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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Navy Yard Shootings: Terrorist, Crazed Gunman, or Victim? Anything's Possible!

Having been the victim of whistleblower retaliation three times in the last 5 years, I would NOT be surprised if the Navy Yard shooting suspect was a victim of harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation, what I call "Institutional Terrorism".

My core values are selflessness, loyalty, integrity, compassion, excellence, dignity, and respect, and I believe in DOING THE RIGHT THING, something that has caused me a great deal of personal and professional grief over the course of my life as many of you know. Telling the truth and feeling obligated to report wrongdoing are not qualities everyone appreciates as I have found out. Currently, neither I nor most of the world know what prompted the suspect in today's Washington DC shootings, Aaron Alexis, at the Navy Yard to lash out indiscriminately, killing a reported 12 souls and injuring at least as many. But I can speculate as I have in previous recent articles.

From reporting my bully of a boss at one of the country's largest general contractors to human resources in 2009 to filing a discrimination and retaliation complaint against a University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC) associate dean in 2011 to reporting whistleblower retaliation by a government contractor and the Department of the Interior just this year, I had no choice but to act if I were to be able to look at myself in the mirror each morning.

Unfortunately, neither private business nor government institutions care about employees or customers (people) and do not hesitate to lash out at those they see as a threat. Why? Because they can!

They, the individuals and institutions that will not hesitate to ruin a person's life if we do not conform to their expectations or, God forbid, threaten their existence or livelihood in the case of the gross fraud, waste, and abuse I and many others have witnessed and reported, are not concerned about being held accountable for their actions or inaction. Discrimination and retaliation laws in this country, particularly whistleblower retaliation law and policy, have been degraded since the Bush (II) administration and are rarely if ever enforced because of the high costs involved with investigating or prosecuting cases and because attorneys will not touch a case unless there is a high probability of success and six to seven figure settlements. Pro bono you say? Yea ... right!

Lawyers will do nothing "for nothing" unless forced to or unless there is national media attention in the cards. Corporations and other large institutions know they can get away with attacking employees and customers because they know, in all probability, that they will get away with it.

Back to Alexis and the tragic massacre in Washington DC. I have no idea what compelled this man to lash out at coworkers, but based on my own experience, other mass shootings (aka "going postal"), and knowledge of human behavior, there is a chance that this man had been persecuted by a fellow employee or supervisor and was let down by a system (supposedly) designed to protect him. Having experienced the frustration that comes with that firsthand, I can tell you that retribution against attackers, at least the thought of such, is a distinct possibility. Add anxiety, depression, and loss of job, home or relationship to the thought of retaliating against our attackers and you have the making of a time bomb waiting to explode.

Most of us have the positive values and resilience to deal with such thoughts or temptations to act more humanely, more reasonably than others in those situations. But a small minority of the population, those overwhelmed by stress for example, do not.  Was Alexis one of them? Only time will tell.
One thing is for sure, Alexis, a Navy Reserve veteran, will undoubtedly be categorized and condemned, as are most Veterans, as being "aggressive" and "threatening", and has already been labeled as having "anger problems" in a Fox News (@FoxNews) report just hours after the attack. I have written extensively about false perceptions among the civilian sector about Veterans, lumping us all together and generalizing that Veterans are "all angry, aggressive, and threatening" because that is how we have been portrayed in the media for decades, if not centuries.

Murder has declined sharply over the last 20 years, but mass murders have increased significantly since 2002. On average, 14,000 Americans die by the hand of an other each year and mass murder (shootings) has spiked with dozens murdered each year in 6 of the 7 most recent years (Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Sandy Hook, Navy Yard). A total of 167 souls have died through mass murder in the last decade. Considering the fact that mass murders have become more prevalent recently, it appears to me that the stresses of war, the aftermath of 9/11 and threat of terrorism, a faltering economy, and degradation of whistleblower retaliation protections may play a critical role. The chances are astronomically AGAINST being the victim of mass murder, but proportionally MUCH HIGHER (when compared to murder in general) than just a decade ago.

When will this madness stop? Most likely, never. Until Institutional terrorism is addressed and laws protecting citizens from the powers that be are given more than "lip-service", there will always be those who feel their only course of action is violence when their back is against the wall. Or maybe Alexis was just a nutcase. That is a distinct possibility and, as more information is released, appears to be a very likely "part" of the story.

God bless the dozens of men and women killed or wounded in this horrible tragedy and God bless the families left to deal with the resulting grief and loss from a life cut short or severely disrupted by such an event, including the Alexis family. My prayers are with each and every one of you.

Key Words: Aaron, Alexis, Navy, Yard, shooting, violence, Washington, DC, NavyYardShooting, killed, murder, mass, murderer, shooter, military, Veteran, reservist, wounded, dead, institutional, terrorism

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lawyers: Selfless or Narcissist … What Do You Think?

Here is a great example of the difference between selfless people, those who go into the caring professions (veterinarians, nurses, social workers, etc.), and narcissists (the antonym of "selfless"), those who go into other professions, usually more prestigious and lucrative.  Can you say attorneys?  Sure you can!

I have seen literally hundreds of clients (I am a licensed psychotherapist) free of charge, "pro bono", hundreds, over the last 22 years, yet I have not and will not brag about it and would never think of mentioning it publicly except to highlight a poignant example, as I am here.

This particular lawyer, who I am sure is not an evil person and in-fact helped my wife get her attorney in her recent successful lawsuit, bragged about HIMSELF on Facebook yesterday (see referenced post below) about how he "waived" an amputees expenses "AND" ONLY CHARGED HIM HALF OF HIS NORMAL FEE ... ONLY HALF OF WHAT, $250 AN HOUR?  This poor man with only one leg had to pay just $125 an hour!

Here is his post:
"I am so humbled by the faith people put in me. I am also overwhelmed by the perspective my clients have despite facing the worst tragedies. I just settled a case today for a man who suffered a leg amputation when a car pulled in front of his motorcycle. Over the time I have been his lawyer, I never heard him complain ONCE about how he felt or how his entire life has been re-written. He was surely in pain, scared, frustrated -- but his attitude was always shockingly positive and upbeat. This client trusted me sight-unseen on the recommendation of a mutual friend. He lives half a country away, and could have picked any of the lawyers knocking on his door. But he chose me. His attitude and spirit prompted me--after our very first conversation--to waive his case expenses AND more than half of my usual attorney fee. So I am thankful to know this client, and I extend boundless appreciation to him  and our mutual friend who put us on the other's path."

When I think of pro bono, I think of the legal profession.  We always hear about attorneys who take pro bono cases for the poor or disabled right?  The problem with that is those cases are usually high-profile cases, the ones that make it on television, shows like 48 Hours, 60 Minutes, or one of other well known programs.  The others are usually during highly publicized trails like Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias, or Robert Zimmerman to name a few recent examples.  Why is it that only these people get “pro bono” defense?  PUBLICITY, that is the reason, tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in FREE PUBLICITY … how altruistic those lawyers are!

This guy sees himself as a hero because he reduced his fee by half and ate the expenses, which normally do not add up to much or are highly inflated in the first place.  Here is a poor guy who lost his leg and probably cannot work, and the lawyer probably ended up with between $60,000 and $140,000 of the man’s money!  They probably settled out of court too, saving the attorney a hundred or more hours work while raking in the same (or more) than he would have if it had gone to trial.

Let me tell you a brief, "hypothetical", story.  A law firm takes on a case for national origin discrimination.  The big cheese, the guy the firm is named after makes only rare appearances, during the first meeting and when they go to mediation.  The rest of the time his “staff” works on the case only when they have time, rarely returning phone calls or emails from the victim because they are focused on bigger issues, other cases.  The entire firm spends minimal time, all the while telling the victim “you have a great case, we’re going to get you close to $500,000!”, which is a pittance compared to what she should receive for having her reputation ruined and losing her career.

As the trial date approaches, the lawyers realize that they have not done enough work, also called due diligence, and dropped the ball, so they ask for a five month extension from the court and it is granted.  Five additional months of stress for the victim and her family, needless stress because the law firm had higher priorities elsewhere.  Only then do the depositions begin, depositions that should have been happening months ago.  They have not even contacted the victim’s top witness yet and do not do so until she insists.  This is just a week before the mediation, which comes out of nowhere to the victim only a month before trail!

In the interim, the big honcho (he even wears a cowboy hat) is taking care of other cases and not even thinking about the victim’s case.  Now, finally, in the few months directly before the mediation and trial, his cronies (low-wage lawyers – compared to the honcho anyway) are finally spending some time on the case.  They probably spent no more than  50 to 60 hours total, and that is probably a stretch, on the case before the surprise mediation (an event the victim was told nothing about until last minute).

As they go into mediation, the honcho is finally there with his crisp brown Stetson, along with his two cronies.  The mediator comes in, a retired judge, and it is like “old times”, the honcho and mediator obviously knowing each other rather well.  The mediator admits that he knows little if anything about the case because he “just received it”, so the honcho starts laying out the victim’s case, a very complex case with hundreds of pages of evidence, over a just a fifteen minute period?  Honcho even forgets several extremely critical points and it is not his cronies that chime in to correct him, it is the victim’s husband!  And that is it, the judge says “got it” and scurries off to meet with the defense team across the hall.

The negotiations start off just below the figure mentioned above, but the numbers quickly drop as the mediator goes back and forth like a ping pong ball.  As time goes on, even though he knows little about the case, the mediator is making judgments, saying “you don’t have a very strong case” and “only 38% of plaintiffs are successful in Missouri”, and the victim’s attorney is agreeing with him!  What?  What happened to the great case the victim had?  Well, then it was time for lunch.

The honcho was gracious enough to offer to buy lunch for the victim and her husband at a French restaurant downstairs.  While the victim’s husband used the restroom, Honcho and his male crony ordered Maker’s Mark whisky on the rocks, in a glass the size of the Hulk’s fist, filled to the brim.  Must have been at least a triple shot!  Honcho’s wife, the other crony, ordered a glass of wine, so when the husband returned, Honcho said “we’re having one, you might as well order one too”, so he order a glass of wine   The victim does not drink and stuck with just water.  Less than half way into lunch, Honcho has already polished off his whisky, orders another, as did his sidekick, and here come two more tumblers full of alcohol.  There must have been AT LEAST 6 ounces in each glass, for a total of 12 ounces EACH over lunch…in less than an hour!

Things started heading downhill, to put it mildly, after lunch as the mediator became more negative and offensive and honcho getting more impatient with every minute, becoming hostile, raising his voice, and stomping out of the room at one point.

Looking back, it seems like a big production, a well rehearsed one at that, as honcho and his cronies started to insist the victim had a poor case and that she should think seriously about accepting an offer that was a fraction of the starting number.  They said “you’ll be lucky to get this much in court, if you can win at all”.  Wearing her and her husband down over several hours, which seemed to be the goal, honcho became enraged when the husband stated “I thought you said we had a good case, we were hoping that you would advocate for seeing this through to trial, we wanted to hear you say “let’s fight this and beat the bastards!’.”  At that point honcho stood up, cussed at the husband, saying “we’ll do whatever you want”, while his cronies kept pushing the victim harder and harder toward a settlement.

It all made sense now, “good cop, bad cop”, wear the subject down until they cannot take it any more, then go in for the kill!  Honcho and his cronies had everything to gain and nothing to lose by settling now.  They would receive 40% and much more than their hourly rate based on the small amount of work they had obviously put in, and would save themselves a great deal of work during the most intensive period, just before and during trial.  Win-win for the lawyers!

In the end, the victim received a little more than 10% of what she was told would be an equitable result, “making her whole”, an amount that would barely pay for a mid-priced car these days.  And that was supposed to make her whole after having lost a $65,000 a year job and a 20-year career?  I think the lawyers came out on top in this case, them and the mediator who charged thousands for a days’ work.

I would tell you about my personal experience with lawyers, an experience even less positive than this, but I will save that for another article, a book maybe.  All in all, I think Shakespeare was right when he wrote:

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.” - Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2, 71–78
I do not mean that literally, but maybe the world would be a better place if there were not any in the first place.  Which brings me to the question: Selfless or narcissist?  Every lawyer I have ever met, with one exception out of hundreds were selfish, arrogant, narcissists.  Have you had a different experience?   I hope so.  If you have or have not, let me hear your opinion, about your experience with the legal profession.  

Key Words: lawyer, attorney, legal, court, mediation, case, trial, victim, plaintiff, defendant, defense, judge, narcissist, selfless, arrogant, viral, institutional, terrorism, InstitutionalTerrorism, CombatActivist

Copyright 2013 - 3rd Wave Publishing, A Subsidiary of 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC - All Rights Reserved



I should have known there would be a problem when woman on the phone refused to provide a "free estimate" when I called at the end of July, 2013, stating we only do that for "big jobs" even though they advertise free estimates.  She was a bit snotty as well.

Having had no luck finding a dependable, competent, reasonably priced lawn sprinkler company in 5 years (I have gone through 5 or 6 and my system is still having problems), I decided to give them a try.

The worker arrived on-time and spent EXACTLY 2 hours digging up and repairing a leak in one of the lines as well as replacing a head and valve.  He said he was going to inspect and adjust all of the heads, but here it is less than six weeks later and I have more problems than before he arrived.  

I was charged for 3 hours when the bill arrived, so I called to complain and the woman quickly agreed to subtract the EXTRA hour from my bill, indicating to me that they likely inflate bills routinely.  I was also charged $36+ for the head and valve, parts costing $10 at Home Depot and a HUGE MARKUP ... CAN YOU SAY RIP-OFF?  The most absurd charge was for the PVC pipe, $36.81 for something that probably cost them less than $3.00 ... A 1000% MARKUP!  Then they have the gaul to add a $3.00 GAS SURCHARGE even though I was within their service area.


Key Words: Sprinkler, Landworks, repair, service, head, valve, PVC, rip-off, Kansas City, MO, installation, scam, overcharge, markup, snotty, combat, activist, institutional, terrorism

Copyright 2013 - 3rd Wave Publishing, A Subsidiary of 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC - All Rights Reserved