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Archive for April, 2014

Mobile Phones and the Fourth Amendment

[ 41 ] April 30, 2014 |

I have some thoughts on Tuesday’s oral arguments.


That’s three minutes I’m not getting back

[ 93 ] April 30, 2014 |

There’s been a lot of talk lately about just how awful the NY Times’ op ed lineup has become. My initial reflexive reaction to such complaints is who cares, newspapers are dead, this is the age of the internet, etc.

Then tonight I made the terrible mistake of reading a Maureen Dowd column: something I probably hadn’t done in at least five years.

While there are many eviler, stupider, and otherwise more objectionable pundits than Dowd, I don’t think it’s possible to equal her for a certain sort of twee vacuousness that, like reading People magazine (something I did while waiting for a haircut yesterday; apparently I like to live dangerously), causes the reader to lose approximately five IQ points per minute:

It doesn’t feel like leadership. It doesn’t feel like you’re in command of your world.

How can we accept these reduced expectations and truculent passivity from the man who offered himself up as the moral beacon of the world, even before he was elected? . . .

Mr. President, don’t you know that we’re speeched out? It’s not what we need right now.

You should take a lesson from Adam Silver, a nerdy technocrat who, in his first big encounter with a crazed tyrant, managed to make the job of N.B.A. commissioner seem much more powerful than that of president of the United States.

As the kids say these days, I don’t even . . .

When Australia Out Wingnuts the U.S.

[ 106 ] April 30, 2014 |

This is lovely. The Australian government wants to outlaw the secondary boycott–for everyone. This means that any group calling for a boycott of a company for involvement with an independent contractor engaging in poor labor practices or many other similar situations would be breaking the law:

Even as activists like Akter continue to push for change, the Abbott government is proposing to curtail worker activism. By extending secondary boycott provisions to cover activist groups, it could reduce civil society’s ability to express discontent against big business. Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck, who wants to curb green activists, says it’s about “levelling the playing field” for business.

But citizens and civil society groups aren’t companies or unions in the industrial relations sense of the word. They are loose and responsive networks, there to give voice to those met with criminal injustice or corruption. Making it illegal for civil society groups like GetUp, Oxfam and Amnesty International to urge consumers to boycott companies for being poor corporate citizens is a type of despotism perpetuated by the executive.

“Levelling the playing field for business.” Love that one. It’s so hard for business to operate in a world where citizens sometimes want them to act with responsibility and not, say, work with the apartheid regime in South Africa or not contract with particularly irresponsible apparel producers. By criticizing corporations for complicity in killing 1138 workers in the Rana Plaza collapse, Amnesty International has created the greatest outrage in Australian history. Really it’s far worse than the genocide against the Aborigines. Not even close.

Game 7 Night

[ 54 ] April 30, 2014 |

Three of them in the NHL — can’t ask for much more than that, with Kings trying to come from 3-0 back against the Sharks particularly compelling. (Will Johnny Damon be in attendance?) Hopefully for Grand Poobah Berube tonight’s Rangers/Flyers game 7 will go a little better for his team than the last one.

Citation Needed

[ 140 ] April 30, 2014 |

Normally I wouldn’t bother pointing you to a single wingnut comment, but this one is such a perfect distillation of white male victimhood, that I couldn’t resist sharing.

 It would be more accurate to say that white men don’t like a world where
everything they do or say is stripped of context, hunted down,
comedically exaggerated, and harshly punished, and everyone else’s
personal biases and bigotries get a slap on the wrist, are ignored, or
sometimes are even praised. Why on earth would you expect me to be in
favor of a system that works against my interests? Everyone else
nakedly agitates for their group interest and identity.

When wingnuts open their mouths I automatically assume they’re being disingenuous, because they always are being disingenuous. But when it comes to talking about their status as victims they are 100% sincere: they really do believe they are put-upon, second-class citizens. Certainly, they have to concoct insane lies to make the case for their victimhood, but the lies are forgiven because they’re in support of their hurt feelings. 

 It would be more accurate to say that white men don’t like a world where
everything they do or say is stripped of context 

Couple points here: 1.) In what context would Sterling’s or Bundy’s comments be acceptable? 2.) How were the comments stripped of context?  You can find Bundy’s long-form freak flag by simply watching television.

hunted down,
comedically exaggerated, and harshly punished

This is just a flat-out lazy lie: the comments were not exaggerated–you can find them verbatim just about anywhere. Sterling was harshly punished (and will have mere millions of dollars to comfort himself with) and Bundy rebuffed law enforcement and was lauded by mouthbreathers across the country. When does Bundy’s punishment begin? No, really. I want to know so I can have my popcorn ready.

 and everyone else’s
personal biases and bigotries get a slap on the wrist, are ignored, or
sometimes are even praised

Which bigotries are these? I’m sure a list is forthcoming!

Why on earth would you expect me to be in
favor of a system that works against my interests?

Translation: Why on earth would you expect me to be in favor of a system that does not preserve my privilege in any and all situations?

Everyone else
nakedly agitates for their group interest and identity.

Another dirty lie. When I agitate I am always fully clothed. In fact I wear a Che Guevara t-shirt on top of a “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt on top of a “Hope and Change” t-shirt.


Put the People First in Tennessee

[ 18 ] April 30, 2014 |

Building off North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement, this the kind of community organizing/coalition building/attention raising that those who care about labor in red states need to engage in to bring some attention to the extreme difficulties of the working class in these states.

Note of disclaimer–United Campus Workers (CWA Local 3865)–prominent in this piece–is the union I helped to get started back about 15 years ago now.

Republicans See Poor People, Think They Are Too Rich

[ 230 ] April 30, 2014 |

In case you needed a reminder that the Republicans are engaged in open warfare with the poor, Republican senators filibustered the minimum wage bill today.

Wal-Mart Worker Safety

[ 53 ] April 30, 2014 |

Wal-Mart’s labor practices are really great for workers who want to get hurt on the job.

Workers at an Indiana Wal-Mart warehouse allege they were subjected to safety risks including falling freight, forklifts on fire, and frostbite – and then illegally fired for organizing in response.

“They never want you to stop working,” said fired worker David Fields. “They want you to keep working – and no matter how unsafe it is, they want you to just keep going.” Fields, who asserts he was fired this month for organizing co-workers to take on safety issues at Walmart Consolidation Center #7100, joined co-workers in filing National Labor Relations Board charges alleging illegal retaliation. He told Salon that a temp agency manager terminated him April 2, the same day

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workers planned to deliver a petition with 100-some signatures protesting unsafe conditions. “Seeing we were all on the same page,” charged Fields, “they got threatened, and this is why they got rid of me.” He added that management had been intentionally “secretive” about ejecting him: “They took me out the side door, and they basically fired me on lunch.”

Wal-Mart, the only company whose goods move through the Hammond, Indiana, consolidation center, has contracted Linc Logistics (a subsidiary of Universal Truckload Services) to run the facility; Linc has brought in temp agencies Malace HR and Swift Staffing. Wal-Mart, UTS, Malace and Swift did not respond to Salon’s requests for comment on the allegations. Linc “has said the disciplinary actions were unrelated to the protests in January,” according to The Times of Northwest Indiana.

While Wal-Mart doesn’t directly employ any of the facility’s workers, Fields told Salon, “Everything that Linc would tell us in the pre-shift meeting, they basically said, ‘Oh, this is Wal-Mart’s policy.’” He said that included a “policy of loading the freight high and tight,” even though “it’s unstable – it’s basically putting everybody at risk of being crushed by these falling boxes. They are quite aware of what’s happening, but they really just don’t care.”

Fields told Salon he was also repeatedly required to drive forklifts despite conditions made unsafe by accumulated rain or snow on the docks. “I mean, you can’t stop or anything like that…” he said. “It was a terrible feeling.” In addition, he charged, “the hydraulics system didn’t work properly”; “a lot of people were frostbitten”; and “there’s no fire alarms.” Workers at Walmart Consolidation Center #7100 also alleged this month that forklifts have had faulty brakes, and caught on fire.

Note as well that this is technically a contractor of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart controls everything about it except that it is shielded from responsibility for the conditions of labor. The workers are driven by Wal-Mart directives and the costs are determined by Wal-Mart, but the workers aren’t Wal-Mart employees. This is the same immoral system that helped create the Bangladeshi factory collapse a year ago. This system of contracting to avoid labor responsibility needs to end–the ultimate receiver of goods needs to be legally responsible for all labor issues at their contractors. There is no good reason at all that Wal-Mart or any other company should be able to shield themselves from liability for its labor, whether in Indiana or Bangladesh.


[ 81 ] April 30, 2014 |

Another good one to put in the files explaining why Scalia is America’s most overrated judge:

Justice Scalia’s dissent is a bit peculiar. It begins, as Ann noted, with a concern about unelected agency officials making policy rather than Congress. Since Scalia is a big fan of executive power, that seems a little odd coming from him. In addition, as he surely must know, the White House is very much involved in regulations of this importance, so the transport rule wasn’t exactly under the control of unelected agency workers.

Scalia’s dissent also contains a hugely embarrassing mistake. He refers to the Court’s earlier decision in American Trucking as involving an effort by EPA to smuggle cost considerations into the statute. But that’s exactly backwards: it was industry that argued for cost considerations and EPA that resisted. This gaffe is doubly embarrassing because Scalia wrote the opinion in the case, so he should surely remember which side won! Either some law clerk made the mistake and Scalia failed to read his own dissent carefully enough, or he simply forgot the basics of the earlier case and his clerks failed to correct him. Either way, it’s a cringeworthy blunder.”

Scalia may want to spend a little less time listening to Glenn Beck and a little more time editing the work of his Federalist Society gremlins.

Central College in Iowa allows accused rapist to choose his punishment: Immediate expulsion, or not being able to walk at graduation

[ 113 ] April 30, 2014 |

Care to guess which option he chose?

Clearly, this august institution has its priorities in order:

The five-person Sexual Misconduct Hearing Committee conducted an 11-hour-long hearing in which both the alleged rapist and his victim testified. The victim was instructed to answer questions from the man she was accusing of having raped her, an experience she

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found so stressful that she repeatedly vomited in the bathroom.

I can’t even imagine the mindset of an administrator who would think this was a good idea — never mind, I take that back. It belongs to someone who would rather not report rape to the actual police, as “reported rapes” don’t exactly make his institution look as shiny as he believes it to be.

A Loss For the Vote Fraud Fraud

[ 87 ] April 30, 2014 |

Excellent news:

In a major victory for voting rights, Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been struck down by a federal court, which found that it illegally discriminates against racial minorities.

It’s the first time any federal court has struck down a voter ID law without relying on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which was neutered by the Supreme Court last year. As such, it offers hope that even a weakened VRA can in some cases be used to stop the recent wave of Republican-led voting restrictions.

In a ruling released Tuesday afternoon, District Court Judge Lynn Adelman found that the law, passed in 2011, violates both the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. He issued an injunction barring the state from enforcing the law.


But this one could have even bigger implications if it stands. Never before has Section 2 of the VRA, which bars racial discrimination in voting, been used to strike down a voter ID law. Similar challenges, filed by the U.S. Justice Department, are currently pending against Texas’s voter ID law and North Carolina’s sweeping voting law, which includes a voter ID component.

The ruling decisively rejects the logic of voter ID laws. “Virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin,” Adelman writes, “and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a

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problem in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future.

Since, like all Voter ID laws, the Wisconsin law is a discriminatory means of addressing a non-existent problem, in a rational universe this would be an easy case. How 7CA will view it is another question.

Upholding the EPA’s Authority

[ 68 ] April 29, 2014 |

Rare but very welcome good news from the Supreme Court today:

In a major victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the smog from coal plants that drifts across state lines from 28 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast.

The 6-to-2 ruling bolsters the centerpiece of President Obama’s environmental agenda: a series of new regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants. Republicans and the coal industry have criticized the regulations, which use the Clean Air Act as their legal authority, as a “war on coal.” The industry has waged an aggressive legal battle to undo the rules.

Legal experts said the decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, signals that the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming could withstand legal challenges.

In June, the E.P.A. is expected to propose a sweeping new Clean Air Act regulation to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that scientists say is the chief cause of climate change. Coal plants are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

“It’s a big win for the E.P.A., and not just because it has to do with this rule,” said Jody Freeman, director of the environmental law program at Harvard. “It’s the fact that it’s setting the stage and creating momentum for what’s to come.”

If the Supreme Court had decided against the Obama administration in Tuesday’s decision, Ms. Freeman said, “it would have been a shot across the bow to the E.P.A. as it takes the next steps” toward putting out the climate change regulations.

This result obviously does not guarantee that the Court will properly defer to the EPA’s regulatory authority in future cases, but it’s both a major victory in itself and a good sign. For the foreseeable future, action against climate change is going to have to come from regulation authorized by the Clean Air Act.

I note as well that (see also the ad hoc constitutional arguments advanced against the ACA) support for free-riding seems to be becoming a core Republican principle:

The utilities and 15 states opposed to the regulations argued that the rules, as written by the Obama administration, gave the E.P.A. too much authority and placed an unfair economic burden on the polluting states.

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