Song and dance of a presidential campaign
The fate of dueling videos making light of Mitt Romneys and President Obamas renditions of well-known songs shows that politics may be tough, but copyright law is tougher.
Obamas campaign released an ad showing Romney singing America the Beautiful while superimposing headlines criticizing Romney for outsourcing jobs. The Romney camp responded by releasing a video of Obama singing Al Greens Lets Stay Together accompanied by accusations implying Obama wanted to stay together with lobbyists and big contributors.
The words for America the Beautiful were written in 1895 and set to music in 1910. Both are in the public domain.
Lets Stay Together is a 1971 song, fully covered by copyright. So when the rights management unit of BMG demanded the video of Obama singing Greens song be removed from YouTube, it was.
The Romney camp could well prevail if it fought the action – court rulings permit parody and fair use of otherwise copyrighted material.
But its probably not a battle worth fighting.
Public gets a sense for Libor pains
Many Americans and Brits have learned a word in recent weeks that was previously not in their vocabulary: Libor.
Libor is the London interbank offered rate, set weekly by the British Bankers Association. The rate is a report of the interest rate major banks would pay to borrow money from other big banks and institutions, a rate that varies by the borrowing period and by currency. The rate has far-reaching implications for transactions such as home mortgages and tricky derivatives.
While financial traders and economists knew about Libor, the word entered the lexicon of others after Barclays bank admitted gaming the rate to its advantage.
The bank paid a $450 million fine for manipulating the rate.
As regulators and reporters delved deeper into Libor, they found that setting the rate is more art than science.
And while it may have great implications for mortgages and derivatives, its intended use – for interbank lending – is at historic lows. When interbank lending does occur, the loans are of very short duration, often one month. Yet the one-year Libor directly affects mortgage rates, while the three-month Libor affects derivative trades.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said this week that the method for setting Libor is structurally flawed. Not surprisingly, the financial industry is seeking a new measurement on which to base lending rates.
Candidates for change
Another survey of business owners shows dissatisfaction with the job skills of recent grads, but dont expect any improvements – the skills they seek cant be measured on a standardized test, so they arent being taught.
A study by the Indiana Business Council finds only 21 percent of respondents believe the job readiness of college graduates is excellent or very good. Most believe graduates cant transfer skills learned in the classroom and apply them in the workplace. They cite critical thinking, oral communication and professional work ethic as the career skills most necessary.
Pressure on public schools has forced educators to emphasize math, language arts and test-taking skills – increasingly squeezing out time for classroom lessons and discussions that would foster creativity and critical thinking. Oral communication skills arent tested on any standardized test, and a professional work ethic is another attribute you wont find in classroom standards. College is a bit late to develop basic skills.
Project-based learning offers some hope for schools, but business owners arent likely to see a real change in job candidates anytime soon.
Election fraud in Michigan troubling, but not illegal
John Bogle, the legendary founder of the Vanguard Group of mutual funds, is credited with saying, The scandal is not whats illegal. Its whats legal.
The report of a Michigan prosecutor investigating an unusual legislative election brings that quote to mind. It seems that an erstwhile Democratic state representative, Roy Schmidt, changed his party affiliation to Republican just before the filing deadline to run for office. His son, meanwhile, offered a friend, a part-time college student, $450 to get his name on the ballot as a Democrat – meaning Schmidt would have no real opposition. Schmidts campaign gave his son a $2,000 check; the friend on the ballot said he was told he would receive half that amount.
Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsythe concluded GOP House Speaker Jase Bolger conspired with Schmidt on the tactic. The Detroit News quoted from the prosecutors report:
Although this scheme by Rep. Schmidt and Speaker Bolger was clearly designed to undermine the election and to perpetrate a fraud on the electorate, it was nonetheless legal. Incredibly, while it would be illegal to pay a boxer to take a dive or a basketball player to point shave, it is not currently a crime in Michigan to recruit someone to run for public office, place them on the ballot at the eleventh hour and essentially pay them to make no effort to win.