[Plura-list] National Emergency Library, Kaiser threatens nurses, no more O'Reilly events, White House pastor's coronavirus funnies, automatic bill-relief notices

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Wed Mar 25 12:28:39 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Internet Archive lifts lending restrictions on ebooks: They're calling
it the "National Emergency Library."

* Kaiser threatens to fire Oakland nurses who wear their own masks:
They're treating positive patients from a cruise ship with insufficient PPE.

* No more O'Reilly events: We've been here before, kinda.

* Trump's Bible study teacher thinks coronavirus is God's wrath: For
homosexuality, China, environmentalism, Catholics, and women in the

* A chatbot that petitions companies for financial relief during the
crisis: Donotpay's robot lawyer is here for you.

* East London showman Mat Ricardo's Youtube playlists: Lockdown TV for
"comedy, variety, circus, magic, dance, music."

* Xi's enemies sense weakness: Autocracies are only as good as their
last crisis-response.

* Locked down in a lockup: Coronavirus meets immigration detention.

* Doctors hoard choloroquine: MDs to lupus sufferers, "Drop dead."

* Toilet paper separator: Covid crafting for household essentials.

* Conzealand goes virtual: The first time a Worldcon isn't in person
since WWII.

* Posties are key to America's emergency response: The only agency that
could deliver covid meds to every US household in a single day.

* Volante's masks for covid responders: Streetwear for Superheroes.

* This day in history: 2005, 2010, 2019

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


⌛️ Internet Archive lifts lending restrictions on ebooks

The amazing people at the Internet Archive maintain a digital lending
library: they buy and scan one copy of every book (pretty much every
book, ever) and lend it out to one person at a time.

They've just announced that during the crisis, they are lifting the
one-borrower-at-a-time restriction and allowing unlimited borrowing, "to
meet the needs of a global community of displaced learners". They call
it the "National Emergency Library."


It's got more than a million titles.


They're calling on all who can afford it to buy books to support authors
and booksellers during the crisis, Authors can also request to have
their titles removed:


It's a bold move, but it's got widespread support. Here's a list of
endorsers. I signed on too.



⌛️ Kaiser threatens to fire Oakland nurses who wear their own masks

Nurses at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland are treating patients from the
Grand Princess cruise ship, at least 21 of whom have tested positive for
covid-19. The nurses are working without adequate PPE, thanks to a
national shortage (and asshole hoarders).


Nurses who report for work wearing their own N95 masks have been
threatened with immediate dismissal for "insubordination."

Akela Lacy from The Intercept asked Kaiser's Marc Brown about it, but he
ducked the question.


The nurses say that their supply cupboards are locked down, and they're
being asked to treat potentially infected patients whether or not they
can find someone to unlock the supply cupboard.


⌛️ No more O'Reilly events

I attended my first O'Reilly conference in, I think, 1997? And I
sponsored my first O'Reilly con, the first P2P con, in 2001 (?). I spent
years on the committee for the Emerging Tech conference, and I've
keynoted more O'Reilly cons than I can recall.

These events have been some of the most important gatherings I've ever
attended: places where I made lifelong friends and collaborators (I
first met my wife at an Etech con), and learned so much.

This is (obviously) not a good time to be in the event business. For
perfectly good – and nevertheless so, so sad – reasons, O'Reilly has
just exited the in-person conference business.



"Without understanding when this global health emergency may come to an
end, we can't plan for or execute on a business that will be forever
changed as a result of this crisis. With large technology vendors moving
their events completely on-line, we believe the stage is set for a new
normal moving forward when it comes to in-person events."

The covid collapse feels a lot like the post-911/dotcom crash moment.
That was when we lost the Etech conference, whose focus had always been
"what are the most speculative things the weirdest nerds are doing?" No
one had a budget for that kind of thing after the crash.

The dotcom crash and the loss of Etech were hugely traumatic, but there
WERE silver linings. Etech's crash begat FOO Camp, consistently the best
events I've ever attended – small gatherings of smart weirdos who
programmed their own conference in realtime.

It also created a brief moment of breathing space in tech, which had its
origins in driven tech enthusiasts but had been steadily colonized by
buck-chasers who upped sticks and quit when the money disappeared from
the sector. For a brief moment, mid-decade, people who wanted to build
meaningful technologies for users – not investors – could hire
engineering talent and find office space. That was ended by the finance
bubble that shattered in 2008, but for a while there, it was good.

It's brutal to think that I'll never go to another O'Reilly con, but my
hopeful inner voice tells me that there might be something as wonderful
on the horizon as FOO Camp. I'm so sorry for all the O'Reilly conference
staff, who are amazing and have done so much good work.

As O'Reilly CEO Laura Baldwin writes, "No offense to 'Netflix and chill'
but how about we move toward 'Code and conquer' as our new mantra during
these trying times?"


⌛️ Trump's Bible study teacher thinks coronavirus is God's wrath

Wanna hear about an extreme religious far-right bigot who thinks that
coronavirus is God's punishment for Chinese excess, American tolerance
for homosexuality, and environmentalism?


Ralph Drollinger is an evangelical pastor. He says Catholicism is "the
world's largest false religion." He says women working outside the
workplace is against scripture. He runs Capitol Ministries, whose goal
is to have 200 ministries in 200 world capitals.

Drollinger may sound like a garden variety Christian Taliban, but he's
awfully distinguished.

For one thing, he runs regular Bible study classes…at the White House.

His scriptural lessons: God would approve of kids in cages. God also
wants lower taxes on rich people.

His twice-weekly Capital Hill Bible classes are regularly attended by 52
GOP lawmakers, sponsored by Kevin McCarthy [R-CA] and John Thune [R-SD].

His Wednesday White House Bible study classes are attended by Ben
Carson, Betsy DeVos, Alex Azar, and Mike Pompeo. Pence, too!

His organization has received official endorsements from Joni Ernst,
James Lankford and other GOP senators.

This anti-Catholic, homophobic, sinophobic, anti-enviromentalist,
lunatic is squarely in the mainstream of Republican thought.


⌛️ A chatbot that petitions companies for financial relief during the

The $3/month DoNotPay service has added a new covid-19 service:
automatically petitioning the companies that bill you for mercy based on
the coronavirus econopocalypse.


Using a chatbot, you determine which of your bills are eligible for
relief. Then it generates a "compassionate and polite request" seeking
help. If the company does not comply, it follows up with a firmer letter
citing relevant state/federal laws.



⌛️ East London showman Mat Ricardo's Youtube playlists

Under normal circumstances, showman MatRicardo is either traveling
around doing his juggling and conjuring act, or hosting amazing variety
show nights in east London. Neither of those are an option, now, obvious.

Instead, Ricardo is curating playlists of "comedy, variety, circus,
magic, dance, music and other kinds of culture and entertainment to
distract and amuse."




Kids in the Hall: "I speak no English"


Gene Kelly: "Summer Stock"


"The Knife-Throwing Mother & her Children (1950s)"


Mat Ricardo: "How to charm a German audience"



⌛️ Xi's enemies sense weakness

Autocracies are intrinsically unstable because their have-nots (who tend
to be numerous) believe that they have no path to becoming haves, and
see no legitimate purpose to preserve the social order.

China has stabilized its autocracy by simultaneously lifting hundreds of
millions out of poverty and by using internet surveillance to both
neutralize dissidents and spot its most corrupt and dangerous politicians.

But under Xi, internet surveillance has primarily become a weapon for
spotting and neutralizing dissidents, and less so a way of spotting
self-dealing technocrats and shutting them down. This created
"authoritarian blindness," which meant Xi didn't spot or respond to
Wuhan in good time.


This failure ruptured Chinese public confidence in Xi, and emboldened
his critics. Ren Zhiqiang (a party "princeling" whose father was a top
Mao official, who made a fortune in real-estate and has been an outspoke
Xi critic) issued a "viral" jeremiad against Xi this month.

Ren's post, "An official call to arms against Xi: The clown who insists
on wearing the emperor's new clothes," spread on Twitter and other
foreign services (he has been banned from Wechat for years).


Ren disappeared shortly thereafter and is said to have been sentenced to
15 years in a secret prison near Beijing where his interrogators have
been ordered to mete out "harsh treatment" to the 70-year-old.

Ren is a bellwether for other Chinese power-brokers, many of whom resent
Xi and his power-consolidation techniques, such as his 2018 corruption
purge that preferentially targeted corrupt officials who supported Xi's


These grandees have been sharpening their knives for Xi for years, and
coronavirus has made him vulnerable. Ren was the first to turn on him
publicly, but I'm sure he won't be the last.


⌛️ Locked down in a lockup

You know what's more terrifying and frustrating than being locked down
at home during a coronavirus pandemic? Being imprisoned during a
coronavirus pandemic, crammed in with others, deprived of soap and supplies.

It's very bad in regular jails and prisons, but if anything, it's even
worse in ICE's gulags, where thousands of law-abiding long-term US
residents – and asylum seekers – have been detained by the Trump
administration in order to please his sadistic base.

For example, Ian has lived in the US for 20 years. His wife and children
are US citizens. He was detained while awaiting a decision on his
spousal visa. His wife is a nurse treating covid patients. His children
miss their father.


Ian has a heart condition that puts him at severe risk if he contracts
coronavirus. He's in a 40-person dormitory with a recent arrival from
China who is exhibiting symptoms.

He's in NJ's Essex detention facility, which is serviced by Corecivic,
formerly Corrections Corporation of America, a notorious human rights
abuser with a long history of beltway banditry while running private
prisons. Some detainees there are on hunger strike.

One of the medical staffers there was confirmed by ICE to have
contracted coronavirus. The next day, ICE denied that he was medical
staff. ICE would not comment on the contradiction.


⌛️ Doctors hoard choloroquine

After Trump made misleading statements about the safety and efficacy of
treating covid-19 with chloroquine, members of his cult began dropping
dead of overdoses on the antimalarial drug.


But it wasn't just low-information Trumpers who took the advice to
heart. Pharmacists are seeing surges in massive orders of chloroquine
from doctors and even dentists who are self-prescribing in order to
hoard, and then lying about it when the pharmacists ask for explanations.


This hoarding behavior deprives people who rely on chloroquine for
conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus of their medication
during a pandemic emergency.

"People are losing their minds about this product. We're selling so much
of this stuff and people are just stockpiling it prophylactically if
anybody in their family gets sick — they're just holding on to it."
-Brian Brito, Miami pharmacy owner.

"Currently, both nationally and in West Virginia, some prescribers have
begun writing prescriptions for these drugs for family, friends, and
coworkers in anticipation of Covid-19 related illness." -West Virginia
Board of Pharmacy


⌛️ Toilet paper separator

The Toilet Paper Splitter: a DIY project to separate a single two-ply
roll into two single-ply rolls. Requires two paint rollers, a couple
bolts, a rubber band, and some stiff metal for a handle.



⌛️ Conzealand goes virtual

The World Science Fiction Convention began in 1939, when 200 sf fans
who'd come to New York for the World's Fair gathered together (while
explicitly excluding the leftist "Futurian" writers, who held their own


Since then, there have been 77 Worldcons in total, one per year,
excluding 1942/3/4/5, during which WWII intervened.

This year's Worldcon is Conzealand, the first Worldcon in New Zealand.
Except it won't be. The organizers have wisely decided to move to a
virtual event.

The hotels are allowing for cancellations, though there's some work to
be done to allow the organizers to do mass cancellations for their group
block. Different airlines have different rules regarding cancellations.


They're expecting to offer limited refunds to participants who don't
want to a virtual con experience. They'll be offering a new online rate
by April 15, and kids memberships are refundable now (but they ask you
to forebear as their own personal funds are on the line).

Potential panelists are requested to put some thought into how they
might help a virtual con with its programming.

This is incredibly disappointing, of course.I know the organizers and
visited Wellington and the venue, both of which are incredible.


I've been looking forward to attending for years. But it was the right
call to make. it won't be the last such disappointment, either.

Please consider supporting the organizers by buying an online membership
once they're offered and attending the con from wherever you are.


⌛️ Posties are key to America's emergency response

The USPS is amazing. A fully self-supporting federal agency that
provides universal service as well as good, well-paid jobs with benefits
and pensions. It's also a vital lifeline during crises.


Since the Cold War, posties have been integral to America's crisis
plans. They were once deputized to catalog the dead and the living after
a nuclear holocaust, distributing Safety Notification Cards (POD Form
810). Mail trucks would have been repurposed as ambulances.

Both Obama and GWB integrated posties into their plans for biological
attacks, planning to have masked and gowned letter carriers deliver
Cipro door to door (the "Postal Plan").


As the DHS noted in its prep documents, the USPS is the only federal
agency that could knock on every door in America in a single day.

When (if?) effective covid meds are available, it's likely a postal
worker will deliver them to you.

Now is a good time to remember that the GOP have been trying to
dismantle the universal, self-funding, vital USPS for decades, so that
private carriers like UPS and Fedex can cream off the most profitable
parts of its business and leave rural Americans in the cold.


⌛️ Volante's masks for covid responders

I've long admired (and worn) clothing from Volante Design, whose
"streetwear for superheroes" is made by well-paid, onshore workers and
is cosplay-adjascent — the kind of thing you can wear out and about, but
also to a con.

Now, they're making masks for covid responders.

The masks are made from cloth and can protect N95 masks from
contamination as they are reused (they have a pocket for this purpose).
They can also prevent you from touching your face, and partially contain
coughs when medical masks are not available


They're seeking donations to cover the cost of making these and shipping
them to orgs that have requested cloth masks:


A $105.50 donation lets them make 50 masks. They're also selling them on
a sliding scale to those in need.


⌛️ This day in history

#15yrsago Matrix online game hires real actors to play in-game
characters http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/the-matrix-online/598441p1.html

#15yrsago Fox is advertising on Grokster, also suing to put Grokster out
of business

#15yrsago US sabotaging efforts to create humanitarian copyright and
patent policies

#15yrsago Ex-coder's account of life as a bike courier

#10yrsago Profit-sharing arrangements among Somali pirates

#1yrago Peak Indifference: are we reaching climate's denial/nihilism
tipping point?

#1yrago London developer makes last-minute changes to lock poor kids out
of "communal" playground

#1yrago Chinese censors incinerate entire run of a kickstarted Call of
Cthulhu RPG sourcebook https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9Urosc-JEY

#1yrago The Vessel: a perfect symbol for the grifter capitalism of New
York City's privatized Hudson Yards "neighborhood"


⌛️ Colophon

Today's top sources: Wendy Hanamura (https://twitter.com/whanamura),
Geekologie (https://geekologie.com/), Naked Capitalism

Currently writing: I'm getting geared up to start work my next novel,
"The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation.

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: Data – the new oil, or potential for a toxic oil spill?

Upcoming appearances:

* Quarantine Book Club, April 1, 3PM Pacific

* Museums and the Web, April 2, 12PM-3PM Pacific https://mw20.museweb.net/

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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