Aaaaaghh!

Crossposted with permission from Sean at Hiding in the Backwaters

One of my classes this semester is on public policy. The only real assignment I have in that class is an 8-10 page policy analysis. Being a divorced dad and having seen many of my other divorced friends screwed over by their ex-wives (and because it was likely to be a topic few others in the class chose) I decided to do a policy analysis on child custody laws.

I have learned two things in the reading I’ve done so far. One, child custody has little to do with children and is mostly about gender politics. Two, based on the garbage produced by fathers’ rights advocates, it’s no wonder no one takes them seriously. Hoping for a more complete picture, I sought books authored by both sexes. The two books I have written by men—namely,Betrayal of the Child: A Father’s Guide to Family Courts by Stewart Rein and Where Have All The Good Fathers Gone? by Douglas O’Brien—have left me frustrated and angry, but probably not for the reasons you might suppose.

Neither book is well documented. Both give statistics and make claims about child development with only vague citation of sources, if any. Entire quotations are often given with no obvious reference to the source. Scanning back a page or two you might find reference to one professional or another. The best you can do is assume that is the original author of the quotation, but it’s even odds as to whether or not the specific source is identified or not. How the hell do they get away with this? Who edited these things? Oh, and is there some new age school of grammar I’m not aware of where punctuation always goes outside of a quotation mark?

This would be frustrating enough, but it doesn’t stop there. Mr. Rein’s egregious misuse of bold face, italics, full caps and scare quotes is baffling. Am I the only one who sees irony in a man having discovered a way to make writing look hysterical and emotional? Mr. O’Brien lost my respect as soon as he used the term feminazi. Oh, he dressed it up with dictionary definitions to try and give it a rational context, but I wonder if he’s heard the phrase “polishing a turd.” He also has a penchant for going to great lengths to come up with derisive acronyms such as FUNIFARM (Feminazi UNIfied Feelings Are Really Manipulation theory) or JUST BS (JUnk Science Theory Bashing Syndrome) (pp.15-16).

Both men raise valid points, but how can they possibly expect to be taken seriously? This kind of writing might work to incite the masses, but do these guys really think they’re going to influence policy makers with this crap? Oh, and Mr. O’Brien, labeling social scientists as SS isn’t going to win you any friends in that arena either. Both men characterize the writings of women on child custody as radical, hate filled attempts to disenfranchise men and set up a matriarchy. In contrast fathers’ rights groups are logical and rational (O’Brien 1997, p.20).

Huh?

The one book by a female author I have read so far—The Custody Wars by Mary Ann Mason, Ph.D., J.D.—by contrast, is well reasoned, and well documented. In fact she agrees that the system is broken and has nothing to do with the best interests of the children, such language existing in most statutes notwithstanding. She does, however, make the assertion that fathers’ rights advocates aren’t as interested in their children as they are in maintaining their own rights and power. Gee, I can’t imagine why.

Mason, M. Ph.D., J.D. (1999). The Custody Wars: Why Children are Losing the Legal Battle and What We Can Do About It. New York: Basic Books.O’Brian, D. (1997). Where Have All the Good Fathers Gone? Child Support and Custody. Fairbanks, AK: Skid 18 Press.

Rein, S (2001). Betrayal of the Child: A Father’s Guide to Family Courts. Tobyhanna, PA: Lotus Press.

WTF is up with Northworst Airlines?

KSTP caught a Northwest Airlines work stoppage on film at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.

Tuesday, promptly at 12 noon, and right in front of our camera, Northwest ground workers stopped working and drove baggage carts, tugs, and anything they had to one spot for a 20-minute rally.

While they were high-tailing it to one side of the airport, planes filled with passengers went nowhere. They couldn’t come in, they couldn’t go out. No bags were loaded, no bags were unloaded. 

When your company is in financial trouble and has a questionable reputation for customer service as it is, what could possibly make more sense than pissing off yet another round of travelers?

Some time ago I took the first of many trips to Dallas for a special project.  My plane sat on the runway for over an hour in 90 degree heat without air conditioning and when we FINALLY arrived in Texass, 90% of the luggage was left in Minnesota.  I’m sure it was purely coincidental that they were nearing the breaking point in a pre strike deadline for something.

Fortunately Sun Country and American Airlines also offer non stop service to Dallas, and guess which carriers I selected for every subsequent trip?   I really do try to support local business but Northworst makes it really hard.  Especially when Sun Country is also Twin Cities based and also offers non stop service to many of the places I visit regularly.

A continued decline

It wasn’t that long ago that my former coblogger Mick got rather pissy and offended at the suggestion that military recruitment standards have been lowered. Unfortunately for Mick, who predicted a GOP victory in the midterms and still confuses populists for centerists, facts are subborn things.

A CBS4 investigation shows how the U.S. Army is accepting more applicants with criminal records, including drug problems, through a system of “wear, the Army exceeded its goal by enlaivers” to bypass regulations. With a high demand for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has struggled to meet its recruiting and retention goals in past years. However, in the 2006 fiscal yisting 80,635 new troops…. The factors for an increase in enlistment include the change of the age limit from 40 to 42, a lowering of aptitude test score standards and an increase in what the Army calls “moral waivers.”

Nationally, the Army has increased its acceptance of moral waivers from 7,640 in 2001 to 11,018 in 2006.

You can be a drug user, you can have a criminal record…you can still serve.

Smart people would take offense at what lowering standards implies for the ongoing safety and security of our loved ones in uniform, not at having the audacity to acknowledge what is going on.

From The Carpetbagger Report:

Apparently, these waivers are being handed out all the time, for a variety of offenses. From 2004 to 2005, the number of recruits brought into the Army with serious criminal misconduct waiver jumped 54%, drug and alcohol waivers increased 13%, and misdemeanor waivers increased 25%.

Lt. Colonel Reginald Cox, who commands the Army recruiting battalion based in Denver, insisted standards have not been lowered. “These new applicants are doing an outstanding job for their country,” Cox said. “They’re brave. They have courage. They’re living the Army values.”

I agree with nearly all of this. I’m certain these applicants are doing an outstanding job, and their willingness to volunteer for service is absolutely courageous. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re willing to wear a uniform and put your life on the line for your country, you’re a hero.

But that doesn’t change the fact that standards have dropped. Army Secretary Francis Harvey and vice chief of staff Gen. Richard Cody acknowledged a year ago that the Army was using looser Defense Department rules that permitted it to sign up more high school dropouts and people who score lower on mental-qualification tests. People who would have been rejected before are accepted now.

And these waivers further highlight how dire the situation has become. Recruiters are left with, “If you’re not gay, there’s a way.”

Fisking Cheney

Great analysis of Cheney’s speech to the Federalist Society at Unclaimed Territory:

Vice President Dick Cheney and the Federalist Society got together last night and shared some hearty laughs about the administration’s ongoing eavesdropping on American citizens, inside the U.S., in violation of the law, along with the hilarious notion that these things called “laws” or “courts” could somehow restrain the Leader:

An economic bargain

Representative Barney Frank of Massachussets is getting ready to sit down with business leaders for talks which have potential to make a real difference to middle class families.

Representative Barney Frank has proposed in a series of meetings with business groups a “grand bargain” with corporate America: Democrats would agree to reduce regulations and support free-trade deals in exchange for businesses agreeing to greater wage increases and job benefits for workers.

One thing on the table as well is health care expense and the possibility of additional government assistance in that area – given the percentage of total expense that health care is taking up these days, he has their attention.

Some good comments at The Carpetbagger Report.

Tim at Balloon Juice also has some good comments:

In many ways our broken healthcare system acts like a lead weight around the ankles of American business. While it’s easy to bitch about American carmakers investing poorly in quality engineering and forward-looking technologies, major employers like Ford, Chrysler and GM have pension and healthcare legacy costs that our Asian and European competitors do not. Among other problems (stratospheric executive pay for one) healthcare costs are driving the country’s airlines into bankruptcy and/or viciously adversarial negotiations with the employee unions. Pick any sector of American industry and the same problem appears.

Whatever the arguments for and against public healthcare there should be no question that it would literally save the life of a significant number of struggling American companies. The linked article shows that a decent proposal modeled after the more successful implementations, and not embarrassing screwups like, say, England or Hillarycare, could easily win the fierce loyalty of a broad swath of American business. Of course, lined up in opposition would be our massive insurance industry and to a lesser degree the hospital business.

Profiling Tester

A great piece on John Tester, the new senator from Montana, at Daily Kos:

For the Democratic party, this is a powerful new archetype. In his demeanor, in his approach to politics, Tester is the common man, the simple citizen. As a politician, he projects these personal qualities into a message of common sense, the common good, and representation of the little guy. In that, Tester’s political approach shows us how to recapture what Americans have always liked about the Democrats, that it’s the party of the little guy. He’s a unifying figure for us, from the center to the left. Without sacrificing any of the core values that make him a Democrat–he’s pro-choice, pro-civil liberties, and believes in the essential ability of government to improve people’s lives–Tester can appeal to white, middle/working class voter that has been duped by the Republicans into thinking that they represent their concerns better.

What’s more, he negates the standard Republican attack on Democrats because he can’t be attacked for not being a real American with real American values. Tester effectively negates the elitist, limousine-liberal label with which Republicans have managed to negatively brand Democrats. It’s not as a result of any specific position he holds, but rather the totality of the image he presents. He’s the farthest thing from a limousine liberal you can find. He speaks in short, straightforward sentences about the things the typical voters faces in daily life. He’s the kind of Democrat who reminds people of what they used to like about the Democrats witout igniting any of the negatives that have been used so effectively by the GOP against us.

Jon Tester isn’t necessarily a new kind of Democrat, he’s the best of what Democrats have always been.