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New Baltimore Property Taxes: Absolutely No Rhyme, Reason, or Answers!!!

The New Baltimore Board of Assessment Review met on Grievance Day, May 22, 2018, and the Final Tax Roll was published on July 1, 2018.

The Office of the Sole Assessor, currently occupied by Mr. Gordon Bennett (an employee of the Town), and the New Baltimore Board of Assessment Review (all appointees by the current Town board) is representative of the rest of New Baltimore’s dog-and-pony act, their excuse for Town government: Complete Incompetence and Ignorance!!!

Grievance Day is also a dog-and-pony act, where a gang of five appointees sit and demonstrate how ignorant and poorly qualified they are for determining the quality of property assessments in the Town of New Baltimore. The assessor sits by and listens, not contributing much in the way of assisting the poor wretches or preventing them from making complete asses of themselves and taxpayers!

Here’s this year’s tally of stupidity based on documents provided by the Town of New Baltimore and the official taped recordings of the New Baltimore Board of Assessment Reveiw of hearings held on Grievance Day, May 22, 2018, at New Baltimore Town Hall:

Shyster Michael Biscone of Ravena, apparently a bosom buddy of Mr. Bennett, since they are on a first-name basis, even in an official proceeding like Grievance Day, represents two property owners before the Board of Assessment Review, and presents their cases in a rambling fashion, so you have to pay close attention to understand the bottom line on the tapes. [Editor’s Note: For those of our readers, we are providing links to the Greene County online Property Tax Information website, where you can read everything about the properties we’re discussing. It’s all public access. Just click the links in the text below to go to the property information. The link to the main page, where you can search properties by municipality, tax map number, last name, first name, etc. is Greene County Search. ]

The first property is on Roberts Hill Road (565 Roberts Hill Rd, West Coxsackie NY 12192); it’s actually two properties that were once one but was divided in order to sell them. One has a house on it sitting on three acres (Tax Map No. 28.00-2-31.2). The other portion is 37 acres of undeveloped property (Tax Map No. 28.00-2-31.1). Mr. Biscone, on behalf of David Hales, whom he refers to as a “fine young man,” argues that the two properties should be assessed as one. He also admits that Grievance Day is not the place to argue his reasons but he does so anyway. Hales purchased the property in 2017 for $206,000. Bennett assessed the property for $210,000. The New Baltimore Board of Assessment Review, practically no questions asked, reduced Hales’ assessment by $49,000. Why? You’ll never know.

The second property is an interesting case. Again, it’s presented by shyster Biscone and is a property owned by William Brant, who, by the way, gives his address as 72 Brownstone Way, Apt. 410, Englewood, New Jersey (!), and owns the property on US Rt. 9W, between the Best Western and New Baltimore Family Dentistry (Tax Map No. 40.00-4-2.111). He’s had his plan for a for-profit senior living project that has been before the New Baltimore Planning Board for several years now, and has finally gotten approval. If you drive down US Route 9W going South, you’ll come to the Best Western Hotel, and then New Baltimore Family Dentistry. The Brant property is between the hotel and the dentists there’s a cute little cottage sitting in the middle of the field (that’s the Brant property) . In fact, you can see the temporary road leading into the property, where construction preps are being done. Looking towards the back of the property is a small building, a “well house” that is discussed below.

The property is assessed at $120,000 land value, but Biscone somehow convinces the New Baltimore Board of Assessment Review that it’s overassessed at $70,000 because of a “well house.” Biscone argues on behalf of Brant that the “well house cost” Brant only $27,000 but Bennett has assessed it at $70,000. If you’re lost here, don’t worry, it doesn’t make sense unless you listen to the tapes about 3 times. It’s a smoke and mirrors act and works for Biscone and Brant because the BAR buys it and reduces Brant’s assessment by $25,000. You’d think the members of the BAR would have the property tax reports in front of them to follow along but Hey! If they did that they might have smelled a rat and caught it. But that would be asking too much of a bunch of sillies trying to look important.

One tidbit that Biscone drops is that he will “drop off a number of receipts” that would prove what he was saying (not that Michael Biscone was ever concerned with the truth). But he never had to do that because the BAR made their decision to reduce the assessment that evening, on May 22, 2018, without the benefit of any proof or documentation.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that Biscone mentions that one of the contractors, whose receipts he was going to produce, is none other than Robert van Etten, New Baltimore Town Board member Shelly van Etten’s husband. What’s even more interesting is that van Etten, who owns an excavation-construction business located in Ravena, New York (only per the address), is the chairman of the New Baltimore Planning Board (and of the New Baltimore Town Committee on Agriculture)!!! Yes, readers, that’s the same Planning Board that kept Brant’s application in Limbo for several years and only just approved it! Does anyone smell something like conflict of interest here? Corruption? Stupidity?

Does anyone wonder Why? Mr. Brant got his Planning Board approval for his project after so many years of hassle? Just saying …

Case No. 3 is a property owner whose primary residence is in Long Island and who owns a property on North Ridge Road in Hannacroix. 2 acres with a 1 family house on it. Mr. Crimeni, whose primary address is 48 Lace Lane, Westbury, NY, is crying poverty. You see, he thinks his assessment is too high and he’s paying too much in taxes for his weekend country estate, comparing his New Baltimore taxes to his $8,000 Long Island taxes. Crimeni’s property (Tax Map No. 4.00-3-20)  full market value is $195,000 and is assessed at $145,000 but Crimeni is still not satisfied. (There seems to be some confusion also in the tax records because on one page for the same property we find the full market value to be $195,000 and on another page we find that value to be $116,000. It also shows it to be a 1-family house but the house has 0 living space! Maybe there’s an explanation for this?) Anyway, Rocco Crimeni co-owns the property with Nicola Crimeni (apparently his brother) and to listen to their story and compare it to the tax records is like, well, it’s like pure steaming bullshit. The original assessment was on a full market value of $195,000 which was assessed by Bennett at $145,000 for the 2 acres and the house. After the BAR heard Mr. Crimeni’s sad story we find that the assessment for the 2 acres and the house was reduced to a full market value of $119,298, and an assessed value for 2018 of $85,000, total tax bill of $ ??? The final assessment is $85,000, a total reduction of $60,000 !!! Great job, Ms Degnen and company!

Just for kicks and giggles, here are a couple of excerpts from the Crimeni hearing:

Crimeni: There was a trailer on the property and it burned down because of a wood stove we had there.

Crimeni: We purchased an Amish house for $38,000…the Amish people built it…it’s a shell…We’re finishing it ourselves.

Crimeni: We’re not rich people … the disparity in Mr. Bennett’s assessment is tremendous…We have a house on Long Island…and the taxes are $8000…

Degnen: You said it was a shed…[Editor’s Note: Crimeni did not say it was a “shed”, he said it was a “shell”! Degnan makes many such mistakes throughout the hearings. Is she hard of hearing or just demented?]…What are the dimensions?

Crimeni: 26 x 28, 2-story…We don’t have the money to finish it.

Degnen: Are you living there now? [Editor’s Note: Apparently Degnen missed the part where Crimeni says he lives on Long Island. She also hasn’t done her homework or she would know that Crimeni’s primary address is on Lace Lane, Westbury, NY!!!] … Do you have water and electricity? [Again, Degnen, homework? Familiarity with properties?]

BAR Member: Do you have the amounts of houses near you…did you bring the houses near you? [Editor’s Note: Apparently the BAR member is asking if Crimeni has any comparables, that is, information on similar properties in New Baltimore. The BAR member should know she should have these or could get them online in a couple of seconds. We did! In fact, if you go to the Greene County link we provided, enter the tax map number and go to the property page, you’ll be able to see the comparables for the property. Here’s the page for the Crimeni property:  Comparables.]

Crimeni: We ran out of money…We don’t have no money … We can’t afford this … [Editor’s Note: Here comes the best one: ] … We don’t live up here!

Hi, I’m the village crazy lady, and I’m on the Board of Assessment Review.

Now don’t you just have to sit down and cry hearing a story like Crimeni’s? Well, he apparently tugged at the heart-strings of the BAR because they allowed him a $60,000 reduction in his assessment, no questions asked!!!

For your information, you can find out any information you want on Greene County properties on the Greene County online property tax site, SDG Mate Online, and can search by property tax map number, owner’s name, etc. It’s all public access and available to anyone who is interested. Here’s the site link: Greene County Property Tax Info .

We could go on with the remaining 6 properties that received similar reductions but we’ve made our point. There’s something really wrong in the New Baltimore Assessor’s Office and on the New Baltimore Board of Assessment Review and it needs fixing. We think it’s corruption and collusion because there’s no rhyme, reason, or fair play in these determinations. Here’s why:

Two properties on New Street in the Hamlet have been the subject of a great deal of anxiety and discussion because since late 2016, severe damage was identified. In the one case, runoff from the street caused the collapse of the building foundation, making it unusable. Then Town supervisor Nick Dellisanti (now Deputy Town Supervisor) and then Deputy Town Supervisor Jeff Ruso (now Town Supervisor), together with Town Board member Shelly van Etten, personally inspected the site and identified a number of problems. Two days later Dellisanti, Ruso, and then Highway Superintendent Denis Jordan and Deputy Highway Superintendent Scott van Wormer visited the site and confirmed the same problems. After that the New Baltimore Highway Department created new problems and the Town was served with a number of Notices of Claim for the damage. In 2017, the Highway Department and Callanan paved New Street and created a mess. We won’t go into details here but if you want details go to our article: “New Baltimore Superintendent of Highways and Board to be Sued – AGAIN!

Dellisanti and Ruso’s game was “deny and hide,” handing the matter over to the town’s insurance company and their lawyers. Town Law would allow the town to make out-of-court compensation to the owner subject to the approval of a NYS Supreme Court judge but NO! they’d rather force the already traumatized owner to have to go to court and then to the poorhouse. That’s Republican fair play, apparently. No one in Town Hall wants to admit the wrong done. In fact, Dellisanti’s personal notes of a discussion with then Superintendent Jordan records that Jordan’s response to the resident’s request for a meeting was, “Let them sue us!” Apparently Dellisanti and Ruso agreed.

The owner of the property continued paying his taxes like a good citizen even though he couldn’t use the property and the damage was continuing because the Highway Department didn’t know what they were doing and Dellisanti and Ruso didn’t either – or they didn’t have the balls to go after Jordan directly. So the property owner requested a reduction in taxes on the collapsing building and the other impaired property, and appeared before the New Baltimore Board of Assessment Review with a complete written history of the case and numerous photographs showing the damage.

The problems first began when New Baltimore Sole Assessor refused to provide the members of the Board of Assessment Review with copies of the property owners request saying, “It’s not our responsibility.” But it is his responsibility to provide the BAR with copies of all complaints, it’s in the Real Property Tax Law!!! At the Grievance Day hearing, Gordan handed the four members present ONE copy, his file copy, of the requests for reduction of assessment on two properties. The hearing was a complete mess, confusion, the BAR couldn’t follow the conversation and Degnen kept on saying, “That’s not our problem. You have to go to the Highway Department,” and had to be repeatedly reminded that the information was being provided for background only, so the Board would understand the history of the problem. Degnen just couldn’t get it. The rest of the Board had no idea what the property was.  By the way, New York Real Property Tax Law requires the Board of Assessment Review to be familiar with the properties they are considering. They were not, which was obvious already in the Hales, Brant and Crimeni cases.

The bottom line: The New Baltimore Board of Assessment Review made all their decisions that evening, during the 4 hours they were hearing 11 case presentations, and did not adjourn to reconsider additional information, did not go into executive session to discuss any details of any property, as they should have done, did not request additional information, and refused to inspect the property. They approved 9 out of the 11 cases for reductions of between $12,000-$60,000, properties whose owners simply thought they were being taxed (Hales, Brant, Crimini) but the properties that were damaged and destroyed because of Town of New Baltimore negligence got NO CHANGE!!!

The Town of New Baltimore, the Office of the Assessor, and the Board of Assessment Review refuse to respond to inquiries or to answer communications on the subject. New Baltimore public servants at work, it seems. Any questions? You won’t get answers from Town Supervisor Mr. Jeff Ruso, Deputy Supervisor Nick Dellisanti, Highway Committee member Shelly van Etten, Sole Assessor Mr. Bennett, or Board of Assessment Review Chairperson, Donna Degnen.

The board is made up of five appointees including: Donna Degnan, Linda LeClair, Ronna Smith, Lynn Taylor, and This year, the members of the  Board of Assessment Review, chose Donna Degnen to be the chair. The fifth member, Bernard “Bernie” Jones was absent on Grievance Day.

The members of the BAR receive $200 each, and the chair, Ms Degnen, $250, with an additional $50 per meeting for meetings beyond two meetings. So that came out to about $50.00/hr for each of the members of the BAR for the 4-hour Grievance Day hearings. Degnen received an additional $50.00. Total for Grievance Day circus appearances: at least $1050.00 to give away almost $300,000 in property tax reductions, the majority of which were totally unsubstantiated if you listen to the tapes!

The Board of Assessment Review and the Office of the Sole Assessor are just as indifferent and incompetent as the Office of the Supervisor and the New Baltimore Town Board.

We have obtained the taped recordings of the proceedings of the Grievance Day hearings before the Board and can only say that the bowel sounds in a special ed class would make more sense than what we had to listen to in the tapes. Degnen was dithering and the rest seemed intent on making their presence and importance known by asking irrelevant and generally uninformed questions. None of the four Board members were familiar with any of the properties presented. Just a minute, one member, Linda LeClair, was the only member who showed any interest in the properties and the only member who had personal knowledge of a property. That’s a very poor showing.

But the Board did hear presentations on a total of 11 properties and granted reductions in 9 of them. Two properties, one literally collapsing and unusable and the other defaced by former Highway Superintendent Denis Jordan’s incompetence, were left unchanged, despite comprehensive exhibits and a clearly well-founded presentation. We think that there’s some collusion/conspiracy with the Town of New Baltimore and the BAR to avoid admitting any damage to the two properties, since, if any department or agency of the Town of New Baltimore admits the severe damage to the properties, it will cause havoc in Town Hall. Town Hall has been ignoring the damage and trying to discourage the owner from demanding compensation in their usual way, that is, let their insurance company lawyers make any court case impossibly expensive. That’s New Baltimore Town Hall at work. They ask for residents’ votes and then send them to the poorhouse when something goes wrong and the resident asks the Town to be fair and evenhanded. It’s a lousy system.

Several of the 9 reductions stand out as particularly loathsome and examples of the corruption in small town appointed committees. But first of all, let’s look at some general facts:

The assessments in New Baltimore are done on the basis of the Full Market Value and an Equalization Rate is applied. The Equalization Rate is a percentage that is applied to the Full Market Value to arrive at the assessed value. In New Baltimore this year the ER is 71.25% which means that the assessed value of properties this year is 71.25% of the Full Market Value. That’s legit in our estimation. But that’s were the legitimacy stops cold.

The total value of the properties is divided into two items: the land value and the property value (living area, etc.). The problems start with the Sole Assessor’s, Mr. Bennett’s method for determining the land value, which has absolutely no rhyme or reason and, in Bennett’s own words, the basis for determining the land value is, “Because it’s easier.” “Easier?” Yes, it’s easier to just apply a random value per acre than doing an actual calculation. It’s easier for Bennett.

Here are some examples:

In the Town of New Baltimore, Bennett has assigned land values to comparable properties as shown in the examples below:

The wide discrepancy in the Sole Assessor’s land values is one example of a huge irregularity.

The chart shows properties that are in the same area of the town, actually the Hamlet, but if you look at the land assessment, compare it to the acreage, and then to the per acre assessment, you’ll see why we are so up in arms about Bennett’s crazy assessments! They just don’t make sense! How can the land value of a property of 0.18 acre be assessed the same amount as a property of 1.03 acres, that is, a land value of $11,000??? Then have a look at the difference in the proportional value (last column) per acre!

A property on S. Main Street in New Baltimore of 0.05 acre (Total assessment: $56,700, Land assessment: $9,600) has a proportional price per acre of $192,000!!! WTF?!?!

We’ve written to Mr. Bennett several times and he refuses to answer. We’ve also complained to New Baltimore Town Supervisor Jeff Ruso about the fact that his employees and appointees refuse to answer inquiries but he’s refused to respond as well. It appears that when New Baltimore officials feel the heat of unpleasant questions, they tend to hide or ignore questions. (See Ruso’s comments regarding the resident’s letter, above.)

What’s even worse is the fact that the Board of Assessment Review was very generous in granting their friends handsome reductions, while denying reductions to touchy properties, like ones that are impaired because of Town incompetence. Here are the results of the Board’s “deliberations”:

The Board’s reductions ranged from $0 – $120,000 but there’s no logic; the stories behind the reductions are, however, very troubling. For example:

Brant is the developer who has the property on 9W, just behind the New Baltimore Family Dentistry buildings. Brant is a developer and has been planning to develop the property to put in some sort of housing project. He’s complaining because he feels his property is being overassessed. So, moneybags Brant pulls on the heart strings of the Board and they give him a reduction in assessment of $25,000.

Another property owner, Spence, is apparently interested in selling the property but wants a reduction in assessment for some reason. So the board hands Spence a reduction of $12,000.

But the worst example we have to offer from our investigations, listening to the hearing tapes, and reviewing the documents produced by the New Baltimore Board of Assessment Review and their determinations is a property owned by a downstater, Mr. Cremini and his partner:

Cremini owns a primary residence in Long Island and 2 acres in New Baltimore, where he and his partner a building a weekend home, which is livable and has electricity and water. Cremini is crying the blues because his assessment is “too” high. He pays about $8,000 in property tax on hi primary residence in Long Island and, convinced the Board that he can’t afford the taxes on his New Baltimore property. So the board reduces his assessment by $60,000!!!! Cremini lives in a primary residence on Long Island, can afford to own more than 2 acres and a house in New Baltimore, cries poverty and the Board reduces his assessment by $60,000!!! Of course, Mr. Bennett agrees.

Another property got a $12,000 reduction. Go figure.

Of course, the Board of Assessment Review doesn’t response to our inquiries regarding the reasoning behind these reductions. But our information comes from the actual tape recordings of the hearings made by the Board, and from the official Order for Change in Assessments and the so-called “minutes” of the Board’s meeting.

Got questions? New Baltimore’s got secrets and no one is talking. But these are the facts, people.

 

Go to other articles in this mini-series on New Baltimore:

Open Letter Blasts New Baltimore Supervisor, Town Board over Jordan Affair

New Baltimore Town Supervisor Jeff Ruso and his Board: Hide and Deny

New Baltimore Sends “Acting Superintendent” to Highway School. Why?

The New Baltimore In-Justice Court and Kangaroo Judges: Thomas Meacham, A Case Study.

*****

 

Roman Catholic Church: Collection Envelopes Determine Good Standing!

We were recently contacted by a reader asking us for an opinion about the question of whether the Requirement of Registration in a Parish and an Affidavit of Good Standing is appropriate for fulfillment of the role of confirmation sponsor. That’s a compound question consisting of two separate questions:

  1. Is a requirement for parish registration appropriate?
  2. Is an Affidavit of Catholic in Good Standing in the parish in which one is registered appropriate?

The second question necessarily follows on the first question.

The Roman Catholic Parish of St Patrick in Ravena, NY, a parish in the territory of the Diocese of Albany, NY (Edward B. Scharfenberger, bishop) has scheduled their Confirmations for April, 2018, and just recently sponsor designates were informed that they were to provide certain certifications as to their “fitness” to fulfill the role of Confirmation sponsor. We have obtained statements from sponsor designates and a copy of the form to be signed by the sponsor designates. In general, the “contract” is rather primitive and a bit late, since it appears it should have been provided to the sponsor designate right at the start of the formation period and not 2 months before the Confirmation! In addition, it contains a number of silly requirements, one of which caught our eye:

“The sponsor agrees to provide:

+ The Church of St Patrick the name and address of the Parish and Pastor where they currently worship;

+ Further provide the Church of St Patrick with an Affidavit signed by their current pastor certifying they meet these requirements:

– At least 16 years old,

– Fully initiated into the Roman Catholic Faith through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.”

The grammar leaves a great deal to be desired and it’s unclear whether the certifying pastor has to be “at least 16 years old” and “fully initiated” or the sponsor. Another problem is that it is the “Church of St Patrick” while we have always thought of the Church as being the Church Jesus Christ, and the church as used in the Church of St Patrick would clearly indicate the building and not the community, the mystical body; properly stated, it should be the “Parish” of St Patrick for obvious reasons. But the document has other flaws.

It raises the question of What business does a pastor have certifying a sponsor’s age? That’s done by way of a secular birth certificate!

In addition, the current pastor must sign an affidavit confirming the sponsor’s age AND that the sponsor has received the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation, all of which are clearly proved by the respective certificates issued by the conferring parish, not necessarily by the sponsor’s territorial pastor. So we had a closer look at what’s going on here because something stinks in Ravena, and the smoke of satan is probably coming from the Albany Diocesan Offices.

Those observations are merely a further confirmation of the turmoil and confusion that reigns supreme in the Roman Catholic Church today, and are clearly visible in the parishes.[1]

First, let’s look at what the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law, the collection of rules and regulations governing what and how things are done in the Roman Catholic Church, has to say about what a “parish” is — this is an important first step because most “practicing” Catholics don’t have a clue what a parish is.

The Code of Canon Law (sections abbreviated “C.”) defines “parish” in the following terms:

515 §1. A parish is a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor (parochus) as its proper pastor (pastor) under the authority of the diocesan bishop. [our emphasis]

And c. 518 expressly defines the parish as “territorial,” meaning,

Can. 518 As a general rule a parish is to be territorial, that is, one which includes all the Christian faithful of a certain territory. When it is expedient, however, personal parishes are to be established determined by reason of the rite, language, or nationality of the Christian faithful of some territory, or even for some other reason. [our emphasis]

Therefore, a parish is territorial. As such it embraces all the Catholics of a given region on a map. When a bishop formally erects a parish, he establishes its specific boundaries, and all Catholics residing within those limits are ipso facto (and de jure) members of that parish, whether or not they know it. Canon law does not require anyone living within the parish boundaries to take the additional step of registering at the parish. The very fact that a Catholic lives in the territory of a particular parish is enough to make him or her member of that parish. Canon law does not require formal registration in that parish to be a member of that particular parish. Question 1 is thus moot. A dead issue. No registration is required.

The fact that parishes are by definition territorial does not mean that it is illegal under Canon Law or wrong to require people to register; it may be useful to ask them to register in their parishes for administrative reasons, such as for example, census purposes or for surveys, or for demographic purposes.

In the American Catholic Church the parish registration system has been superimposed on top of Canon Law, but parish registration is not a part or provision of Canon Law. In fact, the parish registration system must never be used in such a way as to contradict Canon Law; if there is a conflict, Canon Law must take precedence. This includes the situation where a local bishop, called the local ordinary, or his staff makes up some “local” law or rule for the diocese; that local rule cannot replace Canon Law or contradict it. Period.

But the question posed is Confirmation Sponsors. On the question of parish registration as regards confirmation sponsors, The purpose of c. 892 and its requirements are merely to make clear that the sponsor of the confirmed person is to ensure that the confirmed behaves as a true witness of Christ and faithfully fulfills the obligations inherent in this sacrament. That should be no problem in theory, but let’s move on.

In the Roman Catholic Church the requirements to be a Confirmation sponsor are the same as those for a Baptismal godparent. As regards the requirements for a person to fulfill the function of confirmation sponsor c. 893 refers back to c. 874 which lays down functions for fulfilling the function of a baptismal godparent, that is, the requirements for fulfilling the role of confirmation sponsor are the same as for a baptismal godparent. According to Roman Catholic Canon law, the requirements for both a Baptismal godparent and a Confirmation sponsor are:

Can.  874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:

1/ be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function;

2/ have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;

3/ be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;

4/ not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;

5/ not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.

In other words, the person chosen by the candidate for confirmation or the candidate’s parents, or both, must be someone who takes his or her Catholic faith seriously enough that s/he may serve as a mentor for the person to be confirmed. In essence, the first requirement then, is the trust and confidence of the candidate and his/her parents that operate in determining the fitness of a person to be sponsor. To abrogate that authority or to demean the capability of the candidate or his/her parents to determine suitability in practical terms would be an affront.

The way records are kept.

Canon Law makes no statement, provision or requirement that the proposed sponsor be formally registered in a parish, nor does relevant Canon Law set forth any criteria or system for determining fitness in terms other than that the sponsor designate be a witness of Christ and a capable mentor. Nor does Canon Law lay down a protocol on how that s/he be examined for his/her fitness to be a confirmation sponsor, but merely states to the effect that the person takes his/her Catholic faith seriously and can be a mentor for the candidate.

Scott VanDerveer, pastor of St Patrick, Ravena.

Steven Matthews, pastor, St John Baptist, Greenville.

Since the Code of Canon Law nowhere mentions parish registration, and certainly does not state or even imply anywhere that a sponsor in sacramental Confirmation must be registered at a particular parish, such requirement is being made an obstacle is canonically illicit and unlawful. In other words, the territorial parish of St Patrick Roman Catholic Church, Ravena, NY (Scott VanDerveer, pastor) is wrong to require an Affidavit of Parish Registration and the Parish of St John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church, Greenville, NY  (Steven Matthews, pastor) in Greenville is wrong to deny the sponsor designate a letter testifying to the fact that the sponsor designate is a member of the territorial parish of St John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church. If the sponsor designate lives in the territory of St John the Baptist parish, that person, if Catholic is a member of that parish.

While the Code of Canon Law expressly indicates that a Confirmation sponsor must be a committed Catholic, it does not provide a hint of guidance how this is to supposed to be determined, much less proved. This raises the question whether the territorial parish of St John the Baptist RC in Greenville or the territorial parish of St Patrick RC in Ravena have in place a consistent and reliable system to decide who is a suitable sponsor, and how to document that assessment. For the criteria used to test the quality of Catholics, we have to turn to the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, and to the so-called Precepts. But those so-called Precepts do not possess the quality of law and are extremely difficult if not impossible to verify (the link below).

The Precepts are a classic example of unenforceable control but the gremlin gatekeepers, the so called “Faith Education” directors use them like swords, but without Church authority or common sense to understand them.

We have to ask: Do the concerned pastors know each of their flock by name and do they have intimate knowledge of what their parishioners’ lifestyle and characters are? Or can we better presume that the candidate and his or her parents are better able to make that assessment? Does the fact that someone appears every Sunday at liturgy make him or her good Catholic, and thus a better sponsor than one who does not? Or is the measure one of the magnanimity of financial contributions to the parish, or the fact that both time and treasure are determinants? Can the pastor even recognize the person by sight? Would those be applicable objective criteria to satisfy the requirement that the person takes his/her Catholic faith seriously and can be a mentor for the confirmation candidate?

Again, an example from the Cathedral Church of St Patrick (Charlotte, NC). Explicit statement that collection envelopes are used to document attendance.

Figuratively speaking, this problem can be restated in hypothetical terms as, “Is the use of collection envelopes the final arbiter of whether a person is a Catholic “in good standing” and competent to serve as a confirmation sponsor?” But that’s not even a hypothetical situation! Many parishes are using collection envelopes to decide whether or not a “practicing Catholic” is a “Catholic in good standing!”

The criterion for Catholic “in good standing”?

Here’s a depraved, reprehensible and embarrassing excerpt from the BAPTISM AND/OR CONFIRMATION SPONSOR GUIDELINES of the Cathedral Church of Saint Patrick (Charlotte, NC), which is by no means uncommon and is representative of many American parishes, in that St Patrick’s makes a number of illicit and illegal requirements:[2]

The sponsor is required to certify this information (St Patrick parish, Charlotte, NC).

and the sponsor’s parish pastor must certify

Do these administrators and pastors know their Canon Law or are they arbitrarily applying a personal interpretation of the phrase, “in good standing?” This has been known to happen all too frequently and with tragic results.

Furthermore, while we know that well-meaning Catholics may work long hours in parish offices and programs for low or no pay, and their “dedication” is commendable, they do play a critical role in the life of a typical parish but – and that’s a really big “but” because they do not hold ecclesial office pursuant to c. 145, they are not accorded by law any spiritual authority over other members of the parish.[3]

The bottom line is that the pastor is the person ultimately responsible for the spiritual well-being of his parishioners, and as Canon Law states, parishes are territorial and all Catholics in that territory are “parishioners” under the terms of Canon Law. Therefore, the pastor is responsible for the canonical, pastoral, spiritual well-being of his parishioners. If he is unaware of a problem or a situation that can transfigure into a problem, it is important that he be informed about it, and that he deal with it appropriately. By respectfully calling the pastor’s attention to such an issue, the whole parish, diocese and certainly the whole Church ultimately benefits.[4]

Figuratively speaking, this problem can be restated in hypothetical terms as, “Is the use of collection envelopes the final arbiter of whether a person is a Catholic “in good standing” and competent to serve as a confirmation sponsor?”

The answer is administratively maybe, canonically NO!

Unless the lay administrators of the Parish of St Patrick have an established system approved by competent authority for determining membership in the territorial parishes of St Patrick or of St John the Baptist, the requirement of certifying membership in any parish is served canonically by the mere provision of proof of domicile, said domicile being situated in the territory of a given parish ipso facto and de jure establishes the person as a member of that territorial parish. Canon law takes precedence over local law in the event of ambiguity, vagueness, over-broadness or arbitrariness of the local provision.

RC Diocese of Albany chief rulemaker, Scharfenberger.

In terms of the fact of “in good standing,” unless specifically stated in clear and unambiguous terms How? in practical and objective terms a pastor is to determine “good standing,” and which criteria are to be applied for such determination, as well as the specificity and reliability of such criteria when applied to an ever-changing and practically protean population of a territorial parish, made even more difficult by the mobility of today’s populations, the arbiter in the first instance must be those who are intimately familiar with the character of the sponsor designate; in the second instance, testimony or reference or direct observation my be called upon to further confirm fitness. Otherwise, any claim to system or protocol that may be proffered by pastor or lay administrator is subject to scrutiny, and likely to be found insufficient, if not illicit or even canonically unlawful.

It is our determination that the territorial parish does not have the canonical authority to require registration of persons as members of a parish, that in virtue of their residing within the territory of a given parish makes them de jure members of that parish and entitled to a letter confirming that fact, providing that they can give a showing of having been validly and licitly baptized into the Church.

As established at c. 874 §1 (CCL) the requirements for acting as a confirmation sponsor are also set forth by canon law, that is, the sponsor designate must be baptized, have received the sacrament of Holy Eucharist, and have been confirmed pursuant the terms and conditions of Canon Law. Furthermore, the sponsor designate shall be 16 years old or older, shall not be not be bound by any canonical penalty, and shall not be the father or the mother of the person to be confirmed. The law also requires that the person shall lead a life of faith but does not provide specifics.

How do you score? Do you know how to score? Are you a “Catholic in Good Standing?

Catholic “in good standing.” There then arises the question of what is meant by a Catholic “in good standing.” It is generally purported that a so-called Catholic in good standing is a baptized Catholic who claims to live by the Precepts of the Roman Catholic Church as promulgated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which derive presumably from the statements expressed or implied in §§ 2041-2043 of the said Catechism. The observation, however, obtains that monitoring those “precepts” for each parishioner is at best daunting if not entirely impossible.[5] Furthermore, even if the precepts were verifiable in any credible way, keeping those precepts would be a question of Pharisee vs tax collector (Lk 18:9-14), demonstrating more technique than disposition (inner forum).

Either the pastor or his administrators would have to take a Sunday mass, reconciliation, Eucharist attendance, and would have to have some method of verifying their ascetic (fasting and abstinence) practices as well. Some parishes have inaugurated a control of collection envelopes to keep tabs on their flocks but not everyone chooses to use collection envelopes and many simply drop cash into the collection baskets. Most persons today would object to such monitoring and auditing practices.

External observation and compliance do not testify to inner holiness by any means and one would benefit by keeping in mind the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, while admitting that the majority in the pews are Pharisees or at best ignorant of anything approximating the so-called “precepts.” Moreover, it is flies in the face of reason to even suggest that the majority of Catholics today qualify even in one or two of the precepts; accordingly, the majority, though living moral and ethical lives, would be rejected by the Church as not being “in good standing.” So, the reasonable conclusion is that the term “in good standing” is not verifiable in reliable objective terms, and that such verification would necessarily have to resort to a creation of an exclusivist, verifiable class of individuals within any parish, perpetuating an already excessively technical and legalistic hierarchical and paternalistic institution that has had its well-earned share of criticism and condemnation, and has tragically resulted in the hemorrhaging of the faithful from an ailing Church. The term “in good standing” is a farce and should be abandoned post haste.

 

The Precepts used to determine a Catholic in good standing are taken from the RC Catechism. The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church is “a text which contains the fundamental Christian truths formulated in a way that facilitates their understanding” and is “a ‘point of reference’ for bishops, priests, catechists, teachers, preachers, scholars, students and authors.”   The RC Catechism contains doctrine (teachings of the Church) doctrine and some dogma (universal truths of the Church) but in itself is not dogma![6]

Furthermore, the USCCB notes that:

“By its very nature, a catechism presents the fundamental truths of the faith which have already been communicated and defined. Because the Catechism presents Catholic doctrine in a complete yet summary way, it naturally contains the infallible doctrinal definitions of the popes and ecumenical councils in the history of the Church. It also presents teaching which has not been communicated and defined in these most solemn forms.” (17)

The Catechism is a resource book and may be difficult for the “people in the pews,” to understand. According to the bishops’ statement:

“It would be helpful if the reader had some theological background, but the Catechism itself presents a considerable amount of theological background material.”[7]

Most lay ministers and parish administrators do not have theological or pastoral training; it is also true that putting important decisions in the hands of amateurs is a very slippery slope. Add to that the power dynamics and the political and social forces that are prominent in parishes and we have a very hazardous situation indeed.

Any guidelines or protocols existing in a particular parish must, of course, comply with Canon Law, as must any local law, and must be applicable uniformly and impartially to any given situation, including that of confirmation sponsor. The local ordinary and then his presbyter pastor are the ultimate authorities for determining such guidelines and protocols which clearly do not fall within the purview of persons not having canonical authority to promulgate or to interpret such guidelines or protocols.

If a question or problem should arise with regard to the provisions of canon law or to local laws, guidelines, or rules licitly, lawfully, and validly promulgated and ratified, such question or problem should be consigned to the parish pastor in the first instance for resolution. Pursuant to c. 145 and c. 519, lay persons or lay administrators do not have canonical authority in such spiritual matters.

The pastoral, spiritual, administrative procedures in the individual locales use to interview, screen, assess, guide, instruct, mentor, or otherwise prepare sponsor designates for their role as sponsor is beyond the question posed, and are thus beyond the scope of this opinion. That statement notwithstanding, the fact that they are beyond the scope of this opinion does not in any way detract from their importance nor from the responsibility of the parochial ecclesial officers to ensure that such procedures are in place and are implemented objectively and impartially, and that the associated lay ministers and administrators are adequately discerned, formed and mentored to ensure the well-being of confirmation candidates and their sponsor designates.

And the result is bad disciples!

Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger demonstrating the virtue of poverty. A bit too theatrical and ostentatious to be convincing, or to our taste. Whom does he think he’s fooling, anyway?


Notes

[1] The parish of St Patrick in Ravena has a number of problems not the least of which is their website which is an indicator of the lack of professionalism and care that one would expect. For example, there is a page entitled “We have come such a long way in a relatively short period of time!  Take a look at our History! / St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Parish began as a mission church in 1859 where the Church overlooked the Hudson River in Coeymans.  In 1917 it was rebuilt at it’s [sic] current site on Main St in Ravena / So who were our Pastors?” That page shows a series of images of a man’s headshot; apparently all the pastors were look alike clones. The Hudson River is not all that the parish of St Patrick in Ravena overlooked. Maybe pastor Scott VanDerveer should spend some time checking his minions’ work and grammar. It’s an embarrassment.

[2] Isn’t it an interesting coincidence that the local parish of St Patrick in Ravena, NY, should share the same deficiencies as the parish of the same name, St Patrick, in Charlotte, NC? What does that tell you?

[3] Can. 145 §1. An ecclesiastical office is any function constituted in a stable manner by divine or ecclesiastical ordinance to be exercised for a spiritual purpose. Further, at  §2., the Code states “The obligations and rights proper to individual ecclesiastical offices are defined either in the law by which the office is constituted or in the decree of the competent authority by which the office is at the same time constituted and conferred.”

[4] C. 519 The pastor (parochus) is the proper pastor (pastor) of the parish entrusted to him, exercising the pastoral care of the community committed to him under the authority of the diocesan bishop in whose ministry of Christ he has been called to share, so that for that same community he carries out the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing, also with the cooperation of other presbyters or deacons and with the assistance of lay members of the Christian faithful, according to the norm of law. [emphasis provided]

[5] Appendix I, Catholic Catechism, Precepts

[6] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), “Frequently Asked Questions about the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-catechism-of-the-catholic-church.cfm last accessed on February

[7] Having made that statement, I would like to ask the bishops Who is to decide or determine what is what in the Catechism? Without formation and training it is a hopeless task for the lay person to discern what is doctrine, what is dogma, what is theology, etc. The whole statement is a collection of ecclesial double-talk!

 

Who are the Thought Police in Your Community? Do you know?

“As members of a community, even as citizens of a nation, we are frequently exposed to and have to cope with what is known as groupthink, a phenomenon that may seriously compromise our image of ourselves, our relationships with family, friends, neighbors, community leaders, and may also compromise our moral rights of personal dignity and autonomy. And yet, groupthink is precisely what underlies much of our “training” in how to be good citizens and in the so-called education programs and our social organizations, and is pandemic in most of the institutions in which we work. Groupthink,  shamefully, has been a part of our religious institutions since time immemorial. Agendizing, brainwashing, programming.”

Anonymous Contributor.

We, as citizens, as members of our community, parents and educators, as human beings we are told that we have an inherent and guaranteed right to speak freely and openly about most subjects without the stigma that might apply to a person living and working in a different country. We would like to think that people, especially our elected leaders and our educators, tend to listen to us and give some weight and importance to what we have to say; consequently, we can and should play an important and proactive role in deciding how we live, work and are governed, and in order to do this, we must make our leaders aware that we are aware of the groupthink phenomenon, its dangers and risks, and implement ways of avoiding this insidious, infectious, and fatal phenomenon in our communities and in our lives. Once people are made aware of the groupthink phenomenon and ways to identify it and prevent it, we are on the path to reclaiming the efficacy and authenticity we once enjoyed but lost in the wake of the development of corporate control of our institutions and the chilling of interpersonal relations by online social media.

Groupthink.[1] It’s everywhere and it’s toxic! It’s dehumanizing. It perpetuates lies and factoids. Yet you love it! It makes things so much easier when you don’t have to use your own brain and you allow yourself to be programmed to think, speak, act, perform according to the in-group’s agenda.

Irving Janus mainstreamed the term in 1982. [2] According to Janis, groupthink

“[h]appens when in-group pressures lead to deterioration in mental efficiency, poor testing of reality, and lax moral judgment. It tends to occur in highly cohesive groups in which the group members’ desire for consensus becomes more important than evaluating problems and solutions realistically. An example would be the top executive cabinet (the president and vice presidents) of a firm, who have worked together for many years. They know each other well and think as a cohesive unit rather than as a collection of individuals.” [my italics]

We can find groupthink in our workplaces, churches, schools, social media, government, and Yes! even in our homes.

Janis identified eight symptoms of groupthink, which are noteworthy and which I will briefly describe below.[3] Persons affected by groupthink may exhibit any of these symptoms:

  1. An experience of the illusion of invulnerability. This illusion produces an unreal sense of optimism and the sense of empowerment to take risks, sometimes extreme, which the individual would not otherwise take.
  2. Acceptance of a collective rationalization. The individual ignores the red flags and warnings and refuse to reassess their biases, prejudices and assumptions regarding reality.
  3. Belief in the inherent morality of the group. The individual and members of the group are convinced of the righteousness of their beliefs and become indifferent to the ethical or moral effects and consequences of the group’s decisions and actions.
  4. Establishment and adoption of stereotypes of out-groups. Stereotypes are a facile way of dealing with the “others” and do not require thinking or decision-making. De rigueur negative presumptions and characterizations of the “enemy” render rational and effective responses to conflict unnecessary. Cookie-cutter responses are the result.
  5. The imposition of direct pressure on dissenters. Any deviation from the presumptions and dictates of the group results in sanctions. Individuals, group members are discouraged from expressing alternative views, or representing positions conflicting any of the group’s views.
  6. Requirement of self-censorship. The individual and members of the group are required to ensure that any questions, doubts and deviations from the group’s “consensus,” program, or agenda are not expressed. The individual must “watch his/her mouth” or be sanctioned.
  7. The illusion of unanimity. The views and judgments, decisions and actions of the “group” or of the group’s statutory and declared leader(s) and majority are assumed to be unanimous, justified and reliable.
  8. The presence of self-appointed ‘mindguards’. Certain members isolate and “protect” the group and its leader(s) from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions. These are the “thought police” who ensure that any information that can potentially threaten the group or its leaders is filtered out and neutralized.

In other words, the phenomenon of groupthink seems to have grown out of and fits perfectly into the framework of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “Nineteen-Eighty-Four,” with its implications of superpower invulnerability, collective processing of carefully cooked data and information, a sense of moral superiority of the group’s decisions and actions, the facile handling of non-members by the application of stereotypes, direct suppression and sanctioning of any opposing thought or expression — the individual “watches his mouth” to avoid attracting attention to himself and possible sanctioning —, all communications and indicators seem to indicate that “everyone is on the same page” and “stands united.”  Finally, the self-appointed “mindguards,” the Orwellian “thought police,” ensure that everyone toes the mark, knows his place, and follows the “party line.” Sounds awfully much like PC, political correctness, doesn’t it?

The Thought Police or Mindguards ensure that you don’t think out of the box.

As I mentioned above, groupthink is easily observed in our schools, churches, public servants, social groups, the workplace, etc.

Here’s an example that comes from my college days when I worked as an encyclopedia salesperson. We were trained to ask potential purchasers questions that they could not disagree with, such as, for example: “You do care about your children’s education, don’t you?” or “You want your children to have the best available information for school, don’t you?” Once they answered in the affirmative, they were cooked. It was sort of like asking a veteran the question, “You do love your country, don’t you?” Or a clergyperson asking a dissenter, “You do believe in God, don’t you?” Ask those sorts of questions and you get a commitment to groupthink; the rest follows once the individual is on the slippery slope to group membership, willingly or not.

It’s certainly easy enough to self-test yourself by asking yourself if any of the above symptoms could possibly apply to you…but be aware of the sneaky symptom of “self-censorship” because you might actually be unaware that you are self-censoring; you may actually believe that what you say you believe is in fact what you believe. (Please go back and reread that last part. It’s important and you really didn’t understand it, did you?!)

Everyone connected to the same “brain”, the core-group’s!

Here’s a real example: I was at my fitness center and struck up a conversation with a guy who was working on a neighboring piece of equipment. The conversation started out on muscle groups and doping, use of anabolic steroids, doping scandals, and how natural fitness was desirable over and against taking performance enhancers. The conversation drifted to the inquiry, “What do you do?” The guy was intelligent, apparently well-read in the subject of performance enhancers in athletes, and was no dummy. He responded by telling me he was a “personal income tax auditor” for the state of New York. What followed was a textbook example of groupthink. He commenced by telling me how interesting his job was because he was making sure everyone stayed honest. Everyone should pay taxes. Not everyone was honest, some people were honest but ignorant. The tax department and auditors were there to protect the public. He was happy doing what he was doing, and he liked his work. He was protecting honest citizens from the crooks and the parasites. New York state took care of its people unlike those states with no personal income tax, states that provided sanctuary to people who want to keep their fortunes but not share by paying personal income taxes. Basically, you can’t argue with this guy because what he is saying is superficially true, ethical and moral. But, and there’s the clincher, his thinking from one subject to the other was schizoid! He was very individualized, independent, even liberal when discussing the social and personal impact of performance enhancers on non-professional vs. professional athletes, and the use of performance enhancers in the guy-next-door who works out to stay healthy or attractive. His lock-step “tax department” jargon and speech, almost soapbox preaching, was groupspeak, the product of groupthink. Can you identify the symptoms?

Here are two more examples I found on a professional networking site, LinkedIn, which is slowly morphing into a Facebook-type social media space. Whereas LinkedIn was originally intended to be a forum facilitating networking among professionals, the parasites slowly infiltrated and started their social justice preaching and religious proselytizing.

One characteristic of social justice and religion is that both are fertile ground for a bumper crop of groupthinkers. Example 1: Social Justice. This example is remarkable because it is so homogeneous in the majority responses and because of the sheer number of responses: 5,013 Likes, 321 comments! Synopsis: A young woman with Down’s syndrome appears in what is obviously a staged video, in which she receives a call from a fast-food chain, Chik-Fil-A, in which she is offered a job paying $11.50/h. It is her first real job and she is elated at the offer and accepts.

The groupthink: Actual comments: “Awesome!” “Wonderful!””Isn’t Chik-Fil-A a great company!””The story brought tears to my eyes!” “It made my day! We need more stories like this!” But many of the comments were condescending: They mentioned “learning disability” and how remarkable it was that this young woman had “won,” how employment “is a right,” and other misguided slogans associated with what we know as PC but was described by Janis as groupthink. The censorship/sanction/thought police action: A commenter posted some reasonable, dissenting, conflicting thoughts about the reality of the situation in terms of stereotyping highly functional Down’s syndrome  persons as having “learning disabilities,” a bucket term that stereotyped them unfairly. That she was hired on her merits and if she didn’t have what Chick-Fil-A needed and wanted, she would not have gotten the call. That Down’s syndrome persons are highly desirable in service jobs with customer contact because of their personality characteristics, as was pioneered by McDonald’s some time ago, and that these corporations are exploiting vulnerable persons with Down’s syndrome because they are perfect for these low-paying jobs, and it creates a very positive social image for the corporation, so-called “organizational health.” (See the McKinsey report below.)

Needless to say, the “mindguards” were quick to respond, and butchered the commentor for being “a Grinch,” for not “caring” and for his “dripping sarcasm.” Not a single comment out of more than 300 comments and replies accepted the truth of what the commenter wrote; almost all condemned him for not sharing the majority’s groupthink. (Click here to read the actual comments made by the commenter and some of the replies.)[4]

The value of hiring persons with Down syndrome is not lost on the corporations![5]

The economic benefits of hiring persons with intellectual challenges is not lost on the corporations, as is demonstrated by the McKinsey report[6], but we’re not supposed to talk about the dark side of Julia’s hiring because the group think won’t allow anyone to pop their bubble of denial or distract them from their happy, be nice, love fest by suggesting reality. That’s groupthink.

Here’s another from the same site, LinkedIn. This time it was a religious fanatic known popularly as a “Jesus-freak,” someone who posts an inflammatory statement about how Jesus is the truth and everything else is a lie. First of all, such posts are more Facebook quality and have nothing to do with professional networking, so it shouldn’t have been on LinkedIn in the first place. So the original post by one David Wood, who describes himself as the “Executive Producer Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Resurrection of Jesus Christ LLC, School Of Hard Knocks,” and his project as:

“The Resurrection Project unites the Body of Christ, to launch a global love movement, a feature length movie, and a video game, and tell the story of Jesus’ Christ resurrection and the 40 days that followed. “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” is the greatest love story ever told.” www.theresurrectionofjesuschrist.com [Author’s note: My italics; I have not undertaken any editing of Mr. Wood’s English.]

His post was simply:

That was it. My first reaction was that Islam never claimed that Muhammad was God. Nor does Buddhism teach that Buddha was a god. The name applied to God in Arabic, and hence in Islam is Allah, which is merely an equivalent of the English, God, so that point is really moot. And the fact that Wood claims that his Jesus is the “only one God” reveals a bit of tunnel vision, even religious and theological ignorance. This is groupthink at one of its worst moments!

My point is this: Approach that post as I did, with the above reasoning, and you will obtain a clear lesson in groupthink.  The post received 51 Likes and 15 Comments but was seen be hundreds, perhaps thousands who didn’t want to “offend” by responding. (Or perhaps because religion is not as popular as Down’s syndrome? Or because the message was so bizarre? Who can say for sure?)

Those three examples should suffice to convince even the hardcore groupthinkers of their affliction.

The kinds of groups that are particularly at risk for the groupthink phenomenon are, of course, groups that we could characterize as cliques, whether consisting of 3 or 3000 persons. Cliques don’t need to be small and a whole company or department may become a clique. The group or clique should be cohesive for groupthink to develop; cohesive factors may include ethnicity, similar interest, and physical appearance. Members of a clique often isolate themselves as a group and tend to view the clique as superior to anyone outside the clique.

Cliques can form in any age group but they are most associated with groups whose members have gotten stuck in an adolescent or late childhood developmental stage, the stage when individuals normally form and become members of such groups. Accordingly, groupthink is characteristic of individuals who may have gotten stuck in a pre-adult developmental stage.

Facebook is a well known huge groupthink-collective in which groupthink can be diagnosed at various levels in the interactions from the very top, where the Facebook Standards and the thought police are active censoring deviant thinkers, that is, anyone who may not agree with Facebook or its policies, to the smaller yet equally repulsive “groups,” which may be “open,” “closed” or “secret”. The problem and real danger associated with Facebook and other social media that functions by exploiting the groupthink phenomenon is the sheer numbers of people who can be and actually are affected by the clique(s).

The proven disorder of Facebook Addiction or Internet Addiction Disorder make the problem even worse because once subscribers are addicted, they are captivated by the groupthink phenomenon and cannot escape.(See our article on Facebook Addiction Disorder on this blog.)

It’s the beginning of the end of open communication, autonomy, and due process.

Another problem is what I would call the “Room 101” factor[7]:  the fact that in terms of groupthink, when Facebook decides to deactivate an account for one reason or another, whether for a period of time certain (days, weeks, etc.) or permanently, this “punishment” practice has a psychospiritual effect on the affected individual, similar to being shunned or banned froma group or a clique. It is a powerful motivator to keep people under their thumb, a control strategy, that works extremely well once Facebook has hooked a person, and the person is sufficiently invested in Facebook in terms of time spent online and digital friends collected, such that the now addicted subscriber will feel the psychosocial pain of being “deactivated.,” in a sense placed in isolation by Facebook without the benefit of due process. Yes, it’s the beginning of the end of open communication, autonomy, and due process. Similar, in fact, to “vaporizing” a dissenter in Orwell’s “1984” where the dissenter is simply made to disappear, as if he never existed. [8]

The recent reports of Facebook’s cooperation with the US and Israeli governments to deactivate certain Facebook pages because their messages are “inconvenient” is a very disturbing step taken in the direction of thought control, Thought Police and Mindguards. That’s why we’ve been trying to get through to our readers to campaign against social media like Facebook! (See our articles on Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg‘s ambitious agenda to become God. Once he’s got a fifth of the world’s population addicted to Facebook and can control what they read, hear, see, and say, he’s well on his way to become the next Dictator in Heaven.)


The same “vaporizing” occurs when someone “unfriends” or “blocks” another subscriber who may have violated the group-leader’s or the group’s groupthink policies. Have you been Facebook vaporized recently? You wouldn’t know if you had been because Facebook strategically keeps it a secret; only the vaporizer and Facebook know it. Same applies when someone has a grudge against you on Facebook: they simply report you for such-and-such, and you find yourself deactivated. Groupthink à la Facebook!

The groupthink phenomenon can be avoided but only if the clique or the group is willing to acknowledge the phenomenon, to recognize it in their group, and sees the benefits of avoiding the phenomenon.

Fred Lunenburg (2012) proposes a number of possible ways to avoid groupthink in a group, including[9]:

  • Encouraging group members to state and air objections, doubts, and questions,
  • Promoting impartiality rather than stating preferences and expectations of the group at the outset,
  • The group leaders should periodically discuss the group’s policies and practices and report their transactions back to the group, inviting feedback,
  • Members should be invited to challenge the views of core members (and leaders),
  • At least one member should play the role of devil’s advocate, expressing objections or critiquing group policies and practices, and beliefs,
  • Where there is devil’s advocacy, members should spend time and effort evaluating the warning signals of developing groupthink inherent in adverse responses,
  • Alternative scenarios should be constructed by group leaders in evaluating any rivaling intentions,
  • In the case of a member who appears to consistently rival the group’s polices or practices (Red flag! Think groupthink!), the member should be asked to express as vividly as he can all his residual doubts,
  • Group leaders or core members should present the entire issue to the group to elicit feedback and insights before making any definitive choices or decisions.

Group coherence and decision making has clear benefits over individual decision making. This is especially true when a decision must be made under conditions of uncertainty.[10] Some of the benefits described by Bonito (2011) include[11]:

  • Improved decision quality
  • Higher level of creativity and creative thinking
  • Improved decision acceptance and organizational learning
  • Increased decision understanding
  • Enhanced effectiveness in establishing objectives, identifying alternatives
  • Greater decision accuracy and avoidance of errors and glitches

Admittedly, these benefits may be less related to the actual outcomes of decisions than they are to group morale and satisfaction; we can agree that groups should and probably do perform better when

  • Group members present a variety of relevant skills that differ sufficiently but do not create constraints or conflicts;
  • There is a division of labor or effort, input;
  • Individual inputs can be “averaged” in such a way as to arrive at a group “position.”

Are you controlled by the Thought Police, the Mindguards from the cradle to the grave?

By now you might be asking yourself the question: “That having been said, and while applicable to business decisions or to Facebook and other moderated social media, how does that apply to spiritual care or to our lives in our communities and the nation at large?” Well, in order to answer that question, I have to ask you to step out of your stall in the sheeple box, and think about the environment in which you live. Ask yourselves if you can identify groupthink in these situations:

  • In your church or faith community. (Hint: How do you talk about other faith or belief groups)?
  • In the Sports Association or Social Club. Do you have to toe the mark in what you talk about?
  • In your political or social club (Hint: When at a Republican Club or Democratic Club or American Legion occasion, are you careful what you say?)
  • In your children’s schools (Hint: Do you speak your mind at a Board of Education meeting or just sit simmering? At a PTA meeting what do you feel you can discuss? Do you even attend any of these?)
  • At town board or village board meetings (Hint: Do you speak your mind at a board meetings or just sit simmering? Do you even attend any of these?)
  • Have you ever avoided going somewhere or doing something because you were concerned what “they” would say?
  • Are there subjects or topics or language that you avoid specifically to avoid being stereotyped or labeled? Do you choose political correctness over truth and honesty? Do you do that out of fear of the Mindguards?

Are you being stalked by the community or social media Thought Police, the Mindguards?

At home do you have open discussions with family members or are some subjects simply avoided or off-topic? Are the Thought Police at work in your home? Or are you letting the Facebook and social media thought police do their work for you? Have you seen your kids today?

When is the last time you looked at what your schools are teaching to your children? Have you ever openly questioned what they are being taught? Or are you letting the Mindguards manage your kids’ minds?

At work do you challenge social injustice or do you simply turn your back hoping it won’t hit you next? Are you open in discussing what you feel needs to be considered for change? Do you suggest improvements? Or are you living in constant fear of being “vaporized,” “unfriended,” “blocked” by your employer or even your workmates and coworkers?

Have you been castrated by the Thought Police, the Mindguards?

Most of us will find ourselves interacting throughout our entire lives with employers, educators, community members, governing bodies, committees, or just with our families. We take these interactions for granted; that’s a big mistake..Each of these environments is at high risk of the groupthink phenomenon, and we need to start thinking about the nature and quality of those interactions. Can you identify the symptoms of groupthink in any of your relationships or interations?

We frequently say that “emotions are contagious,” but we don’t frequently admit that not only emotions but the environment created by the attitudes and thinking of leaders and core members in a group are just as contagious in the form of groupthink.

Organizations like schools, religious institutions, government, social organizations are hotbeds for the groupthink

Those of us who are aware of our lives will admit that each group or community has its own culture, and if we are to work effectively with the members and effetively serve the ourselves and our community, we have to be aware of the groupthink phenomenon as it most certainly exists in that group or community. Ask yourself if you feel your teachers, your administrators, your elected officials, local law enforcement are listening to you and your concerns and their attitude towards the “necessary evil” of your opinion must be tolerated rather than facilitated. That attitude extends to all the members of the community, including educators, elected officials, law enforcement, etc.,  and the symptoms of groupthink can be quickly and easily identified if you care to look. How do we deal with that situation armed with the awareness of the probable existence of groupthink?

Organizations like schools, religious institutions, government, social organizations are hotbeds for the groupthink phenomenon because they are founded on very clear principles of operation and program; they have their” agendas.” The objectives and goals of the group are clearly defined and the members are controlled by the assignment of specific tasks and imposing protocols. The agenda is clearly defined. You simply don’t dissent or rock the hospice boat. Groupthink.

Institutional Agendas Define the Group.

 

As “tradition” the groupthink may have developed as a response to the local culture, whether it be socioeconomic, ethnic, religious, etc. In this case, it is a response to the exigencies of doing living and functioning with that demographic mix, and is almost a requirement for survival. Is this “positive” groupthink? Perhaps, but it goes without saying that unless the establishment leaves the door open to open discussion, sharing of insights, correct interpretations of warning signs and red flags, it can quickly transmute into “negative” groupthink.

As the organization leaves the traditional, local, “family” orientation or organization and moves towards the group or the corporate systems, groupthink becomes more of a high risk than a positive stabilizing factor. This is where the culture of the group or corporation overshadows the individuals that move it as well as those who consume its products and services. Rather than being an evolving, “living” organism, it is a monolith. Again,I can’t help but cite Facebook or the federal government as outstanding examples of such a negative development.

A number of large multinational corporations like IBM, 3M, Anheuser-Busch have recognized the threat posed by groupthink and have implemented and developed processes to prevent or at least to mitigate its deleterious and prejudicial effects within the components of the organization and on the organization as a whole. Lunenburg (2012) discusses some of the ways they have approached prevention of groupthink by way of methods like devil’s advocacy and dialectical inquiry. McDougel and Baum (1997) discuss the application of devil’s advocacy to stimulate discussion and avoid groupthink in focus groups.[12] McAvoy et al. discuss how devil’s advocacy and the principles of sensemaking can be used in a method they call the “agitation workshop” as a method of challenging the false consensus created by the groupthink phenomenon.[13]

Do frequent meetings and evaluations work to avoid groupthink? More likely than not, they may actually promote groupthink when leadership reiterate at each meeting the same expectations at the outset, setting the stage for a more limited and controlled conversation that does not allow for alternative discussion. But such meetings and evaluations and be highly productive if, at the outset, the leaders or facilitators are aware of the symptoms of groupthink and some of the methods to directly avoid it, as well as the quasi-paedagogical methods of enhancing creative thinking, even improving performance by institutionalizing dissent!

We can and should play an important and proactive role in making the organizations and leaders with whom we work aware of the groupthink phenomenon, its dangers and risks, and ways of avoiding the phenomenon in our environments. Once people are made aware of the phenomenon and ways to identify it and prevent it, we are on the path to reclaiming the efficacy and authenticity we once enjoyed but lost in the wake of the development of corporate control of our institutions and the chilling of interpersonal relations by online social media.

By using your brain you can avoid the dangers of groupthink!
The Editor


Notes

[1] Irving Janis originally coined the term groupthink in 1972. (Janis, Irving L.  (1972).  Victims of Groupthink.  New York: Houghton Mifflin.)

[2] Janis, I. L. (1982). Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascos (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin.

[3] For a more comprehensive discussion of the eight symptoms please refer to Janis’ Groupthink, Psychological Studies, above. A brief and very helpful overview of groupthink is provided in What is Groupthink? (http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink%20overview.htm, last accessed on January 8, 2018, 2018).

[4] The “Julia got a job!” obviously scripted video is synopsized on YouTube in the following words: “A heartwarming video shows the moment a teenage girl with Down syndrome receives her first job offer. A girl named Julia gets a phone call from a Chick-fil-A employee in Rancho Murieta, California. ‘I was just calling to offer you a position here,’ the woman says on speaker phone. ‘Your pay rate would be 11.50 per hour, would you like to accept?’ ‘I do,’ Julia says, her face overcome with emotion. As the woman tells her that she will start in December, Julia breaks down in tears of happiness. ‘Oh my gosh,’ she can be heard saying as she thanks the woman profusely. Julia’s family then encircles her and gives her a massive hug while chanting ‘Chick-Fil-A’. “ (AutoNews- Source:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5101331/Teen-girl-syndrome-cries-s-given-job.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490)

[5] According to McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm that serves private, public and social sector institutions, in a report entitled, “The value that employees with Down syndrome can add to organizations,” we read “[H]owever, some companies have chosen to tackle the far more complex challenge of hiring people with intellectual disabilities. Those that have done so have found that these people can add value to organizational health (an organization’s ability to align, execute, and renew itself faster than competitors so that it can sustain exceptional performance over time). Employees with Down syndrome are a particularly interesting topic of research, as they have a number of characteristics that both increase the challenges associated with inclusion and bring added benefits.” [my italics] (McKinsey & Company (2014) “The value that employees with Down Syndrome can add to organizations” (Vicente Assis, Marcus Frank, Guilherme Bcheche, and Bruno Kuboiama), last accessed on January 9, 2018.)

[6] Ibid.

[7] I’m referring to the notorious Room 101 described in Orwell’s novel “Nineteen-Eighty-Four,” the room in the Ministry of Truth (MiniTru in Newspeak), where dissenters were taken for “processing,” most never to be heard from again. “You asked me once,” said O’Brien, “what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.”  (“1984” Part 3, Ch. 5)  In “1984” the Inner Party persecutes individualism and independent thinking known as “thoughtcrimes” and is enforced by the “Thought Police.” The Ministry of Love (Miniluv), the ministry in charge of torturing dissidents.  The protagonist Smith is subjected to many forms of torture and is forced into the horror chamber known only as Room 101.

[8] Mind Control – George Orwell BBC 101 Documentary last accessed on January 9, 2018.

[9] Lunenburg, F. (2012).” Devil’s Advocacy and Dialectical Inquiry: Antidote to Groupthink”. International Journal of

Scholarly and Academic Intellectual Diversity, Vol 14, No. 1, pp 1-9.

[10] Nikolaidis (2012) defines uncertainty as “the condition under which an individual [or group] does not have the necessary information to assign probabilities to the outcomes of alternative solutions. (Nikolaidis, E. (2012).  Design decisions under uncertainty with limited information. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.)

[11] Bonito, J. (2011). Interaction and influence in small group decision making. New York, NY: Routledge.

[12] McDougal, C., F. Baum, (1997) “The Devil’s Advocate: A Strategy to Avoid Groupthink and Stimulate Discussion in Focus Groups,” Qualitative Health Research, Volume 7, Number 4, pp 532-541.

[13] John McAvoy, Tadhg Nagle and David Sammon, (2013) “A novel approach to challenging consensus in evaluations: The Agitation Workshop,” The Electronic Journal Information Systems Evaluation, Volume 16 Issue 1,  pp 45-55.

 
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Church, Government, Schools, Parents are Failing to Protect Our Children!!!

Republished with Permission of the Author and the Owner of the
Church, Ministry and Pastoral Care


The Church, rather than aiding and abetting the moral and spiritual demise of the human being; rather than cooperating and collaborating with the evils of social media, better named social disease; rather than having a clearly socialist, heretic pope blurting out his heresies over Twitter; rather than pastors preaching the pabulum of social justice and socialism rather than moral values and virtue, the Church and churches are failing us miserably! The Church and churches are failing not only the faithful or those hungry for spirituality but also those of us who are active in teaching, preaching, ministering, and propagating faith traditions and spirituality.

Pope Francis & the Roman Catholic Church Collaborate with Facebook

The Church is Failing Us!

We need to start re-assessing ourselves, our life styles, our priests, pastors, ministers, rabbis, and imams. We need to put a stop to the corporations and their snaking into our lives, our souls, our families! We need to start with disciplining Twitter, Facebook, and other social media who are destroying ignorant and even savvy adults, have even claimed presidents and popes who have succumbed to the addiction, and who are now laying claim to our most vulnerable and valuable members of our society, our children!

Anti-pope Jorge Bergoglio on Twitter

Where are the bishops, the clergy, the rabbis, the imams on these pernicious, scurrilous, specious, and evil developments? I’ll tell you straight out: Our bishops, our clergy, our rabbis, our imams, and our profane secular leaders are willing accomplices to the destruction of the human spirit by so-called social media, especially the filth-monger Facebook and its Antichrist founder, Marc Zuckerberg and his demonic minions!

Anti-pope meets Antichrist.
Jorge Bergoglio and Marc Zuckerberg
The Match Made in Hell

What has happened to the Churches’ pilgrimage on the higher moral road? They’ve ended up in a drainage ditch!

This blog is all about awareness, awakening. This is a blog is all about awakening the spirit in spirituality and authentic faith practices among all faith and belief traditions. This blog is all about awakening the human spirit. Because it’s about awakening the human spirit, I feel compelled to write this article about how Facebook is killing the human spirit. I’m going to divert attention from our commentary on church and congregation and spiritual development to a very alarming and dangerous situation being created by the social media drug, Facebook. I am diverting to this subject because it concerns our most vulnerable and valuable asset, our children. Please take the time to read this article and to seriously consider how Facebook is striking at the very core of humanity — how Church and clergy are aiding and abetting the assault on humanity —, and how we must do something to stop Facebook’s uncontrolled control of their subscribers and now this unabashed agenda targeting young children. It’s tantamount to digital pedophilia, child abuse at its worst, because it’s targeting their social and spiritual development, only to ensure that Facebook dominates our society. An the Church, not only the Roman Catholic Church but all Christian denominations and most non-Christian traditions are aiding and abetting the development. Think of the ramifications! What has happened to the Churches’ pilgrimage on the higher moral road? They’ve ended up in a drainage ditch!

Facebook’s Worst Idea Ever? A Messenger App for Kids


In an online article in Family, Facebook’s Worst Idea Ever? A Messenger App for Kids [New Jersey Family, December 4, 2017], author Megan Muesen writes:  “Facebook says it will collect some data, including children’s names, the content of their messages and data about how they are using the app. Facebook also reserves the right to share information with third parties (which may have their own privacy policies regarding children) and says it won’t use data from Messenger Kids to create ads…It’s hard to navigate the ever-changing internet landscape, especially at a time when children under the age of eight are spending an hour per day staring at a screen.” But can we trust Facebook to protect the best interests of our children, or can we expect Facebook to protect its own interests, especially its bottom line and revenues?

Facebook is more of a social disease than a social opportunity. It has robbed us of our ability to communicate in human terms, it has created addicts of most of its users. Facebook is a trap that lures unsuspecting people into what they think is a unique opportunity to connect and then treats subscribers like a bunch of idiots blocking accounts at random for days for any so-called violation of Facbook rules, and informing the user that they “may have violated” a Facebook rule. “May have”?  What does that mean. You don’t know and Facebook “systems” doing the blocking don’t care.

You complain that you “don’t have time” to do this or that in your day. Did you ever keep track of the time you spend on Facebook? Try keeping time you spend on Facebook each day for a couple of days. Just jot down Time On/Time Off. You’ll be amazed at how much time you spend on that cyberdemon. Now visit this article and find out if you’re addicted to Facebook (or any other Internet site). You’re an addict and don’t even know it.

Children are becoming fFcebook shadow people

It’s a form of self-deceiving, self-defeating, self-destructive behavior (SDB). This is a serious problem and everyone using Facebook and other social media should be aware of this devastating self-perpetuating, deadman’s spiral behavior. It develops insidiously and has dire effects. Self-destructive behavior is real, is affecting huge numbers of people using social media, and is highly addictive. It’s even affecting the Church and religious and belief traditions of all types.

Got Messenger? Even worse still. You may think you’re important getting all those notifications and messages but Guess what? you’re getting them from other addicts. Anyone who needs request a chat, a video call more than once or twice a day to the same person really needs to get back to reality and get a life. They, you’re addicted.

Just like any other drug, social media takes control of your life even only after a short time of recreational use a.k.a. social use. All it takes is a little bait and those susceptible to addition are hooked like a fish. Remember the time when someone asked you if you had a Facebook account and you actually said No. Facebook now reports that it has some 1.4 billion users worldwide, many of them addicts in the First World, but many also in the second and third world, people who are very vulnerable and susceptible to the wrong messages being disseminated by Facebook users and by Facebook itself. Imagine the scenario where presidents and popes have accounts on Facebook and Twitter and send their public propaganda to millions, billions worldwide. No think of the invisible, clandestine operations that are no doubt going on behind the scenes or behind the profile and “friend” you’ve been sharing your secrets with. Sure, keep indiscriminately “friending” every cyberfreak that comes along. Sure send them a picture of your private parts. Sure, send them anything they ask for. The cheap thrill now will cost you plenty later. That’s a fact of self-destructive behavior, by the way. Read my article.

The whole Federal Law thing about protecting children from online exploitation is a load of bulls***, people. See through the agenda!

Facebook recently launched a new app targeting young childrenFacebook launches a version of Messenger for young children; the app is targeting children and is designed for children ages six to 12 (!!!!). Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), a US federal law, is supposed to  protect underage children from exploitation online, and it’s the reason so many online services require children be 13 years of age or older in order to sign up. Facebook says the new app is only available in the US. Surprised? But the still open question is this: How does Facebook ensure that its present members are a certain age before sign-up? It’s obvious it can’t verify the age of a non-existent person and Facebook is crawling with non-existent persons. Just check out the profiles and subscriber names! Facebook can’t verify an account holder’s name or age, it’s that simple! They rely on what the account holder provides, and that’s usually fake! So the whole Federal Law thing about protecting children from online exploitation is a load of bulls***, people. See through the agenda!

Facebook is going after the next generation of users by targeting children!

Is this your child’s future? Staring for hours every day into an electronic device?

Facebook’s own spokesperson provides a damning statement on Facebook’s real agenda: Facebook is going after the next generation of users by targeting children. Facebook’s Public Policy Director Antigone Davis writes, “Children today are online earlier and earlier.” Davis goes on to say that “research shows that kids are using apps that are intended for teens and adults.” Davis says Facebook collaborated with National PTA on a study showing observing 1,200 American parents of children under the age of 13, with three out of every five parents saying kids under 13 are already using messaging apps, while 81 percent say their kids stated using social media apps as early as eight.” That statement clearly reads that children are already using adult apps, and are chatting and messaging, despite any toothless federal law and the stupidity of their parents! Facebook’s own statement clearly points out that Facebook is going after the next generation of users by targeting children! Facebook is creating a pipeline using young children to become regular users of the Facebook cyberplague.

It’s evil, it’s filth, it’s degenerate.

It hat what the PTA is all about? Parents should demand discipline of any teacher, any school, any school board of education that promotes or allows Facebook, Twitter, or Messenger to be used by students or who promote using social media for communicating school business. The same goes for any parish, congregation, synagogue, temple, mosque that promotes social media as a means for communication among their members. It’s evil, it’s filth, it’s degenerate.

Facebook has proven it cannot be trusted with youth data in the past

In an online article in Wired, Kristen Strader, campaign coordinator for the nonprofit group Public Citizen, says Facebook has proven it cannot be trusted with youth data in the past, pointing to a leaked Facebook report from May that promised advertisers the ability to track teen emotions, such as insecurity, in real-time. “Their response was just that they will not do similar experiments in the future,” says Strader. At the time, advocacy groups asked for a copy of the report, but Facebook declined. [Source: Facebook for 6-year olds?]

It’s not about social media, it’s only about social control.

Messenger Kids. Facebook is going after the next generation of users by targeting children!  Messenger Kids is targeting the 8-13 age group and Facebook is asking parents to give their approval so children can message one another. By enlisting the parents as willing tools to sacrifice their children, Facebook is betting that the app can introduce a new generation of users to the Marc Zuckerberg’s ever-expanding social control universe. Zuckerberg’s greed, arrogance, and intrusion into the family has no bounds! He has to be stopped along with his Facebook evil. It’s not about social media, it’s only about social control.

The glaring arrogance and undisguised attack on our young and children, undermining the role of parents and significant others is unforgivable! The idolatry has become overwhelming and I’d rather not continue supporting it. It is clearly dehumanizing and is doing much damage to our people. The recent announcement of an app for the 13 and under is one of the the most disgusting and ugly attacks on children and their social, moral and spiritual development yet seen in our history. We have to make a move and I am doing my part by this protest: I’m deleting all of my Facebook accounts! I urge you to do the same.

The new app is tantamount to child abuse, akin to pedophilia. Parents who allow it should be damned. In a NY Times article, New Facebook App for Children Ignites Debate Among Families, there is a huge debate among parents who, on the one hand are concerned about “Facebook’s snaking its way into his children’s lives at an early age would most likely do more harm than good,” and those who feel that technology is an inevitability and appreciate “Facebook’s approach with the new app.” The parent interviewed who appreciates Facebook’s newest perversion is, of course, from the LaLa-Land, California, home of Silicon Valley and Facebook. Surprised? Sure, such parents are more than willing to abandon their children to their electronic devices; that provides more me-time for the parents.

I’ve often referred to Facebook and other social media as an addictive drug. Modern science has identified it as being addictive and has even given it a name, Internet Addictive Disorder, and a sub-category of Facebook Addictive Disorder, with its own set of psychiatric signs and symptoms. What more evidence do we need than our own behavior, self-defeating, self-deceiving and frequently self-destructive, to prove to us that Facebook is doing irreparable damage to adults, and is now targeting an even more vulnerable group, our children, and they’re asking parent to cooperate in their own children’s destruction.

One parent’s position on this issue is worth reading. Jenny Anderson tells us “Why I Won’t Let My Children Near Facebook’s Messenger for Kids,” and it’s clear how one parent is aware enough to put her foot down. We need more parents like Jenny!

You should be more worried about your children and social media!!!

STOP FACEBOOK! RAISE YOUR VOICES! WRITE TO YOUR LEGISLATORS! CONDEMN MARC ZUCKERBERG AND HIS EVIL EMPIRE, THE SHEEPLE OF FACEBOOK! SAVE OUR CHILDREN!!!!

We have to make a move and I am doing my part by this protest: I’m deleting all of my Facebook accounts! I urge you to do the same.

The Forgotten Lesson: Christ’s love for the children.

Thank you for reading!

Rev. Ch. Harold
Church, Ministry & Spiritual Care

 

 

Is the Town’s Plan to Exhaust Residents Seeking Justice?

New Baltimore Resident’s Message to Joe Stanzione, Greene County District Attorney:
“We, the public, pay the bills but we’re not getting delivery. As an attorney, you should recognize that this is unlawful.”

Taxpayers and Property Owners are not Means to Their End!
Tax Dollars Pay Public Employees’ and Elected Officials’ Salaries, and Provide Money for Reasonably Expectable Competent Services.
Not to damage our property and then ignore us!!!

New Baltimore insurers Marshall & Sterling (Leeds, NY), Trident Brokerage, and Argo Group (Bermuda) are being paid to work against New Baltimore Residents and Property Owners with good faith claims for damages. The Albany law firm of Bailey, Johnson, DeLeonardis & Peck P.C. have been hired by New Baltimore’s insurers and New Baltimore to make sure New Baltimore residents, property owners and tax payers don’t get justice and fair play! Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? Don’t WE pay the bills in this town? If we as private citizens damage town property our sorry asses are in jail! Maybe that’s where our Town Board, our Town Sole Assessor, Gordon Bennett, and definitely our Town Superintendent of Highways, Denis Jordan, should be!

This is what our government has become!

When a government uses a taxpayer’s own dollars to screw the taxpayer, that’s downright immoral. The Town of New Baltimore pays for insurance to cover liabilities but when a liability occurs, the insurance coverage we pay for is used against us, and the town hides behind the insurance company’s lawyers. You want rights? Find another lawyer, pay him, spend years paying him or her, and when the money runs out, forget about it. You’re still paying. Why doesn’t the Town of New Baltimore wake up, accept the evidence, and stop playing games with residents. That’s not how it’s supposed to work guys and gals!

Here’s the text of a local resident’s letter to the insurance companies covering the Town of New Baltimore’s liability risk. It seems that New Baltimore’s Town Board (Jeff Ruso, Shelli van Etten, Chuck Brody, Scott Brody), Supervisor Nick Dellisanti,  and other elected officials are really missing the bus when it comes to doing what’s right for residents and taxpayers. The problem is that we elected these people who are spending so much time screwing us than they are making life better for us. No exceptions! From the SupervisorDellisanti, Deputy Supervisor Ruso,  to the town board members (Shelli van Etten, Chuck Irving, Scott Brody), to the Highway Superintendent Denis Jordan, to Gordon Bennett, New Baltimore Tax Assessor, who, rather than look at a piece of damaged property for reassessment, tells the property owner to ask for a form!!!

Here’s the full text of the letter to the Town’s insurance company:

Dear Insurance Specialists:[1]

Mr Thomas Rickert, CPCU, ARM, ARM-P, ARM-E, ARC, ARe, VP, Head of Marketing, Trident, ArgoGroup[2]
Joshua Bouchez , Territory Marketing Manager, East Coast[3]
Claims Reporting, Trident[4]
Ashley Heline, Communications Coordinator, ArgoGroup[5]
ArgoGroup Underwriters[6]

It has always been my understanding, and I would reasonably presume that of the general public, that insurance was a science of risk management, control, mitigation but our understanding has changed radically over the past two years on the example of ArgoGroup’s, Trident’s and Marshall & Sterling’s “risk management” in the Town of New Baltimore.

It seems your operations are more attuned to “risk aggravation” or “risk perpetuation” than to “risk management,” and this fact is borne out by a brief review of some of the reports published on a local watchdog blog, Smalbany Blog, which has been covering the incompetence and the abuses operating in the Town of New Baltimore, most specifically in the New Baltimore Highway Department under the direct supervision and authority of its Superintendent, Mr Denis Jordan. For your convenience, several of those links are provided at the end of this communication. You are encouraged, in your own interests, to review the contents of those articles.

Our Town Government at Work for Us.

In terms of fair play, justice and fiduciary obligations, ArgoGroup, Trident, the agency Marshall & Sterling (Leeds, NY) in collusion with the law firm of Bailey, Johnson, DeLeonardis & Peck P.C.(Crystall R. Peck, attorney of record in this matter) and the Town of New Baltimore, you all get failing grades in terms of ethics and fair play. Furthermore, on objective and subjective moral assessment, your conduct is immoral.

It is very much in your interests to review the links provided below which provide a very clear picture of the real risk situation in New Baltimore and how the rights and interests of taxpayers, residents and others, including your shareholders, are being misused and abused.

The facts are indisputable, the evidence clear and convincing, the wrongful acts ongoing, and the damage to the public and to private interests substantial. This is bad press for you and your collaborators indeed.

Poor stewardship of public treasure, abuse of office, and indifference and incompetence at the state level (Mr George Amadore, NYS Senator, 46th Senatorial District), the county level (Greene County, NY; Greene County District Attorney, Mr Joseph Stanzione), and at the local, town level (Town of New Baltimore Town Board; Town of New Baltimore Highway Department, Highway Superintendant Denis Jordan; Town Attorney Mr Tal Rappelea) with the self-interests of Trident/ArgoGroup’s legal prostitutes Bailey, Johnson, DeLeonardis, & Peck P.C., are jointly, severally and individually traumatizing every concept of justice, fair play, professional ethics, good government, and abusing the fiduciary obligations and duties of local, county, and state elected officials, whose obligations are to the public weal, and to the individual uniquely concerned.

It is our well-founded observation that none of the parties listed in the above paragraph are complying with the basic tenets of ethics and the standards we, the public, expect of regulated enterprise, licensed professionals, elected officials; in fact, it is our observation, not our opinion, that Marshall & SterlingTridentArgoGroup, state senator George AmadoreGreene County officialsTown of New Baltimore officials, and the law firm of Bailey, Johnson, DeLeonardis, & Peck P.C.are making a public mockery of public and professional ethics, good government, responsible stewardship in government, and the notions of justice, fair play and fiduciary obligation to the citizen, resident, and most of all to the taxpayers of these communities.

As it now stands, the taxpayer and property owner is exposed to tenfold jeopardy[7]:

  • Jeopardy situation No. 1: As a property owner, one is obliged to pay substantial taxes on one’s property to support government and education; accordingly, the property owner, by and through their taxes and assessments, pays for the services of government. Forsaking all else in order to ensure timely payment of assessed property taxes, the property owner remits.
  • Jeopardy situation No. 2: When the services of government, including the wages and salaries, the goods and services required for operation, etc. operate contrary to the interests of the taxpayer, the taxpayer is harmed. The taxpayer/property owner is deprived of his reasonable expectations issuing from the payment of assessed property taxes.
  • Jeopardy situation No. 3: Included in the allocations of taxpayer dollars, that is, the taxes paid by the property owner, are set aside for the purposes of payment of the salaries and wages of individuals who are either indifferent or incompetent, and those individuals in the course of their employment, harm the taxpayer, those tax dollars are used ostensibly to harm the taxpayer. This is an egregious abuse of the notion of trust and fair play.
  • Jeopardy situation No. 3: When the competent government offices are served with notice of the above situation, and those authorities do not exercise and implement every available option to cure the defects and deficiencies, those authorities are derelict and guilty of misprision.
  • Jeopardy situation No. 4: When the harm done to the taxpayer/property owner is ongoing and attributable to the constructive operations and knowledge of the local competent government offices, each of the instances constitutes a new claim and a new harm to the taxpayer/property owner. Given the fact that the local government and the competent offices are duly notified, each instance constitutes a separate act of negligence/dereliction.
  • Jeopardy situation No. 5: The taxpayer/property owner not only is being deprived of reasonably expected level of competent services for his tax dollars, he is being deprived of good ethical government services, both of which result in financial damage to the taxpayer/property owner in terms of his good faith investment in his community and his reasonable expectations of financial advantage resulting from his investment. This deprivation is tortious.
  • Jeopardy situation No. 6: When the beneficiary local government by its negligence, indifference or incompetence then ignores the taxpayer/property owner’s good faith notice and demands for cure of the defects and deficiencies, and for compensation of the harm done, the local government ignores the claimant and, instead of fair response, hands the matter over to an underwriter, who then hands it over to a hired-gun law firm.
  • Jeopardy situation No. 7: Given the situations above and given the fact of Jeopardy situation No. 7, the taxpayer/property owner is confronted by a situation comparable to Buridan’s ass[8]: The choices available to the taxpayer/property owner to obtain justice are: (1) rely on the good will of local government, (2) proceed at law. A third option is merely to throw one’s hand’s into the air in despair, and lapse into anger and apathy. Conspicuously, option (1) is absent and unavailable to the taxpayer/property owner, and option (3) is unacceptable by any standard of assessment. This leaves Jeopardy situation No. 8.
  • Jeopardy situation No. 8: The taxpayer/property owner, while still obliged to pay his property taxes and other assessments to the delinquent and derelict town government and town officials, is compelled to seek out and to pay for legal services necessary for obtaining justice. This may be a calculated strategy deployed by the delinquent and derelict town government in collusion with their insurance underwriters and their attorneys, clearly expecting that the matter will have to endure a protracted course in pretrial procedures and, if the victim is persistent, then to endure the trial procedure. This normally lasts for a decade or more and can cost the harmed property owner hundreds of thousands of dollars. Regardless of the endurance of the harmed property owner in terms of financial resources and tenacity, he is still in jeopardy situation No. 9.
  • Jeopardy situation No. 9: The clear strategy of the town is to hand over the matter to the underwriter, who has almost limitless resources, who hands it over to a local law firm, who is on retainer by the insurance company. The combination of very deep pockets and a law firm on retainer and obliged to represent the interests of the insurance company over and against the interests of the property owner, regardless of the factual situation, encourages the insurance company and the law firm to keep the matter in the courts for as long as possible, ostensibly in the expectation of exhausting the property owners will, energy, and resources, causing him to withdraw.
  • Jeopardy situation No. 10: The interests of justice and the public weal are defeated, as are the interests of the property owner. The entire community and society at large are damaged, injured.

Damned if I do. Damned if I don’t.
Why are they doing this to us?

As the situation enumerated above clearly shows, the current situation is immoral and represents an insult to the precepts of ethics in government and the professions. We are demanding investigation and prosecution of the particular matter and the general situation in New Baltimore.

I reasonably expect that as this situation develops there will be commensurate and appropriate public outrage, a justified outrage that will manifest itself in a multitude of ways.

This communication will be submitted to the Smalbany Blog for editing and publication.

I look forward to your response and comments.

First of all, given the performance of these elected officials, they don’t deserve to be in office and should be booted out next election. Secondly, these crooked insurance agents and brokers should be boycotted and investigated by the regulatory authorities. As for the shysters, the prostitute law firms like  Bailey, Johnson, DeLeonardis, & Peck P.C, they should be drummed out of the profession; they’re whores practicing law and abusing it.

Well, we’ve done our homework and have researched the law and other applicable court decisions as well as opinions on the subject matter handed down by the Office of the New York State Comptroller. Apparently, New Baltimore Town Attorney, Tal Rappelea, although he claims to specialize in municipal (town) law, hasn’t done his required reading for this course. We’ll be happy to provide him with our Memorandum of Law at the next New Baltimore Town Board public meeting. We’d like him, Mr Denis Jordan (New Baltimore Superintendent of Highways), Mr Scott van Wormer (the “new” — or he will be — New Baltimore Superintendent of Highways), Mr Joe Stanzione (Greene County District Attorney), Ms Crystall Peck (Bailey, Johnson, DeLeonardis & Peck P.C.), and the Greene County Press (Johnson Newspaper Group, Mary Delaney), and Ken Gray or Jean Valk (Marshall & Sterling Insurance) to be there to hear what we have to say, and maybe to comment, too. Maybe Greene County Sheriff Gregory Seally (R), “Mr Cold Case” Seally, will bring a couple of deputies and cuffs for the Town Board and Mr Jordan. We”ll also publish the Memorandum before the meeting so that the whole community can see what can and should be done to correct the disgusting situation in New Baltimore, and other towns like it.

Speaking of lawyers, here’s a bit of humor to take the edge off:

Question: Why does New York have all the lawyers and New Jersey all the toxic waste?
Answer: New Jersey had first choice.

Sign on New Baltimore Town Hall front door.

Enjoy your day!

The Editor

If you enjoyed this article, please copy and paste this link https://wp.me/p2jPFe-31V and email it to your friends, family, and contacts. Keep everyone informed.


Notes

[1] This communication was also cc’ed to Nick Dellisanti, Supervisor, Town of New Baltimore; Jeff Ruso, Deputy Supervisor, Town of New Baltimrore; Barbara Finke, Town Clerk, Town of New Baltimore; Mr. Joseph Stanzione, District Attorney, Greene County; Tal Rappelea, Town Attorney, Town of New Baltimore; Crystall R. Peck, attorney representing Trident/ArgoGroup (Town of New Baltimore); Ken Gray, Marshall & Sterling (Leeds, NY);  Jean Valk, Marshall & Sterling (Leeds, NY).

[2] Thom Rickert, CPCU, ARM, ARM-P, ARM-E, ARC, ARe VP, Head of Marketing, thom.rickert@tridentpublicrisk.com

[3] Joshua Bouchez, Territory Marketing Manager, East Coast, joshua.bouchez@tridentpublicrisk.com

[4] Trident Claims Reporting, claimsreporting@tridentpublicrisk.com

[5] Ashley Heline, Communications Coordinator, Argo Group US, ashley.heline@argogroupus.com

[6] The Argo Group is the parent of the Trident Insurance brokerage, and is located in Bermuda. Wonder Why? that is? Could it be for tax avoidance? (Argo Group, 110 Pitts Bay Road, Pembroke HM 08, Bermuda. info@argolimited.com

[7] Jeopardy is defined as being or being placed in a situation in which someone or something is exposed to possible injury, loss, or evil.

[8] Buridan’s ass is an illustration of a paradox in philosophy in the conception of free will. It refers to a hypothetical situation wherein a donkey that is equally hungry and thirsty is placed precisely midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water. As used here, it represents a situation where the choices are equally good or equally bad; damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The donkey in the illustration is hungry but dies because it can make the choice of which bale to eat. The illustration relates to the situation in New Baltimore in that the options for the property owner are all going to cause more harm or more suffering no matter which choice he makes. The only good choice is for the Town of New Baltimore to choose to do what is fair and right. But they have chosen not to do so. Thus, the property owner is in the unfavorable situation he finds himself in.

 

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2017 in 19th Congressional District, 2018 Elections, 20th Congressional District, 46th District, 46th Senate District, Abuse, Abuse of Public Office, Accountability, Alan van Wormer, Argo Group, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Catskill-Hudson Newspapers, Chuck Irving, Columbia-Greene Media, Conflict of Interest, Consolidated Highway Improvement Program, Conspiracy, Corruption, Crystal R. Peck Esq., Daily Mail, David Louis, DeLeonardis & Peck P.C., Denis Jordan, Denis Jordan, Diane Jordan, Diane Lewis, DOT, Elected Official, Elections and Voting, Eric T. Schneiderman, FaceBook, Fair Play, George Amedore, Gordon Bennett, Government, Greene County, Greene County Attorney, Greene County District Attorney, Greene County Elections, Greene County News, Greene County Sheriff, Gregory R. Seeley, Hearst Corporation, Incompetence, Independence Party, Investigation, Irene Beede, Irresponsibility, Jean Horne, Jean Valk, Jeff Ruso, Joe Stanzione, John B. Johnson, Johnson Newspaper Group, Joseph Stanzione, Ken Grey, Mark Vinciguerra, Marshall & Sterling, Marshall Sterling Insurance, Melanie Lekocevic, Misconduct, Misuse of Public Office, New Baltimore, New Baltimore Democrats, New Baltimore Elections, New Baltimore Elections, New Baltimore Highway Superintendent, New Baltimore Republican Club, New Baltimore Superintendent of Highways, New Baltimore Town Board, New Baltimore Town Board Member, New Street, New York, New York State, New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Highway Law, New York State Town Law, News Channel 10, News Channel 13, News Channel 6, News Herald, Nick Delisanti, Nick Dellisanti, Notice of Claim, NYS Assembly, NYS Senate, Obstruction of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Open Letter, Pat Linger, Patricia Hildebrandt, Patrick Linger, Patty Hildebrandt, Public Corruption, Public Safety, Ravena News Herald, RCS Community, RegisterStar, Retaliation, Scott Van Wormer, Scott VanWormer, Shelly van Etten, Smalbany, Sole Assessor, Susan K. O'Rorke, Tal Rappelea, The Daily Mail, Times Union, Town of New Baltimore, Transparency, Trident, Trident Insurance, Uncategorized

 

Allegation that New Baltimore Highway Super Helps Employee Avoid Drug Test

Question: Did New Baltimore Superintendent of Highways Denis Jordan Turn a Blind Eye to Drug User Employee?

Time to Wake Up, New Baltimore!
Time to Investigate!


Normally we would not publish a mere allegation sent to one of our contributors but this one is very serious. It concerns the New Baltimore Superintendent of Highways and his poor judgment and misconduct in office. It concerns endangering the public. It concerns putting public property at risk. It concerns helping a drug user evade detection.

Normally we would not publish a handwritten note from an anonymous informer but this one is different. It reports a very serious incident. It reports very serious misconduct. It reports something that is very likely true.

Normally we would not publish something like this about an alleged instance of misconduct by a public employee, an elected official, someone to whom important public works are entrusted. But this time it’s different. It concerns a public employee, an elected official who, like so many in the Capital District of New York, but especially in the Ravena-Coeymans-New Baltimore area, is dishonest, incompetent, and corrupt.


Denis Jordan to employee: “Take two weeks and clean out.”

The allegation is that New Baltimore Superintendent of Highways, Mr Denis Jordan, allowed a New Baltimore Highway Department employee to avoid taking a required drug test so that the employee, who admitted he was taking illicit, illegal drugs, could “clean up.” Jordan allegedly allowed the employee two weeks to clean up and then take the test. In the meantime, the employee was allegedly operating Highway Department trucks on public highways, putting everyone at risk. And Jordan knew this and allowed it. On retesting, the employee failed with high levels of cocaine; he was terminated. Jordan is still employed by the Town of New Baltimore.

What makes this information believable is the fact that the informant knew the contributor’s name and his address! This leads us to believe that the informant is local, and he or she may even be an employee of the Town! In fact, when we compared the postmarks on two pieces of mail, one from the Town of New Baltimore Assessor’s Office and the postmark on the anonymous note, the postmarks were almost identical, except for the dates! They apparently were mailed from the same place. Here’s the actual note our contributor received.


It might be a bit hard to read so we transcribed it for you. Here’s what the author has to say:

“Good day, [name redacted for security]:

“After reading your latest blogs regarding New Baltimore Hwy. Supt. Denis Jordan, I would like to give you some more information to look into.

“Recently a newly hired Town Highway Employee was scheduled to have a required drug test as part of his Employment. The morning of the test, said employee went to the Superintendent [Denis Jordan] and told him he could not be tested because he knew he would not pass. We are told that per the employee handbook, this is refusal to submit to a required [drug] test and the employment of said employee is to be immediately terminated. But instead, Supt. Jordan gave the employee 2 weeks to get clean, and told him he would be retested at the end of two weeks.

“At the end of the two weeks the employee went for testing [deletion] and tested positive for high levels of cocaine, and he was terminated.

“This employee [deletion] operated town equipment and drove town trucks up and down the Highway for 2 weeks under the influence of cocaine. Mr Jordan’s decision put not only the other town employees lives and safety at risk, but also each and every person he passed [deletion] on the highway for those two weeks.

“Had this employee been involved in an accident and injured [deletion] or killed an innocent person, and his blood was tested, it would have put the town of New Baltimore in deep trouble both legally and financially.

“Once again Mr Jordan has no regard for rules and regulations that are put into place.

“Rules are for everyone else but him!!”

Given the information being provided in this letter and the details, we have to admit it is pretty convincing. How would someone make this stuff up? But what is even more interesting is the depth of the details. This informant must be in a position to know these “facts” or someone close to this person is in such a position.

This is very serious, indeed. So serious that we felt we should publish it for the community to be informed of what’s going on in the Town of New Baltimore and its departments. In fact, this is so serious that we now demand an immediate investigation by the Town of New Baltimore Town Board. Furthermore, it is so serious, we demand that the New Baltimore Town Board request Greene County District Attorney Joseph Stanzione to launch an investigation into these allegations of Mr Jordan’s latest misconduct.

“Where there’s so much smoke there has to be a wildfire!”

Two outcomes are possible: Once an investigation is launched and completed, Mr Jordan may be cleared of any wrongdoing. But that’s highly unlikely given his history. On the other hand, once the investigation is launched and completed, and Mr Jordan is found to be guilty of the alleged misconduct, we would then expect that he be immediately removed from office and charged. The list of misconduct is too long to allow Jordan to choose when he goes and then shoot the taxpayers of New Baltimore the ‘bird” as he cashes his unearned pension checks at our expense. We say: “Where there’s so much smoke there has to be a wildfire!”

We have covered a large number of cases where New Baltimore Superintendent of Highways has been shown to be incompetent, unfit for the position he holds, as well as instances of misuse of Town personnel and equipment, violations of the rules governing proper recordkeeping, continuing training, and the list goes on. The burning question is Why has he been allowed by the Town Board to continue his misconduct without having to answer to anyone?

Town of New Baltimore Town Board, Greene County District Attorney Joseph Stanzione: It’s time to get off the pot and do something about this ongoing situation. It’s high time someone started doing their job and clean up the corruption!

If the New Baltimore Town Board doesn’t initiate some official action on this latest report, given the other information that the Town has been provided, we think a referendum should be held to remove all of the useless puppets from Town Hall. We’ll want a town hall meeting to discuss what’s been going on in the Town of New Baltimore and demand that all elected officials b be present to answer questions and to take responsibility. This includes Supervisors past and present, Highway Superintendent and Deputy, Entire Town Board, Town Justices, too! Enough already of the hanky-panky cronyism and the behind the scenes operations called “executive sessions.” We demand accountability and transparency!

Let’s Get Started, New Baltimore!

The Editor

 

 

 

Does your funeral home provide customer service or human service?

An Op-Ed Republished with Permission


As a provider of psychospiritual care to the bereaved, as a professional bereavement chaplain, theologian and thanatologist, I firmly believe that some things just have to be delivered locally and face-to-face; these include sex, making friends, spiritual care, funeralization services. Not necessarily in that order or priority ranking.


Grief work is not achieved in three days nor with an online consult. That’s purely and simply idiotic.

The saying goes thus: “Death is the great equalizer.” We are all equal in death. Presidents, kings, supreme court justices, movie stars, athletes all die, all decay, all go the same way as the homeless man on the corner. But would you think of direct burial or direct cremation for a president, a queen, Mohammed Ali? So why skimp on grandpa? We celebrate the deceased’s achievements in life, not the fact of his or her being dead. And we do it with pomp, ceremony, rites, ritual, tradition, dignity and respect. Virtual mourning is none of the above and the grief work is not achieved in three days nor with an online consult. That’s purely and simply idiotic.

Furthermore, a death is a social, political and community event. The emotions involved in the acute grief experience are far too complex and idiosyncratic to be amenable to one method, one technology, one dose. As a social, political and community event death care requires real community involvement, hands on, and that means a local group understanding the local cultures, a “neighborhood,” if you prefer. This is a physical community, complex, deep, involved, alive; not a virtual make-believe, conjured up community.

One more thing: We have to stop giving Jessica Mitford and her estate post-mortem kudos for a book and a sequel book that was not only self-serving and conflicted in its interests, but a masterpiece of biased muckraking appealing to the titillation lust of the masses and their denial of death anxieties. Mitford couldn’t attack Death itself nor could or would she attempt to attack institutionalized religion, so she went after the next best thing, the funeral services industry. I’ve cited Mitford several times on my various blogs so I won’t waste bytes on her here.

I place Mitford in the same category as Kübler-Ross in that neither of them can claim any objective or scientific credibility but their main contribution to Western, particularly American society, was to get people talking about death and deathcare services. That, my friends, was a big step in a society frozen in preadolescent fascinations, psychosocial pathological denial, anxiety and narcissism, steeped in materialist humanism and addicted to corporate-fed consumerism.

It’s progressively gotten worse with the public health problem of Internet Addiction Disorder and the pathological subset, Facebook Addiction Disorder, and the emergence of the multistate funeral services groups like Newcomer Funeral Services Group, Service Corporation International and their alter ego Dignity Memorial, and StoneMor, who have all added greed and indifference to the corporate mix of tastelessness and deception of the consumer public. and their dead Again, I’ve commented extensively on these ghouls of the funeral services niche so I won’t waste time or words on them here.

Newcomer, SCI/Dignity Memorial, StoneMor
Ghouls of Corporate Death Services

They want your money not your brains!

Like it or not, death is inevitable for every mortal creature from cockroaches to presidents and kings. No matter how you define or think about it, you will have to some day deal with death so get a grip. How you deal with the death of a significant other in your life, whether that loved one is a pet or a parent or a child–or your own death is a matter of what I will term befriending death. No, I don’t mean the superficial, make believe, virtual “befriending” most of you are addicted to on Facebook and other social media. I mean the kind of be-friending that involves learning about, nurturing an intimacy with, even trusting, welcoming into your world, and frequent contact. Being at ease with, acknowledging, being aware of death is key. That may sound a bit bizarre so let me explain.

Technology has evolved faster than we as human beings have done. We lag far behind technology in our understanding of it and our ability to wisely and prudently steward it. In fact, technology has overrun us and has taken over our lives; this can’t be denied. This fact has been used to the level of Dr Strangelove proportions by corporations and big business, and even by individuals with pathological ambitions like Donald Trump on Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg with the Facebook phenomenon. The medical, psychological and ethics journals are full of reports on the so-called Internet Addiction Disorder, which was described back in the 90’s, and now there’s a subset of that disorder termed the Facebook Addiction Disorder and the Internet Gaming Disorder, which all share the same symptoms as alcoholism and street drug addiction like heroin or the like. Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it, just go to Pubmed and plug in a couple search terms and you’ll get all the proof you’ll ever need of this fact.


Editor’s note: For those of you who are not familiar with Pubmed, it is the database and search engine maintained by the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health; it provides access primarily to the MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics. (Access Pubmed here. )


You have to admit you have a problem when you need Facebook to help you grieve!

The stimulus for this editorial, however, is not Newcomers or SCI. Nor is it Twitter or Facebook. The funeral service corporations and the social media and networking evils do figure in the theme of this communication, however.
If presidents and perverts have discovered social networking and social media, neither of which are social in the benevolent meaning of the word but serve a more sinister, asocial purpose of getting people hooked and then controlling them, just as the word “service” is used deceptively when used in conjunction with such greed mills as Newcomers or Service Corporation International.
The stimulus for this commentary is, in fact, an article that appeared in Forbes online, “Customer Service In Deathcare: How The Funeral Home Industry Cares For The Living” (contributed by Micah Solomon, MAY 26, 2017).—

Mr Solomon describes himself as a “customer service consultant” and “consumer trends expert,” — he doesn’t say how he got those credentials, though — catchy phrases but a bit too catchy to inspire any confidence or credibility. I’m a bit at a loss not at the What? but at the How? when Mr Solomon then goes on to say:

While some of my own work with the death care industry as a customer service consultant and consumer trends expert has been on innovation in the deathcare customer experience (methods for serving today’s far-flung bereaved customers by using connectivity, videoconferencing, and recording technologies to allow them to take part in memorial/celebration of life service) most of the work I do in this industry and that matters the most, in my opinion, is simply aimed at improving the customer experience, which, of course, is for the living.

Likewise unclear is Solomon’s terminology “far-flung bereaved customers” and “connectivity, videoconferencing, and recording technologies” to involve them in the “memorial/celebration of life service“. Maybe it’s Mr Solomon’s sense of compassion that is represented by his use of the term “far-flung” to describe the unfortunate mourners who are separated by distance from the event. Describing the bereaved as “customers” further chills the atmosphere he’s creating. Technical jargon like “connectivity, videoconferencing, and recording technologies” somehow put a damper on my sense that this guy has any clue about the nature of bereavement, acute grief, mourning, tradition, spirituality, cultural sensitivity, or even the characteristics of the vocation of funeral director. I’m therefore at something of a loss how he, with his frigid and disconnected technospeak, can improve the customer experience! This he leaves to the funeral directors he’s interviewing. Wisely so.

But even more poignant ar the three phrases caught my attention in that unimaginitive and deceptive title: “customer service,” “deathcare,” “funeral home industry.”

We alone, as moral agents and social actors, are responsible for what we do and how we do it

Inserting a bit of Kantian deontology that I’d like you to keep in the back of your mind while reading this, I’d like to say that we are not measured by what the other guy or gal does, but by what we do; we alone, as moral agents and social actors, are responsible for what we do and how we do it. It’s the quality of our values, morals and ethics that govern our behavior. As moral free agents we alone are responsible for what standards are used to guide our conduct.This applies not only to our inner forum, our conscience and how it guides us, but to the external forum, the community in which we live, work, and may disinterestedly interact.

Human service becomes “customer” service when an goods or services transaction forms the basis of the interaction

Customer service is at its most basic human service, service to human beings, human interaction, relationship building. By human services, I mean a broad range of interdisciplinary services whose commitment is jointly and individually to improve the overall quality of life in diverse populations through guidance in meeting basic human needs and support remediating real or perceived social challenges.  Human service becomes “customer” service when a goods or services transaction forms the basis of the interaction but it is still a subset of human services. Accordingly, customer service cannot separate itself from the humane aspect, the relationship aspect of its nature. The problem I have with the Forbes article is that, true to the materialist consumerist interests of Forbes, the article defines customer service purely in terms of selling and purchasing relationships but in the context of the so-called, malapropism, funeral service industry. Customer service must be human service, especially in the funeral services professions. Human service and hence customer service in this framework is near impossible on a corporate or industrial scale for reasons I’d be happy to substantiate in another article, if required.

Try doing this on Facebook or in cyberspace!

The second term that raised my suspicions is “deathcare.” We can defined death care as the care given to the dead or as post-mortem care. This would involve respectful and dignified custodianship and preparation of the dead body for whatever funeralization rites and rituals are appropriate as defined by the deceased individual during his or her life or as requested by the survivors. We must not oversimplify deathcare with the deathcare services businesses and industries that commonly provide services related to the dead body and death traditions, that is, preparation of the dead body (removal, embalming, cosmetology, etc.), funeral rituals, disposal (burial, cremation, etc.), and memorialization. The deathcare business includes for example funeral homes and their operations, including transporation services; containers like caskets, coffins, urns; accelerated decomposition services such as alkaline hydrolysis, cremation, etc.; cemeteries and burial plots, and headstones, markers, etc. What we most neglect in the discussion of deathcare services is psychospiritual care, and here we must include the professional bereavement chaplain and some but not most clergy.

The phrase that most raised my hackles is “funeral home industry.” First of all, the funeral home is not an industry. It may operate like a business but it is a professional operation requiring very specific training and licensure in most places. Most states require a trained and licensed funeral director to at least oversee the operations of a funeral home. The term “funeral home industry” is grossly misleading and deceptive because it creates an image of the traditional funeral home with all of its warmth and amenities together with the dignified and compassionate professional funeral director at its helm. Nothing could be farther from the truth if one looks at the funeral services industry, the more correct designation for the funeral services groups and corporations such as Newcomer Funeral Services Group, Service Corporation International (Dignity Memorial) or StoneMor, who operate more like waste disposal business than funeral homes. Remember corporations operate according to policies, procedures, protocols and most of all the bottom line and shareholder satisfaction. No room here for stuff like compassion, empathy, much less “human service”.

Their focus is twofold: dignified care of the dead and compassionate care of the living.

The traditional, community funeral home is a hub of interdisciplinary teamwork.

The role of the funeral services provider, more accurately the funeral services team, is just that: to provide human services. Those human services are provided by a team of specialists that range from the funeral home cleaning and maintenance person(s), to the housekeeper, the groundskeeper, the funeral home assistants, the behind the scenes professionals (the cosmetologist, the hair stylist, the embalmer), to the front of house staff (the assistants, the funeral director(s)), to the psychospiritual care provider (the funeral home chaplain or associated clergyperson). Their focus is twofold: dignified care of the dead and compassionate care of the living. The human services aspect persists far beyond the care provided with the first call, the removal, the arrangements conference, the chaplain visit and consultation, the visitation or the funeral; what happens at any of these milestones significantly affects the survivors during, immediately after the services, and well into the future, perhaps for years. That’s what the funeral services industry, the large groups, the corporations can’t provide but what the local family-owned funeral home pride themselves in: the human side of funeral services. So be clear on this point: once you start talking “industry” you are not talking “human”. Period.

So far I’ve taken issue only with three phrases that occur in the title of the article alone. But what about the remainder of the so-called article at issue? Well, there’s not much to say about it because the bulk of it is made up of questions put to three selected funeral directors and their responses. Their responses are totally acceptable in terms of the language, and to be honest I can’t find much with which I’d tend to disagree. The funeral directors seem to have their acts in order and say the right things. They are in a highly competitive business and have to be realistic, not necessarily traditional. Read into that what you like.

It should be clear by this point that I do not advocate virtual or technological or corporate solutions to anything as profound as the death experience or any occurrence of acute traumatic bereavement. Electronic signals, bits and bytes, virtual compassion just do not and cannot replace the warmth of human spirit, the compassionate embrace of a friend or loved one, the immediacy of the death experience, the real-ization of the death and its sequellae. The funeral home and its resident and on-call team members are the experts in offering compassion and comfort and no social networking scheme, no corporate disposal package, no virtual event and no DVD can replace the authenticity and true empathic response of face-to-face, human-to-human, verbal and non-verbal communications, the symbols and rituals that give meaning to this most mysterious of life events, death.

… some things just have to be delivered locally and face-to-face; these include sex, making friends, spiritual care, funeralization services.

This is what we do.

The Editor

 


Editor’s Note: Solomon’s self-description reads line a narcissist’s mini-bio: “I’m best known as an author, keynote speaker, consultant, and thought leader in customer service, customer experience, company culture, leadership, hospitality, innovation, entrepreneurship and consumer trends. I travel nationally and worldwide, and home base is metro Seattle. Reach me at 484-343-5881 or micah@micahsolomon.com or http://www.micahsolomon.com” We’ve contacted him for a comment on this editorial.


Acknowledgement: I’d like to extend my special thanks to my colleagues on LinkedIn, Ms Linda Williams M. Ed., M. Th., who describes herself as an Entrepreneur, Virtual Event Planner and Facilitator, Instructional Designer, Educator, Inspirational Speaker”.” Ms Williams describes her business, In-Person Away Virtual Events, as an operation that provides “our clients, their families, and friends with a virtual alternative to come together in an engaging, realistic and meaningful way, as well as host and attend social events, without breaking the bank on travel expenses.” Ms Williams does not advocate virtual resources as a substitute for real presence but only as a valuable alternative affording an opportunity to share where no other viable options are available. I agree.