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Category Archives: Freedom of Speech

Sex for sale? The Follow-up.

We became interested in this Jason Tantra and Tantra 4 Gay Men because of what superficially appeared to be a First Amendment violation; upon investigation it’s far bigger than what we originally considered a cat fight between two individuals having different opinions on some arcane subject. This is now a question of what the federal authorities are allowing to get into the country and how the federal and state authorities are ensuring compliance with our laws.

Yes. There is a First Amendment question here, and Yes! we are still asking What right does someone have to limit another person’s free expression of opinion? Yes! We are asking the question of Why? if corporations are given the same rights as flesh and blood citizens, Why are they not held to the same standards? And YES! We are asking Why? If Jason Tantra and Tantra 4 Gay Men are doing what they appear to be doing, what they say they are doing, Why aren’t our immigration, state department, homeland security, federal and state tax authorities, federal attorneys, state attorney generals, county district attorneys doing their jobs and responding, investigating, and reporting on “companies” like Jason Tantra and Tantra 4 Gay Men?

This is still in effect, isn’t it?

We’re still concerned about the First Amendment question. How is it that an individual — a guest in this country, in fact — can demand that another individual — a citizen of this country — be silenced for exercising his Constitutional rights? Does that mean that say, GE, can kill a conversation that is critical of their environmental policies by just asking WordPress or another blog service provider to remove the conversation? And does that also mean that if a blog is critical of government or a government official, the blog can be silenced? Isn’t that where tyranny and dictatorship starts? Yes, people, there’s a glaring First Amendment violation here but there’s also a frightening precedent, too!


The first three lines of History of the Tantra Religion,[1] the author, a. renowned scholar and philosopher of Indian culture and religion scholar, N.N. Bhattacharyyaa, states the purpose of that remarkable book: “to present in a historical outline, the genesis, development and structural analysis of what is known as the Tantric tradition of India.” And he does just that in exquisite detail.

What occurred to me when reading the book is that Dr. B. covers even the most minute detail of the evolution of the Tantra tradition but says practically nothing about “sexual practices, orgasm, Tantric sex, etc. In fact, out of the some 500 pages of discussion, only 5 index entries  can be found under “sex rites” and those entries are but a couple of words mentioning erotic practices. Nothing is mentioned about Western neotantra or the perverse monetarization of the Tradition in the West but for a condemnatory statement in the Introduction (see below).

What is very conspicuous in Dr B’s  answers the question, What is Tantra? in these words:

Tantra was primarily the way or means to understand the mysteries of life and the universe…Tantra arose as the sum total of man’s knowledge of the objective world around him. It was a way of life that sought the significance of knowledge , not in the realization sic of an illusory absolute, but in the day-to-day activities of men, in the simple facts of life like agriculture…etc., and in experimental sciences like alchemy, medicine…with a deliberate theoretical orientation that the structures of the microcosm and the macrocosm are identical and that the key to the knowledge of nature is to be found in the body.

As we mentioned above, the conspicuous short shrift given to Western tantric practice, including those key figures in Western Tantra like theosophist Leadbeater and others, is a clear indication that Dr B. does not consider the Western perversion or its proponents to be worthy of consideration in an otherwise exhaustive treatment of the History of theTantra Religion, the revealing title of the book.

This is borne out by Dr Bhattacharyya’s concise and strident assessment in the Hindu perspective on what Tantra has become in the West, and writes concerning the union of opposites, that is, male and female, and how it has been perverted by opportunist used-car salesmen:

Bisexuality is inherent in all beings and this aspect has to be exercised in order to understand the truth of one’s own nature. Sexual partnership is therefore the best expression for the most intimate relation between the two opposites…Such rationalizations of Tantric sexual elements are basically subjective, the interpretations being in all cases largely conditioned by their author’s outlook and approach. Anyone working on Tantrism cannot ignore the sexual elements, but difficulty arises when the entire Tantric tradition is superimposed on these elements… Sole emphasis on things sexual has resulted in the publication of numerous books on Tantra containing glimpses of modern sexual psychology and burdened with erotic photographs of the Konarak-Khajuraho tradition;[2] in the development of the queer [viz. bizarre, peculiar, strange][3] conception of modern Tantric art depicting varieties of copulative acrobatics; in the production of pornographic fictions sanctified with Tantric quotations; and in the emergence of a class of recent godmen or gurus giving spiritual sanction to all forms of vulgar and gross sensualities of their moneyed clientele. All this is due to the insistence on a ‘misplaced reality ’in Tantric studies, which even the most qualified scholars could not avoid.” [our emphasis]

Translation: Tantra has been hijacked by unscrupulous, ignorant fakes who have reduced it to vulgar and gross sexuality by ignorant dealers in cheap sex thrills.

Our inquiry was not limited to books and publications by scholars; we also consulted with authoritative sources, that is, living organizations, in both the United States and in India, the home of authentic Tantra. With our request for opinions we send the link to Tantra 4 Gay Men, and asked the organizations to visit the site and to tell us what they thought in response to the fair question:

Is the person, Jason Tantra, offering Tantra or Neotantra, or no Tantra at all; in other words, are the teachings and “spirituality” expounded on the site compatible with what is properly called Tantra, or must they be equated with a Western perversion of the Tantric tradition?

The consensus was unanimous: Mr. Jason Tantra and Tantra 4 Gay Men is not Tantra at all.” One commenter, after having visited the site and reviewing several of the videos, described Jason Tantra as “confused.”

At a more basic, superficial level, googling tantric sex will set your hair on end when you read some of the rubbish out there; none of the sex-service providers don’t know shit from Shinola® about Tantra or even the yoga they are sexualizing in their undisguised pornographic offerings.

So we really have done our homework, as you have learned to expect from us when we get our teeth into an issue. What we have found it that there’s something very fishy going on and something needs to be done about it.

You don’t have to work your way through 500+ pages of scholarly writing or contact more than 20 authoritative organizations to find that the consensus of most authentic, genuine proponents of Tantra call the Tantra of the likes of Jason Tantra and Tantra 4 Gay Men, and neo-Tantra overall, to be the product of poorly developed persons obsessed with sex, or charlatans appealing to the appetites of spiritless and bored materialists.

Worse still, and very concerning, is the question of Why? adult human beings need to pay outrageous amounts of money to get naked in a group setting and practice promiscuous sex in weird positions? It’s either purely exhibitionist or they can’t satisfy their need for human touch and attention in normal interpersonal engagement or Facebook and social media just isn’t doing it for them.

Now, we’re not lambasting or pillorying the LGBT community, or rather the gay men who are the primary targets of the tantra charlatans, simply because Jason Tantra and Tantra for Gay Men has attracted our attention. Nor are we singling out Jason Tantra or Tantra 4 Gay Men; there are many such operations going on in the US alone. There’s something intrinsically pathological about the whole thing. we have studied the Tantra 4 Gay Men site, reviewed the videos, listened to Jason Tantra’s ravings, and we remain unimpressed and very concerned. we have also obtained access through a reader to the Tantra 4 Gay Men site and must note that most of the members are late-to-middle to senior gay or bisexual men. What that means to me is that Jason Tantra is appealing to — and very possibly exploiting, even if it is with their self-destructive consent — a very vulnerable group of men who may be marginalized in terms of their appeal to desired love objects, who may find it difficult to find others of their age and persuasion, or simply are incapable of getting what they think they need outside of paying for it!

The fact that Jason Tantra is selling sex services is obvious, conspicuous. The act that Jason Tantra’s “ teachers” include rent boys and a former porn “model/actor” is undisguised (See “Masseurs“). The fact that Jason Tantra himself, is a narcissist, and running an escort service for men who can’t otherwise find someone to accompany them on trips is obvious (J. Tantra offers his companioning service at Holiday Companion. He’ll travel with you and provide 3 hours of service a day.). Look, if you’re a whore or a prostitute just be honest and say so. If you’re running an escort service and a sex massage service, just say so! Don’t use the name of a time-honored religion to disguise your perversion.

Take Jason along with you on your next trip.

The fact that Jason Tantra claims that the United States State Department and the United States Homeland Security have vetted him and his operation and have granted him a visa to work in the United States and to operate his business in the United States is a shameful statement on how the United States government conducts its own business!

The fact that Jason Tantra operates under an assumed name and provides no details as to his identity or any legal details about his “company”, such as a business registration number or an employer identification number certainly raises questions as to his legality and the legal status of his “company.”

We have contacted the relevant federal authorities, the New York State Attorney General, several district attorneys and are awaiting their responses, reports.

Jason Tantra/Tantra 4 Gay Men, according to their website, offers “programs” in Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and in isolated locations across the US. The locations are a secret. The payment details are a secret. Where’s the state authorities and the federal authorities in all of this?

We became interested in this Jason Tantra and Tantra 4 Gay Men because of what superficially appeared to be a First Amendment violation; upon investigation it’s far bigger than what we originally considered a catfight between two individuals having different opinions on some arcane subject. This is now a question of what the federal authorities are allowing to get into the country and how the federal and state authorities are ensuring compliance with our laws.

Is this Tantra operation a fraud being perpetrated on a group of vulnerable men? Is this Tantra operation a fraud being perpetrated on several states and the feds? Is this Tantra operation a fraud that totally misrepresents a three-thousand year old religious tradition? Are we confronted here with a psychological and moral disease, a spiritual syphilis, a public health crisis which, like so many before it, is being ignored by our government and the public servants we pay to keep watch over such plagues?

Yes. There is a First Amendment question here, and Yes! we are still asking What right does someone have to limit another person’s free expression of opinion? Yes! We are asking the question of Why? if corporations are given the same rights as flesh and blood citizens, Why are they not held to the same standards? And YES! We are asking Why? If Jason Tantra and Tantra 4 Gay Men are doing what they appear to be doing, what they say they are doing, Why aren’t our immigration, state department, homeland security, federal and state tax authorities, federal attorneys, state attorney generals, county district attorneys doing their jobs and responding, investigating, and reporting on “companies” like Jason Tantra and Tantra 4 Gay Men?

We’re still concerned about the First Amendment question. How is it that an individual — a guest in this country, in fact — can demand that another individual — a citizen of this country — be silenced for exercising his Constitutional rights? Does that mean that say, GE, can kill a conversation that is critical of their environmental policies by just asking WordPress or another blog service provider to remove the conversation?


And does that also mean that if a blog is critical of government or a government official, the blog can be silenced? Isn’t that where tyranny and dictatorship starts? Yes, people, there’s a glaring First Amendment violation here but there’s also a frightening precedent, too!

This has now become a question of how corrupt our local, state, federal government has become, and because of that corruption, how much corruption it is allowing to insidiously infect our American culture and society.

We are posing these questions to our public officials and authorities and we demand a response, answers!

The Easton Mountain “retreat community” is in Washington County, near Greenwich, in New York State. They regularly host Jason Tantra and Tantra 4 Gay Men. Perhaps the Attorney General or the Washington County DA could start there asking questions? They’re in New York State and certainly should be able to answer questions, especially about operations, licensing, taxes, etc. Maybe those government officials should be showing as much interest in this issue as we are.

Easton Mountain is just another open-air j/o club or bathhouse posing as a legit retreat center

What’s even more disgusting — and you thought it had already hit rock-bottom – is that the freaks running Easton Mountain have the ignorance and gall to actually publish “Seven Principles of Tantra” . You can clearly see that Easton Mountain is just another open-air j/o club or bathhouse posing as a legit retreat center. Easton Mountain and their source, Rudy Ballantine, another fake guru/fraud, are egregiously misinforming their public and taking them for total fools! They know NOTHING about Tantra except that their perverse version of it is making them money. There are laws protecting the public against fraud and fraudulent practices! So where are our law enforcement people on all of this?


Notes

Update: We’ve bee provided with access to view the articles critical of Jason Tantra and Tantra 4 Gay Men and the content of the blog suspended by WordPress in response to Jason Tantra’s whining. To read those posts, please go to Neotantra Frauds.

[1] Bhattacharyya, N. N., History of the Tantric Religion. Second Revised Edition. (Manohar: New Delhi, 1999)  ISBN 81-7304-025-7

[2] The Khajuraho Group of Hindu temples and Jain temples in Chhatarpur district. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples are famous for their nagara-style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures. The Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is decorated with a profusion of sculptures with intricate details, symbolism and expressiveness of ancient Indian art.

The Konark temple of the sun is also known for its intricate sculptures of gods and goddesses, animals of many species, and tableaus from everyday life; the erotic sculptures of maithunas depict sexual union in ritualistic and romantic situations. These show couples in various stages of courtship and intimacy, and in some cases coital themes. Notorious in the colonial era for their uninhibited celebration of sexuality, these images are included with other aspects of human life as well as deities that are typically associated with Tantra, and these images may be the same kama and mithuna scenes found integrated into the art of many other Hindu temples. The erotic sculptures are found on the temple’s Shikhara, and these illustrate all the bandhas (mudra forms) described in the Kamasutra.

[3] Dr B’s use of this word is more in the sense in which it is understood in his culture, that is, peculiar, strange, eccentric. It does not even imply the meaning given it in the West to describe aberrant behavior and formerly used to describe homosexuals, or the more contemporary use of the term to describe a broad spectrum of non-normative sexual identities and politics.

 

Tantra or Sex Services?

We have received responses to several of our inquires and it doesn’t look good for Jason Tantra or Tantra 4 Gay Men. Several authoritative Tantra experts have condemned Mr Tantra’s site and his claims, as have several published papers. It seems the authoritative opinion is that Mr “Tantra’s” claims for himself and for his “teachings” are simply not Tantra at all, and, as one expert puts it, it “site looks more like sexual activity for gay men than serious tantric practice.” We agree. We are also reviewing a Google site that discusses Mr Tantra and his organization and we will include that information with the information received from government agencies in our next report. While the fact that Tantra 4 Gay Men and Mr Jason Tantra may be perpetrating a fraud on a vulnerable group, we are more interested in his visa, tax, and licensure status — but our US government agencies tend to drag their feet when it appears they might have been duped. We are contacting the New York State Attorney General’s office to make inquiries, since Mr Tantra is “appearing” at the Easton Mountain retreat lodge in New York State. Maybe a sting can be arranged.



Just when we thought that there could be nothing weirder than local politics and politicians, up pops a case that seems even more bizarre. We’ve received information on what appears to be a feud between two apparently vastly different organizations, rather individuals, on of all things, the question of Tantra vs. Neotantra vs. gay “sacred” sexuality. Yes, you are reading correctly, and NO, we’re not joking.

The bottom line is this: Yes! Lady Liberty is weeping because the Constitution is burning. We think that there is a civil rights violation here. If you believe you have been the victim of a civil rights violation, you should seek legal assistance through one of the many civil liberties organizations or through a private attorney. Get a free consultation or, if you need to spend $100 to defend your rights, it’s definitely worth it. Civil rights are fundamental rights and there are plenty of safeguards in the US justice system designed to ensure that your rights are protected.


Warning: This content deviates from our normal subject matter so we do urge caution, since it does contain material and discussion that might be considered “offensive” to some sensitive individuals.


We receive a great many tips on possible stories to cover so when we received this one, it piqued our curiosity and we started digging. Anyone who is familiar with this blog knows that when we identify an issue, we start the research process that includes deep fact-finding to verify the facts and the actual issues. This case is no different — or is it? Actually, it is different in two important ways:

First, it is pretty one-sided because the one party, an individual calling himself “Jason Tantra,” apparently from Bristol, England, and operating a company called Tantra 4 Gay Men, a company with a Bristol, UK, address, is battling with an American organization, not a commercial entity but an apparently spiritual-religious entity, largely because of a difference in doctrine and interpretation of what exactly Mr Tantra (Sorry! But that’s what he calls himself, and has refused to give his real name.) is offering in his so-called “sensuality workshops,” that are being offered in places like New York (Manhattan), Massachusetts (Boston), Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), and other “discreet” venues in the US. Of particular interest is a so-called “festival” that is hosted by the largely LGBT “retreat center” calling itself Easton Mountain Retreat Lodge, in New York.

Unfortunately, because Mr Tantra went ahead and complained to WordPress, the social media platform, about the articles, WordPress suspended the blog owner’s site — actually in violation of their own Terms of Service — and so we have no way of reviewing what the author posted or the impact it might have had. That’s a double-edged sword because (1) we normally would investigate both sides, and (2) if Mr Tantra caused the site to be permanently deleted by WordPress, Mr Tantra has no basis to prove his allegations.

The second difference is that we are not particularly interested in the superficial issues of a squabble between two individuals or organizations but the cherished principle of freedom of expression, and its protection at least in the United States of America under the provisions of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. That’s a serious issue that we will likely focus on and the question of the extent of a person’s right, if any such right exists, to deprive another person of his/her right to freedom of expression, even if person No. 1 feels that person No. 2 is unfair or inadequately informed. The second part of this question is that of due notice. In New York state, at least, before anyone can be deprived of his or her rights or privileges, the law requires that s/he be provided with due notice.If that is not done, then there is the possibility that yet another protected right, that of due process, may have been violated.

Now, of course,we operate as journalists and not as attorneys, so our questions may or may not have legal weight in a real-life dispute, but they are worth considering because if those rights can just be arbitrarily eroded just because of a difference of opinion or because there is some sort of economic competition between the parties, which is not the situation in this case, then it can affect each and every one of us in various ways. The cherished American protected right of freedom of expression, including opinions, should not be cast so lightly aside simply because one party has a paranoid delusion of competition or an inflated sense of right, or simply because he doesn’t like what someone has to say.

Unfortunately, thanks to Mr Tantra’s draconian step of somehow inducing WordPress to suspend not just the posts about Mr Tantra or his company but allegedly the blogger’s entire site, has, as mentioned above, deprived us of the opportunity to review the particular posts but also places Mr Tantra and his company in a very different light.

We are navigating perilously close to tyranny by private interests and corporations

Moreover, it raises important questions about your rights and the arbitrary and unilateral adverse actions taken by social media, especially relating to your right to express yourself. When social media operators like Facebook and others can simply vaporize an account or a site without having to give an explanation, we are navigating perilously close to tyranny by private interests and corporations, and government not protecting our rights.

You see, in the UK there are very different concepts of freedom of expression and the laws differ considerably; in the UK you’d have less protection and more liability, that is, if you are subject to those laws. In the United States, the rights of freedom of expression are constitutionally protected and have received very broad interpretation in the courts.

Mr Tantra is a UK subject allegedly working in the United States on some sort of a visa. He claims also that his company and its services received extensive scrutiny by “the Visa office” of the “US embassy,” who allegedly authorized him to operate his business in the United States. We have requested details of his claims but Mr Tantra has refused so far to produce any documentation.

Our information indicates that Mr Tantra operates his business not only in the United States generally, but in several states, including New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and others. This raises the question not only of authorization generally to operate a business in the US but to operate a business in several sister states. Again, Mr Tantra is silent on these questions.

A very salient question we posed in the course of our initial exchange was that of taxes. Does Mr Tantra file federal returns and state returns for his income and revenues generated by his activities in the several states in which he operates his business. Mr Tantra states that he does file returns, that an accountant files his returns, and that he pays substantial taxes, but Mr Tantra does not provide a taxpayer identification number or any other documentation of his claims. We have requested at least some proof of his statements but have not yet received any.

Mr Tantra operates a business in the United States but doesn’t actually say what it is. We have visited his Internet site and from what we can glean from the information there — it’s a bit confused and well, ambiguous and vague, but see for yourself. Here’s the link: Tantra 4 Gay Men / Jason Tantra. We have also viewed a number of his YouTube videos which we find a bit amateurish and rambling but there are clear indications on both his Internet site and his YouTube videos that his company concentrates on sex practices, intimacy, tantric (sensual) massage, orgasm, awakening and enlightenment, bliss, and ecstasy. All of the keywords we’ve been able to identify are oriented towards gay men or “men who love men.” Seems like an unusual type of business or company to receive authorization from a US embassy to operate in the United States but who are we to decide US policy, we’re only voters, citizens, and taxpayers. Right?

Whatever. We have asked Mr Tantra to provide any copies of any blog articles he have from the suspended blog. We have also requested specific information from Mr Tantra so that we can be fair and even-handed in our upcoming report.

Mr Tantra’s responses are rambling and in part contradictory so we don’t really know if he understands what we are asking for, or if he is refusing to provide the documentation. Of course, he is under no legal obligation to even talk us but we feel it is in his interest to cooperate. We can’t accept simple statements as proof of what he says; we need to have something solid, official to show he’s legit.

As most of our readers know, we know where to find information and so we have contacted state and federal agencies with our requests for information. But in the meantime if any of our readers know of Mr Jason Tantra or his company, Tantra 4 Gay Men, we’d like to hear from you.

Since we have far more than 400,000 readers worldwide, we’d like to hear from anyone, not just Americans or persons in the US, but anyone worldwide who knows of Mr Jason Tantra, his company, Tantra 4 Gay Men, or who has participated in any of his “programs.”

We’d particularly like to hear from the author of the posts that so upset Mr Tantra or the owner of the blog that was suspended at Mr Tantra’s demand. Better still, if anyone can provide copies of the blog articles concerned, that would be a real boon.

We do know that the gay retreat venue Easton Mountain, is hosting at least two Jason Tantra events this year: the Tantra4GayMen Diploma Program: Healing & Surrender Module (there are apparently 3 modules) and The Tantra Experience, and in past years has hosted Mr Tantra for a number of events and he is allegedly next presenting there June 22-28, 2019, for some kind of “diploma-certificate” program he offers. It gets pretty pricey at between $1,999-$2,199, depending on whether you want multiple occupancy rooms or camping. You can find his US offerings at US Events and Workshops.

We do emphasize that our interest in this case has nothing to do with the parties’ squabble or the particulars of their offerings, even considering we do not have the advantage of details from Mr Tantra’s alleged adversary. We are examining and investigating this case because of the First Amendment issues and the overall issues of doing business in the United States and the laws regarding taxation, filing of returns, what you can and cannot do with or without a license to do it, and generally the principles of freedom of expression.

Moreover by posting links to the various sites of interest we in no way whatsoever intend to suggest that we support or do not support those operators. The links are provided solely for the information of our readers and serve no other purpose or intent whatsoever.

We have communicated with Mr Tantra and have informed him that if we do not receive reliable documentation from him by June 5, 2019, we will proceed with our findings without his inputs. We feel that’s only fair.

We’ll get the answers one way or the other.

 

Update: We have initiated inquiries on this matter with the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the Office of the United States Attorney, Civil Rights Office, in addition to our other inquiries.

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Special Notice & Legal Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Persons accessing this site are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.
 

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.

*****

 

Bottom-Feeder Planet Fitness Violates Protected Rights!!! Another Report.

“WE’RE GOING AFTER THE 80% OF THE POPULATION* THAT DOESN’T HAVE A GYM MEMBERSHIP”
CHRIS RONDEAU
Planet Fitness CEO


You may not know it but you’ve become a target for the fitness scam of the century, PLANET FITLESS.

It’s all about the money of selling memberships; nothing about you or your fitness!

Thumbs down AGAIN for Plantet Fitness in Glenmont.

We recently published a scathing article on the Planet Fitness franchise, particularly one local facility in Glenmont, New York. Our research actually showed that what we reported about the Glenmont facility is epidemic in most Planet Fitness locations. It seems it’s a corporate characteristic: incompetent management and staff, poor maintenance, and the majority of members are really not what you want to work out with.

The only judgment-free we can find is that it is free of any good judgment.

We have received another serious complaint about Planet Fitness operations, this one points to serious violations of rights guaranteed and protected by the United States Constitution, that is, freedom of speech and opinion. Seems that if someone at the front desk not doing their job but listening to private conversations can go to management who, without due process of any kind such as discussing a possible problem, simply disciplines a member by terminating their membership. No questions asked. Now that’s Planet Fitness customer care. As we’ve already reported, Planet Fitness is a bottom-feeder among fitness clubs, and is really going to hell in a hand basket if recent observations and reports are accurate. Judging by this contributor’s letter, it’s only getting worse.

Now Planet Fitness staff are eroding protected rights like free speech, and they’re doing it in a discriminatory way without any notion of fairness or due process. If you’re Mr Nice Guy, you’ll be the first to go because you won’t beat the crap out of the [redacted] manager or his [redacted] staff. Right Daniel Boughton.

Planet Fitness – The Constitution-free Zone

Here’s what we just received (it’s a bit long but we thought it was worth reprinting in its entirety):

Dear Smalbany Editor:

Let me start out by saying that I am not easily impressed or shocked. In my professional life I have encountered incredible suffering and incredible stupidity and ignorance but, I must admit, just when you think you’ve seen and heard it all, someone comes up with another masterpiece of idiocy.

Well, I do apologize, since I am writing to the Smalbany blog, a remarkable venue of never-ending-exposure of local stupidity and ignorance, and the suffering it causes. I read your blog and sometimes just have to shake my head, roll my eyes, and offer a fervent prayer that my friends and neighbors in the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk communities, and our neighbors in the New Baltimore and Greene County communities, read your stuff and wake up to what’s going on. Before I tell my story, and I hope you will publish it, even if you have to edit some of what I have to say, let me first say Thank you! for your time, energy, interest in our communities, but most of all for your guts in saying what others don’t even dare to think. It’s a terrible shame that our communities have become what they are, and we need people like you and your contributors to help us out of the morass into which we’ve sunken thanks to our apathy and unwillingness to speak up.

Several weeks ago, I read a piece the Smalbany blog published on the Planet Fitness franchise [See our article, “Planet Fitness a.k.a. Planet Failure“. The Editor], and I was appalled at what I read. Appalled because I have personally witnessed and experienced much of what you described. But to think that it is so widespread was what really floored me.

Yes, I am, or was, until today, a so-called Black Card Member. I really don’t know why I stuck with Planet Fitness as long as I had but, like so many of my colleagues and friends who are or were members, the fact that it is the bottom feeder of health and fitness facilities was offset by the fact that it was cheap and was on our way home. Well, that’s what we kept telling ourselves.

The fact is, Planet Fitness is a bottom-feeder. Anyone with any sense will admit that and now that there’s more competition in the Albany area with beautiful new YMCAs in Delmar and Coxsackie, Best Fitness, VENT, and other serous, real gyms and exercise studios, the situation as I have been able to observe over the past couple of years is getting worse at Planet Fitness. Worse in that there seem to be more sociopaths and low-lives than ever. But that may be because Planet Fitness is losing all of their top-shelf members to the YMCAs and to the other, more glamorous competition. So I guess they have to make up for their losses by offering cheaper and cheaper deals and attracting a lower and lower class of member

Your article only scraped the surface of what’s going on at Planet Fitness, though, and you have to be a regular at Planet Fitless to really know how bad it is. Don’t be suckered in by the hype and the marketing garbage. This stuff can’t be made up!

Yes, management, if you can call it management, is substandard. At the Glenmont club the manager is about 30 years old and has been “managing” a PF facility for 12 years. 12 years!!! Doing the same thing, dusting equipment, mopping floors, cleaning out urinals, hiring brainless and immature front-desk personnel, and making lame excuses. Clocks were out for months. Equipment unrepaired for weeks. Urinals not working for weeks. Sink fixtures broken likewise for weeks. But the most irritating experience is the type of people that are becoming the regulars. They have no respect — but what can you expect when the staff has no respect —, no gym etiquette, they’re dirty, and the list goes on.

I’ve recently observed the so-called trainer giving an equipment blitz-tour: a quick explanation of what the piece of equipment is working but I have never seen her tell the new member that after using the eequipment, he or she should wipe it down with a paper towel and some of the sanitizer provided. It’s no wonder that these people use the equipment and leave their residues all over it. They have to be told to wipe off their sweat and dirt but nobody at Planet Fitless tells them!

I’ve also never heard or seen the trainer or any of the other staff telling members to pick up after themselves or to put the weights back where they belong. It’s even more of a mess than what you describe in your article.

Management is incompetent and staff are lazy and indifferent. What’s worse still is that the manager is about as mature as the adolescent minds he hires. I guess it makes him feel more comfortable, sorry soul that he is. I can’t imagine what he thinks of himself but then, it takes all kinds.

Yes, I was shocked today when the Glenmont Planet Fitness manager , Daniel Boughton, called me over as I was leaving the facility. He stood there mumbling a lot of words and I was having trouble discerning what the devil he was going on about. I stopped him and asked, “What is it you’re trying to say?” He responded: “I have to terminate your membership.” To be honest, that wasn’t the worst news I could have been given, since I was only waiting until my current membership ran out and I was going to cancel anyway, investing the money in a YMCA membership, because of the quality of the facilities and the programs. No big deal. He’s terminating my membership so now I don’t have to wait. OK.

But curious me, I had to go one step further and asked him Why? What he told me hit me like a brick. His reason: “You are continuously using foul language.” Are you kidding me? Do you know who you are talking to? He repeated, “You are continuously using foul language with staff and other members.” News to me!

I couldn’t believe my ears but when he repeated what he had said I knew I had heard correctly.

My initial reaction was to ask “What are you talking about? First of all, I’ve never used foul language with your staff or with other members.” But ‘continuously’? That really bothered me.

Mr. Boughton pointed out that a couple of months ago I approached him in an agitated state because of some dangerous activity in the free-weights area and an abusive member. I did mention to Mr. Boughton that the member told me to “F**k myself and go tell the manager.” I did quote the member and I did tell Mr. Boughton that “I don’t have to put up with that kind of sh*t.” Yes. I was upset because I was fed up with the same old same old and Boughton and his staff just hold a love fest at the front desk ignoring everything.

Today, another member, a workout buddy, and I had a chat about a new member slamming weights and leaving weights all over the place. My buddy had already told the guy to stop dropping the weights and making such noise. [Editor’s Note: PF has what is called a “Lunk Alarm” which is a whistle or a siren that is operated from the front desk when a member makes too much “inappropriate noise” in the “Non-judgement [sic] Zone.” But isn’t that a judgement [sic[? Apparently the front desk attendants were to busy love-festing to push a button.] He also told him to put his weights away after using them. He was ignored and so he went to the front desk to get one of the “attendants” to talk to the guy. At about this time, rather than being told again to “f**k myself” by some lowlife, I approached the front desk and also asked that someone talk to the guy. The attendants looked uneasy but when we insisted, one of them, a kid, left his perch and seemed to go over to the unruly member. At that point I said something like “#*($(&(@#!! retard member and the staff is too.” I was not happy with how the staff member responded; it was as if we were bothering him, making him do his job, the snotty brat. Apparently [redacted] attendant was offended and carried the “story” back to Boughton, who decided that I was abusive and “continuously using foul language with staff and other members.”

PF Has It But Staff is Too Lazy to Push the Button!

So what I got for my years of membership and loyalty is an insult and a termination. Oh! And I got handed a scrap piece of paper with Daniel Boughton’s manager’s name and telephone number. Boughton told me if I wanted to discuss the termination I could call Dan Harms, his boss. No thanks! Dealing with one ding-a-ling is enough for one day. [Editor’s Note: Wise decision. We’ve spoken to both Boughton and Harms; you don’t want too much contact with the brainless; it might be contagious.] Besides, I wouldn’t want to interrupt Mr Harms’ urinal fishing.

That was it. My private remark to a like-minded buddy was enough to get my membership terminated. No discussion, no inquiry. Summary termination. Isn’t that illegal on some planets?

I could go on but what’s the use? Planet Fitness is Planet Fitless. It sells memberships whether you use them or not. New members, short-term widgets get dumped on veterans who know how to work out together and make life miserable before disappearing, paying their $10 and some ridiculous monthly pittance.

Your article was over-the-top right. Everything you wrote is true but in reality it’s actually worse.

At this point, after some 5 years a Planet Fitness member, and getting treated like that by the likes of the Glenmont Planet Fitness staff, I’m grateful for the nudge to move on.

People interested in real fitness and professionally managed facilities, management who cares, and members who care about their club and their health and safety would do well to avoid Planet Fitness. Yes it’s cheap but you get what you pay for. Some people will accept that. People with any self-respect won’t.

[Name Redacted by Smalbany Policy]

P.s. I know you say you don’t publish names but I have no problem with your publishing my name. I don’t really care if Planet Fitness knows who I am. In fact, I know many local people read your blog and at least my friends who read this blog will know why they are not seeing me any more. I’m sure Boughton won’t tell them the truth – he didn’t even tell me the truth. If you publish my letter, let me say Thank you!

Well, that’s another Planet Fitless (we liked that so we’re going to use it) horror story. We’ve edited in some emphasis and some notes and edited out some words but for the most part, we’ve reproduced the letter as sent and received.

Does this sound like a lawsuit in the making to you? We think there’s good lawsuit in this situation and we’ll be happy to research the possibilities for our reader.

There’s a saying that goes “There’s a sucker born every minute.” We guess that at that rate, there will be enough suckers to keep Planet Fitless going for a while but then what? Are you one of those suckers?

Planet Fitness Club Rated:

Glenmont, NY
Daniel Boughton, Manager
329 Glenmont Road
Glenmont NY 12077
518-439-1200

EXPOSED AGAIN!

 

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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RCS Communities Mourn a Special Son

On July 20, 2015, suddenly, unexpectedly a special son of the RCS community for more than 75 years was summoned home; a colorful, memorable, well-liked, loved and respected member of the RCS community, Rodney A. Krzykowski, died but he left an American legacy and true meaning for those of us who are still able to know the American pioneer spirit when we see it. Rodney will be truly missed by many of us. He should be missed by all of us.

In fact, you can thank Rodney Krzykowski for this Blog! This very blog owes its existence to Rodney Kryzkowski. Think back to 2012, when the crooks, conspirators and special-interest lackies (James Latter, Howard Engel, Alice Whalen, Joe Tracey, Josephine O’Connor, Matt Miller, the RCS Sports Association, and the nefarious Delucas, Cathy and Dirty-Hands Jerry) were ambushing and backstabbing, and lying their way into controlling the RCS school board and the $42,000,000+ budget. This blog was started to defend Rodney and to expose the crooks and conspirators for what they were. That was three years ago and we’re still going strong, thanks to Rodney and the raw deal the crooks were handing him.

RodneyK_FrameRodney Krzykowski was a man of few words but those words held incredible meaning. He was an honest man, a man who shot from the hip with deadly accuracy, as many of the members of the RCS board of education, like Mr James Latter, Mr Howard “Bray” Engel, Ms Alice Whalen and others too numerous to name, learned very quickly and have the scars to prove it. Rodney was intelligent and did the math before he opened his mouth, unlike the current Latter board, and when he spoke, he made sense; he never learned double-speak.

Rodney embodied a very rare pioneer spirit and didn’t have very much use for government or the crooks government seems to attract and feed. He was brilliant when it came to researching even arcane subjects and doing his homework. Unlike most of our elected officials and public employees, Rodney thrived on intellectual challenges;if it was out there, he’d find it, and when he did Watch out! Town of Coeymans. Most of the local sheeple tended to condemn him on unsubstantiated misinformation spread by the local incest clubs. Surprised? Unlike Rodney, everyone else had something to say about his politics but none of them really knew anything at all about him or his politics. We did, though, and we must admit that he was on to something, not a fanatic or an anarchist, but a true crusader, a man whose principles guided him, and a man who thumbed his nose to ass-kissers and clique-members. When you spoke to Rodney, you had an instinctual perception that the man was special, honest, had a pioneer integrity that is almost extinct these days.

dove with olive branch

Rodney was a mechanical genius. He loved his cars and he loved racing them. Yes, Rodney raced stock and modified his cars himself, frequently creating machinery to get a job done. If something needed customizing he could conjure up an apparatus to do it. Makes you wonder that he never went the patent route with his creations; the man could have been a millionaire.

Yes, he could have been very comfortable but he preferred to remain simple and work for what he had. If you knew Rodney, you would have to agree with us that you would find it very difficult to find anyone who was a harder worker than he. The man never stopped.

Whether with friends — he was always welcome in many local homes — hanging out in local automotive shops, or at the Medway Café, where you could find hm regularly, he was quiet, minded his own business, but was always available if you wanted to chat. In fact, there was no one still living who knew more about local property histories, businesses, families, and government than Rodney Krzykowski. If you needed to know anything about the property that is now the Port of Coeymans or Don Trickie’s escapades, you’d ask Rodney. He could tell you what was there, what’s still there, who put it there and, if it’s not there anymore, where it went.

tail between legs_looking rightRodney was also an avid history buff and could talk your ear off about the Constitution, the developmental history of taxation, property laws, and the list goes on. He scared the living bejeebers out of local officials, lawyers, judges, because they were ignorant of most of what Rodney had spent years researching. Most local officials rely on an ignorant community and they have their way with the poor bastards; Not with Rodney K! He’d send those dirty dogs packing with their cruddy tails between their legs. We need more Rodneys to keep things kosher in town and village halls.

Rodney owned a tavern and most recently RAK Tire Recovery and the former R.K. Winners Circle. He was not only a businessman and entrepreneur but active in community organizations, too. He was a member of the Ravena Grange and the County Grange and was elected to serve on the RCS board of education. He even raced stock cars at Lebanon Valley for many years.

Rodney was a self-made man, a good man, a generous friend. We are deeply saddened by the way his death was hushed by his family, and how his community was deprived of the opportunity to grieve his death, how Rodney’s friends and admirers were deprived of the opportunity to mourn the loss of a friend and model citizen. We were outraged by the pitifully scant obituary that was tucked away, almost invisible, in a Sunday Times Union. Rodney deserved better, much better. In fact, quite a number of Rodney’s friends and acquaintances were shocked and offended that he was disposed of like a box of old newspapers. A number of those friends and acquaintances even offered to chip in a couple of hundred dollars each to cover a proper viewing and funeral but Rodney’s daughters allegedly wanted to make quick work of it all — the Babcock Funeral Home of Ravena (NY) — a real monopoly in the Ravena area, big prices small productions — , known for its sloppy service, probably didn’t do much to help the general situation.

But the well-hidden, cheapo obituary did announce that Rodney’s memorial service was to be held on

Saturday, August 1, 2015
at 11:00 a.m. at the
Trinity United Methodist Church
Coeymans Hollow

We hope that everyone who knew Rodney will be there to show their support for this fine man, and to show that true American pioneer spirit still has a place in our decrepit culture. Let’s see how Trinity United Methodist will manage to appropriately and fittingly celebrate Rodney’s life; are they up to the task? (See Editor’s Note.)

Editor’s Note: The turnout at Trinity United Methodist Church for Rodney’s memorial service was standing room only. Rev. Meager rushed the actual service a bit and the hymns could have been a bit more energetic but overall the event was a fine tribute. The Grange did a beautiful tribute, and the eulogies spoke only well of Rodney and his contributions to the community. It was a proper tribute to a fine man, and we’d like to thank the community for showing up and doing Rodney proud.

Rodney,
You grew in wisdom, age, and grace and learned through suffering.
May the Lord bless and keep you.
May choirs of angels welcome you and lead you into paradise,
May the martyrs come to welcome you
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem,
where you may find respite in the bosom of Abraham;
where Lazarus is poor no longer,
where every tear is wiped away.

There may you find eternal peace.

StJohnsAshfield_StainedGlass_GoodShepherd

We’ll remember you, Rodney.
The Editor

 

Congressman Chris Gibson Here on October 2, 2014! Be there!

Your United States Congressman Chris Gibson will be in our area on October 2, 2014, we are advised by New Baltimore Republican Club president, Jeff Ruso.

american spirit
Congressman Chris Gibson Here on October 2nd!

“I received confirmation that Chris Gibson will be at the New Baltimore Republican Club meeting of Oct. 2nd.  This will be at Pegasus’ Restaurant. We start at 7:00, but the Congressman is not expected until about 7:45.  George Amedore, Peter Lopez and others also are confirmed.” *
 * Editor’s note: There may be a donation at the door but there is usually food, door prizes,
and a 50-50, which make it a bit more fun.

 This might be a great time to take an evening, have a little bite to eat at one of our area’s leading eateries, the famous Pegasus Restaurant, to meet your neighbors, and to grill your legislators.
Colonel Chris Gibson United States Congressman

Colonel Chris Gibson
United States Congressman

The New Baltimore Republican Club is a very welcoming, friendly group of neighbors, and we’re sure they’d be more than delighted to welcome anyone of any party affiliation from the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk communities, as well as neighbors in Greene County.

It may be a good time to also address the local problem of anti-military bias in our schools, and hear what the national legislators think of the RCS scandal raised by Mr Tom DiAcetis, principal of the RCS high-school, and Mr Alan McCartney, RCS central school district interim supervisor. That scandal united 19 local students to challenge DiAcetis and McCartney, who were shredded on national media, and mobilized parents to hand out National Guard t-shirts at the recent RCS homecoming game. (See the front-page report in the Ravena News Herald, October 2, 2014). DiAcetis and McCartney are desperately backpedaling but it’s doing them no good, except to further mark them as liars and incompetent as leaders. The Ravena News Herald appears to be providing DiAcetis and McCartney with excuses but when Bryan Rowzee of the Ravena News Herald quotes Alan McCartney as saying, “McCartney went on to explain that the recruiter personally ‘apologized for his actions…”! Well, Mr McCartney, the recruiter is not the one who should be offering apologies, you ASS! You should be apologizing all the way to the door, together with Tom DiAcetis, and your special-interest biased RCS board of education! You should be apologizing for your anti-military bias, your double-talk to the taxpayers and parents of this district, and your lax attitude with renegade and maverick school administrators and crooked teachers! No, Mr McCartney, the unnamed recruiter doesn’t have to apologize.

outrageAnd Thank you! James Staats of South Bethlehem for your short but very to-the-point letter-to-the-editor of the News Herald in which you give DiAcetis and McCartney the lashing they deserve! Mr Staats writes: “McCartney went on to explain that the recruiter personally ‘apologized for his actions and agreed to meet with students concerning the shirts.” We’d like to note that the News Herald’s and Rowzee’s attempts in the extensive positive coverage of the RCS school district in the October 2, 2014, issue is an obvious attempt to distract readers from the seriousness of the DiAcetis-McCartney scandal. In fact, it’s insulting to read that McCartney says that the recruiter “personally apologized”! For what? Mr McCartney. It’s not the recruiter who owes us an apology, you ASS! It’s YOU and Tom DiAcetis! Our legislators, Mr Gibson, Mr Lopez and others (Amedore) need to weigh in on this scandal; after all, they can lean heavily on education officials in the state and federal departments of education to discipline such violations of civics and civil rights.

Open Letter to all RCS board members:

While I know many of you, I want to address the full board on a matter of extreme importance.

As a graduate of RCS and an Army veteran, I am outraged by the decision of  Interim Superintendent AlanMcCartney to ban the wearing of tee-shirts handed out by the National Guard to students. This is a graphic of a soldier standing sentinel in defense of our freedoms. This should not be offensive to anybody but should invoke pride that we have courageous men and women to serve our country.

I would like an answer from each one of you; not in political gobbeldygook, whether you agree or disagree with his decision. I would like to remind you that this is not just about budgets but our basic freedoms that our soldiers have fought and died for.

I am calling for an immediate firing of Dr Alan McCartney. We don’t need to pay $600 a day to disrespect our military and further erode our hard fought freedoms.

James S. Staats
South Bethlehem

We’re publishing Mr Staats’ letter in its entirety because we believe he’s right. But the Ravena News Herald reaches less than 3,000 readers each week; we get that many in a day! Published here, it reaches thousands of readers locally, nationally, internationally. It expresses many residents’, voters’ sentiments and sentiments that our legislators like Mr Gibson, Mr Lopez and potentially Mr Amadore are well-advised to keep clearly in mind.

Question: Where is George McHugh, an Army JAG officer, and Terry Kindlon, a marine, on all of this. You’d think they’d be out prosecuting DiAcetis and McCartney as well and the members of the RCS CSD board of education pro bono for their un-American activity! Hello! Guys, where are you?!?

Not only should local veterans and others mobilize and make the October 2 NBRC meeting to meet our legislators, you should appear in support of the United States Armed Forces. Yeah! Ask Mr Gibson, Mr Lopez and Mr Amadore where they stand on these issues.

What does former Coeymans police chief Gregory Darlington do while all of this is going on? He throws a sissy-fit and resigns. We think that ex-military law enforcement like former NB constable, the late Don “Squeaky” Tanner and former police chief Frank “Babe” McCabe, two proud veterans, would have gone down there and taken the cowards by the scruff of the neck and kicked some anti-military ass. They were law enforcement who had family values, morality, had the community spirit, watched everyone’s back, and cared for every kid as one of their own! Not like the beasts we have in local law enforcement now who make our young people Public Enemy No. 1 and their ticket to an undeserved pension.

Remember: Candidates need the support of major political parties to get on a ballot and run. That’s the way it is. But once they’re in office, no matter who elected them, they have an obligation to represent the best interests of EVERYONE, not just the ones who supported them, in their district. It’s our responsibility to remind them of that fact.

We hope to see many of our loyal readers at the Pegasus Restaurant (10885 State Route 9W, Coxsackie, NY 12051 Tel. (518) 731-9200),  on October 2, 2014, to meet Mr Gibson, who is running against pretty rich-boy liberal Sean Eldridge (the ‘White Obama’).

October 2nd, at Pegasus Restaurant, promises to be a blockbuster! You may want to phone ahead to make your reservation: (518) 731-9200.

Bring your questions and pet peeves with you for the legislators.

Editor’s Note: As stupid as it may seem, the town of Coeymans is holding its town board meeting on the same evening, October 14, 2014, as the RCS-CSD board of education is holding their meeting. Both the Coeymans town board meeting and the RCS-CSD BoE meeting need your attendance because both have especially important issues on the agenda. Local residents and taxpayers should not have to make a choice which of these meetings to attend. We urge the RCS-CSD BoE and the town of Coeymans to get their empty heads together and stagger their meetings to allow citizens to be involved and to participate in the democratic process.

We also urge all military, ex-military, veterans to make it a special point to attend the RCS-CSD BoE meeting on October 14, 2014, to show support for our military men and women and our veterans, and to tell Mr DiAcetis and Mr McCartney and the nazis on the RCS BoE exactly what you think of their un-American policies and their disrespect for the loyalty and patriotism of their students and the National Guard! Be there!

Be There on October 2nd! And don't forget the BoE meeting on October 14. We won't forget! The Editor

Be There on October 2nd!
And don’t forget the BoE meeting on October 14. We won’t forget!

The Editor

 
4 Comments

Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Abuse, Abuse of Public Office, Accountability, ACLU, Albany County Department of Children, Albany County Department of Children, Youth, and Families, Albany County District Attorney, Albany County Sheriff Department, Alice Whalen, American Civil Liberties Union, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Barbara Cumm, Barbara Finke, Bill Bailey, Bill McFerran, Bitter Bob (Ross), Bob Ross, Bray Engel, Brown and Weinraub, Bryan Rowzee, Capital District, Carver Laraway, Catherine Deluca, Catherine M. Deluca, Cathy Deluca, Cecilia Tkaczyk, Chris Gibson, Chris Norris, Christopher Norris, Civil Right Violation, Civil Rights, Claude A. Wheeles, Coeymans, Coeymans Police Department, Coeymans Town Board, Coeymans Town Board Meeting, Craig D. Apple Sr., D. M. Crosier, Daniel Contento, Danielle Crosier, Danielle M. Crosier, Department of Environmental Conservation, Dr Alan McCartney, Dr Alan R. McCartney, Edward "Teddy" Reville, Edward Reville, Eleanor Luckacovic, Eleanor Oldham, Elected Official, Eliminate Coeymans Police Department, Eric T. Schneiderman, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Freedom of Speech, George Langdon, George McHugh, Gerald Deluca, Governor Mario Cuomo, Greene County, Greene County District Attorney, Gregory Darlington, Harold Warner, Howard "Bray" Engel, Hudson Valley, James Latter, James Latter II, Jason Hyslop, Jeff Ruso, Jena Misuraca, Jerry "Dirty-Hands" Deluca, Joan Ross, Joel Coye, John B. King, John Luckacovic, Keith Mahler, Ken Burns, Kenneth Burns, Kerry Thompson, Larry Conrad, Latter-Hyslop-Brown, Laverne Conrad, Mary Partridge-Brown, Matt "the Mutt", Matt Miller, Matthew J. Miller, Michael Biscone, Michael J. Biscone, Misuse of Public Office, Moose Misuraca, Nancy Biscone-Warner, Nancy Warner, New Baltimore, New York, New York State, New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, New York State Education Department, New York State Police, New York State United Teachers, Nick Dellisanti, NYS Assembly, NYS Senate, NYSED, NYSUT, Obstruction of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Patrick E. Brown, Pete Lopez, Peter Masti, Port of Coeymans, Public Office, Ravena, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk Central School District, Ravena Health and Fitness Center, RCS Central School District, Retaliation, Robert J. Freeman, Sarah Berchtold Engel, Sarah Engel, Second Amendment, Selkirk, Stephen Flach, Student Abuse, Surveillance, Teachers Union, Teddy Reville, Terrorism at Home, Terry Kindlon, Thomas A. Boehm, Thomas E. Dolan, Tkaczyk, Tom Boehm, Tom DiAcetis, Tom Dolan, Town Board Meeting, Transparency, Unamerican Activity, Uncategorized, William Bailey, William McFerran, William Misuraca