Were Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson Copyright Trolls?

Sometimes all those who own patents as investments are derisively chastised as “patent trolls.” I have argued that some of those so-labelled are productively increasing the funding for invention. If Nathan Myhrvold is a patent troll then we should similarly view Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson as copyright trolls. Why do McCartney and Jackson get a pass, while Myhrvold is chastised?

(p. B3) It is one of the twice-told tales of the music business: Decades ago, Michael Jackson received some sound investment advice from Paul McCartney.

Back in the early 1980s, Mr. McCartney showed his friend a notebook full of songs he owned, by artists like Buddy Holly. The real money, Mr. McCartney suggested, was in music publishing, the side of the business that deals with the songwriting rights for big catalogs of songs. As Mr. McCartney himself has told it, Jackson perked up and said, “I’m gonna buy your songs.”
He did. And it was the smartest deal Jackson ever made.
In 1985, Jackson bought the ATV catalog, which included 251 Beatles songs, along with a few thousand others, for $47.5 million. It proved to be Jackson’s most valuable asset, helping to finance a lavish lifestyle even as Jackson’s own musical career reached a low point in the years before his death in 2009.

For the full story, see:
BEN SISARIO. “McCartney’s Tip Pays Off for Jackson’s Legacy.” The New York Times (Weds., MARCH 16, 2016): B3.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 15, 2016, and has the title “Paul McCartney’s Tip to Michael Jackson Pays Off.”)

My paper on patents, is:
Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. “Seeking the Patent Truth: Patents Can Provide Justice and Funding for Inventors.” The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy 19, no. 3 (2015): 325-55.

Sanders’s Economics Agenda: “Magic Flying Puppies with Winning Lotto Tickets Tied to Their Collars”

(p. A9) WASHINGTON — With his expansive plans to increase the size and role of government, Senator Bernie Sanders has provoked a debate not only with his Democratic rival for president, Hillary Clinton, but also with liberal-leaning economists who share his goals but question his numbers and political realism.
. . .
By the reckoning of the left-of-center economists, none of whom are working for Mrs. Clinton, the proposals would add $2 trillion to $3 trillion a year on average to federal spending; by comparison, total federal spending is projected to be above $4 trillion in the next president’s first year. “The numbers don’t remotely add up,” said Austan Goolsbee, formerly chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, now at the University of Chicago.
Alluding to one progressive analyst’s criticism of the Sanders agenda as “puppies and rainbows,” Mr. Goolsbee said that after his and others’ further study, “they’ve evolved into magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars.”

For the full story, see:
JACKIE CALMES. “Left-Leaning Economists Question Sanders’s Plans.” The New York Times (Tues., FEB. 16, 2016): A9.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 15, 2016, and has the title “Left-Leaning Economists Question Cost of Bernie Sanders’s Plans.”)

“Progressive” Eugenicists Attacked Free Enterprise

At the APEE meetings in early April, I heard a lecture by Jayme Lemke in which she praised a promising-sounding book by Thomas Leonard. I looked the book up on Amazon and found that it describes how many of the “progressives” who advocated increasing government control of the economy, were also among the advocates of the now-discredited eugenics movement.
The book is now on my “to-read” list and I will report more when it hits the top of the list (say, in about 2020 ;).

The book praised by Jayme, is:
Leonard, Thomas C. Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.

Many Empirical Research Results Are False

(p. B7) Research on 100 studies in psychology found in 2015 that more than 60% couldn’t be replicated. Similar results have been found in medicine and economics. Campbell Harvey, a professor at Duke University and president of the American Finance Association, estimates that at least half of all “discoveries” in investment research, and financial products based on them, are false.
. . .
Brian Nosek, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia and executive director of the Center for Open Science, a nonprofit seeking to improve research practices, has spent much of the last decade analyzing why so many studies don’t stand up over time.
Because researchers have an incentive to come up with results that are “positive and clean and novel,” he says, they often test a plethora of ideas, throwing out those that don’t appear to work and pursuing those that confirm their own hunches.
If the researchers test enough possibilities, they may find positive results by chance alone — and may fool themselves into believing that luck didn’t determine the outcomes.

For the full commentary, see:
JASON ZWEIG. “Chasing Hot Returns in ‘Smart-Beta’ Can Be Dumb.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Feb 13, 2016): B1 & B7.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb 12, 2016, and has the title “Chasing Hot Returns in ‘Smart-Beta’ Funds Can Be a Dumb Idea.”)

Environmentally Insensitive Explorers Club Mammoth Meal Was a Joke

(p. A11) The story of the 1951 annual Explorers Club dinner is famous, at least among explorers, paleontologists and connoisseurs of exotic cuisine. In brief, mammoth was served.
A club member and journalist reported on the menu shortly afterward in The Christian Science Monitor, and club members have been talking about it ever since.
“At my first dinner, when I was a new member, they told me about it,” said Jack Horner, a dinosaur paleontologist at Montana State University and an inspiration for the character of the paleontologist in the original “Jurassic Park” book. “And they were talking about having another.”
Sadly, as with so many great stories, this one was too good to be true, as a group of Yale researchers reported Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.
. . .
They assumed the flesh was thousands of years old, which meant that testing for DNA was more complicated than testing a more recent bit of flesh. “Also,” she said, “the meat was cooked.”
. . .
In the end, after multiple tests, the team determined that the meat was neither mammoth nor sloth, nor ancient, nor even a mammal. Turtle soup had also been on the menu that night, before sea turtles were in such trouble, and the bit of flesh that the scientists tested turned out to be green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas.
It seems that Mr. Dodge had been having a bit of fun, and that he was the only one in on the joke.

For the full story, see:
JAMES GORMAN. “The Explorers Club Once Served Mammoth at a Meal. Or Did It?” The New York Times (Tues., FEB. 4, 2016): A11.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 3, 2016.)

The academic article that documents what the Explorers ate, is:
Glass, Jessica R., Matt Davis, Timothy J. Walsh, Eric J. Sargis, and Adalgisa Caccone. “Was Frozen Mammoth or Giant Ground Sloth Served for Dinner at the Explorers Club?” PLoS ONE 11, no. 2 (2016): e0146825.

Indian Government Scientists Fight Global Warming by Reducing Cow Belches

(p. A10) Let no one say that India isn’t doing its bit to fight global climate change: Government scientists are working hard to reduce carbon emissions by making cows less flatulent.
Consider the numbers: India is home to more than 280 million cows, and 200 million more ruminant animals like sheep, goats, yaks and buffalo. According to an analysis of satellite data from the country’s space program, all those digestive tracts send 13 million tons of methane into the atmosphere every year — and pound for pound, methane traps 25 times as much heat as carbon dioxide does.
. . .
Scientists at the Cow Research Institute in Mathura, around 100 miles south of New Delhi, are tinkering with cattle feed, seeking a formula that will create less gas for the cows to belch out. (That is how most of it is released, by the way; scientists say much less comes from farting.)
But a team of researchers in the southern state of Kerala is working on a long-term answer.
. . .
. . . dwarf animals, which are about one-quarter the weight of crossbred cows, produce only one-seventh as much manure and one-tenth as much methane.

For the full story, see:
ELLEN BARRY. “What in the World; Cows: India’s Reply to Global Warming.” The New York Times (Thurs., MAY 5, 2016): A10.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 3, 2016, and has the title “What in the World; India’s Answer to Global Warming; Cows That Belch Less.”)

Forrest McDonald Defended Founders and Entrepreneurs

Forrest McDonald wrote one of the first detailed accounts of the life of Samuel Insull, an entrepreneur who helped to develop electric utility systems in the United States, and who was persecuted by the FDR administration.

(p. 20) Forrest McDonald, a presidential and constitutional scholar who challenged liberal shibboleths about early American history and lionized the founding fathers as uniquely intellectual, died on Tuesday [January 19, 2016] in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
. . .
As a Pulitzer Prize finalist in history and a professor at the University of Alabama, Dr. McDonald declared himself an ideological conservative and an opponent of intrusive government. (“I’d move the winter capital to North Dakota and outlaw air-conditioning in the District of Columbia,” he once said.) But he refused to be pigeonholed either as a libertarian or, despite his Southern agrarian roots, as a Jeffersonian.
. . .
In “Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution” (1985), which was one of three finalists for the 1986 Pulitzer Prize in history, he pronounced the founding fathers as singularly qualified to draft the framework of federalism. He reiterated that point when he delivered the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Jefferson Lecture in Washington in 1987.
“To put it bluntly,” Dr. McDonald said then, “it would be impossible in America today to assemble a group of people with anything near the combined experience, learning and wisdom that the 55 authors of the Constitution took with them to Philadelphia in the summer of 1787.”
. . .
Dr. McDonald wrote more than a dozen books, including biographies of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-Span’s “Booknotes” in 1994, Dr. McDonald revealed that he typically wrote in longhand on a yellow legal pad and in the nude. (“We’ve got wonderful isolation,” he said, “and it’s warm most of the year in Alabama, and why wear clothes?”)

For the full obituary, see:
SAM ROBERTS. “Forrest McDonald, 89, Critic of Liberal Views of History.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., Jan. 24, 2016): 20.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date JAN. 22, 2016, and has the title “Forrest McDonald, Historian Who Punctured Liberal Notions, Dies at 89.”)

The McDonald book mentioned by me way above, is:
McDonald, Forrest. Insull. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962.

Retail Clinics Provide Convenient Care

(p. A3) My wife and I both work. When one of our children wakes up complaining of a sore throat, we could begin a ritual stare-down to determine which of us is going to have to wait for the doctor’s office to open, make the phone call, wait on hold, schedule an appointment (which will inevitably be in the middle of the day), take off work, pick up the child from school, sit in the waiting room (surrounded by other sick children), get the rapid strep test, find out if the child is infected and then go to the pharmacy or back to school, before returning to work.
Or, one of us could just take the child to a retail clinic on the way to work and be done in 30 minutes. Strep throat is incredibly easy to treat (Penicillin still works great!). There’s a simple and very fast test for it. Moreover, physicians are really bad at diagnosing some of these common illnesses clinically; a study found that a doctor’s guess as to whether a respiratory infection is bacterial or viral is right about 50 percent of the time — no better than flipping a coin. The point is, you need to get the rapid strep test every time regardless, whether at your doctor’s office or at a clinic.
Aimee and I choose the retail clinic every time.
Why? Convenience is the biggest reason. Many doctors’ offices are open only on weekdays and during business hours. This also happens to be when most adults work and when children attend school. A 2010 survey of 11 countries found that Americans seek out after-hours care or care in a hospital’s emergency room more often than citizens of almost any other industrialized nation. More than two-thirds of Americans with a below-average income did so. But this isn’t just a problem for the poor. About 55 percent of those with an above-average income did so as well.
We complain all the time that people use the emergency room for primary care. But that’s not always about lack of insurance. It’s about access. The emergency room is open when people can actually go. Emergency room use has gone up, not down, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. More people have insurance, and now can afford care when they need it.
That care is also coming from retail clinics, usually found either in stand-alone storefronts or inside pharmacies. Between 2007 and 2009, retail clinic use increased 10-fold. It turns out that my wife and I represent America pretty well. About 35 percent of retail visits for children are for pharyngitis — sore throats. Add in ear infections and upper respiratory infections, and you’ve accounted for more than three-quarters of visits for children. Parents bring their children to retail clinics to take care of quick, acute problems. Swap ear infections for immunizations, and you’ve got the main reasons adults use retail clinics, too.
Researchers for a study published in the American Journal of Medical Quality talked to patients who sought out care at retail clinics. Patients who had a primary care physician, but still went to a retail clinic, did so because their primary care doctors were not available in a timely manner. A quarter of them said that if the retail clinic weren’t available, they’d go to the emergency room.

For the full commentary, see:
Aaron E. Carroll. “The Hidden Cost of Retail Health Clinics.” The New York Times (Thurs., APRIL 14, 2016): A3.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date APRIL 12, 2016, and has the title “The Undeniable Convenience and Reliability of Retail Health Clinics.” Where the two versions differ, the quoted passages above follow the online version.)

The research on patient motivation for using retail clinics, is:
Wang, Margaret C., Gery Ryan, Elizabeth A. McGlynn, and Ateev Mehrotra. “Why Do Patients Seek Care at Retail Clinics, and What Alternatives Did They Consider?” American Journal of Medical Quality 25, no. 2 (March/April 2010): 128-34.

Info Tech Boomed Because It Was Least Regulated Sector

(p. A9) “The regulatory environment has become so onerous in America that it is now easier to start a business in England than in the U.S.,” Mr. Hill says–and he would know.
. . .
In 1973 and only 27 years old, Mr. Hill founded Commerce Bank with one branch in Marlton, N.J. The fledgling company focused on customer service and called itself “America’s most convenient bank.” By the time Mr. Hill left Commerce Bancorp 34 years later, only months before the company announced it would be bought by TD Bank for $8.5 billion, he had grown the business to some 460 branches, with 14,000 employees and combined deposits of about $40 billion.
Now he’s replicating that model in the United Kingdom with Metro Bank, which he founded in 2010. And Mr. Hill says there’s an ocean of difference between doing business in the overregulated U.S. and in the U.K. “When I went to Britain I thought the regulatory environment would be much worse,” he says. “It’s infinitely better there.”
The problem in the U.S. starts with towering federal regulations, such as the voluminous reporting and compliance rules in Dodd-Frank, the financial reform act that recently celebrated its fifth birthday. “Regulators are making it impossible for the medium and small banks to comply with the rules,” he says. “The burdens get so intense that it is destroying the small and medium-size banks in America.”
The result is that Dodd-Frank, a law intended to take on the systemic risk of “too-big-to-fail” banks, is multiplying the problem. “The big banks that are too big to fail are bigger now than ever, but the regulations have trickled down to the smaller banks that didn’t cause the financial crisis” Mr. Hill says. As a result, community banks are disappearing. “When I started my first bank in the 1970s there were 24,000 banks in America,” he says. “There are now 7,000 banks. It may soon be 500 or even fewer.”
But it’s more than Dodd-Frank that leaves him frustrated. “The feds have taken anti-money-laundering rules to the extreme,” Mr. Hill says. “We have to monitor every deposit account every 24 hours. Somebody’s monitoring your account every day.” That’s invasive and expensive.
He laments that the Community Reinvestment Act, a catalyst of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, still hasn’t been repealed. “We are literally required to make loans that we know are going to fail,” he says.
Then there’s the tangle of local regulations that every American small business must cut through. “You don’t need a building permit in Britain. Here [the U.S.] you have to get permits and you have to get inspections,” he says. All that can eat up months and months. “I can build 100 branch banks in Britain before I can get one built in the U.S., thanks to regulators.”
Policy makers and economists in Washington fret about what’s slowing the rate of business startups and entrepreneurial ventures. But Mr. Hill says it’s no wonder, with all this red tape, and it’s no accident that the industry that is really booming, technology, is the one least regulated by government–though the assault against Uber suggests that Silicon Valley might not be immune for long.
. . .
And how much should we be worried about overregulation–or competition from abroad? “Here’s my story in a nutshell and I hope Washington is paying close attention,” Mr. Hill says. “A very successful American business model has been transferred to Britain, where it’s even more successful because it doesn’t have to deal with the same burdens of government.”
He continues: “The politicians keep talking about fairness and helping the little guy. But it’s the little startup businesses that get hurt the most from the heavy hand of excessive government regulation. How is that fair?”

For the full interview, see:
STEPHEN MOORE. “THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW; The Demise of the Small American Bank; The man who put the customer first in retail banking says Dodd-Frank is crushing community banks and Britain is now a better bet.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Aug. 1, 2015): A9.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date July 31, 2015.)

“Lifespan Research Really Should Be the Future of Medicine”

(p. D1) A research lab at a University of California campus has a big ambition–to extend the number of years people live disease-free. The animal model it uses for its experiments is decidedly smaller: the tiny fruit fly.
The Jafari Lab, located at UC Irvine, has run tests on substances as diverse as green tea, cinnamon and an Arctic plant called Rhodiola rosea, looking for an elixir of life. To pass muster, each experimental compound must help the fruit flies live longer and not have adverse effects.
The researchers are currently investigating the effects of cinnamon on lifespan. The spice passed the first test: A dose of 25 milligrams of cinnamon per milliliter of food resulted in fruit flies living up to 37% longer. But to be declared a success, the lab is putting cinnamon through three additional tests–does it harm reproductive ability and locomotion and what impact does it have on cognitive capacities such as memory.
“When you look at how we think about aging, we don’t really consider it a disease–it’s just considered a ‘natural’ thing. But I think aging and lifespan research really should be the future of medicine,” says Mahtab Jafari, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UC Irvine for whom the lab is named.

For the full story, see:
ANGELA CHEN. “HEALTH & WELLNESS; In Search of Elixir of Life, Scientist Studies Fruit Flies.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., MARCH 8, 2016): D3.
(Note: italics in original.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 7, 2016, and has the title “HEALTH & WELLNESS; Seeking Elixir of Life, a Scientist Studies Fruit Flies.”)

A relevant academic article discussing possible metabolic pathways to increased lifespan, is:
Barzilai, Nir, Derek M. Huffman, Radhika H. Muzumdar, and Andrzej Bartke. “The Critical Role of Metabolic Pathways in Aging.” Diabetes 61, no. 6 (June 2012): 1315-22.