Pluralistic: 30 Apr 2020

berlin,germany,war,old school,sovkitsch,art,illustration,Nikolai Kolchitski ,medicare for all,office of the attending physician,broadridge financial solutions,tmg mail solutions,corporate murder,junk mail,randstad,new york,long island,finance,day and date,monopolism,business,china,private equity,amc,windowed releases,leverage,disney,market concentration,universal,comcast,disney,haunted mansion,fanac,themepunks,youtube,videos,old school,marc laidlaw,cyberpunk,science fiction,fiction,ebooks,half-life

Berlin in color, after the Reich's fall; Nikolai Kolchitski; Medicare for All (Congressjerks); Swedish covid death rates soar above neighbors'; Financial services workers dying for junk mail; AMC: "We will never show another Universal movie"; Revived Haunted Mansion videos from early internet fandom; Marc Laidlaw reads his fiction; A Room of One’s Own

Pluralistic: 30 Apr 2020 day-and-date


Today's links

Berlin in color, after the Reich's fall (permalink)

Back in 2015, Kronos Media assembled a reel of color footage from Berlin in July 1945, after the fall of the Reich and the triumphant Red Army occupation. It's a spectacular document, vivid and moving, funny and sad, tragic and brave.

I mean, how fierce is this?

And this is such an iconic image — the skeletal building, the domesticity within.

While the refugee caravans are so real you can reach out and touch them.

It's hard to say what's more moving: the normalcy amidst the ruins…

Or the ruins on their own.

Nikolai Kolchitski (permalink)

The Soviet sf artist Nikolai Kolchitski defined the look of space and space exploration for a generation of dreamy, sciencey kids in the USSR and its satellite states.'s vast repository of Kolchitski images is wonderful.

Kolchitski died in 1979 but did his best-known work in the 1950s and 1960s. I love the impressionist/psychedelic look of his later work!

Medicare for All (Congressjerks) (permalink)

Congress loves Medicare for All…for some. Particularly, they loooooove the clinic operated by the Congressional Office of the Attending Physician, a "gold plated conceirge service" that got a massive cash infusion from the stimulus bill.

What's more, some of the congressjerks most dependent on this white-glove service also voted against any expansion of public health care provision during the global pandemic because it would be a "government takeover of healthcare" (-Mario Diaz-Balart, R-FL).

The Medicare for Congress system has received regular cash infusions from Congress over the past decade, during which time its budget has expanded by 25%. The number of Congresspeople has remained static over that time. Lawmakers pay $600/year for unlimited use of the service.

But that's deceptive. The $600/year fee is effectively voluntary, and Members of Congress who don't pay it still get treatment for free, on demand. Only 240 members bother to pay. The staff describe themselves as "catering to the whims" of Congress.

"The clinic not only provides coronavirus testing, but routine flu vaccines, lab work, physicals, and a range of emergency treatments. Lawmakers have claimed that they use the OAP office as their primary care physician."

It was the OAP that treated Rand Paul when he contracted coronavirus.

It's also a favorite of Nancy Pelosi.

Both oppose universal healthcare. The December spending bill reduced ACA support and increased funding to the OAP.

"Speaker Pelosi has been adamant in her rejection of single payer for everyone. It has been obvious for awhile that when it comes to her own healthcare and her own projects, ‘how will we pay for it?’ was never a concern." -Dale Fountain, Enact Universal Healthcare for California.

Swedish covid death rates soar above neighbors' (permalink)

Sweden defied WHO guidance and refused to enact a mandatory stay-at-home, allowing many nonessential businesses in which the public comes into close contact to remain open. Now it has three times the death rate of its neighbors.

The Nordic comparison looks really bad, but it gets worse. Czech, which has nearly the same population as Sweden, has recorded 2 deaths per 100,000 people. Sweden's per-100k death rate is 22.

The Swedish authorities insisted they were not pursuing a "herd immunity" strategy like UK did, with disastrous consequences. But when questioned by the BBC, Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said "most of the experts in Sweden agree that some kind of immunity we definitely will have because a lot of people that have been tested so far have produced antibodies."

2,000 researchers have signed a letter to the Swedish government calling on it to "immediately take steps to comply with the World Health Organization's recommendations," adding, "Our country should not be an exception to the work to curb the pandemic."

Financial services workers dying for junk mail (permalink)

You've probably noticed that despite the shutdown, you're still getting "automated" business paper mail: bills, statements, etc. You might have assumed that the whole process for printing, assembling and mailing these was automatic.

It's not. It's done by human beings: low-waged workers, largely working through staffing agencies in giant warehouses, and they are dropping dead of coronavirus because their employers have prohibited them from taking sick leave.

Broadridge Financial Solutions is a $4.4B/year company that uses contractors like TMG Mail Solutions and Randstad to print, stuff, and mail out business letters. At least 6 employees in its massive Long Island facility are dead after being denied PPE, leave and treatment.

They were murdered for junk mail.

Workers in the facility received written notices telling them that they would be fired if they missed more than two days' work. The same notice discouraged the use of PPE (which the company was not supplying).

"Menjivar also said that she saw one TMG worker wearing a mask brought from home. A supervisor confronted the worker and made them remove it, she said, saying that masks were prohibited unless the worker had a doctor’s note saying it was necessary."

The dead are parents, spouses, daughters and sons. Here are some of their names: Jose Bonilla Flores, Lucio Acosta, Juan Gonzalez, Anthony DeNoyior, Astrid Echenique and Aleyamma Kuriakose.

They worked for the company for years – decades, in some case – and pulled 12h shifts.

They were murdered for marginal efficiencies in junk mail production.

(Image: Juan Medina at work at the Broadridge Warehouse in Brentwood, New York, courtesy of Johanna Medina.)

AMC: "We will never show another Universal movie" (permalink)

When the movie theaters shut down, Universal decided to put Trolls World Tour – one of its scheduled major releases – online as a pay-per-view, and they generated $100m in revenues.

The company is so pleased with the outcome that they've announced that future releases will be "day-and-date" – available worldwide in cinemas and to stream, eliminating the exclusive theatrical window that has always been part of movie release strategies.

Naturally, cinematic exhibitors are furious over this. AMC has announced that it will no longer screen any Universal movies, period.

But there's a lot more going on here.

First, the movie industry is incredibly concentrated. It used to boast a whopping five studios. Now the total is four, thanks to the idiotic Disney-Fox merger.

And the movie theater industry is also incredibly concentrated. AMC is the nation's dominant chain, thanks to the Chinese money that let it buy all its competitors, and the US private equity barons who loaded it up with debt. Now it's going bankrupt.

And worse still: the DoJ is getting rid of the antitrust rule that banned movie studios from buying up movie theater chains, teeing up one of these entertainment monopolists to become a cinema monopolist, too.

This is incredibly scary news for the "talent": the whole reason the antitrust rule against studio/cinema integration was created was that the movie trusts used their control over production and distribution to lower compensation for actors, writers, and other workers.

Which is all to say that this is more than an inconsequential bun fight between two stupid multinational conglomerates: it's a potentially hugely consequential shift that could see the nation's cinemas owned by a monopolistic studio who is also a cable monopolist.

That these monopolies are not run by good-natured slobs who want to be sure that everyone gets a fair share of the pie. The ruthless sociopaths who run these firms would never release a dime unless they were forced to do so, by someone with leverage over them.

Almost every outcome from this spat leads to monopolists with far more leverage – over creators and audiences – than they have today.

And they already have far too much leverage as it is.

Revived Haunted Mansion videos from early internet fandom (permalink)

When Foxxfur was a young, internet-obsessed Haunted Mansion fan, she accumulated many rarities that streamed in Realvideo and other long-forgotten formats, and swapped VHS tapes with other early online Disney fandom.

This 1996 JD Roth includes a rare look at the film-looping systems Ub Iwerks designed "allowing the film to circulate endlessly through a giant series of spools without ever getting out of synch with each other."

(I own some of this 16mm film!)

This ridethrough shows "what the controversial 'windblown' bride looked like in real life…when she was brand new she at least was impressive, and that is captured well here."

This "analog nightvision" is a great look at the original load area with its beloved table/chair/lamp tableau.

And from Disneyland, a tour of the short lived, 1995-2005 version of the ride, including the "DEAD END" sign outside the unload area.

Foxy concludes: "It can be so fun to dig into the history and details of the places that we forget that they're constantly changing. Time races by, and now the look of analog video is nostalgic, I hope these documents of a time long since past are helpful or at least fun."

Marc Laidlaw reads his fiction (permalink)

When I was a kid haunting my mall bookstore's sf section, I had my head blown open by a weird-ass, comedy-apocalyptic debut novel by Marc Laidlaw called "Dad's Nuke."

Over the years, I followed Laidlaw's career advidly, doubly so once I saw he'd been featured in Mirrorshades, Bruce Sterling' genre-defining cyberpunk anthology.

But for many years, Laidlaw's fiction slowed to a trickle, after he took work as a writer for Valve, and helped define modern game writing with his work on Half-Life.

Laidlaw's been getting back into fiction, and has reissued his whole back-catalog as DRM-free ebooks:;=digital-text

He's also reissued his entire short fiction oeuvre in a single, massive collection:

Now, he's launched a Youtube series in which he reads that fiction aloud, as he waits out the apocalypse with the rest of us:

I recommend starting with "400 Boys," his story from Mirrorshades:

A Room of One’s Own (permalink)

I'm an enormous fan of Tochi Onyebuchi and loved his latest book, Riot Baby, an afrofuturist science fiction novel about incarceration and liberation.

Onyebuchi's latest story is "A Room of One’s Own," which is part of the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination's "Us In Flux" series – fiction by and for the pandemic.

It's a haunting, bittersweet tale.

Onyebuchi and futurist-lawyer/technoculture scholar Michael G Bennett are holding a live, public conversation about the story next Monday – it promises to be very exciting and thought-provoking.

This day in history (permalink)

#10yrsago Asimov's opens to electronic submission

#10yrsago AT&T; asks government to create national censorwall and system for disconnecting accused infringers

#10yrsago 1939 World's Fair: the future's cradle, in pictures

#5yrsago Tell the Copyright Office not to criminalize using unapproved goop in a 3D printer

#5yrsago Telescreen watch: Vizio adds spyware to its TVs

#1yrago Most US eighth graders have taken apart a gadget to fix it or see how it works

#1yrago will send debullshitifying security researchers to Right to Repair hearings to fight industry FUD

#1yrago Duke University acquires the archives of Charles N Brown, founder of Locus Magazine

#1yrago Chase's idiotic poverty-shaming "inspirational" tweet, and Twitter users' magnificent responses thereto

#1yrago Big Tech's addiction to illegal, overreaching NDAs protects wage discrimination, sexual harassment, and other evils by "terrorizing" employees

#1yrago Serpent profiteers: how a summer camp snakebite turned into a $142,938 medical bill

#1yrago Vodafone sources claim Huawei created a "backdoor" for its home routers and network switching equipment and then lied about removing it

#1yrago The platforms suck at content moderation and demanding they do more won't make them better at it

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Dark Roasted Blend (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Friday's progress: 521 words (9726 total).

Currently reading: I'm finally finishing Anna Weiner's memoir about tech, "Uncanny Valley" and I wrapped up reading Jo Walton's forthcoming novel "Or What You Will" this weekend.

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 01)

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

"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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