Pluralistic: 18 Oct 2020

Today's links

Happy World Standards Day or not (permalink)

Standardization is an amazing and terrible thing. Standards are easy to appreciate when they benefit you, and when standards aren't present, things get pretty awful, both immediately and enduringly.

Think of Australia's "mixed gauge muddle" – a continent-wide standardization fail in which rail gauges abruptly shift, meaning that cargo and passengers have to be transferred from one car/engine to another.

A century and a half on, the muddle still isn't resolved (though there's finally real progress in the form of tearing up and replacing thousands of kilometers of rail) (yowch).

My whole career in tech, first as a founder, and then as an activist, has been spent fighting fuckery in standards orgs, as giant companies seek to enshrine a permanent advantage, at public expense, by subverting standardizaiton.

In fact, as far as I can tell, today may be the 20th anniversary of my first foray into standards-based fuckery!*/

Twenty years of standards-body meetings has given me a healthy respect for the good work of standardization, and a deep and abiding trauma from standards processes that go awry due to greed, personal hubris, or dysfunctional personalities.

Which is why I laughed aloud and then wept a little when I happened upon this nugget today: Oct 14 is World Standards Day, according to the IEC, ISO and ITU.


But not according to ANSI, which observes World Standards Week, Oct 19-23, along with NIST.


Progressives demand ban on corporate execs in government (permalink)

My theory of US political equilibrium: both parties would like to please their donors, partly because it gives them the finance to win elections, and partly because individual party apparats want fat lobbyist or think-tank gigs after a stint in government.

But the donor class's goals are all antithetical to human thriving: eking out a few basis points of growth in the fortunes of monopolists or their shareholder is only possible by making millions of already hard-done-by voters worse off.

The equilibrium, then, is to fuck over voters enough to please the donor class, but not so much that they grow discouraged and stay home, or, worse, switch sides. AKA: the 2016 election.

This isn't a static calculus, though. You can offset fucking-over-the-base measures by throwing them red meat. That's Amy Coney Barrett all over: her SCOTUS career will deliver a terrible harrowing to the GOP base's lives.

She's all in on total impunity for polluters, workplace maimers, and price-gougers. If a bankster steals your house or farm in a couple years, if you are crippled by a piece of poorly maintained workplace machinery, or if you die of dioxin poisoning, it'll be thanks to ACB.

But ACB will also help make forced pregnancy the law of the land, and return to bigots the right to practice cruel and gratuitous discrimination against queer and brown people. She's an ideal nominee for getting slugs to vote for salt.

The plutes who are funneling hundreds of millions in dark money to the campaign to seat her before the election aren't opening their wallets to ban abortion or undo marriage equality: they're all in for pollution and workplace maiming and finance crime impunity.

All the race- and gender-based cruelty is just an offset, the price of admission for securing the right to commit corporate murder for profit.

Now, of course, this calculus cuts both ways, and is practiced with equal cynicism by Dem power-brokers.

When the rival party's candidate is especially horrible, ousting him acts as an offset unto itself: that is, the worse Trump is for human thriving, the worse the Dems' candidate can be for human thriving, too. The GOP candidate may scare the Dem base into voting against him.

And FOR policies that are tilted towards the Dems' donor class – who are also all-in on climate nihilism, impunity for finance crimes, destruction of organized labor, and monopolies everywhere.

That's why the Dem establishment gave us all that thumb-scaling for a candidate (whom, to be clear, I hope will win) who can barely string together a sentence, has a terrible policy track-record, and an endless trove of hairsniffing and other creepery.

Whatever else that candidate has done in his long and undistinguished career, he has certainly delivered on policies that help the donor class without regard to the cost in human thriving. They called him The Senator for MBNA for a reason.

This is the true meaning of "triangulation": "How big a shit-sandwich can we coerce the voters into supporting, given the size and grotendousness of the shit-sandwich the other party put on the ballot?"

But I think that Trump may have broken this equilibrium, by being SO terrible that the gifts he delivers to the donor class can't make up for the chaotic destruction he delivers in his red meat initiatives like mask-denial and transactional policymaking.

A Trump election doesn't just mean a shit-sandwich for voters, it also means a shit-sandwich for many donors: cities crippled, travel impossible, real-economy businesses destroyed. They are terrified of a Trump win, too.

And now the progressive wing of the party is turning the tables, raising the price of their support, betting that the donors and their party power-brokers will pony up rather than risk a second Trump term. You see this in the changing Dem presidential platform.

And now, in a killer act of stakes-raising, a coalition of progressive Dem politicians and groups have signed a letter demanding a ban on "C-suite executives or corporate lobbyists" being given "Senate-confirmed positions" in the next administration.

And while they delivered this letter to both Schumer and McConnell, it's clearly meant as a signal to the Dem establishment and power-brokers that corporate execs shouldn't rotate into government positions in order to regulate their own industries.

“Just imagine explaining to the American people why those names, with those affiliations, are unacceptable, but similar names with similar-sounding affiliations are not only unobjectionable, but necessary to the proper functioning of the federal government. The revolving door needs to stop, not just change direction every few years."

That is some fucking change I can believe in.

(Image: Paul Sableman, CC BY)

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Dear ASCAP: May I sing Happy Birthday for my dad’s 75th?

#15yrsago 100 oldest .COM names in the registry

#10yrsago Beautiful failed typewriter design: the writing ball

#10yrsago Koja’s UNDER THE POPPY: dark, epic and erotic novel of war and intrigue

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Dozens (, Naked Capitalism (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Friday's progress: 519 words (73931 total).

Currently reading: Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 17)

Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

Latest book:

Upcoming books:

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, 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