Friday, February 25, 2005

The theory of the patent system, is that if we provide innovators with an incentive, in the form of financial reward, we'll get more innovation. So, it's interesting that so many innovative programmers seem to hate it:

Code is protected by copyrights. If you have competitors, beat them on implementation, or service. Playing the big-bad patent card is an admission that you can't compete otherwise.

In theory, these are the guys who the patent system is supposed to reward. But, as they're all too aware, in practice, it seems more to reward extortionists: has the jaw-dropping story about European futures exchanges, brokers and traders preparing for patent infringement claims from Trading Technologies, a US software company, natch, located in Chicago -- where else? -- which has hit on what it appears to view as a pot of gold for itself by obtaining two patents on its MD Trader software product in August of 2004, patents it is now aggressively enforcing. It settled [PDF] two patent infringement cases [PDF] already, under circumstances some are questioning, for some licensing dough, and it is currently suing eSpeed, the electronic arm of Cantor Fitzgerald. ...

TT has suggested to the four main futures exchanges -- two in Chicago and two in Europe, Euronext.Liffe and Eurex -- that they should cross its palm with silver to keep it from launching patent infringement lawsuits against them.

Note that "Trading Technologies" doesn't even claim that the exchanges have benefited in a direct way from whatever innovation they claim to have done. Instead, they are claiming patent rights to allow the exchanges to continue doing things that they were already doing. So the exchanges innovated, and as punishment for that, they get to pay off these parasites who claim, after the fact, a for royalties on systems and algorithms which they never helped develop. So much for encouraging innovation.

The patent system does have one other effect, though. The cost of the payoffs, and the attendant litigation, has a seriously chilling effect on small innovators, and particularly unfunded free software projects. Which may have something to do with big business pulling out all the stops at WIPO to preserve and extend it.

(That last, via BoingBoing which also refers us to two other stories of interest: why just signing into a website as "anon0101" doesn't keep them from finding out who you really are; also, on the surveillance front, how Italy, not most peoples' idea of a center of the wah on terrah, is running out of wiretaps).

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Once again, my muse is on an unannounced hiatus. Which may, perhaps, be an inconvenience to my regular readers (all three of you), but it seems to be unavoidable -- the inconsiderate minx doesn't tell me her travel plans, so I'm quite unable to inform the rest of you. And while she's either off on siesta at Capo, or teaching a platoon of incensed female bloggers proper combat discipline for their final assault on Kevin Drum, I'm stuck passing along a few bare links to stories you should already be aware of anyway. So, before I embarrass myself any further, here we go:

Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla has been regularly quoting the TBR news site which I've irregularly mocked. That said, she's also been doing some digging of her own, and found some of its claims echoed from much more credible sources than "The Voice of the White House."

One of its most incendiary allegations is that Dubya's crew has been systematically underreporting casualties from Iraq. You can find a list of more mainstream reports suggesting as much here, but you'll miss the biggie -- a post pointing out that even though the official count of wounded is at around 10,000, more than 20,000 soldiers have been treated at Landstuhl Germany alone.

Another hobbyhorse of "The Voice of the White House" is the aerial assault on Iran which he's been predicting Any Day Now for months. Scott Ritter is now predicting it for this summer. Ritter is, you will recall, the former weapons inspector who was widely mocked before the war for his unbelievable contention that Saddam had no WMD.

Speaking of wild claims, one of the key Republican House leaders claimed at a convention last week that we're continuing to find evidence of Saddam's WMD programs. It turns out that these guys can't even quote Fox News right.

That'll do for now. When the muse returns (in extreme high dudgeon, I'll expect, about the rude guy at the taxi stand at the airport), there's something to be said about right wing definitions of loyalty, civility, and decorum -- but she's on tour somewhere, and I'm afraid it'll just have to wait.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

David Brooks has noticed that Dubya's budget is bleeding money. Dubya's created costly new medical entitlements for the aging, and he wants a social security "reform" proposal which, he now admits, will drain huge new sums out of the treasury for transition costs. If we were taxing as we were under, say, Clinton, this might be livable, but with Dubya's vast new tax cuts for the rich, there won't be enough money coming in to pay for it all.

Brooks looks at this, and regretfully says that those greedy old geezers from the AARP will just have to take less cash...

Update: It looks like this is an opening shot in a right-wing propaganda campaign against the AARP, and its opposition to Dubya's Social Security "reform" proposals (which, ironically enough, make the immediate fiscal problems worse). via Atrios.

At Boskone this year, a conventioneer named Mr. Gay made a point of asking the people postering for another, gay-themed SF convention to "stop misusing [his] family name". He might possibly get more sympathy from the New England Patriots, or at least one of their replacement defensive players, Randall Gay. If they want to get together and commiserate, I know just the place -- Aquinnah, the Martha's Vineyard village formerly known by the frequently misunderstood name, Gay Head.

Coal miners and loggers named Green might want to join the party...