Labor Day message 

This Labor Day, it only took a quick look around to see that our economy isn't working as it should. The everyday cost of living — gas, electricity, housing — is through the roof. Forty-five million Americans can't afford health insurance. Stagnant wages, massive job losses and serious erosion of work-related benefits have dealt a series of blows to our standard of living in the last decades.

Now many Americans are struggling to make ends meet even as they work full-time, sometimes at two or even three jobs. After a long day of hard work, many of these people still go home feeling that their work doesn't pay. I am tired of hearing that our country's declining economic conditions are accidental or the fault of workers. America's workers are the most productive in the world and work longer hours than workers in any other developed country.

This Labor Day is an opportunity to demand that our country's economy once again meets our needs. We can do this by calling on our elected officials to start supporting a working people's agenda. Let's create good jobs in this country, and provide employers with incentives to keep them here. Let's make sure workers can live in dignity with health care and retirement security. And let's restore workers' freedom to form unions to bargain for a better life.

Trey Huffty

President, USW Local 1731

Pine Bluff

The gender pay gap

If Doug Smith's article “Women Still Trailing” were a paper submitted in a Women's Studies course I were teaching (I retired from the Biology Department and the Women's Studies program at Virginia Tech several years ago), I would be depressed that Smith had not utilized feminist principles of analysis and wonder if he were trying to skate by on platitudes. Feminist principles of analysis are not unique to women and one aspect is looking closely at your rhetoric and then taking the opposite perspective.

To wit “Are there legitimate reasons for that difference (disparity in compensation), something other than simple bias against women?” Framed this way, the question assumes that causes might be found to permanently keep women underpaid. The alternative would be “What are the institutional reasons for women's being underpaid and what can be done to change the situation?”

Smith says “Gender bias is not necessarily either conscious or evil.” This statement gives permission to absolve one's self from responsibility for gender bias, since a person who acts in this way is not inherently evil nor consciously doing something evil.

Smith also writes “One theory is that women are inherently unsuited for certain areas of study, like mathematics. That's widely believed, probably, but very controversial.” Larry Summers, ex-president of Harvard, tried to get away with this canard, to a firestorm of protest. Putting it forward again, when it has been thoroughly debunked, only perpetuates the falsehood.

I have no reason to quibble with Smith's statistics. I do quibble with his blind acceptance of them. We need to ask UALR's Jim Lynch whether women's salaries “would necessarily be lower” if efforts were made to value an associate professor of English as highly as an associate professor of bioinformatics. Claiming that salary disparity is a result of market forces shows no sense of social justice, no commitment to modeling for students that the world is a place that welcomes talent irrespective of the body in which it's located.

An easy way to hire a woman is to have the three final candidates for a position be women. An easy way to hire a woman, or a person of color, is to value these attributes in the search process. An easy way to tenure a woman or a person of color is to consider that person's value to the academic community, not just to a narrow field of specialization.

The time for change is now.

Muriel Lederman

Little Rock

LR's mayor

I've read your articles about increasing the power of the Little Rock mayor. You guys are off the mark on this. We now have given an elected official nearly total control over the workings of the largest city in Arkansas. But Northwest Arkansas is now, collectively larger than Little Rock. And, growing at a much larger rate. Kiss your dominance in this state goodbye.

Your stupid support of the strong mayor form of government totally ignores a mayor-council/city manager form of government, which provides professional, consistent governance.

Have a good time with the good ole boys. Bye-bye professional management. You are such saps.

Kim Dewey

From the Internet

The temptation of Osama

In the Middle East, Islam is in a desperate internal struggle between modernists and fundamentalists. The glaring disparity in “creature comfort” technology as well as leisure activity gives the visitor a feeling of an abrupt time warp.

Example: When I first visited the tiny Arab Emirate of Dubai over 20 years ago I was astonished at the skaters gliding gracefully around a beautiful ice rink on the ground floor of a modern skyscraper in the middle of a vast desert plain. Only a few blocks away the single-story earthen family homes sprouted spiral wind chimneys 8 or 10 feet high in a feeble attempt to relieve the 130-degree heat by conveying even the faintest desert breeze to various rooms below.

In a few months the Dubai Tower is scheduled for completion and, comprising about 160 floors of habitable space, will be the tallest man-made edifice on earth. It will rise over one-half mile high and be topped with a mammoth loudspeaker calling the faithful to prayers five times a day.

And as Osama Bin Laden waits for the opening of this symbol of Western influence and decadence right in his own backyard, he studies the construction details to determine the most effective and spectacular time and way to destroy this latest affront to his fundamentalism.

The Hadj, an annual pilgrimage for all Moslems to visit Mecca, will occur this December, a highly important period for Christian and Jewish religious celebrations as well.

Will our boy do something rash?

Joel Taylor

Little Rock


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