[Plura-list] The Democratic establishment; Uber (Ch)eats

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Thu May 13 12:12:21 EDT 2021


On May 19, I'm doing a talk called "Seize the Means of Computation," at
the Ryerson Centre for Free Expression:


And on May 20, I'm doing a keynote called "Privacy Without Monopoly,"
for the Northsec conference:



Today's links

* The Democratic establishment: Rahm Emanuel is why we can't have nice

* Uber (Ch)eats: Innovation in tax evasion.

* This day in history: 2011, 2016, 2020

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


🩳 The Democratic establishment

Sometimes, a casual conversation turns out to be prophetic and stays
with you for decades to come. In 2006, I had lunch at the LA World
Science Fiction Convention with Eric Flint when the subject of Barack
Obama came up. I admitted that his incredible rhetoric gave me hope.

Flint - a union organizer from Chicago - quickly disabused me. Obama, he
said, was a Chicago Machine Democrat, and that meant he was a cynical
horse-trader whose version of "democracy" was for insiders to do deals
in back-rooms, without accountability or transparency.

Those words stayed with me through the Obama years, as Obama literally
shut off the server that grassroots organizers used to coordinate the
campaign that got him elected and told us all to shut up and go away so
he could strike deals with the GOP to get stuff done.

Flint's compact description of Chicago Democrat politics has been an
invaluable guide to understanding everything from Rod Blagojevich's
criminal corruption to Lori Lightfoot's ghastly handling of the Black
Lives Matter uprising last summer.

Above all, Flint's description is how I've come to understand Rahm
Emanuel, a terrible person even by the standards of the Chicago
Democratic machine, whom Obama brought into the White House, evidently a
necessity of Byzantine Democratic machine politics.

There's no other way to say this: Emanuel is a piece of shit.

He's an emotionally incontinent, corrupt bully, a guy who once stabbed a
table "while shouting the names of people who betrayed Bill Clinton."


It's not like Democrats don't know this. Obama himself once joked that
after Emanuel accidentally cut off part of his middle finger, it
"rendered him practically mute."


It's not just his demeanor, it's his actions. Emanuel's turn as Mayor of
Chicago included an all-out blitz to suppress the footage of a Chicago
police officer murdering Laquan McDonald, a Black 17 year old.


If the Biden administration was the progressive bastion we're hoping
for, it would be distancing itself from Emanuel. Instead, it's embracing

As Alex Shephard writes for the New Republic, the Biden admin is running
two very distinctive federal jobs programs.

The first is the progressive infrastructure/clean energy/health program
in the American Jobs Plan.


That program will spend $2t to create hundreds of thousands of good jobs
where hard-working Americans will be well-compensated as they labor to
repair America's sagging infrastructure, care for its sick people, and
transition it to sustainable energy.

But there's another program, this one devoted to finding one federal job
for one American: Rahm Emanuel. Biden seems to have put Emanuel in
charge of this, despite Rahm's initial delusional idea that he would be
a great Transport Secretary:


Progressive activists within the Democratic Party killed that idea, but
now it looks like Emanuel will head to Japan to serve as ambassador, a
job that famously requires an even, diplomatic (!) temper. No one - *no
one* - would use the word "diplomatic" to refer to Emanuel.

As Shephard points out, this kind of cronyism - where key diplomatic
appointments are handed out as favors to party bosses - is not the norm
among other advanced democracies.

And while cronyistic governance by asshole party bosses is a bipartisan
affair, it's not bipartisan in its effect. When Republican Presidents
kowtow to party bosses, they do so to advance the Republican agenda and
usually it works.

But listening to Rahm Emanuel - a lavishly corrupt abettor of racist
police murders - doesn't advance the Democratic Party agenda.

If anything, it *also* advances the GOP agenda, both directly (by
preserving the murderous status quo) and indirectly, by helping the GOP
paint the Democrats as the party of corrupt insiders.


🩳 Uber (Ch)eats

Uber is not a business in the traditional sense. It's a "bezzle" ("the
magic interval when a confidence trickster knows he has the money he has
appropriated but the victim does not yet understand that he has lost it").

The only reason Uber was able to attain growth was because investors
gave it billions to lose. First, it was the Saudi Royals, hoping to
spend their way to a transportation monopoly.


When that didn't work, the company's investors suckered the public into
taking their shares off their hands in an IPO premised on two things:

I. Self-driving cars

II. All buses and subways *in the world* being scrapped and replaced
with Ubers.


Neither of those things have happened, of course. Uber actually had to
pay someone else $400m to "buy" the self-driving car division it sank
$2.5b into (the resulting cars could not travel for one mile without a
serious accident).


Replacing all the world's transit is also a long-shot. That means that
Uber's bezzle is running out, forcing the company into
ever-more-desperate measures to keep money flowing from suckers
("investors") who believe that a pile of shit this big *must* have a
pony under it.

Measures like spending hundreds of millions of dollars on California's
Proposition 22, which legalized worker misclassification. Measures like
rampant wage-theft from drivers. Measures like waging legal wars against


Uber's "innovation" wasn't self-driving cars. It was cheating. Uber is
*really fucking good* at cheating.

How good? Well, last year, Uber managed to dodge tax on $6b in global
revenues by laundering its income through *fifty* Dutch shell companies.


A report from the Australian NGO Center for International Corporate Tax
Accountability and Research (CICTAR), reported in the Dutch press,
describes Uber's tax evasion innovations as "the Champions League of tax


It's quite a whirlwind of socially useless financial engineering,
composed of obvious frauds like "selling" its IP to a Dutch subsidiary
financed with a $16b "loan" from a Singaporean subsidiary, garnering 20
*years*' worth of $1b annual tax credits.

The Netherlands may be a bastion of progressive politics, but it's also
one of the world's leading onshore-offshore tax havens, joining Cyprus,
Luxembourg, Delaware, Wyoming and the City of London as a key player in
the global money-laundry.

Its lax enforcement didn't just encourage Uber to create 50 shell
companies - it also let the company get away with failing to file
"mandatory" disclosures for many of these "businesses."

All of this redounds around the world - in India, Uber pays only half of
the mandatory 6% tax owed by multinationals (India could really use that
cash about now).


🩳 This day in history

#10yrsago Steven Levy on Facebook’s ironic privacy charge against Google

#10yrsago DHS’s “Secure Communities” program will deport battered woman
for calling 9-1-1 on her abuser

#10yrsago TSA: we’ll search your baby and it will make the country safer

#5yrsago Clicking “Buy now” doesn’t “buy” anything, but people think it
does https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2778072

#1yrago Senate Dems want to ban internet disconnection

#1yrago NSO Group tried to sell malware to US law enforcement

#1yrago Feds want national snitchlines for bosses whose workers don't
want to die https://pluralistic.net/2020/05/13/malwaretech/#snitchlines

#1yrago How Marcus Hutchins saved the world and lived to tell the tale

#1yrago University requires students to buy nonexistent webcams


🩳 Colophon

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/).

Currently writing:

* A Little Brother short story about pipeline protests.  RESEARCH PHASE

* A short story about consumer data co-ops.  PLANNING

* A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation.  PLANNING

* A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written
with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown."  FINAL EDITS

* A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause."  FINISHED

* A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues."  FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism (Part 06)

Upcoming appearances:

* Seize the Means of Computation, Ryerson Centre for Free Expression,
May 19,

* Privacy Without Monopoly, Northsec, May 20,

* In conversation with David Dayen (Second Life Book Club), Jun 4,

Recent appearances:

* Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans

* Can Antitrust Laws Destroy Surveillance Capitalism? (Majority Report)

* In conversation with John Scalzi at the Gaithersburg Book Festival

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:
(signed copies:

* "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:

* The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics,
Beacon Press 2022

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

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