Thursday, April 01, 2010

Blond and the Broken Society: Repairing the USA from Within: Remoralize the Market, Relocalize the Economy and Recapitalize the Poor

Blond and beautiful? (we are aware of the correct spelling)

David Brooks at the New York Times has a strong broadside against the United States as The Broken Society, citing to the ideas of British writer Phillip Blond who claims that the revolutions of the left and right in the past generation have led to a situation in which "The welfare state and the market state are now two defunct and mutually supporting failures." You can't easily quarrel with that.

Brooks writes about Blond's ideas:
"[O]ver the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions...

First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.
Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.
The two revolutions talked the language of individual freedom, but they perversely ended up creating greater centralization. They created an atomized, segmented society and then the state had to come in and attempt to repair the damage." [emphasis added]
One aspect of the solution, according to Blond, is to:
"... remoralize the market, relocalize the economy and recapitalize the poor."
Does that make sense?

Is the secret of Obama's election as U.S. President his reactivation of local grass roots and community organization in "Organizing for America"? Hmm.

Blond's ideas are definitely worth some thought.

魚與熊掌不可兼得 (yú yǔ xióng zhǎng bù kě jiān dé, 鱼与熊掌不可兼得): You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It Too: Internet Censorship in China

From the Wiktionary:
魚與熊掌不可兼得 (traditional, Pinyin yú yǔ xióng zhǎng bù kě jiān dé, simplified 鱼与熊掌不可兼得)
  1. One can't have one's cake and eat it, too.
To become more informed about Google's battle with China on the issue of web censorship, we were reading the Wikipedia entry Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China.

It occurred to us that China represents a major human problem found throughout the world and in all walks of life -- it is the desire to profit from the advantages of something without accepting the necessary new consequences and disadvantages that go along with the advantages.

China is profiting greatly from an open economic and technological world system, and yet it wants to retain an internally closed, selfishly self-centered and centrally censored society, as in the old days. That is not going to work long-term.

The globalization of digital technology enables faster and more comprehensive communication among peoples and institutions -- indeed, that is the major advantage of the Internet. It permits virtual real-time communication on a grand scale and undermines the provinciality of the world. This of course brings enormous advantages but also many vexing problems and disadvantages.

Regardless of that, in order for that new form of communication to be fully realized, the entrenched paternalistic government systems which marked past centuries and millennia have no long-term choice but to necessarily change and adapt to the new circumstances, increasing the freedoms of their citizens to come into line with the demands of the new era.

This new era of communication -- epitomized by the swift advance of social media networking -- is also creating corrolary problems in the law in applying inert concepts such as copyrights, patents and trademarks -- realms of intellectual property whose doctrines -- in their original form -- simply are not well adapted to what the European Union calls "the information society". And these intellectual property realms are changing -- as they must -- because there is simply no viable option available to retain the old standards -- if the digital age is to move forward.

Even in the United States and Europe -- at least at the level of intellectual property law, and in America -- also at the level of national health care, established political and judicial systems are facing unprecedented and unavoidable pressures of modernization in order to cope with the status of the world as it actually is, and not as it was, years ago. Times have changed, and they are not going to come back. Nations and institutions must face the future realistically to survive and prosper. The backward nations will become the slaves of the technologically proficient.

The globalization of communications puts the political systems of countries such as China, North Korea, Cuba and the antiquated states of the Near East into an even more difficult position than the nations of the Western world, since they are much further behind the times to begin with. The longer that nations delay in catching up, economically, socially and technologically, the weaker they are going to become, relative to the countries that are moving forward at tech speed.

Censorship may look like an effective short-term solution to the Chinese now, but China will have no choice down the road but to liberalize free speech within its borders and it will have to learn to live with the consequences of modernity. That is the responsibility that goes along with enjoying the advantages of that very same "information society" system.

You can't have your cake and eat it too. That proverb is China's currently largest problem, also in the economic sphere, especially with regard to currency exchange rates and trade balances.

魚與熊掌不可兼得 (traditional, Pinyin yú yǔ xióng zhǎng bù kě jiān dé, simplified 鱼与熊掌不可兼得)

How SWEET It Is! Gene Patents Ruled Invalid as Genes are Found to be Non-patentable Subject Matter

Are genes patentable?
Did the Founders foresee gene patenting?
What about it, Justice Scalia? Origenetic or not?

We posted about this high tech legal topic previously here and here.

There has now been a decision issued in the so-called "Myriad case", Association for Molecular Pathology and ACLU v. USPTO and Myriad (S.D.N.Y. 2010).

Senior Judge Robert Workman Sweet of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (see Manhattan location near Foley Square) invalidated gene patents by holding composition claims invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101, finding "patentable subject matter must be "markedly different" from a product of nature" whereas "the claimed isolated DNA is not "markedly different" from native DNA.

Patently-O in Court: Essentially All Gene Patents Are Invalid writes that "The Federal Circuit is likely to reverse this decision -- opening the door to an important Supreme Court showdown." -- There may be no reversal. In our opinion, that all depends on the coming U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bilski, to which Sweet cited in annihilating the Myriad gene patents.

Jim Dwyer at the New York Times sets out in a wonderful article the current troublesome status quo of such gene patents:
"For years, women have gone to a genetics clinic at Columbia University, stuck out their arms and watched their blood fill glass tubes.

In the tube is a map of their past — the DNA passed down thousands of generations — and a glimpse of their future.

You might think they would have first claim on the intimate narratives of their own genetic codes.
But over the last 20 years, private companies and academic researchers have claimed patents on more than 4,300 human genes — about 20 percent of all genes in the human body.

Among the patented genes are two strongly associated with breast and ovarian cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women who wanted to know about this piece of their lives could be tested only by the company that held the patents, said Dr. Wendy Chung, a physician and genetics professor at Columbia

Until Monday.

A judge in Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled that the two genes were products of “the law of nature,” and so could not be patented. The judge, Robert W. Sweet, declared that seven patents on the genes, held by Myriad Genetics of Utah, were not valid.

“If this holds up on appeal, this is a game changer,” Dr. Chung said.
In the hunt for genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer, Myriad, backed by private capital, had worked with publicly financed researchers in the United States, Canada and Britain [emphasis added]
[I]f individual women wanted to learn if they carried the mutations that raised risks for breast and ovarian cancer, Myriad insisted that only its labs test them, at a cost of $3,000, according to Dr. Harry Ostrer, director of molecular genetics at NYU Langone Medical Center. In Canada, where the patent is not honored, the test is available for under $1,000, Judge Sweet noted."
Read that article here in full. Great writing.

You want to know why the cost of health care in the United States is so high? One reason is rip-off gene patents like those of Myriad, as a few private pockets are being filled with cash generated by artificial judicially-created monopolies on YOUR genes. Those who can not afford to pay for the lab tests are just allowed to die off -- too bad, right? The price of patents.

Not if you have the right JUDGES.

In our view, sooner or later, those gene patents will be gone forever.
How SWEET it is!

Other voices on this topic:

John Conley and Dan Vorhaus, Genomics Law Report, Pigs Fly: Federal Court Invalidates Myriad’s Patent Claims -- the following paragraph from them is especially telling in view of a world waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bilski:
"Myriad’s process claims got even less respect. In just a few pages, out of 156 in total, the court concluded that they all failed the Federal Circuit’s “machine or transformation” test for method claims. (This test comes from the recent Bilski case. Although the Supreme Court will soon issue its own opinion Bilski, the machine or transformation test is the law unless and until the Supremes order otherwise.) Judge Sweet found that none of the methods were tied to any particular machine, nor did they bring about a tangible transformation of anything. Rather, “because the claimed comparisons of DNA sequences are abstract mental processes, they also constitute unpatentable subject matter” (p. 4).
Judge Sweet also added that, even if the claims were construed in such a way that they constituted “physical transformations associated with isolating and sequencing DNA, they would still fail the ‘machine or transformation’ test under §101 for subject matter patentability.” (p. 147)."
See also:

Turna Ray,, Game On: Court Ruling on Myriad Patents to Kick off Protracted Legal Battle Over DNA Patentability

John Schwartz and Andrew Pollack, New York Times, Judge Invalidates Human Gene Patent

Andrew Pollack, New York Times, After Patent on Genes is Invalidated, Taking Stock

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