How Many People Does It Take To Misspell One Four-Letter Word?

Not a lot happens in Lemon Grove, CA.

That dramatically changed on June 24, and what happened was all over local radio and TV, plus TV stations in Philadelphia, New York and Houston, Yahoo, YouTube, Twitter, UPI, and something called “FARK.com,” which describes itself as “a news aggregator and an edited social networking news site.”

All that attention on little ole Lemon Grove!

And it is little – the population is only about 27,000, and it encompass slightly less than four square miles, about a mile east of San Diego.

In the center of town you’ll see this:

lemon

That’s a 3,000 pound, 10 feet x 6 feet statue built as a parade float in 1928, then preserved to remind us that before Lemon Grove was a town, it was, in fact, a lemon grove.

If you could tear yourself way from that and head for the intersection of Washington and Lincoln Streets, before June 24 you would also have seen this:

sign before

That’s right – a quiet intersection, homes and trees, nice, but nothing remarkable.

But on June 24 the city of Lemon Grove had its annual contracted street rehab project in the works, and part of that project included the contractors’ subcontractors repainting what are called “sign legends.”

That somewhat faded STOP painted on the street pictured above was on the list for repainting.

And when the contractors’ subcontractors’ hard day’s work was done, the sign legend at Washington and Lincoln Streets looked like this:

sign with STOP sign

Apparently the subcontractors neglected to use spellcheck before they wrapped up and went home.

And they did have a spellcheck of sorts.  See the red STOP sign?

Did it occur to anybody to say, “OK.  According to the city work order, what we paint on the street needs to match the red sign right there.  That sign says S-T-O-P.  You got that?”

Or how about, “OK.  What we paint on the street needs to match what’s already painted there.  On the street it says S-T-O-P.  You got that?”

Apparently they did not.

A picture of the STPO started making the rounds on social media, the city got the word, and contacted the contractors, who contracted the subcontractors, and at some point the next morning the street looked like this, with the PO painted over:

sign half painted over

I guess the city, or the contractors, or the contractors’ subcontractors, were concerned that someone would have approached the intersection, see both the STPO on the street and the red STOP sign, and not know what to do:

“Oh, no!  Do I STOP?  Or do I STPO?  I’m so confused!”

Resulting in a miles-long traffic jam:

traffic jam cropped.jpg

The next morning, the subcontractors returned.  They painted over the ST:

Sign remove st (2)

Later they returned, laid down stencils, and repainted STOP:

sign in progress_02 cropped

And on that same Tuesday at 1:45 pm, City Manager Lydia Romero assured the public – well, the world really, and FARK.com – that the sign legend had been fixed by Statewide Stripes, Inc.

Here’s the contractors’ subcontractors’ invoice:

Invoice (2) fixed.jpg

Gerrymandering Is A Lot Like This…

“Gerrymandering” has been in the news a lot lately.

But why?

And what is it?

I was vague on answers to both, so I did some research.  I discovered the answers to bothwhat why_01 cropped are pretty interesting.

Let’s go with the “what” first.

The word “gerrymander” has been around for more than 200 years, and is used by whichever U.S. political party in in the minority.  The minority accuses the majority of gerrymandering until the majority party becomes the minority.

Then it’s their turn to hurl accusations of gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering has to do with the process of redistricting, that is, redrawing legislative districts.  The recent news stories have to do with congressional redistricting, that is, the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Constitution requires congressional seats to be reapportioned among the states after each census with each federal district having an equal population “as nearly as is practicable.”  After the 2010 census, here’s how the congressional districts looked:

2010_census_reapportionment

If the 2010 census had revealed that California had lost half its population and all those people moved to Vermont, then California would lose a lot of U.S. Representatives and Vermont would gain a lot.

On the other hand, the U.S. population is always increasing, but the number of U.S. Representatives is not.  That number is 435, and it was etched in stone in 1929 with the Permanent Apportionment Act.  So while the number of Representatives stays the same, the number of people they represent increases.

Hey – I said it was “interesting,” not that it made sense.

In a majority of states, legislators and governors redraw the boundaries of U.S. House districts.

Elbridge-gerry-painting
Poor Governor Gerry – what a legacy.

And sometimes those doing the redrawing can get, well…let’s say “creative.”

Like back in 1812.  Then, as now, there were two major political parties:  the Federalists, and the Democratic-Republicans.  That year the state of Massachusetts adopted new constitutionally mandated electoral district boundaries.

The Massachusetts legislature, controlled by the Democratic-Republicans, had created district boundaries designed to enhance their party’s control over state and national offices, leading to some oddly shaped legislative districts.

The practice wasn’t new.  But here comes the new name for it.

Although the governor, Elbridge Gerry, was unhappy about the highly partisan districting, he signed the legislation.  In a Boston newspaper the odd shape of one of the state senate districts in Essex County was portrayed as a salamander with claws, wings and a dragon-type head, and dubbed the “Gerry-mander,” a combination of Gerry and salamander:

gerrymander cropped Gerry-ManderCartoonMap cropped fixed
This political cartoon in an 1812 Boston newspaper, depicting a state senate district in Essex County, MA, satirized its strange shape and named it a “Gerry-mander.”  The image on the right shows the district’s shape and location in Massachusetts.

Sadly for Governor Gerry, the name and all its negative connotations caught on, and that’s about all he’s remembered for.  And since then, the redrawing of districts perceived to be favorable to one party over the other has been called gerrymandering.

Today, gerrymandering has evolved to have its own lexicon including:

  • Cracking: Diluting the voting power of the opposing party’s supporters across many districts.
  • Packing: Concentrating the opposing party’s voting power in one district to reduce their voting power in other districts.
  • Homogenization:  Essentially a form of cracking where the majority party uses its superior numbers to guarantee the minority party never attains a majority in any district.

And speaking of getting creative, it wasn’t only 19th century newspapers mocking the practice of gerrymandering; a few years ago ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative organization, introduced their music video, “The Redistricting Song.”  You can see it on YouTube:

scan0002 (2).jpg

Now comes the “why” gerrymandering has been in the news recently:

  • On March 26 the Supreme Court considered challenges to congressional district maps in North Carolina, drawn by Republicans, and in Maryland, drawn by Democrats.
  • On April 25 a federal court in Michigan ruled that the state’s Republican-controlled legislature unfairly drew some of Michigan’s state legislative and U.S. House district lines.  The court says the legislature must pass and the governor must sign into law new maps by August 1; otherwise the court will draw the new maps itself.  Republicans vowed to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, which could issue a stay pending a decision this summer on the North Carolina and Maryland redistricting cases.
  • On May 3 a federal court in Cincinnati tossed out Ohio’s congressional map, ruling that Republican state lawmakers had carved up the state to give themselves an illegal partisan advantage and to dilute Democrats’ votes in a way that predetermined the outcome of elections.  The ruling ordered new maps to be drawn by June 14 to be used for the 2020 election.  The ruling will go directly to the United States Supreme Court for review.

So in Maryland, Republicans are accusing Democrats of gerrymandering.

In North Carolina, Michigan and Ohio, it’s the Democrats accusing the Republicans.

And now front and center is the Supreme Court, which has long restricted gerrymandering based on race, but has never struck down a voting map as being too partisan.

According to a May 3 article in The New York Times,

In the cases now before the Supreme Court, a central issue is whether courts can draw a bright line between acceptable political maps and ones whose partisan aims overstep constitutional bounds, a question the justices have struggled with for decades.end gerry_01 cropped

Chief Justice John Roberts has openly worried that the court could be perceived as acting in a partisan way if it intervenes in such inherently political decisions.

But, the article continues,

After a series of lower courts have thrown out partisan maps, “it’s becoming harder and harder for the Supreme Court to claim that there’s no possible way for courts to manage claims like these,” said Justin Levitt, the associate dean of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.  “It shows that courts can and do manage these cases just fine, with reasonable opinions that don’t look simply like the judges are wearing partisan hats.”

The whole gerrymandering and redistricting problem could be, if not solved, then at least alleviated if the redistricting was done by independent commissions:

An independent redistricting commission is a body vested with the authority to draft and implement electoral district maps.  The composition of independent commissions varies from state to state.  However, in all cases, the direct participation of elected officials is limited.

And six states do have those independent commissions for both congressional and state legislative redistricting:  Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana and Washington.

But that’s only six.  Here’s how the congressional redistricting process looks as of 2017:

Map (3)

  1. The seven states (light grey) marked N/A have one congressional district each, so redistricting is unnecessary.
  2. In two states (dark grey), politician commissions draw the lines.
  3. In four states (yellow), independent commissions draw congressional district lines.
  4. In 37 states (red), state legislatures are primarily responsible for congressional redistricting.

Let’s get real here.  See all those red states?  Allowing state legislatures to do their own redistricting is like asking the proverbial fox to guard the hen house.

Remember those four states with gerrymandering cases either before or soon-to-be-before the Supreme Court?  If a majority political party had its way, here’s how the federal redistricting maps in those four states – and all states – would look, with the minority party’s district in red:

north carolina red fixed fixed Maryland red

North Carolina

Maryland

michigan red Ohio with red

Michigan

Ohio

But change is coming.  Six of the red states in the above map have passed amendments to change their redistricting process to reduce the likelihood of gerrymandering.

However…those changes won’t happen until after the 2020 census is complete.

The results of the 2020 census won’t become available until December 31, 2020.census fixed

So the changes these six states make in their redistricting process won’t affect the 2020 election.

But what the Supreme Court decides about North Carolina, Maryland, Michigan and Ohio will affect the 2020 election.

So, I say this to our Supreme Court justices:

Pull up your big-boy and big-girl pants, wade into this morass, drain this swamp, and set redistricting guidelines.

Isn’t this why we pay you the big bucks?  And give you jobs for life?  And big, fat pensions?  And three months paid vacation every summer?

To make the tough, important decisions?

Justices, do your job.

And I mean now, before for the 2020 election.

right now cropped fixed

Update:

The Supreme Court is is due to issue a number of rulings before the end of its term this week.

One of those rulings will be about the partisan manipulation of electoral district boundaries – gerrymandering:

Gerrymandering Update (2).jpg

This decision will affect us for the next 10 years –
until the next census – and far beyond that. 

Ah, The Challenge Of The…

Every now and then I feel compelled to ask myself those existential questions:question_01 cropped

  1. What is the meaning of life?
  2. Is our existence a sequence of random events or is this all meant to be?
  3. Are there bacteria in my belly button?

While I, like most mere mortals, continue to grapple with #1 and 2, fortunately, there is an answer to #3:

Thousands.

Thousands of bacteria live in our belly buttons.

This knowledge is not new, though it was new to me.

What else is new:  Many of those bacteria were heretofore undiscovered.

Doing the discovering was a group of North Carolina-based researchers who published the results of their Belly Button Biodiversity (BBB) project:

Headline (2)

And how this one missed the Nobel Prize for Science – well, perhaps that’s another existential question.

According to Rob Dunn of North Carolina State University, the project began two years earlier – two years that they spent swabbing the navels of 500 volunteers and then identifying their findings.

I can’t help but wonder – how did they advertise for those people?

Ad (2) fixed

Once those 500 were swabbed, the team somehow narrowed down their samples to focus on just 60 individuals.

I can’t help but wonder – how did they do that?Cute Germ Characters Collection Set

Dr. Rob Dunn:  I like the squiggly stuff!
Fellow Scientist:  OK, but I want that purply thing!

Within those 60 samples the team found 2,368 species of bacteria, 1,458 of which may be new to science.  Altogether, the researchers found that the average belly button among study participants contains 67 different types of bacteria.

Our navels are a veritable wildlife park!

Though the simile Dr. Dunn prefers is “like rain forests.  It’s quite beautiful.  And it makes sense to me as an ecologist.”  And to support his belief in that beauty, he offers this image at rondunnlabcom:

Naval cookies (2)

I think this looks like what comes in a box of Pepperidge Farm Chocolate Collection cookies, but what do I know?

And another scientist described our navels as “a cache of a lifetime of little treasures,” that “lifetime” probably referring to those volunteers who rarely bathed and/or ignored their belly button hygiene.

Not only did the team possibly discover almost 1,500 new species, but they learned that some bacteria appear to be arriving in our navel niches from unlikely places:

  • One bacterium residing in a belly button, Marimonas, had only been found in the ocean before.
  • Two types of bacteria more typically thrive in ice caps and thermal vents.
  • Another species, called Georgenia, had only been found living in the soil – in Japan – though the volunteer had never been there:

Japan (2).jpg

So – a wildlife park, a rain forest, a cache of little treasures?  Which are you?

Take a look, and you decide.

I still say they look like cookies:

cookie_03 cropped fixed

antibiotic Bacillus bacteria cropped

 

 

 

 

(Can you tell which is the cookie and which is the Bacillus bacteria?)

What The Hell Is This?

I was watching the PBS NewsHour on the evening of Trump’s recent rally in Orlando, when they teased an upcoming story about the rally and the above image appeared.

What the hell?

Is that our U.S. flag with an image of a thumbs-up Trump embedded in it?

With “Making American Great Again” across the bottom?

What the hell?

I have never heard of, or seen, or imagined anyone desecrating our flag in this manner.

As I sat there, stunned, that same image appeared at 39:58 into the program:

Image 2 (2).jpg

And again at 40:27 into the program:

Image 3 (2)

My feeling was, “How could PBS show not once, not twice, but three times an image that so politicizes our flag?”

And, “How could that person at the rally politicize our flag like that?”

It turns out, whoever was displaying that flag didn’t have to do it themselves.

It’s for sale online:

Online Final (2)

The flag is “Dye-sublimated with beautiful bold colors” and “Printed on one side all the way through the fabric,” and I’ll bet it’s made in a foreign country.

A country which may be familiar with, but is paying no attention to, the U.S. Code, Section 8, Rule g, “Respect for flag”:

Rules (2) with arrow

I went online to see if any of the media coverage mentioned it, and found this image on Politico.com:

flag

And this variation on PBS online, Aljazeera and no doubt elsewhere:

People sit in the stands with a flag before a rally for U.S. President Donald Trump at the Amway Center in Orlando

With no comment about the flag’s alterations.

No outrage like I felt.

Nowhere.

Further online searching brought me only one other similar flag-altering incident, on Snopes.com from back in 2012.  Someone had asked,

Is this a real flag with Obama’s picture on it or merely a photo-shopped picture for negative publicity?  Was it really flown over Democratic headquarters in Lake County?

obamafaceflag-thumbnail-e1427824503546

Snopes’ answer:

Origins:   This image of a U.S. flag flying in conjunction with another U.S. flag in which the traditional fifty stars in the blue canton have been replaced with an image of President Barack Obama came to public attention in March 2012.  The latter flag had been flying for several months over the headquarters of Florida’s Lake County Democratic Party but was taken down on 13 March 2012 after complaints from veterans.

Why aren’t those veterans complaining now?

Why isn’t anyone complaining…

But me?

hello fixed

Book Review:  “A toxic mix of arrogance and ignorance”

Publication date:  March 2019book cropped

Review, short version:  Three roses for the writing; multiple skunks for the subject.

Review, long version:

You’ve heard the expression, “Wash your mouth out with soap”?

After I finished this book I wanted to wash my brain out with soap.

I’ve deliberately avoided books about Donald Trump, figuring that the authors would either deify him or crucify him.  Everyone is entitled to their points of view, but I wasn’t interested in reading them.

And author Vicky Ward certainly has her point of view about Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner in Kushner, Inc.:  Greed.  Ambition.  Corruption.

But I decided to read Ward’s book because I was curious about the “First Daughter” and “First Son-in-Law.”  They’re not in the headlines as much as the president, and I wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes.

Well, now I know.

*****

When a potential couple meets, it’s good to discover things in common.

It might be they’re both from the Midwest, or they have the same model of phone, or they both hate math.

Here’s what Ivanka and Jared discovered they had in common:

They were both raised to believe the rules don’t apply to them.

And as adults, that was and is a core belief.

implants
Her “chest size seemed to change suddenly, and significantly.  She would later say she was a ‘curvy’ person and told GQ that rumors she had gotten breast implants were ‘absurd.’”  Ivanka:  Why lie?

It was a match made in…

Well, “Heaven” isn’t quite the word I’m thinking.

I’d like to write off Ivanka and Jared as innocuous, vacuous, and, ultimately, not dangerous nonentities.

Unfortunately, I can’t.

They are Senior Advisors to the President, and this position is important.  Distinguished, intelligent members of both parties have held this role honorably, treated the role respectfully, and served our country honestly.

Our presidents have always had advisors because no president – no matter how intelligent or well-informed – can know everything about everything.

But our current president has two Senior Advisors who know nothing about anything…it's all about me

Except self-aggrandizement.

Allowing Jared any active role in our country’s politics, considering his lack of experience, is like telling someone they’re qualified to do brain surgery because they’ve seen a picture of a brain.

Allowing Ivanka to advise the president – the most powerful person in the world – about anything beyond accessorizing an outfit is like inviting a blind person to race in the Indie 500.

And Ivanka is adept at accessorizing – she even launched a fine jewelry line in 2007.

This is relevant because in November 2016, after her father won the election, the Trump family appeared on 60 Minutes.

The next day Ivanka’s company sent out a press release to promote the $10,800 yellow gold and diamond bracelet that she wore during the show:

ivanka-trump-bracelet-2016-11-15 cropped

As the Hollywood Reporter put it, “This isn’t the first time Ivanka has used a political forum to promote one of her own designs…but given Ivanka’s dad’s new role, it would be a conflict of interest for her to be using his presidency for personal profit.”

For me, Ivanka can be summed up by her behavior at the G20 Summit in 2017.  The Summit is an international conference for heads of governments and banks, foreign ministers and other VIPs who meet to discuss international financial stability.

At one point during the proceedings President Trump left the room, and, as Ward puts it, Ivanka “took her father’s seat…between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Chinese President Xi Jinping”:

Ivanka at g20

“The gesture,” Ward continues, “seemed to send the message that the U.S. government was now run on nepotism.  Senior State Department officials and a senior White House official agreed it was inappropriate.”

Inappropriate?

Egregiously so.

And Jared?

Charles-Kushner-Defends-Son cropped
In 2005 Jared’s father, Charlie Kushner, pleaded guilty to 18 counts tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign contributions, and served time in federal prison.  Like father, like son?

Jared was, says Ward, his father’s favorite of four siblings, the “Chosen One.”  When his GPA and SAT scores didn’t warrant his getting into Harvard, his father, Charlie Kushner, “pledged $2.5 million to Harvard…He also got New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, who was an investor in at least one of his projects and to whom Kushner Companies had donated more than $200,000, to make a call to Senator Ted Kennedy, who, in turn, phoned Harvard’s dean of admissions.”

And just like that, Jared was in.

Kushner, Inc. quotes many people about Jared, some of them named and some of them not.  Jared’s former employee, Elizabeth Spiers, said, “Jared doesn’t care about ethics.  It’s not an issue of him not understanding what the ethics are.  It’s him deciding they don’t matter.”

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni said that Jared is “integral when there’s the hope of credit, invisible when there’s the certainty of blame.”

aed2536b310fe7caabb93e0fd11f6138 cropped
Jared, Ivanka, and photo props.  I mean, children.

From Ward:  “Whatever the right word to describe his meddling in foreign affairs…‘Potentially dangerous’ is a phrase I heard used by a…recently retired, very senior State Department official…”

From a former senior White House official:  “Jared never understands the details of anything.  He’s just impressed by names.”

Again, from Ward:  Jared is “clearly, his father’s son in so many ways, including a disdain for rules, for ethics, for honesty.”

And this, from one U.S. political consultant in the Middle East:  “They caught the Saudis talking to each other about how Jared would give them information.”  And another Middle East political consultant:  “They [the Saudis] think he’s just the worst human being they’ve ever met.”

Ward frequently uses the media’s nickname for Jared and Ivanka – “Javanka” – including in her acknowledgments:

“…the story of Javanka’s rise and their corruption was essential reading for all those truly seeking insight into this bent administration and who fear for our country’s future in their hands.”

Well, now I have some insight.

Javanka:  “A toxic mix of arrogance and ignorance.”

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go…

scan0002 (2).jpg

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

One serial adulterer awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to another serial adulterer?

That’s what’s wrong with this picture.

tiddly_02And all you have to do to get our country’s highest civilian award is win a golf tournament.

I won a Tiddly Winks tournament once – would that qualify me?

Well, then, what are the qualifications?

The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.  Recipients are selected by the president, either on the president’s own initiative or based on recommendations.

2aa3c64f-8009-4232-a762-ee2fa2c0b8fb_750x422 cropped
Golf buddies, business partners and serial adulterers.  The have so much in common, it’s a – phenomenon!

The prestigious award isn’t limited to U.S. citizens, and in the ensuing 56 years nearly 600 people have been recipients.

Considering that our planet’s population is seven billion, that’s a very exclusive club, indeed.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom recognizes individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

I’m not getting how Tiger Woods qualified for this.

Oh – maybe it was that “private endeavors” thing?

And in late 2009 we started hearing just how many private endeavors.  After that crazy car crash near his home, it was like a dam burst – and we were flooded with stories of Woods’ affairs with multiple women, including but not limited to the following:

  1. Tabloids claimed New York nightclub promoter Rachel Uchitel had secret meetings
    Jamie Jungers cropped
    Jamie Jungers

    with Woods in New York, Las Vegas and Australia, but she denied the reports.

  1. Porn actress Holly Sampson allegedly told The Sun she gave Woods “a birthday to remember,” but her lawyer said that Sampson had nothing to say on the matter.
  1. A “source” said Cori Rist, a fixture on the Manhattan nightclub scene, was booked into hotel rooms next to Woods’ so they wouldn’t be seen together.
  1. Los Angeles cocktail waitress Jamiee Grubbs claimed she had a 31-month affair with Woods.
  1. “Pancake waitress” Mindy Lawton said she had sex with Woods in a church parking lot as well as at his home during their year-long affair.
  1. Jamie Jungers, an aspiring model and Las Vegas cocktail waitress, was alleged to have had an affair with Woods that lasted 18 months.

    veronica-siwik-daniels
    Veronica Siwik-Daniels
  1. Kalika Moquin, a marketing manager for a Las Vegas nightclub, would neither confirm nor deny a relationship.
  1. Porn star Veronica Siwik-Daniels was described as Woods’ “full-time mistress.”
  1. A one-night stand with neighbor Raychel Coudriet allegedly took place on a couch in his office, near a crib for one of his kids.
  1. Former Playboy pinup Loredana Jolie’s lawyer denied that she had sex with Woods, but that he gave her money and jewelry.

Woods was also plagued by health issues.  I think golf looks like a simple game for wimps, but even I know that at Woods’ level it can be brutally hard on the body.  He had multiple surgeries, and kept playing in tournaments.

Loser (3)
Loser

And kept going home with a big “L for Loser” on his forehead.

Home, that no longer contained his wife, Elin, and their two children.  She divorced him in 2010, took the kids and the money, and ran.

His sponsors ran, too.

Before the scandal, Woods was the #1 ranked golfer in the world. He reached an all-time low of #1,199 in December 2017.

How low can you go?  Woods was there.

Then came April 2019, and Woods won – WON! – the Masters in Georgia.  Suddenly, everyone wanted to be his friend again.  Headlines hailed his “comeback”:

scan0002 (2)

And in May, the president gave Woods the Presidential Medal of Honor.

From one serial adulterer to another.

Since Woods’ big win there’s been lots of buzz in the media about “redemption,” though how winning a golf tournament “redeems” the pain and humiliation Woods inflicted on his wife and family is a mystery to me.

“C’mon, now,” you’re thinking.  “People learn from their mistakes.  People change.”

I agree – people can, and people do.

But a leopard doesn’t change his spots.  And…

tiger-doesnt-change-his-stripes cropped

Addendum:

If you, too, would like to get a Medal of Freedom but don’t play golf, consider writing a flattering book about the president.

Arthur Laffer, co-author of Trumponomics:  Inside the America First Plan to Revive Our Economy, is slated to receive the Medal of Freedom on June 19.

Apparently Laffer’s co-author, Stephen Moore, was not deemed medal-worthy.

Tiger (2)

Part III:  The Catholic Clergy Cover-up: We’re Coming To Get You

I have no faith that the church – from priest to Pope – will change how clergy sexual abuse is handled.

And it appears that others felt, and feel, the same way.  Well before the Pope’s February 2019 sex abuse summit in Rome, law enforcement agencies across the country were no longer sitting on the sidelines and waiting for church higher-ups to cooperate:

August 2018:  A Pennsylvania grand jury released a 900-page report that compiled testimonies from victims alleging decades of abuse by clergy and other church officials.  After a review of internal church documents, the report said there were “credible” allegations against more than 300 “predator priests” in Pennsylvania who sexually abused more than 1,000 children in cases going back to the 1940s.

Pope 1
“OMG, Pennsylvania, what have you done?”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told reporters that the testimonies also pointed to a “sophisticated” cover-up by top church officials.

The report’s findings prompted attorneys general in other states – including Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont among others – to pursue their own investigations into the issue.

Image 10 (2)

October 2018:  Police seized clergy misconduct records from all of Michigan’s Catholic dioceses.  The searches took place as part of the Attorney General’s Office investigation into the dioceses’ handling of clergy sexual abuse of minors.

Attorney General Bill Schuette began an investigation in August into all allegations of sexual abuse and assault by Catholic diocesan and religious order priests, as well as any attempts to cover up those actions dating back to the 1950s in Michigan.

December 2018:  Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan released preliminary findings of her ongoing investigation into the Catholic Church.  While the six dioceses in Illinois have now publicly identified 185 clergy members as having been “credibly” accused of child sexual abuse, Madigan’s investigation has found that the dioceses have received allegations of sexual abuse of at least 500 additional priests and clergy members in Illinois.

The investigation revealed that allegations frequently have not been adequately investigated by the dioceses or not investigated at all.  In many cases, the Church failed to notify law enforcement authorities or Department of Children and Family Services of allegations of child sexual abuse.

Pope
Headache, Pope Francis?  Take two aspirin, then call your church pals in the morning and tell them to start cooperating.

Among the common reasons the dioceses have provided for not investigating an allegation is that the priest or clergy member was deceased or had already resigned at the time the allegation of child sexual abuse was first reported to the diocese.

Those were prior to the Pope’s February 2019 summit.  Following the summit, it appears that plenty of clergy still weren’t raising their hands and cooperating.

So state attorneys general and local law enforcement continue their investigations:

Image 11 (2)

February 2019:  Authorities in Nebraska have issued subpoenas to more than 400 Catholic churches and entities requesting records related to child sexual assault, according to the state’s Department of Justice.

The office of Doug Peterson, the Nebraska Attorney General, said, “The department believes that subpoenas are necessary in order to ensure all reports of impropriety have been submitted to the appropriate authorities.  It is our goal that all reports of abuse are subject to complete law enforcement review and investigation as warranted.”

February 2019:  The three Catholic dioceses of Colorado will open their records to an independent investigator in an effort to provide a full accounting of sexual abuse of children by priests through the decades.

The investigator will compile and make public a list of priests with substantiated allegations of abuse, including where the clergy were assigned and the years when the offenses were alleged to have occurred, under the initiative announced by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

Colorado’s former U.S. attorney, Bob Troyer, will lead the independent investigation.

The plan is a hybrid of what has been done in other states.  It doesn’t fully involve law enforcement – no subpoenas or a grand jury investigation – and it doesn’t allow the church to investigate itself.  Troyer’s report, which will be public, is expected this fall.

Image 12 (2)

April 2019:  Georgia attorney general Chris Carr announced that the Catholic Church in Georgia is being investigated by his office over its handling of sex abuse cases.  The investigation will be undertaken by the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, the group which represents district attorneys in the state.

“I think people should be prepared for some bad news, revelations that some people don’t want to come out,” said attorney Darren Penn, who represents an unidentified man in a lawsuit alleging abuse at the hands of former Dalton priest Douglas Edwards.

But, Penn said, in his experience, the church still clings to secrecy and obfuscation.  “Hopefully, it’ll be different with the state involved,” he said.

Image 13 (2)

May 2019:  Dallas police searched the headquarters of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and other properties as part of the church’s widening sex abuse scandal, police and church officials said.

In a search warrant affidavit, a police investigator said the diocese had failed to reveal a full picture of sexual abuse allegations against a handful of its priests and, in some instances, handed over to authorities incomplete records on the accused.

POPE DEATH PENALTY CATECHISM
“Geez, I’m exhausted.  OK, bishops, let’s try this again.  Offuscazione?  In English, that means ‘obfuscation.’   Ostruzionismo?  That means ‘stonewalling.’   You got that?”

“Despite assurances from the Diocese’s attorneys that the priests’ files were complete and accurate, I also detailed specific examples where those files were not complete and accurate,” Dallas police detective David Clark wrote in the affidavit, adding that efforts to obtain files about sex abuse claimants were “thwarted” by church officials.

At least 298 clergy members across the state have faced “credible abuse” allegations going back to the 1940s, according to the lists compiled by the 15 Texas dioceses.

Image 14 (2)

May 2019:  The California Attorney General’s Office has launched a statewide investigation into Catholic Dioceses over the handling of child sexual abuse allegations – a broader inquiry than was first known.

A spokesman for the California Catholic Conference confirmed that all 12 Catholic dioceses in California were mailed letters from the AG’s office, instructing them to either preserve or hand over documents related to abuse handling.

Mike Reck, an attorney who represents clergy abuse victims, said California’s investigation won’t just hold abusers accountable, but the church leaders who protected them.  “It’s not just focusing on individual perpetrators.  It is scrutinizing the cover-up and the conspiracy of silence at the highest levels.”

My focus has been on the U.S., but there are investigations going on in many countries.  Here are just a few examples, from a February 2019 Associated Press article:

Australia:  The government launched a four-year national investigation into all forms of institutional abuse, Catholic and otherwise.  The landmark survey found 4,444 people were abused at more than 1,000 Catholic institutions between 1980 and 2015.

Chile:  Chilean criminal prosecutors have staged a series of raids on the church’s secret archives to seize documents.  They have opened more than 100 investigations into abusive priests and have questioned the current and former archbishops of Santiago about allegations they covered up crimes.

Poland:

Poland
In October 2018 the Have No Fear Foundation presented a map showing Poland and 255 documented cases of sexual abuse of minors by the country’s Catholic priests .  The foundation said that some priests who were convicted of abusing children served time in prison, then were reassigned to new parishes when they got out.  The group is demanding that the church stop protecting predator priests.

Germany:  Last September the German Catholic Church released a devastating report that concluded at 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014.  The researchers who compiled the report complained they didn’t have access to original files, and said there was evidence that some files were manipulated or destroyed.

At the same time, much of the developing world has escaped a public explosion of the scandal, as have conflict zones and countries where Catholics are a minority.  That doesn’t mean clergy sexual abuse isn’t happening in these places, only that at present it’s below the radar.

And here’s a final, ironic note:

Vatican City – home of the Pope and seat of the Catholic church – is an independent city-state, governed as an absolute monarchy with the Pope at its head.

Vatican City has no policy on its books to protect children or require reporting of sex crimes to police.

pope 3
“Guys, this is bad.  It’s worse than bad.  Siamo inculati.”

Update:

It looks like law enforcement aren’t the only people coming after the church.

Catholics are making their objections known in the best possible way to get the church’s attention – by withholding their money:

Donations Drop (2)