Pluralistic: 28 May 2020

Today's links

Cuomo legalizes nursing-home murders (permalink)

It takes someone as ghastly as Trump to make Cuomo look principled by contrast.

After all: Cuomo signed legislation immunizing long-term care homes from liability for killing their residents – one of the most expansive immunity rules in the country.

The legislation declares that nursing home execs "shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, for any harm or damages alleged to have been sustained as a result of an act or omission in the course of arranging for or providing health care services."

Get that? It's a license to commit negligent homicide, and it was buried deep in Cuomo's budget (I'm sure that he knew we'd all be delighted by the provision but he didn't want to spoil the surprise).

NY Democratic lawmakers say the whole thing was created by Cuomo and his staffers, who shepherded it into law. The Greater New York Hospital Association (who donated $1.25m to elect Cuomo) claimed credit for it.

Lobbyists claim that the rule was needed to shield frontline workers from liability for circumstances beyond their control – but there are plenty of states that have that rule, without protecting the execs who do have control over those circumstances.

All told, the health industry spent $98 million lobbying state politicians across America, and Cuomo's get-out-of-jail-free card is the quid pro quo they're seeking from other recipients of their largesse.

"News" broadcasts air scripted Amazon commercial (permalink)

Do you feel guilty about ordering stuff from Amazon during the lockdown, even as the company fires and smears workers demanding safe working conditions, and withdraws the paltry $2/hour hazard premium it paid warehouse workers?

Do you wonder if it's OK to support a giant company whose billionaire owner is on track to become a trillionaire, thanks to the windfall revenues the pandemic have delivered to his company?

Was your conscience assuaged by a chirpy local news report in which your trusted newscaster described all the ways in which Amazon has been a great corporate citizen and employer during the crisis?

That "news report" was an unpaid scripted ad that Amazon distributed to local stations across America via Businesswire, which the newscasters then picked up and ran, verbatim, as if it was an independent investigation.

The stations even ran footage of Todd Walker, a journalist turned Amazon PR flack, pretending to be a reporter in one of the company's warehouses.

Here are some stations that ran the piece without disclosiures:

WKRN-ABC Nashville
WLEX-NBC Lexington (2x)
WVVA-NBC Bluefield, WV
WTVM-ABC Columbus, GA (2x)
KMIR-NBC Palm Springs (3x)
WBTW-CBS, Myrtle Beach, SC
WOAY-ABC Bluefield, WV (2x)

One station, WTVG Toledo, acknowledged that the "reporter" was an Amazon employee. Some stations' news directors said they weren't told the story came from Amazon.

Bezos owns the Washington Post, a respected newspaper.

The company's shareholder meeting was this week.

Why ammosexuals are REALLY pointing guns at their own dicks (permalink)

A followup to yesterday's mystifying story about gun enthusiasts posting photos of themselves with unsaftied guns jammed into their own crotches, fingers on the triggers.

It turns out that the origin of this is not "owning the libs" – it's "owning responsible gun owners."

Writing in Motherboard, Matthew Gault traces the origin to a battle between "Normies" (regular gun owners) and "Fudds" (compulsive musketfuckers).

The issue apparently stems from resentment at the reification of "trigger discipline" (not putting your finger on the trigger until you're ready to shoot) and "muzzle discipline" (not pointing your gun at things you don't intend to shoot).

Normies elevate these practices to a virtue, and routinely praise or condemn other gun owners' pistol-selfies for their adherence (or lack thereof) to this standard.

To express their resentment, Fudds began photographing themselves with their pistols jammed into their crotches, fingers on the triggers, safety off. So yes, nothing to do with "triggering libs" and everything to do with "triggering normies."

"Pointing a gun at your own dick" is normie shorthand for the kind of idiotic thing a Fudd might do, so the Fudds concretized the metaphor, by pointing their guns at their own dicks.

But, as Gault points out: "When you ironically point a gun at your dick, you’re still pointing a gun at your dick."

California is setting itself up for a brutal second wave (permalink)

The second wave of the 1918 flu was far worse than the first. People, buoyed up by the apparent success of their quarantines, flooded into public spaces, triggering a wave that hit a world whose medical staff and resources were in tatters.

Sound familiar?

Dr Sara Cody is Sta Clara County's health officer, a prescient health official who triggered the first lockdown in California, saving untold lives.

She's publicly condemned the state's plan to allow gatherings of up to 100 people.

More broadly, she has condemned statewide relaxation of quarantine requirements as dangerously premature: "Reopening so fast means there isn’t enough time to implement new procedures to make reopened activities safe."

The evidence of premature reopening is manifest here in LA County – large groups of unmasked people bunched up on the trails in Griffith Park, kids playing in city parks in Burbank. We abandoned a hike in Angeles Forest last week when we saw hundreds of people on the trails.

A friend who went to check on their Tahoe cabin last weekend reported people crowded together in restaurants and bars – teens methodically handling every pair of sunglasses in a tourist store's rack, trying them on for selfies.

A second wave will obliterate the shared sacrifice of weeks in lockdown, making the lives and fortunes lost all in vain.

But of course, that sacrifice was not equally shared: "the people that are going to be hurt the most are people who are living in places where they’re working low-wage jobs, they live in crowded households, they may have less access to care."

Teardown of an "anti-5g" USB stick (permalink)

The rise of conspiracism is a complex and contentious subject – I think the primary driver is a well-earned mistrust in institutions that have repeatedly failed to keep people safe in order to please concentrated industries that have captured their regulators.

But all the most vibrant conspiracies have a shared fitness factor: they offer a business-model to their most prolific boosters, in the form of crowdfunding, ads, merch, etc.

It's not (necessarily) that these huxters are cynically manipulating believers for their own gain – rather, it may be that the power of a conspiracy to make you rich, famous and beloved is, on its own, a powerful convincer for the top grifters in the cult.

But I think it's a safe bet that the people behind the 5GBioShield – a £300 USB stick that purports to protect you from the (nonexistent) harms of 5G wireless signals – are just in it for the fucking money.

The manufacturer claims it "provides protection for your home and family, thanks to the wearable holographic nano-layer catalyser, which can be worn or placed near to a smartphone or any other electrical, radiation or EMF emitting device".

"Through a process of quantum oscillation, the 5GBioShield USB key balances and re-harmonises the disturbing frequencies arising from the electric fog induced by devices, such as laptops, cordless phones, wi-fi, tablets, et cetera."

A teardown from Pen Test Partners reveals that the key is seemingly identical to a £5, 128MB "crystal" USB stick you can buy from multiple suppliers in Shenzhen, China, with a sticker that "looks remarkably like one available in sheets from stationers for less than 1p."

The directors of Bioshield Distribution are Anna Grochowalska and Valerio Laghezza, who are linked to a previous venture called Immortalis, which sold a dietary supplement called "Klotho Formula."

According to Immortalis's website, Klotho Formula's competitive edge is a "proprietary procedure that leads to relativistic time dilation and biological quantum entanglement at the DNA level."

Grochowalska declined to discuss how her £300 USB stick differed from the £5 units from China, claiming it was "sensitive information to third parties, for obvious reasons." She added that some of the markup is due to "the cost of IP rights."

The product was recommended by Toby Hall, a member of Glastonbury Town Council's 5G Advisory Committee, who told the BBC that he had no regrets about his purchase and has benefited from his use of the 5GBioShield.

Among the benefits Hall claimed: better sleep, more dreams, and "a 'calmer' feel to the home."

Wisconsin cases surge after voting day (permalink)

Wisconsin has experienced a surge of covid cases since April 7, when the state's GOP officials and judges forced people to vote in person while simultaneously reducing the number of polling sites in poor, at risk communities.

Black and brown people have always risked their lives to vote in America, so in some ways, this is just more of the same.

But the stakes are at an all-time high, with American whites increasingly mistrustful of democracy itself as changing demographics make it clear that no amount of turkeys-voting-for-Christmas will carry white supremacy as an electoral platform.

Prior to Trump, there was a strong movement within the GOP to court racialized voters, for example, by appealing to anti-abortion Catholic Latinx voters. But that wing of the party is dead now.

The GOP stands foresquare for white supremacy, and the only way to carry out that program is to suppress the votes of brown people, poor people, and their allies – if necessary, by murdering them.

World video premiere of the Little Brother stage play (permalink)

Back in 2012, San Francisco's Custom Made Theater Co mounted a production of a stage adaptation of my novel Little Brother, written by Josh Costello. It played to sold-out houses. To my everlasting regret, I couldn't afford to fly from my home in London to see it before it closed.

But Josh and the company recorded their opening night! And – after clearing this with my literary and screen agents – I've given them permission to put it online. It is the world online premiere of the show!

The show will be a limited run on Youtube from Jun 8-28. The Custom Made Theater Co is soliciting voluntary payments from viewers, with 75% of the proceeds to the company (which is hurting badly for funding) and 25% to the Theatre Bay Area Performing Arts Worker Relief Fund.

I couldn't be happier about this. If you want a taste of what the show was like, here's the trailer from back in 2012:

Meanwhile, there's plenty more coming in Little Brother-land! On Jul 7, Tor is releasing an omnibus edition of Little Brother and its sequel, Homeland, with a new (and amazing) intro by Edward Snowden.

And on Oct 12, Tor will publish ATTACK SURFACE, the long-awaited third Little Brother book – it's a standalone about Masha, the young woman who appears at the beginning and end of the first two books, as she grapple with her complicity with mass surveillance and oppression.

If you preorder Attack Surface, you'll also get a new Marcus Yallow story, Force Multiplier, which will be delivered as both an audiobook and an ebook on publication day!

Cumgate on blast (permalink)

I take a weird, uneasy comfort in jokes about us living in "the stupidest timeline," a terrible final season of a flailing TV series whose hacky writers' room is throwing a torrent of rubbish into storyline in the vain hope that it will recapture the public's interest.

It's one of the ways I manage to contemplate #cumgate – one of the stupidest scandals of the UK's Boris Johnson administration (which is really saying something) without wanting to crawl under the duvet and rock back and forth.

The thing about hacky writers' rooms is that they can inspire superb rants from outraged viewers who are agog at the stupidity of it all. It turns out that these rants are even MORE cathartic when directed at high-stakes, real world idiocy.

Which is why I want to seriously recommend that you read Marina Hyde's incredible, furious, virtuoso sermon on Cumgate, Boris Johnson, and the UK Tories.

Highlights below.

"Perhaps on Sunday you watched the entire nation being lectured on what constitutes fatherly responsibility by Boris Johnson, a man who won’t even say how many children he has, and leaves women to bring up an unspecified number of them."

"Perhaps on Monday you watched the Guardian’s Rowena Mason being lectured in journalism by Johnson, a man sacked from a newspaper for fabricating quotes from his own godfather, and who blithely discussed helping a friend to have another journalist beaten up."

"All populists secretly hate their people, and Johnson is no different. But that 'secretly' is key. His decision to keep Cummings brings his contempt for those he is meant to serve into the open. He would rather endanger their lives by compromising a vital health strategy."

"This is actually a simple story: man with no ideas is too terrified to sack his ideas man."

(Image: Robert Scarth, CC BY-SA, modified)

Corporate Dems include military contractors in bailout (permalink)

The HEROES Act, drafted by Congressional Democrats will never make it through the GOP-controlled Senate, but it's not useless. It is a symbolic gesture, meant to explain to us what Pelosi's Democratic Party stands for.

That's why it bails out corporate lobbyists, sending millions FROM Congress to people whose job is to funnel money from corporations TO Congress.

And it's why the bill has a clause that bails out US military contractors for lost federal contracting revenue, executive salaries, and marketing and sales expenses.

The Beltway Bandit Bailout was championed by Rep Gerry Connolly [D-VA], whose district and donors include many large, well-heeled military contractors. The bill will allow Raytheon, Amazon, and other multibillion-dollar multinationals to claim relief from the USG.

This is in addition to the existing payroll protection and other grants for these companies – granting a wishlist first proposed by the lobbyists at The Intelligence and National Security Alliance.

But of course, this bill is going to be killed on sight by Mitch McConnell.

It is purely symbolic.

It exists solely to telegraph to the nation what the Democrats stand for.

This day in history (permalink)

#10yrsago Synthetic biotech: a monopolist's playground?

#5yrsago It's pretty darned easy to pull off a nutritional "science" hoax

#5yrsago Pornoscanner lobbyist's new job: overseeing TSA spending

#1yrago Congressional shaming prompts notorious Pentagon price-gouger to refund $16.1m

#1yrago Connecticut's racist NIMBYs have used zoning laws and dirty tricks to make it one of the most unequal, racially segregated states in the union

#1yrago Analysis of a far-right disinformation campaign aimed at influencing the EU elections

#1yrago What the FTC should do AFTER it fines Facebook $3-5B

#1yrago Business schools are shuttering full-time MBA programs, citing low enrollment, millennials">

#1yrago Supreme Court of Canada to rule on the enforceability of arbitration clauses

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: John Naughton (, Josh Costello, Naked Capitalism (, Metafilter (, Techdirt (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 516 words (20515 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:

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

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

2 thoughts on “Pluralistic: 28 May 2020”

  1. Hello Cory,
    will there be a chance to buy signed edition of Little Brother / Homeland and Attack Surface?
    You're doing a great job with, it's the only web site I visit daily.
    Best regards

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