Archive for February, 2016

Black History Month and Equal Parenting Part II

This blog began a little over 13 months ago, on MLK Day in 2015.  I decided to have my first blog entry relate to Dr. King because back in 2009 I had addressed the State of California Elkins Family Law Task Force in Los Angeles and used that nexus to family court and received a hearty response.  I had been very nervous before the speech because my family court judge was on the panel but, as it turned out, she was absent that particular day.

For the first time on this blog, I’ve decided to devote a blog entry to autobiographical information.  One reason I am doing so is that I believe that I’m one of a minuscule minority of family court litigants who was also active in the civil rights struggles of the 1960’s.  I beg your indulgence for also making this my first stream of consciousness entry.

The first element of this civil rights-family court connection is being raised Irish Catholic by parents who were older than the average.  Today it is very common for a woman in her late 30’s to be a mother but in mid-century America it was very uncommon.  It was also very rare that the wife was several years older than the husband, a factor which could have led to me finding it easy to oppose a majority opinion.

One of my earliest memories was my mom telling me that the Ku Klux Klan had placed a burning cross in her family’s yard in upstate New York when she was a young girl, in the 1920’s. Thus I learned early that religion, as well as race, could spark the flames of bigotry (the consensus is that the Klan targeted blacks first, followed by Jews and then Catholics).

The other part of being Irish Catholic was being sent to 12 years of parochial schools.  During my eight years of grade school, the most significant event was the election of John Kennedy as president.  The nuns in my school may as well have had pom-poms they were so enthusiastic in their devotion to JFK. This became even more poignant in 9th grade when I saw him at the Dallas Airport just a few minutes before his assassination.

In high school I was taught by the Jesuits, traditionally known as “God’s marines”.  This was the mid to late 60’s when many of my teachers were caught up in the civil rights struggle that was on everyone’s mind, particularly in the South.  A few of the priests and seminarians who taught us even left teaching to demonstrate in deep-Southern states like Mississippi and Alabama.

The second element of my civil rights-family court connection has been my background in athletics.  Like most Texas boys I loved football and that was my first choice in sports but I was rail-thin and the coaches just laughed when I tried out.  The next sport was basketball and I was undergoing a 9th grade growth spurt which made coordinating my newly-found long arms and legs very difficult.

The next sport was track and I was so humiliated by losing in a middle distance race to a chain-smoking classmate that I vowed to train hard (inspired by the 1964 Tokyo Olympics) and became a two-time State of Texas two-mile champion.  I was lucky that it was still the pre-Title IX era (hey, we need something like that for dads in family court!) and I received a full scholarship to SMU in Dallas.  The other great thing about track was that, unlike with other sports, I compared my performance to runners all over the world, which stimulated my lifelong interest in world affairs (I even recall writing an essay on South African apartheid in high school).

Southern Methodist University had its own connection with civil rights when it gave the first athletic scholarship to a black athlete in the entire Southwest Conference, football player Jerry Levias.  In my sophomore year there, I became good friends with one of the very first black students at LSU, Louisiana State University.  He made me aware of local civil rights issues and I can still vividly recall the trepidation entering the athletic dining hall in 1968 and being the only one (even including the few black athletes) who wore a “Save Matt and Ernie” t-shirt. These were two Dallas activists, Matt Johnson and Ernie McMillan who received a 30 year prison sentence for staging a protest against high food prices in local black neighborhoods.The other important point about track and field is that “the stopwatch doesn’t lie”: the sport is a pure meritocracy.  In the 1950’s athletes like Willie Mays and Jesse Owens had to be “twice as talented to be considered half as good (something that surely applies to dads seeking equal custody in most family courts today)”. It is no coincidence that the Congressman that I consider to have done the most to expand economic opportunities for minorities was also an athlete, the late great Jack Kemp.

 

Leave a Comment

Black History Month & Family Court Part I

Three years ago I wrote an article comparing US Family Court and South Africa’s now-defunct Apartheid system. I’m including it here as part one of the theme and in part two next week I’ll have a very personal essay on the relation between the two.

Family Court as the New Apartheid

Last week as I was strolling along the beach here in beautiful San Diego I wondered how many of my fellow citizens realize the origin of our state’s name.  Stumped right?  I’d guess that only a tiny percentage of Californians know that it comes from a novel “Califa”, published in Spain 600 years ago.  It was set in a mythical island in the Pacific that was populated and ruled by black women.  So, in the month after the most hyperbolic presidential election campaign by an incumbent since 1800 (one based almost entirely on the Identity Politics strategy of diving by race, gender and income), it behooves us to expand the same small percentage of people who realize the havoc wreaked by family courts, the modern day “Temple of Califa”.

While some may be offended by my comparison of these courts to South Africa’s now-defunct apartheid system, there are a couple of parallels: the most obvious being that it separates people based on gender, instead of race.  A second it that is has “court orders” in the place of the infamous “pass laws” which dictated when and where a person could be on a given day and time.

Apartheid took root in the early 20th century and many historians believe that it was an outgrowth of the Boer War of independence against the British circa 1900. It was a bitter and bloody war in which the British introduced the concept of “concentration camps” to the world.  The Boers were descendants of 17th century Dutch settlers and were put in these camps when captured by the Brits.  Once the South africans declared independence in 1908, the Boers took out their wrath on the native African population.

In much the same way, feminists harkened back to their long struggle for equal rights by taking over large parts of our governmental, educational and judicial systems.  Family Court is merely the most blatant example of one of the many systems in which the rights of males are given short shrift.  If a father decides to fight for custody of his children after a divorce he has only a 15% chance of success, a fact which would seem to fly in the face of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Apartheid finally expired in 1994 but the oppression of dads in family court looks set for a long run, given the fact that the issue is almost totally ignored by the media.  One of the most insightful media observers, Bernie Goldgerg, has a book titled “Crazies to the Left of me, Wimps on the Right” which could be a good summary itself of media’s coverage of the fathers’ rights issue, when it is covered at all.

On the left, pundits and politicians seek more and more money for governmental programs to undue the damage done by their existing programs, family court in particular.  It is as if one group of lefties is busy tossing kids into a raging river and a mile downstream another group of lefties is arguing over how to shake down more people to start a new program to rescue the few that have survived the last harrowing stretch of white water.

On the right, they lament the fact that 50% of Hispanic and 70% of black babies are born to single mothers without connecting the dots by noting that a dad may as well abandon ship early rather than face the odds of a 15% chance of gaining custody later on.  Having read dozens of books with a conservative critique of societal trends, I can only say that ironically it is a woman who has done the most for equality of parenting after a divorce.

The great Phyllis Shlafly in “The Supremacists: The Tyranny of Judges and How to Stop It” states “Most of our societal problems are caused by the 40% of our nation’s children who grow up in homes without their own father: drug abuse, illicit sexual activity, unwed pregnancies, youth suicide, high school dropouts, joblessness, runaways and crime.  The best interest of the child rule, which typically eliminates both the authority and the presence of the father is now doing to the middle class what the mistaken welfare policy has already done to the welfare class.”

Just as it finally took a white man, DeClerk, to finally drive a stake through the heart of apartheid in South Africa, we look to a woman in leading us in overthrowing the new apartheid of family court.

Leave a Comment

Parenting and Football Part V: Domestic Violence

I. Spouse/Partner Abuse: “The Cleveland Curse”

I am using this subtitle because the most publicized cases seems to come from the Cleveland Browns and their successors, the Baltimore Ravens.  The Browns won three NFL championships in the early 1950’s and totally embarrassed my beloved Baltimore Colts in the 1964 championship game 27-0.  Unfortunately for Browns fans it was to be their last championship but they could console themselves with the fact that they had the player who was the consensus MVP of his era, Jim Brown.  Brown’s success on the playing field, however did not carry over to his relationships in that he had three different domestic violence charges against him in the decades that followed.  In all three cases the women later withdrew the charges.  In the third case, Brown was convicted of vandalizing his wife’s car in 1999 and served four months in jail for refusing to carry out his counseling and community service.  The other Browns player is the quarterback Johnny Manziel, who has had a couple of suspected incidents with the police in Dallas seemingly ready to press charges after the lat.  Just this week he was dropped by the Browns due to the alleged assaults and what seems to be serious substance abuse and mental health issues with Manziel, who’s had little success as a pro after winning the Heisman trophy with Texas A & M.

Just as Jim Brown had his first incident shortly after winning the NFL championship, so too with the Ravens, who moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996.  The Ravens won the Superbowl in 2001 and again in 2013.  Shortly after the 2013 title game, two of the Ravens’ role players received one and two-game suspensions (without pay) for domestic violence.  The first really prominent domestic violence incident for any US athlete occurred in early 2014.  Ray Rice, the Ravens’ star running back, was celebrating in an Atlantic City hotel with his fiancee, when an argument erupted and Rice struck her severely in the face.  In May, Rice was allowed to enter a counseling and diversion program, a lenient sentence that is given to only one percent of those convicted of domestic violence in New Jersey.  In July Rice was given a two game suspension by the NFL.  Shortly after that the TV network TMZ released a videotape of Rice’s assault in a now-famous elevator and he was immediately released by the Ravens.  Rice is still not back in the NFL, most likely because he is over 30, long in the tooth for an NFL running back.

II. Child Abuse: The Adrian Peterson case

Peterson in some ways is the reincarnation of Jim Brown in that he has been the NFL’s leading running back in the past five years.  As many experts in the field confirm, the perpetrators behavior can usually be traced to his/her own childhood.  In Peterson’s case he was one of 10 children and had a harsh, almost Dickensian childhood.  At age seven he saw his beloved nine year brother die in his arms after being knocked off his bicycle by a drunk driver.  At age 13, Peterson’s father was sent to prison for laundering drug money.  Peterson’s dad had been a noted college basketball player and was very active in developing his son’s athletic talent.   They talked nightly by phone and Adrian visited him regularly but it certainly was a lonely high school experience for him.  At age 18, Peterson was considered one of the top recruits in the nation but only the Oklahoma University coach was able to be admitted to the prison and talk with dad before the prison changed its policy to ward off the hordes of college coaches hungry to land a national-class running back.  After an all-American stint at Oklahoma, Peterson was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings.  Adrian, like his dad, sired several children (seven) but in his case it was with various women.  One of the kids died at the hand of a stepdad, to add to Adrian’s baleful biography.  The case against Peterson began in May, 2014.  He had swatted one of his sons (who lives mostly with his mother) with a thin branch that Peterson, like many from small-town Texas, calls a switch. The boy was left with bruises, welts and cuts on his legs, back, arms, buttocks and scrotum.

On September 17, the NFL, no doubt reacting to the storm of derision it received after dithering over the Ray Rice case, suspended Peterson(who’d played only one game) for the remainder of the 2014 season.  In November Peterson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor reckless assault charge; he was ordered to undergo counseling, pay a $4,000 fine and perform 80 hours of community service.  The greatest penalty of course was loss of almost a full year’s salary, about $15 million in Peterson’s case. During his suspension Peterson married the mother of one of his sons and soon to be two.  They visited his hometown, Palestine, Texas and the small town of 13, 000 in East Texas turn out for a parade in his honor and hundreds stood in line for over an hour to shake his hand and give him support: a truly Texas vs. the world occasion.   Peterson says that through counseling he was able to learn other methods of discipline.  He was also able to gather strength from his Christian faith, reunite with many friends and family members(including his father,who was finally released from prison) and be reinstated by the NFL for the 2015 season and resume his dazzling career.

III. Historical, Ethnic and Gender Issues

I can remember hearing years ago that “rule of thumb” referred to the diameter of a stick that was the permissible size for a man to use on his spouse or child.  After recent research it seems that was an apocryphal word origin: it was never the law itself but it was referred to in both English and early American courts.  Another old saw relevant to DV is “spare the rod and spoil the child”.  I came from an Irish Catholic family who definitely followed that adage, although not to an extreme degree.  Those extreme measures fell to the nuns in my parochial school.    I vividly recall an 8th grade experience in which a very elderly nun snuck up behind me as I was whispering to a classmate(a mortal sin there!) and implanted a ball point pen in my cranium.  Today, that would surely be cause for the nun’s dismissal but it was de rigeur in the 1960’s!  This also happened to be in Oklahoma, where corporal punishment hung on longer than anywhere else in the US.  Peterson’s behavior probably never would have happened had he grown up in the Northeast or Northwest.

Woman As Aggressor: The Unspoken Truth Of Domestic Violence

As for gender issues, see the observations of an MD in the above link.  He cites a UK study in which 40% of the domestic violence there is perpetrated by females.  American professional football players, having reached Brobdignagian proportions in the last generation, have little fear for their physical safety in any reciprocal encounters (most DV is reciprocal and of those, the doctor finds that most are initiated by women), but that’s not true for most males, particularly kids.

 

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a Comment

Parenting and Football Part IV: Concussions

I. Chronology of Concussions and the NFL

  • 2009 Boston University holds a press conference on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
  • 2010 TIME’s cover story: “The Most Dangerous Game”.
  • 2011 More than 4,500 NFL former players sued the NFL for hiding concussion dangers.
  • 2012 NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league was donating $30 million (its largest donation in its 92-year history) to the National Institutes of Health for research on athletes and brain trauma.
  • April, 2015 The NFL settled the 2011 lawsuit for $765 million.
  • October, 2015 PBS aired “League of Denial”, a documentary on the league’s concussion crisis.
  • December, 2015 The film “Concussion”, based on the story of a Nigerian physician, Dr. Bennet Omalu, opens.  It stars Will Smith, but earns only $11 million in its opening weekend and $39 million through January on a budget of $35 million (In stark contrast with the recent Star Wars which had figures of $529 million, $2 billion and $200 million respectively).
  • January, 2016 The NFL admits that the number of concussions in 2015 was “way up” over 2014 and that a record number of players aged 30 and under were retiring.  One recent retiree, Jeff Saturday, of the now-Indianapolis Colts, is quoted as saying that he allows his 9th grade boy to play the game but strictly forbids his 3rd grader from doing so.

II. Other Sports

  • In reviewing research it appears that they fall into three tiers regarding risk of concussions:
  • Tier One (most risk): Boxing and football.
  • Tier Two (intermediate risk): Hockey, rugby and soccer (especially playing goalie and doing “headers”).
  • Tier Three (low risk): Baseball and basketball (ironically the only sport in which this writer received a concussion).

In conclusion, it’s worth noting that, according to the NIH, the age-adjusted leading cause of death in the U.S.  is coronary heart disease and that in a 2012 study  NFL players were found to be 32% LESS likely to suffer from it.  The result of children avoiding all the sports listed above is often obesity, whose consequences remain significantly worse than those of playing sports, including collision sports.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment