Pluralistic: 20 Jun 2020

Today's links

Everybody Knows (permalink)

Between the pandemic, the uprisings, and the gloves-off/mask-off rhetoric of the GOP's white supremacist leaders (and the dog-whistles of the reactionary elements of the Democrats), it's clear that the system is very, very broken, and can't/won't survive in its current form.

I often return to Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows," an anthem for looming rupture:

Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes

A more specific, incandescent, and contemporary version is Charles Hugh Smith's recent essay, "For the Rich to Keep Getting Richer, We Have to Sacrifice Everything Else."

Smith opens with the apologists' chorus: "inequality isn't quite as bad as everyone claims"; "inequality is bad, but it's notpolicymakers' fault; the causes are all beyond our control"; "we're mystified how giving trillions to the super-wealthy somehow made them richer."

And "We're perplexed why so little of the trillions we've handed the already-super-rich has trickled down to the little gals and guys struggling to keep their heads above water."

This isn't a new phenomenon: it's part of a 40-year program that's left us with "no cultural memory of a time when "democracy" wasn't a pay-to-play bidding war between vested interests, insiders, billionaires, global corporations and PACs pushing self-serving agendas."

This hasn't merely stripped most of us of our material wealth, it's also left us with "nothing binding the nation together except I got mine greed, narcissism and anger, all of which fuel a blood-soaked circus of fragmentation and disorder."

The beneficiaries of this system have no idea how awful they sound when they explain why it's all fine: "Academics who've gorged on the $2 trillion in student loan debt have no idea how they sound when they insist that their class is so valuable that it's worth any price."

"Healthcare and Big Pharma CEOs must not realize how offensively clownish their defense of $1 million medical bills sound to people who are being forced into bankruptcy so the CEOs can collect an extra $20 million in stock options this quarter."

And while small business owners have to personally guarantee the loans they need to survive the crisis, big business has access to unlimited government capital and face no consequences when they squander it.

"If you're the CEO of an airline who borrowed $46 billion and blew it buying your own stocks so you could cash in millions of dollars in stock options–never mind that, here's $50 billion in bailout money that won't require you to make any personal sacrifice whatsoever."

"Consider this database of 6,300 major corporate fines and settlements from the early 1990s to 2015 compiled by Jon Morse. Nobody made any personal sacrifices or paid any personal fines or served any prison time for any of these thousands of violations."

("A fine is a price")

"Generating goods, services and jobs is for chumps. Get over it. The real money is made bellying up to the Fed's free money for financiers spigot."

"Longshot" NYPD surveillance transparency law passes (permalink)

The uprisings over racist police violence are not the endpoint – they're part of a pattern of waves of discontent that build and build in frequency and intensity, as more people come to the cause. On the way, the protests lead to structural changes that help with that growth.

Case in point: NYC Council has passed the longshot "Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act" with a veto-proof majority of 44-6, (that veto-proofness isn't as important as it was a couple weeks ago, before Mayor de Blasio switched from opposing to supporting POST).

POST is a modest but crucial step to ending the impunity of cops. It "requires NYPD to publish a use policy for each surveillance tech it intends to use."

Then there's public comment, and then "the NYPD Commissioner will be required to provide a final version of the surveillance impact and use policy to the City Council, the mayor, and the public."

This is so modest that the cops' vehement opposition to it demonstrates their understanding of how overreaching and unpopular the currently secret use of surveillance tech would be if it was known.

But it's also so foundational: how can you ask for changes in police surveillance tech if the tech itself is a secret?

Bravo to STOP for their tireless activism on this law, and congratulations on a stunning victory!

STOP is part of EFF's Electronic Frontier Alliance, a network of dozens of grassroots organizations across America who coordinate for causes of technological liberation. Here's where you can find an EFA chapter near you.

POST follows on from other, similar struggles that brought notorious, surveillant police forces to heel: in Oakland, activists from Oakland Privacy – another EFA member – got comprehensive police surveillance accountability legislation passed in 2018.

(Image: Cryteria, CC BY, modified)

Juneteenth in the Internet Archive (permalink)

Many of us know the Internet Archive through the Wayback Machine, an incredible archive of virtually every web-page ever created, stretching back decades.

But the Archive has so much more than that: among its wealth of open access holdings is an archive of material relevant to anyone trying to understand the historical context of Juneteenth.

Their Community Media Archive has 193 local news reports on celebrations of Juneteenth from 2016-2019.

Then there are the anti-slavery collections from Oberlin and the Boston Public Library:

I got lost for hours in the 1700+ documents in the James Birney Collection of Anti-Slavery Pamphlets, scanned from the archives of Johns Hopkins.

There's loads more, but I especially want to call your attention to the Historical Slavery Collection, which features oral histories from, and photos of, formerly enslaved people, courtesy of the New Deal's Federal Writers Project.

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Ringtone of Philippine prez fixing election wildly popular;=theworld&col;=

#15yrsago Starbucks mermaid: from dirty 15th C engraving to sanitized logo

#10yrsago Mickey Mouse, amphetamine shill

#5yrsago The snitch in your pocket: making sense of Stingrays

#5yrsago Schneier: China and Russia probably did get the Snowden leaks — by hacking the NSA

#5yrsago UK High Court's insane ruling: ripping CDs is illegal again

#5yrsago Teaching image-recognition algorithms to produce nightmarish hellscapes

#1yrago Tennessee lawmaker defends operating an unregistered "Christian magic supply" business

#1yrago Ta-Nehisi Coates makes the case for reparations to Congress

#1yrago Wonderful profile of Anita Sarkeesian, the feminist games critic who made an army of shitty manbabies very, very upset

#1yrago The "ghost networks" of mental health professionals that US health insurers rely on to deny care to their patients

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Slashdot (, Waxy (, Naked Capitalism (

Currently writing:

  • My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Friday's progress: 503 words (29686 total).
  • A short story, "Making Hay," for MIT Tech Review. Yesterday's progress: 317 words (2251 total)

Currently reading: Adventures of a Dwergish Girl, Daniel Pinkwater

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