Antonin Scalia paves the way for change

It’s always a shock when a justice of the Supreme Court dies.  Love ’em, hate ’em, agree or disagree, they are part of a small, elite group of jurists who set the course of justice for an entire country.  Once appointed, they hold their position for life, so it should come as no surprise that to replace one is news making.

I had the honor of meeting Justice Antonin Scalia on the very same day, ten years ago, that I also met Justice Samuel Alito.  For an Italian-American attorney, this was the double-header, to say that I have studied under two justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Heck, it was only a CLE course but how many attorneys can say they got up close and personal with two of The Supremes?

Actually, up close and personal was not exactly what Justice Scalia would allow.  As you can see from the photo, he was not the warm and fuzzy kind and did not want his photo taken with anyone.  Alito, on the other hand, was only too happy to pose when approached with respect and not expectation.

Justice Scalia passed away this past weekend and while his opinions from the bench were always newsworthy, it is his passing that is garnering more than its share of controversy in this Presidential election year.

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Conservative Republicans are playing the stubborn elephants of their party’s mascot, digging in their heels and waving their big trunks, vowing to stall any nomination to the court by President Obama.  Are they that threatened?  No matter who gets appointed, isn’t a judicial nominee supposed to leave their party affiliations at the door of the Supreme Court Building?  Republicans have kicked the sand in the sandbox like spoiled children long enough.  To stall a nomination is not only childish but irresponsible, shackling the court in likely deadlocks for the next eleven months.

If I were President, I’d wait till the kids take their summer recess and then make a recess appointment.  It’s legit.  The President wouldn’t need the approval of the Senate and maybe some cases that mean something could be decided.  A “recess appointed justice” would only hold her position until the end of the next Senate session.  To continue to serve beyond would require a re-appointment and Senate confirmation.  And in our nation’s gloried history, of the ten justices appointed during a recess, only one was not subsequently confirmed by the Senate.

By the way, did you notice that I suggested that “she” would have to be confirmed by a full Senate?  Yes, maybe it’s time for a truly balanced bench with a fourth female justice to serve…then again, that might have to wait until we have a new female President:)

 

Yogi & My Dad

When Yankee great Joe DiMaggio died, my Dad was so sad. When I asked why, he replied, “A big part of my childhood just died.”  Today, I finally get it.

Yogi was my childhood hero, along with John Glenn.  They were heroes at a time when that word meant integrity, courage and mastery of the game, whatever game they played.  Yogi was how my Dad and I bonded over The Yankees…you see,  my Dad was a catcher, one of the best and a great baseball/softball coach to me.

A true hero!

Die hard fans never forgave Mr. Steinbrenner when Yogi was banished but we all followed Yogi’s lead, straight into the stadium when he forgave the man and celebrated Yogi Day in 1999.  It was as if God smiled down on The Bronx that summer day and blessed us all with David Cone’s perfect game…who knew that when Don Larsen tossed a catch to Yogi before the game started that we would be a part of baseball history again. A perfect game on a perfect baseball day.

In my many years as a news reporter, I interviewed Presidents and rock stars, but never was I more excited then when I placed a call to Yogi in NJ and got him on the phone for a “beeper.”  My day, my career was made…and the first call I made after hanging up was to my Dad.

Rest in peace Mr. Berra. Have a catch with my Dad when you see him!

Authors, beware of Amazon’s Copyright Grab!

My publisher recently received a notice from Amazon suggesting the idea of giving away copies of my two books, Amalfi Blue and Shrouded in Pompei.  Amazon’s angle was to increase sales and allow me to promote my books across social media platforms.  No purchase was necessary by the entrant and it’s not really clear who was paying for the cost of the prizes.  Certainly, I was not going to receive money if nothing was being sold.

OK, the free giveaway sounds good so far, right?  Wrong.  If it sounds too good to be true, it generally is!  Lucky for me, I happen to be a really good lawyer and cherish my creative copyrights because the red siren of doom sounded as soon as I read the fine print in Amazon’s Giveaway Services Agreement.

To the uninitiated laymen…you’re screwed if you use Amazon’s Giveaway…in my humble opinion.  Look at the Definitions section.  Amazon defines “Your Material” as “all Technology, Your Trademarks, Content, information, data, photographs, images, videos and other materials and items provided or made available by you or your Affiliates to Amazon or its Affiliates.”

CopyrightThen scroll up to Paragraph 5 and check what type of license you are granting to Amazon:

“You grant us a royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use, reproduce, perform, display, distribute, adapt, modify, excerpt, analyze, re-format, create derivative works of, and otherwise commercially or non-commercially exploit in any manner, any and all of Your Materials, and to sublicense the foregoing rights; provided that nothing in this Agreement will prevent or impair our right to use Your Materials without your consent to the extent that such use is allowable without a license from you or your Affiliates under applicable Law (e.g., fair use under United States copyright law, referential use under trademark law, or valid license from a third party).”

So why does this scream – “put on the brakes?”

  1. Royalty free – that means they don’t have to pay you to use your creative material or content.
  2. Create derivative works – that means they can make a movie or merchandise your characters when the book is a bestseller…again without paying you any royalties.
  3. Sublicense the foregoing rights – that means they can sell your rights, now their rights, to any third party

It amazes me how Amazon continually tries to exploit independent authors who have become the lifeblood of their Kindle revenue stream.  Writers, always, always read the fine print of any Terms & Conditions before signing up for anything that sounds just too good to be true.  You risk giving away your intellectual property rights for a free book giveaway!