A We the People Petition on the White House web site aims to involve the president in the debate around the TSA's full body scanners. The petition reads:
In July 2011, a federal appeals court ruled that the Transportation Security Administration had to conduct a notice-and-comment rulemaking on its policy of using “Advanced Imaging Technology” for primary screening at airports. TSA was supposed to publish the policy in the Federal Register, take comments from the public, and justify its policy based on public input. The court told TSA to do all this “promptly.” A year later, TSA has not even started that public process. Defying the court, the TSA has not satisfied public concerns about privacy, about costs and delays, security weaknesses, and the potential health effects of these machines. If the government is going to “body-scan” Americans at U.S. airports, President Obama should force the TSA to begin the public process the court ordered.
Since I signed earlier today, I've seen several thousand more signatures go on the record. We need 17,331 more to “require” the president to respond to this petition.
Thom Holwerda over at OSNews is bit overzealous in his campaign against patent enforcement — he'll defend companies that are blatantly and directly copying Apple in ways that are totally unnecessary — but his list of suggested patent reforms has a lot of good ideas. Most notably, this:
Patent applications must be accompanied by a working prototype that must be presented, in person, by the inventor listed on the application, to the patent office. This makes it impossible to file patents on ideas that have not yet been implemented or productised, and will serve to greatly reduce the number of vague and/or bogus applications.
The payoff is clear: so-called “patent trolls,” whose main business is extorting money out of actually productive companies by patenting often obvious ideas and then waiting to find someone to sue, would have to either start being productive themselves or move on. In some sense I can see a working prototype requirement as being too steep for high tech patents, after all, an inventor may wish to have the protection of a patent before seeking manufacturing partners. On the other hand, perhaps a compromise would be to require those requesting a patent to produce a working prototype within a certain probationary patent window or face loss of the patent.
Similarly, Thom is right that software patents can be stunningly vague and that such overly broad patents should be rejected. Nonetheless, I do not think the solution is to eliminate software patents entirely, but require them to be restricted to a particular implementation of an idea, not a broad concept that can be achieved via many different methods.
An insightful article on the process behind the Supreme Court's healthcare decision:
Some informed observers outside the Court flatly reject the idea that Roberts buckled to liberal pressure, or was stared down by the President. They instead believe that Roberts realized the historical consequences of a ruling striking down the landmark health care law. There was no doctrinal background for the Court to fall back on - nothing in prior Supreme Court cases - to say the individual mandate crossed a constitutional line.
An interesting set of survey results from National Geographic:
Nearly two in three Americans think President Barack Obama is better suited than Republican rival Mitt Romney to deal with an alien invasion, according to a survey released Wednesday.
Good to know.
The Washington Post has a nice piece from Robert Barnes, examining the state of the Supreme Court's decisions on cases defended by the Obama administration. He notes some interesting currents in the court:
But whatever the reasons, the losses so far cannot be blamed on the conflict between an increasingly conservative court and a progressive administration. For instance, the authors of the Indian cases that went against the government last week were Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, Obama's choices for the court.
CNN has a very nice, interactive electoral college map for those who want to do some election punditry.
I am not, by any means, a huge fan of Maureen Dowd, but her column in this Sunday's New York Times is an interesting consideration of the current presidential landscape.
Once glowing, his press is now burning. “To a very real degree, 2008's candidate of hope stands poised to become 2012's candidate of fear,” John Heilemann wrote in New York magazine, noting that because Obama feels he can't run on his record, his campaign will resort to nuking Romney.
I'm looking forward to seeing what campaign messages come out over the summer months.
Apple has never been the biggest participant in U.S. national politics, but it looks like CEO Tim Cook is bypassing K-Street and doing a little lobbying himself:
Tim Cook met with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) today. It is unknown what the topic of discussion was, but it's possible that Cook was lobbying Boehner to pass a tax holiday that would allow Apple and other companies with large overseas tax holdings to bring back their earnings at a lower corporate tax rate.
I'd love to know how the conversation went.
CNN reports on an odd bit of the Wisconsin recall election contest:
mediaman sat down with Arthur Kohl-Riggs, a young Republican who carries the values of President Abraham Lincoln and even looks quite a bit like him. Kohl-Riggs, 23, is running against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the recall election, which is tomorrow. He decided to join the race to educate the public. 'Mainstream media's investigative laziness has rendered them unwitting accomplices to Scott Walker's extreme corporate agenda,' Kohl-Riggs told mediaman in an interview on May 3.
Well, with Rick out it looks like we know who the players in this year's race for the White House will be. Alas, another presidential election will pass without a brokered convention, dashing the hopes of this political junkie who would like to see a political convention that decided a party's candidate and wasn't prior to my lifetime.