education, law, mental health, music, narcissists, psychology

Repost: The clarinetist who dodged a bullet…

This is a repost from June 2018. I am working on finishing reading a book that I want to review. Maybe I’ll be able to do it today. Maybe not. Anyway, I thought this was an interesting story. It appears here mostly as/is, with a couple of new videos added.

I just read an infuriating story on the New York Times.  Eric Ambramovitz, a gifted clarinet player from Canada, was just awarded $375,000 Canadian dollars from a lawsuit he filed against his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lee.  Why?  Because she crushed his dream and cost him two years of a promising music career.

In 2013, Ambramovitz and Lee were dating.  Both were music students and Abramovitz had dreams of studying under Yehuda Gilad at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, California.  But the manipulative and sneaky Ms. Lee did not want her beau of a few months to leave Canada.  So when Abramovitz received the rare, all expenses paid, highly prestigious acceptance to study under Gilad, who only takes on one or two new students per year, Lee intercepted the email, impersonated her ex boyfriend, and turned down the offer.  Then, she sent a fake email to Ambrovitz, indicating that he had not been accepted to study under Gilad at the conservatory.  Instead, he could attend the University of Southern California with a $5000 scholarship, which Lee knew would not be enough.  Abramovitz could not come up with the rest of the $50,000+ tuition charged at USC. 

Lee and Ambramovitz eventually broke up and Ambramovitz finished his bachelor’s degree in music at McGill University in Montreal.  Then in 2016, he traveled to Los Angeles to re-audition for Professor Gilad.  But Gilad was confused, because he remembered that Ambramovitz had already auditioned and turned down the chance to study with him.

It was at that point when Eric Ambramovitz came to the sickening realization that his ex girlfriend had committed some major league relationship fuckery.  He asked Mr. Gilad about the email he had received from “giladyehuda09”.  Gilad said that was not his email address.  At that point, Ambramovitz filed a police report.  Just an aside here, I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to file a police report if I had been victimized in this way, but now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense.  What Ms. Lee did was akin to identity theft.

This man has some serious musical chops! He is definitely no Squidward.

Fortunately, Ambramovitz won acceptance to the University of Southern California, where Mr. Gilad also teaches.  He completed a two year certificate, not on scholarship, and studied under the professor part time.  Professor Gilad testified in court that Ambramovitz made excellent progress studying under him.  However, Ms. Lee’s dishonest hijinks cost the gifted clarinetist two years of his career, as well as missed professional opportunities.  According to the article, 80 percent of clarinetists in North American orchestras consist of Gilad’s former students.

But he survived… and it didn’t crush his spirit.

Ms. Lee did not respond to the lawsuit and had no lawyer listed in the suit.  It’s doubtful that Ambramovitz will ever see any of the money he was awarded.  He has, however, found success as a professional clarinetist.  He just got a job working for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra after having previously worked with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. 

A few things come to mind after having read about this case.  First off, I’m amazed that Ms. Lee had access to her ex boyfriend’s email account.  I wonder why Ambramovitz wasn’t able to log into some kind of school account to see what his admittance status was.  Seems like when I applied to graduate school at USC, I had an account that showed what documents I still needed to submit.  That was in 1999.  I guess that’s not how they do things at all schools.  I see from another article (a much more complete one) that Ms. Lee also did the same thing with Mr. Abramovitz’s successful application to Julliard.

Not only is he insanely talented, but he’s also quite generous with sharing his gifts. I’m so glad he got out of that toxic relationship. He also seems like a really nice person.

I guess it just goes to show you that you can’t trust anyone.  According to another article about this case, Ms. Lee moved fast.  Within a month of their first date, Ambramovitz was staying at her apartment almost full time.  He let her use his laptop and she obviously had access to his passwords.  Actually, if she’s got cluster B tendencies, this makes perfect sense.  They tend to overwhelm their victims with whirlwind romances.  Then, once the poor victim is hooked, cluster B, high conflict types turn into horrible people.   

I’m glad Ambramovitz broke up with that miserable woman.  What an awful thing she did to him!  I hope karma kicks her ass.  But… at least he didn’t marry her.  This kind of sabotaging behavior is what Bill experienced firsthand when he was married to his ex wife.  I liken being in a relationship with someone like that to being chained to a dead tree.  A dead tree might eventually rot enough so a victim can escape, but it could take years of soul crushing before that happens.

Bill suffered damage to his career, his relations with his family, and his finances before he was finally able to break away from his psycho cluster B ex.  While Ambramovitz’s situation is heartbreaking on many levels, at least his story has a happy ending…  as does Bill’s.  Not everyone is so lucky.

ETA: September 2021… I may have to write some about Gabby Petito later. Unfortunately, her story didn’t have a happy ending. Also… fun fact– many years ago, I played clarinet myself. But I did not have a gift for it.

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healthcare, law, politics

Texas is turning into Gilead…

Every day, I read another distressing headline about the craziness going on in the United States. At the top of today’s crazy headlines is the new law that went into effect in Texas yesterday. In their neverending quest to deny women the right to determine whether or not they want to be pregnant, lawmakers in Texas crafted a law that seems to have come straight out of East Germany in the 1970s.

At this writing, it is now illegal for a woman to get an abortion in Texas if she is more than six weeks pregnant. Most people don’t even know if they are pregnant at that point. This law basically outlaws abortion, since most abortions are done after six weeks gestation. What makes this new law even more sinister, though, is that it encourages neighbors to inform on each other. The Supreme Court, stacked with Trump era justices, has declined to intervene on this barbaric new law. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the liberal justices.

The law is unique, in that it puts enforcement on the population and is difficult to challenge in court. According to The New York Times:

Usually, a lawsuit seeking to block a law because it is unconstitutional would name state officials as defendants. However, the Texas law, which makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from incest or rape, bars state officials from enforcing it and instead deputizes private individuals to sue anyone who performs the procedure or “aids and abets” it.

So basically, if your right wing nutjob neighbor Bubba gets wind that you’re pregnant and you get an abortion, Bubba can sue your doctor, the facility that performed the abortion, and anyone else who “aided and abetted” your abortion. I guess that means if you took an Uber or your mom gave you money for an airline ticket, your driver and your mom could be sued for “aiding and abetting” your abortion. Maybe Bubba could sue the airline that transported you to a distant city for the procedure… even if it was in another state.

Interestingly enough, Bubba can’t sue you for having a procedure. He can only sue anyone involved in your getting the procedure. However, Bubba can sue, even if the procedure isn’t done in Texas, as long as the person having the abortion is a Texas resident. So, Texas ladies, you’d better keep your personal life private.

Again from the article:

The patient may not be sued, but doctors, staff members at clinics, counselors, people who help pay for the procedure, and even an Uber driver taking a patient to an abortion clinic are all potential defendants. Plaintiffs, who do not need to live in Texas, have any connection to the abortion or show any injury from it, are entitled to $10,000 and their legal fees recovered if they win. Prevailing defendants are not entitled to legal fees.

Naturally, a lot of people are pissed off about this new legislation. I am pretty pissed off about it myself, although it’s not going to affect me personally. As I have mentioned many times in this blog, I am 100% pro-choice. It’s not because I cheer for people having abortions. I personally find abortion sickening. It’s because it’s simply no one else’s business what kind of medical care someone else gets.

There are times when an abortion is indicated for medical reasons. I don’t think anyone– especially someone not personally involved in the pregnancy– has ANY right to insert themselves in someone else’s private medical business. Moreover, given that we don’t do fuck all to help people who might choose abortion, nor do we do much once those babies are born, I think this law is especially wrong-headed and cruel.

I am still a Texas voter, even though I live in Germany. This shit just makes me more determined to vote straight blue from now on… not that it will do any good. Makes me wonder, though, if people will get desperate enough to get violent about having abortions.

Texas is a famously gun friendly state, especially now that Texans can openly carry weapons without a permit or any training. What if Bubba decides to sue someone because of their choice to have an abortion and gets shot in the head for meddling in someone’s private medical affairs? I’d like to think that’s an unlikely scenario, but given how absolutely crazy things are in the United States right now, I could actually see it happening. People are unhinged, and this kind of interference can lead to desperate and tragic consequences.

I worry about the developing fetuses that may suffer needless pain because there’s something congenitally wrong with them that would make being born cruel. I am concerned about twelve year old girls who have barely reached puberty being forced to give birth. I am concerned about 49 year old women who have chronic diseases having to continue pregnancies that put them at risk. I worry about the teenager who got pregnant by her brother or her uncle or her father… or her abusive boyfriend. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Edited to add, Rachel Maddow points out why this new law is so chilling and disgusting on so many levels!

I know some people think abortion is always wrong. To those people, I say “don’t have an abortion” if you think they’re morally wrong. You have no right to dictate another person’s medical care, especially if you’re not going to be around to help deal with the consequences.

What especially pisses me off, though, is that I haven’t heard of any legislation that makes medical care less expensive and more accessible for all of these women. I haven’t heard of any legislation that makes the men who got the women pregnant in these situations more accountable for their parts in the unintended pregnancies. Where are the laws that support the pregnant people who are going to be forced to give birth? Haven’t seen any, yet… but I have seen a lot of people slut shaming and putting it entirely on women to be sure they are doing everything to prevent unintended pregnancies.

Once again, the Trump era has delivered another disaster to the United States in the form of forced birthing and neighbors reporting on each other, as they might if they were in East Germany and under the watchful eyes of the Stasi. It’s creepy and sickening, and it makes me glad I don’t have a daughter who might be affected by this intrusion. But the people who are going to suffer the most are the poor, who won’t be able to simply move out of Texas and take care of this private business on their own. Hmmm… one can only hope those souls, who will be born into poverty or other difficult situations, will grow up and vote for Democrats.

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law, LDS, religion, true crime

Repost: Rape culture in churches

I am reposting this blog entry that originally appeared on October 16, 2016. I have no reason for reposting it, other than I think it’s an interesting piece. Bear in mind that it was written almost five years ago and I haven’t changed the content, so some comments may be outdated.

I just read a very disturbing article about a lawsuit that was just filed against a Jehovah’s Witnesses church in Weber County, Utah.  The lawsuit was filed by a woman who claims that she was repeatedly raped by a church instructor and JW officials later her made her listen to a recording of one of her assaults.  The woman seeks a jury trial and $300,000 to cover medical care, legal fees, and general damages. 

According to the article I read, the woman may or may not have gone to the police after she was allegedly raped by a church instructor.  The Salt Lake Tribune states that members of the JW faith are encouraged to bring problems to church elders rather than involving outsiders.  Having done my share of reading about Jehovah’s Witnesses and having had a relative who was once a member, I can affirm that this attitude is prevalent among people involved with the Witnesses.

In this case, the assaults against the woman allegedly took place after she went out with the instructor on a date.  He took her cell phone from her and said she had to kiss him on the cheek to get it back.  She refused, so he kicked her out of his car.  Later, he came back for her and the assaults apparently escalated from there.  When the assaults were brought to the attention of JW officials, they began an investigation…  but it was not an investigation against the perpetrator.  Instead, the young woman was investigated.  Below is a quote from the article linked above:

In April 2008, the Roy church formed a judicial committee to investigate whether the girl engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior — “a serious sin” in the religion. During the meeting that included her mother and stepfather, the lawsuit states, church leaders played a recording of one of the purported rapes, obtained from the instructor, for four to five hours “repeatedly stopping and starting the audio tape … suggesting that she consented to the sexual behavior.”

The woman alleges that she was raped several times.  Realizing the patriarchal culture within the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s possible that she felt like she had to do what this man said.  She was likely taught to do whatever the church officials told her to do.  As the attacker was apparently her church instructor, she probably felt that she had no choice.  It really is a shame that people continue to get and stay involved in religious organizations that promote this kind of thinking and do nothing to empower everyone, not just the men. 

This situation among the JWs in Utah sounds an awful lot like the recent hullabaloo about Brigham Young University’s policy of bringing rape victims up on Honor Code violations.  Women who dared to report rape to the police or University officials were getting in trouble for putting themselves in situations where they might be assaulted.  For the record, I think these kinds of policies are disgusting and they keep our society in the Dark Ages.  

Of course people– male or female– who choose to sexually assault others should be held responsible for their actions.  At the same time, I don’t think it’s wrong for people to look out for themselves.  I wish these churches and universities like BYU would do more to promote personal safety outside of the religious sense.  I wish they wouldn’t simply tell women to protect their virginity and purity because that’s supposedly what God wants.  They should be empowering them to protect themselves because they don’t want to be victims of crimes. 

It’s interesting that this subject came on my radar this morning.  I just saw a Facebook post by 11th Principle: Consent about how rape culture develops.  Although I would absolutely never say that it’s okay to rape someone, I do think it pays to be careful.  One young woman made a comment about how she’d gotten very drunk at a party and was raped while she was unconscious.  She wrote that it was wrong that she was raped, but she shared some responsibility in the situation by drinking so much that she passed out.  She got a lot of indignant comments from people who said that no part of the rape was her fault at all; she bore absolutely no responsibility toward the crime perpetrated against her.

At the risk of pissing off a lot of people, I will go on record as saying that I agree that rape is never a victim’s fault.  However, I do think that everyone– males and females– should take some responsibility for their personal safety.  One of the comments I read on the 11 Principle: Consent Facebook page was this:

– if you went for a walk, but someone chose to stab you, should you have stayed in?

-if you decided to go for a drive, but someone drove into your car, is it your fault?

-if you went for a swim, but someone drowned you, was it your fault because you put yourself in a position where you could be drowned?

My response is that in the above examples, precautions could have been taken to lessen the chance of harm or mitigate the harm that did occur.  For instance, when you take a walk, you choose areas where there are people around.  You carry a cell phone that is charged and ready in case of emergency.  You tell someone where you’re going.  You might learn self defense.  These are things you can do to lessen the chance that you’ll be a victim.  You might still end up being victimized, but you will have taken steps to lessen the chance of it.

If you go for a drive, you wear a seatbelt (even though I hate them).  You make sure your car is safe to drive.  You don’t drink alcohol or take drugs before getting behind the wheel.  You make sure you are well rested.  You might still have an accident, but you’ve done your part to lessen the probability.

If you go for a swim, you make sure you can actually swim.  If you can’t, you learn how and stay out of the deep end until you have the appropriate skills.  You take someone with you when you swim.  You use floatation devices if you need them.  You might still drown, but the chances are not as high as they could be.

When it comes to assaults, sexual or otherwise, I think the same responsibilities apply.  Don’t get so fucked up that you black out.  Don’t go to parties alone, especially if you don’t know the people hosting them.  If you do get assaulted, it’s certainly not your fault.  But my guess is that you will learn from the assault and take steps to be sure it doesn’t happen again.  It sounded to me like the young woman who said she shared in the responsibility of her attack had simply learned from it.  She’d made a mistake by getting so intoxicated.  I have made the same mistakes myself on a number of occasions.  There, but by the grace of God, go I.  

Is it ever your fault if you get assaulted?  No.  The person who chooses to perpetrate a crime is always the guilty party.  But the point is, there are things you can do to lessen the chance that you will be a victim.  I don’t think it’s wrong to acknowledge that.  I don’t think that line of thinking promotes “rape culture”.  I applaud the young woman who realizes that she was wrong to get so drunk that she passed out.  At the same time, I think it’s sad that there are shitty people out there who would take advantage of a woman so distressed.

I’m reading the article about the lawsuit against the JWs just as everyone’s talking about Donald Trump’s infamous “locker room” talk.  I have friends of every stripe opining on a potential U.S. president talking about grabbing women by their pussies.  I have a number of very religious relatives criticizing Hillary Clinton because– well, probably because she’s a female liberal.  These same supposedly God fearing people see no problem with voting for a man who brags about forcing himself on women and grabbing their crotches.  But if a woman gets assaulted, instead of being outraged, they look for ways to blame her.  I don’t think that’s right.  But I do think there are things people can and should do to protect themselves.

As for the woman suing the JWs, I don’t think it’s wrong that she’s filed a lawsuit.  This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a pervert ending up in power.  It’s not just the JWs, either.  Lots of churches empower creeps who then victimize their supposed underlings.  I’ve read about plenty of religious organizations who don’t do enough to keep bad people from powerful positions.  I think they should be held accountable when these things happen.  Again, from the article:

A leader from the congregation apparently warned the girl’s parents in November 2006 that the instructor — who previously attended church sessions in Ogden and Oregon — was a “bad kid” who had “engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a female member of the Clearfield congregation.” The plaintiff says that warning wasn’t enough.

How did the guy end up a “church instructor” if church leaders knew he was a “bad kid”?  One has to wonder.  At the same time, isn’t it crazy that someone like Donald Trump, who openly admits to being a pervy creep– even if it was privately– might end up leading the country?  No wonder we have issues with so-called “rape culture”.

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Germany, good news, money, musings

When landlords are honest…

A few days ago, our landlord/neighbor rang the doorbell. He had papers with him and asked to speak with Bill. I told him that Bill was out of town, but would be home on Friday. The landlord looked perturbed, which worried me a bit. He said he needed to settle our “Nebenkosten” bill. That’s supposed to be done every year, but he never got around to doing it last year, so we had two years worth of bills to settle. Based on his demeanor, I thought maybe we owed him money.

Even though it’s been two years since we moved here, we’re still quite traumatized by our former landlady, whom we ended up suing over our security deposit. The last year we spent in our former house was, in many ways, very stressful. In other ways it was less stressful, mainly because she became passive aggressive and mostly quit speaking to us.

In fairness, our current landlord is nothing like our former landlady was. He very rarely bothers us and doesn’t complain to us about how we live our lives. He respects our privacy, treats us like adults, and is a good neighbor. And although we spend a lot of money to live in his house, it’s a beautiful house that has everything we need. So we’re happy here, although I will admit to missing the views from our old town and some of the people we got to know there. I especially miss nearby Nagold, which is a really cute town. It was just a few kilometers from where we lived. If we ever move back to the Stuttgart area, I would look for a house in Nagold.

I told Bill that the landlord needed to speak to him, so we weren’t surprised when he rang the doorbell last night. Bill stepped outside to talk to him. I braced myself, because I figured he would be presenting us with a bill for overconsumption or something. Our former landlady had started off being nice, but most of her visits included unsolicited advice, complaints, judgments, or other indications that she wasn’t pleased about something we were doing or not doing. Gradually, she became ever more hostile, resentful, and rude, even though Bill was never anything but pleasant and businesslike to her. He never, for example, screamed at her or made false accusations about her. She, on the other hand, yelled at me more than once and falsely accused us of things.

Even though our current landlord is nothing like our former landlady, the trauma lingers… same way it lingers in Noyzi, who knows Bill is a good guy, but is still terrified of him. And so, even though our landlord is a good man and has never been anything but businesslike, I still kind of dread his visits and assume the worst is about to happen. I wait for the shoe to drop, so to speak.

Bill came back into the house, shaking his head. He said, “Unbelievable…” as he set down a stack of papers.

“That bad?” I asked, expecting that we were about to shell out some euros.

“Well, it turns out that there’s a discrepancy of about 1200 euros.” Bill said. “But he owes us 1200 euros. We’ve been overpaying the whole time we’ve been here. He apologized profusely for not settling the Rechnung last year. I think he thought we knew we were overpaying. And he wanted to know if we wanted cash or to take it out of next month’s rent. He even offered to show me his bills to prove that we overpaid.” Bill’s face still registered pleasant shock.

“Wow!” I said, remembering that Bill had to email our former landlady to get her to send us 20 percent of our deposit that she deemed we were due. And when Bill questioned her charges, some of which were legitimately illegal and out of statute, she became downright recalcitrant. Meanwhile, I learned that the tenant before us was monitoring me and, evidently, sharing with the ex landlady. My guess is that they had a good time gossiping about us while trying to determine the best way to fuck us out of our money. At the same time, former tenant was very zealous about guarding her privacy, even as she was happily invading mine.

I noticed that the money our former landlady did begrudgingly refund to us was about what she had received in an insurance settlement she got after an old awning collapsed on a windy day. We had filed a claim for her, but because the awning was seventeen years old, it was valued at being worth about just under 600 euros, and part of that money went to pay the technician who looked at it and determined it couldn’t be fixed. Ex landlady ended up with around 300 euros, which she said wasn’t enough to buy a new awning. I have never known insurance to pay the entire cost of replacing something. Ex landlady is older than I am by 20 years, but somehow she missed the memo that insurance is mostly designed to defray costs, not completely cover them.

Ex landlady tried a lot of tactics to get us to let her take our money. She started by trying to get us to pity her, citing how much money she had to spend to spruce up the house after we left. She even sent us a bill for having the top of her carport washed, even though that wasn’t our responsibility. She wasn’t asking us to pay it; she was trying to show us that she had spent a lot of money cleaning off the carport and we should have mercy on her and let her steal our deposit.

When the pity approach didn’t work, she tried shame. She accused us of trashing her house, being filthy, and being negligent. She claimed we were being “unfair” to her, asking her to prove that we were guilty of damaging her house and verifying the expenses she claimed. She said we were the worst tenants she’d ever had, although she didn’t seem to mind that we lived in her house for four years and was visibly relieved when I told her halfway through our time there that we had decided to stay in Germany rather than move to Italy for another job.

Then she became outrageous. She accused us of dumping an “American” refrigerator in her kitchen and stealing her “nice” one. There was a dorm sized fridge in the kitchen when we moved in. We did not buy it. We assumed it was her fridge. It didn’t work very well, but even if it had worked well, we never would have bought such a fridge for our own use. We’re Americans, and we like our appliances large, modern, and functional. Moreover, that fridge was plugged directly into the wall socket. If it was an American fridge, we would not have been able to plug it in directly. We have different voltage in America and different plugs. We did take a nice fridge when we moved, but it belonged to us, and I could prove it with receipts. We also took an old freezer, but it was one Bill bought from a departing co-worker. The old freezer no longer works, so I wouldn’t necessarily call it “nice”. I had taken a photo of the shitty European fridge on the day we moved in and posted it on Facebook, knowing that my friends would get a kick out of it. In the States, I have a full sized fridge that we use for drinks. I call it the “fridge of sin”. There’s no way we would have ever bought a puny fridge, even if it was just to dump it on the ex landlady. That’s ridiculous.

In response to our lawyer’s demand letter, ex landlady’s lawyer blustered about what shitty people we are and threatened a counter suit. He claimed she hadn’t charged us for everything, although many of the charges she listed were either out of statute or illegal. Almost none of them were provable, because she never did a Protokol when we moved in. She also never settled our Nebenkosten in the four years we lived in her house, which is against German law. Consequently, we could have demanded that she return all of the money we paid for our trash, water, and her irregularly performed lawn work. When she did the lawn work, it was done to a high standard. But she became increasingly lax about it, especially at the end of our tenancy.

Ex landlady somehow decided that she deserved 2800 euros for a brand new awning. She never told us how she arrived at that figure. She just expected us to give her the money. Since we didn’t agree with her, she decided to take it out of our deposit and evidently never thought we’d question it. But she had no right to do that. I suspect she never dreamed we would sue her. Bill is a kind, considerate man without a malicious bone in his body. She probably assumed she could take the money with little resistance from him. Strange that she would assume that about a man who has made his living in the business of planning war, even if he is even-tempered and seems meek. She never really took the time to get to know us, for all of her intrusiveness and judging of our lifestyle. That was a mistake on her part. I mean, really it’s probably better if landlords stick to business, but if you’re going to be nosy, controlling, and intrusive, you should probably try to actually understand the person you’re surveilling.

We spent our last precious weekend with our beloved Zane, the wonder beagle, answering her lawyer’s ridiculous claims and translating it into German. Zane had to be euthanized the following weekend because he had lymphoma. Instead of enjoying our last time with him, we had to deal with the ex landlady and her lies.

Allowing her to just take the money would just be encouraging her to continue to bilk her tenants. We felt we had a responsibility to hold her accountable. And frankly, she had driven us to the point at which we no longer cared about preserving any good will toward her. We had repeatedly tried to be patient and understanding toward her, but she simply went too far and we had to take action. Sometimes, you have to take a stand.

The process of suing the ex landlady wasn’t fun at all. It was expensive, aggravating, and it made us feel guilty. We didn’t want to do it. It would have been much better all around if she had simply been cooperative, respectful, and honest. I think she would have found that Bill is a very fair person. She certainly would have saved money, and she would not have ended up being reported to the housing office. It would have been good business. But instead, she decided to take a stand on quicksand, in spite of herself. She lost, but it wasn’t without a lot of pain and aggravation for us, and the process took a long time– probably longer because of the pandemic.

If we hadn’t sued, we would have had to live with the diminished self-respect that comes from letting someone blatantly screw us over. Both Bill and I have repeatedly done that in our lives, and it never leads to anything good. The person who screws us never learns not to, and we feel used and abused. This time, we decided it was time we fought back. And again, it was also for the people coming after us and having to deal with her. Maybe she’ll think twice about the way she handles her business. Or maybe she’ll decide to get out of the landlady business, once and for all. Personally, I think that would be the best end result. She shouldn’t be renting to anyone, in my opinion.

Despite coming out on top with our former landlady, we’re still traumatized and wary years later. And so, when our current landlord turned out to be honest and forthright, it was a shock. A pleasant shock, to be sure– but still it was a shock. We were still smiling about it this morning. And the end result is that we would recommend our landlord to other people, which ultimately is good for his business. He won’t end up being blacklisted by the local military community, and that will likely translate to more money for him. It’s a shame that our ex landlady wasn’t able to realize that cooperation is the better way to go, rather than being stubborn, accusatory, retaliatory, and insulting.

My faith is restored in humanity. It’s like the universe is now showing us that we were right to do what we did… and that we were victims of gaslighting, among other things. I hope we can stay here for awhile longer. I like to reward good people when I can. Either way, I don’t think we’re going to have to sue this landlord, and thank heaven for that.

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law, modern problems, rants, sports, stupid people

Idiot proofing…

Back in September 2015, Bill and I had the experience of a lifetime. We went to Tarrenz, Austria and swam naked in a big vat of hot beer.

Okay… so it wasn’t beer like you and I might think of it. It was actually wort that was in a huge vat that was once used for brewing Starkenberger beer. It was just the two of us. No lifeguard was on duty. We were allowed to drink as much beer as we wanted. All we had to do was be done by 10:00pm… and even that was negotiable.

There wasn’t a single sign on the wall warning us of no lifeguard on duty. I don’t think we even had to sign any legal disclaimers or waivers. We just handed over the 250 euros it cost for our experience, and off we went. It was glorious! We had a great time. I will NEVER forget it. I distinctly remember thinking it was refreshing to be treated like someone with a brain and common sense. It occurred to me that over here in “the old country”, people are expected to take some responsibility for themselves. That’s what keeps things fun for everyone.

Do people over here get sued for negligence? Sure, they do. But generally speaking, I have noticed that people are also expected not to be idiots. If you do something stupid and get hurt, you can expect little sympathy. It seems that in the United States, people are often looking for reasons to sue, even when they’ve been partly at fault for their own misfortunes. Consequently, there’s a lot of “idiot proofing” that is done in the United States. Companies and, inevitably, their lawyers, are always looking for the next potential lawsuit and taking steps to guard themselves from them.

Strangely enough, our experience swimming unsupervised in warm beer wort came into my head this morning as I read about Salvatore Anello being sentenced for his part in a negligent homicide. Salvatore Anello made the news in July 2019, when he accidentally killed his 18 month old granddaughter, Chloe Wiegand.

Anello and his family were cruising on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship on July 7, 2019 when they were docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Chloe liked to bang on the glass at the hockey games her brother played in Indiana. For some strange reason, Mr. Anello decided to place Chloe on a railing near a window in a children’s area on the ship. Thinking there was glass in the window, Mr. Anello tried to let Chloe “bang” on it, as if they were at a hockey game. But there was no glass, and before he knew what had happened, Chloe had fallen to her death, eleven stories below.

Mr. Anello was arrested by Puerto Rican authorities and charged with negligent homicide. However, Chloe’s family maintained that the cruise line was negligent, because they thought there was glass in the window. The family decided to sue Royal Caribbean, claiming that Chloe’s death is the cruise line’s fault for “not having a safer situation on the 11th floor of that cruise ship.” Chloe’s mother, Kim Wiegand adds, “There are a million things that could’ve been done to make that safer.”

Perhaps that’s true. However, the number one thing that could and should have been done to keep the toddler girl safe is not making the decision to put her on the railing in the first place. Clearly, the railing is NOT intended for children to be climbing on or set upon, and clearly glass windows were never meant to be banged upon. Why in the hell would anyone ever encourage their child to bang on a glass window in the first place? At best, it’s noisy and annoying. At worst, it can lead to a terrible injury or death.

Let me be clear. I am glad Mr. Anello is not going to be serving any jail time. He took a plea deal, so he will be on probation for three years in his home state of Michigan. I think that’s a just punishment. I don’t think he’s a bad person and I don’t think he will reoffend. And I am absolutely certain that this accident has been devastating on many levels. However, I do think it’s in very bad taste to sue Royal Caribbean, unless the family is ONLY doing it to get the cruise line to change policies, and not looking for a payday. There is no doubt in my mind that Royal Caribbean executives are already doing what they can to idiot proof their ships even more against people like Salvatore Anello, who apparently lost his grip on common sense while cruising. He says he wasn’t drinking. Thank God for that. If Anello makes these kinds of decisions while sober, I would hate to see what he does when he’s been drinking alcohol.

Chloe Wiegand would probably still be alive if her grandfather had not made the poor decision to put her on that railing… a place that is clearly not intended to be sat upon or walked on by anyone, especially children. She probably would not have died if he hadn’t decided to encourage her to bang on glass, as if she was at a hockey game. My God… they were on a mass market cruise line! Couldn’t they have participated in some other safe, kid-friendly, cruise line approved and promoted activity?

I have only cruised on Royal Caribbean once, but I know from that experience that there are many child friendly activities. If Chloe had gotten hurt or killed while taking part in a child friendly activity that was previously deemed safe, maybe I could see her family’s decision to hold Royal Caribbean responsible. But she wasn’t. She was doing something that she shouldn’t have been doing, mainly because the adult responsible for her care was negligent. Or, at least, that is the impression I get when I read about this sad case. Nowhere have I read that Royal Caribbean encourages people to put toddlers on railings eleven stories up from the dock. Most people have enough common sense not to do that. Most people don’t need that much idiot proofing.

Having written all of that, I do feel very sorry for Chloe’s family. I’m sure this was heartbreaking for them. They will never, ever forget it, and life will never be the same as it was. I’m sure they feel guilty. Or, I hope they do. If I were one of them, I think I’d be very ashamed of myself on many levels. But I would also feel sad beyond belief and, if I know myself, I’d probably wonder if I wanted to go on living. Hell, I wonder that now, and I don’t even have children. I might be angry that there was no glass in the window, but when it came down to it, I think I’d know that I shouldn’t have put a toddler on a railing and encouraged her to bang on non-existent glass. That’s just stupid. But, if the family’s goal was to make cruise lines dream up more disclaimers and liability waivers for passengers, I think they succeeded. And, if it makes them feel better, I’m sure Royal Caribbean will make sure to put glass in all windows… and hang more signs and make more rules. That’s if the business survives the pandemic.

Speaking of idiocy and the pandemic… this morning I read an opinion piece in The Washington Post by Michele L. Norris, who seems dismayed that there were a bunch of optical illusions and cardboard cutouts of people in the stands at the Super Bowl. Ms. Norris expressed disapproval that the show was engineered to make it look like the stadium, which holds 65,000 people, was packed with happy fans cheering at the annual football game.

This year, thanks to COVID-19, there weren’t many people watching the game live. Norris writes that there were only 25,000 fans at the game, 7,500 of whom were vaccinated healthcare workers. Fans who weren’t able to make the game were allowed to pay $100 to have cardboard cutouts of themselves put in the seats. They could then check the “fan cam” to see their cardboard visages on camera.

Norris writes that this plan, which was supposed to give the illusion of a packed stadium, caused America to “suffer a loss”. She writes that we’re long used to not seeing packed stands. And the message should have been to “stay home and stay safe”. Evidently, this is more important than ever, since the game was played in Tampa, Florida, where people have been very lax about COVID-19 guidelines.

I don’t actually give a shit about the Super Bowl. I don’t watch it, even when there isn’t a pandemic. And I agree that people should be encouraged to be safe and responsible about preventing the spread of COVID-19. But I want to know– does Michele Norris really think that seeing stands with cardboard cut outs of fans is encouraging Americans to break COVID-19 protocol? Really?

I don’t know about you, but I have about had it with all the preaching and shaming about COVID-19. I really have. That’s not the same as not taking the virus seriously. I do take it seriously and have from the beginning of this fiasco. It’s true that I hate the masks and rarely wear them, but that’s because I’m ALWAYS AT HOME. If I weren’t always at home, I would follow the rules. I would hate following the rules, but I would comply with them. And it would not bother me at all, if I cared about football, to see a bunch of cardboard cutouts of people at the Super Bowl, nor would I care that the sound of the crowds were augmented to enhance the effects. We know a pandemic is going on. It’s been hammered in our heads for months. I don’t think seeing cardboard cutouts of fans is going to make the COVID situation worse. That’s just dumb.

I think, if I was going to complain about something related to the Super Bowl, it might be the creepy jockstrap halftime show. Yes, I know they weren’t jockstraps on the performers’ faces, but so many people thought they looked like jockstraps. I saw photos of the spectacle. It doesn’t look appealing to me. But then, pretty much everything about live entertainment and sports events has been fucked up this year. I don’t think I would be outraged over the illusion of a packed stadium. People are starved for fun. I know I am. But then, maybe Michele L. Norris has a point… maybe Americans really do require idiot proofing more than other people do. After all, a company is being sued because a grandfather wanted to let his 18 month old granddaughter bang on glass while on an eleventh story railing.

Featured photo is of me, in the buff at an Austrian death trap. We had a ball! No lifeguard on duty… and none required.

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