Sunday, July 31, 2016

Gold Medal

I have given up on sports be they professional or amateur a long time ago.  From extensive neglect of athlete's health, drugging to the sheer corruption and economics of the industry that seemingly picks and chooses who becomes stars and in turn wealthy, to those cast aside and dumped the moment they are no longer valuable, I figured they neither needed my money, time nor support.  And my boycott has done nothing to change that fact but it has allowed me to plead ignorance and avoid conversations about a subject of which I have little to nothing good to say. 

So as Brazil arrives on Friday I think the Zilka virus is just one of the many problems that face the Olympians.  Frankly I love that Brazil a country under dire problems that are not just about a mosquito is hosting the games.  But then again we are in no situation to throw javelins, the recent Democratic and Republican Conventions that were held in Cleveland and Philadelphia show that we are no different. Those are two cities decimated by failing industrial growth and in turn have massive poverty only blocks away from what was millionaire row that met in the four star hotels adjacent to the convention centers.   We are a long way from building back American industry and manufacturing.  We can't bring America back we can only move forward and that requires a new way of thinking and doing.   And that is hard people, hard!!!

I had coffee with a Yiddish Gun Dealer (he was dressed as if he came from the set of Fiddler on the Roof) who complained and derided the growth of Nashville and said where we were sitting having coffee only a few years ago was an unsafe area that no one would go to. My response was that then it was a good thing and the adjacent parks and new builds were bringing new residents, new business and in turn safety and positive business to a city that is more than honky tonk bars and Vanderbilt University.  He disagreed and his apparently planning to pack his guns and move to Montgomery Alabama.  Good, as his costume was just that as it could not be for religious reasons as he seemed to possess none. So Nashville's loss is well not Montgomery's gain, as that is a city in dire poverty, home to a great history and home to great neglect. Clearly he will not be a part of any revival there.

 There is gentrification that in turn pushes out the poor and there is gentrification that includes the poor.  And where I live in the Chestnut Hill Neighborhood is just such an example.  The man who was largely responsible however, has since sold his home and moved on and his neighborhood group has dissolved.  So one wonders if that is a good thing or not as we are thriving and growing and yet we need to keep organized and active so let us hope that does not die.  They are facing this same issue in North Nashville now.  

So when the rich get richer the poor can be poorer but if we don't know about it does it make it less poor?   Ask the Olympians as the only gold they will see will be around their neck.

Olympic executives cash in on a ‘Movement’ that keeps athletes poor
By Will Hobson July 30 The Washington Post

Its members call it, with an almost religious conviction, “the Olympic Movement,” or “the Movement” for short, always capitalized.

At the very top of “the Movement” sits the International Olympic Committee, a nonprofit run by a “volunteer” president who gets an annual “allowance” of $251,000 and lives rent-free in a five-star hotel and spa in Switzerland.

At the very bottom of “the Movement” — beneath the IOC members who travel first-class and get paid thousands of dollars just to attend the Olympics, beneath the executives who make hundreds of thousands to organize the Games, beneath the international sports federations, the national sport federations and the national Olympic committees and all of their employees — are the actual athletes whose moments of triumph and pain will flicker on television screens around the globe starting Friday.

When hundreds of millions of people gather around televisions Friday to watch the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, they will be taking part in the economic engine that powers the Olympic Movement. Broadcast and sponsorship deals for the Summer and Winter Games deliver billions to the IOC and its affiliates every year.

But by the time that flood of cash flows through the Movement and reaches the athletes, barely a trickle remains, often a few thousand dollars at most. For members of Team USA — many of whom live meagerly off the largesse of friends and family, charity, and public assistance — the biggest tangible reward they’ll receive for making it to Rio will be two suitcases full of free Nike and Ralph Lauren clothing they are required to wear at all team events.

In the words of its charter, the Olympic Movement is devoted “to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society.” To an increasingly vocal and active group of current and former Olympic athletes in the United States, however, the Movement is a vast, global bureaucracy that treats athletes like replaceable cogs, restricting their income without fear of reprisal from a workforce unable, or unwilling, to unionize.

“The athletes are the very bottom of a trickle-down system, and there’s just not much left for us,” said Cyrus Hostetler, 29, a Team USA javelin thrower and two-time Olympian who said the most he’s ever made in one year in his career, after expenses, is about $3,000. “They take care of themselves first, and us last.”

This story is based on interviews with dozens of people familiar with the Olympic Movement — current and former athletes, executives and lawyers who have represented athletes — and a review of hundreds of pages of financial documents from organizations including the IOC, the U.S. Olympic Committee and several U.S. sport federations.

The picture that emerges is a multibillion-dollar entertainment industry whose entertainers are, in this country, often expected to raise their own income or live in poverty. There is no comprehensive data on U.S. Olympic athlete pay, but information collected by a nonprofit last year from 150 track and field athletes ranked in the top 10 in the country in their events found an average income of $16,553. Even USOC officials concede that, with the exceptions of the handful of megastars such as Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte who rake in big endorsement money and those who play sports with lucrative professional leagues, most U.S. Olympic athletes cannot earn enough from their sports to make a living.

The stories of U.S. Olympians persisting despite paltry pay are common. Before finding fame and fortune as a UFC fighter, Ronda Rousey won a bronze medal in judo in 2008 — and said she was living out of her car a few months later. Speedskater Emily Scott said she needed food stamps to get by as she trained for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Hostetler, who has been one of the best American javelin throwers for the past eight years, said he’s relied on both food stamps and unemployment benefits.

While many athletes struggle to pay their rent or buy groceries, the billions the Rio Games will generate will flow into the paychecks and extravagant perks enjoyed by IOC members, USOC staffers, and employees and volunteers with the hundreds of sports organizations that comprise “the Movement.”

USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus makes $854,000, and national swim team director Frank Busch makes $346,000; their swimmers competing in Rio next month can make monthly stipends that cap at $42,000 per year. USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach makes $362,000 while Team USA triathletes compete for stipends that range from about $20,000 to $40,000 a year.

The coach of the USA Rowing women’s team makes $237,000 while his rowers vie for stipends that max out at about $20,000 per year. (U.S. Olympic athletes are given an additional stipend if they win a gold, silver or bronze medal.)

“I’ve never thought it was fair,” said rower Caroline Lind, a two-time gold medalist who recently retired after a back injury. “We’re all replaceable. . . . There’s not really a concern for the individual athletes.”

The IOC declined to make anyone available for an interview for this story. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun, in a phone interview, defended how his organization has governed the Olympic system in the United States. Unlike national Olympic committees in many other countries, Blackmun noted, the USOC receives no government support to help it pay athletes.

“You have to look back at where the Olympic Movement came from. It was an amateur-based movement. Nobody got compensated,” said Blackmun, who made about $1 million in 2014, tax records show.

“It’s not a for-profit movement. Nobody in suits is getting paid for this beyond what you have to pay people to raise all the money we have to raise. . . . We are in good faith trying to maximize the level of support we can provide to our athletes. I wish we had the resources to support more athletes.”

Athletes arguing for change acknowledge that, even though billions flow into the Movement, there’s not enough money generated by the Olympics for everyone to get rich. Team USA’s 555 athletes will be among more than 10,200 competing in Rio.

“There are limited resources for sure. You don’t want to take so much money away from the USOC . . . that they can’t do their jobs,” said Eli Bremer, a former Olympic modern pentathlete who competed in the 2008 Summer Games. “But you don’t want them getting fat and happy while the athletes live in poverty. I believe there is a better balance.”

They adorn themselves

The IOC and dozens of international sports federations are headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland — also known as “the Olympic capital” — a city that offers beautiful mountain vistas in a country that has legally enshrined financial privacy protections.

Unlike in the States, nonprofits in Switzerland are not legally required to publicly disclose information about how they spend their money. At the bottom of most IOC news releases, a note explains that the organization sends more than 90 percent of its income down into the Movement, an average of $3.25 million, every day, “to help athletes and sports organizations at all levels around the world.”

An uncertain percentage of that money stays in Lausanne, though, or flows to organizations in other countries where nonprofits enjoy legally protected financial secrecy.

Neither FINA (swimming) nor FIG (gymnastics) — two of the largest international federations, both based in Lausanne — publicly release financial information. The IAAF (track and field), headquartered in Monaco, also does not disclose financial details.

“Whenever athletes complain . . . the IOC is famous for saying we give out 90 percent of our yearly revenues to support the athletes,” said Adam Nelson, an Olympic shot put thrower and gold medalist who has tried to unionize U.S. track and field athletes.

“While that may be true, they just pass a lot of it out to the federations. And there’s not a lot of transparency or accountability about how that money gets spent, used, and what makes it down to the athletes,” Nelson said.

Despite enjoying the same legal entitlement to secrecy, the IOC does publish occasional financial reports that include some details, such as expected annual revenue ($1.375 billion) and payroll ($62 million). Last year, as part of a move toward more transparency, the IOC published details about the perks packages it provides President Thomas Bach and the 115 elected IOC members, all of whom are considered “volunteers.”

For Bach, a former lawyer and Olympic fencer from Germany, the IOC provides an annual “allowance” of about 225,000 Euros ($251,000) and pays for his suite at the Lausanne Palace & Spa, “an exceptional place of refinement” that offers “a superb view across Lake Geneva to the Alps,” according to its website. It’s unclear which type of suite Bach stays in, or whether the IOC gets a discount, but the Palace recently priced its cheapest suite at $1,068 per night, or just shy of $390,000 for an entire year.

IOC members — a distinguished group that includes royalty (Prince Albert II of Monaco, Henri the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark) and successful business executives (former Electronic Arts CEO Larry Probst) — also enjoy generous perks. When on IOC business, members fly first-class, stay in luxury hotels, and also get cash per diems: $450 per day for regular IOC members, $900 per day for the IOC’s executive committee.

These rates also apply to the Games themselves, which means in Rio, some IOC members will get paid more to watch the Olympics ($7,650, depending on travel schedules) than many Team USA athletes will get paid to compete in the Olympics. (USA Track and Field provides athletes $10,000 bonuses and USA Gymnastics awards $5,000 bonuses for making Team USA, but most other sport federations don’t. Athlete travel, lodging and food is covered by the USOC.)

Bob Balk is a former Paralympic canoe athlete who attended the 2012 London Games as an IOC volunteer and also received per diem money. In a recent phone interview, he recalled his amazement when he learned how much money he and other volunteers were getting to attend the Olympics.

Every morning, Balk recalled, a crowd of IOC members and volunteers gathered in a hotel room in London to collect their daily spending money.

“They had a $100-bill-counting machine, and people were standing in line to get their stacks of hundred-dollar bills,” Balk said. “It was crazy.”

Balk, like other IOC members and volunteers, had his flight and hotel bills covered, a car service to get around London, and a bevy of free meals. When Balk got home, he still had $10,000 in per diem cash, he said, which he just deposited in the bank.

Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who has researched the IOC, gave the nonprofit credit for not lavishing its top executives with massive salaries like the global soccer organization FIFA, but said that where the IOC spends excessively is on the perks.

IOC members, Zimbalist said, “adorn themselves by putting themselves in suites at the best hotels whenever they travel, always traveling first class wherever they go, and basically always having meetings, and always traveling first class as they criss-cross the world going to these meetings.”

According to the IOC, after taking its 10-percent cut for overhead, it divides the remaining 90 percent evenly among three major groups: the organizing committees for each Games, international sport federations, and then Olympic committees in each country.

Among all those organizations, only one gets a contractually locked-in percentage of the IOC’s broadcasting deal with NBC and its lucrative “The Olympic Partner,” or TOP, sponsorship program: the USOC.

‘We train here’

In late May, the USOC held a media event at its Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to show off how it helps U.S. Olympians prepare for the Rio Games. American flags hung from the rafters over an expansive weight room, and large signs in red, white and blue lined the indoor track, bearing the same message: “WE TRAIN HERE.”

With 140,000 square feet of training space spread across 35 acres, the Colorado Springs facility is the flagship training center for Team USA. The center boasts six full-time sport psychologists, five full-time dietitians, and sport-specific facilities for shooting, gymnastics, weightlifting, cycling and swimming, among others.

The media tour of the campus — led by Michael Cain, the center’s director of business development — emphasized how much the USOC provides to Olympic athletes, free of charge.

“It’s important to note: No member of Team USA pays his or her own way,” Cain said.

The center has dormitory-style housing for about 525, Cain said, and it costs the USOC about $42,000 per year for an athlete to stay there. For the USOC, its three training centers — including others in suburban San Diego and Lake Placid, N.Y. — are among its biggest annual expenses, costing about $28 million.

There is one noteworthy fact that neither Cain nor any of the other staffers leading tours mentioned that day: Not many members of Team USA actually train there. In 2012, a study by the Athletes’ Advisory Council — a group of current and former athletes — found that just 13 percent of Olympic Training Center usage went to U.S. Olympians. The training centers’ biggest clients were aspiring Olympians and foreign athletes, many of whom pay their own way.

USOC CEO Blackmun said the figure sounded accurate, and the USOC is reviewing how much it spends on its training centers.

“If you look at our athletes who win medals, and their lead-in to the Games, and where they train . . . there’s not as direct a relationship between our medals and maintenance of our training centers as you’d expect,” Blackmun said.

In major American sports leagues — such as the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA — management typically shares about 50 percent of the revenue with the athletes. In promotional materials, the USOC advertises that more than 90 percent of its spending goes to “areas that support U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes.” That same 2012 study by former athletes found that just 6 percent of USOC spending actually goes to athletes as cash payments.

“I was pretty shocked and disappointed, but I knew how the system worked,” said Ben Barger, an Olympic sailor who led the study. “The money goes to executives first, then administrators, then coaches, and then athletes.”

The reason there’s a large disparity between what the USOC says it spends on “areas that support athletes” and what the USOC actually pays athletes, Blackmun explained, is because the USOC includes the salaries of many of its employees who work with athletes or raise money for the organization in the larger figure.

Since 2009, tax records show, the USOC’s payroll has expanded from $39 milllion to $49 million, and the number of USOC employees making $100,000 or more has nearly doubled, rising from 66 to 121. The USOC’s total headcount has remained mostly stable over the time period, records show. Blackmun is just paying his employees more.

That increase in payroll, Blackmun said, is largely because of new business development and fundraising staffers who more than pay for their salaries with the money they raise. Since 2009, according to USOC analysis, its fundraising has gone up nearly 200 percent, compared with a 40 percent payroll increase.

“An investment in your development program or in your sponsorship programs is an investment in athletes, because that’s what provides the resources for them,” Blackmun said. “I need the best sponsorship people and the best philanthropic people, and that’s why some of our people are getting paid at levels that I think some of our athletes are not comfortable with.”

Nick Symmonds, a two-time Olympic middle distance runner and an outspoken critic of the USOC and USA Track and Field, strongly disagrees with that reasoning. “It’s absolutely offensive that they think we’re stupid enough to consider that athlete support,” Symmonds said. “True athlete support is money going into athletes’ pockets.”

While USOC employees’ paychecks have grown over the years, the bonuses the USOC pays to Olympic medalists through a program called “Operation Gold” have remained stagnant since 2002: $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze.

In an interview, USOC chief of sport performance Alan Ashley, who makes about $460,000, said he believes bonuses for medalists is “paying for past performance,” and not likely to result in Team USA winning more medals. The over-riding mission of the USOC is winning the most medals possible; when Blackmun discussed how his organization decides which sports and athletes deserve money, he used the phrase “podium potential.”
Unlikely resistance

To athletes good enough to be the best in the United States at sports dominated by other countries, though, the focus on podium potential can make them feel undesired in a community they’ve effectively taken a vow of poverty to join.

Javelin thrower Cyrus Hostetler competed in London and is headed to Rio, but says, ‘If I could do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t do this.’ (Matt Slocum/AP)

Cyrus Hostetler made Team USA as a javelin thrower for the 2012 London Games, and placed 32nd. As a returning Olympian, he expected the USOC or USA Track and Field would make more resources available to help him improve for Rio. He experienced something different.

In late 2015, USA Track and Field Director of Sport Performance Peter “Duffy” Mahoney told Hostetler in an email that, after consulting with USOC staff, he had decided “you do not exhibit sufficient finalist or medalist potential.” Hostetler, 29, was living in a dormitory-style room at the USOC training center in California at the time, training every day with other javelin throwers. (There is no Team USA or USA Track and Field javelin coach; the throwers basically train themselves.)

Mahoney — who makes $152,000 — informed Hostetler that USA Track and Field was cancelling funding for his bed, food and treatment at the center. If Hostetler wanted to stay, he’d have to pay: $200 a month to train, $10 per meal, $43 per hour for massage therapy, and $100 per hour for medical treatment.

“He basically was telling me, ‘I don’t believe in you, I don’t think you’re worth my money, so I want you to pay me instead.’ It felt like he was milking me for all I was worth,” Hostetler said in a phone interview.

Angry but undeterred, Hostetler moved into cheap housing nearby provided by a former Norwegian competitor and kept showing up at the center every day to train. He stopped eating there, or getting medical or therapeutic treatment.

A few months later, Hostetler got a call from a training center employee, who told him he owed several hundred dollars for training fees. Hostetler ignored it.

“I said I’m just going to wait until someone forces me to pay . . . I would have loved to have seen USA Track and Field send me to collections,” Hostetler said.

At this month’s Olympic trials, Hostetler rebounded from a slow start to hurl a javelin 273 feet 1 inch, winning the national title and a spot on Team USA.

The experience with USA Track and Field has left Hostetler bitter about how his Olympic career will end. He’s a long shot to medal, but he knows even if he does, the moment will be tainted.

Mahoney will “have paid me nothing, and I’ll have just won a medal he can take credit for,” Hostetler said.

After the Games, Hostetler plans to take some time off, during which he’ll try to figure out what do with the rest of his life.

“I could go work for USA Track and Field and do less than I do now and make more money. I could flip burgers and make more money than I do now,” Hostetler said. “If I could do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t do this.”

In an email, spokeswoman Jill Geer said USA Track and Field dropped Hostetler from its training program because he did not meet competitive standards last year. “Cyrus had a great performance at the Olympic Trials and we are pleased to have him on the team in Rio,” Geer wrote.
The big event down south

The last level of the Movement that separates athletes competing in the Olympics from the money companies pay to be associated with the event are the national governing bodies, or NGBs, for each Olympic sport in the United States — 47 organizations that compete for USOC money while also trying to raise money on their own.

These NGBs range from large organizations with sizeable sponsorship deals and well-paid executives (USA Track and Field made $22 million in 2014 and paid CEO Max Siegel $1.1 million) to small organizations in niche sports (US Rowing earned $7.5 million in 2014; CEO Glenn Merry made $168,000).

USA Track and Field has been among the most aggressive NGBs in recent years at increasing the amount of money it pays athletes. A new system enacted last year ensures baseline pay of about $45,000 for an athlete who wins a national title and competes on Team USA, and other performance bonuses can drive pay past $100,000.

That increase in paying athletes has come at the same time USA Track and Field has significantly increased how much it spends on its own employees. From 2008 to 2014, records show, USA Track and Field’s payroll has more than doubled, from $2.9 million to $5.9 million, as the organization’s workforce has grown from 47 to 70.

For CEO Siegel, 2014 was particularly lucrative — thanks to a $500,000 bonus, his income jumped about 60 percent.

In a phone interview, Steve Miller, board chairman of USA Track and Field, said Siegel more than earned his pay by expanding the organization’s revenue, most prominently through a new sponsorship deal with Nike worth a reported $500 million that starts next year and runs through 2040.

“What he has accomplished has been nothing short of incredible,” Miller said. “He could do a lot better on the open market.”

While Miller is ecstatic about that new Nike deal — “I think it’s spectacular,” he said — some runners are concerned it will make it even more difficult for track athletes to land individual endorsement deals.

In 2014, a running website published an April Fool’s spoof announcing that USA Track and Field had become a division of Nike. There’s an element of truth underlining the joke. USA Track and Field draws roughly half its overall revenue every year from its current deal with Nike (worth a reported $10 million anually), and the company’s stake in USA Track and Field will only increase next year when the new deal (worth a reported $20 million annually) starts.

Nike also sponsors the USOC, which means the corporate behemoth has a stranglehold on the two most-watched events in track and field: the U.S. Olympic trials and the Olympics. Nike’s competitors must accept the fact that, if they endorse runners, they’ll be spending money on athletes who, at the U.S. Olympic trials, will be televised running around a stadium lined with Swooshes, and then at the Olympics will wear Nike jerseys as they run and, if they win medals, Nike sweatsuits on the podium.

Some runners have expressed concern that Nike’s dominance is scaring away competition.

“Other brands aren’t going to have exposure on the biggest stages, so why would they invest?” said Lauren Fleshman, a former Nike runner. “Even Nike athletes are going to be affected, because the marketplace is less competitive, so Nike won’t have to pay as much.”

At last month’s track and field trials in Eugene, Ore., a situation involving Fleshman’s new sponsor — Oiselle, a women’s athletic apparel company — demonstrated these concerns.

Oiselle CEO Sally Bergesen attended the trials to root on 14 of her athletes, including middle-distance runner Kate Grace. When Grace pulled off a surprise win in the women’s 800-meter final, Oiselle posted celebratory notes on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The next day, Oiselle got an email from a USOC lawyer, demanding the company delete the social-media posts. If Oiselle wanted to celebrate Grace’s achievement, the USOC said, the company needed to avoid a long list of trademarked words and phrases, including “Olympic,” “Team USA” and “Road to Rio.” Any pictures of Grace running at the trials or celebrating would have to be censored, because the Oiselle racing top she wore at the trials also had a USOC “Road to Rio” logo with the Olympic rings.

Oiselle deleted the posts and replaced them with notes that referred, vaguely, to Grace’s upcoming appearance in “the Big Event in the Southern Hemisphere.” Photos of Grace’s winning run were re-posted with black boxes censoring trademarked images on Grace or in the background.

In an interview, Bergesen estimated that Oiselle had spent about $300,000 endorsing Grace over the past four years, a figure that included salary, travel, and gear. In that same time period, the USOC and USA Track and Field had spent about $10,000 on Grace, Bergesen estimated. Nike hasn’t paid Grace anything. (Grace declined an interview request but confirmed the estimates.)

The USOC and USA Track and Field “say that they give athletes the opportunity to make a living through endorsements, but they also structure that opportunity in such a way that it severely devalues them,” Bergesen said. “They’re basically saying, knock ’em dead, go get sponsors, and then they say, simultaneously, once you get to the Olympic trials and the Olympics, those sponsors you’ve gotten no longer have any visibility.”

Exclusive sponsorship deals with companies such as Nike, Blackmun said, are vital to funding the USOC.

“What our sponsors are most interested in is exclusivity. . . . We generate about $100 million a year in sponsorship revenue. We wouldn’t be able to get that revenue unless we could make a promise of exclusivity,” Blackmun said. “If someone can make a credible case that our athletes who are medal-capable will receive more support under a different model . . . we would be very willing to look at that.”

Bergesen has suggested allowing Olympic athletes the right to put their individual sponsors on their race uniforms, along with the Swoosh. USA Track and Field board chairman Steve Miller believes the exclusive Nike deal will guarantee a better base salary for more track and field athletes than any alternative.

“If Nike got out of track and field, I don’t know who or what would replace them and their money,” Miller said.

At smaller U.S. sport federations, athletes are less concerned with the sway held by sponsors, and more bothered by the power held by coaches and executives.

At US Rowing, based in Princeton, N.J., women’s head coach Tom Terhaar has major input on who makes the Olympic team and how much they get paid. Terhaar is US Rowing’s highest-paid employee, at $237,000. Men’s coach Luke McGee makes $197,000. Their rowers compete for stipends that range from $500 to $1,700 per month.

Caroline Lind won two gold medals for Terhaar, at the 2008 and 2012 Games. Her average annual income, Lind said, has been about $12,000, so she’s relied on her parents for financial support. In 2015, Lind had surgery on a herniated disc she developed after years of intense training. She asked Terhaar for a reduced schedule while she recovered. Terhaar refused, and when Lind started to feel twinges in her back as she returned to rowing, she decided to retire.

In an email, Terhaar said this was not true. He said he had approved a reduced training schedule, but wouldn’t allow Lind an easier path to making Team USA. Lind was “not competitive or not healthy at the time of trials,” Terhaar wrote.

After years of babysitting and doing other odd jobs so she could train, Lind — a 33-year-old Princeton graduate — is looking for a full-time job for the first time in years. Other rowers are upset over the massive pay gap between coaches and athletes, Lind said, but “the national team isn’t really a place where athletes can have a voice.”

“If Tom is making the ultimate decision on who’s [on Team USA] . . . you’re not going to go up and complain about his salary and your salary,” Lind said. “People are afraid.”

Merry, the US Rowing CEO, said concerns about athlete pay “keep him up at night,” but he defended the disparity between what he pays his coaches and his rowers as the best use of limited resources to try to win the most medals possible.

“Athlete support is super-important, but the quality of coaches, without that, there are no medals,” Merry said. “What a coach does is not the same as an athlete. It’s not apples to apples. An athlete is pursuing a dream.”

Check Your HIPAA

Well most Americans have no idea so why should anyone in the Medical Profession?

HIPAA confuses everyone who works in the medical fields, it confuses Educators as it has relevance there with regards to students with special needs to health issues (such as allergies to diabetes) and of course the average person to which it applies.

I thought this was a great simple 5 point essay on what HIPAA is and more importantly is not.

HIPAA is violated all the time and sometimes with your consent.  How?  Waivers are often blindly signed by individuals when they sign up for auto Insurance to a job application.  Yes, much like the casual clause in all legal docs we "agree" to that waives our right to sue and forces us into arbitration, we allow many business access to our health records and information.

When I sued Harborview Medical Center accessing my records was essential but you must do so to know that they have caveats in place to deny you records that include Doctor and Nurse notes and other "relevant" data that they claim is violation of HIPAA.  No they are not and that includes texts, emails and even messages. So you need to request those as well. As for mental health notes that is a separate request and include dates even following your dismissal as the records can go beyond treatment dates.   And of course they charge you for that as another way to discourage patient review.

And I did this with Group Health Cooperative my primary patient provider and what was interesting is comparing the notes between the two how different their recollection and documentation was.

What was consistent was that neither Group Health nor Harborview had any record and identification nor legal documentation supporting my release to "friend" and a note on one form they forced me to sign as Brandy Solberg and  phone number.

Harborview forced me an injured individual with Traumatic Brain Injury and the amnesia that accompanies it to sign a Power of Attorney.  What they used that for was to release me to this "friend" with no identification by her, never actually filing the POA and making it legal under the law (so it was null and in turn void also by not having me checked by a third party that I actually knew and understood what I was signing) neither did Group Health actually ask for the same substantiation and documentation when she brought me to their facilities not once, not twice but three times in an attempt to get me medical care. But also she was given misinformation about my medical condition that delayed and in turn affected my care and recovery.

And yes I tried to sue but I want to point out Washington State law makes it impossible to sue any medical provider without first going into Arbitration and Mediation.  And who oversees that - The University of Washington (that manages Harborview) and Group Health Cooperative.  So I would never have "won" anything with or without a Lawyer.  The game is rigged.

But reading one's medical records is a right and absolutely necessary in order to understand how you are seen as a patient and in turn what and how that can affect your care, and more importantly your perception in your working life.  Those records can be released to employers, future insurers and others who will in turn make assessments and evaluations based on that (mis)information.

So when a medical professional claims that they can't even give you a copy of your medical records let alone a family member claim them wrong.

Five myths about patient privacy

By Charles G. Kels July 28 The Washington Post
Charles G. Kels is a senior attorney at the American Medical Association and a judge advocate in the Air Force Reserve.

Shortly after the recent massacre at an Orlando nightclub, the city’s mayor declared that the White House had agreed to waive federal privacy rules to allow doctors to update victims’ families. News of the waiver was widely reported, but as the Obama administration later clarified, both the mayor and the media were “simply mistaken.” No waiver was granted because none was needed. The confusion amid the tragedy in Orlando underscores widespread misconceptions about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. Here we shed light on a handful of myths that bedevil doctors and patients alike.

Myth No. 1

HIPAA prohibits communicating with patients’ loved ones.

HIPAA sets national standards to safeguard the privacy of individuals’ health information. As in Orlando, it is often perceived as a barrier to effective communication between doctors and patients’ loved ones. Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds — whose mentally ill son attacked him before committing suicide in 2013 — recently testified before Congress that “HIPAA prevented me from accessing the information I needed to keep him safe and help him towards recovery.”

Such stories are heart-wrenching but misattributed to HIPAA. In most cases, the privacy regulation permits doctors and nurses to communicate with a patient’s family, friends or caretakers. The rules were crafted to account for the realities of health care, including the integral role often played by those closest to the patient.

As the former head of HIPAA enforcement told Congress, “HIPAA is meant to be a valve, not a blockage.” When the patient is present and clearheaded, the law allows hospitals to share relevant information with loved ones so long as the patient does not protest. This can be accomplished through the patient’s agreement or acquiescence, or based on a doctor’s professional judgment that the patient does not object. If a person accompanies the patient to an appointment, for example, doctors can reasonably infer that discussing the patient’s treatment in front of that individual is appropriate.

When the patient is unavailable or incapacitated, doctors can also exercise professional judgment to determine whether disclosure is in the patient’s best interests. A clear example is when the patient is unconscious, but this provision can also apply if the patient is suffering from temporary psychosis and lacks the ability to make health-care decisions.

Still, studies have shown that confusion and fear over privacy laws often lead hospitals to unnecessarily withhold information and reflexively cite HIPAA as justification — an approach that can make families feel locked out of care.

But overall, HIPAA affords doctors significant flexibility to communicate with patients’ loved ones, whether about routine or time-sensitive matters. The only time the law truly forecloses the sharing of such information is when the patient is present, lucid and tells doctors not to — and even then, patients’ wishes can be overridden in the event that they pose a serious and imminent threat to health or safety.

Myth No. 2

Same-sex marriage rights are critical to equality under HIPAA.

Before the rumors of a HIPAA waiver in Orlando were quelled, various news outlets reported that it marked a “victory for gay rights.” Waiving medical privacy laws was portrayed as a prerequisite for sharing information with same-sex partners.

In reality, HIPAA enables discussions with relatives, friends or anyone else identified by the patient, meaning that the impact of the Supreme Court’s marriage-equality rulings on permissible communication was marginal at best. HIPAA does not require doctors to obtain proof of identity when inquirers say they are a patient’s friends or relatives. Providing information to family and friends under HIPAA is linked to their involvement in the patient’s medical affairs, not the legal status of their relationship. Patients’ sexual preferences were irrelevant long before same-sex marriage became the law of the land.

Early in his administration, President Obama emphasized the importance of hospital visitation rights for same-sex partners and sought to enforce this policy through Medicare rules. However, spouses — unlike parents vis-a-vis their minor children — are not automatically presumed to have access to patient records. It is up to the patient to designate them or doctors to involve them as clinically appropriate.

Myth No. 3

HIPAA provides extra protections for mental health information.

Rep. Tim Murphy, also a psychologist from Pennsylvania, believes that amending HIPAA is crucial to mental health reform. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a registered nurse from Texas, says that “individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders often face obstacles to treatment because of the Privacy Rule within HIPAA.” New York’s chief psychiatrist has described HIPAA as “the tragedy of mental health law.”

Yet HIPAA does not distinguish between physical and mental health information, nor does it provide extra protections for the latter. Indeed, HIPAA is generally agnostic as to the type of health information being protected. The drafters of the privacy regulation acknowledged that many states had laws specifically guarding records related to mental illness and “other stigmatized conditions” but declined to follow their lead. While the HIPAA rules in no way erode these additional state protections, they do not confer any special status on mental health information.

The rare instance in which HIPAA affords greater protection to sensitive information involves “psychotherapy notes.” However, this exception is much narrower than is commonly understood. Psychotherapy notes are therapists’ private, desk-drawer notes reflecting on conversations during counseling sessions. They exist for therapists’ personal use as memory joggers and must be kept separate and apart from patient charts in order to retain their designation. Any information of wider utility — such as treatment or diagnosis — is excluded from the definition and associated protections. In fact, a main reason psychotherapy notes are shielded from disclosure is because they would have so little relevance or use to anyone other than the doctor who created them.

Myth No. 4

HIPAA stops doctorsfrom reporting threats.

Mass shootings involving mentally ill suspects often prompt discussion about what warning signs doctors should have reported. These questions persist even in cases when doctors had alerted authorities, as happened before the 2012 movie theater tragedy in Aurora, Colo.

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, one of Obama’s 23 executive actions was to clarify that “no federal law” prohibits health-care professionals from reporting threats of violence to the police. This mandate was accomplished via an open letter to the health-care community explaining that HIPAA allows doctors to issue appropriate warnings when they believe that patients present a serious and imminent threat to themselves or someone else. In such cases, doctors can disclose necessary information to law enforcement, school officials, family members, the target of a credible threat or anyone else in a position to avert the danger. Under the HIPAA rules, doctors who take these steps are generally presumed to have acted in good faith.

When patients make threats or pose a high suicide risk, doctors often have a “duty to warn” emanating from state laws, court decisions or professional ethics rules. HIPAA does not in itself impose such a duty, but it explicitly permits health-care professionals to take action “consistent with” these standards.

Myth No. 5

HIPAA is the reasonfor medical privacy.

HIPAA is often singled out as the basis of patient confidentiality. Yet privacy was a core value in health care long before the HIPAA rules were promulgated in the early 2000s. The Hippocratic Oath admonishes doctors to keep secret what they “see or hear” from patients. The American Medical Association’s first code of ethics, adopted in 1847, emphasized the “obligation of secrecy” at the heart of the doctor-patient relationship.

In practice, HIPAA provides a federal floor of privacy protections, not a ceiling. It defers to state laws that are “more stringent” or protective of patient rights. State laws that create additional safeguards for conditions deemed especially sensitive — whether HIV/AIDS, communicable diseases, cancer or mental illness — remain in full force. Neither does HIPAA override other federal laws. Thus, for example, substance-abuse programs subject to 1970s-era federal confidentiality requirements continue to follow those stricter standards in the vast majority of cases.

Even where HIPAA allows health information to be shared, it almost never requires it. Doctors and hospitals must still be cognizant of other applicable laws or professional ethics guidelines that impose stricter limitations. HIPAA is designed to align with these obligations as often as possible, but those instances where gaps arise tend to be the most complex and emotionally fraught.

HIPAA established a procedural framework for doctors, hospitals and other health-care players to exchange information without compromising patient privacy. Even if the law disappeared tomorrow, the legal precepts and ethical norms that long preceded it would remain in place — as would many of the frustrations cited by HIPAA’s most ardent detractors. This month, the House of Representatives proclaimed that “there exists confusion in the health care community around what is currently permissible under HIPAA rules.” Alas, that just may be the most accurate statement about HIPAA ever uttered.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bad Boy Bad Bad Leroy Brown

I have been busy this last week and finally got around to reading all my journals, papers and doing things other than talking about the speakers lineups at their varying conventions.

What I have been happy to not have is the daily rants of the Barista/Baker whom I used to talk to and who frankly concerned me that if all Millennials were that angry and selectively informed it explains more than Donald Trump but also why we have become such a disengaged nation.  If anything the conventions have shown that there are passionate people who do care and if you agree or not at least there are those who want to participate.  The real problem is the ideologues on both sides who seem to think that feelings are valid expressions for facts and that compromise is neither a virtue nor necessary to accomplish anything, especially with regards to our Government. 

Well every now and then the Government does work at things and sometimes good things result.

First up: How collection agencies can collect debt. This is only a first step but a rather big one considering this is an industry that has gone unregulated and under examined for decades. Let's hope we have those agencies doing criminal background checks soon follow.

Then we have the Medicare Fraud arrests.  Note that this had gone on for 14 years. Well better late than never. 

Once again the Republicans are the first to demand that this medical insurance program for seniors be disbanded while the Democrats are starting to embrace the idea of this concept.  Regardless the ACA did not do what it set up to do, insure all Americans and reduce the costs of health care. Heath care has improved, but in much smaller doses (pun intended).

And boys will be boys and by that I mean raging lunatics and perverts.

First up Sex Lies and Videotape  and thought well Michael Lewis has a new book on the horizon.

 I just watched the Inquisitor with Brian Cranston as a former Customs Agent investigating the money trail of Pablo Escobar. Do we ever tire of those stories? Well acted and yes slightly dated cliche story but hey when you have the caliber of acting and interesting characters it makes one realize real life is way more interesting. Cannot wait for the movie of that hedge fund, starring an equally fascinating cast like the Wolf on Wall Street or The Big Short.

Money does make strange bedfellows, wait until you see The Inquisitor.

Then we have the "new" economy and this story of sexual harassment.  Gee Silicon Valley changing the world or not. 

And my favorite the story of Roger Ailes, kingpin, autocrat, dictator and raging perv.  Fox News a boys club of bullying and harassing. Sounds fun.  Frankly until their 'star' Megan Kelly came forward I suspect that no one would have given a blow job or fuck to care.

What I love is the parallels to Bill Cosby.   Until the charges were levied they were both vital men, large and in charge at ages well over 75 and then suddenly are frail individuals with health problems who need assistance getting in out of their limos by their loyal wives who seem both protectorates and guardians of their legacy.  Yet Bill Clinton is villified for not speaking about his indiscretions and choosing instead to make a public declaration of love for his wife at the DNC.  Frankly I don't give a shit about what he did in the past as long as he doesn't do in the future we are all good.  There is point where I respect a person's privacy and discretion about their relationships, but when it veers on harming others and doing so in ways that affects careers or lives then game on.

Perhaps this article on the king of the bad boys, Howard Stern, explains it all to you. He was the king of the pins when it came to shocking and jocking and yes even he too has grown older and changed and it appears for the better.

And perhaps it is now time to go after the big boys - the NRA.  Last night watching survivors and victims of Gun Violence talk about their pain they rightly did not point fingers at raging maniacs and blame Muslims, Mexicans, Autistic people, Cops or any other assorted freaks who use guns to bring harm, but to the organization that enables it - the NRA.

I had coffee yesterday with an Orthodox Jew.  He was one step removed from Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof and I was so shocked I presumed he was a Rabbi given his appearance.  And my experience, as limited as it has been and largely confined to New York City, I was shocked he would sit with a single woman by choice.  It was slightly off putting and fascinating when he then told me what he did do:  Gun wholesaler.

I chose not to go into my anti gun rant and elected to talk about laws and how often they are so redundant and oddly condemning over one group vs another and often directed at what I call "moral Jesus" laws that are based on religious convictions and connected tangentially to a Judaeo Christian law versus actual law that has no connection to Church or Synagogue. It was a fine discussion but all I kept thinking was how odd that in Nashville of all places this is someone I would meet, and of all people be a gun toting gun endorsing whack job.  That stereotype went out the window as many others I have had since moving here, Nashville is by far more liberal and diverse than Seattle could ever be.

He does hate gentrification and like many peers my age sees it as the end of days and is thinking of moving to Montgomery, Alabama.  It was as if I had been hit on the head with a rock when we ended our coffee and went our separate ways.  Ah Nashville you are my home and I have said repeatedly this is now the Magical Mystery Tour portion of my relocation. So to come home and watch the DNC I was amused as I took that message from the higher power as well.

Bill Maher said it best if an alien watched the conventions he would think America is run by Angry White Men or by religious Black women.    And then I laughed as Bill Maher (another bad boy) is playing Nashville next month at the Ryman - a former Church.  Talk about alien.  I will be there and look forward to hearing his thoughts on what it means to be alive in this time of either great hope or great disaster. Pick whatever works for you. 

Gun vs Car

I cannot stress enough that the reality of our criminal justice system and the need for reform is absolutely necessary and in turn absolutely impossible.  The players in this kabuki theater have too much vested, too much at stake and in turn it will cost more money and time than anyone is willing to provide.  Most people don't even have time to wait for a bus let alone take on an institution as vast as the Judicial one.  We can't save our Schools, do you honestly think we will our Courts?

I am deeply pessimistic, angry and utterly frustrated with how ignorant most are with regards to the system and how it works and how they inadvertently contribute to it by voting in Prosecutors, Judges, Sheriffs, and Legislators who have neither interest nor inclination to change a system that is awash with campaign contributions and wealthy ad hoc lobbyists that actually write the laws that they simply sign on to.

Why do we have several laws regarding Manslaughter? Ask a Lawyer and they will give you the regular bullshit response that is about pleas and level of crime.  No it is about ways to prosecute and persecute people dependent on the relationship the Prosecutor has to the Attorney, to the Community or their superiors.  

 So why is Defendant X charged with 1 degree over another? I have no fucking clue is one meaner than another. The same with sentencing.  Why is it a minimum and maximum sentence for one crime over another?  Who knows that shit was pulled out of the ass of a legislator who was given that figure by a lobbyist for private industry that claims that is the average time one needs to "rehabilitate.' What.the.fuck.ever.

Even Lawyers admit it is all bullshit. They have no clue as half of this shit is based on junk science and the other half emotional Politicians pandering to the victims or eponymous acronym group that gets in front of the media in tears demanding JUSTICE. 

Funny when it was the Mothers of victims of gun violence I only heard words of forgiveness, understanding and the need to work together to change and stop this from going on. No off with their heads, JAIL THEM or any cry for vengeance.  Each party seems to have a different demand depending on who they think is breaking the law.

When a person is beaten, raped, killed or harmed they are just that and nothing will change that. Charging an individual with a different charge or code doesn't change that reality. When a man beats his wife how is it any different then him assaulting his best friend?  It is all assault except to the law and then suddenly the same crime means different time? Huh? 

Kill someone drunk at home with a gun versus kill them drunk in car well they are still dead and still the victim of a crime.  But one is manslaughter as you were drunk so it is not murder really is it not murder. Then you get behind a car after a few drinks and that is vehicular manslaughter.  But wait it is now a DUI with much more serious consequences, but you were drunk so it is worse in a car but not with a gun?  Really? 

Hire a prostitute of legal age and agree to pay them well you are now a Sex Trafficker vs just an idiot who committed a crime and you go on sex registry.  Really you do unless of course your Attorney pleas that down and the issue is not one the media is blaring about.  Versus a rapist who abuses a woman, harms her and manages to somehow plea his down to assault and he on the other hand avoids that life sentence. See the logic?

These are our laws, convoluted, bizarre, and all with exceptions and demands that somehow do what? Stop and prevent these things from happening? Well that is working out clearly.

So when a person commits rape you lock up the rapist right? Well no there are again exceptions to that rule.  Read and weep, I did.

Rape Survivor Sues After Texas Authorities Jailed Her For A Month

Guards watch over a single cell area in an acute unit of the mental heath unit at the Harris County Jail in Houston in 2014.
Guards watch over a single cell area in an acute unit of the mental heath unit at the Harris County Jail in Houston in 2014.
Eric Gay/AP

A rape survivor is suing Texas' Harris County after she was jailed for more than a month and subjected to beatings and "psychological torture."

According to court documents, she had suffered a mental breakdown while testifying against her rapist, and authorities checked her into the general population at Houston's Harris County Jail because they feared she would flee before finishing her testimony.

"Jane Doe found herself hopelessly trapped in a bizarre plot pulled from a Kafka novel," the court documents read. She "was imprisoned in the hellhole of the Harris County Jail for no reason other than being a rape victim who struggles with a mental disability."

The anonymous woman was raped in Houston in 2013, according to court documents, and was cooperating with prosecutors when she suffered a breakdown while testifying in December 2015.

She has bipolar disorder and was admitted to a local hospital for mental health treatment when the judge ordered a recess for the holiday break until January 2016.

According to the documents, authorities were scheduled to be on vacation and "did not want the responsibility of having to monitor Jane Doe's well being or provide victim services to her during the holiday recess."

The complaint alleges that the district Attorney's office obtained an order from the Harris County sheriff to take the woman into custody so she would not flee before completing her testimony.

The employee booking her into Harris County Jail identified her as a "defendant in a sexual assault case, rather than the victim." That impacted her treatment from jail staff, as the complaint reads:
"The Harris County Jail psychiatric staff tormented Jane Doe and caused her extreme emotional distress and mental anguish by further defaming her, falsely insisting to her that she was being charged with sexual assault, and refusing to acknowledge her status as an innocent rape victim."
Doe also suffered beatings from other inmates and from a guard, who then requested assault charges to be filed against her "in an attempt to cover up the brutal abuse," according to the complaint.
The complaint also alleges that the jail failed "to provide Jane Doe's prescribed medications."

She eventually testified against her rapist, and a month after she was imprisoned, the district attorney's office dismissed the felony assault case against her and ordered she be released as a material witness.

The Harris County district attorney's office did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment. The Harris County sheriff's office defended its actions in a statement to The Two-Way.
"The request for detainment was made by prosecutors at the Harris County District Attorney's Office," it said. "When so ordered by the court, the Sheriff's Office had no authority but to follow the court's order to detain Jane Doe."

The complaint notes that her "rapist was also an inmate in the same facility" and treated more humanely. "Her rapist was not denied medical care, psychologically tortured, brutalized by other inmates, or beaten by jail guards," it reads.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I'm With Stupid

The problem in America is GUNS.  The access and availability provided by under legislation beholden to the NRA that wraps their industry in the Constitution is why we have excessive violence in America and contributes to the problems surrounding Police shootings.

When you are on edge, live in fear, have a need to settle scores, solve problems or are just fucking batshit crazy you can get a gun and go ballistic and in turn pledge it to ISIS, the KKK or whomever or whatever bullshit excuse you need to go on a rampage and kill.

I think every day there is another story about someone doing something insane across the Globe killing dozens in their wake.  Welcome to America Europe.  They have been utterly innundated with real Terrorist attacks and pseudo ones that have provided a great justification for angry men all under 30 and of course men of "color." Which in turn will justify some version of stop and frisk, incarcerate and interrogate anyone who fits the prototype.   Where have we heard that before? Welcome to America, Europe!

When you have a serious mental health problem you have the lunatic going to kill disabled people after warning many that "they" needed to be euthanized.  Gee remember when we did that whole Eugenics thing in America?  I do and I recall it was another white male attempt at retaining "white privilege" oh whoops I mean superiority.   Anytime an article or pronoun precedes a description know some bizarre convoluted stereotype is to follow.  Funny Donald Trump used to like to be called THE Donald. Times change racism and hate not so much. That is what white male superiority allows the ability to remake and rebrand oneself.

We have rebranded that concept of white superiority.    Privilege is a classy liberal way of apologizing for being white when there is no reason to apologize it just means that you have a free pass at least once for fucking up; whereas,  when you are a person of color you fall under the concept of zero tolerance.   Remember zero tolerance? I do.  Zero Tolerance largely  governs institutions such as Education.  It came under the guise of protecting people. Where have we heard that before? Oh that is right criminal activity and we threw two additional strikes to allow for 3 before locking you up for life.

Maybe we should apply that to cops - 3 kills and then you are convicted for murder.

If anyone thinks I give a shit about Cops then you would be wrong.  Do I think you should stalk and hunt them down in the street? No why give them a reason to SWAT up? And yes that is the response they will take.  Law enforcements idea of reform is to man up.

And what is the general populace idea of a response - gun up. And this is what you get.

Man pulls gun in Kentucky movie theater after teen kicks seat, police say
By Sarah Larimer July 25 The Washington Post

A moviegoer pulled a gun in a Kentucky theater this past weekend after a heated confrontation escalated, authorities said.

The encounter at the Cinemark theater happened late Saturday morning, police in Paducah, Ky., wrote in a Facebook post that detailed the altercation. The man was apparently upset at a 14-year-old boy sitting behind him who was kicking his seat.

The boy’s father told police that his son was “kicking the back of the man’s seat,” according to a Facebook post from the Paducah Police Department.

“Witnesses said the man got up and cursed the youth, asking if he was going to continue kicking his seat,” the post noted.

The man told investigators that he asked the boy “you going to be kicking my seat all f—— day?” a police report on the dispute noted.

The boy’s father jumped in, and the two men began to fight, police said.

“As the father got the upper hand in the fight, witnesses said, the other man pulled a gun and said, ‘What the (expletive) are you going to do now?’ ” police wrote on Facebook.

The father put his arms up and replied: “Nothing. I’m good,” according to the police report.

Others in the theater scattered when they spotted the firearm, police said. A few people brought the armed man, who was from Illinois, out of the theater.

Authorities said this weekend that they expected to seek charges against the armed man.

“The man was barred from Cinemark property, and police will present their investigation on Monday to the McCracken County Attorney’s office for charges,” police wrote on Facebook.

Robin Newberry of the Paducah Police Department said in an email to The Washington Post that authorities were waiting to hear about charges Monday afternoon.

The West Kentucky Star reported that the confrontation occurred during a showing of “Star Trek Beyond,” though Newberry said that as she understands it, the film either hadn’t started yet or had just begun.

Cinemark did not return a telephone message left Monday.

In 2014, one person was killed at a Florida movie theater when a man allegedly pulled out a gun after an argument about texting.

There By the Grace of God

I bailed on the Democratic National Convention early on.  I enjoyed the caliber of celebrities and was thrilled with the opening speakers as they were all truly inspiring, especially Michelle Obama, who broke hearts and moved minds.  But yes I am a Bernie or Bust gal and will still write him in as that is what my conscious dictates but I don't believe that my singular vote will be the one that propels the Trump over the top.  But yes I agree oddly with Michael Moore that Trump can win and that is a problem as we know already he has no intention of actually being President and leaving another right wing as the surrogate is not what this country needs or should want at this time.

But I become enraged when a group of Mothers came on to talk about their children dying, some by Cops some by others or even by their own hands, the reality is that we have a system of justice that is so unbalanced and so biased it is difficult for me to listen to another Cop excuse, justify, explain their endless role in what has become a daily story of one being murdered, jailed, abused at the hands of Police and in turn losing their lives either by being placed in prison or killed directly in the street.  Sandra Bland's mother is way more forgiving than I could be or ever will be but as the adage goes..there by the grace of god go I.

I have been the victim of police abuse.  I lay in a coma on life support holding on after a singular car crash that appears that I drove head long at high speed into a telephone pole.  To this day I will never know why I did that nor who the shadowy figure that walked up to the car, opened the passenger door and said to the eyewitness who was desperately calling 911 demanding help, and said, "she's still breathing" and then walked away. 

Or the camera that caught the accident and could have shown what transpired has never been seen.  And yet I had on my seat belt, still wearing my purse (odd right there) and not an ounce of blood other than a 4 ML of blood in my skull from what we think was my head hitting the steering wheel when the air bag deployed.  The break in the windshield was on the passenger side, a perfect circle where a head hit possibly?  If I was trying to kill myself where are my other injuries? Spine, legs or was I seizing as the amount of alcohol in my system and possibly the drugs led me to the accident and in some way saved my life?  I will never know. NEVER.

I was taken into custody in a hospital room on life support and read my rights in a coma.  Please tell me that this is the law called "implied consent" that allows law enforcement without a warrant to take your blood and walk out with no notice and no concern that you will live or die.  And then 3 months later a subpoena to arrive in your mail telling you are being prosecuted for a DUI from a night that you have no recall. You remember some of it and then it all goes away.  My injuries from the accident also erased my memories of the hospital and the week thereafter when I wandered the streets alone. And there are more than many books on Amnesia and memory.  But the one that I think tells my story the best is  the book Unfair, by Adam Benfardo, to understand how bias works in both the medical and legal profession once you are labeled by its practitioners. 

I sent that book to my current Attorney now of 3 years and noted that chapter 1 was my story and the rest was about his and his kind.  I have nothing good to say about that side of law either, they are in it for money and nothing more.   I know when he went on recently about all that would happen after my appeal and I responded with "who is paying for all this as there is no more money." It was crickets and a wrap up the call.  He is in it for money as he never speaks to me about any of this case from the beginning to the end. Well whenever that end is, right now it is September.  Funny that the City Attorney office that was frustrated with endless delays, delayed their own response to my appeal which led to what? More delays.  My favorite part of the brief is when they say my date had no reason to drug me as I had not refused sex and that my description of being drugged doesn't match two cases he cited where men tried to say they were drugged and not drunk with regards to their DUI cases.  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry or go WHAT THE FLYING FUCK?

It was that which prompted the call to my esteemed Attorney. And yes both are supposedly esteemed I was told that repeatedly but as I watched my civil rights go out the window in court, these two seemed utterly perplexed by what was transpiring that I knew day one I would be found guilty and started preparing for the appeal, which is now in year three and by the time decided it will be nearly 5 years after the accident. 

People tell you to move forward.  Really they do and that is impossible as this never leaves you. It stays with you for life.  So next up changing my name even if I win the appeal as I have no interest in going on with another court case, plea or trial.  All for a charge over 6 years old.  A case at that point serves no interest, the public safety or me but it does for the lawmakers as it is more money on the plate.  That is what most of our criminal charges are about MONEY, they are cash cows to strapped cities and towns.  The reality is that most federal government funding is tied to convictions and in turn even the type of convictions that enable cities and states to get funding for highways, the NHTSA funds roads based on DUI's.  The criminal labs are funded by convictions and so on. They are all biased, intertwined and of course corrupt as hell.

So when the Mothers came on I thought you are better women than I.  I found that Jen Miller the City Attorney who prosecuted me is now in private practice doing largely family law but does still do DUI's.  I wondered if I could hire her to defend me this time.  She could still call me a slut as she did in open court, inferred I was a drunk to compensate my slutty behavior and in turn made up my date.  She could give me the slut discount.  (I so look forward to meeting her again and having this conversation).    Of course she did not read any of the records in fact they overwhelmed her so much she considered a mistrial but instead took a day off mid trial (after being late for the first part as she was on vacation then, but then also missed a hearing as she stabbed herself in the foot with some knife/evidence at work and had to go to the ER);  she is great this Jen Miller! Now in private practice so hire her!  So she passes them to  the investigator/Police, who in turn failing of course to read the text messages, demand a phone record from Verizon (which my esteemed Attorney did not do either) and the Police who claimed they "looked him up" on unspecified records but never actually called the number.  Okay then.  Please tell me blue lives matter.  You chose your profession, knew of its risks and I do not advocate anyone going out and killing any of you but is that why you feel the need to kill first and in turn lie about it?  Well as they say kill or be killed.   Why anyone feels to go out and kill cops in retaliation only serves to make it worse and in turn lead cops to further arm up and kill more.. like they need a reason.

So when I hear about Criminal Justice reform I go really? That is utter bullshit. I watched perhaps the most incompetent Judge sit before me and take away my right to a defense saying that I needed to get the man who did this to me to testify that he did it.  Okay then and Bill Cosby is finally going to take the stand after decades of doing this so I see it working out.

Almost every traffic stop is a scam. They are on a shakedown and you wonder why people run or are afraid.  It is why I don't own a car. They seize your belongings put you in jail for a concocted offense or use a past offense to ensure you will be charged with another.  There is no escaping the hand of the law, you are just guilty.

I read this blog from 2005 and this man moved to Australia to get away from this.  I think I may do the same.  I have to change my name and will do so regardless as I have had enough and if I have to run I am going to do this on my own terms.   America was never great and it can not be great until we face hard truths about our incarceration nation, our definition of crime, and what it means to be in a position of power and wealth over those who are not as fortunate.  Platitudes and words are great but action speaks louder than words and we seem to be trapped where action is impossible.

Read the blog and the comments, there is little I can disagree with.  Yes we are tough on crime in this country, just the kinds of crimes we are tough on are sort of not really crimes.  Homelessness, Drunk, Drugs, "Sex offense" and of course Domestic Violence.  We sweep those up in big nets and assume the worst always the worst and all of it exploiting those poor and those poor are usually minorities in both color and gender.

Think it will change with a woman President? Did it with man of color?  It certainly will not change with an elderly white man.  How do you think we got here in the first place?

Drunk Driving Laws Rant

Today's Los Angeles Times has an article profiling an LA attorney who has made defending DUI arrests his specialty. I think the article is at best very misleading, and at worst, a free advertising coup for him. The fault I have with the article is that is portrays him as a DUI defendant’s best choice. He even has a slick ad campaign calling himself "Top Gun" DUI attorney.

Myself, having been run through the DUI mill twice with Claire, I know a little bit about the DUI industry. I call it an industry because that is what it has become. It is not about public safety. It is not about punishment. It is all amount money.

Now before you all get all bent out of shape, hear me out. I am not condoning drunk driving. Not at all. What I am doing is pointing out how what seems like a good idea has been perverted beyond recognition. In fact, I am convinced that that government wants people to drive drunk.

In two words, here is why: Easy Money.

Crime doesn't pay. Almost all of the criminal defendants marched in front of a judge have little to no money on them. The law enforcement, prosecution, and punishment of criminals is expensive. However, there is an exception to the rule... DUI. DUIs, unlike other crimes, make money. They are highly profitable both for the legal profession, and for the law-enforcement profession.

The reason for this is because this is the only law the "normal", law abiding, taxpaying, working citizens break (speeding too). That is why for so long drunk drivers were not taken seriously. They were just regular folks who had one too many. Then came MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. They brought the focus of lawmakers on drunk driving and succeed in getting the laws tightened. They got the drinking ages raised to 21. The got the drunken limits dropped to .08. They got the fines and punishments raised so that they were no longer slaps on the wrist.

Then something very bad happened...

The courts, law enforcement, the lawyers, and other services discovered that there was a lot of money to be made. Even better, they get to set the prices to whatever they feel like. There is no accountability, and they get to do it all on the name of protecting to public! What a great scam.

I say this because I had the audacity to ask the Sheriff's Department where all the money I was paying went. I asked them how they came up with the prices they charged for the court-ordered "education" services. I asked them to justify what they were demanding. I was told to shut my mouth. That it is none of my business. And that convicts don't have to right to ask questions.

It wasn't me who was busted. It was my wife. But the money came from our family budget. It was my name on the checks. Whenever I asked, I would run into a brick wall. I swear one time up the county jail a deputy almost took to beating me with nightstick for asking such questions. I obviously hit a nerve with them. I was asking questions that were not supposed to be asked.
Specifically, here how the scam works.

The Lawyers: The lawyers, like Top Gun in the LA Times article, earn thousands of dollars representing defendants in DUI cases. They charge about $4000 to $9000 dollars for a run-of-the-mill first-time DUI case. But a lot of people don’t know what they are getting for their money. 

What they get with DUI law-mills, like Mr. Top Gun, is nothing but routine paper pushing cranked out by a secretary on a computer. They file all the usual challenges knowing full well that none have a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding. I would not be at all surprised if the LA County DA’s office simple rolls their eyes when they get a form letter from Top Gun’s firm, and throw it in the trash. The whole exercise is going through the motions.

It is easy money. Get paid shitloads up front and go through the motions of a well rehearsed script. Mail in routine defence paperwork, then plead no-contest to the charges. The defendant pays the price and the lawyer goes golfing.

The problem with this is that they are not getting any real defence for their money. What they are getting is someone to hold their hand. If they really want to defend themselves, then they are going to have to come up with another $10k and more for real service.

They key is to find a lawyer who specializes in DUI cases personally. Not one that has a paper factory with his name on the letter head, but he doesn’t even know who you are. He or she should not be part of a large, we-do-everything, law firm either. They are just as bad. They charge a lot of money for mediocre service.

The DMV: Above and beyond the criminal charges and punishment, there are the “civil” fees that are added to everything. The DMV has gotten in on this racket too. They have discovered that they can charge special fees (don’t call them “fines”) to DUI convicts. And the great thing about is, they don’t have to answer to anyone about it. They get to charge whatever they feel like. I asked how they justify raising the price of a drivers license by hundreds of times just because it was a DUI return.

 They claim some vague mumbo-jumbo about “public awareness campaigns”. But you don’t have the right to question them since you are a convict. Yea, right. That money goes right into someone’s pocket.

The “Education” Industry: Now this is the part that really peeves me off. One thing that is required of convicts is that they attend a multi-month alcohol education class. I don’t have the problem with the concept, or the class. What I have a problem with is how it in implemented. First, they tell you what and where the class is. You are not given any choices. They also tell you how much you have to pay. Again, no choice in the matter. It costs hundreds and hundreds of dollars. When I asked how they came up with that price, and how “XYZ Industries” managed to secure the contract to provide these classes, I was told to shut my mouth. The whole arrangement stinks sky-high of corruption and collusion. Wow. A vendor gets to win a contract for a service that is court ordered and they get to set the price to whatever they want.

Now here is the other part of their scam. They set it up so you almost have no option but to fail and pay the fees all over again. Because you have no choice as to when or where, they raise the chances that it will conflict with your work or children. They schedule them at crazy times, I think in order to make it impossible to catch public transportation there. All in order to increase the odds that you might be a minute late. If you are a minute late, you are denied entry. If you miss a class, then you have to start all over again from the beginning. No credit or refunds for fees paid.

In Claire’s case, she was lucky. She didn’t work, and I was able to buy her a license that allowed her to drive to and from the class. Most people in class were not so lucky, and about half had to do-over because of work or family conflicts.

Jail: Even the jail gets in on it. In addition to the fines, lawyer fees, DMV fees, class fees, court fees, and a million other fees, the jail also charges money. They allow these low-risk offenders to perform public service, for a steep fee. Yup, they charge you not to be their guest. So not only do they don’t have to spend money feeding you and paying guards to watch you, they get to charge you money for the privilege. The Sherriff’s department doesn’t really want you in their jails. They would rather just have the money. The whole thing just struck me as en extortion racket.

What Is Drunk?: Another thing that peeves me about the drunk driving laws is how they define drunk. It strikes me as extremely simplistic to claim that someone who is .079999 is perfectly fine to drive, and someone who is .00001 more than that is drunk and get the full brunt of the law thrown at him or her.

What they do here in Western Australia, that I think is a smart idea, is to define multiple levels of drunk drivers. Blow 0.05, and you are on the first level of drunk driving. A .06 is the next, up to 0.08 where you are considered to be criminally drunk. Each level has it's own punishments that get measurably more serious as the level goes up.

The Solution: I am convinced that the elimination of drunk driving is the last thing that the state and local justice departments want. Because if they really did want to eliminate it, then they would implement real solutions. Not just feel-good solutions that serve principally as a source of revenue.

They should eliminate all the money. It has corrupted them. If they were serious, then they should simply sentence first time drunk drivers to a year in prison. Nothing else. No forced classes that they won’t pay attention to. No cleaning parks in lue of jail time. No enormous DUI industry. People will learn soon enough how serious drunk-driving is when they know they are going to locked up for a year for doing it.

Until that happens, the whole thing is nothing but a money making extortion racket.


Anonymous said...
I agree 100%. Money has corrupted this once sensible solution. Who's going to say they ar pro-drunk drivin? Obviously no one. But come on, its easy money, for the state, the lawyers and the "education" stores. Bullshit! Cut out the money, give a real punishment, you will get less drunk drivers and less of an industry! No one wants to discuss this problem, because most of the "guilty" are too imbarassed to discuss the injustice they have encountered.
Anonymous said...
Amen. You speak the truth on this one and I am a DUI attorney myself. Another part of the problem is the illusion of "you get what you pay for". Many clients simply assume that an $8000defense is better than a $2000 defense. The best advice I can give is to make sure you are dealing directly with the lawyer who will be handling your case, and to talk to people who have previously been represented by that same lawyer.
Anonymous said...
I also agree with the posts here...I live alone in a rural part of Florida with little or no public transportation and because of my two dui's within five years time I have had my drivers license suspended untill Feb 2011...but the money making scams don't addition to the dui classes..I can buy a buisness purposes only license by enrolling in further "treatment" by a corp. called bridgeway (they handle all the courts extra stuff..probation, classes, counseling) and they charge hefty fees. Another money maker is the interlock device I was required to have on my auto at additional costs. As a disabled person living solely on my social security disability every penny was painful and because of rising gas prices I had to drop out of the drivers program after eight months. I am allowed back in if I can save the money but I have to start from scratch and now I learn that evern if I wait untill 2011 to get my drivers license..the state of Florida requires the interlock device be installed for twelve consecutive months anyway. Interlock device was 80 dollars a month, bridgeway sessions were 70 dollars a month with extra for required urinalysis, AA meetings, and additional counseling at twenty dollars per visit as required by bridgeway and then add in gas for travel, insurance, vehicle upkeep, license, tag, etc. it gets costly quick. Not to mention the three hundred non-refundable dollars to apply for the program and the three hundred dollars to have the interlock device installed and the two hundred bucks for the suspended license. Big Money making industry. No way to fight it.
lauran said...
In my opinion this is a very great and interesting post. I really like it very much.
Anonymous said...
Timely and much-needed commentary. Thank you. What's even more frightening: now that people have wised up in California (they're not drinking and driving hardly at all any more), the fascist law enforcement agencies and sleaze lawyers need a new source of revenue. Didn't take them long to find it: people who are "publicly intoxicated". Pub Intox is a handy catch-all charge (just like loitering) that the pigs can slap on anyone anytime they feel like it. Have one beer and tell the pigs you think they get paid too much? Yep, you got it: you're in jail, paying a lawyer, going to classes, etc. Wake up, America.
Kyle said...
*steps up on the soapbox*

Funny thing is this whole scam about drunk driving is to prevent a crime which makes you guilty before you commit the crime.

It's like arresting homeless people because they might steal bread for being hungry before the crime was even thought of.

Next the thought police will come and arrest you if you even put a picture of a crime in your head.

*mental crime*


The sad thing is other countries are not any better!


KICK OUT GEORGE BUSH AND OBAMA!! least Geroge Bush is kicked out so now we need to do the Obama part. :)

The constitution is NOT for change and is always what it says.

(falls off the soap box and lands on the floor and is suspected of drinking alchole when it's really due to tiredness)
Anonymous said...
As a recent graduate of Ferris State University's Criminal Justice Administration Masters program I could not agree with you more.