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Grandma the murderer

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John Reed thinks his grandma poisoned a number of her relatives over many years. Maybe.

But here's the thing: You don't want to believe your grandmother is poisoning you. You know that she loves you -- there's no doubt of that -- and she's so marvelously grandmotherly and charming. And you know that she would never want to poison you. So despite your better judgment, you eat the food until you've passed out so many times that you can't keep doubting yourself. Eventually, we would arrive for holidays at Grandma's with groceries and takeout, and she'd seem relieved that we wouldn't let her touch our plates. By then, her eyesight was starting to go, so she wouldn't notice the layer of crystalline powder atop that fancy lox she was giving you.

So the question became: How did we explain to guests, outsiders, that they shouldn't eat grandma's food? One time, maybe on Passover, my brother brought his new girlfriend, an actress. Grandma had promised not to prepare anything, and it seemed she'd kept her word, so we didn't mention the poisoning thing to the girlfriend, but after we'd eaten lunch, Grandma came out of the kitchen with these oatmeal raisin cookies that looked terrible. They were bulbous, like the baking soda had gone haywire. My brother's girlfriend ate two of them, maybe out of politeness. We looked on, aghast. She had a rehearsal in the city, but she passed out on the couch and missed it.

Tags: crime   food   John Reed   murder
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AdamJacobMuller
1324 days ago
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Headline of the Week

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Speaking of patents, this piece for GigaOm by Jeff John Roberts raised an eyebrow. Headline: “Google Sues to Protect Android Device Makers From Apple-Backed Patent Hell”.

First, it’s Rockstar whom Google is fighting — a consortium backed by Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, and others. But given that Apple apparently put up $2.6 billion of the $4.5 billion for the Nortel patents that Rockstar now owns, “Apple-backed” is arguably fair. But “patent hell”? This is simply the U.S. patent system at work. There’s nothing egregious or extraordinary about Rockstar’s lawsuits against Google and Android OEMs.

Then, here’s the opening:

Google has filed a new lawsuit to challenge an Apple-backed consortium known as Rockstar that is using dubious patents to threaten its partners and customers in the mobile device industry.

Nothing in Roberts’s piece even attempts to justify the word “dubious” here. And he fails to address the elephant in the room: Google itself bid over $3 billion for these same patents — $3.14159 billion, to be exact, because Google’s executives and lawyers are such a fun-loving, clever bunch — which suggests that Google doesn’t actually consider these patents the least bit “dubious”.

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AdamJacobMuller
1635 days ago
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These companies would argue (and I think I agree) that the patents exist more for protection against other litigation than for litigation sake.


All of these companies obviously have interests and products to protect and having a large patent portfolio is just as useful for defense as it is for offense (perhaps even more useful).

I think what distinguishes a patent troll company from someone just trying to protect their interests is their position and support of patent reform. A patent troll company obviously likes the status quo, a company that needed to spend all that money to protect themselves against litigation (a kind of insurance, perhaps) is obviously going to favor reform.
kyounger
1634 days ago
That's pretty reasonable.
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aaronwe
1635 days ago
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The piece is definitely written from a starting assumption that software patents are dubious overall. That said, I'd call this quote from the lawsuit (via the article) a reasonable attempt to justify the word: "Rockstar produces no products and practices no patents. Instead, Rockstar employs a staff of engineers in Ontario, Canada, who examine other companies’ successful products to find anything that Rockstar might use to demand and extract licenses to its patents under threat of litigation."

Sounds dubious to me.
Denver
the7roy
1635 days ago
Strawman
kyounger
1635 days ago
Not a strawman. That's a pretty well-accepted definition of patent troll.
aaronwe
1635 days ago
Also bogus is Gruber's assertion that if Google is willing to pay for something, it must not be dubious. You might think the way your tax dollars are being spent is dubious, but you'll pay taxes anyway, because you don't want to face the consequences of not paying. It's not a value judgment on what you're spending money on, it's an acknowledgment of fiscal (and legal) reality.
AdamJacobMuller
1635 days ago
"Rockstar produces no products and practices no patents" isn't exactly fair, don't you have to consider that Rockstar is a consortium of companies that do produce products. Seems like an important distinction from true patent troll companies that exist solely for the purpose of suing people. That all said, I totally agree the patent system is a complete disaster and needs to be reformed to prevent the need for entities like Rockstar to exist and to prevent the ability for companies like lodsys to exist.
aaronwe
1635 days ago
Yes, but Rockstar's patents didn't come from any of the companies that own it. They were sold off as part of the Nortel bankruptcy. It's not like Apple and Microsoft got together to pool a bunch of their own inventions. They bought a bunch of "inventions" (not products) and gave them to a company that does exist solely for the purpose of suing people. How is that not a patent troll?
the7roy
1634 days ago
I don't disagree with you on the dubious nature of Rockstar. That's the whole reason I say your original comment is a straw man. Your follow up comment is more to the point, so I appreciate your implicit correction to your original fallacy. I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but you seem to have some intelligence and I'd rather hear that than the noise you usually contribute.

Silk Road fallout

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With Silk Road kingpin Ross Ulbricht in custody, one imagines that a whole lot of his former customers are feeling a bit nervous right about now. And they should be. Buyers and sellers are starting to get arrested.

Charles Thompson might be a little nervous as well. As he explains:

In February of 2013, I decided to order one gram of MDMA from Silk Road because I wanted to write an essay on whether it really was that easy to click a few buttons and have a package of Schedule I substances arrive at your door a week later.

It was that easy. And that's the bad news. From The Morning News: My Brief, Binding Road.

Tags: Charles ThompsoncrimedrugsRoss Ulbricht
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AdamJacobMuller
1712 days ago
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New Trailer for Sundance Selected Abortion Documentary 'After Tiller'

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After Tiller

Though the subject of abortion is a hotly debated topic, there aren't many parties who argue in favor of third-trimester abortions, a task that is only practiced by four doctors in the United States, following the killing of the infamous Dr. George Tiller. All of these doctors are former colleagues of Tiller's and claim an allegiance to their patients and any of their needs. Now the documentary After Tiller, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival provides information on these doctors' lives and the stance they have taken in their job about this controversial topic. But it's up to to audiences to decide how they feel in the end. Watch! ›››

Continue reading New Trailer for Sundance Selected Abortion Documentary 'After Tiller'

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AdamJacobMuller
1726 days ago
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Fantastic Fest 2013: Randy Moore's Impossible 'Escape from Tomorrow'

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Escape from Tomorrow

Fact 1: Writer/director Randy Moore shot his feature film debut, Escape from Tomorrow, at both Disneyland and Disney World without permission or permits. Fact 2: The Walt Disney Company hasn't said a word about what Moore has done, and his movie, thought to only be a Sundance one-off, is going to see the light of day. And thus we have the strange, surreal story of a family man's mid-life crisis in the happiest place on Earth. Escape from Tomorrow is nowhere near a masterpiece, but the sheer ambition on making what can be described as an "impossible film" is undeniable. Walt Disney's frozen head may even be proud. ›››

Continue reading Fantastic Fest 2013: Randy Moore's Impossible 'Escape from Tomorrow'

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AdamJacobMuller
1726 days ago
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Abolish the NSA

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We have reached a point where nearly everyone can agree that the NSA has overreached on some margin. Where you draw the line depends upon you point of view—whether it was the broad surveillance overseen only by a secret court that did it, or lying to that court and the public repeatedly, or intentionally crippling the security protecting the enormous amount of economic activity conducted over the Internet—a very broad set of perspectives is likely to find something wrong here. What can we do to roll back this aggressive expansion of the surveillance state, and to lower the probability of it happening again in the near future? The best answer is the simplest one: abolish the NSA. Abolish it, and create an easy mechanism for abolishing agencies like it in the future.

Institutions matter. Bruce Schneier recently pointed out that we never managed to reign in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI—Hoover simply died. In his case, it turned out that all the practical knowledge and clout came from the man himself, rather than the institution. In the case of the modern NSA, the institution itself is what lends its leaders power, and not the other way around—their death or retirement are unlikely to bring us any better outcomes. The NSA has been doing this sort of thing for most of its sixty year history.

Public institutions, no less than the institutions of the marketplace and civil society, are emergent phenomena. The NSA is ostensibly under the umbrella of the Department of Defense, but it has long since grown into a fairly independent entity. Its leaders from the beginning have faced constraints in the form of budgets, chains of authority, Congress, and the courts. But just as entrepreneurs are capable of growing a business from an operation run out of a basement to an international conglomerate, so too are agency leaders capable of working the system to build up the power, clout, and practical knowledge of their organization.

In short, every time we create a new public organization which its own budget and leadership with a certain set of discretion, we are playing the lottery on how powerful an institution we will end up with. lottery. With the NSA, the citizens of America—and indeed of much of the world—have decidedly lost that lottery, and it’s time we took action to dispense with that practical knowledge and power.

Even if you believe in the importance of the NSA’s mission, there is no reason why a specialized agency is needed to pursue it. We have too many intelligence agencies as it is—just increase the signal intelligence responsibilities of the other ones. But if you insist on having a specialized agency, we would still be better off abolishing the NSA and starting from scratch, with an entirely new leadership, than with simply reforming the existing institution. Institutions have weight, they have inertia; as in most human affairs, preferential attachment is at work. This means that the last infraction makes the next one more probable.

But by that same logic, if we abolish the NSA today, it makes it more likely that we will abolish the next agency to cross the line in this manner. Moreover, we do not have to abolish them willy-nilly; it can be done in a way that makes the next abolition yet more likely. Ideally, we could pass a law that called for congress to abolish any institution deemed to have either outlived its purpose or to have crossed a legal or ethical boundary, and make it so that a simple majority is sufficient to move forward with the abolition.

Most of the dialogue I have seen surrounding the recent set of revelations seems to have focused on the shock of the audacity of what the NSA has done. Where change is discussed, it tends to be focused on mild reforms, perhaps going so far as to call for overturning the Patriot Act. But this is not nearly enough. We need to think in terms of institutions and in terms of what changes are going to have a meaningful impact on the probabilities of a range of bad scenarios moving forward. After getting away with overreach to the extent that it has, dealing with mild reform in the face of having their activities completely exposed is just as likely to embolden the NSA as anything else. Get rid of them entirely—do away with the decades of accumulated institutional know-how that they’ve refined into a weapon to use against us.

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adamgurri
1737 days ago
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nuke it
New York, NY
AdamJacobMuller
1727 days ago
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