Sunday, October 29, 2017

Right to Work vs. At-Will

In my last piece regarding the national anthem and the NFL, I used the phrase "right to work" that people often use in conversation about employment conflicts when they really mean "at-will." Actually, these are two very different terms with their own meanings. I was quoting someone I recently debated who threw "right to work" at me for defending Kaepernick's right to free speech at work. Here is some clarification from Mesch Clark Rothschild. The AFL-CIO has its own stance on this issue, which I think is sensible and in line with much of the developed world.

In hindsight, when Donald Trump was telling Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (it is my understanding that they had a conversation about this issue before Jones' controversial public statements) to take a firm stance against the anthem protests, I don't think Trump understood the trouble he would be bringing to Jones and other owners. There are actually many different angles by which to launch a lawsuit or complaint regarding Jones' stance. Here are some:

(1) An owner, such as the owner of the Houston Texans Bob McNair, makes a stupid remark comparing football players to "inmates." New protests are triggered over what's perceived as racially condescending attitudes to the athletes by team owners. Punishing the players now will bring an expensive discrimination/retaliation lawsuit.

(2) Perhaps some Black or minority players feel there is discrimination of some sort that the NFL has not addressed, such as disparate treatment with disciplining, bullying, representation among coaches, etc. Whether or not this actually exists is beside the point -- a good-faith belief alone is a serious matter. 

(3) Perhaps a player may kneel down as a religious protest against war or a specific foreign policy that he feels is contrary to his religion. It's a fact that on many occasions in history there has been conflict between religious ideals or practices and nationalistic aims. 

(4) Players may join hands and kneel in solidarity during the anthem because they feel they bear some responsibility to send a positive message to society with what influence they have. They may believe that their behavior on the field will impact them both on and off the field, as human beings. This would arguably be covered by the National Labor Relations Act as "protected concerted activity."

These are just some ideas off the top of my head. Point three above would clearly be a constitutional matter, in my view. There are so many references in the Bible and other religious texts against war or harming your fellow man. While I'm not particularly religious and may not agree as to the effectiveness of this type of protest, I can see an NFL athlete using this argument to draw attention to a matter of religious significance. Some religious people eschew nationalism as a distraction to spiritual aims. Possibly a judge or panel would reject this argument and assert such a protest is not religious in nature, but I think it could go either way, and at minimum bring financial loss and embarrassment to the respondent. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Kaepernick, Trump, and the Anthem

We've been trolled by the President of the U.S. again. Instead of focusing on his agenda -- building the wall and repealing Obamacare -- he has decided to rally his base (noticeably uneducated) by asserting that football players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired. Naturally, this brings into play employment law and free speech issues. Because this is a nation of checks and balances, I suspect there will be some challenges and perhaps it will reach the courts. In fact, I was sent a message on Facebook by an acquaintence who trolled me good-naturedly by pointing out a labor union in Dallas has filed a complaint against Jerry Jones over his threat that Dallas Cowboys players who kneel during the anthem won't play.

I'm not by any means an expert, but I saw this angle before I got trolled by my buddy. I don't mean to sound condescending, but the truth is that most Americans are ignorant about the intricacies of these issues, and assume that "at-will" means an employer can do what they want. That's true 99 percent of the times, but that one percent when it's not can be painful and a rude awakening, but I digress. In any case, employers have lots of leeway, and the popular sentiment, if not dispassionate reasoning, is behind Trump's stance. I personally think the Founding Fathers would have detested the populist trends as of late, just as they would have detested the Bible-thumping, convoluted logic of Jeff Sessions and Mike Pence, as deists and rationalist thinkers. But again, people can take history and spin it in their own twisted way to justify themselves and their worldviews.

I personally would stand for the national anthem, especially if paid millions of dollars, though I'd do it for free anyway. I believe in American ideals, but I don't believe in forced nationalism. I believe we are a nation of differences in perspectives and views, and that these differences should be respected. I may not agree with someone making a political statement as an athlete, but I respect his or her right to make it. And honestly, though many people would disagree with me, kneeling is actually a sign of respect, as in kneeling before a king. It's different from, say, spitting on the ground while the anthem is played. Even then, though I differ from most sports fans -- and though I don't think they even comprehend it -- the whole idea of the greatness of America is that we can express views that disturb others, even, I would say, in an employment setting where employees are encouraged (not forced) to stand for the anthem. I don't think most sports fans care for Voltaire saying he may not like your views but will die for your right to express them. They don't care for the spirit of the Enlightenment, and even those few who understand it may be overwhelmed by the appeal of popular sentiments. Then again, they may argue that "employers can do what they want," but again, this gets into the National Labor Relations Act and other issues they may not fully comprehend, because they are operating by rule of thumb or heuristic generalization, which has survival value. People who questioned authority were less likely to pass on their genes in prehistoric times. Alas, our civilization is great because we have people at higher levels to analyze these issues in depth, and who operate with social consciousness and empathy. At times, populism may win, and it's not always a bad thing.

So, will the NFL now force players to stand for the anthem? They may, and legally perhaps they may get away with it (maybe not), but the whole idea of forcing respect for the flag seems absurd and contrary to what it symbolizes. Anyway, regardless of differences of opinions, many people do at least agree that this is none of Trump's business. As President, he should be focused on other matters. But again, populism creates a self-inflicted lobotomized class that will excuse any misconduct on his part. Just imagine if Obama interfered with the NFL in the same or a similar manner. Predictably, CNN will continue to bash him and Fox News will excuse his inappropriate outbursts and meddling in affairs with which he has no business.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. I think, in the end, people will come to their senses about this issue, and even if players are ultimately forced to stand for the anthem, there will be greater social reflection on issues of free speech, forced nationalism, and just how far employers can go with employees.

The trend is toward a growth of consciousness over time, even if we step back on occasion.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Some Other Thoughts About Las Vegas

It has been reported that the shooter (I'll refrain from using "alleged" this time, assuming the conspiracy theorists at Infowars and elsewhere have simply lost their minds) was apparently mentally stable and successful (supposedly a multimillionaire) who showed no signs of being a potential mass murderer to friends and relatives.

A Duke University professor is repeatedly trotted out by the media to point out that there is no or minimal correlation between mental illness and violence, and he points out that mass murderers are often mentally stable.

My thoughts:

While the correlation may be small, it does exist, as shown by Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter. Simply pointing out that the correlation exists does not mean that the mentally ill should be denigrated or considered black sheep. To the extent that a boost in resources dedicated to treating mental health in the U.S. may prevent some of these shootings, it can be considered one of many solutions to dealing with this problem. Again, it would not fix it.

There is also a paradox about the politicization of this issue. While decrying those who push for gun control for taking advantage of these heinous acts, one is arguably politicizing the issue. So perhaps there is no way to get around the politics while people are looking for answers on solving this problem. My concern is that with or without these incidents, those who push for gun control will push for gun control, simply because guns evoke fear from pampered individuals who have never dealt with a tyrannical government, gang violence on their streets, etc. Moreover, some cities and nations with strict gun control, as I pointed out, are notoriously violent. Chicago has strict gun laws and a high murder rate, showing that even with laws in place, criminals will get guns. The same is true in Europe with regard to terror. Mass murderers there have learned that they can simply use a vehicle to ram down innocent people to achieve the same thing. Mexico has very strict laws against possession of guns, and the nation is engulfed in a nasty civil war, with armed criminals running the streets and even the police.

Potentially, there is the argument that terror and mass murder are not to be conflated. However, while the motives may be different, the means are the same. Mass murder can be committed with or without guns. Moreover, prohibiting gun ownership will not stop criminals from obtaining them.

Prohibiting guns merely keeps innocent, law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves.

Edit: I removed New York as an example of a city with strict gun laws and violent crime, due to persistently dropping crime rates. However, the lower crime rates are often touted relative to very high numbers in the early 1990s.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Our Prayers Are with Las Vegas

Sadly, another mass shooting has occurred in the United States, this time in Las Vegas. Mass shootings have become too common. It's time that our leaders dedicate more research into this phenomenon and find out what the causes are. In Europe, the prohibition of guns hasn't stopped people from using other means of committing mass terror. Possibly, more funding should be diverted to mental health in the United States, which some experts say is an area in dire neglect.

Reportedly, the alleged mass shooter's father was a serial bank robber who was designated a psychopath by the FBI. Had the suspect also been a psychopath, it's likely he would have left numerous clues in his life. It's very likely we will learn a lot more about the alleged shooter in the coming days and weeks.

Hopefully this issue will not be politicized by groups that simply want to take guns away from law-abiding, Constitution-loving citizens. Again, there is no shortage of murders and mass killings in nations with strict gun restrictions.

Anyway, our prayers are with the innocent victims in Las Vegas and their families, and with the city as a whole.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Hurricane Irma Update

I just got back online a few days ago after the power went out. To the credit of the state and local governments, Collier County has rebounded well after getting hit by a category 3 or 4 hurricane. Also, though Donald Trump may have visited the area for self-serving reasons, it was nice for him to assure the residents of the county that needed federal assistance will be provided. Slowly but surely things are returning back to normal in South Florida.

This storm should serve as a lesson for people to prepare for catastrophes of all sorts and to do basic prepping.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

The U.S. Constitution

Here is a link to the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the United States. No laws, treaties, enactments, or corporate interests are above it.