HR 3200: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (Full Text)

Below is the final proposal for health care reform issued by the Democratic House of Representatives today, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi confidently asserted she could pass by the end of the summer session. That's right, we only have about four weeks to digest, debate, amend and vote on this 1018-page piece of legislation which seeks to fundamentally redefine the rules of our nation's largest industry. Turns out "change" sucks a whole lot more than the status quo sometimes.

Would love to hear everyone's thoughts...

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ASCAP calls music ringtones "performances" and wants you to pay...

In a brief filed by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) against AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless, ASCAP argues that the music ringtones that you have on your cell phone should be considered "performances" and that they should be compensated each time your phone rings. See the first PDF below for the full text of the brief, courtesy of BetaNews.

So not only will these ringtones continue to annoy the hell out of those of us who have to hear them every time someone next to us on the train gets a phone call, but the fact that we are present to be annoyed in the first place might end up causing that person money because of the performance we were forced to endure against our will!!

The absurdity of the logic underlying this brief is hilarious on its face, but I cannot wait to read the ruling from the District Court judge on whether or not this is a legitimate claim. I mean, didn't a jury recently award a seven figure judgement against a single mother for downloaded a few dozens tracks years ago? I wouldn't put it past the screwed up legal system of this country to actually find in favor of ASCAP.

Fortunately, the ASCAP suit has no intention of shaking down normal folks who's only crime is their total lack of consideration for those around them. Rather, the suit seeks to force the wireless providers to pony up millions on their customer's behalf; costs which would simply be passed along to consumers in the form of higher monthly bills. That's right, even those of us who don't use obnoxious ringtones will be forced to subsidize our annoying family, friends and neighbors who do if this suit is successful.

The second brief embedded below was filed Wednesday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in response to the ASCAP suit. It dismisses the ASCAP suit as "outlandish", but the arguments made to support this dismissal are weak at best. It claims that under the logic of the claim, ASCAP could sue people for listening to their car stereos loudly with the windows open so a passersby could hear the music. However, in that case the music being played is sanctioned by ASCAP because either the radio station broadcasting the song is paying for its distribution. It would be accurate to argue that the music in the car might have been downloaded illegally and played without proper legal rights, but the offense in that scenario would be the illegal file sharing, which would supersede any violation of fair use that may be asserted by the publishers.

After brief consideration I am far from convinced that ASCAP does not have a case, but I am interested to hear what others have to say. Clearly the debate is still fresh so please share your thoughts!

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Exclusive Iraq oil deals go to Chinese and British...

It was very encouraging to see Iraq award exclusive oil deals to British Petroleum (BP) and China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) for the right to work in the Rumaila Field, the country's largest known oil field in Iraq with 17 Billion barrels in reserves. I say this not because I am happy the contracts were not awarded to American firms (ideally they would have been), but rather because it speaks volumes about the current stability of the war torn country's core infrastructure and its prospects for success moving forward independently in a global economic environment.

The Chinese are typically willing to brave dangerous conditions to access valuable natural resources and CNPC is perhaps among the most successful energy companies in the world when it comes to managing production in turbulent environments, evidenced by their unwavering commitment to facilities in much less stable regions like The Sudan. Critical to the CPNC strategy is employing as many locals as possible and supplying the communities surrounding its projects with large non-energy related aid and resources, such as medical supplies and support for education programs that go above and beyond the typical multi-national corporate agenda.

I have long argued that the China model for growing economies in Africa and the Middle East is far superior to the Western models. This is primarily because it relies on social/human capital and the ability to embed its culture and expertise on the ground in large numbers of human bodies, rather than the default Western strategy of distributing vast amounts of monetary aid according to complex economic formulas developed by elite Western academics totally removed from the reality of the conditions taken into consideration.

Dambisa Moyo (@dambisamoyo) has recently made serious waves among elite Ivy thinkers with a new paradigm for Western aid to Africa which is founded on her personal experiences as a child of Africa and as a student of the finest Western institutions and as a distinguished economist at the most powerful/respected investment bank in the world - a truly unique perspective that must not be diminished. She too has recognized the value proposition of a highly engaged Chinese presence in developing nations in Africa and I suspect would extend this recognition to a similar role for the Chinese in Iraq and other struggling (but promising) Middle Eastern economies. I commend Ms. Moyo for her courage and hope she will continue to fight against the intellectual mainstream, because in the end she (and I) will be vindicated by the results of powerful ideas.

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Readthebill.org: Sunlight Foundation Project Pushes for Mandatory 72-hour Period for Congress to Read Bills Before Voting

Readthebill.org is a Sunlight Foundation Project lobbying for a mandatory 72-hour period between the close of debate on a particular piece of legislation and the and the final vote on passage. The project was born out of the frustration felt by nearly all Americans when it became blatantly apparent that none of the members in either the House or Senate have read the legislation they have so confidently and indignantly voted up or down. 
The most recent example of this came just last week when the House passed a pathetic Climate Change Bill which had a 300+ page amendment attached at 3am on the morning of the final vote, which clearly none of the members (with the exception of Minority Leader John Boehner, who stood in filibuster on the house floor before the ultimate vote and read aloud the most ridiculous additions) had actually taken the time to read.

I say READ THE DAMN BILL, its your job!!! Hopefully these idiots in Washington don't f@#$ up the system too bad before the next generation of leaders have their say, though I am not too optimistic, as our problems seem to only get worse every time our "leaders" in Washington do anything to address them.

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