[Plura-list] enceslaus Hollar's Pack of Knaves; Charlie Stross on how we'll screw up the "re-opening"; Ellen DeGeneres's union crew takes paycuts while Ellen records from home with non-union contractors

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Fri Apr 17 10:43:22 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Wenceslaus Hollar's Pack of Knaves: "Count yourself lucky that you are
not cooped up with this lot."

* Charlie Stross on how we'll screw up the "re-opening": Helicopter
money or collapse.

* Ellen DeGeneres's union crew takes paycuts while Ellen records from
home with non-union contractors: Unlike Jon Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel,
Samantha Bee, and Desus and Mero.

* Health insurance industry in rosy good health: Billions in stock
buybacks, 60% paycuts for doctors.

* DoJ to convicted fraudsters: keep your money!: Settlement payments
suspended until at least June.

* Reflections on fictional pandemics during a real one: Naomi Kritzer on
the prophetic meaning of 2015's "So Much Cooking."

* Coop pandemic masks: Sold at cost, including Randotti skulls.

* This day in history: None

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


🍋 Wenceslaus Hollar's Pack of Knaves

The Pack of Knaves was engraved by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-77):


The Czech etcher moved to London in 1637 to join the household of the
Earl of Arundel (a celebrated art collector). His etchings are all the
more remarkable for the fact that he was nearly blind in one eye.

He was a prodigious chronicler of the plague years.


These scans are ganked from the University of Toronto's Wenceslaus
Hollar collection:


I found them on Spitalfields Life, whose Gentle Author adds, "Count
yourself lucky that you are not cooped up with this lot."



🍋 Charlie Stross on how we'll screw up the "re-opening"

I don't read Charlie Stross's nonfic for rosy optimism: I come to him
for clear-eyed extrapolations that are as pitiless as they are rigorous.
His latest — on the lifting of the lockdown — does not disappoint.


Charlie predicts that social pressures will result in a lifting of
lockdown at the start of the summer, followed 4 weeks later by a massive
surge in cases. The first lockdown came to an unprepared world. The
second wave will come to an exhausted world.

Medical staff will still be ill – in great numbers – and burned out. The
recent grads pressed into service will not be joined by another cohort
of soon-to-graduate, because their educations have halted.

Steve Mnuchin's $120/week "bridge liquidity" will not stabilize society.


Restaurateurs who re-open and then re-close will give up the ship in
droves, shuttering forever.

There will be sustained cycle of weeks of civil unrest, punctuated by
4-6 week lockdowns, for months.

When Trump's great re-opening implodes he will LOSE HIS SHIT. Maybe so
badly that McConnell gins up a second impeachment, hoping to salvage the
2020 election.

Stross: "By September there's going to be social unrest just about
everywhere that hasn't nailed down a massive social spending/social
security project on a scale that makes the New Deal look restrained and

Charlie also points out that though Boris Johnson is out of the
hospital, he's nowhere to be seen and is presumably hors de combat, but
still (seemingly) committed to hard Brexit on Jan 31, which will shrink
the UK economy another 8% overnight.

Unless Trump stages a peoples' stimulus (not a banker's bailout), Stross
holds out little hope: "we might find a simple/effective treatment. Or
vaccine development is ridiculously easy. Or the 50% of asymptomatic
carriers mean pandemic is more advanced than we realize."

In case any of those sound likely to you, here's Charlie again: "these
are all straw-clutching exercises. In all probability, they're not going
to eventuate."


My take: this is the "if we screw it all up" scenario, and yeah, Trump's
good at screwing it up. But there are new political forces awake and
moving today, thanks to the pandemic's acelleration of processes that
were only bearable because they were so slow.

Every system sustains itself — until it doesn't. The inability of
neoliberalism, extraction, austerity and plutocracy to prevent the
coronacrisis has done so much to discredit it, and open the space for
alternatives. More than ever, the future is ours to seize.


🍋 Ellen DeGeneres's union crew takes paycuts while Ellen records from
home with non-union contractors

TV talk show hosts have largely risen to the occasion. Some of them are
recording from home, some are taking a break, but Jon Oliver, Jimmy
Kimmel, Samantha Bee, and Desus and Mero are keeping their staff on the
payroll at full pay, some out of their own pockets.

But not Ellen DeGeneres, who is worth a reported $330m, and whose union
crew were left in the dark for weeks while she continued to praise them
on the new episodes she was shooting from home with a non-union crew.


"30 employees received no written communication about the status of
their working hours, pay, or inquiries about their mental and physical
health from producers for over a month."

They've now been warned of a 60% paycut. Warners blames the poor
communication on the chaos of coronavirus, which would be
credible…except that all of DeGeneres's competitors seem to have managed it.

"DeGeneres is one of the highest-paid stars on television, earning more
than $50 million per year from her Telepictures deal. Her total net
worth is a reported $330 million."

Her motto is "Be kind."

(Image: Toglenn, CC BY-SA, modified)


🍋 Health insurance industry in rosy good health

The US health insurance industry is…healthy. "The S&P; 500 managed
healthcare sector gained 2.9% on Wednesday and another 6.4% on
Thursday." That's more growth than online retailers like Amazon
experienced during the pandemic.


One of the reasons the industry is doing so well? With Sanders and
Warren out of the race, insurance execs are emboldened to gouge patients
on co-pays and premiums while denying coverage, unconcerned that this
will fuel a Medicare for All election issue.

If you want to understand how we can all be watching our life's savings
vanish while the health insurance industry blows billions on
stock-buybacks, during a pandemic, hark to Wendell Potter, the health
insurance spin-doctor turned M4A campaigner.


Companies like United Health beat Wall Street's estimates by increasing
their fed/state revenues by 250%, even as the number of people it served
at federal and state expense.

Even as United Health customers were all but eliminating their medical
expenses (canceling routine visits and elective procedures), United kept
their premiums constant, using the savings to buy back $1.7B worth of
its own stock.

This while United was insisting that doctors take a 60% paycut or be
thrown out of its network.

Potter: "Bottom line: Americans are getting sick & dying, and doctors
risking their lives to save them. Meanwhile, health insurance companies
are denying coverage & squeezing doctors to generate record profits.
That's the story of healthcare in America today."


🍋 DoJ to convicted fraudsters: keep your money!

Companies that have admitted fraud and must pay fines to the DoJ have
been granted a reprieve by the Trump administration, so that they may
avert a liquidity crisis:


At the same time, the Trump administration is billing the $1200 granted
working Americans $1200 as a "liquidity bridge" that is supposed to tide
them over for ten weeks.


The DoJ will not force admitted corporate crooks to pay their fines
until at least Jun 1. This comes even as the DoJ is setting records for
entering into settlements with companies that defraud consumers and the
government, rather than prosecuting them.

These range from a Tampa company that entered into a $41m settlement
after defrauding Medicare, and Ohio and Michigan companies that charged
the government "for unnecessary therapy."

Also: Wells Fargo, who owe the feds $3B for a string of endless, ghastly
frauds, including opening (literally) millions of fraudulent accounts,
stealing veterans' cars, stealing customers' homes, stealing from small
businesses, stealing from high-net-worth investors…

Companies do not have to show that paying their fines constitutes a
hardship, Generally, these companies reaped much more from their bad
deeds than they have to pay in fines, making these "penalties" just part
of the cost of doing business.

Now it's not even that.


🍋 Reflections on fictional pandemics during a real one

Back in 2015, Naomi Kritzer wrote a story in the form of a series of
public posts by a perky food-blogger enduring lockdown during an
incredibly lethal pandemic. It's called "So Much Cooking" and it's
brilliant and sad and brave.


In a new essay for Tor.com, Kritzer reflects on having a piece of
fiction become so suddenly salient – from the things she's learned about
real pandemic lockdowns to how fiction about crises prepares us for real
crises when they come.


Kritzer's new novel, Catfishing on Catnet, is prescient in its own way –
a tale of online community and the role it plays for isolated people. I
strongly recommend it.


It's definitely a weird time for people who've made art about end-times.
I just finished Lauren Beukes's brilliant, forthcoming Afterland, a
post-pandemic road-trip novel set in a world where 99.5% of men and boys
have died of viral prostate cancer.


And Marc Maron's End Times Fun comedy special dropped on Netflix just in
time for lockdown.


Pinsker's essay definitely captures a lot of what I'm feeling about my
own modest contributions to the genre, including "When Sysadmins Ruled
the Earth":


And Masque of the Red Death:


Also, writing this reminded me to donate to my local food bank, the
Burbank Temporary Aid Center. Please donate to your own food bank if you
have the means.



🍋 Coop pandemic masks

Coop is selling nonmedical face-masks emblazoned with his (often
radioactively NSFW!) art at cost, $15/each.

Designs include his amazing drawings of the classic Randotti skulls, the
from the Heroic Era of Haunted Mansion souvenirs.


"Mickey Finn" – his Disney/barbituates mashup.




And, of course, "Smut Devil."



🍋 This day in history

#5yrsago Sony pirated ebooks on hacking

#1yrago We lost the fight for balance in the EU's Copyright Directive,
but here's what we won https://juliareda.eu/2019/04/not-in-vain/

#1yrago 1% of England owns half of England

#1yrago Effective July 15, British porn consumers will be required
entrust their sexual tastes to private companies' badly secured
databases https://www.wired.co.uk/article/porn-block-uk-wired-explains

#1yrago Dentistry's evidentiary vacuum allows profiteering butchers to
raid our mouths for millions

#1yrago The sovereign nation of Iceland has finally invalidated the
European trademark on "Iceland," formerly held by a British discount
grocery chain

#1yrago The Antitrust Case Against Facebook: a turning point in the
debate over Big Tech and monopoly

#1yrago John Oliver tackles the Sacklers: the litigious, secretive
billionaires whose family business engineered the opioid crisis


🍋 Colophon

Today's top sources: Sean O'Brien (https://twitter.com/seanodiggity/),
Naked Capitalism (https://nakedcapitalism.com/).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 531 words (4760

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: Podcast swap: Wil Wheaton on Little

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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