Study: Supreme Court ‘right to work’ ruling could drag down pay

New report finds link between ‘right-to-work’ rules and lower wages for public employees.


Image: commons wiki

The nine Supreme Court judges will soon hear arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, and their ruling could transform all of the American public sector into a “right-to-work” zone. The result could be lower wages for public employees around the country, according to the author of a recent study from the pro-union Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

At issue is whether non-union public employees can be legally required to pay so-called “fair share fees” to the unions that bargain their contracts. Proponents of right-to-work laws, which ban unions from charging such fees, argue that unions are political institutions, and that mandatory union fees violate the free speech rights of those who object to paying them.

Studies of the nation’s right-to-work states show that such laws tend to lead to lower union membership rates, and to drive down wages among government employees.

Jeffrey Keefe, an EPI researcher and former professor of labor relations at Rutgers University, found that states that adopt public sector right-to-work rules — also known as “open shop” laws — see government worker pay fall by between 4.4 and 11.2 percent relative to non-right-to-work states.

Keefe said he attributed the wage decline to reduced bargaining ability on the part of unions, a result of non-members declining to pay them representation fees. He said a ruling against the California Teachers Association in the Friedrichs case would likely have a similar effect, but one that would likely be nationwide.

“The contagion from free-riding doesn’t work itself out overnight,” he said. “But it would work itself out over a five- to 10-year period. Over time these unions would have significantly lower revenue, which translates into lower capacity to represent union members.”

He suggested this could also affect contracts more widely, beyond the issue of wages. Negotiating the scope of health care and other benefits is a complex and resource-intensive process, he said. As members drop out of the union and non-members decline to pay representation fees, the funds needed to properly bargain for those benefits would decline, he added.

“A great deal of bargaining now is over health care, and it’s an incredibly complicated subject,” Keefe said. “The union really needs hired experts to come in and help.”

Barack Obama and the Powell Doctrine, Reconsidered

Barack Obama and the Powell Doctrine, Reconsidered

President Barack Obama was elected to extricate the United States from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a sad irony of his presidency that among his foremost foreign-policy legacies will be leaving American involvement in both countries as among the first and most complex challenges his successor will face.

The president’s decision to leave 5,500 troops in Afghanistan at least into the first year of the next president’s term of office was inevitable. The lessons of Iraq and the volatile situation on the ground in Afghanistan dictate it. It was also the right decision. To leave entirely would be to invite chaos, render America’s enormous investment a write-off, and likely leave the country a home to a new generation of violent extremists even more dangerous than the al Qaeda thugs whom America entered Afghanistan to eradicate.

In reaching this decision, Obama is helping to put to rest one of the most often cited aspects of the Powell Doctrine, the framework for considering American overseas interventions that was named after the former secretary of state. The doctrine traces its roots to Colin Powell’s former boss, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and to the deep desire to avoid future Vietnams that dominated the thinking of American military planners in the wake of that debacle. One of its central precepts is that when America contemplates overseas use of force, an “exit strategy” is developed to avoid the prospect of being bogged down, as in the so-called quagmire of the Indochina War.

It is a natural desire. Protracted, bloody, costly engagements are undesirable on almost every level. Unfortunately, history has shown that in many circumstances avoiding them is unrealistic. In fact, the lesson of the past three-quarters of a century of U.S. overseas military action might be seen as “do not intervene unless you are prepared to remain involved for a long, long time.”

What are the notable “successes” of America’s major wars during that period? Defeating Germany and Japan? Ensuring the freedom of Korea?

In each case, troops have remained on the ground in those countries for more than half a century. In none of these cases did this mean the United States had to be an imperial power. But it did mean that Washington had to accept that troops served an important stabilizing role that could not be otherwise provided. Needless to say, other longer-term interests were also involved in all these circumstances — particularly, counterbalancing Cold War adversaries. But this justification underscored a common-sense corollary to the “be prepared to stay” doctrine that is experience’s real lesson: Don’t intervene unless your long-term interests warrant long-term involvement.

This altered approach should actually be embraced by more anti-war elements in American society — as well as by those who support a strong military. It eliminates the illusion that “in and out” or “low cost” interventions are really options in any situation where the goal is more than of a very limited, tactical nature. As a consequence, it argues even more forcefully than the Powell Doctrine that involvements be weighed carefully and undertaken infrequently.

It is not necessary, of course, that the United States act alone in such interventions. Nor is it required that the long-term commitment of troops to a country be wholly, primarily, or even partially a U.S. obligation. But an effective stabilizing force needs to be present — particularly in a situation where the intervention is meant to address threats that have emanated from local problems that have a long history or have otherwise been protracted in nature. Even overwhelming application of military force can’t undo history, culture, or structural problems with deep roots. Indeed, there are certain circumstances where stabilization is just not a possible outcome, and we must plan for those accordingly, limiting our objectives. As my colleague Tom Ricks has suggested, in Afghanistan this might have meant focusing on securing the area around greater Kabul and not seeking to venture further to try to secure what few Afghan governments ever could.

Another conclusion, and a lesson that must be particularly bitter for the president, is that the long-term stabilizing role can only be undertaken by a truly capable force. The president has frequently argued that a centerpiece of his plans to extricate America from its involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan was turning such responsibilities over to local militaries. But in both cases, even after huge investments in training and equipping local forces, America has failed to adequately cultivate forces to which the baton can be handed off.

Given the evidence that was at hand when the president made such transfers of responsibility core to his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan — and fighting extremism more broadly — his conclusion that such an approach could work was at best folly. Probably, it was worse than that: bordering on deep intellectual dishonesty. It was an approach based largely on denial and self-deception.

Now it is clear that it has not only failed — it has done so catastrophically. In fact, it is largely the degree of the failure in Iraq (which, as probably should no longer need to be pointed out, was precipitated by the George W. Bush administration’s deeply misguided intervention in that country) that has obligated the president to leave troops in Afghanistan. With recent gains by the Taliban and the Islamic State in Afghanistan and the continuing bumbling and revealed failings of the government in Kabul, simply pulling out would have produced a second mess like the one that has made the situation in Iraq and Syria such a giant threat to regional and international stability.

Of course, not all of the common-sense precepts of the Powell Doctrine have been invalidated by our recent experiences. We must still weigh whether vital interests are at stake, whether clear objectives exist, whether potential costs have been assessed, whether other means of resolving have been exhausted, whether we are willing to apply sufficient force and resources to ensure the outcome we seek, and whether the consequences of the potential action have been fully assessed. Other concepts associated with the doctrine — that action be supported by the American people and also by the international community — are more debatable; there are clearly circumstances in which national interests may trump either of these otherwise desirable criteria.

It is important to note that this does not mean we should never intervene. It means going in with our eyes wide open, knowing what we are getting into.

Colin Powell is one of the most sensible men I have met in Washington, and I don’t dismiss even one of the conclusions of his great service and experience lightly. Fortunately, he has also provided us with a thought to replace the language about exit strategies (which, like broad public and international support, falls in the category of “hoped for” conditions), which perhaps may be his most famous pronouncement regarding the American use of force abroad. Because if the Obama and Bush years and Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us one thing, it is this: “If you break it, you own it.” With the president’s recent decision, it is clear he and we are now owning that.

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

In: foreignpolicy

Italian porn actor, Rocco Siffredi, launches ‘University of Porn’ for aspiring stars

Actor insists how ‘fame did not make me lose touch with reality’ as he strives to teach about the workings of the industry.

The veteran star (far left) hopes to teach other aspiring actors all he's learned from a career spanning over 1,300 films SEBASTIEN NOGIER/AFP/Getty Images

The veteran star (far left) hopes to teach other aspiring actors all he’s learned from a career spanning over 1,300 films SEBASTIEN NOGIER/AFP/Getty Images

Have you always wondered about the academic side of porn and what it really takes to become a top adult film star? That’s what we thought.

Well, thanks to one ‘Italian Stallion’, a group of aspiring actors looks set to ‘graduate’ from the ‘University of Porn’, courtesy of Italian porn actor, Rocco Siffredi.

Bestowing a group of hopefuls with all the knowledge he has acquired from his time as a porn actor – which has seen the star take the lead in over 1,300 films – the ‘Siffredi Hard Academy’ is a reality show which will strive to document the actor’s training.

Watch the group learning from the actor:

Italian news site, Perfil, reports how the actor is eager to show his methods of working and, emphasising how the show will not be scripted, he assured readers of the site: “I have a normal life, for many, perhaps too normal. I do not forget where I come from. Fame did not make me lose touch with reality.”

From the thousands of individuals who applied, Siffredi helped to whittle the number of ‘students’ down to the final 21 – seven women and 14 men – where he will carry out on-screen tests, including positions that will work against the camera, as well as recitation techniques in order to mould the ‘believable’ porn actors of tomorrow.


The full story behind the ‘alien megastructures’ scientists may have found (but probably didn’t)

A story that went viral this week reported that astronomers finally found E.T., but those aren’t the real facts. CNET’s Eric Mack talks to the astronomers involved about what is still a very interesting star.

The star system might look something like this, but weirder. University of Rochester/Ron Miller

The star system might look something like this, but weirder.
University of Rochester/Ron Miller

This is a tricky story to write. The mysterious scientific observations it deals with could wind up being nothing, or they could amount to some new, interesting astrophysical phenomenon that gets its own little section in a planetary science textbook someday. But there’s also the tiniest chance that some perplexing light curves from a distant star over 1,400 light-years from Earth could be the beginning of the biggest discovery since not just the birth of modern science, but the birth of well, the human race.

Yes, you guessed it, I’m talking about the possibility that we may have the first scientific evidence of intelligent life beyond our own solar system. The story’s been all over social media, TV and everywhere else this week since originally being reported by The Atlantic. You might have heard that astronomers think they’ve spotted giant solar collectors, Dyson spheres or other megastructures straight out of sci-fi built by an advanced alien civilization around a far-off star unremarkably named KIC 8462852.

The only problem is it probably isn’t any of those. But even if we haven’t spotted distant aliens, whatever it is we have spotted is undeniably odd at the very least.

Basically, the star’s light curve seems to show some strange stuff passing in front of the star, at irregular intervals and sometimes even appearing to shift shape or orientation along the way — this is very different from the relatively predictable orbits we see objects making around our own sun and most other stars that Kepler has observed.

As soon as I read the original Atlantic piece, I reached out to the Yale postdoctoral researcher who has studied KIC 8462852 for the past four years, and to two leading scientists with an interest in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) who now hope to check for signs of life around the star beginning as soon as February. All three stressed to me over the phone this week that the source of the mysterious light curves observed by the Kepler Space Telescope from star KIC 8462852 probably isn’t aliens.


Una presencia extraña en una estrella lejana desata las especulaciones

Descubren una estrella con una serie de objetos orbitando a su alrededor que no tienen explicación con los modelos habituales y se habla incluso de vida inteligente. “Pensar que estamos solos en el universo es como creer en milagros”.

KIC 8462852, located 1480 light-years away, and has produced a series of bizarre light fluctuations researchers have not been able to conclusively explain.  Read more:  Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook. En:

KIC 8462852, located 1480 light-years away, and has produced a series of bizarre light fluctuations researchers have not been able to conclusively explain.
. En:

KIC 8462852 es una estrella extraña, o al menos ahora lo parece. Está a 1.480 años luz, muy lejos, pero se encuentra en nuestra propia galaxia. El Telescopio Espacial Kepler, pese a la distancia, ha recogido información que nos cuenta que a su alrededor orbitan una serie de objetos que no parecen exoplanetas. Kepler, que ya ha descubierto más de 4000 mundos fuera del Sistema Solar, es capaz de detectar minúsculas variaciones en el brillo de estrellas remotas. Si se observa un oscurecimiento que se produce a intervalos regulares, se puede interpretar que ha pasado un planeta por delante de la estrella. Después, una precisa medición del parpadeo permite realizar estimaciones sobre el tamaño del objeto.

En el caso de KIC 8462852, las oscilaciones de la luz sugieren que a su alrededor no orbitan uno o varios planetas corrientes. Más bien, parece que su entorno es un desbarajuste de objetos de distintos tamaños, que viajan a diferentes velocidades y no lo hacen en un plano más o menos fijo como en los sistemas planetarios comunes.

Las noticias que nos trae Kepler desde aquella estrella singular tendrían una explicación relativamente sencilla si se tratase de un astro joven. Cuando un sistema solar se encuentra en formación y el tirón gravitatorio de la estrella aún no ha metido en vereda la materia que se acumula alrededor para organizarla en forma de planetas, se puede esperar un desorden como el observado. Sin embargo, las mediciones de radiación infrarroja son menores de la esperada en una estrella joven.

Esta es una de las hipótesis descartadas por un grupo de astrónomos en un artículo publicado hace un mes. En él, van desechando varias explicaciones para justificar las rarezas de KIC 8462852 y se quedan con una que, aunque aún con limitaciones, consideran la más plausible. Si fuese cierta, los objetos desorganizados que se ven en aquel sistema planetario serían una familia de cometas empujados hacia la estrella por el tirón gravitatorio de un segundo astro cercano.

Toda esta información, fruto del trabajo de voluntarios integrados en el proyecto Planet Hunters, ha tenido una segunda explicación más improbable, pero que ha causado mucho más revuelo. Según se explicaba esta semana en un artículo en The Atlantic, próximamente, Jason Wright, un joven astrónomo de la Universidad Penn State, va a publicar una interpretación alternativa a los guiños encontrados por los voluntarios en las imágenes recogidas por Kepler. Desde su punto de vista, las observaciones se podrían explicar por la presencia de megainfraestructuras creadas por algún tipo de civilización para aprovechar la energía de la estrella. Además, tanto Wright como Tabetha Boyajian, la investigadora de la Universidad de Yale responsable de Planet Hunters, quieren solicitar tiempo de uso del gran radio telescopio VLA, en Nuevo México (EE UU) para buscar ondas de radio originadas en algún artefacto creado por seres inteligentes.

A David Barrado, investigador del CSIC y experto en mundos extrasolares, el planteamiento le parece “un ejercicio intelectual interesante”. Sin embargo, cree que es muy poco probable que esa explicación se ajuste a la realidad. “Las observaciones de Kepler son muy delicadas y, aunque son precisas, el análisis es complicado y puede haber muchos errores”, explica. “Por ejemplo, siempre se asume que las estrellas observadas en principio tienen una forma esférica, o que no tienen manchas, o que los planetas a su alrededor también son esféricos”, añade. Todas estas limitaciones hacen necesario mucho trabajo de análisis para interpretar bien los datos.

Barrado plantea además otra pregunta interesante. ¿De dónde sacaría aquella supuesta civilización extraterrestre la cantidad de materia necesaria para construir una planta de energía solar orbital tan grande como para verse a casi mil quinientos años luz de distancia? Como recuerda el investigador del CSIC, si fuésemos capaces de recoger toda la masa acumulada en el cinturón de asteroides, solo se contaría con un 3% de la masa de la Luna. Después de convertir la materia en una infraestructura descomunal, habría que ponerla en órbita, algo que requiere cantidades ingentes de energía, y después contar con que los efectos gravitatorios de la estrella o de otros planetas no hiciesen zozobrar semejante construcción.

En: elpais

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