Unions are bad by definition

Let’s see what’s going on with unions:

Federal authorities investigating union tactics in Greater Boston are looking into whether a member of Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration warned a popular music festival it could face problems if it did not hire union members, according to people familiar with the investigation.

// // …

At issue in the FBI’s investigation is whether Brissette merely alerted Boston Calling to a potential problem with organized labor, or attempted to pressure festival organizers to hire union stagehands, according to one of the people familiar with the inquiry.

The inquiry highlights a longstanding debate about where the line falls between forceful advocacy on behalf of working people and unlawful coercion — one of the central questions in what has become a broader investigation of local union tactics that reaches into City Hall.

That’s terrible. On the other hand, if a business says they’ll leave the city or state or country unless they get millions of dollars in tax relief (or help with infrastructure or …) that’s just the way the world is. Obviously that’s no crime.

 

We can’t pay them more

This is quite a weird story:

Uber, facing a chorus of criticism from its drivers for refusing to add a tipping function to its app, is mustering a provocative argument:

Tipping is inherently unfair because of customers’ unconscious racial biases.

The transportation network company’s stance is based in part on an academic study that found white restaurant servers earned larger tips, on average, than black servers who provided equally good service.

The popular ride-hailing service is under pressure to add a tipping option to its smartphone app after it agreed to pay up to $100 million last week to settle a class-action lawsuit by drivers who alleged unfair wage and labor practices. As part of the settlement, Uber has agreed to clarify that tips are not included in its fares — an important concession that drivers hope will prompt more passengers to add a gratuity.

It is probably true that riders might tip differently depending on race (although as drivers note, they also might tip differently depending on sex, age, and many other things), but there is something Uber could do–they could raise the rates they charge customers a bit or take a smaller share themselves, leaving more to the drivers. Obviously, Uber doesn’t want to do either of these things, but there’s no reason a reporter shouldn’t mention these options.

The article does note:

Drivers also pointed out that customer bias could affect their ratings in Uber’s zero-to- five-star ranking system, which the company uses to identify, retrain, and sometimes even “deactivate” poor drivers.

Which would make the ratings system inherently unfair, so I assume Uber will get rid of it.

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How about legislators that pass unconstitutional bills

Hey, let’s look Oklahoma’s way:

Under a bill passed by the legislature this week, doctors who perform abortions — defined in the measure as “unprofessional conduct” — would be barred from obtaining or renewing their medical licenses. The bill, now on the governor’s desk, would not apply to abortions performed to save a mother’s life, although the bill lacks similar exceptions for abortions performed in cases of rape or incest.

So, the bill would disbar doctor’s for performing a legal operation with the patient’s consent. That doesn’t sound constitutional

He took issue with the suggestion that the effort should have been tabled because it could result in a prolonged legal battle.

“Do we make laws because they’re moral and right, or do we make them based on what an unelected judicial occupant might question or want to overturn? The last time I looked, that’s why I thought we had a separation of power,” he said.

If you pass a bill that is clearly unconstitutional then you’re a bad lawmaker and really shouldn’t be allowed to continue.

RIP Prince

Prince died yesterday, so in tribute here’s Let’s go Crazy:

If that version goes down, here’s a live version:

It’s only the law

I’m always annoyed at the reporting on the Green Line Extension, such as:

After officials revealed last year that the total cost of the long-awaited project could be $1 billion more than previously estimated, the new board overseeing the MBTA said it would choose to proceed with the extension only if costs dramatically dropped. State officials will decide on May 9 whether to go forward with the project, which has already won approval for nearly $1 billion in federal funds and was originally projected to cost about $2 billion.

The thing is, the state entered into a legally binding agreement to build the Green Line Extension back in 1990 (think about that, it’s 26 years later and the project hasn’t even started). So, when the state says they might decide to cancel the project, they’re really saying they might break a legally binding agreement. You get the same thing at the official site:

On December 14, 2015, at a joint meeting, the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board and the Board of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation jointly and unanimously adopted a resolution that laid out the Boards’ position on additional funding for the Green Line Extension project. The resolution incorporated key lessons learned from a recent ‘look-back’ analysis. In their resolution, the Boards recognized that, “the Green Line Extension is a long-standing commitment under the state’s Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan which has many transportation, economic development and environmental benefits not only for Cambridge, Somerville and Medford but for the greater Boston region and economy.” But, the resolution finds, “the Green Line Extension as procured and designed is not affordable or cost-effective for the MBTA given its other needs; and the existing Construction Manager/General Contractor contract documents do not provide sufficient cost reliability or risk allocation for the MBTA.”

The resolution states that “until a cost-effective, affordable version of the project has been redesigned and re-procured, cancelling the project and investing the unspent Commonwealth share of the project funding on the core MBTA system will remain an option for both Boards.”

It isn’t a “long-standing” commitment, it’s a legal commitment. Every time one of these state officials says the project might not go forward, they should be asked how this is possible given that it’s a legal commitment. Do they think it’s optional to obey the law?

John Kerry is on the wrong side

Let’s look at how things are going in Yemen and Bahrain:

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of gulf countries conducting airstrikes against the Iranian-backed Houthis. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, whose country chairs the GCC, said relations with Iran will be chilly until the country ends its interventionist policies.

“We stressed that if Iran wants to have normal relations with the GCC states, it has to change its policies and abide by the good-neighborhood principle,” he said.

Wait, Saudi Arabia is directly involved in Yemen but it’s Iran who needs to end its interventionist policies?  Has Iran done this?

A Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite rebels and their allies in Yemen used U.S.-supplied bombs in an airstrike last month on a market that killed at least 119 people, a human rights group said Thursday, further highlighting American involvement in the conflict.

The March 15 bombing targeting the northwestern town of Mastaba marked the second-deadliest airstrike of the year-long Saudi-helmed campaign — and the results were horrific. Survivors said the outdoor market, next to a shantytown inhabited largely by people who fled there from other battle zones, was obliterated by double strikes that came about 10 minutes apart, with mangled bodies thrown hundreds of yards away.

And has Iran allowed this?

Al-Qaeda has made major financial gains as a result of the war in Yemen, running its own mini-state and pocketing $100 million in looted bank deposits and revenue from running the country’s largest port, a Reuters investigation has revealed.

The group’s deep pockets and increased power are down to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, which has reportedly helped it become stronger than at any time since its emergence almost 20 years ago.

Iran has been sending weapons to Yemen, but given the above this statement by John Kerry sounds more than a little hypocritical:

“If Iran is going to give meaning to the words in the last few days about wanting to work with people, it is by getting engaged in making peace in Yemen, not adding more weapons and fueling the conflict,” Kerry said.

And he’s worse when talking about Bahrain:

Referring to Bahrain earlier in the day, Kerry criticized the Bahraini opposition, saying its boycott of a 2014 election had a “polarizing” effect.

Kerry, appearing with Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, praised reforms Bahrain has made to open its political system but said more steps were needed to counter violent extremism. He suggested that the opposition had played a role in preventing more reforms.

“Regrettably, I think a great mistake was made when the opposition chose to boycott an election,” said Kerry, the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Bahrain since a government crackdown that followed protests in 2011 by Bahrain’s majority Shiite Muslims. “I think that polarizes things rather than helps them.”

Standing beside the foreign minister, Kerry hailed Bahrain as a “critical security partner” of the United States and said security was the foundation of the relationship between the countries.

“At the end, our relation with Bahrain is built on common interests that we share, and one of those interests is joint efforts to combat violent extremism,” Kerry said. “We believe that broadening rights and opportunities, bringing people together in the political process, is one of the ways to counter it.”

Let’s look at the Freedom House’s ratings for Bahrain:

Bahrain’s political rights rating declined from 6 to 7 due to grave flaws in the 2014 legislative elections and the government’s unwillingness to address long-standing grievances among the majority Shiite community about the drawing of electoral districts and the possibility of fair representation.

Their conclusion: Not Free.

But Freedom House breaks things down further (the scores are out of 100 where 0 is the best, 100 the worst):

If you look at the aggregate score of Bahrain, you find they have a score of 14 (in this case, higher is better)–only 16 regions have worse scores (out of 211 entries; they are 12th worst when you only count countries–the rankings include places like Tibet and Crimea which are disputed regions in a country).

So, Bahrain is a pretty bad country that John Kerry should not be praising. Oh, and Saudi Arabia is even worse (the 10th worst country; Iran is slightly better at 20th worst).

Threats for terrorism way up

The number of threats of terrorism for one thing was up a lot in 2015 but you probably won’t hear much about it, because it’s about abortion:

According to the federation, death threats targeting abortion providers increased from one in 2014 to 94 in 2015, while incidents of vandalism at clinics rose from 12 to 67.

The most violent occurred in November, when a gunman opened fire at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing three people and wounding nine. The man accused in the attack, Robert Dear, has described himself as a ‘‘warrior for the babies.’’

The abortion federation — alarmed by the heightened hostility — has for the first time hired an outside security firm to track online threats. Saporta said the firm began its work in mid-November and in a six-week span identified more than 25,000 incidents of hate speech and threats.

The report is here and includes:

Additionally, the number of hoax devices or suspicious packages found in or around abortion facilities increased four-fold in 2015.

These levels are far below the 1990s when Operation Rescue was in full swing but it’s still troubling.

If you don’t think this is terrorism, go back to the report to find that since 1977 there have been: 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 42 bombings, and 185 cases of arson. All to try to get a political goal, outlawing abortion.

Oh, the amount of threats is up mainly because of videos targeting Planned Parenthood. The man who made those videos is now being investigate in a second state because of suspected criminal activity. So far, none of the investigations have found any crime committed by Planned Parenthood.

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