Pluralistic: 27 Mar 2020

Today's links

  1. The US is now the epicenter of the pandemic: Trump has murdered millions.
  2. Plutes cash in on stimulus: $170B for real-estate tycoons.
  3. States prep for postal voting: But the GOP has all but murdered the USPS.
  4. "Civility" and the Confederate playbook: The right's call for "civility" has a long, dishonorable history.
  5. Boris Johnson has coronavirus: He greenlit national pox-parties, now he has it.
  6. Reasonable covid food-safety advice: Sanitize your hands and your cart, practice social distancing, and…you're done.
  7. San Francisco cocktail delivery: Courtesy of the DNA Lounge.
  8. Flu pandemic photos: Mask-slackers beware!
  9. Free hi-rez covid stock art: Make your pandemic more visually varied.
  10. Warren campaign frees its software: Free, open and universal campaigning tools.
  11. This day in history: 2005, 2010, 2015, 2019
  12. Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing projects, current reading

The US is now the epicenter of the pandemic (permalink)

The US is now the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, henceforth known as the Mar-a-Lago Virus. It has the highest number of infections of any country in the world.

There have "only" been 1,000 US deaths so far. The "only" is there because there are so many more to come, when the vast number of incubating cases start manifesting symptoms and begin to die.

Trump wants the country to go back to work by Easter, because in his version of the Trolley Problem, the most important thing is saving the trolley.

We had so much warning. But the president said it wasn't anything to worry about.

Now, a lot of people are going to die.

Most of the dead will be old – from the demographic most likely to have voted for Trump (which isn't to imply that only Trump voters will die, or that they deserve to die – only that Trump chose to put his base at risk).

Many will have contracted their infections by deliberately seeking out crowded public places as the pandemic started spreading, because Fox News told them that doing so was a way to own the libs.

Fox News viewers – who skew elderly, even by the standards of TV watchers – are also disproportionately at risk from coronavirus. Fox News is now a suicide cult.

But so many people will die because of this. Old people. Young people. People with disabilities. People who just had very bad luck. Kids.

And that's before you get to all the people who have car wrecks or heart attacks or slip-and-falls and can't get treatment in overloaded hospitals.

When Hoover fucked up by giving in to plutes and crashed the economy, he got tent cities, or "Hoovervilles."

Trump's fuckup will end with mass graves. Trump Mausoleums? Mar-a-Plague-Pits?

We will get through this. But Trump will have murdered so many of us before it's over.

Plutes cash in on stimulus (permalink)

The stimulus package that the GOP Senate passed has the largest-ever giveaway for real-estate plutes in US tax history: $170 billion in tax-cuts over 10 years for couples with more than $500K in annual capital gains.

The President who will sign the bill into law is a real-estate investor who stands to make a fortune from it. His inner circle is packed with similarly situated rentiers.

It's the second-biggest giveaway in the stimulus package, and it will also give windfalls to wealthy oil and gas investors.

The House is expected to vote on it today.

(Image: Rich Brooks, CC BY, modified)

States prep for postal voting (permalink)

States are scrambling to prepare for a postal ballot-based election next November.

Postal ballots tend to benefit Democrats, whose voters are disproportionately unable to get off work to vote, and who are more likely to live in regions where GOP statehouses have closed polling places, adding long drives and long queues for in-person voting.

That's why Red States often have state laws that prohibit unrestricted postal voting, insisting that voters must provide a "good reason" for their desire to exercise their franchise to a bureaucrat who gets to decide whether or not they can participate in elections.

Of course, if Trump throws hundreds of thousands – or millions – of (disproportionately GOP-voting) seniors into the coronavirus volcano to appease the market-gods, the survivors may be gunshy about voting in person, even if they continue as fully paid-up Trump cultists.

There are serious challenges to reorienting towards a largely postal election, including mobilizing printing resources during a lockdown.

But even more challenging is the post office itself, which is on the verge of collapse.

The USPS is a miracle of self-funding resilience, a universal, small-d democratic institution that serves the whole nation. But its existence is a thorn in the side of shareholders UPS and Fedex, who donate lavishly to Congressjerks who fuck with the post office.

Requiring the post office to fund pension liabilities for workers who aren't born yet is transparent fuckery. Combine that with a sharp decline in mail usage during the lockdown and the service is now on the brink.

That would be bad news, and not just for elections. The USPS is key to America's emergency preparedness, and has been since the Cold War, when it was projected to serve as a survivor-counting/corpse-hauling service after nuclear armageddon.

It's the only institution that could deliver covid meds to every household in America in a single day.

"Civility" and the Confederate playbook (permalink)

You may have heard conservatives insist that the reason they stick up for eugenicists and other cryptofascists is that they're standing up for "civility" against the "social justice mobs."

This rhetoric isn't new: it's literally the same thing that slavery apologists said in the runup to, and aftermath of, the Civil War: "we're not in favor of slavery, we're just opposed to the shaming and social exclusion of slavery advocates.

When we learn about the antebellum slavery debate, we hear about slavery's defenders – but the mainstream debate over slavery wasn't about its merits, it was about the incivility of abolitionists, and how that compromised the free speech of enslavers.

Slavery advocates were cast as a disfavored minority, shouted down by mobs who refused to hear them out. But discrimination against slavers was a funny kind of discrimination: half the millionaires in America were slavers in a single southern town.

Likewise, the right-wing figures who today claim that they are censored and cast out by the intolerant left are millionaires who fill arenas and appear regularly on Fox News, the most popular cable network in America.

They publish books with Big Five publishers and go on multicity tours. They're courted by "progressive" news outlets as paid on-air commentators to provide "balance." If that's discrimination, sign me up.

John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Lincoln, professed love of Black people, and claimed he was animated by anger at the suppression of honest debate on racial politics, unable to share "my thoughts or sentiments" about slavery in polite society.

Slavers cast anti-slavery rhetoric as "orthodoxy" and cast themselves as realists who were willing to speak truth to power.

Does that sound familiar?

The abolition movement – including Lincoln – focused on these slavery apologists, understanding that they provided the cover for the continuation of slavery.

Lincoln insisted that Douglas go beyond lamenting the angry rhetoric of abolitionists and instead describe what he stood for – beyond his support of slavers' right to "choose how they wanted to live."

He demanded that Douglas go beyond his campaign speeches against "mob rule" and state plainly whether he wanted an America with or without slavery.

In her Washington Post op-ed, Eve Fairbanks suggests that we do the same for the "reasonable right" – pin them down. Sure, you don't like "cancel culture," but what do you stand for? What kind of world do you want?

(Image: Anthony Crider, CC BY)

Boris Johnson has coronavirus (permalink)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has coronavirus.

Under Johnson's leadership, the UK pursued a month-long plan to turn the nation into a giant pox-party, hoping to attain quick "herd immunity."

He was following a promising strategy devised for less-lethal, less-contagious flus, which was manifestly unsuited to coronavirus, as experts argued at the time. As a result, infections now rage out of control in the UK.

During the planning of this "herd immunity" strategy, Johnson's chief advisor Dominic Cummings acknowledged that it would likely murder elderly people: "if that means some pensioners die, too bad."

After Johnson tested positive for coronavirus, Cummings was seen fleeing Number 10 Downing Street at a dead run.

(Image: Think London, CC-BY, modified)

Reasonable covid food-safety advice (permalink)

There's a viral (ugh) video going around in which an MD in scrubs (at home!) shows you what you should do when you come back from the grocery store. It's frankly terrifying. It's also wrong.

As Don Schaffner, a food microbiologist, notes in his thread, not only is this advice wrong, it could make you very sick — either because you ate the soap that you washed your food in, or because you left your groceries on your stoop for 3 days.

There's no evidence that washing your food with soap will kill coronavirus, and even less evidence that you can get the virus from eating. There is, however, millennias' worth of evidence that you can die from food poisoning.

Schaffner's advice for groceries boils down to: wash your hands before and after grocery shopping. Wipe down the cart handle. Shop efficiently. Keep your distance from other shoppers.

You know, common sense.

(Image: Lyza, CC BY-SA, modified)

San Francisco cocktail delivery (permalink)

Hey, San Francisco! Craving a cocktail? The DNA Lounge will deliver a mason jar's worth (~3 servings) of Black Manhattan (w/Slow and Low honey & orange infused rye), Sazerac, brown sugar margarita (w/a little orange) or lavender lemonade gin cooler.

The DNA is a San Francisco institution, one that runs on a shoestring and is continuing to pay its employees, even as other SF venues (snapped up by predatory corporate behemoths) shut down.

They've also got a bunch of livestream events coming up, including a benefit for the Gay Gaming Professionals, a Death Guild set, and Hubba Hubba Revue's Burlesquerpiece Theatre.

Flu pandemic photos (permalink)

During the 1918 flu pandemic, California went on lockdown. The governor ordered statewide shutdowns, and "mask slackers" who refused to wear masks faced arrest.

The California Sun has rounded up an amazing set of images of California life during the 1918 flu from libraries, museums, and other sources," in gorgeous hi-rez.

Free hi-rez covid stock art (permalink)

If this image seems familiar, that's because it's one of the only open-licensed images of the novel coronavirus, courtesy of the CDC. It's been used millions of times in just a few weeks.

An effects house called Covert has stepped in to fill the visual gap with a collection of gorgeous,crazy hi-rez covid renders: "No licensing, royalties or any credit is required for their use."

Warren campaign frees its software (permalink)

Elizabeth Warren's campaign has released seven of its sophisticated campaigning tools as free/open software.

The Warren campaign had a large cohort of software developers and created a suite of outstanding tools, as well as making improvements to standard tools, including improvements to the texting tool Spoke that reduces the cost of using it by ~97%!

The projects are hosted on Github:

This isn't just an opportunity for campaigns, but also for small shops that provide integration and support to them. Obviously election campaigning is in a mess at the moment, but this is seismic.

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Nepali media crackdown thwarted by bloggers

#10yrsago LibDem MPs won't fight for debate on Digital Economy Bill

#5yrsago Top homeland security Congressjerk only just heard about crypto, and he doesn't like it

#5yrsago NSA-proof passwords

#5yrsago Welfare encourages entrepreneurship

#5yrsago Here's the TSA's stupid, secret list of behavioral terrorism tells

#5yrsago San Francisco Sheriff's Deputy ring accused of pit-fighting inmates

#1yrago Elizabeth Warren's latest campaign plank is a national Right-to-Repair law for farm equipment

#1yrago Mystery solved: why has a beach in France been blighted by washed-up parts for toy Garfield phones for more than 30 years?

#1yrago McDonald's will drop opposition to increases in the federal minimum wage

#1yrago Front-line programmers default to insecure practices unless they are instructed to do otherwise

#1yrago Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez schools Republicans on the true costs and beneficiaries of the Green New Deal

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (, Slate Star Codex (, Kottke (, Advertising Pics (, Fipi Lele.

Currently writing: I'm getting geared up to start work my next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation.

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: Data – the new oil, or potential for a toxic oil spill?

Upcoming appearances:

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 new introduction by Edward Snowden:

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When live gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla

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