Pluralistic: 14 Apr 2020

Today's links



Podcast swap with Wil Wheaton (permalink)

This week for my podcast, I’m doing a swap with Wil Wheaton and his podcast! He’s read my short story "Return to Pleasure Island" (about the pleasures that tempt the golems who turn the boys into donkeys):

https://soundcloud.com/wil-wheaton-1/radio-free-burrito-presents-return-to-pleasure-island-by-cory-doctorow

While I read his journal entries from 2008 about how my novel Little Brother helped him find common ground with his (then) teenaged son, Nolan.

https://craphound.com/podcast/2020/04/13/podcast-swap-wil-wheaton-on-little-brother/

I was incredibly moved to revisit Wil's essays about parenting and my novels. Reading it was a delight. Here's an MP3:

https://archive.org/download/Cory_Doctorow_Podcast_337/Cory_Doctorow_Podcast_337_-_Wil_Wheaton_on_Little_Brother.mp3

And here's an MP3 of Wil's reading of "Return to Pleasure Island" – what a treat to hear him breathe new life into a story I wrote about 20 years ago!

https://archive.org/download/radiofreeburritopresentsreturntopleasureislandbycorydoctorow/Radio%20Free%20Burrito%20Presents_%20Return%20to%20Pleasure%20Island%20by%20Cory%20Doctorow.mp3
And here's a feed for my podcast:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/doctorow_podcast



Corona-denying pastor dies of coronavirus (permalink)

Bishop Gerald O Glenn headed The New Deliverance Evangelistic Church near Richmond, VA, where he defied social distancing orders, declaring himself to be an essential service because he "talked to God." He insisted that God would protect him.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/bishop-who-preached-god-larger-dreaded-virus-dies-covid-19-n1183281

He has died of coronavirus.

His wife is also ill.

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialNDEC/videos/233789087982971/?tn=-R

Defying public-health orders is an interfaith affair. After Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Meislish died of coronavirus, his Hassidic followers ignored social distancing orders to attend his funeral.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-hasidic-jews-rabbi-funeral-brooklyn-social-distancing/

And of course, the evangelical Liberty University megacampus refused to follow public health orders, then had journalists who ventured on campus to report on conditions arrested.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/liberty-universitys-shameful-crackdown-on-journalists/2020/04/12/d5499852-7b70-11ea-9bee-c5bf9d2e3288_story.html

The point here isn't to mock ignorance or count coup, but rather to identify a trend: that the leaders of largely conservative faith communities are putting their followers at risk, even as conservative political leaders are also downplaying the risk.

As wags have noted, if billionaires need you to go back to work to keep their fortunes intact, then it follows that your work – not theirs – is responsible for those fortunes to begin with.

And conservative faith leaders have forged a 40-years alliance with conservative business leaders, making it difficult to disentangle to what extend their covid denial is scriptural or economic.

https://pluralistic.net/2020/04/12/mammon-worshippers/#mammon-worshipper

Whatever the mix, the combo is toxic. The worshippers of Mammon need evangelicals to supply turkeys who'll vote for Christmas. When religious communities subject us to risk (of thousands of more deaths and months of extra lockdown), political leaders won't stop them.

Both power blocs want to believe. Wall Street wants to believe that it's safe to end social distancing to keep vast fortunes intact and forestall Keynsian spending and a discrediting of the whole project of replacing government money creation with finance money creation.

The rise of science denial in faith communities has made them especially vulnerable. They want to reopen services, sure, but they also struggle with the theological implications of a pandemic, and to square their belief in divine protection with scientific best practices.



Ticketmaster ends refunds for canceled events (permalink)

Ticketmaster is a runaway corrupt monopoly. They forced out or gobbled up every ticketing company, then merged with Live Nation and monopolized both venues and promo, to the vast detriment of fans, artists, and communities.

Ticketmaster's misconduct is too long to delve into here. Even enumerating RECENT scandals is a heroic chore. Here's a smattering:

The company was caught secretly working with scalpers to drive up prices without having to share the take with artists:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/a-public-relations-nightmare-ticketmaster-recruits-pros-for-secret-scalper-program-1.4828535

Ticketmaster also invented an entire (literal) playbook for price-gouging (again, while diverting funds from artists):

https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/ticketmaster-prices-scalpers-bruno-mars-1.4826914

Oh, and they're leading the push to put facial recognition into venues, because if they have another breach, you can just ask for a new face to replace the one they leaked. (To opt out, just don't have a face).

https://www.engadget.com/2018-05-06-ticketmaster-hopes-to-speed-up-event-access-by-scanning-your-fac.html

Enter coronavirus. All concerts are cancelled.

And Ticketmaster is not giving out refunds.

https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2020/04/10/ticketmaster-quietly-changes-refund-policy/

The company used to have a policy that tickets to cancelled events were fully refundable. That policy was "subject to change without notice."

They changed it.

They're not alone. The $5B/year Stubhub is giving vouchers for future concerts to customers.

Join the class action suit here!

https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2020/04/06/stubhub-faces-lawsuit-for-refusing-refunds/

Ticketmaster's annual gross was $30B/year. That should get the class-action lawyers' attention. Stay tuned.

(Image: Sharib4rd, CC BY)



Amazon fires tech workers for their warehouse worker solidarity (permalink)

Earlier this year, 400 Amazon tech workers signed an open letter criticizing the company for its climate policies, from its hydrocarbon delivery vehicles to its customers in the fossil fuel industry.

https://medium.com/@amazonemployeesclimatejustice/amazon-employees-share-our-views-on-company-business-f5abcdea849

Amazon threatened to fire the leaders of the internal uprising.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/01/26/amazon-employees-plan-mass-defiance-company-communications-policy-support-colleagues/

10 days ago, leaks from a meeting of Amazon's top execs (including Jeff Bezos and general counsel David Zapolsky) revealed a plan to smear and discredit Christian Smalls, a warehouse worker who led a walkout over unsafe working conditions.

https://pluralistic.net/2020/04/03/socially-useless-parasite/#christian-smalls

Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa – two of the workers who were threatened for their role in organizing internal opposition to Amazon's climate misconduct – have now been fired for voicing their support for Smalls and other warehouse workers.

https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/14/21220353/amazon-covid-19-criticism-protest-fired-employees-cunningham-costa-climate-change

Chris Hayes, another Amazon tech worker, has been "asked not to return to work" and handed in his resignation after he circulated an invitation for Amazon tech workers to attend a videoconference with Amazon warehouse workers.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/14/business/stocks-today-coronavirus.html#link-b8bac86

"An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the employees were fired for 'repeatedly' violating policies. “We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies."



Southern states in for worst of coronavirus impact (permalink)

Nationwide, the American south is facing the worst harms from coronavirus (as Yves Smith points out, big blue cities get more coverage because that's where the press lives).

https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2020/04/13/the-south-may-see-the-largest-share-of-coronavirus-misery

Southern states have the worst wealth inequality in the country. They also have the lowest taxes (these facts are related), and their Republican leadership blocked Medicaid expansion because they said they were too broke for the 10% co-pay the feds asked for as part of ACA.

(Of course, blocks to Medicaid expansion can't be blamed solely on empty coffers; the GOP leadership in red states are ideologically opposed to universal health-care and wanted to discredit Obama)

Cities like Albany, Georgia have per-capita coronavirus rates to rival NYC. These are predominantly Black cities, whose local governments are broke, and whose state governments are unlikely to offer sufficient (or even meaningful) aid.

The southern states' problems aren't just the result of brittle infrastructure. These are also states whose power-centers are white evangelical Fox-viewing Republicans, who deliberately ignored public health advice to own the libs.

https://pluralistic.net/2020/03/27/just-asking-questions/#suicide-cults

Their governors were late to declare lockdowns. During the exponential growth phase of a pandemic, even small delays add up to huge increases in spread. Southern states had very, very large delays.

https://pluralistic.net/2020/04/13/control-c/#the-nasty-party

The affluent white southerners who are the architects of the region's brittle public health system and who performed tribal loyalty by defying quarantine advice skew older, but are also more likely to have access to better health care.

Meanwhile, the New Jim Crow means that Black southerners are already likely to have chronic, untreated health conditions, no savings to allow them to choose not to work to protect their health and their families, and no access to health care.

"It's a high-stakes stress test on our system, revealing weaknesses and gaps we’ve always known were there. The question is whether the light will be bright enough this time that our officials will be forced to face the reality and address it." -Jim Carnes, Alabama Arise



Abolish Silicon Valley (permalink)

Abolish Silicon Valley is Wendy Liu's new memoir about her journey from community-minded online fandom nerd to cyberselfish startup person to anticapitalist activist. It's marvelous and timely.

https://boingboing.net/2020/04/14/seize-the-means-of-computation.html

Liu's work traces an emotional and political journey from joyful participation to driven striving to urgent solidarity, and is a perfect case-study for understanding the rise and rise of tech worker politicization.

Liu is pitiless and remorseless in her self-examination, and that honesty provides the insight needed to understand how smart people kid themselves into doing terrible things — and what it takes to pull back from the brink.

She rejects the tech-exceptionalist idea that tech is intrinsically corrupting or corrupt. Rather, she locates her critique at the intersection of unregulated, runaway capitalism and the power of tech to act as a force-multiplier for the people who control it.

Which is why the book ends with a set of proposed reforms that would liberate tech from rapacious, uncaring capitalism. I like the majority of these (as I point out in my review, I think that licensure/liability for programmers is at odds with making all software free/open).

But that's a small quibble. This is an outstanding book: beautifully written, urgent and timely.

https://repeaterbooks.com/product/abolish-silicon-valley-how-to-liberate-technology-from-capitalism/



I'm doing Podapalooza! (permalink)

I've signed up to participate in #podapalooza, an online, pay-what-you-can podcast festival that benefits Give Directly's fund that gives $1,000 grants to families in need.

https://www.givedirectly.org/covid-19/

It's 24h of episodes from a range of podcasters, including me. I'm podcasting an hour of a new reading of my novel "Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town," a novel that Gene Wolfe called "a glorious book unlike any book you've ever read."

https://craphound.com/category/someone/

(There's also an official audiobook read by Bronson Pinchot):

https://craphound.com/shop

It's a very impressive lineup, with something for everybody (even kids' podcasts!).

The event runs Apr 25/6, but the podcasts are (obviously) available for you to listen whenever. Pay-what-you-can tix here:

https://www.podapalooza.org/



This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Turning WIPO into a real UN agency: blogging from the sausage factory https://web.archive.org/web/20050903073451/http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/003511.php

#10yrsago Anti-piracy enforcers claiming to represent Microsoft used to shut down dissident media in former USSR https://cpj.org/blog/2010/04/microsoft-piracy-and-independent-media-in-kyrgyzst.php

#10yrsago Library of Congress to archive every public tweet ever sent https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2010/04/how-tweet-it-is-library-acquires-entire-twitter-archive/

#5yrsago In America's libraries, Young Adult, graphic novels, and books by people of color are most challenged http://www.ala.org/news/state-americas-libraries-report-2015

#5yrsago How to Teach Adults: Get a Job; Plan Your Class; Teach Your Students; Change the World https://boingboing.net/2015/04/14/how-to-teach-adults-get-a-job.html

#5yrsago Airport workers, including TSA, raid unlockable luggage for valuables https://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/13/us/airport-luggage-theft/index.html



Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (https://nakedcapitalism.com/), Slashdot (https://slashdot.org).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation

Currently reading: I'm getting really into Anna Weiner's memoir about tech, "Uncanny Valley" and Jo Walton's forthcoming novel "Or What You Will."

Latest podcast: The Jubilee: Fill Your Boots https://craphound.com/podcast/2020/04/05/the-jubilee-fill-your-boots/

Upcoming appearances:

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. https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250757531

"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583


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