Wednesday, August 21, 2019

2018 SCOTUS ‘Agency Fee’ Ruling a Victory for the Rights of Working People

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus vs. AFSCME (the public sector union the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) that public employee unions may not collect dues, or “agency fees”, from employees who choose not to join the union. The ruling was narrow, restricted to free speech issues. Subscript Law reports:

Mark Janus works for the state of Illinois. He had been paying $45/month to a labor union, despite that he was not a member of the union. In fact, he is politically opposed to labor unions, and he did not want to pay.

Janus brought this suit arguing that the state cannot impose union fees on him. He said the First Amendment protects him from supporting a view he does not agree with. Money is support, and he does not want to support the union.

Analysis has been slanted. For example, Vox “reports”:

Pro-union advocates have argued that under “right-to-work” laws, nonunion members are reaping the benefits of progress that unions achieve without paying anything in return, resulting in lower membership rates and less influence, Vox’s Dylan Matthews wrote. Meanwhile, anti-union advocates argued that required agency fees violate First Amendment rights by forcing workers to support a political organization regardless of whether they support the cause. Agency fees are fees nonunion members have to pay to unions to cover the cost of collective bargaining.

Supporters of the ruling are not necessarily anti-union. I’m a private sector union member. And I don’t support so-called “right-to-work” laws. And no one can reasonably argue that unions, especially monopolistic public sector unions, are not political organizations, not just economic.

Charles Wowkanech, President of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, argued in a New Jersey Star-Ledger guest column prior to the ruling: 

At its core, this case is a direct attack on collective bargaining rights and undermines the ability of all workers to join together and negotiate with their employer for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

No, this is not a blow to collective bargaining rights. Such rights do not exist. As I argued in my Objective Standard article on the subject, there is no “‘right’ of the state to force employers to negotiate with unions,” which is what the Wagner Act does in the name of “collective bargaining rights.” In Illinois, the state with the law that Janus challenged, 

Illinois law permits public employees to unionize. If a majority of the employees in a bargaining unit vote to be represented by a union, that union is designated as the exclusive representative of all the employees, even those who do not join. Only the union may engage in collective bargaining; individual employees may not be represented by another agent or negotiate directly with their employer. Nonmembers are required to pay what is generally called an “agency fee,” i.e., a percentage of the full union dues. 

That’s from the ruling, and the emphasis is mine. So the coercion goes beyond dues-paying, and includes effectively forcing individuals into the union, even if she technically chooses not to join. The ruling eliminates the dues requirement, but still bars individuals from negotiating on her own behalf, i.e., she must abide by the union-employer contract.

Keep that in mind when you consider Wowkanech’s call for “unity” in the labor movement:

No matter the outcome of this case, working people have the power to set the course for the future. The formula is simple: When workers unite and come together in common purpose, we can achieve an economy that works for all.

Well, not working people forced into a union of “bargaining unit.”

Unity serves the common purpose only when everyone agrees voluntarily on that purpose. Unity enforced on “working people” by law is not “workers unite and come together in common purpose.” A group is made up of individuals. When some of those individuals are forced into “unity” they don’t agree with, it is not a “common purpose” that binds. It is not united we stand. It is unite and control by union elites. It is a chain gang.

Wowkanech concludes with a call “for working people to stand up for their rights.” That’s exactly what Janus did--and won. Yes, this issue is a matter of rights--the rights of employees and employers alike to voluntary contract, or not. Individual rights is the core principle of America.

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Sunday, August 18, 2019

NJ's Energy Master Plan’ not Inhumane Enough for Climate Catastrophists

New Jersey has a new 2019 Energy Master Plan. It promises to “foster economic growth” while it “mandates 80 percent reductions in carbon pollution below 2006 levels by 2050,” according to NJ SPOTLIGHT. That’s not enough for hardcore environmentalists. In a New Jersey Star-Ledger guest column, The draft of N.J.'s energy plan isn’t meeting the challenge of combating our climate emergency, John Reichman condemns the plan because it does not “include a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects until a plan is in place to regulate GHGs.” I have to admit that the “until a plan is in place to regulate GHGs” seems like a small opening for allowing some future use of fossil fuels. But that shred of a hopeful sign goes up in smoke (or GHGs) in light of the following. Regurgitating the hysterical claim that “we have 10 years to avoid climate catastrophe,” Reichman asserts

The first common sense step the state must take to address the climate crisis is to stop making the problem worse. The state’s existing goals for reducing GHGs cannot possibly be met if New Jersey permits any of the dozen, proposed fossil fuel projects to go forward.

My emphasis. These are current projects in various degrees of development which will not be there 10 years from now, when demand growth makes them vital. Will GHGs be regulated in time to satisfy the likes of John Reichman? And if there really is a climate crisis pending within 10 years, and if human flourishing were Reichman’s basic consideration, you’d think nuclear power would be prominent in Reichman’s withering critique of NJ’s plan. You’d be wrong.

Reichman represents “BlueWaveNJ’s Environmental Committee the Steering Committee of EmpowerNJ, a coalition of more than 80 environmental and community organizations.” I posted these comments, edited for clarity. The emphasis is mine:

The attack on natural gas, coupled with the failure to embrace nuclear power—the only replacement capable of producing the volume of reliable, large-scale electricity needed to power our lives—is brutally inhumane. Environmentalism places pristine—i.e., unimproved by man—nature over human well-being, so they don’t care about the human catastrophe of energy deprivation that would result from getting rid of fossils and nuclear. 

But when you see “we have 10 years to avoid climate catastrophe,” you’ve encountered a political tactic geared to panic people into granting government the totalitarian utopian powers needed to transition the entire economy to “Green”—precisely the kinds of wide, transcendent powers statists need to impose socialism. The statists’ plan is, We need to save the planet, and while we’re at, we can transition from capitalist freedom to socialism. That’s why the U.N. report contains phrases like “go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society . . . and efforts to eradicate poverty.” That’s why AOC’s Green New Deal means to “use the transition to 100 percent renewable energy as the vehicle to establish economic, racial and social justice in America." “Climate Emergency” is wrapped up in a socialist agenda. 

When a child wakes up screaming, the adult assures the child that there are no monsters in the closet--it’s only a nightmare. As to the “climate emergency”, let me be the adult: There is no climate crisis—no “10-years to avoid”—in the closet. The real monster is the socialist agenda behind the climate crisis tactic. Given the vital necessity of energy and freedom in our lives, we should fear those who would impose “a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects.” We owe our children and grandchildren more prosperity and freedom, not poverty and slavery.

To further make the case for climate catastrophism, I conclude with an excerpt from a previous post of mine:

In order to understand what this is really all about, we must take a brief look back. As thinkers such as Ayn Rand (P. 270) and Stephen Hicks (Chpt. 5) have observed, socialists faced a crisis around the middle of the 20th Century. Marxist predictions that capitalism would lead to the few getting rich at the expense of impoverishing the many turned out to be 180º wrong: The growth of industrial fortunes was accompanied by a rising general standard of living, including the emergence of a vast prosperous middle class. Meanwhile, socialist nations collapsed into widespread poverty, one after another, accompanied by brutal repressions and often genocide. Rather than acknowledge the obvious, the socialists switched gears. Under a “New Left,” they aligned with the “ecology” movement, the precursor to modern Environmentalism, opposing capitalism for creating too much prosperity for the masses, thus ruining the Earth with pollution. When capitalist nations began cleaning up the pollution--genuine pollution--while continuing the upward trajectory of general prosperity, the socialists turned to a quasi-religion--the Environmentalists’ “climate crisis”. Capitalism-hating Naomi Klein captures the modern socialist strategy. Climate change “Changes Everything,” she writes. As Reason’s Ronald Bailey summarizes:

"Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war," she asserts. Climate science, Klein claims, has given progressives "the most powerful argument against unfettered capitalism" ever. If the stresses of globalization and a massive financial crisis cannot mobilize the masses, then the prospect of catastrophic climate change must.

Canonical Marxism predicted that capitalism would collapse under the weight of its class "contradictions," in which the bourgeoisie profit from the proletariat's labor until we reach a social breaking point. In Klein's progressive update, capitalism will collapse because the pollution produced by its heedless overconsumption will build to an ecological breaking point.

[P]rogressive values and policies are "currently being vindicated, rather than refuted, by the laws of nature." [emphasis added]

Socialism is totalitarian, by design and in practice. So where does the Green New Deal come in?

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

America = the Principles of Individual Rights, not Democracy

In a letter-to-the-editor published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger on July 29, 2019, Gabriela Kaplan wrote, in part:

Be you Democrat, Independent or Republican (in alphabetical order), please come out to vote for the American dream and fulfillment of the American promise. Please remember that this country was founded on the principles of Democracy.

My italics. Since the Star-Ledger no longer publishes letters online, I posted Kaplan’s entire below. Meanwhile, I submitted the following letter on 7/29/19, which was subsequently published on August 5, 2019 under the title U.S founded on individual rights. Again the letter appears only in the print edition:

Dear editor;

A recent letter stated “this country was founded on the principles of Democracy” [‘Vote for American principles’, 7/29/19].” That's a dangerous myth. America was founded on the principles of inalienable individual rights, the purpose of which was, in large part, to shield our freedom from democracy.

The democratic process in our constitutionally limited republic should not be confused with democracy. The founding generation did not fight a risky, bloody Revolutionary War for Independence to secure the mere right to vote. Voting had been around for millennia, including in the colonies. They revolted to protect our individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness from all tyranny, not to switch subordination of our liberties from the mercy of a King to the whims of the vote. 

The “principles of Democracy” and the principles of a free society are not the same thing. As the Founders well understood, freedom is not the right to vote. Freedom is the right to live one’s life and pursue one’s chosen values regardless of the outcome of any election.


Michael A. LaFerrara
54 Lazy Brook Road
Flemington, NJ 08822
908 782 1088

The only thing I wish I included is to add “, or the voters’ elected representatives” at the end of the second paragraph. That’s implicit, but should be explicit.

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FULL TEXT of Letter to the NJ Star-Ledger, 7/29/2019

Vote for American principles

Doonesbury, by Garry Trudeau, this past Sunday, painted a very dismal picture of the president. If his premise is true, we are destined to four more years of hate, racism, anti-Semitism and just plain poor leadership. I call on all American citizens to wake up and smell the coffee.

Be you Democrat, Independent or Republican (in alphabetical order), please come out to vote for the American dream and fulfillment of the American promise. Please remember that this country was founded on the principles of Democracy.

Let’s deliver the ultimate impeachment process; let’s not re-elect the current leader.

Gabriela Kaplan Elizabeth

Monday, August 12, 2019

QUORA *: ‘Do you know what Ayn Rand's take is on pollution?’

Here is my answer:

To my knowledge, Rand didn’t spend much time specifically on the issue of pollution. But given that her political philosophy is grounded in the principle of individual rights, it logically follows that she would believe that anti-pollution laws have their place in a free, industrial society.

And she did have a few things to say explicitly on pollution and the government’s role:

As far as the issue of actual pollution is concerned, it is primarily a scientific, not a political, problem. In regard to the political principle involved: if a man creates a physical danger or harm to others, which extends beyond the line of his own property, such as unsanitary conditions or even loud noise, and if this is proved, the law can and does hold him responsible. 

Rand also had a balanced view of pollution vs. the benefits of industrial activity, which I think is consistent with the views of most Americans:

City smog and filthy rivers are not good for men (though they are not the kind of danger that the ecological panic-mongers proclaim them to be). This is a scientific, technological problem—not a political one—and it can be solved only by technology. Even if smog were a risk to human life, we must remember that life in nature, without technology, is wholesale death.

These quotes are taken from the sections Pollution and Ecology/Environmental Movement of the Ayn Rand Lexicon.

Some half a century ago, at the dawn of the Environmentalist movement (then labeled “ecology”), Rand predicted that Americans would clean up the air and rivers and so on, but would never do so at the expense of their standard of living, as the “back-to-nature” crowd demanded. Since then, great strides have been made against industrial pollution, even as Americans’ living standards continued to increase. Although the ideological Environmentalists continue their anti-industrial campaign (with some success), Rand’s “take” on pollution has largely become the mainstream, in my view.

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* [Quora is a social media website founded by two former Facebook employees. According to Wikipedia:

Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010.[3]Quora aggregates questions and answers to topics. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users' answers.[4]

You can also reply to other users’ answers.]

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Food Liberation of NJ’s Funeral Homes

Did you know that “New Jersey is one of the few states in the country where [it’s] still illegal” to serve food and drink at funerals? I just found out because of a bill to lift the ban, which passed the state Senate 35-1 and the state Assembly 64-6, with only Governor Phil Murphy’s signature left to pass it. 

Who’d be against that? A few people. For example, 40-year funeral business veteran Art Hackett, that’s who. In a 7/28/2019 letter published in the NJ Star-Ledger, Hacket complained that “A funeral home is supposed to be a dignified setting where people can gather to respectively mourn and pay their respects to a beloved family member or friend,” not a place where you could find a person “sitting a few seats from the casket . . . munching on a sandwich or say, a slice of pizza.”

Seriously. Has Hackett ever actually been to a funeral home? He says it’s his business. Services are more often infused with a social atmosphere, with people chatting and catching up with acquaintances they haven’t seen in a long while. Still, “I certainly would not permit [food] if the service was for my family member,” Hackett says. Hinting at his real motive, Hackett asks, “And what about the funeral homes who haven’t the room to provide for food service?”

“I can’t believe that someone ever came up with this idea in the first place,” he concludes, calling on Murphy to veto the bill. I can’t believe anyone would have the audacity to write this letter. 

It is certainly Mr. Hackett’s right to “not permit this if the service was for my family member.” But by what right does he deny that choice to others? That’s what his support for maintaining the current legal food ban amounts to. That is immoral.

More egregious still is the implication in his question, “what about the funeral homes who haven’t the room to provide for food service?” Simple: They don’t provide food service. That’s no reason to deny other funeral homes and their customers their rights, effectively stifling competition through legal coercion. If a person is denied their rights because someone else doesn’t have the capacity to exercise the same right, then almost every right could be denied.

It is up to each funeral home operator and their customers, based on voluntary contract, to make decisions about food at funerals services. What they decide individually is none of the government’s business--and no business of busybodies like Art Hackett. 

This reminds me of NJ’s ban on self-serve at gas stations. Often, regulations are imposed on an entire industry for the harm-doing of a few of the industry's bad actors. Like self-serve gasolene, the funeral home food ban doesn’t even have that rationalization. Murphy should sign the bill. Anyway, even if he doesn’t, the legislature has more than enough votes to override the veto. It’s about time this ridiculous ban is lifted. 

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Booker’s Racism Charge Against Trump’s ‘Go Back’ Rant is Rich

I usually avoid “whataboutism.” But sometimes it is relevant and called-for. In 'I thought our country was beyond that,’ says [New Jersey Senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Corey] Booker, condemning Trump rhetoric as racist, Jonathan D. Salant (NJ Advance Media for reported: 

“I thought our country was beyond that,” Booker said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “This reality is this is a guy who is worse than a racist. He’s actually using racist tropes and racial language for political gain. He’s trying to use this as a weapon to divide our nation against itself."

Booker was referring to Donald Trump’s “go back” harangue against four Democratic congresswomen (more on that later). 

I posted these comments, edited and expanded for clarity:

This is rich. Booker belongs to a political party in which racism is embedded in its ideological DNA, in the form of its collectivist group identity, including racial identity, politics. 

Furthermore, Booker just embraced slavery reparations. [Booker’s bill calls for a “study” of reparations. But give me a break.] Morally and logically, reparations are a form of restitution paid by the actual perpetrator of rights violations to his actual victims. But Booker’s reparations bill necessarily means forcing the transfer of wealth from innocent white people to non-victim black people—“to right the economic scales of past harms,” as Booker frames it. But the premise underpinning Booker’s reparations is that guilt and victimhood are transferred from generation to generation through the individual’s genetic lineage or bodily chemistry. That is biological determinism, the very definition of racism, which holds that a person’s character, ideas, actions, station, and moral standing is biologically determined and that the individual can never escape that biological legacy regardless of his personal morals, choices, or actions.

Booker’s charge against Trump is not entirely inaccurate, though not in the way he means. But if Trump’s comments are racist, he is merely ripping a page from the Democrats’ more polished and highbrow playbook. The Democrats’ collectivist “social justice” ethos—which disregards individual dignity and identifies all individuals by groups, pitting group against group regardless of the innocence or guilt of actual individuals—is the essence of dividing a nation, and the epitome of using race for political gain. 


Exemplifying the Democrats’ collectivist/racist ethos, consider this from Rep. Ayanna Pressley:

"We don't need any more brown faces that don't want to be a brown voice. We don't need black faces that don't want to be a black voice. We don't need Muslims that don't want to be a Muslim voice. We don't need queers that don't want to be a queer voice."

In other words, you’re not an individual. You must tow the ideological line imposed by your group thought leaders.

For the record, I checked out Trump’s comments. Here they are in full:

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

On these comments, Salant reported:

Trump was condemned by the Democratic-controlled House last week after he told four Democratic congresswomen, all women of color, to “go back” to where they came from.

Three of the four, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, were born in the U.S. and the fourth, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, was a naturalized American.

Trump nevertheless continued his attacks on the four lawmakers Sunday.

When he said:

I don’t believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country. They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said. They are destroying the Democrat [sic] Party, but are weak & insecure people who can never destroy our great Nation! 

Now consider further comments by Booker:

“The language he uses is actually tired old tropes that have been used by demagogues all throughout our country’s history,” Booker told CBS. “This president is yet another sad chapter. But what we’ve done all the time as Americans, black and white from different backgrounds, we’ve always joined together and beaten those demagogues, and and [sic] hate-mongers and fear-mongers. That’s where Donald Trump will be relegated.”

Reread the comments of both Booker and Trump, and then notice whose language injects race into the conversation. The Democratic-controlled House. Corey Booker. Not Donald Trump.

Trump’s comments are ridiculous. People (or their antecedents) come here to escape corrupt and oppressive countries and cultures, and America is better for it. It’s ridiculous to say they can’t criticize America's government unless they return to the place that they (or their ancestors) escaped from and fix those problems rather than speak their mind.

Trump’s premise reminds me of the turmoil of my youth. I initially supported the Vietnam War back in the 1960s. But I never agreed with the “love-it-or-leave-it” mantra that some on my side leveled against the anti-war activists. I’ve never bought into that tactic. 

Trump’s comments are uncalled-for. He should be countering the congresswomens’ arguments for “how our government is to be run” with intellectual arguments of his own. His response to these Democrats is ideological, in a shallow sort of way, but ultimately empty. And they are childish. And yes, they are offensive, and can even be characterized as demagogic. If someone told me to “Go back to Italy” from which my grandparents emigrated, I’d be furious. It may be that Trump is racist; a lot of people more knowledgeable than I, other than Leftists, think so. But Trump’s comments, in and of themselves, are clearly not racist. Racism belongs primarily to the other side, which “sees” racism where none exists or exaggerates the lingering racism that does exist. Race has become a major political tactic—an argument from intimidation—of the American Left. As proof, I give you the Democrats’ reaction to Trump’s inane comments.

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—Ayn Rand