America would be great if it were America

We all know the image of America we had in our minds when we were kids — land of the free, home of the brave, with liberty and justice for all.

I recall my introduction to reality: real estate covenants that blocked Blacks, Asians, Hispanics and Jews from buying homes, golf courses and hotels that were restricted to white Christians only.  On the plus side was America’s unfailing endorsement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which clearly states universal health care and adequate shelter for all people. Our Constitution assures equal protection under the law for all people in America, but we all know that does not exist.  As for the right to all for an adequate defense and presumption of innocence, in Lynwood, Washington (2002) the public defender only represents people who plead guilty and is not obligated to appear in court for those who plead not guilty.  If you don’t object to an unconstitutional delayed arraignment, it is taken as your consent to this violation of your constitutional rights. I could go on and on.  What it all comes down to is:

“Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown”

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown” means “you can’t change things, it’s the way things are and the way they will be, regardless of how much you tilt at windmills. The line is about the futility of fighting injustices and darkness in the world. It’s about giving up and looking away, because nothing can be done .

There is a theory to which millions subscribe, that maturity is reached when you give up trying to make the world a better place. As a Baha’i of Jewish Heritage and upbringing, I think that is complete nonsense It is exactly the opposite.

“We were all born with the moral obligation to leave this world a better place than the world that we’ve found.”

Everyone can do something.  Make someone happy.  Be generous, be supportive, be kind, refrain from gossip, advance justice mercy and compassion.  Beware of fatalistic cynicism.

Even if you are the only one who cares, act on it.

 

SANTA CLARITA AND CRIME — THE STORIES YOU DON’T HEAR

As a true crime investigator/journalist, I have been honored to interact with some of the most selfless and dedicated law enforcement people in America, and have also worked on projects with two of the admittedly most corrupt cops in the NYPD — Ken Eurell and Michael Gourdine (he’s #3 after Michael Dowd and Ken Eurell).   It is one thing to write about police corruption, it is another thing to experience it.

I live in a townhouse complex in Stevenson Ranch, California.  Among my fellow residents is a lovely family with a bright and talented son in his early twenties. Admittedly, he has issues: a heart condition and Systemic Lupus. It is not surprising that he also had some teen behavioral issues–a habit of artistic graffiti. Well, he got in trouble for that a few years back and was placed on probation. He had to check in at a kiosk in city hall between the first and the tenth of the month.  No problem, as he is conscientious about such things, plus he had a good job that he wouldn’t want to jeopardize.

A couple summers ago, he made the tragic error of checking in at the kiosk one day EARLY — the 31st rather than the first.  On the morning of the 11th, there was a knock at the door. His mother, 8 months pregnant with twins, opened the door and had a shotgun shoved in her face by an armed and masked member of Santa Clarita law enforcement. Why the mask? Oh, the cops will tell you that it isn’t to conceal identity, but is for safety reasons if the dispatching officer believes there might be a danger of toxic chemicals — the most toxic chemical in these townhouses is a used Swifter.

Several of these armed masked men pushed past her, stormed up the stairs to where her two sons were sleeping and dragged the oldest one from his bed and took him to jail. He was held without charges and without bail for a solid week before being brought before a judge. As there were no charges, the judge didn’t know why the kid was even there and sent him home to his distraught mother who, going into premature labor (no doubt from the shock of the experience)  lost one of her babies.   The surviving child, born too soon, had special health and care needs.  Maintaining a calm and near sterile environment was imperative — hence the “arrested son” could not return lest there be more such incidents.  Of course, he lost his job because he had vanished for a week.   Jobless, pretty much on his own and relying upon the kindness of cousins and associates not known for their exemplary lifestyles, it wasn’t long before our friend developed more health problems including both medical and non-medical dependence and checked himself into a treatment center whose program he had to abandon when he discovered that there was now a warrant  for his arrest related to his signing in a day early at the kiosk.  Insane? Sure. Now, I haven’t given this case the famed Burl Barer in-depth investigation but even if I have condensed and simplified the story, the essence of it is 100% accurate.  Law abiding young man dragged out of his home at gunpoint for being over-conscientious and held without charges long enough to lose his job.

Now, I would say that this was an isolated incident of police absurdity were it not for the Thanksgiving Day Starbucks visit by my daughter and her boyfriend who had recently come into town from Colorado. My daughter walked over to Starbucks on Valencia and her boyfriend, joining her made the foolish mistake of walking across and stopping briefly on the meridian. The next thing he knows, he hears police barking orders — one of them was not to him, but to the cop’s female partner “Call in for overtime!” It was about 7 minutes before five p,m.   Yes, a potential jaywalking ticket is worth overtime pay, but is it really necessary to PULL A GUN ON AN UNARMED YOUNG MAN VISITING FOR THANKSGIVING?

Yes, the officer put his gun in the kid’s face and threatened his life before issuing him a citation for blocking the flow of traffic. I encouraged him to contest the citation so he could tell the court how his life was threatened at gunpoint. The cops didn’t show up in court so the matter was dismissed.

I met these officers myself a few months later when a friend drove me home late one night. We were stopped as we were about to turn into the driveway. The police demanded to know where we were going and why. We are going here because I live here! I endured several more minutes of interrogation before they let me go home.  As I am seventy years old, I must have looked like a criminal preparing for a rampage.

Now there is no direct tie between these three little slices of life in Santa Clarita, but it certainly raises concerns about the ethics and attitudes of our local law enforcement. They may not be as corrupt as the NYPD back in the day,  but the first two incidents had me pretty damn worried during #3.

THE BEAST I LOVED – INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT DAVIDSON

 

Before abuse hot lines and safe houses were widespread, June Briand shot four bullets into her husband’s head and was sentenced to fifteen years to life. This is the shocking true story of survival—and the intense bond June shared with her pathologically violent husband, a monster who physically and sexually tortured, degraded and dominated her so relentlessly that she refused to believe he was dead even after she killed him.

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW, CLICK THIS LINK

What kind of woman would slay her own husband? What kind of man would drive her to do it? Why didn’t she just leave him? Based on hundreds of hours interviewing June Briand, speaking with her lawyers, and poring over countless pages of court transcripts, police and hospital records, and interviews of virtually every key person involved with this case, the author explores those difficult questions while exposing the twisted dynamics of a relationship that enslaves a woman—and drives her to kill the beast she loved when she was finally out of hope, out of time, and out of her mind. At once terrifying and maddening, heartrending and ultimately exhilarating—including an unforgettable glimpse inside a maximum security prison—THE BEAST I LOVED is a book you won’t soon forget.

Praise For THE BEAST I LOVED: “As gripping as THE BURNING BED.” —John Saul, New York Times Bestselling Author Robert Davidson Author Robert Davidson “A superbly written, riveting—often horrifying—story urgently needed for our time. Davidson—with a reporter’s eye for detail—delivers a powerhouse page-turner about the limits of what a human being can endure…and still come out victorious.

With mesmerizing suspense and the heart-stopping twists and turns of a fast-paced crime novel, here is an important book that ensnares the reader from the first page, and should be read, then read again.” —Susan Page, bestselling author of If I’m So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single? and Executive Director of the acclaimed San Miguel Writers’ Conference “The book is gripping; it reads like the best of mystery novels and the reader cannot wait to find out what happens in the next section or chapter. It is an excellent supplemental reading source for the upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses I teach on Family Violence. The author does a superior job of getting the reader into the mindset of a woman experiencing both the battered woman syndrome and learned helplessness…The outcome is totally unpredictable and a reader would be well-advised to avoid the temptation to turn to the end in order to learn the final outcome.” —Raymond Teske, Jr., Ph.D., Professor, Criminal Justice Center, Sam Houston State University Filed Under: eBooks, New Releases, Print Books, Robert Davidson, THE BEAST I LOVED, True Crime, True Crime Books Tagged With: best true crime books, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Murder, murder book, Robert Davidson, THE BEAST I LOVED, True Crime, True Crime Authors, true crime book, true crimes, truecrime

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Freedom to Hyperlink! Read this and be incredulous.

Hey, did you see the story in the newspaper about…..?  You didn’t? Oh, it is kind of interesting. I’ll send you the link.

When we say “link” we mean hyperlink.  You click on it, and it takes you to something.,  Example: Here is a link to Burl Barer’s brilliant website.

My friend Leonard Buschel shared a hyperlink to a news story about Sovereign Health having problems, and Sovereign is suing Leonard for $100,000! They are not suing the newspaper for the story, they are suing Leonard for bringing the story to my attention, and the attention of anyone who reads his weekly Addiction/Recovery e-bulletin,

He didn’t write it, he didn’t publish it, and even if he had, this is still America where we have freedom of the press and freedom of speech — that’s why in the USA, Fox News can just make up stuff and have our President re-tweet it .

But Leonard Buschell links to an undisputed news story in the Orange County Register, and he gets sued for $100,000.

That is not only absurd, it is dangerous.  Your freedom to share, your freedom to read, your freedom to hyperlink is under attack.

Let me tell you something — there is a story on a website that insists that I am part of the George W Bush/Saudi Royal Family/Nazi Conspiracy.   I had never heard of such a thing until I read the story.  It is both stupid and nonsense. Am I insulted by it? Yeah, but so what. I’m not a private person, I’m what is known as a “celebrity” and a “public person.” That means that I don’t have the same right to privacy and protection that you do…by being a “public person” I can expect attacks, insults lies and BS.  And if you link to that story about me being a Nazi co-conspirator, (As a Jew, I found that doubly insulting) I am not going to sue you for $100,000…..so why the hell does Sovereign Health think it can sue Leonard?

Sovereign Health should be ashamed of itself for what appears as nothing more than a petty harassment lawsuit, but it is really much more — it is an attack on freedom of the press even though they are not going after the newspaper. It is an attack on your right to read, your right to share and probably a hell of a lot more.

Leonard says: I am being sued for $100,000 by Sovereign Health of California. Deposition is Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 10am in Newport Beach. Are there any whistleblowers out there courageous enough to come forward to get this place shut down? To prevent any more clients from suffering and other innocent individuals from being abused? This has been going on for almost 3 years. The pressure can be overwhelming at times. Please consider advertising in the Addiction/Recovery eBulletin to keep free speech alive. https://addictionrecoveryebulletin.org/the-lawsuit/

 

The Barer Report: National Addiction Foundation:

 

The following Op-Ed feature is by award-winning investigative journalist Burl Barer.  Mr. Barer has been pro-active in the support of effective prevention and treatment of alcoholism and addiction since 1973 when he served on the Seattle Mayor’s Task Force on Drug Abuse Treatment and Prevention. Often outspoken and admittedly opinionated, the views expressed are his own and intended to foster further conversation and increased dedication to honesty and integrity in the Recovery Industry.

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Thousands of dedicated professionals from diverse disciplines devote their lives and careers to the treatment and prevention of addiction, and they do so with sincerity and the highest standards of professional ethics.  The recent highly publicized scandals involving unethical and/or illegal practices are neither common nor acceptable to most addiction service providers. These scandals impact the entire recovery community by undermining confidence in, and respect for addiction treatment providers and mental health professionals.

One recent revelation of wrongdoing involves “Patient Brokering” or “Body Brokering.”   A widespread method of Patient Brokering uses online websites with toll-free numbers that ring call centers offering to help the suffering person get into appropriate treatment.  There are two similar, yet distinct techniques used by online Patient Brokers as explained by addiction expert and ethics advocate, Paul Hokemeyer, JD PhD.

“First, an independent person or organization creates a generic treatment ‘help’ web site that directs people to a generic toll-free treatment helpline. These phones are typically manned by young people, often only several months in recovery with no clinical experience. The caller, usually the person seeking help or a family member, is asked generic questions and then told they are being ‘assessed’ or ‘evaluated’ by the ‘specialist’. Eventually, a referral suggestion is made to a specific treatment center.”

In truth, what is really happening, explains Dr. Hockmeyer, is that the person seeking treatment – a sales lead – is sold to the highest bidder. “Numerous treatment centers are paying for these leads. Never mind that the caller has not actually been evaluated or assessed for their necessary clinical needs and never mind that the treatment center purchasing the leads are admitting patients that often are clinically inappropriate for their center. It is simply a tactic to put heads in beds. “

The second situation involves a similarly generic website and toll-free helpline, but this time the website and phone number are not owned by an independent party selling a “lead,” but rather owned by specific treatment centers in collusion filtering patients to their own doors.

This brings us to the National Addiction Foundation, self- described as dedicated to helping people with issues of mental health and/or the medical condition of addiction connect with appropriate and affordable treatment options.   The NAF has more red flags than the NFL

“We did have a name change,” confirmed Wendy Hart, Secretary of the National Addiction Foundation. “We were first called the National Assessment Foundation, but the new name more accurately reflects our primary concern and the scope of our services. I am happy to say that we have received our official status as a registered not-for-profit corporation in the State of California.”

As of January 22nd, 2018, the Office of the State Attorney General database of registered non-profits had no entry for the National Addiction Foundation. It is possible, of course, that the online database has simply not been updated. The Foundation’s website has a button to push to make donations. Two donations to the foundation were made as part of my research, but no receipt noting the tax-deductible nature of the donation was provided.

The National Assessment Foundation is registered in California as a small business under the designation of a “club” with three to five members. The President of the National Assessment Foundation/ National Addiction Foundation is Aaron Hart Brower, who, according to public records, is also is the primary contact person at Recovery Bridges, LLC, and Laguna Detox in Costa Mesa.

This raises potential issues of perceived conflict of interest and brings us back again to our concern over “accurate assessment” being an evaluation of your insurance, not your medical condition.

The Foundation maintains high visibility via social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The Foundation’s official website has not been updated since Spring 2017 when it was already claiming non-profit status.  The website provides two phone number for free consultation. The number linked to receiving “Accurate Assessment” took me directly to the main switchboard of the Southern California Treatment Center.

The Foundation’s website kindly assured me that everyone at the National Addiction Foundation is in recovery from issues of mental illness and/or addiction. The rehab industry is the only business that touts having mental illness and/or addictive disease as positive reassuring qualifications.

The website doesn’t say: “Mentally ill drug addicts are standing by to take your call,” but the “about us” section has no information about the people behind this “Foundation” other than that they have all faced the conditions of mental illness and/or addiction.

Do we also want eye doctors with vision problems, oncologists with cancer, or a cardiologist with heart disease?

The upbeat and dedicated young woman answering the toll-free number for “Accurate Assessment” in November 2017 was exactly as Hokemeyer described:  she recently completed drug treatment, had no clinical training whatsoever and was honestly eager to share recovery.
Q: “When doing the free accurate assessment,” I asked, “do you use the ASAM Criteria?
A: “What’s that?”

Q: The standard of “Accurate Assessment” protocols is The ASAM Criteria –guidelines that give clinicians and care managers a way to standardize treatment planning and determine where patients are placed in treatment, as well as how to provide continuing, integrated care and ongoing service planning and management. With the ASAM computer-guided interview, the interview may be conducted by any properly trained team member. Are you one of those properly trained team members?
A: “No, we just ask the client what their problem is and what kind of insurance coverage they have.”

Uh-oh.

Wendy Hart, Secretary of the National Addiction Foundation, was friendly and cooperative in clarifying issues and answering questions when we recently spoke.

“We do use the ASAM Criteria,” explained Hart, “in a modified form. Many of the questions are the same, As the people answering the phone are not clinically trained, we didn’t want to burden them with too much, but yes, it is very important to know exactly the situation and condition is of the person calling. We take great care to make sure we suggest appropriate treatment options.”

Q: Why does the National Addiction Foundation’s phone number for accurate assessment ring the general switchboard for the Southern California Treatment Center?
A: Everyone at the National Addiction Foundation has a vested interest in the recovery industry in one way or another. We are all recovery professional working together in the best interests of those who call us. But we do not automatically send people to the treatment centers where we work. Oh, no. We are far more personalized and thorough than that. We give the client a list of at least three treatment centers that meet their needs,
Q: Do treatment centers pay you a referral fee or bid on your clients?
A: Absolutely not. We do receive donations from treatment centers but there is no quid pro quo. Treatment centers donate to us because they like what we are doing.
Q: Do the treatment centers you recommend have doctors on staff to treat the medical aspects of addiction?
A: Well, all rehabs should have a medical doctor who knows about addiction on call in case you have to take someone to the hospital. Simply having a nurse, especially one who has no training in dealing with addiction is not sufficient.

Conclusion: At this time, I am regretfully withholding endorsement of the National Addiction Foundation because of two significant issues described by Hockmyer in The Underbelly of Addiction Treatment: A look at the Unethical and Illegal Practices of “Saving Lives” published in March 2017 by the Maryland Addiction Recovery Center.

  1. The misleading use of the term, “accurate assessment” – it implies medical/psychological assessment when it is an evaluation of your insurance coverage.
  2. The direct connection between the Foundation and specific treatment centers in which members of the Board of Directors may have a financial interest and/or employment.

Both issues will hopefully be corrected or significantly modified in the near future.

If you or a family member has concerns regarding issues of mental health or questions regarding drug dependence and/or addiction contact a board-certified medical professional with a specialization in addiction.

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Burl Barer is an Edgar Award winner and two time Anthony Award nominee with extensive experience consulting rehab facilities and programs on matters of ethics and client-driven, internally referenced recovery. Barer also serves on the Advisory Board of Writers In Treatment.

 

Drug Dealer’s Big Score: A World Famous Film Festival

His senior year in high school, Leonard Buschel decided to sell drugs and shared this idea with his mother. We doubt it went anything like this:

“I’ve decided upon my career path: I like smoking pot and I’m real good at math. Oh? Don’t you think I should? Yes,the risks are high, but so am I, and beside the hours are good.

“If you must sell drugs, be a dealer to be trusted, and watch your back — you don’t want to get busted!”

“Busted? Oh no, that wouldn’t be fun, chased by the cops, and a life on the run, and what about fatherhood if I have a son… or two?”

What would Moses do?

Moses was chased, not chaste, and neither was Buschel…he and his pals raised all kinds of hell.  Then, one day, not wanting to be arrested, Leonard ran off to where his urine was tested — Betty Ford was the name of a President’s wife, and she was so drugged up it caused national strife. (Her hubby, too, was a recalcitrant drinker but she took the heat so he wouldn’t look like a stinker)

Three days and one step later, Leonard had an epiphany for the better. “I don’t need all this drug-addled strife, in fact, I think I can really enjoy life. I will follow my passion — cinema is in fashion – so I say, no more puffing and gulping my way to a stupor! I’ll have a film festival, won’t that be super?”
Super indeed and like Topsey it grew — larger and larger, so what could he do, but take it worldwide where it became a hit too!


Now filmmakers line up by the door eager to be part of Leonard’s Big Score — Recovery in all of its forms, from halfway houses to Ivy League dorms.  Festival #9 was a thrill for the audience and the projectionist, proving Leonard Buschel a recovery exhibitionist.

This year’s festival was as good as ever, and #10 next year will be even better.

Women Do NOT Have Friends for Life; Men Have Guys they Know.

We profess love for our friends, but often what we think is “love” is not love, nor even true friendship

“…the love which sometimes exists between friends is not (true) love because it is subject to transmutation; this is merely fascination. This kind of love is originated by the accidental conditions of life. This is not love, it is merely acquaintanceship; it is subject to change. Today you will see two souls apparently in close friendship; tomorrow all this may be changed. This is not love; it is the yielding of the hearts to the accidents of life. When that which has caused this ‘love’ to exist passes, the love passes also; this is not real love.”  – Abdu’l-Baha

What we call love and unity are simply acquaintanceship and situational familiarity.

There is great wisdom in the advice, “Beware of those who would be your friends too soon.”

Oh how often indeed have I invested relationships with a depth that exists only in my own longing.

Children create imaginary friends. Adults create imaginary friendships.   Both reveal the tenacity of our human desire to connect and stay connected, even with those with whom the connections were, in the final analysis, ephemeral and fleeting.

What is the basis of lasting friendships?

Being worthy of the trust of others is the basis for all lasting friendships

 

 

INSIDE THE RUSSIAN MAFIA

In my many years as a true crime writer and investigative journalist, I know that the best cops can think like criminals, and sometimes they are the same people. The recent book Betrayal in Blue exposes the blatant criminality of Michael Dowd and Ken Eurell when they were in the NYPD. Those guys could think like criminals because they were criminals.

I’ve also learned that most law enforcement officers and agents are fundamentally incapable of thinking as if they were major mobsters or small time crooks. That’s good news for them and their families. It is the very lack of criminal mindset that hinders investigations and often has well meaning and dedicated detectives spinning in circles. [here comes a mixed metaphor/simile mash-up for which you must brace yourself like Jerry’s Kids on Labor Day Weekend]..and chasing red herring down a dead end street into a box canyon constructed of false assumptions and erroneous preconceptions.

When it comes to any organized or disorganized crime investigation, you are blessed if you can get someone on the inside to teach you what’s real and what’s media hype, criminal exaggeration or the cops having it all wrong to begin with.

Example:

More than thirty people were charged by federal authorities in a massive illegal gambling, money laundering, and extortion scheme tied to Russian organized crime, according to an indictment in the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York.

The operation allegedly involved two criminal organizations, which catered to millionaires, billionaires, and poker pros.

That sounds interesting – how about this?

Miami becomes ‘Little Moscow’: FBI says Russian mob eclipses Italian Mafia in South Florida

Who is going to know more about the Russian Mob than someone who was raised on Russian, and born into the world of international crime? Stanley Nechayev meets that criteria, he even lives in South Florida, and has enough symbolic body art to validate his career.

Stan won’t talk to just anybody. I’m not just anybody. I’m the legendary Burl Barer, and he talks to me.

He would also talk to Howard Lapides because Howard survived 89 days with Paula Abdul, and that earns the respect of anyone who has lived life on the edge,

Listen this Saturday 2pm Pacific Time / 5pn Eastern Time when a retired Russian mobster who is a loyal listener of our show, joins us on True Crime Uncensored.

INSIDE THE RUSSIAN MAFIA

In my many years as a true crime writer and investigative journalist, I know that the best cops can think like criminals, and sometimes they are the same people.  The recent book Betrayal in Blue exposes the blatant criminality of Michael Dowd and Ken Eurell when they were in the NYPD. Those guys could think like criminals because they were criminals.

I’ve also learned that most law enforcement officers and agents are fundamentally incapable of thinking as if they were major mobsters or small time crooks.  That’s good news for them and their families. It is the very lack of criminal mindset that hinders investigations and often has well meaning and dedicated detectives spinning in circles.  [here comes a mixed metaphor/simile mash-up for which you must brace yourself like Jerry’s Kids on Labor Day Weekend]..and chasing red herring down a dead end street into a box canyon constructed of false assumptions and erroneous preconceptions.

When it comes to any organized or disorganized crime investigation, you are blessed if you can get someone on the inside to teach you what’s real and what’s media hype, criminal exaggeration or the cops having it all wrong to begin with.

Example:

More than thirty people were charged by federal authorities in a massive illegal gambling, money laundering, and extortion scheme tied to Russian organized crime, according to an indictment in the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York.

The operation allegedly involved two criminal organizations, which catered to millionaires, billionaires, and poker pros.

That sounds interesting – how about this?

Miami becomes ‘Little Moscow’: FBI says Russian mob eclipses Italian Mafia in South Florida   Stan2

Who is going to know more about the Russian Mob than someone who was raised on Russian, and born into the world of international crime? Stanley Nechayev meets that criteria, he even lives in South Florida, and has enough symbolic body art to validate his career.Stan tats

Stan won’t  talk to just anybody.  I’m not just anybody. I’m the legendary Burl Barer, and he talks to me.

He would also talk to Howard Lapides because Howard survived 89 days with Paula Abdul, and that earns the respect of anyone who has lived life on the edge,

Listen this Saturday 2pm Pacific Time / 5pn Eastern Time when a retired Russian mobster who is a loyal listener of our show, joins us on True Crime Uncensored.