Short Takes: News From All Over

Snap, Crackle … Patents
By Christopher Hayes, In These Times
Your morning cereal won’t give you any guff, but the person who sold it to you might — if you emulate their business method, that is. Cereality, the cereal-slinging franchise that started in Tempe, Arizona, recently attempted to patent its ingenious business method, which includes mixing different cereals into a bowl and adding a liquid. As novel as this business method sounds, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others are working to stop what they see as dangerous uses of patent law. — Nick Rose

Anti-abortion Violence: A Return to the Silence?
By Frederick Clarkson, Daily Kos
Two people have been charged with lobbing a firebomb at an abortion clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana, in December. Anti-abortion outlets like and Army of God’s website have picked up the story, but mainstream media coverage has been sparse, leaving Frederick Clarkson to wonder if the nation is regressing to a time when such violence was either accepted or ignored. — Bennett Gordon

California Legislators Call for Citizens Assembly on Electoral Systems
By Staff, FairVote
Following the crushing defeat of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Year of Reform’ — four ballot measures turned down by voters in November — a bipartisan pair of state legislators have suggested a new approach to reforming the state’s broken election system: let the people figure it out for themselves. Modeled after a similar project in British Columbia, the California Citizens Assembly would be made up of 160 members — two volunteers drawn by a task force from each of the state’s 80 Assembly districts. They would spend a year studying and deliberating on all manner of ideas for improving state election laws — from independent redistricting to campaign finance to proportional representation — then present a set of reforms to the Legislature. Any proposed constitutional changes would go directly to the voters in a statewide ballot initiative. — Leif Utne (Sacramento Bee; registration required)

The Anti-Social Bastards in Our Midst
By George Monbiot,
People act differently in cars. Even people who are normally even-keeled can turn into rageaholics when they get behind the wheel. George Monbiot links this phenomenon of auto-isolation to politics, arguing that cars are turning Britons into libertarians ‘who believe they should be allowed to do what they what, whenever they want, regardless of the consequences.’ — Bennett Gordon

ImpeachPAC Forms Citizens Impeachment Commission
Submitted to ImpeachPAC by Bob Fertik
Impeachment. It’s not just for dreamers anymore. Many people have wanted George W. Bush out since the moment he took office, but now the idea of impeachment is starting to pick up steam. The political action committee ImpeachPAC has stepped up efforts by forming a Citizens Impeachment Commission and declaring 2006 the ‘Year of Impeachment.’ Recent revelations about domestic spying have only strengthened their cause. — Bennett Gordon

Rethinking the Social Responsibility of Business
By Staff, Reason
With Starbucks offering fair-trade coffee and eBay auctioning organic baby food, socially responsible products seem to have arrived in mainstream consumer culture. In a Reason-hosted debate on the issue, Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey squares off against economics Nobel laureate Milton Friedman and T.J. Rodgers, the founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor. Mackey stands up for business contributing to society, while the other two argue that profit is the only goal of a business. Mackey and Friedman have a civil and interesting discussion, while Rodgers adds the inflammatory spice. — Bennett Gordon

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