April 30, 2013

Tuesday's Number: $1,869,826

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.  

As I did for much of last year, I will be tracking health care related filings. I include anything that is clearly a debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance.

This week more than makes up for last week’s ‘poor showing’, if that’s the correct term to use; we recorded the highest totals ever for number of people listed and dollars.  This week, there were 62 people listed with new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers totaling $1,669,118.  

This week, there were eight listings for satisfied judgments totaling $88,708 to a hospital, doctor, or other medical provider.  That’s not including the one I mentioned last week, against a local hospital by a person’s estate; that judgment, for $164,256, has been satisfied.   

Finally, this week there were two health-care related bankruptcies listed, for a total of $112,000.  

The paper publishes only those accounts of at least $5,000.

April 28, 2013

Knock Knock. Who's there? An Iowa Republican

An Iowa Republican who?

An Iowa Republican who wants to pay judges on his state's highest court based on the decisions they make.

Judges on Iowa's Supreme Court make around $163K for their full-time jobs; state representatives like Tom Shaw (R-Laurens) make $25K for their part-time jobs (are you listening, New York?).  Shaw, upset with the unanimous decision of the justices back in 2009 on the constitutionality of gay marriage in Iowa, is one of a handful of folks proposing that the four judges still on the bench who were involved in that decision have their pay reduced to $25K, in part because
It's our job to maintain the balance of power between the three co-equal branches of  government.
Maybe it's just me, but the Legislature declaring war on the Judicial branch (and only part of it, mind you) by slashing salaries of people they don't like doesn't seem to have much at all to do with 'maintaining' the balance of power, it seems pretty much like a bald-faced power grab, doesn't it? 

The fact that the Iowa state motto is "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain" must be lost on Representative Shaw. So is this little section of the Iowa Constitution:
All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation: the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.
In the tripartite system, the Legislature is supposed to draft bills, laws and codes that are constitutional.  The Executive branch is supposed to pass or veto them. The Judicial branch is supposed to rule on the constitutionality of the law and codes.  Sometimes, there's a breakdown, usually starting with the Leg, when they miss the mark.  And when that happens, people go to court to get the final answer.

In their written decision, the justices went to great lengths to describe how they reached the conclusion that the Iowa code declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman was unconstitutional.  

Legislators have a few options when the Court decides against them: they can try and amend the law to meet constitutional requirements; they can drop the issue entirely; or they can try and amend the constitution, in which case "the people" decide (and by people, I mean corporations, unions, PACs, and so on, as well as humans who vote).

Rarely do they propose punitive damages against the judges.

This isn't about marriage equality.

Yes, the case was about marriage equality, but this issue is much larger than that --  it's a very bizarre and frightening concept generally.   Kind of makes you wonder where they could go next, doesn't it?

Knock knock.

April 27, 2013

Knock knock. Who's there? Airline passengers

Airline passengers who?
Airline passengers who are now complaining about Sequesterman, the evil superhero sent across the land by Congress to wreak havoc on government programs large and small.

Congress and the President wouldn’t do their jobs and cut spending on programs that they themselves had authorized, or sponsored, or promoted as what America needed to move us forward into the next blah blah, to prepare us for the next wave of blah blah, to save us from the coming onslaught of blah blah, to blah blah blah us into submission.
They tried everything, but were so unwilling to make the hard choices that they created Sequesterman, a cold, uncaring emotionless guy who would implement harsh, across-the- board budget cuts in all areas of the federal government. They made him just in case they needed an incentive (more inspiring than their dismal single-digit approval rating) to force action "in the best interests of the country" to solve our debt and deficit problem. Which they also made.
They heard speeches and pleas, arguments and suggestions, ideas and proposals to not let Sequesterman loose on the country,  of what would happen if they did allow the arbitrary cuts to go in; they heard it for days and weeks and months on end. And as they do so well, Congress pretended to act. The deliberated, and wrung their hands, and rattled their sabers and each other’s cages, and voted on some stuff that they all knew would not pass -  and ultimately they allowed Sequesterman out of the box.
Fast forward to this week:   Sequesterman has started furloughing air traffic controllers as part of the mandatory spending cuts.  And so people living outside the rarefied air in Washington (they’re called voters) are starting to be hurt by those furloughs, as flights are being delayed with fewer controllers manning the towers. (Of course, I think some folks would think that a flight delay is not such a hurt compared to say, losing pay because of Congressional gridlock.  But as usual, I digress.) 
The airlines, no dummies --they’re announcing to passengers that the flight delays are caused by Sequesterman.  Republicans in the House, they’re blaming the President. Democrats in the Senate, they’re blaming the Republicans in the House.  Anyone surprised here that the most action we get out of these people is finger-pointing?
Congress, after blaming the FAA for mishandling the across-the-board cuts made necessary by Congressional inaction, found somewhere in their pocket Constitutions the right to on-time air service; it must be right up there with free speech, corporations are people too, and a well-regulated militia.
Unanimously and without debate, the Senate approved a bill that allows the FAA to move freely about their own budget to find the necessary cuts, making the furloughs unnecessary. Over in the House, 41 people pretended to have the courage of their convictions and voted no; however, since passage by a huge margin was a forgone conclusion, a no vote was completely meaningless.
In the end, everyone caved, and those pesky voters can now get where they’re going with only the normal, non-Sequesterman delays in front of them. (Mother Nature, the ball is back in your court.)
All I can say is I am extremely fortunate that my Congress can act so swiftly when voters get angry about something as trivial, in the overall scheme of things, as delayed flights, particularly ones that impact the NY-to-DC corridor.  Because that quick, decisive action will be what gets us well prepared for the blah blah blah of the future, which will come as soon as our do-nothing Congress gets back from their vacation.

Knock knock.

April 23, 2013

Tuesday's Number: $174,168

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings. 

As I did for much of last year, I will be tracking health care related filings. I include anything that is clearly a debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance. 

This week is fascinating. Most likely either due to a timing issue, a space issue or some other clerical issue, there were no people were listed with new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.  There was, however, a judgment filed by a person’s estate against a local hospital, totaling $164,256.

This week, there were five listings for satisfied judgments totaling $174,168 to a hospital, doctor, or other medical provider.  This is the only time since I started tracking these numbers that the judgments satisfied has outpaced the judgments filed. 

And this week, there were no health-care related bankruptcies listed. 

The paper publishes only those accounts of at least $5,000.

April 20, 2013

An Open Letter to the Albany Police Officers Union

Mr. Thomas Mahar, President
Albany Police Officers Union
PO Box 6567
Albany NY 12206

Dear Mr. Mahar:

Your letter to the governor and other elected officials outlining the Albany Police Officers Union (APOU) opposition to the SAFE Act is making the rounds on the Internet and in various social media.  I applaud your taking the time to communicate in a clear and understandable way your membership’s opinion, and the thorough explanation you gave regarding your position.

I share your frustration with how the SAFE Act was pushed through.  I believe Governor Cuomo was motivated not only by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but closer to home by the horrific shootings of the first responders in Webster last Christmas Eve.  Both of these incidents touched a nerve, but I don’t believe either constituted an emergency for New York. 
While I think this is as good a time as any to discuss opportunities to reduce gun violence, I believe that emotion was the primary driver of this legislation. (And your suggestion that this was 'agenda-driven' does not fall on deaf ears.)  Many New Yorkers have indicated support for at least portions of the law, but that support does not overshadow the fact that just about all New Yorkers dislike how the law was passed.  

I personally believe in reasonable limits on the right to bear arms; I fall on the ‘well-regulated’ side of the discussion rather than the ‘shall not be infringed’ side.  That being said, I have been trying understand the other viewpoint. That’s why I was interested in reading your position.

Sadly, many of the arguments made in your letter were not new, among them that criminals and the mentally ill won’t abide by the requirement of the SAFE Act; that criminals and mentally ill people don’t care about the penalties they would face if caught; that the public won’t be any safer under this law than they are now; and that the law is burdensome to law-abiding citizens. 

I don’t want to take your time addressing these arguments, other than to wonder if your membership feels the same about all of the other laws  they are sworn to enforce (and penalties for breaking them). What I do want to ask you about, however, is this part of your letter: 
We as police officers are on the front lines of public safety. Respectfully, none of you are.  We see, feel, work and live with the effects of gun violence in ways that you do not.
How simply and eloquently did this set up the opportunity for some real insight!  Now, I thought, finally I’m going to hear something from the people who know best what to do.  But then you immediately said this:  
We believe that you see gun violence as a means to move your agenda and your ambitions forward. You know the SAFE Act will not work in the way you pretend it will. You know that this shameful SAFE Act was about ideology and not about making anyone safer.
 My disappointment was palpable. 

The APOU, other police unions and police departments across this state are uniquely qualified to tell us what we should be looking at try and solve our gun violence problem.  But while you noted that you "applaud and support (the politicians') overall concern for public safety and (their) desire  to improve it" you resorted to the same rhetoric that could have come from any pro-gun individual, politician, or lobbying organization; in short, you offered a non-expert opinion. 
I believe that, as you were ‘respectfully demanding' that legislators listen to you and repeal the law, you were squandering a golden opportunity to make a valuable contribution to the discussion. You offered nothing tangible as an alternative to the SAFE Act, nor did you seem to offer any willingness to engage with politicians to make the law better. 

Instead of options that might actually make us safer, you offered only the empty call to repeal a law you don’t like. Instead of suggesting what would work, you only complained about what you think won’t.   

If you and your members believe that there’s nothing that can or should be done, I would find that to be very disheartening, as would most of your fellow New Yorkers. But if that is the case -- you can come up with nothing -- please tell us so, in language as clear and as public as you used to tell the politicians how wrong they were to pass the SAFE Act.

Otherwise, I want your unique perspective. I want to hear from people who have the day-to-day experience with guns and the damage they do when used by the wrong people, and to learn from that perspective. I want to know what you, the experts, think.

I’m looking forward to your suggestions on what will make us safer, on what will help reduce the gun violence that you see, feel, live and work with every day. Not just gun homicides, but all gun violence.  I would like to be able to share your advice with my representatives in Albany and Washington, and to encourage others to do the same.

Thank you.

April 18, 2013

What Scares You More?

The bombs that went off near the finish line at the Boston marathon, or the people who believe that the government did it?  For me, it's the latter - definitely.

I've written before about rabid Palinites who believe that President Obama killed a Navy Seal. But I've never invested a whole lot of energy into conspiracy theories.  I try not to quickly judge people, and admit that I could be better at that than I am today. But in all honesty,  I don't have any use for people who actually believe, or pretend to believe, that our government is running around willy-nilly killing Americans in order to push an agenda.

Particularly when the person who's considered the "killer in chief "is the only one of our elected federal officials who has a term limit and who must get his agenda past Congress.  The idea of him being the one to put this kind of action into motion is beyond absurd.  But he must be the one, because it's all over the Internet, right?

Here's a sampling from comments on various articles at infowars.com, one of the strangest web sites I've ever visited.
I believe this is a “false flag” The end goal to me would be the need for Martial Law. It is tragic that we have such a low stooping government. But ‘rightwing” as Obama and his cronies like to say have more patriotic sense in one little toe, than Obama does in his entire body. This also giving an opportunity to cast doubt or blacken the name of republican conservatives.
If it were Tea Partiers, they would not attack innocents, they would go after politicians and they won’t miss and won’t cause that kind of collateral damage. The fact that it was at an event like this eliminates them as a possibility and certainly implicates the government. Qui Bono? How would this benefit any right wing group or Tea Party? It does benefit the police state. Don’t be fooled folks. 
A supernatural prophetic warning appeared in the BOSTON GLOBE in 2001, a pix of Tom Ridge & George W Bush in front of a flag and what appeared was not an American flag but a swastika - a warning about the fascist spirit behind DHS (that's the Department of Homeland Security) and also that 911 was a FALSE FLAG. Both 911 and this bombing were psy ops to traumatize the public to bring in martial law...BUT I predict there will be a new revolution against this martial law starting in Boston. This happened on TAX DAY - and the Boston Tea Party started the American Revolution against an unfair British Tax, in Boston with Paul Revere's Ride...Also the Illuminati social engineers who want martial law are trying to label patriots as terrorists - they have been doing it -- this bombing happened on PATRIOTS DAY - so it is a psy op to conflate in the public's mind the word PATRIOT with Terrorist - to mind control them to support this slander.  
And there's this, from NaturalNews.com, a site I've never visited before:
The bottom line in all this is that the mainstream media has already decided who's guilty for everything bad that happens in America. It's right-wingers...gun owners...white people...patriots...veterans...conservatives. Sure, there's no logic to it, but the leftist media doesn't operate from logic. It simply picks a group to vilify and goes on the attack. Somehow, they will find a way to blame patriots for the bombings, even it means fabricating evidence and ignoring reality. If for some reason they can't blame patriots because overwhelming evidence points to a foreign terror cell, they will still exploit the tragedy to call for DHS agents on the streets of America, with police state security at every sporting even from here forward. When it comes to the rise of tyranny, the left is blind. They literally can't see it unfolding right before their eyes. In their minds, there's never enough "security" and there's always too many "rights" in America. Their utopia is an Orwellian 1984 military police state where everyone is kept safe because the entire country is transformed into a "Constitution-free zone" where TSA agents reach down your pants and no citizens are allowed to own weapons of any kind. 
And that's from the article, not the comments. Here are some of those:
...actually I refuse to live in fear. Fear is a tactic used by governmental terrorist control freaks to break the American spirit and force us to cry TAKE AWAY OUR RIGHTS, PLEASE MR. PRESIDENT! If you think Pearl Harbor, 9/11, Aurora, Sandy Hook and now Boston happened without prior knowledge of or direct involvement with the US government, you need to turn Off fox and CNN and stop drinking fluoridated water. Wake up fellow American, Obama is NOT your daddy.
Someone that is not in tune to certain manipulative tactics would just think it is a coincidence. I have also observed that multiple times (coincidence or not) when some false flag attacks happen there seems to be a drill of the same scenario going on in the vicinity that the false flag occurs. 9/11(NORAD Drill) and Sandy Hook(safety drill) to name a few. I see people focusing on the fact, that bomb squads and bomb sniffing dogs are always used at the Boston Marathon(since 9/11). That may be a fact, on the other hand "Drills" being performed on the same day of the event seems to be an ongoing "coincidence". Drills should be performed to their fullest extent prior to and leading up to the specific events so that at the time of the event the parties involved(law enforcement, military etc.) can be on alert and ready to go.  What happened yesterday was a tragedy. Unfortunately these events will continue because they are needed to push a certain agenda. One of them being "National Security", which has become a multi billion-dollar industry. That comment will not sit right with a lot of people but it is a seed that needs to planted. 
And then there's this: all the news you can imagine about how the Sandy Hook killings were orchestrated by the government and the media, or didn't exist or whatever...

Sadly, these people are not alone. In a recent press release, Public Policy Polling offered these delightful statistics:
  • 29% believe aliens exist; 
  • 28% believe in a secret power elite looking to create a new world order;
  • 20% of Republicans, 13% of Independents and 6% of Democrats think Obama is the Anti-Christ;
  • 7% think the moon landing was a fake;
  • 6% of voters think Osama bin Laden is alive;
  • 5% think that Paul McCartney died back in 1966;
  • 4% think shape-shifting reptilians in human form control our world.
No, these folks will never be alone.  And if I can possibly help it, I'll never be alone with any of them.

April 17, 2013

For The Record

Here's a list of the Senators who voted against expanding background checks for gun purchases today.

Senator Party State
Jeff Sessions Republican Alabama
Richard Shelby Republican Alabama
Mark Begich Democratic Alaska
Lisa Murkowski Republican Alaska
Jeff Flake Republican Arizona
John Boozman Republican Arkansas
Mark Pryor Democratic Arkansas
Marco Rubio Republican Florida
Saxby Chambliss Republican Georgia
Johnny Isakson Republican Georgia
Mike Crapo Republican Idaho
Jim Risch Republican Idaho
Dan Coats Republican Indiana
Chuck Grassley Republican Iowa
Jerry Moran Republican Kansas
Pat Roberts Republican Kansas
Mitch McConnell Republican Kentucky
Rand Paul Republican Kentucky
David Vitter Republican Louisiana
Thad Cochran Republican Mississippi
Roger Wicker Republican Mississippi
Roy Blunt Republican Missouri
Max Baucus Democratic Montana
Deb Fischer Republican Nebraska
Mike Johanns Republican Nebraska
Dean Heller Republican Nevada
Harry Reid Democratic Nevada
Kelly Ayotte Republican New Hampshire
Richard Burr Republican North Carolina
Heidi Heitkamp Democratic North Dakota
John Hoeven Republican North Dakota
Rob Portman Republican Ohio
Tom Coburn Republican Oklahoma
Jim Inhofe Republican Oklahoma
Lindsey Graham Republican South Carolina
Tim Scott Republican South Carolina
John Thune Republican South Dakota
Lamar Alexander Republican Tennessee
Bob Corker Republican Tennessee
John Cornyn Republican Texas
Ted Cruz Republican Texas
Orrin Hatch Republican Utah
Mike Lee Republican Utah
Ron Johnson Republican Wisconsin
John Barrasso Republican Wyoming
Mike Enzi Republican Wyoming

And here's a list of the Senators who voted in favor of expanding background checks.

Senator Party State
John McCain Republican Arizona
Barbara Boxer Democratic California
Dianne Feinstein Democratic California
Michael Bennet Democratic Colorado
Mark Udall Democratic Colorado
Richard Blumenthal Democratic Connecticut
Chris Murphy Democratic Connecticut
Tom Carper Democratic Delaware
Chris Coons Democratic Delaware
Bill Nelson Democratic Florida
Mazie Hirono Democratic Hawaii
Brian Schatz Democratic Hawaii
Dick Durbin Democratic Illinois
Mark Kirk Republican Illinois
Joe Donnelly Democratic Indiana
Tom Harkin Democratic Iowa
Mary Landrieu Democratic Louisiana
Susan Collins Republican Maine
Angus King Independent Maine
Ben Cardin Democratic Maryland
Barbara Mikulski Democratic Maryland
Mo Cowan Democratic Massachusetts
Elizabeth Warren Democratic Massachusetts
Carl Levin Democratic Michigan
Debbie Stabenow Democratic Michigan
Al Franken Democratic Minnesota
Amy Klobuchar Democratic Minnesota
Claire McCaskill Democratic Missouri
Jon Tester Democratic Montana
Jeanne Shaheen Democratic New Hampshire
Frank Lautenberg Democratic New Jersey
Bob Menendez Democratic New Jersey
Martin Heinrich Democratic New Mexico
Tom Udall Democratic New Mexico
Kirsten Gillibrand Democratic New York
Chuck Schumer Democratic New York
Kay Hagan Democratic North Carolina
Sherrod Brown Democratic Ohio
Jeff Merkley Democratic Oregon
Ron Wyden Democratic Oregon
Bob Casey, Jr. Democratic Pennsylvania
Pat Toomey Republican Pennsylvania
Jack Reed Democratic Rhode Island
Sheldon Whitehouse Democratic Rhode Island
Tim Johnson Democratic South Dakota
Patrick Leahy Democratic Vermont
Bernie Sanders Independent Vermont
Tim Kaine Democratic Virginia
Mark Warner Democratic Virginia
Maria Cantwell Democratic Washington
Patty Murray Democratic Washington
Joe Manchin Democratic West Virginia
Jay Rockefeller Democratic West Virginia
Tammy Baldwin Democratic Wisconsin

April 16, 2013

Tuesday's Number: $296,092

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings. 

As I did for much of last year, I will be tracking health care related filings. I include anything that is clearly a debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance. 

This week, eleven people were listed with new judgments totaling $250,606 to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers.  

This week, there were no listings for satisfied judgments to a hospital, doctor, or other medical provider. 

And this week, there were two health-care related bankruptcies listed, totaling $45,486.

The paper publishes only those accounts of at least $5,000.