Pluralistic: 27 Jul 2020

Today's links

Constitution Illustrated (permalink)

Cartoonist R Sikoryak is not like any other: in addition to his own style, he is an uncanny mimic, capable of conjuring up the styles of hundreds of other creators with eerie versimilitude.

This is no mere party trick. Sikoryak has turned this gift into a novel and distinctive form of narrative nonfiction. In TERMS AND CONDITIONS, Sikoryak renders the entire text of the Itunes EULA as a graphic novel, in the style of dozens of artists.

Ts&Cs;' conceit is that each page is rendered in the style of a different, beloved creator, and populated by a stylized Steve Jobs figure (again, in that creator's distinctive character-design style) who hops from panel to panel, emitting speech bubbles.

Through these bubbles flow the text of the Itunes EULA, a sprawling garbage-novella of cod-legalese that is somehow, alchemically, transformed into a work of legitimate art – some of the worst prose in history made into a superb graphic novel.

Sikoryak's back with another nonfiction graphic novel pastiche involving a very different text: CONSTITUTION ILLUSTRATED gives the Ts&Cs; treatment to the US Constitution, widely hailed for its soaring prose and its cunning institution design.

And while Sikoryak once again cycles through dozens of creators' styles, a page at a time, for each clause, amendment and annotation, this time he matches the art to the text, using it to illustrate, illuminate, juxtapose and critique the Constitution.

I was thrilled so see some of my absolute favorite artists represented in this volume: Nicole "Sylvia" Hollander; Scott "Understanding Comics" McCloud; Dana "Heavenly Nostrils" Simpson; Garry "Doonesbury" Trudeau; Lynda "Ernie Pook" Barry; and so many others.

This is a golden age of nontraditional constitutional scholarship, because it is a dark age of once-in-a-century constitutional crises. Constitution Illustrated joins a canon that includes Ken White's Make No Law:

Or Roman Mars's "What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law":

And Radiolab's incredible More Perfect:

My HOPE 2020 talk (permalink)

Last weekend, I gave a remote keynote talk for 2600 Magazine's HOPE2020 conference. As I mentioned in the announcement, the talk was a completely new one for me, representing a serious shift in my thinking on tech and human freedom.

The HOPE folks put the talk online and I just watched it again and I confess to being almost indecently pleased with how it worked out.

The talk was a read-aloud of my next Locus Magazine column – the longest, most in-depth column I've written in the decade-plus I've been writing for them. The text will be online in ~6 weeks.

BTW, that's not a Zoom background: it's the bar we built in the backyard during the plague. It's super cool.;_search=1&tags;=tikibar&user;_id=37996580417%40N01&view;_all=1

Replace the police (permalink)

"Abolish the police" doesn't mean abandoning public safety: it's about replacing armed police officers with public services that perform the same safety roles. Writing in the The Appeal, Alex Vitale sets out 10 ways we can (and should) replace the police.

I. Mental health/social workers respond to crises

Don't send cops to deal with people having mental health crises. 25% of lethal cop encounters are with people experiencing mental health crises. Not to put to fine a point on it, but this is nuts.

II. Violence interrupters to reduce gun violence

Violence is an epidemiological crisis. The overwhelming evidence is that contact tracing and other public health intervention reduces gun violence (cops do not).

III. Unarmed traffic patrols

Cops pull brown people over as a pretext for racist interrogations and searches that often turn violent, even lethal. You don't need a gun to tell someone to fix their tail-light or to get a wreck out of traffic.

IV. Civilian control of crime lab

Junk science = junk policing. Bad crime-labs are at the center of so many wrongful convictions, and the evidence supports this. Forensics should be a neutral fact-finding exercise, not cover-your-ass science-washing.

V. Fund better and safer transit service

Starved and failing transit systems are not improved by diverting hundreds of millions from service to policing. And (no surprise) the majority of violent police encounters on transit target people of color.

VI. School wellness centers

Your kid's school doesn't need armed cops, it needs specialists in "mental health, restorative justice, de-escalation, and building positive relationships with their students." They work. Cops don't.

VII. Dispute resolution experts for neighborhood/domestic disputes

In some places half of policing is domestic/neighborhood. Back-fence shouting matches don't need armed cops, they need crisis response units, which are cheaper AND more effective.

VIII. Support, not police, for people experiencing homelessness

Armed cops don't fix homelessness. Homes do. In PDX, half of arrests are for homelessness! Send medics and social workers, and spend the rest of the money on homes.

IX. Integrated crisis centers

Don't send cops to drag people in mental crisis to ERs. Open "integrated crisis centers" instead, trained to address addiction and mental health issues.

X. Trained civilians for property offenses

George Floyd was accused of passing a bad $20 bill. You don't need armed cop for that – or to fill in a report for a stolen bike or a broken window. These are administrative matters, not war-zones.

The thing about these measures is that they're not just "alternatives to policing" – they are cheaper, more effective alternatives. Policing advocates say they care about public safety? Fine. Do this.

Vitale runs Brooklyn College's Policing and Social Justice Project. He's got a whole book on this stuff, the pithily titled "The End of Policing."

NYPD disciplinary records (permalink)

You know that thing where some people say policing is systemically rotten and others insist it's "just a few bad apples" (dude, "one bad apple spoils the bunch!"). If only there was some way to empirically resolve this dispute!

Turns out, there is. For decades, the discipline records of #NYPD officers were a secret, thanks to state law 50-a. That was repealed after the murder of George Floyd, in response to the Black Lives Matter uprising.

Now, Propublica has organized these records in a searchable database: "The database lists active-duty officers who’ve had at least one allegation against them substantiated by the CCRB: That’s about 4000 officers out of the 36000-member force."

Propublica's release comes as other entities with access to the data- the NYCLU, the CCRB and the city – have been barred from publishing the same data after a temporary restraining order following a suit by the police union (they forgot to name Propublica in the suit!).

Propublica is not publishing the full database: they have confined themselves to substantiated claims that were upheld by the CCRB, a limited, anemic agency that doubtless misses countless instances of wrongdoing (they investigated 3000 cases in 2018 and substantiated 73).

Even that subset is grotesque – and militates for forcing the NYPD to fulfill its legal obligation (routinely flouted) to cooperated with CCRB investigations: "I exonerated tons of cases that involved awful conduct…It’s kind of haunting. -Former CCRB investigator Dan Bodah

Some stats:

  • 303 officers have 5 or more substantiated allegations and are still on the job

  • 5000 substantiated instances of "physical abuse"

  • 2000 "frisk"s

  • 600 "gun pointed"s

(Image Teresa Shen, CC BY)

New podcast episode (permalink)

My latest podcast installment is up! It's the eleventh part of my reading of my 2006 novel SOMEONE COMES TO TOWN, SOMEONE LEAVES TOWN, a book Gene Wolfe called "a glorious book unlike any book you’ve ever read."

This week's reading includes the infamous "thumb" scene, inspired by David Nickle's 1996 story "The Unshackling of Thumbs."

Also new this week: I THINK I've fixed the bug that prevented the episodes from sorting correctly in Itunes (thanks Lee McGuire!)

Here's the previous installments in the reading:

Here's the direct MP3 link, hosted by the Internet Archive (they'll host your stuff for free, forever, too!):

Here's the podcast feed:

Finger-mounted crossbows (permalink)

Craft Workbench is a mysterious, just-created Youtube channel with a strong debut: an Assassin's Creed finger-mounted crossbow that fires toothpicks.

Come for the spectacle of a teeny weeny crossbow, stay for the comic spectacle of cucumbers being slain by high-speed toothpicks!

This day in history (permalink)

#10yrsago What "curated computing" can and can't deliver

#5yrsago Satanic Temple required protesters to pledge their souls to Satan as condition of entry

#5yrsago When it comes to censorship, WordPress has your back

#1yrago Germany's powerful IG Metall trade union is organizing Youtubers to force Google to play fair

#1yrago Irish islamaphobe condemns Halal grocery as evidence of creeping islamification, is subsequently forcefully reminded of the global proliferation of Irish pubs

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Kottke (, Boing Boing (

Currently writing:

  • My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Friday's progress: 517 words (41820 total).

Currently reading: Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Latest podcast: Full Employment:

Upcoming appearances:

Latest book:

Upcoming books:

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