Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Michigan Health Care

A while back it was asked on one of the Michigan Blogs what we should be fighting for now that the 2006 election is over. Well, I vote for universal health care. This is something that is way past due and will become even more of an issue if (and most likely when) more high paying manufacturing jobs move out of the state (and the country for that matter). If a plan was devised that could save employers money on health care, we could see more new jobs created here.

Now would be a great time to take up this fight, as it seems we may have some help now - Joe Schwarz. He is working on a plan to create a new board appointed by the Governor and the Legislature to create a universal health care system for the state.

We need to get behind the idea of universal health care. We need to blog about it, write to our representatives, and we need to make those in Lansing know that this is an important issue to a lot of people in our state.

There is some talk of universal health care at the national level, but we shouldn't wait. Michigan needs a shot in the arm right now.

This is an issue that I really care about, and an issue that I think needs all the help that it can get. Maybe this issue needs it's own blog. I would offer to start it up, but I don't really have the health care knownledge to do it justice.

Article on Mr. Schwarz and Health Care

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Shopping for health insurance sucks

I've started shopping for health insurance. It isn't fun. There are so many variables. Honestly it is no wonder clerical costs in the health industry are so damn high. Honestly if the plans were at least somewhat the same, I bet a lot of paper work could be saved and therefore would cut down on costs for the provider and ultimately cut down on costs for us. There are a lot of different health insurance agencies, not to mention all those health co-op things that you pay into and you get a discount at the doctors office.

The prices of these plans are ridiculous. Then on top of the high prices you have the deductibles, the co-insurance, and the co-pays. Half of the plans don't even cover normal doctor visits, and the ones that do only cover two a year.

If the people in Washington had to pay for their own insurance (and weren't so damn rich), we would be so much closer to having universal health care for everyone. That to me is something that should be covered in the media and in the blogs more.

The joys of being self-employed I guess.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Michigan and the Film Industry

Being a film guy, I was really happy to hear that Michigan is finally going to be giving some incentives for films to be shot here. Films can bring a lot of money to a state through sales taxes and jobs. Big cities have a whole film office, Michigan has one person for the entire state.

Michigan has been all over the place with trying to get filmmakers to come here. A few years back I had a friend that worked for the Michigan film commissioner. Their job was to supposed to be to attract films to shoot in Michigan, but most of their job ended up being sending Michigan license plates to films set in Michigan but shot elsewhere. For a very brief time Michigan had a film council to help the film commissioner but that didn't last very long ( I only remember hearing of a few meetings). A few years ago Michigan was battling with Chicago for the title of 3rd coast, but neither followed through with the title.

The sad thing is, at one point Michigan had the 3rd largest film industry in the country since most of the auto companies would shoot their commercials, running footage, and b-roll packages here. More feet of film was shot in Michigan than in New York and LA combined. There are still some of that kinda of stuff shot here, but most of the crews that do it now are from Chicago.

I really would like to see at least the films that are supposed to be set in Michigan shot here. Locations are much cheaper to get here than in LA and NYC and most places you don't need a permit to shoot; if you do they are much cheaper.

I have worked on three independent feature films shot here in Michigan, so it does happen. You just don't see many big films come here, the kind that bring a lot of money. The last big film that shot in Michigan that I know of is The Island. It shot for two weeks in Detroit.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Media Vs. Barack Obama

The attack dogs have come out early and are nipping at Mr. Obama already. Is Barack the best canidate for 2008? I don't know yet, but some of the things the media is saying about him are just silly.

Here's CNN saying he looks too much like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's President.

You could expect this from Fox, but CNN? Come on.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Lack of posts

As you might have noticed I haven't posted anything in a while, sorry about that. I have however posted twice at Walberg Watch since posting here and have started a new project which I hope to lunch within the next couple of weeks.. Thanks for hanging in there.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I joined Walberg Watch

I joined Walberg Watch. I figured it is a good way to keep on one what he is doing and a good place to bitch and wine about the crap he will try and pull. Look for my first post there soon (I have to finish a post I am working on for this site first, it's almost done.)

Since Blogger is screwy I had to use a different account other than this one, but it is me.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Political Films: Documentaries Vol. 1

Being a film guy (I am still debating on starting a film blog), I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts on some political films.

For this first post on the subject I thought I would start out with some of the favorite politically themed documentaries.

1. Bowling for Columbine: This is a great example of what a documentary should be. It's not all people talking to the camera, it has humor to it, it makes you cry, and it gets it's point across. I don't always agree with everything the man says, but Micheal Moore sure made one hell of a documentary here. By the way, if you ever get a chance to go hear him speak live, go do it. He is a very good live speaker.

The rest aren't really in any kind of order, but they are all at the top of my list of good political docs.

-An Inconvenient Truth: As far as a film about a Keynote presentation (and the software he uses is Keynote, not PowerPoint, give credit where credit is due. The man is on the board of directors for Apple after all.) goes, I really couldn't imagine doing any better than this.

-Who Killed the Electric Car- Very interesting stuff, and again done the way a good doc should be done, with visuals not just testimonials.

-Roger & Me: Micheal Moore's second best documentary.

Why we Fight: A lot of talking to the camera, but I still dig it.

The War Room
: This is a really interesting peek inside a Presidential campaign. Plus it has James Carville in it before he went even more insane.

Frontline- The Dark Side:
All of Frontline's shows are very talk heavily, but they are still very interesting.

The Fog of War
: I didn't know what to think about it when I first heard about this film, but I am glad I watched it.

Frontline – The Lost Year in Iraq
: A look back at what we did wrong in the first year of Iraq.

Frontline - Is WalMart Good For America
: One of the best documentaries about this controversial store.

Frontline – Karl Rove: The Architect
: This is a much better doc than Bush's Brain (although they bring up a few different points), on a man that will stop at nothing to make sure his candidate wins.

Left of the Dial
: A very interesting look at the beginnings of Air America Radio.

This is no way a comprehensive list of good politically themed documentaries, but these are at the top of my list right now. In the future I will list other good political docs and why they weren't at the top of my list, along with naming new movies to the top of the list.

If you haven't seen any of these flicks, check them out. Most of the Frontlines can be watched online at Also let me know of any good political docs you think I should see.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

More on HB 6456

I was asked for some more info on HB 6456 after my last post, so here goes.

I am on the fence about this bill. Michigan needs more than just Comcast (or whom ever may have the small part of Michigan that Comcast doesn't cover) offering terrestrial video services. But this bill isn't perfect. I think I would fully support this bill if it included provisions insisting the service be rolled out to all parts of the state not just the wealthy, most profitable parts. (The bill states that 25% of the customers enrolled in the service must be low income within 3 years, and 50% within 6 years so that is at least a start. But it also states that if proving video through the phone line, IPTV, it does not have to service an area larger than what it already services.)

Google is the entity pushing the hardest for net neutrality in this bill, and as mentioned in my previous post, for good reason. The other groups that have jumped on board over this issue have done it for much the same reason Google has, to raise awareness of the issue. Part of the problem is, the reporting on this issue hasn't been very good. Most articles about the bill only talk about Google's opposition to the bill in regards to net neutrality making it seem like this bill deals much more with the internet than it does. (It only mentions the internet four times and once it is in regards to advertising, and once in the definition of IPTV.)

Another group opposed to the bill is local municipalities. They throw around a lot of reasons why they are against it, but really it boils down to money. Local governments make the decisions right now as to who gets to operate in any given area, in exchange for a list of provisions and a nice little franchising fee, the company gets to operate in that area. A lot of numbers are being tossed around as far as how much local governments could lose if this bill passed, but all of them I have seen look largely over estimated. When those numbers do get published, all local monies are pooled into one, making the loss per city look much larger than it actually will be. The bill actually provides for some of the money collected from the franchising fees to be given to the local municipalities, but they argue that would not be as much as they would get if they themselves issued the franchise.

The local municipalities other qualm with this bill is that it will take away local bargaining control. Right now the local governments can bargain with the telecos, stating that if they want to operate in the area they have to give free cable to prisons, schools, and other public buildings. They can also request public access channels, and define the areas that the company must provide services for. This new bill will take control over these areas from the local government and give it to the state. The local municipalities argue that doing so will take away the local access channels and take way the free cable to prisons and schools, however that is not the case. It will not take local access away, but instead will make the requirement and the number that must be offered uniform across the state. The bill actually states that the same amount of local access channels that are provided now is required if the company wants to operate in a given area. Also I think this will give us more bargaining control over things like free access for schools since they will be bargaining to cover the entire state verses one town None of these issues seems to be really striking a chord with the Michigan people so now some local municipalities have jumped on the net neutrality band wagon and are stating that the new bill will leave large areas of the state not covered by any service.

There are also a couple smaller arguments they raise as well. They list right-of-away issues (where the new wires will be ran, what poles can the new wires go on, will they need new poles) that would have to be somewhat rethought as a reason against this bill. As I see it rights-of-ways have been figured out many times in the past, they should be able to be figured out again. Local municipalities argue that consumers will have to complain to the state rather than local governments in order for their issues to be heard and therefore it will take longer for complaints to be resolved. To me, this is a very bold augment to be made since my local government has been bullied in the past from Comcast. Our government complained to Comcast that we are over paying for our service compared to other towns and cities. The city council stated that Ann Arbor pays the same amount of money that we do, but gets a lot more channels, something in the order of 10-15 more than us. Comcast said they were not going to lower their rates and they would not give us more channels.

Yet another argument against this bill is, heavy opposition to and a dislike of AT&T. Right now AT&T is pushing for this bill to go through so they can begin to offer terrestrial video services (their IPTV which sends cable programing through the internet) in Michigan. People argue that this bill is really a give away to AT&T since it would allow them to expand their IPTV which right now is only in a few areas of the country. This bill really isn't designed to be any kind of giveaway, right now AT&T has shown the most interest in proving a service in Michigan that they can not provide right now. That is not to say that some other company might not went to offer their services in Michigan in the future as well.

All in all, I don't think the bill is bad, but it could use some work. I don't think it needs to be completely rewritten as some have called for (this bill already is a compromise of an earlier bill that tried to set up multiple terrestrial video services in Michigan), but a couple extra items could help making it easier for some to swallow. I love the idea of opening up competition in Michigan. As far as net neutrality goes, I am not that worried about it at the state level, yes it would send a message to Washington, but it would do little to ensure an actual neutral internet. Also, something that has been brought to my attention is that if the Telecos actually do go to a two tiered system and congress did nothing about it, they would take their fight to the Department of Justice's Anti-trust devision.

Mini disclaimer: I am not an expert on this bill, but I have read parts of it (it's 24 pages long) and have read some reporting on it prior to the whole net neutrality issue being raised, along with a bunch after the issue was raised. Also I am very, very fed up with Comcast and their very poor service and insanely high prices. But I also was Telecommunications major at MSU.

Here are a couple of links explaining the anti-trust route Google may take

Here is a link to the bill

Once again cross-posted at Michigan Liberal

Friday, December 01, 2006

Net Neutrality

With net neutrality once again being talked about, I thought I should give my 2 cents about it.

With HB 6456 passing the Michigan House there has been a lot of talk about passing a bill statewide enforcing net neutrality. This is a good first step, and it sends a message but really it doesn't stop a two tiered internet. What passing a net neutrality bill in Michigan would do is it wouldn't allow any two tiered system equipment in the state. Information sent and received within the state would be treated by the telecoms as equals. However, a neighboring state may not have net neutrality on the books and therefore could cripple the traffic coming from that state. If such a thing were allowed to happen, a few states without net neutrality would effectively create a two tiered system for the entire country.

Since the Internet has no set path from point A, the server the data is stored on, and point B, the user, any kink in the system could cripple the entire system. If a switch or router your data goes through on the way to your computer is in a state that doesn't have net neutrality it could be slowed at that point eliminating the neutral net work in a state with net neutrality.

Even if every state had net neutrality on the books, but there was not national net neutrality law, the telcos could still create a two tiered system for information going into and out of the country, not to mention data crossing state lines. Each state would have different guidelines as to what passes as a neutral network which would create loopholes large enough to drive a semi-truck through.

Net neutrality is a very important issue that must be taken on at the national level to be truly effective. Passing net neutrality bills in states is a good first step, it sends a very important message to Washington.

So the question could be asked then, why would Google raise such a fit over HB 6456? Well quite simply for what is going on right now. Net neutrality is an important issue again. People are talking about it, people are getting mad over it. If Google succeeded in getting net neutrality added to the bill it would be a huge victory for them. They would have somewhat of a blueprint as to how to take the issue to other states and to Washington, their ultimate goal. They would send a very important message to the Telecom companies that the American people want a neutral network and they now have the means to fight back.

A bill allowing multiple video services in Michigan could actually help keep the Internet stay neutral. If either Comcast or AT&T decided to go to a two tiered internet, there would be a mass exodus from that service to the competing service. If that service went to a two tiered system, users would move to a third service. This would continue as the large telcos made their move to a two tiered system. We would see an increase in local ISPs again. Once the telcos got it through their greedy little heads that people are unwilling to pay for a services that cripples most of the internet they will drop this stupid idea of a two tiered system.

P.S. Also keep in mind AT&T already offers internet in Michigan. And the proposed upgrades to the system in order to offer video services as well, would actually make their internet offerings faster. Also the goal of this bill is to open up competition in video services, not just allow AT&T to operate.

My point of this post is to say that net neutrality is much, much bigger than just this HB 6456. We cannot forget that, and therefore we need to focus our efforts on the issue rather than just on this bill.

Cross-posted at Michigan Liberal