Monthly Archives: April 2014

Minimum Wage: For Thee but not for Me

The White House is simultaneously planning to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and ignores calls for it to pay its interns.

Based on some really quick math (300 unpaid interns, $10.10/hour each, an annual White House budget that is approximately $1.4 billion per year), it would add 0.43% to the White House budget to pay every single one of its interns minimum wage for two thousand hours per year.  This is less than a third of what the Obamas spend on their vacations and is a few thousand dollars less than what they spend on maintaining the lawn and garden.

Now, I worked for the government as an intern who was not paid minimum wage (USCCR, 2L summer). It was reasonable, given the opportunity, length of time, and how enjoyable the work was. I was not supporting a family.

Note that all of those justifications also apply to a lower minimum wage: if a young person can reasonably decide that $0.00/hour is a reasonable wage, given the opportunity and their own financial needs, then they can also reasonably determine that $7/hour is an acceptable wage. But if people cannot negotiate for a wage that is lower than $10.10 an hour, that rationale should extend to unpaid internships as well.

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Filed under Economics

“Average debt load” is a lagging indicator

A friendly reminder from your math nerd blogger: “average debt load” of graduating students is almost always going to be substantially less than a new student will owe.  This is due to increases in tuition and fees that exceed inflation.

Using law school as an example, because I was just snarked down to about that, the most recent data available is from the Class of 2013.  (The Class of 2104 hasn’t graduated yet.) Those students were enrolled in law school from 2010 to 2013.  Law school tuition has increased by $4,000 – $5,000 per year.

Therefore, a student who is enrolled from 2010-2013 will be charged approximately $50,000 less than a student who is enrolled from 2014-2017.  As cost increases a few thousand dollars per year, the latter student will pay about $18,000 less for her first year than the former student did (2010 -> 2014 is four years * $4k or $5k/year); the same repeats for her second and third years of law school.

This is also why student loan debt continues to skyrocket; everyone is using data that is outdated, even if it’s the most recent data available.

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Filed under Academia, Economics, Law

IP Law 101: “Boston Strong” is not a valid trademark

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has refused to allow companies to trademark the phrase “Boston Strong.” Here is a decent overview of the use of “Boston Strong,” but I would like to take us all back to the meaning of a trademark and why we have trademarks.

Trademarks are meant to identify goods for use in commerce as being from a particular company and therefore, of a particular and known quality.  (Here.)  Trademarks are strongest when they are made-up words (e.g. Exxon for gasoline); words [or sounds, colours, etc.] that are unrelated to the product sold are also good trademarks (e.g. Starbucks, a name from Moby Dick, as a name for a coffee shop, or Comet for tile cleaner); and words that are related to the item being sold have a weaker claim.

The underlying rationale is that a trademark is meant to distinguish an item in commerce from another item in commerce.  There is nothing about “Boston Strong” that connotes a particular product, a quality of product, or a company as the source of those products. Trademarks are meant to eliminate, not perpetrate, confusion in the marketplace.

Those seeking to trademark “Boston Strong” have the heavy burden of proving that the term is linked to a particular product or source of products in the stream of commerce. That is patently absurd given the frequency with which the term is used and the sheer number of companies that use the term, logo, and colours.

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An American Tale, Marathon Style

Last year, two Russian immigrants, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, detonated two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (Spare me the need for “allegedly”; while this is a law blog, it’s not a courtroom. Innocent until proven guilty doesn’t apply here.) They killed three people – Lingzu Lu, Krystle Campbell, and Martin Richard – before going on a crime spree that included killing Sean Collier and almost killing Dic Donohue.

That year, and this year as well, the women’s wheelchair race was won by another Russian immigrant, Tatyana McFaddenMcFadden’s parents adopted her from a Russian orphanage when she was a child; she was born with spina bifida and has always been paralysed from the waist down.  That America can turn an abandoned child like Tatyana McFadden into a Boston Marathon champion speaks volumes about this country.

At the finish line, McFadden gave her golden crown of laurels to another immigrant, Carlos Arredondo. Arredondo was born in Costa Rica and became famous when he saved Jeff Bauman’s life at the Marathon finish line last year.

There was more good news and joy for Americans at this year’s Marathon: for the first time since 1983, an American man took home the men’s open crown.  But Meb Keflezighi is also an immigrant: he was born in Eritrea.

I’m proud that champions and heroes want to come to America, and that this country enables people like Tatyana McFadden to do great things. McFadden, Arredondo, and Keflezighi underscore how rotten the Tsarnaev brothers are: it’s not an immigrant thing, but a psychopath thing, that caused them to kill people who were watching a sport.  And, stating the obvious, it’s not wrong of us to want more Tatyana McFaddens and fewer Tsarnaev brothers in this great country.

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Filed under Miscellanea

In which Stacy McCain takes up for single women everywhere

It is rare to hear truth spoken (or written) so plainly, but there is no clearer explanation of why women recoil at the advances of “nice guys” than this:

Tognotti’s complaint is not that he gets zero action, but rather that he can’t get any action from girls he actually finds attractive. His problem, therefore, is that he imagines himself entitled to be with good-looking women, rather than being forced to make do with the ordinary-looking women who are actually interested in him.

and

When Tognotti says he will “always be a romantic,” what he means is that he will keep hanging around good-looking women who are entirely out of his range, hoping someday to fulfill his unrealistic fantasy that they will reciprocate his interest.
The problem is not their superficiality, but his.

I wish I could Mae that required reading for every teenage girl in America. No, you’re not superficial for not wanting to date a guy who only wants you because you are hot, and no, that’s not romance.

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How to save money on your dry cleaning bill

Because the costs of dry cleaning have been in the news recently, I’m going to do a PSA post about how to not spend a zillion dollars getting your clothes clean.  Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

1. Buy machine-washable clothes. Clothes that say “Dry Clean Only” cannot be dry-cleaned, but many are labeled as “Dry Clean.”  The difference is that the latter can be run through the wash.  Some silk/cotton blends, polyester blends, and other fabrics can be safely laundered for years.

2. Dryel. I don’t recommend it for 100% silk, but it does wonders for unstained wools and wool blends.

3. If one dry cleaner overcharges you, find a different one.

Noticeably missing from that list: getting the President of the United States to take time away from focusing on a $17 trillion deficit, potential war with Russia, and a broken health care overhaul, for the sole purpose of focusing on your inability to run your own life.

 

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Filed under Miscellanea

What next, gambling in Casablanca?

Via the Washington Post, a story about how the federal government is backing down from seizing the tax refund and Social Security checks of the children of allegedly debtor parents. (Hat tip, blogfather.)

If a private enterprise were to seize the assets or income of the children of debtors, do so without a court order and a showing that the children are somehow legally responsible for this debt, and do so well beyond the period of statutory limitations on such an action, there would be a hue and cry. Moreover, that private company could be liable for damages, would be investigated by the government, and, actually, might not be able to get the asset seizure through a court anyway – that whole thing about not showing that the kids are legally responsible and that the collection of the debt is within a permissible period of time.

Our government is seventeen trillion dollars in debt. It is no less rapacious than any desperate, indebted gambling addict, nor any more protective of our rights than a rogue company. The only difference is that we can get the government to act as a buffer between us and the wrongdoing of others, but can’t ask one part of the government to curtail the other part.

Any of this would be blatantly obvious to anyone who has read Federalist 51 and absorbed the lesson that the government is no more inherently good than any person or business.

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Filed under Economics, Law

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today was Marathon Monday. I was a hydration station volunteer (i.e. I handed out water at a water station) and was a bit tired from having donated blood a week before.

I wrote about it here.

Later, I found out that my friend lost his nephew (Martin Richard) in the blasts; that a co-worker is a longtime friend of the family of the two sons who each lost a limb; that another friend has family members who lost their legs.

Miscellaneous thoughts about the interim year:

My boyfriend had the brilliant idea to make a “Boston Strong” charity license plate; I commissioned a web design firm to come up with a design and sent it off to the One Fund to begin the process of getting the license plate into production. (You need a designated 501(c)(3) charity to accept the funds from the plate.)  The One Fund rejected the idea; thankfully, they have now reversed course (due to the lobbying efforts of the State House).

Last year, I watched the first One Run for Boston cross the finish line; this year, I participated in the final leg of the relay. A lot of passerby and people in cars honked, waved, and cheered for our group; however, a few people looked at the blue-and-gold clad runners and sobbed.

It was tough to cheer at my boyfriend’s road races for a while; it reminded me too much of cheering on runners whom I saw on TV, two hours later, as they ran for their lives away from flying shrapnel.

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Filed under Miscellanea

Birthday Musings

This morning, my phone rang at 7 am. I picked up: “You say it’s your birthday… it’s my birthday, too, yeah!” The family tradition is still going strong: every birthday morning, we listen to the Beatles “Birthday” and dance around.  My cat wasn’t really up for the dancing part.

In Slate, there is a discussion of how driver’s licenses provide far too much information for a bartender or bouncer to check DOB. (Hat tip.) I usually hand over my passport, not my license, because it doesn’t have my address on it; nevertheless, Albert Wong’s contention that eye color, gender, height, and weight are all irrelevant to identification seems misguided.  First, any person who is looking at you has a fairly good idea of all of those things; moreover, it is necessary for a bouncer to determine whether you handed over your own ID or someone else’s ID.  Those identifying characteristics are necessary to determining identity.

One of my college friends, whom I dated “back in the day,” emailed me to wish me a happy birthday.  (We still call each other every Christmas to wish each other a happy Sol Invictus Day.) He also mentioned that his Facebook matchmaking app listed me as one of his most compatible friends.

 

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Serious question about the equal pay legislation

Back in 2007, the Supreme Court decided Ledbetter v. Goodyear (incorrectly, in my opinion); almost exactly two years later, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law.  According to the National Women’s Law Center, the Act

The Act reinstates prior law and makes clear that pay discrimination claims on the basis of sex, race, national origin, age, religion and disability “accrue” whenever an employee receives a discriminatory paycheck, as well as when a discriminatory pay decision or practice is adopted, when a person becomes subject to the decision or practice, or when a person is otherwise affected by the decision or practice.

The Act does not repeal any prior equal pay legislation, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At this point, we aren’t suffering for any lack of laws regarding equal pay; we are suffering from a variety of factors that result in women earning less money than men (e.g. choosing different fields, working shorter hours, working in less physically strenuous jobs).

Yet the Obama Administration now wants another law executive order regarding equal pay. (Hat tip.)

Can someone who is familiar with employment law explain to me what the new Executive Order is intended to do that current legislation does not accomplish, and why anyone would think that it it would achieve its intended goal?

Can someone also explain how the Ledbetter Act changed the “pay gap,” and if one piece of legislation had no effect on it, why this particular executive order would be different?

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Filed under Law