Monday…Merwin on Moyers, LRB using private hosting services, AAUP on furloughs, camera fraud, and a Ms. Maile video

Highly recommended: Bill Moyers’ fine interview with Maui-based poet William Merwin, who won his second Pulitzer Prize this year. Although you can read the transcript, the video is the prize. William reads a number of his poems, which is always a treat. Coming home on Friday night after spending much of the day emotionally involved with the memorial for Duke Bainum, this interview was the perfect remedy.

I’m not sure if I’m reading this one right. The Legislative Reference Bureau’s clipping service has moved from the regular state web site to its own site, As near as I can tell, this appears to be hosted at Another LRB service, First Reading, is now a blog hosted at Blogspot. With all the state’s resources, LRB moves to private hosting services? Really? Is there a story there?
And thanks to LRB’s First Reading for linking to this article about regulation of virtual worlds. Very interesting.

I noted this mention of Hawaii in an online discussion of legal issues at universities in this financial crisis compiled by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

4. I teach at a unionized public university. The state is in the process of passing a law stating that all state employees will be furloughed for two days per month regardless of preexisting contracts. Is that constitutional?

Probably not. It is likely a violation of the “Contract Clause” of the United States Constitution, which says that no state shall pass a law that “impairs the obligation of contracts.” U.S. Const., art. I, § 10. The Contract Clause is violated “when one alleges that he or she has a contract with the state, which the state, through its legislative authority, has attempted to impair.” University of Hawaii Professional Assembly v. Cayetano, 183 F.3d 1096, 1101 (9th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted).

Several states, including Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Washington State, have tried to abrogate collective bargaining contracts by statute, and those laws have generally been struck down. (Note: not all of these cases arise in the higher education context.)

Hawaii: In University of Hawaii Professional Assembly v. Cayetano, 183 F.3d 1096 (9th Cir. 1999), individual University of Hawaii faculty members and their union sued the state for the imposition of a “pay lag” law that authorized six pay lags of between one and three days and excluded the subject from collective bargaining. The district court issued a preliminary injunction, halting the application of the law. The federal appellate court affirmed, ruling that the statute violated the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It reasoned that the state law violated the collective bargaining agreement, even when that agreement did not specify specific pay days, because the prior course of dealings established a contractual expectation that state employees would be paid the first and fifteenth day of every month. The court opined that the breach was substantial:

Plaintiffs are wage earners, not volunteers. They have bills, child support obligations, mortgage payments, insurance premiums, and other responsibilities. Plaintiffs have the right to rely on the timely receipt of their paychecks. Even a brief delay in getting paid can cause financial embarrassment and displacement of varying degrees of magnitude.

The court found the legislative action not reasonable or necessary because “other options” existed, including “additional budget restrictions, the repeal of tax credits, and the raising of taxes.”

If you’re like me and shop for cameras online, you will be interested in New York’s crackdown on consumer fraud by NY-based electronics companies.

According to the NY Times:

As part of the deal, five of the companies — Best Price Camera, Foto Connection, 1 Way Photo, 86th Street Photo and Broadway Photo — have agreed to change their business practices and accept continual monitoring. Two other companies, Camera Wiz and Sonic Photo, will close.

Here’s a list of the companies named by NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for involvement in bait-and-switch practices.

[text]Here’s a bit of dog energy for the morning. This is Ms. Maile, who we’ve known for a long time. She’s getting to be quite an old lady, but still with lots of energy, as you can see. Just click on her photo for a short video.

One response to “Monday…Merwin on Moyers, LRB using private hosting services, AAUP on furloughs, camera fraud, and a Ms. Maile video

  1. Two quick comments:
    On and sales taxes. Clearly, we need Federal legislation to make Web sales tax collection uniform and equitable. But as someone who does make $1000 a year as an amazon associate, the states attempts will backfire. We pay tax on the referral fees we collect, so by blowing off amazon associates’ fees, the states will collect LESS tax and collect zero sales tax. Yet another self-defeating political exercise in futilty.

    Case law regarding state default is sketchy because it hasn’t happened, even in the Great Depression. But it will happen in this Depression. Contracts can guarantee anything but if there’s no more money then the state will default on its obligations. As the saying goes, you can’t get blood from a turnip.

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