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Merit pay isn’t

Rick Scott just signed a law that forces merit pay on to teachers and school districts. Merit pay is a code word for “no raises” and has very little to do with merit or with increasing incentives to excel, and everything to do with cutting the pay of employees. How do I know that? I will explain…

Firefighters are not hired here in Florida the way that they are in most other states. Here in Florida, we are a ‘right to work state’ and in combination with some other factors, this has made the way we are hired a bit different. In most states, the fire and police departments hire you, and then put you through a training academy. Not so in Florida.
Here in Florida, you attend the fire academy on your own dime. Like college, you pay to go to the school and attend the 480 hour school on your own. Then, you take and pass the state firefighter exam to get your license. You also have to attend the 266 hour EMT school on your own, and pass that state licensing exam. There is also a state required 16 hour EVOC course. Since many departments will not hire you unless you are a paramedic, you also attend paramedic school and pass that licensing exam, another 1200 hours. In total, it takes about two years to become a licensed Florida firefighter.
Then you start looking for a job. You take any job you can get, because your firefighter certification is only good for two years, then if you are not working by then, you start over.

What does all of this have to with merit pay? Well, when I was originally hired by my current department in 1998, you were hired at a base rate of pay, which in my case was $8.44 an hour. You received an automatic 8% raise every year on your anniversary date. All of that changed just two years after I was hired when we went to a ‘merit pay’ system. Merit pay started out great. It was designed so good employees got a 5% raise, and outstanding employees get a 5% raise and a $1,000 bonus. The first year, I got both. The second year, the raise went away, and good employees got a $500 bonus, and outstanding employees got $1,000. I got $1,000. The third year, outstanding employees got a 3% raise. No one else got anything. I got nothing that year. Not only were raises getting smaller, they were getting hard to earn. Less than 2% of employees got a raise.

After my fire department had done this for about 5 years, we were the lowest paying department in the area. We were bleeding people like crazy. We hired 40 people, and a year later all but two of them had left to take jobs with a higher paying department. They were taking their skills and education where the money was. So, the department gave everyone a 10% raise. That was in 2005. I have only gotten one raise since. I make just 3% more per hour than I did in 2007. We still do employee evaluations, but there is no longer any money tied to it. Explain how a merit pay system that gives no raises can possibly incentivize anyone into doing anything.

This is where our education system is headed.

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Tell me

Jessie Dotson was born in 1975, but his troubles with the law didn’t begin until he reached the ripe old age of 15, when Dotson was charged with disorderly conduct for making threats against his mother as she tried to discipline him. A month later, he was charged with assault after a 13-year-old told his parents Dotson punched him in the face and threatened to “put him in the hospital” if the younger teen didn’t bring Dotson $25 the next day.

The following year (1991), Dotson wanted to beat up his brother, so his mother locked him in a bedroom. Dotson escaped by breaking open the door, and then punched holes in the walls and threatened to kill his mother. He was arrested for disorderly conduct. That same year, the 17 year old Dotson was also arrested for possession of a sawed off shotgun and a pistol.

In 1992, he was arrested again for disorderly conduct because of a fight with a neighbor.

It was in 1994 when he was arrested for committing his first murder and served fourteen years in state prison. Just three days after his release in January of 2008, Dotson pulled a gun on his brother and threatened to kill him over a coat that Dotson was attempting to steal from his brother. The brother called the cops, and no arrest was made.

Dotson went to the brother’s home several weeks later, and shot or stabbed everyone there. Six people were killed by gunfire, including Dotson’s brother and three other adults, Dotson’s two nephews were stabbed and murdered. The nephews were 2 and 4 years old. Three other children, aged 2 months, 6 years, and 9 years, were left for dead after also being stabbed.

Since Dotson was under age in 1991 when he was first caught with firearms, tell me how gun control worked.
Since possession of an unregistered sawed off shotgun is illegal, tell me how registration worked.
Since he was a convicted murderer, tell me how gun laws worked.

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Dear Republicans:

I see the polls. If you run Huckabee or Romney in the 2012 election, you are not getting my vote. I am through with voting for the same old crap simply because that person will take away my liberty at a slightly slower rate than the other guy.

Look at Obama’s Presidency, and tell me what is different from GW’s policies.

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My rant

Yesterday, I was a witness to a homicide. I watched a doctor kill a patient. This was one of the worst performances that I have ever witnessed from a physician. Her ego, lack of medical skill, and lack of caring were all contributing factors in the death of this patient. Lots of medic stuff to follow. I will try to link to explanations where I can.

So we had a call for an unresponsive 91 year old female. I checked her radial pulse, and it was weak at 30 beats per minute. We put her on the monitor, and she was in a narrow complex bradycardic rhythm with no discernible P waves, so we began pacing her. That is exactly what the American Heart Association says is the appropriate for an unresponsive patient with bradycardia.

Her initial vitals: HR 70(paced), BP 87/63, RR:19, EtCO2 23 and square, SpO2 93%. There was a little expiratory wheezing, but her capnogram didn’t show any obstructive pattern, and the EtCO2 of 23 indicated that this was a cardiac output problem, not a hypoventilation or respiratory problem. We decided that her problem was decompensated cardiogenic shock. We started a Dopamine infusion at 7 mcg/kg/minute.

We arrived at the hospital 15 minutes later. Her vitals were now: HR70(paced), BP 133/108, RR 19, EtCO2 26 and square, SpO2 94% (on NRB at ten liters).  This was a significant improvement.

The Doctor’s first question, even before I was done with my turnover: “Is she a DNR?” When I said no, and that the family was in the waiting room, her reply was “I am going to talk to them about a DNR.” This doctor then removed the pacing pads, discontinued the dopamine, and ordered atropine. Whatever, you are the doctor, even if you are taking a treatment that is working and changing course.

Five minutes later, the patient’s HR was 36, and her BP was 39/23. What did the doctor do? She ordered an albuterol updraft.At this point, I went over and politely showed her the capnogram, and pointed out that the lack of an obstructive pattern indicated that the beta agonist would not work. That is where she came unglued. She told me that she was giving it for wheezes, and I responded by telling her that wheezes do not always mean bronchospasm.

Then she got personal. She told me, “When you go to doctor school, you come back and we will fucking have this conversation.” What followed was not my most shining moment.

I told her: “If I were you, I would go back to my doctor school and demand a refund, if what they taught you was to give an updraft to a patient in cardiogenic shock with adequate respiration, just because you heard some wheezes.”

The good news is that my department and the medical director are standing behind me on this one.

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I guess it is my fault for expecting you to honor your promise

Public Sector pensions have become the latest target of the Republican party. If one were to believe the right wing reports, the pensions of public employees are destroying the state budgets. That is a vast misstatement. The truth of the matter is this:
Pension contributions from state and local employers aren’t themselves blowing up budgets. They amount to 2.9 percent of state government spending on average, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College puts the figure at 3.8 percent.

The most recent Public Fund Survey by Brainard’s group showed that, on average, state and local pensions were 78.9 percent funded, with about $688 billion in unfunded promises to pensioners. The unfunded liabilities would be a problem if all state and local retirees went into retirement at once, but they won’t.

What will happen though, is if bills such as the one proposed by Florida’s TEA party governor come to pass, is that large numbers of public employees will retire on the eve of the law becoming effective. The TEA party backed governor has proposed a law that would cut retirement benefits in half for many public employees. The large numbers of employees who would retire before such a law takes effect would cause large fiscal strains on the pension funds, and would actually cause the funds to destabilize.

Of course, in making the public employees and their pensions into the scapegoat, they distract taxpayers from the real issues:
In 2010 (pdf alert), public pensions in Florida were $743 million, or 1% of the budget. Medicaid costs $20.5 billion, or 29% of the budget. Education is 52% of the budget. Free lunches for poor school kids? $800 million. The new arena that was built in Orlando for the basketball team? $480 million. With all of that, why are public pensions being blamed for breaking the budget?

Another factor that the Republicans have not considered is this: When firefighters and paramedics get too old to jump out of firetrucks and ambulances at 2 in the morning, they frequently retire, and get jobs teaching at the fire academy or in a community college as an adjunct instructor. This is where the next generation of paramedics and firefighters are made. These adjunct instructors are cheaper than hiring full time instructors, and the students benefit from the experiences and knowledge that the retired instructors bring to the classroom. Under the proposed law, retired employees would be prohibited from working in a government job once they are receiving a pension. This means that community colleges and fire academies will lose these instructors. What will THAT cost?

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The cops and the courts are corrupt

This is a story of events that occurred to me about 7 years ago, events which resulted in my CWP being revoked. It took me six months, multiple hearings, an administrative appeal, and several thousand dollars in attorney fees to finally clear my name. Let this serve as a warning to others that this can happen to you.

It began on Saint Patrick’s day in 2004, when my live in girlfriend announced that she wanted to see other people and moved out. During the time we were living together, her car had broken down, and I had been letting her drive my second car while she was awaiting repairs. The car was 100% mine, and my name was the only one on the title and registration. She had also been using a second cell phone on my Nextel account. (Trust me, I am not rambling- this is all important later)

When she moved out, I turned off the cell phone and I asked for my car back. She refused. I called the cops, but they told me that since I had given her the keys, it was a civil matter. I didn’t know where she had moved to, so my car was gone. A month later, I saw the car parked at the mall, but there was a “club” on the steering wheel. I had it towed to my house.

That night, she came to my house at 2 in the morning, pounding on my door and demanding that I give her the car back. I told her to go away, and she refused. I called the police. They arrived, and explained to me that I had to let her in the house, because she had a 2 month old bill with her name and my address on it, and that constituted enough proof in their minds that she lived with me.

They told me that I had to let her get her stuff. I told him that I wanted her to give me back the keys to the car. The cop said, “Car? What car?” I told him that the car was parked right around the other side of the apartment. He said, “If I I don’t see a car, there is no car.” He then asked me to put my hands on the wall and frisked me. While that was going on, he let her into my apartment, where she proceeded to steal about $2,000 of my stuff and began loading it into the car. I pointed that out, and he said that my ex-girlfriend was claiming it to be hers. I asked him to run the tags. He refused and told me not to tell him how to do his job. (Note here that they had no problem getting involved in the “civil matter” on her side, but would not get involved on my behalf.)

While the ex was in the house with the cops getting more of my stuff, I got in the car and drove it down the street. When I got back, the cop asked me where the car was. I pointed out to him that if he didn’t see a car, there was no car. He became furious and told me I was under arrest for auto theft and obstructing a LEO. He even put the cuffs on me. I told him that he had just made my day, and he was going to get sued for wrongful arrest. I pointed out that he was arresting me for stealing my own car. He must have realized that he had screwed up, because a few minutes later he took the cuffs off and let me go.

The next day, there was a sheriff’s deputy at my door with a domestic violence injunction, ordering me to appear at a hearing a week later. At the hearing, she produced a statement that I had been beating her while we were together. No proof, no witnesses, no police reports, no medical records, no marks on her, no corroborating evidence of any kind, just her say-so. It turns out that there is a “domestic violence victims advocates office” at the court house that coaches these women in what to say, and juggles the judicial calendar to make sure they get sympathetic judges. (Witness tampering?)

While in court, she began crying, and told the judge that I had taken away “her” phone, and that I had taken away “her” car, and left her with no way to get to work. She also told the judge that she was afraid of me because I owned a lot of guns. This infuriated the judge, and he ordered me to turn my guns in to the police, revoked my CCW, and ordered me to provide her with a car and a cell phone at my expense. While doing this, he said, “Is this true? You own two cars, and she doesn’t have one?” My attorney objected, and pointed out to the judge that my girlfriend and I had never been married. The judge told him to sit down and shut up.

He also said that since my 2 jobs as a paramedic could potentially bring me near her, that I was prohibited from going to work. One job was willing to work with me, the other one fired me the next day. The one willing to work with me (the fire department) placed me on paid suspension. I was told that if the order was made final, they would have to terminate me.

Luckily, the attorney had forewarned me about the anti-gun attitude of this particular judge, and I had already sold all of my guns to my brother in law two days earlier. Since this was not a final judgment, we could not appeal. The judge also said that my taking away “her” car and phone was a kind of violence, in that I was using my financial influence and the threat of firearms to control her.

For the next five months, we had numerous hearings, and I was able to return to my fire department job. I had to endure her showing up everywhere I went. I started making sure I had witnesses wherever I was, so that she couldn’t accuse me of anything. I hung out with friends and family, so that way it wouldn’t be my word against hers.

It would go like this: I would be at a sports bar owned by my partner, and she would show up and call the police. Since I was there first, they couldn’t arrest me, but they would make me leave. She would go grocery shopping at the store across the street from my house, and tell the cops I was watching her from my window, and they would come over and hassle me. She called the cops and told them her doctor’s office was in my mom’s neighborhood, and they would even throw me out of my mom’s house, and make me leave until she was finished at the doctor.

One night, she called me and told me that the whole thing would go away if I paid her $10,000 in cash and let her keep the car. I refused. My attorney was finally able to trip the judge on a legal technicality, and got him recused from the case. With a new judge, we got the whole thing thrown out, and I got my car back. By the time I got it, it had been damaged by some sort of tool or keys.

Another month, $1,100 in fees, and some administrative appeals later, I managed to get my CWP back. I bought the guns from my brother in law, and my life returned to normal.

All of this was done on a statement filled out by her, with no witnesses, and no proof whatsoever. I discovered that when you get in front of these judges, you are at their mercy. They can ruin your life.

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Pro union? No, pro-freedom

As I have stated before, I am not a union member. I am not a Democrat. The reason that I have been sympathetic to the unions in Wisconsin is because the Republicans are passing a law that infringes in the rights of public employees to assemble and petition the legislature for a redress of grievances. This is an abridgment of the First Amendment. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean that you use the force of government and law to silence them.

The excuse that they do not have the interest of the taxpayer in mind when they speak doesn’t fly with me. It isn’t as though corporations are any better when they give lucrative job offers to military procurement officers in exchange for the inside track to government contracts.

That is also why I am against closed shops. Closed shops take away my right to speak for myself, and force me to accept that the union will speak for me. I am in a union shop, and I am not in the union. I speak for myself. It is not my place to force others to follow my path. I will fight anyone who tries to force an opinion on others. Even if that opinion is my own, and even if the person it is being forced upon is my enemy. I do this because I may one day be the person being forced to obey, and the person in power may be that enemy. What powers I grant to myself may one day be used by my enemy.

We should remember that, always.

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TANSTAAFL

As soon as the government mandates that any good or service is a right, it means that someone is now obligated to provide that right. This is true in the case of Healthcare, education, monetary handouts like Welfare and Social Security, food, housing, whatever.

There are only three ways to do this:

1 Require that the cost of the good or service is spread amongst all taxpayers
Sometimes this can be justified, in that the cost of the good or service is borne by all, and is provided equally to all, with everyone paying, and everyone benefiting. This system is good when the cost to any one person is high, but everyone needs and has access to the service.

Examples of this include national defense,  the court system, or fire protection. Every person benefits, every person pays.

2 Require that the cost of the good or service is paid for by the provider, that is the provider must provide the good or service at their own expense.

At least a portion of the good or service is forcibly taken from one person for the pure benefit of another. Examples of this include welfare, social security, education, and medical programs. For example, the law forces Doctors to provide medical services for a set price. This system is sometimes confused with other plans, but it easily distinguished by the fact that the good or service is not provided to everyone equally. Welfare is not available to some based on income, race, or other factors, for example.
  
3 Require the person receiving the good or service to pay for it themselves. Some systems do offset a portion of the costs through user fees, but these are typically heavily subsidized by other means. A good example of a user fee supported mandate is the auto insurance that is required to operate a vehicle.

I used to be a supporter of the TEA party, until I realized that they are merely trying to shift the provider from one column to another. They still want the government to provide them with stuff, they just don’t want to be the one who pays for it. They want government mandated schools, fire departments, and all the other hand outs, but instead of paying for it, they want to force others to do so, either by asking them to provide their labor at a certain price, or by making someone else pay a tax that they themselves want to be exempted from.

Even though the anonymous commenter doesn’t want to post even a screen name, I will post the information requested:
 Instead of negotiating with government employees, the TEA Party of Wisconsin is passing a law that would require teachers to take pay cuts, and prohibiting them from even discussing the matter. No different that requiring Doctors to provide medical care at set rates under Obamacare, the TEA party (which is a branch of the Republican party) simply wants someone else (teachers) to foot the bill for education. I say, break the Dem/Rep stranglehold, and begin phasing out public education.

Closer to my home state of Florida, the TEA party is already making with the politics as usual:

Managed care health insurance companies — eager to shape legislation that could give them more access to 3.2 million Medicaid patients and an expected $21.6 billion budget — gave nearly $200,000 to the parties in the last quarter of 2010.

Political committees representing property insurers and individual companies gave the Republican Party nearly $60,000 as lawmakers prepared a proposal to loosen regulations that could allow rate increases and fewer requirements to cover sinkhole damage.

The sugar companies, Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar — which donated $250,000 and $175,000, respectively — have joined other agricultural interests in opposing a new federal clean water mandate affecting nutrient runoff. They have urged the governor to delay implementing the rules.
Private prison operator Geo Group chipped in $82,500. Private companies run seven of the state’s 146 prison facilities under contracts worth $159 million and Scott proposes privatizing more to help reduce a $2.4 billion corrections budget.

Not only that, but during the campaign, TEA party gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott said that he would not cut the pay and benefits of police and fire. Four weeks after being sworn in, he proposes to eliminate the retirement plan for all state workers, cops and firemen included. Proving that the TEA party is comprised of a bunch of the same old lying politicians that will say whatever it takes to get elected that we have always had.

For those who think that such liars are trustworthy, remember that when he decides to turn on you for a few extra votes. Or have you forgotten Gillibrand already?

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One of the worst movies ever

I just watched 2012. I am very glad that I watched it as a streaming movie on Netflix, and didn’t pay $21 to see it. It was pure mental pablum, no substance, and the science was ridiculous. The main star was the CGI. Can we go back to making movies that have character development and a plot, please?

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What if the shoe were on the other foot?

Let’s imagine that the government signs a contract with Boeing, where the company will provide 500 military aircraft over a ten year period. The contract is structured so that Boeing gets $10 million for each unit, payable on delivery, and another $5 billion at the end of the 10 year contract, as a bonus for completing all aircraft on time, bringing the total of the contract to $10 billion.

Nine years into the project, 450 aircraft have been delivered, and the company is well positioned to deliver the remaining aircraft before the expiration of the contract and collect the bonus. The Air Force decides that they cannot afford to pay the bonus, and unilaterally alters the contract to eliminate the bonus, and decides that the original price of $10 million per copy is sufficient. The military also announces that while other contracts with defense contractors are unaffected by this contract change, budgetary constraints may cause them to alter other contracts in the future.

Boeing protests, saying that each aircraft costs the company more than $10 million to build, and the company stands to lose money on this contract if the previously promised bonus is not paid. Boeing further states that had the bonus not been a part of the contract, they would have signed other, more lucrative deals with other parties, and that the bonus was the reason the deal was agreed to in the first place. Boeing petitions their congressman to reinstate the original conditions of the contract. Instead, the Democrat-controlled congress threatens to pass a law preventing corporations who receive money from military contracts from negotiating the terms of those contracts.

Boeing responds by refusing to deliver the remaining aircraft. Other defense contractors, afraid that their contracts are in danger of future cuts if this precedent is allowed to stand, send strong letters and lobbyists to speak to congress in Washington. Many of these letters claim that the companies will cease delivering products to the military if such a law were passed.

QUESTIONS

1. At this point, is Boeing justified in refusing to deliver any more aircraft?
2. Should the government be able to force them to deliver them anyway?
3. Is the law preventing defense contractors from contacting their representatives constitutional or fair?

Most would say that the Air Force and Congress are out of line. Sure, $20 million per aircraft seems steep, but the Air Force still made the deal, and should have considered that prior to having the work done.

How is this any different from what is being done to those who provide labor as their product? The employees have delivered the product (their labor), and now that the work is done, there are attempts to alter the agreement. Attempts to negotiate are met with threats of making negotiation illegal, and so the employees refuse to provide any more labor under those conditions. I am interested to see what answers our Republican fanboys have to the above questions. I bet they avoid answering them.

The only difference I see is that the Republicans don’t like the fact that many unions support Democrat politicians. As Borepatch says:

the problem isn’t the Democrats, and the solution isn’t the Republicans.  The problem is an institutionalized ruling class that views the rest of us with increasing contempt.

EDITED TO ADD: I am tired of being spammed by comments that do not directly relate to the posts. Comments that are not related to the post, or are mere links to other sites with no comment will be deleted.