an in-between move

Cool kids read The Bellman.


Don't read this blog!

I mean, thanks for dropping by my little corner of the blogospheric backwaters, but the blog you should be reading is The Bellman. The stuff I post there is much, much less likely to be imbued with dormitive powers.


[German, from zwischen, intermediate + zug, move

Literally an "in-between move". A move in a tactical sequence is called a zwischenzug* when it does not relate directly to the tactical motif in operation. |source|

image copyright TWIC

From this position, black played a zwischenzug: 19…d5
(Linares 2002, 1-0)


about your blogger

David Rowland studies philosophy at the University of Illinois - Urbana / Champaign, where he's an active member of the Graduate Employees Organization. He used to play a lot of chess, but wasn't all that good. He has a blog. And email.



A rich man with a tendency to believe in his own l...
Better than star wars
Didn't you used to brush your teeth with vaseline?...
Don't come home a drinkin' with lovin' on your min...
Nine plus three does not equal twelve
Sam Walton, Boy Genius
If you don't want to go to fist city, you better d...
Halliburton on Mars?


error log

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$zwichenzug$ sell-out zone





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Union Label

Direct Action
Gets the Goods!


some folks I know

Mark Dilley
a daily dose of architecture
Safety Neal
January Girl
mimi jingcha
Hop, Skip, Jump
ambivalent imbroglio
Brooke & Lian


some blogs I read

strip mining for whimsy
It's Matt's World
School of Blog
Fall of the State
Dru Blood
Echidne of the Snakes
Colossal Waste of Bandwidth
Running from the Thought Police
Bionic Octopus


some philosoblogs

Fake Barn Country
Freiheit und Wissen


some labor blogs

Confined Space
Working Life
Dispatches From the Trenches
Labor Blog
Eric Lee


some A-list blogs

This Modern World
Matthew Yglesias
Andrew Sullivan
Political Animal
The Volokh Conspiracy


some other links

Rule 33
This Week in Chess
War Nerd
National Priorities Project
Bible Gateway
Internet Archive
A Weekly Dose of Architecture
Orsinal: Morning Sunshine
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Safety Sign Builder
Get Your War On


some philosoblogging

Six views about reasons
Seidman on reflection and rationality
And another thing
Tiffany's argument for strong internalism
Internalism v. Externalism
What do internalists believe anyway?
Rationalism and internalism
The experimental method in philosophy
Advertising to children
On moral skepticism
A linguistic argument
More on Williams
Williams on reasons
General and particular
Normativity and morality
Political intuitions
What it is, what it was, and what it shall be
Objectivity and morality
Thinking revolution
Abortion and coercion
Moore on torture
On the phenomenology of deliberation
Even more Deliberation Day
more Deliberation Day
Deliberation Day run-down
He made a porch for the throne where he might judge, cont.
He made a porch for the throne where he might judge
Every shepherd is an abomination
Droppin' H-bombs
ad hominem

Sunday, January 18, 2004


Cry yourself a river, but it don't take much to drown

"They hire a lot of single mothers that are desperate for jobs. So once they get them hooked in they know these people can't afford to quit, because they need these jobs to feed their kids."

That's a quote from this documentary on the Wal-Mart versus Women website.

It probably goes too far to allege back room shenanigans at corporate headquarters in Bentonville. Paying the lowest wages possible buys you a workforce comprised of people in precarious financial straits, and that's a population which includes a disproportionate number of single mothers. But whether planned or not, the fact is that Wal-Mart has achieved a workforce willing to put up with treatment bordering on abuse.

Consider, for example, this story from Sunday's New York Times. The article takes a look at Wal-Mart's practice of locking in employees during the graveyard shift at some stores.

The policy is long standing, though Wal-Mart has reformed since the late eighties, when "the fire doors of some Wal-Marts were chained shut." Employees are still routinely told that they'll lose their job if they leave through the fire exit when there's not a fire. Some employees have even been lied to by managers who claimed that, "fire doors could not be physically opened by the workers and that the doors would open automatically when the fire alarm was triggered."

The Times reports of several workers who were injured on the job but were unable to leave to get medical attention, including one woman who, "cut her finger badly with a box cutter but dared not go out the fire exit — waiting until morning to get 13 stitches at a hospital." In other cases, employees who became ill were unable to leave. As when "a stocker was deathly sick, throwing up repeatedly. [Another employee] said he called the store manager at home and told him, `You need to come let this person out.' He said: `Find one of the mattresses. Have him lay down on the floor.'"

The policy affects employees in a number of other ways. In order to avoid paying over-time, Wal-Mart doesn't allow employees to work over 40 hours a week. But the Times reports that at one store, "on many workers' fifth work day of the week, they would approach the 40-hour mark and then clock out, usually around 1 a.m. They would then have to sit around, napping, playing cards or watching television, until a manager arrived at 6 a.m."

What is Wal-Mart's explanation for these practices? They claim to be looking out for their employees. Stores are only locked, they say, in high crime areas. This explanation is weak on its face, since keeping bad guys locked out doesn't require that employees be locked in.

In any case, the corporate line is disputed by former employees and managers, who indicate that Wal-Mart is really trying to protect itself from its own employees. According to these sources, the practice is intended to prevent employee theft and to increase efficiency by preventing workers from being able to, "sneak outside to smoke a cigarette, get high or make a quick trip home."

The plain fact is that locking the doors is the cheapest solution to Wal-Mart's employee management problem. Better paid workers would be less likely to steal and would be more likely to take pride in their work. Failing that, adequate supervision could keep employees in line. But it's cheaper to lock them in. And since Wal-Mart employees need their jobs more than they need respect, they put up with the policy.

What we have here are legitimate business purposes combined with a faultless cost/benefit analysis, resulting in the most efficient policy possible. Wal-Mart's motives are not charitable, but neither are they objectionable according the economic faith professed by most Americans.

So why does Wal-Mart lie? The answer is that the truth doesn't sit well with Wal-Mart's image as middle America's discount supersavior. As Charles Fishman puts it, ever cheaper prices have consequences. Wal-Mart lies because it would be bad for business to let the low income shoppers it depends on realize that the chain is engaged in asymmetrical warfare against them.

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