Pluralistic: 06 May 2020

illustration,art,brazil,old school,hg wells,science fiction,Henrique Alvim Corrêa,k street,ppp,corporate dems,human centipede,dinos,weaponized shelter,banking collapse,pensions,uk,economics,business,bailouts,scarfolk,satire,uk,ukpoli,juking stats,outsider art,painting,food,not food,art,Itsuo Kobayashi,carceral state,prisons,law,miami,florida,puzzles,crowdfunders,cards against humanity,gift guide,magic

Alvim Corrêa's War of the Worlds illustrations; America's corporate lobbyists want a bailout; Sacrifice banks to save businesses; Scarfolk death statistics; Chef paints portrait of every meal he eats; Appeals court says Miami jail doesn't need to provide soap; Ohio's got snitchline for bosses whose workers who won't go back; Magic Puzzles

Pluralistic: 06 May 2020 moloch-demands-death


Today's links

Alvim Corrêa's War of the Worlds illustrations (permalink)

The French edition of HG Wells's War of the Worlds was published in 1900, and after several successful editions, it was reprinted in 1906 with illustrations from the Brazilian artist Henrique Alvim Corrêa.

They're superb.

Even more interesting: Corrêa did the first batch of illustrations on spec, and went to London to pitch them to Wells in 1903. Wells insisted that a forthcoming Belgian edition include Corrêa's art: "Alvim Corrêa did more for my work with his brush than I with my pen."

Corrêa's illustrations are far superior to the original drawings that
Warwick Goble did for the first English edition:

As the Public Domain Review writes, "There is something visceral about almost all of Corrêa’s images… The illustration of the Martians training their fiery death beam may be familiar to us from 1000 comic books but it also conjures visions of the very real Great War to come."

America's corporate lobbyists want a bailout (permalink)

94.5% of the $349B that Congress appropriated for the small business Payroll Protection Plan went to giant, well-heeled corporations that raked in millions, while most small businesses got $0 after the fund ran out of money.

So Congress appropriated a second tranche of money, bringing the total up to $660B. Most of that also went to well-heeled corporations and not struggling small businesses.

For example, the $40,000/year Brentwood School in LA (which boasts a massive endowment) got $5.2M. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin's kids are students.

Another PPP recipient: St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, MD, which is attended by Barron Trump.

Who deserves small business bailout money even less?

How about literal K-Street lobbyists who represent the fattest, most monopolistic corporations in the country, spending millions to bribe Congress and the administration to nerf health, safety, and labor protections?


The American Society of Association Executives (a lobby group for people who run lobby groups) (no, seriously), has written to Congress demanding that they get a bailout.

Its signatories include swell fellows like Chet Thompson of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Association, whose salary of $1.8 million rewards him for his fine work on behalf of "Exxon, Koch Industries, and Motiva Enterprises, the U.S. arm of Saudi Aramco."

In Wisconsin, the state branch of the US Chamber of Commerce is seeking bailouts for some of the most freespending legislative suborners in the country.

For example, the American Chemistry Council, which employs 64 lobbyists and "spends lavishly on campaign-style television advertisements for favored lawmakers."

And, of course, the corporate wing of the Democrats are reaching across the aisle to give public funding to industry groups that seek to influence public policy.

Both Rep Stephanie Murphy [D-FL] and Rep Ami Bara [D-CA] pledged to help relax PPP rules to secure public funding for corporate lobbyists.

So did Rep Dina Titus [D-NV]:

Meanwhile, Rep Raja Krishnamoorthi [D-IL] expressed support for a bailout that would include the National Association of Concessionaires, which used millions from Coca Cola and Hershey to block nutrition labeling and rules on sugary foods.

"There is no time to wait…time is of the essence." -Rep Raja Krishnamoorthi.

(Image: Mike Goad, CC BY SA)

Sacrifice banks to save businesses (permalink)

Richard J Murphy is well-poised to talk about the economics of the pandemic and post-pandemic; he's co-founder of the Green New Deal, Director of the Tax Research Network, and a political economy prof at City University London.

His longread on how the pandemic will either wipe out businesses and workers, or banks and landlords (and if the former, eventually the latter) is also a must-read:

As Yves Smith writes, "Murphy’s argument, in essence, is that [banks and landlords] are toast under any scenario, and they can’t be allowed to weigh down the productive sectors of the economy."

Here's the argument, best as I can summarize it: property values in the UK are grossly inflated.

(in Danny Dorling's 2014 "All That is Solid," there's sobering stats on this, with something like 60% of all UK wealth being property in the London area)

Related to inflated property values: 85% of all bank-loans are collateralized with property.

tldr: The rent's too damned high, and if it wasn't, the banks would collapse.

On to businesses and workers: businesses are paying too much rent. They're going to come back from the crisis burdened with debt and with too-high operating costs. If they continue paying rent at prices that can sustain the landlords' debt service, they will fail.

If they fail, workers' jobs will disappear, and that will trigger a collapse in property prices and then the banking sector.

So, as Smith says, either we save workers and businesses and sacrifice landlords and banks, or we'll lose workers, businesses, landlords and banks.

Murphy's argument, then, is that lawmakers should declare statutory rent holidays, and reduce rents by 80% thereafter, and nationalize the banks when this causes a wave of defaults on property-collateralized loans.

Murphy points out that if you let landlords fail, there will still be properties that businesses can operate out of and workers can work at that can serve the productive economy.

But if you let businesses fail, the businesses just disappear, and they don't come back, and neither do the jobs – and then the landlords are wiped out and the banks fail anyway.

He says that nationalizing the banks can even save landlords, through "a right to a statutory reduction in loan liabilities so that the sum secured on a property cannot exceed its market value, whatever that might be in the future…subject to periodic reviews."

Other landlord-saving measures:

  • "Statutory bank (and other) loan deferral arrangements of two years"

  • "Interest only arrangements…subject to the right to roll it up as part of the balance if it is necessary for the borrower to get through this"

Murphy sees no alternative: "right now most businesses in the UK cannot be profitable unless major costs and cash flow outgoings are immediately removed from their overheads."

Today, HMG is "preserv[ing] the appearance of value and wealth that is implicit in our overinflated property values at present, which also underpin all UK banking" at the expense of "the ability of this country to make a living."

The reduction in property values is inevitable. Once the property market thaws, the prices will tumble for new rents/sales, Murphy says "the old ones should follow suit."

"If we want an economy that generates income in the future then the blunt fact is that we now have to trash our balance sheet. Or rather, we have to accept that it has already been trashed and now deal with the consequences."

Irrespective of whether the government intervenes, the bank losses will vastly exceed their capital reserves, by many multiples. 85% of loans are collateralized with grossly overvalued property whose prices are about to tumble. All those loans will be underwater.

"Every single bank in this country, and across the world in all likelihood, will be insolvent. No bank will survive without nationalisation."

Part of this will involve wiping out part of the highest-value deposits.

Murphy says that any depositor whose "beneficial ownership cannot be proven" should be wiped out. And any claims "from a tax haven there should also be a considerable haircut."

He also predicts that come what may, the UK's £6T in pension wealth will be devastated, as so much of it based on property speculation (but he points out that the property will still be there when it's all over, at much lower values).

But he says that keeping pensioners afloat requires keeping the productive economy going (so it can afford a new, liveable state pension), and that requires that we wipe out banks now, rather than waiting for them to take businesses and jobs down with them.

The pandemic forces us to reckon with the fact that "value creation does not come from financialisation, or balance sheet manipulation…it comes from work, which produces value as a consequence of the inherent worth of the activities undertaken."

Murphy believes we can rebuild society, "if we recognise there is no magic way to do so: financialisation as a source of value creation [is] a myth. It is work alone that generates value, and even then it can only do so if we respect the constraintsnature imposes upon us."

And to reiterate, Murphy says that the medium-term choice isn't between banks/landlords and businesses/workers – rather, it's between saving any of them, or letting them all collapse.

Scarfolk death statistics (permalink)

Scarfolk is Richard Littler's extended art project, producing materials from a English nightmare town that is trapped in a loop in the Thatcherite seventies. It's a beautiful reckoning with the long-term effects of the hollowing out and financialisation of Thatcherism.

Which brings me to today's installment, "Death Statistics," a grimly accurate satire of how the Tories calculate the deaths that occurred on their watch, after they ignored expert advice to pursue the disastrous "herd immunity" programme.

"Figure does not include 5,059 unauthorised passings, 10,286 sudden life discontinuations, 9,927 deaths due to an undisclosed cause, 2,576 deaths as a result of mandatory culls, 4,768 deaths of people with foreign names, …, 500 deaths within an 11 mile radius of pet shops, 12,400 deaths of people who were too old, 994 deaths occurring between 3pm & 5pm on Saturday the 17ths of May in the town square during a prohibited anti-government protest."

"For more information please reread."

Chef paints portrait of every meal he eats (permalink)

Itsuo Kobayashi is a Japanese chef and painter. For 32 years, he's painted a top-down portrait of every meal he's eaten, along with notes on the food. The project started out as a food diary, with illustrations coming later.

When he was 46, Kobayashi became disabled as a result of alcoholic neuritis, which severely impairs his mobility. The experience made the paintings all the more important for him.

His work debuted in the US in January at the Outsider Art Fair in NYC, where paintings sold for $500-$3000.
(Images: Kushino Terrace)

Appeals court says Miami jail doesn't need to provide soap (permalink)

On Tues, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a Miami judge and held that the Metro West Detention Center was not obliged to provide soap or covid testing for inmates.

Charles Hobbes was a Miami jail inmate. He had coronavirus. He died last weekend.

In overturning the order, the appellate majority wrote "The injunction hamstrings [corrections] officials with years of experience running correctional facilities, and the elected officials they report to, from acting with dispatch to respond to this unprecedented pandemic."

Mass incarceration "poses a uniquely American risk" during the pandemic. 2.3m people are incarcerated in America. 4% of the world lives in America. 21% of the world's prisoners are locked up in America.

8 out of the 10 largest outbreaks in America are in its prisons. The ACLU estimates that at least 100,000 coronavirus deaths among prisoners have not been counted.

For more, check out the ACLU's spreadsheet, "Death By Incarceration," which counts and names the prisoners who've died

Ohio's got snitchline for bosses whose workers who won't go back (permalink)

Ohio is "re-opening," which is a euphemism for "deliberately risking lives to keep businesses solvent."

It is not safe to do so. Workers will sicken. Some will die. Customers will sicken. Some will die. The contagion will spread to states beyond Ohio.

This is a catastrophically terrible decision. What's more, it's a decision that is apt to be rejected by large numbers of workers, who will refuse to show up because they don't want to die, and they don't want to risk the lives of their family and community members.

This is actually happening in places that have declared the emergency to be over while the emergency is not over: workers aren't working, shoppers aren't shopping. No one wants to be thrown into the volcano to appease the economy gods.

But Ohio has a plan. The state has set up a snitchline that bosses can use to narc out workers who won't risk their lives. Workers who are snitched upon lose their unemployment benefits and risk starvation and losing their homes.

This is just a continuation of the path that the USG has followed from the start. Workers get a $1200 "liquidity bridge" that is supposed to tide them over for ten weeks, while large businesses get unlimited billions in helicopter money.

Getting workers to risk their lives for the stagnated wages they pull down doesn't rely on carrots, it relies on sticks. The threat of starvation and homelessness is meant to terrorize them more than the threat of dying from coronavirus.

If it works, we're all fucked. An America where some people are sacrificed to infection with a highly contagious disease is an America where everyone gets the disease.

You can't have a swimming pool with a "pissing" and "no pissing" end.

Magic Puzzles (permalink)

"Magic Puzzles" is a Kickstarter from Max Temkin and some magician and illustrator pals. They created three 1,000-piece jigsaws where each piece is designed to stand alone as an interesting, detailed image.

More than that, when each puzzle is completed, it creates a "magic trick." They won't say what the trick is (because they don't want to spoil it), but the reaction videos of playtesters discovering the trick are pretty compelling!

The puzzles are $20 each or $50 for all three. They've racked up tons of pre-orders and estimate delivery in Oct. There's always a risk in backing crowdfunders, but Max is part of the Cards Against Humanity team and has a solid track record for Getting Stuff Done.

This day in history (permalink)


#10yrsago Roy Lichtenstein's estate claims copyright over the images he appropriated

#10yrsago Naked scanner reveals airport screener's tiny penis, sparks steel baton fight with fellow officers

#5yrsago Legal threat against security researcher claims he violated lock's copyright

#5yrsago Mass protests, brutal crackdown in Macedonia

#5yrsago Amazon drops "Boy" and "Girl" categories from toy listings

#1yrago Apple's growth strategy is a textbook case of antitrust abuse

#1yrago Mooing NZ opposition leader denies making "barnyard noise";=12228684

#1yrago How the diverse internet became a monoculture

#1yrago People with diabetes are scouring the internet for a discontinued insulin pump that can be reprogrammed as an "artificial pancreas"

#1yrago Facebook hands hundreds of contractors in India access to its users' private messages and private Instagram posts in order to help train an AI

#1yrago "Steering With the Windshield Wipers": why nothing we're doing to fix Big Tech is working

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Max Temkin (, Kottke (, Julie K Brown (, Parker Higgins (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 539 words (11926 total).

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

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 02)

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:

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commerically, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to

Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.

How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):
When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.