Pluralistic: 29 Feb 2020

Today's links

  1. EFF is hiring a new tech projects director: It's a once-in-a-lifetime dream job.
  2. Bond villain monologue, Medicare for All edition: "No, Mr Bond, I expect you to sign a binding arbitration waiver."
  3. FUCK TRUMP AND HIS STUPID FUCKING WALL: A 26% alcohol habanero spirit from Empirical Spirits.
  4. Mike Bloomberg helped the Sacklers launder their reputations: Just helping out the "Friends of Mike."
  5. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate with a climate plan as big as the climate crisis: No one ever asked how we'd pay for WWII.
  6. Cutting the UK housing subsidy led to massive homelessness payouts: Tories are always swallowing spiders to catch their flies.
  7. This day in history: 2012, 2016 (leap years!)
  8. Colophon: Recent publications, current writing projects, upcoming appearances, current reading



EFF is hiring a new tech projects director (permalink)

There are lots of ways techies can help EFF – contributing code to our projects like Certbot, Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere and/or joining up and writing a check. But right now, there's a rare chance to work directly to make profound change with us.

That's because EFF is hiring a Tech Projects Director.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2020/02/eff-seeks-tech-projects-director-lead-awesome-technical-team-and-help-us-save

It's a huge gig, the kind of thing that only comes up once in a very long while. You don't just get to oversee the impressive roster of EFF projects, you also get to set future priorities.

"Some people join EFF having been burned by unfeeling tech companies or corporate law jobs, and coming to EFF can feel like coming home – a place where everyone genuinely wants you to be successful, where we do our best to leave drama at the door even as passion is welcomed."

I've been with the org for EIGHTEEN YEARS and this is so, so true.

Even if you're not right for this gig, keep checking in with our help wanted page.

https://www.eff.org/about/opportunities/jobs

We're growing fast, first because the world is severely messed up, and second because our member-donors recognize how well situated we are to make a difference and they're funding us to expand.



Bond villain monologue, Medicare for All edition (permalink)

We're all familiar with the Bond villain setup: "Mr. Bond, I see you’ve ingested my poison."

But what follows in Matt Haughey's "Monologuing" is a fabulous satirical take on the Medicare For All moment.

https://a.wholelottanothing.org/2020/02/28/monologuing/

"No, Mr Bond, I expect you to…"

  • Locate in-network doctors on our website
  • Cross-reference with the benefits PDF you were sent last month
  • Create a login
  • Verify your last three home addresses

(before the poison hits)

  • Call your doctor and agree to see a physician's assistant so you can get treatment in less than 3 week
  • Agree to a $100 urgent-care co-pay
  • Pay $1200 for the ambulance to the ER

"Do you expect me to talk?"

"No, I expect you to continue to wait on hold because your call is very important to us and may be monitored for quality assurance purposes."



FUCK TRUMP AND HIS STUPID FUCKING WALL (permalink)

"FUCK TRUMP AND HIS STUPID FUCKING WALL" is "a habanero spirit made from a base of pearled barley, Belgian saison yeast, and koji. The clear product is rectified with a habanero vinegar that gives it a 27% ABV. This imparts an intensely fruity habanero profile without any of the heat."

It actually sounds delicious.

https://us.empiricalspirits.co/products/fuck-trump-and-his-stupid-fucking-wall

It's $85 plus $35 S+H in the USA for 750ml.

Serving suggestion: "With red grapefruit juice, topped with sparkling water and cornichon as garnish"

I'm a little bummed that they take out the capsaicin, as I love spicy booze.

My current favorite is a spicy, sugar-free Old Fashioned:

2 shakes Hellfire bitters
2 shakes Angostura bitters
1 jigger decent bourbon
Orange zest (wipe over rim, squeeze into glass, then drop in the drink)
Serve over a whiskey rock in a lowball glass



Mike Bloomberg helped the Sacklers launder their reputations (permalink)

The Sackler family became some of the world's richest billionaires through the actions of the family business, Purdue Pharma, which committed a string of felonies as it conspired to addict the world to its killer opioid, Oxycontin. The company's bribery of doctors, scientific frauds, and corruption of its regulators allowed it to kickstart the opioid epidemic, which has so far claimed 200,000 US lives, more than were lost in Vietnam.

And yet, until very recently, the Sackler family was primarily known for its art philanthropy, firehosing its money and name over some of the world's most prominent art institutions. As the family's role in corporate mass murder came to light, artists demanded that institutions remove the Sackler name. It worked! Nan Goldin's stunt of showering the Guggenheim with Sackler opioid prescriptions was just one of many amazing actions.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/nan-goldin-leads-a-protest-at-the-guggenheim-against-the-sackler-family

The Louvre also removed every mention of the Sacklers from its spaces.

https://www.france24.com/en/20190721-sackler-name-removed-louvre-opioid-crisis-france?ref=tw_i

But you know who DIDN'T ditch the Sacklers as they were becoming social pariahs? Guess who expressed rock solid billionaire class solidarity with the poor, beleaguered plutes when their reputation laundry failed them?

Mike Bloomberg, of course!

As @propublica reports, when the Sacklers worried about their collapsing reputations, they knew who to turn to: the ex-mayor whose return to his news organization meant that reporters who chased billionaires were sidelined.

https://www.propublica.org/article/bloomberg-sacklers-opioid-crisis-public-relations

While Bloomberg had been mayor, his newsroom created a "billionaires team" that investigated the doings of the super-rich, including the "Friends of Mike" (FOMs) whom everyone understood to be untouchable under Bloomberg's management.

Upon his return, he heaped scorn upon these investigative reporters: "Why is that news? Why do we have to probe into that stuff?" Mike's return to the newsroom created "a culture of not wanting to upset billionaires."

So naturally the Sacklers turned to him! And Bloomberg obliged. After meeting with Mortimer Sackler, Bloomberg gave the Sacklers crisis communications advice and helped them his old mayoral press secretary, Stu Loeser. According to Bloomberg, Loeser was perfect because of his new communications company's "political instincts and deep connections."

Loeser went on to work with the Sacklers as they pushed out the story that opioid addiction was the fault of weak-willed criminal addicts, not corporate drug-pushers.

Loeser now works as a Bloomberg presidential campaign spokesman.

With Bloomberg's help, the Sacklers were able to continue to leverage their philanthropic donations to shore up their reputations, particularly by embarking on joint projects with Bloomberg Philanthropies. Bloomberg posed with Sackler heiresses at the opening of the Sackler Wing of London's Serpentine Gallery (which eventually took the Sackler name off the building), and then served as chair of the Serpentine Sackler Galleries.

His news organization ran multiple, glowing stories about the Sacklers' generosity, and continued to work closely with the Sackler families, even as they were committing a string of crimes.

For example, money laundry to the tune of billions.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-purduepharma-bankruptcy/sacklers-reaped-up-to-13-billion-from-oxycontin-maker-u-s-states-say-idUSKBN1WJ19V

Fraudulent misrepresentations of the company's role in the opioid epidemic.

https://www.propublica.org/article/data-touted-by-oxycontin-maker-to-fight-lawsuits-doesnt-tell-the-whole-story#167506

And giving some of the weirdest, most risible, most terrible testimony in the history of corporate criminal depositions.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/02/sackler-behind-oxycontin-fraud-offered-twisted-mind-boggling-defense/

Just more Friends of Mike!



Bernie Sanders is the only candidate with a climate plan as big as the climate crisis (permalink)

The climate crisis is an existential threat to our species (and many other species besides). It turns out that Keynes was more prescient that we knew. He proposed that you could start an economy by paying half the unemployed to dig holes and the other half to fill them in. Instead, we spent more than a century subsidizing our ancestors to dig up fossil fuels and now we'll have to pay our descendants to spend 200-300 years getting all that carbon back into the ground.

If we don't, our civilization will collapse and our species may go extinct. There's no time for half-measures. That's why Bernie Sanders's version of the Green New Deal is such a big deal.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/615292/bernie-sanders-has-an-audaciousand-hugely-expensiveclimate-plan/

He's the only leadership candidate whose plan actually confronts the scale of the crisis.

The $16T (yes, TRILLION) plan includes $2.5T to convert all US energy to renewables, "ending subsidies, mountaintop-removal coal mining, and the import and export of fossil fuels."

He'll also ask the DoJ to investigate criminal frauds committed by energy sector companies that spent millions to delay action on climate by pumping out disinformation along with their CO2.

The budget also includes $2T for a retrofit of our homes and workplaces, $1T to retrofit roads and other infrastructure.

There's $3.6T to convert the US's vehicles to electric, $85B for charging stations and $100B to improve electric car manufacture.

There's $900B for mass transit and high-speed rail, and $150B to improve emissions from aviation and marine transport.

In all, the plan creates "20 million jobs, while offering wage guarantees, job training, and other assistance to displaced energy workers."

As James Temple writes in MIT Tech Review, there are some odd quirks, like a rejection of carbon capture, but these are issues in the margin that administrative agencies staffed by independent experts (not corporate shills) might tweak.

But this is the plan we need. Remember, no one ever asked how we'd pay for WWII, and a Nazi victory would have merely put half the human race in mortal peril, while the climate crisis threatens us all, and without the hope of regime change down the road.

The purpose of the economy, the justification for markets, is that they promote human prosperity and progress. Scratching in flooded rubble for canned goods and drinking your own urine is not "progress." If our spreadsheets can't figure out how to allocate capital to heading off an extinction-level event, we need new spreadsheets. As our friends at Prager "University" like to remind us, "facts don't care about your feelings."



Cutting the UK housing subsidy led to massive homelessness payouts (permalink)

Margaret Thatcher sold off council houses to create more Tories, on the theory that home ownership made you a Conservative. But the end of council estates just meant that private landlords were able to gouge local governments for substandard housing for poor people. Predictably, this only worsened, with rents spiraling for poorly maintained, dangerous housing. Eventually, David Cameron got a genius idea: he'd cut how much money families could spend on private rent.

After all, this was much more politically feasible than ordering landlords to provide decent housing at a fair price. Landlords make campaign contributions and vote Tory, and a majority of Tory MPs are landlords themselves.

https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/news/corbyn-tried-pass-law-make-homes-safe-last-year-conservatives-rejected/14/06/

By contrast, council tenants vote Labour and are (by definition) too poor to bribe politicians. Just as with Thatcher's selloff, the outcome of Cameron's policy was totally predictable to anyone whose wealth didn't depend on their denying it.

People couldn't pay their rent, so they became homeless.

You know what's more expensive than paying rent for poor people? Helping homeless people. The savings from Cameron's cruel policy of limiting rent subsidies were totally wiped out by the millions more that local governments had to pay to find temporary shelter for the wave of homelessness Cameron had created.

That's not all, of course. Voter turnout among affected households plummeted, and when they did vote, it was in the Brexit referendum, where the housing benefit cuts strongly correlated with a Leave vote: "We also observe that a one standard deviation increase in the level of exposure to the cut in a district is associated with up to a 2.2 percentage point greater level of support for ‘Leave’."

https://voxeu.org/article/housing-insecurity-homelessness-and-populism

The inability of the British private sector to build affordable housing and the unwillingness of the public sector to fill in the gap has produced a ghastly quality of life. In Camden, £1500/month gets you a 27sqm "flat" whose bed is literally a mattress wedged next to the toilet.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/29/uk/london-renting-compared-berlin-gbr-grm-intl/index.html

And yet, Greater London has never had a better ratio of bedrooms to people. It's just that HALF the beds in the region are empty on any given night. But with 60% of the UK national wealth represented by property in the southeast, the last thing the Tories want to do is fix this misallocation, which has been such a boon to the ownership class.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/14/great-housing-disaster-danny-dorling-review



This day in history (permalink)

#8yrsago In Minecraft, a fountain of cats at the top of the world https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=iNw2YcAK9Wc#!

#8yrsago Smithsonian building archive of printable 3D scans https://www.cnet.com/news/smithsonian-turns-to-3d-to-bring-collection-to-the-world/

#8yrsago Finance industry bemoans hard times in an era of reduced bonuses https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-02-29/wall-street-bonus-withdrawal-means-trading-aspen-for-cheap-chex

#4yrsago Crapgadget apocalypse: the IoT devices that punch through your firewall and expose your network https://krebsonsecurity.com/2016/02/this-is-why-people-fear-the-internet-of-things/

#4yrsago Press looks the other way as thousands march for Sanders in 45+ cities https://web.archive.org/web/20160314104804/http://usuncut.com/politics/media-blackout-as-thousands-of-bernie-supporters-march-in-45-cities/

#4yrsago FBI claims it has no records of its decision to delete its recommendation to encrypt your phone https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160226/14181133727/fbi-claims-it-has-no-record-why-it-deleted-recommendation-to-encrypt-phones.shtml



Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Alice Taylor (https://twitter.com/wonderlandblog), Naked Capitalism (https://nakedcapitalism.com/) and Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/).

Hugo nominators! My story "Unauthorized Bread" is eligible in the Novella category and you can read it free on Ars Technica: https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2020/01/unauthorized-bread-a-near-future-tale-of-refugees-and-sinister-iot-appliances/

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 month, I finished Andrea Bernstein's "American Oligarchs"; 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: https://craphound.com/podcast/2020/02/24/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: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627?utm_source=socialmedia&utm_medium=socialpost&utm_term=na-poesycorypreorder&utm_content=na-preorder-buynow&utm_campaign=9781626723627

(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.