Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Elevator Music

In a 6-2 ruling, the Supreme Court made it a crime to perform any composer’s music, even the works of those who are dead, without paying a royalty to either the artist or the artist’s estate.  The ruling came down as the public was protesting new Internet rulings - Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

ASCAP’s copyright rules are not new.  They simply had no way of enforcing the rules.  Technically, your dentist was supposed to pay a royalty on every single song played on Muzak and now its successor, Satellite radio.  Neither are school boards exempt.  Or musical groups like the Ramsey Wind Symphony.  One professional musician and composer notes, “We’ve been playing with fire.”

Enforcing these rules is somewhat like paying a royalty to the patent holder of the elevator door.  Every time it opens and closes, if we were to follow the music royalty rules, you would have to pay 8 cents.  The rules apply to performing groups making CDs of the performances.  It’s called the mechanical fee – 8 or 9 cents per disc for every song performed and recorded.

There’s a reason artists are right-brained and engineers are left-brained.  Engineers are efficient.  So are business owners.  They seek the most efficient way of profiting from their inventions, products or services.  As long as you respect the fact that they own the copyright and don’t try to pass their stuff as your own, they don’t care what you do with it or how often you use it.  They do incorporate planned obsolence into their designs so the thing will wear out and you’ll have to come back to buy another one, or a new, upgraded model.  Otherwise, you paid the money for the thing and you can do what you want with it.  The tablet maker doesn’t care whether you listen to Mozart, Elvis, or Lady Gaga.

Creative, right-brained people, on the other hand, aren’t nearly so flexible, although they claim they are.  The latest issue of the National Review has an article about an opera diva who’s the ultimate control freak.  If she doesn’t feel up to singing, the ticket-holders hoping to hear her are out of luck.  Musical artists, in particular, don’t feel they’re being justly compensated for their work.  They’re facing stiff competition.  But then, so are elevator door manufacturers.

The elevator door maker doesn’t have a hissy fit, though, when all sorts of people go through his elevator door, or a competitor invents one with a mirror so executives can check out their attire before getting off on their floors.  He invents new designs to make his elevator door more appealing.  The newest elevator can be programmed to only go to certain floors.  That’s not because the elevator door inventor wants to control his product; the buyer does.

This is about more than money.  Artists are right to be concerned about Internet piracy.  That’s stealing and it’s not fair.  However, SOPA and PIPA will open the doors to government intrusion on the privacy of individuals.

No, the artists want control of who plays their music and when.  They want to be able to say to someone, “I don’t like what your company makes, so I’m not going to allow you to play my music on your elevator music system.”  So the artist invokes this onerous, bureaucratic legislation, requiring a certain percentage every time the song plays on the elevator, all day long, over and over and over.  Finally, the company gives in and stops playing the music.  My company has very strict rules about what recorded music they can play at an event.  The company signed a contract with ASCAP for a certain list of music, and there’s still a restriction about how often it can be played.  The event planners have to notify ASCAP what music they’re going to perform, when, and why.

Imagine the elevator door manufacturer installing a camera on the elevator door so that it can track who is entering the elevator.  If someone about to enter is, say an obvious one percenter wearing an expensive suit or a Tea Partier wearing a Gadsden Flag pin, the elevator door owner could deny the rider access to the elevator.

The elevator manufacturers actually aren’t too far from that state.  They’ve already invented elevators that require a coded passkey to get into the cab, which will only go to certain floors.  Again, that’s the choice of buyer of the elevator, not the manufacturer.  Schindler Elevator.  Dover Elevator.  They don’t care who gets on.  That’s the difference between left-brain thinking, right-brain thinking, and hare-brained thinking.

By all means, go after the pirates.  But let us not go to the other extreme, where some poor classical quartet, elementary school band, church choir or community orchestra has to install a music meter to count the number of times they rehearsed and played Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.  The purchase of the music should infer all the rights the buyer needs to perform the music.

If these copyright laws are enforced, instead of reformed, next Christmas Eve will truly be a “Silent Night.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union, 2012

To the untrained, uninformed ear, Obama’s State of the Union address was a great campaign speech, touting all-American values.  But do assertions measure up to the facts?  As with Shakespeare, it’s always instructive to parse the first line of the drama.

“Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. “  By extension, that also means Afghanistan.  If we consider that statement only in a domestic light, it’s good news to the pacifists, Ron Paul economists who espouse an isolationist foreign policy, and of course, the service people and their families.  The last are the only ones who have the right to cheer.

Our troops are coming home, which does mean a great savings in lives and money, in the short term.  But it also means leaving Iraq to the predations of Iran.  The Taliban is no longer a threat, Obama claims; at least not to our American troops.  Why should they be?  The Taliban is just taking a cigarette break while we pack up and leave Afghanistan, and all its precious, rare metals to the Chinese and the Taliban.  We’ve paved the way for China; now we can come home.  As for the rest of Afghanistan – who the heck cares?  The Taliban can have them, at least in this view of things.

He gave due credit to the American Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, pluming himself for bringing them home, and crediting them with courage and managing to work in a little plug for socialism.

“These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness, and teamwork of America's Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations.  They're not consumed with personal ambition. They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.  Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example.”

The Democrats have never been a party to work together.  What they mean when they say “work with us” is “it’s our way or the highway.”

He harkens back to the good old days of “the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement” and scruples not to blame Corporate America for those failures.  If only they had paid their “fair share” – a frequent phrase in Obama’s address.

American businesses pay the highest corporate tax rate of any industrialized nation in the world.  Not surprisingly, thanks to high taxes and labor costs, the companies closed up shop and moved to more favorable climates, much as the individual wealthy will do if Obama and the Democrat Congress keep their “promise” of forcing the wealthy to pay their “fair share.”

“…no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas.  From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here.”  Even those that must cravenly pay obeisance to unions.
If Obama is so worried about keeping jobs here, he might ask himself why Beechcraft was “allowed” to send its manufacturing facility overseas to build a military airplane instead of leaving it in Wichita, Kansas, where the town is now economically devastated.

Obama has an answer for both those niggling problems:  he’ll tax any company that moves its business overseas and the same for wealthy tax birds who might find Ireland’s lack of income tax more appealing.  He proposes closing tax loopholes and shelters, something the Republicans have been trying to enact for at least a decade, opposed by – guess who? – the Democrats.  Obama must be faithful to his base, after all – the Beer Partiers and the Unions – which is more than the Republicans can say.

Pres. Bush was ultimately responsible for TARP – but candidate Obama sat in the center of the negotiations, and he was certainly responsible for bailing out an American car company at taxpayer expense.  General Motors, and its onerous union deficit of non-working employees receiving full pay, was subsidized by us, and now Obama crows at the success of the public-private partnership.  He cited Ford, but Ford never asked for, received, or needed a government bail-out.  Chrysler is in the process of being sold to a foreign company, Fiat.  An apt name.  Perhaps that’s the next company Obama should consider taking over.

He also turned to his favorite bogey-man, the oil companies.  Why should taxpayers being subsidizing multi-billion dollar oil companies?  Well, as Fox News notes:  “This is at least Obama's third run at stripping subsidies from the oil industry.  Back when fellow Democrats formed the House and Senate majorities, he sought $36.5 billion in tax increases on oil and gas companies over the next decade, but Congress largely ignored the request. He called again to end such tax breaks in last year's State of the Union speech. And he's now doing it again, despite facing a wall of opposition from Republicans who want to spur domestic oil and gas production and oppose tax increases generally.”  A tax break is not a subsidy; it’s just taking less money from them.

Mr. Energy boasted about how pro-energy he is, even for oil and natural gas.  Yet, he shut down the Keystone Pipeline, which benefitted his wealthy friend Warren Buffett’s railroad, shut down all drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, sold all our drilling equipment to Venezuela, is opposed to opening the Alaska oil fields, and wants all to ride bicycles to work, as the Hollanders do.  The Greenies shut down all our refineries ages ago.  Does he plan on reopening them and bringing back our oil equipment and allowing drilling in the Gulf (that will be a costly venture to undo that damage)?  Not likely.

There are jobs to be had in the technological fields, but not the educated workforce to do the tasks.  This is the generation that was taught by his good friend, William Ayers, that 2 plus 2 can equal five, and an associate of Bill’s, Noam Chomsky, that spelling and grammar don’t count.  He calls upon colleges and universities to lower their tuitions.  If students had the proper education in the elementary and high school grades, they’d know everything they need to know, mathematically.

Students have to be willing to do the work and that won’t be accomplished by saying, “Yes, we can”; it can only be accomplished by saying, “Yes, I can!”  Alas, academic excellence, like bathing (to paraphrase Hodson the Butler from the film Arthur) is a lonely business.  Mathematics requires hours and hours drilling from a book, not dancing to some rap tune on your Ipod.  Most American students are too socialized for the effort.  This is not a job for government; this is a job for the students, and their teachers and parents.  Truly, we should not depend upon the government to encourage students to study math and science; only the other day, some Liberal pundit said something about mathematics being a suspect science because it was devised by human beings.

My nephew is a graduate mechanical engineering student.  For the most part, he did the work, got the grades, and will probably get the job.  He has a Chinese girlfriend who criticizes him for not studying harder.  My brother says that while she was staying in his house over the Christmas holidays that the girl got up at the crack of dawn to study her mechanical engineering books and didn’t let up (except for meals) until late at night.  Nephew and his American buddies (mostly guys) take note.  If a Chinese girl can do it, what does that tell you?  Wake up!!!  Even I’ve hit the mathematics books in order to pass my GREs and even though my intended major is History, I take the math very seriously, something I didn’t do when I was younger.

American students need to start working harder and getting better grades.  Before you can teach them Math, though, you need to teach them History and Economics (the history of money), in order to undo the anti-Capitalist brainwashing that caused these unmotivated students to ignore their studies, regard success as evil, and assume they were entitled to a life of dependency.

Finally, Obama got to the economy.

“Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren't, and personal debt that kept piling up.  In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn't afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people's money. Regulators had looked the other way, or didn't have the authority to stop the bad behavior.

“It was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with more debt, and left innocent, hard-working Americans holding the bag. In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly four million jobs. And we lost another four million before our policies were in full effect.  Those are the facts.”

Facts?  Here are a few facts:  The housing crisis began back in the Jimmy Carter era (how’s that for blaming a past president) with the Community Reinvestment Act, leading to the Savings and Loan scandal.  Then along came Fannie, Freddie and Barney and a whole legacy of corruption in the form of a Ponzi scheme.  Banks, ordered to loan money to people who couldn’t pay them back, offered the lure of ARMs, adjustable rate mortgages, and equally scheming lendees, looking for a “deal” accepted them – and didn’t pay them back.

Obama promised, “A future where we're in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.  We can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What's at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values.”

Obama will really believe in American values when donkeys fly.  He’s a smooth-talking hypocrite, a member of the one percent who flies around the world in a taxpayer-funded jet (actually there are his and hers jets for the presidential couple), who speaks believable lies and propounds hogwash when it suits him.  This “all-American” president is the same guy who denounced the U.S. constitution as archaic and who’s idea of the “American dream” is the Marxist notion of wealth redistribution, and who is said to have hung a portrait of socialist Saul Alinsky in the White House.  Or was his press secretary joking?  Who can tell, with this president?

How did Obama sound last night?  Like the snake oil salesman who got his foot caught in the door.  “Ooo, oow!!  Did I say the ‘spread the wealth?’  Uh – uh – I meant ‘let’s live the American dream!!’”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Christie: No Conservative and Proud of It

Anyone who’s made the mistake of thinking tough-guy New Jersey governor Chris Christie is a Conservative only has to look at three things:  his nomination of a Muslim to the top New Jersey court, followed by yesterday’s nomination of an openly-gay (albeit Republican) African-American and a South Korean immigrant to the bench, and his support of notoriously Big Government, moderate presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

His appointment of an African-American should hardly bat an eye.  Why should it?  The appointment of the South Korean, Phillip H. Kwon, may or may not be a plus in the Conservative column, depending on whether he shares the generally Conservative views of New Jersey’s Korean community.

The appointment of an openly-gay justice is problematic, the emphasis being on “openly-gay”.  Does that phrase translate into “activist justice”?  The issue of gay marriage is coming up before the state’s Democrat senate.  Christie stated that he had not asked the justices about any of their views before appointing them.  In the past, he has criticized the state’s Supreme Court for being too liberal.

Neither candidate, however, has had experience as a judge, which is probably more problematic than their social or political views.  Harris, 61, is the Republican mayor of Chatham Borough in Morris County, a post Christie said he would give up if confirmed. He would be the third African-American to be seated on the court.  Kwon, 44, works in the attorney general's Office and lives in Closter in Bergen County. He is not officially affiliated with either major political party.

Not all gay people are in favor gay marriage.  For all we know, Justice Bruce A. Harris is not one of those.  Six openly gay justices sit on state Supreme Courts nationwide.  The current New Jersey court is made up of five women and two men, all white.

Fox News reports that “New Jersey has one of the highest percentages of foreign-born residents in the nation, with about one of five residents being born outside the country, according to the U.S. Census. And Census figures show 15.8 percent of New Jersey residents identify themselves as at least partially black or African-American; 9 percent say they are at least partially Asian.

“New Jersey’s  gay marriage bill was defeated two years ago, but the Democratic Senate president, who didn't vote then, has had a change of heart and is now sponsoring the legislation, carrying several votes with him.  Christie, who does not support gay marriage, has said he would look at the bill if it reaches his desk.  A parallel lawsuit filed by several same-sex couples and their children claim the state’s civil unions law, which confers the benefits of marriage but not the title, is unjust. That case is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court.”

Christie is no Conservative; but in the past, he’s been no Liberal, either.  Let us hope the governor has not had the same change of heart, or that he takes a belligerent stand in favor of something that, in the past, he knew was wrong, just to stick it to the Conservative side.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Unelectable GOP Candidates

South Carolina went big for Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina, much to the dismay of the GOP and Conservative pundits.  This morning, Monday morning pundits are hanging the heads the way Forty-Niners fans are:  what were they thinking out there on the football field and in the Palmetto State voting booths.

Football?  Let’s leave that to the sports experts.  But here’s what the South Carolina allegedly Republican voters were thinking:  Newt’s not Mitt.

That’s it in a nutshell.  Is Newt a bad choice for Conservatives?  Well, he’s in favor of mass amnesty for illegal aliens, he was involved with Freddie Mac, he’s politically capricious, in favor of environmentalism (he was an environmental science professor, although of the sincere rather than the socialist sort) and Big Government before he changed his mind.

Whatever you may think of his marital status, though, he is spirited and dynamic.  If the GOP thinks electability means soft and cuddly, a negotiator, a compromiser, Newt may or may not be their guy.  Mitt most certainly is and therein lies the rift between the GOP and its Conservative members.

Just what candidate have they put forward, since Ronald Reagan, who was electable, or re-electable?  George H.W. “Read My Lips” Bush.  Congress lied to him, but that’s what you get for being negotiator.  Bob Dole?  John McCain?  George W. Bush was elected and re-elected, but on his coat tails came a flock of unsavory, high-spending moderate Republicans who were trounced out of office in 2006.  Thank you very much.  And George W. was no conservative, but he was the best the GOP was willing to manage.  “I’m a uniter, not a divider.”

The GOP is gnashing its teeth over a possible second Obama term.  They have only themselves to blame.  The GOP, under great protest from the Conservative wing, put McCain up for nomination.  By this time in 2008, he had shut the primary process down.  We were stuck with him.  Apparently, angry Conservatives are determined not to let that happen again.

The GOP should have backed Santorum.  But they wouldn’t give him a penny.  Every dollar went to Mitt Romney, who has scores of Big Business backers.  Romney is certainly more fiscally conservative than Obama (who isn’t?), but he’s still very definitely Big Government and Big Business has no qualms at all about negotiating with Big Government.

So why didn’t they back Santorum?  Because he’s a Conservative.  He’s a Conservative who backed earmarking, by the way.  Even Moderates make some reasoned arguments for some ear-marking; they consider it an act of returning their constituents’ federal taxpayer dollars to their state.

A political consultant on the radio this morning politely chastised the belligerent Newt for telling Moderates that since they’re really Liberals at heart that they should just go join the Democrat Party.  “That’s not the way to win undecided voters over,” said the cautious pundit.  But it is the way to win Conservative voters over, despite his record.  To Conservatives, Newt was just telling it like it is.  The fact is, the GOP considers nominating a Conservative candidate unsavvy.  Middle-of-the-road moderate is their strategy.

Newt himself has taken a moderate stance in bashing Romney for his wealth, even though Romney pointed out that Gingrich has a standing account at Tiffany’s.  That wealth-bashing evidently played well with the lower middle class voters and transplanted New Jerseyans in South Carolina.

The whole thing may just be a GOP cabal to keep the real Conservative, Santorum, from taking the nomination.  He’s already been pronounced a “dead duck” by some.  But at least by fighting, Gingrich, even if he isn’t the electable candidate, has kept the nomination door open.  He’s made sure the primary race isn’t over until the last primary voter has voted.

The GOP should keep in mind that when you lead from behind you wind up in a bind.  The moderates want social liberalism and fiscal conservatism, without understanding or caring that with social liberalism, there is no fiscal conservatism; just endless debt.  What’s going to happen when all the uneducated, unskilled illegal aliens are allowed to invade our borders in a bad economy?  What’s wrong with gay marriage?  Well how about minus population growth, for starters?  No workers, no workforce, no workforce, no production, no production, no economy, and no economy, no one to pay the taxes for all the social entitlement programs.  Ditto abortion.

We certainly have a weak field of candidates, all thanks to the Republican Party.  They’re in favor of giving liberal moderates choices.  The rest of us can just go back to our hobbit holes – and that’s just what will happen if the GOP advances another weak candidate like McCain; the Conservatives will stay home and the election will go to Obama.

South Carolina just sent a huge message to the National Republican Party; they’d better start listening or it really will be too late.