Wednesday, April 17, 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 the 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. Knowing that, 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 whistleblower retaliation 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.

C.T. Sorrentino, LtCol, USAF (Ret)

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

This article does not represent the views of Help4VetsPTSD, Inc. in whole or in-part and is provided merely to generate discussion regarding the treatment of Veterans, a cause near and dear to our hearts.

Air Force Times Article: "Attack on pay an retirement" (April 22, 2013 Issue)

Articles in the April 22nd issue of Air Force Times entitled "Attack on pay and retirement: COLA change would cost careerists thousands" and "2014 budget calls for smaller raises, higher fees" detailed plans on attacking active-duty, retiree, and disabled-Vet incomes. Once again, our fearless leaders, President Obama and the geniuses over at the Pentagon, are going to rob Peter to pay Paul and Peter is us ... MILITARY AND VETERANS WHO RISK(ED) OUR LIVES FOR.OUR COUNTRY.

I am sick and tired of losing the ENTITLEMENTS I was promised when I signed on the dotted line TO SERVE MY COUNTRY FOR 20 YEARS!

Obama wants to cut retiree and disabled-Vet cost-of-living increases by 0.3% annually, resulting in a $250,000 plus deficit over an officer's lifetime.

Then there is the Pentagon. Our fearless leaders, and I use that term sparingly, want to increase TRICARE enrollment fees because TRICARE "one of the lowest-cost healthcare plans in the nation" has lagged behind other plans in enrollment increases. Wait a minute ... "healthcare plan"? TRICARE is not a healthcare plan, it is an "entitlement" regulated by Congress for those willing to put our lives on-hold and on the line TO SERVE OUR NATION!

We (retirees) make LIFE DECISIONS based on our projected income ... LIFE DECISIONS ... then these politicians and military puppets decide to play games with that income rather than tighten belts and cut the mass amounts of fat in the military budget? A 40 inch waste is nothing compared to the $40 MILLION+ in pet projects, end of year spend-down frenzies, Thunderbird and demonstration team budgets, bands (e.g. Tops in Blue), and other huge wastes of taxpayer's payments.

Healthcare plan! I do not remember getting to come home to my family EVERY NIGHT for over 20 years. I do remember several promises my recruiter made to me prior to enlistment, promises that have been broken time after time after time after time. Integrity is a core value of all services, maybe Obama and the Pentagon should grow some ... INTEGRITY THAT IS!

Chris Sorrentino, LtCol, USAF (Ret)
aka CombatCounselor

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston, Terrorism, the Media, and Human Nature

Boston ... Our thoughts and prayers are with the loved-ones of the two victims who lost their lives as well as those who were injured and the first responders who put their lives in peril to save others. Decoy devices are quite common among terrorists, so let's hope they have successfully cleared the area of additional IEDs.

As was the case with Sandy Hook, this event is and will receive a great deal of attention for days, if not weeks, not to mention many anniversaries to come. That is EXACTLY WHAT THE PERPETRATORS AND TERRORISTS WANT AND NEED TO EXIST!

The purpose of terrorism is, obviously, "to terrorize" and you cannot terrorize without the mass media. The mass media (TV, radio, internet) profit from these events because humans have a sick need to be entranced by trauma and gore. So disasters such as these are extremely profitable for the networks, stations, and websites because humans are innately sadistic.

Think about the times you've arrived at the source of a traffic jam only to find people rubber-necking to see if the can view some blood and gore ... even on the opposite side of the highway! I cannot tell you how many times I have been delayed on LA freeways only to find a fender fender or a flat tire miles away that people could not resist gawking at.

"Sadistic" may be a strong word, but characterizes rather succinctly the need people have to view traumatic, bloody scenes. Other examples of this phenomena are the people who hear of a tragedy (fire, earthquake, hurricane, etc.) and feel compelled to go to the scene, PUTTING THEIR LIVES, AND THOSE OF THEIR FAMILIES IN SOME CASES, IN PERIL!

Bullfights, car races, boxing, ultimate fighting, running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain and other events where there is a high probability of blood and guts being exposed are extremely popular. You have to be "a little slow" (to put it nicely) to watch 33 cars go round and round and round and round until somebody FINALLY crosses the finish line hours later, usually a rather anti-climactic event and the lowlight of the race...hopefully there were a few crashes!

Why do we humans act this way? One reason is that people are inherently curious creatures. Beyond that, there is some subconscious satisfaction in seeing others suffer. The suffering of others gives us a momentary feeling of superiority or a sense of "wow...I'm sure glad that wasn't me!". In either case, it makes it feel, on a level we are not necessarily aware of, that we are better off or safer than others and that can be very comforting. Another reason people may rush to a disaster scene is to be able to say "I was there!" ... BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, GOT THE T-SHIRT!

A woman actually canceled her Hawaiian vacation to go to Arizona TO WATCH THE JODI ARIAS MURDER TRIAL ... Are you serious ... Jodi Arias over Hawaii? Now that is sick!

I have done it myself, so even perfect people like me are not immune! I was in Paris the weekend Princess Diana was killed. We had walked by the Ritz Hotal that very afternoon on our way back to our room from the Eiffel Tower. The next morning, we woke up to a French NEWSFLASH claiming that Princess Diana had been killed early that morning. We we're planning on visiting that area along the Seine later that day (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) to visit the Hard Rock Cafe (I collect Hard Rock sweatshirts, having visited the Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo, Budapest, Rome, Seoul, London, Edinburgh, Brussels, Munich, and many other franchises). It was two in the afternoon when we arrived at the hill next to the entrance of the tunnel and could see the doomed Mercedes as the police continued their investigation. A rather large makeshift memorial had already been erected on that very hill being comprised of hundreds of bouquets of flowers, stuffed animals, balloons, and cards from people communicating their grief and condolences. She truly was the "People's Princess" as I had observed during my three years in England. I was also in London the following weekend, visiting Buckingham Palace where the memorial extended for hundreds of yards along the fence, 50 feet deep in some places, with the same flowers, balloons, signs, and stuffed animals. It was quite a spectacle and something I will not forget soon. Even more memorable was the funeral coverage (no, I was not there) and the true heartfelt grief and sadness the people of England were feeling. It was very sad and an incredible experience...I WAS THERE!

Again, my blessings go out to the dead and many injured, physically AND psychologically, by this horrific event. We as a nation have been very lucky since 9/11/2001 and need to be prepared and vigilant for.future attacks ... IT IS INEVITABLE. And humans being humans, some will die, many will flock to the scene, and even more will find a way to profit from the tragedy. Whether it is a con artist setting up a fake website in one of the victim's names to solicit donations (to him or her) or ABC programming untold hours of coverage from every perspective imaginable. Can we really blame ABC for trying to profit from the misery of others? No, not really, because that is the business they are in and owe it to their shareholders and viewers to give them what them want or need. What the media, ABC is only an example, can and should be chastised for is giving the perpetrator or terrorist organization the publicity, the coverage they need to be successful. Whether it is for their 15 minutes of fame, satisfaction of a long held grudge, or instilling terror in the populace. Terrorism could not exist without the worldwide media where disasters can be televised around the world literally seconds after it happens and sometimes AS IT HAPPENS in the case of smartphone camera that make capturing news AS IT HAPPENS, then going viral on YouTube as all of us sadistic humans click on the Facebook link.

In conclusion, I truly mourn for the dead, wounded, and their families involved in the Boston Marathon Attacks. I have provided a psychological perspective of human nature because it seemed to be a compelling story on which to discuss the topic. I hope I have not detracted from this sad turn of events and pray I did not offend anyone because that was not my intention. I am a compassionate person, but there are times to get your message across and this seemed like one of them. I hope you learned something from this discussion because that is my only intent ... AND NO, I DO NOT MAKE ANY MONEY DOING THIS!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tax Scams and Robbers ... The Bilking of America(ns)


C.T. Sorrentino

I do not know about you, but I stress over money more than anything.  As I discussed in last week's post, one of the primary causes of conflict in relationships today is financial ... MONEY ... or lack thereof. I discussed credit and credit scores as a source of conflict in my last post, educating you on some pitfalls and secrets, and telling you how to stay on top of your credit score (Vantage or FICO) and avoid potential problems down the road.

I saw a story on "Rock Center with Brian Williams" last night about tax refund fraud and the IRS. Apparently, this has become a very lucrative crime with scumbags stealing identities (very easy) and filing made-up tax returns IN YOUR NAME ... TO THE TUNE OF $5 BILLION LAST YEAR!

If you have worked with or for the federal government, you have witnessed WASTE in unfathomable proportions, fraud and abuse as well, but waste is rampant! Government departments and contractors waste HUNDREDS OF BILLION$ EVERY YEAR and this $5 billion scam is just the tip of the iceberg!

Medicare fraud, social security and disability fraud, and now tax fraud, if there is a way to defraud the government or waste taxpayer dollars, someone has figured it out.

There was another story on the same program about Carnival Cruiseline and the fact that they pay only 0.6%, that is less than one percent, in international, federal, state...etc. taxes! Not only that, they have bilked the US Coast Guard and Navy  out of over $2 million over the past year in recovery operations for their poorly maintained fleet alone. That does not include the millions being spent on the Costa Concordia (one of their ships) clean-up effort. Their CEO is the proud owner of the Miami Heat basketball team and one of the richest men in Florida, yet his company (Carnival) rips-off billions from United States citizens every year ... what a great American!

Bank of America, Pfizer, and hundreds of other behemoth corporations pay 0.0% in tax to our government to the tune of over $70 BILLION every year by taking their accounts offshore and exploiting tax laws that are so complex and detailed the IRS has difficulty understanding them.  Really?  $70 million gone and nobody cares?  I pay more in taxes than Bank of America?  What a great country!

I have witnessed, first-hand, government/contractor waste on a huge scale recently.  I cannot go into detail because of pending litigation, but this one contractor AND THE GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING OFFICER supposedly "overseeing" the contract, are wasting many millions of dollars annually and this is just one relatively SMALL contract! If the Department of Defense would join us in the 21st Century and take the steps necessary to give our military confidentiality when seeking mental healthcare, this particular contract would not even be necessary! A contract a few simple policy changes would eliminate all together wastes tens, if not hundreds, of millions each year. How absurd is that?

With all of that being said, why the hell do the White House, Congress, Pentagon, and many other federal entities primarily target personnel and benefits when things get tight? Why do they not focus on the massive amounts of fraud and waste within our own government, bilking American taxpayers out of HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS ANNUALLY and running up our deficit INTO THE TRILLIONS!

We should not stand for this ANY LONGER! If you are sick and tired of government/contractor fraud, waste, and abuse, LIKE and SHARE THIS POST with all of your friends.

Until we citizens, the American taxpayers, the people who elect these morons and pay their salaries, say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and unite in defiance, these frauds, wastes, and abuses will continue unabated.



God bless you and our great nation, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!