Pluralistic: 05 May 2021

Today's links

The cover of McJob zine #2, edited by Julee Peezlee, 1993/4.

Stimmies killed the McJob (permalink)

A recurring viral genre during the lockdown is photos of signs on the front doors of low-waged establishments (especially fast food restaurants) asking customers to have patience with long wait-times brought on by staffing shortages "because no one wants to work."

These signs go on to claim that "overgenerous" unemployment benefits in the Biden stimulus have encouraged work-shyness among the lazy slobs of the working class. It's a complaint that's been picked up and amplified by the US Chamber of Commerce.

They're not entirely wrong.

After all, the subtext of these signs is, "Our pay is so low, and our working conditions are so awful, that only the truly desperate would do this job. In forestalling that desperation, the federal government has deprived us of our workforce."

40 years of wage stagnation and the Clinton-and-onwards destruction of the social safety net has left workers so desperate they continue to do their jobs, even as their employers stole billions from them, with virtually no penalties for wage-theft:

The lack of any meaningful prosecutions for wage-theft created the environment in which a restaurateur tortured a developmentally disabled man in order to keep him working 100 hours/week for a decade without any pay at all:

It won't surprise you to learn that the overwhelming majority of the victims of wage theft and other employer abuses (up to and including forced labor – that is, modern slavery) are Black and brown.

The complaint that people receiving the anemic stimulus – less than a $15 minimum wage – find them preferable to working for employers whose companies received publicly funded bailouts and mass infusions from the private equity sector leaves out the obvious, important point.

Namely, if no one wants to work for you at the wage you're offering, maybe try increasing the offer? The fast-food sector already had the highest turnover of any US industry before the pandemic – maybe that's a hint about the quality of the jobs?

States where the tipped minimum wage is still legal have restaurants that pay their workforce $2.13/hour. Fast-food workers who receive no tips – who are forced to wear pocketless uniforms to prevent them from collecting tips from customers who offer – can be paid this wage.

If a company can't afford to pay its workers enough to survive – to feed, clothe and shelter themselves – then it's not a business, it's a publicly subsized, badly run jobs program operated by a fast operator who enriches themselves at public expense.

The stimulus – and a minimum wage, and a federal jobs guarantee through the GND – will 100% cause these "businesses" to cease operation.

As the noted socialist Warren Buffett is fond of saying, "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked."

(Image: The cover of McJob zine #2, edited by Julee Peezlee, 1993/4.)

A Star Wars-esque 'hyperspace' effect with an mNRA molecule at its center.

MRNA vaccines and Clarke's Law (permalink)

Pluralistic is my mutli-channel publishing effort – a project to push the limits of POSSE (post own site, share everywhere) that allows me to maintain control over my work while still meeting my audience where they are, on platforms whose scale makes them hard to rely on.

Every day, I write 1-5 essays and syndicate them over Twitter, Tumblr, Mastodon and email, with the canonical link at, a CC-BY licensed WordPress site with no tracking, data-collection or ads.

Now, I've added another channel: Medium, where I'm part of a group of paid writers who contribute a mix of original material that's exclusive to the platform and syndicated material from elsewhere.

I was delighted and honored to be invited to the program by editorial director Jon Gluck and I'm happy to be working with Megan Morrone – whom I've known since her Twit days – as my editor. I've been syndicating my Pluralistic posts there and it's been going great.

Yesterday, I published my first Medium-original post: "Manufacturing mRNA vaccines is surprisingly straightforward (despite what Bill Gates thinks)," which discusses vaccine apartheid and the covid vaccine patent exemption petition at the WTO.

The post breaks down an amazing scholarly article on mRNA vaccine manufacture, “Rapid development and deployment of high‐volume vaccines for pandemic response” (DOI: 10.1002.amp2.10060), from the Journal of Advanced Manufacturing and Processing.

The authors – a mix of public health, chemical engineering and vaccine specialists from Imperial College and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative – describe the results of their modeling of new mRNA vaccine factories, based on the experience of ramping up covid vaccine facilities.

They base their findings – contrasting mRNA vaccine production with conventional vaccine production – on an open-access Superpro Designer model (available at Github).





Seriously. Like Clarke's Third Law/indistinguishable from magic Amazing. How amazing? Well. compared to conventional vaccine production, mRNA factories are:

  • 99 – 99.9% smaller

  • 95 – 99.7% cheaper

  • 1,000% faster

If you convert a single closet in a conventional factory to mRNA production, it will make more doses than the rest of the factory combined. Only part of the factory needs to be a high-spec cleanroom facility, and the rest can be cheaper and more easily maintained.

Spend $20m to build one of these microfactories, install a 5l bioreactor, and, for $100m/year, it will produce one billion vaccine doses.

As I wrote in my Medium piece:


These aren't performance gains in GPUs or SSDs. These are gains in nanoscale chemistry producing precision medicine for human consumption!

Now, that said, there are some caveats. You still have to figure out testing, materials and distribution (of course).

But even there, it's easy to see how these vast reductions in cost, scaling and logistics will help – from producing medicines for trials more quickly to reducing cold-chain logistics by making vaccines closer to the people who will receive them.

Every pandemic ends with a lot of serious chin-stroking and demands to "learn some lessons" and "prepare for the next one," but this never seems to happen.

As the JAMP authors say, the next pandemic – or even epidemic – will require a very fast rampup of vaccine production, as will any vaccine breakthroughs for treating current endemic viruses.

The production modeling they do here suggests that we actually can prepare for The Next One.

And as I say in my Medium piece, this is also how we can end the current vaccine apartheid and avert the next one.

(Image: Cnbrb, CC BY-SA; Quapan, CC BY, modified)

This day in history (permalink)

#10yrsago Shannon’s Law: a story about bridging Faerie and the mundane world with TCP-over-magic

#10yrsago Neil Gaiman responds to Minnesota Republican House Leader who called him a “pencil-necked geek” and a “thief”

#5yrsago MEP tours the farcical viewing conditions for the TTIP text

#5yrsago Amid education funding emergency, Washington State gives Boeing, Microsoft $1B in tax breaks

#1yrago A federal jobs guarantee

#1yrago What "writing rules" actually mean

#1yrago Teen Vogue on socialist feminism

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (

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.

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