[Plura-list] Mayor of Las Vegas says the "free market" will decide what's safe; Powell's botanically correct flower guy is in trouble; Library of Last Resort; Manyland; Riot Baby

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Thu Apr 23 11:45:47 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Mayor of Las Vegas says the "free market" will decide what's safe:
Reality has a leftist bias.

* Powell's botanically correct flower guy is in trouble: Arnold Drake
World is about to lose his home.

* Library of Last Resort: Interactive fiction, meet metafiction.

* Manyland: An open-ended virtual world you visit in your browser.

* Riot Baby: An incandescent Afrofuturist novella.

* This day in history: 2005, 2010, 2015, 2019.

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


🤖 Mayor of Las Vegas says the "free market" will decide what's safe

Reality - especially epidemiology - has a distinct leftist bias, which
almost makes you feel sorry for right-wing ideologues like Las Vegas
Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who says that every business in town will get to
make up its own rules after she unilaterally lifts quarantine.

She told CNN, "I am not a private owner. That's the competition in this
country. The free enterprise and to be able to make sure that what you
offer the public meets the needs of the public."


You can see where she's coming from. Her entire worldview is shaped by
the Thatcherite dogma that "there is no such thing as society." The
Reaganite cant that "The nine most terrifying words in the English
language are: I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

This only makes sense if you don't believe that humans have shared
destiny - that your neighbor's problems are not your problems. Even in
the best of times, this is obviously untrue (your neighbor's decision to
play loud music at 2AM or to store plutonium in his backyard).

Humans *obviously* have a shared destiny, including/especially a shared
microbial destiny. There's a great Lenny Bruce sketch about this,
positing that the basis of society is agreement about where we crap and
where we eat.

> So we’ll have to have some rules, that’s how the law starts, out of
the facts, let’s see. I’ll tell you what we’ll do, we’ll have a vote:
we’ll sleep in Area A, is that cool? OK good. We’ll eat in Area B, good?
Good. We’ll throw our crap in Area C.”

> So everything went along pretty cool, everyone is very happy. One
night everybody is sleeping, a guy woke up pow got a face full of crap,
and said, “Hey what’s the deal here, I thought we had a rule? Eat.
Sleep. And crap. And uh, I was sleeping and I got a face full of crap.”

> So they said, well, ah, the rule is substantive. That’s, see, that’s
what the 14th Amendment is, it regulates the rights, but it doesn’t do
anything about it, it just says that’s where it’s at. We’ll have to do
something to enforce the provisions, to give it some teeth.

> Here’s the deal, if anybody throws any crap on us, while we’re
sleeping, they get thrown in the craphouse. Agreed?

> Guy goes, “Well, everybody?” Yeah. “But what about if it’s my mother?”
You don’t understand, your mother will be the fact, it has nothing to do
with it, it’s just a rule. eat, sleep, and crap, anybody throws any crap
on us they get thrown right in the crap house.

> Your mother doesn’t enter into it, everybody’s mother gets thrown in
the craphouse. Priest, Rabbi’s, they all go. Agreed? OK, agreed.


Mayor Goodman's position comes down to this: "We're all in the same
swimming pool. This end is the no-pissing-in-the-pool end. That end is
the pissing-in-the-pool end. This will all be fine."

The small business that reopens with inadequate measures will not harm
only itself and its customer. It will harm everyone who comes into
contact with those people.

There's lots more wrong with Goodman's idea: like the fact that, workers
rely on governments for protection from employers. There's a buyer's
market for labor, so employers can treat workers as disposable,
murdering them through inadequate protection and then replacing them.

Or the fact that neither business owners nor customers are qualified to
assess the sufficiency of a given plan to re-open. That's like saying,
"OK, everyone who wants to fly in an airplane should just inspect it
themselves and decide whether it's safe."

The complex technical questions of the modern world cannot be navigated
through individual research: you can't individually assess the safety of
planes, or building codes, or food prep. You can't know if a
slot-machine is fair or gimmicked.

We need impartial expert agencies that conduct truth-seeking exercises
to determine the best practices, and then conduct inspections and
enforcement on our behalf. Not the "personal responsibility" of becoming
an expert in every technical subject we live and die by.

These agencies need to show their work, recuse themselves over conflicts
of interest, and hear and act on new information as it becomes available.

They need to use a universally legible *process* that comes to
technically legible *conclusions*.

That is, they need to govern, as part of a legitimate, responsive state.

The problem of electing people who believe in dismantling government is
that they dismantle government.

That works great, but fails badly - I neither want to have to determine
whether a barber is safe to visit, nor trust the barber to make that
determination. I want a  public health expert to make it, and I want
that person to be overseen by a democratic institution.

What's more, if YOU are willing to trust the barber (or yourself) and
you get it wrong, you could infect *me*. This is not a matter of
personal choice and personal responsibility. It is a matter of
stubbornly irreducible shared destiny.

I get that this is inconvenient for people who believe that shared
destiny is a Communist plot. But, as our friends on the right are fond
of reminding us, "reality doesn't care about your feelings."


🤖 Powell's botanically correct flower guy is in trouble

Arnold Drake World is a treasure of a human being. For years, he's spent
his days holding down a table in the cafe at Portland's Powell's Books,
folding intricate, gorgeous "botanically correct" flowers out of paper


Now he's in serious trouble. He's broke and his landlord is about to
kick him out of the RV he rents-to-own. The stores he normally sells his
art through are closed and many aren't expected to reopen.


He's trying to raise $10K to he won't lose his home. He's currently at
$3k. I kicked in $25.

Neoliberalism's signature move is squeezing the slack out of the system.
Is there a storehouse of ventilators no one is using right now? Sell 'em
off! A cash reserve? Stock buyback!

Is there a neighborhood where people live cheap? Bulldoze it and replace
it with luxury flats that no one ever intends to live in,only to use as
safe-deposit boxes in the sky.

Ripping slack out of the system doesn't just make the world brittle, it
murders the quirky and idiosyncratic things that give the world texture
and delight. It's the reason every shopping street in London and NYC
(pre-crisis) looked like a looping Flintstones background.

The same 6 shops, over and over again: CVS, Citibank, realtor, 7-11,
Chase, Citibank, Walgreens.

Arnold Drake World is one of those treasures that you only get when
there's slack in the system, like a bolt of insight that only comes when
you down tools and laze in the grass.

He represents one of the many likely casualties of covid, as we bear
down on whatever slack remains in the system, making our world more
brittle as we do.


🤖 Library of Last Resort

Library of Last Resort is a game from Matt Finch. It starts out as a
text adventure but quickly gets delightfully weird, transmogrifying into
a game where you help the protagonist escape from the author's control
and set them free in the real world.


It's a game that turns you into a creator, and then, in turn, becomes a
online collaboration. How sweet!



🤖 Manyland

Manyland is a collaborative online environment that's like a
sidescroller married to Second Life, by way of Minecraft. You move
around and make stuff - objects, environments, etc - and then other
users get to use (or repurpose, or dismantle) them.


It's currently maintained by one person, its creator, Philipp Lenssen,
and its users have created 700,000 areas with 5,000,000 items. It's got
text chat and a suite of anti-harrassment tools.

It all runs in your browser

It has no "business model" - it's sustained by voluntary contributions
from its users (or, if you prefer, the "Mayzens" who are residents of

It's a glorious hodgepodge of environments, objects, themes, stories and


🤖 Riot Baby

Tochi Onyebuchi's Riot Baby is an incandescent Afrofuturist science
fiction novella that is so fleet-of-foot as it sprints from one
character and time and setting to another that it's dizzying, whirling
the reader through fierce bravery in the face of dystopia that uplifts
and enrages simultaneously.


Ella was raised in LA, in a neighborhood where gangbangers do drive-bys
and the cops inflict terror with impunity. Ella has a power, one she
barely understands, a power that shows her the future, and the future
she sees is so often violent and terrifying.

Ella's little brother is Kev, born on the evening of the Rodney King
uprising, a "riot baby" who barely remembers being little in California,
who thinks of New York City's projects as home.

Ella and Kev live a life of sudden violence and grinding poverty, of
overt racism and structural, deep-rooted racism that is, if anything,
even worse. As Ella comes into more of her powers -- telekenesis,
telepathy, dream-walking, mind-reading -- their lives are marked by the
increasing tempo of racism and the rise of white supremcy and the
carceral state, broken windows policing and mass incarceration.

Their lives diverge when Kev lands in Riker's Island, with a sentence
that stretches to years thanks to the penalties he accrues for his
failure to be a model prisoner. Meanwhile, Ella is in the world,
traversing its empty spaces, learning to use her powers, visiting Kev in
Riker's -- sometimes in the visitor's room, and sometimes in his dreams.

Onyebuchi's deft handling of the characters and the transitions between
them -- and the times and places that mark them -- are the kind of thing
that makes science fiction such a powerful medium, hearkening back to
the action-packed, pulp roots of the genre. Add to that Onyebuchi's
vivid characterizations and superb ear for dialog and you've got a book
that blazes with rage and glory.


🤖 This day in history

#15yrsago London Review of Books's personals are really dirty and funny

#15yrsago Free Culture Movement turns one

#10yrsago Microsoft wins its $100M tax-break and amnesty from broke-ass
Washington State

#10yrsago British Airways leaves stranded passengers all over world,
jacks up prices on tickets home

#5yrsago Privilege: you're probably not the one percent

#1yrago EU to create 350m person biometric database for borders,
migration and law enforcement

#1yrago Greta Thunberg attributes her ability to focus on climate change
to her Asperger's

#1yrago Fool me twice: New York State commutes Charter's death sentence
after Charter promises to stop breaking its promises

#1yrago Political candidate's kids use his election flyers to fool his
laptop's facial recognition lock


🤖 Colophon

Today's top sources:

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 508 words (6892

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

Latest podcast: Podcast swap: Wil Wheaton on Little

Upcoming appearances:

* Apr 23, Canada Reads Q&A;

* Apr 25: Podapalooza https://www.podapalooza.org/live

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

"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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