Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

I Would Desire That You Pay the Ladies

AP Images/Susan Walsh
AP Images/Susan Walsh Fifty years ago today, in 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act. The idea was simple: Men and women doing the same work should earn the same pay. Straightforward enough, right? Change the law, change the world, be home by lunchtime. Well, maybe not by lunchtime . After all, back then the law still accepted the idea that men and women were born for different jobs. Newspapers like The Washington Post still had separate classified ad sections for “men’s” jobs and “women’s” jobs. Female law school graduates had trouble even getting interviews. The pre-1963 world being what it was–sexist, in a word—you’d figure activists might well have estimated that the culture would need at least a decade to catch up and treat women fairly on the job. “When I first came to the Women’s Legal Defense Fund, which is now the National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF), in 1974, it was very fashionable to walk around with those big buttons that had “59¢” with the...

Ringside Seat: In the Name of Terror

Imagine that the government said the following: There is a terrible threat to Americans' lives that we need to address, and though in the past we've tried, we haven't done enough. This scourge has killed nearly 400,000 Americans over the last decade, and the government wouldn't be doing its job in keeping us safe if it didn't take some extraordinary measures to deal with it. This threat is known as the automobile, and to confront it, we're instituting a new system to keep it from killing so many of us. What we need is information, to understand who has accidents and under what circumstances they occur. To that end, we'd be told, the Department of Transportation will over the next few months be installing a small, unobtrusive tracking device on every American's car. This device will enable the government to see where you've driven, at what times, and at what speeds. With this information, we hope to stop accidents before they happen. And to those who might be uncomfortable with the...

How All Three Branches Conspired to Threaten Your Privacy

WikiMedia Commons
The recent revelations about the court order issued to Verizon asking them to hand over data about the calls made by millions of customers were chilling not so much for the specific information the government was asking for, but for what the order likely portended. Given its massive scope, the potential for spying into electronic communications made much more disturbing revelations inevitable. It didn't take long for the other shoe to drop. In a blockbuster story , Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras of The Washington Post have revealed the existence of a more comprehensive spying program with the code name PRISM involving the National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as at least nine telecommunications giants. It's a classic case of how checks and balances have not worked in the way the framers envisioned. Far from checking executive overreach, Congress has authorized dangerous expansions of power while various levels of the judiciary break out their rubber...

A Shocking Outbreak of Intellectual Consistency

National Security Agency headquarters (photo from nsa.gov)
As soon as an issue like the NSA surveillance comes along (and by the way, it needs a name—BigDataGulp, perhaps?), we immediately start hearing charges of hypocrisy. When a Democratic administration does something normally associated with Republicans, we've come to expect everybody to give their partisan affiliations precedence over their prior substantive beliefs, and switch sides. So liberals should now be fervently defending the government's right to see who you called and read your emails, and conservatives should be decrying the expansion of the national security state. And most of all, everyone should be accusing everyone else of hypocrisy. But weirdly enough, though there are some charges of hypocrisy, actual hypocrisy is in relatively short supply, outside of a few isolated cases here and there. I've spent the morning going around to websites of various political stripes, and amazingly, most commentators seem to be taking the same positions they did on this matter during the...

Triple-A Games: Pretty and Brain-Dead

T here are two video-game industries. The first is the blockbuster industry, in which games cost tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars to create and expect to reap millions of sales at $60 a pop in return. These blockbuster games, often called “AAA” or “triple-A” games in the industry, are typically violent, take about 8 to 12 hours to play though, and feature cinematic storytelling in the style of Michael Bay or John Woo. The other video-game industry takes everything else. For many people, the blockbuster game industry is the entirety of the game industry. This is the industry of Call Of Duty , selling ten million copies, or Halo , or Gears of War , or Assassin's Creed , or basically any game with an advertising budget built to coat the airwaves with commercials. Their dominance over the zeitgeist can be a problem, to the point where game critic Andrew Vanden Bossche recently wrote a “Case for Never Talking About AAA Games.” The blockbuster game can often be a slick, soulless...

Game Over

The Pew Research Center is out with a big survey on the public's views on same-sex marriage with lots of interesting things, most of which are continuations of the trend we've seen for a while. But the most interesting findings come from their question about whether people think that marriage equality is inevitable. As you might expect, most of those who support it are optimistic about their preferred outcome, with 85 percent saying it's inevitable. But much more striking, a full 59 percent of those who oppose same-sex marriage say it's inevitable. No wishful thinking here. And when you look at various demographic groups, who thinks it's inevitable? Pretty much everybody: There you have it. Seventy-three percent of Republicans, 69 percent of senior citizens, 70 percent of white evangelicals, and on and on. That might not be much comfort to you if you're a gay person in the Deep South wondering how many decades it'll take before your state legalizes marriage equality, but this debate...

Ringside Seat: Can You Track Me Now?

There was once a time when cell phones, like beepers before them, were really only needed by doctors and drug dealers. But in a short time they became ubiquitous, and today nearly nine in ten Americans own mobile phones. That's a lot of phones and a lot of calls, but worry not—the U.S. government is working hard to track each and every one. That's the logical conclusion of a report out today from the British newspaper The Guardian , which revealed an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court under which Verizon, the largest U.S. cell phone carrier, had to turn over records on every single one of its customers to the National Security Agency. Verizon was required to hand over records of all the calls that came through its network—who called who, when the call was made, how long the call lasted, and the geographic locations of the two parties when the call was made. Though the order the paper obtained applied only to Verizon, it would be strange if similar ones weren't...

The Verizon Data Order and Why It Matters

WikiMedia Commons
G lenn Greenwald of The Guardian had a major scoop yesterday, revealing a court order requiring the communications giant Verizon to hand over information about all the calls in its system, domestic or international. As Greenwald explains, this means "the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing." This is a major story that reveals glaring flaws in the current rules governing surveillance and national security—p articularly since, as Atlantic Wire 's Elspeth Reeve points out , it's unlikely that Verizon is the only company being required to turn over records of the calls made by its customers, or that this is the only type of information being sought by the government To be clear, the potential legal and policy problems of this policy are not the same as those of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping, which went ahead without the approval of the special...

Is the GOP's Tragedy of the Commons Problem Undoing Immigration Reform?

Marco Rubio may be getting thirsty again.
For some time, everyone in Washington assumed that if any major piece of legislation had the chance to pass this year, it was going to be immigration reform. At last it seemed Republican and Democratic interests had come into alignment! Democrats have wanted reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, for a long time. Republicans have finally realized that telling Latino voters "We don't like your kind" every couple of years is very bad politics. So with bipartisan "gangs" in both houses of Congress working on reform packages, it appeared that things were moving toward passage. Until the last couple of days, that is. Things are starting to look bleak. First we heard about an amendment coming from John Cornyn and Marco Rubio that sets almost impossible conditions on any path to citizenship; as Politico described it , the amendment "would require 100 percent operational control of the Southern borders and that 90 percent of illegal border crossers be apprehended...

Republicans Play Defense in Texas

AP Photo/Harry Cabluck
AP Photo/Harry Cabluck On Tuesday, the Texas Republican Party chair Steve Munisteri announced plans to open five new field offices and hire nearly two dozen full-time outreach workers, who will target nonwhite voters and young people. The national party will help support the effort, investing a currently undisclosed amount. According to a spokesperson for the Texas Republican Party, the details are still being worked out. Since the GOP already dominates the state, you might expect the news would only further depress beleaguered Democrats—a well-funded effort to build inroads among voters who don’t typically vote Republican. Instead, some Democrats were celebrating. Battleground Texas, the group headed by former Obama staffers that promises to turn Texas blue largely through an emphasis on door-to-door canvassing, registration drives, and the like, sent out an email blast highlighting the news, with “This is amazing” as the subject line. The email proclaimed: “There is no clearer sign...

Once Upon a Time, There Was a President ...

flickr/United States Government Work
AP Photo L ast week I wrote about why the myth of the magical hero-king — what others call the "Green Lantern" presidency—just won’t die. The reason? Because it seems the myth is in the interest of the presidents themselves! In some ways, however, this particular myth is only one of the many ideas of the presidency that were essential in the institution’s development. Many of the things that presidents do, after all, aren’t explicitly in the Constitution, and many of the things we associate with the presidency weren’t done for years and years after the Constitution was adopted. A president just set a precedent, and it stuck. For a minor example, there’s the president’s Saturday radio address, invented by Ronald Reagan and then copied by everyone since, although Barack Obama added a twist with YouTube versions. There’s more: Everything from cabinet meetings to press conferences to “pardoning” Thanksgiving turkeys is part of the slowly built-up White House job requirements. Congress, on...

Ringside Seat: Frankie Muniz's Career Is Dead, Susan Rice's Is Alive

Fortunes can change fast—just ask Susan Rice. Nine months ago, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was perfectly situated and considered next in line for secretary of State. Then, after attacks in Benghazi left four dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Rice found herself persona non grata. Her crime? Going on the Sunday morning talk show network to run through her understanding of the events as caused by a mob, rather than the work of terrorists. Republicans argued she was complicit in a cover-up to help the president’s re-election. Since then, an abundance of evidence has shown that Rice had almost nothing to do with the debate between the CIA and the State Department over how to characterize the attacks. But when Rice publicly rescinded her name from consideration for secretary of state, the GOP claimed victory. But Rice’s prospects are suddenly looking up—way, way up. Obama announced today that he would be appointing her as his National Security Agency advisor. The...

Republicans Mad that President They Despise, Obstruct, and Lie About Doesn't Call More Often

And not only that, he unfriended me on Facebook! (Flickr/Talk Radio News Service)
Iowa senator Chuck Grassley is something of an odd character. As I've said before, he used to be considered a reasonable moderate, but in the last couple of years he has basically turned himself into a Tea Party wingnut, combining the ideological extremism, face palm-inducing stupidity, and general craziness that makes that political movement so charming (although I was recently informed that even a couple of decades ago, before Grassley began publicly yelling at clouds , people in the Senate privately considered him kind of a nut). Today, The Hill reports that Grassley, who has spent the last five years floating conspiracy theories, impugning Barack Obama's motives, and telling truly vicious lies about his policies, is upset that Obama doesn't call him more often. Seriously. In 2009, Obama basically had Grassley on speed dial, calling him frequently during negotiations over an overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system. Grassley at the time was one of three Republicans on the Group...

Let's Talk about Tax Reform

Flickr/tolworthy
A few Republicans out there, struggling to put the IRS scandalette in a larger context, are now saying it shows we need tax reform. It doesn't really, unless their argument is that we've been letting shamelessly political 501(c)(4) organizations get away with a scam and we ought to clarify the law on what such organizations can do. But that's not what they're saying. What they're saying is that the IRS matter shows we need to change the tax code to reflect the same policies they've advocated forever. It wasn't as though this particular scandal arose because filing your personal income taxes is too complicated or because the corporate tax system is riddled with loopholes. It was something very specific, the law regarding how certain kinds of non profit organizations are allowed to operate. Frankly, there's no part of the tax code conservatives care less about. What they're interested in is changing personal and corporate taxes. Ted Cruz, for instance, says, "We ought to abolish the IRS...

The End of the Solid South

Victor Juhasz
Victor Juhasz This piece is the first in our Solid South series. You can read Abby Rapoport's Texas reporting here , and Sue Sturgis and Chris Kromm on North Carolina here , and Jamelle Bouie on Virginia here . T he final rally of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign took place on symbolically charged ground: the rolling fields of Manassas, site of the first major battle of the Civil War. It was the last stop on an election eve spent entirely in the South: Jacksonville, Charlotte, and finally Northern Virginia. In the autumn chill, an estimated 90,000 people spread out across the county fairgrounds and waited for hours to cheer a new president—and a new South. By this point, Virginians knew Obama well. In February, he had beaten Hillary Clinton 2 to 1 in the state’s Democratic primary, a blow to her floundering bid. After clinching the nomination, he’d kicked off his general-election campaign in rural Virginia and been a frequent visitor since. Bucking conventional wisdom, Obama’...

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