[Plura-list] Personnel are policy; Podcasting "Science fiction is a Luddite Literature"

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Mon Jan 10 11:16:09 EST 2022

Read today's issue online at: https://pluralistic.net/2022/01/10/see-you-in-the-funny-papers/


Note: This is my last edition of Pluralistic for a month or so. I'm having my other hip replaced tomorrow. It's a welcome occasion, but it does mean that I'll be mostly sidelined for some weeks. See you on the other side!


Today's links

* Personnel are policy: The Dems may do something to materially improve voters' lives. Maybe.

* Podcasting "Science fiction is a Luddite Literature": My last pre-op podcast.

* This day in history: 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017, 2021

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


🤷🏻 Personnel are policy

It's hard not to freak out, watching Biden get punked by Joe Manchin over Build Back Better. Manchin's transparent ruse - splitting the infrastructure bill from BBB - was obviously a prelude to a betrayal.

Thanks to Dem leadership's foolish error, the party that holds the House, the Senate and the Oval Office will go into the mid-terms and the next presidential election having failed to deliver on the vast majority of their campaign promises.

Having failed to deliver material improvements to voters' lives, they are going to struggle to win elections. Joe Manchin seems hell-bent on electing Donald Trump president again in 2024. It's hard to say whether this is more disgusting or depressing. Maybe both.

The sole thing keeping me going is the action in the administrative agencies, where genuine progressives with real political acumen have been promoted to positions of real power. Personnel really *are* policy, and the administrative agencies are where the rubber meets the road. In a typical day, the average American is unlikely to feel the effect of a Congress-made law, but the agencies' policies dictate everything from their working conditions to the quality of their air and water to the conditions in their kids' schools.

Here's a great example. Biden's National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is poised to turn worker misclassification into an "unfair labor practice," which will give it scope to punish employers who treat their employees as contractors.


As Harold Meyerson writes in *The American Prospect*, NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo has asked the regional attorneys working under her to submit cases that raise the issue. If she sets a precedent on the matter, it will instantly transform companies from Uber to Lyft to FedEx into lawbreakers and force them to reclassify all those contractors as employees at the stroke of a pen.

This is the kind of thing that would vastly improve the lives of millions of workers and restructure whole industries in durable ways. For example, the 12,000 misclassified truck drivers servicing the Port of Los Angeles would become employees, entitled to pay for the hours they spend sitting in traffic waiting for their bosses to figure out the gridlock. That way, the truckers who just skip work on days with long tailbacks would show up and the ports would unfreeze (and their bosses would be incentivized to fix the gridlock).

As Meyerson points out, US labor law has been frozen since 1947's Taft-Hartley; this administrative action takes a step towards updating it for this millennium. I don't know if I believe that this will be enough to keep Trump out of the White House in 2024, but maybe in combination with other executive actions?

I know that 2024 is hard to predict. Statistically, Biden and Trump are both at high risk for all-cause mortality between now and the general election. But the ongoing failure to deliver a progressive agenda is a recipe for continued Trumpism, if not Trump.


🤷🏻 Podcasting "Science fiction is a Luddite Literature"

This week on my podcast, I read my latest *Locus Magazine* column, "Science Fiction is a Luddite Literature," an essay about the historically unsupportable libel that turned "Luddite" into a slur.


Far from rejecting technology out of some reactionary fear, the Luddites instead demanded a renegotiation of the *social relations* governing that the new textile machines of the industrial revolution. Rather than have these machines displace workers and pad their bosses' profits, the Luddites demanded higher wages, less work, and cheaper cloth.

Mill owners were okay with cheap cloth, but the rest of it was out. The new machines required less esoteric knowledge, meaning owners could replace their workers more readily, and they used this to drive down wages and subject workers to lethal risk from the new machines.

As I write in the column, a Martian staring down at the Earth through a telescope couldn't tell you why the benefits of textile machines - bought with profits wrung from weavers' labor - should accrue to factory owners and not factory workers. The act of challenging that arrangement is fundamentally science-fictional - a demand to go beyond what a machine *does* and ask who it does it *to* and who it does it *for*.

The Luddites' demand was for technological self-determination: the right of the users of technology to govern how those machines affect them. This is a theme shot through sf, and not just cyberpunk's "street finding its own use for things" - all those Golden Age sf stories about engineers improvising brilliant solutions in a crunch? That's pure Luddism - seizing the means of production!

Here's the podcast episode:


And here's a direct link to the MP3 file (hosting courtesy of the Internet Archive, they'll host your stuff for free, forever):


And here's the RSS for my podcast feed:


One note: this is my last podcast for some weeks; I'm having my other hip replaced tomorrow and I'll be going offline for a month or so while I recover. I'm really looking forward to the surgery; I had my other hip done in Sept and it was remarkably low-trouble. I was even able to go skiing on my new hip over the Christmas break!

See you in a month or so!


🤷🏻 This day in history

#20yrsago Norwegian cops arrest DVD Jon https://www.wired.com/2002/01/norway-cracks-down-on-dvd-hacker/

#20yrsago The Web Runs on Love, Not Greed https://web.archive.org/web/20020204123233/http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/200201/msg00089.html

#20yrsago 23 Myths About the Internet https://web.archive.org/web/20020113023059/www.postget.com/get/article.php?newsid=80499

#15yrsago Roth’s “Plot Against America” – chilling alternate fascist America https://memex.craphound.com/2007/01/08/roths-plot-against-america-chilling-alternate-fascist-america/

#15yrsago Gerlado Rivera threatens to beat up Keith Olbermann https://web.archive.org/web/20070118214100/http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_local_namesblog/2007/01/geraldo_wants_t.html

#15yrsago "After the Siege" - my novella about the Siege of Leningrad http://www.infinitematrix.net/stories/shorts/after-the-siege.html

#15yrsago Printcrime on Escape Pod https://escapepod.org/2007/01/09/ep-flash-printcrime/

#15yrsago RIP, Yvonne De Carlo https://web.archive.org/web/20070112102858/https://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/TV/01/10/obit.decarlo.ap/index.html

#15yrsago Spa offers "Blackberry Thumb" massages https://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/26034/index.html

#10yrsago Lockdown: The coming war on general-purpose computing https://memex.craphound.com/2012/01/10/lockdown-the-coming-war-on-general-purpose-computing/

#10yrsago How Mastercard and Visa rip off merchants with secret, 1,000-page “agreement” https://web.archive.org/web/20120112025923/https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/credit-card-firms-they-dont-just-steal-from-cardholders-20120109

#10yrsago Fight PIPA, SOPA’s Senate cousin, with this Senate scorecard https://web.archive.org/web/20120109120411/www.sopaopera.org/protect-ip/

#10yrsago GameStop competitor: we’re not as bad as GameStop, but neither is getting kicked in the testicles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MPjJLJRYv8

#10yrsago Paul Ryan drops support for SOPA https://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/o9gq7/reddit_successfully_pressures_rep_paul_ryan_rwi/

#10yrsago The Economist publishes pathetic advertorial for the City of London https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/01/ian-fraser-the-economist-loses-the-plot-with-this-shallow-pro-city-propaganda.html

#5yrsago My first Enigma machine: Mattel once sold a Barbie typewriter with built-in crypto capabilities https://www.cryptomuseum.com/crypto/mehano/barbie/

#5yrsago FBI arrest the VW executive who stonewalled on the first Dieselgate reports for defrauding the US Government https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/09/business/volkswagen-diesel-emissions-investigation-settlement.html

#5yrsago Apple Store employees fired after accusations of snooping on customers’ devices for sexual selfies and sharing them https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/apple-store-photo-ring-scandal-in-brisbane-privacy-commissioner-weighs-in-20161013-gs1d83.html

#1yrago Impeachment and realignment https://pluralistic.net/2021/01/10/realignments/#realignments

#1yrago Busting myths about the Night of the Short Fingers https://pluralistic.net/2021/01/10/realignments/#mythbusting

#1yrago Censorship, Parler and antitrust https://pluralistic.net/2021/01/09/the-old-crow-is-getting-slow/#deplatforming

#1yrago The City We Became https://pluralistic.net/2021/01/09/the-old-crow-is-getting-slow/#i-love-nyhttps://pluralistic.net/2021/01/09/the-old-crow-is-getting-slow/#what-do-you-know

#1yrago Crowdsourcing a list of bad cops https://pluralistic.net/2021/01/09/the-old-crow-is-getting-slow/#brady-bunch

#1yrago Militarizing cops was a failure https://pluralistic.net/2021/01/08/competition-is-killing-us/#leso

#1yrago Predatory lender seeks national bank charter https://pluralistic.net/2021/01/08/competition-is-killing-us/#oportun

#1yrago Competition is Killing Us https://pluralistic.net/2021/01/08/competition-is-killing-us/#borked


🤷🏻 Colophon

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

* Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Yesterday's progress: 522 words (53955 words total).

* Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. Yesterday's progress: 284 words (1410 words total).

* A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation.  PLANNING

* A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

* Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. SECOND DRAFT COMPLETE

* 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: Daddy-Daughter Podcast, 2021 Edition (https://craphound.com/news/2021/12/23/daddy-daughter-podcast-2021-edition/)

Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

* Moral Panic (Drug Science Podcast)

* It Could Happen Here podcast

* Privacy, online platforms & misinformation (Northsec 2021)

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 https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html

* "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: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1562/_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer.html.

Upcoming books:

* Culture Heist: The Rise of Chokepoint Capitalism and How Workers Can Defeat It, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press, September 2022

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):


Medium (no ads, paywalled):


(Latest Medium column: "The Internet Heist (Part II): From Broadcast Flags to the Analog Hole." https://doctorow.medium.com/the-internet-heist-part-ii-cb2add31a4fb)

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


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


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

More information about the Plura-list mailing list