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Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

Record-Breaking Deportation Numbers Are “A Little Deceptive”

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 4:03 PM

President Obama has recently touted record-breaking deportations in advance of his bid to be re-elected in 2012. However, a close look at the facts shows these recently reported statistics are misleading.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced last month that they deported nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants in fiscal year 2011, setting a record for a third consecutive year under the Obama administration. Of the 396,906 illegal immigrants deported, 216,698 were convicted criminals, most of them having been convicted of various DUI offenses.

And, while these record-breaking deportation statistics play well with anti-immigrant groups, they are also politically problematic for the President, because removal (deportation) is an issue that affects almost all Latino households. The overwhelming majority of which are related to, or know someone who is, an immigrant caught up in the removal process.

Accordingly, in an effort to appease Latino voters, the President said in a recent Hispanic online roundtable discussion that: “The statistics are actually a little deceptive because what we’ve been doing is, with the stronger border enforcement, we’ve been apprehending folks at the borders and sending them back. That is counted as a deportation, even though they may have only been held for a day or 48 hours, sent back – that’s counted as a deportation.”

I am inclined to agree with the President that the numbers are “a little deceptive” as they give the impression that the Obama administration is enforcing immigration laws within U.S. borders more rigorously than they really are.

Case in point, the annual report from the Office of Immigration Statistics reveals that ICE is arresting far fewer people in the interior of the United States than ever before. The latest statistics show that in 2010, ICE arrested less than half the number of deportable aliens that they did in 2006, when they arrested 1.2 million deportable aliens.

In fact, arrest numbers of deportable aliens have been dropping for quite some time now. In 2006, the combined efforts of the Investigation Division and the Detention and Removal Division of ICE, resulted in 117,000 alien arrests. The arrest numbers dropped even lower in 2008 to 68,000, and the trend continued with 54,000 arrests in 2010.

And, while the President stated in a recent speech that his administration has “increased the removal of criminals by 70 percent,” ICE records reveal that many of those arrested throughout the year were deported under the Secure Communities Program, which was put into effect to target immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes. But,  immigrants who have been apprehended for minor infractions, such as traffic violations, were also sent packing under this program.

Advocates for immigration overhaul have said that the administration, by placing all illegal immigrants in the same category for deportation, has failed to live up to its promise to only deport the “worst of the worst.” And, again, as removal (deportation) is an issue that affects almost all Latino households, these kind of statistics are not helpful in Obama’s efforts to bolster support among Hispanics as reflected in recent polls indicating shrinking support for the President among Latinos in key battleground states.

The executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, Mark Krikorian, says the Obama administration is just “playing a double game,” meaning that they’re telling everyone what they want to hear. Immigration advocates are being told that enforcement efforts are focusing only on dangerous individuals, which really is not the case, and anti-immigration groups are being advised  of  record-breaking deportation numbers, which while impressive on the surface, don’t hold up under scrutiny when one examines the trend toward declining alien arrest numbers by ICE.

How Do You Tell a Member of Led Zeppelin He’s Wrong?

In Uncategorized on October 24, 2011 at 12:25 PM

Former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones thinks there aren’t any good band names left. In fact, he recently complained to the Wall Street Journal about how difficult it was to find a good name for his new band.

“Every other name is taken,” Jones said. “Think of a great band name and Google it, and you’ll find a French-Canadian jam band with a MySpace page.”

He’s wrong!

In my experience, truly inspired musicians have no problem whatsoever coming up with a great band name. And, while John Paul Jones may have been wrong about the shortage of great band names, he was right to put more than a cursory effort into coming up with a great name for his new band.

Why?

Because a killer band name helps to set expectations for your band, establishing your brand identity. It’s very often the very first thing the audience hears about you – before they’ve even heard your music. Therefore, it must be well-conceived, clever, and creative.

LARGER THAN LIFE is what you’re shooting for…

So How Do You Go About Choosing a Killer Band Name?

A good band name is unique and memorable. Internet searches should point directly to your band. And for that reason alone, these days, a generic word is typically a bad band name, because internet searches are going to lead fans to everything but your band.

And, while a killer band name won’t help if your music isn’t any good, it does potentially give you an opportunity to capture the attention of a future fan base – IF you play your cards right, IF you know how to leverage it, and IF you can actually back it up musically and artistically.

THINK LARGER THAN LIFE. Ideally, your band name should be dripping with je ne sais quoi. Band names like The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and Sonic Dust™ come to mind.

I Came Up With a Killer Band Name, Now What?

From a legal standpoint, never underestimate the importance of obtaining a registration for your band’s name and logo with the United States Patent & Trademark Office. Trademark disputes usually hinge on which band first used a name commercially, and where—and the proof can be as simple as a band’s Facebook page.

Here are some clear cut steps you can take to help your band avoid trademark disputes:

1.  Trademark Your Band’s Name and Logo — If eligible, register your band’s name and logo with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This is evidence that you own the trademark that supports your band’s name and logo throughout the United States. Registration with the USPTO can also be used as a legal basis for obtaining international rights to your band’s name and logo.

2.  Register Internet Domain Names — Register your band’s name with the USPTO at the same time you capture desired internet domain names. This will help you avoid having to deal with unscrupulous domain grabbers who will demand large fees to sell you an internet domain that contains your band’s name.

3.  Watch Your Back — Once you have decided on a band name, it’s important to monitor the industry to make sure no one else tries to use your band’s name or logo. If you do find such an interloper, then you need to immediately send them a cease and desist letter, takedown notice, or similar letter challenging the unauthorized use of your band’s intellectual property. Failure to take these proactive measures can inadvertently dilute or cause abandonment of your trademark rights.

 4.  Lawyer Up —When all else fails, there are always legal remedies to protect your intellectual property.  In the event you believe your intellectual property rights have been violated, you may want to initiate a proceeding with the Trademark Trial Appeals Board (TTAB).

You have this option when: 1). Opposing a pending trademark application, and, 2). When you initiate a cancellation proceeding, which you should do in the event someone registers a confusingly similar trademark with the USPTO.

As a last resort, a federal lawsuit for trademark infringement is always an option, if you have a legitimate cause of action…but this can quickly get expensive.

Of course, if you can afford it, give serious consideration to hiring a qualified intellectual property attorney to file your trademark. Trademark applications may appear to be simple, but if you fill out your application incorrectly, you forfeit certain legal strategies that may be helpful in the event your trademark becomes the subject of litigation.

Still Can’t Think of a Great Band Name?

The aforementioned notwithstanding, I think musicians agonize over band names more than audiences ever do.

The audience just needs a brand identity to recognize you by. Remember, the main reason for creating a brand identity is to establish a consistent, uniform identity so that fans can remain loyal to your band, and feel part of something bigger then themselves…something larger than life.

So, if you can’t think of a killer band name, a bad band name won’t necessarily sink you. A lot of people thought, “The Beatles,” was a stupid band name. And, when you stop and think about it, it kind of is. But it didn’t seem to hurt them a bit, did it?

After all, whether a band name is considered “good,” or not, is largely determined by how successful your band ultimately is.

Compare and Contrast Business Structures

In Business, Texas Law on October 18, 2011 at 10:35 AM

When forming a business, there are many different decisions to make. One of the first, and arguably the most important, is how to structure the business. There are many different options, but depending on how big the business will be, or what is important to the owner, there may be a clear choice.

Sole Proprietorship – A sole proprietorship is the smallest and simplest of the business structures. This structure only has one owner and is essentially an extension of that one owner; it is not a separate entity. The owner reports the business’s income and losses on his own personal income tax return. A sole proprietorship is the cheapest business structure because there are no filing fees with the Texas Secretary of State. There are, however, filing fees for an assumed name certificate (if the business is conducted under a name different from the owner’s) that must be filed in the county of principal business, or else in every county where business is conducted. Filing fees will vary from county to county, but on average range from $9-$20.

While this may seem like the best option for an owner who wants to start small and for as little money as possible, there are some drawbacks to the sole proprietorship. Because the business is not a separate entity, but merely an extension of the owner, there is absolutely no liability shield to the owner. The owner will be personally responsible for all debts and liabilities of the business. This includes any unforeseen tort claims that may be brought against the business.

Limited Partnership – A limited partnership (LP) is another structure that can be used by a smaller business. A partnership in general has to have at least two partners. In a LP, at least one of the partners has to be a general partner, and at least one of the partners has to be a limited partner. The LP must file a certificate of formation ($750) as well as an assumed name certificate ($25) with the Texas Secretary of State. It also must file an assumed name certificate in the county where the business is maintained, just like a sole proprietorship. The LP is governed by the partnership agreement which is created by the partners and does not need to be filed for public record.

The liability of the limited partner is, quite appropriately, limited. The limited partner will only be held liable up to the amount he contributed in capital. This is similar to the liability of a shareholder in a corporation. The general partner, however, has unlimited liability for the debts and actions of the partnership. Often limited liability companies or corporations will serve as a general partner in a LP because of the unlimited liability that attaches to the general partner.

A LP is taxed as though the gains and losses went directly to the partners. This means there will not be “double taxation” (taxed once at the entity level, and then again at the individual level), but instead the income and losses, and therefore taxes, will “flow through” to the partners.

Limited Liability Company – A limited liability company (LLC) is a hybrid of a partnership and a corporation. The LLC must file a certificate of formation ($300) and an assumed name certificate ($25) with the Texas Secretary of State, as well as an assumed name certificate in the county where the business is maintained. This business structure is known for being flexible by nature, and is attractive to many business owners for that reason. It can act more like a partnership or a corporation, depending on what is important to the owner.

LLCs can have multiple owners, including both individuals and other business entities. These owners are known as the members of the LLC and can choose how the business is managed. The LLC is a separate entity from the members. LLCs are taxed like partnerships, meaning there is no “double taxation”, but the gains and losses “flow through” to the members on an individual level. Additionally, LLCs do not have rigid formal requirements that are associated with corporations. For example, there is no requirement to record minutes in meetings.

LLC’s are similar to corporations in the liability of the members. Members in LLCs are treated like shareholders in a corporation, meaning they are usually only held liable for the debts or actions of the LLC up to the amount they contributed to the LLC. This is why LLCs are often used as general partners in LPs. Further, the members of a LLC are protected by the “corporate veil”. The veil is not bullet proof, however, and courts have found that the veil can be “pierced” when members abuse the privileges associated with a LLC and blur the separation of the LLC from the member.

Corporation – Corporations are the most formal business structure an owner can choose. In order to form a corporation, a certificate of formation ($300) and an assumed name certificate ($25) must be filed with the Texas Secretary of State. Additionally, the appropriate assumed named certificate must be filed in the county where the business is maintained.

The owners of a corporation are known as the shareholders. There are no limits on how many shareholders there can be in a corporation. There is also no limit to how many classes of stock a corporation can have. Shareholders have mainly a passive role, and only vote on issues that substantially affect the corporation, such as mergers. The managers of a corporation are known as directors and form the board of directors that runs the corporation. The board of directors elects officers to manage the day-to-day obligations of the corporation.

There are formal requirements that follow the formal structure of a corporation. For example, there is a requirement for minutes to be recorded in meetings, and there are strict standards on the bookkeeping procedures of a corporation. The benefit of having these formalities is that the shareholders will only ever be held liable to the extent of their contribution to the corporation. Shareholders will be protected by the “corporate veil” from being held liable for the actions and debts of the corporation.

The flipside, of course, is that the shareholders of a corporation will be subject to “double taxation.” The income and losses of the corporation will first be taxed at the entity level, and then will be taxed again when the shareholders receive a distribution and are taxed on that amount as income.

“S” Corporation – “S” corporations are those corporations that elect with the IRS to be treated differently for tax purposes. There are certain limitations on “S” corporations, meaning not every corporation can elect this beneficial tax treatment. For example, there can be no more than 100 shareholders, and the corporation can only have one class of stock. Additionally, the corporation must be a domestic corporation (be organized in the United States), and shareholders must be citizens of the United States. The benefit of electing this tax treatment is that the corporation is not taxed at the entity level, meaning the income of the corporation is only taxed once at the individual level and “double taxation” is avoided.