Aug 282008
 

The important thing to remember about the freedoms we all enjoy in America is that they only exist if you follow the rules.  At least, that’s what the politicians and the major media keep telling us (and my duaghter’s teachers keep telling her).  For example, here’s a rule-

“A political party is entitled to have the names of its nominees for president and vice-president placed on the ballot if before 5 p.m. of the 70th day before presidential election day, the party’s state chair signs and delivers to the secretary of state a written certification of the name’s of the party’s nominees for president and vice-president.”

That’s from Section 192.031 of the Texas Election Code and seems pretty straightforward and easy to comply wit, considering it was written by beaureucrats.   Well, the next Presidential election is scheduled for November 4, 2008 – 68 days frmo today.  Which means, of course, that Texan voters know exactly who will be on their Presidential ballots.  Checking Texas Secretary of State website we seethat the only candidate on the Presidential ballot this fall will be Bob Barr for the Libertarian Party.

Were the United States actually a nation of laws than, for the first time in history, the Libertarian party would win a state in a Presidential election.  Who wants to bet that the very people aspiring to be the ultimate law enforcement officer in America will be breaking this law in order to improve their chances of being elected?

Aug 282008
 

As my little internet empire continues to expand I’ve been putting more and more stress on my various webhosting accounts.  Although I’m receiving decent customer service at excellent prices (sometimes even free) I keep finding myself wanting or needing something for a new project that none of my hosting companies offers.  Or, I build a site on one company’s servers only to later realize that the specific feature I need is only available through one of the other companies, meaning I need to move the site.  Serious headaches.

So, I’ve been investigating the possibility of getting my own dedicated server to host all of my websites.  With low end prices of $50 per month this is not a simple decision to make.  Although I refer to my online efforts as an “empire” it’s more of a small backwater town when it comes to revenue generation 😉   So, I went looking for more information and came across an article titled Do You Need Dedicated Hosting? over at WebHostRating.com, a hosting review site. It’s one of the most clear and succinct comparisons of dedicated servers and shared hosting I’ve come across.

My decision is not yet made, but I’m definitely leaning more and more towards getting my own dedicated server.  If you have any experience transitioning multiple websites from shared hosting accounts to a managed hosting solution, comments and suggestions would be much appreciated.

Aug 282008
 

The question I am most often asked here at Philaahzophy is – “How do we make money blogging?”  Not only do I get this question from commenters, but also from other friends (of both the online and offline varieties).  In fact I’ve begun fielding it from my 12 year old daughter Z quite a bit as well.  So, when she went looking for pictures to add to her latest blog post about teen blogging she sent me the cartoon to the left.

It’s by Hugh MacLeod and was originally posted to his blog, GapingVoid.com

Aug 272008
 

It’s been a very busy summer and I’ve allowed myself to get off track here at Philaahzophy, essentially ignoring the fight for freedom that I started on its pages.  However, with Labor Day being celebrated this coming Monday here in the United States I thought it was about time I revisited a topic I promised to further expound upon all the way back in November 2007 in a post titled Reason #1,872 To Detest Striking Workers.  That post was the first to generate a revocation of my “anarchist credentials” (as if such a thing could possibly exist!) by fairly well known anarchist blogger FSK of FSK’s Guide To Reality, who managed to both defend and attack labor unions simultaneously within his comment.

The labor and anarchy movements have long been associated despite the diametrical opposition of their end goals.  This association is most likely a result of the early anarchist writer Mikhail Bakunin who wasn’t an anarchist at all as he had no desire to live without government.  Rather he wanted merely to replace the existing government under which he toiled with another one.  I’ve always been very open with y’all about my ignorance of the actual writings of historical anarchists such as Bakunin, so please comment and correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding of Bakunin’s philosophy is best summed up in Per Bylund’s essay The Statist Mindset of Anarchists

The Russian anarcho-communist Mikhail Bakunin does just this in his writings: he proposes abolishing the state for the sake of stopping its capital exploitation of labor. This is fine by me and should be fine by any anarchist, but he goes on: post-state society will be based on labor workers’ ownership of the means of production. Furthermore, the stateless society will be organized in local labor unions that come together in regional labor unions, national labor unions, and – at the top – one single, global labor union federation.

In no way, shape or form is what Bakunin desires either freedom or anarchy.  The masses are still controlled by the few.  The only differences being the names on the doors and the new government’s (supposed) focus on the benefits of the workers rather than those of the owners.  Of course, the United States government was (supposedly) founded upon the principles laid out in the Bill of Rights, and look how few of those actually remain untainted.  But, I’m getting off track here…

The point I was trying to make is simply that, historically, anarchists and labor activists have been linked.  However, it’s time that those who truly believe in a world without government learn to back away from this association and see labor unions for what they really are.  We do seem to be moving in that direction in general, but many still hold to the old associations.  Even FSK seems to have finally come to terms with this reality as in a recent post he stated-

In the early 20th century, there were 2 big unions competing for members, the AFL-CIO and the Wobblies. The AFL-CIO lobbied for official State recognition (along with the bad guys). The leaders of the AFL-CIO became State agents rather than true workers’ advocates.

That last sentence is the key, and it can easily be expanded to cover 99% of existing trade unions.  Even worse is that the state is the first weapon in the labor union’s arsenal to be wielded against employers and workers alike.  Worse still is that the ultimate dream of the labor unions is to completely replace the existing state, allowing them to force their will on 100% of the people 100% of the time.

Even the upcoming holiday itself, Labor Day, is a result of the pull the labor movement has with the state.  The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union.  Less than a dozen years later Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary a labor union is “[a]n organization of wage earners formed for the purpose of serving the members’ interests with respect to wages and working conditions”.  What, you may be asking yourself, is so terrible about that?  Nothing at all.  In fact, I have no doubt that in a functioning market anarchy there would be labor unions (and trade unions) galore.  The problem comes from the laws that existing labor unions have had passed to protect their position at the cost of the employers’ and workers’ freedom.  For example-

U.S. Code
TITLE 29 > CHAPTER 7 > SUBCHAPTER II

§ 158. Unfair labor practices

(a) Unfair labor practices by employer
It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer—

(5) to refuse to bargain collectively with the representatives of his employees, subject to the provisions of section 159 (a) of this title.

In other words, the labor unions got the US Congress to pass a law requiring that employers negotiate with unions.  This is a clear violation of the employer’s natural right of association and interference with how he runs his business.  Under current law should an employer refuse to negotiate with a labor union he will face the violence of the state.  In a market anarchy an employer who refuses to collectively bargain would merely lose his workforce.

For those of you cheering about the unions putting a boot on “the man’s” neck, let’s not forget that the labor unions have still have a free boot which they wasted no time placing on the workers necks-

U.S. Code

TITLE 29 > CHAPTER 7 > SUBCHAPTER II

§ 159. Representatives and elections

(a) Exclusive representatives; employees’ adjustment of grievances directly with employer
Representatives designated or selected for the purposes of collective bargaining by the majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for such purposes, shall be the exclusive representatives of all the employees in such unit for the purposes of collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, or other conditions of employment: Provided, That any individual employee or a group of employees shall have the right at any time to present grievances to their employer and to have such grievances adjusted, without the intervention of the bargaining representative, as long as the adjustment is not inconsistent with the terms of a collective-bargaining contract or agreement then in effect: Provided further, That the bargaining representative has been given opportunity to be present at such adjustment.

Assuming I’m interpreting the legalese correctly, “any individual employee or a group of employees” is free to forgo the collective bargaining process and strike their own deal with management as long as it winds up being the same deal the union received and a union rep is present during the negotiation. Does that actually sound like freedom to you?

Let’s put all of this into some real world terms and see how these things play out…

…first under current law…

  • Joe runs a construction company, building houses, and pays his 100 carpenters $10 per hour plus benefits.
  • 51 of Joe’s carpenters vote to form a union (or join an existing one) and demand that Joe raise their pay to $50 per hour plus benefits.
  • Joe refuses to even discuss such a ridiculous salary as he knows that he cannot afford more than the current wages.
  • The same 51 carpenters vote to go “on strike” refusing to work and intimidate both the other 49 carpenters and any replacement workers willing to work for $10 per hour into not working for Joe either.
  • Joe calls the police to stop the intimidation, but is told that under Federal labor law his workers have that right and arrest Joe for refusing to negotiate.
  • Joe gets fined by the federal government for violating their rules against “unfair labor practices”.
  • Unable to pay the fine because he has no workers to generate income Joe goes to jail.
  • All 100 of Joe’s former employees are now unemployed
  • 50 go on unemployment, earning half their pay and then welfare to support their families. 25 go to work for Sam’s, a union shop, at $12 per hour, and 25 others drift into other fields or move to another location.
  • Upon his release from jail Joe can’t afford to start another business so seeks work as a carpenter st Sam’s.
  • Sam tells Joe he can’t hire him because he already has a surplus of union workers since Joe went out of business.
  • Joe offers to work for only $10 per hour without benefits and Sam agrees that he can afford that.
  • The union finds out about it, complains to the federal government, and Joe gets fired because Sam doesn’t want to lose his business as well.

…now in a market anarchy…

  • Joe runs a construction company, building houses, and pays his 100 carpenters $10 per hour plus benefits.
  • 51 of Joe’s carpenters vote to form a union (or join an existing one) and demand that Joe raise their pay to $50 per hour plus benefits.
  • Joe refuses to even discuss such a ridiculous salary as he knows that he cannot afford more than the current wages, puts out a “help wanted” sign and offers to cut final paychecks.
  • 25 of Joe’s carpenters quit, 60 simply return to work, and 15 come back to the table with a lower offer.
  • Joe replaces the 25 workers who quit, offering whatever salary is necessary to get new carpenters to sign on.
  • Some of those who quit find other jobs with Sam, some return to working for Joe, and others drift into other fields or move to another location.

Which situation would you rather have?  As either the emplyer or the worker I’d rather have the latter.

The only thing a person truly owns is his own body and, therefore his own labor.  All other possessions come as a result of those first two possessions.  If a person isn’t free to market his labor as he sees fit, then he no longer owns that labor and is, therefore, no longer a free man.  It’s simple really.

Is it fair that someone else is willing to do your job (just as effectively) for a lower cost.  Maybe, or maybe not.  But it’s right that they be allowed to do so.  We’re all taught from a young age that life isn’t fair.  Why, then do we (as a people) insist on trying to force others into acting in a manner that we deem fair?  Coercion clearly isn’t fair, so its results can never be truly fair either.

Happy Labor Day 😉

Aug 272008
 
Part of the Wonderful WordPress Wednesdays Series - Previous in series         Next in series

Welcome to the second installment of my Wonderful WordPress Wednesday series!

Last week we looked at two simple steps you could take to improve the efficiency of your WordPress blog.  It’s already working hard to present your priceless thoughts and opinions to your readers, so we might as well do what we can to make its job a little bit easier.  This week we’re going to continue on that same train of thought.

If you’re like me, you don’t think about your CSS stylesheet very often.  You probably downloaded a free WordPress theme from somewhere, added it to your blog, and then never really thought about it.  Perhaps you’ve added a few things to it or modified a color selection or two.  Overall, however, it’s not really a part of your blog that receives much attention from you, the blog author.  But did you realize that the stylesheet is loaded with every single page?  Although I was aware of this, I never really gave it much thought.  Until, that is, I came across a post on gHacks.net titled Optimize WordPress loading times.  Martin used the Free Website Performance Tool and Web Page Speed Analysis over at WebSiteOptimization.com to run his tests and I recommend y’all do the same.

Martin shares the results of his actual experiments in reducing the load time for his blog and found that simply compressing his CSS style sheet with Jeff Minard’s css-compress plugin not only reduced the file size, but also sped up his page downloads.  According to the plugin’s homepage-

Automatically removes comments, new lines, tabs, and gzip compresses (GZIP) any CSS file called with “<?php bloginfo(‘stylesheet_url’); ?>” Just activating the plugin with the default Kubrick theme will reduce the CSS file from 8k to 1.7k.

The css-compress plug-in is a simple install it, activate and forget it tool (my favorite type!) and seems to have zero visible effect on the appearance of any of my blogs, while still increasing their load times and saving me a bit of bandwidth.  In other words it’s a win-win.  There is one caveat, however, (again, according to the plug-in’s page)-

It has been noted though, relatively referenced urls inside the style sheet may be problematic. If nedd be, the plugin will attempt to re-write all of the url() paths to a fully qualified path – this may not work right. If things break, please file a bug with the address of the blog and contact me via AIM chuyskywlk so that I can fix this.

Note: In addition to compressing and optimizing your CSS style sheet, you should do the same thing to the PHP code that powers most of your WordPress blog.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find a simple and safe way to do so automatically.  If you know of one, please let me know via a comment!

Speaking of compressing and optimizing… When is the last time you optimized your WordPress database?  If that phrase means nothing to you, don’t feel bad.  It didn’t mean anything to me either when I came across it over at J.T. Pratt’s Blogging Mistakes (currently my favorite blog about blogging).  You can follow the link to his excellent explanatory article on why you should optimize your WordPress database, so I’ll just cut to the chase. Your database “reuses” old space in the same way that your hard drive does.  Sometimes this leads to a sort of “fragmentation” of data and empty, unusable space.  Optimizing your database is just like defragmenting your hard drive – you won’t know how much better your performance will be until you try it.

Luckily, Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan (one of the most prolific authors of must have WordPress plugins) has created the ultimate WordPress Database Manager plugin which (according to his site)-

Manages your WordPress database. Allows you to optimize database, repair database, backup database, restore database, delete backup database , drop/empty tables and run selected queries. Supports automatic scheduling of backing up and optimizing of database.

In other words, it’s an all-around health maintenance supplier for your WordPress database.  Although not quite an “activate and forget” plugin, it’s pretty darn close, providing one-click optimization of your database as well as the ability to schedule any and all optimization and backup functions.  An optimized database means WordPress doesn’t have to work as hard to serve your site to visitors.

That’s it for this second installment of the Wonderful WordPress Wednesday series.  Next week we’ll look at the first plugins you should install in your blog even before you write your first post!

Part of the Wonderful WordPress Wednesdays Series - Previous in series        Next in series