did someone muck with the backend here

Re: Playthings

1

I tried to care one way or another about the Gawker/Hogan suit, but mostly failed. Adding in Thiel doesn't really change that. At least it keeps lawyers working.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 6:02 AM
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It's possible this is the best possible use for the talents of the people involved.

Hogan is now serving the cause of privacy rights instead of just being racist and irrelevant.

Bubba the Love Sponge is confirming my low opinion of radio DJs much better than when he was just on the radio.

Gawker is being slightly less of an asshole.

Thiel's billionaire-vanities have a lower carbon footprint than most things of that sort.

The lawyers involved are being paid but not impeding an actual business.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 6:15 AM
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It's like the upholstered version of the White Sea-Baltic Canal.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 6:26 AM
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Revive the laws against champerty.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 7:14 AM
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Given how many of the actually valuable media outlets are run at a loss (and how the ones that are run at a profit and would be especially susceptible to this kind of thing are trash like Gawker) I'm torn on this because it seems like one of those "rich people war against each other" things that could have beneficial consequences. I do kind of enjoy the idea of billionaires going after despicable companies by replacing class action lawsuits with thousands of independently funded separate lawsuits*, though I'm not at all convinced that they'd be going after the bad companies with odds any higher than chance. At some point it would have to count as champerty-and-maintenance though, right?

It does seem like something that's really only remediable by removing the existence of people with "money? what is that?" level wealth from the system.

*Imagine if, e.g., Zuckerberg set up a huge fund for the purposes of covering the cost of a lawsuit for every single person negatively impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 7:23 AM
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Trash like Gawker has done a lot of actually good reporting. I don't see how anyone can be torn on this.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 7:30 AM
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The two sentences of six are independent. Even if you think Gawker is trash I still don't see how billionaire using the legal system and proxy lawsuits to settle decades-old scores is a positive development.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 7:32 AM
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It's not really a decades-old score. The last time Gawker outed somebody for the sheer fuck of it was 2015.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 7:34 AM
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I don't believe that Thiel gives a single fuck about that.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 7:35 AM
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What else did Gawker do to him?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 7:35 AM
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Also, it is still a single-decade-old score, since one dates scores from their inception, not from the most recent possibly sustaining event.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 7:35 AM
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What else did Gawker do to him?

In 2007 they ran an article called "Peter Thiel Is Totally Gay" and Nick Denton said "If Silicon Valley is the bastion of tolerance it likes to believe, and if the tech industry cares only about money, it's surprising that Thiel would have kept his personal life a secret from journalists and his closest colleagues, for so long. He was so paranoid that, when I was looking into the story, a year ago, I got a series of messages relaying the destruction that would rain down on me, and various innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, if a story ever ran."

Denton's first sentence is mistaken, since Thiel could just be super private for, well, personal reasons, not because he feared SV reprisals, but the last one is sure interesting.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 7:38 AM
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The problem is that the parts of Gawker that are generating the lawsuits are ones whose actual business model might as well have been "do things that make you liable for lawsuits but not big enough ones from big enough people that you'll have to settle too many". Thiel can make a really good/damaging threat here because all the people who could bail them out can also look around at the sheer number of potential lawsuits and decide to stay out of the whole thing in a way that didn't happen with Mother Jones and Vandersloot (as sordid as that whole thing was).


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 7:38 AM
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12: The "various innocent civilians" seems bad unless it just means other people who happen to work for Gawker, but I don't see what's wrong with threatening Denton over outing him.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 7:40 AM
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I'd entertain the idea of making an exception from the American Rule for third-party funded lawsuits. One way only: if the third-party's side loses, they have to pay. This would have to be written to capture guys like Thiel and not insurance companies.

I have to think about it some more -- I'm not saying I'm going to, just that I have to before forming an actual opinion -- but making the fact of third-party funding admissible (with some sort of limiting instruction) might be kind on interesting.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 7:51 AM
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I don't see anything wrong with Thiel going after Gawker. They are bullies and assholes who deserve to be driven out of business. There was no news value in the Hogan sex tape. Nor was there news value in Thiel's homosexuality, or the names and addresses of every gun owner in NYC. They do things that hurt people for entertainment.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 8:02 AM
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In Gawker's defense, I did laugh a bunch before I felt bad about the Hogan thing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 8:09 AM
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17: It was the rare case where I knew I was rooting for an unjust resolution.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 8:22 AM
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If Thiel can do it, so can Sheldon Adelson (for those newspapers he hasn't bought).


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 8:24 AM
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Maybe it is actually about ethics in journalism.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 8:29 AM
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Vox claims that there used to be laws preventing something like this -- worryingly, the person who is arguing in favor of them is from the Cato institute.

"The law used to disapprove of this kind of arrangement," says Walter Olson, a legal expert at the Cato Institute. For centuries, he argues, courts in the United Kingdom, United States, and elsewhere recognized that wealthy people could use third-party lawsuits as a weapon against those they disliked -- and had rules in place to prevent this power from being abused.

...

Olson argues that if you went back a century or two and talked to British or American legal scholars, "they'd say of course these things would be used by the rich and powerful if you allowed them." Under doctrines called champerty and maintenance, the law used to bar unrelated third parties from paying someone else to engage in litigation and financing a lawsuit in exchange for a share of the damages.

But states have loosened these laws over the last 50 years, in part because lawyers began to see easy access to the courts as being in the public interest. This was driven in part by the rise of public interest litigation -- think, for example, of an environmental group finding a third-party plaintiff to sue a company to stop an environmentally sensitive development project.

"Awards are constantly being given to projects in which some wealthy person decides that someone needs to be sued, finds someone who has standing as a plaintiff, and generously funds their litigation," Olson says.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 8:42 AM
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There was no news value in the Hogan sex tape.

There was news value in the "Hulk Hogan is actually a giant racist" portion of the tape. The gross Hulk Hogan sex portion, not so much.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 8:57 AM
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Their motives are almost certainly contaminated with the desire to push down class-action lawsuits. Imagine if this led to a ban on contingency fees!

But I'm not sure there are adverse consequences of banning third-party individuals from funding/encouraging lawsuits that would not otherwise happen, as long as legal aid, mission-based nonprofits, and the lawyers themselves are not affected.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:00 AM
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I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We're going to open up those libel laws. So that when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they're totally protected.


Posted by: Donald Trump | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:01 AM
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OK. So much of the commentary on this is dumb.

1. Peter Thiel was not necessary to fund this lawsuit. Tons of good defamation lawyers would take it on contingency. And, there are litigation finance companies that would also finance it for a fee. These are not (in the world of big lawsuits) particularly expensive cases to try, sadly for me. This case (and others like it) could have been (and routinely are) brought and financed without the aid of jerky billionaires.

2. The more interesting allegation is not that Thiel "funded the lawsuit" but that he made Hogan less willing to settle, presumably by offering Hogan money from elsewhere to make him less likely to be tempted by settlement money from Gawker. Depending on the terms of the deal from Thiel and Florida's collateral source rule, that may or may not br an offset to Hogan's damages. But, regardless, good luck regulating that kind of thing -- if Hogan was mad/crazy enough, he could keep litigating without Thiel anyway. Or whatever. Thiel's money may make the lawsuit harder to resolve but there are lots and lots of reasons why a plaintiff might not take a settlement offer and lots of reasons why an individual's financial situation might make a plaintiff more or less likely to settle.

3. There is a large body of state law designed to address precisely this issue, known as anti -SLAPP laws ("Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation"). I deal with the California one almost every day. Florida has an anti-SLAPP law though I haven't practiced under it and don't know how it applies here. But basically the idea is to make meritless defamation or 1st Amendment suits easier to dismiss and to allow defendants to collect their fees for meritless suits. There is wide variation in these laws and not all states have them but it's not like this is an unknown problem or one without a common solution.

4. Here, the big problem is that Hogan's suit is not meritless. I don't know the details well enough to know if a total defense applies, one easily could. And the damages award is very high and I would think a reduction on appeal likely. With that said the award is not so high or so inexplicable that it should have been a surprise to Gawker -- Gawker was a thinly capitalized company that deliberately walked as close to/recklessly exceeded the line for defamation and privacy torts. This was absolutely true regardless of whether Peter Thiel hated them or did not hate them -- it was an obvious problem with their business model.

5. With that said companies and individuals using defamation law (or other tort claims, eg theft of trade secrets) to pursue enemies and whistleblowers etc etc is a real problem. But it is not in any way a new problem. As I say anti-SLAPP laws exist to prevent it, as do other doctrines. This isn't some brand new development brought on by Peter Thiel.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:03 AM
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Re: 2, from what Denton was saying (I know, I know) the issue wasn't so much that Thiel's actions made Hogan less likely to settle, than that they made it harder for Gawker to survive a victory or a settlement, because it wouldn't be covered by insurance.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:08 AM
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That said, I basically agree with RT. I don't see Thiel's involvement as some huge problem for free speech, or indeed a new development. Gawker have nobody to blame for their predicament but themselves, and much of what they publish(ed) consists of actionable invasions of privacy. If that's your business model, then you're going to be at risk of being sued out of business. This is not a problem for democracy. It's a problem for prurience.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:12 AM
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Won't somebody think of the underwriters.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:12 AM
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26 -- that just means that Hogan made a demand in excess of, and wasn't willing to settle for, a settlement within the range of Gawker's insurance. But that's not a particularly unusual turn of events and plaintiffs aren't required to accept a settlement within the policy limits of Gawker's policy, which is something Gawker certainly should have and likely did know.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:12 AM
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Maybe I misinterpreted what I read, but the claim was that because Hogan's lawyers dropped a particular cause of action, the damages wouldn't have been covered. Are you suggesting the only important variable was the quantum covered, not the nature of the claim? ie cause X + Y allows a settlement of x2+y2, but cause X only allows a settlement of x2?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:16 AM
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30: I read something like that also.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:17 AM
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If Thiel can do it, so can Sheldon Adelson (for those newspapers he hasn't bought).

If Thiel can do it, Thiel can do it, to an entity less widely disliked than Gawker.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:17 AM
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How many other entities are putting up hidden-cam sex tapes?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:19 AM
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Silly me, I thought to generalize beyond the absolute specifics of this case to "billionaires funding lawsuits to destroy journalists they dislike". Clearly, though, that was foolish.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:21 AM
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I'm just pointing out that Gawker isn't vulnerable because it's disliked. It's vulnerable for a very specific act.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:24 AM
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7: How is "decades-old" relevant? What exactly about the fact that Thiel was patient is bad here? Would it really be better if he hadn't waited for a suit to come up that had clear legal merit? If he'd immediately harassed Gawker with a bunch of meritless claims?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:25 AM
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That said, I basically agree with RT. I don't see Thiel's involvement as some huge problem for free speech, or indeed a new development.

It seems relevant that billionaires can bankrupt you with lawsuits even if they merely dislike you for some reason (e.g. political grounds) and you did not do anything that warrants them suing you.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:25 AM
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30 - That's a separate issue, and I misunderstood what you were saying (and haven't read much about the details of the case). First, there are some claims (intentional torts like fraud, quasi-criminal claims) thay can't be covered by insurance. Second, beyond that, some insurance policies only cover certain kinds of claims. Often, plaintiffs will not plead those claims because they want access to insurance money. But sometimes they will because you can often get more $$ for those claims. Without knowing the details, I assume Denton's claim is that Thiel's involvement made Hogan more likely to go for broke and frame the case in a way that made it harder for Gawker to get insurers to pay for the defense and settlement. But that's a strategic decision that's not all that uncommon.

A separate issue, which I thought you were raising earlier, is whether Hogan was willimg to settle in an amount which Gawker's insurance policy (even if it applied) was able to cover, or whether he wanted more.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:26 AM
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It's odd some of the stuff I'm reading implying Thiel is "showing" billionaires how to hound their critics, by not only funding specific lawsuits but also funding years of detective work as sowing dragon's teeth. I'm dubious this would be such a novel idea, and wonder if that happened in the past, just more behind the scenes. But who knows, maybe billionaires are few enough / idiosyncratic enough.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:27 AM
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If there's a scandal here, it should be that so many people share the intuitions that:

(a) Without deep Thiel-like pockets you effectively don't have the ability to seek civil remedies against powerful institutions like Gawker.
(b) Innocence is not a protection against lawsuits; anyone with enough money and a vendetta can ruin any media outlet, or at least credibly threaten to impose sufficient costs to deter them from reporting on something.

I am not sure that these things are true, but it is a disaster for society that they're even plausible.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:30 AM
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(a) is not true and (b) is mostly not true, though a dedicated harassing rich person can certainly be a major headache and expense for a media outlet, even a totally innocent one.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:33 AM
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Related: this morning on the radio (4:30 am on the NPR station, I'm guessing BBC World Service) I heard about 45 seconds of some smug asshole Cowen type talking about how stupid and counterproductive raising the minimum wage is, and it sent me through the fucking roof, because you know goddamn well that he's of the type who started out saying that we shouldn't raise the minimum wage because it would increase unemployment, then, when that was disproved, moved on to "we shouldn't raise the minimum wage because it hurts low income workers most," then, when that was disproved, has moved on to "we shouldn't raise the minimum wage because it hurts a tiny sliver of low income workers the most, even as it helps everyone but them."

He even threw in "this isn't how you fix inequality" and I tuned out, because you know goddamn well that he's one of these "inequality doesn't exist and if it does exist it's not a problem and we can't fix the inequality problem anyway so don't try" assholes.

In short, hang the rich.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:33 AM
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(a) Without deep Thiel-like pockets you effectively don't have the ability to seek civil remedies against powerful institutions like Gawker.

That would be an interesting point if Thiel had ever sought civil remedies against Gawker.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:34 AM
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I think the difference between this and stuff that always happened all the time isn't just that Thiel spent years building up a database of people whose lawsuits he could fund (though that's certainly dedication on his part) it's that he also made very public that he'd done it after the Hogan suit. He isn't just damaging them by taking their money, but also by making clear to everyone that Gawker is absolutely going down and any time they spend trying to help them in any way is wasted. So he's cutting Gawker off from any support it might otherwise have been able to get, which makes it much more likely that it won't be able to survive one or two more lawsuits.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:34 AM
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I'm just pointing out that Gawker isn't vulnerable because it's disliked

No, but people are unconcerned because it's disliked, which strikes me as weird.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:34 AM
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On a related note to 42.last: it looks like my family is going to be in a Hillary commercial focused on CHIP.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:35 AM
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No, but people are unconcerned because it's disliked, which strikes me as weird.

Not to sound too cynical, but it strikes me as totally SOP spite. Prosecutorial shenanigans engaged against an unpopular figure are almost always ignored. "That doesn't seem right, but fuck that guy."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:38 AM
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How is "decades-old" relevant? What exactly about the fact that Thiel was patient is bad here?

Patient evil people are more sinister than hotheaded evil people. I was employing something called "rhetoric", which is the name of a passel of verbal tricks people use to exploit irrationality and play upon emotions. You may have heard of it!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:38 AM
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Hooray. But now you have to put in a disclosure every time you comment on Clinton.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:38 AM
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Here's the thing. When the judgment came down the consensus response seemed to be, "That makes sense, they were in the wrong. However, this amount of money is ludicrous for a case like this. The amount of money is just weird. If this becomes normal, journalism will be impossible just because of the escrow requirements." And now, it makes sense. So isn't this a new thing?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:42 AM
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And it's your fault if she doesn't win PA.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:42 AM
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Of course innocence is not a defense against being hit with a meritless lawsuit, but media law in the USA offers media defendants (quite rightly, IMO) unusual avenues for quickly getting rid of meritless cases, such that there's not much reluctance to publish good stories merely for fear of a meritless suit (though there is attention to fact checking, etc.).

The thing that differentiates the Gawker case isn't just that people hate Gawker (I don't - I would be sad to lose Deadspin) but that Hogan's claims appear to have had substantial legal merit.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:43 AM
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47: Well, yes, but I thought we might try to be above that.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:47 AM
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50 - large verdicts that get subsequently reduced on appeal (or not) happen nearly daily in this country and affect every industry. The Hogan verdict looks excessive on its face to me but is well within the range of what I'd have said a jury could award against them if they ever got through trial.


Posted by: RT | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:48 AM
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38: Can't remember if this is the version I saw it in, but this is the NYT:

Questions about the independence of Mr. Bollea, who never mentioned a third-party backer, first emerged when his lawyer removed a claim from his complaint that had the effect of eliminating Gawker's insurance company from the case. That struck many legal observers as odd, given that most lawyers seeking large payouts want to include claims that are insured against because doing so increases the chances of a settlement.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:51 AM
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55 - yes, that's consistent with what I was (ar least trying to) say in 38.1.


Posted by: RT | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:53 AM
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Didn't other sites also post some of the Hogan tape but only Gawker got sued like this?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:57 AM
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Yes. But also.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 9:59 AM
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Someone has to come out in favor of litigation financing. The nineteenth century "champerty" rules weren't intended to prevent rich people from harassing their enemies, they were intended to prevent poor people (or their survivors) from suing railroads. Litigation financing in various forms is absolutely critical to permit lawsuits against coal companies, tobacco companies, asbestos manufacturers, etc. The cases are just too expensive, and they take too long, to bring any other way. As mentioned above, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and similar organizations also either are, or depend on, financing. If the threat of financed litigation deters some publishers from printing sex tapes, or some baby food companies from watering down their products, I'm down with that.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:00 AM
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59 is also absolutely correct. And in general rich people preventing poor people from bringing lawsuits at all is a much bigger problem than rich people bringing meritless lawsuits to silence critics. The latter is a real problem but one best dealt with (and, in fact, already largely though far from perfectly dealt with) by substantive rules of defamation law and procedural devices like anti-SLAPP laws. Banning third party litigation funding will mostly help rich people do the former.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:10 AM
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This is why my suggestion was to tax the rich, rather than bar funding lawsuits. Or, as I said to a friend, no one should have more than a few million bucks.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:14 AM
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That's a bigger question. I think no one should have more than $25 million but that a few million is too low.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:16 AM
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No one should have more than $25 million, except for 3 lottery winners/year who get $100 million each but have to spend 100% of that within 1 year on frivolities. Thus creating endless reenactments of Brewster's Millions and leaving room for rich people to spend on awesome things like Bugattis, but not on dynasty trusts and SLAPP suits.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:24 AM
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I wonder what the figure is, most one person has consumed. It's probably under $200 million? Sure, there have been athletes that have blown through $100 million, but much of that was probably bad investments, alimony, taxes, etc. But what is the upper limit on human consumption to date? Spending on real estate doesn't really count that much against the figure because it can always be sold. Actual human consumption in food, jet fuel, ski tickets, coke, wine, etc is probably less than $200 million. If gambling is included, that probably boost the figure a lot. Maybe Mobutu. Or Larry Ellison, he's spent a lot of money on sailing boats and jet planes. There has got to be some Russian oligarch who ranks up there. Maybe a Saudi sheikh.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:28 AM
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I wonder what the figure is, most one person has consumed. It's probably under $200 million?

You can (reportedly) spend more than that on a wedding.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:32 AM
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So now we know that ogged has about a million bucks and Moby has about 24 million. Good to know!

Isn't the boom in mandatory litigation click-through (and other) agreements another example of rich people making it hard for poor people to sue them? Sounds worth doing something about. I think I heard there was a bill being put before Congress about it.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:32 AM
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That does look lavish, but I don't know if I buy that. But $200M is probably too low.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:36 AM
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How much does a van Gogh fetch at auction these days? Yet people buy them. And there are the obsessive collectors of vintage cars and planes. And private zoos. And we're not even going there with the illegal stuff. All the artworks smuggled out of Italy. How much would that Tarbosaurus that was smuggled out of Mongolia have gone for if somebody hadn't blown the whistle.

And the marginal stuff. Are all the private space programmes beloved of silicon valley bores actually research and investment or self-indulgence? Or both?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:38 AM
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People buy van Gogh, but they probably don't consume them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:40 AM
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You can drop over 100 mil on a superyacht.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:41 AM
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How much does a van Gogh fetch at auction these days? Yet people buy them

Presumably that would be disqualified on the same grounds as real estate.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:41 AM
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Yeah, $100M is way too low for the Brewster's Millions winners. At least $1B per year, but it must all be spent within one year. I think you should get to keep the megayacht or expensive artwork, but no real property and absolutely no financial investments. There is a catch-all category for "non-awesomeness" which disqualifies a purchase from the lottery winner. Those rules are complicated but it's my economic system and I'm running it.


Posted by: RT | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:45 AM
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72: Will Arbitrators of Awesomeness be appointed for life?


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:48 AM
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I think you should get to keep the megayacht or expensive artwork, but no real property and absolutely no financial investments.

There could be a land-trust like system that you can only sell the megayacht or artwork to a future lottery winner, and the price would be capped.

Of course a typical person couldn't pay for maintenance on a yacht, once they'd spent the winnings. Question: If the yacht is insured and happens to go up in flames on day 364 of the year, could they collect the insurance money? What if it burned on day 1 after the end of the year?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:49 AM
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On a related note, Pennsylvania is the only place I've ever lived where there are TV commercials reminding you that burning something for the insurance money is a crime.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:52 AM
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All you'd really need to do is go to Dubai and buy the imbecilic things that pointlessly rich people buy there.

Spending a year drinking pre-phylloxera cognac and wine would also be pretty great, and could definitely push you above a couple million just with that alone. I'm not sure exactly how much, but partly because a lot of the websites that seem like they're actually offering bottles for sale are of the "look, if you have to ask..." variety. There are also a bunch of Veblen Scotches out there that sell for over a hundred thousand each or something ridiculous. I doubt they're actually as nice to drink, though.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:57 AM
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I think you should get to keep … expensive artwork, but … absolutely no financial investments

Hmmmmm.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 10:59 AM
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74 -- in the one year period, you can't buy bullshit like insurance. You can't pay any financial advisor's fee. Those are the rules, live by them!


Posted by: RT | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:00 AM
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I think the real way to burn the money would be on services rather than goods, though. Rent enough legislators and you could get some genuinely amazing laws passed ("At all formal events they attend the President must attend wearing an official presidential speedo and bowtie only.") You could throw a few hundred million alone at making a couple big movies, especially if you had to have the thing completed within a year.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:02 AM
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I'd be interested in the upper limit on consumption netting out whatever is resellable at the end. Command performances by big stars could go a long way, as per the linked wedding.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:02 AM
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in the one year period, you can't buy bullshit like insurance. You can't pay any financial advisor's fee. Those are the rules, live by them!

Can you continue to pay for the financial advice/insurance you might already have been paying for before the period began?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:04 AM
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If you buy and sell something within the year, can you keep the proceeds?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:05 AM
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Sure, but you can't insure new stuff or pay for financial advice w/r/t the $1B


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:05 AM
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82 - no, those have to be spent within the year as well. It just adds to the $1B.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:06 AM
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I think it would be impossible to prevent some holdover from occurring, if only because immediately afterwards there would be plenty of money to be made writing a "how I spent one billion dollars in a year and what it was like to eat endangered animals coated in a gold leaf prepared for me by Angela Merkel and each bite placed gently in my mouth by a naked Lucy Lawless" book.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:08 AM
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79: I couldn't even imagine how satisfying it would be to complete your set by getting your sixty-seventh senator.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:11 AM
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The thread has moved on, but Thiel's Palantir seems to be in trouble. Watching a libertarian asshole go down would be enjoyable in itself, but this is extra promising in that said asshole's company (1) was founded with CIA money and (2) couldn't exist without federal contracts.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:19 AM
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You could throw a few hundred million alone at making a couple big movies, especially if you had to have the thing completed within a year.

This would be a great way to go, and not just because of the stimulus to the local economy. You'd have an amazing souvenir of your time as the lottery winner. "R. Tigre: Erotic Space Emperor, Now in IMAX" would be a great memory.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:20 AM
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Bottles of water, that's what I'm going to buy.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:27 AM
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How much is Chuck Tingle charging for scripts these days?


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:28 AM
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Fill the pool with 100k per liter water. Would it be as good as the pool at Dumbarton Oaks? Maybe!


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:29 AM
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You could definitely do this and have it be awesome. Private concerts, meals from the best chefs every day, killing majestic animals for sport....


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:33 AM
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Thinking about it, if I won that lottery my first question would be, "what's the lowest-effort way for me to give money away to friends and family." Can I buy 200 $10K Amazon gift certificates and 500 $2K Costco gift certificates and just start handing them out to everybody I know?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:34 AM
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How much are we trying to spend again? I don't get paid enough to scroll up on my phone.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:35 AM
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Can I buy 200 $10K Amazon gift certificates and 500 $2K Costco gift certificates and just start handing them out to everybody I know?

Is that remotely lower-effort than, or remotely as useful as, writing checks? Cash can be spent anywhere.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:36 AM
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It's $1 billion. And no you can't just give it away or give it to charity, you church mice. That was one of the rules of the original Brewster's Millions IIRC.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:36 AM
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Can you establish fake-ass jobs for people? Brewster's Keynesianism?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:37 AM
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93: I suspect the selfish/frivolous rules would get in the way of that, or at least in any long term way that didn't just involve inviting them along to ridiculous concerts/feasts/whatever. Otherwise it would be trivial to spend almost any amount since you could just give it away to people who need money.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:37 AM
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Or, like, Brewster's patronage?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:38 AM
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Yes.


Posted by: RT | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:38 AM
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I would definitely give lots of money to Ranjit Bhatnagar so he could make more clever twitter bots like Pentametron and Wolf Proverbs.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:39 AM
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A billion is a challenge. I mean, you could buy a bunch of planes (going everywhere by F-18 would be pretty awesome), but to make a proper spectacle, it's not easy to spend a billion dollars in a year.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:39 AM
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you church mice.

That's fair. While I admire the spirit of the thing, my first reaction is simply that trying to spend $1B sounds like way too much effort, and that I'm not cut out for it.

Is that remotely lower-effort than, or remotely as useful as, writing checks? Cash can be spent anywhere.

Yes it's less effort. It takes me 20 minutes to order the gift cards and then I can just give them away, I don't have to write out 700 checks (for larger amounts writing checks would be handy, but I want something that I can just keep in my bad and hand out whenever I feel like it).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:41 AM
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So you hire someone to write checks for you, thus giving them gainful, meaningful employment.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:43 AM
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I mean, imagine you did what I suggested and had a fancy meal for you immediate family for every meal. $15,000/day, max. Also a private concert every night. $500,000/day? Not even $200M there.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:43 AM
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You can't pay rent with Amazon gift cards (I assume).


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:43 AM
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What if Gawker was behind the troubles at Palantir. Who knows how deep this could go?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:47 AM
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killing majestic animals for sport....
I've long thought there was a business to be found in whale safaris, done old-school with hand-thrown harpoons and open boats.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:50 AM
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104: My grandfather said his company employed a senior exec who did nothing but sign checks, and an assistant who did nothing but hand him the checks and blot the ink.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:53 AM
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Sounds like a signcure.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:55 AM
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This scrupulously evenhanded article is pretty good.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:55 AM
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From a disinterested source, too!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 11:57 AM
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I mean, imagine you did what I suggested and had a fancy meal for you immediate family for every meal. $15,000/day, max.

And it wouldn't be hard to top that, even if you weren't inviting every friend and family member(you liked) along with you each evening.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:01 PM
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Even though it serves a crowd, just a single panda costs millions.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:01 PM
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Surely there are only so many bottles of 70-year-old wine, though. (I suppose as you drink them down the others will become more expensive. Indeed! If you were known to be cursed with having to spend $1B, what would prevent everyone from giving you absurd markups?)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:02 PM
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I mean, if dumb rich kids can manage 132K I bet I could do even better


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:04 PM
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$6 for a cappuccino? Damn.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:06 PM
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It's not possible to consume $1b dollars in one year unless you are literally doing things like buying megayachts and then sinking them. (Without sinking them, they are very valuable assets left over at the end of the year--they've not been consumed.) And the bad news is megayachts don't come off an assemblyline quickly and aren't stocked at the local Bass Pro Shop--you may not even be able to buy enough of them quickly enough to spend the money. (What happens if you don't spend all the money? Does the residual just get taken away, or are you punished somehow? Because if the residual just gets taken away, that's an easier problem to solve--just take away the megayachts at year-end. And sink them I guess.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:08 PM
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Thiel came up by name in this past weekend's Oakland Book Festival "utopian thought" panel as the dark side of Bay techno-futurism.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:09 PM
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Yeah, you can spend it all on wine and champagne, that's true. But this is more interesting if you think there has to be some spectacle to the spending. A fancy meal looks fancy; an expensive bottle of wine is just wine.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:10 PM
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You could go the ancient Greek route and finance basic infrastructure. That's pretty expensive.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:12 PM
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In order to ensure that it's appropriately spectacular, you commemorate the start of construction on the Neb Nosflow Actually Good BART System with a balls-out triumphal march/debauch.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:14 PM
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How much would it cost to sink another transbay tube/widen stations for four tracks?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:16 PM
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Those are exactly the questions the planners of the NNAGBS are asking!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:17 PM
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Buying your own fighter jet.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:23 PM
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I mean, I'm sure this whole exercise is a solved problem, maybe many times over, by various Middle-Eastern douchebag princelings, but I'm trying to be tasteful about it.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:24 PM
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I doubt $1Bn would actually get any useful public works in most places. Mount Mossmore, though, would certainly be doable. Any balance remaining after construction could go to a trust fund employing the gardeners tending the moss on my eternally graggy eyebrows.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:27 PM
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123: They say 10 to 12 billion for the tube.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:27 PM
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(In all seriousness, I do think the article in 111 is more accurate w/r/t Thiel's motivations than his personal anger at being written about.)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:27 PM
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Just saw something saying civil engineers think we need to spend another $8b annually on bridges alone.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:32 PM
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The gardeners mycology PhDs tending my eyebrows. FTFM.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:32 PM
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You could buy your own spaceship company. Just because it's been done doesn't mean it can't be done again. (Don't buy one that makes reusable rockets though, as you would have something left over if they worked.)


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:34 PM
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1B would go a long way towards the creation of lots of very well funded endowed chairs whose names insult people I don't like. "Where do you work?" "Oh, I'm the '[Name Withheld] Is A Fathead Endowed Chair Of Moral Philosophy' at Princeton."


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:35 PM
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"...my office is on the second floor of Cheney Farts In Elevators Hall."


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:38 PM
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Gawker sucks, but I'm surprised that in a Gawker versus Thiel fight anyone would take Thiel's side. He's cartoonishly evil. He's basically the villain in Snow Crash.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 12:38 PM
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Is anyone taking Thiel's side? I haven't seen anyone do so here.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 1:10 PM
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136: togolosh.

Anyway, you are insufficiently anti-Thiel. He's everything you hate in the world. He's a uber-libertarian Silicon Valley douchebag. If we have to completely repeal the rule of law to stop him, then you should be the first in line to lead the charge.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 1:17 PM
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Completely repealing the rule of law is more or less Thiel's actual goal.

Did you know he thinks enfranchising women was a mistake? It's true!

He does, however, literally want to live forever, so he and Tigre might find some common ground in insane ambitions.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 1:18 PM
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137 - Good point. What we need is some way to take Thiel's billions and use the money for a Brewster's Millions scenario. Not really enough to set up my multi-year winner plan, but probably enough to complete my dream of 2-3 gigantic colossuses of myself straddling the openings to major harbors throughout the United States.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 1:23 PM
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That is, probably enough for 2-3 colossuses. Only one Tigre colossus per harbor.


Posted by: R Tigre | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 1:24 PM
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It's too late. We now know at the critical moment of truth we can divert you from the revolution by getting you to argue about the finer points of law.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 1:26 PM
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139: Two birds with one stone: make the Colossus straddle the Bay and hook up commuter ziplines.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 1:38 PM
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A billion is a challenge. I mean, you could buy a bunch of planes

It's like you don't even read your own blog, ogged.

Do I have to spell it out?


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 2:02 PM
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But what can I expect? I meana mere Bugatti? Does Halford not know from a Pagani Huayra? Who are you people?


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 2:05 PM
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And I know you can drop upwards of $250 mill on a mega yacht or a private island. But how much can you realistically drop on hookers and blow?


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 2:06 PM
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136: I'm sort of on Thiel's side here. On the one hand, the outsized influence of billionaires is a problem. On the other hand, Gawker basically made a business out of beating up on people that couldn't effectively fight back. Outing Thiel, outing Tim Geithner's brother, posting Jennifer Lawrence's nudes, hell even outing the creepy Reddit moderator guy.

If you're gonna pick on people because you can get away with it and it suddenly turns out you can't, well, my sympathy is limited.

9: Why? Fear of being involuntarily outed seems like a pretty formative experience for a lot of gay folk; even the most hardened libertarian must get a little satisfaction from exacting revenge on his people's oppressors.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 2:42 PM
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137: I'm also on his side with respect to building a floating libertarian utopia in international waters. I'll gladly chip in for travel expenses for any libertarian who wants to set up permanent residence there.

Also this also covers what I'd do with that billion dollars. I figure you could probably do a floating utopia from scratch in a year if you had lots of time beforehand to do the planning. It'd need lots of finish work, but you could do the floaty bit quite fast if you designed it right. The US churned out liberty ships at an insane rate during WWII. Presumably a simply designed floaty thing that connects to other floaty things could be produced on a similar scale.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 2:44 PM
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147.1: I hear the Gulf of Aden is nice and warm.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 3:42 PM
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As a reminder, Peter Thiel funded James O'Keefe, because he's a philanthropist.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 4:30 PM
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Well played, Wired.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 4:42 PM
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It's not possible to consume $1b dollars in one year

Of course it's possible, it's easy, and has been done a lot. You just need a lot of help with the hookers and blow.

Parties. Games (as in Rome.) Politics. More parties. 100, 1000 people banquets. Festivals.

Historically, you needed to give money away to acquire allies and dependents in order to defend yourself from the other plutocrats.

Win the billion dollar lottery, invite all my Internet acquaintances, say 200+, to Hawaii or Tahiti for as long as the money lasts. What, $2000 a day apiece minimum?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 5:29 PM
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151 last I guess is peanuts for a billionaire, might not even lower the principal.

Need to dissolve some pearls in vinegar.

How many people did Louis XIV support in Versailles?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 5:35 PM
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Good Slate Article on The Lawsuit

Pretty much a 1st amendment absolutist, beyond all reason, and an unstated part of the lack of sympathy for Gawker here I think relates to the category of "revenge porn."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-26-16 6:20 PM
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"A billion is a challenge. I mean, you could buy a bunch of planes (going everywhere by F-18 would be pretty awesome), but to make a proper spectacle, it's not easy to spend a billion dollars in a year."

Oh, spending a billion dollars would be pretty simple: Buy a medium-sized railroad on credit, electrify it, then sell it to pay off the debt. You could probably buy a regional like the Portland & Western (~500 route miles) and get enough of the contracts under way so that there'd be no way of clawing back any of that now-vanished billion dollars when the clock ticked 8760 and you had to hand the keys over to the new owners.


Posted by: David Parsons | Link to this comment | 05-27-16 8:57 AM
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