/ / Podcast

Last night I sat down for an interview and lively Q&A at the Kelowna Public Library with the CBC’s Sarah Penton as part of the Canada Reads national book prize, for which my book Radicalized is a finalist. Courtney Dickson was kind enough to send me raw audio from the board and to give me permission to post it and include it in my podcast feed. It was a genuinely wonderful night, with great and thoughtful questions, and I’m really glad that I get to share it with you! (MP3)

/ / Articles

My latest Locus column explores what copyright expert Rebecca Giblin calls “The New Copyright Bargain” – a copyright system designed around enriching authors above all, rather rather than treating authors’ incomes as an incidental output of enriching entertainment or tech corporations. The column is called “A Lever Without a Fulcrum is Just a Stick.” Copyright is billed as giving creators leverage over the corporations we contract with, but levers need fulcrums.

https://locusmag.com/2020/03/cory-doctorow-a-lever-without-a-fulcrum-is-just-a-stick/

In an increasingly concentrated marketplace, any exclusive rights that are given to creators are simply appropriated by corporations as a non-negotiable condition of the standard contract. Think of how samples could originally be used without permission (in the Paul’s Boutique/It Takes a Nation of Millions era), enriching old R&B artists who’d been burned by one-sided contracts.

(Image from Kembrew Macleod’s “Creative License” https://www.dukeupress.edu/creative-license)

Those artists experienced a temporary enrichment when paying for samples became the norm, but today, all contracts simply require signing away your sampling rights. The fight to require licenses for samples merely gave the labels yet another right to demand of their artists. Which means that anyone hoping to sample must sign to a label and pay for a license either to that label or one of the other three. Giving new rights to artists in a monopolized market is like giving your bullied kid more lunch money. It doesn’t buy the kid lunch, it just gives the bullies the opportunity to take more money from your kid.

After the “Blurred Lines” suit, labels have begun to fret about being sued over artists’ copying the “vibe” of another artist. It’s easy to feel smug about copyright maximalists being hoist on their own petards. But the end-game is easy to see: just make selling your “vibe” rights a condition of signing a record deal, and you transfer ownership of whole genres to the Big 4 labels.

What would a copyright look like that protected artists, rather than practicing the Magic Underpants Gnome method of:

  1. Enrich entertainment corporations;

  2. ?????

  3. Artists get more money

Any new bargain in copyright centered on artists needs to take account of the concentration in tech and entertainment, and create rights for artists that aren’t just creator’s monopolies to be scooped up through non-negotiable contracts. Measures like reversion (which lets artists in the USA claim back rights they signed away 35 years ago), blanket licenses (designed to pay artists regardless of whether they’re “rightsholders”), and restoring unionization rights are the key to paying artists.

Merely expanding the “author’s monopoly” does no good in a world of industrial monopolies: it just gives those monopolists more ammo to use in the fight to shift revenues onto their own balance sheets, at the expense of working creators.

/ / Podcast

A couple of weeks ago, I posted Part I of my interview with the Firewalls Don’t Stop Dragons podcast, a podcast that covers computer security in a way that is accessible to nontechnical people. Carey Parker has posted part II (MP3) of the interview, where we dig into Right to Repair, Adversarial Interoperability, and monopoly control and trustbusting. It’s a great interview — hope you enjoy hearing it as much as I enjoyed participating in it!

/ / News

Today’s links

  1. How “Authoritarian Blindness” kept Xi from dealing with coronavirus: Zeynep Tufekci in outstanding form.
  2. The Snowden Archive: every publicly available Snowden doc, collected and annotated.
  3. Key computer vision researcher quits: facial recognition is a moral quagmire.
  4. My interview on adversarial interoperability: you can’t shop your way out of late-stage capitalism.
  5. 81 Fortune 100 companies demand binding arbitration: monopoly and its justice system.
  6. I’m coming to Kelowna! Canada Reads is bringing me to the BC interior, March 5.
  7. A flat earther commits suicide by conspiracy theory: conspiracies are comorbid with corruption.
  8. This day in history: 2019, 2015, 2010, 2005
  9. Colophon: Recent publications, current writing projects, upcoming appearances, current reading


How “Authoritarian Blindness” kept Xi from dealing with coronavirus (permalink)

Xi Jinping’s refashioning of the Chinese internet to ratchet up surveillance and censorship made it all but impossible for the Chinese state to use the internet to detect and contain Corona Virus, writes Zeynep Tufekci in The Atlantic. Tufekci talks about “authoritarian blindness,” where people too scared to tell the autocrat the hard truths makes it impossible for the autocrat to set policy that reflects reality.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/02/coronavirus-and-blindness-authoritarianism/606922/

(Cue Mao telling China to “eat 5 meals a day” because his apparats were too scared to warn him of impending famine, then selling off the nation’s food reserves for foreign currency because he thought it was surplus. Food production collapsed.)

Before Xi, a certain amount of online dissidence was tolerated because it helped root out dangerously corrupt local leaders before they could do real damage. It’s always hard to make autocracies sustainable because corruption and looting leaves them hollow and brittle.

When Xi took power in 2012, he restored “one man rule” and began a series of maneuvers, including purges, to consolidate power for himself. The rise and rise of China’s mobile internet made this far more effective than at any time in history.

“Authoritarian blindness” kicked off the Hong Kong protests because the state so badly misjudged the cause and severity of the grievances there. The same thing happened in Wuhan when doctors and netizens faced retaliation for describing early virus outbreaks.

The reality-debt built up by official denial always results in reality bankruptcy, eventually – so finally, the reports of the virus were so widespread and alarming they could no longer be suppressed. But by then, the virus had proliferated. This is an important point: “the killer digital app for authoritarianism isn’t listening in on people through increased surveillance, but listening to them as they express their honest opinions, especially complaints.”

That’s how you stabilize the unstable: by using digital authoritarianism to fine tune the minimum viable amount of good governance to diffuse public anger. It’s how you maximize your looting without getting strung up by your ankles.



The Snowden Archive (permalink)

The Snowden Surveillance Archive collects “all documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that have subsequently been published by news media.”

https://snowdenarchive.cjfe.org/greenstone/cgi-bin/library.cgi

It’s indexed and searchable, created by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and the Politics of Surveillance Project at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. (Canada is a “Five Eyes” country that partners with the NSA on global mass surveillance)

There’s a “Portable Archive” version – a tarball with all the docs so you can create your own mirror:

https://snowdenarchive.cjfe.org/greenstone/collect/snowden1/portablearchive.html

They provide instructions for turning this into a kiosk they call a “Snowden Archive-in-a-Box.” Costs about CAD120.00



Key computer vision researcher quits (permalink)

Joseph Redmon is the creator of YOLO (You Only Look Once), a key Computer Vision technology. He’s just announced his resignation from computer vision work, citing ethical concerns with Facial Recognition.

https://twitter.com/pjreddie/status/1230523827446091776

His thread is really important, calling out the gap between what ML researchers SAY they want to do about ethics and how they actually deal with ethical issues: “basically all facial recognition work would not get published if we took Broader Impacts sections seriously.”

“There is almost no upside and enormous downside risk.” That’s some serious Oppenheimer stuff right there. The kicker? “For most of grad school I bought in to the myth that science is apolitical and research is objectively moral and good no matter what the subject is.”



My interview on adversarial interoperability (permalink)

The Firewalls Don’t Stop Dragons podcast (which offers information security advice and analysis for non-technical people) just posted part 2 of our interview on Adversarial Interoperability, Right To Repair, and technological fairness.

http://podcast.firewallsdontstopdragons.com/2020/02/24/adversarial-interoperability-part-2/

Part one went live last week:

https://twitter.com/doctorow/status/1229842619380858885

In this one, I try to explain how John Deere’s war on farm-based repairs is connected to Apple’s war on independent repair, and how consumer choices can’t solve either problem — but collective action can!

It’ll take a movement, not individual action. Thankfully, such a movement exists. EFF’s Electronic Frontier Alliance, a network of groups nationwide working on local issues with national coordination. It’s the antidote to individual powerlessness.

https://www.eff.org/electronic-frontier-alliance/allies



81 Fortune 100 companies demand binding arbitration (permalink)

Binding arbitration was originally created as a way for giant corporations to resolve their disputes with each other without decades-long court battles costing tens of millions of dollars. SCOTUS ratified the principal in 1925: firms of similar size and power could use binding arbitration as an alternative to litigation.

http://www.onthecommons.org/magazine/we-now-have-a-justice-system-just-for-corporations

In the century since, corporations have eroded the idea of arbitration as something reserved for co-equals and have turned it into a condition of employment and of being a customer.

In an era of both monopoly and monoposony, it can be hard to find a single employer OR vendor who will conduct business with you unless you first surrender the rights your elected lawmakers decided that you are entitled to.

Today, the largest corporations in the world require you to “agree” to binding arbitration before you can conduct business with them: your monopolistic ISP or cable operator probably does.

As do Walmart, Uber, and Amazon (and not coincidentally, all three have crowded out all the competitors you might choose to take your business to if this strikes you as unfair).

In 2019, SCOTUS ratified the practice.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/13/business/binding-arbitration-consumers/index.html

81 out of the Fortune 100 non-negotiably require binding arbitration if you want to conduct business with them. “Arbitration is often confidential and the outcome doesn’t enter the public record” – if you get screwed you won’t know if it’s a one-off or a pattern.

This is especially pernicious in the realm of US health care. There is ONE pain specialist in all of Southern California that my insurer covers who doesn’t require binding arbitration. When I took my daughter to the ER with a broken bone, they threatened not to treat her unless we signed an arbitration waiver – and that ER is now owned by a PE firm that bought every medical practice in a 10mi radius and now they all do it.

We are literally replacing public courts with private corporate justice, where the “judge” is paid by the company that maimed you, or ripped you off, or killed you.



I’m coming to Kelowna! (permalink)

I’ve never been to Kelwona, BC or anywhere in BC apart from Victoria and Vancouver, so I am SO TOTALLY EXCITED to be appearing in Kelowna for Canada Reads on Mar 5. Please come and say hello! (it’s free!)

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/cbc-radio-presents-in-conversation-with-cory-doctorow-tickets-96154415445

The event is a collaboration between the Kelowna Public Library and CBC Books, and I’m being emceed and interviewed by Sarah Penton. It’s going to be recorded for airing later as well (I’ll be sure to fold it into my podcast, which you can get here: http://craphound.com/podcast/)



A flat earther commits suicide by conspiracy theory (permalink)

A(nother) flat-earther has tried to prove that the Earth is disc-shaped by launching a homemade rocket. This one (“Mad” Mike Hughes) killed himself by pancaking into the desert.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/daredevil-mad-mike-hughes-dies-homemade-rocket-launch-filmed-tv-n1141286

This is awful. Jokes about “Darwin Awards” don’t change that.

When you scratch a conspiracist, you generally find two things:

  1. Someone who knows chapter-&-verse about real conspiracies (e.g. “If you think antivax is so outlandish, let me tell you about the Sackler family”)
  2. Someone who has been traumatized by conspiracies (belief that the levees were dynamited during Katrina to drown Black neighborhoods are often embraced by people whose family were flooded out in 58 when the levees in Tupelo were dynamited to drown Black neighborhoods).

A belief that the aerospace industry engages in coverups and conspiracies is not, in and of itself, irrational. Aerospace is the land of conspiracies and coverups. Look at the Boeing 737 Max!

Conspiracies are an epiphenomenon of market concentration. “Two may keep a secret if one of them is dead”: the ability to conspire is a collective action problem, wherein linear increases in the number of conspirators yield geometric increases in the likelihood of defections. When an industry is reduced to 3-5 giants, the likelihood is that every top exec at each company worked as a top exec at one or more of the others (to say nothing of the likelihood of intercompany friendships, marriages, etc). Moreover, an industry that concentrated will almost certainly be regulated by its own former execs, as they are likely the only ones qualified to understand its workings.

Many of us were appalled by the sight of the nation’s tech leaders gathered around a table at Trump Tower after the inauguration.

But we should have been even more alarmed by the realization that all the leaders of the tech industry fit around a single table.

We are living in both a golden age of conspiratorial thinking and of actual conspiracies. The conspiracy theories don’t necessarily refer to the actual conspiracies, but “conspiracy” is a plausible idea with a lot of explanatory power in 2020.

We spend a lot of time wondering about how we can fix the false beliefs that people have, but some of our focus needs to be on reducing the plausibility of conspiracy itself. Make industries more competitive and diverse, make regulators more accountable.

Put out the fires, sure, but clear away the brush so that they don’t keep reigniting.

I strongly recommend Anna Merlan’s REPUBLIC OF LIES for more.

https://boingboing.net/2019/09/21/from-opioids-to-antivax.html



This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago: Labour MP Brian Sedgemore excoriates his own government’s terror laws in the speech of his lifetime: https://web.archive.org/web/20050227035611/http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmhansrd/cm050223/debtext/50223-21.htm

#10yrsago: How ducks, Nazis and themeparks gave America its color TV transition: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2010/feb/23/digital-switchover-bbc-spectrum

#5yrsago: Alex Stamos, then CSO of Yahoo, publicly calls out then-NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers on crypto backdoors: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/02/yahoo-exec-goes-mano-a-mano-with-nsa-director-over-crypo-backdoors/

#5yrsago: A chronology of the Canadian Conservative Party’s war on science under PM Stephen Harper: https://scienceblogs.com/confessions/2013/05/20/the-canadian-war-on-science-a-long-unexaggerated-devastating-chronological-indictment

#5yrsago: Citizenfour, Laura Poitras’s movie about Edward Snowden, wins the Academy Award for best documentary: https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/edward-snowden-congratulates-laura-poitras-winning-best-documentary-oscar-citizenfour

#1yrago: Every AOC staffer will earn a living wage: https://www.rollcall.com/2019/02/22/alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-call-for-a-living-wage-starts-in-her-office/

#1yrago: Richard Sackler’s “verbal gymnastics” in defending his family’s role in killing 200,000 Americans with opiods: https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/02/sackler-behind-oxycontin-fraud-offered-twisted-mind-boggling-defense/

#1yrago: German neo-Nazis use Qanon memes to signal-boost their messages: https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-fringe-groups-are-using-qanon-to-amplify-their-wild-messages

#1yrago: French courts fine UBS €3.7b for helping French plutes dodge their taxes: https://www.thelocal.fr/20190220/breaking-french-court-hits-swiss-bank-ubs-with-37-billion-fine-in-french-tax-fraud-case

#1yrago: Apple to close down its east Texas stores to avoid having any nexus with America’s worst patent court: https://www.macrumors.com/2019/02/22/apple-closing-stores-in-eastern-district-texas/

#1yrago: Small business cancels its unusably slow Frontier internet service, Frontier sticks them with a $4,300 cancellation fee: https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/02/frontier-demands-4300-cancellation-fee-despite-horribly-slow-internet/

#1yrago: Fast food millionaire complains that social media makes kids feel so entitled that they are no longer willing to work for free: https://amp.news.com.au/finance/work/careers/muffin-break-boss-fury-over-youth-who-wont-work-unpaid/news-story/57607ea9a1bbe52ba7746cff031306f2

#1yrago: Apps built with Facebook’s SDK shovel incredible quantities of incredibly sensitive data into Facebook’s gaping maw: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/22/facebook-receives-personal-health-data-from-apps-wsj.html

#1yrago: Super-high end prop horror-movie eyeballs, including kits to make your own: https://fourthsealstudios.com/

#1yrago: EU advances its catastrophic Copyright Directive without fixing any of its most dangerous flaws: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/02/european-governments-approve-controversial-new-copyright-law/



Colophon (permalink)

Today’s top sources: Four Short Links (https://www.oreilly.com/feed/four-short-links), Slashdot (https://slashdot.org), Naked Capitalism (https://nakedcapitalism.com/”).

Hugo nominators! My story “Unauthorized Bread” is eligible in the Novella category and you can read it free on Ars Technica: https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2020/01/unauthorized-bread-a-near-future-tale-of-refugees-and-sinister-iot-appliances/

Upcoming appearances:

Currently writing: I just finished a short story, “The Canadian Miracle,” for MIT Tech Review. It’s a story set in the world of my next novel, “The Lost Cause,” a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. I’m getting geared up to start work on the novel now, though the timing is going to depend on another pending commission (I’ve been solicited by an NGO) to write a short story set in the world’s prehistory.

Currently reading: I finished Andrea Bernstein’s “American Oligarchs” this week; it’s a magnificent history of the Kushner and Trump families, showing how they cheated, stole and lied their way into power. I’m getting really into Anna Weiner’s memoir about tech, “Uncanny Valley.” I just loaded Matt Stoller’s “Goliath” onto my underwater MP3 player and I’m listening to it as I swim laps.

Latest podcast: Persuasion, Adaptation, and the Arms Race for Your Attention: https://craphound.com/podcast/2020/02/10/persuasion-adaptation-and-the-arms-race-for-your-attention/

Upcoming books: “Poesy the Monster Slayer” (Jul 2020), a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627?utm_source=socialmedia&utm_medium=socialpost&utm_term=na-poesycorypreorder&utm_content=na-preorder-buynow&utm_campaign=9781626723627

(we’re having a launch for it in Burbank on July 11 at Dark Delicacies and you can get me AND Poesy to sign it and Dark Del will ship it to the monster kids in your life in time for the release date).

“Attack Surface”: The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

“Little Brother/Homeland”: A reissue omnibus edition with a very special, s00per s33kr1t intro.

/ / News

Today’s links

  1. Tax Justice Network publishes a new global Financial Secrecy Index: US and UK, neck-and-neck
  2. What Marc Davis lifted from the Addams Family while designing the Haunted Mansion: Amateurs plagiarize, artists steal
  3. ICANN should demand to see the secret financial docs in the .ORG selloff: at least it’s an Ethos
  4. Wells Fargo will pay $3b for 2 million acts of fraud: they shoulda got the corporate death penalty
  5. This day in history: 2019, 2015, 2010
  6. Colophon: Recent publications, current writing projects, upcoming appearances, current reading


Tax Justice Network publishes a new global Financial Secrecy Index (permalink)

The Tax Justice Network just published its latest Financial Secrecy Index, the leading empirical index of global financial secrecy policies. The US continues to make a dismal showing, as does the UK (factoring in overseas territories).

https://fsi.taxjustice.net/en/

Both Holland and Switzerland backslid this year.

Important to remember that “bad governance” scandals in poor countries (like the multibillion-dollar Angolaleaks scandal) involve rich financial secrecy havens as laundries for looted national treasure.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/19/isabel-dos-santos-revealed-africa-richest-woman-2bn-empire-luanda-leaks-angola

As Tax Justice breaks it down: “The secrecy world creates a criminogenic hothouse for multiple evils including fraud, tax cheating, escape from financial regulations, embezzlement, insider dealing, bribery, money laundering, and plenty more. It provides multiple ways for insiders to extract wealth at the expense of societies, creating political impunity and undermining the healthy ‘no taxation without representation’ bargain that has underpinned the growth of accountable modern nation states. Many poorer countries, deprived of tax and haemorrhaging capital into secrecy jurisdictions, rely on foreign aid handouts.”

Talk about getting you coming and going! First we make bank helping your corrupt leaders rob you blind, then we loan you money so you can keep the lights on and get fat on the interest (and force you to sell off your looted, ailing state industries as “economic reforms”).

The Taxcast, which is the Network’s podcast, has a great special edition in which the index’s key researchers explain their work. It’s always a good day when a new Taxcast drops.

https://www.taxjustice.net/2020/02/20/financial-secrecy-index-who-are-the-worlds-worst-offenders-the-tax-justice-network-podcast-special-february-2020/



What Marc Davis lifted from the Addams Family while designing the Haunted Mansion (permalink)

It’s always a good day — a GREAT day — when the Long Forgotten Haunted Mansion blog does a new post, but today’s post, on the influence of the Addams Family TV show on Mansion co-designer Mark Davis? ::Chef’s Kiss::

https://longforgottenhauntedmansion.blogspot.com/2020/02/the-addams-family-and-marc-davis.html

It’s clear that Davis was using Addams’s comics as reference, but, as Long Forgotten shows, the Davis sketches and concepts are straight up lifted from the TV show: “Amateurs plagiarize, artists steal.”

Some of these lifts are indisputable.

“Finally, it’s possible that Davis took a further cue from the insanely long sweater Morticia is knitting in ‘Fester’s Punctured Romance’ (Oct 2, 1964), but in this case I wouldn’t insist upon it.”

Likewise, from the TV show, “Bruno” the white bear rug that periodically bites people was obviously the inspiration for this Davis sketch for the Mansion. Long Forgotten is less certain about “Ophelia,” but I think it’s pretty clear where Davis was getting his ideas from here.

Davis was an unabashed plunderer and we are all better for it! “We’ve seen many other examples of Marc Davis taking ideas from here, there, and anywhere he could find them, but not many other examples of multiple inspiration from a single source.”



ICANN should demand to see the secret financial docs in the .ORG selloff (permalink)

ISOC — the nonprofit set up to oversee the .ORG registry — decided to sell off this asset (which they were given for free, along with $5M to cover setup expenses) to a mysterious private equity fund called Ethos Capital.

Some of Ethos’s backers are known (Republican billionaire families like the Romneys and the Perots) but much of its financing remains in the shadows. We do know that ICANN employees who help tee up the sale now work for Ethos, in a corrupt bit of self-dealing.

The deal was quietly announced and looked like a lock, but then public interest groups rose up to demand an explanation. Not only could Ethos expose nonprofits to unlimited rate-hikes (thanks to ICANN’s changes to its rules), they could do much, much worse.

If a .ORG registrant dropped its domain, Ethos could sell access to misdirected emails and domain lookups – so if you watchdog private equity funds and get destroyed by vexation litigation, Ethos could sell your bouncing email to the billionaires who crushed you.

More simply, Ethos could sell the kind of censorship-as-a-service it currently sells through its other registry, Donuts, which charges “processing fees” to corrupt governments and bullying corporations who want to censor the web by claiming libel or copyright infringement.

Ethos offered ISOC $1.135b for the sale, but $360m of that will come from a loan that .ORG will have to pay back, a millstone around its neck, dragging it down. Debt-loading healthy business as a means of bleeding them dry is a tried-and-true PE tactic – it’s what did in Toys R Us, Sears, and many other firms. The PE barons get a fortune, everyone else gets screwed.

The interest on .ORG’s loan will suck up $24m/year — TWO THIRDS of the free money that .ORG generates. .ORG is a crazily profitable nonprofit – it charges dollars to provide a service that costs fractional pennies, after all. In response to getting slapped around by some Members of Congress, the Pennsylvania AG, and millions of netizens, Ethos has made a promise to limit prices increases…for a while. And they say that they’ll be kept honest by the nonbinding recommendations of an “advisory council” whose members Ethos will appoint and who will serve at Ethos’s pleasure.

In a letter to ICANN, EFF and Americans for Financial Reform have called for transparency on the financing behind the sale: “hidden costs, loan servicing fees, and inducements to insiders.”

https://www.eff.org/press/releases/eff-seeks-disclosure-secret-financing-details-behind-11-billion-org-sale-asks-ftc



Wells Fargo will pay $3b for 2 million acts of fraud (permalink)

Wells Fargo stole from at least two million of its customers, pressuring its low-level employees to open fake accounts in their names, firing employees who refused (refuseniks were also added to industry-wide blacklists created to track crooked bankers). These fake accounts ran up fees for bank customers, including penalties, etc. In some cases, the damage to the victims’ credit ratings was so severe that they were turned down for jobs, unable to get house loans or leases, etc.

The execs who oversaw these frauds had plenty of red flags, including their own board members asking why the fuck their spouses had been sent mysterious Wells Fargo credit cards they’d never signed up for. Though these execs paid fines, they got to keep MILLIONS from this fraud (which was only one of dozens of grifts Wells Fargo engaged in this century, including stealing from small businesses, homeowners, military personnel, car borrowers, etc). Some of them may never work in banking again, but they’re all millionaires for life.

Now, Wells Fargo has settled with the DoJ for $3b, admitting wrongdoing and submitting to several years of oversight. That’s a good start, but it’s a bad finish.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51594117

The largest bank in America was, for DECADES, a criminal enterprise, preying on Americans of every description. It should no longer exist. It should be broken into constituent pieces, under new management. There would be enormous collateral damage from this (just as the family of a murderer suffers when he is made to face the consequences of his crimes). But what about the collateral damage to everyone who is savaged by a similarly criminal bank in the future, emboldened by Wells Fargo’s impunity?

Wells Fargo is paying a fine, but will have NO criminal charges filed against it.

https://newsroom.wf.com/press-release/corporate-and-financial/wells-fargo-reaches-settlements-resolve-outstanding-doj-and

If you or I stole from TWO MILLION people, we would not be permitted to pay a fine and walk away.

“I’ll believe corporations are people when the government gives one the death penalty.”



This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago: Kottke goes full-time https://kottke.org/05/02/kottke-micropatron

#15yrsago: New Zealand’s regulator publishes occupational safety guide for sex workers: https://web.archive.org/web/20050909001954/http://www.osh.dol.govt.nz/order/catalogue/pdf/sexindustry.pdf

#10yrsago: Principal who spied on child through webcam mistook a Mike n Ike candy for drugs: https://reason.com/2010/02/20/lower-pervian-school-district/

#10yrsago: School where principal spied on students through their webcams had mandatory laptop policies, treated jailbreaking as an expellable offense https://web.archive.org/web/20100726204521/https://strydehax.blogspot.com/2010/02/spy-at-harrington-high.html

#10yrsago: Parents file lawsuit against principal who spied on students through webcams: https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Parenting/pennsylvania-school-webcam-students-spying/story?id=9905488

#1yrago: Cybermercenary firm with ties to the UAE want the capability to break Firefox encryption https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/02/cyber-mercenary-groups-shouldnt-be-trusted-your-browser-or-anywhere-else

#1yrago: Fraudulent anti-Net Neutrality comments to the FCC traced back to elite DC lobbying firm https://gizmodo.com/how-an-investigation-of-fake-fcc-comments-snared-a-prom-1832788658



Colophon (permalink)

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

Hugo nominators! My story “Unauthorized Bread” is eligible in the Novella category and you can read it free on Ars Technica: https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2020/01/unauthorized-bread-a-near-future-tale-of-refugees-and-sinister-iot-appliances/

Upcoming appearances:

Currently writing: I just finished a short story, “The Canadian Miracle,” for MIT Tech Review. It’s a story set in the world of my next novel, “The Lost Cause,” a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. I’m getting geared up to start work on the novel now, though the timing is going to depend on another pending commission (I’ve been solicited by an NGO) to write a short story set in the world’s prehistory.

Currently reading: I finished Andrea Bernstein’s “American Oligarchs” this week; it’s a magnificent history of the Kushner and Trump families, showing how they cheated, stole and lied their way into power. I’m getting really into Anna Weiner’s memoir about tech, “Uncanny Valley.” I just loaded Matt Stoller’s “Goliath” onto my underwater MP3 player and I’m listening to it as I swim laps.

Latest podcast: Persuasion, Adaptation, and the Arms Race for Your Attention: https://craphound.com/podcast/2020/02/10/persuasion-adaptation-and-the-arms-race-for-your-attention/

Upcoming books: “Poesy the Monster Slayer” (Jul 2020), a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627?utm_source=socialmedia&utm_medium=socialpost&utm_term=na-poesycorypreorder&utm_content=na-preorder-buynow&utm_campaign=9781626723627

(we’re having a launch for it in Burbank on July 11 at Dark Delicacies and you can get me AND Poesy to sign it and Dark Del will ship it to the monster kids in your life in time for the release date).

“Attack Surface”: The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

“Little Brother/Homeland”: A reissue omnibus edition with a very special, s00per s33kr1t intro.

/ / News

Today’s links

  1. Bloomberg’s campaign NDA is a gag order that covers sexual abuse and other crimes: Bloomberg’s lowest moment at the debate came when he fumfuhed over whether he’d release women from his corporate NDAs.
  2. Private Equity has sabotaged every attempt to end emergency room “surprise billing”: AKA, “Why didn’t you ask your ambulance driver to shop around?”
  3. The Parkland kids have launched a zine: “Unquiet” is a gorgeous, haunting zine from the March For Our Lives, debuted on Teen Vogue.
  4. Tumblr’s ad policy: you can’t block ads because we don’t live in a post-scarcity society.
  5. Gopher shows us how adversarial interoperability was there from the start: the web’s precursor depended on adversarial interop to win its place in history, and the web vanquished gopher with yet more adversarial interop
  6. A line of hardcovers designed to double as decor accents: I want to hate this, but they’re so pretty!
  7. $2b later, Blue Apron is broke: incoming podcast apocalypse in 3, 2, 1….
  8. Tour Cards Against Humanity’s incredible board-game cafe: when amazing people spend amazing sums.
  9. The team behind Frozen are making a musical out of Jen Wang’s Prince and the Dressmaker: holy smokes, is this ever great news!
  10. This day in history: 2019, 2015, 2010
  11. Colophon: Recent publications, current writing projects, upcoming appearances, current reading

Bloomberg’s campaign NDA is a gag order that covers sexual abuse and other crimes

Bloomberg had a Very Bad Night at the Nevada debates but the lowest point was when he weaseled in response to Liz Warren’s insistence that he voluntarily end the nondisclosure obligations of women who’d left his companies after alleging various kinds of abuse.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/20/politics/elizabeth-warren-michael-bloomberg-contract-nda/index.html

Now, someone has leaked the Bloomberg campaign’s NDA to The Nation’s Ken Klippstein, and holy smokes is it ever terrible.

https://twitter.com/kenklippenstein/status/1230223901352976384?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

It runs to NINE pages, and is so overbroad that it bars Bloomberg campaign staff from speaking out against criminal workplace harassment and abuse, and binds them to an ETERNAL nondisparagement obligation, meaning they can never, ever criticize Bloomberg.

https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/bloomberg-nondisclosure-harassment/

Needless to say, rich and powerful men with long histories of presiding over coverups of abuse do not deploy these nondisclosures because they know you’ll be pleasantly surprised when they finally come clean and they just don’t want any spoilers.

Incidentally, the Warren campaign’s NDA has also leaked, and it’s 2.5 pages long, and it explicitly does NOT require silence for survivors of workplace harassment and abuse.

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6214631-Warren-Campaign-NDA.html

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Private Equity has sabotaged every attempt to end emergency room “surprise billing”

“Surprise billing” is when you go to the ER and discover that the doc, the specialist, or the test you got were performed by “independent contractors” who are not part of the hospital’s deal with your insurer. It means bills for thousands (literally) for an ice-pack.

https://www.healthexec.com/topics/healthcare-economics/5751-ice-pack-hefty-bills-await-patients-just-walking-er

The surprise billing epidemic has an unsurprising root cause: private equity looters who buy up doctor’s groups and specialists’ practices for the express purpose of gouging people experiencing medical emergencies (or their parents – it’s rampant in NICUs).

https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/02/private-equitys-war-to-preserve-surprise-billing.html

It’s working: “The odds of getting a surprise bill increased from 32% (2010) to 43% (2016), with amounts rising from $220 to $628. Out of network billing raises health care costs by $40 billion per year.”

The PE firms behind it are the largest in the world: Teamhealth (formerly Blackrock, now KKR) raised ER bills by 68%. They have plenty left over to lobby for expanded shenanigan powers.

Two Congressional bills to address surprise billing were killed by PE astroturf operations where fake groups like “Physicians for Fair Coverage” ($1.2m) and Doctor Patient Unity ($28m) spent millions lobbying and advertising against the bills.

https://cepr.net/report/why-its-so-hard-to-end-surprise-medical-bills/

One measure nearly squeaked through, only to be sabotaged by Rep Richard Neal [D-MA], who snuck in a “compromise” that sent all disputes to a corporate arbitrator on the payroll of the PE firms, who would decide whether their paymasters had acted unfairly when they billed you.

The measure rescued the share-price of Envision and Teamhealth, reassuring investors that the gouging could continue uninterrupted.

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The Parkland kids have launched a zine

Congrats to the March for Our Lives and Teen Vogue on the launch of Unquiet, a zine edited by the amazing Emma Gonzales.

It’s home to some brilliant poetry, collages, remembrances, posters (and more).

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Tumblr’s ad policy

Tumblr got sold for more than a billion dollars to Yahoo. Yahoo sold its digital portfolio to Verizon for $4.5B. Verizon sold Tumblr to Automattic (aka WordPress) for a rumored $3m. Automattic is ten million times better than Yahoo and Verizon combined, on the best day of their corporate lives.

Now, Tumblr has updated its ad policy support page with the kind of verve and wit we expect from Automattic.

https://tumblr.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360035272334

“HOW TO TURN OFF ADS: Unfortunately, until we live in a post-consumerist society built on an economy of surplus instead of scarcity that would enable us to procure both labor and materials at zero marginal cost, there is no way to remove ads from your Tumblr experience.”

I love this, but.

There’s an equilibrium between ads and readers, and it is maintained by ad-blockers. The way we killed ubiquitous pop-up ads was with on-by-default pop-up blockers (thanks, Opera and Mozilla!). They won the argument publishers had, until then, lost with their advertisers.

Instead of saying, “Ugh, we don’t want pop-up ads because they make our website terrible,” publishers could say, “Sure, you have the market power, so if you insist we’ll have pop-ups. But you should know that no one will see ’em, because they’re blocked by default.”

Markets are places where bargains are struck. In a world where there is a glut of publishing inventory chasing ads, publishers are not a good proxy for their readers’ interests. Ad-block is the way that readers bargain directly with advertisers.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/07/adblocking-how-about-nah

As Doc Searls says, ad-blocking is the largest consumer revolt in history.


Gopher shows us how adversarial interoperability was there from the start

The latest in my series of case histories of Adversarial Interoperability and the role it played in keeping tech competitive is the history of Gopher, which I was able to write thanks to the generous assistance of Gopher’s co-inventor Paul Lindner.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2020/02/gopher-when-adversarial-interoperability-burrowed-under-gatekeepers-fortresses

Gopher was the web’s immediate predecessor, created by a student-support team at UMN, who burrowed under the mainframe systems’ guardians and created a menu-driven interface to campus resources, then the whole internet.

They swallowed up FTP, broke open the silos on digital library catalogs, used terminal automation to give anyone access to the Weather Underground service at UMich (who first told them to stop, then asked for usage data for their NSF grant renewal!).

They called it “internet duct tape” – scripts and tools that let them lash together all the disparate services of the net in rough-and-ready, file-to-fit, paint-to-cover fashion. And even as they were doing unto others, others were doing unto them. People created competing gopherspace search-engines (VERONICA and JUGHEAD, to complement ARCHIE, which searched FTP).

The endgame of this was an obscure Anglo-Swiss research project called “The World Wide Web.” Browser vendors swallowed gopherspace whole, incorporating it by turning gopher:// into a way to access anything on any Gopher server. Gopher served as the booster rocket that helped the web attain a stable orbit. But the tools that Gopher used to crack open the silos, and the move that the web pulled to crack open Gopher, are radioactively illegal today.

If you wanted do to, say, Facebook, or Ios, or Google Play, what Gopher did to the mainframes, you would be pulverized by the relentless grinding of software patents, terms of service, anticircumvention law, bullshit theories about APIs being copyrightable.

Big Tech tells you it’s big due to “network effects” but this is counsel of despair. If mystical, great historic forces are what keeps it big then there’s no point in trying to make it small. Better to turn it into a regulated monopoly that need never fear competitors.

(I see you, Zuck)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/mark-zuckerberg-the-internet-needs-new-rules-lets-start-in-these-four-areas/2019/03/29/9e6f0504-521a-11e9-a3f7-78b7525a8d5f_story.html

And Big Tech’s critics swallow this line, demanding that Big Tech be given state-like duties to police user conduct that require billions in monopoly rents, AND total control over their platforms, to perform, guaranteeing tech monopolists perpetual dominance.

But the lesson of Gopher is that adversarial interop is judo for network effects. If companies can’t use the law to maintain their walled gardens, then they become game-preserves to be stalked by competitors, convenient places to find everyone who might want to switch.

Gopher isn’t a one-off. Look close at the history of any of our key technologies and you’ll find an adversarial interop story. Check out my growing list of case-histories for more.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/10/adversarial-interoperability

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A line of hardcovers designed to double as decor accents

Coralie Bickford-Smith designed a line of clothbound Penguin Classics reissues with gorgeous covers and even more gorgeous spines, designed to serve as decor elements as well as literary fodder.

https://cb-smith.com/cloth-bound-classics-series-one/

https://cb-smith.com/cloth-bound-classics-series-two/

https://cb-smith.com/cloth-bound-classics-series-three/

https://cb-smith.com/cloth-bound-classics-series-four/

Part of me wants to be snobby about these because books are for reading, dammit, and there are sociopaths who SHELVE THEIR BOOKS BACKWARDS to create a uniform, off-white decor courtesy of the page-edges.

https://www.today.com/home/backward-books-shelves-controversial-home-decor-trend-t119006

But the fact is these are fucking gorgeous editions, and having them in my house would make me happy not just because they’re great books, but because they are edibly pretty.

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$2b later, Blue Apron is broke

Blue Apron blew through $2b chasing the elusive market of people rich enough to subscribe to a meal-kit delivery service, but not rich enough to get takeout, buy groceries, etc.

https://observer.com/2020/02/blue-apron-disaster-silicon-valley/

Incredibly the company IPOed and founders and investors got to cash out onto suckers who bought at $11 and now are holding at $3.60 (up from <$1 in 2018!).

But don’t worry, Goldman Sachs turned a profit!

Blue Apron was a #bezzle, just like Uber. Its prospectus predicted profitability just as soon as it captured 99% of the home-cooking market (just as Uber told investors it would be profitable once it replaced every public transit system on Earth).

https://www.dailykos.com/story/2019/5/8/1856122/-Uber-files-plans-for-world-conquest-Kiss-public-transportation-good-bye-if-they-succeed

Like many of the companies that flooded podcasting with massive advertising buys, (cough Casper cough), there was never any future for Blue Apron, just as Uber/Lyft are destined to collapse and leave behind smoking transport wreckage in the near future.

https://nypost.com/2020/02/04/low-capser-valuation-worries-early-investors/

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Tour Cards Against Humanity’s incredible board-game cafe

Cards Against Humanity opened up a gorgeous, amazing, incredible board-game cafe in Chicago. Eater’s gallery of photos makes me want to go RIGHT NOW.

https://chicago.eater.com/2020/2/19/21143049/chicago-board-game-cafe-cards-against-humanity-photos-images-bucktown-logan-square

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The team behind Frozen are making a musical out of Jen Wang’s Prince and the Dressmaker

Holy smokes! SO MANY CONGRATS to Jen Wang on the news that her MAGNIFICENT, awesomely queer YA graphic novel The Prince and the Dressmaker is being adapted as a musical by Kristen and Bobby Lopez, the team behind Frozen!

https://www.themarysue.com/the-prince-and-the-dressmaker-next-musical-project-from-frozen-duo/

I’ve loved Jen’s work since Koko Be Good, and was so honored and delighted that she adapted my story Anda’s Game for our graphic novel In Real Life.

https://firstsecondbooks.com/books/new-book-in-real-life-by-cory-doctorow-and-jen-wang/

The Prince and the Dressmaker is about a nonbinary prince and the confidante/dressmaker who helps him become the person he knows himself to be. It’s a gorgeous, understated, sweet and wrenching story about being true to yourself, and the power of friendship.

Jen is just wonderful, and this is wonderful news!

www.playbill.com/article/kristen-and-bobby-lopez-reveal-new-movie-musical

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This day in history

#10yrsago The #ACTA internet enforcement chapter leaked: https://craphound.com/acta_digital_chapter-1.pdf

#5yrsago San Francisco’s Borderlands Books saved by crowdfunding campaign: https://missionlocal.org/2015/02/borderlands-reaches-its-goal-of-300-sponsors/

#1yrago Googler walkout ends forced arbitration for employees: https://www.wired.com/story/google-ends-forced-arbitration-after-employee-protest/

#1yrago Tucker Carlson invites anti-billionaire historian onto his show, then tells him to “go fuck yourself” https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/feb/20/historian-who-confronted-davos-billionaires-leaks-tucker-carlson-rant

#1yrago My interview with Rebecca Giblin on what a copyright designed for creators (not corporations) would look like https://authorsinterest.org/2019/02/21/cory-doctorow-on-declining-writer-incomes-breaking-amazons-dominance-and-getting-a-bigger-share-for-authors/

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Colophon

Today’s top sources: Memex 1.1 (https://memex.naughtons.org/), Super Punch (https://superpunch.net/) and Naked Capitalism (https://nakedcapitalism.com/).

Hugo nominators! My story “Unauthorized Bread” is eligible in the Novella category and you can read it free on Ars Technica: https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2020/01/unauthorized-bread-a-near-future-tale-of-refugees-and-sinister-iot-appliances/

Upcoming appearances:

Currently writing: I just finished a short story, “The Canadian Miracle,” for MIT Tech Review. It’s a story set in the world of my next novel, “The Lost Cause,” a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. I’m getting geared up to start work on the novel now, though the timing is going to depend on another pending commission (I’ve been solicited by an NGO) to write a short story set in the world’s prehistory.

Currently reading: I finished Andrea Bernstein’s “American Oligarchs” this week; it’s a magnificent history of the Kushner and Trump families, showing how they cheated, stole and lied their way into power. I’m getting really into Anna Weiner’s memoir about tech, “Uncanny Valley.” I just loaded Matt Stoller’s “Goliath” onto my underwater MP3 player and I’m listening to it as I swim laps.

Latest podcast: Persuasion, Adaptation, and the Arms Race for Your Attention: https://craphound.com/podcast/2020/02/10/persuasion-adaptation-and-the-arms-race-for-your-attention/

Upcoming books: “Poesy the Monster Slayer” (Jul 2020), a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627?utm_source=socialmedia&utm_medium=socialpost&utm_term=na-poesycorypreorder&utm_content=na-preorder-buynow&utm_campaign=9781626723627

(we’re having a launch for it in Burbank on July 11 at Dark Delicacies and you can get me AND Poesy to sign it and Dark Del will ship it to the monster kids in your life in time for the release date).

“Attack Surface”: The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

“Little Brother/Homeland”: A reissue omnibus edition with a very special, s00per s33kr1t intro.

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