In re: Sugar rights…

So I am still at the law library for those that care, probably got another hour or so to go on this brief thats due tommorow morning. Just putting on technical touches, such as cleaning up the table of authorities and my citations. So I thought what better to do then write real quick on artifical sweetners, which I just read an interesting article on today. Basically Aspartme (once solely branded Nutrasweet) was king of the market riding high on its patent and selling it at $100 a pound, since the expiration however of patent that price has settled to $9. No longer in control of the market newer sweetners such as Splenda have entered and these which are protected by a web of patent rights. Nutrasweet and others have been trying to get into this new sweetners market and is trying to do so by looking into manufacturing in India and China where they feel the protection is not so strong and has potential loopholes. Interestingly as long as there have been artificial sweetners (since the late 1800s in Germany) there have been IP suits on it. Well back to work.

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In re: Overreact?

David Frum, former speach writer and special assistant (whatever that is?) to G.W. Bush has an Opinion piece in the Financial Times today claiming that Bush is “still the right leader.” I only wanted to discuss one little facet of his argument, that being a paragraph 2/3 of the way through that discussed the response to 9/11. Mr. Frum writes:

“The real danger after the attacks of September 11 2001 on America was not that the US would ‘overreact’ – how can a nation overreact to a devasting terrorist attack on its greatest city? – but that it would under-react by persistining in the failed methods of the past.”

This is language that many have come to take and I find particularly troubling, the view that it is impossible to overreact? In an era of ‘proportional response’ I think that overreacting is quite possible, would dropping hydrogen bombs across the middle east have been okay? would have invading Saudi Arabia been alright? (they did seem to be a major source of the terrorists right?) In any event I wish to stress that Afghantistan was the correct response as there clearly was a connection and it was clearly within the realm of a responce to 9/11. However, Iraq, seems to be in a different direction, is this overreacting? We must remember, that no matter how horrible 9/11 was it was ‘only’ 3,000 people, there is a limit to what you can do to avenge this and the death now of 26,000 Iraqis and almost 2000 American troops. To remember the scale of 9/11 I often need to be reminded of the fact 20,000 people died of starvation in Africa the same day. So given that Iraq was not connected to 9/11, the way Saudi Arabia was, and that we didn’t utilize the plans promulgated by many previous senior military minds in conducting the invasion, I feel that not only did we overreact but we did a poor job of it. I still believe that for many Iraqis long term they may be better off, a former professor of mine, who lost his life in helping rebuild, Iraq believed in the invasion and I knew that to someone who knew first hand the opression of the former regime and wasn’t able to safetly travel in his own country because of his families opposition, so for that reason I supported in some facets the war, but not our justifications for it and the costs imposed upon ‘us’.

In re: iPod maps draw copyright threats

Interesting article in Wired on subway maps that were made useable on the iPod by a New York man. All he did was cut up their image that they provided on the web at ipodsubwaymaps.com and make it useable on the ipod (clearly a very useful idea as shown by the number of downloads). However NY and SF transportation folks weren’t happy and wanted it taken down. He has since created his own versions of the maps (can’t copyright facts remember, you can copyright arrangement and selection however) and he believes that this will get around the potential legal problems.

In re: Saving Ohio

So coupled to some degree to the issue on education I raised earlier today, I wanted to quickly jump on a topic i’ve also been meaning to address, saving Ohio. Why does Ohio need saving? Well for one it is a State that should be doing better, it has a good location (Okay the weather in Cleveland might not be amazing, but you get used to it, or so some of us say) and it really shouldn’t be losing out to states that have no prospects of providing water for their residents in 30 years.

How to do this? How to draw companies and smart citizens to Ohio then is the question that I feel needs to be tackled (many other states too). To learn I think we should be looking to other examples, such as how Ireland went from worst to first in Europe. They did it through their tax code and through education. This is what I feel can help Ohio. We need to clean up our corporate code and related laws on doing business in Ohio if we want to draw businesses and we need to foster a legal system that facilitates low transaction costs for businesses, for example making it affordable for small bussiness startups to avoid high legal fees and legal quagmires. In cooperation with this we need to have a tax code that is simple, straightforward and draws business, not one the leeches off the few remaining industries we have.

Couple this with a push towards education, both young and at the university level, meaning we need to have our Universites provide cheaper & better (sounds impossible, but in reality the two eventually can go hand in hand, UNC is much cheaper than OSU) Finally we need to leverage the lifestyle issues, we need to continue to develop decaying inner cities and to keep crime low, culture, sports and the arts in high supply and develope high speed rail that would provide the infrastructure for a state that truly wanted to serve its people better.

Will any of this happen? Sadly no, its unlikely, at least as long as were investing our states money in baseball autographs and rare coins.

In re: Market education.

So I had been meaning to write on this topic for a bit, ever since I read an article in the Economist that discussed how America’s university system was the best in the world. It is true by almost any measure that it is (They cite that 17 of the top 20 universities, or something to the tune of that, are in the US) and the strong draw it has on foreign students who seek a good education. This is not to say of course that countries like India are working to catch up and Germany is trying to create a teutonic Ivy League.

The reason I got interested among others is why do we do this so well and why is our prior education doing so poorly (at least in some areas) I don’t have any data with me but I know that in the Sciences and Maths particularly are being horibly out paced by a lot of the world, especially Asia. It is clear that there are two systems at play here, a private market for college, that doesn’ let everyone in, and an inclusive system (say almost European or socialist) for getting to that point. There are really strong reasons that we wan’t and require everyone to get an education, students at a young age cannot make the rational choice of whether to go to school or not and clearly many parents cannot either.

How do we include the market incentives that have created such good schools however in our public schools? Well to some it has been the ideas of vouchers, in England they have tried by allowing free enrollment and the publishing of ‘League Tables’ that allow you to compare stats among schools. Obviously there isn’t ‘an’ answer, but one answer isn’t the teaching of intelligent design in our so called ‘Science’ classes. It is precisely this kind of conflict that keeps me from being a Republican or Democrat as both sides have certain ridiculous stances on these issues. No child left behind no matter how wonderful the intent might have been, is not going to do much, teaching to artifical standards will only yield students who are able to pass a specific test and only yield results that just get the schools above minimums.

Somehow we need to have carrots, not sticks, to get schools to be better, and we should be trying everything. In Cleveland Heights where I am from originally (although didn’t attend the schools) they are experimenting with a small schools inititaive funded by the Gates Foundation. While it isn’t showing up now, we will soon be facing a time when many of our own countrymen aren’t prepared to attend our own universities.

In re: Roberts not questioned on future tech

Wired has a good story about the lack of questioning to John Roberts, Chief Justice Apointee, during his confirmation hearings. The article notes how Sen. Joe Biden asked one rhetorical question on brainwave scanning, which in reality probably will become an issue. So what questions will he be addressing that they could have asked and gotten an answer on? Well probably not many as any answer was hard to come by in the hearing, but potential questions are ones like this which the Wired article quotes from privacy advocate Marc Rotenberg

“Sometime in the near future, a young man is walking around the Washington Monument for 30 minutes. Cameras capture his face, which yields an identity. That identity is queried in a series of commercial databases, producing his travel records, his magazine subscriptions and other personal details. This is all fed into a computerized scoring system, which singles him out as a potential terrorist threat. He is stopped by the police, who open his backpack and find a bag of marijuana. Is the opening of that backpack a legal search as defined by the Constitution?”

But in general there isn’t much on his views in the area The Electronic Privacy Information Center published on Roberts’ few writings on privacy and seemed concerend (see pdf)

In re: The daily what?

Funny and interesting article on politicans and their understanding of the Daily Show, some don’t know what it is or who Jon Stewart is (host of the Daily Show, a news satire show on Comedy Central…in case you too have been living under a rock), some have taken it for all its worth such as John McCain, who has appeared 5 times. See article on The Hill.