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Archive for the month “July, 2015”

Which U.S. Presidents Were the Most Religious?

This is from jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com which you can find here:

“Consistency is something of an American tradition–at least as far as our presidents are concerned.

Forty-three individuals have served as Commander-in-Chief (Grover Cleveland held two non-consecutive terms). Based on birth and residence, they hail from only 18 of the 50 states. All have been male and, with the exception of Barack Obama, all have been white. And almost all claimed to be Protestant Christians. Only three were religiously unaffiliated–Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Johnson–though these men were spiritual in their own right.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

NEARFest 2003: photos and memories

This post is in my series regarding the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARFest) more about which you can find here.  You can find all of my posts regarding NEARFest here and I started the series here.  You can also learn more about this particular Festival here and here.  The information below are just some highlights I remember and photographs I took from the Festival.

The lineup for NEARFest 2003 was (including Friday night):

Here is the 2003 logo, as designed by Roger Dean:

This was the fifth NEARFest and my fourth consecutive Festival and, as one can see above, by this time the Festival was now well established and attracting prominent prog rock bands like Camel, Magma, and the Flower Kings, and a wealth of quality lower tier bands.

This was the second of two Festivals to take place at Patriots Theater at the Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, New Jersey.  For more on what this venue was like, click here.

This was yet another great Festival.  Camel is another great classic band which graced the Festival state that, due to age, I never thought I would see live and they did not disappoint.  They played with Yes‘s Magnification Tour keyboardist Tom Brislin.  Magma, which has a long a storied prog rock history and has a dedicated cult following, is a rather unique Zeuhl band which pounded out intense rhythms with a choir of singers.  Quite honestly, I enjoyed their relentless music for about twenty minutes, especially because I would likely not see this band in another context, but I could not bear much more than that; it was just too much.  Although the Flower Kings are a “name” band, I did not find them to be particularly interesting.  Kraan played a great set of German fusion, but the fusion band I truly enjoyed was Tunnels which is a break off of Phil Collins‘ side project Brand X.  Tunnels was a really interesting band presenting most of their music as a trio with vibraphones as the lead instrument.  I found their sound refreshingly unique.  Glass Hammer, which is now a stalwart prog rock band, played heavily Tolkien influenced and Yes like symphonic rock.  Of course, Glass Hammer had the benefit of having some rather attractive female backing singers who I had had the opportunity to meet.  As a side note, and perhaps not coincidentally, Glass Hammer‘s current lead singer Jon Davison is now also the lead singer for Yes.  Alamaailman Vasarat was probably my favorite band of the weekend because they were just so quirky and weird.  I have never heard anything like them before or since.  They basically were a Scandinavian band which played klezmer on brass instruments and two cellos played through a fuzz box.  They were such a fun and weird band and they were the sort of band that made NEARFest such a great festival for me to go to; the “big name” bands are great but the Festival was really the only forum for me to learn about these very small time (fairly “unknown”) bands, let alone see them live!  There is so much great music out there and the Festival provided a great vehicle to introduce it to a good audience.  Sleepytime Gorilla Museum was a metal band which channeled Peter Gabriel in their disguises and costumes and face paint.  Needless to say, as much as I loved Camel, this was a great year for the bands on the undercard!  As with the previous two festivals, I had opportunity to once again meet Yes artist Roger Dean and ask him to sign a boat load of material for me.  Finally, this Festival continued its great tradition of having music in places other than the stage as Second Sufis set up outside the theater (pictured below) and presented some really cool improvised music.


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The Economists Are Beginning To Crack

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com/ which you can find here:

“In [an] article [on http://www.roubini.com], Tim Duy asks “Why Is the American Jobs Machine Broken?” In the article, he describes the discussions economists are having about the reasons the job market continues to decline, and declares that he has become a heretic in regard to the theories of Free Trade. The fact that economists are beginning to question their policies is only the beginning.  The only choices they appear to see are between Free Trade and protectionism. In fact, the issue goes much deeper than that. This small crack in the faith of modern economists is just the first step in a long journey to seeing what is truly necessary for economic stability.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Superior Court Rules Custody Is Permanently Modifiable

In the case of In Re S.H., O.H. and N.H., 2013 Pa.Super.165, the decision of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has potentially far reaching statewide ramifications regarding the relationship between an order of permanent legal custody from Dependency Court and a typical custody order from Family Court (Domestic Relations).

In S.H., the children-at-issue (“Children”) were initially committed to the custody of the Department of Human Services (“DHS”). After three years of hearings, DHS finally petitioned Dependency Court to award the Children to their maternal grandmother who was already serving as a kinship foster parent. DHS’ petition was granted and the maternal grandmother was awarded permanent legal custody. The legislature, through 23 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 2511, statutorily created the method to terminate parental rights, which involves very specific procedures and legal requirements to do so. A key element to this case is the fact that the parental rights of the Children’s father were never terminated pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 2511 at any point in the litigation.

             Not long after the Dependency Court awarded the maternal grandmother permanent legal custody of the Children, the father of the Children pursued primary custody of them through a typical custody action. The procedural history which follows Father’s petition for custody is rather tangled and confusing, but ultimately, when the matter was finally appealed to Pennsylvania Superior Court, the question before it was a fairly simple one: can a parent seek primary custody once the Court enters an order for permanent legal custody in a dependency action?

The Child Advocates sought to quash the father’s petition to secure primary custody as, it argued, the Court had permanently decided custody when it entered an order of permanent legal custody. Further, the Child Advocates also argued that it was their goal to create a stable environment in which children can be reared and allowing continuing litigation after an apparently permanent order for legal custody has been entered, unnecessarily harms children by creating a potentially unstable environment and home life.

The Child Advocates argued, under the strength of 42 Pa.C.S.A. Section 6351(a), that a Court sitting in dependency has the jurisdiction and authority to enter a permanent custody order. Superior Court noted that the aforesaid statute authorizes a dependency court to terminate a dependency action through such a custody order, but it does not, necessarily, have to terminate the custodial rights of the parent(s) in order to do so. Instead, when considering permanent legal custody under the above statute, the Court weighs the options and arguments indicating whether a child’s current living situation warrants state involvement through subsidized permanent legal custody. Although it must determine what serves a child’s best interests, an order for permanent legal custody is appropriate as long as neither reunification with a parent or adoption by a non-parent are viable options at that time.

Over the course of this sort of matter, the Court will conduct periodic reviews into how the child-at-issue is faring. Contrary to the arguments presented by the Child Advocates, the Court ruled that the term “permanent” in the context of a dependency matter simply means discontinuing the supervision and involvement of the state regarding the custody placement for a child. The Court ruled that the statute does not confer or divest any custodial rights from parents, it simply identifies the proper venue for visitation and support matters following an order for permanent legal custody. This is especially true when, per the Court’s decision, the parental rights of the father were never terminated. Indeed, the Court added that absent an explicit order terminating parental rights pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 2511, a parent’s right to seek custody simply cannot be permanently deprived. Otherwise, the Court would have effectively used 42 Pa.C.S.A. Section 6351(a) to easily circumnavigate 23 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 2511, and its procedural requirements, in order to achieve a de facto termination of parental rights, leaving 23 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 2511 without functional purpose.

23 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 2511 requires the termination of parental rights to meet the clear and convincing evidence standard, which is the highest civil burden of proof. It sets up procedural and substantive safeguards to protect parental rights, which are considered to be fundamental rights under law. Indeed, any infringement on the right to function as a parent requires strict scrutiny, which must be supported by a compelling, and narrowly tailored, state interest. These safeguards simply do not exist under the standards for awarding permanent legal custody as described above. Further, the Court noted that under both the previous and current custody law, the legislature clearly established a mechanism for a parent to modify custody at any time. In fact, the Court specifically stated that “[p]olicy considerations actually compel the opposite approach from that contended by the Child Advocates [described above]. We find no justification in keeping a child in a court ordered [permanent legal] custodial arrangement, typically subsidized at taxpayer expense, when a parent presents a plan which brings the child back in to the family unit and serves the child’s best interests.”

The Court addressed the Child Advocate’s very legitimate concern that allowing parents to pursue custody at any time could lead to a multiplicity of spurious custody actions. However, the Court went on to say that this concern does not outweigh the right of a parent to have some sort of custody over his child. In fact, the Court suggested that the current procedural hurdles a parent must go already through, including having to prove that a change in primary custody is in a child’s best interests, are sufficient to address this concern.


Therefore, the Court concluded, the intention of the legislature must be that 23 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 2511 is the only process by which parental rights are terminated and not through a somewhat tortured interpretation of 42 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 6351(a) which could serve as a virtual end-around 23 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 2511. As a result, the Court found that neither the Juvenile Act nor the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 prohibit a parent from petitioning the Court to secure custody of a child who is the subject of an award of permanent legal custody.

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer on March 25, 2014 and can be seen here and reprinted in the Pennsylvania Family Lawyer, Volume 36, Issue No.: 1, April 2014 edition.

Court Says Religious Non-Profits Need Not Identify Their Insurers To HHS

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Christian and Missionary Alliance Foundation, Inc. v. Burwell, (MD FL, Feb. 3, 2015), a Florida federal district court granted a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of part of the latest rules accommodating religious non-profits’ objections to the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate:

The Court finds that the portion of the accommodation process which requires plaintiffs to self-certify their eligibility for the accommodation and provide that written self-certification to the HHS does not substantially burden plaintiffs’ exercise of religion…. This notification need not be on a government-issued form.

… [However] the Court reaches the opposite conclusion as to the portion of the government form which requires identification of and the contact information for plaintiffs’ insurance carrier and/or third party administrator…. Compelling plaintiffs to identify their providers or administrators to the HHS clearly facilitates the government’s ability to implement contraceptive coverage for plaintiffs’ female employees. While plaintiffs cannot preclude the government from such implementation, the identification requirement compels plaintiffs to become excessively entangled in the process of providing coverage for services which their sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit….”

You can learn more about this issue here.



Check out Faye Cohen’s post to her blog Toughlawyerlady!


I usually don’t make New Year’s resolutions, because, like most other people, I’m not very good at keeping them. But, this year I decided I would make one resolution, and that is to try to eat healthier, and especially to eat more vegetables. I am happy to report that I kept that resolution, and I kept it in January, so now I am free to do what I want the rest of the year.

In preparation for my decision to eat healthier, I undertook a PROCESS. I am a Type A personality, as many lawyers are, so there is usually a PROCESS in most things I undertake. My PROCESS started with looking through my large recipe collection to find palatable recipes, and listing the ingredients for the recipes I selected to cook. Now I don’t cook much, and I usually cook only for certain holidays and special occasions, but I…

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NEARFest 2002: photos and memories

This post is in my series regarding the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARFest) more about which you can find here.  You can find all of my posts regarding NEARFest here and I started the series here.  You can also learn more about this particular Festival here and here.  The information below are just some highlights I remember and photographs I took from the Festival.

The lineup for NEARFest 2002 was (including Friday night):

Here is the 2002 logo, as designed by Roger Dean:


This was the fourth NEARFest and my third consecutive Festival and, as one can see above, by this time the Festival grew sufficiently in prestige and assets that it was able to attract the “big names” like Steve Hackett, Nektar, Caravan and Michael Manring, not to mention some classic lesser tier prog rock bands like Echolyn and Enchant.

This was the first of two Festivals to take place at Patriots Theater at the Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, New Jersey.  This theater seats about 1800 people, which is nearly double the 1002 seat Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where the 2000 and 2001 Festivals took place.  As Trenton is only about 20 minutes from my house, as opposed to 90 minutes like Bethlehem, I did not stay overnight at this Festival and, I must say, that really diminished the experience and the fun I had (for more on why staying the night truly enhances the Festival experience see here).

Apparently, although nearly double in size (and, I suppose, double the revenue as a result), this new theater was apparently double the trouble and hassle.  I do not know all the details, but I do know this theater demanded upfront payment (which the Festival, as a non-profit event did not really have) and, from what I understand, there were serious insurance issues unique to New Jersey.  These issues nearly made the 2002 and 2003 Festivals to fold and motivated the Festival organizers to return to Bethlehem.

The theater was a beautiful and ornate building nestled in Trenton’s historic district.  Despite its looks, I recall it being rather warm inside and the merchant space was not nearly as nice as that in Bethlehem.  This Festival really marked the beginning of the enormous delays that plagued the late afternoon and evening bands at these sort of “middle” Festivals.  Although the locale was not nearly as quaint and nice as Lehigh University, it was pretty cool because it was right down the street from New Jersey’s capital building and within a colonial era area.  It certainly lacked the green space, fun eateries, and quaint walkable locale that Lehigh had, not to mention the involvement of the local establishments.  Between the sets, I took the opportunity to stroll through the historic areas and the capital building and took photographs which you can see below.  As it happened, while walking though the capital building, I passed right by New Jersey’s then governor Jim McGreevey who was having what appeared to be an important discussion with some official looking people.  I honestly did not realize it was him at first as he was just this short guy talking; I had to do a double take to realize it was him.  Once I realized it was him I said hello (he politely responded) and I felt like a schlub in my shorts and t-shirt (and I may or may not have been somewhat sweaty from my walk) next to these rather well dressed individuals.

The performances were stellar as usual.  Classic Genesis is probably my second favorite band after Yes (for me, Genesis vacillates with King Crimson as my number two). I am obviously far too young to have seen them when they were together and, by 2002, Genesis had been effectively broken up since 1998.  So, needless to say, it was a thrill for me to see their guitarist Steve Hackett live and playing some classic Genesis material!  Also, Caravan, such a classic prog rock band, is another band which I never thought I would ever see live.  They were as quirky as ever and put on a great show.  Speaking of bands I thought I’d never see, Nektar, which broke up in 1980, reformed recently before the Festival and performed.  To my ears, they sounded just like they did on record.  Of course, like all NEARFests, some smaller time bands came to the fore.  I really enjoyed Gerard, which is like an Anime version of classic prog rock band ELP.  Echolyn’s performance is one I will always remember, if only because of the sheer size of the percussion and other instrumentation they set up.  They took up the entire stage!  Finally, bands like Miriodor really reveal the Festivals’ penchant to always have at least one “really weird band” in its lineup, what with its presentation of some rock-in-opposition music featuring instruments as diverse as saxophones, violins, woodwinds, and more typical rock band instrumentation. Finally, as you can see in one of the photographs below, this Festival continued its fine tradition of also including musicians not featured on stage, like the gentleman playing a set on the Chapman Stick outside the theater.


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July 2015: “The Evangelist” Newsletter from St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Abington, PA

The Evangelist is the monthly newsletter of St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Abington, Pennsylvania.  Below is the July 2015 issue of The Evangelist which you can also read here in .pdf format.

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The Higher Ed Scam Part II

Ken Kastle is a parishioner with me at our church St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Abington, PA. He writes a blog called “Looking at Things Through My Eyes.” Mr. Kastle has had a long career in education and often views his politics as I do, so I often find his blog posts compelling. Below is one of the posts to his blog, enjoy! This post is the sequel to a previous post called “The Higher Ed Scam” which you can find here.

Looking At Things Thru My Eyes

In June 2014 I offered the view in “The Higher Ed Scam” that higher education in this country is no longer about “education” but should now be called The Higher Education Industry [https://lookingatthingsthrumyeyes.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=442&action=edit].

My goal now is to continue this theme in regular updates that provide evidence to support my thesis garnered from news reports about higher education.

Today’s update features actions by the Republican controlled Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina system. An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education dated May 27, 2015 [http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/as-degrees-are-cut-critics-continue-to-decry-dismantling-of-u-of-north-carolina/99587?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en], reports the UNC Board’s continuing actions to strip large numbers of degree programs from the system’s 16 campuses. The latest action taken last week, a continuation of such actions every other year for the past two decades, eliminated 46 degree programs.

The rationale for these draconian cuts, and the evidence that UNC is no longer an institution of higher learning, can…

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NEARFest 2001: photos and memories

This post is in my series regarding the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARFest) more about which you can find here.  You can find all of my posts regarding NEARFest here and I started the series here.  You can also learn more about this particular Festival here and here.  The information below are just some highlights I remember and photographs I took from the Festival.

The lineup for NEARFest 2001 was (including Friday night):

Here is the 2001 logo, as designed by Roger Dean:

This was my second NEARFest but the first one where I was fully immersed into the event.  By “immersed” I mean I stayed overnight at the local Comfort Suites which, as it turned out, was the place where most of the musicians stayed and the after party DJed by the prog rock program Gagliarchives was held.  This was also the first Festival where I really got to know the other attendees.  Finally, although I enjoyed the music at NEARFest 2000, I really feel like the bands which played at NEARFest 2001 were a significant improvement.  So, needless to say, this particular Festival will always have a special place in my heart.  This Festival, I think, is the one when the event really took off.  One of the Festival founders wore a dress on stage after losing a bet regarding how fast tickets for it would sell.

The Festival was still relatively new (this was only the third one) so it was not quite there yet to attract the “big” names just yet, but it was hitting its stride and was able to book fairly prominent musicians like Porcupine Tree and Tony Levin.  There was a local Perkins were I would often eat breakfast and it was there I had the opportunity to eat one table away from Levin!  Obviously that was a real treat (for me, not so much for him, I’m sure)!

Although future Festivals were able to book more famous musicians I feel that this particular Festival really established the Festival’s tradition of booking truly quality bands of a lesser known stature, indeed some of which could be considered to be “unknowns.”  Specifically, although I enjoyed all the bands, I walked away from this Festival a big fan of Birdsongs and White Willow and even After Crying.  Since this Festival, I have followed White Willow especially and have obtained the albums they have released since this Festival.  Birdsongs is so unique I would not know where to begin.  I never saw a band before with someone playing percussion though basically keyboards and pads and a guy playing saxophones through effects.  They were so good Roger Dean asked to be their cover artist.  White Willow featured someone on very unusual woodwind instruments (like a melodica), old school prog rock Hammond and Mellotron, and a wicked guitar player who played sublime melodies and never used a plectrum. Another thing I thought was cool which I took note of was the fact that the piano player for the Underground Railroad played the piano’s internal strings with a credit card.

I entered this Festival a big fan of Porcupine Tree, the California Guitar Trio, and Tony Levin so they were all very exciting for me to see.  Levin, of course, was the bass player with ABWH so the Yes connection drew me to him at least at first, not to mention his work with King Crimson (and many others).  Porcupine Tree was formed in 1987 but did not release albums until 1991 and by 2001 they were really starting to make a name for themselves.  At that time I was really into them (and saw them seven more times since then) and I was really looking forward to seeing them live.  Needless to say they did not disappoint and put on a great show and played a fantastic set.  They played so loudly that they broke a bulb in the ceiling and, as you can see from one of the photographs down below, one of the attendees really got into their psychedelic instrumentals! I remember Steven Wilson, the leader of Porcupine Tree, being a little unsure how to approach the NEARFest audience because we were all seated while he nearly always plays venues where everyone stands.

Finally, aside from Tony Levin, my other Yes connection at this Festival was Roger Dean, Yes’ long time artist.  Dean attended this Festival and created its logo. This was the first Festival he attended and he went on to appear at seven more.  He set up his wares in one of the merchant rooms and was gracious enough to briefly answer some questions and sign some things.  Of course, I have never been personally so close to Yes, so I was gobsmacked and tried to ask him some insightful questions instead of typical fan nonsense.  I am not sure I succeeded, but he was gracious enough to sign a truckload of stuff for me and I bought a few pieces of art from him.

As an aside, I got to meet (and take the photograph of) one of the musicians from Starcastle as he set up a “meet and greet” table for himself.

This Festival was the second one to take place at at the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  I decided to take a few photographs of the our scenic environs.  As we explored the locale between sets we at dinner at the Bridgeworks, which is sadly no longer there, and discovered the Funhouse!


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