Pluralistic: 03 Jun 2020

Today's links

Dems can and MUST fight police violence (permalink)

Under the direction of the 45th President of the USA, American police forces are engaged in a violent suppression of American people, pursuing what can only be called a white nationalist pogrom.

The official opposition, in the form of the Democratic Party and its elected members, are effectively sitting on their hands as the rule of law is dissolved into a slurry of baton-charges and indiscriminate use of anti-personnel weaponry.

There's no excuse for this inaction. As David Sirota writes, there are ten meaningful actions the Dems could take RIGHT NOW that would yield concrete, significant results, RIGHT NOW, for the people facing out-of-control, armed "peace officers."

  • "For the love of God, stop trying to give Trump more police power."

Congressional Dems are working hard to renew the Patriot Act, giving Trump MORE surveillance power and less oversight.

The knock at the door in the night after you attend the protest? It's their fault.

  • "Do not pass a Pentagon spending bill that would fund Trump’s military invasion of American cities."

House Dems have the power of the purse. Right now, they could amend the Pentagon's budget to ban the agency from using one cent turning America's military against its people.

  • "Call Trump’s bluff, use his own plan to defund the police — and launch investigations"

Trump threatened a budget that slashed spending to local cops. Call his bluff. Pass the budget. Then start a round of Congressional hearings into police misconduct.

  • "Stop giving military-grade weapons to local police departments."

Congress can amend the NDAA or attach a rider to the Pentagon's budget that bans this grotesque practice, conceived of to enrich arms merchants while turning US cities into literal warzones.

  • "Fire the bad police chiefs and deescalate."

Democrats hold the mayor's office in America's largest cities. America's police chiefs serve at their pleasure. Fire any chief who can't control their force, just as Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

  • "Prosecute the bad cops."

Every Democratic DA and state attorney should vigorously prosecute every cop who abuses their authority to commit crimes under color of law.

  • "Restrict the National Guard."

Democratic governors can demobilize their National Guard units and dare Trump to federalize them.

  • "Pass legislation restricting the police and ending immunity."

Qualified immunity is a judge-made doctrine that effectively shields cops from civil consequences for any crime.

  • "Repeal and block anti-protester laws, and pass state protections."

Anti-protester laws are unconstitutional on their face. Any Democratic state house with the power to repeal them should do so immediately.

  • "Stop taking money from police associations."

These are organizations whose leaders walk around with White Power badges on their uniforms.


I know corporate Dems never met a buck they wouldn't take, but can the buck, finally, stop here?

Trump is a fascist. He is the problem. But for several days now, due to a Twitter glitch, I've been the third result for searches for "#BlackLivesMatter," and I've been targeted by every mouth-breathing pencil-necked Hitler wannabe with a face from Walmart.

A number of these howling monstrosities' bios included this quote:

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."*

Proving a stopped clock is right every now and again.

(*Hilariously, they inevitably misattributed it to Patrick Henry)

Save Uncle Hugo's (permalink)

Uncle Hugo's is a beloved science fiction bookselling institution, a Minneapolis bookstore of the sort you hardly see any longer, crammed with new and used books and magazines, a palace of endless browsing pleasure.

It burned down in this week's uprising, along with its adjacent sister-store, Uncle Edgar's (a mystery bookstore) and while it sounds like the owners will get something from their insurers, independent bookselling has been on the ropes for years.

It's unlikely that insurance alone will suffice to save the store, especially when you consider how the pandemic lockdown has emptied the reserves and piled up the debt of every business.

That's why Uncle Hugos' fans have raised more than $41,000 for the stores on a Gofundme. But there's a lot more needed – they're less than 10% of the way to their goal.

I donated.

Ella Jones is Ferguson's new mayor (permalink)

The Black Lives Matter movement began in the Ferguson uprising, whose proximate cause was the police murder of Michael Brown, but whose context was a city that survived by immiserating and incarcerating Black people.

Ferguson is one of those Red State low-tax zones, having capitulated to the tax extremism of right-wing, white, wealthy people, and yet, it was also a city that needed to keep the lights on, pave the roads, and run its schools.

So to find revenue, Ferguson turned to its poorest residents – its Black people – inventing a modern form of debt bondage, wherein Black people were stopped for petty infractions and then subjected to massive fines.

Failure to pay those fines created more fines, and so on. And since debts that can't be paid won't be paid, the city needed a way to convince Black people to go into punitive debt to pay their fines and penalties.

So they created debtors' prisons.

The point being: the racist cops who harassed, beat and even murdered the people of Ferguson may have been motivated by sadism and a disregard for human life, but the system itself? It had a business-model. It was about dehumanizing and abusing people for financial gain.

Flash forward to today, and there is genuine, long-overdue change in the wind.

Ferguson just elected its first Black mayor, Ella Jones.

Asked to sum up the significance of her win, Jones said, "One word: inclusion."

Ferguson's police force now answers to Jones. She has the ability to set the city's agenda, up to a less barbaric way of funding its operation than debtors' prisons.

Ferguson is not alone in funding itself through legal harassment. In America, the Blacker a city is, the more it fines its residents.

Jones's win a small step, and long overdue, but it's also a small sliver of goodness in a time of rage and sorrow.

Why protests become violent (permalink)

Amid all the bad-faith cherry-picking of MLK's speeches on nonviolent resistance as a means of dismissing the valid and necessary anger in America's streets, there's a real question: why do some protests include property damage and violence, and what can be done about it?

Let's start with when and whether "violent" protests work. Many people have cited the massive, nonviolent South Korean protests of 2016 as evidence that peaceful protest is, in and of itself, sufficient to create political change.

But as Ask A Korean points out, these protests were the culmination of years of violent clashes between protesters and police. The "peaceful" protests of 2016 were triggered by the increasing police violence in suppressing the more muscular protests that preceded them.

The South Korean police had declared open season on Jeolla-do people, killing them with impunity. But student protesters weren't killed – they were arrested, beaten and maimed, but murder was out.

In 1987, though, the police murdered two students, Park Jong-cheo (waterboarded to death) and Yi Han-yeol (gas cannister to his head); this precipitated the "June Struggle," in which the protest's vanguard was joined by a mass movement of white-collar professionals.

The June Struggle was the death-knell for the authoritarian regime of Chun Doo-hwan.

The same thing happened in 2016/7: labor unions, farmers, and other disfavored people protested in the face of overwhelming police violence, staying on the lines.

The injuries and deaths mobilized white collar professionals and their families, people whom the police could not beat or murder with impunity. Those were the "peaceful" protests – peaceful because the police did not dare raise their clubs to the "protected" class.

This isn't just a lesson about tactics; it's also a lesson about the origin of violence in policing. Indeed, as Maggie Koerth writes in Five Thirty Eight, there is decades' worth of research on the subject.

The unequivocal finding of this peer-reviewed research: police escalation leads to violence. Sending police to protests in riot gear begets riots. Tear-gas begets violence. These are the findings of scholars and blue-ribbon panels alike.

They are roundly ignored by police.

There's a feedback loop: violent suppression of protest leads to militancy among protesters; this is the pretence for more violent suppression. We know this, we just don't act on it.

Instead, "We live in a world where trained cops can panic and act on impulse, but untrained civilians must remain calm with a gun in their face."

Some police officials argue that de-escalation puts cops at risk – that turning the other cheek when your adversary is in a hitting mood is suicidal tactics. That may sound reasonable, but only if you fail to ask why your adversary is in that mood.

Maybe it's because the police union has campaigned to continue violent, sadistic "Warrior training" for its officers, teaching them to treat the people they police as their enemies.

Credibility and consent of the governed is an asset that is easy to squander and hard to accumulate. But the only way out of the trap of mistrust and trauma is to demonstrate goodwill.



(Image: 샛길, CC BY-SA)

PPE vs riot gear (permalink)

Dressing up cops like they're on patrol in Mosul isn't just a bad policing, it's also incredibly expensive.

Michael Jude Deleon Plondaya did some rough calculations, using the gear visible on US cops and checking prices with Security Pro USA's bargain/sale page.

The total he came to, $854, is a lowball estimate, but even so, it's more than enough to outfit 55 front-line health-care workers in top-of-the-range PPE.

Neoclassical economists bang on about "revealed preferences" – say that you shouldn't listen to what people say about their economic choices, but rather what they do.

Disregard the words of lifelong smokers who say they're bitter about their lung cancer and attend instead to all the cigarettes they smoked.

Ignore peoples' stated concerns about Facebook's privacy invasions and pay attention, instead, to the amount of time they spend there.

As critics of this theory have pointed out, people may do things because they are addicted, or coralled, or coerced.

But I think there's value in applying revealed preferences to a society.

When officials decide to spend 5,500% of the cost of outfitting pandemic workers on outfitting militarized police, they are telling you who they think you are, and what you value.

More importantly, they're telling you who they are, and what they value.

Zoom wants to help the FBI spy on you (permalink)

Zoom has caught a lot of (deserving) flack for its insecurity, which inaugurated the pandemic with an epidemic of "zoombombing" by trolls. Things got worse when we learned that the company had lied about its encryption.

But since then, the company has made great strides in improving its security, including adding real, end-to-end encryption to its meetings (for paid customers). This means that no one, not even Zoom itself, can spy on those meetings without an invitation.

But when it comes to UNPAID meetings, there is no such privacy. The company can spy on everything you do in those meetings. When asked to explain this discrepancy, Zoom CEO (and newly minted billionaire) Eric Yuan was refreshingly frank.

"Free users for sure we don’t want to give that because we also want to work together with FBI, with local law enforcement in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose."

That is, Zoom wants to ensure that the same law enforcement agencies that are brutalizing American protesters can spy on them while they plan their protests. There's no legal requirement for this.

It's just Zoom, taking a side.

Trivial-to-spoof UK contact tracing (permalink)

The UK's contact-tracing system has spared little thought for security; if you may have been exposed, you'll get a phone call from a stranger, warning you to get tested. The only way to verify these calls is to check the (easy to spoof) caller ID.

The risk is far from hypothetical. Britons have been plagued by scammers who used fake texts and phone calls to trick people into dialing high-cost toll numbers or hand over personal information.

Alas, the UK did not follow through on an earlier project to create a separate emergency alert infrastructure.

There's still the possibility of creating such a system with the UK's (still not ready for primetime) app, but whether or not that happens, the UK should take this opportunity to create that infrastructure before the next crisis.

AT&T; will punish Disney+ viewers (permalink)

AT&T; epitomizes the failure of America's corporate regulation. After the company spent millions on dirty tricks to help Trump's FCC Chairman Ajit Pai kill Net Neutrality, it went on a stock-buyback spree while reducing its network improvement budget.

Capex continued to suffer, even after the company got a $20B tax cut from the Trump tax deal.

One thing the company DID spend on was acquisitions, going on a buying spree that included acquiring Time-Warner and Directv.

Randall Stephenson, the CEO who oversaw this plan, got paid $32m for his trouble, even as the company haemorrhaged money and subscribers, as his plan to "synergize" telcoms and entertainment failed spectacularly.

Stephenson collected a golden parachute and bailed on AT&T;, but the synergy plan lives on, merging every strand of AT&T;'s monopolistic behavior.

They're going to exempt HBO Max from broadband bills, while charging for rivals like Disney+ and Netflix.

Disney has bet the farm on Disney+: without theme parks, movie theaters, hotels or cruise ships, the company is hoping to leverage a $6/month teaser rate for subscriptions into a position so dominant that cable operators won't dare mess with them.

This is Netflix's plan as well: to be so well-loved by cable subscribers that cable operators won't dare to mess with them.

This is not a good plan.

AT&T; is desperate, cord-cutting is epidemic, the company has a massive overhang from its attempt to create a vertical monopoly, and it has never, ever been shy about making its customers angry at it.

As HBO Max boss Tony Concalves told The Verge: "The network is the plumbing, and the content is the water. And you’re seeing water and the plumbing kind of coming together."

This is going to get ugly.

K-pop fandom pivots to human rights hacktivism (permalink)

K-pop fandom is feared all over the net for its power to mobilize bazillions of stans to flood servers with fancams – short videos of K-pop stars performing.

Now, they're disrupting authoritarians.

It started on Sunday, when K-pop fancams overwhelmed the Dallas Police Department's snitchline, where people had been asked to submit videos of protesters breaking the law. DPD surrendered and shut it down.

Now they're flooding the hashtags for #MAGA and #BlueLivesMatter, answering @stayy_zz's call to action; they've also overwhelmed Kirland, WA's snitch hashtag, #calminkirkland.

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago KGB successor wants Great Firewall of Russia

#5yrsago Neal Stephenson's Seveneves: five thousand years of apocalypse and rebirth

#5yrsago Abortion workers: the terrorist victims America won't protect

#5yrsago Letter from the post-work dystopian future

#5yrsago On Allen Ginsberg's 89th birthday, read his FBI file

#5yrsago USA Freedom Act: the good, the bad, and what's next USA Freedom Act Passes: What We Celebrate, What We Mourn, and Where We Go From Here

Speech Police: vital, critical look at the drive to force Big Tech to control who may speak and what they may say

#1yrago Ted Chiang's "Op Ed From the Future": socialized transhumanism vs American oligarchy

#1yrago Report from the Fed reveals that "economic growth" is a highly localized phenomena, masking widespread financial desperation

#1yrago All weekend, California Democrats booed neoliberal would-be presidents who talked down the Green New Deal and Medicare for All

#1yrago That woman who got fired for comparing Michelle Obama to an ape is now going to jail for defrauding FEMA

#1yrago The army of contractor-linguists who power Google Assistant say they had their wages stolen

#1yrago Rumor: DoJ is going to investigate Google for antitrust violations—dow-jones.html

#1yrago Stop saying "robots are coming for your job"; start saying "Your boss wants to replace you with a robot"

Colophon (permalink)

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

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 504 words (22583 total).

Currently reading: Adventures of a Dwergish Girl, Daniel Pinkwater

Latest podcast: How Big Tech Monopolies Distort Our Public Discourse

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

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