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I’m at a loss… July 18, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Barbarity.
2 comments

…for words. The Michael Vick affair that’s in the news now has brought into public view one of the most disgusting things that supposedly civilized people still do. It doesn’t matter if it’s dog fighting, cock fighting or any of the other variations of pitting animal against animal that has been invented in our history. I rank this kind of animal abuse as being almost as bad as child abuse. It’s disgusting and makes me about as angry when reminded of how many human beings still enjoy watching pain and suffering take place. If Vick did it I doubt he or his friends who took part will get what they deserve but I can hope.

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Some Ideas Seem Obvious July 14, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Government, Health Care, Politics.
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Robert Stein is posting about health care on his blog. He points out this most logical fact.

We get most of our mail through “a self-supporting postal corporation wholly owned by the federal government” while those who can afford it use FedEx and other private providers. Why not our medical care? We have the example of Medicare which is far from perfect but works reasonably well for older Americans.

In spite of the complaints that some people make, given what they deal with the USPS does a pretty good job. Not perfect, but damn good. One thing that this not-for-profit corporation would do is something similar to what I was involved with when I worked for Planned Parenthood of Greater Kansas City many years ago. I was the data processing department and worked for the CFO. A lot of the work of planning an annual budget was answering a very important question: “How little can we charge?”. Everything was on a sliding scale. The less you made the less you paid. If in fact the concept of this corporation being totally paid for by taxes is a non-starter why can’t it work on a sliding scale basis and what you pay into it depends on what you make? Companies could still subsidize employees expenses as an employment benefit but should someone lose their job their health coverage isn’t lost. If private companies adapt and become some kind of “premium” service they too can be a benefit provided by businesses. In addition I have another suggestion for this hypothetical health care equivalent of the USPS. Do not make a false distinction between anything that factors into health. Make certain that mental health is treated as seriously as physical health. Provide decent dental coverage. Help people with vision care. If you need a pragmatic reason for doing these things just think of how much more productive employees can be when they see what they’re doing clearly, aren’t distracted by a toothache and aren’t having emotional problems that aren’t being treated.

All Good Things… July 14, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Technology.
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Tomorrow the chances that anyone has to simply start up an internet radio station with next to no start up money and be able to take time to build up an audience will end. As written about on DailyTech as well as other sites the new fee increases pushed for by SoundExchange take effect. I’m not going to go into a major rant on this but just think. There are already stations shutting down because these fees are just that, flat amounts that have nothing to do with audience size or revenue stream of the station. According to an official with SoundExchange

“This is just about the artists getting paid fairly. Artists and labels just want a fair share of the pie,” said Richard Ades, a SoundExchange representative.

If that was really their goal wouldn’t they be working with the stations to base the fees on income? But in fact SoundExchange has refused to consider that as an option. So if I started a station and only had about a thousand listeners and only enough ad revenue to cover expenses I would be expected to pay the same as someone who had backing from a large company, many thousands of listeners and an actual net profit in the thousands of dollars. I just don’t see any honesty on the part of the music industry. Again.

(Update)

This is a much more detailed FAQ from CNet. There is in fact a per listener fee and a flat fee. This is still considered unfair by many including myself because it bears no resemblance to what is paid by satellite radio, perhaps the closest to internet radio in terms of where it’s at concerning the general public. Satellite radio pays 7.5% of revenues to SoundExchange.

The Bald Eagle’s Poor Cousins July 4, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Environment, Government, Politics, The Bush Administration.
3 comments

The removal of the bald eagle from the endangered species list has been in the news a lot recently. However, the state of the agency tasked with managing the list and protecting endangered species seems pretty endangered itself. As noted in the L.A. Times it’s budget is being slashed, positions are left unstaffed and what passed for an assistant secretary of the interior who was in charge of it had the competence and integrity so common among Bush administration appointees. The article notes at one point that

Meanwhile, the endangered-species staff is rife with in-fighting, according to a report last month by the Interior Department’s inspector general. And recovery programs, listing decisions and efforts to remove wildlife from existing protections have been heavily influenced by Bush appointees with close ties to industries that have contested the law.

Julie A. MacDonald, a deputy assistant secretary of the Interior who oversaw the endangered-species program, resigned last month after the inspector general found that she had ordered scientists to change their findings, and shared internal documents with lobbyists for agricultural and energy interests.

Somehow this reminds me of the Administration’s approach to global warming. The current head of the program,  Bryan Arroyo, defends the approach that he takes as a loyal Bush employee. He says it’s more effective to work with industry. You can’t affect the economy for the sake of protecting an endangered species is what he seems to be saying. What’s interesting about his claims about the superiority of his approach is that the only example he gives is from his days in Texas. Couldn’t he think of a success story at the federal level of the superior approach he espouses?

I know that lots of people, myself included, wonder about some of what happens because of a species being declared endangered. Aren’t they going too far in thinking that all species, especially those with extremely limited habitats should stop all development? Sometimes they are reasonable doubts. But I worry more right now about the pendulum going too far the other way when 54 out of 58 species added to the list during the Bush administration were only added because of the government being sued. It is true that a reasonable balance should be struck. I just don’t trust anyone that the current Administration might appoint to do that.

What Can We Do About Bush? July 4, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Silly Thoughts.
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Since Dick Cheney’s ego is apparently at least as large as many nations, can we consider Bush’s commutation and future pardon of Scooter Libby and all of the other things Bush has done at Cheney’s behest as treason? Just asking….

Petty Concerns July 3, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Government, Politics, The Bush Administration, What is Justice?.
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I won’t bother providing a link to any one story. Anyone who follows the news at all knows that President Bush has announced that he believes that a sentence 6 months under the maximum allowed for by federal sentencing guidelines is just too harsh for Scooter Libby. So his sentence has been commuted so he won’t serve a single day in prison. Bush couldn’t wait and maybe let him serve a month for perjury in an important investigation. No, no. Far too harsh for such an upstanding citizen. Well, maybe a week just to show that the Bush administration doesn’t consider itself above the law. Nope. How could someone of such delicate sensibilities as an aide to Dick Cheney survive that interminable sentence? Maybe he could report in for a day? Just one little overnight visit to a nice minimum security place near Washington, where a well-paying job with a conservative think tank or lobbying firm awaits on his release from a grueling incarceration? Just to make it look good? No, the wisdom of American conservatism, that bastion of hard core belief in law and order is that a Republican who committed perjury called for a pardon but even GWB wouldn’t go that far just now and pardon Libby. But he did make certain that not one day would be spent in jail by such a loyal apparatchik. But these are petty concerns, meaningless in the greater scheme of American political life.

Let’s move on to something much more important. Who’s starting the betting pools on how soon after the November 2008 election that complete pardon will be announced?

A Cautionary Event for Corporate Bloggers July 2, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Health Care.
2 comments

Google has had one of its employees create a (so far) relatively minor brouhaha over comments she made concerning Michael Moore’s Sicko, criticizing it heavily and pointing out that the ads that Google can sell health care companies can help them “…better manage their reputations through “Get the Facts” or issue management campaigns.”. When her post started getting noticed she “clarified” things.

In my opinion her clarification contains one of the greatest fallacies I’ve heard in recent history. She claims

Whether the healthcare industry wants to rebut charges in Mr. Moore’s movie, or whether Mr. Moore wants to challenge the healthcare industry, advertising is a very democratic and effective way to participate in a public dialogue.

Whatever you might feel about the de facto situation in this country just when did it become so very acceptable to equate money with “democracy” or something being democratic? Admittedly the Supreme Court has told us that limiting money in political campaigns is the same thing as limiting speech. And then someone actually thinks that having the money, and we’re not talking small change here, is what makes for a democratic way to participate in public discourse. Is that really where we want to go? Where is the voice of those who don’t have money when any organization that tries to speak for them is dismissed as just another special interest group or denigrated by some other name?

Will being an individual who has that kind of money be the only “acceptable” way to have a discernible voice in public debates some day? I may write a blog but I am lost in a sea of similar voices. Won’t this be true of the overwhelming majority of the non-wealthy who try to find a voice? No, advertising is not a force for democracy or on behalf of the individual in any conflict between the wealthy and non-wealthy in our society.

You Say Tomato I Say… July 2, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Government, Politics, The Bush Administration, What is Justice?.
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In the New York Times Adam Liptak notes that Bush only commuted Libby’s sentence. He didn’t pardon him. Does anyone really doubt that the pardon is just waiting in the wings for about 18 months?