Pluralistic: 26 May 2020

Today's links

Scarfolk on Cumgate (permalink)

With ruling elites making such a lethal mess of things, the pandemic is a kind of make-or-break for political satire – how to top powerful peoples' self-lampooning conduct without seeming callous or broad?

Enter Scarfolk.

Scarfolk is a fictional English horror-town set in a looping 1970s, in which Thacherism rises and rises and rises. Today, Scarfolk tackles #cumgate, in which Dominic Cummings, advisor to the UK Prime Minister and architect of the lockdown, flagrantly flouted his own rules.

Scarfolk's "Government Employee Eye-Test Slide" nails the law-and-order Tories' incredible leaps of logic that forgave Cummings conduct even as everyday people are enduring privation and violence to follow the rules.

As Maria Farrell writes on Crooked Timber, Cummings' cross-country drive needs to be understood in the context of the women who have been murdered by their partners because Cummings' own rules did not allow them to leave their homes.

Not least because Cummings' playbook ("deny all wrongdoing," "attack the victim," "reverse victim and offender") track so neatly to the way that abusers talk about their crimes.

This Tory exceptionalism is no aberration: "Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protectes but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect."

(taken from a Crooked Timber comment by Frank Wilhoit):

BTW, if you're struggling to get your head around Cumgate, here's Maureen Johnson's masterful (and colorful) summary:

Texas profiteers make bank from NYC's homeless (permalink)

NYC has taken the laudable, necessary step of finding housing for homeless people in the city's otherwise empty hotels. Less laudable: they outsourced the management of this to LLC, a Texas company that's gouging the city.

Crewfacilities is making $27/room/night, plus $18/breakfast, $19/lunch and $34/dinner. On top of that, Crewfacilities is renting rooms at FAR above market rates: $128-$163/night, while the same rooms are bookable online for $75-89.

These rates were all classified as "trade secrets" by the city government, but journalists from The City obtained "an unredacted copy of a related document" with the true figures.

Crewfacilities in based in Austin and has never done business with NYC before. Its contract caps the total allocation for hotels at $250m, and apparently allows it to charge commissions vastly in excess of the industry standard 10% ($2.5m to date) – making $3k/person.

What's more, Crewfacilities is billing the city for meals in hotels that don't even serve meals! These hotels are largely housing health workers who get fed at their hospitals. Crewfacilities' president Andrea Tsakanikas did not respond to The City's request for comment.

FCC's willful broadband blindness in a pandemic (permalink)

After more than a decade of ridicule and dismissal, it's no longer possible to deny that broadband is a human right, nor is it possible to deny that private monopolists suck at safeguarding this right.

To understand how badly broadband monopolists failed, just look at the bankruptcy docs from Frontier. The company chose not to make a $800m profit providing 100gb fiber to its customers because making long-term investments would hurt its stock price.

As these failures become more manifest, even the FCC has finally acknowledged that it has to do better in providing broadband to underserved communities, pledging $9b to this effort.

Unfortunately, nobody knows where those underserved communities are, because the FCC has allowed monopolists to draw up deceptive and inaccurate coverage maps for years.

For example – as the WSJ writes – the FCC allowed carriers to claim that they covered a whole neighborhood if they provided broadband to a single home.

And as if that wasn't grifty enough, the carriers were allowed to draw their own maps of what constituted a "neighborhood," ensuring that each neighborhood boundary captured one house where they could provide coverage without any capex.

The Journal calls this "flying through a fog." The fraudulent coverage maps have left regulators and lawmakers with nothing but (ghastly) anaecdotes, and only the carriers know the true state of their coverage.

Unfortunately, it's vanishingly unlikely that Ajit Pai, the most captured FCC Chairman in a generation, will demand that they turn those accurate maps over. Instead, he'll just insist on apportioning billions in broadband subsidies without know where they're needed.

Uber is scrapping thousands of Jump bikes (permalink)

One of my favorite expressions of disgust is "The only time I wouldn't piss on him is if he was on fire."

Well, the world is on fire and the only time I wouldn't piss on Uber's Jump dockless ebikes is in a pandemic, when bicycle transport has never been more essential.

Uber – and other dockless transport companies like Bird – unilaterally filled our cities' streets with ewaste litter – unsafe electric vehicles that endangered their riders and pedestrians in use, and blocked sidewalks for wheelchair users the rest of the time.

These companies compounded their misdeeds by refusing to help track down customers who had hit-and-run pedestrians, even when their customers' victims were critically injured.

(and, of course, Bird threatened to sue me for explaining how you could buy their abandoned vehicles from city impounds and convert them to personal vehicles)

But you know what? There's a pandemic on. People – especially vulnerable, low-waged, "essential" workers are going to great lengths to avoid public transit. Bike riding is resurgent.

All is forgiven, Uber.

Oh, wait.

Uber has scrapped 20,000 of its Jump bicycles because of a fall in revenue, sending them to the landfill rather than continuing to service them or donating them to the cities they colonized with them.

What's more, after they were caught, Uber lied about it – only to have their official narrative contradicted by internal whistleblowers who confirmed to Bikeshare Museum that the bikes are being scrapped "by the containerload." And they've got pics.

Uber has also fired the entire engineering team for Jump – a team that scratch-designed an entirely new set of internals that they alone know how to maintain and fix. Ebay is filling up with salvaged parts.

"We also can’t emphasize enough how disgusting it is for UBER to scrap 20,000 bikes in the midst of a pandemic where bicycles have literally become an object of survival.These could be transportation for the many who have been brought to financial ruin during COVID-19."

White Americans are increasingly opposed to democracy (permalink)

In "The Effect of White Social Prejudice on Support for American Democracy," a pair of political scientists used data from the World Values Survey to analyze the rise of authoritarian, anti-democratic rhetoric among American white people.

The authors released a prepub of their work last year; as I wrote then, "White Americans abandoned democracy and embraced authoritarianism when they realized brown people would soon outvote them."

The paper has now been accepted for publication in the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, and this has spurred fresh attention for the study and its conclusions.

Writing on NBC, Noah Berlatsky invokes the neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, who said "We need an ethno-state so that our people can ‘come home again’… We must give up the false dreams of equality and democracy."

But he could just as readily have cited Peter Theil's avowed belief that "freedom" is incompatible with "democracy" (because in a democratic system, plutocrats would be outvoted and thus not free to exploit the rest of us).

This is why the GOP is so committed to voter suppression – and why the real strategic battleground of the civil rights era was voter-registration, not lunch-counters.

But after a brief flirtation with luring conservative, Catholic latinx people to the GOP by making abortion into a wedge issue, the party abandoned that strategy and pivoted to Trumpism, which, at its core, denies the legitimacy racialized people's claims of Americanness.

That's why armed white militias are demanding to know if American indigenous people are "legal." "Legal" doesn't mean "legally in the USA" – it means "white."

But after years of turkeys voting for Christmas, the GOP is struggling to get poor whites to vote for plutocracy – workers are skeptical of claims that they need to submit gracefully to being thrown into a volcano to appease the economy gods.

Which makes the authoritarian turn in US politics all the more frightening – the farmer may have convinced the turkeys to vote for Christmas with honeyed words and big promises, but when the day comes, he's not above wringing their necks.

And while I'm as furious as I can be with the Democratic party, its corporate sellouts, and its garbage policies, the authoritarian turn is mostly owned by the GOP.

"The GOP has dug itself into such a hole on this that the most practical effort to stave off these impending losses is to disenfranchise the votes of the same ethnic/racial outgroups against whom GOP messaging has been stoking animosity.

"Social intolerance isn't just leading to GOP support as we know it and see it now. It's leading to preferences in favor of the kind of candidate the GOP ultimately nominated and supported for president." -Coauthor Steven V Miller

Epoch Times (modified)


(Image: Epoch Times, CC BY), modified)

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Spraypaint stencils of great science fiction writers

#15yrsago Clearchannel sets up fake anti-Clearchannel pirate radio station

#15yrsago DRMed ebooks cost lots and break when you upgrade Acrobat

#10yrsago A perfect marvel of vacuous malice

#10yrsago New fiction: "The Jammie Dodgers and the Adventure of the Leicester Square Screening"

#5yrsago Portraits of homeless people using libraries

#5yrsago Poverty is a tax on cognition

#5yrsago The Awesome: ass-kicking girl monster-hunter FTW!

#1yrago Poland has asked the European Court of Justice to overturn the #CopyrightDirective

#1yrago The Chinese company that bought Grindr wasn't supposed to let Chinese engineers access Americans' data — but it did

#1yrago These corporations backed the politicians who will murder women by banning legal, safe abortions

#1yrago Remembering the pre-Netscape browsers

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Jeffry Vagle (, Slashdot (, Dan Hill (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 527 words (19490 total).

Currently reading: Adventures of a Dwergish Girl, Daniel Pinkwater

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 03)

Upcoming appearances: Discussion with Nnedi Okorafor, Torcon, June 14

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

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