Quick Hits – On turning 60

Paying heed to some excellent advice then Managing Editor Rick Nagel regularly provided when toiling for the Beacon-News, unless it’s a truly humorous event, I generally refuse to engage in what he liked to call “navel gazing.”

Who wants to read about me anyway?

But there is one exception! Whenever both numbers in my age change, I feel compelled to address how that inexorable chronological advance has affected my outlook on this frequently fascinating existence. Since this kind of self-centered self-reflection comes but once per decade, I firmly believe that even my former editor would give me the go ahead.

Though, truth be told, this column came close to hitting the cutting room floor. In an uncharacteristic depressive bout, this looming milestone makes me feel a lot like Chuck Yeager attempting to break the sound barrier for the first time. That said, I want to be clear that I’m not expecting, nor do I require any sympathy because I don’t need it.

It would only piss me off.

It’s just that it would be patently hypocritical of me to apply my capacity for discerning the truth to everything and everyone but myself. So, no! Though no birthday has flummoxed me before, this one can go fuck itself!

60 sucks

The folks who claim I have a middle school mentality notwithstanding, I’m not ready for 60. I know it’s just a number and I know it’s just a mentality, but it’s a really big number and a clear indication that two-thirds of my life is behind me – if I’m lucky – and none of you all decide to take me out first.

At 50, you can con yourself into thinking you have half your life left to live, but we all know the only way 120 is gonna happen is behind the wheel of a Lamborghini.

Yes! Turning 60 does beat the alternative, but barely when you consider the unrelenting stockpile of predominantly stupid people who inhabit this planet. If the Zen folks are right about the whole past lives thing, all I can say is, I ain’t coming back to this shithole!

Sure! It’s gratifying when good friends stare at me in shock as I mention my approaching sexagenarian-ness. (We’ll just keep the whole daily beard dying thing between us.) And while the Ward/Schuh lineage means bad hair, teeth and knees, if we manage to avoid the whole alcoholism thing, we do generally age well.

To wit, I can still sprint a 12 second 100-meter dash, and, with a new allergist and new asthma regimen, I mean it when I say I’m going to string three six-minute miles together and win a 5k in the fall of 2019. I suppose that’s something to look forward to.

But the most fascinating thing about the last decade was, not only learning I’m the king of ADHD, but that I sit well out on the autism spectrum. It may be true that knowledge is power, but having to completely reframe my existence at 59 has been no small feat.

Though, I have to say that one of the more humorous aspects of that mental reformation has been coming to terms with my eminently dysfunctional parents. Were it not for them forcing me to find sanity, I would never have learned to play the extrovert. And that has become a huge advantage.

Again! No sympathy necessary, nor will it be accepted. We all know this life is patently unfair, and quite often capricious. And I hate to disappoint my detractors, but rest assured, I have not, and will not, ask Hamlet’s question. It’s just not in autistic folks’ nature.

But that doesn’t mean The Bard was wrong when he issued that soliloquy. In fact, he was dead on. Given the capacity to, on occasion, slip the coils of my absurd mind and see the truth or a little further into the future, I find this life to be a consistent disappointment.

And that’s the root of the problem – unless a situation becomes dire – my semi-autistic compatriots and I aren’t valued in a 24/7, instant gratification, I’m always right, digital world. In ages past, we were the oracles, medicine men, and shamans, but those practices have kinda fallen by the wayside.

And I can’t be a priest because I have no intention of molesting young boys.

Please don’t get me wrong! I fully comprehend that ninety-percent of the planet’s populace would gleefully trade places with me. I do what I love every day and I’m good at it. I’m financially secure. I have more real friends than I’d ever imagined, and, aside from a mild blood pressure issue and an overeager thyroid, I’m in excellent health.

This ain’t no mid-life crisis.

So yes! I do recognize my immense good fortune, but the more I age, the more I realize that the money and friends are simply a bulwark against the endless supply of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune this life favors. There is far too much pain and suffering in this existence for my taste, and the fact that it’s often self-inflicted doesn’t mitigate it at all.

So, I’m turning 60. Big fucking deal!

Just like Sisyphus and his eternal boulder, I will persevere. I will keep writing columns in an effort to redress the imbalances we’ve already discussed here with no illusion of what one man can accomplish. I will continue to fight the good fight because most of you bleeps either won’t, or have no clue how to go about it. I will continue to write books because that’s my passion. I will insist on hurtling towards my running goals for no other reason that it would be hilarious for a 60-something man to defeat an entire 5k field.

I will persevere in living and loving relentlessly, regardless of my psychologist’s sage advice to reasonably sublimate my brain’s inherent intensity, not to mention the fact that the lows often seem more expansive than the highs. Put more simply, it’s time for the world to adjust to me.

I firmly believe you’re seeing that phenomenon in my more recent writing. Moderation just ain’t my thing! To quote the great Dylan Thomas, nothing can stop me from “raging against the dying of the light,” and I won’t!

Not to mention that Bruce Cockburn was right when he intoned, “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. Ya gotta kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.”

As we come to the merciful end, I’d like to think this is something more than navel gazing. I’d like to think it’s a vintage Jeff Ward rant wrapped up on a love letter to all my more self-reflective compatriots who realize that life generally sucks, and they suffer for seeing more of the truth as they age. You’re not alone.

Quick Hits – Hoist by their own fumar!

All Elgin had to do is wait. But no! They decided to listen to the latest liberal group with a solution in search of a problem by raising the municipal smoking age to 21. The city council figured that, with an impending similar statewide statute set to hit the books in January, they’d  jump the gun with a meaningless symbolic gesture just to get a few pats on the back from the nanny-staters who refuse to let natural selection take its course.

If you recall, we previously discussed how the teenage smoking rate has plummeted from 23 percent in 2005 to a scant 7.6 percent in 2017. And while I’d certainly like to see it sitting at zero, considering the vagaries of human nature, this is as low as it’s gonna go. The truth is, that miniscule rate is a massive success story for which a slew of educators deserve a boatload of credit.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that Springfield forum! Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the statewide statute and there’s absolutely no hope of any kind of override. So, now Elgin and Aurora stand alone as the only Kane County municipalities with teen smoking bans, and you’d have to travel as far as Wheaton to find a similar state of affairs.

Teen smoking

So now, all your average 18 to 20 year-old Elgin smoker has to do is head to South Elgin, Streamwood, or Sleepy Hollow to pick up a pack of their favorite smokes, and they’ll likely pick up a few other items along the way.

So, let’s do the math!

Elgin’s population has increased to 114,000 of which 32,000 are 17 or under. Extrapolating from that, we get approximately 6,000 residents between the ages of 18 and 20. Apply the 7.6 percent teen smoking rate, and you end up with about 500 smokers, who at the going rate, polish off an $11.50 pack of cigarettes a day.

Let’s keep going.

Since those less affluent teens tend to buy ‘em by the pack, that adds up to about four trips to the grocery or convenience store a week. Given the grazing habits of most teenagers, they’ll probably spend another five dollars on snacks and soft drinks, too. With an average purchase of 1.75 packs of cigarettes a trip (seven packs a week in four trips), the average amount spent per trip comes to $25, plus $2.13 in sales tax.

Stay with me! We’re almost there!

That means, for absolutely no good reason, Elgin merchants are about to lose out on $2.6 million in annual sales with an associated sales tax loss of a quarter of a million dollars. And that ain’t chump change.

Before my fellow liberals start grabbing their torches and pitchforks one more time, smoking is a suicidal habit which costs this county $170 billion in direct medical care and another $150 billion in lost productivity every bleepin’ year. But it is legal! And as my hero Driver Tom likes to say, if we can send an 18-year-old to die in Iraq or Afghanistan, they should be able to smoke a cigarette if they so choose.

And banning cigarettes would work just as well as Prohibition did.

So let’s do a little more math!

Assuming that Springfield smoking bill would pass, the Elgin City council took it upon themselves to appease a nanny-state liberal group in search of a problem by willfully embarking upon a specious symbolic act that will not only fail to put a dent in the local teen smoking rate, but will put a number of Elgin merchants at a distinct disadvantage to their neighboring suburban counterparts.

Great job folks!

Quick Hits – Shadwick King deserves a retrial!

In the sage words of that great philosopher, Britney Spears, “Oops!… I did it again,” I availed myself of social media, somehow believing things would be different this time. Yes! I inexplicably hit Facebook in an effort to determine how regular folks were reacting to Shadwick King being granted a retrial.

Let’s just say that “utter disappointment in the general cluelessness and outright stupidity of the average Tri-Cities denizen” is not nearly a strong enough statement. How some of you manage to make it through an entire day, fully clothed, is beyond me.

For the uninitiated, Shadwick King, then 47, was convicted of strangling his 32-year-old wife Kathleen in July of 2015. The prosecution contended King strangled her in a “jealous rage” in July of 2014 after discovering cell phone evidence of her emotional affair with a younger man. A jury convicted him, and the judge sentenced him to 30 years.

It was Geneva’s first homicide since 1975.

Shadwick King

But to anyone with half a legal brain, or an IQ above 56 (which eliminates most judges), this retrial was inevitable. Judge James “Hang ‘em High” Hallock, who never met a prosecutor he didn’t like, went so far out of his way to see King convicted, it’s as close to willful misconduct as I’ve ever seen.

Please note that the “Hang ‘em High” moniker came from local attorneys, and not yours truly.

By their asinine responses to the retrial news, apparently being a Genevan means never having to be burdened by the facts. It must be nice! And those reactions included, but were not nearly limited to:

  • But there was so much evidence!
  • Scumbag!
  • Wow!
  • Wouldn’t that be double jeopardy to retry him?
  • These types of technicalities are ugh! (Written by a poet, of course!)
  • But the jury found him guilty! Who cares about the judge?
  • And my favorite from a well-known local loon, “I feel he was 100 percent guilty.”

Because you’re all that matters, right?

Having cowered in that basement crawl space for the better part of three days while I came to terms with the frightening reality that these are the nitwits with whom I live, please allow me to explain how the appeal process really works.

First, in a criminal jury trial (as opposed the bench variety), a judge’s sole purpose is to ensure the defendant gets a fair trial. He or she simply serves as a referee.

If the judge fails in this singular regard, the defense attorney must object right then and there, and, should their client be convicted, they have 30 days to cite the “reversible error” in a motion for a new trial.

Since I can’t remember the last time a circuit judge overturned themselves, that means it’s generally up to the appeals court to vacate a verdict. If the defense attorney successfully argues there was reversible error, as Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress did here, it goes back to the circuit court for retrial.

A successful appeal DOES NOT mean:

  • The jury did anything wrong
  • The verdict has been reversed
  • King can’t be retried due to double jeopardy
  • King will be immediately released
  • Technicalities were necessarily involved

What it does mean is Judge Hallock screwed up so badly that King didn’t get a fair trial. So, now he gets a Mulligan. It’s as if the original trial NEVER took place. The defendant is, once again, presumed innocent, and given the resources, he can post bond and be released.

The fact that some of you feel he’s “100 percent guilty” is utterly immaterial and it belies the kind of immaturity that means you should never serve on a jury – or operate a motor vehicle for that matter.

In overturning the verdict, the Second District Appeals Court ruled:

1. That FBI profiler Mark Safarik testified on “facts” beyond his expertise. In their unanimous ruling, those judges wrote:

Safarik – no matter how many crime scenes he had attended as a police officer, how much study he had done on violent crime scenes as an FBI profiler, or how many courses he had attended – was not qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education to opine on the cause and manner of Kathleen’s death.

Since it seems most of you need everything spelled out, whenever a prosecutor or defense attorney calls an expert witness, unless the other side doesn’t object, they must lay the foundation for the witness’s expertise.

For example, were I called to testify on journalistic satire and hyperbole, the worst Kane County attorney could lay the foundation in five minutes. But if I proceeded to testify about journalistic tact and subtlety – clearly not my areas of expertise – that would be a due process violation because my testimony would be more prejudicial than probative.

Probative testimony involves fact, while prejudicial testimony involves emotion, and convictions are always supposed to be based on fact.

To wit, the appeals court ruled, “We hold that Safarik’s opinion as to the cause of Kathleen’s death was so highly prejudicial that we must reverse the defendant’s conviction.”

2. Now that you understand “probative” versus “prejudicial,” you’ll also understand that allowing Kathleen’s family to testify how “upset” they were by her death, was beyond the legal pale. The appeals court correctly ruled it was “introduced solely for its emotional impact.”

3. The appellate judges also smacked Hallock upside the head for permitting prosecutors to tell the jury they could have “questions” about the evidence, and still convict. In other words, they could ignore reasonable doubt! Those judges noted it “was an improper attempt to define and dilute the state’s burden of proof.” They also declared that, “Nothing close to it is permitted on retrial.”

Personally, I think they’re more than a little peeved at Hallock, and they should be.

4. Though I haven’t gotten that far in the brief, I’m sure the appellate court also cited Hallock for consistently permitting the prosecution to admit new evidence during the trial rebuttal phase. That blatant disregard for due process prevented the defense from offering their own rebuttal to those new facts.

 

As a brief aside, I dealt directly with the FBI for 20 bleepin’ long years, and I never met a “profiler” who wasn’t a complete charlatan along the lines of psychics, faith healers, and Trump cabinet members. They will eventually be discredited just like all that formerly accepted bite mark and arson evidence proved to be a total sham. A local attorney told me “Safarik would testify that your mother killed Kathleen King if you paid him enough.”

C’mon! This one isn’t even close, folks. Regardless of what you think of the defendant, he DID NOT receive a fair trial, so we’re going to do it all over again. Meanwhile, one of the rare sensible social media folks asked, “Shouldn’t our prosecutors know they have to play by the rules?”

It would be nice if we had a state’s attorney’s office that didn’t regularly game the system. Those prosecutors knew exactly what Hallock was gonna do and they played him like a fiddle. To be fair, I haven’t met a defense attorney who wouldn’t take advantage of a more liberal judge, either.  But I expect a little more from the folks who represent The State.

Oh! And by the way, the Kane County taxpayers coughed up a mere 18 grand to have Safarik testify.

So, if you want to blame someone for this mess – and all that extra taxpayer expense – blame Judge Hallock, who went so far beyond the scope of his referee role that a first-year law student would’ve overturned King’s conviction. And this isn’t nearly the first time he’s played second prosecutor, either. That man shouldn’t be judging dog shows or as much as sitting on a plastic park bench.

And the state’s attorney’s office came close to pulling this one off, too! If it wasn’t for Childress’ exceptional legal acumen and dogged persistence, King would’ve suffered a truly gross miscarriage of justice.

Childress 3

Kelli Childress with Shadwick King

Trust me, if it was you sitting in that jail cell on an errant verdict, you’d quickly come to appreciate the checks and balances our Founding Fathers deemed critical to the Constitution. And I would encourage you to avoid commentary on something you know absolutely nothing about, because as the old adage goes, it quickly removes all doubt.

This wouldn’t nearly be the first time the Geneva Police made it up as they went along, either.

The KCSAO said they would appeal the Second Appellate Court’s ruling, but that ain’t gonna change a thing. Those judges are renowned for following the letter of the law and getting it right. So, there will be a retrial and, since Childress has never lost a jury trial, this one’s about to get very interesting.

You better believe I’ll be there.

I got your unconscious bias training right here!

Before we get started, please allow me to raise my right hand and publicly proclaim my undying love for the City of Elgin, Illinois. Their city council is one of the best, the police department is one of the best, I love Mayor Kaptain, there are an exceptional number of exceptional city staffers, and, unless you’ve been living under a rock, the city is clearly headed in a positive direction.

But just like it is with any reasonable long-term marriage, there comes a time when you have to tell your wife it’s not the pants that make her butt look big, it’s something else entirely. And the truth is, Elgin really needs to put the “diversity” fork down.

Please also note that I am a social liberal, not that it will matter to my adoring progressive throng who suddenly believe I’m evil incarnate.

So, let’s move on.

When I heard Elgin was offering employees “unconscious-bias” training as part of their continuing diversity initiative, I was a little confused. But then I thought, “Why not!” It might be kinda of fun to see what kind of unconscious bias they could impart unto their employees. I’ve always been a big fan of large-scale social experiments.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see if they could get white people to cross the street whenever they see another white person walking towards them? B. F. Skinner would be so proud!

But then a high-ranking Elgin official explained they weren’t trying to instill bias into staffers, they were trying to root out those staffers’ unconscious biases. And the sound you heard yesterday afternoon was me banging my head against the wall for a full five minutes.

First! There’s a reason they call them “unconscious” biases. It’s because they’re unconscious! So, short of some psychic trainers or months of Freudian analysis, I’m not quite sure how they plan on dragging those prejudices all the way up to the surface.

Second, like every other human being, these trainers have their own unconscious biases, which makes it impossible to sort out who’s biasing who. If I was told I had to endure unconscious bias training, I’d have a number of unconscious (and conscious) biases against the folks trying to uncover my unconscious bias.

Most of you already know I’ve been fighting for diversity and a level playing field for 12 long years, but this insipid initiative is even worse than a bad Stuart Smalley skit. Why not just have Elgin employees don heavy cardigan sweaters and look into a large mirror as they say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it! I have no unconscious biases.”

Trust me! It would require a lot less time and effort and it would be much more effective, too.

Smalley

Of course, this newest example of liberalism gone wild can be traced directly back to disgraced former U-46 School Board member, Traci Ellis, who never met a Caucasian she didn’t blame for something. She whispers into councilpersons Tish Powell’s and Corey Dixon’s ears, and they’re all too happy go along with her latest bizarre bigoted scheme.

To be fair, Dixon does it to a lesser degree, but since I expect a lot more from him, he’s become a much bigger disappointment.

Then, fearing Ellis’ small, but vocal posse of sycophantic middle-aged white women who can’t get over the fact they were born Caucasian, the entire City Council signs onto it, too. Then you get “unconscious bias” training which is just another bigoted byword for “We are going to make you understand just how much you white people suck, whether you like it or not!”

Cause we all know the majority of Elgin employees are, indeed, white.

Look, I’m the first one to point out that I prefer my honorary Mexican heritage and there’s nothing white folks can’t screw up. And I’ve been behind every other Elgin diversity drive, particularly the controversial EPD Puerto Rico recruiting trip. But the conscious bias here is, you get regular folks, with their occasionally strange predilections, to start thinking there’s really something wrong with them and then they only dig in further.

And that always does far more harm than good. It’s exactly this kind of rampant reverse liberal bigotry that made Donald Trump president.

The other huge problem Elgin has here is the Hawthorne Effect, a well-known and widely accepted psychological phenomenon that stipulates individuals always modify their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.

Put more simply, the trainees will tell the trainers exactly what they want to hear just to get them off their backs and get back to work.

As always, I spoke with an Elgin official who convinced me there is some value to this training. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t leave that conversation convinced that 90 percent of unconscious bias trainees would walk out of it thinking, “That’s 90 minutes of my life I’ll never get back,” while the other 10 percent might actually get something out of it.

There’s certainly something to be said for tackling a problem in smaller increments, but I still firmly believe this is just another case of abject liberal bullshit.

Aside from being a gargantuan waste of time, on the basis of that source, I’d generally be OK with the training, because I have no illusions as to Elgin’s “perfection.” But whenever anything involves our terrible trio – Ellis/Powell/Dixon – it always reeks of the same ulterior motives they love to regularly ascribe to white folks.

Ain’t it funny how their thoughts on diversity never seem to include that plurality of Elgin Hispanics?

And when you do carefully examine our trio’s motives, you will inevitably come to the conclusion that they’re even whiter than I am.

 

Quick Hits – August 22, 2018

Pope Frank flubs it

With the perfect opportunity to finally grab the child sexual abuse moral failing bull by the horns, Pope Francis did nothing more than offer the kind of Vatican pablum that only assures more child rapes at the hands of pedophile priests.

Pope Frank 2

“With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

OK! So, the Pope has a keen perception of the obvious.

But when it came time to explain exactly how he’d deal with the damning Pennsylvania Grand Jury report and what the Church will do to make damn sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen for the 236th time, there was nothing but more silence.

So, we all know the rapes will continue and every Catholic who insists upon attending mass, sending their children to Catholic schools, and supporting the Church financially, is, by your own religious standard, complicit.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s no gray area here Catholics!

 

But wait! There’s more!

Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse, the New York Daily News reported that, under Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s leadership, the Catholic Conference of Bishops spent more than $2.1 million primarily to lobby against certain provisions in that state’s Child Victims Act.

That doesn’t include their own internal lobbying efforts, either.

The filings show that, from 2007 to 2015, two lobbying firms essentially attacked the New York statute of limitations on sex abuse crimes and time limit constraints for filing civil suits “related to sex offenses.”

I’ll say it again! This inexplicable child rape tragedy can no longer be relegated to a “few bad apples.” It’s the entire tree. The Catholic Church didn’t simply “abandon” the “little ones,” they fed them to the predator priest wolves to save themselves.

With this horrifying icing in the cake, I can’t imagine how any self-respecting Catholic can possibly walk into a church and still believe they’re a good Christian.

 

So, they moved ‘em, so what?

With uncharacteristic swiftness, the Joliet Diocese removed the two predator priests connected to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report from the Saint John Vianney Villas, a home for retired Catholic clergy in Naperville. If you recall, those apartments sit directly adjacent to Lisle’s Kennedy Junior High School.

Of course, my reaction to that quick response is, “So what?” As we discussed on Monday, it’s not as if those two pedophiles were going to run out of that residence and grab random middle school boys. That’s not the way it works. These priests groomed both parents and victims in a careful and calculated way.

The problem is, whenever we insist upon taking these pointless feel-good measures, it distracts us from the real source of the problem. And keeping our children safe from sexual abuse requires the kind of constant vigilance that implicitly understands the threat almost always comes from within.

They may not be able or willing to clean their own house, but the Catholic Church certainly seems to have quite the handle on meaningless acts.

 

Pritzker’s up by 16 points!

According to an NBC News/Marist poll, and it’s only gonna get worse for Bruce Rauner, who really oughtta be working on his concession speech as we talk.

Pritzker

After running a lackluster primary, the Pritzker team suddenly seems to know how to campaign. To wit:

  • They’re hiding his weight more effectively
  • His wardrobe and grooming are much more professional
  • He’s a better public speaker
  • Their current commercials are outstanding
  • They’re hammering the candidate’s name home on social media
  • And J. B. is talking just enough about the issues to keep voters listening

Taking a page from Treasurer Michael Frerich’s cat-in-a-tree playbook, Pritzker’s “I don’t hate puppies” commercial is incredibly well done and beyond effective. And when that compliment comes from this political cynic, that’s really saying something.

We’ll be discussing the Pritzker campaign a lot more as we slouch towards November 6.

 

Do I really look that old and decrepit?

In an effort to better protect my guitar collection, I decided it was time to purchase a basement dehumidifier. And as it turns out, with UPS and FedEx arriving one after the other, I happened to be on the front porch for that dehumidifier delivery.

But when I went to grab the large box from the twentysomething delivery guy, he winced and wouldn’t let go. After an exasperated look failed to get him to relinquish his grip, I finally exclaimed, “Dude! I’m an athlete!,” and basically yanked it out of his hands.

Then he just stood there watching me as if the Earth’s gravity had suddenly increased to black hole proportions and I was about to be crushed under the package’s suddenly vast weight. He was completely shocked when I managed to maneuver it into the house, too.

I know I’m turning 60 in ten scant days, but until this encounter, I firmly believed I didn’t look or feel my age. But now I’m beginning to have my doubts. Goddam young FedEx whippersnappers!

 

Dude?

I generally eschew fast food, but on rare occasion, I will partake of a McDonald’s or Burger King breakfast. This morning was one of those occasions.

But as we were discussing the composition of my coffee, the Burger King employee twice referred to me as “dude.” Never one to stand on formality, I wasn’t quite sure how to handle that kind of familiarity.

But then I remembered I hate being called sir, and whenever someone calls me “Mr. Ward” I turn around to look for my father.

So, “dude” it is! All I can say is, it’s far better than having a scurrilous FedEx deliveryman openly question your physical fortitude.

Quick Hits – How can anyone remain Catholic?

Whenever I take on a large institution or organization, I try to avoid applying the kind of broad brush strokes that would condemn the whole group for the actions of a few. The truth is, the vast majority of law enforcement officers serve with honor and distinction, there are some stellar individuals in the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office, and, though they’re in the minority, the 16th Circuit plays host to some truly great judges.

The failure to acknowledge those basic realities would greatly weaken my case as a journalist. It’s the whole baby and bathwater thing.

Image result for catholic sex abuse

But as I read column after column on the Grand Jury report covering 70 years of priest sexual abuse in six separate Pennsylvania Dioceses, especially considering what’s previously been brought to light, I think it’s time to relegate the Catholic Church to history’s dustbin.

And I say that despite my former fondness for Pope Frank, who only addressed that report when he had no choice but to acknowledge its existence. The “highlights” include:

  • 300 priests abusing at least 1,000 children
  • A bishop who actively aided and abetted their behavior
  • An organized coverup the Grand Jury called “a playbook for concealing the truth”
  • Some of the priests ran a child porn ring sharing nude photographs and their victims

Just when you think it couldn’t possibly get any worse, two of the dioceses sued to keep the report from going public. The specific criminal acts cited include:

  • A priest groomed middle-school students for sex by telling them that Mary had to “bite off the cord” and “lick” Jesus clean after the Nativity.
  • A priest abused five sisters from the same family, collecting samples of their urine, pubic hair and menstrual blood.
  • A Harrisburg priest raped a 7-year-old girl who was in the hospital to have her tonsils removed.
  • A Pittsburgh priest admitted to “sado-masochistic” activities with several boys.
  • An Allentown priest begged for help after molesting a young boy but was left at his church for several more years.
  • A priest who regularly abused boys was given a recommendation to work at Disney World.
  • A Scranton priest, sentenced to jail for abusing children, was found to have been HIV-positive for years.

The horrifying fallout from this kind of institutionalized child rape are truly terrifying. It’s a long litany of suicides, lifelong addiction, depression, and generally shattered lives. And the bishop who presided over this, Cardinal Don Wuerl, continues to cling to the notion that he did everything he could do to protect the victims.

Washington Times columnist Megan McArdle accurately called it “the bureaucratization of evil.”

Especially as a former Catholic, with these latest accusations, I don’t see how anyone who still attends Sunday mass can pawn this massive moral failing at every level off on “a few bad apples.” Every single sexual abuse report depicts a Church hierarchy that did their damndest to protect themselves and predator priests at the expense of a growing trail of young victims.

And when the apple is this rotten, it’s time to put away the paring knife and throw it out.

Some Catholics are calling for married and female priests, both good thoughts, but that won’t necessarily make a difference. As long as the hierarchy is willing to move predator priests and suffers no consequence for their complicity, the Catholic Church will continue to be a playground for pedophiles.

Not only is there absolutely no evidence they’re going to step up this time, but the folks at the Vatican seem to be going into full bunker mode.

The statute of limitations has run out on all but two of these PA cases, but that doesn’t mean the Church can’t clean house. And that means stripping every last priest, bishop, archbishop, or cardinal who or participated in this travesty, or simply looked the other way, of their collar.

That’s what Jesus would do!

Until Rome takes that immensely necessary step, I don’t see how any self-respecting Catholic can set foot in a church, send their children to the local parish school, or donate one red cent, because that kind of tacit support would also be aiding and abetting these rapes.

 

What if it were Imams?

Though I’m seeing more Catholics reach the point of no return than ever before, despite decades of the most horrific kind of institutionalized sexual abuse of children, the majority of the faithful are sticking with their Church. They somehow remain hopeful, and even confident, that the same leaders who presided over this complete moral failure will somehow be the ones to fix it.

But that’s just another example of white privilege rearing its ugly head. Here’s what I mean!

Imagine if a grand jury solicited a similar report on a series of Muslim mosques and schools. The cries of “Sharia Law,” the calling for the Imams’ heads, and the shrieks and howls of conservative Catholics everywhere would be deafening.

But when it’s their own house that’s rotting from within, they don’t seem quite as ready to apply the same standard. That’s privilege at its best folks!

 

The threat almost always comes from within!

As it turns out, two of the Pennsylvania priests accused of sexually abusing children and people with disabilities are currently residing in the the Saint John Vianney Villas, a home for retired priests in Naperville, sitting directly adjacent to Lisle’s Kennedy Junior High School.

And as you might imagine, those parents are none too happy about it.

So, the middle school is “adjusting” campus usage, increasing supervision schedules, and asking for a Lisle police presence during arrival and pickup times. Concerned neighbors are attempting to recruit a large enough group to get the Joliet Diocese to move the priests elsewhere.

While these are all reasonable concerns, the underlying assumption seems to be that these local pedophiles will lunge from their residence to grab middle schoolers off the street. And I get it, because whenever we use the word “rape,” it implies the use of physical force.

But that’s not nearly the case when it comes to child sexual abuse.

The odds of your child being grabbed on the street by a random abductor is 1 in 300,000, or .0003 percent. The truth is that approximately 90 percent of childhood sexual abuse victims were “groomed” by their abusers.

And this is especially the case when it comes to religious authority figures like priests.

Step one is to target a child with low self-esteem. Step two is to gain the parents’, and particularly a single parent’s, trust. Step three is to make them believe their child is special through compliments, gifts, and time spent with them. Step four is to set up situations where the abuser is alone with the child. Step five is to sexualize the relationship and step six is to maintain control through secrecy, threats, and blame.

It’s a process that takes a great deal of time, energy and effort, and thus, is easily detectable.

I’m not saying Kennedy School shouldn’t take those precautions. What I am saying is too many parents believe these feel-good surface shifts are all that’s necessary to prevent the problem, but they aren’t. It takes a constant vigilance to safeguard our children from a sexual abuse threat that almost always comes from within.

Put more simply, if your gut is telling you that a friend or authority figure is far too interested in your young son or daughter, it’s probably right. That’s the time to pay heed to that kind of intuition. All the “stranger danger” thing does is provide a smokescreen for the real abusers.

Quick Hits – Do your job Joe!

The original plan was to continue with our recent rehab center approving County Board meeting theme, and we will to some degree, but there have been new developments that clearly bear mentioning.

When we last left off, by a 14-10 vote, the Kane County Board finally approved the Maxxam Partners drug rehab center set to go in the vacant Glenwood School building adjacent to the village of Campton Hills.

We covered just how acrimonious that assembly became, stopping short of explain how the board turned on State’s Attorney Joe McMahon for failing to effectively fight Maxxam and their eventual $68 million discrimination lawsuit.

mcmahon

In what could’ve been a psychological seminar on displaced aggression, the public speakers attacked the board; the board attacked the chairman and each other; the chairman attacked the state’s attorney, and then the board followed suit.

Though they were correct in criticizing the lack of any real KCSAO defense against the rehab center, that wasn’t the time or place to do it. It got so bad that board member Kurt Kojzarek had to stand up and remind his angry compatriots that they were essentially asking McMahon to provide legal advice in front of opposing counsel.

And that’s never a good idea. Nor is castigating your attorney – and McMahon is the board’s attorney – in public. It’s not that McMahon didn’t deserve the barrage, but those county commissioners might’ve considered that they’ll need McMahon’s help with the next legal battle

McMahon’s general response was he discussed those very issues in various executive sessions and regularly emailed the board in that regard. But that’s not nearly enough! And the fact our State’s Attorney doesn’t understand how to effectively communicate with a governing body is turning into his fatal flaw.

First, considering the slew of emails they already get, I’d never count on the board reading anything I sent them. And second, nobody listens in those closed door executive sessions! They’re too busy arguing and/or formulating the pearls of wisdom they’ll drop on their peers when it’s their turn to speak.

And if I have to put the onus on a part-time board member or the county’s defense attorney for the failure to understand a complex legal process, you know who’s gonna get the blame.

Considering the stakes involved, McMahon should’ve tabbed Civil Division attorney, Erin Brady, a rare combination of a great legal mind with an amazing capacity to deal with politicians, to hold the Board’s hand every step of the Maxxam way.

He should’ve had her attend that original Zoning Board of Appeals meeting that sent this whole thing teetering off the precipice, too.

Had McMahon paid any attention to the zoning approval process early on, the County could’ve wrangled some real concessions from Maxxam, rather than finally have to face down what’s become a complete capitulation. A little foresight is the difference between a mediocre state’s attorney and a good one.

But because he didn’t do his job, the sparks really flew at Thursday’s Judicial and Public Safety committee gathering which saw Chairman Chris Lauzen and McMahon go toe-to-toe on a number of smoldering resentments.

In his opening volley, Lauzen demanded that McMahon quantify the taxpayer cost for diverting so many KCSAO resources to the Laquan McDonald murder trial.

McMahon, again, claimed he was “appointed” to the case, which while technically true, is a truly disingenuous statement. Six separate sources said that, while other area state’s attorney’s locked themselves in the bathroom to avoid getting’ the nod, McMahon actually sought out the appointment to raiser his profile and pad his resume.

And his contention there was “no increase in costs” to Kane County is equally disingenuous, because the 20 prosecutors working on the Van Dyke prosecution can’t possibly do that and work on behalf of the Kane County taxpayer at the same.

When Lauzen insisted on a specific accounting of hours spent, McMahon refused declaring, “We aren’t doing that on this case. And we don’t intend to. How I run my office is absolutely none of your business.”

That defense is also technically true, but it would carry a lot more weight if McMahon actually ran his office instead of handing it off to subpar subordinates who only seem to make things worse.

McMahon also shot back with a law Lauzen supported as a State Senator that allows for special prosecutors to be appointed, but prohibits them from charging the other county for their services.

That’s also true, but for that argument to work, one must assume that McMahon had no choice but to take that appointment. The truth is, especially after telling the Board he needs more prosecutors, he could have, and should have, turned it down.

I could continue to describe those fascinating festivities, but as much as it pains me to say this, the Daily Herald’s Jim Fuller did a great job of covering the fracas, so we’ll leave it there and move on.

Though I would’ve advised the chairman not to attack the county’s attorney in public – it’s only gonna make matters worse – it’s gratifying to see the board finally catch on to the fact that Joe McMahon doesn’t do his job. I can’t tell you how many local attorneys and former KCSAO staffers have come to me with the same complaint.

Joe was dead on about one thing, however. When the Chairman demanded to know, “Who checks the state’s attorney’s work and balances your exercise of power when people are dissatisfied? Where do we go when we are displeased with the state’s attorney?”

McMahon correctly replied that “The people of Kane County can express their support or displeasure for me any time my name is on an election ballot.” I’m gonna ask you to remember that statement in 2020 Kane County voters!