Tuesday, February 27, 2007

03.01.07 Some Stuff I Found After the Fact

Doesn't that always happen?

When a Stranger Calls
“I'm not comfortable with clients calling me at home. If a situation is urgent and I need to speak with a client, I'd rather call the client myself than have my home phone number distributed to people I don't have personal relationships with." This is what Businessweek’s advice columnist said to tell your boss when she gives your home phone or personal cell number to contractors, vendors, clients, and whoever-the-hell-else without asking you first. Now what pray is your rejoinder if the boss then says: “Take the *&^%* calls bitch, or you’re fired!”?

The Gospel of the Wage Slave
“First, starting way back in the 1950s, you had to be ‘positive’ to get ahead in business, i.e., ready to see the glass half full even when it was lying shattered on the floor. Then, somewhere in the first few years of the 21st century, the bar was raised to ‘passionate.’ It wasn’t good enough to feel ‘positive’ about spending your day doing cold calls to potential customers in Dayton, you be had to be ‘passionate’ about it. And now, apparently, even that isn’t good enough – you have to develop a YES! Attitude, as in throwing back your head, balling up your fists, and screaming YEESSS!!! The purveyor of this new over-the-top, fan-like, enthusiasm is Jeffrey Gitomer, in his brand new Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude. What attracted me to the display in the bookstore was the odd packaging: a hardcover, but smaller than the average paperback, with a bright red ribbon for a page-marker (a biblical touch, someone in the publishing industry explained to me.) “

02.27.07 - Vulgar Libertarianism, Chattel Slavery, and Wage Slavery Cont’d

Actually Z., the preceding essay wasn’t a response to John DeLaubenfel’s column at Strike the Root. I posted that essay so as to have an easy and simple way to get my thoughts out onto the web so that I can refer to vulgar libertarian issues with a link, when needed, and so that I don’t have to continually re-Google and then compose and type unique answers each time I get asked questions about it. However, I’ll still take the compliment; so thanks!

John feels, (if I understand him correctly), that because in America there exists a somewhat freer, (for now) market for labor, and that with the 13th Amendment added to the USC in 1865, making involuntary servitude illegal, that (ta-dah!) my concept of “wage slavery” (and some other people’s as well) must therefore be wholly impossible. Which, by the limited reasoning he uses, seems to be true; and which to my mind is a fine example of VLA.

Here is brief and non-technical comparison of “chattel slavery” versus what it means to be a “wage slave”, that I shamelessly cribbed from a Yahoo service meant to help kids with their homework. I am not an econo-Geek, and so I’ll leave the highly technical economic jargon to the websites and writers who are. But I do know and feel oppression when I see it, and have no compunctions about saying so. Or to admitting when I think someone has proved me wrong by more convincing evidence or a better argument. So with that preamble, let me begin.

“Chattel slavery is [like] owning a person like he/she was an animal.

Wage slavery is having someone in debt to you and [who is then] forced to work it off. The person working it off only falls deeper in debt, and is never able to pay off the original debt.

In chattel slavery the owner is able to kill, rape, and torture their property. Although killing was sometimes seen as the most extreme, and rarely done. The slave was nothing more then property.

Wage slavery existed in different parts of the country during different periods in history. The sharecropper would buy his supplies from the landlord at high prices. The sharecropper would then give half of his crop to the landlord for just using his land. The rest he could sell for a profit. The profit was never able to pay off the landlord though. Thus the landlord got money for half the share of the crop, plus the money for selling supplies at higher prices. This would in turn keep the sharecropper working the land in order to pay a debt off that could never be paid off.

Another version of this works like this. A coal miner lives on company property. The only store within miles is the company store. The company store sells everything at high prices. The miner goes in debt from the company store every month. Thus is forced to work every month to pay a debt that keeps on increasing by the month.

The only similarity is that the landlord/slave owner gets work done for a minimal cost while keeping the slave/worker from being able to leave.”

Chattel slavery can only be held in place by brute force, whether by a state or a private (that is, a non-state entity) oppressor. It just won’t work any other way. So, with that understood, let’s move on to the form with which chattel slavery was contrasted with.

People in modern America society get bogged down doing jobs that they don’t really like or want to do, but really have no choice but to do them. They get into debt up to their eyeballs in order to buy crap that they only think they need or want. Needs and wants, which if they examined them just a little more closely, they’d see are more trouble than they’re worth; and leading to a craving for possessions which end up owning them. They are on a self-imposed life style which to me constitutes a kind of slavery over the free human spirit. The selling of the most precious commodity (if one care’s to think of the irreplaceable and very limited seconds, minutes and hours of one’s lifespan as a commodity), all in order to pay off VISA, make their payments on their SUV or for other such like, and all of which strikes me as being a self-imposed form of spiritual slavery levied upon our real life circumstances, in real time. Time being one thing that can never be replaced or regained, at whatever price. I wonder how much people should care what their credit report says about them after they’re dead?

Now, some people have jobs that they like and pay them well enough; and so they wholly discount the concept of slavery to debt, to greed, to unlimited desire for things and such like, as impossible. I disagree.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

02.25.07 - Vulgar Libertarian Arguments - What they Are and What they Aren't

Many times readers address me with questions, arguments, retorts and injured feelings about things I've said, posted, or written when I've described and condemned what is dear to them a being “vulgar libertarian argumentation”, (and abbreviated hereafter as “VLA”). I usually remember to include a written explanation of what VLA is or add an embedded hyper link if published for the web so that this won't happen. But it does, so I've decided to clear the air about this matter.

So let me start by defining my terms. “Vulgar libertarian argumentation” is using the rhetoric of liberty to advocate or defend ideas or issues in order to make it appear a given argument is about economic or political liberty when it’s really not. This form is often taken by people that don't really understand the basis for the criticism or by cynics and connivers who do, but wish to shift the basis for their arguments from what they're truly about to what they'd like the reader, listener, or viewer to think that they're about. Using VLAs in argumentation or debate is similar to the way some criminal defense lawyers and civil rights advocates play “the race card,” in law courts or the court of public opinion; which is to say that if you can get people asking the wrong question, the answer to the question doesn't matter as much, or even matter at all, in many cases. But first some background.

Political philosopher Kevin Carson coined the noun phrase “vulgar libertarianism”to describe a certain kind of faux free market political or economic analysis that consists of misapplying free market or libertarian principles to situations where they are irrelevant or not applicable.

“The term, coined as far as I know by yours truly,” says Carson, “alludes both to the 'vulgar Marxism' of twentieth century Marxoids, and to what Marx called the 'vulgar political economy' of the generation after Ricardo and Mill. The defining feature of vulgar political economy, as Marx described it, was that it had ceased to be an attempt at the scientific explication of the laws of economics, and had become a hired prize-fighter on behalf of plutocratic interests. (...) But with the triumph of the industrial owning classes in 1830s Britain, the focus of political economy shifted from scientific investigation and a radical challenge to the power of the Old Regime, to an apology for the status quo.” And today's apologists, known to us now as pundits, spin doctors, and such, do much the same thing; they defend the status quo, while using the rhetoric of liberty to do so.

It is not my purpose today to defend Carson's economic analysis in the above cited paragraph, but is instead to highlight the form of argumentation that he is criticizing. To better illustrate what is meant by calling an analysis or argument VL I think it best to cite examples of VLA and then deconstruct them to show how and why they are false.

A good example of this occurred in 2004, when then-New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey was caught trying to hire his boyfriend for a position in the New Jersey state bureaucracy and for which he was wholly unqualified for; and when McGreevey faced massive disapproval and embarrassment because of this, he chose to resign and blame it all on homophobic bigotry on the part of his political enemies and completely disregarded the corruption and nepotism aspects, which was in fact the principal reason for the disapproval and criticism. This is how VLA is used for obfuscation. McGreevey's spin doctors wanted the discussion to be about individual privacy, sexual liberty, and homophobia, and not about corruption or cronyism, which were in fact the real issues.

I chose this example because I believe it clearly show the attempt to use the rhetoric of liberty to obfuscate what the issue really was. The use of this tactic abounds. It seems every time a town wants to use eminent domain to confiscate private land in order to hand it over to a developer, the “acting for the common good” style of rhetoric is employed to defend it. What the argument should be about though is, “good for who?” And why? Arguments for state funding or subsidies for the construction of privately owned business enterprises, especially sport stadia, are often couched in this form as well. Unless you read and consider carefully, oftentimes VLA can escape your notice or even seem plausible until you examine the cui bono considerations, at which time “who benefits?” becomes readily apparent, and never mind the rhetorical ruffles and flourishes used to disguise or camouflage it.

Another confusing aspect of VLA is the term itself. The “vulgar” part of the noun phrase denotes “common” as in “commonly misunderstood,” and not vulgar in the sense that the term denotes in modern English today, as meaning invective, profanity, blasphemy or rudeness in written or spoken language. This is unfortunately so do to the term's origins in 19th century political and economic discourse when the term “vulgar” had an entirely different context and connotation. Language is malleable and the definition and connotation of words and phrases can change over time; and this the source of VLA's next major misapplication.

I have had many people retort to me that they are perplexed as to why I think they are using VLA, because they tell me they never used profanity, ad hominem attack, or inventive in their writing or remarks. All I can do then is either explain the whole concept yet again, or just let it pass without comment, in the interest of avoiding yet another flame war or food fight.

If any of you armchair philologists care to suggest to me a better understood or clearer word or phrase that can take the place of VLA, I would be glad to hear your thoughts and suggestions. As that famous employer of libertarian rhetoric to defend the status quo, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has observed, “words mean things,” and I for one think that we need to preserve the memes, language, and rhetoric of liberty for actually defending and advancing liberty. The advantage in doing so would be to take a big sword out of the hands of those that use our own language and terms to fight against everything we believe in. I hope readers of this essay will agree with me that this is worth the effort.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007


Some stuff I though worthy of reading or listening to today.

Days Of War, Nights Of Love Audio Book: Hypocrisy
It can’t be avoided, so deal with it as best you can, and stop worrying about it. It is a mental relic of our religion based culture. An excellent essay in the form of a podcast, and yes, I know they spelled it wrong. AudioAnarchy.org

Nostalgia for the Past isn’t a Plan
The state of our Republic today is pretty dire. Calls to rectify the situation by means of Kulturkampf seem to me misguided, however. The central problem of the United States today is not that people’s brains are encrusted with filth but that they have been scrubbed so clean by puritan Left ideology that we have lost the ability to talk, even to think, about what ails us. This is as true over large parts of the conservative movement as it is in the popular culture at large. We cannot discuss what needs discussing, and we have stripped away defenses that will protect us when the coming tsunami of new understandings in the human sciences makes landfall.” John Derbyshire

Reflections on the 1956 Revolution in Hungary
As the gun lobby says: guns don’t kill people; people kill people. My interest is in why people kill, why they make wars and revolutions, and why they undermine civilized life even though their well-being depends on protecting it. To say that people do all this because they are sinful or destructive or driven by their ids or irrational or stupid or genetically aggressive is to postpone facing the question, not to answer it. For the question remains of why they act on these motives rather than on dozens of other motives they also have, such as altruism, caution, reason, fear, pity, conscience, and so on. This, of course, is a general question, and I am not about to give a philosophical answer but only to set forth my opinion of what motives led to the Revolution and whether the Revolution was worth what it cost. I am afraid I will offend those who have sentimentalized the Revolution, and for this I apologize in advance. But, as I see it, the task of philosophers is to tell the truth to the best of their ability, not to obfuscate in order to avoid unpleasantness.” John Kekes

The Kathryn Johnston Indictments: A Good Start. A Long Way to Go.
“When 88-year-old Kathryn Johnston was shot and killed by Atlanta narcotics officers last November, it had all the trappings of the typical drug raid gone wrong. Critics (like me) cautioned Atlanta officials to use Johnston's death to spur real reform in the investigation and policing of drug crimes, and to avoid what other cities have done in the wake of such tragedies: express regret and remorse, promise changes, then return to doing things the same way they've always been done.” Radley Balko Well maybe. Let’s see if the cop union doesn’t spin this into a typical police “accidental shooting” type whitewash first though.

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Sunday, February 4, 2007

02.04.07 - National ID Cards Are a Moot Point Folks

Your state issued driver’s license is already a de facto national ID card and has been for some time now. Any cop or other state minion from anywhere can easily find out damn near every thing any "public" [i.e. government] data base has on you instantly, and in private data bases as well, with just a few more key strokes; So why all the fuss about the Real ID Act, now?

I think it’s the boiled frog syndrome at work. People give up their liberty, privacy, and anonymity gradually and by small increments quite readily; it’s only when a big chunk gets taken, that some then object. The time for bitching about all this stuff is well past, it seems to me, because it ain’t gonna be repealed or reversed by the courts, no matter what the Maine legislature or the ACLU do.

"You have zero privacy …get over it," Scott McNealy once told a group of reporters, after being hammered by questions about privacy issues. True enough, eh? If some lawyer, cop or bureaucrat wants to know what DVDs I have rented from Netflix, or see my checking account info, or whatever-the-hell-all-else, she can easily get that information, and this has been true for some time.

So again, why now? Cui bono?