[Plura-list] Grace is cleared; Mexico's terrible copyright is in trouble; Failed State; Marvel's $0.10 mini-comics

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Wed Aug 12 10:37:23 EDT 2020


I'm doing TWO livecasts today!

* Muskoka Authors Association, 330PM Pacific:

* Book Launch for Chris Brown's "Failed State," 5PM Pacific:


Today's links

* Grace is cleared: The homeschool-to-prison pipeline is closed...for now.

* Mexico's terrible copyright is in trouble: Hasta la victoria siempre.

* Failed State: Chris Brown's outstanding new ecopocalyptic cyberpunk
legal thriller.

* Marvel's $0.10 mini-comics: Gashapon funnies from 1966.

* Sorting machines snatched from post offices: Administrative
incompetence vs textualism?

* Payday lenders are CFPB's pandemic aid: When the watchdogs switch sides.

* Trump's Solicitor General says bribery is legal: Rule 48a applies even
if the judge sees the prosecutor accept a bribe in the courtroom.

* RSS WTF: An explainer for the newly awakened.

* This day in history: 2015, 2019

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


🔮 Grace is cleared

On Aug 1, Grace, a 15 year old, Black, learning disabled Michigander was
released from prison; she'd been jailed for months for a parole
violation -  her parole required her to complete her homework, something
she struggled with during lockdown.


Grace was locked up by Judge Mary Ellen Brennan - an elected judge who
ran unopposed and is up for re-election this year - who insisted that
her hearing be in-person (the only in-person case on the day's docket),
which meant Grace's lawyer couldn't be present.

Though Grace's parole was for stealing - then returning - a classmate's
phone, the judge leaned heavily on some spats Grace had with her mother.
Grace's mother insisted that these problems were minor, dealt with and
not serious enough to rate incarceration.

Moreover, Grace's teacher, the school board and principal, the
prosecutor, and large numbers of Michigan lawmakers, students,
pedagogists, human rights activists and others insisted that Grace
should not be locked away.

While locked up, Grace's education consisted of completing photocopied
handouts; her counselling amounted to a few minutes videoconference a
week, sometimes with her mother, sometimes alone.

The judge insisted that Grace was a danger to the community and that
this constituted the help she needed.

Grace's plight became a culture-war issue, with far-right groups
spreading the lie that Grace had been jailed for "repeated violent

On Aug 1, the appeals court ruled that Grace should await a further
determination of her case from home, while wearing a GPS cuff.

Today, the Judge Brennan closed Grace's case and terminated her
probation, clearing her name.


Brennan did not apologize for locking a learning-disabled child up for
failing to do homework during an unprecedented pandemic. Rather, she
doubled down on the fantasy that Grace's interests had been served
through incarceration.

"Going forward, the court is hopeful that [Grace] has the tools and does
make different choices in her home and at school..I wish this family
well." - Michigan Family Court Judge Mary Ellen Brennan

Earlier in the hearing, Brennan denied a motion from Grace's lawyer that
she recuse herself, based on Brennan's "callous conduct" toward Grace,
including when Brennan "publicly lambasted" Grace from the bench.

Again, Brennan is a garbage person who is up for re-election this year.


🔮 Mexico's terrible copyright is in trouble

In early July, Mexican people and the global digital rights community
awoke to a waking nightmare. Without real consultation or debate, the
Mexican Congress had rammed through a catastrophic new copyright law, to
comply with Trump's new #USMCA treaty.


The new law mandated copyright filters, created a takedown system with
no checks and balances, allowed anyone to dox their critics by claiming
copyright infringement, and had sweeping DRM protections with
implications for Right to Repair, med-tech, and agriculture.

Thankfully, Mexico has one of the world's most comprehensive suite of
protections for human rights, including a constitution that flatly bans
this kind of law and a Human Rights Commission that is empowered to
refer bad laws directly to the Supreme Court for review.

But the Commission only has 30 days to act. That meant that we had to
get their attention by July 31. Mexican NGOs like R3D and Derechos
Digitales worked around the clock, joined by international orgs like EFF
and thousands of Mexican people to put the pressure on.

All that hard work paid off. At the 11th hour, the Commission referred
the law to the Supreme Court for "possible violations of the rights to
freedom of expression, property, freedom of commerce or work and
cultural rights, among others.”


That's the good news (and it's VERY good news!). The bad news is that it
could take years for the Supreme Court to evaluate the new law.

In the meantime, it will wreak havoc for Mexican people and Mexican
businesses, with consequences for national sovereignty, the rights of
people with disabilities, and beyond.

It needn't, though. The Mexican Supreme Court has it in its power to
suspend the law pending its ruling, and this is something it must do.
Watch this space for more as campaigners put pressure on the court to
bottle up this badly thought through, overreaching law.


🔮 Failed State

Christopher Brown is a mild-mannered, hard-fighting Austin environmental
lawyer who writes taut, intense, post-cyberpunk novels about deep green
resistance movements fighting guerilla wars against American fascism.

His first book, 2017's Tropic of Kansas, tells the story of a semi-feral
boy whose parents have been murdered by a hyperauthoritarian US
government, as he is transformed into a guerilla hero.


The second book, 2019's "Rule of Capture," is a paranoid,
claustrophobic, gripping legal thriller about Donny Kimoe, an
ex-prosecutor whose conscience demands he become the defense attorney
for captured rebels who face being rendered to black sites.


Now, with Failed State, a standalone novel, we return to Donny Kimoe,
eking on a living as a contingency lawyer on the periphery of a
post-revolutionary shattered America, with little by way of government
or justice system.


Kimoe is persona non grata among the rebels, thanks to his decision to
defend the deposed former President for his war crimes, determined to
live his principles and his belief in justice for all.

But the establishment doesn't like him any better, probably because his
major project is finding loopholes in the amnesty agreements that let
him sue the plutes whose companies ran the extermination and slave labor
camps for the former government.

It's one of these cases that sends Donny to the rebel stronghold of New
Orleans, a city he's been barred from returning to on pain of death,
where the rebels have invented a new form of environmental justice.

In their courts, major shareholders of world-raping industries are tried
and found guilty of extracting wealth by murdering the world's plants
and animals, and they (or their descendants) are ordered to make good
for their crimes.

The novel is as tense and thrilling as any of Brown's work, and as full
of rage and hope. It's a novel that truly reckons with the enormity of
both our climate emergency and the system that produced it - with human
imperfection and redemption.

It may be easier to imagine the end of the human race than it is to
imagine the end of capitalism, but Brown makes a pretty good case that
they may yet annihilate one another.

I'm appearing with Brown Aug 12 in a (virtual) book launch at Austin's
Book People:


He's a hell of a conversationalist, too - this is worth dialing in for!


🔮 Marvel's $0.10 mini-comics

In 1966, Marvel published a line of mini-comic books that were smaller
than postage stamps: 5/8" by 7/8". They were sold for a dime in
grocery-store vending machines, and endured into the 1970s - I remember
getting them in the Loblaw's in Toronto in the late 1970s.

They ran to 50 pages (!) each, and there were six in all, featuring
Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Nick Fury, and Millie the
Model. They were intended to be disposable and few survive to this day.

But now you can own them again in a new, boxed-set facsimile edition
from Abrams Comic Arts, who've blown them up to 4.25" x 7.25", and
packaged them with what Mark Frauenfelder calls "Mark Evanier’s
delightful “mini-history” of these mini-books."


Frauenfelder also expresses disappointment that you can't get
original-sized facsimiles, and while I'm sympathetic to that position,
I'm also keenly aware that I spend at least an hour a day grumbling
about my inability to read small and low-contrast type as I age.

I assume that this worsening visual deficit is karma's way of punishing
me for airily dismissing older people who complained that the Mondo 2000
magazines I sold them as a bookseller in the early 90s were unreadable
due the editors' penchant for tiny, silver-on-purple type.


🔮 Sorting machines snatched from post offices

After decades of a grinding bipartisan war of attrition waged by
Congress against the US Postal Service, the US mail is now under direct
assault from Trump and his crony, the new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy.


Destroying the post won't just take down America's linchpin for the
elections, which must be held by postal vote lest they spark raging
pandemic outbreaks - it also destroys the linchpin of the US's emergency
plans for dealing with such outbreaks.


The assault on the postal service is brazen. On NPR's Morning Edition,
Noel King spoke with Iowa Postal Workers Union president Kimberly Karol,
who reported that the mail-sorting equipment at her post office has been


Karol describes how the postmaster general is circumventing his legal
obligations to seek public comment on substantive changes to this
self-funding, taxpayer-owned, centuries old service.

I hold out hope that this may be his undoing. The MO of trumpland
grifters is running across the river on the backs of alligators and
assuming that if they move quickly enough, they won't lose a leg.

But the administrative branch is bound by procedures: notice, comment,
rule publication, explaining your reasoning. Obama understood this - his
abuses of authority survived judicial review because he knew how to
paper them over.

Trump, by contrast, is a rich blowhard who's used to firing anyone who
tells him he can't have his way, and he's packed his cabinet with
would-be mob bosses who take the same approach.

And even plute-friendly judges that Trump - and other war criminals,
like GWB  - appointed actually care about this i-dotting and t-crossing
proceduralism, and they actually get a little zetz of civic virtue
dopamine when they knock back trumpland's crayon-scrawl plots.

You can read it in their decisions, like, "Look at me, I am a
textualist! That means I care about punctuation! Just like Thomas


🔮 Payday lenders are CFPB's pandemic aid

After the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama administration and Elizabeth
Warren created the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, a watchdog
charged with rooting out and punishing predatory financial practices.

They understood that future administrations could neuter the Bureau, so
they cooked up a future-proofing plan: the Bureau's head would be
appointed for five years, and could not be fired by subsequent

In her memoir, Warren recounts how she chose not to run the Bureau
herself, which led to Obama appointing Richard Cordray to run it. That
was a huge mistake.

Once Trump assumed office, Cordray *resigned from his post* to make an
unsuccessful bid for governor of Ohio.

This allowed Trump to fill the post with a succession of finance
predators and sociopaths, each worse than the last: men and women who
declined to prosecute Equifax for doxxing the entire country, and
dropped enforcement against payday lenders.

Seriously: fuck that guy. Sideways. With a brick.


That director is Kathy Kraninger, who has taken the position that she
has too much independence and that her agency should be subordinated to
the whims of the executive. But that was just for openers.

Kraninger's signature initiative is the protection and promotion of
payday lenders, whose 400+% APR "two week" loans are designed to take an
average of five months to repay.

Those are the GOOD loans. The bad ones, like car-title loans, have a 90%
reborrow rate and result in repossession 20% of the time.

The primary customers for these loans are poor people, which, in
America, means brown and Black people.

Kraninger is key to Trump's covid response: her agency responded to the
emergency by tearing the heart out of the remaining protections against
predatory lenders, allowing them to make loans without assessing whether
the borrower can repay them.


As Terri Friedline explains in her excellent piece for The Intercept,
the rule change comes just as the eviction moratoriums and expanded
unemployment payments are expiring - leaving Americans desperate for
cash to avoid homelessness in the midst of a pandemic.

These Black and brown people are ideal fodder for the overwhelmingly
white, wealthy predatory lenders who will strip them of every remaining
asset before discarding them.


🔮 Trump's Solicitor General says bribery is legal

Federal Rule 48a states that when a federal prosecutor moves to dismiss
a case, the judge has to dismiss it. This rule is now hotly contested,
because AG Bill Barr has directed that the charges against Michael Flynn
be dropped.

Judge Emmet Sullivan appointed a retired judge to investigate whether
the rule applies here. That judge found "clear evidence of a gross abuse
of prosecutorial power." The DoJ responded by announcing that gross
abuses don't invalidate Rule 48a.


Which led to a hearing in which Trump's DoJ made a jaw-dropping
statement: that Rule 48a would be enforceable even if the judge sees the
defendant hand the prosecutor a cash bribe immediately beforehand.

Judge Sullivan: "[On] the first day of trial, in the presence of the
court, the defendant’s attorney hands the prosecutor a briefcase
overflowing with $20s. It is handed to the prosecutor who is the U.S.
Attorney and the Attorney General is standing right there next to her.
And the government, upon receipt of that briefcase, submits … a Rule 48
motion to dismiss...your position … is that the district court has no
choice but to grant that motion to dismiss."

Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall: "Yes."



RSS is one of the last truly open standards on the web, a system
designed for decentralization and federation. Matt Webb has been musing
for months about how it can be used to redecentralize our web. Here he
is on using it to replace Goodreads:


Webb has identified a key problem with RSS: "If you don’t know what RSS
is, it’s really hard to start using it. This is because, unlike a social
media platform, nobody owns it. It’s nobody’s job to explain it."


So Webb created Aboutfeeds, a single-serving, one-page website that
explains RSS to people unfamiliar with the idea, ready to be linked to
from your own site to get your readers up to speed.


It's got three sections, each a couple of paras long:

I. What is a feed?

II. How do I get a newsreader app?

III. How do I use my new newsreader app to subscribe to a feed?

[[chef's kiss glyph]]


🔮 This day in history

#5yrsago Income inequality turns "neglected tropic diseases" into
American diseases of "the poor living among the wealthy"

#5yrsago Rightscorp teams up with lawyers to mass-sue people who ignore
blackmail letters

#5yrsago Lenovo preloaded laptops with reformat-resistant perpetual

#1yrago Rule of Capture: Inside the martial law tribunals that will come
when climate deniers become climate looters and start rendering
environmentalists for offshore torture

#1yrago All flights in and out of Hong Kong canceled as protesters flood
the airport https://twitter.com/erinhale/status/1160786319804493827

#1yrago Your phone is a crimewave in your pocket, and it's all the fault
of greedy carriers and complicit regulators

#1yrago The real meaning of plantation tours: American Downton Abbey vs
American Horror Story

#1yrago New York City raised minimum wage to $15, and its restaurants
outperformed the nation

#1yrago Prior to Amazon acquisition, Ring offered "swag" to customers
who snitched on their neighbors

#1yrago WordPress is buying Tumblr


🔮 Colophon

Today's top sources: The Magnet
(https://themagnet.substack.com/p/the-magnet-0001), Reddit

Currently writing:

* My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and
reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 512 words (48238 total).

Currently reading: The Deficit Myth, Stephanie Kelton

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 12),

Upcoming appearances:

* Virtual event with Christopher Brown for his novel "Failed State," Aug

* Induction into the CSFFA Hall of Fame, Aug 15,

* Keynote for Law Via the Internet conference, Sept 22,

Latest book:

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

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

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