Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Wednesday Mashup (3/2/11) (updates)

  • From the “past is prologue” file here (40 years ago yesterday)…

    Hundreds of thousands of workers across Britain have taken part in an unofficial day of protest against the government's new industrial relations Bill.

    Figures suggest over 100,000 workers walked out on strike in London alone - although only a tiny proportion of that number, about 2,000 joined a march through the capital.

    Some reports suggest as many as 1.5 million people stopped work across the country.

    The protest is the latest and biggest demonstration so far against the bill, which includes proposals for a strike ballot and a cooling-off period before any industrial action, as well as tighter controls on union agreements and membership.
    And by the way, in a related story as they say, kudos to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for this (and in the other corner, wearing the white trunks, it’s “Now watch this drive” Boehner).

  • Update 3/3/11: Now I must tell you that, as a Democrat, I start off as being biased against Boehner I'll admit, so my point of view isn't going to be totally impartial (though I don't like him for a lot of good reasons, chiefly that he is a thoroughly co-opted corporate shill).

    But after reading this, you have to admit that he truly is overmatched by his job. For a public official to not admit that Social Security has bupkes to do with the deficit is the height of dishonesty and/or incompetence. And you can say the same thing for the fact that the health care law, as it is currently constituted, will lower the deficit over the next ten years, despite what that idiot Joey Vento says (who, I should point out once more, wasn't elected to a damn thing).

    Update #1 3/4/11: Actually, Boehner is partly right here, shockingly enough - someone "doesn't have a clue," but it's not who he thinks.

    Update #2 3/4/11: And here is an item about workers taking out their frustrations that I don't condone or encourage, by the way.

    Update 3/5/11: And add this to the "not having a clue" file.

  • Next, I have some truly shocking news for you – Mikey The Beloved actually made a mistake (here – and yes, you can add this to the swearing-in gaffe and the supposed “listening” session over the health care law which, by total coincidence of course, was attended by a lobbyist representing an organization opposed to the bill, as well as members of that organization, all of whom donated to Mikey’s campaign, as noted here...first bullet)…

    Two weeks ago, while defending his vote not to penalize companies that ship jobs overseas, Bucks County Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick said the motion defeated in January would have sent the full bill back to committee, where it would have been killed.

    And since it was tied to
    House Resolution 38, which allowed Republicans to cut federal spending, the GOP would have been prevented from slicing the budget.
    It turns out, that's not the case.

    Because the term "forthwith" was included in the Democrats' motion, the proposal to "curb the practice of U.S. companies sending jobs overseas" would have been attached to the spending-cuts bill and it could have been voted on immediately.

    Fitzpatrick, however, maintained this week that even without the bill having to return to committee, the Democrats were not interested in a good law but rather in playing politics.

    "The minority party was given an option to file an amendment to the bill and there would have been a debate," the 8th District Republican said. "Instead, they chose to file it as a motion, which is procedural and not substantive."

    Well, among other things, this confirms for me the fact that Mikey doesn’t read liberal blogs, since David Waldman at Daily Kos posted about this two years ago (linked from here). As Waldman points out (along with Lara Brown, a Villanova poli-sci professor quoted in the Courier Times story)…

    …a motion to recommit a bill to committee with instructions to report back a proposed amendment "forthwith" means the bill stays on the floor and is amended immediately, whereas instructions to report back "promptly" actually sends the bill off the floor and back to committee, where it usually dies.
    Yes, it’s minutiae, but guess what? Mikey served in Congress once before, remember? Why doesn’t he get this stuff?

    And oh yes, it’s the Dems’ fault because they didn’t offer an amendment to the bill instead of the recommit motion (and how the Repugs love their amendments to legislation, usually stupid, pointless ones such as the 400 here to largely short-fund or no-fund agencies of government that they don’t want to expose to the cold light of day, as it were).

    Mikey, you screwed up. Again. Admit it for a change, OK (what was that popular phrase from the last election..."man up"?)

  • In addition, I saw something here that made me scratch my head, so I had to look into it a bit more. In the story at The Hill, we learn the following (about Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and his efforts to clean up the patent approval process – more wonky stuff I know, but it’s important)…

    In the past seven years, of almost 3 million applications filed, only 25 patents were granted to small entities that were the second inventor to file but were able to prove they were first to invent. Of those 25, only one patent was granted to an individual inventor who was the second to file. Thus, in the last seven years, only one independent inventor in nearly 3 million patent filings would have gotten a different outcome under the “first-inventor-to-file” system.

    Many proposals in this legislation have been debated for a decade, but we now have core provisions with broad support that will undoubtedly add more certainty around the validity of patents; enable greater work sharing between the USPTO and other countries; and help the agency continue with operational changes needed to accelerate innovation, support entrepreneurship and business development, and drive job creation and economic prosperity.
    So, let me try to “wrap my arms around” this again, OK?

    Three million patent applications filed in seven years, but only 25 granted to legitimate entrepreneurs who could prove they were the first to invent? And one to an individual inventor who was the second to file?

    Yes, I’m not an expert on patent law, but this doesn’t pass the smell test, people.

    So with that in mind, I came across this item…

    In crafting the American Inventor Protection Act of 1999, Congress inserted a proviso calling for the director and other high-level appointees to have “a professional background and experience in patent or trademark law.” The previous year Bruce Lehman had resigned as agency director. Appointed in 1993, he was credited by some with bringing the agency and intellectual property issues from the backwaters to a prominent stage, but Lehman was dogged by the fact that his background was in copyrights.

    After his failed efforts to get the U.S. Copyright Office moved from the Library of Congress to the PTO, Lehman ended up leaving in 1998. Q. Todd Dickinson, with an extensive career in patent law, took over for the final two years of the Clinton administration.

    In 2001 President George W. Bush appointed James Rogan, who had no experience in patents, trademarks or intellectual property in general. As a congressman, he had been one of 13 U.S. House managers in President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, and in the 2000 elections, his Los Angeles County constituency showed their disapproval at the polls. Bush picked him up.
    So Commander Codpiece “picked...up” Jim Rogan, he being a “made man,” having done his best to prolong the Clinton impeachment spectacle.

    And as a result…

    After a little more than two years, Rogan resigned and went into private practice. He now is a California state court judge. He was succeeded by (Johnathan) Dudas, who also came from Capitol Hill in 2002 to be the agency’s No. 2 appointee. Dudas had worked on intellectual property matters as a congressional staffer, but otherwise had no background in patent or trademark law.
    Lather, rinse, repeat – sigh…

    “The levels of review got ridiculous,” says Robert Budens, president of the Patent Office Professional Association, the union representing examiners and other patent professionals in the agency. “The allowance rate began to drop like a stone, in part from a larger fear created in the examining corps, and especially the supervisors who don’t want to get dinged on their performance. People started becoming fearful of allowing things because you could run headlong into quality review problems that make life miserable.”

    Dudas defends his quality-control measures, though he does admit they had some unintended consequences.

    “We focused on quality with a number of new initiatives and the error rate came down,” Dudas explains. “We anticipated the allowance rate to come down, but didn’t think it would come down as much as it did. You never target an allowance rate.”

    While morale plummeted among examiners, it probably wasn’t that good at the top, either. All the while in the background, from cocktail palaver to prominent blogs, there were questions about the bona fides of political appointees in the PTO leadership, some of whose backgrounds ran deep in politics and shallow on patents.

    In 2007, a San Francisco lawyer and patent activist, Gregory Aharonian, along with several others, sued for the removal of a political appointee in a high-level position at the PTO, saying she was not qualified under the provisions of the 1999 statute. The suit claimed Margaret Peterlin’s only qualification was that she’d served as a senior aide to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who resigned in late 2007 not long after her appointment.

    Judge James Robertson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the case in December 2007, finding no congressional intent for a private cause of action. But in his opinion, Robertson wrote that even if he couldn’t order it, it would be good if Peterlin acknowledged her deficiencies and asked various PTO constituencies for help.

    “Besides holding out the prospect of actually addressing the real problems besetting the office,” he wrote, “any such behavior from Ms. Peterlin would be a refreshing change from the hostility and adversarial stance taken in recent times by patent office management.”

    The point was made. Peterlin resigned eight months later, in August 2008.
    Yet another story of Bushco ineptitude, staffing an agency of government with a sycophant and/or ideologue and/or party hack who was previously turned out of public office by voters (though, as noted above, Peterlin was an aide to Hastert).

    Usually, after reading stories like this about our prior ruling cabal, I come to the conclusion that, except for the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch, this country saw nothing approximating economic prosperity because of the utter cluelessness of the stooges who served in the executive branch from 2001-2009.

    After reading this, though, I kind of think that maybe it all happened by design. Which is worse.

  • Continuing, I should note that I came across this rather shocking piece of right-wing propaganda from an individual named Burt Prelutsky, which I probably would not have given further thought to had I not recognized his name as one of the writers of the “M.A.S.H.” T.V. series.

    Now I’m not going to say that, just because of the subject matter of the TV show and the movie, I automatically assumed that everyone associated with either production is a liberal. I know there are certain actors and media people generally who are conservative, which is their right. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I actually have to watch an Adam Sandler movie or a Kelsey Grammer TV show (and I don’t), or listen to Lyle Lovett who voted for George W. Bush in 2004, for example. I know the actor Robert Duvall is also a conservative (speaking of the original “M.A.S.H.” movie – he played Frank Burns), but that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect his work.

    However, there is being a conservative I admire for his or her work (Duvall), a conservative I more or less tolerate and say “I think they’re nuts, but they have a right to their opinion” (Sandler, Grammer), and a conservative I loathe even though I have to grudgingly give him credit for performing for our military, never mind the jingoistic, simplistic claptrap he peddles in his songs (Toby Keith).

    And then there is Burt Prelutsky. In his Daily Tucker screed, he tells us the following…

    Quite frankly, I am getting sick and tired of my fellow conservatives who seem to feel that they should take on back-alley thugs while confining themselves to Marquis of Queensbury rules. I mean, either, like me, they seriously believe that those on the left are out to destroy America or they don’t. If they don’t, they’ve been lying to us. If they do, they shouldn’t be above kicking, kneeing and gouging, because all is fair and even necessary in war, if not necessarily in love.

    Frankly, I personally find their insistence on maintaining a civil tone and setting an upstanding example to be as tedious and self-laudatory as a PBS fundraiser.
    You get the idea; Prelutsky also said here that “if Obama had turned out to be a serial killer, he would be in prison today instead of the Oval Office”; here, he said Congressman Barney Frank should “stop phoning every number he finds scrawled on bathroom walls”; and here, he said "[O]nly [a] loop ... hanging from the branch of a very tall tree" is "appropriate for most ... ninnies in Congress."

    Oh, and of course he opposes those in Wisconsin protesting in response to Gov. Hosni Mubarak Walker’s attempt to gut collective bargaining (funny to me that Prelutsky now opposes the principle of working men and women standing up for their rights, when he apparently had no issue with that as chairman of the Writers Guild of America disciplinary committee here).

    Quite frankly, I think Prelutsky, in addition to being a demagogue, is a hypocrite.

  • Finally, congratulations are in order to Dem U.S. House Rep Rush Holt of New Jersey, who, as noted here…

    ..topped the IBM computer (Watson) Monday night in a "Jeopardy"-style match of congressmen vs. machine held at a Washington hotel.

    Though Holt isn't the first human to beat Watson, the victory adds to the 62-year-old Democrat's already-impressive resume: a former State Department arms control expert and ex-leader of the federal Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

    "I wonder if Watson wasn't having a low-voltage night, because I certainly didn't expect to score higher than the computer," he told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday.

    He built a lead in categories including "Presidential Rhyme Time," in which the correct response to "Herbert's military strategy" was "Hoover's maneuvers." The congressman also correctly identified hippophobia as the fear of horses.

    Watson beat him to the buzzer with "love" when prompted on what Ambrose Bierce described as "a temporary insanity curable by marriage."
    Bierce also described politics as “a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principle…the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

    Fortunately for us all (and the residents of NJ-12 in particular), Holt has stood as an exception to that axiom. May he serve in government as long as his sanity permits him to do so.
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