Category: Nanny State

Morning Links

Friday, November 9th, 2012

I’ve been neglecting you. But just think, in the spring you’ll have your own portable collection of groin-punching, blood-pressure raising stories to pull down off your bookshelf—any time you like!

I do have some thoughts about the election. I just don’t have time to put them into a more substantive post at the moment. And they’re more about the various ballot measures than the election itself. Summary: I think that for the most part, there’s lots of reason for optimism in Tuesday night’s results. Even on the GOP side, the one Republican senator who managed to win a competitive Senate seat this week was Jeff Flake, a devoted fiscal conservative and principled advocate for limited government who also happens to be pro-immigration, pro-internet gambling, favors ending the sanctions with Cuba, and who generally avoids the culture wars. He’s a huge improvement over his predecessor. And he won in a state filled with Latinos and rock-ribbed conservatives. He’s a template for the rest of the party.

On to the links:

  • Cop tries to kill dog during drug raid, shoots fellow cop instead.
  • “The Permanent Militarization of America.”
  • In Colorado, legalization of marijuana got more votes than Obama.
  • Carlos Miller wins again. And how he’s suing the cops who deleted the video depicting his illegal arrest. You’d think Miami police would know to just leave him the hell alone.
  • North Korean court rules that the country’s military can torture dissidents with impunity.
  • A new front in the war on vegetable gardens. Don’t know about you, but if these stories ending up pitting the militant locavores and anti-obesity paternalists in an epic battle with the petty zoning tyrants . . . I’m making popcorn.
  • Hey, remember when super PACs were going to destroy American democracy? Not so much. Of course, when the anti-Citizens United crowd would say things like “this will destroy American democracy,” they actually meant, “this will help the candidates I don’t like!” Which means that if and when the GOP ever gets its act together (more likely: when they Democrats inevitably overplay their hand), we’ll be back to blaming money in politics for election results again.

Dick Durbin Goes Monster Hunting

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Jacob Sullum dissects the latest mass hyperventilation over energy drinks.

Monster now sells between 500 million and 1 billion cans of its energy drink per year. (Disclosure: I’m probably responsible for 2-3 percent of the company’s sales.) Apparently, over the last six years, there have been six deaths that might have been connected to the drink. This has sent the FDA, Sen. Richard Durbin, and Bloomberg News into fits of save the children.

Note too the bullshit use of  the “emergency room visits” statistic. Remember, this does not mean that the drink caused any of those emergency room visits. It means that x number of people, when asked by an emergency room doctor what they had consumed in the last 24 hours, mentioned that they had drank a Monster. For example, if  you’re in the ER because you got kicked in the face while attempting to make love to an elephant, but tell the doctor that you had consumed a Monster the night before you were overwhelmed with proboscidean lust, that would be considered an energy drink-related emergency room visit.  Any drug or food product that becomes popular over a short period of time will see a sharp rise in “x-related emergency room visits,” simply because a higher percentage of the population is using the product.

Put another way, if someone were to collect the data, I’ll bet there has also been a sharp increase in the number of “Monster-related visits” to Montana, the living room, and  T.G.I. Fridays. (I’d also be willing to bet that there is a statistically significant correlation between energy drink consumption and trips to the gym. Which is probably a good thing, no?)

“I am a Sex Offender — For Life”

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Folks, it’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, back here because I just got this email and it points very clearly to the path we must take: CHANGE THE SEX OFFENDER LAWS which are, as this “offender” himself notes, harsher than those we mete out for murder — even when what we’re talking about is CONSENSUAL SEX between two teens. – L. 

I am a registered sex offender. My convictions were CSC 4th degree (statutory rape) and CSC 3rd degree. Both occurred in the State of Michigan, my first when I was 17. I was involved with my FIRST girlfriend, who was just about to turn 16 at the time of the offense (we started seeing each other when I was 16 and she was just about to turn 14 and headed into her freshman year of HS.) My second conviction came almost a year later to the day. I was on probation, admittedly not following orders as I was already listed on the sex offender registry, had been expelled from HS 3 months before graduating due to the conviction and convinced my life was pretty much over as I knew it. I ended up in a situation where a young woman lied to me about her age (15 when she was really 13) and I engaged in some sexual activity with her. Cops found out a couple of days later and after being told she was claiming forced rape, I told them what really happened and was given the good ole boy “we knew she was lying” routine, but even if it was not forced it did not matter I knew I was in big trouble because I found out then that she was only 13 and I was now 18.

I was looked at as predator because I was increasing in age and my “victims” were decreasing in age and sentenced to prison for a period of 1 1/2 years to 22 1/2 years.
Now i want to make a few of things perfectly clear. 1) Prison probably saved my life, I was a good kid way in way over his head with partying and living recklessly. 2) For my first conviction I was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 2 years probation and sex offender treatment, along with the mandatory 25 years on the Sex Offender Registry. 3) I was not a Leave-It-to-Beaver kid by any means. I did have issues with sex addiction and low self esteem but had no idea where or who to turn to in order to work on those issues 4) I was never put into treatment of any kind during my probation, my PO kept saying we would get to it eventually, which I did not understand because according the them I was some monster who needed to be tracked and monitored.
That being said, putting a non-violent statutory rapist in the same prison (my prison was actually a sex offender “compound” there was only about a 12 % segment of the population who were not sex offenders) as pedophiles, violent rapists, and true predators can create some very warped views and mindsets.
Eventually I was released and put on 2 years of parole, and after a very bumpy 2 years and a very understanding parole officer who knew I was inherently not a bad person, I was able to get off of parole.
Fast forward almost 7 years later and I am now 31, in college for the first time and doing quite well, but it took a LOT of false starts to get to where I am at. I deal with the registry because I have to, since I committed two sex offenses I am now on it for the rest of my life.
I am a level-three sex offender according to Arizona, the state in which I now reside, and that will also probably never change.
While I can see how my actions led to my incarceration and accept that there must be some punishment for breaking the law, I fail to see how having the stigma of being a “sex offender”  hanging over my head for the rest of my life does myself or society any good.
The young man who was convicted of sex crimes at the age of 17 and 18 has finally grown up and I am in no way of the same mindset as I was back then. It’s a process we know as maturing. But I will forever be judged and seen by those actions of my past.
The system is not fair, and justice very rarely can be assigned to more than one party, especially if they are on opposing sides. But at one point can guys (and women) like me, who have served their time and are doing everything they follow the law and become useful members of society, get some sort of relief?
Sex offenders in today’s society face many obstacles, many of them crippling to say the least. With housing options limited, job opportunities almost nil (hope you like working in restaurants or telemarketing), and a legal system designed to induce failure rather than facilitate success, the pathway to become a useful member of society is littered with sinkholes and quicksand.  I could have killed someone and have gotten a lighter maximum sentence, no registry and probably better employment opportunities than I have come across thus far.
I do not cry myself to sleep at night, nor am I hopeless. But I know the cards are stacked against me. My career options are limited to say the least and given the state of the nation these days, even with my college degree in hand down the road, my future is somewhat uncertain.
I am not a danger to society, I am not some monster who you need to be warned about. I am someone’s son, brother, mentor, and a friend to many. I am not a hardened career criminal, I am not going to peek in your blinds or steal your baby. I was a young man who made a series of very poor decisions and will pay for them for the rest of his life. And worse of all? I am not unique, I am not alone. There are many more like me, and they may not have the courage or means to speak up, so I am speaking up for them.

The Real Meaning of Free-Range Kids

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

Long before I was given blogging privileges on The Agitator this past month, I was a reader of Free-Range Kids. Ironically, the person who put me onto the blog was Karen DeCoster, who doesn’t have children, but is wonderfully-opinionated and fun to be around.

Lenore Skenazy, who runs the site, became famous four years ago because (Horrors!) she let her then-nine-year-old son take the New York City subway home. I remember when it happened because a number of people were shocked and accused Lenore of engaging in child abuse.

(The thing to keep in mind is that the term “child abuse” in America has changed in definition from actually abusing children to not hovering over them at every second. By actually permitting her child to engage in something that was an adventure without putting him in real-live danger, Lenore was performing a real act of parenting, which apparently to some has changed in definition from guiding children to outright dominating them. Why this has become the New Normal in the USA will be explained later in this post.)

When I heard about what Lenore had done, I loved it. Why? Children need adventure, and their imaginations are able to change things like a typical subway car into a spaceship or a vehicle that takes them into another dimension. (Yeah, some of us who like to ride the NY Subway might agree that the while thing really IS another dimension, but I won’t go there.)

Her act helped me to remember my own childhood in which my best friend, Gary Babe, and I ranged far and wide where we lived. We explored creeks, went ice skating in the winter, and rode bikes from here to there, all without parental supervision. I remember once when my mom let me walk to Billy Fries’s house holding a small guitar — in the middle of a blizzard. That was an adventure in itself, but I still remember that we had fun making music. (Today, Bill Fries is a first-rate professional musician.)

Yes, sometimes we got into trouble. Bikes crashed, we got cut on thorns, we fell out of trees (I was a great tree-climber and falling was an occupational hazard.), and once I fell into Hook Creek on a cold March day in 1961 and shortly thereafter got pneumonia. Being in the crude children’s ward at Crozier Hospital for a week was as terrifying as being in jail, as the battle-axe nurses performed rectal temperature checks and made us use bedpans. But I survived quite well, thank you, as did my other friends, and we have plenty of stories to tell. None of my buddies ever received a serious injury and none were kidnapped, although I am sure that some folks in the neighborhood might have wanted to see the loud and mouthy Billy disappear for a while.

Today, Americans are supposed to believe that danger lurks behind every corner and if we take our eyes off our kids for even a second, tragedy can strike. Yes, children throughout the ages have disappeared or have been abducted, but the actual numbers of abduction are much smaller than what we are led to believe, and often helicopter parenting won’t prevent such a tragedy, anyway.

Why the difference in then and now? If anything, the environment is safer than it was then. If I have to point to once event, it would be the passage of the Mondale Act of 1974, which not only led to scores of false accusations of sex abuse of children, but it also created the various bureaucracies that are dedicated to the “safety” of children. When bureaucrats and social workers occupied the Child Protective Services agencies, they came with the “mission” to protect children from their parents and the children themselves.

One of the things we learn about bureaucracies is that over time, they become imperialistic. As the reach of bureaucratic empires expands, the bureaucrats become careerists and all of the self-preservation that comes with human nature comes to the fore. When combined with the (unfortunate) endurance of the Progressive belief that “experts” should have control over our lives, it is not hard to see where all this is going.

Unfortunately, most journalists have bought into this “the experts know best for us” mentality. In my old days of watching TV (we have not had television reception in our home since 2001), I remember that the Today Show would have Bill Clinton’s head of the Consumer Safety Products Commission director as a guest, and she would tell us what new toys were dangerous to children. The atmosphere was near-worshipful, and no one ever questioned the Great Wisdom of the Expert.

Furthermore, the very self-perpetuating and imperialistic nature of bureaucracies means that people employed in those entities must find reason after reason to justify the existence of their jobs. Creating and sustaining crises is the most effective way bureaucracies can grow and seize more power. The process is insidious, but at every turn, there always is someone in a very public situation (like a journalist) justifying this metastasizing bureaucratic growth.

Without the Mondale Act and the bureaucracies it spawned, does anyone think that the rash of faux child molestation cases like McMartin, Kerns County, Little Rascals, and more would have happened? Would it be as easy as it is now for people with personal agendas (child custody or revenge) to make false accusations in order to make someone else disappear into the prison system, a person who is innocent of the charges but does not command the personal resources to fight the accusations and the army of police, prosecutors, judges, and journalists that are arrayed against him or her?

Furthermore, like its sister act, the Violence Against Women Act, the Mondale Act has made it easier for authorities to demonize men. Lenore has written much about that awful situation and the real tragedy that the “all men are dangerous molesters, kidnappers, and rapists” mentality that the laws and bureaucracies have created.

So, what does this mean relative to the title of this post? Free-Range Kids literally strikes a blow against the new Evil Empire. (The old Evil Empire, the U.S.S.R., depended heavily upon snitches and an internal spy system complete with anonymous “tips” that someone was being subversive. During Stalin’s Terror, the best way to make a troublesome neighbor disappear or to gain revenge was to tell the authorities that so-and-so had denounced Stalin. The Gulag would not have been possible without this internal network. Today, we see that same kind of thing at work in our “child protection” system.)

What is FRK really saying? It is saying that people closest to the situation usually are the best people for making the hard choices. It really is OK to let your child have some adventure. Lenore didn’t drop off her son in Hong Kong and tell him to make it back to the USA on his own; no, she let him get on the subway in order to let him take what already was a familiar route home. He didn’t have to panhandle or play music to get subway fare. He just needed to do what he already knew what to do — except this time he did it on his own.

Lenore’s choice was a blow against bureaucracy. At the time, she didn’t see it as that, but that is what it was. It was a small step in reminding us that childhood is an adventure that the government should not disrupt just because somewhere real life might intervene in ways we don’t like.

Perhaps “helicopter government” has prevented a tragedy here and there, but that same “helicopter government” has created huge calamities that have cut a swath of destruction. The Little Rascals Trials were the most expensive trials in the history of the State of North Carolina, yet NONE of the charges were true. Innocent people went to prison, lives were ruined, and the wrong people were empowered. That whole sorry affair helped to build up a false atmosphere of hysteria that still affects the lives of those involved two decades later.

Nothing can create the Perfectly Safe Society for Children. Not CPS, not Free-Range Kids, not The Agitator, not helicopter parenting, nothing. Life has its risks and we make choices, sometimes the wrong ones, but often the right ones when left to our own decision-making authority.

I close with a wonderful memory of nearly 30 years ago. On a warm Sunday in early March, I sat down to watch the finals of the ACC basketball tournament, a game featuring North Carolina State (which would win the NCAA championships that year in dramatic fashion against heavily-favored Houston) and Ralph Sampson’s University of Virginia Cavaliers. From what I hear, it was a very exciting game, an ACC classic.

However, I never got to watch it because my oldest daughter, Leah, who was about 40 days short of six years old, just before the tip-off asked me to take her rock climbing on nearby Lookout Mountain (near Chattanooga, Tennessee). I got up and we drove to an area that is littered with huge boulders, some more than 40 feet high. Leah and I climbed for about two hours and we still talk about that magic time.

Yes, there were some risky places where a fall could have meant injury. No, we didn’t do “technical” climbs or perform the antics of the famous rock climbers. We just did a dad-and-daughter thing and what we did that afternoon was better than watching a thousand ACC championships.

No doubt, a CPS bureaucrat or social worker would have been all over me for “putting your little child in danger.” Yeah, we could have been hurt, no doubt about that. But we took precautions and we did something very important: we helped build our relationships with each other.

Today, Leah is 35, a wife, mother of two, and a very successful person in the work world. She is independent, personable, and a good decision maker. She makes twice what her father makes, and I am not badly-compensated by any means. I’d like to think that our “free-range” afternoon in which we quietly defied the child protection bureaucracy helped contribute to her present situation.

Ultimately, Free-Range Kids is a reminder that our children are not helpless, and that a little bit of adventure for kids (and parents) can be a good thing. My sense is that Lenore’s children are going to be independent, respectful, cooperative, and fun to be around. Why? Because they are learning some important lessons on their own.

William Anderson

Don’t Chip Me, Bro!

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Hi Folks — Lenore from Free-Range Kids. Have you seen this story? I hadn’t. Two schools in Texas appear ready to make their students wear identification cards with an RFID tracking chip in them. Supposedly this is for the students’ safety.

Except…I”m not even a predator and I know that if I ever kidnapped a kid, the first thing I’d do would be to throw their i.d. card out the window. Better still, I’d pull a DaVinci Code and throw it onto a truck going the other way.

Clearly the real point is to keep track of the kids the way Walmart keeps track of palettes of Prell. And yet, here’s the encouraging news: The kids and their parents are rebelling! They’re particularly appalled because the chips keep right on tracking, even after school hours. Big Brother go home!

And speaking of going home, that is what I am doing, too. I really want to thank Radley for inviting me to guest-post here for August.  I loved hearing from you, readers, and I also loved reading what all the other August-bloggers had to say. Eye-opening! I shall continue to read them and I hope to continue to hear from some of you, too. When it comes to fighting stupidity and rigidity, we’re all in this together. – L.

Texas Spending $6.5 million on Prostitutes in Prisons

Monday, August 27th, 2012

By Eric E. Sterling (Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)), Guest Blogger

Texas is holding more than 350 prostitutes in state prisons at a cost of more than $6.5 million per year, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

Oh how stupid. In 2001, it seems, Texans were upset with prostitution at truck-stops and on Dallas streets. The legislature provided that after three misdemeanor convictions (or guilty pleas, most likely), acts of prostitution would be punished as felonies.

Consider the utterly unseemly entrapment of women by members of a vice squad. Think of the state of mind of the undercover police officer doing this work. Actually don’t think on this too long, it is disgusting.

Consider the attraction of the work:

“I thought life was a big party,” said [Beatryce] Hall, 42, a mother of two daughters. “I started out dancing, got on drugs, went to the streets where I could make $300-400 a night. I wanted to, but couldn’t get out of that cycle.”

Certainly there are many people who don’t find this idea at all attractive. But at $300 per night, working 5 nights a week for 50 weeks, this work would generate a gross income of $75,000 annually. That’s pretty good pay. I suspect that all of that was cash and that much of it was not reported on a Form 1040 to IRS. Sure the work is may be hard  in many ways, and may often be unpleasant and dangerous — lots of work is. Does the work interfere with other priorities? Yes, like so many other jobs. Was it hard to quit the unpleasant job that paid $75,000? Yes, just as it is hard to quit any good paying but unpleasant job.

Assume that many prostitutes don’t like the work. So what? I know lots of lawyers who don’t like the work, too — renting their mind for thousands of hours a year for clients they find disgusting. They are highly demoralized (in a couple of senses of the term).

Why do we judge this work to be illegal, other than on the basis of legal tradition?

How are these women benefited by being arrested or by going to prison? How are the families of prostitutes benefited by sending a family member to prison? How is society benefited by sending prostitutes to prison? How are their legitimate employment prospects improved by arresting them?

Prostitution in brothels should be legal as it is in parts of Nevada. Prostitution by escort service should be legal. If street walkers are disturbing your neighborhood, legal brothels in commercial districts and legal escorts would be an efficient way to solve the problem.

And perhaps the rest of us might not have our taxes wasted on the pointless costs of enforcement.

School Outlaws Cartwheels (via Free-Range Kids)

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Hi! Lenore here from Free-Range Kids. And yes, you read the headline right: A school in Australia has decided that kids can only do cartwheels (and handstands and headstands) if they are  under the direct supervision of a gymnastics teacher, on an appropriately safe surface.

God forbid kids should spontaneously get some exercise — and joy — in their lives. Just think of the lives ruined by cartwheels and you’d understand the school’s concern.

Oh wait… Actually, the principal is NOT concerned about lives being ruined. She’s concerned about following the RULES, as she interprets them, laid out by the Dept of Education over there. According to the Telegraph in Sydney:

A spokesman for the Department of Education and Communities said school playground rules were set at school level, based on Work Health and Safety considerations, the terrain and layout of the school and the level of supervision.

And speaking of terrain: The school in question was recently outfitted with new, soft ground cover to make the playground even more safe. But safe is never safe enough. You knew that. Here is  an ADORABLE RE-ENACTMENT OF THE BAN! 38 seconds of fun! – L.

Two College Presidents Beg Parents to Hover Over Their Snowflakes…In a New Way

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Hi Folks — Lenore from Free-Range Kids. Just wanted to share this brilliant oped that’s running in tomorrow’s Washington Post. It’s by the president of Northwestern University, Morty Schapiro, and the president of Lewis & Clark College, Barry Glassner, who is author of the book (turned phrase) The Culture of Fear. They came up with a new idea: Instead of telling parents to quit helicoptering their hot-house kids (which they have seen does not work), they tell parents DO helicopter. DO step in when your child gets an unacceptable roommate, class or grade. But instead of immediately calling the college to complain,  call upon your child to BUCK UP.

…parents can help by gently pushing their children to embrace complexity and diversity and to stretch the limits of their comfort zones. Some of the most important learning we provide is uncomfortable learning — where students take classes in subjects they find intimidating, and live, study and play with classmates from backgrounds very different from their own.

At last, helicopter parents have something constructive to do: Support their kids in a time of difficulty, instead of striving to make the difficulty disappear!  The parents win because they are doing something that truly helps their kids. The students win because they have parents who believe in them enough to stop swooping in. And the college wins because their deans are no longer dealing with, “My son doesn’t like the dressing options at the salad bar. Plus he got an A-minus in Econ.”  Win. Win. Win. – L.


What The Fuck Is Wrong With Prague Oklahoma School Superintendent Dr. Rick Martin?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

You pig-fucking coward. You shit-eating child born from a buggered arsehole. You piss-colored pile of carrion. You dung-fly. You prickless and ball-lacking catamite. You son of a street-walking widow who never had a man except for money. You cock-sucking arse-licking defiler of sacred shrines, you brainless heartless gutless cockless offspring of an imbecile and a deformed cow, you flea-bitten child-robber who poisoned your father and raped your mother and sold your sisters to the Dutch and carved up your brothers for sale in a butcher’s shop, you gutter-hugging trader in second-hand excrement, why won’t you give this girl her high school diploma?

Bumbo Baby Seat Recalled Because It Is Only 99.999475% Safe

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Hi Folks! Lenore Skenazy from Free-Range Kids, alerting parents to a horrible danger that could be lurking in your living room: The Bumbo Seat!

As I explain on my site: 

Bumbos are little seats that look even safer than normal seats because there’s a big, hmmm, I guess “bumbo” in front of the crotch, wedging the child in. (See below.) About 4 million — that’s 4,000,000 — have been sold. A few years ago, they were recalled because if you placed them on a table, sometimes they’d fall off. So a warning was added. Now they are being recalled for retooling — basically adding a safety belt — after reports of 2 baby skull fractures. (Two, that is, while the seat was on the ground.)

Now, look, nobody wants a baby’s skull fractured. (Do they?) But listen to this quote in USA Today:

“Too many children were injured while using this product,” says Consumer Federation of America product safety director Rachel Weintraub. “The fact that the manufacturer is changing the product by including restraints is incredibly significant.”

It is INDEED significant, in that it indicates that any manufacturer can be coerced into a product recall if someone insinuates that without it, the manufacturer DOESN’T CARE ABOUT BROKEN BABY SKULLS. The specter of a lawsuit, or boycott, or just a glaring TV talk show host is enough to make any company quake in its booties.

But when something is safe 99.999475% of the time, is that not SAFE ENOUGH? Apparently not to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Read (a little more) here. – L


Ye gads! Won’t someone save that poor endangered baby?

I Let My 4 Kids Play Outside, On a Sunny Saturday. The Cops Wrote Up a Report

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

 Hi Folks! Lenore Skenazy from Free-Range Kids again. Tell me when you start getting sick of these stories: The ones where parents let their kids actually PLAY OUTSIDE and the cops come a-calling. I get these letters ALL THE TIME and am at my wit’s end, as I don’t know what to tell these traumatized parents. In fact, I just asked a cop on a post below this one (aptly titled, “Ask a Cop”). So here’s the latest letter. Since when does the government get to decide whether or not our kids are allowed to FROLIC?

Dear Free-Range Kids: I  might be labelled as an overprotective parent. I don’t allow my children to spend the night at anyone’s house, and also don’t allow anyone to spend the night here unless I know the parents very well.  This is due to my own childhood trauma.

That said: I have had social services called on me twice and the police interrogate me 4 times, because apparently I am one of only two families that allows my children to play outside at all in our neighborhood (which is very safe  . Just today, I allowed all four of my children (they were all together) to go play in the field adjacent to my house. I could literally see them outside my kitchen window.  My 10 year old ran home to tell my husband and I that a cop had stopped and was interrogating my oldest daughter.

No, this was not after dark, it was at 4pm on a Saturday.  So my husband walked out to see what was going on, and the police officer even wrote up a report, stating that the children were left outside unsupervised.

So, since I am new to Virginia, I asked my neighbors if this was a “Virginia” thing.  Their response was, “Well, you know it just isn’t safe anymore to allow your kids to play outside.” I thought I was overprotective making them carry cellphones to check in every 30 mins, and only allowing them wander off 1/2 of a block.  Seriously?  We asked the police if they were doing anything wrong, he said, “No they were very respectful kids, I just wanted to make sure they were okay because it was odd seeing them outside unsupervised.”  We are not talking toddlers, we’re talking teens, pre-teens and one 5 year old all together. – A Mom of 4

PA Code Enforcers Threaten Woman with $600/day Fine for Feeding Hungry Children

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Alfred Lubrano at the Philly Inquirer reports:

A Delaware County woman who voluntarily distributes free food to children from her driveway has run afoul of officials in Chester Township who say her efforts violate zoning ordinances.

If Angela Prattis, 41, a married mother of three and the youth director of her church, does not come up with $1,000 to pay for a zoning hearing within the next year, she’ll be barred from feeding young people next summer, officials have said.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Prattis, a trained volunteer with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Nutritional Development Services, which supplies lunch and snacks five days a week. The food is paid for by the state, whose representatives have inspected and approved Prattis’ operation, according to an archdiocesan official.

This summer, Prattis has been feeding 60 children from the area in front of the two-story brick house that she and her husband own.

“It’s not like I’m selling the food,” added Prattis, a massage therapist and stay-at-home mother who also has a foster child and runs a neighborhood basketball program.

Prattis said that initially, township officials told her they would fine her $600 a day this summer unless she stopped distributing lunches and snacks to needy children. But newspapers and TV stations heard about it, and the township withdrew the fines, Prattis said Tuesday.

Township Councilman William Kennard, who Prattis said was a vocal opponent of her effort, did not return phone calls for comment.

Township Manager William Piserik said Tuesday that the township had not fined Prattis and would allow her to continue distributing food until her program’s scheduled end Aug. 24.

“No one is condemning her for feeding children that need the lunch program,” Piserik said. “But we advised her she’s violating an ordinance and was told she’d have to apply for a variance, which costs $1,000 to pay for the zoning hearing.

“I’m assuming she’ll sit down and discuss it with the Township Council and the solicitor. Nobody’s against the program, but folks don’t want the program set up in the lady’s front driveway.”

Piserik said “we got a complaint” about the program, but would not elaborate.

I am reminded of Radley Balko’s thesis that “libertarianism happens to people“. I am also reminded of that immortal line from the Declaration of Independence:

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

Here is the “Support Angela Prattis lunch program” group on Facebook.

Eapen Thampy

Do We Really Need to Make EVERYTHING into a BIG DEAL…Including a SAND BOX? (via Free-Range Kids)

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Hey Folk s– It’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, who — reading  this story about a sandbox dispute in Seattle — just cannot understand how come a guy who makes a lovely sandbox for his kids and puts it in a place where the other children on the residential street immediately find it, love it and come together to play in it, is now being scrutinized from every possible angle: Is the sandbox in a safe place? (The dad would put his kids in jeopardy?) Is it in the way of drivers? (They get priority?) Is the owner liable if someone gets hurt, or is the city? (Why do we always think of the worst-case scenario first? Doesn’t that stop all innovation dead in its tracks?) And does the dad REALLY have to pay a $500 A DAY FINE???

Here’s a tiny update on the situation. But the larger issue for me is this: I really don’t know how to get back to an era when we don’t pick apart every aspect of childhood to the point where nothing seems safe enough and the usual conclusion is, “Oh, let’s just skip it. God knows that’s the easiest solution.” I mean: We are talking about kids and playing and sand. THEY get it. Why don’t WE? – L.

God knows, we don't want kids doing anything like THIS, do we?

“Come Off It, Folks — How Many Paedophiles Can There Be?”

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Hi Folks! Lenore here from Free-Range Kids and yes, that headline is the REAL TITLE of a column by some hack in The Telegraph who was sick of the “no males allowed to sit next to unaccompanied minors” deal, back in 2006, on British Airways.

Oh wait a sec — that hack is Boris Johnson, NOW THE MAYOR OF LONDON!

He was asked to move his seat because he was next to two kids — his own! Once the stewardess realized her error,  he was allowed to stay. But the feeling of being presumed a perv occasioned this column.

Can you imagine someone getting elected HERE who dared to say enough with this overblown  fear for our kids? Can you imagine your OWN mayor writing:

To all those who worry about the paedophile plague, I would say that they not only have a very imperfect understanding of probability; but also that they fail to understand the terrible damage that is done by this system of presuming guilt in the entire male population just because of the tendencies of a tiny minority.

There are all sorts of reasons why the numbers of male school teachers are down 50 per cent in the period 1981 to 2001, and why the ratio of female to male teachers in primary schools is now seven to one. There are problems of pay, and the catastrophic failure of the state to ensure that they are treated as figures of authority and respect; and what with ‘elf ‘n’ safety and human rights it is very hard to enforce discipline.

But it is also, surely, a huge deterrent to any public-spirited man contemplating a career in education that society apparently regards all adult male contact with young people as being potentially a bit dodgy, a bit rum, a bit you know…

It is a total disaster.

Wow! Boris! And the Olympics, too. You rock! – Lenore (from Free-Range Kids)

Boy, 10, Saves 2 Adults…And Yet Authorities Consider 10 Too Young to Be Unsupervised (via Free-Range Kids)

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Hi folks! Lenore from Free-Range Kids here, with a heartening story: A 10 year old British boy, rowing around in his dinghy, rescued two canoeists who’d been in the water for 45 minutes. (Sad to say, one of them was a “canoe instructor.” Maybe the other one might want to ask for a refund?) Anyway, all the boy had with him was 4 feet of rope, which he used to tow the two the half mile. They couldn’t climb in the dinghy because they realized they might capsize it. (Score one for the canoe instructor!)

Contrast this boy’s actions, with what some laws and bureaucrats believe a child his age is incapable of. Let’s see, there’s the story of a  mom arrested for letting her kids, 11 and 7, walk to the local pizza shop. So I guess the dinghy boy shouldn’t have been on his own for another couple of years, at least. (Sorry, drowners.) And there was this school, where the principal  suddenly prohibited 5th graders from going to the village green after school, unsupervised, as they’d done for decades. (Media attention and general outrage reversed this.)  Then there was the Aussie mom chided by police for letting her 10-year-old daughter catch a bus, solo. How dare she let her kid be competent! And here in America, any 10-year-old, hero or no, is  no longer allowed to ride Amtrak without an adult by his side. Thirteen is the age kids can travel as “unaccompanied minors.”

And yet, somehow the boy was perfectly fine, alone on the water, saving two adults’ lives.

Hmmm.  – L.