Posts Tagged “connecticut”

CT state capitol tower & domeUpdate: There’s a little news about the Connecticut budget; please see below. And now, on with my original post:

Pardon me, Dear Reader, for another departure from the usual topics of this blog. This is something that desperately needs to be addressed … and since it involves immaturity and irrationality, it’s tangentially relevant to things I usually cover here. So here goes.

Oh, and forgive the length of this post. A lot needs to be said about this — for better or worse. OK, on to it, then!

For those of you not familiar with my home state of Connecticut, the government here is in dire fiscal straits. We face a massive budget deficit, which our government has not yet resolved (cached). Our fiscal year began this July 1, but as yet we have no budget. Our legislature convened this past January, knowing it had just under 6 months to get a budget together, but somehow it never happened. The legislature and governor’s office squandered that time, and did absofuckinglutely nothing whatsoever.

Of course, Connecticut’s government is still running, metaphorically on fumes via executive orders that continue many programs but have halted others. Since then, all that’s happened is a lot of kvetching, bellyaching, hand-wringing, and whining. A series of budget proposals were offered … by the governor, by Democrats in the legislature, and by Republicans. Some of those were revised over the past few months, but nearly all went nowhere. A lot of the inactivity was because the legislature bided its time, waiting until state employees could ratify a “giveback” package which (cached), unfortunately, still left a gaping hole to be filled (cached). With that deal in place — and because of it, lacking any ability to lay off state workers to save money — progress on a budget ground to a halt once again, with the usual sniveling and sniping between parties.

The only meaningful action took place last week, when Connecticut’s legislature, with a dramatic vote in the evenly-divided state Senate (36 seats are split 18-18 between the parties) approved the Republicans’ most recent budget, which has too many cuts (cached) to suit Democratic governor Dannel Malloy‘s fancy, and he’s said he’ll veto it.

Beyond some more sniping, nothing is happening. There are no budget talks. There’s nothing on the horizon, no progress to report. It’s expected Connecticut will begin October without a budget.

The problem is, even if Malloy signed the GOP budget, it would give the Nutmeg State a budget for the next two years … but it wouldn’t solve the state’s deficit problem (cached). It’d just put off the matter of the budget deficit until 2019’s legislative session, when this whole laughable exercise would start all over again.

There’s an underlying problem with state government finances, which neither party is willing to address — and in fact, they’ve worked hard not to address it, for decades now. That underlying problem is Connecticut’s massive liabilities … mainly in the form of pensions and retiree benefits (cached). Put simply, the state failed to fund pensions adequately (for decades), and retirement payments have blossomed over the last several years. Keep in mind that the state pays pensions not only for retired state employees, but also for public school teachers (hired at the municipal level, and by number of regional districts). As “baby boomers” retire, this will only get even worse than it already is — and it’s already sapping the state’s coffers.

The two parties offer the usual two solutions one would expect: Democrats want taxes increased, especially on the wealthy, to confiscatory rates; and Republicans want taxes cut, because supposedly this will cause an economic boom that in turn will increase revenues. Let me be honest: Neither of these is going to work. Tax cuts of the GOP style fail, as the state of Kansas found out — and as that state’s Republicans, who rule there, were recently forced to concede (cached). The Democrats’ scenario — raising rates on millionaires — isn’t much better. It’s not that they can’t afford it, or that they’ll leave the state if their taxes are raised (which is a common GOP contention); it’s that most of Connecticut’s highest earners run hedge funds, which are volatile, and it’s impossible to anticipate what they’ll be paying in, any given year (or quarter, for that matter). At times, they’ve accounted for up to 30% of state revenues (cached). That’s a big chunk of the state’s coffers to have to leave up to such an iffy income stream. Increasing the sales tax rate, or eliminating sales tax exemptions (say, on prescription drugs) would provide a more even, and thus anticipatable, revenue increase, but sales taxes are inherently regressive (cached) and furthermore, as they go up, the return diminishes. Adding (say) 50 basis points on a 7% sales tax generates less added revenue than adding those same 50 basis points on a 5% sales tax.

The only real solution is to cut the liabilities and (somehow) reduce retirement benefit payments. Ostensibly this was supposed to have happened with the “concessions deal” that was worked out in July. However, this deal is a mixed bag, because while it does save some money, it keeps state government employment where it is, which in the long run will tend to keep liabilities high. So it doesn’t really help much. The state’s GOP has said this since it was first negotiated, and although I disagree with them on many things, on this point, they’re correct.

The state’s other major expense — aside from employee wages and benefits — is Medicaid. While it gets some federal matching funds, this too is a major drain on state coffers. The problem is, there isn’t much left to cut here. Medicaid reimbursements have been pared down, little by little, with each budget that’s been passed since the early ’90s. There’s been a contraction in the number of nursing homes, with many of them folding, but the state’s elderly population is not dropping. It’s not that there isn’t any more that might be shaved off … the practice of having Medicaid patients taken to appointments by ambulance, rather than taxi or some other much-cheaper alternative, certainly needs to be changed and can save money. But there’s just not a lot left to be had.

What Connecticut needs are structural changes to its finances, both spending and taxation, as well as the reining in of long-term liabilities and debt. It needs more reliable revenue streams, and spending cuts, including paring down the state’s employment rolls, along with reducing pension payments. An easy start would be an immediate end to the practice of “double-dipping” such as in this case (cached) And that’s but one example … lots of these guys are getting two paychecks from the state. A state employee should either get a payroll check, or a pension check, but never both. The practice of letting them use spikes in overtime ratchet up their pension checks, also needs to end (cached). These are two reforms which would not only save money every year in payroll, but they’d save more than that in pensions, in the long haul. Thinning out the ranks of state employees would also have a similar cascading effect, saving some money in the short term and even more in the future.

Good luck getting that to happen, though. The legislature’s leadership (namely, the Democrats who’re the majority in the House of Representatives) are closely hooked in with the state’s public employee unions. In fact, in his “day job,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz is a representative for one of those unions (specifically, AFSCME). Like his federal counterpart, Aresimowicz drives all legislation in his chamber. That practically screams “conflict of interest,” but no one in Hartford has noticed.

There’s yet another consideration: State aid to cities and towns (while Connecticut has counties, they exist only geographically, there are no county governments). This money typically goes toward funding public education, due to a provision in the state constitution (specifically, section 4 of article VIII). There are also PILOT payments (payments in lieu of taxes) which compensate towns and cities for untaxed property (e.g. for buildings owned by the state or non-profits). Over the last 15-20 years these payments have grown, as the cost of education has gone up. Among the bigger elements of that increasing cost are special education budgets, which in many towns and districts have literally exploded.

The governor has pushed to get school districts to begin contributing to teacher pensions (they’ve never had to before), and both parties’ budgets reduce payments to cities and towns. While this helps state finances, unless costs at the municipal level are lowered, all it will do is cause local property taxes to go up — which won’t help Nutmeggers at all. Ultimately, that sort of cost-shifting is also not a viable long-term solution. What needs to happen is that the cost of running municipalities — and for nearly all of them, that’s education — needs to be reduced significantly.

There has been talk of allowing municipalities to impose an extra sales tax of 1% on restaurant bills, which could ease the property tax burden, but … really? Why just restaurants? Why not on everything that has a sales tax? And what about very-small towns that have few or no restaurants? That this provision makes little sense probably explains why it hasn’t been mentioned over the last few weeks. Still, giving towns and cities an added revenue stream, is probably not a bad idea. Not that I’m a fan of new taxes, but property taxes are problematic.

The long and short of it is: Connecticut needs to restructure its government finances. It absolutely needs to happen at the state level, and ought to happen at the municipal level; and it needs to begin now. Not in a few months, or a few weeks — but now! The city of Hartford is at the edge of bankruptcy, and will soon be forced to make changes (cached) — either on its own, or by state or bankruptcy-court order), but really the whole state needs a drastic governmental-financial makeover.

But … knowing this … what are our leaders in Hartford doing? Nothing. Not. One. Single. Fucking. Thing. No budget negotiations are taking place. Not even the individual parties are discussing their next proposals. Nothing is happening — at all. This is an absolute, fucking shame. Everyone in the state Capitol; the governor, both houses of the legislature, and both political parties, appear to have collectively given up.

It’s time for them to get off their whiney little asses and start doing their jobs. Really, they ought to have done their jobs months ago and generated a new, workable budget prior to this past July 1. They ought to be ashamed of themselves for not having met that deadline. But they should be doubly ashamed for having thrown up their hands, now. It’s time for them to get back to fucking work already and do their fucking jobs, fercryinoutloud.

P.S. I will end this by explaining, especially to those of you who aren’t from Connecticut, that the Nutmeg State’s fiscal disaster is not of partisan origin. It wasn’t caused only by one party or the other. Yes, it’s dominated right now by Democrats, having had a Democratic legislature for what seems like ages, and a Democratic governor since January 2011; but we had Republican governors since 1995 (John Rowland, who was convicted of corruption in 2004, then succeeded by his lieutenant governor Jodi Rell, who was elected in her own right in 2006) and prior to that, an ostensible independent (Lowell Weicker) beginning in 1991. Both parties played a part in consistently and repeatedly putting off funding pension and benefit liabilities, and that tendency goes back decades. Thus, elected officials from both parties are responsible for it. That’s both of them. Don’t let anyone convince you this is solely the fault of only one party … because it’s not. By contrast, the fiscal crisis in Kansas is largely the fault of that state’s GOP (cached), and in particular governor Sam Brownback.

Update: It took a couple weeks but Connecticut’s leaders finally decided to try working out a budget. That this is what they should have been doing, back in May and June, doesn’t seem to have occurred to them.

Oh, and despite of all of this, the state’s main teachers’ union is suing the governor to get school funding restored (cached). It doesn’t matter to them that the state’s finances are in the toilet; they just want their fucking money! “Show me the money,” they’re saying. “Show me the money!” I have no idea which stone they plan to bleed in order to get the money they demand, but they’re going to demand it, anyway. I guess.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Comments Comments Off on The Nutmeg State is Screwed, But No One in Hartford Cares

LGBT flag map of ConnecticutI assume my readers know about the vile practice known as “conversion therapy” (aka “reparative therapy,” and some other innocuous-sounding circumlocutions). Its proponents say it’s a way to help gays become straight, and they’ve been pushing it on the country for a couple decades now (WebCite cached article).

In the 1970s, the psychiatric profession stopped treating homosexuality as a mental illness, but shortly afterward, Christianists took up the cause, and cooked up “ministries” intended to “deliver” gays from their “sin.” Among the most famous of those was Exodus International, which more or less shut down just a few years ago (cached).

By the early 90s the “convert the gays” movement was almost entirely fueled by evangelical Christianity, even though a few psychologists like Joseph Nicolosi tried to give their weird pray-the-gay-away “treatments” a clinical veneer, having signed on as consultants to their ministries (cached). The bottom line is that “conversion therapy” is not only ineffective, it’s harmful to many who participate (cached). It’s pseudoscientific, and frequently barbaric (in the case of the “aversion techniques” they use). It also provides a pretext for the mistreatment of gays.

While my home state of Connecticut is as deep-blue Democratic/Liberal as one can get — and was among the first states to permit gay marriage (in 2008) — it’s taken a while to address “conversion therapy” here. As CT Mirror reports, though, the state House of Representatives approved a law to ban it in the Nutmeg State (cached):

The House of Representatives voted 141 to 8 Tuesday to pass and send to the Senate a bill that would make Connecticut one of a half-dozen states barring conversion therapy, the discredited practice of trying to change the sexual orientation of young homosexuals.

“This practice and treatment is not science, it’s science fiction,” the bill’s chief House sponsor, Rep. Jeffrey Currey, D-East Hartford, told his colleagues.

The bill would enshrine in state law the conclusions of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and other national associations of health professionals: Homosexuality is not a disease, and forcing conversion therapy on a minor can be harmful.

Only 8 legislators voted against it … all Republicans (no surprise there!). One of them offered this boneheaded excuse for her “nay” vote:

[Ann] Dauphinais [of Killingly] said passage put Connecticut on a slippery slope of further interfering with parental rights.

“I believe this is a violation of the rights of parents to make choices they see as in the best interest of children,” Dauphinais said.

I guess she’d approve of parents treating their kids’ maladies with bloodletting, then … right? That is, after all, the natural consequence of her stated wish that parents have absolute, unfettered freedom to do as they wish to their kids. No?

What a fucking moron!

If the bill passed 141-8 in the House, I expect it will get through the state Senate, too, although probably with a little tighter margin.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Comments Comments Off on Connecticut On Its Way to Banning “Conversion Therapy”

CT Comptroller Kevin Lembo / CT News Junkie file photoAt the outset, I have to concede this is something of a tempest in a teapot. We aren’t talking about very much money here, and the stakes aren’t very high, on either side of this conflict. Still, it is an example of someone daring to take on a well-known and vocal Religious Right group, which is actually rare, since they’ve been so successful at intimidating others and bullying them into acquiescence.

Now then, on to the story … !

The state of Connecticut has a program by which its employees can have money deducted from their paychecks and sent directly to a number of charitable organizations. To be included in this program, charities must sign up and agree to abide by certain standards. But in the case of the American Family Association, that proved to be a problem. CT’s comptroller, Kevin Lembo, whose office administers the program, wants to find out if the AFA is actually living up to that agreement; but as CT News Junkie reports, the AFA is none too happy about that (WebCite cached article):

After asking a Christian organization that’s against LGBTQ rights for more information about how it conforms with Connecticut’s nondiscrimination clause to qualify for state employee payroll deductions, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo became the group’s newest target.

The American Family Association, a Mississippi-based group that is known for its anti-gay and anti-transgender boycotts of businesses, is flooding Lembo’s office with calls and emails. As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, Lembo said his office had received 4,455 emails from people associated with AFA.…

Last week, Lembo, who is the Connecticut’s first openly gay constitutional officer, announced that his office was investigating [cached] whether the group conforms with the anti-discrimination policy for the Connecticut State Employee Campaign for Charitable Giving program. Lembo said the group signed the anti-discrimination clause, but their website seems to offer a different story.

As one would expect, the AFA went ballistic over Lembo’s investigation. It probably didn’t help that Lembo is openly gay. They claim his move is an “attack” on their religious freedom, and Lembo’s way of trying to wipe out devout, dutiful Christians like themselves … but it’s not. At stake here is just one very small question: Whether or not the AFA is allowed to remain in CT’s payroll-deduction program for state employees. That’s all. Nothing more. Whether they’re in this program or not, will not change their lives in the slightest. It won’t force them to give up their beliefs. It won’t close any of their churches, it won’t rip Bibles out of their homes or hands. It won’t do anything of the sort, even if they claim it would. What’s more, as CTNJ explains, we’re talking about a small amount of money:

Between 2011 and 2016, AFA has receive $202 from three state employees. Since the group is part of a larger group of 13 charities within the account, it’s unknown exactly how much it received in undesignated funds. The group of 13 charities under the Neighbor to Nation heading received a little more than $4,000 a year between 2011 and 2014.

That kind of money isn’t going to make or break the AFA. It just won’t, no matter how sanctimoniously enraged they may be at this insolent, profane gay man who dared take them on, even in a small way such as this.

Really, the problem here is with the AFA. They reached an agreement with the state of CT in order to be included in this program, and that agreement included anti-discrimination terms, which they haven’t abided by, and which they even insist they’re obliged to ignore by dint of their religious beliefs. In other words … they signed an agreement whose terms they damned well knew, from the very start, that they never intended to live by. They weren’t coerced into signing up for that program or signing that agreement; no one put a gun to their heads and forced them to do so. They did that of their own volition. It now appears they did so dishonestly. I salute the Comptroller for pointing out their duplicity and for taking them on … even if the end result won’t accomplish very much (at best, the AFA will be deprived of a few hundred dollars a year in contributions, should they be removed from the program).

Really, for me — as I stated at the beginning of this post — what’s significant here is that Lembo was even willing at all to try to take on the AFA. Most of the time, public officials won’t contend with Christofascists. Rather, they tend overwhelmingly to bend over for them and give in to their bullying tactics. This is how they’ve succeeded as much as they have over the last three or four decades. They always seem to resort to their claim of sincere belief and “religious freedom,” as though this means all of humanity is required to knuckle under to all their demands, all the time, and that they’re never to be questioned, ever, for any reason. The world doesn’t work that way, and there’s no reason officials should act as though it does.

Photo credit: CT News Junkie.

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Comments Comments Off on CT’s Comptroller Takes On Christofascist Outfit

Residents came out to show thier [sic] supports [sic] for Bridgeport Police Officers with a community march in solidarity in Bridgeport, Conn., on Saturday Sept. 24, 2016. Dozens of residents joined members of the department and local clergy and officials at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Park Avenue and then proceeded to march to police headquarters nearby.  / Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut MediaIn the world of sanctimonious Christianist nutjobbery, atheists are only just a shade better than Lucifer himself. They’re to blame for almost everything that ever goes wrong, and even Christian-world villains like Muslims and pagans earn more respect from Christianists. An example of this sort of thinking, as reported by the Connecticut Post, came from the chief of police in Bridgeport, CT (WebCite cached article):

Teens joining gangs? Shooting incidents on the rise?

The city’s top law enforcement officer thinks irreligiosity is a major factor in the problems facing the city.

“We need God in our lives,” Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez said Saturday to a group of around 50 people following a police solidarity march.

Perez, who is Catholic, addressed a group of mostly church members between the police department and City Hall.

“The problems that we’re having is because people have abandoned church, people have abandoned God, and that cannot happen,” he said.…

Perez, in his remarks, advocated a lot more praying.

“Let’s bring God back in our lives, back in our church — bring our kids — in our city, in our schools — absolutely,” Perez told the crowd.

When asked to clarify his remarks, Perez said that he didn’t advocate a specific religious belief, though he stood by his statement about religion in schools.

Gee, it was nice of the Chief not to demand that everyone in Bridgeport convert to a particular sect of a particular religion; it’s OK by him, I guess, if that city’s citizens join a religion of their choice. But, he does appear to think everyone must belong to one religion or another. Non-belief isn’t an option, in his book.

He wouldn’t be alone in that regard. There’s a significant wing of American Christianism that genuinely thinks there’s no such thing as freedom from religion; that it’s possible — and legal! — to force every American to have to be a religious believer … of some sort. (Yes, they do. For real.)

Chief Perez doesn’t seem to realize that, although non-belief has been rising over the last several years, crime rates haven’t matched that curve. Despite his whining about atheism growing, the majority of Americans are religious believers (cached). And the proportion of folks in prison who’re atheists is actually lower than that of the general population (cached) … meaning that atheists are less likely than believers to have been convicted of crimes.

Crime and non-belief are not linked lock-step in the way he asserts. To be generous, the Chief is blowing smoke; to be more blunt, he’s lying through his teeth.

It’s long past time for religious believers to grow the fuck up for once and get over the fact that atheists (and other sorts of non-believers) exist. They need to stop getting their panties in bunches over the insolence of those of us who refuse to believe in their absurd metaphysics. They erroneously think they’re personally harmed by the presence of non-belief in their communities; that’s just fucking absurd. They object to atheists (and other sorts of non-believers) for only one reason: They’re insecure in their beliefs, and knowing there are people who don’t believe as they do, only serves to heighten those insecurities. Since they’re not mature enough to handle those insecurities, they lash out against them, like infants. “Waaah! Mommy, the bad people are <sniff> atheists! Wah waah! <sniff> Mommy, make the bad atheists go away! <sniff>” What a damned joke.

Photo credit: Christian Abraham/Hearst Connecticut Media, via Connecticut Post.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Comments Comments Off on Police Chief in Nutmeg State Says Atheism Causes Crime

Snake oil or Memory Elixer anyoneThere’s a paper published not far from me, that I read from time to time, the Torrington (CT) Register Citizen. A few years ago I noted — and documented several examples of — that paper printing a lot of “hauntings as news” stories. Of course, they’re not the only ones guilty of that bad journalism trope. Thankfully I haven’t seen them do too much of that lately. So that’s an improvement.

But today I see they ran another specious story, though of a different kind. This article is a puff-piece promoting a Litchfield, CT naturopath/chiropractor and his so-called “practice” (WebCite cached article).

I don’t plan to quote any of what amounts to a press release for this woo practitioner. Instead, I offer a few observations:

First, one must understand that naturopathy is a pseudoscience (aka “phony medicine” or “quackery”) based on something called “vitalism.” Chiropractic is similarly pseudomedical, based on the notion that “subluxations” in the spine cause all disease. There’s zero evidence supporting either vitalism or the subluxation-of-the-spine model of disease … but that doesn’t stop quacks like this. They’ll happily reel off any number of tales in support of their woo and nonsense.

Next, the guy complains about conventional medicine making money, as though the profit motive destroys its credibility or something. The problem is, quacks like him themselves make money, themselves, peddling their phony cures. He lampshades this by saying he’s not wealthy, but does admit he makes something, which basically invalidates his whole “making-money-on-medicine-means-it-can’t-be-any-good” argument.

In truth, no remedies — whether real or phony — are given away for free! Everyone who offers any kind of cure, does so with his/her hand out. It’s unavoidable. And all by itself, it doesn’t tell us anything about the effectiveness of the cure.

This guy is also an anti-vaxxer … and the less said about that, the better, because that movement was established by a con artist. Yes, a fraud.

This “practitioner” wants people to think for themselves and question what they’re told by conventional medicine. Questioning things is a principle I support wholeheartedly. The problem is … before one can productively question something, one must first know something about it … the more, the better. Most people are not educated in medicine, though, which means that any questioning they may do of conventional medicine, could easily go off the rails. (The popularity of the antivax movement is a sterling example of this.)

A year and a half ago, Connecticut “modernized” naturopathy practices and expanded what naturopaths can do (cached). This guy, no doubt, is profiting from that. Yes, I said “profiting.” As in, “making money.” Something the article suggests is bad for healers to do.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Comments Comments Off on CT Newspaper Promotes Pseudomedicine

The cross that for decades was lit for Christmas at Happy Acres Farm has been moved to private property down the road at Judd's Construction. Sherman officials said it was inappropriate to send a religious message with the cross now that the town owns Happy Acres. Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. Photo: Carol Kaliff, via the Connecticut PostChristmas is only a few days away, and as usual, militant Christianists around the country are furiously trying to get Christmas displays onto government property — and where they’re thwarted, they’re angry about it. An example of this is in the western part of my home state of Connecticut, as the Connecticut Post reports, in the little town of Sherman (WebCite cached article):

The Christmas cross that shone for decades atop the main silo at Happy Acres Farm has gone dark this year.

Tony Hapanowich, who owned the farm until his death in 2013, erected and lighted the cross every year during the Christmas season. But after the town’s acquisition of the property earlier this year, town attorney Jeff Sienkiewicz advised the Board of Selectmen that religious symbols like the cross should not be displayed on municipal property.…

Selectwoman Andrea O’Connor said that from a legal point of view, the display raised issues of separation of church and state.

“We felt, given the advice of our town attorney, that we couldn’t put the cross up,” O’Connor said.

For many, that’s just not acceptable:

Resident Gary Albert wondered why it’s acceptable for the town to put up a Christmas tree and other decorations at Mallory Town Hall, and to put candles in the windows at Happy Acres farmhouse, but not acceptable to display the cross.

“People all over town have started putting up their own crosses,” Albert said. “I’ll bet at this time there must be upwards of 25 to 30, including one at my house.”

I applaud Christianists in Sherman, CT who got off their asses and put their own lighted crosses on their own roofs. That’s exactly how this is all supposed to work! If you’re Christian and want to display your Christianity at Christmastime for all to see — despite the injunction against public piety left behind by the founder of your religion — then go right ahead and do it, on your own fucking property. There’s no reason it must be on government property … unless there’s some provision to this effect in scripture that I’m not aware of. I invite anyone out there so inclined, to provide such a citation, if it exists. I would really love to hear what it could be. Honestly.

As for why decorated trees and lighted candles are acceptable in government buildings, but lighted crosses aren’t allowed atop them, I suppose the reasoning is that those things aren’t overtly religious enough to be problematic. Crosses, however, being associated solely with one particular religion — i.e. Christianity — are a different matter. If it were up to me, all of it would have been yanked … but what the hell could this cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such things?

P.S. Note, had the town of Sherman gone around to all those lighted-cross-building homeowners and ripped them all down, that might have constituted a “war on Christmas,” and it’s something I’d oppose. But that hasn’t happened here, nor is anything like it happening anywhere else in the country. Hence, no “war on Christmas.”

Photo credit: Carol Kaliff / Connecticut Post.

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Comments Comments Off on War On Christmas 2014, Part 2

Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford 3, 2009-09-02You could say the archdiocese of Hartford is the gift that keeps on giving … for agnostic bloggers like myself, anyway. Some two and a half years ago, this is the outfit whose attorney, Jack Sitarz, achieved a new high in low, during a civil trial over child abuse by a priest, by not only claiming the abuse wasn’t harmful because the victims “liked it,” but then by doubling down on that claim later in the same trial. (This is in spite of the fact that minors cannot by law be construed as consenting to sexual activity. Even I know this, and I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not sure how Sitarz got away with it.) Fortunately, the jury didn’t fall for Sitarz’s nasty and reprehensible maneuver (WebCite cached article).

Well, the archdiocese isn’t done scraping up new ways to evade responsibility for the abuse that it knew Fr Ivan Ferguson had been guilty of. They’ve appealed the verdict, the Hartford Courant reports, and demand the Connecticut Supreme Court invalidate the law that allowed the suit in the first place (cached):

The Archdiocese of Hartford is seeking to have the state Supreme Court overturn a $1 million verdict in a priest sex abuse case while at the same time reversing a state law that extended the amount of time in which accusers may file a lawsuit against it.

In February 2012, a jury in Waterbury awarded a former altar boy $1 million after a trial in which the victim, identified in court papers as Jacob Doe, testified that he and another friend were repeatedly molested and sexually assaulted by the Rev. Ivan Ferguson and a friend of the priest.

The diocese is asking the Supreme Court to overturn that verdict based on a variety of claims — including that the trial judge erred by not allowing an expert witness to testify for the church and by allowing the jury to hear testimony from a deposition of Ferguson.

But the most controversial argument is the claim that a state law last updated in 2002 — bumping to 30 years the statute of limitations for when a victim of sexual abuse may file a lawsuit — is unconstitutional and should be stricken.

What the archdiocese conveniently leaves out of the discussion, is just how long ago it knew the abuse had been going on, and even after it knew about the abuse, purposely chose to put Fr Ferguson back in a place where he could abuse more kids:

At the trial, testimony showed that when former Archbishop John F. Whealon confronted him about the 1979 allegation, Ferguson admitted to the abuse. Ferguson was sent to a treatment facility in Massachusetts. Two years later, Whealon appointed Ferguson priest director of a Derby school.

Ferguson and his boyfriend were accused of abusing Doe and his childhood friend at, among other places, the rectory to which Ferguson had been reassigned in Derby. At the time of the abuse, from 1981 to 1983, the boys attended the school. Ferguson died in 2002.

Now, I know some of the Catholic Church’s defenders here in Connecticut. Most of them are convinced no Catholic clergy ever abused any kids; that plaintiffs and their lawyers fabricated claims solely to extort money from a totally-innocent Church. It’s all a pack of malicious lies, you see, cooked up by greedy trial lawyers. While I agree some trial lawyers are greedy, and also agree it’s possible some plaintiffs are exaggerating or lying for profit, the cold facts are:

  1. Clerical child abuse has occurred within the Catholic Church;
  2. It happened all over the world, not just in Connecticut;
  3. The Church hierarchy knew damned well it was going on;
  4. The bishops happily and giddily continued putting kids in harm’s way by redeploying abusive clergy all over the place;
  5. And they actively interfered with secular authorities’ efforts to prosecute it, stifling investigations and even refusing to obey mandatory-reporting laws.

So am I impressed with these apologists’ objections? Fuck no. I’m nowhere near as stupid as they seem to think I am.

It’s long past time the archdiocese of Hartford stopped making ridiculous excuses, such as “the victims liked it,” grew the hell up already, and owned up to what they did. In this case, that was was to knowingly put Fr Ferguson in a place where he could abuse Jacob Doe and his friend. Pitching fits and whining in court over “unfair” legislation, is not accountability, and not what anyone ought to expect of Jesus’ representatives on earth. If you’re a Catholic and don’t like hearing this … well, it’s time you fucking grew up too, and started holding your own Church accountable, even if your bishops refuse to do so on their own.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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