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A Depression-era photo of a used car lot with three cars for sale. It has been hand-tinted. The sky has been replaced with a 'code waterfall' effect as seen in the credit sequences of the Wachowskis' 'Matrix' movies. All of the car headlights have been replaced with the hostile red eye of 'HAL 9000' in Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey.'

This week on my podcast, I read The reason you can’t buy a car is the same reason that your health insurer let hackers dox you, a column from one of last week’s editions of my Pluralistic newsletter; it describes a monopoly pattern whereby companies execute a series of mergers to dominate a sector, leaving their IT systems brittle and tangled – and vital to the nation.

Just like with Equifax, the 737 Max disasters tipped Boeing into a string of increasingly grim catastrophes. Each fresh disaster landed with the grim inevitability of your general contractor texting you that he’s just opened up your ceiling and discovered that all your joists had rotted out – and that he won’t be able to deal with that until he deals with the termites he found last week, and that they’ll have to wait until he gets to the cracks in the foundation slab from the week before, and that those will have to wait until he gets to the asbestos he just discovered in the walls.

Drip, drip, drip, as you realize that the most expensive thing you own – which is also the thing you had hoped to shelter for the rest of your life – isn’t even a teardown, it’s just a pure liability. Even if you razed the structure, you couldn’t start over, because the soil is full of PCBs. It’s not a toxic asset, because it’s not an asset. It’s just toxic.

Equifax isn’t just a company: it’s infrastructure. It started out as an engine for racial, political and sexual discrimination, paying snoops to collect gossip from nosy neighbors, which was assembled into vast warehouses full of binders that told bank officers which loan applicants should be denied for being queer, or leftists, or, you know, Black


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A photo of me from the summer of 2020, taken by Paula Mariel Salischiker for Rolling Stone Argentina. I'm sitting in a red leather armchair, talking with one hand held out. I'm wearing a Pirate Bay tee. The background has been replaced with the destop wallpaper that shipped with Windows XP. Over my left shoulder is a Microsoft Clippy with a yellow speech-bubble. In the bubble is EFF's DRM logo, a monstrous padlock and the letters 'DRM.'

This week on my podcast, I read my Microsoft DRM talk, first delivered 20 years and one day ago in Redmond, Washington. It was a viral hit in the nascent blogosphere and became a defining document in the fight against DRM.

Greetings fellow pirates! Arrrrr!

I’m here today to talk to you about copyright, technology and DRM, I work for the Electronic Frontier Foundation on copyright stuff (mostly), and I live in London. I’m not a lawyer — I’m a kind of mouthpiece/activist type, though occasionally they shave me and stuff me into my Bar Mitzvah suit and send me to a standards body or the UN to stir up trouble. I spend about three weeks a month on the road doing completely weird stuff like going to Microsoft to talk about DRM.

I lead a double life: I’m also a science fiction writer. That means I’ve got a dog in this fight, because I’ve been dreaming of making my living from writing since I was 12 years old. Admittedly, my IP-based biz isn’t as big as yours, but I guarantee you that it’s every bit as important to me as yours is to you.

Here’s what I’m here to convince you of:

1. That DRM systems don’t work

2. That DRM systems are bad for society

3. That DRM systems are bad for business

4. That DRM systems are bad for artists

5. That DRM is a bad business-move for MSFT


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Three antique leather volumes on a shelf. They are three volumes of Codex Theodos Cum, labeled TOME 1, TOME 2, TOME 3-4. Taken at the Royal College of Physicians Library, Regent's Park, London, UK.

This week on my podcast, I read Against Lore, a recent piece from my Pluralistic blog/newsletter, about writing and the benefits of nebulously defined backstories.

Warning: the last few minutes of this essay contain spoilers for Furiosa. In the recording, I give lots of warning so you can switch off when they come up.

One of my favorite nuggets of writing advice comes from James D Macdonald. Jim, a Navy vet with an encylopedic knowledge of gun lore, explained to a group of non-gun people how to write guns without getting derided by other gun people: “just add the word ‘modified.'”

As in, “Her modified AR-15 kicked against her shoulder as she squeezed the trigger, but she held it steady on the car door, watching it disintegrate in a spatter of bullet-holes.”

Jim’s big idea was that gun people couldn’t help but chew away at the verisimilitude of your fictional guns, their brains would automatically latch onto them and try to find the errors. But the word “modified” hijacked that impulse and turned it to the writer’s advantage: a gun person’s imagination gnaws at that word “modified,” spinning up the cleverest possible explanation for how the gun in question could behave as depicted.

In other words, the gun person’s impulse to one-up the writer by demonstrating their superior knowledge becomes an impulse to impart that superior knowledge to the writer. “Modified” puts the expert and the bullshitter on the same team, and conscripts the expert into fleshing out the bullshitter’s lies.


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An EFF Section 230 banner, featuring the words SECTION 230 behind a silhouette of a stick figure yelling into a megaphone that a second stick-figure is supporting.

Today for my podcast, I read Wanna Make Big Tech Monopolies Even Worse? Kill Section 230, my EFF Deeplinks Blog post on the competition aspects of sunsetting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act:

In an age of resurgent anti-monopoly activism, small online communities, either standing on their own, or joined in loose “federations,” are the best chance we have to escape Big Tech’s relentless surveillance and clumsy, unaccountable control.


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No One Is the Enshittifier of Their Own Story

A collection of 1950s white, suited boardroom executives seated around a table, staring at its center. The original has been altered. In the center of the table stands a stylized stick figure cartoon mascot whose head is a poop emoji rendered in the colors of the Google logo. The various memos on the boardroom table repeat this poop Google image. On the wall behind the executives is the original Google logo in an ornate gilt frame.

Today for my podcast, I read No One Is the Enshittifier of Their Own Story , my latest Locus Magazine column, about the microfoundations of enshittification:

Therein lies the tale. The same people, running the same companies, are all suddenly behaving very differently. They haven’t all suffered a change of heart, a reverse-enscroogening that caused them all to go to bed the kinds of good-natured slobs who made services we love and wake up cruel misers who clawed away all the value we created together.

Rather, these people – leaders of tech companies and the managers and product designers they command – have found themselves in an environ­ment where the constraints that kept them honest have melted away. Whereas before a manager who was tempted to enshittify their offerings had their hand stayed by the fear of some penalty, today, those penalties are greatly reduced or eliminated altogether.


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A tightrope walker in a tuxedo and top-hat. He is about to fall off his tightrope and his eyes are white and staring, while his mouth is open in a scream. The tightrope is anchored to a street-post with a 'Wall Street' sign on it. The post is being knocked askew by hundreds of tiny workers and farmers whose upraised fists have combined into one giant fist that is pushing the post over. In front of the tightrope walker is a black anarchist cat, barring his way.

Today for my podcast, I read Precaratize Bosses, a recent essay from my Pluralistic.net newsletter.

I recorded this on a day when I was home between book-tour stops (I’m out with my new techno crime-thriller, The Bezzle). Catch me this Thursday (May 2) in Winnipeg with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, then in Calgary with Wordfest on May 3, then in Vancouver at Massy Arts om May 4, then in Tartu, Estonia for a series of events with the Prima Vista Literary Festival (May 6-11), and beyond! The canonical link for the schedule is here.

Combine Angelou’s “When someone shows you who they are, believe them” with the truism that in politics, “every accusation is a confession” and you get: “Every time someone accuses you of a vice, they’re showing you who they are and you should believe them.”

Let’s talk about some of those accusations. Remember the moral panic over the CARES Act covid stimulus checks? Hyperventilating mouthpieces for the ruling class were on every cable network, complaining that “no one wants to work anymore.” The barely-submerged subtext was their belief that the only reason people show up for work is that they’re afraid of losing everything – their homes, their kids, the groceries in their fridge.



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A scene out of an 11th century tome on demon-summoning called 'Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros. Anno 1057. Noli me tangere.' It depicts a demon tormenting two unlucky would-be demon-summoners who have dug up a grave in a graveyard. One summoner is held aloft by his hair, screaming; the other screams from inside the grave he is digging up. The scene has been altered to remove the demon's prominent, urinating penis, to add in a Tesla supercharger, and a red Tesla Model S nosing into the scene.

Today for my podcast, I read Capitalists Hate Capitalism, my latest column from Locus Magazine. It’s a meditation on the difference between feudalism and capitalism, and how to know which one you’re living under.

I recorded this on a day when I was home between book-tour stops (I’m out with my new techno crime-thriller, The Bezzle). Catch me this Wednesday (Apr 17) in Chicago at Anderson’s Books, then in Torino for the Biennale keynote on Apr 21, then in Marin County at Book Passage Corte Madera on Apr 27, then in Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, and beyond! The canonical link for the schedule is here.

Varoufakis’s argument turns on an important distinction between two types of income: profits and rents. These terms have colloquial meanings that are widely understood, but Varoufakis is interested in the precise technical definitions used by economists.

For an economist, ‘‘profit’’ is income obtained by mixing capital – tools, machines, systems – with your employees’ labor. The value created by that labor is then divided between the worker, who draws a wage, and the capitalist, who takes the rest as profit.

‘‘Rent,’’ meanwhile, was income derived from owning something that the capitalist needs in order to realize a profit. In feudal times, hereditary lords owned plots of land that serfs were bound to, and those serfs owed an annual rent to their lords. This wasn’t a great deal for the serfs, but it also needled the nascent capitalist class, who would have very much preferred to have those lands enclosed for sheep grazing. The sheep would produce wool, which could be woven into cloth in the ‘‘dark, Satanic mills’’ of the industrial revolution. The former serfs, turned off their land, could be set to work in those factories.



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A group of child miners, looking grimy and miserable, standing in a blasted gravel wasteland. To their left, standing on a hill, is a club-wielding, mad-eyed, top-hatted debt collector, brandishing a document bearing an Android logo.

Today for my podcast, I read Subprime gadgets, originally published in my Pluralistic blog:

I recorded this on a day when I was home between book-tour stops (I’m out with my new techno crime-thriller, The Bezzle). Catch me on April 11 in Boston with Randall Munroe, on April 12th in Providence, Rhode Island, then onto Chicago, Torino, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and beyond! The canonical link for the schedule is here.

The promise of feudal security: “Surrender control over your digital life so that we, the wise, giant corporation, can ensure that you aren’t tricked into catastrophic blunders that expose you to harm”:


The tech giant is a feudal warlord whose platform is a fortress; move into the fortress and the warlord will defend you against the bandits roaming the lawless land beyond its walls.

That’s the promise, here’s the failure: What happens when the warlord decides to attack you? If a tech giant decides to do something that harms you, the fortress becomes a prison and the thick walls keep you in.



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Burning of 'dirt and trash literature' at the 18th Elementary school in Berlin-Pankow (Buchholz), on the evening of International Children's Day, June 1st, 1955. It was the first of a wave of initiatives by the Parents-Teachers Association (Elternversammlungen), to legally ban 'trash and filth.'

Today for my podcast, I read The majority of censorship is self-censorship, originally published in my Pluralistic blog. It’s a breakdown of Ada Palmer’s excellent Reactor essay about the modern and historical context of censorship.

I recorded this on a day when I was home between book-tour stops (I’m out with my new techno crime-thriller, The Bezzle. Catch me tomorrow (Monday) in Seattle with Neal Stephenson at Third Place Books. Then it’s Powell’s in Portland, and then Tuscon. The canonical link for the schedule is here.

States – even very powerful states – that wish to censor lack the resources to accomplish totalizing censorship of the sort depicted in Nineteen Eighty-Four. They can’t go from house to house, searching every nook and cranny for copies of forbidden literature. The only way to kill an idea is to stop people from expressing it in the first place. Convincing people to censor themselves is, “dollar for dollar and man-hour for man-hour, much cheaper and more impactful than anything else a censorious regime can do.”

Ada invokes examples modern and ancient, including from her own area of specialty, the Inquisition and its treatment of Gailileo. The Inquistions didn’t set out to silence Galileo. If that had been its objective, it could have just assassinated him. This was cheap, easy and reliable! Instead, the Inquisition persecuted Galileo, in a very high-profile manner, making him and his ideas far more famous.

But this isn’t some early example of Inquisitorial Streisand Effect. The point of persecuting Galileo was to convince Descartes to self-censor, which he did. He took his manuscript back from the publisher and cut the sections the Inquisition was likely to find offensive. It wasn’t just Descartes: “thousands of other major thinkers of the time wrote differently, spoke differently, chose different projects, and passed different ideas on to the next century because they self-censored after the Galileo trial.”



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A credit card. Its background is a 'code waterfall' effect from the credit-sequences of the Wachowskis' 'Matrix' movies. On the right side is a cliche'd 'hacker in a hoodie' image whose face is replaced by the hostile red eye of HAL9000 from Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey.' Across the top of the card is 'Li'l Federal Credit Union.' The cardholder's name is 'I.M. Sucker.'

Today for my podcast, I read How I Got Scammed, originally published in my Pluralistic blog. It’s a story of how the attacker has to get lucky once, while the defender has to never make a single mistake.

This is my last podcast before I take off for my next book-tour, for my new novel, The Bezzle. I’m ranging far and wide: LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Calgary, Phoenix, Portland, Providence, Boston, New York City, Toronto, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Tucson, Chicago, Buffalo, as well as Torino and Tartu.

My first two stops are Weller Bookworks in Salt Lake City on Feb 21 and Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego on Feb 22, followed by LA (with Adam Conover!), Seattle (with Neal Stephenson!), and Portland. The canonical link for the schedule is here.

I wuz robbed.

More specifically, I was tricked by a phone-phisher pretending to be from my bank, and he convinced me to hand over my credit-card number, then did $8,000+ worth of fraud with it before I figured out what happened. And then he tried to do it again, a week later!

Here’s what happened. Over the Christmas holiday, I traveled to New Orleans. The day we landed, I hit a Chase ATM in the French Quarter for some cash, but the machine declined the transaction. Later in the day, we passed a little credit-union’s ATM and I used that one instead (I bank with a one-branch credit union and generally there’s no fee to use another CU’s ATM).

A couple days later, I got a call from my credit union. It was a weekend, during the holiday, and the guy who called was obviously working for my little CU’s after-hours fraud contractor. I’d dealt with these folks before – they service a ton of little credit unions, and generally the call quality isn’t great and the staff will often make mistakes like mispronouncing my credit union’s name.

That’s what happened here – the guy was on a terrible VOIP line and I had to ask him to readjust his mic before I could even understand him. He mispronounced my bank’s name and then asked if I’d attempted to spend $1,000 at an Apple Store in NYC that day. No, I said, and groaned inwardly. What a pain in the ass. Obviously, I’d had my ATM card skimmed – either at the Chase ATM (maybe that was why the transaction failed), or at the other credit union’s ATM (it had been a very cheap looking system).


(Image: Cryteria, CC BY 3.0, modified)