New York slashes hospital spending, but can’t touch multimillion-dollar CEO paychecks

As New York’s health care system slashes spending by charging more to be unwell and providing fewer services to disabled people, one area of costs is off-limits: multimillion-dollar compensation for hospital executives. The best-paid hospital CEOs are paid nearly 10 million dollar a year (and compensation packages for CEOs are on the rise). When an advocacy group mooted the possibility of caps on executive pay, they were outmaneuvered by lobbyists who ensured that the salaries for top administrators would not be considered in efforts to balance the budgets.

A Health Department spokesperson says that the state can’t set compensation levels (or even advise on them) for private businesses, even when those businesses are financed at public expense, which means that no matter how much of a hospital’s budget comes from Medicaid and Medicare, CEOs’ salaries can’t be touched by regulators. The NYT cites the example of Greenwich Village’s St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan, which received large public contributions but went bankrupt anyway, due to mismanagement from administrators — the top ten of whom took home $6 million in pay in the hospital’s last year.

At Bronx-Lebanon, a hospital that exists only by the grace and taxed fortunes of the people of New York State, the chief executive was paid $4.8 million in 2007 and $3.6 million in 2008, records show. At NewYork-Presbyterian, a hospital system that receives nearly half a billion dollars annually in public money, the chief executive was paid $9.8 million in 2007 and $2.8 million in 2008…

A proposal to allow public financing for only the first $1 million in wages for an executive died before it even reached the task force. “It was classic how it was killed,” said Judy Wessler, director of the Commission on the Public’s Health System, an advocacy group that had suggested the limits.

“We submitted the proposal in writing, met with the state staff members about it, then testified for our two minutes at a hearing,” Ms. Wessler said. “Then in the written summary of all the 4,000 proposals, they twisted the wording of ours so that it would be impossible to implement. Then they said it was not viable, so it wasn’t even put up for a vote.”

Immune to Cuts: Lofty Salaries at Hospitals (via Beth Pratt)

(Image: Seven Deadly Sins by Rox Steady, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from nolarisingproject’s photostream)

Authors Guild argues in favor of censorship (also: they don’t know shit about Shakespeare)

The Volokh Conspiracy’s David Post shreds the Authors Guild editorial in this week’s NYT. In it, Scott Turow and James Shapiro argue that America should introduce COICA, an official censorship law that blocks websites that large companies from the entertainment industry don’t like. It’s alarming to see authors arguing in favor of censorship, but the argument put forward in the editorial, “Would the Bard have Survived the Web?” is also profoundly ignorant account of how Shakespeare wrote his works:

To begin with, how odd is it that they’d invoke Shakespeare in this context? “We need stronger copyright or else we won’t get the next Shakespeare” is like arguing “We need the designated hitter, or how will we ever get the next Babe Ruth?” In a copyright-free world — not that I’m advocating such a thing, but hey, you brought it up — we’ll get the next Shakespeare the way we got the last Shakespeare, in a copyright-free world. The first copyright statute, the Statute of Anne, wasn’t passed until 1709, long after Shakespeare was a-moulderin’ in the grave. [That’s what we need a name for — this kind of absurdly misplaced historical argument]

What’s more, old Billy the Shake’s great plays were largely based on works by his contemporaries and forebears — works that would have been illegal “derivative works” had our contemporary copyright laws been in place then.

If you want to read something by an author who understands both copyright and Shakespeare, try James Boyle’s “The Search for an Author: Shakespeare and the Framers.”

There Should Be A Name for This One, Too (via Copyfight)

(Image: William Shakespeare, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from tonynetone’s photostream)

Forger never takes money, only wants to see his works hanging in galleries

The NYT has the bizarre story of American art forger Mark A Landis, who creates convincing art forgeries and then donates them to galleries, refusing all compensation. Seemingly, he does it for the thrill of seeing his work hung as an original, alongside the real deal. Landis occasionally impersonates a priest named Father Scott or an art collector named Steven Gardiner, and when he makes his donations, he accompanies them with a story about honoring fictional dead relatives, his family’s collection and hints about future cash donations.

“It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever come across,” said Matthew Leininger, the director of museum services at the Cincinnati Art Museum, who first met Mr. Landis in 2007 when Mr. Leininger was the registrar at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and Mr. Landis offered to donate several works under his own name.

In the years since, Mr. Leininger has appointed himself as a kind of Javert to Mr. Landis’s Valjean. He maintains a database of all known contacts with Mr. Landis, sightings of him and works he has copied. (He tends to favor lesser-known artists but occasionally tries his hand at a Picasso, a Watteau or a Daumier.) Mr. Leininger circulates by e-mail a picture taken of Mr. Landis in 2008 by the Louisiana State University Museum of Art, and he uses a dry-erase marker to update a laminated map in his office.

Elusive Forger, Giving but Never Stealing (via Super Punch)

(Image: Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum)

Comcast-NBC deal approved by FCC, Justice


The proposed combination of Comcast and NBC Universal was approved by the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday, smoothing the way for the deal to close by the end of January.” As the NYT’s Brian Stelter notes, “Copps, the only FCCer to oppose deal, says it “confers too much power in one company’s hands.” His statement (Scribd). Here is the FCC press release (Scribd).

Update: The Department of Justice has now also approved the deal.

White paper on 3D printing and the law: the coming copyfight

Public Knowledge’s Michael Weinberg has a new white paper: “It Will Be Awesome if They Don’t Screw it Up: 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Fight Over the Next Great Disruptive Technology” — the title says it all, really.

Traditional patent infringement is not necessarily well suited to a world in which individuals are replicating patented items in their own homes for their own use. Unlike with copyright infringement, the mere possession or downloading of a file is not enough to create infringement liability.[36] In order to identify an infringer, the patent owner would need to find a way to determine that the device was actually replicated in the physical world by the potential defendant. This would likely be significantly more time and resource intensive than the monitoring of file trading sites used in copyright infringement cases.

In light of this, following in the wake of large copyright holders, patent owners may turn to the doctrine of contributory infringement to defend their rights.[37] This would allow patent owners to go after those who enable individuals to replicate patented items in their homes. For example, they could sue manufacturers of 3D printers on the grounds that 3D printers are required to make copies. They may sue sites that host design files as havens of piracy. Instead of having to sue hundreds, or even thousands, of individuals with limited resources, patent holders could sue a handful of companies with the resources to pay judgments against them.

In addition to attacking the companies that make 3D printing possible, patent owners may try to stigmatize CAD filetypes in much the same way that copyright holders stigmatize the bittorrent file transfer protocol (or even MP3 files). Successfully equating CAD files with infringement could slow the mainstream adoption of 3D printing and imply that anyone uploading CAD files to a community site is somehow infringing on rights.

It Will Be Awesome if They Don’t Screw it Up: 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Fight Over the Next Great Disruptive Technology

The New York Times Torture Euphemism Generator!

Reading the NYT’s stories about the Iraq War logs, I was struck by how it could get through such gruesome descriptions — fingers chopped off, chemicals splashed on prisoners — without using the word ‘torture.’ For some reason the word is unavailable when it is literally meaningful, yet is readily tossed around for laughs in contexts where it means nothing at all. It turns out the NYT has a reputation for studiously avoiding the word, to the point of using bizarre bureaucratic alternatives. It must be awfully hard work inventing these things. So I thought I’d help out by putting together a torture euphemism generator that the New York Times’ reporters can use to help avoid the T-word in their thumb removal and acid bath coverage.

Continue reading “The New York Times Torture Euphemism Generator!”

INS manager shreds 90,000 docs to lighten workload

A manager at a California INS office got rid of his office’s backlog by ordering his subordinates to shred over 90,000 piece of paperwork. As Danny points out, it’s possible that a number of the deportainees of the last INS round-em-up whose paperwork was out of order were in fact victims of this lunatic, since they were all local to the office where the documents were shredded.

Among the destroyed papers, federal officials charged, were American and foreign passports, applications for asylum, birth certificates and other documents supporting applications for citizenship, visas and work permits

NYT Link Discuss (via Oblomovka)