Could you patent the sun?

This is the only humane thing in the world to do

Thanks for being here. The next two issues of Hell World will be paid-only including a dispatch from Tennessee on their Republican lawmakers’ penchant for passing goofy stunt bills to own the libs and doing nothing much else to actually help people as well as an interview with a longtime Cambridge, MA bartender running for city council about how Covid has impacted his industry and how the once vibrant and diverse city has become unaffordable for anyone but the tech rich who are flocking there to avail themselves of all the culture that barely exists anymore.

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I mentioned in here briefly the other day that I had contracted a journalist in Delhi for a piece on what’s happening in his country as the number of cases and deaths from Covid continue to surge to record highs. “India's official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while deaths officially have passed 220,000,” ABC News reports. “India’s official average of newly confirmed cases per day has soared from over 65,000 on April 1 to about 370,000, and deaths per day have officially gone from over 300 to more than 3,000.”

As bad as they are those numbers are likely well under-counted most seem to think.

After a good back and forth on the scope of the piece and so on the type of things you hash out when someone is writing something for you he went silent for a few days. Finally he wrote back. I’m sorry he told me but he’s been scrambling to try to find oxygen for a family member who’s become sick. Obviously the piece isn’t important I told him. He didn’t reply again after that.

I bring that up again because I was thinking about it this morning as I read this piece from the Washington Post editorial board and this one from the New York Times on an effort being pushed by India and South Africa and some Democrats here to eliminate patent protections for the vaccines. The World Trade Organization who oversees such decisions is set to meet today and tomorrow.

The Post writes on the concept of a freely shared vaccine:

The goal is noble, but the demand is more slogan than solution. What the world needs are political leaders prepared to make hard, emergency decisions to stop viral transmission, such as immediate lockdowns, and renewed leadership from the United States and other rich nations to help accelerate global vaccine production and sharing, which will save lives later. 

“Share the vaccine” just not the intellectual property required to actually share it they say.

“It is true that pharmaceutical companies stand to profit handsomely from monopolies on individual patented vaccines,” they go on then immediately brush it off as if that itself isn’t the singular issue here. Some already massively profitable companies’ ability to further profit in the midst of untold carnage is the entire story it’s not a fucking aside.

“It is also true that stripping away their intellectual property now could discourage future innovation,” they say next as if that’s just a given truth that needs no further interrogation.

Allowing that that may even be true how do you not stop to pull back and examine that statement further? How do you not call that what it is besides industrialized murder for the sake of greed?

Then comes the real fucking kick in the balls:

“The U.S. government spent some $10 billion in Operation Warp Speed to help that effort, among other things, but did not require companies to turn over their intellectual property to the government — or to share it.”

WE ALREADY PAID FOR THIS SHIT. AND SOMEHOW CONTINUING TO LET PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES PROFIT OFF OF OUR INVESTMENT IS IMPERATIVE???

Sorry for the all caps but I haven’t been this fucking pissed off in a long time.

Then they go on to assert much like the Times piece does as well that giving away the IP to make the vaccines won’t matter because all these other dumb fuck countries are too backwards to even make them in the first place.

The Times writes:

Having the recipe for a vaccine does not mean a drugmaker could produce it, certainly not quickly, and opponents argue that such a move would harm innovation and entrepreneurship — and damage America’s pharmaceutical industry. Instead, they say, Mr. Biden can address global needs in other ways, like pressing companies that hold patents to donate vast quantities of vaccine or sell it at cost.

So the consensus seems to be that it’s ok if we pressure Pharma to do charity out of the goodness of their hearts but don’t force them to do something that might legitimately affect their bottom line. I gotta go to the fucking hospital man. Is there a vaccine yet for a case of terminal red ass?

“For the industry, this would be a terrible, terrible precedent,” said Geoffrey Porges, an analyst for the investment bank SVB Leerink,” because of course we need to hear from an investment bank that specializes in healthcare on this matter. For balance you see. Why not ask the fucking virus itself for comment. I would almost respect its opinion more. At least it’s only trying to survive not profit.

“It would be intensively counterproductive, in the extreme, because what it would say to the industry is: ‘Don’t work on anything that we really care about, because if you do, we’re just going to take it away from you.’”

The Guardian writes of Delhi right now: “The city’s crematoriums and graveyards struggled to cope with the sheer number of bodies, running out of both space and wood for funeral pyres. Relatives of the dead sat with bodies for up 20 hours outside some crematoriums waiting to perform the last rites on their loved ones.”

We’re just going to take it away from you.

What was it again that Jonas Salk said about his polio vaccine:

Edward Morrow: Who owns the patent on this vaccine?

Dr. Jonas Salk: Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent….Could you patent the sun?

And what was it again that then candidate Joe Biden himself said about waving IP rights on a hypothetical vaccine when speaking with Ady Barkan?

Ady Barkan: If the U.S. discovers a vaccine first will you commit to sharing that technology with other countries? And will you ensure there are no patents to stand in the way of other countries and companies mass producing those life saving vaccines?

Joe Biden: Absolutely. Positively. This is the only humane thing in the world to do.

Sorry I can’t think straight right now. None of that even counts as the most despicable and cynical statement I’ve heard in the past couple days on the importance of protecting Pharma profits at the expense of untold numbers of dead around the world. That came from Democrat Chris Coons (vote blue baby!) who invoked the storming of the Capitol and Sputnik for some reason to explain why we need to protect our big medicine boys’ IP. Just some insanely imperialistic and jingoistic justifications for looking the other way as the world dies around us.

From the Post:

But other lawmakers who oppose the waiver warn that loosening the protections would harm the nation on the global stage. Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a close ally of Biden, has even invoked the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol among the reasons to protect patents, saying it revealed the need to unite the country.

“All of this is a wake-up call for us that we need to have another Sputnik-like moment of reinvestment in American innovation and competitiveness,” Coons added at a think tank event last week. “A central part of being successful in this competition is continuing with our constitutionally created protected-property right of a patent.”

Coons’ stance on Pharma IP won him praise in some curious places including the opinion page of Wall Street fucking Journal.

The Covid vaccine thieves.

The WSJ piece is not much different than the Post or Times ones to be clear they are just somewhat more honest about saying what they mean directly.

The Delaware senator you will not be surprised to hear ranked 16th amongst all members of Congress for taking blood money from the pharmaceutical industry during the 2020 election cycle. He was first among all senate Democrats.

A question I often ask in here and I would like to know right now is how is this not murder? I wrote on this general concept of passive detached process murder earlier this year:

The whole thing is a stupid game like when kids annoy their siblings by saying “I'm not touching you” while poking them with a stick. The idea is that as long as there's a buffer between you and the violence you are calling for through systemic means then your soul and professional reputation can remain clean…

Almost every single utterance from a Republican (and plenty from Democrats) about their intended policy is an attempt to set violence against real people into motion by someone else's hands which is ok for some reason. Arguing that we can’t afford to send out $2,000 checks a month is in fact calling for people to die it’s just said with the cover of the savvy politics insider….

Technically denying life saving and desperately needed money to people during a pandemic isn't killing them in the same way that shooting them would be it's just inserting the ball into the Rube Goldberg machine of pain that provides an exonerating and distancing sleight of hand between cause and effect. Invoking “the deficit” is just saying “let them die” in more acceptable terms.

It is morally repugnant when we do this to our own citizens and it is morally repugnant when we do this to people anywhere else around the world. I’d ask how these people sleep at night but as far as I understand sociopaths are often very well rested.


Unlike me that is. I can’t sleep for shit.

This piece I wrote for the latest print issue of Protean Mag has been published online. Back when I wrote it I thought we were going to do a much worse job than we did rolling out the vaccine (in America anyway). I can’t believe something actually went a little better than planned.

Anyway check it out. It would probably count as “one of the good ones” in here imo.

Every time someone dies now we all think the same thing right someone tells you about someone you know or used to know like my old friend group chat told me about a couple of our teachers who are gone now and you go was it COVID? I don’t know why it matters. I guess it doesn’t. It’s like the old thing where knowing someone’s name gives you a certain power over them like in curses and shit. One likes to know the name of a person’s killer because it demystifies the unfathomable to a certain extent. 4,000 people died from COVID the other day in the U.S. I suppose knowing that doesn’t make me feel better or more in control of anything so never mind what I just said. 

That Pavement song doesn’t particularly go anywhere it sort of leans this way and that in the wind the way Pavement songs do but the Bush song is a perpetual momentum machine that cuts right to the heart of things the type of song you put on when you want to run up a hill slightly faster than you might normally run up that particular hill. Now I have Kate Bush (no relation) in my head. I guess that’s why they always play it at the beginning of football games at kickoff to get the players excited to smash into each other. It would be a lot funnier if they played something off Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain though.

Michelle says I breathe weird when I’m sleeping but I have no way of determining if that’s true or not. I suppose I could set up one of those video cameras the ghost in the movies kills you on while you’re in bed but I don’t want to invite any more surveillance into my life than is strictly necessary. I’ve been having trouble sleeping throughout all of this but I suppose that is not exactly a unique set of circumstances. Every night when I jolt out of dreams about people I don’t have access to anymore when the ghost slaps me awake I go goddamnit and I roll over and I open up the laptop and I drag down the bookmark tab and I click on one of the “rain and thunder with ocean waves” videos I like and I try to sync myself up with its rhythms and a lot of times it works but a lot of times I just end up reading the comments underneath them from other people laying there wherever else in the world who can’t sleep talking about how good a job the video does at putting them to sleep. “Everyone, just stop typing and sleep!” one I just read says. That’s good advice for a lot of situations. I just read a guy on Twitter talking about sleeping and he said, “Maybe you gotta forgive yourself for the part of the year when you sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep.” And then he said, “My poor body just wants me to outlive the winter, and I get so mad at it for that.”

I wrote about the pervasive “no one wants to work at restaurants” anymore lie yesterday for Discontents. It went like this.

By now you will have digested and deposited the saga of the very mad chef Andrew Gruel, proprietor of some chain or other in California, who claimed, somewhat infamously on Twitter the other day, that he was having trouble hiring dishwashers for $21 an hour. (Whether or not he was lying about actually offering that wage was the subject of some debate.) This episode culminated how it was always going to with an appearance on Fox News where Gruel was provided a platform to talk about how unemployment insurance has become too generous (during a pandemic lol) and that it was depleting the supply of labor for restaurants. 

“We have to decrease the amount of unemployment benefits that we're giving because there isn't a requirement that you look for work,” he told Laura Ingraham. “I've got some employees that I know who are even double dipping because they're not checking.”

He did not mention just how dangerous working in a kitchen in California has been throughout Covid.

While Gruel has become the latest figurehead of this type of management-side crying of late, it’s not only the, shall we say, more colorful restaurateurs that are on board. Republicans by and large are also very upset.

Need people to suffer and die so I can get my little roast beef treats faster.

Throughout the emergence of this narrative, a lot of media, even the ostensibly “good” outlets, as usual, have largely aligned themselves with management interests, pumping out dozens of versions of this tale in the past couple weeks. Like with police it’s not considered biased when a reporter operates as a turnstyle for ownership against workers.

There’s no one who wants work! the stories say. Has the social safety net gone too far?What does this mean for restaurants going forward? they ask. Owner of the Eating Shit and Getting Kicked in the Balls factory says he can't find anyone to work the line despite offering a robust .75 cents an hour! they cry.

One common thread among these stories is that they are almost all devoid of any worker voices. The premise that no one wants to work because the government is doing a socialism too much is not interrogated at all and passed along as true by many of the journalists covering the story. 

If anyone bothered to ask potential workers who aren’t seeking out restaurant work right now you might hear a slightly different framing. Setting aside, as if we can, the fact that we are still not fully emerged from a deadly pandemic, conditions working in restaurants even in normal times typically, to put it lightly, fucking suck shit. For servers and bartenders often times the tipped minimum wage lags well behind regular minimum wage (see a state by state break down here) and while generally speaking it’s all supposed to even out over the course of a week, perhaps the prospect of securing childcare if necessary, finding a ride which may or may not be available, and then showing up to work, masked all night, around the unmasked, in vastly less busy restaurants than usual for like two bucks an hour isn’t exactly appealing? Understandably so I’d say but then again I don’t own a restaurant. 

I don’t think the slower shifts here can be overlooked either as a huge factor. As anyone who’s waited tables will tell you, when it’s slow there’s always some fucking hero manager standing there telling you to go deep clean the entire joint for poverty wages. Time to lean time to clean they used to say in my day. Then if it’s really dead they’ll just send you home after an hour or three. Sorry! Fuck you though. Try again tomorrow. Don’t miss your shift or you’re fired. 

As for the back of the house, owners may or may not be offering higher wages than usual, but the end result is just going to be getting scheduled (randomly and differently every week) no more than 39.5 hours a week, so there’s not a chance they have to pay you anything coming close to overtime. 

I love restaurants, I worked in them for about twenty years, and I want to see them make it through this, especially the small independent ones, (although small business tyrants are sometimes the worst!) but the entire industry is exploitative and basically built on vapor and so coming out of this (fingers crossed that we are) if instead of having 100 places selling $29 broccoli in a city we have to make due with merely 50, and perhaps somewhat fewer Hardee’s locations, maybe that’s… fine.

In the meantime sorry to all the owners that some workers are suffering slightly less than usual in this one specific instance during this one year of history. I’m sure it won’t happen again. 

Since then our man Eoin Higgins has a piece on the topic out as well.

Elsewhere this week I contributed to this edition of Music Journalism Insider. I absolutely love this illustration of me in 200 years so much.


As you know by now I write about a lot of horrific medical bills in here but this one might be the worst I’ve ever seen. Burn this fucking dog shit system to the ground.


Here’s some other cool shit I just saw. It’s instructions from the government’s Ready.gov site on how to practice safe Covid practices during a mass shooting. (h/t @ashleevance).

“Do not worry about social distancing, wearing a mask, or reducing the spread of COVID-19 during an active shooter situation,” it explains. Ok. Thank you.

I was gonna say they gotta hurry up and develop a vaccine for bullets but most of us probably couldn’t afford it anyway.


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