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January 20, 2004

Must read. David Neiwert of Orcinus, on the Latin Americanization of America.

This is what I’m talking about when I say this administration is a clear and present danger to your life. And yours, and yours, and mine.

We will live to see an America in which the worst kinds of bosses have their way all of the time. Unless we fight, now.

UPDATE: Think I’m overstating the case? Here’s how the largest company in America now feels free to treat its workers. That’s your children’s future. [02:30 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Must read.:

Wendy ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 05:09 PM:

::Puzzled:: So Walmart locks its employees in overnight, and tells them they can leave through the fire escape only if there's a fire? And this causes problems if there's a non-fire emergency like an illness?

Well, it's not *that* hard to solve, surely? Don't they sell matches in Walmarts?

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 05:35 PM:

Walmart's defense seems to always be "Well, that hasn't happened in a while. Oh, it happened again recently? Well, we have so many stores and so many managers, we can't control what they all might do. It's not like we can fire them or anything."


Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 06:57 PM:

And here I thought lock-ups had been illegal since the Triangle fire. Silly me.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 07:25 PM:

All politics, all exercise of power, is dependent on how information is organized.

It follows from this that there are some kinds of organization which should not be allowed, on pain of whatever least means suffice to prevent them; secret information concerning persons, available only to a few, or specific information concerning a person, available to those who are strangers to the person whom the information concerns, or any exercise of the law that is not carried out in public view.

Not for any cause at all should these things be permitted, most especially not in this time, where such things need not pass through a human mind to become knowledge.

There is no human purpose in profit for the sake of profit; profit for the sake of status, yes, that's human, however hollowly, but profit for its own end is as wise and as benevolent as a hunger without limit, a hunger that will eat the world and then itself, slobbering.

Those who certain that you are not their equal, that if all men are created equal, you are no kind of man, that the purpose of everyone else is to obey, to buy, to be the little gears in the grand machine that -- serving no human purpose -- piles up profits, they have been these hundred years in proving that it is a thing of greater importance to them than your life, or liberty.

The votes have not been counted; the rule of law has failed; the Wolf is loose, to eat our corpses, by and by.

There is the green world yet, to uphold and defend; one another, peace, the rule of law, the increase of choice and the expansion of knowledge.

It will not be a defense of courts, of civility and balance, of an equality of dis-satisfaction, because those are things of the law, and the living peace, and those are lost to us, in secret trials and arbitary arrests and uncounted votes.

We will not have those things back from themselves, because they do not rest on themselves; in some days, it is time to stand again in the shield wall, and hope to make the work a little easier for the next, who comes to the task after you have fallen.

These days are those days.

Stand fast, Men of the West, for this is the hour of doom.
Anna ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 08:47 PM:

weblog-friendly NY Times link generator is

examples showing why it's a good idea are here

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 09:54 PM:

Great idea, but it failed on the very first NYT link I fed to it -- the one in the above post.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 10:58 PM:

It worked when I tried it, but I have had occasional trouble with it in the past.

Another option, though itís a bit of a pain in the ass, is to:

1. Go to the Userland NY Times RSS Feed page,

2. Click the little globe next to the section of the article youíre linking to (see the URL for a hint; in this case itís ďNationalĒ; you can see ď/national/Ē in the URL),

3. View Source and hunt through the result for the partnered URL for weblogs. Using your browserís Find feature with the title of the article ought to help.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 11:15 PM:

Avram, in my experience, that only works for New York Times links from the last day or two.

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 12:18 AM:

I saw that article earlier in the week. Last night, I dreamed I was back in Bentonville. I wasn't in the General Office--I've had that dream before. In this one, I was doing manual labor.

Forward, into the Past!

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 12:23 AM:

Hmm. Poking around through the source code for the NY Times Linker, I see, well, itís written in Python, a language I donít know, but I can figure out that the script relies on a local text file containing already-partner-formatted URLs. Iím guessing this text file is compiled from the Userland feed page automatically every so often, which implies that there will be times that the script will fail while hunting through the page works, and perhaps vice versa.

I suppose a script could be written thatíd slurp down the partner URLs every day and archive them in a file with a date-stamped filename, giving one a permanent archive of partner URLs starting from when you started running the script, if one felt like devoting hard drive space to the project. One could then just grep through the text files for the URL.

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 12:25 AM:


There are still more citizens and animal control officers than there are wolves, by my count. Unfortunately, the citizens have temporarily vested the wolves with the authority to direct the control officers. The wolves will use their fangs in darkness to retain that authority.

But it remains to be seen whether the citizenry can reassert its authority in the light -- for a long enough time to get the wolves back in cages.

A semi-democratic struggle for that authority is coming up, shortly. The citizenry may not have silver bullets, but they can shine flashlights in the darkness, which tends to discourage the midnight wolf attacks. Appeal to the rationality of rational voters and exert lots more pressure to monitor the polls and election results.

The wolves aren't ready to declare martial law and instigate mass arrests, just yet, if the ballot is tallied and it rescinds their authority.

Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 04:47 AM:

Graydon sez: All politics, all exercise of power, is dependent on how information is organized.

OK. With you there.

It follows from this that there are some kinds of organization which should not be allowed, on pain of whatever least means suffice to prevent them; secret information concerning persons, available only to a few, or specific information concerning a person, available to those who are strangers to the person whom the information concerns, or any exercise of the law that is not carried out in public view.

Lost me completely. Are you saying there should be no secret intelligence services? No police databases? No compiling of information by persons on other persons, even from the public record? Well, in an ideal world, maybe. In this one, bang goes a lot of investigative journalism and (provisionally) legitimate police work.

If you're saying that such information gathering should be open to public - political or judicial - oversight and challenge, fine. But otherwise, I don't understand the feasibility of what you're saying.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 09:58 AM:

Avedon (January 20, 2004, 06:57 PM) And here I thought lock-ups had been illegal since the Triangle fire. Silly me

Try putting "Hamlet fire deaths Carolina" into a search engine. You'll find various versions of the story of the fire at the Imperial Food Products chicken processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina on the early morning of September 3, 1991

Example www.organicanews.com/news/article.cfm?story_id=103 This story is about people making a film about the fire, its causes & consequences. It's from 1995, but I don't know what has happened since. They mention the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (March 25, 1911) too. I wonder how many others happened between or since? Certainly several in non-USA manufactories.

"The doors (at the Imperial Food chicken processing plant) were kept locked, and the plant had boarded-up windows so we couldn't steal the chicken," adds another worker, Conessta Williams. "They never put up a fence or hired a security guard. But (no one) would want to steal that chicken,"

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 10:19 AM:

Ken -

Find me a secret intelligence service that isn't primarily a tool of domestic repression. (CSIS certainly is.)

Military operational security is well and good (and necessary), but the cost/benefit analysis of secret intelligence services reliably comes down on 'destroys liberty and security for minimal return (unless you happen to be part of the party of the powerful which the intelligence service supports)'.

So far as I can tell, free societies are much better off without such things.

Police databases -- the core lesson of (pardon the provincial examples) Guy Paul Morin and the recent Toronto Police Drug Squad corruption charges is not 'police make mistakes' or 'some cops go bad', it's 'the police casually and systematically frame people'.

Policing is necessary; the way policing is done -- the organization of information into labels for criminality, done in secret and used through profoundly anti-social biases -- isn't legitimate or acceptable. It just doesn't happen to most people at the moment, so it's not obviously onerous.

Compiling of information, of course not. What any large organization, that corporate person, wants is predictability of economic outcomes, which unwound, means control of every individual's personal access to choice.

The technical means available approach that; they're always going to be approaching that until some nicely reliable write function for brain states comes along, and the various large organizations are fighting over what results are desired, but the tendency, the structural drive, is there. The more information it has about you, the better able the large organization is to constrain your choice space, starting with 'red sweater or blue sweater?' (rather than 'do you want a sweater?') questions, and going on from there.

"Public information" is also highly problematic, because it's very badly defined, and no public organization has any willingness to define any information as private or inappropriately held if having it might make their job easier.

I'd cheerfully support truly public information if there was a way to reliably identify people, so that there could be no anonymous or automated access to it. The technological capability is there for that, too.

But the organization we've got, the organization we're getting, presupposes universal criminality, perfect anonymity of intent, and the necessity of constant fear.

('not watching the ads is theft' -- some of the values of 'criminality' sound whacked, but they do all eventually come down to 'not obeying the expectations of authority'. What is available to set the scope of authority?)

If we don't get some other structure of organization, it doesn't matter how benevolently people try to use it; the brutal tyranny is built into the structure given by the organizational model, the organization of information, in the same way the shadowed forest floor where nothing grows is built into the tall trees of the forest.

It's just that the model couldn't get very far when it had to use quill pens and ledgers and telegraphs.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 11:44 AM:

The votes have not been counted; the rule of law has failed; the Wolf is loose, to eat our corpses, by and by.

Ah, Graydon, what a cheerful view of the world.

The problem is, I'm afraid things really are that bad.

I used to wonder what it was like, to live in a country while a war was going on, or to be there as a slow-moving catastrophe such as a coup or a revolution was taking place. It must be like what living now is like.

Things are normal. Things that were abnormal become normal, and we forget the past. Daily life is enough of a struggle that we don't have time for the larger disasters pending on the horizon. Things that were abnormal become normal, and we forget the past. We accept rationalizations for all sorts of restrictions, some of which make sense and some of which don't, because we don't have the time or the energy to evaluate them. Things that were abnormal become normal. We are guilty until proven innocent. The right to an attorney, or a speedy trial are abridged, even violated. Privacy is whittled away in the name of marketing or in the name of national security. Corporations become privileged individuals and natural persons lose their ability to seek recourse against the corporations. We find ourselves required to provide identity cards when traveling by plane or train. Eventually, we're wound so tightly in spider silk that struggle is almost impossible, and rather than stare in horror at Shelob's approach, we collapse into apathy. And then nothing is normal, but it's too late.

Norma ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 02:54 PM:

Graydon, Lydia: reading this thread, combined with SAD, has me wanting to crawl under my desk and give up. I can't do that; I've got a kid to think of. Anybody have any ideas what one antisocial nerd (how'd our proprietor put it? "octaroon-Aspergers"?), from the sunless depths of Eastern Washington state, can do?

Contemplate emigration?

Or take the soma and be a good little citizen?

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 03:13 PM:

Lydy -

Y'all are still the Sovereign People, in the foundations of the imagination of the Law. That won't last another such President or Congress, I don't think, but for now, it is so.

I'm sure there is a suitably grim Northern proverb version of 'use it or lose it', but I can't call it to mind just now. :)

Norma --

Make goes-be-feathered sure that the votes get counted. If you are supposed to have electronic voting machines that don't have a paper trail where you are, get a citizen's committee going; have ballots ready to roll on election day, and arrange, first thing, for the machines to undergo immersive baptism. (Try to have lots of clergy from lots of denominations handy.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 03:39 PM:

Graydon and I have had this argument before, but just for the record, I think he does go a bit overboard in his warnings of imminent total disaster.

I'm not disagreeing with the urgency of, for instance, his call that we make damn sure the votes are counted. And (as I keep saying) I don't think the current situation is politics-as-usual, I think it's a concerted attempt by several political factions, working together, to change the kind of country we are.

But if Bush gets re-elected I'm not quite ready to declare America over or run away to New Zealand. At least, as of today. As I keep saying, these people aren't ten feet tall.

Norma ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 05:10 PM:

We've got ESS machines here, but they use the bubble-forms -- built in paper-trail, and eminently hand-countable. (Voting causes SAT flashbacks, but at least I get to use a Sharpie. Any process that involves public use of Sharpies can't be all bad.)

Though my husband and I have previously not affiliated with any political party, we're going to register as Democrats this year and hie ourselves down to the caucuses (spelling!) on February 7th to let the local Democratic party (such as it is) know how we feel. (Disgusted and disenfranchised, mainly.) There's no way in hell we'd fit in with the local Republicans -- heathen unbelievers don't go over very well here. (I thought of sending my husband undercover to the Republican side, but he didn't feel up to it.)

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 05:57 PM:

I linked this article on the Hamlet fire a year or so ago, as one of the most horrendous crimes in recent memory.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 10:42 AM:

Patrick --

I am not the most typical set of observational biases available, and I freely grant that this is so.

I certainly don't think those people are ten feet tall; I think they are contemptible incompetent spineless poseurs, would be tyrants who demand worship, self-deluding fools whose fragility of esteem demands an imagination of the world in which they are especially blessed and deserving, and who will encompass any servile folly or blatant contempt of facts in their eagerness to maintain that lie to themselves.

That doesn't mean that they're not capable of a great destruction, that moving the machine of the economy from a thing designed to produce wealth to a thing designed to concentrate wealth, that one clear policy objective of the Bush government, can not -- to the surprise of these idiots more than anyone else! -- dig us all into a very deep hole, that their irresponsibility-shirking, spineless, stupid response to tumbling into that hole won't be ever more wildly and multiplicatively violent, or that they care that their doctrine and their dogma is false to fact, before they set out to write it on our flesh with fire.

A real Dark Lord wouldn't be those things; I have my doubts that a real Dark Lord would be anything like as destructive as those things may prove to be.

A real Dark Lord would at the least understand what the Rights of Man are, and mean, and despise them as a check on the free exercise of power. These fools do not understand the Rights of Man, and despise them not as a check on the free exercise of arbitrary power but for disagreeing with their vital illusion of personal superiority and inherent authority.

I did not grow up in the belief that I was either free or safe, and so I think I am indeed standing in a different place than you (and many another) to see these things.

From where I am standing, this lot have the stench of "disobedience has no rights to anything" rising from them as the stench of rot rises from the dead, a belief which can no more function within the constraints of the American Constitution than you or I can breath vacuum and prosper thereby.

Once the Law goes -- and the rule of law is not better than tottering on the brink, with the votes uncounted and American citizens held in secret, without charge or trial -- what is left is obedient submission or starting over, that the rule of law might live again.