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

Take Down Those Lights and Put That Tree Away!

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

It happens every year and the older I get the worse it gets. It could be a neighbor, maybe a Target or a Kohl’s, or even a grocery store. The Christmas season envelope gets pushed further and advertised earlier than it ever has in the past. Raise your hand if you’ve already seen a TV commercial or department store display aimed at potential Christmas shoppers. Enough already, I haven’t even given out my first fortune cookie for Halloween yet. It is amazing how many of these you can save up after a year of eating take-out Chinese food. If you were a kid which would you choose, the cookie that could explain your future or some nasty old pennies wrapped in Saran Wrap and tied with orange ribbon? The cookie I’ll bet.

The point, which I’ve obviously lost track of, is I’m a kid from the 1960’s and for me, October through December was defined by the celebration of three events, Halloween and the preceding night, Mischief Night,  Thanksgiving and all of the creative ways to cook left-over turkey, and Christmas with all of its toys and the birth of our Savior. I would be a liar if I told you as a kid the birth of Jesus ranked ahead of getting a year’s worth of new toys. Anyway, with each of these three important events, there were TV specials that defined that holiday and triggered a series of events culminating in Christmas and the just as important, Winter Break in the Evesham Township School District. And the birth of our Savior.

Charlie Brown and the other apparently parent-less Peanuts kids had no competition when it came to shows celebrating the joy of Halloween or the feast that was Thanksgiving and the importance of having enough bread to make all of that toast. Or for wandering the neighborhood at all times of the night. A Charlie Brown Christmas had much more competition, but even at my advanced age remains my favorite, sorry Grinch, mostly because we both have Beagles. Maybe if Max were a beagle I would feel differently.

My point is, each of these holidays owned a portion of the calendar, not to be infringed upon by either of the other two. You didn’t make out your Christmas list or mail your Christmas cards at Halloween, you didn’t wear your Halloween costume at the Thanksgiving dinner table (unless you were an Indian or a pilgrim for Halloween, then you could probably pull it off), and your parents didn’t start decorating the house for Christmas until at least after the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing were disposed of during the long 4-day weekend. In my parents house, the end of the Thanksgiving holiday signaled my father to send a kid up in the attic to retrieve the outdoor Christmas lights and to go into the garage and retrieve the 4 x 8 sheet of plywood he used to begin the month long construction of the train platform my family enjoyed every year.

If you’re still wondering the reasons for this semi-incoherent rant; it would be the neighbor who this week I saw has already put out Christmas lights. No, they’re not Halloween lights, these are the red, blue, and green lights of Christmas, not the orange lights one would expect in October.

And the small package Halloween costumes I used to deliver have been replaced by giant artificial Christmas trees. Already. In October. Before Thanksgiving even.

And the oversized Amazon boxes containing the biggest toy a parent can buy. No, not big as in popular, big as in the bigger the toy, the more a parent must really love their child. Whatever happened to love comes in smaller boxes? And nothing says love like a nice 6-pack of tube socks or underwear.

And the endless arguments about stores opening or not on Thanksgiving Day. How about retailers (and FedEx and UPS) give employees Black Friday off as well. Consumers will still spend their hard earned money 24 hours later. You can call it Cafe Noir Saturday which is the color of brewed coffee, but still a shade of black. Think of the impact to the coffee industry from  consumers saying Cafe Noir Saturday instead of just Black Friday.

I’m not trying to dictate how people should enjoy their holidays because not enough people will even read this to make a difference. People should do as they please no matter how over the top it appears. And if you’re the only one in you’re neighborhood who already has their Christmas lights up, I would be willing to bet you’re neighbors are saying the same thing, just behind your back.

It’s not Halloween yet and I’m already pushing burnout from the overselling of Christmas. 

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Giant

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.