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TSA now intruding in employment?

You’ve heard of no fly and no buy lists – get ready for no work lists. Millions of workers now must apply to the DHS and prove they are not terrorists in order to be granted permission by the government to work. 

The new DHS programs, called TWIC and SWACwill expand the TSA no fly list to be applied to a “no work” list. This means that once you are on the “no fly ” list, a list you get on without being told why, and without recourse to be removed, you can not get a job in any worksite that the government deems “vital.”

What happened to due process? Jury trial? Seriously, is this for real. or is infowars a conspiracy theory kook site? Anyone?

UPDATE: They may be pulling the trigger prematurely. Here is the list of crimes you can be denied for. Looks like a standard background check to me.

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Your tax refund is not free money

I know people who are bragging that they are getting back large refunds. I know one person who brags that he is getting back $8,000. During the discussion, another claimed that her and her husband are getting $14,000. I was incredulous. That money is not free- it means that you had too much money taken out of your checks throughout the year. If you file your taxes, and you are getting back 14 grand, that means that you could have $1,100 a month more in your pocket every month.

What gets me is that these people probably have a couple of maxed out credit cards, and could be using that money each month to pay off the 20% interest rate cards.

This year, I will owe $350 or so. That is as close as I can figure them when I set my W4 exemptions each month.

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Am I trustworthy, or not?

All paramedics go through it. You medics know what I mean. I once went through a period in my career in which I was called a nickname: “Doctor Death.” In a 24 week span, I worked 29 codes. In only one of those codes did I get pulses back, and that patient died two days after I took them to the hospital. The oldest of those dead patients was 102 years old, and the youngest was 6 months old. Also in that 24 week period, I had trauma alert patients, STEMI patients, and all sorts of odd events. One of the Doctors at the hospital asked me in jest if I ever got tired of my patients dying all the time, and I responded with a joke about how my laryngoscope was a deadly weapon.

You need a sense of humor in this profession, or you will soon burn out and leave, as so many who wear their hearts on their sleeves do. You wear that sense of humor, as odd as it becomes, like a suit of armor. That is the protection that you need if you are to survive the sights of hundreds of dead bodies. Trust me, that number is well into the hundreds. There was an incident several years ago where I triaged bodies, and personally decided that 31 people were dead in less time than it took me to write this post.

In essence, triage is a lot like playing god. You decide who will live, and who will die. The decisions that you make on every call will affect people for the rest of their lives. I have welcomed newborn babies into the world, and I have held the hands of people as they left this world. Every one of these decisions were made with relatively little oversight, and a whole lot of latitude as to how I come to that decision. It is a position of trust that I do not take lightly.

With all of that trust, the background check that I had to endure was not nearly as thorough as the one that was done when I got a concealed weapons permit. Ask yourself why people who feel that I am trustworthy enough to give potentially lethal medications and make life or death decisions as a paramedic feel that I am not trustworthy enough to carry my defensive weapon to class when I am attending college.

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Using Capnography in ACLS

You have a patient in SVT. (for more on SVT, see this post) How do you decide whether to cardiovert or use drugs? The ACLS classes recommend that you look for signs of poor perfusion, such as altered mental status or a systolic blood pressure below 90mmHg. The problem with waiting for these signs is that they are relatively late signs of cardiogenic shock.

A person with altered mental status or an SBP below 90mmHg is already decompensating, and is into the third (or possibly fourth) stage of shock. The blood pressure and mental status changes indicate that the brain and other vital organs are not being oxygenated, and as we all know, this leads to acidosis and cell death.

If only there were a way that we could determine that our patient’s SVT is reducing cardiac output due to Starling’s Law. Wish no more, here is your answer:

As cardiac output decreases, so does venous return to the lungs and heart. This lower blood flow results in less CO2 making it to the lungs to be exhaled. If your SVT patient is placed on capnography, and the CO2 is less than 37mmHg, you need to start thinking that your patient is having a bit of trouble perfusing, most likely to reduced cardiac output. This is the beginning of our patient’s journey to decompensation city. It is time to begin leaning towards cardioverting our patient before we reach the point where our patient has deteriorated so severely that he has begun to lose brain cells.

Don’t fall behind the curve. Be proactive, and you will do yourself and your patients a true service by catching problems earlier rather than later.

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Pay, benefits, and career choices

I just began doing my taxes, and that is always a depressing time of year. I made 18% less in 2010 than I did in 2008, and 7% less than 2009. In all, it was the lowest pay since 2004. They take money out of my check for our retirement plan, and our plan is funded 31% by us, and 24% by earnings on investments, leaving 45% for our employer to fund.

Now the State is talking about reducing our retirement benefits. They want to exclude overtime and incentive pay from the calculations. They also want to reduce retirement benefits from 3.23% per year to only 1.6% per year. This means that I will see a net reduction of 62% of my retirement. On top of that, they will penalize you 5% per year for each year you retire before the age of 55. Instead of getting 71% of my pay upon retirement at age 50, I will get 20% of my pay. In other words, I will have paid in more than I will get back in benefits. 

So I have a choice to make:

1: I can retire this year before the changes take effect, and change careers. I would get 39% of my pay to go now with 15 years of service. I would maybe go get my master’s degree and be a Physician’s Assistant. I have some cash saved, and I could pull it off. Maybe I can even work part time while I am in school. I would even make more as a PA than as a FireMedic, and work fewer hours. The downside is that I will not be working for the two years it would take to complete the degree, and I am a little on the old side to be changing careers.

2: I can stay here for the next 8-13 years, but accept declining pay and hours, and reduction in my retirement pay. Under this new plan, I would have to work here for 13 more years to get the same retirement I can get by leaving now.

Seems like a no brainer. If this bill passes, I will have to take my education and skill set elsewhere. Maybe it is time to start getting my paperwork together so I can apply. I am not angry. Just remember that you get what you pay for. If a less educated, less experienced workforce is all that the taxpayer is willing to pay for, that is their choice to make. I just know that I also have other options, and I can choose to take my skillset where I can maximize my own earnings.

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Extortion

The city of Kingsland, Georgia has a total area of 44 square miles spanning both sides of I-95, making it the seventh largest city in Georgia by landmass. I-95 runs through the city for 4.5 miles, near mile marker 9. The vast majority of that 4.5 mile span is sparsely populated. For its geographical size, the city is actually quite small. Kingsland only has a population of about 13,600. A large area of the interstate has been incorporated, even though there are not many homes or businesses in the area. Coincidentally, the city encompasses two exits and the 4.5 miles of highway between them.

The police department of Kingsland employs 46 sworn officers, meaning that there are 3.4 officers per 1,000 residents. This is significantly higher than the National average of 2.5 officers per thousand. Twenty five of those officers are assigned to the patrol division, with about 5 officers per shift. Those 25 officers write 13,000 citations per year. The city actually budgets for this. The police may not have a per se quota, but writing into the budget that you need 13,000 citations is a bit of a target number, wouldn’t you say? Now let me add that I did not receive a traffic ticket in this area, but I did see something that caused this post:

On that five mile stretch of highway, I saw three Kingsland Police officers with three separate cars pulled over for traffic infractions at 4:30 pm on a Sunday. That is more traffic stops than I saw for the rest of I-95 in Georgia COMBINED. Now I know that this is not proof that the city is padding the coffers with some traffic money, but it seems odd to me that a city with 5 patrol officers per shift, that more than half of the shift is dedicated to writing traffic tickets on a 4 mile stretch of highway. I mean, aren’t those 5 officers needed to patrol the 44 square miles of city that they are responsible for? Or is this just a means of revenue enhancement for the city?

According to the City budget, each officer is projected to write 500 citations per year for FY 2010/11, up from 286 in 2008/09 (page 105). This is an average including ALL officers, even the ones with desk jobs. If you recalculate that number using only the 20 patrol officers who are not supervisors (who generally don’t write tickets), that average shoots up to 650 per officer. Fines are the second largest source of revenue for the city, comprising 20.7% of the city’s general fund revenue (page 69).

Aren’t we tired yet of hearing how traffic enforcement is for safety, that there are no quotas, and that the traffic fines we pay are not legalized robbery?

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Still in the Capitol

I went to the National archives yesterday. There is something about standing in the presence of our founding documents that is awe inspiring. These papers are the documents that are the basis of our Nation. I wonder how many of our Congressmen have looked upon and read the constitution and bill of rights. How many of them look at those documents as simply an obstacle to be overcome in carrying out their agenda?

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Discussion with an Anti

The following is an electronic discussion I had with an anti gunner. The topic is the shooting in Tucson and how gun control will help or not help. This is the mentality we are dealing with: (He is in blue, and I am in red)

Anti: Tighter regulation would help keep guns in the right hands and out of the wrong ones. It’s not perfect solution but might be a move in the right direction. Holding a person accountable for their actions is reactionary, we need to be pro-active in order to better prevent these tragedies. There is obviously no perfect solution, and no matter what laws are in place bad people will always exist. I myself own a handgun for protection. I would never suggest that we make it so that good people cannot protect themselves, I’m suggesting that the government control what kind of guns and bullets are obtainable: like semi- automatic and automatic weapons and armor piercing bullets. Again, I never said that more regulation or better control would be a perfect solution, but putting this guy in the electric chair, although needs to happen, will not help prevent the next ass from shooting up innocent people. Tighter control can only a positive move for us as a society. The death penalty is to little to late for the innocent people affected by tragedies like this.

(note that he says waiting for people to actually break the law before punishing them is reactionary. They should be punished before they get the opportunity to harm others-DM)

Divemedic: One of the basic human rights is the right to exist and to defend that existence. A gun is the best way for a person who is weak to defend themselves against a stronger person. Guns enable a 100 pound woman to defend herself from a 200 pound rapist. If you could somehow wave a magic wand and remove every gun from the face of the Earth, do you think it would stop people from harming and killing others? In that vein, a gun is a human right, as it flows naturally from the right to defend one’s own life and there ARE many people trying to take away our guns. Diane Feinstein, a Democrat congresswoman said “If I could get 51 votes in the Senate, Mr and Mrs America, turn them all in, I would do it today.”

Anti: Sorry dude, but a gun is not a human right. Survival is, but owning a gun is not. It is an American privilege that we all should be proud to have and I would never want that taken away from good people. But lets say this 100 pound woman wants to buy a handgun for protection, the right regulations wont prevent that. I’m not so much worried about her as I am the adolescent with the emotional problems who finds daddies semi-automatic AR-15 and goes to the mall to seek his revenge on the society that has somehow done him wrong. Now, obviously if the kid really wants to hurt people he will find a way, but controlling what kind of guns are bought and sold at your local gun store will make it a little more difficult for him/her. Evil will most likely find a way, but we can at least try to make it hard for them. Diane has an extreme and unrealistic liberal idea that I personally do not agree with but I think there is a compromise somewhere in the middle of the extreme right and extreme left.

Divemedic: A gun IS a human right, as how do you expect that person to survive if you tell her she cannot defend her life? The Constitution was based upon John Locke’s theory of Natural Rights. To deny them is to deny the basic premise that our very nation are founded upon. It isn’t just me who says that, the Supreme Court has ruled that possession of guns is a fundamental Constitutional right (see Heller v DC, Supreme Court 2008)

The problem here is that it was already illegal for the AZ shooter to own a weapon (he was a drug addict) which means he broke two laws in obtaining the firearm. Murder is illegal, as is brandishing a firearm, and a dozen other laws that he broke. Do you think adding another law would have made a difference? How long has cocaine or pot been illegal? Does anyone have trouble getting those?

Anti: you ideal is a double edged sword brother, because then even drug addicts and rapists would have the “human right” to own guns.  If the right regulations and laws makes it a little more difficult for me to get a gun but a lot harder for a convicted criminal to get one, I’m all about it.  I personally would love to see psychological testing and more rigorous background checks. I think the law should be tougher on people who have guns illegally, and I think there needs to be more control on the types of guns sold in the US. I think we should start asking why we think people SHOULD have the privilege of a gun, not why they SHOULDN’T have one. Guns should be viewed and treated like privileges instead of rights. It just feels like its way to easy for the wrong people to get guns. But I don’t have all the answers. I think that conservatives and liberals can find a middle ground on the issue.

Divemedic: We could not be farther apart on this. The Second Amendment and Fourth Amendment both make your suggestions unconstitutional. We are at the middle ground now. Until 1934, it was legal to own whatever you want, including artillery and machine guns. Compromise ended that. Until 1968, it was legal to order guns by mail with no restrictions, including felons. Compromise ended that. No more compromise. Gun control is a failure. 

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On the road

Posting has been light as of late, as I have been on the road. I am currently in our nation’s capitol. I spent the day yesterday wandering around, and I am left with a few impressions. First, let me start by saying that there are not many tourists here this time of year, and the result is that there is almost no one enjoying the monuments and other national treasures. This makes seeing things pretty easy. To show you how empty it was, here is a picture I took yesterday:

One of the monuments we went to see was the Washington monument. I use this as an example of one of the things that I noticed. There is a bookstore at the entrance, and it is small (about 300 square feet). It is filled with books that tourists would buy about the capitol, includeing about a dozen books about and written by our current President. That isn’t the story here. There are two employees in the bookstore. On the back wall of the outside of the store, there is a box office where another employee hands out free tickets to enter the monument itself. I am not sure what purpose these tickets serve, as they are free for the asking.

You walk about 200 yards to the base of the monument, and there are 3 police officers standing there with a man who takes your ticket so you can enter, four at a time. Not the monument, but a small building connected to the monument. This building is made of poured concrete and has thick armored doors and bulletproof glass. Inside of this building, you are xrayed, stripped, and searched by 3 unarmed security personnel, overseen by two more cops.

Moving on, you enter the base of the monument, where there are 3 employees to operate the elevator. This elevator has three stops, the base, the top floor, and the floor just beneath the top. These three employees are there to push the buttons for you. You board at the base, get out at the top, walk a flight of stairs to the floor below, and reenter the elevator.

Fifteen employees, not counting the maintenance and groundskeeping people. All of this for a small bookstore, and a monument with a total of three rooms, one of them being the lobby. In all, there were less than fifty people at the monument when I was there. Ridiculous waste of taxpayer money. It seems to me that this is a massive jobs project.

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Repossessions

This post is in response to the laws as they pertain to repossession in Florida. Many of these laws are based upon the UCC, but since I am not aware of the laws of every state, your mileage may vary. This is my (non lawyer) opinion of what the law says. As usual, my advice is worth what you paid for it.

In Florida, statute 493.6118 prohibits a repossession agent from carrying a weapon:

9. Carrying any weapon or firearm when he or she is on private property and performing duties under his or her license whether or not he or she is licensed pursuant to s. 790.06.
 This makes carrying a weapon during a repossession a crime. If a recovery agent is on private property, they have NO RIGHT to use force to protect themselves, as they are not in a place where they are legally allowed to be. This means that force may be used by the owner of the property to defend themselves against the unlawful use of armed force against the owner of the property. Furthermore, any force that the recovery agent used is unlawful, since they cannot legally be armed on your property.


 Why do I dislike repo agents? Well, four years ago, my sister bought a used car. She paid $4,000 in CASH for the car. The car dealer told her that he had not yet gotten the car’s title from the state, and he would send it to her as soon as he got it. Four days later, her car was stolen. She called the cops, and the cops told her that it had been repossessed. The dealer refused to return calls, and had the police escort us from his car lot. 

We got a copy of the title application from the state, and the paperwork had been altered after the sale to show that my sister still owed $50 on the car, and that there was a lien on it in that amount. We called the cops. They refused to help, and told us it was a civil matter. So did the state attorney. We sued in small claims, as a lawyer would have cost more than the car. When we got to court, the dealer said that he had already resold the car, so the judge said that he was not going to cheat the new owner of the car out of his money, and dismissed the case.
 
The law doesn’t work. The cops don’t work. Our legal system is not about right and wrong, it is about who can game the system. It is broken. Get what you can, while you can. That is what our legal system has taught me.