Archives: 02/2009

Should America Defend Europe if it Won’t Defend Itself?

Iceland, in the midst of economic crisis, is considering closing its defense agency. Reports the Iceland Review:

Former Minister of Justice Björn Bjarnason described the Iceland Defense Agency as “remnants of times past” and said it might even complicate defense relationships with other nations. The Coast Guard should be focused on instead.

It may well be true that Iceland doesn’t have many enemies. But if the Europeans don’t believe they need defending, then isn’t this another good reason to bring home America’s troops? Certainly there’s no reason for the U.S. to defend countries which don’t bother to field militaries themselves!

PTO Error/Trademark Abuse Update

Two weeks ago, I published a TechKnowledge article telling the story of how a mistake at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and some sharp lawyering had put a small business on the ropes. The Nordstrom retail chain appeared poised to use the PTO’s processes to grind under an organic yoga and lifestyle clothing business called Beckons so it could take their trademark.

Not so fast, said the blogosphere. Several blogs picked up the story, as did the trademark bar. Hearing from disapproving customers, Nordstrom made sounds about a compromise.

That was well-executed PR, and it tamped down the story, but two weeks later there is no compromise. Nordstrom’s motion to cancel two small businesswomen’s trademark still stands. The women’s legal bills are still stacking up, and Nordstrom’s apparent gambit to take away their trademark is still playing out. It’s a case of pure and simple abuse which I will continue to follow and report on here.

Earlier this year, in a parallel case, Monster Cable Products relented from its wrongful trademark-based attack on a small business called Monster Mini Golf (dissimilar products = no likelihood of consumer confusion from using the same name). The head of the company realized that his attorneys had driven him into a legal and public relations dead-end, and he agreed to dismiss his company’s actions and reimburse Monster Mini Golf’s legal bills.

In today’s increasingly watchful and empowered, Internet-driven marketplace, it’s bad for business to use legal and regulatory processes unfairly. We’ll see if that lesson takes root in this case.

New Podcast: ‘Most Banks Are Fine’

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, says Cato Senior Fellow Gerald P. O’Driscoll Jr. of the country’s banking system. Since more than 90 percent of U.S. banks are doing fine, why all the talk about nationalizing them?

In today’s Cato Daily Podcast, O’Driscoll explains:

If you think the bank is insolvent, certainly it should be resolved. But do we really want to see the government running very large financial institutions? In effect, we already have seen that movie, it’s Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and they’re not doing such a good job of it.

Prosperity for the Looter Class

While the rest of the country is losing jobs and suffering from recession, the Bush-Obama philosophy of bigger government and more intervention has been good news for the inside-the-beltway crowd. Business Week reports:

As the nation’s most populous metro area feels Wall Street’s pain, the fourth-largest—Washington—is barely sensing the recession. In fact, Moody’s estimates that metro Washington’s economy will actually grow 2.5% from mid-2008 through mid-2010. New York’s economy is expected to shrink 4.2%. It wouldn’t be the first time that Washington benefited from a national crisis. Back in 1930 the District of Columbia was a quiet Southern town, scoffed at by New York sophisticates. But as the federal government ramped up to fight first the Great Depression and then World War II, its population grew 65% in two decades.. “Oversight alone will [mean] tons of new jobs,” enthuses Jill Landsman, a spokeswoman for the Northern Virginia Assn. of Realtors, who says the pace of home sales has picked up over the past year even as prices have continued to fall.

Senator Lugar: ‘Lift the Embargo and Engage Cuba’

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the highest ranking Republican in the Foreign Relations Committee, has released a minority staff draft report on U.S. policy towards Cuba. It states that Washington’s sanctions against Havana have failed to bring democracy to the island and it recommends lifting the embargo and engaging Cuba.

The report’s recommendations are very similar to those that Ian Vásquez and I wrote for Cato’s recently published Handbook for Policymakers.