Wednesday, June 27, 2018

SCOTUS overrules mandatory dues from public sector unions on First Amendment grounds

The Supreme Court has ruled against a law in Illinois that requires public sector workers to pay a "fair share fee" into a union, link.

There are indications that the reasoning is that public sector employees were being forced to support political speech beyond what is just part of collective bargaining.
NBCNews already has a more detailed story here

The case is  Janus v American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME, slip opinion here

Update: July 27

Teachers in Minnesota and other Midwest states are getting rude telemarketing calls encouraging them to drop out of unions, "My Pay, My Say", story

The Economist has an article July 21, "The god of beginnings and endings" (p. 19), "How Janus, the Supreme Court's ruling on union dues, could change American life", link (paywall).  There is explanation of the idea of "agency fee", to support non-political work of the union. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Trump's call to deport illegal entrants without due process sounds unconstitutional

Donald Trump has unleashed a few provocative tweets Sunday, indicating he does not want to allow migrants who cross the US Mexico border illegally due process at all.

He called them “invaders”.  In fact, most are fleeing gang violence and disorder in Central American countries which have disintegrated into failed states.  The US drug war in Colombia previously may well have driven the cartels into Central America.

Of course, a “trojan horse” terrorist passage is theoretically possible, and the US must fix its seriously compromised immigration system at the southern border, as a situation that begins to resemble Europe two years ago emerges.

Immigrants who have crossed illegally do have limited due processrights to ask for (defensive) asylum

Vox explains the angry controversy in a piece by Ella Nilsen. 
Audrey Macklin explains in the Washington Post how Canada’s responds, within International law but with some controversy itself, to passage into a third country, here. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Supreme Court ruling on sales taxes could complicate things for small retailers

The Supreme Court ruled today that states can compel online retailers to pay sales taxes on purchases from states in which they don’t have a physical presence. 

The case is South Dakota v. Wayfair.  

This reverses its own 1992 ruling.  Wayfair is a home-goods retailer located in Massachusetts.

The ruling could cause a problem for book authors who sell their products online through their own websites (self-publishing companies try to push them to do that) and musicians who offer “legal” downloads for sale.

Right now, I would pay sales tax to Virginia (where I can apply for a license) on anything I sell that way.  Conceivably, if the customer was in South Dakota, I would have to pay a second tax, but there is more mechanism to do that (no sales tax license with the consumer's state).
States generally set up reciprocity agreements on who gets the tax (like commuter taxes among NY-NJ-CT and MD-VA-DC).  A company would need to set up a service to properly process the payments and send (through secured transactions) the taxes to the right states, and to keep track of individual sales tax licenses with each state.  That doesn’t exist yet. Paypal might be the best company to do this. 

Update: June 24

While the development of such a system sounds necessary and welcome, it could pose "risks" to some small businesses.  Such a system could be used to check up on home-based businesses operating illegally according to local zoning or even condo rules, or could be useful in surveillance for possible other illegal activities (like trafficking).  

Update: July 29

FEE has an article by John Tmany that presents Internet sales taxes, when leveled by the consumer's location, as comparable to tariffs. Of course, if they are split by reciprocity that is less so. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tipped workers are not your proles; Initiative 77 passes in DC

 Alexia Campbell explains the controversy over restaurants and bars paying servers full minimum wage for tipped workers, here.
But DC voters approved Initiative 77 today, 55% for, here.

Businesses have to make up the difference to bring workers up to minimum wage, which often comes up shorthanded.

But in states and cities with a mandatory minimum wage, restaurants and bars to have to charge consumers higher prices.  You really wonder about excessive concession prices in theaters and especially stadiums.
In Washington, as I recall, Town DC has joined in the opposition to the bill, which I hope means it really intends to reopen as soon as possible, as it closes July 1 because the landlord would not renew a lease.

Update: June 24 

Ryan Young of Competitive Enterprises Institute has this perspective on letting restaurants and servers decide what is best for them, here

Monday, June 18, 2018

Family separation at the border and the Flores Consent Decree

I wanted to point out a detailed article in National Review on the family separation issue at the border, by Rich Lowry, link
The article discusses the Flores Consent Decree of 1997, which limits the time children can be heard.  Oddly, I haven’t heard this mentioned on mainstream media yet.

Lowry seems to suggest an affirmative asylum process, which sounds questionable when looking at other sources (like the Asylumist site).

There has been a tremendous shift from individual migrants to families seeking refuge from drug cartel violence, but Sessions’s recent change in rules for asylum seek to limit the asylum option.

The GOP immigration bill would not end family separation, according to an NBC/MSNBC story here

Trump appears to want to use both children and DACA young adults as bargaining chips to please his base in building the wall.
I did make a quick visit to the border town of Pharr, TX (near McAllen) on my trip to Texas in late May, early June.

Here's some more analysis on the Flores litigation, from Human Rights First. . 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"Die In" for gun violence turns into a small event about voting rights (at Capitol)

After attending the Washington Capitals Stanley Cup parade on Constitution Avenue Tuesday, I went over to the west lawn of the Capitol and caught the end of the “National Die In Day”, followed by a speech (Eleanor) asking everyone to vote in November.

There were placards supporting the 2nd Amendment, and even one saying that gay people in places like Pulse should be able to defend themselves (“Pink Pistols”). Indeed, I know of someone, a grad student in Texas, quite proud of his concealed carry permit.  But that’s Texas (where I was recently).

I met a young man named Sam (himself white and well educated) who was quite into the activism of getting minorities registered to vote, probably extending David Hogg’s ideas (I didn’t see David there; maybe he was in NYC’s event). He was quite passionate about the ruling from the Supreme Court Monday purging inactive voters in Ohio – the centrist USA Today story here

The case was Husted v. Philip Randolph Institute, slip opinion 

Friday, June 08, 2018

Trump props up coal, nuclear at the expense of consumers; viewed by some as "socialist" as well as protectionistic

The Washington Post is now calling president Donald Trump a “socialist” after he ordered energy secretary Rick Perry to “prop up” nuclear and coal-fired plants, which would cost consumers more in order to subsidize coal jobs in his narrow base.  The editorial link from Thursday is here
The Post says this measure is justifiable only in a real national emergency (which could have happened with North Korea).  It also maintains that conventional nuclear power is defendable but not coal.

On Monday, I actually spotted the Commanche Peak nuclear plant near Glen Rose, TX while on a trip, from a distance;  could not get my own picture.  But I had visited the plant on a Sierra Club trip in 1982, when we also visited a private wildlife refuge (Fossil Rim) there.

Flying back from Dallas Tuesday, I spotted many mountaintop removal mines from the air in southern West Virginia, possibly the Kayford mine. Strip mines do not employ as many workers as underground mines.

Trump had already canceled Obama-era regulations on coal.  Luke Andraka (Jack’s brother) had done a major science fair project on mine waste before going to Virginia Tech, which is overshadowed only by his brother’s fame (at Stanford). 

Commanche Peak picture from Wikipedia CCSA 4.0:
By Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Swatting can be deadly (David Hogg's family home was involved in an incident)

This incident of “swatting” David Hogg’s family wasn’t funny.  An op-ed (Matthew Fleischer)   from the Los Angeles Times explains why it could be perceived as attempted murder.
I wasn’t aware that the police would have burst the door down.  No one was home at the time.

The kooks on the far alt-right really act scared of this teen, as if he were an alien who could conquer the world .  There is the site “Hoggwatch . (Mark Zuckerberg has been called an “alien” giving us a “close encounter of the fourth kind”.)  I hav to admit, it’s all too easy to envision Hogg playing himself in a Marvel superhero movie, and piling up the box office numbers.  It is all too easy for the talented and quick-witted to get rich on disasters.  But that’s just capitalism, which has benefited me tremendously, without being that quick.

Picture above: downtown Miami, my trip, late 2011 

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Boehner: "There is no Republican party"

John Boehner (who caused so much ruckus during the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, as “The Cigarette Smoking Man”, even from X-Files): “There is no Republican party.”

Trump has engineered a hostile takeover of the Republican Party.

Trump has walked away from the traditional values of trade and the deficit, and is the most unusual president ever.  They are more in sync in law enforcement and fighting terror.  But even the mainstream GOP would be more nuanced on immigration and DACA.