It is humbling to look around and see so many of you that have traveled distances great and small to be here today—on behalf of my family we thank you for being here to honor the life of my father, Allen Jerome Krasner.
We come into this world with our life’s journey ahead of us and two things we all have in common—a beginning and an end. It is what happens in between that defines the person we are—what we stand for—and in that way—how we pass along our legacy.
My father sometimes could come across as a man with a tough exterior—but to understand his nature—his essence—was to get to know him—as this was a man with a deep sense of commitment—loyalty—intellectual curiosity—and boldness.
We remember, at times like these, all those special milestones that stand out to us involving someone who has passed.
My father had so many things that stood out in his lifetime that many remember—but apart from the highlights I remember the everyday.
I remember a man from my childhood who constantly worked so many long hours—holding down sometimes 2 or 3 jobs as he was committed to doing whatever it took to provide the best care and educational opportunities for my brother Michael, my sister Julie and myself.
I remember a person who had an amazing talent at being able to approach any situation with an analytical mind that exuded outside-the-box creativity and prowess in everything he did.
I remember a parent who, despite his over demanding commitments, was there for Michael, Julie and I at cub scout meetings, ballet recitals, cheering us on at basketball and soccer games, attending school plays and there at each and every graduation ceremony.
Above all I remember a Dad who showed up—always being there for his three children when it mattered—a Dad who when he said he was going to do something—followed through!
What always amazed me about Dad was his approach to any situation in life—whether it be work or personal—having this innate ability to observe and understand both the obviousness and almost unnoticed things at play. This of course was a skillset that was sometimes both a blessing and curse—especially from the perspective of his children.
Having my brother, sister and I so close in age—often times many situations would arise that would demand the attention of my father, that for a lack of a better metaphor would be when cookies would sometimes go missing from the proverbial cookie jar resulting in having to answer to my father.
Thus, I can recall one such scenario where I was no more than 15 years old playing in my parents’ basement and throwing around a baseball thinking I couldn’t miss when practicing pitches with the sofa cushions acting as a catcher. Well—who knew how difficult it could be to throw a curve ball…which was evident by the hole it created in the stucco style wall. Of course, at the time I naturally thought it would be best not to burden my parents with this situation as I proceeded to patch it up with a combination of duct tape and off-color white out. A few days went by and the accident was a distant memory to me—until I heard the perilous phrase and tone echo through the house from my father saying, “oh Mister Stephen, we need to have a talk”—that gave away the meeting that would soon follow. In this situation you had on one side a teenager thinking they were smart enough to spin the events that transpired so as to explain away the situation without implicating them self—and on the other side a Dad trying to figure out what happened—albeit a father who had served as counterintelligence research analyst assigned to the Sabotage, Espionage and Countersubversion department of the Navy.
Dad’s commitment to his children never stopped and rather extended organically to all of his grandchildren. With each of them—he was always able to make one-on-one time and interested in learning about each as individuals—understanding and appreciating the uniqueness of each of them. Whereas to many people at times including mom, Michael, Julie and I—he had this tough exterior—to his grandchildren that exterior melted and exposed the soft side of a man who adored the role of being a grandfather. Dad used to joke that if he had known how wonderful it was to be a grandpa—not having to contend with all the parental responsibilities—he would have skipped over to that role from the get go.
Moments come and go in our lives—where those little things add up. Pieces of advice passed along through words of wisdom, sharing of experiences and significant milestone events. We cherish these things—but above all—we remember the people that were always there for us each and every day in our lives.
Dad—one only has to look to your three children and nine grand children and all those whose lives you touched to understand that your legacy is strong and will remain forever embedded in the values and foundations of us all.
Dad—I am so very proud to be your son, and not a day goes by where I don’t think of you. You did it right—no matter what was going on in your own life—you were always putting your children and family first. I will miss you more than you can know—you are the toughest, bravest and smartest person I’ve ever known.
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants...we are who we are because of the hard work of the people who came before us.”
Rest peacefully Dad.
Maren—I want you to know that I am so very proud of you for what you have accomplished here today in reaching this significant milestone in your life.
Looking around at everyone here—it is a real testament to your ability to bring people together and speaks volumes to who you are as a person—and what you mean to so many that they are all here to mark this special occasion with you. Thank you to everyone that came today, and especially those from out of town who came to be a part of today.
Maren, I want you to especially know how much I have personally looked forward to this very moment for quite some time now—because NOW I finally have your attention—where you cannot pretend to be paying attention to me—while staring at your iPhone and checking posts on your Instagram and other social media feeds.
In what seems like an increasing amount of rare moments these days—at least for this one—you are stuck here right now having to listen to your dad.
In preparing what I wanted to say to you today I did what most folks in such situations do in terms of seeking guidance and advice—hence, naturally I turned to google which resulted in a wealth of ideas as I set out on my approach and sat down to prepare these remarks.
One of the ideas I came across was to find themes and relate them to your Torah portion. I figured it would be a smooth exercise to incorporate them and the deeper spiritual meaning into this speech.
Then I read the portion—learned a great deal about what G-d told the Jewish people in regards to what animals they could eat in terms of which ones were clean and which were considered the unclean animals—and thought…wow this topic is a tough one to digest, no pun intended!
Now admittedly, the portion was a bit of a stumper in trying to find a good bridge in preparing my remarks. That is why after hearing your explanation in describing your interpretation of the Torah portion and how you thought of the unclean animals that were spoken of—as ones that G-d didn’t want the Jewish people to eat—because they were to be saved and rather protected as opposed to something being wrong with them—well, your interpretation put me in awe in its originality and way of looking at things—that no theme or correlation I could draw upon could do better to discuss its significance than how you did today!
So staring down at the draft of my remarks with the name of your Torah portion written in my notes—I thought to myself—what’s in a name—and that’s when it hit me—everything.
Your Hebrew name, Miriam, has its significance in the Jewish faith as being the older sister of Moses. The name itself first appears in the book of Exodus and actually means "bitter sea," because she was born at a time when the Egyptians embittered the lives of the Jews. Miriam, however, remained sweet despite the hardships around her, giving Jews courage in those difficult times. She is often described throughout her life as a person endowed with gentleness and a nurturing ability—but at the same time someone with great courage and strength to stand up for what she believes in.
These characteristics of being (1) Gentle, (2) Nurturing, (3) Courageous and (4) Strong are no stranger to you as those that know you well can attest too.
I observed these traits in Maren on a recent trip the two of us took to Maryland a couple weeks ago to visit her grandfather who has been quite ill in the hospital the past couple months and unfortunately could not make the trip up here today.
As a son, it’s hard to see your father in a situation where he is not well—and at the same time be the dad making the judgement call as to what to say to your little girl in letting her know about a situation that you’re aware will upset and disappoint her a month prior to this big day.
It was in this moment though—between the tears shed and the difficulty of explaining the seriousness of the situation—that I watched and realized something about my little girl--
The same little girl who would…
sneak off at family Hanukah parties at age 2 and be caught devouring cookies—quietly out of sight hiding in a corner of Grammy and Grampy’s house leaving no crumb of evidence behind.
The same little girl who would…
wait until her dad had dozed off on the couch before proceeding to paint his fingernails with an assortment of rainbow colors—prior to pulling back his eyelids to awaken him from his slumber.
The same little girl who would…
come running out into the front yard and cannon ball herself into the big pile of leaves her dad just spent hours raking up.
The same little girl who would…
insist upon waking up before 6 in the morning and venturing out onto the beach while on family vacations to collect the finest seashells the sands of the jersey shore had to offer.
The same little girl who would…
Take to a stage, play an instrument—sing and dance and step to her own beat as she has done courageously time and time again.
THIS same little girl of mine—looked at me during this difficult talk and asked to go visit with her grandfather in the hospital—wanting to make the trip to see him—since she understood that he would not be able to make the trip here today…
It was at that moment, and during the course of our trip to visit him, that I saw all these things come together regarding her gentle nature—nurturing concern—courageous spirit—and strong will in the person before me.
A person who is no longer the same little girl—but who has clearly come into her own as the young woman standing here today before this Congregation.
Maren, your Hebrew namesake Miriam—her overarching contribution and symbolism to the Jewish people was aptly described in an older writing that stated she “dispels despair with the light of hope, enthusiasm, and faith in the future.”
It was only fitting then, and with that in mind, to look back on what you said to Grampy right before we left the hospital to come back home.
You turned to him and told him, “Grampy the next time I come back to visit—I want to see you better and back at your home.”
All this being said—I would be remiss to not humbly recognize that there are others that are no longer with us today but played a significant part in helping to shape you into the young woman you are now.
Maren—all your life—through times of turbulence—challenges—heartache—and joy—you have steadfastly been one to look at the promise and good in situations.
Maren, in becoming a Bat Mitzvah you have taken a significant step into your adult Jewish life—one that further binds you to an ancient and enduring people.
The teachings, history and traditions of our faith have many times faced peril, persecution and countless challenges over the ages—and yet they have withstood the test of time.
As you continue to learn more about your heritage and faith—while traversing through an ever changing landscape as you grow, learn and experience—never lose sight of who you are—where you come from—as you are here today standing upon the shoulders of giants who have come before you.
Maren, while today holds great significance—it is one achievement in what will be a lifetime full of experiences. While we all look forward to embracing the celebration of today’s accomplishment—the true significance and measure of this experience is not so much in how you perform in one day—but rather what will be measured in all your days to come.
My blessings and wishes for you Maren are that you continue to value and treasure your family with that light and joy that comes from being a daughter and sister in the lives of Shay and myself—your siblings—Joey, Kaley and Grace and your mother and Michael.
May you appreciate the opportunities that come to fruition in your life.
May you have the courage to stand for your convictions with a strong sense of ethics and an incorruptible moral compass to guide your way.
May you continue to find passion for social justice and stand up for those treated unjustly.
May you know health and happiness and see your hopes and dreams realized.
May you accept responsibility, take pride in what you do and maintain a sense of humor—so as to laugh with others, and at yourself on occasion.
Most of all—may you always know that wherever life takes you—whatever paths lay out before you—I will always be so very proud of you—as you are one of my truest blessings—and no matter how the days and years unfold—you will always have your mom and dad’s love and support.
Shabbat Shalom and Mazel Tov.
BY STEPHEN LOUIS KRASNER | AUGUST 29, 2018
Original Article Link: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/a-broken-system-electing-judicial-bias-lbkr/
What factors might be at play that could influence judicial power? If you're heading into divorce, arm yourself with this knowledge.
Impartiality under the law portrays this idea to most people that they can expect their rights to be afforded equally and fairly before a tribunal within our judicial system—or at least take solace that upon having representation, usually in the form of an attorney, allows for a guarantor to safeguard this notion.
These ideas are the underpinnings of those civil rights and liberties we have come to cherish that are found within the confines of the United States Constitution—but often absent for many parents forced to contend with the many competing interests playing out in family law environments.
Wars of Custody
Speaking with parents embroiled in contentious divorce and custody cases in Travis County, Texas is to uncover a microcosm of the dysfunction and unethical practices transpiring nationally in this area of law.
Kelly Jones is a parent who not only has had to endure the demands of going through a divorce and custody case—but has done so with the added element of the media’s spotlight covering each development as it plays out in the courts. Her ex-spouse is Alex Jones, who is known for his infamous “InfoWars” media outlet, providing a forum for his bellicose and peddling of propaganda and conspiracy theories.
In an article that was published in the spring of 2017 the attorney for Mr. Jones, Randall Wilhite, brought focus on Kelly’s skepticisms of the players involved in her case during his cross-examination in saying, “They were all swayed by [Alex Jones], they’re all wrong, they’re all corrupt, and they’re all biased.”
Perhaps this attorney was trying to make such comments in a manner as to discredit the notion that corruption and bias could be present in these types of cases. It would behoove him to scrutinize his own campaign contributions to better understand why someone might be concerned.
Examining contribution data made by many of the players in these courts, available at the website for the Texas Ethics Commission, a picture starts to emerge showing ripe conditions that could allow for things like bias to flourish.
Bias within Numbers
What is bias? It is defined as prejudice or inclination for or against a group or individual in a manner that is considered unfair.
Keeping that definition in mind while taking in the totality of situations that play out in and around a family court environment—indicators come to light that signal the potential for influence between a lawyer and a judge. A type of influence that may exist at either the most overt or subtle levels—that could very well impact a court’s decision-making process especially when reliant upon judicial discretion.
What factors might be at play that could influence this type of judicial power?
Well, one constant variable that seems to have a strong allure over players in the family law industry is money. Perhaps if we follow the money it may provide evidence of financial trails, connections between players, possible pay-to-play schemes and of course influence—the type that translates into bias coming from the bench!
Consider the following:
(1) A judge that relies on winning elections to stay on the bench and earn a living.
(2) A lawyer representing clients whereby they are reliant upon achieving good results to generate steady business while finding favorable sets of circumstances to accommodate ample billable hours—frequently practices before this judge.
Now, add on the following:
(3) The judge presides over two attorneys making requests of the court via motion practice playing out—one of them has given approximately $17,000 to this one judge’s campaign over the past few years while the other hasn’t given a dime.
(4) The judge presides over a case where a situation presents itself that calls upon the judge to use discretion and make a decision that would leave one attorney in a more advantageous position than the other—any guess as to which direction the judge’s discretion might take them?
Reviewing campaign contributions made by Mr. Wilhite, and his firm, over the past 15 years the following numbers can be charted out and categorized showing the significant portion contributed to judges.
While the amount of money may seem like a lot, the lawyers making these contributions stand to see large returns on their investment if business stays good—considering that many of them in that area of Texas are billing clients at rates of $400-$500 an hour in most cases.
Another attorney in the region that has a reputation, according to many, of getting overwhelmingly favorable results for clients has invested a lot of money into judicial campaigns over the years, but also among political action committees and other state races. It’s important to note that many of these political action committees work to promote and give money towards efforts that help keep those with similar political philosophies and views in office, including campaigns of a judicial nature.
One has to wonder how much value the judges in these courts place on the canons found within the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, especially as it pertains to things like the appearance of impropriety.
Thus with so much money infused by these types of attorneys into the courthouses overseeing custody and divorce cases—one has to wonder how much of the outcomes these lawyers get are based on skill set and savvy—or the acquiring of influence via money contributed.
Studies show that roughly 70 percent of the public believe judges are influenced by campaign contributions, and more than one-quarter of judges agree. This is alarming because the legitimacy of the judiciary rests entirely on its promise to be fair and impartial. A judge’s sole constituency should be the law. If the public loses faith in that impartiality, then there is no reason to prefer the judge’s interpretation of the law to the opinions of the real politicians representing the electorate. --SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE
Cost of Forced Services
Often cases involving divorce and custody involve the infusion of outside services—that so very often tend to be unhelpful and sometimes can cause more harm than good. Yet in an industry that pulls in around $50 billion annually, third-party professionals can find streams of revenue flowing out of family courts.
Similar to most places, the services ordered by the judges in Travis County often force parents to attend counseling for themselves and their children during the course of these ordeals—with a price tag and level of professional involvement that seems to increase in conjunction with the perceived net worth of those parties involved in the matter.
Discussing the numbers from her experience in dealing with these outside services, Kelly explained that at times she was paying multiple providers—and described the formation of a “therapeutic team” as directed by the court that consisted of at least 10 professionals including a family therapist, a therapist for her son, one for her two daughters and one to oversee the entire process. The bill of costs for such services not only included the sessions that were transpiring—but the internal meetings these professionals were having among themselves.
Breaking it down further, Kelly described a time-frame where payments were being made to an entity that oversaw supervised visits between her and the children—where the costs were to the tune of $350 per visit. Sometimes these visits were staggered at different times of the week with the three children—forcing payments to double and sometimes triple.
…[I]n two years I was ordered to participate in approximately 800 hours of therapy-related services—costing between $200 and $300 thousand dollars when all was said and done. --KELLY JONES
Creating Problems and Selling False Solutions
Dawn Balli is no stranger to the Travis County court system. Her situation is both tragic and one that is the direct result of the adversarial environment created by those profiting from the misfortune of people in these so-called “family” court systems.
Dawn has not seen her daughter in two years, now—a result of having been subjected to 8 court filings for modification in her post-divorce phase that has now languished in the Travis County courts for some 13 years. Dawn’s situation in Travis County is indicative of family court systems nationwide—whereby they are often the source of the problem and not the stewards of salvation.
Victim parents become what the pit bull attorney says they are to the eyes of the court—when repeatedly put on the record that way with the court—resulting in the horrible truth of the matter, which finds parents and children being destroyed as a result of litigation. Most of us did not enter this adversarial environment damaged—but rather walked away from it that way as a result. --DAWN BALLI
On August 14th, 2018 a number of parents testified before the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee of the Texas House of Representatives bringing voice to many of the problems found in Travis County—and elsewhere.
Dawn Balli’s testimony can be found at the 1:03 mark and Kelly Jones at 1:45 in this video.
When good and decent parents spend extended periods of time in courts that allow for continual campaigns of gas lighting a mother or father—ultimately it will harm and even obstruct the bonds between a parent and child.
People who are unfamiliar with the realities of what plays out with parents and children embroiled in the conflicts of family law would be well served to become familiar—especially as it pertains to the underbelly of the divorce and custody industry that often puts its own interest before that of the public’s.
Stephen Krasner was born in Washington, D.C., growing up in the Maryland suburbs before attending the University of Hartford where he earned his undergraduate degree and later earned his Master's degree from The New School.