[Plura-list] Scarfolk on Cumgate; Texas profiteers make bank from NYC's homeless; FCC's willful broadband blindness in a pandemic

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Tue May 26 12:33:40 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Scarfolk on Cumgate:  Government Employee Eye-Test Slide (1970s).

* Texas profiteers make bank from NYC's homeless: Crewfacilities.com LLC
is gouging the city while finding hotel beds for homeless people.

* FCC's willful broadband blindness in a pandemic: You can't fix
broadband if you don't know what's wrong with it.

* Uber is scrapping thousands of Jump bikes: Bikes are essential during

* White Americans are increasingly opposed to democracy: Turkeys,
Christmas, etc.

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

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


☃️ Scarfolk on Cumgate

With ruling elites making such a lethal mess of things, the pandemic is
a kind of make-or-break for political satire - how to top powerful
peoples' self-lampooning conduct without seeming callous or broad?

Enter Scarfolk.


Scarfolk is a fictional English horror-town set in a looping 1970s, in
which Thacherism rises and rises and rises. Today, Scarfolk tackles
#cumgate, in which Dominic Cummings, advisor to the UK Prime Minister
and architect of the lockdown, flagrantly flouted his own rules.

Scarfolk's "Government Employee Eye-Test Slide" nails the law-and-order
Tories' incredible leaps of logic that forgave Cummings conduct even as
everyday people are enduring privation and violence to follow the rules.


As Maria Farrell writes on Crooked Timber, Cummings' cross-country drive
needs to be understood in the context of the women who have been
murdered by their partners because Cummings' own rules did not allow
them to leave their homes.


Not least because Cummings' playbook ("deny all wrongdoing," "attack the
victim," "reverse victim and offender") track so neatly to the way that
abusers talk about their crimes.

This Tory exceptionalism is no aberration: "Conservatism consists of
exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law
protectes but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but
does not protect."


(taken from a Crooked Timber comment by Frank Wilhoit):


BTW, if you're struggling to get your head around Cumgate, here's
Maureen Johnson's masterful (and colorful) summary:



☃️ Texas profiteers make bank from NYC's homeless

NYC has taken the laudable, necessary step of finding housing for
homeless people in the city's otherwise empty hotels. Less laudable:
they outsourced the management of this to Crewfacilities.com LLC, a
Texas company that's gouging the city.


Crewfacilities is making $27/room/night, plus $18/breakfast, $19/lunch
and $34/dinner. On top of that, Crewfacilities is renting rooms at FAR
above market rates: $128-$163/night, while the same rooms are bookable
online for $75-89.

These rates were all classified as "trade secrets" by the city
government, but journalists from The City obtained "an unredacted copy
of a related document" with the true figures.

Crewfacilities in based in Austin and has never done business with NYC
before. Its contract caps the total allocation for hotels at $250m, and
apparently allows it to charge commissions vastly in excess of the
industry standard 10% ($2.5m to date) - making $3k/person.

What's more, Crewfacilities is billing the city for meals in hotels that
don't even serve meals! These hotels are largely housing health workers
who get fed at their hospitals. Crewfacilities' president Andrea
Tsakanikas did not respond to The City's request for comment.


☃️ FCC's willful broadband blindness in a pandemic

After more than a decade of ridicule and dismissal, it's no longer
possible to deny that broadband is a human right, nor is it possible to
deny that private monopolists suck at safeguarding this right.


To understand how badly broadband monopolists failed, just look at the
bankruptcy docs from Frontier. The company chose not to make a $800m
profit providing 100gb fiber to its customers because making long-term
investments would hurt its stock price.


As these failures become more manifest, even the FCC has finally
acknowledged that it has to do better in providing broadband to
underserved communities, pledging $9b to this effort.

Unfortunately, nobody knows where those underserved communities are,
because the FCC has allowed monopolists to draw up deceptive and
inaccurate coverage maps for years.


For example - as the WSJ writes - the FCC allowed carriers to claim that
they covered a whole neighborhood if they provided broadband to a single


And as if that wasn't grifty enough, the carriers were allowed to draw
their own maps of what constituted a "neighborhood," ensuring that each
neighborhood boundary captured one house where they could provide
coverage without any capex.

The Journal calls this "flying through a fog." The fraudulent coverage
maps have left regulators and lawmakers with nothing but (ghastly)
anaecdotes, and only the carriers know the true state of their coverage.

Unfortunately, it's vanishingly unlikely that Ajit Pai, the most
captured FCC Chairman in a generation, will demand that they turn those
accurate maps over. Instead, he'll just insist on apportioning billions
in broadband subsidies without know where they're needed.


☃️ Uber is scrapping thousands of Jump bikes

One of my favorite expressions of disgust is "The only time I wouldn't
piss on him is if he was on fire."

Well, the world is on fire and the only time I wouldn't piss on Uber's
Jump dockless ebikes is in a pandemic, when bicycle transport has never
been more essential.

Uber - and other dockless transport companies like Bird - unilaterally
filled our cities' streets with ewaste litter - unsafe electric vehicles
that endangered their riders and pedestrians in use, and blocked
sidewalks for wheelchair users the rest of the time.

These companies compounded their misdeeds by refusing to help track down
customers who had hit-and-run pedestrians, even when their customers'
victims were critically injured.

(and, of course, Bird threatened to sue me for explaining how you could
buy their abandoned vehicles from city impounds and convert them to
personal vehicles)


But you know what? There's a pandemic on. People - especially
vulnerable, low-waged, "essential" workers are going to great lengths to
avoid public transit. Bike riding is resurgent.

All is forgiven, Uber.

Oh, wait.

Uber has scrapped 20,000 of its Jump bicycles because of a fall in
revenue, sending them to the landfill rather than continuing to service
them or donating them to the cities they colonized with them.


What's more, after they were caught, Uber lied about it - only to have
their official narrative contradicted by internal whistleblowers who
confirmed to Bikeshare Museum that the bikes are being scrapped "by the
containerload." And they've got pics.


Uber has also fired the entire engineering team for Jump - a team that
scratch-designed an entirely new set of internals that they alone know
how to maintain and fix. Ebay is filling up with salvaged parts.

"We also can’t emphasize enough how disgusting it is for UBER to scrap
20,000 bikes in the midst of a pandemic where bicycles have literally
become an object of survival.These could be transportation for the many
who have been brought to financial ruin during COVID-19."


☃️ White Americans are increasingly opposed to democracy

In "The Effect of White Social Prejudice on Support for American
Democracy," a pair of political scientists used data from the World
Values Survey to analyze the rise of authoritarian, anti-democratic
rhetoric among American white people.


The authors released a prepub of their work last year; as I wrote then,
"White Americans abandoned democracy and embraced authoritarianism when
they realized brown people would soon outvote them."


The paper has now been accepted for publication in the Journal of Race,
Ethnicity, and Politics, and this has spurred fresh attention for the
study and its conclusions.


Writing on NBC, Noah Berlatsky invokes the neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, who
said "We need an ethno-state so that our people can ‘come home again’…
We must give up the false dreams of equality and democracy."

But he could just as readily have cited Peter Theil's avowed belief that
"freedom" is incompatible with "democracy" (because in a democratic
system, plutocrats would be outvoted and thus not free to exploit the
rest of us).


This is why the GOP is so committed to voter suppression - and why the
real  strategic battleground of the civil rights era was
voter-registration, not lunch-counters.


But after a brief flirtation with luring conservative, Catholic latinx
people to the GOP by making abortion into a wedge issue, the party
abandoned that strategy and pivoted to Trumpism, which, at its core,
denies the legitimacy racialized people's claims of Americanness.

That's why armed white militias are demanding to know if American
indigenous people are "legal." "Legal" doesn't mean "legally in the USA"
- it means "white."


But after years of turkeys voting for Christmas, the GOP is struggling
to get poor whites to vote for plutocracy - workers are skeptical of
claims that they need to submit gracefully to being thrown into a
volcano to appease the economy gods.


Which makes the authoritarian turn in US politics all the more
frightening - the farmer may have convinced the turkeys to vote for
Christmas with honeyed words and big promises, but when the day comes,
he's not above wringing their necks.

And while I'm as furious as I can be with the Democratic party, its
corporate sellouts, and its garbage policies, the authoritarian turn is
mostly owned by the GOP.

"The GOP has dug itself into such a hole on this that the most practical
effort to stave off these impending losses is to disenfranchise the
votes of the same ethnic/racial outgroups against whom GOP messaging has
been stoking animosity.

"Social intolerance isn't just leading to GOP support as we know it and
see it now. It's leading to preferences in favor of the kind of
candidate the GOP ultimately nominated and supported for president."
-Coauthor Steven V Miller

Epoch Times (modified)



☃️ This day in history

#15yrsago Spraypaint stencils of great science fiction writers

#15yrsago Clearchannel sets up fake anti-Clearchannel pirate radio

#15yrsago DRMed ebooks cost lots and break when you upgrade Acrobat

#10yrsago A perfect marvel of vacuous malice

#10yrsago New fiction: "The Jammie Dodgers and the Adventure of the
Leicester Square Screening"

#5yrsago Portraits of homeless people using libraries

#5yrsago Poverty is a tax on cognition

#5yrsago The Awesome: ass-kicking girl monster-hunter FTW!

#1yrago Poland has asked the European Court of Justice to overturn the

#1yrago The Chinese company that bought Grindr wasn't supposed to let
Chinese engineers access Americans' data -- but it did

#1yrago These corporations backed the politicians who will murder women
by banning legal, safe abortions

#1yrago Remembering the pre-Netscape browsers


☃️ Colophon

Today's top sources: Jeffry Vagle (https://twitter.com/jvagle/),
Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/), Dan Hill

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 527 words (19490

Currently reading: Adventures of a Dwergish Girl, Daniel Pinkwater

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 03)

Upcoming appearances: Discussion with Nnedi Okorafor, Torcon, June 14

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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