[Plura-list] Newsom's California fiber dream; The S&L crisis perfected finance crime; Big Pharma's vicious battle against universal covid vaccination

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Sat May 15 13:21:09 EDT 2021


Next Weds (5/19), I'm doing a talk called "Seize the Means of
Computation," at the Ryerson Centre for Free Expression:


And on Thu (5/20), I'm doing a keynote called "Privacy Without
Monopoly," for the Northsec conference:



Today's links

* Newsom's California fiber dream: 100gbs symmetrical to every home in
the state or bust!

* The S&L crisis perfected finance crime: The best way to rob a bank is
to own one.

* Big Pharma's vicious battle against universal covid vaccination:
Ghost-writing memos for GOP "public servants."

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

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


👷🏾‍♂️ Newsom's California fiber dream

Friday morning, California Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled an audacious
budget whose crown jewel is a plan to pump $7b into medium-haul fiber
links that will link every community in the state, no matter how remote
or rural.


If passed - it needs a simple majority in the legislature - this will
make California home to America's most extensive state broadband
network, and reverse decades of ISP lobbying against the provision of
modern telcoms infrastructure to replace 20th century copper lines.

The plan uses state money to bring fiber to the town limits, then
creates a pool of low-cost, long-term loans - repayable over 30-40 years
- that local governments tap to build their local fiber grids, according
to their local needs, under local management and ownership.

And, as with the electrification effort of the New Deal, the plan
creates an expert agency that can advise towns on designing those
networks and train local people on maintaining them.

This is the patient money the market won't provide. Fiber broadband
investment is future-proofed and may supply all Californians' digital
needs into the 22nd Century (!), and telcos - who balk at investments
that take a mere 10 years to pay off - don't make those bets.

Take Frontier, whose bankruptcy revealed how they chose NOT to make
$800m in profit building out rural fiber because the analysts whose
judgments controlled its share-price disapproved of long-term investment
(Frontier's execs were paid in stock).


ISP monopolists have fought with increasing desperation to prevent
Americans from accessing fiber. From fairy tales about 5G (which needs
fiber!) to fanciful ideas about satellite service (slow, asymmetrical
and unable to get any faster without repealing the laws of physics).

The truth is, we know how to make fast, future-proof data networks: fiber.


Americans pay some of the highest charges for some of the lowest
broadband speeds in the rich world, and California is among the worst US
states. Newsom's plan will sweep California into the 21st century, and
not just the big cities - the *whole* state.

Asia's rich countries - China, South Korea - have laid a billion fiber
lines. The world is already designing applications for symmetrical
gigabit connections and beyond. Without fiber, California doesn't just
face a digital divide - it faces a *speed chasm*.


👷🏾‍♂️ The S&L crisis perfected finance crime

When the Great Financial Crisis hit, suddenly there was a lot of talk
about the Savings & Loan crises of the 1980s and 90s. I was barely a
larvum then, and all I knew about S&Ls I learned from half-understood
dialog in comics like Dykes to Watch Out For and Bloom County.

As the GFC shattered the lives of millions, I turned to books like
Michael W. Hudson's THE MONSTER to understand what was going on, and
learned that the very same criminals who masterminded the S&L crisis
were behind the GFC gigafraud:


Hudson's work forever changed my views of Orange County, CA, a region I
knew primarily through Kim Stanley Robinson's magesterial utopian novel
PACIFIC EDGE, not as the white-hot center of the global financial crime


That realization resurfaced today as I read the transcript of UMKC Law
and Econ prof Bill Black's interview with Paul Jay on The Analysis, when
Black says, "Orange County is the financial fraud capital of the world,
not America, the world."


Black is well-poised to tell the tale of the S&L crisis. He served as a
bank regulator during the crisis, and his notes on the "Keating 5"
meeting were the turning point for public and Congressional attention to
the crime:


In 1998, he finished a criminology doctorate at UC Irvine (in Orange
County!) on the S&L frauds, entitled "The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to
Own One," a title he used for his 2005 book (updated in 2013) on the


The S&L crisis shares a lot in common with today's financial crimes, but
it had one key difference: ultimately (with Black's help), more than
30,000 criminal referrals were made against the bankers involved in the
crisis, and more than 1,000 were convicted of felonies.

The story of the S&L crisis is both a roadmap for holding finance
criminals to account (a roadmap we threw away and forgot about) and a
roadmap for committing gross acts of financial crime with impunity
(which the finance sector studied carefully and keeps close its heart).

Black calls finance a "crimogenic environment," in where deregulated
institutions become pathogenic, "like a cesspool that produces lots of
bacteria and viruses and such and causes lots of infections."

The S&L crisis began with the Carter-Ronald deregulatory blitz. Both
presidents assumed that because S&Ls (a kind of bank) in California and
Texas were doing really well after deregulation, that meant CA and TX
had nailed it and their example could be expanded nationwide.

In reality, the rosiness of the California and Texas S&Ls' books was the
result of "control fraud," when a person who controls the bank is
stealing from it.

Black likens this to a homeowner who commits insurance fraud - an
ultimate insider, who knows the code to de-activate the alarm system and
also knows just where the most valuable items are kept.

The major control fraudster of the S&L crisis was Charles Keating, a
"top 100 granter" who was among the 100 highest donors to Reagan and
Bush I. Keating has stolen a vast fortune from Lincoln Savings, and he
was able to trade some of that loot for political cover.

Keating hired Alan Greenspan (!) to lobby for him, and Greenspan
suborned five senators (the "Keating Five") who threatened regulators
with dire consequences if they didn't stop digging into S&Ls.

This was also a priority for Reagan, whose plan for vast tax-cuts for
the wealthy might stumble if it the public found out that the US
government needed billions to bail out these walking-dead fraud zombies.

Reagan turned to Ed Gray, a PR guy, to run the S&L operation. Gray was
hand-picked by the S&L's trade association, and they told him flat out
that he was there to make S&Ls look good - not to blow them up by
investigating their balance-sheets.

The problem is that Gray - who was a hardcore Reaganite partisan and
deregulation true believer - was honest, and the fraud was *so obvious*.
The Texas S&Ls were originating fraudulent loans to build housing tracts
that didn't exist.

When Gray went out to look at these building sites, he just found
endless rows of desolate concrete pads - he called them "Martian landing
pads" - and abandoned ruins. These were the collateral on billions in loans!

Gray is a believer in sound finance, and this is undeniable evidence
that deregulation has led to catastrophically unsound practices, so he
starts imposing regulation on the S&L sector.

Keating pulls strings to sideline Gray, but Gray keeps pushing. Keating
gets the leadership of both parties in the House to sponsor legislation
ordering him to stop. He keeps going.

Donald Regan - an ex-Marine who went from CEO of Merrill Lynch to
Reagan's Chief of Staff - leans hard on Gray, but Gray won't stop.

The Office of Management and Budget swears out a *criminal complaint*
against Black for closing too many S&Ls. He won't stop.

They go after Gray's guy in Texas, Joe Selby, a former acting
Comptroller of the Currency with impeccable credentials, demanding that
Gray fire Selby. Democratic Speaker Jim Wright says Selby should be
fired because he's gay. Gray won't budge.

Homophobia turns out to be a powerful weapon for criminal impunity.
Keating sued Black and the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco,
claiming the bank's gay employees had conspired against Keating because
Keating was an evangelical Christian.

Gray took finance crime seriously. He had two priorities: one, eject
anyone committing fraud from working at any financial institution, and;
two, criminally and civilly charge those former execs and take back all
the money they stole and ruin them financially.

Black and colleagues took this to heart, making thousands of criminal
referrals. When law enforcement refused to act on these, they started
publishing their referrals, and newspapers published stories about how
none of these criminal referrals were leading to prosecutions.

Gray eventually gets sidelined by a "team player," the disgraceful Danny
Wall, who studiously ignores all the crime that has been uncovered. But
then Bush I replaces him with Tim Ryan, whose marching orders are to
root out finance crime.

Ryan ultimately made over 30,000 criminal referrals over the S&L
scandal, and brought prosecutions against elite criminals, including
Neil Bush, the son of the President of the United States of America.

Black: "Tim Ryan sacrificed his career for the public knowingly...he’s
been unemployable since."

And as for Bush I, his first major legislative priority became the
removal of financial crime from the jurisdiction of independent
watchdogs, so this would never happen again.

This is as far as the interview gets (it's part one of nine!), but it's
already answering some of the most important questions the Great
Financial Crisis raised, like, "Why didn't any of the bankers who stole
trillions from the world go to jail?"

Big Pharma's vicious battle against universal covid vaccination (permalink)

Last week, the Biden administration broke with decades of US policy when
it supported a patent waiver on covid vaccines. It was the first time in
generations that the US Trade Rep acted on behalf of the people, rather
than corporate greed.


Taking steps to make vaccines universally and immediately available
isn't just the right thing to do - vaccine apartheid is slow-motion
genocide - it's also the smart thing to do. Billions of unvaccinated
people present quadrillions of chances for the virus to mutate.

Don't listen to the unscientific claims that viruses "tend to become
less virulent" over time. Remember, the mechanism by which super-lethal
strains go extinct is that they *kill all their hosts* (that's us, folks).

Likewise, ignore the racist lie - peddled by morally bankrupt corporate
shills like Howard Dean - that brown people in poor countries can't make


Making mRNA vaccines is *miraculously* efficient, requiring less than 1%
of the capital and materials of conventional vaccine production and less
than 10% of the time to retool for new vaccines:


The pharma industry knows this, but it's willing to make a bet that it
can outrun vaccine resistance, rolling the dice on the human race to
further its shareholders' fortunes. For months, they've been
carpet-bombing DC with anti-waiver lobbyists.


When the Biden admin sided with human survival over profit, it sent
shockwaves through corporate America. Even Bill Gates - who more-or-less
singlehandedly killed every effort to make a universal, public domain
vaccine - changed his tune.


But pharma isn't done. They have redoubled their efforts to prevent the
Global South from making its own vaccines, even if that means that the
2.5 billion poorest people on Earth won't be vaccinated until 2023/4.

Writing in The Intercept, Lee Fang reports on leaked documents from
pharma lobbyists and powerful lawmakers that show how influence-peddlers
are going to war to defend the right of multinational corporations to
risk our species in the name of higher returns to capital.


Take the memo that Jared Michaud of PHRMA circulated to colleagues on
Wednesday, identifying Buddy Carter (R-GA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) as
the chief water-carriers for the industry's agenda, describing a letter
that uses anti-China rhetoric to oppose the waiver.

Michaud also suggests that Senator Tom Scott (R-SC) might be biddable
and serve pharma's interests in the Senate, "but this is not yet final."

Michaud, meanwhile, laid out a set of talking points to circulate to
lawmakers. These lean heavily on the idea that Chinese and Russian
companies will gain unfair advantages over US firms and implies that
China has tricked poor countries into fronting for its interests.

Another talking points memo, marked CONFIDENTIAL and identified in its
PDF metadata as originating with PHRMA's Meg Van Etten, makes a series
of nonsensical arguments about vaccines depending on exclusive rights,
conspiculously failing to mention billions in public subsidies.

Taken together, these internal PHRMA lobbying memos bear a striking
resemblance to the letter GOP lawmakers sent to Biden. It's a rare
glimpse into the direct pipeline industry has into officialdom, whereby
they get to serve as ghost-writers for our "public servants."

The pharma industry spends $24m+/year lobbying Congress and is a leading
source of campaign contributions. They have been on the wrong side of
history since the AIDS epidemic, where they led the fight to punish
Nelson Mandela for demanding access to anti-retroviral medicine.

The scariest thing about pharma's influence isn't how much money they
spend, it's about how kack-handed and infantile their action is.

I'll never forget the smirk on the PHRMA rep's face at WIPO when
literature from public interest groups went missing and turned up hidden
in the toilets.


Running around screaming "China! China! China!" is just...idiotic. I
mean, some very smart people with doctorates in chemistry and related
fields work for the pharmaceutical industry.

But clearly, when pharma sends people to DC, they're not sending their
best. They're sending liars and cheats. They're sending genocidal
maniacs. And some, I assume, are good people.

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Vegas outcall services phreak each others'

#15yrsago Gmail downgraded, no longer cracks PDFs

#10yrsago Walter Jon Williams uses pirate ebooks to rescue his backlist

#5yrsago Algorithmic cruelty: when Gmail adds your harasser to your

#1yrago Tear gas ice-cream

#1yrago Whistleblower warns of massive mortgage fraud

#1yrago A people's vaccine

#1yrago Google's GDPR reckoning

#1yrago Understanding Qanon

Colophon (permalink)

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

Currently writing:

* Breach, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. Friday's
progress: 352 words (352 words total).

* 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:

* 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,

* Book launch for Terry Miles's Rabbits (Book Soup), Jun 7,

Upcoming appearances:

* 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,

* Book launch for Terry Miles's Rabbits (Book Soup), Jun 7,

Recent appearances:

* Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans

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

* In conversation with John Scalzi at the Gaithersburg Book Festival

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

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