Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ratigan Delivers a Wakeup call to Congress

 Since the world revolves around the burps and hiccups of the USA here is one of the finest analyses I've heard so far.  Does Obama have the balls to do something like this?  And the answer is... I doubt it. And Canada, where do we sit in like circumstances? What do we know about that front? We seem to change governments every ten years or so for the last three decades but nothing changes.  Why? Is it that we too are slaves to the greedy banking system?  Take a look a this:

Monday, August 08, 2011

Mark Cubans Suggestions on Patent Law

 A great blog post by Mark Cuban on patent law reform, something we could benefit from here in Canada as well. 

My Suggestion on Patent Law

Posted: 8/8/11 01:29 PM ET
It is easy to complain. Much harder to come up with solutions. Many won't like what I propose, but who wants to make lawyers happy anyway?
The solution?
1. End all software patents. Don't make them shorter, eliminate them.
I have no problem with software being copyrightable just as it always has been. That is more than enough protection and keeps enough lawyers un-gainfully employed.
2. End all process patents. They serve absolutely no purpose. None.
If you create a new process, use it. The benefit is from creating the idea and using it in a business to your advantage. Afraid that some big company might steal the idea? That is life. When you run with the elephants there are the quick and the dead. That is a challenge every small company faces. A process patent is not going to make your business successful. The successful execution of business processes will. If we had process patents or the culture of software litigation in the 1980′s as we have today current technology would consist of running terminals on DEC and Wang Computers at the local library for $10 per hour and there probably would not be a world-wide web.
No doubt that by the mid 90′s someone would have sued Marc Andreessen and his friends at the University of Illinois long before Mosaic could ever turn into Netscape. My guess is that the patent attorneys at British Telecom would have been all over them contending that hyperlinking was protected, but for $10 per download they could use them in their new browser...
Some of the benefits of eliminating process and software?
a. Reduce the court room costs associated with process and software patent litigation. That is taxpayer money saved.
b. Improve the efficiency of the Patent Office.
Process patents are a magnet for everyone who has ever dreamed of being awarded a patent. The flood of applications not only slows the speed at which inventions that deserve patents are awarded, it reduces the quality of investigation into applications. That is a lose lose situation. Patents that shouldn't be awarded are awarded, which in turn creates more work as those patents are challenged.
c. End the ridiculousness of the current Patent Arms Race.
Companies are buying patent collections as a way to defer litigation or to support their litigation efforts rather than to benefit from the intellectual property purchased. Billions of dollars are being spent on this arms race. Billions of dollars that without question impact consumer prices from these companies.
d. Patent costs cost jobs.
Uncertainty is never good. Certainty of risk is even worse. What I mean by that is that almost every major corporation is this country has ongoing patent litigation and many, many small companies (my companies included) have ongoing patent litigation as well.
How does this impact jobs and job creation? The thing about patent litigation is that it is unlimited and unquantifiable. There is absolutely no way to look at your business and say "this is where and what my risk is." Because of software and process patents any company could be sued for almost anything. It is impossible to know what the next patent to be issued will be and whether or not your company will be at complete risk. It is impossible to go through the entire catalog of patents issued over the last 10, 15, 20 years and determine which will be used to initiate a suit against your company.
It's impossible to quantify just how much and how often you will be sued and what the costs associated with those lawsuit(s) will be.
The risks are unlimited.
Unlimited risk in any environment will force a company to hold back resources in an attempt to protect itself. In the case of several of my companies, it means that we have held off hiring people so that we have cash in the back to deal with current and future patent litigation.
It's a joke, but that is the reality of doing business in this country.
e. Look overseas
Pick any country that is currently doing well, China is a perfect example. In China the Intellectual Property Laws are so weak that someone thought it was a good idea to completely replicate Apple retail stores. Compare their economy to ours. As much as I hate to compare other economies to ours, it's worth taking a look .
It is time to change. This country needs the change.
Eliminating software and process patents won't end patent litigation, but it certainly will be a good first step. And while it may only be a step, it will be a positive step towards improving the economy and adding jobs.
Update: I wanted to re post a comment from my last post. I think it is important. It obviously doesn't go as far as I would like, but if you care about patent reform let your representatives know.
Unfortunately, the patent reform bill that President Obama just encouraged Congress to pass, does nothing to address the problem of patent trolls. (The full text of the bill, H.R. 1249, can be read here.
This bill passed the House 304-117 and it's companion bill (here) passed the senate 95-5, vitally assuring that the two bills will be reconciled and signed into law in early September, once congress returns from recess. This is "reform" in name only, as the bills will do nothing to discourage the job-killing litigation tactics of the patent trolls that Mr. Cuban references above.
If you care about the issue of patent trolls, you have one month to encourage your Congressperson to amend S.23 and/or H.R. 1249 to include limiting damages from "non-practicing entities" (aka, trolls).

This post originally appeared on Blog Maverick.

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Alberta Creative Hub Receives City of Calgary Funding

Long-awaited funding is a major step towards development of permanent sound stage facilities in Calgary.

(CALGARY) - Today, the Alberta Creative Hub Corporation (ACH) is excited to announce that it has received approval from Calgary City Council for $10 million in funding through the Cultural Space Investment Process for the building of the Alberta Creative Hub, an innovative initiative by Calgary Economic Development.

“The approval from Council for $10 million in funding represents a significant step towards the development of the Alberta Creative Hub,” says Luke Azevedo, Calgary Commissioner – Film, Television & Creative Industries, Calgary Economic Development. “After completing extensive stakeholder engagement and due diligence, we are confident that this facility will enable Calgary to remain a competitive location for film and television production and grow our local industry.

Calgary is no stranger to the film and television industry. The city is well-known for its breathtaking scenery as well as its award-winning crews. To date, Calgary- and Alberta-based crews have amassed more Emmy, Golden Globe and Oscar nominations than any other jurisdiction in Canada. However, the city is also the only major film and television centre in Canada without permanent sound stage facilities. The Alberta Creative Hub will address this concern, along with providing collaborative space and opportunities for training and mentorship.

“The support of Calgary City Council through the Cultural Space Investment Process highlights the City’s ongoing commitment to arts and culture spaces,” says Bruce Graham, President & CEO, Calgary Economic Development. “The Alberta Creative Hub will allow Calgary to continue to attract foreign projects while ensuring the next generation of local filmmakers have opportunities to train and work without moving to another jurisdiction.”

The City of Calgary’s funding will be released over a two year period, starting in 2011. The Alberta Creative Hub has also applied for funding from the Provincial and Federal Governments through applicable granting programs. An offer to purchase has been presented to WinSport Canada for land at Canada Olympic Park.

For more information contact:
Calgary Economic Development


Iceland's On-going Revolution

Here is an article that should be taken to heart by every nation that is not the USA. I would also urge everyone to watch the documentary narrated largely by Matt Damon called "Inside Job". Capitalism is not a bad thing as is evidenced by its seemingly natural tendency to rise to the top regardless of the society or political system that exists - the best examples being the former USSR and now China. Corporatism on the other hand can pretty much be described as evil. Corporations only exist to serve themselves, they have no ethics or conscience beyond that of profit for its shareholders. It is the worst form of a bastardized version of free enterprise. In the USA corporations have all of the rights of a citizen of the realm but have none of the responsibilities. The USA has been hijacked by profiteers. The corporations themselves have been plundered by unscrupulous executives who, while looking to further the bottom line are more often than not only looking for ways to increase their personal bonuses and salaries and the corporation be damned. The world needs to get back to individual and corporate accountability as is expressed in the article below. Yes we all need a revolution. Citizens should not be paying the debts of the worlds greedy bankers.


Iceland's On-going Revolution

by Deena Stryker

An Italian radio program's story about Iceland’s on-going revolution is a stunning example of how little our media tells us about the rest of the world. Americans may remember that at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland literally went bankrupt. The reasons were mentioned only in passing, and since then, this little-known member of the European Union fell back into oblivion.

As one European country after another fails or risks failing, imperiling the Euro, with repercussions for the entire world, the last thing the powers that be want is for Iceland to become an example. Here's why:

Five years of a pure neo-liberal regime had made Iceland, (population 320 thousand, no army), one of the richest countries in the world. In 2003 all the country’s banks were privatized, and in an effort to attract foreign investors, they offered on-line banking whose minimal costs allowed them to offer relatively high rates of return. The accounts, called IceSave, attracted many English and Dutch small investors. But as investments grew, so did the banks’ foreign debt. In 2003 Iceland’s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent. The 2008 world financial crisis was the coup de grace. The three main Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up and were nationalized, while the Kroner lost 85% of its value with respect to the Euro. At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy.

Contrary to what could be expected, the crisis resulted in Icelanders recovering their sovereign rights, through a process of direct participatory democracy that eventually led to a new Constitution. But only after much pain.

Geir Haarde, the Prime Minister of a Social Democratic coalition government, negotiated a two million one hundred thousand dollar loan, to which the Nordic countries added another two and a half million. But the foreign financial community pressured Iceland to impose drastic measures. The FMI and the European Union wanted to take over its debt, claiming this was the only way for the country to pay back Holland and Great Britain, who had promised to reimburse their citizens.

Protests and riots continued, eventually forcing the government to resign. Elections were brought forward to April 2009, resulting in a left-wing coalition which condemned the neoliberal economic system, but immediately gave in to its demands that Iceland pay off a total of three and a half million Euros. This required each Icelandic citizen to pay 100 Euros a month (or about $130) for fifteen years, at 5.5% interest, to pay off a debt incurred by private parties vis a vis other private parties. It was the straw that broke the reindeer’s back.

What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland’s leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland’s citizens responsible for its bankers’ debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.

Of course the international community only increased the pressure on Iceland. Great Britain and Holland threatened dire reprisals that would isolate the country. As Icelanders went to vote, foreign bankers threatened to block any aid from the IMF. The British government threatened to freeze Icelander savings and checking accounts. As Grimsson said: “We were told that if we refused the international community’s conditions, we would become the Cuba of the North. But if we had accepted, we would have become the Haiti of the North.” (How many times have I written that when Cubans see the dire state of their neighbor, Haiti, they count themselves lucky.)

In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt. The IMF immediately froze its loan. But the revolution (though not televised in the United States), would not be intimidated. With the support of a furious citizenry, the government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis. Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers implicated in the crash fled the country.

But Icelanders didn't stop there: they decided to draft a new constitution that would free the country from the exaggerated power of international finance and virtual money. (The one in use had been written when Iceland gained its independence from Denmark, in 1918, the only difference with the Danish constitution being that the word ‘president’ replaced the word ‘king’.)

To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent’s meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections.

Some readers will remember that Iceland’s ninth century agrarian collapse was featured in Jared Diamond’s book by the same name. Today, that country is recovering from its financial collapse in ways just the opposite of those generally considered unavoidable, as confirmed yesterday by the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde to Fareed Zakaria. The people of Greece have been told that the privatization of their public sector is the only solution. And those of Italy, Spain and Portugal are facing the same threat.

They should look to Iceland. Refusing to bow to foreign interests, that small country stated loud and clear that the people are sovereign.

That’s why it is not in the news anymore.

Originally posted to Deena Stryker on Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 08:47 AM PDT.

Also republished by Class Warfare Newsletter: The Plutocracy VS the Working Class and Community Spotlight.