Saturday, December 09, 2006

Italian father "attempts televised self-immolation" in protest

Watch the video here.  Italian father Nicola De Martino is reported to have tried to set fire to himself on Italian TV in protest at the poor state of fathers' rights in Europe.  The BBC says he had no history of mental illness with obvious implication that he was mentally ill to try the stunt.  On the other hand, watch the video.  He moves slowly, and gives the studio staff plenty of time to react and restrain him.  He had no intention of setting light to himself, but he sure as hell made a point.

De Martino's son, Luca, was taken from him 13 years ago when his mother moved to Australia.  The two were only reunited when Luca turned 18 and traveled to Italy to find his father.  The Italian site AGI posts a message curiously subtitled "on behalf of the Italian Prime Minister's office" which says:
I believe Nicola did more in ten minutes than we did in ten years. Nicola is not crazy, he is moderate and certainly somebody who suffered a lot, very much. But who wouldn't suffer if they would take away your child for 13 years?
"In Italy in the past ten years 100 fathers committed suicide, in Europe two thousand in the past year. Our country has strict laws on the sufferance of animals but forgets about some human beings. It is time to change things and the gesture of Nicola must be interpreted in this sense".

Did De Martino do the right thing?  Had he actually set light to himself, I would have to say "no".  But he didn't, and raised the profile of a desperate and widely ignored cause.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

The rewards of resentment

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Just in case the hotlink for the above image doesn't work, it's here. Apparently an actual memorial, it reads:

To our mother

Mona Herold Vanni

October 14, 1912 to April 11, 1996

You spent your life expressing animosity for nearly every person you encountered. Including your children. Within hours of his death, you even managed to declare your husband of fifty-seven years unsuited to being either a spouse or a father. Hopefully, you are now insulated from all the dissatisfaction you found in human relationships.

Buddy, Jackie and Mike.

Although apparently not an actual case of parental alienation, it says something for those too prepared to bad-mouth others, does it not?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cathy Young Reasons with us.

Cathy Young headlines in the print edition of Reason magazine with a very balanced column on parental alienation. It's rare that I can find nothing much to argue with in a piece on this topic, but I can only quibble with Cathy to the extent that I think she underestimates the partisan motivations of almost all of parental alienation syndrome's critics. Very few of them seem to be capable to recognizing that children can be and are alienated from perfectly good parents by manipulative and unscrupulous others.

We know it exists, so why do so many insist that it doesn't? Because they have a vested interest in having us believe a lie, much as do alienating parents.

What Cathy does very well is show how many emotive and superficially obvious cases are actually much more complicated and difficult than usually meets the public eye. Indeed, there are alienating parents and false accusers out there who will spend large chunks of their lives working on peddling their stories even while the children grow up and try to tell a deaf world what really happened, often not to be heard as the media and politics combine to ignore them.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

The future President of France?

Britain is all-of-a-bother over the Misbah Rana abduction return order -- for once, I like the Times' point of view put forward by Gillian Bowditch - the case is messy, but the father unilaterally took the child away from her mother without bothering the courts. It should play out in Scotland, not Pakistan.

But Canada is a-buzz over two more kids returned from an international abduction to the rather less controversial France. Indeed, the mother, Nathalie Gettliffe, future President of France, may be about to go to jail for taking her two children now 11 and 12 to France five years ago.

Once in France, Nathalie went public, accusing the father of being an abusive brute who belonged to a religious cult and that she would abduct her children again if they were returned. Now Scott Grant is indeed an evangelical Christian and some might prefer to think of that as a cult, but it's not exactly the Moonies nor the Krishnas, is it? There's also no evidence of anything but a close and loving relationship with the children before abduction.

Nevertheless, as the French courts side with Grant, Gettliffe gets meaner. Grant, apparently, is "mean and dangerous", he's a "despot", and he makes "unreasonable sexual demands". Oooooh. Everyone run and hide.

But this isn't enough, she accumulates 3,000 signatures on a petition, doubtless from people with immense and intimate personal knowledge of the case and all its ins and outs, all of whom think she shouldn't be forced to return the kids.

Grant saw his kids four times in 5 years, the last one in the face of threats of a lynching.

How was this resolved? I bet you can't guess. Gettliffe returned to Canada to defend an academic thesis and got nabbed at the airport. There, did you see that coming? I know, I know, what was she thinking? Who knows...?

But there's more.

The kids are still in France, so Grant has to go look for them, again. Now Gettliffe's mother, in her turn, like daughter, like mother, abducted the kids. This time, at least they're still in France, and they're found, but not before Gramma-abductor has accused him of drinking, getting stoned and trying to sleep with his own daughter.

Fortunately, the credibility of these accusations is believed to be a tad suspect and Grant gets to take the kids home. But he's got a lot of work to do as they're thoroughly alienated from him, believing rather too much of their mother's claims in their impressionable years. (But then again, as so many are so bent on demanding, parental alienation is junk science and they couldn't possibly be telling anything but the truth, so who knows what the future holds.)

Indeed, what does it hold? Two years in clink for Gettliffe and 3 probation is what the crown is asking for. (Maybe she should get life, geddit? Gettliffe, get life? Oh never mind.)

Gettliffe herself thinks she should become president of France. Wait. Er. What? No. You're not serious.

Oh yes I am. Really, I kid you not.

So, we have a bona fide nutcase mother, who abducts children internationally, goes rabid in public and spews vitriol all over her ex husband and poisons the kids against him, while developing plans to become president of France and it takes 5 years and CA$500,000 to sort it all out. But, yay, the system works, eventually, sooner or later, if you can afford it, if you can keep at it, and if mom's nutty enough.

Update: she got 16 months, which comes to 6 to go with time served, which actually seems quite reasonable to me.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Just the facts ma'am: men are smarter than women. O RLY? RLY.

The Independent (UK) gives us a few interesting factiods:
  • on average, men are 5 IQ points smarter than women.
  • There are twice as many men than women with IQs of 120 or more.
  • there are 30 times as many men than women with IQs of 170 or more.
This is from 22 surveys sampling 20,000 university students. Hard to argue with that.

I do not simply gloat, the article fails to mention that there are more men than women on the low ends of the IQ spectrum as well. What does this mean? Well, for starters, it must mean that there are more women than men of average intelligence, although the difference need only be quite small to compensate by the small fraction of the population found in the wings of the distributions. I'd be curious to see the numbers.

But most interestingly, it means that diversity in intelligence is greater in men than in women. Anyone with half a clue about evolution knows that diversity is the key. Without it, evolution stalls and the creature dies when its environment changes. 'Strikes me that this is reason to value the male of the species, not just for his smarts, but for his promise for the future. Of course, you could always resent them for it.

Inevitably, the Independent has to have the usual ass-covering: "The results of both studies were a shock to me. I find prejudice abhorrent." To me, that's a non-sequiteur. Good science is not prejudiced. He goes on: "There has to be some female compensating factor" because the facts don't match his prejudices. What? Yes, he has prejudices, but can't see them. His prejudice is that men and women are equal in all things, and now he finds they aren't. He argues women have better communication skills, which may be, they are known to talk more, but then he says "women work harder than men and are more conscientious so they do things technically correctly. Men are often quite original but deficient in what is technically demanded." When it comes to keeping the house clean, it's possible he has a point, but, for example in the machine shop, where precision and skill are paramount, men hold the ground. Surely there's a reason for that.

At least he finishes with a note of reason:
"People should have equal opportunities but if you want a society where everyone feels satisfied you're not going to find men and women doing the same things in the same proportions. It would help if we recognised that."
Wow. Men and women are different. Who'd've thunk it?

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