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Blog: Typewriter Ribbons
Created by admin on Tue 18 of Apr, 2006 [23:27 UTC]
Last modified Wed 18 of Jun, 2014 [14:22 UTC]
Description: Forging the finest print
'Americans Elect' Electing Soon
The internet-based party originally launched as Unity '08 is holding their caucus May 8th.
Unity '08, recall, was the fusion-ticket party that attempted to draft NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) to run, which Mike flirted with. When Bloomberg ultimately dropped his ambition to run, the party, lacking funds to qualify on the ballot of most states, simply shut down.
Their lasting legacy is Unity '08 v. FEC, their case against the Federal Election Commission. Ironically, the party that started with the "clean money pledge" found donation caps too stifling. In their case, Unity argued that a party just starting out needs caps removed, so that a few wealthy interests could get a party off the ground.
They won. Now a nascent party can raise unlimited funds until they've run someone for a federal office.
This time, its alleged that the founders of Americans Elect are in collusion with the Committee to Draft David Walker. He's the former Comptroller of the United States, meaning he ran the Government Accountability Office.
They once again have a problem. Like in 2008, Ron Paul leads the draft candidates with 8,530 supporters. Of the declared candidates, Buddy Roemer, former Louisiana governor and congressman, leads with 4,148.
The problem with the party founders, just like I said in 2008, is that they don't really understand American voters. They genuinely think that the biggest issue we ought to care about is "partisan bickering". The notion that this is what we should be most alarmed about is wrong for two reasons:
1. It's insulting to us "partisans" to say that our differences are petty and inconsequential. Our differences are often very serious. Sometimes it's about eating dog, but let's not trivialize the difference in visions.
2. Out in the real world, we can still mostly tune them out. We care less about the tone in Washington than about what Washington does to/for us. And, by the way, that's the real division, between folks concerned about what Washington does to us, and those concerned about what it does for us.
I'm wondering if, in the coming days, the plug won't be pulled again, should Ron Paul be the only name to crest above 10,000 supporters.
I asked one question on the party website:
"The severity of the banking crisis is correlated with reserve ratios. For example, lax requirements made bank failures more common in Europe than America. As President, what would you advocate as the right reserve requirements?"
I suspect it has little chance of being voted up.
Steroids For Litigation
Lawsuits. They plague the English-speaking world. It seems, even to a youngster like me, that the number of suits in the last few decades would have been deemed intolerable in earlier times. There must have been a time, perhaps before the 1970s, or late 1960s, when they weren't so common.
Indeed, I had read in a recent Bloomberg article that before 1960, graduates of law schools earned less than their peers in medicine, and the gulf was widening. But to my knowledge, few have seriously theorized about why.
That's not quite true. I recall John Stossel, the libertarian journalist-slash-commentator arguing that judges and juries have becoming rabidly anti-corporate since then. But, is it true that the growth of the torts industry is really reliant on anti-capitalist judges?
I recently stumbled upon 'litigation financing', a nascent industry of lenders whose clients borrow in order to cover legal expenses. Awards from suits or settlements will cover these loans.
This has not always been legal. Under English Common Law, this sort of financing is known as champerty. It is related to 'maintenance', encouragement of lawsuits that was also illegal, and Barratry, which is defined as the stirring up of legal disputes in order for a lawyer to create work.
All of these old Common Law doctrines are considered by moderns to be obsolete, and in the case of champerty, most areas of explicitly repealed the laws. Presumably, we can restore these legal statutes and slow the flow of litigation.
There is still one old legal doctrine in America that slows the litigators. Law firms are still prohibited by becoming publicly-traded corporations. The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2007 how that changed in Australia:
Australian plaintiffs’ firm Slater & Gordon went public yesterday, listing its shares on the Australian Stock Exchange and making it, according to Legal Times, the world’s first publicly traded law firm. Its shares rose 40% on the first day of trading. Here is Slater & Gordon’s prospectus; a story from the Sydney Morning Herald; and blog entries from Ideoblog and the Securities Litigation Watch.
The IPO follows new Australian legislation allowing law firms to raise public funds and allowing non-lawyers to invest. The UK is considering a similar bill.
Here in the USA, going public is against the rules. ABA Model Rule 5.4 prohibits firms from selling equity shares in law firms to non-lawyers.
As of 2012, that Australian firm has bought out a British firm, and can therefore practice law in the UK:
Australia's Slater & Gordon, the world's first publicly listed law firm, is set to acquire U.K. personal injury specialist law firm Russell Jones & Walker for £53.8 million in a Legal Services Act first.
The deal will be structured with an initial cash payment of £36.4 million in cash, of which £8.8 million will be deferred for up to two years subject to performance targets, while £10.3 million will be used to pay off RJW bank debt. Slater & Gordon will also issue £17.4 million in shares.
The acquisition, which is expected to be completed in early April, will see the U.K. business trade as 'Russell Jones & Walker part of Slater & Gordon Lawyers.'
It appears that foreign firms can buy out British firms under the Legal Services Act. I am wondering if the battery of free trade agreements America has entered has legalized the practice of buying out our own native law firms.
If so, would this not completely circumvent our prohibition against publicly-traded law firms? It seems to me that the law would then be a paper tiger. A corporation could perform law so long as it isn't American!
The Texas Law Blog opined:
In my opinion (and that of others much smarter then me), it is only a matter of time before American law firms are opened up to outside investment. On May 18, 2011, New Yourk personal injury firm Jacoby & Meyers brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York challenging New York rules of professional conduct which prohibit outside investment in law firms (that litigation is still pending). Like the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 5.04 of the Texas Rules specifically prohibits outside investment in law firms.
(Story about the debate in Canada)
(Speculation about what a publicly-traded law firm in America would be like)
I find myself imagining the menace of that old Standard Oil octopus cartoon.
In early 2009, a group of Americans watched as financial firms, then auto companies, were bailed out. Then the politicians began entertaining legislation to bailout underwater mortgages and student loan debt. And they got mad. They got mad because the establishment had run away from certain principles. The protesting group wanted a return to the principles. They demanded it.
That was the genesis of the Tea Party. To adapted slogans. Among my favorite was one that captured their goals: Restoration, Not Revolution.
Restoration. The legal culture has drifted so much that a word like 'Champerty' sounds as forgotten and archaic as 'Usury'. Perhaps it's a legal doctrine that the folks in the Tea Party would like to restore.
Cuban, Myhrvold, and "Invention Capitalism"
Mavs owner Mark Cuban has a blog post on something that had my attention lately, the growth of patent-holding entities suing tech companies:
While we often read about the big patent lawsuits with Yahoo, Google, Facebook etc, it is the untold number of mid size company settlements that are hidden by non disclosures that we never read about that should scare the hell out of you. Thousands and thousands of companies are being sued or threatened with lawsuits over patents. It is by far the biggest risk that medium sized businesses and corporate America faces today. It is a fungus among us.
And Im not saying that every company is at risk of having 1 patent lawsuit come their way. Nope. EVERY company in America is at risk of having 2, 3, 5, 100 patent lawsuits coming your way. If you have a janitorial service company, you are at risk that the USPTO will issue a patent to someone who says they have invented a new way to optimize the path you should take when mopping a commercial kitchen. Then maybe they will issue a patent on the fastest way to wash kitchen utensils. If you wash spoons first while holding them upside down, you could be at risk. Ridiculous ? Not in the current patent environment. The economic problems we face will hurt your business. Patent lawsuits can kill your business.
While Cuban sees patent trolls the barbarians leading us into dark ages, former Microsoft guru Nathan Myhrvold has turned his genius to gobbling up the most valuable patents. He's formed a new firm that engages in the practice, called Intellectual Ventures, and in a recent Men's Journal article named the practice of extracting fees from tech companies "invention capitalism"
Cuban no doubt agrees with Myhrvold that patent trolling has a lucrative future and is bound to win over tech companies. Cuban ends his blog post by saying:
"The only option I have found is to buy into companies that aggressively sue over IP. It is a hedge against patent law. Put another way, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Sucks, but there aren’t any other options that I can see."
Well, there you have it. "Invention Capitalism" is bound to become the rage on Wall Street. Cuban used the magic word, 'hedge'. A portfolio of patents sounds like the sort of asset class a hedge fund would dive into in order to boost annual returns. Perhaps they already have.
CATO Policy Report had a brief write-up on patent trolls:
Since 2004 there has been a fivefold increase in the number of lawsuits filed by nonpracticing entities (NPEs) against U.S. firms. In the latest issue of Regulation, James Bessen, Jennifer Ford, and Michael J. Meurer of Boston University School of Law consider whether or not this trend is problematic. NPEs are businesses that acquire patents and license them to others, instead of producing goods or services. The authors find that, despite the benefits of technology markets in general, NPEs destroy incentives for real innovation. "It's hard to believe," they conclude, "that markets can be somehow improved by having thousands of lawsuits that incur hundreds of billions of dollars in losses."
Fivefold increase. They presumably win settlements more often than sue, so that's been a rapidly-growing industry.
The Ocean Tomo 300® Patent Index, created to track the largest patent-holding firms, is up 12.17% so far this year. the S&P 500, for comparison, is up +8.69%. It appears that investing in a broad index fund including patent trolls would work.
I'm sure low-minimum investment vehicles are coming. I except to see that index folded into an ETF shortly. It may already exist. I also expect publicly-traded patent portfolios to trade like Master Limited Partnerships.
Heck, why not make an MLP out of a patent portfolio? A Master Limited Partnership is a trust created out of the rights of a carbon fuel deposit, say, a natural gas play. Just like an oil deposit, patent portfolios are finite resources that eventually deplete. With both, we know they'll eventually run dry, and that they will eventually run dry is a certainty. We know when a patent will expire, that much certainty is baked in. But, we don't really know if anything will be invented to render a patent obsolete before it expires, or weather development parallel to a certain patent will make an undervalued patent suddenly more relevant.
Trading in that kind of uncertainty is of course what trading in markets is all about.
Myhrvold and Cuban are obviously very knowledgeable figures in the tech sector. If the two started seeking outside money for patent portfolios bundled as MLPs, I have no doubt they'll find a wealth of takers.
Myhrvold is obviously very proud of what he's doing, but was Cuban being serious or facetious?
News For Winter Baseball, Spring Football
Earlier this year a post on Baseball Nation begged the MLB Network to increase their coverage of the winter baseball leagues:
What the ABL Championship showed, though, was that there is room for a lot more winter-league baseball on TV. I have absolutely zero idea of the logistics it would take to televise Dominican or Venezuelan games, so that might be where the discussion ends. And considering the cost-to-viewer ratio, it would probably be a money sinkhole for MLB Network to produce the telecasts themselves.
But if there's a way for games to get on TV any possible way they can — at 3:00 a.m., with the original Spanish-language broadcasters, even — it would make the offseason that much more bearable.
I know the Caribbean Series games on ESPN 3 looked watchable. And I'd love to volunteer some time if they really need an English-language broadcaster.
Meanwhile, over on NBC Sports, word is the copyright to the USFL has changed hands again:
52-year-old Jamie Cuadra has acquired the brand, and he plans to launch a cost-conscious league with teams in cities that have neither pro football nor major league baseball.
Jim Steeg, who served as COO of the Chargers and organized the Super Bowl for 34 years, is assisting the effort in an unpaid (for now) capacity. “I like the idea a lot,” Steeg tells Nick Canepa of U-T San Diego. “I haven’t talked to anyone who thinks the idea sucks. If you truly believe a triple-A spring football league has merit, this is the way to go. It’s not meant to compete with the NFL. It will give players the opportunity to develop. There are 3,000 football players and only 1,800 roster spots in the NFL. Particularly with the NFL’s new CBA, I think this kind of thing has a different place.”
Unlike 2001, when the XFL had so much trouble finding broadcasters after NBC divorced themselves of the project, the regional sports networks would be hungry for the product. RSNs weren't nearly what they are now, and they've never gotten into professional football.
And then there's the NFL Network and collegiate conference networks that didn't exist back then. Those networks struggle mightily for content once their seasons are over. Once March Madness ends, a college sports network doesn't have much but baseball and softball to rely on. Late spring and summer are very week times for them.
The RSNs and new collegiate networks from the PAC 12 and Longhorn Network are why I'm so bullish on off-season leagues. Off-season leagues are the most logical means for them to grow.
No Indoor Football In Canada. Why?
Maybe nobody cares about the topic of indoor football, but questions about the growth of the sport still swim in my head. Minor league sports are a real estate exercise. The largest variable that determines success is location. You need a good arena located in a place accessible to the citizens of a sizable metropolitan area that can afford to attend.
The population that supports your team doesn't have to be affluent, but there's a reason that El Paso can't support a team despite the town's considerable size.
Well, Canadians are roughly as affluent as Americans, have a few impressive metros, Toronto being the biggest, and the country enjoys an abundance of quality hockey arenas.
So somebody on Yahoo Answers asked the same basic question that I did, then listed some of those arenas:
I was thinking were teams could be so... Victoria (Save-on Foods Centre (7,500), Vancouver (Pacific Coliseum (16,000), Fraser Valley (Abbotsford Entertainment Centre (7,000), Kelowna (Prospera Place (6,000), Edmonton (Rexall (16,000), Calgary (Saddle dome), Saskatoon (Credit Union Centre (11,000), Regina (Brandt Centre (7,000), Winnipeg (MTS Centre (15,000), Thunder Bay (Fort Gardense (4,000), Toronto (Ricoh Coliseum (9,000), London (John Labatt Centre (9,000), Niagra (Garden City Complex (3,000), Ottawa (Civic Centre (9,000), Hamilton (Copps Coliseum (17,000), Kingston (Memorial Auditorium (6,000), Windsor (SFCU Centre (7,000), Quebec City (Colisee Pepsi (15,000), Montreal (Verdun Auditorium (4,000), Halifax (Metro Centre (10,000), Moncton (Coliseum (6,500), Sydney, NS (Centre 200 (6,000), Saint John, NB (Harbour Station (6,000)
I maintain that it isn't true that Canadians aren't football fans. Citizens in the Toronto metro follow, besides the homegrown CFL, the NFL's Buffalo Bills, who now play a handful of home games in Toronto, despite the Canadian government's long-term commitment to "protecting" the native Canadian Football League from the NFL.
IFL V. AFL: Written Media
The AFL has the superior video service, and the IFL has superior league audio. We're left with pixel print. The teams in both leagues have their own websites that vary in quality, but I'll concentrate on the leagues themselves.
As neither league draws much attention from journalists, citizens or professional, it's imperative for a growing league to supply it's own readable press releases. As far as press releases go, both leagues competently release professional copy. Both leagues are good at the basic social media, Facebook and Twitter, as well.
Both leagues offer schedules, stats, and about pages competently. Where the AFL had the chance to really pull away was with their Arena Football Nation stable of correspondents. The problem is that the AF Nation hasn't updated since March 8th. I assume the last remaining paid staff must have been let go as the season started.
Without the AF Nation, the AFL doesn't pull away from the IFL in their capacity for creating written media.
Does it matter? When adding the search terms for both leagues, I took a gander at Google News, Bing News, and Yahoo News. There's a wealth of fresh material for either league in all three. Local outlets are posting copy of the leagues wherever there's a local team.
The AFL is written about more often in traditional papers and has something of an edge, while the IFL's indexed stories come from outlets like OurSportsCentral?, a sign that there's not much attention. Also in the AFL's favor, lots of the IFL stories are about the financial troubles of IFL teams.
Google is discontinuing Knol, and is teaming up with a new outfit called Annotum in order to preserve the reams of information generated. I'm very interested in discovering the licensing for all the Knols, as I've been interested in importing the database to my website.
I was hoping that there would be one big zip file with all the knols, but if there is, I haven't found it.
Jerry Doyle's Studio Cam is Back!