Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Falsely labeled with Aspergers

Ever wonder what it would be like to be reared by a psychology professor mom who takes the DSM-IV too seriously? She gives her own son a phony diagnosis and treats him like a misfit.
Benjamin Nugent wrutes in a NY Times op-ed:
For a brief, heady period in the history of autism spectrum diagnosis, in the late ’90s, I had Asperger syndrome.

There’s an educational video from that time, called “Understanding Asperger’s,” in which I appear. I am the affected 20-year-old in the wannabe-hipster vintage polo shirt talking about how keen his understanding of literature is and how misunderstood he was in fifth grade. The film was a research project directed by my mother, a psychology professor and Asperger specialist, and another expert in her department. It presents me as a young man living a full, meaningful life, despite his mental abnormality.
So she was a leading authority on Aspergers, and she was so convinced that her son was a typical specimen that she made a video showing him as having the symptoms of the disorder. But she was wrong:
As I came into my adult personality, it became clear to me and my mother that I didn’t have Asperger syndrome, and she apologized profusely for putting me in the video. For a long time, I sulked in her presence. I yelled at her sometimes, I am ashamed to report. And then I forgave her, after about seven years. Because my mother’s intentions were always noble. She wanted to educate parents and counselors about the disorder. She wanted to erase its stigma.
This shows that a little knowledge of psychology can be dangerous. Scratch that -- she had a lot of knowledge of psychology. And the more that she thought that she knew, the worse mom that she was.

Psychology is in a sorry state. It is one academic area where someone can have advanced degrees, professional titles, and expert status, and yet badly misunderstand their subject matter. There are illiterate folks who understand human nature better than psychologists.

Nugent concludes:
But my experience can’t be unique. Under the rules in place today, any nerd, any withdrawn, bookish kid, can have Asperger syndrome.

The definition should be narrowed. I don’t want a kid with mild autism to go untreated. But I don’t want a school psychologist to give a clumsy, lonely teenager a description of his mind that isn’t true.
What are school psychologists for, if not to misdiagnose teenagers? Bad as his experience was, he is still lucky that some quack like Judge Heather D. Morse did not order him on drugs or take his kids away.

NY CPS conceals child deaths

When the state passes a popular law to limit CPS abuses, you would think that someone might check to see whether CPS is complying with the law. Apparently not. The NY Times reports:
When Elisa Izquierdo, a 6-year-old, was killed by her mother in 1995, she became a symbol of a dysfunctional bureaucracy, one that allowed a drug addict to retain custody of her daughter despite numerous reports of abuse.

The resulting outcry led to an overhaul of New York City’s child welfare system and the passage in Albany of Elisa’s Law, a measure loosening the secrecy regulations in child-abuse investigations. Among other reforms, the law required a public accounting of the events leading up to the death of any child in New York State who had been reported as abused or neglected.

But for the last five years, the state’s Office of Children and Family Services has been working quietly and persistently to limit access to those case reports, which in most instances are the only record of the circumstances leading up to the deaths.

In 2007, the office tried to have the law changed. When that failed, it made its own rule. According to a policy enacted by the office in September 2008, it will not release the fatality reports mandated by Elisa’s Law if there are siblings or other children in the home and officials decide that revealing the family’s abuse and investigative history is not in their “best interests.”
CPS sure goes to a lot of trouble to cover up their screw-ups. These reports do not even mention the caseworkers' names.

Even when CPS cannot get the change to the law that it wanted, it just decides to cover up the reports based on the BIOTCh (best interest of the child). BIOTCh does not apply to dead kids, but CPS applies BIOTCh anyway because the dead kid might be related to a living kid!

How far does this reasoning go? Someday no adults will have any rights because there might be a child somewhere who is affected somehow, and some govt bureaucrat used the BIOTCh as an excuse.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fellow blogger convicted

I have discussed the case of fellow angry dad blogger Dan Brewington before, and he has thanked me for my comments. But I lost track of his case, and I am sorry to see that he was convicted last fall of saying to much on his blog:
My criminal trial began on Monday, October 3, 2011 and wrapped up on Thursday, October 6, 2011. The jury of six returned five “guilty” verdicts and one “not guilty.” The “guilty” verdicts are as follows: Intimidation of a Judge (James Humphrey), Class D felony; Intimidation of Dr. Edward J. Connor and Heidi Humphrey, both Class A misdemeanors; Obstruction of Justice and Perjury both Class D Felonies. The most important event of the trial came during the prosecution’s closing argument, when Dearborn County Prosecutor F. Aaron Negangard explained to the jury the exact boundaries of free speech.

“You can call a judge a son-of-a-bitch but you cannot call him a child abuser.” That was the jury instruction from Prosecutor Negangard; honest to God. ...

I was convicted of felony intimidation because I called that son-of-a bitch Humphrey a child abuser. Another reason for my guilty verdict was due to the fact that I instructed people to address concerns about the Dearborn County family court system to the Indiana Supreme Court Ethics and Professionalism advisor that was located in Dearborn County. ... I was found guilty of lying to a grand jury because I stated that I did not know that Heidi was the wife of the son-of-a-bitch James Humphrey but it could be a possibility.
The charges seem lame to me, but I did not find the details. Maybe Dan posted the judge's home address, and the judge's DA buddy argued that was intimidation. There was also a charge that Dan blogged about secret grand jury proceedings against him, and that he lied about how much he knew about the judge.

I hope has a good appeal in the works. I do not see how the above jury instruction can possibly be a valid one. Family court judges who deprive children of access to their fit parents are child abusers. That is an obvious fact that I have documented over and over again on this blog, and so have many other angry dads. American free speech allows us to tell the truth about what govt officials are doing. Even lies are not criminal, according to a current supreme court case. I hope Dan posts his appeal papers and wish him the best of luck.

I hope has a good appeal in the works. I do not see how the above jury instruction can possibly be a valid one. Family court judges who deprive children of access to their fit parents are child abusers. That is an obvious fact that I have documented over and over again on this blog, and so have many other angry dads. American free speech allows us to tell the truth about what govt officials are doing. I hope Dan posts his appeal papers and wish him the best of luck.

I also don't see how it can be a crime for him to write about the grand jury hearing if he was being charged with perjury for his testimony at that hearing. Surely he has a right to blog about the criminal charges against him.

The indictment says that Dan put the judge in fear of retaliation for dissolving his marriage, and "did intimidate and/or harass" a shrink who was a witness. It seems to me that does not describe the situation at all. Dan doesn't like the judge because the judge is preventing him from seeing his kids, and Dan doesn't like the shrink because of his unethical child custody evaluation and testimony. Dan is not retaliating for the divorce decree; he just wants to see his kids. What does "intimidate and/or harass" mean? Don't they know which they are accusing him of? Intimidation and harassment are two different things. It appears to me that Dan's real crime is to expose the poor and biased testimony of a hack psychiatrist who should have been dismissed for lacking the competence to be an expert in the case.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Four-year-old draws a gun

WND reports:
A father has been arrested, strip-searched and hauled in for questioning – all because his four-year-old daughter drew a picture of a gun at school.

“I’m picking up my kids and then, next thing you know, I’m locked up,” Jessie Sansone, 26, told the Waterloo Region Record in Canada. “I was in shock. This is completely insane. My daughter drew a gun on a piece of paper at school.”

Sansone, a Kitchener resident, had arrived at Forest Hill public school to pick up his children when he was called to the principal’s office. Three police officers informed him he was being charged with possession of a firearm. Then he was escorted out of the school, handcuffed and locked in the back of a police car. ...

“I just think they blew it out of proportion,” his wife said. “It was for absolutely nothing. They searched our house upside down and found nothing. They had the assumption he owned a firearm.”

She added, “The way everything happened was completely unnecessary, especially since we know the school very well. I don’t understand how they came to that conclusion from a four-year-old’s drawing.”

Alison Scott, executive director of Family and Children’s Services, said the agency was required to investigate after the school reported the incident.

“Our community would have an expectation if comments are made about a gun in a house, we’d be obligated to investigate that to ensure everything is safe,” she said. “In the end, it may not be substantiated. There may be a reasonable explanation for why the child drew that gun. But we have to go on what gets presented to us.”
This is crazy. About half of all American households have guns. It is not a crime. It is not unusual. It is not dangerous. It is not contrary to social norms.

(Correction: A reader points out that this happened in Canada, where the subjects do not have the free speech rights, gun rights, and protections from searches that Americans have from the Bill of Rights.)

This incident is the result of an ideology where fathers are guilty until proven innocent, where teachers are required to report suspicions, where CPS investigates trivial complaints, and where police use public safety as an excuse to violate civil liberties.

Speaking of busybodies, I happened to see ABC TV Primetime: What Would You Do? last night. The show mainly consists of actors displaying anti-social behavior, and using a hidden camera to record the reaction of random busybodies. For example, last night showed someone eating more than one free food sample at a grocery store, and trying to provoke others into turning the eater into store management.

The also had a nanny calling a cute 10-year-old girl a "spoiled brat" on a public sidewalk. That provoked busybodies more than anything. The segment ended with the host saying, "On this day, virtually everyone else agreed, it is the child's best interest that matters most." I guess that is the slogan of busybodies everywhere.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Choice of jail or a Facebook apology

USA Today reports
CINCINNATI – Photographer Mark Byron was so bothered by his pending divorce and child visitation issues that he blasted his soon-to-be ex-wife on his personal Facebook page.

That touched off a battle that resulted in a Hamilton County judge ordering Byron jailed for his Facebook rant — or, to avoid the jail sentence, to post on his page an apology to his wife and all of his Facebook friends, something free-speech experts found troubling.

"The idea that a court can say, 'I order you not to post something or to post something' seems to me to be a First Amendment issue," said free-speech expert Jack Greiner, who also is The Cincinnati Enquirer's lawyer. ...

Mark Byron also argued that the same court prevented him from seeing his son. In a Nov. 23, 2011, Facebook posting, he blasted the situation and the judicial system he believed wronged him.

"… if you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husband's life and take your son's father away from him completely — all you need to do is say that you're scared of your husband or domestic partner… , " he wrote on Facebook.

Elizabeth Byron learned of the post — even though her husband had blocked her from viewing his page — and thought it violated a previous protective order that prevented Mark Byron from doing anything to cause his wife "to suffer physical and/or mental abuse, harassment, annoyance, or bodily injury." ...

Domestic Relations Magistrate Paul Meyers found Mark Byron in contempt and ordered him jailed for 60 days beginning March 19 — or to post for 30 days on his Facebook page an apology to his wife, written by Meyers, if he wanted to avoid jail. He also had to pay her $1,156 in back child support and her lawyers' fees.
Byron was found in contempt of court for that? His wife is an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin his life and take his son's father away from him. That is obvious from the above story about the court action she has taken against him.

The US Supreme Court just just heard arguments about the limits of free speech:
Stolen Valor Act makes it a crime to falsely claim to have been awarded a military medal. Xavier Alvarez did that, but the claim harms no one, says his lawyer in his brief to the Supreme Court.
So the First Amendment maybe protects lying about military medals, but not telling on a Facebook page what a vindictive wife can do in family court?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Supreme court is no help

CNN reports:
Washington (CNN) -- He was known only as A.J.A.-- a little boy at the center of a international custody fight that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The near decade-long dispute has now come to an end, not because of any judicial action, but simply because of time.
Alex Abbott turned 16 recently and has officially "aged out" of coverage under The Hague Convention dealing with child abduction across borders. A U.S. federal judge this week signed an order dismissing the case between the boy's parents.
The dad won 6-3 in the US Supreme Court, and he still cannot see his son.

Courts have a lot of power, when they want to exercise it. They throw dads in jail without trial, seize kids, and ruin lives. But when a dad has a legal right to see his kids, the courts act as if they cannot do anything.

I mentioned a child visitation case that seemed headed for the US Supreme Court. The court is supposed to hear cases where there is a split in the courts below, and they are deeply divided in this case. But the supreme court just
denied the petition. The issue of grandparent visitation is still unresolved, and waits for a court that has the guts to address it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

CPS foes found dead

I do not usually post conspiracy theories, but I don't know what to make of this:
Three courageous Georgia state legislators, all child advocates in the fight against human trafficking, have now been found dead within the last two years. The most recent tragedy involves former 20-year State Senator Robert Brown. Sen. Brown was found with a gunshot wound to the head at his Macon home in an apparent suicide on December 8, 2011. A complete autopsy report has not yet been released.

Sen. Brown was the Senate minority leader for 7 years until he resigned during 2011 in an unsuccessful bid for mayor of Macon. In 2008, Brown was a co-sponsor of SB 415, a sweeping reform bill that was designed to protect children in a variety of ways. In particular, it offered protection from government agencies and representatives that appeared culpable in neglecting and abusing those children while they were in government sponsored care.

SB415 was introduced by former Senator, Nancy Schaefer. Sen. Schaefer was an outspoken critic of Child Protective Services (CPS) in general and specifically, the Georgia Department of Family and Child Services (DFACS). She presented several cases where children were removed improperly from their homes for profit. Sen. Schaefer had just finished filming a dramatic, still unpublished video documentary on the subject when she and her husband were found shot to death in their bedroom on March 26, 2010 in Habersham County. Their deaths were ruled as a murder suicide that was committed by Sen. Schaefer’s husband, Bruce.

After the death of Sen. Schaefer, another child advocate legislator, former Representative, Bobby Franklin, became increasingly involved in the issue. He decided to draft a bill for the 2011 session that would abolish DFACS altogether, an action suggested by Sen. Schaefer in her World Congress of Families presentation in Amsterdam. Rep. Franklin was found lying dead on the floor of his Cobb County bedroom on July 26, 2011. An autopsy report, indicating that Rep. Franklin died from organic heart failure, was eventually released in late December of 2011.

No other Georgia legislators who were so recently active have died during this period. These child advocate legislators were a few of a small handful of legislators who had the courage to take a hard stand against such horrible crimes even when government agencies and representatives were shown to be involved. Their work was particularly important given that Atlanta has long been ranked as a top national hub for child sex trafficking.
I praised Nancy Schaefer on this blog, even before she was murdered. Her death was suspicious. Now there are three dead Georgia legislators. My gut reaction is that one is an accident, two is a coincidence, and three is a conspiracy. Am I paranoid? I do believe that CPS is evil, but they are not murderers, as far as I know. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another false DV arrest

I used to think that domestic violence arrests were only a problem for drunk trailer trash, but these bad laws also entrap well-off folks with the very best political connections. I noted below about how the San Franciso sheriff and the California attorney general could not avoid the evils of these DV laws.

Now the NY Times reports that the New York city deputy mayor just had his career ruined by false DV charges:
Mr. Goldsmith was arrested on suspicion of assault, over his wife’s objections, on July 30 after a loud fight with his wife at their town house in Washington. She told the police that he had shoved her and smashed a phone against the floor. He resigned five days later, having held the position of deputy mayor for operations for 14 months.

The arrest did not come to light until September. Mr. Goldsmith said at the time that he had actually resigned so that his arrest would not “be a distraction” to the mayor. Both he and his wife denied that there had been any violence. Prosecutors elected not to pursue the case, but the arrest remained on Mr. Goldsmith’s record until the January ruling by Judge Karen Aileen Howze.
Goldsmith's boss was the mayor of New York and a billionare, but could do nothing except to try to let him resign quietly.

This is crazy. Doesn't anyone believe in innocence until proven guilty? The problem here much worse, as there was no victim and no accuser. Goldsmith should never have been arrested.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

When Ordinary Parenting Practices Can Land You in Court

Libertarian and ex-Russian law professor Ilya Somin writes:
Law professor David Pimentel has an interesting article detailing the ways in which law and social norms have evolved to the point where perfectly ordinary parenting practices can land you in prison or at least subject you to an expensive lawsuit or prolonged official harrasment ... this is often a result of vague statutes and regulations that are interpreted by courts and administrative agencies to require extremely overprotective parenting. Pimentel notes that many such overprotective practices are influenced by media sensationalism and have little or no support in the actual data on child safety and some might even harm children more than they benefit them.
This not just a possibility. A man is currently On trial for a Grand Canyon hike. It appears that a child suffered a nosebleed, and the granddad faces life in prison.

I am glad to see law professors waking up to this sneaky change in the law.
There are parenting practices that were considered admirable a generation ago, and overzealous prosecutors consider them criminal today.

A comment added this ABC News story:
An Arkansas mother is being charged with a misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a minor after she made her son walk 4.6 miles to school in order to "teach him a lesson."

Valerie Borders, 34, told police her 10-year-old son had been suspended from the bus for a week and she was making him walk to school as punishment.

A bank security guard spotted the boy walking alone in 30-degree weather on Monday and called police. ...

"There were a number of things that could have happened to the child," said Lyle Waterworth, a spokesman for the Jonesboro Police Department. "The child could have been injured, abducted."
So what is teh mom supposed to do? Give him taxicab money in case he gets kicked off the bus?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Brains scans show child abuse

NewScientist reports:
Maltreatment of children may stunt growth of the hippocampus, a brain region vital for memory. That's the conclusion of a study of 193 outwardly healthy adults aged 18 to 25 from the Boston area.

The stunted hippocampi could help explain how childhood stress raises the risk of psychiatric disorders in adulthood, ranging from depression, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder to personality disorders, drug addiction and even suicide.

Martin Teicher of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, and colleagues used standard questionnaires to reveal which volunteers had suffered abuse as children, and found size differences in regions of the hippocampus through detailed MRI brain scans.

Big differences were seen in people who said that as children they had experienced verbal, physical or sexual abuse, physical or emotional neglect, bereavement, parental separation or parental discord. Three sub-regions of the hippocampus were between 5.8 and 6.5 per cent smaller in such volunteers, compared with those who reported no maltreatment.
It would be great if this were really true, and child abuse could be diagnosed with brain scans. An objective test would end the horrible disputes over child abuse, just as DNA tests have ended the disputes over paternity.

(Yes, I know that there are men who are paying child support even after DNA tests prove that they are not the dads. But that inequity is obvious to everyone, and should be on the way out.)

But we are not going to get brain scans for child abuse anytime soon. The scientific literature is filled with exaggerated claims about brain scans. The cannot diagnose schizophrenia, depression, homosexuality, or anything else like that from brain scans. Instead these studies will just be used to emphasize the importance of fighting child abuse. The court testimony will be something like this:

CPS: We have to take the child because science has proved that this child abuse causes permanent brain damage.
Q: How do you know it causes brain damage?
CPS: Studies of brain scans have proved it.
Q: So how much damage do the brain scans show on this kid?
CPS: Nothing so far. That's why we have to take the kid now.

The judges are stupid (and evil) enough to fall for an argument like this.

Friday, February 17, 2012

On trial for a Grand Canyon hike

AP reports:
PHOENIX—The oldest grandson of a man standing trial on child abuse charges testified Thursday that he secretly asked another hiker to call 911 during a long, hot hike in the Grand Canyon last year. ...

Defense attorney Jeffrey Williams has portrayed Carlson as an active health nut who had a firm hand and wanted to show the boys the world. Like anyone after a long hike, the boys were tired, hungry and thirsty, but Carlson only allowed the boys to eat healthy food like tofu, hummus and veggie burgers, Williams said Wednesday in his opening statement. ... Another time, the boy said Carlson made him eat broccoli that he had tried to flush down the toilet.

The youngest of the three brothers testified Wednesday that his grandfather took the boys on many "awesome" adventurous trips. In between the two hikes, Carlson took the boys on a tour of the Hoover Dam, to rides atop the Stratosphere hotel and a Criss Angel magic show in Las Vegas, and to Disneyland in California. ...

Carlson is charged with six counts of felony child abuse and faces life in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.
Felony child abuse?! There was no injury other than some foot blisters. I got foot blisters also when I hiked the Grand Canyon. But admittedly, I would have been unhappy if I had to eat tofu and hummus at the end of the hike.

This is crazy. Carlson is not a criminal. He was obviously doing what he thought was best for the boys. It was a character-building exercise. A boy needs to be pushed to his limits occasionally. If the accusations are correct, then maybe he overdid it. But life in prison because a fun vacation included a gruelling Grand Canyon hike? It is a good thing that we have a jury system for criminal cases.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Another California scandal

The San Jose paper reports:
Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, wife of California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, said Tuesday that she's in rehabilitation for a substance-abuse problem after an extramarital affair culminated in a beating by her ex-lover.

The announcement marked a sharp turn in the career of a woman who at 40 had been seen as a rising star in California politics. The scandal is also an ugly footnote on her husband's nearly four-decade-long career, which made him one of California's most influential politicians.
She was executive director of the Alameda County Family Justice Center, which describes itself as a "one-stop center for families experiencing domestic violence." It helps women file for temporary restraining orders, even if it means kicking the husband out of the house. She got the job with the influence of her husband, Bill Lockyer, who was the Democrat California attorney general at the time.

Meanwhile, the SF paper reports:
After repeatedly denouncing the misdemeanor domestic violence charges against her husband in public and refusing to talk to investigators, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi's wife now intends to testify at his upcoming trial, her attorney says.
I take no pleasure in the misery of others, but these are all prominent liberal Democrats who have used their power and influence for many years to promote the sort of laws and policies that I complain about on this blog. Wisdom comes from experience. Let's hope that they learn something in the process.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Canadians against spanking

The Canadian CBC News reports:
The Criminal Code's justification for physical punishment of children such as spanking should be removed, Canadian researchers say.

Monday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal includes a paper reviewing how the understanding of the effects of physical punishment of children has shifted dramatically in 20 years.

Children who have experienced physical punishment tend to be more aggressive toward parents, siblings, peers and, later, spouses, and are more likely to develop antisocial behaviour, said Joan Durrant, of the department of family social sciences at the University of Manitoba and Ron Ensom of Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa.
These "researchers" are not scientists or even physicians or pediatricians. They are anti-spanking zealots. They did not do any research; they just gave opinions based on the research of others. There article is here, but behind a paywall and no free copy is available.

I always think that it is strange when someone writes an article with the ostensible purpose of changing public behavior based on informing the public of the latest scientific research, but then refuse to make the article available to the public.

It doesn't matter. I have seen some of the research studies. There is indeed a correlation between antisocial behavior and spanking. However, there is no agreement on whether the bad behavior causes the spanking or the spanking causes the bad behavior.

The authors want to make spanking a crime:
"Physicians can urge the federal government to remove Section 43 from the Criminal Code, which provides legal justification for the use of physical punishment, thereby undermining public health initiatives," the authors concluded.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2004 that parents have the right to spank their children. But the country's top court also set out "reasonable limits."

Those limits include:

* Spanking could be used against children between the ages of two and 12 years old.
* Children could not be disciplined with an object.
* Hits to the head would be unacceptable.
* Spanking remains legally contentious in Canada.

The authors said that effective discipline depends on "clear and age-appropriate expectations, effectively communicated within a trusting relationship and a safe environment."

More than 400 organizations in Canada have endorsed the Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth, which encourages positive approaches to discipline and states that physical punishment of children and youth plays "no useful role in their upbringing and poses only risks to their development."
I don't know how they got 400 Canadian organizations to sign up for this, because there is no study showing that any other method of discipline works better than spanking.

Even if you don't believe in spanking, you should be against making spanking a crime. If that happens, the law will be used to undermine parental autonomy, and lead to CPS agents telling you how to rear your kids.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Psychologist shall wear a cone-shaped hat

Overlawyered reports that New Mexico nearly passed this in 1995:
When a psychologist or psychiatrist testifies during a defendant’s competency hearing, the psychologist or psychiatrist shall wear a cone-shaped hat that is not less than two feet tall. The surface of the hat shall be imprinted with stars and lightning bolts. Additionally, a psychologist or psychiatrist shall be required to don a white beard that is not less than 18 inches in length, and shall punctuate crucial elements of his testimony by stabbing the air with a wand. Whenever a psychologist or psychiatrist provides expert testimony regarding a defendant’s competency, the bailiff shall contemporaneously dim the courtroom lights and administer two strikes to a Chinese gong…
Funny! I would vote for that. I would also require the lawyers to wear clown suits, and the judge to wear a Mickey Mouse hat. Professionals need the respect that they deserve.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Constitutional right to spank

I frequently criticize the courts, so I want to credit a rare bit of common sense. UCLA law prof Eugene Volokh writes:
Constitutional Right to Moderately Corporally Punish One’s Child

So held the Hawaii Supreme Court, in Hamilton ex rel. Lethem v. Lethem (Haw. Feb. 7, 2012), interpreting the Hawaii Constitution, though in reasoning that could be seen as applicable to the federal Constitution and to other state constitutions. And the court concluded that even a noncustodial parent retains this right “with respect to that child’s conduct during the visitation period.”

Based on this constitutional right, the court concluded that, to warrant the issuance of a domestic restraining order based on alleged child abuse, there must be (1) a finding that “the parent’s discipline is [not] reasonably related to the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare of the minor,” (2) taking into account “factors such as [a] the nature of the misbehavior, [b] the child’s age and size, and [c] the nature and propriety of the force used.”
It tood the Hawaiian courts 7 years to come to this conclusion. If they really had sense, the case would have been kicked out in the first 10 minutes.

Most of the comments agree with the decision, altho a few complain that a parent should discipline a child in anger or that a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation might uncover some issues with the dad.

Meanwhile, here is a story about a dad shot his daughter's laptop to teach her a lesson. Not what I would do, but no one was hurt. It just gave an opportunity for some shrinks to give silly opinions on TV.

Update: A reader sends the LA Times story:
Jordan, who uploaded the video on YouTube to post on his daughter's Facebook wall, thought the video would be seen by maybe 500 people -- her Facebook friends and his own Facebook friends. Instead, it has gone viral: On YouTube, it was viewed 3.7 million times in just two days.

Parenting experts have advised that shooting a laptop is probably not the best way to deal with an entitled teenager, but the thousands of people who rejoiced in Jordan’s act of parental abandon don't seem to mind.

“After watching this I laughed and applauded u!” Tonya Greider wrote on Jordan’s Facebook page. “I have a 15 year old daughter and I know how hard it is.”

“You sir are my hero,” wrote Jason Harbolt.

And Erika Jove wrote, “As a daughter, mother, educator, and a psychologist, I comment your actions. I could only hope to work with more children whose parents made them accountable for their actions.”
Here is the YouTube video, where one comment says, "this is the most American thing I have seen in my life."

The American dad is under assault from courts, feminists, parenting experts, and popular culture. This man has taken a stand for what he thinks is right. We need more men like him.

Update: Atlanta TV reports:
The former Marine wrote on his Facebook page that Child Protective Services officials came to his home in Stanly Co. on Saturday and interviewed him and his daughter — separately — after viewers of the video called with concerns about his actions.

He said the police also stopped by. ...

Officials at the Stanly County Sheriff's Office said there are no laws against what Jordan did, so they will not be investigating the matter.
Update: After only 5 days, the video has 23 million views.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Illegal mom wants kid back

ABC TV Nightline reports:
A tug-of-war over a five-year-old boy is at the center of a national debate over parental rights and immigration, and a sign of what critics say is a growing trend in which immigrants are being deemed unfit parents because they crossed the border illegally.

Seth and Melinda Moser of Carthage, Missouri say the boy they call Jamison is their son, and that returning him to his birth mother after five years will cause him untold harm.

"I could not love him more, had he come out of me physically," Melinda Moser said in an interview with a Missouri television station. "I can only imagine the trauma that he would go through in feeling like people that did love him have betrayed him, you know?"

His birth mother, Encarnacion Bail Romero, says Carlos was taken from her against her will while she was in federal custody for an immigration-related crime, and hopes to regain custody in a trial that starts later this month.

"I'm his mother, I'm the mother of Carlitos," she told ABC News.
She is the mom, and she wants her son. Good argument.

What I don't get is why illegal alien felons have more rights than I do. She is not deemed unfit just because she crossed illegally. She lost the boy because she was serving three years in prison and had no husband or relatives in the USA to take the boy. She speaks Spanish and the boy speaks English. She is awaiting deportation.

There are many things wrong with this story. She probably only had the kid as an anchor baby so she could stay in the USA and collect welfare. CPS only claimed that she abandoned the boy because she was in prison, and CPS got a $10k federal bonus for terminating her parental rights. She wants the kid now in order to postpone deportation.

I am an American. I did not break any laws. I did not have a baby that I could not take care of. I speak English. I did not come here to be a parasite on the welfare system. Nobody claims that any other parent is better for my kids than I am. Why is this irresponsible single mom getting sympathy on national TV, and I am not allowed to see my own kids?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Father’s interest is cognizable and substantial

There is a visitation case that might be headed for the US Supreme Court. It would not help me, but I will post more about it if it happens. Meanwhile, here are some pro-father quotes from briefs:
See Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U.S. 246, 247–48 (1978) (“[A] father’s interest in the ‘companionship, care, custody, and management’ of his children is ‘cognizable and substantial,’ . . . and, on the other hand, . . . the State’s interest in caring for the children is ‘de minimis’ if the father is in fact a fit parent.”) (quoting Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651–52, 657–58 (1972)); see also Lehr v. Robertson, 463 U.S. 248, 262 (1983) (“The significance of the biological connection is that it offers the natural father an opportunity that no other male possesses to develop a relationship with his offspring. If he grasps that opportunity and accepts some measure of responsibility for the child’s future, he may enjoy the blessings of the parent–child relationship and make uniquely valuable contributions to the child’s development.”). Indeed, respondents are a paradigmatic example of the family unit that this Court has sought to protect from uninvited, unwarranted state intervention. See Quilloin, 434 U.S. at 255 (“We have little doubt that the Due Process Clause would be offended ‘[i]f a State were to attempt to force the breakup of a natural family, over the objections of the parents and their children, without some show-ing of unfitness and for the sole reason that to do so was thought to be in the children’s best interest.’ ... But this is not a case in which the unwed father at any time had, or sought, actual or legal custody of his child.”) (quoting Smith v. Organization of Foster Families for Equality & Reform, 431 U.S. 816, 862–63 (1977) (Stewart, J., concurring in the judgment)).
Someday, the court may have to take these platitudes seriously.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Nanny state gone wild

A reader sends this Wash. Post story:
Last Tuesday evening, as the Denicore kids sat down to do homework, a Loudoun County sheriff’s deputy appeared on their doorstep, court summons in hand. The charge: Too many school tardies, a Class 3 misdemeanor. Arraignment is scheduled for Monday morning.

“This is against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth of the Virginia,” the summons says.

Mark Denicore has a different take: “This is the nanny state gone wild.”
The paper's columnist, Petula Dvorak, adds:
Parents in court on criminal charges because of tardy slips? Absurd. And don’t go there with lectures about what slackers the Denicores are.

Say what you want (and hundreds of commenters did after reading Emma Brown’s story on the case) about the virtues of promptness.
Here is one of those comments:
30 tardies so far this year? It's irresponsible, inconsiderate of the other students, disrespectful of the teacher, instills poor discipline in the can a parent justify this in any way? From my own experience as a part-time teacher, about 95% of the class makes it to school on time and 1% of the class has chronic tardy issues, meaning usually one kid.

But 30 tardies in one semester is beyond the pale and the parents are jackasses for trying to shift the blame.
So the teacher complains about disrespect. Is that a crime? This prosecution is ridiculous. If they really want to make it a crime to be late for school, then they should pass a law saying explicitly what the crime is. Being late is not "against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth of the Virginia". As Dvorak explains:
The Denicores showed me their list of tardy slips. The kids are rarely more than three minutes late. Sometimes, the tardy slip actually says “Zero” minutes late. Seriously.

How can you be zero minutes late?

Are the Denicores asking for special treatment, or the deployment of some common sense?

It’s not just a matter of defending themselves, or arguing for the right to be late.

There is no state statute that applies to tardiness. There is one that has to do with attendance, and that’s the charge they are facing — the state’s compulsory education law, Sections 22.1-254, which says parents have to send their kids to school “for the same number of days and hours per day” as school is in session.

But the Denicores point is that this zero-tolerance crackdown is happening across the school system, and probably across the county.
In my case, my kids' school never tried to teach anything in the first half hour anyway. I could have taken them late 30 minutes every day and it would not make any difference.

But their school takes tardiness very seriously. They ring a bell at 8:30 promptly every morning, and lock the classroom door. After that, a child has to report to the office and get a tardy slip.

Because CPS had allegations that I was not setting the alarm clock early enough, the social worker, Sally Mitchell, wrote a report saying that they were late for school. But when we went to court, she got the attendance record from the school, and admitted under oath that her report was wrong, and that my kids were never late for school.

It is not really that I was so scrupulously punctual. We carpooled most of the time, and I liked to go a little early to beat the traffic. I do not think that my kids would have suffered any if my kids were late. The teachers did such a crappy job of teaching that my kids could have missed half the school days and not suffered anything.

What the school really didn't like was for a kid to be absent for an entire day, because then the school lost $40 in funding. One time an emergency prevented me from taking my two kids into school for most of the day. The school called me up, and tried to persuade me to bring the kids in for the last 20 minutes of school, because then the school would get $80. That seemed silly to me. It was the only day we missed all year, and they ought to budget for occasional absences.

What if a parent had a work commitment that resulted in a kids being an hour late every single day? It seems to me that a school should be able to work with such a parent, and not try to prosecute him. This is another example of govt busybodies sticking their noses where they do not belong.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Why my case is extreme

I mentioned below that my family court case was extreme, and a couple of readers rightfully pointed out that my maltreatment is rather mild compared to many others. There are many dads who have been imprisoned on false charges, financially ruined, and had their parental rights terminated. Some have committed suicide and others have had their kids forced to take psychoactive drugs. So my case may seem trivial to some readers.

I posted below about an interview on medieval inquisitions. The story was supposedly about one the greatest injustices in the history of human life on Earth, but it included this triviality:
CULLEN MURPHY: In the 13th century, the church was faced with a huge upsurge in heretical activity, you know, activity by sects of believers that departed radically from what the church wanted people to believe. And it was not just a spiritual conflict, there was also a political conflict. This had real implications for the papacy, which was trying to centralize itself and assert its authority.

So the Inquisition begins then, when the pope pretty much deputizes various clerics, mainly Dominicans, to go out into some of these regions to - you know, they would come to a town, they would announce that they were there. They would begin to question people. Sometimes they would use harsh methods, you know, enhanced interrogation as the Bush administration would call it.

They would try to get a handle on what people were thinking in this area, who was infecting who, who the ringleaders were, and they would conduct tribunals, and they would sentence people to various punishments, and sometimes it was relatively mild, you know, you went around wearing a certain kind of garment...

GROSS: A garment that labeled you a heretic.

MURPHY: That's right. They were white garments with a yellow cross on them, and you might have to wear that for a year as you went about your business, you know, whether you were a miller or a baker or whatever.
If I got caught in some 13th political crossfire and I was accused of being a religious heretic, I would say that I got off easy if I just had to wear a yellow cross for a year.

So are my complaints like those of some medieval man who had to wear a yellow cross?

Here is what I think makes my case unusual.

I am a model citizen who doesn't smoke, drink, use drugs, lose his temper, have a personality disorder, or anything like that.

I was thoroughly involved in every aspect of my kids' lives, including 4 years of joint custody.

No one was ever able to identify any wrongdoing on my part.

No one could ever figure out what my ex-wife, Julie Travers, was complaining about.

The closest anyone got to identifying wrongdoing was Judge Heather Morse, who wrote in her decision:
such as enrolling them in a math test which was reportedly way above their abilities; and resetting their alarm clock which prevented them from being prepared for school.
But in fact the math test was not above their abilities and no one ever testified that it was above their abilities. The only testimony was that the test was above grade level for one of them. The girl is still in a math class that is two grades above grade level.

The school said that the kids always prepared for school. The accusation was that the kids felt rushed in the morning if they only had an hour to get dressed and eat breakfast. That's all.

The court-appointed psychologist looked at all of this, and testified that he could find nothing wrong with anything I did. He did say that the court had mishandled the case. He never figured out what my ex-wife was complaining about. He justified his recommendation by saying that he was continuing the status quo (or what he mistakenly thought was the status quo).

The extreme outcome is that I do not see my kids at all. Julie Travers has been given discretion over the matter, and she does not permit it. For 4 years, the court has issued a series of temporary orders giving her temporary sole custody, but it has never found me unfit or determined that I could improve my parenting practices at all. There is no substance to the case against me.

The dads who face some complete bogus domestic violence or sexual abuse charge can end up a lot worse off. I cannot deny that. But in those cases, the judge can at least argue that action would be appropriate if the charges were true. In my case, there are not even any accusations that make any sense. There are no grounds for court intervention even if everything my ex-wife said were true. My case cleanly exposes the evil and corruption of the court.

The system is evil. I am going to continue complaining about it. Keep reminding me that others have it worse.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Ratting out your relatives

Yesterday's newspaper advice column has two letters encouraging people to anonymously rat out their relatives to the cops:
Dear Annie: My brother lives 100 miles away from his job. He says he has a good job, but our family strongly suspects he is dealing drugs again. ...

Afterward, my brother phoned, angry that I'd called the authorities before speaking to him. He said he'd inspected the house prior to sending the kids there and was assured it was being cleaned up. Annie, I don't believe him. He has a history of dealing and using drugs. He's a liar and a manipulator. Meanwhile, the police did nothing, and now my brother won't speak to me. Even my niece is angry.

I'm beginning to feel I did the wrong thing. How do I fix this? — Hurt in California

Dear Hurt: You did nothing wrong. Your brother cannot be trusted, and the mother of these children is not capable of caring for them. Everyone may be doing the best they can, but it is simply not adequate. Could you or someone in your family take these children into your home? Your brother might be relieved to know they are with a responsible caregiver.

Or, if you still feel the children are in danger, report the conditions anonymously to Child Protective Services and ask them to investigate. If the situation warrants the children's removal from the home, they will handle it.

Dear Annie: "Road Worrier" should check to see whether her state has a Drivers Safety Division. Some have forms online to recommend that a particular driver be tested. Of course, valid reasons have to be stated. The driver in question is then summoned to take a driving test. I had to do this for my father. — Been Down hat Road

Dear Been: Concerned friends and relatives can look online or check their state DMV, local police or department of transportation to see whether such forms are available.
The California busybody is beginning to feel that she did the wrong thing, because she did do the wrong thing. No crime was committed. No one was hurt. She obviously has some long-standing issues with her brother. Maybe he has a history of drug use, but she is a back-stabber.

We have become a nation of spineless snitches. If you don't approve of how your brother is rearing his kids, then go ahead and give him suggestions. If someone's life is threatened, then go ahead and intervene. But don't make anonymous reports to state agencies on your own friends and relatives. Only scumbags do that.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

More promising news from Britain

I post a story about Britain moving towards sharing parenting a couple of weeks ago, and now a reader sends this followup:
Ministers intend to rewrite the law in an attempt to ensure that fathers get improved access to their offspring after a marriage breaks down.
Currently, family courts decide to leave children with their mothers in the vast majority of divorce cases.

Campaigners have long complained that without a legal right to see their children, fathers can be excluded, particularly when a split has been acrimonious. By creating the new right for children, ministers hope that judges ruling on custody disputes will ensure more equal access for both parents.
I will be tracking this. It appears to be huge progress in Britain.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Trial videos sealed

A reader sends this story:
Videos of the San Francisco trial over California's ban on same-sex marriage must remain sealed, a federal appeals court ruled today, saying the trial judge who authorized the recordings had promised that they would not be broadcast.

"The integrity of our judicial system depends in no small part on the ability of litigants and members of the public to rely on a judge's word," said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 3-0 ruling.

The integrity of our judicial system depends on a judge's promise to conceal evidence? This is the judge who was a closeted gay until the end of the trial, when wrote an long opinion favoring gays and announcing that he was gay himself. Apparently he only wanted the recordings for his political purposes:
Then-Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker had approved camera coverage over the objections of Prop. 8's sponsors, a conservative religious coalition called Protect Marriage. ... Walker recorded the trial, but only, he said, to use the videos to prepare his ruling and make them available to lawyers on both sides for their final arguments. ... When Walker retired from the bench in February 2011, he took copies of the trial videos and used them to show brief excerpts in lectures to college audiences.
Walker's replacement was James Ware, who is famous for telling a story all his life about growing up black in the South and his brother Virgil being murdered by white racists. He was exposed as a liar when he told the story on national TV.
In September, Walker's successor, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware, ruled that the videos were part of the trial record and should be released. He said Walker's commitment to keep them sealed was not a guarantee of permanent secrecy, was not binding on other judges and should not bar public access to a now-completed trial on an issue of great public interest.
I guess Ware figured that if videos held him accountable for his lies, then others should be also held similarly accountable. Someday all trials will be broadcast on the web. Judges would do better if they were more accountable.