We Don’t Know How to Warn You Any Harder. America is Dying.

[Note:  This item comes from friend Doc Searls.  DLH]

We Don’t Know How to Warn You Any Harder. America is Dying.
We Survivors of Authoritarianism Have a Message America Needs to Hear: This is Exactly How it Happens, and It’s Happening Here.
By umair haque
Aug 29 2020
https://eand.co/we-dont-know-how-to-warn-you-any-harder-america-is-dying-26ff80912391

Right about now, something terrible is happening in America. Society is one tiny step away from the final collapse of democracy, at the hands of a true authoritarian, and his fanatics. Meanwhile, America’s silent majority is still slumbering at the depth and gravity of the threat.

I know that strikes many of you as somehow wrong. So let me challenge you for a moment. How much experience do you really have with authoritarianism? Any? If you’re a “real” American, you have precisely none.

Take it from us survivors and scholars of authoritarianism. This is exactly how it happens. The situation could not — could not — be any worse. The odds are now very much against American democracy surviving.

If you don’t believe me, ask a friend. I invite everyone who’s lived under authoritarianism to comment. Those of us how have?

We survivors of authoritarianism have a terrible, terrible foreboding, because we are experiencing something we should never do: deja vu. Our parents fled from collapsing societies to America. And here, now, in a grim and eerie repeat of history, we see the scenes of our childhoods played out all over again. Only now, in the land that we came to. We see the stories our parents recounted to us happening before our eyes, only this time, in the place they brought us to, to escape from all those horrors, abuses, and depredations.

We survivors are experiencing this terrible feeling of deja vu right now as a group, as a class. We talk about it, how eerie and grim this sense of deja vu is. It’s happening all over again! Do you remember this part of your childhood? When the armed men roamed the streets? When the secret police disappeared opponents? When the fascist masses united — and that was enough to destroy democracy for good? We talk about it, believe me — but you don’t hear it because we have no real voice. America’s pundits are named Chris and Jake and Tucker. They are not named Eduardo and Ravi and Xiao and Umair. But Chris and Jake and Tucker can’t help you now. They don’t know what the hell they’re dealing with. They literally have no idea because they have no experience whatsoever.

The only people who do right now in America are us survivors. Let me remind you, by the way, what happens we speak out: we lose whatever credibility and status we have. The moment I began to warn of this, I lost my column in HBR, my cable news appearances, and so forth. Don’t cry for me. Understand me, my friend, know me. If we had a voice, we survivors, we would be warning you as loudly and strongly as we possibly could.

All of us. We would say:

This is not a joke. This is not a drill. When we survivors of authoritarianism experience, as a group, a class, a cohort, something that we never, ever should — the horrific deja vu that the horrors of our childhoods, that our parents knew, are happening, all over again, here, something is much, much more wrong than you know.

Now let me make all the above concrete. I am going to use the example of Kenosha to draw out things that perhaps only we survivors can see — or at least that we see first and easiest. Things that the “real” American is either still playing dumb about, or is still mum about, and both equate to the same thing: silence, which is complicity, in times like these.

When we look at Kenosha, we survivors, and you “real” Americans, do we see the same thing? Do we feel the same gravity, pain, urgency? You will have to tell me. Here is what I see, that I’m 100% sure every survivor sees — but I doubt “real” Americans fully see yet.

What happened there? A young man was radicalized by the movement that fascist President led. The fascist President spoke of hated minorities as animals and vermin. He led his faithful in chants of hate, moments that built the bond of the tribe between them. Soon enough, that President was speaking of peaceful protesters as anarchists and revolutionaries and seditionaries. And the question that the fascist raises was left hanging in the air. “My people, my flock — what do we do with traitors?”

The answer, to a young man like that, is what it was in Nazi Germany, in the Islamic World, in every fascist collapse since time began. We kill them. So off he went with his rifle — and killed innocent people. Perfectly innocent people.

There is a crucial lesson there. America already has an ISIS, a Taliban, an SS waiting to be born. A group of young men willing to do violence at the drop of a hat, because they’ve been brainwashed into hating. The demagogue has blamed hated minorities and advocates of democracy and peace for those young men’s stunted life chances, and they believe him. That’s exactly what an ISIS is, what a Taliban is, what an SS is. The only thing left to do by an authoritarian is to formalize it.

But when radicalized young men are killing people they have been taught to hate by demagogues right in the open, on the streets — a society has reached the beginnings of sectarian violence, the kind familiar in the Islamic world, and is at the end of democracy’s road.

How did the state’s law enforcement respond? In America, they’re simply called “the police.” They let him do it, and then they protected him. The killer was only brought to justice because there was a national outcry after the act was caught on video. If none of that had happened, he probably would never have been. The police were forced to act, in other words.

What do we survivors see in that tiny parable? Crucial institutions have already been captured by the extremist factions who stand against democracy. Do all those cops think of themselves as fascists? Of course they don’t. So what? Mullahs don’t think of themselves as hate preachers, either. What else do you call someone who gives a violent young man with a gun a free pass to kill people, though? Someone who tries to shield him after the murder? A good and decent person?

The police in America might not all think they are fascists. Certainly, not all of them are. But what is certain is that some significant number of them arecaptured. They are sympathetic to the forces which are now attacking democracy. They prioritize those forces over democracy, freedom, peace, justice.

Let me give you an example. My friend Ben is a London copper. He abhors the violence in America. His jaw is dropped by it. He rejects carrying a gun, or even a taser. Do you see how big the gap, the problem is?

If the police force is captured by the extremists — at least many police forces, it seems, then harder questions are raised. What about the armed forces?

[snip]

The right’s culture war is no longer a sideshow to our politics – it is our politics

The right’s culture war is no longer a sideshow to our politics – it is our politics
Conservatives are winning elections by inventing threats to ‘our culture’
By Nesrine Malik
Aug 31 2020
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/31/the-rights-culture-war-politics-rightwing-fantasy-elections

It is hard to pick out one highlight from last week’s bizarre Republican national convention. But the Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz managed to distil into one chilling sentence the essence of rightwing politics today. Joe Biden, Gaetz explained, “would empty the prisons, lock you in your homes, and invite MS-13 to live next door. And the defunded police aren’t on their way.”

The only mercy in this grotesque US election – which will only get uglier – is that the fearmongering is totally naked. It’s not about “making America great again” again, or the plight of the little guy. It is about order. The threats to order are always present, and always held at bay, just barely, by conservative leaders valiantly fighting the imminent deluge. This authoritarian populist strategy is founded on an essential fiction: the pretence of powerlessness among politicians, and their voters, who are very much in charge. The weak and the marginalised, and especially their fragile movements for racial and economic equality, are cast as a terrifying force, influential and deeply embedded – a shadow regime that will bloom into tyranny the instant the Democrats are elected.

In Britain, we watch this American political horror from behind our fingers, with the bewildered bemusement of a country far from this madness. But we are there too. The right in the UK now is following the same playbook. The approach is just as calculated, but the presentation is slightly less crude, and therefore more difficult to challenge.

Over here, fearmongering is altogether more refined. Instead of hyped-up nonsense about emptying prisons and killer migrant gangs, there are subtle and insidious threats to British values. Consider the latest attack on our national pride: thinly sourced reports that Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory might be axed from “BBC’s ‘Black Lives Matter Proms’”. Much like Biden’s secret plot to set criminals loose, the Proms scandal isn’t true: there was no demand that the songs be dropped. There will be an orchestral version online this year because there’s a pandemic on, and there will be no audience to sing along. A vocal version is “fully expected to return next year”.

This dubious tale wasn’t invented by a Fox News-style propaganda network: it was carried by the Sunday Times and the Times and followed up by all the other papers. But it wasn’t an innocent misunderstanding: it was the result of a desire to exaggerate the threat to “our culture” from the unnamed vandals set on destroying it.

Once it was out there, the whole of the British media ran with the story. Even the BBC itself rang to ask me to come on for a debate on “the importance of our traditions” – amplifying fears and threats even as its own news site hosted a report explaining that the decision was pandemic-related, and nothing to do with subverting tradition.

There’s nothing new about these concoctions. Two years ago, the Daily Telegraph frightened its readers with a front page falsely reporting that Cambridge was being “forced to drop white authors” by a single black student – the publication of whose picture on the front page brought her abuse and harassment, even as the newspaper soon retracted its story. But there is something new and significant about the fake Proms scandal. It is a fabrication in plain sight, a trick performed by lazy magicians who don’t bother with sleight of hand because they know how badly the audience wants to believe the illusion.

Before long, the story was given the imprimatur of truth by the prime minister – who supposedly defied the restraint of his own minders to speak out against the dangerous “wetness” stalking the land. By the end of the week, parts of the public had been whipped into a frenzy, as seen in several polls helpfully asking how they felt about the BBC’s craven surrender to rampant wokeness. Land of Hope and Glory raced up the charts as a rebuke to the imaginary censors.

The reason that these made-up stories preoccupy journalists, politicians and the public is that culture-war skirmishes are no longer a sideshow to our politics – they are the politics. They are how rightwing electoral prospects are now advanced; not through policies or promises of a better life, but by fostering a sense of threat, a fantasy that something profoundly pure and British is constantly at risk of extinction. What our most successful politicians understand is the insatiable public appetite for these falsehoods, the wish for these lies to be true – for Britain to be a precious damsel in distress rather than a battered country impoverished by the misrule of its governing class.

[snip]

The coronavirus is most deadly if you are older and male — new data reveal the risks

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  DLH]

The coronavirus is most deadly if you are older and male — new data reveal the risks
A slew of detailed studies has now quantified the increased risk the virus poses to older people, men, and other groups.
By Smriti Mallapaty
Aug 28 2020
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02483-2

For every 1,000 people infected with the coronavirus who are under the age of 50, almost none will die. For people in their fifties and early sixties, about five will die — more men than women. The risk then climbs steeply as the years accrue. For every 1,000 people in their mid-seventies or older who are infected, around 116 will die. These are the stark statistics obtained by some of the first detailed studies into the mortality risk for COVID-19.

Trends in coronavirus deaths by age have been clear since early in the pandemic. Research teams looking at the presence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in people in the general population — in Spain, England, Italy and Geneva in Switzerland — have now quantified that risk, says Marm Kilpatrick, an infectious-disease researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“It gives us a much sharper tool when asking what the impact might be on a certain population that has a certain demographic,” says Kilpatrick.

The studies reveal that age is by far the strongest predictor of an infected person’s risk of dying — a metric known as the infection fatality ratio (IFR), which is the proportion of people infected with the virus, including those who didn’t get tested or show symptoms, who will die as a result..

“COVID-19 is not just hazardous for elderly people, it is extremely dangerous for people in their mid-fifties, sixties and seventies,” says Andrew Levin, an economist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, who has estimated that getting COVID-19 is more than 50 times more likely to be fatal for a 60-year-old than is driving a car.

But “age cannot explain everything”, says Henrik Salje, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge, UK. Gender is also a strong risk factor, with men almost twice more likely to die from the coronavirus than women. And differences between countries in the fatality estimates for older age groups suggest that the risk of dying from coronavirus is also linked to underlying health conditions, the capacity of health-care systems, and whether the virus has spread among people living in elderly-care facilities.

Older men more at risk

To estimate the mortality risk by age, researchers used data from antibody-prevalence studies.

In June and July, thousands of people across England received a pinprick antibody test in the post. Of the 109,000 randomly selected teenagers and adults who took the test, some 6% harboured antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. This result was used to calculate an overall IFR for England of 0.9% — or 9 deaths in every 1,000 cases. The IFR was close to zero for people between the ages of 15 and 44, increasing to 3.1% for 65–74-year-olds and to 11.6% for anyone older. The results of the study have been posted to the medRxiv preprint server1.

Another study from Spain that started in April, and tested for antibodies in more than 61,000 residents in randomly selected households, observed a similar trend. The overall IFR for the population was about 0.8%, but it remained close to zero for people under 50, before rising swiftly to 11.6% for men 80 years old and over; it was 4.6% for women in that age group. The results also revealed that men are more likely to die of the infection than are women — the gap increasing with age.

“Men face twice the risk of women,” says Beatriz Pérez-Gómez, an epidemiologist at the Carlos III Institute of Health in Madrid, who was involved in the Spanish study. The results have also been posted to the medRxiv server2.

Differences in the male and female immune-system response could explain the divergent risks, says Jessica Metcalf, a demographer at Princeton University, New Jersey. “The female immune system might have an edge by detecting pathogens just a bit earlier,” she says.

The immune system might also explain the much higher risk of older people dying from the virus. As the body ages, it develops low levels of inflammation, and COVID-19 could be pushing the already overworked immune system over the edge, says Metcalf. Worse outcomes for people with COVID-19 tend to be associated with a ramped-up immune response, she says.

The study in England also compared results from different ethnic groups. Mortality and morbidity statistics suggest that Black and South Asian people in England are more likely to die or to be hospitalized. But the analysis, led by Helen Ward, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, found that although Black and South Asian people were much more likely to have been infected than were white people, they were no more likely to die of COVID-19.

[snip]

Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind

[Note:  This item comes from friend Jock Gill.  DLH]

Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind
In three decades of advocating for prison abolition, the activist and scholar has helped transform how people think about criminal justice.
By Rachel Kushner
Apr 17 2019
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/magazine/prison-abolition-ruth-wilson-gilmore.html

There’s an anecdote that Ruth Wilson Gilmore likes to share about being at an environmental-justice conference in Fresno in 2003. People from all over California’s Central Valley had gathered to talk about the serious environmental hazards their communities faced, mostly as a result of decades of industrial farming, conditions that still have not changed. (The air quality in the Central Valley is the worst in the nation, and one million of its residents drink tap water more poisoned than the water in Flint, Mich.) There was a “youth track” at the conference, in which children were meant to talk about their worries and then decide as a group what was most important to be done in the name of environmental justice. Gilmore, a renowned geography professor (then at University of California, Berkeley, now at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan) and an influential figure in the prison-abolition movement, was a keynote speaker.

She was preparing her talk when someone told her that the kids wanted to speak with her. She went into the room where they were gathered. The children were primarily Latino, many of them the sons and daughters of farmworkers or other people in the agriculture industry. They ranged in age, but most were middle schoolers: old enough to have strong opinions and to distrust adults. They were frowning at her with their shoulders up and their arms crossed. She didn’t know these kids, but she understood that they were against her.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“We hear you’re a prison abolitionist,” one said. “You want to close prisons?”

Gilmore said that was right; she did want to close prisons.

But why, they asked. And before she could answer, one said, “But what about the people who do something seriously wrong?” Others chimed in. “What about people who hurt other people?” “What about if someone kills someone?”

Whether from tiny farm towns or from public housing around Fresno and Bakersfield, these children, it was obvious to Gilmore, understood innately the harshness of the world and were not going to be easily persuaded.

“I get where you’re coming from,” she said. “But how about this: Instead of asking whether anyone should be locked up or go free, why don’t we think about why we solve problems by repeating the kind of behavior that brought us the problem in the first place?” She was asking them to consider why, as a society, we would choose to model cruelty and vengeance.

As she spoke, she felt the kids icing her out, as if she were a new teacher who had come to proffer some bogus argument and tell them it was for their own good. But Gilmore pressed on, determined. She told them that in Spain, where it’s really quite rare for one person to kill another, the average time you might serve for murdering someone is seven years.

“What? Seven years!” The kids were in such disbelief about a seven-year sentence for murder that they relaxed a little bit. They could be outraged about that, instead of about Gilmore’s ideas.

Gilmore told them that in the unusual event that someone in Spain thinks he is going to solve a problem by killing another person, the response is that the person loses seven years of his life to think about what he has done, and to figure out how to live when released. “What this policy tells me,” she said, “is that where life is precious, life is precious.” Which is to say, she went on, in Spain people have decided that life has enough value that they are not going to behave in a punitive and violent and life-annihilating way toward people who hurt people. “And what this demonstrates is that for people trying to solve their everyday problems, behaving in a violent and life-annihilating way is not a solution.”

The children showed Gilmore no emotion except guarded doubt, expressed in side eye. She kept talking. She believed her own arguments and had given them many years of thought as an activist and a scholar, but the kids were a tough sell. They told Gilmore that they would think about what she said and dismissed her. As she left the room, she felt totally defeated.

At the end of the day, the kids made a presentation to the broader conference, announcing, to Gilmore’s surprise, that in their workshop they had come to the conclusion that there were three environmental hazards that affected their lives most pressingly as children growing up in the Central Valley. Those hazards were pesticides, the police and prisons.

“Sitting there listening to the kids stopped my heart,” Gilmore told me. “Why? Abolition is deliberately everything-ist; it’s about the entirety of human-environmental relations. So, when I gave the kids an example from a different place, I worried they might conclude that some people elsewhere were just better or kinder than people in the South San Joaquin Valley — in other words, they’d decide what happened elsewhere was irrelevant to their lives. But judging from their presentation, the kids lifted up the larger point of what I’d tried to share: Where life is precious, life is precious. They asked themselves, ‘Why do we feel every day that life here is not precious?’ In trying to answer, they identified what makes them vulnerable.”

Prison abolition, as a movement, sounds provocative and absolute, but what it is as a practice requires subtler understanding. For Gilmore, who has been active in the movement for more than 30 years, it’s both a long-term goal and a practical policy program, calling for government investment in jobs, education, housing, health care — all the elements that are required for a productive and violence-free life. Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack. Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.”

“Every age has had its hopes,” William Morris wrote in 1885, “hopes that look to something beyond the life of the age itself, hopes that try to pierce into the future.” Morris was a proto-abolitionist: In his utopian novel “News From Nowhere,” there are no prisons, and this is treated as an obvious, necessary condition for a happy society.

In Morris’s era, the prison was relatively new as the most common form of punishment. In England, historically, people were incarcerated for only a short time, before being dragged out and whipped in the street. As Angela Davis narrates in her 2003 book, “Are Prisons Obsolete?” while early English common law deemed the crime of petty treason punishable by being burned alive, by 1790 this punishment was reformed to death by hanging. In the wake of the Enlightenment, European reformers gradually moved away from corporal punishment tout court; people would go to prison for a set period of time, rather than to wait for the punishment to come. The penitentiary movement in both England and the United States in the early 19th century was motivated in part by the demand for more humanitarian punishment. Prison was the reform.

If prison, in its philosophical origin, was meant as a humane alternative to beatings or torture or death, it has transformed into a fixed feature of modern life, one that is not known, even by its supporters and administrators, for its humanity. In the United States, we now have more than two million incarcerated people, a majority of them black or brown, virtually all of them from poor communities. Prisons not only have violated human rights and failed at rehabilitation; it’s not even clear that prisons deter crime or increase public safety.

Following an incarceration boom that began all over the United States around 1980 and only recently started to level off, reform has become politically popular. But abolitionists argue that many reforms have done little more than reinforce the system. In every state where the death penalty has been abolished, for example, it has been replaced by the sentence of life without parole — to many people a death sentence by other, more protracted means. Another product of good intentions: campaigns to reform indeterminate sentencing, resulting in three-strike programs and mandatory-minimum sentencing, which traded one cruelty for another. Over all, reforms have not significantly reduced incarceration numbers, and no recent reform legislation has even aspired to do so.

For instance, the first federal prison reform in almost 10 years, the bipartisan First Step Act, which President Trump signed into law late last year, will result in the release of only some 7,000 of the 2.3 million people currently locked up when it goes into effect. Federal legislation pertains only to federal prisons, which hold less than 10 percent of the nation’s prison population, and of those, First Step applies to only a slim subset. As Gilmore said to me, noting an outsize public enthusiasm after the act passed the Senate, “There are people who behave as though the origin and cure are federal. So many are unaware of how the country is juridically organized, and that there are at least 52 criminal-legal jurisdictions in the U.S.”

Which isn’t to say that Gilmore and other abolitionists are opposed to all reforms. “It’s obvious that the system won’t disappear overnight,” Gilmore told me. “No abolitionist thinks that will be the case.” But she finds First Step, like many state reforms it mimics, not just minor but exclusionary, on account of wording in the bill that will make it even harder for some to get relief. (Those convicted of most higher-level offenses, for example, are ineligible for earned-time credits, a new category created under First Step.) “So many of these proposed remedies don’t end up diminishing the system. They regard the system as something that can be fixed by removing and replacing a few elements.” For Gilmore, debates over which individuals to let out of prison accept prison as a given. To her, this is not just a moral error but a practical one, if the goal is to actually end mass incarceration. Instead of trying to fix the carceral system, she is focused on policy work to reduce its scope and footprint by stopping new prison construction and closing prisons and jails one facility at a time, with painstaking grass-roots organizing and demands that state funding benefit, rather than punish, vulnerable communities.

“What I love about abolition,” the legal scholar and author James Forman Jr. told me, “and now use in my own thinking — and when I identify myself as an abolitionist, this is what I have in mind — is the idea that you imagine a world without prisons, and then you work to try to build that world.” Forman came late, he said, to abolitionist thinking. He was on tour for his 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Locking Up Our Own,” which documents the history of mass incarceration and the inadvertent roles that black political leaders played, when a woman asked him why he didn’t use the word “abolition” in his arguments, which, to her, sounded so abolitionist. The question led Forman to engage seriously with the concept. “I feel like a movement to end mass incarceration and replace it with a system that actually restores and protects communities will never succeed without abolitionists. Because people will make compromises and sacrifices, and they’ll lose the vision. They’ll start to think things are huge victories, when they’re tiny. And so, to me, abolition is essential.”

The A.C.L.U.’s Smart Justice campaign, the largest in the organization’s history, has been started with a goal of reducing the prison population by 50 percent through local, state and federal initiatives to reform bail, prosecution, sentencing, parole and re-entry. “Incarceration does not work,” said the A.C.L.U. campaign director Udi Ofer. The A.C.L.U., he told me, wants to “defund the prison system and reinvest in communities.” In our conversation, I found myself wondering if Ofer, and the A.C.L.U., had been influenced by abolitionist thinking and Gilmore. Ofer even seemed to quote Gilmore’s mantra that “prisons are catchall solutions to social problems.” When I asked him, Ofer said, “There’s no question. She’s made tremendous contributions, even just in helping to bring about a conversation on what this work really is, and the constant struggle not to replace one oppressive system with another.”

[snip]

The U.S. Postal Service Is a Threat to Your Life

The U.S. Postal Service Is a Threat to Your Life
Disruptions of mail aren’t just a problem for the election—they’re a danger to millions of American lives.
By LAURIE GARRETT, KAVITA PATEL
Aug 29 2020
https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/08/29/the-u-s-postal-service-is-a-medical-catastrophe/

The U.S. Postal Service is now widely suspected of carrying out the president’s desire to suppress voting in this year’s election. But those fears understate the threat that changes the U. S. Postal Service now poses to the American public. Hardly anyone in the federal government seems to have given consideration to the health of more than 200 million Americans who depend upon the Postal Service for delivery of medicines, veterans’ assistance benefits, Social Security checks, food subsidies, child support, or deliveries of basic goods and food—dependencies that have been magnified by COVID-19. It is a medical crisis caused by what should be a political scandal: President Donald Trump’s administration’s quiet attempt to make mail delivery a private, rather than public, service.

The drama that unfolded in July and August, prompting passage of an emergency House bill, and its predictable blockage in the Republican-controlled Senate amid a threatened presidential veto, stemmed from a series of actions taken by a new postmaster general. But the plan that would deprive rural Americans, individuals without Internet access, veterans, and millions of other citizens of their rightful postal deliveries was hatched long before he held office.

In June 2018, the Executive Office of the President released the Trump administration’s 132-page master plan, “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations.” Though little noticed outside of the White House, the plan represented marching orders for the appointed leaders of every government agency, delineating what services and personnel should be eliminated and how the missions of the respective departments ought to be changed. The plan was careful to note which fundamental alterations in mission might require congressional approval, highlighting changes an agency director, cabinet member, or the president himself could order without facing legislative roadblocks or statute limitations. Page  68 of the plan starts a section dedicated to privatizing the United States Postal Service, noting, “A privatized Postal Service would have a substantially lower cost structure, be able to adapt to changing customer needs and make business decisions free from political interference, and have access to private capital markets to fund operational improvements without burdening taxpayers .”

The plan noted that between 2001 and 2017, first-class mail use fell by 40 percent, though junk mail was stable. No mention was made in the plan of citizens’ dependence on the mail for payments, medicines, small-business supplies, rural deliveries, Social Security checks, tax rebates, pensions, Medicare reimbursements, food and welfare subsidies, and the like.

It should come as no surprise, then, that newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy set forth to execute the plan shortly after taking office on June 16, with cost savings and privatization at the forefront of his mind. DeJoy replaced Megan Brennan, the Nation’s 74th postmaster general and its only female leader, who took office in 2015 after being appointed by then President Barack Obama. Her departure in January left a power struggle between the agency’s Board of Governors and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who was willing to extend a $10 billion line of credit to tide the financially strapped agency over, but only with tough preconditions and mandatory payback. The Board of Governors recoiled, unable to see how the Postal Service would ever generate sufficient surplus revenues to pay back the unprecedented  $10 billion loan, and opposed to Mnuchin’s insistence on personally overseeing privatization of the mail service, in line with the White House plan. Turbulence followed, and the board’s vice chairman, David C. Williams, resigned in protest days before DeJoy’s selection, saying before Congress months later that the Mnuchin scheme marked “the end of the Postal Service.”

Regardless of any impact implementation of the plan might have on the Nov. 3 national elections, the disruption of normal postal services in an effort to reduce costs and transition the agency from a public institution to a private company—with or without a $10 billion loan from the Treasury—proceeded with haste once DeJoy was in the postmaster general’s seat. Days after taking the position, he prepared to remove 671 automatic mail-sorting machines. Many of these machines had been replaced, at great cost, after the 2001 anthrax mailings led to widespread contamination of sorters in Washington, D.C., New Jersey, and New York, killing two postal workers .

In addition, social media in early August was rife with images of mothballed blue mailboxes, and teams removing the boxes were photographed in several states. Prior to DeJoy’s appointment, there were about 142,000 mailboxes scattered across the United States. Between 2011 and 2017, some 14,000 mailboxes were decommissioned because of their low use rates, and it is unclear whether the photographed removals represent routine displacement or an acceleration ordered by the new postmaster general.

Regardless of motivations and the scope of decommissionings, according to DeJoy’s testimony on Aug. 21 to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, none of these steps were anticipated by a thorough, or even scanty, review of citizen needs that might go unmet or delayed. New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, asked DeJoy, “Will you ensure that any further changes that you make to postal operations do not delay access to medications and other necessities? Yes or no.”

[snip]

They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen?

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  DLH]

They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen?
This is a story about frustration, about watching the West burn when you fully understand why it’s burning — and understand why it did not need to be this bad.
By Elizabeth Weil
Aug 28 2020
https://www.propublica.org/article/they-know-how-to-prevent-megafires-why-wont-anybody-listen

What a week. Rough for all Californians. Exhausting for the firefighters on the front lines. Heart-shattering for those who lost homes and loved ones. But a special “Truman Show” kind of hell for the cadre of men and women who’ve not just watched California burn, fire ax in hand, for the past two or three or five decades, but who’ve also fully understood the fire policy that created the landscape that is now up in flames.

“What’s it like?” Tim Ingalsbee repeated back to me, wearily, when I asked him what it was like to watch California this past week. In 1980, Ingalsbee started working as a wildland firefighter. In 1995, he earned a doctorate in environmental sociology. And in 2005, frustrated by the huge gap between what he was learning about fire management and seeing on the fire line, he started Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology. Since then FUSEE has been lobbying Congress, and trying to educate anybody who will listen, about the misguided fire policy that is leading to the megafires we are seeing today.

So what’s it like? “It’s just … well … it’s horrible. Horrible to see this happening when the science is so clear and has been clear for years. I suffer from Cassandra syndrome,” Ingalsbee said. “Every year I warn people: Disaster’s coming. We got to change. And no one listens. And then it happens.”

The pattern is a form of insanity: We keep doing overzealous fire suppression across California landscapes where the fire poses little risk to people and structures. As a result, wildland fuels keep building up. At the same time, the climate grows hotter and drier. Then, boom: the inevitable. The wind blows down a power line, or lightning strikes dry grass, and an inferno ensues. This week we’ve seen both the second- and third-largest fires in California history. “The fire community, the progressives, are almost in a state of panic,” Ingalsbee said. There’s only one solution, the one we know yet still avoid. “We need to get good fire on the ground and whittle down some of that fuel load.”

Yes, there’s been talk across the U.S. Forest Service and California state agencies about doing more prescribed burns and managed burns. The point of that “good fire” would be to create a black-and-green checkerboard across the state. The black burned parcels would then provide a series of dampers and dead ends to keep the fire intensity lower when flames spark in hot, dry conditions, as they did this past week. But we’ve had far too little “good fire,” as the Cassandras call it. Too little purposeful, healthy fire. Too few acres intentionally burned or corralled by certified “burn bosses” (yes, that’s the official term in the California Resources Code) to keep communities safe in weeks like this.

Academics believe that between 4.4 million and 11.8 million acres burned each year in prehistoric California. Between 1982 and 1998, California’s agency land managers burned, on average, about 30,000 acres a year. Between 1999 and 2017, that number dropped to an annual 13,000 acres. The state passed a few new laws in 2018 designed to facilitate more intentional burning. But few are optimistic this, alone, will lead to significant change. We live with a deathly backlog. In February 2020, Nature Sustainability published this terrifying conclusion: California would need to burn 20 million acres — an area about the size of Maine — to restabilize in terms of fire.

Mike Beasley, deputy fire chief of Yosemite National Park from 2001 to 2009 and retired interagency fire chief for the Inyo National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management’s Bishop Field Office, was in a better mood than Ingalsbee when I reached him, but only because as a part-time Arkansan, part-time Californian and Oregonian, Beasley seems to find life more absurd. How does California look this week? He let out a throaty laugh. “It looks complicated,” he said. “And I think you know what I mean by that.”

Beasley earned what he called his “red card,” or wildland firefighter qualification, in 1984. To him, California, today, resembles a rookie pyro Armageddon, its scorched battlefields studded with soldiers wielding fancy tools, executing foolhardy strategy. “Put the wet stuff on the red stuff,” Beasley summed up his assessment of the plan of attack by Cal Fire, the state’s behemoth “emergency response and resource protection” agency. Instead, Beasley believes, fire professionals should be considering ecology and picking their fights: letting fires that pose little risk burn through the stockpiles of fuels. Yet that’s not the mission. “They put fires out, full stop, end of story,” Beasley said of Cal Fire. “They like to keep it clean that way.”

So it’s been a week. Carl Skinner, another Cassandra, who started firefighting in Lassen County in 1968 and who retired in 2014 after 42 years managing and researching fire for the U.S. Forest Service, sounded profoundly, existentially tired. “We’ve been talking about how this is where we were headed for decades.”

“It’s painful,” said Craig Thomas, director of the Fire Restoration Group. He, too, has been having the fire Cassandra conversation for 30 years. He’s not that hopeful, unless there’s a power change. “Until different people own the calculator or say how the buttons get pushed, it’s going to stay that way.”

A six-word California fire ecology primer: The state is in the hole.

A seventy-word primer: We dug ourselves into a deep, dangerous fuel imbalance due to one simple fact. We live in a Mediterranean climate that’s designed to burn, and we’ve prevented it from burning anywhere close to enough for well over a hundred years. Now climate change has made it hotter and drier than ever before, and the fire we’ve been forestalling is going to happen, fast, whether we plan for it or not.

Megafires, like the ones that have ripped this week through 1 million acres (so far), will continue to erupt until we’ve flared off our stockpiled fuels. No way around that.

When I reached Malcolm North, a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service who is based in Mammoth, California, and asked if there was any meaningful scientific dissent to the idea that we need to do more controlled burning, he said, “None that I know of.”

How did we get here? Culture, greed, liability laws and good intentions gone awry. There are just so many reasons not to pick up the drip torch and start a prescribed burn even though it’s the safe, smart thing to do.

The overarching reason is culture. In 1905, the U.S. Forest Service was created with a military mindset. Not long after, renowned American philosopher William James wrote in his essay “The Moral Equivalent of War” that Americans should redirect their combative impulses away from their fellow humans and onto “Nature.” The war-on-fire mentality found especially fertile ground in California, a state that had emerged from the genocide and cultural destruction of tribes who understood fire and relied on its benefits to tend their land. That state then repopulated itself in the Gold Rush with extraction enthusiasts, and a little more than half a century later, it suffered a truly devastating fire. Three-thousand people died, and hundreds of thousands were left homeless, after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and attendant fires. The overwhelming majority of the destruction came from the flames, not the quake. Small wonder California’s fire ethos has much more in common with a field surgeon wielding a bone saw than a preventive medicine specialist with a tray full of vaccines.

More quantitatively — and related — fire suppression in California is big business, with impressive year-over-year growth. Before 1999, Cal Fire never spent more than $100 million a year. In 2007-08, it spent $524 million. In 2017-18, $773 million. Could this be Cal Fire’s first $1 billion season? Too early to tell, but don’t count it out. On top of all the state money, federal disaster funds flow down from “the big bank in the sky,” said Ingalsbee. Studies have shown that over a quarter of U.S. Forest Service fire suppression spending goes to aviation — planes and helicopters used to put out fire. A lot of the “air show,” as he calls it, happens not on small fires in the morning, when retardant drops from planes are most effective, but on large fires in the afternoon. But nevermind. You can now call in a 747 to drop 19,200 gallons of retardant. Or a purpose-designed Lockheed Martin FireHerc, a cousin of the C-130. How cool is that? Still only 30% of retardant is dropped within 2,000 yards of a neighborhood, meaning that it stands little chance of saving a life or home. Instead the airdrop serves, at great expense, to save trees in the wilderness, where burning, not suppression, might well do more good.

[snip]

How Native American Women Inspired the Women’s Rights Movement

[Note:  This item comes from friend Shannon McElyea.  DLH]

How Native American Women Inspired the Women’s Rights Movement
By Sally Roesch Wagner
Apr 17 2020
https://www.womensvote100.org/the-suff-buffs-blog/2020/4/17/how-native-american-women-inspired-the-womens-rights-movement

“Never was justice more perfect; never was civilization higher,” suffrage leader Matilda Joslyn Gage wrote about the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy, whose territory extended throughout New York State. Matilda Joslyn Gage led the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the three women trading executive positions over the 20 years of the organization’s existence. According to Gloria Steinem, Gage was “the woman who was AHEAD of the women who were AHEAD of their time.” When the women’s suffrage leadership grew conservative, Gage dropped out of the movement. Suffragists stopped remembering her progressive contributions, like her 1893 revelation of the sex trafficking of women and girls in the United States. Gage, and to a lesser extent Stanton, were largely dropped from the history. With their exclusion, we also lost this story of how they saw women’s rights in action in the native culture of the Haudenosaunee, and realized they could create the conditions for it in their own society.

Having worked for women’s rights for forty years, Gage and Stanton became increasingly frustrated with their inability to make major gains in their social, economic, or political positions as women by the 1880’s. In their disappointment, they looked beyond the Euro-American culture that was already known intimately to them and gained a vision of a world of equality from their nearby neighbors. Stanton and Gage grew up in the land of the Haudenosaunee, the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy: the Onondaga, Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida and Tuscarora who had social, religious, economic, and political positions far superior to their own, they wrote.

The Six Nation Haudenosaunee Confederacy had, and still have today, a family/governmental structure based on female authority. Haudenosaunee women controlled the economy in their nations through their responsibilities for growing and distributing the food. They had the final authority over land transfers and decisions about engaging in war. Children came through the mother’s line, not the father’s, and if the parents separated, the children stayed with their mother, and if she died, with her clan family. Women controlled their own property and belongings, as did the children. Political power was shared equally among everyone in the Nation, with decisions made by consensus in this pure democracy, the oldest continuing one in the world.

Still today, the chief and clan mother share leadership responsibilities. The clan mother chooses and advises the chief, placing and holding him in office. These men, appointed by the women, carry out the business of government. The clan mother also has the responsibility of removing a chief who doesn’t listen to the people and make good decisions, giving due consideration to seven generations in the future. To be chosen as a chief, the man cannot be a warrior (since it is a confederacy based on peace), nor can he have ever stolen anything or abused a woman. Women live free of fearing violence from men. The spiritual belief in the sacredness of women and the earth—the mutual creators of life—make rape or beating almost unthinkable. If it occurs, the offender is punished severely by the men of the victim’s clan family – sometimes by death or banishment.

Euro-American women of Gage and Stanton’s time lived under conditions that were the mirror opposite. United States common law of the period followed the British Blackstone code that read: “By marriage the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs everything.” Considered effectively dead, or at least invisible in the law, married women had no legal existence in the United States. They had no right to their property or their bodies; husbands had the legal right to rape and beat their wives, as long as they didn’t inflict permanent injury. When a woman married, everything she owned became her husband’s property, to do with as he wished. If she worked, he got her wages. If she inherited property, it became his. Children belonged to their father who, upon dying, could even will away his unborn child to someone other than the mother to raise.

At mid-nineteenth century, the majority of women living in the United States — that is to say, single and married white women, as well as all enslaved women — had no say in family or government decisions. It was illegal in every state for women to vote. They could not serve on a jury, sue or be sued, write a will or in any way act as a legal entity. Haudenosaunee women, on the other hand, maintained their own identity and all their rights to their body, property, political voice, and children whether married or unmarried before colonization.

Alice Fletcher, an ethnographer studying Native American cultures and a suffragist, addressed the 1888 International Council of Women, the first United States meeting of women’s rights advocates from throughout the Western world. “Will your husband like to have you give the horse away?” Fletcher recounts asking an Omaha Nation woman she was visiting. This Native American had just given away a “fine quality horse” and, hearing Fletcher’s question, she broke “into a peal of laughter, and she hastened to tell the story to the others gathered in her tent, and I became the target of many merry eyes,” Fletched continued. “Laughter and contempt met my explanation of the white man’s hold upon his wife’s property.”

Married and single women in their own culture, these suffragists at the International Council of Women knew, had no legal right to their own possessions or property in most states. Everything she brought into the marriage, earned or inherited, became the property of her husband. Still, with most jobs closed to women and the few available paying half (or less) of men’s wages, marriage was the only viable option open to most women. What an amazing revelation to know that the oppressed condition of women was not universal; Indigenous women had rights to their property. If these Euro-American women, gathered from around the Western world, didn’t know the stark difference between their conditions, Native women did. They resisted losing their rights under Indigenous law as the U. S. government, through a “christianize and civilize” policy, enforced through the boarding schools and assimilation laws, were trying to force them to become U.S. citizens. Fletcher explained to the International Council, “As I have tried to explain our statutes to Indian women, I have met with but one response. They have said: ‘As an Indian woman I was free. I owned my home, my person, the work of my own hands, and my children could never forget me. I was better as an Indian woman than under white law.’”

This model of Native women’s rights gave suffragists the ammunition they needed, and the vision of something better. For years, they had been told by their ministers that the position of women was decreed by God as the eternal punishment women would suffer because of Eve’s sin. Clergy quoted the Bible: “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16), the command declared all the way through the Bible to the Ephesians, Stanton pointed out. To work for your rights meant going against the will of God. You also were defying biology, since science of the time maintained that women had smaller brains, with less intelligence and physical strength than men. Hence, it was natural that they should be under the authority of men. Seeing Native women who farmed with strong bodies, had total authority over their lives, and lived in equality with men put the lie to religion and science’s teachings of women’s subordination and inferiority.

[snip]

An American Disaster Foretold

An American Disaster Foretold
Europeans look at “containment” as the means to deal with Trump.
By Roger Cohen
Aug 28 2020
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/28/opinion/donald-trump-europe-china.html

PARIS — Henry Kissinger this month called François Delattre, the former French ambassador to the United States who is now the secretary general of the Foreign Ministry. Kissinger was concerned about the deteriorating state of U.S.-Chinese relations and the risk that the situation could slip out of control.

Delattre told me he has his own concerns in that regard. An October surprise might involve a military incident in the South China Sea that President Trump uses to demonstrate American resolve against President Xi Jinping’s China. The resolve that would supposedly vanish in the event of a Joe Biden victory, whereupon, Trump claimed in a 70-minute speech on the South Lawn of the White House, “China would own our country.”

Trump is like the Bellman in Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark”: “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.” China would no more own Biden’s United States than Trump’s United States owns Greenland.

“It’s lonely being a European today,” Delattre mused. Russia is hostile. China is hostile. Emerging powers view the postwar multilateral organizations which Europe prizes as relics of a world made by and for Western powers — and want to change them. As for the United States, it’s absent.

Increasingly, Europeans speak of the need for “containment” of the United States if Trump is re-elected, the term coined by the U.S. diplomat George Kennan to define America’s Cold War policy toward the Communist Soviet Union. That would be a shocking development, except that nothing is shocking any longer.

Not in a world where presidential falsehoods repeated thrice, or more, are “true.”

Not after a Republican National Convention during which Mike Pompeo, the toadying secretary of state, sang the praises of Trump’s “‘America First’ vision” from a Jerusalem rooftop in open defiance of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities while on the job.

“Pompeo is the worst and most corrupt secretary of state ever,” Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told me.

Not after Trump set the scene for a demolition of American democracy by saying on the convention’s opening day that “the only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election.”

Not after Trump, in an acceptance speech that, in the Pompeo mold, commandeered the White House for political purposes, warned darkly, “If the left gains power they will demolish the suburbs.” Not after Trump has turned the Republican Party into a personality cult. Not after Trump concluded from the impeachment proceedings that he can get away with anything.

I asked Ornstein, not prone to histrionics, how real the threat to American democracy is, at 67 days from the election. “If we are not at Defcon 1, we are pretty close,” he said, referring to the label used by the United States armed forces for the highest level of threat.

Europeans know how this goes. Viktor Orban, the rightist Hungarian prime minister, has established a template for the authoritarian system Trump would pursue if re-elected: neutralize an independent judiciary, demonize immigrants, claim the “people’s will” overrides constitutional checks and balances, curtail a free media, exalt a mythologized national heroism, and ultimately, like Orban or Vladimir Putin or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, secure a form of autocratic rule that retains a veneer of democracy while skewing the contest sufficiently to ensure it can yield only one result.

In fact, of course, Trump has long since started down this road. He has Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department in his pocket. He is on course, as he boasted in his speech, to appoint more than 300 federal judges. He already has his sights on The Washington Post’s owner, Jeff Bezos.

He is working hard at voter suppression and attempts to disqualify legitimate votes. “Mail ballots, they cheat,” the president claims. Mail ballots are “substantially fraudulent.” Mail ballots “will be printed by foreign countries.”

What I tell you three times is true. Like saying over and over that a Biden victory will lead to destruction or that he has done more for African-Americans than any president since Lincoln. Trump is orchestrating mayhem to keep the job that is probably his only means of evading New York prosecutors and a jail sentence. Surveys suggest masked Democrats are far more likely than unmasked Republicans to vote by mail. Hence Trump’s drumbeat and the recent accelerated removal of postal sorting machines.

[snip]

For those of us who study autocracies, including elections in autocracies, there were a lot

For those of us who study autocracies, including elections in autocracies, there were a lot of familiar messages, symbols, and methods on display this week at the #RNCConvention.
By Michael McFaul
Aug 28 2020
https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1299393438522077190.html

1. Cult of the Personality. This show was all about Trump. ( 3 years after the death of Stalin, Khrushchev’s gave his secret speech in 1956, titled “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences.” I wonder if a future GOP leader will give a similar speech someday?)

2. Administrative resources. Autocrats and semi-autocrats frequently use government resources for personal electoral gain. We have #HatchAct to prevent such behavior in the U.S. It’s obviously not working.

3. Blatant disregard for the law. That Trump’s team dared anyone to charge them with violating the #HatchAct is exactly what Putin and others autocrats do all the time. Laws don’t apply to the king & his court, only to the subjects.

4. Blatant disregard for facts. As U.S. ambassador to Russia, I found this Putin regime trait most frustrating. We – the U.S. government- were constrained by facts. They were not. Trump obviously was not constrained by facts last night. He usually isn’t: amazon.com/gp/product/B08

5. Us versus Them populism. “Elites” versus “the people” nationalism. Autocratic populists use polarizing identity politics to divide societies all the time. Many populist leaders actually have little in common with the “masses.” (Putin is very rich.)

6. The opposition is the “enemy of the people.” Putin & other autocratic populists cast their opponents as radicals & revolutionaries. They don’t focus on their own records – often there is little to celebrate – but the horrors that will happen if they lose power. Sound familiar?

6b. There is one difference between Putin and Trump so far. Putin also claims falsely that his political opponents are supported by foreign enemies, the U.S. & the West. Trump has not gone there full-throated yet. But my guess it’s coming. “Beijing Biden” is a hint.

7. Law and Order. Autocratic populists all shout about it, even when the opposite is happening on their watch.

8. The good tsar versus the bad boyars. Kings and tsars always blamed bad provincial leaders for national ills. Putin blames the governors all the time… just like Trump.

9. Individual acts of royal kindness. Putin, like the tsars he emulates, does this all the time. Trump offering a pardon or “granting” citizenship (which of course he didnt & doesn’t have the power to do) are typical, faux gestures of royal kindness toward his subjects.

10. Homage and fealty. Vassals must signal their complete loyalty and absolute devotion to kings and autocrats. Those that don’t are banished from the royal court or the party. (Where were the Bushes last night?)

[snip]

Re: How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism

[Note:  This comment comes from friend David P. Reed.  DLH]

From: “David P. Reed” <dpreed@deepplum.com>
Subject: RE: [Dewayne-Net] How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism
Date: August 26, 2020 at 1:53:00 PM EDT
To: dewayne@warpspeed.com

For Dewayne-Net if you would… I bcc’ed some others who I think may understand my point on why Cory’s missed the mark in this book critiquing Zuboff. Not that Shoshana’s book is beyond critique, I don’t agree with some of what she says in it. Critiques are fine. But this one promotes a dangerous idea, going beyond critique.
————————

Since you give the opinionated Cory Doctorow a place of powerful presence, I think there should be room for criticism from readers like me. (I don’t see much adorable about Cory’s opinions, though he writes interesting SF stories).

Cory Doctorow writes, as you quote on Dewayne-Net:  “This is the core of my critique, the reason I wrote this book: we should be suspicious of all corporate control over our lives, and should insist on nothing less than absolute technological self-determination.”

“Nothing less than absolute technological self-determination” is an interesting phrase. Cory has espoused a brand of thinking centered on technology that others have called “Techno-Determinism”. The idea that technology determines what it will get used for, if left alone. Very much as the “Free Marketeers” see an unfettered “market” through the eyes of “market determinism”.

And continuing the analogy a little further, just as “Free Marketeers” reduce society to transactions in a market, Cory and “Technological Determinists” reduce society to technology use, attaching the epiphenomena that surround a technology firmly to the technology itself.

Thus, Cory promotes the idea of Freeing Technology from all restraints, reducing all our problems to technology choice and rules about technology. Which is why he situates his critique of human relationship to technology around “Free the Technology” ideas. (viz. the “Right to Repair” being about freeing technological objects from “fetters” imposed by government rules. He doesn’t question the legitimacy of such rules, but accepts the idea of a central, all-powerful government, instead choosing to argue that government *should not govern technology use*, a very different thing indeed.)

So, it is quite interesting that he freaks out about “Surveillance Capitalism” as embodying the technologies of surveillance and manipulation, because Zuboff seems to him to seek limiting the freedom of these technologies to determine their own use.

Instead he practices “whaddaboutism”, blaming monopoly power for stifling what a Truly Free Technology might do for humanity.

Technodeterminism is a bizarre idea, when you come down to it. It dehumanizes society, objectifying technology’s users, very much like many Science Fiction stories do.
If you are a techno-determinist, you don’t need to confront the complexities of Human Nature to discuss systems – they become pure.

And this is what  Cory’s critique ignores in Zuboff’s writing. Zuboff centers her discussion on the human, the social, … not on a critique of the technology at all. Instead she discusses the relationship between, say, Google’s users and Google’s customers. Almost none of Google’s users of its products are customers! That is what “Free” is about in Silicon Valley. And Zuboff, who studies systems of businesses and industries, sees such subtleties.

But Cory doesn’t see such things, reducing everything to a system literally determined by Technology, which he argues must be Free, both as in beer and as in liberty. Thus, in his world, Freeing Technology will create a true utopia.

That’s the logic in Cory’s book, whose purpose, as he says, is to argue for “nothing less than Technological Self Determination”.

How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism
By Cory Doctorow
Aug 25 2020
https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1298631104983740417.html