95 year old WWII Vet finds out he’s not an American Citizen?

Ninety Five year old Leeland Davidson of Washington wanted to visit relatives in Canada and needed an ‘enhanced drivers license’ to do it. The license was denied because he ‘wasn’t a citizen’ in spite of being born to two US Citizens from Nebraska? Since his parents were born in Nebraska before there were good records, and Leeland was born in British Columbia, the US government has decided he isn’t a citizen. When he decided to pursue the citizenship issue, the officials at the US Passport office threatened to deport him and take away his Social Security

What is wrong with this country?

I live in a town with hundreds if not thousands of illegal immigrants. They are working on every construction site and shopping at the Wal-Mart, but someone is wasting resources threatening a 95 year old World War II vet that has lived in this country his whole life.

Third World California

Victor Hanson wrote a commentary entitled Two Californias back in December that discusses the social and economic state of the California Central Valley.

Many of the rural trailer-house compounds I saw appear to the naked eye no different from what I have seen in the Third World. There is a Caribbean look to the junked cars, electric wires crisscrossing between various outbuildings, plastic tarps substituting for replacement shingles, lean-tos cobbled together as auxiliary housing, pit bulls unleashed, and geese, goats, and chickens roaming around the yards. The public hears about all sorts of tough California regulations that stymie it works wraps business — rigid zoning laws, strict building codes, constant inspections — but apparently none of that applies out here.

This article illustrates so well some of the downfalls of our current government policies. While conservation, environmental protection, welfare, education and health care are all wonderful things, shortsighted, underfunded laws can exacerbate or even cause the problems they are intended to fix.

Colorado Government Kills Revenue Stream For Colorado Residents

In typical blundering fashion our Colorado state government has screwed up again. In a misguided attempt to make Internet based companies collect sales tax for them, they passed HB1193. Governor Bill Ritter pushed this as a revenue boost for the state, but in reality it looks like it will be a loss. Because of this push Amazon has suspended all of their Colorado affiliate accounts. This could result in as much as a 7.5 Million dollar loss for Colorado businesses this year.

The worst part about this whole mess is that other states have passed similar laws with similar results. Rhode Island, North Carolina and New York are all experimenting with this. The Colorado legislature could have waited until the dust settled in these other states before taking this on.

For a good analysis of this story read the Developer Dispatch article Colorado and Amazon Battle and People Like Me Suffer. I would also recommend The Write Spot, LLC, great ongoing articles about this issue there.

School pays student for political persecution – proof the ACLU isn’t completely evil

In many conservative circles most people think the ACLU is evil. This organization is responsible for taking prayer out of schools, supporting gun control laws, promoting Gay Marriage and defending abortion. While the ACLU is definitely guilty of supporting many of these hot button issues, they also help defend citizens rights regardless of their political opinions.

A Colorado high school student who was arrested in 2008 for wearing a “Nobama” sticker outside a campaign appearance by Michelle Obama has won a settlement from the school.

Blake Beeson was handcuffed and arrested for interference the day before the presidential election, when Michelle Obama visited Dakota Ridge High School to campaign for her husband.

Beeson and two other students stood outside the gym where the future first lady was speaking and held campaign signs for Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate.

School officials told Beeson to leave. He refused and was arrested and suspended from school for a day.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado announced Wednesday that Jefferson County Schools and the county sheriff’s department would pay Beeson $4,000 to avoid a lawsuit. Authorities dropped criminal charges against him in May.

“Jefferson County officials were wrong to censor the peaceful, purely political speech of a high school student just a day before a historic national election,” ACLU staff attorney Taylor Pendergrass said in a statement.

Beeson said he hoped the settlement would promote student activism.

“If one thing comes from this case, I hope it is that other students will learn more about their free-speech rights and not be afraid to use them,” Benson said.

Jefferson County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Kelley told The Denver Post that the arrest caused an internal investigation and that “lessons were learned from the investigation.”

Next time someone complains about the ACLU, remember, it’s not a bad thing to have an organization out there defending our rights. And just because you disagree with another’s actions doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be free to act the way they choose to.

Beer and Guns – new shooting regulations in Colorado

The Tribune has an article about new regulations on shooting in Colorado

Shooters must use cardboard, paper or manufactured metallic targets or thrown-type clay targets while shooting. They also must not possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage as defined by state law.

The new regulations were put in place to address concerns by residents and officials who were not only worried about stray bullets flying over private land but illegal dumping providing targets for shooters.

Those hunting with a license on the land are exempt from the new order.

So, hunting with an open container of an alcoholic beverage is OK? That seems random.

Colorado Supreme Court Finds Operation Numbers Game Illegal

In the fall of 2008 Weld County Sheriff deputy’s executed a search warrant on a Amalia’s Translation and Tax Services in Greeley Colorado. The purpose of this search? To find tax returns that were filed with incorrect Social Security numbers. The assumption was that illegal immigrants were stealing identities to gain employment and had filed taxes fraudulently in order to work in the US.

Yesterday the Colorado State Supreme Court finally ruled that this warrant violated the US Constitution. Justice Michael Bender said the warrant allowed “an unbridled search” that “contravenes basic freedoms guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.” The defendant in the case, Ramon Gutierrez, had a reasonable expectation of privacy on his tax return.

We can all be glad that the Colorado high court has defended the constitution and the rights of anyone living in this great country, but a big hole still remains in government. Individuals, either illegal immigrants or other nefarious characters, are stealing identities. Official federal tax documents are being filed with stolen or false Social Security Numbers and NOTHING is being done about this. This should be the IRS’s responsibility. The Federal government forces Social Security Numbers on it’s citizens, extracts taxes from workers, yet can’t simply identify when there is potential fraud on the tax returns.

The best the government can do is setup a database that allows employers to check their employees putting the burden back on business’ shoulders. Wouldn’t it be as easy and better to identify when fraudulent or duplicate tax documents are filed and reject them? Of course, this is unlikely to happen because our greedy government wants every dollar it can get.

This gap must be filled, immigration laws must be enforced or repealed and flagrant SSN fraud must be stopped.

The real problem with US Health Care

As of this writing the new Health Care Reform Bill has just passed the Senate Finance Committee. As is typical of legislation in the modern era, this bill is long, complicated and contains everything but the kitchen sink. For this article, I will include a summary

This is the House Democrats’ big health care reform bill. Broadly, it seeks to expand health care coverage to the approximately 40 million Americans who are currently uninsured by lowering the cost of health care and making the system more efficient. To that end, it includes a new government-run insurance plan (a.k.a. a public option) to compete with the private companies, a requirement that all Americans have health insurance, a prohibition on denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and, to pay for it all, a surtax on households with an income above $350,000.

The bill focuses on ‘insurance’ for everyone, but this avoids the whole issue. The real problem with health care in this country doesn’t revolve around insurance, it revolves around cost. I know this for a fact due to a recent experience of mine.

Two weeks ago I awoke on a Saturday morning with an abdominal pain in the lower right quadrant (the area where the appendix is). By Sunday evening it hadn’t subsided, and appendicitis can cause an appendix to burst after 48 hours, so my family and I decided I should go to the hospital.

We arrived at 8:30. I saw a nurse and a doctor. The doctor examined me, didn’t think it was the appendix, but sent me for a CT scan just in case. The CT technician came and got me and took ‘two short pictures’. The whole scan took about 10 minutes.

After the scan I waited for it to be ‘read’ and the doctor reading it to fax his results (indicating he wasn’t even on site). The results came back, and the problem was not appendicitis. There was a ‘finger of fat’ that got wrapped around something internally, coincidentally right where the appendix is. It wasn’t dangerous and should go away in another day. The doctor (who I must say had a great bedside manner) offered pain medication, but I refused. I was then released. During checkout I notified the staff that I didn’t have any insurance. I was then presented with a form that said if I didn’t have insurance and made less than $125,000/year the hospital would automatically deduct 50% from my bill. 50%? Of course, I signed this and went on my merry way. It was 11:30, I had spent 3 hours in the hospital.

Yesterday I received the bill for this little check. $4200. I was billed $4200 for a 3 hour visit in which the determined that there was nothing wrong with my appendix. The average American household income is $50,000, which translates into a takehome wage of around $2700 a month. It would cost the average American almost two months salary just to find out there was nothing wrong with him. I shudder to think what the bill would have been if they had to remove my appendix.

If this wasn’t bad enough, the hospital would have charged the insurance company twice this, over $8000. Everyone accuses the insurers of being greedy, but premiums have to be high just to cover expenses like this.

Interestingly, CT scans aren’t this expensive everywhere in the world as illustrated by this excerpt from an article entitled Why does a CT scan cost so much in the USA?

A basic MDCT scanner (6 or 8 detector rows) costs about 2 to 2.5 crore rupees here in India (INR 20 to 25 million = US $ 500,000 to 630,000). I learnt from a source in the industry that the cost of the scanner is about 40% subsidized for the Indian market (compared to its cost in the North American & European markets). So the same basic multislice CT scanner would cost about $ 900,000 in the US.

We have a basic four-slice MDCT scanner in our hospital. A patient would be charged Rs. 3500 ($ 90, yes ninety dollars) for a plain CT scan or Rs. 4500 ($ 115) for a contrast CT scan of the whole abdomen. Ours is a small city. The charges are likely to be as high as Rs. 8000 or Rs. 9000 ($ 200 to 230) in the bigger metros like Chennai, Mumbai or Delhi.

Why is there such a discrepancy in the prices between the US and India? Honestly, a patient could FLY to India to get the scan cheaper than having it done here. Experts will point to a variety of reasons for these outrageous charges, malpractice insurance, coverage for patients that don’t pay for ER visits, the high cost of purchasing and maintaining CT machines, etc…

The real question in my mind is why are congress and the Obama administration ignoring the real problem here. US health care costs are increasing annually by 5.6%, but no one seems concerned about that. Instead of finding the reasons for these outrageous costs and working to control them, some members of Congress are trying to spend $829 billion over the next 10 years just to provide insurance coverage to those who don’t have it.

President Obama is about change, so let’s have some change. Rather than one massive bill that just tries to provide coverage for all uninsured Americans with an $8 billion/year price tag, lets break this down and pass bills like the
Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009 that most of us agree will help the whole situation.

Update 11/04/2009 The hospital’s financial assistance program scheduled and appointment and met with me. First off, I was incorrect about the bill. The original $4,200 bill was not discounted by 1/2, that was the full bill, I was only liable for about $2,500. Second, I did qualify for some state assistance due to my current income level, so this bill isn’t quite as devastating as I originally feared. In spite of both of these, I still believe the underlying problem with healthcare has more to do with the costs than the availability of insurance.

Should Obama decline the Nobel Peace Prize

The announcement was made this morning that United States President Barack Obama, after less than nine months in office, has been selected to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Some are saying that Obama hasn’t earned this honor yet, and should decline the prize

But it’s not just Republicans who are questioning the Nobel committee’s decision. Lech Walesa, former Polish President, Solidarity leader and recipient of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize said, “So soon? Too early. He has no contribution so far.”

Even White House officials
were amazed, reportedly asking if today is April Fool’s Day.

The award could pose political problems for Obama, both at home and abroad. With the international accolades now official, there’s less incentive for Obama to act in a fashion that continues to seek worldwide favor. And coming off an embarrassing visit to Copenhagen, traveling to Oslo to be congratulated by the international elite for things he hasn’t yet done could appear as selfish at a time when unemployment (and deficits) creep higher.

Perhaps the best thing Obama can do is politely decline the award, saying that, while honored, he has been president for only nine months and still has much to accomplish. Such a move not only would be hard for any party, political or otherwise, to criticize, it might also be the right thing to do.

Personally, I would be very impressed if he turned it down.

We need a new environmental disaster movie!

Global catastrophe always makes for a good thrillers. Radioactive spiders, thermonuclear war or even global warming as in 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow. Know it looks like the Obama administration is writing the script for a brand new film – hopefully we will all be around to watch this one.

President Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, says the White House has discussed plans for ‘geoengineering’ to stop global warming. Options include shooting sulphur into the upper atmosphere to simulate a volcanic eruption and building giant towers to such the CO2 out of the atmosphere. Seriously? Have these guys never watched an environmental disaster movie? Isn’t it fairly obvious that mucking around with the environment is probably a bad idea? What’s next, Skynet? I hope somebody makes this movie, I just hope it isn’t a documentary…

Obamas new budget – Deficit to $1.75 Trillion

Obama sent his first budget to Congress today. A proposal that increased the deficit to $1.75 Trillion – a 35% increase over the Bush budget plan.

This coming, just days after a speech where Obama was promising a pay-as-you-go strategy and promised to cut the deficit, he unveiled a $3.55 trillion budget plan for 2010 as well as changes that would push 2009 spending to $3.94 trillion. Almost half of next year’s budget would be money he doesn’t have.

The budget not only includes massive spending increases, but also raises taxes on charitable contributions for the wealthy.

…taxpayers in the current top tax bracket of 35 percent would see their tax deduction for every $1 given to charity drop from 35 cents to 28 cents.

Increasing tax rates on the wealthiest tax payers may be an acceptable way of raising revenue, but discouraging them from contributing to charities doesn’t seem like a great strategy in these troubled economic times. We may all be standing in soup lines before too long…