Television
Emmys 2014: List of nominees
Robin Abcarian
Commentary, news and analysis
A major victory for NFL cheerleaders as Raiders double dancers' wages

Half a year after being slapped with a wage theft lawsuit by two former cheerleaders, the Oakland Raiders have dramatically increased the wages and improved the working conditions of their professional cheerleading squad, the Raiderettes.  

According to the contract presented by the Raiders to its 2014-15 squad, the new wages will more than double the meager amount the team was paying the women who enliven its sidelines, function as team ambassadors and are professional athletes in their own right.

Previously, the team paid a flat wage of $125 per game, payable in a lump sum (minus illegal deductions for all sorts of ridiculous infractions) at the end of each season. From now on, the women will earn $9 per hour, plus overtime.

In its new Raiderette contract, the team has also said it will pay the cheerleaders not just for games, but for every practice, rehearsal and charity appearance, as well. In addition, it will reimburse cheerleaders for business expenses (like uniform cleaning and...

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Sarah Palin, demanding Obama's impeachment, descends into caricature

Sarah Palin has finally lost it.

Today, in an essay on Breitbart.com, Palin demands the impeachment of President Obama.

Her piece starts off loopy, and devolves from there.

“Enough is enough of the years of abuse from this president,” she begins. “His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas.’ ”

I'm sorry, what? Why the switch to espanol? Is she implying that Obama is a wife beater? That America is a battered, Spanish-speaking esposa?

No idea, but by the end of her essay, I felt positively battered by her battiness.

She accuses the president of orchestrating illegal border crossings (a favorite canard of the loony right) and “obstructing any economic recovery” in order to provide “cheap foreign labor.” 

Disingenuously, this privileged celebrity--with her seven-figure cable and book contracts, her family sea plane, her boats and her multiple homes--describes herself as an “average" American.

"Have faith that average American workers – native-...

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Poor, poor pitiful Donald Sterling

Oh dear. Someone help me.

I’m starting to feel a teensy glimmer of sympathy for struggling Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the blowhard “philanthropist” whose reprehensible conversations about race got him banned from the NBA for life last spring.

It’s not that I think Sterling should be able to keep the team. He shouldn't.

Microsoft kajillionaire Steve Ballmer is standing by, with $2 billion in hand. And a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has already hinted that Sterling was appropriately removed from his family trust, paving the way for a sale despite his objections.

Nor do I think he deserves to retain his high-profile spot on the public stage. It’s been a pleasure being able to open up my favorite newspaper and not be visually assaulted by those full-page ads proclaiming his righteous generosity.

It’s just that the whole Sterling scandal has rested upon a series of intimate betrayals.

Sterling was first betrayed by his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, who recorded his rambling,...

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At Supreme Court, baffling decision follows awful Hobby Lobby ruling

Over the weekend, without a pressing deadline at hand, I sat down to read more closely the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s strong dissent. Maybe, in the heat of deadline, I had missed something important when I first judged the decision deeply offensive to women.

I had not.

If anything, the Hobby Lobby decision -- and the court ’s subsequent ruling three days later in a thematically similar matter involving Wheaton College -- is even more offensive and troubling than I first thought.

In Hobby Lobby, the court has now said that a boss’s sincere religious beliefs -- whether true or not -- trump an employee’s right to perfectly legal medical care, as long as the employee can get that care some other way, never mind the burden on the employee.

The court insisted its ruling does not place an unacceptable burden on female employees because the government has already set up an alternative process that allows workers to bypass the boss and get coverage....

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Boycott Hobby Lobby? Sure, but only if you want to increase its sales

You could have seen this coming a mile away.

“Counter the leftist hate,” someone named Marji Wojack tweeted earlier this week. “Join me in Hobby Lobby Love Day-Thursday, July 3.”

Those who support Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, which puts some employers in charge of what kind of birth control their insurance companies may provide employees, are being asked to go to their local Hobby Lobby store, take a picture and tweet it with a message of support to “Bristol Palin’s” blog at Patheos.

(I put Bristol Palin in quotes because, I, like many people, believe her blog is ghostwritten by the smart, influential Christian author and editor Nancy French, who co-wrote one of Sarah Palin’s books, and also co-wrote Bristol’s preachy, disingenuous memoir. But I digress.)

Hobby Lobby Love Day is a response to calls to boycott the craft chain in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Boycotts can be effective, but in cases like these, they are a crude tool. They can...

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Working mothers, double standards and what bugs me about Tina Fey

There are two reasons that American women continue to be obsessed about balancing motherhood and work in a way that most American men are not.

First off, biology: Until men can get pregnant, give birth and lactate, there is never going to be a day where more is not expected of mothers who work than fathers who work. When it comes to raising children, biology may not be destiny, but it certainly informs the special bond that mothers have with small children. That’s just how it is.

Second, despite protestations to the contrary, our elected representatives simply do not care enough about children and families, nor do they have the political will, to institute the kind of universal, state-supported child care that exists in other Westernized nations. Our country once had a tremendously successful, subsidized system of child care. But it would probably take another World War to get there again.

Until we do, the question of how women achieve both professional and domestic success will remain...

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NFL cheerleader lawsuit update: Buffalo Jills win one against Bills

The wage theft lawsuit filed by five former members of the Buffalo Jills professional cheerleading squad got a little boost this week when a judge refused to toss the case after the Bills claimed they are not the cheerleaders’ employer.

Oh you might be, New York Supreme Court Judge Timothy Drury essentially told the team Tuesday. Drury said there was evidence to support the cheerleaders’ claim that they were, in fact, Bills employees, and only in the “nominal employment” of a pair of entertainment companies that run the squad.

The Bills had argued that the team was only involved in its cheerleading squad to guarantee the integrity of the Bills brand. (For that matter, you could say the whole football team exists to maintain brand integrity.)

Anyway,  Drury said the Bills’ claim that they have nothing much to do with the cheerleaders was “premature,” noting that one of the cheerleaders, Jaclyn S., had provided an email from her supervisor telling her not just that the Bills own the...

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A romantic riddle: Can marriage success be predicted from the wedding?

With the wedding season upon us, and certain kinds of marriage the topic of an unceasing national political conversation, here is a question for anyone who has been married, contemplating marriage, or has watched with love, horror or fascination as two people tie the knot:

What is the difference between a happy wedding and a happy marriage?

“A wedding is easy to make happy,” says Rabbi Jonathan Blake in the new documentary “112 Weddings,” which is airing on HBO this week. “You just throw a ton of money at it, and liquor. But when you throw money and liquor at a marriage, it often makes things worse.”

Filmmaker Doug Block’s premise seems almost like a gimmick: a documentarian who needs to earn as much cash as possible between projects begins moonlighting as a wedding videographer, and is shocked by the instant intimacy and rapport he develops with “ordinary” people on the most “extraordinary day of their lives.” He shoots dozens of weddings in a “cinema verite” style, producing 90- to...

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The craziest thing about the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision

What stood out as the worst aspect of Monday’s Supreme Court decision on the lawsuit brought by Hobby Lobby against the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate?

For advocates of reproductive rights, it's that the highest court in the land embraced the idea that “business owners can use their religious beliefs to deny an employee a benefit guaranteed by law,” as the ACLU's Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling put it.

That’s pretty bad. But something else is troublesome about the case, at least to me. And that is the idea that the justices simply accepted without question the claim by the Greens, a Christian family who own the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, that the four types of birth control they refuse to cover -- two kinds of IUDs and two morning-after pills -- cause abortion.

They do not.

“Today’s decision is based on the Court accepting as the owners’ sincere religious belief that these drugs and devices can destroy an embryo and end a human life,” said Ovide Lamontagne,...

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Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision is a slap in the face to women

Today’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, which puts the religious beliefs of an employer above the medical needs of female employees, is head-shakingly bad.

And not just for women and their families.

It’s bad for anyone who works for a closely held, for-profit company whose owners embrace unscientific medical beliefs for religious reasons, and choose to impose those beliefs on employees.

In a 5-4 decision, penned by Justice Samuel Alito, the court said Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law enacted by Congress in 1993 to ensure the government could not substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion. A corporation, the court held, is effectively a person under this law, and may hold and exercise religious beliefs.

The ruling in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, said the court, will be applied narrowly--only to owners of “closely held” companies who have sincere religious objections to certain forms of birth control. The decision will...

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Supreme Court puts anti-abortion speech above abortion patient safety

You probably have to spend some time in front of an abortion clinic to really get a sense of the tension and passion at play between anti-abortion protesters who masquerade as “sidewalk counselors” and the women with unwanted pregnancies who turn to such places at what is never a happy moment in their lives.

Even when a scene appears peaceful there is a fraught subtext to the dynamic, thanks to the appalling acts of violence that anti-abortion extremists have unleashed on doctors, staffers and patients at these places over the years. Since 1977, according to the National Abortion Federation, there have been eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings and 181 incidents of arson, plus thousands of other acts of criminality.

Today, the Supreme Court sidestepped all that contextand unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, finding the law at odds with the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. Back in 2000, the court...

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Supreme Court ruling affirms the astonishing power of smartphones

Wednesday’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling – that officers must obtain warrants in order to search cellphones obtained during the course of arrests – shows the justices' profound understanding of the way these ubiquitous little devices have practically become appendages of the human body.

Chief Justice John R. Roberts even got a little carried away with that metaphor when he wrote in his entertaining opinion that modern cellphones “are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.”

Giving police the ability to search a cellphone without a warrant, the court said, is as offensive as the intrusions that led the birth of this country and the creation of its Constitution.

The 4th Amendment, with its protection against unreasonable searches, Roberts said, “was the founding generation’s response to the reviled ‘general warrants’ and ‘writs of assistance' of the colonial era, which...

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