In these highly charged political times, you tend to hear the term “nanny state” thrown around quite a bit. Whether it’s the mayor of a major US city lovingly playing psy-ops with citizens on vices like cigarettes and soda, or an otherwise sane nation keeping its citizens safe from the horrors of accurately depicted street view maps, the general impression is that the government in question doesn’t think enough of its own people to allow them to live out their lives as they choose. And, while a simple stroll down the street might cause me to have some sympathy with their premise, most of us tend not to believe that our governments should be in the business of social-engineering our free choices (even though that’s essentially the business they’re in).
But sometimes a nanny state action moves beyond the mildly frustrating and into the realm of the hilarious. Reader btr1701 writes in about one such instance, in which the government of Sweden is engaging in some manner of performance art on the silliness of over-regulation by the government.
The ongoing legal fight, in which a bunch of US tech and internet companies — namely Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and LinkedIn — are suing the US government, claiming a First Amendment right to publish some details on the number of requests they get from the NSA under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, as well as the number of users impacted by those requests, is getting ever weirder. The government had filed its response back at the end of September. And, you might notice, large portions of it are totally redacted. For example, here is page 13 of the document (though, numbered page 8):
I’m always amazed when lawyers send clearly bogus DMCA notices. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out that doing so ends badly. I’m doubly surprised, however, when it comes from big companies that should know better. And, I’m quadruple surprised when one of these companies that should know better sends a completely bogus DMCA notice to a company that absolutely understands why the notice is bogus, and is also in a position to make the world know all about a company’s bogus DMCA notice. That’s what we have here. You see, this morning, Office Depot decided to send a DMCA to Reddit.
Unfortunately, I have no link on this one, because someone sent me a copy of an article that is either not online or only behind a paywall somewhere, but at a recent AIPLA (American Intellectual Property Law Assocation) meeting, Judge Randall Rader, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), which handles all patent appeals, apparently complained about “vague language” in the most recent update to patent law, the America Invents Act, to have the US Patent Office’s (USPTO) Patent and Trademark Appeal Board (PTAB) review more patents to dump bad ones. The recently proposed patent reform bill from Rep. Bob Goodlatte would expand this program. Now, anyone who recognizes the importance of getting rid of bad patents, knowing how bad patents can make the overall problem worse, should support this. But, not Judge Randall Rader. He compares it to genocide.
Oh, the hilarity that is the phrase “criminal justice system.” Talk to any defense attorney andthey’ll tell you how the deck is stacked against defendants and defense lawyers. The ideal of “innocent until proven guilty” has become little more than a disclaimer tacked onto cop-centered reality shows. Defendants are guilty until the jury is somehow tricked by the defense into handing down a “not guilty” verdict. A lot of effort goes towards dissuading defendants from even making it this far, as prosecutors will present worst-case scenarios comprised of every violation conceivable in order to get an agreement to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
The prevailing perception that the person charged is guilty, with the only answer yet to be determined is how guilty, makes defending arrestees an uphill battle. Judge (former judge) Elizabeth Coker took this uphill battle, increased the grade to 85 degrees, covered it with a sheet of ice and sprinkled it with a 50/50 blend of Teflon and motor oil.
While there’s plenty of attention being paid to Lavabit’s temporary re-opening for the sake of letting people export their accounts, a much more interesting issue is the recent development in the legal case. Lavabit has filed its latest brief, and there are some interesting discussions about the details of the case. From my reading, Lavabit makes a very strong argument that the government has no right to demand the production of Lavabit’s private SSL keys, as it’s an overreach way beyond what traditional wiretapping laws allow. Lawyer Orin Kerr’s analysis argues that Lavabit’s case is weak, mainly arguing that the federal government can subpoena whatever the hell they want, and just because it conflicts with your business model: too bad. Lavabit argues that complying with the government’s order is oppressive because it would effectively mean it would be committing fraud on all its customers…
We saw Nova Scotia deliver the worst in cyberbullying laws (Canadian edition) earlier this year. Like most bad cyberbullying legislation, this one was prompted by the suicide of a teen. It’s too tempting for legislators to rush into action with no real idea on how to solve the problem, much less mitigate it, and the attendant public uproar contributes nothing in terms of clear thinking or common sense.
As a result, laws like Nova Scotia’s get passed — laws that rely on purely subjective measures. If someone feels offended, they can press charges, utilizing a non-adversarial process that allows the accuser to present his or her case directly to a judge, who then decides whether or not it’s actually cyberbullying. This opens the accused up to civil proceedings, criminal charges and a chance of being banned not just from social media but from the internet entirely, along with being banned from using electronic devices — like a phone….
It’s been known for quite some time that the feds were desperately trying to hunt down the folks behind Silk Road, the somewhat infamous “dark web” e-commerce site, accessible only via Tor, which was famous mainly for selling drugs in a slightly anonymous fashion. Of course, when the news came out recently that the FBI had used malware to reveal Tor Browser users, many believed that this was part of an attempt to track down Silk Road, and that seems increasingly likely after the FBI announced this morning that it has arrested Silk Road’s owner, Ross William Ulbricht, who went by the moniker “Dread Pirate Roberts” online. Turns out that Ulbricht was based in San Francisco and was arrested at the public library, of all places….
How did we get to the point where activities conducted on someone’s private property can somehow fall under the jurisdiction of a public school? The short version is this: concerns aboutactual criminal activity on school grounds led to tighter controls being built into policies. A few school shootings upped the ante and provoked disproportionate reactions from several legislators. And just in case no one felt the new weapon and violence policies erected to prevent the unpreventable weren’t being taken seriously enough, the government “helpfully” tied these new rules to federal funding.
“Playing it safe” just isn’t good enough anymore. Every administrator is compelled to err on the (uber-ridiculous) side of caution because to do otherwise might result in angry parents, or worse, the loss of federal funding. Anything that bears a slight resemblance to a gun is treated as the real thing — a weapon powerful enough to kill someone — even if that “weapon” is a Pop Tart, four fingers and a thumb or drawn on a piece of paper.
The illogical extremes seen in these earlier incidents has been surpassed by Larkspur Middle School of the Virginia Beach School District….
As an American with First Amendment rights, you’d probably assume that a “Free Speech Zone” would look something like this:
The blue on that map should represent areas where you can exercise your right to free speech. Unfortunately, for many college students, their “Free Speech Zone” shrinks considerably when on campus. One out of every six major colleges have designated “Free Speech Zones” where students are “permitted” to “enjoy” this Constitutional right, and even then there are restrictions. In these colleges, exercising your right to free speech means asking permission at least a couple of days in advance as well as having the administration “approve” your speech.
The latest example of confined and controlled speech comes to us courtesy of Modesto Junior College. As FIRE.org reports, a student found his exercise of free speech shut down on one of the worst days of the year for a college to assert its negative attitude towards the First Amendment.
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.