Thursday, April 30, 2015

Truth Free

What finally happened today was a data trove release that might be better than an NSA on any day. By going to Pro Publica they have the links to the information and their history with regards to some of their investigations into the immense money trove that is generated from prescription abuse - by Doctors.

Government Releases Massive Trove of Data on Doctors’ Prescribing Patterns
The move follows a ProPublica investigation showing that Medicare did little to find dangerous prescribing by doctors to seniors and the disabled. It is also part of the government’s new push to bring transparency to taxpayer-supported medical care.

by Charles Ornstein
ProPublica, April 30, 2015,
Medicare’s failure to monitor what doctors are prescribing has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on excessive use of brand-name medication and exposed the elderly and disabled to drugs they should avoid.

The federal government released detailed data today on nearly 1.4 billion prescriptions dispensed to seniors and disabled people in the Medicare program in 2013, bringing more openness to the medication choices of doctors nationwide.

The data release comes two years after ProPublica reported that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had done little to detect or deter hazardous prescribing in its drug program, known as Medicare Part D. ProPublica analyzed several years’ worth of prescription data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, and created a tool called Prescriber Checkup that lets users compare individual physicians to others in the same specialty and state.

But Medicare itself hadn’t made this information easily accessible—until now.

“This transparency will give patients, researchers, and providers access to information that will help shape the future of our nation’s health for the better,” said acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt in a statement accompanying the data’s release.

The information released by CMS is part of the agency’s data transparency initiative. In recent years, CMS has released data on hospital charges, geographic variations in the way health care is delivered, and Medicare’s payments to doctors. The payment data, first released last year, came after the Wall Street Journal and its parent company challenged a long-standing legal injunction that had kept the information private.

Medicare changed its approach to overseeing Part D after the ProPublica reports.

Before, agency officials insisted that monitoring problem prescription patterns fell to the private health plans that administer the program, not the government itself. Congress never intended for CMS to second-guess doctors – and didn’t give it that authority, officials said.

Doctors didn’t even have to be enrolled in Medicare to prescribe to patients in Part D, making it impossible for the program to know basic facts about whether the prescriptions these doctors wrote were appropriate.

Since our reports, CMS has moved to fix Part D’s excesses and blind spots. In May 2014, the agency gave itself the authority to expel physicians from Medicare if they are found to prescribe drugs in abusive ways. Beginning next month, the agency also will compel health providers to enroll in Medicare to order medications for patients in Part D, closing the loophole that has allowed some practitioners to operate with little or no oversight.

Medicare Part D is popular among seniors for helping to lower their drug costs. But experts have complained that since Part D began in 2006, Medicare has placed a higher priority on getting prescriptions into patients’ hands than on targeting problem prescribers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general has repeatedly called for tighter controls.

Among ProPublica’s findings:

•Medicare had failed to use its own records to flag doctors who prescribed thousands of dangerous, inappropriate or unnecessary medications.

One Miami psychiatrist, for example, wrote 8,900 prescriptions in 2010 for powerful antipsychotics to patients older than 65, including many with dementia. A black-box warning on the drugs says they should not be used by such patients because it increases their risk of death. The doctor said he’d never been contacted by Medicare.

ProPublica also found that many of the top prescribers of the most abused painkillers had been charged with crimes, convicted, disciplined by their state medical boards or terminated from Medicaid. Nearly all remained eligible to prescribe in Medicare.

•Medicare wasted hundreds of millions of dollars a year by failing to rein in doctors who routinely give patients pricey name-brand drugs when cheaper generic alternatives are available.

•The top prescribers of some drugs received speaking payments from the companies that made them.

•Medicare’s process of flagging fraud was so convoluted and ineffective that the program was losing millions of dollars to schemes. Though the number of prescriptions attributed to Florida kidney specialist Carmen Ortiz-Butcher more than quadrupled in a year and the cost of her drugs to Medicare spiked from $282,000 to $4 million, Medicare didn’t ask any questions until Ortiz-Butcher realized that her prescription pads had been stolen and falsified.

The data released by Medicare today includes summary information, such as the total number of prescriptions written by each doctor in 2013, as well as more detailed information about each drug a doctor prescribed. It covers prescriptions worth more than $103 billion, not including rebates that lower the cost by an undisclosed amount.

The top prescribed drug in the program in 2013 was the blood pressure drug Lisinopril, prescribed 36.9 million times, including refills. Medicare spent the most on Nexium, $2.5 billion, not including rebates. The drug taken by the most Part D patients was the narcotic hydrocodone-acetaminophen. More than 8 million users filled at least one prescription for it.

Eric Hammelman, a vice president at the consulting firm Avalere Health, said the prescribing data could unlock clues about differences in how doctors practice medicine. Take, for instance, antibiotics, he said, which are often prescribed for inappropriate reasons. While the new data won’t show which prescriptions are inappropriate, it may flag providers who should be asked questions because they prescribe the drugs to a high proportion of their patients.

Beyond that, if consumers compare the prescribing data to data on the payments drug companies have made to doctors, they can see how often doctors prescribe products sold by companies with whom they have financial relationships.

“Knock on wood, these files are coming out on a regular basis. I think some of the doctors and manufacturers would prefer this goes away,” Hammelman said.

ProPublica will be analyzing the information in coming weeks and incorporating the data into our Prescriber Checkup tool.

Time Out

The prison industry and its related components are the biggest beneficiaries of the government money it awards to meet our incarceration nation standards.

The for profit industry gets money be the jails empty or full as they have established an occupancy rate requirement to maintain a minimum of residents to ensure profit, so they are paid regardless.

Slate did a great article on how this affected the criminal justice system to the point where saying broken is an inadequate word.

And there is this article from ProPublica from 2 years ago that documented at the time the sheer numbers of private institutions and their diversity among American states.

And of course this is also because they come checks in had to ensure their dominance and role in the ever increasing privately run government.

How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about
Sen. Marco Rubio is one of the biggest beneficiaries.

By Michael Cohen
April 28
The Washington Post

Several industries have become notorious for the millions they spend on influencing legislation and getting friendly candidates into office: Big Oil, Big Pharma and the gun lobby among them. But one has managed to quickly build influence with comparatively little scrutiny: Private prisons. The two largest for-profit prison companies in the United States – GEO and Corrections Corporation of America – and their associates have funneled more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, these private companies have seen their revenue and market share soar.

They now rake in a combined $3.3 billion in annual revenue and the private federal prison population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute. Private companies house nearly half of the nation’s immigrant detainees, compared to about 25 percent a decade ago, a Huffington Post report found. In total, there are now about 130 private prisons in the country with about 157,000 beds.

Marco Rubio is one of the best examples of the private prison industry’s growing political influence, a connection that deserves far more attention now that he’s officially launched a presidential bid. The U.S. senator has a history of close ties to the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, GEO Group, stretching back to his days as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. While Rubio was leading the House, GEO was awarded a state government contract for a $110 million prison soon after Rubio hired an economic consultant who had been a trustee for a GEO real estate trust. Over his career, Rubio has received nearly $40,000 in campaign donations from GEO, making him the Senate’s top career recipient of contributions from the company. (Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)

The Justice Policy Institute identified the private-prison industry’s three-pronged approach to increase profits through political influence: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and building relationships and networks. In their lobbying efforts, these companies push for policies that put more Americans behind bars, like mandatory minimum sentencing, California’s three-strikes rule and Arizona’s highly controversial anti-illegal immigration law. In many cases, these policies have been found to be expensive for taxpayers, racially biased and ineffective in significantly reducing crime. Showing just how important these laws are to the private prison industry, both GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America have warned shareholders that changes in these policies would hurt their bottom lines. In its 2014 annual report, CCA wrote:

The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. … Legislation has been proposed in numerous jurisdictions that could lower minimum sentences for some non-violent crimes and make more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior.

This outlook runs counter to what should be a rehabilitative mission of the nation’s criminal justice system. Instead, private prison contracts often require the government to keep the correctional facilities and immigration detention centers full, forcing communities to continuously funnel people into the prison system, even if actual crime rates are falling. Nearly two-thirds of private prison contracts mandate that state and local governments maintain a certain occupancy rate – usually 90 percent – or require taxpayers to pay for empty beds. In Arizona, three private prisons are operating with a 100 percent occupancy guarantee, according to Mother Jones. There’s even a lockup quota at the federal level: The Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention budget includes a mandate from Congress that at least 34,000 immigrants remain detained on a daily basis, a quota that has steadily grown each year, even as the undocumented immigrant population in the United States has leveled off. Private prisons have profited handsomely from that policy, owning nine of the 10 largest ICE detention centers, according to a report released this month by Grassroots Leadership.

With the growing influence of the prison lobby, the nation is, in effect, commoditizing human bodies for an industry in militant pursuit of profit. For instance, privatization created the atmosphere that made the “Kids For Cash” scandal possible, in which two Pennsylvania judges received $2.6 million in kickbacks from for-profit juvenile detention centers for sending more kids to the facilities and with unusually long sentences. The influence of private prisons creates a system that trades money for human freedom, often at the expense of the nation’s most vulnerable populations: children, immigrants and the poor.

The biggest beneficiaries of private prisons’ political donations have been Republican politicians in Florida, Tennessee, and border states with high populations of undocumented immigrants. The Republic Party of Florida PAC has received nearly $2.5 million from GEO and CCA since 1989. In 2010, GEO and its affiliates pumped $33,500 into political action committees benefiting Florida Republicans, including the Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate PAC. Since 2009, GEO Group’s co-founder and chief executive, George Zoley, has personally donated $6,480 to Rubio.

A 2011 investigative report published by The Center for Media and Democracy detailed the connections between Rubio and GEO during his time in the Florida House. It notes that Rubio hired Donna Arduin, a former trustee for GEO’s Correctional Properties Trust, as an economic consultant. Arduin worked with Rubio’s then-budget chief, Ray Sansom, who pushed through a $110 million deal for a new GEO prison in the House Appropriations Bill. The report also detailed how legislation favorable to GEO Group has shadowed Arduin’s presence in government from California to Florida. In 2011, Florida Gov. Rick Scott – who also used Arduin as a budget adviser – pushed (unsuccessfully) to privatize 27 prisons south of Orlando.

Upon winning the Senate seat, Rubio tapped former lobbyist Cesar Conda as his chief of staff in 2011. Conda had co-founded what is now GEO’s main lobbying firm, Navigators Global, and after joining Rubio, continued receiving payments of $150,000 from the firm as part of a stock buyout arrangement. In April 2014, Conda went on to lead Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC as a senior adviser, until recently rejoining Navigators. During Conda’s time with Rubio, GEO became a top-10 contributor to Reclaim America, giving $16,000 in 2014, according to Conda’s firm also banked $610,000 from the private prison company between 2011 and 2014 as its lobbying firm. According to a disclosure form obtained by The Nation, among the issues Navigators lobbied for on GEO’s behalf was immigration reform, an issue on which Rubio has remained dubious. In an e-mail responding to these issues, Conda said Navigators never lobbied for GEO’s prison business (he said the services were for GEO’s subsidiary, BI Incorporated, and the team working on it, which he wasn’t a part of, focused on homeland-security issues), and that he never met nor communicated with a Navigators lobbyist about GEO while working for Rubio, though he couldn’t speak for other members of senator’s staff.

But Rubio shouldn’t get a pass just because there’s no clear quid pro quo. What our criminal justice system needs is reform, not incentive for expansion. In fact, opposition to criminal justice reform should render any candidate woefully inadequate to lead a nation suffering from a prison system that essentially perpetuates the oppression of its most vulnerable citizens. We can’t allow the proliferation of private prisons and their political influence to remain the most important issue that no one’s talking about.

Briefly Teaching

The reality is that the death penalty has no business being part of our punitive culture in our justice system as it is really about revenge and not about rehabilitation which was the intent of the system in the first place. Yes you have committed a crime, it may be heinous but you are a person who can be "repaired" "fixed" and in turn entered back into society as new person.

And there are mixed opinions with regards to the effectiveness and practicality but of course our vindictive society we still have those who support this despite country after country rejection of the practice.

Well we all know that is true just that person is worse off, untreated, abused and often not even guilty. And we know we have killed children who were innocent and it appears more adults have been also killed that were innocent. So in other words it is working well in the punitive part.

The debate currently in the Supreme Court has led to contentious arguments with Justice Scalia the most argumentative (as he has never hid his support) and leading the way to continue this utterly disturbing aspect of our criminal justice system. And whatever idea or moment that President Obama would put a moratorium on the death penalty is not going to happen, but this man has also pardoned fewer criminals than any other President. And the current Justice Department head is no fan of the people as she has a long history of backing Police. So change not coming now or ever in this administrations final two years with regards to our fractured system of Justice.

And what is truly the center of the argument is the idea of cruel and unusual. They have already done the on mentally competent to stand trial and that too will never be resolved frankly for as long as we murder people legally does it really matter?

And what is also distressing is the lack of Justices' experience in the criminal courts other than Sonia Sotomayor and has called out the lies with regards to the practice.

So as a result the Justices' rely on "expert" testimony or amicus curiae briefs prepared by "friends of the court" to teach them. God almighty once again this can run the gamut of idiocy and the article below from September of last year gives you an idea of what that means.

Knowledge is as good as the Teacher and the Student who aspires to seek knowledge. I would hope and expect that those in the Supreme Court would have the desire if not the compulsion to continue to learn and in turn bring that knowledge to the Court. Well job security apparently disallows that.

I am afraid in America... that can be interpreted in many ways.

Seeking Facts, Justices Settle for What Briefs Tell Them
SEPT. 1, 2014
The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court received more than 80 friend-of-the-court briefs in the Hobby Lobby case. Most of these filings, also called amicus briefs, were dull and repetitive recitations of familiar legal arguments.

Others stood out. They presented fresh, factual information that put the case in a broader context.
The justices are hungry for such data. Their opinions are increasingly studded with citations of facts they learned from amicus briefs.

But this is a perilous trend, said Allison Orr Larsen, a law professor at the College of William and Mary.
“The court is inundated with 11th-hour, untested, advocacy-motivated claims of factual expertise,” she wrote in an article to be published in The Virginia Law Review.

Some of the factual assertions in recent amicus briefs would not pass muster in a high school research paper. But that has not stopped the Supreme Court from relying on them. Recent opinions have cited “facts” from amicus briefs that were backed up by blog posts, emails or nothing at all.

Some amicus briefs are careful and valuable, of course, citing peer-reviewed studies and noting contrary evidence. Others cite more questionable materials.

Some “studies” presented in amicus briefs were paid for or conducted by the group that submitted the brief and published only on the Internet. Some studies seem to have been created for the purpose of influencing the Supreme Court.

Yet the justices are quite receptive to this dodgy data. Over the five terms from 2008 to 2013, the court’s opinions cited factual assertions from amicus briefs 124 times, Professor Larsen found.
The phenomenon is novel. “The U.S. Supreme Court is the only American judicial entity that depends so heavily on amicus briefs to educate itself on factual matters,” Professor Larsen wrote.

The trend is at odds with the ordinary role of appellate courts, which are not supposed to be in the business of determining facts. That is the job of the trial court, where evidence is submitted, sifted and subjected to the adversary process.

Appellate courts traditionally take those facts, fixed in the trial court record, as a given. Their job is to identify and apply legal principles to those facts.

Justice Antonin Scalia made this point in a 2011 dissent chastising the majority for its blithe acceptance of “government-funded studies” that “did not make an appearance in this litigation until the government’s merits brief to this court.”

But “Supreme Court briefs are an inappropriate place to develop the key facts in a case,” Justice Scalia wrote. “An adversarial process in the trial courts can identify flaws in the methodology of the studies that the parties put forward; here, we accept the studies’ findings on faith, without examining their methodology at all.”

The net result, he said, is “untested judicial fact-finding masquerading as statutory interpretation.”
At least the studies that Justice Scalia complained about were submitted by a party to the case and thus were likely to be closely examined by the other side.

Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story Most of the information from the amicus briefs recently cited by the justices was not subjected to even that level of adversary scrutiny. Only 28 percent of the cited materials drew a response from one of the parties in the case.

In the Hobby Lobby case, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. pushed back against the recent trend, refusing to consider “an intensely empirical argument” in an amicus brief. “We do not generally entertain arguments that were not raised below and are not advanced in this court by any party,” he wrote.

Not so, Professor Larsen wrote in a recent blog post. “This descriptive statement by Justice Alito about Supreme Court practice is simply incorrect,” she wrote.

Consider these examples.

In a 2011 decision about the privacy rights of scientists who worked on government space programs, Justice Alito cited an amicus brief to show that more than 88 percent of American companies perform background checks on their workers.

“Where this number comes from is a mystery,” Professor Larsen wrote. “It is asserted in the brief without citation.”

In a 2012 decision allowing strip searches of people arrested for even minor offenses as they are admitted to jail, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy cited an amicus brief to show that there are an “increasing number of gang members” entering the nation’s prisons and jails. The brief itself did little more than assert that “there is no doubt” this was so.

And in a 2013 decision, Justice Stephen G. Breyer cited an amicus brief to establish that American libraries hold 200 million books that were published abroad, a point of some significance in the copyright dispute before the court. The figure in the brief came from a blog post. The blog has been discontinued.
In an interview, Professor Larsen said she was struck by how often justices cited the amicus briefs themselves as sources of authority, as opposed to the materials collected in the briefs. “It really makes you wonder how much digging the justices are doing,” she said.

Kannon K. Shanmugam, a lawyer with Williams & Connolly who argues frequently before the court, said the justices’ quandary was a common one.

“The Supreme Court has the same problem that the rest of us do: figuring out how to distinguish between real facts and Internet facts,” he said. “Amicus briefs from unreliable sources can contribute to that problem.”

Free and the Speech

I have wondered of late if the iron curtain was falling on the Bill of Rights.  The same type of argument and beliefs that peoples rights need to be reigned in for the good of the country is what dominates but it also is the idea that if the individuals rights are also harmed in the good for all then perhaps we need to ensure that those to are protected.

Makes sense right? The rights of the individual are or are not more important for the good of the country so in turn we have constant surveillance, a police state and we still have the right to say what we want just be careful to whom you say it, what you say and then its all good.

I had this discussion with seventh graders who realized right away that this was about sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.

So the intense effort to restrict speech via cyberbulling laws and the idea that anyone who says anything mean or bad can be prosecuted, any threat is an actual threat and in turn anyone who is singing, or speaking or has some history that we don't like or agree with needs a big dose of STFU as they have no right to say anything.

The idea that you can turn off the computer, not go to the show, read the book, go to the speech or leave  the second the speaker enters is apparently not possible, this is your space and place and they just need to go away as their very presence or words or thoughts or mere existence on the planet is upsetting.

I see the over sensitivity and part of this as the increasing need to be the professional victim. As I read about the trial in Colorado over the mass shooting in the theatre, one family member have sold their home, live in a RV and will travel the country to remind those of the daughter they lost due to a mentally ill lunatic getting a gun and storming into the theatre and killing anyone in his path. Some have found ways to heal and some will never.  And that is okay but it often seems to be misguided more revenge less activism.

It is clear that he is mentally ill just the simple equation is anyone who amasses that much armaments, rigs his home as a booby trap and then plans to the extent he did so is not a well man.  The same with most others of his ilk, the Boston Bomber, Timothy McVeigh  are some who come to mind.  The snap of when reality and rationality leave is an indication that you are yes responsible but you are clearly not mentally well.  These are not acts of mentally well people. Period.

But again the issue of anyone who feels that setting oneself into a public place guns a blazing is indicative of a slow descent into madness.  That is one problem, the other is the access to the guns and arms they manage to obtain without question in which to do so.

Gee with all this monitoring and observations you think someone would notice. The Colorado shooter was ordering all of this via the internet, and here in Seattle our garbage monitors can look through your garbage to see you are composting and if not you are fined for failing to do so.  Yet we have the Government enabling USPS to take mail, have pursued UPS and FedEx for delivering prescription drugs to customers from cheaper sources (Mexico, etc) as violation of federal law and yet no one thinks it is a problem to order an AK 47 from Amazon.  Cannot wait until they start selling drones.  Or do they already?

I am no less guilty for telling someone to fuck off over the internet than anyone else, I have been a victim of dogpiling and cyberbullying  but it means nothing as I do not know them. I have been hacked and my personal data stolen, now that does as that affects me personally and has long term consequences but that was not directed to or at me it was part of a systemic hack. So I cannot comment on those whose photos, personal data and other details were posted to public sites and in turn puts them at risk as I do not do the MEbook, Instagram, and I write and tweet under a pseudonym.

I can say I have been personally the victim of a maniac who drugged me and let me get into a car and nearly get killed and I believe he was the individual seen at the scene who walked up to the car, opened the passenger door, said to the witness "she is still breathing" and walked away.  I was then the victim of a police officer who commandeered a  Nurse while I was on ventilator waiting for treatment or movement to ICU and took my blood without warrant, failing to get or destroying evidence that I would need to defend myself, then I was charged with a crime, convicted and sentenced and watched my civil rights be violated in front of me in open court, called or "inferred" as a drunken whore/slut and in turn watched my highly paid/trained and educated Attorneys just sit there.  Well Harvard did try to quit at the end there when he realized this was happening.  Well the check had cleared.

Add to that I was released from the hospital in which my rights were violated 72 hours after admit while still being quite ill sustaining traumatic brain injury which oddly when released I did not seem to have on the release papers. Instead I was a drunk mentally ill indigent who had no family to release me to so they handed me off to the nearest individual on whom to dump.  I wandered the streets delusional and mentally incompetent for days - a state called post traumatic amnesia - and when I came out of it I found my life in utter shambles.  That I do take personally and without a Lawyer chose to sue this hospital.

So no one knows better the civil and criminal system, how damaged and dangerous they are and I am still in them as both my civil and criminal cases are in appeals.  This is what happens to you when you are in the system and all of it becomes quite personal as this is what they do, attack you individually and personally.  You can't get more personal when you read transcripts and legal documents calling you every conceivable name in the book.  My favorite to this day is "well you went out drinking with him" I see that every in article or report on any of the current individuals who have died or been harmed by those in the system as a caveat to somehow excuse the behavior and justify why it happened this way.

As my mother used to say "he who accuses, excuses."  Yes they do.  The criminal justice and medical industrial complex confirm that.

So when I hear about another demand for trigger warnings, for canceling speakers or for laws to somehow stop anyone anywhere from saying or doing anything that upsets or hurts feelings, I have no compassion. I have more triggers than warnings could ever provide.  But as I still have reasonable hold on my sanity (despite what Lawyer 2.0b thinks he was right I was when released prematurely from the hospital  but then I wasn't anymore which I think he would have preferred the former vs the latter),  I don't do anything but go out of my way to avoid being upset and if I can't stop it I work on what I will need to do to salve the pain.

So I am a victim, a perpetrator, a defendant, a plaintiff, an appellant and I am angry.  I get it. I really do.   I sat down at a table for a coffee and said aloud "I am cranky, tired and hate traveling." The man next to me said, "what is with all the labels, why aren't you saying I am also a caring human being." Then he got up and left.  My first thought was "douchebag" the other was "those are not labels they are pronouncements of mood, labels is what you affix not apply" But he was gone so I can Tweet that or Facebook it or whatever. And guess what who gives a shit? No one. No harm no foul.  Venting is okay it is when it crosses the line to actual harming no.

Not a day goes by I don't wish a pox on the houses of those who brought me harm. That pretty much is it. I have no interest in actually doing anything that would make that possible but when I say "I hope you end up a victim of a violent crime and in a shitty hospital and have no one help you" as a way of actually getting them to understand, express sympathy or empathy or just shame then yes I am just evil. And I have done it to their faces so if I do it anonymously over the internet it loses the impact but I get it, I really do.

We have had nom de plumes, pen names for decades. Mark Twain anyone?  George Sand? The woman who wrote 50 Shade of Grey also a pseudonym.  I have no problem with wanting anonymity as it is not equatable with dangerous lunatics as sometimes we want the privacy and ability to not have to always live behind our words.   There are people who don't need fame and acclaim. Don't tell a Lawyer that however they are sure that all clients want the media.  Well they do when they realize that the media may actually do something that the Lawyers won't and that is investigate the story.  Serial I think validates that and is why criminal lawyers took offense.  Oh too bad so sad, next up a law on podcasts.

And this brings me to the final point. Another idiot law to prevent free speech was actually overturned. I have come to realize all the heavy lifting and actual law making seems to be in appeals courts as they have the law and the whole posturing, finger pointing, adversarial nonsense goes out the window and the confinements of space on briefs and time for argument is confined so it actually is about law. And I support this decision not because I actually have any interest in the case or the individual, as to be frank it seems dated in today's climate but it is relevant.

The anguish here is that in fact here we are still discussing this matter at some point victims need to let go of their anguish and find a way to live.  Frankly I can't wait, three years is too long and I have no intention of slapping a mattress on my back, roaming the country in a RV or lobbying morons in State or Federal legislatures to stop my pain. They are incapable of it frankly.  Most people are as we are now all the ME generation.

U.S. judge overturns 'anguish' law passed after Abu-Jamal speech
Ben Finley, Philly Inquirer Wednesday, April 29, 2015,

 Writing that Pennsylvania's General Assembly "fell woefully short of the mark," a federal judge on Tuesday struck down a state law that allowed violent-crime victims to sue offenders over speech that causes "mental anguish."

 The six-month-old "Revictimization Relief Act" was aimed at quieting the celebrity of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. But the law violated offenders' First Amendment rights and was so broadly worded that it could limit the speech of people professing their innocence, wrote Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner of Pennsylvania's Middle District.

Lawsuits could have been brought against pardon applications or confessions, he added. And the act already had a "chilling effect" on prison newsletters and books being written by inmates.

 "However well-intentioned its legislative efforts, the General Assembly fell woefully short of the mark," wrote Conner, who was appointed by President George W. Bush. "The result is a law that is manifestly unconstitutional."

 The Pennsylvania legislature fast-tracked the bill in October, just days after Goddard College in Vermont played a speech Abu-Jamal recorded in prison at its commencement. Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill into law Oct. 21.

Though the speech made no reference to his victim, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, the college's decision drew the ire of the Fraternal Order of Police and Faulkner's widow, Maureen. Abu-Jamal and other inmates filed a lawsuit in November. It was combined with another case filed by offenders, advocacy groups, and news organizations.

 Bret Grote, an attorney for Abu-Jamal, said: "Before his law was enacted, I was determined to work with Mumia and others in prison to bring a case that would wipe it off the books as soon as possible. And we're pleased that day has come."

Attorney Eli Segal with the law firm Pepper Hamilton, which along with the ACLU brought the other suit, wrote in an e-mail that the decision "says loud and clear that all of us in this commonwealth have the right to freedom of speech."

The law was defended in court by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office. Spokesman Chuck Ardo said the office was reviewing the judge's decision. State Rep. Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery) authored the act and said he would rewrite it if the attorney general does not appeal.

 "Justice isn't just about the criminals and their rights," he said. "It's about the victims and their rights

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Race to the Bottom

As industrialized nations go we are on a race to the bottom in most elements that distinguish those countries who are "modern" or "first world" versus those third world.

I will have to say that the playing field is one with a goal post that constantly changes and to measure intellect by high school diplomas and college degrees can be somewhat tenuous as we are well aware of the cheating and standards required to attain such may in fact not be quite the same in those up and coming countries, but take them out of the equation we still don't do any better when it comes to social matters and issues with regards to health and well being.

Eduardo Porter discusses how income inequity has led to a much larger problem when it comes to our country and the future of it in relation to those whom we were once allied and who we need to be with in the future. 

The issues are not just of our own and own making but they extend outward into perception and that is by far more precarious and dangerous than any terrorist with a sword. 

Income Inequality Is Costing the U.S. on Social Issues

By Eduardo Porter
The New York Times
APRIL 28, 2015


A playground at a women's prison in Lusk, Wyo. 
Seven out of every 1,000 adults in the United States are in prison, more than five times the rate in most other rich democracies. Credit Ryan Dorgan/Casper Star-Tribune, via Associated Press

Thirty-five years ago, the United States ranked 13th among the 34 industrialized nations that are today in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in terms of life expectancy for newborn girls. These days, it ranks 29th.

In 1980, the infant mortality rate in the United States was about the same as in Germany. Today, American babies die at almost twice the rate of German babies.

“On nearly all indicators of mortality, survival and life expectancy, the United States ranks at or near the bottom among high-income countries,” says a report on the nation’s health by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.

What’s most shocking about these statistics is not how unhealthy they show Americans to be, compared with citizens of countries that spend much less on health care and have much less sophisticated medical technology. What is most perplexing is how stunningly fast the United States has lost ground.

The blame for the precipitous fall does not rest primarily on the nation’s doctors and hospitals.

The United States has the highest teenage birthrate in the developed world — about seven times the rate in France, according to the O.E.C.D. More than one out of every four children lives with one parent, the largest percentage by far among industrialized nations. And more than a fifth live in poverty, sixth from the bottom among O.E.C.D. nations.

Among adults, seven out of every 1,000 are in prison, more than five times the rate of incarceration in most other rich democracies and more than three times the rate for the United States four decades ago.

The point is: The United States doesn’t have a narrow health care problem. We’ve simply handed our troubles to the medical industry to fix. In many ways, the American health care system is the most advanced in the world. But whiz-bang medical technology just cannot fix what ails us.

As economists from the University of Chicago, M.I.T. and the University of Southern California put it in a recent research paper, much of America’s infant mortality deficit is driven by “excess inequality.”

American babies born to white, college-educated, married women survive as often as those born to advantaged women in Europe. It’s the babies born to nonwhite, nonmarried, nonprosperous women who die so young.

Three or four decades ago, the United States was the most prosperous country on earth. It had the mightiest military and the most advanced technologies known to humanity. Today, it’s still the richest, strongest and most inventive. But when it comes to the health, well-being and shared prosperity of its people, the United States has fallen far behind.

Pick almost any measure of social health and cohesion over the last four decades or so, and you will find that the United States took a wrong turn along the way.

As the presidential campaign draws the political debate to our national priorities, these questions must take center stage. As candidates argue over the budget deficit and the national debt, debate what to do about income inequality, address the problem of mass incarceration or refight the battles over the Affordable Care Act and the minimum wage, they should be forced to address how their policy wish list adds up to an answer.

Looking at how the United States compares with other nations is illuminating. As I noted in last week’s column, over the last four decades or so, the labor market lost much of its power to deliver income gains to working families in many developed nations.

But blaming globalization and technological progress for the stagnation of the middle class and the precipitous decline in our collective health is too easy. Jobs were lost and wages got stuck in many developed countries.

What set the United States apart — what made the damage inflicted upon American society so intense — was the nature of its response. Government support for Americans in the bottom half turned out to be too meager to hold society together.

The conservative narrative of America’s social downfall, articulated by the likes of Charles Murray from the American Enterprise Institute, posits that a large welfare state, built from the time of the New Deal in the 1930s through the era of the Great Society in the 1960s, sapped Americans’ industriousness and undermined their moral fiber.

A more compelling explanation is that when globalization struck at the jobs on which 20th-century America had built its middle class, the United States discovered that it did not, in fact, have much of a welfare state to speak of. The threadbare safety net tore under the strain.

Call it a failure of solidarity. American institutions, built from hostility toward collective solutions, couldn’t hold society together when the economic underpinning of full employment at a decent wage gave in.

The question is, Is there a solution to fit these ideological preferences? The standard prescriptions, typically shared by liberals and conservatives, start with education, building the skills needed to harness the opportunities of a high-tech, fast-changing labor market that has little use for those who end their education after high school.

Ensuring everybody has a college degree might not stanch the flow of riches to the very pinnacle of society. But it could deliver a powerful boost to the incomes and the well-being of struggling families in the bottom half.

And yet the prescription — embedded in the social reality that is contemporary America — falls short. In contemporary America, education is widening inequity, not closing it. College enrollment rates have stagnated for lower-income Americans. Sean Reardon from Stanford University notes that the achievement gap between rich and poor children seems to have been steadily expanding for the last 50 years.

On the left, there are calls to build the kind of generous social insurance programs, which despite growing budget constraints remain largely intact among many European social democracies. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, for example, is calling for an expansion of Social Security, paid for by lifting the cap on payroll taxes so the rich pay the same share of their income to support the system as everybody else.

That may be desirable, though at the moment, our greatest problems are not about the elderly. And at least for the foreseeable future, it remains a political nonstarter in a nation congenitally mistrustful of government. Just in time to kick off the presidential campaign, Republicans in the House and Senate were working on a budget that would gut Obamacare — most likely increasing the pool of the nation’s uninsured — and slash funding for programs for Americans of low and moderate income.

Yet despite the grim prognosis, there is hope. The challenge America faces is not simply a matter of equity. The bloated incarceration rates and rock-bottom life expectancy, the unraveling families and the stagnant college graduation rates amount to an existential threat to the nation’s future.

That is, perhaps, the best reason for hope. The silver lining in these dismal, if abstract, statistics, is that they portend such a dysfunctional future that our broken political system might finally be forced to come together to prevent it.

Death Be Limber

And death be quick.

The Supreme Court is hearing a case about the cruel and unusual punishment of executions. No wait just the cruel and unusual ones being done in Oklahoma, where the wind comes whistling down the plain and then injects Midazolam into your vein.

Okay, on Midazolam alone I am no expert but I am more than the dipshit Oklahoma hired to testify as their expert.

I have said repeatedly that expert testimony as per the Daubert decision is largely based on the Judge's skill and knowledge about the expert and his/her skill and knowledge about the subject. Which of course said same skill and knowledge comes via the Attorney who is producing said expert, be they defense or prosecution. And a the expert is only as good as the check if it clears.

Why am I an expert on Midazolam? Well I believe in my research and in turn experience being given the drug, both without my permission, consent or knowledge I actually know something about it.

It is a date rape drug. A Benzodiazepine based drug that probably Bill Cosby knows more about then the dude testifying in court. There is an expert.

Midazolam acts quickly in less than 10 minutes it can render the victim stupid, not necessarily unconscious as who wants to rape someone dead or unconscious. Not even Bill Cosby. It affects the short term memory so in some ways it is a good thing as you don't want to remember being raped or being killed. Either way it's a win-win.

Midazolam is also easily eliminated from the body in less that 3 hours making it harder to detect if one say wakes up the next day to either a dead body or Bill Cosby, neither are good. So when you go to the hospital for the drug test it will come out negative for benzodiazepine.

I explained this to my Attorneys', you know the one from Harvard with a Physics degree as well and the other who is just an asshole and both are experts in drugs and alcohol or so they say. Lawyers you got to love them or kill them, just humanely.

This method of death by lethal injection is preferably to the old way as discussed in the Tulsa Times about why they still murder legally, well other than by cops.

Author of Lethal Injection Bill Recalls His Motive
Posted: Friday, September 7, 1990 12:00 am

Tim Barkers

After voting in 1976 for a death penalty he didn't support, a state representative from Tulsa decided there had to be a more civilized way to kill.

The following summer, Bill Wiseman authored a bill calling for death by lethal injection to replace the more painful death by electrocution.

Wiseman was a Republican state representative from 1976-1980. The revisions came after the state legislature was forced to reconsider the death penalty in 1976, after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down mandatory death penalty statutes in Oklahoma's law.

Wiseman, whose father is a retired Presbyterian minister, said this week it "was the second toughest issue I ever faced. In terms of complexity and opposing arguments" the only thing more difficult was the abortion issue, he said.

Wiseman argued against a new capital punishment law, but said he voted in favor after a poll of voters in his district showed strong support for the measure.

Looking back on his efforts to install death by lethal injection, Wiseman, 46, said he just wanted to make the execution less violent and a little more quiet.

"Electrocution as a method of execution is kind of a combination of Barnum & Bailey and reform," Wiseman said.

Working with Dr. A. Jay Chapman, the chief state medical examiner, Wiseman developed the bill that made Oklahoma the first state to offer death by lethal injection, or "happy hour" as it is called by inmates.

"If you are going to execute people, that is the way to do it," he said.

The method has since been adopted by a large number of states.

During debate on the proposed law, Wiseman placed on every legislator's desk an envelope containing two pictures of a man who had been electrocuted.

"It looked like seared meat," he said. "Some people just didn't like it." He wanted the lawmakers to see the "barbarity" of a death by the electric chair or "sparky" as it was called. "Reality
should have some impact on legislation now and again," Wiseman said.

After narrowly passing in the Senate, the bill was approved overwhelmingly by the House and signed into law by then-Gov. David Boren.

Oklahoma has not executed a criminal since the bill's adoption. Wiseman, who received national attention for the proposal, said it's not one of the "things you put in a scrapbook for your grandchildren to look at." "I wish I had a nobler monument than that, sometimes," he said. **note they have since this was written, the gruesome execution of Clayton Locket can be found here.**

Wiseman's six years in politics ended in 1980 after he switched to the Democratic party and lost his re-election bid. He now owns a public relations firm in Tulsa.

Regrets, I've had a few.... by the way that Sinatra documentary on HBO was fantastic. I digress which drove Attorney 2.0b (he was dumped on me by 2.0 who is still my Attorney) insane and he then labled me mentally incompetent unable to stand for trial. Man did I tell you I love Attorneys! And I complain that most legislators are just that but public relations apparently shows another deep mark of intelligence and thought as well.

So now to the professed expert who will explain why the death by Midzolam works. Oh for the record I actually got a medical text on Benzo's for $40 bucks on Amazon which I gave to the same Attorney's. I doubt they ever looked at it in the same way they actually never spoke to me.

Maybe they will when I sell my expert services! I am writing a book.

Key Expert in Supreme Court Lethal Injection Case Did His Research on

How the Supreme Court case over lethal injection shows it’s becoming nearly impossible to find experts to defend the practice.

by Annie Waldman
ProPublica, April 28, 2015, 12:31 p.m.

Tomorrow, when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the highest-profile death penalty challenge in seven years, the justices will begin ruling on this question: Does Oklahoma’s use of the common surgical sedative midazolam fail to make prisoners unconscious during lethal injections, thus violating the Eighth Amendment’s protection against “cruel and unusual punishment”? For many court watchers, however, a subject of special scrutiny will be the credibility of Oklahoma’s key expert witness, Dr. Roswell Lee Evans, who has testified that inmates “would not sense the pain” of an execution after receiving a high dose of midazolam.

The case, first brought by four condemned Oklahoma inmates, stems from the botched April 2014 execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett. Although Lockett received a substantial dose of midazolam intravenously, it failed to render him unconscious as he was administered the paralytic agent vecuronium bromide and the caustic heart-stopping drug potassium chloride. Witnesses reported that he moaned and writhed on the gurney for more than 40 minutes until his death.

Lethal injections involving midazolam in other states have been similarly grisly. In Ohio, Dennis McGuire heaved and snorted during his 26-minute execution. Last July, Arizona took two hours to execute a man. After these deaths, Evans maintained that midazolam works.

Oklahoma and four other states began using the sedative in 2013 after the American pharmaceutical manufacturer Hospira halted production of the anesthetic sodium thiopental in the wake of increasing anti-death penalty sentiment. Since then, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, midazolam has been used in 15 executions, one-quarter of which were apparently painful.

A number of legal activists and medical professionals have expressed concern that Evans, a board certified psychiatric pharmacist and the dean of the Harrison School of Pharmacy at Auburn University in Alabama, has testified that he has never used midazolam on a patient and has, in fact, never personally induced anesthesia.

According to his curriculum vitae, which he submitted as part of his testimony, the last time Evans published a paper related to his pharmacology research was in 1996. Moreover, his 300-page expert witness report included more than 150 pages of printouts from, an online consumer website whose disclaimer reads, “not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.”

Last month, 16 professors of pharmacology filed a brief with the Supreme Court that disputes Evans’ testimony. “It is widely recognized in the scientific and medical community that midazolam alone cannot be used to maintain adequate anesthesia,” the doctors asserted, describing how the drug’s potency does not increase with dosage – a so-called “ceiling effect.” They concluded that midazolam “is incapable of rendering an inmate unconscious prior to the injection of the second and third drugs.”

Dr. Kelly Standifer, one of the brief’s authors and chairwoman of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy, told ProPublica that she was “a little horrified” when she read Evans’ testimony. “My first impression was that it was wrong. These kinds of doses are not given by any clinician. To say that they would know what this dose would do? I don’t think anyone can say that.”

Dr. Richard Weisman, a toxicologist and an associate dean at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that since midazolam has never been tested on patients at high dosages, it would be impossible for Evans to deduce its efficacy. “It becomes a big experiment and that’s not good for something like this,” Weisman said.

But it’s Evans’ reliance on a consumer website that has attracted the most scrutiny from medical professionals. “As scientists we use primary literature – it’s a little different than,” said Dr. Kathryn Cunningham, the vice chairwoman of the pharmacology and toxicology department at University of Texas Medical Branch and another of the brief’s authors. “As someone who is a scientist, we have resources available to use so we would not go to a website of this sort.”

Even Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote earlier this year that she was “deeply troubled” by Evans’ research standards. “In contending that midazolam will work as the State intends, Dr. Evans cited no studies, but instead appeared to rely primarily on the Web site,” Sotomayor noted in a dissenting opinion to stay the execution of Charles F. Warner, one of the original petitioners in the case. “It is true that we give deference to the district courts. But at some point, we must question their findings of fact, unless we are to abdicate our role of ensuring that no clear error has been committed. We should review such findings with added care when what is at issue is the risk of the needless infliction of severe pain.”

An hour later, Warner was executed after receiving a dose of midazolam. His last words were reportedly, “my body is on fire.”

Evans declined to be interviewed for this article. In his testimony before the federal court in Oklahoma last December, he defended his research, describing the website as a “combination of materials pulled from some of the most outstanding references in the country that have been around for 50-plus years.”

Originally from Georgia, Evans received his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Tennessee, Memphis, in 1973. He was a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City for nearly 20 years before becoming a dean at Auburn University. He is licensed to practice pharmacy in two states—but is not licensed to practice pharmacy in Alabama, the state he has worked in for over 20 years. “It is telling that the states have selected an expert who does not use or study the drug in question and who based his opinions on unreliable sources,” said Megan McCracken, a legal expert at the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley.

The nation’s judicial system has long emphasized the importance and need for reliable scientific testimony, often referred to as the “Daubert Standard.” Under this precedent, established in 1993, all courts have an obligation to ensure that scientific testimony is based on scientific knowledge.

“If you’re trying to figure out whether it’s cruel or unusual punishment, the inquiry into the chemical component needs to be more robust and thorough,” David Loftis, the managing attorney of the Innocence Project, said in an interview with ProPublica. “Just because he’s a scientist doesn’t mean he knows the properties of the drug."

The problem, Loftis says, is the speed in which death penalty challenges must often be heard. Dale Baich, an attorney representing the Oklahoma prisoners in the Supreme Court case, said this was exactly the situation with Evans, who testified only a month before Charles Warner’s execution date.

“Because the Oklahoma case went forward in an expedited manner, Dr. Evans was not fully challenged during the hearing as there was no time to take his deposition and conduct an in-depth investigation of his professional background and credentials,” Baich said in an interview.

Ultimately, though, what the intense battle over Evans’ qualifications reveals are the larger forces at work in the country’s ongoing capital punishment debate. “The choice of using a method of execution that is so dependent on the medical profession and pharmacology has bitten the Departments of Corrections in the back” said Deborah Denno, a death penalty expert and professor of law at Fordham University. “The Departments of Corrections are pretty desperate to find experts who can support their point of view. States have had a lot of trouble finding experts to come forward, and when they do come forward, they are not qualified.”

In recent years, the medical community has begun to speak out against capital punishment. The American Medical Association, the largest association of medical doctors, discourages its members from participating in executions. In 2010, the American Board of Anesthesiology even went so far as to threaten to rescind board certification of any of its 40,000 members if they chose to participate in an execution.

In recent weeks, both the American Pharmacists Association and the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists have adopted positions discouraging their members from participating in executions.

A consequence of these shifts is that the pool of expert witnesses willing to defend lethal injection is drying up. Take the case of Dr. Mark Dershwitz, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Since at least the early 2000s, Dershwitz has provided expert testimony in more than 20 states on lethal injection drugs (including midazolam). But in June 2014, Dershwitz terminated his role as a state expert. He declined to be interviewed for this article, telling ProPublica in an email, “as requested by the American Board of Anesthesiology, I do not discuss lethal injection in any venue.”

That may be why states like Oklahoma are turning to doctors such as Roswell Lee Evans – and why his testimony is likely to come under special scrutiny in the Oklahoma case.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dandy Warhol

Not the band but that little Warhol you picked up at auction last year than is now worth twice the price and you can resell it at auction, pick up another piece of modern art and never pay taxes on the profit. Sounds great. Then add the deductions for loaning it to museums and the envy of friends who come to the estate to see it.

Then later you can build a museum on your property all tax free and call it a museum, but make it have strange hours and appointment only, in which to house your collection and take a tax deduction on that too! There is the Walton museum, the Lauder Museum and Eli Broad to name a few. Steve Cohen the hedge fund owner who has had dubious connections to legality in business is an infamous collector and had to sell a few pieces to pay off debt but I doubt some of those art trades hurt one bit.

This is one tax break that really can anyone object to eliminating?

Tax Break Used by Investors in Flipping Art Faces ScrutinyBy GRAHAM BOWLEY
The New York Times
APRIL 26, 2015

Introduced in the 1920s to ease the tax burden of farmers who wanted to swap property, it soon became a tool for real estate investors flipping, say, office buildings for shopping malls.

Now, this little-known provision in the tax code, known as a like-kind exchange, has become a popular tactic for a new niche of investors: buyers of high-end art who want to put off — and sometimes completely avoid — federal taxes when upgrading their Diebenkorns for Rothkos.

“You can defer millions of dollars of taxes,” said Josh Baer, an art adviser who helps clients take advantage of the tool.

The exchanges have become prevalent enough, and the cost to the government significant enough, that the Obama administration is seeking to eliminate them, a prospect causing no shortage of alarm in sectors of the art world.

Lawyers in Manhattan are warning clients about what might happen to the market if the provision were yanked, and are facing anxious questions at conferences on the art market. Lawmakers in Washington, meanwhile, are receiving phone calls and letters from the growing corps of like-kind exchange advisers in opposition to eliminating the exchanges.

Experts say the use of the tax break has expanded in response to surging prices for art and the rising number of savvy investors, often veterans of the real estate industry or Wall Street, who have come to view paintings and sculptures as tradable commodities.

“I get calls all the time,” said Stan Freeman, president of Exchange Strategies in Campbell, Calif., one of the companies that help arrange such exchanges. “It’s a function of the marketplace right now.”

In its simplest form, the maneuver allows an investor to delay paying the hefty 28 percent capital gains tax on sales of art and other so-called collectibles, like stamps and coins, by pouring the profits from one work into the purchase of a similar one.

For example, someone who made $10 million on the sale of a Warhol would ordinarily owe the government $2.8 million. But with the exchange, the entire $10 million can be recycled into the purchase of, say, a Gerhard Richter. If the investor holds that painting for a decade or longer before selling, inflation eats away at the effective cost of the $2.8 million bill.

"You have access to the money saved for a number of years, until you decide to sell the asset,” said Thomas C. Danziger, a lawyer in Manhattan who has helped structure such exchanges. “That’s a big benefit. Or you may never pay capital gains if you die before the replacement work is sold.”

Suzanne Goldstein Baker, a former president of the Federation of Exchange Accommodators, said that the money the exchanges save could help create jobs. Credit Joshua Lott for The New York Times Investors can avoid all capital gains taxes by holding the artwork bought with money from a prior sale until they die or by donating it to a museum, two strategies that have made the tax break — also known as a 1031 exchange after the section of the tax code that permits it — an attractive tool in estate planning.

Other investors sell and repurchase a series of works of escalating value without paying tax until an ultimate sale many years down the road, a process that some liken to receiving a no-interest loan from the government.

“If you are doing five transactions over 25 years,” Mr. Baer said, “each time buying something more expensive, each time you don’t pay the capital gains tax on the way. At the end of the day you are way ahead.”

Proponents of the exchanges say rechanneling profits into new investments, whether they are office buildings or sculptures, promotes growth and creates jobs.

“Sometimes I am asked when I am in Washington, ‘Why should we let rich people have this tax break?’ ” said Suzanne Goldstein Baker, a former president of the Federation of Exchange Accommodators and a lawyer with a company that helps investors swap assets. “But these rich people are the same as everyone else. And it stimulates activity for galleries, and their commissions, and auction houses and C.P.A.s and art shippers. You have a lot of people who are upstream and downstream who are ordinary working people.”

But critics say such exchanges were never intended to be a tax tool for wealthy art buyers.

“What we are seeing is yet another sophisticated federal tax avoidance scheme,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. “Some people are exploiting this tax provision as an estate planning tool to help them transfer wealth.”

In its 2016 budget, the Obama administration is proposing to eliminate the tax break for exchanges of art and other collectibles, and to limit it in other cases, like the swapping of real estate parcels. It estimates that the change could bring in $19.5 billion in deferred or avoided taxes over the next 10 years. While federal officials say they do not have a precise breakdown of the tax impact of 1031 exchanges specifically for art, the White House’s attention suggests that a sizable amount of tax revenue is at stake.

Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said he agreed with the administration’s efforts. Like-kind exchanges, he said, were originally intended to avoid penalizing taxpayers whose economic situation did not change when they swapped assets. Now the exchanges have evolved into tax dodges exploited by investors, he said.

“In these days of concern over income inequality and trying to spread the burden progressively, this particular provision — especially applied to art — would provide a big bang for its buck,” he said.

There is no limit to how many times an investor can delay paying taxes through exchanges. Proponents say the exchanges are based on the principle that it is unfair to tax a “paper” gain if an investor is simply selling an asset, be it farmland or art, and quickly reinvesting the proceeds in the same kind of activity.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said that like-kind exchanges, often used for art, had been exploited as “another sophisticated federal tax avoidance scheme.” Credit J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press Ms. Baker said she arranged exchanges involving several hundred artworks each year, including deals with works by Andy Warhol and Chuck Close. But some of the exchanges include much smaller works, some costing as little as $15,000 — not exactly the pieces usually pursued by major collectors.

A study by Ernst & Young for the exchange federation estimated that eliminating 1031 exchanges could, under some conditions, shrink gross domestic product by about $8 billion annually.

Ms. Baker pointed out that even in circumstances in which no capital gains taxes are collected because investors have died, their heirs would still usually face estate taxes on the fair market value of the art.

Experts on such exchanges said that none of their clients wanted to offer examples of the artworks they had swapped, or to discuss the extent of taxes they had been able to defer.

But in 2013, the names of the parties in an attempted exchange became public when a dispute ended up in court. Jane B. Holzer, a collector who was once a protégée of Warhol, had agreed to sell two works, including “Rainbow Coalition,” a multicolored acrylic by Mike Kelley, for $740,000 and sought to roll some of the undisclosed gain into the purchase of two works by Richard Prince.

To qualify under the tax laws, sellers must abide by the myriad rules that govern 1031 exchanges, among them the directive that the purchase be strictly an investment for business purposes, and not for personal enjoyment — so no hanging the Monet in the dining room.

To avoid taxes, the proceeds from one sale must be rolled into the purchase of a “like-kind” item, a categorization that the Internal Revenue Service has yet to fully define but that most experts advise allows exchanging a painting for another painting, for example, but not a painting for a sculpture. These rules mean that many investors own their artworks via separately established companies and store them in art warehouses away from their homes.

And the exchange, which has to use the help of an independent intermediary, must be completed within 180 days.
Still, the level of the compliance with these rules is unclear. An I.R.S. spokesman, Anthony Burke, said the agency could not say without further study whether there had been any recent enforcement action associated with 1031 exchanges by art investors.

In 2007, the Treasury Department’s inspector general suggested in a report that the tax authorities should do more to enforce compliance.

The administration’s plan is expected to encounter difficulties in Congress. Lawmakers, though, are also considering their own limits to 1031 exchanges. But it is unclear if any change, whether a repeal of art exchanges or limits on real estate ones, will emerge from the broader political battle over tax reform.

Supporters of the exchanges say it does not make sense to eliminate favorable tax treatment for artworks but not for real estate. Single paintings these days can sometimes cost more than the buildings where they hang. Experts say the tax break’s use will continue to grow while the art market remains buoyant, and where buyers purchase art not for aesthetic enjoyment but as an investment.

“Its growth is tied to art being recognized as another asset class and that it should be treated as such,” said Judd B. Grossman, a lawyer who specializes in art cases.

Green Hotels

A few years ago I stayed in an affordable all green hotel in the Tenderloin district in San Francisco. The room was comfortable, the location slightly dodgy, and utterly affordable. The small boutique group that owned it sold it a year later as it was not profitable nor did anyone care.

The Grand Hyatt here in Seattle was marketed as "green" with a rooftop garden, fully LEED accredited building and an eco spa. I don't think it is booked for that reason or if anyone actually cares, I still use the spa and green has nothing to do with it. (How people respond on surveys and what they do are not mutually inclusive. We are a nation of saying what we want others to to hear and believe)

But today I read the below article and thought this is a great idea and it should be encouraged if not applauded and not just high end. As the article demonstrates, costs are cut by the changes. The hotel in San Francisco was great I loved it. Simple and green is fine. If they can do that with a former motor inn then green up baby. Just don't do hourly rates and it will all be great.

Hotels Embrace Sustainability to Lure Guests and Cut Costs
The New York Times
APRIL 27, 2015

Dr. Stuart Gitlow, a psychiatrist, traveled this month to the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta for a presentation at a conference about treating drug addiction.

During his three-night stay, he dispensed with housekeeping.

“I don’t need my bed made every day and can certainly use the same towel three mornings in a row,” he wrote in an email.

Dr. Gitlow was rewarded for his green efforts with 500 Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty points for each night of his stay. Had he not chosen points, he also had the option of receiving a $5 voucher for food.

The program, called Make a Green Choice, allows all guests, not just frequent travelers, to opt out of housekeeping. According to Starwood Hotels and Resorts, approximately 6.4 million guests have participated since 2009.

As the drought in California and the Western states draws increased attention to conservation, hotels are turning to sustainability as a way of both attracting guests and cutting costs.

Hotels have three reasons to pay attention to conservation, according to Steve Jennings, lead consultant for hotels and resorts in the United States at Deloitte: corporate sustainability; better expense management; and consumer interest. A 2013 study by TripAdvisor found that 79 percent of travelers placed an importance on properties that use environmentally minded practices.

Another report released in March by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration showed that while guests were willing to participate in hotel sustainability practices, a greater number of guests join in when hotels offer different types of incentives, which may be charitable or financial. Those who participate in green programs are generally more satisfied with their stay, according to Rohit Verma, a Cornell University professor who has studied hotel sustainability.

As a result, hotels here and abroad are introducing or augmenting farm-to-table cuisine in restaurants to lower their carbon footprint, providing charging stations for electric vehicles and using kitchen scraps for compost and even recycling cooking oil for experimental biodiesel fuel.

Behind the scenes, hotels are installing energy-efficient light bulbs and digital thermostats and are using recycled water for landscaping. They also are displaying discreet cards in guest rooms about the energy saved by not changing sheets and towels daily.

But they stop short of dictating to guests how to conserve. For example, hotels draw the line at advising guests to take shorter showers.

“Guests typically do whatever they do in their home environment,” said Denise Naguib, vice president for sustainability and supplier diversity at Marriott International.

For the most part, hotels’ green programs are similar across brands.

“The nature of hotel operations make it difficult to really have a significantly superior practice,” said Bjorn Hanson, a professor at the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University.
Still, like the Starwood loyalty points, some hotel programs are intended to appeal directly to guests.

At Kimpton Hotels, which was recently acquired by the InterContinental Hotels Group, guests can help raise money for the Trust for Public Land and the Nature Conservancy. Guests receive a 15 percent discount for each night of their stay and $10 of the room rate is donated to the respective organization, chosen by the guest. If guests participate in the Nature Conservancy option, a tree is planted on their behalf.

Following the lead of the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, the Fairmont Washington, D.C., in Georgetown is constructing a home for bees. A 13-foot structure with two large planter boxes and root balls is being built by Donny Parrella, assistant director of engineering at the hotel and a beekeeper. It will house 50 mason bees that will join 100,000 Italian honeybees already in residence since 2009. “It looks like nature,” Mr. Parrella said.

The hotel, concerned with the problem of disappearing bees, uses the insects as an educational tool for local students. And the hotel bakers make honey walnut bread that appears on the hotel menu. The bees’ honey is also a key ingredient in a house cocktail, the Beetini, made with lemon, honey, honey comb, vodka and tequila.

At the Westin Peachtree Plaza, where Dr. Gitlow stayed, groups are offered behind-the-scenes tours to learn about hotel sustainability. Sites include the kitchen, loading dock and laundry. The hotel has conducted seven tours since the beginning of the year.

It held an initial tour in 2013 during the annual conference of the American Society of Association Executives. Kristin Clarke, director of social responsibility for the trade association based in Washington, led the tour as well as a similar one a year earlier at the Omni Dallas Hotel.

She said that the tour made a vivid impression on attendees, who plan conferences for their own trade and nonprofit associations. “When they see 150,000 pounds of laundry, they understand the impact of linen reuse programs,” she said, referring to an average load.

During the tours she asks guests environmental trivia questions. One example: What are the three R’s of recycling? Answer: Reduce, reuse and recycle. She awards prizes, like an LED flashlight made from recycled plastic, for a correct answer.

Still, a hotel’s green intentions can sometimes backfire. Dr. Gitlow said he had stayed in rooms (not at the Westin Peachtree Plaza) with weak water pressure, insufficient lighting and heating systems that do not properly warm a room, making sleep difficult.

As hotels continue to experiment, at least one expert says hotels may extend the concept of their existing concierge floors to sustainability.

“As hotels find ways to be environmentally sensitive, we may see an energy consumption and waste floor,” Mr. Hanson said.

Poor Me

Much like the notion of what defines the middle class also affects the definition of poor. We equate poor with color, one color specifically - black.

Well to understand the actual percentage of black people who are poor, not including African immigrants classified as "black" or literally African Americans we need to actually look at Census data that includes yes, saying it, segregated populations of those native born American black identifying individuals, their income and the relationship to that income to where they live and the poverty level for that area. This is opposed to the much maligned Federal standard of poverty who pretty much has anyone making below a threshold of income as "poor."

We know that to be poor in San Francisco being below 75K is pushing the boundaries for a family of four but not in you are single and working with health care covered and living in reasonable and affordable housing (which is now near to impossible but hey let's pretend). This is different for a family of four making the same in Cleveland or in fact Minnesota which has an amazing standard middle class threshold and well worth looking at for its budget surplus.

If you are curious how this works, CNN has a cost per living by state calculator and you can play with that all day!

But when it comes to understanding who is poor we often equate that with color of skin not color of money.

I live in a city largely white with displaced people of color being moved further into the hinterlands daily. A young man in the class thought the photo of Mt. Rainier was Everest as he had "never been there." While meanwhile if we all walked out to the main street in front of the school, Rainier Avenue (irony) you could see Rainier to the south. There is so much wrong there I am not sure what to say but moving on. So one would think the larger homeless population would be faces of color. Yes I do have to Latino men living in the park by my house and there are a few men of color I see pushing carts nearby but the largest faces of indigent homeless - white.

Now why the come here is under some weird notion that we have tons of social services that exceed the norm being we are "liberal." We have legal pot. We have a higher minimum wage. It is pretty here. It has jobs here. It is whatever bullshit and PR you read about. And it is overflowing with poor. We have one public hospital, Harborview and it is not called Harborzoo for nothing. We have truly garbage public schools, I know this personally. We have no more housing for the poor then we do the homeless but we have legal encampments called "Nicklesvilles" after a Mayor in a form of derision which is now, irony again, some type of honor as the current Mayor wants more of them. And yes you can see Mt. Rainier in the horizon and the Cascades and Olympics on both sides so we are a pretty city. But we have massive problems with the "poor."

I think this article from the Atlantic cites a recent study that best describes how the word poor is a euphemism for black. And the reality is that with that comes the idea that blacks are lazy and rely on social services for income. And in reality they are the least to receive them. That also makes sense in proportion to actual population as the article neglects to mention. You can't have more people taking more when they don't exist.

But in reality we like to categorize and believe our unicorn mythology that working hard is the key to the door with the ladder which you can climb to the top. Of course that again is a matter of perception and an ingrained racism that we have yet to truly address. And if those in the know knew that in fact it was white people who were the most affected by poverty then see that SNAP program and other social safety nets get expanded. But that would require again actual effort to know and give a shit. Two things in America we are in short supply of - knowledge and caring.

To the Media, 'Black' Is Too Often Shorthand for 'Poor'.
By Joe Pinsker
What does poverty look like in America?

Judging by how it's portrayed in the media, it looks black.

That's the conclusion of a new study by Bas W. van Doorn, a professor of political science at the College of Wooster, in Ohio, which examined 474 stories about poverty published in Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report between 1992 and 2010. In the images that ran alongside those stories in print, black people were overrepresented, appearing in a little more than half of the images, even though they made up only a quarter of people below the poverty line during that time span. Hispanic people, who account for 23 percent of America's poor, were significantly under-represented in the images, appearing in 13.7 percent of them.

Those discrepancies are striking, and, as van Doorn points out, sadly predictable, neatly mirroring the stereotypes of Americans more generally. In 1991, a survey found that Americans’ median guess at how many of the country’s poor people were black was 50 percent, though at the time the actual figure was 29 percent. Ten years later, another poll found that 41 percent of respondents overestimated the percentage by at least a factor of two. (In 2013, 23.5 percent of America’s poor were black.)

But it's not just that poor people are imagined to be black—they're also commonly thought of as lazy. In 2008, only 37.6 percent of Americans considered black people hardworking, whereas 60.9 percent said the same of Hispanic people. For white people and Asian people, these percentages were 58.6 and 64.5, respectively. "To the extent that photo editors share these stereotypes," van Doorn writes, "it is no surprise that African Americans are over- and Hispanics are under-represented among the pictured poor."

One potential hole in van Doorn's study is that he analyzed weekly news magazines published in print, which makes sense when approaching the question for 1992, but made less sense by 2010. On top of that, Time and Newsweek's print staffs (likely a relatively old-school bunch) might not be reflective of today's entire media world. Still, some of the discrepancies between print publications' "pictured poor" and reality are so large—38 percent of welfare recipients are black, yet 80 percent of the people pictured alongside Newsweek's stories on welfare were black—that it's hard to imagine that digital publications would have shaken the habit entirely.

Van Doorn is interested in the relationships between the adjectives “poor,” “black,” and “lazy,” arguing in his paper that they must have something to do with why some Americans are opposed to generous welfare programs. A 1999 book that he leans on heavily, Why Americans Hate Welfare by Martin Gilens, made the case that supporting impoverished adults with cash payouts is unpopular because white voters see such efforts as primarily benefitting black people—whom they believe to be lazy and thus undeserving. If the media's portrayal of poverty were to reflect its actual diversity, perhaps voters would view social welfare programs more favorably. But that wouldn't change the underlying phenomenon: that many still believe skin color says something about work ethic.

F for Fail

A Professor attempts to flunk his entire class and walks out. I have heard and personally experienced Middle and High school teachers doing the same but this is a first that I know of.

"I am frankly and completely disgusted. You all lack the honor and maturity to live up to the standards that Texas A&M holds, and the competence and/or desire to do the quality work necessary to pass the course just on a grade level," he wrote, according to Inside Higher Ed. "I will no longer be teaching the course, and [you] all are being awarded a failing grade."

In the message, Horwitz said students had cheated, told him to "chill out," called him a "[expletive] moron" and spread false rumors about him online. He told KPRC news he even felt unsafe in the classroom at times, and had never thought so low of a class in his 20 years as a college professor.

"None of you, in my opinion, given the behavior in this class, deserve to pass, or graduate to become an Aggie, as you do not in any way embody the honor that the university holds graduates should have within their personal character," he wrote to the students.

In a telephone interview Monday, Horwitz stood by his decision to give failing grades to the entire class.

“I have nothing left,” said Horwitz, 53, who teaches ethics and business management courses. “I put my neck on the line for what I thought was the right thing to do.”

Horwitz blamed the unwillingness of the administration to enforce the Texas A&M honor code. “The administration is all about passing these kids through and making as much money as possible,” he said. The student who called him a “(expletive) moron” to his face was required to write a four-line apology, Horwitz said.

College Provost Louchouarn declined to go beyond a prepared statement: “We hold students accountable if there is evidence of cheating or misconduct. Similarly, we do not allow faculty to punish an entire class if there is no evidence of widespread misconduct or cheating. The University is appropriately evaluating the situation and will have no further comment until we have completed our process of gathering accurate information.”

Texas A&M spokesman Shane Hinckley said no action had been taken regarding Horwitz’s employment.

Horwitz said he was out on sick leave because of a bad back and would not be returning to teach before the end of the semester.

Horwitz's online profile with Texas A&M shows he's taught dozens of courses for at least five universities since 1994 and has won recognition for both research and teaching. But scant student-published reviews of Horwitz are harsh.

"Nah bruh this guy is a straight clown," said one supposed student rating Horwitz's work with the University of Texas Health Science Center on the website Another user of the website called Horwitz "one of the least empathetic people I have ever had teach a class."

Horwitz told Inside Higher Ed that he had rarely failed students throughout his teaching career, but had never encountered a group as incompetent as his spring 2015 management course.

University officials told KPRC that the blanket failing grades will be reassessed and the department head will take over Horwitz's class for the remainder of the semester. Some students needed the required course to graduate with business degrees in May. But Horwitz alleged that his students remained too incompetent to deserve college degrees.

I am of the everybody or nobody school. It becomes difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff so you inform the students that overall it appears that no one wants to step up and help lead the team as we are not in this alone. The reality of kids and the cheating scandals of Princeton and Harvard and Stanford of late are very telling. The best and the brightest are prone to grandiose beliefs and arrogance that they share with the poors they just have better opportunities in which to expand them.

As I write this I sit in an online classroom where kids are picking up missing credits via Edgenuity that they read a passage then take a test which moves them up to the next lesson. They rarely read them, they often guess or simply ask each other. A student asked me all the questions, I failed every one. I had not read the passage so my "interpretation" of early Christian history with my knowledge did not match the test. I never was good on tests as they are definitive answers that leave no room for interpretation or debate. I never scored low on essay exams however as I was quite clear with my thoughts, the order and structure of them and my ultimate conclusion. Multiple choice however I bomb and not in the modern slang way. Apparently that has not changed. I do know however today to simply memorize the shit and spit it back. I didn't until I became a Teacher and understood what that meant and is why I also quit being a full time Teacher.

So I do not find it odd that the students resorted to the standard operating procedure today, to bully, intimidate and then venture into histrionics when it did not go their way. What I do find odd that this is college. I guess playing sports, drinking to excess, protesting words and people who make you sad or afraid or you just don't like or agree with as who needs free speech or song or anything that makes us mad. And let us not ignore the endless debate on what constitutes rape which leaves little actual time for academics.

So when in doubt hack it out. More ways to cheat lie and get ahead.

Once again the reality of this is quite interesting as these kids have access to a wealth of information and to alternatives to earn the credit. There are the widely derided or applauded, depending on to whom you speak, MOOC's, they could have gone to another Professor to weigh their concerns and transferred or dropped the class and taken it another time. But no they needed to destroy the learning environment to the point where the Professor gave up.

I have no idea if this Professor is any or all of what they say he is as a Teacher. I do not think he handled it well but it is clear he did try to go through appropriate channels to get guidance and support and much like what we have come to find out about Universities and their overwhelming lack of doing any heavy lifting other than building a sports program it is not a shock. So what is a Teacher do to get the attention he needs and in turn support, strike. And he did. Funny we respect boycotts, strikes, protests and strange performance art as a way of allowing free speech but not a singer who has the same rights regardless of the speech; however, an adult faculty member with a 20 year history and career - not so much.

I have been there and am there. I had a lengthy discussion with my laundromat man, (yes us poors do talk we are not all morons) and he happened to ask me what was going to come of this generation. My response, "we are fucked."

As I watch Baltimore burn it has been largely accounted as teenagers who joined the protest after school and then it escalated into the chaos that erupted. The Washington Post has an amazing series on the protests, including a Mother literally beating her kid out of the riots. And she was called "mother of the year." Again that shows we have a great divide on parenting skills. But I also want to point out that much of this makes utter sense to me as Baltimore has the most stringent truancy and curfew laws in the country, so having a bunch of minors go ballistic is not surprising. This is their prison of Selma. There are more stories here from the New York Times and the Baltimore Sun has also dropped its paywall if so inclined to read the real boots on the ground from this torn and divided community. All of which will have long term affects that will remain to be seen for years. And this mostly on the young.

We have a generation of youth who are so divided and aligned by class, by color and by opportunity.

Dave Leonhardt this weekend did an article in the New York Times that was about encouraging more students to attend a four year College or University and that once there they thrive, College for the Masses. He mentioned a couple of individuals who found success and in turn more opportunity once they enrolled and attended even local schools. And these students were marginally successful, had low test scores but once there they thrived. This follows the argument about Community College and allowing more to access this schooling as an entry way to either higher learning or better vocational training. Leonhardt believes higher learning is the more successful track and to that I have no issue but the same paper has repeatedly discussed kids who have made it to local colleges and found the path of success a hurdle that was nearly impossible to complete and many did not make it and they are left with debt and little else.

We also believed it was for profit colleges that could offer the same and that we have come to learn has also failed.

It is not about opportunity or access it is about the individual. We have kids who can overcome odds and thrive in in dependant environments and do well with MOOC's. Starbucks is banking on that as well for their crew and that we shall see. I say I doubt it as the schemes and dreams of Howard Schultz have been most interesting of late. Care for some race with that coffee?

But being a Barista seems to be the number one career choice for many collge graduates. And regardless of income the debt stranglehold and the pressures to pick the right career place immense stress on kids barely out of their teens. I know several students who made that leap to a conventional college and could not handle it for numerous reasons. They did find the time to attend a community college and find vocational counseling and other chances to take those dreaded 100 courses that dominate your first two years of university at a much higher cost and are often taught by adjuncts or assistants with huge enrollment. They needed and valued that smaller class environment and availability of the instructor. And I have found similar and again that is the individual and they will if they choose find a way that works and succeed. And not as that too has its own drawbacks. And even when you attend a 4 year university it cannot be denied that how you got there affects not only how you are educated but why you are really there.

And there is this story that is again about the individual. Sometimes they do find thier way.

I sit here with kids and many loathe the online curriculum. They want Teachers and people and an opportunity to learn, even shit that bores the shit out of them if in fact it is given to them in a way that addresses their diversity. That is the real challenge how to make something interesting as the Great Schism in the Roman Empire interesting to a kid whose main goal is to have their own apartment one day as the young lady told me it is all she thinks about.

This requires talking, communication and time. And this actually takes money. So I see why a veteran educator had enough, he has the first generation of the test monkeys who want to have little in the way of Socratic type learning and more mommy bird eats the food and spits in the mouth of baby bird. Yes that is what we have created. Vomiting birds.