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NBI Seminar: Child Custody and Visitation Rights: A Petition for Visitation and/or Custody

As I have posted recently (see here), I  had the great opportunity to lead (perhaps “teach”) a continuing legal education seminar hosted by the National Business Institute (a.k.a. NBI, see here).  The subject was “Family Law From A to Z” and I had opportunity to speak on two main topics in particular: Custody and Ethics.  I was joined by four other capable attorneys who each had their own topics to present.

Although NBI published the materials, I retain the ownership of the portions I wrote, which I will post here in this blog.

Copied below are the materials I wrote for the section entitled “Child Custody and Visitation Rights: A Petition for Visitation and/or Custody.”

Thanks!

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CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION RIGHTS

  1. A. Petition for Visitation and/or Custody

Like nearly any other court case, all custody actions – regardless of how much custody is being sought (e.g.: primary, partial, or visitation, etc) – begin with the filing a complaint.  The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure provide for a standard form for a complaint, which can be found in Pa.R.C.P. Rule 1915.15 and 1915.16.

The various county courts in the Philadelphia area offer forms for custody complaints, and they can be found at the following websites:

 

  • Elements of a Complaint

As one can see from reviewing the forms mentioned above, a standard complaint for custody is to include, more or less, the following information:

Unlike a civil complaint, very little additional information or advocacy needs to be included in the complaint for custody.  The opportunity to advance additional information and/or advocacy is when interacting with the opposing party or attorney and/or at a hearing scheduled pursuant to the filing of the Complaint.  The purpose of the custody complaint is merely to get the most basic information before the court: who the case involves, what the Plaintiff wants, and an assertion that no other court has jurisdiction.

When requesting relief in the complaint, it is important to use the proper language which best describes why the Plaintiff is seeking.  23 Pa.C.S.A. §5322 lays out the terms and their definitions.  Pursuant 23 Pa.C.S.A. §5322, the relevant terms are as follows (as quoted directly from the statute):

  • legal custody: the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.
  • sole legal custody: the right of one individual to exclusive legal custody of the child.
  • shared legal custody: the right of more than one individual to legal custody of the child.
  • physical custody: the actual physical possession and control of a child.
  • sole physical custody: the right of one individual to exclusive physical custody of the child.
  • primary physical custody: the right to assume physical custody of the child for the majority of time.
  • shared physical custody: the right of more than one individual to assume physical custody of the child, each having significant periods of physical custodial time with the child.
  • partial physical custody: the right to assume physical custody of the child for less than a majority of the time.
  • supervised physical custody: custodial time during which an agency or an adult designated by the court or agreed upon by the parties monitors the interaction between the child and the individual with those rights.
  • In a statutory provision other than in this chapter, when the term “visitation” is often used in reference to child custody, and may be construed to mean:

(1) partial physical custody;

(2) shared physical custody; or

(3) supervised physical custody.

In the vast majority of case, the only issue in dispute is physical custody as, unless there is unusual and/or extenuating custody (e.g.: incarceration, absence, abuse), the parents of a child are both presumed to have a right to shared legal custody.  As defined above, physical custody is when a parent actually has a child personally with him.  By contrast, legal custody is the right of a parent to have access to, and make decisions regarding, important parenting and lifestyle issues.

It is also important to observe the fact that the specific definitions of/for the terms above do not always coincide with popular or colloquial usage.  It is very common for a client, when consulting with his attorney, to use one or more of the terms above without reference to its technical, legal, definition; therefore, it is important to discern precisely what a client is seeking instead of assuming even a vague familiarity, much less a fluency, with the terms mentioned above.  For example, many clients, when consulting with their attorney or filing a custody petition on a pro se basis, frequently indicate they are seeking “full custody” of their children, despite the fact that no such designation exists; similarly, they often refer to “sole custody” in the same way.  In addition, it is not uncommon for someone to use the term “visitation” when he really means “partial custody.”  So, it is important to discern what the client actually means sometimes despite the precise words being used.

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Speed cameras for Roosevelt Blvd. face hard road in Pa. legislature

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  Evidently Philadelphia is trying to install speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard.  Thankfully the efforts to install them may not be fruitful as described in the article below.

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Philadelphia planners hope speed cameras will play a significant role in the city’s effort to make streets safer, but first, the technology needs to be legalized. 

The path to legalization might be a rough one.

The effort was the focus of a panel Thursday morning at the Center City law offices of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads that was equal parts policy discussion, rally, and fund-raising event. The event was designed to boost support for pending legislation to allow the city to install speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard.

“It is absolutely necessary, and I don’t know another way to slow people down,” said Republican State Rep. John Taylor of Philadelphia, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Philadelphia has about 100 traffic-related fatalities a year (93 in 2017), and typically 10 percent happen on the Boulevard, she said. Of the nine fatal crashes on the Boulevard last year, seven involved pedestrians.

If authorized, cameras would snap an image of any vehicle driving 11 mph over the speed limit. The fine would be $150 for a first offense. The Boulevard would have up to nine speed cameras along nearly 12 miles, advertised by warning signs every two miles.

The legislation has been approved by the House transportation committee, which Taylor chairs. The challenge, he said, will be convincing House leadership to list the bill for a vote. That would need to happen by spring to give time for a vote in this legislative session, he said.

And there’s another deadline approaching: Taylor, who has championed the bill, is retiring when his term expires this year.

Taylor also noted the political landscape in Harrisburg, which just completed a grueling budget process. The Pennsylvania House speaker, Republican Mike Turzai, is running for governor, and the majority leader, Republican Dave Reed, is running for Congress.

In that environment, he said, getting legislators to focus on a bill that will result in more speeding violations for their constituents is a tough sell. Taylor has combined the  authorization for cameras on the Boulevard with another proposal for the cameras to be used on highway work zones to protect workers, something he thinks will be more palatable to legislators.

The Vision Zero Alliance, which is pushing safe streets efforts in Philadelphia, has hired a lobbying firm, Arena Strategies, to promote the bill and pitched to business leaders at Thursday’s session the need for $50,000 to fund the effort, said Jason Duckworth, a developer and member of the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance.

One of the most horrific crashes on the Boulevard killed a woman and three of her children. Samara Banks, 27, was crossing Roosevelt Boulevard with her sister and four children in July 2013 when she was struck by a car that had been drag racing. The driver of that vehicle was found guilty of homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment, though convictions on third-degree murder were later reversed by an appeals judge.

“There’s people who don’t agree with the speed cameras,” said LaTanya Byrd, Banks’ aunt, who spoke at Thursday’s event. “We all want our lives to be safe. I just feel like we need to do this.”

Byrd noted that some call the road “the Killovard.”

Among the opponents is Thomas McCarey of the National Motorists Association, who says speed cameras are primarily a revenue generator for government. Making roads safer, he said, could be accomplished by timing traffic lights differently, adding more traffic enforcement, and putting crosswalks underground.

The Pennsylvania bill is written to keep the cameras from being a revenue generator, said Jana Tidwell, a spokeswoman from AAA. It ensures that the contractor responsible for the cameras would not make more money if more violations are issued, requires signs posted on roads to warn drivers that speed cameras are active in the area, and specifies that all revenue would go to the state’s motor vehicle license fund, she said.

The speed camera program would likely be operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which is now responsible for the red light cameras in Philadelphia. Fifty of Philadelphia’s 134 red-light cameras are at nine Boulevard intersections, and violations have dropped there. Tidwell has said the cameras decreased right-angle crashes at those intersections.

The program, however, was marred by technical problems and mismanagement in 2016. Poorly calibrated cameras generated hundreds of thousands of false violations, which then had to be weeded out by PPA workers. That cost the agency $123,000 in overtime payments in 2016.

“Speed cameras will be an even bigger failure,” McCarey said. “Speed cameras won’t stop the 3 percent of wanton speeders endangering us all, only traffic cops can.”

Overtime costs were significantly lower in 2017 after adjustments made to the cameras, PPA officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board studied the role of speed in fatal crashes and found it was a factor in almost a third of all traffic-related deaths nationwide from 2005 to 2014. The federal transportation watchdog recommended speed cameras as an effective way to slow down drivers, noting another study found the cameras reduced all crashes by 49 percent and serious injuries and deaths by 44 percent.

If the House passes the speed camera bill, it would need to go back to the Senate for a vote on amendments and then return to the House for a final approval before going to the governor.

By: Jason Laughlin, originally published on January 25, 2018 in the Philadelphia Inquirer and can be seen here.

 

 

 

The Process of Subsidiarity

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

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Many critics of distributism claim that what we want to achieve would require the expansion of state power and that we really want an all powerful state. What we actually advocate is the decentralization of government power. We want to distribute the various powers of government as close to the local level as can be practically achieved. This is because we promote the principle known as “subsidiarity.” Subsidiarity states that,

“A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view of the common good.”                                      – Pope St. John Paul II

That sounds great, but how would it work?

Subsidiarity goes beyond the typical “states’ rights” argument put forward by the political conservatives of the United States of America. While some in the USA who argue for states’ rights might regard it as a necessary first step to further decentralization of government authority, others voice a “let the states decide” attitude which seems to indicate that their only real objection to certain government laws is the fact that it is the federal government imposing them. Their statements suggest that the same laws would be fine if imposed at the state level without any further decentralization of authority. Listening to some of their arguments seems to give the impression that they don’t really recognize that the centralization of power, even to the state government, makes government less democratic. The more power gets centralized, the more undemocratic the government becomes. They only seem to be concerned when the exercise of power crosses the line from state to federal authority. In reality, however, it is only at the local level that the average citizen really has a voice. Therefore, the more localized the authority, the more democratic the society.

The sad truth is that so many of us have become too accustomed to the idea that the higher levels of government is where problems really get solved. We pay more attention to state and federal elections than to local ones precisely because the authority which naturally belongs at the local level has been usurped by state and federal governments. “I will write my congressman,” and “I’ll take this all the way to the Supreme Court” became the reaction, and the reality, of how we view the political process. While we in the USA believe ourselves to be a bastion of democracy, we have allowed (and assisted) the gradual stripping of our democratic voice. This has gone beyond the making of our laws and the defending of our rights, but even to how we assist those in need. As a society, we have gotten to the point that we automatically look to higher and higher levels of government to resolve even local issues. It is sad, but it seems that most people believe that the higher the level of government, the broader its scope of authority.

Distributism, on the other hand, argues that the higher the level of government, the narrower its scope of authority. The question is how this can be applied in a practical and workable way. While there may be variations in application due to cultural differences in different regions, a basic outline can be presented as a starting point. The foundation of this outline is to understand the “orders of society” and their relationship to each other.

The “lowest” order of society is the family, not because it is the least important but because it is the most. It is the very foundation of society. Above that are religious, occupational and social groups which are free institutions for the mutual support and benefit of their members. The remaining “orders of society” would refer to the different levels of government starting with the local community and moving up from there, each fulfilling only those functions that, by their nature, cannot be fulfilled by the level immediately below it. From the distributist perspective, local issues should be handled as locally as possible. Even if an issue exists across a larger region, each locality should be left to direct how to handle it within its jurisdictional boundary to the greatest extent possible, even if assistance is needed from higher levels of society. This is a fundamental concept to understand about subsidiarity.

When an issue arises that needs to be addressed, the level of society where that issue arises is the natural point where the issue should be addressed. In cases where it cannot be addressed there, the members of that level would petition the next higher level of the orders of society for assistance. Therefore, if a family is in financial need and needs immediate assistance, they should naturally turn to those societal organizations like church, work association (guild) or other social organizations for assistance. If a particular vocation needs a school to provide training in the skills it needs, it should first look to the members of that vocational guild. If it cannot provide for itself, it can look to other guilds of the same vocation, or even discuss combining resources with other guilds to establish schools to meet their combined needs.

It is only if these first attempts cannot resolve the issue that governmental bodies should get involved, and then only by petition of the immediate lower level. If, for example, a lot of families in the community needed assistance and churches and other local associations found themselves unable to adequately provide that assistance, they could raise the issue to the city or to related organizations in other areas. If a city was not able to address an issue, it could ask nearby cities for assistance or raise the issue to the county. In this way, each level of society would render assistance based on the need asserted by the level immediately below it, and that assistance would not usurp any functions of the lower orders of society even if the higher order needs to coordinate the activities of the lower orders due to the nature of the situation at hand, like a natural disaster.

This process keeps as much authority as possible at the local level and, by doing so, preserves the ability of citizens to effectively curtail the usurpation of authority by higher levels of government. Because the greatest level of influence is the most local level, and because the individual citizen’s vote has its greatest influence at the most local level, this process preserves the greatest level of democracy for all.

Tactical Retreat: Lonely Man II

My friend and co-worker Brian M. Lambert has founded an online sketch comedy project called Tactical Retreat which you can find here on Facebook and here on Youtube.

As Tactical Retreat releases new videos, I will post them here.  So far, I have found them rather funny and clever and they seem to get better with each release.

Here are the links to Tactical Retreat‘s previously released sketches:

Some women don’t want reproductive rights. I’m one of them.

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

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Many women are disgusted with the Republican Party, for not-so-mysterious reasons. That has left many liberals hoping for landslide victories in 2018 and beyond. They should moderate their expectations. As much as Republicans’ behavior offends many women, there will always be some women who find the Democrats more unpalatable still. And abortion is the biggest reason why. Some women simply won’t consider supporting a party that trumpets its commitment to “abortion rights.”

I should know. I’m one of them.

Pro-life women are not especially rare. About 38 percent of American women believe that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Women have long been central to pro-life activism, marching in rallies and running crisis pregnancy centers. This can all be quite difficult for progressives to understand. Why would anyone want to be forced to bear children against her will? Why aren’t pro-life women interested in retaining control of their own bodies?

Too often, the left simply dismisses pro-life women as pawns of the patriarchylazy elitists, or victims of internalized misogyny. It’s tough to gain insight into anyone’s perspective if you begin from such unflattering starting points. So let’s approach the issue another way and ask: What do pro-life women actually value?

Virtually everyone appreciates that pregnant women have needs that must be considered when we’re crafting policy on abortion. There are significant differences, however, between a stance that looks to balance those needs against the interests of the developing child, and one that prioritizes the mother’s autonomy absolutely. However much they soft-pedal the gorier details, defenders of abortion rights are mostly committed to the second. That becomes pretty evident when they oppose any and all restrictions on abortion, and regularly decry the injustice of denying a woman her “right to choose.”

We can debate when exactly human life begins — but we cannot debate that it naturally begins inside the female body. Every one of us was, at some early point in our personal history, dependent on a human woman for physical survival. How then should we think about the rights and obligations of the “bonded” mother and child?

We could see them both as precious human beings deserving of legal protection. Our laws and mores could then try to balance those interests, valuing the developing child while still recognizing the mother as a person with her own rights.

Alternatively, we might note that the dependency relation only goes in one direction. The developing child is physically dependent on his mother, but she’s not dependent on him. Must she accept an involuntary relationship that potentially lays serious burdens on her?

Abortion-rights advocates note that only women can be saddled with these burdens, which hardly seems fair. Thus, it seems fitting to them that a woman be guaranteed access to abortion-providing facilities. It’s her body, and her right to choose.

The positions I’ve outlined above are clearly different. Nevertheless, defenders of legalized abortion seem anxious to combine them. In the ongoing debate over 20-week abortion bans, we are told again and again that late-term abortions are rare, emotionally fraught, and sought for serious reasons (probably involving a severe fetal abnormality). It’s easy to appreciate the rhetorical value of these reassurances. If women can simply be trusted to make morally serious decisions about their own pregnancies, the gulf between the autonomy-based approach and the balancing approach becomes inconsequential.

But pro-life women look at America’s abortion rate and simply don’t believe that the unborn are adequately protected by the wisdom of mother-knows-best. Here are the latest stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

In 2014, 652,639 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2014 was 12.1 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 186 abortions per 1,000 live births. [CDC]

Most pro-life women understand that some pregnant women are in emotional turmoil, and may have grossly inadequate networks of support (perhaps in part because their connections largely assume that they can avoid the burdens of pregnancy through abortion). But we also know that women can simply be selfish, prioritizing personal goals over the very life of another human being. In light of those factors, it’s clear enough that the autonomy-based approach has costs. Pro-lifers deem those costs unacceptable. They aren’t fooled by casual references to abortion as “health care,” as though only one of the involved persons really counted.

Pro-life women tend to have strong convictions (both political and personal) about the preciousness of babies and children. They view themselves as having real and serious obligations to their offspring that extend well before birth. Many are mothers, perhaps to sizable families. They find tremendous meaning in their role as perpetuators of the species, and defenders of the weakest and most helpless of human beings. To these pro-life women, the language of “reproductive rights” is not empowering. It’s degrading and belittling.

It’s remarkable how little pro-choice feminists seem to appreciate this. The point shouldn’t actually be so confusing, given liberals’ sustained interest in identity as a foundation for self-worth. Choice can be pleasant sometimes, but it can also be maddening or insulting if the ostensible “options” ignore serious constraints or commitments. Are gays and lesbians typically delighted when traditionalists suggest that they could choose to marry someone of the opposite sex? Do the indigent enjoy being reminded that they are nominally free to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or get their finances in order? To someone with grave moral or material concerns, assurance of a “right to choose” can seem positively flippant. It just comes across as a callous reminder that they and their concerns are not taken seriously.

Progressive feminists aren’t likely to embrace this more traditional perspective on femininity. To them, the vocational view of maternity will always be “biologically determinist,” unacceptably centered on the body, and unreasonably restrictive to women. Even so, liberals might do well to reflect more deeply on a perspective that motivates millions of their female compatriots. For one thing, it’s just more polite to show respect for the things other people value. For another, it may turn out that women across the political spectrum really do have some widely shared interests, which might become more evident if the left stopped alienating so many with their aggressive stance on abortion.

By Rachel Lu and originally published in The Week on February 14, 2018 and can be found here.

 

Sexually permissive societies always fall, anthropologist says

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

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Published in a highly underrated 1934 book called “Sex and Culture,” the anthropologist J.D. Unwin found a universal correlation between monogamy and a civilization’s “expansive energy.” His aim in the book was to test the Freudian thesis that advanced civilizations were founded upon repression of sexual desire, and a re-channeling of this energy through a defense mechanism Freud called “sublimation.”

A non-Christian, and as relativistic as any modern anthropologist, he insisted that he offered “no opinion about rightness or wrongness” concerning sexual norms. Nevertheless, among the 86 different societies he studied, he not only found monogamy to be correlated with a society’s strength, but came to the sobering conclusion that “In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence.”

In other words, once a society loosened its sexual mores and abandoned monogamy, it began to degenerate and would eventually dissipate away. So much for ‘permissive’ sexual attitudes being “progressive”; the complete opposite of the sexual regression described by Unwin in his research on his study of a society’s regression.

In his own words:

“These societies lived in different geographical environments; they belonged to different racial stocks; but the history of their marriage customs is the same. In the beginning each society had the same ideas in regard to sexual regulations. Then the same struggles took place; the same sentiments were expressed; the same changes were made; the same results ensued. Each society reduced its sexual opportunity to a minimum and displaying great social energy, flourished greatly. Then it extended its sexual opportunity; its energy decreased, and faded away. The one outstanding feature of the whole story is its unrelieved monotony.”

Sumerian, Greek, Roman, Babylonian, Moorish, Anglo-Saxon, and many other societies, all fell shortly after they abandoned sexual chastity. Sexual permissiveness would cause societies to decline unless and until their sexual mores became more rigid.”

The famous writer Aldous Huxley summarized Unwin’s research:

“Unwin’s conclusions, which are based upon an enormous wealth of carefully sifted evidence, may be summed up as follows. All human societies are in one or another of six cultural conditions: zoistic, manistic, deistic, rationalistic, expansive, productive. Of these societies the zoistic displays the least amount of mental and social energy, the productive the most. Investigation shows that the societies exhibiting the least amount of energy are those where pre-nuptial continence is not imposed and where the opportunities for sexual indulgence after marriage are greatest. The cultural condition of a society rises in exact proportion as it imposes pre-nuptial and post-nuptial restraints upon sexual opportunity.”

“In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence.” For Roman, Greek, Sumerian, Moorish, Babylonian, and Anglo-Saxon civilizations, Unwin had several hundred years of history to draw on. He found with no exceptions that these societies flourished during eras that valued sexual fidelity. Inevitably, sexual mores would loosen and the societies would subsequently decline, only to rise again when they returned to more rigid sexual standards.”

You can find the original article here.

https://www.tremr.com/Duck-Rabbit/sexually-permissive-societies-always-fall-anthropologist-says

Distributism vs. Globalism

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

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There has been a tendency over the last several decades toward globalism. This goes beyond the so-called “global economy,” with its free trade deals favoring international banks and corporations. This trend has resulted in the formation of international bureaucracies imposing standards, if not laws, on otherwise sovereign states. While there was always some resistance to this tendency, it has nevertheless progressed to the point that there is now a growing movement of outright rejection. What was initially presented as a path toward peace and harmony is increasingly viewed by common citizens as a growing threat to their freedom and way of life. What is the position of distributism in relation to the idea of globalism?

Globalism is the idea of those who believe they should help direct the development of social, cultural, technological, or economic networks around the world through political influence, and who desire the establishment of international political bodies to govern on an international level. The idea is that, by having multiple people of various cultural and economic backgrounds come together to discuss issues, problems can be resolved effectively and peacefully. Since the resolutions of these bodies can only be effective if they are actually binding, these organizations have to acquire legally recognized legislative authority. This is gladly accepted by the promoters of these organizations who seem to assume that those who run these international legislatures will always see things the same way they do. They hardly ever seem to consider what happens if they don’t. They also don’t seem to care if the policies and laws they desire to establish are actually wanted by the people who will end up being subject to them.

The problem with placing such a wide-ranging authority in the hands of a political body with no political or cultural attachment to the people is that people from different countries have different cultures and customs. They are rightfully proud of them and reject efforts by “those who know better” to toss them aside in the wake of the globalist view of how things should be. They want their own way of doing business, of farming and manufacture, of protecting public health and the environment, of securing civil liberties, of running their schools, of deciding what should be taught in those schools and of deciding how to integrate immigrants into their society. They do not want people who do not share their views of culture and custom to make such decisions for them, and this is precisely what the globalists want to do.

The globalists “negotiate” a one-size-fits-all agreement which actually only appeals to those whose views have a majority representation in the international political organization. In other words, only the globalists really get to decide. This was a significant part of the movement in Great Britain to leave the European Union. The European Union started as a “common market” to work together to help the economies of the separate European countries. It has evolved into an international authority with its own flag, its own anthem, and its legislature makes laws that override the national and local laws of its member states. Even when the decisions of globalist organizations are not legislatively binding, their existence creates a great political pressure for states to comply even if the citizens of the state oppose them. For example, the United Nations not only told Ireland, a sovereign state, that it should change its abortion laws. The politicians in Ireland’s government, led by the U.N. instead of their own people, put it up for a vote. It was resoundingly defeated because the people of Ireland don’t want it. The United Nations even told the Catholic Church to change its religious doctrines according to its view of “child welfare.” There have been cases where globalist organizations have used economic pressure, like denying aide, to try and coerce countries to adopt unwanted policies. By moving the decision-making power further and further away from the people, the political process ultimately becomes less democratic as individual voices become less able to influence decisions that impact their daily lives.

Distributists, on the other hand, would not only promote a country’s sovereign right to direct its own affairs, we also promote that right for political regions and local communities within a country in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.

“A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view of the common good.”

This view provides a foundation for people to preserve their culture and customs and to direct their own lives, and does so while still making room for national assistance when and where needed. It is not an “isolationist” position. It is a view that does not exclude the idea of international cooperation in addressing wider issues, but it does not include relinquishing of sovereignty to permanent international organizations as part of the process.

The world is filled with various cultures and customs, and the people from those cultures who share those customs either love them or will change them on their own. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way of life and of doing things. The purveyors of globalism, even if they don’t start out to do so, ultimately trample on the rights of the people they claim to be helping. The people who say we should “celebrate diversity” are the ones who end up trying to force everyone to be the same. The people who shout the loudest about tolerance end up being the most intolerant of all. They believe they are going to do good, but they end up establishing the very kind of repressive government they claim to hate, using the very tactics they villify. In the end, even though they want peace, they will cause rebellion because the people they claim to be helping will resent them for being oppressive overlords.

July 2018, “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.  The July 2018 issue of The Evangelist is now out which you can read here.

Following the ‘Wiseman’ Standard in Pa. Custody Battles Is Unwise

Although the so-called Wiseman standard, the standard by which shared custody arrangements were determined, stood for many years, the recent Pennsylvania Superior Court case of P.J.P. v. M.M., 2018 Pa. Super. 100, has officially declared the Wiseman standard obsolete and no longer applicable to Pennsylvania child custody matters.

In the matter of P.J.P., a custody case, the father appealed a decision in the trial court regarding his petition to modify a custody order that he believed was not sufficiently favorable for his custody goals.

The father and the mother are a divorced couple who obtained a child custody order in April 2016. This order granted the mother primary physical custody of the child. In January 2017, the father sought more custody, specifically shared physical custody, and filed a petition to modify.

At the trial, in August 2017, the court made many findings of facts that are directly relevant to its ultimate decision to deny granting shared custody to the father. For example, when the mother has custody she sends the father many photographs and videos and encourages the child to call the father. By contrast, the father does not want to call the mother during his custody times and sends no photographs and videos to the mother. The mother further claimed, and the father admitted, that he has insulted the mother in the presence of the child. He also admitted to telling the child to be sure to look up the instant case on Google Scholar when he is older to know what happened during the case. The mother is also conscientious in ensuring that the father has nice gifts from the child for holidays and such, while the father makes only modest efforts to reciprocate. The parties also had disagreements over the procedure and process for dropping the child off at preschool in the morning. The mother claimed the father refused to get the child ready and just dropped him off at her house, while the father claimed the mother “unilaterally” changed the procedure. Co-parenting counseling was also attempted by the parties. Unfortunately, while the mother was trying to fully invest herself in said counseling, The father refused to meaningfully participate, and the counselor believed the counseling was “not going anywhere.” Of course, the father has a different interpretation of much of the above, but the court made its findings, which favored the mother, after a complete review of the facts, testimony and evidence.

On appeal, the father challenged the denial of shared custody, arguing it was contrary to the best interests of the child. The Superior Court first noted that the trial court made certain credibility determinations that were within its discretion. The court then mentioned that child custody is governed by 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 5328, which lays out 16  factors for the court to consider when making a custody determination. Superior Court observed that the trial court analyzed each factor and noted that most were either inapplicable or weighed equally for both; however, there were four factors (namely the likelihood to encourage and permit contact with the other party, availability of extended family, attempts to turn the child against the other parent, and the level of conflict and willingness to cooperate with the other party) which weighed heavily on the mother’s side. No factor weighed heavily on the father’s side.

The father argued that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to apply the Weisman standard. In Weisman v. Wall, 718 A.2d 844 (Pa. Super.1998), the court ruled that courts must make four findings when ruling on shared custody “both parents must be fit, capable of making reasonable child rearing decisions and willing and able to provide love and care for their children; both parents must evidence a continuing desire for active involvement in the child’s life; both parents must be recognized by the child as a source of security and love; a minimal degree of cooperation between the parents must be possible.” The father further argued that since he and the mother, in his view, meet the above four factors, shared custody should be awarded.

Superior Court ruled that the father’s reliance on Weisman is misplaced. As noted above, Weisman was decided in 1998 while Section 5328 became law in 2011. The court does not believe the difference between Weisman and Section 5328 is trivial. Specifically Weisman “required the court, before awarding shared custody, ‘to make at least a minimal finding that the parties were able to cooperate before awarding shared custody” while, under Section 5328, the court “must determine the best interest of the child by considering all relevant factors, including but not limited to, ‘the level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another.”’

Superior Court noted that the plain language of Section 5328 contradicts Weisman. Unlike Weisman, the court is not obliged to make any specific findings before awarding shared custody. Instead, the court must consider all 16 of the relevant factors, and poor cooperation need not be dispositive. In sum, therefore, Superior Court specifically described Weisman as obsolete.

Finally, the court explained that its citing to Weisman in the recent case of R.S. v. T.T., 1133 A.3d 1254 (Pa.Super.2015) does not belie the above analysis. In R.S., the court used the Weisman factors to supplement its own analysis where it seemed Section 5328 did not appear to lead to a reasonable conclusion in light of the available evidence. Moreover, the court in R.S. never once said trial courts “must” make Weisman findings. Instead, Weismanmerely holds persuasive value as the its factors have been assimilated into Section 5328.

Upon full review of the decision, it appears that P.J.P. has hammered the final nail into the casket of the Weisman analysis. Weisman, for all intents and purposes, no longer appears to be the law for Pennsylvania child custody.

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer on July 5, 2018 and can be seen here.

The Post-Physical Economy and the Rise of Trump

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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His election was a narrow repudiation of the Clinton-Bush-Obama technocracy.

I’m going to take another crack at giving an explanation of Donald Trump, in an economic vein that also ends up as commentary on our culture. It has to do with the arc of a transition from an economy based in physical things and physical needs, to what might be termed a “technocratic” economy, a symbolic economy of information, messaging, narratives, branding, and the like. During the four previous administrations, this technocratic transition was pursued by conscious policies and embodied in semi-conscious leadership personae.

When the U.S. shifted from a manufacturing to a “service” to an “information” economy, circa 1970 to 2010, it was the result both of concerted policy and underlying cultural prejudice. When the people running our institutions imagined a prosperous, upwardly mobile America, they imagined people not having to do dirty jobs or physical labor. They envisioned a population of doctors, lawyers, executives, accountants, engineers, and brand managers. They envisioned a world of people like themselves. To be like them was self-evidently something everyone would desire.

They imagined the whole society as upwardly mobile in the sense, perhaps, that their own families had been. They wanted for the society as whole what they wanted for their children—to be, or to marry, a nice lawyer. Sweet, but an economic howler. There can’t be a viable economy consisting only of service providers and government bureaucrats: there has to be some sort of underlying production that generates the resources on which that sort of bourgeoisie feeds, and which serves the physical needs of physical creatures such as ourselves.

The approach to education is a key example of this transition. The argument, pushed relentlessly by Clinton, Bush, Obama, goes like this. People who graduate from high school make more money than people who don’t, but not as much as college grads. People with advanced degrees make more money still. The obvious conclusion: educate the whole population and everyone will make more money. Education is the key to economic productivity. If everyone had a post-grad degree, everyone’s income would be very high.

It’s a ridiculous idea, but one that’s pervasive to the point of cliché: the key is education. But even if there is a chance that, in isolation, an enterprising young person could improve his or her situation by getting more degrees, it might well be that if everyone headed in that direction, the economy would collapse entirely. There just can’t be an economy where nothing physical gets done, because everyone is sitting in a cubicle somewhere, managing, or thinking, or coding, or writing emails, or staring blankly at Facebook. Also, one might be rather dissatisfied with that cubicle as the destination of one’s journey to the American dream.

The entire educational system was re-thought on the basis of this non-insight. We started measuring the success of schools by graduation rates and standardized-testing scores. We tried to manufacture the sort of minds needed for the service and information economies, the sort of minds that can type on keyboards all day or successfully fill out forms or sit still in their office chairs or greet you on behalf of a government agency and send you whirling through the endless bureaucracies of like-minded and like-skilled standardized service humans. They wanted and still want to start educating children in this way at birth, and not turn them loose until 20 years later, when they’ve gotten their MA.

Oddly, however, our lives were all the time still conducted in the physical universe. Perhaps it seemed bizarre to Bill or Al or Barack that we still had to eat, or move our bodies from one place to another, or wear clothes, or employ furniture. They seemed to think they were preparing all of us to migrate to an abstract world. Nevertheless, we still needed all of that stuff. Not only that, but in the decades of pursuing this policy they haven’t gotten anywhere close to giving everyone a college degree or suiting us all to the information economy. Nor will they; nor can they; nor should they.

The mainstream political left, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, put everything on this picture. It was Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s rallying cry in the 1990s: a bridge to the 21st century, a transformed IT America. With the technocratic vision comes a whole syndrome of positions: leaning on experts, relentlessly emphasizing science and technology, paying abject homage to software billionaires, creating a three-way circulation between Goldman Sachs, Harvard University, and the cabinet. Then Democrats wonder how they lost the blue-collar vote. If you think it’s in the interest of blue-collar people, for example union members, to help the Democratic Party transform the economy and the values of the culture in this way, you’re willfully blind, whatever government benefits you’re offering. I think it was much closer to their rational interest to vote for Trump.

One strategy for realizing this impossible vision of a post-physical economy might have been to promote all native-born Americans to service-providers or IT consultants while importing a workforce for practical matters such as agriculture, transportation, building, mowing lawns, and so on. There has been some of that; fundamentally, that’s where those 11 million undocumented people came from. But the basic move was to shift manufacturing and even to some extent agriculture to other countries. The only way to have something resembling a service or information economy, or a whole workforce of professionals and cubicle-dwellers, is to outsource physical reality more or less entirely.

First, this sets up a situation in which your society of professionals is massively parasitic on a worldwide system of economic exploitation. And second, this is a solid formula for devaluing and immiserating a portion of your own population: the people who are unsuited to the cubicle, or just for one reason or another fall by the wayside in the mechanical march of robotic education. Such people fall out of the economy completely, or they continue in the physically-oriented tasks: we still have to build and fix things. But the dignity of that sort or work was massively under attack in the technocratic vision that valued education, keyboard-stroking, strategic messaging, and filling in little circles with #2 pencils above all.

That is, to a large extent, what led us to Trump. His election was a repudiation (extremely narrow, it is true) of the Clinton-Bush-Obama technocracy. The resentment was inevitable, rational: people who work with their hands had been devalued for decades; someone like Obama probably thinks in his heart that no one would be a carpenter if they could be working on an app or a rebranding, or delivering inspirational pabulum. I don’t think you need racial resentment to explain Trump’s success, though that’s there too.

Trump’s notion of bringing back manufacturing through restrictive trade policies and tax cuts is more, that is, than a set of economic recommendations; it’s the reversal of a set of vastly problematic economic and cultural transformations to a large extent imposed by governmental policy. These transformations did lead to a dramatic increase in illegal immigration, partly to do the sort of jobs that Hillary Clinton thinks Americans don’t want. Well, no one she hangs out with would want a job like that.

But I don’t think that the approach of restricting immigration more and more is a promising way to address the problem. If the American economy doesn’t require imported labor to be productive, then fewer people will come. That occurred during the economic downturn. Meanwhile, as much of the economic activity associated with large-scale manufacturing shifts to other countries, this sets in motion increases in productivity there that in the long run may find people staying home for the same sort of economic reasons that they previously migrated, especially as technocratic economies, in part because they have lost contact with the real world, begin to slump.

In particular, the idea of “merit-based” immigration, which is advocated by many Democrats, but now also by Trump as a way to express the racial aspect without expressing it, seems a wildly counter-productive approach. We want all the world’s software engineers and candidates for advanced degrees, and none of its craftsmen, farmers, or bricklayers. This envisions a re-doubling of the worldwide caste system. It’s a way to keep trying to build a fantasy economy that rests on information or litigation or something rather than real human bodies in a real world.

I think we should admit immigrants by need, not advanced degrees, and I think that a need-based immigration system would end up being far more economically viable in the long run, because it holds on to the possibility of fulfilling basic human needs domestically. Not our imaginary needs, our symbolic needs, our psychological needs, our self-esteem quotient, or our prestige, but food, clothing, shelter, and transportation.

Meanwhile, the economics of manufacturing have largely been replaced by the economics of government benefits. When you’re dropping that many people off the bottom in your alleged attempts to lift everyone to the MBA level, when your domestic economy isn’t making anything actual, you’re going to have an ever-growing group of people who cannot or at least do not find a place. An amazing number of Americans, for example, are collecting Social Security disability benefits; one of the disabilities that a lot of them suffer from is that they are not the right sort of people for the information economy. In addition, of course, our whole society is now physically dependent on the distant labor of people with no responsiveness to or input into our own economy or polity.

It’d be nice to restore a bit of the dignity of physical labor, and to puncture some of the dignity of technocratic bureaucrats. But whatever the dignity or indignity of this and that, we obviously will never be a planet of managers and code-writers, except as we verge on extinction. We’re still physical creatures in a physical environment. That’s a good thing about us, because mere human minds in a merely human environment—a high-rise office building, for example, or a social media site—tend to behave unspeakably.

A backlash against the technocracy was inevitable, if for no other reason than that technocrats don’t even talk like human beings. They don’t treat human beings like human beings either; the standardized-testing regime, characteristically for this whole value system, treats children as things, or as less than things. In a way, all Trump had to do was talk like a person. Also, many people were being “left behind” in the march of “progress”; they became irritated about that for good reasons. The kind of progress proposed yields an utterly empty, meaningless version of human life. And the basic economic picture rests on howling mistakes and can yield little but a long decline. And we’re liable to get our ass kicked in many dimensions by people who have maintained their contact with the material world.

Other than that, though, this technocracy thing has been great.

Originally published on January 22, 2018 and can be found here.

 

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