Pluralistic: 18 Apr 2020

shit sandwiches,electability,2020,elections,swing states,sentiment analysis,one country,daily yonder,polling,ilhan omar,weaponized shelter,rent and mortgage cancellation act,law,evictions,math,xkcd,known unknowns,savedotorg,.org,icann,pir,ethos capital,pe,finance,california,isoc,restaurants,rent-seeking,deliveroo,grubhub,jwz,pizza,food,business,games,fully automated luxury communism,solnit,mutual aid,walkaway,communist parties,

Rural swing-state voters' social media show growing disapproval for Trump; The Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act; Garbage Math; ICANN pauses selloff of .ORG registry; Delivery services are gouging restaurants to death; Post-collapse maker utopia sim

Pluralistic: 18 Apr 2020

Today's links

Rural swing-state voters' social media show growing disapproval for Trump (permalink)

The One Country project is a Democratic-Party-leaning nonprofit that seeks to engage with rural voters; they're doing a series of longituuinal surveys of rural swing-state responses to Trump's handling of the crisis in partnership with the nonprofit news org Daily Yonder.

These are heartening: they show rural voters increasingly fed up with Trump and his incompetence, with declining currency for GOP memes like "media bias" and increasing attention to "voter suppression" (responding to the Wisconsin election debacle).

You can see a clear progression in which Trump's political capital is being annihilated by peoples' lived experiences of his failed policies (maybe putting his names on those checks wasn't such a smart idea, huh?). Here's Mar 15-21.

And here's the next survey, Mar 29-Apr 5.

So that all looks like good news, but there are a few caveats. The surveys are conducted by scraping giant tranches of geolocated social media posts, de-duplicating them, randomly sampling them, and these are hand-coded for sentiment analysis.

The work is done by Impact Social, a DC/London based analytics firm whose site is long on buzzwords but short on technical details. If they have a Twitter account, I can't find it.

The "methodology" sections of the surveys themselves are very thin.

That said, assuming the surveys are being conducted using the same methods from week to week, then they're measuring something, and that something is changing (let's hope it's not statistical noise).

But if the methodology is sound, and if sentiment translates to votes, and if the sentiment is sustained over time, then rural voters in six swing states are seriously fucked off with Trump and the Republican brand is circling the drain.

I have serious doubts about Biden. Yes, I disagree with many of his policies (though these may improve as his campaign makes overtures to left Dems), but I'm more worried about the ways in which he is compromised by his record, his scandals, and his "gaffes".

I think these are serious liabilities in the era of discouragement politics in which each party tries to convince the other's voter base to stay home by arguing that their corrupt party leaders have demanded that they eat a shit sandwich…

…And try to mobilize their own base to show up and vote by arguing that the other party's shit sandwich is way worse than the shit sandwich their own party has asked them to eat.

I fear that Biden is going to be easy to cast as a shit-sandwich and so potential D voters will stay home.

(and for the record, Trump is a way, way worse shit sandwich than Biden)

The thing about these surveys that brings me hope is that they suggest that the Trump base is now thinking of him as an even bigger shit sandwich. I don't know if they'll vote D, but I think it might mean that that they'll sit out the election.

tldr: Maybe this means that Trump might lose the election, even if Biden doesn't win it.

The Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act (permalink)

Ilhan Omar has authored a bill that suspends mortgages and rent payments nationwide for the duration of the crisis and for a month beyond. It's endorsed by a laundry list of housing and poverty advocacy groups.

Here's the text of the bill, the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act:

Last month, 31% of Americans couldn't pay rent. This month, the number will be much, much higher. The Trump administration's insistence that $1200 will constitute sufficient "bridge liquidity" to tide those people over for 10 weeks is a cruel fantasy.

The federal eviction moratorium in the CARES Act expires mid-May (many landlords are ignoring the moratorium anyway). The crisis will not expire mid-May. Even if this miracle were to pass, the immediate aftermath would be a tsunami of evictions.

Omar proposes tying federal mortgage guarantees to tenancy protections, including a five-year requirement for fair lending and renting practices, banning no-fault evictions, rent increases, and discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders.

She also wants to create a fund to acquire distressed rental properties and for management by nonprofits, cities, community trusts, and states.

Garbage Math (permalink)

In XKCD 2295, "Garbage Math," Randall Munroe does a stellar job elucidating the uncertainty plaguing our ability to estimate when lockdown will end.

The thing is, several key variables are unknown and attempts to estimate them produce "garbage numbers." These include:

  • What percentage of people have covid-19 antibodies
  • What percentage of people who have covid-19 antibodies are immune to the disease, and for how long
  • When we will develop a vaccine for covid-19
  • How long production of the vaccine will take after it is developed
  • When we will discover effective therapeutics for covid-19
  • How long it will take to ramp up their production

These variables produce a combinatorial explosion of scenarios for when the lockdown will end, and how long after that the crisis will pass. These scenarios are the reason we have a range of "estimates" – they're not estimates, they're scenarios.

If a and b, then x more weeks. If a, b and c, then y more weeks. If a and c, etc, etc.

These kinds of scenarios are a lot more common than predictions, but scenarios are usually presented (by governments, press and science communicators) as predictions.

In part, that's because our public discourse has little room for scenarios – but also, that's partly why our public discourse has little room for scenarios.

ICANN pauses selloff of .ORG registry (permalink)

The selloff of the .ORG registry to a secretive group of GOP-connected billionaire PE looters has received another reprieve, as @ICANN has delayed voting on the sale following an intercession from California's Attorney General.

Alas, the CA AG's letter did not prompt ICANN to vote to cancel the sale, but rather to take "additional time to complete our review," with a new vote scheduled for May 4.

CA AG Bercos: "In effect, what is at stake is the transfer of the world's second largest registry to a for-profit private equity firm that, by design, exists to profit from millions of nonprofit and non-commercial organizations."

The AG's letter was prompted in part by an open letter by Esther Dyson (ICANN's founding chair) and Michael Roberts (ICANN's founding CEO) accusing ICANN of abandoning its principles and calling for the sale to be halted.

As always, the best coverage of this comes from Kieren McCarthy. Here he is on the vote delay:

And here's his excellent backgrounder/explainer.

As with so many grifts, the selloff of .ORG is performatively dull and screened by layers of acronyms and obfuscating, needless complexity. McCarthy cuts through it all:

Delivery services are gouging restaurants to death (permalink)

San Francisco has capped commissions for food-delivery apps at 15%. These apps – even the ones that eliminated charges for customers – were gouging restaurants, consuming 100% (or more) of their margins.

However, as Jamie Zawinski (owner of San Francisco's DNA Lounge and DNA Pizza) writes, the delivery companies (being grifts) are really good at circumventing these rules and cheating, with "delivery commissions," "processing fees," etc.

He ends: "The best way for all of us, customers and restaurants, to avoid being gouged by those companies is to call us on the phone (4156260166) and place an order for pick-up. Not that I really expect people to do that… Nobody hates talking on the phone more than me."

Post-collapse maker utopia sim (permalink)

Common'hood is a new/forthcoming game "about building a new habitat for you and your community" after an economic crash. Gameplay begins with occupying an abandoned factory and "deciding how you want to live."

The creators describe their inspiration as coming from the "Maker Movement, Open Source Ecology, Fablabs or the Tiny house community."

You proceed by crafting shelter, managing your workshop, acquiring automation, managing a crew, automating construction, salvaging materiel, farming, selling your food, building and maintaining machines from open source blueprints, and supplying community water and power.

"Each character that joins your crew will have their own unique story, helping you understand what led them to end up without a home. By working together, you will be able to provide shelter and facilities to improve the life of your community."

Gameplay turns on open source "Blueprints" that can be turned into machinery, and on automating that machinery to free humans from drudgery.

Though I haven't played it, I am fascinated by the crossover with my 2017 novel Walkaway.

There are some important differences. Walkaway is a story about post-scarcity, leaderless gift economies in the midst of environmental cataclysm and economic collapse. Judging from the descriptions, Common'hood has a lot of buying and selling and leadership in its play.

That said, this looks fascinating. It's coming to Steam soon:

And there's apparently a playable demo on Discord:

This day in history (permalink)

#5yrsago delivering poor Internet to poor people

#5yrsago A bill to fix America's most dangerous computer law

#1yrago Read the source code for every classic Infocom text-adventure game!"

#1yrago IPOs have sent Uber and Lyft fares skyrocketing, while driver pay plummets

#1yrago Telcoms lobbyists have convinced 26 states to ban or restrict municipal broadband

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (, Slashdot (, Lewis Herber (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 539 words (5299 total).

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: Podcast swap: Wil Wheaton on Little Brother

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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