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Members of previous generations now seem like giants — When did we become so small?

Many of the stories about the gods and heroes of Greek mythology were compiled during Greek Dark Ages. Impoverished tribes passed down oral traditions that originated after the fall of the lost palatial civilizations of the Mycenaean Greeks.

Dark Age Greeks tried to make sense of the massive ruins of their forgotten forbearers’ monumental palaces that were still standing around. As illiterates, they were curious about occasional clay tablets they plowed up in their fields with incomprehensible ancient Linear B inscriptions.

We of the 21st century are beginning to look back at our own lost epic times and wonder about these now-nameless giants who left behind monuments that we cannot replicate, but instead merely use or even mock.

Does anyone believe that contemporary Americans could build another transcontinental railroad in six years?

Californians tried to build a high-speed rail line. But after more than a decade of government incompetence, lawsuits, cost overruns and constant bureaucratic squabbling, they have all but given up. The result is a half-built overpass over the skyline of Fresno — and not yet a foot of track laid.

Who were those giants of the 1960s responsible for building our interstate highway system?

California’s roads now are mostly the same as we inherited them, although the state population has tripled. We have added little to our freeway network, either because we forgot how to build good roads or would prefer to spend the money on redistributive entitlements.

When California had to replace a quarter section of the earthquake-damaged San Francisco Bay Bridge, it turned into a near-disaster, with 11 years of acrimony, fighting, cost overruns — and a commentary on our decline into Dark Ages primitivism. Yet 82 years ago, our ancestors built four times the length of our singe replacement span in less than four years. It took them just two years to design the entire Bay Bridge and award the contracts.

Our generation required five years just to plan to replace a single section. In inflation-adjusted dollars, we spent six times the money on one-quarter of the length of the bridge and required 13 agencies to grant approval. In 1936, just one agency oversaw the entire bridge project.

California has not built a major dam in 40 years. Instead, officials squabble over the water stored and distributed by our ancestors, who designed the California State Water Project and Central Valley Project.

Contemporary Californians would have little food or water without these massive transfers, and yet they often ignore or damn the generation that built the very system that saves us.

America went to the moon in 1969 with supposedly primitive computers and backward engineering. Does anyone believe we could launch a similar moonshot today? No American has set foot on the moon in the last 47 years, and it may not happen in the next 50 years.

Hollywood once gave us blockbuster epics, brilliant Westerns, great film noirs, and classic comedies. Now it endlessly turns out comic-book superhero films or pathetic remakes of prior classics.

Our writers, directors and actors have lost the skills of their ancestors. But they are also cowardly, and in regimented fashion they simply parrot boring race, class and gender bromides that are neither interesting nor funny. Does anyone believe that the Oscar ceremonies are more engaging and dignified than in the past?

We have been fighting in Afghanistan without result for 18 years. Our forefathers helped to win World War II and defeat the Axis Powers in four years.

In terms of learning, does anyone believe that a college graduate in 2020 will know half the information of a 1950 graduate?

In the 1940s, young people read William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pearl Buck and John Steinbeck. Are our current novelists turning out anything comparable? Could today’s high-school graduate even finish “The Good Earth” or “The Grapes of Wrath”?

True, social media is impressive. The internet gives us instant access to global knowledge. We are a more tolerant society, at least in theory. But Facebook is not the Hoover Dam, and Twitter is not the Panama Canal.

Our ancestors were builders and pioneers and mostly fearless. We are regulators, auditors, bureaucrats, adjudicators, censors, critics, plaintiffs, defendants, social media junkies and thin-skinned scolds. A distant generation created; we mostly delay, idle and gripe.

As we walk amid the refuse, needles and excrement of the sidewalks of our fetid cities; as we sit motionless on our jammed ancient freeways; and as we pout on Twitter and electronically whine in the porticos of our Ivy League campuses, will we ask: “Who were these people who left these strange monuments that we use but can neither emulate nor understand?”

In comparison to us, they now seem like gods.

By Victor Davis Hanson and published on October 10, 2019 and can be found here.

Negligent Violation of Inmate’s Religious Dietary Needs Did Not Violate 1st Amendment

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Mbonyunkiza v. Beasley, (8th Cir., April 24, 2020), the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held:

absent evidence that an underlying prison regulation or policy violates the Free Exercise Clause, evidence that a correction official negligently failed to comply with an inmate’s sincerely held religious dietary beliefs does not establish a Free Exercise Clause claim under §1983.

In the case, a Muslim inmate claimed that four times in 257 days, prison kitchen staff served him meals containing pork products. In rejecting plaintiff’s claim, the court said in part:

[T]he Supreme Court’s cases, and all the Eighth Circuit Free Exercise decisions our research has uncovered, have involved claims alleging that a statute, or a regulation or policy implementing a statute, unconstitutionally prohibited a sincerely held religious belief or otherwise unduly burdened the free exercise of religion.

By contrast, in this case NCF’s food policies affirmatively accommodate the beliefs of inmates who do not eat pork for religious reasons. Mbonyunkiza does not challenge those policies. Rather, his Supplemental Complaint asserts that defendants are liable in damages because they did not properly implement those policies on certain occasions.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Workism Is Making Americans Miserable

For the college-educated elite, work has morphed into a religious identity—promising transcendence and community, but failing to deliver.

In his 1930 essay “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren,” the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted a 15-hour workweek in the 21st century, creating the equivalent of a five-day weekend. “For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem,” Keynes wrote, “how to occupy the leisure.”

This became a popular view. In a 1957 article in The New York Times, the writer Erik Barnouw predicted that, as work became easier, our identity would be defined by our hobbies, or our family life. “The increasingly automatic nature of many jobs, coupled with the shortening work week [leads] an increasing number of workers to look not to work but to leisure for satisfaction, meaning, expression,” he wrote.

1.             THE GOSPEL OF WORK

The decline of traditional faith in America has coincided with an explosion of new atheisms. Some people worship beauty, some worship political identities, and others worship their children. But everybody worships something. And workism is among the most potent of the new religions competing for congregants.

What is workism? It is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.

Homo industrious is not new to the American landscape. The American dream—that hoary mythology that hard work always guarantees upward mobility—has for more than a century made the U.S. obsessed with material success and the exhaustive striving required to earn it.

No large country in the world as productive as the United States averages more hours of work a year. And the gap between the U.S. and other countries is growing. Between 1950 and 2012, annual hours worked per employee fell by about 40 percent in Germany and the Netherlands—but by only 10 percent in the United States. Americans “work longer hours, have shorter vacations, get less in unemployment, disability, and retirement benefits, and retire later, than people in comparably rich societies,” wrote Samuel P. Huntington in his 2005 book Who Are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity.

One group has led the widening of the workist gap: rich men.

In 1980, the highest-earning men actually worked fewer hours per week than middle-class and low-income men, according to a survey by the Minneapolis Fed. But that’s changed. By 2005, the richest 10 percent of married men had the longest average workweek. In that same time, college-educated men reduced their leisure time more than any other group. Today, it is fair to say that elite American men have transformed themselves into the world’s premier workaholics, toiling longer hours than both poorer men in the U.S. and rich men in similarly rich countries.

This shift defies economic logic—and economic history. The rich have always worked less than the poor, because they could afford to. The landed gentry of preindustrial Europe dined, danced, and gossiped, while serfs toiled without end. In the early 20th century, rich Americans used their ample downtime to buy weekly movie tickets and dabble in sports. Today’s rich American men can afford vastly more downtime. But they have used their wealth to buy the strangest of prizes: more work!

Workism may have started with rich men, but the ethos is spreading—across gender and age. In a 2018 paper on elite universities, researchers found that for women, the most important benefit of attending a selective college isn’t higher wages, but more hours at the office. In other words, our elite institutions are minting coed workists. What’s more, in a recent Pew Research report on the epidemic of youth anxiety, 95 percent of teens said “having a job or career they enjoy” would be “extremely or very important” to them as an adult. This ranked higher than any other priority, including “helping other people who are in need” (81 percent) or getting married (47 percent). Finding meaning at work beats family and kindness as the top ambition of today’s young people.

Even as Americans worship workism, its leaders consecrate it from the marble daises of Congress and enshrine it in law. Most advanced countries give new parents paid leave; but the United States guarantees no such thing. Many advanced countries ease the burden of parenthood with national policies; but U.S. public spending on child care and early education is near the bottom of international rankings. In most advanced countries, citizens are guaranteed access to health care by their government; but the majority of insured Americans get health care through—where else?—their workplace. Automation and AI may soon threaten the labor force, but America’s welfare system has become more work-based in the past 20 years. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which replaced much of the existing welfare system with programs that made benefits contingent on the recipient’s employment.

The religion of work isn’t just a cultist feature of America’s elite. It’s also the law.

Here’s a fair question: Is there anything wrong with hard, even obsessive, work?

Humankind has not yet invented itself out of labor. Machine intelligence isn’t ready to run the world’s factories, or care for the sick. In every advanced economy, most prime-age people who can work do—and in poorer countries, the average workweek is even longer than in the United States. Without work, including nonsalaried labor like raising a child, most people tend to feel miserable. Some evidence suggests that long-term unemployment is even more wrenching than losing a loved one, since the absence of an engaging distraction removes the very thing that tends to provide solace to mourners in the first place.

In the past century, the American conception of work has shifted from jobs to careers to callings—from necessity to status to meaning. In an agrarian or early-manufacturing economy, where tens of millions of people perform similar routinized tasks, there are no delusions about the higher purpose of, say, planting corn or screwing bolts: It’s just a job.The rise of the professional class and corporate bureaucracies in the early 20th century created the modern journey of a career, a narrative arc bending toward a set of precious initials: VP, SVP, CEO. The upshot is that for today’s workists, anything short of finding one’s vocational soul mate means a wasted life.

“We’ve created this idea that the meaning of life should be found in work,” says Oren Cass, the author of the book The Once and Future Worker. “We tell young people that their work should be their passion. ‘Don’t give up until you find a job that you love!’ we say. ‘You should be changing the world!’ we tell them. That is the message in commencement addresses, in pop culture, and frankly, in media, including The Atlantic.”

But our desks were never meant to be our altars. The modern labor force evolved to serve the needs of consumers and capitalists, not to satisfy tens of millions of people seeking transcendence at the office. It’s hard to self-actualize on the job if you’re a cashier—one of the most common occupations in the U.S.—and even the best white-collar roles have long periods of stasis, boredom, or busywork. This mismatch between expectations and reality is a recipe for severe disappointment, if not outright misery, and it might explain why rates of depression and anxiety in the U.S. are “substantially higher” than they were in the 1980s, according to a 2014 study.

One of the benefits of being an observant Christian, Muslim, or Zoroastrian is that these God-fearing worshippers put their faith in an intangible and unfalsifiable force of goodness. But work is tangible, and success is often falsified. To make either the centerpiece of one’s life is to place one’s esteem in the mercurial hands of the market. To be a workist is to worship a god with firing power.

2.             THE MILLENNIAL WORKIST

The Millennial generation—born in the past two decades of the 20th century—came of age in the roaring 1990s, when workism coursed through the veins of American society. On the West Coast, the modern tech sector emerged, minting millionaires who combined utopian dreams with a do-what-you-love ethos. On the East Coast, President Clinton grabbed the neoliberal baton from Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and signed laws that made work the nucleus of welfare policy.

While it’s inadvisable to paint 85 million people with the same brush, it’s fair to say that American Millennials have been collectively defined by two external traumas. The first is student debt. Millennials are the most educated generation ever, a distinction that should have made them rich and secure. But rising educational attainment has come at a steep price. Since 2007, outstanding student debt has grown by almost $1 trillion, roughly tripling in just 12 years. And since the economy cratered in 2008, average wages for young graduates have stagnated—making it even harder to pay off loans.The second external trauma of the Millennial generation has been the disturbance of social media, which has amplified the pressure to craft an image of success—for oneself, for one’s friends and colleagues, and even for one’s parents. But literally visualizing career success can be difficult in a services and information economy. Blue-collar jobs produce tangible products, like coal, steel rods, and houses. The output of white-collar work—algorithms, consulting projects, programmatic advertising campaigns—is more shapeless and often quite invisible. It’s not glib to say that the whiter the collar, the more invisible the product.

Since the physical world leaves few traces of achievement, today’s workers turn to social media to make manifest their accomplishments. Many of them spend hours crafting a separate reality of stress-free smiles, postcard vistas, and Edison-lightbulbed working spaces. “The social media feed [is] evidence of the fruits of hard, rewarding labor and the labor itself,” Petersen writes.

Among Millennial workers, it seems, overwork and “burnout” are outwardly celebrated (even if, one suspects, they’re inwardly mourned). In a recent New York Times essay, “Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?,” the reporter Erin Griffith pays a visit to the co-working space WeWork, where the pillows urge do what you love, and the neon signs implore workers to hustle harder. These dicta resonate with young workers. As several studies show, Millennials are meaning junkies at work. “Like all employees,” one Gallupsurvey concluded, “millennials care about their income. But for this generation, a job is about more than a paycheck, it’s about a purpose.”

The problem with this gospel—Your dream job is out there, so never stop hustling—is that it’s a blueprint for spiritual and physical exhaustion. Long hours don’t make anybody more productive or creative; they make people stressed, tired and bitter. But the overwork myths survive “because they justify the extreme wealth created for a small group of elite techies,” Griffith writes.

3.             TIME FOR HAPPINESSThis is the right time for a confession. I am the very thing that I am criticizing.

I am devoted to my job. I feel most myself when I am fulfilled by my work—including the work of writing an essay about work. My sense of identity is so bound up in my job, my sense of accomplishment, and my feeling of productivity that bouts of writer’s block can send me into an existential funk that can spill over into every part of my life. And I know enough writers, tech workers, marketers, artists, and entrepreneurs to know that my affliction is common, especially within a certain tranche of the white-collar workforce.

Some workists, moreover, seem deeply fulfilled. These happy few tend to be intrinsically motivated; they don’t need to share daily evidence of their accomplishments. But maintaining the purity of internal motivations is harder in a world where social media and mass media are so adamant about externalizing all markers of success. There’s Forbes’ list of this, and Fortune’s list of that; and every Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn profile is conspicuously marked with the metrics of accomplishment—followers, friends, viewers, retweets—that inject all communication with the features of competition. It may be getting harder each year for purely motivated and sincerely happy workers to opt out of the tournament of labor swirling around them.

Workism offers a perilous trade-off. On the one hand, Americans’ high regard for hard work may be responsible for its special place in world history and its reputation as the global capital of start-up success. A culture that worships the pursuit of extreme success will likely produce some of it. But extreme success is a falsifiable god, which rejects the vast majority of its worshippers. Our jobs were never meant to shoulder the burdens of a faith, and they are buckling under the weight. A staggering 87 percent of employees are not engaged at their job, according to Gallup. That number is rising by the year.

One solution to this epidemic of disengagement would be to make work less awful. But maybe the better prescription is to make work less central.

This can start with public policy. There is new enthusiasm for universal policies—like universal basic income, parental leave, subsidized child care, and a child allowance—which would make long working hours less necessary for all Americans. These changes alone might not be enough to reduce Americans’ devotion to work for work’s sake, since it’s the rich who are most devoted. But they would spare the vast majority of the public from the pathological workaholism that grips today’s elites, and perhaps create a bottom-up movement to displace work as the centerpiece of the secular American identity.

How quaint that sounds. But it’s the same perspective that inspired the economist John Maynard Keynes to predict in 1930 that Americans would eventually have five-day weekends, rather than five-day weeks. It is the belief—the faith, even—that work is not life’s product, but its currency. What we choose to buy with it is the ultimate project of living.
By Derek Thompson and published on February 24, 2019 in The Atlantic and can be found here.

EMPLOYEES BEWARE OF COMPLAINING

I am frequently contacted by persons who are astonished that they have lost their jobs for what they allege is retaliation for complaining about their supervisors, complaining about some company policy or complaining about their work conditions. What they have in common is that they all believe that their right to complain in general is somehow legally protected. That is certainly not the case for the most part, unless there is some type of law which provides this protection, usually known as a whistleblower law, or there is some legal protection for reporting waste or fraud to a government agency, like the IRS, or an oversight agency in the security industry. Those laws have very specific requirements, and still cannot protect an employee’s job, but they may provide, often many years down the road, a financial award for the reporting person. Workers may be protected if they discuss terms and conditions of employment with one another, but once again, a government agency, such as the National Labor Relations Board, would have to agree to accept their complaint, and the process involved would generally be lengthy and usually not altogether satisfying.

Aside from these limited protections, most employees should be careful about what they complain about, as it may cost them their job. Unless there is some type of discrimination involved, in which case an employee is able to file a complaint with a government agency, an employee has no protection from being terminated. Filing a complaint of discrimination with a government agency also does not protect one’s job, and although employers are not supposed to retaliate against the employee filing the complaint, they often do. Also, even if the employee thinks it isn’t fair that he was terminated and the person he complained about was retained, there is no law that prevents this selection process unless there is discrimination involved. There is not a national workplace anti-harassment law as many employees think there is, and harassment must usually be tied to some protection available under the civil rights laws. Although an employer may have an anti-harassment policy in place, that policy may not have any “teeth” under the law.

I tell these persons that if they had contacted me during the time frame in which they were making the complaint I would have suggested that unless the complaint was extremely important, I may have suggested they not make it at all, or tell them they should have stopped the process if their employer asked them not to pursue it or made an attempt to resolve it, even if the employee wasn’t happy with the attempt. In some cases, I suggest that a lawyer should make the complaint as a buffer between the employee and the employer, and I have been able to save many jobs in this manner, as employers are often reluctant to retaliate against employees if a lawyer is already involved.
Employees are also frequently astonished when they learn that their job is not theirs for life. Pennsylvania is an employment at will state, which means that an employee can usually leave a job at his discretion, unless it violates a contract he has signed, with the converse being that an employer has broad discretion to terminate an employee. The usual response I receive when I ask the employee why, if their situation is so difficult at work, they don’t look for another job, besides the responses that it is a difficult economy, is that they don’t see why they are the one who should leave.

However, a side effect of continuing to complain when an employer asks you to stop, or feels the situation has already been resolved, is that the employer, in addition to terminating the employee, opposes their claim for unemployment compensation and alleges that the employee has committed some willful misconduct which prohibits them from receiving unemployment compensation. This process often results in delay in receipt of compensation, and possibly loss of compensation if the hearing referee rules in the employer’s favor.
Therefore, before one decides they are going to raise issues based on principle, one had better determine the possibility of being terminated, losing unemployment compensation benefits, and receiving a negative reference from their former employer.

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady”

Metrically Woke

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Splice Today by my old philosophy professor Dr. Crispin Sartwell from back in my Penn State days which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

________________

Perhaps Brexit was inevitable as soon as they started confiscating butchers’ scales.

The battle between metric and “imperial” or “customary” measurement, recently taken up again by “anti-metrite” pundits James Panero and Tucker Carlson, shows there’s a real world apart from our representations of it. It all makes no sense, of course, unless there’s stuff in the world—liquids, for example, or the distances between this and that—that can be measured in various ways without being altered by the measurement.

That metric and imperial are convertible into one another, in other words, presupposes that there are real facts outside of our heads and cultural practices. That might cause consternation among postmodernists, narrativists, Absolute Idealists, social constructionists, and phenomenologists everywhere, showing them to be trapped in a world they never made. Deep in their hearts, they already know they are.

On the other hand, even though they don’t create worlds, things like systems of measurement do reflect and shape us. They alter rulers, measuring cups, signage, and scales, for example. So though the recent resurgence of devotion to Fahrenheit, cups and gallons, yards and miles, pounds and ounces, bushels and pecks, makes no difference with regard to the nature of the world, it expresses something about us, about how we encounter the one reality we all inhabit, and about who we actually are and who we want to convince ourselves that we are.

In that sense, I assert that metric, as a system for measuring all things, yields an unfortunate and in some sense misleading way of experiencing the world. It represents a kind of wishful thinking.

One way to express my objections is in terms of aesthetics. Traditional measurements are eccentric and complexly interrelated, having emerged over centuries for various purposes. They are connected explicitly to the human body: the foot as a foot, the yard as a stride, and so forth. I might compare the picture of the world they yield to the paintings of Rembrandt: complex, human, uneven, with a light (not to be measured exhaustively in lumens) that both reveals and obscures.

We might think of the metric system, on the other hand, as more along the lines of neo-classicism like that of Jacques-Louis David or even minimalism a la Mondrian or Donald Judd: the result of a kind of brutal rationalization of experience that tries to make the world into a reflection of human logic or even to reduce the world to something immediately (and delusory) comprehensible. It’s an attempt to box the universe up and rake it with klieg lights, destroying all shadows.

Neither system, in short, is the exclusive truth, and neither is merely falsifying, though each might reveal things that the other conceals, particularly in the relation of the units of measurement to one another within each system. But the traditional measures yield a more beautiful and a richer experience, or rather—as things stand now—resist a brutal authoritarian simplification.

Any system of measurement is rationally arbitrary. The basic measures could be entirely different and no less reasonable or useful or true. For example, if the meter were 2.317 times as long as it is now, and the entire system of measures adjusted accordingly, the system as a whole would be no less accurate, no less rational (though no more), and no less useful. But the liter, the Celsius degree, the lumen are dedicated to the delusion that we can understand the world by reducing it to decimal notation, and are dedicated as well to producing the illusion that this complex, little-understood universe can be counted on your fingers.

There’s no particular relation of reality to a base-10 mathematics, as Panero points out. The world does not appear to us, or exist, in any relation at all to base-10 mathematics. If you gather up a thousand meters you get a kilometer: that bears no more relation to reality in itself than 5280 feet to the mile, or a base-12 system of inches and feet. Or I might assay the position that the 10x100x1000 system bears less relation to reality than more seemingly arbitrary systems, because the world is infinitely complex and by and large not symmetrical.

The metric system is dedicated above all to disguising its own irrational basis. And people have used it to demand this merely-apparent reasonableness from ourselves, and to force the world to reflect it. Perhaps it’s somewhat easier to learn and master than some other systems, but children ultimately do fine with whatever system they learn.

The traditional measures yield a more beautiful, subtle, more complex and richer experience of the one reality that both systems weigh or seek to describe. If so, they also yield a more truthful system, not because the metric system does not describe reality, but because it induces the delusion of comprehension, or seems to promise a fully comprehensible world, which is the kind of thing no system of measurement can deliver. And it encourages the self-delusion of people—such as the government officials who enforce it—who regard themselves as more rational than the people on whom it is enforced.

For the metric system, ironically, has become extremely imperialistic. Many people think it’s obvious that it should be imposed on every society, including American and British society, by law. Indeed, it has already been imposed in the UK as a condition of entry into the EU. This is a sort of representational colonialism; it asserts that everyone must measure the world, must represent and experience it, in the same way. That is of the essence of oppression. And the assertion of universal rationality underlying it is politically problematic, and also false.

As a condition of the UK integrating into the EU, it was required to demonstrate the essence of the metric system: enforcement and capitulation. Measurement police started confiscating scales marked in pounds and ounces. I recall the response of one British butcher back around 2000: “They better bring big men.” They did. Perhaps Brexit was inevitable from that moment. The Independent, reporting that butchers are beginning to measure in lbs again, quotes the UK Metric Association (whatever that is exactly) describing its preferred measures as “powerful and wide-ranging, a world standard and a proper system.” A proper system to be enforced upon an improper universe and unsystematic persons.

The French revolutionaries who, in a kind of Enlightenment ecstasy, first imposed the system, thought of themselves as overcoming a God-and-tradition-ridden ignorance, as emerging finally from the Dark Ages. They were merely deluded: about the nature of the world, but above all about the nature of themselves.

By Crispin Sartwell and published on June 24, 2019 and can be found here.

WHY IS THE LAW SO COMPLICATED?

I suspect what has happened to make the law so complicated is that more and more laws, rules, regulations, etc. (referred to in this article as “laws”) have been, and continue to be, added daily by every governmental entity, as it is easier to create new laws then thoroughly examine or repeal existing laws. This is much like the process when Presidential candidates pledge on the campaign trail that if elected, they will eliminate or consolidate government departments and cabinet positions. This rarely happens because of the enormity of the task, the power struggles between the various departments, and because the Federal government not good at laying off personnel (or balancing budgets).

The severe downside of our layered system of laws is that it is nearly impossible for the average person and the small business owner to navigate the legal process.  It is also a problem for large business entities, but they have the resources to seek assistance.

I am constantly surprised to read about the existence of laws I never heard of, and I learn about these laws by reading various legal publications, or hearing about them in legal seminars. Recently I read about a class action which had been brought against an amusement park because when credit cards were used to purchase entry tickets, the expiration date was also printed out. This apparently violated some law.  The end result of the class action was that the amusement park was to give out free tickets to previous customers, and also to the community, if enough previous customers did not avail themselves of the free ticket offer. The only ones who received any money out of the lawsuit were the lawyers. The lawyers were doing a public service by protecting the privacy of the amusement park customers, but one wonders whether every amusement park operator is aware of this law, and if not, are they required to have their lawyers scour the law for such types of law? The answer is yes, they are so required.

The law has become so complex so that even a small matter, such as a buyer discovering a defect in a house he bought, faces some complex laws. In researching the remedies for a client in a similar situation recently, these were the issues we encountered:

  • State law exempts an estate (the house was sold by an estate) from responsibility in selling real estate unless the administrator/executor knew about the condition.
  • If the buyer complains of a problem, mediation, rather than a court hearing is required by the sales agreement.  The mediator has to be paid by each party involved.
  • The buyer had an inspector inspect the property. If the buyer feels the inspector did not do a good job, the inspector’s agreement requires that the matter first be arbitrated, and the buyer cannot take the matter to court, at least initially.

As we were uncertain whether the buyer could prove the seller knew about the defect, or whether the inspector should have told them about the leak, which means each party would point a finger at each other, and because we could not initiate a claim even in a small claims court, where it probably would have been resolved quickly, we advised the clients just to absorb the expense of repairing the problem, which was not large, and certainly far less expensive than paying for a mediator, an arbitrator, or a lawyer.

This post is from Faye Riva Cohen’s blog Toughlawyerlady.

1st Circuit OKs “So Help Me God” In Naturalization Oath

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Perrier-Bilbo v. United States, (1st Cir., April 3, 2020), the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals rejected constitutional challenges to the inclusion of “so help me God” at the end of the oath of allegiance administered at naturalization ceremonies. Plaintiff, a French citizen, was offered the options of just not repeating those words during the ceremony or of having a private ceremony where the oath would be administered without that phrase. She rejected these as inadequate.

The court denied plaintiff’s Establishment Clause challenge, applying the test used by the Supreme Court in American Legion v. American Humanist Association, saying in part:

We follow the Supreme Court’s most recent framework and apply American Legion’s presumption of constitutionality to the phrase “so help me God” in the naturalization oath because we consider the inclusion of similar words to be a ceremonial, longstanding practice as an optional means of completing an oath. And because the record does not demonstrate a discriminatory intent in maintaining those words in the oath or “deliberate disrespect” by the inclusion of the words, Perrier-Bilbo cannot overcome the presumption.

Rejecting Plaintiff’s Free Exercise claim, the court said in part:

We do not second-guess the sincerity of Perrier-Bilbo’s beliefs or her feeling of distress upon hearing the phrase at issue. But even if the phrase offends her, offense “does not equate to coercion,” Town of Greece, 572 U.S. at 589, and the Free Exercise Clause does not entitle her to a change in the oath’s language as it pertains to others….

The court rejected Plaintiff’s argument under RFRA, saying in part:

While she might find the options offered by the Government subjectively burdensome, however, the district court was right to conclude that not every imposition or inconvenience rises to the level of a “substantial burden.”

The court also rejected equal protection and due process challenges.  Judge Barron filed a concurring opinion. Free Thinker blog discussed the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

RETIREMENT FOR OLDER WORKERS DELAYED BY COVID-19

Coronavirus (Covid-19) will likely create a perfect storm for older workers. Not only are they at a greater risk for contracting the virus, but their retirement plans may be put on hold due to what most certainly will be a drop in the value of their investments, and the necessity of using funds set aside for retirement to sustain themselves if the country enters a recession.

Despite the doom and gloom of these predictions, there is one bright spot. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed bill H.R. 1230, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA). The bill awaits passage by the Senate, but it encouragingly received bipartisan support in the House.

In 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision, Gross v. FBL Financial Services, 557 U.S. 167 (2009), that made it much more difficult for people who face age discrimination in the workplace to successfully challenge such bias in court. The Gross decision required employees to prove that their age was the “decisive factor” in an employment decision. This is in contrast to the standard that is used in other types of discrimination, which requires employees to prove that their protected characteristic – such as race or gender – was merely part of an employer’s “mixed motive” in making an employment decision.

This “decisive factor” standard, which is also called the “but-for” standard, is much more difficult to prove as compared to the “mixed motive” standard. As a result, despite an increase in age discrimination complaints filed with government agencies, fewer age discrimination cases are actually filed in court, and fewer still are actually won by the plaintiffs. The passage of POWADA would restore the “mixed motive” standard and would make it easier for employees to win age discrimination cases.

What difference does it make to our economy if age discrimination against older workers is minimized? Here are some interesting statistics about older workers:

  • Older workers make vital contributions to society and to their workplaces, and their numbers are growing. 41 million workers will be age 55 or older in 2024, and will occupy a larger share of the nation’s workforce.
  • As people live longer and healthier lives, a multigenerational workforce is becoming the norm. There are 117 million people 50 and older in the U.S., and the number of workers age 50-plus has increased 80 percent over the past 20 years.
  • Workplace age discrimination has a negative impact on the entire economy. The U.S. economy missed out of $850 billion in economic activity in 2018 dues to biases against older workers. An AARP study divided the loss into 57% based on involuntary retirement, 27% based on underemployment, and 15% based on unemployment. This amount could reach $3.9 trillion in 2050. In 2018 age discrimination may have cost the U.S. 8.6 million jobs and $545 billion in lost wages and salaries.

The passage of POWADA would challenge workplace policies that discriminate against older workers and ensure that society continues to benefit from the wealth of experiences and perspectives offered by businesses that employ older workers. And, productive older workers will continue to have the resources available to consume products and services, pay taxes and be contributing members of society.

We all win as a society when that happens.

___________________________

If you think you have been discriminated against due to your age (gender, race, religion, national origin, disability) talking to a knowledgeable lawyer can bring clarity to the situation and determine whether you’re entitle to restitution. Faye Riva Cohen is the founder and managing attorney of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C. in Philadelphia, PA. She represents residents of PA and NJ who are involved in employment-related disputes with their employers. Her office is located in Philadelphia, PA. She can be reached at 215-563-7776 or at frc@fayerivacohen.com.

You can find this post here on my blog as well.

Michigan Will Allow Secular Marriage Celebrants

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In an April 2 press release, the Center for Inquiry reports:

Secular celebrants are now permitted to officiate and solemnize marriages in Michigan, after the state attorney general reversed the government’s opposition to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Inquiry (CFI). Promising that the state considers CFI-trained and certified Secular Celebrants to be covered by existing statutes regarding marriage solemnization, the presiding federal court brought the case to a close.

You can learn more about this issue here.

How Did America Become a Nation of Slobs?

One evening in early April I was waiting for my ten-year-old twin granddaughters to finish their indoor soccer practice when a girl their age approached me and said, “Your coat looks really nice.”

It was a wet, chilly evening, and I was wearing a London Fog given me thirty years ago by an elderly widow whose deceased husband no longer had to fret about the rain or the cold.

Though I thanked the girl, her comment took me aback. Then I looked at the other adults milling around me, and thought, as I often think nowadays, that all of them were dressed like…well, like slobs. Several were wearing sweat pants and hoodies, others ragged trousers and rumpled sweaters. One woman, a thirty-something mom, wore designer jeans torn artfully at the knees.

Several people have from time to time complimented me on my attire. One man, age fifty or so, once told me I dressed like an adult, a remark that struck me then and strikes me now as ludicrous. I typically wear a pair of khaki pants, casual shoes, and a shirt with a button-down collar. To be complimented on such mundane clothing is not only silly, it also reveals how low our standards have fallen.

Go to any public arena—a sports event, a shopping mall, Wal-Mart, you name it—and you realize the standard of dress for men and women, adults and children, has reached a low point in American history. Blue jeans are de rigueur; t-shirts with slogans, some of them billboards of obscenity, assault the eyes; pajama bottoms are worn to the grocery store; restaurant patrons appear at lunch looking as if they had just rolled out of the sack; grown men wear baseball caps while eating steaks at Outback.

Let’s contrast our contemporary “style” with the recent past. Go online, Google “baseball games 1930s photos,” and look at the pictures of the fans. Most are males wearing ties and coats. The women are wearing dresses and hats. Take a look at television shows from the 1950s or at “Mad Men,” and note how stylish people dressed when in public.

When I was a boy, I remember my mother once telling me she couldn’t go to the store until she took the curlers from her hair. “Why?” I asked.

“Good heavens,” she said, “no one in town goes shopping with their hair in curlers.”

Those days are long gone, Mom.

Of course, lots of folks still spiff up for work. The tellers in my bank always look professional, some attorneys I know hit the office in a coat and tie, and the male teachers in my grandson’s school wear ties in the classroom. Yesterday I saw a woman, mid-twenties, walking down the street in a lovely black dress. Though her looks were not remarkable, she was striking because of the dress. She is also the exception rather than the rule. A good number of people I see during the day, of all backgrounds, run the gamut in attire from hooker to beggar.

What does our own sloppy dress tell us about ourselves? Are we too pressed for time to dress a little up rather than way down? Are we rebelling against the idea of beauty and culture? Or are we just too lazy to pull on a pair of slacks instead of wearing the sweats we slept in?

I have no idea.

Recently I was watching Casablanca with two of my granddaughters. One of them suddenly turned to me and said, “Why was everyone so dressed up back then?”

“People used to dress that way. They did every day. We just don’t do it anymore.”

“You do,” my granddaughter said.

I burst out laughing. My granddaughter gave me a puzzled look, then returned to the movie.

Oscar Wilde once said, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” No one would ever consider me overdressed—or overeducated, for that matter—but if I am now regarded as well-dressed, a man representing haute couture, then I can draw only one conclusion.

We are a nation of slobs.

By Jeff Minick and published on June 20, 20181 in Intellectual Takeout and can be found here.

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