Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Someone actually wrote this: We need to nationalise Google, Facebook and Amazon.

In The Guardian, Nick Srnicek writes,
Ello’s rapid rise and fall is symptomatic of our contemporary digital world and the monopoly-style power accruing to the 21st century’s new “platform” companies, such as Facebook, Google and Amazon. Their business model lets them siphon off revenues and data at an incredible pace, and consolidate themselves as the new masters of the economy.
That's pretty much what people said about AOL, which has not been called a master of the economy in a while.
Monday brought another giant leap as Amazon raised the prospect of an international grocery price war by slashing prices on its first day in charge of the organic retailer Whole Foods.
No, please, anything but cheaper groceries! The horror! The horror!
None of them focuses on making things in the way that traditional companies once did. Instead, Facebook connects users, advertisers, and developers; Uber, riders and drivers; Amazon, buyers and sellers.
I'm not sure that the author quite gets how Amazon works.
Reaching a critical mass of users is what makes these businesses successful: the more users, the more useful to users – and the more entrenched – they become. Ello’s rapid downfall occurred because it never reached the critical mass of users required to prompt an exodus from Facebook – whose dominance means that even if you’re frustrated by its advertising and tracking of your data, it’s still likely to be your first choice because that’s where everyone is, and that’s the point of a social network.
And that's why we all still use Myspace.
Facebook is a master at using all sorts of behavioural techniques to foster addictions to its service: how many of us scroll absentmindedly through Facebook, barely aware of it?
I don't know; how many people do that?
What’s the answer? We’ve only begun to grasp the problem, but in the past, natural monopolies like utilities and railways that enjoy huge economies of scale and serve the common good have been prime candidates for public ownership. The solution to our newfangled monopoly problem lies in this sort of age-old fix, updated for our digital age.
Yes, let's have government take over such important facilities of information distribution. Given the importance of U.S. companies to this sector of the economy, "government" to a significant extent means the Trump administration. What could possibly go wrong?
It would mean taking back control over the internet and our digital infrastructure, instead of allowing them to be run in the pursuit of profit and power.
Nothing says, "We're not doing this in the pursuit of power" like a government takeover.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Trademarks and free speech

On the blog Above the Law, Joe Patrice writes about "the path that most defines the Roberts Court: the provisions of the Bill of Rights are for making money." Sure, if you ignore all of the decisions of the Roberts court that don't suggest that.

Patrice points out that "no one was trying to ban any speech here" and continues,

Federal trademark protection flows from the congressional power to regulate interstate commerce, and in light of the broad grant of power the Framers gave the government here, it’s entirely reasonable for the government to impose limits on what marks it gives the imprimatur of nationwide recognition, in the interest of regulating the market. This isn’t banning someone from expressing a disparaging view. It’s not even banning someone from making money off a disparaging view. The statute barred the federal government from inserting itself into a potential dispute between someone trying to make money off a racial slur and someone trying to make bootleg products to make money off that same racial slur. And, as already discussed, it doesn’t even stop someone from suing the bootlegger.
Such limits stop being "entirely reasonable" when they are based on viewpoint. In fact, a long line of precedent forbids government to impose such viewpoint-based restrictions, even when government was under no Constitutional obligation to provide the service under consideration in the first place.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Someone actually wrote this: Is Pride Still for Queer People like Me?

In today's New York Times, Krista Burton writes,
Pride was a party, a huge gay party, and I had never been so excited to be invited, or felt so instantly welcome, anywhere.

That’s where Pride succeeds. It gets more inclusive and welcoming every year, and as the queers become less threatening, more straight people come, and more minds are opened to the possibility that we gays might just be regular people, after all. (Albeit with better decorating sense and the sass to pull off chaps that leave little to the imagination.)

Apart from the fact that Ms. Burton parrots outdated stereotypes of gay men, what's the problem?
Having allies is wonderful, but sometimes I wish they could be allies every other day of the year, and let us have a party as gay and naked and radical and un-family-friendly as we queers might like.
Given what she just said, she seems to want to argue with success.
Pride is clearly also for corporations who want to milk as much money as possible from a previously ignored demographic. In the past decade or so, companies have scrambled to prove how O.K. they are with L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ folks, and well, it’s embarrassing how transparent the scramble for our money is.
Quite unlike those politicians who "evolve" on our issues when politically expedient. Many people want the former to prove their ideological purity, while the latter get participation trophies.
We see you, Miller Lite, with your oddly wholesome, rainbow-spattered ads. Where were you before it was in your best financial interest to be accepting of queers?

Where were any of these companies when a single corporation standing up for queer rights would have stood out like a lit “Golden Girls” prayer candle in an endless night of straight missionary sex?

Where was Ms. Burton when many businesses were leading indicators of our progress even as politicians were so often lagging indicators? Where was she when businesses went to bat for us against homophobic or transphobic state legislatures? And what is it with those stereotypes of gay men that so fascinate her?
I hate that white, gay, cis men are the only kind of gays with real activist funding behind them.
And I hate that up is down and that the sun rises in the west.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Where the LGBT movement can go right, and where it can go wrong

In today's Washington Post, we read,
Since 2001, there has been a clear and, apparently, irreversible, move toward more permissive, or, to use Gallup’s word, “liberal” social norms.

“Libertarian” might be a better term. Gallup documents what can only be called a strong live-and-let-live consensus regarding several practices — birth control, divorce, sex between unmarried adults, gay or lesbian relations, out-of-wedlock child-bearing — that within living memory were either fiercely contested or taboo.

The key words are "live-and-let-live consensus." Unfortunately, I see many LGBT people refuse to learn the lesson. Despite the evidence that live-and-let-live is a winning strategy, they want to replace homophobes' form of live-but-not-let-live with their own. We have already seen backlashes from stepping on others' First Amendment rights.

See also The perfect argument, if we hadn't forfeited it

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Libertarian derangement syndrome

One problem that I have encountered in discussing libertarianism is that while some people will hear me out and argue in good faith, my attempts to discuss it provoke libertarian derangement syndrome in others. Such people often respond to any approving or neutral mention of libertarianism with name-calling, appeals to ridicule, straw men, and just about everything else except an attempt to argue in good faith.

For example, once, I had two progressives agreeing with my libertarian views until they learned that those were libertarian views. They then accused me of holding several views that are not libertarian and one that is the exact opposite of what libertarians believe. Their working definition of "libertarianism" seemed to be "anything that I don't like and from which someone may make a profit."

Not only would they have failed an ideological Turing test, but they also wallowed in willful ignorance. When I tried to explain their mistakes to them, one silently walked away, while the other responded with, in succession, a deer-in-the-headlights look, an attempt to change the subject, and an appeal to ridicule.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Doublethink about majority rule

Right-thinking people have long said that because markets are not self-regulating, they need regulation by government. When I asked how government is self-regulating, a progressive told me that government is self-regulating because of elections. Apparently, the voting booth is like the Teacher from Star Trek.

Now, however, Salon (and I'm citing that fake-news site for the fact that people are saying something, not for the truth of what is being said) tells us,

Are tens of millions of Americans really this stupid? If the findings from a new ABC News poll are any indication, then the answer is yes....
So where does that leave us?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Someone actually wrote this: Pride fests and those evil corporations

In The Advocate, Alex Morash writes,
Today our rights are threatened again, and many in the LGBT community are afraid of what is happening to our country. We need a Pride that marches for our community’s struggles; it's time to march, protest, and resist!
What concrete suggestion does Morash make?
Pride celebrations in most major cities have gotten stale, using the same tired model that focuses on a parade that is filled with big corporate sponsors hawking their wares.
Businesses are increasingly willing to accept us, and that's terrible! It's bad when businesses choose to accept us but good when government compels them to, or something.
In these times we need Pride to courageously stand up to corporate interests and get back to being a march for our rights.
So we should stand up to those who are willing to be our allies? I thought that the point of such a march would be stand up to those who actually threaten our rights.
This is at the heart of why the national Pride march is getting so much attention; it’s not speaking to the affluent or to big corporations, it’s speaking to everyday working-class queers
So everyday working-class queers don't buy goods or services or otherwise participate in a market economy? That's useful to know.
— an audacious act in today’s LGBT community
How's the weather on Counter-Earth?
When Pride committees allow corporations to feature so prominently, Pride comes off as supporting corporate interests over the needs of our community.
False dichotomy is false.
Does anyone think the Pride events of today, filled with luxury brands truly speak to the one out of every five LGBT people living below the federal poverty line or, for that matter, to the rest of us who are not wealthy?
I've somehow overlooked all of those luxury brands. Are the promotional t-shirts by Brioni, or are the likes of Hot 99.5 FM, Food Lion, and Coca-Cola now luxury brands?
Pride needs to speak for us, and we need Pride to reflect who we really are — diverse, not all affluent, and proud to come in every color of the rainbow.
Should Pride reflect an ideologically diverse community in which not everyone buys into trendy anti-capitalism? Also, as the commenters ask, how will Pride get paid for otherwise?

See also Needlessly alienating potential allies and A movement, not a market?.