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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Blah, blah, blah, opinions, rambling superficial thoughts

I am not a philosopher but sometimes I pretend to be one.
I went to college many years ago.
What I found interesting was the study of what makes people do what they do. There is not a lot of original thought in the world. People follow trends. This happens locally, nationally, and on a global scale.
I think we are heading out of an age of individual liberty and self determination and into an age of where personal freedom and self determination are an illusion and mass groups of people are manipulated by a central government or perhaps an organization.
I don't have this all down to a collection of buzzwords and catch phrases. Rather it is, from self-control to outside control, from the age of the Magna-carta to the age of The Patriot Act.
I should never have read Orwell.
What brought this all up?
I witnessed a couple guys get arrested for driving buzzed on an empty lake.
I came how and saw that Monsanto won in the lawsuit with Martin Bowman.
I've listened to my neighbor who is a Democrat lecture me about the supreme court decisions during the Bush administration. I've witnessed the Supreme court decisions with the new appointments of the Obama administration.
They are nearly always consistent.
The decisions may differ, but they will always limit individual rights.
The Bowman vs Monsanto lawsuit can be understood better if you look at it in terms of individual rights. It was essentially a test on two levels.
First was the technical question of patent law. Does the patent extend past the first sale and the original patent agreement?
Second was the ability of an individual with limited finances to take on a mega-corporation.
The Supreme Court seems to be reinforcing the trend to limit personal property rights. There have always been limits to patents. The patent process was designed to allow inventors to make money off their inventions and pay for research, it was not to insure a monopoly. Of course if you have a great money making patent then you want a monopoly and you do what ever you can to ensure that monopoly. This is natural and reasonable and since you are supposed to have the impartial witness of the court system to provide a balance, it works well.
But the times are changing.
One the ideas of individualism are replaced by things like collective good and contract enforcement then the process changes.
What Bowman was doing was in a gray area. If I were doing it I would feel that I was breaking the technology agreement, if I had signed one.
However, it is not really a threat to the company. If I were planting soybeans I would not get generic beans for animal feed and then bust my planting rate by 20 percent and spray it. There is no control over what you are doing and the amount of money involved in the planting process would scare me. Bowman was double cropping and could take a gamble. It is not really a slippery slope argument.
Neither is giving guys a serious lecture for drinking on an empty lake and pointing out that in the peak season it would be a quick trip to jail.
While we are on this sort of subject...
I do not understand the questions of cell phone and email privacy.
Cell phones are the same as a landline and email is the same as written letters sent in the mail. There is no difference between using a listening device or requiring internet service providers to give up information than steaming open a letter sent in the mail. However, if you are working for a company and using their computer system and their email system and they have the backup and you are doing it on their time, then that is different, unless you log in to your private email account.
And anything that is password protected has an intent of privacy. It should require a warrant.
A person's home is his castle.
This talk about the differences in the digital age is just an attempt to roll the clock back past several centuries of common law. Back to the day of serfs and kings. Do you really think King John wanted to sign the Magna Carta?


  1. Cell phone calls and emails are not password protected. People think they are, but unless you use special software, they aren't. If you can intercept an email in transmission, it's plain text that you can read. Same for a cell phone call, if you can intercept the transmission, you can listen to it.

    Even so there should be an expectation of privacy.

    1. Yeah, I didn't quite articulate my point very well. It is not the effectiveness of the password protection, it is the act of using a password.
      As in, my fence may not be any good but it defines my land boundary.
      I say so what if you can intercept a cell phone or an email in transit. That doesn't make it public domain. Likewise, mailboxes are not really secure but you can't steal mail.
      Wax seals were not real effective either.

  2. I may be wrong, (rarely, but more often as I age), but isn't even a long distance, landline, phone call at some point sent through a satellite and susceptible to being intercepted?
    Are signals sent by radio waves (such as cell phones) ever really private? All it takes is a pretty simple receiver to listen in to at least one side of the conversation. Letters sent by mail will always be with us for privacy reasons. I bet they will get even more expensive though.

    1. But does the government have the technology to read your mail inside the envelope as it goes through the sorting machines without even bothering to steam it open?

    2. My guess is yes, if they really wanted to.

  3. Unfortunately for Bowman, Monsanto's monopoly comes right out of the U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 8, Clause 8: "The Congress shall have Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

    I do feel sorry for all the teenage girls who are being deprived of the opportunity to walk beans.

    1. But as the item they have patented freely cross pollinates with other plants, can it not be said that they are just as freely giving away the patent rights? I guess the high court doesn't see it that way.

    2. The Supreme Court gave itself an out on that:

      "In another case, the article’s self-replication might occur outside the purchaser’s control. Or it might be a necessary but incidental step in using the item for another purpose."

      You might have a defense if Monsanto had a similar GMO seed patent on a perennial like fescue, your neighbor planted it, it spread into your field, and you let your cattle eat the grass but didn't harvest it to sell as fescue seed.

      I think Bowman might have done better if he'd limited himself to buying soybeans at the elevator instead of also growing his own seed. Then Justice Kagan wouldn't have been able to write:

      "It was Bowman, and not the bean, who controlled the reproduction (unto the eighth generation) of Monsanto’s patented invention."

  4. Repent! The world ends tomorrow! :-P


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