Saturday, 24 July 2004

Morons on parade II

Frivolous lawsuit or real justice? Check out this story from Knoxville:

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has reinstated a lawsuit against a gas station filed by two victims of drunken driving.

The court ruled Gary West and Michell Richardson could sue East Tennessee Pioneer Oil Company for negligence.

An investigation concluded that employees of a Knoxville Exxon station operated by Pioneer refused to sell Brian Lee Tarver beer because he was intoxicated, but helped him pump fuel into his car.

Police say Tarver left the station with his lights off, driving in the wrong lane and crashed head-on into the car carrying West and Richardson in July, 2000. [emphasis added]

It seems to me the more appropriate target for this lawsuit is the employees, who I doubt were following company policy in helping drunk drivers fill their gas tanks (assuming the Exxon is self-serve only), but considering they were stupid enough to fill the guy’s tank, they probably don’t have any money to collect in a lawsuit anyway.

(Link via email from a friend of the blog.)

Labor law and grad students

Brett Marston isn’t too impressed with the National Labor Relations Board’s decision last week that removed the right of graduate students to organize at private universities. He writes:

I don’t want to be uncharitable, but the majority seems to have little interest in the function of labor law. They seem to view it as a collection of information about congressional views on categories of relationships between people rather than as an attempt to reduce labor conflicts. For the majority, the relevant question is whether TA’s have a primarily “economic” or a primarily “educational” relationship to the university; if it’s the latter, then the administrators win, because educational relationships are not covered by the rules.

In contrast, the dissent seems to indicate that the function of labor law is to provide a regularization of existing disputes that are characterized by the unionizing participants themselves as labor disputes. It’s the disputes themselves that matter, not the formal relationship categories that Congress has helped create.

My suspicion, however, is that TA unionization doesn’t “reduce labor conflicts” at all; instead, it is a vehicle for graduate students to obtain greater benefits from their employer/educator than they might otherwise receive (by bargaining collectively, rather than on an individual basis), which seems rather orthogonal to the idea of “conflict.” If anything, having a union would seem to create a system by which disputes between graduate students and the administration would be increased and intensified, by being channeled into adversarial activities such as “work to rule” and strikes—events that wouldn’t occur if disgruntled students had individual disputes with the administration.

On the other hand, I was raised in an era and a political culture hostile to unions, and grew up cheering on Margaret Thatcher as she pummelled Britain’s excessively powerful labor unions into submission, so I could be wrong.

Pick your reason for unconstitutionality

The “Marriage Protection Act of 2004” has all the good legalist-model-types in the blogosphere scrambling for reasons why it would be unconstitutional. Josh Chafetz says it’s unconstitutional because it (partially) strips the federal judiciary of its mandatory jurisdiction over all cases arising under federal statute and the Constitution.

My gut feeling is that the Court would be more likely to rule the act (assuming it ever becomes law, something I don’t see given the inevitable filibuster in the Senate) unconstitutional on the basis of Romer v. Evans, on the basis of the act being a violation of equal protection.

All this, of course, is trumped by the attitudinalist in me, which sees zero chance of the Supreme Court ever permitting any of its jurisdiction to be curtailed by Congress without its consent. The legal reasoning surrounding such a ruling would be, more likely than not, just window dressing for the underlying preferences of the Court’s members. (I suppose this is my bias as a political scientist showing.)

Y2K Nostalgia

Michael Badnarik has Chip Taylor reminiscing about Harry Browne. Say what you will about Browne (and, in the four years since I met him, I’ve found plenty of bad things to say about him—now, it’s just one shell game after another with no sign of anything productive ever coming out of it), but at least he wasn’t a complete nutter.