The care-less leadership in NYS’s DOH & TBISCC

I think I’ve reached the age where if someone is going to lie to me, the least they could do is make a little effort and be halfway good at it. Bad enough there are irresponsible, unethical people who have power over the lives of others, worse when those people lie and make the rules up as they go along, endangering lives of others in the process.

A November 5 article in the New York Times about the frightening state of affairs in New York State is chilling.  It also accurately reflects the kind of sloppy sub-standard oversight the New York State Department of Health has brought to the state’s Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Waiver

It is a well known fact that the DOH refuses to tell people who file complaints related to the TBI Waiver the results of their complaints. They never have. In fact, several Regional Resource Development Specialists, DOH contract employees who oversee the waiver in various regions throughout the state, have told this writer and others they are instructed not to provide the results.  Until recently when their contract to answer the complaint line ended, even the Brain Injury Association of NY State was never informed of the results.

This kind of mangled dysfunction may explain why Deputy DOH Commissioner Mark Kissinger  reminded me last week of the comedian Richard Pryor. Pryor used to tell the story of how his wife caught him in bed with another woman. “You gonna believe me or your lyin’ eyes?!” Pryor exclaimed. And so it was that when last week I emailed Mr. Kissinger asking – again – when the DOH was going to inform complaints of the results of their complaints, he wrote back saying the DOH does inform complainants of the results! Like I said, if someone is going to lie to me the least they could do is make an effort not to sound, well, like a fool. And so, I sent him the dates of complaints I filed in 2010 and 2011 and am still waiting for the results. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that a freedom of information request I filed this summer with the DOH asking for the results of my complaints was denied.

And then of course we have the chair of the Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council Michael Kaplen who will never remind anyone of Richard Pryor. Kaplen, whose term on the council expired in 2004, still clings to his seat and chairmanship like his life depended on it. His true colors showed during the September 12 council meeting when he  immediately moved to adjourn the meeting  after the council was publicly informed  by this writer that the quality of lives and the lives themselves of waiver participants were at risk because of the DOH. And, when the DOH and New Yorkers with brain injuries could benefit from a TBISCC if it did what its supposed to do, provide proposals to the DOH to better the lives of New Yorkers with brain injuries, Kaplen cancelled the council meeting scheduled for November 15 and provided no follow-up date.

Neither Kaplen nor the DOH will explain the reasons for the cancellation. It has become clear that most if not all council members were given no explanation of the cancellation either.

Let me be clear, the TBI Waiver and the TBISCC are critically important to the lives of New Yorkers with brain injuries. They just need to be run by people who give a damn and who are inclusive in their approach.

Two things: if people suffer and or lose their homes or  lives because of the actions or inactions of the DOH, those in the DOH should be charged, tried, and, if found guilty, jailed. And if the DOH wants to, say, take one small step in the right direction, it might be interested to know that the New York City number it now gives out for the TBI Waiver complaint line belongs to someone who hasn’t worked for them in quite some time. And that’s no lie.


Rand Paul: Part of Racism’s Last Gasp?

I can’t count the number of times lately politicians remind me of the line made famous by Richard Pryor. Pryor’s wife catches him in bed with another woman and he says, “You gonna believe me or your lying eyes.”

Recently we had Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal claiming his words were misplaced when he said, on more than one occasion mind you, that he served in Vietnam, when he never did serve in Vietnam. That’s called lying Richie B. Now we have Rand Paul who, like his father, has views on civil rights that would be well represented by a wardrobe heavy on the white sheets. His father, Ron Paul, was the only member of  congress – the only member of congress! – to vote against honoring the 1964 civil rights bill on its 40th anniversary.

Rand Paul spokesman Christopher Hightower wrote “Happy Nigger Day” on his MySpace page on Martin Luther King Day with a picture of an African American being lynched.  Paul has  spoken out against the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act and he says private business should be allowed to discriminate because this is a free country.

It seems to me that there has been a spike in the expression of racist views since the election of President Obama, a president I believe will go down as one of my country’s greatest and, not incidentally,   and bravest. This, I suppose, was to be expected. What also ought to be expected is a surging response from the majority of Americans who believe in equality for all and who are very present in both of the major political parties. It would be unfair to define all Republicans by the actions of Rand Paul and it would be unfair to define all Democrats by the actions of Richard Blumenthal. What does need to happen, however, is the leadership of both parties needs to take their misguided members to task in voices the public can hear.

We can hope the spike is part of racisms last gasp.

As for the racists who think they can turn the tide of freedom, remember what the Japanese leader of the bombing of Pearl Harbor said of my country after the attack. "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

True that.


Managing Dishonesty: Notes from an Advocate

A person’s ability to lie is certainly equaled by a company or government’s ability to lie. The question is, how do you manage the dishonesty. My answer? Expose it.

I recently had a series of email exchanges with someone who heads up a healthcare company that provides services to people who live with disabilities, brain injuries to be specific. Some of this person’s assertions were so blatantly dishonest they reminded me of the Richard Pryor line ,when his wife catches him in bed with another woman, You gonna believe me or your lying eyes.

One thing that is critically important is to not allow the dishonesty of a particular healthcare provider to blind you to the fact there are healthcare providers that are truly spectacular.

I am too far down the road of life to be astonished or surprised or thrown by the arrogance of people. Still, there are times I’ve seen some of the arrogant spin such lines of bullshit I want to tap them on the shoulder and ask, Do really think anyone believes your bullshit? Tragically, some do. Which brings me to something H.L. Mencken said: “"No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby."

All of us contribute to the bloodstream of our society. What we contribute either adds to or subtracts from the health and welfare of the world we live in. There is, I believe, no such thing, as a neutral contribution, you either tip the scales one way or the other.

As for underestimating the intelligence of people. While far too often Mencken’s quote applies, there are times it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, people get voted out of office, arrogant bureaucrats find themselves on the unemployment line, and healthcare providers who have their heads up the ass of arrogance find themselves out of business.


Sarah Palin. There, I said it. I had hoped to get through this election without writing her name. While this is not a poison pen letter, I do think writing her name runs the risk of poisoning the finest of pens.

But, Sarah Palin? Are you kidding me? Her response to a bi-partisan report that concluded she had broken her state’s ethics laws was to say the report cleared her of, brace yourself, any “ethical wrong doing.” Reminds me of the Richard Pryor line: “You gonna believe me or your lying eyes?”

Listen, Sarah, if you’re gonna bullshit us, put some effort into it. Live on the edge; why not throw caution to the wind and use both digits of your IQ. Common, you can do it. No? We may not all be going to Mensa meetings anytime soon but the kind of dishonest and disingenuous garbage you’re spewing has no place in American political life, now – or ever.

However, we are in the now and now is a dangerous time for my country. The economy, our reputation around the world and our infrastructure is in shambles. Our ability to trust our elected leaders, always tenuous at best, is now nearly non-existent. We have a president and vice-president that aspired to be and came close to being our American Dictators. They should be charged as war criminals and jailed as far as I’m concerned. As a rule, dictators rule by fear. And there’s Moose Shootin’ Palin out there firing up crowds to the point they are yelling “Kill him!” about Obama.

We don’t need this or deserve this in my country. Thousands upon thousands of American men and women have lost their lives, their limbs, and their sense of safety in the world so the United States could be the United States.

As for Senator John McCain, let me be maybe the first to say it. While he was, without question, courageous beyond description in Vietnam and during years as a POW, he is a political wimp – a coward. He has abandoned all that in his heart he probably still believes in to win the election and placate his dysfunctional party leaders. That’s cowardice, bro.

As for Ms. Palin, go back to Alaska and chill out. Hey, it’s Alaska. It should be easy.