Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Colbert's lawyer on the influence of Super PACs on elections

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Legislator Calls for Clarifying Copyright Law

Legislator Calls for Clarifying Copyright Law

Arguing that Congress has an obligation “to preserve fairness and justice for artists,” the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee has called for a revision of United States copyright law to remove ambiguities in the current statute about who is eligible to reclaim ownership rights to songs and sound recordings.

“For too long the work of musicians has been used to create enormous profits for record labels, radio stations and others, without fairly distributing these profits to the artists,” said Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, who was chairman of the committee until January. Because “copyrights are a tool to be used by creators to earn a living from their work,” he added, it is important to ensure “a fair marketplace.”
When copyright law was revised in 1976, recording artists and songwriters were granted “termination rights,” which enable them to regain control of their work after 35 years. But with musicians and songwriters now moving to assert that control, the provision threatens to leave the four major record companies, which have made billions of dollars from such recordings and songs, out in the cold.
As a result the major record labels — Universal, Sony, EMI and Warner — are now fighting the efforts of recording artists and songwriters to invoke those rights. TheRecording Industry Association of America, which represents the interests of the labels, maintains that most sound recordings are not eligible for termination rights because they are “works for hire,” collective works or compilations created not by independent performers but by musicians who are, in essence, employees of the labels.
With years of costly litigation looming, groups that represent the interests of recording artists and songwriters said they found Mr. Conyers’s remarks encouraging. But given the issue’s legislative history any amendment process in Congress is likely to be long and complicated.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, whose more than 70,000 members include many recording artists and composers, said it was “deeply appreciative” of Mr. Conyers’s “continued focus in working to ensure that our copyright system recognizes the rights of artists for their creative contributions and which fairly compensates artists for the exploitation of their music.” In a statement the group’s national executive director, Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, said it looked “forward to learning more about any recommendations to enhance the rights of artists as they prepared to reclaim their rights in their musical works, and we are working to ensure that there is an effective system by which musical artists fully benefit from their rights under law.”
But the Republicans are the majority party in the House, and some lawyers and artist managers see them as more friendly to the record labels and other big media companies. For that reason the lawyers and managers have expressed doubts that a bipartisan agreement can be reached on the main issues relating to music copyrights, like defining who qualifies as the author of a work and under what circumstances, if any, a song or sound recording should be considered a work for hire.
“Since I’m going to have to be working with them, I don’t want to tell you they are conservative and corporate oriented,” Mr. Conyers said when asked about the Republican position. “That won’t help. I’ll be going to Lamar Smith after Labor Day to talk to him about this, about getting a little fairness into the entertainment industry,” he said, referring to his Republican successor as the committee’s chairman.
Mr. Smith, of Texas, declined a request for an interview. Instead, his staff issued a general statement in his name, saying that legislation that “stimulates U.S. job growth and furthers the interests of creators, innovators and consumers is a top priority of the Judiciary Committee,” and that Mr. Smith was personally committed to legislation that “protects America’s innovators.”
Those creators and innovators could presumably include both recording artists and songwriters. But Mr. Smith’s staff did not respond to a request to clarify his views or to arrange an interview with Republican staff members on the committee who might be able to explain the party’s position on termination rights and related copyright matters.
When Congress passed the copyright bill in 1976, it created an important exception to the general principle that the person who creates a work of art is its author. At the behest of book publishers and other companies that feared their interests would be adversely affected, the law declared that when a work has been “made for hire,” the employer, not an employee, should be considered its author.
The law generally defined a work made for hire as anything “prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment,” like a newspaper article. It also stated that “a work specially ordered or commissioned as a contribution to a collective work,” like a motion picture, a translation or an atlas, should be considered a work for hire. Sound recordings, however, were left off of that list.
But in 1999 language that would have explicitly included sound recordings as works for hire was inserted into an omnibus bill and was approved virtually without debate. A few months later the congressional aide reported to be responsible for that action, Mitchell Glazier, then the copyright counsel to the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, moved to the recording industry association to become its chief lobbyist, and he continues to work for the group.
“That amendment was essentially passed in the middle of the night,” said William F. Patry, a former law professor and congressional staffer who is the author of several books on copyright. Congressional procedure allows for such changes, but only if they are merely technical matters, he said, “and clearly this wasn’t technical.”
In response recording artists, led by Don Henley of the Eagles and the singer Sheryl Crow, mobilized to overturn the amendment, which would have given the record labels control over their master recordings in perpetuity. A year later the artists were able to persuade Congress to undo the work-for-hire language for songs and recordings, and that seemed to have settled the issue.
“We were concerned with a lot of issues in recording contracts that we considered to be unfair, and this was one of the most glaring,” Mr. Henley said in a recent interview. “Work for hire was never intended to apply to sound recordings. That came about because of movies and books,” he continued, and “sound recordings somehow got added to the list and then taken off again.”
But the recording industry group, which declined to make Mr. Glazier available for an interview, does not see it that way. “By its own terms the statutory language makes clear that the law on termination was simply being restored to its previous state, and that Congress’s action was to have no effect on its interpretation,” the group said in a written statement.
Neither the record companies nor the artists seems to be relishing a confrontation in court. For the labels, already reeling from the sharp decline in sales of CDs over the past decade, any definitive judicial ruling that is adverse could be especially costly.
“It’s not in anybody’s interests to have years and years of litigation,” said Lisa A. Alter, a lawyer with the New York City firm of Alter & Rosen who represents numerous artists or artists’ estates on copyright matters. “The intent of Congress was clearly to protect authors who make bad deals in their eagerness to get their work out there.”

Rep. Lamar Smith Wants Hearings To "Embarrass The President"

Rep. Lamar Smith Wants Hearings To "Embarrass The President"

August 22, 2011 10:24 am ET — Matt Gertz
Rep. Lamar Smith
On Thursday, Roll Call reported that Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) was planning to use his House Judiciary Committee gavel this fall to promote a "jobs agenda." This would represent a significant shift for a committee that has largely been focused on radical attacks on undocumented immigrants.
But later that day, the Obama administration announced that it would begin reviewing the cases of the 300,000 illegal immigrants currently awaiting deportation and prioritize the expulsion of the more dangerous criminal violators, rather than targeting low-level immigration offenders for deportation.
Smith quickly abandoned his "jobs agenda," telling right-wing radio host Joe Pagliarulo that he was now planning to hold hearings on the subject with the avowed purpose of trying to "embarrass the President." Smith also suggested that the House Appropriations Committee would defund the administration's ability to implement their plan.
During his interview with Pagliarulo, Smith also repeatedly pushed the falsehood that the administration proposal constitutes "amnesty." In fact, while immigrants who are not deported may apply for work permits, the plan does not provide them with citizenship or even a path to citizenship.
SMITH: As to what our recourse is, what we can do, we can do a couple things, at least in the House where the Republicans are in the majority. We can conduct hearings, oversight hearings, we can pull in administration officials, make them testify under oath, find out what's going on, try to, frankly, embarrass the President and push back and get the American people on our side to push back against the administration. Secondly, the Appropriations Committee can defund any of these efforts, but unfortunately, on the appropriations level, you can only defund it one year at a time, so that's not a long-term solution. Frankly, Joe, the long-term solution is, if you don't like what the President is doing, you have an opportunity in a year and a half to change presidents, and that's ultimately where the answer is going to lie.

Smith's call for hearings to "embarrass the president" comes on the heels of Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA)comment that his planned Oversight Committee investigation of trumped-up attacks on Obama's adherence to election law would make "good theater." House Republicans apparently prefer to use their committees to conduct partisan attacks, rather than to attempt to solve America's problems.

The United States of Incarceration

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Colbert Super PAC - Frank Luntz Commits to the PAC

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Bernanke to Congress: Don't mess up again. Please.

Bernanke to Congress: Don't mess up again. Please.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Remember that crazy, bitter debt-ceiling debate this summer? The one that created a half-baked debt reduction plan and led to the country's first-ever credit-rating downgrade?
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke certainly does. And he had a simple message for Congress on Friday: Don't do it again. Seriously. Never, ever, ever again.

His reasoning: All that legislative brinksmanship hurt the economy.
"The negotiations that took place over the summer disrupted financial markets and probably the economy as well, and similar events in the future could, over time, seriously jeopardize the willingness of investors around the world to hold U.S. financial assets or to make direct investments in job-creating U.S. businesses." Bernanke said in his annual Jackson Hole speech.
Bernanke also offered some free advice to lawmakers: Reducing the debt should be an urgent priority, but not at the expense of the economy.

Bernanke pledges Fed support, but notes limits
"Fiscal policymakers should not ... disregard the fragility of the current economic recovery. Fortunately, the two goals of achieving fiscal sustainability -- which is the result of responsible policies set in place for the longer term -- and avoiding the creation of fiscal headwinds for the current recovery are not incompatible," Bernanke said.
His suggestion: put in place a credible plan to reduce deficits over time, but also support policies that can boost the chances for near-term economic growth.
That echoed a similar message this week from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf.
Weak growth. Monster debt. Which to tackle first?
Given the already slow economic recovery and the fact that interest rates can't fall much farther, "reductions in government spending or an increase in taxes ... will slow economic growth and reduce employment," Elmendorf said in a meeting with reporters.
Bernanke did end on a positive note ... sort of. He acknowledged that economic policymakers have a tough job balancing the need to support economic recovery now while also tackling long-term debt.

"I have no doubt, however, that those challenges can be met and that the fundamental strengths of our economy will ultimately reassert themselves," he said.

He then went on to pledge that the Fed will "do all that it can" to help in that process. But that also means that the Fed alone can't single-handedly bolster the economy, and Congress will need to step up.

Lawmakers will have their chance after Labor Day, when President Obama is expected to unveil proposals for creating jobs, and the newly created "Super Committee" will begin negotiations to come up with $1.5 trillion in debt reduction, if not more.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Staples Political Anti Union Training Video

Currently, Staples stays away from full time employment to avoid providing benefits.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Michigan appeals court bars sales of medical marijuana patient-to-patient

Michigan appeals court bars sales of medical marijuana patient-to-patient

Kim Kozlowski/ The Detroit News

Detroit — Medical marijuana dispensaries that engage in patient-to-patient sales cannot operate, the Michigan appeals court said Wednesday in a major ruling that led to a shutdown of scores of dispensaries statewide.

The decision fueled fears that the estimated 300-400 dispensaries serving nearly 100,000 eligible Michigan patients could close permanently.

In a 3-0 ruling, the court said Compassionate Apothecary, a cannabis dispensary in Mount Pleasant, violates the state's 2008 medical marijuana law.

The court said owners Brandon McQueen and Matthew Taylor not only facilitate sales between patients and caregivers but also sell the cannabis by taking a 20 percent cut in the transactions.

The 3-year-old law does not allow sales and therefore the dispensary can be shut down as a "public nuisance," the court said.

"The 'medical use' of marijuana, as defined by the (law), allows for the 'delivery' and 'transfer' or marijuana, but not the 'sale' of marijuana," the court said, adding "the 'sale' of marijuana is not the equivalent to the 'delivery' or 'transfer' of marijuana."

Scores of dispensaries shut down temporarily to seek the advice of attorneys, said Rick Thompson, spokesman for the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers, an organization of dispensaries in the state.

Among those that closed was Capital City Caregivers, and it won't reopen until it's clear it can, said director Ryan Basore. There are 40 dispensaries in Lansing, and most of them are shut down too, he said.

"There are a lot of upset patients today," Basore said. "We had about 70 patients today … and they all said, 'How are we suppose to get our medicine?' And they don't know how. What (the court) did today was put a lot of sick patients back into the streets and into the hands of drug dealers. The street dealers are the ones that won today."

But others said that most dispensaries should not be affected because they are not set up in the same way as the Compassionate Apothecary.

"There are not sales for these transfers," said Jamie Lowell of 3rd Coast Compassion Center in Ypsilanti. "People operate off of consulting fees and donations."

McQueen and Taylor — who also own dispensaries in Traverse City and Lansing — vowed to appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

McQueen said the ruling "was bad for the patients, it's bad for the caregivers and it's bad for Michigan."

But state Attorney General Bill Schuette hailed the court's ruling as a step in patching a law with "more holes than Swiss cheese."

"The (judges) cleared the air and gave the local communities the tools to enforce the law," Schuette said. "The law was designed to help people with debilitating diseases, but it's been hijacked by those who want to make a profit, unscrupulous docs and those who wanted to legalize drugs."

It is unclear how Wednesday's ruling will impact the estimated 300-400 medical marijuana dispensaries that broker cannabis sales between those involved in the program.

But many agree that authorities' interpretation would vary by jurisdiction. The ruling adds to the confusion surrounding the state law that is widely criticized as vague. Since Michigan became the 13th state to allow for use of medical marijuana, the issue has had vastly different interpretations by municipalities.

The 26-member Court of Appeals — which typically works in panels of three to rule on more cases — has ruled on at least four other medical marijuana cases, but this is the first time it has weighed in on commercial sales.

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a case involving Owosso resident Larry King.

He has a state-issued medical marijuana card but has been charged with a crime for growing pot in a dog kennel.

Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers is planning to introduce a package of bills aimed at clarifying the law that would include provisions such as making it a felony for doctors to falsely certify a patient's debilitating condition if they know otherwise.

The crux of the court's ruling hinged on the "sale" of the medical marijuana, according to Lansing attorney Jeffrey C. Hicks.

"The dispensary itself is not illegal," said Hicks, who sits on a township board in Delta, which banned dispensaries. "It's the actions that are being conducted by the dispensary, the sale of the medical marijuana."

The law does not include the word "sale," Hicks said.

Matthew Abel, an attorney specializing in cannabis law, said even if the Supreme Court takes the case and upholds the ruling, there is no going back to the time before the law was passed.
"The patients are not going to go back to the back alleys and buy this off the street, and they shouldn't have to," Abel said. "Eventually, the Legislature is going to become educated as to the realities, and they are going to begin to license, regulate and perhaps tax (the industry)."

Starbucks CEO says 100+ businesses to withhold campaign donations over debt

Starbucks CEO says 100+ businesses to withhold campaign donations over debt

Schultz (Kin Cheung/AP)
Heads of over 100 major companies have joined Starbucks Corp. CEO Howard Schultz in a pledge to boycott political donations until Congress and the president agree on a long-term debt and deficit plan, Schultz announced in a letter Wednesday.
"Remarkably, the initiative triggered a national dialogue and a groundswell of support," Schultz wrote, adding that in the 10 days since releasing his pledge, he "heard directly from thousands of concerned citizens and was astounded by the volume of support we received through calls, emails, social media exchanges and various other public votes of confidence."
That included over 100 business leaders who signed on to Schultz' initiative, including Myron Ullman of JC Penney, Duncan Niederauer of NYSE, and Walter Robb, co-chief executive of Whole Foods, Tim Armstrong of AOL, Mickey Drexler of J. Crew Group, and billionaire investor Pete Peterson.
Schultz earlier this month issued an internal message at Starbucks reportedly expressing dismay over "the lack of cooperation and irresponsibility among elected officials as they have put partisan agendas before the people's agenda." The response to that message led him on Aug. 15 to issue the campaign donation boycott pledge to business leaders, casting it as a strike to force politicians to act swiftly on the debt crisis and clean up what he views as their dysfunction.
Partisan gridlock in Washington was on full display this summer when Republicans in Congress and the White House sparred over raising the debt ceiling. They failed to reach an agreement until the day before the U.S. was expected to begin defaulting on its debt, causing panic and uncertainty. Ratings agencies have since downgraded the U.S. credit rating.
Schultz' pledge also asks leaders to personally take action by accelerating job creation within their own companies.
Schultz has long donated to Democrats, handing over around $100,000 over the past 15 years to Democratic candidates and committees, according to the Center for Responsive politics. The Center lists a single Republican donation by Schultz: $1,000 to Sen. John McCain in 1999.
On Wednesday, website and an accompanying Facebook page were launched to connect citizens, businesses and organizations over Schultz' pledge.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jack Layton: Party For Sale or Rent

Reps. Conyers, Clarke will trade districts

By Cameron Joseph 08/22/11 09:40 AM ET
Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) announced Sunday that he will run for the newly drawn 14th district, which includes portions of Detroit as well as its Oakland County suburbs to the north, rather than the 13th district he currently represents. 
The freshman Democrat's switch will allow longtime Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to run for Clarke's seat, a better fit for him because its suburban areas are more heavily African American than those added to his current district.
The trade comes days after Michigan Republicans passed a new redistricting map that made both members' districts more suburban, something that had to happen because of Detroit's major population loss in the last decade. (Michigan lost a seat in the redistricting process.) The Motor City has shrunk to pre-World War I levels and is smaller now than it has been at any time since the auto industry opened there.
Clarke may face a primary challenger from the suburbs but would likely have the upper hand as most of the district is still in the city.
Both districts are heavily Democratic; the state GOP made them as Democratic as possible in order to axe the district of neighboring Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Conyers Supports Artists’ Rights to Reclaim Copyrighted Works

Conyers Supports Artists’ Rights to Reclaim Copyrighted Works

**Follow Us on Twitter @HouseJudDems**

For Immediate Release

Date: Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Contact: Matthew Morgan – 202-226-5543

Conyers Supports Artists’ Rights to Reclaim Copyrighted Works

(Washington) – As recording artists and songwriters begin to petition to reclaim ownership of their recorded and musical works, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

“Copyrights are a tool to be used by creators to earn a living from their work,” Conyers said. “I see copyright and intellectual property law as a system that the Framers of the Constitution created in order to preserve fairness and justice for artists and scientists.

“Today, many musicians are beginning to prepare to reclaim control of their works of art which will have been owned for 35 years by record labels and other copyright owners. This is an exciting moment, for it marks an important step in ensuring that all artists earn livable incomes in a fair marketplace. For too long the work of musicians has been used to create enormous profits for record labels, radio stations and others without fairly distributing those profits to the artists. Piracy in the digital age has unfortunately magnified all of these problems, and the ability for artists to equitably control their works has become even more crucial.

“I look forward to the upcoming months as I hope Congress will pass bipartisan legislation – especially a bill to combat online piracy abroad – that will further protect and promote the arts.”


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bachmann wins GOP 2012 test vote

Bachmann wins GOP 2012 test vote

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won a test vote of Iowans on Saturday, a show of popularity and organizational strength for the tea party favorite five months before the state's caucuses kick off the GOP presidential nominating season.

The result is the first indication of what Iowans think of the field of Republicans competing for the chance to challenge President Barack Obama next fall. But it's hardly predictive of who will win the winter Iowa contest, much less the party nod or the White House.

Rather, Saturday's outcome suggests that Bachmann has a certain level of support and, perhaps even more important, the strongest get-out-the-vote operation and widest volunteer base in a state whose caucuses require those elements.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul finished a close second while former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty placed a distant third.

"We have a lot more work to do," Pawlenty said, making clear he wasn't dropping out despite a disappointing finish. "We are just beginning and I'm looking forward to a great campaign."

The results of the nonbinding vote, held on the Iowa State University campus, came just hours after Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race.

"I full well believe I'm going to win," Perry told South Carolina voters on a conference call before delivering his first speech as a candidate.

"It's time to get America working again," he declared in Charleston, S.C. "America is not broken. Washington, D.C. is broken."

Despite Perry's best efforts to overshadow the day, the epicenter of the presidential contest was in this Midwestern town, where nearly 17,000 Iowans cast ballots during a daylong political festival, a late-summer ritual held every four years.

In speeches throughout the day, candidates scouted for support by assailing Obama and offering themselves as the answer to an America plagued by high unemployment, rising debt and stock market swings.

"We know what America needs. But unfortunately Barack Obama has no clue. He's like a manure spreader in a windstorm," Pawlenty said, adding: "Mr. President, get the government off our backs." That elicited chants of his nickname: "T-Paw! T-Paw! T-Paw!"

Pawlenty had a lot on the line. He's ranked low in polls and was looking to prove he was still a viable candidate. He argued that he was the candidate of results, given his record as Minnesota governor.

Bachmann stressed faith and her Iowa roots — she was born in Waterloo — as well as her opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage. She earned cheers when she declared: "We are going to make Barack Obama a one-term president."

Bachmann, riding high since entering the race earlier this summer, had hoped that a strong finish would give her even more momentum just as Perry looks to infringe on her base of tea party and evangelical support. She invoked God and faith as she stressed what she called her conservative values, saying: "In Iowa, we are social conservatives and we will never be ashamed of being social conservatives."

Paul, with a following among libertarian-leaning voters, wanted a surprise showing that might convince Republicans he was more mainstream than not in his second shot at the GOP nomination. He referenced his fellow Texan's entrance in the race and said he didn't anticipate many of his supporters jumping ship for what he called a "super-establishment candidate."

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, businessman Herman Cain and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia also were on the ballot. So were GOP front-runner Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, though they weren't competing in the contest.

Perry and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who made a splash Friday when she visited the state fair, weren't listed. But their backers planned write-in campaigns that could outpace candidates who have spent months trying to line up supporters to participate.

The straw poll isn't a scientific poll at all; it amounts to a popularity contest and a test of organizational strength.

Poor showings usually force some candidates, mostly those who are not well-known and are struggling to raise money, to abandon their bids. That could happen this year, too.

The straw poll has a mixed record of predicting the outcome of the precinct caucuses.

In 2008, Romney won the straw poll, but the big news was the surprising second-place showing of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses, but dropped from the race soon after. Sen. John McCain, who eventually won the nomination, didn't compete in the straw poll and finished in 10th place.