[Plura-list] Berlin in color, after the Reich's fall; Nikolai Kolchitski; Medicare for All (Congressjerks); Swedish covid death rates soar above neighbors'

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Thu Apr 30 13:32:01 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Berlin in color, after the Reich's fall: So vivid you could reach out
and touch it.

* Nikolai Kolchitski: He defined the Soviet look of space exploration
for a generation.

* Medicare for All (Congressjerks): Congress is happy to fund its
exclusive white-glove concierge medical system.

* Swedish covid death rates soar above neighbors': "Do nothing" is not
doing something.

* Financial services workers dying for junk mail: Broadridge workers
denied PPE, sick leave.

* AMC: "We will never show another Universal movie": Watch the
monopolies form in realtime.

* Revived Haunted Mansion videos from early internet fandom: The squees
of yesteryear.

* Marc Laidlaw reads his fiction: A new Youtube series from the author
of Dad's Nuke and Half-Life.

* A Room of One’s Own: New pandemic sf from Tochi Onyebuchi, with a live
seminar to follow.

* This day in history: 2010, 2015, 2019

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




🍻 Berlin in color, after the Reich's fall

Back in 2015, Kronos Media assembled a reel of color footage from Berlin
in July 1945, after the fall of the Reich and the triumphant Red Army
occupation. It's a spectacular document, vivid and moving, funny and
sad, tragic and brave.


I mean, how fierce is this?

And this is such an iconic image -- the skeletal building, the
domesticity within.

While the refugee caravans are so real you can reach out and touch them.

It's hard to say what's more moving: the normalcy amidst the ruins...

Or the ruins on their own.


🍻 Nikolai Kolchitski

The Soviet sf artist Nikolai Kolchitski defined the look of space and
space exploration for a generation of dreamy, sciencey kids in the USSR
and its satellite states. Fandom.ru's vast repository of Kolchitski
images is wonderful.


Kolchitski died in 1979 but did his best-known work in the 1950s and
1960s. I love the impressionist/psychedelic look of his later work!


🍻 Medicare for All (Congressjerks)

Congress loves Medicare for All...for some. Particularly, they loooooove
the clinic operated by the Congressional Office of the Attending
Physician, a "gold plated conceirge service" that got a massive cash
infusion from the stimulus bill.


What's more, some of the congressjerks most dependent on this
white-glove service also voted against any expansion of public health
care provision during the global pandemic because it would be a
"government takeover of healthcare" (-Mario Diaz-Balart, R-FL).

The Medicare for Congress system has received regular cash infusions
from Congress over the past decade, during which time its budget has
expanded by 25%. The number of Congresspeople has remained static over
that time. Lawmakers pay $600/year for unlimited use of the service.

But that's deceptive. The $600/year fee is effectively voluntary, and
Members of Congress who don't pay it still get treatment for free, on
demand. Only 240 members bother to pay. The staff describe themselves as
"catering to the whims" of Congress.


"The clinic not only provides coronavirus testing, but routine flu
vaccines, lab work, physicals, and a range of emergency treatments.
Lawmakers have claimed that they use the OAP office as their primary
care physician."

It was the OAP that treated Rand Paul when he contracted coronavirus.

It's also a favorite of Nancy Pelosi.

Both oppose universal healthcare. The December spending bill reduced ACA
support and increased funding to the OAP.

"Speaker Pelosi has been adamant in her rejection of single payer for
everyone. It has been obvious for awhile that when it comes to her own
healthcare and her own projects, ‘how will we pay for it?’ was never a
concern." -Dale Fountain, Enact Universal Healthcare for California.


🍻 Swedish covid death rates soar above neighbors'

Sweden defied WHO guidance and refused to enact a mandatory
stay-at-home, allowing many nonessential businesses in which the public
comes into close contact to remain open. Now it has three times the
death rate of its neighbors.


The Nordic comparison looks really bad, but it gets worse. Czech, which
has nearly the same population as Sweden, has recorded 2 deaths per
100,000 people. Sweden's per-100k death rate is 22.

The Swedish authorities insisted they were not pursuing a "herd
immunity" strategy like UK did, with disastrous consequences. But when
questioned by the BBC, Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said
"most of the experts in Sweden agree that some kind of immunity we
definitely will have because a lot of people that have been tested so
far have produced antibodies."

2,000 researchers have signed a letter to the Swedish government calling
on it to "immediately take steps to comply with the World Health
Organization's  recommendations," adding, "Our country should not be an
exception to the work to curb the pandemic."


🍻 Financial services workers dying for junk mail

You've probably noticed that despite the shutdown, you're still getting
"automated" business paper mail: bills, statements, etc. You might have
assumed that the whole process for printing, assembling and mailing
these was automatic.


It's not. It's done by human beings: low-waged workers, largely working
through staffing agencies in giant warehouses, and they are dropping
dead of coronavirus because their employers have prohibited them from
taking sick leave.

Broadridge Financial Solutions is a $4.4B/year company that uses
contractors like TMG Mail Solutions and Randstad to print, stuff, and
mail out business letters. At least 6 employees in its massive Long
Island facility are dead after being denied PPE, leave and treatment.

They were murdered for junk mail.

Workers in the facility received written notices telling them that they
would be fired if they missed more than two days' work. The same notice
discouraged the use of PPE (which the company was not supplying).


"Menjivar also said that she saw one TMG worker wearing a mask brought
from home. A supervisor confronted the worker and made them remove it,
she said, saying that masks were prohibited unless the worker had a
doctor’s note saying it was necessary."

The dead are parents, spouses, daughters and sons. Here are some of
their names: Jose Bonilla Flores, Lucio Acosta, Juan Gonzalez, Anthony
DeNoyior, Astrid Echenique and Aleyamma Kuriakose.

They worked for the company for years - decades, in some case - and
pulled 12h shifts.

They were murdered for marginal efficiencies in junk mail production.


🍻 AMC: "We will never show another Universal movie"

When the movie theaters shut down, Universal decided to put Trolls World
Tour - one of its scheduled major releases - online as a pay-per-view,
and they generated $100m in revenues.


The company is so pleased with the outcome that they've announced that
future releases will be "day-and-date" - available worldwide in cinemas
and to stream, eliminating the exclusive theatrical window that has
always been part of movie release strategies.

Naturally, cinematic exhibitors are furious over this. AMC has announced
that it will no longer screen *any* Universal movies, period.

But there's a lot more going on here.

First, the movie industry is incredibly concentrated. It used to boast a
whopping five studios. Now the total is four, thanks to the idiotic
Disney-Fox merger.

And the movie *theater* industry is also incredibly concentrated. AMC is
the nation's dominant chain, thanks to the Chinese money that let it buy
all its competitors, and the US private equity barons who loaded it up
with debt. Now it's going bankrupt.


And worse still: the DoJ is getting rid of the antitrust rule that
banned movie studios from buying up movie theater chains, teeing up one
of these entertainment monopolists to become a cinema monopolist, too.


This is incredibly scary news for the "talent": the whole reason the
antitrust rule against studio/cinema integration was created was that
the movie trusts used their control over production and distribution to
lower compensation for actors, writers, and other workers.

Which is all to say that this is more than an inconsequential bun fight
between two stupid multinational conglomerates: it's a potentially
hugely consequential shift that could see the nation's cinemas owned by
a monopolistic studio who is also a cable monopolist.

That these monopolies are not run by good-natured slobs who want to be
sure that everyone gets a fair share of the pie. The ruthless sociopaths
who run these firms would never release a dime unless they were forced
to do so, by someone with leverage over them.

Almost every outcome from this spat leads to monopolists with far more
leverage - over creators *and* audiences - than they have today.

And they already have far too much leverage as it is.


🍻 Revived Haunted Mansion videos from early internet fandom

When Foxxfur was a young, internet-obsessed Haunted Mansion fan, she
accumulated many rarities that streamed in Realvideo and other
long-forgotten formats, and swapped VHS tapes with other early online
Disney fandom.


This 1996 JD Roth includes a rare look at the film-looping systems Ub
Iwerks designed "allowing the film to circulate endlessly through a
giant series of spools without ever getting out of synch with each other."

(I own some of this 16mm film!)


This ridethrough shows "what the controversial 'windblown' bride looked
like in real life...when she was brand new she at least was impressive,
and that is captured well here."


This "analog nightvision" is a great look at the original load area with
its beloved table/chair/lamp tableau.


And from Disneyland, a tour of the short lived, 1995-2005 version of the
ride, including the "DEAD END" sign outside the unload area.


Foxy concludes: "It can be so fun to dig into the history and details of
the places that we forget that they're constantly changing. Time races
by, and now the look of analog video is nostalgic, I hope these
documents of a time long since past are helpful or at least fun."


🍻 Marc Laidlaw reads his fiction

When I was a kid haunting my mall bookstore's sf section, I had my head
blown open by a weird-ass, comedy-apocalyptic debut novel by Marc
Laidlaw called "Dad's Nuke."

Over the years, I followed Laidlaw's career advidly, doubly so once I
saw he'd been featured in Mirrorshades, Bruce Sterling' genre-defining
cyberpunk anthology.

But for many years, Laidlaw's fiction slowed to a trickle, after he took
work as a writer for Valve, and helped define modern game writing with
his work on Half-Life.

Laidlaw's been getting back into fiction, and has reissued his whole
back-catalog as DRM-free ebooks:


He's also reissued his entire short fiction oeuvre in a single, massive


Now, he's launched a Youtube series in which he reads that fiction
aloud, as he waits out the apocalypse with the rest of us:


I recommend starting with "400 Boys," his story from Mirrorshades:



🍻 A Room of One’s Own

I'm an enormous fan of Tochi Onyebuchi and loved his latest book, Riot
Baby, an afrofuturist science fiction novel about incarceration and


Onyebuchi's latest story is "A Room of One’s Own," which is part of the
ASU Center for Science and the Imagination's "Us In Flux" series -
fiction by and for the pandemic.

It's a haunting, bittersweet tale.


Onyebuchi and futurist-lawyer/technoculture scholar Michael G Bennett
are holding a live, public conversation about the story next Monday - it
promises to be very exciting and thought-provoking.



🍻 This day in history

#10yrsago Asimov's opens to electronic submission

#10yrsago AT&T; asks government to create national censorwall and system
for disconnecting accused infringers

#10yrsago 1939 World's Fair: the future's cradle, in pictures

#5yrsago Tell the Copyright Office not to criminalize using unapproved
goop in a 3D printer https://makezine.com/2015/04/30/really-3d-printer/

#5yrsago Telescreen watch: Vizio adds spyware to its TVs

#1yrago Most US eighth graders have taken apart a gadget to fix it or
see how it works

#1yrago Securepairs.org will send debullshitifying security researchers
to Right to Repair hearings to fight industry FUD

#1yrago Duke University acquires the archives of Charles N Brown,
founder of Locus Magazine

#1yrago Chase's idiotic poverty-shaming "inspirational" tweet, and
Twitter users' magnificent responses thereto

#1yrago Big Tech's addiction to illegal, overreaching NDAs protects wage
discrimination, sexual harassment, and other evils by "terrorizing"
employees https://fortune.com/2019/04/29/silicon-valley-nda/

#1yrago Serpent profiteers: how a summer camp snakebite turned into a
$142,938 medical bill

#1yrago Vodafone sources claim Huawei created a "backdoor" for its home
routers and network switching equipment and then lied about removing it

#1yrago The platforms suck at content moderation and demanding they do
more won't make them better at it


🍻 Colophon

Today's top sources: Dark Roasted Blend (http://www.darkroastedblend.com/).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Friday's progress: 521 words (9726 total).

Currently reading: I'm finally finishing Anna Weiner's memoir about
tech, "Uncanny Valley" and I wrapped up reading Jo Walton's forthcoming
novel "Or What You Will" this weekend.

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 01)

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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