Who Are You To Tell Me I Can’t Complain?

A look back at the week by a conscientious objector to two crappy candidates, and a look forward to a potential 2020 run for the big house.

With the general elections in the books, the country can now rejoice in the knowledge that our Sunday afternoon football games will no longer suffer the endless intrusions of political commercials. Hillary did this…Donald did that…and here in Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey and Katie McGinty will no longer poison our minds with their constant bitching and backstabbing during their contentious Senate race. From here on out, it will be up to NFL officials to ruin a good game with their constant throwing of flags. Come to think of it, they’re really not flags, more like little yellow hankies. Maybe if we required them to call them hankies, they wouldn’t throw so many. After all, flags are to be revered and respected, hankies are something you blow your nose into, which conveniently is also the universal gesture you make when something stinks. As in that call…

Now, hopefully you’re still here and will allow me to vent my spleen about the results of this week. Did you know the spleen was the organ associated with ill humor and melancholy; don’t know why, I’m 56 years old and wouldn’t know what my spleen looks like if you breaded it, fried it in oil and served it to me with my favorite vegetable. Anywho, that stuff earlier about the NFL officials was just the tip of my  proverbial iceberg of complaints. My family and the two or three friends I have know that sometimes I tend to be a little cranky. Really, it’s true. But there’s something I hear constantly now, especially after Donald Trump’s improbable win over Hillary and it’s this…

…”If you didn’t vote, then you’ve got no right to complain about what happens to you.” Well now, ain’t that special. And pure bullshit. It seems some of you Constitution experts have forgotten just how this place works, not to mention the rights afforded citizens with the very First Ammendment to our Constitution…

Congress (nor my fellow citizens*) shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

*I put in this part.

Nowhere in that ammendment does the phrase “as long as you vote” exist. Putting our constitutional rights aside, how you vote, who you vote for, and if you vote, can also come down simply to your moral compass. And with Hillary and Donald, moral compass played a big part in how and who people voted for this year; or whether they chose to vote or abstain based on their own set of morals. And your fellow citizens certainly have no right to tell you which direction your moral compass should pointing. I have a friend (he would be 1 of the 3) and co-worker who is a Consevative/Tea Party/Dem hating Green Eggs & Ham guy (you know who you are), but he was kind enough to not look down on me in that Sean Hannity kind of way, but to understand and take pity on me and my reason for abstention. Questions for discussion: How does a fiscally responsible conservative vote for a guy who sits in a gold chair?, has filed bankruptcy no less than four times?, who so misunderstood the financial climate and downward spiral of Atlantic City and its casinos?, how could he have so overestimated the weight of his last name and his ability to secure bank loans for construction, forcing him to use high interest rate junk bonds to finance his erection…

of the Taj Mahal Casino?

But wait, there’s more. As a citizen, I’ve met most of the lofty expectations of We the People, which grants me the right to not only free speech , hell I can even begin my own 2020 campaign for the White House, thereby allowing me to pollute the landscape with signs heralding my candidacy. As a precursor to my potential 2020 run, and to save both the liberal and the conservative media time, I can at this time state that:

I pay my fair share of taxes (guess I’m just stupid); I make payment for the goods and services I purchase to the persons and businesses I purchase them from, at the agreed upon price and without the relief of bankruptcy to discharge those debts (can el-presidente elect say that?); I’ve committed no crimes (felonies) recently; unlike our elected officials I provide my employer a good day’s work for a good day’s pay (although we both might disagree on exactly what we provide each other); and I respect the rights of my neighbors to throw loud all-night pool parties to which I am not invited; I respect the rights of my neighbors dogs to do their numbers 1 & 2 in my yard (actually I really hate that one and once in the White House there will be no more of that); I’m not stingy giving out Halloween candy (I have the best chocolates); I drive responsibly but irritatingly slow; I give money to my church whenever I’m there; I donate freely to my favorite charities like St. Jude Children’s Hospital & Research Center as well as the Variety Club; last year I personally worked to raise almost $12,000 in support of the great work they do at St. Jude (I’m also back at it again this year); my wife and I have raised and educated two responsible citizens of this country; and even though I’ve not been called recently, I would be more than happy to serve on a jury that allows me to throw any of my current neighbors in the hoosegow, especially the ones with the loud pool parties and the dogs who seem to be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome whenever they walk by my house. (Once in the White House, they can then beg me for forgiveness and a Presidential Pardon. It won’t be anywhere near that easy.)

So my fellow Americans, I reserve the right to complain about our leaders, their policies, and their erections, regardless of my voting history and whether I chose to put them there or not (just our leaders and policies, once in office my first job will be to make sure our leaders are never permitted to have erections of any kind). Our Constitution and Country guarantee me those rights, and I will exercise them until they pull this iPad from my cold dead hands.

Lofty

Swapping Votes? That’s Really A Thing?

It’s finally here. Let’s just hope the outcome tomorrow doesn’t lead to a civil war.

When it comes to the rules of politics and voting in this country, I’ll admit, you won’t find many more clueless than I am. I don’t argue the 2nd Ammendment all that well, and I definitely can’t tell you how to fix the Affordable Healthcare Act. But this week I learned just how out of touch I am when I started reading about vote swapping and how that’s been going on since 2000. 

The concept is somewhat easy to understand, and now with the proliferation of social media sites like Facebook and the development of apps that can match you with a vote trading partner, it may actually someday, in some battleground state, make a difference. The idea of vote swapping emerged during the Bush-Gore Presidential Election of 2000, in where else, Florida. Democratic leaders in the state pleaded with followers of consumer advocate and third party candidate Ralph Nader to not waste their votes on Nader. As the election day got closer, websites promising Gore support in Florida in exchange for Nader votes in traditionally strong Democrat voting states started to pop up. 

Other than the obvious “make your vote count” argument, another part of these vote swapping agreements is in securing federal funding in future elections for a third party like the Green or Libertarian parties. The major party candidate gets a battleground state vote from a third party voter, and the third party candidate gets a vote in a state in which they wouldn’t have counted on one and which has no effect on the outcome of the election other than to help push the third party vote total to the 5% required nationally for the future funding. I can understand how this whole vote swapping process sounds irksome and a bit smarmy, especially to Donald Trump and his supporters who believe his arguments of a rigged election, the thing to remember is there are no guarantees the swap will be acted upon by both parties once they hit the voting booth. The swap is nothing more than an exchange of ideas and preferences on who and how the country should be run. It is not a contract and there has been no exchange of money or services (supposedly) between the individuals. And the opportunity exists for both candidates to take strategic advantage of the process. I’m guessing dating websites like eHarmony and Match.com might want to avoid offering future vote swapping services however for all of the obvious legal and social pitfalls.

I don’t know how many of these swap contracts were agreed upon for tomorrow’s election, or if they would even have any bearing on the results of the election, but with two candidates who are held in contempt by so many Americans, the potential is there for voters to want to make their vote count more than ever. It’s your choice.

image

Irksome

Donald, Hillary & Just One Positive Thing

At the end of the day, did they make us believe their answers to a truly pointless question?

Anyone who chose not to or was unable to watch the 2nd Presidential Debate last night missed one of the more heartwarming moments of the campaign. It was without question however none of these…

No…Bill didn’t share an I’ve Missed You Hug with the targets of his former dalliances, conveniently seated nearby thanks to some last minute seating arrangements.

No…Grandmom Hillary didn’t invite the grandkids up on stage after the debate to watch their mother, Chelsea, reprise her role of the Favorite Aunt in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

No…Hillary didn’t give a special shout-out to FBI Director James Comey thanking him for all of his years of service…and for looking the other way on all those emails.

No…Hillary didn’t invite all of Donald’s  Deplorables on stage to apologize and then send them lovingly away with a slice of Grandmom Hillary’s Apple Pie.

No…Donald didn’t promise if elected he would pardon away Hillary deleting those emails. In fact, he pledged to hire a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary and throw her in jail if warranted (much to the delight of his supporters I’m sure).

No…Donald didn’t invite all of Mexico over to his place for a Cinco de Mayo festival next year. Not even the good ones as he likes to call them.

No…The former students of Trump U did not come on stage to thank The Donald for the world class education they received at his university. 

And No…New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did not step on stage to tell Donald it was all a big misunderstanding, that the notice to stop fundraising he sent to the Donald J. Trump Foundation was just for laughs.

What you would have seen and heard in this sometimes out-of-control town hall meeting was a question straight out of a marriage encounter retreat…or from my 4th grade school teacher after she broke up a fight between me and my no longer best friend Danny Kelly on the playground.

The final question of the night’s political pillow fight (you know what I mean, everyone swings real hard but nobody really gets hurt) came from Undecided Voter Karl Becker, who asked the two candidates;

“My question to both of you is, regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”

Here is where Donald absolutely outshines Hillary. His answer, no matter how insincere it was, actually was mostly complimentary and somewhat thought out. Hillary on the other hand, refused to compliment Trump himself, choosing the more indirect route of saying he had great kids.

From Hillary:

“Look, I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald. I don’t agree with nearly anything else he says or does, but I do respect that. I think that is something that as a mother and a grandmother is very important to me.” Say what you want about her, but she didn’t fall into the trap of praising her opponent directly.

And then Mr. Trump dove right into the pool without his water wings:

“She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. I tell it like it is. She’s a fighter,” Trump said. “I disagree with much of what she’s fighting for. I do disagree with her judgment in many cases. But she does fight hard, and she doesn’t quit, and she doesn’t give up. And I consider that to be a very good trait.”

Trump then politely thanked Clinton for her disingenuous flattery of his children (it was that obvious), and Hillary then silently thanked Trump for supplying the next sound bite in her TV and radio ads.

 Flattery

Frederick X vs. We The People

We The People and Mr. Unremarkable battle another tyrannical King and his Intolerable Acts.

This is an Unremarkable work of fiction. Whether you believe it to be a work of historical fiction or a story created in the mind of an angry, Unremarkable old man is up to you. The resemblance of any individuals or corporations in this work to actual individuals or corporations is purely coincidental and in the imagination of the reader. Angry, Unremarkable old men occasionally need a villain to blame for the injustices which make them angry. Sometimes that villain is a king.

When in the course of human events…it sometimes becomes necessary for the rabble to rise up and challenge the financial strains placed on them by a king who resides far from their homes, yet uses them to enrich his vast coffers. That ruler, who sneers down from on high at those he believes not worthy, is FREDERICK X, from here forward referred to as FRED X, and who besides being an iron-fisted monarch, was a no-good, money-grubbing, glory-hound of a businessman.

And he was smart. Fred X surrounded himself with cut throats, lackeys, yes-men, idea-men, both good and bad, and a horde of lawyers to defend those good and bad ideas. It seems the only thing Fred X’s castle didn’t have were mirrors with which to look yourself in the face, and a singing conscious-guiding cricket. But even with all of the aforementioned pirates to help guide and defend his business, there was one thing that perplexed Fred X, how could he make the rabble pay his taxes and expenses from said business? His lackeys were stumped, his yes-men agreed with him…but thought he was crazy, and his idea men were clueless. It wasn’t until the cut throats met with the lawyers over lattes at a local coffee emporium that a solution was found.

And here born was the Independent Contractor. Independent as in refusing to be under obligation to others and contractor meaning someone who is party to a contract. This position the cut-throats and lawyers reasoned…as much as cut-throats and lawyers can reason, would sign what they laughingly termed an operating agreement to work for Fred X, and only Fred X, and in return Fred X would give them their own territory, a protected primary area of service it could be called. Those who bought into this skullduggery would think themselves entrepreneurs, like fools they would pay the king’s taxes, absorb some of his expenses, they would wear Fred X’s colors and display his coat of arms, and they work from sun up until sun down and later with not so much as a hint of overtime pay or paid time off.

Fred X was beside himself with delight. The cut-throats and the lawyers had done it. And as thanks he would give the cut-throats the new title of Contractor Relations. The lawyers he knew would get their enjoyment finding new ways to plunder future Contractor earnings. He would also allow them to discharge his yes-men. They would have fun doing that, and if needed he could hire new yes-men later. And most important, those zany financial talking heads would adore his company and heap praise upon the genius that was Fred X.

Like all great rebellions, it’s not exactly known where or when its seeds were sewn. Employee unions and Fred X’s largest competitor spent time and money railing against the Independent Contractor model. We The People were not businesses they screamed, but simply mis-classified employees being used by the king. And as the word spread, more and more lawyers around the country arrived in courts to sue Fred X for his terrible mis-treatment of The People… and to put their own hands into the pockets of The People. Lawsuits were filed in far away courts on the left coast, still others combined multiple locations and jurisdictions into one bundle to be ruled on by learned judges of higher courts.

“We strongly disagree with the challenges to the Independent Contractor scheme”, Fred X and his lawyers repeated over and over again. But legal challenges  to the king’s business model mounted and the lawyers soon saw the hair on the wart that was the Independent Contractor lie. So the lawyers and the cut-throats met once more over lattes and came up with another business scheme. This one they called PIS, short for Provider of Independent Service.

This time even Fred X was initially taken aback by the level of deceit the lawyers and cut-throats had established. Their new business plot was both brilliant and devious and oozed with the legal sliminess only the most talented lawyers could invent. Single service area contractors, the backbone of the Independent Contractor model will be required to purchase additional areas of service or sell out to other providers. If they are unable to do so…we will thank them for their years of service and financial investment, take back their service area and assign it to a different provider. And all of this legal jibber-jabber will allow us to announce that we are no longer working with Individual Contractors and that we only work with businesses that use employees. The owners of these new employing-using businnesses will be allowed to negotiate with Fred X the value of their services. And, here is the best part, these new businesses will sign away their right to sue Fred X in the future as part of the PIS scam. Past lawsuits with The People could now be settled for pennies on the dollar. Fred X nearly passed out as he sat upon his golden chair, thankfull there were no mirrors upon which to look himself in the face or singing crickets offering conscious-guiding advice.

But this my friends may not be the end of this tale, this assault on We The People. For many of these businesses Fred X works with are the same Independant Contractors he abused before, just re-branded to fit into the king’s new PIS model. How long will it be until they experience the same level of displeasure with Fred X’s new model? How long will it be before they learn the art of contract negotiation with Fred X, which is to say, no matter how much you value your business contribution to Fred X, it will be the king and his court of jesters who will determine your worth to the king. How long will it be until dissension among The People sets in as they learn through the grapevine the value of one business vs. another?

And now, in a Podunk little town in the southeast corner of the newly re-named territory of Wentzylvania, new voices cried out to just themselves. Older voices, long-time servants of  Fred X, disturbed by the amount the bundled lawsuits were settled for. If We The People were indeed employees of Fred X, then these settlements come nowhere close to our investments into the King’s business. The attorneys in the action of We The People vs. Frederick X had settled, and We The People had been weighed on the scales of justice…and have been found wanting. Congratulations King Fred, the riches of the kingdom remain yours…but don’t spend them all in one place. This isn’t over until We The People say it’s over!

 

PA House Bill 1947…

…and the protests of the Catholic Church.

I never planned to use this blog site as a forum for a discussion on social or political issues. However, events in Harrisburg last week and at the church I attend have given me a reason to reconsider that plan.

The issue at hand is PA Houuse Bill 1947 which amends current child sex crime laws in the state. The bill was overwhelmingly passed (180-15) by the House in April and discussions in the Senate were held last week, much to the dismay of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania.

The Bill and my understanding of it:

House Bill 1947 would allow any survivor of child sexual abuse who has not yet reached age 50 to seek civil justice and file a lawsuit against perpetrators of sexual abuse and other responsible parties which permitted the abuse-i.e., a priest and a diocese or a teacher and a public school district. The current civil statute of limitations gives victims until only age 30 to bring a civil lawsuit.

House Bill 1947 would also eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sexual abuse crimes going forward, and would eliminate state law immunity for public schools which act in a negligent manner in permitting the sexual abuse of children.

To sum it up: Both Public and Private sectors would be liable both civilly and criminally for all sexual abuse crimes until the victim reaches the age of 50 once the bill is signed into law. But, only private sector institutions, such as the Catholic Church could be held retroactively, possibly allowing many out-of-date suits to now be filed and opening the Church up to additional financial liability. In addition, the threshold for suing public institutions are lower than those in the private sector due to the law of sovereign immunity.

Recently many churches in our Archdiocese read a letter from Archbishop Charles Chaput voicing the church’s objections to the bill from a political and financial viewpoint.

Before I start to comment on this, I’ll give you my personal disclaimer: I am not Catholic. My wife is however, and we’ve raised our kids as Catholic. I attend church almost every Sunday, however I chose not to convert to Catholocism for personal reasons.

I will include some excerpts from the letter if you haven’t seen it along with my thoughts on its content and what I feel is its meaning. I found the content of the letter to be an insult to my intelligence and obviously, extremely self-serving:

“A bill is currently pending in our state senate, HB 1947, that poses serious dangers for all of our local parishes and for the ministries, charities and schools of our archdiocesan Church.”

  • Is Archbishop Chaput telling us that due to the possibility of increased financial liability from victims of clergy abuse that church programs may be cut and churches or schools closed? And why if money is donated through the church to fund a specific charity, would that money go anywhere other than to that charity?

“…and especially to oppose any retroactivity provision in the civil statute of limitation covering sexual abuse.”

  • Eliminating the retroactivity portion of the bill would eliminate any currently out of date civil liability. The church would clearly benefit financially from maintaining the current statute of limitations. The Archbishop doesn’t even mention the criminal portion of the bill which tells me the objections are clearly driven by money.

“All of us are rightly angered by the crime of sexual abuse. Over the past decade the Church has worked very hard to support survivors in their healing, to protect our children and to root this crime out of Church life.”

  • The church has absolutely worked harder to make children safer. Parishioners who take part in ministries such as the CCD Program and other ministries are now screened more responsibly and must be certified that they have not been charged or convicted of this heinous crime. As for Priests or Deacons, I don’t know what the process is, I only hope it is enough to weed out any child predators.

“The problem with HB 1947 is its prejudicial content. It covers both public and religious institutions — but in drastically different and unjust ways. The bill fails to support all survivors of abuse equally, and it’s a clear attack on the Church, her parishes and her people.”

  • Simple question. Would the church be satisfied if the bill inPublic and government institutions are covered by the laws of Sovereign Immunity. It’s not a new concept and the church knows that. They choose to ignore it however in any discussions of the bill. Today, the general rule is that public institutions such as our state and federal government have immunity from actions that arise while carrying out their official government duties. Otherwise, most claims aren’t precluded by sovereign immunity. If I understand this, would child molestation be included in carrying out official government duties? Would the Vatican enjoy the laws of Foreign Sovereign Immunity? It does, and don’t think they won’t use it. HB1947 is not an attack on Catholic parishioners. Predator priests and the criminal actions of hiding them by church hierarchy are however.

“This is not just an archdiocesan problem. In other states where similar legislation passed, local parishes have been sued, resulting in parish and school closures and charity work being crippled.”

  • Is that because the courts have already ruled on the constitutionality of recent changes in other states? They did and it is. And again, the Archbishop uses the threat of school and parish closures as a result of this bill passing and not the abusive acts or mismanagement of the church. He doesn’t get it.

“Please act now to contact your senator, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and urge them to oppose HB 1947 and any effort to impose civil statute retroactivity.”

  • Again, only mention of the civil portion, or the financial liability of the bill, not the criminal portion. As I said earlier, I think this is just totally and wholly a money issue. In the past insurance companies may have paid for part of any past settlements, but there is a growing sentiment that these actions are deliberate and heinous and should not be covered under a church insurance policy. For once, I agree with the insurance industry.

This bill is a Pennsylvania House Bill, however similar bills have already been passed in other states including California, Minnesota, and Delaware. 

In an article written by The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, a Catholic advocacy group, and posted on their website:

“In Delaware, where a retroactive law was adopted, more than half of the individual parishes in the state were sued. One parish in Delaware was hit with a verdict of over $3 million. Very few could afford to go to court; none were able to defend themselves on their own. Financially, they had no choice but to join a group settlement without establishing the facts of individual cases. The Diocese of Wilmington had to close two struggling inner-city Catholic schools because diocesan funds were drained paying out settlements. The diocese had to lay off 10 percent of its workforce, and shut down or severely cut back on its Catholic Charities programs that help all people regardless of creed.”

Two immediate questions come to mind. Were the displaced students transported to a different parish school (on public school buses, which is what happened at our parish), and again, why would the Catholic Charities program be affected. Up to 65% of the money received by them comes from the federal government. Is PCC saying the money was used for paying lawsuits incurred by the church because of its predator priests? If so, the government needs to investigate its relationship with the church. In my opinion, that action borders on the criminal.

The sexual abuse of children in this country continues to be a hot button topic, unlikely to go away anytime soon. And it shouldn’t. The abusive actions and cover-ups at both Penn State University  and the Catholic Church should not be forgotten. No matter what your opinion of HB1947, take the time to understand the issues involved and the ramifications of any law changes that might take place in your state.

The opinions I have expressed are mine alone based on how I understand HB1947 and interpret the letter from Archbishop Chaput. Please feel free to comment, agree or disagree, on the contents of the bill and/or the letter.