Pluralistic, your daily link-dose: 26 Feb 2020

Today's links

  1. Brave autolinks 404s to the Wayback Machine: The internet's time-traveling, privacy respecting, ad-busting browser.
  2. Clarence Thomas admits he blew it on Brand X: A very safe mea culpa from the man who helped kill Net Neutrality.
  3. Medicare for All would be the biggest take-home pay increase in a generation: Even if my taxes went up by six figures (!), I'd still save money.
  4. The Smithsonian publishes 2.8m hi-rez images into the public domain: Tired: "It belongs in a museum!" Wired: "It belongs to the world!"
  5. McMansion Hell visits 1971: Before "lawyer foyers" there were "paralegal foyers."
  6. This day in history: 2005, 2015, 2019
  7. Colophon: Recent publications, current writing projects, upcoming appearances, current reading

Brave autolinks 404s to the Wayback Machine (permalink)

A new feature in Brave's excellent, privacy-centric browser: when you visit a dead page, it automagically checks to see if there's a cached copy in the Internet Archive and directs you to that instead.

The Archive is crushing it. Working with Wikimedia, they've linked every book citation in Wikipedia to the relevant passage in a scanned book in their library section.

Brave's plugin works on 404 (page not found) errors, and also for 408, 410, 451, 500, 502, 503, 504, 509, 520, 521, 523, 524, 525, and 526 errors (451 is "page censored!").

Clarence Thomas admits he blew it on Brand X (permalink)

In 2005, Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion in Brand X, a case that ratified GW Bush's FCC's power to interpret both the statutes and jurisprudence of telcoms law however it wants, overriding judges.

That decision meant that GWB's FCC could arrange telcoms rules to suit the Big Cable donors GWB relied on. It meant that Obama's FCC could reverse those rules and impose net neutrality. It meant Trump's FCC could reverse Obama's FCC and kill net neutrality.

Now, Thomas has written a dissent in Baldwin, a new case published Monday, in which he admits that he blew it in Brand X, by giving political appointees from the administrative branch the power to overrule both Congress and the courts.

When the Ajit Pai decision to kill net neutrality was brought before a circuit judge, she called it "unhinged." Then she upheld it, because Brand X tied her hands.

Unfortunately, Thomas is the sole dissent in Baldwin, whose appeal SCOTUS will not to hear, leaving Brand X unchallenged. Given Thomas's historic cowardice when it comes to challenging the establishment, this is a nice safe way to mea culpa without risking wrath of plutes.

"Although I authored Brand X, it is never too late to 'surrende[r] former views to a better considered position.' Brand X appears to be inconsistent with the Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and traditional tools of statutory interpretation. Because I would revisit Brand X, I respectfully dissent from the denial of certiorari." -C. Thomas.

Medicare for All would be the biggest take-home pay increase in a generation (permalink)

UC Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman: "Because this is my lot in life, I will note again that Medicare for All would lead to the biggest take-home pay increase in a generation for working families, because it would replace private health insurance premiums (a huge privatized head tax) by taxes based on ability to pay."

We pay more than $2000/mo for gold-plated healthcare from Cigna through my wife's blue-chip employer, where she is an exec. When my daughter broke a bone, our ER visit to the preferred hospital (across the street from corporate HQ) cost $2700 in excesses.

The kid didn't even see a doc. $2700 in out-of-pockets was for a Tylenol, an X-ray, and a one-minute consult with a physician's assistant, who referred us to an orthopedist. The ortho and ER initially refused to treat my daughter unless I signed a binding arbitration waiver.

Cigna also just declined a pain therapy course recommended by my specialist, head of a prominent university's pain clinic whose papers on the therapy are the most-cited in the field: "It's experimental." It will cost me $52,000 in out of pockets if I want to proceed.

So, keeping track: we're currently spending $24k/yr on health care, and about the same in out-of-pockets, and our care is being rationed. If I want the care the top specialist in the region recommends, that's another $52k.

Our inadequate private care, literally the best we can buy, would cost us $100k this year if we got the care our doctors recommended; $50k if we decided to ignore their advice and not get that care.

That is to say: if Medicare For All raised our taxes by ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS, we'd be breaking even. And getting better care. I grew up with Canadian healthcare, then 13 years of NHS UK care. The US system, at the very highest tier, is so much worse than either.

The Smithsonian publishes 2.8m hi-rez images into the public domain (permalink)

The Smithsonian has released 2.8 million hi-rez images into the public domain!

The images include reproductions of both 2D and 3D artifacts in the Smithsonian's collection, from all 19 Smithsonian museums, hosted on an open access platform:

200,000 more images are slated for inclusion in 2020, and the scope of the whole project is to digitize all 155,000,000 images in the Smithsonian's collections and dedicate them to the public domain for any use, including commercial use. It's part of a "digital first" strategy that eschews hypothetical licensing revenue from art books and penny-postcards in favor of serving the public mission of a museum.

Here's a crib from a keynote I gave about this to the first Museums and the Web Europe conference in Florence — museums have both an ethical and practical duty to serve the public rather than relying on plutes and licensing.

Tldr: the public will support you and demand your preservation when austerity-crazed governments want to de-fund you. Plutes won't — they'll just offer to buy your collection for their mansions.

Anyway, this is amazeballs. The possibilities for remix, fine art, new work, and computational historical research are endless. This is the Smithsonian we pay our taxes for. It's a brave, principled move. Go, Smithsonian go!

McMansion Hell visits 1971 (permalink)

The luckiest people in the world have never heard of McMansion Hell because they get to discover Kate Wagner's superb dunks on architectural excess, cynicism and ill-founded optimism for the very first time!

Lately, Wagner's been doing a "Yearbook," revisiting proto-McMansions from 1971 to trace the primitive ancestors of today's hulking atrocities. The latest installment is a $1.2m, 5000sqft titan in Morris County, New Jersey.

This beast predates the modern "lawyer foyer" and instead sports a "paralegal foyer," which " lacks the transom window above the door that enables the entryway to be seen from the street."

I could listen to Wagner riff on bad kitchen design ALL DAY.

The realtor's just rendered a bunch of virtual furnishings into this empty room! Wagner: "Personally I’d love to have a copy of the software that lets you 3D decorate random real estate listings – it’s like the Sims but for realtors."

Wagner signs off with a promise of a "Brutalism Post." Swoon!

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago: Dismantling fear, uncertainty, and doubt, aimed at Wikipedia and other free knowledge resources

#15yrsago: HOWTO break HP printer cartridge DRM

#15yrsago: @Aaronsw asks why Stanford professors include so few astrologers

#15yrsago: Why John Gilmore won't show his ID at airports

#5yrsago: World War 3 Illustrated: prescient outrage from the dawn of the Piketty apocalypse

#1yrago: Youtube ignored repeated reports about explicit suicide instructions spliced into cartoons on Youtube Kids

#1yrago: New Orleans reduced homelessness by 90% (and saved a fortune) by giving homeless people homes

#1yrago: Trump made history: introducing tax cuts made him LESS popular

#1yrago: How the payday loan industry laundered policy by paying academics to write papers that supported its positions

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism ("), Glenn Fleishman (

Hugo nominators! My story "Unauthorized Bread" is eligible in the Novella category and you can read it free on Ars Technica:

Upcoming appearances:

Currently writing: I just finished a short story, "The Canadian Miracle," for MIT Tech Review. It's a story set in the world of my next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. I'm getting geared up to start work on the novel now, though the timing is going to depend on another pending commission (I've been solicited by an NGO) to write a short story set in the world's prehistory.

Currently reading: Just started Lauren Beukes's forthcoming Afterland: it's Y the Last Man plus plus, and two chapters in, it's amazeballs. Last week, I finished Andrea Bernstein's "American Oligarchs" this week; it's a magnificent history of the Kushner and Trump families, showing how they cheated, stole and lied their way into power. I'm getting really into Anna Weiner's memoir about tech, "Uncanny Valley." I just loaded Matt Stoller's "Goliath" onto my underwater MP3 player and I'm listening to it as I swim laps.

Latest podcast: Gopher: When Adversarial Interoperability Burrowed Under the Gatekeepers’ Fortresses:

Upcoming books: "Poesy the Monster Slayer" (Jul 2020), a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here:

(we're having a launch for it in Burbank on July 11 at Dark Delicacies and you can get me AND Poesy to sign it and Dark Del will ship it to the monster kids in your life in time for the release date).

"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a very special, s00per s33kr1t intro.

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