[Plura-list] The Open Courts Act isn't open enough; AT&T customer complains...via WSJ ad; Amazon's brutal warehouse "megacycle"

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Fri Feb 5 11:23:36 EST 2021


Next Tuesday, I'm helping Ed Snowden launch the young readers' version
of his spectacular memoir "Permanent Record." Join us for a livestream
event with Copperfield Books on Feb 9 at 19h Pacific.



Today's links

* The Open Courts Act isn't open enough: America's laws should be free.

* AT&T customer complains...via WSJ ad: 90-year-old Aaron Epstein has
had it.

* Amazon's brutal warehouse "megacycle": Take a 10-hour graveyard shift
or lose your job.

* This day in history: 2006, 2011, 2016

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


🥏 The Open Courts Act isn't open enough

One of the quiet, grotesque, longrunning scandals of the US legal system
is PACER, the paywall that separates the people of America from their
court records. It's a hard drive of non-searchable PDFs, and it costs
Americans $150m+/year to run.


After decades of fights - including the stunt that put Aaron Swartz in
the FBI's crosshairs - Congress is finally moving on the Open Courts
Act, which makes substantial reforms to the PACER system.


But as Carl Malamud - who has been a leader in the fight to free PACER -
writes in an open letter to the bill's Congressional and Senate
advocates, the Act doesn't go nearly far enough.


The law is free as in speech - in the public domain, owned by no one.
PACER should be a system for distributing whole copies of all US law to
anyone who wants to host them (and it should be free for anyone who
wants to confirm a copy's veracity).

As Malamud points out, distributing copies of the PACER corpus takes
some of the pressure off revisions to PACER itself. PACER is total
flaming garbage and needs a complete overhaul. In recognition of this,
the bill contemplates *five years* before major changes are due.

But distributing copies of PACER - a mere 1b documents, peanuts compared
to other open access projects - would enable public interest orgs to
immediately build their own PACER mirrors to serve different audiences
and use-cases.

The letter has an impressive roster of signatories, from EFF legal
director Corynne McSherry to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to Internet
Archive founder Brewster Kahle to former CTOs of the USA, a former Chief
Data Scientist of the USA, and more.


🥏 AT&T customer complains...via WSJ ad

Aaron Epstein is a 90 year old who lives a couple miles from me in North
Hollywood. He's been an AT&T customer since 1960 and holy shit, is he
ever *done with their shit*.

Epstein gets 3mbps (nominal)/1.5 mbps (actual) from AT&T, in the heart
of the entertainment industry's company town, where the studios are
serviced by a 100gb fiber loop built at public expense (it passes under
my house's foundation slab).

Like all of us in this part of LA, Epstein is not able to access this
publicly funded fiber, because his city has given monopoly franchises to
AT&T and Charter, two of the most despicable monopoly companies in America.

AT&T and Charter have absorbed billions - *billions* - in public subsidy
to build out fast networks, and instead, they've gone on shopping
sprees, buying up companies and running them into the ground, showering
execs with money, and screwing over their workers.

Epstein took out quarter-page ads in the Manhattan and Dallas editions
of the WSJ excoriating AT&T CEO John Stankey (salary: $22.5m) for his
failure to do literally the only thing anyone wants his company to do:
provide fast broadband.


In Ars Technica, Jon Brodkin speaks with Epstein, who sounds like a
really excellent fellow, about the many frustrations he faces in his
home and business with broadband from the cable/DSL duopoly.


"Epstein said he pays AT&T about $100 a month at home for two phone
lines and Internet service and $49 a month to Charter for cable
Internet. Epstein also pays AT&T for phone and Internet service at a
business he owns in Sherman Oaks."

And Brodkin found a spokesweasel from AT&T to comment on Epstein's
letter. The anonymous spox provided the following drivel for
publication: "We continually enhance and invest in our wireless and
wireline networks."

It turns out that Mr Epstein is a goddamned legend and hero. He's from
an impressive lineage, part of the "Pickwick Books" Epsteins, a
legendary Hollywood bookstore founded by Russian immigrant Louis Epstein
in 1938:


But Mr Epstein isn't just descended from greatness - he attained
greatness in his own right. In 1999, he won a critical lawsuit that
ended the corrupt practice of running Business Improvement Districts
through "Property Owner Associations" not subject to sunshine laws.

The risible pretense that these were not local government bodies allowed
BIDs to operate unaccountably, making significant changes to municipal
policy under cover of darkness.


Epstein sued the City of LA all the way to the Appellate Division, where
the court actual mocked the City lawyers for their idiotic arguments,
calling them the "The 'We Said We Didn’t "Create" the POA, So You Can’t
Decide We Did'" gambit.

As Michael Kohlhaas wrote of the lawsuit, "Without Epstein’s pioneering
work, BIDs wouldn’t have been known to be subject to the Brown Act and
the California Public Records Act."


🥏 Amazon's brutal warehouse "megacycle"

Amazon's Chicago DCH1 warehouse workers are pioneers of Amazon labor
organizing. They met brutal treatment with walkouts, petitions and
protests that wrung real concessions from Amazon, a company that
pioneered worker brutality.


But now DCH1 is being made to suffer. The company has demanded that
these workers knuckle under to a new scheduling system called
"Megacycles," which is corporatespeak for a ten-hour shift that runs
from 1:20AM to 11:50AM.


Workers that refuse the new schedule - because there is no transit
option to get them to their job at that hour, because they are caring
for elderly relatives, because they have kids in distance ed - will lose
their jobs.

And while this schedule would be a burden to any worker, it's an
especially vicious way to treat women workers, who are far more likely
to be in caregiving roles at home, and who face extra safety risks
associated with midnight travel to their shift.

Amazon claims the benefit of "megacycles" is efficiency - and if
"efficiency" means "paying fewer workers to do more work for less
money," then they're obviously right.

"Jen Crowcroft, a spokesperson for Amazon, told Motherboard that the
transition to megacycle provides a longer window for customers to place
orders and an improved station experience, and makes it easier for
different delivery stations to work together."

Yeah, sure. And also, it means that workers have to abandon their kids
and parents and the company of non-nocturnal humans and work 10 hours
straight in the middle of the night.

A petition from DCH1 Amazonians United calls for all Amazon workers to
receive a $2/h wage premium for working "megacycles," accommodations for
caretakers to allow them to work fractional shifts, and free Lyft rides
to and from work.

"The National Employment Law Project found in a 2020 report on
workplaces injuries in Amazon warehouses is twice that of the national
average for the warehouse industry. " -Lauren Kaori Gurley, Motherboard.


🥏 This day in history

#15yrsago PC built into whisky bottle

#15yrsago UK nurses want to supply clean blades and cutting advice to

#10yrsago Antifeatures: deliberate, expensive product features that no
customer wants

#5yrsago Toronto City Council defies mayor, demands open, neutral
municipal broadband

#5yrsago Error 53: Apple remotely bricks phones to punish customers for
getting independent repairs

#5yrsago Maryland’s Attorney General: you consent to surveillance by
turning on your phone

#5yrsago There’s a secret “black site” in New York where terrorism
suspects are tortured for years at a time


🥏 Colophon

Today's top sources: Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/), Esotouric
(https://esotouric.com/), Michael Kohlhaas (https://michaelkohlhaas.org/).

Currently writing:

* My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and
reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 514 words (107253 total).

* A short story, "Jeffty is Five," for The Last Dangerous Visions.
Yesterday's progress: 263 words (3446 total).

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 30)

Upcoming appearances:

* Talking Attack Surface with the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered
Artificial Intelligence, Feb 9,

* Launch for the young adult edition of Edward Snowden's memoir

* Boskone, 58, Feb 12-15, https://boskone.org/

* Keynote, NISO Plus, Feb 22-25,

* Interop: Self-Determination vs Dystopia (FITC), Apr 19-21,

Recent appearances:

* Chop Shop Economics

* Monocle Reads

* Hedging Bets on the Future (Motherboard Cyber):

Latest book:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone
technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political
cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution
and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies

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

* "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:

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