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Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in the The Philadelphia Inquirer which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.

 The causes of these phenomena are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.

That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These basic cultural precepts reigned from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. They could be followed by people of all backgrounds and abilities, especially when backed up by almost universal endorsement. Adherence was a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.

Did everyone abide by those precepts? Of course not. There are always rebels — and hypocrites, those who publicly endorse the norms but transgress them. But as the saying goes, hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. Even the deviants rarely disavowed or openly disparaged the prevailing expectations.

Was everything perfect during the period of bourgeois cultural hegemony? Of course not. There was racial discrimination, limited sex roles, and pockets of anti-Semitism. However, steady improvements for women and minorities were underway even when bourgeois norms reigned. Banishing discrimination and expanding opportunity does not require the demise of bourgeois culture. Quite the opposite: The loss of bourgeois habits seriously impeded the progress of disadvantaged groups. That trend also accelerated the destructive consequences of the growing welfare state, which, by taking over financial support of families, reduced the need for two parents. A strong pro-marriage norm might have blunted this effect. Instead, the number of single parents grew astronomically, producing children more prone to academic failure, addiction, idleness, crime, and poverty.

This cultural script began to break down in the late 1960s. A combination of factors — prosperity, the Pill, the expansion of higher education, and the doubts surrounding the Vietnam War — encouraged an antiauthoritarian, adolescent, wish-fulfillment ideal — sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll — that was unworthy of, and unworkable for, a mature, prosperous adult society. This era saw the beginnings of an identity politics that inverted the color-blind aspirations of civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into an obsession with race, ethnicity, gender, and now sexual preference.

And those adults with influence over the culture, for a variety of reasons, abandoned their role as advocates for respectability, civility, and adult values. As a consequence, the counterculture made great headway, particularly among the chattering classes — academics, writers, artists, actors, and journalists — who relished liberation from conventional constraints and turned condemning America and reviewing its crimes into a class marker of virtue and sophistication.

All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy. The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-“acting white” rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants. These cultural orientations are not only incompatible with what an advanced free-market economy and a viable democracy require, they are also destructive of a sense of solidarity and reciprocity among Americans. If the bourgeois cultural script — which the upper-middle class still largely observes but now hesitates to preach — cannot be widely reinstated, things are likely to get worse for us all.

Would the re-embrace of bourgeois norms by the ordinary Americans who have abandoned them significantly reduce society’s pathologies? There is every reason to believe so. Among those who currently follow the old precepts, regardless of their level of education or affluence, the homicide rate is tiny, opioid addiction is rare, and poverty rates are low. Those who live by the simple rules that most people used to accept may not end up rich or hold elite jobs, but their lives will go far better than they do now. All schools and neighborhoods would be much safer and more pleasant. More students from all walks of life would be educated for constructive employment and democratic participation.

But restoring the hegemony of the bourgeois culture will require the arbiters of culture — the academics, media, and Hollywood — to relinquish multicultural grievance polemics and the preening pretense of defending the downtrodden. Instead of bashing the bourgeois culture, they should return to the 1950s posture of celebrating it.

By Amy Wax and originally published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on August 9, 2017 and can be found here.

 

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The United Shapes of Arithmetic: Shape Reveal

Nathan Rudolph, my friend and fellow parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, has started a comic strip which I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated.  With his permission, I will repost them here after he posts them.  I think my readers will appreciate them as much as I do as they are rather insightful with a snarky edge.  Enjoy!

https://scontent-lga3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/23316841_1353656414740969_5904752801940424929_n.jpg?oh=b4e8615a1308819c0c86f8e932bce6ce&oe=5A9F821C

The progressives who cried bigotry

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in the The Week which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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It is difficult not to enjoy the liberal outrage being generated by the so-called “Nashville Statement,” a brief, fairly boring manifesto on marriage recently issued by an evangelical Christian body called the Council on Biblical Manhood and Woman. Here’s a sample:

We affirm that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.

We deny that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God. [Nashville Statement]

As far as Christian defenses of marriage go, this is tame stuff. Still, I understand why super-woke outlets like Salon are comfortable referring to the document as “bigotry-filled” and glibly pretending that any real Christian would surely disagree with its claims about morality. These websites also pay writers to insist that wrestling GIFs are threats of violence and that allowing male teenagers to compete in female athletic competitions is unremarkable. For those engaged in such work, clear thinking with rigorous categories and definitions is a professional liability. They accept emotion, feigned or otherwise, as the only genuine moral currency. They are geniuses who can simultaneously maintain that “male” and “female” are artificial socially constructed distinctions to which no meaningful predicates can be attached — that there is no such thing as being a man or a woman per se — and that it is possible for a woman, something that in essence does not exist, to be trapped in a man’s body.

But it’s not just the restless young piling on the Nashville Statement. So too are the bandwagoning would-be woke neoliberal Baby Boomers who insist that a basic assumption which they have held for most of their now-long lives — namely that same-sex marriage is an oxymoron, like married bachelorhood — is now rank bigotry. In 10 years when polygamy is legalized by fiat, they will rail in their creaking voices against “polyphobes” or some similarly monstrous coinage. Their recent decision to call those of us who insist that marriage is a covenant between men and women “bigots” is ludicrous, predictable, and somewhat grimly amusing.

It’s also entirely correct. In the eyes of the world, faithful Christians will always be bigots.

But if the Nashville Statement is “bigoted,” then the target of the council’s animus is much wider than its critics, juvenile and geriatric, will allow. It is bigoted not only against same-sex marriage, but against participation in what used to be called “the marital act” outside of its proper context, namely that of lifelong exclusive marriage designated by God for the avoidance of sin and the conferral of those graces necessary for resisting it. It is, therefore, by extension bigoted against divorce and the fallacious assumption that it is possible for those whose spouses live to marry again and against polygamy and concubinage. It is bigoted against the unnatural practice of what was once called “self-abuse,” against onanism and (though its drafters may not like having this pointed out) contraception. It is bigoted against willful delight in lust, against pornography. It is bigoted against any denial of the efficacy of God’s grace and his infinite mercy for the hearts of the contrite. It is bigoted, in other words, against sin.

If this is bigotry, then all Christians are bigots.

Those halcyon periods when the spirit of the Gospel has not disgusted the zeitgeist, when our religion has not outraged the powers and principalities, the rulers of the darkness of this world, have been brief and lucid intervals. If hating sin is bigotry, then may the Immaculate Heart of Mary strengthen us in our rank prejudice not only against these sins of the flesh, but against greed, blasphemy, the occult, irreligion, murder, lies, gossip, calumny, hatred, despair, and all sins mortal and venial.

Of course, it should go without saying that hating sin is not the same thing as hating sinners, much less condoning violence or uncharitable words. All Christians must condemn such things.

But it does seem to me rather late in the game for the Nashville framers to be taking up arms against the legalization of same-sex marriage. Its appearance was a predicable consequence of Protestant acquiescence with divorce, contraception, fornication, various disordered practices among married couples, and other evils. Unmoored from religious morality, marriage necessarily becomes a meaningless civic designation. Reversing Obergefell would be a good thing; it would not be enough to restore the legal status of marriage in this country to one in keeping with their own convictions.

For the foreseeable future, our bigotry looks like a losing game.

By Matthew Walther and published in The Week on August 31, 2017 and can be found here.

‘X’ Marks the Spot Where Inequality Took Root: Dig Here

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in the Economic Opportunity Institute which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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In 2002, I heard an economist characterizing this figure as containing a valuable economic insight. He wasn’t sure what the insight was. I have my own answer.

The economist talked of the figure as a sort of treasure map, which would lead us to the insight. “X” marks the spot. Dig here.

The graphic below tells three stories.

First, we see two distinct historic periods since World War II. In the first period, workers shared the gains from productivity. In the later period, a generation of workers gained little, even as productivity continued to rise.

Figure 1: The X marks the spot where something happened.

Figure 1: The ‘X’ marks the spot where something happened in the mid-1970’s. (Click to embiggen)

The second message is the very abrupt transition from the post-war historic period to the current one. Something happened in the mid-70’s to de-couple wages from productivity gains.

The third message is that workers’ wages – accounting for inflation and all the lower prices from cheap imported goods – would be double what they are now, if workers still took their share of gains in productivity.

A second version of the figure is equally provocative.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Follow the money (or the lack of it).

This graphic shows the same distinct historic periods, and the same sharp break around 1975. Each colored line represents the growth in family income, relative to 1975, for different income percentiles. Pre-1975, families at all levels of income benefited proportionately. Post-1975, The top 5% did well, and we know the top 1% did very well. Gains from productivity were redistributed upward to the top income percentiles.

This de-coupling of wages from productivity has drawn a trillion dollars out of the labor share of GDP.

Economics does not explain what happened in the mid-70s.

It was not the oil shock. Not interest rates. Not the Fed, or monetary policy. Not robots, or the decline of the Soviet Union, or globalization, or the internet.

The sharp break in the mid-70’s marks a shift in our country’s values. Our moral, social, political and economic values changed in the mid-70’s.

Let’s go back before World War II to the Great Depression. Speculative unregulated policies ruined the economy. Capitalism was discredited. Powerful and wealthy elites feared the legitimate threat of Communism. The public demanded that government solve our problems.

The Depression and World War II defined that generation’s collective identity. Our national heroes were the millions of workers, soldiers, families and communities who sacrificed. We owed a national debt to those who had saved Democracy and restored prosperity. The New Deal policies reflected that national purpose, honoring a social safety net, increasing bargaining power for workers and bringing public interest into balance with corporate power.

In that period, the prevailing social contract said, “We all do better when we all do better.” My prosperity depends on your well-being. In that period of history, you were my co-worker, neighbor or customer. Opportunity and fairness drove the upward spiral (with some glaring exceptions). Work had dignity. Workers earned a share of the wealth they created. We built Detroit (for instance) by hard work and productivity.

Our popular media father-figures were Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, and others, liberal and conservative, who were devoted to an America of opportunity and fair play.

The sudden change in the mid-70’s was not economic. First it was moral, then social, then political, ….. then economic.

In the mid-70’s, we traded in our post-World War II social contract for a new one, where “greed is good.” In the new moral narrative I can succeed at your expense. I will take a bigger piece of a smaller pie. Our new heroes are billionaires, hedge fund managers, and CEO’s.

In this narrative, they deserve more wealth so they can create more jobs, even as they lay off workers, close factories and invest new capital in low-wage countries. Their values and their interests come first in education, retirement security, and certainly in labor law.

We express these same distorted moral, social and political priorities in our trade policies. As bad as these priorities are for our domestic policies, they are worse if they define the way we manage globalization.

The key to the treasure buried in Figure 1 is power relationships. To understand what happened, ask, “Who has the power to take 93% of all new wealth and how did they get that power? The new moral and social values give legitimacy to policies that favor those at the top of our economy.

We give more bargaining power and influence to the wealthy, who already have plenty of both, while reducing bargaining power for workers. In this new narrative, workers and unions destroyed Detroit (for instance) by not lowering our living standards fast enough.

In the new moral view, anyone making “poor choices” is responsible for his or her own ruin. The unfortunate are seen as unworthy moochers and parasites. We disparage teachers, government workers, the long-term unemployed, and immigrants.

In this era, popular media figures are spiteful and divisive.

Our policies have made all workers feel contingent, at risk, and powerless. Millions of part-time workers must please their employer to get hours. Millions more in the gig economy work without benefits and have no job security at all. Recent college graduates carry so much debt that they cannot invest, take risk on a new career, or rock the boat. Millions of undocumented workers are completely powerless in the labor market, and subject to wage theft. They have negative power in the labor market!

We are creating a new American aristocracy, with less opportunity – less social mobility and weaker social cohesion than any other advanced country. We are falling behind in many measures of well-being.

The dysfunctions of our post-1970 moral, social, political and economic system make it incapable of dealing with climate change or inequality, arguably the two greatest challenges of our time. We are failing our children and the next generations.

X marks the spot. In this case, “X” is our choice of national values. We abandoned traditional American values that built a great and prosperous nation. Our power relationships are sour.

We can start rebuilding our social cohesion when we say all work has dignity. Workers earn a share of the wealth we create. We all do better, when we all do better. My prosperity depends on a prosperous community with opportunity and fairness.

Dig there.

By Stan Sorscher and originally published in Economic Opportunity Institute on August 5, 2015 and can be found here.

 

Enforcing Marital Agreements According to the Law of the Case

In the matter of Bienert v. Bienert, 2017 Pa.Super. 255, Case No. 17-1288 (Pa. Super. Aug. 7, 2017), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has clarified the enforceability of marital property agreements (MSA) executed prior to the filing of a divorce but entered into while the husband and wife were separated.

As mentioned above, while the MSA was executed by the parties while they were separated, it contained rather precise language as to how their marital property is to be divided in the event of a divorce. Specifically, the MSA indicates that it “settles all rights of the parties” and, indeed, “is not contingent upon either party of both parties being granted a divorce,” but would be “made part thereof” in the event of a divorce.

After the husband filed for divorce, the wife filed a petition for alimony pendene lite and was represented by counsel when she did so. The husband opposed the aforesaid petition, arguing that the MSA was a complete and final settlement of all obligations and, as it does not allow for alimony pendente lite, the wife should not be allowed to collect it. In response, the wife argued that as the MSA does not specifically refer to alimony pendente lite, she is able to collect it. Notably, the wife did not argue that the MSA was invalid for any reason, she merely advanced an interpretation of its language. Ultimately the trial court denied the wife’s petition on the basis that the MSA is a complete and final settlement of all claims, including alimony pendente lite and no provision allowed for its collection. The trial court pointed out that “absent fraud, misrepresentation, or duress, spouses should be bound by the terms of their agreements.”

After failing to receive alimony pendente lite, the wife’s attorney withdrew his appearance on her behalf, which led to the wife filing multiple petitions to enforce the MSA regarding various provisions of property division. The Superior Court observed that all of the wife’s various petitions “were premised on the view that the Agreement was valid and enforceable.”

Separately, the husband eventually filed a petition to hold the wife in contempt for violating the terms of the MSA. In response to the husband’s petition, the wife raised defenses claiming that she executed the MSA under duress as the husband requested the wife to execute the MSA immediately after the wife had been sentenced in court for three felonies and charged with a misdemeanor and was “in rehab.” This was the wife’s first mention of duress, despite her efforts to enforce the MSA previously as described above. Indeed, even when arguing duress, she made no argument that the MSA was invalid. A short time after the husband’s filing of the contempt petition, and the wife’s filing of defenses, as described above, the wife filed a contempt petition asking for the enforcement of the MSA.

At the hearing for the above petitions, the wife raised arguments to avoid the terms of the MSA on the grounds of mistake, misrepresentation or duress. She now further claimed that she did not know the MSA applied to her divorce, allegedly believing it only applied to her separation. The trial court ruled against the wife. Thereafter, the wife hired a new attorney who filed a new petition to void the MSA for the reasons set forth above. The court subsequently denied the wife’s petition and went ahead and entered a decree in divorce. In response, the wife appealed, which led to the opinion described herein by Superior Court.

On appeal, the wife again argued that she executed the MSA against her will and that a mutual mistake of fact existed, both of which warrant the voiding of the MSA. Furthermore, as an aisde, the trial court did not hold an evidentiary hearing on her last petition which, the wife argued, was unfair as it did not give her a full opportunity to litigate her economic claims. Superior Court affirmed the trial court. In ruling against the wife, Superior Court relied on the law of the case doctrine and equitable estoppel.

The law of the case doctrine is one that “expresses the practice of courts generally to refuse to reopen what has been decided … in order to protect the settled expectations of the parties; to ensure uniformity of decisions; to maintain consistency during the course of a single case; to effectuate the proper and streamlined administration of justice; and to bring litigation to an end.” In addition, the doctrine applies, for the most part, specifically with respect to a court adhering to prior decisions within the same case. In other words, although multiple petitions may be filed in a given case, they are essentially cumulative and are not evaluated in isolation from the rest of the case. While the doctrine does not disallow a court from reconsidering prior decisions within case, it is certainly within its appropriate discretion to refuse to do so in order to maintain consistency and uniformity.

Equitable estoppel functions very similarly to the law of the case doctrine. Pursuant to estoppel, “a party to an action is estopped from assuming a position inconsistent with his or her assertion in a previous action, if his or her contention was successfully maintained.”

In applying the principles above, the court noted that the wife has taken inconsistent positions regarding the MSA throughout the litigation of the divorce matter. Sometimes she sought enforcement of it and, indeed, did so successfully at times. Other times she filed for husband’s alleged contempt of it. Still, at other times, she argued it should be void or unenforceable or was the result of mistake or duress. The case was litigated for a year and a half before the wife began questioning the validity of the MSA despite the fact that multiple other petitions were filed and argued assuming its validity. As she attempted to enforce the MSA, without questioning its validity, and the court ruled on the same, she cannot now, suddenly and late in the litigation, change course and argue that the MAS is somehow unenforceable. Not only have prior court rulings been made on the good faith of the wife’s arguments, her suddenly raising directly inconsistent arguments undermines the legitimacy of her prior arguments and the rulings thereon. Furthermore, it puts the husband into an untenable position of committing to arguments against the wife that he may not have advanced in light of the wife’s sudden reversal. It was clear the wife raised her new arguments due to her lack of success with her prior arguments.

Ultimately, then, it is vitally important for litigants and practitioners to settle on a theory of a case and adhere to it throughout as, otherwise, the court, and certainly the other party, will take notice of a party raising inconsistent and mutually exclusive arguments later in the litigation of a case as compared to its beginning. Obviously while new information is typically learned and discovered during litigation which can legitimately result in modifying one’s arguments, the position or posture of a party to an essential and known element of case, say the enforceability of a marital agreement, is something that needs to be established early on, and there is limited ability to change or reverse course once a party commits to one.

Originally published on October 3, 2017 in The Legal Intelligencer and can be found here and reprinted in the Pennsylvania Family Lawyer for its October 2017 edition (Volume 39, No. 3) (see here).

God, Slave, Scapegoat

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Splice Today by my old philosophy professor Dr. Crispin Sartwell from back in my Penn State days which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Watching cable news and reading op-ed pages, you get the feeling that there’s only one question at this historical moment: what will the President say? People didn’t seem particularly worried about what the events in Charlottesville show about American culture or the shape of American history, what they show about all of us, or how we should react to them, if at all. They were worried only about how Donald Trump responded.

They spent all weekend—as though this were explanatory, or was itself the breaking story, or was the most important set of events—talking about what Trump didn’t say, what he should’ve said, what he really meant, and so on. They went over his statements and tweets word by word for hours, and wrote scripts for him of what they would’ve liked him to say. Many blamed him for the whole set of events and hence the deaths and injuries.

At moments like this, as several thousand pundits have observed, you need leadership. At any rate, people who say things like that show that they themselves desperately need it. They are, obviously, obsessively concerned to find someone to tell themselves and you how to feel or what to say about any particular matter. It often absurdly narrows down to a cult of the presidency, and half of every news story, no matter how remote from the White House, is about how the president responded.

One thing about pundits on television: they really, really want to be led. They’re always looking around for someone to tell us what to do, how to feel, what to say. They think that’s a necessary condition of a social life and a common culture, and the basic question isn’t who we are or who they themselves are or what we think or what they themselves think, but what the president says.

I don’t know whether the country cries out for leadership, really, but Cornell William Brooks or Van Jones or Thomas Roberts sure does, and events are only real or significant as they are represented by “the President of the United States,” who is supposed, cosmically, to be all of us together, or to have the power to shape reality with his words, who is the God that can redeem or destroy us.

Then again, they want to operate the leader like a sock puppet. They are outraged that he didn’t use the term “white supremacy,” talking instead about racism, for example. Many people on television just dictated what he should’ve said aloud, which makes you wonder whether there’s any real point in him saying it. The leader is imagined both as god and as slave. It’s hard to grasp the psychology: I want someone to tell me what to believe; as they do, I want to dictate to them what to say.

That the conversation lurched onto this one topic and fixated there shows why there’s really no hope for creatures like us. We don’t want to deal with race, with history, with one another or with ourselves; we just want someone to murmur reassuring words and make us feel inspired. Then, when things go wrong, we want someone to blame. Often these turn out to be the same person.

The leader is god and slave, but also scapegoat. We might think of Hitler, for example, who allegedly mesmerized the German people into participating in the holocaust with his super-human powers, and then retroactively took on an infinite responsibility for a situation that millions of people created together. Trump’s tone, or his travel ban, “emboldens” actual white supremacists. If a leader tells us what to do, or somehow determines who we are, then each of us is not responsible for what we are all in fact doing together.

How you can look at events like those in Charlottesville and work it primarily as a story about how Trump reacted is beyond me; it’s certainly no way for CNN or anyone else to cover an actual breaking news story. The obsession with Trump, whether he’s the embodiment of American hope or the white nationalist destroyer, shows little but how desperate and incoherent we are, at once servile and imperious.

Instead of focusing obsessively on whom to follow and whom to blame, or finding someone to re-narrate us into a story of hope, we’re going to have to deal with our own racial and political polarization, which is lurching into violence. Donald Trump is just another chump, like Barack Obama or John Kennedy or Warren G. Harding. He can’t save you or damn you, and the situation we are making together is the responsibility of each and all of us.

Originally published on August 14, 2017 in Splice Today and can be found here.

 

 

Redemption Available Immediately After a Sheriff’s Sale

In the recent matter of City of Philadelphia v. F.A. Realty Investors Corp., 95 A.3d 377 (Pa.Cmwlth.2014), the Court had the opportunity to tackle a matter of first impression when interpreting 53 P.S. Section 7293 with regard to when a property owner may redeem his property after a sheriff’s sale.

In F.A., the piece of real estate at issue (“the Property”) was subject to a tax delinquency which led to an order by the trial court to sell the Property at a sheriff’s sale in order to satisfy the aforesaid tax delinquency. Not long after the order was entered, the Property was sold at sheriff’s sale. Immediately after the sale, Defendant filed to redeem the Property, but its petition to do so was dismissed by the trial court.

According to 53 P.S. 7293, a property owner may redeem a property sold at sheriff’s sale “at any time within nine months from the date of the acknowledgment of the sheriff’s deed therefore, upon payment of the amount bid at such sale.” The City of Philadelphia argued that Defendant’s immediate action to redeem the Property was premature as it acted prior to the acknowledgment of the deed. The trial court agreed with the City’s interpretation and application of the statute when it dismissed Defendant’s petition.

When interpreting the statute cited above, the Court first noted that, per 1 Pa.C.S. Sections 1921 and 1922, and the cases decided thereunder, statutory construction ought not lead to an absurd result, and when there is ambiguity in the language of a statute, the court may look to the intent of the legislature to help provide interpretive guidance. The Court also explained that the redemption statute is to be liberally construed in order to effect justice, pointing out that the purpose of sheriffs’ sales is not to strip a property owner of his real estate, but simply to collect on municipal claims.

Defendant argued that making them wait until the sheriff’s deed is acknowledged would likely, and unjustly, lead to unnecessary additional fees, costs, taxes, and/or interest and, therefore, its prompt action could avoid these costs.

The Court observed that the applicable statute has at least two interpretations. The first being that the phrase “at any time” literally means at any time, without regard to when the acknowledgment occurs, as long as it is within the nine month time frame. The second interpretation begins the nine month period for redemption at the time of acknowledgment.

As the language is, in the Court’s view, ambiguous, it looked to legislative intent and, on that basis concluded that the legislature would not try and increase a property owner’s difficulty to redeem property. Indeed, a property owner may retain possession of a house sold at sheriff’s sale until the sale is completed by the acknowledgment and delivery of the deed obtained at the sale. As a result, the Court believed it would be an absurd result to disallow a property owner from redeeming his property while he is in possession of it simply because the deed had technically not been acknowledged.

Finally, Pennsylvania law prohibits the redemption of a vacant property after the date of acknowledgment. In light of the above, namely that absurd results are to be avoided and that the purpose of sheriffs’ sales is not to strip someone of his property but merely to ensure municipal claims are satisfied, it would seem that the City of Philadelphia’s arguments would disallow someone from redeeming a vacant property at all. In other words, if a property is vacant, an owner cannot redeem it after acknowledgment and, if the City’s interpretation of 53 P.S. 7293 is correct, he would not be able to redeem it before either, and this would be an absurd result, not to mention an unjust one, preventing an owner from redeeming his property.

So, in sum, in light of the above, and after review of the applicable statutes, the Court ruled that a property owner can redeem his property sold at sheriff’s sale at any time up to nine months after acknowledgment of the sale.

Originally published in Upon Further Review on June 7, 2017 and can be found here.

I’m a Pediatrician. How Transgender Ideology Has Infiltrated My Field and Produced Large-Scale Child Abuse.

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in the Daily Signal which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Transgender politics have taken Americans by surprise, and caught some lawmakers off guard.

Just a few short years ago, not many could have imagined a high-profile showdown over transgender men and women’s access to single-sex bathrooms in North Carolina.

But transgender ideology is not just infecting our laws. It is intruding into the lives of the most innocent among us—children—and with the apparent growing support of the professional medical community.

As explained in my 2016 peer reviewed article, “Gender Dysphoria in Children and Suppression of Debate,” professionals who dare to question the unscientific party line of supporting gender transition therapy will find themselves maligned and out of a job.

I speak as someone intimately familiar with the pediatric and behavioral health communities and their practices. I am a mother of four who served 17 years as a board certified general pediatrician with a focus in child behavioral health prior to leaving clinical practice in 2012.

For the last 12 years, I have been a board member and researcher for the American College of Pediatricians, and for the last three years I have served as its president.

I also sat on the board of directors for the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity from 2010 to 2015. This organization of physicians and mental health professionals defends the right of patients to receive psychotherapy for sexual identity conflicts that is in line with their deeply held values based upon science and medical ethics.

I have witnessed an upending of the medical consensus on the nature of gender identity. What doctors once treated as a mental illness, the medical community now largely affirms and even promotes as normal.

Here’s a look at some of the changes.

The New Normal

Pediatric “gender clinics” are considered elite centers for affirming children who are distressed by their biological sex. This distressful condition, once dubbed gender identity disorder, was renamed “gender dysphoria” in 2013.

In 2014, there were 24 of these gender clinics, clustered chiefly along the east coast and in California. One year later, there were 40 across the nation.

With 215 pediatric residency programs now training future pediatricians in a transition-affirming protocol and treating gender-dysphoric children accordingly, gender clinics are bound to proliferate further.

Last summer, the federal government stated that it would not require Medicare and Medicaid to cover transition-affirming procedures for children or adults because medical experts at the Department of Health and Human Services found the risks were often too high, and the benefits too unclear.

Undeterred by these findings, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health has pressed ahead, claiming—without any evidence—that these procedures are “safe.”

Two leading pediatric associations—the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Endocrine Society—have followed in lockstep, endorsing the transition affirmation approach even as the latter organization concedes within its own guidelines that the transition-affirming protocol is based on low evidence.

They even admit that the only strong evidence regarding this approach is its potential health risks to children.

The transition-affirming view holds that children who “consistently and persistently insist” that they are not the gender associated with their biological sex are innately transgender.

(The fact that in normal life and in psychiatry, anyone who “consistently and persistently insists” on anything else contrary to physical reality is considered either confused or delusional is conveniently ignored.)

The transition-affirming protocol tells parents to treat their children as the gender they desire, and to place them on puberty blockers around age 11 or 12 if they are gender dysphoric.

If by age 16, the children still insist that they are trapped in the wrong body, they are placed on cross-sex hormones, and biological girls may obtain a double mastectomy.

So-called “bottom surgeries,” or genital reassignment surgeries, are not recommended before age 18, though some surgeons have recently argued against this restriction.

The transition-affirming approach has been embraced by public institutions in media, education, and our legal system, and is now recommended by most national medical organizations.

There are exceptions to this movement, however, in addition to the American College of Pediatricians and the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice. These include the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, the Catholic Medical Association, and the LGBT-affirming Youth Gender Professionals.

The transgender movement has gained legs in the medical community and in our culture by offering a deeply flawed narrative. The scientific research and facts tell a different story.

Here are some of those basic facts.

1. Twin studies prove no one is born “trapped in the body of the wrong sex.”

Some brain studies have suggested that some are born with a transgendered brain. But these studies are seriously flawed and prove no such thing.

Virtually everything about human beings is influenced by our DNA, but very few traits are hardwired from birth. All human behavior is a composite of varying degrees for nature and nurture.

Researchers routinely conduct twin studies to discern which factors (biological or nonbiological) contribute more to the expression of a particular trait. The best designed twin studies are those with the greatest number of subjects.

Identical twins contain 100 percent of the same DNA from conception and are exposed to the same prenatal hormones. So if genes and/or prenatal hormones contributed significantly to transgenderism, we should expect both twins to identify as transgender close to 100 percent of the time.

Skin color, for example, is determined by genes alone. Therefore, identical twins have the same skin color 100 percent of the time.

But in the largest study of twin transgender adults, published by Dr. Milton Diamond in 2013, only 28 percent of the identical twins both identified as transgender. Seventy-two percent of the time, they differed. (Diamond’s study reported 20 percent identifying as transgender, but his actual data demonstrate a 28 percent figure, as I note here in footnote 19.)

That 28 percent of identical twins both identified as transgender suggests a minimal biological predisposition, which means transgenderism will not manifest itself without outside nonbiological factors also impacting the individual during his lifetime.

The fact that the identical twins differed 72 percent of the time is highly significant because it means that at least 72 percent of what contributes to transgenderism in one twin consists of nonshared experiences after birth—that is, factors not rooted in biology.

Studies like this one prove that the belief in “innate gender identity”—the idea that “feminized” or “masculinized” brains can be trapped in the wrong body from before birth—is a myth that has no basis in science.

2. Gender identity is malleable, especially in young children.

Even the American Psychological Association’s Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology admits that prior to the widespread promotion of transition affirmation, 75 to 95 percent of pre-pubertal children who were distressed by their biological sex eventually outgrew that distress. The vast majority came to accept their biological sex by late adolescence after passing naturally through puberty.

But with transition affirmation now increasing in Western society, the number of children claiming distress over their gender—and their persistence over time—has dramatically increased. For example, the Gender Identity Development Service in the United Kingdom alone has seen a 2,000 percent increase in referrals since 2009.

3. Puberty blockers for gender dysphoria have not been proven safe.

Puberty blockers have been studied and found safe for the treatment of a medical disorder in children called precocious puberty (caused by the abnormal and unhealthy early secretion of a child’s pubertal hormones).

However, as a groundbreaking paper in The New Atlantis points out, we cannot infer from these studies whether or not these blockers are safe in physiologically normal children with gender dysphoria.

The authors note that there is some evidence for decreased bone mineralization, meaning an increased risk of bone fractures as young adults, potential increased risk of obesity and testicular cancer in boys, and an unknown impact upon psychological and cognitive development.

With regard to the latter, while we currently don’t have any extensive, long-term studies of children placed on blockers for gender dysphoria, studies conducted on adults from the past decade give cause for concern.

For example, in 2006 and 2007, the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology reported brain abnormalities in the area of memory and executive functioning among adult women who received blockers for gynecologic reasons. Similarly, many studies of men treated for prostate cancer with blockers also suggest the possibility of significant cognitive decline.

4. There are no cases in the scientific literature of gender-dysphoric children discontinuing blockers.

Most, if not all, children on puberty blockers go on to take cross-sex hormones (estrogen for biological boys, testosterone for biological girls). The only study to date to have followed pre-pubertal children who were socially affirmed and placed on blockers at a young age found that 100 percent of them claimed a transgender identity and chose cross-sex hormones.

This suggests that the medical protocol itself may lead children to identify as transgender.

There is an obvious self-fulfilling effect in helping children impersonate the opposite sex both biologically and socially. This is far from benign, since taking puberty blockers at age 12 or younger, followed by cross-sex hormones, sterilizes a child.

5. Cross-sex hormones are associated with dangerous health risks.

From studies of adults we know that the risks of cross-sex hormones include, but are not limited to, cardiac disease, high blood pressure, blood clots, strokes, diabetes, and cancers.

6. Neuroscience shows that adolescents lack the adult capacity needed for risk assessment.

Scientific data show that people under the age of 21 have less capacity to assess risks. There is a serious ethical problem in allowing irreversible, life-changing procedures to be performed on minors who are too young themselves to give valid consent.

7. There is no proof that affirmation prevents suicide in children.

Advocates of the transition-affirming protocol allege that suicide is the direct and inevitable consequence of withholding social affirmation and biological alterations from a gender-dysphoric child. In other words, those who do not endorse the transition-affirming protocol are essentially condemning gender-dysphoric children to suicide.

Yet as noted earlier, prior to the widespread promotion of transition affirmation, 75 to 95 percent of gender-dysphoric youth ended up happy with their biological sex after simply passing through puberty.

In addition, contrary to the claim of activists, there is no evidence that harassment and discrimination, let alone lack of affirmation, are the primary cause of suicide among any minority group. In fact, at least one study from 2008 found perceived discrimination by LGBT-identified individuals not to be causative.

Over 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a diagnosed mental disorder, and there is no evidence that gender-dysphoric children who commit suicide are any different. Many gender dysphoric children simply need therapy to get to the root of their depression, which very well may be the same problem triggering the gender dysphoria.

8. Transition-affirming protocol has not solved the problem of transgender suicide.

Adults who undergo sex reassignment—even in Sweden, which is among the most LGBT-affirming countries—have a suicide rate nearly 20 times greater than that of the general population. Clearly, sex reassignment is not the solution to gender dysphoria.

Bottom Line: Transition-Affirming Protocol Is Child Abuse

The crux of the matter is that while the transition-affirming movement purports to help children, it is inflicting a grave injustice on them and their nondysphoric peers.

These professionals are using the myth that people are born transgender to justify engaging in massive, uncontrolled, and unconsented experimentation on children who have a psychological condition that would otherwise resolve after puberty in the vast majority of cases.

Today’s institutions that promote transition affirmation are pushing children to impersonate the opposite sex, sending many of them down the path of puberty blockers, sterilization, the removal of healthy body parts, and untold psychological damage.

These harms constitute nothing less than institutionalized child abuse. Sound ethics demand an immediate end to the use of pubertal suppression, cross-sex hormones, and sex reassignment surgeries in children and adolescents, as well as an end to promoting gender ideology via school curricula and legislative policies.

It is time for our nation’s leaders and the silent majority of health professionals to learn exactly what is happening to our children, and unite to take action.

By Michelle Cretella and published in the Daily Signal on July 3, 2017 and can be found here.

In support of the above, Dr. Cretella said this:

The United Shapes of Arithmetic: An American Flag

Nathan Rudolph, my friend and fellow parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, has started a comic strip which I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated.  With his permission, I will repost them here after he posts them.  I think my readers will appreciate them as much as I do as they are rather insightful with a snarky edge.  Enjoy!

Here are the links to the previously posted strips:

Here is the latest strip:

https://scontent-lga3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/22366786_1327520117354599_8274247563828994579_n.jpg?oh=36d6386cb8d3789943e6b20517d9e95f&oe=5A41D371

Way beyond the New Atheist Nonsense

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in First Things which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Given the intellectual flimsiness of their work, it’s best to look for cultural causes to explain the popularity of the “New Atheists.” And surely one factor is the now-canonical notion in Western high culture that biblical religion is incompatible with modern natural science—an idea rooted in the notion that the “scientific method” is the only way to get at the truth. (William Shakespeare, call your office.)

Yet facts are stubborn things. And the fact is that two Catholic priests, Gregor Mendel, O.S.A., and Georges Lemaitre, were pivotal figures in creating two of the most important scientific enterprises of the twenty-first century: modern genetics, which is giving humanity previously unimaginable powers over the human future; and modern cosmology, which is giving us glimpses of the universe in the first moments of its existence.

Mendel is perhaps the more familiar figure; most high school biology classes explain how the Moravian monk developed gene theory and the theory of inherited characteristics (with its distinction between recessive and dominant traits) from his studies of the humble pea. Lemaitre, a Belgian, was a brilliant mathematician who first articulated the Big Bang theory of the universe’s origins and subsequent expansion. That proposal, ridiculed by some at first, now reigns supreme in astrophysics and seems to have been verified by the astonishing work of the Hubble Space Telescope. Watch for Father Lemaitre’s bold idea to gain even further traction from the findings of the James Webb Space Telescope when it begins orbiting the sun, a million miles from Earth, in a few years.

So unless one wishes to assert that Mendel and Lemaitre were split personalities who said Mass in the morning and did science in the afternoon, thereby dividing their lives into hermetically-sealed containers, the cutting edges of modern science itself would seem to rebut the claim that “believer” and “scientist” are mutually incompatible human types.

St. John Paul II was fascinated by the hard sciences (physics, chemistry, astronomy) throughout his life; for decades, he hosted at Castel Gandolfo a bi-annual seminar of leading figures in those fields, so that he could keep abreast of developments in their disciplines. But for John Paul II, everything eventually pointed to the New Evangelization. So even before he began using that term, he sent a letter to the head of the Vatican Observatory, noting that “those members of the Church who are either themselves active scientists, or in some special cases both scientists and theologians, could serve as a key resource” in bridging the chasm that too often separates modern science and biblical religion. Those scientists and scientist-theologians, the pope continued, “can also provide a much needed ministry to others struggling to integrate science and religion in their own intellectual and spiritual lives.”

John Paul II’s challenge has now been taken up by the Society of Catholic Scientists. From a standing start last year, the Society now has almost 400 members, 80 percent of whom hold a doctorate in the natural sciences, the rest being primarily graduate students. That’s an impressive head count for such a new outfit; it also suggests that membership in such a Catholic organization is not an impediment to being taken seriously in the highly competitive academic world of natural science. SCS’s inaugural conference in April was addressed by scholars from Harvard, Oxford, MIT, Penn, Brown, and the University of Texas at Austin.

The moving force in organizing the Society has been Dr. Stephen Barr, professor of theoretical particle physics at the University of Delaware. Barr’s engaging and accessible articles have long been familiar to readers of First Things, and those looking for something different by way of vacation reading this summer might pick up the recently-published collection of his essays, The Believing Scientist. There, Barr discusses everything from evolution to the mind/soul debate to Big Bang cosmology to science-as-ersatz-religion, while gently skewering a few luminaries who begin to talk nonsense when they venture beyond their remit as scientists.

The Bible teaches that God impressed his intelligibility onto the world through creation by the Word. When that conviction weakens, faith in reason begins to crumble and the result is the intellectual playpen known as post-modernism. In renewing the covenant between faith and reason, the Society of Catholic Scientists serves the good of both—and of our culture.

By George Weigel and published in First Things on June 14, 2017 and can be found here.

 

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