Pluralistic: 01 Dec 2020

Today's links

Ohio spends tax dollars to destroy Ohio (permalink)

Kroger is one of America's largest, most profitable grocery chains, with $2b in profits in 2019. Ohio just gave it a 15-year, 75% tax subsidy in exchange for locating some data centers in the state. Pat Garofalo offers some sharp comments on the deal.

Data center subsidies are the ultimate sucker-bet. States and cities that subsidize data-centers to get local jobs end up spending $2 million (up to $6m!) PER JOB. Data centers are expensive but they also employ very few people, after all.

Now, you may be asking yourself, wait, why does a grocery chain – even one with $2B/year in profits – need a pair of data centers? Groceries are a data-intensive business, but they're not that data-intensive.

The answer: Kroger's starting a "ghost kitchen" sideline. That's when giant corporations set up predatory sweatshops in shipping containers where employees (misclassified as contractors) earn sub-minimum-wage pennies to produce delivery meals.

These are often owned or partnered with delivery apps, and, like delivery apps, they use investor cash to subsidize both the food and the delivery, losing money on each transaction, in a bid to drive out local, productive restaurant businesses.

Ghost kitchens are data-intensive, because their corporate masters do deep analysis from their predatory delivery business to find vulnerable local restaurants to clone and drive out of business, replacing searches for the local eatery with their ghost-kitchen knock-off.

And Kroger doesn't even need to tap its investors to subsidize the destruction of Ohio's beloved local restaurants – already weakened by the pandemic and weak stimulus for small businesses, especially bars and restaurants.

The Ohio taxpayers – including restaurants that will be driven out of business by this subsidy – are footing the bill for it.

The sadists of China's Cultural Revolution would execute your dad and send you a bill for the bullet. In America, we're much more genteel.

Diving bell drawings (permalink)

Eugen Ransonnet-Villez was a 19th century Viennese aristo, polymath and prodigy. After studying at the Academy of Fine Arts (at age 11!) he went into law, but he is best known for his amateur zoology.

His 1867 "Sketches of the Inhabitants, Animal Life and Vegetation in the Lowlands and High Mountains of Ceylon" is remarkable not merely for his beautiful lithos, but for how he drew them: inside of a homebrew diving-bell.

The bell was made from sheet iron and inch-thick glass, and his legs stuck out of gaskets on the underside so that he could shuffle along the ocean bottom to get better angles. The bell held about three hours' worth of air and was weighted with cannonballs.

As he finished each drawing, he put it in a watertight tin box and sent it up to the surface for safekeeping (the soft pencil drawings were painted over later, on the surface).

As to those paintings, the Public Domain Review quotes Stefanie Jovanovic-Kruspel: "a mixture between romantic-lyric underwater-landscapes and super realistic observations of the inhabiting organisms."

The original paintings are mostly divided between the Natural History Museum Vienna, and in the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, but the Public Domain Review article has links to high-rez online scans.

Distanced stage plays (permalink)

The Xanadu Online Theatre is an offshoot of Notes From Xanadu, "as far as can be seen, the first online arts centre in the English-speaking world." It was founded by Mary Tynan, "a chronically-ill, disabled creative living in the West of Ireland."

The Theatre has been mounting productions through the lockdown that stream live on the free/open platform Jitsi. They've just announced two plays for the holidays: Riders to the Sea by J M Synge and The Proposal by Anton Chekhov.

The production features actors on two continents and in three timezones. Tickets are free, but limited. Reserve yours here:

Double your EFF donation (permalink)

I have worked with EFF, off and on, for nearly 19 years (!) and my belief in the organization's mission – making the internet safe for human thriving – and my long-term, inside view into its operations are why it tops my charitable giving each year.

EFF is a powerhouse, multiplying its funding (mostly small-dollar donations from individuals) severalfold to do effective, important activism that defends human rights in the online world.

The org gets four stars from Charity Navigator:;=7576

and its IRS 990 form shows why (it pays excellent people a living wage and then uses the rest for program activities):

Today, EFF launched its annual Power Up event, when donations are matched, 1 to 1, from a pool supplied by some of our generous major donors. The fund will match up to $319,600.–SBD

What's more EFF's brilliant design team has produced a range of amazing swag as premiums for your donation, from beanies to stickers to hoodies and tees, featuring Hugh D'Andrade's amazing 30th Anniversary Sea Serpent illo.

Emotional deck (permalink)

"Becoming Dragon" is Cris Beasley's latest Kickstarter: it's a kind of divination deck she calls "a tool for clarity amidst uncertainty."

I am a firm disbeliever in metaphysics and thus divination. But I have known and respected enough people who used this kind of oracle as a tool for self-reflection that I have a lot of time for it (and the illustrations are great, too).

After all, one of my most treasured possessions is my limited edition Brian Eno Oblique Strategies deck (home to my favorite riddle: "Be the First One to Not Do Something that No One Else Has Ever Not Thought of Doing Before.")

Beasley's decks are $40 (and up); it's her third crowdfunder and by her account, "I've made a ton of mistakes producing KS campaigns. This is great news for you. I've learned some hard lessons."

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago David Byrne gets RIAA warning

#15yrsago Eek-A-Mouse jamming with Irish pub musicians

#15yrsago Vacuum-bag dust houses sculpted by former house-cleaner

#15yrsago Greedy Grateful Dead widow burns down online show-library

#10yrsago Winner-Take-All Politics: how America’s super-rich got so much richer

#10yrsago BP sued in Ecuador for violating the “rights of Nature”

#10yrsago Goodbye, Worldchanging

#10yrsago Walt Disney World employees demand a living wage

#5yrsago Workaholic Goethe wished he’d been better at carving out time for quiet reflection

#5yrsago A Canadian teenager used America’s militarized cops to terrorize women gamers for years

#1yrago Meet the Krazy Klown Kavalcade of racists, homophobes, islamophobes and transphobes serving as appointed South Carolina magistrates

#1yrago Bloomberg’s $34m presidential campaign ad-buy is 1.1% of the taxes Bernie, Warren and Steyer want him to pay

#1yrago Talking with the Left Field podcast about Sidewalk Labs’s plan to build a surveilling “smart city” in Toronto

#1yrago Four union organizers fired from Google

#1yrago A quick trip through the ghastly, racist, sexist, eugenicist, authoritarian things that Boris Johnson has said in recent years

#1yrago Writer asks for an exclusive trademark on the use of the word “dark” in “Series of fiction works, namely, novels and books”;=SERIAL_NO&searchType;=statusSearch

#1yrago Debullshitifying the Right to Repair excuses Apple sent to Congress

#1yrago Apple poses a false dichotomy between “privacy” and “competition”

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 508 words (88911 total).

Currently reading: The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 24)

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