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CPB Blasts Breaking the Silence Again;
Has Film's Backer Backed Down?
December 19, 2005

Thanks to those of you who have donated to our PBS campaign. This campaign has been costly, and the donors' generosity has been helpful. If you'd like to donate to support our efforts, click here.

To learn more about our campaign, click here. To learn more about the way Breaking the Silence portrays a known child abuser as a heroic mom, click here.

New Column: Federal Child Support Enforcement Cuts Will Hurt Bureaucrats, not Children

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My latest co-authored column, Federal Child Support Enforcement Cuts Will Hurt Bureaucrats, not Children (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 12/17/05, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 12/16/05),  is the only column published in a top 100 newspaper to support the cuts in federal subsidies to child support enforcement. By contrast, there have been dozens of editorials and columns opposing the cuts. Family law attorney Jeff Leving and I wrote:

"Child support enforcement agencies are notorious for their abusive tactics...as well as their mind-numbing incompetence, waste, and the incessant computer errors which lead to the persecution of innocent citizens.

"For too long child support policies have been determined by politics instead of common sense; the mantra of 'help women and children' has allowed large-scale abuses and waste to go unchallenged. The cuts won't interfere with efforts to collect legitimate child support, but they will save taxpayers $15.8 billion over the next decade. They will also force some discipline and restraint onto an area of government which sorely needs it."

To express your view on the current child support system, write a Letter to the Editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal concerning "Child Support Collection Cuts Will Hurt Bureaucrats, not Kids", at letters@reviewjournal.com.

To write a Letter to the Editor of the Press-Enterprise, a 200,000 circulation newspaper in the greater Los Angeles area, concerning Embrace child-support enforcement cuts, write to letters@pe.com.

To learn more about problems with child support and child support enforcement, see:

Also, listen to the His Side shows:

CPB Ombudsman Blasts Breaking the Silence Again

Last month the Corporation for Public Broadcasting released a report which endorsed the central charges we've made against PBS's film Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories. In the report CPB Ombudsman Ken A. Bode declared that there is "no hint of balance in Breaking the Silence."

Today Bode did it again in "Breaking the Silence Redux" (12/19/05). In the new report Bode comments on the reactions to his previous report from major players in the controversy, including the film's co-producers Catherine Tatge and Dominique Lasseur of Tatge/Lasseur Productions, Inc., and Michael Lunceford, President of the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation.

Bode's new report can be found here. His previous report can be read here. To contact Ken A. Bode, click here.

CPB Ombudsman: Producers' 'Defense' Amounts to 'Plea of Guilty to Violating the Fairness and Balance Standards of PBS'

Bode wrote that in response to his previous report, "We also heard from the program's co-producers Catherine Tatge and Dominique Lasseur Productions.'" Bode writes:

"In my original posting I concluded that there was no hint of balance in the documentary Breaking the Silence. Tatge/Lasseur said that my report was damaging to their professional reputation and even more to the women and children who are faced with the situations described in their film.

"In discussing their research and reporting Dominique Lasseur said the following:


'We spoke with members of fathers' rights organizations and did extensive research on their views. We made the decision not to interview them on camera because they would not have provided any balance or fairness to the piece.'

"It was precisely the lack of balance and fairness that caused so many viewers to contact PBS and CPB. That was also the main thrust of my report. Lasseur now says that was intentional. Simply put, that amounts to a plea of guilty to violating the fairness and balance standards of PBS."

As for the producers' claim that Bode's previous report was "damaging to their professional reputation," don't blame Bode--you did that to yourselves. To learn more about the film's credibility problems, click here.

Also, see my co-authored columns PBS's Breaking the Silence: Family Law in the Funhouse Mirror  (Albany Times-Union, 10/20/05, Norfolk Virginian Pilot, 10/24/05) and PBS Declares War on Dads (Los Angeles Daily Journal,
San Francisco Daily Journal, 11/1/05), as well as Wendy McElroy's PBS Film Ignites Fathers' Rights Debate (Fox News, 11/7/05) and Cathy Young's PBS's negative picture of fathers (Boston Globe, 11/21/05).

Introducing Leving's Divorce Magazine

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Tatge/Lasseur See No Credible Advocates for Fathers

Tatge/Lasseur's slap at fatherhood advocates is priceless:

"We spoke with members of fathers' rights organizations and did extensive research on their views. We made the decision not to interview them on camera because they would not have provided any balance or fairness to the piece."

In reality, there are countless fine advocates for fathers who would have provided desperately needed "balance" and "fairness" to the piece. For example, Mike McCormick, Executive Director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, was in contact with Lasseur during the production of Breaking the Silence, and would have been a valuable part of the film. Ned Holstein and Dan Hogan of Fathers & Families of Massachusetts, who have helped lead this campaign, would also have been excellent choices.

Has the Film's Backer Backed Down?

In mid-October, Massachusetts domestic violence advocates prescreened Breaking the Silence at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. At the screening it was announced that this presentation and others planned across the country had been financed by a stipend from the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation, which had previously given $500,000 towards the production of the film.

Bode's report indicates that the leaders of Mary Kay may have changed their minds.

According to Bode, Michael Lunceford, president of the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation, wrote to him and distanced his organization from the film. Lunceford  says:

"The Foundation has no plan to distribute this documentary the way it did the 2001 program Breaking the Silence: Journeys of Hope, which was sold through the foundation with an accompanying program guide."

Lunceford also appeared anxious to disassociate himself from the film, telling Bode that after making the grant for the production, the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation had no further involvement with the project. Lunceford wrote:

"Our agreement with CPTV was for a program regarding the effects of domestic violence on children. The co-producers CPTV and Tatge/Lasseur had full independence within that topic in researching and producing the program. As you are aware, under PBS National Program Funding Standards and Practices, the co-producers are fully responsible for the program research and content."

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CPB Condemns Tatge/Lasseur's Defamation of Dr. Scott Loeliger

As many of you know, after Breaking the Silence was shown nationally on PBS on October 20, I was contacted by Dr. Scott Loeliger, a father who was defamed in the film. Together Scott and I worked to prepare and release his side of the story, and it has subsequently been discussed and reported on by Fox News, the Boston Globe, Reason magazine, and several radio networks.

Scott and I released extensive documentation that shows that his ex-wife Sadia Loeliger--portrayed as a heroic mom in the film--was found by a California Juvenile Court to have abused children under her care, and that both of her daughters were adjudged to be dependents of the Juvenile Court. Bode wrote:

"We heard from Dr. Scott Loeliger whose daughter and former wife were featured in the documentary. Loeliger says the producers knew that he possesses documents from a juvenile court proving his wife was the abuser. He asked that his daughter be removed from the program and says that failure by the producers to do so was 'a poison pill that destroyed the entire premise of the documentary.'

"Producers Lasseur and Tatge replied in a letter to CPB that Dr. Loeliger declined their offer to interview him so that his views could be aired. Had he agreed to be interviewed Loeliger would have been the only father represented.

"They also say that after speaking to Dr. Loeliger they changed the names of the mother and daughter. What difference does that make? Their faces were still on public television screens all over the country. Did they think that Dr. Loeliger, to whom they caused pain, would mistake them for strangers?

"Loeliger says he has received no satisfaction from PBS, CPTV or the producers and still threatens to release the juvenile files and sue."

Loeliger declined to be interviewed on the show because he did not want his daughter to be caught between warring parents on national television. Scott shied away from publicity on the issue, and requested of the filmmakers only that they leave his daughter out of the film--click here to read Scott's letters to the producers. These requests were ignored. Finally, after being defamed on national television, Scott figured there was little left to lose and contacted me so he could tell his story for the first time.

Female-to-English Dictionary

Dr. Shoveen goes behind the words that women use to reveal their hidden meanings and thought processes.

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Hartford Courant
Does Front Page Story on Breaking the Silence Controversy

The Hartford Courant recently covered the controversy surrounding PBS's Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories--see CPTV Show Earns A Rebuke (12/14/05). WTNH in New Haven, Connecticut and New England Cable News also covered the story.

The story noted some backtracking by Tatge/Lasseur, co-producers of the program:

"The co-producers of the documentary, at their website, have offered a clarification: 'We do not make the assertion that the phenomenon of alienation does not exist, simply that PAS [Parental Alienation Syndrome] seems to be wrongly used as scientific proof to justify taking children away from a protective parent.'"

This is a far cry from their previous claims that PAS is " junk science" and a scam used by batterers and child molesters to steal custody of children from protective mothers.

The article also quoted Lee Newton, director of national programming communications at CPTV, which co-produced the film:

"'We stand behind the program,' Newton said. 'Serious reporting was done on this program and we believe in it.'

"The avalanche of e-mail complaints, Newton said, was the result of 'fathers' rights groups [being] mobilized against this program.'

"But Newton said the program has also received 'lots of praise that say this is a story that is not being told because people frankly are afraid to address this issue because it's a bit of a hornet's nest to walk into.'"

This another PR trick--yes, CPTV did hear from both sides, but the proponents of the film were badly outnumbered by protesters. As I noted previously, even though the National Organization for Women and several other feminist groups sent out Action Alerts urging their followers to contact PBS and voice their opinion in favor of the film, data cited by PBS's new ombudsman Michael Getler in his recent report reveals that fatherhood advocates outdid NOW and its allies by a ratio of seven to one. To learn more, click here.

I spoke with Newton before the Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories was aired. I politely explained that, while we respect the producers' right to air their views on this issue, we would also like a chance to respond on the air. I explained that if CPTV and PBS refused to have a meaningful dialogue with us, they'd receive a torrent of angry calls and letters. I guess she didn't believe me. Over 10,000 calls and letters later, perhaps now she does.

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The Rantings of a Single Male: Losing Patience with Feminism, Political Correctness... and Basically Everything describes the rise of feminism from the mid '70s to the present, through Ellis' personal experiences and is loaded with outrageous stories.

A 'Great Step Forward' for Male Domestic Violence Victims as Violence Against Women Act Passes

David Burroughs, Esq., of the Safe Homes for Children and Families Coalition, has done great work in getting Congress to reform the Violence Against Women Act to include all victims of domestic violence, regardless of gender. VAWA was just re-authorized before the Congressional recess. According to Burroughs:

"The effort to remove the gender bias of the Violence Against Women Act and of domestic violence policy in this country in general moved significantly forward this weekend. As many of you know the Safe Homes for Children and Families Coalition, in cooperation with a number of independent organizations, headed up the campaign to make the VAWA re-authorization gender neutral.

"This weekend the Congress Re-authorized the Violence Against Women Act with two very significant sections. First, the Congress inserted language making it clear that the legislation was intended to cover all victims; not just females. Unfortunately, as to this language, the Conference Committee settled on language from the Senate version that, while still clear, will likely cause us to have do battle with the Office of Violence Against Women in the Dept. of Justice to ensure it ceases and desists its past discriminatory funding policies. Nevertheless, Congress is on record both in the legislation and in the Congressional Record that male victims must be given equal standing.

"Secondly, and at least as importantly, the Congress did incorporate the very stringent directive language provided by the Safe Homes for Children and Families Coalition instructing the GAO to conduct a study of both the DOJ and Federal recipients as to what services they provide and reporting exactly how many men versus women received those services. An honest study (and the GAO is highly respected for its non-political reports) will put the lie to the DOJ's and the radical feminist shelter advocates' protestations to Congress that men do receive services.

"This is a great step forward. Never before has Congress acknowledged male victims in the now ten year history of this  legislation. And never before has a Congressional Committee hearing, as was the case at the July 19 Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on VAWA, witnessed and recorded repeated questions of witnesses by multiple Senators about male victims and their right to equal treatment.

"More importantly, we now have an opportunity to seek funding, demand equal services and create a record to take back to Congress next year for Amendments to this still flawed legislation."

Burroughs praised Michael Robinson of California Alliance for Families and Children in particular for his "tireless work on this effort," and cited numerous other groups and activists. These include: the American Coalition for Fathers and Children; Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting; Marc Angelucci of the National Coalition of Free Men - LA Chapter; Jan Brown of the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women; Tom Golden, who organized the Men's Equality Conference 2005; and numerous others.

To learn more about some of the problems with VAWA and why activists wanted to reform it, see: Congress to Vote on Renewing Anti-Male Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (His Side, 7/3/05); VAWA Renewal Provides Opportunity to Stop Destruction of Innocent Cops' Careers (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, 7/19/05); Domestic Violence Treatment Policies Put Abused Women in Harm's Way (Daily Breeze [Los Angeles], 11/7/05); Plaintiff in Suit Against LA DV Shelters is Right to Demand Services for Abused Men (Los Angeles Daily News, 6/12/03); and Schlafly on VAWA, Fathers' Rights, and Conservatives' Failure to Defend Fatherhood & Families (His Side, 7/24/05).

The American Coalition for Fathers and Children

The American Coalition for Fathers and Children is dedicated to creating a family law system which promotes equal rights for all parties affected by divorce.  Contact the ACFC at 1-800-978-3237 or visit them on the web at www.acfc.org.

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Congressional Candidate Takes Strong Stand for Noncustodial Parents' Rights

As you know, in my newspaper columns and on the air I avoid political partisanship and do not endorse any political party. My feeling has always been that I'm happy to work with whichever party is willing to promote our issues and help keep fathers and children together.

Last year, for the first time ever, a presidential candidate came out with a strong position in defense of noncustodial parents' rights. For this reason, I endorsed  Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik. My endorsement was  based specifically on the very important issue of fatherhood and noncustodial parents' rights, and was in no way, shape, or form a comment on the various candidates' policies on the war in Iraq, the economy, or any other issue. I noted the following:

  • Badnarik is clearly aware of and sensitive to the basic problems fathers today face, particularly the sole custody norm and the denigration of noncustodial parents to "second class parent" status.

  • Badnarik is also aware of and concerned about civil rights violations by child support enforcement agencies, the rights of unwed fathers, widespread abuses by Child Protective Services, abuses of judicial discretion and the excessive power of family courts.

  • This awareness places Badnarik miles ahead of all other candidates.

To learn more, click here.

Badnarik is running for Congress in 2006, and again he has a strong noncustodial parents' rights platform. I endorse him, and I urge fatherhood advocates to work for him and with him. His campaign can be reached through his website at www.badnarik.org

To hear Badnarik on His Side with Glenn Sacks, go to Libertarian Presidential Candidate Defends Noncustodial Parents' Rights.

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An Announcement Regarding PBS's Review

As many of you know, the review of Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories which was supposed to be finished by December 8 has not been completed. As I explained last month, when Jan McNamara, PBS's Director of Corporate Communications, informed me of this review, I offered her the input of fathers' advocates. I explained that I couldn't see how the review could be complete without it.

McNamara didn't seem too interested at the time but to their credit she and PBS's leadership later changed their minds. The completion of the review has been delayed because of this. The input from our side was recently submitted, and we will keep you informed of what happens. Thanks to Fathers and Families for their time and efforts to put the review together.

Public Broadcasting Newspaper Does Front Page Story on Our PBS Campaign

The Public Broadcasting Newspaper Current did a front page story on our PBS campaign last week--see "Fathers' Rights Groups Call Abuse Film Unfair" (12/5/05).

Current Senior Editor Karen Everhart, the piece's author, didn't do a bad job, though her piece gave considerably more space to the film's producers and supporters than to those protesting it. However, there were a few problems.

For example, regarding our campaign's allegation that PBS portrayed a known child abuser as a hero, Everhart wrote:

"Sacks also published court documents from the Loeliger case that report instances of alleged abuse by Sadiya Alilire [Sadia Loeliger]. In the film, Fatima alludes to some of these documented injuries as minor."

These weren't allegations--they were court findings. Not only that, but they were by the clear and convincing evidence standard of the Juvenile Courts, as opposed to the preponderance of the evidence standard used in family court.

Also, regardless of what Sadia has convinced Fatima to say as part of her alienation campaign, the injuries and abuse of which Sadia Loeliger was found culpable were anything but "minor." To learn more, click here.

Everhart  quotes Larry Rifkin, executive producer for Connecticut Public TV, as saying that the film's subject is "a very small universe of cases. It is very, very small in terms of batterers getting custody of children."

This is a far cry from the film's statement "All over America, battered mothers are losing custody of their children." It would have been nice if the reporter had noticed.

Everhart also quotes the film's co-producer Dominique Lasseur as saying that after making a 2001 film on domestic violence "we felt there was great denial among mothers about the effect on the kids." According to Everhart, Lasseur & Co. wanted to allow children to speak for themselves--"We set out to tell the individual stories of kids who have been victimized by the system."

This is one of the film's biggest scams--that what we're hearing is "the voice of children." No, we're hearing the voice of only one segment of children--those in what the film's producers now admit is a "very, very small" cohort of children in the custody of abusive fathers. Even this is overly charitable, since at least one of the handful of cases highlighted--the Loeliger case--does not belong to this cohort.

To write a Letter to the Editor to Current about the article, click here.

CBS Discusses Campaign, Ombudsman's Report

CBS's Vaughn Ververs discussed the protest campaign against PBS's Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories and PBS ombudsman Michael Getler's reaction to it in a December 5 piece. Ververs notes that the newly-appointed Getler started his job early because of the crisis created by the protests. Ververs cited Getler's view that the film is "flawed" and "come[s] across as a one-sided, advocacy program."

Both Getler and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's ombudsman Ken A. Bode had been critical of Breaking the Silence. To learn more, click here and here.

Help, Support for Noncustodial Parents

MyKidsToo.com is a website designed to provide safe, peer-to-peer support to non-custodial parents and parents finding themselves in a divorce situation.

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Militant Grandmas Fight for Shared Parenting
Three Sides to Every Story is an organization set up by militant grandma Bessie Hudgins to help fathers stay in their children's lives after divorce.

Finally a Christian Author Takes a Stand for Men

I have frequently complained on the radio and in print about the failure of Christians and "family values" conservatives to stand up for boys, men, and fathers and to meaningfully address the issues modern males face. Christians and Christian conservatives are fond of wasting time on marginal issues like gay marriage while ignoring many of the real dangers threatening our families. At the same time they often couch their arguments in politically correct "woman good/man bad" rhetoric.

The man-bashing Christian men's group Promise Keepers is a good example of the problem--the group's ideology is based on the notion that almost all problems are created by men.

A Christian advice show on one of the stations owned by my former network here in Los Angeles is another good example--whatever the problem or situation, the two Christian male hosts always fall all over each other to assure the woman caller and the audience that the guy is wrong. The evil Christian patriarchs of the feminists' imaginations sound more like Women's Studies professors--in fact, they're often worse.

Some of you may recall that I complained about conservatives' failure on these issues on the air earlier this year to conservative writer Phyllis Schlafly, who is one of the very few major conservatives to meaningfully confront many of the problems fathers face in family court. My interview with Schlafly can be found here.

There's another Christian writer who addresses these issues--Paul Coughlin, author of No More Christian Nice Guy: When Being Nice--Instead of Good--Hurts Men, Women, and Children. One of Coughlin's targets is what he calls a "cultural prejudice that shames men for being men." For those of us  accustomed to seeing Christian men blame men first, it's nice to see this "Christian nice guy" cut loose on this subject. Paul writes:

"Men receive a false, demeaning presentation of masculinity from our culture...countless boys have grown up--or are growing up--not knowing what it means to be a man and, worse, ashamed of the limited understanding they posses."

The forward is written by nationally syndicated talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who writes:

"The unisex, anti-male mentality that has infiltrated all our institutions, even our religious ones, has not brought co-operation, love, and serenity to our homes and lives. In order for our children to become happy, functioning, loving, contributing members of this world, they need the support and structure that an intact, happy home can bring. I see No More Christian Nice Guy as a step in that direction."

It is no coincidence that both Dr. Laura and Paul Coughlin supported our Campaign Against 'Boys are Stupid' Products and discuss it in their books.

Another interesting part of Coughlin's book are the sections in which he discusses how Jesus might view the modern Christian "Nice Guy." What he says makes sense, though I'm not very knowledgeable about Jesus' teachings.

Legal Help for Fathers

If you live in Los Angeles, Riverside or Orange counties and you're facing a divorce, separation, or a child custody issue, the law firm of Oddenino & Gaule can help.

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Woman Appointed as Editor of The Male Voice

The National Coalition of Free Men of Greater New York has appointed Jen Kuhn to be the editor of its publication The Male Voice. As Jen explained in her introductory letter a few days ago, it is a little strange for a woman to be the editor of The um, Male Voice. My view is that this is a great choice. I met and got to know Jen and her husband Dave at the Men's Equality Congress over the summer, and I believe that she is an intelligent, likable, and committed activist who will do an excellent job in her new post.

One unfortunate reality of our movement is that an extreme fringe has subjected some of the women in leadership positions to incessant stupid criticism for being, well, women. I enumerated my opposition to this sort of thing at length in my column Confronting Woman-Bashing In the Men's Movement (iFeminists.com, 4/2/02) and to a lesser extent in my co-authored column Why Are There so Many Women in the Fathers' Movement? (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 6/21/02). Let's hope that's not the case with Jen.

To receive The Male Voice E-Newsletters, write to themalevoice@yahoo.com. Jen can be reached at dogcrazyjen@yahoo.com.

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It's Always Men's Fault, Part MMMDCLXVI

From Men Warm the Planet, Women Feel the Heat (CNSNews.com, 12/6/05):

"The debate over climate change evolved into a battle of the sexes Monday at the 11th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal. The spokesman for a feminist-based environmental group accused men of being the biggest contributors to human-caused 'global warming' and lamented that women are bearing the brunt of the negative climate consequences created by men.

"'Women and men are differently affected by climate change and they contribute differently to climate change,' said Ulrike Rohr, director of the German-based group called 'Genanet-Focal point gender, Environment, Sustainability.' "Rohr, who is demanding 'climate gender justice,' left no doubt as to which gender she believes was the chief culprit in emitting greenhouse gasses.

"'To give you an example from Germany, it is mostly men who are going by car. Women are going by public transport mostly,' Rohr told Cybercast News Service...

"'In most parts of the world, women are contributing less [to greenhouse gasses],' Rohr continued. But it is the women of the world who will feel the most heat from catastrophic global warming, she said. "'At least in the developing countries, it is women who are more affected
because they are more vulnerable, so they don't have access to money to go outside the country or go somewhere else to earn money and they have to care for their families,' she said."

I very much doubt that male consumers are creating more greenhouse gases than women are, nor do I believe that women will be more affected than men. But this "blame environmental problems on men" mentality is standard fare on the left, as I discussed in my column Michael Moore, You Used to Be My Hero (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 2/8/04, Cybercast News Service, 2/17/04). I wrote:

"In your chapter 'The End of Men' from Stupid White Men you cite declining male birthrates as evidence that 'Nature is trying to kill us off' and that men have done 'plenty' to 'deserve this.' Men have 'made a mess of our world. Women? They deserve none of the blame. They continued to bring life into this world; we continued to destroy it whenever we could...how many women have spilled oil into oceans, dumped toxins in our food supply, or insisted that the new SUV designs had to be bigger, bigger, bigger?...[Men] are working overtime to wipe out this beautiful, wonderful home we were given free of charge...no wonder Nature is getting rid of us.'

"On Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher you asked 'how many women have created factories that have polluted this environment?...most of the crap in this world came from a guy' and said '[It's not] female fishermen doing all that extra fishing, ruining the oceans. It's the men ruining the oceans. Name a woman who's ruined the oceans.'

"The central flaw in all of these statements is so obvious I wouldn't bother pointing it out except that it seems nobody else has. Yes, Michael, few women have created factories which have polluted the environment, just as few women have created factories which have produced the staples of modern civilization. You vilify men for large SUV designs without giving them credit for the miracle of modern transportation. You blame men for 'spilled oil into oceans' without giving them credit for the millions of metric tons of oil which are transported by sea each year, almost all of it without incident."

The entire article can be read here.

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Prostate Cancer Treated Without Surgery or X-Rays
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Therapist Discusses Parental Alienation Syndrome in Advice Column

Therapist Shari Schreiber, M.A., has an interesting discussion of Parental Alienation in an advice column she writes on her website. Schreiber has endorsed many of our campaigns over the past few years. To learn more about Shari and read her other columns, click here. The column is below.

"Q. Shari, I was 'blackmailed into fatherhood' years ago by a woman I never married. My 11 year old son lives out of town with his mother, but I visit him often, am very involved in his life, and we have a close and loving relationship. During a recent visit with him, we touched on some things that he absolutely didn't want to talk about (custody matters, his mom & I with regard to money issues, etc.). At one point he said, 'you were able to build a house for yourself.' This really pissed me off, and I commented that his (now married) mom was 'able to not have to work' (due to my financial contributions). I don't think I should have let my emotions get the better of me--but I feel like I need to put my feelings out there, as opposed to swallowing 'em and making myself sick (or heavier!). My question is, should I try and talk about this type of thing with him or should I drop it? When I left him at school that day, he just turned and walked away from me. He's never done this, but he's growing up a bit. Is it appropriate to attempt to talk about this stuff with him when he won't acknowledge anything, and even gets upset at my broaching the subject? I realize that this is not a simple yes or no question, but if I completely drop it, is that a better or worse course to take, as opposed to forcing him to listen to me try and address this issue?

"A. I'm aware of how 'lit up' this kind of thing can make you feel (outraged, invalidated, frustrated, defensive, etc.) and all your emotions are completely appropriate! Navigating this terrain with someone so young depends on whether he broaches the topic or not. I think adult discussions should stay between adults--otherwise, a child gets caught in the middle and becomes the instrument of torture used by the parents. Women seem especially adept at using their children as weaponry toward their ex-spouses or lovers (particularly if there are borderline characteristics present). PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) is very common among enmeshed/overly attached mothers, or emotionally uneven women who are punishing/vindictive. If your son initiated this dialogue, you can respond in a number of ways that address his specific concerns; but remember that (for now) he lives with his mother, and he's not only torn emotionally (between the two of you), but is constantly exposed to her biases and vengeance. Think of this as brainwashing. He'll likely be able to accommodate a more balanced view of these issues as he matures--but at present, put the conversation aside, but not the feelings. It's perfectly acceptable to let your son know how uncomfortable/hurtful it is for you when his comments seem generated by his mother, "and only reflect half the picture." Convey your hope that "one day" he might feel curious, and be open to learning more about this situation. Leave it at that."

Best Wishes,
Glenn Sacks

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