Bureaucrat Beat: Cartoon Innuendo, Control Freaks and Misguided Money

We’ll start Bureaucrat Beat today with some thank-you’s. First, to US Forest
Service Public Information Officer Nancy Upham. She has gone to work to look for answers to public questions about the Inyo Complex fire.

One of the biggest public complaints we have heard – the seeming lack of co-ordination among the various agencies to get the fire out. Upham said she did discover that there are agreements between the USFS and volunteer fire departments on an ongoing basis. So, theoretically, the volunteers and the USFS can work together on big fires.

A major concern brought up by citizens – the apparent turn-down of help from DWP in Independence. Upham said she’s looking into that and will tell us what she learns. Upham did say that there’s a lot to be learned from the big fires. For one, she suggested, the idea to maintain fuel breaks around communities. Upham said she believes there will be a lot of good dialogue about the fire and what we can do to make ourselves more safe. She said, “We will be much more ready if we can take the lessons learned, come up with actions needed and act.” Well stated.

The other thank-you goes to Inyo rancher Scott Kemp. He had taken the time and trouble to cut out 5 editions of the comic strip Non Sequitur back in April. They were framed with a hand-written note and mailed to my P.O. Box.

The cartoons made fun of the news media in various fashions with the implication that news reporters use the phrase “some say” to make false stories seem true. We can only assume that Mr. Kemp feels we reported something inaccurately. He has not called to complain, but maybe he was afraid to because everyone would know he was listening to KSRW. Scott, if you’re listening now, give us a call. We’ll be happy to talk.

And, thanks to those have asked us to stream KSRW-FM over our new website. We want to, but a huge controversy now rages. Who’s the culprit? Yes, bureaucratphobes, it’s our own government! The federal Copyright Royalty Board set higher royalties that webcasting radio stations must pay, retroactive to January 2006. By 2010, webcasters must also pay 20 cents per listener, up from 8 cents. Plus, there are payments of up to 12% of all internet radio station revenue that would go to SoundExchange, the organization that collects royalties for musicians and record companies.

But it was the government Copyright Royalty Board that kicked up the cost. Congress has co-sponsored a bill that would reduce costs to web radio stations. One-third of a cent per hour of music to a single listener or 7.5% of revenues. At these rates, the webcaster would pay less than $3,000 each year to broadcast. Under the current rules, the same station would have to pay nearly $25,000 per year. Righttttt!!!! That’s out-of-businessville. Stay tuned.

Remember the lady who sued McDonald’s because she spilled hot coffee on herself? For fun, some folks created the Stella Awards which acknowledge the most frivolous, ridiculous, successful lawsuits in the U.S.

This year’s first place winner of the Stella Award goes to an Oklahoma City woman who bought a brand new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip, having zipped onto the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the drivers seat to go into the back and make a sandwich.

Guess what? The RV left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Gee. How shocking!! The woman sued Winnebago for not advising her in the owner’s manual that she couldn’t actually do this. That’s astonishing enough, but the jury response tops it. They awarded her $1.75 million plus a new motor home. The company actually changed their manuals to say you have to continue driving when you set cruise control!!! Gives control freak a whole new meaning!

Speaking of freaks with control, how ’bout the insurance industry! When the feds brought out the Medicare Part D program that allowed private providers to sell coverage to seniors, some of those companies cleaned up. One company, called Humana (are they trying to sound like Humana-tarians?!) ran up record profits with big subsidies from the feds. Humana gained 4 million new policy-holders. Government-types seem to love to pump up certain private businesses with taxpayers’ dollars, but what about healthcare service? As one news report said, if the government can come up with $50 billion to subsidize companies why not fork over the same $50 billion to pay for care directly?

Meanwhile, down on the ground in the Eastern Sierra, what about the Bishop City Council approval of the environmental document on Vons plan to put in a gas station and convenience store right there in the shopping area?

What about traffic? What about the bizarre circulation patterns in the area – you can’t turn right on Main St. from the west exit of Vons. It’s darn hard to turning that same driveway from Main St. Wasn’t there supposed to be a traffic light at Main and Wye Rd.? We’ll look further.

Also, take a look at our new website – www.sierrawave.net. You can comment on line on each story or issue. We look forward to your thoughts.

Finally, a very big thank you to DWP’s Bruce Martin who came when we called about a huge limb that tumbled down on a power line. On a Sunday, no less. That’s service. Thank you!

This is Benett Kessler signing off for Bureaucrat Beat. We want to hear what you have to say about life in the Eastern Sierra and beyond.

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