Exposing the salaries of NY State Dept. of Health officials

In a recent advocacy-email to  individuals involved with New Yorkers with brain injuries, I revealed the annual salary of a New York State Deputy Dept. of Health Commissioner Mark Kissinger.  A few people whose opinions I deeply respect and value called into question my decision to reveal Kissinger’s salary. As a result, I’ve given the matter a great deal of thought.

After doing so I arrived again at the belief that exposing his salary and the salary of others is not only the right thing to do, it is the just thing to do.

It would be a mistake to conclude my decision to reveal Kissinger’s salary was a kneejerk impulse on my part. It wasn’t. The genesis of the decision, and the continued foundation of the decision can be found by looking at one simple fact. The salaries of state employees are available to the public because they are being paid to serve the public. A visit to the website for the New York State Committee on Open Government reveals that nearly all records are available to the the public – including salaries. Therefore, the following line of reasoning holds no water for me. Salaries are available to the public but one is being unfair or unjust if they actually inform the public. 

I think New Yorkers have a right to know what their  state employees being paid. I think their right to know, and the importance of them knowing, goes up notch when, as in this case, th state employees are preparing – with what a reasonable person would believe is Governor Andrew Cuomo’s blessing – to demolish the lives of thousand of New Yorkers on the state’s Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver, and  put some of those trying to provide needed services to these men and women out of business for good measure.

The  NYSDOH has drafted a plan (without the input of stakeholders, including neurologists and neuropsychologists and without referencing a single study regarding traumatic brain injury, to transfer thousands of New Yorkers with brain injuries into managed care) that will not include the very services these individuals need and quire frankly deserve to remain in the community.

As a native New Yorker, I want to know how much money you’re getting paid to wreck the lives of thousand of my New Yorkers.

I do very much understand the concern of a few close to me over my decision to reveal Kissinger’s salary. They’re not comfortable with it, in many respects because each of them is a decent, caring, sensitive-to-others person.  I am very fortunate to have people like this in my life.

There is yet another reason for my decision. I know many, many New Yorkers with brain injuries. Many of them and a large number of their family members are my friends. People I  love and care about. So, if our friends are the family we pick, then the NYSDOH is looking to destroy the lives of some of my family members. And, yes, that makes me mad.

So, here’s some information for you; the rounded off salaries in 2014 for the following DOH staff:

Valerie Deetz, $120,000;  Jason Helgerson, $163,000;  Maribeth Gnozzio, $86,000,: Sue Kelly, $162,000; Mark Kissinger, $163,000.   This comes to a total of $694,000. In other words, more than a half million New York dollars are being paid to the very people pushing a plan that will destroy the lives of thousands of New Yorkers and put a fair number of New York companies out of business.

I think that should make any New Yorker mad. Hell, I think it should make any decent human being mad.

 

Posted in New, New York State Department of Health, TBI, TBI Waiver | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Donald Trump’s prayer

I have reason to suspect there came a time when Donald Trump said the following prayer as he was preparing to announce his candidacy for the presidency of the United States.

Dear God,

I know you’re listening because I donate so much money to churches you’d be stupid not to. I mean no disrespect, God, but you were stupid inventing Mexicans and I mean to set the record straight in my announcement speech. I was going to make my announcement sooner but I want those lazy workers shining up that escalator because there is no doubt I’ll be making an entrance that will go down in history. 

Anyway, this isn’t exactly a new kind of prayer from me, as you’ll see, God, because it is all about me and that, as you should have learned by now, is how it should be. So here goes.  Help me do things and say things that people think I should be embarrassed to say and do. Most people are stupid, Lord, and haven’t figured out that if I’m not embarrassed about this whacky comb-over of mine, there’s not a whole helluva lot that’s going to embarrass The Donald. But, I digress. Help me be up front about the hypocrite I know I am and am glad I am.”

Suddenly,  honesty made an appearance, albeit a brief one, in The Donald’s prayer.

“Most of all, help me get lots of attention making an ass of myself and embarrassing myself across the country and in front of millions. Some newspaper out of England, the Guardian, asked me for my birth certificate and I told those Limeys to stuff it. I’m riding that escalator to my presidency announcement and hiring actors to applaud me. I want to make the biggest ass of myself I possibly can, God. Please help me do this.

My best to your son. Amen.”

I think it’s safe to say God heard his prayer.

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Beyond my reach

She’s out there somewhere

Her dancing rhythm’s

Dreaming dancing color

 

We danced side by side

Shape shifting magic real

Beyond my reach

 

She taught me

Skin to skin embracing

Soul to soul

 

I loved her then

And love her still

To eternity and beyond

 

She’s out there

Across the giant pond

Beyond my reach

For JCH

Posted in Jennifer Cristina Humbert, Jennifer Humbert, love, love making, love poems, love songs | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

NRA leader blames murdered pastor for Charleston killings

It takes an evil sick mind to blame innocent murder victims for their own demise.  Such a mind clearly belongs to NRA board member Charles Cotton who blamed Pastor Clementa Pinckney for the death of  his eight fellow worshipers, as well as his own.

“Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead,” Cotton posted online (his post has since been deleted). “Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”  As a state senator Pinckney had voted against a law allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

Given Cotton’s rationale, one can presume he supported the 21-year-old Dylann Roof’s decision to carry a concealed weapon into the church in the first place, without a permit or background check. 

I, and many others are a victims of gun violence. I was held up and shot in the head at point blank range and live with the bullet lodged in the brain. I don’t at all mind meaningful and thoughtful discussion about the implementation of responsible gun control measures (the absence of a universal background check is pure insanity).  As far as I’m concerned, The NRA – which, at this point, ought to stand for Not Really American – leadership has blood on its hands. It’s support of law enforcement is nothing more than lip service. Keep in mind, this is the same group that opposed the ban on selling Teflon piercing bullets to the public, cop-killer bullets, Their efforts on that and other fronts are always underscored by the simpering, utterly disingenuous mantra, if we give an inch they’ll take our guns away. That’s rubbish and they know it.

If the NRA leadership (I know quite a few decent NRA members) has an iota of conscience, they’ll throw Cotton off the board immediately. I would say to send him packing but given Cotton’s warped being, he’d like take that the wrong way.

This country, my country, a country I love with all my heart and soul, is gun crazy. It’s addicted to violence crazy. Too many of my fellow Americans still believe that the more capable you are of killing your fellow human beings, the stronger you are.

Really? Then here’s a question they might want to think about. If walking towards nonviolence is an act of weakness, then why is it so hard for them to do it? 

Posted in Charles Cotton, Charleston killings, Charleston murders, Clementa Pinckney, Dylann Roof, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, NRA | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I fight (the bullet)

The x-rays of the bullet lodged in the frontal lobe of my brain make the point; life happens to us whether we like it or not. So does death.  So do experiences whose realities are so ruthlessly sudden and savage that when (if) you come out the other side with something resembling your wits about you,  you’ll likely find yourself viewing things from a new perspective.  Kahrmann Head Xray 3

Now, needless to say, when I was held up in Brooklyn  in 1984 and shot in the head, things changed. Far, far more than even I realized at the time. The mind and body, it seems, have a way of digesting certain realities over time, particularly when trauma is involved. Were they to absorb so massive a reality in one fell swoop, I suspect some would implode. That would’ve been my fate.

It must be said, I suppose, that all my life I’ve acted, in one way or another, to expose and, hopefully, deplete bigotry’s presence. Whether  its racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, the unforgiveable treatment of our senior citizens, and so on, I’ve never been able to sit on my hands, as it were, when  people are being oppressed, having their rights denied, and, as so often is the case when it comes to persons with disabilities (PWD), dehumanized. A reality that came home to roost when I became a PWD as a result of my brain injury and PTSD.

PWD are on the receiving end of some of the most vicious forms of bigotry imaginable. They are perceived and treated as if they are little more than revenue streams for the greedy, and, equally despicable, tattered remnants of humanity whose only purpose is to be trotted out  for display purposes when various agencies decide to use them as bait for donors, or visual fuel for self-aggrandizement, or both.

It would be naive to think this kind of behavior is linked solely to for-profit companies. Not so.   I’ve known and know some non-profits run by arrogant, self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing cretins who, in truth, don’t care a wit about the people they say they care about.  Next time you run across a non-profit company in business to help PWD, find out how many PWD they employ. Find out how many PWD are on their board of directors. And, while you’re at it, find out Kahrmann Head Xray 2what they do with the money they raise. See how much is used to directly benefit the lives of those they are said to care about. Find out – to the penny.

I am writing this essay, in part,  to help some people understand (many already do) why I advocate the way I do. Why, as some have rightly observed, my  advocacy style might be rather aggressive. Some would say, too in the oppressor’s face. Some have wondered why I’ve continued to advocate even after losing all my income in 2008 for doing just that (I would not remain silent when an Albany-based New York State Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Waiver Provider was  blatantly denying program participants their rights). Why I’ve continued to advocate even after the New York State Department of Health, also unhappy with my advocacy, simply took away my housing subsidy, and, along with the aforementioned provider and others, damaged my ability to be employed in the field of brain injury in New York State and, I suspect, Massachusetts as well.

All that backlash because I would not remain silent when I saw, in this case, individuals with brain injury disabilities having their rights denied,  sometimes brutally so. One particularly abhorrent creature comes to mind.  When a program participant would tell this creature about something they were having a tough time dealing with, this vile thing would invariably respond with, “To bad, so sad.” The program’s owner was well aware of this person’s behavior, and yet he works there still. Testimony,  I believe,  to the owner’s profit-before-people mindset.

As to why have not stopped my advocacy. There’s a constellation of reasons.  I was raised in a civil rights family, our minister marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Growing up me heroes included King and Geronimo. My list of heroes grew to include Mandela, Elie Wiesel, Medger Evers, Gandhi, Malcolm X, and more. All of whom suffered more for their advocacy than I ever have.  Since the shooting I’ve met others who are heroes of mine. People who are not household names. Here is a taste.

  • A remarkable woman who, while walking with her husband one wintry day pulling their two children on a sled, was hit by a snowmobile driven by an intoxicated human being. When she regained consciousness, she learned she was permanently paralyzed from the neck down.  She also learned her two had died in the accident.
  • A woman who sustained a brain injury and forever lost her ability to walk because of mosquito bite that led to meningitis.
  • A young man who,, while in a car on his way to a party with friends, was in a car accident. He suffered a brain injury and witnessed the decapitation of two of his friends during the accident.
  • A several women who suffered strokes in childbirth.

That’s just a few, I could go on. I have a long list of heroes. I also have quite a list of graves too. Those who didn’t make it, sometimes because the greed-based system failed.  I have plenty of motivation to fight.

And then, of course, for me there is that moment I came to on the ground after I was shot. That moment when I knew I was going to die. I was completely alone in that experience. One of the gifts of having survived that is this, there is nothing any government or provider or company or agency or individual can do to me that comes close to that hell. Not even a little.

 

Posted in Disability Civil Rights, disability rights, disability rights advocates, gandhi, gandhi quotes, mandela, TBI, TBI Waiver, tbiscc | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment