Marketplace (May 9, 2013): Does fair trade clothing help the consumer and the retailer?: NPR’s Marketplace features a short story on
Fair Tradecertification for clothing, and efforts to address the working conditions in Bangladesh sweatshops. Along the way, there’s a couple quotes from my co-editor on Markets Not Capitalism, Gary Chartier, about the supply-chain practices that many clothing-industry TNCs use to displace responsibility and insulate themselves from accountability for lethal working conditions in their factories.
Cathy Reisenwitz @ Sex And The State (May 15, 2013): Fighting Sexism, Sexily
I’ve long contended that libertarians have a habit of downplaying or denying certain problems when they don’t like the proposed solutions. For example, when people talk about sexism, or the wage gap, it’s common for a libertarian to retort that the wage gap isn’t real, or can be explained by individual choices. I understand this desire to avoid the coercive solutions many people suggest for fighting sexism The thing is, Rothbard was super bothered by a state monopoly on force. We libertarians need to get really bothered by sexism. And then we need to come up with cultural, and not state, solutions.(With an example of creative thinking and guerrilla theater, featuring a cheesecake pin-up poster of Bro-sie the Riveter.)
Marja Erwin (May 2, 2013): Trans Politics and Colonialism: A Few Questions?. Read the whole thing.
Marja Erwin (April 23, 2013): I still think market anarchism has a lot to contribute to the rest of anarchism. This too.
I think it’s important to have a system where people can communicate what they need, and what they want, and what they don’t need, and what they can do to help, and I think it’s important to have systems where people can work things among themselves, if for some reason they can’t work things out through the community or union or federation orgs.(Against all monopolizations of social capital.)
Mark Stoval @ On the Mark (May 7, 2013) claims that he is going to take
A look at Mutualism. In comments, Roderick Long points out that he ought to have looked harder. Or, really, tried looking at any mutualist writing at all, rather than just doing what he seems to have done, which was to scan ahead until he reached a fixed phrase (
labor theory of value,
occupancy and use) that convinced him that he already knows everything that he needs to know about the rest of the book. Nearly everything that Mark claims about Mutualists is a ridiculous travesty of Kevin Carson’s views; and evidence that he knows nothing about Mutualists other than Kevin Carson. But Roderick’s intervention in the comments section is right-on.
Forbes (May 15, 2013): Suit Alleges IRS Improperly Seized 60 Million Personal Medical Records. You know what the worst part of this story is? The part about having an Internal Revenue Service, to surveill daily expenses and seize personal data, all in order to investigate and police tax payments. Seriously, there is no possible way to square that with basic civil liberties, and it ought to be abolished.
BBC (May 6, 2013): Lauryn Hill jailed for tax evasion. Partly this is a story about the government’s tax-policing. Partly it’s a story about the financial traps that are imposed by the structure of state capitalism, and the ways in which tax structures systemically confine people — both very wealthy people, like Hill, and very poor people as well — to high-liquidity, cash-producing business and employment.
The Grammy-winning singer, 37, also faces three months of home confinement, after pleading guilty last year. Hill failed to pay taxes on about $1.8m (£1.2m) of earnings between 2005-07. In a statement to the judge, Hill said she had intended to pay the taxes but could not after withdrawing from public life and ending her music career to raise her children.Free Lauryn Hill and all political prisoners.
I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them,Hill said in court.
I had an economic system imposed on me.
Dominic Gover, International Business Times (May 7, 2013): Lauryn Hill Blames Slavery as She’s Jailed for $500,000 Unpaid Tax Bill. Oh by the way, did I mention that the judge is also forcing Lauryn Hill
to undergo counselling because of her conspiracy theories [sic]as a condition of her plea? Where
political dissent from the status quo.
Jim Epstein @ reason.com (May 7, 2013): Government Assault on the Chinatown Bus Industry Fueled By Bogus Federal Study. In which the government takes care of Greyhound’s competitors for them, using an error-ridden bogus safety study, which uses Greyhound’s own crashes to
provethat their curbside competitors are less safe. The study is like a matryoshka doll of clumsy errors and statistical malpractice; every time you spot them one error and set it aside for the sake of argument, you find another error, just as atrocious as the last one, nested inside of it.
Home School Legal Defense Association (May 14, 2013): German Family Denied Asylum, HSLDA Appeals. The judge’s decision to deny asylum is appalling. From the press release:
The court said that the Romeikes had not made a sufficient case, and that the United States has not opened its doors to every victim of unfair treatment.Well no, no they haven’t. But they say that like it ought to be a problem for the victims of unfair treatment. Actually, it is a problem with the United States, which needs to stop acting as a gatekeeper and get out of the way. It is appalling that any peaceful immigrant should be turned away, for any reason. Solidarity with all people without papers, and all immigrants without status.
Free Adam Kokesh (May 20, 2013): Adam Kokesh Accused of Felony Assault on Federal Officer — No Bail Yet: It looks pretty clearly like he is being held on a vacuous detained-by-will-of-the-cop charge — in this case,
assault on a federal officer— for getting himself shoved by a Federal Officer and then grabbing the arm of the dude who was physically attacking him. His hearing is set for Thursday; in the meantime he is in contact with his attorney but has been denied the opportunity to make phone calls (content warning: Alex Jones links, feh).
DinoGoss (May 11, 2013): The Validity of Lambeosaurus — Anybody Know A Good Lawyer? I Am Not A Taxonomist, but I’m inclined to think that if your system would throw out Lambeosaurus at this point in favor of Didanodon altidens that’s probably a problem with your naming system not a problem with current use of Lambeosaurus.
Lucy Cooke @ Vimeo (February 8, 2013): BUCKET OF SLOTHS. Exactly what it says on the tin.
It does not take a long time,said madame,for an earthquake to swallow a town. Eh well! Tell me how long it takes to prepare the earthquake?
A long time, I suppose,said Defarge.
But when it is ready, it takes place, and grinds to pieces everything before it. In the meantime, it is always preparing, though it is not seen or heard. That is your consolation. Keep it.
—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Here’s an announcement / call to action from InterOccupy.net. They are helping to coordinate information about shelters, drop-offs, donations, food banks, communications & connectivity for folks affected by the Oklahoma tornados. From the post:
The absolutely devastating impact of the Tornados in Oklahoma has prompted a concentrated relief effort for those who have suffered in this region. There is no limit to who you can help or what you can do… but please do something. Many #AmeriSec members and other humanitarian groups will be on scene to help in anyway we can. This is an operation that all can assist with and if money, transportation or any issues that would hinder you from being able to help please, use social media, video and any other means to KEEP the word moving. As we have seen with #OccupySandy the impact of individuals helping with natural disaster has a tremendous impact… So Please assist in any way you can. WE ARE LEGION and WE have the ability to assist in the suffering on the ground so please help!
Please make video and pastebins with information that could assist independent relief workers and all others
— andrea @ InterOccupy.net (May 21, 2013). #OpOK Update: Oklahoma Relief
There’s also a Community Action meeting gathering to-day (Tuesday, May 21) in Norman, Okla. From scott crow:
Today Tues May 21at 12 noon
Will be a meeting of decentralized coordination efforts: CSBI Building 1155 E Main Norman, OK 73071
Including: COBRA, Food Not Bombs ,Occupy, C4ss, IWW and Rainbow folks
Hopefully a place will be set up to send donations, for people to contact them and for volunteers to gather.
Edit (12pm). And here’s some more from Zakk Flash:
Tornadoes touched down last night in Moore, Oklahoma, killing at least 51 people (20 children among them). We can’t control the weather, but we can try to stop climate change before it gets worse, and we can definitely help build solidarity networks to respond to emergency situations.
Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA) will be hosting a gathering of folks who are interested in the People’s response to the disaster. Folks are invited to come by my offices at Community Action (1155 E Main, Norman OK 73071) at noon today to discuss the current response from the Red Cross, organized labor, faith-based communities, and the like.
We’ll also be discussing decentralized relief and creative opportunities to help folks most affected by the storm. Not everyone is connected or comfortable working with NGOs and there are independent efforts that can make a huge difference. Look at Occupy Sandy as an example.
In the meantime, if you have any type of medical background/credentials and want to help relief efforts, get to the Warren Theater. If you don’t have medical credentials but want to help, get to the Home Depot in Moore.
If you want to help people in the area affected by the tornados, strongly consider offering support wherever possible, and wherever they ask for it, from decentralized, grassroots mutual aid groups like these. (They need your help a lot more than well-funded, bureaucratically organized efforts like Red Cross or Salvation Army.) Ordinary people working together in solidarity can accomplish remarkable, life-saving things.
From an article a couple weeks back, on anniversaries and Resurrected Landmarks, by Eric Meyer. Boldface mine.
It was just last week, at the end of April, that CERN announced the rebirth of The Very First URL, in all its responsive and completely presentable glory. If you hit the root level of the server, you get some wonderful information about the Web’s infancy and the extraordinary thing CERN did in releasing it, unencumbered by patent or licensing restrictions, into the world, twenty years ago.
That’s not at all minor point. I don’t believe it overstates the case to say that if CERN hadn’t made the web free and open to all, it wouldn’t have taken over the net. Like previous attempts at hypertext and similar information systems, it would have languished in a niche and eventually withered away. There were other things that had to happen for the web to really take off, but none of them would have mattered without this one simple, foundational decision.
I would go even further and argue that this act infused the web, defining the culture that was built on top of it. Because the medium was free and open, as was often the case in academic and hacker circles before it, the aesthetic of sharing freely became central to the web community. The dynamic of using ideas and resources freely shared by others, and then freely sharing your own resources and ideas in return, was strongly encouraged by the open nature of the web. It was an implicit encouragement, but no less strong for that. As always, the environment shapes those who live within it.
— Eric Meyer, Resurrected Landmarks
meyerweb.com (May 8, 2013)
It’s worth noting that as hypertext technologies go, the web stack (HTTP, HTML 1) wasn’t the most sophisticated implementation; in many ways it still isn’t. But it was operational, and available, and learnable, and it was free and open. And that has made all the difference between science-fiction dreams and a fundamental, transformational shift within world culture, society and learning.
In other news, thanks to Eric for reminding me to wish a very happy belated 10th anniversary to CSS Zen Garden.
It’s not every term in meta-ethical theory that gets taken up into burning public-policy debates. But due to a complex series of cultural events, the term
moral relativism has. The problem is that nearly every use of the term
moral relativism in common political debate has more or less nothing actually to do with the subject of moral relativism. Here’s some notes from a recent Glenn Greenwald column on u.s.-American responses to the Israeli government’s bombing of urban targets in Syria:
[T]he claim is being hauled out that Israel’s actions are justified by the “principle” that it has the right to defend itself from foreign weapons in the hands of hostile forces. But is that really a “principle” that anyone would apply consistently, as opposed to a typically concocted ad hoc claim to justify whatever the US and Israel do? Let’s apply this “principle” to other cases, as several commentators on Twitter have done over the last 24 hours :
Imagine if, say, Iran had unilaterally launched a strike on Salafi Syrian rebels overnight? Would we all be okay with that? #lawofthejungle— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan)
As soon as Hasan tweeted his question, he was instantly attacked by a writer for the Times of Israel and the Atlantic, dutifully re-tweeted by Jeffrey Goldberg, on this ground:
Israel’s strike on Syria has been a revealing moment. Some, for example, seem to view Israel as equivalent to Iran—Liam Hoare (@lahoare)
One could say quite reasonably that this is the pure expression of the crux of US political discourse on such matters: they must abide by rules from which we’re immune, because we’re superior. The ultimate irony is that those who advocate for the universal application of principles to all nations are usually tarred with the trite accusatory slogan ofmoral relativism. But the real moral relativists are those who believe that the morality of an act is determined not by its content but by the identity of those who commit them: namely, whether it’s themselves or someone else doing it. Today’s version of that is: Israel and the US (and its dictatorial allies in Riyadh and Doha) have the absolute right to bomb other countries or arm rebels in those countries if they perceive doing so is necessary to stop a threat but Iran and Syria (and other countries disobedient to US dictates) do not. This whole debate would be much more tolerable if it were at least honestly acknowledged that what is driving the discussion are tribalistic notions of entitlement and nothing more noble.
— Glenn Greenwald, Israeli bombing of Syria and moral relativism
The Guardian (May 6, 2013)
The view that
moral relativism is actually supposed to signify is, roughly, the position that one and the same action, taken in the same context, can be both right and wrong at the same time; that is, the position that questions of morality can rightly be answered only relative to a frame of reference which can change from one judgment to the next. (So, for example, some people have believed — wrongly — that whether an action is right or wrong depends on whether the person making the moral judgment has a feeling of approval or disapproval towards it; other people have believed — also wrongly — that whether an action is right or wrong depends on whether the person making the judgment lives in a society in which the action is generally praised, generally tolerated, or generally condemned. For an excellent discussion of, and critical reply to, actual moral relativism, see the third chapter of G. E. Moore’s Ethics .)
Now it is no sin not to know meta-ethical theory. It’s a branch of technical philosophy, and not the least recondite of the branches you could study. But if you’re going to use the terms, you ought at least to know what they mean.
Moral relativism is a real thing; and even kind of a common personal stance or cultural phenomenon (it’s common enough for people, when challenged to justify their actions or to ground their moral pronouncements, to retreat into a sort of relativism, whether with a seemingly sophisticated philosophical defense or with a dull
Well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.). And it’s something that’s worth pointing out; I think that the retreat to relativism is not only a cognitive or intellectual mistake, but really itself a kind of ethical lapse. But in public political debates, when the word
moral relativism is thrown against a position, it is rarely being thrown at a position that’s actually relativist. In fact, because the word has become a watch-word of the cultural Right — and because u.s.-American militarism draws so much of its intellectual basis from the watch-words of the cultural Right —
relativism has come to be very frequently used in order to defend the crassest sorts of exceptionalism and militarism in foreign policy debates. But when
moral relativism is used polemically this way in debates about war and foreign policy, the word is almost always being used to attack positions that are exactly the opposite of relativist — it used to attack views precisely because they insist on principled ethical judgments being applied across the board, and demand that moral actors be held to the same ethical standards regardless of who they are, regardless of their politics or the government they are part of or the nationality they claim to represent. When someone condemns the Israeli government for taking exactly the same actions that would have been condemned from the government of Iran, the person condemning those actions (whether they are right or wrong to do so) is explicitly demanding a universal standard of moral judgment, and thus rejecting the sort of national relativism that tolerates behavior from
our government while condemning it in others, simply because they are on the other side of a political boundary.
moral relativism is used polemically in foreign-policy debates, the position being attacked is almost always being attacked because it makes a moral argument which is actually the exact opposite of moral relativism. And that’s too bad, because words mean things. Or at least they ought to.
-  Depending on the version of relativism in question, the frame of reference might be the frame of reference of the person acting; or it might be the frame of reference of the person evaluating the action and responding with praise or blame. ↩
-  Both in terms of the people who advocate militarism, and also in terms of the conceptual framework that even
liberalhawks routinely make use of. ↩
Happy Sunday, everyone. Time to get Shameless.
Around here, I am trying to get my office into some semblance of tidiness, doing some background reading for a paper on the emergence of the fast-food industry, and making the final arrangements to get myself up to Birmingham for Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice’s May 1st march for immigration freedom. (Wednesday, May 1, 4pm–7pm, starting in Linn Park, Birmingham, Ala. See you there?) ¿Y tú? How’re things where you are? Got anything big coming up? Anything you’ve been working on lately? What have you been up to this week? Write anything? Leave a link and a short description for your post in the comments. Or fire away about anything else you might want to talk about.