[Plura-list] Pandemic shock doctrine vs internet freedom; What happened in Florida; Prop 22 is a scam

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Wed Oct 14 13:30:52 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Pandemic shock doctrine vs internet freedom: Freedom House's 2020
report is grim reading.

* What happened in Florida: Surrender, Bush v Gore style.

* Prop 22 is a scam: Propping up a Ponzi with a Proposition.

* How to spreadsheet: All the hard-won lessons in one convenient ruleset.

* The Ministry of the Future: Eliot Peper interviews Kim Stanley Robinson.

* This day in history: 2010, 2019

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


🌶 Pandemic shock doctrine vs internet freedom

Each year, Freedom House publishes "Freedom on the Net," an annual
snapshot of  internet  policy and outcomes in different countries, from
#netneutrality to internet shutdowns to domestic surveillance.

This year's report is a grim read.


The new report, spanning Jun 2019 to May 2020, tracks the steady (pre-
and post-pandemic) march to a locked down internet robbed of its
liberatory power and perverted in service to control, censorship and


Even before the pandemic, things were bad, but the pandemic accelerates
everything: inequality, monopoly, and internet crackdowns. In the name
of epidemiology, the world's governments have criminalized some online
speech and then arrested journalists and activists.

These speech restrictions also created a simple pretense for national
website blocking and site takedowns, used to remove "unfavorable health
statistics, corruption allegations, and other Covid-19-related content."

The Chinese model of tech as an autocrat's dashboard and control panel
is surging around the world, and exposure notification apps are a
powerful accelerant for the model, with mandatory location tracking,
call-record harvesting, even mandatory quarantine "selfie checkins."

Ominously, much of the health surveillance is being undertaken by
agencies tasked with tracking "domestic terrorism" - treating public
health as something that is done *to* people, not *with* them, giving
spooks unlimited budgets and powers that will outlast the pandemic.

When all else fails, the world's autocrats turn to internet shutdowns,
and these, too, are a comorbidity of the virus.

If you campaign for digital rights, you get used to being called a "tech

I am a tech exceptionalist.

Not because I think tech freedom is more important than racial justice,
inequality, climate emergency, gender discrimination, or other pressing

I'm a tech exceptionalist because I believe that we can only address
these issues with technological organization tools. As someone who's
organized protests by wheatpasting posters to telephone poles, I'm
confident there is no going back to predigital forms of resistance.

I'm a tech exceptionalist, not because I think tech is more important,
but because I think it's foundational: it's the terrain on which other
battles will be fought. A free, fair and open internet is the necessary
but insufficient condition for human liberation.


🌶 What happened in Florida

20 years on, Bush v Gore is back in our discourse - an election stolen
by mobs at the polling places, a media blitz, and a Supreme Court at its
most antidemocratic and antimajoritarian.

We remember this as an election that the plutes stole, but it's also an
election that the Dems gave to them. That's why we're talk about it now.
There will be an attempt to steal next month's election. Will we
surrender again?

The last surrender led to a war being fought today by the children of
the soldiers who were sent into battle on day one. It led to climate
inaction, monopolistic concentration, erosions to our right to vote and
to our right to protest.

Thanks to that surrender, voter suppression was expanded and reinforced,
leading to the election of a fumbling liar who got to appoint more
SCOTUS judges in 3.5 years than all Democratic presidents did in the
previous quarter century.


You may be wondering how the Dems surrendered in 2020. For a detailed
account of what surrender looks like, read Jane McAlevey's Jacobin
memoir of her time as an AFL-CIO organizer sent to Florida during the


Read how the cowardly, decorum-obsessed Dems ordered them to stand down,
to hold disheartening, low-energy candlelight vigils instead of raucous
street protests, how they abandoned Floridians whose votes had been stolen.

Read how the AFL-CIO leadership turned its back on Jesse Jackson and the
racialized people of Florida who bore the brunt of consequences for

How they vetoed plans to have "literally millions of really angry
people...chasing Katherine Harris, Florida’s secretary of state and the
Bush campaign’s hatchet woman, all over the state."

How they focused their ground game on collecting affidavits for the
rotten, useless, cheating Supreme Court to wipe their asses with, while
racist gangs intimidated recount watchers and election officials.

How, even as those recounts were generating clear wins for Gore, the
Dems kept ordering their organizers to stand down, to avoid
confrontation, and then, finally, when it was clear the election would
be stolen, *then* they called for mass marches...too late.

Read McAlevey's short memoir. Familiarize yourself with it. Learn its
lessons. When the planet-destroying, looting, eminently guillotinable
plutes and their brownshirts try to steal the election next month,
*remember* those lessons.

Do not give an inch. Do not rely on proceduralism and decorum. Do not
concede. Do not let the Democrats concede. Fight to the end.


🌶 Prop 22 is a scam

If you live in California, you have been blitzed by messages to vote for
Prop 22, a rule that would allow Uber, Lyft, Postmates and other
money-losing, destructive bezzles to continue to abuse their employees
through the fiction that they are "independent contractors."

Prop 22 is the most expensive ballot initiative in California history,
with a pricetag of $186m and counting, money transfered from the
never-to-be-profitable app companies that have destroyed so many
Californian businesses and lives.


These companies launched with deep cash reserves from the Saudi royals,
funneled through Softbank, and they were a bet that they could
monopolize our state's transport, logistics and food by losing money on
every transaction until all the real, money-making businesses failed.

That that failed, Plan B was to unload the companies onto naive
investors who would reason that if the companies had survived through
years of loss-making, there must be a pony underneath that giant pile of
manure they'd been burrowing into.

There was no pony. Uber and Lyft drivers earn far below the minimum wage
(once you amortize wear and tear on their vehicles) and this only gets
worse as the companies seek to staunch their bleeding without raising
prices - by cutting drivers' wages.

Under Prop 22, app companies would have an even freer hand to abuse this
desperate, precarious workforce as they seek a path to profitability - a
 path that does not exist and will never exist.


But Prop 22 has a legacy that will outlast Uber: if it passes, it will
become a *permanent fixture* of our state law: under its language, it
can only be repealed or amended by a *seven-eighths majority*. This is
not democracy, it is oligarchic tyranny.

Prop 22 has gotten a tailwind thanks to defects in AB5, a California law
that tried to address the exploitation of gig workers but managed to
capture large numbers of bona-fide freelancers, including writers like
me. AB5 is imperfect and needs fixing.

Prop 22 is not that fix. Prop 22 is a license to indenture the most
precarious and vulnerable Californians to a Ponzi scheme rigged by oil
tyrants half a world away. Vote no on Prop 22.


🌶 How to spreadsheet

My statistician/data-science friends all tell me that if you're using a
spreadsheet, you're not doing science, you're courting disaster. Real
analysis requires Python, or, possibly, Julia.


Despite these warnings, plenty of mission-critical work gets done in
spreadsheets, and (in support of these warnings), it can go horribly,
horribly wrong.

It's not just the UK losing 16,000 covid cases:


It's years of destructive, crushing austerity - costing real human
lives; trashing cities, regions, whole countries - due to spreadsheet
formula errors:


But still, we keep using spreadsheets to do real work. I did it
YESTERDAY. And made a stupid mistake.

The abstinence-only approach to spreadsheets has been a failure.
Clearly, we need harm-reduction.

That's where "Data Organization in Spreadsheets" - Karl W. Broman & Kara
H. Wood's 2017 paper in The American Statistician comes in. It lays out
a crisp set of best practices for avoiding common errors, upping your
CVS catastrophe game to really powerful mistakes!


Here's how to spreadsheet:

* Be consistent: Don't use "Male," "male" and "m" as labels. Pick one

* Don't let trailing spaces creep in

* Use a consistent code for missing values (not a blank space and
ESPECIALLY not a number like -99999)

* Have a column for explanations about missing data (don't fill empty
cells with explanations for their emptiness)

* Use consistent variable names and subject identifiers; treat as
case-sensitive. No spaces!

 * Lay out all your data consistently, in every file

* Have a consistent (case-sensitive, no-spaces) filename convention. Do
not tempt fate by calling a file "final" lest you have to pay penance
with files named "final_ver2"

* Use YYYY-MM-DD for dates. No exceptions!

* Guard against trailing spaces in data!

 * Don't use special characters apart from _ and - in variables (avoid
$, @, %, #, &, *, (, ), !, /, and other chars that have special meanings
in some programming languages

* Format cells as "Text" to keep Excel from turning things like
gene-names ("Oct-4") into dates

* Consider giving year, month and date their own columns to prevent
Excel from munging them (or write as an integer: 20201014)

* Only put one piece of data in each cell; use column labels to indicate
units (eg "45" not "45g")

* Only one row of variable names per sheet

* Maintain a separate "Data dictionary" file that defines every variable

* Datasets should not contain calculations; minimize how much typing you
do in your dataset files lest you contaminate them inadvertently
(calculations go in separate files)

* Font colors and highlights are not data - put data in cells, not
formatting (this gets lost in transitions)

* Backup multiple versions of your files, onsite and offsite

* Develop data validation tactics and regularly validate your data

* Use CSV, not xlsx, as your canonical file-format - good old
hard-to-corrupt text, flensed of all the fooforaw that Microsoft likes
to insert at random intervals

Lurking behind every one of these tips is a postmortem on a
data-tragedy. Ignore them at your peril.


🌶 The Ministry of the Future

This month marked the publication of Kim Stanley Robinson's latest
novel, "The Ministry for the Future." I have a copy, but I haven't been
able to bring myself to read it.


The last time I saw Stan, he told me he thought it might be his last
novel. He's writing nonfiction about the Sierras now. The thought of a
world with no unread KSR novels is thoroughly depressing, precisely
because his books are so inspiring.

But after reading his interview with Eliot Peper, I've reconsidered. No
one writes optimistic novels about crises the way Robinson does, and
reading about his approach to narrative is just as inspiring as the
narratives themselves.


The story is structured as a kind of docudrama about the titular
"Ministry for the Future," an entity that starts as a standing
subcommittee of the Paris Agreement and grows into a bulwark against
capitalism's Ponzi scheme, its systematic robbery from future generations.

Robinson describes the book as an adventure in the "structure of
feelings" - the words we use to describe and manage the emotions we have
in response to events.

Today, one set of structures - the comfort of a persistent order, the
terror of impending crisis - is giving way to another, whatever comes
after the pandemic and the election, whatever we do to confront (or
deny) the permanent crisis that is upon us.

Storytelling is key to this structuring, and scientists have been
struggling with storytelling for 20 years, as they try to awaken the
political will to address the climate emergency.

"In politics, the front of good work is broad, so pick your special
point of interest, but accept others have other points of special
interest, and work in solidarity with them rather than arguing which
point has priority." -KSR


🌶 This day in history

#10yrsago Webcam spying school settles with students, pays $1.2M in fees
and damages

#1yrago Orban humiliated: Hungary’s crypto-fascist Fidesz party suffers
string of municipal election defeats

#1yrago China’s new cybersecurity rules ban foreign companies from using
VPNs to phone home

#1yrago Apple told TV Plus showrunners to avoid plots that might upset
Chinese officials

#1yrago Podcast: False Flag


🌶 Colophon

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism
(https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/), Four Short Links
(https://www.oreilly.com/feed/four-short-links), Eliot Peper

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 516 words (72310

Currently reading: Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 17)

Upcoming appearances:

* The Attack Surface Lectures: 8 nights of bookstore-hosted events in
which I and a massive group of entertaining and knowledgeable experts
discourse on my latest novel's themes, Oct 13-22

* Milehicon (Guest of Honor!), Oct 23-5, https://milehicon.org/

* Coding Democracy/Toronto International Festival of Authors, Oct 24

Recent appearances:

* Savage Lovecast

* Trashfuture: Stolen Likes Acknowledgment

* David Pakman: It's Monopolies, Not Surveillance

Latest book:

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially,
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


Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):


*When life 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/20201014/786b4bfc/attachment.sig>

More information about the Plura-list mailing list