Thursday, August 07, 2008

ODesk: Turning Libertarians Into Commies Since Last Sunday

I’m toying with the idea of abandoning libertarianism just long enough to buy a Che Guevara T-shirt and lead a Glorious Revolution of the Proletariat. And when this day arrives, the first mofos up against the wall will be the CEO, investors and executives of a loathsome company called oDesk.

Get this: When my staff-writer job was downsized into oblivion last April, the first thing I did was sign up for daily e-mail alerts from various job-hunting sites. And last Sunday, one of them sent notice that a company down South was supposedly looking to hire a “syndicated columnist.”

Syndicated columnists don’t become such by answering a help-wanted ad. But maybe (I thought) this is a company looking for someone to write a column that’ll run in multiple publications owned by the same chain. I clicked on the link and discovered that the only way to apply for this job was through an agency called oDesk.

So I filled out the online application, here’s my resume, there’s my clip file, references upon request, et cetera.

Then I was supposed to take various online multiple-choice tests to prove my writing ability. That struck me as decidedly odd – a multiple-choice test to see if you can write interesting, readable copy? Wouldn’t asking for clips be a better idea? Already I suspected this “syndicated columnist” job, whatever it entailed, wasn’t the right fit for me.

But with nothing better to do I figured I’d take the test anyway. However, that required me to download and install some free company software. I waited until my IT guy (read: boyfriend) could take a look at it; he checked it out and then did the downloads and installations.

I never took any test. In fact, once I realized what those programs were I had my IT guy uninstall every last one of them right the hell off my computer. ODesk is a great company to work for … if you’re the type who’d be flattered to discover that a psychopath cared enough to stalk you.

That software was spyware that would record every keystroke I made when logged in to the oDesk site. It would also send automatic screenshots (of my computer) to company central six times an hour. There’s webcam capability, too, so oDesk can keep an eye on you while you’re in your house.

I could’ve saved myself a lot of aggravation if I made a habit of reading the blogs at the Wall Street Journal, where Sue Shellenbarger wrote about the Odesk phenomenon around the same time that “syndicated columnist wanted” e-mail landed in my in-box:

The clipboard toting, clock-watching, quota-setting productivity expert, peering nosily over your shoulder at work, has been out of fashion in business schools for decades.

Now he's back, in electronic form -- in the home office.

In a budding trend some employment experts say is invasive, companies are stepping up electronic monitoring and oversight of tens of thousands of home-based independent contractors. They're taking photos of workers' computer screens at random, counting keystrokes and mouse clicks and snapping photos of them at their computers. They're plying sophisticated technology to instantaneously detect anger, raised voices or children crying in the background on workers' home-office calls. Others are using Darwinian routing systems that keep calls coming so fast workers have no time to go to the bathroom.

-snip-

Electronic monitoring is built right into freelance transactions at oDesk.com, which links 90,000 computer programmers, network administrators, graphic designers, writers and others with about 10,000 clients world-wide. The system takes random snapshots of workers' computer screens six times an hour, records keystrokes and mouse clicks and takes optional Web cam photos of freelancers at work. Clients can log into the system anytime and see whether contractors are working, what they're doing and how long it's taking them.

If I’m looking for a freelancer to write an article, design a Web page, write code or any other produce-something-at-a-computer activity, here’s what I need to know about your work habits: “Did you produce the desired product in the agreed-upon time frame?”

That’s all. I don’t need webcam screenshots to see whether you’re wearing a bathrobe or a business suit. I don’t need keystroke monitoring to determine how many times you rewrote a sentence before you were satisfied with it. I don’t care if you did the assignment in a single productive burst of energy, or worked on it a little at a time between breaks.

All that matters – all that should matter – is: did you write the damned article I asked for, and get it to me by the agreed-upon deadline?

I consider myself a softcore rather than hardcore libertarian; I don’t think all government regulation is unnecessary, just 95 percent or so. Nor do I share the libertarian-purist idea that no worker protection laws are ever needed since mistreated workers can simply quit and find another job.

Not that I’m calling for regulations or bans toward oDesk-style spyware. It’s still a relatively small phenomenon, and I’m quite content to sit back and let The Market sort things out. But what if this becomes commonplace? We’re already seeing greater intrusion into employee’s off-the-clock time; e.g., “Smoking is legal but if you or anyone in your family does it you’re fired.” So far The Market seems to be shifting toward less and less freedom for employees.

Add to that the intrusive potential of modern technology, and I worry we’re heading toward a bleak dystopian future. As we rush toward it, I can't get behind the libertarian orthodoxy which states “If oDesk-style spying becomes the workplace norm, it would be detrimental to human freedom to support a law banning it from home-office work requirements.”

Governments arent the only organizations, nor heads of state the only individuals, whose power over others needs to be kept in check to ensure a free society.

79 Comments:

Anonymous A Moose said...

So, if Jennifer was to, say, have a tendency to write whilst wearing nothing from the waist up doing her part to reduce global warming and keep the thermostat up, do you think that it would be kind of like sending an EMP over their network and overloading all their sensors? Or am I just being too optimistic here?

I'll go back and set up on the family farm (I think 15 or so acres are in the will sequence to end up in my pawz) before I go to working for something like that.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Actually, Moose, in warm weather I often will work with my shirt off and my hair piled on my head so it won't make my bare back itch. But if I'm going to be a semi-nude webcam model I expect to make a HELL of a lot more money than what Odesk would pay.

2:34 PM  
Blogger NoStar said...

Where do I sign up for a subscriptions and how much will it cost.

Just when I think I'm over you, Jen, you get me all hot and bothered again.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Looking at the site, it looks like where you bill by the hour. If you're doing lump sum freelance, shouldn't apply. Salaried people shouldn't apply either.

As far as working under those conditions, F-that with a broken glass encrusted baseball bat.

Actually, Moose, in warm weather I often will work with my shirt off and my hair piled on my head

Oh hell, SASOB won't be worth a crap for a week after reading that one.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Speaking politically here the corporations are not something that Libertarians should feel the need to defend in the first place. In fact they should be advocating a destruction of the current corporate laws that allow a corporation to protect its owners from their choices. If share holders could be held liable for the actions of the board of directors I think we'd see a much more socially responsible corporate America.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous thoreau said...

Employers who want their female employees to constantly be on camera at home should have to pay extra for the subscriber-only sites, I say.

4:18 PM  
Blogger NoStar said...

If a company is going to monitor employees that closely, they'd better be paying for each stroke.

4:51 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

Oh hell, SASOB won't be worth a crap for a week after reading that one.

Only if she does her German accent thing. :-)

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I consider myself a softcore rather than hardcore libertarian. I don’t think all government regulation is unnecessary, just 95 percent or so.

I'd say you are the queen of not seeing the forest for the trees. You should really try harder to get the bigger picture. I came across a video of Naomi Wolf speaking about her book - The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot - and wondered wether she might be able to help you out some.

- Tom

6:59 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Tom, remember a couple of weeks ago when you said you had no interest in my writing, my blog or anything else to do with me? That would be a LOT more believable if you didn't keep posting here.

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If share holders could be held liable for the actions of the board of directors I think we'd see a much more socially responsible corporate America.

LMAO

Caveman ...

This statement does tempt one to hurl insults, as you are so fond of doing, but I do not think you are really as stupid or ignorant as your comment suggests. The conclusion that would be more consistent with your posting is that you have an interest in (and talent for) concealing both true problems and true solutions.

But just for kicks, let's break down how many ways this statement of yours is wrong.

1. If shareholders (not share holders) are liable beyond their investment, you no longer have corporations - that's called a partnership.

2. Directors do not operate the corporations - the corporate officers do that.

3. Making shareholders liable for corporate liabilities destroys the entire function of corporations and the reason for their existence and the source of their value to society.

4. Aside from the above, your proposed solution is neither sufficient nor necessary to address corporate malfeasance. You do not need to extend liability to shareholders (the innocent) to deter corporate malfeasance. The problem is entirely one of enforcement of existing laws.

By law, individual directors/officers/agents/employees of a corporation are already personally responsible for their individual criminal conduct or torts (that is a civil wrong - like a fraud).

If individual deterrence is not enough, and often it isn't in today's corporate culture, the corporation itself can be held liable for its criminal conduct or torts. If the government does not have the will to take down corporations without shareholder liability, you think it will all of a sudden find such a will if the liability is extended to shareholders? Huh?

Congress won't even allow private citizens to sue the telecoms for their torts - let alone go after them for their crimes (I am quite certain you were pleased with that). Everyone screamed bloody murder when Arthur Anderson (not a corporation) was finally taken down in a very rare criminal prosecution against a major company for its serial financial frauds.

When asked why he let Merrill Lynch off so easily, Spitzer commented - "What was I suppose to do - bring a criminal prosecution and destroy a financial giant." Hell yea - he should have. ML does not produce a goddam thing that's worth excusing its criminal conduct.

No Caveman - once again you have failed to identify either the problem or the solution. But my money says that is by design - not by stupidity.

- Tom

7:47 PM  
Anonymous The Spelling Nazi said...

No Caveman - once again you have failed to identify either the problem or the solution. But my money says that is by design - not by stupidity.


Well now, children, can any of you spell P-A-R-A-N-O-I-A?

7:59 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Well now, children, can any of you spell P-A-R-A-N-O-I-A?

Or, perhaps, how do you spell WTF?

8:09 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

It's the miracle of the Internet, Moose: build a bridge of understanding, and trolls will inevitably shelter themselves beneath.

8:12 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

It's the miracle of the Internet, Moose: build a bridge of understanding, and trolls will inevitably shelter themselves beneath.

If you build it, they will come.

8:18 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Mine eyes play tricks upon me. I could have sworn I saw a post that now doth not exist. Well, it could have been a post, it was kind of circular and smelled of shit, so it could have just been a passing asshole, but it's gone now apparently so who knows?

8:25 PM  
Anonymous The Spelling Nazi said...

trolls will inevitably shelter themselves beneath.

Troll I may be, but I'd like to think I put you wise to someone with some serious problems. But you're a big girl now, so I'll just let you handle things yourself.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Mine eyes play tricks upon me. I could have sworn I saw a post that now doth not exist.

'Tis possible. I have the Powers of Deletion. Usually I only wield this power against spambots, but long long long long troll-rants sometimes get it, too.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Back on topic, now: I'm hoping this intrusive oDesk nonsense simply withers on the vine because people with saleable skills simply refuse to tolerate it, as I did, but that WSJ article I linked to says it's getting more commonplace in America, especially among web coders and programmers and the like. This is a VERY frightening thought.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

but that WSJ article I linked to says it's getting more commonplace in America, especially among web coders and programmers and the like. This is a VERY frightening thought.

I think the key point is that these people charge by the hour. So, the bill-ees are verifying that they're actually working by the hour. I guess I can see some logic, but I wouldn't put up with it.

I get hardheaded that way, I guess.

Damn, I need to go to sleep, my eyes did that thing again. Besides I need to get up in three and a half hours.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

I think the key point is that these people charge by the hour.

Unnecessary for content producers; if I write an article pay should be based on the article itself, not how long it takes to write it.

But you should go to sleep rather than stay up to respond.

8:40 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

Damn, I need to go to sleep, my eyes did that thing again.

That's odd, Moose - so did mine. :-)

8:42 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...


Unnecessary for content producers; if I write an article pay should be based on the article itself, not how long it takes to write it.


I agree with what you're saying, but they've made an agreement to charge by the hour. If you charged by the article, then this wouldn't suit.

Can't go to bed. Too wired up for obvious reasons.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Too wired up for obvious reasons.

Sorry, crossing the streams. The reasons are obvious to Jennifer due to a separate conversation, not to everyone else. Sorry for confusion if anyone read that and gave the WTF back to me.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

I agree with what you're saying, but they've made an agreement to charge by the hour.

That "made an agreement" thing is where I split ways with libertarian orthodoxy. The orthodox answer is "people CHOOSE to work under such vile conditions," whereas I view it more as "people are DESPERATE enough to accept them."

I will never choose to jump out of my window, though a building fire might make me desperate enough to do so.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

That "made an agreement" thing is where I split ways with libertarian orthodoxy. The orthodox answer is "people CHOOSE to work under such vile conditions," whereas I view it more as "people are DESPERATE enough to accept them."

I guess the flip side argument is that if there was enough overbilling to make this an attractive thing, then you'll probably see a rate structure change from hourly to piecework.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

I guess the flip side argument is that if there was enough overbilling to make this an attractive thing, then you'll probably see a rate structure change from hourly to piecework.

That's the thing. Say I take an hourly gig copyediting stuff; if I bill you eight hours and only edited eight paragraphs, firing me for being an unproductive slacker or a bill-padder makes a HELL of a lot more sense than putting spyware on the computer of every copyeditor you've got.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

if I bill you eight hours and only edited eight paragraphs, firing me for being an unproductive slacker or a bill-padder makes a HELL of a lot more sense than putting spyware on the computer of every copyeditor you've got.

Then why do they want to do so, do you suppose? Companies don't usually do things unless they make sense in some way.

BTW, don't be too hard on the Nazi - I think he was only trying to help. ;-)

9:00 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Companies don't usually do things unless they make sense in some way.

No they don't. The Onion had a parody article a could weeks back, called "Study: Not Being An Asshole Boss Improves Employee Morale."

Well, of course. Duh. But there will still be plenty of bosses who act like assholes despite this, and then wonder why turnover is so high. There's a reason bitter jokes like "beatings will continue until morale improves" are such a big part of the zeitgeist.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

No they don't.

Perhaps they are receiving a comission or something for each set of "spyware" they install. To me it sounds like they want the best of both worlds. They want employees, yet they don't want to make the capital investment of providing them a place to work, benefits, etc. If they call them contractors and bill by the hour they can get around all that, but with the spyware they can still treat them like traditional employees.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

If they call them contractors and bill by the hour they can get around all that, but with the spyware they can still treat them like traditional employees.

Actually, I know a bunch of IT guys that prefer the contractor arrangement. So, don't assume it's one sided.

2:56 AM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Wow, I thought we lost Lou the dock worker with delusions of big time lawyerness. Nice to see you back Lou.

You are right on most of your facts but horribly wrong when you apply those legendary powers of intellect upon those facts. But then we know you have a problem with logical thinking. Who could forget your decision that Jennifer and I were one in the same, or that we were "close". Yeah, fun times.

The corporation exists to protect investors and owners from the consequences of their actions. A very un-libertarian thing. I was simply pointing out to Jennifer, who thought she was riding off the reservation by striking out at corporations, that in fact such creatures should not be something libertarians should have any reason to protect.

What Lou, no crazy conspiracy theories about how Merrill Lynch controls the Boy Sprouts who are influencing the Orbital Mind Control Lasers which are twisting Spitzer's mind?

5:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The corporation exists to protect investors and owners from the consequences of their actions. A very un-libertarian thing."

Wrong again Caveman. You simply have no idea what you are talking about.

If the government enforces its laws and/or allows the citizens to do so via constitutional rights to jury trials, everyone can be held accountable for their actions, as I tried to explain. Both the individual corporate actors and the corporations themselves can be made to suffer the consequences of their actions. I took 400k from ML on behalf of one of my clients within the past couple of months - to say nothing of the times I have tagged them in the past.

A shareholder, who does not personally do anything wrong (i.e. innocent), also suffers from the lost or reduction of his/her/its investment when the corporation is punished or held accountable for damages. It is this limited liability of the shareholder that defines a corporation. It is this feature of corporations that is accredited with western advancements.

There is nothing un-libertarian about this feature of corporations. You know as much about libertarianism as you know about corporations. Corporations simply need to be punished when they do wrong.

But then identifying problems and solutions is not really your strong suit - Caveman - nor your goal I presume.

But hey - maybe Jennifer will save your butt by deleting my post. : )

- Tom

7:07 AM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

Actually, I know a bunch of IT guys that prefer the contractor arrangement. So, don't assume it's one sided.

I'm not an IT guy, but I've worked as an independent contractor or self-employed individual myself. There are advantages, but I sure wouldn't have put up with being treated like an employee with someone's nose up my ass all the time.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Actually, I know a bunch of IT guys that prefer the contractor arrangement. So, don't assume it's one sided.

Certainly there are benefits to being a contractor -- greater freedom, for one. But with this ODesk business you get the worst of both worlds: a contractor's responsibility to provide your own work space, buy your own computer or other tools, have no paid vacations or benefits, etc., and an employee's lack of freedom.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

But with this ODesk business you get the worst of both worlds

I think you're exactly right. However, I'm one of those "orthodox" libertarians who would deem this to be okay as long as both parties agree to it. In any event attempts to regulate it out of existence are probably doomed to fail. Think about the laws concerning "working off the books" - that's an illegal hiring practice and paying less than minimum wage is illegal also - but it goes on all the time. And no, it isn't only undocumented immigrants. Plenty of citizens work this way as well - I've done it myself (but I report my income and pay taxes on it.) Much of the time for these people it's a matter of work off the books or don't work, because some small businesses simply can't afford the high costs of having someone on the books.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Oh Lou give it up. No one believes you are some high powered lawyer. Well maybe Goldenfraud might, he thinks I'm a lawyer so I suppose he'll believe anything.

Sure you can go through hoops and buy a pricey lawyer to fight with a corporation over the evil things they do but because of the power and immunities they are given by laws that favor them over normal citizens in the end the only people who come out ahead are the overcharging lawyers and the corporation. The poor schleps who got screwed are left with a vague feeling of satisfaction and a paltry settlement for their pain and loss.

I think Libertarian candidates could make a lot of headway if they would stop defending business models that are at heart against the principles they claim to uphold. Personal responsibility going hand in hand with personal liberty is the central thesis of Libertarianism. Corporations are all about avoid the first and taking away the second. Libertarians should no more support corporate laws than drug laws.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Jeff P said...

While agreeing in principle to most of the salient points raised so far, I will put forth that the last three times I ran diagnostics of Jen's laptop, over 300 bits of spyware and zombie-bots were present, including keyloggers and dataminers. Access to networks, as well as repeated traffic to cached server-based pages such as this one, probably subjects to more invasive, accurate, and damaging monitoring methods than subscribing to ODesk.

Also, in the two hours that I've been at work, I've had to wake up three of my well-paid operators.

11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of Jennifer did not delete my latest post - how funny. Of course - all posts that create the appearance of true debate are permitted.

She only deletes posts that expose Caveman and her Blog.

Yes Caveman - I am a very successful attorney, true patriot and true libertarian. And my clients always make more than I do - and I only go after the bad guys.

Jennifer is a fraud.

Unemployed Jennifer?

Want to make some easy money?

I cannot be sure about Caveman - but I'll bet you $1,000 that if we do an IP trace and account trace on the Spelling Nazi --- it's you.

For real. Prove me wrong - it's an easy grand.

Are you getting some of that Thought Crime Grant money for your site? Or does that just go to Caveman?

- Tom

4:50 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Well, if Lou is batting his usual average I'd take his money. He's been wrong about everything else he's figured out so far, why would he be right this time. Of course getting your $1,000 out of an unemployed dock worker might be tough.

Lou, give it up. No one believes you. Well, no one other than Goldenfraud. He'll believe almost anything as long as a guy in a white hood tells it to him.

Don't try to tell us that corporate status isn't about covering your assets. That's exactly what my lawyer told me when he advised me to organize my old business as a corporation. If I messed up a customers property as a DBA I could be sued for everything I own. If I messed up as a corporation my business could only be sued for its assets. My personal assets would be safe.

I can understand why you feel the need to defend corporations though, it's in character for the persona you have created for this site. If you really were a lawyer the last thing you'd want would be for the laws granting corporations special privileges repealed. If that were to happen then half the lawyers in the country, including your assumed identity, would be unemployed. The quarter that help corporations bend laws without breaking them and the quarter that make good money bilking people who have been screwed over by the corporations would be no longer necessary.

You're doing a fine job of pretending to be a high power lawyer though. You've got the egotism and self centered part down cold. The problem is you have to be right now and again to keep the whole "I'm never wrong" gig believable.

5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well, if Lou is batting his usual average I'd take his money."

Wrong again - Caveman. She'll never do it. She is a fraud. She's knows it and you know it.

And Caveman - I'll give you the same bet. Prove that you are a real person - not a fraud -- and $1,000 is yours. You know who I am. Call me. We can sign a contract.

You recommended Jennifer do it. You won't do it. You are so full of it.

You are so transparent.

I own you - lackey. But then - I take on the best and the brightest there is. And you are way, way under the pay grade that I go up against.

What a stooge you are.

LOL.

You or Jennifer. Just keep hiding. That's what you are paid to do.

No guts - eh Caveman? Coward. Chicken. Loser.

Delete this one - Jennifer.

- Tom

6:11 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Actually, Tom, I didn't delete your posts because I was offline, and someone else had already responded to them.

Caveman, SOB, Spelling Nazi and the rest: please don't feed the troll when I'm not around.

Tom: kindly stop posting here. Your conspiracy theories do nothing but consume bandwidth.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Back on topic: I notice I've had a few first-time visitors who came here after using search terms like "Odesk" and "monitoring." I like to think I persuaded a few people not to sign on with such an offensive company.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

I will put forth that the last three times I ran diagnostics of Jen's laptop, over 300 bits of spyware and zombie-bots were present, including keyloggers and dataminers.

Jeff, do you mean to say that is all present even without the ODesk software? If so, two other questions: is 300 bits alot and are you including tracking cookies?

6:56 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Lou, the unemployed dockworker said "And Caveman - I'll give you the same bet. Prove that you are a real person - not a fraud -- and $1,000 is yours."

Yeah, sure. I tell you who I am and the next thing I know my house is on fire. You out of work conspiracy theorists with delusions of grandure are dangerous ducks indeed. I've found who you THINK you are and no doubt you've got a secretary or assistant bamboozled there so they will claim you are who you say you are.

Besides, how would I prove who I am to you? I could give you my name and member number in my professional association but you would claim I am Jennifer making it up again. I don't have a blog of my own or any pictures of myself posted anywhere online. I could referance you to many of my posts on other forums and web-zines but you could claim I am simply assuming an identity as you have done.

Tell you what. I'll give you a personal peice of information about my time in a small town in Northern Colorado and the name of a semi-prominant Libertarian author in that same small town. Now I don't know if he is still on speaking terms with me but he will remember a detail about one of my first pistols to prove that I am who I claim to be and not Jennifer.

Contact L. Neil Smith through his website at www.ncc-1776.org with his email address lneil@netzero.com and ask him about Tim's old roommate Scott and about the black powder pistol he recomended I buy. If he recals it, it being around 20 years ago, he will tell you about the LeMatt revolver.

There. If that's proof enough that I am not Jennifer then I'll give you an account number you can transfer the money to.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Jennifer, Lou isn't a troll. A troll is annoying. Lou is just a pathetic old man with nothing else to do with his time between visits to the Unemployment Office. He doesn't annoy me, I feel a little sorry for him. But only very little bit.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Anyway, CL, oDesk's loathsomeness has little or nothing to do with its corporate status; their problem is a culture which assumes people are so inherently untrustworthy they must be spied upon in order to do their jobs.

As a worker I don't want to work for anyone who doesn't trust me, and as a boss I wouldn't want to hire anyone I didn't trust.

Anyone who wants to hire me is welcome to contact my former editors, who will vouch for the fact that I never missed a deadline, always did what I was asked, kept them appraised of the status of my projects ... all of this far more important than how many keystrokes I made to write an article, how many breaks I took while writing it, or what hours of the day or night I actually did my work.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Very true Jennifer. Companies that are sole proprietorships can be just as invasive while there are corporate entities that are full of goodness and light.

However that doesn't change the fact that you shouldn't feel that you are expressing unlibertarian ideas when you strike out at corporate America. They are not beasts that Libertarians should spend their time and good names defending.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

However that doesn't change the fact that you shouldn't feel that you are expressing unlibertarian ideas when you strike out at corporate America. They are not beasts that Libertarians should spend their time and good names defending.

Unfortunately, there's a large branch of libertarianism that confuses "pro-freedom" with "pro-business." I've actually debated oDesk with some hardcore libs on another board, and their argument was that employers have the right to attach any strings they wish, and if workers don't like it they are free to simply find another job.

True story: remember a few years back when Bill O'Reilly was accused of sexually harassing some employee, and had to pay out mucho bucks in a lawsuit or settlement? I joined in an online libertarian debate, which I *thought* would focus on questions like "Did he really do it" or "If he did, was the settlement too high?"

Instead, a lot of folks argued that O'Reilly had the right to sexually harass any of his employees, unless their employment contract specifically forbade such actions.

Then, a few days later, there was the 2004 election and a discussion wondering "Gee, huccome we libertarians once again got so few votes?" And I brought up the O'Reilly argument and basically said "Because there's no way you'll get Americans to vote for a political philosophy which says 'Your boss doesn't have nearly enough power over you, so let's give him more.'"

That's why in my post here, I made the comment about government NOT being the only organization whose power over others must be kept in check to ensure a free society.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Well, many people can't give up the idea that somebody has to be there to tell them what to do. If you want to reduce government interference they seem to think you need to replace that interference somehow. Many decide business needs to take up the slack. There are few real anarchists out there.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

However that doesn't change the fact that you shouldn't feel that you are expressing unlibertarian ideas when you strike out at corporate America. They are not beasts that Libertarians should spend their time and good names defending.


Then have I got a corporate story for you....Seriously, actually, I was honestly considering sicking O'Reilly on them. This is just the kind of thing he'd eat up.

However, until I decide how to play it, just everyone stay the hell away from US Air.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Jennifer: I'll see your Che T-shirt and raise you a Pol Pot offing everyone who wears a necktie to work (at least that's the way I feel after a typical shift at my job).

Seriously, the question of *why* people are desperate enough to "choose" to accept such conditions is key. The real question is not whether such "agreements" should be banned, but what kind of a "free market" results in people desperate enough to accept them. I addressed it here:

http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/econn/econn105.pdf

6:18 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Moose, I don't go near airplanes. I'm still not sure if all my misspent youth has put me on a no-fly list. I don't want to find out by blowing a grand on airline tickets and ending up handcuffed with a night stick shoved up my ass. I know such things can cost a lot in Vegas but I just don't have the time.

8:38 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

I don't want to find out by blowing a grand on airline tickets and ending up handcuffed with a night stick shoved up my ass.

Short story....

Without being too specific, one of the young men whose pictures are here was my nephew. There's no gay sex seranade, the link is safe. Anyway, all my family was out there on a family camping trip when they found the mother (my sister in law) to tell her her son was killed in the crash. The wife is the one dealing with the company, the press, and just holding things together. (almost thought to hire Jennifer as a media consultant on a freelance basis..)

So, they need to spend another week, the rental car company (Enterprise) was outstanding, waiving all fees, etc. The company who employed the fire fighters is outstanding (Grayback Forestry), as is their media consultants, the US Forestry Service, the Sheriff who's recovering bodies, etc. Everyone is as good as you can be in such a difficult situation, but for one shining example of asshole-dom, US Air.

US Air tells me, after two hours on the phone Thurs eve, that we can shift the tickets around for seven days at no cost. Great, I say, I'll call back on Friday and say what we want to do. I even told Jennifer by private comm that I was impressed with them. If not clear, I take that back whole heartedly.

Friday I call back to say I want them to stay another week. Suddenly there's no record of the previous two hour conversation, and they only want us to pay the upcharge to a full seat ticket (about $1600 additional, scurvy ass pirates they be). After going round with them, the company going round with them, Expedia going round with them, even the US Dept of Interior going round with them, everyone hearing how there was no record of previous conversations (I call BULLSHIT on that) we just want our money back and hell with them and the horse they ride in on.

Now, using a tradgedy as a profit making opportunity is low life to me, but I can't impose my moral framework on them. We just want the money back for what they didn't do. However, they'll only offer coupons for $150/person (Tickets are like $300/person), only from Medford OR to BWI, which is useless as everyone lives in MD, and only for those people on the tickets.

I'm calling the corporate office this morning to get someone with a brain, hopefully. The redhead is a die hard O'Reilly fan. Regardless of your opin of him, he'll love this story, and if I don't get someone who'll give us back our money, I'm encouraging her to write him.

Let me reiterate, they're acting like a bunch of profiteering ass pirates who won't even give you your money back for not performing a service. I want nothing more to do with them, I want them to be shown publically for being the bastards they are, but all I really want at this point is our money back so we can spend it (and unfortnately probably much more) on a carrier who has an ethical compass that functions.

Jennifer, please feel free to delete this if you think it inappropriate, but along the vein of corporate discussions I thought it ok. Also, please edit spelling if you can, as I don't have time right now to check.

7:00 AM  
Anonymous mds said...

I’m toying with the idea of abandoning libertarianism just long enough to buy a Che Guevara T-shirt and lead a Glorious Revolution of the Proletariat.

Why not stick with libertarianism, and buy a Pierre-Joseph Proudhon T-shirt instead? (I'd have recommended Henry George, but that would be even HAWTer than the "no shirt" thing, and pose a danger to intertube navigation.) You still get to line corporate CEOs up against the wall, with the added bonus of not having to wear a beret.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Because few people would recognize Proudhon, and furthermore I think a beret would flatter me.

8:34 AM  
Anonymous mds said...

and furthermore I think a beret would flatter me.

Upon reflection, I concede the point. But many of your proletariat peers would fail to carry off the look.

Because few people would recognize Proudhon

As opposed to that guy who's primarily known nowadays for being on T-shirts and / or being used to sell burritos?

9:25 AM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Moose, it's an airline. This is the industry that would charge you for air if they could figure out how to do it. The first person you spoke with who promised to be nice has probably been fired if lucky or given cement overshoes if unlucky. You should have gotten that promise in writing with a signature in blood from the CEO of US Air before believing they would give you anything.

Not trying to dis you, but dude did you really expect anything different from them?

12:02 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Not trying to dis you, but dude did you really expect anything different from them?

I expect people to work with ethics, yes. Contractually, they are right, but doesn't make it right.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

I expect people to work with ethics, yes.

Do you expect Santa to deliver gifts on Christmas and the Tooth Fairy to give you a quarter for a lost tooth? Ethics are SO 19th century dude. The Baby Boomers did away with ethics and replaced them with contracts. Thus was born the Age of the Litigator.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous A moose said...

The Baby Boomers did away with ethics and replaced them with contracts. Thus was born the Age of the Litigator.

But I have publicity, which trumps assholery in the court of public opinion. To whit, they've already lost a chance at at least 18 tickets purchased by others as a result. That's before I even start trying. As I said, they can be how they are, they just don't know how I get.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

But I have publicity, which trumps assholery in the court of public opinion.

But everyone expects the airlines to be assholes. You'd be revealing the obvious. Like saying "Hey, politicians are crooked". I'd expect the response to be a yawn, if they care enough to do that...

5:46 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

I'd expect the response to be a yawn, if they care enough to do that...


It shall be interesting then. The refund would have cost them $1,000. The negative publicity will cost so much more.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Keep an evil thought, but I doubt most people will care.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

As unethical as people are wont to be, they nonetheless HATE being exposed as such. I used to have a LOT of fun with that principle, at the Advocate.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Very true Jennifer, but that standard is for people who have souls. Airline Execs rank somewhere below Tobacco Execs and slightly above Televangelists and Child Molesters as far as souls go. Exposing them as the soulless monsters that they are is a lot like pointing out that the sky is blue or water is wet.

6:56 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

As unethical as people are wont to be, they nonetheless HATE being exposed as such. I used to have a LOT of fun with that principle, at the Advocate.

Yes, that's true. The rather nasty customer relations woman who I kept going around with last night (what a bitch, seriously) kept trying to lecture me on contract law. I kept telling her "Ma'am, I have a masters degree in business, with a concentration in contracts, I understand and agree that you're fine contractually. However, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should."

Last time I got this kind of talking to a wall response it was with MCI just before World Com imploded. Anyone who has US Air stock, dump it quick I'd think.

2:57 AM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Moose, you may have hit on something here. The better vengeance in this era of stock volatility may be a good old fashioned Internet hoax.

Step one, set up an e-mail account that makes it sound like you are some mid level muckity muck with US Air. Find the name of somebody in their accounting department that others can easily find through a Google search.

Step Two, write an e-mail sounding like you have some inside information about a horribly bad move that US Air is about to make. Of course make it believable, like they are going to charge a surcharge for the emergency oxygen masks or floatation devices.

Step Three, dig up the e-mail addresses of a crap load of bloggers, the more shrill and anti-corporate the better. Send it to them. Also send it to any and all e-mail addresses you can dig up for those idiotic investment advisor types.

Step Four, sit back and hope that people do what they often do during tight economic times, panic.

Step Five, enjoy.

Step Six, repeat.

5:23 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Moose, you may have hit on something here. The better vengeance in this era of stock volatility may be a good old fashioned Internet hoax.


I hadn't thought of that. I'll probably start with something more above board at least.

They really are unbelievable.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

On the flip side, these guys are awesome. For CML's benefit, the URL is http://www.wffoundation.org/. I hope Jennifer forgives my shameless plug here, but if anyone happens to be in a mood to give some money away, they'd probably be a pretty good target. I don't want to go on a rant, but the amount these people are doing is truly showing the best in people. Besides, the flaming hats kind of look cool too.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

The airline industry is dying. Unless somebody invents an airplane that can run on something other than petroleum-based fuel, I think we'll soon see a return to the days when flying was something only the very rich could do. Only this time, it won't be bogus regulations keeping it a rich-person-only event; it'll be simple economics.

Besides, TSA in America is doing its best to ensure flying only appeals to those with a masochistic streak.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Moose, you are dealing with soulless ethic free monsters. Screw Nietzsche and his whole "beware of fighting monsters" warning. Go dirty. Go very dirty.

Jennifer, don't be giving us masochists a bad name, even we have standards. Yes I will hang out on Internet blogs but even I don't tolerate the TSA.

4:24 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Moose, you are dealing with soulless ethic free monsters. Screw Nietzsche and his whole "beware of fighting monsters" warning. Go dirty. Go very dirty.

Might have to. Here's what I got in response to me asking for a way to reference evil nasty bitch I spoke to the evening before, and a way to get to the CEO:


Thank you for contacting Customer Relations at US Airways. We appreciate
and welcome all inquiries, concerns, and compliments, as your feedback
is important to us.

Please be advised that we are not allowed to issue personal information
of our employees to the public. The email address to Doug Parker is
www.usairways.com.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to address your concerns. We
appreciate and value your business and look forward to serving you on a
future US Airways flight.


Realize, I didn't ask for personal information, I asked for a way to tie to her specifically for future conversations. I don't want anything more to do with the bitch, I just want to ask the CEO if he agrees that the death of a firefighter defending the lives and property of others is equivalent to an impulse purchase at Wal Mart, which is what she intimated. If not, I want him to find her, because she swore she spoke for him.

Secondly, the man's email address most probably doesn't start with "www.". At least my email program doesn't like it.

Finally,obviously they lie like a wal mart rug with "We appreciate and value your business"

9:24 AM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Moose, take it from a fellow who's been screwed over by every corporate entity he's ever dealt with. Go dirty whenever possible. Currently I'm trying to craft some e-mails I will spam out there to try and start a run on a couple banks that have offended me. The problem is I don't really write the dry economic stuff well enough to make them mostly believable. It's hard to find subcontactors for such things.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Currently I'm trying to craft some e-mails I will spam out there to try and start a run on a couple banks that have offended me.

Well, feel free to have at US Air for me.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

US Air is your windmill to tilt Sir Quixote, I have a full schedule of my own giants that need a lance twixt their ribs.

On a side note, Lou seems to have vanished once he was given some proof of my real existence. Anyone want to make odds on the grand finding it's way into my Pay Pal account?

6:16 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

US Air is your windmill to tilt Sir Quixote, I have a full schedule of my own giants that need a lance twixt their ribs.

We'll see what happens. It's already cost them more than my refund, I know for a fact. If the Governator picks up on what I sent him, all kinds of neat things are possible.

If they refunded my cash (which I'd promptly send to the WFF noted earlier), and fired rather nasty woman, I guess I'd be satisfied, but still wouldn't use them again.

Or, perhaps better still, put RNW on Odesk?

6:37 PM  
Anonymous A moose said...

On a side note, Lou seems to have vanished once he was given some proof of my real existence.

Do me a favor and email a summary of who "Lou" is to amoose@mailinator.com and tell me when you did. I'm curious as hell as to what that's all about.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Or maybe not.

At least I have an ally in a professional media person now. Should help.

5:09 AM  

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