Bureaucrat Beat: Scarey Headlines, Big Pine Angst, Hot Dog Budget

You know, sometimes news headlines get scarey. In the Bureaucrat Beat newsroom, we all grabbed copies of the Los Angeles Times, sat down at our table and began rustling through the pages.

We vowed to stay close to home when we saw the headline – “Iraqi reporter is killed; CBS journalists remain missing.” The enemies of a free press and freedom of speech have weapons. Another headline said, “Beijing is worried about protests.” They should be more worried about repression. Protests are part of a free society. So is bad behavior.

Another headline said, “Blue Cross halts letters amid furor.” Provocative, yes? The lead paragraph says, “Facing a torrent of criticism Tuesday, Blue Cross of California abruptly halted its practice of asking physicians, in a letter, to look for medical conditions that could be used to cancel patients’ insurance coverage.

Blue Cross is not only corrupt, but stupid. Did they really think doctors and patients would not rat them out? The news story says there were “blistering rebukes by physicians, patients, privacy experts and Governor Schwarzenegger.” Blue Cross officials quickly snapped up the letter. Blue Cross claimed they’ve sent these letters for years! Oh, that makes it all right!

Finally, this headline: “Senate Oks bill to extend wiretaps”. The legislation would expand the government’s prying eyes into international phone calls and emails, without warrants. The bill would also protect phone companies from lawsuits when they fork over our private information.

Hey, we’re all for efforts to ferret out bad guys, but we do want to preserve the Bill of Rights and our civil liberties. So, back off Senate and Whitehouse!

Back at the home fires, we did receive some phone calls to ditto problems at the Big Pine Post Office. We had called Postmaster Lupita Mahoney to see if she would send back tax refunds with street addresses, not post office boxes, if it’s a p.o. box delivery. She pretty much said she would.

Other Big Pine residents said failure to deliver mail with street addresses caused one man to move his mail to Bishop, another to lose critical medications that came by mail, another almost lost his life insurance because of returned bills, paychecks have been returned, propane bills. It’s tough to get agencies to use p.o. boxes sometimes. We’re sure the post offices do know which person has which post office box. They could just put the mail in the box!

Last time I called Ms. Mahoney she hung up on me, so I’ll just say, hey, Lupita, if you’re listening, is it true you took down all of the past postmasters’ pictures in the Big Pine Post Office, leaving only your picture?

A Bureaucrat Beat listener had a story to share. Seems he and his wife, who are quite elderly, went to a doctor to have their toenails clipped. The man said the doctor billed Medicare $1,000 per clip. He’s worried Medicare will run out of money at this rate. Those of us lurching toward Medicare age worry too.

A few points to bring up from Mammoth’s new tax discussion. Many have said now is not the time to ask folks to approve a new tax. One councilman agreed and pointed to things accomplished without a new tax.

Councilman John Eastman named these projects done over the past three years:

A new middle school, a new visitors’ center, the Westin Hotel, a new fire station, a new library, ice rink, skatepark, hospital parcel purchase, student housing, Lake Mary bike path project, 5 Mammoth Lakes Housing projects, new transit, coming soon air service and the saving of Snowcreek Athletic Club. Not too shabby. Mammoth’s not so destitute as some may think.

John Wentworth had a good point on the other side of the issue – let citizens vote on a tax measure, regardless of whether people think it will pass or not.

Clever coined phrases? Our favorite came from California Treasurer John Lockyer when he referred to the legislature’s “Tooth Fairy Budgeting”. That says it all.

Mammoth developer Ward Jones had a good one. He told the Town Council the recession may last awhile and they should engage in “Hot Dog Budgeting.” Something like the Frugal Gourmet.

With that, this is Benett Kessler signing off for Bureaucrat Beat where we await your word on our lives in the Eastern Sierra and beyond.

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