[Plura-list] Preppers in times of crisis, work-from-home vs smart speakers, scientist's coronavirus painting, Tlaib's trillion dollar coins

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sun Mar 22 14:22:53 EDT 2020

Today's links

* How prepper media is coping with the crisis: Fantasy meets reality
while grifters pick up the pieces.

* Law firm tells work-from-homers to switch off smart speakers: Bugging
your own house is not compatible with attorney-client privilege.

* Gorgeous painting of coronavirus from a molecular scientist: Free to
use, too.

* Slim's is shut, but DNA Lounge needs your help: It's not a business,
it's a community.

* Florida mayor ducks accountability for threatening power
disconnections during the pandemic: Mayor Pam Triolo has permanently
disqualified herself for public office, and commissioner Omari Hardy has
the receipts.

* Rashida Tlaib proposes minting *two* trillion-dollar coins: A people's
covid bailout.

* How "concierge doctors" supply the "worried well" with masks,
respirators and tests: Pandemic capitalism is guillotine capitalism.

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

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


🚉 How prepper media is coping with the crisis (permalink)

I just listened to the most interesting coverage of the pandemic I've
heard so far: On The Media's deep reporting on how preppers are coping
with the Current Situation.


I admit I felt some schadenfreude when I heard prepper media trying to
reconcile their hair-trigger belief in the apocalypse with blind loyalty
to Trump and his deny/spin tactics. Not to mention some smugness when I
heard about all the scammy products grifters are pimping out to
preppers. There's even a fucking Kardashian flogging own-brand prepper gear.

But what made the segment amazing – and not just amusing – was the
interview with Richard Mitchell, an ethnographer who embedded with
preppers for years.


He wrote the canonical book on the prepper movement, Dancing at
Armageddon: Survivalism and Chaos in Modern Times.


As Mitchell explains it, prepping is NEVER about actual preparedness.
It's about imagining a scenario in which you will uniquely be poised to
thrive, irrespective of the likelihood of that scenario. For example, a
chemist he profiles in the book is totally prepped for a future in which
terrorists poison the water supply and has stockpiled antidotes, water
purification chemicals, etc.

The most important thing about this possibility is not that it's likely,
but rather than he'd shine if it were to come to pass.

Prepping is a way of playing out a fantasy in which you are elevated to
savior status, not an exercise in disaster-mitigation. And the thing is,
coronavirus is not a thing anyone can individually prepare for.
Individuals in bunkers don't invent novel viral therapies, vaccines, or
field-expedient ventilators. That's done by *society*: labs, research
institutes, universities, makerspaces.

The problem with actual prepper-level crises is that they demand social
responses, not individual ones. The prepper's quest for individual
meaning and supremacy means that he can never be actually prepared,
because the way to solve a crisis is run towards it, not away.

Cowering in a luxury bunker trying to unstick the pages of your beloved
copy of The Turner Diaries is a hell of a way to while away the end of
the world.


🚉 Law firm tells work-from-homers to switch off smart speakers (permalink)

Mishcon de Reya is an elite UK law firm whose partners are – like so
many others – working from home. The company has issued guidance to
staff about shutting down their "smart" speakers while at home, to avoid
leakage of sensitive client information


The guidance – to power off these devices – comes from Joe Hancock, the
partner in charge of the firm's cybersecurity, and covers all IoT
devices with cameras/mics, including baby monitors, smart speakers, Ring
doorbells, etc.


🚉 Gorgeous painting of coronavirus from a molecular scientist (permalink)

David S. Goodsell is a molecular scientist and artist at the Scripps
institute. His latest "Molecular Landscapes" piece is "Coronavirus".


You can tune into some of the process notes here: "he emphasizes that
molecular processes in our body don't stand on their own (despite how
they're usually shown in textbooks), but that all these components are
part of a crowded environment."


Goodsell has declared it "free to use." You can get a high-rez here:



🚉 Slim's is shut, but DNA Lounge needs your help (permalink)

Two years ago, the billionaires who operated San Francisco's beloved
blues club Slim's flogged it off to the predatory venue operator Golden
Voice, who have now shuttered it.


As JWZ points out, the fact that Slim's wasn't operated to turn a profit
is in no way exceptional. Clubs are labors of love, "We facilitate the
creation of culture: You push money in, turn the crank, and what comes
out the other side is art, community, music and stories."

He knows. He's run the wonderful DNA Lounge for 30 years: "It isn't some
whim of dilettante plutocrats. It's not some hobby I toy with when I'm
not private-jetting off to my luxurious doomsday bunker. This is all I
do. I didn't expect this to be my life's work, but it is."

He's just about run out of his tech money, and he's had to close during
the pandemic, but he's still paying staff and still wants to continue
providing a service to his community. He's seeking donations:


"The 'two or three rich dudes' model is not sustainable, because two or
three people, billionaires or not, are not a community."


🚉 Florida mayor ducks accountability for threatening power
disconnections during the pandemic (permalink)

The city of Lake Worth Beach, Florida was brutally slow to recognize the
seriousness of the pandemic. Not only did the Mayor Pam Triolo fail to
take action to limit the spread of the virus, her administration also
continued to send power disconnection notices to the city's poorest


Her administration refused to agendize or properly debate the response
for far too long, provoking commissioner Omari Hardy to call her and
city manager Michael Bornstein out for their inaction and their cruelty
to the city's poorest.


The commissioner's righteous – and technically excellent – intervention
during a council meeting is a masterpiece, as he bulls through
cack-handed attempts to silence him using mishandled parliamentary
procedure, while dogging the mayor as she ducks responsibility.

Forcing people in the worst economic downturn in living memory to choose
between spending their last check on power or food, during a
once-in-a-century pandemic, is an act of permanently disqualifying
depraved indifference and mismanagement.


🚉 Rashida Tlaib proposes minting *two* trillion-dollar coins (permalink)

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has revived an idea from the 2011 debt
crisis to finance the stimulus, pulled from the #ModernMonentaryTheory
playbook: having the Federal Reserve mint two "one trillion dollar
coins" and deposit them in its Fed account.


Doing so would avoid federal debt strictures and immediately give the
USG $2T to spend on reviving the economy, which it would do by sending
every person in the USA a $2K prepaid credit card that would receive
$1K/month until a year after the crisis's end.

Each person – children, adults, documented, undocumented, rich, poor –
would get the card and the deposits, and progressive taxation would rake
it back from those who don't need it (far more reliable than
means-testing, which is a persistent failure).

Trillion-dollar coins are a well-theorized and documented proposal. You
can read more here:



🚉 How "concierge doctors" supply the "worried well" with masks,
respirators and tests (permalink)

One big difference I observed between my life under Canadian medicare
(30 years), and UK NHS (13 years) is that in the former, there is no
private option, so rich people have to advocate for everyone's care in
order to improve their own. I think the relative fortunes of the NHS and
OHIP can be largely explained by this difference. Allowing the rich to
opt into a private system reduces the political costs of slashing the
public system.

In the US, this process proceeds on steriods. Those in the USA lucky
enough to have "insurance" find that their massive premiums buy them
little-to-no healthcare, with endless bureaucracy and denials.


Meanwhile, wealthy Americans buy their way out of the system altogether
with "concierge doctors." In good times, this is merely an injustice.
During the pandemic, it's an invitation to start building guillotines.


Concierge services have finagled all kinds of pandemic unobtanium:
respirators, tests, swabs and masks. These are not going to unwell
people, they're going to the "worried well": rich people who just want
to be on the safe side.

This could make us all much sicker. We need tests for exposed people,
masks for health-care workers, respirators for emergency cases. The fact
that these are piling up in mansions in the Hamptons and other wealthy
enclaves is proof that markets are not efficient allocators.

We're supposed to tolerate inequality because it is an unavoidable
consequence of efficient market allocations, making us all better off in
the long run. But when inequality allows plutes to hoard pandemic
supplies and endanger every human on Earth, the pretence runs thin.

There's a great book about this, The Velvet Rope Economy: How Inequality
Became Big Business, by Nelson Schwartz: "In every realm of daily
life–from health care to education, highways to home security–there is
an invisible velvet rope that divides how Americans live."



🚉 This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago EFF appeals Apple versus Online Journalists

#10yrsago Delusional EU ACTA negotiator claims that three strikes has
never been proposed at ACTA

#10yrsago Teacher's heartbreak and anger at No Child Left Behind

#5yrsago Taxonomy of theme park narrative gimmicks <a

#1yrago Gollancz has published its first anthology of South Asian
Science Fiction

#1yrago After fatal crash, Boeing reverses sales policy that locked out
some safety features unless airlines paid for an upgrade

#1yrago Philadelphia city council candidate says his secret AI has
discovered disqualifying fraud in the nominations of 30 out of 33

#1yrago This Could Be It: Key Polish Political Party Comes Out Against
Article 13

#1yrago Unnamed stalkerware company has left gigabytes of sensitive
personal info unprotected on the web and can't be reached to fix it

#1yrago Wireless vulns in Medtronic's implanted defibrillators allow
remote shocks, shutdown, denial-of-service battery attacks and data


🚉 Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/). Hugh D'Andrade
(http://hughillustration.com/), Late Stage Capitalism
(https://www.reddit.com/r/LateStageCapitalism/), Naked Capitalism

Currently writing: I've just finished rewrites on 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've also just completed "Baby Twitter," a piece of
design fiction also set in The Lost Cause's prehistory, for a British
think-tank. I'm getting geared up to start work on the novel next.

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 month, I finished Andrea Bernstein's "American Oligarchs"; 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: The Masque of the Red Death and Punch Brothers Punch

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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