Pluralistic: 09 May 2020

Today's links

Armed Michigan voters escort their state rep to work (permalink)

On Wednesday, armed white nationalists occupied the Michigan state house, brandishing swastikas and long-guns, and screaming demands that lawmakers lift public health restriction.

State Rep Sarah Anthony was among several lawmakers who were disgusted by the lack of police response to an armed terrorist occupation of the state's legislature.

Working with one of her constituents, a firefighter, Anthony arrived at work on Wednesday with an armed escort of six men and women of color, some carrying assault rifles.

Constituent Michael Lynn Jr brought his AR-15. He told Lois Beckett for The Guardian, "Being a black and brown female Democrat in the capitol now is a dangerous job, This is an environment that Donald Trump has nurtured."

"Anthony said her goal was not to encourage more armed citizens to volunteer to protect lawmakers, but to ensure that the law enforcement officers paid by taxpayers to keep legislators safe would do a better job in the future."

"We can’t normalize that narrative to where it seems as if we’re supposed to be scared to exercise our second amendment rights as everyone else does" -Michael Lynn Jr.

Historically, US states have been most likely to find the political will to enact gun control laws when Black people took advantage of them.

In 2018, Mehdi Hasan proposed that Muslims join the NRA en masse to provoke a nationwide discussion on gun control.

Konstantine Anthony for Burbank City Council (permalink)

I have donated to the Burbank city council campaign of Konstantine Anthony; I also donated to his campaign three years ago. Anthony is running to represent the interests of working-class Burbankers.

Anthony's previous work included campaigns to end no-fault evictions, recognition for gig workers, and an end to imprisonment for homeless people with mental illness.

Anthony's previous work included campaigns to end no-fault evictions, recognition for gig workers, and an end to imprisonment for homeless people with mental illness.

He's seeking volunteers "to make calls, send texts, write postcards, and help with administrative tasks."

Flooding Ohio's "work-refusal" snitchline (permalink)

Ohio "re-opened" without vaccines. effective therapeutics, sufficient ventilators, or adequate PPE/disinfectant, so workers will risk their lives if they go back to their jobs. But what Ohio DOES have is a snitchform for bosses when this happens.

That way, bosses can punish workers who are reluctant to throw themselves into volcanoes to appease the economy gods by getting their unemployment benefits taken away, subjecting them to homelessness and starvation.

But as good as the state government of Ohio is at ruthlessly terrorizing workers, they're much worse at securing webforms, which is why it's possible to run a script that sends thousands and thousands of plausible fake reports to the form.

The script combines names from an online fake name generator with a list of the state's 100 top employers to generate fake data. The state has since updated its captcha but the script's author promises to have a workaround soon.

The script was packaged as a command-line tool that lets users send fake reports in the background as they work by software engineer David Ankin.

The script's author told Motherboard, "What I’m hoping is that, whether people use this exact code or not, they see it’s possible to take direct action against these sort of snitch programs, and that making and spreading small tools like this amongst ourselves can help."

Brett Favre received $1.1m in welfare money for speeches he never gave (permalink)

Mississippi's Community Education Center is funded by the MS Department of Human Services's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. It gave $1.1M to football player Brett Favre in lecture fees…for lectures Favre seems never to have given.

The Mississippi State Auditor says the Community Education Center paid Fevre Enterprises $500k in Dec 2017 and $600k in Jun 2018 for speaking fees for three events that Fevre did not attend. Fevre has not been criminally charged in connection with this.

The audit was triggered by a massive embezzlement scandal around John Davis, Director of Dept of Human Services from 2016-19, whom the auditor claims misspent $94m in public funds earmarked for helping the poorest families in America's poorest state.

Davis is also charged for his role in a conspiracy that stole $4m. The auditor calls it, "Mississippi’s largest public corruption case in decades" and adds, "If there was a way to misspend money, it seems DHS leadership or their grantees thought of it and tried it."

Davis made grants of $98m to Mississippi Community Education Center and Family Resource Center of North Mississippi, then directed them to spend the money in ways that benefitted his cronies. The funds were allocated to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

In addition to funneling $1.1m to Favre, the Mississippi Community Education Center misspent welfare money on two vehicles, costing $50k and $28k.

The Center also passed $1.3m to Victory Sports Foundation, which was supposed to provide fitness boot camps for poor families. They did not screen attendees to ensure they qualified, and "state legislators and other elected officials took the fitness classes for free."

Favre did not answer the AP's questions about the $1.1m in welfare funds he received from the disgraced nonprofit. "His manager, Bus Cook, told AP on Wednesday: 'We’ve got nothing to say.'"

John Davis was appointed by the former GOP governor Phil Bryant. Bryant's defining achievement was refusing to remove the confederate battle-flag from the state flag and declaring Confederate Heritage Month, and signing an unconstitutional abortion ban into law.

Bryant also favored a sharp expansion of civil asset forfeiture, the discredited rule that allows cops to seize and keep property from people not charged with a crime, with the owners having to prove the negative – "this is not the proceeds of a crime" – to get it back.

(Image: Cliff, CC BY)

The real Lord of the Flies kids were really nice to each other (permalink)

I was profoundly moved by Rebecca Solnit's "A Paradise Built in Hell" – a beautifully written, lavishly researched book about the history of disasters documenting how everyday people pull together to help one another.

Solnit documents the flipside of this, the "elite panic" among the wealthy who are blind to the cooperation of working people and convinced that the poors are coming to get them. Elite panic is firmly entrenched in our cultural narratives, a commonplace in books and films.

It was something I tried to remedy in my 2017 novel Walkaway, which makes a villain out of elite panic itself — not the thing that the elites are panicking about.

It's a contrast with books like Lord of the Flies, a book that represents a variant on a cozy catastrophe: "a bizarre calamity wipes out a large percentage of the population, but the protagonists survive and thrive in the new world that follows."

In Rutger "Utopia for Realists" Bregman's new book, "Humankind, a Hopeful History," he documents a real-life version of Lord of the Flies, where a group of Australian schoolboys were stranded on a remote Tongan atoll for 15 months, cooperating and caring for one another.

The boys' tale is excerpted in The Guardian today, and it's a lovely antidote to the lazy story of humanity's bestial nature, lurking eternally just below the surface.

"By the time we arrived, the boys had set up a small commune with food garden, hollowed-out tree trunks to store rainwater, a gymnasium with curious weights, a badminton court, chicken pens and a permanent fire, all from handiwork, an old knife blade and much determination."

"The kids agreed to work in teams of two, drawing up a strict roster for garden, kitchen and guard duty. Sometimes they quarrelled, but whenever that happened they solved it by imposing a time-out. Their days began and ended with song and prayer."

"Kolo fashioned a makeshift guitar from a piece of driftwood, half a coconut shell and six steel wires salvaged from their wrecked boat – an instrument Peter has kept all these years – and played it to help lift their spirits."

Phil Ochs rarities (permalink)

Phil Ochs was one of the great folksingers of the 1960s, in many ways better than Bob Dylan, though he is not nearly so well known today, likely because his career was cut short by his 1976 suicide. I was raised on his music.

On May 22, a new CD of never-heard Ochs music (demos and songs that were recorded for albums but dropped from the final release) comes out: "Phil Ochs, The Best Of the Rest: Rare and Unreleased Recordings."

In American Songwriter, Paul Zollo gives a fascinating breakdown of each track on the disc, from the ultra-rare "Take It Out of My Youth" and "I Wish I Could Have Been Along" to equally obscure versions of "The War is Over" and "No More Songs."

He also notes the impending publication of "I'm Gonna Say It Now: the Writings of Phil Ochs" by Backbeat Books, "damn near all of Phil’s non-song works…short stories, poetry, criticism, journalism and satire.";=kp_book_description

Maybe you've not heard of Ochs, but your favorite folksingers have.

Billy Bragg: "[Ochs was a] born writer. He played guitar because that was the language his generation was speaking. Today, his questioning voice chimes as clearly as it ever did.”

Tom Morello: "Phil Ochs was a tireless crusader for justice. He is one of the all-time great activist troubadours. With wit and fire, his songs skewered the evildoers of his day and remain perfect examples of how to fight the power with guitar in hand.”

Tim Robbins: "Phil Ochs told the truth before it was ready to be accepted and before it was politically expedient. He was the kind of truth-teller that made liberal allies nervous because his truth demanded an accountability to their own compromise.”

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Hillary "RIAA" Rosen: iPod DRM is cruel and unfriendly!

#15yrsago PSP will only run apps that Sony has signed — Sony shooting self in head

#15yrsago Chaining Amazon's Statistically Improbable Phrases

#5yrsago Citizen journo who videod Eric Garner's murder now hounded by NYPD

#5yrsago DOJ tells judges they don't get a say in whether information is classified

#5yrsago Commercial prison messaging system's terms of service lands inmate in solitary

#5yrsago Solving San Francisco's housing crisis with narrow, human-scale streets

#5yrsago Senators demand CIA boss admit he lied about hacking torture committee

#5yrsago Smart Grid consortium rolled its own crypto, which is always, always a bad idea

#1yrago Big Tech is deleting evidence needed to prosecute war crimes, and governments want them to do more of it

#1yrago Towards a method for fixing machine learning's persistent and catastrophic blind spots

#1yrago Americans with diabetes are forming caravans to buy Canadian insulin at 90% off

#1yrago Co-founder of Facebook calls for breakup of Facebook

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: The Verge (, Naked Capitalism (, Dave Hughes (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Friday's progress: 688 words (13685 total).

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

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

Upcoming appearances:

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