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Archive for January, 2009

law-and-order-special-victim-unit3Last Sunday I happened to catch”Burned,” an old episode (2007) of Law and Order, Special Victim Units, starring Hargitay (Olivia Benson) and Meloni (Elliot Stabbler). What pulled my attention was the situation: a father (Miles) having a supervised visitation with his daughter, Tessa.  The episode starts very well.  Any divorced father who had the misfortune to have supervised visitations with his children can sense the tension of such visits in that of Miles and Tessa.  Time is counted, it  cannot be wasted and fully enjoyed. Realistic touch: the social worker supervising the visit is a bitch. Out of the blue, she decides to cut off the visit, despite Miles’ protest. You just want to have her eat her degree of social worker somewhere, and have her do a job that will entail no contact with people.

At some point tough, Valerie-the divorced mother- is violently dragged out of the shower while at home.  She does not see her aggressor and says to the police she has been raped. Fellow Miles, the former husband, is naturally the prime suspect. From then on, the story tends to slide into a politically correct, even-handed distribution of clichés: one bad feature for Valerie, one bad feature for Miles. Valerie is a neurasthenic control freak; Miles is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. There is a potential there for uncontrolled violence.  Indeed, Miles has temper tantrums, some motivated by the fact of not been able to see his daughter Tessa as he pleases. Cliché over cliché:  Elliott understands this anger, Olivia doesn’t.  Miles and Valerie’s antagonistic divorce is the sample of the larger fight between men and women.

I know I cannot expect a TV show to have the depth of Kramer vs Kramer.  Yet “Burned” did not do it for me; the story cannot escape its clichéd premisses.  While dying, Valerie cannot bring herself to tell Olivia – an understanding woman- that she was in fact not raped (she had the day of the aggression consensual sex with a colleague);  the loving Miles is nonetheless a beast: He eventually throws butane on Valerie who burns to death, in horrendous sufferings. The Ice-T touch. Too dammed  dark for me.ice-t

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Never wondered why you pay more child support (or unreimbursed medical expenses) than the amount you owe? Wonder not, folks. Every time a support magistrate imputes a money judgement on your account, the NYS  Support Collection Unit charges you a 9% interest rate on your arrears. 9%.  This noble institution does not brag about it, by the way. Don’t try to find interest-ratesthis information on your record of child support payments that you get in the Child Support Unit in West Broadway, New York City. You won’t.  You might learn that over the phone, if you call the NYS CSU 800 number.

Are New York State decision makers aware that very recently, the Fed slashed interest rates to an unprecedented  low level, in an effort to boost lending and spending? Forget it, divorced fathers. For you, no rescue plan. You take full speed the SCU amplified effect of the recession!

The beauty of the New York State child support industry: it is self-sustaining. Sicko ex-wife requests, support magistrate executes,  Support Collection Unit delivers without question, even if what is taken from your paycheck exceeds what the law prescribes. Administrative costs: paid by the sucker with subprime interest rates.

In New State, big brother is not only watching you, he is screwing you, big time.

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Tomorrow, president Obama’s inauguration,  will surely be  an inspiring day. Fortunately so, because on the other side of the aisle, “new” ideas are rather depressing, following the old, long-traveled Republican route: “tougher and dumber.”

 

Florida Senator Fasano (Photo Wikipedia)

Florida Senator Fasano (Wikipedia)

Take Mike Fasano (Republican Florida Senator)’s new bill proposal: having fathers who failed to pay child support work for a week wearing a t-shirt “Deadbeat Dads.” The goal: to shame fathers who do not pay child support. Fasano was supposedly touched  by grace, that is the suffering of custodial mothers. In a nutshell, Fasano took a complex problem, which involves the criminalization of divorced  fathers, the obvious biases of the justice system and the economic crisis. Instead of solving anything, he  screams with the wolves and pretends he cares.  Costs: zero;  I guess the bill will even have the bastards pay for the t-shirt. Benefits: the female constituency, which will remember Fasano when he runs again. Solution to the problem: zero. Dead dumb.

Why doesn’t Fasano put his creative mind to improve employment or help fathers who cannot pay their mortgages in Florida?

If I were a Floridian father, I would gladly wear the t-shirt as long as I work  fixing the  voting machines.

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good-dadsFriday January 9, in the train on my way to Manhattan Family Court, trying to get -without much hope- a revision of my divorce agreement that would include, among others,  bringing down child support payments and having sicko ex-wife use my health insurance for dental and vision expenses. In the billboard of the train, I noticed  the sentence “This is one of 10 ways to be a great dad” followed by nyc.gov/NYCDADS. Below, the picture of a young, black man at a table with a kid that you imagine being his son.

I don’t know why I paid attention to this ad. For once, the MTA train is on time; more likely, when you have been kept from seeing your children normally for more than seven years thanks to an unfounded child abuse trial, you wonder what it is to be a a dad, let alone a good dad; finally, the “kick” of it : would you even think of an ad trumpeting “the 10 best ways to be a good mum?”

Guess what: the office of Mayor Bloomberg, who created this campaign,  does not have much clues about dads. The notable dad  on the website,Phillipp Banks Jr, is the exemplary retired police officer. A family man, with now many grandchildren. Between the lines of Philipp Banks Jr’s portrait, we learn in fact  more about what the office of the Mayor really thinks dads are: dangerous unemployed, uncontrollable  fellows on the outskirts of society. The office of the mayor timidly acknowledged that dads are sometimes unfairly ostracized by their former spouse, who might speak badly about them with the children. In this case, Dr Vincent Guilamo Ramos, Ph.D.  has the answer:  just talk it over with your  ex-spouse. Thank you, Dr. Guilamo Ramos!

This Bloomberg dude cannot help patronizing: first smokers, then New Yorkers who are supposed to crave for a third Bloomberg term to rescue them from the financial crisis and now dads!

If you want to be serious with dads, Mr Bloomberg, first avoid the old clichés about dads. Second, put on the table meaningful propositions such as reforming family laws, starting with share parenting, making  parental alienation syndrome a crime and child support payments dependent on both parent incomes.

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There is nothing wrong with wearing a T-shirt with a sentence in Arabic.  Yet, when Raed Jarrar tried to board a JetBlue plane with one, he  had to cover it or else giving up the idea of getting on the plane. Why? Jarrar was told that being on a plane with an Arabic t-shirt was that being in a bank with a t-shirt “I am a robber.” Interesting  explanation. 

Raed Jarrar (Photo New York Times)

Raed Jarrar (Photo New York Times)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the time, there is nothing wrong with getting a restraining order.  As Stephen Baskerville puts it, restraining order are unrestrained. Women get one, no question asked, when they want to get rid of a spouse.  Another tool in the legal men -easy -riddance kit: orders of protection (OP).  As the OP “technical manual” says, you do not need to start a divorce to get an OP. But it comes without saying that starting a divorce with an OP doesn’t get the bastard much chances in a divorce trial.

When women have gotten RO or  OP against the husband, the sucker, like Jarrar with his arabic t-shirt, does not fly in coach with the rest of the passengers.  Sicko ex-wife got an order of protection when she initiated the trial of child abuse against me.  The trial is over , the judge has stated that I am not a child abuser.  It does not matter: I am still on the tarmac and not admitted in my daughters’ life.  I learned the other day, through a phone interview with the director of my daughers’ school – the Brearley school in New York City- that I could not attend parent-teachers conferences because there is  an order of protection against me in my daughers’ file.  Obviously, sicko has not bragged about the ending of the child abuse trial and has not told Brealey that the order of protection against me had been lifted.

Raed Jarrar, you are right. We will not be silent.

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 Non-custodial fathers like myself will applaud  Stephen Baskerville’s analysis of the “Divorce Gamemanship”  in his piece  “Divorced from Reality” (Touchstone). Baskerville tells us that the divorce industry makes a nauseating use of unproven allegations of child abuse and domestic violence to deny parents – mostly fathers- the right of  having a role in their children’s life. When divorce has kicked them out of the family, fathers are  financially strangled with unreasonable child support payments, which, according to  economist Robert Willis quoted by Baskerville, “vastly exceed the cost of raising children.”  Divorce courts lead to jails – without a trial or a jury-  and the sad thing is that the public and the media could care less. 

ronald-and-nancy1Baskerville’s point is that behind the breakdown of families, there is the hideous hand of the government, in the form of “massive federal funds devoted to domestic violence, child abuse, and child-support enforcement” that “are little more than … ‘feminist pork,’ taxpayer subsidies on family dissolution that also trample due process protections.” I am not  following him there.   To me, the feminist rhetoric is  instrumental  to the project of the Reaganite, neoliberal wave (on which Clinton surfed) of a “weak” government, which did not mean that the government was supposed to be less coercive or intrusive, but less involved in the economic and social spheres: less taxes and government programs reduced to what is now  food service on US Airways – zero. First, you attack a mythical “welfare queen,” a single black women who is supposed to strive on taxpayer money thanks to children out of wedlock, and you dismantle welfare entitlement programs. When times prove – surprise, surprise- that rationing welfare does not help reduce poverty, you  use feminist rhetoric and point at fathers for solution. I do not have the data at hand, but I bet that the “massive funds devoted to domestic violence etc..” that Baskerville is talking about are peanuts compared to the welfare programs targeted at families slashed during the glorious eighties and nineties.” This is what is nice with  current feminist family policies implemented by family courts: the suckers – fathers- pay.

When are we going to get out of the eighties?

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