Pluralistic: 23 Sep 2020

Today's links

Blacklight (permalink)

Blacklight is a new "realtime web privacy inspector" from The Markup: you give a URL, and it gives you back a realtime snapshot of the trackers on that page.

Though you may think of this as a "gotcha" tool that lets you see how the site you visit are nonconsensually harvesting your data, a core audience for this tool is web publishers, who often have no idea how the partners they trust invite others to the party.

As Aaron Sankin and Surya Mattu discuss in their accompanying feature, proprietors of privacy-sensitive sites have no idea that the simple discussion board they've chosen smuggles in 21 other companies' trackers!

The Markup used Blacklight to analyze 80,000 top-rated sites, finding, for example, 200 popular sites that run Javascript keyloggers, and that sites serving women seeking abortions or ondocumented migrants expose their users to third-party trackers.

As do government covid sites, the Mayo Clinic and other health sites, state Departments of Health, etc.

The Markup doesn't leave you with no way to defend yourself – rather, they provide an excellent guide to online surveillance self-defense:

Avoiding climate lockdowns (permalink)

Writing in Project Syndicate, Mariana Mazzucato warns us of a looming wave of "climate lockdowns" – harsh limits on our normal activities triggered by runaway effects of the neglected climate emergency:

Those of us in the American west have just lived through one of these lockdowns, as the pandemic made it potentially lethal to see others indoors, while the wildfire smoke made it likewise untenable to do anything outdoors as our skies turned postapocalyptic blood-red.

As Mazzucato writes, the crisis is made up of three entwined strands, each worsening the other:

I. The climate crisis

II. The health crisis

III. The economic crisis

For example: covid comes from climate change.

Zoonitic plagues come from environmental degradation and habitat destruction, which sends animals into places with no predators, along with their diseases (for which there is no local resistance).,caused%20more%20than%20750%2C000%20deaths.

And the botched covid response comes from economic dysfunction, which created our patchwork, underfunded health-care system and the incoherence of our low-paid "essential workers" – as well as our states' preference for bailing out shareholders, rather than workers.

Add to that, our inadequate labor protections, from the meat-packing-plant outbreaks to LA's blazing covid flareups, caused not by mask-refusal, but by employer-refusal – jobs where precarious workers have no real protections, either for their health or their paycheck.

So: climate change exposes us to pathogens, pathogens burn through our civilization because of wealth-concentration, labor precarity, and anemic public services.

Climate, disease and economics – three strands, hopelessly snarled together, impossible to untangle.

And any of them can trigger lockdowns: moments, even months, when our everyday activities grind to a halt, maybe even disappearing forever.

Mazzucato warns that a failure to act will result in sharp changes: state-ordered halts to private vehicle use, oil extraction, meat consumption, etc, and not in a managed way that ensures the people involved in these activities don't have their lives destroyed.

She identifies three green economic transformations we need to make to avert this crisis-management style of adaptation:

I. Abolish shareholderism in favor of stakeholderism: force firms to reckon with communities, workers, and climate.

This means no more bailouts without conditions – public ownership stakes, limits on future activities, from pollution to tax-evasion.

II. Use finance appropriately and adequately: At the national level, create job guarantees, ban the use of the most environmentally damaging materials and processes.

Reorient finance around 25-year horizons instead of 5-10 year ones.

III. Replace outmoded economic theory and faulty assumptions: revive the entrepreneurial state, that "innovates, takes risks, and invests alongside the private sector" while "crowding in innovation from multiple actors to achieve public green goals."

While we're doing this, let's "evict fossil-fuel interests and short-termism from business, finance, and politics" with divestiture by banks and universities.

Mazzucato reminds us that radical change is coming, and the choice is whether or not we manage that change.

Mazzucato made her reputation with her 2013 book "The Entrepreneurial State," which documents the extent to which private-sector innovations are nothing but repackaged, publicly funded work – work that, ironically, business is anxious to de-fund.

She's had quite a storied career, as the New York Times documented in a fantastic profile in 2019:

For an even better introduction to her work, check out "Rethinking Capitalism," her open access lecture series for University College London, which has been called "The Feynman Lectures for Economics."

Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy Day in Trump's America (permalink)

There are many recurring riffs in Ruben Bolling's long-running, award-winning Tom the Dancing Bug strip, but my favorite by far are his riffs on Richard Scarry's Busytown, which work both as at-a-glance laughs and also contain numerous tiny jabs that reward close attention.

Today's strip, "Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy Day in Trump's America," is a great example of the form:

I love the page-spanning gags like the contrasting "innocent red state victim" of a hurricane and the "blue state moocher" cowering from wildfires being put out by a "slave labor prisoner."

And also the dense tableaux in the middle of the panel, like the "Youtube enthusiast" heading into the pizza parlor, the "bankers" going into the food bank, the unmarked van, and the "overly exuberant youth" murdering a protester.

If you like Bolling's work, you can support it by joining The Inner Hive, with bonus materials and early access to his strips.

This day in history (permalink)

#10yrsago Contrastive reduplication: do you LIKE IT like it?

#10yrsago Brighton, England town council says that councillor is violating copyright law by youtubing the council meetings

#5yrsago It’s surprisingly easy to set up a convincing, highly regarded fake online business

#5yrsago Don’t discuss the environment if you’re brown and British (Ahmed Mohamed with UK characteristics)

#5yrsago VW con produced as much extra air pollution as all UK power generation, industry, ag & vehicles

#5yrsago McDonald’s Japan’s straws: designed to mimic experience of nursing at your mother’s breast

#5yrsago How to save online advertising

#5yrsago Why biometrics suck, the Office of Personnel Management edition

#5yrsago HOWTO make a physical, papercraft GPG box

#5yrsago Happy Birthday is in the public domain

#1yrgo Bernie Sanders promises to zero out all US medical debt and end medical bankruptcies

#1yrago Sarah Pinsker’s “Song for a New Day”: outstanding dystopian rock-and-roll novel of rebellion and redemption

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: David Callahan, Naked Capitalism (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 501 words (64369 total).

Currently reading: Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

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