RSS

Category Archives: Consumer Protection

Fraud, Fake Non-profits, Tax Evaders. They’re everywhere!

They think they’re pretty slick but someone’s watching.

The Non-Profit and Not-For Profit Tax Dodgers Right Under the New York State Tax and Finance Department’s and the IRS’s Noses!!! What’s the deal? Joe Average gets fines and penalties for a mistake while the real winners get non-profit or not-for-profit status and make the big bucks. But that’s because most of the sheeple simply closer their eyes to the problem, stick their heads in the sand, and keep paying…and paying…and paying! Question: Are you one of them?


Most of us are aware of the various taxing jurisdictions which use the real property tax to raise the money needed for their operations. Every county uses this form of taxation as do the cities and towns within a county. Within towns one sometimes finds villages which also levy property taxes. The biggest property tax bite for most homeowners is the school tax.

Property taxes provide the bulk of the funds required for local government and public primary and secondary education. A large variety of services including road maintenance, police protection, libraries, deed registry, justice courts, building code enforcement, etc. are all provided for by county, city, town and village taxes. The school tax pays the salaries of teachers and administrators and maintains the buildings and equipment required by the school system.

We all know the sickening stories about General Electric and Amazon, and other US corporations and the fact that they get away without paying any taxes. Well, there are plenty like them out there and here are some local examples.

We’ve already reported on a RCS Board of Education (BOE) member and former BOE president, Mr. James Latter, an employee of the Saudi Arabian-owned company, Sabic,  who got away without paying a year’s taxes on his $300,000 + new construction in Ravena. That was because the Ravena Building Department never reported the construction to the Assessor in the Town of Coeymans, who violated the property tax laws by not assessing the in-progress improvements on the property, although you can almost see the house from the town offices. That one instance involving Mr. Latter’s ostentatious new dwelling cost the Town a couple of grand in property taxes, and Latter didn’t offer to make good on it. You can bet your life on that one. [Read our article, “Board of Education Member James “Hadji” Latter: Is he paying his fair share of property taxes?“]

[Editor’s Note: According to the NYS Real Property Tax Law, If you add a room or put in central air conditioning you would naturally expect your assessment to increase. [Note: In some states new construction cannot be assessed until it has been completed and a certificate of occupancy issued. In New York State, the assessor is required to value the property exactly as he or she finds it on taxable status date (to be defined later). Thus a partially completed garage would ordinarily receive a partial assessment.]

So, now let’s look at a local attorney and his slick operations to avoid paying his share of property taxes: George McHugh, the shyster who’s got his hands in everything from p****y to pot. Yes! He’s the same crook asking you to elect him to be Coeymans Town Supervisor so he can make things easier for his keepers, Carvery Laraway and his pot-growing Russian pal, Boris Alexei Jordan.

Did George McHugh evade paying property taxes on his Blaisdell Farm project?

We’re also wondering about George McHugh’s little housing project on the Blaisdell Farm property. Did McHugh get the same tax break on that biggie that Latter got on his property? That’s a little project we’ll be sure to look into over the next couple of weeks. Did McHugh get away with not paying his property taxes on the project because the Ravena Building Department and Building Inspector never notified the Town of Coeymans Assessor of the project?

Jason Tantra, a British subject here on a visa, claims he’s operating his business, Tantra 4 Gay Men, legally in the USA, and paying taxes. Really?

It’s going on all over the place but the real scammers are the ones who manage somehow to get non-profit or not-for-profit status by some slick tricks. One of the organizations that has recently caught our attention because of their involvement with a charlatan from the UK who managed to get a visa to operate a sex-services company in the US. The organization is located in Washington County, New York, near Greenwich, about an hour’s drive from Albany. It calls itself the Easton Mountain Retreat Community and caters for anything and everything for gay men with lots of cash to spare. What caught our eye is that it claims IRS Tax Code 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit offering  — now get this –“ religion-related” and “spiritual development” programs. You’ll have the same reaction we did when we looked at their offerings and their prices: WTF!!!

To put things a bit in perspective, the town of Greenwich in Washington County, NY has a total of 61 non-profit organizations with assets totaling $19,876,829+ and total incomes of $8,395,791. Most, if not all of that multimillion dollar figure is tax exempt, while the rest of us are paying through the nose with property taxes, sales tax, and other indirect taxes that the state calls “fees,” cleverly and sneakily avoiding any word even suggesting “tax.” Same goes for all those add-on charges to your phone and cable bills. Fees but in reality taxes. Add them up and have a coronary.

No shame. They actually ask for donations!!!

Even Albany Medical Center is tax exempt!!! Think about that when you get your next bill! Read below to see what the Tax Code calls a tax-exempt organization and then go to AMC’s profile at Albany Medical Center, and note there’s nothing about real estate development or property management. So what’s the deal with AMC’s owning a huge chunk of central Albany real estate that was once privately owned and residential? Our government at work, people, and AMC’s CPAs and lawyers ensuring that the non-profit can make the CEOs and the board of directors’ payroll.

The Albany Times Union published an article in November 2018 entitled, “Capital Region hospitals earn poor grades on patient safety,” and reported that Albany Medical Center’s grade went from a “C” to a “D”. Other Capital Region Hospitals weren’t any better; in fact, most went from bad to worse! The best performers in the report remained unchanged from the year before. Now that’s pretty crappy!

There are also reports that patients were being infected by machines that should have been junked but AMC, despite warnings and recommendations, continued using the machines, causing a number of life-threatening infections in patients.

And then there’s the horrible story of the young man, Riley Kern, killed in a pick-up truck-motorcycle accident last year by a local, Travis Hagan, that went uninvestigated by the Coeymans Police Department. The young man was transported to Albany Medical Center where he was the victim of a number of ER mistakes; he died a couple of hours after they had their way with him. The documents provided by the boy’s mother after a grueling year of questions without answers read like something out of a scifi horror script!!! We’re waiting for permission to publish what we have obtained. (Read our reports: “We Are Re-Opening the Case: Riley Kern, Young Man Killed in Coeymans Hollow, Sycamore Golf Course,” “Riley’s Song: Verse Two – Update on Our Investigations,” “Riley’s Mom Responds: A Mother’s Perspective,” and “Memorial Service for Riley.”)

Not only was the ER staff incompetent, Pathologist Bernard Ng apparently doesn’t know how to correctly complete a death certificate. Incompetence at every level. What’s even more shameful is that the hospital CEO refused to launch an investigation; swept the entire thing under the rug. 

But Albany Medical Center is the Albany Greed Center! On their website they actually ask for donations to support AMC. NO SHAME!

They actually ask for donations on the AMC website (http://www.amc.edu/)!!!

But back to Easton Mountain Retreat Center as our example of real tax scammers.

Do you really think that all of these organizations should be non-profit or tax-exempt? Click here for a list of Greenwich non-profit organizations. Greenwich Non-profits.

Easton Mountain Incorporated, NY Department of State Entity ID No.  2897573 (Initial DOS Filing Date: April 22, 2003) is a New York corporation (Employer Identification No. (EIN): 01-0778873) NTEE classified[1] as Religion Related, Spiritual Development N.E.C. and designated under the Nonprofit Tax Code as 501(c)(3) defined as:

“Organizations for any of the following purposes: religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition (as long as it doesn’t provide athletic facilities or equipment), or the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.”

Yeah. And pigs have wings, too!

But here are some of this year’s programs. Right from the start we do not see a connection with “religion related” or ”spiritual development” programs nor do we see anything that corresponds to the Non-profit Tax Code for a 501(c)(3) entity. If you do, please let us know and we’ll publish a correction:

  • Best Friends Program (One-year package for multiple “events” depending on availability: $1,995.00 – $3,495.00)
  • Summer Gay Spirit Camp July 29 – August 4, 2019. Offers men a chance to establish lasting friendships in a fun and uplifting environment
  • Spirit Deck Party – Day Pass $25.00
  • Sun Clad – A naturist gathering for men who love men You love to be naked. (4 days, $395.00 – $795.00)
  • SUMMER: Freedom Camp, Gay Spirit Camp, Bear Your Soul Summer Camp
  • WINTER: Winter Gay Spirit Camp, Bear Your Soul Winter Hibernation
  • FALL: Kink Odyssey, Singles Weekend

Incredibly, Easton Mountain claims to be a non-profit organization meeting the above IRS criteria. How does a corporation catering for an affluent segment of the gay male population – Yes! we said “affluent” because Easton Mount is not cheap. Their programs run pretty pricey. For example, a program described as Gay Spirit Camp, which runs from July 29-August 4, 2019, which Easton Mountain describes as a “6-day program” but is actually a 4-day program, since :[t]he event begins with dinner at 7:00 pm on Monday, July 29., “ends with lunch at 1:00 pm on Sunday, August 4.” You have to have some pretty hefty recreational money or disposable income because the prices posted for this particular mid-range event by Easton Mountain range from $595.00 (bring your own tent) to $1,095.00 for “semi-private” accommodation.  A so-called “5-day” event August 6 – 11, 2019, with our friend Jason Tantra, runs the same  You can browse the other programs on the Easton Mountain Site (Source: https://eastonmountain.secure.retreat.guru/programs/, last accessed on July 3, 2019)

Those prices are low compared to some of the events. Now we ask you very seriously: Should Easton Mountain be considered a tax-exempt, non-profit religion related, organization for spiritual development? Maybe you should have a look at some of the other programs offered at Easton Mountain Incorporated and decide. Then maybe you should call the New York State Department of State, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and the IRS, or just write to them asking how Easton Mountain has finagled the tax laws to arrive at non-profit status as a religious organization of anything under IRS 501(c)(3)!?!

ORGANIZATION NAME ADDRESS CLASSIFICATION REPORTED ASSET AMOUNT REPORTED INCOME AMOUNT FORM 990 REVENUE AMOUNT EXEMPT STATUS DATE FORM 990 FILES
EASTON MOUNTAIN INC
(c/o RAYMOND NIRO)
391 HERRINGTON HILL RD
GREENWICH, NY 12834-5809
Charitable Organization; Religious Organization
(Religion Related, Spiritual Development N.E.C.)
$100,000 +* $500,000 +* $500,000 +* 500,000 +* 03/2005

(Source: https://www.taxexemptworld.com/organizations/greenwich-ny-new-york.asp, last accessed on July 3, 2019)

We obtained the Easton Mountain Incorporated IRS 990 for the Tax Year 2016  — Easton Mountain publishes only their 2014 IRS 990 form filing (the last year available on the IRS site (2016 Form 990 Filing, Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 6-Jul-2018) (Source: https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/, last accessed on July 3, 2019)

Now you know. 

Slick operators, incompetent local public employees, fake non-profit organizations all are eating at our table and getting fat, leaving us to pay the bills. Isn’t it time we split the check? Isn’t it time we demanded state and federal government agencies, including law enforcement, to start taking a closer look at how much tax avoidance and tax evasion is going on and leaving the rest of us to pay the bill? Your tax dollars are paying those public employees to sit on their fat flabby asses doing nothing while waiting to collect fat tax-free pensions!!! Isn’t it time we demanded they do their jobs?

 

[1] NTEE = National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities codes

 

 
6 Comments

Posted by on July 12, 2019 in 19th Congressional District, 19th Congressional District, 19th Congressional District, 2019 Elections, 20th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, 46th District, 46th Senate District, Albany, Albany County Chamber of Commerce, Albany County Coroner, Albany County Coroners Office, Albany County EMT, Albany County Legislature, Albany Medical Center, AMC, Antonio Delgado, Antonio Delgado, Assessment Review, Assistant DA, Board of Assessment Review, Boris Jordan, Brandon LeFevre, Business, Capital District, Capital Region Independent Media, Carver Companies, Carver Companies, Carver Construction, Carver Laraway, Catholic Church, Church, Church and State, Church of St Patrick, Coeymans, Coeymans Assessor, Coeymans Code Enforcement, Coeymans Industrial Park, Coeymans Police Department, Coeymans Town Board, Columbia-Greene Media, Consumer Protection, Corruption, Daily Mail, Death Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Taxation and Finance, District Attorney, Easton Mountain, Elected Official, Elections 2019, Ellis Hospital, Emily Kern, EMR, FBI, FBI Criminal Information System, FBI Public Corruption Squad, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Fraud, Fraud, George Langdon, George McHugh, Government, Greed, Greene County, Greene County Attorney, Greene County District Attorney, Greene County News, Hudson Valley, Ingo Tantra, Internal Revenue Service, Investigation, IRS, IRS 990 Tax Filing, James Latter, James Latter II, Jason Tantra, Joe Stanzione, Joe Stanzione, John B. Johnson, Johnson Newspaper Group, Joseph Stanzione, Joseph Stanzione, Lafarge, Lafarge-Holcim, LafargeHolcim, Law, Law Enforcement, LGBT, Mark Vinciguerra, Men who Love Men, Men's Groups, Miami-Dade District Attorney, Misconduct, Money Laundering, Neotantra, New York, New York State, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, News and Information Media, Non-Profit, Not-for-Profit, NYS Assembly, NYS Comptroller Audit, NYS Senate, Office of the Assessor, Office of the Attorney General, Perjury, Phil Crandall, Police Investigator, Port of Coeymans, Pot, Protected Rights, Ravena News Herald, RCA, Reformed Church of America, Riley Kern, Riley P. Kern, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Cemeteries, SABIC Innovative Plastics, Sacred Sex, Sex 4 Sale, Sex Work, Shame On You, Smalbany, Smalbany Articles, Suffolk County District Attorney, Tantra, Tantra 4 Gay Men, Tax Avoidance, Tax Avoidance, Tax Evasion, Tax Evasion, Tax Law, Tax Returns, Taxation, Taxes, The Daily Mail, Times Union, Times Union, Travis D Hagen, Travis Hagen, United States Attorney, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, United States Department of Justice, United States Government, US Department of State, US Senate, Visa, Washington County District Attorney, White Collar Crime

 

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.

Special Notice: We make every effort to be truthful, complete, fair, and balanced on this blog; therefore, if you see anything that you know to be false or incorrect, or if you have additional information to clarify any issue, please let us know by e-mailing your information or by leaving a comment. It’s very important to us that we don’t fall into the same category as those whom this blog is intended to expose. Thank you very much in advance for your cooperation and assistance!
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.
 

Bring Out Your Dead! A Monty Python Prophesy

A Message from the Editor

We’ve been sharing some posts on the funeral business and deathcare from several other sites. While this is not the focus of this blog, we don’t mind because the posts have attracted substantial interest. This post will be the last deathcare post we will be re-publishing on this blog. If you want to continue reading about deathcare in the US, please go to the following sites and follow them. Glad you are enjoying the posts so much but we have to get back to local political and social issues.

You can visit the following blogs for posts on death, dying, funeral services, and other death-related topics:

Thanatology Café
Spirituality, Bereavement & Grief Care
Pastoral CareHomiletics & Spiritual Care
The Church, Ministry, and Pastoral Care

Happy Holidays!
The Editor


Republished with Permission from Thanatology Café.

There is a great deal to be said about our healthcare and deathcare industries in the US, they are similar in many respects and exhibit similar functional flaws in a general sense. In the humanectomized materialist consumerism driven culture in which we live, the corporations have reduced most of us to human means to a corporate end. Most of US humanity has been dehumanized to the level of mere consumers. This is not a new development, however, and can be read in many quasi-prophetic sources.

In a recent conversation with a licensed funeral director and funeral home operator, who read our article on Nicholas Facci and Newcomer Funerals and Cremations (March 26, 2017), we discussed among other things the funeral chains’ exploitation of the demise of our traditions. We continue that discussion here together with some and some interesting anecdotes about the Albany County Coroner’s office.

After that discussion, I couldn’t help but think about one of the many hysterical scenes in the Monty Python film, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” or of the grim portrayal by Dr John B. Huber of the Manchurian Plague (20th c.) and the Black Plague (14th c.).

Monty Python’s “Holy Grail”

The scene takes place during the Black Plague in medieval somewhere, and opens with the sounds of strange medieval music. Discordant and sparse images. Wailings and groanings. Close up of contorted face upside down. A leg falls across it. Creaking noise. The bodies lurch away from and scene pans out to reveal they are amongst a huge pile of bodies on a swaying cart that is lumbering away from the viewer. It is pulled by a couple of ragged, dirty emaciated wretches, the cart drivers. Behind the cart walks another large man, a slightly more prosperous Porter, wearing a black hood and looking rather sinister. The Porter is carrying an emaciated old man over his shoulder who is still moving, and protests “I’m not dead!” The dialogue goes something like this:

The scene: (The Porter carrying an old man slung over his shoulder, approaches the cart and the cart driver…)
Cart Driver: Bring out your dead!
Porter: Here’s one!
Cart Driver: Ninepence.
Old man: I’m not dead!
Card Driver: What?
Porter: Nothing…Here’s your ninepence.
Cart Driver: Er…He says he’s not dead!
Porter: Yes he is.
Old Man: I’m not.
Cart Driver: He isn’t.
Porter: Well he will be soon. He’s very ill.
Old Man: I’m getting better!
Porter: No you’re not. You’ll be stone-dead in a moment.
Cart Driver: I can’t take him like that; it’s against regulations!
Old Man: I don’t want to go on the cart!
Porter: Oh don’t be such a baby.
Cart Driver: I can’t take him like that!
Old Man: I feel fine!
Porter: Oh, do us a favor…
Cart Driver: I can’t.
Porter: Well, can you hang around a couple of minutes? He won’t be long…
Cart Driver: I promised I’d be at the Robinson’s. They’ve lost nine today.
Porter: Well, when’s your next round?
Cart Driver: Thursday.
Old Man: I think I’ll go for a walk.
Porter: (To the Old Man) You’re not fooling anyone, you know! (to the Cart Driver) Look. Isn’t there something you can do?
Old Man: (Singing) I feel happy, I feel happy!
The Cart Driver looks at the Porter for a moment. Then they both do a quick furtive look up and down the street. The Cart Driver very swiftly brings up a club and hits the Old Man on the head. (Out of shot but the singing stops after a loud bonk noise.)
Porter: Ah! Thanks very much! (Handing over the ninepence) See you on Thursday!
(Tossing old man onto the bodies on the cart)
Cart Driver: That’s all right! See you on Thursday.

(View the clip on YouTube)

While transcribing the dialogue I thought to myself how prophetic this 1975 spoof was.  More than 40 years later we can watch this clip and it sends cold shivers down your spine. Back then what was morbidly hilarious has become stark reality for us today.

“Bring out your dead!” Newcomer Funerals and Cremations TV Ads.

Cryptkeeper Newcomer Ad

There you are, sitting enjoying a snack thinking “Life is good!” And Warren “Ren” Newcomer, the cadaver-like founder of the Newcomer Funeral Services Group based in Wichita, Kansas, appears on your television screen. He’s the 21st century version of the Cryptkeeper and plays the part really well. He looks like an embalming gone awry and oozes a false compassion and insincere expression that makes you want to choke on your chips. Here’s a guy who has made millions exploiting the deaths of loved ones and doing his part to destroy our death traditions while grinning like a corpse on the way to the bank.  Newcomer Funeral Services Group has two locations in the Albany, New York, area, and has a presence in some 10 states. There are other similar funeral chains, Walmart-type factory funeral companies that have bought up private funeral businesses, cemeteries and crematoriums across the country. They operate under names like Service Corporation International (SCI), Dignity Memorial™, StoneMor Partners, Precoa, and of course, Newcomer Funerals and Corpse Disposal. What their advertising and marketing messages say to us, despite the actors and the phony compassion, is what Monty Python is teaching: “Bring out your dead!” Toss them on the cart and we’ll see you on Thursday (and don’t forget your checkbook or credit card).

“I’m Not Dead!” The Office of the Albany County Coroner declares a woman dead but she revives in the morgue

In New York Times article “They Said She Was D.O.A., But Then the Body Bag Moved” (Robert D. McFadden, 11/18/94) The author reports that Albany County Coroner Philip Furie and  Paramedics allegedly “found no heartbeat, no pulse, no breath or other signs of life, and the coroner declared her officially dead.”  So they “ zipped Mildred C. Clarke,  into a body bag, took her to the morgue at the Albany Medical Center Hospital and left her in a room where corpses are kept at 40 degrees, pending autopsies or funerals. About 90 minutes later, the chief morgue attendant went in to transfer her to a funeral home. “ The attendant noticed some movement in the body bag, unzipped it and found that Mildred was still breathing. She was moved to intensive care and treated but the case has never been explained. The L.A. Times reports later that “Mildred Clark, the 86-year-old woman who spent 90 minutes in a morgue cooler last week after mistakenly being declared dead, died Wednesday of undisclosed ailments, a hospital spokesman said…. Albany Medical Center Hospital spokesman Richard Puff said Clark’s family had requested that the cause of death be withheld.” Any guesses as to the cause of death?

According to the article, “Albany is the only major city in New York State that does not have a medical examiner, an official who is trained in forensic pathology, and this would be a real advantage,”  The office of the coroner is  a relic still found  in many American cities. Albany elects four coroners to declare deaths and investigate their  causes. They have no medical training but are required to attend a “death investigation course.”  The coroners are expected to evaluate crime scenes and suspicious deaths, but they have no medical training.

We’re investigating some leads relating to the performance of the Albany County Coroners, and will report on our findings in a future article. We suspect that the Albany County Coroner isn’t very popular among local funeral directors. But Hey! this is Smalbany, isn’t it? There’s a job for every misfit in the Albany Democratic Machine, isn’t there?

“Look. Isn’t there something you can do? Ah! Thanks very much! See you on Thursday.” Inconvenience of the Dying Process.

We’re so very busy and so much in a rush. Why? Because our handlers tell us we are. We’ve lost our sense for distinguishing what is nice and what is necessary. We no longer have to think. Advertisers tell us what we need. Marketers tell us what to ask for. Government tells us how to live. Churches tell us how to die. Emails tell us we need to Hurry! and to Rush! because time is running out to buy a certain something. Hell! We don’t even die in peace. Hospitals transform us into cyborgs with tubes and electrodes at every available spot, and when all else fails, they still want to provide “billable services.” Only when you have had enough watching the technology fail do you scream STOP! Even when the so-called healthcare team has the good sense to admit that they can’t do anything more, they recommend shipping what’s left of mom or dad to hospice. And so at hospice the saga continues. When death finally occurs, whether it’s helped along or drags out to the end, we are still in a hurry, still have other things to do. But yet again, the materialist consumerism we are addicted to has the solution for immediate relief of any inconvenience, even death. There are customized death packages for every budget ranging from direct burial or direct cremation to the “traditional funeral.” Just ask for the Detailed Price List required by the FTC’s Funeral Rule and prepare to be nickel-and-dimed. You have abandoned the traditional funeral home with the family funeral director and have opted for the Walmart funeral chain, the factory funeral service provider. And you deserve everything you get. Sorry but it’s true.

We’ve all read about states like Oregon and Washington that have legislated physician-assisted suicide (PAS), euthanasia in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. We all know about the hospice movement that has degenerated into another instance of corporate exploitation of death and the demise of the family. So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Monty Python prophesied the hastening of death movement. True, we no longer use a club to help the dying along; we’ve become much more refined in the 21st century. We now use chemicals and drugs. Or, if we’ve made mom or dad into an ICU cyborg, we simply remove the respirator, inject some morphine and “Ah! Thanks very much. See you on Thursday” at the viewing. We’ve come a long way into our degeneration!

Get the shocking truth about Service Corporation International (SCI) here.

We really have to chuckle when we read such crapola like “Service Corporation International is dedicated to compassionately supporting families at difficult times, celebrating the significance of lives that have been lived, and preserving memories that transcend generations, with dignity and honor. (SCI site at , last accessed on April 6, 2017). If you’re ready to believe that operations like SCI or Newcomer, corporations with their eyes on the bottom line, with their programmed funeral directors and staff operating on a corporate agenda, are there to do what the family funeral home once did, you’re already brain dead. SCI is constantly being sued, settling, or paying out huge judgments resulting from their mistakes. But when you’re making billions, who cares. The living keep dying; sky’s the limit! Get on the cart.


A bit of history: In 1962, Robert L. Waltrip, a licensed funeral director who grew up in his family’s funeral business, founded Service Corpration International. SCI started out as a small network of funeral homes and cemeteries in the Houston, Texas, area.

SCI gradually increased its offshore presence, and it continued to acquire business interests in North America. Since the late 1990s the US and Canadian marketplaces a  saturated battleground of competing companies intent on buying up and exploiting the deathcare business sector. SCI, In the course of the melee, Alderwoods Group and Stewart Enterprises emerged as the three principal companies in the resulting funeral corporation industry. As of December 31, 1999, SCI owned and operated 3,823 funeral service locations, 525 cemeteries, 198 crematoria and two insurance operations located in 20 countries on five continents. In 1999, SCI introduced Dignity Memorial, the first transcontinental brand offering deathcare goods and services in North America. By consolidating its network of funeral homes and cemeteries under a single brand, SCI expected that they could create a recognizable and marketable brand image. In 2000, poor market conditions forced SCI to reevaluate operations. While foreign operations had once shown promise, nearly 70 percent of SCI’s revenue was generated by operations in the United States and Canada. The company decided to divest many of its offshore businesses, in addition to many North American funeral homes and cemeteries. The UK arm now operates as Dignity PLC.


“I don’t want to go on the cart!” How we treat our dying; how we treat ourselves.

Monty Python presents an interesting scenario at a time when Jessica Mitford was enjoying the fruits of her muckraking book, “American Way of Death,” (1963), and the funeral home chains and funeral service factory corporations were reaching their peak of exploitation when Mitford’s “American Way of Death Revisited” was poshumously published (1998). Monty Python had it right. But we all laughed our way straight to hell.

 

J.B. Huber MD: “Psychology of Grave Epidemics”
(Med. Times, 1911)

Moving from a 1975 comedy spoof we can cite a remarkable article that appeared in the December 1911 journal, Medical Times, by John B. Huber MD. Dr Huber writes about the great Manchurian Plague (1910-1900), and compares it to the Black Plague (1347-1351). I’d like to quote some passages from that 1911 medical journal article. See if you can draw any parallels with our 21st century society.

Yet business was conducted as ordinarily—by those still alive; and the stroller “viewing the manners of the town,” would hardly realize from the superficial aspect of things, that a dreadful scourge was gradually but surely destroying its people. Yet the plague had, from November last up to this New Year’s Day, done for one-fourth of the twenty thousand inhabitants of that community; and it was then expected that more than half the remainder would be doomed before the plague would expend its energies.

On this festive New Year’s Day in that Manchurian town, the mounted policeman’s horse had its tail brightly decorated with green and red streamers; a shop keeper burst merrily out upon a group in the street, scaring them with a bunch of firecrackers which he flung up into the air. A green house was decorated with bright red, gilt lettered posters, festive banners and green paper flags, all by way of celebration. Next door the yellow poster of the Sanitary Bureau was in evidence, sealing up that house, and marking it unclean; “eight dead, two dying,” are the tally with which it began the New Year. (Huber p. 353)

Sounds like our modern lifestyle: death looms around us but we just continue partying, ignoring it, until we have to go down that dark alley and have no choice but to confront the darkness, the gloom. Manchuria in the early 20th century doesn’t seem much different from Troy or Albany in the early 21st century.

“Eight dead, two dying.” Sound’s like Monty Python’s Cart Driver, “They’ve lost nine today.” Or like the handoff report in an ICU. Whether you’re tallying plague victims or scheduling body collections, or handing off your charges to the next shift, the language used tells it all: We’ve all become mere garbage bags laying about until we get collected, transported, disposed of. Don’t you think there should be more to the final chapter of a life lived, and the received legacy?

Plague: carting the dead, by Moynet
A cart with the dead.

“The carters that loaded the dead on the wagons and took them away would not walk, but sat companionably beside the corpses.”  (Huber p. 353)

And so do we in the 21st century. The 21st century carters load up the dead and take them away; the bereft sit complacently beside the corpses. One would hope that we have advanced a bit farther along than our ancestors, that we would observe the traditions handed down to us, perform the grief and mourning rituals so important to psychospiritual healing. Some of us do. Most haven’t a clue, and rely on the bean counters to guide them.

Direct Burial: Coffinless in Pits

“Nine hundred were buried coffinless in pits; above two thousand frozen corpses, in a most desolate stillness, awaited burial near the town, in a heap a quarter-mile long. Some coffins were in evidence, standing upright, without covers, the bodies erect in them; here an arm stuck upright out of its receptacle; there a naked leg protruded. Near the pile of which he was soon to become a member, was seen an outcast kneeling, worshipping, half falling in his weakness, as he bowed his head and rose again, before the grave of an ancestor.´ (Huber p. 353)

On the one hand we get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes at one of the funeral home chains or factory-funeral homes as described by a young licensed funeral director now employed by Newcomer Funerals and Cremations. On the other hand, we are presented with a feeble suffering wretch who, despite his own suffering, has not forgotten his obligations in continuing his bonds with the dead, one of whom he shall soon be. It’s a rich, telling image; in a sense very real but very metaphorical. Once you create that image in your mind, you’ll not soon forget it.

“[T]he plague was coming to its most dreadful stage, for it was now destroying the family affections…Thus, most gruesomely, does the twentieth century repeat the fourteenth.”  (Huber p. 354)

While Dr Huber is describing a real epidemic, the Manchurian Plague of 1910-11, and describes the Black Death of the 14th century that swept away a substantial part of medieval Europe’s population, we are faced with a more insidious plague that is robbing us of our core values to family and kin, both living and dead. Huber, a medical man, calls this the “most dreadful stage” because it was destroying the core of the culture, the bonds of family. I’d guess he’d probably go further to say that the 21st century repeats both the 14th and the 20th, but that our plague is materialist consumerism promoted by greed and the catastrophe of so-called individual choice.

“Next to the fear of death was the fear of desertion.” (Huber p. 354)

Early 20th century China had very strong family ties, ties of responsibility, filial piety. This sense of duty was the basis of the veneration of ancestors, a form of continuing bond with the dead, similar to the West’s veneration of its sacred dead, the saints. Huber is describing a fear of abandonment, of “desertion” to be on a par with the fear of death. In clinical practice, whether in the nursing home or the hospital setting, or hospice, we find persons who are ready to confront death but fear doing it alone; they have a fear of desertion. We might extend that fear of desertion to the bereaved, as well, but their desertion is far more subtle than committing the dying to some remote corner of the medical ICU or to a hospice facility. The bereaved are not only saddled with their loss but also with the daunting confrontation with the corporate funeral director with his endless list of goods and services with their respective prices. All is done with the sensitivity of an embalming trocar. What ever happened to the compassionate family funeral home and its director, frequently assisted by his family.

Black-Death-Plague-Doctor-Clothing

“Who, then, would be so foolhardy as to throw good life after bad, by nursing a dying friend, when the Black Death lay per chance in his last sign, in the farewell pressure of his hand. So the nearest and dearest ties were dissolved, the calls of kindred and humanity neglected; the sick left to die and to be carted to the grave by hirelings…” (Huber p. 354)

Indeed, who today would be so traditional as to give up his or her self-time to care for a dying relative or friend, especially one who is in the disturbing phases of life’s end. Most persons are ambivalent about the whole process: On the one hand they look to the death as something unbearable in its finality; on the other hand they just want to get it over with. The death occurs and the bereaved are fed the 20th century psychological pablum that their connection with the dead person has ended, that they have to get on with a productive life. That was Freud’s teaching: You had to cut your ties with the dead. Quite the opposite of that in the East or in traditional societies, and quite a contrast to what we now teach in the 21st century. We now teach continuing bonds with the dead, a transcendence phenomenon, meaning-making, that the living’s relationship with the deceased is not only normal and healthy, it’s encouraged! We do it in the rituals of the support group or in ways like the AIDS quilt. We may do it differently than the poor wretch venerating his ancestors described by Huber but we nonetheless do it. We do it because it’s the human thing we do. But it’s also so very inconvenient for the chains and the corporations; they don’t encourage humanity, they encourage production and consumerism. Take three days and get over your grief. Back to work with you. See you on Thursday.

“Boccaccio attests vividly how the human organism in all its phases—physical, spiritual, moral, intellectual—deteriorated in stamina and in co-ordination. Compassion, courage and the nobler feelings were found in but few; whilst cowardice, selfishness and ill-will, with the baser passions in their train asserted their supremacy. In place of virtue, which had been driven from the earth, wickedness everywhere reared its rebellious standard and succeeding generations were consigned to her baneful tyranny.”  (Huber p. 354)

Boccaccio here is describing the pitiful demise of humanity in the Middle Ages. We could describe the present state of affairs without changing a word, couldn’t we? Take a moment and go to the Newcomer Funeral Service Group or their Albany/Latham websites for Newcomer Funerals and Cremations and read their ridiculous claims of what they offer the bereaved. Go to the Service Corporation International site and read about their “compassion”, their caring, their sensitivity to the needs of the bereaved. That’s worse than General Motors telling you they care about your lower back pain. Yet how many consumers actually swallow that sordid brew. These factory-funeral corporations aren’t making billions because no one’s falling for the marketing hype, the sales pitches pressuring the bereaved in their most difficult moments to sign and buy. We say look at the lawsuits and how much they’re paying out for failing the bereaved, for causing the bereaved more suffering than they had ever bargained for.

“[t]he Black Death “seemed to arise the worst passions of the human heart, and to dull the spiritual sense of the soul.” Who would think, declared Papon, “that in the midst of horrors so suitable (it would seem) for extinguishing the passions, there were two—libertinism and greed—which should be carried to so high a degree!” (Huber p. 354)

Indeed! Who ever thought that liberties, individualism, choice could lead to the present situation we find ourselves in. How is it that human beings in their worst possible moments should be exposed to the worst possible motivations and motives of modern mankind: libertarianism and greed. Those very libertarians preaching choice and liberty are deeply rooted in the horrible hypocrisy that such choice and liberty give life to. The plague that is upon us now in the 21st century is not a plague that is carried by fleas, and it’s not a plague that kills in five days. Our 21st century plague is called materialist consumerism, market economy, capitalism and it’s carried by fellow human beings, and it kills insidiously but totally in mind, body and spirit. There’s no way to discern with any certainty the extent of the infection but one thing is certain, there’s no effective vaccine, and most people would not want to undergo the cure.

One woman was married five times in one day—four of the bridegrooms having been buriers of the dead, dressed in the clothes they had stripped from the bodies of the deceased.” (Huber p. 354)

Huber describes the total depravity of the people who now have lost all sense of morality and values, and who now in a devil-may-care attitude of let’s be merry because we’re dead anyway. He describes a woman who marries five men in succession who are carried away just as quickly. She describes those who profit from the belongings and property of the dead, whom they have stripped. For all of Jessica Mitford’s muckraking, she would have had a picnic with this line, somehow drawing a connection between these “buriers of the dead” and those “dressed in clothes they had stripped from the bodies of the deceased.”

Like horrors disgraced many other communities. He: is furnished another example—such as are so deplorably frequent in history of how fanatical frenzy, associated with hatred and the play of the baser passions, will work powerfully upon nations and peoples to the utter exclusion of the restraints of reason, of law, or of any other wholesome factor. And the greater part of those who, by their education and rank, might have been assumed to raise the deterrent voice of reason, themselves led on the savage mob to murder and to plunder the Jews. (Huber p. 355)

Throughout history, Satan has always been the “other”; humankind has never really been able to see its true self, it’s never been able to accept its shadow side. Huber is describing the desperate search for a cause of the plague and, then as now, hatred and baser passions take control, and the necessary scapegoat is found. Whatever doesn’t support the new agenda has to be demonized and sent packing. The dead are not producers, the bereaved are not efficient workers. The dead are distracting the living from their production or consumption. Make the dead and dying disappear, marginalize the traditions, deny grief, exploit the bereaved, then send them back to work. The voice of reason is muted. Our institutions teaching and training the healthcare and deathcare professionals teach technology and business law, not ethics and humanities. The mortuary science programs wouldn’t want to whisper a word against the multinational funeral chains and factory funeral homes, after all they pay the bills and hire the graduates. Why cut your own throat? Why bite the hands that pad your pockets? Of course they won’t hire anyone teaching real deathcare, psychospiritual support, tradition, ritual, healing. The bereaved are, after all, consumers. And you wouldn’t want to keep them from their producing activity for any longer than necessary. Besides, there’s always another body and we have to keep turning over the visitation rooms and chapel. Headquarters wants to see numbers, you know.

That the emotions played a part regarding the plague was observed by many. Those who were terrified were more prone to contract the disease. Those who feared not and were of a cheerful, equable mind were, to the extent at least of that benign influence upon the organism, the more likely to escape. Boccaccio, in writing the Decameron, recognized that pleasant thoughts were the best preventive….Those who despaired threw away their one chance of life; those of sanguine temperament resisted well. (Huber p. 355)

It’s really ironic that I should close with this passage from Huber’s article. Not really. What Huber is saying here is that if you despair you’re lost already. If you become complacent, you’re dead in the water. Those who step up, ask the questions like: Are you part of a funeral home chain? Are you owned by a funeral service corporation? Are you still family owned? will likely come out on top. It’s not necessarily the pleasant thoughts that get you through any plague, it’s the positive, affirmative thoughts that will prevent you from being taken for a ride. It’s really very true what Huber and Boccaccio are preaching here: You have to have the courage to ask the questions, to look beyond the bells and whistles, to see through the smoke screens, and to assert what you feel you need in your bereavement, not what’s on the corporate menu. The more you do your own thinking and planning the more likely you’ll escape the snares set by the corporate funeral directors. The article may have been written in 1911, over a hundred years ago, but it still has substantial relevance today. I hope to have shown that in my analysis.

Thus are all phases of individual existence mutually and inextricably interrelated: extensive and prolonged deterioration in any one aspect is bound in time to affect perniciously the others in time; such hideous psychic phenomena as are here stated do not obtain in the beginning of any such calamity as the Black Death. But it is the circumstance (and a most pathetic one) that the exercise of the heroic virtues for any lengthy period is contingent upon the maintenance of normal living conditions in general; otherwise the psychic stamina deteriorates, manners become dissolute, morals depraved and consciences debased. (Huber p. 355)

What Dr Huber is saying in this paragraph is that life events are intimately interrelated — I understand these life events to be the basis of our traditions and rituals — and that if we allow any of those events to be exploited or to lapse into irrelevance, all others will suffer as the result. Huber’s phrase “heroic virtues” equates with human values and ethical conduct, which logically rely on “normal” living in our society. When “psychic stamina deteriorates” we have a disturbance in coping and resilience, we forget the ritual and become lost, we forget our obligations, and our whole mindset, our worldview, deteriorates. This, in the 21st century, is what happens when we fall victim to the materialist consumerism of our age and become slave consumers of the corporations and their perverse messages.

And so you have it: From none other than Monty Python’s 1975 depiction of the Black Death, and from a physician writing in 1911 about the pneumonic plague in Manchuria, China, do we have the evidence that really nothing has changed; we have learned nothing. What more can one say?

Support Your Local Funeral Home

(And don’t forget to ask for some time with
the interfaith bereavement chaplain!
(518) 479-0525 or compassionate.care.associates@gmail.com)

 

Our Editor’s Response to the Newcomer-Facci Exposé

Update

A reliable source has reported that Mr Facci has allegedly been reprimanded by his Newcomer keepers for failure to comply with Newcomer policies. Surprised? He’s also been reported by his colleagues at Newcomer Funerals and Cremations for alleged noncompliance and misconduct. Could it be his mouth? His attitude? We also hear Facci’s taken down his Facebook page. Wonder Why? Facci’s really quite unhappy, we hear, and is considering relocating to Florida. We suggest Cuba. We wonder if he’s that immature to think his reputation won’t follow him? We can’t say that we didn’t expect these developments. Facci made his bed; now he has to sleep in it. Too bad he didn’t appreciate what he had from the start.


The Editor’s Response

We recently republished an article about a recently licensed funeral director, Mr Nicholas J. Facci, and his online activities, his relationships with former mentors and associates, and his recent hire by a local chain funeral services provider, Newcomer Funerals and Cremations (Albany and Latham), a member of the Newcomer Funeral Services Group, a Kansas based organization with funeral homes in some 10 states. We’d like to make our own statement on that article. We’d like to respond to some of the private comments we have received in response to the article, “Birds of a Feather? Lying down with dogs? The Politics of Funeral Corporations….”


Despite the appearances and although Nick Facci is plastered all over the Internet as being associated with Riverview Funeral Home and Simple Choices Cremations, he was fired from his employment with Riverview and Simple Choices; furthermore, Facci has published numerous times on his Facebook page that he is no longer associated with Riverview or Simple Choices. He has recently been hired by the Newcomer funeral home chain, a “Walmart-type” provider, and is now working in the Albany-Latham area.


We vetted the author and verified the sources of the article. The facts were true and the majority of them came either from public sources, the Troy Record newspaper, or from Mr Facci’s own Facebook page. The facts, opinions and conclusions stated by the author were credible and truthful, and based on research of information available to anyone who is interested.

Some readers — apparently those with short attention spans — have suggested that the article is a bit long-winded. Yes. The article is a bit longer than our typical article, and while it may be a bit hard on Mr Facci, we feel that given the circumstances and Mr Facci’s conduct as well as the environment in which Mr Facci is employed, the article is important and the facts and conclusions are of significant interest to the pubic. We had and continue to have  the opportunity and the control to edit material out of the article but we chose not to do so. We continue to stand by the author and the content of the article. As for being hard on Mr Facci, Whose fault is that? The facts are the facts.

That having been said, we’d like to make some editorial remarks about some of the feedback we’ve been receiving from readers, both in the funeral services business, consumers of those services, and persons who just found the article of interest. We would like to note that we have information that Facci, Newcomer and some of the funeral directors who know Facci have been very responsive but have kept their responses pretty much under wraps. That’s how the funeral profession is, we guess. Others with personal knowledge have come forward with their information. Nothing we have received so far indicates that the article is in any way misleading or untruthful. Far from it. Most of what we have received so far actually confirms the author’s facts.

Here, in a nutshell, are our responses to the article and to our readers’ responses:

The article has been vetted and found to be substantially true in its facts. As our regular readers and followers are aware, we are very diligent in assuring that what we publish on the Smalbany blog is factually true and credible. Our community of readers and followers also know that we don’t take sides, and our sole purpose is journalistic integrity and community service. Enough said.

The author of the article was vetted and found to be reliable. The author of the article has no personal, political or economic interest in publishing the facts of the article. The author of the article is a well-known figure who has a fine reputation, is known for his defense of truth and ethics, and has excellent professional qualifications. The author is credible and the facts truthful.

Mr Facci is responsible for his conduct and his statements. The article points out a disturbing trend in the funeral services industry, how funeral director candidates are educated, trained and licensed, the importance of ethics in the funeral services profession, and the fact that poor education and immaturity can result in serious detriment to the reputation of the funeral services profession and significant injury to the customers served by unscrupulous providers. While we feel our funeral directors and family funeral homes provide a necessary and very important service to those who have lost a loved one, we have our concerns about the direction the funeral services business has been taken by the corporations and funeral home chains. We also share the author’s concerns about the quality of the people working for these funeral home chains and their motivations, and their character. These are all reasonable concerns and are presented in the article.

The article may have scared the hell out of Facci and/or Newcomer and Facci was forced to remove his Facebook posts but removing them doesn’t undo the fact that they were posted, read, and noted. Just because he removed his posts doesn’t undo the fact that he posted them in the first place. Unfortunately for Mr Facci, he can’t undo the Troy Record article and the statements he made in that article. Too bad, Mr Facci!

Unlike Facci’s former employer, we do not underestimate Facci nor are we ready to present our back to him for target practice. We are monitoring these developments closely and have our ears to the ground, so to speak.

It is all about Mr Facci, not about the author. As stated above, the article points out Mr Facci’s character and professional flaws, using Mr Facci as a so-called stereotype of a trend in the industry. The article is about Mr Facci and how he got to where he is, wherever that may be. The article is about how one immature and flawed individual can manipulate situations for his own selfish benefit, and how even veteran professionals and a large funeral home chain can be taken in by such a person.

One commenter suggested that Newcomer has a “file” on the author. Our response was: “Big deal!” If Facci or Newcomer feel that they have something interesting about the author of the article, share it! If it’s good information, we’d love to know about it. But all things considered, we can’t imagine what they could have because we’ve already checked. The so-called “file” may be printouts from anonymous Internet sites, anonymous blurbs by critics who don’t have the guts to use their real names, or sociopaths who think they have an ax to grind. No doubt, if Mr Facci had anything to do with the assembly of any file it must involve some breach of confidentiality or other unethical practice. Sorry, gentlemen and ladies, that’s not the kind of information or the sources we tend to use on this blog. Hard facts and reliable sources are what you get here. Our suggestion: Go stuff your file!

For the sake of argument, even if the author has a skeleton or two in the closet, what difference would that make. None at all. If the facts are true as presented in the article, nothing in a so-called “file” about the author can change Mr Facci’s character or conduct, nor can it justify Newcomer Funeral Services Group (Kansas) or Newcomer Funerals and Cremations (Latham and Albany) in deciding to hire Facci without even checking with his former employer(s). And if Newcomer had checked with Facci’s former employer and hired him anyway, despite the facts disclosed and Facci’s unethical conduct, Shame on Newcomer! The article is about Facci and Newcomer, not about the author.

Silence is an admission of complicity. We provide ample opportunity for anyone with something to say to say it by leaving a comment. If no one comes forward with contrary facts we have to assume that they have no defense. Fair enough. After the appearance of the article, Mr Facci was very quick to clean up his Facebook posts and many of his scandalous posts disappeared (fortunately we had already collected some of them such as those exposed in the article). A number of persons who know Facci either personally or professionally have provided comments by email or by electronic message confirming the facts in the article. Other parties have contacted us with concerns that the article could be misinterpreted. Alternative interpretations are in the head of the reader, not in the text of the article.

We are grateful for the comments about the facts. Any time we receive confirmation of facts or clarification of the facts we are very grateful because we place great value on the quality of the information we provide. Regrettably, most commenters don’t have the ability to comment, and tend to rewrite. Those comments are worthless and they don’t get published.

As for the concern that the article could be misinterpreted. Misinterpreted? How? Does it make Facci’s former employer look bad? We think not. Facci’s former employer has an outstanding reputation; even Facci made that clear in the Troy Record article, even while Facci was badmouthing Newcomer! Facci’s former employer did everything possible to teach Facci the trade and to get him through the licensing process. Even so, Facci bit the hand that literally fed him. It’s ridiculous for anyone to suggest that Facci’s mentor should have been able to have second guessed Facci’s devious mind. We cannot take responsibility for the state of mind of some readers. The article is pretty clear. If some bleeding heart wants to make believe that Facci’s conduct is excusable, that’s their problem. If some hard-nose wants to lynch Facci or Newcomer, while we wouldn’t go that far, we can’t control such a reaction. The article says what it says, no more no less. Repeat: Alternative interpretations are in the head of the reader, not in the text of the article.

Again and again and again, we have stated in our articles that we don’t want to take control of minds, we only want to get them working, thinking, and learning about what’s going on in our communities. That’s all. Our readers are free to make any decision they feel is right; we just provide the facts.

Our personal take on the situation: If Mr Facci were an elected official or a municipal employee, or if Mr Facci were a doctor, a dentist, a car dealer, whatever, we’d have the same response to the conduct and character described in the article: He’s got problems. He needs to fix those problems. Anyone who knows about his problems and continues to do business with him or hires him assumes responsibility for those flaws and problems and the repercussions. The same applies to Facci. In fact, we hold Facci’s feet to the fire particularly because he is in the position he is in. Facci is responsible for what he did, said and posted. Facci was fired from his former position when his employer had had enough of Facci’s shenanigans. Facci had even prepared for that possibility and was already providing a way out for that eventuality. Newcomer chose to ignore these facts and hired Facci. Newcomer now has to deal with those facts having been made public. Either Newcomer is willing to carry Facci’s baggage for him or they can free themselves of him; it’s their choice, and Newcomer has to live with the consequences.

We have also been informed that one person who provided Facci with a letter of recommendation actually demanded that Newcomer Funeral Service Group disregard that recommendation. The person making the recommendation, upon learning of Facci’s conduct, decided to withdraw the recommendation for reasons of conscience.

Facci and Newcomer are the authors of their own crisis. To be honest while not violating a confidence, it must be said that when the article first appeared, Facci’s former employer wrote to us requesting that we remove the article. Here is a guy who has sustained considerable damage to his business done by Facci, and he’s asking that the exposé be removed. We politely declined to remove the article. But that’s how funeral directors are. They are so used to doing their jobs and remaining behind the scenes, not intruding that they tend for forgive and not to make waves. That’s why Facci is such an interesting subject because he doesn’t care as long as he comes out on top. He’s an individual that the article uses to draw attention to the way the funeral home chains and corporations are changing the politics of death and deathcare. It’s not pretty.

Facci and Newcomer are not the only players in this dirty game. Without offering any excuses for Facci’s conduct or Newcomer’s choice of employees, we cannot avoid pointing an accusing finger at the Hudson Valley Community College Mortuary Sciences Program and the New York State Bureau of Funeral Directing, and the New York State Department of Health, all of which have their fingers in the pie. As organizations involved thickly in the training and education, the oversight, and the licensing of funeral homes and funeral directors, those organizations should be put in the spotlight. While we are informed that the Hudson Valley Community College Mortuary Sciences Program curriculum was put on hold and substantially revamped last year, it remains to be seen whether that has any concrete effect on the quality of candidates it churns out. Is Facci a perp or a victim? Is Newcomer a perp or a victim? What is Warren “Ren” Newcomer,  and Arthur Fitch, manager of Newcomer Funerals and Cremations in Albany and Latham, doing to defuse the situation? Jury is still out on those questions.

Mr Facci and Newcomer Funerals and Cremations have another reason to be grateful. Mr Facci had to be reminded to be grateful to his former employer and mentor for the fine training and formation he received. We mentioned that  in our original article. Mr Facci’s former employer and mentor has again asked that we withdraw the article; he’d like to put the experience behind him. While we don’t agree to letting Facci or Newcomer off the hook that easily, we have considered the request, and on compassionate grounds, have complied with the request as of March 31. This is an unusual action taken only at the request of the victim of an offence, we do not routinely remove an article from public view, unless we are convinced that  the victim might benefit. While the article is no longer visible to the general public, it still exists and, if a reader makes a specific request to rcs.confidential@gmail.com for access to the article, we will provide a password for accessing the article; otherwise it will not be visible to the wider public. Mr Facci and Newcomer Funeral Services Group will continue to be monitored, if only to ensure that they do not engage in any further self-destructive behavior, however.

All that having been said, we can’t ignore such headlines as, “Funeral Chain Exploits Demise of Tradition,” which asks the question “Newcomer Family Mortuary ignored industry taboos by advertising discount funerals on television. Will competition usurp tradition in this high-growth industry?” That article was nothing less than current, relevant and prophetic article and appeared in the online magazine Inc. It’s an historic article but could have been published today.

As usual, if our readers have anything to add, comments to make, information to provide, we will be very grateful if you leave a public comment by using the comment feature on this page, or if you want to leave a more confidential message please use our email at rcs.confidential@gmail.com.

Reminder: Mr Facci’s former employer and mentor asked that the original article be withdrawn. We do not withdraw articles but in compromise and out of respect for Mr Facci’s former employer and mentor,  we have restricted access to the original article by requiring a password. Readers interested in accessing the original article may request a password by making a request to rcs.confidential@gmail.com.

Thank you all for your interest and loyalty. It’s now a time for healing.

The Editor