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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?

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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. 

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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.

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Living in the future is cool

An automatic donut machine.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Paid administrative leave and the Constituion

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I am not shy about pointing out when cops have overstepped their bounds. I am not a cop basher, I just call em like I see em, bashing them when they screw up and I support them when they deserve to be supported. This is one of those times.

Whenever a cop does something stupid or controversial, he is placed on paid administrative leave pending investigation, and many people are quick to scream “paid vacation” and “cover up” because they feel that the cop is getting away with the act. The truth is actually quite different.

Since a cop is potentially going to be deprived of something (his job) by a government agency, he or she in entitled to the same rights and protections as an other person in this nation, and as many are quick to point out, cops are civilians the same as the rest of us, and need to be treated in the same way. This means that the government agency, his or her employer, cannot deprive him of his liberty or property without due process of law. When I studied for my degree in Public Safety Administration, we had to take classes on Administrative Law. I will excerpt some of my class materials/papers below, and attempt to explain:

The Fifth Amendment to the U. S, Constitution states “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” Originally this amendment was construed to be applicable only to the federal government. Later, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified to provide “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment clearly applies to municipalities as well. City of Mobile v, Bouldin, 446 U.S. 55 (1950). Further, Section 1983 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code prohibits any person from depriving another of his or her civil rights under color of state law. Section 1983 covers municipal actions as well.

Here we are concerned about a public employee (cop) who is called by the employer to answer for some transgression and punished. The employee appeals, claiming that the public employer violated the employee’s rights by depriving him or her of property (in this instance, the job) without extending due process of law, and deprived the employee of liberty (in this instance, his or her good name in the community) without providing due process of law. A public employee with a constitutionally protected property interest in that employment must be afforded the process prior to termination. Cleveland Bd. Of  Educ, v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532,105 S.Ct 148 (1985).

Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions address these questions: Board of Regents V. Roth, 408 U.S. 564 (1972); Perry v. Sinderman, 408 U.S. 593 (1972). The decisions in Roth and Sinderman involved tenured teachers who were fired and who subsequently claimed violation of due process as to their property and liberty rights. These decisions were applicable to all public employees, whether tenured or non-tenured. The court held that a public employee has a property interest protected by due process if he or she could show a “legitimate claim of entitlement” to the job – a contract, or tenure, or even oral or implied understandings – creating a reasonable expectation of continued employment.

A recent decision in the third circuit, Schmidt v. Creedon, F.3d (3rd Cir. 2011) (pdf) makes clear that absent extraordinary circumstances, prior to suspending a police officer for any reason, a police department must provide the officer with notice and a hearing. A good explanation can be found here.

So when you hear that a cop has been suspended pending investigation, it isn’t a Union that is protecting him, it is the same Constitution that protects everyone.