06 December 2018

Who I am: Ancestry.com and Geographic Granularity

So, this is really cool. AncestryDNA just released another update to their analysis which provides considerable more geographic granularity. In my case, they've broken down Ireland into 92 (!) smaller regions, and placed my origins into North Roscommon, which is a smaller area in County Roscommon centered around the small town of Elphin. Ancestry will then link you to DNA matches who are also from that small region. In my case, there are 124 matches (and several that match my birth surname). Add to this the fact that a number of historical records show that my ancestral family is from this very region.

29 October 2018

Pennsylvania child sex crimes law reform and statutes of limitations

Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Rozzi (who graduated from Muhlenberg High School several years before I did) has spent much of his time since his election in November 2012 advocating for reform of the state's child sex crimes laws. Rozzi himself was the victim of child sexual abuse by a priest at the age of 13.

However, reform efforts have been blocked, as this article indicates, by groups representing the Catholic Church and its insurance companies. According to the article, "[v]ictims say it’s clear that money talked in the Capitol last week because Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati’s words were too familiar to be coincidental." The article then quotes Scarnati, Matt Haverstick (a Philadelphia lawyer representing the Harrisburg diocese and Greensburg diocese), and Sam Marshall (CEO of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania), all who voice concerns about the constitutionality of the proposed reforms, specifically those involving retroactive changes that would re-open previously lapsed statutes of limitation for civil lawsuits and even criminal charges.

The article points to state campaign finance records and suggests that insurance industry contributions to Scarnati and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman are part of a insurance industry effort to sway the votes of legislators. That's a fair concern.

But what is also true is that at least some of the contemplated measures in the proposed reforms of the state's child sex crimes laws are in fact likely to be unconstitutional. As this article explains:
The bill, which has moved to the state Senate for final consideration, would specifically reform the state's statute of limitations laws.

Currently, survivors of child sex crimes have until age 30 to file a civil claim and until age 50 to file criminal charges against their abusers. Legislation to reform the law, which has been pushed to the Senate for final consideration, would give victims until age 50 time to file lawsuits and eliminate the statute of limitation entirely for criminal prosecutions.

He has also included an amendment to the bill that would create a two-year "window to justice," during which those survivors for whom the civil window has already closed could file a retroactive civil claim.
Retroactive changes to statute of limitations laws should set off constitutional alarm bells. Depending upon how it is enacted, the elimination of the statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions would almost certainly run afoul of the Supreme Court's ruling in Stogner v. California, 539 U.S. 607 (2003), which held that "a law enacted after expiration of a previously applicable limitations period violates the Ex Post Facto Clause when it is applied to revive a previously time-barred prosecution."

And while the U.S. Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause only applies to criminal laws, Pennsylvania's state constitution has a remedies clause that prevents retroactive changes to both civil and criminal statutes of limitations. Regarding this legislation, most experts agree the changes would be unconstitutional (although at least some would disagree). Some have suggested that in the face of uncertain constitutionality, the legislature should pass the law and let the courts decide:
Sen. John C. Rafferty...said it was incumbent on the committee to consider the legislation before it. He said should issues of constitutionality arise, it was best left up to "people in black robes."
But I'm not sure this is right, either. The legislature (and the governor) play important roles in determining the constitutionality of proposed legislation. Deferring constitutionally questionable legislation to the courts is an abdication of responsibility by elected officials.

Reform of the state's child sex crimes laws is an important issue. It is also a highly-charged, emotional one. Finding a solution requires compromise between those who seek justice for victims of child sexual abuse and the restrictions set forth by the U.S. Constitution and Pennsylvania state constitution.

17 April 2018

Tax Day Rant

When people tell me, "taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society," do you mean the society where:
  • the President, without even consulting with Congress, much less getting authorization from them, launches 66 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 19 JASSM-ER's at a cost of $119M at a country that does not threaten the national security of the United States?
  • the government uses civil asset forfeiture to seize property of people who are never convicted or even charged with a crime?
  • the government continues to lock people up for minor drug offenses, then prevents them from getting a job or from voting because they have a felony on their record?
  • the government is projected to spend a TRILLION more dollars than it collects just this year?
  • unelected bureaucrats in administrative agencies write regulations, enforce those regulations, and then rule on those same regulations?
  • the government (through the Federal Reserve) steals from you every day through inflation of the currency--a dollar in 1913 has lost over 96% of its value?
This is the same government that enforced the Fugitive Slave Act until the Civil War. This is the same government that rounded up Japanese American citizens during WW2 and a Supreme Court of the same government who said it was constitutional. A Supreme Court who also legitimized compulsory sterilization with the most infamous of words, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."
When you tell me taxes pay for a "civilized society," those are the things I think of. What about you? I don't want any part of it. I'm sure you can come up with a list of all the great things government does for you. But if you want to claim those things you also get the baggage of mine.

03 October 2017

Who I am: Meeting my birth father

This is one in a series of posts on the search for my biological family.

In a previous update, I had mentioned that I had (finally) identified both my birth mother and birth father. I have since reached out to my birth mother and we have chatted some online. It remains to be seen if we will meet, but I hope that we will eventually.

She also helped to identify my birth father. I reached out to him, and he responded. We talked on the phone several times, and eventually met in Baltimore a few months ago. I also found out that he was engaged to be married; and that I was invited to attend the wedding. How cool!!!

Fast-forward to this weekend: My family attended the wedding in Baltimore at the Sagamore Pendry Hotel:

It was an amazing weekend. We had a great time, and I was able to meet many new relatives that I never knew about!

Who I am: What's in a name, revisited

This is one in a series of posts on the search for my biological family.

A short update to my previous post about my curiously official lack of a middle name.

Maryland refused to put my middle name on my driver's license because, well, I have no middle name on my social security card.

Now that I've moved back to Pennsylvania, I had to apply for a driver's license again. And despite not having a middle name on my social security card, and though I'm pretty sure I did not even put my middle name on my driver's license application, Pennsylvania has seen it fit to put my middle name back on my driver's license. Go figure.

02 September 2017

2017 Philadelphia Eagles 53-man roster (FINAL)

50/53 for the second year in a row.

QB (2): Wentz, Foles
RB (5): Sproles, Blount, Smallwood, Pumphrey, Clement
WR (6): Jeffrey, Smith, Agholor, Hollins, Johnson, Gibson
TE (3): Ertz, Celek, Burton
C (2): Kelce, Wisniewski
G (3): Seulamo, Brooks, Warmack
T (3): Peters, Johnson, Vaitai

DE (5): Graham, Curry, Barnett, Long, Means
DT (5): Cox, Jernigan, Allen, Qualls, Vaeao
LB (6): Hicks, Bradham, Kendricks, Goode, Walker, Grugier-Hill
CB (5): Darby, Mills, Douglas, McDougle, Robinson
S: (5) Jenkins, McLeod, Graham, Watkins, Maragos

P: Jones
PK: Sturgis 
LS: Lovato