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Category Archives: Ethics and Morality

Capital District YMCA: Big Salaries, Big Assets, but Still Begging!

The Capital District YMCA, an organization operating as a so-called non-profit organization, but holding more than $50 million dollars in tax-exempt real-estate assets in the Capital District of New York (Albany-Schenectady-Rensselaer, and Greene counties in New York state) is a fraud.

The problem with all of this is that the Capital District YMCA  misleads the public, and nickel-and-dimes its membership!

Problem with the CDYMCA is that it’s a load of hogwash!

OUR MISSION
To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

Nice words but they’re not backed by performance, conduct, or the facts!

Why do we write something like that? Well, an organization that pays its CEO, Mr. C. David Brown more than $335,000 a year plus benefits, and pays its numerous executive directors, directors, and managers in the high 5-figures and 6-figures salary ranges, certainly shouldn’t be considered a non-profit. Well, maybe it doesn’t operate in the black because its CEO, Mr. Brown, and its other executives hiding out at their corporate offices at 465 New Karner Road (Albany) are carrying off the major portion of any cash the organization might have.

The Capital District YMCA has amassed a fortune in real estate in the Capital District area but doesn’t pay a dime in property taxes. Imagine the taxes on properties valued at at least $55 million and what those tax dollars could do for the communities where the Y has its properties.

The Y’s executives send out all kinds of propaganda telling everyone how much they’re doing for the communities but anyone with half a brain has to ask the question: “What could we do for the community if the Y paid their taxes?” With those assets, we’d guess a good many communities could do a hell of a lot! And think of the money that could be saved by not having to pay some fat CEO almost a half-million in salary plus benefits! Add to that the fat salaries of the weasels hiding at 465 New Karner Road, and all of the 4 or 5 so-called “executive directors” pulling 6-figures, and the other “directors” running the local facilities. That’s one big pile of dough, people, yet they still cry poverty!!! Yet they still accumulate assets in the area. And they still are fully exempt on the tax rolls, and don’t pay a dime in taxes.

CDYMCA CEO C. David Brown collects more than $335,000 in salary.

We’ve already reported on how scandalous the Capital District YMCA has been but they have no shame and continue to laugh their way to the bank, while begging for more and more. Here are some examples from just last year and this year:

  • In 2019, the CDYMCA sent out a letter to all members informing them that there would be a $1 increase in monthly membership dues.
  • In 2019, the CDYMCA sent out a letter to all members informing them that the veterans savings would be changed to 25%; in other words, the CDYMCA cut veterans discount by 50%, a cut that increased some members’ dues by 50% (for example, one member’s monthly dues went from $26/month to $39/month!)
  • In February 2020, the CDYMCA sent out a letter to all members informing them that there would be a $2 increase in monthly membership dues starting in April 2020 (already in effect as of this writing).

Another great decision made by our little illiterate friend, Erin Breslin!

  • In March 2020 a form letter allegedly sent out by CDYMCA CEO C. David Brown – Yes. That’s the same scoundrel who’s taking over $335,000 in salary from the Y – asking members to become sustaining members, that is, to continue paying monthly dues while the Ys are closed.

Now. Think what would happen if a local business were to nickel-and-dime their customers the way the CDYMCA is doing. How long do you think theyd be in business? But the fact is, the local business has to pay its taxes in addition to having to pay its employees and maybe even benefits. The local business is not very likely to get any government handouts, but the so-called very profitable non-profit will carry off big-time government support, subsidies, and grants! We see something very, very wrong in this picture. Don’t you?

Here’s a test: The task is to read the message below and somehow twist it into meaning that the writer (1) doesn’t want to be charged any more, and (2) wants to cancel his/her membership:

Well, if you couldn’t find that in the message, neither could we. What the writer does say, and what Breslin seems to miss , is this part:

“I’d like to know the CDYMCA’s plans to either credit or reimburse the monthly dues collected from patron’s accounts and to suspend further deductions of dues until CDYMCA can open its doors and provide access to the services I have contracted to receive.”

We don’t see anything about “cancelling membership” in there or anywhere. What we do see is a fair question. But Ms Erin Breslin, Senior Director of Marketing and Membership at the CDYMCA did read in that message that the member didn’t want to pay dues anymore and wanted his/her membership cancelled. Go figure.

But Breslin is one of those CDYMCA executives who is probably pulling a 6-figure salary from the so-called non-profit, non-taxpaying organization. But Breslin can’t read!!! And that’s not the first instance of Breslin’s dyslexia! She played the same games when we inquired about the CDYMCA’s slashing of its membership discount offered to veterans! Sure, slash the veteran’s discounts and then nickel-and-dime members because you want to “keep pace with wages and benefits,” while offering freebies to parasites and non-dues paying members (their dues are covered by their insurance coverage)

We guess the message the CDYMCA is sending is that if you’re illiterate or just plain stupid, there is still a place where you can make a cool hundred grand and get away with it!

WHERE IS THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF TAXATION AND FINANCE, THE LOCAL TAX COLLECTORS AND ASSESSORS, THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, OUR LEGISLATORS, OTHER MEMBERS WHILE ALL OF THIS SCAMMING IS GOING ON? WHERE ARE THE VETERANS ORGANIZATIONS WHILE THE CDYMCA IS ABUSING OUR VETERANS? THEY’RE ASLEEP ON WATCH AND NOT DOING THEIR JOBS, THAT’S WHERE THEY ARE!

When the cat’s asleep, the rats play!
Who’s monitoring the non-profits, anyway?

Problem is: Breslin actually cancelled the member’s membership and, when contacted by the member, insisted that the member asked that his/her membership be cancelled!!! Unbelievable! Can this be a case of retaliation by a CDYMCA employee? Was Breslin acting out of personal emotion and not in her capacity as an organization officer?


Editor’s Note:

* In fact, the $2 per month increase announced in February became effective in April; with that $2/month increase in CDYMCA membership dues, the deduction from the member’s account for April was actually $40.50 as opposed to $39.00. The corrected total for the above would be $79.50. We have been informed that CDYMCA has since credited the member’s account in the amount of $79.50 but at the same time, cancelled the member’s membership! Is that what CEO C. David Brown meant in his begging letter (see below)? Ask for dues forgiveness during the lock-down and have your membership cancelled? This looks like another Capital District YMCA snow job to us! Or is it retaliation? A personal punishment for a particular member? Looks to us like this could blow up in CDYMCA’s face, and turn into some bad publicity and a lawsuit! Bad move AGAIN, Erin Breslin, very bad!  Breslin seems to be very good at making very bad membership decisions!


Now, remember, we noted above that early in 2019 the CDYMCA increased everyone’s monthly dues by $1/month. Then in about September or so, they slashed the veterans discount by 50%, and then in April 2020, increased member’s monthly dues by another $2/month.

Remember also, that CEO Brown sent out a letter in March 2020 asking members to continue paying monthly dues as “sustaining members,” while the Y was closed. That letter was more than 3600 words long and repeated over and again how great the Y is, and how great the love fest is thanks to the Y. It was a very cleverly written letter covering the front and the back of a page. But here’s the problem, and here’s why the member had to ask about whether dues would be forgiven during the lock-down: Brown dedicates only 23 words out of the 3600 words to say that a member who couldn’t afford to donate monthly dues could put his/her membership on hold. Here’s the text:

In a telephone conversation between a member and Erin Breslin, you know, the illiterate Senior Director for Marketing and Membership at the CDYMCA, Breslin asked the member:

Will the real Erin Breslin please step forward and take responsibility? Resign?

BRESLIN: Yes, sir. So, if we put all of our memberships on hold then when we’re opening back up, what will we use…what funds will we use to pay our employees returning?

And the member responds:

MEMBER:     That’s not my problem. You take a pay cut. Other people…What are other businesses doing? What are other businesses doing with their employees? They’ve furloughed them! They’ve laid them off! They’ve given them work-at-home opportunities! That is not my problem. If you want to run an organization, you figure out how you have to run it. It’s quite simple. Don’t ask me how you’re supposed to pay your employees. Tell Mr. David Brown or whatever his name is to take a 50% pay cut, and use that money to pay your employees. You’ve got $55 … million in assets; pledge some of them! That’s up to you! You figure out how you’re gonna run your organization. Don’t ask me! That’s not my problem. I have to figure out how I run my life; you have to figure out how to run your life … and your organization. Now, if you can’t figure out how to run your organization with your executive directors, and your, your directors, your executives, your board, then I think you’d better find a different job, to be very honest with you. Because you’re in the position you’re in figure out how to work things out, and if you’re faced with a crisis situation, I think that’s where good management, and training, and knowledge, and wisdom comes into play. Not [by] telling members we can’t figure out how we’re going to do this, so we’re going to continue being unfair to you. I’m surprised that you would actually ask me a question like that.

We are informed that CDYMCA CEO C.D. Brown and several other officers of the CDYMCA, Carl Oropallo, Mark Thurman, in addition to E. Breslin, were contacted regarding the veterans issue and the dues during closure, but only Breslin responded, albeit a bit stupidly. We are continuing to follow this Capital District YMCA story, and will be contacting legislators, the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance, the IRS, and members of Congress for answers and to demand an inquiry/investigation. We are in the process of contacting veterans organizations, including the county veterans affairs offices, in order to demand that they take some action regarding the cut in the veterans savings.

Good news is that it’s an election year and veterans are a brotherhood. Some of us still stand behind our veterans and will be watching how veterans organizations respond and what they do. We’ll also be following up with elected officials and hold their feet to the fire on what they do to fix these situations.

This is YOU, if you’re not holding the non-profits’ feet to the fire, and making them accountable and transparent!

What do you think about all of this stinking mess?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 23, 2020 in * Sick Community, 19th Congressional District, 19th Congressional District, 19th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, 46th District, Accountability, Albany, Albany County Chamber of Commerce, Albany County Department of Children, Albany County Department of Children, Youth, and Families, Albany County District Attorney, Albany County Executive, Albany County Executive, Albany County Legislature, American Legion, American Legion Post 1614, Assessment Review, Best Fitness, Bethlehem Y, Bethlehem YMCA, Capital District, Capital District YMCA, Carl Oropallo, Chris Tague, Colonie, Columbia Greene Media, Consumer Protection, Coronavirus, Corporate Greed, Corruption, COVID-19, Coxsackie YMCA, Crook, David Soares, District Attorney, Elected Official, Erin Breslin, Fair Play, Financial Disclosure, Fraud, Glenmont, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Greed, Greene County, Greene County Attorney, Greene County District Attorney, Greene County News, Greene County YMCA, Hudson Valley, Hypocrisy, Internal Revenue Service, IRS, Jaqueline Whitbeck, Johnson Newspaper Corporation, Joseph Stanzione, Kristin Gillibrand, Mark Vinciguerra, Misconduct, Neil Breslin, New York, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, News Channel 10, News Channel 13, News Channel 6, News Herald, Non-Profit, Non-profit, Non-profit, Non-profit organizations, Non-profit scam, NYS Assembly, NYS Senate, Office of the Attorney General, Ravena News Herald, Schenectady, Schenectady County, School Budget, School Taxes, Senate District 46, Smalbany, Tax Avoidance, Tax Evasion, Tax Evasion, Tax Exempt, Tax Exempt, Tax Law, Tax scam, Taxes, The Daily Mail, Times Union, Town of Bethlehem, Veterans Discount, YMCA, Young Men's Christian Association, Young Mens Christian Association, Youth, Youth Bureau

 

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.

 

Why don’t funeral directors just ask?

“This article is not going to endear me to many funeral directors but I’m willing to take the risk for the sake of the best care for the bereaved.” [the Author]

At a recent funeral service at one of my regular funeral homes I was working with a funeral director, who recently joined the team. We had a moment to chat and I asked him why I was not seeing any referrals or cases from him. It was very unusual because the other funeral directors on staff called frequently with requests for services. His answer was a bit shocking: “They don’t ask.” He meant the bereaved families don’t ask.

Well, when a funeral director takes the first call alerting him of a death, or when the family comes in for the arrangements meeting, they shouldn’t have to ask. Part of deathcare is asking the right questions and the religion- spirituality question”, or even “Would you like to speak to our bereavement chaplain about the service?” or “Would you like us to have our chaplain join us at the arrangements meeting?” are among the “right” questions.

Asking the right questions; giving the right answers.
The arrangements meeting.

The fact is, any funeral director should be trained and interested enough to ask all the right questions; after all, the family is coming to the funeral director to have him or her ask the right questions and give the right answers. I have never met a family facing the recent death of a loved one come in with a laundry list of Questions to Ask. Families don’t have a FAQs page when in the grip of acute bereavement! Wake up! You deathcare professionals — if I can use the term “deathcare” these days — need to re-join the care team.

Get it done and move on!

Reason No. 1: Time

One of the reasons for this conspicuous thoughtlessness and lack of real compassion is that most mortuary science programs don’t teach deathcare; they teach the business of funeral directing and how to pass the boards. When a graduate finishes his two-year course, he goes into a one-year residency program with a funeral home, where he again learns the “business.” He has to sell the funeral home’s facilities, their merchandise, the skills of the preparation team, and his time. Of course there are the other items like removal of the deceased, paperwork required by law and cemeteries, etc. But it’s all about the “product.” What the funeral director is selling is turnkey disposal of the deceased, and he’s doing that with time in mind. It’s a question of turnaround. Finish up this case, get back to the funeral home, get the messages and move on to the next removal. All of this involves time.

So the real reason most bereaved families don’t get spiritual, religious, or officiant services is because the funeral director does not ask. The funeral director doesn’t ask because such services are not part of what he sells; he has to get them from the outside, and he calls those costs “out-of-pocket” expenses, because either he has to pay them and get reimbursed or the family pays for them directly. He or she does not ask because a religious or spiritual funeral service takes time — it adds about an hour to the entire program. And those hours add up and translate into dollars, thousands of dollars for the funeral home. Keep the disposal time down to a minimum and feed the bottom line.

The regrettable fact today is that most funeral directors spend very little time with the family or the survivors, the bereaved. He probably receives the first call through a third party answering service, he makes the removal as quickly and cleanly as possible, he sits through the arrangements meeting with the family and showcases his services and merchandise, greets the family and mourners at the door, and stands by during the visitation hours (usually 3-4 hours at most), if any, and stands by and directs the final viewing and funeral (usually 2-3 hours). That’s it. The only direct contact with the family is perhaps 1 hour during removal and during the arrangements meeting. The rest of the 2-7 hours of visitation and funeral operations he’s standing by, ensuring that things go per script, and there’s little or no contact with the bereaved, much less any attempt at bereavement support. That’s the chaplain’s job but what if there’s no chaplain to do that?

Corporate and Factory Funerals Services.

The situation is even worse with the factory funeral services providers like Newcomer and Service Corporation International (SCI and their Dignity Memorial). These corporations work on volume and marketing. They offer “the lowest cost” in the area and then pick up the slack with factory-style services and nickle-and-diming the bereaved with the little “extras.” If your thought the small funeral home operator was on a tight schedule, you haven’t experienced the factory funerals. Because funeral homes work with a time-focus, they are likely to promote the easiest and quickest disposal methods to the bereaved, using the sales pitch that “it’s the least expensive” of the disposal methods: direct cremation or direct burial. Nothing between death and disposal. Grandpa dies, gets carted off and shipped directly to the crematorium, or he gets buried almost immediately. No frills, no time lost. After all, you have better things to do with your time than deal with death. Right? Funeral director gets back for the next case, and the relatives get on with whatever they think is more important than honoring their dead.

Reason No. 2:  Money

While time in the funeral services business may equate with money more than in other businesses, money and expenses factor into this dehumanizing equation.

While cutting quality of services.

But leaving the fact that time is money for a moment, a well-orchestrated funeral or memorial service can be complicated and involve additional costs. Of course, the funeral director does not have to pay those costs but he does have to persuade the family to agree to them and ultimately to pay for them. There was a time when the deceased was laid out for 2-3 viewings: the first was the family private viewing. The next evening would be the visitation viewing when friends and acquaintances would “pay their respects,” and offer condolences to the family. The third viewing, if there were one, would be a public viewing, perhaps with a prayer service, or it would be on the morning of the actual funeral either in the funeral home or crematorium chapel, or in a church or temple, followed by the procession to the place of final disposition. Those days are gone. History.

While all of this added time to the event and locked up the funeral home’s resources for the duration, such a funeral also required additional arrangements (time etc.), equipment (vehicles, transportation, etc.), personnel, and outside professionals (clergy), and even outside facilities (church, chapel). Today’s funerals are much different in terms of visitation and receiving friends and acquaintances: There may be a funeral home chapel service before processing to the place of final disposition. There may or may not be a wake or prayer service or even a public viewing the day before the actual funeral. In other words, the funeral home facilities have become one of the products sold and all other services have been cut to the absolute minimum, including any bereavement support and any spiritual or religious support.

In other words, by not asking or offering bereavement support in the form of spiritual or religious services, the funeral home is saving time and, hence, money. The funeral director saves time and effort by not asking if the family wants spiritual or religious support, and he doesn’t bring up the subject. He thus does not have to plan in the time for coordinating with the chaplain or clergyman nor does he have to tie up personnel and facilities and time for an in-house funeral service, much less an off-site church service.

The savvy funeral director is aware that if he doesn’t offer, the bereaved are unlikely to ask for spiritual or religious services.

There is an exception to this “rule:” Many funeral homes have close connections with a local church or several churches for a very special reason: when a congregation or parish member dies, he gets the body and the pastor gets the honorarium for the use of the church and for officiating at the funeral. This is the one instance where the pastor or the church administrator will promote the services of the funeral director and the funeral director ensures that the church gets the case. That’s why we most often see a funeral home sponsoring a church’s calendar and advertising in the church bulletin. Funeral director and pastor tend to partner and profit by this relationship. Funeral home gets the body and the pastor gets the honorarium. Works well for both. And at least the family gets the appearance of religion or spirituality but it’s just the appearance. We’ve all experienced the funeral service where the officiant clergyman has no idea who the person was but does the service anyway. That’s insensitive and unethical. But it apparently works for most everybody, however.

Reason No. 3: Ignorance

As I mentioned above, most graduates of mortuary science programs learn how to run a funeral services business, that is, the body disposal business. Most graduates leave the program with little or no understanding of spirituality or religion, or even of the psychology of grief and coping with bereavement. They go through the coursework and the motions but what they’re really interested in is the business. After all, it’s one of the only businesses that will always have a customer pool.

I have to ask: “How much can anyone learn about these fundamentally human aspects of deathcare in a mere two-year course that includes business studies, including business law and the legal aspects of deathcare, the basic sciences of death and post-mortem preparation of the deceased, cosmetology, etc.”

Truth be told, many young people go into the mortuary science programs with the best of intentions but then something ugly happens; they see what was once a noble profession from the inside. It’s like admiring a beautiful medieval tapestry and then looking at the back and seeing the ugly knots and strings. What’s more, at 18 or 21 years old, they generally lack the maturity to make good judgments and they have no life experience to fuel any sort of wisdom. They go in as sponges and come out saturated with misconceptions and deranged values. So now you are sitting across from an ignorant 20-something funeral director who is going to tell you all about death and grief! He could be your grandson!!!

Here’s my point: A professional chaplain will have at least a four-year undergraduate degree and then at least a professional degree at the master’s level (masters degree in pastoral studies, religion, theology, or the gold-standard professional degree, the Master of Divinity). For example, a very good friend of mine has a graduate degree in psychology with a degree in literature, and a master of divinity degree, plus formal healthcare chaplaincy training. Most masters degrees require only 12-30 credits of graduate level study; the masters degree in divinity requires at least 75-90, frequently up to 120 credits of graduate level study! In other words, the professional chaplain is likely to have as much training as a physician, and at least 2-3x more training than most graduate degree programs. A professional chaplain is also very likely better trained that the vast majority of so-called denominational clergy, most of whom get their credentials from a so-called denominational “bible school” or from some unaccredited school of ministry. The bible-school graduates are cheap but ineffectual; the real professionals are not all that expensive but are professionals and some ignorant business owners don’t like to get too involved with professionals.

So who do you think is the best qualified to provide acute, short-term, or long-term bereavement support?

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. Many funeral directors are very intelligent, skilled, and compassionate people who have chosen a very thankless, but very essential line of work. While there are some crooks and some very incompetent weasels among them as in any profession, most are very good at what they do: (1) serve the public in an essential role, (2) run a business, (3) participate in important community organizations and activities. From personal experience, I have worked with some saints but have also to admit that I have experienced some real ignorant sickos.

But today the bottom line is unquestionably business success, and that means turnover. Turnover is important in the short term because it provides the funeral director with a lifestyle; in the long-term it shows that the business can make money and, when it comes to retirement time, the funeral director wants to sell the business for as much as he can get. My point is that the funeral director is not trained to provide bereavement support or religious/spiritual support, or even to officiate or to design a funeral service; he’s trained in the business and technology of body disposal and running a funeral home.[1]

Reason No. 4: They don’t care.

While ignorance is not restricted only to the scope of training but can also be observed on the personal level in some funeral directors. It can come into play in other ways: a “not knowing” that results in “not caring” or indifference to the spiritual needs of the customer. Or, the funeral director has a more subtle agenda: he simply does not believe or does not have a connection with spirituality or religion, or he is simply anticlerical or anti-religion, and, paradoxically, he man not feel comfortable talking about the subject of death and spirituality much less even including it in their offerings. He doesn’t care what the bereaved believe, he doesn’t believe that is important.

And then you have the feminist funeral director whose main objective is to make an incursion into what was historically a male-dominated profession. Her self-loathing and hatred of being a woman blinds her to all else, including the needs of the bereaved. Like so many women who enter into previously male-dominated professions, they exaggerate everything, even the insincerity and unauthentic compassion they offer. They have an agenda, not a vocation. But that’s not limited to the funeral business.

That is a problem in many ways but the most insidious way is that they are promoting personal beliefs at the expense of individuals in a very vulnerable situation who might benefit from religious or spiritual support. Moreover, the funeral director in such situations in in a control and power situation vis-à-vis the bereaved, and is misusing that situation in an unethical manner. Again, ethics is not a hot topic in mortuary science curricula, unless it’s basic ethics to keep the potential funeral director out of legal hot water.

If a funeral director finds he does not believe or is anticlerical or anti-religion and, during the arrangements meeting finds that the family has a faith or belief tradition, whether they practice or not, he should refer the case to a colleague who can best serve that family. You can be certain that in the very policy-aligned corporate funeral homes (Newcomer, Service Corporation International, Dignity, etc.) this is not going to happen. It probably won’t happen even in a larger privately owned funeral home group.


This article was inspired by the statement of a funeral director, which in turn resulted in reflection on why an experienced deathcare provider would make such a statement. It is not my intention to indict any funeral director or to paint all funeral directors in the same color, but to make the point that regardless of the reasonable presumption that the funeral director is a business man and, for obvious reasons, must operate a funeral home as a business, there are some essential services that must be offered, even if the client does not specifically or explicitly request them, and which might require the funeral director to make the effort to ask directly, “Have you given any thought to a religious or spiritual service as part of the final arrangements?” or at least to review the death documents to ascertain whether the deceased had a religious or spiritual preference, and then proceeding on the basis of that information. It’s as simple as that.

If they don’t ask, you ask. Period.


This article is courtesy of Compassionate Care Associates, marriage celebrants and funeral and memorial officiants serving the Greater Capital District Area of Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Columbia, Ulster, Greene counties in New York. Visit the website at Compassionate Care Associates.


[1] I do know some clergy who are “working clergy,” that is, they are ordained by their denomination as clergy but work in the funeral services sector as “funeral directors.” Depending on the denomination, their “clergy” training may be minimal or it may be accredited by a national or international agency, but they are denominational clergy, that is, they are trained in a specific faith or belief tradition, and are bound by that tradition. They don’t bite the hand that feeds them. A professional interfaith chaplain may be ordained or licensed but he does not serve a specific denomination, and he is most likely adept in several faith or belief traditions as well as in non-religious traditions. That’s the big difference between denominational clergy and the interfaith chaplain. To ensure the best service, the best choice is the professional interfaith chaplain.

Furthermore, the interfaith professional chaplain likely specializes in a narrow field of expertise such as bereavement, crisis intervention, healthcare, etc. Beware, though, of the so-called “board-certified” log-rollers and club members; the board-certified chaplain is no better than the denominational clergyman; both serve a master and that master is not the bereaved or the client! The majority of “board-certified” log-rollers have little or no training in ministry, theology, pastoral care, or religious studies. If you hear the words “evidence based” you know they’re robots. Membership in an organization and that organization’s “certification” keeps the organization in business but doesn’t to a thing for the bereaved. Most are narcissists and incompetent. Same generally applies to most careerist clergy.

 

 

We Are Re-Opening the Case: Riley Kern, Young Man Killed in Coeymans Hollow, Sycamore Golf Course

Just when they thought they got away with it!

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The Facts are Pointing to a
COVER UP!!!

As you may recall, we wrote in a July article, “Three Articles on New Baltimore Scandals: Pick One or Read All,”, asking “Did you know?” about the case of a young man who was involved in a fatal motorcycle-pickup truck accident in Coeymans Hollow. We wrote:

Editor’s Sidebar: Town of Coeymans. We’ve received reports of a fatal pick-up truck — motorcycle accident that occurred during the evening hours of Saturday, July 28, 2018, on Route 143 in the Town of Coeymans. The operator of the motorcycle, a 20-year old man was killed; the operator of the pick-up truck was allegedly Ravena resident Travis Hagen. Strangely nothing has appeared in the local media about the accident. We have contacted the Coeymans Police for confirmation facts but have not received a response. A reader has informed us that he, too contacted the Coeymans Police acting chief, Daniel Contento, and was told only that there was an accident and the police investigated and reported it to the DMV. Is this a cover up to protect a prominent Ravena family? Doesn’t the young man’s life mean anything or do we just sweep the whole thing under the carpet? We need to start asking questions. The 20-year old man is not just another raccoon, Mr Contento!

This is Riley and a Companion.

Read more about Riley at
Ryan Parker Kern  August 4, 1998 – July 27, 2018 
and leave a note of support and condolence for his family and friends.

At the time, we were suspicious that the accident didn’t get a single word of coverage on any media, and we asked Why?

Since we published that very small bit of information, we’ve received contacts from people who have read the inconspicuous item and have contacted us with a huge amount of information and many, many questions.

In the meantime, we have received some information on Travis Hagen that points to a cover-up in the case of the young man’s death. At the very minimum, a number of people involved in the investigation of the accident and reporting the so-called “facts” are going to have to answer a lot of very unpleasant questions very soon!

Travis Hagen, 48, of Coxsackie. Driver of the pick-up truck.

There are still people in this community who think they are above the law

We are now re-opening the case and will be publishing the information as it’s verified for you, our reading public, to be sickened and outraged by what’s going on in the RCS community and what’s going on in the Coeymans Police Department. There are still people in this community who think they are above the law and can get away with trying to hide a crime. We’re here to make certain the truth gets out and they are brought to justice.

Click this link to read Riley’s mom’s response to detractors of SmalbanyRiley’s Mom Responds: A Mother’s Perspective.

Unconfirmed witness reports indicate that there are inconsistencies in the Police Incident Report. Is there a possibility that the driver of the pick-up truck was … !

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2018 in 19th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, Accident, Acting Police Chief, Albany County Coroner, Albany County Coroners Office, Albany County District Attorney, Albany County EMT, Albany County Sheriff Department, Albany Medical Center, Barbara Underwood, Capital District, Chaplain Services, Civil Right Violation, Civil Rights, Civil Rights, Coeymans, Coeymans Acting Police Chief, Coeymans Police Department, Collusion, Columbia-Greene Media, Conspiracy, Corrupt Police, Corruption, D. W. Contento, Daily Mail, Daniel Contento, David Soares, Death, Death Certificate, Death Investigation, Department of Motor Vehicles, DOT, DOT, Driving under the Influence, Electronic Death Registration System, Ellis Hospital, Emily Kern, Evil, Geico Insurance, Greene County News, Hearst Corporation, Ian Foard, Immorality, Investigation, John B. Johnson, Johnson Newspaper Group, Law Enforcement, Lawsuit, Mark Vinciguerra, Misconduct, Monitoring, Morality, Motor Vehicle Accident, Motorcycle, New York, New York State, New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Police, New York State Police, News Channel 10, News Channel 13, News Channel 6, News Herald, Notice of Claim, NYS Assembly, NYS Comptroller Audit, NYS Senate, Obstruction of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Office of the Comptroller, Paul Gumpher, Perp Patrol, Phil Crandall, Phillip Crandall, Police Incompetence, Professional Ethics, Professional Misconduct, Public Corruption, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk Central School District, Ravena News Herald, Riley Kern, Riley P. Kern, Rye, Stephen Prokrym, Steve Prokrym, Suffering, Sycamore Country Club, Thanatology Café, The Daily Mail, Thomas Marra, Times Union, Times Union Blogs, Town of Coeymans, Travis Hagen, Uncategorized

 

Board of Education Member James “Hadji” Latter: Is he paying his fair share of property taxes?

In the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District, the name James “Hadji“* Latter has a murky history. He’s been able to stay on the RCS-CD Board of Education for a number of years now, not because of his tidy background and performance record, but because the RCS-CD is just a corrupt and manipulated as any other “elected” body in the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk/Albany County region, including New Baltimore and Greene County. But New Baltimore, although in Greene County, pays a portion of their property taxes to support the bloated budget of the RCS-CD and the idiotic programs approved by a board of back-scratchers and cronies.

* “Hadji” is our nickname for James Latter II because of his close associations with the Saudi Arabian company SABIC.

We have reported in the past about Latter’s questionable conduct on the board but when you are dealing with a group who love their power to spend public money, and then ask for more and then make decisions that affect the school age young people in the district and their futures. It’s hard for them to let go and share the responsibility or even to acknowledge and consult the public. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the RCS Central School District Board of Education is no exception. Least of all Mr James Latter II.

That’s why, when a local resident drew our attention to the parking and traffic situation in the Village of Ravena in connection with our recent investigation of Village of Ravena Code Enforcement and, while guiding us around on the grand tour of the many Village of Ravena parking opportunities — in no less than six public parking areas less than one block from the commercial district of Village Center —, and that resident pointed out and commented on a particularly ostentatious eyesore of recent construction on a large lot on Aluise Drive, just in back of the huge lot owned by the Roman Catholic Church of St Patrick, we got curious.

That’s when sitting RCS Central School District Board of Education member James J. “Hadji” Latter II again waddled into the spotlight in his usual murky and questionable style.

You see, Latter and wifey, Amanda C. (Mrs Hadji) purchased two large adjacent lots (total acreage 6.5 acres, cost $101,000) on Aluise Drive in the Village. The lots were previously owned by the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Patrick (Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany) but were sold off and Latter was in the pews ready to close the deal. Was that because former BoE member and crooked cop Gerald “Dirty Hands Jery” Deluca was high up in the Church’s lay administration and an insider? Probably. Latter and “Dirty Hands” Jerry were thick as flies on fresh summer sh*t. So here we have another questionable business deal in Ravena, Home of the Incest Club, and the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Patrick, an Incest Club meeting place, probably brokered by “Dirty Hands Jerry” Deluca before he was forced out (“resigned”) of the Coeymans Police Department with former dunce Coeymans Police Chief Gregory “Dumplin” Darlington was canned (“retired”), and disgraced town/village justice Phil Crandall was elected to be Coeymans Town Supervisor. You really can’t make this stuff up!!!

Our investigations to date have revealed the following interesting and questionable situations. But please note: This information is preliminary and is based on our research in the Village of Ravena and the Town of Coeymans using immediately available information, that is, information we could get on the spot without the formal F.O.I.L procedure (demanding production of public access documents and information under the provisions of the New York State Public Officers Law), and our vetting of that information on official New York state tax online sites. We have demanded the production of documents that will provide finer details of the transactions and Mr Latter’s operations but that may take some time, given Mr Latter’s position and his “friends” in Village and Town offices.

The properties are listed in the official property tax documents as belonging to James and Amanda Latter of 13 Laura Drive, Ravena, New York. Note that address because we’ll be returning to that information shortly.

James “Hadji” and Amanda Latter posing with Hillary Clinton.
Birds of a feather…!

New York State Law Requires the Assessor to Assess Property Under Construction

In some states a new construction is not subject to assessment for tax purposes until it is completed and a certificate of occupancy is issued. The situation in New York State is different, however, here in New York state there is the so-called partial assessment.

Sitting Board of Education Member James Latter’s new house he will be sharing with teacher wife Amanda Latter.
It’s at 9 Aluise Drive in Ravena, in back of St Patrick’s Church.

New construction assessments are placed on the assessment roll based on the partial market value if the construction is in process or the market value of the completed construction as of March 1st, and that assessment is used to compute the school tax bill issued in September and the county, town, and special district tax bill issued the following January.

9 Aluise Drive. Behind St Patricks RC Church and next to the P.B. Coeymans Elementary School.

In the case of a partial assessment, the market value of the home is determined by using the completion percentage of the construction as of March 1st. If the construction is partially complete as of March 1st, the assessment will represent only a percentage of the total property tax assessment when the construction is completed.  A partial assessment will be place on the tax roll as a “partial”, and increased each year until the construction is 100% complete.

In New York State, the assessor is required to value the property exactly as he or she finds it on taxable status date, that is on March 1st. The Assessor is required by New York State law to value property in its condition on that date. A partially completed building will receive a partial assessment based on its estimated percentage of completion as of March 1st. If your house is under construction on March 1, its estimated percentage of completion on that date will be the basis for the assessment

The property was assessed at a time when the progress of the entire construction project was measured and recorded as a partial assessment. An assessment calendar requires that a property review be based on where the progress of the construction is at the time, and the assessment be based on the progress at the cut-off date on the calendar year. The property has to appear on the tax roll for taxes to be paid in the following year.

The law would require that the Latter construction be assessed in it’s state of construction on March 1st. It was not. This partial assessment procedure was not followed in Latter’s case and Latter’s property was not assessed in part while under construction and, though completed, the Town of Coeymans Assessor was unaware of the construction and the property has not yet been assessed! Mr Latter is not paying his fair share of property taxes. Mr Latter is not paying his fair share of his school taxes to the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District. Mr Latter should be required to resign from his position on the Board of Education for such malconduct.


We did some research and found that the latest tax information on the property at 9 Aluise Drive in Ravena doesn’t show a thing about any new construction and lists it as vacant land. But there’s a house on it that looks as if it’s market value would be at least $200,000!!! What is the deal here? We all have to pay our property taxes and a big part of those taxes go to the schools. Latter is on the Board of Education and decides on the school budget and how much we have to pay but it looks like he’s scamming the Town of Coeymans, whose Assessor wasn’t even aware the house was there — even though you can almost see it from Coeymans Town Hall!!!

Extract of New York State Real Property Report for one of the Latter Lots (where the house is standing).

New York State real property tax assessment law requires that a new construction be assessed as a partial assessment if it’s not completed by the date of March 1st of any year. That means that whatever part of Latter’s house that was completed by March 1, 2018, should have been assessed at that percentage of the total value of the house. But it wasn’t and we all want to know Why?

Another inconsistency is this: James Latter and Amanda Latter list their address of record as being 13 Laura Lane in the Village of Ravena. A bit more research shows that 13 Laura Lane in the Village of Ravena is owned by Anthony and Ann Carrk, not by the Latters. True, the Latters could be renting from Amanda’s parents all these years but isn’t that a stretch? Could be true, though. Maybe Jimmy “Hadji” or Amanda could shed some light on this question. Or maybe Anthony or Ann Carrk can explain the living conditions and how so many could be living in that tiny hovel on Laura Lane.

13 Laura Lane and 9 Aluise Drive. Where do the Latters live?

If you ask the Village of Ravena Building Department Joe Burns, he willl tell you that they issue the building permit for new constructions, do the code enforcement inspections, and when the construction is done, they issue the certificate of occupancy. The Town of Coeymans Sole Assessor Dawn DeRose will tell you that they are notified by the Village of Ravena when the construction is finished. But that’s doesn’t explain why a partial assessment of the Latters’ property wasn’t done by the Town of Coeymans according the New York State Real Property Law. You’d think Town of Coeymans Sole Assessor Dawn DeRose would know better.

This just in: According to a very simple document provided to the Town of Coeymans by the Village of Ravena entitled “Village of Ravena, Building Projects Completed in July 2018” the Village of Ravena provides a one-liner notification of Latter’s construction project. That’s all. The document provides only the following information:

The Bare Bones Provided to the Town of Coeymans Assessor.

The above document provided by the Town of Coeymans in response to a F.O.I.L. demand clearly shows that Latter’s new construction was likely completed by March 2018 and is valued at $300,000. Even if it were not completed it would have been substantially completed and should have been assessed and on the tax rolls!!! It is not. A 1728 square foot two-story home with attached garage can represent a pretty fair amount of tax revenue, even if only subject to a partial assessment. Our question is: Why wasn’t the information provided to the Town of Coeymans Assessor when the building permit was issued? Why was it provided only after a Certificate of Occupancy was issued on July 3, 2018!!! Latter saved a pretty penny thanks to the Village of Ravena’s substandard reporting procedures. We’re certain the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance will be very interested in this case and will likely want to investigate how many other similar cases have gotten past the Assessor and the Tax Department.

Ravena will tell you it’s not their problem because they don’t have an assessor; the assessments are done by the Town of Coeymans Assessor. Coeymans will tell you that they don’t police the Village of Ravena and the Village of Ravena has to tell Coeymans what’s going on so that the assessor can do his assessments. Latter will likely tell us that he doesn’t know anything about all this. Sounds like a really shady case of finger-pointing or passing the buck here, now that the cat’s hit the fan and yet another problem in Village of Ravena-Town of Coeymans communications is revealed. Don’t you think it’s high time the Village and the Town started communicating? Now the community is losing property tax money from a select few that managed to drop below the assessment radar. That’s just not fair and it’s not legal. Someone has to answer for this illegal conduct and investigate how many other similar cases have cheated the Town out of tax dollars.

This is another case for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, Real Property Division, and the Office of the New York State Comptroller. Rest assured they’ll be informed of all relevant details.

Do the Village or Ravena and the Town of Coeymans need a Special Audit?

But isn’t Latter a Board of Education member elected by the deaf-dumb-and-blind voters of the Town of Coeymans? Doesn’t he put together the school budget that gets funded in major part by our property taxes as assessed by the Office of the Assessor. And isn’t Latter a so-called “financial analyst” at SABIC? Wouldn’t you expect him to know about property taxes, assessments, etc.?

Ignorance is no excuse
Village and Town are Accessories.


Editor’s Aside: Diverting a bit from Mr James “Hadji” Latter’s past malconduct while a Board of Education member and later as president of the Board of Education that ranged from violations of confidentiality to a laundry list of questionable conduct and associations, he seems to have allied himself with a clique that manages to get elected no matter what. Probably by friends and family and a bit of influence peddling. But Latter is a decision maker on the Board of Education that hires the Superintendent of Schools for the RCS Central School District who runs the schools and manages the teachers. Latter’s Board hired a former principal/teacher from the RCS high-school as Superintendent at an astronomical salary, and others in turn to other posts.

“Hadji” Latter and his cronies have considerable influence on what gets taught by whom in our schools but he is obviously a supporter of Hillary Clinton. What’s worse still, is the fact that he is employed as a financial analyst at the Saudi Arabian company SABIC!!!

The SABIC flag flying near one of the company’s cogeneration towers in Feura Bush.

SABIC (Saudi Basic Industries Corporation) is a Saudi diversified manufacturing company, active in petrochemicals, chemicals, industrial polymers, fertilizers, and metals. It is the largest public company in Saudi Arabia, as listed in Tadawul, but the Saudi government still owns 70% of its shares. SABIC is also the largest listed company in the Middle East. Private shareholders are from Saudi Arabia and other countries of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Saudi SABIC

While Saudi Arabia is often a secondary source of funds and support for terror movements who can find more motivated and ideologically invested benefactors (e.g. Qatar), Saudi Arabia arguably remains the most prolific sponsor of international Islamist terrorism, allegedly supporting groups as disparate as the Afghanistan Taliban, Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Al-Nusra Front. Saudi Arabia is said to be the world’s largest source of funds and promoter of Salafist jihadism, which forms the ideological basis of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, Taliban, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan) and others.

This is one of the guys you elected to run your school system!!!


We’re staying on top of this one and will publish the information provided by the Village of Ravena and the Town of Coeymans in response to our F.O.I.L demands as it becomes available.

Yes. We know.
But let’s see what you say when the cat hits the fan.
JUST PAY YOUR TAXES!!!
The Editor

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2018 in 19th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, Accountability, Albany, Amanda Latter, Ann Carrk, Anthony Carrk, Assessment, Bill Bailey, Board of Education Member, Brian Bailey, Capital District, Church of St Patrick, Code Enforcement Officer, Code Violation, Coeymans, Coeymans Assessor, Coeymans Code Enforcement, Columbia-Greene Media, Daily Mail, Donna Degnen, Fair Play, Gerald Deluca, Gordon Bennett, Government, Greene County News, Henry Traver, Incompetence, James Latter, James Latter II, Jason Hyslop, Jeff Ruso, Jerry "Dirty-Hands" Deluca, Joe Burns, Joe Tanner, John B. Johnson, Joseph Burns, Joseph Tanner, Mark Vinciguerra, Mayor "Mouse", Mayor "Mouse" Misuraca, Michael J. Biscone, Moose Misuraca, Nancy Biscone-Warner, Nancy Warner, Nancy Warner, New Baltimore Assessor, New York, New York State, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, News Herald, NYS Assembly, NYS Comptroller Audit, NYS Senate, Office of the Comptroller, Official Misconduct, Partial Assessment, Phil Crandall, Property Taxes, Public Corruption, Public Office, Public Safety, Ravena, Ravena Building Inspector, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk Central School District, Ravena News Herald, RCS Board of Education, RCS Central School District, RCS School Superintendant, RCS Superintendent of Schools, Real Property Tax Law, Sabic, Sante Debacco, Selkirk Cogen, Shame On You, Smalbany, Tax Avoidance, Tax Evasion, Tax Evasion, Taxation, Thomas E. Dolan, Tom Dolan, Village of Ravena, Village of Ravena Building Department, William Bailey, William Bailey, William Misuraca, William Misuraca, Zoning Enforcement Officer

 

Three Articles on New Baltimore Scandals: Pick One or Read All.

First of all: Were you aware of these little tidbits?

At the January 1, 2018, Organizational Town Board Meeting:

Mr. Jeff Ruso appointed former New BaltimoreTown Supervisor, Nick Dellisanti, to be his deputy supervisor. Dellisanti showed his true colors when he refused to appoint non-party campaign workers to key town positions when he took office; his damning response was, “Republicans appoint Republicans.” Seems that New Baltimore Town Supervisor Jeff Ruso takes it a step further, since Ruso was Dellisanti’s deputy supervisor, “Cronies appoint cronies.” The net effect is that Dellisanti, although he had all sorts of excuses why he didn’t want to run again in 2017, got himself appointed to act as supervisor.  Ruso runs unopposed in New Baltimore and gets “elected” to be Town Supervisor and then he selects Dellisanti to be his deputy. Clever little trick, doncha think? Don’t they call that a dictatorship elsewhere? Single party system, unopposed (s)elections. Padding the panel.

Two famous political cronies.

But what really reveals Ruso’s attitude towards his unopposed election to be supervisor are his own words on appointing Dellisanti: “Now the appointment is mine entirely as Town Supervisor,” but Ruso did have the decency to ask the Town Board to ratify his appointment by Resolution. His motion was seconded by his constant sidekick Shelly vanEtten, whose husband also serves on the Planning Board as chairman, and somehow got on the Town Agriculture Committee, indirectly pulls strings on Town committees through his wife, Shelly van Etten, a sitting Town Board Member.

The shyster factor was also confirmed with the re-appointment of Tal Rappelea to be Town Attorney. Rappelea will receive more than $800/month as Town Attorney, generally sitting for about an half-hour next to Ruso or Dellisanti once a month at the regular Town Board meeting, if he even shows up.

There’s much more that our readers should be aware of and can be found in the minutes of that meeting at Organizational Meeting 2018 of January 1, 2018 .

This article is actually three component articles. Click on the links below to read the different sections. You won’t regret it.

Editor’s Sidebar: Town of Coeymans. We’ve received reports of a fatal pick-up truck — motorcycle accident that occurred during the evening hours of Saturday, July 28, 2018, on Route 143 in the Town of Coeymans. The operator of the motorcycle, a 20-year old man was killed; the operator of the pick-up truck was allegedly Ravena resident Travis Hagen. Strangely nothing has appeared in the local media about the accident. We have contacted the Coeymans Police for confirmation facts but have not received a response. A reader has informed us that he, too contacted the Coeymans Police acting chief, Daniel Contento, and was told only that there was an accident and the police investigated and reported it to the DMV. Is this a cover up to protect a prominent Ravena family? Doesn’t the young man’s life mean anything or do we just sweep the whole thing under the carpet? We need to start asking questions. The 20-year old man is not just another raccoon, Mr Contento!

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?

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

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

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2018 in 19th Congressional District, 2018 Elections, 20th Congressional District, Alan van Wormer, Animal Control Officer, Assessment, Assessment Review, Board of Assessment Review, Broken Lease, Burning the Constitution, Charles Stahlman, CHIPS, Civil Right Violation, Consolidated Highway Improvement Program, Conspiracy, Constitution, Corruption, Crystal R. Peck Esq., Daily Mail, DeLeonardis & Peck P.C., Denis Jordan, Denis Jordan, Deputy Superintendent of Highways, Donna Degnen, Elections and Voting, Gordon Bennett, Government, Greene County, Greene County Court, Greene County District Attorney, Greene County Elections, Grievance Day, Harassment, Hazardous Conditions, Hudson Valley, Jeff Ruso, Joe Stanzione, Joe Tanner, Joseph Stanzione, Joseph Tanner, Law Enforcement, Lawsuit, Marshall Sterling Insurance, Meprision of Felony, Michael Biscone, Michael J. Biscone, Misconduct, Misuse of Public Office, New Baltimore, New Baltimore Assessor, New Baltimore Democratic Committee, New Baltimore Democrats, New Baltimore Elections, New Baltimore Highway Department, New Baltimore Highway Superintendent, New Baltimore Republican Club, New Baltimore Superintendent of Highways, New Baltimore Town Board, New Baltimore Town Court, New York, New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, New York State Constitution, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Highway Law, New York State Police, New York State Police, New York State Supreme Court, New York State Town Law, New York State Unified Court System, Nick Delisanti, Nick Dellisanti, NYS Assembly, NYS Comptroller Audit, NYS Senate, Office of the Assessor, Office of the Comptroller, Pat Linger, Patrick Linger, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk Central School District, RCS Central School District, Ronna Smith, Scott Van Wormer, Scott VanWormer, Shelly van Etten, Smalbany, Sole Assessor, Stahlman, Tal Rappelea, Terry J. Wilhelm, Terry Wilhelm, Tom Meacham, Town and Village Courts, Town and Village Judge, Town Justice, Town Law, Town of Bethlehem, Town of New Baltimore, VanEtten, Zach Stahlman, Zachary Stahlman

 

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

We’ve just been informed that Zachary Stahlman and Charles “Chuck” Stahlman’s continuing harassment of a local business has been rejected by the Greene County Court. Shyster loser Brendan Baynes (Brendan Baynes Law Firm), representing the Stahlmans in their bid to continue harassing a local business, and his motion to reargue the case, claiming that the Greene County Court and County Judge Terry J Wilhelm didn’t understand the facts or the law, got kicked out, as we predicted. For background on the Stahlmans and Baynes, see our article, “Shyster Meets Psycho: Brendan Baynes and Zachary Stahlman a.k.a. Fat Cat Antiques“. Their attempt failed miserably, of course.

In a Decision & Order dated July 2, 2108, Greene County Court Judge Terry J. Wilhelm denied Stahlman’s motion for reargument, which was stupidly filed by local shyster Brendan Baynes of the Baynes Law Firm of Ravena, NY (we’ve already commented on the fact that Baynes’ law firm isn’t in Ravena, his P.O. box might be, but his office is in what appears to be a chicken coop on US Rt 9W in Greene County; it’s not even in Albany County!). If Baynes doesn’t even know where his office is located do you want to trust him with your legal work? But that says a lot about the Stahlmans.

The whole fiasco started in New Baltimore Town Court when former one-term town justice Lee Davis, a New York State Health Department attorney, no less, couldn’t interpret the terms of a commercial lease correctly, and started the ball rolling in a cascade of confusion worthy of the antics of a group of circus clowns. One of the biggest clowns, local attorney Brendan Baynes of Ravena, New York, jumped into the act to demonstrate how incompetent a New York attorney can be. The Stahlmans got what they deserved. Losers!

Our investigations as reported in our article, “Are Charles H. “Chuck” Stahlman and Son, Zachary Stahlman a Bit too Cozy with New York State Police?” received a very prompt and concerned response from the New York State Police Internal Investigations and the Station Commander at the New Scotland State Police, who flatly denied any connection with the Stahlmans, except that they were the ones who arrested Charles “Chuck” Stahlman for passing fake money, but once the case went to Albany  County DA P. David Soares, that’s where the NYSP connection ended. In fact, Charles Stahlman has a date in court in September. We’ll be watching what Albany County DA Soares does to botch up the case, which he no doubt will do.

The State Police also sent Chuck Stahlman and wifely Stahlman packing when they cried harassment when legally served with court papers. The Stahlmans are displaying a “We Support the Bethlehem Police” poster on their property on US Route 9W. Yeah, we bet they do!  Too bad for the bad-news boys in Stahlmanville.

The only remaining question we have at this point is whether Albany County District Attorney David P. Soares will screw up the case when Chuck Stahlman has to appear in September on the charges of


AND AGAIN IN NEW BALTIMORE TOWN COURT…

We’ve been looking at elected officials’ and public servants’ oaths of office and find that just about every one of our local elected officials and public servants have sworn an oath they cannot possibly uphold. They just won’t admit that they are ignorant and incompetent. They don’t know their jobs, take the public’s money and are, well, thieves!

THE NEW BALTIMORE TOWN COURT or THE CENTER FOR BACKWATER INJUSTICE

In a recent letter to New Baltimore Town Justice Thomas Meacham, a resident demands to know why a complaint made with the Town of New Baltimore Animal Control Officer (ACO), Joseph “Joe” Tanner, was dismissed without notification of the parties, including, at least according the Mr. Tanner, the Animal Control Officer. The letter (June 6, 2018) reads in part:

“Mr. Tanner informs me that the complaint was “discarded” by you. Mr. Tanner further reports that he had discussed the case with you and was surprised that you had discarded it.

“My question to you is on what grounds and authority did you discard/dismiss the case without having consulted with me or without a hearing.”

Meacham responds on July 5, 2018, by sending a so-called Decision, without even so much as a note, dated September 26, 2017 (!!!) which reads:

“On 9/26/17 the hearing was held at the Town of New Baltimore Courthouse in Greene County, NY. Neither the Animal control officer (ACo) or the complainant were present in the court at the hearing.”

Overlooking the horrible grammar in this official court document, there are some very significant problems in how this case was handled. The Complainant, upon receiving Meacham’s response, addressed a letter to “his honor” in which the Complainant pulls no punches:

“While the document mailing postmarked July 5, 2018, indicates a decision of the court dated September 26, 2017, it gives no further statement as to why the apparent Decision of September 26, 2017, was sent out on July 5, 2018, and only after I demanded information from the Court as to the status of the complaint. If one does the math, that is fully 10 months after the fact; by any standard, even if one applies the standards of a Town or Village court and the competence of a Town or Village “justice,” such an untimely notification is unacceptable.

“But the untimely notification is not the sole unacceptable observation to be made on hand of the Court’s apparent response.

*****

“The document indicates that the “[d]efendants were arraigned on 8/29/17.” Presumably, that date notation is intended to mean August 29, 2017.

“The fact that I made the complaint by me The “personally with Mr. Joseph Tanner on or about Tuesday, July 11, 2017, immediately following a so-called “trial” in the matter of Thompson v. Krug [sic, recte “People v. Krug”], a dog nuisance case, which you sua sponte dismissed after coaxing the complainant telling him you were going to dismiss the case even without hearing the facts or witnesses who were waiting to be heard. This fact raises the question as to why it no less than took 7 weeks for the New Baltimore Town Court to “arraign” the defendants on a dog nuisance violation?

*****

“The Decision document also states that a “hearing was held at the Town of New Baltimore Courthouse” on 9/26/2017 (September 26, 2017), and that “[neither] the Animal Control Officer (ACO) [Mr. Joseph Tanner] or [sic] the complainant were present in the court at the hearing.”

“In other words, Sir, in the case of People v. Krug, while mis-captioning the matter before the court, you unilaterally eliminated the People from the matter.

*****

“First of all, in an animal nuisance complaint, it is the Animal Control Officer (ACO) who prosecutes the complaint before the court; it is the Animal Control Officer who is the prosecutor. The court cannot “hear” a case in which the prosecutor is not present; the Court cannot entertain an ex parte hearing. A hearing, sir, involves the parties, not a single party but all of the parties! Mr. Tanner is the New Baltimore Animal Control Officer and in the subject matter he is the prosecutor and the representative of the People of New Baltimore. How do you presume to abrogate to yourself the prerogatives of the executive branch (enforcement and prosecution) from your position in the judiciary?!? How do you presume to disregard the doctrine of separation of powers in violation of the New York State Constitution and the Constitution of the United States, both of which you swore in a solemn oath of office to support?

*****

“I am at a loss, as would anyone who is even remotely familiar with the administration of justice, how it would be possible for both the prosecutor and the chief Complainant to be absent from a hearing without red flags going up everywhere. Didn’t it occur to you that something was awry when the prosecutor and the chief Complainant were not present at the hearing?

*****

“According to the document you provided as a Decision, you arrogantly proceeded with a so-called “hearing,” heard the defendant(s) without the benefit of the prosecutor or this Complainant, and dismissed the case.

“Your questionable conduct in this one case raises a plethora of questions as to your competence as a member of the judiciary, not only in terms of an understanding of your role but questions even your appreciation of the implications of your oath of office and your knowledge of procedures. Given these primary questions and the secondary issues and questions that arise therefrom, it would appear that you are in violation of a number of regular and ethical rules.

“Your conduct of this matter may subject you to discipline, and given the circumstances, I shall immediately file a complaint with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, demanding that you be at least censured if not removed from the bench.

“Before this matter becomes any more embarrassing to the Town of New Baltimore or to the New York State Unified Court System, you may wisely and prudently consider resigning with immediate effect.”

The Complainant’s letter was sent on or about July 30, 2018, and copied to the New Baltimore Town Clerk, the New Baltimore Justice Court Clerk, Town Justice Joseph Farrell Jr, and mailed to Mr. Meacham.

We have demanded insight into the Court records in this case and have been informed that they will be made available for inspection on August 20, 2018, at the New Baltimore Town Hall. We’ll have our representative there to inspect those records and recommend further action.

All of our public servants have to swear an oath of office in which they swear to support the New York State Constitution and the Constitution of the United States of America. That’s the joke of the century.

Not a single one of the officials we have examined has any idea of either of the Constitutions and they are continuously violating the highest laws of the state of New York and of the United States, their Constitutions. Our public servants have no clue about the constitutions they swear to support and they’re violating our rights on a day-to-day basis.

The voters of New Baltimore elected a dolt to be a town justice, Thomas Meacham, who has no clue of what it means to be a member of the judiciary nor any idea of any boundaries set by the separation of powers in the three branches of government.

Meacham not only is ignorant of any constitutional provisions of separation of powers, he seems to make his own rules of procedure as he moves blindly along violating the public’s rights and traumatizing the people’s trust in an unbiased and non-partisan judiciary, something that is alien to New Baltimore and most towns and villages that are plagued with the antiquated and incompetent system of town and village justices, who are not educated in the law and are required to have only a high school education or equivalent to be voted into the court system!

We have been studying the Town and Village Court System of the New York State Unified Court System and have found that it is the source of problems for almost 100 years. The fundamental problem is that local communities elect local residents to be local judges, called town or village justices (formerly “justices of the peace”), most of whom have absolutely no training in law or anything close to it. The only requirement to be one of these dolts is the equivalence of a high school graduation and the necessary votes, that is, one more than your opponent!! There have been attempts to eliminate the town and village court system but communities don’t like interference from above and legislators are not all too eager to risk pissing off voters by doing something that might be right or necessary. Perish the thought!

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?

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

*****

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2018 in 19th Congressional District, 19th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, 46th District, 46th Senate District, Albany, Albany County District Attorney, All the Justice You Can Buy, Baynes Law Firm, Bob Krug, Bonnie Krug, Brendan Baynes, Burning the Constitution, Capital District, Charles H. Stahlman, Charles Stahlman, Chuck Stahlman, Civil Lawsuit, Civil Rights, Constitution, Corrupt Judge, Corrupt Justice, County Legislator, Criminal Judge, Crystal R. Peck Esq., David Soares, DeLeonardis & Peck P.C., Democrap, Democrats, Fat Cat Antiques, Fat Cat Transport, Felony, Fraud, Glenmont, Government, Greene County, Greene County Court, Greene County District Attorney, Harry Davis, Hudson Valley, Intimidation, Joe Stanzione, Joe Tanner, Joseph Tanner, Judge Davis, Judicial Ethics, Judicial Misconduct, Justice and Courts, Kangaroo Court, Law, Law Enforcement, Lee Davis, Lee Davis, Leland Miller, Michael Biscone, Michael J. Biscone, New Baltimore, New Baltimore Town Board, New Baltimore Town Board Member, New Baltimore Town Court, New York, New York State, New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, New York State Constitution, New York State Police, New York State Police, New York State Unified Court System, NYS Assembly, NYS Senate, P. David Soares, Public Corruption, Robert Krug, Tainted Judge, Terry J. Wilhelm, Terry Wilhelm, Thomas Meacham, Tom Meacham, Town and Village Courts, Town and Village Judge, Town Justice, Town of New Baltimore, Town Supervisor, Zach Stahlman, Zachary C. Stahlman, Zachary Stahlman

 

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!

 

Roman Catholic Church: Collection Envelopes Determine Good Standing!

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

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

The second question necessarily follows on the first question.

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

“The sponsor agrees to provide:

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

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

– At least 16 years old,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The way records are kept.

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

Scott VanDerveer, pastor of St Patrick, Ravena.

Steven Matthews, pastor, St John Baptist, Greenville.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The criterion for Catholic “in good standing”?

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

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

and the sponsor’s parish pastor must certify

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

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

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

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

The answer is administratively maybe, canonically NO!

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

RC Diocese of Albany chief rulemaker, Scharfenberger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Furthermore, the USCCB notes that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the result is bad disciples!

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

[5] Appendix I, Catholic Catechism, Precepts

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

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

 

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

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

Anonymous Contributor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His post was simply:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Institutional Agendas Define the Group.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

[6] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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