Playing Five Card Shutdown

For a while, pundits were warning that the government of the sole remaining superpower (and the owner of the most nuclear weapons in the world) was going to shut down the office later this week. This appeals to the miscreant in me. Don't like government? Let's take it away and see how that works for you.

Shutdown is a game of brinksmanship. Each side teases the other, provokes the other, rattles their saber a bit. The spirit that makes brinksmanship effective is that each side implicitly recognizes that the other is rational and that nobody really wants to jump off the cliff.

It's a lot like mutual assured destruction as a nuclear strategy. Russia knows our missiles will survive a first strike, we know their missiles will survive a first strike, and so we've ensured peace by making a first strike irrational.

That "rational player game theory" stuff got us and Russia through fifty years, and then a funny thing happened: new players joined the game, and they might not be as rational as the old school guys who shared the mutual flick. They might even be in Pakistan or North Korea. I don't feel so good about playing Mutual Assured Destruction with North Korea.

The same flaw in the brinksmanship game becomes evident when you play Government Shutdown. Back in the day, the Republicans and the Democrats knew that the country would blame both parties for a shutdown. The Nation would see it as a failure of leadership, an abdication of responsibility. Nobody would win, so nobody would start it.

Then some new players showed up who flirted with the unthinkable. Maybe they could survive a first strike. Maybe they could shut the government down. Gosh, we'd get some good press! We'd appeal to the base! It might be a lot like Humpty Dumpty; it's easy to shut it down, it's hard to make it work.

It makes me nervous when irrational people start playing with complex, important things. It scares me when irrational people start considering the unacceptable as a strategic goal; you never know where they'll stop once they get off the reservation.

In this year's circus, the Tea Party crowd has promised to shut it down. The Dems might like to have the Republicans shut it down; it makes them seem like grownups. The older Republicans might like watching the New Kids stub their toes. At least one writer has suggested that Shutdown is a win-win for all involved.

This last week a few things left me 95% sure that the odds are over 80% that these fools are actually going to jump over the brink; this in spite of the fact that people all around the world are getting killed resisting dictators, and maybe this would be a good month for democracy to play nice in front of the new kids.
  • The Republicans said they don't want a shutdown
  • The Democrats said they don't want a shutdown
  • Newt said we shouldn't have a shutdown, unless it's the only alternative to House Republicans losing their integrity
  • somebody proposed a two-week Shutdown Buffer, which was considered a master stroke of leadership
  • Newt Gingrich explained, The last big shutdown was a victory
  • Frank Rich asked, Why Wouldn't They Shut It Down?

Karl Popper's turkey taught me that the past does not predict the future. I do know that if you stay around long enough, you get to see a few variations on the theme and you can appreciate the differences among them.

So, just in case our Leaders manage to jump off the cliff, here's a picture of the perpetrators of a previous Shutdown celebrating; you might caption it, "The Usual Suspects".

Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, John Mica, April 7 1995.
You remember what Milan Kundera said, right?
Sam Cameron explains the basics
of brand extension to the Prime Minister
Further to Mary Ellen Field's post today ("The system's fine, but where's the money?", here), and in the context of the UK government's familiarity with and understanding of intellectual property issues, Mary Ellen adds in a comment beneath her piece "... We should not forget that the PM sleeps with a branding expert. Sam Cameron was creative director at that classic British Brand long before he was an MP. She has totally revitalised a tired brand and taken it international".  All credit to Sam Cameron, but Merpel has only this to add: while it's commendable that the PM sleeps with a branding expect, she's more concerned about who he spends his waking hours with: however pleasurable branding expertise may be, Merpel doubts that it is sexually transmitted.

This coming Wednesday, 2 March, at the coffee-friendly hour of 11am, the IPKat's excellent and scholarly friend Tanya Aplin (Kings College London) is speaking at Brunel University.  Her oration will be on the topic of  “the continuing dilemma of database protection”. Attendance at this event is free and more information concerning it can be found here.

WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization) has now made available some pages to stir the spirits of those who intend to celebrate World IP Day on 26 April 2011 -- and indeed all week, if need be.  The IP Outreach portal is here; this year's theme ("Designing the future") is featured here and a roll-call of posters and fun-and-games from previous years is here.

From Stephan Weber (Legal Counsel, EMEA - IHS Global Limited) comes this plaintive missive: "I have today received another (rather official-looking) scam letter alerting me that one of our trade marks is about to expire and offering assistance. This letter is from the European Trademark Organisation S.A.. I would be happy to forward you a copy of the letter if that is helpful. Do you know of any database where such scams are recorded or would you maybe be interested in setting up such a database?" The MARQUES Class 46 weblog is now doing just this, asking people for details of databases at national level that complement WIPO's own database here.  If you have details of such databases, please let Class 46 know (several useful links have already been received and will be published shortly). All information collated will be shared!

The IPKat himself received a grand little letter from the Domain Renewal Group this morning, kindly reminding him that his domain names are coming up for renewal and kindly offering to do the job for him, for a consideration.  A brief visit to his friendly search engine reveals that a lot of people have mistakenly assumed that Domain Renewal Group had some official sanction or role, and were somewhat unpleased to find themselves parting with money which, all things considered, they'd rather spend on other things.

In the lovely city of Turin (or Torino, if you love the beautiful name by which Italians call it) there's a fascinating conference coming up on 11 March under the title "Copyright or the right to copy?" (details are available in full on Art & Artifice, here).  One of the speakers is HHH (Hogarth head honcho) Alastair Wilson QC, who will be tackling "Reproduction of Works of Art in the UK".  Says Alastair:
"The essentials of copyright protection have not changed hugely over the past two hundred years – but the nature of art has. 
Copyright law still has the fundamental requirements that for a work to be a copyright work it must be “original”, and to be infringed a “substantial part” of it must have been copied. 
Real problems now arise in the case of conceptual art and artworks closely based on pre-existing works: questions arise as to whether some such things are copyright works at all, and even if they are, what constitutes an infringement". 
If you want to know more, you'd better check your flight times -- unless of course you live in Torino.

Finally, from the Kat's friend, trade mark and branding expert Bob Boad, comes a couple of links (here and here) to a recent news item concerning Alibaba, China's largest e-commerce group which, he observes "is popular with Western traders as a source of cheap Chinese manufactures but it is also notorious as a conduit for counterfeits and other scams".  What's interesting here is that there are actually people at the top who are being identified and expected to bear responsibility -- though not, it seems, liability, for the fraudulent activities of the company they run.  A small step in the right direction is not much to cheer at, except when you consider that it's a lot better than a large step in the wrong direction.
"Pass the Katsup"
The IPKat is delighted to discover how many people will be sharing the TIPLO dinner with him this coming Wednesday -- though he thinks there may still be room for a few more. Young and aspiring IP-ers are reminded that there's a special price just for them -- there's also the added attraction of Lord Justice Jacob in the chair. Full details here.

Perhaps of more immediate interest to the Big League is Managing Intellectual Property magazine's first ever International Patent Forum, coming up in London on 5 and 6 April.  This event, when the IPKat wrote about the programme here, generated an unprecedented volume of readers' comments for anything he has ever written about conferences.  While it might stretch the pockets of students, trainees and the newly-qualified, the range of topics covered and the credentials of the speakers on display will appeal to the discerning conference connoisseur.  Check out the programme and register here and you will be entitled to enjoy the 20% IPKat readers' registration discount.

If you like
the look, you'll
love the feel!
Look and feel.  The IPKat's friend Caroline Ncube, of Cape Town University, South Africa, is currently doing some research into the law that governs the potential which the tort of passing off has to offer for protecting the look and feel of a website.  So far she has only unearthed Lifestyle Management Ltd. v Frater [2010] EWHC 3258 (TCC) (10 December 2010, noted by the IPKat here).  She asks: "Would you know of any case law or scholarly publications on this point? Any pointers would be greatly appreciated".   Please post your suggestions as comments below, says the IPKat, so we can all enjoy them.

World Trademark Review's latest Global Trademark Benchmarking Survey  is now open and awaits your response.  As WTR's Adam Smith explains:
"We have conducted this survey two years previously and it has always collected insightful results. The first year it revealed how the trade mark industry was coping with the economic downturn, while last year the results showed how many in-house counsel still find it hard to foster cross-company understanding for trade marks. The uniqueness of the survey is that it looks at both sides of the profession: for example, how in-house counsel believe fee structures are changing, and how much of a shift away from hourly rates external counsel are willing to admit to. 
On behalf of each survey participant, WTR will make a donation to a charity chosen by the participant – either the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation or WaterAid. The results of the survey, together with full analysis based on interviews with trademark industry insiders, will be published in Issue 31 of WTR magazine, the issue we’ll take with us to INTA in May".
To complete the in-house survey, click here. To complete the private practice survey, click here.

Before charity fatigue kicks in, let's not forget the IPKat's friend and JIPLP contributor Bratin Roy.  Despite being of apparently sane mind, Bratin is running the London Marathon on 17 April.  Since he will no doubt be shedding many pounds, he would like you to do likewise, donating some cash for two charities that are close to his heart.  To find out more, and indeed to sponsor Bratin's worthy causes, click here.
Much loved by innovative SMEs:
the Loan Arranger
In a thoughtful and much-commented piece hosted by the IPKat on Friday ("Pioneers, Pirates and Parvenus – IP v Innovation", here), Gwilym Roberts -- who attended one of the Hargreaves Review meetings last week -- made some valuable observations about the "problem" of the IP system being not so much the system itself but the failure of funding to back innovative projects. To this, Mary Ellen Field adds some highly pertinent comments of her own:
"It is very sad that there was little input from SMEs at the meeting last week, but not at all surprising. SMEs are trying to keep their heads above water when the banks won't lend and they are often fighting off attacks on their IP from counterfeiters and larger well funded companies with clever aggressive lawyers. They are in my opinion effectively excluded from the Hargreaves report by virtue of the makeup of the panel and the language used. It might also be because they think IP Law in the UK is fine and that they don't have the time nor the money to navel-gaze

I tried very hard to be allowed to attend that session this week and I believe I had a lot to offer. I am not a lawyer or an academic but I have been successfully managing, protecting and exploiting my clients' IP from a commercial perspective for thirty years, working with lawyers throughout the world. I wrote to my MP, to the IPO and to Prof Hargreaves himself but had no luck despite my MP writing to Baroness Wilcox on my behalf [The IPKat would love to see more involvement from MPs in general -- the All Party Parliamentary IP Group seems to have gone to ground again -- and from the IP Minister Baroness Wilcox]. I have finally managed to get a slot on Monday afternoon [today!] at the IP Review Surgery Event

The fact is that SMEs are not usually populated by lawyers and academics, the wording in the review document suggests that unless you are a lawyer or an academic, your opinions count for nothing. Professor Hargreaves states that the submissions must be "evidential", this word alone would put any hard working SME off. Perhaps as an academic Professor Hargreaves does not want case studies from SMEs who may well be able to shed great light on this issue. Perhaps SMEs are intimidated by the language of the Review document. Surely if the government or the panel wanted to know the problems facing innovators, they would have put an innovator on the panel. At least he or she would have spoken the same language as the SMEs, also I don't think there are any women on the panel

There are three major problems facing innovative individuals and SMEs in the UK and IP framework is not one of them.

1. The lack of people willing to invest in startups. Our banks won't consider lending to you and the turnover you need to attract Private Equity investors grows each year. Added to this is the fact that investors in this country usually require 100% security over the innovator's IP, and too often the founder finds himself removed from his creation if things don't move as fast as the investors require. As the banks have done away with the concept of bank managers who took it upon themselves to understand their client's business, there is no one to talk to at our banks who knows what you are talking about. If you doubt me, trying explaining the concept of a royalty stream to your local Barclays business branch [The IPKat entirely endorses this. He has been hearing it from small innovative businesses since the 1980s].

2. The catastrophic consequences of financial failure in the UK. Our laws relating to financial failure are so draconian that a failure when young can prevent you ever being able to raise funds in the future and even if you manage to start up again and be successful, whenever you are mentioned in the media no matter how successful you are even decades later you will be referred to as "Bill Smith the former bankrupt" In the United States failure is regarded as a part of the learning curve unless you have intentionally defrauded people. That is seen as capitalism in action [Strange how, at the bottom level, banks are so reluctant to take even the smallest of risks, while they seem to throw caution to the winds when it comes to buying subprime mortgage portfolios and investing in financial paper of which they have manifestly little understanding]

3. Predatory behaviour by larger British firms, particularly retailers with very scary lawyers. The costs to an SME to take on a large company that the SME believes has infringed his IP rights are simply out of the question for most SMEs. It is possible of course to arrange IP litigation insurance but that requires an opinion from counsel before the insurance company will commit. The cost of this can be prohibitive to a small company or individual. Even if you can force the big company to back down enforcement can become a full time job [If evidence is needed here, Hargreaves can speak to ACID, which can provide some real examples]

Perhaps it is because I am Australian but I get extremely annoyed when the British do whatever the Americans tell them to do. It drives me nuts. Who cares what Google wants? They don't care about innovation in the UK, they just want it made easier for them to make money here. This UK has never been short of innovators and it isn't now, it's just extremely bad at supporting its innovators, forcing many to move abroad or giving up their innovations for next to nothing because it's not polite to fight back. I have several innovative British SMEs as clients, they export throughout the world they use the Internet as an integral part of their businesses. Sadly most of them could not raise funds here and have raised them abroad from foreign investors who take a long term view".
The IPKat applauds not just the message but the manner of its delivery.  Members of the Hargreaves Review, please take note!

Baby dolphin deaths rise along Gulf Coast

Marine scientists are examining the deaths of 26 baby dolphins whose carcasses have washed ashore along the U.S. Gulf Coast this year, the bulk of them since last week, researchers said on Tuesday. By Thursday, February 24, 2011, the death toll of dolphins found washed ashore along the U.S. Gulf Coast had climbed to nearly 60.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared the alarming cluster of recent dolphin deaths "an unusual mortality event," agency spokeswoman Blair Mase.

"Because of this declaration, many resources are expected to be allocated to investigating this phenomenon," she said.

Although none of the carcasses bore outward signs of oil contamination, the alarmingly high number of dead young dolphins are being looked at as possible casualties of oil that fouled the Gulf of Mexico after a BP drilling platform exploded in
April 2010, killing 11 workers and rupturing a wellhead on the sea floor.

An estimated 5 million barrels (205.8 million gallons) of oil spilled into the Gulf over more than three months.

As of Thursday, the remains of 59 dolphins, roughly half of them newly born or stillborn calves, have been discovered since January 15, on islands, in marshes and on beaches
along 200 miles of coastline from Louisiana east across Mississippi to Gulf Shores, Alabama, officials said.

That tally is about 12 times the number normally found washed up dead along those states during this time of the year, which is calving season for some 2,000 to 5,000 dolphins in the region.

"When the world sees something like baby dolphins washing up on shore, it pulls at the heartstrings, and we all want to know why," said Blair Mase, marine mammal strandings coordinator for the Southeast region of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

That tally is more than 10 times the number normally found washed up
along those states during this time of the year, which is calving season for some 2,000 to 5,000 dolphins in the region, said Moby Solangi, director of the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport. At least 29 of the specimens recovered in recent weeks have been positively identified as bottlenose dolphins.

"We are on high alert here," said Solangi. "When we see something strange like this happen to a large group of dolphins, which are at the top of the food chain, it tells us the rest of the food chain is affected."

"It's an anomaly," he told Reuters by telephone, explaining that the gestation period for dolphins runs 11 or 12 months, meaning that calves born now would have been conceived at least two months before the oil spill began.

Most of the carcasses, measuring just over 3 feet in length, were found during the past week, the bulk of them washing up in Mississippi and Alabama.

The remains of about 10 adult dolphins, none of them pregnant females, have also been found so far this year.

BP cleanup crews found some of the carcasses. Others were discovered by park rangers, police and passersby.

"What makes this so odd is that the dolphins were spread out over such a large area," Solangi said.

Dolphins encountering oil on the surface of the water would face
serious health consequences, Solangi said.

"We take short breaths. These animals take a huge breath at one time and hold it. And when they take it, the fumes stay in the lungs for a long period of time and they cause two types of damage, one of which is immediate to the tissue itself. Second, the hydrocarbons enter the bloodstream," he said.

None of the carcasses bore any obvious outward signs of oil contamination. But Solangi said necropsies, the equivalent of human
autopsies, were being performed and tissue samples taken to determine if toxic chemicals from the oil spill may have been a factor in the deaths.

Documented mortality in the adult dolphin population off the Gulf Coast roughly tripled from normal numbers last year, climbing from about 30 typically reported in a given year to 89 in 2010, Solangi said.

Reuters: ,"Baby dolphin deaths rise along Gulf Coast ", by Steve, Gorman, accessed February 23, 2011
Reuters, "Gulf Coast dolphin death toll rises to nearly 60", accessed February 25, 2011
I've got piles of shoes....

 Piles of car stuff in the back room.....

Piles of CDs....

Piles of stiff on the front verandah...

Piles of magazine, you know where.....

How does Paula put up with me and my mess?  Maybe it's my good looks that keeps me outa trouble.

I'd better clean up, starting with the bedroom.  I need to sort out some of my clothes....

Travis the bloody cat!

Well I can't do it now, I'll have to clean up my piles of stuff later.
AN Australian commando hailed a hero after a helicopter crash almost killed him has been court-martialled over an Afghan training incident, inflaming tensions between frontline troops and the independent military prosecutor.
The soldier, known as Private S, was just days after his release from hospital charged with causing grievous bodily harm, an offence more usually associated with civilian criminal courts.
The charge stemmed from an incident on a Tarin Kowt training range on April 10, 2010. A 40mm grenade fired by the young forward scout fell short, with a fragment from the explosion striking Lance Corporal L on the face. Though the injury was far from deliberate and incurred no permanent damage, Private S had erred in discharging his weapon without authorisation.
At the start of the court martial at Sydney's Victoria Barracks last week, the volatile grievous bodily harm charge was dropped after prosecutors apparently applied leverage for a guilty plea to the lesser charge of unauthorised discharge of a weapon.ted Coverage
Private S's fiancee "Tracy" said she had watched her partner slip into depression, not because of the Black Hawk accident that almost killed him but "this case".While Private S - who will not be able to return to combat operations because of his injuries - received a conviction without punishment, the decision to charge him at all angered both his fiancee and a leading military lawyer.
Together with Private S's mother, Tracy had travelled to Germany where the soldier was treated after the June 21 helicopter accident that killed three Australian commandos and a US crewman. Private S - one of 10 survivors - suffered a broken back, a double fracture to his right leg, a shattered ankle and more.
His condition deteriorated when his lung collapsed in transit to Germany, where he received spinal fusion treatment and skin grafts.
After learning of the charge and seeing the impact it had on her fiance, Tracy wrote to the army, saying how she had been told "countless times" while in Germany that Private S was a hero and questioning how he could now be considered a criminal.
"As his fiancee I want to know, if he did do wrong [at the earlier training incident], why was he allowed to go on an operation?" she asked.
An army psychologist told me the deep depression was not surprising. Soldiers were trained to deal with combat-related trauma. What they were not prepared for was a perception the institution they trusted to look after them had turned against them.
Major David McLure, who will represent one of three One Commando Regiment commandos charged with manslaughter over an Afghan raid, was critical of the decision to charge Private S soon after he left hospital.
He described the Director of Military Prosecutions' decision as callous and demonstrating a weird lack of empathy.

Critical Mass is a bicycling advocacy demonstration where a group of bicyclists ride through an urban area usually dominated by cars.

On Friday night in Puerto Alegre, Brazil, an angry motorist mowed down a group of about 150 bicyclists riding in the local Critical Mass. The motorist accelerated his car directly through the group of riders.

From TreeHugger:
On the last Friday of every month, hundreds of bike riding enthusiasts take to the streets for Critical Mass in Puerto Alegre, Brazil to raise awareness of cycling in a city dominated by motor vehicles -- but at their most recent event, the unthinkable happened. As the lively group of cyclists pedaled together down the street, one disgruntled motorist decided to accelerate through the crowd, running down dozens of riders in a disturbing hit-and-run.

At time 00:38, this video shows a car accelerating through a crowd of bicyclists.

Discussion of the incident here.

What is Critical Mass? From Wikipedia:
The first domestic US Critical Mass ride within the present wave took place on Friday, September 25, 1992 at 6 pm in San Francisco. At that time, the event was known as Commute Clot and was composed of a few dozen cyclists.

One participant noted that in China, motorists and bicyclists have an understood method of negotiating intersections without signals. Traffic would "bunch up" at these intersections until the backlog reached a "critical mass", at which point that mass would move through the intersection. The term "critical mass" was applied to the San Francisco ride and the name caught on, replacing "Commute Clot" by the time of the second event.

By the time of the fourth ride, the number of cyclists had increased to around 100 and participation continued to grow dramatically, reaching about 1,000 riders on average.

Critical Mass is one flavor of bicycle advocacy. It has some organizational similarities to Anarchy in that there is no assigned leadership; the Mass just happens. There is no accountability. "Massers" consider their gatherings as celebrations of bicycling rather than demonstrations (demonstrations require permits and prior coordination, celebrations don't).

Pittsburgh Critical Mass used to assemble at Dippy the Dinosaur by the Carnegie Museum, last Friday of every month at 5:15 pm.

Some people say that Critical Mass is an unwarranted interruption of public roads, usually during Friday rush hour. Who are these bicyclists who presume to take over the streets and interfere with people trying to get home from work?

Here's a Critical Mass kind of answer:
Bikes are allowed to be on the road, just like cars. Every morning between 7 and 9 am, and again between 4 and 6 pm, untold numbers of car owners gather in their vehicles and congest the public roads to the point of gridlock. They do this almost every workday. Why doesn't somebody do something about all those drivers?

In my opinion, that discussion is too cute by half. I'd love to live in a Copenhagen-type environment but I don't. We live in a society fully given over to the car culture, and to suggest otherwise at your own physical risk seems unwise.

If the Critical Mass stops at red lights and allows other (car) traffic to keep moving, that's OK. But when Critical Mass blocks the cross streets with a technique known as "corking", and illegally makes drivers sit at cross streets interminably, conflicts are inevitable. When the other side has heavy weapons (cars) and your side has bicycles, guess who loses?

Assuming the facts are as presented, I think the driver in Brazil should go to prison for the rest of his life. He intentionally drove in to a crowd of people, accelerating as he went. But if the riders were illegally restraining his movement, and they should bear a major portion of the shame for this event.

There are cyclists who believe that Critical Mass tactics are counter-productive and unsafe. Bicyclists in some cities have started non-confrontational alternatives, holding rides called Critical Manners.

Pittsburgh's well-mannered alternative to Critical Mass is Flock of Cycles. From the Flock of Cycles website:
  • Flock of Cycles is not a cycling training group.
  • Flock of Cycles does not insist on, but may look good in, spandex.
  • Flock of Cycles rides with the cyclist and motorist in mind, treating both with respect.
  • Flock of Cycles is safe and fun for everyone of any experience, age or ability.

Flock of Cycles communicates pretty effectively through their FaceBook Page. Take a look.

Japan recalls whaling fleet from Antarctic

Japan has recalled its whaling fleet from the Antarctic following confrontations with activists from the Sea Shepherd marine conservation group, the government has said, in a move that has raised hopes that the hunts will be halted altogether.

The decision to cut short this year's hunt is a further blow to the
industry, which has been the target of international pressure and revelations of corruption at home.

The agriculture minister, Michihiko Kano, said the hunt, which was due to last until the middle of March, had been called off because of safety concerns. (Right: whalers take up position)

Regular attempts by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to interrupt hunts have caused irritation in Japan, one of only three countries that now hunt whales and where the government says it is an important cultural tradition.

"Putting safety as a priority, the fleet has halted scientific whaling for now. We are currently considering what to do hereafter," said Tatsuya Nakaoku, an official at the Fisheries Agency.

"We had no choice but to end the season to ensure the safety of lives, assets and our ships," he told reporters. Asked if Japan would resume whaling next winter, Kano reiterated: "We'll examine the situation in detail and then come to a decision."

Sea Shepherd's founder, Paul Watson (right), described the announcement as a
victory for anti-whaling activists.

"Every year we've gotten stronger," he told Associated Press from the Steve Irwin, one of three boats the group has in the Antarctic. "We had better equipment, we had a long-range helicopter. Really, it came down to having more resources."

The Japanese government routinely condemns Sea Shepherd as a terrorist organization, claiming its tactics have put crew members' lives
at risk. But Watson said: "We haven't committed any crimes. We haven't hurt anybody."

Australia, a vocal critic of the whale hunts, welcomed the move. "I'm glad this season is over, and Australia doesn't believe there should ever be another whaling season again," the environment minister, Tony Burke, said.

Last year Australia filed a complaint with the international court of justice in The Hague in an attempt to get the hunts banned. A decision is expected in 2013 at the earliest.

The Japanese fleet had targeted a catch of 850 whales this season, but
will return with about one-fifth of that, the agriculture ministry said. Sea Shepherd claimed it had kept the fleet's haul to below 100 whales, its lowest ever catch.

Japan kills about 1,000 whales every year, using a clause in the International Whaling Commission's 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling that allows it to engage in "lethal research" into whale populations.

The meat from the hunts is sold on the open market, but weak consumer interest has created a stockpile of more than 6,000 tons, according to a recent report by the Japan-based Dolphin and Whale Action Network.

The ministry did not say then the fleet of four vessels and 180 crew would return. It left port in December and was supposed to return in April.

The decision comes two days after Japan said it was suspending its controversial whale hunt after another clash with Sea Shepherd.

Ministry officials claimed that Sea Shepherd's pursuit of the mother ship, the Nisshin Maru, had made it impossible for the hunt to continue. The fleet's other vessels are unable to operate unless the Nisshin Maru is present to haul in harpooned whales and process them.

During its seven-year campaign in the Antarctic, Sea Shepherd has
hurled rancid butter aboard whaling ships, attempted to entangle propellers and distracted Japanese crews with flares and infrared beams. In recent days it has blocked the Nisshin Maru's stern, reports said.

In the most high profile incident, a Tokyo court gave a Sea Shepherd activist a two-year suspended prison sentence after he boarded a whaling ship last February.

Peter Bethune, a New Zealander, had climbed aboard the Shonan Maru
2 under cover of darkness to deliver a bill for damage to the Ady Gil, the group's hi-tech powerboat, which sank after a collision with the Japanese ship the previous month.

Sea Shepherd said it would stay with the Japanese boats, which are currently sailing north, until it was sure they had left the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary.

The Guardian,"Japan recalls whaling fleet from Antarctic ",accessed February 18, 2011
Scientific American, "Japan suspends whale hunt after chase by protesters", accessed February 18, 2011
You see stories in the news about high school teachers who take advantage of their students, abusing their position of trust, authority, and relative power over the student. It's certainly not a normal relationship. In fact, it's a criminal relationship.

I see the pictures of the teachers involved and I wonder:
  • Gee she looks mostly normal
  • She could have picked on somebody her own age

I see the stories of the young students involved and I wonder:
  • How does this introduction to sexuality shape the rest of their life?
  • How does it affect their view of relationships, morality and family?
  • Do they end up with an unhealthy worldview?
  • Do they end with a twisted sense of appropriate behavior?
  • Do they pose as moral paragons to compensate for their experience?
  • What kind of parents will these victims be?
  • How will the victims behave when they're in positions of authority?

I raise this issue because one of these kids in particular, now quite a bit older, is poised to run for the Presidency of the United States. In fact, he was just lecturing the sitting President on his dereliction of duties and Obama's risk of impeachment.

In today's NY Times, Newt Gingrich says, “People have to decide who I am. Am I a person they want to trust to lead the country or not?”

Newt Gingrich met Jackie Battley when Jackie was his high school geometry teacher. Newt and Jackie began dating secretly when he was 16.

According to Stephen Talbot in Salon,
As a high school student -- precocious, lonely, overweight -- Newt secretly romanced his geometry teacher, a buxom, matronly woman named Jackie Battley. The furtive romance with his teacher included nighttime sessions in the back of a car in remote areas of Fort Benning, Ga. (Newt's step-father was an Army colonel.)

Once, Newt and Jackie were so worked up, they got their car caught in a tank trap on the military base and had to call his best friend to rescue them before a daylight exposé, according to the friend's widow, Linda Tilton.

When he graduated high school, she took a teaching position at the college he was going to attend. They married when he was 19 and she was 26. His parents thought the marriage was a mistake. His stepfather, Robert, refused to attend the wedding; his mother, Kathleen, and sisters felt compelled to stay home too.

Newt and Jackie had two kids, fast, and Newt went on to advanced studies. It was, after all, the time of conscription during the Vietnam War. Children and graduate school meant an exemption.

According to an article in Vanity Fair:
Dolores Adamson, Gingrich's district administrator from 1978 to 1983: "Jackie put him all the way through school. All the way through the PhD ... He didn't work. Personal funds have never meant anything to him. He's worse than a six-year-old trying to keep his bank balance ... Jackie did that."

Dot Crews: "It was common knowledge that Newt was involved with other women during his marriage to Jackie. Maybe not on the level of John Kennedy. But he had girlfriends -- some serious, some trivial."

In the spring of 1980, Gingrich left Battley after having an affair with Marianne Ginther. It is unclear whether it was the Ginther affair or Battley's diagnosis with uterine cancer that prompted his seeking his first divorce; it is reported that he presented her with his terms for divorce while she was in the hospital. According to the NY Times, Newt's explanation of Newt's first divorce was, "She's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a President. And besides, she has cancer."

Shortly after that infamous encounter, Gingrich refused to pay his alimony and child-support payments. The First Baptist Church in his hometown had to take up a charity collection to support the family Gingrich had deserted.

After his divorce from Battley, Newt married Marianne Ginther. While married to Ginther, Newt had an affair with Callista Bisek, 23 years his junior. He continued the affair while pressing the Lewinsky scandal. After Marriane Ginther was diagnosed with a condition that leads to MS, Newt divorced her.

He subsequently married his third wife, Callista Bisek.

There's a lot of issues with Newt and his relationships, and it seems like it might stem from his victimization in the abusive relationship with his first wife high school geometry teacher.

I'm just saying: given a choice between the Mormon, the Muslim, or Newt the Family Values Trigamist, I think I've got to go with the Muslim.

(FWIW I know he's not a Muslim. J/K)