Sunday, April 06, 2014

Not Italian, But Still A Mob

Do not invite Hampton Catlin and Bill Maher to the same party.

It's not likely that Catlin, who with his husband founded software company Rarebit,  and Maher would show up at the same party, aside from the latter being based in southern California and Catlin several hundred miles away in San Francisco. Days before Brendan Eich was forced to step down as new CEO of Mozilla, a blogger at the ironically-named "New Civil Rights Movement" wrote that Mr. Eich

a legend in the tech industry, co-founded Mozilla and wrote the programming language Javascript — also highly-popular. When the Mozilla board promoted Eich to CEO this week, there was some grumbling about the 2012 disclosure he had donated $1000 to the Yes on 8 campaign that supported Prop 8, and thousands more to political candidates who opposed marriage equality.

The founders of one software startup announced a boycott of Mozilla and Firefox, explaining how Prop 8 had personally harmed them. The same-sex bi-national couple, who created Rarebit and the popular smart phone app Dictionary!, say Prop 8 prevented them from being able to marry, and from jointly-creating a software company in 2008.

Eich, in a lengthy post on his personal blog, attempted to address concerns he had met internally upon his promotion, and promised to treat everyone equally. He did not address his anti-gay positions, except to state in an almost hidden portion of his statement that he wished to express his “sorrow at having caused pain.”

Days later, Mozilla' Executive Chairwoman announced on the company blog

Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.

We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.

Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.

And on Friday Bill Maher demonstrated yet again why he is the boldest public figure in the USA, carrying on the following conversation (video below) on the "overtime" portion of Real Time:

MAHER: What do you think about the Mozilla CEO having to step down over his donation to a pro-Proposition 8 group. 

The Mozilla -- which I'm wearing right now, by the way. I didn't know what Mozilla was. I saw it on my computer, but -- it's Firefix (sic), right? It's the browser. 

So this guy apparently does not want gay people to get married and he had to step down. What do you think of that, the question asks.

FMR. REP. TOM DAVIS (R-VA): Because he gave $1,000 eight years ago and it's come back to haunt him.

CARRIE SHEFFIELD, FORBES: Well, and he gave it when President Obama was still against gay marriage. So, I don't think it's very fair.

MAHER: Good point. Also, I think there is a gay mafia. I think if you cross them, you do get whacked.

Brendan Eich's mortal sin was giving the princely sum of $1,000 in support of the passage of California's Proposition 8, which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.  Prior to tendering his resignation, Eich had found it necessary to grovel, proclaiming his eagerness in "working with LGBT communities and allies" and continuing the company's "inclusive health benefits" and  "anti-discrimination policies." He promised a "personal commitment to work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or who have been marginalized"  and pledged "exemplary behavior from me toward everyone in our community."

Slate's William Saletan, who allows Eich is a "bigot" who "got what he deserved," nevertheless has compiled a list of 75 companies, each of whose employees in toto contributed more to the campaign for Proposition 8 than did the Mozilla executive.  He concludes "If we’re serious about taking down corporate officers who supported Proposition 8, and boycotting employers who promote them, we'd better get cracking on the rest of the list. Otherwise, perhaps we should put down the pitchforks."  Recognizing ongoing discrimination against sexual minorities, Saletan's Slate colleague, Jamelle Bouie, widens the discussion by noting

Overall, the large majority of Americans have at-will employment, which means that—outside of protected classes such as race or religion—they can be fired for any reason at all. For someone like Eich, this isn’t a huge deal: He will survive his brush with joblessness. The same can’t be said for millions of low-income workers who face termination lest they give their bosses their complete obedience.

There are other CEOs, other corporations, other employers whose actions are far more destructive than anything Eich was accused of doing. (He might have been guilty of far more egregious acts- but of course, those things just pale in comparison to some interest groups.)  We shouldn't forget that in 2011, General Motors CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who had terminated 34,000 jobs while sending 25,000 jobs to mainland China as his company paid little in corporate income taxes, was appointed chairman of President Obama's Competitiveness Council.  For those who have managed to maintain employment in the USA, Harmony Goldberg reports

Last week, McDonald’s workers in three cities launched highly publicized cases charging the corporation with wage theft. These workers had experienced many types of wage theft. The workers in California claim that they were not paid for overtime work. In Michigan, workers are asserting that they were required to show up for work but were not allowed to clock in. Workers in New York allege that were not compensated for the time they spent cleaning their uniforms, required to do work off the clock and not paid overtime. The New York suit was almost immediately successful. Last week, seven franchises agreed to settle for almost $500,000.

McDonald’s workers are not alone. Wage theft has become a widespread problem in low-wage industries in the United States. An influential study found that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of workers had experienced some form of wage theft in their previous week of work: they were paid below the minimum wage, not paid for overtime, required to work off the clock or had their breaks limited. An organization of fast food workers in New York City surveyed workers and found that 84% of workers had experienced wage theft in the last year.

Addressing wage theft will take a two-pronged solution: rebuilding the enforcement system in the U.S., and cutting through the smokescreen of subcontracting and franchising to hold employers responsible for the wages and working conditions in their workplaces.

Admittedly, that does not bear directly on the issue of Proposition 8 or same-sex marriage generally, and in fact, Bill Maher does support same-sex marriage, or at least as much as he supports any kind of marriage. But it does reflect perspective and priorities, illustrating that, aside from being hyperbolic, there is a "gay mafia," an economically privileged albatross around the neck of the left.


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