[Plura-list] CDC vs facial hair, phrenology vs girl-power, Norman Rockwell vs white nationalism, Gmail vs Democrats, and more!

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Thu Feb 27 10:11:36 EST 2020

📣 Today's links

* Ripping the window-dressing off the .ORG selloff: It's not even an ethos.

* CDC guide to filter-mask-friendly facial hair: You're good to go with
a Zappa, Villain or Hitler, but stay away from the Dali, Hulahee and the
dread Fu Manchu.

* Don't trust Google to build Toronto's Smart City: Sidewalk Labs's
sleaze has disqualified it.

* A "girls-only" social service wants to analyze your facial bone
structure: "It's science!"

* Norman Rockwell turned into a radical civil rights activist: His last
painting was of Nixon, too.

* Gmail's filters are blocking opt-in election emails: Mayo Pete and
Andrew Yang are winning the spam-filter primary.

* Talking Radicalized with The Next Chapter: Shelagh Rogers is a
national treasure.

* Neoliberalism kills, the coronavirus edition: And you thought
capitalism would kill us all with climate change!

* Bernie Sanders and Public Enemy LA rally this Sunday: With Sarah
Silverman and Dick van Dyke!

* Venezuelan women's "army" break into dead factories to reboot them:
"Only the people can save the people."

* Meet Akil Augustine, voice of the Raptors…and Radicalized: A fighter
in my corner.

* This day in history: 2019, 2015, 2005

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


📣 Ripping the window-dressing off the .ORG selloff

The latest on ISOC's shameful attempt to flog off .ORG to a group of
sketchy billionaires: Ethos Capital's promises concerning its
stewardship are pure window-dressing.


Its binding promise not to increase prices for .ORG domains? Still
allows it to DOUBLE prices in 8 years, then allows UNLIMITED increases
afterwards. Its "Stewardship Council"? Handpicked by Ethos's own bagmen,
& only empowered to rule on very narrow questions of de-anonymization
and censorship, AND Ethos can simply ignore its rulings by declaring
them to be required by a government or consistent with anti-abuse policies.

In an open letter in the Nonprofit Times, Cindy Cohn of EFF and Amy
Sample Ward of NTEN break it down:


"Your proposal cabins the council's authority by placing anything
construed as 'advice or recommendations regarding day-to-day
operational, financial or budgeting matters, or pricing out of bounds.
It would be trivial to categorize harmful practices as 'operational.'"


📣 CDC guide to filter-mask-friendly facial hair

The CDC has an infographic enumerating the effect of various styles of
facial hair on filtering respirators.

You're good to go with a Zappa, Villain or Hitler, but stay away from
the Dali, Hulahee and the dread F(l)u Manchu.



📣 Don't trust Google to build Toronto's Smart City

Google is planning to turn a vast swathe of Toronto into a high-tech
"smart city" through its Sidewalk Labs division. They've been incredibly
misleading and opaque about their plans, and yet the city keeps
greenlighting through successive phases.

The latest phase is the publication of the Digital Strategy Advisory
Panel's report, a wide-ranging critical report from technologists and
tech experts on Google's plan to instrument the city and extract its data.


It's pretty sharp stuff. Michael Geist's introductory letter gives a
taste of things.


But far more pointed is Andrew Clement's Appendix D, a kind of minority
report that makes it abundantly clear that Google has totally
disqualified itself from this project.

Question One: Does Sidewalk have a strong track record as an urban
innovator appropriate for Toronto?

Short answer: No

(Sidewalk lied, omitted other projects that were terrible, and literally
followed a grifter's playbook called "BOLD")

Question Two: Can Sidewalk Labs' core claims be relied on?

Sidewalk "consulted" with 21,000 Torontonians, but it hasn't shown that
it's willing to take any of that consultation advice to heart
("corporate self-defense").

Sidewalk claims it's not "tech for tech's sake," but the whole plan
reeks of it.

Sidewalk claimed it's not about extracting data, but the plan is totally
about extracting data.

Question Three: What does experience with Sidewalk to date in this
project indicate about its reliability as a partner? In particular, has
Sidewalk respected its contracts and other commitments?

Nope. For example, it held its expert panel to NDAs after promising it

Question Four: Can Sidewalk be treated as independent of its parent
Alphabet/Google and its wider enterprise?

Obviously not! "In business strategy, financing and overall managerial
control, there are clear indications that Sidewalk is unlikely to
diverge from Alphabet/Google."

"Nearly all Alphabet revenues are earned by Google and they have the
same CEO, Sundar Pichai, and same CFO, Ruth Porat."

Question Five: What are the risks of partnering with an Alphabet enterprise?

"It has been fined a combined $9.5 billion since 2017 by EU antitrust
regulators while facing further significant government investigations
for its anti-competitive behaviour."

"It will be challenging to make a positive determination absent public
evidence of a thorough, independent risk-benefit analysis of the
prospective partnership or other contractual relationship."


📣 A "girls-only" social service wants to analyze your facial bone

Well, this is the most "now you've got two problems" moment in recent
memory. "Giggle" is an all-girl social network. To be "all-girl" they
have keep men off of the platform. How do they do that? With FACIAL BONE

"It's science! Just like archaeologists do with mummies."


The impulse to start a girl-only social space is a potentially fine one,
but deploying what amounts to eugenics – heavily borrowed from the incel
movement's obsession with facial bone-structure – is idiotic.

"Unfortunately it doesn't verify trans-girls."

No shit. Also, it doesn't verify people whose bone-structure fails your
digital phrenology tests. And it WILL verify men and boys who generate
false positives in the system.


I can't believe I need to say this, but: The goal of making girls feel
OK with who they are cannot be attained by subjecting their facial
bone-structure to algorithmic femininity assessments.


📣 Norman Rockwell turned into a radical civil rights activist

I hadn't known that at the end of his career, Norman Rockwell became a
political radical, breaking with the Saturday Evening Post over his
desire to depict the civil rights struggle.


Writing in Vox, Tom Carson describes how Rockwell's personal tragedies –
the death of his wife – and the advice of his therapist helped him
transform into an acerbic, radical painter, the opposite of who we
remember him as.

Switching from the Post to Look Magazine, Rockwell depicted such
subjects as 6-y-o Ruby Bridges being escorted into an all-white school
by federal marshalls who led her past howling mobs of white supremacists.

He went on to paint a depiction of the imagined last moments of civil
rights workers Mickey Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, who
were tortured and murdered by white nationalists.


A staunch anti-war activist, he pestered LBJ with an endless stream of
telegrams demanding negotiations, not bombings, in Vietnam (ironically,
he voted for Nixon in the hopes that he would end the war).

Further irony: the last substantial painting he completed was of Nixon
after his election win: "This time around, he managed what he'd once
said was impossible. His subject looks like a nice man who is,
nonetheless, unmistakably Richard Nixon."

It's the only Rockwell painting in the National Portrait Gallery.



📣 Gmail's filters are blocking opt-in election emails

Gmail's spam filters perform very differently when it comes to
fundraising emails from Democratic leadership contenders: Mayo Pete
evades filters 63% of the time, Yang lands 46% of the time. EVERY Warren
campaign email tested got filtered to spam.


These are all emails that Gmail users have opted to receive, too, but
most are filtered to the "promotions" inbox, rather than "primary." In
all only 11% of emails from "candidates, think tanks, advocacy groups,
and nonprofits" reached primary.

It's turning email — the last federated platform on the internet — into
Facebook, a filternet whose rules are set by unaccountable algorithms
operated by a secretive monopolist.

Goog has a conflict of interest here: "While Gmail does not sell ads in
the primary inbox, advertisers can pay for top placement in the social
and promotions tabs in free accounts."

This was Facebook's media-killing strategy: when you started your media
outlet's FB presence, the company delivered 100% of your posts to your
followers, then, once you depended on that, it dialed delivery down
unless you paid for "reach."

The pretense of Big Tech is that you they connect you to the stuff you
ask for (this is also the premise behind Net Neutrality). The reality is
that they decide, unaccountably, invisibly and inexplicably, what you
may see.

While the overfiltering might in error, it's an error Goog is
incentivized to wontfix: "'You're not precluded from buying an ad in the
promotions tab, or offering a deal,' said Lee Carosi Dunn, who at the
time led election sales, political outreach and policy for Google."


📣 Talking Radicalized with The Next Chapter

My book Radicalized is a finalist for Canada Reads, the CBC's national
book prize


That means all kinds of good stuff, but one of the highlights was
talking with Shelagh Rogers for The Next Chapter. I grew up listening to
Shelagh, and she's so incredibly smart about books.

The interview came out great! (How could it not, given the interviewer).
We ranged widely over "Canadianness," "Americanness," literary forms,
anxiety and creativity, and the substance of the stories themselves.


You can get the MP3 here:


It's also been included in my podcast feed, which you can subscribe to here:



📣 Neoliberalism kills, the coronavirus edition

Neoliberalism kills, a play in two acts

Act I: UK employers are not required to offer sick pay to asymptomatic
potential coronavirus carriers, even if those workers' doctors have
ordered them to "self-isolate" to avoid spreading pandemic.


Leaving workers with a stark choice: perform your duty to the public
health and lose your wages or even your job, or turn up for work and
infect your co-workers and customers.

Typhoid Mary vs Moral Hazard in action, there.

Act II: Alex Azar, the US Health and Human Services secretary, has ruled
out price controls for a coronavirus vaccine, arguing that pharma
companies need "incentives" to produce.


"Alex Michael Azar II (/ˈeɪzər/ born June 17, 1967) is an American
attorney, politician, pharmaceutical lobbyist, and former drug company
executive who serves as the United States Secretary of Health and Human


This former pharma lobbyist, whose industry gobbles public subsidies
like a tweaker gobbles bennies, firmly believes that his once-and-future
paymasters must be permitted unlimited gouging, and if they choose to
leave those who can't pay to die, that's "the market."

Lambert Strether, 2014:

"I propose two simple rules to which neo-liberalism can be reduced. They

"Rule #1: Because markets.

"Rule #2: Go die!"


It turns out that all those people who thought late-stage capitalism
would exterminate the human race through climate change were wrong! It's
going to kill us all with pandemics, instead.

Herd immunity has a well-known leftist bias.


📣 Bernie Sanders and Public Enemy LA rally this Sunday

Angelenos! Bernie Sanders is doing a gig with Dick Van Dyke (!), Sarah
Silverman (!!) and Public Enemy (!!!) this SUNDAY (Sunday Sunday
Sunday!) at the LA Convention Center.

Admission is free, but you need to RSVP here. Doors open at 3, rally
starts at 5, ends at 7. Word of warning: the last Sanders rally I
attended (in 2016) started REALLY late, like 2h.


Campaigning presidential candidates have hard-to-predict schedules
apparently (but warn your babysitter).


📣 Venezuelan women's "army" break into dead factories to reboot them

The "Productive Army" is a Venezuelan women's collective that has been
operating since 2017. They visit shuttered factories, get workers to
explain what's needed to reopen them, break in and start them up again.


They organize themselves like military units, with captains, etc, and
the units generally have to beg their bosses for time off to roam the
country, putting it back on its feet. Operations typically run for less
than a week, and incorporate weekends to minimize time off.

They describe themselves as carrying out the Chavismo doctrine of
"workers' control of factories," which even Chavez largely treated as a
slogan, and which his successors have been even less committed to.

They remind me of the elite Chinese students whom Xi ordered to read
Marx and Lenin, who then decided Xi was a bourgeois sellout and took to
the road to support wildcat workers' strikes against Xi-aligned factory


The Productive Army's slogan is "Only the People Can Save the People."
Its missions are "productive battles." A productive battle might involve
repairing the furnace in a sardine canning factory to get it running
again, then turning it over to workers: "In the EPO they say that they
not only repair machines but, above all, consciences."

One of the crispest definitions of "rightism" came I've heard came from
Steven Brust: "Ask them what's more important: property rights, or human
rights? If they answer, 'Property rights are human rights," they're on
the right." (I quoted this in Walkaway).

When people want the things the factory produces, and workers want to
produce those things in the factory, but the spreadsheet says the
factory isn't viable, the problem is with the spreadsheet, not the people.


📣 Meet Akil Augustine, voice of the Raptors…and Radicalized

In the Canada Reads national book prize, each book gets a "champion" – a
defender who speaks for the book in a series of televised debates. My
champion is the incredible Akil Augustine, voice of the Toronto Raptors.

Akil and I met in Toronto last month when they announced that my book
Radicalized was a finalist for the prize, and the CBC sat us down for a
rollicking joint interview.


I love that Radicalized connected with Akil, given how divergent our
interests are (I can't even name a single basketball goalie!). I love
even more how competitive he is. As someone who grew up at hippie
summer-camp playing "co-operative volleyball" I'm very grateful to have
a fighter in my corner who plays to win!


📣 This day in history

#15yrsago Halle Berry accepts "Razzie" for Catwoman, calls it a "piece
of shit"

#5yrsago Mass surveillance hip-hop from the director of the Bill of
Rights Defense Committee

#1yrago Bunnie Huang's tour-de-force explanation of how hardware
implants and supply chain hacks work

#1yrago AOC grills Equifax CEO: the Congressional record now contains
the obvious, infuriating truth that everyone else already knew

#1yrago Fox hit with $179m (including $128m in punitive damages)
judgment over shady bookkeeping on "Bones"


📣 Colophon

Today's top sources: JWZ (http://www.jwz.org/blog/), Pipe Dream Dragon
(https://pipedreamdragon.tumblr.com/), Metafilter
(https://metafilter.com/), Karl Bode (https://twitter.com/karlbode, RCB
Leon (https://twitter.com/rcbleon), Naked Capitalism

Hugo nominators! My story "Unauthorized Bread" is eligible in the
Novella category and you can read it free on Ars Technica:

Upcoming appearances:

* Canada Reads Kelowna: March 5, 6PM, Kelowna Library, 1380 Ellis
Street, with CBC's Sarah Penton

Currently writing: I just finished a short story, "The Canadian
Miracle," for MIT Tech Review. It's a story set in the world of my next
novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and
reconciliation. I'm getting geared up to start work on the novel now,
though the timing is going to depend on another pending commission (I've
been solicited by an NGO) to write a short story set in the world's

Currently reading: Just started Lauren Beukes's forthcoming Afterland:
it's Y the Last Man plus plus, and two chapters in, it's amazeballs.
Last week, I finished Andrea Bernstein's "American Oligarchs" this week;
it's a magnificent history of the Kushner and Trump families, showing
how they cheated, stole and lied their way into power. I'm getting
really into Anna Weiner's memoir about tech, "Uncanny Valley." I just
loaded Matt Stoller's "Goliath" onto my underwater MP3 player and I'm
listening to it as I swim laps.

Latest podcast: Gopher: When Adversarial Interoperability Burrowed Under
the Gatekeepers' Fortresses:

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 very
special, s00per s33kr1t intro.

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