2017-09-18 11:30 pm
Entry tags:

Check from the Virginia Lottery

Remember that I bought a scratch-off lottery ticket on Henry George Day? It turned out to have two prizes, one for twenty dollars and one for thirty dollars, so I mailed it in, and today I got a fifty dollar check in the mail. I'm going to contribute the money to the Center for the Study of Economics, but since this isn't enough to do everything we want to do, other contributions will be welcome.
2017-09-16 01:44 am
Entry tags:

Georgist Conference in O'Fallon, Part Seven

This is based on notes from the morning of Friday, July 28, 2017. After the presentations by first Dan Killoren and then Professor Andrew Theising, there was a Q&A session. Polly Cleveland said that whether land value taxation would work depends, as a practical matter on assessments.

Professor Theising had spoken of Jay Gould's role. Dr. Bill Batt said that Jay Gould's attorney, Thomas Gaskell, was a big Georgist in the 1880's. He quoted from an Illinois court case that involved the public trust doctrine. The court ruled that the State of Illinois could not alienate the land under Lake Michigan, because it was a public trust.

Alan Ridley asked who the opposition is in East Saint Louis. We need to know. Professor Theising said that there's a lot of poverty in East St. Louis, and most people don't own their own homes, but there are elderly homeowners who don't want to pay much in property tax. He contrasted Madison, Wisconsin, where taxes are high, but there are good government services.

Alanna Hartzok said that the thing to do is to let elderly homeowners postpone paying property taxes until they die or sell. Professor Theising said that what they're currently doing is cutting home assessments to zero, which is the wrong way to give relief.

There were other questions. Counties in Illinois cannot impose land value taxation; they would need a change in state law. Professor Theising said that it would be possible to take some steps toward LVT by improving assessments.

Joshua Vincent said that the infrastructure is smashed in East St. Louis. Professor Theising said that there infrastructure programs of the state and federal governments, which could be used to rebuild. There is environmental law, for example. East St. Louis currently has combined sewers, with household sewage and storm runoff going into the same sewers; the EPA doesn't like that.
2017-09-16 01:36 am

The Red Queen's Race

I didn't get any new amendments this week, and I did an Office Action on one of the amendments I had. I also got back the Examiner's Answer I wrote last week, signed by my supervisor and the other conferee, so now that will go to the Board of Appeals; in consequence, I'm down from four amendments to two.

I also did a first action rejection on a Regular New case earlier this week, and I have started an Office Action on my oldest Regular New case, which I'm hoping to finish by Monday at 3:00 PM. Then I'll have one more biweek in the fiscal year, and try to keep up production at an adequate level.
2017-09-13 11:26 pm
Entry tags:

Georgist Conference in O'Fallon, Part Six

Back to the morning of Friday, July 28, 2017. You may remember that Professor Theising was talking about ferries and bridges across the Mississippi, and how, at last report, Jay Gould had bought a bridge.

Professor Theising went on to say that another bridge was built in 1890, and in 1893, Jay Gould bought that.

The Terminal Railroad Association (TRRA) was institutionalized to own bridges, tunnels, and railroads. Now what? It was proposed to build another bridge, with public funds, so that the government would own it, and there would be no tolls. However, it sat unfinished for five years, because the voters wouldn't approve the bonds.

The TRRA now owns it, but for good reason. It had light rail over the Ead Bridge, so it exchanged bridges.

Who owns the land in 2017? He showed a picture, I believe, likely an aerial view. There' s a casino, and there's the Continental Grain Company, which loads grain on barges. The government owns a park, the TRRA owns some wooded land, and the Wiggins Ferry Company still owns a strip of land. The East Saint Louis waterfront is stuck wi legacy landowners and low utility land use.

Professor Theising said that significant change only happens in East St. Louis when imposed by the state or e federal government.

There are various possible projects. How do we get people to consider them?

The TRRA still sits on land, because it can. To give it credit, it has been good about releasing excess land.

By contrast, he said, there's a wall in Quebec City, around the Old City. They have built a boardwalk on it, and there's a marketplace anchored by a gorgeous hotel, with views of the St. Lawrence River. Could they do that in East St. Louis, with the flood wall? Could land value taxation be the impetus for rerouting the railroad, and putting the waterfront to higher use?

That ended the lecture; I will follow with the Q&A session.
2017-09-11 09:23 pm
Entry tags:

Martyrs for Liberty

Cat Faber has a YouTube video up of her song May She Rest in Power, honoring Heather Heyer, the woman murdered by a Nazi in Charlottesville. That video enables you to hear other songs about Heather Heyer.

At Reason online, Shikha Dalmia, an immigrant from India, has a piece on her old friend Gauri Lankesh, a courageous journalist who was recently murdered, presumably by Hindu extremists.

Let us honor our heroes, and strive to have the courage to imitate them.
2017-09-10 06:05 pm
Entry tags:

Hurricane Irma Refugees

When I was in Whole Foods last night, I saw a family, including a couple of little girls (sororal twins, I think), and a lapdog that the father was carrying. They had driven up from Florida, and were looking for a hotel that would accept their dog, as well as the rest of the family. Unfortunately, I don't know what hotels in the area would. I apologized for having one bedroom and one single bed, so I couldn't offer them much in the way of hospitality myself. I hope that they found some place to stay.
2017-09-09 02:31 pm
Entry tags:

Georgist Conference in O'Fallon, Part Five

On the morning of Friday, July 28, 2017, we heard from Andrew Theising, a Professor at the University of Southern Illinois, after first hearing from Dan Killoren, a local Georgist. Professor Theising displayed an image of Saint Louis, Missouri, and East Saint Louis, Illinois. East Saint Louis was greener, with fewer buildings. Why?

He called attention to the area between the Poplar Street and Eads Street bridges, with a view of the Arch. Covington, Kentucky, and St. Louis, Missouri do better than East Saint Louis.

In 1780, Captain James Piggott bought some of the Illinois floodplain, and built a bridge over Cahokia Creek. In 1795, when Missouri was still part of a Spanish colony, he obtained a perpetual license to operate a ferry service between Illinois and Spanish territory. Later, the Widow Piggott decided to sell off the land and ferry; McKnight and Brady bought five sevenths of it.

In 1819, Samuel Wiggins bought the remaining two sevenths, which happened to be riverfront property. He then went to the Illinois Legislature, and obtained a monopoly. The Wiggins Ferry Company made lots of money, and controlled everything going across the river. Later, the Wiggins Ferry Company hired James Eads, a great engineer, and built a bridge over the Mississippi, the Eads Bridge, at a cost of $10 million, equivalent to about $215 million today. The bridge was finished in 1874, and in 1875, the WFC defaulted on its loans.

J.P. Morgan bought the bridge for $2 million, and made a deal with Wiggins for a 75/25 split of the profits, with the proviso that the ferry was not to carry rail traffic over the river.

In 1880, Jay Gould bought the bridge from Morgan. He already owned railroads, and he bought the riverfront tracks, so the ferry starved, and Gould bought that. He rerouted the Union Pacific Railroad.

To be continued.
2017-09-09 01:49 am

The Red Queen's Race

I still have the same four cases on my Amended docket as I did a week ago. However, one of those cases is actually an Appeal Brief; I met with my supervisor and another primary examiner (I'm a primary, I might mention, and have been since 2003) to hold a conference, and received approval to write an Examiner's Answer, so I did that. Once my supervisor and the other examiner sign off on it, it will be ready to be posted, which will remove it from my Amended docket, and send it on its way to the Board of Patent Appeals. I also took a look at anoer amendment, and hope to work on that soon.

I finished Office Actions on two Regular New cases this week; one of them was finished on Tuesday before three o'clock, so it was counted for the previous biweek, and the other was finished Thursday. I have been searching the prior art for a third Regular New.
2017-09-07 09:04 pm

Juggalos and Toastmasters

The weekend magazine section of the Washington Post had an article on the Juggalos, fans of the rap group Insane Clown Posse. The federal government officially described the Juggalos as a criminal gang, based on some crimes having been committed by Juggalos, and sent an advisory to state and local police about them, so they have been victims of harassment. I had previously read about this in Reason, which is big on covering government abuses and bungling. Anyway, a Post reporter hung out with the Juggalos at their national gathering, and while I doubt that I would appreciate their kind of music, or generally find them very congenial, they don't seem to be especially criminal.

Some crimes are no doubt committed by Juggalos, just as some crimes are committed by fans of the Beatles, or, I suppose, by enthusiasts for Buxtehude's organ fugues. That doesn't make a whole music fandom a criminal gang.

USPTO Toastmasters held its club contest today, in the categories of humorous speeches and Table Topics. I didn't try a humorous speech this year, but I did participate in Table Topics, which means that someone posed a question, and I spoke on the topic for one to two minutes. Someone else had given a Table Topics speech while the sergeant-at-arms kept me some distance from the room where we met, and after my turn, a third person was brought in to take his turn as speaker.

I won in the Table Topics category, and will be representing the club at the area-level contest. A fellow examiner gave a really hilarious prepared humorous speech, and will represent us in that category.
2017-09-06 11:42 pm
Entry tags:

Various Links

There's an article in Reason on taxes and the sharing economy. One point is that the U.S. tax code wasn't written with Uber and Airbnb in mind, and doesn't fit many people's activities very well. Reading it, one thought of mine was that if we taxed only land values, we wouldn't have to worry about Congress figuring out how to rewrite the tax code to adapt to modern conditions.

Then there's a link to various articles from The Freeman in the late 1930's and early 1940's, some of which are of interest because of their lasting truths, and also because they show you how the Great Depression, the rise of Nazi Germany, and the outbreak of war appeared to some people at the time.

Lastly, Michael Kinsley, who isn't as loudly Georgist as I am, but has spoken well of George's ideas, has an article in Vanity Fair, wishing, among other things, that some Silicon Valley billionaire would become an enthusiastic admirer of Henry George instead of Ayn Rand.
2017-09-04 12:53 am
Entry tags:

Hambly Novelettes

Not all of my time is spent rejecting patent applications or trying to get out the word about the thought of Henry George. I do find time for reading, and in particular, I have recently read Barbara Hambly's novelette "Elsewhere," having previously read "Pretty Polly," both of them sequels to her series of Darwath novels, and both of them available for download on Kindle. It would probably be best to read the Darwath novels first, so you know who these people are and what they're doing where they are; the rest of this post is addressed to those who have read the novels.

"Pretty Polly" has a lighter touch, although when one discusses the work of a depressive mistress of letters like Professor Hambly, lightness of touch is relative. There are mysterious killings and disappearances at the Keep of Dare, and our heroine Gil-Shallos, formerly known on our world as Gillian Patterson, does some detective work. We see more of her family of origin, at least in retrospect, and also learn that she and her husband have a baby. Gil was a grave disappointment to her mother by seriously pursuing higher education, instead of a Mrs. degree, but her sister Donna cannot be accused of being excessively intellectual, or even of having an ounce of common sense. Donna is seen with a black eye and other bruises, courtesy of her latest gorgeous husband. Pretty Polly is the name of the Patterson family cat, who demonstrates sounder judgment than Donna.

In "Elsewhere," a pair of fools at the Keep of Dare have triggered a transportation device, and gone missing, together with the wizard Ingold Inglorion. They and Gil are elsewhere, on a planet with two moons and a nimeity of carnivorous reptiles. While they try to deal with their problems there, junior wizard Rudy Solis tries to deal with the problems back at the Keep. Battles are duly won, and human foibles are presented for the reader to laugh at or rue (a certain person might be considered an older male equivalent of Donna).

It's well done if you like stories with a touch of both humor and horror.
2017-09-02 05:36 pm
Entry tags:

Henry George Day

It's Henry George's birthday, and I celebrated by buying a scratch-off lottery ticket, which just might enable me to make substantial contributions to my favorite Georgist organizations, but I'm not counting on that. Anyone who agrees with me that Georgist tax reform is at least part of what the world needs may act on his belief by contributing to the Center for the Study of Economics, which has helped a number of towns go two-rate, and helped cut taxes on wage earners and building owners, shifting the taxes to the owners of land. There is also the Henry George Institute, which is active in Georgist education. Both are shoestring organizations which could use your support.

This appeal does not apply to you if you have business before the Patent Office, or if it would otherwise be improper for me to ask you to make any donations.
2017-09-02 12:59 am

Comic Strips These Days

I have memories from decades ago of my mother reading me the newspaper comic strips, and sometimes answering questions about them, going back to before I could read for myself.

What made me think of this was Friday's Sally Forth strip. Ted and Sally Forth are in a hammock for two in their yard at night. Ted says, "You know, speaking of friends, Hil is over at Faye's house right now ... And neither of our next door neighbors are home or particularly nosy . . ."

Sally replies, "Uh, Ted. We tried this once. Remember the giant snarl?"

Ted: "Well, the slip 'n' slide is still on the lawn."

Sally: "I'm going inside."

I can picture a child who's more interested in Brewster Rockit: Space Guy or The Amazing Spider-Man reading this and having some embarrassing questions. I suppose a parent might just say that Sally doesn't want to play in the hammock and get tangled up, but some children might not accept the explanation. I don't insist that children must learn nothing about s*x until they're ready to get married, but I do think that a child might get some (perhaps confused) ideas, and want more answers. Forty-seven years ago, I don't think they had stuff like this in the children's comics, or have I forgotten?
2017-09-02 12:51 am

The Red Queen's Race

I got two new cases on my Amended docket this week, one ordinary amendment, and one Appeal Brief. I submitted a request to have the Electronic Information Center do a search for what is claimed in the amendment, and I made an appointment to discuss the Appeal Brief with my supervisor and a third person next week. However, I didn't actually respond to any amendments, so I'm now up to a total of four, including the Appeal Brief and an amendment that's paused while we learn whether another unit within the Patent Office will take it.

I did finish a new rejection on my Request for Continued Examination case, and then did a first action rejection on a non-RCE Regular New case. I've been working on another Regular New case, which I hope to finish by Tuesday at 3:00 PM.

Then I'll have plenty else to do by the end of the Fiscal Year, which is the end of September.
2017-09-01 12:17 am

Work Anniversary

It's been nineteen years since I started work at the Patent Office, and I only have twenty-one more years until retirement.

Things have changed in various ways, in the world at large, and at work, and I have changed. I had been unemployed for a while; I owed money on my student loans, and owed money to my parents for moving expenses, as well as credit card debt (again, because of moving). I remember preparing a written warning to myself, "Failure is not an option." I was a younger man, and I hoped that I would at last find someone special and get married. That didn't work out, but at least my job did, despite setbacks and periods of high stress.

My parents were alive, and my father was still actively teaching; my one nephew was a baby. Now my parents have died, that nephew is an adult, and I have two other nephews and a niece. I've traveled to various places, been invited onto the board of Georgist organizations, met authors and fellow fen at a few sf conventions. There are things in life that I have accomplished, and things that I have missed.
2017-08-26 01:29 am

The Red Queen's Race

I got one After Final amendment on my Expedited docket this week, and dealt with it rather swiftly. I also got one ordinary amendment, so I now have two cases on my Amended docket, one of them (the older one) paused.

I also finished an Office Action on a non-RCE new case, and then I worked on my one and only Request for Continued Examination case, which I inherited from an examiner who has left the Patent Office, but I haven't finished that one. Maybe I can finish it Monday morning.

I have five weeks until the end of the fiscal year, and I need to keep my production up.
2017-08-24 09:19 pm
Entry tags:

Georgist Conference in O'Fallon, Part Four

On Friday, July 28, 2017 after Open Mike we heard a more formal presentation from local Georgist Dan Killoren and Associate Professor Andrew Theising, the Chair of the Political Science Department at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville; the topic was "Puppy Training and the East Saint Louis Riverfront." Mr. Killoren spoke first; in 1969, he was a budding socialist, and then he was introduced to real capitalism. He said that in Saint Louis, 72% of homeowners would save 30% or more (if the city switched to a land-only property tax, I presume; I didn't manage to note down his every word).

But they don't go land-only, so there are many abandoned properties, now owned by the city.

The Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers converge, and highways converge, so the area should be flourishing. Why, then, the economic crisis?

He answered his rhetorical question, that, first, we are violating fundamental economic rules. Charity is well and good, it not good enough; we are violating the rules of justice, and not just social justice, but street justice. You train a puppy by rewarding it for doing what you want, and punishing it for doing what you don't want. We aren't applying those principles in imposing taxes; instead, we punish people for building homes and factories, and reward them for creating blight.

Second, "Thou shalt not steal." Land speculators are stealing from us; the community does good things that make land valuable, and we don't charge much for this. Land speculators don't pay much for what they receive.

Third, the Old Testament says not to sell the land in perpetuity, for it is the Lord's.

Want to pay less for improving your neighborhood? Want various benefits? Then charge the land speculators to pay for infrastructure, police protection, etc.

John Kelly's book The Other Law of Moses has scriptural references on this.

And that was Mr. Killoren's part of the presentation; after that, we heard from Professor Theising.
2017-08-22 12:11 am
Entry tags:

Georgist Conference in O'Fallon, Part Three

On July 28, 2017, we had Open Mike in the morning. I've already reported some of it; to continue, Davepreet Jassal talked about factories in Saint Louis shutting down, and said that instead of coal, there should be bonds to not use coal. There were questions about just how this would work; I must confess that it wasn't clear to me.

Next, Dr. Polly Cleveland spoke nad said that the minimum wage is is practice only enforceable on larger businesses, and that McDonalds, Walmart, Amazon, etc. are more or less monopsonists, monopoly buyers. They pay low wages, which lead to high turnover, and thus to no unions. Higher wages would come out of land rents. She said that we don't live in an Econ 101 world, disputing the standard economic arguments that raising the minimum wage increases unemployment.

Jeff Graubart talked about Android app which displays what's in stores, where in the aisles, restaurant menus, conference agendas, etc., 900 channels. Companies will bid. I wish him luck.

Sue Wwalton made announcements, including about Cahokia Mounds, if people wanted to go. Unlike at some other conferences, we weren't going off on a group bus tour of the local sights, but if some people wanted to skip part of the conference to go, they could.

Dan Sullivan mentioned Chester, Pennsylvania, which has the worst crime statistics in the state, except for "ordinary theft," since there aren't many store there to shoplift from. Pennsylvania has a sales tax and Delaware does not, so there's a lack of businesses along the Pennsylvania side of e border; people prefer to shop in Delaware.
2017-08-21 08:44 pm
Entry tags:

Partial Eclipse

I didn't go chasing the eclipse to see totality, so I had to make do with a partial eclipse in Alexandria. I didn't stare at the Sun -- well, not much -- but I did puncture a hole in a card, and hold it over some white paper on my windowsill. I saw a crescent piece of sunlight in the shadow cast by the card, although I'm not sure how much of that was due to the Moon's shadow, and how much to the angle of the card and the shape of the hole, as fiddling with the card made the crescent rounder. A few minutes after the supposed greatest percentage of shadow, I noticed that it had grown much darker outside, but that turned out to be the Sun passing behind a cloud.

Oh, and coming home this evening, I met a human couple walking a fourteen month old mini-goldendoodle, who proceeded to lick my hand.
2017-08-18 11:01 pm

The Red Queen's Race

I didn't get any amendments this week, and I got rid of both of my Special Amended cases, both times because I got confirmation that the applicants were not taking their cases to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, or even back to me with amendments, after losing at the Board of Appeals. This leaves me with just one regular Amended case, still in paused status.

I also did a first action rejection on my oldest non-RCE Regular New case, and then I turned to my oldest Request for Continued Examination case; I haven't finished that one, but I have made progress on my Office Action, which should be completed well before 3:00 PM Monday.