Girls, Get Your Guns

The spotlight on Supreme Court nominee Alito's position on www.post-gazette.com/pg/05305/598540.stm abortion has shone so brightly that abortion has overshadowed another controversial question; where does he stand on gun ownership. It is just one example of how gun rights have been temporarily pushed aside. Same-sex marriage, Hurricane Katrina, the price of gas…these and many other pressing questions are currently eclipsing gun rights. When the issue reassumes center stage, some will be surprised to see that it wears a somewhat different face -- a more feminine face.

One thing is certain: The issue of gun rights will keep emerging not only because it has highly-organized advocates and detractors but also because the average person has become more concerned about personal safety in a post-9/11 world. Recent events have heightened people's concern.

For example, when the infrastructure of New Orleans collapsed in the wake of Katrina, many remaining residents were left without police protection. News reports of roving bands that looted, raped and murdered -- whether those reports were www.wsws.org/articles/2005/sep2005/lies-s30_prn.shtml accurate or not -- made people reflect on how fragile police protection might be.

When the authorities in New Orleans systematically confiscated lawfully-owned firearms, many commentators protested against leaving residents defenseless. They echoed Dave Kopel, Research Director of the Independence Institute, who www.reason.com/hod/dk091005.shtml declared in Reason Magazine, "To the extent that any homes or businesses were saved, the saviors were the many good citizens of New Orleans who defended their families, homes, and businesses with their own firearms." Now those same good citizens were deprived of self-protection.

New Orleans may be one reason that Gallup's annual Crime Poll (mid-October) revealed that people's confidence in their local police to protect them from violent crime poll.gallup.com/content/default.aspx?ci=19783&pg=1 fell from 61 percent last year to 53 percent this year, which is a ten-year low.

Whatever the cause, a grassroots movement toward self-protection is quietly growing; in short, releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=56575 people are arming themselves. According to the www.ojp.usdoj.gov./bjs/pub/pdf/bcft04.pdf Bureau of Justice Statistics [.pdf], some 60.4 million firearm transactions were approved between 1994 2004. www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?ID=126 According to the National Rifle Association (NRA), a gun-advocate organization, "The number of NICS checks for firearm purchases or permits increased 3.2% between 2003-2017."

The personal trend is paralleled by a political one. www.nraila.org/images/rtcmaplg.jpg The number of 'Right-to-Carry' States has risen from 10 in 1987 to 38 currently. (Generally speaking, the term 'right-to-carry' refers to the right of responsible people to carry a concealed weapon. www.packing.org/state/all_united_states Packing.org provides a good overview of the differences from state-to-state.)

Pro-gun women have gradually become more prominent in both the personal and public arenas, though the evidence is largely anecdotal. (Statistics on this trend are difficult to locate and confusing; they have become a source of controversy in-and-of themselves, as gun-control advocates argue that claims of female gun ownership are often inflated.)

Organizations dedicated to female gun ownership are spreading from well-established organizations like http://www.2asisters.org/ Second Amendment Sisters and www.womenandguns.com Women and Guns to relatively new ones like www.mothersarms.org/pr.html Mother's Arms, which urges mothers to protect their children with armed force if necessary.

Media accounts abound. For example, ABC News recently abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=1303400 reported (11/14), "When she moved from California to Arizona, Judy Dutko, had a short list of must-dos upon her arrival in her new home: obtain a driver's license, join a church and register for a gun."

Several factors may contribute to the emerging prominence of female gun owners.

One factor is the increased presence of women in the military. More women are becoming comfortable with the feel and use of firearms. And, as the media showcases the role of military women, the general public is becoming more accustomed to -- and, presumably, comfortable with -- the sight of women and weaponry.

Another factor is the active www.nrahq.org/women/prospective_coordinator.asp recruitment of women that has been conducted by pro-gun organizations over the last decade. For example, the NRA founded the subgroup www.nrahq.org/women/prospective_coordinator.asp Women On Target. WOT expands women's use of firearms from self-defense into the traditional male-bastion of hunting and recreational shooting. WOT www.nrahq.org/women/wot.asp states, "There are currently about two million American women who hunt and an additional four million who enjoy target shooting. These numbers are steadily increasing." According to NRA spokeswoman Kelly Hobbes, the NRA's classes for women have grown from 13 five years ago to 200 today.

Female gun ownership has become more fashionable in a literal sense as well, as companies like Browning Firearms illustrate. About three years ago, the 109-year-old Utah firm, renowned for producing quality guns, reacted to market demand by establishing a line www.browning.com/products/catalog/clothing/category.asp?value=007 A of shooting apparel for women.

Another contributing factor: the rise of unmarried women and single moms. www.portlandtribune.com/archview.cgi?id=32260 Such women may feel more vulnerable to crime and, so, are more open to radical options of self-defense.

Daily life and normal concerns will slowly reassert themselves in the wake of controversies, tragedies, and disasters. As this happens, gun ownership will be among the issues to return in full force. Indeed, if the furor over San Francisco's recent sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/11/09/BAG9RFKD1C82.DTLP ban on guns is any indication, then that process is well underway.

Some advocates will be pleasantly surprised to see that the feminization of gun ownership has continued throughout the chaos; guns have become a 'women's cause' conducted, www.wagc.com/index.html as Women Against Gun Control proclaim, by "ladies of high calibre." Others will be appalled.

Me? I'll be on my feet, applauding the women (and men) who are standing up for their human and Constitutional right to self-defense.

The Culture War's Battle of Lexington

On September 21st, David Parker was scheduled to go on trial in Lexington, Massachusetts for disputing the 'right' of a local public school to introduce his then-5-year-old son to the issue of homosexuality. The Parkers wanted to control the timing and content of that discussion. 

His trial has been headlines.agapepress.org/archive/9/212005a.asp delayed. 

The Parker conflict, the ferocity of community reaction, and the trial's delay constitute a microcosm within the culture war raging between conservatives, liberals and everyone in between. Even kindergarten children are not spared.

Before exploring how the 2nd Battle of Lexington typifies the larger culture war, it is useful to sketch the specific conflict. (For the record, I believe Parker is overwhelmingly in the right.) 

On Jan. 17th, Parker's son brought home a estabrook.ci.lexington.ma.us/Diversity/kindergartenbag.html Diversity Bookbag from kindergarten. It included www.tenspeedpress.com/catalog/tricycle/item.php3?id=818 "Who's In a Family?" which depicts same-sex parents alongside others. 

By law, Massachusetts's schools must notify parents before discussing sexuality with children. The unnotified Parker immediately www.article8.org/docs/news_events/parker/timeline_events.htm emailed the principal of Estabrook Elementary to say he didn't wish his son to be taught that same-sex families are "a morally equal alternative to other family constructs." Parker espouses tolerance: the right of others to make peaceful choices. But he rejects 'diversity': the demand that he validate a particular choice through approval or acceptance. 

On April 27th, Parker was arrested for criminal trespass when he refused to leave school property without an assurance of parental notification in the future. He is now barred from school property, which precludes him from attending events open to other parents or being a voice on school committees.

The 2nd Battle of Lexington illustrates several common characteristics of the culture war. 

They include:  

The conflict is fundamental and admits no compromise. Parker believes that parents, not government, have the right to teach moral and sexual values to their children. Estabrook assumes a duty to inculcate the values of 'diversity'. The adults involved have core beliefs that conflict, and there is only one child.

Short of a Solomon's Knife solution, which slices a baby in half, no compromise is possible. If the law enforces compromise, neither side will be satisfied and the fight for total victory will probably continue.  

Another characteristic: agendas are attached to the dispute, drawing attention from the basic issue. Tammy Mosher from Concerned Women for America www.cwfa.org/articledisplay.asp?id=8867&department=CFI&categoryid=family stated, "What's getting lost…is parental rights and parental notification as it pertains to education." The basic conflict is not over same-sex marriage, to which anti-Parker activists have shifted ground.  

Indeed, some advocates of 'diversity' claim that Parker's demand for parental rights are nothing more than an expression of hatred toward gays. The accusation illustrates another characteristic of the culture war: arguments are mixed with vicious personal attacks and, often, overwhelmed by them. Each side ascribes the worst possible motives to the other. Neither acknowledges that the 'enemy' might be a decent human being who simply disagrees. Demonizing the enemy is another reason why compromise is not possible. It becomes a deal with the devil.

It also stokes the emotions, making physical violence more likely. On Sept. 6, Parker supporters rallied on the historic Lexington Battle Green. According to reports, pro-gay activists gathered in a counter demonstration. The media then arrived. The presence of media often acts as a catalyst because activists know it favors flash over substance, and tensions on the green became inflamed. Ultimately, the police were called to the scene.

Finally, culture warriors are often unwilling to work out difficulties privately, preferring to involve police and the courts almost from the word "go".

There is no way to accurately judge who's right in the culture war without examining the facts. Both sides can make valid points, and who's right often shifts with tactics employed. 

Nevertheless, when I need to make a snap judgement -- one I discard upon deeper examination -- then I follow a few crude guidelines. 

My preliminary bias is:  

  • against the first one to call the police (if no violence occurred);
  • against anyone whose income depends on the outcome;
  • against someone who attaches a broader agenda or shifts the ground of discussion;
  • for anyone who argues rather than insults;
  • for those calling for a private resolution.

My preliminary bias can easily dissolve in the presence of a compelling fact to the contrary.

Upon examining the Parker matter, my initial impression stood.

The Estabrook authorities, for whom 'diversity' is part of a paycheck, called the police on Parker. School supporters portray Parker as an anti-gay bigot and attach a same-sex agenda to his basic demand for parental rights, thus shifting the ground of debate. 

Meanwhile, Parker argues without insults. He was the one arrested and in danger of physical violence. Moreover, Parker's lawyer is calling for a private resolution; that is, the school should drop the restraining order, which has become a pivotal point. Estabrook www.townonline.com/lexington/opinion/view.bg?articleid=324236&format=&page=1 refuses to negotiate.

A last word on the culture war. Most elected officials will hide from the controversy. headlines.agapepress.org/archive/9/212005a.asp The most plausible explanation for the delay in Parker's trial comes from Agape Press. "The district attorney…is running for State Attorney General" and he wants to hammer out a plea bargain to make the controversy go away. 

The resolution is unlikely. The Superintendent of Schools claims he's had no time to decide about the restraining order even the issue has dragged on for months.

For his part, Parker seems willing to go to the Supreme Court.  

This returns to the culture war's first characteristic: no compromise.

PBS Film Controversy Continues

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary www.tatgelasseur.com/pages/bts.html "Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories" portrayed Sadiya (Sadia) Alilire as a heroic mom, who was abused by her husband. Two www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,174854,00.html controversial questions persist. Did producers ignore the extensive court records with which they were provided on Alilire's multiple abuse of her two daughters -- then aged 8 and 3? Is PBS demonstrating bias against fathers?

The headlines.agapepress.org/archive/11/142005b.asp tension surrounding these questions is heightening.

On November 7th, Dr. Scott Loeliger www.glennsacks.com/pbs/loeliger-defamed-father.php (the accused father) wrote to Pat Mitchell, President and CEO of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to "demand that you immediately cease and desist from rebroadcasting all programs and advertisements relating to 'Breaking the Silence." Loeliger's reason: "the numerous false and defamatory statements about me."

On November 11, PBS' Vice President of Communications Lea Sloan www.glennsacks.com/pbs/loeliger-pbs-response.pdf replied that the matter "is currently being reviewed by our legal department." PBS' Director of Corporate Communications Jan McNamara had confirmed earlier that the accuracy of "Breaking the Silence" was under an "official review"; PBS www.glennsacks.com/pbs/pbs-pledges-111005.php stated, "We anticipate concluding our review in 30 days or less (as of November 8)."

Meanwhile newspaper columnist Glenn Sacks announced

www.glennsacks.com/pbs "Round Three" of a campaign to convince the publicly-funded PBS to air both sides of issues raised by "Breaking the Silence". According to Sacks, Round Two resulted in over 10,000 protest calls and emails from the "Sackson Hordes" to PBS. Round Three aims at the www.cpb.org/aboutcpb/goals Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which oversees the funding of public television.

Sacks explained the campaign's goal, "We want PBS to provide fatherhood and shared parenting advocates a meaningful opportunity to present our side." So far PBS Houston has responded with an even-handed round-table discussion on its news analysis show, www.houstonpbs.org/site/PageServer?pagename=con_children_family_court The Connection.

The blogosphere is also buzzing. Liberal feminist Trish Wilson has posted trishwilson.typepad.com/blog/2005/11/fathers_rights__1.html#more the contra-Loeliger accounts of both Alilire and her daughter Fatima, the child whom "Breaking the Silence" features. Both sides should be heard, and giving children a voice is particularly commendable.

But Wilson members.aol.com/asherah/breaking_the_silence.html contends that attacks on Alilire are based on "outdated court documents"; the charge is an odd one. If Alilire was, in fact, found liable for multiple counts of child abuse on August 19, 1998, then -- unless the court finding has been overturned -- it is neither outdated or up-to-date. The finding simply is, although additional information may provide some insight.

Perhaps in response to accusations, Sacks recently posted the formerly withheld smoking gun: www.glennsacks.com/pbs/loeliger-juvenile-court.pdf the judgment on Case No. 97-048856 of the Superior Court of California, County of Tulare, Juvenile Court.

(In linking to this document from cathyyoung.blogspot.com/2005/11/breaking-silence-sorting-out-facts.html her blog, Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young notes "If I'm not mistaken, the juvenile court judgment form…wasn't there yesterday." Young isn't mistaken. The posting war is accelerating.)

In that judgment, Fatima and her younger sister became dependents of the juvenile court under Section 300, subdivisions a, b, c & j of the Welfare and Institutions Code. The codes require a finding either of actual abuse (physical and emotional) and neglect, or of the risk of abuse and neglect. Alilire claims the court actually found that she "threw a shoe at Fatima" and "spanked her with a plastic coat hanger." She denies both charges.

There is an undeniable "he said/she said" aspect to the potential scandal that threatens the credibility of PBS. But the "he said/she said" scenario breaks down in the presence of documents that include far more than the Juvenile Court papers. It includes the rulings of two judges on separate occasions (www.glennsacks.com/pbs/loeliger-judge-phillips.php 1991 and www.glennsacks.com/pbs/loeliger-judge-king.php 2003); the www.glennsacks.com/pbs/loeliger-child-abuse.php report of a child abuse investigator for Tehama County; the www.glennsacks.com/pbs/loeliger-dv.pdf arrest of Alilire in 1989 for felony domestic violence against Loeliger; and, the www.glennsacks.com/pbs/loeliger-reidy.php custody evaluation conducted by a clinical psychologist for the Superior Court of Monterey County.

If Fatima's voice is to be heeded -- and I sincerely hope it is -- then her earlier accounts must also be taken seriously, especially since they were independently investigated and verified.

In the furor of accusations and counterclaims that may well occur, and soon, it is wise to state what I believe the controversy is not about.

It is not about whether Loeliger is a good father. I don't have information to make that judgment but I suspect both parties behaved badly toward Fatima at different points.

It is not about Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), upon which much attention has been focused. The Syndrome, by which custodial parents are said to systematically alienate children from non-custodial ones (overwhelmingly fathers), is heralded by shared custody advocates; it was targeted for debunking by "Breaking the Silence." I don't subscribe to PAS as a psychiatric category.

So what is the controversy about? Cathy Young got it right, "It looks to me like the PBS documentary has taken a very complicated and messy situation in which both parents are at fault (though the mother is the only one with a fairly clear record of physical violence), and transformed it into a melodrama about a villainous father and a wronged mother. And this melodrama is put into the service of a narrative that vilifies fathers, most explosively suggesting that the majority of fathers who seek custody of their children are abusers. And that's just wrong."

I believe the producers of "Breaking the Silence" made an egregious error in casting a physically abusive mother as a wronged heroine. "Breaking the Silence" may well contribute to misinformation on domestic violence and its impact upon children. And that is shameful.

Preserving Culture, or Curtailing Freedom? II

On October 20th, by a vote of 148 to 2, the United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) www.ictsd.org/weekly/05-10-26/story4.htm approved the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001403/140318e.pdf preliminary draft). Only the U.S and Israel dissented. The Convention will be in force after ratification by 30 governments. Before that happens, the U.S. should withdraw from UNESCO as it did in www.state.gov/p/io/fs/2002/13482.htm 1984.

What is the Convention, and why is the U.S. hostile toward it?

The international legal agreement is sometimes called the Convention on Cultural Diversity (CCD). Article 1 states that sovereign nations should be allowed to implement "policies and measures…they deem appropriate for the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions on their territory." Article 8 reaffirms that goal.

But the CCD is extremely vague as to what constitutes "cultural expression." Article 4 defines "cultural content" as "the symbolic meaning, artistic dimension and cultural values that originate from or express cultural identities."

This vagueness of definition usinfo.state.gov/is/Archive/2005/Oct/20-504183.html worries American officials. Cultural expression almost certainly includes movies, books, music, theatre and journalism…but what else? For example, French wine, cheese, bread and a wide variety of other consumables might be viewed as integral to French culture. If so, the CCD authorizes France to take whatever "measures…they deem appropriate" for cultural protection. Presumably this means subsidies, tariffs, and other trade barriers. www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2005/54690.htm The State Department has expressed concern that the CCD could become "a basis for impermissible new barriers to trade in goods, services, or agricultural products that might be viewed as being related to 'cultural expressions'."

Indeed, the CCD may be more usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2005&m=October&x=20051012123119AKllennoccM0.8266413&t=eur/eur-latest.html about trade than culture. Some argue that its vagueness is actually a bargaining chip to be used against the U.S. during upcoming talks www.wto.org/english/news_e/events_e/events_e.htm at the World Trade Organization.

But far more is at stake than economics.

The CCD is a blatant attempt to place world culture under the control of governments. A free flow of ideas and expression characterize both the marketplace and freedom itself. In its place, the CCD wants the equivalent of 'culture cops' in every nation, with an overriding 'culture court' called the Intergovernmental Committee.

The power grab is justified in noble terms. The CCD claims to protect 'minority cultures' and to promote diversity. Some nations may be sincere but several not-so-noble motives are also in play.

One of them is resentment over how well American culture sells when consumers are free to buy. Movies, blue jeans, rock music and jazz, toys, soft drinks, McDonalds, literature from Playboy to comic books… As Neil Hrab www.techcentralstation.com/102405E.html comments in Tech Central Station, the CCD is "an effort to punish the US for too-successfully exporting its… cultural products around the world."

The Heritage Foundation www.heritage.org/Research/InternationalOrganizations/wm885.cfm#_ftn1 concludes that the CCD "is more about…cultural prejudice than cultural diversity and understanding." The Foundation warns, "Imagine how much bolder such a convention will make countries like Burma, China, Iran, or Cuba, all of which are notorious for restricting freedoms, especially freedom of speech and of the press."

This is yet another ignoble motive. Oppressive regimes know that controlling culture is key to controlling what people think and feel.

China is an extreme example but it dramatically illustrates the relationship between culture and political control. It is no co-incidence that China's drive to embed communism as the dominant ideology and to quash political opposition was called www.cnd.org/CR/ "the cultural revolution." Purging the 'old culture' became a top priority. People were not permitted to retain the old culture even in the silence of their minds; those who did were "re-educated" in camps or simply killed.

Governments fear culture so much that they will expend huge amounts of energy and money to suppress a movie, a thought, or -- as www.heritage.org/Research/InternationalOrganizations/wm885.cfm#_ftn4 in Iran recently -- the mere act of children dancing. They fear culture because it is a threat that cannot be truly controlled.

Culture is the accumulated knowledge, experience, beliefs, and customs within a group, which emerges over time and can be passed to others through literature, music and other expression. It cannot be created by government. You can't vote culture into being; you can't pass a law to turn a movie into a beloved classic. Culture emerges spontaneously and defies political control.

The freer a society, the more vigorous and diverse its culture, and vice versa.

Hrab asked an intriguing question in his commentary. "Thanks to the spread of personal electronic devices and the rise of sites where you can download content from the Internet, will this 'right' to regulate mean anything? Can governments seriously influence the viewing/reading/listening habits of citizens anymore?"

Again, China is instructive. To pacify the Beijing regime, Microsoft's Chinese portal recently banned access to certain words. The Financial Times yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=5856 reported, "Attempts to input words in Chinese such as 'democracy' prompted an error message from the site: 'This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech…'" With the current ease of duplicating books and movies, however, it is difficult to believe that even draconian measures can stem the cultural flow.

For several reasons, the CCD may well be unenforceable. But any attempt at government control can only harm what the CCD purports to protect: diversity and freedom of expression.

Those goals exist only when individuals are free to embrace the culture they prefer; when they have choice. And the best thing government can do is get out of the way.

Preserving Culture, or Curtailing Freedom?

A father is demanding a public retraction from the Public Broadcasting System and threatening to sue for libel after the network broadcast a show that he says wrongly portrayed him as an abusive husband and father.

Dr. Scott Loeliger says the producers of the show ignored extensive court findings, records and testimony that he claims prove it was his ex-wife, and not he, who abused their daughter and her half-sister. (To view copies of court documents, testimonials, expert reports etc., see www.glennsacks.com/pbs/loeliger.php ) 

Loeliger, a medical doctor in Northern California, says he provided documentation of the mother’s abuse to a co-producer of the show, “Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories,” six months before it aired, and that his pleas to have his case removed from the show were ignored.  Aired by PBS on Oct. 20, the much-publicized documentary presents "children and battered mothers [who] tell their stories of abuse at home and continued trauma within the courts," which allegedly return children to abusive parents. 

A spokeswoman for PBS, Director of Corporate Communications Jan McNamara, says the accuracy of "Breaking the Silence" is under "official review."

In the show, Loeliger’s daughter, identified as Amina, says: "My father has a way of making important people…[believe]…he is a good father and he has never done anything wrong and that I am almost crazy and abusive." 

But Loeliger says Amina’s mother, lost custody of Amina and her half-sister on Aug. 19, 1998, when a Tulare County Juvenile Court (California) found her liable for eight counts of child abuse, including physical abuse.

Loeliger received full custody of Amina in 1998; at Amina's request, full custody was returned to the mother in 2004.  

Last April, provided documentation of the his ex-wife's abuse to co-producer Dominique Lasseur of Tatge-Lasseur, a New York-based production company.

Five letters ensued, two from Loeliger's attorney, Dennis Roberts. Loeliger demanded the removal of the segment with Amina and her mother. 

Lasseur responded by email, "whatever may have happened in…" Amina's…”early childhood, the courts at this time are not persuaded by your arguments and have awarded physical custody…to her mother." 

Lasseur gave assurance that real names would not be used and extended a disclaimer to Loeliger, who refused to be interviewed for the documentary. The father explained, "I didn't want to be on national TV 'outing' my daughter as a liar or debating about her life."

The disclaimer is displayed at the end of the segment featuring Amina and her mother. It reads, "Amina's father…contends that her mother deliberately alienated her from him. He is trying to regain physical custody of her through court proceedings." 

The controversy is broader than one father's protest.  

The show argues against what has become a cause celebre in the father's rights movement: www.coeffic.demon.co.uk/pas.htm Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). PAS is said to occur when one parent willfully causes a child to become indifferent or hateful towards the other parent. Father's rights advocates point to PAS to explain the hostility and accusations expressed by some children toward alienated parents, usually fathers. Critics and "Breaking the Silence" contend that PAS does not exist as a valid psychiatric Syndrome.

National radio host Glenn Sacks launched a campaign to protest what he called the film's "extremely one-sided" "harmful and inaccurate view of divorce and child custody cases." In an article entitled www.enterstageright.com/archive/articles/1005/1005pbsdads.htm "PBS Declares War on Dads", Sacks not only disputed the premise of documentary -- that courts assign custody to abusive fathers -- but also its use of statistics. PBS has reportedly received over 6,000 protest calls, emails and letters.

mailman.greennet.org.uk/public/gaias-cafe/2005-October/002785.html Women's rights organizations have launched a counter-effort. The National Organization for Women www.now.org/lists/now-action-list/msg00206.html advised their membership to send emails of support to PBS, noting, "Your emails are especially important, as we know that PBS is being flooded with emails from bogus 'fathers' rights' activists opposing the airing of the film."

The documentary's ultimate credibility may hinge on one question: does it incorrectly portray Amina's mother as an heroic mom instead of a child abuser?

Loeliger's argument that he and the mother have been misrepresented has precedent. Loeliger says he first learned of the accusations of his abuse through a Davis Enterprise www.kourtsforkids.org/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=143   article (1/20/05) entitled "Teen Turns Tug-of-War Lessons Into Message." It claimed that Loeliger had verbally and physically abused his daughter.

On April 5, the Enterprise published a retraction and an apology to Loeliger, stating that the story "contained many factual inaccuracies."  

The stakes on a comparable apology from PBS are high.  

Amina has become one of the public faces of child abuse promoted by organizations such as www.courageouskids.net/ Courageous Kids Network (CKN), a California group that endorsed "Breaking the Silence." CKN is self-described as "a growing group of young people, whose childhood was shattered by biased and inhumane court rulings, which forced us to live with our abusive parent, while restricting or sometimes completely eliminating contact with our loving and protective parent." 

Such advocates point to "Breaking the Silence" as a reason to reform the family court system. But Loeliger and father's rights advocates demand verification for the stories and statistics upon which future policy may be based.

Both sides are in eloquent agreement on one point: they wish to protect children.

Cultural Competence: Coming to a School Near You?

'Cultural Competence': the trendy term is appearing with greater frequency in darkwing.uoregon.edu/~codac/OregonCCSummit.pdf education proposals and www.scu.edu/strategicplan/futuredirections/themes/diversity.cfm literature. Parents would do well to ask, "What is it, and how could it effect my children's education from kindergarten through university?

'Cultural competence' first arose in connection with health care services, where www.omhrc.gov/cultural a standard definition is, "services that are respectful of and responsive to the cultural and linguistic needs of the patient." For example, this means health care providers should be able to communicate with a non-English-speaking patient and they should take into account cultural habits when constructing a health regime.

Recently, the term has migrated from health care to education; its definition has shifted in the drift. In theory, 'cultural competence' in the classroom means being able to teach children from diverse backgrounds. In practice, the term is the new face of political correctness, which is often accompanied by the PC concepts of 'diversity' or 'multiculturalism.'

'Cultural competency' advances the same basic goals as those buzz words. Certain groups (such as minorities) and certain ideas (such as gender feminist interpretations of oppression) are to be promoted by institutionalizing policies that encourage them. Of course, this means that other groups and other ideas are de facto penalized or discouraged.

But instead of being applied directly to students, as with affirmative action in college entrance, 'cultural competency' applies to educators: their hiring, their firing, their promotion. It is more of a behind-the-scenes process and, so, less visible to the public. Yet the impact upon children's education could be as dramatic.

Norman Levitt, Professor of Mathematics at Rutgers University, www.spiked-online.com/articles/0000000CADAC.htm explains, "'Cultural competence' is…a bureaucratic weapon. 'Cultural competence', or rather, your [an educator's] presumed lack thereof, is what you will be clobbered with if you are imprudent enough to challenge or merely to have qualms about 'affirmative action', 'diversity' and 'multiculturalism', as those principles are now espoused by their most fervent academic advocates."

According to Levitt, the beliefs that are likely to torpedo an educator's career include:

  • affirmative action conflicts "with other standards of justice and equity"
  • feminism's theory of "the social constructedness of gender" is incorrect

'Cultural competence' has achieved some momentum. For example, in March 2005, the Corvallis Gazette Times www.gazettetimes.com/articles/2005/04/01/news/oregon/frista03.txt%20id=r-1_0 reported, "A quiet effort by state officials to require that all newly certified Oregon teachers be 'culturally competent' looks to be dead-on-arrival in the Republican-controlled House, despite firm support from education advocates."

(Oregon is one of dozens of states exploring and implementing 'cultural competency' but it seems be on the cutting edge. For example, starting in 2007, the state's Teachers Standards and Practices Commission says it will require new school administrators to demonstrate cultural competency.)

The definition of the term is all-important. Unfortunately, language surrounding the term is usually vague and bureaucratic. The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey is typical in www.umdnj.edu/culturalcompetency/pages/whatis.htm stating, "Cultural competence requires that organizations…have the capacity to (1) value diversity, (2) conduct self-assessment, (3) manage the dynamics of difference, (4) acquire and institutionalize cultural knowledge…"

Piercing the Bureaucrat Speak returns us to Oregon where, in 2003, the Teachers Standards and Practices Commission began developing http://www.nytimes.com/ref/college/coll-opinions-gordly.html 'cultural competence' standards for certifying teachers and administrators. The task required a clearer definition.

In May 2004, the Oregon Department of Education sponsored darkwing.uoregon.edu/~codac/OregonCCSummit.pdf a Summit of "over 100 of the State's leaders in education…to engage in a dialogue about cultural competency." Its purpose was to develop a specific proposal on how to implement 'cultural competence' in education, from kindergarten to university.

It was the Summit's definition of 'cultural competence' that caused Oregon's House to balk at the education bill that ensued Senate Bill 50. The essence of that definition: "Cultural competence is based on a commitment to social justice and equity" darkwing.uoregon.edu/~codac/OregonCCSummit.pdf p.8 .

Some of the specifics of what constitutes 'social justice' and 'equity' emerged from the Summit, which was organized into discussion Tables. 'Cultural competence' "entails actively challenging the status quo…one table noted the need to incorporate institutionalized notions of power, privilege, and oppression into the definition….Thus, for many, cultural competence is transformative and political." (p.7)

In practical terms, a "culturally competent" teacher "advocates for social justice"; the teacher "exhibits awareness of key concepts" such as "privilege, affirmative action"; he or she must not only "apply cultural competencies" but also "believe it." (p.9)

'Cultural competence' would not be a request but a requirement. In its five year projection, the Summit proposed to "revise rules to achieve high cultural standards including possible revocation of licensure for culturally incompetent behavior" and "to require cultural competence for license renewal." (p.13) Indeed, SB50 would have authorized the establishment of "standards for cultural competency and require an applicant for a teaching license to meet those standards."

In short, teachers would be required to advocate a specific vision of social justice to be licensed.

Dave Mowry, a legislative coordinator for Rep. Linda Flores, noted in www.oregonlive.com/commentary/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/editorial/1115978118228830.xml&coll=7 The Oregonian (May 11), "[T]he Teachers Standards and Practices Commission and the Oregon Department of Education are backtracking, saying they really didn't mean it…Then why is it in the definition and the five-year plan and on the commission's Web site?"

Oregon may be an extreme example but PC policies have a tendency to become extreme…and quickly so. The best protection for children against political correctness is for parents to be aware.

"A White Oppressor? Who Me?"

Your daughter is enrolled at a major university that has well-defined policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race. She decides to attend a campus event. The organizers forbid her entry because of her skin color: white. Under concerted pressure from the Student Government Association (SGA) which prohibits racial discrimination at school-sponsored events, the organizers grudgingly admit your daughter. But they make a point of publicly humiliating her from the podium for the color of her skin.

On September 25th, the Women's Studies and Graduate Consortium at Northeastern University (Boston) www.nu-news.com/media/paper600/news/2005/09/28/News/Forum.Opened.To.All.After.Discrimination.Complaints-1001178.shtml held a public on-campus meeting called "Breaking Bread: Women of Color Dialogue." White women were barred.

The SGA demanded that no student be denied entry to a public and on-campus event because of skin color. This was not merely a moral stand but also a demand that the university-sponsored event comply with the university's non-discrimination policy. (Exclusion on the basis of gender seems to have raised no comment.)

Rather than cancel, Dr. Robin Chandler -- director of women's studies and an organizer of the event -- cracked the door wide enough for white women to walk through. Only one attended. A Senator from the SGA, her presence was obviously meant to make the point that students cannot be excluded from campus events due to race.

In NU, Northeastern's student newspaper, Chandler described her response to allowing a white woman attend. "I welcomed her anyway, in addition to telling the audience to conduct themselves with integrity even though the presence of a white woman was unwelcome."

Chandler continued, "I think it's a shame that one or two white students based on white privilege, a lack of awareness of racial issues and a lack of generosity of spirit complained to the office of the provost and were able, because they were white, to gain admission to the morning session that I was forced to open up."

At a university-funded event www.nu-news.com/media/paper600/news/2003/10/22/News/Wall-Of.Oppression.Breaks.Down.Diversity-535263.shtml?page=2 some while back, Chandler gave a closing speech that was followed by spectators, who were encouraged to come on-stage to "share their thoughts about diversity and oppression."

I'd like to take Professor Chandler up on the offer to share my thoughts.

First of all, in what dictionary did Chandler look up the word 'welcome'? And since when has protesting discrimination demonstrated a "lack of awareness of racial issues" and a "lack of generosity of spirit"?

Before deteriorating into an uncharacteristic rant, however, I should clarify where I stand on the "race question". For most of my life I have been neither proud nor ashamed of being white -- although I rather enjoy being Irish. My race is not something I achieved; it is a circumstance of birth over which I had no control. I judge people, including myself, on the content of their character and their actions. My family through marriage includes blacks, Hispanics, and plain vanilla sorts like me. Race is simply not an issue.

Nevertheless, I've heard the charge of "white privilege" so often that I've numbed to its meaning and implications. That is a mistake. The accusation is too often a racial attack and those who hurl it are too often oppressors in sheep's clothing.

Chandler's remarks broke through my numbness. Why? My three nieces are university age or close to it. One is black, two are blonde and fair-skinned. Chandler would have broken up a family along racial lines rather than let them attend a public event together. And she would have labeled anyone who protested as a "racist", a recipient of white privilege.

"White privilege": the phrase has different meanings depending on the context but most often the accusation rests on historical analysis. Namely, due to the great historical wrong of slavery -- a wrong that no one denies -- whites are said to have sins to expiate.

For most white people, however, history frowns upon this interpretation. Again, I use my family as an example.

In 1865, when slavery ended in America, my ancestors were on ships fleeing the famine and political oppression in Ireland. A third of the passengers died in transit; many more perished from privation in a foreign land.

The family on my husband's side fled Cuba as Castro made his power grab. Their children literally had to maneuvre through explosions on the streets of Havana in order to attend school.

These are not people of privilege. They have no connection to or responsibility for the oppression that was slavery.

There are no laws that grant my blonde-haired nieces any privilege due to skin color. Such laws have been methodically removed from the legal system for decades now.

Nevertheless, attendees said they would feel "threatened…if white women were present." White women, they claimed, could not understand issues like prostitution and truancy. As a white woman who has lived on the street, I disagree.

The preceding sentence contains the worst impact of Chandler's racial policies: "as a white woman." While writing this column, I've thought of myself as a racial category and I've wanted to vigorously defend being white. It is difficult to be part of the only race for whom racial pride is a social taboo.

This is the ultimate result of people who want to open or close a public door based solely on skin color. They force you think in racial categories and that process can become a slippery slope into racism. It is a slide I refuse to take.

Best to all

On September 11th, Dalton McGuinty -- the Premier of Ontario - www.foxnews.com/story/0%2C2933%2C169125%2C00.html announced that his province would not become the first Western jurisdiction in which Islamic law was allowed to settle family disputes such as divorce, child custody and property settlements. The announcement raises a question: when is it proper for the government to dictate the rules by which adults of sound mind agree to resolve family disputes?

In the coming months, an uproar will rip through Canadian society and courts. To understand the uproar and how the preceding question is being answered requires background.

The www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/DBLaws/Statutes/English/91a17_e.htm Ontario Arbitration Act (1991) allows family disputes on civil matters from divorce to inheritance to be resolved through an arbitrator rather than a court, as long as both parties agree. The arbitrated resolutions have the same legal force as court decisions. But the court retains power to reject a resolution that is "invalid" or which embodies "unequal or unfair treatment of parties."

Catholics, Fundamentalist Christians, Jews, Mennonites, and Jehovah's Witnesses are among the religious groups who have established faith-based arbitration as an active alternative to expensive court proceedings.

But it is not merely a matter of expense. An Hassidic Jew, for example, might have more confidence in the wisdom of a www.cjc.ca/# rabbinical judgment than in a secular one. Now, rather than deny that option to one religion, McGuinty is vowing to eliminate faith-based arbitration altogether.

What happened?

Faith-based arbitration proceeded quietly until Muslims asked to include www.shariah.net/ Shariah law -- customs and rules based on Islamic teachings. Gender feminist groups immediately protested.

In response, former Ontario Attorney General and Women's Issues Minister www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2004/20040625arbitrationreview-nr.asp Marion Boyd conducted a review of arbitration with a focus on Shariah law to determine its impact "on vulnerable people, including women." (As a member of the www.ndp.ca/ New Democratic Party, which leans far to the left, Boyd would be expected to show special sensitivity to the oppression of women.)

Issued in December 2004, www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/boyd/ the review concluded that Shariah arbitration should be accepted on the condition that various safeguards be imposed. For example, all agreements must be "in writing, signed by the parties and witnessed"; the "best interest of a child" could not be ignored.

Section 5 of Boyd's review, "Constitutional Considerations", addressed the argument that Sharia arbitration should be rejected because Islamic law violated the laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/ Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees equality between the sexes.

Boyd countered that arbitration was a private act -- as opposed to one in the governmental or public sphere -- and, so, it was not subject to Charter scrutiny. Arbitration was private because "there is no state compulsion to arbitrate." Moreover, "it is a reflection of the parties' relationship…because the authority of the arbitrator flows directly from the parties agreement to be bound."

If a Shariah judgment violated Canadian law -- for example by imposing the death penalty for adultery -- then, like any other illegal contract, it be unenforceable. But in areas where discretion exists -- for example, whether a father is awarded child custody -- arbitration decisions might differ from those of provincial courts.

The public versus private nature of family 'contracts' and their resolution is key to understanding the protest that ensued.

Gender feminist groups rushed to answer the question "when is it proper for the government to dictate the rules of family disputes?" Their answer seemed to be "whenever a woman is involved."

Their reasoning: since it is possible for women to be brainwashed or pressured into private negotiations, all negotiations must be conducted according to identical governmental procedure and law. It doesn't matter that faith-based arbitration has functioned for 15 years with no complaint of widespread abuse. Because abuse is possible, it must be prevented by eliminating the private realm in which it could occur.

The current hostility toward all things Islamic helped to incite protest but gender feminists aimed at far more than merely 'protecting' Muslim women.

Heather McGregor, Executive Director of YWCA Toronto, became a www.ywcatoronto.org/get_involved/arbitration_intro.htm leading voice against Boyd's report. In a widely-circulated www.ywcatoronto.org/assets/pdf/get_involved/media_archive/2004/040601_tstar_editorial.pdf Letter-to-the-Editor (Toronto Star June 1, 2004, .pdf), she explained, "We feel strongly that it is not only Islam or Muslim family law that presents this threat. A rise in a fundamentalist version of all major religions is eating away at the status of women…Access to safe and legal abortion is being challenged by a form of fundamentalism that has the ear of the President of the United States" She objected specifically to "fundamentalist Judaism".

Marilou McPhedran, a lawyer for the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2005/09/04/islamic_arbitration20050904.html lambasted Boyd's report for giving "legitimacy and credibility to the right-wing racists who fundamentally are against equal rights for men and women."

Even semi-private arrangements on family matters threaten the laws and policies through which gender feminists promote their vision of equality and social justice. It is not a vision that welcomes competing systems or the choices of dissenting individuals.

The influential LEAF (Women's Legal Education and Action Fund) candidly used the same word to describe "private agreements" that most people use to describe "death and taxes": inevitable. In its www.leafottawa.ca/news/archives/2004/11/media_release_leafs_submissions_to_marion_boyd_in_relation_to_her_review_of_the_arbitration_act/index.phpSubmissi on against Boyd's report, LEAF ruefully stated, "informal dispute resolution between individuals is inevitable, and…it is not possible to monitor the substance of all private agreements or decisions to ensure that they conform to equality principles."

The heavily-regulated faith-based arbitration was hardly an expression of unbridled individual choice. Even so, it expressed more freedom than its feminist critics could tolerate.

How much freedom do I believe should be tolerated? As long as a family dispute is being handled peacefully and involves only consenting adults, then everyone else should mind their own business. In fact even in the presence of children, unless there is reason to suspect clear harm, everyone else should mind their own business.

Will Science Trump Politics in Resolving Abortion Debate

Artificial wombs will be "reality" within 20 years, according to www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0%2C%2C2-1755908%2C00.html the London Times. Indeed, 20 years seems a conservative estimate given observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,648024,00.html an earlier report in The Guardian, another UK newspaper, which predicted them in 2008.

Discussion of ectogenesis -- www.stanford.edu/dept/HPST/ectogenesis/introduction.html ectogenesis, the growing an embryo outside the mother's womb -- may sound wildly futuristic. But a few years ago,www.arhp.org/patienteducation/onlinebrochures/cloning/index.cfm?ID=282 cloning and genetic modification seemed impossible. A few years before that, the idea of a 66-year-old woman giving birth was absurd; itwww.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=18957 happened last January. And only last week, www.guardian.co.uk/life/science/story/0,12996,1566144,00.html British scientists received an official go-ahead to create human embryos from two mothers with no male genetic contribution.

For better or worse, new reproductive technologies (NRTs) are redefining the ground rules of reproduction. (And, no, the force of law can not hold back scientific 'progress' as authorities have discovered repeatedly since Galileo's day.)

NRTs may also redefine the politics surrounding reproduction, including the issue of abortion. I welcome the prospect. It is difficult to believe that science could a worse job with the issue than courts and fanatic rhetoric. At the very least, science may offer new methods of ending a pregnancy without destroying an embryo or fetus.

This possibility becomes more likely in the presence of two factors. First, viability is being established at ever-earlier stages of pregnancy. Recently, doctors have been successful in administering perflubron -- a liquid that replaces the amniotic fluid -- to babies as young as 23-weeks-old, with a 70% survival rate.

Second, http://www.stanford.edu/dept/HPST/ectogenesis/introduction.html ectogenesis seems to be experiencing breakthroughs.

In 2002, a team at Cornell University used cells from a human uterus to grow www.popsci.com/popsci/futurebody/dc8d9371b1d75010vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.html an artificial womb. When a fertilized human egg was introduced, it implanted itself in the uterus wall as in a natural pregnancy. After six days of gestation, the experiment was halted due solely to legal constraints.

Meanwhile, half-a-world away, Dr. www.thebatt.com/media/paper657/news/2003/09/30/Opinion/A.Scientific.compromise-508045.shtml Yoshinori Kuwabara of Juntendo University in Japan has been removing fetuses from goats and keeping them alive for weeks in clear plastic tanks of amniotic fluid with machine-driven 'umbilical cords'.

Frida Simonstein, of Ben Gurion University in Israel, stated at a recent conference on ethics and emerging medical technologies, "Society now expects better outcomes for premature babies. Society also demands improvement in IVF effectiveness. Yet society should be equally aware that these demands require research that leads to the development of an artificial womb."

She concluded, "We must start discussing this topic now while we have still enough time to decide what we may want, and why."

Abortion activists, both pro-choice and pro-life, should heed Simonstein's warning. Science has sped past the current state of debate and those stuck behind in the rut of discussing Roe v. Wade may find themselves obsolete. Whether or not ectogenesis is ever able to sustain a nine-month human pregnancy, one thing is clear: key issues like viability are being redefined by science. The abortion debate must move into the 21st century where it may be possible for many pro-choice and pro-life advocates to find common ground.

Science will not make the abortion debate go away. The conflict is too deep and involves such fundamental questions of ethics and rights as, "What is a human life?" "Can two 'human beings' -- a fetus and the pregnant woman -- claim control over the same body?" and "When does an individual with rights come into existence?" These questions are beyond the scope of science.

Nevertheless, technology can impact the debate in at least two ways. First, it can explore ways to end a pregnancy without destroying the fetus which may then be sustained; if such procedures became accessible and inexpensive (or financed by adoptive 'parents'), then abortion rates would likely decline…and sharply.

Second, it may offer "an out" for activists on both sides who sincerely wish to resolve the debate and not merely scream at each other at ever increasing shrillness.

Many pro-choice women, like me, have been deeply disturbed by http://www.layyous.com/ultasound/fetalbehavior.htm ultrasound scan photos that show fetuses sucking their thumbs, appearing to smile and otherwise resembling a full-term baby. Many of us would welcome alternate procedures and forms of ectogenesis as long as they remained choices. And as long as both parental rights and parental responsibilities could be relinquished.

For their part, pro-life advocates who are sincerely bothered by the totalitarian implications of monitoring pregnant women and demolishing doctor-client privilege might well jump at a technological solution.

Such activists may be surprised to find allies where enemies once existed.

Of course, some pro-choice feminists will reject the possibility without discussion, and for one reason. Many states ban abortion once the fetus has achieved viability. Since ectogenesis pushes viability back to the embryo stage, all abortions might become illegal. That would constitute a catastrophic political defeat.

Moreover, many pro-life advocates will oppose NRTs as dehumanizing, unnatural, and against their religious beliefs.

To date, the most notable thing about activists' response to NRTs has been the lack of it, especially when compared to the clamor surrounding every other aspect of abortion. It sometimes seems as though the two extremes want to shout rather than consider solutions.

And so the debate will continue among those unwilling to explore any 'solution' not fashioned from their own ideology.

But the extent of the problem may well be diminished by science, by NRTs that sustain the viability of fetuses removed from women who do not wish to become mothers. Like heart transplants or intrauterine operations to correct birth defects, ectogenesis may taken for granted some day.

The most optimistic scenario is that a not-too-future generation will look back on abortion as a barbaric procedure, and learn the terms 'pro-choice' and 'pro-life' from a history text.

More realistically, NRTs will just help a bad situation. But help should not dismissed lightly.

Paternity Case Marks Progress for Defrauded Fathers

On August 31st, a small but precedent-setting lawlibrary.rutgers.edu/courts/appellate/a6130-02.opn.html case was decided in the Superior Court of New Jersey. The plaintiff discovered he was not the biological father of his eldest 'son', now in his 30s. The court affirmed the duped dad's legal right to sue the natural father for the cost of raising the 'child' and removed some limitations imposed by a lower court.

The precedent: for the first time, New Jersey has extended a clear statutory deadline for filing on paternity cases. For the first time, a biological parent may be forced to pay child support for an offspring emancipated over 15 years ago.

The significance: family courts are beginning to reflect a growing impatience with paternity fraud; perhaps this is in reaction to a shift in societal attitudes.

Predictably, the pathbreaking New Jersey decision raises more questions. For example, if a deliberate fraud was perpetrated for thirty years by both the biological mother and father, why is only the father held liable?

The answer -- right or wrong -- lies in the www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-1/1125553544143310.xml&coll=1 facts of the case, which are as follows.

In 1957, RAC -- the duped dad -- and BEC were married; in 1980, they divorced. Three children resulted, including DC born in 1969. (Court documents reveal the parties only through initials.)

The mother was "virtually sure" that PJS was DC's father but she did not disclose this to her husband. Instead, PJS became the child's godfather. Upon divorce, RAC fulfilled the obligations of both child support and educational expenses for DC, all the while maintaining a close, loving relationship with the three children.

In 1996, DC -- then 27-years-old -- was about to wed. The mother revealed her paternity fraud to DC because his natural father had a pronounced family history of muscular dystrophy, a condition which could be genetically transmitted. She promised to inform RAC of the deception but waited three additional years to do so.

In September 2000, the sadly-enlightened RAC filed a complaint against PJS, which also named the mother and included a demand for DNA testing. PJS was the biological father and a judgment of paternity was entered against him in June 2002.

In February 2003, RAC was awarded $109,697 for child support reimbursement up to DC's 22nd birthday. The reimbursement excluded legal expenses and money spent on DC's education between the ages of 22 and 25. The judge also dismissed RAC's claim for "fraudulent concealment and intentional infliction of emotional distress." This effectively barred a cross-complaint against the mother.

RAC appealed.

PJS countered with a technicality, albeit an important one. The time limit for initiating a paternity fraud suit had expired under www.njleg.state.nj.us/bills/BillView.asp New Jersey's Parentage Act before RAC had brought the original suit. The relevant lis.njleg.state.nj.us/cgi-bin/om_isapi.dll?clientID=73224812&Depth=4&advquery=%229%3a17-45%22&headingswithhits=on&infobase=statutes.nfo&rank=%20%20&record={1372A}&softpage=Q_Frame_Pg42&wordsaroundhits=10&zz= passage states, "No action shall be brought under [the Parentage Act] more than 5 years after the child attains the age of majority."

Thus PJS claimed RAC's suit was invalid. RAC answered that information on paternity was concealed until the time limit had expired. In other words, PJS and the mother had "conspired" to prevent the very possibility of a legal remedy.

The Superior Court agreed with RAC…but only so far. The deadline for filing was waived. The Superior Court fell back on the intention of the Parentage Act rather than its specific wording. The Act was not intended to facilitate fraud; thus, the court extended the principle of www.answers.com/main/ntquery;jsessionid=2c34lmp3vhifu?tname=equitable-tolling&curtab=19_1&hl=statute&hl=limitations&sbid=lc04a "equitable tolling" to paternity fraud. This principle states, "a statute of limitations will not bar a claim if despite use of due diligence the plaintiff did not or could not discover the injury until after the expiration of the limitations period."

The claim for legal fees was sent back to the lower court for reconsideration. But the claims of "fraudulent concealment" and "emotional distress" were denied, as was the filing of action against the mother.

Why was the mother exempted? The court found, "BEC owed plaintiff nothing for the support of DC" because she had also paid her fair share. Moreover, "the act of adultery…does not violate any law" and was mitigated by the joy and benefit "plaintiff enjoyed from the love and affection" of the "child he thought was his."

I am uncomfortable with this reasoning.

Adultery is not and should not be against the law; consenting adults have an absolute right to have sex together without government interference. The sexual act may be immoral or otherwise unsavory but it should not be illegal.

But making an innocent third party legally and financially responsible for the consequences of that sex act is an entirely different matter. And the mother must have perjured herself on several legal documents during the divorce and child settlement arrangements when she attested to RAC's fatherhood.

At least two questions bear on whether the mother should be liable. The first: should the law intrude into family matters? The second: if the law becomes involved, should fraud be tolerated?

My ideal society includes explicit contracts into which people voluntarily enter before becoming parents; DNA testing might be a standard provision. The law (or other third party) would become involved only as an arbiter of disputes or as a rescuer in cases of physical abuse.

That society doesn't exist. People resist parental contracts and the law inevitably becomes involved in competing claims over children.

And, when a legal proceeding occurs, intentional fraud should be punished. BEC -- along with the natural father -- committed intentional fraud.

The New Jersey decision is beneficial in granting increased recognition to the plight of paternity fraud. But an obvious problem remains. Two people committed fraud. Only one of them bears any liability.

Gender Bias in Domestic Violence Treatment

The oldest battered women's shelter in New England (1975) is setting precedent and making many feminists nervous in the process. www.transitionhouse.org Transition House (TH) not only launched a "gender-neutral" search for a new executive director but also appointed a man as its interim director. TH explains that it simply wants to hire the best person for the job and interviewing men doubles the chance of success.

Feminists of my ilk, who judge individuals on merit rather than gender, are applauding. (Admittedly, a muttered "it's about time!" may also be heard.)

Feminists who believe that gender must be a deciding factor in who addresses domestic violence (DV), and how, are appalled. They view the very prospect of hiring a male director as violating the 'mission' of the shelter movement: to assist battered women and children.

In short, the "women-only feminists" believe males should be precluded from major employment and entry at shelters. Indeed, women's shelters often deny entry to male children over 12-years-old. (The legality of doing so at tax-funded shelters is dubious, to say the least.)

Why should even male teenagers be excluded? In a protest letter to TH's Board, the feminist organization About Women www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2421 explained that the shelter must be a space where "women could feel safe from male intrusion and could openly unburden themselves of the experiences of male violence they had undergone without fear of censure, criticism or inhibition by male presence."

One interpretation of the foregoing statement makes sense. Some female DV victims have been so brutalized by the men in their lives that a mere male presence may well terrify them. For that category of DV victim, a women-only shelter may be the most compassionate and effective option. (Men-only shelters for similarly devastated male victims would be equally valid.)

Nevertheless, it is difficult to understand why a male executive director who may have no direct interaction with battered women is so objectionable. To understand this response, it is necessary enter the realm of ideology.

The argument for a women-only space is rooted in a belief that DV results from the general societal oppression of women as a class by men as a class. www.msu.edu/~cdaadmin/power_&_control_wheel.htm The "Power and Control Wheel" that is used by every Domestic Violence (DV) organization I know of embodies this belief. The wheel explains the origins of DV through a pie chart; one of the pie segments is labeled "Male Privilege".

In short, women-only feminists argue that women are battered not merely by an individual male abuser but by the entire male gender and, so, they must be protected from both.

This is similar to claiming that a white person who has been beaten by a black needs to be in a black-free environment because they have been battered not merely by a specific black person but by an entire race.

To carry the analogy one step farther, it is similar to demanding that blacks should not be employed or allowed on the premises of a whites-only shelter…even if those premises are tax-funded and, so, prohibited from discrimination.

The ideological argument for women-only shelters -- as opposed to the practical argument that, sometimes, such shelters just make sense -- is class guilt. The guilty class is "male". Class guilt does not allow an individual male to demonstrate his innocence because, simply by being a member of a class, he is guilty by definition.

The concept of class guilt never ceases to anger me. As a victim of DV, I know the fist that legally blinded my right eye was wielded by a specific man, not by a class. And I refuse to dilute his responsibility by extending it to men who've done me no harm.

It angers me as well because I'm the sort of DV victim who needed exposure to non-abusive men, not isolation from all male presence, in order to heal. I needed to realize that decent caring men still existed and that I could interact with them in a positive way. In other words, a specific man was my problem; men as a whole were part of the solution.

As I mentioned, there are DV victims who do not share my reaction. It would be amazing if hundreds of thousands of people -- from different cultures, lifestyles and backgrounds -- responded to a complex experience in exactly the same manner. Just as there is no one explanation for DV, neither is there a one-size-fits-all remedy.

But the ideological women-only argument for DV shelters is inflexible. It denies to female victims the healing presence of benevolent men with whom they can re-establish trust.

It denies the very possibility of male and female victims occupying the same shelter and, so, coming to an understanding of their differences and shared realities. Such mingling of the sexes is common in other forms of therapy and rehabilitation but it is akin to heresy to even suggest the prospect for DV.

In short, women-only zealots dismiss the feminist goal of 'diversity' and insist instead upon only one explanation for DV and only one organizational principle for shelters.

Women-only zealots are hurting victims. They are harming those battered women who would benefit from learning how to regain their trust and respect for male. They are harming the significant percentage of DV victims who are male themselves.

Estimates vary on the prevalence of male DV victims. Professor Martin Fiebert of California State University at Long Beach www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm prepared a summary of hundreds of studies and reports which indicates that men and women are victimized at much the same rate. A recent BOJ study found that men constituted 27% of DV victims between 1998 and 2002.

Whichever figure is correct, a significant percentage of DV victims are refused admission to most shelters in North America based solely upon their gender.

The anti-male prejudice in DV must cease.

Whether it is a 'he' or 'she' is secondary. What matters most is that the individual will have been judged upon his or her merits and no longer upon genitalia.

Will Colleges Respect Your Child's Rights?

Hundreds of thousands of families across North America are now preparing their children for college. As parents hustle to buy clothing, repair second-hand cars, and otherwise fret about the impending separation, they should consider how their son or daughter's human rights will fare on campus.

Their freedom of speech is particularly vulnerable.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has just released its www.thefire.org/index.php/article/6178.html Speech Code of the Month Award for August, which recognizes abuses of First Amendment rights.

The winner? www2.stockton.edu/ Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, a public institution allegedly bound by the Constitution.

Stockton's www2.stockton.edu/affirmative_action/Student_Policy.htm speech code policies contain several now-standard provisions. For example, it prohibits "All forms of unlawful discrimination based upon race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, familial status, affectional or sexual orientation, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information…or disability." It considers discrimination to be present "even if there was no intent…to harass or demean another."

The policy is both vague and broad. Key terms such as "derogatory" and "demeaning" are undefined but, whatever they cover, classroom speech is included. Thus, a student who argues an unpopular position in class -- e.g. 'affirmative action is racist because it discriminates against white men' or 'gay marriage is against Biblical teachings' -- may be punished if another student feels offended. Objective discrimination or an intent to harm need not be present.

Stockton is not unique. Indeed, its speech code policy is drawn directly from the widely-applied New Jersey State ww2.wpunj.edu/adminsrv/hr/Newhr/ProhibitingDiscrimination_Harassment_ ostileEnvironments.htm "Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment or Hostile Environments in the Workplace." The publicly-funded William Paterson University, also in New Jersey, draws upon this State policy. Recently Paterson www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2005/0727.html censured a student-employee for responding in private email to an unsolicited university announcement that promoted a lesbian movie; he made the 'mistake' of asking to be unsubscribed due to religious objections. Paterson deemed his response to be harassment and a threat of violence.

New Jersey's campuses are far from unique. That's why FIRE www.thefire.org/index.php/topic/11 lists close to a hundred recent speech code cases in its files. The complaints against students include "sexually suggestive staring" and "inappropriately directed laughter." FIRE also offers a free online book, www.thefire.org/pdfs/5063_3523.pdf "Guide to Free Speech on Campus" [.pdf 545.7KB]. As well, it provides a state-by-state searchable www.thefire.org database on university policies. (See www.thefire.org/index.php/schools/738 Harvard as an example.)

Many parents begin to financially plan for higher education at their child's birth; many delay retirement in order to pay tuition. They should be outraged by how little respect their daughter or son receives for that stiff tuition.

Parents may also be puzzled about why some universities oppose free speech instead of championing it.

One approach to an explanation is to view the phenomenon as part of a general societal trend that has pitted freedom of speech against tolerance as though they were enemies. This trend claims that expressing my dislike or criticism of the gender, race or lifestyle of others is tantamount to violating their civil rights.

The trend rests on a specific definition of "tolerance". For many, tolerance means being broad-minded. It means acknowledging the legal right of others to a dissenting opinion, religious belief or peaceful lifestyle such as homosexuality.

The foregoing definition of tolerance does not require stifling your own opinions or preferences, which have an equal legal status.

Nor does it require you to personally accept what you tolerate. Defending people's right to be different doesn't involve taking them out to dinner and a movie.

The current campus definition of tolerance inverts the more traditional meaning and demands personal acceptance. Tolerance becomes the active celebration of 'diversity' and toleration requires the suppression of the speech, views or peaceful behavior that supposedly hinder diversity by making 'diverse others' uncomfortable. The 'others' are usually members of a group that has been historically oppressed, such as women, and are deemed to now deserve special legal protection.

Thus, a bizarre scenario occurs: advocates of tolerance call for censorship. Champions of diversity narrow the range of expressible attitudes. This is a form of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak Newspeak -- the fictional language in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four that depicts a totalitarian future. Orwell explained the purpose of Newspeak: to reduce the very ability of people to express subversive ideas and attitudes en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoughtcrime ("thoughtcrimes").

A fundamental way in which the reduction is achieved is by destroying the meaning of objectionable words by redefining them as their opposites. For example, "War is Peace", "Tolerance is Censorship" and "Diversity is the Removal of Wrong Attitudes."

Making these new definitions work means eliminating the old definitions and those who use them. In Orwell's dystopian future, certain ideas or attitudes become "unspeakable" and punishable. On campuses, certain ideas or attitudes violate speech codes and are punishable.

Both reflect an attempt to change how society thinks through changing or eliminating words.

Parallels between Orwell and current academia can be carried too far. But the existence of clear parallels should concern every parent who has a child heading toward campus.

Those parents should to do a Speech Code search for the relevant campus in FIRE's database. Then, they should do a similar FIRE search on Due Process -- that is, how does that campus handle your child's right to due process should he or she express an "unspeakable" idea or attitude?

The Liberal McCarthys on Abortion

www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,165469,00.html Last week, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) urged NARAL Pro-Choice America to withdraw an attack ad against Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, who is seen as the penultimate threat to abortion rights. Specter www.factcheck.org/UploadedFiles/Specter-letter-to-NARAL-8-11-05.pdf called the ad "blatantly untrue and unfair." Given that he is pro-choice, Specter's protest surprised those who no longer expect truth to be valued above ideology.

On the surface, this incident is remarkable enough but its underlying message is even more significant. I think it signals the defeat and decline of the pro-choice movement in the foreseeable future.

Senators will continue to debate; legislative battles will be waged on the state level; protesters will still scream at each other in the streets. But the very fact that http://www.naral.org/ NARAL -- America's leading advocate for abortion rights -- thought blatant dishonesty was the strongest card to play reveals a shocking depth of intellectual bankruptcy that is too common in the overall movement.

NARAL's pro-choice friends from both Left and Right have both openly opposed the anti-Roberts ad on the that it makes pro-choice advocates look like liars.

Walter Dellinger, a Solicitor General under Clinton, www.factcheck.org/UploadedFiles/Dellinger-Letter-to-Senators-Specter-and-Leahy-8-10-05.pdf stated, "In order to prevent a downward spiral of our [pro-choice] politics, it is incumbent upon those who share a position to object when unfair statements are made to advance that cause." Dellinger echoed Specter who stated, " When NARAL puts on such an advertisement, in my opinion it undercuts its credibility and injures the pro-choice cause."

Why did the ad stir such protest from friends?

It opens with the image of the 1998 abortion clinic bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. Emily Lyons, an employee, speaks of being injured in the blast. A narrator states, "Supreme Court nominee John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber." An excerpt from a court brief is imposed on the screen.

Enter www.factcheck.org/article340.html Factcheck.org , a self-declared "nonpartisan, nonprofit, 'consumer advocate' for voters" which monitors "the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players."

Its monitoring revealed that the quoted Roberts' brief was from a 1991 civil court case, caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=506&invol=263 Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic case. The case was argued seven years before the bombing occurred. Roberts did not defend violence; he argued that a 1870s law designed to protect ex-slaves from the Ku Klux Klan should not be interpreted and expanded to ban pro-life protesters from blocking abortion clinics.

Roberts' views on anti-abortion violence were clearly spelled out in a www.factcheck.org/UploadedFiles/Abortion-Clinic-Bombers-Mazzoli-Letter.pdf 1986 memo to President Reagan under whom he served as an Associate Counsel. Roberts stated that clinic bombers should be "prosecuted to the full extent of the law. No matter how lofty or sincerely held the goal, those who resort to violence to achieve it are criminals."

Nevertheless, NARAL's ad ended by admonishing viewers, "Call your Senators….America can't afford a Justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence…" In short, the ad portrays Roberts as both morally and legally defending the bombing of abortion clinics. And it is difficult to believe that a highly-sculpted falsehood that had a news.bostonherald.com/opinion/view.bg?articleid=97651&format=&page=1 $500,000 broadcast budget was just an error and not deliberate. If so, it was outright lie meant to destroy a man's reputation.

NARAL's response to 'friendly' critics also reveals moral bankruptcy. The President Nancy Keenan www.factcheck.org/UploadedFiles/NARAL-Response-to-Specter-8-11-05.pdf responded to Specter by regretting that "many people have misconstrued our recent advertisement."

Without backing down one whit, Keenan informed Specter that the ads would be pulled because "the debate over the advertisement has become a distraction from the serious discussion we hoped to have with the American public." Lies do tend to distract from the truth.

Even the subsequent www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/13/AR2005081300849.html resignation of NARAL's communications director David E. Seldin was accompanied by a defense of the ad as "100 percent accurate."

As a pro-choice advocate, I am ashamed of NARAL. I am ashamed of the anti-Roberts ad that typifies much of pro-choice rhetoric: a scorched-earth policy in which goodwill and truth are the 1st two items incinerated.

(If the National Organization for Women is an indication, good taste is the third. This year, their recommended www.now.org/cgi-bin/store/JE-BKAL.html Mother's Day gift was a silver bracelet with a charm that read "Keep Abortion Legal.")

To regain credibility, the pro-choice movement must debate fairly -- an admonition that bears with equal force on pro-life advocates.

The first few steps should be easy ones:

Pro-choice advocates must deal with arguments and avoid ad hominem or 'guilt by association' attacks. For example, stop using the likes of Eric Rudolph -- the Birmingham clinic bomber who killed a police officer and critically injured Lyons -- to deflect criticism by implying all pro-lifers are pro-murder.

The pro-choice side must acknowledge the positive ways in which pro-life advocates have influenced the debate. For example, although I argue for legalized abortion, I now have profound moral doubts about abortion and strenuously encourage alternate solutions, like adoption. That shift comes from listening to pro-life arguments.

Instead of viewing slander as a 'hard-edged attack', pro-choice advocates must focus on the hard-edged social questions that accompany pro-life proposals. For example, how -- short of a totalitarian state that monitors every pregnancy -- do pro-life advocates intend to eliminate abortion and other 'fetus abuse'? Would they really let a woman die in agony from a life-threatening pregnancy, thus placing greater value upon a potential life than an actual one?

But dialogue on abortion won't work if only one side extends fairness. Pro-life advocates must come out cleanly and clearly against all forms of violence, especially the bombing of clinics. They should be more insulted and outraged by Rudolph than I am by NARAL. The murder of a police office in the Birmingham bombing is a difference of kind from the slander of Roberts. It is true violence, not merely words. So far, however, there has been a paucity of apology from the pro-life movement and not much commentary condemning Rudolph.

Whatever the pro-life side does, a good first step toward civil discussion would be for NARAL to apologize for its reprehensible ad…not just to Roberts and the pro-life movement but to the pro-choice advocates who have been equally smeared by its actions.

Is The Boy Scouts of America Public or Private?

On Sunday, President Bush www.voanews.com/english/2005-08-01-voa5.cfm addressed a Jamboree of more than 30,000 Boy Scouts in Virginia. He stated, "through the generations, scouts have made America a stronger and better nation." Those critical of www.scouting.org the Boy Scouts of America argue that BSA's exclusion of gays, atheists and females makes America more divided and divisive. One side wishes to strengthen BSA; the other wishes to destroy BSA by forcing politically correct changes upon it.

Over the past two decades, BSA has been both a flash point and the ground of sustained struggle between traditional and PC values.

The central issue is whether BSA is a private or public organization.

If it is a private organization, then BSA does not and should not have to justify its membership policies. It enjoys the same freedom of association and conscience as an individual. A private BSA has the same right to exclude gays as The United Negro College Fund has to exclude whites from scholarships.

But whether BSA is private is not clear, and BSA must bear some responsibility for the www.religioustolerance.org/bsa_1.htm blurring of lines.

That responsibility is also an opportunity. BSA can strike a blow for the right of free association by altering its policies. I do not refer to exclusionary membership policies but to the policy of accepting massive government support, which is the cause of so many blurred lines.

Where is the line clearly drawn?

Public www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&oi=defmore&q=define:public means "of or pertaining to the people; belonging to the people…opposed to private." A public place or organization is typically tax-funded or subsidized, and no one individual has a right to greater access than any other. National parks are an example.

Private www.answers.com/topic/private means "not available for public use, control, or participation…Belonging to a particular person or persons, as opposed to the public or the government." A private place or organization receives no public funding; people become members through invitation or through policies defined by the owners. Your living room is an example.

BSA critics, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), make one strong argument against the organization's private status. BSA enjoys massive and unique tax-funded support from governments both local and federal. On the local level, for example, San Diego was www.aclusandiego.org/boy_scouts/boyscoutsbalboa.htm targeted because it allowed BSA's headquarters to operate in a city-owned park for $1 per year and to use other city-owned facilities without any rent.

On the federal level, the Pentagon provided an www.aclu.org/ReligiousLiberty/ReligiousLiberty.cfm?ID=18644&c=37 estimated $6 to $8 million from 1997 to 2001 to assist a BSA Jamboree -- an event which is traditionally held on military bases.

Linda Hills of the ACLU aptly states, "The Boy Scouts can't have it both ways…If they truly are a private religious organization, free to engage in any form of discrimination they choose, then they are not entitled to a government subsidy."

On June 22nd, U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning (Illinois) agreed. She www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,161881,00.html ruled against continuing the Jamboree's subsidy and, so, refused BSA continued access both to military bases and assistance such as transportation.

On July 26th, in a counter-move, the Senate unanimously voted for military bases to continue hosting BSA events. (The relevant thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:SA01342: provision was part of thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:SN01042: S.1042 , which will set Defense Department policy for 2006.)

The debate over BSA's status is heating up.

How hot can it get? Three factors make me believe it will sizzle.

First, high court rulings and the Senate are in direct conflict.

Second, the rhetoric I'm reading has turned openly vicious. Consider the following commentary from a BSA critic.

Let me set the context. Four scout leaders www.signonsandiego.com/news/nation/20050725-1716-jamboreedeaths.html were killed last week in an electrical accident. More than 300 boy scouts at the afore-mentioned Jamboree www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,163818,00.html collapsed from heat prostration while waiting for Bush's earlier scheduled arrival that was delayed. Then, www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,164129,00.html lightning killed a BSA leader and a 13-year-old boy during a storm in Sequoia National Park.

The www.advocate.com/exclusive_detail_ektid19260.asp response of The Advocate -- "the Award Winning GLBT [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered] News Site" -- is that "God hates Boy Scouts". The Advocate explained why. "While under the law the Boy Scout stance on gays may be justifiable, socially, morally, it's just plain wrong."

The commentary was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek response-in-kind to a Jerry Falwell comment regarding 9-11. Falwell stated, "the gays and the lesbians…I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'" He publicly archives.cnn.com/2001/US/09/14/Falwell.apology apologized. I don't believe GLBT will apologize for its glee about the lightning deaths. The Advocate repeated a report, "Screams rang out as the tent caught fire and the men burned," then added, "That's downright Old Testament."

The third reason for increasing divisiveness was offered by WorldNetDaily on www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45534 July 30th. "If you ever felt like you were sick of seeing the Boy Scouts of America being used for a punching bag by the American Civil Liberties Union and other activists, take heart. Reinforcements are here."

WND referred to Hans Zeiger, whose new book "Get Off My Honor" is described as a counter-offensive in the Boy Scout "war". Each side is preparing for no prisoners taken. That doesn't need to happen.

The first step in avoiding yet another senseless culture "war" is to clearly establish BSA as a public or private organization.

The solution is simple. BSA should cease to accept tax-funding and cut all official ties to government agencies. BSA should live up to its self-declared status as a private organization. This would also be living up to BSA principles: it is the honest and honorable thing to do.

Bad Research Leads to Bad Laws

A review of medical studies published from 1990 to 2003 in three prestigious journals -- the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA and Lancet -- has called the validity of approximately one-third of them into severe question. www.livescience.com/othernews/ap_050714_medical_studies.html

If a relatively en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_sciences 'hard' science (like medicine) has such difficulty with accuracy, then the results offered by the en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_sciences so-called 'soft' sciences (like sociology) should be approached with a high degree of skepticism. This is especially necessary since public policy and laws are often formed by such studies.

Consider the 'feminist' issues of rape or domestic violence (DV). Studies that address these areas are often released in combination with policy recommendations. Indeed, they sometimes appear to be little more than a springboard from which advocates can launch a campaign for more law.

In turn, the laws that result often provide for more research. The Violence Against Women Act or VAWA -- now up for re-authorization before Congress -- is an example. VAWA includes provisions for more tax-funded research, for precisely the sort of research that created it in the first place.

And, so, a re-enforcing cycle is established: studies lead to laws that lead to similar tax-funded studies, which call for more law.

The cycle should be broken.

This does not mean that law should be separated from the reality checks provided by solid data. Quite the contrary. It means that the current self-sustaining cycle tends to discourage contrary evidence and critical thinking about the data on which the laws rest.

This is not a mere academic matter. Inaccurate studies become entrenched in laws that govern our daily lives. Using VAWA as an example again, the Act incorrectly assumes that women and not men are the victims of DV, and it has been influential in denying men access to shelters. This denial often extends to the older male children of women who seek assistance.

In the best of circumstances, research is unreliable outside strictly defined limitations; even within those limits, research generally provides only an indication rather than a proof.

The reliability of studies declines sharply when you move from the hard sciences to the soft ones.

'Hard science' refers to certain natural sciences, like physics and chemistry. These disciplines pursue accuracy and objectivity through observing and measuring objects or phenomena in order to produce results that can be independently replicated. In other words, hard science uses www.answers.com/topic/scientific-method the scientific method.

'Soft science' refers to the social sciences, which include psychology, sociology, political science and other explorations of the human condition. Because human nature is not as easily observed or measured as objects, complex social interactions rarely offer replicable results. There are just too many unpredictable and unknown factors, too few research controls. It must rely more heavily upon interpretation of data. In short, the soft sciences produce less reliable results.

Interpretation -- that is, the filtering of data through a researcher's assumptions, goals and beliefs -- is not unique to the soft sciences. It merely runs rampant there due to lack of controls.

Nevertheless, all research is vulnerable to being skewed and deliberately so.

On July 11th, the Associated Press abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=928477 reported, "Allegations of misconduct by U.S. researchers reached record highs last year as the Department of Health and Human Services received 274 complaints -- 50 percent higher than 2003 and the most since 1989 when the federal government established a program to deal with scientific misconduct."

What motivates a researcher to bias a study, survey, or report? There are many answers, from laziness to concealing incompetence and seeking prestige. In the hard sciences, the most common answer is probably www.fortwayne.com/mld/journalgazette/12132227.htm "funding".

The scientific community is still reeling from recent revelations about Eric T. Poehlman, a leading researcher on aging and obesity. Poehlman simply www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2005/03/18/researcher_admits_fraud_in_grant_data/ faked the data on 17 applications for federal grants that totaled near $3 million. His 'findings', published in prestigious medical journals, helped to define how medicine approaches the effects of menopause on women's health.

The soft sciences share all these research vulnerabilities. But, because they are less constrained by research controls, the most common answer there to what motives bias may well be "political belief."

The foregoing statement will surprise few people. For example, 'feminist research' is notorious for arriving at feminist conclusions through research that includes clear political assumptions.

It may surprise people, however, to hear that I don't think political agendas are inevitable within the soft sciences. Even on controversial subjects like rape, it is possible to find interesting studies in which researchers sincerely pursue solid data.

But you have to go back a few decades. In his book from the '70s, "Men who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender", Nicholas Groth offered a theory that sounds almost jarring to today's ears. He wrote, "One of the most basic observations one can make regarding men who rape is that not all such offenders are alike." That is, a drunken boyfriend who rapes because he does not hear the "no" being uttered should not be placed in the same research category as a back alley rapist who leaves his victim physically crippled for life.

A rape researcher could not make that statement today on a college campus. He would be fired, bludgeoned into silence, or his funding would be yanked. There is now only one acceptable view of rape; it is an act of power. There is only one research category of rapist: the oppressor.

I believe the cycle of studies leading to laws leading to studies should be broken not because I am against solid research but because I am for it. Bring skepticism and common sense to all data you hear; withhold your tax dollars.

Kill Discriminatory Domestic Violence Act

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) www.mediaradar.org/vawa_info/JEN05634_LC.PDF will expire this September if it is not re-authorized by Congress. Largely viewed as an anti-domestic violence (DV) measure, VAWA has become a flash point for the men's rights advocates (MRAs) who see it instead as the living symbol of anti-male bias in law.

Although a significant number of domestic violence (DV) victims are male, VAWA defines victims as female. As one result, tax-funded DV shelters and services assist women and routinely turn away men, often including older male children.

Estimates vary on the prevalence of male victims. Professor Martin Fiebert of California State University at Long Beach www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm offfers a bibliography that "summarizes 170 scholarly investigations, 134 empirical studies and 36 reviews". It indicates that men and women are victimized at much the same rate. A lower-bound figure is provided by a recent BOJ study: men constituted 27% of the victims of family violence between 1998 and 2002.

Accordingly, MRAs not only accuse the Act of not merely being unconstitutional for excluding men but also of dismissing the existence of one-quarter to one-half of DV victims.

The criticism should go deeper. In many ways, VAWA typifies the legislative approach to social problems, which arose over past few decades and peaked during the Clinton years.

The legislative approach follows a pattern: public furor stirs over a social problem; Congress is pressured to "do something"; remedial bureaucracy arises, often with scant planning; the problem remains; more money and bureaucracy is demanded; those who object are called hostile to "victims".

VAWA arose largely from the concern stirred by feminists in the '80s. They quite properly focused on DV as a neglected and misunderstood social problem. But their analysis went to extremes and seemed tailor-made to create public furor.

As an example, consider a widely-circulated claim: "a woman is beaten every 15 seconds." The statistic is sometimes attributed to www.sedgwickcounty.org/da/dv_facts.html the FBI, other times to a www.pinn.net/~sunshine/now-news/dv2.html 1983 Bureau of Justice Statistics report. But neither the www.fbi.gov/ FBI nor the www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/ BOJ sites seems to include that statement or a similar one.

MRAs www.responsibleopposing.com/facts/15sec.html contend that the elusive statistic derives from the book www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0385142595/002-0373237-7762417?v=glance "Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family" (1980) by Murray Straus, Richard J. Gelles, and Suzanne K. Steinmetz. The book was based on the first www.socio.com/srch/summary/afda/fam31.htm National Family Violence Survey (1975), from which the FBI and other federal agencies drew.

The survey does support the claim that a woman is battered every 15 seconds but also indicates that a man is battered during the same time frame. Omitting male victims, however, creates the impression of a national epidemic was uniquely victimizes women who require unique protection.

In response to public outcry, Congress was pressured to "do something." It passed VAWA 1994. $1.6 billion created a bureaucracy of researchers, advocates, experts, and victim assistants, which some collectively call "the DV Industry".

Re-authorized in 2000, VAWA's funding rose to www.acadv.org/VAWAbillsummary.html $3.33 billion to be expended over 5 years. Now, VAWA 2005 seeks thomas.loc.gov/home/gpoxmlc109/h2876_ih.xml more money.

Voices like the National Organization for Women www.now.org/issues/violence/051305vawa-youth.html insist that 'the problem' remains. To argue for the "growing problem of gender-based violence", however, NOW reaches beyond traditionally-defined violence against women and seeks to protect high school girls from abusive dating experiences. NOW states, "Nearly one in three high-school-age women experience some type of abuse-whether physical, sexual or psychological-in their dating relationships."

Without expanding the definition in such a manner, it would difficult to argue for more funding. seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002332042_violence13.html Data indicates that traditionally-defined violence against women has declined sharply. The rate of family violence has reportedly "fell from about 5.4 victims per 1,000 to 2.1 victims per 1,000 people 12 and older", according to BOJ statistics.

Happily, VAWA 2005 faces much more opposition than its earlier incarnations. One reason is that www.thepriceofliberty.org/05/06/13/guest_trudy.htm MRAs have been presenting counter-data and arguments for over ten years. Advocates of VAWA 2005 have responded with www.policyalmanac.org/elists/viewtopic.php?t=193 pre-emptive spaces.msn.com/members/lastliberal/Blog/cns!1pkAlpUeLQX-nmj6w5lyseSQ!1620.entry accusations that paint opponents as anti-victim: for example, "If Congress does not act quickly to reauthorize the legislation, they are putting women's and children's lives at risk."

But most of the anti-VAWA arguments are not anti-victim. Many are anti-bureaucracy and could apply to any of the so-called 'industries' created by the legislative approach to social problems. (The Child Protective Services is another example,)

Some anti-bureaucracy objections focus on the billions of dollars transferred into programs, often with little oversight or accountability attached.

Other objections point to those dollars being used for political purposes rather than clear and immediate assistance to victims. The misuse of tax dollars is most often alleged on the grassroots level, where MRAs often face VAWA-funded opposition to political measures, especially on father's rights issues.

One incident in New Hampshire illustrates the point. Earlier this year, www.1590.com/Stories/0,1413,222~23677~2840939,00.html HB 529 -- The Presumption of Shared Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act -- was defeated by vehement opposition from the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. The Coalition both www.nhcustody.org/NHCADSV,%20opposes%20HB%20529%20shared%20parenting,%203-22-05.pdf wrote to and spoke before the legislature. Accordingly, father's rights advocates in NH are seeking language in VAWA 2005 to prohibit any VAWA-fund agency from "legislative lobbying, advertising, or otherwise supporting the endorsement of, or opposition to, any state proposed legislation" which is not explicitly related to the prevention of DV.

I think they should seek to kill the Act entirely. I believe VAWA is not only ideological-inspired and discriminatory, it is also an example of why bureaucracy-driven solutions to human problems does not work.

I hope VAWA becomes the Titanic of the legislative approach to social problems. I hope it sinks spectacularly.

Parents Must Assert Rights Over School Authorities

"How often does your 6th-grade daughter have oral sex?"

If the question offends you, then talk to the school officials at Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. But don't expect a sympathetic response. When http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=44762 Mark Fisher protested quizzing his 12-year-old daughter about oral sex (among other topics), the school authorities asserted their right to gather such information without his consent. The questionnaire is not limited to Massachusetts; it is nationwide. And the 'problem' is not the gathering of information but the denial of parental rights and reasonable concerns.

The Shrewsbury questionnaire is part of http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/about_yrbss.htm The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) that was established in 1990 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor youth behaviors that influence health.

The CDC website offers a http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/pdfs/2005highschoolquestionnaire.pdf 22-page version [.pdf] of the YRBS, which consists of 87 questions. Seven questions address http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/pdfs/trends-sex.pdf sexual behavior. For example, the posted questionnaire asks, "How old were you when you had sexual intercourse for the first time?" And, was a condom used?

Past this point, the facts become confused. For one thing, there is no mention of oral sex on the CDC site. Nevertheless, each school district selected to participate in the YRBS is able to add or subtract questions.

Given that Shrewsbury has refused to release its version of the questionnaire, parents quite reasonably suspect the worst. Without disclosure of the survey to parents or the public, Fisher's http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/6/102005a.asp claim that students are asked to identify themselves as heterosexual, gay or bisexual stands.

For another thing, the national YRBS claims to report upon student in the 9th through 12th grades. Fisher's daughter is in the 6th grade, where students are typically 11 or 12-years-old. However, other reports -- from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/pp2/portal/files/portal/educationoutreach/educaorsdupate/update-031201.xml Planned Parenthood, for example -- to confirm that 6th graders are being surveyed. In Shrewsbury students in grades 6, 8, 9 and 11 took part.

Without parental oversight and with school authorities unwilling to disclose questionnaires, no one really knows what information is being gathered.

Or rather, from the posted form, some things are clear. School authorities wish to know if parents have committed an illegal action.

Question 10: "During the past 30 days, how many times did you ride in a car or other vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol?"

Authorities also wish to know if your child has committed an illegal act. Question 45: "How old were you when you tried marijuana for the first time?"

The posted form admonishes, "DO NOT write your name on this survey.

The answers you give will be kept private." But government information is notoriously non-private and teachers are easily able to identify respondents. Moreover, confidentiality tends to erode easily when issues of child endangerment and criminal conduct are raised. (Does anyone believe that a child who circles "6 or more times" for Question 14 -- "During the past 30 days, on how many days did you carry a weapon such as a gun, knife, or club on school property?" -- will not have his or her file tagged?)

Nevertheless, the crux of the matter is not whether information on 11-year-olds will be kept private.

It is: does the government have a right to side-step parental consent and collect such information about children of any age without parental permission. (By "such information" I mean highly personal data and/or data that could possibly lead to criminal prosecution.)

That is what Fisher is demanding of the Massachusetts' Department of Education: active parental involvement. At this point, state law requires parents to explicit exempt their children from programs involving sexuality. Fisher is fighting for a bill that requires parental permission before children are included.

Explicit permission is particularly important in situations where parents seem to be -- in Fisher's words -- "kept in the dark."

School committee President Deborah Peeples reportedly explained that parents are permitted to view the survey but they are not allowed to take a copy home. Why? "It might be misinterpreted or misunderstood or they could use it to direct their children's responses." In short, parents might discuss the sexual (and other) topics with their children. Clearly, the school does not think such discussion is appropriate; conversation about the sexual survey is not appropriate between parent and children but should remain between government and child.

What can concerned parents do?

My solution is to remove your child from the public school system and home school instead. If you are unable to do so, then you should aggressively demand to see every survey and government form your child is filling out. YRBSS is a nationwide survey, conducted every two years. These and other forms may follow your child for the rest of his or her life.

Do not believe that authorities, under the promise of privacy, will take no note if your child confesses to experimenting with drugs --http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/pdfs/2005highschoolquestionnaire.pdf Questions 44 to 56. Tell your children to never incriminate themselves.

Do not willingly give your money to schools that deny parental rights. On June 9th, Shrewsbury voters overwhelmingly http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2005/06/09/voters_reject_override/ defeated a $1.5 million tax increase that would have boosted finances to school programs. Although school funding measures are almost always defeated for financial reasons, use the occasion of a vote to voice your discontent.

What happens to your children matters. Be nosy about the forms they fill out; demand to review the information officials want; when in doubt, refuse permission; know the content of school programs.

Be a nuisance. Be bossy. Be a genuine pain in the tuckus. In short, be a parent. That's what your child needs.

Missing: Males on College Campuses

Some researchers call them the www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2002/02/05/gender_ed/index.html 'Lost Boys'. They are the students you don't see on college campuses. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/proj2012/table_13.asp tracks the enrollment in all degree-granting institutions by sex. From 1992 to 2000, the ratio of enrolled males to females fell from 82 to 78 boys for every 100 girls. The NCES projects that in 2007 the ratio will be 75 males for every 100 females; in 2012, 74 per 100.

In short, your son is statistically more likely than your daughter to work blue collar jobs.

Thomas Mortenson, senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, argues that leaving a generation of boys behind hurts women as well. For one thing,

In a Business Week www.businessweek.com/@@e0s@vYUQ3VY66hoA/magazine/content/03_21/b3834010_mz001.htm cover story, Mortenson observed, "My belief is that until women decide that the education of boys is a serious issue, nothing is going to happen." He believes some women feel threatened by even admitting the problem, however, because "it will take away from the progress of women…What everyone needs to realize is that if boys continue to slide, women will lose too."

That realization still seems distant. Educational experts continue to downplay the NCES and other nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/equity/Section8.asp data that indicate schools are hurting boys.

Jacqueline King -- author of the influential study "Gender Equity in Higher Education: Are Male Students at a Disadvantage?" -- is an example. She found that 68 percent of college enrollees from low-income families were female; only 31 percent were male.

Yet King insists there is no 'boy crisis' in education despite the fact that data from Upward Bound and Talent Search show a comparable gender gap. (These college-preparation programs operate in high schools and www.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget06/summary/edlite-section3.html received $312.6 million $144.9 million respectively in 2005.) Of the students who receive benefits from those college-preparation programs, approximately 61 percent are girls; 39 percent are boys.

King's www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2313/context/cover/ quoted explanation of the gender gaps: "women make up a disproportionate share of low-income students" who go on to college. Since low-income families presumably give birth to boys in the same ratio as the general population -- worldwide the ratio is between 103 to 107 boys for every 100 girls -- why are so few boys applying for assistance? A higher drop-out rate might be partly responsible, or boys may have no interest in higher education.

King comments on the latter explanation, "male low-income students have some ability in this strong economy to make a decent living with just a high-school diploma." In particular, she points to the construction industry.

King may be correct. The fact that low-income boys gravitate toward manual labor may account for some of the educational gender disparity.

What is striking, however, is her apparent dismissal of that disparity as important. She seems to accept the reality that far fewer men than women enroll in college and that poor boys enter "the trades" while poor girls become professionals. Imagine the gender ratio being reversed, with 78 girls for every 100 boys entering college. Imagine a generation of poor girls being relegated to a low social status labor while tax funding assists poor boys. It is difficult to believe King would be similarly unconcerned.

Nevertheless, merely by acknowledging the situation, King shows far more balance than prominent voices, like www.aauw.org the American Association of University Women, which still maintain there is a 'girl crisis.'

Fortunately, researchers like Judith Kleinfeld of the University of Alaska see that boys are in distress.

Kleinfeld -- author of www.uaf.edu/northern/schools/myth.html "The Myth That Schools Shortchange Girls" -- states, "In my own college classes, I see a sea change in the behavior of young men. In the 1980s, the young men talked in my classes about the same as young women. I know because each semester I measured male and female talk. Now so many young men are disengaged that the more articulate, ambitious women dominate the classroom ....and my office hours."

Kleinfeld tried to trace the problem backward by interviewing high school students on plans for their future. She states, "The young women almost always have a clear, realistic plan---go to college, have a career, often directed toward an idealistic goals about improving the environment." This clarity of vision and was generally absent in young men.

Among those who acknowledge the 'boy crisis', explanations are vary and may all be true. Some point to the 'feminization' of education over the last decade, which occurred largely in response to a perceived need to encourage girls. But, if boys and girls learn differently, then the changes may be hurting boys.

Others point to explicitly anti-male attitudes -- that is, political correctness -- within education. The website www.illinoisloop.org/gender.html Illinois Loop lists "22 School Practices That May Harm Boys." One of them: "'Modern' textbooks and recommended literature often go to extremes to remove male role models as lead characters and examples."

Kleinfeld points speculatively to the impact of increased divorce and www.humaneventsonline.com/article.php?id=7713 fatherless homes on the self-image of boys who lack a positive male role-model.

Approximately 40 percent of American children now live in homes without their own biological father.

Ultimately, explanations of and solutions to the 'boy crisis' will come from exploring a combination of factors. My solution: privatize education and place it under the control of parents or adult students.

The first step to any solution, however, is to acknowledge there is a problem. We are not quite there yet.

Privacy: Throwing Babies Out with Bath Water

A theme runs through the following two news items: privacy rights are under attack. A 'good' reason is offered for the chipping away of privacies such as the confidentiality of medical records. Moreover, the cases are so legally tangled that analysis becomes blurred and 'bad law' based on judicial activism becomes more possible.

News item One: an Indiana judge www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=25528 ruled that Planned Parenthood must disclose to the State its medical records of patients under 14.

The reason for searching en masse through the records of 40 Planned Parenthood affiliates -- a process referred to as "a fishing expedition" -- would be to verify that clinics are properly reporting cases of child abuse. The complication: since the clinics receive Medicaid reimbursement -- that is, tax funding -- the State has far more of a presumptive 'right' to information than it would have with a private clinic. Nevertheless, any ruling may well set a future precedent for private clinics and further erode parental rights in favor of State supervision.

News Item Two: a civilian rape counselor in Colorado may be imprisoned for www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=25528 refusing to provide a military court with records of her sessions with a formerAir Force Academy cadet. The ex-cadet is among approximately 150 women whose rape allegations caused Academy leaders to exit in disgrace.

She has asked a district court to block her unprecedented arrest by the military.

The reason for her threatened imprisonment? One of the accused argues that his right to a fair trial overrides the accuser's right to medical privacy. One of the complications is the case now spans two worlds of 'justice' -- civilian and military -- each of which operate along different rules.

Similarly complex cases are occurring across North America.

Some rulings uphold privacy rights. For example, on March 28, the Colorado Supreme Court www.ccadv.org/media/rmn_co_supreme_court_confidentiality_decision.pdf ruled against the claim that a victim's records at a domestic violence (DV) shelter are confidential only for information she imparts but not for information or service she receives.

But, overall, a principle of personal freedom is being chipped away: privacy.

Privacy rests on the assumption that -- in the absence of specific evidence of wrongdoing -- an individual has a right to shut his or her front door and tell other people (including government) to mind their own business. This is a presumption of innocence. Privacy also assumes an important division between the personal and public spheres, a division that is reflected in Constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Historically, privacy has stood as a bulwark between individual rights and social control.

Privacy comes into question whenever someone enters certain areas of the public sphere: for example, through filing a criminal charge such as rape. Even then, however, the legal system has evolved traditions to insure that privacy is not excessively violated. These traditions include spousal privilege, a prohibition against 'fishing expeditions', and the confidentiality of confessionals and medical records.

These evolved protections are under concerted attack. In general, the attacks are occurring in "gray" areas; new law and precedent is being introduced through complicated cases where it is possible to take contradictory positions depending on the aspect you are examining.

It is interesting to ask, 'why are these attacks happening with such frequency now?' I believe the timing comes from the convergence of three factors.

First, judicial decisions have become a form of de facto law. The legal status of explosive issues, from abortion to gay marriage, is being decided by hundreds of courts at multiple levels as much as by legislatures. Activist judges, political advocates, and lawyers are redefining not only broad principles of law -- e.g. Constitutionality -- but also the minutia of law's application. The court system has become a popular vehicle for sweeping social change instead of its more traditional role as a forum to evaluate the restitution or other specific justice of individual cases. Privacy is one of the many battlegrounds of judicial activism.

Second, privacy has fallen into disrepute since 9/11. None of the cases cited above involve Home Security. Nevertheless, all privacy rights suffer from a general sense of anxiety that makes people eager 'to trade rights for security'. If someone refuses to provide personal information, such as medical records, the question immediately arises, "What do they have to hide." Standing on privacy has gone from being the exercise of a right to being an indication of guilt.

Third, society may have reached a 'tipping point' on a broad range of issues; a tipping point is when critical mass results from many small changes that may have occurred over a long period. How our society approaches issues like abortion, rape, and DV appears to be at critical mass. And these issues involve privacy.

On issues like rape, the backlash is heightened by a growing sense that some women have abused the system and hidden behind privacy to do so. For example, reports of false accusations have become commonplace; men's rights advocates argue that this reflects a pro-woman bias in courts. For example, courts routinely name an accused rapist while shielding the accuser. And, in criminal procedures, anonymity encourages abuse.

Such imbalances should be corrected but in manner that equally protects, not equally violates the privacy rights of men and women.

The social factors converging against privacy rights -- and especially medical privacy -- are powerful and persistent. They ride on the emotional fuel provided by volatile concerns like abortion and rape.

But there is a saying about babies and bathwater. Those who push to strip away the traditional protections of privacy may be trashing a prerequisite of personal freedom. And, without freedom, there is no security for individuals…either in court or in society.

Fathers' Rights Victory In Massachusetts

A determined father in Massachusetts has delivered an early Father's Day gift to non-custodial parents, the overwhelming majority of whom are dads.

Dr. Henry M. Fassler has successfully contested a 1998 Massachusetts law that requires a non-custodial parent to have court certification as a non-batterer on a yearly basis before he (or she) is allowed access to their children's school records. The school system currently views all non-custodial parents as guilty of battery until proven innocent. But all that is going to change.

The specifics of Fassler's case: he wanted to see the academic class list for his 17-year-old daughter Lindsay, who had asked him for help. No charge or complaint had ever been filed against Fassler; he is on good terms with his ex-wife and children.

When the school refused the class list, Fassler not only got angry, he also got active. Last October, he complained to the Family Policy Compliance Office at the U.S. Department of Education, challenging the statute as discriminatory. On May 6, the DOE sent a letter to Massachusetts' Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll, which warned that "the commonwealth and every school district in Massachusetts is in violation of federal law, and has been for years."

The letter explained, "non-custodial parents cannot be denied access to school records unless there is evidence those 'rights have been specifically revoked'." The government cannot stand between parent and child when no evidence of abuse is present.

Father's rights advocates had fought against the law since its passage. (Indeed, Fassler belongs to Fathers and Families, a leading voice in that battle.) Suddenly, however, with millions in federal funding at stake, Driscoll has indicated that a "new policy" will treat divorced parents more fairly.

The struggle in Massachusetts for non-custodial rights offers both hope and lessons to divorced parents across North America.

One lesson is cautionary: even well-intended laws can be hijacked and used for unintended political purposes. This one fact alone should prejudice reformers in favor of repealing bad laws rather than stacking the new ones ever higher.

According to Fassler, the 1998 statute was first pushed by father's advocates who wanted to clarify their parental right to school records. Then, anti-domestic violence groups -- especially a Boston-based victims advocacy group, Jane Doe Inc. (JDI) -- amended the measure to make a distinction between custodial and non-custodial parents. Fassler claims the changes converted the statute into an "abuse-prevention bill" that discriminated against the very fathers who suggested it.

JDI has a history of receiving large tax-funded contracts to handle the training and other assistance necessary to implement anti-abuse programs in Massachusetts; it seems natural to assume that JDI wielded influence over the policy-makers with whom it has established a long and remunerative partnership. Nancy Scannell of JDI helped to draft the statute.

By contrast, the father's rights advocates against whom JDI is often pitted consist almost entirely of volunteers.

This is another lesson from the Massachusetts struggle. Grassroots organizations and actions can prevail over generously tax-funded agencies, but it is crucial to "follow the money." The crusade against the 1998 statute won out only when Fassler called federal funding into question.

But following the money means more than this; the tax-funding of JDI should be tracked and made public. As taxpayers, fathers have a right to know how such funds are dispensed and to expose any political bias in the granting of contracts.

Moreover, any organization that will profit from a legislative measure should be excluded from drafting it. The exclusion is important. The Boston Globe quotes Scannell as saying she "will eagerly participate in any discussion to rewrite the bill." If the "non-profit" JDI will eagerly cash checks based on such a rewrite, then JDI should not shape its language.

Yet, despite words of caution, the news from Massachusetts is heartening. Non-custodial parents will no longer be viewed as abusive until proven innocent. Fathers can play a greater role in their children's academic lives.

Radio host Glenn Sacks, who campaigned against the 1998 statute, explains the importance of a father's presence. "As a former high school teacher...I could teach a class for a few weeks and then have a pretty good idea which kids had fathers in their lives and which ones didn't. I had few discipline problems...but I always knew that there was one truly effective way to get an errant boy to change his ways--call his dad and explain...that he needs to leave work and come to the school to talk to me about his son's behavior. It was 100 percent effective."

That option may now be available to all of Massachusetts' teachers, parents, and children.

Case Could Freeze Sperm Donations

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is currently considering a legal appeal that could set wide-reaching precedent for both child support policy and fertility clinics in the United States. As one report www.post-gazette.com/pg/05140/507736.stm states, "sperm donors who thought they were getting $50 for their genetic material" -- a standard clinic fee -- and nothing more may be in for a real shock.

The case involves sperm donor Joel L. McKiernan and his lover Ivonne V. Ferguson. Ten years ago, they entered a verbal contract that a three-judge panel of the Superior Court said was valid "on its face." In exchange for McKiernan donating sperm that led to the birth of twins through in-vitro fertilization, Ferguson released him from any obligation toward offspring. (IVF involves fertilizing a woman's eggs with sperm in a lab dish and, then, placing the fertilized eggs back in the aspiring mother's uterus.)

Ferguson denies that an agreement to release McKiernan from responsibility ever existed. Nevertheless, she named her then husband as 'father' on the birth certificate. Five years after the twins' birth and in the wake of divorce, she filed against McKiernan for child support.

The tangled personal circumstances of this situation constitute a legal nightmare and the sort of 'hard' case that makes bad law. And bad law is exactly what may result.

Both the trial court and the Superior Court houstonvoice.com/print.cfm?content_id=1373 called Ferguson's actions "despicable" and expressed sympathy toward McKiernan. Yet both found him liable to pay over $1500 a month in child support plus arrearages to the now-divorced Ferguson. (McKiernan has married, moved, and now has two other children he is raising.)

Why was McKiernan considered liable? The original contract was deemed unenforceable due to "legal, equitable and moral principles." The main abrogating principle: biological parents cannot waive the interests of a child -- a third party -- who has an independent 'right' to support from each one of them.

It does not matter that a third party did not exist when the contract was forged and probably would have never existed without the contract. Nor does it matter that the law generally presumes a husband to be the father of any child born during the marriage. The donation of sperm alone makes McKiernan financially liable for the twins until they reach adulthood.

Or it will if he loses the Supreme Court appeal, which weighs the extent of a sperm donor's liability. Presumably, the ruling would equally impact women who donate eggs for another's fertility treatment.

Pennsylvania, like most states, has not adopted a version of the www.aaml.org/Articles/2000-11/UPA%20FINAL%20TEXT%20WITH%20COMMENTS%20.htm Uniform Parentage Act, which protects sperm or egg donors from the responsibilities of parenthood. Many -- if not most -- donors merely presume that anonymity provides such protection.

In the case of Ferguson v. McKiernan, the identity of the sperm donor was always known. But the principle sustained by the courts could apply with equal force to anonymous donors.

Ferguson's attorney argued that her case did not threaten sperm banks or fertility clinics because such facilities had not been involved.

McKiernan's attorney noted that the contract in question was virtually identical to the ones they offer: namely, anonymity or non-involvement in exchange for a donation. If a mother or father cannot waive the 'right' of a potential child to support, then it is not clear how a fertility clinic could do so in its capacity as a broker-for-profit between the two 'parents'.

The danger this precedent would pose was www.timesleader.com/mld/timesleader/9228387.htm expressed by Arthur Caplan, a professor and medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Caplan explained that anyone who donates genetic material on the basis of anonymity "ought to understand that their identity could be made known to any child that's produced and they could be seen by the courts as the best place to go to make sure the child has adequate financial support." The prospect become more likely if one parent is requesting support from a government agency.

Sperm banks are legally required to maintain a record of each donor's identity, often indefinitely.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge Ronald D. Castille was www.observer-reporter.com/296057286820119.bsp more blunt than Caplan in his assessment of the risk that donations would cease. "What man in their right mind would agree to that [sperm donation] if we decide this case in your favor? Nobody." What woman in her right mind would donate eggs?

Estimates on infertility in the United States vary but the rate is www.fertilitysolution.com/chapter1.html often placed at about 15 percent, even without including gay and lesbian couples. That is, 15 percent of couples fail to conceive after one year of regular, unprotected intercourse. If miscarriages are factored in, the rate increases.

The use of donated sperm and eggs is a common solution to infertility. According to Dr. Cappy Rothman of the California www.cryobank.com Cryobank, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 artificial inseminations occur every year in the U.S. And that is only one form of infertility treatment.

If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court finds the sperm-donor to be liable for child support, then many forms of infertility treatment in most states could become less available and more expensive. Those donors who step forward will want to be compensated for their increased legal risk.

The courts have pitted a child's "best interests" against the rights of biological parents to contract with each other on the terms of reproduction. They may have also opened a Pandora's box of complications involving a child's claim on a sperm donor's data and wealth.

But the worst consequence may be the denial of life itself to children who are desperately wanted by infertile couples. The law should not obstruct their chances of conceiving.

Father's Rights Movement to Get English Invasion

"The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fathers_4_Justice Fathers 4 Justice (F4J) -- a pressure group that originated in Britain to crusade for father's rights, especially child custody and access rights in divorce -- has just landed on American shores with www.fathers-4-justice.us/ the creation of F4J-US. What happens next may tell us as much about society's post-9/11 attitude toward social reform as it does about father's rights.

What do F4J and its international chapters demand? F4J essentially seeks the removal of any anti-male bias from the family court system. The specifics include a wide range of measures, including the court enforcement of visitation orders and the linking of child support payments to visitation rights.

Why would the repetition of well-aired demands tell us anything new about society's post-9/11 attitudes? Because the strategy F4J favors hasn't been really tested here since then.

Father's rights advocates and their opponents have waged a public strategy war, to be sure. But their weapons of choice have generally been a flood of contradictory studies, re-interpreted data, personal tales of injustice, accusations, and blasts of fury.

F4J advocates "peaceful non-violent direct action based on the Greenpeace model with a dash of humour thrown in for good measure." In Britain, the group is famous for high-profile stunts that taunt and disrupt authority. For example, last September a F4Jer dressed as Batman scaled www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,132247,00.html Buckingham Palace. Standing for over 5-hours on a ledge next to the Palace's main balcony, he unfurled a huge banner reading "Super Dads of Fathers 4 Justice" [www.liberaassociazioneilpopolo.it/NEWS-PHOTOS-FOTOS-FOTO-IMAGES-PICS/2004/09/jason-hatch-fathers-rights-buckingham.html photograph]. Batman was arrested "for suspicion of causing criminal damage."

Plans for similar but unspecified "guerrilla" acts in the United States have been announced. It is not clear how aggressive the Stateside actions will be.

Jamil Jabr, head of F4J-US, has been quoted in the Telegraph as www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/05/08/ndad08.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/05/08/ixnewstop.html saying, "We will try to maintain the audacity of the stunts…but if anyone tried that [the batman stunt] at the White House, they would be shot."

But the same article quotes Matt O'Connor, F4J's founder, as declaring, "We are planning a massive stunt in New York which will catch everyone by surprise…It will be more spectacular than anything we've done in the UK so far and if all goes well we will hopefully be catapulted into infamy."

Given past action in the UK, that's quite a statement.

Last May, for example, two F4Jers threw www.answers.com/main/ntquery;jsessionid=27fnqtpy1ia21?method=4&dsid=2222&dekey=Fathers+4+Justice+House+of+Commons+protest&gwp=8&curtab=2222_1&sbid=lc02a condoms full of unidentified powder at Tony Blair, hitting the Prime Minister as he addressed the House of Commons. The substance was later identified as flour that had been dyed purple; the men were news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3749579.stm charged with the relatively mild offence of "using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour". They were fined but served no time in prison. In the U.S., the two might have been shot on the spot.

Not just the American authorities but the American public is likely to respond more harshly as well. It is not likely that New Yorkers would tolerate a re-run of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fathers_4_Justice_Tower_Bridge_protest the London publicity stunt by which 'Spiderman' occupied a crane that 'caused' police to stop traffic flowing across the heavily-traveled www.answers.com/main/ntquery;jsessionid=27fnqtpy1ia21?method=4&dsid=2222&dekey=Fathers+4+Justice+Tower+Bridge+protest&gwp=8&curtab=2222_1&sbid=lc02a Tower Bridge from early October 31st to November 4th. A British court later cleared Spiderman of charges because the closing had resulted from police decisions and not his actions. In the U.S., outraged New Yorkers might not let a Spiderman who closed the Brooklyn Bridge reach the court system at all.

It is not that civil disobedience or non-violent resistance have deeper roots in Britain than in North America. The United States was born through acts of both. Throughout American history, reformers and radicals have addressed social problems through civil disobedience and non-violent resistance.

Anti-slavery activists flouted the law by harboring run-aways; the most famous of them (William Lloyd Garrison) called the Constitution's sanction of slavery "an agreement with hell, a covenant with death" and urged non-violent resistance. 19th century labor advocates staged strikes that paralyzed entire regions and industries; they burned factory owners in effigy. Black civil rights activists sat at "whites only" lunch counters. During Vietnam, the anti-war movement barraged the 'system' with flamboyant tactics. Perhaps the most famous one occurred when the Yippies threw dollar bills from the balcony of the New York Stock Exchange and effectively closed down trading as brokers scrambled for the money.

It is an open question: will civil disobedience and non-violent resistance be allowed to shape American society as it has in the past? Or will such strategies be forced to operate within narrower and less effective limits?

F4J-US may provide the answer.

Or, rather, reaction by authorities may be the answer.

That reaction can be gauged, in part, by an incident in January. Two members of the British group visited NYC to help organize F4J-US and to scout the city for possible actions. They were followed everywhere. Jabr truffula.net/~e/rhizosophy/archives/2005_01.html described one member of the surveillance team, "We learned later that he was the head of New York's terrorism intelligence branch. He had FBI connections and orders to make sure that there would be no Buckingham Palace-type incidents."

On the other hand, the father's rights radicals apparently went out for a beer with the men assigned to watch them.

I wish F4J-US well; I believe its cause is just. I also wish it prudence because I believe post-9/11 America is likely to stomp on anything that vaguely hints of violence against an official or the disruption of infrastructure.

Runaway Bride Lost in Junk Journalism

Veteran newsman Sam Donaldson www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2005/4/20/123807.shtml announced it. Jennifer Wilbanks -- the Run-Away Bride -- www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,155119,00.html proved it. "Network news is dead." Tabloid journalism used to be a guilty vice enjoyed by people waiting in supermarket lines. They now dress it up as evening news but even good journalists cannot infuse the supermarket stories with substance. In fact, they don't seem to be trying. .

Elements of the Wilbanks story are news worthy but, oddly enough, those aspects remain almost unmentioned.

Instead, the police officer who walked Wilbanks through an airport is interviewed on primetime TV. Instead, 'journalists' rush to break the story that Wilbanks had been nabbed as a www.11alive.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=62798 shoplifter a decade ago. And therapists announce a new psychological syndrome: abcnews.go.com/GMA/Health/story?id=718862&page=1&CMP=OTCRSSFeeds0312 ColdFeetitis, which drives brides-to-be "over the edge."

What are the newsworthy aspects of the Wilbanks fiasco? Here are several…

A seachange is occurring in how our culture regards and deals with those who make false accusations and police reports. Five years ago, it was commonplace to hear that victims -- especially women and children -- never lie. Those who doubted a victim's story, even in the presence of questionable evidence, were accused of re-victimizing the person and, so, silenced.

Today, it is clear that false reports occur with some frequency and there is an increased willingness to treat those who file them as criminals. My recent column www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,153969,00.html "False Rape Claim Hurts Real Victims" described a false rape report filed by Desiree Nall, President of the Brevard, Fla., chapter of the National Organization for Women. The State attorney's office has brought charges against Nall.

The seachange in attitude became clear to me last April with the Audrey Seiler story. At that time, FOX reported www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,117088,00.html "A college student accused of faking her own kidnapping last month was charged Wednesday with lying to police in what they suggested was a desperate attempt to get her boyfriend's attention." Seiler's false report caused a massive man-hunt for her abductor that cost an estimated $96,000. She pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and was ordered to make financial restitution to the police.

The recognition and punishment of false accusations is an important and necessary shift in our culture…but there are dangers. Real violence happens constantly and faux victims like Wilbanks can harden hearts toward real ones. I doubt that Wilbanks' neighbors will ever view a 'victim' with unconditional sympathy again. An awareness of false reports can too easily become callousness toward real victims.

Another under-discussed but newsworthy element: Wilbanks made www.krqe.com/expanded.asp?ID=9858 false statements to the New Mexico police (and later the Georgia ones), claiming she was kidnapped by msnbc.msn.com/id/7748388 an Hispanic man and a woman. That fact has been widely broadcast and perhaps she will be prosecuted. But her mental instability makes that prospect unlikely and the absence of criminal intent is a problem.

What is unmentioned by the media, however, is the fact that until she made those statements -- an act that occurred at the tail end of the police investigation -- Wilbanks had done nothing wrong in a legal sense.

The foregoing statement is not an expression of sympathy. As far as I am concerned, Wilbanks should be disowned by her parents, shunned by friends, and bitten by the family dog.

But she is a free human being. Except for the purpose of fraud or other crime, she has a legal right to disappear, to run out on a wedding. The alternative is to require people to inform authorities about their whereabouts and movements as they were required to do in the Soviet Union.

And this is another danger that the dubious likes of Wilbanks inflict upon society. It is all too possible that people will react to the mass coverage of her family's pain by calling for a law to prevent similar occurrences. And, so, because of a mentally and morally unbalanced woman, every one of us could become a little less free.

The fact that Wilbanks broke no law up until the final moments of the lamentable episode has another implication that the news should be exploring. Namely, it is far from clear that she should be liable for the estimated $60,000 it cost police to search for her. After all, Wilbanks did not file a report on herself; she did not seek assistance from the police. The tens of thousands of dollars and man hours wasted occurred before she did anything legally wrong. And they would have been spent whether or not she made a false statement.

What Wilbanks did was to exercise a legal right; she left town without giving notice. To attach financial liability to the exercise of a legal right has tremendous implications and should never be done lightly.

Just as I do not understand why the media so quickly turned "a missing person" story into a nationwide drama, I can't comprehend why the most important questions surrounding Wilbanks remain unaddressed.

The police reaction is understandable. Most police departments no longer impose a mandatory waiting period on a missing person report. (Perhaps this is a mistake. Perhaps the waiting period served a valid purpose.) Moreover, the families involved seem to be prominent within Wilbanks' town. Prominent or not, however, the police could not downplay this report; there are just too many reporters ready to pounce on juicy "victims" like a woman abducted from her marriage altar.

But the media response is baffling. Unless, of course, I return to the column's opening: "Network news is dead." So where do we go for analysis?

Super-sizing Statistics

The accuracy of the following statements is not only personally important to your health, it may be politically important to your freedom. Which of the statements you believe is also likely to affect such intimate issues as your body image and how you choose to feed your family.

#1: Obesity and inactivity kill 400,000 Americans a year, making them the www.thedoctorslounge.net/medlounge/articles/obesity_death/ second leading cause of preventable death in the US, next only to smoking.

#2: Obesity and inactivity kill 26,000 Americans a year, www.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/diet.fitness/04/20/obesity.deaths.ap/ making them less lethal than relatively unknown diseases such as www.mindfully.org/Health/CausesOfDeathUS-1999CDC.htm Nephritis and Septicemia.

The first statement creates panic; the second, concern. Without diminishing the desirability of a healthy diet and exercise, which reaction do the facts really support: a public panic with calls for political intervention, or a reason why individuals should reconsider reaching for that second donut?

Don't look to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for guidance. The CDC seems determined to create confusion, not clarity on the statistics. Over the past year, the CDC has provided www.mensnewsdaily.com/archive/w/wascher/2005/wascher043005.htm numbers that support both statements, contradictory though they be.

In March 2004, a study co-authored by CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding claimed that, in 2000, obesity and physical inactivity killed 400,000 Americans; that is, obesity caused more than 16 percent of all deaths in the U.S. The CBS headline, www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/03/09/health/main604956.shtml "Americans Eat Themselves To Death", was typical of media coverage. Time/ABC News announced www.time.com/time/2004/obesity/index.html a Summit on Obesity (June 2-4).

Political reaction was equally alarmist. Surgeon General Richard Carmona declared, "As we look to the future and where childhood obesity will be in 20 years...it is every bit as threatening to us as is the terrorist threat we face today." Using words like "epidemic", policy makers rushed to debate on everything from "fat taxes" on junk food to the regulation of fast-food advertising, from Medicare covering obesity-related surgeries to banning www.consumerfreedom.com/news_detail.cfm?headline=2760 sodas from schools.

Some voices advised skepticism. Steve Milloy, in his FOX column www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,113975,00.html "Junk Science" (03/12/04), pointed out that "the CDC produced its estimates with a statistical ruse called 'attributable risk' -- the fearmongers' method of choice for alarming the public with large body counts. Attributable risk could be the poster child for the saying, 'garbage in, garbage out'." In other words, science accurately views obesity as a contributing factor in death -- or, even more loosely, as a correlation -- not as a causative one.

Meanwhile, the

www.consumerfreedom.com/news_detail.cfm/headline/2535 Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) -- a self-described "nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting consumer choices and promoting common sense" -- called attention to severe methodological and mathematical flaws in the CDC study.

On November 23rd, the Wall Street Journal www.ajcp.com/headlines/news/200411231.html reported that, according to an internal CDC investigation, the "widely quoted" study on obesity contained "statistical errors" that inflated the death toll by "tens of thousands" -- specifically, by 80,000 or 20%. In www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/03/09/health/main604956.shtml November, the CBS headline (and others) changed to "Obesity Study Overstated Effects." But the 400,000 figure seemed cemented into government policy and public awareness. It is difficult to unring an alarm bell.

Then, on April 19th, the Houston Chronicle www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/nation/3142605 reported that the CDC "estimated today that packing on too many pounds accounts for 25,814 deaths a year…As recently as January, the CDC came up with an estimate 14 times higher." No wonder, the consumerfreedom.com/article_detail.cfm?article=161 CCF concluded "CDC stands for Center for Damage Control".

CCF takes an extreme view: it argues that CDC's super-sized statistics were politically motivated and self-consciously false. (Others boomerang www.boston.com/business/articles/2005/05/01/groups_ads_take_issue_with_cdc_statistics/ the same charges of dishonesty back at the CCF.)If true, however, the CCF's accusations would place some CDC officials in the same category as Eric T. Poehlman, a top obesity researcher who did work at the University of Vermont. On March 18th, 2005, the Boston Globe www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2005/03/18/researcher_admits_fraud_in_grant_data?mode=PF reported Poehlman had "fabricated data in 17 applications for federal grants to make his work seem more promising, helping him win nearly $3 million in government funding." Poehlman acknowledged making up "research results from 1992 to 2002, including findings published in medical journals that overstated the effect of menopause on women's health."

Apart from the profit (or funding) motive, political bias may be playing a role at the CDC and with other obesity research. In January 1998, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine cast a skeptical eye on the "300,000 deaths" from obesity per year figure and www.his.com/~sepp/weekwas/dec28_jan3.html warned against a growing trend; namely, that "the medical campaign against obesity may have to do with a tendency to medicalize behavior we do not approve of."

Medicalized behavior is behavior that government deems proper to control. If the food going into your mouth is an addiction or an epidemic, then your diet ceases to be a personal choice and becomes an issue of public safety. The lunch you pack for your children becomes a matter of public policy.

Accordingly, which of the two opening statements you chose to believe is not the only 'weighty' question. It is quickly followed by "what political importance should be attached to statistics about fat?"

I believe people are responsible for their own weight and their own food choices. Government intervention is a wrong and a dangerous option, on several grounds. Just one of them: individuals should be assuming, not relinquishing personal control over their own health. We should down-size government's interest in what we eat and right-size the statistics it's feeding us.

Transparency Crucial for Accountability

NYC's Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) www.nytimes.com/2005/04/23/nyregion/23aids.html has announced an "independent review” of the controversial AIDS-drug trials conducted between 1988 and 2001 on children in its foster care. The highly experimental and toxic drugs were administered to infants as young as four-months old. For over a year, medical rights watchdogs and some media voices have demanded transparency on the experimental drug trials. Why has it taken so long?

Transparency is the key to dissolving criticism but transparency is precisely what has been lacking. Perhaps because disclosure is a slippery slope into accountability.

On February 29, 2004, The New York Post ran an expose entitled www.garynull.com/documents/HEAL/AIDSTots.htm "AIDS Tots Used as 'Guinea Pigs'". It claimed that about 50 wards of ACS had been used to test multiple combinations of AIDS medication. (The Post later revised that number to 100 in the light of new data. ACS has now raised the number to "about 465" children.)

The article ended, "Officials…refused to talk to The Post."

On March 10, 2004, FOX News ran an editorial entitled www.zetetics.com/mac/ifeminists/2004/0310.html "When Mother is a Bureaucracy", in which I asked:

  • How many children were involved?
  • What were the results of the trials?
  • Were children removed from foster parents who refused treatment, including from www.talkaboutparenting.com/group/alt.adoption/messages/419683.html a nurse experienced with treating AIDS in children?
  • Were feeding tubes involuntarily inserted into the abdomens of children who refused oral medication?

The FOX editorial ended, "For once, a child welfare system must have the courage and decency to open itself to public scrutiny."

At the same time, the www.ahrp.org Alliance for Human Research Protection (AHRP) -- self-described as "a national network of lay people and professionals dedicated to advancing responsible and ethical medical research practices" -- filed a complaint against ACS with the FDA and the federal Office of Human Research Protections. The www.ahrp.org/ahrpspeaks/HIVkids0304.php complaint accused the ACS of violating federal regulations.

The specific federal regulations that ACS was accused of violating? www.unh.edu/osr/compliance/sectionXIV.htm 45 CFR 46.409 and ets/dailys/01/Jul01/072301/c000006.pdf+%2221+CFR+50.56%22&hl=en 21 CFR 50.56, intended to protect wards of the state from medical experiment involving "greater than minimal risk".

The AHRP www.ahrp.org/infomail/04/11/30.php stated, "Phase I and Phase II experiments involve the greatest level of risk and discomfort for children insofar as they test the safety and toxicity of the drugs as well as maximum dose tolerance." In short, the risks seem to have been greater than minimal.

The complaint against ACS ended, "We ask for…full disclosure of the adverse effects suffered by these children; disclosure of institutional and physician conflicts of interest; and the children's condition following their participation."

The story received considerable attention from media abroad. For example, last November, the BBC aired a news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/this_world/4038375.stm documentary entitled "Guinea Pig Kids: Vulnerable NYC foster children forced to test AIDS drugs." The documentary also pointed an accusing finger at the drug companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline, who supported some of the tests. (See FOX News www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,140829,00.html editorial, December 7th, entitled " NYC Must Come Clean on Foster Kids AIDS Scandal")

ACS stonewalling continued. No information about the children's condition before and after the experimentation was revealed, which raised questions about the public value of such 'secret' testing.

On July 6th, www.nyc.gov/html/acs/html/whatwedo/commissionerbio.html John B. Mattingly was appointed as Commissioner of NYC- ACS. It is Mattingly who announced that the www.vera.org/ Vera Institute of Justice, a New York-based nonprofit research group, would conduct an investigation and that a panel of national health care experts would review its findings.

In doing so, Mattingly defended the appropriateness of the testing. But, according to www.nytimes.com/2005/04/23/nyregion/23aids.html New York Times, the Commissioner believes an outside investigation is required to allay the concerns raised by "some reporters" and by "a minority advocacy group." Virtually all of the children in the tests were African-American or Hispanic.

Mattingly added, "we acknowledge the need for transparency in all of our dealings with the public…For us to be effective…we must have a sense of mutual trust with those families we seek to serve." After all, ACS is the agency charged with investigating and preventing child abuse.

An "exhaustive" internal review, conducted at Mattingly's request has reportedly exonerated ACS. For example, the review rejects the accusation that children not perilously ill were included in the experimental tests. By contrast, Vera Hassner Sharav, President of AHSP, claims that documents filed with the federal government show many of the foster children were only "presumed" to be HIV positive. If true, those children would not have been perilously ill.

Transparency is badly needed. An exonerating self-investigation appears to be self-serving and only raises the level of public skepticism.

Moreover, although Mattingly's announcement of an independent review was meant to calm the issue, some statements raised further concerns. For example, according to the www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/45051.htm New York Post, "Vera has also been asked to locate as many of the children as possible to ascertain their current medical conditions." Mattingly also indicated that records will be reviewed to see if there were more children who participated.

How exhaustive could the ACS internal review have been if the number of children involved and the long-time effects on their health are still unknown?

When an "authority" assumes controls over the lives of human beings -- effectively stripping them of a voice -- the absolute minimum demanded of that authority should be transparency. And, yes, that does lead to accountability.

Domestic Violence Law Fuels Big Government

A chance for gender sanity is coming. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expires in 2005 and www.vawnet.org/Funding/FVPS/VAWAApprop.pdf [.pdf] a new appropriation request for over www.house.gov/budget_democrats/pres_budgets/fy2004/fy04update/fy2005/harmful_cuts.htm $360 million will soon hit Congress. VAWA is based on gender myths, anti-male bias and an infatuation with Big Government. The answer to renewing this Clinton hand-me-down should be a thundering “NO!”

What is VAWA? In 1994, Congress passed VAWA as part of an Omnibus Crime Bill. www.ojp.usdoj.gov/vawo/laws/vawa/vawa.htm The Act pitted the sexes against each other by focusing on “crimes of violence motivated by gender"; victims were defined as female and only women were offered the massive tax-funded benefits. VAWA institutionalized the political belief that women, as a class, must receive special protection from men and privileges from government.

www.papa-help.ch/downloads/kelly.pdf [.pdf] Domestic violence (DV) was a specific focus. When male victims protested their exclusion, VAWA advocates dismissed them as statistically insignificant.

Today, www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm an impressive body of research shows that men constitute anywhere from 36% to 50% of DV victims. (The situation is similar with rape. Women are the victims only if you exclude prisons where male rape is prevalent.)

But VAWA is more than an attempt to establish women as a protected class at the expense of men. If this were its only flaw, then including men under its umbrella would have solved the Act’s unfairness.

The Act seeks to create new gender attitudes through the social engineering of society. The most aggressive example was also VAWA’s biggest failure to date: namely, its attempt to revise the judiciary system in order to benefit women.

A key section of VAWA ’94 allowed a “rape” victim to sue her alleged attacker for compensatory and punitive damages in federal civil court on the grounds of having violated her civil rights. The federal claim did not replace criminal punishment on the state level; it was a supplement.

In 1995, Christy Brzonkala brought a federal lawsuit over an alleged rape at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The two accused men had been cleared by both a university judicial committee and a criminal grand jury. Under VAWA, however, Brzonkala could pursue a case that was too weak to be admitted into criminal court.cyber.law.harvard.edu/events/vaw/ The U.S. Supreme Court found VAWA’s civil rights remedies and access to federal courts to be unconstitutional.

VAWA 2000 was rewritten to exclude the unconstitutional bits and to broaden the Act’s mandate to areas such as “Strengthening Education and Training to Combat Violence Against Women.”

In short, to change society’s attitudes on gender through education, research, and training programs. The underlying ideological bias is illustrated by the fact that, after spending millions of dollars on DV research, VAWA advocates couldn’t seem to find male victims. Or, if they did, the data did not induce them to rename the Violence Against Women Act.

VAWA’s attempt to educate new attitudes on gender into society has contributed to what some call “the domestic violence industry.” www.massnews.com/past_issues/other/8_Aug/domviin.htm The Massachusetts News offers a glimpse into the programs in its state. “Every month, it [the woman’s safety movement]…spawns new sub-programs, clinics, shelters, research institutes, counseling centers, visitation centers, poster campaigns. The state disbursed about $24 million for domestic violence services last year, but that certainly is not all the money spent… “

Women’s “safety” has become a tax-funded growth industry for lawyers, consultants, researchers, staff, counselors, professors and other “experts” who always seem to conclude that more funding is needed.

VAWA advocates point to the Act’s funding of DV shelters, and it is difficult to argue against helping a battered woman. It is not clear, however, that the bureaucratic and “industrialized” approach to DV is an effective form of help. Every dollar spent on ideological programs is a dollar snatched from a victim. Moreover, the ideology blinds VAWA advocates to many real victims. The Massachusetts News also reports that the state has 37 tax-funded women's shelters, but no “shelters or services for men”, except homosexual men.

Battle lines on VAWA 2005 have been drawn. A prominent www.mensactivism.org/articles/04/12/19/0019245.shtml men’s rights site claims, “According to inside sources, the Washington Post is about to launch its publicity campaign to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).” The referenced campaign is the Post’s recent and www.slate.com/Default.aspx?id=2111390& heavily criticized front-page series on the www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2004/1229.html murder of expectant mothers by intimates. The Post, a supporter of past VAWAs, is accused of trying to create fear in women and sustain the image of a DV victim as being female.

The accusation is lent credibility by www.now.org/nnt/fall-2017/vawa.html the National Organization for Women, which states of the Post series, “In compelling detail” it “exposes the extent of murder and violence directed at pregnant women and new mothers in the U.S. NOW and our allies will be paying special attention to these needs as the Violence Against Women Act is up for reauthorization.”

Unfortunately, many VAWA opponents are focusing on www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2004/1229blumhorst.html the inclusion of men within the Act rather than on its defeat. At the Men’s Rights Congress 2004, speaker Dave Burroughs www.trueequality.com/booklet/ recommended, “The re-authorization…should be re-titled to the Intimate Partners Violence Act” and funding should “encompass sheltering and services for all victims of domestic violence regardless of their gender…”

VAWA is a fundamentally flawed piece of social engineering that appeals to Big Government. The proper response is not “Me Too!” It is a flat “no,” followed by an insistence on rethinking our entire approach to issues like DV.

False Rape Claim Hurts Real Victims

On April 8th, the President of the Brevard Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) was www.floridatoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050409/NEWS01/504090321/1006 charged by the Florida state attorney's office with filing a false rape report and making a false official statement. She could be imprisoned for one year on each count and forced to pay for the police investigation she incurred. The case has far-reaching implications for gender politics and for women who report sexual assault in the future.

The facts are as follows. On November 17th, 2004, part-time Rollins College student Desiree Nall (pictured www.news4jax.com/news/4359657/detail.html here) reported being raped in a campus bathroom by two men. The Winter Park Police Department put Rollins on ‘high alert’, advising students to remain indoors when possible. The Dean immediately dispatched a campus-wide email to assure students that extra security measures were being taken.

In a Sandspur article entitled “A Rape Hoax is No Way to Get Attention”, Jean Bernard Chery www.thesandspur.org/news/2005/04/15/Opinions/A.Rape.Hoax.Is.No.Way.To.Get.Attention-926983.shtml relates how the incident impacted campus life, “It was a nightmare for every female student and faculty/staff at Rollins. They were afraid to go to the bathroom or walk on campus alone after dusk….The incident prompted a candlelight vigil on campus in support of the alleged victim [then unnamed].”

The police had reason for skepticism. Nall is a vocal feminist and the allege raped occurred during Sexual Assault Awareness Week, which was intended to highlight the issue of sexual violence against women. Moreover, Nall could not assist with composite sketches, offered inconsistent details and did not wish to press charges. An examination at a Sexual Assault Treatment Center after the alleged attack produced no evidence of foreign DNA.

Due to publicity and campus panic, however, a police investigation continued at a final estimated cost of more than $50,000. The report of rape was judged a hoax.

According to police, on November 19th Nall phoned and asked to have the case dropped. When Detective Jon Askins questioned her original report, Nall www.thesandspur.org/news/2005/04/15/News/Was-It.All.A.Hoax-926917.shtml reportedly confessed that she was "not a victim of a sexual batter.” The police speculate that Nall may have been trying to “make a statement” about violence against women.

Jeff Nall Desiree’s husband www.orlandosentinel.com/news/orl-locmcfbriefs08040805apr08,1,175927.story?coll=orl-news-headlines&ctrack=2&cset=true has been speaking publicly on her behalf. He claims the charges will be appealed on the grounds that an attempted assault did occur. He denies that she confessed to lying. He claims she has been targeted by police because “she is a women's-rights activist.”

He also distances NOW from the unfolding fiasco by pointing out that his wife became a chapter President only recently. Moreover, according to www.thesandspur.org/news/2005/04/15/News/Was-It.All.A.Hoax-926917.shtml one article in the Sandspur, he argues “that sexual assault cases such as this are not one of the platforms of NOW.”

NOW apparently wishes to maintain the distance. As of Monday, searching www.now.org it’s website for the term “Nall” returns no results. After all, NOW has argued that women do not lie about rape. Catharine MacKinnon a Founding Mother of gender feminism that NOW expresses -- stated in her book Feminism Unmodified, “The reason feminism uncovered this reality [of male oppression], its methodological secret, is that feminism is built on believing women's accounts of sexual use and abuse by men.”

If this methodology is debunked, if women are viewed as no more or less likely to lie than men, then the foundation of gender politics collapses.

It is premature and grandiose, however, to see the collapse of gender feminism within the Nall news story. A false account of rape in a bathroom is a much smaller and more tawdry tale: a tempest in a toilet.

Assuming that Nall lied, she has achieved the opposite of what I believe she intended. By “crying rape” she has made every woman who is a victim less credible and less likely to receive justice from the police or the public. She has made women less safe.

Rollins student Elizabeth Humphrey states the point simply, "Lying about that story is absolutely horrible because women are victimized every day. And if we get the reputation of lying, then people won't start to believe us if it does happen."

Instead of publicizing sexual violence against women, Nall has spotlighted the problem of false accusations against men. Her case also raises the question of whether NOW-style feminists encourage false accusations when they flatly insist that women must be believed.

In the ‘60s, feminists fought to have rape taken seriously. But taking an accusation seriously is not the same as granting it automatic validity. Rather, it means investigating the facts and weighing them in an unbiased manner that favors no one and nothing but the truth.

A lot of ugly truth may surface in the coming months. The State of Florida seems determined to pursue its case against Nall, who seems determined to fight back.

Winter Park Sgt. Pam Marcum explained to the Orlando Sentinel that bringing charges against Nall had taken so long because the police department sought a second opinion from the State Attorney’s office. It is rare for those who report sexual abuse to be prosecuted even when a report is proven false.

In short, the prosecution is carefully constructing a case; the defense is loudly crying ‘political persecution!’ In the process, the definition and legal status of rape within our society continues to evolve. Where it comes to rest depends largely upon the honesty not the NOW-like silence -- with which women confront the problem of www.salon.com/news/1999/03/cov_10news.html false accusations.

Disability Must Be Defined Before Debated

The wrenching death of Terri Schiavo has made the issue of disability a matter of debate throughout our culture. Discussions range from living wills to analyzing the quality of a disabled person’s life. Two questions should lay the foundation for any deliberation: what does it mean to be disabled? And how should ‘normal’ people react to those with disabilities?

What it means to be disabled is the focus of a controversy in the MidWest that spilled over to national coverage in www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40632-2017Apr9.html Sunday’s Washington Post.

In early March, Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin was www.mswheelchairmn.org/summary.htm stripped of her title because of a newspaper photo that showed her standing. Janeal Lee, who has muscular dystrophy (MS), uses a scooter for mobility but teaches part of her high school math class on her feet. Before entering the pageant, she explained to the State Coordinator that she was able to stand for 10 or 15 minutes “on a good day”. Now the de-crowned Lee states, "I've been made to feel as if I can't represent the disabled citizens of Wisconsin because I'm not disabled enough."

In protest, the first runner-up has www.wisinfo.com/postcrescent/news/archive/local_20489262.shtml refused to accept the title. On April 4th, -- Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota -- Lee’s sister who also has MS -- relinquished her own crown. www.mswheelchairmn.org Jen Onsum, who is Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2003 and the pageant’s coordinator in that state, has stepped down.

Judy Hoit, treasurer of www.mswheelchairamerica.org the national Ms. Wheelchair America, explains the decision, "you've got women who are in their wheelchairs all the time and they get offended if they see someone standing up. We can't have title holders out there walking when they're seen in the public."

Onsum responds, “what about offending those who are in wheelchairs who can walk? I guess that does not matter. I'm actually offended by her comment and I've never been able to walk.”

The controversy might be dismissed as an unsavory and transitory flap were it not for two factors. First, Schiavo’s death has cast a shadow of life-and-death importance on all discussion of the disabled. Second, the definition of “disability” is an on-going debate within the disabled community and among its advocates.

Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young has commented on one extreme of the debate. She www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/04/04/activism_and_the_disabled/ writes, “They don't simply seek dignity and access but define themselves as an oppressed minority, turning disability into a cultural and political identity.” Thus, the now-deceased Christopher Reeve was severely criticized by some disabled advocates because he actively sought to www.paralysis.org/ “cure” his paralysis rather than accept his disability.

I’ve had reason in my life to answer the questions “what is a disability” and “how should I react”?

Because my grandmother contracted measles during her pregnancy, my mother was born with a malformed arm that ended in a claw-like appendage where most people have an elbow.

At first, I didn’t know my mother was handicapped. She was just my mother: an attractive, smart woman who ultimately supported two young children after being widowed. People’s attitudes made me aware of her disability. Not that people expressed hostility or disgust; they were usually awkward, too helpful or furtive in their glances.

I came to define “disability” in what I believe is a neutral and common sense manner. Since the term has meaning only with reference to what is “normal ability”, I define it as any deviation from the physical or psychological norm that is significant enough to impair function.

By my definition, disability is a sliding scale. How people react to “the disabled” hinges on where that person falls on the scale. An extreme disability often makes people uncomfortable perhaps because it connects to their own fears of infirmity. I saw this discomfort in people’s response to my mother.

In turn, she reacted with a combination of social paranoia and combativeness. For example, she insisted on calling herself a ‘cripple’. The un-PC term reflected a stubborn lack of self-pity and a need to commandeer the word so it wouldn’t be used by others.

Simply growing up taught me how to interact with disabled people. Namely, treat them like the human beings they are. Deal with them as equals, not like children with whom you adopt a different tone of voice or personality.

The worst approach is to treat a disabled person as if he or she were the disability, as if a physical characteristic defined their entirety. My mother was not her deformed arm; she viewed those who treated her as such with contempt and fear. She would have spit in the eye of the Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin State Coordinator and, then, gone home to hide.

My definition and experience of disability may not hold true for everyone…or even prove useful to them. Moreover, the political implications of my approach to “the disabled” may not be popular because I do not favor special legislation or the creation of a separate political category. I believe the disabled are best served by an aggressive recognition that they have the same rights to person and property as anyone else. No more, no less.

But that explosive opinion is fodder for another column.

The purpose of this one is merely to provide the prerequisites of further discussion: that is, definition of the issue and a reality check of experience.

On Campus, Free Speech at Odds With Tax Funding

On March 22nd, David Huffman www.tnhonline.com/news/2005/03/22/LettersampCommentary/Discrimination.At.Mub.Event-899170.shtml spoke out in the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) student newspaper against being excluded from an on-campus public event. He was excluded for being male. The incident spotlights the shell game being run on state campuses across North America under the guise of free speech.

As a student, Huffman’s fees paid for the public forum from which he was barred. As taxpayers, his family underwrote his being treated like a black in the Pre-Bellum South.

Critical commentary on the incident has dwelled upon freedom of speech. But such commentaries miss the deeper point that ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘tax-funding’ are antagonistic concepts.

But, first, the facts of the Huffman incident:

On March 10th, “Patriarchy Slam” was held by the radical Feminist Action League (FAL) in a room reserved by a second and recognized student group. (The significance of this is that the free room was used in violation of UNH policy.) Posters across the campus advertised the meeting as a public event, with no indication of “Women Only.”

Patriarchy Slam expressed radical anti-male feminism. For example, some FAL members wore scissors around their necks as they sang in praise of castration. One member, who identified herself as http://www.moral-flexibility.net/blog/archives/97 Mary Man-Hating-Is-Fun, told the gathering, “Ever since I learned to embrace my feminist nature, I found great joy in threatening men's lives…because I see them for what they are: misogynistic, sexist, oppressive and absurdly pathetic beings who only serve to pollute and contaminate this world…”

Huffman claims that the coordinator advised him “as a man I would be intimidating.” Thus, when the open-microphone segment began, Huffman was instructed to leave even though he had caused no disruption. Other men remained but, according to Huffman, he was told they had “allegiance to the FAL.”

Moreover, he http://www.rense.com/general63/dur.htm explains FAL “confiscated my program….Evidently, they do not want the public knowing what was said that night….What I heard…was a hate rally."

Huffman is a journalist for the privately funded conservative student paper http://www.commonsenseunh.com/ Common Sense; FAL claims he was excluded as a journalist, not as a man. But, then, why was Shannon O'Neil, a female reporter for The New Hampshire, allowed to stay?

Moreover, Anne Lawing, Vice President of Student Affairs, comments, "This was a public event, and to turn anyone away is simply wrong. If you're a man you shouldn't be turned away…if you're a reporter, you shouldn't be turned away."

Lawing also http://www.theunionleader.com/articles_showa.html?article=52432 raises freedom of speech. “We're talking about their rights [FAL’s rights] and the First Amendment.”

Lawing is flatly wrong. FAL members have no First Amendment right to express themselves at taxpayer expense at a venue that has been improperly obtained. FAL has no First Amendment right to exclude well behaved ‘others’ from public property because of their views. (FAL member Nicole Whalen later stated, “women didn’t want to speak in front of him [Huffman]” because "we knew he was a conservative writer from 'Common Sense,' and we knew his intentions weren't genuine.")

When asked if a fratboy event that called for the mutilation of female genitalia would be tolerated, Lawing replied, "We have so much data that shows that fraternities have been violent with women in the past and the instances of women being violent to men happen so infrequently."

Again, Lawing is flatly wrong. Unbiased research shows that women commit violence with significant frequency. Moreover, so-called “hate speech” does not become actionable at UNH only if accompanied by a record of criminal assault.

Hypotheticals are not necessary. Last fall, http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/5056.html Timothy Garneau was kicked out his dorm and left to sleep in a friend’s car for posting a flier in his dorm’s lobby, near the elevator. It read, "9 out of 10 freshman girls gain 10-15 pounds [the notorious Freshman 15]. But there is something you can do about it. If u live below the 6th floor take the stairs. Not only will u feel better about yourself but you will also be saving us time and wont be sore on the eyes."

Garneau had no history of violence. Nevertheless, he required the intervention of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, with its considerable legal clout, to regain housing.

Did UNH violate Garneau’s freedom of speech? I don’t know because I have no clear concept of what free speech means on tax-funded property.

Freedom of speech in the private sphere means that you have the right to express yourself at your own expense. But everyone is forced to pay for the UNH campus and, so, everyone should have an equal right to speak. That’s the theory.

But implementing this theory is impossibility. A podium is a limited good that must be ‘assigned’ by authorities. At UNH and on most campuses, a handful of authorities have adopted policies that censure expression that is discriminatory, “hate-speech,” or otherwise offensive. This often means nothing more than speech of which they do not approve.

In short, even if unlimited access to scarce podiums were possible, the authorities would not permit it. This is the contradiction inherent in trying to reconcile the terms ‘free speech’ and ‘tax funding’.

The solution is simple: privatize. Just as Huffman’s conservative paper is privately funded so, too, should scissor-wielding feminists be forced to finance their own pro-castration agenda. That would be freedom of speech. That would constitute the exercise of First Amendment rights.

Military Dads Denied Father's Rights

While he was deployed in Afghanistan, a U.S. Navy Seal wrote www.hisside.com/gary_lullaby.htm a lullaby for his son Sean, whom he calls SS. The song opens:

Rock a bye SS ROCK
Rock a Bye you sang to me each eve
And you gave me rolling rock a byes of dreams I've yet to dream.
Each night I'd pray that when I'd awake
You'd have safely ROCK'd me home to the greatest gift,
the Lord hath given me; my little son named Sean.

Sean may never hear that lullaby again, not because his father Gary died but because Sean’s mother relocated him to Israel. She visited family there during one of Gary’s re-deployments and simply stayed, seeking a divorce from abroad. Gary has unsuccessfully battled the family court system in California, which has jurisdiction over the divorce, for almost two years in order to gain some access to SS. After all, that same court demands he pay hefty child support. Gary comments “I am paying $2,100 a month not to see my son.” [Gary was featured in a two-part Fox News story entitled "SEAL, Sorrow" in 2003.]

This is the new face of father’s rights, a face men’s rights activists are determined you will see in coming months: the military man who is ‘processed’ by the family courts during his tour of duty or upon his return. A father who returns ‘home’ to children he cannot see and, often, to support payments he cannot make. As Gary www.glennsacks.com/the_betrayal_of.htm states, "Sometimes I wonder what I risked my life for [in Afghanistan]. I went to fight for freedom but what freedom and what rights mean anything if a man doesn't have the right to be a father to his own child?"

On March 13th, the men’s rights syndicated radio show His Side featured Gary in www.hisside.com/3_13_05.htm a program entitled “Two Years into Iraq War, Little Has Been Done to Protect the Rights of Military Fathers.” Gary is www.glennjsacks.com/families_and_the.htm not alone.

The grassroots organization American Coalition of Fathers and Children (ACFC) has just launched a vigorous www.acfc.org/advertisingcampaign.htm ad campaign to educate the public on how anti-father bias in the courts is destroying the family. An ad currently being prepared by the ACFC highlights the dilemma of military dads who are victimized by zero-tolerance and unreasonable legislation that was passed to deal with “deadbeats.”

Activists are pushing the image of the military father who is victimized by family courts not merely because it is true but primarily because it is effective. That image breaks through the pervasive cultural stereotype that fathers who lose custody or become “deadbeats” are uncaring, unfit, wife beating, child-abusing losers who deserve what they get. Do uncaring and unfit fathers exist? Absolutely. But others fathers resemble Gary -- a Navy veteran with a perfect military and civilian record. It is his image that father’s rights activists wish you to see.

Why? Because to a large extent, it is the stereotype of the loser or abusive dad that permits family courts, government agencies and the general public to turn a deaf ear to the three main complaints of father’s rights activists. These complaints are:

  • responsible fathers are commonly denied custody or access to their children, often through the mother’s relocation
  • paternity fraud goes unpunished or even rewarded by judges who assess child support nevertheless
  • and, child support standards are unreasonable

By contrast, the family court system cannot ignore the complaints of alienated military fathers with the same impunity. For one thing, public opinion will not permit them to do so.

An indication of how strong the public backlash might be came in the early ‘90s with the www.ancpr.org/bradleywtarticle.htm Bobby Sherrill case. Sherrill wasn’t a member of the military proper; he was a Lockheed employee and divorced father working in Kuwait when Iraq invaded. Sherrill was held captive by the Iraqis for five months. Upon his return to North Carolina, he was arrested for non-payment of $1,425 in child support that accrued while he was a hostage.

The public backlash passed, partly because people assumed Sherrill was an aberration, a bizarre exception under an otherwise ‘good’ law. But Sherrill was imprisoned because of the same unreasonable legislation that returning military fathers and every other alienated dad in America must face.

Phyllis Schlafly who publicly endorses the ACFC ad spotlighting military fathers -- blasts one particular piece of legislation in her www.townhall.com/columnists/phyllisschlafly/ps20050228.shtml February 18th column at TownHall, entitled “Reservists deserve protection from family-court mischief.”

She writes, “www.ancpr.org/666.htm The Bradley Amendment…takes us back to the cruel days of debtors' prisons. It requires that a child-support debt cannot be retroactively reduced or forgiven, and states enforce this law no matter what the change in a father's income, no matter if he is sent to war…and no matter if he is ever allowed to see his children.”

Consider one example of how the Bradley Amendment impacts military fathers. Reservists typically assume a sizeable pay cut when they transfer into military life. But child support is based on their civilian salaries and the Bradley Amendment effectively blocks readjustment of that debt. Thousands of miles away and out of communication, such fathers are vulnerable to defaults that can lead to financial ruin, as well as the forfeiture of passports, driver’s and professional licenses. In some states, a default of over $5,000 is a felony that includes imprisonment.

Advocates of the Bradley Amendment maintain that taking a rock-hard line is necessary to ensure that deadbeat dads do not use loopholes to avoid their obligations. But these advocates now argue against a different image of divorced fatherhood. The military dad.

He voices a message on behalf of every alienated father. Repeal the zero tolerance laws that have removed compassion and circumstance from family law. Repeal the Bradley Amendment; remove the bureaucracy that automatically separates father and child.

Muslim Woman's Courage Sets Example

Pakistan's Federal Shariat Court -- the nation's highest Islamic court -- vacated an appeals court decision that had outraged the world.

In essence, the appeals court had acquitted five of the six men convicted in the 2002 "honor rape" of Mukhtar Mai. Her ongoing story may well foreshadow the future of Muslim women who suffer under tribal law and other oppressive traditions. Hers is a savage tale of brutalization and courage, with confusing twists and a resolution that is uncertain. But it is a story of hope, which provides reason for optimism.

In it, the West provides an invaluable voice of conscience and compassion. But the story's ultimate message may be that Muslim women must stand up for themselves and say 'no.'

In the summer of 2002, a panchayat court (or village council) sentenced Mukhtar to be gang-raped by four men. The sentence was not to punish Mukhtar for wrongdoing. Rather, her 14-year-old brother was accused of associating in public with a girl from a rival and more powerful tribe; her rape was meant to punish the family for his transgression.

Gang-raped, beaten, and thrown naked into the street, Mukhtar was forced to walk home through her village. The public nature of the punishment ensured she was an outcast and unmarriageable. Mukhtar was expected to kill herself, but a suicide attempt failed. Her family revived her, and the support of her loved ones deterred her from making future attempts.

Her story grabbed the media's attention. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times visited her home and observed, "a girl in the next village was gang-raped a week after Ms. Mukhtaran, and she took the traditional route: she swallowed a bottle of pesticide and dropped dead."

By contrast, Kristof wrote, Mukhtar survived and propounded "the shocking idea that the shame lies in raping, rather than in being raped."

In rural Pakistan, as in many remote Muslim areas, tribal courts often take precedence over the law of the land on matters of family and "honor."

Indeed, when human rights organizations express outrage over ritualized violence against women in Islamic cultures, it is often the panchayat tribal courts toward which they point an accusing finger.

For example, Pakistan is notorious for "honor killings." This is the practice by which women are murdered, usually by male relatives, for sexual 'improprieties' such as having sex outside of marriage. Mukhtar's story is an international indictment of that system.

However, in recent years\x{2014}largely due to its alliance with and dependency upon the United States\x{2014}Pakistan's national government has been trying to reform how women are treated in their country. President Musharraf has declared an agenda of "enlightened moderation" that sets his more Western version of society at odds with tribal traditions.

In Mai's case, the first "official" encouragement came from a local imam (an Islamic cleric) who called for her attackers to be brought before a civil court. (The importance of calls of reform and rebellion originating from within the society itself cannot be overstated.)

Soon, international opinion took up the cry and Pakistan's authorities reacted quickly. A special anti-terrorism court sentenced the four accused rapists as well as two members of the panchayat court to death. Musharraf presented Mukhtar with approximately $8,300 in compensation and ordered the police to protect her.

Mukhtar used the money to open schools for children in her village.

Sarwar Bari of Pattan -- a non-governmental organization that supports Mukhtar -- states, "A lot of people would have taken the money and run away, tried to forget, but Mukhtaran has not only stayed but has launched a visible challenge to the feudal landlords to change the status quo."

And, then, a slow and boring appeals process ensued. And, then, world attention shifted focus.

Some of that shift was the natural consequence of a fast-moving world. Some was encouraged by Pakistan's government to mute global criticism. Clearly, the Pakistani government was not pleased with reporters like Kristof.

Last September, Kristof reported, "relatives of the rapists are waiting for the police to leave and then will put Ms. Mukhtaran in her place...I walked to the area where the high-status tribesmen live. They denied planning to kill Ms. Mukhtaran, but were unapologetic about her rape."

And while the world shifted focus, the appeals court set her rapists free.

Early this month, Kristof published an op-ed in the N.Y. Times entitled, "When Rapists Walk Free." There, Kristof commented, "I had planned to be in Pakistan this week to write a follow-up column about Mukhtaran. But after a month's wait, the Pakistani government has refused to give me a visa..."

But now that the higher court has overturned those acquittals, global attention is again on Mukhtar.

On a website about her ordeal, Mukhtar, a small, soft-spoken women in her 30s, says of the attention: "My legal name is Mukhtaran Bibi, though I have become known in recent years as Mukhtar Mai. The local media here in Pakistan gave me that name, meaning 'respected big sister,' after my story first became national news."

But what the world sees upon refocusing on Mukhtar is a woman who has stood strong for two years and become a lightning rod around which other women gather to march and protest.

One official reaction: a contempt plea has been filed against 14 people, including Mukhtar, for making statements critical of the court to the press. Liberalizing the treatment of women and moving too openly against tribal courts obviously places Musharraf in an uncomfortable position.

Yet change is coming. Mukhtaran has said. "It's more than I would have thought possible two years ago."

Imagine what might be accomplished if the world pays attention for the next two years.

©2007, Wendy McElroy

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Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including her latest book, Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century. She lives with her husband in Canada. wendy@ifeminists.net E-Mail. Also, see her daily blog at www.zetetics.com/mac

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