Monday, October 31, 2011

Ten minutes was enough

I happened to tune into the 2002 movie Enough on TNT last night. There is info on Wikipedia and IMDB. It stars Jennifer Lopez ("J-Lo") who was a huge star at the time. She was in a rage about her husband's infidelity, got into a fight, and kidnapped their daughter. After being advised of the illegality of kidnapping, she gave the kid to a friend to hide in another state. That was all in about 10 minutes, and I could not bear to watch anymore.

According to the plot summary, the husband went looking for him while she trained to kill him. At the end of the movie, he finds them, she murders him, and runs off with her daughter and an old lover.

The movie was a box office flop.

As you can see from the movie poster, J-Lo is presented as some sort of hero for this.

Admittedly, I did not watch this movie, but it seems to me that no matter how much J-Lo's husband was a jerk to her, he still has a right to see their daughter. J-Lo makes no attempt to find a lawful and peaceful settlement. The movie poster says "Self defense isn't murder", but that is not plausible when she is spending many months planning to kill him while he is merely insisting on his right to see his daughter. The soundtrack has a song titled "Setting the Trap", which I guess is her plan to trap and kill her husband.

I am hoping that this movie was a flop because most people were disgusted by it.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Obesity Fuels Custody Fights

The WSJ reports:
The nation's waistline is expanding, and so too is the role of obesity in child-custody battles in the U.S.

Family-law practitioners and legal experts say mothers and fathers in custody lawsuits are increasingly hurling accusations at each other about the nutrition and obesity of their children, largely in attempts to persuade judges that their kids are getting less-than-optimal care in the hands of ex- and soon-to-be-ex-spouses.

The evidence used to support the allegations varies. In some cases, it's a grossly overweight child. In others, it's evidence that soft drinks and potato chips make up a disproportionate part of a child's diet. In still others, it's that the other parent is too obese to perform basic child-rearing functions.

"It's come up quite a bit in the last couple of years," said Douglas Gardner, a family-law practitioner in Tempe, Ariz. "Typically, one parent is accusing the other of putting a child at risk of developing diabetes or heart disease -— or saying that the child is miserable because he's getting made fun of at school."

For judges in many states, the question of custody turns largely on one question: What is in the best interest of the child? Some states such as Pennsylvania recently altered their definition so that the criteria now clearly include the physical as well as the emotional well-being of the child.
So family courts are now regulating whether a kid can eat potato chips?!

As absurd as this is, it makes more sense than asking psychologists about the child's emotional well-being. At least the weight of a child can be objectively measured, and a parent with a potato chip court order will know how to comply with it.

In my case, the only complaints about me concern subjective opinions about the future emotional well-being of my kids. There is no substantiation of any of the complaints, and no way for me to comply with their silly parenting ideas.

I have no doubt that the family court would come to completely wrong conclusions
about food. The Sacramento Bee reports today:
Fast food alone cannot be blamed for high obesity rates among people with low incomes, according to a new UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research study.

The research calls into question stereotypes that have led some cities in Southern California to cite obesity when passing laws limiting or banning new fast-food restaurants in poorer communities.
It turns out that people making $60k/year eat more fast food than poor people. They have busier schedules, it appears.

If the court were really concerned about the best in terest of the child (BIOTCh), then of course that would include physical well-being, diet, exercise, athletic skills, and fat. These are all things that psychologists have no expertise in, and they should not be giving court-ordered opinions on the matter.

The next step should be to consider the intellectual well-being of the child. I had a CPS social worker claim that it was child abuse to teach math to a girl at above her grade level. The woman obviously knows nothing about development of a child's intellectual well-being.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rise of therapism

I just learned a new word. It is therapism, as defined here with example usage:
therapism n. a culture or ideal of mental therapy, empathy, or sharing of feelings, especially as a cure.

Therapism is an overvaulation of feeling. In a real sense, it is a tyranny of feelings where women have come to believe that what realy counts in their life is their “psychology.”…We might say that therapism promotes a psychological hypochondria with women as the major seekers of emotional health. [1993]

Some are put off by the New Age rhetoric of crystals, spiritualism, and therapism. [1995]

Once we saw ourselves as serving God, then science, then the state: now we turn inwards and serve ourselves, worship our individuality. This is what I mean by Therapism. It is a religion which began a hundred years ago in the consulting rooms of psychotherapists, and which now, in its wider social and political context, sweeps all before it. [1997]

The first step that women took in their emancipation was to adopt traditional male roles: to insist on their right to wear trousers, not to placate, not to smile, not to be decorative. The first step men have taken in their self-defense is to adopt the language of Therapism: a profoundly female notion this-that all things can be cured by talk. [1998]

“Therapism,” they write, is a doctrine that “valorizes openness, emotional self-absorption and the sharing of feelings.” [2005]
This is a disease that has infected our society. I did not know that there is a word for it. It is not in any regular dictionary yet, but it ought to be.

A distressingly large number of people seem to believe in therapism like a religion.
This is especially true of family court personnel. They rely on psychotherapists who overvalue feelings and talk therapy, to the detriment of much more important issues.

Therapism. I am against it. It undermines what made America great.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Local murder trial starts

A high-profile local murder trial is starting:
SANTA CRUZ -- On the evening a 28-year-old pregnant woman went missing, she'd told her college friend she planned to ask the man she believed was the father of her child for a paternity test, a witness testified Wednesday in the murder trial of a former Ben Lomond man.

Michael McClish, 42, is charged with killing Joanna "Asha" Veil and her unborn baby. The two worked together at the Ben Lomond Market. Prosecutor Jeff Rosell has said the two also had a personal relationship and Veil believed McClish was the father of her child.
I have read dozens of stories about this case, but this is the first that I have read that the real father was the victim's husband:
Experts have determined that Richard Veil was the father of the unborn baby, but Rosell maintains that McClish thought the baby could be his.
This is going to be a long trial:
McClish's ex-wife is expected to be one of the 140 witnesses who will testify in McClish's trial, which will last until at least December.
This murder took place 5 years ago. I assume that the evidence is very weak, or McClish would have been tried years ago. I don't think that they have any proof that McClish was having an affair with Asha, or was at the scene of the crime, or had the murder weapon, or anything like that. They mainly have this theory that Asha falsely accused McClish of paternity, so he killed her.

I commented before that McClish was convicted on a rape charge. It appeared to be that he was framed on the rape charge because the authorities believed that he was a murderer, but could not prove it.

I guess that we will finally get to see the evidence against McClish. I don't know why everyone has considered him a murderer for 5 years. He should be innocent until proven guilty.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baby seller convicted

I have come to the conclusion that Child Protection Services (CPS) causes more harm than good. But I occasionally hear of some really screwed up situations.

The Monterey California Herald reports:
A jury Tuesday convicted a Salinas man of endangering the baby girl he exposed to methamphetamine and offered to sell in a Walmart parking lot last year.

What the jury did not know, and what Judge Pamela Butler will take into consideration when sentencing Patrick Fousek, 39, is that it is not the first time one of his children has been taken from him because of methamphetamine exposure. ...

Fousek and his live-in girlfriend, Samantha Tomasini, 21, were arrested after two women told police Fousek offered to sell them his infant daughter for $25 in the Salinas Walmart parking lot on June 22, 2010. ...

Tomasini, who pleaded guilty to child endangerment and is serving a jail sentence, told police she and Fousek smoked methamphetamine in the apartment — though never in the same room as the baby — and that she was breast-feeding three times a day.

Tomasini, still appearing strung out after more than four months in jail, changed her statement on the stand and said Fousek wasn't using and ordered her not to breast-feed. The jury rejected that account after viewing a video of her original statement. ...

"I tried my best for my children. I tried to be the best citizen I can. I don't know what I did wrong," she sobbed. "I'm so ashamed."

She was accompanied throughout the trial and Tuesday by the mother of Fousek's son, who asked not to be named to protect her other child, who is not related to Fousek.
I mentioned this story last year, because Fousek was given a chance to get his kid back by getting off of the meth.

There are so many things wrong with this situation, that I don't know where to start. The mom says that she is ashamed, but does not know what she did wrong? She would only be ashamed if she knew what she did wrong.

So do we need CPS to manage the interests of the child in cases like this? I say that it would have been much better to have just bought the child for $25, and then treated these lowlife parents just like any other drug addicts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Judge cannot delegate

A reader asked about my recent claim that a family court judge cannot delegate a custody or visitation decision to an evaluator or psychologist.

Here is the California court precedent:
"The power of decision vested in the trial court is to be exercised by a duly constituted judge, and that power may not be delegated to investigators or other subordinate officials or attaches of the court, or anyone else .... It is the constitutional right of every citizen and every litigant to be governed by the law as expounded by the judges, and not by officials or employees provided by the legislature to assist a judge in an administrative or quasi-judicial capacity. Such help as may be accorded a judge to assist him in the exercise of his judicial functions may never be permitted to reach the point where someone else decides the case or an issue before him."
In re Marriage of Matthews (1980) 101 Cal. App. 3d 811 [161 Cal.Rptr. 879]
Yes, Judge Heather D. Morse does it anyway. Technically, the parties need to object, and make sure that the evaluator is just giving a recommendation that requires further court action.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Unsubscribing the dad

This is from today's Rhymes With Orange.

What if a father said this during a supervised visit, and the supervisor intervened to tell the bratty teenager that she does not have to listen to her dad and can do whatever she wants. Should he fire the supervisor?

I am afraid that most supervisors would disapprove of what the father says here, and intervene.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Right reasons for divorce

I am going to have to quit reading this stupid newspaper advice column, but my local newspaper prints it next to the comics page.

Today's advice:
She's Leaving for All the Right Reasons

Dear Annie: I am 29 years old, have been married for eight years and have two toddlers. I have decided to leave my husband.

When we met, I was in college and my husband had just graduated. I quit school with the assumption that he would pass his licensure exam. He has since failed it three times. ...

He has told me to quit school, knowing we would have to pay back every cent of the tuition. He said he doesn't believe it is God's will for me to attend school. (He's also said that if I don't have sex with him, it will be my fault if he fails his exam again.)

I don't have the resources to leave him until I graduate, ... How do I ensure that I get primary, residential custody of my kids? — Surviving in Virginia

Dear Virginia: In his desperation to control you, your husband's frustration has become emotional abuse. We are concerned that this will escalate. It is possible that joint counseling, particularly with your clergy, might help him realize that his attitude is hurting everyone.

In the meantime, custody arrangements do not come with advance guarantees, so please talk to a lawyer. And call the National Domestic Violence Hotline ( at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233).
Maybe the husband is a jerk, or maybe the wife overreacted to a couple of minor comments. There is not enough info to tell. I am posting this for the bad advice.

The husband supported the wife for 9 years, while they had 2 toddlers and she went back to school. Now that she realizes that he is not going to achieve the earnings potential that she expected, she is planning to bail out as soon as she can get a better job. But her plans depend on getting primary custody of what she calls "my kids".

The advice is to get a lawyer, make a phony domestic violence accusation, get a unilateral divorce, use the accusation to get primary custody, and sue for child support.

Maybe if he had passed that licensure exam, he would have made the big bucks and she would be happy as a housewife. But now, he is not good enough for her, and she would rather just collect the child support check, pursue her own career, keep their kids, and find new lovers.

This is marriage today in the USA. There is no mention of whether she loves him, or he loves her, or anyone loves the kids, or anyone feeling bound to a commitment. The comments at the above link are even worse than the advice columnists'.

The Santa Cruz paper used the headline "Husband is jealous of my success". The advice
columnists themselves suggested, "She's Leaving for All the Right Reasons". What right reasons? Her reasons are (1) he failed his licensure exam, (2) she regrets having dropped out of school, (3) he wants to have sex with her, (4) he made a couple of unkind remarks, (5) she will soon be making more money than him, and (6) she wants primary custody of their kids.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sybil Exposed

NPR Radio just broadcast a news program and a Science Friday episode on the new book, Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case.

I posted last year that I thought that Sybil had been debunked.

The CS Monitor summarizes:
The book “Sybil” by Flora Rheta Schreiber introduced the idea of multiple personality disorder to America – but a new book is now saying that the entire case may have been fabricated.

In Debbie Nathan’s new book Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Multiple Personality Case, Nathan introduces a letter written by Shirley Mason – the real name of the girl dubbed Sybil – to her therapist Connie Wilbur.

“I am all of them,” Mason wrote of her multiple personalities in the letter presented in the book. “I have essentially been lying… as trying to show you I felt I needed help.”

Mason, who had indeed been abused as a child, Nathan writes, was prescribed multiple drugs by Wilbur, including Pentathol, which is today thought to encourage those who take it to describe experiences that never actually occurred. At the time, however, Pentathol was believed to be the equivalent of a truth serum.

Nathan says that when Mason presented herself as multiple people in one session, Wilbur suggested she become the focus of a book and in exchange, she would cover Mason’s medical school tuition and other expenses.

The two went to Schreiber, who, according to Nathan, told Mason and Wilbur that stories of abuse would interest people. Schreiber had written stories for women’s magazine stories that were billed as real-life accounts and had seen the appeal these held for the public, Nathan writes.

“Quite thrilling,” Mason wrote in her letter to Wilbur of the book. “Got me a lot of attention.”

The authenticity of the book, which was turned into a miniseries starring Sally Field as Sybil in 1976, has been debated for decades. However, because the last surviving member of the group, Mason, died in 1998, no conclusion has ever been reached. Researchers have recently been investigating multiple personality disorder to determine if it is, in fact, a true syndrome.
I always assumed that these sensationalized cases were not taken seriously by professionals. I was wrong. The profession is deeply split over this. You might say that the profession has its own split personality. Some say that the Sybil story is an embarrassing fraud, and others say that she was an extremely influential case study.

I expect that one of my readers will comment that he had a crazy wife, and that diagnostic criteria for conditions like borderline personality disorder are useful for identifying aberrant mental conditions. Maybe so. But I still think that the whole profession is so permeated with frauds and con men that it has no ability to discipline the phonies.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What more can I do?

When a wife complains about her husband, she usually makes it sound as if she has a legitimate complaint. Sometimes not. Here is yesterday's letter Dear Annie:
Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married more than 40 years. ... I rarely, if ever, let him see me undressed. I turn off any TV program that makes any reference to love or sex as soon as he comes into the room. I never participate in any pastime that he enjoys.

I always make sure I am reading or applying hand lotion when I come to bed. I push him away anytime he approaches me. I never respond to his inquiries as to why he is so repulsive to me or what he could do to make his approaches less objectionable. I don't want it to be "better." I want him to stop.

I suggested separate bedrooms, but he said, "Then move out." In spite of all this, every six or eight weeks, he wants to grope me for half the night. He expects me to respond — even participate. ... What more can I do? — Sick of It
What more can she do? Is she serious? Does she really believe that she is doing all that she can for a happy marriage? She sounds like Hell to me.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The multiple personality hoax

A reader sends this new story:
If you were a kid in the early 70s, this was the book everybody's mom had on her nightstand. I recall being especially disturbed by one of the paperback covers as a child, because I thought it literally depicted the events of the book, and I thought having your head sliced into sixteen pieces would be very painful.

"Sybil" was the supposedly true story of a girl whose horribly traumatic childhood caused her to manifest sixteen different personalities. Interviews with her were like demonic exorcisms, except the psychologist was taking on sixteen different demons at once, or maybe one demon with really potent multi-tasking capabilities.

Her "real-life" drama, filled with lurid details of abuse, fit neatly into the nightmare-child vibe that illuminated so much of the decade's pop fiction. A lot of unholy, unhinged, and undead little girls leered from paperback shelves in those days.

In Sunday's New York Post, Kyle Smith reviewed a "darkly absurd" new book called "Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case," which reveals the whole story was cooked up by a somewhat disturbed young woman named Shirley Mason, an enterprising psychiatrist with a well-stocked medicine cabinet, and a trashy journalist:

As a student in New York City in the 1950s, [Shirley] met a Park Avenue therapist named Cornelia "Connie" Wilbur. The two women adored each other even as Connie gradually got Shirley hooked on a series of "therapeutic" drugs, many of them new and seemingly wondrous, including Seconal, Demerol, Edrisal and Daprisal. (The last two were so addictive that they were soon banned.)

Connie also strongly believed in giving patients Pentathol, which invariably got them blabbing, sometimes about fantasies that could not possibly have occurred. Still, the drug was widely believed to be a "truth serum."

One day, Shirley started talking about blackouts in which, she claimed, she became others with various names and personalities -- Peggy Lou, Peggy Ann, Vicky, etc.

Fascinated, Connie offered, "Would you like to earn some money?" She suggested that her patient could be the subject of a book. Connie offered to pay Shirley's medical-school tuition and living expenses.

The personality split was a lie, Shirley confessed in a five-page 1958 letter that sits in the archives at John Jay. She said she was "none of the things I have pretended to be."
I post this just to point out the low standards of the whole psychiatric and psychological profession. A complete quack and phony can generate huge amounts of publicity, and fellow professionals do not expose the hoax.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fighting paternity fraud

Here is an organization that seems to be doing some good. Fathers and Families reports:
In a stunning victory, duped dad Pedro Soto and his attorney Richard A. Lowe, Esq. have prevailed against the Orange County Department of Child Support Services in a paternity fraud case emblematic of the numerous outrageous injustices faced by men and fathers in family court. In this case, Soto has paid over $75,000 in child support for a child DNA tests have established is not his, and who has been living with both of his biological parents for many years.
Glad to see a fathers group accomplish something.

This whole paternity problem should be a non-problem. 99% of the time, the mom is 100% sure who the dad is. When the mom fills out the birth certificate form, there should be a blank for the dad, and a checkbox for whether she is 100% sure. If she does not check the box, then no child support is ever paid without a DNA test. If she does check the box, demands child support from the wrong father, and a DNA test later proves that she was lying, then she should be liable for criminal fraud and monetary reimbursement.

Eventually, the DNA tests will be so cheap that the authorities will test everybody and maintain a giant database with every person, his relatives, his bank account, and his GPS coordinates. Ending paternity fraud will just be a byproduct of ending personal privacy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Men who need teaching

A comment
on this blog yesterday said:
For one thing... they're making the men take classes, not the women, so it's the men who need teaching. Secondly, the reason most of these marriages aren't working out is because 1) they aren't marrying for love, ...
The context was Korea, which I don't know anything about, but this is one of silliest comments on this blog.

Commie countries have sent men, but not women, to reeducation camps. Does that mean that it's the men who need teaching?

The Santa Cruz family court primarily sends men (and some women) to silly parenting classes. Does that mean the men need it? The parenting classes are not learning at all. The classes only serve as tools to separate parents from their children.

If the marriages suffer from cultural differences between Koreans and Filipinos, why is that the fault of the husbands? Maybe the brides should take classes on understanding those differences, and on what to expect from marriage.

And why assume that they are not marrying for love, and assume that is a problem? They have arranged marriages in India, so they are not marrying for love, but they have long-lasting and happy marriages. I always thought that international marriages were usually for love, and that divorces were more likely to be caused by cultural differences rather than lack of love.

Perhaps my post yesterday encourages from woman-bashing, which I don't really want to do. I have this blog to complain about the family court, and to comment on related matters. Women get screwed by the family court also. But my perspective is that of a man, and I really disagree with the mentality that "it's the men who need teaching".

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More on the efficacy of counseling

I quoted a letter to newspaper advice column on the efficacy of counseling, so I am posting a followup letter in yesterday's paper:
Dear Annie: This is for "Didn't Need It," who went for counseling after getting out of an abusive marriage and it didn't help: Don't give up so quickly.

My husband and I went to seven different marriage counselors before we found one who didn't take sides. The eighth was well worth the search. It's up to you to find the one best for you, and to follow their advice (or not).
So I guess that they needed a counselor who never said anything that either of them disagreed with.

I have the impression that when most women seek counseling, they have no interest in solving problems or getting advice. They want to get their feelings validated. So this one searched 8 counselors in order to find one who could validate the feelings of her and her husband at the same time. That must be a rare talent in a shrink.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Korean men must take classes

The Christian Science Monitor reports:
With the growing number of foreign brides in South Korea – and the rising number of unhappy marriages – South Korean men marrying foreign women now have to take a class to prepare themselves.
I am wondering -- does their textbook have a chapter on how to treat an American woman? What could they possibly say to prepare a man?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bill Bennett gives advice

William J. Bennett writes on
For the first time in history, women are better educated, more ambitious and arguably more successful than men.

Now, society has rightly celebrated the ascension of one sex. We said, "You go girl," and they went. We celebrate the ascension of women but what will we do about what appears to be the very real decline of the other sex?

The data does not bode well for men. In 1970, men earned 60% of all college degrees. In 1980, the figure fell to 50%, by 2006 it was 43%. Women now surpass men in college degrees by almost three to two. Women's earnings grew 44% in real dollars from 1970 to 2007, compared with 6% growth for men.

In 1950, 5% of men at the prime working age were unemployed. As of last year, 20% were not working, the highest ever recorded. Men still maintain a majority of the highest paid and most powerful occupations, but women are catching them and will soon be passing them if this trend continues.

The warning signs for men stretch far beyond their wallets. Men are more distant from a family or their children then they have ever been. The out-of-wedlock birthrate is more than 40% in America. In 1960, only 11% of children in the U.S. lived apart from their fathers. In 2010, that share had risen to 27%. Men are also less religious than ever before. According to Gallup polling, 39% of men reported attending church regularly in 2010, compared to 47% of women.

If you don't believe the numbers, just ask young women about men today. You will find them talking about prolonged adolescence and men who refuse to grow up. I've heard too many young women asking, "Where are the decent single men?" There is a maturity deficit among men out there, and men are falling behind.
Bennett has a curious past. He got rich on a book that was ghostwritten by others. He was a drug czar under Pres. G.H.W. Bush while he was addicted to nicotine. He has frittered away millions of dollars on a gambling addiction.

He gives his opinion:
Man's response has been pathetic. Today, 18-to- 34-year-old men spend more time playing video games a day than 12-to- 17-year-old boys. While women are graduating college and finding good jobs, too many men are not going to work, not getting married and not raising families. Women are beginning to take the place of men in many ways. This has led some to ask: do we even need men?

So what's wrong? Increasingly, the messages to boys about what it means to be a man are confusing. The machismo of the street gang calls out with a swagger. Video games, television and music offer dubious lessons to boys who have been abandoned by their fathers. Some coaches and drill sergeants bark, "What kind of man are you?" but don't explain.

Movies are filled with stories of men who refuse to grow up and refuse to take responsibility in relationships. Men, some obsessed with sex, treat women as toys to be discarded when things get complicated. Through all these different and conflicting signals, our boys must decipher what it means to be a man, and for many of them it is harder to figure out.

For boys to become men, they need to be guided through advice, habit, instruction, example and correction. It is true in all ages. Someone once characterized the two essential questions Plato posed as: Who teaches the children, and what do we teach them?
That's his solution? Guiding young men with advice?

Planning video games is better than compulsively losing millions in Las Vegas.

There are larger cultural trends at work here, and they cannot be solved by people like Bennett urging young men to take responsibility. I think that the young men have figured it out better than Bennett.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Husband killer is acquitted

A husband-killer got acquitted last week:
She had always admitted to killing her husband, using two guns to fire 11 bullets inside the couple’s home in Queens. But she insisted she had no choice: if she had not shot him, he would have surely killed her first.

On Thursday, a jury in State Supreme Court in Queens agreed, clearing the woman, Barbara Sheehan, of second-degree murder charges in a case that had been viewed as a strenuous test of a battered-woman defense. ...

During the trial, the jury heard how Ms. Sheehan had been relentlessly abused by her husband, Raymond Sheehan, a former police sergeant, during their 24 years of marriage. But the critical question at trial was whether Ms. Sheehan was in imminent danger when she killed her husband; New York State’s self-defense law justifies the use of lethal force when a threat to a person’s life is deemed immediate. ...

The physical evidence appeared unpersuasive: Mr. Sheehan had been shaving before he was killed; his body was found on the bathroom floor, the faucet still running.

Ms. Sheehan testified that the couple had a fierce argument the day before, and she had decided to leave, carrying one of her husband’s guns for protection. When her husband saw her, she said, he reached for a gun on the bathroom vanity and aimed it at her.
That story drew this NY Times letter:
To the Editor:
Re “Wife Who Fired 11 Shots Is Acquitted of Murder” (front page, Oct. 7):

Your article on the acquittal of Barbara Sheehan, a domestic violence survivor, included problematic language. For instance, it said, “Legal experts said the verdict was a vindication for the so-called battered-woman defense.”

This language suggests that there is a special defense, a get-out-of-jail-free card for claiming a history of abuse. This creates both social and legal pushback to the introduction of evidence that all defendants are constitutionally entitled to present.

There is no special battered woman’s defense. What we are talking about is evidentiary support — highly relevant and admissible — as to whether or not the defendant reasonably believed that her life was in danger.

The use of admissible evidence should not require any “vindication.” It is a disservice to domestic violence survivors — and a detriment to how we respond to this epidemic — to suggest that introducing the truth in a court of law is somehow seeking special treatment.

Berkeley, Calif., Oct. 11, 2011

Ms. Warnken is a lawyer and a legal policy associate with the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Ms. Lemon, also a lawyer, directs the domestic violence program at the law school.
Huhh? I didn't really get their point, so I tried to google these two dames to see if they have written scholarly papers on the subject. For Warnken, I just found this 2007 story:
Heather Warnken had the great fortune of winning Modern Bride of the Year. But then, she had the great misfortune of being noticed by Gawker, who Gawker's excoriated her and her husband-to-be for registering for a honeymoon rather than for traditional gifts.
That is too weird. Maybe Heather Warnken is a more common name than I thought.

I did find the Nancy K.D. Lemon faculty page. It says that she is a woman, but I couldn't tell from the picture. It says, "Lemon holds a B.A. degree in Women's Studies, a major she co-founded, from the University of California, Santa Cruz." That figures. We sure attract the goofballs. She looks a little like k.d. lang, the Canadian lesbian animal rights pop singer. Is "K.D." some kind of lesbian code?

For my politically correct readers here, I am not gay-bashing. I really don't care about her sexual orientation or identity. I do care if a whole generation of judges and lawyers has learned completely wacky notions of marriage, domestic violence, and justifications for husband killing.

On Lemon's scholarly work, I found this debate:
Christina Hoff Sommers, in her essay "Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship" (The Chronicle Review, online edition, June 29), criticized Nancy K.D. Lemon, a lecturer in domestic-violence law at the University of California at Berkeley's School of Law, for publishing errors in the popular textbook she edits, Domestic Violence Law, and for not taking seriously her continuing criticisms of the book. "One reason that feminist scholarship contains hard-to-kill falsehoods is that reasonable, evidence-backed criticism is regarded as a personal attack," Sommers charged.
Here is a sample of what Sommers criticizes in Lemon's textbook:
"The history of women's abuse began over 2,700 years ago in the year 753 BC. It was during the reign of Romulus of Rome that wife abuse was accepted and condoned under the Laws of Chastisement. … The laws permitted a man to beat his wife with a rod or switch so long as its circumference was no greater than the girth of the base of the man's right thumb. The law became commonly know as 'The Rule of Thumb.' These laws established a tradition which was perpetuated in English Common Law in most of Europe."

Where to begin? How about with the fact that Romulus of Rome never existed. He is a figure in Roman mythology —the son of Mars, nursed by a wolf. Problem 2: The phrase "rule of thumb" did not originate with any law about wife beating, nor has anyone ever been able to locate any such law. It is now widely regarded as a myth, even among feminist professors.
Amazingly, Lemon persists in publishing these errors, even after they are pointed out to her. She does not even seem to grasp the concept that a university textbook should correct factual errors. She seems to think that Rome really was founded by the brothers Romulus and Remus, after being suckled by a wolf. Or that it is okay to cite a myth as if it were fact, I can't tell.

I got my PhD at U.C. Berkeley. I taught a class at U.C. Santa Cruz. I once had a slide that quoted a "rule of thumb". A boy came up to me after class and told me that I should never use that phrase because of its wife-beating origin. That was the first I had heard that there was any controversy about the word. So I looked it up, and found that the phrase had completely innocent origins. So I ignored him and figured it was an isolated case of a silly student with a silly idea. Now I think that I should have asked him whether he learned that in some sort of required diversity class where Lemon learned it, because maybe all the other students learned the same nonsense, and I could have corrected them.

These are fine universities, if you stay away from the feminists and other political crazies. Now I think that I live in a looney land. Barbara Sheehan's husband of 24 years was in the bathroom shaving, and she shot him with 11 shots from 2 different guns. How can anyone defend this verdict?

Update: A reader sends this Texas story to prove that husbands can also be acquitted of spousal murder.

There is a big difference. The Texas man was only released when DNA evidence proved that someone else committed the murder, and the husband is only being released after serving 25 years in prison.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Not jailed today

I just got out of court where I was to be sentenced for contempt of court. The charges were dropped, and I have not been jailed.

We were scheduled to appear before Judge Heather D. Morse at 10:30. There was one case going on at the time, with a mom and dad both represented by lawyers. The facts were not in dispute. The court keeps sending them to mediation with Mellissa Berrenge, who then recommends a plan that they both accept. But then the mom reneges on the plan, and they end up back in court.

Judge Morse did not seem to get it, and sent them back to Berrenge again, and said that they should agree on a plan. The dad's lawyer explained again that this did not work before, and asked that Berrenge's recommendation become the order of the court. The mom's lawyer did not object. Judge Morse continued to say that they ought to agree on what Berrenge says. Finally, the dad's lawyer offered to write up the order. Again, the mom's lawyer did not object. It is not clear to me that the judge really ruled in his favor, but since he gets to write up the order, I guess that it is going to work out that way.

No one mentioned the underlying legal problem, which was that California law prohibits a family court judge from delegating a decision to a private shrink like Berrenge. Berrenge would make a horrible judge, and there is no due process for whatever she may decide in her private office. So maybe that is why Judge Morse did not explicitly say that she was delegating the decision to Berrenge.

This was really a simple case. If the parents are really agreeable to letting Berrenge dictate their plan, then all they have to do is to bring the plan back to court and get it ordered. Judge Morse seemed incapable of doing the obvious.

My case started at 11:00. Judge Morse noticed that my ex-wife, Julie Travers, was sitting on the opposite side from the plaintiff's side where she usually sits. Judge Morse said that I faced sentencing on two counts, unless they were cured.

The first count was money, where I contested two amounts. Julie wanted to pay for her half of Ken Perlmutter's evaluation, and for half of our daughter's orthodontic treatment. At the contempt trial in August, Judge Morse said that I was never ordered to pay her half of the evaluation, and I did not have to pay that. I only had to pay my half of the $19,000 evaluation, and pay all of his $9,000 in witness fees. The judge also said that I had not been ordered to pay orthodontic fees, but that she would order it if Julie produced evidence that the treatment was necessary. Julie produced a bad xerox of dental xrays, and Judge Morse announced halfway thru the contempt trial that she could see that my daughter had too many teeth, and ordered me to pay for the treatment. Two hours later, she found me in contempt for not paying. I still don't see how I could be in contempt for not paying something that was never ordered until the contempt trial, but that is what happened.

Today, I said that I paid the money. Julie agreed that I paid it, altho she refused to admit that it was for orthodontic treatment. I don't know why she said that, as that was the only issue she won on. But she agreed that I paid, and the judge said that count was purged.

Next, Judge Morse said the much more complicated issue was count no. 2, as that involved posted personally identifying info about our daughters on the web, such as pictures, and that had to be weighed against my free speech rights. Julie explained that info about the kids was not at issue. She said that her only concern was a report by Connie Jo Neustadter that said that I was an excellent father and that strongly recommended joint custody, and a posting on this blog that briefly quoted a Ken Perlmutter report on how Julie got temporary sole legal custody of our kids. As she explained at the contempt trial, she did not like the Neustadter report because I had pointed out that the report was done to comply with an order of the court and she did not like there to be anything online to suggest that the court had found me to be a good father. She did not like the Perlmutter quote because it proves that she lied to Perlmutter about having already gotten sole legal custody when she had not, and because it shows that he was either incompetent or corrupt.

I have a regular commenter who talks about finding a smoking gun for incompetence or corruption. This quote is a smoking gun, and I was ordered to remove it from the blog.

Judge Morse acknowledged at the August contempt trial that I had not been ordered to remove these items before the trial, but she found me in contempt at the end of the trial for not having removed them.

Today, Julie acknowledged that I had removed the two things that she had complained about, and Judge Morse purged that contempt count also.

Before dismissing us, Judge Morse asked us how the visits were going, and that opened a can of worms. Julie said that I was getting two supervised visits a week, one for each kid separately, except that she canceled yesterday's visit on account of the kid playing basketball. I said that I was going to bring a motion to improve the situation, and then we got into an argument about whether I was prohibited from bringing motions for two years. I said that we only had temporary custody orders, and that even if there were a permanent custody order in effect, I would not be prohibited from bringing a motion. Julie said that I was prohibited. Judge Morse said that she wanted to protect the kids from litigation, and see how much progress we make on our own. She said that maybe we could go to mediation, but that it was entirely at Julie's discretion. Judge Morse also said that the kids need to work out their feelings in counseling. I pointed out that they were not in counseling, but she said that the supervised visits were like counseling. They are nothing like counseling. In the last couple of visits, the supervisor just read a book for two hours and never said a word beyond hello at the beginning and goodbye at the end. For that, she gets $100 each visit.

As a practical matter, I believe that the clerk will let me file a motion, but if it goes before Judge Morse, she will surely refuse it. I think that I will file a motion anyway. On my way out I asked Julie if she were willing to discuss unsupervised visits, and she said that it was out of the question.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Women lawyers get new lectern

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports, as a reader sent me:
SANTA CRUZ -- The state's top jurist says the California court system needs to move into the digital era and she plans to help make that happen.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye spoke to members of the legal community about the state of the California judicial system Tuesday evening at an event co-sponsored by Women Lawyers of Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz County Bar Association. ...

As the state has undergone budget cuts across the board, the judicial system has hardly been immune. Cantil-Sakauye said she hopes the court system will be able to stanch the cuts and seek restorations in the next several years.

"Even though we have budget concerns, we are still a strong institution," she said.

To make it even stronger, a number of efforts are under way, she said, including the formation of a committee of judges tasked with reviewing and overseeing the case management systems. A major push will be made to get more documents online and to provide more cohesion when it comes to case management systems. Within the state's 58 trial courts, there are more than 100 different computer systems being used, she said.

"We will be working hard to bring it into the 21st century," she said.
Is she joking? Five years ago Santa Cruz had minute orders online. No more. They ought to have audio recordings of court proceedings online. Some federal courts now have all the briefs online.
Cantil-Sakauye, who toured the Santa Cruz County Superior Court earlier in the day, praised the court as one of the best-run in the state. She said court workers had clearly made necessary sacrifices and educated themselves pre-emptively in light of burgeoning budget cuts.

"We expect to be hearing from many courts starting over the next few months about bailouts, but we don't expect to be hearing about this from Santa Cruz," she said. "They took their leadership and skill and crafted a solution."

Cantil-Sakauye was the first speaker to use a new podium custom-made in honor of Judge Kathleen Akao, the second female judge to have been elected in the county, who died in 2005. The new lectern was presented by Heather Morse, the county's first female judge.
A podium is a platform for the speaker to stand on. A lectern is a slanted stand to hold the speaker's notes. Which is it, a podium or a lectern?

I was going to make some comments about all these women judges and lawyers, but that might be ruder than my much-criticized comments about Dr. Gay. Besides, I have to sentenced by Judge Morse tomorrow.

So I'll just say that I am glad we have a new podium or lectern or whatever it is, and we don't need any bailouts.

I watched the TV show Revenge last night. The main character had been institutionalized by a psychiatrist as a young girl, as part of a plot to punish her father and prevent him from seeing her. Years later, she exposes the psychiatrist. The truly guilty parties have not yet gotten what they deserve. It is a TV show, and there are more episodes to come. Hmmm. Shrinks who separate dads from their daughters should always have to worry that they will be exposed for what they have done.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Protest ideas

There are a lot of good comments below. I am still unsure about what we can do.

A couple of people suggested that I stop referring to the sexual orientation of incompetent and corrupt court psychologists. They say that it is a distraction from the great harm being done.

Research shows that you need 10% for a political movement:
"When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority," said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. "Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame."
So we do not need to convince everyone, but we do need to convince at least 10% to be committed to the cause.

I attended a public Occupy Santa Cruz meeting, just to study their organizational structure. That movement has gotten a lot of momentum rapidly. They do not have any coherent goals. Just a conviction that there is a financial elite that is running this country to the disadvantage of the other 99%.

The Occupy movement seems to include college grads complaining about student loan debt. Possibly they would be sympathetic to dads with child support debt.

I have to be at the Watsonville courthouse on Friday morning for my contempt sentencing. I assume that Judge Heather Morse will not actually punish me, since she had to make up new orders during my contempt trial in order to claim that I was violating her orders. I would be happy to join in a protest, but I don't think that we have enough yet.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Court reporters are getting scarce reports:
Are Court Reporters a Luxury Item in California?

For a growing number of California's trial lawyers, a briefcase isn't the only thing they need to bring to court anymore.

A handful of courts, struggling with severe budget cutbacks, are now requiring lawyers and litigants to hire their own court reporters for many types of civil proceedings -- or face going without one.

San Francisco Superior Court announced Thursday that it is dropping reporting services in 16 courtrooms, including most of its civil departments. Napa, Alameda and Stanislaus are among other courts that have already adopted, or are in the process of adopting, a bring-your-own-reporter policy. ...

Lawmakers, usually Republicans, have proposed in the past that courts switch to electronic court reporting to save money. Those proposals have quickly died, however, in the face of stiff opposition from the reporters' lobbies and unions as well as many lawyers who say recording is unreliable.

San Francisco court leaders are considering the use of electronic recording in misdemeanor cases, but not as a replacement for reporters in civil matters.
Court reporters are just not practical anymore. Universal electronic recording of courtroom proceedings is inevitable.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why kids get drugged

An anonymous attorney writes:
Childless Adults, Unsurprisingly, Don't Understand Children

By now, every child in the United States except for two in Minnesota and one in New Jersey has been delcared to suffer from "ADHD" or "bipolar disorder." They're required to take expensive medications, be monitored by a slew of doctors, lawyers, social workers and other helpers, and now have a handy excuse for why they're getting bad grades or into trouble.

In America's courtrooms, these diagnoses are treated as holy writ. I've never heard a lawyer or a judge question any of this. And on the strength of these claims, planets must be moved and fortunes spent to accommodate the "special needs." Sprawling industries are nurtured.

Once upon a time, of course, we simply said that kids were rambunctious or had ups and downs. By the onset of adulthood, these things had calmed down. All perfectly normal.

Mrs. Anonymous Attorney observed the other night, however, that many of the adults who today make these diagnoses do not have children of their own: the legions of (usually white) female lawyers who, despite working as "guardian at litem" or for the Youth Services Department, are childless, the male social worker who's unmarried and childless, the psychologists and psychiatrists who have no children, etc.
The Santa Cruz family court relies heavily on a psychologist that my readers call Dr. Gay. He has no kids and no experience with kids. That would not necessarily disqualify him, if he restricted his testimony to his areas of expertise. But he never even took any classes in child development when he was in school, and his reports show no trace of having any expertise on the subject at all. I have had 14-year-old babysitters who understand kids better than Dr. Gay.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Nobel Peace Prize

A reader sends the Nobel Peace Prize announcement to three Third World women:
They were chosen "for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work," the committee said in Oslo, Norway.

"We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society."
A grand social experiment is in progress. Iceland voters were so upset with their 2008–2011 financial crisis, that they blamed the men and elected a lesbian Prime Minister.

Pres. Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Internationally, I expect him to be known primarily for the Obama Doctrine and the start of the Drone Wars. He has escalated the use of unmanned drones to search and destroy enemies whereever they may be, including countries where we are not at war, such as Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. He does this without any war authorization from Congress or the UN. His drones are controlled by secret elite CIA assassins, and not the military forces. He even kills Americans overseas without due process.

I don't want to get into a foreign policy debate. It is too far off-topic for this blog. I am just pointing out that the Nobel Peace Prize is a joke. Surely the prize committee would never have given the prize to Obama if they had understood his foreign policy.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Crazy single moms

Journalist Katie Roiphe writes about being a crazy single mom:
I often hear people refer to other single mothers I know as “crazy,” and I assume that they refer to me that way, too. ...

Before I have the baby, one of my friends politely suggests that it may be “hubris” to think that I can make up for the fact that the baby’s father would not be in the house, and not even in the city most of the time. ...

The submerged premise here is that there is something greedy, selfish, narcissistic, or anti-social about having a baby on your own. ...

At lunch I mention to an editor that I am thinking of writing about single mothers and the subtle and not so subtle forms our moralism toward them takes. He says: “That’s a good idea. And I say that as a guy who looks at single women and thinks, ‘What’s wrong with her? How did she screw up?’ ”

In spite of our exquisite tolerance for and fascination with all kinds of alternative lifestyles, we have a wildly outdated but strangely pervasive idea that single motherhood is worse for children, somehow a compromise, a flawed venture, a grave psychological blow to be overcome, our enlightened modern version of shame. It malingers, this idea; it affects us still.

The power of this view is that it very easily gets inside your head, it resonates with every children’s book you have ever read about little bear families, with all the archaic visions of family that cohere in the furthest reaches of your imagination: It’s hard to free yourself.
She cannot free herself from the idea that it is crazy to be a single mom, and wrong to force her kids to grow up without a father. All that exquisite tolerance that her feminist background teaches her fails to reassure her.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Non-technical reasons such as divorce

A reader writes:
I just bought my first set of "cutlery" i.e., professional knives. They are beautiful, expensive and are a dream to work with. I had a few "Henkels" knives, and they made me aware of the value of a good set of knives.

Anyway, I was reading the instructions on their care and usage and came across the following:

"Knives which are given as gifts are not refundable. Knives which are not wanted due to non-technical reasons such as divorce, not enough counter space, spouse doesn't like the color, etc. are not refundable. Any return must be discussed with Customer Service before being sent back."

I am going to take a wild guess and say that "spouse" means wives as in "the spouse doesn't like the color." I can I could also safely say that not wanted by spouse means wives also.

It sounds like there quite a few husbands who think a $1,000 set of knives would please most women. I would think that they would be in the same category as a set of Snap-On wrenches.

A word to husbands. don't buy you wife a nice set of cutlery unless you are really really sure they will want them. In the event of a divorce or separation, be forewarned that they are VERY sharp and could be used against you (think John Bobbitt).
It sounds as if the knife company has caught on to my tricks. Whenever I am returning something, and Customer Service is giving me a hard time, I blame it on the wife. If pressed for details, I launch into a monologue about how difficult it is to please my wife. Works every time. It is much easier than trying to describe some bug in the electronics or why some other product is better.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Texas CPS director murdered

ABC News reports:
The program director of the Victoria, Texas, office of the state's Child Protective Services had said she was scared about threats she had received only days before her body was found in a field in a rural part of the southeastern Texas county.

Victoria County employees discovered the body of 53-year-old Sally Blackwell off a paved county road on Wednesday while investigating an unrelated report of trash dumping. ...

Crimmins described a recent incident last week when "a couple of individuals" with a current pending case paid a visit to the Victoria office of Child Protective Services. Blackwell was in a meeting, and one of her assistants spoke to the visitors in the reception area, Crimmins said. The individuals apparently "raised their voices" but left before security was called.

"That is the incident that is being talked about. That is the only one that we at the agency know that happened," Crimmins said. ...

Kincaid said there were several "persons of interest" in the ongoing investigation.

"Any time you take children away from people, people are not happy," Kincaid said. "There are potentially other issues."

Threats Not Uncommon for Social Workers

Employees of Texas Child Protective Services "investigate reports of possible abuse and neglect of children, and, if necessary, place children in foster care." According to an agency statement, "new and current employees receive training about workplace violence, dealing with difficult or hostile clients, visiting clients in the home, and personal security."

"The nature of the work is such that threats are not uncommon," Crimmins said. "You are personally investigating, knocking on doors, and trying to find out if cases of child abuse and child neglect can be confirmed. It is a very high-stress job."
My advice is to not even raise your voice with these creeps, or you will be a suspect. I first met the CPS agent in my case when she showed up at my house with two armed cops from the local sheriff's office. My kids were in school, so the cops had nothing to do with the kids.

Attacks on agents are very rare. It is not high-stress because of that. The stress comes from the fact that CPS is doing something that millions of Americans think is evil. They wreck family and impose their prejudices on others, and they do it without due process. They vindictively punish those who stand up for their rights and the rights of their kids.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel has another story about a new protest movement, and the local branch,
Occupy Santa Cruz is a nonviolent movement for accountability in the United States government and our economic system. We will gather in solidarity with the ongoing protest in New York City, Occupy Wall Street, and the growing number of cities (now over 300) whose people will no longer sit back watching corporate and special interests run their government. We are citizens of the United States, and this country is ours. We will take it back.

Occupy Santa Cruz will not tolerate calls to violence, drugs or illegal activity (property destruction etc). Please find a different place to debate those topics, and if you become aware of any topics of this matter PLEASE let us know so we can take the proper actions against instigators. Thank you so much!
They have a public meeting downtown today, at 6:00 pm. They have gained a lot of momentum rapidly, and a lot of press coverage. We should watch them, and learn from them. Note that they do not intend to get destroyed by a few bad apples making violent threats or actions.

The picture may look strange, but it is a familiar sight in Santa Cruz. It is a sea otter.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Pathological altruism

A reader send this NY Times book review:
The author of “On Being Certain” and the coming “A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind,” Dr. Burton is a contributor to a scholarly yet surprisingly sprightly volume called “Pathological Altruism,” to be published this fall by Oxford University Press. And he says his colleague’s behavior is a good example of that catchily contradictory term, just beginning to make the rounds through the psychological sciences.

As the new book makes clear, pathological altruism is not limited to showcase acts of self-sacrifice, like donating a kidney or a part of one’s liver to a total stranger. The book is the first comprehensive treatment of the idea that when ostensibly generous “how can I help you?” behavior is taken to extremes, misapplied or stridently rhapsodized, it can become unhelpful, unproductive and even destructive.

Selflessness gone awry may play a role in a broad variety of disorders, including anorexia and animal hoarding, women who put up with abusive partners and men who abide alcoholic ones. ...

Train nurses to be highly empathetic and, yes, their patients will love them. But studies show that empathetic nurses burn out and leave the profession more quickly than do their peers who remain aloof. Give generously to Child A, and Child B will immediately howl foul, while quiet Child C will grow up and write nasty novels about you. “Pathologies of altruism,” as Dr. Oakley put it, “are bound to arise.”
I sometimes hear it claimed that various do-gooders, such as teachers, social workers, nurses, and counselors, must be right because they are objective and could not possibly have any motive except the benefit of everyone involved.

The argument is ridiculous, of course. An old lady with 20 cats might seem to be purely altruistic, but would you trust her advice on anything? And those who earn their living as social workers or in some similar profession cannot be purely altruistic. They are doing what they do for the money. And as this article explains, they can be blinded by their do-gooder ideals, and give extraordinarily bad advice.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Expel the experts from family life

Frank Furedi writes on a UK site:
It’s time to expel the ‘experts’ from family life

In repackaging parenting as a superbly complex, almost scientific task, a gaggle of experts hopes to colonise our personal lives.

Parents are told time and again that their authority rests on outdated assumptions and that they lack the real expertise that one needs to socialise young people. And conscious of the fact that it is difficult to act authoritatively today, parents feel very insecure about rejecting expert advice. The explosion of various child-rearing and pedagogic fads is symptomatic of society’s loss of faith in parental authority; it represents a futile attempt to bypass the question of finding some convincing alternative to old forms of pre-political authority. ...

It is worth noting that the record of the ‘science’ in areas such as child-rearing, education and relationships is a dubious one. It has consisted largely of ever-recurring fads that rarely achieve any positive durable results (4). Nevertheless, at a time when adult authority is on the defensive, the scientific expert has gained an ever-increasing influence over intergenerational relations. Typically, educational experts claim that since their proposals are based on purely objective science, only the prejudiced could possibly disagree with them.
Britain is probably worse than we are in this way, but that is where we are headed. He also says:
The philosopher John Stuart Mill, author of On Liberty, linked his call for the compulsory schooling of children to his distrust of parental competence. He believed that state-sponsored formal education might free children from the ‘uncultivated’ influence of their parents. He asserted that since ‘the uncultivated cannot be competent judges of cultivation’, they needed the support of enlightened educators to socialise their children.
I thought that Mill was a big libertarian hero. I am surprised to see him show such an elitist attitude, and to advocate government control over schooling without also asserting parental rights and autonomy. Maybe that is the way it is with these do-gooders. They think that they know better than everyone else, so they want to coerce others into accepting their views.

Anyway, I am glad to see Furedi proposing expelling the experts from family life. He is right. Those experts have no real science to back up what they say.

I am still trying to think of protest ideas. Here is another example: Wall Street protesters dress as zombies in NYC.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Shrink caught overbilling govt

A reader sends this story:
He’s making mad money.

A staff psychiatrist at Kings County Hospital who pulled in an astounding $515,700 in overtime reported working an average of more than 110 hours a week for a full year -- including one super-human stretch of 96 hours straight.

Records obtained by The New York Post under the Freedom of Information Law show that Dr. Quazi Rahman clocked 3,820 hours of overtime in 2009, or 73 hours a week, on top of his regular 40-hour schedule.

With a base salary of $173,503, the child-behavior specialist hit the jackpot -- his total taxpayer-funded compensation came to an astounding $689,203.

But to reach that mark, Rahman, 55, tested the limits of human endurance.

Starting on March 2, 2009, he reported working 55 days in a row without a day off.

In the week of April 5 to 11, he exceeded even that astonishing feat by logging 141 hours, including four nonstop days of 24 hours each.

Since there are 168 hours in a week, that left only 27 hours when Rahman was off the payroll clock that particular week.

Without a break, he then ground out 116 hours the following week, plus 130 hours more the week after. It wasn’t until April 26 that Rahman finally took a full day off.
As I read this story, I was naively expecting it to end by saying that the shrink is being held at Rikers Island, while awaiting trial for fraud.

Instead, I read:
Following inquiries by The Post, the city Health and Hospitals Corp. checked Rahman’s time sheets and uncovered discrepancies covering about 80 hours.

He was ordered to return $10,800, the value of the disputed time, and pay an additional $10,800 penalty.
Phony bills for $689K and he only has to return a measly $22k?

I get more cynical every day.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

TV show on photographic memory

I mentioned some new TV shows, but I missed Unforgettable:
The series follows a former Syracuse, New York police detective named Carrie Wells, who has hyperthymesia, a rare medical condition that gives her the ability to remember everything. She is reluctantly asked by her former boyfriend and one-time partner to join his homicide unit after he asks for help with solving a case.
Rare medical condition? From what I hear, this is a very common condition, and a very common cause of divorce. The wife remembers every fault her husband has, and every mistake he has ever made. Plus all of his relatives and friends. She cannot seem to remember to keep the fridge stocked with beer or to check the oil in the car, but she remembers in painful detail everything that she believes that he is supposed to be doing.

In the TV show, no man can stand to be around Carrie Wells for very long. No one explains why. For those who have been down that road, no explanation is necessary.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The empathy fad

Empathy has become a huge buzzword, as if it were a cure-all for all society's ills.

NY Times columnist David Brooks writes:
As Steven Pinker writes in his mind-altering new book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” we are living in the middle of an “empathy craze.” There are shelfloads of books about it: “The Age of Empathy,” “The Empathy Gap,” “The Empathic Civilization,” “Teaching Empathy.” There’s even a brain theory that we have mirror neurons in our heads that enable us to feel what’s in other people’s heads and that these neurons lead to sympathetic care and moral action.

There’s a lot of truth to all this. We do have mirror neurons in our heads. People who are empathetic are more sensitive to the perspectives and sufferings of others. They are more likely to make compassionate moral judgments.

The problem comes when we try to turn feeling into action. Empathy makes you more aware of other people’s suffering, but it’s not clear it actually motivates you to take moral action or prevents you from taking immoral action. ...

There have been piles of studies investigating the link between empathy and moral action. Different scholars come to different conclusions, but, in a recent paper, Jesse Prinz, a philosopher at City University of New York, summarized the research this way: “These studies suggest that empathy is not a major player when it comes to moral motivation. Its contribution is negligible in children, modest in adults, and nonexistent when costs are significant.” Other scholars have called empathy a “fragile flower,” easily crushed by self-concern. ...

Moreover, Prinz argues, empathy often leads people astray. It influences people to care more about cute victims than ugly victims. It leads to nepotism. It subverts justice; juries give lighter sentences to defendants that show sadness. It leads us to react to shocking incidents, like a hurricane, but not longstanding conditions, like global hunger or preventable diseases.

Nobody is against empathy. Nonetheless, it’s insufficient. These days empathy has become a shortcut. It has become a way to experience delicious moral emotions without confronting the weaknesses in our nature that prevent us from actually acting upon them. It has become a way to experience the illusion of moral progress without having to do the nasty work of making moral judgments. In a culture that is inarticulate about moral categories and touchy about giving offense, teaching empathy is a safe way for schools and other institutions to seem virtuous without risking controversy or hurting anybody’s feelings.
Brooks nails it.

My theory is that psychologists like the empathy concept because that it how they make their money. A client comes into the shrink's office and tells a sob story, the shrink shows some empathy and bills for the service, and the client walks away as if she has benefited. So empathy is gold.

But empathy is not even necessarily a good psychological treatment technique. It is mostly a method for feel-good shrinks to manipulate patients.

The election season is warming up, and politicians are competing to try to show that they have empathy somehow. Pres. Obama has been tutored on this, as he is widely perceived as being cold and having low empathy. Others learn to recite cutesy little heartwarming stories to convince us that they have empathy. In reality, there are about 20 other more important personal characteristics for a president.

In my child custody case, I had a psychologist who kept using the word empathy whenever he had some disagreement with me. He did not even use the word consistently. If I fed my kids macaroni and he did not approve of macaroni, then he would say that I lacked empathy. If I wanted partial custody, and my ex-wife opposed it, he would say that I lacked empathy. I tried to ask him under oath what he meant by the term, and he could not define it.

The Wikipedia article on empathy lists 17 different experts who have 17 different definitions of empathy.

I take a more scientific attitude towards this sort of thing. If empathy were really so important, then it would be possible to measure it, and to do studies to show that it is effective in benefiting someone in some tangible way. As Brooks says, the studies fail to show the benefits. But the psychologists apparently do not even read their own studies.