blogging for michigan
michigan liberal
new deal 2.0
strange death of liberal america

joe bageant
blended purple
breaking ranks
critiques of libertarianism
death by car
divorce your car
fare-free michigan
'good communication skills'
occasional links & commentary
jack saturday
solidarity economy
trench coat exposed
ultimate superset
underclass rising

anarchist writers
angel economics
collectif emma goldman
dead time pacifies
robert graham
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poor richard
property is theft!
queering the singularity
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truth, reason & liberty

21 May 2011

New home for the blog formerly known as 'Es un alimento muy completo.'

I'm joining the mass exodus. The mission (such as it is) of the present blog will be continued at See you there!

17 May 2011

A brand new baby meme?

Seems one of the featured (bankrolled) videos on YouTube is some kind of astroturf presentation condemning what they call the "bad cap tax." A Google search on the quoted phrase "bad cap tax" (as of this writing) produces exactly one result.

16 May 2011

Another day, another Romanian malware site

The website

directs one to

which runs an apparent Java exploit which shrinks the browser window to a very small size. Re-maximizing it reveals the message:

Windows Security 2011 has found critical process activity on your PC and will perform fast scan of system files

06 May 2011

Enough of the 'liberal elite' meme already

Elitism is the belief that wealth and power are evidence of virtue. The 'liberal elite' meme is Orwellian in the sense of 'ignorance is strength,' 'freedom is slavery,' etc. As with all memes, the strategy of choice is assertive, relentless repetition.

The people who parrot the 'liberal elite' meme would like us to believe that academia and the media are dominated by liberals, or leftists, or at any rate people they disagree with. This may be true of academia (though I have my doubts--economics department faculties tend to be well to the right of center) but is so obviously untrue of the media (who rather aggressively frame issues in right vs. center terms) that 'liberal media' used as if it were one word is a patent falsehood. Even if media and academia were liberal dominated, the implication that they are the power centers of society is laughable. The amount of real power in media and academia is trivial compared to the power in big business, and in the military and intelligence services, as well as of course government in general.

It all follows the usual pattern of propaganda. The assumption seems to be that if you repeat something enough times, many will believe it to be true.

The Yahoo! Courriel disimprovement

Message options used to be both above and below the message. This was logical. If something was spam, you'd want to click the top "Pourriel" (formerly "Publipostage") button before reading. Otherwise, you'd read the message, and when you're done reading, where are you? At the bottom of the page. Under the old Yahoo! Courriel, you'd have a repeat of the buttons for delete, reply, déplacer (stick in a 'dossier' or folder), etc. Now one has to do a ctrl-home to go back to the top of the page.

"Marquer comme non lu" (mark as unread) no longer works on the currently open message. For a while I thought they had also gotten rid of 'précédent' (previous) and 'suivant' (next), but eventually figured out that that was what the ꜛ and ꜜ represent. One has to go to the inbox view for this feature to work. Oh well, it does say 'beta.' I'm waiting with baited breath to see if the 'alpha' version re-incorporates certain features subtracted from the 'classique' version.

28 April 2011

Another phishing domain

This one purports to be from Bank of America, and redirects to They even included a copyright notice, which I am taking the liberty of disregarding here, as the message is fraudulent to begin with. Non-standard grammar, it seems, is par for the course with spam, and this one is no exception, with "To get start:"


Due to the high number of fraud attempts and phishing
scams, it has been decided to implement EV
SSL Certification on this Internet Banking website.

The use of EV SSL certification works with high
security Web browsers to clearly identify whether
the site belongs to the company or is another site
imitating that company's site.

It has been introduced to protect our clients against
phishing and other online fraudulent activities.

Since most Internet related crimes rely on false identity, Bank of America went through a rigorous validation process that meets the extended validation guidelines

Please upadate your account to the new EV SSL certification

To get start :

> Log on to

Please Note:
If we do not receive the appropriate account verification within 48 hours, then
your account will be suspended.

Remember, Bank of America is committed to your security and protection. To find out more, take a look at our Information Security section
under Privacy and Security on the Web site.
Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender Equal Housing Lender Equal Housing Lender

© 2010 Bank of America Corporation. All rights reserved.

21 April 2011

Low-income Americans are undertaxed

I have noticed a not-at-all subtle shift in the tone of conservative movement rhetoric in America, that (in terms of conservative sources I'm tuned in to) has seemingly unfolded in just the last few months. Since the Reagan revolution, the tendency of movement conservatism has been a zero-tolerance policy toward tax increases on any subset of the population, period. Now the meme being parroted by grass-roots conservatives (I'm willing to assume they're not all sock puppets) is that citizens below about the 40th percentile in income are undertaxed, the talking point being that they "don't pay any income tax." I initially interpreted "40% pay no income tax" as code for "I'm against the Earned Income Credit." But it also appears to be a salvo in the far-right's age-old struggle to replace the income tax entirely with sales tax (code phrases "fair tax" [sic] and more recently "consumption tax").

According to Bill Carver, "Most democrats don't like a sales tax because it gives up conrol and doesn't punish the rich." Disregarding the 'punish the rich' rhetoric, the 'control' issue is an interesting frame to put on the issue. People control the amount of sales tax they pay by controlling the amount of taxable consumer goodies they purchase. Sounds fair enough. But how is income tax similarly not under individual control? I can't count the number of times I've been lectured by libertarians and other conservatives about my relationship with my boss being 'voluntary,' let alone how many times I've heard the cliché "nobody's holding a gun to your head." While economic competition provides resistance to any attempt to increase one's income (and hence one's income tax liability) there is no resistance, let alone coercion, standing in the way of decreasing one's income. One (who itemizes deductions, anyway) can even decrease one's taxable income without any change in earnings through philanthropic giving. Of course, all taxation is coercion, and justifying taxation requires coercion to be a means justified by some end, one of the more popular being the maintenance of civilization itself. It is not my purpose here to debate the legitimacy of taxation in general. I simply don't see how sales tax is under a taxpayer's control in ways that income tax is not.

17 April 2011

Many perceive an uptick in deletion of content at Facebook

This was recently noted regarding the "F*** the Royal Wedding" event page.

Could it be that there is a campaign to make Facebook less useable for noncommercial uses? That the annoyance factor itself is the weapon of choice? Facebook should be regarded as part of the main$tream media; a platform for marketing that is adaptable to other uses to the extent that they neither interfere with nor draw resources from the primary mission.

06 April 2011

Conspiracists: Tell me something I haven't hear before

Tell me something I haven't already heard millions of times, or better yet, STFU.

Conspiracy theories are to the marketplace of ideas as pyramid schemes are to the marketplace of consumer products. At some point a seemingly normal conversation takes an unexpected turn and you just realize that you have been thrown a 'pitch.' Talk radio is where conspiracists go to work on their curve ball.

28 March 2011

Where does one find high-contrast street maps online?

Would it kill websites such as Mapquest, Google Maps, Bing Maps etc. to offer a 'high contrast' option? What we might call a monochrome-printer-friendly (ideally in 'draft' mode) option? Perhaps the problem is me, simply not having figured out (yet) how to set the display preferences. Or is it a yet another case of necessity-creep; the tendency to design websites (and everything else) with built-in assumptions, like 'everyone has broadband' or 'everyone has color printers' or the despicable 'everyone has a car.'

25 March 2011

Necessity Creep

The key to living within one's means, especially in these times of austerity, risk, competition, precarity and casualization, is the ability and willingness to classify possible expenditures as luxuries or necessities, with a bias for regarding things as luxuries, and being aggressive about enforcing that line in the sand. The most formidable enemy of thrift is the tendency for luxuries to become necessities. What exactly is the economic or technological history behind something like indoor plumbing becoming an economic necessity? Is it a necessity because life requires it or because policy requires it? To the serious student of economic minimalism it may appear to be a conspiracy against the cheapskates, although there are of course questions of whether urban living can be safe or hygienic without everyone having indoor plumbing, and hence a water bill to pad the "baseline" cost of living. While it is always debatable what are the raw necessities of life (or as Thoreau put it, the grossest of groceries) it's plainly obvious that many product categories have migrated in the direction of the 'necessity' end of the spectrum. These include utility hookups, refrigerators, telephone service (if nothing else, so you have a phone number to put on your résumé), Internet access (because many job openings are announced only online, or even only take applications online), non-casual clothing (again, often a pre-requisite for earning a living). Perhaps the most egregious example of a perverse necessity is cars, in places not well served by mass transit.

In America, and it would seem in all 'first world' countries, it is becoming obvious that the going rate for labor at most skill levels simply won't cover the cost of living in such countries, which is to say, the cost of necessities. If for some reason we must insist on not practicing protectionism, subsidy, or some other Sin against the Iron Laws of Economics, surely we must be duty-bound at least to facilitate what can only be called cheap living, with an emphasis on cheap housing. While I reject the free market ideology, at least those who are principled and reasonably consistent in the market fundamentalism favor radical zoning deregulation, so that truly cheap housing arrangements (say living in someone's garage, or having a lot of roommates) are at very least not illegal. I'm not convinced that there is any guarantee (or even market-equilibrium-seeking tendency) that the cost of necessity procurement will automagically make itself commensurate with the market value of labor, which is one of the many reasons I'm an anagorist, but housing has some potential to relieve some of the pressures that cause hardship, and is one form of economic deregulation I think actually has merit. The existence in the world of cheap labor, without the existence locally of dirt cheap housing and cheap necessities in general, is a death trap, a treadmill of superhuman speed, and a deliberate act of cruelty on the part of anyone who speaks in defense of, for example, minimum square footage requirements.

As for those semi-necessities referred to in the first paragraph, there is a need for a platform for sharing and cataloguing strategies for living without the semi-necessities. There is an art and science of cheap living, and it merits serious, sophisticated and collaborative study.

In memoriam

Today is the 100-year anniversary of the catastrophic fire at New York's Triangle Shirtwaist factory, in which 146 fatialities resulted from the fact that the workers were locked inside. That was before my time, but I am old enough to remember the rhetoric surrounding the Berlin Wall, to the effect that free countries don't fortify their borders for the purpose of keeping people in. The point? There is nothing democratic about business. People under lock and key are not free people. The idea that employment is a "contract" between "free individuals" is a lie; one that can only serve the interests of the privileged.

18 March 2011

The trouble with PBS

Since it's pledge drive time yet again, PBS member station WTVS has the usual baby-boomer-oriented "pledge programming" slated for the next few weeks on channel 56.1. Meanwhile 56.2 becomes even more repetitive (i.e. less informative) than usual. One presentation they have been treating us to a lot is the US Chamber of Commerce's Illicit: The Dark Trade. Another is The Street Stops Here, jointly sponsored by Don Eberly's National Fatherhood Institute, Jeanne Allen's Center for Education Reform and an organization called The Clapham Group. Perhaps the people who make editorial decisions at PBS think that if they run enough decidedly right-of-center programming, they'll be spared the budget axe. It would seem a reasonable proposition, but it seems that the meme campaign to paint PBS/NPR/CPB as a left wing extremist organization is already in full force. The public broadcasters, like the Democrats (even the most moderate of Democrats) will be red-baited and branded as extremists no matter what they do. The purpose of the campaign of aggressive repetition is to convince people that "center is the new left," that is, that ideas considered middle-of-the road a generation ago are and should be considered left-of-center today. The negotiation of what counts as "middle of the road" is a far more high-stakes political outcome than an election cycle. The commercial media are obviously on the side of the political right. That the Democratic Party refuses to participate in the tug-of-war over the "center" demonstrates that the conservative (DLC and/or "Blue" Dog) faction of the Democratic Party has an uncontested controlling interest in the party.

17 March 2011

Good communication skills still suck

The excellent blog "Good communication skills" sucks pointed me to an ongoing debate on Debatewise about whether "companies should provide alternative interview methods," or alternatives to the job interview for the selection process. The points for the affirmative and negative logged so far are as follows:

All the Yes points

1. Doesn't always suit the job.
2. Can't get a realistic impression of a person in such a short space of time.
3. Unsuitable for employable people with Asperger's Syndrome and similar conditions.
4. Relies too heavily on vacancy details.

All the No points

1. Would create confusion.
2. Misses the point of an interview.
3. A significant number of studies reveal that the first impression is in fact the last impression

Now if I ran the world I'd abolish job interviews entirely. The question here is a little narrower; whether there should be an alternate screening method offered. I see job interviews as the second line of defense of Fortress Employment against the General Public. The first line of defense is of course 'networking,' which I define as the practice of working with rather than against the fact that who you know is more important than what you know. The object of the networking game is to make friends with people who have the authority to hire (or to cut purchase orders if your game is sales rather than job hunting), or at least to become of friend-of-a-friend of such key decision-makers. Another goal of networking is to get unpublished information about where openings are. The fact that most information of this type is unpublished in the first place is itself proof that the criteria of employers are largely other-than-meritocratic. The need to be socially connected to the employer itself in order even to find one's way to the applicant pool demonstrates that employers want to hire people they know; basically nepotism. Whether a vacancy is announced publicly or not, there will almost always be an interview at some point. This puts on display your personality characteristics, social style, race, sex, approximate age, and I suppose the firmness (or dryness?) of your handshake. The idea behind networking, which is to say keeping vacancies out of the want ads, seems to be "hire the people you know." The idea behind interviews, with the implied personality screening and social screening, is "hire the people you like."

13 March 2011

Illicit: a case study in package dealing

While generally pretty assertive about my non-Objectivism, I must admit I owe a debt of gratitude to Ayn Rand for popularizing the phrase 'package dealing.' One textbook example of this practice which is out standing in the field is the US Chamber of Commerce's funding of PBS' broadcast of National Geographics's hour-long production titled Illicit: The Dark Trade. Basically the terms 'illicit trade' and 'black market' are used interchangeably. These terms, we are told, cover everything from intellectual property infringement to illegal drugs to human trafficking. The centerpiece of the film is a truly heartbreaking story about hospital patient fatalities in Panama because of some cough syrup tainted with toxic ingredients because some overly-entrepreneurial Chinese firm substituted some cheap-but-poisonous compound for glycerine. Sounds to me not like not so much the consequences of counterfeiting proprietary products as the consequences of information about the supply chain being treated as proprietary. The problem is too much proprietary.

10 March 2011

Quotebag #40

“How long that will take I can’t tell you, but I don’t expect it to be very long, because as Watson begins replacing all those professionals in the job market, what do you think those experts are going to be doing? I know what I would be doing… making improvements in the open source versions of Watson to put the company that sacked me so the CEO could keep making a bonus out of business.”—valkyrie ice

“I work you fucking bastards. Isn’t that bad enough for whoever thought of this question to enact this farce, asking a wage slave to describe his work. 8 hours, for life to be expended in Hegelian freedom of choice, for the profit of a fucking wanker”—Anand 'droog' Kumar

“Cooperativity is fundamental … There is no dictator in cell regulation, no first among equals, no master regulator, no top-down system of governance.”—Michel Bauwens

“Where does this belief in ‘only works on the small scale’ come from? Is it based on the belief that people would, if not restrained by the personal effect of direct contact, cheat and hurt each other? If so, then it is only a corollary of the belief in man being innately evil.”—François Tremblay

“The CEO takes 11 of 12 cookies on the plate, then says to the Tea Partier, ‘look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie.’”—Patricia Welch

“I don’t believe in God. And, dammit, I live like I don’t. There’s nothing wrong with that.”—Hemant Mehta

“The most oppressive governments people face are corporate governments, and the most tyrannical forms are usually found at work-places and local areas, not at the Federal Government.”—C. Holte

“A criminal is a person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation.”—Howard Scott, quoted by Angela Russell

24 February 2011

Net metering limited to a few thousand??

From DTE Energy's brochure (pdf) on net metering:

How many customers are eligible for net metering?

Net metering is limited to one percent of Detroit Edison’s peak load, or about 100,000 kW. The eligibility is further broken down like this:

* 0.5 percent for units of 20kW and less
* 0.25 percent for units generating between 20kW and 150 kW
* 0.25 percent for units generating more than 150kW

These limits would allow several thousand customers to participate.

The rather low ceiling makes it clear that net metering is something the company opposes. Those of us who would like to follow Freiburg's example should expect some serious head-butting, against tens of millions of dollars worth of astroturf.

16 February 2011

The road to cooperation is not paved with competition

Competition taken to its logical conclusion is global thermonuclear war. Competition stripped down to its bare essence is three men in a two-man lifeboat. A lot of tools employed in the humyn resources field will try to get you to believe in "cooperation within competition" or other absurdities intended to facilitate the cooptation of cooperation by competition, while what is needed in order to create the humane society is the supplanting of competition by cooperation.

15 February 2011

Quotebag #39

“I have looked at the big four cell providers in the US, but all their websites are just as complicated one compared to the other… it’s as if they don’t want us to know how much exactly things will cost.”&mdashmichelito

“The real problem is the competitive nature of [the] economy across the world. IT and Engineering jobs have disappeared due to outsourcing.”—anonymous

“I think that the idea that economics is not always zero-sum (certainly true) has lead some people, in that sunny American way, to assume that economics is never zero-sum (false, in my estimation).”—Freddie

“Yeah, well, there comes a point where you gotta ask, even if it’s literally true, do you really want to choose to be on the side of someone who would do that kind of shit?”—David Brin

“Simply trying to be an upstanding, independent, individual is not the essence of capitalism any more than being a good person is the essence of Christianity.”—John Madziarczyk

06 February 2011

The New Normal

Give a man [sic] a job, and he'll work for a few weeks. Give a man a killer resume, and he'll work a few weeks, every few months, over the next few years.

20 January 2011

Another phishing domain appears to be a phishing domain. Their MO appears to be facebook impersonation.

19 January 2011

Introducing Feasibilism

Many tendencies of rightist thought go by monikers akin to 'voluntarism,' 'volunteerism,' or 'voluntaryism.' These power-words serve to drive home the point that everything that isn't coerced is considered voluntary. The use of the word 'voluntary' and its various contrived inflections open the door to trite belittlements such as "nobody's holding a gun to your head," and "if you don't like your job or income you can always go elsewhere."

The voluntarist meme has now infected the self-described left-libertarian movement. To their credit they view it as a necessary but not sufficient condition for freedom.

Getting back to the snarky cliché about the worker always being able to go elsewhere:

* If a lifestyle that doesn't involve work is feasible, then work can be thought of as voluntary.
* If a workplace you like is feasible, then a job you don't like can be thought of as voluntary.
* If living dirt cheap is feasible, then working for a low income can be thought of as voluntary.

Feasibilism can be thought of as a sort of 'thick voluntarism,' paralleling thick libertarianism and thick individualism.

13 January 2011

The Trouble with Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go

As is the trend in the ISP industry, the price of bandwidth is going up, so nickel and dime tactics become a more central feature of business models everywhere. In Virgin Mobile's case it takes the form of a "speed cap." I expect customers' threats to go elsewhere are little more than face-saving bluff, and most will eat the de-facto price increase. Demand for bandwidth, it seems, is like a gas, in that it automagically fills whatever space of whatever shape. In that regard it is like autosprawl—no amount of road-building will bring the end of traffic jams.

The empirical question is, is this the result of exogenous market forces such as an unavoidable traffic jam, or a structural increase in the price of bandwidth, or is it a case of operators milking the business model more aggressively? Is it still the case that one's ISP dollar goes significantly farther practically everywhere outside the United States? Is it still the case that the non-US market features much more competition in prepaid services, and much more willingness on the part of network operators to work with 'unlocked' mobile devices? Having never had much opportunity to travel, I have to take other people's word on such matters.

Is there some Iron Law of Economics to the effect that prepaid services are more expensive or otherwise less of a value for the money than postpaid? If there's any truth to the Time Value of Money, than logically, the opposite should be true! Since the market for postpaid services consists pretty much by definition of people with steady-eddie enough income and cash flow to commit to at least a two-year hitch (what my mom calls 'established' people), the prepaid market can justifiably be thought of as in some respects a captive audience. Does the difference in value between prepaid and postpaid offerings reflect anything beyond 'because they can?' Hopefully inquiring minds will somehow devise an empirical study of these market behaviors.

And on a tangentially related note, what's this cock and bull story the Social Security Administration is telling our elders about the non-inflationary times in which we're supposedly living?

Here's the email from Virgin Mobile, just to give you the reader a taste of the tone:

Hey Lorraine,

Here at Virgin Mobile, our mission is to deliver an outstanding customer experience. Sometimes that means making difficult choices in order to provide the best possible service to the greatest number of customers.

To make sure we can keep offering our $40 Unlimited Broadband2Go Plan at such a great price, we're putting a speed limit in place for anyone on that plan who uses over 5GB in a month.

How will it work?
Starting February 15, 2011, if you go over 5GB in a month on the $40 Unlimited Plan:

* Your data speeds will be limited for the remainder of the monthly plan cycle. During this time, you may experience slower page loads and file downloads and lags in streaming media.
* Your data speeds will return to normal as soon as you buy a new Broadband2Go Plan.
* This change will only affect plans bought on or after 2/15/2011.

How will it affect me?
Keep in mind, 5GB is A LOT of data. To give you an idea, it's about 250 hours of web browsing or over 500,000(!) emails*. So this change shouldn't affect you unless you're a heavy downloader/streamer/etc.

How will I know if I'm getting close to 5GB?
We've updated the progress bar in your Connection Manager to show the amount of data you've used. If you go above 5GB in a month, the bar will turn yellow, letting you know your data speeds will be reduced until you buy a new plan.

By putting this speed limit in place, we're making sure we can deliver the same quality service you've come to expect from Broadband2Go. We hope you understand.

Thanks for being a Broadband2Go customer.
Virgin Mobile

* Data usage per activity is based on an average. Actual usage varies depending on the types of websites, video, email and other internet applications accessed.

06 January 2011

Perhaps respect for belief diversity goes in cycles

The McCarthy era saw the institutionalization of a lot of 'civic religion,' such as addition of 'under God' to the Pledge of Allegiance, and 'In God We Trust' to the currency, and the inevitably sectarian 'National Day of Prayer.'

The present pattern of secular-bashing will perhaps dissipate if/when the public (both religious and not) comes to see gratuitous God-talk in political speeches for what it is; namely delineation of in-groups and out-groups.

03 January 2011

Quotebag #38

“Vernor [Vinge] is too smart to blog. He writes books! ”—David Brin

“I am aware of the counterargument, which is that government needs to do some things in secrecy because doing all of its business in public makes it impossible to get those things done. True, however, if the price of ‘empire’ is that we accept that and stop trying to find out what our government is doing in our name, then I’m not certain that ‘empire’ is anything remotely what the Founders had in mind and I’m certain it’s not what I want.”—Eric B.

“Partisanship is something I get. And when you ask for too little, as is always done, you end up compromising more than you bargained for.”—Dyssonance

“When resistance has a logo, you can be sure it isn’t resistance but capture.”—Dale Carrico

“I’m not a misanthrope: I like people; but in small doses.”—chaotic idealism

“Unfortunately it seems that the Wild West of the Internet is being tamed by the Railroad of commerce, with its twin rails of paywalls and data mining from social networks. Net filtering is the sleepers…ow my analogy hurts”—Ben Callinan

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