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Archive for the ‘Politicians on Fatherhood?’ Category

I was listening yesterday to Senator Marco Rubio on “Face the Nation” pondering if the 21 th century would be another American century. Let’s take a shot at the answer. Whether it is or not, it will not look good for the poor. As everybody knows, we all live in a classless society. That’s tough luck for those who do not make it to the middle class, because that’s all there is. It has to be because they don’t belong there, and they just have themselves to blame to it. It has not always been the dominant way of thinking; in the 1960’s, President Johnson launched a war on poverty, the underpinnings of which was that being poor was just not a question of failing to seize opportunities that were out there. Those days, one is under the impression that a new war has been waged: the war against the poor.

Let’s be fair though. There are still good folks who want to help the poor; the banks, at least. The poor have a lot of bad habits and misgivings, we all know that: they have children out of wedlock, they don’t read the fine print of a mortgage (banks did not mind much until 2008), and on top of everything, they dare to gamble, which baffles economists. With the opportunities they have, how can they? Poor chaps can’t figure out that the way out of poverty is to save. According to Patricia Cohen from the New York Times, banks have found the way to get the poor to save, willy-nilly: banks- credit unions to be exact- have created prize-linked savings accounts. You save and can earn the jackpot, from time to time.

That’s more or less all poor- lovers there is. In the last decades, the tolerance for the poor has been running thin, thanks to do-gooders from the left and the right who blabber about personal responsibility to scrub social programs from public expenditures. Take the issue of universal Pre-K in New York, which is critical for the poor, as it helps level the playing field between their kids and the rest of the kids in terms of access to education. That universal pre-K be founded without tax increases, but by the growth of the New York State casino economy, as Governor Cuomo wants it to be, means that the gambling suckers – the poor- will pay for the education of their kids. God forbid, the middle class – and forget the rich- won’t have to chip in.

Moving South, one reaches a new frontier in the detestation of the poor. The great State of Alabama for instance has implemented experiments  aiming at being ‘more efficient’ at collecting what the poor owe, like tickets for driving without insurance. The problem, as Sarah Stillman in the June 23 New Yorker article tells, is that these collection agencies are private for-profit firms, whose charge the hell they want in supervision fees without oversight from the courts. The outcome is folks ending up in jail with more debt, which defeats both justice and the goal of trimming public expenses.

There is something I have been chewing since I started coping with US family justice. 1. Justice is perhaps the most important of the functions of a state. 2. You need to respect the folks you are providing justice to, or forget about it.

 

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Dusten BrownThere are two things I do not understand in Baby Veronica’s case, as the case is called : 1. Why isn’t Dusten Brown – Veronica’s biological father- supported by the father right movement, or fathers’ organizations in the US?  The man is wearing no Superman suit, and to my knowledge, he has climbed no crane; Yet Dusten Brown’s fight to keep custody of Veronica against the justice system,  is both legitimate and admirable. 2/ The recent pathetic CNN reporting of the case should make Dusten Brown’s plea on the agenda of the fathers right movement, even if, as everybody knows, nobody is watching CNN. Fortunately so.

CNN anchor Randy Kaye’s reporting of this case could not have been less informative and more biased. After a purely formal “balanced” exposition of the two sides of the case –  an interview with Dusten Brown followed by an interview with the Capobiancos, the couple who recklessly persist in adopting Veronica at any price, be it depriving her of her father- Randy Kaye steps in the debate out of the blue, asking the question: how come Brown is not in jail, after four courts ruled in favor of the adoptive parents, including the US Supreme Court?

Let’s underscore a couple of facts Kaye overlooked, or certainly not even looked at. Brown’s gave her parental rights to Maldonado, his girlfriend whom he broke up with. Shocking ? Nope. I don’t want to second guess Brown, but that’s a man stuff. Before my first one was born, being a father was raising one dominant feeling in me:  fear. When I saw her, fear was gone and she was the most wonderful thing that had happened in my life. Now, let’s move to shocking stuff. Maldonado gives Veronica for adoption and let Brown know when Veronica is four months old. One would think that giving parental rights to somebody does not imply giving her right to to give up one’s child for adoption.

Wrong. In the US, it is, except for Native Americans.  Without the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, Brown, who is Cherokee,  was fried. His consent would not have been needed for Veronica’s adoption for the Capobiancos. Actually, a voracious adoption industry prospers on the loopholes of the adoption laws. The consent of an undocumented immigrants who get caught by the INS, go to jail and have their children placed in the home of adoptive parents is not required either. But the Indian Welfare Act is this odd thing that against the wind, does not entertain the view that the best interest of the child of the poor is to be raised by rich white folks.  The South Carolina Supreme Court voided Veronica’s adoption, which the US Supreme Court upheld. Justice Alito, writing for the majority, argued that since Brown had not supported Maldonado during her pregnancy, his consent to Veronica’s adoption was not required. Interestingly enough, Sotomayor and Gingsberg, the two female justices dissenting to the majority, held a contrary view on Brown’s right.

Let’s remain polite and say that in this case, the ruling of the US Supreme Court, displays a less than Solomonic quality.  Dusten Brown  – Veronica’s biological father- is now wanted by South Carolina to face the charge of “custodial interference.” Dusten, is up to you if you keep “interfering”, but whatever you do, I support you.

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Picture: Illinois Fathers

Picture: Illinois Fathers

All of us have been there: you learn from your kids that ex was in a business trip somewhere. You would gladly have taken care of them but the baby sitter or someone else did, because ex is by law in charge and in the business of making sure that you will not your kids more than your divorce agreement says you will, that is every other weekend and perhaps an afternoon the week without the weekend with them.

On May 22 of this year, both Illinois houses attempted to stop this sad state of affairs by passing HB 2992. Hopefully Illinois’s example will be followed by other States, if Pat Quinn, the Governor of Illinois, signs the bill to be included as section 602.3 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.

What is the right of first refusal? If ex needs to go, you are by law the first to be on with the kids. She has 24 hours to let you know that you can watch the kids when she is absent, and you have 24 hours to let her know whether you can do it or not. Common sense in “the best interest of the child,” for once.  The fathers’ right movement has to reinvent the wheel to amend decades of biased legislation.

However we all know that there is the law and there is the enforcement of the law, and these are two different things as far as family laws are concerned. But let us not spoil our pleasure at this stage…

Hat Tip: American Coalition for Fathers and Children, May 29 2013 Newsletter

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Since 1994 when Congress passed it, the “Violence Against Women Act” has been the weapon against domestic violence.  The act was to be reauthorized in 2012 to include gays, undocumented immigrants, American Indians and students.  Republicans in the Senate joined Democrats to approve the reauthorization, Republicans in the House did not.  Then the Republicans took a beating in the 2012 Presidential elections, and the reauthorization of the bill is back on the floor of the senate in February, with Republicans now more accommodating to compromises, as they hope to lure women and latinos back  (or finally) into their ranks.

One may think that at least, this  hard-learned lesson in political realism is for the greater good – the end of domestic violence. Wrong: the tackling of this problem has been nothing but petty, parochial politics (PPP) and PPP it remains.

Why? We now know  that domestic violence is not only the deed of men against women, but also that of women Universalitéagainst men and children: physical violence along with a less apparent but as pernicious a form of violence, parental alienation, which is given a free ride in family courts, which are women-biased courts. The very fact that domestic violence is defined as domestic violence against women gives women leeway to overuse of the accusation of domestic violence, to get the divorce they want and expel their ex from the life of their children.

Want to solve domestic violence? Change course and instead of adding categories of victims, throw universality into the law already. Just pass a Domestic Violence Act, that will aim at protecting women, gays, immigrants, American Indians and… men, too.

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Since Friday February 15, Serge Charnay, has been on top of an abandoned crane, in  a Nantes (France) old shipyard. Charnay spread a banner with these words: “Benoit, two years without his dad.”  Benoit is Charnay’s son. He has not seen his father for two years. Serge lost his visitation rights when he sequestered his son for ten days in 2010 and two months in 2011.

Serge Charnay (Photo Frank Perry AFP)

Serge Charnay (Photo Frank Perry, AFP)

Also Charnay wrote on top of the crane: “Let’s save our children from the justice system.”

What is it with some fathers and cranes ? Five years ago, in September 2008, Paul Fisher (Ohio) and Donald Tenn (California, President of Fathers for Justice USA) climbed on a crane near Ohio State University. They were requesting a non-partisan investigation into the family court system by the governors of their respective states – then Ted Strickland in Ohio, Arnold Schwarzenegger in California.

I love it. Men perched on a phallic piece of machinery screaming their lungs and their powerlessness at the unfairness of the justice system and claiming their rights to see their kids, like their exes do.

In any case, Serge Charnay may have made significant breakthroughs for the fathers rights movement in France, perhaps because awareness on the topic has previously been raised by Moreno’s protests against the family justice system (Moreno went to Nantes to support Charnay). On Friday night, Serge Charnay was told – by  the Prefet (a high government official) that he could benefit from a request before family court to review his case. As Charnay refused to get off his crane, Jean Marc Ayrault – Mayor of Nantes and Prime Minister, mind you- asked the Minister of Justice (the French Attorney General) and the Minister of the Families to meet next week with father rights organizations.

When has any high- ranked government official ever met with fathers rights organizations in the US? Did governors Strickland and Schwarzenegger ever ask their Attorney Generals to investigate the family court systems in their respective state? I guess not. And  I think it may have to do with the fact that father rights movement are no lobbyists with big pockets.

Serge Charnay, you are most welcome to talk about your experience on this blog when you will get off your crane.

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Sometimes when I come back to the US from abroad, I have some cultural adjustments nrato make. At the beginning of this New Year, I had to go over a big one.

A few days ago indeed, it was Black Friday all over again, not for electronics but for guns. In anticipation of new laws following  the Newtown slaughter, people rushed to buy guns. Gun dealers sold out their inventories. I can’t wait for Walmart advertising a Martin Luther King day sale on semiautomatic rifles.

I never had a gun. I don’t get the drive for it, although I have hunters in my  family: real ones, the type that run miles after a wild boar. Also, let’s face it: the political justification for the American rights to bear arms ought not to fly.  All in all, the second amendment was about keeping the slaves slaves.

Now for the cultural/in- defense-of- the-American-democracy line you hear from gun owners an the NRA: that’s all about the government, stupid. The government wants to deprive you from your right to own weapons. First they take your weapon and  tax the wealthy, then communism.

Back in New York at the beginning of the year, I received my annual New York State Child Support Processing Center: annual child support paid in 2012. I did not see nor talk to my girls last year, but New York State could care less. I am no father, I am a permanent resident paying for his children.

And I have news for the NRA and gun owner nuts: folks, it’s been a long time you have lost much more than the right to own a semiautomatic rifle, a machine gun or a tank: You have let the right to see your kids slipped and have not done zip about it.

Maybe there is one way, the only one, to have folks wake up to the cause of father rights: Forbid non-custodial fathers to own a gun, of any kind. At least we would have the NRA with us.

(more…)

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I love what readers of this blog are doing with it: it becomes a place where experiences, and sometimes solutions, are exchanged.

Yesterday, comments of a reader immersed me back deep into the Dickensian world of New York State family laws, in 2012.

Let’s summarize: She’s a non-custodial parent living on Social Security disability benefits; her ex-husband too. As a veteran, he gets disability benefits for their dependent son. It does not matter. She has to pay child support no matter what. Any earnings in addition to disability benefits -strictly limited by law- are garnished: that’s part of the bureaucratic recklessness rooted in the sheer imbecility of the State’s child support laws. When she asks for a refund, the State takes its time and its cut: child support overpayments are never entirely refunded. Only in New York State!

At this point, another reader mentioned bill S4547 introduced by New York State Senator Ken LaValle. I did not know about it. Thanks. I immediately googled it.

Kenneth LaValle

A smart fellow once said politics is the art of the possible. As New York State family laws goes, the possible is not much. The bill basically amounts to putting a band aid on a gaping wound. It requires a reduction of a child support’s obligation by the amount of social security benefits received by the child (conditional upon a case by case examination by family courts: good luck!).

Sure, the bill will help my reader, who should not be in this situation in the first place. Has it occurred to lawmakers that recipients of social security disability benefits do not exactly belong to the 1%? And that our reader would not be that distressed, if her child support payments were not a flat share of her gross income, regardless how low her income is?

Kenneth LaValle and colleagues on the other side of the aisle need to get some ambition. The State family laws can be reformed, deeply. It has happened in Britain and Australia, who had as crummy family laws as in the State. The guiding plot: joint-custody and child support payments based on both parents’ income.

Meanwhile, readers, stay safe: don’t marry, and most of all, don’t divorce in New York State!

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