[Plura-list] PE companies that looted healthcare want billions in bailouts, Automating arbitration claims, Non-secret votes vs e-voting, RNC plans ex-cop/military voter intimidation squad

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sat Apr 11 13:16:44 EDT 2020

Today's links

* PE companies that looted healthcare want billions in bailouts: Plute

* Automating arbitration claims: Fairshake recreates class action suits
in arbitration form.

* Non-secret votes vs e-voting: Don't use it for elections, but maybe
for elected officials.

* RNC plans ex-cop/military voter intimidation squad: Rebooting the
"Ballot Security Task Force."

* "Job creators" are job annihilators: Bailout for me, not thee.

* Snowden warns of permanent pandemic surveillance: The new normal ain't

* RIP MAD's Mort Drucker: One of "the usual gang of idiots."

* This day in history: 2005, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


🍶 PE companies that looted healthcare want billions in bailouts

Remember the private equity funds that bought out hospital doctors'
practices so they could opt emergency docs out of insurance and then
slam patients with surprise bills, whose looting destroyed pandemic
preparation, and who cut med staff wages?


Public shaming *did* manage to get them to back down, a very small
amount, on impoverishing the doctors and nurses who are saving our
civilization, but…


…Now they're angling for *massive* stimulus bailouts, billions and
billions in free money from the US government for their investors, AKA
the richest people in America.


Some of the people with their hands out: Envision Healthcare (owned by
KKR, founded by Henry Kravis [net worth $5.6B] and George Roberts [net
worth $5.8b]).

These plutes expected to make a fortune by gambling on fucking us all
over by buying doctors' groups. Now that the bet isn't paying off, they
want us to make them whole.

Envision would have more capital reserves if they hadn't spent millions
running attack ads against modest proposals to limit surprise billing.

The Trump admin has set aside $100b for medical financial stimulus.


🍶 Automating arbitration claims

"Binding arbitration" is a system for resolving legal disputes without
going to court. It was invented to help large corporations of equal
bargaining power amicably and quickly resolve their contract problems
without spending years and millions on lawsuits.

But the Supreme Court steadily chipped away at the limits on arbitration
and companies realized that it was a way to strip their employees,
contractors and customers of the right to sue them regardless of how
badly they behaved.

I've been asked to enter into binding arbitration "agreements" by a
toboganning hill, an emergency room, a daily newspaper, and Lyft (to
name just a few).

Why? The golden rule: "Them what has the gold, makes the rules." In
other words, if you settle your dispute in front of a private arbitrator
in the employ of a business that cheated or maimed you, the private
arbitrator will rule in their employer's favor far more often than a
judge would.

Even better: if you're the kind of business that profits by cheating
lots of people in small ways, binding arbitration makes it impossible
for them to get justice through class action — it sets the threshold for
fraud at "less than it would cost to go through arbitration."

But it turns out that you *can* do class action with binding
arbitration, if you just automate arbitration claims, as some lawyers
have done. They're now able to file thousands of arbitration cases at
once against abusive companies.


Now, the companies that used one-sided "agreements' to strip others of
their right to sue are refusing to arbitrate, too. They're reneging on
their obligation to pay arbitrators. They're slow-walking claims so that
some aren't being heard for YEARS.

Companies like Fairshake are massively expanding the industries they
bulk-file claims against, paying their customers – people who've been
screwed over – an average of $700 each.

And *oh*, how the companies are whining! They're basically admitting
what we knew all along: that the point of arbitration wasn't to
streamline justice, it was to DENY justice. Arbitration was supposed to
mean that only 30 of AT&T's 300,000,000 customers filed claims per year.

As Karl Bode writes, whatever problems class action suits had they were
also engines for good – for example, class actions are why you no longer
have to pay giant termination fees if you cancel your cellular
contract). Replacing them with kangaroo courts was no improvement.



🍶 Non-secret votes vs e-voting

Online secret ballots are a nonstarter. Just stop trying. Vote by mail,
sure. Just not by internet. Virtually the only security experts who
think it's possible work for companies that want to sell online voting
products. It's a fool's errand


But that doesn't mean that legislatures can't conduct NON-SECRET ballots
online. That's do-able, if complicated.

(Note: I have muted any comments that contain the word "blockchain" – go
look for hammer-compatible nails somewhere else)


"Attacks that compromise the client or server computers can be detected
and corrected if everyone's vote is publicly displayed. Each member of
the legislature would transmit their vote then must check the public
display to make sure the vote was reported/recorded accurately."

There are attacks on this: officials could cheat by claiming their votes
were misregistered; attackers could cheat by compromising officials'
devices to show false roll-calls, lobbyists could violate ethics rules
by literally sitting at officials' elbows as they vote.

There are also legal considerations:


But all that to say, the problem of non-secret ballots by certified
pools of elected officials is a LOT simpler than the problem of holding
secret ballots to elect those officials.


🍶 RNC plans ex-cop/military voter intimidation squad

In 1981, the RNC entered into a consent decree to halt its "Ballot
Security Task Force" – a voter-intimidation squad that harassed Black
voters by accusing them of "improper voting" and threatening them with
arrest and fines.


In 2018, a New Jersey judge declined to renew the consent decree. Now,
Republican operators are planning to reinstate the voter harassment
service for 2020. They're recruiting ex-military and ex-police
supporters to haunt Black and Native tribal polling places.

The plan was shared at a Council for National Policy ("a secretive
foundation on the religious right") meeting in Orange County that The
Intercept's Lee Fang reports on.


The strategy session included plans to suppress vote-by-mail because
Republicans perceive expanded electoral participation as favorable to


The group leading the voter suppression charge is True the Vote, whose
founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, called for Navy Seals to watch over
polls and tell prospective voters, "No, no, this is what it says. This
is how we're going to play this show."

Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs executive director Trent England
endorsed the plan, as did Brad Smith (a GW Bush FEC commissioner) and
Morton Blackwell (RNC).

Heritage Foundation fellow and ardent opponent of expanded voting rights
Hans von Spakovsky spoke alongside Engelbrecht at the session, laying
out plans to disqualify voters.


True the Vote relies on a rogues' gallery of evil plutes for funding,
including Richard Sackler, the disgraced architect of the opioid
epidemic, and Trump heavy donors Eric M. Javits and Lawrence Post.

True the Vote is currently using their money to sue to block universal
vote-by-mail in New Mexico, and lobbying against plans for postal voting
in other states.

They allege that postal voting opens up the possibility of voter fraud.

There's no evidence of this — with one exception: the far-right North
Carolina Republican Mark Harris, whose victory was invalidated when he
admitted that he'd won thanks to fraudulent postal votes.


In more candid moments, Republicans admit that the reason they dislike
postal ballots is that they increase turnout, and that when everyone
gets a vote, Republicans lose elections.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said that increased turnout "will be
extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives."


And, of course, Trump (master of saying the quiet part out loud), said
that if you allowed every eligible voter to vote, "you'd never have a
Republican elected in this country again."



🍶 "Job creators" are job annihilators

Most of the world's rich countries handled the economic crisis of
pandemic by paying workers' wages if employers would keep them on the
payroll, so that when the crisis passes they can go back to work. But
not in the USA.


In the US, workers get a $1200 check (which may take months to arrive),
while businesses get loans that they are supposed to use to keep workers
on the payroll. But they don't have to. Many aren't.


The "job creators" are now job annihilators, especially the "small
business owners" who actually own large chains and exploit loopholes to
get millions, and are lobbying for relaxation of the loan conditions so
they can use them to pay their bills.


"Bob has bills. He needs to pay those bills, like the ones from his
suppliers. As for all those workers he laid off? Fuck their bills…" -Jim

"It just never enters Bob's little mind that he could take these funds,
which he wouldn't have to repay, and use them to pay those workers he
laid off, even if they can't work right now." -Jim White

As I wrote in Walkaway: "A 'job creator' is someone who figures out how
to threaten you with starvation unless you do something you don't want
to do."


🍶 Snowden warns of permanent pandemic surveillance

"Shelter in Place" is a new show on Vice TV. In its inaugural episode,
Edward Snowden warns that pandemic is providing cover for governments to
create "the architecture of oppression."


Snowden warns that the surveillance and authoritarian controls enacted
to control the pandemic will not be temporary, but rather, will endure
long after the crisis (just as the Patriot Act's "temporary" measures
are still in place decades later).

And that this will exacerbate the world's "slide into a less liberal and
less free world." The datasets and measures put in place to control the
virus will be used to control people, constituting "the architecture of

He is skeptical of the idea that authoritarianism has been proven
effective in the time of pandemic, noting that China expelled
independent western press corps, leaving us to rely on internal Chinese
sources for evidence of whether pandemic controls are working in China.

And adds that the advent of a global pandemic is no surprise: it's been
a commonplace among epidemiologists that we would face a crisis like
this (he says that he's seen intelligence reports on the matter). But
our political classes chose to ignore those warnings.

It's worse than that. It wasn't just that officials ignored the need for
disaster preparation. They actively worked against it.

The $200m California stockpile of ventilators, masks, emergency beds?
Dismantled in 2008 to pay for the financial crisis.


Think of how the Tea Party repeatedly nerfed CDC budgets earmarked for
pandemic prep:


(ex-GOP Rep Denny Rehberg: "pandemic was as unforseeable as 9/11.")

Or how the DoJ allowed Covidien to buy up Newport, the company that CDC
had tapped to build fleets of low-cost ventilators for stockpiles, which
would competed with Covidien's $10K machines (Covidien killed the project).


Officaldom didn't merely ignore the warnings of a looming pandemic: they
marginalized, undercut, and destroyed any attempt to heed them.


🍶 RIP MAD's Mort Drucker

RIP, Matt Drucker, the pioneering MAD Magazine artist, who has died at
91 after developing difficulty walking and breathing (he was not tested
for coronavirus). He died at home with Barbara, his wife of 70 years, at
his side.


His daughter, Laurie Bachner, told the AP: "I think my father had the
best life anyone could hope for. He was married to the only woman he
ever loved and got to make a living out of what he loved to do."


Drucker worked at MAD from the mid-50s on, helping to define the
magazine's caricature house-style. He also drew a Time cover of Mao and
Nixon playing Table Tennis that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.



🍶 This day in history

#15yrsago Humanist transhumanism: Citizen Cyborg

#1yrago Brexit is cratering London house prices

#1yrago Teen Vogue explains capitalism

#1yrago Amazon stores recordings of Alexa interactions and turns them
over to internal staff and outside contractors for review

#1yrago Courts and cops don't know what to do with "sovereign citizens,"
the delusional far-rightists who claim the law doesn't apply to them

#1yrago Someone is targeting "critical infrastructure" safety systems in
networked attacks

#1yrago Text-mining journalists find that lawmakers introduced 10,000
bills that were copypasted from lobbyists' "model legislation"


🍶 Colophon

Today's top sources: Slashdot (https://slashdot.org), Naked Capitalism

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation

Currently reading: I'm getting really into Anna Weiner's memoir about
tech, "Uncanny Valley" and Jo Walton's forthcoming novel "Or What You Will."

Latest podcast: The Jubilee: Fill Your Boots

Upcoming appearances:

* Apr 22, Flatten The Curve Summit https://flattenthecurve.tech/

* Apr 23, Canada Reads Q&A

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

(we're having a launch for it in Burbank on July 11 at Dark Delicacies
and you can get me AND Poesy to sign it and Dark Del will ship it to the
monster kids in your life in time for the release date).

"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583

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

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