Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

8

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, as the financial industry underwent deregulation, and as consumer protections from credit card companies, banks, and short-term lenders were stripped away, the idea of personal financial responsibility as a coping mechanism took hold. Everyone was trying to fleece you, banks added fees for speaking to a teller or using your debit card outside of the country or asking for a paper statement or putting money in your account or taking money out of your account or closing your account. And the high priests of personal finance materialized in clouds of smoke, offering a prosperity gospel of discipline and attentiveness, if only you paid them on the installment plan.

The 1990s saw the rise of Suze Orman, Vicki Robin, and Dave Ramsey, gurus who built self-help empires of books, TV and radio shows, financial planning and counseling, all with the same message: document and account for everything. Any excess or frivolity was waste. Why throw away $3.50 on a cup of coffee when you could shove it in a Roth IRA and retire a millionaire forty years later? Meanwhile, interest rates were stagnant, so if you wanted your savings to grow you’d have to funnel it into investments, where a bunch of finance bros could do whatever they wanted with it. We all remember what happened after that.

But for all their financial expertise, most of these wizards still recommend buying property amid a manifest housing crisis. They advocate for “smart” investments while Wall Street bilks small-scale investors. And you don’t see any of them testifying in front of Congress against the lax regulation of short-term lending operations. But if you find yourself in a spiral of debt because you needed some cash when your car broke down a week before the end of the month, they’ll say it’s your fault for agreeing to the terms laid out in a payday loan. That those are the only terms under which the economically disadvantaged can find credit is not up for consideration. If you were not outright lied to, it is your responsibility, they’ll explain, to live up to your obligations. If you call into one of their many syndicated radio shows asking for advice, they’ll grill you on personal expenses, not on how your insurance company left you in a pile of medical debt despite your coverage. (And really, if you signed an agreement with an insurance company, you’re probably to blame for not researching your options thoroughly.) In a recent episode on his YouTube channel, Ramsey rebuked a caller for living outside his means by supporting his orphaned niece and elderly mother. He urged him to reconsider that support.

—p.8 Revolution on the Installment Plan (6) by Jessa Crispin 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, as the financial industry underwent deregulation, and as consumer protections from credit card companies, banks, and short-term lenders were stripped away, the idea of personal financial responsibility as a coping mechanism took hold. Everyone was trying to fleece you, banks added fees for speaking to a teller or using your debit card outside of the country or asking for a paper statement or putting money in your account or taking money out of your account or closing your account. And the high priests of personal finance materialized in clouds of smoke, offering a prosperity gospel of discipline and attentiveness, if only you paid them on the installment plan.

The 1990s saw the rise of Suze Orman, Vicki Robin, and Dave Ramsey, gurus who built self-help empires of books, TV and radio shows, financial planning and counseling, all with the same message: document and account for everything. Any excess or frivolity was waste. Why throw away $3.50 on a cup of coffee when you could shove it in a Roth IRA and retire a millionaire forty years later? Meanwhile, interest rates were stagnant, so if you wanted your savings to grow you’d have to funnel it into investments, where a bunch of finance bros could do whatever they wanted with it. We all remember what happened after that.

But for all their financial expertise, most of these wizards still recommend buying property amid a manifest housing crisis. They advocate for “smart” investments while Wall Street bilks small-scale investors. And you don’t see any of them testifying in front of Congress against the lax regulation of short-term lending operations. But if you find yourself in a spiral of debt because you needed some cash when your car broke down a week before the end of the month, they’ll say it’s your fault for agreeing to the terms laid out in a payday loan. That those are the only terms under which the economically disadvantaged can find credit is not up for consideration. If you were not outright lied to, it is your responsibility, they’ll explain, to live up to your obligations. If you call into one of their many syndicated radio shows asking for advice, they’ll grill you on personal expenses, not on how your insurance company left you in a pile of medical debt despite your coverage. (And really, if you signed an agreement with an insurance company, you’re probably to blame for not researching your options thoroughly.) In a recent episode on his YouTube channel, Ramsey rebuked a caller for living outside his means by supporting his orphaned niece and elderly mother. He urged him to reconsider that support.

—p.8 Revolution on the Installment Plan (6) by Jessa Crispin 10 months, 3 weeks ago
15

Until relatively recently, the regulation of technology was largely discussed through the prism of contract. Technology is often sold or accessed as a proprietary product, licenced through contract to the user. Clickwrap terms of service on major service platforms, for example, allow companies to operate broadly on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

The law has traditionally respected the rights of private parties in making agreements on their own terms, and courts have been reluctant to intervene and set aside these freely bargained arrangements except in the most extreme cases. But many of the contracts we enter into on almost a daily basis share little in common with the context in which the law of contract developed. This is not least because there is an absence of some of the central foundations that have traditionally supported the relevant jurisprudence. Modern digital contracts are characterized by grossly unequal bargaining power, with an absence of a meeting of minds. There is no genuine consent or understanding among users about the rights and obligations of each party. It is formalized exploitation of our digital lives for profit.

Moreover, seeing consent as something that the individual is empowered to offer is something of a category error. For example, as service platform companies collect data, this allows them to know what they know, as well as know what they do not know. Put differently, companies can make inferences about the data they have not collected from data they have. If a company has sufficient intelligence about a certain class of people, it can draw conclusions about those who fit that demographic on the basis that they are part of a lookalike audience. It is not possible to opt out of this; we all end up bound by decisions made by others to consent to invasive data collection practices. In some ways it is like buying a car with faulty brakes. It’s a consumer choice that puts not only you at risk, but also makes the road less safe for all users.

—p.15 Invisible Handcuffs (12) by Lizzie O'Shea 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Until relatively recently, the regulation of technology was largely discussed through the prism of contract. Technology is often sold or accessed as a proprietary product, licenced through contract to the user. Clickwrap terms of service on major service platforms, for example, allow companies to operate broadly on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

The law has traditionally respected the rights of private parties in making agreements on their own terms, and courts have been reluctant to intervene and set aside these freely bargained arrangements except in the most extreme cases. But many of the contracts we enter into on almost a daily basis share little in common with the context in which the law of contract developed. This is not least because there is an absence of some of the central foundations that have traditionally supported the relevant jurisprudence. Modern digital contracts are characterized by grossly unequal bargaining power, with an absence of a meeting of minds. There is no genuine consent or understanding among users about the rights and obligations of each party. It is formalized exploitation of our digital lives for profit.

Moreover, seeing consent as something that the individual is empowered to offer is something of a category error. For example, as service platform companies collect data, this allows them to know what they know, as well as know what they do not know. Put differently, companies can make inferences about the data they have not collected from data they have. If a company has sufficient intelligence about a certain class of people, it can draw conclusions about those who fit that demographic on the basis that they are part of a lookalike audience. It is not possible to opt out of this; we all end up bound by decisions made by others to consent to invasive data collection practices. In some ways it is like buying a car with faulty brakes. It’s a consumer choice that puts not only you at risk, but also makes the road less safe for all users.

—p.15 Invisible Handcuffs (12) by Lizzie O'Shea 10 months, 3 weeks ago
16

[...] The task of improving safety could not be left to industry, as market incentives mitigated against such an investment. “A democratic government is far better equipped to resolve competing interests and determine whatever is required [to improve safer transport] than are firms whose all-absorbing aim is higher and higher profits,” wrote Ralph Nader in 1965 in his seminal book, Unsafe at Any Speed. These safety problems were fixable; they were problems of design rather than individual responsibility. But they required centrally imposed rules to achieve this.

There are strategic limits to this logic. Arguments framed around consumer rights still rely on assumptions about the inherent value of the free market, and a commitment to making it a more functional mode of relations. But if we neglect this field, we lose important ground in the public debate about regulation. Even the most committed libertarian would struggle to justify abolishing the Food and Drug Administration on the basis that it limited individual freedom. No one would agree that an ideal society would require people to take responsibility for testing their food to check that it has not been poisoned. We expect a well-run society would have a process in place, centrally administered, to enforce the relevant rules as much as possible in an efficient way.

There is no reason why technological products could not be subject to similar testing and approval. Biased algorithms would be identified, automatic processes that produce perverse outcomes could be stopped before they are shipped. In the course of finding these examples, there would be a platform for public debate about how to respond to them. A consumer protection lens can help us think of other potential reforms. This might include prohibiting the use of data (including its sale) for any purpose other than the purpose that it was given by the user. This is what consumers currently expect, but not what companies actually deliver.

—p.16 Invisible Handcuffs (12) by Lizzie O'Shea 10 months, 3 weeks ago

[...] The task of improving safety could not be left to industry, as market incentives mitigated against such an investment. “A democratic government is far better equipped to resolve competing interests and determine whatever is required [to improve safer transport] than are firms whose all-absorbing aim is higher and higher profits,” wrote Ralph Nader in 1965 in his seminal book, Unsafe at Any Speed. These safety problems were fixable; they were problems of design rather than individual responsibility. But they required centrally imposed rules to achieve this.

There are strategic limits to this logic. Arguments framed around consumer rights still rely on assumptions about the inherent value of the free market, and a commitment to making it a more functional mode of relations. But if we neglect this field, we lose important ground in the public debate about regulation. Even the most committed libertarian would struggle to justify abolishing the Food and Drug Administration on the basis that it limited individual freedom. No one would agree that an ideal society would require people to take responsibility for testing their food to check that it has not been poisoned. We expect a well-run society would have a process in place, centrally administered, to enforce the relevant rules as much as possible in an efficient way.

There is no reason why technological products could not be subject to similar testing and approval. Biased algorithms would be identified, automatic processes that produce perverse outcomes could be stopped before they are shipped. In the course of finding these examples, there would be a platform for public debate about how to respond to them. A consumer protection lens can help us think of other potential reforms. This might include prohibiting the use of data (including its sale) for any purpose other than the purpose that it was given by the user. This is what consumers currently expect, but not what companies actually deliver.

—p.16 Invisible Handcuffs (12) by Lizzie O'Shea 10 months, 3 weeks ago
18

[...] The central basis for the key antitrust legislation in U.S. history, the Sherman Act, was not just about markets, but power. Legal scholar Lina M. Khan argues that the importance of antitrust law has traditionally not just been about economics, it was also understood in political terms. Legislators were animated by an understanding that the “concentration of economic power also consolidates political power,” she writes. Monopolies that vest control of markets in a single person create “a kingly prerogative, inconsistent with our form of government,” declared Senator Sherman in 1890 when he proposed the bill that would become his eponymous act. “If anything is wrong this is wrong. If we will not endure a king as a political power we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life.” Khan has observed that more recent interpretations of antitrust law over the last half century have given more weight to consumer welfare—often understood in the form of lower prices. This means that platform monopolies fall outside the frame of antitrust protection in their modern iteration.

For example, at the recent Facebook developer conference F8 the presentations were focused on getting people onto Facebook-owned apps (including Instagram and WhatsApp) and making it so they never need to leave. Facebook wants us to buy things, find a date, and apply for a job without ever leaving Facebook. If Zuckerberg gets his way, and it is hard to think that he will not, users will also be able to pay for things with Facebook’s cryptocurrency. (With a potential market of almost three billion users, this could easily become the largest traded currency in the world.) This corporate domination strategy is about creating a private version of the web, where a significant portion of our online lives is mediated through a company. “In a lot of ways Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company,” Zuckerberg has said. A lot of ways, except that, critically, its constituents are disenfranchised. These are the foundations of corporate totalitarianism, where billions of people are made subservient to the whims of a boardroom dictator.

then why is this idiot not elected

—p.18 Invisible Handcuffs (12) by Lizzie O'Shea 10 months, 3 weeks ago

[...] The central basis for the key antitrust legislation in U.S. history, the Sherman Act, was not just about markets, but power. Legal scholar Lina M. Khan argues that the importance of antitrust law has traditionally not just been about economics, it was also understood in political terms. Legislators were animated by an understanding that the “concentration of economic power also consolidates political power,” she writes. Monopolies that vest control of markets in a single person create “a kingly prerogative, inconsistent with our form of government,” declared Senator Sherman in 1890 when he proposed the bill that would become his eponymous act. “If anything is wrong this is wrong. If we will not endure a king as a political power we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life.” Khan has observed that more recent interpretations of antitrust law over the last half century have given more weight to consumer welfare—often understood in the form of lower prices. This means that platform monopolies fall outside the frame of antitrust protection in their modern iteration.

For example, at the recent Facebook developer conference F8 the presentations were focused on getting people onto Facebook-owned apps (including Instagram and WhatsApp) and making it so they never need to leave. Facebook wants us to buy things, find a date, and apply for a job without ever leaving Facebook. If Zuckerberg gets his way, and it is hard to think that he will not, users will also be able to pay for things with Facebook’s cryptocurrency. (With a potential market of almost three billion users, this could easily become the largest traded currency in the world.) This corporate domination strategy is about creating a private version of the web, where a significant portion of our online lives is mediated through a company. “In a lot of ways Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company,” Zuckerberg has said. A lot of ways, except that, critically, its constituents are disenfranchised. These are the foundations of corporate totalitarianism, where billions of people are made subservient to the whims of a boardroom dictator.

then why is this idiot not elected

—p.18 Invisible Handcuffs (12) by Lizzie O'Shea 10 months, 3 weeks ago
19

One possible alternative is to consider socialization or nationalization of major platforms. The centralization of users is a key feature of a successful platform like Facebook, but now that the technology has been built and there is a critical mass of users, it is possible to make the claim that there are benefits of public possession that might outweigh those of private ownership. It is possible to imagine a process whereby users are given control, like shareholders in a company, to appoint people to run the enterprise, or alternatively, an accountable authority of some description becomes responsible for managing the platform, like a public broadcaster.

Government procurement practices could be another way to undermine monopolies and clear space for newcomers with alternative approaches. Imagine, for example, that software products were required to meet certain criteria in terms of ethical and open source design before being used by public bodies. This could foster a culture of collaboration and keep the internet open, bringing down the walls of proprietary gardens like Facebook.

These approaches have the potential to open up space for thinking about technological development differently. Imagine if the web was less about titans of industry jostling for domination of the market, and more about improving public participation, inclusion, and community organizing. Such revolutionary ideas from our past have renewed potential in the digital age. [...]

hell yeah

—p.19 Invisible Handcuffs (12) by Lizzie O'Shea 10 months, 3 weeks ago

One possible alternative is to consider socialization or nationalization of major platforms. The centralization of users is a key feature of a successful platform like Facebook, but now that the technology has been built and there is a critical mass of users, it is possible to make the claim that there are benefits of public possession that might outweigh those of private ownership. It is possible to imagine a process whereby users are given control, like shareholders in a company, to appoint people to run the enterprise, or alternatively, an accountable authority of some description becomes responsible for managing the platform, like a public broadcaster.

Government procurement practices could be another way to undermine monopolies and clear space for newcomers with alternative approaches. Imagine, for example, that software products were required to meet certain criteria in terms of ethical and open source design before being used by public bodies. This could foster a culture of collaboration and keep the internet open, bringing down the walls of proprietary gardens like Facebook.

These approaches have the potential to open up space for thinking about technological development differently. Imagine if the web was less about titans of industry jostling for domination of the market, and more about improving public participation, inclusion, and community organizing. Such revolutionary ideas from our past have renewed potential in the digital age. [...]

hell yeah

—p.19 Invisible Handcuffs (12) by Lizzie O'Shea 10 months, 3 weeks ago
57

One day, around the beginning of my junior year of college, it occurred to me that I wasn’t going to make it. I had already developed carpal tunnel and tendonitis from years of improper violin technique taught to me by my rural music teachers. I was out of money to go to festivals, and I had no way of making lasting, important connections in a field where who you know matters more than anything else. I had no serious job prospects, nor any hope for job prospects. At work one night, the falseness of the “work hard and you will succeed” ethic washed over me: the truth was the music world was a two-tiered system, and I was in the second chair. Hungover, in the comfort of a dark recording booth, I began to cry. Few things are as life altering as realizing your preferred life is unalterably a fucked impossibility.

—p.57 Strike with the Band (54) missing author 10 months, 3 weeks ago

One day, around the beginning of my junior year of college, it occurred to me that I wasn’t going to make it. I had already developed carpal tunnel and tendonitis from years of improper violin technique taught to me by my rural music teachers. I was out of money to go to festivals, and I had no way of making lasting, important connections in a field where who you know matters more than anything else. I had no serious job prospects, nor any hope for job prospects. At work one night, the falseness of the “work hard and you will succeed” ethic washed over me: the truth was the music world was a two-tiered system, and I was in the second chair. Hungover, in the comfort of a dark recording booth, I began to cry. Few things are as life altering as realizing your preferred life is unalterably a fucked impossibility.

—p.57 Strike with the Band (54) missing author 10 months, 3 weeks ago
86

Now let’s try something. Stare into your pupil. Hang out there a minute. Let yourself get lost in that seemingly bottomless black void.

Now: imagine you don’t exist.

Like a soap bubble popping.

Fog dissipating in morning light.

Gone! Imagine it!

Yet there you are. [...]

weirdly pretty

—p.86 We Broke the World (86) missing author 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Now let’s try something. Stare into your pupil. Hang out there a minute. Let yourself get lost in that seemingly bottomless black void.

Now: imagine you don’t exist.

Like a soap bubble popping.

Fog dissipating in morning light.

Gone! Imagine it!

Yet there you are. [...]

weirdly pretty

—p.86 We Broke the World (86) missing author 10 months, 3 weeks ago
91

We live uneasily the only way we know how, ever more anxious that the earth under our feet is turning to quicksand, while a fierce wind howls at the horizon. Hauling oneself out of one’s elemental presence-ism and presentism is nearly impossible: all the institutions, structures, and systems we live within are predicated on the indefinite persistence of the present. These are the structures and systems and institutions that give our choices meaning, connect us with each other, allow us to see our lives not as transient, atomistic accidents but as coherent, organic parts of a greater whole. Yet as the world changes around us, we are increasingly aware that something is wrong: the future isn’t what it used to be, and the temporal stability we depend on to give our present reality the illusion of persistence seems less and less reliable. We begin to wonder whether thinking fifty, thirty, twenty, or even five years into the future makes any sense, since the global transformation that seems to be steadily approaching—whether for good or for ill, through revolution or through collapse—will overturn everything we hold dear. We find ourselves existentially threatened by ecological collapse and climate change not only in the material sense that it will lead to vast human suffering and billions of deaths but also in a philosophical or psychological sense, in that the promise of imminent catastrophe—or revolution—threatens to make our present day-to-day life meaningless.

fuck

—p.91 We Broke the World (86) missing author 10 months, 3 weeks ago

We live uneasily the only way we know how, ever more anxious that the earth under our feet is turning to quicksand, while a fierce wind howls at the horizon. Hauling oneself out of one’s elemental presence-ism and presentism is nearly impossible: all the institutions, structures, and systems we live within are predicated on the indefinite persistence of the present. These are the structures and systems and institutions that give our choices meaning, connect us with each other, allow us to see our lives not as transient, atomistic accidents but as coherent, organic parts of a greater whole. Yet as the world changes around us, we are increasingly aware that something is wrong: the future isn’t what it used to be, and the temporal stability we depend on to give our present reality the illusion of persistence seems less and less reliable. We begin to wonder whether thinking fifty, thirty, twenty, or even five years into the future makes any sense, since the global transformation that seems to be steadily approaching—whether for good or for ill, through revolution or through collapse—will overturn everything we hold dear. We find ourselves existentially threatened by ecological collapse and climate change not only in the material sense that it will lead to vast human suffering and billions of deaths but also in a philosophical or psychological sense, in that the promise of imminent catastrophe—or revolution—threatens to make our present day-to-day life meaningless.

fuck

—p.91 We Broke the World (86) missing author 10 months, 3 weeks ago
106

All of this is to say that we can identify several themes in the Obama administration’s grand Appalachian economic development initiative. First: never meet peoples’ material needs directly or encourage them to organize. Rather, study the feasibility of giving them things, or throw some money at a community college, which can train people in the art of being a well-behaved and productive worker, so that they can then get things themselves. Second: if you absolutely must build any infrastructure, make sure that it’s in service to something else, like a wildlife viewing facility or a prison. Third: use as many fancy words as possible to make it sound like you’re keeping busy. Target and deploy your dislocated coal workers to maximize creative potential so that we can create a thriving and diverse restorative economy in the mountains.

And finally, the fourth and most important thing: remember that you don’t actually owe anybody anything, that the government has ceased delivering people even their most basic needs, that it has in fact altogether stopped caring if they live or die. Remember that agencies like the Appalachian Regional Commission exist first and foremost to facilitate industry, and that the grant they’ve given you is meant to be deployed for that purpose. Remember that the story you tell is more important than the work you do, which should never amount to more than attending conferences and joining conference calls. And through it all, don’t forget to tell your friends and family that you’re helping the poor people of Appalachia who are too dumb and broke and demoralized and addicted to help themselves.

—p.106 Hollowed Out (96) missing author 10 months, 3 weeks ago

All of this is to say that we can identify several themes in the Obama administration’s grand Appalachian economic development initiative. First: never meet peoples’ material needs directly or encourage them to organize. Rather, study the feasibility of giving them things, or throw some money at a community college, which can train people in the art of being a well-behaved and productive worker, so that they can then get things themselves. Second: if you absolutely must build any infrastructure, make sure that it’s in service to something else, like a wildlife viewing facility or a prison. Third: use as many fancy words as possible to make it sound like you’re keeping busy. Target and deploy your dislocated coal workers to maximize creative potential so that we can create a thriving and diverse restorative economy in the mountains.

And finally, the fourth and most important thing: remember that you don’t actually owe anybody anything, that the government has ceased delivering people even their most basic needs, that it has in fact altogether stopped caring if they live or die. Remember that agencies like the Appalachian Regional Commission exist first and foremost to facilitate industry, and that the grant they’ve given you is meant to be deployed for that purpose. Remember that the story you tell is more important than the work you do, which should never amount to more than attending conferences and joining conference calls. And through it all, don’t forget to tell your friends and family that you’re helping the poor people of Appalachia who are too dumb and broke and demoralized and addicted to help themselves.

—p.106 Hollowed Out (96) missing author 10 months, 3 weeks ago