All posts by Liz Wolfe

Yes, Sen. Warren Has a Gender Gap; Just Not the One You Read About

Two conservative outlets called Warren a hypocrite on gender pay. Her record isn’t great, but they didn’t tell the whole story.

Tuesday was Equal Pay Day, the day dedicated to raising awareness of the alleged gender pay gap—or the oft-reported idea that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Largely the result of women being more likely to take time off or work in lower-paid jobs and industries, many hijack this topic to advocate for more workplace regulation or signal their rage about sexism (despite the statistics showing a more complicated story).

It’s fair for the idea of a gender pay gap to frustrate many on a visceral level. Although the dramatic statistics often cited are not accurate, it’s true that women are more prominent in lower-paid professions and roles. This happens for many reasons—anything from social conditioning that makes it harder to ask for raises to needing flexibility for childrearing.

But these shoddy statistics are used as a talking point by those trying to push legislative agendas, especially on the left. Senator Elizabeth Warren has, in particular, been an outspoken proponent for leveling the gap. As she tweeted last year: “Equal pay day isn’t a national day of celebration. It’s a national day of embarrassment.” Unfortunately, her outrage fails to show self-awareness, on some level.

Sen. Warren’s own office seems to be afflicted by the same issues she’s publicly decrying. The Daily Caller and Washington Free Beacon recently reported on this, claiming that her employees experience a gap of about $20,000 for median annual earnings, by gender. Ah, the hypocrisy!

As nice as it would be if the story were that simple, there are several caveats that come with Senate staffer pay reports; bonuses could inflate salaries, no distinctions are made between part- and full-time employees, and some staff could be interns or working for multiple offices. Relying too heavily on these statistics is irresponsible without more context.

Read more at The Daily Beast

Wolfe: ‘Wrongful birth’ law is a wrongheaded way to curb abortions

Texas Senate Bill 25, currently being sent to the House, is a horrible policy rooted in good intentions. SB 25 prevents parents from suing their physician if their child is born with abnormalities or severe health conditions – even if those are discovered during the pregnancy and hidden from the parents.

As it is currently on the books, parents can file a “wrongful birth” claim against their doctor if they can make the case that they were not properly warned about severe health conditions. In legal terms, “wrongful birth” would no longer be a cause of action in malpractice suits.

The concept is clear: Given disproportionately-high abortion rates for fetuses with abnormalities and disabilities (such as Down Syndrome), some physicians and Texas legislators are attempting to curb that trend. If you simply hide medical knowledge about severe health conditions then parents are less likely to terminate the pregnancy, or so the thought goes.

Although these conditions – and subsequent lawsuits – occur rarely, it’s worth considering whether this will improve medical care or serve as a veiled measure to restrict and reduce abortion. I find it horribly sad to watch the Down Syndrome population decline rapidly as expectant parents choose abortion instead of raising a child with unique needs, but this bill isn’t the way to change that cultural problem.

Read the full piece at Houston Chronicle

Snowden Claims “All Governments Break the Law,” Comments on Russian Hysteria

Dearborn, a town in Michigan with fewer than 100,000 residents, has one of the largest Muslim populations in the U.S. An astounding number of people in Dearborn are on the U.S. government’s watch list. That these two exist at once should come as no surprise, said writer Jeremy Scahill, as he opened the eighth episode of Intercepted and began interviews with Muslim rapper Kayem and Edward Snowden.

With Kayem, he talked about the surveillance state and targeting of Muslims. Kayem talked about how he’s been needlessly harassed, forced to go through insane scrutiny during airport security (which recently went so far as to prevent him from boarding), and placed on watchlists. He joked that he tells friends, “If something happens and I’m in the news…I didn’t do it!” laughing about the degree to which he’s been wrongfully targeted as a Muslim-American. Scahill chimed in.“The ‘Shaggy’ defense––it wasn’t me!” they laugh, as they found a way to mix glorious hip hop references into an otherwise-difficult conversation.

As the interview progressed and Snowden appeared via video call, Scahill’s questions centered around Russia hysteria and the rise of Trump. Snowden gave many familiar answers related to the value of transparency and the clear constitutional problems associated with mass data collection. Snowden’s thoughts on Trump, though, were less alarmist in comparison to many political observers––perhaps because every aspect of mass surveillance is alarming, Snowden remains unsurprised by the alarm of someone like Trump being elected.

“This isn’t actually new,” reminded Snowden, reinforcing the idea that unchecked abuse of power has pretty much always been happening––this time, though, the Trump administration is “so inept” that they’re honest about their wrongdoing or so bad at hiding it that it’s clearly visible to us. Perhaps visibility of power expansion and incompetence, although awful in the short term, can invigorate longer term structural change.

“All governments lie,” Snowden continued, “and all governments break the law.” If anything, the transparency with which we see the incompetence of the Trump administration might remind us that limited power is always better than its rampant, unchecked alternative. The problem is deeper though––many government officials, despite wrongdoing, have never seen the inside of a courtroom in a criminal proceeding.

But part of the problem with the current administration––and mainstream media reporting––is unbridled Russia hysteria. “MSNBC has basically transformed into a Cold War opponent of the Soviet Union,” laughed Scahill.

Snowden is no stranger to Russia-related fear mongering. When critics fabricated theories about his connection to Russia after the U.S. revoked his passport mid-transit to Latin America, his credibility was put on the line––with no evidence presented by said critics. In an effort to smear him, he was painted as a potential NSA contractor-turned-Russian spy.

Although frustrating, Snowden made it clear that he thinks skepticism is good. Reducing standards for evidence tends to be a bad thing and being conscientious arbiters of which information is true and false is crucial. But both Scahill and Snowden remained fiercely critical of the media’s handling of Russia-related topics, talking about how Russia has been an easy scapegoat for the past few years, given Cold War history, lack of public trust in Putin, and general uneasiness about the Putin administration’s unpredictability.

This makes even more sense put into the context of recent events: as of this month, Politico has started a histrionic Russia timeline, politicians and journalists have been quick to discredit Wikileaks’ trove of CIA documents due to Russian connections, and MSNBC has been fixating on Trump’s relationship with Russia, at the expense of other news. Many in the media are thoughtlessly jumping to quick conclusions about Russia instead of accurately assessing the foreign policy landscape. When hysteria wins, we all lose. Perhaps we should heed Snowden’s advice and be better skeptics, clear-headed arbiters of fact and fiction intent on thinking for ourselves.


Liz Wolfe is Young Voices’ managing editor.

The Errors of the New York Times In Executive Editor Dean Baquet’s Own Words

The resounding message of  South by Southwest’s (SXSW) New York Times Panel was that the journalism landscape is changing rapidly: it’s more crucial than ever that journalists be an unrelenting force against executive abuse of power, but confidence in longstanding news organizations is declining alarmingly fast.

On the first Sunday of the conference, media columnist Jim Rutenberg interviewed Executive Editor Dean Baquet on the main stage. Their answers lamented that the days of print journalism have been gone for a while, but focused on how that change doesn’t necessarily spell a dismal future. Baquet noted that Times digital subscriptions had drastically increased over the course of the 2016 presidential election––a clear signal that casual readers understood the heightened importance of media watchdogs as the election drew to a close. Information is still desired, albeit in different ways.

The real substance of the panel, though, was when Baquet focused on his own error and the error of his many reporters in predicting the presidential election’s outcome and doing due diligence in their coverage. When an audience member asked the timely question of how the media failed to predict these election outcomes, Baquet was humble and clear: the “New York bubble” certainly contributed to it––a secular, cosmopolitan outlook that sometimes undervalues the degree to which religiosity runs rampant in the rest of America––as well as a misreading of the amount of anger in the American electorate (and how that anger would be expressed at the polls).

He talked about how access to news and journalism jobs has exploded in the past few years, and about how plentiful jobs for good journalists are “the best thing for journalism.” But this explosion of access makes it so plenty of articles are circulated––many of which spread misinformation, skewed and irresponsible accounts, or blatant lies.

In a sense, Trump was “clarifying for the mission” of the New York Times. Baquet explained, “We owned the world through the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s,” but after that, traditional news outlets lost their sense of place. While covering Trump, the Times were the first to break stories on the candidate’s treatment of women, his tax returns (and lack of public release), and his debt. As things progressed, it became increasingly clear that the press needed to remain a force that holds those in power accountable.

That’s hard to do as public skepticism rises and those in the administration levy accusations at newspapers of record. It’s a challenge Baquet is going to have to deal with––and quickly. But I think fake news is an overblown worry given that the vast majority of intelligent consumers don’t have a problem discerning what’s real from what’s fake or horribly biased. The real issue has to do with liberal bias: Baquet talked about their “Clinton Win Predictor” as indicative of a blind spot––something that inaccurately computed Clinton’s electoral odds and, by extension, the anger of much of voting America.

I wish that he’d talked about the Clinton win predictor as symptomatic of liberal bias and evaluated the intellectual diversity of his newsroom. For the right and center, there’s a common belief that the news is dominated by people and companies with left-wing tilts. There are certainly sources like National Review and Reason, but the majority of the most reputable organizations––New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Los Angeles Times––have a slight left bias. This is bad, but dishonesty about it is even worse.

Baquet needed to recognize the degree to which many of his reporters––and those in the journalism industry on the whole––lean left, making it difficult to accurately interpret how right-leaning audiences will think and act. In post-election analysis, many reporters have fixated on how difficult it is to predict how white working class Americans in the heartland will vote. The real issue, though, is that minimal effort is made by most left-leaning journalists to understand the fundamental values that guide conservative mindsets as compared to the fundamental values that guide liberal mindsets. As Arthur Brooks writes, “Many Americans feel caught between two dispiriting political choices: ineffective compassion on one hand and heartless pragmatism on the other.”

This is one of the most crucial American divides and one that informs the way we think, act, speak, and vote. Until this mentality is better understood by journalists, we’re going to have a difficult time accurately predicting the preferences of Americans. Let’s hope this issue begins to get as much airtime as fake news.

Liz Wolfe is Young Voices’ managing editor.

The Backwards Thinking of #DeleteUber

It’s no secret that taxi unions and Uber have been in competition with each other since Uber’s inception in 2009, but the battle has reached new and increasingly petty heights. New York City taxi drivers went on strike in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s new immigration policy at John F. Kennedy International Airport while Uber continued serving the airport and surrounding areas. Uber even turned off surge pricing (an element of their pricing system that often comes under fire during crises) as they carried protesters, attorneys, and the press back and forth from JFK late Friday evening.

Uber was accused of ruining the strike by continuing to run routes to JFK and the #DeleteUber social media campaign was started on Twitter. Why? To lambast the company for making the decision to increase human mobility and choice by providing uninterrupted service. The irony is clear, given that this was all a response to an immigration policy crisis that restricts human mobility and freedom of choice.

Although the intentions of the striking taxi drivers were undoubtedly good, it’s unreasonable to demonize Uber or to assume that the company was focused only on profiting during a time of humanitarian crisis.

Continue reading at FEE.