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Comment Re:i love infrastructure (Score 1) 305 305

China is prodding Vietnam and the Philippines over maritime claims, yes, but to say they're picking on Japan isn't really accurate, as Tokyo's nationalist mayor restarted the public argument over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. This triggered Japan's nationalization of the islands to try to ward off further diplomatic incident, causing an incident which inflamed the Chinese people, which demanded action from the government... The whole thing is a mess that the governments in Beijing and Tokyo would be much happier to see die down again.

And how are you bringing India into this? Aside from a moderately-disputed, very high-altitude border that would be difficult to cross with ground forces (let alone fight in), China and India don't have much in the way of overlapping claims. Even if China got serious territorial ambitions for Indian territory, India's military is at least as good as China's, wouldn't have lengthy supply lines to deal with, and has far more combat experience in the last few decades than does China. The Indian Navy--much stronger than China's--could also make life incredibly difficult for Chinese trade passing through the Indian Ocean for Africa and the Suez Canal, especially since India has a strong blue-water navy and China is still coming to grips with serious operations outside of the China Seas.

Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 305 305

Chinese trade is a reason that I focused on the rail traffic. Russia's benefit there would be in providing the transit corridor, and prices could easily be set in roubles US dollars, helping fill its coffers with roubles (helping to strengthen the rouble on the open market) or foreign currency (that could be used to buy roubles, helping to strengthen it on the open market).

Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 305 305

Generally, yes, but Russia has made a habit of providing "preferential" pricing to some customers that can be well below market value, willing to guarantee the price for a very long time. They also have a habit of finding reasons to break the contract when it's convenient, blaming it on provocations, late payments, etc.

Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 305 305

You make some good points. It would add to the cost of the bridge, but there may be economic incentives for doing so separate from the bridge, including improving the ability to transport goods into Alaska that currently go by truck for long portions of the journey. The additional economic incentives of a bridge might be enough when combined with the above to justify it.

Now, I'm not completely sure of this. It's possible, but some much more significant studies would have to be done to determine feasibility. Russia and especially China have the advantage of not having to convince their publics of the need for building this; the US might just have to build the end-points and Alaska-side rail yard.

Comment Re:Why? (Score 5, Interesting) 305 305

The economic reasons I can think of largely involve more rapid transportation between hubs all over Asia (and maybe even Europe) to hubs in North America. A trip across the Pacific from Hong Kong to Seattle can take two or more weeks, while a rail trip from Hong Kong to Seattle could be done in perhaps one week, depending on how many yard changes would be needed. (Transit times between Hong Kong and the East Coast via the Panama Canal are even longer, taking a month or more, while the additional time required to cross Canada or the US would be measured in days.) Using Google Earth and some admittedly straight lines, the distance from Hong Kong to Seattle was about 6600 miles. If a train can average even 60MPH over that, the trip would take less than five days, and even some curves and detours wouldn't extend it by much. Of course, most train traffic wouldn't originate from Hong Kong, but would instead go directly, more or less, from the other hub cities scattered across China, reducing the factory-to-destination time even further.

Rail gauges might not even need to be considered, since the US and China use the same gauge, and the tracks through Siberia could be laid as dual-gauge or even just 1435mm gauge and the Russians can start adopting that (it would make trade with Europe easier, too).

Such a bridge would have to allow a significant amount of rail traffic to cross, but the economics could work out over a very long term (many decades at least). The trillion-dollar price tag is for a network of roads and rail running from London to New York; the bridge itself would probably be in the range of $100 billion for a road and dual tracks. Amortizing that at 2% interest over 50 years gets annual costs of $3.18 billion for the loan itself.

A North Carolina Dept. of Transportation study placed the approximate cost of a 4000 SEU Panamax vessel at 80% capacity at about $1500 per TEU and a New Panamax (capacity 12,000 TEU) at 51% capacity at about $950 per TEU. Those capacities can be matched using 4.5 or 8.5 trains, respectively, of 180 wagons (the max length allowed in the US) double-stacked and able to handle four TEU each (so 720 TEU). I'm not sure about the basic economics, but I imagine that the costs for train travel are less than that. Even if they're higher per day, they would probably be lower per trip.

If the toll per TEU is about the same as it is in Panama ($72), each nearly-full train crossing would bring in about $50,000. If maintenance consumed a quarter of that and the rest went to the loan, it would require almost 85,000 annual train trips, or about 232 per day. Even at zero interest, it would require more than 53,000 annual train crossings, or about 146 per day, and all of those at around 95% capacity.

However, if the tolls were higher but the cost per TEU were lower, it might work out. At 50 trains per day, the toll would need to be about $250 per TEU (plus some amount for maintenance) to pay off the loan. That's still a lot of trains for two tracks, but it might be workable. This doesn't include any road tolls or oil/gas transit fees for lines running along the bridge, which could add a fair amount, but I'm not sure it would dent it significantly.

Another reason that I can think of, though, is to get part of North America reliant on Russian natural gas, particularly as Alaska's petroleum-derived production slows over the coming decades. That could bring an influence level that's hard to achieve any other way. Russia has a history of slowing or shutting off gas supplies to Ukraine and other places during winter when it wants leverage. I'm sure it would love to have that leverage over the US and Canada as well.

Comment Re:Mickey Mouse copyirght extenstions... (Score 1) 153 153

If the copyright on "Steamboat Willie" expired, anyone could copy the work or create derivative works from it featuring a similar character, but they could not call the character in derivative works Mickey Mouse, nor use Mickey Mouse's image in such works.

No, when the Steamboat Willy copyright expires, there is no longer a copyright which prohibits people from making or distributing additional copies of the work, from publicly performing or displaying the work, or from preparing new derivative works based on it (such as a new Mickey Mouse short in which he commands a homemade submarine powered by barnyard animals or something). Of course, attributes of the Mickey Mouse character which originated in later, still copyrighted material would not be available; thus you're using the original 1928 black and white Mickey, or forking a new version of the character off from there. Can't give him a dog named Pluto, nor even the distinctive Mickey Mouse voice, as those both appeared in later films.

They would, however, be able to still freely copy the original work even though it featured said character that is still under trademark because the copy of the work is not considered a new work, it is considered a *COPY*

I don't know why that would matter from a trademark perspective. Trademark is concerned with goods bearing a mark all originating from the same source, so as to protect consumer expectations regarding consistent levels of quality. Even the goods of two different sellers are indistinguishable, that alone doesn't mean that one is free to use the trademark of the other.

The trademark issue here is whether the MICKEY MOUSE trademark even survives, at least with regard to goods such as motion pictures. This is because the MICKEY MOUSE trademark is inescapably connected to the Mickey Mouse character, and now the character is free for all to use, meaning that his presence in a work no longer indicates that it comes from a single source. That -- the freedom to use the character, and the loss of the single source expectation of consumers -- is what kills the trademark. And we know that the copyright lapsing will control what happens to the trademark based on precedents like Dastar (where the Supreme Court said that trademark is not allowed to operate like a perpetual form of copyright), and SHREDDED WHEAT (where the Supreme Court said that where a patent expires, anyone is free to use the invention and to use the previously trademarked, descriptive name of the invention).

the work uses the trademark with permission

First, there would largely no longer be a trademark. Second, that would be clear naked licensing, which would likely invalidate the mark anyway.

Comment Re:Casino Noise (Score 1) 120 120

And in any case property tax does end up being a tax on economic activity also, or at least on economic value, which is determined by economic activity.

The Broken Window Fallacy is the classic counterexample. Among other things, it's a means to disengage (and of course, tax) economic activity from the value of property.

I agree that the Broken Window Fallacy is a fallacy. I don't see how it's a counterexample to the claim that property tax is a tax on economic activity. Can you elaborate?

Comment Re:Mickey Mouse copyirght extenstions... (Score 1) 153 153

Sorry, but no. If anyone can make a copy of a work featuring a trademarked character, then the trademark on that character, with regard to goods that are copies of creative works, has to lapse, as the mark has become generic in that context. Once the door is opened for multiple sources of identically marked goods, it kills the trademark. This is just the copyright version of the SHREDDED WHEAT case from the 1930s, plus a bit of the more recent Dastar case.

And the trademark can't prevent people from copying works or creating new derivative works that feature the same trademarked characters.

You're thinking of something more like nominative use, in which a third party can use a mark without permission under certain circumstances. I'm saying that there would no longer be an applicable mark at all.

Comment Re: Mickey Mouse copyirght extenstions... (Score 1) 153 153

There is no stripping of assets.

The natural state of a creative work is to be in the public domain. Authors do not create copyrights; the public creates them (through our servant, the government), with the public benefit in mind. Some works aren't even eligible for copyright at all, because it wouldn't be for the public benefit. When a copyright is granted, it is for a limited period of time, because a perpetual copyright can never be for the public benefit.

Thus, a better way to imagine the situation is this: if the government owns a parcel of public land, such as a small building suitable for a restaurant at a visitor's center in a national park, it can rent the restaurant space to a private business for a period of time. So long as the restaurateur makes his rent and follows other previously agreed upon terms (e.g. compliance with applicable law, signage that complies with the standards set by the park administrators, etc) he is free to profit as much as he can.

But when the lease expires, the restaurateur cannot argue that his business venue has been taken from him, even though it might be a profitable location forever. It was never his to begin with; he just got to use it for a while.

Regarding Mickey Mouse, copyright policy has to ignore subjective assessments of artistic value. What's important is getting as many works as possible created, published, and into the public domain (and as close to the public domain as possible until fully in the public domain). That's how you best serve the public interest.

And if an author argues that his private interest is more important than the public interest, that's all well and good, and I don't have a problem with his self interest (indeed, we're relying on it to motivate him), but why should the public ignore its own collective self interest? As there's no possibility of a copyright without it being granted by the public, authors are not in a strong bargaining position.

Comment Re:I think they might'a meant to say something els (Score 1) 153 153

Actually, the Copyright Act was replaced entirely in 1976 (becoming effective in 1978), and has been amended some, yet in substantial ways, since then. Noises are being made about a new Copyright Act coming along in the near future.

The person who wrote the summary is a bit confused. What happened is that the Warner claim was based on a copy published in 1935. Evidence was discovered of a copy that was published in 1927. That's not terribly interesting, but a copy published in 1922 has also come to light. That is interesting, because the cutoff for copyright on published works is 1923. (Due to the duration of copyright prior to the effective date of the 1976 Act, which retroactively lengthened the term of copyrights that were still in force)

Comment Re:Mickey Mouse copyirght extenstions... (Score 1) 153 153

Disney holds a trademark on Mickey Mouse, and can retain said ownership into perpetuity. That aspect alone can rightfully keep anyone else from utilizing the character in their own works, forever,

No, that part of the trademark will lapse when the copyright terminates. A trademark can't function as a substitute for a copyright. The remainder of the trademark might prevent people from selling MICKEY MOUSE brand breakfast cereal, but it would not stop them from using the character in their own works.

This is really the main reason that Disney is concerned about copyright terms; they know what would happen to the trademark.

"'Tis true, 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis true." -- Poloniouius, in Willie the Shake's _Hamlet, Prince of Darkness_