Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Little Bit of Knowledge can be a Dangerous Thing….

If I have been silent for a long time, it is because I have been busy spinning my wheels.  I got nowhere, but it took all this time to get there.  You see, I decided prosecute my patent application before the United States Patent Office on a pro se basis, my less than stellar legal team consisting of me, myself and I.   Why, you may ask, would I do such a thing?  Simple.  Lack of means.  

The whole process started some time ago when I, using my still existing resources, hired a patent attorney (i.e. paid a retainer) and had him file an application for a provisional patent with the USPTO.  The application described a lighting system I put together and built into my handbag, allowing me to easily find what I was looking for, forever ending the blind shuffle I was heretofore forced to make inside the bag’s black, cavernous interior, to retrieve something I wanted.

I was granted a provisional patent.  You may not be impressed but, to me, this was a validation of my work, the (provisional) patent proof of my ideas gravitas, allowing me to legally say that my invention was “patent-pending”!  Wow!

Emboldened by the victory, I instructed my lawyer to file for a non-provisional patent (and paid for the pleasure), convinced that my application would sail through unimpeded.   

The examination process (of my application) began in earnest, the submission landing on the desk of an Examiner whose job it was, first and foremost, to review all existing patents, confirming that no one had had my brilliant idea before me.  The Examiner also had to review the application itself to ensure that it was written in the correct format and in accordance with the multitude of MPEP requirements addressing the issue of how a submission should be made, down to the size of the margins on the documents in question.  Patent applications have been known to be refused, not because the invention was not patentable, but because the submission did not comply with requirements, much as many worthy manuscripts never reached the reading public, turned down by agents and publishers simply because the query letter or synopsis were not written in the right font or with the right spacing.

For those of you unfamiliar with the MPEP, it is the Manual of Patent Examination Procedure, or the Bible of the USPTO.  Thousands of pages long, the number of rules it contains is counted as being “too many to count”.

Events could have gone several ways.  The Examiner could have approved my submission in it’s entirety and granted a patent.  To the astonishment of the naive, ergo delusional me, he didn’t.  Instead, he rejected the whole application for one reason or another, sending something called an Office Action, in which he told the “Applicant”, as I would be known from now on, in effect “In your dreams!”.   Applicant had three months to respond.

Applicant went back to her lawyer and authorized him (and paid some more) to respond to the Office Action. He did.  The Examiner rejected the response.  Applicant’s lawyer rebutted (upon receipt of payment).  Again.  The Examiner rejected.  Again.

At this point Applicant ran out of money.  No cash, no lawyer.   Faced with two choices of either walking away and letting the enormous investment she had already made go down the toilet, or carry on the battle on her own, Applicant chose to do the latter and hunkered down, having less than three months to absorb all the relevant wisdom.  She purchased a book entitled “Patent it Yourself” written by patent attorney David Pressman.  The book shed considerable light on the chaos that is the patent process, leading Applicant to think that she could overcome the considerable odds against succeeding.

Since Applicant was now prosecuting the application pro se,  the Examiner was obliged to lend her some limited assistance.  He could not advise her on  content of her Response to his Office Action, but only on how the content should be presented.  Why?  Because the process is adversarial - Applicant vs. the United States Patent Office.  Her against Them.

The Applicant was told by the Examiner about the MPEP, (something she had no clue even existed) and was directed to study the most relevant of chapters.  The Applicant did as she was told.  She also re-read, this time oh so carefully, the original application her lawyer had made on her behalf.  It had several problems.  Not only was it inaccurate in describing her invention, it also did not mention some key structural features at all.  To the lawyer’s defense, he did, at the time, sent her draft copies of what he proposed to submit to the USPTO and she had duly read what he wrote but, when she tried to correct the fallacies and omissions in the application, her lawyer advised her that should she insist on making the changes she wanted, well, that would be a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, and better not open that Pandora’s box, ‘cause that would trigger a whole new set of rejections from the Examiner.  Better not go there.  She acquiesced.  

What she didn’t know was that, once an application is made, it is carved in stone (by little men who work in the basement of the USPTO, toiling away all day long, tiny hammers and chisels in hand.)  What her lawyer did not warn her about, was that any subsequent responses made in defense of the patent application, cannot go beyond the bounds of what was originally filed, not even by a comma.  Any change could be considered by the USPTO as being what they call “new matter”, in which case a whole different application would have to be made in order for this “new matter” to be admissible.  For a fee, wouldn’t you know. 

Applicant realized that:

a) she had less three months to respond to the Office Action; less than three months to read and understand the MPEP, what with it being written in legalese, precluding average mortals from comprehending it’s contents;
b) review and understand all rejections heretofore made by the USPTO against her application;
c) re-write her application to comply with whatever format problems the application contained;
d) overcome any existing patents the Examiner brought up to argue that her invention was worth squat; 
- and do all of the above while not stepping out of the confines of her originally submitted application, i.e. not using any definitions and arguments or bringing up any features of her invention not originally mentioned.  Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

Undaunted, Applicant forged on.  She made some preliminary arguments to the Examiner on an “unofficial” basis just to see what the response would be, to test the waters, if you will.  These were immediately disqualified, the Examiner giving her a multitude of counter-arguments, sighting chapter and verse of the MPEP in all it’s might, for added effect.  

Realizing that she was in the maze with no apparent exit, Applicant asked the Examiner if, in his view, there was any avenue open to her at all, careful not to ask what that avenue was, but only if it even existed.  Had the Examiner then told her that she was flogging a dead horse, she would likely have retreated from the battle, licked her already sustained wounds and, curled in a fetal position, cried herself to sleep.

Instead, the Examiner said that there was something “valuable” about Applicant’s invention, which she took to mean that the patent she coveted lay waiting for her somewhere, probably at the end of the rainbow.  All she had to do was find it. 

Over the coming weeks Applicant wrote many, many e-mails to the Examiner, asking about this or that, presenting ideas and concepts and arguments, all in the hopes of identifying the location of the rainbow which she would then trace to it’s end.  Applicant also told the Examiner that, if she was having trouble identifying that something “valuable” about her invention the Examiner alluded to, it was because she was not an electrical engineer by profession and had little knowledge on the subject beyond what it took to come up with her invention.  The Examiner expressed surprise at this revelation and gave the Applicant to understand that, in light of it, he assessed her chances of successfully prosecuting her patent application about as likely as pigs taking flight, in words not nearly as cliché.

He continued to answer every one of her e-mails, using mostly legalese as he had done to date, but now breaking into English long enough to explain that Applicant was nowhere near the rainbow, much less the end of it, employing a tone which implied that Applicant’s temerity to think that she had any business applying for a patent in the first place, was trying his patience.

Applicant stubbornly refused to retreat from battle, instead sending off her “official” Response to Office Action.  She is currently waiting for a reply.

All jest aside, I do not understand why the process of getting a patent must necessarily be adversarial.  Arguably, the Patent Office must do their due diligence in reviewing patent applications to prevent multiple parties receiving a patent for the same idea.   Having said that, I see no reason for rules which say that an Examiner cannot assist an applicant in obtaining a patent in cases where he sees something which is indeed patentable about the invention. By “patentable” I mean something un-obvious, utilitarian and, above all, novel - the three requirements of patentability for any invention.

In a criminal court of law, the relationship between the prosecuting and defending attorneys is adversarial but there is life and liberty at stake - the prosecutor wants to make sure that the guilty party gets punished, while the defense endeavors to ensure that the innocent party does not go to jail for something they did not do.  The adversity stems from the fact that the “party” in question is one and the same. 

In the case of the USPTO there is no adversity per se if there is no duplication of an existing invention.  Why not then assist an applicant in the bid for a patent, instead of doing it’s utmost to prevent that from happening?  New ideas are a huge driving force in any economy and one of the main goals of the United States Patent Office should be their promotion and support, not suppression, in this Applicant’s humble opinion….

A.J. Aston

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Say What?

Every morning I watch the news on CNN and find myself repeatedly confronted with the realization that,  compared to the reporters working for this news organization, my verbal skills leave a great deal to be desired.   They use words and expressions I’ve never even heard of before, and pronounce  proper names and certain terms in ways which I can only describe as uh, novel.  Here are a few examples of what I mean:

Commenting on the Jodi Arias trial,  a reporter speculated whether Ms. Arias will make a statement during the sentencing part of her trial and then added, “We’ll have to see whether that statement detriments her or not.”  I had no idea the noun ‘detriment’ could become a verb.

Ashleigh Banfield, reporting on the same trial, said that “it will remain to be seen if she (Ms. Arias) will get the death penalty for her murder.”  I didn’t know Jodi Arias was dead, but now that she is (I heard it on CNN!) I have a question - if the jury decides on the death penalty, will Jodi be resurrected first, or will they skip that part, and pronounce sentence on the corpse?

Banfield then commented that “Arias will have to appeal to the jury as to whether she should be spared the death penalty”, and that “daily, this story confronts us with yet another right angle.”  I should appeal to her as to whether ‘left angles’ will leave me equally speechless.

Commenting on another trial in which the judge downgraded the jury’s unanimous guilty verdict from murder, to voluntary manslaughter, Banfield condensed the testimony of the defendant to “he said the house guest threatened to kill him, so he had to kill him right back.”  Yes, indeed.

She went on to add that “the judge downwardly departed from what the jury decided.”  I think I might do well to ‘downwardly depart’ from listening to Banfield in the future.  

Chris Cuomo, another CNN star, reported on a story from Dagestan, calling it “Dagostan”, thereby clearing up the long-standing mystery as to where all Dagos come from.

A hung jury in the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias’ trial, prompted Nancy Grace, a regular ‘expert’ contributor to CNN in the field of law, to say that she was surprised at this result given, she explained, that the jury was selected through “voir dire” (oral questioning of potential jurors during the jury selection process), pronouncing this “voy dire”, as in ‘Savoy’ and  ‘dire circumstances’.  ‘Voying’ Nancy Grace is most definitely ‘dire’ to the welfare of correct pronunciation, and not just when it comes to legal terms.

During a congressional hearing on the misbehavior of the IRS, congressman Louie Gohmert complained about the “aspersions made on his asparagus.” Amusing, yes, surprising, no.  For many politicians, particularly of late, English appears not to be their native language.   That the same can be said of CNN reporters and some of their regular ‘expert’ contributors, working for an organization which touts itself as the leader in news reporting, is unacceptable.  In a parody of a news broadcast their constant verbal blunders would be something to laugh at, but as part of the real thing, they are just laughable.

It should also be noted that, whereas individuals outside of CNN, asked to provide commentary to a news story, are entitled to voice their opinions, news reporters, charged with informing the public of events, do not have that prerogative.   Their only job is to report the facts and pose questions to, or soliciting input from, others, all the while keeping their own bias to themselves.  The definition of the verb ‘report’, (from whence the noun ‘reporter’ comes from), is “to relate details of (an event or incident); to recount or describe (something)”. 

One of the basics of Journalism 101 is that a news story should answer the five W’s and one H, i.e. who, what, where, when, why and how.  Period.  No more, no less.  That concept continues to elude CNN’s John Berman, whose ‘reporting’ is invariably peppered with adjectives such as ‘incredible’, ‘shocking’, ‘horrific’, ‘unbelievable’, ‘staggering’, and the like.  Most often, according to Mr. Berman, the story is ‘simply amazing’.  

When speaking of the devastation in Oklahoma, for example, a reporter is well justified to describe the damage as ‘wide-spread’, ‘extensive’, or even ‘complete’.  Saying that it is ‘heart-breaking’, ‘alarming’ or ‘astonishing’ is not news reporting, it is news commentary.  All well and good except that, for many CNN journalists, the line between the two has entirely disappeared, with the result that we, the audience, cannot avoid learning of the day’s events through the prism of these journalists’ bias, one which, unfortunately, has become a permanent part of ‘reporting’ at CNN.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Rotten Apple

After the bi-partisan legislation, the Manchin-Toomey Bill, which called for expanded background checks on gun sales via the Internet and at gun shows, was defeated in the Senate last month, I published a post here called “Adding Tremendous Insult to Horrendous Injury”.   In it,  I listed the names of all senators who voted against the bill, whether Republican or Democrat.  One of those names was Kelly Ayotte, Republican senator from New Hampshire.  Despite the fact that eighty percent of all New Hampshire voters were (and still are) for expanded background checks and even though among the states’ conservative Republicans, the number stands at fifty six percent, still, Senator Ayotte voted ‘NO’.

When confronted by angry and frustrated voters at several town hall meetings and asked why she voted against the bill, Senator Ayotte offered several explanations, none of which answered the question.  Seeing that the controversy would not go away, Ayotte decided to change strategies.  She went from trying to explain her ‘NO’ vote, to lying about it and claiming that she actually voted ‘YES’.  The about face was made possible with the help of the NRA, who paid for a $25,000 ad, showing documents meant as proof that Ayotte voted in favor of expanded background checks!  How did they do that?  Simple.  Ayotte’s ‘YES’ vote, referred to in the ad, was not for the Manchin-Toomey Bill!  It was a vote for an alternative gun control bill, written by the NRA, and sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R - IA) and Ted Cruz (R - TX); a bill widely seen as actually undermining the background check system.  Needless to say, this key fact was entirely omitted from the ad. 

Kelly Ayotte is the epitome of a corrupt politician whose conduct on Capitol Hill, makes a mockery out of our democratic system.  Rather than representing the will of her constituency, Ayotte votes in accordance with the wishes of those who bought and paid for her vote, the NRA.   

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Senator Ayotte is now being supported by Senator Marco Rubio (R - FL), a potential GOP candidate for the presidency in 2016 who, by the way, also voted ‘NO’ on the Manchin-Toomey bill, despite ninety-one percent of his constituency being in favor of it.  His Reclaim America PAC paid for an ad which says:
“Safety. Security. Family. No one understands these things like a mom, and no one works harder for them than this one.  A former prosecutor, Kelly Ayotte knows how to reduce gun violence. Ayotte voted to fix background checks, strengthen mental health screenings and more resources to prosecute criminals using guns.”

The ad goes on to say:

“Washington might not like it, but you can count on it.  Kelly Ayotte stands for our values, not theirs.”
Since (as the ad claims) Ayotte does not stand for the values in Washington, and as her vote did not reflect the values of the vast majority of her constituents who are in support expanded background checks, whose values then are the “our values” the ad is referring to?   Keeping in mind that Senator Ayotte has an ‘A’ rating from the NRA, is it so far fetched to say that it is their values she stands for?  
If the reported six-figure price tag for the ad is anything to go by, Senator Rubio must evidently now stand for them too, but his commitment to the NRA wasn’t always quite so complete.  in 2012, Rubio’s house failed to pass legislation permitting employees to bring guns to work.  This transgression prompted an NRA lobbyist, Marion Hammer to complain that,  "He talked the talk, but he didn't walk the walk.", and likely, is the reason that Rubio’s rating by the NRA is currently at only a ‘B+’ level.  
His (expensive) support of the embattled Kelly Ayotte looks to be one of the steps on his path to NRA redemption and the coveted ‘A’.  Another is not returning $50,000 in contributions from the NRA to retire his campaign debt, despite wide spread calls for him to do so, in light of Wayne LaPierre’s controversial op-ed, in which he (LaPierre) singled out Latinos as the main reason why border-state "good Americans" need semi-automatic weapons, and claimed that "Latin American drug gangs" have "invaded" U.S. cities and turned Phoenix into "one of the kidnapping capitals of the world."
Not satisfied in having just senators and congressmen in their pocket, the NRA has, perhaps, set it’s sights on higher ground.  Marco Rubio may be just the one to spearhead those ambitions.  Since presidential elections are three years away, the senator has plenty of time to prove his worthiness and become “the chosen one”, rewarded with enough NRA money pouring into his campaign coffers to make even him salivate.   If nothing else, his dry mouth won’t be a problem anymore.
As for the rest of us - if the NRA’s plans do come to pass, the alternate United States I wrote about, may not be not so ‘alternate’, after all. 

A.J. Aston

Article first published as A Rotten Apple on Blogcritics.

Friday, May 10, 2013


As mentioned in the first article in this series, we, in the United States(alt) realized that if the Constitution was to remain the basis for our laws, we needed to revise it, removing antiquated terminology, and ridding it of ambiguities which caused only divisions in our society.  What follows is the text of Constitution 2.0.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Article 1.

Section 1
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of The Senate. 

Section 2
Direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed.

Section 3
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of one Senator from each Domain, chosen by the Electorate thereof, for six Years; one Delegate from each Commonwealth, one Ambassador from the District of Columbia and New York each; each Senator, Delegate and Ambassador shall have one Vote.  

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators, Delegates and Ambassadors of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, including appointment as Head of State, Writs of Election to replace said Senator, Delegate or Ambassador shall be issued in his Domain in a timely manner.  

No person shall be a Senator, Delegate or Ambassador who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that Domain for which he shall be chosen.

The Senate shall choose their other Officers, and also a President, when the current Senate President shall be appointed to exercise the Office of Head of State of the United States.

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.  When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the Head of State of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor and Trust under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law. (Basis for Purification Day.)

Section 4
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators, shall be prescribed in each Domain by the Legislature thereof; but the Senate may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Choosing Senators.

The Senate shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

Section 5
The Senate shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as the Senate may provide.

The Senate may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member.

The Senate shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

The Session of the Senate, shall not adjourn for more than three days without the Consent of the Head of State and designated members of the Supreme Court, nor to any other Place than that in which the Senate shall be sitting.

Section 6
The Senators, Delegates and Ambassadors shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, including Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, not be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same, or at any other time; except for any Speech or Debate in the Senate, for which they shall not be questioned in any other Place. 

No Senator, Delegate or Ambassador shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of the Senate during his Continuance in Office.

Section 7
All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the Senate; but the Head of State, the Cabinet and members of the Supreme Court may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the Head of State of the United States; If he approves he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to the Senate whence it originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of the Senate  shall agree to pass the Bill,  it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of the Senate shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of the Senate. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law,in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Senate by their lawfully scheduled Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote by the Senate (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the Head of State of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be re-passed by two thirds of the Senate, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

Section 8
The Senate shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several Domains, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To change the Currency to any form including virtual, regulate the Value of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Currency and Securities of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

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;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years unless approved by the Senate;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To provide and maintain an Air Force;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land , air and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the National Guard or Military to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; 

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the National Guard or Military, and for governing such as may be deployed in the Service of the United States, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the National Guard or Military, according to the discipline prescribed by the Senate; (Basis for the repeal of the Second Amendment)

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular Domains, and the acceptance of the Senate, become the Seat of the Government of the United
States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the Domain in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Section 9
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the Domains now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Senate prior to the Year one thousand six hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

No capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any Domain.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one Domain over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one Domain, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Senate, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State, or special interest group, foreign or domestic, including funding, direct or indirect of any kind for the direct or indirect benefit of said Person.

Section 10
No Domain shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; issue Currency; make any Thing a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

No Domain shall, without the Consent of the Senate, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any Domain on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Control of the Senate.

No Domain shall, without the Consent of the Senate, lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, Airplanes or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another Domain, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

UNITED STATES(alt) - PART IV - Tourism

Anastasia here again, this time to tell you all about U.S.(alt) and the industry concerned with:

Before Purification Day, one of the areas of commerce to greatly benefit from the absence of restrictions on gun ownership was tourism.  Revenues went up sharply, due in large part, to a new concept called ‘gun junkets’.   In contrast to the well-know sex junkets where “one went, one came and one left”, (at worst with communicable diseases), gun junkets meant “one came, one shot and one left”.  In many cases, unfortunately, it was “one came, one got shot, one left” -  often feet first.   

Gun junkets were largely populated by individuals who had “issues” they could do nothing about back home because, “back home” it was either practically impossible to get a gun at all, or guns could be had only after extensive background checks, as local authorities felt that it was paramount to the safety of their citizens to make sure that prospective gun owners had no criminal record or didn’t have serious mental problems.  Not us!  We didn’t care.  It didn’t matter if you spent more time behind bars than not, or if you were certifiable.  We believed in equal gun ownership and total discretion for all.  Underage, unstable or plain crazy - it was nobody’s business but your own when it came to firearms.  Murder was still illegal in U.S.(alt), but we now had a slew of exceptions or loopholes, any one of which could readily be used to crawl out from under the weight of the justice system.   It didn’t take long for the “Stand your ground” law to be followed by the “It wasn’t me, it was the gun” defense.  Then came the “I think, therefore I shoot” concept, titled the “Malevolent Perception” law, permitting you to shoot anyone you thought meant you harm.  You didn’t have to be right, you just had to suspect it.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

UNITED STATES(alt) - Part III - Fashion

For those of you who do not as yet know me, my name is Anastasia and I am reporting to you live from U.S.(alt).  In the third part of my series (see Part I and Part II here), I will explore the subject of:  

It has been said that fashion is but a reflection of a culture and of it’s evolution (or devolution) in a given society, and a translation into fabric of what designers perceive as the wants, needs and tastes of the public they serve.  

To understand how the fashion trends in the U.S.(alt) of today came about, we have to go back to yesteryear, to the times before Purification Day.  As you may recall, in those days, special interest groups were virtually running Congress(alt).  One of the most ‘successful of these groups was the NRA(alt), which not only made it a point to block any legislation to control gun violence, they pushed through (read: financed) the enactment of new laws which effectively overrode or repealed any and all restrictions on gun ownership, making it possible for anyone, at any age, to buy as many weapons as they wanted.  The motto, “The only one who can stop a bad man with a gun, is a good man with a gun”, was replaced with,  “The only good man, is a man with a gun”, implying that anyone who didn’t own a gun was likely up to no good.   In fact, owning a gun was touted as proof of goodwill towards one’s fellow man.  In churches, that part of the mass which previously called for shaking hands, was changed; parishioners now clinked guns instead, crossing muzzles like swords.  There were a few unfortunate incidences of heads being accidentally blown off, as one or the other of the ‘clinkers’ forgot to put the safety on and, caught up in their fervor of showing amity, squeezed the trigger just a wee bit too much.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

UNITED STATES(alt) - Part II - The Economy

Hello again!  Anastasia here, coming to you live from the heart of the United States(alt).  As I promised in my last report, today’s topic of discussions is: 

The Economy
Our economy, after we eradicated our budget deficit in it’s entirety, has been very healthy for some years.  There are many reasons for this, none the least of which is the fact that we phased out of the almighty greenback and adopted virtual currency.   We now only use Bitcoin(alt), saving ourselves the expense of printing banknotes, minting coins and policing all of it against counterfeiters.   As Bitcoin(alt) required no central regulating agency to either issue or transfer the currency, the banking industry argued most vociferously against the move.  The Departments of Finance and Treasury(alt) which jointly proposed this legislation, fought quite a battle with banking special interest groups by launching media campaigns, all to sway public sentiment their way.  Needless to say, the bankers lost.  The Office of the Comptroller of Currency was charged with overseeing all Bitcoin(alt) transactions after all twenty one million coins Bitcoins(alt) had been successfully mined. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

UNITED STATES (alt) - Part I - Politics

Hello, my name is Anastasia and I’m coming to you live from the heart of the United States(alt), a country much like yours, but located in a reality alternate to the one you are currently in.  

U.S.(alt) is very similar to your U.S., at least at first glance.  Our official language is English. Geographically, our land is identical in size and topography to yours.  Our cities, our towns, our names - everything looks the same as it does where you are but, underneath the surface, there are quite a few fundamental differences; differences which, you will be pleased to know, did not cause any disruptions in the fabric of the universe since the laws of nature permit deviations between realities.   I will use the (alt) designation whenever referring to places here (since they go by the same name as in your U.S.), to avoid any possible confusion on your part.  Let us start with:


First of all, we now have a system of government which we call a “domain direct democracy”.  The change came about some years ago when we realized (finally!) that the Constitution(alt) could no longer be taken word for word as the basis for our laws since the document was written too many years ago to be applicable in the present.  Not only did it contain too much antiquated terminology which had no reference to our modern day society, it was filled with far too many ambiguities which caused only disputes and divisions among our citizens.  Keep in mind that the Declaration of Independence(alt) was signed in 1676, and the Constitution(alt)  became law in 1687, one hundred years earlier than yours did, respectively.   Our new version of the document is called The Constitution2.0

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Only One Who Can Stop a Bad Man with a Cigarette, is a Good Man with a Cigarette

My precioussss.....

Hi, my name is Wynona LaJacques and it's great to be here today, among so many friends, and I appreciate your warm welcome. As you might imagine, I don't get invited to many parties in this town. That's okay. I came to New York City one day last year, but I didn't come here to be popular. I came here to stand for what I believe is true and to smoke a cigarette while I was at it.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Adding Tremendous Insult to Horrendous Injury

As most of you know by now, the Manchin-Toomey Amendment to the S.649, Firearms Bill was defeated.  A filibuster by the Republicans forced a 60 vote requirement for the bill to pass and the count fell six votes short.  In a situation in which  86% of Americans want expanded background checks, (according to a CNN/ORC International poll released last week), you would thing that a more or less equal percentage of the senators would vote in favor of an amendment which calls for just that.  In a country where elected officials do their job and carry out the wishes of their constituency, you would be right but, judging by this vote, the United States is not that country.  No, in this country, for many politicians, their only agenda is to get into office again.  I don’t use the term “re-elected” because it seems to have little meaning anymore.  We think we “elect” our representatives but all we do, is choose the person best able to convince us of their sincerity and dedication to our cause.  Once in Washington, their sincerity and dedication goes to the highest bidder, selling the only thing they have to offer - their vote.  There is no other way to look at this.  This particular amendment was not an attempt to correct a “potentially” problematic situation.  It was not a theoretical or pre-emptive fix.  No, this amendment came on the heels of a terrible tragedy but even an appeal from the grieving parents of the children killed in Newtown, did nothing to budge the senators loyalty to the NRA and their money.  

It’s not enough to give a vote count.  It is important to know the names of those who sold out.  They are:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Antics of Capitol Hill

Ladies and gentlemen, if I may have your attention!  

Thank you.

We have all come together this evening to honor the next recipients of the “Polysemous Politician” award or, as we affectionately call it, the Pee-Pee!

As you know, throughout the year, our committee painstakingly monitors the activities of people in public service on the federal, state or local level, whether Democrat or Republican, to find the person or people who, in our humble opinion, make a notable, shall we say, impression on the political landscape of these here United States.  We do this by reviewing all legislative proposals, without regard as to whether such legislation eventually becomes adopted or not.  What we look for are actions which can be termed as nothing short of staggering.  We seek those special someones who, by the very nature of what they say and do, astonish us, makes us speechless in incredulity and agog in wonder!  Please note (and I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of what I am about to say), that our choice is NOT an endorsement of the views politicians we choose espouse.  The committee prides itself in keeping it’s personal opinions out of the selection process.

The competition is always fierce.  Indeed, our elected officials have been, as usual, very active, filing proposals on a variety of subjects such as gun control, abortion, labor unions and emigration, to name a few.  Our current recipients - the proposed legislation which attracted out attention was initially sponsored by two people - chose to focus on a subject which, by all accounts, required no legislation.  Until they made their voice heard, there was no pressing issue which needed resolving.  There was no outcry from their constituency nor from the public in general. As with so much of the activity on the Hill, carried out in concert with large (and very wealthy) special interests groups, likely their actions served a specific agenda but, in a litigious society such as ours, it would be foolhardy for us to speculate, out loud, just how 'tangible' the goal of said agenda might be.  

Before we bring out our winners, let us give you the title of the proposed legislation:

113th Congress, 2013–2015. Text as of Mar 05, 2013 (Introduced).
To enhance the strategic partnership between the United States and Israel.

This bill and the significance of it’s provisions are best summarized by Mike Coogan, legislative coordinator, U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation.  Our the committee found section 9 of this bill particularly interesting as it would, as Glen Greenwald of The Guardian wrote, “uniquely exempt Israel from long-standing requirements imposed on all other nations.”  
Mr. Greenwald goes on to say:
“More amazingly, the only purpose of this exemption from these US senators would be to allow Israel to discriminate against the citizens of the country these senators are supposed to represent.”
Need we say more?
Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you,

Barbara Boxer, Democrat from California 
Roy Blunt, Republican from Missouri.

Our winners have given new meaning to the idea that U.S. politicians should, first and foremost, represent the interests of U.S. citizens!  Congratulations!

A. J. Aston

Article first published as Absurdity on Capitol Hill on Blogcritics.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

From Outside In

The stuff votes are made of.....

While the two sides of the isle cannot even agree on what the root cause of gun violence in this country is, the Europeans, hearing reports of yet another mass shooting in the U.S., scratch their heads and wonder what the hell is our problem.

The answer is that the devil, as they say, is in the details, and what the Europeans don’t hear about is a not so small detail called the NRA.  Though it is neither a governmental institution, nor is it run by elected officials, yet, when it comes to the subject of firearms, the NRA has had more than 230 legislative victories in the past ten years and on the state level alone, never mind federal.  Why is that?  Judging by the likes of Wayne LaPierre, they are neither intelligent, nor very persuasive in their arguments which are often as outlandish as they are misleading or downright untrue.  Is it that Mr. LaPierre is just so incredibly charming?  Hardly.  Even among his staunchest supporters, I doubt “charm” is anywhere among the words which spring to their minds in connection with ol’ Wayne.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Testimony of an Egg

My name is Ovum.  I, uh….

How is that spelled?

Oh-Vee-You-Em, Your Honor.

Thank you. What brings you before us today?

I have been unjustly accused of wrong-doing.

Please explain.

Well, Your Honor, it all started when my sister and I were given permission to go out.  We were floating down a narrow alley, just minding our own business, when an army of these beings - I cannot describe them any other way - came charging at us out of nowhere.    Soon, we were surrounded.  One of these guys just wouldn’t leave me alone.  He kept on hitting on me.  I tried to ignore him (I didn’t want any trouble) but he was really persistent, kept pushing and pushing at me!  Before I knew it, he managed to burrow his way inside me.  I….., 

What did he look like?

Um, difficult to say.  They all looked alike.  They were kind of rotund and, oh yes, I remember they were all wearing the same funny outfits or costumes. Made them look like they had tails, you see.  Maybe they belonged to a club or were in the chorus of a play or something, I have no idea.   That’s all I remember.  It was dark out, I couldn’t see very well.

Wasn’t your assailant close enough to identify?

Well, yes he was, but I can’t really describe him, Your Honor, because he came at me from behind and every time I turned around, he just just stayed right back there…..So anyway, since I couldn’t get him out from under my skin again, well, you know, if you can’t beat them, might as well join them, right?  

Do not be flippant! 

Yes, Your Honor, I apologize.  Let me rephrase.  We both wanted to make the best of an awkward situation so we discussed the problem and then decided that the only solution was to combine forces and merge.  We, uh, I became a zygote.  Then one day a strange thing happened.  My eyes were closed at the time so I can’t say exactly what went on but, when I opened them again, there were two of us.  We were an exact replica of one another.  At first, I thought I was seeing things…., 

Had you been drinking?

No, Your Honor, I was not, I swear.  Anyway, from then on, every so often, the same thing would happen again.  Suddenly, there was four of us, then we were eight, then sixteen, then thirty two; we were multiplying faster and faster.  Since we were all identical and got along famously, we decided to keep going, make something of ourselves, you know? 

Please continue.

Oh, right!  Well, anyway, now I was a full-fledged embryo, taking my orders from the mother ship.  I’d like to note here that there was absolutely no discussion!  I was never asked for my thoughts and opinions regarding the project!  I had to do what I was told and to the letter.  Mine was not to reason why, mine was but to do or….well, die.  Material was periodically sent down to make whatever conversions and adjustments to our structure.  I used everything I was given, Your Honor!  Every last drop.  I didn’t pilfer or skimp or steal so if anyone had a problem with the end result, they should have addressed it to the mother ship, not to me!  I did my part and….