CAFE parental alienation and fatherlessness billboard adds.

CAFE parental alienation and fatherlessness billboard adds.

Perhaps that’s because they don’t have Black Friday in Toronto (Canada), and no Donald Trump. Or just because they pay attention to issues that matter. In any case, the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) has started since November 17 of this year the second of a three-stage campaign to challenge social attitudes towards male issues, betting that it would strike some chords with the public.

The campaign takes the form of public events and billboards showing a kid in the arms of his father, with the message: “I am no parental prey.” The goal is to raise awareness on the fact that parental alienation severs the ties of divorced fathers with their kids, thanks to complacent family courts. The pinnacle of the campaign is a public event in the University of Toronto, on November the 26th.

From the US, it is so comforting to watch a father right movement with inhibited ambitions. I would have no objection if these Canadian folks were to extend the reach of the Association for Equality beyond the border.


Photo AFP

Memorial to the Paris victims in New York (Photo AFP)

I am shocked by the November 13 Paris attacks, but I am mostly angry and disgusted. I cannot understand the scything of these civilian lives, which according to the nuts who conducted the attacks, was the price to be paid for France strikes in Syria. I cannot fathom the absolute arrogance of these so-called soldiers of God who decide who lives and who doesn’t, and the kind of paradise they pretend to earn with their crimes.

There never were just wars, and the war on terror which is unfolding in Syria is certainly not proof to the contrary, even if Daesh commits daily crimes against humanity. This is a war without soldiers and a lot of civilian casualties. Daesh hectors civilian populations, our strikes add to their misery, strenghten and legitimize Daesh yoke on them. I am tired of the rhetoric of the war on terrorism. One ought not conduct wars against terrorism, but intelligence operations at an international level, and police operations at a domestic level.

As I read the flow of articles about the Paris attacks, I was struck by Omar Ismael Mostefai’s story, one of the killers of so many people in the Bataclan theater, in the 11th arrondissement. Mostefai was twenty nine years old, born in a suburban town I know- Courcouronnes- because close to my hometown. The man happened to have a little daughter. Did he kiss her before going to the Bataclan? I don’t care if he is where he thinks he would be, but I am afraid she will live in hell, and for a long time.

Kelly Rutherford and Children (Photo New York Post)

Kelly Rutherford and Children (Photo New York Post)

In the Fish Market store I usually go on Sunday, on 144 street and Broadway, I overheard an interesting conversation in Spanish. A customer – a Dominican man I would say- was ranting about child support with the two Mexican employees of the store. He owed back child support payments and was at risk of having his driver license removed. I did not catch the whole thread but at some point, I heard him say : “pago poco porque gano poco” (I pay little because I earn little). This man did not seem exactly pleased with New York State family court justice.

How strange, truly! This man obviously did not read Sheila Weller’s article in the November 2015 issue of Vanity Fair, titled “Irreconcilable Distances;” Otherwise he would know that family justice has changed a great deal. Let me say a few words about Weller’s story, whose estranged protagonists are Kelly Rutherford, star of the TV series Gossip Girl, and her ex-husband Daniel Giersch, a wealthy German business man. I skip the details of the custody battle and go directly to the outcome: Giersch was given residential custody, and as a result, Rutherford has to visit her children- her son Hermes and her daughter Helena- in Monaco. A lot of tears, and famous ones, have flown for Rutherford: ABC News Legal Analyst Dan Abrams tried to raise awareness of Rutherford’s lot and her children’s, in a September 1 2012 broadcast, “Two American Kids shipped to France in One of the Worst Custody Decision, Ever” (Abrams does not seem to bother that Monaco, whose Princess was Grace Kelly at some point, is not part of France). Also, with the initial help of Alan Dershowitz, “Boston-based Murphy- , a women’s -, children’s-, and victims’ rights lawyer filed a civil rights lawsuit in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on behalf of Hermes and Helena, claiming their life abroad is a form of ‘involuntary expatriation, which is unconstitutional,” tells Weller.

My heart bleeds at my ignorance of such a case. Yet, did I miss something, or these noble knights of the rights

Cirilia Balthazar Cruz (Photo Sharon Steinmann)

Cirilia Balthazar Cruz and Child (Photo Sharon Steinmann)

of mothers and children – Abrams, Dershowitz, Murphy- were nowhere to be found in support of Encarnacìon Bail Romero or Cirilia Balthazar Cruz, two undocumented (Guatemalan and Mexican) mothers who were deprived of their respective son and daughter by family courts in Missouri and Mississippi?

But let us not be sidetracked here and let us return to American motherhood in Monaco. The cause of Rutherford’s predicament, according to Weller, is “the friendly parent criterion,” which allegedly now guides the decisions of judges in the courts of this land. What is it? You need to appear supportive of your ex’s rights and ability to see the children. Don’t mess up with them, or at least, don’t behave in a way the judge could interpret you intend to. That was indeed the source of Rutherford’s troubles: she left Giersch’s name off the birth certificate of Helena’s. Critical mistake, which basically cost her custody of her children. Folks, that’s now the law of the land, we are told: Rich, poor, white, black, straights, gays, don’t even think of interfering with your ex’s rights. From New York to LA,  family court judges, these new heroes, will not allow it. You end Weller’s article, and you wonder how come the US family court system, after Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi in 2014, is not even considered for the 2015 Nobel Peace Price.

Now, let’s get real. Weller’s article is telling us that Giersch’s super lawyer Fahi Takesh Hallin (a partner in the prestigious L.A. firm Harris Ginsberg, mind you) were successful at pointing at Rutherford’s “excessive gatekeeping” during the trial; in other words, Hallin was good at blaming Rutherford’s sick tendency to overprotect her children and overstate the risks of spending time with Giersch. I am no Fahi Takesh Hallin, but let me tell you something: in the family court trial of physical abuse I was dragged to a few years before the Rutherford-Giersch case, there was plenty of evidence of “excessive gatekeeping” on the part of ex. The judge sat on it, and the law guardian did not lose one minute of sleep over it. Both cared about mum, and not at all about mom’s “excessive gatekeeping.” I believe that readers of this blog share this assessment about family courts.

Sometimes, when you come too close to the rich and famous, you lose sight of what goes on in the world of common folks. That’s actually a serious mistake for a journalist.



I am sure many of the readers of this blog have seen this video, featuring a Brazilian father and his baby daughter; one of those moments that ex or family courts cannot steal from us. Enjoy.

Louise et son père

Louise et son père

September 10th is a sad anniversary for me: On September 10 2005, I had my last supervised visitation with  my girls. Truly, I did not want any more to see my girls in supervised visitations. I had swallowed all possible regimes of monitored visitations that family courts inflict on non-custodial dads and their relation with their children. Yet I was still playing the game of family court,  as we all do, because too much is at stake and because we keep hope that the process is not totally rigged, and that perhaps, some humanity and justice will come out of all these paper pushers of family court, judges, law guardians, lawyers and social workers. It ain’t. These folks don’t care much, they don’t have second thoughts about biased family laws and how to interpret them. Moreover, they have not much incentive to challenge the status quo: since this is New York, they think they are cool, progressive, and at the avant-garde of social change.

You don’t survive ten years without seeing your children, and you don’t survive the idea that these years are wasted forever, with more to come. Ex has indeed scorched the earth of my relation to my daughters pretty well.

True, I’d like to see more changes simmering on the front of fathers’ rights. Let me end on a less gloomy note. The state of Massachusetts is considering changes to its family laws. These changes are inspired by stories like Shawn Gillespie’s, a father from Lowell, Massachusetts, who experienced hell in family court. In the legislative changes that are contemplated, there is the ban of the horrible word “visitation” that depicts what the extent of fatherhood is on the eye of the law, and its substitution for “shared parenting.”

Gosh, if things don’t happen in Massachusetts, where then?

From the Manhattan Bridge, August 2015

From the Manhattan Bridge, August 2015

A long time ago, the Greeks invented tragedy. Tragedy is about irreconcilable positions and impossible goals. Often in the mix there are delusional aspirations, because folks fail to assess their predicament.

Talking about crazy aspirations, take that one: Being “#1 Dad”, as a fellow painted on the roof of his building (see photo), when the divorced ones can barely be dads. When I saw it, I thought of a comment of a reader of this blog. The man had an accident, tried to get disability, lost his job, while his daughter was more than 18. In New York State however, child support is owed until the child is 21, and more…  it is actually owed after the child is 21. Our man still keeps paying back support while his daughter is 24.

Why should he? Simply because for New York State, child support obligations is a gender-based financial yoke, whereby men are non-custodial payers bound to pay support to ex until the child is 21, irrespective of any need.

Blue Star 1, July 1 2015

Blue Star 1, July 1 2015

On July 1, 2015, my girlfriend and I took the boat from Mytilene (Lesbos, Greece) to Athens. That day, most travelers on the Blue Star 1 were not the usual tourists doing the twelve-hour journey at this time of the year. They were Syrians (perhaps also Afghans and Somalis), mostly men, going to Athens on a transit visa. From there they would try to reach Northern European countries.

The day before, we had seen long caravans of men, veiled women and children walking along the roads of Lesbos. Small boats coming from the shore of Turkey had dropped them off in the north of Lesbos, in small villages like Eftalou, where chances to get caught by the Greek navy are remote. The price the smugglers charge for this short trip, we later learnt, is about $1,000. The migrants were all heading to Mytilene, Lesbos capital, where a refugees camp with a capacity of 400 people is totally overwhelmed.

In my experience, the poor and the destitute often tend to be the nicest people (after them come the Greeks). First, we started a conversation with two women and an adorable 7-year old little girl who could not fully bend one of her arms, which had been crushed under stones when her house was shelled. Later, we met two thirty-year-old Syrian men, whom we will call X and Y. The deck was crowded, and they insisted on finding us chairs and offering us some of the almonds that made their dinner for the day. X and Y are well-educated civil engineers, who had finished their degree and were working in the suburb of Damascus, until it became impossible to go on: They had to do a five-year military service and fight all the foes of the Assad regime. They also have no sympathy whatsoever for Daesh and its version of Islam. Y has two little girls, who are still in Damascus, and whose pictures he keeps on his cell phone. X’s wife is pregnant. For the two men, staying in Syria was not an option, and they have the support of their family in their journey.

The next morning we did not see X and Y among the crowd landing in Athens. We hope they made it to Germany or Denmark, where they want to work and settle.

The sad thing in all this is that Europe quietly let Greece cope with these fluxes of migrants coming from Asia and Africa, adding to the aggravation of EU austerity policy inflicted upon the country. In the Financial Times, George Soros called for an integrated migration and refugees policy in the European Union. So far, he is unfortunately screaming in the desert.


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