Friday, December 30, 2011

Settled in

I have moved since my last post. I am now several states and over 1,000 miles away, living the retired life. I begin school in two weeks, and I am ready to begin my new life. Two years of school, and I can begin my next career. It will pay more than the $19 an hour I made as a firefighter, I promise you that.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chickens roosting

A have a point to make, but first some history:
In 1951, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, grew tired of the British Empire's monopoly on Iranian oil reserves, and nationalized the oil industry. The Brits needed that oil, so Churchill got Eisenhower to overthrow the Iranian government during Operation Ajax in 1953. This placed Shah Pahlavi in charge as an authoritarian dictator. That's right- the US made the world safe for democracy by overthrowing a democratically elected government and turning it into a dictatorship. Iran was supplied with military weapons by the United States until 1979.

In 1979, the Islamic revolution overthrew the dictatorship and placed Ayatollah Khomeni in charge. In the process, the Iranians raided the US embassy and took the occupants hostage. The American people were outraged. Also that same year, the United States began training and equipping a force to overthrow the Russians in Pakistan and Afghanistan. That force was led by a man named Osama bin Laden.

Iran became a thorn in America's side, and needed to be reined in. A perfect ally was found in Saddam Hussein, the leader of Iraq. The CIA supplied him with weapons and other aid, so that he could fight Iran. Reagan removed Iraq from the list of terrorist nations, and began selling arms to them. A list of the supplied aid:
Helicopters, intelligence, war planning, machine tools, computers, instruments, and other goods to support missile and WMD development, howitzers, bombs, and other military hardware, along with billions of dollars in foreign aid. This aid continued until 1990.

In 1990, the US sent troops to Saudi Arabia to counter the ambitions of Saddam Hussein. This infuriated bin Laden that foreign troops would be in his country, and he turned his attention to the west.

Terror attacks increased, culminating with the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Our non-stop meddling in the affairs of the middle east led us to this point.

In a way, Reverend Wright had it correct, America's chickens had come home to roost. Ron Paul also has it correct: it is time that we as a nation stop interfering with other nations. This mantra that we have in this nation of never ending war has got to stop.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why use banks?

I was reading this article about a young man who had a savings account with less than $5 in it who racked up over $200 in banking fees. With a balance of $4.95, he was charged a $9.95 account maintenance fee, and this caused the account to overdraft, thus triggering a $28 per day overdraft fee. By the time he was notified by mail of the problem a week later, he had racked up $229 in fees.

This got me to looking at my own account. Banks used to be an excellent way to protect your money. You placed your money there for safekeeping, and the bank paid you a small amount of interest for the privilege of being able to lend your money to others. Checking accounts, not being available for lending, typically charged a small fee for the convenience of keeping your spending money safe.

Not any longer. At prevailing interest rates, you are only earning about $1.50 a month on a $10,000 savings account. So at the end of a year, you have exposed your ten grand to the risk of being stolen by the government via inflation, and by the very company that you have entrusted your hard earned money with through the use of fees and charges, all for the token sum of $18.  An account of $10,000 earns $18 in interest in a year, but loses hundreds of dollars in value from inflation.

What I have done instead is to leave operating funds in my checking account, which being direct deposited at a credit union, lets me avoid banking fees. I keep one month's expenses in a savings account at the same credit union, which gives me a measure of insurance against overdrafts and small to medium unexpected expenses on short notice, and I invest the rest.

Now remember that gold typically holds it value against inflation. That is, an amount of gold will hold its value when measured against inflation, with the exception of small, short term variation and broker fees. It is those fees and variations that must be accounted for. For example, I bought gold when it was $1370 per ounce in September of 2010. There is a small premium for my preferred form of gold, and along with broker's fees, I paid $5400 for 4 ounces of gold.At today's price, I could sell that 4 ounces for roughly $8900- a profit of $3400, which is an annual return of nearly 200%.

Now today is a down fluctuation time- time to buy more. Gold has fallen almost $150 per ounce in the last 30 days. That is not a bad thing. As I write this, gold is down to $1580 an ounce, as the dollar increases in strength due to the impending collapse of the European Union. This means that we can buy gold at rock bottom prices. I am thinking of grabbing a few ounces this week or next, and catching it near the bottom.

Once the United States crashes in similar fashion (which is inevitable, considering the way we are emulating the out of control spending of Europe) people left with dollar denominated assets (stocks, bonds, savings accounts) will find their savings evaporated by inflation, while those holding assets like metals, oil, and durables will find that they have held their value.

The big downside here is physical security. I have a large, heavy safe, a cell phone connected burglar alarm, motion activated security lights, and numerous other security measures. Add to that the fact that there is an armed guard residing on the premises (me), and this is a pretty secure facility.

Use banks for short term liquidity, hold hard assets for long term savings. So here is my advice:
1 Get rid of all of your debt.
2 Establish a short term emergency fund of 1-2 month's expenses (not income).
3 Have at least one month's worth of food and needed supplies in the house.
4.Go easy on the luxuries like dining out, video games, expensive electronics, etc.
5.Save money in hard assets. (Things that hold their value that you can readily sell or trade for things you need)
6.Pay for a place to live in full. If you are making payments, you don't own the house, the bank does.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Handguns

I own about two dozen handguns, give or take a couple. While this is a sufficient number of handguns to give members of the antigun coalitions a heart attack, and have the press talk about my "arsenal," there are many avid gunners out there that own far more than I. As a concealed weapons permit holder, I find myself carrying a handgun about 80% of the time when I am out of the house. Now many people will say that this is a large number of guns, perhaps even too many, and to them I say: Each one of my handguns fulfills a unique purpose, and was a needed addition to my collection. Each handgun brings to the table some advantages and some disadvantages. Some examples:

Smith and Wesson J Frame: I own a Model 642, a hammerless .38 Special that I find myself carrying a plurality of the time, as it is easily concealable and very lightweight (16.5 ounces loaded). In Florida, it is frequently difficult to find a comfortable cover garment, and I have found that sliding the J frame into a pocket holster in the right front pocket of my trousers or into a Galco Ankle Glove is a very convenient. I even carry this revolver in a belly band while jogging. The fact that it is a revolver simplifies the operation of the pistol and makes correcting a malfunction as easy as pulling the trigger again. The disadvantages to this revolver are: It only holds 5 rounds, reloads take a considerable amount of time, and the sights on this pistol leave a lot to be desired. Accuracy beyond 12 yards is poor under any kind of realistic defensive shooting conditions.

Kimber Ultra TLE II: This Commander sized 1911 in Stainless steel, with night sights and Crimson Trace Laser Grips is the pistol that I find myself carrying most often when cover garments allow. Loaded with Gold Dot 230 grain +P hollow points, I get over 400 foot pounds of .45 defensive power. I carry this pistol in a Brommeland Max-Con V inside my waistband on my right hip, and a single 7 round spare magazine on my left hip. Other times, I opt for a Saddle holster from Andrews Leather. I like the combination of thin profile, accuracy, smooth trigger, and easy concealability that this pistol offers. The disadvantages are that the pistol has a lot of sharp spots on it that seem to either dig in to sensitive skin, or wear holes in my clothes.

I also frequently carry one of the two Sig Sauer P229s that I own. Of the pair, I carry the .357 Sig the most, but I also carry the 9mm frequently. The chief advantage of these pistols is the 13 rounds of .357 or the 14 rounds of 9mm that this pistol can hold. Both pistols have night sights and Crimson Trace Laser Grips. I usually carry this model in an Andrews Leather McDaniel II inside the pants holster, a Saddle style holster, or a belt slide holster.  The chief disadvantage is that the pistol is thick enough that concealing becomes an issue, especially since the grip laser tends to cause my shirt to ride up.

Another pistol is my Sig Sauer Mosquito. I bought this because I needed a .22LR with which to practice, as the ammunition is pretty cheap, but I have found several advantages to this particular pistol that I hadn't considered before owning one. First, it is great for new shooters, especially women. The noise and recoil are not nearly as intimidating, and the women LIKE shooting it, an important factor when trying to convince new shooters that guns are not as scary as they thought. This particular pistol has convinced at least three formerly anti-gun leaning people to not be afraid of guns, and one of them actually now carries a pistol as a CCW holder. Additionally, some cheaper brands of .22 ammo cause a lot of malfunctions, which is good for sharpening my own skill at rapid malfunction clearing drills.

In short, every gun I have serves a unique purpose, and have never been used to kill anyone, despite what the anti-gun crowd claims.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Spend it like it isn't yours

As of November 30th, the National Debt stands at a whopping $15.1 trillion. It took the Obama administration less than three years to borrow $4.5 trillion, what it took the Bush administration 7 1/2 years to borrow. In nearly every measurable way, the Obama administration has been even worse for the country that Bush was. Why isn't the press reporting on this?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The seeds of a totalitarian state

This is why I have no respect for Republicans. They are for big government just as much as the Democrats. Do you REALLY think that the military arresting people and holding them without trial is the wise thing to do?

Politics in America are not about ideals. Instead, the Democrats and Republicans are merely fighting over who gets to be the dictator.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Retired

I fought my first fire in the fall 1987. I graduated from EMT school in March of 1989.
I spent my first nine years volunteering to run EMS and fire calls. I decided to take my volunteer status full time for pay.
In the past 25 years, I estimate that I have run 35 or 40 thousand calls. I can honestly say that I have made a real difference in the lives of thousands of people, and I have literally brought dozens back from the dead. I have delivered three babies: one on the floor of a bathroom. I have taught my craft to over a thousand paramedic students, and several times that many EMT students. I have mentored hundreds.
I have been twice injured in the line of duty, and was once told that I had received a "career ending injury" and would never again walk without a cane. I fought through the injury and the pain, and was back to work in just over six months.
A full career by anyone's standard of measurement. Today is my last day in that career. I am retiring from that career, and am embarking on my next journey, and by the time you read this my final shift will be well underway. I will always remember the good times, and wish my fellow EMS workers the best in their trials. When you paramedics next see me in the ER, I will be that Physician Assistant who (I hope) will never forget where he came from.
One month from today, I will be moving across several states to attend school in order to earn my Master's degree in Physician Assistant studies. I must admit that I am pretty nervous, leaving my career and my home of the last 18 years in order to attend a very difficult program.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Illegal Carry by repo men

In the December issue of the Armed Citizen, there is a report of a shooting where a man repossessing a car used a handgun to defend himself from a man who shot at him. As a life member of the NRA and being a concealed weapons permit holder for over 20 years, I fully defend that man's right to defend his own life, it should also be noted that the repossession agent was NOT legally carrying a firearm, as it is illegal for a repo agent to carry a firearm while conducting a repo.

See Florida Statute 493.6115(3), which reads:
No employee shall carry or be furnished a weapon or firearm unless the carrying of a weapon or firearm is required by her or his duties, nor shall an employee carry a weapon or firearm except in connection with those duties. When carried pursuant to this subsection, the weapon or firearm shall be encased in view at all times except as provided in subsection (4).

I do not think that it serves our cause to support the illegal carrying of weapons and firearms.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful that I am still healthy, and that I get to spend time with my family today, and that I have so many friends that support and share good times with.

May you all enjoy the holidays.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Too many degrees

Have you ever heard that you need to go to college to get a good job? I know that I did. Heck, my parents practically tied me up and took me to the military recruiter because I didn't go to college. The reason that our parents thought that college was so important is because of how well college graduates did in college.


In 1950, only one third of the adults in the United States had a high school diploma. Many of the adults were blue collar factory workers and made a good living. Only about 1 in 20 adults had graduated from college.
That was before education became big business. School became easier, and kids were passed on to the next grade, not because they had mastered the skills needed, but because teachers were afraid of damaging the kids' self esteem. In 2010, 80 percent of adults were high school graduates, and 20 percent had a 4 year degree or more.

So the latest generation is flush with college degrees that mean little, because many schools are offering degrees in things that are not needed job skills. Because we have all of these degrees, we are demanding high wages, and this has driven the blue collar jobs out of the country. Unemployment is rampant. At the same time, we are paying people the equivalent of $10 an hour to sit at home for up to two years, so there is little to no incentive for work.
Instead of making things like cars and appliances, we sit around and make war and college graduates with degrees in French Poetry and Women's Studies. We spend money like there is no limit, and for that we are doomed. Soon, we will reach the nation's credit limit, and our time as the world's superpower will be over. I find myself wondering how hard the times that are coming will be.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

One month

Well, the clock continues to count down. I now have only one month left before I am officially a retired firefighter. In just over two months, I will be a PA student, and in just over two years, I will be a PA. Time will fly by.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stop it!

I keep hearing the right bleat on about how this country is a Christian nation. They are wrong. John Adams, Sr. (one of the founders) wrote in the Treaty Of Tripoli, which was unanimously approved by Congress, and became law in 1797:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims),—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Yet, the Republicans are constantly trying to worm religion into every corner of American life, by using the coercive power of the state to do so. For example, wanting to alter the WW2 memorial to add a prayer to it, or passing resolutions about posting the phrase, "In God We Trust" in public buildings. (Even though the phrase was not a US motto before 1957)

Look, I don't care if you worship any particular god, but using government to force others to listen to your version of "the way" is not proper. Show me in the Constitution where it says that we are a Christian nation.

A religion is like a penis- it's great that you have one, but rude to try and cram it down other people's throats.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Unions and elections

My opinions for Unions have been expressed before. In fact, I have done so on more than one occasion. I have worked in two different workplaces that would be considered a union shop. One of the biggest problems with a union shop is that they are run as a democracy, with the majority making decisions that everyone must abide by. Another big problem is that certain members of the union use power and influence to control what the majority thinks and votes for. This can result in some pretty underhanded dealings.

The most recent union shop is the one that I am about to retire from. The issue that has brought this to light is a recent vote that was taken by the union at my current employer. Let me begin by saying that I am retiring in 5 weeks, and will not be affected by this vote, but that doesn't mean that I approve of how it was done.

The vote is to change the fire department schedule from a 24 hours on, followed by 48 hours off, to a schedule where firefighters work 48 hours on duty, followed by 96 hours off. This topic has come up for debate every year at contract time, for about the last five years and has not ever been approved. There are a lot of conflicting opinions on this, and I will not debate or air them here. Instead, I want to talk about HOW the vote was done.

There is a core of firefighters that want the schedule to change, and they have been pressing for it for a few years now. An election was recently held for union president, and the new president is in the 48/96 camp. As his first act, he decided to lobby everyone for the schedule change and held a vote, which he said would require a 65% supermajority to implement. Everyone would be able to vote, even employees who would be affected by the change, but were not even union members. Sounds fair, right? I thought so too, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.

The vote was done by secret ballot. Each voter was given a piece of paper and told to write which schedule they preferred. There are 90 firefighters who work for the fire department, and the vote was close to not passing with the required 65%: There were 60 votes for, and 27 against, meaning that the new schedule was approved by one more vote than was required.

There is a catch: At least three votes were not counted. Mine, another firefighter who has said that she is leaving in February, and a firefighter assigned to a 40 hour work week in the front office. The excuse for that is because two of us were quitting, and the third was not going to work that schedule, our votes shouldn't count. Additionally, there were people who wrote "I don't care" and another who wrote "I have no opinion until I see details" and both of those were counted as "yes" votes.

Complicating things further, the president, who was the one pushing for the new schedule, was the one who collected and counted the ballots, which he claims to have thrown away after counting them.

This whole issue is like our elections process in miniature.

And before anyone comments here about how unions are evil, stuff it. Corporations are no better: Enron, Citigroup, GM, and many others have proven that people are the problem, not the organizations that they create to gain power.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two year anniversary

I also just realized that today marks the two year anniversary of my bankruptcy filing.

After finding myself owing $240,000 on a home that was only worth about $120,000, and trying to get some help from the banks that were flush with billions of bailout money, I decided that I could either be stuck with 27 more years of mortgage payments totaling over half a million so that I could own a home worth less than $100,000, or I could do the financially wise thing and walk away, I decided to declare bankruptcy.

It was a wise decision. It turns out the bank had sold my loan to 3 other banks at the same time, so no one knows who really owns the loan. They cannot find the loan paperwork, and it turns out that there are no bank records showing who owns the loan, so I still own the home even though I haven't made the last 25 payments. The bank lied in court, and provided forged papers to try and prove that I owed them money. They got caught, I sued them, and won a not insubstantial pile of money.

I have no debt, a 3 year old, paid for in cash pickup truck, and $40,000 in savings. I have no debt. My credit score of 655 isn't too bad, considering a two year old bankruptcy.

Veteran unemployment

There is an article from Reuters this morning about the difficulty that veterans are having in finding a job. This is nothing new, and I blame the military and its recruiting system. When I got out of the Navy in 1992, I thought that I had a large bank of skills that employers would value. After all, that is one of the big pitches that you hear from the recruiters, is that the military teaches you skills that employers want. When it was time to get out, the pressure from the military was high: I was told that there were no jobs out there, and that I would either be back within a year or wind up homeless. They were right. I wound up homeless within a year.

I was trained as an Electrician's Mate. During the six years that I spent in the Navy, I went to the Electrician school, where I learned to repair all sorts of electrical systems, run the ship's electrical power plant, and other valuable (I thought) skills. I spent nearly 4 years performing those activities, and then topped it off my going to Motor Rewind School and learning to rebuild and repair electric motors, another allegedly valuable skill.

It turns out that the best training that I got while I was in the Navy had nothing to do with the Navy. While stationed in Virginia, I had been a volunteer firefighter in a nearby town during what spare time I had, and the volunteer department had trained me to be an EMT.

When I got out of the military, I was in for a rude awakening. I tried to secure a job repairing electric motors, but no one would hire me to do anything other than entry level work for $6.50 an hour, because military equipment and repair procedures tend to be ten to twenty years behind what industry is up to. When I got out in 1992, the Navy was still using amplifiers that had vacuum tubes. I tried running my own business, but it turns out that I was ill prepared for that, and my wife, children, and I were soon living in the storeroom of my business.

We thought it was the job market where we were, so the wife and I picked up and went to Orlando, Florida. I tried to get jobs at power plants, theme parks, factories, and many other places. Many employers told me that military equipment, skills, and training were outdated and meant nothing. They also explained to me that many of the things the military trained me to do required a license to do out in the civilian world. A license that I did not have.
I finally wound up as an electrician's helper, building houses for $7 an hour. I traded jobs as I could find a higher paying one, and we ate a lot of meals that consisted of hot dogs sliced into a pot of macaroni and cheese. We ate so much Hamburger Helper that now, fifteen years later, I still can't stand to even look at the stuff. (neither can my kids.)

During the entire episode, I was a volunteer firefighter/EMT.  Four years after moving to Florida, at the age of 31, I was able to scrape together enough money and pay for the school that would earn me Florida certifications as a firefighter and as an EMT. Once I got my licenses, I was able to secure a job with the fire department for $8.50 an hour, and the rest, as they say, is history. It was tough doing this, as many fire departments have physical agility tests as a part of the hiring process, and I found myself physically competing against men who were 12 years younger than I was. I had effectively started over at the age of 31.

The moral of this story is that the recruiters will tell you that will be learning valuable skills in the military. It is a lie. The general rule is that the skills you learn in the military are loosely connected to the outside world, and when you get out, you will find yourself being treated as if you were right out of high school.

Do yourself a favor, and remember this: Do not join the military for the education and training. If you want to join to defend your country (I can understand that, even though our military hasn't had to defend our country in over 70 years) but go to college first and do it as an officer. At least then you can use the degree to get a decent job when you get out.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Safety is an illusion

I ran across this article about five of the safety measures that we take that do not make us safer. Interestingly enough, number five is the TSA and their airport security measures. According to the article:
There's a reason security expert Bruce Schneier described the No-Fly list as "a list of people so dangerous they cannot be allowed to fly under any circumstance, yet so innocent we can't arrest them even under the Patriot Act."
 So they are so innocent that they cannot be arrested or charged with a crime, but there are plenty of people out there who would add this secret government list to the reasons why you should not be allowed to own one of the best tools of self defense: a gun. Secret lists kept by the government never work out very well.

 It turns out that antilock brakes and bike helmets do not help us, even though they are required by government. Sunscreen is a marketing ploy (because it doesn't block the rays which are most likely to cause cancer). Breast exams actually increase mortality, because the number of unnecessary biopsies and the complications associated with them cause more deaths than the cancer they are designed to detect. Gated communities are also worthless.

In other words, security and safety as it is practiced today is an illusion designed to make you FEEL safer without actually making you safer. I guess feeling safer is better than actually being self reliant.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blogging milestone passed

Today, I crossed the 25,000 hit mark. I know that I am not in the same league with some of the mega-blogs, but I am impressed that eyeballs have decided to view my writings over 25,000 times over the past 4 years and 3 months. Thank all of you for coming to read.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

45 days

I am retiring in 45 days, and I will be moving 1100 miles away to become a full time student. In a way, I look forward to what is to come, but I am also a little apprehensive. What will happen? Will I succeed? How difficult will school be? Even though I have budgeted, did I make an error? Will I be broke?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Of laws and tyrants

There are some lawyers who are arguing about the legality of the Declaration of Independence. Let me settle this: Of course declaring Independence from the King was illegal: If it weren't, then it wouldn't have been necessary. No tyrant ever makes it legal to resist his power.

The only difference between George Washington and Osama Bin Laden is that Washington won. Let me explain:
Did the colonists burn down the homes of tax collectors, and kill their families? Yep.
Did the colonists use force to destroy public property to further their political aims? Yep.

There was little difference between what the American Revolution attempted to do, and any other citizen uprising. What made the American Revolution unique is not the Declaration of Independence, it was what came after the revolution was run. Very few revolutions succeed in providing more freedom, many simply cause one tyrant to be replaced with another. When Washington became president, he insisted that he not be a king, and that the office remain one of the people, and that the Federal government was to remain a servant of the states, and of the people. That held true until the beginning of the civil war, nearly 100 years later.

Was it legal for the southern states to secede? Of course not, but they did. They only came back through military conquest. When the civil war ended, so did the republic. What replaced it has become far worse than that which caused our founders to declare independence from the King.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We are doomed

This is why this country is going to shit. These people's votes count the same as the votes of people who actually have knowledge of things that do not happen on Twilight, American Idol, and other stupid television shows.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Scam of traffic safety

A cop with a stopwatch is more believable than a GPS unit. At least, that is what the Ohio court system believes, if their March 2010 ruling is any guide. In this case, a man was clocked by a cop in an airplane at 84 miles an hour. The way this works, is that a cop in a plane times cars with a stopwatch as they pass over quarter mile segments of the highway. The time to traverse the quarter mile is then used to compute the speed of the vehicle.

The problem here is that the driver had a GPS tracker placed in his car by his employer in order to control speed limit violations. The tracker indicated that he was going 50 mph, not 84. The court ruled that they could not accept the reading of the tracker without expert testimony from the manufacturer that would testify to the accuracy and method of operation of the device. According to the court:

"Barnes presented no evidence from a person with personal knowledge regarding how the GPS calculates speed, whether there is any type of calibration of the equipment used to detect speed, whether the methods employed by his particular company to detect speed are scientifically reliable, or the accuracy of the GPS' speed detection," the panel said. 
 This would have required that the accused hire an attorney and expert witnesses to attend the trial. To beat a $35 traffic ticket (I wish. In Florida, a speeding violation of 84 in a 65 will cost you $180) you are expected to spend several hundred dollars.

Meanwhile, the government has a bottomless checkbook with which to defend their cash cows. In Sonoma county, CA in 2009, the government of Petaluma spent tens of thousands of dollars to beat the GPS readings. Protecting speeding ticket fines, a $10 billion per year scam, is of utmost importance.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A lot of cash

I haven't mentioned this on over a year, but I want to take a look at the US debt. As of today, we are $14.9 trillion in debt, according to the US treasury.

When Obama took office, that amount was $11.9 trillion. An increase of $3 trillion (or 140%)  in just 33 months.

When GW Bush took office, we had a national debt of $5.7 trillion. The debt increased $4.7 trillion in 8 years. This means that the Obama administration is just $400 billion shy of borrowing in 3 years what it took his predecessor 8 years to borrow.

Not like I am really happy with Bush's spending, either. Or Clinton's.

Monday, October 10, 2011

D day minus 82 days

Packing, and not the fun kind. I am busy trying to pare down all of my stuff for the upcoming move. Trying to pare down the contents of a three bedroom house into a one bedroom apartment is a chore. I have rented a storage facility for the things that I am not taking, and the remainder of my things are going into the trash, or are being sold.

One of the things that I cannot take is my suppressor, as it is illegal in the state where I am going. I am trying to find a buyer. Meanwhile, storing over 20,000 rounds of ammo, 8 cases of MREs, 30 cans of freeze dried Mountain House food, about 2,200 books, and all of the other assorted items is giving me a backache.

It is a busy time. I need to complete all of the paperwork for admission to the school, rent an apartment, get the services hooked up, rent a U Haul trailer, ensure my shots are up to date, pack, finish my classes, work my two jobs (I am leaving one at the end of November, the other two weeks later), and do the move.

To make things worse, I noticed today that the windshield of  my truck has a foot long crack in it. I have to get that fixed, as well as all of the other chores. Busy, busy. There are 82 days until I go.

Friday, October 7, 2011

There's an app for that

They say that when you die, your life flashes before your eyes. That didn't happen with Steve jobs, because Apple doesn't support Flash. I wonder if they have an app for that?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

So long EMS, and thanks for all the fish

I applied for, and was accepted to, a Master's degree program that will allow me to become a Physician Assistant upon completion. This means that I will be retiring from my current job and moving several states away to attend the school. For the first time in 22 years, I will not be associated with prehospital EMS. It is a big step, and a bit scary, but exciting at the same time. I am giving up security for a chance to have a better career.

What first planted the seeds of my desire to leave was an apparent lack of medical standards in my agency, and the way that it was ignored by the administration. I wanted to maybe find a job at another local agency, but there weren't many hiring at the time who would pay me what I was already making, and besides, I know people who work for other agencies in the area, and they didn't seem much better, nor did the idiots at some of the local hospitals. I decided to stay put.

Then the TEA party came around, and I had to listen to them drone on and on about how I am a parasite and how I and my benefits are a drain on the system. My pension and my health care are costing the taxpayers too much money, even though they are a mere 4% of the state budget. Free lunches for poor kids in school add up to more than what it costs to run the pensions of state employees.

Meanwhile, I am hauling a Medicare patient to the hospital for the third time this week, this time for knee pain times two weeks. Knowing that Medicare is 30% of the state budget makes me realize that the TEA party is politics, not solutions.

Anyway, all of that came to a head when I began working for a theme park doing BLS first aid for $12.75 an hour, and got a raise at my 90 day point to $17.50 an hour. You see, when I was hired by my original agency 15 years ago, my starting pay was $8.45 an hour. In fifteen years, I made it to $19.27 an hour, and that includes two promotions.

That was when I realized that I was no longer happy working in EMS. I love the medicine, I just don't like all of the politics and the games that go along with the job. I still feel like I have more to offer patients and I want to stay in medicine. Becoming a PA will help me do just that.

No hard feelings to the TEA party, or to the public. You decided to pay less, and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. The people who are skilled and able to leave will do so. If you are willing to accept a lower level of service, then so be it. As for me, it is time to move up to bigger and better things.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Soviets were free

There are an estimated 800,000 full-time law enforcement officers in the United States: 120,000 Federal and 620,000 State and local.

That breaks down to 1 Fed for every 2,500 citizens, and one cop for every 375 citizens. Contrast that with this article about the Stasi and Gestapo:

The Soviet Union's KGB employed about 480,000 full-time agents to oversee a nation of 280 million, which means there was one agent per 5,830 citizens. Using Wiesenthal's figures for the Nazi Gestapo, there was one officer for 2,000 people. The ratio for the Stasi was one secret policeman per 166 East Germans. 
(even though the math for the Soviets is incorrect)
We have ratios of police versus citizens that is more than that of the Soviet communists, and rivals that of  the Gestapo.

But we don't live in a police state. This is a free country, after all.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Just lucky, I guess

According to some douchebag named Tim Wise, I am the recipient of 12 to 13 years of institutionalized affirmative action as a result of my attending public school, and this is why I, as a member of the white establishment, am so fortunate.

When I graduated from high school, the school I graduated from was one of two in the entire county. Everyone from the east side went to one school, everyone from the west side of the county went to the other. We all attended the same classes, taught by the same teachers. I can't see how there is any difference.

After high school, I joined the military and did six years there. When I got out, I was broke, but willing to work. I tried making it for a couple of years as a business owner, but was soon nearly homeless. My family and I lived in the storeroom of my business, and we bathed in a 48 quart ice chest.

I took what little money I had and moved to Florida. When I got there, I took a job in residential construction that paid $7.50 an hour. Over the next 5 years, I worked at the airport repairing ground support equipment, at Disney repairing the electronic control systems on dancing chickens, at Sherwin Williams on paint manufacturing equipment, and at a stainless steel mill repairing stainless steel pipe manufacturing equipment. Each time I changed jobs, it was for more money. Over that 5 year period, I went from $7.50 an hour to $12 an hour. Then, Bill Clinton signed a the "most favored nation" treaty with China, and cheap steel flooded the market, putting my employer out of business.

I got tired of being laid off, and decided to take my volunteer firefighting occupation full time. I went to school, by working odd jobs during the day, and going to school at night. I graduated the fire academy and got hired. While I was in school, my wife of ten years and I got a divorce. I was so broke, I had to get a second job as a janitor, and then as a lifeguard to make ends meet.

Since then, I have earned 4 college degrees and I am getting ready to begin my masters degree. I did it without handouts, I did it without Pell grants, welfare, food stamps, or anything that I didn't work for myself.

But hey, none of that was due to hard work and perseverance. It was all luck and 'white privilege' that got me here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A peek into police culture

I was recently required to go to a class on the incident management system. The class was comprised of about 60% police supervisors and 40% fire supervisors. The class gave me an opportunity for some insight into the way that cops (especially the supervisors) view the world.

The class presented the supervisors with a few scenarios, and challenged those supervisors to set up a command structure that would adequately manage the situation. Since this was a class attended mostly by cops and was being taught by cops, the scenarios and the conversations were mostly cop-centric. It was a learning experience, but perhaps not in the way that was intended.

The first scenario was that a child services worker was doing a well being check on a home, after receiving a tip that one of the children in the home was being sexually molested by the father. When she arrived at the home, she found that the father was home alone with 3 children, ages 9 through 14, and he was intoxicated. The social worker told the father that she was removing the children from the home, because the only adult was intoxicated. The father refused, an argument ensued, and the social worker was asked to leave. Social worker attempts to take the youngest child with her, and is shot in the stomach by the father. Socail worker staggers outside and 911 is called.

The cops said that this is an active shooter situation, and their primary objective is to enter the home as soon as they have three officers present, and "take out the bad guy." I am betting that they were not talking about shooting the social worker.

After this first scenario, we took our first break. The topic of discussion during the break was how the "new NRA law" was stupid and creating problems for police. One of the cops said that they tried to work with the NRA, but that the "gun nuts" were being uncooperative and would not give an inch. Another used an example (paraphrasing, my memory isn't perfect)
"There is this guy who has been "Baker Acted" several times, and has even fired shots at police officers. We were at his house, and he has guns. Now normally, I would just take the guns, and he would never see them again. Thanks to this new law, this guy keeps the guns. Now I am forced to risk leaving the guns there and getting sued when he shoots someone, or taking the guns, and getting sued by the NRA."
Third cop says: "The odds of being sued by the NRA are low. I'm still going to take them."

There are a number of false assumptions there, but it seems to me that if a person has shot at cops, wouldn't he be convicted of at least one felony and thus be prohibited from firearm possession?
If he was found to be a danger to himself or others after being Baker Acted, wouldn't a court have found him incompetent, and wouldn't he then be prohibited from owning firearms?
Why does a cop think that he has the power to confiscate private property, simply because he thinks he is the "only one" that is trained and competent to handle firearms?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Have your cake, and others' cake, too

One of the things that I constantly hear is how we as Americans should do "something" about a person's pet cause, whether that cause is feeding the homeless, foreign aid, bailouts, orphaned animals, disaster relief, or any number of other causes that are considered to be "worthy" for our nation to throw money at. I consistently feel that it is not a legitimate function of government to send public money to charities. That position often ends with me being called names like "mean", "heartless", or worse.

I want you to do a thought exercise: Think of some worthy cause that you think we, as a people, should spend money on. I will pick one: homelessness. Now ask yourself a few simple questions:
How much of your own money do you contribute to feed and house the homeless?
If you have a spare room or couch, how many times have you invited a homeless person to stay in your home?
If you are not willing to donate to the cause that you deem worthy, then how can you morally demand through the use of government force that others do so? If you are reading this, you have probably spent some of your own money on luxuries like internet service or a computer, instead of giving that money to the homeless. How heartless you are! How dare you spend money on frivolities when people are sleeping in cardboard boxes without a meal! You must be heartless and cruel, you greedy bastard. This makes you feel guilty that you buy expensive luxuries when there are so many worthy causes, doesn't it?

There must be a solution to this feeling of guilt that you feel. The solution is so simple! Why don't you just vote to make other people give THEIR money to worthy causes on your behalf? That way, you can still buy those expensive luxury items, and still assuage your guilt. The plan here is that you get the government to take other people's money away, and use THAT money to help your cause.

Of course there are as many worthy causes as there are voters, and what happens is that we eventually have more causes than we do money. At that point, the only way to handle things is to borrow the money. From China. That is a story for another day...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Deadbeat parents

The American court system jails thousands of parents every year for not paying child support. I read the article, and I have a couple of thoughts:

First, Article III Section 2 of the Constitution provides that crimes, except impeachment cases, must be tried before a jury, unless the defendant waivers his or her right. The court has managed to work around that by claiming that "contempt of court" cases are not crimes. Regardless, the Seventh Amendment states that in Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. Our court simply seems to ignore the plain intent of the founders: that no one person have the power of a King, not even a judge. The jury was to be the check and balance on the court. That is no more.

Then there are the practical and moral problems. My first wife and I got divorced in 1999.Following the state law formula, the court ordered that I pay half of my take home pay to my ex wife, nominally for child support. At the time, I grossed $1000 every two weeks. After taxes, I was left with about $720 each payday. $348 in child support was taken from my check, and sent to the ex-wife, leaving me with $720 per month to live on. The rent on my apartment was $600 for a small one bedroom. I was soon homeless and without a car, moving from couch to couch at the homes of friends. I got a second job, picking up garbage after the Shamu show at Sea World. I got an apartment with three roommates. I bought a car at a "buy here, pay here." Somehow, I made it.

Except that the ex wife didn't have a job, meaning that the support was more for her than for the children. The children would come over for visitation wearing rags, so I would have to buy them new clothes. Then they would ask for money for field trips and school supplies. Their mother would tell them that they couldn't have it, and that I should pay it. Not wanting to deny them, I gave them the money.

My ex-wife was collecting more than $1400 a month in child support, and because she didn't have to claim it as income, was getting another $400 a month in food stamps. she also claimed to be making $9,000 a year babysitting children, thus qualifying for $300 a month in earned income credit and another $300 per month in welfare. That's right- she was making $2400 per month in child support and government checks, and babysitting the neighbor's kids for a total take home of $3100 per month, tax free. That is the equivalent of grossing over $40,000 a year. Meanwhile, I was living below the poverty level. It is easy to see why many men become "deadbeats." The child support system is fundamentally unfair, and there is no mechanism in place to ensure that the money actually supports the child.

Twelve years later, my kids are both grown up and have been living on their own for years. The punishing child support is a distant memory. The ex-wife got a job at WalMart as a cashier, worked there for a year, and injured her back. She is on Social Security disability and welfare now. As far as I know, other than that one year working at Wal Mart, she has never had a job her entire adult life.

But if I had failed to pay even some of that money, it is me who would have gone to jail, without an attorney, without a trial. Where is the real crime here? The only good thing that I can say I got out of all of those issues is that I no longer fear poverty, for I know what poverty is. I learned what it is like to work hard, and to work long hours just to eat. To this day, I still work two jobs, even though I no longer need the money.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Waste

How is high school athletics related to education? As a taxpayer, I resent the fact that I must pay extra taxes so that a student can participate in an extracurricular activity. In the central Florida area, every high school has a large stadium for football games, track facilities, top notch weight rooms, gymnastics, and many other pieces of expensive equipment that are designed to enable students to enjoy activities that are completely unrelated to what should be the goal of schools: education.

I know that there are many parents out there will claim that participation in sports is important, and that many life lessons are learned through sports. OK, then: Why is it necessary for the education of children to transport an entire football team, cheerleaders, coaching staff, and marching band of a public high school from Colorado to Florida at taxpayer expense?  Not only that, but the same night, another high school team flew from California to play in a Florida football game. The children couldn't play at one single school between here and Colorado? Here and California? Is this really a wise use of taxpayer money?

Florida doesn't have enough money to fund emergency services or repair roads, but we have enough to fly hundreds of children to Disney's backyard to play a game?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Admissions meeting

I am flying 1,200 miles to see the admissions committee of a college, so that I can attend Physician Assistant school. I hope to get in, because I think that I am ready to move on from EMS. I still love patient care, and I enjoy what I do.

The problem is that I no longer enjoy the setting. It began when a rash of poor care by fellow paramedics was being actively covered up by my administration. It culminated in my mother being one of the patients who were shortchanged. This planted the seeds of discontent. Now I understand that no profession is immune. I have worked with plenty of nurses and doctors who screw up just as badly, and private ambulance companies are no better, been there, done that. I was willing to suffer through things, since I couldn't see anywhere or any job where bad employees were not tolerated and protected. I sucked it up.

Until recently, when the public began jumping on the "cushy" pay for firefighters, and the "public employees are evil" bandwagon. I am tired of being spit on and underpaid. It is time to go.

That's right- underpaid. Starting pay for a firefighter/paramedic is $13.77 an hour. After two promotions and 15 years with the same department, I make $19.23 an hour. I began working a part time second job as a paramedic in a local theme park less than six months ago, and we only perform BLS procedures. Starting pay for a medic with no experience is $16.50 an hour, and $17.50 an hour if you have two or more years of experience. The health plan is better, the hours are better, and the working conditions easier.

So, I am trying to get into school to get my master's degree. Like me, many firefighters are leaving the profession. Out of the 100 men and women in my department, we have lost 9 in the past year:
1 now drives an ice cream delivery truck
1 left to return to college
2 have left to be nurses
2 left to be firefighters in other states
1 is now a radio DJ
2 retired, and I have no idea where they are now

I also know that one just tested for a department in Colorado, one tested in Arizona, and three have notified the department that they will be retiring between now and June. And now me. If all goes well, I will be leaving by December.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gold experts and inflation

Gold tops $1900 an announce, and the experts are all claiming that it is overbought, and that the bubble will soon burst.

That is the same thing that the experts said in June, when gold was at $1500 an ounce.
- and October of 2010, when gold was $1380 an ounce.
- and March, 2010, when gold was at $1200 an ounce.
- and December of 2009, when gold was passing $1100 an ounce.
- and in December of 2005, when gold was $520 an ounce.

The secret here is that the world's governments and private citizens alike are coming to the realization that the US Government cannot stop spending money, and are moving away from using the dollar as the reserve currency for the world. This is injecting large amounts of dollars into the world's markets, and making the dollar worth less. This is causing a massive devaluation of the dollar. This isn't the first time that a country has spent itself into financial ruin. Zimbabwe, the Soviets, and the Germans have all done it during the last century.



Our politicians don't care, because both parties need your money to buy your vote. They are spending us into ruin. Don't be caught holding dollars when the end comes, or you will need them to heat your home, like this woman is doing in 1923 Germany, because bank notes are cheaper than coal.




Price of 1 ounce of gold (in German Marks):

January,1919………. 170
September,1919……. 499
January, 1920………. 1,340
September, 1920……. 1,201
January, 1921………. 1,349
September, 1921…….2,175
January, 1922……….3,976
September, 1922…….30,381
January, 1923……….372,477
September, 1923…….269,439,000 (that's right- from 4 thousand to 270 million in a year and a half)
Oct. 2, 1923………….6,631,749,000
Oct. 9, 1923………….24,868,950,000
Oct. 16, 1923…………84,969,072,000
Oct. 23, 1923…………1,160,552,882,000 (over 1 trillion)
Oct. 30, 1923…………1,347,070,000,000
Nov. 5, 1923…………..8,700,000,000,000
Nov. 30, 1923…………87,000,000,000,000 (almost 80 trillion increase in one month)

Do you see how the problem escalates? This is where we are headed. Scary stuff.

Fascinating read

The Economic Collapse of the Soviet Union.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pay and skill

I work at a major theme park. This theme park recently had a turnover problem- that is, a number of employees were leaving for other paramedic positions that paid more money. To solve the problem, they raised starting paramedic pay to $17.50 an hour- a raise of $3.75 an hour. The medics who had been there for more than a few years are livid. They are claiming that they 'deserve' more because they have been there longer.

The American public believes that public employees are overpaid. They complain about what the public employees 'deserve' and claim that, since the economy is bad, that public employees should be paid less.

Both positions show a complete lack of understanding of basic economics. The law of supply and demand dictates what an employee makes. The market sets the price of labor. If you, as an employer, pay too little, your employees will leave. The ones that are available to replace them will be of lower quality. That is, the employee is selling a product: his labor. The price of that product is set by the market. Wages are a balance between the supply of people that are capable of providing the labor, and the number of people who are needed to perform that labor.

Numerous things can lower wages. If just anyone can provide that product, then the price (pay) will be low. A good example of this is greeter at WalMart. This position requires a skill set that nearly anyone can master, so the wages for that position are low. The other factor that can have negative effects on wages is the demand for that particular skill. You may be a master of 14th century French poetry, but there is no market for 14th century French poetry, so you will likely become a greeter at WalMart, that being your only other marketable skill.

Conversely, wages can also be driven in the opposite direction. If you bring a skill set to the table that not many people have, you can "auction" off those skills to the highest bidder.

This is the point that many miss. If you think that you are more valuable simply because you have been at a job for a long time, you are wrong. You become more valuable with longevity because you have (presumably) become more adept at the job you are being tasked with as the years went by. Eventually, though, the job is mastered, and your value becomes capped at a certain level. In order to demand more pay, the employee must accomplish two things: he must gain more skill, and must ensure that the skill gained is one that the employer needs. Just like any other product. It is up to you as to whether or not it is worth the effort to improve your product (yourself) for the additional pay.

And to employers: remember that, as your wage scale falls below market value, the more valuable employees will sell their wares to the highest bidder, leaving you with a cheaper, sometimes less valuable product. It is up to you to determine if you are willing to accept the lower level of skill.

Friday, August 19, 2011

CBS news bias

With the Obama's planning to take another vacation to Martha's Vinyard, CBS news has come to his defense as the Republicans attack him for taking too many vacations. CBS news correspondent Mark Knoller, a self-proclaimed presidential statistician, claims that Obama has had 61 vacation days over his 31 months in office.

Now, I am one of those who believes that a President is always working, and no matter where they are. I thought the complaints about Bush vacations were silly partisan sniping, and I believe that the same can be said about the attacks on Obama for his vacation. After all, President Bush was just as capable of carrying out the business of the Executive branch from his ranch in Texas as he is from the White House.

Mark Knoller, in an article written in January of 2010, about Obama's first year in office, claimed that Obama spent 27 days at Camp David, and another 26 days on vacation in his first year. That totals 53 days. In addition, he spent 29 days playing golf. It doesn't appear that accuracy in reporting is Mr. Knoller's strong suit, because in July of 2010, he claimed that Obama had taken 35 vacation days so far in his Presidency.

 Mark Knoller claimed on December 31st of 2010 that Obama took 32 days of vacation in 2010, and took 58 days of vacation in 2009. According to my math, that is a total of 90 days for 2009 and 2010. So how can the same man claim that, as of 2011, Obama has taken a total of 61 days of vacation? I think Mark Knoller just makes up numbers as he goes along.

No, today's post is about the press and their partisan bias, not about Presidential time off. Much hay is made in lefty circles about how Fox news is biased. Names like "Faux News," yet this is an obvious, provable falsehood. This should be no surprise, since more than half of the items that CBS news is selling in their online store is Obama memorabilia.

Tell me again that Fox is biased, and CBS is not.

(Incidentally, I could not find a source that listed the number of days that Obama has vacationed.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Only Fox news has biased coverage

Recently, there was an attack by a group of forty or more teens against a neighborhood, and one of the residents used a rifle to scare them off. Some of the people reading the article were asking why the news didn't mention the fact that it was a group of forty black teens attacking residents of a white neighborhood, and the further alleged that if it had been a large group of white teens terrorizing a black neighborhood, it would have been the largest headline possible. Calls from the press to pass hate crime laws would have been heard. Instead, crickets.

The Chicago Tribune responded by saying:

It's the newspaper's sound general policy not to mention race in a story, whether about crime or anything else, unless it has some clear relevance to the topic. 
 Really? Let's see:

Editorial accusing people who disagree with Obama of racism.

Story accusing Arizona of racism because they crack down on illegal immigrants, who happen to be Mexican because the Mexican border is closer to Arizona than the Canadian border.

Story about how blacks do not save their money like whites do.

Story about a man charged with a hate crime for pointing at another man and calling him a name.

The Chicago Tribune fails to realize that the race of people involved with a story only becomes relevant when you report the race of the people. Ignoring the fact that an attack is racially motivated makes the race of those people irrelevant and shows your bias.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hey Dave Ramsey

You keep telling people what a bad investment it is to buy gold. Let's take another look at the numbers:

Dow in 1971: 868
25 ounces of Gold in 1971: 875

Dow in 2010: 10,067
25 ounces of gold: 27,200 (1088 per ounce)

Dow today:10,862
25 ounces of gold: 44,550 (1782 per ounce)

So, since January of 2010, the Dow has increased at an annual rate of 5%, but gold has climbed at an annual rate of 40%. Since 1971, the Dow climbed at an average of 28.8%, and gold at a whopping 124.7%.

Of course, the Dow is adjusted, and the stocks on it are dropped as they become worthless, so the actual return on the Dow is much lower than that. Thanks Dave.

History!

History tidbit:

Shortly before noon on June 8, 1959, the first official dispatch of U.S. Mail was launched from the guided-missile submarine USS Barbero (SSG 317), from international waters off of the Atlantic Coast.  Twenty-two minutes later, the Regulus I Missile, carrying 3,000 pieces of mail (postcards), landed at the U.S. Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Mayport.  Among the officials present for the event was Postmaster General Arthur Summerfeld, who stated, "This peacetime employment of a guided missile for the important and practical purpose of carrying mail, is the first known official use of missiles by any Post Office Department of any nation." He proclaimed the event to be "of historic significance to the peoples of the entire world," and predicted that "before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to Britain, to India or Australia by guided missiles.  We stand on the threshold of rocket mail!"

Fiscal Budget Math

The Obama administration is claiming that S&P made a $2 trillion error when they projected the spending of future years and downgraded the nation's debt rating from AAA to AA+, saying that S&P has "shown a stunning lack of knowledge about basic U.S. fiscal budget math."

Let's take a look at that, and at what the government means by cuts, and why they complain that S&P got it wrong. like most people, talking about trillions of dollars makes things a bit hard to understand, because most of us cannot imagine what a trillion dollars is.

To put things in simpler terms, let's say that we have a household budget of $3,000 per month, but we only make $2,000 per month and we borrow the other $1,000. We are planning on increasing our spending by $300 per month, but our income is projected to remain the same.

We are already $10,000 in debt, so I get in an argument with my wife, and we reach an agreement that we will cut our planned increase six  months from now, and only plan on spending the following:

Plan......Now ..... 1 month out ...... 6 months out ....... 1 year out
Old ...... $3,000... $3,300 ............ $4,800 .............$6,600
New..... $3,000...$3,300 ............ $4,700 ............. $6,000

We congratulate ourselves because we have managed to save $2100 over six months, because we "saved" $100 the sixth month, $200 the seventh, and on until we reach the $600 "savings" of the twelfth month. That is what government budget cuts mean: cutting the rate of increase. Never mind that that we will have to borrow $50,000 on top of the $10,000 we already owe to make ends meet. Never mind that we will argue about the budget next month, and completely rewrite it.

So, the bank that is going to loan me this money looks at my budget and lowers my credit rating. Instead of fixing the problem, I accuse the bank of not understanding how I do my budget. It's the bank's fault. Yeah, that's it- the banks. I don't think that S&P has failed to understand budget math. I think that the US Government has failed to understand basic arithmetic.

Of course, I can always "print" money to pay my debts by tearing all of my dollar bills in half, and thus doubling my money. That will fix it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tyrant

Officer Benjamin Stanaland of the Orlando police department is a tyrant. He has twice been reprimanded for violating people's constitutional rights, yet he still holds a job as a police officer.

In the first case, he arrested a man for refusing to give the officer his name in February of 2010.

In the latest case, used an unsterilized Q-Tip to test a motorist's mouth for drugs without the man's consent during a traffic stop. According to the law and department policy, officers must use sterilized gloves and agency-issued tongue depressors and swabs. Stanaland said he purchased the Q-Tips from a Walgreen's pharmacy.

Why is he still working as a cop?

Monday, August 8, 2011

We aren't wanted here

The TEA party screams that government should be run like a business. Like a business, firefighters in the state of Florida get extra money if they have certifications that are above and beyond the basic certifications required for the job. For example:

Statewide, firefighters get $50 a month for having an associate's degree that is related to their job duties, and they get $100 a month for having a bachelor's degree. (You can only get one or the other, not both, and having more than one degree still only gets you one bonus)

Most departments pay extra for paramedics. This amount can vary from $2000 to $7500 a year, depending on your department. Since 90% of calls that fire departments answer are medical runs, this is an important incentive. Nearly every fire department in Florida requires that you be a certified EMT. Paramedics have MUCH more responsibility and work to do than their EMT counterparts.

Departments provide equipment like uniforms and PPE like safety glasses and safety shoes. Many businesses do this. The money spent on PPE is saved in reduced injury costs.

The new position? All of these incentives are "extras" that are not needed. Considering that the state recently cut the pay of all firefighters statewide 3% by forcing them to contribute to retirement plans, cut retirement benefits, and many local governments (including mine) have not only withheld pay raises for the past 6 years, but have cut hours by shutting down units to save money, and other plans to cut pay, it seems like the message is loud and clear:

WE ARE NO LONGER NEEDED OR WANTED HERE.

That is fine. I have made my decision. I am applying for Physician Assistant school this week. It was a good job while it lasted, but I cannot continue down the road that we are traveling. I went from $84,000 a year in 2008 to less than $60,000 this year. How many of you would continue to work for 25% less, if you had other options?

There are incompetents everywhere

I work a second job at a large central Florida theme park. (There are only a few, you can guess which one.) During my last shift there, I was called to evaluate a man who was "having a seizure." When I arrived, I found a 59 year old man who was sitting upright in a chair and only verbally responsive.  He has a history of cardiac, HTN, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes. A local hospital owned ambulance service was called. While waiting for them to arrive, we got the following vitals: HR 88, BP 92/54, RR 18, Temp 97.8, BGL 140. It was over 100 degrees in the park, and the patient's skin was flushed. We initiated active cooling, and he was again responsive within ten minutes.

The unit arrived, and in walks the EMT. Alone. Then he began talking the patient into signing a refusal. The medic never even got out of the truck. They took no vitals and did not even put him on the monitor. I pitched a fit and threatened to call their supervisor. The medic came in, ran a strip and they collected their refusal and left. Here are my questions:

How does the medic know that this was not a seizure?
How does the medic know that this was not a cardiac problem?
Why did the medic send his EMT in to get a refusal without even evaluating the patient?
Why do some medics still insist that medics who work for EMS only agencies are automatically better than fire based medics? Is it possible that my position, that it doesn't matter who signs the paychecks, it is what lies in the heart of the medic that counts, is the correct one?

I think the real problem is that some medics are unable to get a fire medic job for a variety of reasons (too fat, out of shape, can't pass the test, whatever) and spend their time bashing the fire department. I do everything that an EMS only paramedic does, and I fight fires and perform rescues as well.

Poverty

The poverty threshold is an amount of money that is required to meet a certain minimum standard of living. That is, it is computed by determining what amount of money it takes to live in an apartment and eat at a certain minimum level. The government's definition of poverty is not tied to an absolute value of how much an individual or family can afford, but is tied to a relative level based on total income received. For example, the poverty level for 2011 was set at $22,350 (total yearly income) for a family of four, and $10,890 for a single person. Here is the table:

Persons in
Family Unit
48 Contiguous States
and D.C.
Alaska Hawaii
1 $10,890 $13,600 $12,540
2 $14,710 $18,380 $16,930
3 $18,530 $23,160 $21,320
4 $22,350 $27,940 $25,710
5 $26,170 $32,720 $30,100
6 $29,990 $37,500 $34,490
7 $33,810 $42,280 $38,880
8 $37,630 $47,060 $43,270
Each additional
person adds
$3,820 $4,780 $4,390
(source: US Dept of Health and Human Services)

Currently, 12.6% of the US population, or 37 million people, are below this poverty threshold. So, could we fix this problem by merely giving every person below the poverty level a million dollars? The answer is no. The reason for this, is that as we pour money into the poor community, those people will by things, thus placing an inflated demand for products like food and housing on those communities. Additionally, no one will go to work, because they are all millionaires. The only way for businesses to produce the goods that are under such high demand is for wages to increase to the point where the nouveau riche will stop the buying spree long enough to go to work. These two factors will cause prices to rise until the supply/demand curve stabilizes at a new price level- a price level that is much higher than it was before we handed out the money.

This is why a war on poverty where the wages of the rich are confiscated and given to the poor can never be successful.

Not only that, but let's face it: The United States doesn't have a poverty problem. We are the only country in the world where the poorest portions of the population own cell phones and televisions. According to Nielson, 96.7% of American households own a television. Cellular ownership is high as well: 94% of Americans own a cell phone. Tell me again why my money needs to be confiscated so that someone else can get a free cell phone and television.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Republicans: America's Taliban

See Florida Governor Rick Scott as he delivers his daily video address to the state. I know that the Republicans don't kill and torture like the Taliban, so don't bother sending me hate mail.



There is a parallel here that I want you to understand: There are many Americans who are completely turned off by the fascination that the Republican party has with preaching instead of governing. You need to keep your religious views to yourself when you are running the nation's governments. We do not want to be preached to. Religion is like a penis, it is sometimes good to have one, just don't go ramming it down people's throats unless they ask you to.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Still going to vote for Democrats or Republicans?

News tonight is that Congress has reached an agreement on the debt:

In a conference call with his rank and file, Boehner said the agreement "isn't the greatest deal in the world, but it shows how much we've changed the terms of the debate in this town."
 Changed? What has changed? The deal makes cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years


Way to trim that budget, guys! When George W was president, Dems blasted him for the 2008 budget deficit: $485 billion. Obama's latest deficit: $1.4 trillion. With the cuts suggested by today's deal: $1.28 trillion, or more than 2 times the 2008 Bush deficit. Also, consider that since the cuts are to take place over ten years. This Congress and this President will have left office long before, meaning that the cuts will likely never actually happen.
 

Anyone who believes that either party has any interest in changing anything is rather foolish.

Government complexity

The government makes EVERYTHING more complicated. When it comes to performing maintenance, the US Navy has a complicated system in place (or did when I was in)called the Material Maintenance Management (3M) system, which controls all PMS (Planned Maintenance System). PMS is time consuming and overly complicated. The procedure for each maintenance action is written on an MRC (Maintenance Requirement Card.

 What makes the system so complicated and cumbersome is the fact that government bureaucrats have managed to turn the system into a set of procedures that make doing your taxes seem easy. Failure to follow the procedure exactly can and does end with sailors being courts-martialed. Maintenance is scheduled for each work center, and the work center supervisor schedules each person for his maintenance. Let's take a look at a required daily maintenance activity (D-1R). We are scheduled to perform that activity toady, so we look for the MRC, on the Maintenance Index Page (MIP) and confirm that it is correct MIP by checking it against the LOEP (List Of Effective Pages) after checking the effective date to ensure that the LOEP is the current one. After locating the current MRC, we confirm that it is correct by checking its effective date against the one on the MIP.

So take a look at the card here. Granted, this one is a joke, but looks remarkably like the real ones. There is a section that has the information about the equipment on the card and the frequency of maintenance. Then an area that specifies who may perform the maintenance, and the man hours it will take to complete. There are sections that specify safety regulations that must be followed, along with a list of every tool that is required. If the card calls for a 6 inch screwdriver, you better not get caught using a 4 inch or an 8 inch screwdriver. The procedure is then listed, and it must be followed exactly as per the card. Failure to do so can land you in prison.

These are the numbskulls that are getting ready to run our health care system. How do you think that will work out?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The downgrade is near

From the Wall Street Journal:

Medicare, the program for the elderly, was supposed to cost $12 billion by 1990 but instead spent $110 billion. The costs of Medicaid, the program for the poor, have exploded as politicians like California Democrat Henry Waxman expanded eligibility and coverage. In inflation-adjusted dollars, Medicaid cost $4 billion in 1966, $41 billion in 1986 and $243 billion last year. Rather than bending the cost curve down, the government as third-party payer led to a medical price spiral.

According to the most recent government data, today some 50.5 million Americans are on Medicaid, 46.5 million are on Medicare, 52 million on Social Security, five million on SSI, 7.5 million on unemployment insurance, and 44.6 million on food stamps and other nutrition programs. Some 24 million get the earned-income tax credit, a cash income supplement.

By 2010 such payments to individuals were 66% of the federal budget, up from 28% in 1965. (See the second chart.) We now spend $2.1 trillion a year on these redistribution programs, and the 75 million baby boomers are only starting to retire.

On Monday night Mr. Obama blamed President George W. Bush's "two wars" for the debt buildup. But national defense spending was 7.4% of GDP and 42.8% of outlays in 1965, and only 4.8% of GDP and 20.1% of federal outlays in 2010. Defense has not caused the debt crisis. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Worse Idea

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that Washington, DC was implementing a bad idea when they decided to use firefighters to plug the gaps in their police force. I was proven correct when shootings happened right in front of the firefighters, and there was nothing that they could do.

Now the criminals are breaking into fire stations and stealing. This idea is worse and worse.

Living in the future is cool

An automatic donut machine.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The point of no return

One thing that I have always been interested in is the page in the instructions for your income tax form that tells you where the money comes from and where the money goes. I use the instructions for the 1040EZ here (pdf warning) and all you have to do is look at page 37 to see what I mean.

According to this page, the government, for fiscal year 2009, took in $2.105 trillion in taxes, with personal income taxes equaling 26% (or about $547 billion) of that. We spent $3.518 trillion, meaning that we borrowed $1.413 trillion. We borrowed three times what we collected through income taxes. This tells me that taxes have nothing to do with revenue. After all, if we can borrow $1.4 trillion, why can't we borrow $1.9 trillion and simply eliminate income taxes altogether?

This is irresponsible spending at its worst. The Democrats think that the answer is to tax the income of the rich is the answer. However, according to the IRS (excel file- 2005 numbers) the top five percent of income filers made slightly less than $145 thousand per year. That means that the top 5% of earners make a combined total of $2.6 trillion per year. Even if we established an income cap of  $50,000 a year, and confiscated every dime that everyone in this country made over that amount, we would not be able to pay for the government we have now.

The Republicans think that the way to fix this is to cut spending. The size if the cuts that are needed is incredible. A 40% across the board cut is needed to balance the budget. The problem is that we cannot cut the interest that we pay on our debt. Our elderly will not sit still for any medicare or Social Security cuts, but those programs account for over a third of our spending. If we leave them alone, we need to cut Defense, welfare, prisons, and every other expense by 60%. Any politician who suggests the cuts that are needed will find his or her political career cut short.

We owe more money than currently exists. There is no way that we can pay it back, no way that we can stop borrowing, and no way out, except default. The system is broken, and we lack the will to fix it. We will soon lack the ability. Soon, the decision will be made for us. People will refuse to lend us money, and the people will become restless. The government, and the political masters who run it, will become increasingly desperate to maintain their power, and dictatorship will be the inevitable result. In my opinion, we are past the point of no return. We are witnessing history, the fall of the mightiest empire the world has ever known. I wonder if a thousand years from now if we will be studied like the Roman empires, or largely forgotten like the Achaemenid?

Prepare.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Civil rights, 1983 lawsuits, liability

After the incident that I last blogged about, where a Canton, OH police officer threatened a pair of citizens with physical force, I listened to the recording of the City Council President, where he gives his opinion on the whole incident:



The Council President states that the police officer's actions were logical because the person involved was legally carrying a concealed weapon in a bad neighborhood at 1:30 in the morning, around prostitutes and drug dealers. Excusing the cop's actions in this manner is a bit of a problem. Let me explain why:

42 USC 1983 provides that, "Every person who under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, Suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress"

Meaning that the citizen involved gets to sue both of the officers who violated his rights by threatening harm to him, and will probably be successful. You can sue cities and counties under 1983 in what is called a Monell claim. Under Monell, to hold a municipality liable you need to show that your constitutional injury was caused by a policy or custom of the municipality. Monell liability can be established where a municipal official with final policy-making authority ratifies a subordinate’s unconstitutional conduct and the basis for it. The theory behind municipal liability in this context is that the acts of persons with final policy-making authority are considered to be the equivalent of government policy.

To establish municipal liability, a claimant must show a persistent and pervasive practice of the police department in failing to respond to police misconduct. While a single act of misconduct is insufficient to establish municipal liability, a person in a policy making position can show that the unconstitutional behavior of the municipality approved of the act, and thus made the act a de facto policy. In police brutality cases, the municipal entity’s liability can be established by showing that the city encourageed or authorized the conduct.

By stating that the incident that took place is to be expected when people carry concealed weapons in compliance with state law, he has authorized the officer's conduct and opened himself and the city to a 1983 lawsuit. Damage awards in civil rights cases can be high. In 2007, a man won over three million dollars for damages he suffered from false arrest and other indignities by Oakland, California police officers. That award included punitive damages.

Officer Harless: background

By now, everyone in the gun community has seen the video where Officer Harless of the Canton, OH police department threatened to put "lumps" on a woman that he suspected of being a prostitute, and threatened to kill a man who was legally carrying a concealed weapon. The law in Ohio states that a permit holder must immediately notify an officer that he is carrying a weapon, if he is approached by that officer. The holder attempted to tell the officer three times, but was told to shut up before he could get the words out. When the officer finally finds out about the weapon, he flips out. See the video below:



I show you this video as background for my next post, where I show you how Canton, OH has officially screwed themselves.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Work ethic, the 100, and the Dilbert philosophy

A friend of mine, a health care educator, has a quote from Heraclitus that he loves to throw around. If you are a gun person, you have probably heard of it, because gun guys love throwing it around as well. I am not sure that many truly understand what the man was trying to say:

Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there.  Eighty are just targets.  Nine are real fighters and we are lucky to have them for they make the battle.  Ah, but the one.  One is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.
 --Heraclitus, Greek philosopher, around 500 B.C.
 This is easily applied to all human endeavors, including the medical field. Of every 100, ten of them are worthless to have around and cause more problems than they solve. I am sure that you all know who those ten are in your organization. Most organizations eventually get rid of them, even if it seems to take forever. (Either that, or they promote them to a position where they cause even more heartache.)

Eighty of the 100 are the drones. The people who work or do just enough to get by. They watch the clock intently and blaze a trail for the door as soon as the appointed hour arrives. They have no interest in improvement, advancement, or in any other thing that will cause them to do anything above what is absolutely required. In the paramedic world, they are easily spotted: When you talk to them about a new procedure or a new bit of knowledge, they tell you something like, "Well, how is that going to change what I do? It isn't? Then why do I want to know that?"

Nine of those 100 employees are the ones who strive to be the best that they can be. They attend schools, expand their knowledge, and they always push themselves to achieve more than they did the year before. We are lucky to have coworkers like this, because they are the ones who others turn to when the shit hits the fan.

The one. He is the one that pushes everyone else to improve and to be the best that they can be. The problem is that the first ten hate him because he calls them out when they screw up, and most of the 80 hate him as well, because he is trying to make them do more than the minimum.

Eventually, the one leaves in disgust, six of the nine become burned out and either move one or join the ranks of the 80, and we are left with an organization filled with mediocre people who work just hard enough to get by, and the three workers become disgruntled, cynical, and generally unpleasant to be around.

I told you so

Just ten days ago, I posted that Washington, DC was using firefighters as an unarmed reserve police force. I said at the time that it was a bad idea that would not work. Turns out, I was correct.

At least three people were injured in four shootings in the District over a 24-hour period Sunday and Monday, according to fire and police officials.
Two locations that officials responded to for reports of shootings were just blocks from corners where D.C. firefighters have been stationed as crime deterrents.