Unless, like me, you are looking at the release dates for the next generation of gaming consoles the way a starving hyena watches an approaching gazelle that's been eating nothing but butter for weeks, perhaps you're not up on all the information coming about regarding Microsoft's next console. Actually, as I'll discuss in a moment, even if you are paying constant attention, you probably still don't know a whole lot for sure. See, after months and months of speculation on possible features of the next Xbox, Microsoft stupidly decided to not firmly address any of that speculation at the release event for the Xbox One. The most troublesome in terms of bad press have been rumors about online connection requirements and how used games would be handled. I say press, but perhaps I should rather say non-mainstream press, because it's really been the smaller blogs and citizen journalists that have produced a roundly negative buzz for the Xbox One.
You would think that in a negative and uncertain climate that's been brewing for the past several months, Microsoft would use the official release press event as a way to clear all of this up. Good answers or bad answers, it's important that the public and the press have a firm understanding on what to expect out of the console. Aren't we constantly told that uncertainty is four letter word in economics and business? That's why it's so curious that Microsoft appears to have provided very little in the way of answers and what answers it has chosen to supply have been both contradictory and confusing.
So, let's take the two issues in order. First up is rumors about online requirements.
It turns out that the detail we were murkiest about was the one Microsoft themselves are the murkiest about. The official Microsoft party line on the day the company revealed the Xbox One: "It does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the Internet."
Welcome back. I say that because I assume you just spent the past fifteen minutes rereading that last sentence over and over again trying to figure out what the hell it means. As it turns out, the key word is "always." The Xbox One will require an internet connection at certain points, but it won't need to constantly be connected to function. So, what are those certain points? Well, nobody, including Microsoft, seems to know, which is strange of them to admit since it's their nun-punching freaking product. Microsoft executive Phil Harrison told Kotaku that he "believes" a connection is required once every 24 hours. Oh, and possibly one is needed in order to play a new game for the first time. Also when you first use the console. The lack of finality in these answers is astounding, particularly coming from a Microsoft executive giving interviews at the release event. Imagine going to your local auto show and having a Ford Motor VP telling you how wonderful their new car is, but can't firmly answer any questions about its motor or how many miles-per-gallon it gets?
And with the question of used games, we do no better. Harrison told one reporter:
"We will have a system where you can take that digital content and trade a previously played game at a retail store. We're not announcing the details of that today, but we will have announced in due course."
Then told another:
"We will have a solution—we're not talking about it today—for you to be able to trade your previously-played games online."
What you immediately notice is not only the lack of any specifics to one of the major questions hanging over the console like a set of rain clouds, but even these two non-answers are different. The first talks about used games being traded at retail stores, while the second seems to mention trading games online. That'd be a huge development if true, with some kind of Microsoft online trading platform threatening GameStop and other used game retailers. Speaking of which, reports are already surfacing that Microsoft is requiring agreements limited to select retailers to actually be able to buy and sell used games. If those reports are accurate, trading games will only be possible through those select retailers and the game publisher and Microsoft will take a massive cut of the transaction, leaving retailers with very little margin. The end results of this setup will be higher prices for used games and the inability for gamers to trade games with one another.
Still, as bad as that would be, Microsoft hasn't even officially confirmed that program either. Between that uncertainty and that of online connection requirements, it's no wonder the general public hasn't been keen on the Xbox One release yet. There is a market, sadly, for the kind of walled gardens and restrictive requirements discussed above. Apple's mobile devices prove that. But where Apple officially and boisterously owns those concepts, Microsoft's opaque stance on these questions can only mute any release buzz for their new console. It's high time the company got everyone on message.
You may recall that years ago Anheuser-Busch applied for a trademark on the number 312, having bought out Goose Island Brewery, who had a beer by that name. The catch is that 312 is the area code for most of Chicago, where Goose Island was based, and that seems like a sort of funny thing to trademark. But, strange as that might seem, at least AB didn't then go around suing the pants off of anyone who used any further permutation of that number.
A lawsuit filed May 16 in U.S. District Court charged that West Sixth began selling beer, ale and brewpub services in 2012 using color, trademarks and designs "that closely resemble and are confusingly similar" to the designs used by Magic Hat for several years.
And if you look at the side-by-side comparison picture, you can see exactly what they mean. After all, Magic Hat #9's logo is maroon, yellow and orange, with a trippy stylized number 9 and a star. The offending logo from West Sixth's amber ale is brown, tan and silver, with a non-stylized number 6 merged with a circle and a star. In other words, they're almost nothing freaking alike in any way.
The only basis for the suit appears to be that 6s and 9s are kinda similar (as in opposite of one another) and there is some incorporation of a circle and a star somewhere. And that, friends, is a shitty basis for a trademark suit. Seriously, look at the picture and tell me if you could possibly confuse the two. If you say yes, there's a good chance you recently had a lobotomy.
West Sixth appears to agree.
"They're claiming that we intentionally copied their logo, and that has caused them "irreparable harm," enough that they're asking for not only damages but also all our profits up until this point (little do they know that well, as a startup company, there wasn't any, oops!)"
West Sixth logos were created by a professional design firm in Lexington called Cricket Press that has "a long history of fantastic and creative logo designs. ... Our logo contains neither a '#' nor a '9.'"
The lack of a # is actually kind of key. As West Sixth points out on its own website, the trademark in question includes the "#" sign, so the fact that their beer doesn't have it is pretty damning by itself. But, even beyond that, the focus on different numbers is just ridiculous.
Look, within the confines of a beer can or bottle, there's only so much you can do with a logo. That said, here's a fun experiment you can do at home (assuming you're of legal drinking age). Find someone who has never tried either of the Magic Hat or West Sixth beers in question. Sit that person down at a table with a case of both beers in front of them. Ask them if they are under any illusions that the two brews are distinctly different because of the logo. When they say, "Of course not, you idiot, and why did you kidnap me from the Stop & Go?!?", ask them to slam one of each beers. Rinse, repeat. Exactly how many double-slammed-beers do you think this person would have to go through before they can't tell the difference between a 6 and a 9?
If you're a government with something to hide, there are plenty of shady ways to handle Freedom of Information Act requests. You can make sure your organization is legally allowed to carry guns and simply refuse, like the NYPD. You can also make a big deal about how requests are only honored for in-state residents, as if that were the spirit of the legislation. Or, if you're as big as the federal government, you can play a sort of bureaucratic hackey-sack game with the request for years before releasing the most non-useful information possible. The problem with all of these methods, however, is that they make those using them look petty, but they don't really cement their position in the corrupt jackasses category that I believe all government agencies secretly want to obtain.
Which is why we'll go to the Chicago city government, since they're the obvious experts in the matter. Here, Rahm Emanuel's administration has taken responding to FOIA requests to a whole new level, not only providing nothing in response to such requests, but then answering questions from the Attorney General with non-responses indicating they might just have proactively destroyed the documents being requested. This story begins with our vaunted public school system, the CPS. Glenn Krell wanted to get his hands on what research had been done when CPS put in a longer school day without bothering to give schools any resources to actually do anything with the extra time.
Krell figured CPS had done research on the longer school day because, like every parent in the system, he'd received a letter from Jean-Claude Brizard, then the CEO, claiming that "our elementary school students are receiving 22 percent less instruction time than their peers across the country." So he sent CPS a FOIA request asking for "the reports, statistics, comprehensive city-by-city analysis and other documents that back up the statement by Mr. Brizard."
CPS responded that "the district does not maintain any documents responsive to your request."
Got that? CPS cites a statistic justifying the longer school day, Krell asks for the basis of that statistic, and CPS says there is no document for that. In internet terms, Krell asked for a citation and CPS was unable to provide one. In addition, Krell asked for information on how the city decided to achieve what it calls "selective enforcement tiers", by which high-performing schools are made available to lower-income families as a method for integration. This was another matter about which CPS had indicated its offices were just overflowing with research.
He knew CPS had lots of information on this matter because he'd read about it in the Tribune. In that article, CPS officials boasted about how they'd left no stone unturned in their effort to make the selection process as fair and objective as possible. They said the process considers data such as home-ownership rates in the students' census tracts and the share of homes where English isn't the primary language.
The response to that request? CPS claimed there too it had no documents to turn over. But why? Had Brizard and CPS simply made the statistics and research claims up? To find out, Krell appealed to AG Lisa Madigan, which is exactly what the law indicates you're supposed to do if you get a fishy response to a FOIA request. Madigan's office dutifully asked CPS if such documents had never existed, or if they'd simply been destroyed. CPS responded that they had never maintained those records and they do not exist. The result of that non-answer was for Madigan's office to declare the matter closed.
And that's a problem, because CPS didn't actually answer the AG's question. They do not answer whether or not the documents ever existed at all, only that they never maintained them and they don't exist currently. One way to achieve that answer is for the research to never have actually been done, which would make CPS liars on multiple items it had addressed to parents and the press. Another way is for those documents to have been proactively destroyed instead of maintained, quite possibly so that they'd never have to be revealed for a FOIA request. Either way, that's crappy government. Add to that Madigan's shirking of her responsibility and it's difficult to take Emmanuel seriously when he claims his administration is "the most open, accountable, and transparent government Chicago has ever seen."
If you have sensed an increase in the levels of air-borne stupidity in the world lately, as have I, you might be looking for the root cause of this collective mental climate change. I think I've found it. I believe it's caused by emissions of stupid generated by the debate over violent video games. Where else can you go for opinions that so blatantly ignore statistics and reason? You have retired military trumping up the next generations of "killers," despite violence and mass shootings being down in America. We have the damned Vice President of the United States showing his complete blind spot on the legality of taxing supposedly violent games. Not to mention newspaper industries that rely on the 1st Amendment to operate considering whether censorship of violent media might just be the answer to all of our problems.
But if you thought that was as bad as the theories get, on how violent games are harmful, oh boy were you wrong. See, a South Korean professor now believes that violent games are a plague on all of us...because they make our video cards run hotter and the resulting radio waves are harmful.
Korean site Inven (via tipster Sang) reports that the professor's study apparently revealed that a game's graphics card temperature was 36°C when idling. Now, that sounds about right. The card's temperature apparently increased to 45°C during a racing game. But then, Professor Cho's study stated that when a "violent game" was played, the temperature supposedly shot up to 57°C. In turn, the game emitted more radio waves.
For those of you who aren't suffering face-palm-induced concussion syndrome, you're probably already thinking about all the other everyday things that can cause your GPU to run hotter, such as graphic design work or, you know, watching HD movies. In fact, those activities can push the temperatures even higher. Or maybe you're thinking about how correlating how much work a GPU does to how violent a game is just might be the kind of thing that can cause a brain to commit suicide. Or maybe you're wondering if having your notebook computer on your lap every time you've played Doom has put your testicles at risk of mutation, turning them into monstrous, sentient testicilians, a race of self-reproductive hell-nuts bent on destroying the world.
Well, whatever you're thinking, calm the hell down and put your pants back on. This guy is as crackers as crackers gets.
Previously, Professor Cho has apparently published research on how drinking for three days straight will cause liver damage, how watching porn will cause unmarried men liver damage, and how smartphones cause people to have irregular voices. He sounds like a very serious researcher!
Were any of that actually true, I can assure you I'd be speaking in falsetto about my double-liver-damage instead of remarking on how crazy Professor Cho is.
Update: As of today, there are reports that Ferrero has been in contact with Sarah Russo and has worked out an arrangement by which Nutella Day will be reinstated with the company's blessing. The company is blaming the cease & desist on over-zealous lawyers as opposed to any public backlash. This may satisfy some people, while others will note that aggressive intellectual property laws and protection lead to this kind of collateral damage all the time.
Ferrero, the makers of Nutella, a hazelnut/chocolate spread that enjoys a love from people that I'll never understand (disclaimer: I hate chocolate), sure doesn't like anyone to use anything remotely like its name ever. You may not recall that it pushed back against the P2P network Gnutella a decade ago over their name being too similar. While you could argue that might be at least somewhat understandable, how about when the company went legal on a smoothie shop for selling a shake that used its product and had the daring gall to, you know, tell people what was in it? Well, perhaps you think that at least Ferrero was targeting a commercial enterprise, even if doing so resulted in one less shop buying Nutella. I mean, it isn't like the company was going after ordinary customers who liked its product, right?
Well, ChurchHatesTucker writes in to inform us that Ferrero is doing exactly that, because f#$@ the fans, damn it. See, there is apparently something called World Nutella Day, which is ironically on my birthday (God, I hate Nutella...), where one website encourages everyone on the planet to cook something with Nutella. This, naturally, requires people to buy Nutella. Or it did, rather, until Ferrero threatened the creator of World Nutella Day with a cease and desist, forcing her to shut down the site completely. Via World Nutella Day founder, Sara Rosso:
On May 25, 2013, I'll be darkening the World Nutella Day site, nutelladay.com, and all social media presence (Facebook, Twitter), in compliance with a cease-and-desist I received from lawyers representing Ferrero, SpA (makers of Nutella). The cease-and-desist letter was a bit of a surprise and a disappointment, as over the years I've had contact and positive experiences with several employees of Ferrero, SpA., and with their public relations and brand strategy consultants, and I've always tried to collaborate and work together in the spirit and goodwill of a fan-run celebration of a spread I (to this day) still eat.
Yup, you read that correctly. The makers of Nutella darkened a website purely designed to promote its product, even after directly working with Rosso for the last seven years. It's almost as if Ferrero doesn't want anyone to eat Nutella, with which I happen to whole-heartedly agree. No attempt to work out some kind of an arrangement, no even-handed license of the trademark, no humanity whatsoever. It's just, "Hey, thanks for being a fan, now shut it all down because the lawyers flipped out and somehow think you're harming us."
Honestly, the stunning part to me is how genteel Rosso appears to be about all this.
I've spent hundreds of hours interacting with you, the fans, collecting and sharing your contributions, updating the World Nutella Day website with more than 700 recipes which were painstakingly gathered from bloggers sending me their posts and by scouring the internet for the best Nutella recipes, Tweeting and sharing on Facebook your favorite sayings, stories, and links about Nutella, and encouraging everyone to try it just once! Thanks for letting me be a part of that – it was truly a labor of love by a fan and something I did as a fan, in my (very little) spare time, and I have a full-time job I love. I hope that February 5th stays alive in your hearts and on your spoons, and hopefully it's arrivederci (see you soon) and not addio (goodbye).
It's hard to imagine someone sounding so sweet over the company of which she's a fan pulling such a brash and damnable move. I'd be livid, not hoping to start the site back up once Ferrero had a stupidectomy. I might even be encouraging everyone within earshot not to buy from a company that would pull this kind of stunt. Then again, perhaps I'm not as sweet as Russo because I'm not filled with Nutella spread. Who knows, but I'm sure there are many former customers of Nutella today.
I can understand why someone who watches the news on a daily basis might shake their head in dismay. I get how it must feel necessary to put the blame for tragedies like Sandy Hook somewhere, anywhere, even if the eventual target of ire is misplaced. There's probably a certain ill-conceived synergy in pointing at violence in movies for a horrific theater shooting, even if the jury is at best out on the concept of violent media causing violent behavior. But when you hear someone so arrogantly sure that all of this wrong thinking is right and then using that arrogance to pompously try and scare the shit out of everyone, it deserves pushback.
“This generation is going to give you massacres in the domestic environment and in the work environment,” he predicted, with unrestrained outrage, after ticking off a sobering list of mass murders -- particularly those that have occurred on school grounds and university campuses -- which have plagued American society in recent years.
It's a scare tactic that would be absolutely compelling were it not so absolutely wrong. Nevermind that no conclusive link between violent media and mass violence has been demonstrated, the fact of the matter is that in the long view, mass shootings are decreasing. As is violent crime in general. If one wanted to play the correlation game, they might happily state that violent media is decreasing violent output. I personally won't go that far, but it's fairly difficult to square Grossman's claims with reality.
“There is a generation of vicious, vicious killers out there,” he told his audience. “The video games are their trainers. They’ve been playing Grand Theft Auto every spare moment since they were six years old.”
Oh, please. Who the hell could listen to Niko's voice for years without killing themselves long before they killed anyone else? And besides, if these children are killers and the games their trainers, given the statistics already noted, then the little bastards are really bad at being killers and the games are a poor training manual, since none of this seems to be coming true. But if you thought Grossman had emptied his scare-clip at you already, you're wrong.
His views were no more subtle when he turned his sights to the international scene. A dozen years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the energetic and charismatic speaker sees life-threatening threats emanating from Pakistan, Russia, North Korea and Iran. What will the next 9/11 look like, he wondered aloud, before answering his own rhetorical question: “We’re going to get nuked.”
Lovely, and perhaps it will someday happen, but he forgot to mention something: if you look at the number of terrorist incidents in America throughout history, you'll note that the sharp increase in their occurence is non-existent. An enterprising commenter can graph the whole list out from that link if they like, but here's a brief example. We live in the year of our lord, 2013, so let's just start in 2012 and count how many terrorist incidents happened every ten years back:
2012 - 3 incidents, 9 killed
2002 - 14 incidents, 15 killed (note: the beltway sniper is counted as 11 separate incidents, which is stupid. This number should be 3 incidents total.)
1992 - 2 incidents, 1 killed
1982 - 6 incidents, 3 killed
1972 - 7 incidents, 6 killed
1962 - 1 incident, 44 killed
1952 - 0 incidents, 0 killed
Now, my use of 2012 as a starting point certainly is convenient in leaving out 9/11, but it's useful to note that outliers don't dominate the statistics. I should also note that this list ignores Pearl Harbor as the site of a terrorist attack, which seems incorrect in a way. The idea isn't that we can't be concerned about terrorism of any kind, be it Islamic fundementalist or the home-grown Aryan Nation variety, but if you make it your business to go around scaring people like Grossman does, you shouldn't leave out the more comforting facts simply because it is inconvenient to your narrative.
The next generation is not one of killers, this generation is not having to deal with terrorism in a way never before required, but it may be true that the media is more like Grossman and less like myself in that they enjoy scaring you for profit. Beware the man or woman who makes simple proclamations, because they're usually forgetting to tell you something.
We've covered the trespasses of stupid criminals here before. Bank robbers who brag about their actions on YouTube, for instance. Or thieves on the lam uploading pictures containing their whereabouts to social media sites. It seems at times that these guys and gals are just trying to get caught. But that's certainly not always the case. Take the following story, which I have to believe is the internet-y-ist dumb criminal story yet.
They came up on the IRS radar after the couple met an informant at — no joke — YOLO Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Maye told the informant his name was Troy and that he had stolen 700,000 identities, but the IRS could not yet crack the thief of identities' identity.
I have no idea what kind of food is served at YOLO Restaurant, but you kind of have to assume everything on the menu has a 50/50 shot of killing you, right? Maybe it's nothing but puffer fish and uncooked chicken with a side of ebola? Regardless, the IRS still wasn't able to get names on the two, so the informant was sent to have another meal with the two criminals, this time upping the classiness of the operation by going to a Morton's Steakhouse. While there, Maye provided the informant with a thumb drive that contained a bunch of identities, which were promptly turned over to the IRS. Investigators were then able to pull Maye's name from metadata on the drive. From there, the IRS did what any federal agency would do:
IRS Agent Louis Babino then headed to Google and located Maye’s Instagram page, which contained a profile photo of Maye. When shown the profile photo, the CW confirmed that Maye (seen at right) was the man with whom he dined at Morton’s.
Well, sure, Agent Babino, but how can you be really sure this was your guy?
A further review of Maye’s Instagram page, Babino noted, revealed “a photo of a steak and macaroni and cheese meal containing the caption ‘Morton’s.’” The image--uploaded on January 7 at 11:24 PM--“appears to coincide” with the CW’s meeting at Morton’s, added Babino.
Yup, this guy food-porned his way into being arrested. The Instagram photo is reportedly being entered into evidence in the case, so one hopes the juicy steak and the creamy mac and cheese was really, really worth all the trouble Maye is now in. Once again, if you're a criminal, online narcicism is probably something you'd do best to avoid.
When we typically discuss companies coming to blows with content control (aka censorship), the stories tend to be about what would otherwise be obscure wrong-doings going viral on a national or international level. Major automakers concocting horrible advertising around suicide, for instance. Or multi-state bus companies learning that bathroom-ing on their customers isn't the best practice and catching the resulting backlash. But the practice of shining the light on yourself by being overly protective of your brand doesn't only happen at the macro level, it can have a local effect as well.
That's the lesson the Chicago Blackhawks are learning right this very minute. If you're not in Chicago, you probably haven't heard of Susannah Collins, who reports for Comcast Sports Net on the Blackhawks. In fact, if you know who she is at all, it's probably from this line of low-brow comedy videos that she produced on YouTube. While some of those videos are likely NSFW, there is nothing more racy in them than a bit of colorful language and suggestive talk. It's about as harmless as it gets. That is, of course, unless you're the Chicago Blackhawks who, for reasons that make absolutely zero sense, decided that those videos surfacing were cause to five-hole Collins' career and have her fired.
In a letter to the Vice President/General Manager of Comcast Sports Net Chicago, team chairman Rocky Wirtz demanded that reporter Susannah Collins be removed immediately, citing his awareness of comedy videos made years earlier that he found “incredibly offensive to a number of audiences, going well beyond professional athletes.”
He only learned of them after her innocent, unfortunate slip of the tongue last week brought them back to the fore, but it didn’t matter to Wirtz. Although they had been a fully disclosed non-issue upon her hiring, they became instant, retroactive reason for a swift dismissal.
The locals in Chicago were immediately upset over the firing. Certainly part of the reason for the animosity is the silliness of firing a reporter over sketch comedy videos she did on YouTube years ago. But, in true bad PR fashion, the real anger comes over the team's almost epic level of hypocrisy. You see, Wirtz cited the video's offensiveness as the reason for asking CSN (which is owned by several local Chicago teams, including the Blackhawks) to fire Collins. This, from the same team that has young women in tiny outfits shoveling up ice shavings between periods during games. This from a team that plays a sport in which fans will cheer on two grown men committing assault upon one another and then have the nerve to call it "part of the game."
But the real fun comes with the magnifying glass now being placed squarely on the team's official "ambassador," Bobby Hull. The article linked above is one of several that makes the point nicely.
Hull’s second wife, Joanne, whom he wed in 1960 and divorced in 1980, told an ESPN documentary in 2002 that she “took a real beating” at his hands. She described an incident during which Hull “threw me in the room, and just proceeded to knock the heck out of me. He took my shoe – with a steel heel – and proceeded to hit me in the head. I was covered with blood. And I can remember him holding me over the balcony, and I thought this is the end, I’m going.” She filed to end the marriage in 1970 after several more incidents, but they reconciled until Hull threatened her with a loaded shotgun in 1978. Their daughter, Michelle, also described his pattern of behavior to “Sports Century,” and she now works as an attorney specializing in domestic violence.
Should you think this was a one-time minor indiscretion of old-fashioned domestic abuse, Hull's second wife complained of similar treatment, Hull was later convicted for trying to punch a police officer, oh, and there was that one time he was all warm and fuzzy about freaking Hitler.
But, hey, I guess if there aren't any YouTube videos, it never happened, amirite? That is, until your unreasonableness turns the magnifying glass back on you and now you have an entire city calling for the head of your so-called "ambassador."
You've heard the rumblings before. Free doesn't work. Or perhaps it was that free doesn't work for big time franchises. More specifically for video games, you may have heard that when a game goes from paid to free it's a sign that it's a dead game. The mantra persists, despite examples like The Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons showing the exact opposite can be true, where going free results in a significant uptick in revenue. There is still this fear in the hearts of game producers and, as we all know, fear leads to doubt, doubt leads to anger, and anger leads to the dark side of gaming.
Yet redemption can be had, if there is still good inside a game. The latest example of this is Star Wars: The Old Republic, an MMO that was once fee-based but is now free and has realized massive revenue returns as a result. EA Labels Emperor Frank Gibeau took time away from misunderstanding what DRM is to remark on the success of the new model.
“Since it was induced in November, we’ve added more than 1.7 million new players on the free model to the service,” said Electronic Arts president of labels Frank Gibeau. “And the number of subscriptions has stabilized at just under half a million.”
“The really interesting thing that’s happening inside the service right now is monthly average revenue for the game has more than doubled since we introduced the free-to-play option. And as we look forward, we’re going to continually invest in new content for the service and for players every six weeks or so.”
Oh, look, you give your customers what they want at the prices they want it, build up a massive fan-base, and a years-old game still ends up putting money in EA's pockets. It's a shame they haven't tried a similar strategy with other EA games like SimCity, instead choosing to lock the game up tighter than Han Solo trapped in carbonite with an always-online requirement nobody wants.
Still, it's nice to see that EA isn't above experimenting with better gaming business models, even if they did so in this case with an older game in which they had very little to lose. Here's hoping the company translates this success into a wider philosophy.
It's sad to note how collective humanity has done an ostrich on the warnings about the machines. Still the NFL exists, robbing us of our best and brightest, who will no longer be available for the coming war with SkyNET. Conferences on what to do about the surely coming robot horde have produced little in the way of a path forward and have gone relatively unreported in any case. Due to this, we know very little about what form the non-existent threat of terminator-like metal monsters will take. Will they simply wage war against us? Will they syphon our body heat for energy? Will they farm our skin and dance around in it to Goodbye Horses, like some kind of graphite Buffalo Bill?
Pictured: A Rice University professor in the near future Image source: CC BY 2.0
According to Vardi, sometime around the year 2045, you won't have a job any longer because the robots will have taken it away from you.
In recent writings, Vardi traces the evolution of the idea that artificial intelligence may one day surpass human intelligence, from Turing to Kurzweil, and considers the recent rate of progress. Although early predictions proved too aggressive, in the space of 15 years we’ve gone from Deep Blue beating Kasparov at chess to self-driving cars and Watson beating Jeopardy champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Extrapolating into the future, Vardi thinks it’s reasonable to believe intelligent machines may one day replace human workers almost entirely and in the process put millions out of work permanently.
Well, looking back through the history of technological progress, you can certainly see his point. And once you've seen that point, you can laugh at it. And once you've laughed at it, you can call his local police station and request that they remove any science fiction movies from his home by force, because he's clearly seen too many of them.
The problem with thinking that artificial intelligence is going to replace us in the workforce is two-fold. First, it cheaply ignores the impact every other form of technological progress has had thus far. Robots are used on assembly lines, yet there's no drastic net loss of jobs. When the automobile was invented, it isn't as though the buggy whip makers simply died off in unemployed starvation. There are other jobs to be had, most often created as a direct result of the advance in technology. Assembly line workers become machinists. Buggy whip makers go to work for the auto companies. There can be pain in the market in the short term as it is disrupted, but on a long enough timeline everything seems to even back out.
The second problem is the failure to recognize that people value some products and services provided by our fellow meat-sacks. Can auto-attendant systems handle phone duties? Sure, but there are tons of companies that specifically advertise the concept of customers being able to talk to a "real" person. Can machines make rugs? Yup, yet there's a huge market in hand-woven rugs out there. And the service industries rely heavily on personality. A machine might be able to serve me my beer at my local watering hole, but will it listen to me complain about my job if I'm having a crappy day? Will it be able to offer me an opinion on which wine is the best on the menu? And, as the article notes, what if any workforce disruption that does occur is desirable?
Perhaps in the future, while some of us work hard to build and program super-intelligent machines, others will work hard to entertain, theorize, philosophize, and make uniquely human creative works, maybe even pair with machines to accomplish these things. These may seem like niche careers for the few and talented. But at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, jobs of the mind in general were niche careers.
Hopefully you recall the story of Suburban Express and its owner, admitted domain squatter Dennis Toeppen, but let me catch you up and let you know what's been going on since that post ran. Suburban Express is a bus company that caters to Midwest students traveling to and from Chicago. And by "caters" I apparently mean they make them sign contracts designed to extract unreasonable fines from their wallets and threaten lawsuits against them if they have anything less than glowing things to say about their experience online. While this has gone on for some time, a new spotlight was shown when one rider, Jeremy Leval, related on Reddit a tale of one of the company's drivers berating a customer for speaking less-than-perfect English. That customer happened to be an exchange student. Toeppen went nuclear on Reddit, threatened litigation via their corporate counsel, and also threatened the Reddit moderator. Once the story began to spread, the company was introduced to Ken "Popehat" White, at which point the tone of all their communications took an almost cartoonish turn towards congeniality. Suburban Express promised to drop their 100-plus lawsuits against customers, which they've done, and doesn't appear to have filed against the Reddit moderator. They were a bit too late, as the internet backlash led to someone defacing their website, but at least they learned a lesson in how to treat their customers, right?
Toeppen relaunched his online attacks against Leval, posting a page to Suburban Express' website that recounted the March 31 incident from Toeppen's point of view and calling Leval "nothing but a bullying, self-important brat." The page reiterated Toeppen's claim that Leval was trying to smear Suburban Express to help his own since-aborted plans for a student ride-sharing site, saying, "A blogger suggested that Leval may have been motivated to harass Suburban Express as a means of furthering his business interests."
Toeppen's post didn't end there. He also recounted a conversation that Leval and his girlfriend allegedly had with a driver from another transportation service. "On May 12, 2013, Jeremy Leval and his girlfriend interacted with an EAC driver at Armory around 2:50pm. Jeremy approached the driver and asked if he had heard of Suburban Express. Jeremy went on to boast that he is the guy who is causing Suburban Express lots of trouble. This makes [me] question Jeremy Leval's motivations. Is he a selfless individual fighting for the rights of the oppressed, or is he a self-promoting, troublemaking, attention-seeker?"
There's a couple of problems with this kind of response. First, note that none of this has anything to do with refuting the company's generally anti-customer behavior. Yes, Toeppen pushes back slightly on Leval's story, indicating that some kind of apology was made to the exchange student, by someone, somewhere, and at some time. Gee, wonderful. Nothing about suing their customers, however. Nothing about $100 fines for simply giving the driver the wrong ticket, calling such mistakes "ticket fraud."
Second, what difference does it make if Leval is proud of publically slapping around a company doing these kinds of things? Hell, I'd be proud of myself, too. There's no prohibition on enjoying doing good works. And the fact that Leval might (might!) be thinking of starting his own competing company is a complete non-issue relating to the facts. Again, what happened is what happened, regardless of Leval's future business endeavors.
And, finally, did Toeppen learn nothing from round one of this mess? Going after a former customer right on the company website is exactly the kind of behavior that got them into this mess to begin with. Business takes thick skin, even for those that aren't engaging in questionable behavior. I don't know what kind of profit Toeppen sees in using his company website in this manner, but I fear he's in for yet another lesson.
The universe has a sense of humor. I'm convinced of it. See, as someone who believes that humor is a wonderful way to deal with otherwise disheartening topics, I'm amazed at how often the world around me will give me something to laugh at when I'm feeling blue. Take the world's current climate on the topic of religion, for instance. It'd be very easy to get down in the dumps over the Westboro Baptist Church, religious fundamentalists engaging in acts of terror, and the never-ending saga known as the Middle East "peace" process. None of those things are laughing matters. But then, reading the forlorn expression on my face, the universe sends me another story from the Church of Scientology.
The crowd was around 450-750 people. But the church claims it was more like 2,500, and it Photoshopped in the proof. Except the proof is about as convincing as your thetan's origin story. In reality, there were no people in the right-hand side of the photo. There was actually a line of rented trees set up to block the view of people not so friendly to Scientology (see the photo below), as well as police blocking off a four-block radius for the event. And it's not just that the picture was doctored, it's that it was done quite poorly. They added people right on top of the trees in the altered section.
Tony Ortega has the two photos that demonstrate this. First was the "official" photo from the Church which is clearly photoshopped.
And then a shot from a different angle showing that the people on the right section above aren't actually there.
What was an attempt to make turnout of the "event" look bigger than it was resulted in, at best, Scientology looking silly yet again for their combination of secretiveness and lying about their own events. Or, at worst, it suggests that Scientology turns human beings into a kind of hybrid tree-people, in which case we're all going to be subject to an aphid plague that may undo all of humanity. Ahhhh!
So a word of friendly advice to my Scientologist friends: brainwashed graphic designers are a better asset than brainwashed Tom Cruises. For ever and ever. Amen.
I guess I can't say for sure how I would react to a negative review (besides reading some Techdirt comments directed at me), but I'd like to think that I have thick enough skin not to make a complete ass out of myself. That's why it always surprises me to see companies that should know better poop their pants over what customers (or non-customers) say on sites like Yelp and Reddit. Whether it's suing customers or issuing DMCA notices, I simply fail to see the logic in pissing off even more people with that kind of behavior. If someone posted a negative review of one of my books for instance, even petulantly, I'd prefer to look at it as an opportunity to both learn from the negative review and appreciate the fact that someone out there cared enough to write something about it at all.
Or, if you're Amy's Baking Company, you can write off all the complaints as coming from "haters" and then make a complete ass of yourself on your company's Facebook page. That restaurant has an interesting history of poor service, garnering poor reviews on Yelp, and even cursing at customers and tossing them out of their establishment for complaining. The woman who runs the place (you'll never guess what her name is) appears to have the business sense of a drunken chimpanzee. In one of the all-time worst decisions of anything ever, they decided to bring in Gordon Ramsay's show Kitchen Nightmares for the stated purpose of proving to their customers that their food is crazy good and the haters are all idiots. Those that have watched the show in the past can probably already hear the freight train of doom headed Amy's way.
On Friday night's episode of Kitchen Nightmares, shouty chef Gordon Ramsay quit for the first time ever in the show's 82-episode history. Amy and Samy Bouzaglo — owners of Amy's Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona — blamed everyone for their troubles, including "haters" and "bloggers," but not themselves. The owners did not give service staff tips (pocketing the money instead) and admitted to having fired over 100 employees. Said Ramsay: "After about 100 Kitchen Nightmares, I met two owners I could not help, it is because they are incapable of listening."
I'm not normally one for reality shows, but go watch this. Seriously. The level of crazy in Amy and her husband Samy is as epic as it is entertaining. Right off the bat, Amy breathlessly rails against "haters" and "bloggers" who are apparently to blame for her serving variously under-prepared and over-prepared food, wait times that are measured in hours for customers, and food combinations that would make even an amatuer cook blow their brains out in dismay.
Still, the whole point of the show is to help failing restaurants turn things around, right? So obviously things went poorly on the show, the public reacted, and Amy and Samy learned their lesson and got their shitake mushrooms together.
Of course they didn't. Instead, their Facebook page went at times all-caps nuclear, with some of the greatest combinations of religiosity, anger, and cursing I've ever witnessed. Some treasures of highlights for you to enjoy.
"We will not bend to the will of these haters and sinners."
"I AM NOT STUPID ALL OF YOU ARE. YOU JUST DO NOT KNOW GOOD FOOD. IT IS NOT UNCOMMON TO RESELL THINGS WALMART DOES NOT MAKE THEIR ELECTRONICS OR TOYS SO LAY OFF!!!!"
"I am keeping note of all names here. We will be pursuing action against you legaly, and against reddit and yelp, for this plot you have come together on. you are all just punks."
"WE ARE NOT FREAKING OUT. WE DO NOT CARE ABOUT A "WITCH HUNT" I AM NOT A WITCH. I AM GODS CHILD. PISS OFF ALL OF YOU. FUCK REDDITS, FUCK YELP AND FUCK ALL OF YOU. BRING IT. WE WILL FIGHT BACK."
Now, it should be noted that Amy and Samy have since claimed that someone hacked their Facebook page. Reading the above posts, which have since been deleted, you may be inclined to think that level of crazy is obviously the work of troublemakers. To that I suggest again watching the episode. Either someone is doing an immensely accurate impression of these two, or it was them and they aren't enjoying the blowback that comes with pissing off everyone.
So, what's the lesson that should be learned here? Is it that you shouldn't treat your customers like garbage? Is it that you shouldn't lash out about poor reviews online, regardless of whether you agree with them or not? Is it that you shouldn't seek out Gordon Ramsay as a way to vindicate yourself? Or is that reacting to bad press from all the above by blowing an o-ring on your company Facebook page and then crying hack only makes you look petty?
None of the above. The lesson here is that you shouldn't go to Amy's Baking Company, because if the food doesn't kill you, I think there's at least a chance Amy will.
By now, you probably know the Streisand Effect storyline. Obscure person X says something famous person Y either doesn't want known or doesn't like, famous person Y sues or threatens to sue, thereby vaulting the entire episode into a media spotlight it wouldn't have enjoyed otherwise. Whether that disliked information is true or not, the entire point is that what amounts to a massive overreaction doesn't achieve the ultimately desired effect. True, it can take a thick skin to ignore some of the nonsense that occurs on the internet, but it's for the best.
You know who I would have thought would really have thick skin? A guy who had played hockey and had, up to recently, served as an executive in the NHL. Turns out I was wrong, since former Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke is pissed about rumors of why he was fired spreading online, so much so that he's going to court.
The former general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs filed a court action Friday alleging defamation against several unidentified Internet commenters believed to have authored and spread rumours about his dismissal.
“Brian has decided that it is time to stop people who post comments on the Internet from thinking they can fabricate wild stories with impunity,” read a letter penned by Burke’s lawyer Peter A. Gall of Heenan Blaikie LLP. “Brian is determined to find the authors of the lie about him and those who have circulated the lie. He is pursuing them in court and will obtain orders compelling them to pay damages for their illegal actions.”
The rumors in question suggested that Burke had been fired over an affair with a reporter covering the team and had had a child with said reporter. As it turns out, this wasn't at all true. If ever there was going to be something on the internet to piss you off, that one might be it. The problem, of course, is that the bloggers in question appear to be obscure netizens with no following at all. Almost nobody knew of the rumors -- and for the few who did, it was really no different than some random fans at the bar or in the stands tossing around silly rumors. Until the lawsuit, that is. Hell, most of the bloggers haven't even been identified beyond screen names to date, since they aren't important or followed enough for anyone to know anything about them.
The defendants, whose identities are currently unknown to Burke, are listed only by their online usernames: “NoFixedAddress”, “CamBarkerFan”, “Lavy16”, “mbskidmore”, “Tulowd”, “Loob”, “Naggah”, “mowerman”, “Aaronp18”, “Steve”, “KaBoomin8”, “THEzbrad”, “Slobberface”, “Poonerman”, “isolatedcircuit”, “Kanada Kev”, and “sir psycho sexy”.
Now, I know what you're thinking: surely, Tim, you are "sir psycho sexy." Well, I'm not. My other handle is "jock itch mcglitch" thank you very much. But at least THEzbrad's website has been identified, now that he's written a response to the lawsuit. I give you one person that Burke's lawyers claim acted with "actual and expressed malice and had the intention of damaging the Plaintiff’s reputation.”
Up until three weeks ago very few people had visited this blog. If you are one of my new readers you are probably aware of my current situation. Recently I have been involved in a lawsuit regarding a post I made on this blog earlier in the year. That blog post was merely speculation; just a rumour I heard and had read on hockey forums... It needs to be noted that the blog post I made specifically stated that what I was writing was based on speculations and that it was just rumours...Hopefully, Brian Burke and Hazel Mae will read this and understand how I feel, and what my intentions were. I want to sincerely apologize to them for any personal or professional damages my actions may have caused them.
That's the kind of malice you can really sink your teeth into, amirite? But, the bigger point is that this guy also made it quite clear that what he was posting was a rumor in the original posting, rather than a statement of fact. Could it still be defamatory? Possibly -- especially with Canada's stricter defamation laws. But consider the context, and think about how this was really little different than some fans at a bar tossing around some rumors which no one actually paid any attention to. If it's defamatory, it's fleeting and meaningless. But, when we see a public person bring a spotlight to themselves over obscure information, even if it's not true, what we end up with is him reminding everyone that he is willing to sue over rumors. Of course, the end result might just be that people also reconfirm that he was fired for just being a really crappy GM. Nicely done.
Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you're probably aware that the tide is turning here in the States more and more in favor of rights for the LGBT community. Interestingly, America rests somewhere in the middle on the spectrum on these kinds of issues, with plenty of world nations allowing for more gay rights and certainly many that allow for less. While this one-toe-in-the-water approach is perfectly reflected in entertainment mediums like video games, it's certainly worth noting that games in North America have begun to be more inclusive when it comes to LGBT characters and/or options in so-called "choice" or "sandbox" games. The Sims franchise was somewhere on the forefront of that sort of thing and more recent games like the Mass Effect series finally began to follow suit. And now it appears we can add the notoriously conservative Nintendo to the list of game developers that include such characters in their games.
See, gamers playing Nintendo's Tomodachi Collection: New Life noticed that this latest iteration of the game, which is very much like The Sims, had the option for the first time to have their male characters marry other male characters and raise children together. Hooray for civil rights progress, right guys?
One Twitter user claims to have contacted Nintendo's customer support, which supposedly said this is a bug and that the game needs to be patched. Online in Japan, however, there were many internet users who said they planned on getting this game only after learning of this bug—er, feature.
That Twitter user's story now appears to be confirmed, with Nintendo releasing a patch to fix the "bug", which it says allows for "human relations that become strange." So allowing players to be as gay in their virtual lives as they might be in their real lives wasn't a feature, it was a bug. And you're going to correct it. Here's another idea, and I'm just spitballing here, but how about the fix you release doesn't take away a bit of the humanity of your latest game, but rather extends it to female characters as well? It's not like including gay characters in a game, particularly one that is all about personal choice, means that somehow the game developers all agree in unison that all the morality questions are thrown aside. I happen to think that anyone who finds a problem with homosexuality is on the wrong side of both humanity and biology, but I won't dismiss the right for other people to have a different opinion. The thing is, none of that is the point. I played the Sims. I don't remember any more of an uproar over that game's characters being able to be gay than I remember an outcry over how you used to be able to order a pizza and then build walls around the delivery guy until he died (great fun, btw). Nobody who saw that done suddenly thought EA was supporting delivery boy murder and no one with a lick of sense thought EA was taking some moral stance on gay rights.
And besides all that, the reaction to the bug? Freaking positive.
In Japan, some Tomodachi Collection: New Life owners seem thrilled by the bug, posting photos of their gay couples online. In the images, male Mii characters ask each other to go steady, propose marriage, go on Honeymoons, bathe together, and raise children.
Well, no kidding, because the metrics of the debate are shifting quickly to be more inclusive. Even if one were to think that homosexuality was immoral, you can't lose your stones about it being included in a video game, unless you're also going to take the same stance on murder, violence, theft, cursing, lying, etc. Nintendo made their bones on a stereotyped Italian plumber. Now that Nintendo has decided to erase the option to be gay from this game, I hope to hell the backlash is as brutal as it should be.
By now we should all be aware that in many arenas the United States and China are engaged in a giant political pissing match. Everyone by now is also aware of how afraid the Chinese government is of their citizens getting their hands on any information or news that the government hasn't scrubbed more clean than someone with OCD after exiting a sewer. Between porn, those terrifying monks in Tibet, and the infamous Great Firewall, it's all on lock down in what will ultimately be a failed attempt to stifle political criticism from the masses. I say it will ultimately fail because even when China's government does release something that has been scrubbed, it has the potential to become a flashpoint for blowback.
CCTV recently used a Jon Stewart clip to lay into the U.S. over the Guantanamo Bay political stalemate. As SCMP [South China Morning Post] points out, state television's attempt to poke fun at the U.S. with Stewart backfired online in China, with people saying that CCTV was being hypocritical and missing the irony.
That irony, of course, is that the Chinese state-run media, whose stated role is to serve the Communist party's interests, attempted to demonize America with a clip that brilliantly showed that our media is free to critique our own government. This is something that wouldn't have been permitted in China, a fact not lost on the online community there.
"There are so many problems happening domestically that you choose not to broadcast every day, but instead choose to smell the farts of other countries," one Chinese commenter wrote in video's comment section.
"This is our country's mainstream media... They just want to divert our attention to problems [of other countries] away from poisonous ginger, tainted milk, gutter oil and undrinkable tap water," quipped another.
Now, there are many reasons why oppressive censorship of information just isn't going to work any longer, and perhaps it never really did, but this example of scrubbed information having the exact opposite effect on China's people is a wonderful reason for hope. It's been said that on a long enough time table, everybody's chances for survival goes to zero. I'd make the same argument for oppressive regimes. Eventually, the Chinese people will get tired of being treated like babies, and it looks like censorship fails even when you do it "right."
There's been some hand-wringing in the past about online services like Wikipedia and WebMD and how patients and families use them to do self-diagnosis. Much of this seemed to be drummed up media attention, since you have to imagine the vast majority of medical patients are intelligent enough to listen to the advice of their doctors, Chicago Bulls players notwithstanding. Every once in a while, however, you'll get a story of someone who decided to trust information found online over medical personnel, typically regarding minor medical issues.
Even more rarely, you find a real treasure in the form of someone lacking so much in common sense that you have to wonder how they manage to get out of bed in the morning. For example, I'm not yet a parent, but I'm pretty sure that if my child suffered from lead poisoning caused by someone wielding a freaking pistol, my first reaction would be to take my child to the hospital. Not so if you're this mother in Texas, apparently, since she decided to hop on the old interwebz to see what WebMD advised for gunshot wounds.
Despite the shooting taking place around 6:30 PM on Tuesday, it wasn't until 2 AM on Wednesday that the boy's mother finally brought him to Mainland Medical Center for treatment. She had apparently spent the previous hours looking up "gunshot wound" on WebMD.
And that brings to mind the two obvious questions. First, why isn't there an entry for "gunshot wound" on WebMD that simply reads, "Go to the damned hospital, you moron!"? And second, exactly how much searching is required on WebMD before you come to that conclusion anyway? One hour? Two? Three? This mother-of-the-year candidate has to account for seven and a half hours! One assumes she spent at least four of those looking for the "any" key on her computer, right?
Fortunately, investigators are now saying they may charge the mother with a felony being-stupid or some such thing. Here's hoping they get that child out of her house and into a safer environment, like the tiger pit at their nearest zoo.
Some of us had hoped that the liberation in Iraq would finally produce an example of a once clamped-down, dictatorial regime giving way to a pluralistic government in the Middle East. The theory was that after years of oppressive rule by the minority Sunni population, an inclusive government would result in functioning democracy, with all the benefits that go along with it. Chief amongst those benefits is the right to free speech, which requires allowing an open and free press. Unfortunately, that hope dwindled somewhat years back, when the Iraqi government joined the list of nations that sought to censor the internet to protect its own power. The importance of that move was probably lost on many people who failed to understand that it was an absolute negation of the freedom gained only years before.
Iraq's government ordered 10 television networks shut down Sunday, accusing them of stoking sectarian violence with "unprofessional" and "unethical" coverage of recent clashes in the country's north. Sunday's order from the Communications and Media Commission includes the Qatar-based satellite network Al Jazeera and eight outlets aimed at the country's Sunni Arab minority. Ahmed Saeed, a reporter for Baghdad Satellite TV, said the decree effectively halts his network's reporting.
This move is wrong-headed on several levels. First, if media outlets had to be shut down whenever they reported inaccurate information, even America would be left with zero media outlets. Second, considering the targets of these shutdowns, there is a roughly 100% chance that they will be seen as a stifling of speech specifically on the Sunni minority, once in power and now with a minor seat at the government table. The tone here is one of simple revenge rather than any sincere attempt at stifling bad information. Shias censoring Sunnis isn't the way to stop internal conflicts. One needs only look to Syria for evidence that stifling speech won't stop the violence.
And most importantly, moves like this will simply push Iraq back to the very arena in which its people suffered for so many years. Censorship of speech and the press is the field upon which folks like Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida play, and have been playing for longer than al-Maliki's government. They're better at it than he is. The cure is open culture, pluralism, and free speech. Push Iraq away from openness and you place it in danger of fascism and theocracy once more.
If you recall the insane concept of "hot news," you know all about the attempt to treat factual information as intellectual property as long as you were breaking that information as news. Courts have since seen through that kind of insanity, but that doesn't keep some of the more obnoxious organizations out there from attempting end-arounds that amount to the same thing. And since I used the word "obnoxious," you just had to know that the latest example of this is going to feature Dr. Phil, who is every bit an M.D. as I am a velociraptor.
Many months back when people still gave a damn about college football, Dr. Phil had a two-part series with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man who says he perpetrated the hoax of a fake, dead girlfriend on Notre Dame linebacker and now NFL draft-dropper Manti T'eo. Deadspin covered the story, including the use of clips from the show, in which Tuiasosopo performed his falsetto girl-voice in one of the most awkward television moments this side of that one time when Tom finally caught Jerry and ripped his limbs off in victory (FYI, that never happened). Dr. Phil has apparently cried copyright foul. His reason for this is that some of history's worst math mixed with a touch of irony told him that Deadspin's coverage cost him massive amounts of viewers.
Peteski Productions is arguing that Deadspin spoiled a two-part cliffhanger on the Dr. Phil program by posting a clip of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo speaking in what he said was the voice of the fictitious girlfriend "hours before the Dr. Phil Show aired to over 98% of its viewers." In other words, the clip was posted after the episode of Dr. Phil had already been broadcast in some markets, breaking the show's own news blackout on the question of whether or not Tuiasosopo would perform the female voice.
According to Broadcasting & Cable, the first and second parts of the interview drew 4.8 million and 4.3 million viewers respectively, exceeding the show's average of 4.1 million. That performance helped make Dr. Phil the No. 1 rated syndicated talk show for that sweeps period.
Keep the math we're discussing here in mind, because the level of stupid is about to approach epic proportions. Dr. Phil's ratings during those two shows exceeded their averages. Meanwhile, the two Deadspin posts in question garnered a grand total of 164k views together. The lawsuit alledges that the second Deadspin post, which had 103k of those views, caused the drop in viewership between the first and second episodes of the Dr. Phil show. Read that again. A post with roughly 100k views cost Dr. Phil 400k viewers. Clearly, Dr. Phil's doctorate isn't in mathematics. Nor is it in intellectual property law, I'm afraid, as most people would have to conclude that using the short clips to report on the story, with additional commentary, would very likely fall under fair use.
So, there you have the bad math part. But I promised you irony, didn't I? For that, we'll return to the lawsuit, which references Deadspin's ex-editor, AJ Daulerio's joking claim about how people refer to the site as a "content remora" and then the lawsuit helpfully goes on to describe exactly what that is.
A remora is a fish, sometimes called a suckerfish, which attaches itself to other fish like sharks. The host fish gains nothing from the relationship but the remora is enriched by obtaining benefits (usually food and transportation) from the host.
Got it? The lawsuit is claiming that Deadspin is leeching off of Dr. Phil, providing nothing to them but benefiting from Dr. Phil's laborious undertakings. So why is this ironic? Well, because Deadspin broke the damned T'eo story to begin with. No Deadspin, no Dr. Phil shows with higher-than-average ratings. The remora reference would only be apt if remoras left their host sharks regularly to order those sharks Chinese takeout and deliver said takeout personally. And, of course, Daulerio's use of the term, in context, shows that he was actually mocking those -- like Dr. Phil -- who falsely imply that Gawker and its sites like Deadspin only leech off of someone else's content. The whole point of Daulerio's statement was to show that they're not, in fact, leeching, and yet Dr. Phil's lawsuit attempts to flip that around.
So take your own advice and get real, Dr. Phil. This was a case of fair use and your piss-poor math is as laughable as it gets. You should be thanking Deadspin for the story in the first place, not slinging mud and lawsuits in their direction.
So, hey, remember that one time that Disney thought it'd be a pretty sweet idea to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden by applying for trademarks on Seal Team 6's name so they could apparently sell snow globes? Pretty much everyone who came across the story dropped a verbal brick on the Mouse for what looked like quite an elegant mix of cynicism and a lack of patriotism, causing them to drop their applications shortly after. Personally, I'm having a hard time thinking of a better exemplification of what is currently the 'American way' than locking up language due to the brave actions of others, but I guess my brand of cynicism just isn't cool with the kids these days.
Anyhoo, guess who now wants to lock up the name of a traditional Mexican holiday to sell some swag? Yup, Mickey is back to his old habits with multiple applications on "Día De Los Muertos", more commonly known as the Day of the Dead.
Disney filed 10 requests in the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office this month to coin the phrase. Disney's filings are mainly for merchandise, presumably connected to an upcoming film. The areas they are hoping to secure include “education and entertainment services,” “fruit preserves; fruit-based snack foods,” “toys, games and playthings,” “clothing,” “footwear,” “backpacks,” “clocks and jewelry” and more.
You know, as someone who likes to think they write things people occasionally find funny, I have to tell you how special it is when someone out there does all the setup work for you. I mean, a national holiday during which families come together to pray for their recently departed... and you're going to make fruit preserves and snacks about it? Seriously, I don't even have to write a joke about this. It writes itself. What are they going to call the snacks, Fruit Roll-Out Your Deads? Berry Departeds? It's a gold mine!
As for the other areas in which they applied for the mark, it's worth noting that approximately an infinite number of other folks are already producing Día De Los Muertos merchandise. Note that nearly all of the markets Disney applied for are covered already, with the exception of all the fruit snacks and preserves. In the article, some helpful trademark lawyer made sure we all know that Disney getting their marks approved wouldn't mean people couldn't celebrate the holiday, because ostensibly we're all complete morons and didn't know that already. The point is that making a movie shouldn't allow Disney to suddenly lock up the name of a traditional holiday for markets that are mostly already well served by other providers.
Hell, why not just lock up Christmas and be done with it? Oh, wait....
1. Engage in wars of aggression - likely there are examples of this
2. Commit genocide - Not even close. To suggest this means you don't understand the definition. No specific ethnic group or people was singled out for destruction in whole or part in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Only armed combatants were sought, with no distinction on ethnicity or race made.
3. Harbor international terrorists/gangsters: Please provide examples, as many as you can over the 200+ year lifespan of our country, and let's see what that list looks like. Keep in mind Saddam personally harbored such terrorists himself over a much shorter timespan.
4. Be in non-compliance with the UN WMD regulations - The US absolutely IS in compliance with this treaty. In addition to being an allowed nuclear state, the US has eliminated over 80% of it's deployed nuclear warheads and 90% of its non-strategic warheads in NATO. We're currently in the process of eliminating entire categories of warheads and delivery systems as well. We've also reduced the role nukes play in the military since WWII. The treaty does NOT mandate immediate disarm of nuclear states, but gradual disarming as a prime policy. The US has done that.
All you've proven is that the US does NOT meet the criteria, so this discussion should be over....
"No-one is saying Sadam wasn't a bad guy, he really was, but that alone doesn't validate the invasion."
For those reading this string, if you ever want to confirm that someone doesn't know what they're talking about when it comes to Iraq, just wait for them to say "Saddam is a bad guy" and you'll have all the confirmation you need. Saddam wasn't a "bad guy". He was a homicidal crime boss that committed genocide, invaded two foreign nations in aggression, bombed another, harbored terrorists, and previously used WMDs. If you can't take out that kind of dictator, who COULD you take out?
"It certainly doesn't make the lies told to congress and the American people OK."
Well, no kidding. What Bush did was reprehensible. And it wasn't even NECESSARY. The case could have been made on the merits rather than with lies, half-truths, and bad intelligence. I'm not pro-Bush, I'm pro-removing Saddam.
"A country that did have WMDs up until 2001 but didn't have any with certainty after 2006 and this was known."
Huh? The inspectors were sent in in 2002. What does their not having WMDs after 2006 have to do with anything? We did NOT know they didn't have any in 2002, which was the whole point of the inspections farce.
"Did invade 2 other countries, the first of which they were both encouraged to do and supported in doing by the US.
The second of which the UN ruled against them on and the provisions of that resolution were what was followed to toss them out of Kuwait, albeit the US went far beyond the provisions of that resolution."
Again, the sins of our past don't negate the rightness of subsequent actions. In fact, it only strengthens the argument to oust Saddam in order to correct the mistake we made back then. The largest of those mistakes was not removing Saddam in 1993, which has since been corrected.
"As far as genocide goes, that was awful but historic. It was neither happening nor possible by 1992 never mind 2003"
Only because of the no-fly zone, which we put in place, paid for, and in which we were flying the sorties. It's worth remembering that the air patrols over northern Iraq were often times fired upon by Iraqi soldiers. It was only our restraint at the time that kept us from obliterating the soldiers at that time, but that is an act of war.
"the consequences of which led to far more deaths, maimings and dislocation than even the worst excesses of the al-anfal campaign could be credited with."
If you want to play the game of accounting for the consequences of the war, at least play it fairly by listing them all. No longer does the Iraqi government host terrorists like Abu Nidal. No longer are the marshlands burning to the ground, what has been called the greatest ecological disaster of our era. No longer is the Middle East a land of people unwilling to determine their own future, instead rising up against their oppressors. No longer does the government of Qaddafi have WMDs, since he gave them up when he saw Saddam's fate and they are now stored safely in the United States. No longer does our ally Israel have a madman at their gates, one who previously launched missiles into their borders.
Do you really suggest the Arab Spring had nothing to do with our ouster of Saddam? Do you really think the message hasn't been sent to the region that the world will not accept dictators of Saddam's kind? You need to do more than just count up the deaths when it comes to consequences of war, friend....
"Except we knew it was happening and did nothing."
If your point is our ouster of Saddam was done far too late, I agree. That doesn't negate the rightness of doing so in 2003.
"Then the people revolted and we did nothing to help them."
If your point is we didn't help our Kurdish allies in the north and rebels in the south when we first should have, I agree. That doesn't negate the rightness of doing so in 2003.
"Then we realised we didn't like the price of oil and invaded."
It's always fun to listen to the anti-war in Iraq crowd, since they negate their own arguments so much. Bush wanted to avenge his father, so he had plans to go into Iraq when he first came into office, but he also didn't do so until oil prices weren't what we wanted. The war was illegal, except it would have violated the international charter we signed NOT to go to remove Saddam for his genocidal actions. We can't go to war over oil, instead leaving one of the world's largest oil supplies in the hands of an international gangster crime family that treated its own citizens as its own personal property.
It's very easy and currently in vogue to decry the war in Iraq. Too bad doing so puts you on the side of a genocidal dictator. Too bad doing so ignore the fact that a confrontation with that country was GOING TO HAPPEN one way or the other, and it was better for us to choose the time and place for it. Too bad Saddam said after the Gulf War that his only mistake was invading Kuwait BEFORE getting the nuclear bomb he wanted so badly. Too bad he gassed the Kurds, killing thousands of people in his own country. Too bad we were spending untold amounts of money enforcing a never-ending no fly zone as the only means to ensure he didn't commit genocide AGAIN. Too bad Saddam did harbor terrorists and did financially support suicide bombers in Palestine/Israel. Too bad Saddam turned the oil for food program into his own personal palace-building slush fund.
"Iraq: A War of Aggression. No WMDs, No Connection to Al Qaeda"
Iraq: a country that DID use WMDs, DID harbor international terrorists, DID invade other countries (twice), and DID commit genocide. The Iraq War wasn't only not illegal, it was technically mandated by the UN genocide convention. What was illegal was anyone voting against it. Don't let Bush's bumbling confuse you into thinking it was an illegal war.
Of course I have. How could I NOT be aware of one of the greatest misnomers every created? Constitutional monarchies, when properly constructed, are NOT monarchies at all. To evidence this, one needs only look at the prime examples of so-called constitutional monarchies.
4. New Zealand
If you actually believe that any one of those examples is in any way beyond ceremonial functioning even in part as an actual monarchy, you don't know the meaning of the word. Those are all republics or democracies, and thank God for that.
"in many cases(listed in the link) its the only way a system will turn from absolute monarchy to any other system without violent insurrection."
Nonsense. Since none of those are actual monarchies in any functioning way and since some of them underwent relatively bloodless transitions from actual monarchies to their present system, your point is completely disproved.
"you cant really say our system works any better then theirs really"
I'm sorry, I can't say our government works better than a theocratic monarchy? I most certainly can.
"our politicians do whatever is best for themselves and the corporate masters, not whats best for We The People, or the nation as a whole..."
That certainly occurs far too often, but not being as good as we should doesn't make us as bad as others.
" I think your a big short sighted and have this impression that our systems the best system"
Incorrect, but I do believe democratic concepts are the best for of government yet devised. That doesn't mean we can't do it better, or that others aren't currently doing it better, but it does mean it's better in principal than a theocratic monarchy.
"There are schools of thought that suggest you need to be part of a system before you can effect change on it. You can look at his actions as cowardice or a recognition that the way he was going he'd be unable to do anything to improve the situation."
"Come on now. Monarchies have performed well in the past, don't be a hater."
Monarchies are an un-enlightened form of government stemming from the divine right of kings, itself a scandalous concept. I will be a hater of that, thank you very much.
"There's not really any system of government that works,"
Some work better than others. Do you really suppose that the Saudi government retains its monarchy because it thinks it's the best government for its people?
"calling out this guy because of who his parents were is a bit weak."
Feel free to show me where he said he renounced his monarchy title and I'll happily take back what I said. As it stands, this is a man who has donated money to Palestinian "martyrs", spends his free time "throwing dwarves" for sport, and he is at best a timid revolutionary and at worst a defector from Democracy.
See, his highness once, long ago, criticized Saudi Arabia for being a monarchy and stumped for a democratic reform of government. Then the Saudi rulers struck back in the form of seizing his assets and forcing him into exile. Since then he's reconciled with the Saudi royal family and, while still suggesting greater citizen participation in government, his revolutionary tone has softened considerably.
“If there is a lesson to be learned from the Arab Spring, it is that the winds of change that are now blowing in the Middle East will eventually reach every Arab state,” he wrote. “Now is therefore an opportune time, particularly for the Arab monarchical regimes”—for instance, Saudi Arabia’s—“which still enjoy a considerable measure of public goodwill and legitimacy, to begin adopting measures that will bring about greater participation of the citizenry in their countries’ political life.”
See the difference? No longer stumping for democracy, he now sees the storm of revolution coming and hopes the monarchs will stave it off with a wall of pretend kindness to its own people.
There's no doubt the Prince is relatively progressive. Just don't expect me to laud a man for going exactly not far enough....
"Dear Saudi Telecommunication Authority, social media is a tool for the people to make the government hear their voices. Just thinking of blocking them is a losing war, and a way to put more pressure on the citizens"
Dear sweet Prince: Democracy is a tool for the people to make the government hear their voices. Just thinking of continuing an antiquated form of government like theocratic monarchy is a losing war, and a way to put more pressure on your citizens.