05 November 2008

November Surprise Sausages

These sausages aren't quite as late as the last batch... but they're mostly overcured, oversalted, and over here.

  • Libel suits are often exceptionally silly. Sometimes that's because the statement at issue is itself silly, or at minimum inadequately considered. And I'm not referring to hyperbole such as "Sarah Palin's performance in the Vice-Presidental debate exceeded expectations only because there weren't any", but to factual allegations. Then, conversely, there are attempts to use libel suits to suppress unfavorable factual material that does have adequate support. I've discussed "libel tourism" repeatedly in this blawg; bluntly, libel laws that prevent a person from asserting their own free speech rights under their own governing law violate the UN Charter and basic principles of human rights, but that's a complicated argument for another time. It gets really ridiculous when someone files a libel suit over a scientist's statement.
  • On the intellectual property front, there has been some good news. For one thing, Harvard has backed out of the immensely flawed AG/Google settlement for in-copyright works. Since that's about the first commendable thing that Harvard (as an institution) has done on the copyright front this century, perhaps there's hope yet. On the nerdlier front, remember the plot patent controversy? The Federal Circuit has added another reason to reject its premise — a technical ground that I did not wish to delve into in my screed.

    [The] process as claimed does not transform any article to a different state or thing. Purported transformations or manipulations simply of public or private legal obligations or relationships, business risks, or other such abstractions cannot meet the test because they are not physical objects or substances, and they are not representative of physical objects or substances. Applicants' process at most incorporates only such ineligible transformations. As discussed earlier, the process as claimed encompasses the exchange of only options, which are simply legal rights to purchase some commodity at a given price in a given time period. The claim only refers to "transactions" involving the exchange of these legal rights at a "fixed rate corresponding to a risk position." Thus, claim 1 does not involve the transformation of any physical object or substance, or an electronic signal representative of any physical object or substance. Given its admitted failure to meet the machine implementation part of the test as well, the claim entirely fails the machine-or-transformation test and is not drawn to patent-eligible subject matter.

    In re Bilski, No. 2007–1130 (Fed. Cir. 30 Oct 2008) (en banc) (PDF), slip op. at 28 (citations omitted). This is an independent reason to reject the "plot patent" application.

  • Somewhat more amusingly, the continuous controversy over Frankenstein's origin — or, rather, authorship — has come back again. But I thought that's what Count Dracula did...
  • Misbehaving fighter pilots? I'm shocked, but nobody is handing me my winnings.
  • Given the apparent bigotry still remaining in this country (e.g., both Senatorial candidates from North Carolina and the returning Congressslime from the Minnesota 6th, as in the video on the right): Will they start calling it the "Black House" or the "Half-White House" now, in the interests of giving the "facts" and letting the viewer decide? Or just the un-American House?
  • Regardless of what they call his residence, the President-elect does not have a "mandate" under any rational basis. He won with approximately 52% of the vote. At this time, even seasoned observers can't agree on voter turnout; what that really means is that President-elect Obama was elected by only a plurality of those eligible to vote, which doesn't even consider those not eligible to vote and their opinions (even though they will be governed by him). Thus, we've got another four years of coalition politics and logrolling to look forward too. And that's the November Surprise.