Abolish Anti-Discrimination Laws
Abuse of Temporary Restraining Orders Endangers Real Victims
Are SpongeBob’s Pants Really Square?
Bad Research Leads to Bad Laws
Best to all
The Campus Conscience Police
Case Could Freeze Sperm Donations
Complex Issue Requires Complex Solutions
Cosby Case Shows Media's
Cultural Competence: Coming to a School Near You?
The Culture War's Battle of Lexington
Cyberstalking or Free Expression
A Different Look at Betty Friedan's Legacy
Disability Must Be Defined Before Debated
Domestic Violence: Behind the Stereotypes
Domestic Violence Law Fuels Big Government
False Rape Claim Hurts Real Victims
Father's Rights Movement to Get English Invasion
Fathers' Rights Victory In Massachusetts
A Feminist Version of 'Joe Millionaire'?
Gender Bias in Domestic Violence Treatment
Girls, Get Your Guns
In Defense of Beauty Pageants
In Defense of 'Deadbeat' Dads
Infidelity Gene: Sensational but Science?
Is The Boy Scouts of America Public or Private?
Kidnapping Plot Robs Father's Rights Group of Credibility
Kill Discriminatory Domestic Violence Act
In Kobe Case, Accuser Is Rightly Identified
Is it Possible to have to Pay Child Support for a Child Who Doesn't Exist
The Liberal McCarthys on Abortion
Mail Order Bride Law Brands U.S. Men Abusers
Military Dads Denied Father's Rights
Missing: Males on College Campuses
Mother Sues Cops For Failing to Protect Kids
Muslim Woman's Courage Sets Example
NYC Must Come Clean on Foster Kids AIDS Scandal
On Campus, Free Speech at Odds With Tax Funding
On Handcuffed and Felonious Children
Paternity Case Marks Progress for Defrauded Fathers
Parental Rights vs. Public Schools
Parents Must Assert Rights Over School Authorities
PBS Continues Probe into Biased Film
PBS Film Controversy Continues
Pregnancy Murder Needs Study, Not Sensationalism!
Preserving Culture, or Curtailing Freedom?
Preserving Culture, or Curtailing Freedom? II
Privacy: Throwing Babies Out with Bath Water
Questions to Ask Scientific Authority
Removing Legal Incentives to Lie
Runaway Bride Lost in Junk Journalism
Sexual Harassment Policies Need Reform
Spousal Rape Case Sparks Old Debate
Super-sizing Statistics
Transparency Crucial for Accountability
The UN, No Forum for Women's Rights
UNICEF's 'Rights' Focus Is All Wrong
The Victims of 'Victimhood
Wage Gap Reflects Women's Priorities
What To Do About Daddy?
"A White Oppressor? Who Me?"
Why Men Earn More
Will Colleges Respect Your Child's Rights?
Will Science Trump Politics in Resolving Abortion Debate
Will Universal Preschool Give All Kids a Head Start

Cosby Case Shows Media's

One headline declares, “Bill Cosby free of sexual assault charge.” news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-02/19/content_2593622.htm Another states, “Cosby says sorry to wife”…www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/05478 12451664%255E663,00.html The headlines are technically true but they leave a curiously inaccurate impression.

Cosby is free of sexual charges because none were ever filed. His apology was for any pain caused by the allegations and by his innocent but “misinterpreted” actions.

Gossip is gradually replacing news; sometimes, it is blatantly used for political ends.

The time-honored tradition of muckraking is properly a part of journalism. The idea that the media should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” is a solid tenet of social and political justice. Without facts, however, there is no story. And justice is not served by sensationalism, especially when the publicity is used for monetary or political advantage.

The non-sensationalized truth of the Cosby “case”: a former associate of Cosby named Andrea Constand leveled a highly-publicized charge of sexual assault that allegedly occurred in January 2004. The police www.hollywood.com/news/detail/article/2435684 have now closed their investigation due to "insufficient credible and admissible evidence." A civil suit for monetary damages is expected to filed next week.

If society’s love of a second act holds true, then the civil case will be surrounded by a glut of innuendo and gossip-mongering. A stream of political commentators and legal consultants will frame the gossip in legalese and raise issues that lend social importance to their fishwifery.

For example, in discussing the non-existent criminal case against Cosby, one TV commentator expressed indignation that the accuser had been named by the press. She was apparently unaware that the name was deliberately released to the Toronto Sun www.nydailynews.com/front/story/278898p-238952c.html by the woman’s parents during an interview.

Everyone of prominence seems to be a target these days, and the only protection they have is a media that will demand facts.

Cosby is popularly identified as www.kraftfoods.com/jello/main.aspx?s=&m=jlo_news_jun04 the Jello-pudding Dad, a product for which he has been a spokesman for 30+ years, and as the perfect husband and father Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable in the hit comedy series www.timvp.com/cosbysh.html “The Cosby Show” (1984-1992). His reputation may survive.

His survival depends on audiences who will not accept fact-free reporting and who recognize gossip packaged in legalese. It also depends on a streak of cycnicism by which audiences ask, “is there a payoff for those making or circulating the accusation?”

Fortunately, this seems to be happening.

One indication: The National Enquirer a periodical whose name is almost a synonym for muckraking -- is the voice that broke Cosby’s account of events. Instead of running with unsubstantiated scandal, as the Enquirer is notorious for doing, the circulation-savvy paper decided to support an accused through a sympathetic and exclusive interview.

(For his part, Cosby’s www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/nation/11036919.htm decision was undoubtedly influenced by the fact that, in 1997, the Enquirer offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a man who murdered Cosby’s son, Ennis.)

In the interview, Cosby seattlepi.nwsource.com/tv/aptv_story.asp?category=1401&slug=Bill%20Cosby appears to be taking the high ground. When asked whether his accuser’s motive was money, he responded, "Let's not go there." But, then, he added, "I am not going to give in to people who try to exploit me because of my celebrity status."

Perhaps the high ground coupled with a hard stand will ensure a receptive audience. If so, the receptivity will reflect, in part, a growing awareness.

Of what? Sexual accusations are being politically used to discredit people’s beliefs by spotlighting their bad acts. Often there is no connection. For example, committing adultery does not invalidate someone’s monetary or foreign policy beliefs. But that’s the package being sold.

The accusations brought against Cosby are almost certainly not politically inspired. But they have been politically used by others to discredit Cosby for criticizing the way some black parents raise their children. In past months, he has argued with vehemence and controversy that parents need to take responsibility for the drug use, illiteracy and criminal activity of their children. Segments of the black community have been outraged by his remarks.

In the wake of the scandal, some attacks on Cosby’s politics have been so blatant and offensive that they are easy to dismiss. Consider the raw assault launched by blacktown.net/bill_cosby__hypocrite.htm BlackTown.net. But even the mainstream media has been linking the sexual accusations to Cosby’s political beliefs. abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/LegalCenter/story?id=508828&page=1 A recent ABC News article is subtitled, “After Allegations of Groping and Controversial Speeches, Cosby's Image May Never Be the Same.”

Like old-fashioned muckraking, smearing people for political advantage is nothing new but it has recently become ‘respectable’ enough for the smearing to be done proudly, with no holds barred.

Consider the political blogsite DailyKos. The site is widely quoted by mainstream media and has broken several hot news stories, such as GannonGate. On March 4th, DailyKos announced a www.dailykos.com/story/2005/3/4/132335/4297 deliberate smear campaign against Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve System. In order to perform “a halo-ectomy…[on] St. Alan”, the site is encouraging a co-ordinated effort to dredge up “anything Greenspan has ever written, said or done that reflects poorly on him.” This includes an expose of “Andrea Mitchell, his NBC reporter wife.”

How can the smear campaigns be ended?

The answer is simple and it can start with Cosby.

People should refuse to watch broadcasts or read newspapers that present gossip as news or use political smears. As a final irony, they should buy The National Enquirer instead.

Why Men Earn More

Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap And What Women Can Do About It is Warren Farrell’s latest book, and a fascinating read. It has stirred vigorous and predictable debate about what causes the ‘wage gap’ by which the average female employee is said to earn approximately 80 cents for every dollar paid to a man.

But what I view as Farrell’s most controversial point remains undiscussed. Namely, should women use affirmative action that is, government-mandated preference to ‘correct’ the free market’s wage gap and make more money? Farrell, who is usually associated with male empowerment, says “yes.” He provides detailed advice on how to do so, for example through tax-funded tuition and other programs unavailable to men.

The first part of the book revolves around refuting feminism’s explanation of the wage gap: namely that it results from rampant discrimination against women in the workplace.

Many arguments surrounding the wage gap are not addressed, however. For example, women’s lack of access to various factory jobs due to union policies and attitudes. But addressing such arguments is not the book’s purpose. Refuting the specific feminist claim of discrimination is. And Farrell ably accomplishes this goal on two levels.

First, he cites research and extensive government data to demonstrate that women who compete for the same job often earn more than men, not less.

In Table 6, Farrell compares the starting salaries for women and men with Bachelor’s Degrees in 26 categories of employment, from investment banker to dietician. Women are paid equally in one category; in every other category, their starting salaries exceeds men’s. A female investment banker’s starting salary is 116% of a man’s. A female dietician’s is 130%; that is, $23,160 compared to $17,680.

Second, Farrell analyzes the data that does reflect a wage gap. But rather than seeing oppression in the data, he perceives free choice.

He argues: women commonly prefer jobs with shorter and more flexible hours to accommodate the demands of family. Compared to men, they generally favor jobs that involve little danger, no travel and good social skills. Such jobs generally pay less.

Farrell rejects the conclusion of ‘discrimination’ because it does not reflect the fact that female employees express different preferences than males.

Men’s rights advocate Carey Roberts www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2005/0112roberts.html identifies one such difference. “[T]he sheer amount of work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time men clock an average of 45 hours a week, while women put in 42 hours. Men are more than twice as likely as women to work at least 50 hours a week."

Women’s lifestyle choices partly explain their absence from certain professions, especially dangerous ones. Roberts observes, “Men represent www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.t04.htm 92% of all occupational deaths. Why? Because if you look at a list of the most hazardous occupations - fire fighting, truck driving, construction, and mining - they have 96-98% male employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Farrell believes that women can make the same salaries as men and enter “male professions” if they are willing to make the same employment choices. Accordingly, he offers practical advice to women, much of which is extremely useful.

Nevertheless, I balk whenever Farrell offers advice on how to maximize government privileges at the expense of men, who must compete at a disadvantage and pay taxes for programs that exclude them from benefits.

For example, under the heading “Get Hazard Pay Without the Hazards,” Farrell tells women to enter dangerous occupations. There they can reap the same salary as men while avoiding comparable risk because employers who are compelled to hire women commonly shield them from risks. Thus, Farrell explains, women get a ’death professions bonus’ with not much more physical risk than in everyday life.”

Using the military as an example, Farrell argues that women “comprise approximately 15% of active-duty military personnel, and 10% of those deployed in Iraq.” Yet women constitute approximately 2.6% of soldiers killed in Iraq; men constitute 97.4%. Indeed, “in the Marines and Air Force it’s a 100% chance of returning.” That’s because a daughter is “much more likely to choose, or be chosen for, the military’s safer fields.”

(Of course, many women don’t wish to be “shielded” from the job they signed on to do. Others find it offensive for policies to assume women can’t or shouldn’t work on an equal footing beside men. Such women do not wish to exploit those policies; they want to change them.)

Farrell offers an explanation as to why women’s safety becomes a priority. “Whether…on an Alaskan fishing boat or in the American military, men’s protective instinct toward women, and women’s protective instinct toward themselves (and children) keeps men more disposable than women.”

In short, men will assume greater risk to protect a woman co-worker. Farrell calls this male protective instinct “touching.”

But quite another factor underlies the situations that continue to make men “more disposable”: government policy. Indeed, even private industry commonly implements preference for women’s safety out of fear of lawsuits for harms such as exposure to chemicals or other stress during pregnancy.

A government that discriminates on the basis of sex or race violates a basic principle of justice. The law must apply to every human being equally.

This is the core of my disagreement: Farrell believes in affirmative action and, so, advises women to ‘game the system’ in order to make money. I reject affirmative action and, so, seek to eliminate the system in order to make justice.

Nevertheless Why Men Earn More goes on my reference shelf as a book I will quote and re-read despite disagreements.

Sexual Harassment Policies Need Reform

Parents -- lock up your sons and daughters! From grade school to grad symposiums, school corridors are more sexually dangerous than city streets. That's the message some parents will take away from two recent and closely connected events. It is a wrong message, based on fear mongering and bias rather than fact.

The two events: On January 30th, www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,184261,00.html a 6-year-old Massachusetts schoolboy allegedly slipped two fingers into the back waistband of a female classmate who was in front of him in class; he said she'd poked him first. The school reported the boy to the police and the local district attorney's office for sexual harassment. Perhaps because Massachusetts' criminal law does not apply to anyone under 7, no charges ensued. Instead, the boy was suspended from school for three days.

A week earlier, on January 24th, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Education Foundation released a report: www.aauw.org/research/dtl.cfm "Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus (2006)". The gist: despite decades of aggressive and hugely expensive anti-harassment campaigns, children have a 62% chance of suffering sexual harassment if they step onto a campus.

"Drawing the Line" continues a theme advanced by the AAUW in an earlier report www.aauw.org/research/girls_education/hostile.cfm "Hostile Hallways: Bullying, Teasing, and Sexual Harassment in School" (2001). From elementary school onward, "Hostile Hallways" found 83% of girls and 79% of boys experienced sexual harassment.

The AAUW usually follows such reports with policy recommendations or guidebooks that detail how to crackdown on harassers. For example, "Hostile Hallways" was followed by the guidebook www.aauw.org/ef/harass/pdf/completeguide.pdf "Harassment-Free Hallways" (2003). The AAUW is widely credited with spreading awareness of and zero tolerance toward sexual harassment throughout the education system.

Greg Lukianoff, President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), thinks they should be credited with spreading gross misinformation and wholesale panic. Lukianoff www.thefire.org/index.php/article/6727.html attacks "Drawing the Line" (and other AAUW material) on the fundamentals. He rejects their definition of sexual harassment.

Lukianoff starts with the www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/qa-sexharass.html Department of Education's definition: "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature…so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it affects a student's ability to participate in or benefit from an education program or activity, or creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment." This is a legal definition which many, like me, would argue is far too broad and vague.

The definition offered by the AAUW is broader and vaguer. "Drawing the Line" defines sexual harassment as "unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior which interferes with your life" (p2). Fifteen types of behavior constitute sexual harassment. Topping the report's list are "sexual comments, jokes, gestures, or looks."

In short, if someone shoots an unwanted "sexual look" your way, you've been sexually harassed. (Presumably the recipient of the look judges the sexual content as well as the 'welcome factor'.)

"Drawing the Line" then asks surveyed students, "During your whole college life" has anyone ever directed "sexual comments, jokes, gestures, or looks" toward you or anyone you know personally? (pp.2-3)

The question echoes one asked in "Harassment-Free Hallways." Right after a 'stats panel' stating that over 80% of their peers report harassment, students are asked about their own experience of "sexual comments, jokes, teasing, gestures, or looks." In essence, they are asked, "are you like other kids?"

Given the broad definition and how questions suggest their own answers, it is not surprising that AAUW finds sexual harassment running rampant.

It is surprising that schools so often use AAUW-style definitions to set policy. At best, the AAUW reports are interesting sociological surveys of how students view their environment. Realistically, they are biased and self-administered reports from students, who are often children. They should never be a basis for law or policy.

As Lukianoff observes, this is precisely what has happened. "With millions of students allegedly believing they were 'harassed' by merely rude or bawdy speech, it is no wonder that colleges and universities are inundated with frivolous harassment claims and lawsuits." Thus, the created hysteria "endangers free expression while trivializing actual harassment."

In grade schools, it also criminalizes normal childhood behavior like poking a boy or girl you like. Some view the suspended Massachusetts 6-year-old as an extreme example to be dismissed as an aberration.

The facts frown upon this interpretation. The school's reaction was not isolated. Since 1996, when www.time.com/time/international/1996/961007/education.html 6-year-old Johnathan Prevette was separated from his classmates in Lexington, N.C. for kissing a little girl on the cheek, similar reports have been in the news. (And they are only the ones that are noticed.)

Moreover, the Massachusetts School Committee in question defines sexual harassment as "uninvited physical contact such as touching, hugging, patting or pinching." The boy's behavior fit that description. When confronted by an outraged mother, school officials defended their actions as 'by the book.' Indeed, school superintendent Basan Nembirkow www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/02/11/in_brockton_boys_parents_hire_lawyer/ said the matter "got out of hand" because the district's sexual harassment policy was closely followed.

What does it say of a law that is blatantly unjust when enforced as written?

I think it says the law should be scrapped along with the assumptions it rode in on. The law should be ripped to shreds, not just modified.

The Massachusetts school is modifying its policy in the face of overwhelmingly hostile media coverage and www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2006/02/11/schools_change_policy_parents_hire_lawyer/ a pending lawsuit. That's an inadequate step in the right direction.

Another step is to hold the AAUW responsible for the harm wrought to children by biased reports that lump "comments, jokes, teasing, gestures, or looks" in with real violence.

Cyberstalking or Free Expression

Fiery debate surrounds Section 113 of the thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c109:6:./temp/~c109RIMnjs : Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Is the new law www.theinquirer.net/?article=28971 'evil' or merely redundant? Will it destroy Internet communications as we know them or have no effect? Do members of Congress actually read the measures upon which they vote?

The last-minute addition, also entitled "Preventing Cyberstalking," was www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=4620 signed into law by President Bush on January 5th. Section 113 amends www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode47/usc_sec_47_00000223----000-.html 47 U.S.C. 223, the telecommunications harassment statute that is rooted in the Communications Act of 1934.

The telecommunications statute prohibits anyone from using a telephone or a telecommunications device "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person." In application this has meant that you cannot anonymously annoy another person through the phone lines. Penalties include two years in prison and onerous fines.

Section 113 amends the statute to include "any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet." (Click people.delphiforums.com/Nursevic/eannoy/eannoy2.html here to see the specific additions to and deletions.)

On January 9th, electronic-freedom guru Declan McCullagh published news.com.com/Create+an+e-annoyance%2C+go+to+jail/2010-1028_3-6022491.html?part=rss&tag=6022491&subj=news an article entitled "Create an e-annoyance, go to jail." Almost instant furor ensued.

McCullagh opened by declaring, "It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity."

McCullagh and those who agree with his interpretation of Section 113 represent 'the law is evil and will damage the Internet' side of the debate. Their news.com.com/FAQ+The+new+annoy+law+explained/2100-1028_3-6025396.html?tag=nl warnings revolve around the two "A"s: "annoyance" and "anonymous".

First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh volokh.com/posts/chain_1136873535.shtml argues that Section 113, if consistently applied, will criminalize annoying Web speech that is also meant to inform. For example, the anonymous creator of a blog that criticizes a politician may sincerely wish the target to become uncomfortable enough with public backlash to change his or her behavior. If the site engages in damaging lies, then existing libel laws apply. Otherwise the right to state opinions under a pen name has been generally recognized by the First Amendment, with certain exceptions such as threats.

The parallel of a 'pen name' is significant because Section 113 does not merely extend traditional protections from an old technology (phones) to a new one (the Internet). The Web is more like publishing than telecommunication. Phone calls are considered one-on-one communications and so, as Volokh comments, they are "rarely of very much First Amendment value." By contrast, the Internet is public speech. This fact alone makes Section 113 different in kind from 47 U.S.C. 223 and not merely an extension of the same principle.

Moreover, "annoyance" and "intent to annoy" are unconstitutionally vague terms. By contrast, harassment seems well defined: stalking, impersonating someone, threats, sending viruses through email, libel, contacting a target's family and co-workers. Critics of Section 113 are **not** defending a 'right' to harass but the right to be publicly annoying, which is no more than freedom of speech.

As someone who runs electronic Bulletin Boards, I've seen both harassment and annoyance in practice. Annoyance is when a churlish poster uses a screen name to flame another member because of a comment on Iraq or abortion. Harassment is what recently led to my closing a BB; a member's real name was 'outed' and his 'real life' was shadowed by threats. As it stands, Section 113 makes no distinction between childish and menacing behavior.

Interestingly, those who argue against McCullagh do not necessarily argue for Section 113. Rather, they point to the irrelevance of the "annoyance" reference. Former Justice Department prosecutor Orin Kerr volokh.com/posts/chain_1136873535.shtml states that the statute and VAWA amendment can only be used to prohibit speech that is not protected by the First Amendment. In short, free speech protections still apply to the Internet.

Daniel Solove, associate professor at the George Washington University Law School, www.concurringopinions.com/archives/2006/01/annoy_someone_o.html#comments maintains that an anti-anonymity provision will apply only in cases when the annoyance is part of harassment.

Others argue that Section 113 will not be applied outside of the context of its title: "Preventing Cyberstalking." But those who remember how the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), originally written to target organized crime, was eventually used www.religioustolerance.org/abo_rico.htm against pro-life groups in the 'abortion wars' will not be reassured.

With experts and attorneys already contradicting each other, two things seem clear.

First, we will discover what Section 113 truly means when someone challenges the law. A candidate being mentioned on the Internet is Annoy.com; the site offers a "service by which people send www.annoy.com/postcards/ politically incorrect postcards without being required to furnish their identity." The site owner Clinton Fein has www.annoy.com/editorials/doc.html?DocumentID=100761 a history of "seeking declaratory and injunctive relief" against the Communications Decency Act of 1996 through which "indecent" computer communication that is intended to "annoy" was criminalized. Fein www.annoy.com/sectionless/doc.html?DocumentID=100763 believes Section 113 "warrant[s] a constitutional challenge."

Second, this is a hastily written, bad law that was tacked onto a popular bill. Section 113 may seek to protect against real threats or violence but its language is so vague as to endanger much broader political discussion.

It illustrates why the organization Downsize DC is promoting a www.downsizedc.org/read_the_laws.shtml "Read the Bills Act", which Act would require Congressmen to read measures before voting on them.

It is sad that such a commonsense goal sounds utopian.

Questions to Ask Scientific Authority

A spotlight focuses on the fraud committed by South Korean scientist www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,182344,00.html Hwang Woo-suk who claimed to have created human cells from cloned embryos. Less attention centers on scientist www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1986322,00.html Miodrag Stojkovic who was instrumental in cloning the first human embryo in Britain. Stojkovic recently resigned from his celebrated post at Newcastle University. Now doing research in Spain, he is leveling accusations of scientific impropriety toward former colleagues.

Stem cell research may be the most sensational and explosive scientific development of recent years. But the most heralded breakthrough was a massive fraud; another has prompted a pioneering scientist to cry "foul." It becomes important to remember the admonition, 'Question Authority.'

Medical research is an arcane mystery to lay people, like me, who must rely to an uncomfortable degree upon expert opinions. We live under the medical and political policies that can often proceed from research. Our hopes hinge on technologies like stem cell research which may point to cures for diabetes or Alzheimer's. Our fear creates opportunities for modern versions of snake-oil remedies: for example, the "genetic tests" sold on the Internet which allegedly measure the risk of developing diseases but which scientists call www.guardian.co.uk/genes/article/0,,1697961,00.html a "waste of money."

Ideally, an educated media asks the skeptical questions that protect public interest. That ideal is rare. And, so, 'Question Authority' becomes personal responsibility. But which questions should be asked?

The facts of the two controversies provide some guidance.Hwang was a case of outright fraud but Stojkovic's research has not been discredited. Rather, his allegations concern misconduct in how research has been credited and presented. One criticism: the university ignored sound scientific practice by announcing a breakthrough to the press before peer review had been conducted. The timing seemed designed to steal publicity from the then-lauded Hwang whose paper hit the press at the same moment.

The respected weekly journal of science Nature responded with www.nature.com/nature/journal/v435/n7042/full/435538a.html an editorial (June 2, 2005) entitled "Too much, too soon: How not to promote your latest research findings in the media." Key to Nature's condemnation was the fact that a "full research paper is kept confidential until it is accepted and published" which meant that the media did not have access either to the Newcastle team's data or to an informed review. They were merely given conclusions with which to run.

Stojkovic, who co-operated with the press announcement, now claims to have been blind-sided by the university.

Whatever the truth, commonsense questions should be asked Hwang, the Newcastle team and every other researcher.

The first question pertains to the nature of any claim. Are the results `statistical' or do they proceed from an unambiguous 'yes/no' experiment?

Statistical results generally involve observing data from which correlations can be drawn to indicate possible cause-and-effect. An example is the much-acclaimed research on mouth cancer for which www.wwaytv3.com/Global/story.asp?S=4416854&nav=menu70_8 Dr. Jon Sudbo of the Norwegian Radium Hospital observed a database of 908 participants. Sudbo has www.health24.com/news/General_health/1-915,34436.asp admitted to fabricating his database. Many questions addressed to statistical studies involve little more than closely analyzing the specifics of the data. For example, when 250 of the 908 people studied by Sudbo shared the same birth date, a red flag should have fluttered.

Results, such as those claimed by Hwang and the Newcastle team, are 'yes/no.' That is to say, the cells and embryos were either cloned in the manner indicated, or not. The questions addressed to 'yes/no' experiments may be more fundamental than those addressed to statistical claims but all research should be able to answer them. Those questions include:

Is the report, including all data and methodology, available for examination? If not, then the researcher is asking you to accept his word for the findings.

What is the researcher's reputation? More credibility should be accorded to the claims of a scientist with a sound track record than to an unknown factor who comes out of nowhere.

Who funds the research? A questionable source of money does not invalidate research but public skepticism should sharpen if the funder stands to profit from a specific finding and, indeed, that finding results.

Have the findings been independently verified? Claims should be sufficiently documented to allow replication. (Unfortunately non-scientific concerns, like patents, sometimes interfere with disclosure.)

Does the claim contradict previous data? A breakthrough that achieves a difficult result is qualitatively different than one that achieves a result previously believed impossible. A 'paradigm shift' demands a high degree of proof because it involves invalidating previous findings.

Does the claim include policy recommendations or changes in law? Research that includes a political agenda is more likely to express the researcher's personal beliefs than work that merely states data and findings.

What is the response of the scientific community?

Where was the research published? The differing levels of prestige for scientific journals has been quantified in terms of their en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_Factor "impact factor." If a researcher publishes in a low impact journal, then asking 'why' becomes appropriate.

The preceding questions do not guarantee that fraudulent or incompetent work will be detected. For example, Hwang's work was heralded by the prestigious news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4608352.stm Science. Sudbo's work was published in both the New England Journal of Medicine (April 2004) and the Journal of Clinical Oncology (March 2005). The scientific community, like the media, is simply not doing its job.

Thus, asking these questions becomes more necessary. The claims of scientific authority should receive the same skepticism that usually greets similarly bold claims of political authority. Both impact your life and are your business.

Kidnapping Plot Robs Father's Rights Group of Credibility

Recently, the media decried www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,181995,00.html an alleged plot by fathers' rights extremists to kidnap Prime Minister Tony Blair's 5-year-old son Leo. Subsequent reports have skidded from outrage to skepticism, from the death of an organization to the birth of a movie deal. What actually happened and what does it mean to the fathers' rights movement?

On Wednesday, the front page of the UK newspaper The Sun www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2006020727,00.html announced 'Plot to kidnap Leo Blair. Cops foil Fathers 4 Justice extremists'.

The F4J group www.fathers-4-justice.org/ is world renowned for pranks that involve flamboyant costumes and for making security police look like idiots. For example, news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3652502.stm last September an F4J member dressed as Batman breached security at Buckingham Palace to unfurl a banner from one of its balconies.

His protest, along with other F4J stunts, was intended to publicize the need of estranged and responsible fathers to have equitable access to their children. Indeed, one of F4J's stated www.fathers-4-justice.org/campaign_objectives/index.htm "campaign objectives" is to "establish a legal presumption to contact" for all parents.

Skepticism quickly surrounded the Sun's report of a kidnapping plot. The Guardian, a competing newspaper, called it www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1692232,00.html " self-evident tripe" and wondered why, if the report were true, no arrests had occurred. The Telegraph asked why police were "blathering" to the Sun "when all [other] stories about the security of the Prime Minister and his family are rightly blanketed in official secrecy?"

Conspiracy theories have floated. For example, the report was payback by a humiliated police force, members of whom had infiltrated F4J and pushed for violence. Or, the story was politically planted on the same day that Blair's Government declared a radical new plan www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/01/20/do2001.xml&sSheet=/portal/2006/01/20/ixportal.html to rein in "absentee fathers who fail to pay for their children's upkeep." The government proposes to turn that debt collection over to private companies from its much-criticized and disliked Child Support Agency.

On the other hand, the Sun's editor and staunch feminist Rebekah Wade might just be getting back at men's rights activists who crowed when she was www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/showbiz/showbiznews.html?in_article_id=367490&in_page_id=1773&ct=5 arrested for assaulting her husband.

Whatever motives may lurk in the shadows, one thing is clear. The alleged kidnapping plot itself seems to have consisted of vague pub chatter that was reported to or overheard by authorities. The police later said they did not take the 'plot' seriously because they didn't believe F4J could pull it off.

Nevertheless, F4J's founder Matt O'Connor www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,182102,00.html disbanded the UK group within hours of the Sun's report. O'Connor told Channel 4 News that the group could not continue due to negative publicity from the incident. (The Dutch branch has suspended operations but it is not clear how other branches will ultimately respond.)

O'Connor also claimed that voices of rage had started to dominate and destroy the fathers' rights campaign in England. He told the www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2017161,00.html Times that "extremists" had wanted to "take out" opponents by running them over with cars and "about three months ago there was a serious threat to firebomb a Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) office." He spoke of a father who threatened to commit suicide in front of Tony Blair

What does this mean to the fathers' rights movement, especially to the branches of F4J in the www.fathers-4-justice.us/ United States and www.fathers.ca/ Canada which still operate?

One meaning is as a cautionary tale against using violence as a strategy for social reform.

Unless revealed as a set-up, the alleged kidnapping plot discredits the UK group and validates the worst predictions of its enemies. The plot justifies repressive measures of control: for example, the private and more efficient collection of the child support debts that F4J believes are unjust unless coupled with reasonable child visitation. Indeed, the very spectre of violence may have erased much of the progress achieved by earlier non-violent activism.

Perhaps this is why O'Connor admitted to Channel 4 that F4J had been a failure and news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4622880.stm told the BBC, "I am very angry and upset that this organisation has been undermined by the very people it is supposed to serve." The people to whom he is referring are presumably the estranged fathers who choose violence as a strategy.

Meanwhile, an added twist has heightened skepticism about F4J, the alleged kidnapping plot, and O'Connor himself.

The London News www.fathers.ca/ announced last Friday that Disney-owned Miramax has bought the story rights to a proposed F4J movie that O'Connor says "will be tragedy but…very funny." The script will end with the demise of F4J. The deal has www.thisislondon.co.uk/films/articles/21483390?source=Metro reportedly been in the works for at least two years. O'Connor is also working on an autobiography.

And, so, one last conspiracy theory arises. Was the kidnapping plot and media-soaked collapse of F4J just another flamboyant stunt to promote a movie and a book?

I doubt the truth will ever be known. Even the comparatively easy-to-verify reality of the 'kidnapping plot' is unlikely to emerge since no one seems interested in an investigation.

If an investigation does occur, the victim it will reveal is probably the man-on-the-street. He is the average and responsible father who is estranged from his children. He gets up every day with a hole in his heart and tries to summon enough stamina to plead one more time with the family court or a government bureaucrat to see his son or daughter. This man needs compassion, solid arguments, publicity and justice…not violence.

It is this man that violence as a strategy damages the most.

A Different Look at Betty Friedan's Legacy

Betty Friedan (1921-2017) www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,183827,00.html died recently at the age of 85. Eulogies have stacked up quickly for the feminist icon: Friedan founded modern feminism; she rescued women from the '50s; she pioneered the brave 'new woman' who now strides through society.

I disagree with those eulogies about the content of Friedan's legacy. The disagreement contains no malice; because Friedan is a public and now-historical figure, an accurate view of her social impact is simply necessary.

Accuracy may be especially important as the impact of her death is already being used (or abused) by various political organizations and agendas. For example, www.now.org/press/02-06/02-04.html the press release from the National Organization for Women, which Friedan was instrumental in founding in 1966, reads like a fundraiser. At the other end of the spectrum, some www.standyourground.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8239 masculinist groups "rejoice in the fact that her hateful voice is now silenced."

A starting point of consensus on Friedan is possible, even among extremes. She was a remarkable woman who deeply influenced the culture of her time. But for better or worse? -- that's where battle engages.

Some of the 'facts' and assumptions about her life advanced in the eulogies demand closer examination.

Assumption One: Friedan was an apolitical housewife who had an 'aha' moment.

The New York Times sums up www.nytimes.com/2006/02/04/national/05cnd-friedan.html?pagewanted=3&_r=1&adxnnl=0&adxnnlx=1139116031-FFyTOfwLU6uxpLB4oRZ8yQ its eulogy with the observation that Friedan will "be forever known as the suburban housewife who started a revolution with The Feminine Mystique" (TFM), her best-selling book (1963). Although TFM capitalized upon and thus acknowledged Friedan's ivy-league education, it also presented her as a basically apolitical homemaker who stumbled across political truth through viewing her own domestic circumstances. This is myth.

In his award-winning book Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminist Mystique: The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism (1998), Professor Daniel Horowitz of Smith College www.salon.com/col/horo/1999/01/nc_18horo2.html documented Friedan's ideological roots. From college days through to her mid-30s, Friedan was a consistent and committed Marxist. She was a veteran labor journalist and union activist/pamphleteer with extensive publishing savvy. Rather than suddenly drawing political conclusions from her domestic experience, Friedan clearly brought prior conclusions to her experience, which she interpreted through them.

Assumption Two: Friedan was representative of American women.

TFM argued that Friedan's reported experience of being caged in the oppressive, dehumanizing role of mother and housewife was shared by millions of American women. In TFM's preface, Friedan stated, "Gradually, without seeing it clearly for quite a while, I came to realize that something is very wrong with the way American women are trying to lives their lives today."

The en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Friedan very history of TFM refutes the claim that Friedan's experiences were representative.

As part of her 15th reunion at Smith College, Friedan conducted a survey of graduates, which asked them about satisfaction with their lives. The resulting article, which focused on the dissatisfaction of those who became homemakers, was widely rejected by editors. Friedan eventually expanded the article into TFM.

Thus, the book reflected the subjective evaluation of an elite class of women. Indeed, Friedan www.academia.org/campus_reports/1999/april_1999_6.html employed a full-time maid to pursue her career as a writer. As Rosemarie Tong remarked in Feminist Thought (1998), "Friedan seemed oblivious to any other perspectives than those of white, middle-class, heterosexual, educated women who found the traditional roles of wife and mother unsatisfying."

More recent scholarship questions whether Friedan even accurately represented the domesticity of upper or middle-class white women. (See Joanne Meyerowitz's "Rewriting Postwar Women's History 1945-1960.")

Although TFM clearly inspired women who wanted more independence, this is not to say that Friedan's life was representative. In the '60s, everyone seemed to demand "more"; everyone blamed society. And men may have been equally unhappy with their role as sole provider.

Assumption Three: Friedan was a moderate within feminism.

Friedan's reputation as a moderate springs largely from her rejection of anti-male rhetoric and of lesbianism as a feminist issue. She believed www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-02-04-friedan-obit_x.htm both would harm feminism's mainstream appeal. Friedan's stand against "the bra-burning, anti-man, politics-of-orgasm school" led other prominent feminists like Susan Brownmiller to denounce her. But neither her rejection of lesbianism nor the criticism of colleagues makes Friedan moderate.

TFM does not contain the Marxist rhetoric that characterizes later gender feminist writing but its message is no less radical. The chapter entitled "Progressive Dehumanization" draws a lengthy and explicit parallel between housewives and prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, both of whom are "walking corpses." Friedan's assessment of the housewife may well have been instrumental in the decades-long devaluation of women who chose that option. She wrote, "Housewives are mindless and thing-hungry…Housework is peculiarly suited to the capabilities of feeble-minded girls; it can hardly use the abilities of a woman of average or normal human intelligence." As Carol Iannone www.mugu.com/cgi-bin/Upstream/Issues/fem/MODERA.html remarked, for Friedan, "submitting to the traditional feminine role was nothing less than an embrace of nonbeing."

Assumption Four: Friedan was crucial to sparking a revolution in women's status.

Without access to parallel realities as a basis of comparison, who knows how feminism might have evolved without TFM? I believe 'women's liberation' was an idea whose time had come. I think it sprang from a combination: the economic freedom women acquired during World War II; a postwar prosperity that encouraged personal growth; and, the unwillingness of a new generation to accept old values. A surge of feminism would have occurred with or without any particular individual.

But, as an individual, Friedan did influence the direction of that surge. For doing so, many offer eulogies. All I can say with honesty is "rest in peace."

Mail Order Bride Law Brands U.S. Men Abusers

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=4620 signed by President Bush on January 5th, contains an almost unnoticed attachment. Subtitle D, also known as the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBA), will become law when VAWA is enacted. The IMBA is an ostensibly noble measure with a surprising and ominous twist.

The scant attention directed toward the IMBA has been positive. heraldnet.com/stories/05/12/19/100loc_b1bride001.cfm A headline in Washington State's The Daily Herald announced, "Mail-order brides gain protection" with the subtitle "The mother of a murdered immigrant hopes that pending federal legislation will keep foreign brides from abuse, neglect and slavery."

The "murdered immigrant" refers to heraldnet.com/stories/05/12/22/100edi_editorial001.cfm Anastasia King, a 'mail-order bride' from the former Soviet Union. In 2000, King was murdered by her husband in Washington State where the case created a sensation largely because the husband had violently assaulted a previous mail-order bride. Thus, the IMBA was introduced to Congress by Washington State Rep. Rick Larsen and Sen. Maria Cantwell who championed the measure for years.

Some parts sound reasonable. For example, U.S. consulates will provide 'mail-order' brides with brochures that explain their legal rights.

Other parts sound draconian. For example, the IMBA requires American men who wish to correspond with foreign women through private for-profit matchmaking agencies to first provide those businesses with their police records and other personal information to be turned over to the women.

Corresponding with a foreigner is legal. Marrying a foreigner is legal. Immigrating spouses and their husbands go through rigorous and lengthy screening before visas are issued. Mail-order brides in the U.S. are protected by laws against violence.

Now American men who wishes to pursue a legal activity must release their government files to a foreign business and foreign individuals for their personal benefit.

(Note: the Act's language is gender-neutral but its clear purpose is to protect foreign women from predatory American men. Application to 'male-order' husbands would be incidental as such 'brides' are relatively rare.)

The disclosure requirement is detailed under the provision entitled "Obligations of International Marriage Broker With Respect to Mandatory Collection of Information."

An international broker cannot provide contact or general information on a foreign woman to an American man unless that broker first collects and discloses to the woman the following information about the man:

--every state of residence since the age of 18;

--current or previous marriages as well as how and when they terminated;

--information on children under 18;

--any arrest or conviction related to controlled substances, alcohol or prostitution, making no distinction on arrests not leading to conviction;

--any court orders, including temporary restraining orders which are notoriously easy to procure;

--any arrest or conviction for crimes ranging from "homicide" to "child neglect";

--any arrest or conviction for "similar activity in violation of Federal, State or local criminal law" without specifying what "similar" means.

U.S. law will provide foreign women with extensive government information on American suitors which is not similarly offered to American women.

Nor should it be.

Contacting a woman for romantic purposes -- internationally or domestically -- is not a crime. Those who do so are not apriori criminals who must prove themselves innocent before being allowed an email exchange.

How many American men will be impacted by the IMBA? http://heraldnet.com/stories/05/12/19/100loc_b1bride001.cfmAccording to Rep. Larsen, between 8,000 and 12,000 American men find foreign wives through for-profit brokers each year. Presumably, a considerably higher number attempt but fail to find a wife who successfully emigrates.

Next to no statistics are available on how many 'mail-order' marriages are happy. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/07/05/politics/main561828.shtml A report on "the problem" by CBS accurately states, "No firm statistics exist on the extent of abuse suffered by mail-order brides, or even the numbers of such women."

The few media accounts that provided background for the IMBA referred to two 'mail-order brides' who were murdered: Anastasia King in 2000, and Susanna Blackwell in 1995. The murders are deplorable.

But no solid foundation of data underlies Sen. Cantwell's claim of "a growing epidemic of domestic abuse among couples who meet through a broker." There is no reason to believe that violence against mail-order brides is higher than against women in general. No evidence supports the criminalization of every American man who looks overseas for a wife.

And, yet, such men are easy targets. Men who seek wives abroad often explicitly state that women here are not worth marrying because they are too independent, ruined by feminism, or 'fill in the pejorative blank.' If some of those ideal wives subsequently say "goodbye" at the first glimpse of a green card, I can't muster much sympathy.

What I do sympathize with, however, are the privacy rights of people who are considered guilty until proven innocent. This is especially true when a government violates the privacy of its own citizens to benefit foreign individuals.

What view of the American man does the IMBA broadcast to the world?

American men are so predatory and violent that the U.S. government must protect foreign women by providing police checks before allowing the men to say "hello." The "Ugly American" has become an article of federal law, supported by Congress.

Abolish Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Unruh Civil Rights Act, Civil Code section 51(b), stipulates that business establishments must provide "full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services" and not discriminate on the basis of "sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, or medical condition." The businesses in question include, but are not limited to, hotels, non-profit organizations, restaurants, theaters, retail establishments, and beauty shops. Arguably, California claims control over the customer policies of every business in the state.

In 1995, the California Supreme Court online.ceb.com/calcases/CA3/214CA3d646.htm decided a case in which a woman demanded entry into an exclusive men-only golf club. The court ruled that private clubs operating as businesses were required to follow state laws against discrimination.

That's the law in California. But is it just, or does the law itself constitute a violation of individual rights?

The facts confronting the Body Central conflict are not in question.

In 2003, Phillip Kottle was refused membership at the women-only gym in Santa Rosa on the basis of his sex. A few months earlier, Kottle had attempted to gain full membership at the Elan Fitness Center in nearby Petaluma, which offered only restricted access to men. (Acting on his complaint, the DFEH www.fitnessbusiness-pro.com/mag/fitness_womenonly_clubs_face/index.html also filed a suit against Elan, which was settled in January 2005 on the condition that men have full access to classes and facilities, with the exception of lockers and showers.)

The DFEH concluded that Body Central was in violation of the Unruh Act and, in 2004, the owner signed a settlement agreement by which the club was opened to men. Separate shower facilities were to be provided; a monetary settlement was offered to Kottle; women-only advertisements were withdrawn; the club's staff received anti-discrimination training. In return, the DFEH ceased its enforcement action against Body Central.

The DFEH's renewed action against the club alleges violations of the 2004 agreement and points to such transgressions as language on the club's website. For example, Body Central www.bodycentralwomen.com/about_us.htm states, "We specialize in fitness for women, with a women only policy you get the privacy of the entire gym."

The owner may have gambled on the possibility that California would ultimately ignore a cause as unpopular as a man forcing his way into a woman's gym. After all, the cost of compliance is high. Body Central's equipment and facilities are geared exclusively for women's specific needs, and other gyms have gone bankrupt under the financial strain of expanding to accommodate both sexes. If so, the gamble lost. A "status conference" on the DFEH lawsuit is set to be heard in April before the Superior Court.

The facts may be clear but the appropriateness of involving law in the customer policies of a private business is in dispute.

An ideological conflict underlies the attempt by either sex to force open the doors of 'exclusive' businesses: individual rights versus egalitarianism. Under individual rights, every human being has control over the peaceful use of his or her own body and property. Under egalitarianism, access to and use of property is equally distributed across society, with or without the consent of owners.

I come down on the side of individual rights.

In terms of Body Central, I don't believe any man or woman has a legal 'right' to exercise on someone else's private property. I do not believe anyone has a moral obligation to provide another person with exercise. Freedom of association means that individuals, including property owners, have a right to say 'yes' or 'no' at their own front door.

Unfortunately, an emotional element also underlies the conflict. Some men applaud the turn-around as an opportunity to give feminists a taste of their own medicine. In doing so, they adopt the very principles they allegedly decry: egalitarianism, the legal imposition of gender policy, the use of collective 'gender-think.' In short, they become feminists.

Body Central may become not only a test case but also a trial of conscience.

Women who believe in egalitarianism will either apply that principle to men or be confronted by their own hypocrisy. Men who believe feminism's door-busting has been wrong will have to decide whether they value revenge more highly than justice.

As for me, I just hope an unjust law will be extinguished rather than extended.

"For a similar critique of feminists' attempt to force the Augusta National golf club to open its male-only doors to women, please see www.wendymcelroy.com/ifeminists/2003/0225.html

Abuse of Temporary Restraining Orders Endangers Real Victims

On Dec. 15, Santa Fe District Court Judge Daniel Sanchez signed a temporary restraining order against CBS late-night host David Letterman, requiring him to keep his distance from Colleen Nestler.

According to Nestler, for more than 10 years Letterman has been sending coded messages over the airwaves that communicated his desire to marry her. (Nestler has also accused TV personalities Regis Philbin and Kelsey Grammer of communicating with her through televised code.) Letterman says he doesn't know the woman.

Nestler's TRO may be ludicrous, but it highlights a no-nonsense debate on the possible misuse of restraining orders.

A restraining order is a court order "directing one person not to do something, such as make contact with another person, enter the family home or remove a child from the state." They are usually issued to women in regard to domestic violence, stalking and divorces in which violence is alleged.

TROs are "often granted without notice … until a hearing can be held to determine the propriety of any injunctive relief." Nestler's TRO was granted ex parte, meaning only one party was heard by the judge.

The purpose of a restraining order is to protect someone from a credible threat. But the Nestler case raises questions about whether restraining orders have drifted from their original intent.

That permanent restraining orders require a hearing does not reassure skeptics. The judges and courts that issue TROs are the same ones deciding on whether to validate their prior decisions.

Judge Sanchez's reaction to unflattering press coverage is not reassuring, either. According to the newspaper Santa Fe New Mexican, "When asked if he might have made a mistake, Sanchez said 'no.' He also said he had read Nestler's application."

The application accused Letterman of causing mental cruelty, sleep deprivation and bankruptcy. Nestler requested that Letterman not "think of me, and release me from his mental harassment."

Sanchez emphasized reading the application because lawyers in his district have alleged he "often doesn't read legal documents submitted." Since issuing a TRO is within a judge's discretion, it is difficult to say which scenario is more disturbing: an informed judge validating Nestler's delusions or a negligent judge not bothering to read what he signs.

Even more disturbing is whether frivolous or unfounded TROs are commonplace.

Women's groups maintain that abuse of TROs is rare; they believe the issuance and enforcement of restraining orders must be strengthened to save women's lives.

There have been heartbreaking cases.

In early 2005 Gonzales became a cause célèbre of organizations such as the National Association of Women Lawyers. She attempted to sue the police department for not taking her restraining order seriously. The Supreme Court ruled against her.

By contrast, men's and father's rights groups contend that restraining orders and TROs in particular have become standard paperwork in contentious divorces or cases alleging abuse. They consider many TROs to be merely a strategic move by which one adversary harasses the other or acquires leverage in matters such as child custody.

A litmus test of how vulnerable TROs are to abuse is how easy they are to obtain.

Procedures vary from state to state, but the Superior Court of California in Sacramento is typical. The court advises "no filing fees are required. ... [Y]ou must present the application to the clerk no later than 2:45 p.m."

The judge will make a decision on a TRO. Then, "you must personally appear at Window 3 of the Family Law filing counter at 4:00 p.m. [a little over an hour later] … on the same day."

The court's Web page advertises a regular, free class on filling out the application offered by the group "Women Escaping a Violent Environment," which advocates for female victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

In Oregon, DivorceNet provides advice on TROs. As in most states, an applicant need only assert a "fear" of violence even if none has occurred. Some applications can be made by telephone.

The seeming ease with which TROs are issued constitutes a problem for those who wish all restraining orders to be taken seriously. Any court order that can be obtained over the phone by stating a fear, or picked up at Window 3 in a little over an hour, trivializes the process.

But a TRO is not trivial. It is a legal constraint upon another human being's freedom. It should be issued only in the presence of a real threat. False or frivolous applications should be viewed in the same manner as are false police reports.

The order against Letterman was lifted on Tuesday when a New Mexico judge ruled in his favor, but his prominence has placed him in a unique position to stir debate on the use and abuse of restraining orders.

In the '90s he was stalked by a schizophrenic fan who committed suicide after spending years in prison for breaking into Letterman's home.

Earlier this year, his baby son was targeted in an unsuccessful kidnapping-for-ransom scheme. It is unconscionable that an obsessed fan has obtained court approval to harass him further.

Nevertheless, I hope Letterman's legal vindication is not based on the technicalities advanced so far by his lawyers, technicalities such as the contention that the New Mexico court lacks jurisdiction.

I hope his victory is based on the principle that all restraining orders must meet legal standards of fairness and evidence if they are to demand respect.

The Campus Conscience Police

"Over one's inner mind, and self, no one has coercive power."

So write Jordan Lorence and Harvey A. Silverglate, attorneys and authors of the just-published www.thefire.org/index.php/article/5064.html Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus from the www.thefire.org Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The Guide is yet another indication that political correctness is faltering on campuses across North America. To those who value the right of individuals to a conscience -- that is, to judge right and wrong for themselves -- this is welcome news.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness Political correctness (PC) is the belief that certain ideas and attitudes are improper and, so, should be discouraged or prohibited by punishing those who advance them. Conversely, ideas and attitudes that are proper should be encouraged by being enforced.

An example of a politically incorrect idea: inherent biological differences between the two sexes explain why there are more male than female scientists. The correct version: discrimination against women explains the 'gender imbalance' in science, and the discrimination must be remedied.

Both preceding explanations may have merit but PC is not interested in weighing evidence. It acts to quash the ideologically incorrect idea and to champion the correct one.

Last January, when Harvard University President Lawrence Summers raised the mere possibility of biological differences as an explanation for the 'gender imbalance' in science, a vicious PC backlash forced him to mapologize publicly no less than three times. After what some called www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200502u/nj_taylor_2005-02-08 his "Soviet-show-trial-style apologies", Summers made www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2005/05/17/summers_sets_50m_womens_initiative/ an act of contrition by pledging "to spend $50 million over the next decade to improve the climate for women on campus."

PBS Continues Probe into Biased Film

On November 29th, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) issued www.cpb.org/ombudsmen/051129bode.html a report on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary www.tatgelasseur.com/pages/bts.html "Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories." (The CPB oversees the tax-funding and content of PBS.) The documentary, which addressed domestic violence and children, is accused of being anti-father, factually inaccurate, and politically-motivated. Using the words "slanted" and "no hint of balance", www.cpb.org/ombudsmen/050613bode.html CPB Ombudsman Ken A. Bode concluded, "The producers apparently do not subscribe to the idea that an argument can be made more convincing by giving the other side a fair presentation."

Bode wondered whether PBS had been used as "the launching pad for a very partisan effort to drive public policy and law." If so, the documentary violates PBS' www.pbs.org/producers/mission.html mission statement to be non-partisan and "provide multiple viewpoints."

On December 2nd, PBS's own internal ombudsman www.pbs.org/ombudsman/ offered a separate analysis, "I thought this particular program had almost no balance…turning it…into more of an advocacy, or point-of-view, presentation."

"Breaking the Silence" claims that U.S. divorce courts routinely award custody of children to abusive fathers over the objection of mothers. It states, "All over America, battered mothers are losing custody of their children." The theme is stated provocatively; a custody lawyer for mothers declares, "For the father to win custody of the kids over and against the mother's will is the ultimate victory short of killing the kids." The documentary's message is clear: the family courts must be overhauled.

Critics argue that the producers Tatge-Lasseur cherry-picked a few extreme cases that they then presented as though typical.

But even the 'evidence' embodied by those extreme cases has been assailed.

The documentary is accused of mischaracterization. For example, Sadia Loeliger is featured as a heroic mom and survivor of domestic violence. But www.glennsacks.com/pbs/loeliger-codes.php the extensive court documents, findings and reports reveal Loeliger to be guilty of multiple acts of child abuse which led to her losing custody of two daughters. www.glennsacks.com/pbs/loeliger-sadia-dv.php Police documents reveal she was arrested and jailed for felony domestic violence. No similar documents exist regarding the accused father.

The documentary contains blatant misstatements. For example, it claims the American Psychological Association came out against Parental Alienation Syndrome, by which one divorced parent is said to brainwash a child against the other. Actually, the APA takes no stand. Indeed, Tatge-Lasseur subsequently altered their www.tatgelasseur.com/pages/bts_3.html website to state simply that PAS is not recognized by the APA, a statement which is out-of-sync with the film.

The producers are accused of misusing data. "Breaking the Silence" offers no substantiation for its claims but Tatge-Lasseur's website has www.tatgelasseur.com/pages/bts_2.html a resource page. A 1990 Report of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Gender Bias Study Committee is clearly key to the claim that abusive fathers commonly receive custody. That Study found, "fathers who actively seek custody [8.75% of fathers] obtain either primary or joint physical custody over 70% of the time."

Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young accurately cathyyoung.blogspot.com/2005/11/breaking-silence-sorting-out-facts.html observed, "This is a highly misleading claim [as used in the documentary] which implies that men usually win custody battles when they go to court. In fact, the majority of these cases are uncontested -- the fathers have sole or joint custody with the mother's consent."

Moreover, it is not clear that a 15-year-old study conducted in one state is relevant to today's nationwide family court system, which has changed dramatically over recent years.

Mischaracterization, misstatement and misapplied data are damning but they do not add up to the additional concern raised by Bode. Was the tax-funded PBS used as "the launching pad for a very partisan effort to drive public policy and law?" Other explanations for the apparent bias could exist: incompetence or ideological blindness are two. The charge of political partisanship requires a higher standard of evidence.

What would constitute such evidence?

The accused father claims he provided extensive proof of Loeliger's child abuse to Tatge-Lasseur 6 months before the documentary aired. If the producers willfully ignored that proof, then they are wide open to accusations of partisanship and dishonesty. www.mrrc.info/Articles/DemonstrationInfo.html Feminist and domestic violence groups organized state-by-state campaigns around the airing of "Breaking the Silence" with the goal of changing legal policy. Liberal feminist Trish Wilson offers an account of the events in trishwilson.typepad.com/blog/2005/11/breaking_the_si_1.html Massachusetts and in trishwilson.typepad.com/blog/2005/11/more_news_on_sh.html Michigan. If PBS participated in any of the campaigns, then it is guilty of political partisanship.

Consider the Alaska event organized by Paige Hodson of www.custodyprepformoms.org/ Custody Preparation for Moms. Hodson www.mrrc.info/Articles/DemonstrationInfo.html announced, "We have not yet chosen our date, but since we got the PBS affiliate's [KAKM] go-ahead today, we can now pick any date we want and start planning. The local PBS station has said they will help us advertise and promote our event because we will then in turn promote viewing of their screening date on 10/20."

The depth of PBS' (or its affiliates') involvement in partisan politics may be difficult to judge. An members.aol.com/asherah/internal_memo.html internal PBS memo was recently leaked and circulated on the Internet; it instructs PBS affiliates on how to stonewall those who call or email in protest. PBS' final review of the documentary is still pending but the memo is hardly a propitious sign.

I believe PBS should lose all tax privileges and funding. But you need not be a radical to want a straight answer to a simple question from a publicly accountable agency.

Did PBS participate in a partisan push to change the law?

Will Universal Preschool Give All Kids a Head Start

Director, www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/04/19/BAGKJCAU0I1.DTL Democratic activist and child advocate Rob Reiner www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/states/california/northern_california/13195937.htmp has collected the million signatures that guarantee a place on California's June 2006 ballot for his www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr05/yr05rel45.asp "Preschool for All Act." The initiative, which tax-funds preschool for all 4-year-old children in the state, is part of a larger move toward Universal Preschool (UP). Several states, including Georgia and Oklahoma, have adopted the system; other states, including Florida and www.phxnews.com/fullstory.php?article=28345 Arizona, are moving toward adoption.

Advocates view UP as an educational 'silver bullet' that also counters a slew of social ills including poverty, child abuse and crime. Critics wonder why billions should be tossed at expanding a school system that is so grossly failing the children currently in its care. Both sides agree: UP involves increasing government's 'parental' role regarding children. It involves a new bureaucracy that focuses on 4-year-olds.

UP proposals can be confusing because its advocates often differ on key questions such as the source of funding, the inclusion of toddlers, and whether attendance would be compulsory. General agreement exists on two points however: preschool should be available to all; and, UP benefits children.

If successful, California's high-profile campaign may set a standard for other states. Reiner's proposal is to fund UP through a 1.7 percent increase in taxes on annual incomes of $400,000+ for individuals, $800,000+ for married couples; this would generate an estimated $2.4 billion per year. Attendance would be voluntary.

Reiner's campaign may also serve as a model on how to turn UP advocacy into governmental reality. In 1997, Reiner founded the www.iamyourchild.org/ I Am Your Child Foundation (now Parents Action for Children) to fight "for issues such as early education." In 1998, Reiner campaigned successfully for home.earthlink.net/~aladato/reiner.html Proposition 10, a ballot initiative to tax tobacco products in order to fund preschool programs.

That same year, a California Department of Education (CDE) www.4children.org/news/598unpre.htm report called for a half-day of preschool for every 3 or 4-year-old by 2008. Two www.sen.ca.gov/sor/reports/reports_by_year/1998/98issu06.htm bills before the '98 State Legislature unsuccessfully attempted to establish the system. By 2004, Reiner and the California Teachers Association had qualified a UP initiative for the ballot but ultimately withdrew it www.cta.org/News/2004/20040408_1.htm in a joint statement.

In short, California has a long history of activists working in concert with www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/se/yr05preschoolwp.asp various bureaucracies in order to expand both the reach and the funding of the CDE.

As usual, statistics and studies have been flashed in support. Reiner prominently cites a recent www.rand.org/publications/MG/MG349/index.html study by the RAND Corporation, "The Economics of Investing in Universal Preschool Education in California." The study states a hypothetical point with amazing precision, "Using our preferred assumptions, a one-year high-quality universal preschool program in California is estimated to generate about $7,000 in net present value benefits per child…using a 3 percent discount rate. This equals a return of $2.62 for every dollar invested, or an annual rate of return of about 10 percent over a 60-year horizon."

How could anyone object to a system that makes money while helping children? The answer is "easily" and on several grounds.

First, www.pacificresearch.org/pub/cap/2005/cap_05-06-15.html questions have been raised about the RAND study's validity by both Princeton University and the Brookings Institution. Even if valid, however, the study focuses on "disadvantaged" children and its findings may not apply universally. David Elkind, professor of child study at Tufts University, has criticized such "early intervention studies [that] have been uncritically appropriated for middle-class children by parents and educators."

Critics point to Head Start, a federal preschool program established in 1965. Head Start is merely one of the many local, state, and federal government plans that have funded preschool programs for 40 years. And, yet, as the DC-think tank Cato www.cato.org/research/education/articles/nannystate.html observes, "The most comprehensive synthesis of Head Start impact studies to date was published in 1985 by the Department of Health and Human Services. It showed that by the time children enter the second grade, any cognitive, social, and emotional gains by Head Start children have vanished…The net gain to children and taxpayers is zero."

A California-based anti-UP group -- confusingly named universalpreschool.com/"Universal Preschool.com" -- argues that government preschooling actually harms children. For example, in her book "Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes", Mary Eberstadt offers evidence that children who are 'institutionalized' at an early age develop a lessened ability to relate with peers, emotional problems like depression, and score lower on standardized tests. Since UP is both touted and criticized as a form of universal and tax-funded day-care, Eberstadt's analysis seems 'on point.'

Equally troubling is the possible impact of UP on parental rights, especially the right of parents to determine the best education for their children.

Some UP proposals call for mandatory attendance. For example, in 1999, former Vermont legislator Bill Suchmann introduced a bill to study the cost of compulsory preschool for both 3 and 4-year-olds. Other proposals verge on compulsion by insisting that UP is necessary for all children. As Suchmann argued, "many children do not have parents available at home or even capable of appropriate intellectual stimulation."

Such demeaning views of parenthood only heighten fears of compulsory attendance even in proposals that are currently voluntary. Such fear is stoked by a raging debate in the UK www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/nov/05111101.html over a bill based on research by its Department of Education. The bill would require children to enter a government program of supervision and education www.orlandosentinel.com/news/education/orl-brittots2405nov24,0,1102857.story?coll=orl-news-education-headlines from birth.

This is the great danger: the presumption that government can raise children better than parents. If UP is voluntary, then it may merely create another massive and ultra-expensive bureaucracy that accomplishes little. If it is compulsory, then UP will extend the government's usurpation of parenthood so that all 3 and 4-year-olds are under state supervision.

The UN, No Forum for Women's Rights

The shadows of children raped by United Nation (UN) peacekeepers in the Congo and the women molested by a top UN official fall across the www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/Review/english/49sess.htm 49th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). From February 28th to March 11th, the UN will meet in New York City to review global progress on the “women’s human rights agreement” known as the www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/ Beijing Platform (1995). Over 6,000 advocates of women’s rights will attend.

How can a self-respecting woman, let alone a feminist, legitimize the UN through her presence? The www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/ CSW should be in the forefront of those crying out for justice and UN accountability. Instead, the CSW will almost certainly call for expanding the UN’s power and funding.

Rage will be directed instead at President Bush who has already created www.manilatimes.net/national/2005/feb/27/yehey/opinion/20050227opi5.html pre-meeting controversy. On Thursday, the Bush administration signaled its refusal to renew an unconditional commitment to the Beijing Platform a declaration of women’s rights promoted by the Clintons, which many consider to be a radical feminism’s global agenda.

Bush is balking because the declaration is seen to legitimize abortion as a “human right.” Given the wide-spread reports that the UN’s was complicit in China’s forced abortion policy, the administration’s caution about how the Platform will be interpreted and implemented is justified.

But if abortion is center stage, a more fundamental question still remains. But what moral standard is the UN a proper stage on which to negotiate women’s rights? How much blood and corruption has to splatter before the UN’s moral authority is washed away?

Its credibility on human rights has been broken beyond repair by the food-for-oil scandal that, as www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,132832,00.html a FOX News series stated, “ended up with Saddam Hussein pocketing billions to become the biggest graft-generating machine” in history.

Its integrity on women’s rights was destroyed in 2001 scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=160672003 by the surging traffic in under-aged prostitutes in Bosnia. The traffic was not only created by the arrival of tens of thousands of male UN personnel who sought prostitutes but also by behind the scene involvement by UN personnel. www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2002/0122.html The female staff member who blew the whistle was first fired and then exonerated by unfolding evidence.

The intervening years have not improved the UN’s record. Approximately 50 U.N. personnel currently face some 150 allegations of sexual abuse, most of them involving children, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The situation has been labeled www.canadafreepress.com/2005/media022505.htm “the sex-for-food scandal” because children traded sex for the handful of food they needed to live.

Reports from the Congo surfaced last year. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-1413501_1,00.html An article in December’s London Times stated, “When the police arrived the man was allegedly about to rape a 12-year-old girl.” The accused serial rapist and pedophile was a UN expert in the $700 million-a-year effort to rebuild the war-ravaged nation. Anneke Van Woudenberg of the Human Rights Watch organization, states, "The U.N. is there for their protection, so when the protectors become violators, this is particularly egregious."

The UN tends to stonewall such accusations despite its “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual abuse. When abcnews.go.com/2020/UnitedNations/story?id=489306&page=1 v ABC’s 20/20 confronted William Swing, head of the Congo’s UN peacekeeping mission, he blamed the problem on a small number of miscreants. He emphasized the remedial measures taken such as curfews and prohibitions against raternization with prostitutes. ABC’s cameras caught a group of peacekeepers out after the curfew with prostitutes at a bar. When Swing commented, “Perhaps my senior management…wasn't aware of it,” ABC pointed out that several from senior management were also at the bar.

Investigative journalist David Ross explains that the abuse is a by-product of the de facto immunity from law enjoyed by UN personnel. Ross writes, “Peacekeeping troops come from U.N. member states and are only accountable to their own governments. U.N. civilian employees enjoy immunity from local prosecution and as a result tend not to face charges in countries where they are stationed.” Perhaps this explains why investigative www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=3&art_id=qw1109359262176B252 reports now suggest that sexual abuse by UN “peacekeepers” is worldwide.

This could be good news. If there is a structural “incentive” to abuse, then abuse could be minimized by changing the structure. But reform requires the one thing that the UN seems determined to avoid: taking responsibility.

Consider the news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4278871.stm Lubbers scandal that played out earlier this month. Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, was accused of “unwanted physical contact” with a female staff member in December 2003. The scandal emerged only after the Independent, a UK newspaper, published details of a confidential report (July 2004) from the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services which pointed to a pattern of sexual harassment. Until then, Secretary General Koffi Annan declined news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3963639.stm to act.

The Independent’s expose was published on February 18th; news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4282333.stm on February 20th, Lubbers resigned at Annan’s request.

The UN is no more forthcoming on the sex-for-food scandal. In response to a michellemalkin.com/archives/001530.htm blistering commentary by Michelle Malkin entitled “"U.N.'s Rape of the Innocents," Jane Holl Lute -- Asst. Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations repeated www.nypost.com/postopinion/letters/22104.htm the standard line. A zero tolerance policy is being enforced. Moreover, she called Malkin “negligent” for not reporting on the UN’s remedial measures.

This is not an agency that shoulders responsibility.

Which returns to the question, why are feminists pretending that the UN is a proper stage to discuss women’s rights? No self-respecting woman would walk through its doors.

Spousal Rape Case Sparks Old Debate

He attacked around midnight, choking her, dragging her by hair, brutally raping her over and over again. But as her husband, the violent rapist may receive only 1 1/2 years imprisonment and, perhaps, none at all. A stranger could receive 14 years. Prosecutors in Coconino County, Arizona think the discrepancy is unconstitutional. Accordingly, they have ignored the state’s marital rape exemption and charged the husband in question under standard rape law. news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050208/ap_on_re_us/spousal_rape_3

In doing so, the Prosecutors have entered a centuries-old debate on whether a husband can rape a wife.

Spousal or marital rape is usually defined as a sexual attack by a husband or ex-husband.

(As with past analyses of domestic violence, current discussions of spousal rape treat women as victims and men as perpetrators. Although men are now acknowledged to be DV victims as well, no statistics exist on whether they are victims of marital rape.)

Western jurisprudence has a long tradition of absolving husbands from the possibility of rape. The first significant discussion in America of forced sex within marriage as rape and of the need for a legal remedy may well have been ‘The Markland Letter,’ which was published in 1887 in a Kansas newspaper.

It read, "About a year ago F------ gave birth to a baby, and was severely torn by the instruments in incompetent hands. She has gone through three operations and all failed…last night when her husband came down, forced himself into her bed, and the stitches were torn from her healing flesh, leaving her in worse condition than ever...."

The Markland letter became nationally notorious largely because its graphic description of violence left little doubt that the husband was a rapist despite the law.

American law caught up with the Markland letter in 1976. Until then, rape laws throughout the states included a Marital Rape Exemption. In 1976, however, www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/ncvrw/1997/histry.htm Nebraska became the first state to abolish that exemption.

Today, spousal rape is illegal in every state. Nevertheless, many retain vestiges of the marital exemption. For example, the punishment prescribed for spousal rape is often lighter than for other types of rape and the standard of evidence required to convict is often higher.

Arizona is currently wrestling with such a vestige and confronting the question of whether the law should treat spousal rape differently from stranger or acquaintance rape.

On a fundamental level, the answer is clearly “no.” Rape is a crime, and the marital status of the victim should make no difference. A husband who rapes should receive the same punishment as any other rapist. After all, a spouse who murders is still a murderer and subject to the full force of law.

On a procedural level, however, it may be necessary to draw an important distinction between spousal and stranger or acquaintance rape. Namely, if there is no clear evidence of violence, then the standards of proof required to find a spouse guilty of rape may be higher.

If evidence of violence is present, then no procedural distinction between spousal and stranger rape is appropriate. An attack is an attack, and should be viewed as such.

The difficulty arises when there is little or no evidence of violence and, so, the accounts devolve into “he said/she said” scenarios. At that point, the sexual history between a ‘victim’ and an accused rapist becomes relevant to judging credibility.

One of the ways marriage can be described is as a sexual partnership. Wedding vows constitute a public announcement of that sexual union, of an agreement to engage in sex with someone else over a period of time. This is why not consummating the union is grounds for www.nolo.com/article.cfm/objectID/7D19D2CA-2D7F-4268-B9D401FE97EFB36D/118/246/222/FAQ dissolving the contract even within the Catholic Church, which does not recognize divorce.

Marriage does not mean that a wife renders prior consent to every sex act or any particular one. Indeed, the presence of force in the marriage indicates that consent prior or present is entirely absent.

But, in contrast with stranger or acquaintance rape, the fact that sex has occurred in a marriage provides a court with no indication that a rape has occurred. This affects the weight given to evidence. For example, matching a husband’s DNA to a semen sample makes no sense; you would expect his DNA to be present.

Thus, when indications of violence are absent, it is reasonable for the legal system to require a higher standard of evidence to convict a husband for rape.

The preceding statement will seem uncontroversial to some. To others -- especially to those who agree with the NOW-style approach to rape which dominates feminism and much of our culture the statement will be heresy. Merely suggesting that some standards of evidence on rape should be raised will be viewed as a “pro-rape” stance.

Rape is the third rail of feminism and touching the issue with anything but complete agreement with the accepted approach will give the questioner a nasty shock. But if the gender war that is the legacy of NOW-style feminism is to be eased, then every gender-based assumption must be re-examined.

In updating the law on spousal rape, prosecutors in Arizona should punish that crime no differently than any other rape. But, in proving the rape, the courts should apply a higher standard of evidence whenever indications of violence are not present.

Complex Issue Requires Complex Solutions

Last week, www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,144073,00.html my column argued against renewing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) because it was the wrong approach to issues such as domestic violence (DV). I ended by stating that a different solution was needed. This week's column responds to questions from readers who asked for elaboration.

But, first, to recap my objections to VAWA: it promotes vicious myths, such as the belief that men are perpetrators and not also victims of DV; it creates a DV industry, with thick layers of tax-funded bureaucracy; and, it attempts to socially engineer cultural attitudes toward gender.

One repeatedly asked question was whether I had experienced DV. The implication? If not, then I shouldn't talk about it.

I was once beaten so badly by a boyfriend that I am now legally blind in my right eye. To some, this means I have the proper credentials to address DV. But standing on the wrong end of a fist doesn't make me an expert nor does it give me a special "right" to speak out on a social problem of general concern.

Underlying the demand for such a credential is the assumption that only someone who lives an experience can possibly understand it and, so, have any business talking about it.

The assumption may contain some truth but that truth is being badly used. Instead of using first-hand knowledge as a tool to increase communication and discussion of social problems that impact everyone, it is often wielded as a weapon to gag certain groups. If you are not a woman, then you should not speak on "women's issues." If you are not a battered woman, then you should be silent on DV.

Even battered women who express skepticism with the standard answers to DV, as embodied in VAWA, tend to be heckled into silence. They are accused of 're-victimizing' women simply because they have a different opinion of the problem and of its possible solution.

What is the solution?

First of all, there is no 'one-size-fits-all' solution to a complex and varied phenomenon like DV. Answers will vary depending on specific situations.

A wife who strikes out once in anger cannot reasonably be compared to a sadist who systematically brutalizes her husband over the course of years. The solution for her may be a course on anger management. A wife whose alcoholic husband wants desperately to become sober and non-violent might well support rehab rather than call the police. For some women and men, the only solution will be to leave and go to a shelter.

Only general principles can be applied across the board.

One of those principles is that DV victims are individuals, not classes of people, and any solution must address them as such. The law and its application must make no distinction between men and women, gays and heterosexuals, whites and minorities. Instead of socially engineering new protected classes of people, all people should be protected equally from violence. Rather than introducing class distinctions into the law, those distinctions should be stripped away. Moreover, if applied evenly, there are enough laws against violence on the books already.

Another general principle: long-term victims of DV must assume some responsibility for their victimization. Responsibility is not blame. No one deserves a fist in the face; the person to blame for violence is the one who commits it. But when a fist hits repeatedly over time, then the person who stands in place to receive the same blow must ask, "why am I accepting this?"

The victim is one-half of any DV dynamic. To be effective, solutions must include an understanding of the diverse reasons a victim might decide to stay. The simplistic, pre-packaged explanation offered by the VAWA-style approach namely, that battered women have lost the ability to choose does not apply to many victims. It did not apply to me, for example. Removing responsibility from victims is not a kindness; it is patronizing and perpetuates the problem.

Another principle: prevention is better than a cure. The two most important methods by which people can avoid becoming or remaining victims of violence are their attitudes and skills.

"Attitude" does not refer to socially engineering other people's view of gender through massive tax-funded programs: that's social control and Big Government. It means encouraging individuals to assume primary responsibility for their own self-defense: that's individual freedom.

Nor does self-defense mean not calling the police when attacked or never asking for help. Both of those acts can be examples of taking responsibility.

The ideal is to control your own self-defense, which often devolves into an issue of skill. In some circumstances, self-defense could mean a gun in the hands of a trained and conscientious owner. Of course, gun ownership may not be an appropriate solution for domestic violence, which may be better answered by assertiveness training or other forms of self-defense, including the act of leaving.

Neverless, the point remains: a willingness to defend yourself and acquiring that ability is the responsibility of every individual.

Oddly, advocates of VAWA who tend to also embrace NOW-style feminism generally oppose gun ownership despite its clear advantages for women.

It is not possible to solve DV within the constraints of a brief weekly column. It is possible only to touch upon new answers. The old ones aren't working.

Those who value the safety of DV victims will applaud open freewheeling discussion of how to achieve that goal.

Removing Legal Incentives to Lie

Bill Cosby is the latest cultural icon to face highly publicized and unproven entertainment.tv.yahoo.com/entnews/ap/20050121/110633400003.html allegations of sexual misconduct. Indeed, police charges have not even been laid. Whatever may be proven true of Cosby’s conduct, the emerging scandal once again raises questions about how society should deal with accusations. What can be done about the growing perception that false accusations especially by women -- are commonplace in matters of divorce, child support, and in sexual abuse cases that devolve into little more than competing stories.

The false accusations that grab the spotlight are usually connected to sexual abuse and celebrities. For example, one headline last week read, www.nbc4.tv/education/4112461/detail.html “H.S. {High School] Coach Awarded $4.5 Million For False Accusation In Sex Case: No Charges Were Ever Filed Against Patrick Gillan.” Nevertheless, Gillan’s mug shot was displayed on TV and in several newspapers, along with the accusation.www.10news.com/entertainment/4087832/detail.html

Another headline stated, “Woman Who Accused Celine Dion's Husband Of Rape Gets Prison.” The article went on to explain, “A woman who tried to extort millions of dollars…has been sentenced to up to five years in prison.”

But the false accusations that impact most people are more commonplace. They often occur in the process of divorce, in battles over custody and child support. For years, advocates of father’s rights have accused the family courts of being “anti-male” and of rubber-stamping women’s claims. And, judging by increasing interest in concepts like canada.justice.gc.ca/en/ps/pad/reports/2004-FCY-5/ shared custody, their voices are being heard.

Unfortunately, the sensational headlines along with men’s loud disillusionment are creating something of a backlash against women who make any allegations at all. The backlash should be directed against the legal system itself for including incentives to lie.

The fact that people lie not just women but people -- has been acknowledged for many centuries. It is no co-incidence that www.positiveatheism.org/hist/lewis/lewten91.htm#900 the Ninth Commandment is "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor"; the stricture is widely interpreted to address sworn testimony in court.

Human nature has not changed. And a responsible legal system must promote honesty, for example, through requiring an oath in criminal court and enforcing penalties for perjury. To be effective, these safeguards have to be enforced equally on both sexes and all races. Today, the enforcement of such safeguards has become all the more important for women if they wish their legitimate accusations to be taken seriously in the future.

The ancient Hebrews employed a rather severe standard. Those who gave false testimony before a court were liable for whatever punishment would have been inflicted on the accused, including death.

Fortunately, false accusations can be minimized without draconian measures. The simplest solution is to remove from the legal system whatever incentives there are to lie. In many cases, this will not involve sensational trials with murky “he said/she said” scenarios. Often both the incentive and the lie are clear-cut.

An example are those claims of paternity that are proven false but almost never result in legal sanctions against a mother who has knowingly lied.

Indeed, she may continue to be rewarded with child support after the falsehood is revealed. This is because many states require “named” fathers to pay child support even when DNA tests prove they have no biological relationship to the children.

The situation may be changing in the near future. washingtontimes.com/national/20050115-115942-7925r.htm The Washington Times reported on a precedent-setting situation in California where a June court decision and a law that became active on January 1st now allow existing child support obligations to be overturned by men who can prove they are not biological fathers.

One California attorney, Marc Angelucci, is pressing to establish another precedent. He has filed in civil court for restitution from the mother and Los Angeles county officials for wrongly taken child support and legal fees. His client is Taron James, founder of http://hometown.aol.com/vetsvspf/ the organization Veterans Against Paternity Fraud; the next court date is January 25th.

This is an ideal area in which the courts can eliminate an incentive to lie by removing the reward and enforcing penalties against fraud. The media-grabbing cases may spotlight false accusations as a social problem but it is in the day-to-day grind of administering law that the solution will emerge.

Other incentives to lie exist. To list just two and all too briefly… Require criminal charges, like sexual abuse, to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court before they can proceed to the far looser standards of evidence (and honesty) within civil courts. This would remove the financial incentive of a civil court award.

Stop applying http://www.thefirstamendment.org/antislappresourcecenter.html anti-SLAPP law to proven cases of false accusations. Anti-SLAPP Law was passed to prevent large corporations from maliciously suing and, thus, silencing private citizens and grassroots activists. It prohibits such lawsuits. In some areas, like www.mensnewsdaily.com/archive/newswire/news2004/1204/120504-marshall.htm Massachusetts, the law has been applied to immunize social workers and mothers who seek custody from the consequences of misconduct. This turns the intent of anti-SLAPP law inside out. It is literally being used by those in power against ‘the man in the street.’ As juicy accusations flood the news, the weary skepticism with which we view both the accused and the accusers will probably increase. Cynicism is an easy non-solution. Those who wish to resolve the problem of false accusations will roll up their sleeves and start pushing back the legal incentives that reward lies and cheapen justice.

On Handcuffed and Felonious Children

What should have been www.foxnews.com/story/0%2C2933%2C145447%2C00.html a minor incident at an Ocala, Florida elementary school has attracted national attention because of the school’s response. Two boys, aged 9 and 10, were charged with second-degree felonies and taken away in handcuffs by the police because they drew stick figures depicting violence against a third student. [To view the drawings, click www.nbc6.net/slideshow/news/4147746/detail.html here].

There was no act of violence, no weaponry. According to news reports, the arrested children had no prior history of threatening the student depicted in the drawing. The parents were not advised or consulted. The school’s immediate response was to call the police and level charges “of making a written threat to kill or harm another person.”

The incident was not an aberration www.nynewsday.com/news/nationworld/nation/orl-aseckids29012905jan290,1716760.story?coll=ny-leadnationalnews-headlines but one of three similar occurrences in the Florida school system during the same week. In another case, a 6-year-old was led away in handcuffs by police. And those three incidents are only the ones that manage to attract media attention.

Another indication that the incident is not an aberration: the police have adamantly and repeatedly defended the slapping of cuffs and felony charges onto the 9 and 10-year-olds.

Arresting young children for a crayon drawing, not unlike the games of Hangman we once all played, is the ultimate meaning and logic of Zero Tolerance.

ZT involves the application of law in an extreme and uncompromising manner to any activity violent or not that is deemed to be anti-social. It applies to everyone, regardless of circumstances such as age, intent or prior history.

ZT has spread through society largely due to the reasonable fear with which people have responded to the school shootings at Columbine and the still-stunning tragedy of 9-11. The fear is reasonable. But the ongoing response is not.

No one not the police, not the government, not school official -- has the right to brutalize a child for using crayons. And the people who reasonably supported ZT as a way to make schools safer never envisioned a police state in which 6-year-olds are handcuffed.

Parents are finally saying “NO!”

The battle against ZT is being waged on the local and state level. One such local battlefield is in www.katyzerotolerance.com/ Katy, Texas. One such parent is www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/metropolitan/3000602 Derek Hoggett. His 13-year-old daughter Gabrielle was suspended from school due to a butter knife packed in her lunch. Because of braces, Gabrielle needed the knife a legal item -- to cut an apple. No violence nor threat occurred. Hoggett explained, "She was given the harshest punishment for a first offense even though school officials admitted in a letter…that she was a student with exemplary behavior and high academic standing.”

Gabrielle’s school district has reportedly investigated “2,149 criminal incidents, issued 779 citations and made 108 arrests” in the past several months.

Because of the avalanche of investigations, Fred Hink -- a spokesman for the parents’ rights organization Katy Zero Tolerance -- accuses school official of having no “common sense.” He claims “they do not appropriately address issues such as disability considerations, due process and the long-range effects of placing children in alternative education programs.”

(The alternative education programs to which children like Gabrielle are often transferred are widely criticized as substandard and stigmatizing to the child. Thus, the transfer damages their futures.)

The conflict over ZT in schools is also moving into state legislatures. http://www.katyzerotolerance.com/Webedition3/Legislative/Legislativemain.html The Texas legislature may provide an indication of the sort of debate that may soon confront many other lawmakers. Several bills to alter the Texas Education Code have been introduced. Some strengthen ZT; others weaken it. As an example of the latter: State Sen. Jon Lindsay is shepherding a bill that requires a student to “knowingly and willingly commit an offense” before he or she can be punished.

It is not clear which side will win in Texas. It is clear, however, that the application of ZT to young children is evolving into a national debate. That debate is being driven by parents whose children have been criminalized by an education system.

What are the parents demanding? There is no one set of requests but some demands appear repeatedly. First and foremost, the parents want immediate involvement in severe forms of discipline. This means the parents of the aforementioned 9 and 10-year-olds would have been allowed to discipline their children before police were called to impose felony charges. Gabrielle’s father could have explained to her that butter knives were inappropriate instead of the school suspending her.

Parents also want an appeals process. Moreover, the parents of Katy request “the establishment of a civilian oversight committee” to review police actions against school children.

It is difficult to criticize parents who demand “due process” for children who are too young to speak for themselves. To me, those parents live up to the best definition of being a mother and father.

Due process is a legal tern and seems out-of-place for those of us who still view schools as places where literacy and math skills are taught. But those who call police rather than parents, who lay felony charges rather than issue suspensions, who damage a child’s life over a butter knife they know was an innocent mistake…these people bear responsibility for making the legal terms appropriate.

And, so, let the debate rage. Let it continue until a 6-year-old is never handcuffed by police again.

Are SpongeBob’s Pants Really Square?

SpongeBob SquarePants is gay! Or is he? And why is there so little information on a matter everyone is discussing?

The scandal surrounding the sexual orientation of the cartoon character SpongeBob looks like a media creation. The snickers directed at the ultra-conservative James Dobson of www.family.org "Focus on the Family" the man ‘credited’ with questioning how square SpongeBob’s pants actually are seem intended to obscure the issue and vilify the man.

The issue is: should the public school system be used to encourage sexual attitudes in children, especially attitudes to which their parents might object?

Dobson ignited the current furor two weeks ago during a speech in which he blasted a video that was slated to be distributed to 61,000 public and private elementary schools on "We Are Family Day" (March 11th).

The video uses popular cartoon characters to promote the concept of ‘diversity,’ which Dobson identifies rightly or wrongly with a “gay agenda.” In the video, cartoon characters -- including Barney the Dinosaur, Winnie the Pooh, and SpongeBob SquarePants sing and dance to the ‘70s disco hit “We are Family.”

The first point at which lack of information becomes a stumbling lock is trying to find out what Dobson actually said about the video. In the absence of a transcript, I accept his account. Dobson did not call SpongeBob “gay,” as the media has widely reported. He objected to the use of the school system to spread a “pro-gay message” and he was personally offended by the use of cartoon characters to make that message more palatable.

Indeed, Dobson’s main criticism was not directed at the video but at the ‘lesson plans’ accompanying it. For example, the lesson plan entitled “Uncovering Attitudes About Sexual Orientation” allegedly includes the following definition:

“Heterosexism: A system of beliefs, action, advantages, and assumptions in the superiority of heterosexuals or heterosexuality. It includes unrecognized privileges of heterosexual people and the exclusion of nonheterosexual people from policies, procedures, events and decisions about what is important.”

Dobson continued by offering an indication of what the “curriculum booklet” that accompanies the "We Are Family" DVD includes.

This is another point at which a dearth of information converts discussion into speculation. Only an indication is offered because the guide seems to be unavailable. Why soon-to-be distributed material is not provided to concerned parents is not clear. Moreover, Dobson (and others) contend that the www.wearefamilyfoundation.org website of the organization producing the “offending” material www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/opinion/article/0,1299,DRMN_38_3510297,00.html has been edited since his remarks to remove its “overtly pro-homosexual content.” The producer of the video contends that Dobson is www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=13856180&BRD=1697&PAG=461&dept_id=44551&rfi=6 “confused” and simply visited the wrong website.

And, so, speculation replaces fact. The pro-Dobson site CitizenLink www.family.org/cforum/feature/a0035309.cfm speculates on the basis of a 2003 manual, which is “also associated with the ‘We Are Family’ cartoon-character video.” That guide states, "The institutionalization of heterosexuality in all aspects of society includes the idealization of heterosexual orientation, romance, and marriage….Compulsory heterosexuality leads to the notion of women as inherently 'weak,' and the institutionalized inequality of power: power of men to control women's sexuality, labor, childbirth and childrearing, physical movement, safety, creativity, and access to knowledge. It can also include legal and social discrimination against homosexuals and the invisibility or intolerance of lesbian and gay existence."

If there is a media story in the SpongeBob furor, it is this: why has no one examined and provided a detailed analysis of the material surrounding the video? The story has clearly ignited national interest. Why has discussion been relegated to snickers and conjecture?

There are at least two contributing factors.

First, Dobson has been foolish; he has played into the hands of his critics. If there is a lesson here, it is this: never pick a fight with a cartoon character. As one commentator www.churchmarketingsucks.com/archives/2005/01/dont_spar_with.html#more observed, “It's like trying to outswim Flipper. Bad idea.” The cartoon wins.

Second, the media clearly wants to ridicule Dobson rather than discuss the serious issue he raises. Even a subsequent www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/television/article/0,1299,DRMN_25_3510259,00.html public rebuke to PBS from the new Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings for using tax money to produce school materials in which cartoon characters “promote” homosexuality has not produced serious media discussion.

What is there to discuss? Again, because it bears repeating, the issue is whether a government institution should inculcate sexual attitudes into children, especially attitudes to which their parents might object.

The discussion need not be sympathetic to Dobson. For example, one of the first questions I would ask is whether he would object to cartoon characters being used to inculcate sexual values with which he agrees. Frankly, I doubt he would protest Winnie the Pooh being used to advance the traditional family or the choice of women to become mothers and housewives. Yet those choices, no less than homosexuality, are politically charged and offensive to some.

Such discussion is as unlikely to occur. The facts of the brouhaha are equally unlikely emerge even though the material in question should be readily available.

And, so, those in the media will continue to discuss a speech they did not attend regarding materials they have not examined in order to have a good snicker while repeating statements that were never uttered.

As for me, I’ll wait to find out what is actually in the material before commenting. If anyone ever releases it to non-schoolchildren, that is.

What To Do About Daddy?

By court order, 3-year-old Evan Parker Scott of Jacksonville, Fla., is being separated from his adoptive parents and returned to the biological mother who surrendered him at birth.

Why? Because something was missing from the adoption process: the father's consent.

In 2005, family courts will confront a question head-on: "What to do about Daddy?" In the case of Evan, the question is, "what to do about the "birth father"? \x{2014} a term that properly denotes the biological and often unmarried father of an adopted child.

The media has discussed Evan's case as a tragedy caused by the court validating "father's rights" at the expense of a child's welfare. Whether the rights of Evan's biological father were in fact violated remains a point of debate in this specific case, but overall, a good argument can be made for the opposite view: By ignoring the father's rights at the outset of an adoption proceeding, courts set the stage for this kind of needless tragedy.

When custody is contested, the child's welfare should be foremost. Accordingly, commentary has centered on Evan. The children's advocacy site Hear My Voice offers poignant coverage of the transfer to his birth mother. In the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby writes, "Only a legal system that believes ties of blood are the truest expression of parenthood could order a boy stripped of the parents who have raised and cherished him from birth."

Jacoby misses some salient points.

One: Evan's situation did not arise because his father suddenly appeared after three years. Five months after Evan's birth he filed papers with the court and has mounted a continuous legal battle.

The tragedy occurred, at least in part, because the court transferred Evan's guardianship (with a presumption of adoption) to the Scotts before the father's claim had been resolved. In doing so, I believe the court acted inappropriately, and with tragic consequences.

Two: the court acted inappropriately because, when both parents are known, they are both responsible for the child's welfare and they possess an equal claim to parenting. If parental responsibility is to be legally binding \x{2014} e.g. for child support \x{2014} so, too, is the parental claim. Before an unwed woman can put a child up for adoption, the father should be given the opportunity to raise his child.

Four: saying that a child's welfare should be foremost does not negate the rights of the two parents. The appropriate action is one that preserves the rights of all involved through negotiation if at all possible. Only if a parent is a clear threat to the child should his or her rights be summarily abrogated.

Good Morning America compared Evan's case to "'Baby Richard'...a (1995) court battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court." In that case, a 4-year-old was taken from adoptive parents and given to his birth father.

However, the cause of birth fathers' rights might not fare well if 'Baby Evan' becomes a test case. Evan's biological father was convicted of and served a jail term for assaulting and hospitalizing his birth mother while she was pregnant. This, unfortunately, lends credibility to the image, in these types of adoption cases, of the "birth fathers" as uncaring, unstable and unfit for parenthood.

Moreover, it is a widely accepted belief that in cases where there is a history of domestic violence, fathers bid for custody as a way of harassing the mother.

These are two common objections to birth fathers' involvement in adoption: they are uncaring or unfit parents; and, they will use the courts to harass mothers. Without question, a number of birth fathers richly deserve such criticism. But it is improper to deny rights to an entire category of people because individuals within that category behave badly.

The birth father I met at a conference of the National Coalition of Free Men may very well be as "typical" as Evan's. He and his mother had driven across several states to attend the meeting in the hope of making contacts to help his case. A serious young man of about 20-years-old, he explained that his girlfriend left town without telling him she was pregnant. She put the child up for adoption after running the public notice to the birth father, which is legally required; the notice was an ad in the back of an out-of-town paper to which he did not subscribe.

By the time he discovered his fatherhood, the window for claiming parental rights had expired. Now, he and his family were desperately seeking a way to gain custody and raise the child themselves.

How can courts help to prevent heart-wrenching father-child reunions, like the one Evan is now experiencing?

They should acknowledge at the very beginning of an adoption proceeding that both responsible parents have an equal voice. Each parent must be presumed responsible until shown otherwise. And no adoption placement should occur if either parent wants custody.

Moreover, the notification process should meet a high standard of diligent effort before parental rights can be suspended.

Evan is now in the custody of his mother who filed specifically to block the father's claim; the latter has been granted liberal, but supervised, visitation.

The court's misconduct, of course, extends beyond whatever original slighting of father's rights it may have allowed to occur. To correct that "error" humanely, the court and adults involved might have arranged liberal visitation for the father with Evan's adoptive parents. But the mother's filing precluded that very possibility.

The saddest irony is also the worst indictment of the family court system. Evan was desperately wanted by the Scotts, and his father also very much wants him. The only person who didn't want him is the one who now has custody: the mother.

I retract my former statement: perhaps this would make a good test case.

Pregnancy Murder Needs Study, Not Sensationalism!

The Washington Post ran a series on its front page for three days in a row. The report by journalist Donna St. George was entitled www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10074-2017Dec18.html "Pregnancy and Homicide: The Known Toll" and featured color photographs of multiple victims. St George wrote, “"Many women were slain at home--in bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens--usually by men they knew. Husbands. Boyfriends. Lovers." The series clearly implies that there is an unacknowledged epidemic of “maternal murder” being committed by intimates.

Maternal murder is a heart wrenching issue that demands attention but the Post’s report smacks of tabloid sensationalism. With supermarket headlines like "Many New or Expectant Mothers Die Violent Deaths," the Post may be needlessly scaring women away from pregnancy itself while failing to inform them of the real risk factors for becoming a maternal murder victim. (The definition of “maternal homicide” includes murders occurring 12 months after delivery and random violence.)

On forums across the Internet, women are discussing the series. www.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?/ubb/get_topic/f/78/t/000414/p/1.html One wrote, “I'd like to marry and have children in the near future. Is there any way to protect myself when I'm expecting so I don't end up a statistic like these unfortunates? Should I carry a weapon with me, should I take self-defense courses, or what? I'm scared.”

The Post series opens reasonably enough. St. George admits that there is no real data and "no reliable system…to track such cases." She appears to be interested in exploring “pregnancy and homicide: how often it happens, why, and whether it is a fluke or a social syndrome.”

Answering such questions is difficult because the FBI, most state agencies and police departments do not collect data on maternal homicides. Accordingly, St. George consulted state records, such as death certificates, and found 1,367 cases over 14 years, or 98 per year.

From this point onward, the report begins to go wrong. St. George extrapolates www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=11255421 from one study conducted in Maryland to conclude that “it [the study] would suggest about 295 maternal homicides nationwide a year." Accepting that figure at face value, Jack Shafer editor-at-large at Slate -- www.slate.com/id/2111390/ ran the math and found that “if you were to murder women in this age bracket at random, 10 percent of your victims would be pregnant.” In short, pregnant women would be no more or less likely to be murdered.

But the figure should be questioned. www.gao.gov/new.items/d02530.pdf [.pdf] A 2002 General Accounting Office report, ”Data on Pregnant Victims and Effectiveness of Prevention Strategies Are Limited,” warns that figures on maternal homicide “lack comparability…. Estimates…cannot be generalized or projected to all pregnant women.” Current studies vary too widely in methodology, conclusions and far too often in the agendas propelling research.

St. George’s report 72 cases for in-depth research and found “that nearly two-thirds…had a strong relation to pregnancy or involved a domestic-violence clash in which pregnancy may have been a factor.” [Emphasis added] How the cases were selected or whether they are representative is not indicated.

The story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/washpost/20041220/ts_washpost/a12359_2004dec19 remainder of the series is mostly devoted to lurid accounts of maternal homicides by male intimates or to heartbreaking www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14920-2017Dec20.html stories of children -- mostly of one child -- “rescued from the wombs of their dying mothers.”

Amid the raw emotionalism, unnamed experts are often referenced. St. George writes, “many experts have come to agree that …160,000 to 320,000 [pregnant women] a year -- are physically hurt by husbands, boyfriends or partners.” Which experts? And if their “agreement” is based on reliable data, why the huge range in the numbers?

Quick references to studies in several states are also interspersed.

The sloppy research and reporting serves women badly. St. George creates alarm and the appearance of an “epidemic” without providing the context that is necessary to understand any statistic.

For example, the reader is not told whether “maternal homicides” are more common than the murder of comparable non-pregnant women. Assuming murder is the highest non-natural cause of death in pregnant women, is this due the relatively young age of the mothers and medical advances?

Moreover, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reports that the total number of women murdered has been declining www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/tables/intimatestab.htm since 1993. The DOJ also finds that the number of women murdered by "intimates” (a spouse, ex-spouse, or boyfriend) has also fallen www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/tables/intimatestab.htm since 1993. Are maternal homicides somehow rising as the other categories fall?

These are the type of hard facts and answers that women need to know.

St. George does women an additional disservice by calling pregnancy in and of itself a risk factor for homicide.

Richard L. Davis of www.familynonviolence.org/ Family Nonviolence Inc. takes St. George to task for her misuse of www.mass.gov/dph/fch/safemoms/preg02rg.pdf [.pdf] one study and for ignoring the “real relevant risk factors” relating to maternal murder.

Davis www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2004/1222davis.html first establishes solid numbers. He writes, “The Massachusetts study documents that for every 100,000 births, 9 women died from injury related causes” and notes that about 1/3 of those deaths were “intimate partner homicides.” Thus, the risk of becoming a maternal homicide victim is about 3 in 100,000.

Next, he indicates risk factors: “black non-Hispanic women during this time span were 10 times more likely to be murdered than white non-Hispanic women…For white non-Hispanic women it was not homicides, but motor vehicle collision that was the leading cause of injury related death.”

Poverty seemed be a strong factor, with a National Institute of Justice www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/205004.htm study agreeing that “couples living in disadvantaged neighborhoods, facing job instability and economic distress are at higher levels of probabilities of violence.”

Women need facts on the risks and their risk factors. For example, police departments should be pushed to maintain detailed records of maternal homicides. Instead, the Post’s report offers deeply flawed research and scare tactics.

UNICEF's 'Rights' Focus Is All Wrong

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has just released its annual www.unicef.org/sowc05/english/index.html "The State of the World's Children" report for 2005. Using words like "catastrophe," UNICEF's executive director Carol Bellamy www.guardian.co.uk/aids/story/0,7369,1370582,00.html warns that the "triple whammy" of AIDS, conflict and poverty has reversed previous gains on children's survival, health and education.

But critics of UNICEF claim the agency and www.un.org/News/ossg/sg/stories/bellamy_bio.html Bellamy have contributed to the crisis by focusing on political causes and steering UNICEF away from the "core business" of ensuring children's survival.

Richard Horton, editor of the prestigious medical journal www.thelancet.com/newlancet/ The Lancet, has published image.thelancet.com/extras/04cmt425web.pdf an blistering editorial [.pdf], which calls Bellamy's focus "shameful."

It is also devastating to children, an estimated 10 million of whom die from preventable causes before the age of five every year. Horton notes, "All the indications are that the fourth Millennium Development Goal of reducing by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate will not be met in many countries." No sub-Saharan country in Africa appears to be "on target to reach that MDG."

He adds, "The language of rights means little to a child stillborn, an infant dying in pain from pneumonia or a child desiccated by famine."

What is the "rights-based approach"?

The UN's www.unicef.org/crc/crc.htm Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a legally binding, international document that extends to children "civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights." Adopted in 1989, it caused pangaea.org/street_children/world/unconv4.htm a fundamental shift from UNICEF's original role of ensuring children's raw survival. UNICEF was gmc.freenet.uz/unicef/timeline.htm created in 1946 to provide emergency aid to the children of Europe who were starving after World War II.

The steady drift away from UNICEF's core purpose can be seen in two protocols added to the CRC in 2002. One addresses the issue of war; the other, child prostitution and child pornography.

Horton urges a "reorientation" toward the child-survival policies of Bellamy's American predecessor James Grant. www.unicef.org/sowc96/1980s.htm Grant's "Child Survival and Development Revolution" stressed "four simple interventions -- growth monitoring, oral rehydration therapy, breastfeeding, and immunization." The Lancet credits Grant with saving the lives of over 20 million children.

UNICEF's implementation of its "children's rights" vision is also vulnerable to criticism. Indeed, UNICEF's www.google.ca/search?q=cache:8mLhiDYceU4J:www.un.int/colombia/english/unicef.pdf+%22Medium+Term+Strategic+Plan%22+%22status+of+girls+and+women+both+in+the+family%22&hl=en Medium Term Strategic Plan is more of a blueprint for social engineering along radical feminist lines. The Plan states, "UNICEF will advocate for legal reforms and adoption of policies and programmes that will raise the status of girls and women both in the family and in society." Often, the programs it champions seem to have little connection to basic rights.

A specific example of how UNICEF's vision is being implemented under Bellamy is ICDB, the International Children's Day of Broadcasting. This program includes: www.unicef.org/infobycountry/opt_24495.html Alli Sotak (Speak Up), a two-hour weekly programme, which is created by and for Palestinian young people. www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/FL16Df04.html a 20-member programming board for India's newest kids' TV channel, which convenes for "board meetings"; all members are between eight and 15 years old.

There is a tension between Bellamy stating "We believe AIDS is the worst catastrophe ever to hit the world" and, yet, having UNICEF focus on programs such as ICDB.

(For an in-depth analysis of UNICEF's social engineering, please see www.c-fam.or/pdfs/unicef.pdf The United Nations Children's Fund: Women or children first? [.pdf] by Douglas A. Sylva.)

In a world of unlimited options and bottomless pockets, there would be no conflict between pursuing children's health and children's rights.

But UNICEF's new report cries out for increased funding precisely because money is limited and all goals cannot be pursued in tandem. Indeed, overall funding to the UN may well tighten due to the backlash surrounding recent corruption scandals, especially the www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,132832,00.html Oil-for-Food one.

Horton's criticism of UNICEF is not merely a statement of conscience, it is also a matter of strategy. Next year UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will appoint a new leader for UNICEF. Traditionally, the appointment has gone to an American. (Even though the US is not a signatory to the CRC, it is the UN's largest donor.)

The appointment is basically at his discretion and the selection process is not publicized. As Horton comments, "This mysterious procedure leaves open the possibility of crude political deal-making in identifying an acceptable candidate." Clearly, Horton wishes to surround the appointment with www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=17686 a debate heated enough to melt away mystery and permit no deal-making.

Bellamy's appointment was controversial and occurred only after a campaign on her behalf by President Clinton. Then-Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali had preferred a European candidate.

Next year's appointment may be the most controversial in UNICEF's history. In part, it will be a struggle for the soul of the agency. But, as in all things UN, it will also involve jockeying for political position. Members from the European Union seem particularly eager to diminish America's role in UNICEF without, of course, diminishing its funding

Horton's concern that "the next executive director of UNICEF is likely to be an American, irrespective of the person's skills or experience" is understandable given how ill equipped Bellamy was for the job. But it would be easy for the goal of saving children to become lost in the politics of the UN, especially with its increasingly anti-American atmosphere.

It will be interesting to watch events unfold.

Is it Possible to have to Pay Child Support for a Child Who Doesn't Exist?

Viola Trevino carried her five-year-old “daughter” into an Albuquerque court to satisfy a judge’s demand to produce the child. Complications arose. One: Trevino www.kobtv.com/index.cfm?viewer=storyviewer&id=15531&cat=NMTOPSTORIES had kidnapped the child moments before to pass off as her daughter. Two: the “real” daughter never existed. Three: the “father” and ex-husband Steve Barreras had paid $20,000 in child support. Four: the system finally noticed Trevino was lying.

New Mexico’s governor Bill Richardson www.kobtv.com/index.cfm?viewer=storyviewer&id=15631&cat=NMTOPSTORIES has asked the state’s Human Services Department for a full report. Specifically, he wants to know how several government agencies became not only unwitting partners in the fraud but also resisted efforts to correct it.

Richardson deserves a tip of the hat for taking responsibility. The official response to child support or welfare debacles is usually silence. Sometimes a finger of accusation is pointed at specific individuals as though the abuse resulted from a few “bad apples” in an otherwise clean barrel. Richardson is acknowledging there is a problem with the system itself.

The system is broken. In recent years, heartbreaking stories from every state have flooded the media. Often they focus on the plight of children who are abused or neglected by those assigned to protect them. But just as often they highlight the abuse of parents, especially non-custodial fathers -- who are processed as paperwork, not people.

With Trevino, several government agencies processed papers. Trevino www.kobtv.com/index.cfm?viewer=storyviewer&id=15576&cat=HOME falsified a paternity test by using a sample from an adult daughter who is Barreras’ child and, then, having a family friend process it at the lab. On the basis of the test, Trevino obtained a court order for child support. Trevino also obtained a Social Security card, a Medicare card and krightsradio.com/images/Vital%27s%20search.jpg a birth certificate for the “daughter”.

When a fraud is so blatant, there is a tendency to blame the victim for somehow facilitating his or her own victimhood. But Barreras, who works as a correction officer in law enforcement, attempted repeatedly to expose the fraud and to protect himself.

His petition for a krightsradio.com/stories/JudgeJewellForgery.php restraining order was denied. Evidence that his vasectomy, conducted a year prior to the child’s “birth,” had left him with a zero sperm count, was ignored. Phoning and writing to New Mexico’s child support agency to have them verify his daughter’s non-existence resulted in a letter. The child enforcement worker stated, "your daughter does exist, as I am sure you already knew."

Barreras went so far as to hire www.krightsradio.com/stories/afidavitRB.php a private investigator to expose the scam. Indeed, without his persistent refusal to be victimized, the fraud would have probably never come to light. It would have remained just one more injustice tucked away and protected by the system’s closed file.

Richar’ Farr of the family-oriented KrightsRadio has spearheaded an investigation of the matter. [For an interview on this topic with Barreras’ second wife, krightsradio.com/content/Programs/shellyhostcomletea.mp3. ] Farr calls the case “an egregious example of an overzealous child support agency who apparently ignored the alleged fathers' repeated cries. Unfortunately, too many child support agencies are virtually accountable to no one.”

Reports from an investigative journalist at KOBTV, Albuquerque finally brought enough pressure to bear that Trevino was ordered to produce the child in court. On the day of her hearing, www.kasa.com/global/story.asp?s=2657193&ClientType=Printable Trevino convinced a grandmother and her two-year-old grand-daughter that they should all go to see Santa Claus. Instead, Trevino took them to the courthouse, snatched the girl, and tried to pass her off as the missing daughter. The panicked grandmother could not keep up with Trevino and got left behind in the parking lot. She stated, "I thought I was never going to see my baby girl again. It's the scariest thing."

Richardson’s question keeps rising: how could this happen? A partial explanation is that the child welfare system seems to automatically favor the claims of custodial mothers over non-custodial fathers.

Consider one scenario. A custodial mother swears under oath to have given birth and perhaps provides false documents. In many states, if she also swears that the absent father is violent, her statement can result in a restraining order that de facto terminates the father’s visitation rights. If a subsequent order to pay child support is delivered to an invalid address, which is often provided by the mother, then the father may not respond within the window of time provided for a protest. Now he must pay, go to jail, or endure a process similar to that of Barreras.

But why did the child support enforcement system not follow up despite complaints? Farr suggests an answer, “[S]ome officials see child support agencies as revenue-generating agencies. States make money off the collection of child support while the taxpayers lose money at the federal level overall. Too often, this money-mindedness does not give incentives for agencies to do the right thing for children and families.”

The stakes are higher than money, however. If Barreras had fallen behind in support payments, he would have been sent to jail. His life might have been destroyed.

Barreras is reportedly suing to recover the $20,000. There is www.kasa.com/Global/story.asp?S=2668739&nav=29KHTzrR some indication he may also sue other individuals who “perpetuated” the fraud. According to Barresas’ attorney, “the parties that were involved in this fraud will be sought. We've played defense. Now, it's time to play offense."

It’s about time.

NYC Must Come Clean on Foster Kids AIDS Scandal

The BBC recently aired a documentary entitled Guinea Pig Kids.” news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/this_world/4038375.stm “ It accused New York City’s Administration for Child Services (ACS) and drug companies, such as Glaxo SmithKline (GKS), of experimenting on HIV-positive foster children with untested and dangerous anti-AIDS drugs.

Two basic accusations were leveled. First, parents or guardians who refused to consent to the trials claim that children were removed by ACS and placed in foster families or children’s homes. Then, acting over their objections, ACS authorized the drug trials.

The second accusation: the drugs administered to children as young as three-months-old did not demonstrably extend their livespan but did inflict harm and great suffering. Children who resisted were force-fed drugs through a www.oralcancerfoundation.org/dental/tube_feeding.htm peg-tube inserted into their stomachs.

The charges merit both respectfulofotters.blogspot.com/2004_12_01_respectfulofotters_archive.html#110210791125514246 skepticism and thorough investigation. But, with ACS stonewalling, facts are hard to come by.

Some facts are known. In the 1990s, Experimental anti-AIDS drugs were administered to foster children in ACS custody. In response to the BBC’s accusations, GSK www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200412/s1255128.htm defended those trials by saying that the Food and Drug Administration encourages pediatric testing. "[C]linical trials involving children and orphans are therefore legal and not unusual." GSK called the trials “appropriate” as long as they are “in compliance…with the various state and federal laws and regulations regarding legal authority in the case of minors."

The issue of legal authority lies at the heart of the first accusation: namely, that ACS overruled the objections of legal guardians. The charge pqarchiver.nypost.com/nypost/results.html?num=25&st=basic&QryTxt=%22Jacqueline+Hoerger%22&sortby=REVERSE_CHRON&datetype=7Q first appeared on February 29th in a series of articles written by Douglas Montero for the New York Post. On March 10th, FOX News www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,113734,00.html also addressed the potential scandal.

Montero focused on the case Jacklyn Hoerger, as did “Guinea Pig Kids.” A pediatric nurse< Hoerger became foster mother to two HIV-positive girls who received treatment at Manhattan’s Incarnation Children's Center (ICC), where Hoerger. (ICC is one of the sites implicated in the experiments.)

Convinced that the “highly toxic” drugs were harmful, not beneficial, Hoerger stopped administering them and pursued alternate treatment. The girls’ health reportedly improved significantly. Social workers charged Hoerger of child abuse and removed the girls from her custody.

Since Montero’s articles, www.acftv.com/archive/article.asp?archive_id=23& similar stories have emerged through the BBC and elsewhere. One child, identified only as Garfield, was removed from his grandmother’s care when she stopped giving him drugs that seemed to make him ill. According to the news site www.blackbritain.co.uk/news/details.aspx?i=1026&c=us&h=%e2%80%9 Guinea+Pig+Kids%e2%80%99+%e2%80%93+Black+children+in+care Black Britain, Garfield was then placed with a foster mother who “receives $2000 per month to look after him, because she is prepared to give him the medication.” Black Britain hurls the added indictment of racism at ACS because the vast majority of the HIV-positive children are black, like Garfield, or Hispanic.

The second basic charge leveled by the BBC is that the administered drugs harm rather than help the children. Dr. www.virusmyth.net/aids/index/drasnick.htm David Rasnick, an expert on AIDS drugs, offers a heartbreaking description of what the children might suffer. "We're talking about serious, serious side-effects. These children are going to be absolutely miserable. They're going to have cramps, diarrhoea and their joints are going to swell up. They're going to roll around the ground and you can't touch them." Dr Rasnick called some of the drug combinations "lethal" and further observed, "The young are not completely developed yet. The immune system isn't completely mature until a person's in their teens."

It is difficult for a layperson to evaluate medical claims of harm. The difficulty is increased by the silence rather than answers offered by ACS, the drug manufacturers and those who conducted the trials.

Advocates such as Michael Weinstein, President of www.aidshealth.org/ AIDS Healthcare Foundation (the largest AIDS organization in the United States), www.itnews.it/risorse/EuroNews,Zj0xMTQ2NzEw have called for disclosure, He writes, "These are very serious allegations and we will have to wait to see the facts play out…GSK is being accused of exploiting one of our most vulnerable populations.”

In an atmosphere of secrecy, the worst scenarios assume credibility. Vera Sharav, President of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1185305,00.html comments, “there appears to be a policy of giving drug firms access to them [the children].”

If the facts are to “play out” and the worst is not seem credible, then ACS needs to act in an uncharacteristic manner and respond to public concern.

The ACS is one of the most powerful child welfare agencies in North America. The BBC observed, “The ACS, as it is known, was granted far-reaching powers in the 1990s by…Mayor Rudi Giuliani, after a particularly horrific child killing.” An example of that power: the ACS does not require a court order to place HIV children in foster care and on drug trials.

According to family lawyer David Lansner, “They’re essentially out of control. I’ve had many ACS case workers tell me: ‘We’re ACS, we can do whatever we want’ and they usually get away with it.”

If the ACS has respected parental and guardian rights, then its files should document the fact. If the ACS has honored laws that require potential benefits to children in medical trials to outweigh risks, then records are the proof.

Power without accountability is an invitation for abuse. Nothing short of transparency will make the hideous accusations raised by “Guinea Pig Kids” go away.

Domestic Violence: Behind the Stereotypes

Many of the statements surrounding the Domestic Violence Awareness drive were ‘anti-knowledge’: things generally believed to be true even though they are false.

For example, the general assumption "women are victims, men are abusers" ignores data indicating that battered husbands comprise a significant percentage of domestic violence victims. Equally, women who do not fit the stereotype of victimhood are ignored. The fault lies with the stereotypes, not with the non-conforming victims.

The underlying ideology of domestic violence is politically-correct feminism which considers women to be oppressed by male power and the institutions of society, including traditional marriage. Accordingly, domestic violence has been subjected to a black-and-white analysis that rests upon stereotypes.

From the politically correct perspective, a domestic violence victim is a woman so traumatized by violence that she has become virtually incapable of making the choice to leave. Children or financial dependence may be complicating factors.

The domestic violence abuser is portrayed as a dominating man, but he is more than this. He has become a symbol of the violence presumed to lurk beneath the surface of ‘everyman’. Some anti-domestic violence ad campaigns even target young boys in order to nip their violence in the bud.

For the many real world victims, the realities of domestic violence flatly contradict such stereotypes. For them, the characterizations serve as barriers to understanding and healing.

I know because, for over a decade, I’ve struggled to make sense of my own abuse and feminist explanations made that torturous process more difficult than it had to be. Domestic violence is a shattering experience because the victim is betrayed by a loved one. Self-respect is slowly stripped away until he or she is left psychologically naked, not knowing who to trust or what a normal relationship looks like.

Some domestic violence victims undoubtedly fit the description offered by PC feminism. But gender stereotypes become destructive when they cease to make general claims and purport to say something that is necessarily true of every individual woman or man, every victim or abuser.

The inadequacy of the stereotypes became clear to me through one question. "Why did I stay?" It is a question PC feminism never asks because to do so would acknowledge a fact that contradicts its theories. Namely, some victims choose to stay, which means they could choose to leave.

For PC feminists, even an intelligent and otherwise competent woman who can explain why she stays -- for example, to help a loved one through a temporary addiction -- is not deemed to have really chosen.

There are several reasons why the very idea of choice is rejected.

For one thing, staying is viewed as a bad choice. As true as this may be, however, it does not negate the fact that staying is a choice.

Another reason: with choice comes responsibility and, for some people, having victims bear any responsibility seems tantamount to blaming them for their own abuse. But being accountable for your own decisions and assuming the blame for the actions of someone else are two entirely separate matters.

No one deserves to be beaten; no one is to blame for being on the receiving end of a fist. An abuser doesn't escape legal and moral culpability so easily. But a chronic victim owns it to herself or himself to seriously explore their own participation in a relationship of continuing abuse.

This is not callousness; it is an attempt to help. The path out of victimhood may well lie in acknowledging the power of choice that lies inside each victim. Some choices are incredibly more difficult than others.

And, yet, some choice is almost always possible, even small steps like phoning an anonymous helpline or unpleasant ones like asking for help.

Only when I took responsibility for my choices was I able to answer, "Why did I stay?" As long as I denied responsibility for my actions and bought into theories that pathologized my choices out of existence, I couldn’t get past that one question.

The stereotype of an abuser also does not describe the reality of many victims.

It is not merely that abusers can be women. It is also that the current stereotype seems to make no distinction on matters such as the frequency and severity of abuse. This lack of subtlety obscures rather than informs.

For example, I don’t believe a man who slaps a woman (or vice versa) during a lover’s quarrel is comparable to an abuser who batters on a daily basis. As unacceptable as a slap in a moment of passion may be, it is different in kind from deliberate and ongoing sadism.

In addition, I don’t believe that an abuser who hits once will necessarily do it again. A close friend once became drunk and literally attacked her fiance so viciously and without cause that the relationship almost ended on the spot. She swore off alcohol and nothing remotely similar has occurred in the years since.

The PC stereotypes that have defined the issue of domestic violence are inadequate and they are hurting victims who do not conform. Male and same-sex victims, women who choose to stay, victims of one-time abuse…these people are being ignored or damaged by the current approach. There is no excuse for ignoring the reality of victims who need desperately to be heard.

But ideology makes many so-called "victim advocates" turn a deaf ear to their cries for help.

The Victims of 'Victimhood

Norma Khouri’s international best-seller “Honor Lost: Love and Death in Modern-Day Jordan” is www.nationalreview.com/nr_comment/nr_comment030703.asp an indictment of ‘honor killings’: the practice of killing women whose behavior has shamed the family. Khouri’s lifelong friend Dalia, a Jordanian Muslim, was murdered in Amman by her father for falling in love with a Christian. Fearing for her life, Khouri fled Jordan to asylum in Australia. The sensation caused by the book is flawed by one thing; the story may be a lie from beginning to end.

An 18-month investigation of “Honor Lost” (titled “Forbidden Love” outside the U.S.) was conducted by the Australian Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) and Amal Sabbagh -- the Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women. www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/07/23/1090464854793.html?oneclick=true On July 14th, the resulting expose rocked the literary world.

Khouri’s book is riddled with factual errors as well as what Sabbagh called a general “lack of knowledge of Islam and of Jordan.” For example, the book refers to Kuwait as Jordan’s neighbor when the two countries share no border. It describes the Jordan River flowing through the capital of Amman when no such tributary exists. These are strange errors from someone who hails from Amman.

More damning was the revelation that Khouri had left Jordan at the age of three and lived in Chicago for almost thirty years. www.amanjordan.org/english/daily_news/wmview.php?ArtID=4761 Lying for fame and fortune is nothing new. The intriguing aspect is how our society has become so gullible as to gulp down claims of victimhood without pausing for evidence.

It could be argued that any book from a major publisher has automatic credibility. In Australia where “Forbidden Love” became a runaway hit Khouri was published by Random House. In America, the publisher of “Honor Lost” was Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0002ST9DY/102-3548859-6200941?v=glance Publishers Weekly a touchstone of publishing credibility reviewed the book as, “The timeless tragedy of Shakespeare's star-cross'd lovers…[A] deeply affecting story of a Catholic man and a Muslim woman secretly in love in contemporary Jordan.”

The book’s acceptance by major publishers and reviewers merely highlights the original question: why does society no longer require evidence before believing almost any claim of victimhood?

Khouri’s hoax is a dramatic illustration of how harmful such gaping incredulity can be to real victims and honest dialogue. Malcolm Knox, Literary Editor of SMH, commented that Khouri “spent much of 2003 retelling this story, reducing listeners to tears and anger, in interviews, book festivals, bookshops and other events…Khouri became a standard-bearer for oppressed Arab women and triggered a publishing trend of similar books.”

Meanwhile, Sabbagh -- a woman who has fought on the front lines for the real victims of honor killings -- stated: "We feel defamed by this book.” She feels defamed because Jordan has courageously opened up the topic of honor killings for global examination. Now the issue is being defined by sensationalized fiction, not reality. www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=6129 Rana Husseini is an investigative journalist at the English-language newspaper Jordan Times. Husseini has written tirelessly against ‘honor killings’ and must be credited with pulling the issue into the media’s spotlight. Husseini has produced a list of 73 clear errors in “Honor Lost.” For example, Husseini writes, "She [Khouri] talks about a jury and we [in Jordan] don't have juries; she talks about killers being bailed out, but killers are never bailed out in Jordan."

Husseini is understandably resentful of Khouri. With courage and persistence, she has battled to spotlight a hideous crime against women: honor killings. Now a con artist seems to be distorting and exploiting the pain of murdered women.

The irony is heartbreaking. Jordan is one of the most ‘advanced’ Arab nations; it leads the Muslim world in officially and publicly condemning honor killings. Yet, now, the world’s image of Jordan and its acknowledged problem has no relationship to those realities.

Why would the world allow a con artist to define an international issue? Quite simply: no one is willing to demand evidence.

As a columnist, I routinely require evidence from alleged victims. I do so without accusation or rancor simply because I think facts are essential before reaching a conclusion. Evidence is rendered more essential by two circumstances: 1) where there is a victim, there is also an accused who deserves the light of inquiry; and, 2) an open accusation is a public matter.

Accordingly, I initimately know one reason why probing questions are not asked. Those who ask them are automatically accused of vicious motives. If a reviewer had quizzed Khouri, she would have been accused of apologizing and enabling Islam’s violence against women. If the reviewer had been a “he”…well, forget about it.

Emotional rhetoric replaces fact in virtually all reporting of ‘victimhood.’ How could a request for evidence possibly compete with Khouri’s media spots which reportedly reduced “listeners to tears and anger.” The audience anger would have automatically lashed out at anyone who asked for such a presumptuous thing as substantiation.

The sad Khouri saga is not an indictment of honor killings. It is an indictment of how society has so fallen in love with victimhood that it took 18 months and an international effort to debunk a claim that should have immediately collapsed of its own weigh. But, then, that would have required asking a question.

In Defense of Beauty Pageants

A beauty contest at a university (Lakehead) in my area aroused sharp protest from thunderbay.indymedia.org/news/2004/11/16227.php campus feminists. The flap came on the heels of a similar contest at which I applauded from the audience. The contrast made me wonder: “Why are politically correct feminists so upset by beauty pageants?”

‘Upset’ may be too tame a word. Rage against beauty contests lies at the very roots of PC feminism.

Indeed, www.jofreeman.com/photos/MissAm1969.html a high-profile protest at the 1968 Miss America beauty contest is www.cwluherstory.com/CWLUArchive/miss.html often credited with bringing the feminist movement into public awareness. It was a defining moment, with feminist protestors setting off stink bombs and singing, "Ain't she sweet; making profits off her meat."

Beauty contests have evolved since 1968. For example, the majority of judges at the Lakehead pageant were female; there was a female ‘co-host’; 40% of the tickets went to women.

But PC attacks have not substantially altered. Some of the Lakehead debate revolved around the appropriateness of holding a beauty contest at the argus.lakeheadu.ca/article.php?id=352 on-campus pub; that’s a valid debate. But mere inappropriateness doesn’t explain why feminists campaigned so vigorously to cancel the event despite the fact that the breach of contract would have resulted in a fine of $50,000 to $155,000 to be paid by the university.

The rhetoric surrounding their campaign offers a stereotypical example of feminism’s stock-in-trade arguments against beauty contests, on-campus or off.

  • flash.lakeheadu.ca/~argus/article.php?id=318 In the Lakehead student newspaper, Angie Gollat of the on-campus Gender Issues Centre (GIC) lambastes the event as “sexist” and “heterosexist.” It is difficult to imagine campus feminists objecting to lesbian events because they are “homosexist.” But hypocrisy aside, it is not clear why a celebration of female physical beauty is sexist that is, anti-woman -- especially when all the women involved are eager to participate.
  • In the same newspaper, unidentified students state their concern that “the objectification of women [that is, the contest] leads to violence against women.” There are two problems with that argument. Being judged on the basis of your beauty is no more ‘objectification’ than taking a college exam and being judged on your intellect; yet, as far as I know, every student will take exams. Moreover, absolutely no data supports a connection between beauty pageants and violence against women.
  • The thunderbay.indymedia.org/news/2004/11/16227.php Indymedia carried the GIC’s call for a protest, which read “Concerned citezens [sic] are staging an anti-corporate demonstration…” to show “that discriminatory events are not welcome on campus.” The anti-corporate remark refers to the contest’s http://www.coorslight.ca/clubtour/home/home.php sponsor and merely reflects left-wing bias. (Tax-funded feminists are notoriously contemptuous of the free market.) And, unless a particular race or religion was barred from entry, the charge of discrimination doesn’t make sense. The contest was ‘women only’ but so are women’s sports and many feminist events.

Two more substantial arguments underlie the demonization of beauty contests. One was presented in a book that caused a phenomenon upon publication: www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0385423977/104-7881288-6603161?v=glance “The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women” (1991) by Naomi Wolf.

Wolf hypothesizes a cause-and-effect http://homestar.org/bryannan/wolf.html relationship between women’s liberation and society’s ideal of beauty. Although women have advanced, Wolf contends that, “in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our unliberated grandmothers." Why? Because of how “cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us.”

In short, the ideal of female beauty oppresses modern women in a manner presumably not experienced by earlier generations. Thus, feminist Jo Freeman www.jofreeman.com/photos/MissAm1969.html writes of the 1968 protest, “All women were made to believe they were inferior because they couldn't measure up to Miss America beauty standards.” By this analysis, beauty contestants become symbols and tools of oppression.

The analysis is deeply flawed. For one thing, society has no one standard of beauty. A cursory scan of today’s “beautiful people” reveals women of all ages and ethnic groups, with no one body type or style of dress.

Moreover, the beauty of one woman doesn’t force another to conform. My favorite make-up is a scrubbed face and I wear no-brand blue jeans. All the women I know are intelligent enough to make such decisions for themselves.

Yet the argument that beauty contests are unfair to the average woman is common. An influential book by the philosopher John Rawls became popular in left-wing circles and lends the argument support. “A Theory of Justice” contends, “no one deserves his place in the distribution of natural endowments, any more than one deserves one's initial starting place in society.”

To Rawls, naturally beautiful people are akin to those born rich or with perfect health; they have won “the social lottery.” That is, they’ve benefited from random luck, which they did not earn or deserve. His theory has been used to justify the redistribution of wealth and power in society. And one way to “redistribute” natural beauty is to pathologize its display.

The feminist contention that beauty contests are unfair to the average woman has a Rawlsian ring. It also sounds like envy.

Even after the Lakehead beauty contest had passed, the GIC made argus.lakeheadu.ca/article.php?id=353 a declaration of war, “This is a wake up call to all you dormant egalitarians. It’s time to mobilize.”

Actually it is time to lighten up and applaud beauty, not pathologize it.

Wage Gap Reflects Women's Priorities

An August 26th report from the U.S. Census Bureau stated that the median female full-time wage for women was 75.5 cents for every dollar similarly earned by men; that's down .6% from 2002. Gender feminists quickly cried "discrimination is increasing!" Is that charge true, and how is it being used?

The Institute for Women's Policy Research immediately issued a press release that used the 75.5 figure to call for a raise in the minimum wage and improved enforcement of Equal Opportunity Laws.

But there may be no problem to solve.

For one thing, the .6% could be an insignificant statistical variation, especially given that women's wages have risen consistently over the last decade. For another, a survey is not a scientific study; it only indicates that something may deserve more attention. It does not explain why there is a wage gap.

In 2003, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) observed, "Of the many factors that account for differences in earnings between men and women, our model indicated that work patterns are key. Specifically, women have fewer years of work experience, work fewer hours per year, are less likely to work a full-time schedule, and leave the labor force for longer periods of time than men."

The GAO cautioned that it could not "determine whether this remaining difference is due to discrimination or other factors. For example, some experts said that some women trade off career advancement or higher earnings for a job that offers flexibility to manage work and family responsibilities."

In short, more women than men may seek out lower-paying jobs with flexible hours in order to spend time with their families. If so, when you take two checklists one of women's and one of men's full-time jobs --- and go to the exact middle of each, which is the median, women's wages will naturally be less than men's.

But what of comparable full-time jobs? What could account for a wage gap there? Consider just two possibilities.

First, the definition of full-time employment. Most surveys define it as 35+ or 40 hours a week. But a tremendous difference exists between an employee who clocks 40 hours and one who works 60. For the same reasons women would seek flexible hours, they also are likely to work fewer hours in a full-time job. Raises, bonuses, and promotions more naturally flow toward employees who work longer hours.

Indeed, when you factor out variables like having children, the wage gap virtually disappears. In their book "Women's Figures" (1999), economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Christine Stolba meticulously compared data on the earnings of childless men and women, aged 27 to 33. They found that the wage gap shrank to 98 cents.

A second possible reason for the "wage gap": surveys do not usually account for factors such as "shift premiums." That is, shifts that are dangerous or otherwise undesirable are more highly paid and more likely to be filled by men. Working the day shift as a cab driver is not really equal to working the more dangerous night shift but it is usually treated that way by surveys. The resulting disparity in wages has nothing to do with discrimination against women. It reflects the preferences of women themselves.

If this is true, then the wage gap is not a problem to be solved. It is merely an interesting statistic indicating that men and women when offered a level playing field will tend to express different priorities and, so, end up at different places. (This is a crude generalization, of course, and says nothing of individual men and individual women.)

People, like me, who argue that the wage gap is mostly an reflection of women's preferences are often accused of caring nothing for equality or justice. A more accurate statement is that it is different vision of equality and justice. For decades, two visions have been competing with each other in the debate surrounding the wage gap.

The first view -- the one presented here argues for equality of opportunity. That is, every individual's ability to exercise his or her individual rights to person and property should be equally protected by law, with advantages granted to none. Such an equality of opportunity would inevitably render unequal results in wages, for example -- because outcomes depend on many other factors, including ability, hard work, character and luck.

The inequality of outcomes is not an indication of injustice because justice resides in every individual receiving what he or she deserves. Employees who compete with equality of opportunity deserve whatever they can negotiate from an employer based on their merits and his needs. That's justice.

The competing vision defines equality as the outcome in which people are politically, economically and socially equal. Justice is gauged by how equally all people share in those benefits. This view is often called egalitarianism.

Winston Churchill captured the difference in stating, "'All men are created equal' says the American Declaration of Independence. 'All men shall be kept equal' say the Socialists." Nothing short of totalitarianism can assure the latter.

The wage gap is, in fact, telling us something that should be heeded about society and human preference. Egalitarians should listen more carefully to what is being said.

A Feminist Version of 'Joe Millionaire'?

The popular reality show "Joe Millionaire" chronicled a fierce competition among 20 women to marry a man who was advertised as a multi-millionaire but who was actually a low-paid construction worker. Audiences squirmed as the contestants portrayed women as stereotypical, money-grubbing, superficial social climbers.

Recently, I attended a colloquium on the disparity between the number of women earning college degrees compared to that of men, and found myself to be a squirming audience member. Although the participants were supposed to be addressing a widely discussed phenomenon spotlighted by a 2003 study entitled "The Growing Gender Gaps in College Enrollment and Degree Attainment in the U.S. and Their Potential Economic and Social Consequences," the participants' focus was on their own personal prospects for marriage and those of their daughters.

"My daughter will have to marry down," stated a sociologist at the colloquium, meaning that her daughter would have to "settle" for a husband with less education and a lower income. A black sociologist added that for years, women in her peer group have had to marry down if they wanted to marry at all.

The study, conducted by Andrew Sum and colleagues, revealed that, in 2003, over 56 percent of college students were women. It concluded, "In every major age and race-ethnic group, women across the nation now enroll in college, persist in college, and graduate from college at considerably higher rates than men." The changing ratio of female to male students is a social phenomenon worthy of speculation. As women assume the role of breadwinner, are men becoming less economically driven? Does an anti-male bias in education discourage male advancement, as another study suggests?

Yet, the concern of the colloquium participants was a growing trend of women marrying men who were less educated and earned less money than they did. Minority women expressed the greatest concern -- and with reason. According to the Sum study, \x{201C}in 1999-2000, for every 100 degrees awarded to Black men, Black women were awarded 188 associate degrees, 192 bachelor degrees, and 221 master's degrees." Hispanic women earned nearly 130 degrees for every 100 awarded to Hispanic men. Sum concluded that highly educated women would have to consider "marrying down." He labeled the prospect as "a serious economic and cultural problem."

Sum's conclusion has been echoed in popular articles. For example, an ABC News article, subtitled "College Gender Gap Could Mean Women Lose Mating Game," asked, "Must Women Go Slummin'?"

My emotional response to the colloquium was swift and sharply negative.

First, I suspect that a social problem is in the process of being manufactured. At every juncture in women\x{2019}s lives today, sociologists and hype-hungry media seem eager to discover a social crisis. We\x{2019}re too thin; we\x{2019}re too fat. We\x{2019}re career obsessed; we\x{2019}re quitting work to become housewives. Now, after decades of urging girls to become Ph.D.s, women are suddenly discovered to be too educated for their own good.

The increase in well-educated women should elicit sustained applause that is tempered only by concern about equal access to education for males. There is no more of a "marriage crisis" now than there was when male students dominated campuses. Moreover, the perceived problem is self-solving. When the Australian newspaper The Age, reported a similar "problem" -- "there are an astonishing 47,000 more women than men with degrees in this age group [age 25 to 29" -- it included the solution. Census figures for 2001 showed that 12 percent of women aged 25 to 29 with university degrees married men without them.

Marriage is a healthy institution that adapts quickly to circumstance; marriage patterns may be shifting to adjust. There is a "marriage crisis" only for women and in-laws who demand an attorney or doctor for a husband and do not wish to welcome a plumber or mechanic into the family. This is their personal problem, not a social one. Indeed, if marrying down constituted a crisis, society would have collapsed long ago from the tendency of men to wed "below their station." Marrying down is called a social crisis only when women's choices appear to be limited. This reflects both hypocrisy and elitism.

As I listened to colloquium participants discuss marrying down, two truths became clear although neither was explicitly acknowledged. First, the same women who argued for minority rights, a more balanced equality, and advancement of the underprivileged seemed to be genuinely horrified at the prospect of dealing with "lesser" and "lower" men as equals in their personal lives. Second, "lesser" and "lower" was being defined solely with reference to income and formal education.

By their definition, my mother married down. She was a high school graduate; my father had a sixth-grade education. Yet no one in my family ever viewed the intelligent and loving man my father was as lesser and lower than my mother. At the cocktail hour following the colloquium, I mentioned my father to several participants as a counter-example to their concerns. One woman gave an amazing response. She said there was little difference between a high school and sixth-grade education, but a significant schism between a college and high school education. In short, marrying down was not a problem for women, per se, but only for upper-class women.

I didn't bother to follow-up with the suggestion that "lesser" and "lower" should be defined according to a man's character, not his income.

I still squirm at the thought of how many successful women now seem to view a large percentage of decent single men. Namely, as lesser and lower.

In Kobe Case, Accuser Is Rightly Identified

The judge who presided over Kobe Bryant's "rape" case announced that more sealed documents will soon be released.

With new facts emerging from the now-dismissed criminal case and a related civil court case pending, the debate surrounding Bryant continues.

The manner in which society, the media and perhaps the law approach "victims" is being gradually redefined.

One of the most controversial questions raised is whether Bryant's accuser should be publicly named. During the criminal proceeding, the accuser's name and most of her history received the nominal protection of Colorado's Rape Shield Law. A media taboo against identifying "victims" of sexual assault ensured anonymity in the mainstream press.

But her name, photo and history flashed across the Internet. True anonymity was a futile exercise because too many people believed it was patently unfair to name Bryant, who was legally presumed innocent, while extending the automatic presumption and protection of victimhood to his accuser. Veteran journalist Geneva Overholser felt strongly enough about that unfairness to resign from the Poynter Institute -- a noted journalism education organization -- because it deleted the accuser's name from one of her columns.

The issue of accuser anonymity is being debated on two basic levels: Is it fair; and, is it possible?

Both questions arise in the civil suit even though that venue extends no legal protection to an accuser's identity. The accuser asked to be identified as "Jane Doe" on her complaint. Federal Judge Richard Matsch denied the motion, stating, "The parties appear as equals before the court and that fundamental principle must be protected throughout these proceedings."

He added that the accuser's identity was already well known.

The media taboo against naming "victims" is also weakening. Last week, a respected Denver newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News, identified the accuser both on its Web site and in a print edition. Editor John Temple explained that fairness required both parties in a civil case to be named. So far, most major media has not followed suit -- one exception: the FOX News Channel and FOXNews.com, which identified her last Friday, and FOX News' Greta Van Susteren, who discussed the topic on her Friday show.

Should accusers be named in criminal and civil court cases? Those who wish to identify either both or neither of the parties do so largely out of a desire to reduce false accusations.

Similarly, naming an accuser holds him or her accountable to the community. It also permits anyone who can substantiate or discredit a claim to come forward.

Rape has become an exception because of the public shame attached to being sexually violated. Yet, today, the greater disgrace adheres to whoever is accused of sexual misconduct. The disgrace involves not merely shame but also the likely loss of marriages, friends, reputation, career and wealth. Yet the damage and shame inflicted on those who are merely accused does not prevent the media from naming them.

Debate over the propriety of identifying both parties is quickly followed by speculation over whether anonymity for only one side is even possible. Once half of the story becomes public, can the other half remain confidential? The Internet has ushered in an age of instant and omnipresent information. Nothing short of totalitarian censorship may be able to enforce anonymity for "victims."

Consider just one instance. The Eagle County sheriff and district attorney's offices have already released a cascade of documents on the Bryant criminal case, with the page-count approaching 1,000.

Most of the documents have been heavily redacted. That is, they have been edited to delete references to the alleged victim's name or to "sexual conduct held to be inadmissible under the Rape Shield statute." But the careful editing provides no real protection.

For example, an unredacted transcript of the interview that police conducted with Bryant the night after the alleged rape is freely available online. The implicit message of sites that post such documents is this: If you are going to release information, release it all so the public can judge.

Much of Bryant's punishment has come from public reaction; for example, he lost his lucrative celebrity endorsement contracts. The public is justified in wanting to base their judgments on all the facts, especially since the criminal case is no longer active. For example, the publication of documents has revealed that Bryant's accuser told at least two lies to the police.

Specifically, a letter to the police from the accuser was among the previously sealed documents that were released after the collapse of the criminal case. It apologized for lying about two details of the "rape."

The lies were part of a legal process that could destroy another human being's life. Why should the lies or the name of the accuser who told them receive court protection?

The Bryant saga will run on and on. In fact, the civil case may provide more legal theater than the criminal proceeding. For one thing, the accuser has procured the services of mega-hitter lawyer Lin Wood. Wood was added "to address growing concerns regarding media coverage" and "her privacy rights."

The accuser swings between demanding privacy and taking public action. As a practical matter, it is becoming increasingly apparent that those who bring accusations cannot have both. As a matter of fairness, that may be for the best.

For the record, her name is Katelyn Faber.

Infidelity Gene: Sensational but Science?

The Scotsman, a respected UK newspaper, announced last Wednesday, "Cheating Women May Blame Their Genes."

A yet to be published study from London found that genetic make-up constitutes an "important influence" in women’s infidelity "with a heritability of 41 percent." But studies purporting to quantify the genetic basis of complex human behavior should be approached with caution.

The media has not been displaying such caution. News of the "infidelity gene" quickly hit headlines around the world: the New York Post declared, "Cheating’s in the DNA for Ladies."

Health Talk Canada stated, "Some Women Cheat Because It's In Their Genes." The Melbourne Herald Sun informed its readers, "One in five women cheat - and it's genetic."

India, Ireland, South Africa….

From the superficiality of reports, the media seems to have relied on a brief press release rather than the study itself. (The study is due out in the December Twin Research, a scientific journal.) No analysis of methodology or other key factors has been apparent, for instance.

The press release itself should have raised questions. For example, lead researcher Professor Tim Spector states that the study "lends support to evolutionary psychologists’ theories on the origins of human behaviour."

As the author of the popular 2003 book Your Genes Unzipped: How Your Genetic Inheritance Shapes Your Life, Spector has both a bias and a vested interest in proving these theories true.

Spector also declares, "this study justifies additional genetic and molecular research on human sexual behaviour," thus leading me to wonder if the study is a preamble to increasing the funding to his research.

Neither observation invalidates the study; they merely provide reason for enhanced scrutiny.

Based on the press release, I can neither evaluate the study nor validate its conclusions by uncritically repeating them. But I can offer some of the questions and points of skepticism with which I’ll approach the full study when it is readily available.

One concern is the political atmosphere that surrounds current theories of human behavior and the political uses of such "research."

The Spector study is part of the "nature versus nurture" debate, which has been defined as "a popular phrase used to describe debates over the relative degrees to which one's genetic makeup (nature) and one's life experiences (nurture) influence one's traits and behavior."

The extent to which the debate has been politicized can be measured by the furor that surrounds any research indicating there may be innate differences between the races in terms of intelligence and abilities, or that homosexuality may be genetically based.

Many left-wing causes favor an extreme "nurture" argument. Radical feminists go so far as to argue that a so-called predisposition toward motherhood or heterosexuality is actually learned behavior. Thus they seek to deconstruct the institutions of society, such as the family and the free market, in order to reconstruct them to promote the ‘correct’ set of learned behaviors.

Extreme "nature" arguments, such as those that claim to quantify a genetic tendency toward infidelity, can be no less political. Discussions of "gene therapy" or the genetic screening of children already abound.

Another concern is the possible misuse of methodology.

The "Twin Study," upon which Spector’s research is based, is a common methodology for researchers who attempt to uncover a significant or defining contribution of nature. The studies compare identical with non-identical (fraternal) twins in order to look for traits that have greater similarity in identical twins than in the non-identical ones, whose differences make them more susceptible to environmental factors.

Researchers then assume that the greater similarity indicates a genetic basis for the trait, which is assigned a percentage based on its prevalence.

Twin studies are particularly valuable in researching medical conditions such as diabetes. But it is far from clear that the methodology of hard science (medicine) applies with equal force to researching soft sciences (psychology or sociology).

Volumes have been written in opposition to applying the scientific method or mathematical measurements to human behavior, especially in attempting to predict it, as Spector’s study seems to do.

Consider merely one objection that has specific application to the Spector’s research:

If, as Spector concludes, specific behaviors such as infidelity are genetically based, then his conclusion calls the validity of his research methods into question. Why? Because the home environment is generally considered to be the primary source of nurture-based behavior; it is a primary check on what is nature-based. Behavior that cannot be ascribed to nurture such as behavior learned in the home is automatically ascribed to nature. A negative correlation is assumed.

The home environment is largely defined by the parents’ behavior. But according to Spector, that behavior may also be genetically based. The home, therefore, ceases to be a reliable measure of "nurture." In short, Spector’s study creates a paradox that calls itself into question.

Other reasons for approaching the "infidelity gene" with skepticism are less philosophical. One is simply that the nature versus nurture debate is notoriously abstract.

No clear lines of measurement have been established between the two concepts of "nature" and "nurture." The human genome has been sequenced, but only a small fraction of its genes are accurately known, and even fewer have known functions."

No one knows how genes may interact. It seems premature to say the least for anyone to talk about an "infidelity gene" let alone to assign precise percentages to its impact on behavior.

The study smacks of sensationalism, not science.

In Defense of 'Deadbeat' Dads

A July 25 Justice Department study reveals that 6.9 million people -- one in 34 adults -- were on probation, parole or incarcerated in 2003. This record-breaking figure has prompted calls for the removal of nonviolent offenders from the system.

If that happens, the first offenders to be removed should be "deadbeat dads" imprisoned for defaulting on child support they cannot afford to pay.

An obstacle confronts this proposal. An amazing lack of data surrounds some basic questions: How many "deadbeat dads" are in the correctional system? Do they refuse to pay or are they unable to do so?"

The dearth of data is amazing because the "deadbeat dad" has been a high-profile issue in politics and the media for many years. Non-payment of child support is a significant problem in the United States. According to the Federal Office of Child Support, in 2003, $96 billion in accumulated unpaid support was due to children in the United States; 68 percent of child support cases were in arrears. An overwhelming majority of children, particularly minorities, living in single-parent homes where child support is not paid live in poverty. Yet, many questions about these fathers and why they fail to pay remain unanswered.

The "deadbeat dad" became a priority issue on a federal level in 1975, when President Gerald Ford created the national Office of Child Support Enforcement, the function of which had previously been the purview of states.

In short, for almost 30 years, an army of civil servants and government officials have spent billions of dollars to track down "deadbeat dads." Yet even such basic and easily collected data as how many have been jailed is difficult to find.

The DOJ states that 2,078,570 people were incarcerated "in Federal or State prisons or in local jails" as of June 30, 2003. The crimes for which people were incarcerated are sorted into four categories: Violent, Property, Drug, Public-order. There is no category for "deadbeat dads." Indeed, the local family courts that sentence fathers for non-payment generally do so on "contempt of court" charges; that is, the fathers are in contempt of a court-ordered payment. This makes their cases difficult to sort out from other contempt charges.

To my knowledge, there is no national data on the number of "deadbeat dads" incarcerated on "contempt" for non-payment. (The group, Hunger Strike for Justice, estimates the number at 250,000, but their figure may well be inflated.)

Instead of hard data, anecdotal reports abound -- often in the form of local news items about sentencing within a community.

The numbers are important. Prison populations are growing rapidly even as crime rates continue to sharply decline. According to the DOJ, the number of people incarcerated rose by 130,700 or by "2.9% from midyear 2002." It is important to identify categories of nonviolent prisoners whose release pose no threat to society.

Fathers who have been imprisoned because of an inability to pay are perfect candidates for release. Indeed, their continued incarceration comes close to establishing a de facto debtors' prison -- an institution supposedly abolished more than 200 years ago by President Adams.

But are the incarcerated fathers unable to pay? An easy "yes" or "no" answer does not exist. Nor do reliable statistics. Again, anecdotal information fills the vacuum.

Some imprisoned fathers may be able to pay but refuse to do so because of grievances. For example, they may be withholding support until their court-ordered visitation rights are respected.

The story told by an imprisoned "deadbeat dad" who identifies himself as "HeartBroken Father" is probably more common. After two heart attacks, he became homeless. Nevertheless, he writes, "I was still labeled a 'deadbeat dad' by New York State, which suspended my driver's license, and my professional license to practice as a Respiratory Technologist in New York." (Revocation of professional licenses is standard procedure against "deadbeat dads.")

By the time HeartBroken Father had landed a minimum-wage job, he owed $30,000 in back child support. Despite a perfect record of paying when employed, he was sentenced to five months of consecutive weekends in jail, at which point he lost his job.

After describing the dangerous, humiliating and terrifying experience of being imprisoned even as a "weekender," HeartBroken Father comments, "some judges use imprisonment ... as a 'tool,' to pry loose hidden funds from deadbeat dads, their friends or relatives. I think this tactic is probably very effective, because no one that could pay and get out would subject themselves willingly to prison."

In short, any "deadbeat dad" who endures prison is probably unable to pay his way out. This scenario becomes more likely when you consider that employed "deadbeat dads" have child support withheld from their wages; employers are required to do so by law. Therefore, those imprisoned are probably unemployed or have earnings that cannot cover their payments.

Their employment prospects sink with each imprisonment, even as their child support debt rises.

It is difficult to understand what is accomplished by imprisoning such nonviolent fathers. It is easier to understand what releasing them accomplishes. Quite apart from humanitarian concerns, the correctional system -- especially the prison system -- cannot sustain its current growth rate. The DOJ estimates that in 2001, "2.7% of adults in the U.S. had served time in prison, up from 1.8% in 1991 and 1.3% in 1974." Now the estimate is 3.2 percent. Even if society could accommodate the soaring rate of imprisonment, the prisons themselves cannot.

In some areas of the United States, incarcerated deadbeat dads are already being released. For example, prison authorities in Macomb County, Mich., recently released "60 drug offenders, deadbeat dads and other low-level offenders" due to overcrowding. It is time for the release of impoverished deadbeat dads to become official policy in every corner of North America.

©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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