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Health Reform Website Collects Personal Info for No Reason 
Saturday, June 12, 2010, 6:02 PM - Public Policy, Law, Privacy
Posted by Administrator
The President's website to promote health care reform,, collects Personally Identifiable Information (PII) without explaining why or what it will be used for, in violation of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA).

In two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the government states that it has no records of anyone even discussing Information Collection Requests for any part of as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act. Both the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (PDF), who manages the website, as well as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (PDF), who administers the PRA, have no records for anything involving

Under the PRA, collection of "general comments" is allowed without approval, as well as information "necessary for self-identification" such as name and email or mailing address. Anything other than that requires an Information Collection Request which is published in the Federal Register, then OMB will issue a control number for the form, which indicates it was properly generated and approved. The forms at have no OMB control numbers.

Normally FOIA requests that result in no records provide a very simple response that says just that. But the response from HHS goes a step further. HHS claims, "as only general comments were to be received, no Paperwork Reduction Act documentation was created because clearance was not required." This is partially true, but it does not address the "support" form at all which ONLY collects PII such as name, address, email, and even phone number. Thats all, no field for "general comments" or anything else, unless your comment is "I support health reform this year."

Since this request was filed, the "support" form was removed from the website, the original page can still be found as part of my FOIA package (PDF). As to why this page was removed, I'll leave that to speculation.
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Standing Room only at Town Hall, Angry Groups from Both Right and Left 
Saturday, August 29, 2009, 8:23 PM - Public Policy, Law
Posted by Administrator
If Rep. Susan Davis' (D-CA) office can't plan a town hall correctly I don't know how we expect her to do any better with larger government programs like health care. The parking lot wasn't large enough to accommodate over 1,000 citizens, some constituents ended up walking several blocks into order to park their cars only to get denied entry. The facility was full with standing room only for nearly 1,000 concerned citizens.

In her defense the question and answer session was handled rather well. Every got to put their name "in a hat" and they were randomly drawn through the Q&A session. Each person had one minute and thirty seconds to make a statement or ask a question. Susan Davis would then respond, usually with a shorter answer than the question given. Also to her credit, even though the event was only scheduled from 1 to 2 PM she took questions well past 2 until about 2:30.

Some highlights:

To answer the question before it was asked, Rep. Davis stated, "I just want you to know that, yes, I have read the health bill, it is over 1,000 pages..." (14:35)

"We rank 45th in infant mortality rates, behind Cuba," said Davis (18:10) before the crowd uproared.

In response to a question about hate crime legislation (HR 1913) only protecting certain groups, she stated, "I think that when you are discriminating against one group, you're really discriminating against all groups." (34:50) That sounds like an oxymoron to me, if you discriminate against all groups then its not discrimination is it? That's just "the way it is."

One person asked, "I know that you are supposed to represent your constituents and I happened to look at the poll you have on your website and its says that 'the health care reform should include a government managed public option,' 85% of respondents said no." (1:10:05) After an uproar, Davis responded, "I would like to see a public option...I think you have to stick to your principles." (1:13:30)

[UPDATE: 09-03-2009]

Rep. Susan Davis' office also provided handouts with some "facts" about health care. The exact straight line increase chart called "The Cost of Doing Nothing" struck me as odd so I did some research. I spent a few hours looking at the Kaiser Family Foundation's website trying to find this $1,800 increase every year through 2023 since that is what the slide cited as the source. I couldn't find it. I couldn't find any Kaiser Family Foundation research that projects costs into the future. I could find a figure close to the $12,500 starting point for 2008, so at least that checks out. So I called Susan Davis' office and inquired about what publication I could find this statistic in. After a couple of days I got a response that mentioned a few sources.

[UPDATE: 09-23-2009]

I got another call from Susan Davis' office specifically citing a New York Times Economics blog as the source for the $1,800/year figure. This is sort of true since it suggests $18,000 over ten years starting in 2010, but this is more likely to be distributed unevenly, less than $1,800 in the early years and more in the later part of the decade due to inflation. I do not know why the lower KFF estimates were used except to mislead. When using the starting point of $12,500, $1,800 is a 14.4% increase, compared to 10% when starting at $18,000.

Analysis of the blog post shows that this number is an expert opinion and not a fact, it has not been peer reviewed and assumes the current defunding trend for existing government health programs continues. In fact when considering an inflation rate on average of 3% this is exactly canceled by 3% wage increases as stated on the blog. That only leaves a true cost increase of about 4% per year. Much of this 4% is not due to an increased cost of care, it is because government programs are paying out less than in the past and service providers need to recover those costs. A quick table of costs at a 7% annual growth rate.

2010 - $18,000
2011 - $19,260
2012 - $20,608
2013 - $22,050
2014 - $23,594
2015 - $25,245
2016 - $27,013
2017 - $28,904
2018 - $30,927
2019 - $33,092
2020 - $35,408

Another government program is NOT a solution based on testimony by John M. Pickering of Milliman, Inc., to the House Committee on Ways and Means. Analysis of this testimony is UNBELIEVABLE. What it says is that in 2007, $1,788 (10.7%) of the total health care cost for a family of four went to COVERING THE COSTS OF THOSE ON MEDICAID AND MEDICARE and the uninsured. So because the government does not pay out market rate for services rendered, its costs the average family $1,788 every year. If the existing government programs paid out at market rates, costs for these families would drop by $1,788. The additional cost for government programs would likely be spread across the tax base because this is a zero sum game.

[UPDATE: 04-30-2010]

Susan Davis voted in favor of passing the Senate Health Reform Bill in the House, which did not include a public option. I'm not sure what happened to her principles she claimed at the town hall meeting.

Full Town Hall Audio (MP3)
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FairTax Response from Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) 
Friday, April 10, 2009, 5:58 PM - Public Policy, Economics, Law
Posted by Administrator
In January, I wrote a letter to my Representative, Susan Davis, in support of the FairTax and asking her to co-sponsor H.R. 25. I received her response today. While I was not expecting her to become a co-sponsor, or even support the H.R. 25 (FairTax), I am amazed at her response.

First, she defends the current tax system of over 70,000 pages and counting. Apparently her most important concerns are NOT its complexity or even how some of our presidential appointees are either not smart enough to understand the current system or are cheating it. First and foremost, she cites the need to 1) eliminate the marriage penalty and 2) increase the child tax credit. Yes, because these are the biggest problems with our tax code?

Secondly, she and her staff have apparently not read H.R. 25 and are in serious need of education on the FairTax. She claims that under a national sales tax "the vast majority of the tax burden would fall on the poor." Normally this statement is true, but NOT as implemented in H.R. 25. The FairTax calls for a prebate which means that anyone at the poverty level pays exactly $0, that is ZERO DOLLARS in federal taxes. This actually ends up being less taxes than what a person at the poverty level pays today, considering that the 7.65% payroll tax rate will be repealed as part of H.R.25.

She also claims that this would "make our goods and services prohibitively expensive" to sell in other countries. This is just plain false. The FairTax is charged at the point of sale to the consumer. Any good shipped overseas would be sold completely free of US taxes, allowing us to become an exporting powerhouse.

Please contact Susan Davis' office using one of the methods below and straighten them out about the FairTax:

Congressional Website

U.S. House of Representatives
1526 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2040
Fax: (202) 225-2948

4305 University Avenue
Suite 515
San Diego, CA 92105
Phone: (619) 280-5353
Fax: (619) 280-5311

[UPDATE 04-13-2009] I also forgot to include the repeal of any income taxes at the poverty level. That could be another 10% or so more in taxes under the current system as compared to the FairTax.
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TSA Non-compliant with Congressional Mandate 
Thursday, February 12, 2009, 12:40 AM - Public Policy, Law
Posted by Administrator
In response to a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request for documentation regarding the Information (Data) Quality Act, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) stated that it doesn't even have the required administrative guidelines on how to implement such a policy. This is in violation of both the law passed by Congress and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) mandate.

Many, if not most federal agencies have such a policy publicly available on their websites, whereas TSA does not have one at all. And as for the report that is supposed to go to OMB every year? They haven't created one of those, ever.

Public Law 106-554, Section 515, passed in December of 2000, states that Executive Branch Agencies shall:

(A) issue guidelines ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by the agency, by not later than 1 year after the date of issuance of the guidelines...

(B) establish administrative mechanisms allowing affected persons to seek and obtain correction of information maintained and disseminated by the agency that does not comply with the guidelines...

(C) report periodically to the Director--(i) the number and nature of complaints received by the agency regarding the accuracy of information disseminated by the agency; and (ii) how such complaints were handled by the agency.

As far as I can determine, TSA has never done any of these.

And an interesting note for anyone that has not tried submitting a FOIA request before, I received a letter postmarked on December 22 letting me know that my email was received on December 15. I sent the email the night of December 9. First, that means it took them nearly one week to acknowledge that they received my email. Note that this did not include processing of any kind besides giving me a tracking number. Second, this means it took them an entire week to get the letter from the FOIA office and into the mail. The entire process, from start to finish, took nearly two months, just to tell me that they did not actually have any records for me. I can't imagine how long an actual document would take to get out of them.

[UPDATE 02-22-2009] OMB Guidelines require that each agency publish their Information Quality Guidelines on their website and also a notice in the Federal Register.
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The Solution to San Diego Traffic 
Monday, January 29, 2007, 10:06 PM - Public Policy, Law
Posted by Administrator
The San Diego traffic situation, while not as critical as Los Angeles, is continuing to grow. This is largely because of people commuting to and from work. The problem is that the National Highway System was not designed for short commutes. It was designed for long haul transportation, traveling large distances at a time. Bigger freeways aren't the answer, the solution is in getting people to use existing streets more.

Currently the plans to expand the freeway system include adding more lanes. This will not be sufficient. Adding more lanes will only add to congestion because there will be more lane changes when entering and exiting the freeway. And those making short trips will continue to remain the right lanes, acting as obstacles slowing down all those trying to change lanes and adding to the problem.

Car pool lanes and flow control traffic lights have potential to help, but they can't reduce the demand for freeway usage. This assumes that more people will actually carpool, which is unlikely when traffic is the worst, during the rush hour commute. Flow control has been shown to help, but as traffic continues to increase these will only be helpful if they have longer red cycles to keep too many cars from actually entering the freeway.

People are still willing to get caught up in traffic on the freeway rather than use the streets. We have to ask, why? The answer is that in their current state, the streets in San Diego don't make it easy to get around.

Nearly every intersection in San Diego has left turn lanes with protected arrows. This means that there is a traffic light dedicated to left turns, with a left turn arrow for the green light. These are largely unnecessary in many locations, near housing subdivisions or apartment complexes. To start, this is problematic because these slow down the traffic light cycles. Where medians are present, backed up left turn lanes can even block or congest traffic that is going straight through the intersection.

In addition, nearly all lights are sensor based. A particular direction will only turn green if a car is present. However, when cycles are so long, there is almost always at least one car present, except for at night. In rare cases the lights are synchronized. This needs to be done. On the major streets, the lights can be timed such that someone traveling at the speed limit will get green lights the entire way.

By removing left turn lights and synchronizing traffic lights, the flow of traffic through the city can be greatly improved, alleviating some of the demand on our freeways.
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