[Plura-list] Podcasting "Give Me Slack"; A lexicon of euphemisms for "corporate crime"; IP lawyers weaponize trade secrecy to stall vaccine waivers

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Tue Dec 7 11:38:15 EST 2021

Read today's issue online at: https://pluralistic.net/2021/12/07/solar-panel-for-a-sex-machine/


I'm going overseas for work on Dec 7, which means time to order signed/personalized copies of my books from Dark Delicacies is running out!

Attack Surface:

Little Brother/Homeland:

How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism:

Poesy the Monster Slayer:


Today's links

* Podcasting "Give Me Slack": On the parenting challenges of an era without second chances.

* A lexicon of euphemisms for "corporate crime": Compliance, risk, white collar crime...

* IP lawyers weaponize trade secrecy to stall vaccine waivers: But Karan Menon has their number.

* This day in history: 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016, 2020

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


🏴‍☠️ Podcasting "Give Me Slack"

This week on my podcast, I read "Give Me Slack," my latest column for Medium, about the second (and third, and fourth) chances I got growing up, and how scary it is that my kid - and yours - won't get those chances.


 From the fourth through the eighth grade, I attended a groovy, publicly funded alternative school in Toronto. Much of the student work was self-directed, and they even kicked us out of school on alternating Wednesday afternoons, sending us out into the world to learn.

I started my high-school in a very straight-laced traditional institution, but I hated it. By the middle of the first semester, I'd stopped going to classes altogether - instead, I used my subway pass to ride down to the Metro Reference Library, where I spent my days requesting esoteric books from the stacks and looking up weird newspaper articles on microfilm.

Eventually, the school administration called my parents, and after a raging argument, I transferred to a public alternative high-school that was structured a lot more like my K-8 school. Then I transfered again, to an even looser, less-structured public high school downtown. It took me seven years to get a four-year diploma, in part because I spent a year organizing demonstrations against the first Gulf War, and another year in Mexico, writing.

I did graduate though, with honors, and enrolled and dropped out of four universities in quick succession. Three years later, I got a job in the tech industry, programming CD ROMs. I went on to be a web programmer, then a freelance CIO, then founded a startup, then went to work at EFF.

In the years since, I published more than 20 books, including several international bestsellers. I got an honorary PhD. I've got appointments at three universities on two continents. I've been a UN delegate. I feel like I got a lot done, and I'm certain that it's because I was able to mess around, drop out, direct my own learning, and take a couple extra years here and there.

In other words, I had Slack, that prize of the Subgenius. And kids today do *not* have slack. 15 years ago, I taught on a Fulbright Chair at USC. My students were brilliant and driven, but when they described their path to a top university, I was horrified.

When they'd entered high-school, their guidance counselor stressed the importance of top marks throughout their tenure there. They'd been advised to take electives they were already good at, and to keep up that channel through their high school careers, right up to their AP classes. This, in turn, determined what undergrad majors they were qualified for.

In university, their undergrad counsellors worked mightily to keep them from taking electives unrelated to their majors, lest they change majors and incur another year's tuition - the price of a luxury car. Their undergrad degrees prefigured their grad-school careers, of course.

So I had PhD candidates - brilliant, driven, exciting kids - who were carrying six figures in debt, and who had been discouraged from taking a single intellectual risk since their first day of high school. They had been exquisitely trained for careers that might not even exist by the time they graduated.

Today, it's even worse. My kid is a freshman at a great, public high-school in a great public school district, and I find myself fretting about her grades, even though my own ninth grade career was such a freewheeling chaos. The university system she's being streamed into is even more expensive and confining than the one I was embedded in 15 years ago.

Not only that, but the world she's inheriting is even more chaotic than the one my students graduated into. Whole industries are being liquefied overnight by pandemics and the climate emergency. She's going to have to place a ten-year bet on a career track, when some of our major cities are unlikely to survive that long.

We can't prepare a generation to thrive in a world of flux and crisis by training them in rigid, preordained programs. I want my kid to be able to do what I did: goof off, screw up, drop out, drop in, change her mind. Not just because that was so beneficial to me, personally, but because it's essential preparation for the coming chaos.

It's not just my kid who needs slack. Yours does to. As do you and I.

But as I write in the column, slack is in very short supply indeed. We've made "a world where everyone gets one guess at what they should do for the rest of their life — and the best case scenario for the majority who guess wrong is debt-servitude and a life where curiosity is a bug, not a feature."

Here's the podcast episode:


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


And here's the RSS feed for my podcast:



🏴‍☠️ A lexicon of euphemisms for "corporate crime"

Seen in one light, America has an epidemic of corporate crime. Companies like United, Boeing, Wells Fargo and Walmart attract *hundreds* of government enforcement actions. But these companies almost never end up facing criminal charges - instead, they get "leniency agreements," which they violate, again and again (United's done this *533 times*).


Functionally, the USA doesn't have a corporate criminal law system at all, even though corporations commit 20x more crimes than natural persons, and their crimes attain a scale and severity no human criminal could ever hope to match:


These aren't just accounting fraud and wage theft, either - think homicide, arson, drug trafficking, dumping and sexual offenses. And that's just what we know about - only 5% of corporate crimes ever come to light.

Writing for the Corporate Crime Reporter, Russell Mokhiber offers a list of euphemisms that the press, the corporate bar, and law schools use to magic corporate crime out of existence:


The WSJ calls it "Risk & Compliance." The NYT calls it "white collar crime" - a favorite euphemism also used by the ABA. As a euphemism, white collar crime has a huge advantage, in that it equates a bank teller who steals from a bank with a bank - like Wells Fargo - that steals from millions of its customers.

Big Law uses the "white collar" euphemism (Gibson Dunn), but also "Government, Regulatory & Internal Investigations" (Kirkland and Ellis). Skadden casts a wide net with "Government Enforcement and White Collar Crime."

The DoJ bends over backwards not to call corporate crime "crime." When a firm like Purdue Pharma or Boeing settles a claim, the cops on the corporate beat put out press releases celebrating their "agreement to pay" a fine. Mokhiber: "Look how agreeable they are."

Settlements like Boeing's - for the death of 346 people - don't include a corporate guilty plea. There are no charges laid against execs. No manslaughter charges are laid. And yet the DoJ says they're "holding Boeing accountable."

Maybe that's finally changing?


Biden Deputy AG Lisa Monaco gave a speech announcing a drawdown in these leniency agreements and a new era of criminal charges for criminal acts, including criminal indictments of individual executives:


But she's in for an uphill battle. The DoJ is stuffed full of ambitious lawyers who dream of careers at Big Law firms, like Erin Nealy Cox who negotiated Boeing's leniency on behalf of the DoJ. Boeing was represented by Kirkland and Ellis and now, Cox is a partner at...Kirkland and Ellis.

And the DoJ is still tying itself in knots over their unwillingness to call crime "crime." Deputy AG Monaco is scheduled for an interview with the WSJ over her landmark speech - and the DoJ's press release calls this a discussion of "the intersection between business and government."

You can't make this stuff up.


🏴‍☠️ IP lawyers weaponize trade secrecy to stall vaccine waivers

The world is experiencing a "pandemic of the unvaccinated," but the largest pool unvaccinated people isn't to be found among vaccine deniers of the rich world.

Rather, these vulnerable people - whose infections might spawn new, vaccine-bypassing, more-lethal variants - are the 2.5b people in the world's 125 poorest countries, where vaccines are not widely available and the vaccination rate is 2.6%.


The pharma lobbyists who have blocked a WTO waiver are the true vaccine deniers. They are literally denying vaccines to billions of people, but also implicitly denying that constitutes an existential risk to all of us, as unvaccinated nations offer fertile breeding grounds for new, scarier variants.

Big Pharma - and its shills, like Howard Dean - has based this vaccine denial on two big lies:

I. That vaccine factories take too long to build to be of use. Moderna privately admits that new factories could have been built in 3-4 months.

II. That poor brown people are too primitive to make their own vaccines. The world's largest vaccine factories are in the Global South.

The latest delaying tactic? Insisting that any WTO vaccine waiver should exclude trade secrets - the know-how necessary to turn patents and scientific papers into vaccine production:


It's a maneuver only an IP lawyer could love.

It takes a lot of work to make an issue as clear-cut and urgent as vaccine equity into a controversy. Karan Menon manages to lay out the whole case in 95 seconds in a Tiktok video:


You could not ask for a clearer, more forceful statement of the plain case for letting the poorest people in the world make their own vaccines. Watching this video might just be the best use of 95 seconds you make all day.


🏴‍☠️ This day in history

#20yrsago Busting the WSJ’s FUD on open 802.11 networks https://web.archive.org/web/20020111221354/80211b.weblogger.com/discuss/msgReader$178

#20yrsago The post-PC interface https://web.archive.org/web/20020118162540/http://www.nooface.net/

#20yrsago Chris Raettig on KPMG's linking legal threats https://web.archive.org/web/20020207141547/http://chris.raettig.org/email/jnl00040.html

#15yrsago Canada’s documentaries lost to copyright https://web.archive.org/web/20061209003316/https://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20061206.wxcopyright06/BNStory/Entertainment/home

#10yrsago Business Software Alliance fractures over SOPA support https://www.cnet.com/news/kaspersky-dumps-trade-group-over-sopa/

#10yrsago Planesrunner: Ian McDonald’s YA debut is full of action-packed multidimensional cool, airships, electropunk and quantum physics https://memex.craphound.com/2011/12/06/planesrunner-ian-mcdonalds-ya-debut-is-full-of-action-packed-multidimensional-cool-airships-electropunk-and-quantum-physics/

#10yrsago Petition to get a pardon for Turing’s “gross indecency” conviction https://web.archive.org/web/20120110183548/https://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/23526

#10yrsago Derek Kirk Kim’s Same Difference: slacker Korean-American kids come of age in the Bay Area https://memex.craphound.com/2011/12/07/derek-kirk-kims-same-difference-slacker-korean-american-kids-come-of-age-in-the-bay-area/

#10yrsago On Jan 1, awesome stuff will enter the public domain: HG Wells, Gertrude Stein, Buster Keaton, Walt Disney, Lenny Bruce (but not in the USA) https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/class-of-2017

#10yrsago AT&T is the worst carrier in America. Again. https://www.ibtimes.com/verizon-wireless-trumps-att-again-consumer-reports-survey-379522

#5yrsago Mr Robot has driven a stake through the Hollywood hacker, and not a moment too soon https://www.technologyreview.com/2016/12/07/155284/mr-robot-killed-the-hollywood-hacker/

#5yrsago Learning about the internal culture of the NSA from 262 leaked articles from its internal employee newsletter https://theintercept.com/2016/12/07/drowning-in-information-nsa-revelations-from-262-spy-documents/

#5yrsago The kickstarted Pebble smartwatch is now a division of Fitbit, so they may “reduce functionality” on all the watches they ever sold https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-2-time-2-and-core-an-entirely-new-3g-ultra/posts/1752929

#5yrsago For two years, criminals stole sensitive information using malware hidden in individual pixels of ad banners https://www.welivesecurity.com/2016/12/06/readers-popular-websites-targeted-stealthy-stegano-exploit-kit-hiding-pixels-malicious-ads/

#5yrsago Italy’s referendum: a vote against neoliberalism and authoritarianism https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/12/italy-constitution-referendum-reform-renzi-democratic-party-m5s/

#5yrsago Quitting Facebook feels GREAT https://mathbabe.org/2016/12/06/i-quit-facebook-and-my-life-is-better-now/

#5yrsago Stop calling it “Puppy-Burning” — it’s the “Alt-Warmth Movement” https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/why-i-am-changing-the-name-of-our-puppy-burning-movement-to-alt-warmth

#5yrsago dj BC has your Christmas mashups covered with this year’s amazing Santastic holiday music sampler http://djbc.net/christmash/

#1yrago China’s war on big data backstabbing https://pluralistic.net/2020/12/07/backstabbed/#big-data-backstabbing

#1yrago The largest strike in human history https://pluralistic.net/2020/12/06/surveillance-tulip-bulbs/#modi-miscalulation

#1yrago Ad-tech as a bubble overdue for a bursting https://pluralistic.net/2020/12/06/surveillance-tulip-bulbs/#adtech-bubble


🏴‍☠️ Colophon

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

Currently writing:

* Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Yesterday's progress: 512 words (46168 words total).

* A short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows PLANNING

* A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation.  PLANNING

* A Little Brother short story about DIyY insulin PLANNING

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

* A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause."  FINISHED

* A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues."  FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Jam To-Day (https://craphound.com/news/2021/11/21/jam-to-day/)

Upcoming appearances:

* Internet Governance Forum (Warsaw), Dec 10

Recent appearances:

* Seize the Means of Computation (SeaGL)

* Redistribute the Internet (NGI Summit)

* NFTs (Upstream)

Latest book:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html

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

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

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1562/_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer.html.

Upcoming books:

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

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