[Plura-list] Biden's shift on vaccine patents is a Big Deal; LA traveling toward free public transit; How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism Part 6

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Mon May 10 14:36:15 EDT 2021


I'm doing two live events next Wednesday, May 12:

* Interoperability and Alternative Social Media, a panel for the Knight
Center's Reimagine the Internet event

* Book launch for Aminder Dhaliwal's Cyclopedia Exotica


Today's links

* Biden's shift on vaccine patents is a Big Deal: A world turned

* LA traveling toward free public transit: But first we must abolish

* How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism Part 6: Nearly done with my
serialized podcast reading!

* This day in history: 2006, 2011, 2016

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


🌾 Biden's shift on vaccine patents is a Big Deal

Last week, Katherine Tai, Biden's US Trade Rep, made history by
announcing that the US would support petitions from countries in the
Global South for a patent waiver on covid vaccines, which would broaden
the world's capacity to produce vaccines.


That's a very important priority. The world's 125 poorest countries have
received zero doses, and 85 countries with a population of 2.5b project
that they won't be fully vaccinated until 2023 or 24.

Not only will this delay sicken and kill millions of people, it will
also incubate new variants, some of which may be able to bypass
vaccine-based defenses in the rest of the world.

Cue foolish objections that viruses evolve towards less virulence lest
they cause their own extinction. That's not how evolution works. Viruses
don't know if a mutation will cause them to eliminate their host
organisms and thus commit suicide.

The mechanism that selects against driving a host to extinction
is...driving a host to extinction. Yes, that'll certainly show covid
who's boss, but it comes at a pretty high cost to host organisms like
(checks notes) us.

We need more vaccines, for our own sakes and for the sakes of billions
of people in the global south. That much is obvious, but Big Pharma and
its allies have consistently briefed against any relaxation of patent
restrictions on vaccines.

Despite the vast, long-run public subsidies and the emergency billions
the public provided for covid vaccine development, pharma bros have
insisted that the only duty they owe to the public is to preserve the
profit motive so that future pharma bros will follow their lead.

Pharma monopolists have powerful allies. Bill Gates used his elite
philanthropy to kill the Oxford team's plan to make its work publicly
available. Instead, they've exclusively licensed it to Astrazeneca.


Hundreds of lobbyists have descended on DC to fight any patent waiver:


Including former progressive Howard Dean, who now pushes the racist lie
that poor brown people are too primitive to make vaccines:


But mRNA vaccines are surprising easy and cheap to make. You can see
that in the work of independent experts:


But don't take their word for it! Moderna itself says you can
scratch-build a production facility in three months:


It's hard to understand how the pharma industry could brief against
expanding production of vaccines for the 2.5b poorest people.

Sure, maintaining control means that elite philanthropists and rich
governments will eventually pay pharma for the doses they ship to poor
countries in 2023/4, but that money comes with a substantial business
risk - e.g., vaccine-resistant, civilization-endangering strains.

In his newsletter, Matt Stoller describes pharma's upside: that
sub-existential new strains will emerge that fuel the market for annual
covid boosters, which pharma CEOs have promised to sell at $175/dose,
instead of the $12.50 "pandemic price."


This doesn't mean they're deliberately trying to keep the virus alive so
they can sell boosters - rather,  it's a cost-benefit analysis that
factors in the possible upside of new strains, weighed against the
downside of civilizational collapse, and rolls the dice anyway.

This kind of depraved indifference to civilizational risks is par for
the course with pharma and ideologues like Gates, who has used his
philanthropic work as a tool to destroy public institutions from
education to health.

That's a program that Biden has long supported from the senate and in
the vice-presidency, so it's small wonder that skeptics are closely
reading the statement of support and pointing out potential ways to
weasel out of it:


But I'm not as skeptical as they are - not because of any prior faith in
Biden, but because of my long experience with the USTR in global IP
forums, including my stint at WIPO as an NGO observer to several treaties.

As Stoller points out, this is a nigh-miraculous shift in the USTR's
position, absolutely without precedent: "USTR was always the center of
corporate power in government. For USTR to go against pharma is truly
the world turned upside down."

Pharma is spitting nails over it, lobbying hard in the EU (where the
pretense of governmental indepedence from corporate lobbyists is
routinely revealed as the same sham as the US version) and trying to
scuttle any action.

Meanwhile, Gates and his Foundation have done their own about-face:


which represents as seismic a shift as the USTR's own reversal:


It's really hard to overstate how huge this is. As Stoller writes,
"Biden just showed that big pharma, one of the most powerful forces in
American and global politics, is not untouchable."


🌾 LA traveling toward free public transit

Los Angeles has a geometry problem. Multiply the space that even the
smallest car occupies by the number of Angelenos who need to get from
A-B and you'll see that there's no way that the city is compatible with
private vehicles.

Building more highways means clearing more live- and work-space, which
pushes everything apart, which makes journeys longer, which requires
building more highways...

Sadly for advocates of individual transit solutions, geometry has a
socialist bias.


(and no, you can't fix this by putting private vehicles in tunnels, no
matter how fast the tunnels are - these are just shitty, inefficient
subways that let plutes escape the company of their laboring neighbors
during their morning commutes)

Los Angeles actually has one of the world's most extensive public
transit systems, but it's not a system that most people use voluntarily.
While the subways are fast and efficient, they're not nearly extensive

The bus system is *very* extensive but it's slow and meandering and
lacks the dedicated lanes that the evidence tells us we need if we're
going to seriously shift people out of low-capacity private cars and
into efficient, speedy buses:


As a result, LA's transit overwhelming serves low-income Angelenos, who
don't merely suffer disproportionately from the slow service, but who
also face significant drain on their budgets from the $1.75 fare (about
$1200/year for regular riders).

The LA system isn't reliant on these fares, either: only 4% of the
system's budget comes from fares, and 20% of the money collected in
fares is spent enforcing fare-collection (!).

All of this led to activists like the Bus Riders Union to advocate for
abolishing fares altogether, and now the Los Angeles County Metropolitan
Transportation Authority has published a plan to create "the largest
free mass transit system in the world."


As welcome as that plan is, it's far from perfect. It calls for phasing
fare-waivers between now and 2023, with free rides for students (from
kindergarten to community college) this Aug, expanding to riders earning
less than $35k in Jan 2022.


The plan's means-testing might undo it, by excluding people who need it
the most: for example, homeless people with no income, no W-2 and no way
to prove they qualify; or low-income workers whose lack of English
fluency and digital literacy freezes them out of the system.

These aren't hypothetical risks - they're what's already happening in
the Metro's existing pandemic low-income fare waivers. There's no reason
to think the problems will go away when these emergency programs are
institutionalized and made permanent.

Fare waivers are the right thing to do, both as a matter of
transitioning LA sustainable transit and to end the racially biased
fare-policing practices in the system (20% of Metro riders are Black,
but 50% of fare-evasion citations go to Black riders).

It'll also improve the working lives of drivers - 40% of driver assaults
stem from fare disputes.

When systems like Kansas City's eliminated fares, they saw increased
access for poor people, survivors of domestic violence and veterans.

Feared increases in crime on the system never materialized - nor did the
predicted de facto conversion of the system into a homeless shelter.

Transit is a public good, and it is good for the whole public.


🌾 How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism Part 6

This week on my podcast, the sixth part of a seven part serialized
reading of my 2020 One Zero book HOW TO DESTROY SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM,
a book arguing that monopoly – not AI-based brainwashing – is the real
way that tech controls our behavior.


The book is available in paperback:


and DRM-free ebook :


and my local bookseller, Dark Delicacies, has signed stock that I'll
drop by and personalize for you!


Here's the podcast episode:


And here's part one:


And part two:


And part three:


And part four:


And part five:


And 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:



🌾 This day in history

#15yrsago Canada’s New Democratic Party embraces copyfighting musicians

#10yrsago Valente’s Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland…: sweet
fairytale, shot through with salty tears — magic!

#10yrsago Beat monopoly prices on one-airline cities with the “phantom
city” trick

#10yrsago HOWTO sue telemarketers and keep the stuff they send you
without paying for it http://www.telemarketingwatch.org/script.htm

#10yrsago Pitiful wages, anti-union policies and corporate welfare to
make America competitive with China

#10yrsago Teens and privacy online: why using Facebook doesn’t mean you
don’t value privacy

#5yrsago Billionaire Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel will be a California
Trump delegate

#5yrsago 300 prominent economists call on world governments to end tax
haven secrecy

#5yrsago McClatchy newspapers’ CEO pleased to announce that he’s
shipping IT jobs overseas

#5yrsago Peace in Our Time: how publishers, libraries and writers could
work together https://locusmag.com/2016/05/cory-doctorow-peace-in-our-time/

#5yrsago Too Like the Lightning: intricate worldbuilding, brilliant
speculation, gripping storytelling

#5yrsago What’s the best way to distribute numbers on the faces of a

#5yrsago Panama Papers: New Zealand is the go-to money launderer for
crooked Latin Americans

#5yrsago Save iTunes: how the W3C’s argument for web-wide DRM would have
killed iTunes https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/04/save-itunes

#1yrago Pandemic countermeasures from the porn industry

#1yrago Factchecking virologist/conspiracist Judy Mikovits

#1yrago Striking New Orleans garbage collectors replaced with prison
labor https://pluralistic.net/2020/05/10/longshots/#slave-labor

#1yrago Probability and pandemics

#1yrago The real Lord of the Flies kids were really nice to each other

#1yrago Flooding Ohio's "work-refusal" snitchline

#1yrago Konstantine Anthony for Burbank City Council

#1yrago Armed Michigan voters escort their state rep to work


🌾 Colophon

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

Currently writing:

* A Little Brother short story about pipeline protests.  RESEARCH PHASE

* A short story about consumer data co-ops.  PLANNING

* A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation.  PLANNING

* A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written
with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown."  FINAL EDITS

* 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: How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism (Part 06)

Upcoming appearances:

* Interoperability and Alternative Social Media, Reimagine the Internet,
May 12, https://knightcolumbia.org/events/reimagine-the-internet

* Book launch for Aminder Dhaliwal's Cyclopedia Exotica (Indigo), May
12, https://www.crowdcast.io/e/udbva8py/register

* Seize the Means of Computation, Ryerson Centre for Free Expression,
May 19,

* Privacy Without Monopoly, Northsec, May 20,

* In conversation with David Dayen (Second Life Book Club), Jun 4,

Recent appearances:

* Can Antitrust Laws Destroy Surveillance Capitalism? (Majority Report)

* In conversation with John Scalzi at the Gaithersburg Book Festival

* Hexapodia XIII with J Bradford De Long and Noah Smith

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

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a
(print edition:
(signed copies:

* "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:

* The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics,
Beacon Press 2022

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provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link
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"*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla*" -Joey "Accordion
Guy" DeVilla

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