Monthly Archives: February 2017

Silly Engineers

Software engineers can be such clods.

Several big companies, including Apple and Google, engaged in collusion to keep wages down. The capitalists aren’t on your side. (Our side, I suppose is the better way to phrase it, as I’m also a developer.)

The startup world often isn’t any better for non-founders. The equity given to the first engineers is usually not as good as what they think it is. Especially in a less than ideal exit where investors grab their share first and the engineers are left with scraps (or nothing). When an exit does happen, they’re usually not consulted and don’t get to fight for their share. It’s especially bad when you consider the hours they’re expected to put in. Then, factor in that their work product belongs to the company. Their upside is rather limited even with the small share they get. (Perhaps I will google links to stories to show what’s up, but I’m tired right now. If you’re experienced in the world, you’ll understand this intuitively.)

Really, engineers at places like Uber should be allies with the lower-income contract workers. Not the capitalists who have proven that they will engage in pretty much literal theft.

The solution is to go beyond capitalism.

Zuckerberg, Trump, and Exploitation

I’m not sure how many people are aware of how Trump stiffed contractors. Here’s an article on it. This kind of behavior makes him a dick, and I think a lot of people recognize that. Even if legal, it’s described as an unethical loophole. It’s exploitative. If you agree, you can keep reading. If you don’t, whatever; I’m not going to argue this point.

Now, let’s talk about Zuckerberg. I specifically bring him up because there’s speculation that he could potentially run for office. He is a liberal, so some people might be encouraged by this, but he is a rich capitalist. In fact, Zuckerberg’s exploitation exceeds Trump’s. Social media depends on people creating free content. The value is created by the users. But it’s not redistributed to the users. Facebook advertises against the content we create, but it keeps all the value and no creator is paid (aside from small exceptions). Their algorithms, for displaying content, displaying the best ads, facial recognition, all depend on the data that we create, yet we are not recompensed. Facebook’s exploitation of free labor far exceeds Trump’s in both monetary value and the number of people exploited.

We don’t see it because we are taught to work within the framework of capitalism. Trump’s exploitation is more obvious because he had an agreement. Whereas with facebook, we click approve for a user agreement that let’s facebook do this. Nothing should be redistributed to the user, because in capitalism, the value that’s created belongs to the capitalist. Under capitalism, when an employee develops a tool that makes them more productive, the excess value is captured by the company and the employee merely gets what she was already making (or less). So really, it’s not just a problem with the Zuckerbergs or the Trumps of the world (although they are particularly egregious cases), but a problem with the system of capitalism itself. As a society, we lack imagination. We need to start imagining a world where instead of Zuckerberg being able to buy land in Hawaii and possibly elections, the workers are the ones who get the value of what they create. People will tell you that this will never happen, but many of them are the same ones who insisted that Brexit would never happen, that Trump would never win the primary, that Trump would never be president, and perhaps they are the same ones who insisted that Iraq had WMDs.

And I’ve limited this conversation merely to exploitation. Zuckerberg’s views are troubling in general, as well. But that’s a different conversation, and I’m not interested in that one yet.


I watched I Am Not Your Negro with my wife and mother-in-law last week. Definitely recommend it to anyone.

Here’s an article if you want to read something about it before deciding to watch it:

I’ve wanted to read Baldwin for a long time but wasn’t sure where to start. After watching the movie, I bought a collection of essays. Haven’t read it yet, though.

Saving Books

I saw this originally on social media somewhere, then googled and found a different article on it: A librarian in Florida went rogue to save 2,361 books from an algorithm.

A librarian created a fake library card to check out books. If they’re not checked out, they get culled from the collection, so this was done to save the books.

I wonder if something could be done where you create an app or website (or google doc?) that actual people use to check out books on their own, instead of having to create a fake account.

Antifascist Attention

Antifascists have been written about in the NY Times and in Wired, which are very mainstream publications. I’ve seen people complain that the tactics are counterproductive because they draw attention to the right-wing extremists, but rarely do I see that attention is also being drawn to the protesters. Just wanted to point out that this is also an effect.

Ethical Dilemmas for Liberals

This story about New Yorkers removing Nazi graffiti from subway cars went viral. (First saw it on Twitter, but can’t remember where, so no hat tip.) It wasn’t condemned, so I guess liberals find this ethically acceptable. But force isn’t? So, I have some further ethical dilemmas…

Can you punch a Nazi to prevent him from putting up Nazi propaganda?

No! That’s still force and using force to hurt someone you disagree with is also fascist.

Okay, what if I take the Nazi’s sharpie and destroy it, without actually hurting the Nazi?

No, destroying property is wrong and makes you just as bad as the fascists.

Ah, but the Nazi is about to deface property. Doesn’t that put me in the right?

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Well, what if I simply stole the Nazi’s pen, without him ever being aware of it?

No, the Nazi still has rights to his property. Stealing is always wrong. What are we but savages without the rule of law? You are destroying civil society by undermining the rule of law and thus you are also a Nazi.

But I can destroy the Nazi propaganda after he puts it up?

Well, it depends. If it’s graffiti, you can clean it up. However, you must do so respectfully and can’t damage any property. If it’s a flier put up somewhere public, you can’t remove it because that would violate free speech. You can, however, debate with the poster. By the way, Nazis can also be women. Let’s not be sexist by assuming gender.

Whose speech is protected

Milo gets police protection. In fact, he gets extra police protection as BPD was coordinating with neighboring areas.

Meanwhile, water protectors trying to stop a pipeline get attacked by a tank.

This is not a post about hypocrisy. Or to say that “one side” is “always” protected and the “other side” is “never” protected. I merely want to say that there tends to be a clear pattern as to whose speech is protected by the state. And that these things can happen on the same day, and in my particular facebook feed, which is mostly people who are Democrats, people felt more strongly that they wanted to condemn “rioters” rather than the state violence in the latter. Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt, that they wanted to comment on something closer to home. Yet with the BLM matters protests, there seems to be a pattern where property damage is worthy of universal contempt and condemnation, but systematic state violence is not.
I know, I know, maybe I simply want to see the pattern. Is this a case of “why are people paying attention to X, but not paying attention to Y?” My feed is so limited, and I’m not getting a full vision of public opinion. Timing matters and perhaps I don’t see the intensity of people’s reactions. After all, my social media posts don’t reflect much thought about NoDAPL even though I’ve donated money to the cause. Maybe that’s all true. But even if I’m wrong, the state’s actions still are clear.

I like to view things in terms of systems and this seems to be a clear case of the system acting to protect itself, even though liberals would ostensibly be against such repression. The state commits violence. Nationalism blinds people to it. Even when they recognize it, they attribute to a few bad actors. Both sides are painted as equivalent; stopping fascism is equivalent to fascism. Any reaction is “counterproductive.” The status quo is upheld. The system of state violence against minorities ends up protecting itself.