Stop the NCAA insanity

The National Labor Relations Board’s determination that Northwestern University football players are employees and may form a union has the potential to end the exploitation of young athletes by universities, coaches and fans.

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Via: Fox Opines

    

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Obama’s foreign policy failures dog US at UN

President Obama’s hemorrhaging foreign policy is creating an increasingly embarrassing mess at the United Nations. A four-week session of the U.N.’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, ended in Geneva on March 28, 2014, with a series of humiliating defeats for the president’s calling card of indiscriminate engagement.

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Via: Fox Opines

    

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SCOTUS Debugs Software Patents

Today, the Supreme Court hears arguments in Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International, a case that could massively overhaul the rules for software patents.

First, a brief patent primer. Adding one number to another is blatantly unpatentable, but a specific calculator that carries out addition (and a good deal more) is eligible for a patent. The question at the heart of Alice v CLS is whether a company could patent the idea of writing a calculator program, provided no one else had staked a prior claim. Under this system, whether or not Alice Corp built a calculator or even wrote the code might be irrelevant. As long as they were the first to think of using software to carry out this everyday operation, they would retain an intellectual property claim.

Alice Corp didn’t patent something quite as old as addition, but what they did patent—escrow, the practice of reducing the risk of a transaction by having a third party hold the goods to be exchanged until both sides have paid up—considerably predates Alice Corp’s 1993 patent filing. Alice Corp didn’t try to patent the idea of escrow, but the idea of managing it through a computer. A general description of the idea was all that was needed to file the patent; Alice Corp wrote no code and built no prototype.

In 2002, CLS built a working program to manage escrow-secured transactions in foreign currency markets, and Alice Corp, which had never put its patents into practice, sued for infringement. The case has been working through the courts ever since. When it reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, it produced an exceptionally messy result. The ten judges hearing the case en banc produced seven different opinions.

The case law becomes very complicated, very fast, as, in order to decide if Alice Corp is patenting an “abstract idea” as CLS claims, the justices need to wade into very abstract questions. Alice’s lawyers contend that, by the logic of Mayo v. Prometheus the only kind of ideas that are too abstract to patent are “those preexisting fundamental truths, such as mathematical formulas, that are ‘equivalent’ to a law of nature and that ‘exist in principle apart from any human action.’”

By this logic, escrow may be a universal idea, but it’s not built into the nature of the physical world, so it’s fair game for patents. Certifying such a broad range of ideas open to patent could legitimize the actions of patent trolls, who file claims to a broad range of ideas they have no intention to develop, in order to shake down companies for settlements.

On the other hand, striking down Alice Corp’s claim might open the patent system to other forms of gamesmanship and abuse. If the courts take a very broad view of “laws of nature” most software patents could be on the chopping block. After all, who’s to say that Match.com’s dating algorithms aren’t simply a software implementation of certain universal heuristics for compatibility?

And a very …read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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Huawei Builds China’s Own Internet “Home-Field Advantage”

Last weekend, the New York Times and Der Spiegel reported that the NSA has been spying on and hacking into Chinese telecommunications company Huawei since 2009 according to documents released by Edward Snowden. The Chinese response has been swift and strident—high ranking officials condemned these actions and predictably called for an end to the espionage. This disclosure strains the already complicated relationship between the U.S. and China as both giants race to ensure their own economic growth and national security.

At the same time, China may be taking baby steps towards laying down underwater internet fiber optic cables similar to the infrastructure the NSA and British spy agency GHCQ have exploited, what the NSA called their “home-field advantage.” This tactic was among the first in a series of staggered revelations from Edward Snowden in June of 2013. Through a program called Tempora, GHCQ can store communication data for three days and can store metadata for up to 30, providing GHCQ with more metadata than the NSA’s program, with less oversight. This surveillance is conducted partly with assistance from private companies, known as “intercept partners.” It is also conducted without the companies’ knowledge, however, relying on geographic proximity and national familiarity to tap major cables and core internet switches. Now Huawei appears to be developing a similar “home-field advantage” for China. Its current scale is quite small, but Huawei intends to be “one of the top three in the industry.”

It has been well-established that Huawei’s leadership has ties to the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese Communist Party, and the Chinese government. The founder of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei was a PLA engineer, and Sun Yafang, a executive board member, previously worked at the Chinese spy agency, Ministry of State Security Communications Department. When Huawei was still a fledgling company, Sun provided Huawei with millions of dollars to keep it afloat. Since the 1990s, Huawei has repeatedly attempted to establish a foothold in the U.S. telecommunications market, with no success. The United States has remained wary of the Shenzhen-based company, and consistently thwarted Huawei’s efforts to break into the U.S. markets. Finally, at the end of 2013, Huawei announced its intention to seek other opportunities to expand. Huawei has repeatedly denied any significant ties to the Chinese military or government.

It’s not unusual for a privately-owned Chinese company to have these origins. China switched from a state-planned economy to capitalism in the early 1980s following Chairman Mao’s death. Many of the state owned enterprises simply stopped being state-planned and were privatized, while other private companies popped up on their own accord. However, the House Intelligence Committee conducted its own investigation on both Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese communications company, in 2011 and 2012, concurrent with the NSA’s spying efforts. They released an unclassified report in October of 2012, claiming the Chinese intended to use Huawei as a front to gather intelligence on both United States companies and communications infrastructure. They recommended that companies should continue …read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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Hobby Lobby vs. the Order of Justice

The Crimson White / Flickr.com

The Crimson White / Flickr.com

Ross Douthat affectionately calls out me and Rod Dreher for applauding Patrick Deneen’s moral-economic brief against Hobby Lobby and other big-box retail chains. He laments that the paleo/crunchy-con mentality tends toward self-marginalization.

Speaking only for myself, I actually agree with Ross.

I’m not Catholic. I’m not a traditionalist (if I were, I’d have a lot of explaining to do regarding that infatuation with Keith Richards). When asked to describe my politics, lately I call myself a good-government Bush 41 conservative. (I maintain that H.W. was inferior to Reagan as a communicator and politician—obviously—but at least as great, and maybe even better, a president. I think his leadership during the meltdown of the Soviet empire was brilliant, and I’d take Dick Darman over Grover Norquist every day of the week. Sue me!)

All that said, I fear I’ve muddied the waters on where I agree with Deneen, and where I part ways with him (as well as, I’m going to presume, Dreher).

I am taken with Deneen’s argument that there is an uninterrupted continuum between the Founding (“progressive” in a Baconian sense) and the present; that classical liberals and modern liberals are both liberals. If there’s anything remotely distinctive about my blogging here and at U.S. News since ’10, I hope it’s been a counterweight to the despair of both moral traditionalists like Deneen and Dreher and market purists-slash-declinists like Kevin Williamson. My gravamen, my conceit, my shtick is this: Government has grown alongside our continental economy. There is not a hydraulic relationship (one goes up, the other goes down) between markets and government. If our capitalists were smart, they’d favor effective social insurance alongside free enterprise. Etc.

While I sympathize, somewhat, with Deneen’s aesthetic recoil from Hobby Lobby and strip malls and big boxes, I don’t get nearly as exercised about such things as he does. In any case, I don’t think there’s much that can be done practically to change it at the level of policymaking. I’m all for traditionalists and orthodox believers bringing their beliefs to bear in the marketplace. To the extent that I used the Hobby Lobby case as a springboard for my last post, it was only tangentially about contraception and religious liberty. My beef is not with religious conservatives participating in modern capitalism; it is with those who conflate modern capitalism and the Constitution with Judeo-Christianity. I have a beef with them because this conflation, I believe, is one of the main drivers of our current antigovernment ferocity, the rampant and irrational fears of inflation, and the counterproductive fear over short-term budget deficits.

I could be wrong about that.

In any case, I don’t think I made this point clear in my post on Hobby Lobby (which, for the record, I had never heard of before it became news).

While I’m at it, I might as well spell out what I think about the particulars of said case. On that score, I’ll associate myself with Yuval …read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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Meeting Past Selves by Reading Where You’re From

After perusing some old bookshelves and boxes, I discovered an old nature diary. These excerpts were written by my 11-year old self:

On Monday, July 23, my family and I went huckleberry picking in the forest. As we were looking for a good place to start picking, Mom cried, “Look at the baby deer!” Dad stopped the car, and we saw a doe dash behind a bush. The baby deer stayed for about five minutes, and then disappeared.

After picking at least a gallon of huckleberrys [sic], we went back to where we had had a picnic, and washed our hands in the creek. Then we looked for rocks, and I found a piece of petrified wood.

On the way home, Katie looked for more deer, and soon called out, “A buck! A buck!” Dad turned around the car, and we saw the buck run away! After continuing our drive Katie called, “A doe! A doe!” I barely saw her, and I didn’t have enough room to draw her, and so I didn’t include her.

This bed is all a-bloom. I investigated it thouroughly [sic] and not a flower does not have intricate purples, blues, whites, pinks, and vivid strawberry. This bed also, is filled with frilly purple, triumphant yellow, soft strawberry pink, luscious green, and a few hints of snowy white.

I must say spring has come swiftly and sufficiently. When I enter the house, it looks so dark and gloomy compared to the fresh, yellow-white sunlight that streams through branches outside.

It is terrible writing. But it’s also interesting. I see a little girl who loved the outdoors, and loved beauty—and she was trying, desperately, to capture these moments before they faded away. I didn’t want to forget the first time I saw a piece of petrified wood or baby deer. I wanted to capture the beauty of a garden rose. The words are an interesting juxtaposition of almost terse journalistic chronicling, and an exaggerated romantic style.

I didn’t know it then, but I was writing to an audience of selves. Years pass, and a new self visits the journal—someone with greater experience, skepticism, knowledge. This new person reads with fresh eyes and perhaps amusement—but aloof as they may seem, they still feel kinship with the writer of the past.

This is the horror and wonder of writing: we know we will return to ourselves, five or 10 years down the road, and see a face we’ve forgotten. We will look closely at a soul whose face we know, but whose expression and turn of phrase is now old-fashioned (and sometimes cringe-worthy) to our eyes.

There are two ways to “read where you’re from,” and I think both are valuable exercises. The first is to revisit old diary entries, scribbles, photographs, and personal collections, such as the above. Not everyone is a writer, but almost every child collects memories from their childhood in one form or another. Revisiting such materials gives us a window into who we were, and the ways we’ve grown—or stayed the …read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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