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Archive for the ‘Paternalism and policies’ Category

Every four years, I forget; in the US, people do not only elect a candidate for President, but also a family.  And every four year,  we  have to watch the self-righteous -yet apparently modest and restrained- display of familial intimacy of the candidates at both parties conventions.

In her speech last week, Ann Romney set new heights in this indecent exercise. She claimed “it was about love;” yet there was nothing cuddling in this display of love. She loves the guy who took her to the high school prom, alright.  The rest of us? She doesn’t know who we are.

First, the lady claimed she had a “real marriage.” Are there people who don’t? Would she mean, perhaps, that some – gays (?)- are not having ones? Second, she talks to and about people who have a role in a family, even a broken one – single dads, for instance (she mentioned them and these were perhaps the best two words of her speech). Singles, just singles, as Condoleezza Rice? It ‘s about families, stupid. Even the guy who brought her back from the dance said it. Raising kids was the most important thing. Ann did it. Why wasn’t he more involved with his five kids? We kind of understood that was a story of comparative advantage: she had the women thing with kids, he was more gifted making money for Bain, before putting himself to saving this country.

Back to Ann. “We don’t want easy,” she says.  She does not know anything but easy, and in any case, we, divorced fathers, want it right and legit. From 1993 to 2009, the share of women getting sole custody of the kids has increased: to 84% from 83%. In addition to their parenting rights going down the drain, divorced fathers had to cope with family courts busy to enforce laws designed to satisfy the desires of all the Ann Romneys that were not brought back from the dance: pay – no matter what, even if you loose your job. And if you can’t, just go to jail.

This brings us to the only guy one wanted to meet in this Republican convention, and perhaps the democratic one. The fellow Ted Cruz said the immigrants did not come to meet in America: “the well-meaning bureaucrat.  The guy who puts his arms around your shoulders and says: let me take care of you?” The fellow delivers goodies that are part of a just society in some other parts of the world: a justice that guarantees equal parenting rights; paid pregnancy leaves; public and free nursery schools and even, minimum income for single parents up to the kids reach a certain age.

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The U.S. justice system is crumbling. We divorced fathers that have experienced family justice know where the flaws lie: prejudice -

John Whitmire, Texas State Senator

against men and fathers- and more credence and weight given to accusation than to defense. You have to prove your innocence, when prosecution should be bearing the burden of the proof.  In the case of capital punishment- the icing on the rotten cake- there is the combination of racial prejudice and prejudice against the poor. If you are flushed, you might save yourself; Otherwise, too bad.

Thursday September 23 of this year, Troy Davis was executed in Georgia. His execution was opposed by an international movement led by Amnesty International. One would have thought that might have spurred proposals to mend the capital punishment system.  Indeed it did, in the most unexpected area: John Withmire,  a Houston democrat and chairman of the Senate criminal Justice Committee, put an end all by himself to the last meal in Texas.

According to Manny Fernandez from the New York Times, this is the profligacy of Lawrence Russel Brewer’s last meal that set Withmire’s creative legislative mind in motion. Brewer was executed by lethal injection in the Huntsville Unit on Wednesday, September 22, one day before Travis. One would think that the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee in Houston had better things to do than micromanaging last meals. In any case, we don’t know for sure if it is the ethnic ingredients of Brewer ‘s last meal – jalapeños, fajitas- or worries for the State of Texas’ budget that troubled Whitmire. But even at the pace Texas executes inmates on death row, I bet last meals are not the most crucial budgetary issue of the state.

John Whitmire’s score to the Political courage test organized by Project Vote Smart is 0, because he refused to tell where he stands on issues addressed in 2010 Political Courage Test. No wonder;  To me, Whitmire belongs to the most despicable type of politicians: Those who seek exposure while beating on the weakest and the defenseless. Who in these glorious days we are leaving in will oppose scaremongers like Whitmire? For God sake, until the day medieval capital punishment is abolished in the U.S., let’s those to be executed enjoy a last meal…and a last cigarette. Their  fellows on death row won’t mind second-hand smoking.

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It has become a reflex. I freeze anytime I happen to hear or read about making us better dads. Check this piece, by Jill Colvin:

Rashomon (Kurosawa)

Midtown Court Helps Ex-Criminals Become Better Dads.  We are not talking of something published by New York State Child Support Collection Unit but by a media outlet,  DNAinfo.com, sadly enough.

In this piece we learn that Bronx Family Court refers ex-criminals to Midtown Community Court, a project of the Center for Court Innovation. Here they attend the Dad United for Parenting  (don’t dream, it ain’t a dads’ grassroots organization) program where they learn skills that will help them find jobs. Why is the Bronx Family Court doing that? The students dads of the program have child support payments problems. Some have accumulated arrears in child support while there were in jail.

That’s where the silence of the piece is deafening: The fact that by law you owe child support while in jail. Let us just talk money here. Depending on your ex-spouse’s financial situation, being in jail has possibly caused hardship to your children. But this hardship, if hardship there was, is past and in civilized countries there are institutions protecting the welfare of those in need. Child support as conceived by New York State laws is accessorily about your children. It is mostly about providing a rent to your ex-spouse no matter what: whether you are employed or not, institutionalized or not.

To reintegrate oneself into society after a jail sentence is not easy, even less so with a debt to pay off. What is the ultimate purpose of this project to better dads? Help ex-criminals to cope with child support laws that provide them with the incentives to do things that will bring them back to jail. It would be a million times more efficient to reform New York State Child Support laws.

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For a politician, posturing to be fiscally responsible is very convenient.  In the name of cutting the deficit, you justify the wackiest measures. And you cut the fat where it is not. Republicans in Congress want to slash unemployment benefits if Bush tax cuts for the rich are not extended after December of this year…because, you know, the rich might not spend as much as before and that’s bad for the economy.

In New York City, the mayor’s crusade against obesity too rides the horse of fiscal austerity. The victims: perhaps food stamps beneficiaries, and Rikers Island inmates.  In the city, rehabilitation will now entail a new dimension: being slim. How? Six slices of bread a day instead of eight, no more chocolate and vanilla puddings for the inmates. Savings: $ 350,000 a year. What are we talking about? 0.015% of a $ 2.367 billion gap to be closed for fiscal year 2012. Paternalism is politically cheap and fiscally inconsequential.

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