• 7 Posts
Joined 6M ago
Cake day: Dec 25, 2020


It’s actually not even a real political party, there is no socialist or social-democratic party in the US. IIRC DSA had ~12,000 members when Trump was first elected, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic (and after Bernie Sanders dropped out of the democratic primary) there were 70,000 - 80,000 members. Since Biden’s election, and the 06Jan21 attack there are almost 100,000 now.

Those numbers are still paltry compared to other political groups, but the DSA is trying to build from basically nothing completely grass-roots. They are trying to unify left-leaning groups including democratic socialists and social democrats.

[The] responsibility [of corporate executives] is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.

One of the classic flaws in this argument is that it establishes a very low bar for ethics and legality. Put bluntly: “If we ran things any worse we’d go to jail and if the public found out how things are run they’d be mortified” could describe the same conditions as saying “our business is compliant with all its legal obligations and meets industry standards.”

the corporate executive is also a person in his own right. As a person, he may have many other responsibilities that he recognizes or assumes voluntarily—to his family, his conscience, his feelings of charity, his church, his clubs, his city, his country… social responsibilities… are the social responsibilities of individuals, not of business.

A foundation of this argument is the expectation that no human will betray one responsibility for another. I believe this is false, a mother stealing bread to feed her child forsakes her responsibility to her community to fulfill her responsibility to her family. Friedman then states that social responsibilities are mostly voluntary, or optional. He is right, and it is important to add that an individual’s responsibilities to the business have far more serious consequences for neglect. If an individual does not fulfill their responsibilities to the the business they will lose their job which the wage-worker needs to survive. Therefore employees as individuals are forced to uphold their responsibilities to the business at a higher priority than most of their social responsibilities, and when too many people neglect their social responsibilities entire social structures wither and collapse.

The whole justification for permitting the corporate executive to be selected by the stockholders is that the executive is an agent serving the interests of his principal. This justification disappears when the corporate executive imposes taxes and spends the proceeds for “social” purposes. He becomes in effect a public employe, a civil servant, even though he remains in name an employe of private enterprise.

Friedman argues that social responsibilities should ultimately be met by stock holders, I believe this is a ridiculous expectation. A stock holder is likely several steps removed from any social interaction with the many diverse communities in which their company might operate, it is absurd to expect individual stockholders to travel to every local community and meet the community’s social needs for it. Instead, what actually happens is the social needs of communities are perpetually left unmet. Friedman’s doctrine absolves corporate executives of social responsibility by pushing social responsibility onto investors who are, in practice, the least capable of fulfilling social responsibilities.

In a traditional hierarchical business, employees further from an executive position have less power over the company’s actions: the workers, who are the group best able to balance corporate interests and social responsibility, are powerless to halt or counteract the business’ harmful effects in their local communities. Within a hierarchical structure I believe it is the responsibility of the corporate executives to fulfill social responsibilities to all the communities in which they operate; I am not decided whether this is even possible, but if it is it requires radical structural change such as reorienting a company around a doughnut economic model. I am a proponent of cooperative ownership structures where corporate power is distributed among employees: this enables the company’s workers to balance their own social responsibilities instead of passing those responsibilities onto investors who have no hope of properly meeting them.

Friedman has been widely criticized as financially wrong, economically wrong, legally wrong, socially wrong, and morally wrong. Despite the criticism, his views have guided business practices in the US for the last 50 years, so it is no wonder why the US faces so many critical social problems today. I am optimistic that a critical mass of people are giving up on neoliberalism, social responsibility is being redistributed, and work is beginning on solving our complex social problems, but the work will take generations.

The picture I linked can’t do it justice, it feels three-dimensional in real life so you can almost feel where we are in the universe. I’ve only seen it once, but even if you can only see it once it’s well worth almost any journey.

I will never forget the first time I spent the night camping deep in one of the dark unpolluted zones. I never realized the naked eye could see the MilkyWay Starscape, I thought those views were only possible using a long-exposure on a camera.


Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom of reach. His freedom to speak whatever he wants was not revoked, his freedom to reach an audience of millions through a specific platform was revoked.

Currently, platforms have no obligation to host content they do not want to host. I think this should be expanded to mandate that platforms have a fiduciary responsibility to promote the well-being of their users by restricting content that is widely harmful, and maintaining content that calmly challenges established beliefs. Most platforms currently exploit and addict users with misleading hyper-sensationalized content that serves the bottom line at the expense of the user, I believe this is an abuse of freedom of reach that erodes civility, causes hysteria, and promotes hateful divisiveness. When freedom of reach is less restricted (as it largely has been until recently) then whomever spends the most resources will have the widest audience and the most influence.

Should the public conscious be for-sale to the highest bidder with the most addictive content?

I believe if a person’s content is causing measurable hysteria, hatefulness, and division, then platforms should not host such harmful content.

I kinda went off on tax havens and tax fraud, but I forgot to mention securities-based lending which is 100% legal, and is the main way rich people avoid paying taxes. It’s so easy to do, J.P. Morgan has a simple web form where wealthy clients can request for a bank representative to contact them or their assistants to set up a loan.

Most rich people hold their wealth in the form of securities like stocks, bonds, and real estate. They only have to pay income tax when they sell these securities, so as long as they don’t sell their securities they won’t pay income tax. However, rich people need money to live too, so what they can do instead of selling their securities is take out loans and use their securities as collateral. The info graphic on J.P. Morgan’s site shows how this strategy is more profitable than selling assets, but to make things egregious keep in mind that Client A would also pay $577,707.50 in capital gains taxes while Client B pays $0! Client B does pay $58,500 to service the loan, but that is paltry compared to the additional $148,500 profit, and dodging almost $600,000 in taxes.

Again, this is 100% legal. These tax optimization strategies, and the policies that permit them, are a big contributor to the dramatic wealth inequality in the United States. There’s a lot of focus on income inequality, raising the minimum wage, and Universal Basic Income, but these campaigns primarily distract from the root of the problem: the ownership of securities needs to be more equitably dispersed, and tax policies must be rewritten to disallow flagrant tax dodging.

I see him as a hubristic chaotic neutral. He advocates technology as the solution to all the world’s problems and promotes himself as a suave yet quirky savior of humanity. He has helped rejuvenate space research, and further green-technology development, but he has also frequently manipulated markets. He has tremendous influence in American popular culture, and often wields it irresponsibly such as the numerous times he contradicted information from public health officials, and contributed to the politicization of COVID-19. Never mind that no one becomes a billionaire without directly and indirectly exploiting millions of people along the way. He is a “cool” billionaire who puts forth a persona that is generally relatable to the American public, but his actions do not seem to have much regard for the well-being of the public.

Honestly, I think Wikipedia’s summary of the controversy surrounding him sums things up very well:

Musk has been the subject of criticism due to unorthodox or unscientific stances and highly publicized controversies. In 2018, he was sued for defamation by a diver who advised in the Tham Luang cave rescue; a California jury ruled in favor of Musk. In the same year, he was sued by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for falsely tweeting that he had secured funding for a private takeover of Tesla. He settled with the SEC, temporarily stepping down from his chairmanship and accepting limitations on his Twitter usage. Musk has spread misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic and has received criticism from experts for his other views on such matters as artificial intelligence and public transport.

It looks like FireFox Focus can be installed and used as a stand-alone browser, or its ad & tracker blocking can be enabled as an extension in Safari. Kinda weird, but it allows the user to block ads while browsing in Safari.

You got my hopes up, but it turns out Apple does not allow other browsers to implement extensions. Safari is the only iOS browser that supports extensions, and Safari extensions are not compatible with FireFox on iOS.

I read the book “Quit Like a Millionaire” by Kristy Shen & Bryce Leung, a couple chapters in the book detail the authors’ frustration with how the wealthy can get away with paying so few taxes, and their eventual conclusion that “if you can’t beat them, join them”. I don’t agree with their conclusion, but it was a really interesting chapter to learn about tax optimization which is somewhat different than tax evasion.

Tax optimization is making lifestyle changes and structuring you personal finances in specific ways that incur the lowest taxes/fees possible. Things like maximizing contributions to tax deferred accounts (401k, 403b, etc…) to lower your taxable income for years when you sell investments, and “churning” capital gains on years when you do not. However, the ultra-wealthy are on a whole other level.

Many of the Wealthy Americans’ companies pay no taxes by re-investing profits in order to turn that profit into an expense. It gets complicated in the ways they do that, but one way is to set up another company (a shell company) in a country with lower business taxes than the US. Then, pay the shell company all of the American company’s profits. Those funds do not need to be transferred back to America (and therefore taxed by the US.) to be spent, the shell company can spend those funds for the American company anywhere in the world. Apple is notorious for doing this. To my knowledge using a tax haven is in the gray area between tax optimization (legal) and tax evasion (fraud).

You can, of course, always cross the fine line into tax fraud and save far more money by cheating your fellow citizens.

One example of tax fraud that I have personally witnessed was when a wealthy donor gave to a Boy’s and Girl’s club where I was volunteering. The donor, instead of donating money which was what was really needed, they donated toothpaste and tooth brushes. This was the cheapest, garbage toothpaste I have ever seen, and probably cost the donor ~$0.25 per tube, but they probably wrote if off at a cost of ~$4.00 per tube. I’m estimating my numbers, but they probably turned a ~$1,000 donation into a ~$16,000 tax write off. IF they get audited by the IRS (and that is a big if) they might get caught, or more likely the Boy’s and Girl’s club will confirm they received a donation of 4000 tubes of toothpaste and the auditor will drop the issue.

I am a huge proponent of full-scale income tax reform in the US, it’s about much more than not requiring individuals to do their own taxes each year, it’s about seriously reducing tax fraud and setting the IRS up for success by reducing the impossible workload that is placed on their auditors. I am not an expert on tax policy, but it is pretty clear the tax code needs to be fixed.

I didn’t know about the compact setting, thanks! That was my only complaint with Proton as well. I don’t have a large screen, so that vertical space is extra valuable.

New_Public’s latest article presents a field guide that likens all the users and behaviors we see on social media to diverse species of birds observed in the wild…

Voice recognition is much more important in China and other nations that use non-alphabetic languages. Typing traditional Chinese characters is a real challenge, and all sorts of creative keyboards have been invented to make it easier, but the simplest way used to be to learn Pinyin and use a keyboard that converts Pinyin into Chinese characters.

Now, Chinese speakers can dictate whatever they want to say to their phone which is by far the easiest way to put their thoughts digitally into words. It does not require users to learn a second written language in order to use it. In fact, someone who is completely illiterate can send and receive messages using a voice assistant, and increasingly they have access to information on the internet exclusively through voice assistants. Part of the reason voice assistants are so common in alphabetic countries now is because many big western companies want to be in a good position to embrace emerging markets with non-alphabetic languages.

Maybe hosting events and meetups to get members of the community playing together. A few years ago, when Borderlands 2 was first released on Linux, lots of users on the Steam Linux User Group scheduled sessions to play through the whole game together and it was a lot of fun!

I just don’t believe we can bridge divides by refusing to build bridges. It is easy to unfederate if things get out of hand, but I believe to not try at all would be a tragedy.

People [on Reddit, 4Chan, et al] mass brigade and spout racist shit and do not rely on facts to prop up their agendas. None of this happens on Lemmy, because far left is one domain that largely does not consist of uneducated hypocrites, reactionaries, warmongerers or racists and believes in critical thinking just like some of the conservatives do… you will not see corrupt liberals or neocons leaving their bigotry or agendas at the door for a discussion, and will use every opportunity to leverage their agendas.

When I read that, I felt a little put off because it stereotypes many of the people in my life and espouses a certain pretentiousness, or holier-than-thou attitude of the Left. The left can be every bit as violent and bigoted as the right: a few years ago my local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America was ransacked by disgruntled communists advocating for violent revolution who were angry with the DSA’s peaceful message and reformist agenda. In fact, one of the problems I have witnessed of the left is that there is often an “all or nothing” attitude which self-defeats incremental progress, and undermines solidarity efforts.

Personally, I was raised in a deeply conservative evangelical christian community, and I was sent to radical christian camps as a kid, so I have certainly been in the belly of the beast so to speak. My grandmother is an incredibly talented organ player, a wonderful cook, and a civic minded woman with a tremendous heart, but she is also staunchly against unions and socialist government programs. I think of her, and many of my family members & friends who hold beliefs that conflict with my own, and I refuse to discard the opportunity to have relationships with them because they do not believe entirely what I do.

You are absolutely right that civility becomes more difficult to maintain with wider diversity of opinions, but I also believe the community is made more vibrant by diversity: I was once stuck in San Francisco on Christmas day (the whole city pretty much shuts down), but fortunately Chinatown was bustling because most of the residents & shop owners there do not celebrate Christmas, so I was finally able to get some food. I believe we should have more nuanced control over federation policies rather than “all or nothing”. I don’t think that is naive, I think it is a non-defeatist curiosity to solve problems and make things better. I’m hopeful that as Lemmy and the Fediverse grow they can help erode the perception gap by pioneering policies and practices that build bridges across divides.

I was on Voat when it was a pleasant community like Lemmy, and I tried to nudge for civility as over time every post became hateful and angry. I would still browse Voat occasionally until it shut down because I value diversity of thought, and I was curious to encounter rhetoric which contradicted my own beliefs.

Lemmy is not so different, however, instead of having a far-right bias Lemmy has a far-left bias. For now there are no far-right Lemmy instances to balance far-left instances like Lemmygrad.ml. This creates an atmosphere where right-leaning, and centrist users might take one look around and feel unwelcome.

I think it is important that left-leaning, centrist, and right-leaning users feel welcome while leaving bigotry at the door. We need for someone who is bigoted to feel welcome here by all of their other traits, and to erode their bigoted beliefs over time because bigotry is not tolerated. I think Lemmy and the Fediverse have real potential to foster a space where diverse users can share stories and form communities with users who hold very different beliefs.

Voat showed it is not enough to create an open platform with unmoderated free speech, the platform itself must have structures in place to promote civility, and the users of the platform must work hard to maintain a culture of civility. The fact that QAnon believers are not welcome here means that Lemmy has already siloed itself, and I believe that the current policy of non-federation with disagreeable instances is too strict to be a long-term viable solution.

My vision for fostering civility on Lemmy is for sublemmies to federate with one another across instances. e.g. /c/pixelart@lemmy.ml could federate freely with /c/pixelart@far-right.com and /c/pixelart@far-left.com to promote relationships between users with very different beliefs. However, /c/politics@lemmy.ml might want to federate much more selectively with /c/politics@far-right.com or /c/politics@far-left.com. Perhaps /c/politics@far-right.com and /c/politics@far-left.com could have a weekly debate post which is the only post that federates between them.

I’m really glad you started this discussion, I saw the heated exchanges and I was disappointed and put off by the lack of civility.

Honestly, I don’t think Lemmy or Reddit are proper forms for controversial discussions like news and I’d be in favor of removing c/worldnews and similar divisive communities until a more effective trust-building and conflict-resolving system can be implemented; upvotes and downvotes will not suffice. Conflict is inevitable, but to promote civility the platform itself must be structured to foster trust between users, by promoting more engaging interactions between people .

I’ve been brainstorming about a Lemmy-wide community calendar system that would allow users to schedule events. e.g. any subscriber of gaming@lemmy.ml could schedule that they will be playing Veloren at 1500 UTC, then any Lemmy user could see that event and choose to join. Kind of like combining meetup.com and Lemmy in order to form communities on Lemmy that promote far more meaningful interactions between users than the inevitably superficial interactions of an asynchronous comments section.

It might seem like an unrelated fix, but users will not be so impulsive with their comments if they are forming genuine relationships with one another, and with deeper community connections comes a sense of stewardship in the users.

Pretty cool. I’ve been interested in Fuchsia for a while, from what I read about it last year it’s built from scratch to be a primarily search-based / speech prompted OS. Instead of a traditional “desktop” metaphor, they are trying to transition to a “story telling” / “conversation” metaphor using natural language.

The goal is to be the next step beyond the functionality of their google home devices which are currently limited to prompts like “Is it going to rain tomorrow?”, or “set a timer for 3 minutes”. They want to expand on that functionality to the point where you can eventually tell a phone or laptop “Hey Google, add a sepia filter to that picture I took of my dog yesterday, then add it to my Facebook wall.” or “Hey Google, open the survey results spreadsheet I just downloaded… plot a distribution graph of all the values in column A and mark each standard distribution”

If they can get the tech to work it has a tremendous potential. People who are not competent with current operating systems could become drastically more productive. This tech could potentially enable the illiterate to access information on the internet, and effectively use computers for the first time. If Fuchsia succeeds in advancing natural speech processing, computer vision, content recognition, IOT, and other fields of computer science to create a platform that is even a fraction as good as the tech in the movie Her (without consciousness) I think it could shake up the IT landscape as much as smartphones have in the last decade.

I’m not a Google fan, in fact, the thing that worries me about Fuchsia is all the potential I see in it. Google will try to use Fuchsia to further monopolize the internet. So much of the Internet’s infrastructure already relies on Google, and they will use any innovations to further entrench themselves. I don’t trust Google to dominate in IT for the public good.

At any rate, it’s all at least a couple years away. As far as I know there is a lot of R&D between where they are today and the ultimate vision for the product. For now, Google has only demonstrated they have a built-from-scratch working kernel that can run the same Nest-Hub software that Linux can run, but the next 10 years will likely be a wild ride for IT.

I used to play RuneScape religiously from ~2005-2011. It totally runs on Linux, they even have 3rd party clients that run on Linux (RuneLite). The last time I played about a year ago the game was over run with expensive and unbanable machine learning bots, but using a bot on your own account was almost certain to result in a ban. I spent a few days doing a deep dive into every piece of trivia about RunScape, there was a lot of crazy stuff that went on behind the scenes!

Too bad Jagex sold out to new investors multiple times and overloaded the game with micro-transactions. Their incompetent leadership drove so many players away and then they completely changed the fundamental mechanics of the game in an attempt to attract and retain new players. It didn’t work. They did succeed in wrecking the game so badly, however, that the RuneScape community set up illegal private servers of older versions of the game. Jagex shut those down and eventually re-released the older version of the game themselves which became significantly more popular than the main game.

I don’t play many games anymore, but I’ve been playing Veloren recently. It is opensource and updated a couple times a day right now, the devs are super active and can be chatted with in game.

In addition to a cat tax, I’ve been thinking about communities that could be more action oriented, and features that could make communities on Lemmy less about mindless content consumption and more about real-life and socialization.

e.g. I’ve considered starting a sublemmy for de-pollution where users collect litter from their communities, then post the amount of trash they have collected (by weight or volume). There could be a running total updated in real time, before & after photos, and events. I don’t know if there is any interest in a community like this here.

I worry that using link aggregators and micro blogging for news is not a form that is conducive to positive outcomes. I don’t remember where, but it might have been on the Center for Humane Technology’s podcast where I found out about a team of engineers who recommended the separation of community and news consumption.

When reading a traditional newspaper or news feed the reader consumes the news alone, and they have time to process what they have read and form their own opinions. When consuming news from social media sources the reader will usually be heavily influenced by the dominate opinions in the comments section, and they are less likely to form their own opinions.

In other words, the structure of a Reddit, Lemmy, Twitter, or Facebook is fundamentally geared toward eroding civic discourse and critical thought while fostering mob-mentality.

Some of the proposed engineering fixes were to disallow posting to comments sections until the reader passed some check that verified they read an entire article, and only allowing the user to read others comments after the user had either posted their own comment, or enough time (hours or days) had lapsed so that the user would likely have formed their own opinions and would be less likely to engage in emotional group-think.

Verifying commenters read an entire article would be challenging and annoying, and a time-delay before posting would undermine the appeal of current social media, however, so these ideas haven’t been explored.

Edit: Change pronouns to be more inclusive.

Favorite Personal Finance Management Software?

My credit union recently shut down their in-house personal finance management site because it was too much work to maintain and they don’t see it as competitive with freely available sites like mint.com. …

Alternative Front-Ends for Facebook?

Many businesses, non-profits, and local government offices where I live use Facebook as their primary, or exclusive, online presence. I don’t want to make a Facebook account, but I would like to be able to see some of the content that is posted there; are there any alternative front-ends that won’t …


Redirect social media links to privacy-respecting alternative front ends, or redirects to an alternate service such as Google Maps -> Open Street Map…