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The New Religious Exception: Unionization

[ 239 ] July 16, 2014 |

….Sorry for not including the link, I wrote this before a long and horrible day of travel and so just saw I forgot it now. Here is the original link, for what it’s worth 20 hours later.

Among the many potential impacts of the Hobby Lobby decision is for employers to claim unionization of their workforce violates their religious beliefs. This is already percolating through the court system, most famously at Duquense University, when that Catholic institution of higher education used this argument (because all know the Pope hates unions or something).

By declaring that “closely held” corporations may hold religious beliefs, the court may have provided businesses with a new tool for crushing workplace unionization drives. In addition to declaring themselves exempt from contraception mandates and non-discrimination laws, religious employers may soon be able to argue for an exemption from collective bargaining laws.

“All you need is one employer saying, ‘My religious beliefs tell me I shouldn’t collectively bargain,’” said Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. If an employer takes the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to court and uses that argument, it could set the table for a major court battle over the future of union rights in nominally religious workplaces.

Religious primary and secondary schools are already exempt from collective bargaining rules, thanks to the 1979 Supreme Court case NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that the NLRB does not have jurisdiction over schools “operated by a church to teach both religious and secular subjects.” As a result, schools operated by the Catholic Bishop of Chicago were under no obligation to recognize employee unions, no matter the circumstances. Putting religious schools under the jurisdiction of the NLRB, the court reasoned, would present “a significant risk of infringement of Religion Clauses of the First Amendment.”

Other religious schools have seized on the decision over the years. Most recently, Perelman Jewish Day School in Philadelphia decided to stop recognizing its teachers’ union, citing NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago as legal justification. A March 28 article from the labor-friendly magazine In These Times suggested that the school’s actions may have earned it the title “the Hobby Lobby of Union-Busting.” But the Perelman case may wind up being less important than another legal fight brewing elsewhere in Pennsylvania. In 2012, adjunct professors at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University requested the right to hold a union election, only to have the school claim a religious exemption. The crucial difference in this case is that Duquesne is a university, not a religious day school like Perelman or the Chicago Catholic schools.

The implication of Alito’s opinion in Hobby Lobby, if fully implemented, opens the door to employers using religious exemptions to avoid every law they don’t like, which I have no reason to believe reasonable moderate Sam Alito would oppose.

“A thickly pustulating chancre on the craft of journalism”

[ 50 ] July 15, 2014 |

Pierce on Tiger Beat on the Potomac.


[ 53 ] July 15, 2014 |

The following is a transcript of a short exchange I had with my son. It’s remarkable not just because it’s funny but because I think you could graft it on to the relationship Obama has with the Republican congress and it would still work perfectly.

Son (trying to sleep next to me): Mommy, quit making that noise!

Me: What noise? You mean my breathing?

Son: Yeah.

“The story is a convergence of helicopter parenting with America’s primitive family policy.”

[ 323 ] July 15, 2014 |

This is…amazing in a horrible way:

Debra Harrell is currently in jail because she let her 9-year-old daughter play, unsupervised, in a public park. Almost everything about this story (which I noticed courtesy of Lenore Skenazy) is horrifying. Harrell works at McDonald’s. Her daughter used to tag along and stare at a screen at her mother’s workplace during the day. She asked to go to the park instead, was discovered to be without an adult, and her mother was arrested.

If I had grown up in South Carolina (and there was any chance these laws would be applied to white people), I think my parents would be doing life without parole. The idea that there are no circumstances under which a 9-year-old can be in public without supervision is bizarre. And the asusmption that 9-year-olds need constant supervision certainly isn’t reflected by American social policy (and that goes triple for deep red statehouses.)

And as Friedersdorf says, even if you assume that the child was in actual peril there’s no way that the trauma of being separated from her (arrested and now presumably unemployed) mother isn’t a net negative to the welfare of the child.

In his defense, I don’t think he understood it was an insult

[ 143 ] July 15, 2014 |

SEK takes his car to TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN in order to make sure it won’t explode and kill him when he makes a road trip next week.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: You just put a new battery in it?

SEK: That I did.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: Means your electrical is reset, our computer can’t do a lot of the tests.

SEK: So long as its fluids are replenished and it doesn’t have murder in its heart, I’m fine.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: So when do you need it by?

SEK: I have a meeting at 2 p.m.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: I don’t think I can have it done by 1:30.

SEK: No a problem, I work online. Just need to be back home and I live around the corner.


SEK: I write online.


SEK: As long as they pay me to.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: I thought that was computers did that.

SEK: ?

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: They don’t have that shit programmed out yet? Our computer tells us what happened with a car, figure it was the same with what the President said and shit.

SEK: I don’t think they have a computer that can do that.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: Couldn’t be worse than what they’ve got.

Iron Dome?

[ 242 ] July 15, 2014 |

The idea behind Iron Dome is that Israel can (with US assistance) spend several hundred million dollars to develop and purchase a set of batteries that can launch interceptor missiles that cost at least $20000 a pop to shoot down unguided rockets that cost several hundred dollars each.

If this works exactly as expected, and shoots down 80-90% of incoming rockets, it provides a strong incentive for Hamas and Hezbollah to launch rockets into Israel (even a miss is a hit at those prices!). If, as Ted Postol and others suggest, the hit rate is much lower, Iron Dome provides even more of an incentive for Hamas to launch rockets.

But hey, at least the protection that Iron Dome provides means that Israel doesn’t need to blast the bejeezus out of Gaza every two years, amirite?

The West’s Disappearing Water

[ 68 ] July 15, 2014 |

In the last 50 years, there’s been a lot of sadness in the environmental community over the destruction caused by many western dams. Glen Canyon is the most famous case, but a lot of beautiful land was erased by the West’s insane dam building mania of the mid-twentieth century. There’s long been calls to tear some of these dams down, but with rare exceptions such as along the Elwha River in Washington, doing so is politically impossible. But hey, long-term drought means that the land is coming back above the water line without tearing down the dams. Of course, this comes at a terrible ecological cost and threatens not only the future of the Southwest but the agricultural production we rely upon to eat lettuce in January.

Although I’m sure importing non-native insects will solve all our problems.

The Republican War on the ACA Never Ends

[ 109 ] July 15, 2014 |

The Republican Party will never rest until it has stripped tens of millions of people of their health coverage, but at least their latest dumb lawsuit will fall into the symbolic rather than the substantive realm of opposition.

I wonder if Boehner’s stunt will even serve its central purpose, appeasing the Tea Party’s perpetual skree machine. For example, Andrew McCarthy’s new treatise P.S. I AM NOT A CRACKPOT* proposes seven articles of impeachment, “each of which has several subparts.” If the suit is ultimately limited to one narrow issue that will be moot before the suit goes anywhere, it’s hard to imagine this brigade being satisfied.

*The man who caused Pauline Kael to flee film reviewing in horror is impressed: “The Left has the late Saul Alinsky as a model. We have a rejoinder — Andrew McCarthy.” Palajams Media, at the intersection of crank and cliche.

Suing Corporations: Now Almost Impossible

[ 112 ] July 15, 2014 |

As Lina Khan details in this long essay, Over the past thirty years, courts have made citizens suing corporations almost impossible. This is a severe blow to democracy. In the absence of an activist government that holds corporations accountable, citizens using the courts have been central to reform efforts for more than a century. For example, it was workers suing corporations in the 1890s and 1900s that convinced states to develop workers’ compensation laws in the 1910s. Today, as the New Gilded Age develops, this fundamental right of Americans has become largely null and void, thus giving corporations almost unlimited power over everyday people because they face no meaningful penalties when they break the law. The theme of “tort reform,” which actually means “the right of corporations to act with impunity,” has won the day and has made our lives worse.

A comment on legal scholarship

[ 100 ] July 15, 2014 |

Class Bias in Higher Education, a blog authored by Univ. of Florida law professor Jeffrey Harrison, is well worth reading. A recent post regarding the costs and benefits of legal academic publishing reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about this edifying little incident:

A few months ago, a law student forwarded me a copy of a “law review article” submitted by Prof. X to Journal Y. The outgoing editorial staff of Y (a secondary journal at a semi-elite law school, run, as almost all law reviews in the US are, by law students) had accepted X’s article in the spring of 2012, for publication the following fall. My correspondent was part of the incoming staff, and he had been handed the task of editing and cite-checking X’s article. He discovered that, besides being poorly written, the article’s cited sources often failed to say what X’s article claimed they said.

In the world of law review publication, a poorly written article full of inaccurate citations constitutes a dog bites man story, but upon further review a bigger problem was discovered: X’s “article” was completely self-plagiarized. X had simply copy and pasted large sections of two of X’s previous publications, and tacked them together into a “new” 7600-word article. The only original material in the text was a single short transitional paragraph, designed to link together the C&P material.

The journal’s editors pointed out to X that X had signed a disclosure form averring that the material submitted to the journal had not been published previously, and then informed X that the journal would not be publishing the article (this all took place very late in the publication process). X was quite indignant about this, claiming that the cutting and pasting had created an original work. The journal’s faculty adviser was consulted, and after some back and forth the article was withdrawn, and nothing further came of the incident. (X’s institution was never informed about any of this).

I asked my correspondent to forward me X’s article. It was indeed word-for-word self-plagiarism, save for a couple of date and tense changes, and the 200-word transitional paragraph. Incidentally, besides being made up exclusively of already-published material, the “article” itself was something worse than worthless: a painfully amateurish and very poorly written diatribe about a couple of SCOTUS opinions, that would in all seriousness merit a C+ as a law student seminar paper, assuming our current generous standards of grade inflation. (X, btw, is a tenured full professor at a mid-tier law school).

My favorite detail of this story is that more than a year after the article was pulled, Prof. X was still listing it as a “featured publication” on X’s law school faculty web page, with a citation to the already-published volume of the journal in which the article was supposed to have appeared.

My correspondent:

The other thing to note is that our editors (including me) wasted months worth of time trying to get this in publishable form. Makes it all the more egregious that [X] would use all this free editing labor on the lark that [X] could get a third “publication” out of totally recycled ideas. [X] apparently put zero effort into this. I was publishing my own note in this same edition and editing [X] at the same time, so I spent many nights in the library past midnight working on both, and being held up by having to reread every source [X] quoted, since each source was prone to being misrepresented in [X's] own article.

. . . see also James Powell’s comment in the Zizek! plagiarism thread infra:

A lot of people are required to write things in order to get or keep their phony baloney jobs. But writing well is very hard and very time consuming.

Restaurant Income Inequality

[ 59 ] July 15, 2014 |

Like those takers serving you at Red Lobster deserve to even make this much:

Last year, according to a new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the CEOs of America’s top 25 restaurant corporations, including McDonald’s, Burger King, the Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle, and Jack in the Box, took home an average of 721 times the money minimum-wage workers did, and 194 times the take-home pay of the typical American worker in a production or nonsupervisory job. Restaurants and food services employ nearly half of all American workers who earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour (or less).

The report “confirms what we have long known,” Cherri Delesline, a McDonald’s crew member and mother of four in Charleston, South Carolina, told Mother Jones. Since November 2012, she and hundreds of other fast-food workers have gone on strike in 150 American cities and 80 foreign cities, demanding they be paid $15 per hour. “While CEOs make millions of dollars in profits, we still can’t afford to pay our rent or buy clothes for our children,” says Delesline, whose hourly pay is $7.35.

On Zizek and Plagiarism

[ 105 ] July 15, 2014 |

I concur with Michelle Dean:

And two: as a description of the intellectual process, this makes Žižek sound supremely lazy. Copying a summary is indeed a different thing than straight up stealing an idea, particularly if you’re cutting and pasting to criticize. But it still means Žižek was less than personally familiar with the book he’s holding up as a signature example of an evil trend. He’s not exactly setting a shining example of academic rigor, there.

All of these plagiarism panics, of late, share that laziness storyline. Is it just that hitting the top will do you in, make you a target for haters who will comb your work for harmless error? Is it the relentless demand to produce that comes with success that trips people up? Or is it that meritocracy is a total lie and lots of terrible, sloppy work can be so elevated by everyone’s genuflection to intellectual status that it takes years to discover it was constructed with all the finesse of your average Reddit hack?

I’ve been defaulting to that last explanation, myself.

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