Pluralistic: 05 May 2020

someone comes to town,magic realism,dumpster diving,science fiction,spoken word,writing,audio,mp3s,comics,remix,fair use,trumpism,red skull,negativland,mashups,videos,leaks,fema,cdc,trump,mike pence,laurie garrett,unemployment,line go up,papercraft,star wars,may the fourth,fanac,art,gender,feminism,socialism,teen vogue,

Podcast: Part 2 of "Someone Comes to Town"; President Supervillain; What "writing rules" actually mean; Negativland's "This is Not Normal"; Leaked Trump doc projects 3000 US deaths/day; Pandemic profiteering could create social chaos; Papercraft re-creations of classic Kenner Star Wars toys; A federal jobs guarantee; Teen Vogue on socialist feminism

Pluralistic: 05 May 2020 the-hard-stuff


Today's links

Podcast: Part 2 of "Someone Comes to Town" (permalink)

On my podcast, the next installment of my reading of my 2009 novel "Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town," a book about wifi, magic, dumpster diving, love and alienation. (Gene Wolfe called it "a glorious book unlike any book you’ve ever read.”)

Here's how you can get the first instalment, as well as downloads of my original 2009 reading of the book:

Here's the direct MP3 link:

And here's the feed for my podcast:

President Supervillain (permalink)

Since 2017, the President Supervillain Twitter account – @PresVillain – has been fulfilling its mission: "I take real Trump quotes and photoshop them into existing comics."

It's all great, but mapping Trump's coronavirus lunacy onto Red Skull is some real breakthrough stuff.

It's eerily fitting. I mean, check out "It's Going to Disappear"

Or "it will go away."

Or, OMG, the "inject Lysol" moment.

The creator has a Patreon; it's an eminently supportable project. Not only is it great material, but they're also taking a big risk, since Marvel Studios is run by a vicious, thin-skinned, Trump-loving billionaire, Ike Perlmutter.

Perlmutter has a track record for censoring Marvel parodies that might displease Trump.

What "writing rules" actually mean (permalink)

My new Locus Magazine column is "Rules for Writers," which sums up a long-overdue revelation I had teaching on the Writing Excuses cruise last fall: that the "rules" we advise writers to follow are actually just "places where it's easy to go wrong."

These rules are, in fact, checklists of places to start looking for places where your fiction might have gone wrong – places where it's likely that you screwed up. They're varsity-level tasks that are hard to get right.

There's an important distinction between this and the tired injunction, "You have to know the rules to break the rules." It's more like, "If you want to figure out how to make this better, start by checking on whether you messed up when doing the difficult stuff."

That frame has been very useful to me (one of the reasons to teach writing is to learn to be a better writer by having to explain things that you just sort of bumbled into). I hope it helps you, too.

Negativland's "This is Not Normal" (permalink)

"This is Not Normal" is Negativland's new video anthem for our very, very abnormal moment. It's appropriately gnomic, meditative, disturbing and heartening.

It's part celebration of the best of weird life, and part lament for the weird times we're in, with that amazing Negativlandish ambivalence. It's from their 2019 album "True False."

Leaked Trump doc projects 3000 US deaths/day (permalink)

A leaked Trump admin/FEMA document projects that by the end of this month, the US will see 200,000 new coronavirus cases and 3,000 deaths.

Per day.

That's a new 9/11 every day.

It's not clear what assumptions went into that projection (for example, it might be based on a quick withdrawal of lockdowns, masks, social distancing and other countermeasures in line with Trump's insistence that states must "reopen").

A White House spokesvillain dismissed the document because it had not been vetted by the "task force" chaired by Mike Pence, whose leadership of Indiana's anti-HIV measures resulted in many needless deaths.

Pence's leadership of the nation's coronavirus response has been, if anything, even worse. Like that time he showed up at the Mayo Clinic's coronavirus ward without a mask, in defiance of Mayo Clinic rules.

Read the leaked doc for yourself.

Pandemic profiteering could create social chaos (permalink)

Pulitzer-winner Laurie Garrett has a long track-record of being right about pandemics, and has spent years sending up increasingly urgent warnings about a coming pandemic (cf her 1994 bestseller The Coming Plague)

In a New York Times profile, Frank Bruni gives us an alarming look at Garrett's predictions for the pandemic recovery (36 months is optimistic).

But most striking is her prediction that pandemic profiteering with seriously destabilize our society: "If America enters the next wave of coronavirus infections “with the wealthy having gotten somehow wealthier off this pandemic by hedging, by shorting…"

"And we come out of our rabbit holes and realize, ‘Oh, God, it’s not just that everyone I love is unemployed and can’t make mortgage payments or rent payments, but now all of those jerks that were flying around in private helicopters are now flying on private jets."

"…And they own an island that they go to and they don’t care whether or not our streets are safe,’ then I think we could have massive political disruption.”

“As we come out of our holes and see what 25% unemployment looks like, we may see what collective rage looks like.”

In a recent episode of Trashfuture, they discussed what the world will be like with 25-35% unemployment. Either things will be so destabilized as to border on civilizational collapse (which precludes any possibility of a public health solution).

Or a significant plurality of workers will be in federal employment in a post-pandemic, 21st century version of the WPA. These workers will be totally disconnected from markets and the heroic measures of the past 40 years to make share prices go up.

The increasingly attenuated means by which higher profits turn into better lives for workers will become a half-forgotten bad dream for tens of millions of people, and the finance sector's tenuous claim to a role in average people's prosperity will collapse.

The finance sector will once again become a utility function for allocating capital to an increasingly marginal part of our civilization, a safe, well-paid sinecure for the unambitious children of wealthy people.

The alternative, remember, is 25+% unemployment, and the colossal destabilization this engenders – a society so riven by desperation that nothing happens, at a moment when we really, really need to do something.

Papercraft re-creations of classic Kenner Star Wars toys (permalink)

Marc "Paper Dandy" Hagan-Guirey is a stunning papercraft artist (I own one of his "Horrorgami" boxes):

He celebrated May The 4th with a set of painstaking "micro-scale" recreations of the classic Kenner Star Wars vehicles:

He's even re-created the accessories that came with the vehicles, like the crank-activated mechanical trash-compactor!

A federal jobs guarantee (permalink)

One of Modern Monetary Theory's titans is Pavlina Tcherneva, a leading proponent of a federal jobs guarantee. In this long interview with Vox's David Roberts, Tcherneva explains how a jobs guarantee would rescue us from the tragic chaos of mass unemployment.

In one sentence: "A job guarantee is the idea that people who want decent work should be guaranteed that opportunity. It is a public option for a basic, decent job with basic living wages and basic benefits."

Tcherneva wants "a program that solicits proposals from the community — from municipalities but also nonprofits. They come with projects and say, 'look, we’re doing this important work, but we’re understaffed and underfunded. We would like to staff these projects.'"

It's a repudiation of the idea of the "natural rate of unemployment" ("Nobody says there’s a natural rate of homelessness or a natural rate of poverty. We don’t say 5 percent of children should not have access to public education.")

But preserving a "natural rate of unemployment" shifts powers from workers to bosses, who get to lean on the fear of breadlines to win wage and working condition concessions from labor.

It's a "counter-cyclical policy": when the private sector won't procure our labor, the state picks it up and uses it for important work that expands and contracts according to the labor pool – preventative infrastructure maintenance, improvement to public institutions, etc.

Contrast this with UBI, which Tcherneva calls "magical thinking": "if you get income, the market will provide what you need. We know the market doesn’t provide, even for people with income! You can still have a middle-class job and not be able to find affordable child care."

UBI could be a stalking horse to replace benefits; and in the same way, a bad jobs guarantee could become workfare. Tcherneva is alive to this danger.

"Workfare is predicated on punishment. People have to demonstrate they are deserving of whatever pittance the government is giving them. The job guarantee says the opposite: If you wish to work, it is the government’s responsibility to guarantee a dignified minimum option."

Tcherneva cautions us against a "How would you do it" litmus test: "We don’t have the same test for other programs. Public education is a basic right. Does it work well everywhere? No, of course there are poorly run schools. Do scrap them? We don’t."

And as to how we pay for it, the answer is MMT, the idea that the factor that limits sovereign currency issuers whose debt is denominated in the currency they issue (like the USA) isn't money (since they can make as much money as they want) but resources.

The US government can spend as much money into existence as it needs to procure anything for sale in US dollars. It's only when it bids against the private sector that such spending is inflationary, and the private sector does not want the labor of 25-35% of US workers.

She's got a book about this coming on July 7, The Case for a Job Guarantee.

(Coincidentally, that's also the day my next book comes out, an omnibus edition of Little Brother and Homeland with a new introduction by Edward Snowden and a new cover by Will Staehle).

Teen Vogue on socialist feminism (permalink)

The transformation of Teen Vogue into a radical leftist publication is one of the real bright spots of this decade! The magazine's labor reporter, Kim Kelly, has penned classic articles like "What 'Capitalism' Is and How It Affects People" have defined a new, muscular, youthful, woman-led critique of the decay of late-stage capitalism.

And now, in a new piece, "Socialism Is the Answer to Corporate 'Girl Boss' Feminism," Sarah Leonard gives us a vision of what could come next.

It's a potent tonic to "Lean In" corporate feminism that holds that the problem with a world run by 150 rich men is that half of them should be rich women.

Instead of Sandberg, Kelly gives us bell hooks and "Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center."

Leonard cites the "Wages for Housework" movement as the beginning of "an analysis that did not end at the factory gates, and has proved especially useful in an era dominated by the service economy, which demands not just work, but charm, flexibility, and cheerfulness."

The front lines of the Covid 19 struggle are disproportionately peopled with women, especially women of color. This is a moment for a reinvigorated solidarity that fuses gender issues, race issues, and class issues.

And for the record, while Leonard and Kelly are amazing, the whole Teen Vogue team is incredible, and is led by a superb executive editor, Samhita Mukhopadhyay.

The magazine's parent company, Conde Nast, is said to be contemplating serious layoffs, but it's also facing new, successful union drives.

One can only assume that the women of Teen Vogue will be heroes in the corporate struggle that's brewing.

(Image: AK Press)

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago DRM and music research

#10yrsago Cutting Libraries in a Recession…

#10yrsago How I got phished

#10yrsago Scholarly essay nails Gilligan's Island's hidden subtext

#10yrsago HOWTO Tell a debt-collector to go to hell

#10yrsago Cognitive Bias song

#10yrsago Windsor Executive Solutions: Bruce Sterling and Chris Nakashima-Brown's transhuman monarch story

#10yrsago London cops' signs in Internet cafe warn against loading porn and "extremism"

#10yrsago Canadian Prime Minister promises to enact a Canadian DMCA in six weeks

#5yrsago Talent, practice and doing the hard stuff

#5yrsago What it's like to share consciousness with an octopus

#5yrsago House Republicans hold hearing on politics in science, don't invite any scientists

#1yrago Amazon's staffing up a news vertical full of crime stories designed to scare you into buying a spying, snitching "smart" doorbell

#1yrago Big Tech lobbyists and "open for business" Tories killed Ontario's Right-to-Repair legislation

#1yrago Evil Clippy: a tool for making undetectable malicious Microsoft Office docs

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: JWZ (, Kottke (, Naked Capitalism (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 537 words (11387 total).

Currently reading: Facebook: The Inside Story, by Steven Levy.

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

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

2 thoughts on “Pluralistic: 05 May 2020”

  1. Hi Cory,

    My cognitive capacity is severely limited in these lockdown days as I have become a fulltime Daddy Daycare to my high-maintanance (and wonderful and dearly loved) toddler.

    I really appreciate having a digest like this. I won't be reading many of the articles but your analysis gives enough summary and enough insight that I feel I'm getting something to sink my teeth into while not getting overwhelmed by linkdump infoblasting.

    Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder
    – Patrick Kavanagh

    Thanks and keep up the good work


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