Saturday, November 30, 2013

First Fired Not Hired

The old adage used to go, first in first out.  So in that logic if you were the first fired you would also be the first rehired.  And that is why its called an old adage, its now about being old.

The article below discusses the "trend" of how long term jobless stay long term jobless.  The ones who have long since run out of unemployment benefits, whose savings, debts and financial security long depleted if not gone.  And add further demonstratives, the absurd nonsense that skills "atrophy" after long term unemployment. 

What the article neglects to mention is the age, types of jobs and salaries of those who fall into that category.  But do you need to really look any deeper?

The largest group that this "trend" affects are baby boomers.  These are the >45 who have long histories with one company, have adult or nearly adult children, vested in their communities with home ownership and dutifully enrolled in the companies 401K rip off investments and no health care.

I have put in numerous articles with regards to the significant affects that result from this and more importantly the role of suicide which permeates those who are now back against the wall with nothing to gain and nothing to lose.

What is interesting is that we revere the "greatest generation" as sages and genius despite their increasing age and fragile health.  They still quote the aged  Greenspan as some Yoda who well into his dotage and admission that perhaps some of his economic "Rand theory" might have been a bad idea; or Warren Buffet with prostate cancer and questionable economic investments and his bullshit pledge nonsense, George Soros the same, Peter G. Peterson, Alan Simpson and I could go on and on with septuagenarians who somehow transcend the same logic applied to the dude down the street who has done nothing but 'work hard' and play by the rules.

If I hear the phrase 'work hard' again applied to anyone or anything I will atrophy.   Instead let's everyone 'work lazy' and see how that goes.

We have a bookend of problems. The young coming out of college with little economic opportunity unless making a great latte design is taught in college and the older generation who have experience and knowledge and just as much desire to do well as those half their age.  Join up, fight up, and own up.  Its time to work together not apart.

For Long-Term Jobless, a Stubborn Trend


By FLOYD NORRIS
Published: November 29, 2013


IN 2006, with the American economy booming, the proportion of workers who were laid off or discharged over a 12-month period fell to 15.5 percent. That was the lowest rate since the government began collecting the data at the end of 2000 — and a sign that the job market was exceedingly strong.

But the rate of firings soared during the credit crisis and Great Recession, hitting a peak of 20.4 percent in late 2009.

Now it has fallen to the lowest level ever recorded — 14.8 percent.

In other words, a worker’s chance of being fired is now less than it was when the job market was booming, and much less than it was when the economy was in trouble four years ago.

And yet, the job situation now is not a good one. While fewer people are being fired, the rate of hiring has barely picked up. And as can be seen in the accompanying charts, the long-term unemployment rate — the proportion of the labor force that has been out of work for more than 15 weeks — remains higher than the short-term rate. In October, the long-term rate was 3.8 percent, while the short-term rate was just 3.5 percent.

From 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began to publish monthly unemployment rates based on a survey of households, until mid-2009, the long-term rate was never as high as the short-term rate. Since then, it has consistently been higher, although the gap has narrowed.

What seems to have happened in the United States is that job mobility — historically an important feature of the nation’s labor market — fell rapidly during the recession and has yet to recover much.

The data on hirings and firings is compiled by the government in its monthly Jolts — Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey — report. The charts on hirings and firings, as well as on voluntary departures, are based on actual numbers over 12-month periods, not on the seasonally adjusted figures.

By adding the monthly figures, the charts may overstate job mobility to some extent. In some cases, the same worker may have been hired several times during a year, and have left just as many jobs during the same period. That is particularly true in industries like construction, where many jobs are for relatively brief periods.

But even taking that into account, the fact remains that in a normal year the number of workers leaving jobs — whether voluntarily or involuntarily — amounts to more than 40 percent of the total number of jobs. The number of new hires is, of course, at a slightly higher rate if employment is rising.

In good times, most of that job mobility represents the choice of workers, as more people leave their jobs by choice than because they were laid off or fired. Some of those retired, but most quit, either because they had found a better job or because they expected to find one. But during the recession, the number of people leaving voluntarily plunged, and for the first time since the data was collected, the number of people losing their jobs because they were fired in 2009 exceeded the number who left voluntarily.

One measure of the health of the job market is the number of unemployed people for each unfilled job vacancy. At the end of 2000, when the data was first collected, that figure was just over one — an indication of the boom that ended with the 2001 recession. It soared to nearly seven to one during the recession.

The latest figures show the ratio has fallen back to 2.9. By that measure, the job market is finally a little better than it was at the low point early in the last decade.

But it appears that many of the people who have been unemployed the longest simply lack the skills to get the available jobs. The short-term unemployment rate is back to the levels that prevailed for most of the period before the recession. But the long-term rate, while it is falling, remains higher than it was at any time before the recession.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Unmanaged Care

I have already written about the Doctor Shortages, the funneling and limiting of care as a result of Affordable Care Act, but it has become even more evident as the reality of the amount of individuals who are in need for medical insurance, specifically those who qualify for Medicaid.

Due to the income adjustments and tax credits the actual income level once established for Medicaid is now expanded.  Which means another layer of confusion and frustration for those seeking medical care.

Add to the equation that current publicly funded hospitals and clinics will find themselves receiving less funding due to the program, the idea being that having increased clients/patients will in turn balance out the grants and funds received in exchange for more bodies in the door.

Well more bodies in the door doesn't mean better care, better funding, better Doctors. It means simply more people thru the door.

So for already bursting at the seams public hospitals and clinics it means bursting and in medical terms that is not a good thing.  And for those victims, whoops I mean Patients, of said institutions means not more of the same, but less of it.

Today, I received note that the dump bucket Harborview Medical Center and UW Physicians were the the victims of malware and I was one of the many secondary victims as a result.  As if the medical negligence was insufficient now hackers have my medical information.  Maybe they can actually testify on my behalf on how crappy my uncare was.

But what this is truly representative of is the move to electronic medical records as required by the ACA which adds further costs, confusion and in turn more ways for your privacy to be violated and in turn exchanged either for profit or for other means of meta dating.. meaning anyone can look at your personal private medical history and make conclusions with regards to you for employment as they do with credit reports.  

So once again, even rudimentary care will be compromised.  And think your medical records will be protected and your rights ensured?  Think again. They can't get it right now so imagine with more bodies coming thru the door.  Won't happen.

Medicaid Growth Could Aggravate Doctor Shortage

By ABBY GOODNOUGH
Published: November 28, 2013


SAN DIEGO — Dr. Ted Mazer is one of the few ear, nose and throat specialists in this region who treat low-income people on Medicaid, so many of his patients travel long distances to see him.

But now, as California’s Medicaid program is preparing for a major expansion under President Obama’s health care law, Dr. Mazer says he cannot accept additional patients under the government insurance program for a simple reason: It does not pay enough.

“It’s a bad situation that is likely to be made worse,” he said.

His view is shared by many doctors around the country. Medicaid for years has struggled with a shortage of doctors willing to accept its low reimbursement rates and red tape, forcing many patients to wait for care, particularly from specialists like Dr. Mazer. < Yet in just five weeks, millions of additional Americans will be covered by the program, many of them older people with an array of health problems. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that nine million people will gain coverage through Medicaid next year alone. In many of the 26 states expanding the program, the newly eligible have been flocking to sign up.

Community clinics, which typically provide primary but not specialty care, have expanded and hired more medical staff members to meet the anticipated wave of new patients. And managed-care companies are recruiting doctors, nurse practitioners and other professionals into their networks, sometimes offering higher pay if they improve care while keeping costs down. But it is far from clear that the demand can be met, experts say.

In California, with the nation’s largest Medicaid population, many doctors say they are already overwhelmed and are unable to take on more low-income patients. Dr. Hector Flores, a primary care doctor in East Los Angeles whose practice has 26,000 patients, more than a third of whom are on Medicaid, said he could accommodate an additional 1,000 Medicaid patients at most.

“There could easily be 10,000 patients looking for us, and we’re just not going to be able to serve them,” said Dr. Flores, who is also the chairman of the family medicine department at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles.

California officials say they are confident that access will not be an issue. But the state is expecting to add as many as two million people to its Medicaid rolls over the next two years — far more than any other state. They will be joining more than seven million people who are already in the program here. One million of the newly eligible will probably be enrolled by July 2014, said Mari Cantwell, an official with the state’s Department of Health Care Services.

On top of that, only about 57 percent of doctors in California accept new Medicaid patients, according to a study published last year in the journal Health Affairs — the second-lowest rate in the nation after New Jersey. Payment rates for Medicaid, known in California as Medi-Cal, are also low here compared with most states, and are being cut by an additional 10 percent in some cases just as the expansion begins.

“The symbolism is horrible,” said Lisa Folberg, a vice president of the California Medical Association.

The health care law seeks to diminish any access problem by allowing for a two-year increase in the Medicaid payment rate for primary care doctors, set to expire at the end of 2014. The average increase is 73 percent, bringing Medicaid rates to the level of Medicare rates for these doctors.

But states have been slow to put the pay increase into effect, experts say, and because of the delay and the fact that the increase is temporary, fewer doctors than hoped have joined the ranks of those accepting Medicaid patients.

“There’s been a lot of confusion and a really slow rollout,” Ms. Folberg said, “which unfortunately mitigated some of the positive effects.”

Adding to the expansion of the Medicaid rolls is a phenomenon that experts are calling the “woodwork effect,” in which people who had been eligible for Medicaid even before the Affordable Care Act are enrolling now because they have learned about the program through publicity about the new law. As a result, Medicaid rolls are growing even in states like Florida and Texas that are not expanding the program under the law.

Managed-care companies that serve the Medicaid population here through contracts with the state are still hustling to recruit more doctors and other providers to treat the new enrollees.

Molina Healthcare, which provides coverage to Medicaid patients in California and nine other states, has hired more than 2,000 people over the last year, said Dr. J. Mario Molina, the company’s chief executive. They include not just doctors, he said, but nurses, case managers and call center workers to help new Medicaid enrollees who may be confused about “where to go or what to do or how to access health care.”

Dr. Molina said the temporary rate increase for primary care doctors had helped his company recruit them to its networks. Recruiting specialists has been harder, he said, adding, “Rheumatology is difficult; neurosurgery is difficult; orthopedic surgery is difficult.”

Ms. Cantwell of the Department of Health Care Services said federal and state rules assured “geographic and timely access” for Medicaid patients, and the state closely monitors managed-care plan networks to make sure they include enough doctors. In California, she said, some 600,000 of the people entering Medicaid in January have already been assigned primary care doctors through an interim health care program for low-income residents that will end next month.

She also said that since the expansion population will be older on average than current adult Medicaid beneficiaries — until now, most adults who qualified were pregnant women or parents of young children — the state had decided to pay doctors a rate “somewhere in between that for our regular adult population and our disabled adult population” for their care.

Dr. Paul Urrea, an ophthalmologist in Monterey Park, said he was skeptical of “blue-sky scenarios” suggesting that all new enrollees would have access to care. “Having been in the trenches with Medi-Cal patients who have serious eye problems,” he said, “I can tell you it’s very, very hard to get them in to see those specialists.”

Dr. Urrea said that when he recently tried to refer a Medicaid patient with a cornea infection to another eye specialist, he was initially informed that the specialist could not see the patient until February. “And this is a potentially blinding condition,” he added.

Dr. Mazer, who leads a committee of the California Medical Association that grapples with Medicaid issues, said the managed-care plans he contracts with “keep on sending us patients, and right now I’m scheduled four weeks out.”

Oresta Johnson, 59, who sees Dr. Mazer through the state’s interim health care program for low-income residents but will switch to Medicaid in January, said she had faced “excessively long” waits to see specialists who could treat her degenerative joint disease. Dr. Mazer is monitoring her thyroid gland, she said, and she is hoping she will not have a problem getting back in to see him next spring, when she may need a biopsy.

“I understand there’s a lot of people who need help,” she said. “But am I not going to be able to see who I need to see?”

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tea & Sympathy

I love an old movie and that one is one of my favorites. For those not in the know, it is the story of bullying.  Wow sounds quite current actually.

As you sit down with friends, family and probably strangers to somehow put aside differences and simply enjoy a meal or some sports or whatever one does on this day of thanks, try to find some sympathy or more importantly empathy for those who do not have such fortune.

We are a divided and more importantly divisive country.  I read today's op ed by Nicholas Kristof and it is quite telling and of course the comments that follow equally so.  I always love the vitriol and anger that seems to preclude a newspaper article or editorial. Rarely, if ever, do you read commentary that has any logic, sense, intellect or even politeness.  It is why I don't allow comments to the blog until screened.  It is not that I am against opposition or even disagreement, but when it denigrates into personal attacks or hate speech then I turn my Constitution upside down and ignore the First Amendment.  It seems to be a document that we can pick and choose from, so why not?

I don't know what it is nor why it is but we have a bullying culture.  From top to bottom there is no other excuse or explanation.  Look to our Government, look to our news media, to our own cities and law enforcement, look to the sports you are going to watch later, look to your own family around that table.  My mother used to say "you get more flies with honey than you do vinegar." And of course "if you can't say anything nice about someone say nothing at all."  Then she promptly introduced me to Dorothy Parker whose wit, snark and wisdom was all I needed to somehow find my first loophole in life.

I hear bullying all the time and sometimes directed to me.  I am amazed when I hear a service individual respond to a query of mine with a nasty sarcastic retort.  I speak fast and I was asking a County Court clerk with regards to papers, her nasty retort noticing my coffee in hand, "well you certainly don't need anymore of that clearly"  Uh okay and that does what to answer my question you underpaid undereducated moron was my THOUGHT but instead I went "thanks I will take that under advice and now with regards to my question.." 

See I do think that but in company of friends I usually am quite sarcastic but for many the idea of restraint seems to be something of a loss.  And often I hear that people are surprised that I was not equally snarky back.  

But I am extraordinarily polite.  I go out of my way to mind my manners and treat others in that Golden Rule.  I have certainly had it bite me in the ass and right now I am having trouble sitting comfortably but I still believe in the power of people and the energy that it generates. It is a shame that we generate so much negativity.

And I also think it is a mark of well stupidity. When you are not an intelligent person and have no skills with regards to how to express oneself in polite company, as they used to say, you say things that are often rude, inappropriate or well just stupid. So when I am often reprimanded, scolded or told what to say, I think wow you are stupid to to think I am.  And in turn I often ask if that individual is my parent or guardian since they seem to think telling me what to do is their right.  It is wrong and I try also despite the obvious not presume that people are stupid.  Yes I do the snark but this is the right place, the right time and the right forum for such. 

Times they are a changing and they are blowing in the climate changed wind.  It is time we grew up and stopped being playground bullies everyday not just a few days a year.

Give thanks but mostly give some empathy.   I picked the title of this piece to match the movie of the same name.   Have a cup of tea on me.






Where Is the Love?

NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
 Published: November 27, 2013

When I’ve written recently about food stamp recipients, the uninsured and prison inmates, I’ve had plenty of pushback from readers.

 A reader named Keith reflected a coruscating chorus when he protested: “If kids are going hungry, it is because of the parents not upholding their responsibilities.”

A reader in Washington bluntly suggested taking children from parents and putting them in orphanages. Jim asked: “Why should I have to subsidize someone else’s child? How about personal responsibility? If you procreate, you provide.”

 After a recent column about an uninsured man who delayed seeing a doctor about a condition that turned out to be colon cancer, many readers noted that he is a lifelong smoker and said he had it coming. “What kind of a lame brain doofus is this guy?” one reader asked. “And like it’s our fault that he couldn’t afford to have himself checked out?”

Such scorn seems widespread, based on the comments I get on my blog and Facebook page — as well as on polling and on government policy. At root, these attitudes reflect a profound lack of empathy.

A Princeton University psychology professor, Susan Fiske, has found that when research subjects hooked up to neuro-imaging machines look at photos of the poor and homeless, their brains often react as if they are seeing things, not people. Her analysis suggests that Americans sometimes react to poverty not with sympathy but with revulsion.

So, on Thanksgiving, maybe we need a conversation about empathy for fellow humans in distress.

Let’s acknowledge one point made by these modern social Darwinists: It’s true that some people in poverty do suffer in part because of irresponsible behavior, from abuse of narcotics to criminality to laziness at school or jobs. But remember also that many of today’s poor are small children who have done nothing wrong.

Some 45 percent of food stamp recipients are children, for example. Do we really think that kids should go hungry if they have criminal parents? Should a little boy not get a curved spine treated properly because his dad is a deadbeat? Should a girl not be able to go to preschool because her mom is an alcoholic?

Successful people tend to see in themselves a simple narrative: You study hard, work long hours, obey the law and create your own good fortune. Well, yes. That often works fine in middle-class families.

But if you’re conceived by a teenage mom who drinks during pregnancy so that you’re born with fetal alcohol effects, the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against you from before birth. You’ll perhaps never get traction.

Likewise, if you’re born in a high-poverty neighborhood to a stressed-out single mom who doesn’t read to you and slaps you more than hugs you, you’ll face a huge handicap. One University of Minnesota study found that the kind of parenting a child receives in the first 3.5 years is a better predictor of high school graduation than I.Q.

All this helps explain why one of the strongest determinants of ending up poor is being born poor. As Warren Buffett puts it, our life outcomes often depend on the “ovarian lottery.” Sure, some people transcend their circumstances, but it’s callous for those born on second or third base to denounce the poor for failing to hit home runs.

John Rawls, the brilliant 20th-century philosopher, argued for a society that seems fair if we consider it from behind a “veil of ignorance” — meaning we don’t know whether we’ll be born to an investment banker or a teenage mom, in a leafy suburb or a gang-ridden inner city, healthy or disabled, smart or struggling, privileged or disadvantaged. That’s a shrewd analytical tool — and who among us would argue for food stamp cuts if we thought we might be among the hungry children?

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s remember that the difference between being surrounded by a loving family or being homeless on the street is determined not just by our own level of virtue or self-discipline, but also by an inextricable mix of luck, biography, brain chemistry and genetics.

For those who are well-off, it may be easier to castigate the irresponsibility of the poor than to recognize that success in life is a reflection not only of enterprise and willpower, but also of random chance and early upbringing.

Low-income Americans, who actually encounter the needy in daily life, understand this complexity and respond with empathy. Researchers say that’s why the poorest 20 percent of Americans donate more to charity, as a fraction of their incomes, than the richest 20 percent. Meet those who need help, especially children, and you become less judgmental and more compassionate.

And compassion isn’t a sign of weakness, but a mark of civilization.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Family Thanksgiving

I have been quite the proponent of the concept of the "new family." One less of DNA and more of collaboration and cooperation, finding those of multi generations that are seeking commitment without the need to marry or in fact have any legal requirement in which to be together.

The New York Times yesterday devoted an entire section to the Changing American Family. Profiles discussed the blended families,  nothing new there as we knew about them in the 70s, they were the Brady Bunch; Gay Parents, Single Parents,Adoption, Career Jugglers, Co-habitators and two ones of my particular interest - Parents Behind Bars and Electing a Family.

The story of those families who have to bond and connect when one parent is behind bars is the new dichotomy. We have such a large and ever increasing prison population thanks to the ever growing Police State, we are not just supporting one individual through incarceration we are also supporting that individuals family.  So much for the entitlement generation and their tough on crime, dump the safety nets.  When you look again at costs per difference, it is quite staggering.

The essay below tells one such story.  But remember be thankful that you and your family are safe this Thanksgiving.

Bonding From Behind Bars
The children of more than a million inmates are left to cope as best they can.
The daughter of a prison inmate left for school. More than half of the 2.3 million adults incarcerated in the United States are parents of children under 18.Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times

One variant of the modern American family — sadly characteristic, if often ignored — is the family struggling with the impact of an incarcerated parent. Largely as a result of harsh drug laws and mandatory minimum sentences, the nation’s prison population has almost quadrupled over the past 30 years, according to a 2010 Pew Charitable Trusts study.

Today the United States is the world’s leading jailer by far, housing more of its citizens behind bars than the top 35 European countries combined. And of the estimated 2.3 million inmates serving time, more than half are parents of children under age 18. That translates into 2.7 million affected children nationwide, or one of every 28, up from one in 125 in 1990.
      
Some groups have been hit much harder than others. “African-American children living in lower-income, low-education neighborhoods are seven and a half times more likely than white kids to experience the incarceration of a parent,” said Julie Poehlmann, professor of human development and family studies at the University of Wisconsin. “And by age 14, more than half of these kids with a low-education parent will have an imprisoned parent.”
      
Families are left to cope as best they can, not only with the deafening absence, the economic hardship, the grief and loneliness that separation from a loved one can bring, but also with the stigma that accompanies a criminal conviction, the feelings of humiliation, debasement and failure.
It’s one thing if your father is taken away by disease or divorce; it’s another if he’s taken away in handcuffs. Studies have shown that even accounting for factors like poverty, the children of incarcerated parents are at heightened risk of serious behavioral problems, of doing poorly in school or dropping out, of substance misuse, of getting in trouble with the law and starting the cycle anew.

In a telling sign, “Sesame Street” recently introduced a Muppet named Alex, who looks as glum as Eeyore and is ashamed to admit why only his mother shows up at school events: Dad is in prison. The show offers an online tool kit for children and their caregivers, “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration,” with a coloring book, cutout mobile and “how am I feeling?” cards (angry, upset, sad).
      
“We know a lot of kids who need help understanding what is happening with their parents, and caregivers who need to know how to talk about it,” said Dr. Poehlmann, who helped develop the tool kit.
      
Nearly half the caregivers never talk about the imprisoned parent, while another third simply lie, Dr. Poehlmann said. “They don’t have the words, they don’t know what the kids will understand,” she said. “But kids have big ears, and if no one talks about it directly, the kids will feel they should keep it secret.”
      
Caregivers are also often hesitant to take children to visit incarcerated parents, either out of fear the visit will be traumatic, or because the prison is usually in a remote rural area hours from public transportation.
      
Whatever the reason, a vast majority of prisoners get no visits, from their children or anybody else, Dr. Poehlmann said, “and they feel very sad about that.”
      
During several recent visits to a men’s low-security federal prison in rural New Jersey, the joy, pain and unsettling ordinariness of family time, penitentiary style, were on fluorescent-lit display.
Women brought babies, children, teenagers and bags of quarters for the vending machines. Fathers wearing prison khakis and work boots were required to stay seated in their molded plastic chairs, but as family members filed in, the men’s Humpty Dumpty grins threatened to split their faces.
      
Older children settled into seats beside their fathers, while younger ones played at kiddie tables in the corner. Everybody ate chips, microwaved sandwiches, bags of M&Ms. The prison photographer snapped family portraits in front of fake backdrops of palm trees and sunsets.
      
One day at the end of visiting hours, as family members lined up to await escorted passage through multiple locked doors, a 10-year-old boy in a striped polo shirt stood next to his mother, crying and crying. She pulled him close, but the boy didn’t stop. He was weeping his quiet ocean of loss and would give no thought to the shore.
      
In interviews, conducted in person and through an intermediary, the prisoners, too, teared up when they talked about their children, and the great difficulty they had maintaining bonds through sentences long enough to turn those children into adults.
      
All are nonviolent offenders, as are about two-thirds of prisoners over all. They spoke on condition that only their first names be used.
      
Sing, a tall, slim man in his early 40s, has been in prison for 15 years on drug charges, with two years to go. His son and daughter are now 17 and 23, but he has been “adamant” about staying involved in their lives — through letters, phone calls and emails.
      
“They are doing very well,” he said. “They have no criminal problems.”
      
Yet because they live in Florida, 1,000 miles away, Sing hasn’t seen them in five years. He and other inmates expressed frustration at how often the Bureau of Prisons flouted its official policy of trying to house inmates in facilities within 500 miles of their families. The authorities are supposed to do as much as possible to keep families together, Sing said bitterly, “but they do more to keep families apart.”
      
Other inmates said that no matter where it was, prison had a way of corroding emotional ties to the outside world. Jon, who is 55 and three years into a five-year sentence, scoffed when he first arrived and a seasoned inmate told him he’d soon stop caring about the everyday concerns of the people he left behind, including those of his only child, a teenage girl.
      
The veteran, Jon sighed, was right. “I have to make a special effort now to stay emotionally connected with my daughter and to keep up with her daily experiences,” he said. “It’s hard for me to do. She’ll start talking about her friends and I’ll have no idea who they are.”
      
Perseverance helps. “My top priority is to stay relevant in my kids’ lives,” said Rob, an athletic 46-year-old who has been in prison four years and has three teenage daughters. “I put them first as much as I can.”
      
He calls each girl once a week and prepares conversation notes ahead of time. He sends gifts he’s drawn or crocheted. They have a family book club. His daughters seem to be doing well: One is at Bryn Mawr College, and another is at Tabor Academy, a highly competitive prep school. But with nine years of hard time yet to go, who knows if all the threads will hold?
The next essay is the found family. I say this Thanksgiving if I am not one of the above and that is dependant upon next week, I welcome finding a family that I can adopt and which to nuture and belong.  Being alone is not lonely, that is not something I have ever suffered, but what it means in a culture and socieity is that when you are alone you are suspect.  And we all know what that means to be a suspect, read above..
Simply Deciding to Be Related
Circumstances can lead to friendships becoming something more.
The night Beki Reese’s 22-year-old son, Caleb, went into a coma, three months before he would die of lung cancer, she asked his best friend, “Matt, are we going to lose you too, when this is all over?”
After meeting at a heavy metal concert in 2001, Matthew Tanksley, now 33, became the big brother Caleb never had. When Caleb got sick, Matt visited him in the hospital almost daily, and briefly took on the role of nurse during a memorable trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. But he was also there for Ms. Reese, of Costa Mesa, Calif., who says she depended on him for emotional support as her son’s illness progressed.
“Through that ordeal, that nine-month period, I became like a full-fledged member of the family,” Mr. Tanksley said. “We were having family dinners together, we were going out to eat, we were talking to each other every day on the phone. Hard times build bonds, and that definitely happened.”
Mr. Tanksley’s own mother had died when he was 13, so he welcomed the Reese clan’s embrace. Seven years later, he and Caleb’s mother remain close: She calls him her son, and he introduces her as “Mom.”
      
Relationships like these — independent of biology but closer and more enduring than friendship — have been documented in various cultures throughout history. In the United States, they are particularly common within African-American and immigrant communities, as well as gay and lesbian social networks. Anthropologists have traditionally used the term “fictive kin” to separate such relationships from “true” kinship based on blood or law, but many researchers have recently pushed back against that distinction, arguing that self-constructed families are no less real or meaningful than conventional ones.
      
“They see these folks as family, and so I’m going to honor that,” said Dawn O. Braithwaite, head of communication studies at the University of Nebraska. “We want to think about it more as a continuum from friendship to family, and I don’t know when the bell rings. But definitely, for these people, nobody had a doubt that it was a family to them.”
      
Dr. Braithwaite and her colleagues have termed such families “voluntary kin.” For a study published in 2010, they interviewed 110 people in such relationships; they found that for some people, voluntary kinship filled a void left by death or estrangement from biological family, while for others the relationships were supplemental or temporary.
      
One thing that distinguishes these relationships from friendship, Dr. Braithwaite said, is that they often become central to one’s identity. And many serve important life functions: They may provide a sense of belonging, as well as financial and emotional relief.
      
Mr. Tanksley’s own family expanded three years ago, when he married Caleb Reese’s former girlfriend, Shannon. Their two children call Ms. Reese “Nana.” — Roni Jacobson
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, whomever they belong,  found or otherwise.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving or Getting

The idea is that charity begins at home and the belief that the role of Government is to encourage charity but not actually do the charity.  That is where the private sector is encouraged via tax breaks to take on that role to assist those in need. And for many they are simply formed as a type of  political activism under the guise of charity.

And the  Obama Administration is apparently attempting to somehow stop some of this by regulating what a "non profit" can do or not. And this charity is a classic example.  However this fraud is not the conventional kind that most non profits partake of,  meaning that little is actually used to stop the scourge they were founded to prevent, aka, Susan G. Komen Foundation, where most of their money is not allocated for the cure for Breast Cancer but instead for lawsuits to protect their pink marketing campaign. What makes this one unique is that  this charity was investigated for identity theft. It brings a whole new level of duplicity by charity. 

Other than that fraud there was nothing exemplary about the charity and its intent.  Nothing new in that respect to draw attention,  as the IRS does little to investigate fraud unless Congress for some reason feels compelled to do so for political reasons.  And there is little public outcry for any charity founded to help our "wounded warriors."  You can't pick a more acceptable group for which to fund raise.

There is a great deal of confusion and misinformation with regards to what defines charitable organizations.  I took this from the comment section which explains the difference between what defines non profits vs. charity foundations.
The 1.5 million "nonprofits" are not philanthropy. "Nonprofit" means only "tax-exempt"—nothing else. Most are real estate trusts, condo associations, social clubs, professional and trade associations, cemeteries, etc. Only half of those are "public charities"—501(c)3—permitted to raise tax-deductible gifts; most of them do not publicly fundraise because they don't have to, being supported by membership dues, government grants, earned income, and endowments. The Massachusetts Catalogue for Philanthropy has found that only 10% of MA "nonprofits" are indisputably "private initiatives, for public good, engaged in public fundraising."

But one has to give them immense credit for this outrageous scheme.  And my personal favorite school of the elite,  Harvard, once again appears as the tutorial agent for fraud and duplicity.  I really should have gone there, things might have worked out different, not better, just different.

Read the below op ed and note that most of the monies were used to line pockets, again not just of management, but of Politicians whom they designated as favorable to their agenda.  Laws written by those of special interests for special interests.  That is by the people for the people just for and with people with the biggest checks.  And it is all legal. I really need a Harvard degree.

The Charity Swindle

By KEN STERN

WASHINGTON — BY all outward indications, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association was a leader in the charitable community. Founded in 2002 to provide support to Navy veterans in need, the charity recorded astonishing financial success. In its first eight years, it raised around $100 million in charitable contributions, almost all of it through a direct marketing campaign. The organization, headed by Jack L. Nimitz, boasted of 41 state chapters and some 66,000 members.

This would be a great story of charitable success, except for the fact that virtually everything about the association turned out to be false: no state chapters, no members, no leader with the name redolent of naval history. Instead, there was one guy: a man calling himself Bobby Thompson who worked from a duplex across the street from the Cuesta-Rey cigar factory in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa.

But the money raised was real enough, generated by a series of for-profit telemarketers. The victims, by and large, were unsuspecting small-money donors who received urgent solicitations asking for support for needy naval veterans. Most of the money raised stayed with the fund-raisers, though plenty apparently dripped through to Mr. Thompson and a succession of Republican lawmakers who received generous contributions from the association’s political arm. But little ever made it to the intended beneficiaries. In 2010, the scheme was unwound by two reporters for what is now The Tampa Bay Times, but not before Mr. Thompson had fled the state of Florida.

From June 2010, Mr. Thompson was on the run, the search for him hamstrung by the fact that no one had any real idea of who he was. Finally, on April 30, 2012, federal marshals tracked him down in Portland, Ore., finding him with a card to a storage unit containing $981,650 in cash and almost two dozen fake identity cards.

Earlier this month in Ohio, where the charity’s registration documents had been filed, the man arrested as Bobby Thompson was convicted on 23 felony counts, including fraud, theft and money laundering. Authorities have identified him as John Donald Cody, a former Army intelligence officer and Harvard Law graduate. Given its sensational facts, the case has drawn more attention than your average matter in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. But the story is worth paying attention to for a more important reason, if we want to prevent more Bobby Thompsons in our future.

The most outrageous aspect of the case is that much of what Mr. Cody did was probably legal, or at least not specifically illegal. The principal beneficiaries were always the association’s for-profit fund-raisers. During the trial, one of them, Thomas Berkenbush of Community Support Inc., testified, apparently without fear of legal repercussions, that his company had kept 90 percent of the donations as a fund-raising charge.

That, in and of itself, isn’t criminal. The alleged fraud was not that very, very little money ever went to Navy veterans. In fact, the fund-raising explicitly stated that a large portion of donations would go to cover telemarketing and other costs. Mr. Cody ran afoul of the law because he filed registration documents that contained false statements, because he stole the identity of the real Bobby Thompson, and because he pulled money from organizational accounts for his personal use. The irony is that he could have accomplished virtually his entire enrichment scheme without ever violating the law — and others have figured that out.

The I.R.S.’s Exempt Organizations Division, which is responsible for supervising the charitable sector, is chronically understaffed. It can’t do much more than process the routine and voluminous reporting of the more than 1.5 million American nonprofits, and keep up with the tens of thousands of applications filed each year to start new charities.

State and local authorities are in no better shape. Joel L. Fleishman, a professor of public policy at Duke, estimates that there are fewer than 100 full-time state charity regulators, far too few to exercise any real oversight.

In the Navy Veterans case, amazingly, the I.R.S. did undertake one of its rare field audits. And yet, despite the fact that the main office was a trailer, its state offices were empty lots or postal drops, and its board of directors and C.E.O. a total fiction, the I.R.S. in 2008 gave the association a “clean bill of health.” It wasn’t until the two reporters came sniffing — first curious about the political contributions and subsequently intrigued by Mr. Thompson’s obvious dissembling — that the real story began to emerge.

When it comes to frauds like these, it is neither the law nor the regulators that are the best line of defense; it will always be the careful application of caveat emptor by potential donors. This isn’t easy: there are approximately 59,000 charities in this country with the word “veterans” in their names. Only a few people can claim the expertise to say which are the best, let alone which are trustworthy.

As we enter the annual giving season, donors should look to sources like the GiveWell website to find organizations with a track record of effectiveness. Seeking them out — instead of donating to charities that are first to call or that sound familiar or that we’ve heard are good — is the only way to ensure that money reaches those in need.


Holidays On Ice

And I mean in jail. The ever present police state will be ratcheting up the patrols for those who drink and drive.

In our media saturated culture, vs alcohol one,  be sure that in states that have checkpoints will be stepping up the accelerator and in turn patrols to look for anyone who simply looks like they might be driving under the influence. In the State of Washington and Colorado expect that to be anyone under the influence of the green and not by the tree.  The DUI the equivalent of stop and frisk.

Has this become a violation of the Constitution? In a word, yes. And we can once again thank Bill Clinton, Adulterer in Chief, for many of the histrionics about driving under the influence. A man who has never driven himself in a car in decades and yet has made the most of finding false statistics and junk science as acceptable to take the scourge off the streets.

There is more than ample evidence that this is not as big a problem but the media won't tell you that. It is much more exciting to show one after another celebrity on the perp walk and then add some tragic figure who was behind a wheel and in turn committed what ostensibly is manslaughter, killing others while driving. Regardless of liquor, drugs or any other distraction, it is manslaughter.  And for years that is how it was processed and charged in the courts.   And then in turn that individual is sentenced to jail and another danger off our streets. That was how it was handled.

But today it is now a DUI, and again in the wide brush to sweep a narrow picture we are "certain" that every accident, every bad driver is a dangerous drunk and must be penalized for having a glass of wine, a beer or two and are now a danger to society.  And then what results is thousands of dollars being spent to retain representation if so lucky, costs, fees and humiliation. For many who can't afford the "process" they lose their work and largely become a ward of the state - for life. Yes life, as many of these people end up working in substandard jobs, homeless, etc as the "stigma" carries on to follow you for life. And yes for life.  It is the one crime other than murder that cannot be expunged from your record after a specific time frame, it is the exception to the rule.  So it follows you for life.

What isn't addressed is the lack of counseling, treatment and of course monitoring and evaluation and oversight that led to this individual who usually has a history of problems and legal matters. The expense and skills needed for such are not part of the budget and are not affordable. But incarcerating and in turn legislating laws that provide no ability to render a plan that would be much more reasonable and in turn benefit society not happening. Remember all laws are not written by Legislators anymore, they are written by special interest groups who have a vested financial interest in the outcome of laws. Conflict of interest much?

And this is always fueled by the personal narrative. The story of some relative or friend who was killed or injured by a drunk driver. Yes we all have narratives of someone dying or being hurt by a number of ways. Shame that same rage and anger can't be applied to gun violence but note that is one Constitutional right no one wants to touch.  Life is a shithole and a risk.  What do you want to do to stop all danger? Oh I get it the Police State.  That is working out well isn't it? 

I have reprinted a blog from Radley Balko written years ago and nothing has changed. He makes salient points and then I also have more about the fraud of science and another about the hypocrisy and double standard with regards to our law enforcement. Odd that they get a pass and the regular citizen gets a cell.

The holidays are upon you and it means drinking responsibly. In other words not one drink, not one joint, not anything if you are driving anywhere. The state owns you, your license and your rights. You have none.
Some Cops Allowed to Work After Drinking

Butler County, OH. Nov. 18 — Law enforcement officers in some area communities can strap on a gun and issue tickets for drivers who are more sober than they are, a Journal-News investigation found.

The newspaper reviewed union contracts for local public safety offices, including the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and found that officers and firefighters are sometimes protected from discipline when they are at work with alcohol in their system.

These rules are often enforced by union contracts.

In Lebanon, where officers and firefighters can work with a .04 blood alcohol level, Police Chief Jeff Mitchell said he’s actively pursued more stringent alcohol rules to be written into the city’s union contracts.

Mitchell, who’s been in charge for nearly two years, said he negotiated his first union contract this past summer. He got the unions to remove a clause that allowed officers to suck on a breath mint before they were tested for alcohol, but couldn’t get union representatives to reduce the .04 limit to zero.

“When I came across that, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s different,’ ” Mitchell said, adding that breath mints can distort breathalyzer readings.
“Doesn’t that sound odd to you that you would have that in a contract with police?”

Mitchell said he’s never had to discipline an officer for using alcohol on the job and he believes the alcohol provision was added to the contract decades ago.
“My thought process is, ‘How does that look if the public looks at this and sees our contract?’”

Attorney Patrick Mulligan, who handles drunk driving cases across southwest Ohio, pointed out that drivers under age 21 can be cited for drunk driving with a blood alcohol content above .02. This means an officer could issue a ticket to someone more sober than he or she is.

“It’s an interesting double standard,” he said. “I don’t think it’s one the general public would appreciate.”

Mulligan said he handles two or three cases a month of drivers cited for drunk driving with a blood alcohol content less than .08. He said he currently is representing a man who was ticketed east of Cincinnati after being pulled over because of a loud exhaust system before being hauled in for drunk driving with a BAC of .053…

Doug Scoles, executive director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Ohio, said he doesn’t understand what would drive public safety agencies to include alcohol limits in their union contracts.

“I can’t, for the life of me, think of why it would be so important to have an acceptable level of alcohol permissible, Scoles said. “If I’m a law enforcement officer, I would be the last person in the world who would want to have alcohol on my breath when I pull someone over.”…



O.C. Crime Lab Finds More Errors in DUI Testing

The Sheriff and Board of Supervisors have asked the state health department to review the lab's standard's and procedures

Orange County, CA. Nov. 22 — State officials are being asked to review the work of the Orange County Crime Lab after more errors were found in its blood-alcohol testing — mistakes that could potentially affect dozens of DUI cases.

The new discoveries come just weeks after the lab acknowledged inaccurate blood-alcohol test results in 2,200 driving-under-the-influence cases. Prosecutors responded by sending letters to drivers charged with DUIs, including 900 who already had been convicted.

Now, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and the county Board of Supervisors have requested that the state department of health review the lab's procedures and case standards and present the results to elected leaders, officials said…




Drunk Driving Laws Are Out of Control
by Radley Balko



When Pennsylvanian Keith Emerich went to the hospital recently for an irregular heartbeat, he told his doctor he was a heavy drinker: a six-pack per day. Later, Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation sent Emerich a letter. His driver's license had been revoked. If Emerich wanted it back, he'd need to prove to Pennsylvania authorities that he was competent to drive. His doctor had turned him in, as required by state law.

The Pennsylvania law is old (it dates back to the 1960s), but it's hardly unusual. Courts and lawmakers have stripped DWI defendants of the presumption of innocence - along with several other common criminal justice protections we afford to the likes of accused rapists, murderers and pedophiles.

In the 1990 case Michigan v. Sitz, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the magnitude of the drunken driving problem outweighed the "slight" intrusion into motorists' protections against unreasonable search effected by roadblock sobriety checkpoints. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Rehnquist ruled that the 25,000 roadway deaths due to alcohol were reason enough to set aside the Fourth Amendment.

The problem is that the 25,000 number was awfully misleading. It included any highway fatality in which alcohol was in any way involved: a sober motorist striking an intoxicated pedestrian, for example.

It's a number that's still used today. In 2002, the Los Angeles Times examined accident data and estimated that in the previous year, of the 18,000 "alcohol-related" traffic fatalities drunk driving activists cited the year before, only about 5,000 involved a drunk driver taking the life of a sober driver, pedestrian, or passenger.

Unfortunately, courts and legislatures still regularly cite the inflated "alcohol-related" number when justifying new laws that chip away at our civil liberties.

For example, the Supreme Court has ruled that states may legislate away a motorist's Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial and his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In 2002, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled that police officers could forcibly extract blood from anyone suspected of drunk driving. Other courts have ruled that prosecutors aren't obligated to provide defendants with blood or breath test samples for independent testing (even though both are feasible and relatively cheap to do). In almost every other facet of criminal law, defendants are given access to the evidence against them.

These decisions haven't gone unnoticed in state legislatures. Forty-one states now reserve the right to revoke drunken driving defendants' licenses before they're ever brought to trial. Thirty-seven states now impose harsher penalties on motorists who refuse to take roadside sobriety tests than on those who take them and fail. Seventeen states have laws denying drunk driving defendants the same opportunities to plea bargain given to those accused of violent crimes.

Until recently, New York City cops could seize the cars of first-offender drunk driving suspects upon arrest. Those acquitted or otherwise cleared of charges were still required to file civil suits to get their cars back, which typically cost thousands of dollars. The city of Los Angeles still seizes the cars of suspected first-time drunk drivers, as well as the cars of those suspected of drug activity and soliciting prostitutes.

Newer laws are even worse. As of last month, Washington State now requires anyone arrested (not convicted -- arrested) for drunken driving to install an "ignition interlock" device, which forces the driver to blow into a breath test tube before starting the car, and at regular intervals while driving. A second law mandates that juries hear all drunken driving cases. It then instructs juries to consider the evidence "in a light most favorable to the prosecution," absurd evidentiary standard at odds with everything the American criminal justice system is supposed to stand for.

Even scarier are the laws that didn't pass, but will inevitably be introduced again. New Mexico's state legislature nearly passed a law that would mandate ignition interlock devices on every car sold in the state beginning in 2008, regardless of the buyer's driving record. Drivers would have been required to pass a breath test to start the car, then again every 10 minutes while driving. Car computer systems would have kept records of the tests, which would have been downloaded at service centers and sent to law enforcement officials for evaluation. New York considered a similar law.

That isn't to say we ought to ease up on drunken drivers. But our laws should be grounded in sound science and the presumption of innocence, not in hysteria. They should target repeat offenders and severely impaired drunks, not social drinkers who straddle the legal threshold. Though the threat of drunken driving has significantly diminished over the last 20 years, it's still routinely overstated by anti-alcohol activists and lawmakers. Even if the threat were as severe as it's often portrayed, casting aside basic criminal protections and civil liberties is the wrong way to address it.








Monday, November 25, 2013

Bay City Rollers

Not the band but the gamblers that are changing the structure and composition of the City by the Bay, San Francisco.

The cover story on the New York Times today discusses the increasing division and economic divide that now defines the city of love in many ways, from its hippies to its gays, the diversity and magnanimity of that city is well known and worn like an old coat.

Thanks to the tech industry migrating upward and onward they are now moving into the "City" itself with their newly minted stock portfolios and their start up cultures with nary a care for those displaced in the process.

Meanwhile there is much concern and skepticism by those who saw this fleeting energy pass only a decade ago. The idea that there may be a bubble with regards to tech is another flag to the bull that perhaps is indicative of another trouble that is boiling and brewing. An article discussing that issue is here.

I lived through it then and saw and experienced the arrogance and hubris then. Some of them went onto to couchsurfing and crashpadding. Funny those are now the new dot coms. Wonder where they got that idea?

I loved living in San Francisco but got away in time. Sadly I see it happening here and cannot wait to leave. The pandering to the start up/VC industry is appaling. I have seen more than my share of advertisemetn and solicitations by Cities who desperately want to recreate this belief that technology is the panacea they are waiting for. Keep waiting and find some real industry to create jobs and in turn longevity economically. This is just a pot boiling over.

The Venture Capitalists are gamblers. They should really have moved into Vegas, an already confused and conflicted reason with plenty of similiar issues that plagued cities of hopes and dreams prior to the bubble of another kind bursting. A a recent article I read in Valleywag basically confirms how the dice are rolled with relation to those "entreprenuers" who seek millions for ideas already well worn and used but that is not the point, neither are profits apparently.

Backlash by the Bay: Tech Riches Alter a City

By ERICA GOODE and CLAIRE CAIN MILLER
Published: November 24, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO — If there was a tipping point, a moment that crystallized the anger building here toward the so-called technorati for driving up housing prices and threatening the city’s bohemian identity, it came in response to a diatribe posted online in August by a young Internet entrepreneur.
The author, a start-up founder named Peter Shih, listed 10 things he hated about San Francisco. Homeless people, for example. And the “constantly PMSing” weather. And “girls who are obviously 4s and behave like they’re 9s.”

The backlash was immediate. Fliers appeared on telephone poles calling Mr. Shih a “woman hatin’ nerd toucher.” CheapAir offered him a free ticket back to New York. Readers responded that what they hated about San Francisco were “entitled” technology workers like him.

Mr. Shih, who said he received death threats after the post, deleted it and apologized.

But a nerve had been struck. As the center of the technology industry has moved north from Silicon Valley to San Francisco and the largess from tech companies has flowed into the city — Twitter’s stock offering unleashed an estimated 1,600 new millionaires — income disparities have widened sharply, housing prices have soared and orange construction cranes dot the skyline. The tech workers have, rightly or wrongly, received the blame.

Resentment simmers, at the fleets of Google buses that ferry workers to the company’s headquarters in Mountain View and back; the code jockeys who crowd elite coffeehouses, heads buried in their laptops; and the sleek black Uber cars that whisk hipsters from bar to bar. Late last month, two tech millionaires opened the Battery, an invitation-only, $2,400-a-year club in an old factory in the financial district, cars lining up for valet parking.

For critics, such sights are symbols of a city in danger of losing its diversity — one that artists, families and middle-class workers can no longer afford. On the day of Twitter’s public offering this month, 150 demonstrators protested outside the company with signs reading “People not profit” and “We’re the public, what are you offering?”

More and more longtime residents are being forced out as landlords and speculators race to capitalize on the money stream.

Mary Elizabeth Phillips, a retired accountant, is fighting eviction from the rent-controlled apartment where she has lived for almost half a century. If her new landlords have their way, she will have to move in April, shortly after her 98th birthday, because they want to sell the units.

Her neighborhood has given way around her. The car dealership across the street is now a luxury apartment complex, complete with rooftop herb garden, a butterfly habitat and a Whole Foods.

“I can understand it from an investment standpoint,” she said of her landlords’ actions. “But I don’t think I’d ever be that coldblooded about this.”

While the technology boom has bred hostility, it has also brought San Francisco undeniable benefits. Mayor Edwin M. Lee credits the technology sector with helping to pull the city out of the recession, creating jobs and nourishing a thriving economy that is the envy of cash-starved cities across the country.

The industry is “not so much taking over but complementing the job creation we want in the city,” Mr. Lee said while giving a tour of middle Market Street to show off its “renaissance” from a seedy skid row to a tech district where Twitter, Square and other companies have made their home.

Yet city officials must grapple with the arithmetic of squeezing more people into the limited space afforded by San Francisco’s 49 square miles. And it is the housing shortage that underlies much of the sniping about tech workers.

San Francisco has the least affordable housing in the nation, with just 14 percent of homes accessible to middle-class buyers, said Jed Kolko, chief economist at the real estate website Trulia. The median rent is also the highest in the country, at $3,250 a month for a two-bedroom apartment.

“Affordable housing projects are constructed, and the money set aside for that purpose is used, but the demand is just far greater than what can be supplied,” said Fred Brousseau of the city budget and legislative analyst’s office. Evictions under a provision of state law that allows landlords to evict rent-controlled tenants if they convert a building for sale have more than tripled in the past three years, just as they did during the first tech boom.

To Yelly Brandon, a 36-year-old hairstylist, and her boyfriend, Anthony Rocco, an archivist, the obstacles to finding housing became clear when they spent two months searching for an apartment. At open houses, they said, they were competing with young tech workers, who offered more than the asking price and cash up front.

“People were just throwing money in the air,” Ms. Brandon said.

The influx of wealth is, in turn, changing the tenor of neighborhoods. Fort Mason, a renovated military post on the bay, has been nicknamed “Frat Mason” for the 20-something “tech bros” — tech company salespeople, marketing employees and start-up founders — who have moved into luxury apartments there and play bocce on the great lawn.

Nowhere are the changes starker than in the Mission District, once a working-class Hispanic neighborhood, now a destination for the tech elite.

Evan Williams of Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook have bought homes near there.

Longtime residents of the Mission District complain that high-end apartments, expensive restaurants and exclusive boutiques are crowding out the bodegas, bookstores and Mexican bars. They complain about workers who, like residents of a bedroom community, board company buses every morning and return every evening to drink and dine on Valencia Street.

And they grumble about less tangible things: an insensitivity in interactions in stores and on the street, or a seeming disregard for neighborhood traditions. The annual Day of the Dead procession, meant to be solemn, has turned into a rowdy affair that many newcomers seem to view as a kind of Mexican Halloween.

“Some of the people in the stores that I knew, they are good people and nice people, and then I see them get evicted and then the people who move in there are not as nice,” said Rene Yañez, an artist and founder of Galería de la Raza in the 1970s, who started the procession. Mr. Yañez and his partner, who is battling cancer, are being evicted from the apartment they have occupied for decades.

Evictions are higher in this neighborhood than in any other part of the city.

“They are not only expelling the homeless and the gangbangers,” said Guillermo Gómez-Peña, a performance artist. “They are also expelling the performance artists, the poets, the muralists, the activists, the working-class families — all these wonderful urban tribes that made this neighborhood a very special neighborhood for decades.”

“One day,” he added, “they will wake up to an extremely unbearable ocean of sameness.”

Some tech companies are trying to give back. Salesforce has donated millions of dollars to the public schools, and Twitter, which declined to comment on its effect on the city, is providing lawyers to help fight evictions, under an agreement with the city in exchange for tax breaks.

But the onus, many people say, is really on the city government.

“There has to be some kind of public support to make sure you don’t just have a city of the very wealthy, but people to make the city run,” said Kevin Starr, professor of history and policy, planning and development at the University of Southern California.

“You can’t have a city of just rich people,” he said. “A city needs restaurant workers, a city needs schoolteachers, a city needs taxi drivers.”

Mr. Lee says he has a strong commitment to affordable housing — he pointed to the Housing Trust Fund, which will provide $1.5 billion in affordable housing over the next 30 years — and to preserving the character of San Francisco’s neighborhoods.

Wholesale evictions, he said, are “not good for the city.”

He conceded, “We have to figure some things out.”

For his part, Mr. Shih said the response to his post was a lesson he will not soon forget. He has augmented his work on Airbrite, the company he and a colleague started, with volunteering at homeless shelters.

“What I did was wrong,” he said. “I feel like the changes the tech scene has made to San Francisco have made people very angry, and I was caught in the cross-fire.”

Truth is Ugly

And yet when the opportunity arises we are all guilty as charged from running from the truth.

On the bus today while reading my New York Times I found the below editorial about being a victim of rape in the Military. It was by a man. A few minutes later I looked to my Twitter account and found that 4 adults have also been indicted in their role with regards to the Steubenville Rape case. One of them was a Superintendent of School. What a fantastic role model for children.

Irony that is my new mantra word. Irony that I was on the way to the school I subbed at last spring long term and those children in their way saved my life. And yet I would never think of ever allowing them to partake in a crime let alone subvert their role in one. I think an ounce of prevention is a pound for a cure and that may explain why those boys thought drugging, poisoning, raping and filming an assault was okay. They had no role models. My greatest fear is that I could never be a role model to children and the last two years have put me in a position to worry that may be a reality.

As I read the piece below the word denial came up quite a bit. I live in it and yet I am as direct and honest individual you would meet, to the point where I go "the truth hurts." I get it, I really do. I have and never will admit I was raped and yet no one wants me to either admit it or forget it. Either way it is exhausting.

What happens when an individual accuses another of such a hideous crime is the he said/she said game. It becomes more precarious when alcohol is involved, when there is a past or even present relationship or when the accused is a famous or respected individual. It then becomes a dance of some sort where the victim becomes the pinata or target and the sticks or darts used come frequent and come from multiple directions, often by those defending you. You break the pinata and then all of the truths come tumbling out and then its case closed, you lose. Few make that beating. It is why you see so many suicides and below is a story no different only that he is a man and a member of the armed services, the dichotomy is not lost on me.

I sat in court recently and not for rape or assault but for another matter under which I was charged. Falsely, wrongly and yes expectantly in our justice by drive thru window world. I sat there incredulous as I was blatantly "slut shamed" by a woman who wanted nothing more than to find me guilty as charged. Whether that was the truth or the fact was irrelevant, pointing at me and inferring I was a slut because of the nature of my dress and the car that I drove, who somehow either hallucinated or deserved what happened to me was all I needed to hear. It was horrifying and yes much like the author I just wanted it to stop. I wonder how I can ever be a role model for children again when I watched a system that I used to believe in and would be there to support them is an utter abject failure on every count. I cannot lie but to tell the truth?

As for those in the Military they can say no different. Quite sad really that the phrase wounded warrior carries many meanings. But they are not victims, neither are any of us, we are SURVIVORS.

This is not America a first world country, it is a first world nightmare of third world realities.

The Untold Story of Military Sexual Assault

By MICHAEL F. MATTHEWS
Published: November 24, 2013


IT was 1974, and I was 19 years old, serving in the United States Air Force, and I thought I was the only one.

It was early spring and I had finished working in the Minuteman missile complex at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Tired and dirty, I’d just made it to the chow hall before it closed for the evening. On the way back to my dormitory, as dusk fell, I took a shortcut through a construction site.

Something struck my head and I was knocked unconscious. When I came to, there were two men holding me. At first, I thought that an object had fallen and hit me, and that these people were trying to help me. I soon realized they were holding me down. When I struggled, they started punching me in the head. They told me to shut up or they’d kill me.

A third man grabbed my pants and pulled down my underwear.

“I bet you’re going to like this,” he said.

The pain was unbearable, but what I thought about was all the things I hadn’t done in my life because I believed they were going to kill me when they were done. When they’d finished, all three started kicking me as I lay on the ground, curled in a fetal position to protect myself.

“You tell anyone, we’re gonna come back and kill you,” they said. All I knew at that moment was intense relief that I was going to live.

Although I could tell that these were fellow airmen in uniform, it was too dark for me to see their faces. I don’t know how long I lay there, but eventually, I got myself together and went back to the dorm. It was a Friday night and my roommate had gone home to St. Louis for the weekend. Relieved that I would not have to explain myself, I went to the sink and cleaned myself up as best I could.

I holed up for the rest of the weekend, avoiding people. When I went back to work Monday morning, guys saw the bruises.

“What happened to you?” they asked.

“Oh,” I said. “I was out at a bar and got into a fight.”

Everybody laughed.

I was not the only one. According to the Department of Defense’s Military Sexual Assault Report for 2012, an estimated 26,000 members of the United States military, both men and women, were sexually assaulted in that year. The Pentagon survey almost certainly underreports the scale of the issue. Of those sexual assaults, 53 percent (approximately 14,000 in 2012) were attacks on men. A vast majority of perpetrators are men who identify themselves as heterosexual.

These facts are horrifying enough, but when institutions like the military, closed systems that lack oversight, do not validate the experience of the rape survivor, the perpetrators get to continue their criminal behavior without consequence.

I kept my secret for 30 years. I never told.

I went on to serve 20 years in the Air Force, retiring at the rank of technical sergeant. After that, I bounced around from civilian job to civilian job. I finally settled at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, and eventually became plant manager for the Air Force Research Laboratories, before being medically retired for joint pain.

But my real problems were psychological. Sexual assault, whether in the military or in civilian life, is solely about the abuse of power, about control and domination. The lasting scars it leaves are psychic. I suffered from depression; my personal relationships were troubled and always failed. I made several suicide attempts; finally, after my last, I wound up in front of a seasoned social worker at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Northport, N.Y.

My denial was strong: I came up with all kinds of diversionary reasons why I was depressed. Then, one day, in the middle of a counseling session, she asked me flat out:

“So why don’t you tell me about the rape?”

After all the pain and humiliation, it was such a relief finally to get rid of this dirty secret I’d been carrying around for so many years. In a follow-up session, I asked her how she’d known.

“I have counseled a lot of male veterans who were raped in the military,” she said. “I just had a feeling that was your trouble, too.”

It took me awhile, but I embarked on the journey of sharing my story with other male and female survivors of military sexual trauma — or M.S.T., as the V.A. calls rape and other forms of sexual abuse and harassment — as a way to help myself.

My oath of office has no expiration date. As a retired noncommissioned officer, I am duty-bound to advocate for those who have endured this hateful crime. The men and women who serve are my brothers and sisters; when any one of us is violated, it puts our country’s national security at risk. The violators rarely face the consequences of their acts, but I sometimes feel they should be tried for treason.

With support from the public, we hope to persuade Congress to pass the most inclusive bill on military sexual assault to date: the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, who has dedicated herself to justice for military rape survivors.

The other main legislative proposals on the table, two amendments to the defense policy bill before the Senate, are both flawed. Senator Claire McCaskill’s provides for a civilian panel to review cases where commanders have decided not to prosecute; Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand’s takes the decision to investigate and prosecute away from the chain of command, but invests that power in the judge advocate generals, who are senior military lawyers. Neither measure, we believe, creates the robust civilian oversight of military justice that victims need. And only Ms. Speier’s bill would provide vital aftercare for survivors — not least to ensure they are not victimized after returning to service.

Keeping my secret made me suicidal. I am lucky to be alive. Right now, according to V.A. estimates, 22 veterans a day take their own lives. The natural assumption is that these are combat-stress-related, but recent research has found that war zone deployment has little or no influence on suicide rates. We need to consider whether this tragic epidemic has other causes, nothing to do with combat missions. A study of airmen published earlier this year found that rape victims were six times more likely to think about suicide.

My advocacy continues. I take strength from this fact: Now I know that I am not the only one.





Sunday, November 24, 2013

Police In State

As I wrote yesterday about the varying crime labs across the country with regards to duplicity and incompetence and their role is ensuring that many are convicted of crimes, whether they committed them or not, we have another essential element in the formula that comprises the equation of Jurisprudence - the Police.

Today the cover story of the New York Times is a joint investigation by they and Frontline into the death of a young woman in Florida three years ago.  A death marked as a suicide but the evidence and ever mounting questions that resulted from a botched investigation shows that the thin blue line begins at home.  In this case another case of domestic violence or in this case "suicide by cop".

The article is long and complex and requires deep reading.  But there are important elements I wish to highlight that I think are relevant to this story and across the board when it comes to Police duplicity and malfeasance.

The article: Two Gunshots on a Summer Night goes into detail about the death of a young mother named,  Michelle O’Connell.  Her boyfriend, Jeremy Banks, was/is a deputy sheriff for St. Johns County.  And there is where the line of blue begins. 

A young man with a history of aggressive behavior and issues with guns are discussed, a young woman with no prior history or problems, a small child to care for, a close family relationship and of course many links to the local Sheriff office on both sides.  Sounds a little like Steubenville on the surface.

And then the tug of war between a popular well like Sherriff and of course the victim and her family. Out comes the wide brush to paint a narrow picture.  That is the sum of our criminal justice system in America.

The article found:

Ms. O’Connell, the sheriff’s office concluded, took her own life. Detectives were so certain in their judgment that they never tested the forensic evidence collected after the shooting. Nor did they interview her family and friends, who would have told them that she was ecstatic over a new full-time job with benefits, including health insurance for her daughter.

Over time, though, the official narrative began to change. The sheriff asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to re-examine the case, and investigators found two neighbors who said they had heard a woman screaming for help that night, followed by gunshots. Their account prompted the medical examiner to revise his opinion from suicide to homicide, a conclusion shared by the crime reconstruction expert hired by state investigators.

Eventually, however, a special prosecutor appointed by Gov. Rick Scott decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute and closed the case early last year. But that was hardly the final word. The state law enforcement agency asked for a special inquest into the death, saying significant questions remained. The sheriff, David B. Shoar, struck back in support of his officer, prompting an extraordinary conflict between two powerful law enforcement agencies.
Sheriff Shoar, the most powerful elected official in this North Florida county and a former co-chairman of its domestic violence task force, declined to be interviewed for this article. But in a letter to The Times, he said, “I have a long history of holding subordinates accountable.”
Yet only when The Times began examining the case more than two years after the young mother’s death did the sheriff publicly acknowledge that his investigators “prematurely embraced the mind-set” that she had killed herself.

Even so, he defended his inquiry in a 153-page report and attacked those who had found fault with it, particularly two agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. At the sheriff’s request, the state agency is investigating his accusation that the agents engaged in misconduct during their inquiry.


And the thought of a Police Officer and violence in his/her home is not that rare:

Domestic abuse is believed to be the most frequently unreported crime, and it is particularly corrosive when it involves the police. Taught to wield authority through control, threats or actual force, officers carry their training, their job stress and their guns home with them, amplifying the potential for abuse.

Yet nationwide, interviews and documents show, police departments have been slow to recognize and discipline abusers in uniform, largely because of a predominantly male blue wall of silence. Victims are often reluctant to file complaints, fearing that an officer’s colleagues simply will not listen or understand, or that if they do, the abuser may be stripped of his weapon and ultimately his family’s livelihood.

Just the amount of citizen bloggers that maintain and document the insane behavior by our Police Departments nationwide is very telling.  We have some serious issues with regards to what is happening to our civil rights and to our nation as a whole with the ever encroaching police state we are becoming.  I am looking forward to reading Radley Balko's book on the matter.  There are few, if any, Journalists truly covering this issue and he is an amazing source of reference.

Then we have the issues of the medical Doctors and autopsy findings. Again corrupt, inept and incompetent.  Pick one or all three.  Frontline years ago did a special on that subject matter as well called Post Mortem. I have linked it and you will hear more about the failures and falsehoods of what is the real CSI.

As one who has first hand experience the hubris, the duplicity and fraud that Officers will go through to make their case airtight I can only say that without amazing support and help you will find yourself in a maze of which there is no end. 

If it was not the attention paid by a blogger here in Washington, this case might be another one of the many that go ignored and dumped in the back of a truck hauled away gone and forgotten.  Just like Steubenville, without the hacking community of Anonymous it would highly be unlikely that that victim would have ever faced her attackers in Court.

For a long while I was alone and felt that no one was believing me or even helping me when forced to do so. Checks have a way of ensuring compliance, willingness no, duty yes.  And then I heard the one man speak with true anger and passion about me and for the first time I thought I was not alone. Being alone is the hard part, being dead and alone is quite another.  I didn't die but this young woman did and her death should not be unnoticed and because of it her daughter is alone.

In our obsession with Justice the two tiered system where one group gets a pass the other a jail cell seems intolerable. It is not sustainable and frankly it is not what this Country was built upon. Equality and Justice for all.  Really?