[Plura-list] The CARES Shock Doctrine; NYC homeless lose bathroom access; NYC Street View, WPA edition; Maidan in Belarus

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Fri Aug 14 16:04:45 EDT 2020

Today's links

* The CARES Shock Doctrine: How the Dems and the GOP took care of
billionaires and fucked the rest of us.

* NYC homeless lose bathroom access: Not a pot to piss in.

* NYC Street View, WPA edition: Every municipal building in New York
City, 1939-41.

* Maidan in Belarus: Riot cops drop their shields and embrace protesters.

* This day in history: 2015, 2019

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


🕵️‍♂️ The CARES Shock Doctrine

It's been 13 years since Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine described the
neoliberal playbook: crises are seized as a moment to smuggle in
policies that could not pass public muster under normal circumstances,
ratcheting private gains at public expense.


In March, Congress pass the CARES Act, sweeping law that nominally
offered relief to Americans. It was the opening salvo in a fusillade of
interventions whose workings are poorly understood - which have served
to make the already wealthy immeasurably wealthier.

If you've wondered how the stock and bond markets could be soaring even
as unemployment has also climbed to apocalyptic levels, as an eviction
crisis looms, as Americans form mile-long lines for food banks -- this
is how.

If you're only going to read one longread this week, read Robert
Brenner's "Escalating Plunder," in the New Left Review. It's long, but
not as long as the legislation it analyzes, and it is much, much clearer
about what that legislation accomplishes.


Start with the full scope of the bailout: the $454b that Congress gave
to America's largest corporations is table-stakes. Congress also created
a bull market in corporate debt by guaranteeing to buy bonds issued by
the companies if no one else wanted them.

Even junk bonds issued by companies whose mismanagement and corporate
autophagia - buybacks, executive compensation, layoffs - had driven them
to death's door *before* the crisis.

That guarantee allowed corporate America a tenfold leverage of its
"relief" through debt, yielding ~$4.54 *trillion*. The public's relief
budget - unemployment, cash, and student loans weighed in at a mere $603B.

Put that another way: the USG just handed the largest companies in the
US 200% of their total annual profits in "relief," with no strings
attached, save for some minor constraints on the aviation industry.

And while the bills that created this corporate welfare program
originated with Senate Republicans, that's only because Congressional
Dems explicitly asked them to do so, abdicated Congress's power of the
purse to let the GOP decide who would get money, and how much.

It's hard not to interpret this as Dems handing the donor class a cash
bribe on the eve of an election. It's not just letting the Senate write
the bills - it's passing them by "voice vote," which lets Dem
Congressjerks vote in favor without having their support recorded.

It's an unbelievably idiotic piece of tactics, a bet that corporations
will reward Dem complicity with GOP looting by helping Dems, instead of
the GOP. The bet that plutes will hate racism more than they love money
is painfully stupid.

Contrast that with what Dems COULD have spent on: health care, more
unemployment/paycheck protection, food and rent money. The could have
*dared* the GOP to deny Americans the basics of human survival - again,
on the eve of an historic election.

Instead, they sat idly by as the Fed's bond guarantee ensured a supply
of easy money for corporations whose ability to borrow had vanished
prior to the crisis as investors had finally wised up to the foolishness
of loaning to firms dedicated to devouring themselves.

That ready access to credit then boosted the stock market: the bull
market for bonds begat a bull market in stocks. If you want to know how
America's billionaires made more billions during the crisis, that's how.

It's not merely investor confidence in e-commerce that made Bezos his
excess billions: its Amazon's ability to borrow *$10 billion at 0.4
percent on a three year bond.*

The corporate wing of the Dems is pretty open about all this. Look at
Richard Neal, who trumpeted that he wasn't voting for "stimulus" (which
would help all of us), but rather "relief" - for the investors and execs
he'd just bailed out.

Neal was an architect of the post-2008 bailouts too, playing a key role
in the decision not to help everyday Americans - who had been preyed
upon by unimaginably wealthy financiers - with their mortgages, but
rather, to make the finance sector whole.

(Neal is at the center of another scandal: Leaked internal comms from
the Mass College Dems reveal that they conspired to smear Neal's primary
opponent, Alex Morse, with false sexual abuse allegations)


Congressional Dems have, once again, snatched defeat from the jaws of
victory. The CARES Act they let the GOP write and then rammed through
into law includes $174b worth of new tax breaks for the super-rich that
were jettisoned from Trump's 2019 tax bill as too extreme.

We are living through a shock doctrine. This could be the moment in
which America recognizes the brittleness of its public sphere and
corporate arrangements and restructures them to survive the wave of
climate emergencies on our horizon.

Instead, both parties have conspired to double down on that brittleness,
that fragility, that precarity, with hardly a peep in objection from
lawmakers in either house.

The major exception, naturally, is AOC, who called it "One of the
largest corporate bailouts with as few strings as possible in American
history [with] crumbs for our families."



🕵️‍♂️ NYC homeless lose bathroom access

The homelessness epidemic in America predates the covid pandemic, but
the latter is about to make the former much worse - and as horrifying
and dehumanizing as homelessness was in The Before, it's a million times
worse today.

Start with the obvious. Everybody poops. Despite San Francisco's decades
of insisting that the public human defecation problem was the result of
humans, and not the absence of toilets, the solution to pooping is
toilets. There is no other solution.

New York City is notoriously short of public toilets, even for employed,
homed people - it's the land of the "Bathrooms are for customers only" sign.

At Patrick Nielsen Hayden once told me, whatever demerits the explosion
of Manhattan Starbuckses meant for the city, at the very least, it
solved NYC's urgent "Nowhere to go" crisis.

But not anymore.

New York's restaurants and cafes are no longer allow homeless people to
use their facilities. Even Penn Station has excluded homeless people
from its bathrooms.


With the loss of access to toilets comes a loss of access to water, too:
the 3600 New Yorkers who live on the streets and in subways no longer
have reliable access to drinking water, and are suffering severe

Writing in The City, Reuven Blau interviews Jared Mitchell, a 24 year
old homeless man who had the humiliating experience of "going on
himself" when he couldn't locate a toilet. Richard Parry, a 51 year old
homeless man, tells Blau, "You probably smell me now."

Mayor de Blasio put 12 toilets out for public use early in the crisis,
but withdrew them after the were vandalized. They were not replaced.

Meanwhile, the tourists and office workers homeless people depend on
when panhandling are gone, leaving homeless people with no money for
food: Charmain Hamid, a 45 year old homeless person, is wasting away.

Ashley Belcher, a 27 year old homeless woman with ulcerative colitis and
irritable bowel syndrome asked to use the bathroom at the Lenox Health
Greenwich Village medical facility, but was denied entry because she
doesn't have a mental disorder.

As soup kitchens move to outdoor service, homeless people can no longer
use their toilets, either.

It's not clear what will solve this, apart from the proven Housing First
approach of providing homes to homeless people.


When a standalone "Portland Loo" can cost $200k to install merely to
provide ONE toilet, it's easy to see how providing homes isn't just
humane - it's cost effective, too.


🕵️‍♂️ NYC Street View, WPA edition

During the New Deal, the WPA and the NYC Tax Department sent
photographers to every municipal building in the five boroughs,
producing a geotagged archive of the city's streetscenes from 1939-41.

These images were placed in an interactive map system by Julian Boilen,
called "Street View of 1940s New York," which lets you click around a
map of the city to navigate these photos geographically.


It's a legit masterpiece, and endlessly fascinating, a veritable

One note: Boilen says that the use of the images is limited to NYC's
terms and conditions, but these were federally commissioned works and
are presumptively in the public domain.

The NYC guidelines basically say, "Don't violate copyright." These are
neither copyrighted nor copyrightable. As far as I can tell: you're good.


PS: Don't miss the photographers' outtakes, which are a delightful mix
of impromptu portraits, fatfingers, and bloopers:



🕵️‍♂️ Maidan in Belarus

Alexander Lukashenko is president of Belarus: they call him "the last
Soviet dictator." He is responsible for  decades of brutal human rights
abuses and comic mismanagement, and he led a coronavirus response that
was so inept, it even made the US look good by comparison.

Lukashenko's not even good at being a dictator. His master plan to
maintain the pretense of free and fair elections this year involved
purging the establishment candidates running against him, "businessmen"
running on a ticket of "efficiency."

He also purged a popular anti-corruption Youtuber.

This left only one opposition candidate  at the fore: Svetlana
Tikhanovskaya, running as a proxy for her imprisoned husband Sergey


Tikhanovskaya was a powerful rival to Lukashenko, who has used populism
to style himself a champion of ordinary Belarusians - the sort who might
have looked skeptically upon business leaders promising to replace him.

But Tikhanovskaya *actually& champions causes important to everyday
Belarusians, winning support from the country's workers, as well as
political freedoms like a release of political prisoners and free and
fair elections.

Her platform was so obviously, visibly popular that it led many to
predict an imminent change in power in Belarus, a new Maidan moment. So
when Lukashenko stole the election, claiming a brazen 80% majority, the
people rose up.

For days, larger and larger crowds have taken to the streets, demanding
political change, braving vicious police violence that only seemed to
inspire larger turnouts. Lukashenko's claims that the protests are
driven by outsiders have not convinced anyone.

The perseverance of the protesters is a moral lesson to everyone else in
the country - including, incredibly, some of the police who had been
beating and gassing them. Even though 6700 people have been arrested and
tortured, the protesters keep facing down police lines.

Military officers, appalled by the crackdown, are posting social media
videos in which they destroy their uniforms. Police officers are giving
media interviews in which they proclaim their unwillingness to follow
"illegal orders."

The interior minister went on TV to formally apologize to the protesters
for their treatment.

And 50 riot cops dropped their shields and embraced the protesters,
switching sides.


Solidarity is a powerful force. Everyday people always have more in
common with each other than we do with our leaders. Getting your
soldiers to shoot the other soldiers is one of the hardest problems in
any military.

Many people know the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914, when German
and British soldiers emerged from their trenches to fraternize in no
man's land, singing carols, playing football and exchanging gifts.


Less well known is the utter horror this provoked in their command
structures, the generals who took every step possible to avert such an
occurrence again.

Something like the scene in Belarus was on my mind when I wrote the
climax of my 2017 novel Walkaway (I won't give away any more spoilers).
For me, the ultimate lesson here is that the two sides are "bosses vs
everyone else" - not "everyone vs the bosses' shock troops."

So much of the status quo depends on people who should be on the same
side fighting one another on behalf of  minorities of powerful people,
who, while formally opposed to one another, are only contesting who
should be dictator, not whether dictators should be abolished.


🕵️‍♂️ This day in history

#5yrsago Chinese theme-park queue-jumping techniques

#5yrsago Student suspended for tweeting two words will get to sue his
school, police chief

#5yrsago Australian court hands copyright trolls their own asses

#5yrsago Even when you turn on Win 10's "privacy" flags, it still spies
on you

#5yrsago Trickle-down kids' TV: Sesame Street will air on HBO 9 months
before PBS

#1yrago In conversation: Cardi B and Bernie Sanders

#1yrago Training bias in AI "hate speech detector" means that tweets by
Black people are far more likely to be censored

#1yrago My appearance on the MMT podcast: compelling narratives as a
means of advancing complex political and economic ideas

#1yrago Ohio State University files for a trademark on "THE"

#1yrago Schadenfreude watch: Porno copyright trolls' investors sue, say
the grifters they backed stole their money (the grifters say their
lawyer stole the money from them first!)

#1yrago Manhattan DA served Google with a "reverse search warrant" in a
bid to prosecute antifa protesters


🕵️‍♂️ Colophon

Today's top sources: Deth Veggie (https://twitter.com/DethVeggie).

Currently writing:

* My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and
reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 548 words (49478 total).

Currently reading: Null Set, SL Huang; How to Argue with a Racist, Adam

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 12),

Upcoming appearances:

* Induction into the CSFFA Hall of Fame, Aug 15,

* Keynote for Law Via the Internet conference, Sept 22,

* Writing into an Uncertain Future, Afterwords Festival, Oct 1,

Latest book:

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

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

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

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

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