For current political commentary, see the daily political notes.
RMS's Bio | The GNU Project
There should be a law requiring online services, if they close a user's account, to permit the user to continue to download whatever information perse had left in the account.
To be sure, it is foolish to rely on an online service to hold any data for you; you should store it locally, and use online services only as backups (encrypted). Preferably more than one online service in parallel, for redundancy. But we should not allow online services to cite this as an excuse for arbitrarily causing people great avoidable harm.
It should be a crime to knowingly approach a person while maskless inside a building or vehicle.
The extreme of this is represented by the Amazon warehouse, where a worker's every move is controlled by the computer system. This is one of many reasons to refuse to buy from Amazon.
Unfortunately, surveillance of workers is not limited to Amazon. I think states should pass laws to limit surveillance of workers. It should cover independent contractors as well as employees.
The law should completely forbid demanding that workers run any specific software on their own computers (keep in mind that portable phones are computers); the employer who wants that must furnish the computer at no charge.
Now it can cause you to be arrested randomly for walking down the street.
If stores use face recognition inside the store, they should not be allowed to use photos for matching against people in the store except for photos they have taken in that store, and photos of people convicted of theft and fraud.
This is a corrupt practice. I think we need to limit the president's power to pardon so that presidents cannot do this in the future.
*Despite CDC Moratorium—and With Help From White House—Corporate Landlords Have Gone on Eviction Spree.*
I think we should have a law putting a real-estate tax on corporations owning more than a few rental houses, or more than a few apartment buildings, and likewise on the corporations that own them, etc.
200 Google workers have formed a union. They are determined to include contractors, so they have decided not to apply for formal recognition. We need to change US law so that contract workers, even subcontracted workers, can unionize.
Most jails in the US use one of five companies to provide medical "care" to prisoners, and those companies do a measurably bad job.
These companies are successful because they charge less, and they reduce costs by cutting corners — for instance, by being slow to approve permitting a prisoner to be seen by a professional. This is the standard problem with privatizing all or part of a public activity.
Therefore, I suggest that contracting a public function to a private activity should be forbidden by law if the activity involves doing things specifically for, or to, individual members of the public.
The US needs a constitutional amendment to limit the president's power to pardon convicts whose crimes were related to the president. The authors of the constitution may have supposed no president would sink so low as to do that.
Automation in work is aimed at atomizing work, making workers fungible, and running them to exhaustion.
I think these practices ought to be prohibited, even if it requires imposing stiff, harsh penalties on employment systems. It is wrong to apply such laws to people, but an employment system is not a person, even if it is part of a business that belongs to a person.
I think there ought to be a law that when a company tells workers that their jobs will be outsourced, and that before they are let go they must train their own replacements, the workers don't have to do that.
The law would say that they can treat the order to train their replacements as being laid off, so that they can stop working, and start collecting unemployment insurance, on the day that the training process is supposed to begin.
The law could award them a paid vacation too, why not? That detail won't be crucial — the effect of this law is that companies won't do that sort of thing at all.
Let's put a substantial tax on all shipments of products from stores to retail customers. That would benefit all local stores, for which shipping is not needed.
Alternatively, put a substantial tax on all retail sales in which the store can identify the purchaser. That would encourage non-surveillance retail.
US antitrust law used to prohibit "vertical integration". If we bring that back, it would prohibit a product from depending unavoidably on an online service set up by the same company. At least, for large companies.
I think we should prohibit it separately, so that the prohibition applies to small companies too.
10% of the workers in Britain have been captured by the piecework sweatshop dis-services.
We must extend all the rights and benefits of employees to cover these forms of work.
Thousands of Americans — perhaps hundreds of thousands — have been killed because judges sealed evidence of deadly defects in products and kept the defects secret for years as more people died. The dangerous flaws of OxyContin, which spread opioid addiction, were concealed for 12 years.
Trade secrecy is always bad for the public. Occasionally it is deadly, but usually merely harmful. We should change the law so that no significant problem can be concealed in this way.
Businesses should not be allowed to enforce an NDA to conceal mistreatment of workers, customers, or the public.
Agreeing to nondisclosure of generally useful technical information, such as software, is betrayal of society as a whole. I refuse on principle to do this.
A woman in Alabama has been charged with manslaughter for getting shot while pregnant. The state treats the fetus as a person.
This is the natural conclusion of the twisted premises of those who treat fetuses as sacred.
But the problem may be broader than that. Suppose she had been shot while carrying a three-year-old child in her arms? Suppose someone else had shot at her and killed the child.
I don't think people should be prosecuted for the effects of being shot at.
Facebook treats the video moderators like shit. And that's in addition to the depression they feel from watching the videos.
The article gives no evidence that Utley's death was caused by his job, but the way the managers treated it is despicable even if they did not cause it.
Naturally, these workers are subcontracted, so that Facebook can deny responsibility for how they are treated. But Facebook is in fact responsible: it demands contractors offer a low price, which they achieve by treating the workers like shit. We need laws to hold companies like Facebook responsible for the treatment of indirect workers, and give them employee rights such as sick leave.
It should be a felony for employees of a company to ask a worker to sign a nondisclosure agreement covering any aspect of the working conditions, benefits, or pay.
Senate Democrats have introduced a data privacy bill which begins, though just barely, to limit collection of some data.
But it has obvious loopholes. It won't require companies to reveal the conclusions they have deduced from the personal data they have access to — because they argue that those are not "the client's data." It won't, as far as I can see, limit the targeted ads that are the basis for surveillance capitalism.
And it won't even try to make it possible to buy something over the internet anonymously. We have the technology for this.
The most sensitive personal data about you are where you go during the day, what you do there, who you talk with, and what you and they say. It should be illegal to set up or operate a system which systematically collects any of those data, except when authorized by a court order, targeted at specific people or a specific place, for a specific period of time.
I propose a law requiring stores to offer the service of bringing an item to the store for you to buy later, in exchange for an ordering fee paid in advance.
Tenants in Atlantic Plaza Towers campaigned against installing face recognition cameras and got the landlord to back down.
It should be illegal to install face recognition cameras in a residential building, except for cameras installed inside an apartment by the residents of that apartment that see only the inside of that apartment.
*Amazon will pay $0 in taxes on $11,200,000,000 in profit for 2018.* Precisely how Amazon achieves this is a secret.
How about requiring all corporations operating in the US (or whichever country it may be) to publish their full international accounts?
Collin Clabaugh moved in with his grandparents after his parents died. But the homeowner's association says they are not allowed to let him live there, and demanded they kick him out.
I think states should pass laws guaranteeing people certain rights that override all homeowners' associations. Not only the right to have dependents live with them, but also the right to post a sign supporting a position regarding an election or political issue.
"Zumigo, which sold the location data of American cell phone users, wanted the FCC to remove requirements around user consent."
Requiring consent is not sufficient to make this acceptable. We need to require that any software that can send a user's location offer the option of spoofing the location.
Socialism for the rich now includes oil companies in the UK, which are shirking the responsibility to clean up and shut down oil drilling platforms in the North Sea.
Big companies have a history of using bankruptcy to evade responsibilities, even pension obligations. Rather than trust a company to come up with money later to carry out its responsibilities, we should make it put the money in escrow in advance when it incurs the obligation, on a schedule that collects the money while the project is profitable.
Facebook and Google provide support on contract to specific political campaigns. Given the role they play in communication between citizens, this is a conflict of interest, and should be prohibited.
The way to reduce the waste from plastic things is to reduce the quantity of such things that are made.
"Recycling" plastic by burning it is even more ironic than the article says. The process consists basically of extracting petroleum from the ground and then burning it, but differs from the usual way of doing so in that the petroleum (more precisely, some fraction of it) passes through an intermediate stage as plastic. This does not reduce the greenhouse gas output.
Imagine if every item made of plastic — even fairly durable items — carried a deposit. If the item is recycled in less than 5 years, the consumer gets the deposit back. If it is recycled after 5 years, the consumer refund is a decreasing fraction of the original deposit; after 10 years, the refund goes to zero.
This law would encourage making plastic items that would remain usable for a longer period of time. It could even help put an end to planned obsolescence.
The bullshitter is going to fabricate another bogus "emergency" and use it as an excuse to bypass Senate approval of arms sales to Salafi Arabia and the UAE.
I suggest that the law permitting emergency international arms sales should exclude sales that were proposed more than a month previously as well as sales that would take more than a month to physically implement.
Over 100 billion UKP worth of real estate in England and Wales is owned by anonymous corporations set up in tax havens.
It would be easy to make this problem disappear: just put a heavy tax on ownership of property through chains that cannot be tracked backed to real people. An even stronger measure would be to make that a crime, so that on demonstration that a given property is owned that way, the government could seize it.
The San Francisco sheriff department protected some of its thugs from a criminal investigation by destroying the evidence.
If they can't be prosecuted for obstruction of justice, the law needs to be changed to allow that.
We should make participation in cheating employees a crime for the individuals that do it, to threaten the managers responsible with jail, rather than merely the corporation with a small fine.
The article describes two alternative plans for choosing who to punish in this way, but the effect would be the same: to punish ordinary users of bitcoins effectively at random. Ostensibly it is not random, but rather based on a criterion that ordinary users couldn't hope to check, so it's effectively equivalent to punishment at random.
It is fundamentally unjust to subject people to punishment at random. Constitutions ought to insist that no one can be punished, or legally discriminated against, or have property seized, based on circumstances not feasible for them to have recognized and avoided.
Even if many small countries do not adopt this requirement, large countries could effectively make it compulsory by denying the tax deduction as a business expense for payments to companies whose ultimate beneficial owner is not registered.
We need a law requiring the immigration agency to publish all its data about a particular person's interrogation or exclusion, if that person publicly asks. We must not allow the agency to hide its refusal to explain itself to the victim behind a facade of concern for the victim's own privacy.
The coup-running "president" of the Maldives seems to be trying to rig the coming election.
I suspect that "president" Yameen's coup was organized by fossil fuel interests.
In recent years he has put the country in China's pocket by accepting loans for unnecessary projects, such as a bridge that in a few decades will connect one patch of ocean to another patch of ocean.
We need an international system for countries that have emerged from dictatorship to repudiate the debts imposed by tyrants and corrupt rulers. That will teach plutocrats to stop trying to enslave countries through lending to those rulers.
When the islands are awash and no one lives there any more, China will foreclose on them and build a naval base there.
I propose a law that performing face recognition on an image requires a court order.
$340,000 is a substantial fine, but perhaps not enough to influence people as rich as they are. Perhaps industrial fines should be increased based on the company's total income, the way some places increase traffic fines based on the driver's income.
We have to put an end to this "independent contractor" bullshit.
A company that pays people to do more than 1000 hours per week of a certain kind of work should be required to hire full-time employees to do at least 80% of that work. If the work amounts to more than 10,000 hours per week, the company should have hire full-times to do 90% of it. At more than 30,000 hours of work per week, there must be enough full-timers to do 95% of it.
Work farmed out to contractor companies should count towards the total just as if there were no middleman, and that slight differences in the details of the work should not divide it legally into separate pools.
Talk to Deliveroo Couriers. See a Dystopia That Could Be Your Future.
Companies that use many workers to do a large amount of a particular job should be required to hire full-time or half-time employees, with all the usual rights of employees, to do the majority of that work.
To listen to music and not be a jerk, you need to be in a position to share copies with your friends. Normally this means listening to your own nonoppressive local copy. A nonoppressive copy is one that has no DRM or anything else that would interfere with sharing.
Any system of listening to music that discourages people from having nonoppressive local copies is encouraging people to be jerks. Let's legislate against such systems.
Out, out, damned spotify!
Private equity funds buy useful companies and destroy them, or else make them destroy people.
I recommend a law to prohibit companies from being owned by anything like a private equity fund. It should give those funds a deadline to liquidate their assets and return the funds to the investors; on that date, the state should seize whatever companies they still own.
In the interim, the law should not allow funds to take any profit out of these companies; that profit should stay in the individual company until it is sold. The buyer will therefore pay for that profit, but this requirement will eliminate the fund's incentive to drain the company dry before selling it.
*Report Shows Corporate Landlords Received Public Funding Yet Still Kicked Out Tenants.*
Since large companies as landlords are nastier to tenants, we should take steps to discourage being a large company landlord. Higher taxes for them, for instance. Or, increase taxes for landlords that frequently make a tenant leave.
Zoom is developing geographically-fenced account blockage so as to satisfy repressive governments such as China.
Here's an idea. The US should prohibit any country from offering services in the US if it restricts use of services in other countries for political reasons. A US court should decide whether the reasons in question are political.
An overworked driver is dangerous.
There should be a special law specifying the maximum time a paid driver can be paid to drive in one day, for the purpose of road safety, and a special minimum wage for any paid driver, to make sure paid drivers don't need to take more than one job.
If a paid driver has a collision and has been working more than the maximum hours, whoever hired per to work longer should be legally responsible for the collision. That would make Amazon quit overworking drivers.
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