Oct. 17th, 2017 11:53 pm
I went to the dentist this morning to have my teeth x-rayed, examined, and polished. They want me back next Friday to replace a filling, and to have a mold made for an occlusion guard to keep me from grinding my molars in my sleep.

The older you get, the more medical intervention you seem to need to avoid falling apart.


Oct. 15th, 2017 07:55 pm
Jesse Walker has an article in Reason about Arden, Delaware, which began as a Georgist project, and is still semi-Georgist (it collects land rents from the inhabitants to pay land-and-building property taxes, but does not collect the full rental value of the land). The focus of the article isn't on Georgism, but on Arden's history, its artistic tradition, its tolerance of eccentricity, and the general way of life there.

One of my Georgist friends, who lives part-time in Arden, emailed that The article is 90% correct, but if Walker had run it past someone who knows the Ardens (there are also Ardentown and Ardencroft, as well as the original Arden), he could have done better. People may find the article interesting even if they do not share my own Georgist commitment.
I got one regular amendment this week, and one case on my Special Amended docket; I didn't take action on any of these, so I'm now up to five regular amendments and one Special Amended. The Special Amended is actually a decision of the Board of Appeals, affirming my rejection of an application.

I haven't finished any Office Actions on new cases, either, but I've made progress searching my oldest Special New, and writing the Office Action, which I hope to finish by 3:00 PM Monday. Next biweek, I'll be busy with amendments, my oldest non-RCE Regular New, a Request for Continued Examination case, and my other Special New. It never ends.
There was a book club meeting Tuesday, where we discussed Imbolo Mbue's novel, Behold the Dreamers, about a Cameroonian family in New York City, trying to stay in the U.S., and fend off efforts to deport them. Meanwhile, the man works as a chauffeur for a bigshot at Lehmann Brothers (this is before, during, and soon after the 2008 crash), his wife tries to continue her studies, and also has a baby, and more. We see some of their fellow African relations and acquaintances, and also the wealthy white family which employs the protagonist. That family has some problems of its own, although they're different problems. I won't try to describe it all, but I did think the book was well done, and .I recommend it, even though it isn't my usual kind of reading matter.

And so to bed.

Gun Rights

Oct. 8th, 2017 08:24 pm
Understandably, people are reacting to the mass shooting in Las Vegas by saying that it's time to take action in gun control. Ban or seriously limit bump stocks, ban "assault weapons", close loopholes, demand more background checks, something. It is understandable, but I still don't agree. For one thing, the Las Vegas killer had no major criminal record, and was not obviously crazy, up until the point at which he murdered fifty-nine people and injured hundreds of others. For another, we simply cannot get rid of all of the guns in America; we can at best have partial success, and that means having the greatest degree of success with those most willing to lay down their arms, who are probably not those most likely to use firearms for criminal purposes. For a third point, we we should not overlook the value of weapons for resisting tyrannical government and KKK violence. My progressive friends, consider that it may be true even if people with whom you are not inclined to agree say that it's true.

Also, remember that Timothy McVeigh did not need firearms to murder people, and neither did the September Eleventh hijackers or the Aum Shinri Kyo cult in Japan. If I took it into my head to do something likely to kill at least fifty-nine people, I would not need to acquire a revolver, let alone an automatic weapon, and neither would plenty of other people with scientific knowledge or technical training.


Oct. 8th, 2017 08:15 pm
I was walking home from the supermarket earlier, lugging a couple of bags of stuff, when .I saw a woman walking a pair of beagles, so I ran over and said hello. One of the beagles, who was mostly white, jumped up and licked my hand. I petted the other beagle, a tricolor like my old friend Rex. The woman told me that the more active beagle was a friend's. They were both female; the tricolor was an elderly nine years old, and the mostly white was still energetic at five.

I mentioned having had a beagle as my best friend growing up. The white beagle jumped around and pulled at her leash, but wouldn't stay still long enough to be petted. The tricolor let me pet her, but didn't seem all that interested in me; Rex also seemed to lose interest in making new friends once he became elderly. So the encounter was not ideal, but I did get to meet a couple of pretty nice beagles.
This week I got one Expedited docket case, which I dealt with tous de suite, and two regular amendments one my docket of Amendments. I also finished Office Actions on two of my existing amendments, so I'm back to four amendments. Thursday morning, I had an Appeal conference with my supervisor and a third person, and received authorization to reply to someone's Appeal Brief with an Examiner's Answer, but I'm too busy to do that right now.

I have started on my oldest Special New case, and may possibly be able to finish that and my oldest Regular New case by Monday the 16th at 3:00 PM.
This is a modification of a comment on Slate the other day, I think about Trump "dedicating" a golf trophy to the people of Puerto Rico: We have as President a man whose inability to convincingly simulate a normal human being is often overlooked due to his other faults.
To continue with the morning of Friday, July 28, 2017, after a break, we heard Joshua Vincent, the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Economics, on "LVT Efforts from State to State."

The bad news is that we lost Altoona, Pennsylvania, which had been levying a land-on,y property tax for a few years. There was more discussion of that later. The good news is that three cities in Connecticut are allowed to do LVT (land value taxation). Connecticut is a rich state that has some of the country's poorest cities.

Hartford's struggle with parasites. It is facing bankruptcy, although it used to be one of the ten richest cities in the United States. It is in debt, with tax revenue that doesn't come close to satisfying its needs. It would take $150 million per year to pay off the debt in five years.

People from New York and Boston came to Connecticut for lower taxes. Hartford now has 20% unemployment and 125,000 people.

Drill down: Connecticut has a high average per capita income; but if you look at it by ZIP codes, some areas are rich, and some are poor. Further disparities become evident when you look at Hartford by census tract. (Josh provided appropriate graphics.)

The property tax is basically the only revenue source. There are rich suburbs, but Hartford itself is largely poor. Half of the city doesn't pay property taxes; the poor half does. The state capitol and other properties are tax exempt.

To be continued.
In Thursday's Dilbert strip, the Pointy-Haired Boss tells Dilbert, "I can't give you a raise because of your history of lying about everything."

Dilbert replies, "I don't lie. I have a history of being falsely accused."

The Pointy-Haired Boss says, "I'll add that lie to your list."

Dilbert says, "I don't see a path to victory here."

The Pointy-Haired Boss reminds me of a dean I used to know at Amherst College more than thirty years ago. I did, in the end, graduate, and refrained from donating any money to Amherst, so that may count as a victory.
This week,I got a 312 amendment on my Expedited docket, and dealt with it swiftly. The "312" means that the amendment was filed after allowance and (in this case) corrected minor informalities. Otherwise, I have the same four cases on my regular Amendments docket as last week.

But I finished two first actions on Regular New cases, and finished the second of them Thursday. Not even today, yesterday! This means that my production for the Fiscal Year is adequate, and I won't begin the next year under a cloud. Also, I have written an Office Action on one of my amendments, and started work on another, so I should be able to submit both Office Actions in October, for the new Fiscal Year.
I competed in Table Topics at the area level (one step up from the club level). First, the sergeant-at-arms took me to another room while the other contestant gave a brief speech in response to the question they asked her. Then he brought me back into the first room, and the Contest Master asked me a question. My answer drew laughter, and seemed to please people, and I thought that I had won, but when the results were announced (after the Humorous Speech contest, which followed the Table Topics contest), I learned that I had come in second, and the other contestant would go on to the division contest.

Talking to someone, I heard that while I had gone for the funny bone, my competitor had gone for the heart. Well, then, congratulations to her. Another member of USPTO Toastmasters gave the sole Humorous Speech, his only rival having had a family emergency, so he will move up to the division level contest, and just might go further.
Monday morning, I went to the doctor for my annual checkup, having made the appointment many weeks before, but it worked out well because my left heel had been paining me the last few days. The doctor agreed that it was probably a flare-up of the plantar fasciitis I had had years before, and provided me with a couple of sheets of advice on plantar fasciitis, and the exercises one should do to stretch the fascia. They seem to be working; my heel seems much better already.

On the other hand, someone from the doctor's office called this afternoon, telling me that the doctor is concerned that I may be developing anemia, and she wants me to come in for further blood tests.

Once you put yourself in the hands of the medical professionals, there's no end to it.
I got two new amendments this week, and didn't do any Office Actions on amendments, so I'm up to four. One of the new amendments is actually an Appeal Brief, and I've made an appointment with my supervisor to meet with him in October, and decide whether to write an Examiner's Answer, and let the Board of Appeals decide who has the better arguments.

Meanwhile, I finished my oldest Regular New on Tuesday, finished another Regular New case on Thursday, and have been searching for relevant prior art on my current oldest Regular New. I need to do this case and one more to make production for the Fiscal Year.
We had a USPTO Toastmasters meeting today -- well, actually, it was yesterday, because I slept after dinner, I'm online, and soon I'll be back in bed. I gave a speech that was well received, but what shocked me was that I saw a friend of mine there, and she had just been fired. She wasn't an examiner, she worked in Human Resources, and I think she was a contractor rather than a civil servant. Her being fired came as a total shock to her; from what she said, she seems to have upset a few people by insisting on doing her job right, and telling them that they had to follow procedure.

I don't know the full truth, but she seemed to me to a reliable, organized person. She said that she had already gotten in touch with headhunters, and she expects to find a new job soon. I wasn't the only person who was astonished at the news. I certainly wish her well, and will help her if I can.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.



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