Archive | December 13, 2009

The Thin Blue Line That Protects Us From Canadian Science Fiction Writers

Peter Watts writes:

If you buy into the Many Worlds Intepretation of quantum physics, there must be a parallel universe in which I crossed the US/Canada border without incident last Tuesday. In some other dimension, I was not waved over by a cluster of border guards who swarmed my car like army ants for no apparent reason; or perhaps they did, and I simply kept my eyes downcast and refrained from asking questions.

police brutality

Along some other timeline, I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.

But that is not this universe.

CHT Ken MacLeod and William Grigg. Updates here. To help Watts, see PayPal and snailmail donation info here. To ensure it never happens again, smash the state.

Libertarian Layer Cake

libertarian layer cake

As another way of expressing the idea of “thick libertarianism,” Gary Chartier draws a nice distinction between the libertarian principle and the libertarian ideal:

A libertarian, I take it, is someone who is for liberty and against aggression. The libertarian doesn&#146lt like to be pushed around, and doesn’t like to see other people pushed around, either. The libertarian will likely affirm some version of what I will call the libertarian principle, and will have good reason as well to embrace the libertarian ideal.

In its strongest form, the libertarian principle holds that someone may rightly use force against the person or property of another only to prevent or end an unjust attack or to secure compensation for the damage done by such an attack. On weaker versions, the initiation of force, while infrequently permissible, must meet very demanding requirements.

The libertarian ideal calls for real freedom in all aspects of life. The libertarian need not, and likely will not, suppose that just any action that does not involve the misuse of force is morally reasonable. Conduct that is not aggressive can, and frequently does, amount to the mistreatment of others. Often, this mistreatment will reduce their freedom to make choices about their own lives. Someone motivated by the libertarian ideal will challenge such mistreatment even while granting that it may be narrowly consistent with the libertarian principle and may not reasonably be met with the use of force.

Tolle, lege.

Amazon versus the Market

The Huffington Post reports on the working conditions at, including the fact that workers are:

  • Warned that the company refuses to allow sick leave, even if the worker has a legitimate doctor’s note. Taking a day off sick, even with a note, results in a penalty point. A worker with six points faces dismissal.
  • Made to work a compulsory 10-hour overnight shift at the end of a five-day week. The overnight shift, which runs from Saturday evening to 5am on Sunday, means they have to work every day of the week.
  • Set quotas for the number of items to be picked or packed in an hour that even a manager described as ‘ridiculous’. Those packing heavy Xbox games consoles had to pack 140 an hour to reach their target.
  • Set against each other with a bonus scheme that penalises staff if any other member of their group fails to hit the quota.
  • Made to walk up to 14 miles a shift to collect items for packing.
  • Given only one break of 15 minutes and another of 20 minutes per eight-hour shift and told they had to notify staff when going to the toilet. Amazon said workers wanted the shorter breaks in exchange for shorter shifts.

Predictably, the reaction at LRC (see here and here) has been unsympathetic: “Do you mean to tell me that Amazon employees actually have to work?”

But a better question would be: “Is it likely that Amazon would be able to get away with this crap in a non-oligopsonistic labour market?

warehouse scene from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

I’m Your Venus

The full trailer for Avatar pretty much gives the story away, but that’s okay. I’m excited to see it for a couple of reasons: first, it’s a sympathetic portrayal of resistance to American military imperialism (I don’t know whether these Marines are actually American in the story or whether they’re from a United Earthforce or something, but it doesn’t matter – they clearly represent the American military); and second, this is the closest visual representation I’ve seen to the Venus novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. (Though this clip seems to draw at least as much from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider novels – which, coincidentally, I was introduced to on the same day as Burroughs’ Venus novels.)

Mike Kaluta's adaptation of PIRATES OF VENUS

Mike Kaluta's adaptation of PIRATES OF VENUS

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