[Plura-list] Rep Steve Cohen wants to clawback billionaires' bailout; Democratize workplaces now; NYC teens fight period poverty; No sides

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sat May 16 12:15:55 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Rep Steve Cohen wants to clawback billionaires' bailout: Sending
bailout pork to the slaughterhouse.

* Democratize workplaces now: Labor investors demand a seat at the table.

* NYC teens fight period poverty: Period products bundled with school meals.

* No sides: We have a shared destiny.

* Google faces antitrust blitz: I'm feeling lucky.

* Zuck wants Giphy: Pronounced "J-I-F," spelled "S-P-Y."

* This day in history: 2019

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


🎓 Rep Steve Cohen wants to clawback billionaires' bailout

Here's video of a barn-burning speech by Rep Steve Cohen [D-TN] during
the House debate on the third bailout bill, excoriating McConnell and
Trump for sneaking $100B of tax breaks for millionaires into the bill.


Cohen says he added a clause to the new bailout bill clawing back that
socialism-for-the-rich and asked his GOP House colleagues to sign into
it; not one of them did.

I'm really glad to see Congressional Dems taking on this disgusting bit
of pork, but I'd much rather they'd have given the original bill
sufficient scrutiny before voting it in, winkling out this sneak attack
and heading it off before it succeeded.

I know things were chaotic and urgent then, but that's *exactly* when we
need Congress to provide scrutiny to lawmaking - it's our only defense
against the Shock Doctrine tactics of the GOP and their donors.


🎓 Democratize workplaces now

"Democratize the workplace to clean up the planet" is a manifesto
published in 38 national newspapers around the planet, calling for a
"decommodification of work" and a recognition of workers as "labor
investors"; the (French) original is in Le Monde:


It's a stirring call for workplace democracy as a consequence of the
pandemic and what it has proven about workers - that they are not "human
resources," another "resource" like bricks or machines. Without "labor
investors," all production halts.


A bedrock of capitalism is that "investors" get a say in the running of
companies; the investment of labor by workers is the most irreplaceable
investment in the firm, so workers should get seats on the board
alongside those whose sole contribution is mere money.

"Essential workers" keep the world functioning, while workers who work
from home are getting up, clocking in, and doing the job - without a
supervisor looming over their shoulders. Work continues "without
surveillance or external discipline."

There have been many parallels drawn between the pandemic crisis and
world wars, but here's another, and it's important: After the wars, the
role of women in production led to female sufferage - how could you deny
the vote to the workers who filled those crucial jobs?

The pandemic demands a strengthening of the "Workers Councils" that have
existed in Europe since WWII, making them a separate, co-equal chamber
in corporate governance, with "double majorities" required for major
corporate changes.

"A personal investment of labor; that is, of one’s mind and body, one’s
health – one’s very life – ought to come with the collective right to
validate or veto these decisions."

Beyond this, the manifesto calls for a "decommodification" of health and
other essentials, removing them from market forces: "The rising body
count across the globe is a terrible reminder that some things must
never be treated as commodities."

The manifesto calls for a jobs guarantee, in line with A23 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights's Article 23, the Right to a Job:
"Guaranteed employment would allow governments to provide dignified work
[for] the immense effort of fighting environmental collapse."

The connection of a Jobs Guarantee - "a counter-cyclic automatic
stabilizer" in econo-jargon - with climate resilience is an exciting new
trend. We're only a few weeks away from the publication of Pavlina
Tcherneva's landmark book on the subject:


The manifesto notes that the massive public aid to both small and large
businesses should come with strings attached: "In addition to hewing to
strict environmental standards, firms must be required to fulfil certain
conditions of democratic internal government"

The letter is signed by "more than 3000 professors, scholars and
scientists" - and it echoes some of the critical documents of this
crisis, like Rebecca Solnit's beautiful essay on the idea of a
crossroads between recovery and death:



🎓 NYC teens fight period poverty

Nicole Soret and Mya Abdelwahab are highschoolers at the Young Women’s
Leadership School of Astoria in Queens, New York.


They created a campaign called "Femstrate" to convince the Department of
Ed to distribute period products at school food-distribution sites that
hungry kids and their families rely on during the crisis.

After a month of fighting and stalling, the teens prevailed: today,
school meal hubs are also distributing period products. Check here to
find a distribution site near you:


The campaign was an extension of an in-school project to address period
poverty. They've also created a Gofundme to raise money for period supplies:



🎓 No sides

Nick Sousanis got a doctorate in education from Columbia for
Unflattening, a dissertation in comics form that was published by
Harvard University Press and went on to critical and commercial success.


Sousanis has since made a career out of creating comics that bring
complex and abstract concepts to life, like entropy:


While also dabbling in longform, concrete pieces, like a biography of
pioneering comics librarian Karen Green:


His latest is "No Sides," a stark, abstract and moving one-page
meditation on our inescapable shared destiny, in which biology
transcends ideology.



🎓 Google faces antitrust blitz

The DoJ and a coalition of states' attorneys general are said to be on
the verge of bringing at least two antitrust actions against Google: the
actions will probe Google's use of search, Android and ad-tech to
establish and maintain monopolies.


It's not clear whether the AGs and DoJ will file separate or joint
complaints (the DoJ's antitrust malpractice in permitting the idiotic
Sprint/T-Mobile merger has soured AGs on its antitrust division).

An antitrust action against a company as well-heeled as Google is an
expensive marathon, likely to take a decade or more to resolve itself.
Nevertheless, I support such an action, for two important reasons.

First (and most of all): they deserve it. Google cheats. Companies
should grow by creating and improving products people love, not by
buying and killing nascent competitors, merging with major competitors,
or creating vertical monopolies.

Google isn't an "inventing things" company, it's a "buying things"
company. The in-house product success tally is approximately 1.5 (one
great search engine and a pretty good Hotmail clone). The other
successes were acquisitions.

They buy dozens - even hundreds - of companies per year. The in-house
products they produce (G+, Sidewalk Labs, etc) flop. They're using
access to capital to dominate the market, not technical excellence.

Then there's the second reason to favor antitrust action: it will
discipline both Google and the entirety of Big Tech by showing exactly
how awful being dragged up and down 1000 miles of interstate by
antitrust lawyers for 10 years can be.

The way that antitrust alters the dynamics of a boardroom is hard to
overstate. I've seen it in person.

More importantly, I've heard detailed accounts from ex-Microsofties who
say that after the DoJ's (ultimately unsuccessful!) antitrust action,
anyone who mooted doing stuff that would attract more scrutiny was
shouted down by everyone else.

Don't take my word for it. Bill Gates flat-out admitted it last year
when he told the Dealbook conference that Microsoft missed acquiring
Android because it was "distracted" by antitrust action - except that
Android happened SEVEN YEARS later.


I don't think he misspoke. I think he was telling the literal truth:
seven years after the DoJ walked away from the action, the company's
vicious streak was still contained by fear of antitrust enforcement.

Indeed, it was that same fear of the antitrust enforcer's scrutiny that
is widely credited with staying Microsoft's hand when Google was still
small and fragile, sparing it Netscape's fate.

Which means that a protracted, expensive fight with Google over
antitrust is a feature, not a bug. A brutal, extended round of
antimonopoly trench warfare will terrify the sociopaths of Silicon
Valley's boardrooms.

And while that terror is a poor substitute for empathy and decency, it's
as close as we're likely to get in that cohort, and I'll take it if I
can get it.


🎓 Zuck wants Giphy

The old saw that "if you're not paying for the product, you're the
product" is flat out wrong. A more correct version is, "If a company
doesn't have legal or competitive barriers to selling you, they will."

Google sells you by spying on you, monetizing your sensitive info. Apple
sells you by locking you in, picking your pocket. Google doesn't need to
lock you in because they spy on you wherever you are. Apple doesn't need
to spy on you because their lockin is so comprehensive.

Facebook is the worst. They spy on you wherever you are and they try to
lock you in.

Which is why it's so alarming that Facebook is going to buy Giphy for $400m.


Giphy isn't just a repository for cute gifs. They're the service that
inserts cute gifs when you use Twitter, Tinder, Slack and Imessage. That
means that an acquisition of Giphy is a means for Facebook to spy on you
while you use all those rival products.

Thankfully, we're headed into a new age of reinvigorated antitrust
enforcement, and this is exactly the kind of thing that was commonplace
last year and this year is Exhibit A for why these companies can't be


Elizabeth Warren has already signalled that she'll take steps to block
this acquisition, and Amy Klobuchar's onboard, too.


🎓 This day in history

#1yrago Grifty "information security" companies promised they could
decrypt ransomware-locked computers, but they were just quietly paying
the ransoms

#1yrago Despite the hype, the CBD molecule is actually pretty amazeballs

#1yrago Luna: Moon Rising, in which Ian McDonald brings the trilogy to
an astounding, intricate, exciting and satisfying climax

#1yrago Watch: Tim Wu debates trustbusting with Tyler Cowen, who just
wrote "a love letter" to Big Business https://youtu.be/Y_Jp-GJ9LM0?t=5208

#1yrago Lent: Jo Walton's new novel is Dante's Groundhog Day

#1yrago EPA Inspector General Report finds massive waste from Trump's
Pruitt flying business class, staying in swanky hotels

#1yrago Under Trump, immigrants who serve in the armed forces are
finding it harder to attain citizenship than those who do not serve

#1yrago California set to legalize eating roadkill

#1yrago Florida Governor says the FBI told him how the Russians hacked
Florida voting machines, but swore him to secrecy


🎓 Colophon

Today's top sources: Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Friday's progress: 515 words (16339 total).

Currently reading: Facebook: The Inside Story, by Steven Levy.

Latest podcast: Rules for Writers

Upcoming books: "Poesy the Monster Slayer" (Jul 2020), a picture book
about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here:

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

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