March 2005

I’m not a big fan of this writing style, but the story is a fascinating historical account of a middle class, educated black man’s struggle to demonstrate self-respect in a racist society, without doing anything foolish that would push the white people – who populate the neighborhood he’s single-handedly decided to integrate – to homicide.

UPDATE: This book is really worthwhile, especially the early history of the NAACP, the unbelievably accomplished people who started it, and their uneasy history with one of the great trial attorneys of the ages, Clarence Darrow.

Shabbir referred me to this story about vampire monkeys attacking children, but I’m not sure it fits this week’s theme of “good animals going bad”. After all, I assume no one ever actually placed any faith in the goodness of vampire monkeys in the first place. Nonetheless, I include it for your consideration.

ALWAYS and NEVER may sound like they’re different but they’re really not.Richard Thieme

I’ve become interested in stories of Good Animals Gone Bad. For example, last summer a man was mauled by a cat enraged at the site of his owner showering with a pet bird. More coming soon.
In October of 2003, grizzly bears attack a bear researcher and advocate, eating him and his girlfriend on videotape, despite his efforts to study them and live in harmony with them. Read an account of the attack.

I’ve become interested in stories of Good Animals Gone Bad. For example, last summer a man was mauled by a cat enraged at the site of his owner showering with a pet bird. More coming soon.

I find the recent chimpanzee attack fascinating. How did the four chimps escape? Could they collaborate? Plan? Why attack these two visitors, who were people who had saved their compatriot Moe after a poacher killed his mother in Africa, many years ago? Are chimpanzees completely amoral, finding no fellow-feeling for the humans bringing them a birthday cake? Or were they jealous, angry that the 39-year-old Moe was getting a cake and they weren’t getting anything? My friends wondered, why go for the genitals, but that’s the only part that makes sense to me. Chimps are extremely testosterone fueled. When the alpha chimp is dethroned, the new stud goes around killing all the babies, which not only cleans the slate, but also gets the female chimps to stop nursing and start ovulating again, the better to seed his own brood. Note that the two male chimps had to be shot to get them off of the victim, but the two female chimps simply wandered off peaceably together. (They were found a few hours later, but not, as I reported over a few glasses of wine last night, a mile away in a sleazy motel with two hookers.)

Someone recently asked me about wrongful convictions in computer crime cases. In five minutes, I came up with five. There’s US v. McDanel, one of mine, in which a Los Angeles man was convicted and spend 16 months in prison for notifying the customers of his employer that the company´┐Żs computer services were vulnerable to hackers and directing the customers to information on how to repair the vulnerability. The DOJ eventually admitted that the conviction was in error in late 2003.

There’s US v. LaMacchia, in which the government tried to prosecute a man who operated a free warez board for non-commercial copyright infringment under the wire fraud statutes and was told that they couldn’t get a conviction for something Congress had clearly left out of the copyright law. Congress then amended the statute to prohibit certain non-commercial copyright infringment.

There’s US v. Councilman, where the court decided that what the defendant was charged with doing, reading the emails of subscribers to his email service, was not a crime.

There’s US v. Puffer, where the jury refused to convict a man for demonstrating the insecurity of a county court’s open wireless network.

Finally, there’s US v. Elcomsoft, where the jury refused to convict a Russian company charged under the anti-circumvention provisions of the United States’ DMCA for marketing a program that could decrypt Adobe eBooks.

I’d be really interested to hear if anyone knows of any other examples.