congressman

In Texas, the gender pay gap is still in full force. Women in Texas made 70 cents for every dollar that men made in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Women working in and around Austin didn’t earn much more than the state average. Based on a Texas Tribune interactive map, in Congressman Lamar Smith’s district, which includes UT as well as rural areas to the west of Austin, women earn 68.9 percent of the median annual income. In Congressman Michael McCaul’s district, women earn 75 percent of what men earn. And in Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s district, women earn 73.5 percent of what men earn. 

According to Christine Williams, professor and chair of the department of sociology, this wage gap would be even higher if we included all workers, both full-time and part-time. And although women clearly get paid less for their work as compared to men, this doesn’t seem to be indicative of men having greater expertise in their fields, since women have higher college graduation rates than men.  

In a 2011 report on college completion, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA found that 18 percent more women than men have college degrees in the young adult population between ages 25 and 29. And, just this past Thursday, the Texas Tribune reported that more than 23 percent of females who finished eighth grade in 2001 received a post-secondary degree within six years of graduating from high school, compared to only 16 percent of males. Even at UT, the student body is slightly more female than male — 51 percent of the undergraduate population is female and 49 percent is male. 

So why the pay gap? After all, if women are earning college degrees at a higher rate than men, shouldn’t females be better compensated than males in the workforce? Williams explained that sometimes the gap occurs because “men and women have different majors, so even when women get higher degrees, they tend to be in lower paying fields” — an answer that seems to be quite popular when the gender wage gap issue arises. 

But this isn’t necessarily the case. Engineering, computer science and business graduates have the highest average starting salaries by discipline, according to a recent article by Forbes. The McCombs School of Business is only slightly skewed toward male undergraduates — with a 55 percent male and 45 percent female undergraduate body as of last spring. At the Cockrell School of Engineering, though, males substantially outnumber females. Only 24 percent of undergraduates there are females

But the wage gap persists, even in business professions. A 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics report comparing the median weekly earnings of full-time and salaried wage workers by occupation and sex showed that female CEOs earn $1,730 per hour while males earn over 30 percent more — $2,275. Female financial managers earn $988 per hour while males earn 42 percent more — $1,405. The trend continues through most professions in the industry.

It’s been close to 51 years since U.S. President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into federal law. For a state whose laws enshrine the concept of equal opportunity, our gender wage gap is downright shameful. And it’s bad business, too. Rather than letting the most qualified people lead, we’re giving in to sexism year after year after year. No Texan should take this inequality in stride. As future leaders, administrators and policy makers in Texas, we need to eliminate the wage gap once and for all.

Recently, debate has swirled around a potential strike on Syria to “punish” the regime of Bashar Al-Assad for an alleged sarin-gas attack on the Syrian rebels that killed 1,429 people. Although U.S. President Barack Obama claims the authority to strike, he decided to put the decision to a vote in Congress, before announcing on Tuesday that he would seek a potential diplomatic resolution instead. 

Recent comments by Secretary of State John Kerry and the Russian government opened the door for a tentative agreement with Syria requiring them to place their chemical weapons into international hands, destroy them and sign a chemical weapons ban. Despite those positive diplomatic developments, armed conflict is still not out of the question.

UT students should write their Congressman to voice their opinion on this critical issue. I wrote Republican Lamar Smith of the 21st district, which includes part of Austin, asking him to oppose the strike and call for the president to respect Congress’ decision. Smith’s office’s response confirmed that the majority of his constituents are opposed and that he is skeptical of intervention.

Smith is right to be skeptical. Obama failed to make his case in Tuesday’s address to the nation. He failed to explain how an intervention, which certainly risks making the situation worse in the short term, will provide long-term stability to the region or advance U.S. objectives. In his speech Tuesday night, Obama made clear he did not want regime change, nor the responsibility for the chain reaction that would cause.

Although some allude to the U.S. bombing of Kosovo in 1999 as a precedent, the potential strike would bear more resemblance to past U.S. interventions in which we militarily supported a relatively unknown opposition only to receive blowback later. According to CNN’s Peter Berger, while only accounting for 10 percent of the opposition forces in Syria, foreign fighters, many of them Al-Qaeda affiliates, are among the rebels’ most skilled fighters. Arming them could prove disastrous in the long term.

Support of the rebels would echo CIA support for Islamic rebel groups in the 1980s during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, militants we are still fighting today. 

More recent controversy surrounds our support for the Libyan rebels in 2011. A year after our overthrow of the old regime, then-President Mohammed Magarief admitted that security forces were likely infiltrated by extremist groups, paving the way for the 2012 attacks on the Benghazi consulate that killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens.

Intervention would likely be ineffective. With the president having ruled out regime change, what exactly is his plan? How can he avoid putting boots on the ground? Practically speaking, how would Obama’s limited strike be any different from Clinton’s hapless 1998 bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan or Israel’s ineffective 2006 campaign against Hezbollah? As editorials invoke the memory of Bosnia, what are the differences and similarities between the ethnic conflicts in those two regions? Most importantly, to what degree can we positively affect the outcome?

Until these questions are answered, our focus should be on seeking diplomatic solutions, and protecting those minorities persecuted by both sides in this conflict. According to an August NBC report by Ammar Cheikhomar and Henry Austin, many of the 2 million Christian Syrians, mistrusted by both sides, have been forced to flee to neighboring countries since the conflict began.

Whatever you think, civic action is key. Although Syria is far away, our congressmen are close. The stakes are high and the potential to sway your local lawmaker is real.

Check your ZIP code, find your congressional district, visit your congressman’s website and finally call or email your congressman (Democrat Lloyd Doggett for the 35th Congressional district, Republican Roger Williams for the 25th and Republican Lamar Smith for the 21st district).

I wrote Lamar Smith as a concerned U.S. citizen, but also as a UT student who believes in civic engagement. If we as students fail to inform ourselves about the activities of our government, especially in times of conflict, then we cannot complain about the consequences of their action — or inaction.

Knoll is a first-year masters student in Latin American Studies from Dallas.

US Congressman Charles Gonzalez speaks to students about the rising number of Hispanics in United States politics. The Hispanic Leadership Summit welcomed several speakers to highlight the important role that Hispanics play in American culture.
 

Photo Credit: Ben Chesnut | Daily Texan Staff

With the political battle to win Latino voters heating up, a seven-term congressman said Latino voters have the power to influence elections if they show up to the polls in full force.

The McCombs School of Business’ Hispanic Leadership Initiative, an organization that works to promote Hispanic leadership, held its fourth annual leadership summit Thursday. The summit focused on the Hispanic vote’s impact on the upcoming elections. The summit included a luncheon with keynote speaker Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas, and panels on political demographics and Latino issues. The initiative hosts the summit each year with different themes pertinent to the Latino community, including this year’s theme, “Hispanic Vote 2012: Understanding Our Strength.”

Leticia Acosta, director of the Hispanic Leadership Initiative, said more than 100 students, faculty and UT alumni registered for the event.

“It’s not about politics but encouraging the Hispanic community to vote,” Acosta said. “We really want to get people engaged and ready to vote.”

Panelist Claudia Ortega-Hogue, the Texas director of civic engagement, said 12.2 million out of the 22.2 million eligible Latinos are projected to vote in November, a 26 percent increase since 2008, according to data from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund.

“There is not enough engagement in the community. People don’t know the process. They are confused about the process, especially with things like voter ID,” Ortega-Hogue said. “If they feel intimidated they will not come out and vote as projected.”

Gonzalez, the Democratic representative of Texas’ 20th district in San Antonio, said voter ID laws have the potential to limit even legitimate voters and spoke on problems with the education system not focusing on early education.

“Hispanics have reached numbers that can affect elections, even the presidential election,” Gonzalez said. “The factor within our control is participation. We [Latinos] are in a huge position to affect policy.”

Gonzalez said he will retire after his upcoming term, which will be his seventh. He said he would like to form a caucus with his retiring colleagues to shake things up in the current political system.

“I’ll be able to say many things I couldn’t before and be bold because we won’t have to worry about getting re-elected,” Gonzalez said. “I believe my successor will be Joaquin Castro, and I plan on giving him a lot of advice that he probably won’t use.”

Philosophy junior Desiree Rios said the summit was interesting and informative because she is considering pursuing a career in public office.

“It’s a great opportunity to hear what they have to say and get to talk about the issues with them, because people need to be informed,” Rios said. “I’m disappointed there wasn’t a bigger turnout by the student body.”

Printed on Friday, September 28, 2012 as: Rep. Gonzales pushes for larger Hispanic turnout

Pane: Sex in the Digital Age

In recent years, the web has given sex scandals a new connotation of being sexually suggestive rather than being sexually explicit. Take for example the sexy tweet incident on congressman Anthony Weiner in which he accidentally tweeted a photo of his penis to his Twitter followers.

“Here we had the most boring sex scandal in the world,”editor of sexuality blog Fleshbot.com, Lux Alptraum, said of the Anthony Weiner scandal. “Nothing was actually or literally happening, we didn't confirm if he actually had sex with someone, and we’re just left with sexually suggestive content.”

The panel’s presenters, which also included Gawker Media reporter Maureen O’Connor, sexuality blogger Lena Chen (whose had a minor sex scandal of her own), and Mike Dacks of Avid Life Media, which represents many dating sites including AshleyMadison.com, a dating platform for married people to find partners to cheat with.

Another example of a relatively PG-13 sex scandal the panel presented was congressman Chris Lee’s Craigslist ad that read “I’m a very fit, fun, classy guy, 6 ft, 190 lbs, blond/blue” alongside a photo of Lee shirtless flexing his chest.

“Here again is a political figure who we can't confirm cheated, he just sent out a rather tame ad,” O’Connor said. “We have the wonder if this is even really a ‘sex scandal’ it’s just a shirtless photo and some text about himself.”

Chen’s own sex scandal broke when she was a sophomore during her undergrad at Harvard University, when her ex-boyfriend posted naked photos of her on the internet.

While she was a semi-public figure after starting her lifestyle and sexuality blog, SexandTheIvy.com, she still represents a private person who became a press figure simply because of a sexually suggestive photo.

“I know it’s weird but I sort of get a sick thrill when other people’s sex scandals now because it normalizes this behavior,” Chen said. “I’m waiting for the day that an internet sex scandal won't exist because so many people are doing this on the internet but keeping it private in their real lives.”

Alptraum presented another example, in which a person from the private sector of life became a press figure after a “sex scandal.” A student at Duke University, Karen Owen, sent a powerpoint cataloguing all of the men she’d slept with (many of whom were Duke athletes) to her friends and accidentally became viral. The story became so public that the student was even discussed on the Today show, which usually only focuses on family-friendly content.

As Facebook and Twitter diligently record our lives, they have the capability to destroy them with the release of even the most slightly sexually suggestive photograph.

“One of the huge things that has changed our relationship toward sexuality, is that now that its so easy to create a digital record and disseminate it, so it’s harder to detach yourself from the ‘sex scandal,’”Alptraum said.

“It’s such a powerful tool that we are lucky to grow up with,” Dacks said of the internet.

“So if everyone if the world just took a naked picture of themselves and posted it to the internet, I don’t think sex scandals would even be an issue anymore.”

Panel: Changing the Channel: The Golden Age of TV

Four years ago Hulu forged a domain as the go-to for last night's television, and since then, it has forayed into original programming and treasure-hunting for content that traditional television networks have overlooked. With 38 million unique users last month and over 1.5 million premium users paying for content, Hulu is one of the reasons why so few watch television on an actual television screen anymore.

The mastermind behind Supersize Me, Morgan Spurlock, launched the first episode of the second season of his Hulu show A Day in the Life, at the panel. A Day in the Life devotes each episode to following around on specific celebrities including musician Will.I.Am, comedian Russell Peters, actor Joel McHale, and celebrity chef Mario Batali for a day. The show seamlessly crosses over platforms as it utilizes the documentary-film style into a television format while remaining on the domain of the internet.

“For me it was the opportunity to do different and exciting things that we couldn't do with network,”Spurlock said.“We pitched A Day in the Life to a lot of networks and they weren't really into it.”

The creation of original shows on Hulu resembles the development of indie films which allows true freedom for the show create to make the show as they originally conceived it.

“I love to hear, 'it didn't fit into network television,’because at Hulu we like to see the amazing content that networks aren't willing to consider,” senior vice president of content at Hulu, Andy Forssell, said.

Forssell said that he believes the user experience of Hulu's interface, which features 30 thumbnails of shows to watch, allows viewers to find a show they love, as opposed to a show that just happens to be on television when they have time to watch.

“The days of destination viewing are pretty much gone with the exception of sports. Now you can watch what you want when you want, but most importantly it will be a show you can love whether it's original content or network shows,”Forssell said.
 

The political action committee Test PAC has its sights set on unseating Rep. Lamar Smith R-Texas using Internet-based tactics, while seeking to differentiate themselves from mainstream politics.

Smith represents the 21st District, which includes the UT campus and areas of west Austin.

Test PAC announced their first campaign “Operation: Mr. Smith Comes Back From Washington” on Feb. 10 on social media websites after the group’s members voted in a poll to decide which congressman their resources would be focused on defeating in the 2012 election.

According to Test PAC’s Facebook page, Smith was chosen for his sponsorship of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, which has since been removed from Congress’ agenda.

Test PAC treasurer Andy Posterick said Test PAC was founded to balance the influence of money in politics with the goal in preserving democratic values.

“We operate on the idea that in a democracy, ideas are more important than money,” Posterick said. “The problem is, politics is so heavily structured around the concept that money buys change, but it doesn’t, and we tried to build a PAC that reflects that.”

Posterick said some of the founding members of Test PAC were involved with previous Internet campaigns to boycott or blackout websites in order to raise awareness of the SOPA bill.

“The website blackout from a few weeks ago, for example, was an idea that our members helped bring to fruition,” Posterick said. “We also pressured Rep. Paul Ryan R-Wisconsin to change his stance on SOPA before most congresspeople had even heard of it.”

According to Test PAC’s Reddit announcement, the group hopes to achieve its goal using social media as well as offline methods, including promoting their cause at UT.

“The information blitz [on Facebook and Twitter] will appeal to Internet users who may have heard of SOPA, but do not fully understand its implications,” the post said. “We have reached out to political leaders on the UT Austin campus.”

Posterick said Smith is the target for the first Test PAC campaign for his sponsorship of SOPA and his connections with the entertainment industry.

“He introduced SOPA, and he was the only congressman still defending it after it was universally admonished by the American people,” Posterick said. “He is heavily lobbied by the [Motion Picture Association of America] and the [Recording Industry Association of America], who are buying legislation that, quite frankly, holds new technology in handcuffs.”

The main goal of the PAC is to protect Internet freedom and members of the online community who are fighting against Internet regulation, Posterick said.

“This campaign, if we get any significant number of votes in April, is also our way of telling Washington that the Internet can now stand up for itself if you try to legislate us,” Posterick said.

Mike Asmus, campaign manager for Smith, said Smith welcomes any challenges to his incumbency and uses his congressional record as evidence for his support of District 21.

“Congressman Smith enjoys a successful history of keeping the trust and support of the people of the 21st District,” Asmus said. “He responds to this and all challenges by running on his record.”

Regarding Smith’s sponsorship of the SOPA bill, Asmus said Smith has since reversed his support for the bill.

“Smith last month formally suspended further committee consideration of the [SOPA] proposal until and unless wider consensus can be reached on how to best crack down on illegal activity conducted on foreign websites,” Asmus said.

Printed on Monday, February 13, 2012 as: Lamar Smith denounced by Test PAC committee

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., addresses a news conference in New York, Monday, June 6, 2011. After days of denials, a choked-up New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner confessed Monday that he tweeted a bulging-underpants photo of himself to a young woman and admitted to "inappropriate" exchanges with six women before and after getting married. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NEW YORK — After days of denials, a choked-up Rep. Anthony Weiner confessed Monday that he tweeted a photo of his bulging underpants to a young woman, and he also admitted to "inappropriate" exchanges with six women before and after he got married. He apologized for lying but said he would not resign.

"This was me doing a dumb thing and doing it repeatedly and lying about it," the 46-year-old New York Democrat said after a week of double-entendre headlines and late-night wisecracks full of Weiner jokes.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi immediately called for an ethics committee investigation into whether Weiner broke House rules.

The congressman — who was widely expected to run for mayor of New York in 2013 — said at a half-hour news conference that he had never personally met any of the women he corresponded with online and sometimes via telephone over the past three years, and was not even sure of their ages. He also said he had never had sex outside of his marriage.

He said he did not feel the scandal affected his work as a lawmaker but would understand if his constituents decided not to re-elect him. "I'm going to work very hard to win back their trust," he said.

Weiner said he used his home computer and personal Blackberry, not government computers, in his exchanges with the women. But that may not protect him from House rules that say a member "shall conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House."

On numerous occasions, the House ethics committee has cited that general rule in finding a representative violated standards of conduct.

Weiner said over and over that he had made "terrible mistakes" and done "a very dumb thing" for which he alone bore responsibility, and he apologized repeatedly to his wife, Huma Abedin.

"My wife is a remarkable woman. She's not responsible for any of this," he said. "I apologize to her very deeply."

Abedin did not attend his news conference, but Weiner said they would not be separating over the scandal.

The scandal unfolded more than a week ago when a conservative website reported that a photo of a man's crotch had been sent from Weiner's Twitter account to a college student in Seattle.

For days, Weiner claimed that he hadn't sent the photo and that he was the victim of a hacker. But he caused guffaws when he said that he couldn't say with "certitude" that the underwear shot was not a picture of him.

The scandal escalated Monday when the website, BigGovernment.com, run by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, posted photos purportedly from a second woman who said she received shirtless shots of the congressman. The site said the pictures were in a cache of intimate online photographs, chats and email exchanges the woman claimed to have. The website did not identify the woman.

One photo showed Weiner on a couch with two cats nearby. The website said Weiner sent the photo using the anthonyweiner(at)aol.com account with the subject line "Me and the pussys."

Also, the celebrity website RadarOnline.com said a woman claimed to have 200 sexually explicit messages from Weiner through a Facebook account that Weiner no longer uses. It was not clear whether the woman who claimed to have the new photo was the person who claimed to have received the text messages.

At Monday's news conference, Weiner said he sent the underpants photo as a joke and called it a "hugely regrettable mistake."

"I haven't told the truth and have done things I deeply regret," he said. "I brought pain to people I care about."

ABC News said Monday it planned to air an interview with a Texas woman, Meagan Broussard, who claims to be one of the women who exchanged messages with Weiner. The 26-year-old single mother said she has dozens of emails, Facebook messages and cell phone logs that document more than a month of flirting that started on April 20.

In a strange turn before Weiner's planned news conference, Breitbart took to the podium, defending the accuracy of his posts and saying his reputation was being smeared by the congressman.

The picture showing Weiner shirtless was reminiscent of a photo of former Rep. Chris Lee, a New York Republican who abruptly resigned from office earlier this year after a shirtless photo he sent a woman on Craigslist became public.

Weiner married Abedin, an aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton, last July, with former President Bill Clinton officiating. Before that, Weiner had been known as one of New York's most eligible bachelors.

Weiner began his career as a legislative assistant to then-Rep. Chuck Schumer, now a senator. He was elected to the New York City Council before winning Schumer's House seat in 1998, representing parts of Brooklyn and Queens.

Earlier Monday before Weiner's public admission, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked whether the congressman could continue to effectively represent New Yorkers.

"It's always up to the constituents," Bloomberg said, adding that it was "time to get back and focus on the serious things."

Weiner gained a national profile during the debate over President Barack Obama's health care plan when he outspokenly professed support for a government-run "single-payer" program for everyone and later a "public option" to compete with private health insurance. He got the notice of liberals even though both proposals failed to make it into law.