[Plura-list] Announcing Story Club, Alex Jones's one-two punch, Andrew Cuomo is not your woke bae, Cozy Catastrophes

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sun Mar 29 11:11:51 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Announcing Story Club: A short story reading group, kicking off with
me and Masque of the Red Death.

* Alex Jones's one-two punch: Conspiracy is a credulity-detection system.

* Andrew Cuomo is not your woke bae: Teen Vogue has a timely reminder.

* Cozy Catastrophes: Time to revisit Jo Walton's 2009 essay.

* California's missing medical stockpile: Balanced budgets vs 50m N95
respirators, 2400 portable ventilators, and 21,000 patient beds

* A better way to visualize exponential growth: What matters is the rate
of new infections.

* Don't worry about groceries: They're safe, mostly.

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

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


🧨 Announcing Story Club

Short Story Club is a new online reading group where you read a story
together then talk live with the author over Zoom.

Its inaugural meeting is April 7 at 5:30PM, and I'm the first guest,
with The Masque of the Red Death, from my book Radicalized.


It's pay what you can ($0-5) and when you RSVP you get an ebook of the


Proceeds donated to Match Mask to send N95 masks to healthcare workers
at the frontlines of COVID-19.

You can also listen to the story as a free audiobook, read by the
amazing Stefan Rudnicki, courtesy of Macmillan Audio:


I hope you'll come!


🧨 Alex Jones's one-two punch

Yeah, I saw that Alex Jones's app had been yanked from the Google Play
store for covid disinfo, but I hadn't paid attention. Grifters gonna
grift, after all. But this Wired/Ars story about the specific claims
that got Jones banned…woah.


"Everybody dies under the new world order except maybe one 0.01% that
believe they're going to merge with machines and have made deals with
this inter-dimensional thing that gave them all the technology…You can't
make a deal with these aliens, OK, that the Bible tells you about and
ever get off the planet."

The thing is, Jones isn't merely a deluded babbler. He's a huxter.
"Earlier this month, NY AG Letitia James sent him a cease and desist
notice for saying that his DNA Force+ supplements, Superblue toothpaste,
& SilverSol gargle could protect against or treat coronavirus."

I normally maintain such distance from Jones that I forget just how
unhinged his claims are and start to think that they're merely
over-the-top right-wing nonsense, but when I reestablish contact with
his work, I remember anew that he's filtering for mental vulnerability.

"Nigerian 419 letters" are deliberately obvious scam to anyone with
active critical faculties. They're multistage scams that are
time-consuming for their perps, so filtering out those who will bail
partway through the dance is good business practice.


Jones is also a multistage scammer who controls his cost-centers by
pre-filtering anyone who has a smidgen of critical thought. That way he
doesn't have to process return requests for his snake-oil, or fend off
AG and FDA investigations.

You really see the one-two punch in this skirmish: first he weeds out
anyone who recoils at the idea that covid is a transdimensional plague
sent to hasten the Singularity and murder Bible-readers, then he sells
the remainder silver-doped toothpaste ($20/5.5oz)


🧨 Andrew Cuomo is not your woke bae

An important consequence of being trapped in an abusive relationship is
that it makes less-terrible (but still awful) suitors look wonderful by

That's why Monica Klein's Teen Vogue op-ed on Andrew Cuomo is so timely.


Yes, Cuomo is a billion times better than Trump, but that doesn't make
him worthy of being your coronavirus crush, or as Molly Jong Fast put it
in Adult Vogue, "the closest thing we have to an FDR."


Cuomo is not FDR.

He represents "a wing of the Democratic Party that abandoned its New
Deal roots to please big donors," and not because he's in a perilous,
marginal office where he has to compromise to attain re-election. He
sells out because he wants to.

Cuomo is the governor who blocked single payer healthcare, opposed
protections for low-wage workers, and starved public housing and public
schools of funding, and gutted homelessness programs.

New York's terrible coronavirus problems are largely Trump's fault, but
the lack of protection for workers, combined with inadequate housing and
public health are not helping. Those were Cuomo's doing, his mistakes to
make and own.

Wisdom: "The Democratic Party was once the party of government for the
people. The party used to embrace a well-funded, powerful federal
government that protected working people and provided robust support for
Americans in need during national crises like, say, a pandemic.
Corporate centrist Democrats like Cuomo have spent years actively
blocking funding and legislation that could materially improve the lives
of working Americans."

And coronavirus hasn't made Cuomo stop cuomoing: "Rather than ask
millionaires and billionaires in NY to pay their fair share as our state
economy collapses, the governor is pushing for unilateral power to slash
government services throughout the year."

And yeah, he's issued a moratorium on mortgages for homeowners, but
there's no sign of a rent freeze.

"Long before Trump was elected, Democrats spent decades destroying the
idea that we are the party that protects working people rather than
corporate interests."


🧨 Cozy Catastrophes

There's never been a better time to read Jo Walton's 2009 essay on "cozy
catastrophes" where "a bizarre calamity occurs that wipes out a large
percentage of the population, but the protagonists survive and thrive in
the new world that follows. "


Walton traces the root of the cozy catastrophe to a British middle-class
readership whose postwar fortunes were reduced, and whose sensibilities
were offended by the intrusion of working class people on their
traditional enclaves.

Cozies exterminated these inconvenient proles by a variety of means,
comets, bees, even giant walking plants: "the people who survive are
always middle class, and have rarely lost anyone significant to them.
The working classes are wiped out in a way that removes guilt." The
survivors wander the empty streets of London, missing good restaurants
and string quartets, but not football matches or carnivals.

These were mainstream bestsellers in the UK in the 50s: explicitly sold
as "not-SF" (Penguin Day of the Triffids: "Wyndham decided to try a
modified form of what is unhappily called 'science fiction'").

Teens like cozies because teen cozies usually do away with all the
adults, which is basically what teens spend a lot of time wishing for.
But 50s middle-class Britons liked cozies because they did away with the
welfare state.

"Nevil Shute complains in Slide Rule that his mother couldn't go to the
South of France in the winters…but she and the people who waited on her
in shops had access to free health care and education to university and
beyond, and enough to live on if they lost their jobs."

"Britain was becoming a fairer society, with equal opportunities for
everyone, and some people did suffer for it. They couldn't have their
foreign holidays and servants and way of life, because their way of life
exploited other people."

Cozies weren't British sf's only reaction to postwar reforms, as Walton
points out, and her subsequent columns have good examples of this:




🧨 California's missing medical stockpile

The coronavirus crisis isn't separate from the 2008 financial crisis:
it's the continuation of that crisis. The 2008 crisis and its
finance-friendly, people-destroying bailout led to the election of
idiotic strongmen who are totally incapable of containing it.

And it also triggered waves of austerity that starved public coffers of
the resources that produce resilience to subsequent crises, as we've
seen in 10+ years of inadequate response to climate crises like floods,
hurricanes and fires.

Austerity also stole our pandemic preparedness. California dismantled
all three of its 200-bed mobile hospitals and its emergency medical
stockpiles in 2011, flushing the $200m investment for want of $5.8m/year
for upkeep


Gone: 50m N95 respirators, 2400 portable ventilators, and "kits to set
up 21,000 additional patient beds wherever they were needed."

They were jettisoned to help Jerry Brown balance the $26b deficit he
inherited after the 2008 crisis, largely given away, then sold
overseas."These supplies were exactly for this scenario" -Dr. Howard
Backer, former head of California's Emergency Medical Services Authority
(Backer created the program in 2006).


🧨 A better way to visualize exponential growth

Exponential curves can be misleading: it's a rare exponential phenomenon
that doesn't reach a hard limit and slow, taper, flatten or even drop.
When you're in the "knee of the curve" it's hard to tell if it's going
to keep going up, or turn S-shaped.

This video from Minute Physics makes a compelling case that a log scale
that plots new cases relative to cases is better at informing our
intuition when it comes to coronavirus infections.


His chart does not represent time with the Y-axis: instead, it uses
animation to show infections over time.

You can explore this technique here:



🧨 Don't worry about groceries

Harvard assistant professor of exposure and assessment science Joseph
Allen does excellent work explaining why the deliveries and groceries
you bring home are pretty safe, despite the ability of covid to persist
on surfaces for days.


It's true that there are "detectable" levels of covid-19 on surfaces for
days after exposure, but "detectable" isn't the same as "contagious":
the halflife of covid on plastic is 5.6h (metal: 6.8h). So if your
delivery driver is sick, and sneezes on their hands, and then carries
the box to your door, it still won't necessarily satisfy the
"Sufficient-Component Cause model" for transmission.

That would require "sick driver, sneezing/coughing, viral particles
transferred to the package, a very short time lapse before delivery, you
touching the exact same spot on the package as the sneeze, you then
touching your face or mouth before hand-washing."

You can break the chain with simple steps. Maintain distance while
shopping. Don't touch your face. Wash your hands after. Wash them again
after you eat your groceries. If you're really worried, wait a couple
hours before eating them.

It's similar to the advice from food microbiologist Don Schaffner:



🧨 This day in history

#15yrsago Photos of Grokster demonstrators: DON'T TOUCH MY TIVO!

#15yrsago del.icio.us gets funded, Schachter goes full-time

#10yrsago Upcoming.org gets an API

#10yrago Tim O'Reilly defines "the Internet operating system"

#10yrsago ACLU prevails: US Fed Judge invalidates gene patent

#10yrsago Leaked doc: EU wants to destroy and rewrite Canada's IP laws

#10yrsago UK record lobby has vehement feelings on Digital Economy Bill
debate, won't say what they are

#5yrsago Stephen King versus Maine's lying governor

#1yrago After the Parkland shooting, NRA official reached out to Sandy
Hook denier to discuss possibility that it was an anti-gun conspiracy

#1yrago New York State goes after the Sackler family's opioid fortune,
claims they funneled their Oxy millions through offshore laundries

#1yrago The Chinese Communist Party's newspaper has spun out an
incredibly lucrative censorship business

#1yrago War criminal and snowflake Erik Prince cancels Beloit College
talk after student protests, threatens lawsuit

#1yrago Oklahoma Republicans introduce bill forcing doctors to warn
abortion patients about the existence of an imaginary "reversible

#1yrago Jones's deposition over his role in the harassment of Sandy Hook
parents is a total shitshow


🧨 Colophon

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (https://nakedcapitalism.com/),
Wired (https://wired.com), JWZ (http://www.jwz.org/blog/).

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/

* Short Story Club, April 7, 530PM Pacific https://www.shortstory.club/

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

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
That means you can use it any way you like, including commerically,
provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link
to pluralistic.net.


Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are
included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the
basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.
How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and


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

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: signature.asc
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 195 bytes
Desc: OpenPGP digital signature
URL: <http://mail.flarn.com/pipermail/plura-list/attachments/20200329/03af77c3/attachment-0001.sig>

More information about the Plura-list mailing list