December 31, 2003
I Am In Music Heaven
I recently stumbled upon Diane Arkenstone's wonderful CD, Aquaria.
As soon as I heard it, I promptly fell out of my chair and said WOW.
She's new age artist David Arkenstone's wife. Aquaria immediately reminded me of one of my favorite groups, Enigma. I Googled Arkenstone's name and uncovered a treasure trove of great music at the Morpheus Music web site. Most of it has that Enigma-like sound to it. It falls in the ambient, new age, and world music categories.
Here are the artists that I prefer so far, including some that I already recognize. The list is sure to grow very shortly. I'm glad I found that site. It's a one-stop shoppe for everything that reminds me of Enigma.
Enigma (a long fave)
Delerium (a long fave)
Brian Eno (a long fave)
Amethystium (a long fave)
Patrick O'Hearn (a long fave)
Cirque du Soleil soundtracks (a long fave, especially of "Saltimbanco")
Future Sound of London (a newer fave of mainly their older stuff)
Mike Oldfield (think "Tubular Bells" from "The Exorcist.")
Fathers' Activists Freep The Daily Telegraph
Fearful and unhappy that joint physical custody may not get much more than a cursory glance by the Australian legislature, some activists such as Lionel Richards from the group Aussie Dads are urging other fathers' rights activists to manipulate a Daily Telegraph poll on federal issues. As everyone here who has ever Freeped a poll knows, online polls are notoriously unreliable and easily toyed with. The fathers' rights activists hope that by Freeping this poll to gain a false positive ("winning" the top spot as most important issue) they may be able to force the public and the legislature to appease their demands.
The poll asks "Which Federal issue do you think needs the most attention in 2004?" Choices include national security, superannuation, child custody, childcare, tax, universities, home affordability, medicare, economy, and unemployment.
Guess which issue leads by more than half, and guess how it got that way? Not that it really matters, since skewing a public opinion poll in your favor isn't necessarily going to result in your target audience doing what you demand.
The Opinions Pour In...
[Note - I am providing only one link in this post because I do not want to give traffic to the web sites of some of these people and organizations. If you want links, run a Google search.]
The opinions are pouring in on the Committee's final report about Australia's family court system. Fathers' rights groups are not particularly happy with it, especially since the joint custody presumption was nixed. The Shared Parenting Council of Australia (SPCA), a leading fathers' rights group, is "bitterly disappointed" with the final report. SPCA believes the report has left "children, fathers and grandparents with little change to their current status after family breakdown." SPCA's Federal Director Geoffrey Greene said that "Shared Parental Responsibility is already a feature of Family Law in Australia as are Grandparents' rights to access to children. It would appear these recommendations do little to improve these situations."
Uhm... if shared parental responsibility and grandparent's rights to access to their grandchildren are already features of Australian family law, why do they need to be improved? Nothing stops parents from assuming responsibility for their children. Nothing stops grandparents from spending time with their grandchildren. Responsibility and access do not translate to "My way or the highway."
For the record, "shared parental responsibility" refers to joint legal custody.
John Flanagan of the group Fairness in Child Support is also less than thrilled. The Party Secretary of the Non-Custodial Parents Party read Flanagan's media release and agreed with his assessment. Flanagan complained that most of the recommendations offer no change to the status quo. Why do so many fathers' rights activists make it sound as if they are unable to parent their children without laws that spell thing out for them? They make it sound as if mothers routinely deny fathers the right to parent. What utter nonsense. Most non-custodial dads have absolutely no problem at all parenting their children. They don't need laws that give them "permission" to do so. Could it be that the main interest of these activists it not in parenting their children but in having their demands met over and above what is best for children? Could it be that they want the upper hand in their own divorce proceedings, completely ignoring the established primary caregiving status of their ex-wives?
I thought this complaint made by Flanagan about the Best Interests principle was eye-opening. With all the blather that fathers' rights activists are only concerned about what is best for children, he outright admits here that his (and his organization's) primary concern is with meeting the demands of fathers' rights activists.
What would he prefer? A "Best Interests of Angry Men" Principle?
How does not caving in to the fathers' rights view of the Best Interests principle (they think it only reinforces what they believe is bias favoring mothers) bypass the Committee's intent of providing increased parental responsibility to the non-resident parent - normally the father?
It doesn't. What "status quo" is he talking about? Could it be the erroneous belief of many fathers' rights activists that the status quo favors mothers demands over everything else? Not getting your way in court does not mean that the court is biased against dads. Not getting sole or joint custody when you demand it does not mean that courts "routinely" relegate fathers to "visitor" status.
Daniel Lee, President of the American father's rights group Child's Best Interests, is also outraged that demands for the joint custody presumption were not handed to these activists. He referred to Stripping The Court of Custody Role. Some fathers' rights activists have cheered the opening line, "[t]he hated Family Court could be stripped of power to cut costs and keep lawyers out of messy child custody battles." They've also cheered that Australia has considering removing most custody cases from control of their judges. But Lee believes that uncorking the champagne at this time is folly. He complained that "[w]hile [the article] sounds like a great idea, closely reading the story shows most shared parenting advocates still don't know what they're doing, leaving feminists cheering and legal professionals breathing a sigh of relief."
I'm sure he believes that feminists "cheer" keeping men out of the lives of their children. I have never met a feminist who "cheers" any such thing, and I know a lot of feminists. I've heard that accusation often enough. Countless feminists working on family law issues have been called man-haters by fathers' rights activists, both male and female. As Pru Goward wrote in the article I linked in a previous post, it looks like Australia has taken a common sense approach. While I disagree with some of what she had written and I find part of the Report to be very problematic, I do hope that common sense was at the forefront of the Committee members' minds.
Lee had plenty to say about that presumption for joint custody going down in flames.
"Equal" custody is a myth. Parents do not walk into the courtroom on equal ground. To pretend otherwise elevates the status of the parent who had not undertaken the hands-on, day-to-day, primary responsibility for the children over and above the primary caregiving parent. It's getting all the rewards without doing the bulk of the work. It's also about having the ability to meddle in decisions that previously was not of much concern. "Equal" custody gives the non-primary caregiving parent the ability to control the lives and decisions of the other parent. That's what fathers' rights activists really want: the court-sanctioned ability, via the children, to continue to interfere, control, and meddle in the lives of their ex-wives and ex-girlfriends long after the relationship has dissolved into break-up or divorce.
Feedback - Family Court in Australia
David Blankenhorn at the Family Scholars Blog has linked to Pru Goward's article At Last, Someone's Taken A Grown-Up Approach to Child Custody. While I don't agree with everything she's written, she's absolutely right that the Report "rejects the chance for quick fixes, for siding with one or other interest group and appears to have, for the most part, put the interests of the children first."
Blankenhorn even linked to one of my posts about the failure of the joint custody presumption. That was nice. I gave him the link to the Report itself. I had the impression from reading the blog that he didn't have it.
December 30, 2003
MONEY Cites Stepford As "Best Place To Live"
Matt Yglesias was more clinical in describing the "best places to live" selected by MONEY as soulless exurban sprawl zones. I think "Stepford" hits the mark much better.
Remember that X-Files episode where Mulder and Scully posed as "The Petries" (pronounced "pee-tree")? They took up residence in a sterile planned community where residents who dirtied up their pristine lawns with plastic pink flamingos and Shabby Chic windmills mysteriously vanished? The dreaded Community Association was akin to The Skull and Bones?
It's for real. I used to live in one of the cities on the A List.
What were the defining characteristics of MONEY's selections? Good schools? Low crime rates? Exciting local culture? Fun things to do locally that didn't cost a mint? Not a chance. The main characteristic was "those towns with demographics that closely mirrored that of the typical MONEY reader: college educated, working professional, well-above average median income."
As Kevin Drum pointed out, MONEY selected places most similar to its own circulation demographics.
I guess MONEY readers also have higher rates of depression and weigh more. Not long ago, the American Public Health Association released a report citing a link between urban sprawl and depression and obesity - but only for whites. The layout of these Stepford clones discourages walking because everything is too far away. You need a car. Some of these towns do not know the meaning of the word "sidewalk." Large cities are much more contained. Then again, large cities have higher crime rates and more pollution.
The town I live in now didn't even register on MONEY's "Best Towns" search engine. I guess no one who lives here is a subscriber.
Bored of the Rings
I guess I'm one of the few who has not yet seen the final installment of the Ring Trilogy. I don't mean the Japanese "Ring" trilogy or Wagner's "Ring." I mean Peter Jackson's "Ring." I've never been a Tolkien fan. Lots of bloggers are really excited about the movie. Mustang Bobby gave it a thumbs up. Honestly, I tried to read the books. I really did. I got through some of the first "Ring" book but it just didn't hold my interest. Every time I tried to read "The Hobbit" I made it as far as a party scene, and I threw the book across the room.
I liked the first two movies. I'm looking forward to seeing the third one. My s. o. is a major Tolkien fan. He couldn't wait to see Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, and all the others on the big screen.
Me? I wanted to see it because I am a long-time fan of the director. While watching both movies, one phrase kept dancing around in my head.
"I kick ass for the Lord!!!
'Tis The Season for Weight Loss Gimmicks
The Federal Trade Commission is on top of the annual mid-winter Crash Diet Season, with the announcement of its “Red Flag” education campaign to assist media outlets voluntarily to screen out weight-loss product ads containing claims that are too good to be true." [via TLC member T-Rex] In 2002, the FTC released a report finding that -- surprise, surprise -- "fraudulent and misleading weight-loss advertising was widespread and on the rise." In addition to the usual pills, creams, and shakes, the FTC also described high-pressure sales tactics at health clubs. Other major complaints involving health clubs were "misrepresentation of facilities and services and cancellation and refund clauses that weren't honored."
Almost makes me nostalgic for Richard Simmons.
The First U. S. "Mad Cow" Case
Two top buyers of American beef - Japan and South Korea - suspended importants last Wednesday following the first U. S. report of bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow" disease). [via James MacLean at Hobson's Choice] The U. S. lost 90 percent of its beef exports after the BSE discovery. TLC member Elayne Riggs is tired of seeing the U. S. pull the Shatner Defense "whenever our economy takes a hit." It seems the sick cow found in Washington State originated from a herd shipped from Alberta, Canada. In May, According to the CDC, Canadian authorities "reported the occurrence of a single case of BSE in a cow from a farm in Alberta." The USDA enacted a temporary ban "on the importation of ruminants and ruminant products from Canada" in response to that case. This ban would not have prevented the Washington State case when the incubation period of the disease is taken into consideration.
While the U. S. press may be pulling a Shatner, international health officials are not. The Office International Des Epizooties (OIE) has a map depicting "the geographic distribution of countries that reported BSE confirmed cases from 1989 to 2003." It also has a chart of the number of reported cases of BSE worldwide, excluding the U. K. The disease has been reported throughout Europe.
FDA regulations prohibit "the feeding of most mammalian protein to ruminant animals such as cows, sheep and goats" since 1997. (The BSE-equivalent in sheep is called Scrapie.) This feeding appears to be the primary route by which the disease is spread. While there may be a causal link between human ingestion of BSE-laden meat products and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), there appears to be a "species barrier" that may protect humans against illness acquired by eating BSE-tainted meat.
On April 18, a likely case of vCJD was identified in a 22 year old Florida resident who had lived in the U. K. vCJD tends to occur in younger people, with deaths occurring around 29 years of age, in contrast to classic CJD which tends to infect older people.
Update TLC member Lambert sings the South Park defense against Canada and BSE at Corrente.
December 29, 2003
Aussie Joint Custody - More
Some of the recommendations in the Report (beginning on page 21) will actually do the opposite of what the Committee wants, especially when it comes to cutting the costs of divorce. These particular recommendations are bad for dads as well as children and mothers. The ones who benefit are the attorneys and therapists.
"Maximum parental involvement" as a goal cannot be legislated. The Report recommends the use of mandatory mediators, court-ordered counselors and legal advisors, and a new tribunal to require parents to create parenting plans. All of that is nearly identical to the "divorce cottage industry" that exists in the U. S. This is the same "divorce industry" fathers' rights complain about all the time. In that instance, they're right to complain.
The therapists, attorneys, and child advocates make lots of money with court-ordered cases. That's a big reason why some divorces in some areas (think California) can cost in excess of six figures. That recommendation (recommedation #5 in the Report, pg. 22) will increase the cost of divorce and jam up the court system, making matters worse for everyone -- men, women, children.
The Recommendation requiring mediators, etc., will only increase these expenses, especially in the kinds of cases mentioned above. Frivolous and antagonistic litigation has long been a problem in the U. S. By the way, fathers' rights attorneys have frequently exacerbated problems for divorcing dads by urging them to "fight for their rights" in court. Who benefits from this? The attorney - who collects huge legal fees by feeding on client's distress and anger.
That's the sort of thing the Committee wants to avoid.
Aussie Joint Custody - Conclusions
The language in the report's conclusion (on page 21) is rather strong, and it definitely is aimed at the fathers' rights groups who demanded presumptive joint custody to suit their personal preferences without concern for what children need.