Under funded: http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2010/01/director-kappos-on-the-usptos-lack-of-funding.html
Under staffed: http://www.dynamicpatents.com/2009/03/uspto-faces-hiring-freeze-and-budget-problems/
and under pressure: http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/apr2009/id2009048_138177.htm
Basically, there's too few people reviewing too many patents, under pressure to process them as quickly as possible, so rubber stamping is endemic.
The corporations know this and aggravate the problem by filing as many patents as possible, regardless of validity, to see what they can slip through, and then some sell off the more worthless/outlandish ones to patent trolls making a quick buck for little investment.
And STILL the push for reforms is stymied... gee, I wonder why?
/BS BTW, it looks my idea for using Elizabethan English in a format for plays and/or performances distributed by electronic means will be approved for a patent.
Yowzaa! I'll own the rights to all performances of Shakespeare's works in any media except live performances done without a sound system! /BS*
*yes, that's a Bull shit tag, I'm not that Evil... yet.