described, a company called Trinity Structural Towers has begun manufacturing wind turbines in the factory previously occupied by Maytag. Though the production of these energy producing turbines has been slow and not all of the jobs lost to the outsourcing of Maytag have been replaced, this new industry has helped to restore some life to Newton. The article highlighted that President Obama praised Newton as a leader in “the next energy revolution” and urged that more alternative energy legislation must be passed.

Newton, Iowa is, in many ways, a microcosm of the issues experienced by people across the country. In recent years, the expansions of global capitalism and increased international trade have created serious repercussions for the American people. According to some estimates, hundreds of thousands of jobs are lost each year when companies like Maytag move their labor overseas. For most companies, moving their factories outside of the US is simply a matter of increasing their profits by finding workers they can pay less and finding cheaper resources. Outsourcing has become so extreme that the US imports far more products than it exports, causing an imbalance of trade and resulting in a fall of the value of the dollar. In part, the American government has some blame in the outsourcing of jobs, which has partially led to the current economic recession. NAFTA and other trade agreements, which were pushed through by American politicians and legislators, enable and even encourage companies to move their jobs outside of the US. As President Obama touched on in the above mentioned article, the government has a responsibility to create new jobs in these difficult financial times, and it has a responsibility to create many of these jobs in the field of alternative energy.

The expansion of wind, solar, hydroelectric and other renewable energy industries has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States. Though legislation is slowly being passed to encourage the production of alternative energy, America has still fallen behind most other western countries in the use of renewable resources. Alternative energies like wind and solar currently account for less than 3 percent of energy use in the United States. While, as Mr. Obama stated in an address to the town of Newton, this number could rise to 20 percent by 2030, Denmark, for example, already produces almost 20 percent of their energy through wind power alone. Additionally, the US originally pioneered solar energy and has since fallen behind many other countries in its production and use. The lack of serious attention paid to alternative energies by American legislators has exacerbated global warming and has put the health of the American public at risk from pollution. These problems have yet been worsened by the aforementioned outsourcing, which increases the distance goods must travel to reach American consumers and thus increases their carbon footprint.

Given the shortcomings of government representatives in both protecting American jobs from outsourcing and slowing carbon emissions by using renewable resources, as well as the necessities created by the economic recession, broadening the alternative energy industry could ameliorate each of these issues. The time has come for representatives to end their reluctance to advance renewable energy; legislators must take a determined approach to creating incentives for companies to switch to alternative energy and for new manufacturers to produce the technology needed to uses these alternatives. Such an approach would be a responsible and enlightened way to create jobs, reverse environmental decline and help American towns like Newton.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gender Gap in Law School Admissions Growing

I'm not sure I've developed an opinion about this yet, but statistics are showing that gender equality in the number of men and women applying and accepted into law school each year reached it's peak at around the millennium and has since been declining. While in 2001, only about 1,000 more men were accepted into law school than women, that number has been growing each year since and by 2006-07 school year had grown to a difference of 5,000. This may not seem like a large gap to some, but in light of the fact that in the same school year only 25,000 women were accepted into law schools, that means that 20% more men were accepted than men. From near equality to a 20% difference is a big change.

One may wonder if this difference has developed, not because law schools are accepting fewer women percentage-wise, but because fewer women are applying to law schools. In fact, the number of women, proportional to men, who apply to law schools has been declining in recent years. Between 2004 and 2007, there was a 7.5 percent decrease in the number of women applying to law schools. This could be a problem on it's own. The rate at which women were accepted into law schools, however, still fell faster during this period of time than a decrease in the number of applicants can account for. Why is this? are women less qualified for law school today than they were 5 years ago? Do we have lower LSAT scores? The Law School Admissions Council reports that although women consistently score about 2 points lower than men on the LSAT, this gap has not shifted in the past 8 years.

The big question behind all of these statistics is this: why are women less represented in law school now than they were 10 years ago? If the numbers are significant enough to represent a trend, my guess is not that there are fewer opportunities for women in law, but that it is increasingly difficult for women to be able to pursue careers and care for families. Yes, there are more women in law today than their have ever been before, many of which have access to positions of power and prestige that were previously unavailable to them. But the reality is that while women's representation in the professional world has been growing since the 1970s, our gender expectations about household work have not caught up. Women are taking a "second shift" at home; women with careers still spend twice as much time doing work in the home (caring for children, cleaning, cooking, etc.) than their male counterparts. Not much has changed in recent year in our gender expectation about who in the family should care for children and maintain the home. Moreover, the government has done very little to make affordable, quality child care available to working mothers. All of this adds up to a very clear message to women in law: though the hours expected of women in the legal profession continue to climb, very little assistance exists for these women to be able to reconcile work and family.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Aloha State's Crowd of Hate

In a state that voted Obama into office with a larger majority than any other in the country, a vicious battle is going on between those who believe that rights should be stripped from a portion society because of what a religious text say and those who simply wish to expand the human rights of their state. I am so sad to see what is going on in my home. In the state that I grew up to know as so progressive and so caring, thousands of people are gathering to oppose the passage of a bill to create civil unions. Even though the Hawaii legislature voted to adopt same-sex marriage in 1993, after the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act in federal legislature, the Hawaii state constitution became the first to adopt a "defense of marriage" amendment to ban gay marriage in 1998.

Now, a decade later, some states have passed legislation to allow same-sex marriage and even more have civil unions available to gay couples. Hawaii is attempting to catch up with this transition in that the legislature is now considering a bill to create real civil unions with the same rights as marriages. The bill passed the house with a solid majority and has now entered the senate to be voted upon. I am ashamed to see that at the same time, thousands of christian protesters are vehemently fighting against this bill. Dressed all in red and carrying signs which read "God judges the wicked everyday" and "No same-sex marriage by another name," these hateful Hawaiian residents break my heart. Since the state cannot pass same-sex marriage protection according to the constitutional amendment, HB 444, which is currently trapped in committee in the senate, only seeks to create civil unions without the title of marriage. This means that the protesters in front of the capital on Sunday do not simply oppose the adoption of the official term marriage by same sex couples, but are opposed to gay couples having these rights at all.

These people stand preaching hate, exclusionism and limitations on democracy in a time when people have fought for civil rights for hundreds of years in this country and when too many of our fellow Americans are suffering. I fear that these people will have to explain to their grandchildren one day that, in the great domestic fight for civil rights in their generation, they fought on the side of hate. They will have to explain that they wanted theocracy and a history of repressing human rights to persist, and they will have to explain that they lost. In an ashaming and repressive history of American existence, we have shown that prejudice and ignorance cannot fight out democracy for too long. The people who boasted their hate in Hawaii this week will have to learn this lesson one day.

If I were to pray to a God, I would pray that the Hawaii legislature and the country at large would vote on the side of love and that we as a country would be able to move towards inclusion into democracy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hey, I have a blog now

Since I recently graduated from college on the west coast and headed out to the east coast to look for work and get ready for grad school, I realized I have a lot of time on my hands. It's amazing how much not going to school frees up your life. So I decided, at the suggestion of a friend, to start a blog. I'm not sure if anyone will be interested in reading about my thoughts and ventures, but I thought I'd try. I'm probably way behind the curve in taking almost a decade into the new millennium to start a blog, so I imagine all you guys and gals are already there.

So- Henceforth begins my political soapbox, chronicles of knitting projects and stories about my dog from the forest moon of Endor.