Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Morning Brief: Some early presents for some, coal for others; paid legal fees for a phone-hacker, a patent win for Apple, a lump of coal for taxpayers thanks to House GOP

The time to unwrap presents may still be a few days away for most of us, but for some Christmas has come early.

Glenn Mulcaire, for instance, the man accused of phone hacking for Murdoch's News of the World, just won a court case that will save him some serious legal fees. The News of the World had originally agreed to pay his defense costs but then cancelled the contract – Mulcaire sued and just today the high court ruled that News Group Newspapers would have to continue to fund his legal fees, according to the Guardian report.

Apple won a ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission that said that Android smartphones made by HTC Corp. violated an Apple patent. This is a loss for Google, as well. But the ruling is fairly limited, and two can play at the patent game. In fact, everyone is playing in the patent game, guaranteeing that eventually everyone will lose, especially consumers. But then again, consumers always lose when the corporations start playing their games.

U.S. tax payers got a lump of coal yesterday thanks to Republicans in the House. They voted overwhelmingly to kill the Senate compromise bill that would have extended the payroll tax cut by two months. As a result, taxes will be going up for U.S. tax payers come January 1st, and millions of Americans will lose their unemployment benefits. Further Medicare reimbursement fees for doctors will also be reduced.

But, none of those dire consequences are guaranteed, as the NYT story makes plain in its last paragraph (kind a way of burying the lead, if you ask me):
Republicans could decide to accept the two-month extension as is or with additional sweeteners, like a promise that a conference committee would meet to seek a longer-term extension, but such a move would require unanimous consent from the Senate. They could add another social policy rider, as is their tendency, and the Senate could toss it off the bill later, through a procedure that has been employed in the past. Or they could do similar procedural moves with a bill to extend the benefits for a year, which has been the goal of Mr. Obama and Democrats all along.