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Parents celebrate important events of the life in their children life, like Bar Mitzvahs or commencement ceremonies. Not me. First, I have been “parented away” for a long time now. I cannot communicate directly with my daughters. Communication through the channel of their mother does not go through, and is unreliable. Ex has no problem impersonating her daughters when she wants to. In these days and age tough, there is Google to bring you news about your offspring, even those you wish were not true, like: My daughters have changed their name or are in the process of doing so. In so doing, they bluntly manifest they have severe ties with their father. Ex’ plans are fully accomplished: my status as a father is reduced to that of a unfortunate “blurb” (Seinfeld is to me a profuse source of references) in their life story. I have been erased.

That may well be, but I am a very resilient fellow. I will be there in case my daughters want to break through Goebbels (ex)’s fences. Meanwhile, I thought of standing outside of the area of the commencement ceremony with the hope of seeing my daughters when people would exit, but I was sick. I had to make do with the video of the ceremony, hoping again that by chance, I could see my daughters there. Instead I saw the speech of the commencement speaker, Mark Zuckerberg.

Mr Zuckerberg is a nice man. Yet a few remarks about a couple of points he raised in his speech to the class of 2017 are in order:

Firstly, Mr. Zuckerberg aspires to create a world where everyone has “a new sense of purpose.” Mr. Zuckerberg  has found his (he created Facebook) and he assumes that “all people want to connect.” That resonates deeply with me because it could not be more wrong in my family. An alienating parent wants her children for herself, she wants them “to disconnect” and she succeeds. She may want them to find “a sense of purpose” only if it is predicated upon the exclusion of anybody who may contradict her influence.

Secondly, according to M. Zuckerberg, “every generation expands its definition of equality” and “the millennials are the most charitable generation in history.” That’s possible, but it is not going to help this country very much. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have been widening since the 1980’s, and even if the number of well-minded philanthropists like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg expands, the wealth they give away will not correct for increasing lack of access to health, education and, for the subjects that matter in this blog, to decent family justice. Charity is not a substitute for a proactive fiscal policy, even less this undergirding grandiose social projects like “redefining equality.” Charitable rich folks care about pet projects, they don’t declare “war on poverty.”

I would have liked to discuss this point with my recent graduate.

“Lancelot” by Camille Lacour, 2000.

Today Thursday May 25, 2017, you graduate with a B.A. in History and a minor in Classics. I presume you will attend the 366th commencement undergraduate exercises of your university in the morning. Félicitations!

I don’t have a clue of what you will do next. Somehow I surmise you are as passionate as you were when you were little, and that you will do something related to politics, like shaking this dusty Democratic party. You may take a breath of fresh air before going to graduate school.

Whatever you do, I wish you the best. I will spend some time in Paris in the fall.

Photo Lionel Bonaventure AFP

As we approach the runoff of the French Presidential elections, I have had interesting discussions with friends in France about the contenders, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron and their respective electoral base. Pundits agree that French folks who voted for far-right Le Pen on April 22  are not necessarily racist and anti-semitic. They happen to belong to a shrinking middle class threatened by globalization, and voting for Le Pen is a means to expressing both their fear and their unease with a political elite that does not understand them.

Even if I can conceive that F.N. (Front National) voters are not all racist bigots, I have trouble with the F.N. voters’ adherence to one of the creeds of the party: what is foreign is the ultimate cause of problems.

Actually,  F.N. xenophobia is not phrased in such crude terms.  F. N. xenophobic policy does not convey anymore detestation of foreigners but does express a preference for French citizens. Take the F.N. family policy for instance: Le Pen wants to get rid of “allocations familiales” (family allowances that vary with the number of children in a family) for foreigners. If you are a legal resident in France, you are eligible to receive those. Why would you not?

But being foreign is not only the fact of coming from abroad, but of being different. For instance, Le Pen wants to get rid of the “mariage pour tous” (marriage for all) law that was voted by the Parliament in 2013 and that granted homosexuals the right to marry. Macron who wants to preserve it, is singled out as pushing an “anti-family policy,” because there is only one family model, an heterosexual family. In other words, other types of families than the traditional one are not the real “stuff.”

In France and in the US, politicians have failed to address the real concerns of folks who did not make it. Yet those who do not make it would be well advised not to cast stones at foreigners. They have nothing to do with their problems, and it does not help their case.

 

Sand Museum, Tottori (Japan)

Everyday that passes cruelly makes me aware I will never keep up with the goodies technology has to offer. Last month, at a friend’s place, I discovered the existence of Alexa and all that my friend asks “this creature”to do for him. Today, I found something even better than Alexa: Veldt’s newest smartwatch.

I skipped the technical details, which are well above my head. This Veldt’s watch records quality time you spend with your children. Quality is a matter of distance. If your child is around you within 30 meter (32 yards) or less, you are good. Your watch records it. Otherwise, zip.

Let me tell you something. If I ever spend any time again with my children (who are now adults), it won’t be “quality time” or otherwise. Whatever happens, it won’t be memorable time and I will need no watch to record it.

That brings me to the most interesting part of this Veldt’s watch story, which Zoey Chong from CNET does not elaborate on. Veldt (a Tokyo-based company) seemed to have developed this watch with the help of the Japanese government, whose intent was to encourage people to move to the western rural part of Tottori, not as glamorous and attractive as Tottori city, famous for its sand dunes, or other cities of the Tottori region filled with culture and history. The way the Japanese government sold the move to the west: you will spend more “quality time” with your family, which you can measure with this attractive Veldt’s watch.

All this is speculation on my part. Newly inhabitants in Western Tottori, feel free to let us know if the time you spend with your children is better, and if this watch is of any help.

 

Alfred Woodfox (Photo Mark Hartman, The New Yorker)

Albert Woodfox (Photo Mark Hartman, The New Yorker)

Imagine the typical science-fiction starting point: A man comes back to earth after forty years (he was frozen or whatever) and assesses the state in which he finds the world now.

The man is Albert Woodfox, and the science-fiction genre could hardly come up with a story like his. The man spent 43 years in solitary confinement, most of it in Angola (Louisiana) an infamous Louisiana penitentiary and the largest maximum-security prison in the country. Woodfox fell through  all of the cracks of the American justice system: racial prejudice, sloppiness and high tolerance for violence. He served most of his time in Angola with  Herman Wallace, another Black Panther, who died right after getting out of prison in 2013.

Woodfox, along with Herman Wallace, Chester Jackson and Gilbert Montague were convicted for the murder of Brent Miller, a guard at Angola, on April 17 1972. There was no incriminating evidence, but a white jury delivered an expeditious conviction. God knows how one stands sane for more than forty years in a minuscule cell. Rachel Aviv, in her January 16 story in the New Yorker, “Surviving Solitary Confinement,” mentions a psychologist that was afraid of “how well Woodford had been adapting to painfulness.” From Aviv’s story, Woodfox’ survival stems from an extraordinary combination of strength of character, stringent discipline, rigorous control of his emotions and his desires, and sense of belonging to the Panthers and its ethos. Whatever the way he managed, what comes out Woodfox’s story is that he is a man, and a dignified one.

Freed at sixty-nine years old, Woodfox is now developing the relation he never had with his daughter, Brenda. He also happens to cast a stern look at the development of racial relations all the years he was locked up: “It’s the same old America…We have to protect Black Lives Matter like we did not protect the Black Panther Party.”

I am afraid that the seventy-year old child President of the United States, who claimed “that torture absolutely works” will give a  thought to rescinding the practice of solitary confinement, let alone reforming the US justice system.

lawyersIn the first week in his presidency, Trump has swiftly moved ahead with absurd infrastructure projects: The wall, the keystone and Dakota pipelines. He also stepped without any second thought on the Geneva convention when he barred entry to refugees from seven Muslim countries. Actually, this statement is incorrect: Trump did not have second thought about the Geneva convention, he did not even know what it was.  Chancelor Merkel had to explain it to the poor fellow, and the duties countries which signed the convention  -the U.S. among them- have with the  the prisoners of wars, the refugees  seeking asylum.

While people from these Muslim countries – among them green card holders- were stranded in US airports this weekend, immigration lawyers came to the airports, to help them remain in the U.S. and protect their rights.  I have not always been lenient with lawyers. These lawyers command my respect.

Since November 8, I cannot watch the news anymore and hear about the ludicrous tweets of the man with a toupee. I now confine myself to the paper and the radio.

This morning on the Brian Lehrer show, I listened to the 30 minutes weekly interview with the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. A caller asked the mayor about hiring more people at A.C.S (Administration for Children’s Services), which is under attack after Zymere Perkins’ death. The mayor was rather evasive.

I have not followed the tragic case of  Zymere Perkins’ case closely, but the question to the mayor let me wonder about ACS and its critical role between families and the justice system. On the one hand, ACS is all that children coming from  low income families like Zymere Perkins’ have; on the other hand, A.C.S. handles cases like mine (and this of more well-off folks like Anthony Wiener) and its  conclusions about child abuse don’t matter much, because the plaintiff carry on in court. I stick to what I said about A.C.S. 8 years ago: time to take them seriously and  staff them properly.

Let's Get Honest! Blog: Absolutely Uncommon Analysis of Family & Conciliation Courts' Operations, Practices, & History

'A Different Kind of Attention Develops Sound Judgment' | 'Suppose I'm Right Here?...' (posted 3/23 & 3/5/2014). Over 680 posts, Public-Interest Investigative Blogging On These Matters Since 2009.