Archive | December, 2009

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

The Atrocity of Hope, Part 7: Our Ignoble Laureate

So our President Incarnate, his hands dripping (metaphorically – I’m sure he washes them regularly) with the blood of Pakistani and Afghan children, along with shredded bits of the principles of Nuremberg, jets off to Norway to accept a prize that is supposed to be awarded only to those who have worked for “the abolition or reduction of standing armies.”


There, having given Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King a patronisingly dismissive pat on the head, he adds: “But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation [Note: clearly he must have taken some secret version of the oath of office, because that’s not what the public one says], I cannot be guided by their examples alone.” And then he has the effrontery to propound a bizarro version of history in which, “for more than six decades,” the united states has “brought stability,” “helped underwrite global security,” “enabled democracy to take hold,” and “promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea.” (I suppose this would be an example of the u.s. promoting peace and prosperity in Korea.)

And as if all that weren’t audacity enough, he has the nerve to tell an audience of Scandinavians that “a non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies.”

That’s right: the president of the country that turned away Jews who were attempting to escape the Holocaust belittles the accomplishments of the people who actually saved their Jews from Hitler’s goons through the use of nonviolent resistance. As Bryan Caplan reminds us:

Danish, Norwegian, and Dutch resistance to Nazism from 1940 to 1945 was pronounced and fairly successful. In Norway, for example, teachers refused to promote fascism in the schools. For this, the Nazis imprisoned a thousand teachers. But, the remaining teachers stood firm, giving anti-fascist instruction to children and teaching in their homes. This policy made the pro-fascist Quisling government so unpopular that it eventually released all of the imprisoned teachers and dropped its attempt to dominate the schools. … In Copenhagen, Danes used a general strike to liberalize martial law. …

But, surely the most amazing but widely neglected case of nonviolent resistance against Nazi Germany was the protection of Jews and other persecuted minorities from deportation, imprisonment, and murder. … Gene Sharp shows how the nations which nonviolently resisted National Socialist racial persecutions saved almost all of their Jews, while Jews in other Nazi-controlled nations were vastly more likely to be placed in concentration camps and killed. The effort to arrest Norway’s seventeen hundred Jews sparked internal resistance and protest resignations; most of the Norwegian Jews fled to Sweden. … When Himmler tried to crack down on Danish Jews, the Danes thwarted his efforts. Not only did the Danish government and people resist – through bureaucratic slowdowns and noncooperation – but, surprisingly, the German commander in Denmark also refused to help organize Jewish deportations. This prompted Himmler to import special troops to arrest Jews. But, in the end almost all Danish Jews escaped unharmed. …

The omnipresent pattern … is that totalitarian governments are not omnipotent. They need the cooperation of the ruled to exert their will. If a people denies cooperation, even a government as vicious as Hitler’s, bound by few moral constraints, might be unable to get what it wants.
(The Literature of Nonviolent Resistance and Civilian-Based Defense)

Then after collecting his prize and insulting the givers, Obama jets away again, snubbing the traditional ceremonies. Note to Scandinavia: don’t give our president any more prizes. Really. You don’t need to stay in this abusive relationship.

The Cats in the Walls

It was the rats;
the slithering scurrying rats whose scampering will never let me sleep;
the dæmon rats that race behind the padding in this room
and beckon me down to greater horrors than I have ever known;
the rats they can never hear;
the rats, the rats in the walls.

– H. P. Lovecraft

So Chris Muth gets dragged off to the psych ward to treat his “bizarre delusion,” because he hears a cat behind his wall that no one else can hear. Then they finally have to let him out – after his neighbours start complaining about that darn cat behind the wall. (CHT Gavin in a comment on Charles’ blog.)

I guess Straczynski is luckier than he knew.


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes