Friday, February 28, 2014

Erosion of the Middle Class in the USA is Problematical for the Rest of the World

Nelson D. Schwartz has the story at

The Middle Class Is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World.

The increasing break-up of U.S. society into affluent haves and struggling have nots is one of most troublesome developments in the world, because it also entails a political shift largely contrary to the ideals for which America was founded.

Hat tip to CaryGEE.

Protection of Animal Rights: Elephants Are Smart, Yes, But Most Pet Owners Aready Know About Animal Intelligence

Scientific American tells us that
Elephants Are Even Smarter Than We Realized.

Speak for yourself  ... "we".

Almost any pet owner can tell you that animals have not only brains, but also thoughts and emotions viz. "feelings", so "why not" elephants too.

Our male cat does several "flips" nearly every morning, but usually only if asked, while our female cat has learned a good cat version -- in spite of a cat's vocal limitations -- of the two-syllable word "hello", which she always renders in "two" syllables of sorts, with the correct intonation.

We are reminded of the regrettable U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Stevens, 559 U.S. 460, 130 S.Ct. 1577 (2010), where we agree with Justice Alito in dissent that Constitutional free speech rights were not intended to extend to the abuse of animals [or humans for that matter] in any form.

Anyone's rights should end where another man's NOSE begins.
It should make no difference whether that NOSE belongs to a man or animal.
The principle is the same.

The Most Relaxing Tune Ever Recorded, Say Scientists: Do NOT Listen to it While Driving!

Something for stressed professionals?
An 8-minute sound relaxer par excellence?

We were curious about this and so listened to the whole thing.

According to Scientists, This is The Most Relaxing Tune Ever Recorded

We are as yet not fully convinced of its super-relaxing properties,
but it is recommended not to listen to it while driving!


Saturday, February 22, 2014

WhatsApp Acquired by Facebook: A Ukrainian near Kiev Rags to Riches Story Merges Some of the Values, Economics and Politics of East and West

Kiev and the Ukraine are also positively in the news these days.

Let us learn from successes, not failures.

How about the incredible rags-to-riches story of a Ukrainian near Kiev native, Jan Koum who together with partner Brian Acton created WhatsApp, which could serve as a model for politics in the "merge" by Eastern and Western entrepreneurs via adoption of some essential and proven Western political and economic values and practices, while also maintaining some important perhaps more Eastern old-fashioned traditions and values, such as privacy.

Just read

Parmy Olson at Forbes in The Rags-To-Riches Tale Of How Jan Koum Built WhatsApp Into Facebook's New $19 Billion Baby

and

Try, Try Again: The Incredible Story of WhatsApp's Tenacious Founders

for the human interest side of Facebook's buyout of WhatsApp.

The Economist has the more business side of things at
Getting the messages
in presenting a report concerning the multi-billion dollar
WhatsApp and Facebook deal.

We just hope that Facebook does not ruin the marvelous WhatsApp application, which we also use regularly,
whose major selling point is not only a simple, intuitively excellent interface
but also the attendant absolutely necessary protection of privacy.


Friday, February 14, 2014

European Court of Justice Issues Landmark Decision that Links to Otherwise Free Public Content Do Not Violate Copyright Law

The European Court of Justice could not have timed it better, in view of transatlantic discussions taking place as members of the US Supreme Court, past and present, visit Luxembourg.

As reported at the Wall Street Journal in Luxembourg Links In, the European Court of Justice has issued a landmark judgment holding that links to otherwise freely available, unrestricted content do not violate copyright law:
"The owner of a website may, without the authorisation of the copyright holders, redirect internet users, via hyperlinks, to protected works available on a freely accessible basis on another site."
Publicly available content of course still retains its normal copyright protection, so it would be illegal to "post" such content (e.g. images) on one's own web site without the express permission of the copyright holder.

The court also emphasized that it remains illegal -- without express permission from copyright holders -- to circumvent restrictions on content via clickable links. Accordingly, restricted content remains restricted and can not be linked in order to bypass things like paywalls.

Sources are:

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Search Result Bias and Google in the News and in an Academic Paper

David Lee at BBC News in Europe reports that Google to make 'significant' changes to avoid EU fine after being accused of giving favorable treatment to its own products in search results.

This ties in well to the alert by Law Prof James Grimmelmann at The Laboratorium of his coming publication Speech Engines in his posting on Speech Engines Goes Gold.

The Abstract to Speech Engines reads:
"Academic and regulatory debates about Google are dominated by two opposing theories of what search engines are and how law should treat them. Some describe search engines as passive, neutral
conduits for websites’ speech; others describe them as a
ctive, opinionated editors: speakers in their own right. The conduit and editor theories give dramatically different policy prescriptions in areas ranging from antitrust to copyright. But they both systematically discount search users’ agency, regarding users merely as passive audiences.
A better theory is that search engines are not primarily conduits or editors, but advisors. They help users achieve their diverse and individualized information goals by sorting through the unimaginable scale and chaos of the Internet. Search users are active listeners, affirmatively seeking out the speech they wish to receive. Search engine law can help them by ensuring two things: access to high-quality search engines, and loyalty from those search engines.

Theadvisor theory yields fresh insights into long-running disputes about Google. It suggests, for example, a new approach to deciding when Googleshould be liable for giving a website the “wrong” ranking. Users’ goalsare too subjective for there to be an absolute standard of correct and incorrect rankings; different search engines necessarily assess relevance differently. But users are also entitled to complain when a search engine deliberately misleads them about its own relevance assessments. The result is a sensible, workable compromise between the conduit and editor theories."
Take a look.

European Economic Issues at A Fistful Of Euros: Germany, Italy, Ireland, Poland and the Ukraine

A Fistful Of Euros has recent postings on the economic situation in Germany, Italy, Ireland, Poland and the Ukraine.

The Oldest Law Firm in the United States?

Charles DeLaFuente at the ABA Journal goes into the historical question of correctly identifying

the oldest law firm in the United States.

On the Value of Education, Which Should be a Top Government Priority Everywhere

Better education is probably the best solution for making the world a better place.

Recent posts at The White House Blog relate to education, a topic of great importance to nations and governments everywhere.

Take a look at some of the recent posts. e.g.:

Valerie Jarrett, Champion of African American History: Carter G. Woodson
and

First Lady Michelle Obama on being The First in her family to get a college education.




Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Law and "Friending" in an Era of Social Media Networking: Depending on Professional Job Status and Responsibilities, Who Can "Friend" Whom?

The Volokh Conspiracy tends to be a libertarian specialists' field, nothing wrong with that, whereas we are generally interested in broader legal topics closer to the pulse of the times (e.g. intellectual property law).

A somewhat welcome exception to the specialized fare posted by law profs at "the Conspiracy" is Eugene Volokh's posting on what he titles The law of “friending”, albeit there as a rather narrow legal question asking whether judges, without having to recuse themselves, can be Facebook (or other social media) "friends" of lawyers and/or litigants (or request to be friends of such).

As Volokh writes:
"Interestingly, in this case the objector was a litigant whom the judge “friended,” but who refused the “friend” request. The litigant argued that the judge had retaliated against her because of her un”friend”liness, and that the judge’s conduct created enough of “a well-founded fear of not receiving a fair and impartial trial” to “a reasonably prudent person” that the judge should be disqualified. The court of appeals in Chace agreed."
Some of the profs at the Conspiracy seem to have some libertarian trouble with that. We do not share their view, agreeing with the commenter who wrote that public social "friending" by judges should not be tolerated.

In our view, the most important qualification that a judge must have is impartiality. Judges can of course "privately" be friends with whomever they want (though they may still run into trouble if their friendships go too far afield), but unnecessary and public social media "friending" of lawyers and/or litigants definitely raises severe impartiality issues, and should be barred.

More interesting for us is the broader question for society in general as to what freedom people should have to make public friends on social media networking sites, depending on their professional job status and responsibilities, and there is the rub. 

That question is acute for teachers. See, for example:

Schools need rules for teachers on Facebook, union says (BBC)

Huffington Post, Teachers on Facebook

German state bans student-teacher contact on Facebook

Particularly the German solution and reasoning appear to us to be sensible:
"These conversations should happen over secure online educational platforms instead...."
In other words, for those who are free speech freaks, teacher-student contact is not forbidden, but rather is channeled to an education-related non-public platform.

Public disclosure of teacher-student communication on commercial portals serves no rational purpose, and indeed can be quite harmful, unnecessarily so, if better options exist, and they DO exist.

Schools should not exist as "profit centers" for social media networking commercial enterprises who thus far show little interest in honoring privacy rights, instead data mining any information they can get for business revenue.


Monday, February 03, 2014

The Future Source of Government Income?: LICENSING TAXES on Commercial Stealing of Words from the Common Weal

We continue to maintain that legislatures around the world should pass simple laws imposing draconian licensing fees on companies that are stealing OUR major "public" generic language words -- and the goodwill associated with them -- for nothing, while shamelessly suing others for allegedly imitating their far less important so-called "inventions", like rubber-band bounce-back patents granted by a clueless USPTO. The world is out of whack!

The Apple firm is one of the worst offenders on the planet on this score, stealing major public words like "retina" and "paper" from you and I as the public -- it is OUR language -- for base commercial purposes and not having to pay a penny for it.

See the newest fiasco at the New York Times in Makers of Paper App Ask Facebook to Change Its New App Name.

By law, we would force the Apple firm to be correctly renamed for its founders as Wozniak-Jobs, Inc. (or how about WOZJOI or even WOZJOIAPPLE, which would be a "new" invention and not a stolen name) and the word "apple" -- which belongs to the people -- would by law be returned to us, and, by the way, to its prominent place e.g. in the Bible, an ancient source of mankind's history having nothing to do with these digital monopolists.

The same is true for any number of commercial enterprises who steal OUR words for their private profit. Windows anyone? That's what we look through in our house. Reverse this terrible process of lexical stealing by which companies -- for NO compensation -- profit on the goodwill attached to words!

Let them name companies after their founders. The only reason that they do not do so is because they can steal the -- highly profitable -- goodwill attached to popular words and pay nothing.

This whole business of intellectual property rights is a pea-and-shell game against the common weal. Who reimburses THE PEOPLE for the words stolen from the general pool of language??!!

These commercial hawkers are stealing YOU, the public, blind, and you do not get it.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Saturday, February 01, 2014

EU Lawmaking: How Codecision Works in the European Union (Video and Links, EU Glossary Definition)

Take a look at this EuropalTV video and links
explaining how lawmaking in the European Union works
by a process of what is called "codecision":

EU Codecision: How it Works.

The EU Glossary describes the Codecision procedure as follows:
"Codecision procedure

Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the codecision procedure becomes the ordinary legislative procedure of the European Union (EU) (Article 294 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU).

This procedure gives the European Parliament, representing the Union’s citizens, the power to adopt instruments jointly with the Council of the European Union. It becomes co-legislator, on an equal footing with the Council, except in the cases provided for in the Treaties where the procedures regarding consultation and approval apply. The ordinary legislative procedure also includes qualified majority voting in the Council.

Furthermore, the Treaty of Lisbon increases the areas within which the codecision procedure shall apply, therefore contributing towards strengthening the powers of the European Parliament.

The procedure comprises one, two or three readings. It has the effect of increasing contacts between the Parliament and the Council, the co-legislators, and with the European Commission."

Profits, Cash Flow and Off-Balance-Sheet Financing (or) How Much Money is a Company Like Amazon REALLY Making?

Matthew Yglesias has an article on Slate titled
The Prophet of No Profit: How Jeff Bezos won the faith of Wall Street.

We are fans of Amazon because of its low prices and quick delivery, but we think it possible that the most popular comment to that posting, by Benton Love, might be somewhat closer to the actual financial corporate reality, as Love emphasizes cash flow and not other accounting parameters, writing inter alia:
"It's important to remember that "profits" are an accounting construct that don't necessarily match how much money a firm is making.... [Amazon]'s asset base produced $5.4 billion more cash than was put into it. One reason why its earnings didn't look so hot is that they had a depreciation "expense" of $3.2 billion, which is an imaginary non-cash expense."
Indeed, one of the major problems of fair and adequate corporate taxation by governments and hence adequate government revenue is that actual corporate profits can be (and often are) much greater than those "officially" and "legally" reported, because of accepted and "legal" accounting practices that essentially permit profits to be "parked" or "deferred".

As one can read at Investopedia.com, one example is "Off-Balance-Sheet Financing" -- e.g. pension plans, where earnings could "theoretically" be "parked" in capital expenditures covering pension plan liability, as a means to avoid being declared as profits and being subject to taxation, etc.


European Union "EU Capital of Innovation" Award: Six Finalists Announced

What European city will win the first EU Capital of Innovation Award?

Via the European Parliament,

Foursquare has

EU Capitals of Innovation on the map,

writing about the finalists that:
"6 remain of 58 candidates: which city will be the first ever EU Capital of Innovation? The best innovation ecosystem of citizens, academia and business will be announced Europe's iCapital in March!"
Take a look at the shortlist of the 6 remaining candidates here.

ECONOMIES and TEENAGERS: What are Teens Wearing and What are they Buying? Retailers Struggling to Obtain Young Customers -- What are the Reasons?

Elizabeth A. Harris has a seminal article at the New York Times Business Day titled Retailers Ask: Where Did Teenagers Go?

Harris discusses a number of reasons for the decreasing number of teenagers shopping at major retail stores.

Online purchases or buying at discount outlets may be obvious reasons.

But fashion priorities may also be shifting.

Moreover, the lack of discretionary funds among young people and the high rate of teenage unemployment surely also play a significant role.
 
How can the economy move forward if young people have no money to buy the products that they might want and could be buying? Is the buying power today increasingly in the hands of the elderly, who, except for health care, need less and less? How can economies run on that?

In fact, if you have a voice in running OUR WORLD anywhere, and it might just be your company or place of work, you might consider doing something within your powers about changing the status quo toward equalizing the current inequalities of income and wealth that pervade our planet.

It is far preferable in our view to have young people working for pay doing something -- even if it just picking litter off the streets -- rather than not working at all, having no money -- and we have to put up with the litter. We wonder if so-called "fiscal conservatives" understand that inexorable logic.

We think ultimately, that we all have to spread the wealth or suffer the unpredictable consequences of these minimizable economic inequalities.

Make sure you
read this one
to get a better picture of the "real" commercial retail world.


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