Saturday, February 26, 2011

God Is Pro-Choice

Well, that's the conclusion I draw considering that yesterday in New York City the rain was absolutely pouring around 1 P.M., and yet today, for the rally I attended in support of Planned Parenthood in downtown Manhattan, the weather was about as nice as one could hope for in February. Because you know if it had rained during the rally like we experienced yesterday, some Bible Thumpers would be saying "You see, God's showing you how much he disapproves of what you're doing."

The rally itself was in response to the recent vote by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to strip federal funding to Planned Parenthood for the terrible sin of providing abortions in addition to the majority of their work, which is health care and birth control. I myself utilized Planned Parenthood's services during a time of crisis in my life, so I know first hand the valuable work that they perform. It's not often that I feel motivated to get off my duff to stand up for a cause, but the actions by the Republicans not only in Congress, but increasingly in state legislatures across the country, have made me realize that when it comes to defending what I believe is a woman's fundamental reproductive rights, I can't just be a passive supporter.

Below are some pictures I took at the rally this afternoon. The first one, which is partly obscured, is of a sign carried by one attendee that reads "Keep Your Boehner Away From My Planned Parenthood," referring to the Speaker of the House John Boehner, who is apparently more concerned with making a woman's uterus a public domain rather than focusing on job growth. A couple of other amusing signs follow.

Of course, the rally featured more than just some catchy signs. There was also some important politicians and celebrity figures. Below is New York Senator Charles Schumer.

Next up, the fiery Anthony Weiner, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens in the House of Representatives. I believe Weiner's district is the one that Schumer formerly represented in the House before Schumer was elected to the Senate.

In the celebrity department, we have actress Kathleen Turner, her voice huskier than ever. I kept hoping she would say "Pussywillows, Dotty." Apologies for the grainy shot. She was far from me and I had the lens on near maximum zoom.

Another amusing sign. It's the one in the middle that reads "Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries."

Another well known personality, at least in the blogging community, is the feminist blogger Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon. Again, apologies for the grainy picture.

Last in batch, I couldn't leave out my own representative in the New York State Assembly, Charles Lavine. It's starting to become something of a running gag with us that we keep crossing paths with one another. Last autumn, we met at an open house at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury. Then on Election Day I was eating lunch at my local Cosi when he stopped in to eat with a couple of other people. He recognized me from the Islamic Center and we spoke briefly. So, as I was leaving the rally shortly after he spoke, I passed by him and when we made eye contact I greeted him again and was like "Hey, remember me?"

There were numerous other elected officials and feminist activists who spoke to the crowd, but I decided to focus only on the ones that I knew. Sadly, to me at least, all of the elected officials at the rally were Democrats. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate their support on reproductive rights, and since 2004 I have voted mostly for Democratic candidates either on the Democratic line or if they appear on other party lines, such as the Working Families Party. But it was not all that long ago that you could still find a few Republican politicians in New York who supported abortion rights. Regrettably, the Republican Party is increasingly solidifying itself as a party that opposes abortion rights even here in New York. For me as a voter, I find it difficult to pull the lever for a candidate that opposes abortion rights, but sometimes it puts me in the position of having to vote for a pro-choice candidate who is lackluster or who I do not otherwise care for. I would like to see the pendulum shift in the other direction so that opposition to abortion does not become a litmus test for Republican candidates for elected office.

And that leads me to another observation I want to make. Reproductive rights in this country are under a sustained and increasing assault by the anti-choice movement, and what I have noticed is that supporters of abortion rights are constantly on the defensive. What I would like to see from those of us who support abortion rights, access to contraception, and comprehensive sex education, is a counteroffensive to force our opponents to spend their money and resources responding to us rather than forcing us to always play defense. I would be eager to hook up with anyone in the New York area who would be interested in bouncing ideas off of each other and coming up with strategies to make this happen.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Change In The Arab World

I had been intending recently to do a post about Pakistan, but the news lately has been dominated by the revolts taking place in many of the Arab countries. I will get to Pakistan very soon, though.

I do have to say that the wave of uprisings, particularly in the North African countries, is one of the most exciting events in the news since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. The world is changing before our eyes and all we can really do is watch it happen and hope for the best.

Inevitably, what is happening in places like Egypt and Tunisia has been compared to the uprisings against the Communist countries of Eastern Europe more than two decades ago. One of the differences between what is happening today versus Eastern Europe is that the governments overthrown in 1989 were all more or less client states of the Soviet Union. Sure, Mubarak's government in Egypt could be described as a client state of the United States to some degree, but one cannot say the same thing with regard to Moammar Gaddafi's Libya.

With Gaddafi in particular, his regime is is certainly the one thus far that has shown the willingness to shed the most blood to defend itself. If the Arab revolts are to be compared to Eastern Europe in 1989, then Gaddafi is turning out to be the Arab Nicolae Ceasescu. Whether Gaddafi will end up sharing the same fate as the Romanian dictator remains to be seen, though he certainly seems to be heading in that direction.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Sarah Palin's Trademark Blues

It's not often that I write about a topic related to the field in which I work, which is trademark law. So, I couldn't help but be amused when I read this story on Crooks and Liars regarding Half-Term Sarah's difficulties in registering her name SARAH PALIN as a service mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (hereinafter "USPTO").

Palin's application was filed with the USPTO on November 5, 2010 and was assigned serial number 85170226. If you're curious enough, you can look up the application yourself on the USPTO'S TESS database. Just click on the link and type in SARAH PALIN in the search term field and click on Submit Query. Then click on the first hit, SARAH PALIN (the search will turn up a second application for the mark SARAH PALIN'S GOING ROGUE ROUGE which was filed by another person, but more on that later). You can then view all of the documents available to the public for the application by clicking on the blue button labeled TDR.

The application was examined rather quickly, in less than a month, probably because the filing attorney filed using the TEAS Plus form. The Office Action (which is what a USPTO Examining Attorney issues to a trademark applicant informing the applicant of the Examining Attorney's objections to the application) sets forth two objections to the application.

The first objection is just a mere technicality, but it indicates that the attorney who filed the application does not know a heck of a lot about trademarks. You see, when a trademark application is filed that contains the name of a living individual, you need to provide the signed consent of that person if that person is not the one who is signing the application. This objection can be easily overcome by having Sarah Palin sign a simple form that states that she consents to the application. In fact, the TDR record indicates that the law firm representing Palin has already been in communication with the Examining Attorney regarding the requirements for overcoming this objection.

The second objection is more serious. But first some background information. Most domestic trademark applicants will commonly file the application based on one of two filing bases. A Section 1(a) application is an application wherein the applicant is using the mark in commerce in the United States a the time of the filing of the application. The applicant has to submit a specimen evidencing use of the mark and provide the date when the mark was first used. The second common filing basis is the Section 1(b) application, in which the mark is not in use at the time of the filing of the application, but the applicant intends to make use of the mark at a later date. An application filed under 1(b) cannot pass on to registration until a Statement of Use is filed with the specimen and first use date.

Furthermore, when an applicant submits a trademark application with the USPTO, the applicant is declaring, under penalty of perjury, that he or she believes that all of the information provided in the application is, to the best of the applicant's knowledge, true. Palin's application alleges that she used her name in connection with the services "Information about political elections; Providing a website featuring information about political issues" in Class 35 at least as early as January 1, 1996. However the specimens provided in support of her use claim is a page from the Fox News website from January 11, 2010 announcing that Palin was joining Fox as a political contributor (which of course as we all know is the real reason why she resigned her position as governor of Alaska. She gets paid much more money to spout bullshit about things she doesn't really know compared to governing one of the least populated states in the country) and postings from her Facbook page.

The problem for Palin's application is that being mentioned by Fox News on its web site is not evidence that she herself is providing information about elections and having a Facebook page does not constitute providing a website featuring information about political issues. Again, this strongly supports my belief that the attorney retained by Palin to file her application is not familiar with trademark law. Even more egregious is the first use date, January 1, 1996. While just about anyone who had a computer in 1996 had online access, it was not common for most people to have their own websites. For example, the well-known wingnut personality Michelle Malkin did not register her domain name until February 9, 1999, according to a Whois search of I seriously doubt that Sarah Palin, who was unknown outside of Alaska at the time, had a website where she provided information about political issues as a private citizen. In early 1996, Palin was serving on the Wasilla City Council. I suppose it is possible the Wasilla City Council had its own website in 1996, though any information or remarks provided by Palin on the site would have been in her capacity as an elected official.

While Sarah Palin today has a website,, a Whois search indicates that this domain was created on August 29, 2008. There is also a domain name that was created on April 26, 2004, though the webpage is blank. A Whois search of indicates that the Fox News domain was created on June 21, 1995. I'm hazarding a guess that Palin's attorney (or Palin herself) believed that since Fox News was around since 1996, Palin could somehow piggyback on that. Or alternatively, as I wrote in the paragraph above, maybe she thought that anything she provided on a local government website back when she served on the Wasilla City Council counted as use of SARAH PALIN. Either way, an attorney knowledgeable about trademark law would have done a better job in providing a valid specimen and first use date.

It should not be too hard for Palin to submit a valid specimen, though I wonder if the Examining Attorney will also take her to task for the January 1, 1996 first use date, which I am quite certain is erroneous and possibly dishonest. The deadline for Palin to respond to all of the objections raised by the Examining Attorney is May 29, 2011, so she has a little over three months left to straighten this out. I wonder, by the way, if this story gets picked up by the conservative blogosphere if any of Palin's wingnut fans will call or send the Examining Attorney angry messages to stop picking on poor Sarah by bothering her with such pesky rules.

And to get back to what I alluded to earlier, an Alaskan individual named James Weeks has filed an application to register SARAH PALIN'S GOING ROGUE ROUGE for adhesive labels and printed novelty wine labels. Just like Sarah Palin herself, Weeks has to provide Palin's consent to register Sarah Palin's name as a trademark. However, I doubt that Weeks is going to get his former governor to consent to his application.

One other thing. Bristol Palin also has an application pending to register her name, filed by the same attorney who is handling her mother's application. Just like with her mom's application, Bristol's application has been rejected because Bristol did not sign the application, so she also has to submit her written consent. Also, like her mom, Bristol is facing an objection to the specimen submitted in support of her 1(a) application, which as the Examining Attorney has pointed out, is just a white sheet with her name typed on it.

I suggest that the next time the Palins want to file more trademark applications that they hire an experienced IP attorney.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Long Island and the Fact of Global Warming

With all of the snow we've been getting here on Long Island since late December, as well as the big snow storm that barrelled across the United States last week, the last thing on anyone's mind is global warming, except maybe as a punchline. But the big picture gets lost when people focus on the weather while ignoring the long-term climatic data.

When the subject of global warming and climate change does get coverage, it is often dominated by the receding and thinning of Arctic sea ice and how it will affect the polar bears. Out of curiosity, I decided to find out if my native Long Island is experiencing warming.

The source of my data is the NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. I was able to obtain for free temperature records collected at the NOAA's climate monitoring station in Mineola*. It was rather time consuming though, because I could only obtain one month at a time. I also damn near used up all the black ink in my toner cartridge! What I decided to do was to focus on two months as a representative sample, July and November. And to make sure I collected data for a sufficient span of time, I felt a good year to start was the year of my birth, 1969.

The data appears on what is, even up to the present day, a form with the information written in by hand. It contains the high and low temperature for each day of the month. What I did was to analyze the data in two ways. In one spreadsheet I put in columns for the first, 15th and last day for both July and November and then entered the highest temperature for those days from 1969 up to 2010. In a second spreadsheet, I created columns with temperature ranges, with columns for July for 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80-89, 90-99 and 100+ degrees, and columns for November for 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, and 70-79 degrees. For each year I counted the number of days in which the highest temperature fell**. For instance, in July of 1969, there were 15 days in which the highest temperature was between 70 and 79 degrees.

After I plugged in the numbers, I created bar graphs to see if trends in temperature change could be discerned. Unfortunately, I don't know how to insert bar graph charts into a blog post, so I can't include them in this post. However, I can describe what they show. And what they do clearly show is that for both July and November, there is a noticeable increase in temperature in the last two decades.

For July, the frequency of days with the temperature highs between 60 to 69 degrees and 70 to 79 degrees shows a decrease. The number of days with temperature highs between 80 to 89 degrees increases only slightly, but this is because the number of days in which the high temperature falls between 90-99 and 100 and over is higher. According to the temperature records for Mineola, there were no days in July that reached 100 degrees between 1969 and 1987. The first year to reach 100 degrees is 1988. While the temperature does not consistently reach 100 or more on a year to year basis, in 2002 and 2010 the number of days in July in which the temperature reached 100 or more degrees was five.

I selected November because I wanted to see if an autumn month would show a similar trend, and I can report that it does. As with July, there is a decline in the number of days with temperatures in the lower temperature ranges, in this case between 30 to 39 degrees and 40 to 49 degrees. Likewise, there is an increase in the number of days in which the high temperature falls between 50 to 59 degrees and 60 to 69 degrees. The one range where November breaks the trend is in the number of days in which the temperature reached 70 or more degrees. The record occurred in 1975, when the temperature exceeded 70 or more degrees on 7 days. The number of 70+ days is slightly higher in the first two decades than the latter two. However, 70 degree days for November were infrequent for the entire 41 year span of temperature data I collected.

Using the temperature data for July and November, the evidence shows that in the last two decades temperatures on Long Island (or at least Mineola in Nassau County!) have increased. Readers of this post who might be of a right wing or libertarian bent, before you engage in a Tourette's outburst, please note that this post does not address whether human activity is causing this warming or whether there is anything we should be doing on a policy level to address the rise in temperature. I am merely reporting the findings from the data I have analyzed. You can look at the data yourself to confirm my findings.

Climate change on Long Island being a fact, the next issue to consider is what impact it might have on those of us who live here. One thing that springs to mind is the potential to affect the Long Island wine industry. The East End of Long Island, particularly on the North Fork, has a microclimate that has been compared to Bordeaux in France. It is possible that a continued rise in temperature could adversely impact the industry. I don't know to what extent, if any, that Long Island's winegrowers have noticed any change in their growing seasons or an increase in pests that favor warmer weather. I intend to contact the Long Island Wine Council to see if they have any information on this and will report what they say in a future post.

A greater potential threat to all Long Islanders are the effects of a rise in sea levels to our underground drinking supply. Long Island gets its drinking water from underground aquifers. This web page from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation contains a brief, useful description of our aquifers. A rise in sea level from the melting of ice in Greenland and Antarctica in combination with a decrease in our water table could increase salt water intrusion into our aquifers. This paper provides a good overview of the impact of rising temperatures and sea level on the Long Island Sound, estuaries and coast lines and the marine life that inhabit them.

In conclusion, the last two decades have seen a trend in rising temperatures for Long Island that could have potentially adverse consequences for those of use who live here if that trend continues in the coming decades.

* The data was either incomplete or missing for Mineola for November of 1982, 1984, 1988 and 1996. To the extent that it was available, I substituted data collected at the Wantagh station. Wantagh, for those of you not familiar with Long Island, is on the south shore of Nassau County, whereas Mineola is more towards the center of Nassau County.

** For November of 1977, there was no temperature data for the 8th and the 9th. For July of 1982, there was no temperature date for the 21st. For November of 1982, there was no temperature data for the 22nd and 23rd. For July of 1986, there was no temperature data for the 31st. For November of 1988, there is no temperature data for the 21st and 22nd.