Pluralistic: 27 Jun 2020

Today's links

Public domain songbook (permalink)

In The Public Domain Song Anthology, leading jazz repertory experts David Berger and Chuck Israel assemble "348 popular songs with modern and traditional harmonization for both study and performance."

"This anthology is the first of its kind and is free for students and performers to use, adapt, remix, and share. The songs, many of which are at risk of being forgotten, are free of copyright and are available in multiple formats to promote greater usage and dissemination."

You can get the music as PDFs, Sibelius files, or in XML.

Santa Cruz bans predictive policing (permalink)

Predictive Policing systems don't predict where crime will happen – they predict where the police will look for crime (that is, it predicts police, not criminals, and it gets to cheat because cops are required to follow its predictions, making them self-fulfilling prophecy).

Santa Cruz is a superspreader of the predictive policing junk-science epidemic, home to the HQ of Predpol, the secretive police profiteers who have marketed their tools to small towns, big cities, even campuses.

That's why it's so significant that the City of Santa Cruz has banned the use of predictive policing tools – whether Predpol's or its rivals:

"Understanding how predictive policing and facial recognition can be disportionately biased against people of color, we officially banned the use of these technologies in the city of Santa Cruz." -Mayor Justin Cummings

It's a pretty bad look when your product – your whole product category – is banned by the city in which your multinational firm is headquartered.

Snowden on tech's Oppenheimers (permalink)

In Vice's "Surveillance Pandemic," Edward Snowden, Naomi Klein , Jacinta González and Edward Ongweso Jr discuss the use of surveillance technology to neutralize the Black Lives Matter uprising.

One of the more compelling moments in the discussion came when Snowden talked about the complicity tech workers have in the use of their creations to surveil human rights activists in order to perpetuate systemic racism and violence.

Snowden's uniquely suited to speak to this issue, given that he risked his life and ended up in permanent exile when his conscience demanded that he reveal the scope of NSA surveillance to a team of investigative journalists.

Tech has been rocked by a yearslong series of mounting worker uprisings, in which workers have demanded that their employers address the impunity powerful men enjoy when they sexually assault and harass women in the firms.

Workers rose up against supplying machine learning tools for military drones, providing surveillance and analytics to ICE, building censored/spying search tools for China, supply facial recognition to law enforcement, and providing a platform for Trump's threats and lies.

Other causes include environmental justice and sustainability, solidarity with low-waged warehouse workers, tech's funding of racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic politicians, and so on.

These uprisings are significant because of the incredible labor shortage in some tech disciplines, which gives tech workers rare leverage over their employers. In some cases, if a specific tech worker refuses to build something, it will not get built.

Snowden: "The reality is all work is political work. We’re all confronted with choices about how our labor is used, how we direct that, who we are really serving, who we’re working for and who benefits from the labor of our lives."

Of course, tech has a long tradition of dire regrets that come too late. The canonical example is Oppenheimer, who watched the first nuclear explosion with dread, intoning, "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

Oppenheimer spent the rest of his career arguing against indiscriminate nuclear weapons development, but his campaign would have been much more effective if it had started BEFORE he led the charge to develop the A-bomb.

Snowden: "Engineers like to believe that they’re like scientists, what they do is something that is pure, and they’re just trying to get the rocket up. Where the rocket comes down is not their department."

(A Tom Lehrer reference!)

He went on to describe something akin to my idea of the "Shitty Technology Adoption Curve" – the way bad technology ascends a privilege gradient that may start with asylum seekers, prisoners or children, but it ends up encompassing everyone.

"These technologies were forged in the war front but they have a way of moving to the home front and they’re used against the disenfranchised, they’re used against the people with the least, they’re used against vulnerable minorities, and then they’re used against everyone. Even if you feel like this doesn’t affect you personally, it does and it will in time."

How Hump! went online (permalink)

Hump! is Dan Savage's's "dirty little film festival" featuring short pornographic movies made by amateurs. They run the range from hilarious to sexy to weird to indescribable, and are universally delightful.

Savage created the festival in a bid to preserve the dirty movie experience of yore in which you could only see a porno in a room full of strangers.

To reassure the filmmakers that they wouldn't be compromised by their contributions, the films only play in movie theaters where mobile phone use is totally banned. In 15 years, not one of the films leaked online.

But with the lockdown, Hump's tour was cut short, and Savage tried something new: he wrote to his filmmakers to see if they'd consent to having their videos streamed online. He got many takers, and the festival moved online.

It was such a success that Savage contacted the audience's favorite filmmakers from the entire run of the festival and created a new anthology series: HUMP! Greatest Hits, Volume 1.

In an interview with Sam Machkovech for Ars Technica, Savage describes the cultural shifts to which he attributes the willingness of filmmakers to appear in an online festival:

"In a world of sites like OnlyFans, and the creeping, dawning awareness that all of us have dirty sex—and maybe even dirty video clips we share with friends and lovers in circulation out there, as part of the permanent record—the stigma is less if someone were to be outed."

We had a date-night outing to Hump in 2019 and it was fantastic. Machkovech likens it to a midnight screening of Rocky Horror, which is fair enough. But the part that was most striking is the part that Savage himself emphasizes: exposure to stuff that is both deeply personal and totally unlike the work you'd seek out on your own.

"At first, all they can see is what's not theirs. Not my preferred kind of partner, not my gender, not my kinks. But in a moment, they go from not seeing what's theirs to recognizing what's the same. Gender differences, kinks—they're all a thin veneer laid upon everything we have in common: desire, passion, vulnerability, a sense of humor, and a desire for connection and intimacy. All of that is the same. After the five-to-six film mark, you see that shift. No matter how off-the-wall the next film is, everyone's cheering for each film. It becomes this celebratory, affirming vibe. You're shielding your eyes at first, then you're watching and cheering at the same content."

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Hilary Rosen: Killing Napster didn't bring market control

#10yrsago Stiglitz: spending cuts won't cure recession

#5yrsago CNN mistakes a Pride Parade flag covered in dildos for the ISIS flag

#1yrago Rage Inside the Machine: an insightful, brilliant critique of AI's computer science, sociology, philosophy and economics

#1yrago Internet users are wising up to persuasive "nudge" techniques

#1yrago Congress orders Ajit Pai: hands off San Francisco's broadband competition law

#1yrago A "Fake News Game" that "vaccinates" players against disinformation

#1yrago NYC Mesh, a neutral, nonprofit meshing ISP, dramatically expands access in Brooklyn

#1yrago Robert Reich backs Elizabeth Warren's plan to break up Big Tech

#1yrago How Memphis's Methodist University Hospital, a "nonprofit," sued the shit out of its Black, poor patients while raking in millions and paying execs more than a million each

#1yrago Hong Kong protesters repeatedly blockade police HQ, demanding release of people arrested at #612strike demonstrations

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Fipi Lele, Naked Capitalism (

Currently writing:

  • My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Friday's progress: 559 words (32358 total).

  • A short story, "Making Hay," for MIT Tech Review. Friday's progress: 304 words (3922 total)

Currently reading: Goliath, Matt Stoller.

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 07)

Upcoming appearances:

Upcoming books: "Poesy the Monster Slayer" (Jul 2020), a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here: Get a personalized, signed copy 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:; personalized/signed copies here:

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

Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.

How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):

Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.