Robin Abcarian
Commentary, news and analysis
An extraordinary win for the Raiders' cheerleaders

On July 1, about six months after being hit with a wage theft lawsuit that generated worldwide attention, the Oakland Raiders shipped out a new contract to the 40 members of its Raiderettes cheerleading squad, who call themselves "football's fabulous females."

The two-page document represents something almost revolutionary in the world of NFL cheerleading: a guarantee that the Oakland Raiders will no longer rip off the women who enliven its sidelines and work as team ambassadors when they are not performing.

The cheerleaders will now be earning $9 an hour.

Yeah, hardly a pretty penny, but a whopping raise.

In past seasons, Raiderettes earned $125 per game for 10 games, and virtually nothing for the hundreds of hours they put in for mandatory practices, rehearsals and public appearances. (Although cheerleaders can earn extra money at sponsored appearances, the money does not come from the team and such assignments are often doled out as favors to preferred members of the squad.)

The...

Read more
Mom of imprisoned ex-Marine in Mexico tells supporters to chill out

Looks as if Andrew Tahmooressi, the former Marine jailed in Mexico after blundering across the border last spring with three loaded guns and 400 rounds of ammunition in his truck, will not be coming home any time soon.

On Wednesday, Tahmooressi faced a Mexican federal judge for the first time since his April 1 arrest at the San Ysidro border crossing on suspicion of violating Mexican gun laws. As my colleague Tony Perry reported, during a seven-hour hearing, Tahmooressi was finally able to explain how he took a wrong turn out of a border parking lot and ended up in a country that essentially outlaws guns.

“We feel the hearing was a success, and we feel we are finally on the right track in order to achieve what every one of us is ultimately hoping for,” said Tahmooressi’s attorney, Fernando Benitez, who spoke to reporters in Tijuana.

But the judge did not issue a ruling, and Tahmooressi, 26, will remain imprisoned in Tecate until his next scheduled court date, Aug. 4.

Predictably,...

Read more
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-...

Read more
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,...

Read more
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....

Read more
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...

Read more
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...

Read more
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...

Read more
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...

Read more
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,...

Read more
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...

Read more
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...

Read more
Loading